Marvel Champions LCG Buyer’s Guide

Many Marvel Champions sites have been running buyer’s guides for some time now, and we’re going to be doing one by popular request. However, note that this is a very brief, highly opinionated “quick guide” in terms of what’s worth picking up. It’s one of many resources you should use if you’re picking and choosing packs.

Although the game doesn’t have direct benefits from playing “progression style” (also known as buying and playing every pack in release order), this list will be sorted chronologically, so you can get an idea of how the game has evolved over time. It may also be altered over time depending on how packs impact other releases.

You can find a list of every pack released to date here.

Updated: June, 2021


Core Set

The core set is going to be the starting point for most people as a no-brainer first buy.

The first three scenarios should give you a good idea of what the game is all about, with Rhino easing you into the game and expert Ultron showcasing the high-end difficulty curve fairly well. If you dislike the core set, we recommend trying to spice up the game a bit with this guide before you give it up for good.

So is the core set required to play Marvel Champions? Yes and no. It depends on how you plan to normally play the game.

If you’re playing completely solo, the Core Set comes with the standard and expert modular sets (seven and three cards respectively), which go in nearly every scenario deck to date (read: with the exception of Wrecking Crew at this time). It also packs in five heroes, a ton of player cards (with full playsets), extra mods and three scenarios. It’s the strongest LCG purchase to date from a value perspective.

If your friend is providing the scenarios for you and you’re just along for the ride, you don’t need the Core Set; but you might be missing out on a few staple player cards. That “staple” pool is shrinking all the time as more cards are released though.

Verdict: Buy it


The Green Goblin

Green Goblin is one of the best packs released to date: full stop.

If you dig the core set, you need to pick up Green Goblin as soon as possible. So far in the game’s lifecycle, the value of two scenarios and four modular sets in one villain pack is pretty much unheard of. That’s like, half a story box.

Risky Business, one of the two included scenarios, suffers from some design flaws in that it’s very easy to “game,” but thematically it still feels sound and may satisfy a more casual audience. The idea of a “flipping” villain is intriguing and has not been replicated in the first year of the game’s existence.

Mutagen Formula, however, is one of the most fun scenarios in the game and one of the most challenging. It’s well-balanced in that standard play should feel doable, and expert play is incredibly punishing upfront: in a good way, to prevent the “solitaire” feeling you can sometimes get with a few scenarios.

The extra mods are the icing on the cake and it’s great to see another non-MCU villain after Rhino. With just this pack and the core set you can get a lot of mileage.

Verdict: Buy it


Captain America

Captain America’s pack is kind of all over the place, but he still very much is worth a buy. I mean, he’s Cap: enough said.

Iconic stature aside Captain America is a very strong hero that pretty much every player should own at some point. Although his pre-built deck is trying to do two different strategies at once (break it apart as soon as you can), it comes with some staple cards like Squirrel Girl and several other great Leadership cards.

Cap embodies the “powerful” nature of how heroes should feel in Marvel Champions without going too overboard. When he was released he did feel highly effective, but the card pool has enhanced several other core set heroes that can hang with him. While he isn’t the most unique, generally, this is how a basic Marvel Champions character should feel.

Verdict: Buy it


Ms. Marvel

While everything so far has gotten a “buy it” rating, we’re entering polarizing territory now.

Ms. Marvel is one of the best-designed heroes in the game, but she isn’t going to appeal to everyone. She has a very specific playstyle and an involved strategy that includes swapping to alter-ego often to trigger a lot of her alter-ego specific cards. She’s one of my go-to heroes and designer Michael Boggs did an incredible job developing her. She also has a few staple Protection cards in her pack like Energy Barrier and Tackle, that should appeal Protection-centric deck brewers out there.

However, she doesn’t necessarily feel essential. I’m going to try and be fairly tough with this guide so every single pack doesn’t get a “buy it!” rating, and this is the first in the game’s lifecycle that I can honestly say is going to be a “maybe” for a lot of people.

She works for me though.

Verdict: Wishlist it


Wrecking Crew

Likewise, we aren’t going to shy away from recommendations to outright avoid packs, and Wrecking Crew is the first release that truly feels like a complete misfire.

Wrecking Crew, like Risky Business, can be easily “gamed” but feels even more rote, as the “fight four villains at once” fantasy isn’t fully realized. It’s also very fiddly to get to the table, with multiple decks to get on the table and several provisos that can make any game a pain: from solo play all the way up to four players.

To add insult to injury, Wrecking Crew’s total lack of modular sets feels antithetical to the entire modular nature of the game. It sadly came at a really bad time too, as it was supposed to last us from February 2020 all the way through July 2020, when the Red Skull box was set to originally arrive.

I hope the team learns from this and avoids such a lengthy drought in the future: or putting so much responsibility on a lone scenario pack to deliver. It’s great that they are taking risks this early, but unlike Risky Business (which felt like a bonus for a fully-featured release), Wrecking Crew comprises the entirety of the pack: what you see is what you get.

And what you get is my least-played scenario by a country mile.

Verdict: Skip it


Thor

Thor is a tricky one. Some people love him, some hate him. I fall somewhere on the latter line (hate is a strong word), but not for the reasons you expect. I say this with authority: Thor is not a bad hero.

I cracked open Thor the first day he was available at retail, built a Justice deck from scratch sight unseen, and beat every scenario to date on expert. Thor can be strong at any player count with the right deck. However, a lot of his kit feels like it’s cherry-picked from other heroes and his efficacy in solo play with other aspects might frustrate some people. A lot of his kit is simply “plus stats,” which is not that compelling, even a year into the game.

The cards in his pack also feel very situational, including the Jarnbjorn archetype — that, while fun — relies on getting a single card out on the table to combo off of. Thus far (read: everything above), he’s the most skippable hero.

Verdict: Skip it


Black Widow

To date, Black Widow is my “Green Goblin” of hero packs. Translation? Pick it up right away and don’t look back if you have a background playing other card games.

Black Widow is the baseline for how all hero packs should be presented, and guest-designer Matt Newman (of Arkham Horror LCG fame) did a fantastic job of really making that happen alongside of co-designer Caleb Grace. Widow feels thematic, strong and engaging at pretty much every turn.

She also comes with some killer cards that Justice absolutely needed to become a more fleshed out aspect, while introducing the preparation archetype into the game for every single hero. Like Cap, this is how an LCG purchase should feel: you buy a pack, the hero is fresh and unique, it feels competitive without being broken, and it comes with a ton of good cards.

Bravo.

Verdict: Buy it


Doctor Strange

Ah Doctor Strange.

Like Thor, I waffle on this hero constantly. He’s fun…at times. He can also feel boring on the same day.

I think the designers went a little overboard with Doctor Strange from a power perspective. At some tables, he’s banned for being too powerful. At others, he’s simply not used because he trivializes the entire game, even on Heroic difficulty. I haven’t seen hype die down in just about every community faster than the initial Strange reveal to his actual release: people just seem bored with him.

A lot of the problem is that his Invocation deck has no downsides or penalties and can be gamed very easily with several cards. His hero deck (his 15 cards) do not feel particularly thematic: that honor is reserved for his Invocation deck, which again, is a smidgen too strong. It’s a catch 22 and Strange is caught in the middle. He also feels weird with Protection as his pack aspect, despite the fact that several of the pack’s cards are big wins for Protection as a whole.

If you want a very powerful hero and think the game is too difficult, pick up Doctor Strange. If you want a challenge or feel like the game is too easy, you can probably skip him.

Verdict: Skip it


Hulk

Hulk is another “Thor,” but I think he edges out the God of Thunder in more ways than one.

No, I’m not talking about power level. Hulk is a very fun, very smashy hero that feels thematic outside of his dull alter-ego side. Hulk can smash for 13 damage (or more) turn one and keep swinging.

However, like Thor, his Aggression cards are sometimes too niche to use in most decks, with the exception of a select few like Toe to Toe, which is one of the most exciting and best-designed cards so far. He also doesn’t shine in every aspect out of the box.

If you bought him and are banging your head against the wall playing him (I told you to wishlist it below!), try this deck. Or make him one of your last buys. I have not seen a hero as disliked as Hulk by the community to date.

Verdict: Skip it


The Rise of Red Skull

The Rise of Red Skull, at the time of its street date, practically doubles the currently available scenario pool. That’s good! It also comes with two very fun heroes (Hawkeye and Spider-Woman): that’s good too! There really aren’t a lot of bad things to say about this box even if it may not wow you.

Not every scenario is mind-blowingly good (Absorbing Man feels very non-interactive at times and Taskmaster doesn’t quite live up to the fantasy), but the box more than delivers what you’d expect out of it. Those expectations, mind, are going to differ for everyone. If you want a “super deep campaign akin to Arkham Horror” you’re going to be disappointed.

Each scenario’s resolution is typically binary, with one card added to your setup/deck. In that sense, it’s more like Lord of the Rings LCG’s campaign, which is a perfectly fine way to go about Marvel Champion’s first box. I appreciate that there’s a few extra mechanics for expert players (persistent health, with healing between scenarios costing you an obligation card that goes into your player deck) and I hope to see that idea live on in each story product.

While I’d like to see story boxes pushed further in the future (and there is a hint of that based on the Galaxy’s Most Wanted stream), The Rise of Red Skull is a long-awaited and satisfying release.

When Galaxy’s Most Wanted is out, the status may change to “wishlist it.”

Verdict: Buy it


The Once and Future Kang

Kang is here, and he’s mixing up the previous Green Goblin scenario pack cadence of “two scenarios, four mods.” Kang is actually one scenario and three mods, but there’s a twist: his second stage has four possible characters to tangle with. From solo to four player, you’re going to be facing a different villain each time you play, coupled with the strong theme of new mechanics and different artwork for each villain stage (I, II, III).

Because of these reasons and more, Kang feels like a more polished scenario overall. The art is fantastic, the mechanics are unique (Kang flips the prior obligation system on its head) and on expert, it can be on the difficult side depending on your deck. There’s one issue with solo play (the second stage doesn’t really penalize you as much as it should), but overall I’d say it’s a success.

Part of the reason for that is due to the strong foundation of the modular sets. All three add more minions to the game (which is decidedly a good thing), with varying degrees of difficulty. The toughest set is minion-heavy and fairly brutal, which should elevate most of the scenarios overall. While I’d like to see more scenario packs follow the Green Goblin model of multiple missions per pack, Kang is arguably stronger than any single scenario in the Red Skull box outside of Zola.

Verdict: Buy it


Ant-Man

Ant-Man is a terrific hero that swings for the fences and mostly achieve what it sets out to do.

Marvel Champions feels like it is at its best when it tries to do something unique. Having a hero with a giant folding card with two hero forms is perhaps the epitome of “Year 1” ingenuity for this game. I much prefer wacky designs over say, Thor, who mostly consists of “plus stats” cards. Flipping is one of the most fun things to do in this game, so even if “flipping down” from hero to alter-ego isn’t an ideal move in specific instances, flipping from hero to hero often can be.

But Ant-Man is also efficient and powerful. He’s far from “broken,” but manages to slot into every aspect, which is an absolute win over several heroes that feel pigeonholed into specific archetypes. He has a decent amount of attack and thwart, and has a hand size of six in alter-ego form and five in tiny hero form. It checks all of the right boxes.

Speaking of the folding card: the quality could be better as the hinge seems to “pop” the card up often, but there are plenty of relatively cheap storage solutions that solve this issue. Give him a go!

Verdict: Buy it


Wasp

We’ve had access to Wasp thanks to Amazon UK, and we’ve taken her for a spin with each aspect. As of right now, Wasp feels a little sterile, mostly due to her hero kit that basically amounts to “extra stats.”

Even her helmet, which is otherwise one of the most interesting parts of Ant-Man’s kit, is “plus stats.” Where she shines is her ability to distribute her attack and thwart values in giant form: it can be a fun math problem for a certain kind of player to make the “most efficient play.”

Since this is a discerning buyer’s guide though, I’m going to cautiously advise folks to wishlist Wasp rather than outright buying her. If you can only choose one “tiny/giant” hero, make it Ant-Man. He’s much more versatile and fun to play. That said, Wasp comes with some killer cards in her pack, especially Ironheart.

Again, there are plenty of relatively cheap storage solutions for the folding card if you’re worried about it!

Verdict: Wishlist it


Quicksilver

We also have access to Quicksilver via Amazon UK; call me surprised, but Quicksilver has become one of my favorite heroes thus far.

At first glance, Quicksilver’s kit seems surface level, but once you really pilot him over the course of a few expert/heroic games, you’ll find his niche, and then some. Quicksilver’s ready ability is a blast, not only in terms of card interaction, but pure efficacy. He can essentially thwart or attack for two from turn one (or a combo), and Friction Resistance really allows his kit to come together.

He’s fun in every aspect, thanks to his raw readying power. The added cherry on top of readying once in the villain phase (don’t forget that free block, even if you use it on a minion!) is a nice touch. Oh, and given that players were starving for more Protection cards at this point (it’ll have been seven full months since the last entirely-Protection-based pack when he’s out in February of 2020!), it’s a no-brainer.

Verdict: Buy it


Scarlet Witch

Scarlet Witch is a tricky one to judge.

So, having played her across all difficulty settings (mostly heroic), she is a monster. On the flipside of the coin, she’s Strange as he should have been: more fun and interactive.

Year 2 hero design (read: from Ant-Man on) feels significantly different in myriad ways. It really feels like the team is hitting their stride in terms of making heroes feel “powerful.” Scarlet Witch overdoes this a tad, but only just so. She is, quite simply, a blast to play, even if she semi-trivializes some scenarios.

Again, this guide is attempting to be a little more discerning when possible, because “buy every pack” isn’t viable, financially, for everyone. And in that vein, many of Scarlet Witch’s actual aspect and basic cards just don’t cut the mustard. Out of all of the packs so far in Year 2, she is arguably the most skippable, if we’re just talking non-hero cards. Click the link above and peruse them yourself.

Even still, no Year 2 hero is a bad buy. Shove them up to the top of your list.

Verdict: Wishlist it


Galaxy’s Most Wanted

I never thought I’d see the day where I’d wishlist a story box. So is it bad? Not entirely. Let’s talk about it.

So Galaxy’s Most Wanted is a tough nut to crack. I want to make it clear: I like some of the box as a standalone experience. But I also run a Marvel Champions resource site and heavily invest in constructed deckbuilding. As a play-on-standard out of the box product, Galaxy’s Most Wanted can be pretty rough, and openly hostile to casual players.

If you’re entering it with the “buy what you want” mindset, you may want to think about picking up Red Skull first. Although the heroes are very flavorful and fun to play when they are piloted with constructed decks, Galaxy’s Most Wanted’s precons leave a lot to be desired, and are ill-equipped to handle at least one of the latter encounters in the box. If you’re a casual fan, Ronan (the final encounter) is far beyond anything standard has ever offered before.

Now, that’s not inherently a bad thing if you only play expert and want a challenge (raises hand). Standalone, Galaxy’s Most Wanted eliminates the need for heroic play for the most hardcore playerbase, as it provides a sufficient enough challenge (and then some) on its own. The villains are also much more charismatic both in terms of how they play and their encounter cards and recommended modular sets. I consider chucking heroic to the curb an upgrade, if these scenarios can stand on their own within the confines of the original expert mode concept.

The theme is hit and miss. Piloting the Milano is a very small thing on paper. The Collector’s first scenario gives players an alternate loss condition and his second scenario provides an alternate win condition. The market is mostly bland, but is otherwise an innocuous experience that doesn’t really hurt the box; so much as take up space that other modular sets could have filled.

Galaxy’s Most Wanted has been a blast to critique, because it represents a very interesting juncture for Marvel Champions as a whole. I’m both very excited and somewhat anxious to see where encounter design goes next.

Verdict: Wishlist it


Star Lord

So Star Lord’s recommendation is a bit weird, as it kind of takes a fork depending on what your priorities are.

If you’re a standard player, Star Lord is a buy. You can freely use his gambling ability each turn for fun gains, and interact with a good amount of his kit. On expert, you’re going to find him fairly inflexible in anything but leadership.

Star Lord shines in leadership because of his passive ability, which is essentially his second hero power. He can command swarm decks in any aspect, which makes him a very neat prospect for future ally-heavy decks. His entire toolkit in his pack is also tailored to ally play (mostly Guardian-variety) similar to Ant-Man.

He’s interesting!

Verdict: Wishlist it


Gamora

Gamora has become a “love her or hate her hero.” I like her. But I wouldn’t recommend her to everyone.

She’s a very strong hero, with access to status tokens, mitigation, and a very cheap economy. Some turns, on expert, I’ve cleared a main scheme out from starting threat, and dealt the villain six or more damage. She’s incredibly good in terms of tempo, which is just what you’d need if you’re an expert GMW player or heroic player for old content.

That said, she’s very straight-forward and isn’t going to appeal to everyone. She smashes through standard without much issue and her deckbuilding opportunities aren’t nearly as interesting as they’d seem. Keep an eye on her unless you want another really strong hero to take into GMW and are bored with your current choices.

Verdict: Wishlist it


Drax

Drax, like the rest of the Guardians cycle is…interesting. I keep using that word! But it really describes the cycle as a whole.

Drax is kind of like how Hulk should have been. He’s a four hand size hero, but with some work, he can draw into six. That’s conditional, and that’s not always going to happen (it needs setup and at least one deck cycle), but on the way there, you’ll have some fun.

On the flipside, he mainly works in Protection, and you might get bored of him after a while. He really shines in multiplayer as well, which is another strike against him. Still, he is fun and engaging to play, and his hero kit has a good amount of worthwhile upgrades and powerful events.

Verdict: Wishlist it


Venom

Venom is an incredibly strong hero that benefits from a thematic kit with lots of stun/confuse options. Although it might not be the Venom some people wanted, the gun-heavy Flash Thompson is engaging to play, if a little strong, approaching Mystic level in terms of power level.

Better yet, Justice needed more variety, and we got a little bit of it from this pack. Even just Sonic Rifle and Think Fast alone are enough to shake up the meta, and highly benefit Venom in his own pack. Side Holster also greatly enhances Rocket, and the list goes on.

Not to mention the crucial Protection addition of Shake it Off, which frankly should have been in Drax’s pack.

Verdict: Buy it


Mad Titan’s Shadow

So figuring out how this one is going to land is exceedingly difficult because of how it follows up the polarizing Galaxy’s Most Wanted. I rate every set on its own merits, but I also totally get the fatigue that GMW caused.

I’ll start with the heroes, both of which showcase exactly how a box should handle heroes. Spectrum is a ton of fun and one of the most standout characters yet. Her gimmick of three form changes is something I want to see more out of heroes: a big way to differentiate herself from the pack. As usual the Leadership inclusions are insane, bringing Avengers Leadership up a notch somehow, which is crazy to think about. Her cards are now on Hall of Heroes. Oh, and as per the rulebook, Moxie et al DOES proc on her “form” changes. Her deck even comes with Moxie.

Adam Warlock is more interesting than I thought he would be. I’m not a fan of some of his art (including a bit of his nemesis set), but his singleton deck(singles of any given non-hero card) is cool in practice, especially in standard, where consistency isn’t as paramount. His prebuilt deck in standard is one of the most dynamic and fun yet because it’s unpredictable, and he can handle standard with that style of play. Where I don’t dig Adam Warlock so much in terms of the deckbuilding aspect. The lack of consistency really hurts in some of the tougher scenarios, and building for him can be really fiddly. Solo players also aren’t going to like his leadership hero power proc and his cape interaction (it doesn’t quite line up). He’s a tad clunky, but again, standard players are going to love him, I think. Scenario-wise, this box is classic Caleb. And as long time LOTR fans know, that’s a good thing. This box is extremely thematic, putting GMW to shame in that department. In fact all of it puts GMW to shame as a whole.

I have to say Caleb really did right by standard players in this box. So many Stage Is lack a “gotcha” element which is really going to make for a smoother experience. Oh! And Spectrum and Adam Warlock being so powerful helps! This time they’re actually viable out of the box and have decent precons – following the classic Champions principle of “these heroes could likely have 25 random cards and still do work.” It gets the job done compared to some of their past efforts. The campaign (as in playing all five scenarios in a row with campaign rules) is also the best yet, I’d contend. It’s not overly complicated, but it’s also not as auto-pilot-heavy as Red Skull. There’s typically one choice (conveyed via an optional side scheme) and you get a bonus for completing it (or a negative aspect for not finishing a few). While it’s not going to blow anyone away, the cards you do get from it are very thematic. So, onto the scenarios.

First up is Ebony Maw. So this might be my least favorite of the “starter” story box scenarios, but that’s not neccesarily bad news because of how long Crossbones and Drang were beloved by the community. Ebony Maw is a bit fiddly, especially on expert, where you start with two spells in play per player by default (one from the main scheme, one from Ebony Maw Stage II). The spells are really his bread and butter, as his deck is going to be very familiar otherwise. The drag is that all eight spells have surge, and they’re environments, not treacheries, so there isn’t a catch-all cancel for them outside of a few options. The fact that you can see them coming though is fun, and allows for some counterplay. This scenario is really going to be fun in four player, where his spells are spread out.

Next is Tower Defense. I think this one is also going to be a bit split but I personally enjoyed it quite a bit, especially in the campaign mode (usually campaign mode makes things less interesting for me, so it was a shock). I didn’t really feel like I was “defending” the tower at any point, and although there are a few chump block tech encounter cards, for the most part, it’s not that punishing. That said, I really enjoyed the two villain tandem here and thought it was really fun to play. The campaign adds another wrinkle in with a “Shawarma Place” side scheme that’s pretty fun to put in and has a little surprise. It also introduces a very interesting and (importantly, in the actual rulebook) way to adjust its difficulty. The book actually says if you want, you can put one per player damage on the tower in standard, two per player in expert, and three per player in heroic mode. This concept comes back in the last scenario. I really like how much more elegant this is than the way GMW handled difficulty, and how much it flip-flopped in terms of how it wanted to actually commit to that difficulty level. Here in Mad Titan’s Shadow the box gives you options; no need to check rulebooks or random email rulings.

Thanos is yet another scenario that improves upon GMW’s warped idea of standard, while expert players will be able to enjoy the challenge of full stalwart the entire match. Some of his deck is brute force oriented, but overall he’s a much better experience than Ronan, especially in the campaign. A big reason for all of this is because hinder, and the main schemes, aren’t as insane. I don’t know who “pumped up” those numbers in GMW, but however toned them down in MTS, thank you. Hinder, as a rule, is generally “hinder 1” and “per threat” totals for main schemes are “1 per player,” often with high thresholds. Alter-ego actually feels viable again.

Hela (who is fourth, after Thanos) is far and away one of the craziest scenarios yet, and like Collector 2, it shows what the game is capable of. Hela takes things even further though and basically turns this game into LOTR. To progress, you’ll actually need to fight off a “per player health” boss enemy, then complete subsequent (reasonably threatted) side schemes three times, which simulate a journey. So you kill a miniboss that prevents you from thwarting a location side scheme, then finish that side scheme, then another miniboss and side scheme come out, and so on. And all the while, Hela is buffed for each side scheme that’s in the victory display. I know some people are going to find it fiddly, but it’s incredibly thematic and feels like a LOTR-like journey through Asgard/Hel. It’s for sure fiddly in any sense, but I suspect LCG fans of other games will take to it very easily. Also, after a few games, you get a sense of the linear nature of it. While I don’t want to spoil too much here, Hela is memorable and will probably work my way into demo sessions to show new players that the game isn’t always just about beating down a villain.

Loki is the last boss and is also as unique as Hela. He has five random villain cards and you shuffle them and randomly choose between them (sometimes they shift out and in via card effects). To kill him you’ll need to defeat a certain number of “Lokis,” so one on rookie, two on standard, three on expert, and four in heroic (yes heroic is specifically listed). Oh and Loki has the Infinity Gauntlet, so you have to deal with that.

The variable difficulty in the rulebook is a Godsend here. It’s so clear how you can change things up and the game even acknowledges rookie and heroic, rather than the “play how you want, actually you can mix rookie and expert” muddled message of GMW. This box feels like it has an actual vision. I really enjoyed it, and the addition of Loki and Hela (both of which are good) ensure that it isn’t boring thematically. Both of them offer up two of the most unique scenarios to date in Marvel Champions.

I’m not sure how this box is going to be reviewed overall but the community. I would posit “positive, but safe.” Like GMW it offers glimpses at the potential the game has in the future, but instead of fumbling them, it embraces them. Here’s hoping the next box is more like MTS and GMW was a fluke.

Verdict: Buy it

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