With the arrival of Rise of Red Skull, Marvel Champions sees its biggest influx of new content since the core set, including two sparkling new heroes in Spider-Woman and Hawkeye. Frankly, in the few days since the set became available for testing, I haven’t taken much of a look at Jessica Drew. She’s a deep, deep well, and I think we’ll be mining the intricacies of deck building for her for a long time.
Hawkeye, by contrast, slowly came into focus card by card after his initial spoilers and ended up becoming one of the most straightforward heroes in the whole game, with each new card we saw serving to crystalize his playstyle. If you’ll pardon some flippancy, allow me to summarize his 15 card Hero deck:
- His bow (to shoot the arrows)
- His quiver (to find the arrows)
- His skills as an archer (to pay for arrows)
Are you getting the picture? The only card that breaks even momentary focus from our hail of projectiles is Mockingbird, and really if you think about it she’s there to protect you while you shoot the arrows.
Hawkeye is relentlessly, obscenely focused. By sleeving him up, you’ve tuned into the Arrow Network, where up next we have an all new episode of “Arrows”. Tune in tomorrow at the same time for another riveting installment of “More Arrows”.
This could have been problematic or even boring, but huzzah, the arrows are fascinating cards, diverse in their utility and second only to Doctor Strange's Invocation deck in terms of raw efficiency. They’re also a lot like Invocations in that they’re a strategy unto themselves. Slinging one or two arrows a turn and pointing them at the right places is often all it takes to set the player on a steady path to victory, but unlike the ineffable Doctor, Agent Barton does come with a significant weakness.
Hawkeye’s fragility is obvious when we look at his kit. He shares his friend Black Widow’s 9 hit points, the lowest in the game. She, however, has one more Defense and a robust defensive suite that includes Synth-Suit and lots of villain-disrupting preparations. Hawkeye has precisely none of that. He does have a great recurring ally in Mockingbird, but while Bobbi provides good cover, she is only one card out of 40.
So to put it mildly, Hawkeye has an issue with survivability, but so far in my testing it’s not proven to be insurmountable. In fact, it’s kind of fun to try to keep a hero this absurdly squishy alive turn after turn. I think there are going to be great Hawkeye decks in all aspects, but staying alive is a problem that's going to have to be addressed in any deck Hawkeye chooses to field.
Here’s some general tips I’ve gathered while piloting Hawkeye.
- Allies are very useful to block attacks and keep the arrows flying. As you use them in preparation for their noble sacrifices, prioritize thwarting. Cable Arrow is a fantastic card, but it’s all you’ve got and your 3 ATK will prove far too tantalizing to pass up, so use the allies to stay ahead on the threat game at every possible opportunity. If a villain turn comes to pass that throws out tons of threat at once, you may not be able to deal with it if you were behind already. Be overly conservative, keep the threat down.
- Clint Barton is officially the most boring Alter-Ego in the game. Assuming Criminal Past never catches you in an awkward moment, you’ll use Weapon of Choice exactly one time, or potentially even zero if you draw the bow in your opening hand naturally. With no Alter-Ego actions to speak of, you want to be in Hero the whole game if you can stand it. In solo play, Sonic Arrow’s ability to confuse does make the single extra card potentially worth the flip to force the villain to skip their activation.
- Hawkeye's Quiver joins Arc Reactor, Cloak of Levitation, and Asgard in the realm of Hero cards that are utterly essential. It is worth a hard-mulligan. Dig for it until it’s on the table, and don’t forget to take advantage of the sneak peek it gives of your next turn (or the rest of your turn, if you have Old St. Nick Fury in your hand)
- Expert Marksman is likewise crucial, and luckily they’re very easy to get down at just 1 cost. This card is easily underestimated but pays dividends fast. These resources, in tandem with Quiver, very consistently give Hawkeye the kinds of dreamy turns most heroes can only dream of. They make it possible to shoot arrows with virtually no impact on your current hand. Why is that so strong?
- Because every single arrow is very, very good. Prioritize shooting them. They are priced well below curve, and the contingency damage on Electric Arrow and Sonic Arrow in the event that the target is already incapacitated are especially nice touches to ensure that their costs are always worth it. More than any other hero, your whole deck is built around a single concept. That concept is arrows, and good Hawkeye play is about using them as intelligently as you can.
The damage from the arrows adds up so fast. So far, I’d say Hawkeye is second only to Hulk in terms of raw, consistent damage output, and the variety of effects the arrows bring to the table (along with Hawkeye’s much more palatable hand sizes) are going to make him much smoother to play.
Hawkeye surprised me. For me, his design nails the fantasy of a trick-arrow slinging battlefield master. I hope over the coming weeks less obvious paths to rounding out his weaknesses emerge from the less obvious aspect pairings. His straight ahead playstyle is going to find fans from all over the Champions playerbase.