Don’t Cross the Streams? – A Look at Design in Marvel Champions, Issue #3: Protection

Written by Mcfly161


Welcome back. I hope you’ve all brought your floatation devices, because we are once again crossing the streams. This week we will be focusing on stream crossing cards in the Protection aspect. You know, the green cards that help you prevent damage and heal up you hero? So grab a shield, or better yet an energy barrier, and follow me down the rabbit hole of design in Marvel Champions.

Now, before we jump in, a quick summary about stream crossing cards: stream crossers are cards in one aspect that do things typically associated with a different aspect, or, they combine in-aspect with out-of-aspect effects. This juxtaposition and or combination of design elements also makes stream crossers narratively strong-they really tell a story. Finally, good stream crossing cards tend to maintain a delicate balance between utility and power level. Playing them at the right time should be satisfying, not game-breaking, and certainly not world-breaking (looking at you, Hulk). We’ve previously examined Justice and Aggression, now we turn our attention to Protection.


First up, we’ll tackle Tackle. Tackle is a card from the Ms. Marvel Hero Pack that let’s you stun an enemy for three resources. If you spent a physical resourcing playing the card, you also get to deal three damage. Stunning is clearly a Protection effect, and damage is pure Aggression. Streams crossed. Easy breezy. This card even tells a story: a baddie literally gets tackled (inconveniently, or painfully-your choice) and they can’t fight back. Simple and effective. Finally, the physical resource requirement means that this card isn’t guaranteed to give you maximum results every time. The uncertainly helps to balance this card and keep it interesting in terms of when it will be played. Tackle is obviously the sister card to Concussive Blow, which is also found in the Ms. Marvel Hero Pack, and, like Concussive Blow, Tackle ticks all the boxes for great stream crossing design.

Up next, we’ll look at two more Protection attack events: (the best defense is a good offence, so they say) Counter-Punch and Momentum Shift. First Counter-Punch. This card is a zero resource response that lets you deal damage equal to your attack value to which ever enemy was foolish enough to test your defenses. Spoiler alert, I really like Counter-Punch. The play requirement is predicated on Protection -you must be defending- but the result is an aggression effect. Sounds great, but bear in mind that this a dead draw if you end the turn in Alter Ego form. To further complicate things, this card is typically triggered during the villain phase, meaning you’ll often be going into your next turn shorthanded. This makes the decision to play Counter-Punch or save it for resources a tough one. I like to think of the loss of a card as representing the energy that went into preparing and executing your punchy kicky Hulk Smashy reprisal. Like Tackle, Counter-Punch tells a simple yet effective story, and crosses the streams in likewise fashion.

On the other hand, Momentum Shift, while also a Protection attack event, is a healing card first and foremost. Spend two resources, heal two hit points, the you may deal two damage to an enemy of your choice. Nothing too strong, but a very useful effect. Note that the healing is a card trigger, meaning you must heal in order to deal the damage. So, unfortunately, your hero will have had to be in the line of fire at some point prior to playing it. Not ideal, but usually workable. In terms of stream crossing, healing and damage dealing are definitely a combination of Protection and Aggression, and this card does tell a story…the story of momentum being shifted? Okay, so the story telling is a little weak on the surface, but the image on the card and its flavor text help to paint a prettier picture. Colleen Wing, a quick healing master sword wielder, is referenced, and her powers of healing and superior fighting are literally represented by this card. The decision to use a character with these powers to better flavor Momentum Shift helps to give this card the requisite narrative flair I look for in well designed stream crossing cards. So far so good, Protection. With that, we’ll dive into two more cards before wrapping up: Preemptive Strike from the Ms. Marvel Hero Pack and Bait and Switch from the upcoming Scarlet Witch Hero Pack. 

Preemptive Strike is a nifty little one cost defense event that lets you turn the villain’s boost icons against them in the form of damage. This card is quite similar to the previously mentioned Counter Punch. Both cards use a Protection trigger to reward you with an Aggression effect. Simple and effective stream crossing. Simple and effective story telling as well. I like to think of Preemptive Strike as your hero providing a stiff jab to the villain’s face while they are busy powering up an elaborate attack. No way you are letting that Galick Gun go off at full strength. Silly Vegeta.

He’s still my fave…

The soon to be released Bait and Switch follows the pattern of Protection cards that put your hero in harm’s way; however, Bail and Switch is a thwart event. Spend a resource, suffer an attack from the villain, remove an ample four threat from the main scheme. This is Protection combined with Justice, and is somewhat reminiscent of You’ll Pay For That, which we looked at in the Aggression Issue. Narratively the Bait and Switch is clear, your hero provides the villain with a punching bag, distracting them from their scheming. Very nice. Being attacked can be downright horrible, even game ending, but what I really love about Bait and Switch is that you could play it, and subsequently play Counter-Punch, or Preemptive Strike during the Villain’s mandatory attack. Protec-ception. Protect on protect on protect. An astute player will already be aware that layering up is the goal of Protection. Counter-Punch, for instance, is a much more appealing card, if you’re armored up to the point that you remain unscathed, unlike your adversary with the newly split lip.


Of the three aspects I’ve looked at in this series, Protection, to my mind, has the most cohesive set of stream crossing cards. There is nothing here that is egregiously overpowered, and nothing that lacks narrative imagination. The design strength can clearly be seen in the way these cards don’t necessarily reward a Protection player for doing Protection things, rather, they reward a Protection player for doing Protection things well. And don’t we all deserve a reward when we do something well? You take that gold star! You earned it, damnit!

That’s all for this week. Let me know if you agree or disagree. Perhaps I missed a card you felt deserved some analysis. Let me know. I’ll see you all next time when we deep dive on stream crossing Leadership cards. Until then, stay safe and protect yourself. Unless you hate protection. Don’t hate protection.

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