Marvel Champions week is almost over here on the blog, but we’re not at the end yet! Following yesterday’s post about playing with the preconstructed decks that form the expansion structure of the game, today I’m going in the opposite direction, and looking at building my own decks for the game.
I’ve been a card gamer for years now, and in that time I must have spent months just going through piles of cards for any given game, trying to evaluate them for play. So even though I’m still fairly new to this game, I am an old hand at building a deck, and like to think I know enough of what I’m doing to jump into this particular pool early on. Of course, knowledge of the game allows you to better understand the relative worth of the cards you’re looking to include in your deck, and a lot of that will come through trial and error.
When I played my first game of Marvel Champions, using Spider-Man and his suggested precon, I think I could see very early on how there were certain cards in there I would just never use. The unique resource mechanic of Marvel Champions almost guarantees that no card would be wasted in any deck, as it can always be discarded for a resource if you don’t want to play it for the effect. It’s definitely true that I look to include cards for their resource functionality as well, but what a card does is also pretty critical, for me. In the case of Spider-Man and the Justice deck, I know that I don’t like to gamble much when it comes to taking damage, so I knew very early on that I would cut Great Responsibility from the deck. As I got to play with Spider-Man more, I realised that I wasn’t using him for his base thwart, so could also very easily cut Heroic Intuition.
While these cards are never wasted, because I can always use them to generate resources, I prefer to build decks on the assumption that I will actually use the card for what it does, rather than because it could be a resource. That way, I’m never faced with the problem of having a hand of cards that are basically resources, which I don’t want to play for their effects. The flip side to that is that my turns can often be agonising events where each card I’ve drawn is really good, and useful, and I don’t want to have to discard a Swinging Web Kick to pay for anything!!
I’m not intending to write a deck building manual for Marvel Champions, as there are much better-qualified players out there than me who have already done that. However, this blog is intended very much as how I go about building my decks, so maybe you’ll find it useful by seeing a bit of my thought process, which I know tends more to the weird and wonderful when it comes to this stuff!!
I would say that Marvel Champions is unique among the games that I play, because building a deck for it can be relatively easy. While it’s not quite Star Wars LCG levels of “pick ten objective cards, and your deck will be built”, it is probably the next best thing. A deck for Marvel Champions must be between 40 and 50 cards, and common wisdom is to keep it as low as possible so that you have the best chance of finding your good cards when you need them. However, some heroes will be fine with bigger decks – Iron Man springs to mind as being able to move through his deck quickly, so you can potentially build a 50 card deck for him and it won’t be so bad.
Of those 40 cards, your hero will bring 15 along with them, so you’re already only looking to build a deck of 25 cards. While it is possible that you can build a singleton deck, in reality you’ll want to include a couple of cards in multiple, because you’ll either want to increase your chances of finding them, or you’ll want to benefit from the effect multiple times. Some cards can only be included once in a deck, either because of uniqueness or limitations on the card itself. For instance, there are the three neutral resource cards which can only be included once, and your Aspect resource doubler card, which can only be included twice. If you include those (and while I know a lot of internet folks will tell you not to, but why wouldn’t you want more resources?) then you’re looking at a 20-card deck that you need to build. If you include three allies, because that’s the ally limit, then you’ve got to find 17 more cards. If you find 5 good cards and include two copies of each, you then only need to find 7 more cards. The process to build this 40 card deck can be whittled down until actually it’s just a case of finding a few cards that you like the look of, and going from there.
I’ve already mentioned my Spider-Man deck as something I’m quite pleased with, and it’s something that has grown with me from the very start of this game. For someone who is not overly bothered with the webslinger, I have definitely played with this hero the most! My approach to Spider-Man Justice was to include a number of ways to remove threat from the scheme, because he has some pretty good attacks and defence cards in his personal cards already. As my card collection grew, and I was getting more cards that did more than just thwart, things were being swapped in and out quite rapidly. As it stands, he’s quite a powerful character at the minute because his is a deck that I have spent the most time with, and I would say that he’s the one I evaluate pretty much any Justice card against.
Captain Marvel has been another joy to work with, although that is principally due to her hero cards being so good. I’ve built her as Protection, I think primarily because I had been playing her as Aggro, but moved on to using those cards for Iron Man. As it happens, this change happened around the time I started buying more packs, and so I was getting a number of very interesting Protection cards whereby a hero could deflect damage back at enemies, for example, and so a lot of her deck is dealing almost accidental damage, if that makes sense! Coupled with the fact she is pretty damn powerful anyway, it’s another fun deck that I enjoy playing.
Also in Protection is Black Panther, which caused a bit of trouble for me at first because I had already used a lot of the good cards for Captain Marvel! This is perhaps where the hero specific cards come into play, however, as the way that I would evaluate a card changes, based on what I want the deck to do. When it comes to Captain Marvel, she’s doing a lot of damage through her own cards, so she doesn’t necessarily need all of those cards that reflect the damage back to an enemy during the villain phase. Black Panther has no shortage of resource cards within his deck, of course, so he can afford to bring much more expensive cards because they won’t end up being used as resources due to having no way of playing them. I’ve been able to lean more into the healing aspect of Protection with Black Panther, though, which is nice to have that kind of flexibility within the Aspect, but also it’s nice to have that real sort of team-spirit when playing the game, so having the healer, the brute, etc.
The last deck that I have “scratch built” is Iron Man, in the aforementioned Aggro build. Unsurprisingly, then, he has a lot of cards that are basically there to beat the living daylights out of enemies. However, Iron Man can be quite a janky hero to play, I find, due to the fact his hand size in hero mode is based on how many Tech upgrades he has, but will be a minimum of 1. Due to bad draws, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve ended up playing him basically every other turn, as he requires re-setting to Alter Ego to draw cards, then plays them in Hero form, only to then need to switch back on the next turn and therefore do nothing, etc.
Much like with Spider-Man and the thwart cards getting better, there are now more attack cards that will do additional things, which I like because it makes the deck a lot more multi-functional, but also I love the value you get from multiple effects. While I have had some despairing games with Iron Man due to lack of drawing any upgrades, I’ve also had a few where it’s almost been an embarrassment of riches as I draw all the good stuff and can’t decide which cards to ditch for resources, and which to keep!
However, for all that there are fancy new cards that are available in the later packs, I do find the core set stuff provides a backbone for these decks, regardless. It’s interesting, because people talk about power creep all the time with games like these, but while the newer cards do often seem like they’re flashy and amazing, it’s still core set cards that I find myself coming back to time and again. I suppose that could partly be due to the size of my collection, of course, but nevertheless, I do think that it’s interesting how the core stuff holds up for years.
My other decks are pretty much slight tinkerings with the pre-constructed decks for heroes like Captain America, Doctor Strange, Spectrum and the like. Interestingly, the Star-Lord precon deck that I mentioned in yesterday’s blog as being widely disparaged has only had three cards swapped out for me, and I’ve not found it that bad to play. I suppose I still have a lot of heroes where I’ve not tried them much, however, so I have plenty more life left in this game for me yet!