Showdown #9 – Red Skull

We’re going from one end of the difficulty scale to the other, as we go from facing Rhino to taking on Red Skull.  A lot of people have only played against him as the last part of The Rise of Red Skull campaign, complete with campaign allies and upgrades.  He’s definitely a lot tougher as a standalone villain.  But just how tough?  Let’s find out!

THE HEROES

Against Red Skull will be the following Heroes:

  • Aggression – Ms. Marvel [James]
  • Justice – Ant-Man [Tim]
  • Leadership – Hulk [Tim]
  • Protection – Black Widow [James]

Just a reminder of the format, we play the scenario five times with each character that we have drafted and then report our results.


AGGRESSION – MS. MARVEL

[James] My first deck this Showdown is Ms. Marvel, a character I’ve always liked despite not having too much playtime with her. She was my first pick in this league as I know Tim is also a big fan of her Aggression and Justice decks. I decided to pair her up with Aggression, and run the very standard event heavy deck to get the most out of her Morphogenetics ability.

Chase Them Down compliments Sneak By and gives the deck a decent amount of threat removal, especially in minion heavy scenarios. Drop Kick and Relentless Assault are the main damage dealing cards and help keep the villain locked down and the board clear of minions respectively. Finally I added Toe to Toe to not only help with minion control, but to also combo with Drop Kick against the villain for some heavy damage turns. 

The ally array is pretty standard for Aggression, but I did throw in one slight change, Lockjaw, to help bulk out the physical resources that this deck needs for its main attack events. Brawn offers solid threat removal and is ideal for dealing with annoying Tough status cards. She-Hulk has that all important 2 thwart and can offer good burst damage. Spider-Girl and Valkyrie are the minion control allies, with the former also being useful for setting up Toe to Toe plays on some of the bigger minions.

Finally I included Hall of Heroes and Martial Prowess to help with resource generation. The end result is a deck I was pretty eager to try out, and one I was expecting to do very well.

Results

  1. LOSS, 4 rounds (Threat)
  2. LOSS, 5 rounds (Threat)
  3. LOSS, 4 rounds (Threat)
  4. LOSS, 2 rounds (Threat)
  5. LOSS, 5 rounds (Threat)

I got absolutely destroyed. To call this a disappointing result is something of an understatement, as I went into these games expecting a pretty solid run. Found myself unable to get any kind of momentum though, or keep on top of the side schemes.

Game 4 was particularly crushing as I changed tactics a little and spent two turns in Alter-Ego. The plan was to get more of a board state built up in the hope that I could then stabilise once I had done so. Unfortunately my encounter card that turn was Under Fire, which revealed Master Strategist and then surged into Advance when there were three side schemes in play. Red Skull schemed for 11 and pretty much blazed straight through New World Hydra.

I don’t think there was anything inherently wrong with the deck, and there’s nothing I would change, it just could not keep up with Expert Red Skull in True Solo. Tim did suggest running Tigra instead of Lockjaw, which is definitely a solid suggestion though.


JUSTICE – ANT-MAN

[Tim] This would be Ant-Man’s first appearance in our Showdown series and I was happy that I drafted him (he was my 1st pick).

With his three forms it seemed likely that you’d want to flip him every round, so Lay Down the Law looked like it would be very good for him.  I decided not to include For Justice! or Clear the Area because I thought that I’d have enough threat removal already.

Red Skull has his own side scheme deck, so Skilled Investigator should draw me a lot of cards over the course of the game.  I included Stealth Strike for a little bit more punch and there would be plenty of minions to defeat, so the extra threat removal would get used more often than not.

The rest of the deck was the usual good stuff Justice cards.  It’ll be nice when there’s a bit more variety in the aspect.

Results

  1. LOSS, 5 rounds (Damage)
  2. WIN, 11 rounds
  3. LOSS, 5 rounds (Damage)
  4. WIN, 13 rounds
  5. WIN, 13 rounds

Red Skull is tough!  The games were frantic as so much was being thrown at me.  Ant-Man definitely needs a little bit of time to get set up, as he has so many good cards.  Army of Ants (there are 3 copies!), Ant-Man’s Helmet, and Wrist Gauntlets are all priorities.

Ant-Man is a fun character to play, and the order that you perform actions and play your cards is more important than ever due to having three forms.  I’m definitely looking forward to using him again later this season against Ultron!


LEADERSHIP – HULK

[Tim] Hulk was my 5th pick in the draft.  I had a feeling that James wasn’t too keen to use him, so I waited a few rounds before drafting him.  Secretly though, I’d have been gutted if James had picked him before I did, as I’d recently been using a Hulk Leadership deck and been getting some good results with it and wanted to put that towards the Showdown league.

The decklist I’d be using against Red Skull was exactly the same as the one I modified during my Hulk & Friends article.  It was fun to use and was also quite powerful (for Hulk, at least).  If you don’t fancy reading the article, in short the deck uses cheap allies to benefit from Strength in Numbers and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Results

  1. WIN, 7 rounds
  2. LOSS, 4 rounds (Threat)
  3. WIN, 5 rounds
  4. LOSS, 6 rounds (Threat)
  5. LOSS, 4 rounds (Threat)

2-3, not bad against one of the hardest villains in the game at the moment.  It was only on Standard difficulty, but Hulk is quite handicapped compared to the other heroes so it only seemed fair.

In game 4 I drew Shadow of the Past in the first round.  Needless to say, that game went rapidly downhill!  As you can see from my results, all of my losses were to threat.  I don’t think that there is much I can change in the deck to help with that without hurting the Strength in Numbers/Earth’s Mightiest Heroes engine though.  Anyway, I was content with two wins!


PROTECTION – BLACK WIDOW

[James] Black Widow is the second character I’ll be using in this Showdown, and she was a reluctant choice due to how badly I did the last time I used her. I decided to pair her with Protection again, using a refined version of my previous list, in the hope of gaining some form of redemption.

With this version of the deck I wanted to move away from the Defence build, so cards like Armored Vest, Electrostatic Armor and Unflappable were dropped. I included Defensive Stance for the damage mitigation and Preparation synergy, and Energy Barrier for additional damage mitigation. Target Acquired is standard for Black Widow to deal with Taskmaster’s boost effect, and I also included Down Time and Endurance due to how fragile Black Widow is.

Protection’s ally offerings are still very slim, and is probably the prime culprit for the aspect being viewed so negatively by a lot of players. I included Clea to use as a cheap blocker, and Iron Fist because he’s a fantastic source of damage and villain control. I decided against Brother Voodoo due to the deck’s lower event count.

In regards to events I opted for the usual Momentum Shift and Tackle to give Black Widow a little healing and villain control. After much deliberation I also included Muster Courage to try and give Black Widow a little more survivability. I also considered running Haymaker in those slots to up her damage output, and it was quite difficult to actually settle on which card to run.

Results

  1. LOSS, 5 rounds (Damage)
  2. LOSS, 1 round (Damage)
  3. LOSS, 7 rounds (Damage)
  4. LOSS, 4 rounds (Damage)
  5. LOSS, 5 rounds (Damage)

In the end it ultimately did not matter which of those cards I ran because I got absolutely destroyed regardless. At least in this instance it was wholly expected. Think it’s time to just put this deck aside and stop trying to make it work I’m clearly not cut out to run it.

Did end up with another amusing anecdote though in regards to my crushing defeat in Game 2. I had a Grappling Hook and Energy Barrier in play so felt pretty safe flipping to Hero mode. First side scheme was obviously The Sleeper Awakened (because why wouldn’t it be?) and I got through the first round of attacks relatively okay. My first encounter was Assault, which I cancelled thanks to a knee jerk reaction only to then flip Gang Up. There’s obviously a lesson there, which I’ll undoubtedly fail to learn.

In regards to the deck itself I think it’s about as good as it can get at the moment. Obviously needs more allies, but the current pool does not really work with it.


SUMMARY

[Tim] Ant-Man scored the most wins versus Red Skull and finishes in 1st place.  Not bad for his first appearance!  Hulk & Friends were 2nd with two wins, while Black Widow and Ms. Marvel failed to get any wins between them.  Red Skull doesn’t mess around!

A terrible week for James has meant that I’ve taken the lead.  We’ve still got Kang and Ultron to go this season, so plenty of time for the standings to change again.

[James] Due to poor time management this week I did not try out and tune the decks like I usually would. Instead I pretty much dove straight in with my first drafts, and it shows. Piss poor planning leads to piss poor performance as they say. That being said I’m not sure what I could have done differently, other than not take two Heroes that require significant build up time against one of the harder scenarios we currently have access to. Maybe that’s just not the kind of deck that I can effectively pilot though in True Solo. Definitely something for me to consider in the future.

Cheers,

Tim & James

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