So in this series, I’ll be going over each affiliation and diving into what I believe to be misunderstandings about each one, and why the echo chamber of online discourse is often wrong, or at least draws to the wrong conclusions. As I mentioned in the previous part, it’s time to assemble with the Avengers.
Many times I would be doing the dishes or hoovering the carpet (that’s vacuuming to you Americans) and I would rack my brain to think of something to say that hasn’t been said about the Avengers. They’re as old as the game itself and have such a wide depth of characters, tied for highest with their old sparring partner Cabal. In fact, you could make three different lists, only including Avengers characters, and they all would perform well with the only overlap being Avengers Assemble.
So, what misconceptions could there even be at this point? Well, as I was doing some aforementioned mundane chore, it hit me. I could just talk about the misconceptions of individual characters that are only Avengers affiliated. So let’s begin with what’s becoming a tradition for this series, talking about the leader, with a take I think we’ve all heard someone say at some point…
“Steve’s leadership is overpowered. It should only work on Avengers affiliated characters.”
Ok, grab a drink because this will be a long one. As one of the first leaders in the game, Captain America has remained one of the best for the longest time. There is no arguing this. The list of characters that don’t benefit from it can be counted on one hand. In case you somehow don’t know what it does, the first superpower you use a turn costs 1 power less (to a minimum of 1) it’s as simple as it is elegant. It opens up great first turn plays and gets you value in the mid to late game.
But I don’t think it’s overpowered. Simply put, people confuse “strong” with “overpowered” far too often, and AMG made it strong on purpose. It’s Captain America, the dude has been a household name for generations, especially after the MCU movie back in 2011… Oh god, that was twelve years ago… Pushing that existential dread aside, it makes absolute sense from a game design and marketing perspective to make Cap strong, since he’s so recognisable and iconic. It would feel bad if such an important character to the last century of pop culture was bad, fans of Wolverine know what I’m talking about. However, there’s more to this leadership that keeps it from being broken.
Like I said, almost all of the 140-ish characters can use this leadership, but most of them can’t make good use of it. Yes, Deadpool and Black Widow get a reduction on their one superpower, but that doesn’t do a whole lot in the long run. Steve’s leadership truly unlocks when people have superpowers they can use during your opponent’s turn, such as Crimson Dynamo and Ghost Spider, characters that are notably not in Avengers, which I think is intentional.
Another use for Steve’s leadership is stealing things with Black Cat or grabbing something in the middle field and backing up to safety with Toad or Hulk. Other than Hulk, none of these are affiliated in Avengers either, so if you want to run max extract shenanigans, you’re taxed pretty heavily with your splash characters and might not be able to get everything you want in unless you bring a potato like Black Widow.
If you take a look at the list of characters in Avengers, the strongest use for the leadership I can come up with is bodyguarding repeatedly for 1 power on Cap himself and Luke Cage, which is fine but easily disruptable. Voodoo is also good at the “Grab and Run” game plan but crucially, Steve’s leadership can’t reduce X cost powers, so him being affiliated doesn’t change the strength of his Possession either way. If you make it only work on Avengers, it would quickly become a pretty underwhelming leadership.
Now, I want to talk about a very specific thing for a second. Darkstar was not balanced around Steve. Quite frankly, if you think that they crippled Darkstar’s power economy because of Cap while her box mate, Crimson Dynamo, wasn’t… I simply don’t know what to tell you.
“Hulkbuster is terrible, especially the leadership.”
Yeap, we’re still not done talking about leaders and this one might be controversial. Hulkbuster is… weird. On the surface, he’s a big dumb beatstick, but in reality is actually a very finesse piece that can outperform other big boys, but can also blow up (quite literally) in your face if you mess up.
Best way to think of Hulkbuster is like if you strapped three Bullseye’s together. He’s a tanky and high damage piece, but he’s not that tanky, so if he’s ever in range 2 of an opponent’s model, he’s actually in a lot of trouble. He wants to hang back a little, pushing people away and moving about with Hit and Run. If your opponent puts him in a dumb position, you should try to make the little Hulkbuster pop out as quickly as possible.
The leadership is very situational, but that doesn’t make it bad. It’s obviously very useful in matchups like Magneto Brotherhood, but also in Kingpin Criminals and Asgard. I wouldn’t run it as a plan A, but there’s a space worth exploring with Steve and Versatile Strategy.
“I need to move as many characters as possible with Avengers Assemble.”
So to any tournament grinders out there, you know this isn’t true, but it’s a trap I see new players fall into repeatedly. You certainly can make some great later turn plays by moving an entire team around with Avengers Assemble, but the strongest plays are often just moving one character and a good example of this is with Iron Fist.
Iron Fist gains 2 power during the Power Phase each turn. If there’s a centre line Extract (like the one in the centre of an F shape) Iron Fist can play Avengers Assemble, walk up to the middle, pick up the macguffin and walk back. You’ve now one VP up on your opponent, and your opponent can’t easily punish you for it.
Another thing you can do with Avengers Assemble is use it like a pseudo Indomitable. Almost every push/throw effect on an attack is Short, so paying 1 power to undo that control effect on even one character can be very good.
It will take a lot of reps for you new players to find the most optimal way to use this card, as I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the applications for it, but trust me. You’ll feel like a genius when you get used to using this card minimally, but effectively.
This affiliation is, and probably always will be, the most complicated and difficult faction to talk about. Even trimming all the extra fat off gave me plenty to talk about, and will probably have to revisit one day once the meta shifts. If there’s one thing for certain, Avengers will always be viable, variable and reliable no matter what state the game is in, even though I personally think we might never see Avengers being the top dog in the meta again.
Truth be told, I wasn’t looking forward to next week as I would be tackling Black Order, my least favourite affiliation in the game, however as of literally today, they got a new character in Cosmic Ghost Rider, so I’ll leave for another time. Normally, I would then skip to the affiliation after that, but Brotherhood also had a major shake-up with the restriction to Deception…
So instead, I’m going to jump to the end of the alphabet and talk about X-Force.