Welcome back, Misfits!
It’s been a busy few weeks in the real world, what with students’ exams kicking into high gear, and so I haven’t had as much time to write as I would like. Plus, AMG went and dropped the upcoming card pack on us, which has led to rampant speculation about the apparent demise of Medpack, Field Dressing, Bitter Rivals, Climbing Gear, etc. that completely upended the article we’d been working on for you about the Guardans’ tactics card selections!
(EDIT: It’s been so busy, in fact, that I wrote this article late at night, and several times made a reference to one of Nebula’s attacks with the incorrect range. The article has been corrected to reflect the correct ranges! )
Nevertheless, we’ve decided to say “Screw it,” in true Star-Lord fashion and press forward.
This article will talk in-depth about the cards we’re likely NOT to lose: the affiliated cards and those tied to the specific characters in the affiliation. We’ll then mention some thoughts on the cards currently on the restricted list which will almost certainly immediately be rendered irrelevant by AMG, and close with a brief spot about a couple of “greatest hits” tactics cards in consideration for the affiliation.
With me again is GhostDeer– once again, I’m very grateful for his valuable insights and just being a stand up guy!
The Tactics Cards
As of the time of writing (May 2022), the Guardians only have two affiliated tactics cards, but some of their characters have bespoke unaffiliated cards that are worth discussing, too (and may be useful for those of you not playing Guardians but thinking about splashing some of their characters).
We’re going to level with you, friends- there are a lot of reasons to play Guardians, but the affiliated tactics card pool is not one of them. Crew is…fine…at best, and while Misfits is a lot better than some would have you believe, it’s not exactly setting the world on fire. Wakanda Forever, these are not. (Heck, they’re not even Stalwart Determination.) It is what it is- all we can hope for is that the next wave of Guardians will bring some real standouts!
Crew of the Milano: the OG Guardians tactics card. Crew was much-maligned when it first released, and to be fair, it certainly felt underwhelming back then. It’s certainly better now- there are many more conditions in the game now than there were back when Crew was released, and they are a lot more common. If the card saves you actions to clear a bunch of shocks/incinerates or knocks slow off all your characters during the All Webbed Up turn (or even better, if you see AWU coming and use Crew preventatively, for which you will deservedly feel insufferably pleased with yourself), it could be worth the slot. It can also be game-saving if your opponent manages to stagger one or more of your characters at a critical moment. That said, the card has some notable weaknesses.
First, Crew of the Milano only affects the Guardians themselves. This dramatically reduces its effectiveness, especially in the “take the cheap core and splash the big guns” approach to the affiliation. Furthermore, even if you’re only splashing a character or two, you’re usually doing so because you have a specific plan for them. While a powerful protective card in theory, Crew doesn’t help those models at all in practice, so if you’ve based your strategy around them (looking at you, Thanos), it does nothing to help you and probably isn’t worth a slot.
Secondly, Crew of the Milano uses a tactics card slot to cancel something the opponent has done (or prevent something they may do) that may or may not be critical to their game plan. Consider the Web Warriors matchup- yes, it feels great to rip slow off all your characters after your opponent has played All Webbed Up, but they have still gotten one activation of pounding on you after playing the card, probably with the character you’re most worried about. If you are lucky enough to anticipate the AWU turn and use it preventively, that’s great, but unless you can swing the game decisively in your favor in the turn you’ve bought yourself, you’re going to be back in the same spot next turn, and now Crew will be gone, so you’re at your opponent’s mercy.
Is it worth a tactics card slot and some amount of power to mitigate your opponent’s condition game or to delay All Webbed Up (or similar effects) for a turn? As is the case with a lot of things in Crisis Protocol…it depends! Certainly, there have been games where Crew of the Milano has been a godsend for me. There have also been games where it has done little to nothing of note. In short, this card is better than some people give it credit for, but not as amazing as some people think- a fine “this is worth thinking about” card, but not an automatic inclusion in every Guardians roster.
Lovable Misfits: the other “most argued” element of the Guardians on the various discords, Lovable Misfits is almost as polarizing as Drax and Ronan. You could really do a whole article just on the various potential applications of this card (and by the time we get to the end of our writeup here, it may feel like that’s exactly what this is…). Its defenders argue it is potentially game-changing. Its detractors say it’s a risky crapshoot. Both are probably correct, depending on the circumstances!
Look, I get it. Gamers, despite continually playing dice games for some reason, have a low tolerance for randomness. And when Misfits busts, it feels really bad- you’ve spent some amount of power and one of your invaluable tactics card slots for…not much. That said, when it pops, it really pops. The trick to using this card well is twofold: number one, you need to be playing a good number of Guardians who are reasonably going to be able to afford the power to play it. A good rule of thumb is that you need a minimum of 4 Guardians for the card to feel good, and 5+ is definitely when you’re in the money. Number two, you need to play it at a time where several of the possible outcomes are good effects for you, not when you’re hoping to roll the specific thing you need. If you played it expecting to get a bunch of extra attacks (a 25% chance on each roll) and got salty when you didn’t, you deserve what you got- sorry, but it’s true. Instead, look to play Misfits when at least two of the following are true of the characters using it:
– They could benefit from making a builder attack or 2 power
– They could benefit from an out of (or mid-) activation short move
– They are within Range 3 of one or more enemies holding or contesting an objective that you wouldn’t mind popping for an incidental damage
– You’re within range 2 of multiple enemies and don’t mind being stunned yourself if that means you get them, too.
The benefits of a lot of these are obvious (try not to get blinded by bloodlust when you roll the “free attack or 2 power” option- sometimes the power is the better choice!), but the damage one is subtle. I understand that ‘damage good’ is kind of the opposite of subtle, but aside from that glorious one in a million moment when an enemy character happens to be sitting in a confluence of two or three Guardians and gets punched multiple times by the card, it’s hard to articulate how much one damage applied here or there really adds up and makes other things possible. Rocket, Star-Lord, Groot…basically anybody with a five-die builder has their odds of just deleting a character substantially increased if that character has already taken even a single point of damage. It can dramatically empower Deadly Duo if you happen to have the power for both. Sometimes it can finish off an injured straggler who just barely hung on through your attacks. It can also scare the willies out of your opponent, who will (correctly) recognize when the math on their characters’ survivability has notably changed. In short, it makes everything else you want to do better, while giving your opponent something else to worry about.
Perhaps an example will help illustrate what I mean here by this. In a recent game, I was playing six Guardians against a five-wide Avengers lineup in an “affiliation only” matchup. Five of the Guardians remained standing at the end of turn three, and all paid the power for Misfits at the end of the final activation of the turn.
Looking at this, Drax isn’t a particularly valuable target for Misfits, but I’ll take two of the results- 2 power would be nice on the crit/wild, and an advance would put him in position to still score the objective but also be within range 2 of Black Widow at the start of the turn. Star-Lord will certainly take a free attack on Black Widow if he can get it, or a pulse of 1 damage, which would daze her. Ronan will happily take either a free attack, a pulse of 1 damage to daze Capt. Steve, or a move to get back on the objective and a little further from danger. Groot wouldn’t mind either a free punch at Hulk or Steve, a pulse of damage to hit Steve, or a move to get back closer to the objective and away from Hulk. Rocket is in range of both Hulk and Steve, so a free attack will allow him to go after either, and a move would get him back into bodyguard range of Groot.
As it happened, Drax got a pulse that did nothing. Star-Lord got a move, so he scooted a bit away from Thor to the other side of the objective. Rocket got a move, so he scooted closer to Groot while still being on the objective. Groot and Ronan both got attacks. Groot spiked his roll, and Hulk was sitting on only 1 power (he’d been judged by Ronan earlier, which was hurting his economy), so Groot managed to KO Hulk. Ronan took a swing at Steve, which Steve blocked, but Ronan got the wild he needed to throw Steve back into Iron Man for the one damage that dazed him. The Kree Power Core popped loose, right next to Groot (who you will recall was still the active character, even after all that!), who scooped it up using the power he’d gotten from hitting Hulk.
This was obviously a pretty good result from Misfits, and I had some good luck, but let’s review here how many layers of redundancy existed in this play before we just chalk it up to lucky dice:
- Groot only needed one power from punching Hulk (or Steve) or to just take the two free power option to get back the power he needed to pick up the Kree Core once Steve dropped it. This was going to be a bonus if it happened, as the odds of getting the free attack/power was only 25% and shouldn’t be counted on. Honestly, I was fine with the core just lying on the ground for a turn if that’s what happened, as long as the Avengers didn’t get to score it. If Groot DID get an attack (as he ended up getting), he had decent odds of generating the power back and would have had the ability to just choose to gain power if he didn’t have a good punching target or I was nervous about taking the swing.
- Both Ronan and Groot were within range where the auto-damage pulse would have dazed Steve, so they were both happy with either an attack or the auto damage (50% chance of getting one of those two results for each of them, or a 75% overall chance total), and Rocket was ALSO in range to shoot Steve if he got a free attack (and in range to shoot Hulk if he got one and it wasn’t needed against Steve).
- Star-Lord had two possible ways to hit Black Widow to potentially daze her, either the free attack or the damage pulse (50% chance of getting one or the other)
- Drax probably wasn’t a character I needed to play Misfits on here, but would have been happy with either a move or some free power (5/8 chance of getting one or the other). This is probably a good example of a case where you don’t need to have ALL the characters play the card just because they can.
Hopefully, this helps to illustrate the point we’re trying to make here- when you have a situation where this many results are potentially good AND you only need some of them to crack off in order for it to work, Lovable Misfits can be gold. Obviously, sometimes you will roll more than your fair share of skulls instead, and that must be taken into account, but the results here aren’t as wholly uncontrollable as some people try to argue.
GhostDeer top tip: Another situation where I love playing Lovable Misfits is at the start of my activation when I’m not sure which of my available options is better (and I already meet the above criteria of 4-5 characters with multiple options looking juicy). A classic example is Infinity Formula, where I might have my team roughly equally split between the two flanks and tempting targets for my first set of attacks with similar odds of dazing both. Instead of choosing, I’ll play Loveable Misfits and let the dice help me out. Maybe I’ll get two attacks on one side, dazing the target over there making it easy to then activate on the other flank. Maybe I’ll get a bunch of the damage-pulses on a flank, opening up a much more exciting Deadly Duo than I had originally. Similar to the above example, I’m not fishing for something specific, I’m just spinning the wheel of value to see what comes out the other side.
Now, just to be clear, there are some circumstances under which Misfits is a very bad idea:
- You are fishing for specific results (for obvious reasons discussed above).
- If you don’t play a lot of Guardians or the ones you do tend to be starved for power. Just like Crew of the Milano, Lovable Misfits only affects and is usable by members of the Guardians themselves. If your roster is built around splash characters, you can find something better to fill your tactics hand with.
- You are a player who has a tendency to go “on tilt” when bad luck comes your way. This isn’t meant as a dig or criticism! What I mean by this is that you need to know yourself: if a bad Misfits play will affect your overall headspace negatively, tilting you and leading you to miss things or make poor choices because of your mental state, this is a card to avoid. Bottom line: if you weren’t sunk already, you’re not going to be doomed as a result of even the most unlucky Misfits, but if the Misfits rolls going poorly is going to mess up the rest of your decision making for the turn or even the game, the potential upside is absolutely not worth it.
Lovable Misfits is not an every-game card, and not even an every roster card, (or even most rosters, depending on the number of affiliated characters you plan to play), but in the right circumstances, it can really swing things your way if you’re prepared to do what you can to maximize its potential and roll with any potential downside.
On to the character-specific (but not Guardians specific) cards!
Deadly Duo: If you’re playing Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s probably because on some level, an anthropomorphic raccoon with an improbably big gun just really speaks to you, and I can only applaud your taste. Deadly Duo lets Rocket really blast off exactly as you’d expect him to- paying a pretty cheap price for three(!) free attacks as long as they all target different models. Note that’s free, not replacing an action. Rocket can shoot an eye-watering five times in his activation. He can, in fact, spend two power to use Duo (alongside Groot), fire his plasma rifle three times, and use the resultant power to blast off a Hadron Enforcer or two. The downsides to Duo are really quite limited- it has to be played in Rocket’s activation, it costs 2 power each from Rocket and Groot, and they have to be within 2” of each other (oh no…*sarcastic eye roll*). A good place to start with Deadly Duo is to assume you want to play it at/near the top of turn 2, and then adjust if that turns out not to be the case. Make sure you end round one with the duo within 2” of each other and Range 5 of some good targets, and be certain they’ll have 2 power in round two, even if you’re not sure it’s time to Duo yet. Any opponent who’s faced the Guardians before will be aware of what’s coming and trying to prevent it- sometimes the threat is (almost) as good as the reality. The fact is that it’s just not possible to prevent Duo forever as long as the pair are still on the table- if you can force your opponent to scramble to avoid it on turn two, great, you’ve dictated their play pattern. Now you can blast them on turn three.
One point I can’t stress enough for newer Guardians players- you don’t have to wait for an opportunity to get three attacks to play Duo. Sometimes, it’s worth playing the card to get the final attack you need to finish somebody off or to zap two enemies who are within range. Obviously, we all want the golden moment where Rocket jumps on Groot’s shoulder and just blasts away like in the movie, but sometimes, it’s more important for him to get the right attacks than it is for him to get the most attacks. As my folks always said when I was growing up, don’t let the great be the enemy of the good!
We Are Groot: This is a card that I’m constantly surprised more people (myself included) don’t shoehorn into rosters that include Groot (spoiler alert: lately, I’ve been playing it more, and it’s been a good call). Everybody agrees Medpack is really good, right? It’s restricted for a reason. We Are Groot only costs 1 more power than Medpack and it affects all friendly characters within range 4(!) of Groot. There is no other effect in the game that can even come close to healing so much for so little cost. Sadly, it directly competes with the even better (certainly more fun) Deadly Duo. It’s tough to devote two tactics cards in a roster to a single character, and tougher to devote them to a character like Groot who sometimes struggles to gain the power he needs to play both consistently and has a lot of good uses for power on his card already. I do however think there’s a place for this card, and there are two circumstances under which you should absolutely take it. The first is if you plan to play Struggle for the Cube Continues. Guardians as an affiliation generally don’t care for Cubes as a crisis in my opinion; for many of their characters, a point or two of incidental damage can be tantamount to a death sentence. Groot, however, resolves this issue neatly, and as a bonus can much more easily pay for this card (and Deadly Duo) once he’s picked up a cube fragment or two. The second time to think about playing We Are Groot is if you’re using Guardians as a shell for powerful beater characters like the Hulk or Thanos, as any healing on those characters is excellent, especially if it doesn’t use up a restricted slot in your tactics cards. (Ghost Rider is a special case; you may want to save the tactics card slot if you’re playing Ghost Rider, as he’s got Deal With the Devil anyways.) At the risk of sounding like a broken record, because this could describe ¾ of the stuff in MCP, there are legitimate use cases for it, as long as you’ve got a plan.
Sudden and unexpected edit as a result of AMG’s card pack list: Boy howdy does the value of this card go up in a theoretical post-Medpack world! If Medpack is indeed being put out to pasture, suddenly Groot has access to good burst healing when the vast majority of other affiliations/characters have lost it, and it’s potentially a very big heal. You’re almost certainly playing Rocket and Groot 75+% of the time with Guardians, so this feels like a card that is going to be my default “put it in the Medpack slot” choice until we get a better look at what the post-rotation world actually looks like.
Daughters of Thanos: Wiser people than I have frequently commented that a tactics card is worth seriously considering if it gives you the equivalent of an action. Daughters of Thanos does exactly that. I know I’m supposed to love this card, and I want to love this card (my appreciation of both Gamora and Nebula is well-documented). I just…don’t. An extra attack by either of these ladies should be absolutely amazing, but the card has just slightly too high an opportunity cost in order to make it into my roster most of the time, much less my squad. It has three requirements (and actually a fourth hidden one):
– Nebula has to have 2 power to spend on it
– Gamora also has to have 2 power to spend on it
– The character making the additional attack has to attack the same target, which means..
– The character making the additional attack has to be in range of the same target.
That last one is more achievable for Nebula, who has a cost 0 attack that can hit out to range 3. It’s much harder for Gamora, who either needs to already be within range 2 of the target or have six total power so she can also pay for her spender (it is worth noting that unlike some other similar cards- Lovable Misfits comes to mind- you aren’t limited to a zero-cost attack with Daughters of Thanos). The odds of all that lining up, true believers, are…pretty slim.
What this card is good for is landing the last point of damage on a target who is hanging by a thread. If Gamora just barely fails to daze/KO the person she’s attacking, for 2 power each, you can have Nebula take a shot at finishing them off. Admittedly, Nebula’s attacks are not the strongest if unsupported, especially her builders, but if the target is on or near an objective, the math improves dramatically. Is this worth paying a tactics card slot and four power spread across two characters (one of whom would really like to save that power for Martial Prowess or an Assassin’s Leap next turn)? I guess it depends on the target and how badly you need them killed. It also depends on how often you’re planning to actually play both Gamora and Nebula together. I often roster them both, but find I play Nebula far more often than Gamora, so it’s hard to justify a spot in your ten tactics cards for something you will use a lot less frequently than Deadly Duo, for example.
There was a rumor going around back in November 2021 that there was going to be an errata for this card to change the cost to 1 power for each character. If that were ever to happen, I think this card would be significantly more playable. It would still have all of its other challenges, but it would at least be worthy of a lot more consideration- 2 power is a steal for an extra attack, even with the limitations imposed by the card.
Let’s talk Restricted Card Options (for as long as they exist, however long that will be!):
Field Dressing– Let’s get this out of the way right here: if you’re playing Guardians of the Galaxy, you need a really, really compelling reason not to include Field Dressing in your roster. FD excels when you are trying to outfight your opponent and will be wider than they are (so that you can use your final activation to “wake up” a character and either force your opponent to daze them again or to get back an activation you were going to lose), and that, friends, is pretty much what this affiliation is all about!
The uses of this card are endless, but let’s review three that are particularly useful to the Guardians specifically, based on what we’re generally trying to do and who we are doing it with:
- #1: Enabling an absolutely amazing clap-back by reviving a dazed and unactivated character: You know who really, really likes being at death’s door? Drax the Destroyer, that’s who. You know who should, ideally, have at least six power after someone plays Field Dressing on him? You guessed it. If you can “wake up” Drax next to an enemy model who dazed him (meaning they have his Vengeance token) with six power, he is going to fire off an 11 die “Titan Killer” attack followed by another 8 die attack, at least one of which (depending on terrain, etc.) will likely result in a size 4 character throw from its wild trigger. Or heck, fire off an 11 die Titan Killer, toss the person with the trigger, then whack somebody else with his builder and pay for a throw on a second target. The world is your burrito- the point is, there are few characters who benefit from being near death the way Drax does, and FD is one of the best ways to get him there “safely” without your opponent able to take him out before he makes with the stabbing.
- Don’t like Drax? How does an “I AM GROOT!” followed by a “Living Plant” to heal our favorite tree back above half health sound? The big guy also loves Field Dressing– and there is little in MCP more outrageous than the statement “My character is no longer dazed. Also, now he activates, heals three damage, hits your character with an 8 die attack, throws them Medium no matter what size they are, and Staggers them. Oh, and I still have a second action…” In a recent game, I used Field Dressing to wake Groot up from dazed with 10 power sitting on him. Moments later, both the Hulk and Mysterio (who had both already activated for the turn) had been thrown M directly away from the central Gamma shelter and staggered after taking an 8 die punch to the face each. That’ll do, tree. That’ll do.
- #2: Saving a character from a priority-seizing KO focused team like Black Order: the affiliations who want to be tall and keep a deathgrip on priority want to win by breaking one of the central conventions of the game: that characters get an activation after being dazed with which to use all that sweet, sweet power. (Corvus Glaive, for example, wants to end his turn next to at least one dazed character so that he can kill them at the top of the next turn before they ever get to activate without having to “waste” an action moving.) Field Dressing patches that for you a bit- removing the daze means that the opponent has to daze the model AGAIN next turn before going in for the kill the turn after that. Don’t put yourself under any illusions here- you’re still almost certainly going to lose the character if your opponent is determined to kill them- but by delaying their plan by a round, you can dramatically increase your ability to use your numbers to start to counter their efforts, especially on scenario. You also potentially lock their movement choices- do they stay near the victim for another round to make sure they get the kill? Can they afford to?
- Please note that while this helps you regain control of tempo, it is not a solve for the tall attrition roster problem by itself- Field Dressing costs 4 power, which is not a trivial amount for the Guardians to get, especially on the first turn of the game. Be careful and keep your distance until you can get this card online and engage on your terms!
- #3: Stealing back an activation to play the scenario- sometimes, what you really need is not the last activation, but TWO last activations, am I right? Need to go pick up that extract but also stand on that secure way over there? Sometimes, Field Dressing is just what the doctor ordered. The conversion of tactics cards to scoring points is one of the keys to playing MCP successfully- pay attention to when Field Dressing can help you do that. In particular, don’t forget that you have it! This seems obvious, but your opponent might forget you brought it, so make sure you don’t- the opportunity to unexpectedly get back in the scenario hunt when your opponent thought they were safe can be game winning.
It’s important to remember that a huge part of using Field Dressing well is knowing when to pick your moment. You want it to really matter- to regain tempo, get back actions, etc. Don’t just use it automatically the first time a character gets dazed. In particular, you want to make sure you only use Field Dressing when the opponent can’t trivially re-daze the character before you get to activate them or pass over the end of the turn.
Medpack and Patch-Up: they’re pretty darn similar cards, huh? Spend power, heal damage. There are some key differences, of course. Medpack is more efficient (spend 2 to heal 3), has to be played in activation, and a character can do it to themselves. Patch-Up has a higher ceiling (healing up to 5 if you’re willing to pay the power) and has to be used by someone other than the damaged character, but can be used outside of activation if that’s what you need.
For Guardians purposes, I recommend Medpack. Guardians characters aren’t usually drowning in power, but you can almost always come up with 2, and on many of these characters, healing 3 damage is 50% or more of their total health. The ability to do it to oneself also can’t be overestimated; that flexibility is huge. It’s a staple of my rosters, and paired with Field Dressing can really make a huge difference in the attrition game- remove a daze, heal 3 damage with Medpack if you’ve got the extra power, and if you’re really feeling crazy, Groot can then We Are Groot or use Living Plant if he’s the damaged model and hey presto, back to full health. (This can be a pretty big wind out of your opponent’s sails to watch, so ease off on this around newer players. While I will be very, very sad to see Field Dressing go if we lose it- nothing else in the game does what it does- I won’t miss Medpack in the grand scheme of things.)
It is worth pointing out that Patch Up does open up some sneaky plays that Medpack can’t, due to not having to be played during the activation of the character doing the patching. If you’re a little low on health during your activation and need a heal, you can run next to a friend who is sitting on a stack of power and top yourself off. Even better, if a slower character with a bunch of power can’t get to the person you need them to heal, you can bring a quicker wounded character to the healer instead. As with Medpack, this can combo great with Field Dressing; Nebula can run over and use Field Dressing on Gamora, for example, who instead of using her own power for healing can dart over to where Star-Lord is sitting on a boatload of power and get patched up.
Medpack is still probably the better of the two for Guardians- and far and away more common amongst the lists that circulate through the various discord servers for the game- but Patch Up can serve in a pinch (and may have to, if Medpack goes the way of the dodo someday soon…)
Brace for Impact: Brace is a very popular card (obviously- that’s why it’s on the restricted list), and it’s not hard to see why. Preventing collision damage is potentially huge, especially if someone throws a Hulk or garbage truck at you (which is somehow worse than getting hit by a small building in AMG’s mind, but I digress…).
The potential problem with Brace for Guardians is its potential payoff for its opportunity cost. Playing Brace requires you not to play one of the other restricted cards, and that’s a high bar. For a long time, Brace was stapled to my rosters pretty much regardless of what was going in them. After all, I want to deal damage, not take it. Let’s talk about why I made the change (and why you might- or might not- want to, as well).
The thing is, the Guardians are really not all that scared of throws. Rocket is the only model who would really have to worry about being instantly squished, and since the update (thanks, AMG!), he’s immune to collisions already. Groot has good physical defense and an enormous health pool. Angela- same thing. Drax only has a 3 physical defense, but he’s also got “I Can Take It” to help shrug the damage. Star-Lord and Gamora don’t love being thrown into, to be fair (both of their respective defensive superpowers- plucky and martial prowess- do not work on Dodge rolls), but they’ve both got six health on their front side, so unless you’re getting hit with something else, too, one throw is not going to daze/KO either of them (this goes for 3 Physical Defense/6 Health Ronan as well). Nebula isn’t the best at avoiding throws either, but anytime my opponent spends resources trying to hurt Nebula, I feel like I’m having a good day. (All of them can of course also play Indomitable, at least until it lands on the restricted list itself, to prevent the dreaded character throw.)
The end result is this: most of the Guardians are not going to get dazed/KO’ed by your average throw unless they are also soaking up other attacks, and if so, they probably weren’t going to survive anyways. That being the case, I’d rather get the power from getting hit and be able to use it to retaliate- and hey, there’s always medpack (at least for now) if the damage is a huge problem. It’s also important to remember that in a lot of cases, stopping the damage from a throw is nice, but may not be enough to swing a game, and you want to pick tactics cards that are going to have the largest impact possible for their cost (stopping a character from getting tossed off a Gamma Shelter with Indomitable is often way more important than stopping a 3-4 damage throw on Groot, for example). Sure, you stopped that throw against that Brotherhood roster. Guess what’s coming next? Eight more throws, and now your card is gone. For my money, I’d rather just pack Field Dressing and assume I’m going to wake up the character in question (now with a stack of power on them) after the Brotherhood player finishes smashing the scenery.
That said, there’s still a strong argument for Brace for Impact. You don’t have to prevent all the throws, just the one that would be absolutely devastating, and Brace does exactly that. This requires a fairly high skill cap in terms of ability to forecast what may be coming over the course of the game and knowing when to use it. Just remember that you’re looking for the happy medium between throwing it away on a collision that doesn’t matter and holding on to it so fiercely that you never end up playing it. If it saves a character from getting dazed, it’s probably a good call- make sure, though, that the person doing the throwing doesn’t have more damage to come later in the activation, or you used the card for nothing. (Nothing’s worse than preventing a throw and immediately getting hip-checked by Juggernaut for that 1 fatal damage.)
Brace can also have a real psychological impact on players- fair warning that as player skill increases, the chances of this happening diminish, but events are long and nobody’s on their A-game every time, so it’s worth mentioning. I committed this pretty severely in a recent game I played where my opponent was running Brace. Knowing that, I passed on throw after throw with my Hulk, thinking “ah, he’s just going to Brace, so what’s the point?” In retrospect, Brace actually saved my opponent the damage from four or five throws over the course of the game, because every time I considered using a throw, his Brace led me to make a different choice. What I should have done is thrown early and often, to burn the card and then have the subsequent throws online (or not and gotten the damage after all if he held the card, either way). What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t discount the value of Brace if you have it in your five and didn’t get to use it- depending on whom you’re playing against, it may indeed have been protecting you from throws just by its presence.
For myself, I still prefer Medpack at the moment, but I could be convinced to go back to Brace for Impact and don’t think you’d be wrong to prefer it.
Caveat to all this for the future, of course: if Medpack, Field Dressing, and Bitter Rivals end up vanishing from the playable pool of cards as a result of rotation, Brace is immediately going back into my roster.
GhostDeer Sidebar: I think this might be the biggest disagreement I’ve had collaborating on this article! I think Brace is dope and way more often makes my roster over Medpack (Field Dressing is the best restricted card, always always always take FD). I agree with all of Wake’s general points on how we’re a reasonably durable team to throws and that they’re not particularly concerning compared to someone like Convocation. However, my issue with Medpack is that as a general rule, GotG models aren’t that hard for an opponent to daze/KO if they get their full set of attacks into one of us. This means that the windows for a meaningful medpack can be fairly scarce and your opponent can have a lot of say in who and when you can heal. Yeah, you’ll find a time to play it, but you also need to pay attention to how much those 3 extra HP end up mattering to the flow of the game.
The thing I like about Brace is that you can time it so that you know it’ll provide you actions and value. If my opponent attacks Gamora, leaving her on 1 HP and then only has a throw to finish her off, Brace means that I know she’s going to live and going to hit them back very hard. Medpack doesn’t provide that same amount of consistency, in my experience. Sometimes you’ll heal a model that doesn’t get attacked for the rest of the game, sometimes you’ll heal a model and your opponent will then just spike their next attack and daze you anyway. When it comes to Brace/Medpack, I prefer the one that gives me a little more agency.
WakeDrannor Sidebar to the Sidebar: Hey, I told you up front that I reserved the right to be aggressively wrong about this stuff.
In all seriousness, I think this is somewhat more roster-dependent than I’ve been giving it credit for. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with big out-of-affiliation beaters not named Ghost Rider in the list, and with characters like Hulk, Ebony Maw, or especially Thanos on the table, I really like having access to Medpack. If I was playing more actual Guardians and smaller characters, though, I can see your point about Brace being a good option (maybe a better one?) in many cases.
Bitter Rivals: Of the restricted card options, this is the one I would most likely field in a Guardians roster if I wasn’t sticking to my now standard Medpack/Field Dressing combo, and I’ve used it a number of times to good effect. It’s a strong debuff- -1 attack and defense within a not small radius can be pretty punishing to some teams. It can be devastating combined with Disarm, as well, if you’re playing that card (Why yes, Vision, that is -3 total dice on all your beam attacks for the turn, and have a nice day…). This card excels when you know your opponent is going to have to cluster up- Gamma Wave, Demons Downtown, and Research Station all come to mind. Being able to force your opponent to fight at a pretty significant disadvantage can often swing an attrition game in your favor- things turn south REAL quick if you’re incinerated from Demons AND under the effects of Bitter Rivals. It’s also very forgiving to play- it doesn’t have to be the turn of the character playing the card, and it has unlimited range. That said, the card has a few weaknesses that you have to watch out for.
First of all, and this should go without saying, the card is not cheap. 3 power is a lot, especially in a faction who pretty much only get it from being hit or making attacks (OK, one of them is an Asgardian, and two can take the Power Gem, but let’s be real- you probably shouldn’t be taking the Power Gem, although this is one of the few cases where you might want to). Guardians have a LOT of things to spend their power on- remember that those three power could be a Deadly Duo, Living Plant/We Are Groot, Angelic Assassin, Hit and Run, or even Field Dressing/Medpack etc. that you’re not playing instead. Sometimes Bitter Rivals is better than those things. Sometimes…not.
Bitter Rivals also wants to be played early in the turn- ideally at the beginning of the activation of whoever intends to benefit from it- in order to gain maximum impact. This makes it harder to afford and also plays into its second weakness: your opponent can potentially counter this card just by moving. If the character you dropped Rivals on hasn’t activated (pretty likely if you’re playing it early), they can just move away from the rest of the squad and hey presto, the effect goes away. If the Rivals-ed character has already activated, others can just move away from them to get out of the “bubble.” Remember as well that Rivals affects OTHER characters within Range 3 of the character you played it on, but not that character themselves.
Getting the most out of Bitter Rivals is about using it to force your opponent to make tough choices. A good Rivals play gives your opponent two bad options: stay put and keep the Rivals effect on, or waste actions and lose positioning by moving out of the bubble (or moving the bubble itself). Played well, this is a very powerful card- you just need to make sure you maximize its effectiveness and take it in scenarios that play to its strengths.
For myself these days, I tend to use Medpack or Brace for Impact alongside Field Dressing rather than Bitter Rivals; I find the Guardians throw such a blistering assault of dice (and fix them well enough with Winging It tokens) that I don’t need the extra -1/-1 to prevail against the kinds of teams Bitter Rivals works best. Other Guardians players swear by the card, though- this is one where I really think you have three great options for restricted cards (and two more decent ones) here; choose the ones you like to fit your own taste!
Whew. OK. That’s it, right?
Well, almost. Let’s talk about two other cards worthy of your consideration in many Guardians of the Galaxy rosters:
Blind Obsession: This card is super sweet. For the price of 3 power, you get an extra +2 attack and defense dice on all your attacks against a particular target. The cost? If anybody else attacks you, you’re a sitting duck. Win some, lose some, I guess!
This is a great Guardians card for several reasons, but let’s get its limitations out of the way first. The cost is moderate but noteworthy- three power is not an inconsequential amount, so you need to make sure you have a plan for how you’re going to fund this card without messing up the rest of your strategy/power economy. The greater limitation is that it has to be played at the beginning of the round, not the turn, meaning that if you don’t have priority (and you’re Guardians, so…) your opponent gets at least one activation to respond, either by having your obsession target flee the beatdown that’s coming or by sending in somebody else to take out your obsessed model while they’re distracted thinking about how much they want to put that other model in the dirt. It also lasts until the enemy model is KO’ed, not dazed, which I happen to think is a plus, but which does mean it can end up having a very long-term effect on the game, especially if your opponent puts effort into making sure you can’t take out the intended target.
That said, there are a ton of reasons to love this card in Guardians, and most of them start with “Nebula.” She’s in a lot of ways an ideal model to play Blind Obsession- with a long move and a Range 3 attack that automatically gives one power, it’s not too difficult to find a way to advance her on turn one and zap somebody, bringing Obsession online at the top of turn two. I love to do this when somebody has advanced up a flank and grabbed an objective in particular- an Obsessed Nebula is downright terrifying when you’re on/holding an objective. If she gets to activate, she’s pretty much guaranteed to put two six-dice re-roll any attacks into you of physical OR energy type, depending on what you’re vulnerable to and how close you are. She’s not easy for the Obsession-ed character to take out preemptively, either; Nebula’s 3/3/2 with a reroll defenses aren’t incredible, but when that becomes 5/5/4, suddenly she’s a menace to try to kill. Mind you this is before Winging It tokens get added to the mix, and this is also part of Nebula’s secret sauce with this card- it gives you another high value beater who is going to punch waaaaay above her weight class and doesn’t need any help from the leadership to get work done. The card’s drawbacks are also significantly lessened by playing it with Nebula- if your opponent flees a secure to get away from her, great. Nebula (who can’t score objectives herself) has just forced them to give up points, and she still hits just as hard into anybody else, as the drawback of Obsession only affects defense. She also makes it far less profitable for your opponent to try to take advantage of that drawback, because those attacks into her are actions that are not being used to either score points or stop the Guardians from scoring points themselves.
As such, Blind Obsession on Nebula is another card that just hands your opponent a bunch of bad choices: run away (great, we just dictated your movement), try to kill Nebula (great, you just used actions to attack a non-scoring model- and you may not have succeeded), or ignore her (great, she’ll daze/KO you), and in almost every case it’s also potentially forced their order of activations.
This idea of using Blind Obsession to influence your opponents opening activation can work with any of our models, though, as with +2 dice they all become fairly threatening. As an example, I’ve had both Gamora and Star-Lord in range to kill an opponent’s Sam Wilson, but my opponent has first activation with Vision to try and stop this. If I put BO on Star-Lord, they now have a difficult choice of which of my two models they want to try and kill and I’m happy with either one of the two living. Just remember- this is definitely a plan that requires some careful thought and practice, because it can definitely backfire on you.
Marked for Death: I’m going to keep this short and sweet. The Guardians like to blast stuff, especially at range. There are only a few ways to stay safe from the long arm of the raccoon, and this card takes care of three of the most common- you can’t run (down to S-move), you can’t hide (goodbye, stealth) and you can’t cheat death (no re-rolls or other modifications on defense).
This card is one of those that seems rock solid but not overwhelming until you need it, and then it suddenly saves a game. Web Warriors absolutely hate it- it turns off Miles’s leadership entirely and puts him, Moon Knight, and Black Cat firmly back in your sights regardless of range. It’s comparatively cheap, it’s easy to play with its very generous range requirement, and it can absolutely give you the attrition edge you’re looking for. It can even be played defensively- in a tournament back in March, I played it on an opponent’s Black Cat who was lining up a run to steal cube fragments from my Venom and then double moved away from her. Even though I didn’t end up making a single attack on her over the course of the turn, the speed reduction alone meant she couldn’t possibly reach me with enough power left to do the steals she needed in order to turn the game. Bottom line, this card is always a worthy consideration for your roster. Depending on opportunity cost and what cards I may need based on the characters I’m taking, it doesn’t always make the cut, but it’s always one I think about.
WHEW- ok! That’ll do it for this extremely lengthy run on tactics cards.
We’ll hopefully be back much sooner for the next installment of the series- I (Wake) am headed to the Richmond Open this weekend, so come say hi to me and my Guardians if you’ll be there! Next article will hopefully feature a write-up of my roster for the event, the decisions made while putting it together, and a report on how I did hopefully sometime next week!
As always, you can find us on Discord @WakeDrannor and @GhostDeer. Hit us up if you want to chat about Guarding the Galaxy!