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: December 2020


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 at that very same moment.

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.

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

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