It's All About the Flavor

Thematic Deckbuilding in Marvel Champions: The Card Game


Whether you’re a veteran Marvel Champions deckbuilder, or you just play the pre-built decks, there’s something to be said for a truly thematic deck. With the cards already released for Marvel Champions: The Card Game, you can build some wonderfully evocative decks, calling up your favorite moments from across the Marvel universe. Today, guest writer Blake Powell shares some of his thoughts on how you can make your games of Marvel Champions even more thematic! 

Blake Powell on Moving Beyond Your Pre-Built Deck

This is my first time writing about Marvel Champions: The Card Game, and I am pumped! This game has been my savior during this time of isolation, as it provides one of the few ways I can disconnect from technology and play a tabletop game solo. As much as entertainment from a screen is great, having something hands-on that doesn’t use technology is a nice change of pace. 

For this article I wanted to focus on an idea that should interest seasoned players as well as casual players who just like playing the pre-built decks in Hero Packs, quite possibly because deck building just isn’t your thing. With that in mind, I thought an interesting way to go about building decks is to think about them in a thematic way according to the hero—or even the lore behind a hero, which is especially fun for those who are fans of the Marvel universe.  

One thing to note, I’ve made the assumption that your card pool contains all packs that have been released up to the Thor Hero Pack. If you are missing some of the cards that are mentioned, just see if you can find a substitute that has a similar concept, i.e. doing damage or thwarting!

Building a Theme

I actually wanted to kick things off with a villain scenario idea! Anyone who has played the game long enough knows that Rhino (Core Set, 94) is the true intro villain. That being said, I think the thematic flavor possibilities with Rhino are amazing! In The Green Goblin Scenario Pack, we were graced with a card pool to create a pseudo-Sinister Six encounter deck by adding in the Electro modular set (Power Drain), the Tombstone modular set (Running Interference), and the Scorpion modular set (A Mess of Things).

These plus the Standard modular set make for some fun thematic flavor, and that goes double if you choose Spider-Man as your hero. You could also add in Goblin Gimmicks if you want to make it wacky—I think that may dilute the encounter deck a little too much, but it’s still a fun possibility. I personally really enjoy playing around with the different modular decks and trying to create a great thematic/challenging encounter deck.

Another way to add some thematic flavor to your Marvel Champions experience is to use hero combinations that tie into one another in the Marvel universe. There are loads of possibilities here depending on the number of players, but even solo, you can play two-handed and utilize two heroes thematically this way. In fact, playing a two-handed solo game is always a great option when tackling certain villains, as sometimes it really helps to have the diversity of two aspects to truly thwart and defeat that particular villain. This also lets you test two deckbuilds at the same time and shows you how a deck plays in a multi-hero environment instead of just a solo scenario. You could even go one step further and use the lore of the Marvel universe to put together matchups between heroes and villains that have a history of facing off. For example, Iron Man vs. Ultron or Black Panther vs. Klaw.

Mixing Up Your Hero Deck 

Now, if you are looking to build some decks with thematic flavor, there are a few ways that you can usually go about it. The first is through the actual Marvel universe, taking characters that interact with one another and putting them together. This mainly uses a hero with various allies that have interactions within the Marvel universe and builds a deck around the connection. Another primary way to assemble a thematic deck is by combining traits on the cards, which will bring more support cards into the mix with those allies. Lastly, and this can be a really fun one, is to look at the card art, and use as many cards as possible that have art depicting your hero or allies. This is a great way to pull out cards you may not always use, but since it has that flavor of your hero or allies, you’ll include it and try to make it work in your deck. You’d be surprised at how forcing yourself to include a card may open up potential new combos you hadn’t considered before!

Now getting into the specifics of a thematic deck. The easiest one to create at this point in the game is an Avengers themed deck. The Avenger trait is almost a universal theme with pretty much all of the heroes, so you can choose which hero you wish to try for this Leadership aspect deck. The only caveat for this build is that you must have the Captain America Hero Pack, as most of the Avengers-themed cards are within this expansion. Plus, Captain America (Captain America, 1A) makes a great hero for the Avengers theme, since he’s prominently considered “the first” Avenger. 

Looking at this deck for the most part, it’s pretty consistent and uses any card that has something to do with the Avengers trait or can synergize with a deck built around allies, which is what the deck is all about. Consider this build more of reference point to start from, especially if you don’t like building decks, then swap in cards that you enjoy to play or have a thematic flavor you would enjoy.

For those of you who aren’t into deckbuilding as much and have been playing Marvel Champions right out of the box with the pre-constructed decks, this next section is for you. Although this deck does still have that flavor crossover through the card art, that isn’t the main goal of these builds. The idea is to expand what you might have already been playing and take it to another level. What I’ve done is to take some of those original pre-built decks and tweak the builds—mainly by adding extra copies of a card that’s already in the deck in exchange for thinning out the basic cards, which typically only have a single card included for these Core Set pre-built decks.

First up is Captain Marvel (Core Set, 10A)! This deck has the Aggression aspect, and with these adjustments, you’re really turning the aggression up to eleven here! A big swap in this build is removing Hulk (Core Set, 50) in favor of Valkyrie (Thor, 12) Hulk may be fun as a character, but if you don’t have the right resource distribution, he can really burn you, so Hulk is out for this. Another notable exclusion is Relentless Assault (Core Set, 53). I was testing against the Rhino deck that I described above, and that encounter deck is quite light on minions, so Relentless Assault holds less value and was replaced by Melee (Ms. Marvel, 30). If you’re playing against a minion-centric encounter deck like Ultron or Green Goblin, swap Relentless Assault back in, as you will see a lot more value from that card in those situations. 

There is also an upgrade here that is very specific to Captain Marvel, and that is Enhanced Reflexes (Ms. Marvel, 24). This provides a repeatable Energy resource, which is very beneficial for Captain Marvel. If you wanted to try out this Aggression aspect with another hero that utilizes a different specific resource, you can swap in one of the other Enhanced upgrades as a substitute. You would be surprised how well an aspect deck can swap into another hero with minimal changes, especially the Justice and Aggression aspects, which are both highlighted here.

Next up, we have Spider-Man (Core Set, 1A)! With the Justice aspect, this deck is very well rounded for solo play. In fact, that’s the great thing in general about the Justice aspect—it caters really well to solo play, especially if your hero has cards that can do a lot of direct damage to the villain, as the Justice aspect focuses on thwarting. This deck has quite a significant tweak from the Core Set pre-built deck, with a lot more combo potential and some amazing card art flavor! The Physical resource is a big part of some of the combos, so it’s the most printed resource in the deck. Tenacity (Core Set, 93) and Concussive Blow (Ms. Marvel, 31) use this resource, and both can be clutch in a game.

One really fun combo is using Invulnerability (Thor, 21) to give Spider-Man a Tough status card, then playing Great Responsibility (Core Set, 61) to prevent the threat from being placed on a scheme as well as the damage. Under Surveillance (Thor, 31) is also an auto-include for any Justice build! This card will always buy you some time and is a crucial card in my opinion. There is also one card that can be swapped into the deck based on the scenario you’re playing, and that is Followed (Captain America, 32). This is a situational card to me, similar to Relentless Assault in the Captain Marvel deck, so add this at your discretion, or just to experiment with how useful you find it!

Let the Building Begin

That pretty much wraps up this article. Hopefully, the thematic aspect is something you will look into and enjoy—even if you’re not a fan of deck building, this should give you some options to expand those original pre-built decks. One rule I find to be quite true with most card games, you’ll want to play a deck a few times to really get a feel for how it plays and to discover the potential card combos, so make sure you jam a few games to really get to know the deck. Until next time, EXCELSIOR! 

Blake Powell, or blvdPAPERFIGHT, is an avid Marvel Champions player. He uses the game as a way to disconnect from technology, and usually is playing solo as a way to wind down and enjoy some great Marvel flavor in an LCG format. Look for more content from Blake on his YouTube channel and on social media @blvdPAPERFIGHT.

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