Welcome to my Clinic! The Clinic will be a series of articles covering list building and general strategy in Marvel Crisis Protocol, attempting to get you to think about concepts that can give you a leg up before you even sit down at a table with an opponent. In this inaugural episode, we will be covering the concept of core teams.
What is a core team? For an affiliation it is the cheapest team of 3 affiliated characters you can run while still having a leader (leadership abilities are just too good!). This gives you the majority of affiliated characters needed to benefit from Leadership or Affiliated Tactics for any team up to 5 characters. They will form the basic building block of roster building, and you’ll be using these 3 characters in most of your games with this affiliation. Sure, sometimes you’ll swap them out for more expensive affiliated pieces, but starting at the cheapest core you have available helps to show what kinds of pieces you need to fill out your roster.
If it’s high – Black Order is the highest core in the game at 13 threat, you want cheap options to make low threat options functional (or sometimes a secondary affiliation to cover 14 threat in the case of Black Order – one gem between Thanos and Corvus can be quite painful). On the other hand you can have core teams that are super low threat like Guardians – 7 threat means that without Thanos with multiple gems it is physically impossible to run 5 characters wide without altering your core for 20 threat. Thats balanced out by the wide range of GotG characters you have to modulate and upgrade your core team for any threat level, or you can easily play 6 wide at 19-20 if push comes to shove. Above all, the important thing is to understand what your roster’s core team is so when you’re filling out character slots you’re creating good coverage for every threat value.
For the sake of argument we are going to leave Rogue Agents out of discussion here. They can lower the threat of the core teams of Asgard, Brotherhood, Black Order, Spider-Foes, and X-men (if you’re willing to give up Cyclops’ potential leadership) and can be valuable tools in opening up options but I want to focus on the affiliated characters that people are looking to play when they pick an affiliation.
Asgard: Thor, Loki, Valkyrie – 12
This is the second most expensive core in the game right now and with Angela and Enchantress coming out next year only more expensive options are coming down the pike. You’ll notice off the bat that we’re 2 threat off from 14 threat – that means its INCREDIBLY important to fit a 2 threat character into your roster to be able to play 14 threat (unless you have a second affiliation to cover low threat). The other option is to commit to playing 3 wide at 14 with the mind gem on Loki and turning Valkyrie into a 4 threat of your choice, but considering that the only 14 threat crisis wants you to play 4-5 characters for proper coverage, thats not quite a palatable choice.
Avengers: Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Widow – 9
Avengers is one of the widest affiliations in the game right now. 14 characters, 11 of which are 3 or 4 cost. That means that pretty much any 3 or 4 cost character (excepting cap) has ~4-5 affiliated characters you can swap it out for and be at the same threat. It also means that you can easily climb the threat ladder by converting Black Widow to another 3 cost Avenger to bump up threat by 1, your 3 of choice to your 4 of choice to do the same. When I’ve seen Avengers players play I’ve seen a lot of deliberation in the team building portion of the match just because of how wide open their threat math is. You can run an entirely avengers roster and have literally dozens of team options at every threat value. This lends towards putting focus onto your unaffiliated splashes as you can contort your team into most threat values trivially so whatever splash characters you have can be reliably fielded.
Black Order: Thanos, Corvus, Proxima – 13
Up until “Mutant Extremists” Black Order had one of the smoothest Threat progression options thanks to gems. 15 would always be Thanos w/ Mind, Corvus w/ Reality, and Proxima, and for every threat above you can tack on gems and/or bodies as you see fit. Ideally having a 2, 3, and a 4 will give you full coverage alongside some extra gems. But now 14 threat is a problem as you have to give up the Mind gem on Thanos or the Reality Gem on Corvus. There’s some arguments as to which you drop but I think the consensus is that you’re never happy doing it. This brings us back to seriously wanting either a second affiliation to play at 14, or have a Thanos-less game plan. The final alternative is downgrading Proxima to your 2 threat offering but in general playing 3 wide is not attractive on Mutant Extremists.
Brotherhood: Mystique, Toad, Sabretooth – 9
To a lot of people, it’s heresy not including Magneto in this core but it is the cheapest 3 characters w/ a leadership you can run in Brotherhood. If you insist on Magneto as you’re building around his leadership, Sabretooth becomes Magneto and you have a core of 11 threat – not the worst but still above the curve. An additional 3 in that case is borderline mandatory to make the jump from 11 to 14, and an extra 2 is very attractive. Unlike Avengers who have an army of 3s and 4s to shuffle around to get the right threat, two 2 threat characters opens up a world of threat math options. One point over? Turn a 3 into a 2. One point under? Turn a 3 into two 2s. It can open 6 wide at 19 and 20 if you really want (16 if we get Taskmaster and a third 2 up in here).
Cabal: Red Skull, Baron Zemo, Crossbones – 10
This is another core team with an asterisk as a lot of people consider M.O.D.O.K. core to any Cabal roster, which would bump the base from 10 to 12. Or a Magneto Cabal option where your core can go as high as 13. Whichever way you want a 2, a 3, and a 4 so that all 3 options can comfortably get to 14 – 17 and then do whatever you need/want for 18+
Criminal Syndicate: Kingpin, Taskmaster, Crossbones – 10
Another asterisked core team due to M.O.D.O.K. being affiliated, Syndicate has 7 characters at the moment with three at 3 threat, three at 4 threat, and M.O.D.O.K. at 5. Not having an affiliated 2 threat means running a pair of 2s isn’t all that attractive as it’d take up both of your unaffiliated slots, but having one to help downshift aspects of your roster to find more room for M.O.D.O.K. is always a fine idea.
Defenders: Doctor Strange, Valkyrie, Wong – 10
Defenders is another middle of the road base threat core team, and admittedly a bit support heavy considering Wong is a full on support piece, and a decent chunk of Strange’s power budget is tied up in his own support elements. That said, the Soul Gem is a must take in your ten – 1 threat options are HUGE in opening up team construction possibilities. Love your 15 threat core with Ghost Rider added but need to bump to 16? Soul Gem. Got a nasty 18 threat team with Soul Gem you need to cram into 17 threat? Cut the Soul Gem. It’s even a core element of certain portal herb plays with Toad at 13 threat base.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Star-Lord, Rocket, Nebula – 7
Oh boy, I could (and might) write an entire article on GotG roster building. Despite being maligned for one of the weaker leadership + affiliated card offerings (at least until Angela+Enchantress) they have a ton of unique roster building features. They have the lowest core team threat of any affiliation in the game due to having a 3 threat leader and TWO 2 threats available. This also makes them uniquely suited to play wide, being the only affiliation able to play six wide at every threat value (if you’re willing to take two unaffiliated 2s), and seven at some of the higher threat values. They also have the option of the Power Gem to toggle threat in a similar way to the Soul Gem with defenders, although unless there’s a specific plan for it or you’re putting it on Ronan I’d typically rather upgrade a 2 to a 3 or a 3 to a 4.
Spider-Foes: Green Goblin, Venom, Doctor Octopus – 11
Spider-Foes is a very limited affiliation at the moment with only four characters to its name. With all of them together you only have 15 threat which means you will be relying heavily on unaffiliated characters or a second affiliation for coverage. If you’re going mono affiliation with them, make absolutely certain there’s a team for every threat you’re happy with, because its easy to be limited to single digit team variations at certain threat values if you aren’t careful. That said, between Kingpin and Green Goblin being both Criminal Syndicate and Kingpin being the Criminal Syndicate Leader, it’s easy to slip into Criminal Syndicate in a pinch.
Wakanda: Black Panther, Shuri, Okoye – 9
As GotG is pretty unpopular nowadays until Angela arrives, Wakanda is the prototypical low threat core affiliation. If you’re reading this article you’ve probably read about Wakanda Wave or experienced it yourself, which is incredibly potent at low threat values but can struggle to scale all the way up to 20. With the addition of Storm now however, you can run all five Wakandans at 16 threat and play a more attrition focused game abusing a five-wide Wakanda Forever with a ton of angles to maximize output, even running an All You’ve Got / Usurp the Throne play to stretch your scenario advantage while playing still attrition. A 2 and two 3s is very important to have good coverage for 14 and 15 threat, though you can forego the 2 if you’re willing to commit to upgrading Okoye to Killmonger if you need to bump your threat by 2 (or Okoye to Storm if you only need a bump of 1). Another thing to consider is how tactics heavy Wakanda can be between Wakanda Forever and either Vibranium Shielding or Usurp the Throne (or both!) if you’re playing attrition focused.
Web Warriors: Spider-man (Miles), Ghost Spider, Venom – 10
Another affiliation limited similarly to Spider-Foes – the full lineup goes to 14 which means you have to be very careful about your remaining 6 slots in your roster to ensure you have options you’re happy with, especially considering that their best Team Tactics card (All Webbed Up) won’t boost unaffiliated allies. Both M.O.D.O.K. and Doctor Strange synergize well with the leadership and characters, so consider including them to cover higher threat options or an upgrade path from 3->5 or 4->5 to increase threat in smaller increments. They also open the door to splashing Defenders, Criminal Syndicate or Cabal if you’re so motivated.
X-men: Storm, Beast, Cyclops – 10
Again similar issues as Web Warriors but even more exacerbated as literally all of their Team Tactics cards only work on X-men. As with any limited affiliation, look to go double affiliation or spend a lot of time thinking through every threat and how your splash characters fit.
And I think that’ll wrap it for this inaugural article. Hopefully thinking about teams in their core affiliated components has illuminated the importance of building up from a base to maximize your good team options for both roster building and team construction in the match. And knowing exactly how your roster is put together will lead to faster and more correct decision making with it in the future.
Have an idea for a Clinic article, or a particular affiliation/character combination for Roster Doctor? Leave a comment below, or message me on Discord/Facebook!