Written by Josh Bailey
This is the first article in our #HydraRising community crossover event. You can find many articles, videos, podcasts, and more centered on the new The Rise of Red Skull expansion from many different Marvel Champions content creators by searching #HydraRising on Twitter, Facebook, Discord, etc. For I Rebel’s part, we will be publishing an article comparing the two heroes that come in The Rise of Red Skull, a Why? article on the Hydra theme of the campaign expansion, and a Rankings article on the included scenarios that will mostly focus on the standalone experience of those villains. For commentary on the expansion and campaign itself, and all other released product for the game, please check out our Marvel Champions Expansion Guide.
For this battle between two heroes, I don’t feel that a direct comparisons of the cards is appropriate. It made sense for She-Hulk vs. Thor, because those heroes fulfill a similar niche. Hawkeye and Spider-Woman are almost diametrically opposed, in my opinion. So for this article we will look at their overall play styles, strengths, and weakness in order to help answer the question of which hero is the right fit for you, dear reader. Let’s start with each hero’s basic schtick…
Hawkeye could be abstractly described as an event-based, damage-focused hero. 14 of his 15 signature cards are devoted to the strategy of “draw arrows, shoot arrows.” Peak Hawkeye would be playing and pulling back Mockingbird every turn that you can’t stun the villain, while using Expert Marksman to pay for arrows off your quiver. The idea is that you always have the perfect arrow available for a given situation. That arrow variety does give him some control options, but ultimately most of his arrows are doing damage and his ATK is usually his only stat worth using if he’s not shooting.
Spider-Woman could also probably be described as event-based, but that would be missing the larger component of her play style which is combo-focused deck building. The two most likely ways to play her are to focus on spamming as many aspect cards as possible and then trying to maximize her boosted stats via readying, or to come up with some combination of aspect cards that can be abused like buffing a powerful ally. In either case you will probably end up with a build that is capable of responding to a wide variety of situations due to packing cards from differing aspects or by taking advantage of the balanced hero stat-line in addition to the wide-ranging effects of the signature cards. Spider-Woman is a hero who will be more defined by the cards you choose for the deck than anything else.
The short version for deciding which is better for you. Hawkeye is straight-forward and thematically laser-focused (or perhaps arrow-focused), while Spider-Woman is as much about the deck building as she is the playing.
Hawkeye’s signature cards are cheap, and he can play most of the cards in it with resource generators that only cost 1 resource themselves rather than the usual 2. Also, if you can get arrows on to your quiver, then they are not taking up space in your hand, which is similar to making them cheaper to play. That Quiver is also a form of card draw. The end result of all this is that very little can stop you from slinging every arrow you can get in your hand. Getting out your Quiver and Expert Marksmans early can save you cards and resources to play other cards you’ve put in the deck, so you can potentially play cards that cover up his lack of thwarting or defense without sacrificing your ability to play arrows. Hawkeye is also good at controlling enemies by having options for Stun, Confuse, removing Tough, preventing damage, and dealing with multiple minions at once.
Spider-Woman’s strengths are hard to define because, again, they are more defined by the deck you decide to build than the cards you are forced to include. Another way of saying that is her main strength is her versatility. Her signature cards include a smattering of damage, thwarting, enemy control, healing, and resource acceleration. Despite her printed stat line, she is almost a lock for a minimum stat spread of 2/2/2 and can usually depend on getting to 3/3/3, so she tends to have the same feeling as Captain America and Black Panther. You can usually count on her to deal with whatever that turn’s needs are, be they damaging enemies or threat removal. Regardless of what else you do with her deck, her readying events and basic stats can do a lot of work.
Hawkeye is the very definition of a glass cannon. He can put out the damage but he can’t really take it. This kind of limits you in your deck building because either the rest of your deck is required to have answers for this weakness, or else a partner you are playing with must build their strategy around defending you. Another issue that can exacerbate his squishiness problem, is that Hawkeye is fairly draw- and setup-dependent. If you do not draw your Quiver and Expert Marksmans early, then until you do, you are making some tough decisions between paying full cost for an arrow out of your hand and possibly playing an aspect card that will keep you alive. That can make your turns feel pretty boring and, if Hawkeye isn’t shooting arrows, is he even a superhero? Over time this thought might be proven wrong but, it feels like the number of viable Hawkeye deck types will be small and they will all mostly play the same. That could be a weakness for some players.
Spider-Woman wants to play a couple cheap cards, then swing in hard, and hopefully ready to do it again. The downside of this is, that any card that costs more than 1 can be a really tough sell. The cards that cost 0 or 1 are not plentiful currently and have a smaller impact. If you can hit the extra kicker on Clear the Area or Press the Advantage or just play Maria Hill, then the cheap cards can feel like a lot of value, but it can be difficult to do that with regularity. Another downside to her deck building restrictions are, that your deck’s focus can be diluted. So if you have included Justice and Aggression to cover both bases, then you’re putting out less damage than a pure Aggression deck and removing less Thwart than a pure Justice deck. Against certain scenarios and paired with certain other decks that may be fine, but you are vulnerable to doing two things poorly rather than just one thing well. That’s all assuming you are not playing some wacky combo that doesn’t care about your actual hero stats, of course. Depending on your outlook, you might view a deck that doesn’t actually care much about the hero itself to be a weakness in its own right.
Hawkeye’s specialty is damage, but he can do a little bit of everything other than defend. His primary defense strategy, at least from his signature cards, are to avoid attacks via stuns from Electric Arrow or damage prevention via Mockingbird. He also has a bit of a weakness in thwarting, as his only options are a 2-of Cable Arrow and Mockingbird’s 2 THW. That’s enough to help out with emergency side-scheme removal, but is questionable as a long-term solution. Kind of a hybrid control/damage strategy. He has a good hand size, an easily-attained 3 in a stat, card draw, resource generation, stun/confuse options, and an answer to minion swarms. All-in-all, he is a fun hero to play because the design team did such a good job of capturing the feel of Hawkeye, but you do have to like his particular play style, because there are not that many other ways to build him.
Spider-Woman is even better-equipped to do a little bit of everything. She has all of the options that Hawkeye does, minus the anti-minion swarm ability, but with the added capabilities to competently defend and heal damage. Outside of the game you can build nearly any type of deck you want, and within the game, you can have a lot of options for how to proceed given the current situation. The downside is that, with her split-focus deck building, you may draw your thwarting cards when you need to do damage, your damage-dealing cards when you need to respond to threat, or your reactive defense cards when you need to be on offense.
Ultimately, I see these two heroes as on opposite ends of the spectrum from each other. One is narrowly-defined but has a strong thematic feel, the other is a loose adaptation that can be incredibly varied. I suppose that means that a player will either like one or the other just based on play style, but what I think is more likely is you will just pick the one that suits your current mood. Sometimes I want to sling arrows and beat the villain in a damage race, but sometimes I want to be tricksy and have the deck that can do everything. This one is too difficult to call, folks. Let’s just love them both.
-Thanks for reading.