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. I’m a little late with this one, you can blame my job being in the agricultural industry and it being harvest season for that, but it’s finally time to talk about X-Force.
So… X-Force. The redheaded stepchild of the mutant family. If you were to go to Longshanks, you’d see X-Force sitting comfortably in the bottom tier of win rates, just scraping above Defenders and Sentinels. While Brotherhood, X-Men and Weapon-X are much, much higher.
Let’s dig into the reasons people give for why this is starting with…
“Cable is so bad! His leadership is terrible!”
That’s right, once again the subpar faction is being dragged down by their single leader once again, but for once I completely agree with people. Cable is a very bad 5-threat character.
“Cable should be a 4-threat!”
Ah, so this is where people leave me scratching my head. Cable is absolutely a 5-threat character, and I can prove that by squaring him off against his hottest competition, Crimson Dynamo.
On paper, these characters are remarkably similar. You have a medium base, short moving, range 2 placing, ranged attacker with a superpower to protect himself or allies from opponent’s attacks. Hell, both their guns are 5-dice energy and give out conditions on a wild. This should be a pretty cut and dry case for Cable to be a 4-threat… except he has something Dynamo doesn’t, and that’s a terrain throw, and a size 4, range 3 one at that. That’s absolutely worth an increase of 1 threat.
But if Dynamo is so good, and Cable is so bad, why is that? Other than minor nuances like Disruption Field being slightly better than Telekinetic Shield (since rerolling attack dice is more potent than simply boosting your defense dice), we can turn to the other 5-threats in the game to find Cable’s real problem.
The three least played, most maligned 5-threats in the game are easily Cable, Jean Grey and Cassandra Nova. What do they all have in common? They are the only 5-threats in the game that are reliant on a 5-dice builder, with no die boosting or modding, to gain power. Simply put, there’s an entire glut of 3-threats that make power better than all of them, and Cable is actually the worst of the three, since the ladies have sap on their builders. I guess there’s also Amazing Spider-Man with his Spider Strike, but Amazing Spider-Man is just a completely different beast, but I’ll save that for an eventual Web Warriors article.
And yes, technically, Cable can use a single re-roll with his leadership but that means he’s hitting at the baseline for 5-threats some of the time, because even if you play him with the leadership it only is usable once per turn. Cable desperately needs his gun to be 6-dice, or for his Incinerate to be automatic. It’s a tiny buff, but would go a long way to fixing his lacking damage output, his power economy or just bringing him up closer to the curve the other 5-threats sit on. I’ll put it this way, even if Cable was a 4-threat, he would still be the one of the lowest damage output characters in X-Force and if he could use his terrain throw consistently, he’d be one of the best.
“Original Sabretooth is such a bad character.”
This could easily be a topic for the eventual Misconceptions: Brotherhood article, but considering there’s another, and very different Sabretooth in that faction, this feels like a better place to bring this up. OG Sabretooth is… weird. Not weird in the “This character’s card makes no sense.” way, but it’s hard to “get” what his kit is trying to do at first glance. He wasn’t very good when he first came out, but now that reputation betrays how he can be useful in the current state of the game.
OG Tooth was pretty looked down upon when he first came out. His 3/3/3 defenses weren’t great, and to be honest still aren’t, since AMG was over-evaluating the impact of the Healing Factor, but that’s the worst part of his card by far. He has the same builder as OG Wolverine and X-23, which he can use during your opponent’s turn with Untamed Force, and you absolutely should whenever you can since it’ll most likely be a net-neutral on your Power economy into the average model, but it also has extra synergy with Cable’s leadership. While it is still bad, the reroll can be used if you’re making an attack during any turn, including your opponent’s.
No Mercy is the spicy part of his card though, and why people didn’t like him for so long. You add dice equal to the damage your target has. This was often completely overkill back in the day when there were only a handful of characters worth using this on. Like, if you were to use this on the average 6/5 HP character, you’re either spending 3 power to gain barely any dice, or you’re spending 3 power to boost an attack that’ll probably kill them anyway. For the longest time, there were very few characters with more HP than that, and even less hitting the more competitive tables, Hulk, Black Dwarf, Ghost Rider or Dormammu basically never saw play.
But now, there’s a whole slew of characters that are “problems” that OG Tooth would love to take a crack at. Post rework Hulk, Cosmic Ghost Rider… or basically any of the characters Kingpin Criminals like to play. I’m not saying he’s a silver bullet into them, he’s still kinda squishy, but he definitely has more play into the current meta than people give him credit for. He might also be the best Sacrifice target in the game, getting an attack and a S move out of it, if he survives which he can guarantee with X-Ceptional Healing.
Also, as an aside, Savage Predator gives you a free attack… not only does this give him one of the highest damage ceilings in the game, that free attack doesn’t need to target the same character. If you want him to go full ham, put him in range 2 of two different characters with a ton of power and start murdering.
“Colossus is terrible, and made useless by his speed.”
Ok, this one I’m expecting a lot of push back from, but I promise you Colossus is one of the most annoying models in the whole game, while being completely fair.
Colossus’ best home is X-Force, despite the movement shenanigans you get from his other affiliations, simply because X-Force wants to fight on slow, narrow scenarios like Gamma/Researcher and that’s where he shines over X-Men’s and Brotherhood’s more fast paced game plan. Once he’s on a point, your opponent pretty much has to displace him, or spend a long amount of time killing him if they want to do anything. Now I can already hear the X-Millennials telling me that it’s not fair that Colossus can be thrown away and he has to spend his time walking back to the fight…
Lemme ask you this. Do you honestly want Colossus to have a medium move? To be as fast as Corvus? Or faster than Luke Cage and Steve? That’s a monkey paw ready to happen because he would then be the best bodyguard character in the game hands down, with his double defensive superpowers, on top of having a decent terrain throw and an amazing spender. Stunning and Staggering will ruin most character’s day. If there’s one thing playing tons of She-Hulk teaches you, it’s bodyguard is sometimes a trap, and you should consider the other things the character has on their card.
The point I’m trying to make is Colossus is a fantastic brawler in his own right and he just needs a chance to get stuck in. That being said, there’s a purple haired elephant in the room, but we’ll come back to that.
“Wolverine is only playable if you play every Tactics Card that supports him.”
So… this is kinda true, but the logic that people use to get to this point is the problem. Much like with Sabretooth, X-Force is OG Wolverine’s best home, since the other affiliations he’s in don’t do much for him (with the exception of Avengers maybe. Jury is out until First Avenger is tested more) and there’s a second Wolverine in X-Men that fits their game plan a lot better.
Wolverine does need a lot of support. X-Ceptional Healing and No Matter the Cost are practically stapled to him, and would really like to have Weapon X Program every game as well. That being said, if you were to play Defenders by bringing all these cards just for him, you’d probably have a bad time. All of these cards are only good if you have multiple characters that can make good use of them, otherwise it would be too easy for your opponent to be able to play around it.
That’s what makes a faction of Healing Factor characters so spicy, Wolverine can get a “free” spender with No Matter the Cost, but so can X-23 and more than half of all of the X-Force characters want X-Ceptional Healing. You’re not taxing yourself into playing a bunch of cards to play Wolverine if you’d play them anyway.
So, we’ve talked about every 4-threat in the affiliation, with the exception of one, and she is definitely the best one. Psylocke freaking slaps and was a massive boost to the affiliation, able to be super mobile and murderous with energy and mystic attacks, something X-Force needed more of and is incredibly tanky as well.
It is hard to argue that Psylocke isn’t “Best in Slot.” So why play any of the other 4-threats over her? Well you shouldn’t, but if you were to take a second 4-threat, consider what your opponent is bringing. Big characters are best answered with Sabretooth. If you need someone to literally never die while fighting on a tight secure, take Colossus. Wolverine has the only form of control in the entire affiliation, but maybe only play him if you’re bringing at least X-23 and Honey Badger.
Normally, this is the part where I start talking about Tactic Cards. However, over the past month since my last article (sorry this took so long) I’ve been chomping at the bit to tell people that X-Force aren’t that bad, and that they can do good work… but the wind got knocked from my sail when a friend asked me one question:
“Why should I play X-Force over any other affiliation?”
And to be honest… I don’t know. You can absolutely make X-Force work, but anything that the tactic cards offer can be done better with another affiliation with the same characters.
Let’s take Cat and Mouse as an example. It’s a Range 2 place that is done at the start of the game. Now in the past, this was used exclusively on Cable to get him further up the board so he’s more likely to be able to double tap someone in Round 1. Sounds good! Now there’s Psylocke who could use it to get into Psy-Bow range, gain a Power, use Telekinetic Combat Enhancement, move again and now do a 7-dice builder into anyone unfortunate enough to still be on the centerline.
But… you could literally get more range using the hop from Storm’s leadership in X-Men, which they are both affiliated to. Cable is also an Avenger so he can get 1-power Bodyslide with OG Steve’s leadership and play Avengers Assemble, and be even further up the board with two actions left.
Now there’s also Pretty Sneaky Sis, giving stealth to your entire team, which is a good card… sometimes. If your opponent isn’t running a team with a lot of Range 4 or 5 attacks, it’s not going to get a lot of value.
And then there’s Dirty Work, the archetypal card that gets better the more characters you’re running from that affiliation. Let me ask you this, what does 2 extra power get you most of the time? If you look at the characters in X-Force, not much because you’ll either have enough power to do what you want or you’re still 1 to 2 power short. On top of all that, it’s actually a net loss for the character that played it. The only reason to play “Mono X-Force” isn’t even a win more card, it’s actively just bad.
In summary, I don’t think X-Force is the worst affiliation in the game, far from it. They have one of the strongest identities in the game, being a purely aggressive affiliation, and are right on the verge of being genuinely good. However, until they get better tactic cards, I just don’t see why you should play them even casually, when the same characters in a different affiliation will probably be a better time.
I’m not going to give a timeframe for my next article, as I work in the agricultural industry and we’re now in the harvest season, but I’ll say we’re now back on our ABCs with Black Order.