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ImpossibleGerman · 100
“When Captain America throws his mighty shield
All those who chose to oppose his shield must yield”
The fantasy of Captain America Protection- of rugged survivability, of his virtual inability to be outlasted as long as ye olde vibranium frisbee is in tow- is surely the second strongest thematic pairing available to Steve in Marvel Champions, behind only the obvious Leadership. It’s also my personal favorite. Of course I love Cap for his moral infallibility and his uncanny ability to elevate a team, but dang it all, Captain America's Shield is just too cool.
Ms. Marvel’s pack took Protection as a whole out of it’s core set dumps, Cap included, and at that point this deck was fun but perhaps not great. Doctor Strange's arrival has brought this deck new life for the second time, and I can say confidently that it is one of the most efficient and resilient decks available as of summer 2020. We’re playing into Cap’s strengths here- this is a methodical, efficient style of play that is designed to outlast the villain and maintain tempo at all costs.
It wins by not losing. Let’s talk about not losing at Marvel Champions.
OH GOD, OH NO, LOOK AT ALL THAT THREAT
The villain scheming out is the most common way to lose in Champions. In solo, especially, the Justice aspect is the typical solution, enabling vast swathes of threat to clear off in a single turn. Cap’s 15 has some incredible tools to natively combat threat- namely, Agent 13, Fearless Determination, and “I Can Do This All Day”, all of which are flexible, potent, and impactful.
Threat can be challenging to remove in large quantities, and an oft-bandied about analysis of the game’s mathematics is that typically, THW has about 1.5x the value of ATK. Less often talked about is the impact that Hero mode has on threat. Even Justice has deliberately fewer ways to manipulate threat in Alter-Ego, and so the ebb and flow of the game is typically to recover and set up in spurts, then try to undo all the scheming the villain did while you were home grocery shopping once you’re back in Hero mode.
Given these realities about how threat works in Champions, the beauty of Captain America in Protection is twofold. The aforementioned native THW potential of Captain America’s 15 card suite and ability to ready is important. But beyond that, Protection is so effective at reducing threat because every turn in Hero mode is a turn passively preventing the villain from scheming. The villain scheming so rarely during his activation often means Captain America’s native threat control is enough to handle things. This makes the potential of losing to the main scheme dramatically reduced, and this is especially good because it naturally combines with Protection’s more obvious strength- negating damage.
OKAY YOU KNOW WHAT, OUCH, PLEASE STOP THAT, OH GOD MY FACE
Yeah, so the other way to lose Marvel Champions is to get unceremoniously murdered.
Damage losses don’t happen as often. This is for a few reasons- obviously chump blocking with allies is very effective, but another factor is that damage thresholds are often much less than the threat thresholds, so players are often just more cautious about damage. Plus, you know...nobody wants to die. A Hero on 3 health has so many ways to get deaded in a typical encounter deck that he’s usually compelled to flip and patch himself up before getting back into the fight.
Protection now has enough tools to delay or outright say no to all of that, offering the sustain and damage reduction that players need to stay in Hero mode a very long time. And staying in Hero mode a long time is very good for Captain America, a character who has packed very well for extended stays at the Hero Mode Hotel. The passive damage of Retaliate from the shield, the raw efficiency of Heroic Strike, and the balanced stat line all make Cap's Hero side very appealing, but the biggest factor is “I Can Do This All Day”. Being able to ready helps you work around the biggest potential bummer in Protection- having to exhaust to defend.
Why all the exposition? Partially because I just like to talk about Champions, but also because I want to sell you on the potential of this pairing on a mechanical level. This is the primary theory behind Captain America Protection- that the combination of Protection’s ability to stay in Hero mode without dying or losing tempo, combined with the passive threat reduction of not bouncing down to Alter-Ego, makes for a more winnable game that directly plays into the strengths of Cap’s Hero deck.
Let’s talk about some cards and how to pilot this bad boy.
PILOTING THIS BAD BOY
You're slow. You're reactive. You're also stubborn and/or stupid enough to not just be playing Doctor Strange, you nincompoop. All of this can make things harder, but they shouldn't prevent you from emerging victorious. Here's some things I've learned.
Your engine pieces are all both very important and being run at 1x, which is why it’s probably good that they all cost 1 resource and are easy to get on the table when you find them. Armored Vest, Unflappable, and The Night Nurse are cards you want out of your dreams and into your car ASAP. Don’t worry about Steve’s ally discount early unless it’s a super obvious play. The above mentioned cards, and both copies of Super-Soldier Serum, are your highest priorities. You want to use as few Steve turns as possible to get ready for long stretches of Hero mode time.
Stunning is always good, but this deck focuses on it really intensely in solo. In solo mode, if you’re on Hero mode and the villain is stunned, they’ve essentially missed their turn, and hopefully I don’t need to wax endlessly about why this is Very Good. Iron Fist has taken stunlocking to it’s next level. He’s one of the best cards in the game and a cornerstone of this deck.
This deck is built with a pretty low cost curve. Iron Fist is the only critical piece that's pricy- Luke Cage is there as a late game resource sink and everything else is pretty aggressively cheap. The reason for this is that Protection plays slowly, and we really want Cap to have the flexibility to ready up with a spare card each turn. We're packing 3 copies of Indomitable and Desperate Defense, which are especially critical in multiplayer to enable Cap to jump in front of everyone else's bullets. Counter-Punch is also sneaky good and pretty underplayed, being essentially a free ready. Use The Night Nurse to clear those statuses and keep activating twice as many turns as you can. Leveraging Cap's balanced stats through readying is a huge part of why we're here.
In solo, I've cleared everything on Heroic 1, finding Klaw and Mutagen Formula (ugh) the toughest to overcome. Regular ol' Expert shouldn't be a problem. This deck is strong and incredibly efficient, but it's slow, and it's not for everybody. "Winning" and "Not Losing" aren't just functionally different, they also feel quite different to play. It's important to keep that in mind as you make decisions each round. Missing an opportunity to Tackle or Heroic Strike too often can and will prevent you from staying on pace to close out the game. The longer a game draws out, the more likely it is that bad luck with the encounter deck could cause you to run out of tricks. It's rare, but it happens. Keep that damage output high (Retaliate will stack up a lot over time) and make smart spending decisions and you should prove resilient enough to overcome most of what the game throws at you.
(Speaking of that slowness, that's part of why we're running Momentum Shift instead of Energy Barrier. Momentum Shift makes us a little more resilient against minion swarms and pays off immediately. In this deck, the extra speed feels better to me than the raw efficiency of Barrier.)
In multiplayer? This deck shines even more. The stuns are a little less oppressive to the Villain, but the security you offer other players by blocking for them is invaluable. You'll be everybody's best friend.
"No, you move"
This is my favorite deck to play in Champions. It really embodies one of the coolest traits of my favorite hero, and it's potent enough to have a fighting chance at all of the game's content without being a busted Leadership monstrosity. Not that there's anything wrong with busted Leadership monstrosities, but it's nice to have a change of pace, and my hope is that you'll have a good time playing around with the synergies this pairing offers.