The Hawk’s Nest (1.0) - Hawkeye/Leadership

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ImpossibleGerman · 398

“I see better from a distance”

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)
  • 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.

A GLASS LONGBOW

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 to best enable his strengths though, my instinct was first to cover his weaknesses.

His vulnerability to damage, combined with his merely modest capability to deal with threat, takes us right over to the comforting blue of Leadership, the aspect that can readily assist with both.

SURVEY THE BATTLEFIELD

Considered by most the strongest aspect in Champions, Leadership is perhaps an obvious choice, but it plays very differently here than in most other heroes. Hawkeye needs his allies to do very specific things, and so there’s a few really excellent Leadership cards we’re not going to run.

Team Training is a fantastic card that’s going to almost singlehandedly transform Leadership decks that want to keep a large board of allies intact for most of the game. It’s not what we need here. Other cards that benefit from keeping allies around for a long time, such as Inspired and Strength In Numbers, are also not here. Our allies need to take the villain’s attention while we control the battlefield from a distance, thwip by glorious thwip.

Low cost allies function best for this, and we’ve packed the deck with them. Hawkeye and Wonder Man provide interesting options for pitching cards on a turn where your arrows have taken most of your resources, and Kate’s discard ability can prove especially useful to keep her around when the villain is stunned or Ready for Action has your next attack covered. In general, Clint really wants to avoid using the last HP on an ally for a basic power. Keep them around until it’s time for them to cover you. Chump-blocking is how this deck survives to shoot another day, so ensure someone is always around to take the heat off of the Hawk.

This style of play is, as you may have gathered over the past few months, one of the most consistent strategies in Champions, helpful for almost every Hero. Unlike Dr. Strange or Captain America, however, Leadership isn’t here to pile strength on top of strength and cheese the game into oblivion. Blue very naturally integrates into Hawkeye’s 15 and rounds out his kit. When you do get caught unawares with overkill damage or a gap between allies, Endurance and Down Time are here to keep you in the fight.

TAKING AIM

The testing on this deck has been a total blast, and I think it has a lot of legs to dip into harder scenarios. Here’s some general tips I’ve gathered while piloting Hawkeye.

  • As alluded to before, make no illusions about the fact that your allies are primarily here 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.
  • At the higher end of your cost curve are the big allies. Falcon is here because he offers burst threat control and is quickly set up to block- in a multiplayer game, swapping in Goliath would be perfectly acceptable. War Machine offers wonderful value in the two things we crave most, thwarting and defense. Nick Fury is Nick Fury.
  • 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.

Another note about arrows- the damage 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.

“Just can’t seem to miss.”

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 other aspects. For now, I’m having plenty of fun with this list letting a crack team of support characters keep the villain distracted while I dismantle their best-laid plans.

One surgically placed arrow at a time.

3 comments

Sep 06, 2020 mistergross · 1

Very well written. Cheers

Sep 07, 2020 Delfiggalo · 8

Another expansion, another finely crafted write-up by the ImpossibleGerman! It’s nice to see another specialty hero added to the mix (Thor for minion slaughtering, and now Hawkeye for arrow shooting).

I’m curious which villains you’ve tested this deck against, as you stated that Hawkeye tends to have trouble with thwart.

Sep 07, 2020 ImpossibleGerman · 398

@Delfiggalo I’ve run this iteration of the deck against every pre-RORS scenario on Expert except for Wrecking Crew. I lost my first Ultron game holding out for an Explosive Arrow to handle drones efficiently and ended up getting myself needled to death by a Gang Up. In each game, I was very paranoid about threat control and basically never used my allies to attack. That did a good enough job for this particular deck.