Season 1 of our Showdown League is over and in this article we are going to take a look at the results and talk about any changes that we might need to make to the league.
Here are links to all of the Season 1 content:
We’re going to begin this review by taking a look at the heroes used this season.
[Tim] So this was our first full season completed. Because of the number of characters currently available, we each had to use a character twice this season. Shall we begin by talking about those? How did you rate Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman for you this season?
[James] Captain Marvel put up a very strong showing, even if I was a little disappointed with the Zola result. The Aggression deck was very consistent, however, and overall I’m glad she was one of the two heroes I doubled up on. Spider-Woman was much more of a mixed bag. The Justice/Leadership did well, but the games felt like a chore, and the Aggression/Protection list really struggled. Spider-Woman is a hero I’d play again but would be far more selective of which two aspects I combined. How would you rate the heroes that you used twice?
[Tim] I was very happy with Ms. Marvel and I’m not surprised that she did well (although I was surprised at five wins with Justice). I may have only got three wins with Aggression, but that was against Zola so I consider that a good result. Black Panther on the other hand, I definitely think I need to practice more with him as I didn’t do him justice in this season. Zero wins against Zola was pretty bad to be honest. I guess I should try him with the much-vaunted Aggression pairing.
So new for this season we introduced the idea of using characters on different difficulty levels. I think it’s safe to say that we both might have been a bit overconfident with our Heroic ones, don’t you think?
[James] Absolutely! Captain America’s issues stem from the modular set that was paired with his Heroic scenario, but it’s still something I should have considered. Any other aspect and he might have had an easier time of it. It’s interesting that we both paired our heroic characters with the Protection aspect, which again is likely due to that overconfidence you mentioned. Looking back which aspect and/or scenario would you have moved Doctor Strange to?
[Tim] I think that I would have been happy to keep him on the Klaw scenario (even though it had a lot of good minions), but would have switched him to Leadership. That would mean giving Protection to Black Panther which I think might have been okay. I definitely think Leadership would be the best one to use for Doctor Strange (I’m not saying anything controversial there I think), even though the scenario was minion-heavy. Hawkeye (Clint Barton) helps immensely with scenarios like that, so I think it would have worked better.
On the other end of things, using Hulk on Standard difficulty was interesting. I still only managed three wins against Absorbing Man, but that’s three more than I did last time versus Expert Ultron! Speaking of zero wins, your Thor Justice deck fell a bit flat. Want to talk about him?
[James] Not really… but yeah, I knew going into that scenario it was going to be tough. His hero ability shines in minion heavy scenarios, but that still does not address some of his fundamental problems. The deck itself was as good as it could have been given the current card pool I feel, and I simply got outpaced by the glut of encounter cards Green Goblin throws at you. In hindsight I maybe should have swapped Thor and She-Hulk in my fixtures. This would have allowed them both to still run their best aspect, but would have let Thor have a slightly easier time maybe.
You’ve already discussed Black Panther, but were there any other heroes you felt underperformed or that you were just generally unhappy with?
[Tim] Other than him and Doctor Strange, I was happy with all of the characters I used this season. Three wins with Iron Man Protection was a decent result and even Hulk was okay. Really pleased with Spider-Man, he just works so well with Leadership (yeah, yeah, everyone does well with Leadership, but he makes games seem effortless with that combo). I was impressed by your results with She-Hulk, she’s a character that I’ve never really got to work. Do you think you might try and draft her again next season?
[James] That’s certainly the plan. She-Hulk is often maligned in the community, but I find her a fun character to play, and despite not being my best performance this season it’s the deck I enjoyed playing the most. She definitely has her issues, and lacks variety in what aspects she can reliably run in true solo, but when the deck works it feels very satisfying.
Obviously we both have our favourites, and there are heroes who put in strong performances this showdown. I was particularly impressed with your Ms. Marvel results. Are there any heroes you did not play this season that you feel you might like to try and draft during the next one?
[Tim] I definitely want to use Hawkeye again in the near future, and swore under my breath when you drafted him before me! I always like using Thor as I seem to be able to churn out some decent results with him in Justice, but it’s good to use different characters rather than the same ones all the time, so I didn’t mind too much that you drafted him. I feel like I should try and draft She-Hulk just because I don’t get on with her too much, but there’s the elephant in the room we haven’t spoken about yet; Black Widow. Neither of us drafted her!
[James] Yeah, Black Widow is a character firmly in the camp of needing a chunk of time to get set up before she’s really in the game, and I always have fairly mixed results with those characters. It’s the same issue I have with Iron Man. I enjoyed the Black Widow Justice deck I’ve played in the past though even if it’s a deck that takes 20 turns for the game to even start. She has to be drafted during the second league though, due to the release of a new hero meaning there is no longer an odd number of them. Do you think you’ll be tempted this time around?
[Tim] She won’t be high on my list, that’s for sure! She works really well with Leadership due to Rapid Response shenanigans, but I don’t really feel like burning one of my two Leadership picks for her. I know in multiplayer she does well with Protection, but I’ve not found it to be very effective in solo. What I’m saying is, I could see her being one of our last picks!
Okay, before we move onto the aspects, here are our Decks of the Season!
[James] So I don’t think these totals are too surprising. Protection had a lot going against it this Showdown, as it ended up being paired with both our Heroic characters, which undoubtedly affected its results. That being said it’s the aspect that struggles the most in True Solo at the best of times.
[Tim] Even if I didn’t have the results in front of me, I would rank the aspects like this for solo play. Justice will probably edge ahead of Aggression again once it gets more cards (it has kind of been left behind compared to the others). Protection definitely had the odds stacked against it this season, and I think we’ll be looking to close that gap a bit next season. Not much else to add really.
[James] Yeah, this is likely to be the section of the post-season review that expands as the deck building options increase. Even though Aggression and Leadership have a few flex cards you can use to customise your builds I still kind of feel that every aspect is still more or less running “good stuff” decks. There is variety depending on the hero, but I don’t think that variety is massive.
[Tim] Yeah good stuff decks are probably going to be the only way to go for a while. I know there is a big drive to define archetypes but I think that’s premature. On the other hand, in my own games outside of the Showdown I’ve been using a Hulk Strength In Numbers/Earth’s Mightiest Heroes deck (although that does use Maria Hill and Make the Call, but they’re kind of inescapable when playing Leadership). I think in another year’s time we’ll see some very different decks to what are played at the moment.
[Tim] So Zola was a nice surprise (at least for me) of how difficult a scenario that is, although you mentioned that you had been banging your head against a brick wall with that one previously.
[James] A few years ago when I was trying my hand at Arkham Horror True Solo I often had the problem of there simply being too much for a single Investigator to do. Playing against Zola is the closest I’ve come to having that feeling in Marvel Champions in the year I’ve been playing it. Now I’m not trying to say that Zola is as complex as an Arkham Horror scenario, it’s just the feeling that’s similar.
I love the design of Zola, and I’m sure the challenge will be appreciated by the players who feel Champions is too easy. However, for me it’s approaching the point of just being too much to be enjoyable whilst playing True Solo. I’ve mentioned this to you before but it’s actually the one scenario that is pushing me into trying two handed. You’ve played the scenario as part of a multiplayer Campaign, and True Solo as part of this Showdown. How would you compare the feeling of playing it at those two different player counts?
[Tim] When I played against Zola as part of a campaign I didn’t really see what the big fuss was about; it didn’t seem particularly difficult. This set me up badly for my experience with it solo, because it is a harsh scenario to play against! There will be some character and aspect combos that just can’t beat it and it may just be the toughest scenario so far. I mean, between us we only managed six wins out of twenty games and those wins were with good characters with favoured aspects (Captain Marvel Leadership and Ms. Marvel Aggression). Random character and aspect combos won’t fare too well.
[James] It definitely serves as a crucible to separate the wheat from the chaff that’s for sure, and gives you a really tough target to work towards.
Speaking of chaff we included Absorbing Man in this Showdown. Despite having four losses against him I’m still not a fan of that scenario because of how easy it is in True Solo. I felt the losses we both experienced against it were simply down to Legions of Hydra (in addition to Heroic mode in Captain America’s case). How do you feel about that scenario?
[Tim] You’re right about the module being the only way of making it any challenge at all. Absorbing Man is just too easy in general, but I think that we need an easy scenario each season just to give the lower-powered heroes a bit of a chance. It’s not a scenario that I would choose to play against just for the fun of it though, there are better ones.
Speaking of better ones, Klaw was always a good scenario and by adding Anachronauts we turned it into something of a meatgrinder. That module is harsh! Seems to suit Klaw quite well.
[James] Yeah, despite being Kang’s minions they seem to slot right into a Klaw deck as an upgraded version of the Master’s of Evil. Definitely a tough scenario with some very nasty effects, but I enjoyed the games.
[Tim] So the only one we haven’t talked about so far is Mutagen Formula. I think that is always going to be a good challenge and if needed can easily have the difficulty cranked up by adding a harsher module. What do you reckon?
[James] Yeah, Mutagen is fun to play against as it has some good mechanics in it. I find it’s just slightly more prone to high variance though due to the additional encounter cards that stage II and III throw at you. Being hit by a Death from Above and Gang Up turn 1 usually results in a short game.
[Tim] That’s a fair point about the variance. You can try and play around being attacked multiple times in the first round but it’s not a strategy that I think holds water. Overall, were you happy with the villain and encounter lineup this season?
[James] Yeah, I think we had a varied line up that culminated in an absolute beast of a final boss. Gave me an excuse to play Klaw and Mutagen again too, who have been sidelined a bit ever since Rise of Red Skull was released. Yourself?
[Tim] Definitely the toughest villain at the end there! I enjoyed the season overall, good mix of villains and encounter modules. I think that our tier system helps make the season varied.
[Tim] Okay, first up, do you think that we need to make any changes to Hero difficulties?
[James] Personally feel it’s something we still need to collect more data on. A strong case can be made that Captain Marvel belongs on the list, but she actually finished on the same record as Ms Marvel so immediately slapping her with that Heroic stamp could potentially be premature. Thoughts?
[Tim] I think that’s a fair assessment; it isn’t like she 5-0’ed both times. Captain Marvel can definitely perform well in Heroic, but I worry that it would only be with Leadership.
Despite our terrible performances with Doctor Strange and Captain America on Heroic, I think that was due to the aspects we chose. I think putting Captain Marvel onto the Heroic tier at this stage would pigeon-hole her into Leadership. So yeah, I think keep her at Expert for now.
[James] In a similar vein I think it’s also too early to seriously talk about downgrading any particular Hero from Expert to Standard. Is there anyone you have your eye on that might need that boost in the future though?
[Tim] She-Hulk and Thor have to be kept on a watch list, but you seem to excel with She-Hulk and I get on very well with Thor, so I don’t know, I think they’re probably fine at Expert for now. The real test will be to see how they can perform outside Justice! Speaking of Standard, happy enough with Hulk on that tier?
[James] Yeah, I think he’s fine there for now holding the rest of the Heroes up. Can always knock him down to Rookie if we feel it necessary.
[Tim] Haha, Rookie! Hard mulligan for Hulk Smash and call it a day! Probably too easy, even for Hulk.
So, we’ve got a new Hero for next season, Ant-Man. I’ve not had a chance to use him yet, but I get the feeling that he’s going to be strong. Should we put him in at the Expert tier to begin with though?
[James] Not tried him myself yet either, but I feel introducing new Heroes at Expert and seeing how they get on would be the appropriate way to handle it. The alternative would be for each of us to try a couple of games with him before the next draft, and make a decision about it then.
[Tim] I’m happy to take the easy way out and just put him in at Expert, if I’m honest!
[James] Yeah, same. So it’s settled and he’ll be joining at the Expert level.
[Tim] Yep, seems fair. Okay, Villains. Are you happy with our current tier system? Do you also think that Risky Business and Wrecking Crew are fine on the hidden tier (i.e. the tier we don’t use)?
[James] Yeah, I’m happy with the current tiering we have. The intention, I believe, is to switch to four tiers by splitting the middle one, but that obviously has to wait until we have Guardians of the Galaxy and the post-campaign expansion scenario pack. With another six scenarios to choose from we can be as picky as we want.
Can see a day when we bring Risky Business into the mix for a little variety, but for now I think it’s fine to keep them both out of the picture.
[Tim] Kang is one we need to make a decision on though, as I think it’s likely we’ll be using him next season. I still haven’t played him yet (which is a bit inexcusable considering I’d had the pack over a month). What are your thoughts on Kang?
[James] Still a small sample size, but with his recommended module I would put him in the middle tier. My plan was to suggest pairing him with the Master of Time module for more Kang goodness, and use him as one of our two hard scenarios in the next Showdown.
Additionally, it might be worth clearing up how we are going to handle his stage II variance now. Would you prefer to use a fixed stage II, or just randomly choose one each game?
[Tim] I think we should randomise it each game. I think the intention of the scenario is to be unexpected and if we knew what stage II we were going to get it might alter how we played.
As for the Master of Time module (again, I haven’t looked at it yet), what makes it worth bumping that scenario to one of our Hard slots?
[James] It adds the Kang (Master of Time) minion to the encounter deck, who has both the Toughness and Villainous keywords, and gets stat boosts from each obligation you have in play. It also includes a couple of other Minions with the Incite and Surge keywords, two more Obligations to bulk out what is already in Kang’s main deck, a Side Scheme that searches for a minion when defeated, and finally two Treacheries that cause Kang (Master of Time) to activate against you, or put him into play.
Only played against it once or twice but overall it feels very thematic for Kang whilst offering a good challenge.
[Tim] I say keep it at medium tier difficulty and have a hard season haha!
[James] Ha! That works too.
[Tim] Well I think that concludes the season review then. We’ll be using all products up to the Ant-Man hero pack and wait until next season before we add anything else.
OVERALL SHOWDOWN SERIES STATS
[James] Pretty interesting state of affairs at the moment, with the top three spots being held by Heroes who are considered to be amongst the weakest we currently have access to. Ms. Marvel in particular is a character who gets dismissed almost as much as the 4 hand size characters do, but she’s one I know we both enjoy playing. Why do you think so many underestimate her potential to the extent that they do?
[Tim] I think it might be to do with the character herself rather than just gameplay considerations. I reckon that most people have never heard of Ms. Marvel and since she hasn’t appeared in the MCU yet, people haven’t developed any attachment to her (unlike characters like Iron Man or Hulk).
Also, I think she needs to flip between forms a lot more than other heroes, and I’d guess that a lot of people don’t like to do that as it gives the villain time to scheme. It could also be that her statline is awful, but if you play some games with her you’ll realise that you don’t really need it to be good. There seems to be many reasons why people don’t use Ms. Marvel a lot in fact!
As for our current top three, Spider-Man at least is heavily skewed by the fact that I used him with Leadership twice!
[James] That’s an excellent point about Spider-Man. Could be something we have to keep on eye on maybe. On the other end of the spectrum we have Black Widow being the only Hero without a single win to her name, which is obviously down to my abysmal performance against Ultron in Season 0. Sorry, Black Widow fans!
[Tim] Five games and one scenario is obviously too small a sample size. Even though I don’t like using her, I’ll admit that she definitely doesn’t deserve to be bottom of the table. Obviously, as we play more games, things should even out a bit. For example, I expect Captain America and Doctor Strange to climb the table as we have had our rude awakening about the perils of Heroic mode!
[James] Yeah, I expect to see them both being used against the easy scenario in the next Showdown with a more favourable aspect.
Is there anything else you feel we need to discuss?
[Tim] Nope. Early days on the Heroes table, so too soon to read too much into it.
Here’s the retired hero & difficulty table for ones that we changed.
[James] Yeah, really not a lot to say here as it is pretty much what you would expect to see. Leadership has a nice lead, with Aggression and Justice fighting over 2nd place whilst Protection brings up the rear. Protection has some good cards but it has a long way to go if it wants to be as competitive and, dare I say, fun to play in True Solo as the other three aspects.
[Tim] Yep, not a surprise to see Leadership at the top, but that 83% win rate is a bit crazy though! Massive gap between first and second place. Aggression and Justice have respectable win rates, but poor old Protection is down at 37%. In fairness though, you and I did balls that up with our choices this season. Protection players, we promise to do better next season (or try at least!).
[Tim] Zola is the hardest villain to beat so far, with a low 30% win rate. Ultron is not far behind with 40%. Poor Crossbones, despite being a fun scenario, is easily beatable with a 85% win rate.
[James] Yeah, again this is pretty much what you’d expect to see based on the modules we have used so far.
[Tim] We’ll have to keep an eye on Crossbones though. If we give him a good hammering again next time, perhaps we’ll have to consider dropping him to Low tier?
[James] That seems fair.
[James] So we have Legions of Hydra being let down by the villain it was paired with, but everything else seems to be about where you would expect it. Under Attack has been used more though, which gives it an advantage. Do you think we should try to avoid using it in the next Showdown?
[Tim] Both times we used it, it was as the recommended module, so next time we use Ultron or Zola we should mix things up a bit. We should definitely not choose it as an alternate module though, at least for a season or two.
Well I think that about wraps things up for the Season 1 review, anything to add?
[James] No I think we have covered everything. Despite some shocking results it has been a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to the next one.
[Tim] Yep, same here!
That was a lot of information! If you’ve stuck with the article this far, you are a truly dedicated reader. Speaking of which, please consider liking our Facebook page as that’s the first place that we provide links to our articles.
Anyway, we hope that you have enjoyed this review of our first full Showdown Season. If you have any comments or suggestions, please let us know!
Tim & James
I have thoroughly enjoyed this series please keep it up! (I wrote a big reply to an earlier part that got eaten by wordpress logins so I became a bit gun shy.)
This must be partly because of sharing your opinions on a bunch of things. I would not want to play a scenario 5 (well10) times in a row much though. I did just play 7 Mutagen formula with Ant Man – I lost 5 in a row, 4 to Gang Up which is a card I barely remembering threatening me before. It was the extra copy from A Mess of Things too!
A comment from before was Spiderwoman and Ms M can indeed be slow going and Justice exaggerates this being very controlling. Also it seems a waste to pick leadership with SW as you can cheat it in paring it with something you want to cover up eg Protection. The single player stats from the BGG game data collection thread actually have Justice as the strongest solo aspect but very close to Leadership. Aggression is a bit behind and Protection a bit farther behind. All multiplayer really does is bring Protection up to the same as Aggression. This is across all data not sorted by time so the current position may be different. I am not really surprised by this as solo both J & L cover weaknesses. Also the Justice cards tend to be as good or better than hero thwart cards while Aggression doesn’t come close to Swinging Web Kick et al. Same with the cheap justice allies.
Zola is certainly tough – the Red House is similarly hard and “big” though. I think I lost once in the campaign, in 14 runs, so solo was sure different. The hugely powerful campaign buffs make them a breeze in that format.
I also feel that there are already deck archetypes. Protection has “defend” and “don’t defend”, aggression can play 0 cost events or expensive ones, either version can include Drop Kick. Justice is indeed good stuff though opinions vary what that is and eg Clear the Area is great solo but less MP. All of these are held back by wanting to use the same few allies, an issue Leadership does not have. I actually have 3 leadership decks that are “cheap ally swarm”, “suit up Iron man” and “good stuff” that do not overlap cards. The first two are legit while the last could be “better stuff” but is carried by Cpt M. I think I have not played that but it is a tweak of a Captain Marvel Deck I did use.
Anyhow I look forward to your next season and the grind of Kang (seriously I have not hugely enjoyed this solo as it mostly misses the point)
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Thanks for the extremely detailed comment, Jonathan! We haven’t had much feedback on this series, so it’s great to hear that you are enjoying the series.
Playing the scenario 10 times in a row is sometimes a bit of a chore, so I (Tim here by the way) normally split it into two sessions; one with each character. Games usually take 20-40 minutes on average, so it’s a good session but not too long.
It surprises me that Justice has the best stats on BGG. It is very controlling, but sometimes things can’t be controlled and you’ve just got to pull the trigger (which is perhaps why Aggression is my personal favourite aspect). To me, Leadership stands head and shoulders above the others.
Zola was definitely an eye-opener for us! We’ll be taking on Red Skull in season 2 (article coming this Sunday with our draft and fixtures for season 2), which I’m looking forward to. The campaign definitely does skew views on certain villains (I did enjoy the campaign though).
As for deck archetypes, I was being a little tongue-in-cheek on that one! I was poking a bit of fun at the almost zealous need from some to have clearly defined archetypes at this early stage in the game. There are definitely some distinct deck builds emerging though, and you’re bang on about Protection; defence or defenceless is the first choice you make. It’s also pleasing to see Leadership gaining some other variants rather than just ally spam (although that might be the ‘best’ version of Leadership, who knows?).
Again, thanks Jonathan for the wonderfully-detailed comment!
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I do not care about archetypes as such but I want there to be meaningful choices in deck building rather than just picking good stuff. That is what I do with Justice at the moment though I do like playing it.
I think the strengths of Leadership are that it can be good with anyone and has several decent ways of doing that – it has depth. Now Justice.
The reason justice is so much more useful than aggression is that hardly any heroes have thwart cards better than For Justice! and no-one has more than 3 of them (2 really). Many heroes have worse thwart options. On the other hand almost all heroes have an attack that is far better than the best Aggression has to offer – the Swinging Web Kicks of this world – and most have another decent attack. Heroes are inherently built so that Justice offers far more to them than Aggression does. The fact that the best two solo heroes are ones that can regularly thwart for 4 is no coincidence, though they both back this up with more OP tools.
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Leadership definitely has the most depth, I agree. I have faith that the other aspects will get similar treatment soon (by the end of the Guardians cycle hopefully).
Justice is definitely useful for controlling most of the scenario. It just takes a bit longer to win than the other aspects (take a look at my Ms. Marvel games this season, yikes).
Aggression may not have anything quite as good as Swinging Web Kick, but I’d argue it has one of the best cards in the game, Relentless Assault. It also has some of the best allies in the game, such as Brawn, Sentry, Tigra, and Valkyrie. Even Hulk is good most of the time.
I do appreciate that solo skews players towards heroes that are all-rounders though. Be able to thwart for at least two and easily ready yourself is one of the deciding factors for sure.
Anyway, thanks again Jonathan for some insightful comments.
The red allies are indeed great – I am a huge fan of Sentry and Brawn, them and Hulk in play at once is a lot of meat, aka 7+ attack & a thwart. Relentless Assault is very good but the restriction makes it no better than Venom Blast IME. So on a par with the middling hero set attacks, better only than Big Hands and Dr Strange’s one. Drop Kick on the other hand seems OP. That is coming from a solo perspective where stun lock is a thing and there are fewer minions for Relentless Assault.