Written by Mcfly161
Deck construction games can be pretty daunting. Marvel Champions, avoids this through the simplicity that is “pair a hero with one of the 4 aspects.” These aspects are all deeply tied to the goals of the game: “Aggression” deals damage, “Protection” prevents damage, “Justice” focuses on stopping the villains from completing their dastardly schemes (you dastards!), and “Leadership” focuses on using your allies to do all of the above. Because these aspects are so rooted in the goals of the game, the cards within them tend to be of a similar design. However, making games is hard and balance in design, whether intentional of not, can easily be disrupted. Here, in part one of a four part series. I’ll be looking at aspect cards that cross the streams, blurring the lines between their own aspect and another. Are these cards necessary to make the game interesting, or do they break the game by doing too much? Let’s find out.
We will start this series by looking at Aggression. As mentioned above, Aggression is typically the punchy, kicky, Hulky-Smashy aspect, but there are a few outliers that give the player some much needed threat removal. Let’s look at Chase Them Down from the core box. This card can be played to remove two threat from a scheme for zero resources as a response to defeating an enemy. The effect is all Justice, but the play requirements (and the flavor) are all Aggression. In terms of cost to effect, removing two threat from a scheme for zero resources puts most Justice aspect cards to shame; however, defeating an enemy while having this in your hand isn’t as simple as it sounds. You might begin your turn exhausted and be unable to attack, perhaps there are no minions on the board and the villain is in their final stage, or maybe you can only defeat an enemy if you also play a card from your hand and you need Chase Them Down as a resource to pay for it (looking at you my four hand size heroes). To me, this is what makes this card a very well balanced stream-crosser; it requires either smart set up, or good luck. Either way, there are decisions to be made, and no guarantee that this card will reward you for including it in your deck. Let’s contrast this with an upcoming card from the Wasp hero pack, Into The Fray.
Into The Fray is a three resource cost card that deals six damage to a minion. Then, for every point of excess damage dealt, you remove one threat from the main scheme. Six damage for three resources is extremely good value when compared to other Aggression cards, even if Into The Fray is restricted to just targeting minions. Speaking of which, there are only eight minions in all of Marvel Champions that can withstand this card when at full health. Ronan is one, points if you can name the other seven. And, as if six damage for three resources wasn’t good enough, any minion that has fewer than six health remaining will not only be defeated, but also let you pull threat off the main scheme. As an example, you could one-shot a three health Goblin Thrall, taking three threat off the main scheme in the process. Perhaps that same Thrall had only one health remaining. Simply use this card to finish it off and then removing a whopping five threat for only three resources. This card is powerful for its cost, and it is extremely flexible, effectively letting you decide how it affects the board state. Does one lean into damage, or maximize the threat removal? The choice is yours! Also, unlike Chase Them Down, Into The Fray can act as its own trigger. No clever set up required, you just need a minion on the board to reap the reward.
These two cards are similar in that they are Aggression cards that remove threat; however, the difference between the power of these two cards should be apparent by now. Chase Them Down rewards you for being able to play it at the right time. Into The Fray will simply reward you any time you play it because, ultimately, Into The Fray is a self contained, adjustable combination of both Aggression and Justice effects. This card doesn’t so much cross the streams as much as it gives you access to both streams at the same time. A rare luxury in Marvel Champions. In fact, if Into The Fray could target the villain I would go so far as to call it broken. Conversely, if this card required the player to have just changed into a hero form, I would think it was both more balanced as well as more thematic-the hero literally charges into battle and overachieves if only for a brief moment. As it stands, I think this card is so good and so useful that it will be an auto include in most Aggression decks going forward. And there in lies the problem. Or does it?
One could certainly argue that a card good enough to be an auto include is too good. Some would even call it bad design. While I do believe that too many cards of this strength could make deck building a bit samey over time, I also believe that this is a game that is intended to be fun and many players find punching baddies and thwarting there plans to be quite fun. And what’a wrong with that? I don’t hate fun, do you hate fun?
“Hey. You didn’t talk about You’ll Pay For That!” I hear you say. I assume you mean that ole one cost Aggression card you can play after being attacked in order to remove threat equal to the damage you took up to a max of five? That card that can literally be explained in story terms by saying the villain was so busy gleefully wailing away on the hero that they forgot what they were doing? That Aggression card from the Hulk pack with the very Justice effect? That very circumstantial card that can help you stave off losing to threat but completely destroy your next turn’s plans by taking two cards from your hand when you play it? That card that requires you to have it at the absolute right time to really benefit? That high risk, high reward, extremely well designed stream-crossing card that forces the player to make a meaningful decision about when or even if to play it at all? That card? I don’t have much too say about it. It’s cool, I guess…
I’ll be back next time to look into damage dealing, stream-crossing Justice cards. Until then, have fun, everyone. Unless you hate fun. Don’t hate fun.
If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining our Discord channel, to discuss this article and more.
2 thoughts on “Don’t Cross the Streams? – A Look at Design in Marvel Champions, Issue #1: Aggression”