Welcome back aboard the Milano, misfits!
First and foremost, thank you to those of you who’ve reached out about the series- we’re just getting started, and the response has been really wonderful. Let me know what you like, what we’ve done well, what we haven’t, what you’d like to see, what you don’t want to see, etc. All constructive feedback is good feedback!
Speaking of continually growing and improving…
In an effort to make this the very best Guardians of the Galaxy content possible, I’ve been reaching out to players throughout the world to get their insights on a variety of topics related to the affiliation- and if I haven’t reached out to you yet…it’s only a matter of time! The Guardians are a crew, after all, not a solo act, and we’re at our best when we work as a team. With that in mind, I’d like to allow our first co-author to introduce himself. This brave soul generously agreed to join me in writing the remainder of the “Your Guide to Guarding the Galaxy” overview articles, and hopefully I’ll be able to convince him to stick around and provide his unique perspective and insights on the regular. Meet GhostDeer!
Hi, I’m GhostDeer (or Nate) and I’ll try to keep this intro brief since I know you’re excited to get to the good stuff. I’m a longtime MCP player, starting right around when Starlord was originally released and have been trying to make him work off and on ever since. There’s been some brief detours (as ultimately I’m a competitive player at heart) including a run with Brotherhood that got me 2nd place at Second Wind 2021. But since the errata changes made the Guardians actually good, I’ve been ride or die ever since, reaching a 3rd place finish at LVO 2022. But if you want to hear more about my past adventures, you can listen to my podcast – Alfredo’s Size 3 Taco Truck: A Marvel Crisis Protocol Podcast (https://twitter.com/AlfredosTaco).
Nate and I had originally intended this article to cover both the affiliated characters and the GotG tactics cards (both their bespoke ones and those tied to their affiliated characters). However, by the time we got through our first drafts, the article was 13 pages long and still wasn’t finished! As such, we’ve decided to break it up into two parts- one covering the characters and another to be published shortly discussing the tactics cards.
So who are these lovable misfits anyway? What do they bring to the table? Is Angela still S-tier? Are Drax and Ronan as good/bad as people insist?
We want to take a moment to preface this by saying we’re going to try here to evaluate the relative strengths of each of these characters in this affiliation and why you might want to play them with the assumption that this is something that you, in fact, want to do. There is another school of thought on the Guardians that makes the very legitimate case for taking advantage of their cheap core and then loading up on powerhouse splash characters. We’ll discuss splash characters and this approach more in later articles; for today, we’re focusing on the Guardians of the frickin’ Galaxy themselves.
Let’s take a look:
Star-Lord: Aside from the leadership, he brings a fairly mobile, often timing-neutral moderately long ranged blaster to the table. This is more important than it may seem- Star-Lord is often in a position to do something reasonably valuable, even if that is just sit on a secure, move off it, and Hit and Run back on after attacking somebody, but it often doesn’t much matter when in the turn he does it. He’s a nice “stalling” activation if you’re trying to wait your opponent out; at the end of his turn, you may have done some chip damage (or hey, it’s MCP, you may have spiked your opponent’s most valuable piece off the table…) and he’ll be right back where he started. His power is also not so precious that it feels bad to send him off to grab an extract or flip a secure at the expense of him being able to use his spender or superpower next turn if the situation requires it. Likewise, while he can always contribute to the fight, you don’t usually mind just using him to double-move and scoop up or interact with a scenario element if the situation calls for it. If you’ve got enough power, you don’t even lose out on the attack, as he can zap someone en route! All in all, he’s a solid, versatile piece that’s fairly flexible. He’s rarely going to totally wow you (I did daze Magneto with him in a single activation on the first turn of a game one time, but that is what we call a wildly improbable outlier), but he never feels like a dud, either.
It should go without saying that it’s very important to keep Star-Lord safe. If he goes down, the rerolls go away. Reroll-less Guardians are sad Guardians. While Star-Lord can occasionally survive something it really seems like he shouldn’t, on account of his 6 health on the Healthy side and Plucky Attitude superpower, he will go down if someone decides to put effort into it, so be careful. (And for dast’s sake, do not forget that while Winging It tokens can be used on Dodge roles, Plucky Attitude cannot.) Bottom line: if you’re going to get Star-Lord killed, make sure it’s really worth it (trading him for 2-3 victory points towards the end of a close game is a good call; scoring 1 point before frying yourself with cosmic cube fragment damage is NOT).
Let’s talk about the Power Gem for a second. I’m not personally a fan, but if you are, there are some interesting use cases for it. The extra power can make Star-Lord’s activations more impactful by helping him spread conditions around with Full Auto or guaranteeing a Hit-and-Run every activation (though he can usually manage this anyways). It also makes him a great “caddy” for tactics cards, especially some of the more expensive ones like Field Dressing or Bitter Rivals. The downside is that it takes a solid 3 threat character and transforms him into what is probably an underwhelming 4 threat character. In the old days, when it could enable you to adjust your roster up or down a point on the fly, I considered it. Now, I usually leave it at home unless I have a specific plan that requires it. In my personal opinion, one of the primary selling points of playing Guardians of the Galaxy is their cheap core of characters. I haven’t yet found much the Power Gem can give me that I’m willing to give up that cheap core to get.
Rocket: Rocket is one of the reasons to play Guardians, both from a narrative and a gaming perspective. He’s got a shockingly good gun for a 2-threat model, and he’s annoyingly difficult to remove, being immune to collisions and able to shunt attacks off to Groot if he’s within range 2. He also brings a frequently overlooked control effect in the form of his Booby Traps, which can sometimes be a more valuable expenditure of your power than his Hadron Enforcer spender unless the enemies are clumped up (or a very specific use case as outlined below). While unlikely to do a lot of damage, the Booby Traps rule means that enemy characters on their last point of health often simply cannot risk approaching within range 3 of him. In short, he’s an excellent back point sitter, especially on B or E-shaped secures. Don’t forget to plan for the Deadly Duo tactics card; it’s one of the more compelling reasons to take him, and in my opinion should basically be stapled to the Guardians affiliation. If you’re playing Guardians, both Rocket and Deadly Duo should be in your roster.
One last thing about the Hadron Enforcer: it does have one very specific and extremely niche but potentially useful interaction. On a wild, its Vortex trigger pushes enemies within range 2 towards the target S (and deals them a point of damage). Now, this is unreliable (65% normally, ~73% with a Winging It token) and it won’t always matter, but don’t forget about it. It’ll probably only come up once in a dozen games, but if an enemy model is claiming an objective within range 2 of a buddy, and a S push towards that buddy would get them off the objective, you’ll be glad you remembered it. It can also be a useful way to pull a character into range of the rest of your guns. In any other faction, I wouldn’t be making a big deal of this, but as any longtime Guardian player can tell you, in-affiliation effects that can displace enemy models are very, very rare for this team, so you don’t want to discount any of them, no matter how niche. Bear in mind as well that the Vortex trigger is not optional- so if there are enemies near the target that you don’t want to “splash” power onto or push, you are better off using the plasma rifle unless you really need the two extra dice.
Nebula: The flank-slayer extraordinaire of the affiliation, Nebula excels when you need enemy characters cleared off a secure point or an extract holder chased down and put out to pasture. Her Assassin ability even triggers when enemies are standing within 1” of a dropped extract, which is worth keeping in mind if you daze someone holding an extract you’re not immediately able to pick up. In fact, if Nebula has just dazed an extract holder, you can even drop the extract in such a way as to “turn on” Assassin against another enemy character- just make sure you aren’t gift-wrapping control of that extract to your opponent when you do. She is an exceptionally good target for Blind Obsession, as she gets a lot of benefit out of it (her builders become six die re-roll any attacks against her Obsession target if they’re in range of an objective) and suffers little drawback, as getting rid of Nebula consumes valuable actions and doesn’t hurt the Guardians’ scenario play in the least. While I’m a big Groot fan, there are situations where Star-Lord, Nebula, and Rocket as a 7 threat core is a delight (though usually you’ll have a fourth Guardian, too).
A fair amount of the skill cap on Nebula is knowing when to put her on the table in the first place. She’s extremely good at what she does, but she is limited to essentially one specific role and won’t contribute to your scenario play at all (obviously other than messing up your opponent’s plays). It’s tempting to use Nebula to cram a bunch of bodies on the table at low threat values like SWORD base and Senator, and while that’s not necessarily a bad plan, make sure you don’t need that activation to be able to contribute to, say, flipping the SWORD base. I often have a third two-threat model in my rosters (usually Toad or Bullseye) for this reason- sometimes, you can’t afford to have even a 2 threat model not contributing to your progress on the crisis.
Groot: Now able to Strike at range 3, with a deep health pool, a self-healing mechanic, and possessing one of the Guardians’ few strong character throws (and it is a truly monstrous throw; Groot’s spender is one of the best in the game), Groot is an excellent anchor for the team. Using him correctly generally involves working out ways to backstop him and/or Rocket so that they remain in bodyguard range of each other while still having him close enough to contribute to the fight. Don’t forget about his Tangling Vines superpower to hand out Root, either- it’s often overlooked and can seriously alter the math in how some opposing affiliations play. Black Cat, Kingpin, and Juggernaut all loathe it, for example, as do all bodyguards and pretty much the whole Web Warriors and Black Order affiliations.
It’s worth mentioning here that it can be tempting to have Groot pick up an extract on turn one if it’s in range (as he’s a reasonably durable holder for such things), but doing that will likely leave him without the power he and Rocket need in turn two to use Deadly Duo unless he has a target to attack next turn. Remember that choice in turn will dictate your order of activations, too, as Duo can only be played on Rocket’s turn- so keep that in mind. The exception to this is cube fragments. While personally I don’t love Struggle for the Cube for Guardians, Groot will happily hold a cube fragment or two- they give him extra power, and he can easily heal back the damage they deal to him. Incidentally, Struggle for the Cube Continues is also one of the best use-cases for his We Are Groot tactics card, if you’re inclined to find room for it.
Drax: Ah, the much-maligned Drax. It seems nearly impossible to venture near any discord discussion of Guardians of the Galaxy without stumbling into an impassioned argument about the worth (or lack thereof) of the Destroyer. In a development that will likely please nobody, I’m going to stake out the middle position here- Drax is absolutely not bad. He’s a tech piece, not a star, and that’s just fine.
He’s got some real things going for him: he’s the toughest Guardian, with 12 health and a damage reduction effect in “I Can Take It,” and he punishes people for attacking him with “Driven by Vengeance.” He’s also got our most reliable size 3 character throw (in fact, the only character throw superpower in the affiliation), and a guaranteed Size 3 push and a possible size 4 throw on his spender attacks.
That all sounds great! Unfortunately, he also has some fairly significant limitations: he’s a medium move on a small base, and all three of his attacks (which are also all physical) are only range 2, with no way to move or place himself. His upper damage potential is gated behind either a status condition (bleed), your opponent choosing to attack him (triggering Vengeance and/or putting wounds on him to enhance his big spender attack), or both. Finally, and maybe in some ways his biggest problem- while he’s tough and punishes your opponent for attacking him, he doesn’t have any way to force them to do so, lacking bodyguard or any kind of taunt effect. A smart opponent with enough power can just throw Drax into empty space and leave him there, forcing him to spend his two actions next turn moving back and making an attack (which now won’t benefit from Vengeance). Vengeance also only triggers on damage from enemy attacks, so throws, etc. will not set it off.
What does all this mean? Drax is very solid in particular circumstances. If there’s a central fight he can pile into, especially if the characters there don’t have a lot of power for throws, Drax can do real work. He also does well when paired with someone who can be his buddy in combat (GhostDeer demonstrated this very well with Venom in his LVO run) or apply bleeds (Gamora, Bullseye, and you guessed it, Venom are all great for this). He’s also quite useful in matchups where you need a surplus of displacement, like against Criminal Syndicate on Gamma Shelters/Research Station. Finally, like Nebula, Drax is pretty good at holding or securing a flank, provided (and this is key) that you’re not playing against an opponent with a ton of displacement. As long as your opponent actually has to fight him and can’t just shove/throw Drax off into oblivion, he’s both durable enough and has a variety of damage output and control effects that allow him to win a one-on-one fight against most comparable models. He is absolutely not a Guardian you just toss into every squad or even roster, but if you pick the kinds of crises on which he excels, he won’t let you down. (He also absolutely adores Field Dressing, which- spoiler alert for upcoming articles- is probably hands down the best restricted card for the Guardians of the Galaxy).
Ronan: Might as well stay right on the “controversial Guardians” train, I suppose! Ronan is a character that polarizes the community almost as much as Drax, but who doesn’t seem to have quite as many dedicated defenders, at least in this affiliation (Inhumans would have some very different things to say about the Accuser). Just like Drax, let’s look at what he brings to the table and some of the benefits and challenges of using him in Guardians.
Objectively, he’s got a lot going for him- solid health and defenses, especially if you’re interested in paying the energy-based “pay to flip” scenarios. He’s got a medium move on a 50mm base, which makes him pretty quick, and he’s got both solid Range 2 attacks and a cost 0 range 4 Energy attack. All of his attacks have excellent conditional effects, too. His range 2, 5-die builder has a wild size 4(!) character throw, his range 4, 5-die 0-cost attack has a wild push and deals shock on damage, and his Kree Justice spender does Stun and Stagger on damage and has a wild trigger for Explosive. He can also pass out the excellent Judgment condition when enemies damage him or an ally within range 3, and he gets to move short and make an attack when he’s dazed or KO’d.
So far, so good, right? Unfortunately, Ronan’s particular suite of abilities don’t quite form the whole package in Guardians that they look like they should. He’s difficult to use as a control piece, because all of his displacements, while very good, are unreliable- you have to roll a wild on 5 dice, which while not unlikely basically ensures a Winging It token has to be used on him to have any reasonable chance of success, and even then, you can’t count on it. He also has challenges with his power economy in this affiliation- especially if you’re taking him as part of your “pay to flip” plan or to go after extracts, both of which he would normally excel at, given his speed and his defenses. Instead, you’re left struggling to get into range 2, hoping to get hit, or choosing not to interact in order to reliably generate power to use Judgment. I said back in November when the changes were made that adding “After this attack is resolved, this character gains 1 power” to the Universal Weapon attack was all it would have taken to make him a mainstay in the affiliation, and I stand by that, but as it is, he feels more like a tech piece unless you have a very specific plan for him.
You might think that with a lot of his problems being based around his power economy, adding the Power Gem would be a slam dunk fix. The problem is that 1 threat is a lot. It’s hard to quantify, since there aren’t any characters that cost 1 threat, but the opportunity cost is real. And Gem Ronan doesn’t really stack up against the other 5 threat options in or out of affiliation. At least, not without going fairly deep on some of the extract shenanigans you can do with Eye on the Prize and Advanced R&D, but as mentioned earlier, these plans don’t really fit in with what the Guardians are normally trying to accomplish.
Where does that leave the Accuser, then? He probably has a place in specific extract and pay-to-flip strategies, though he’s expensive in that job for 4 threat (in most cases, you can find someone who can do the same job for 3 threat or find the point to upgrade him to Angela, who’s better at both). He also supports a taxation strategy built around using some combination of Root, Judgment, Stun, and possibly other effects from outside the affiliation (such as Loki) to stymie enemy characters’ attempts to use their superpowers and even spenders- the question is, is that a strategy that can bring victory, or just slow down your opponent’s eventual win?
Ronan is a character that I’m convinced has game in general, and definitely plays well outside of Guardians, but whom I’m still working to find a space for in the affiliation. I think he’s a fine choice in Guardians, but not one who really shines, which is too bad- I love him in the comics and really want someone to make him great here. Reach out to me on discord if you’ve solved the mystery!
Gamora: Time for an extremely cold take after all the uproar of the last two: Gamora is good. She’s fast, she’s got stealth, she’s got a pounce effect, and given the opportunity, she’ll tear pretty much anything in the game in half. Gamora excels at winning one on one or two on two fights (she is an excellent partner for Nebula, for example), and punches very hard for a four threat character. With a 6 die builder and the ability to convert dice as a result of Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy, she provides extremely reliable output (especially with a winging it token). It gets even better if she’s got the ability to use her spender, where she can pierce a defense roll away and make a second attack against a nearby target- be advised that characters like Iron Fist who count blanks as successes don’t suffer from pierce, as you blank the die and it still counts.
Gamora has a particular role in Guardians as a fast damage dealer who can also run objectives really well if you need her to flex that way. With stealth, Assassin Leap, and a long move, she can retrieve extracts very well or scamper away to a safer secure position if needed. Where she is most at home, however, is in dealing out high levels of damage- she is one of the Guardians’ best answers to enemy models with damage reduction, as she can reliably punch “over the top” of those defenses. Models like Kingpin, Crossbones, Proxima Midnight, etc. start to feel a lot less safe when they’re reducing 5 or 6 damage sledgehammer blows by one instead of cutting a bunch of 2 damage pokes in half.
If you pile Gamora into the middle of the table all by herself, don’t be surprised if she goes down, but if you use her to hunt around the edges and go in for the kill on vulnerable targets, she’s an all-star. Now if only Daughters of Thanos was cheaper…
Angela: The “who is this again?” character of the Guardians lineup (by virtue of not being in the MCU…yet), Angela by now needs no introduction to the MCP community. She’s one of the most mobile characters in the game, she has great defenses, she gets extra power for being an Asgardian, she’s got a great terrain throw, and if she takes out an enemy character, she can move and attack again! Angela is great, but like most of the Guardians, she’s a tool that needs to be used for the right job- if you just slam her into the opposing squad, you’re going to be unpleasantly surprised how fast she drops.
The key to using her well is to maximize her frankly ridiculous mobility. Obviously, she’s great at first turn plays, able to dash up to interact with objectives on the center line and retreat to safety, but she has crazy good mobility throughout the game, too- placing herself after using her builder, advancing short on a hit with her 1-cost range 4 spender, and able to use Angelic Assassin after she dazes an enemy model. Keep in mind that Angelic Assassin lets you advance short in any direction, so you don’t HAVE to move towards a target for another attack- you can use it to get out of dodge instead. In a recent game of “Fear Grips World…”, my opponent’s Moon Knight moved up and grabbed one of the hammers on the center line on turn one. In response, Angela was able to move up, use “Odinsdottir’s Might” to throw the Size 3 piece of terrain nearby into him and then use her builder to daze him, getting the 3 power she needed to use Angelic Assassin to move back to safety as far as possible while still being within Range 1 of the hammer he dropped and using the final power to pick it up! Just remember that you have to daze/KO the opposing character with the attack in order to use Angelic Assassin, so order of operations is important- if you’re planning to use a combination of throw and attack to get the daze/KO, lead with the throw, and if they’re on low health and it’s absolutely necessary you get the Angelic Assassin move, you may not want to risk the throw at all. If they blank their dodge roll and get crushed by the throw, you won’t be able to Angelic Assassin away.
Another useful bit of tech is the fact that both Angelic Assassin and the place effect from Xiphos, the Sword of Stars both have the same timing of “after the attack is resolved”. This means that if you daze someone with an attack, you can trigger Assassin to move forward, hit someone else and then resolve the place from your initial attack, yo-yoing back to safety. There’s a lot of cool shenanigans in how you use these two movement effects, so make sure you consider all the options and timings when you use Angelic Assassin.
To be honest, I have found myself playing Angela less and less of late, but that’s more a reflection of the state of the game than her effectiveness as a character, I believe. A rise in prominence of the types of crises on which she excels would bring her right back into the fray- she hasn’t changed at all from the days she was terrorizing the metagame, the game has just changed around her.
Whew! We made it. Tactics cards are next! We’ll be analyzing the affiliated tactics cards, those tied to affiliated characters, and some unaffiliated cards that work particularly well with the Guardians, including some rumination on when you might want to consider each of the restricted options for your roster.
In the meantime, let us know what you think of the series so far! You can find us on on discord:
- Andrew/Wake: WakeDrannor
- Nate: GhostDeer (and on Alfredo’s Size 3 Taco Truck: A Marvel Crisis Protocol Podcast!)
Until next time, misfits…stay lovable out there!