Sin and Crossbones
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… Sin! (And also Crossbones)
A first for this series! Today I’m going to look at not one but two characters! Sin, the daughter of the malevolent Red Skull, and Crossbones, one of Hydra’s more notable goons and an extremely capable mercenary in his own right – who happens to be Sin’s main squeeze!
Sin and Crossbones have been around for a long time – in fact, Crossbones was one of the first characters released in the game, being in the core set and remaining unchanged to this day. They share affiliations in Cabal, Criminal Syndicate and Hydra, and there’s a lot more interesting things going on than may be immediately obvious from the card. Here I’m mostly going to focus on their place in Hydra as this is where I’ve found the most success with them.
Firstly I should probably address Sin’s leadership. Red Mayhem is a really interesting choice, adding an element of randomness to the game which is difficult for your opponent (and for you) to plan around. When it triggers, it can be very powerful! Potentially forcing your opponent to drop multiple objectives in this new crisis world where there are always at least 3 extracts on the table and pushing characters around when you are likely to have priority (for reasons we’ll soon get into!) can be extremely strong. Unfortunately, I’m going to hold up my hands and be honest that this is the part of the character I use the least. If you are interested in Sin as a leader, I’d like to point to this great article by Phil Wager (Reath) – it was written back in 2021 but the core principles are still very solid and the new crisis selection may well help Sin a lot.
Now let’s talk about why I’m reviewing these characters as a duo.
Both Sin and Crossbones have a place as characters on their own merits, but what makes them greater than the sum of their parts is Sin’s “Partners in Crime” superpower. This means that if Sin finishes her activation within range 4 of Crossbones, Crossbones can then activate and take his turn before your opponent gets a chance to react.
This ability opens up lines of play that are extremely rare. The most direct comparison is Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight – but they have to spend power to achieve it and stay closer at range 3. Sin gets her ability for free and can stay at a greater range which is very relevant with her stealth ability. Otherwise, you are currently limited to Follow Me and The Air Force which are a restricted card or limited only to Captain Marvel and War Machine respectively; costing both power and a tactics card slot for an effect that Sin can enable every single turn of the game if required. As a downside, all those other options allow either character to begin the chain – with Sin and Crossbones, Sin is the one with the plan, Crossbones is just the dumb muscle, so she’s got to tell him what to do.
Not only does this give you priority control – effectively allowing you to think of Sin and Crossbones as a single 6 threat package – but it also means that they can put out up to 4 attacks before your opponent gets to react.
With Sin’s rapid fire and Crossbones’ basic strikes that’s 26 attack dice into a target. If she has the power to Make it Personal, hits the triggers, and Crossbones has the power to use his Haymaker twice as well there’s a potential maximum output of 40 attack dice (though it is very rare that you’ll have the power to pull off the 40 dice dream so it’ll usually be somewhere in the middle).
There are some other sneaky benefits to the particular way these characters and attacks work too. Sin’s ability to Hit and Run means that she can chase down characters who have been pulled out of her range by Lifesaver, Eye in the Sky, Escort to Safety or other similar effects. She can also start her activation out of range of Crossbones and use Hit and Run to attack someone near her, move closer to him, and attack whatever target he is then going into to help spread the damage around, though knowing when to commit Sin into a fight and when to try and keep her safe is a big part of getting the most out of her.
Crossbones’ Overpower also helps him move around and stay relevant on crises, potentially also throwing characters away from points which can be very relevant. You can have both Sin and Crossbones start off an objective and move on, potentially throwing one of the other characters on there away. Note that because the place is after the attack is resolved, though, this won’t work if he accidentally KO’s the target he is trying to use as a leapfrog point.
In terms of the rest of the abilities on their respective cards, Sin and Crossbones are very different characters. The most obvious weakness for Sin is her small 4 health pool on her healthy side, which means that she will very often be taken out in just one or two attacks from a lot of characters in the game. This is in contrast to Crossbones who starts with a respectable 6 health and the ability to spend power to reduce damage potentially to 0 which makes him annoyingly resilient even to the energy and mystic attacks where he is less capable.
Sin benefits a lot from her stealth and the ability to Hit and Run out of range of her opponent’s retaliation, forcing them to chase her down. She can also build power very quickly with her rapid fire attacks and if she doesn’t get taken out all at once with her Heir to the Wicked superpower. She can easily Hit and Run every round and she often has the power to play tactics cards as well, or throw out Make it Personal – which can really ramp up her damage output, especially if she has access to rerolls or other dice support to help hit the triggers. The closer range 2 makes this a good choice to punish characters who have successfully chased her down previously.
Crossbones by contrast is extremely slow, which is his main weakness. Overpower helps him get back into the fight if he has the power to use it, and Aggressive makes it difficult to control him with attacks, but he is not great at repositioning himself especially if he’s kept more power hungry. What he is good at doing is taking hits, something which Sin really does not enjoy!
I use a couple of tactics cards to really leverage these strengths. Illicit Tech is a Sin/Crossbones tactics card:
There’s a lot of text on this card but it really does a lot to make Sin and Crossbones very scary. The main key points are that it gives Sin a range 5 attack that she can Hit and Run off, meaning that the threat range from which she can get a movement becomes much longer and she can initiate a fight safely from stealth range. She can also build power from this so she can move in and potentially then Make it Personal to drop a further bunch of attack dice into a now-incinerated target. Because a lot of the damage output from the pair are coming in volume of attacks, anything you can do to lower the amount of defence die the opponent is rolling is great, and doing this in a bubble also potentially opens up other targets of opportunity if the first is dazed or KO’d quickly. And of course it is an energy attack, which they are otherwise lacking.
Crossbones also likes this as a potential way to reach out if targets have run away from him, though I much prefer it as a first activation attack from Sin to make the rest of the attacks in the activation that much more effective.
The other card that I always take with the pair is Sacrifice:
Crossbones is much better if he can make people hit him and aggressive towards them, making use of his Inured to Pain superpower. Sin is really good at making sure that a lot of opponents only get one attack into her because she has moved into stealth. With Sacrifice, if Crossbones is still within 2 of her he can take a hit for his girlfriend and help mitigate some of the pain of that low 4 health pool on her healthy side. He is also very happy to be a bodyguard for a big hit onto other key targets he might be near like Red Skull, Master of Hydra.
With Strucker, Illicit Tech can also be used to heal them which is nice, and whilst they can’t put out conditions themselves otherwise, both of them love any source of healing they can get – combined with something like Mayor Fisk this can really add up over the course of the game.
However it is with Red Skull, Master of Hydra that I’ve had the most fun with the pair. Crossbones can sometimes have trouble with power generation and the extra power helps him get more access to his Haymaker superpower. Use that with a Strike and you have a good chance of keeping the power train rolling.
Even better is the fact that with Master Skull’s grunts you can move four bodies across two activations. Crossbones and Master Skull both have control on their attacks if they hit the relevant triggers, and this is a huge amount of potential damage output in the first two activations you take each turn as well as move enough people around that the board state changes significantly, potentially opening up World Domination.
(An important note on this tactics card; it has received errata so that it now reads ‘if you secure all Secure objective tokens’. Whether or not you control the objectives on a crisis like SWORD Base is irrelevant, you need to have more healthy characters on all points than your opponent; but gaining 2 VPs and 2 power to all characters is a huge swing).
The last strength I would like to point to is another tactics card that influences the game without even needing to be played:
Two More Shall Rise means that if your leader is KO’d you can turn on the leadership of up to 2 other Hydra or Cabal characters. My current favourite roster almost always runs Sin alongside either Strucker or Malekith when I’m running Red Skull as the leader.
This means that the opponent is incentivised to KO the other two leaders before they KO Red Skull and Red Skull is such a strong character on his own that anything which makes opponents think twice before trying to kill him is very useful. Occult Research is another card which can fill a similar role, but my experience has been that people are more likely to feel that denying the Hydra player the opportunity to play a tactics card at all is more useful than slowing the rate at which Master Skull builds for Occult Research.
However, Sin and Crossbones do have some significant weaknesses that are worth keeping in mind.
Firstly, if you lose either Sin or Crossbones a lot of the benefit of running both of them evaporates. Neither character is useless on their own, but together they become far more than the sum of their parts. Because Sin has such a low health pool you do have to be very careful with her positioning – and you have to be aware of characters who can pull her into range and kill her. Thanos with the mind and space stones is particularly well equipped to pull the pair apart and crush her.
Crossbones is also very good at taking hits but he can still be taken down, particularly by characters with strong energy and mystic attacks or when his power economy is taxed. Loki and Root can bring his Inured to Pain cost up to 2 per point of damage reduction (or a horrifying 3 if combined) which he will not be able to pay consistently, and Sin having to pay to use Partners in Crime can also be a nuisance. The tactics cards Shhh… and No More Mutants can also shut down Partners in Crime at a key moment and give the opponent a chance to kill Crossbones before he activates.
Because a lot of their damage is coming from repeated attacks at relatively low dice levels characters with strong defensive powers can also be difficult for them to crack. Whilst I have had them burn down an incinerated Thanos, it isn’t something that I’d rely on – Juggernaut and Rhino are also characters they may have difficulty taking out.
Sin’s low health pool can sometimes be relevant even in her own turn – Winter Soldier and the Howling Commandos can threaten to daze her if she takes someone else out and they are in range 3. Ghost Rider’s Wicked Judgement can also take her out very quickly if she happens to get lucky on her attacks. She also really does not like powers like Tricks and Traps, Psychic Distraction or Trick and Treat which can sneak damage into her when she moves into range. All of this means that you have to be even more careful with her positioning against teams with these tools.
Finally there are a few tricks in their other homes that I think are worth highlighting though I will admit I have played them far less there. In Cabal Sin often has the power to put Dark Reign on a target and then all of those attack dice they can put out get full rerolls as well. Malekith’s leadership letting them move, heal and gain power also helps keep Crossbones relevant or repair chip damage on Sin – and they are very good at killing whilst also giving Malekith more bodies and a lower priority count.
I also suspect that To Ash and Cinder – the other Sin and Crossbones tactics card which puts an explosive on the board in the power phase – may have some powerful synergy in Cabal where the card, Bob and Bullseye potentially allow you to put out a lot of guaranteed damage.
Shadowlands Daredevil offers them permanent reroll support on attacks without needing to rely on proximity to another character, so long as they are fighting over objectives, which they both get a lot out of. They also help maintain priority and Sin’s power generation helps her contribute to All According to Plan.
In conclusion, your opponent should dread Sin and Crossbones if:
- You can leverage the priority control to cause damage and still maintain tempo in the game.
- They don’t have the means to isolate and take out Sin easily.
- The crisis will let Sin and Crossbones leverage their attacks into multiple targets later in the game.
- You may be able to pull off World Domination for a big VP swing (e.g. SWORD).
- The crisis will force opponents to clump together so a big Illicit Tech bubble can incinerate much of the team (e.g. Mayor Fisk, Researcher, Gamma)
- Their primary defensive strategy is to pull characters out of range of attacks.
But perhaps Sin and Crossbones are not going to make crime pay if:
- There is a lot of reactive punishment tech in the opponent’s list.
- There is a lot of control which can pull Sin into range to take hits.
- There are strong energy and mystic attacks to take Crossbones out easily.
- Loki and/or Root are going to tax the pair’s power economy.
- There are a lot of characters in the opponent’s list with strong defensive powers which limit the effectiveness of many small dice pool attacks.
So that’s Sin and Crossbones, a pair of characters with a lot of unique tricks and some great synergy with the new Hydra affiliation. Hopefully all of this has given you some ideas about how else you might be able to use the pair!
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!