Masters of Evil
From The Dread Dormammu to the Dreaded Baron Zemo, there’s no character in Marvel Crisis Protocol which can be taken lightly. Sometimes you just need to understand why it is someone might be worried about seeing that particular thing across the table from them. Today let’s look at The Dreaded… Masters of Evil!
After a long time away dealing with one real world crisis after another, I’ve finally been able to get some games back in and I want to try something a little different here by talking about a leadership ability and affiliation I feel has fallen out of favour a fair amount in the modern meta – the one belonging to one of the very first characters in the game, Red Skull’s Master of Evil:
I don’t want to talk about Red Skull himself because, honestly, there’s little I could talk about here that wasn’t covered fantastically by Lexa’s article: The Jank Emporium #1 – Out of Affiliation Red Skull. Whilst that article covers a huge amount of ways to make use of Red Skull outside of Cabal, and really showcases his many advantages to great effect, Cabal more generally – and Red Skull specifically – has been a playstyle that I’ve really been enjoying revisiting after a long time playing other affiliations.
It’s particularly interesting to me to see the relative fall of Red Skull and the rise of Steve Rogers as when I first opened up the core set and played with just those ten characters, I played Steve and my play partner at the time played Red Skull. Our early games were sometimes close, sometimes not, but the first 4 games were all victories to Red Skull. His leadership was easy to wrap your head around and the power advantage was strong. Much has changed in the game since those days, but Red Skull still allows a very compelling playstyle which is unique within Marvel Crisis Protocol.
Master of Evil is one of several leaderships which assists with power economy in the game, with the caveat that you have to damage opponents with attacks. Characters who can make multiple attacks with a single action (through rapid fire, beams or flurries) and characters who can attack out of activation (through a tactics card like Seeing Red or a superpower like Venom’s So Many Snacks) can conceivably generate more power than the standard 1-2 per round you can normally expect, but even this 1-2 power can make a big difference to how characters feel on the tabletop.
What this leadership really encourages is an aggressive playstyle where you want to make attacks early and often so that you can maximise the amount of power you’re generating from the leadership as quickly as possible – which you can then use to activate superpowers and tactics cards which turn that early damage advantage into success on the crisis.
Master of Evil isn’t the only leadership in the game which encourages an aggressive style of play of course. Thanos’ Death’s Agenda and Shadowlands Daredevil’s Shadow War stand out as two more leaderships which encourage attacking early and often, but neither of these abilities inherently help your characters generate power. Shadow War can when you are only using attacks which gain power equal to damage dealt, but Master of Evil is far more consistent with the power gain. Magneto’s From The Ashes is similar in potentially allowing early access to superpowers, but it can be difficult to leverage terrain throws for damage early on and the 6 threat Magneto as a piece demands more of a central role in your plans than the 4 threat Red Skull.
What I find interesting about this is that it can enable the right team to bring significant control alongside high levels of damage. The classic example of this is MODOK, who pairs well with Red Skull’s ability to place him further up the board and potentially have him attacking twice per round from round one, threatening high levels of damage, the ability to reroll his attack dice for even more damage, a long range size 3 terrain throw and a short advance on an opposing miniature so long as he gets that damage through from the start.
Often attacks which cost power and do not gain it are difficult to justify tactically as characters need to generate power for their superpowers and tactics cards, but through Master of Evil the one power ‘refund’ when they manage to inflict a point of damage makes it much more tempting and the additional effects of some of these attacks can really catch your opponent off guard. This is especially true where characters have attacks that cost just 1 power, enabling them to use that attack twice in an activation and often break even on power generation.
There’s plenty of characters within Cabal who are great examples of this. I’ve talked about some of these before – and others may well get a full article at some point in the future – but here’s a quick breakdown of some of my favourite interactions with this ability.
Mister Sinister benefits from a refund on his mystic beam and can potentially improve his power generation significantly if he gets a point of damage through on multiple targets, although it is more difficult to get his advance online from round one.
Enchantress can advance a character round one regardless of whether she attacks or not – but she really enjoys having even more power throughout the course of the game. Spurned Affection can generate her huge amounts of power if she and the opposing team is lined up correctly, but her seven die Enthrall can also be incredible against a variety of popular characters who are otherwise difficult to hurt with energy attacks (such as Iron Fist, Mystique, Shadowlands Daredevil, Steve Rogers or Black Panther). If she starts a turn with 10 power, which is not too unusual with her power generation even before Red Skull helps her out, this potentially allows her to use Enthrall, regain a point of power, advance an opponent into range of her Amora’s Kiss, take an objective from them, and then throw a size 2 piece of terrain.
At the higher point value – and competing with MODOK – Cassandra Nova has a huge amount of ways to spend power and few ways to generate it. Her Mind Possession power is one of the only ways in the game to guarantee an advance at the character’s full speed, and if she manages to get a damage through she can do it again. Being able to generate extra power on her Psionic Bolt and then Mind Possession a character if she needs to also helps to keep her Psychic Distraction and Telekinetic Deflection online, whilst also potentially building to Mental Domination – a fantastic tactics card which in later rounds gives her the unique potential to advance three characters in a single activation if she begins with 4 power. X-Ceptional Healing with her deep 7 health on the front side can also help offset the low 2 physical defence when opponents get close to her.
All the rapid fire characters – many of whom are Cabal affiliated, such as Hood, Mystique and Sin – can generate up to 4 power from a single attack action. If Hood gets a point of damage through on each attack he can then use Dark Lightning and still have the power to use Black Arts. Sin can also utilise Make It Personal and potentially regain two power back from the four power cost, enabling her to keep paying for tactics cards whilst throwing up to 20 attack dice in a turn.
Ultron also benefits greatly from the ability to use his 6 die strike (more commonly seen on 5 threat characters rather than 4 threats) and generate 2 power rather than 1, which in turn allows him to use his Kinetic Field Generator or his 7 die Metallic Fury whilst still making sure he will have enough power to use Age of Ultron in an emergency. This consistency in power generation helps Ultron stay highly relevant in scenarios where he can duel a single character on a point. Whilst he doesn’t have any direct control, it is difficult to consistently out-damage him without committing a character who is a higher threat value than he is, particularly when he can bring himself back from an early spike or two.
Red Skull himself is often maligned because he costs 4 threat and he can feel somewhat easy to take down if there isn’t another character nearby that you want to use Hail Hydra to push attacks onto. As a result, he often falls into a supportive backline role. However, what stands out to me about the majority of characters I’ve talked about above is that they become significantly more dangerous when they don’t have to spend an action moving and can spend two actions attacking.
Red Skull also benefits strongly from his own leadership. Although Cosmic Cube allows him to use Master of the Cube from turn one (which can be extremely threatening), he can potentially generate even more power with his strike and the more power he has access to, the more characters he can move into position or the more he can protect himself by diverting attacks to other characters. His Unleash the Cube is also extremely likely to push a point of damage through, and a 7 die energy attack with an unrestricted throw and the potential ability to put out a huge amount of Stun is extremely good in a high attrition team.
The last piece of the puzzle which I really feel makes Master of Evil sing as a leadership is the fact that Cabal comes with two great ways to get rerolls where you want them, which in turn allows the power generation to come into play more often. Dark Reign gives Cabal characters full rerolls against a key target – and as high threat, high health pool targets like Hulk, Juggernaut and Thanos become more popular, gaining full rerolls against these lynchpin targets becomes more relevant. Notably, this is not restricted to any particular damage type like Convocation’s Plane of Pohldahk, and the ability to hunt for triggers with characters like Sabertooth and Sin can really double down on the lethality of those activations.
The second is Baron Zemo who remains an extremely popular choice, and can become a highly mobile reroll 1 bubble allowing your team to help sneak through those extra points of damage here and there.
With such a deep roster of characters you can build a Master(s) of Evil team in all sorts of ways around this core concept of maximising attacks. Some teams will use Enchantress, MODOK and/or Cassandra Nova to put out mystic damage and advance the opposing team all around the board. Others can build around Ultron, Mister Sinister, Sabretooth and other Healing Factor characters alongside No Matter the Cost and X-Ceptional Healing to gain staying power and make use of powerful attacks that cost power and would normally not give any back. Even teams full of Rapid Fire characters who can almost guarantee to have the power they need for expensive tactics cards like Follow Me, Field Dressing and Patch Up whenever they need them can pull some surprising tricks out of the bag that your opponent may not be expecting.
In conclusion, your opponent should dread you becoming the Master of Evil if:
- They don’t have a lot of ways to spread around and mitigate damage.
- They are bringing one large, key piece that you can Dark Reign to burn down quickly.
- Your characters all have excellent ways to spend power either through their own superpowers and attacks or via tactics cards.
- The crisis forces fights and makes it difficult to run away and avoid conflict.
But perhaps the Master of Evil should dread if:
- The opposing team has huge amounts of staying power (Asgard, Sam Wilson)
- The crisis is low scoring so it is difficult to leverage an early advantage.
- There are a lot of characters or cards which will punish you for attacking them (Venom, Seeing Red, Blood to Spare)
- The opponent’s potential for early damage is greater than yours (Brotherhood, Black Order)
So that’s the Master of Evil leadership for Cabal – a flexible playstyle which blends well with the character selection available to the Cabal to open up some extremely interesting lines of play and possibilities. Now that I am settled in my new locale and no longer riddled with covid it is my hope I can get back to writing these articles more regularly again!
I suspect I’ll be sharing a lot of Cabal-centric insights in the near future as this is where my head has apparently gotten to whilst I’ve been away, but if you have a character you’d like to understand why your opponents should dread, feel free to send an email over to ADreadedGoose@gmail.com and perhaps I can help!