As we settle into the inter-league lull in competitive play, there is a new hotness percolating up into the public consciousness: Hired Muscle.
At its most basic, Hired Muscle seems like a straightforward proposition – it helps you grab extracts from further away than normal. A R2 place is 3″ and the width of a scenario token is 1″ so it can allow you to pick up any civilian extract within 5″ of your current position (pay attention to the Civilian stipulation it is very important to how this card works). However, this extension on interaction can have massive knock-on effects.
I’ve Got a Fever… For More Spider-Infected!
Enter Spider-Infected Invade Manhattan, a much maligned crisis from the core set who hasn’t gotten a lot of love due to the random mandatory movement effect. More importantly, it is a F crisis that uses Civilians. That means a medium mover can double move to within r3 of the center extract, and 2 of the extracts on one side and move ALL of them. With 2 power to start, from either Advanced R&D, or gems, or being an asgardian, you can set up to pick up your opponent’s home extract, shift your home one to a position where nothing except a long mover can counter-steal (and be super exposed) and shift the middle extract 3 inches towards your side ensuring that nothing but a double move into your territory is a possibility if they want to take it. This paves the way for a 4-1 split on the extract round 1 assuming you can keep your Hired Muscle enabler alive.
Don’t Panic: Keep Calm and Grab Citizens
The other easy crisis to abuse this on is Panic Grips City as Evacuation Efforts Continue. You might notice that B is VERY similar to F in shape, just missing the center extract and the remaining ones moving 2 inches closer towards the side board edges. So, you can essentially do the same thing to force a 3-1 advantage on extracts on either flank.
This also lends itself to a fast score-out where if you have enough characters with high innate power generation you can score out early-mid round 3. Just on the extracts you score 6-2 in the first two rounds if you can manage to not drop them, its easy to find 6 power going into round 3 to cash in your citizens to generate another 6 VPS, leaving you to find 4 vps between 2 rounds of holding secures.
There is One Impostor Among Us
The third extract that I haven’t quite heard nearly as much chatter about (admittedly due to it being the least abusable) is Skrulls Infiltrate World Leadership. Unlike Mutant Extremists, the non-scoring interact points are civilians. That means you can move up with a character, Hired Muscle the center and one of the flank Decoys r2 onto your side so that you can conveniently and safely search for the Skrull while your opponent would have to move fully into your territory to even attempt it. This can also stack with Corvus Glaive – Hired Muscle, double interact between Corvus and Proxima (with Corvus being double odds thanks to the Reality Gem) and then move short back to almost your deployment line with a decisive 2 VP/round advantage and no good ways to force the drop on round 1.
At the writing of this article, there is exactly one secure crisis that uses Civilian tokens – Mayor Fisk Vows to Find Missing Witnesses. Building a roster around Hired Muscle and Witnesses probably isn’t all that viable, but if you’re able to activate last with a character on your weak side, you can use Hired Muscle to basically score a Witness that you otherwise wouldn’t for a round. One power and a tactics card to give yourself 2 VPs and deny 2 for your opponent is quite potent.
Putting the Team Together
At this point I just want to point people in the direction of the Turn Zero article that does a good job of breaking down an Asgardian-specific roster for Hired Muscle plays:
UtilityCookie was one of the first people I’ve seen fiddling with the concept of abusing Hired Muscle on Evac/Spider-Infected, and has done so to brutal effect. They’re the most flexible option as their entire affiliation by definition gains 2 power/round and therefore can run Hired Muscle on any flank, forcing your opponent to rush to grab the center if they have priority. Odin’s Blessing and Rainbow Bridge are emergency buttons you can press to protect your extract advantage, and Enchantress is uniquely suited to steal extracts if something goes sideways. And if you’re doing this on Evacuation, the innate power generation means it is very easy to cash in the citizens with minimal dice involved for a brutally fast mid-r3 win.
But it’s not just Asgard who can show up big with such a play. Black Order can threaten the play on both flanks with Corvus and Thanos, and with priority can easily grab the middle and enemy extract with corvus/proxima and have decent odds of weathering the storm if they didn’t appropriately allocate pieces to that flank. And round 2 you can Mothership the flank you didn’t do the play on over to protect your investment. Defenders can splash Asgard off of the Valkyrie crossover, and Strange with the Soul Gem is great at tanking aggro while holding an extract or even take the Hulk for someone who definitely won’t be one-rounded. X-men on the back of First Class can pick up the extracts for free round 1. And if you’re willing to use Advanced R&D, Toad can grab the enemy extract while sitting on your half of the board, while threatening to slip further away if they fail to daze him off the bat.
Now that we’ve hyped up the power and flexibility of such a game plan, how do you deal with it?
Deception is one of the hot new cards storming the game right now, and is perfectly situated to deal with opening moves that expose an individual character. Advance them their speed towards you, then gang up on them to try and turn their extract advantage into a disadvantage while building an attrition advantage. Web Warriors have tools like Peter and Gwen who are able to move->Impact Webbing into Web Line and hopefully get them displaced enough for Venom to go to town. Any character that can double move throw, or move->attack->throw out of the box (or with Advanced R&D to bridge the power issues) can do similar work. Come out of the gates swinging and do not let up until they’ve dropped it, because they’ll have tools to try and rescue their exposed character.
The much simpler approach however is to remove it as a factor. If you get priority, pick extracts yourself to make it dead. If they get priority, have a secure like Gamma Wave where you can focus on it to a similar degree and negate their advantage. If your opponent picks Infinity, holding home+mid on Gamma gives an even score (though they have the threat of cashing in the citizens, so work on dropping them fast). Hell, on Gamma you can even threaten their home secure if they aren’t careful to gain an outright lead, assuming you have a sufficiently forward aggressive squad like Criminal Syndicate. But whichever route you take, you need to have a game plan or you’re in for a bad time.
Hired Muscle is a incredibly powerful scenario tool that you need to be prepared for in the current state of Marvel: Crisis Protocol. Dice-less advantages are hard to come by in this game, so you had be prepared to either play it or deal with it no matter the roster you put forwards. I’ll be talking about Hired Muscle a bit but due to the nature of pre-recorded episodes I did not fully understand the raw power of the card when it was first brought to my attention. Expect an Asgard episode focusing on maximizing the Hired Muscle plays very soon! Hit me up in the comments with the Hired Muscle teams you’ve been tinkering with, or other topics you’d like to see covered in the clinic as well. Until next time!