MUN Preview: Clandestine Operations

I’d like to start this preview article by saying what an honor it is to have been selected to preview an MVU card. Thanks to whoever it was that put this awesome piece of cardboard on my plate!

My preview is, of course, an Illuminati card. A plot twist, to be precise. I find it amusing that I got an Illuminati card to talk about, seeing as how what I feel was my first “big” article was based around an Illuminati version deck. Coincidence or a purposeful move by the Upper Deck folk? I’ll never know. But enough babbling on uselessly. To the card!

Wait, how about just another second of useless babbling to hype the card? You know how the Illuminati have a control theme? And an exhaustion theme? Meet Mr. Controlly Exhaustion.

Clandestine Operations
Ongoing Plot Twist
Threshold: 3

Play only during the recovery phase.

To play, exhaust two different members of the Illuminati you control. (The members of the Illuminati are Black Bolt, Dr. Strange, Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Professor X, and Sub-Mariner.)

Ongoing: Whenever a character enters play, exhaust it



If you’re confused about the name like I was at first, it means something along the lines of “secret government/military action”. Makes perfect sense for the Illuminati, don’t you think?

First thing you’ll notice is it fits with a lot of the Illuminati effects that have been previewed thus far. It’s rare, likely because it’d be difficult to get the required Illuminati members in Limited. It involves exhausting some of your dudes in order to get an ongoing effect and, in this case, the effect is quite the doozy.

This card screams control. Neither side gets to attack with the guy when they come into play and instead they’re forced to sit on their hands and wait to use whoever they just recruited. This is especially nasty against swarm decks since not only are those characters going to be exhausted so they can’t attack but they also can’t reinforce. It also hits curve decks pretty hard for the obvious reason of losing your big gun each turn.

Another fun thing is that this card triggers when the character comes into play meaning there are quite a few tricks you can pull in order to completely ruin an opponent’s plan.

Imagine an opponent having a deck based around Bodyslide only to have this flipped causing the removed characters to come back exhausted.

Imagine an opponent attacking your Superman, Last Son of Krypton only to be hit by Flying High followed by the character coming back exhausted. Clandestine Operations effectively turns Flying High into a Mystic Paralysis with no cost outside the original two exhausts.

Imagine playing against a deck based around Substitute, such as Birds of Prey, Darkseid, or the Marvel Defenders. No longer can your opponent recruit Barbara Gordon and then substitute her out three times to gain more card draws while keeping her ready for use with Bat Got Your Tongue?. Samantha Parrington is unable to pop in on your kill turn and grant a free attack. The Spectacular Spider-Man can’t pay 7 attack and then run away or use Gift Wrapped. Clandestine is a Substitute character’s worst nightmare.

Imagine an opponent recruiting their character for this turn and having it enter play exhausted followed by their drop from last turn being targeted by Frog of Thunder causing the new character to become exhausted as well, practically killing an opponent’s initiative completely.

To actually try and stay “on team” (although the Illuminati don’t technically have a team…), imagine flipping this before turn 5 while your opponent has odd initiatives. Their 5-drop enters play exhausted. You recruit Iron Man, Protector of the Reality Gem, who also comes in exhausted. You then exhaust your 2-drop and 3-drop to Iron Man’s effect and exhaust their 4-drop and leave the opponent only with a 3-drop to attack with. This can continue every turn for the rest of the game.

Clandestine Operations can also do a fair amount of damage to cards that rely on powerful effects that require a character to activate to deal their damage (see: Circe, Human Torch, Ahmed if an underdrop is somehow forced perhaps via Frog of Thunder while they have Threat Neutralized inplay, etc.).

One thing I find very, very interesting about this card is the fact that, at a glance, it appears to conflict with all the other Illuminati plot twists. It’s not easy to exhaust your guys to effects if they’re entering play exhausted. This leads me to wonder if the Illuminati aren’t going to have some sort of readying effect. Maybe one along the lines of Deadly Conspiracy that won’t let the character attack or use payment effects but would allow them access to their ongoing plot twist fun?

I dunno. I can’t say with any certainty that such a card exists. Instead, some other cards that will allow you to dodge your own bullet.

EDIT: As has been pointed out, you technically don’t even need a readying effect because you can just exhaust the incoming Illuminati character to one of the group’s power costs. That makes most of the below readying ideas unneeded. They’re still decent in a non-“mono” Illuminati deck and the “stay down” effects still work but a “mono” Illuminati deck really doesn’t need the workaround trickery. Thanks guys![/EDIT]

Firstly, To Me My X-Men. You recruit a guy who comes in exhausted, exhaust two guys to The Elektra Situation or Iron Man, Protector or another Illuminati plot twist/effect we haven’t seen, attack or Ego Gem or whatever with the third, and then ready your new drop to swing.

Another thought is that this actually goes well into an Inhumans deck. You can recruit your drop and then use Exploiting The Flaw to make it the attacker without having to worry about it being ready. Heck, you could recruit the 6-drop Quicksilver and attack twice with him while the opposing 6-drop has its hands tied. Interestingly enough, the Inhumans are already packing two Illuminati members in Black Bolt and Mr. Fantastic. Sure, Mr. Fantastic is a 5-drop which is really late but its still something of note.

You could pull the same stunt with a Flash deck but you actually have to ready via Barry Allen’s effect or Full Throttle. Still, if your stuck off-initiative on turn 6 with a Flash Finish deck, Clandestine could help turn it around and let you still aim for a turn 6 kill.

The Rock of Eternity has been mentioned a lot in regards to the Illuminati already but it really interacts well with Clandestine Operations. “Oh, my characters come into play exhausted? Wait, I just ready them anyways.” Not bad at all.

Dr. Strange and his Marvel Defenders also have some nice interaction with Clandestine Operations since they’re only an Order away from using their activated effects anyways. Combo The Order with Clandestine and The Infinity Gauntlet plot twist and you have some nasty fun.

Lastly, the Fantastic Four has the 6-drop Dr. Strange that allows you to ready Fantastic Four characters at the cost of their attacking. With all the amazing Illuminati effects, not attacking isn’t a huge issue. All your recruited characters still get to use their activated effects or are available to The Infinity Gauntlet or whichever other fun exhaustion costed control effects you wish to use.

Another set of cards that work well with Clandestine is simply anything that stops an opponent from readying. Blade, Nightstalker and Spider-Man, Parasitic Host help to keep characters down. Imagine, your opponent plays their 4-drop which comes in exhausted, you recruit Spider-Man who then pitches two to keep that 4-drop locked down going into turn 5 where the opponent recruits another character only to have it exhausted leaving them with a board that has been locked down and likely will remain that way for a time.

With the “stay down” concept, the Inhumans again come to mind with Nahrees, The Negative One and Waking The Ancestors both stopping exhausted characters from waking up. A mere 2-endurance or an exhaust and the opposing drop is going to be far too groggy to stand and fight. Again, I find it very interesting that the Inhumans have quite a bit that goes well with this card.

One last thought for a team that can use this effect to its advantage is actually SHIELD. In particular, I’m thinking of the SHIELD Agents. Those little guys don’t care if they’re exhausted when they come into play, they burn either way. Pack enough reinforcement tricks and you can lock down an opponent while continually burning them with exhausted lowbies. Iron Man is a natural SHIELD character and I would presume that at Mr. Fantastic could have a character with that affiliation as well due to his work on the Thor clone. Outside of that, my comic book knowledge dwindles so I’m unsure if there are any other easy options for a SHIELD Illuminati deck but the other Illuminati characters are always just a team-up away.

For one last interaction that requires only one other card, imagine the following: It’s your initiative and you have two unexhausted Illuminati characters going into recovery. You flip Clandestine Operations and exhausted those characters. The next turn it’s your opponent’s initiative and they recruit a character which enters exhausted before passing. You place a resource, flip it revealing it is Have A Blast, target and replace Clandestine, and then recruit your character. In a largely wrap-around way, you just exhausted an opposing character before it could do anything at all. Sure, there are better combos but its not bad in a pinch. Okay, fine, its not really that good of a combo but I thought the interaction was interesting enough.

Out of all of the above thoughts, Illuminati Inhumans/Fantastic Four almost certainly looks like the best. You can easily get Clandestine Operations up and running via the 1-drop or 3-drop Black Bolt and the 2-drop Mr. Fantastic that were mentioned in his Monday’s article on Flip Clandestine Operations in recovery to get its effect going into turn 4. Play Nahrees and flip Extended Family to give him (her?) a cosmic counter and lockdown the opposing 4-drop for the entirety of this turn and the next. On 5 you can either play the Inhumans/Fantastic Four Mr. Fantastic or perhaps Franklin Richards to keep your strength over the opponent going by not only constantly locking them down but also healing what little damage they do. On turn 6 you could play Quicksilver who doesn’t have to be ready to attack or Medusa who continues the lockdown. Through all this, due to Nahrees and perhaps Waking The Ancestors, the opponent has yet to use any character with a cost higher than 4 because they’re constantly being forced into staying exhausted. Combo this further with Frog of Thunder to take out the characters that do ready and the opponent can’t make a single move for the entire game.

On one last flavor-based note, I am totally digging the interactions between the Illuminati and Hulk. Each one has answers for the others. Hulk tries to use his 4-drop “Flame Trap” version but is stopped by the Elektra Situation. The Illuminati try to Gauntlet Hulk but his Righteous Anger keeps him inplay. Hulk wants to use Caiera to smash multiple times but there aren’t any characters to stun since they’re all hidden. Illuminati try to control the Hulk into not attacking but, again, his Anger keeps him coming back for more. Savage Hulk burns his user to death yet the poor guy can’t do a thing. The amount of interaction I’m seeing between these sets of cards is incredible and I am really enjoying it from a flavor perspective.

In all, this is just a very interesting card. It fits with the Illuminati control theme we’ve seen thus far. It helps the player to try and hold on long enough to get all six members inplay so they can get the new plot twist Infinity Gauntlet running. Lastly, it makes me wonder if there is something else in store for the Illuminati that makes it more compatible with the other Illuminati exhaustion plots. All of these make me excited for MVU and are going to go into my Illuminati deck as soon as I possibly can.

While I’m unsure if Clandestine Operations is going to be a tournament winning card (I cannot comment simply seeing as how organized play is not anywhere near my area of expertise), I’m certain it will be looked at long and hard by deck builders everywhere. I know I’ve already come up with lots of ideas, as proven by the above.


12 Responses to “MUN Preview: Clandestine Operations”

  1. Awesome stuff. The illuminati are looking sick beyond belief. Thank god they don’t all share an affiliation – Oh wait – Superhuman Registration act. Damn!

  2. rorschachinkblog Says:

    The important thing to remember … the character’s don’t come into play exhausted per se … they have to immediately exhaust after coming into play. Meaning you can exhaust them to something else before you are forced to exhaust them in the first place.

    Which fits perfectly with the Illuminati … as you will likely be exhausting nearly every character you have to the various Illuminati effect, so it just forces your hand more than anything else.

  3. kaleeshwarrior Says:

    “The important thing to remember … the character’s don’t come into play exhausted per se … they have to immediately exhaust after coming into play. Meaning you can exhaust them to something else before you are forced to exhaust them in the first place.”

    Yeah… I got called out for that in the thread for this preview as well. I’m really conservative when it comes to rulings so the thought of exhausting them to one of their effects before they enter play completely went past me. Still, most of the combos are worthwhile so there’s that.

  4. anonymous vs. fan Says:

    “Whenever a character enters play, exhaust it.” This is a triggered effect, going on the chain when the character hits play, which means that players may respond to it with any abilities usable at the time the character comes into play. Thus, a subbed-in Samantha Parrington *can* use her backup ability, spectacular Spidey *can* pay attack for an exhaust and then Gift Wrapped for more exhaustion, and Illuminati members *can* tap to use any Illuminati plot twists usable during the phase they arrive, before being exhausted themselves. You are, though, correct on the Barbara Gordon matter (and any other attempt to substitute out a character on the same turn it came into play), since substitution, like recruiting, can only be done on an empty chain.

    Still, as you say, it’s a sweet card. Just the fact that Felix Faust and Tattooed Man will have their horde of Anti-Green Lanterns tapped just after arrival gives me a warm happy feeling… 🙂

    Congrats on the preview, and best of luck with the blog!

  5. Are the illuminati going to become the team to play this time around?

  6. Number6 Says:

    The first article over at VSSystem listed all the versions of the Illuminati characters that would be available; all the MUN ones were arranged numerically around the Iron Man with Infinity Watch, and they were all Protectors of (Infinity) Gems…so it looks like each of the Illuminati members will have a version on that team. From the other numbers given, there will also definitely be a SHIELD Mr. Fantastic and a second SHIELD Iron Man (no idea on if they’re dual-teamed or not), while Black Bolt, Sub-Mariner, and Prof X each get a non-Infinity-Watch version that’s not on one of the set’s featured teams. Plus some Illuminati will also show up in the Marvel Ultimates mini-set (I can’t remembr which ones though).

  7. “Are the illuminati going to become the team to play this time around?”

    If Number 6 is right and they all share the Infinity Watch team, then yes, they WILL be the team to play. If they rely on cards like Registration Act to stay together, then they will be mighty vulnerable to resource row disruption. It will be interesting to see how they play out!

  8. foilball08 Says:

    “If you’re confused about the name like I was at first, it means something along the lines of “secret government/military action”. Makes perfect sense for the Illuminati, don’t you think?”

    haha, this phrase goes all the way back to high school for me. it’s based on something my best friend used to say when making fun of our 9th Grade English teacher. heh.

  9. Shadowtrooper Says:

    Great analysis on the card man, you did a really good job. You only missed with the trigger effect of coming into play and responding to it, but heck we are Only Human and mistakes are our Common Enemy, even though we learn from them. Like the the Vs. references? Yeah it’s like a burst of Cosmic Radiation running through my Bodyslide. Ok thats enough. But really nice job, and yes you were right again I love the card.

  10. sterofsteel Says:

    Good job, dude. Really enjoy the paragraph comparing the Hulk and the Illuminati. Excellent flavor.

  11. Excellent preview card and great preview article. Good work all around.

    This card is as close to being broken as a card can be, I think. This is clearly going to have an enormous effect on every single metagame ever.

  12. TheMadHatter Says:

    Great article!

    Wanted to clarify something for other readers.

    “You are, though, correct on the Barbara Gordon matter (and any other attempt to substitute out a character on the same turn it came into play), since substitution, like recruiting, can only be done on an empty chain”

    A player could actually drop Barbara Gordon, trigger the exhaustion, put her draw effect on the chain to draw and then sub in another Babs. Substitution does not have to be done on an empty chain. Guarantee it.

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