By: Kirk W Buckendorf
Captain Marvel is pretty much accepted as a tier 1 deck, but there were only two players piloting the deck at Origins. Had my team and I not developed the Metagame deck, Magneto to play, Captain Marvel was my fallback choice. Michael Manes piloted his version that he threw together as a last minute audible to a great 8th place finish. You can see his version here. For our Gauntlet that we used for testing our own decks, I used David Leader’s Captain Marvel list that he posted in the Face Book Collective as opposed to my version to avoid an inbred metagame. My original list that I played in a Skype Tournament was a little different than both of those, as it didn’t go as high with the big drops and used Sister Grimm to give more early game and a bit of a Plot Twist toolbox. From all of these lists, I’ve learned a few things and I’m going to update my Captain Marvel list with that knowledge.
When the new rules for VS 2PCG first came out, the changes to Flight and Range raised a lot of eyebrows. Now more than ever these two keyword powers play a huge part in evaluating a character’s power level and add layers of strategy in how you do your formations. Since that first set, people have been looking for ways to abuse a back row of Ranged characters all striking and not taking any damage back. To pull that off, you really need a tank of a flyer in the front row protecting your army of ranged dudes. Captain Marvel fits this bill nicely, having both Flight and Energy Absorption to take advantage of the ranged army.
Picking which characters with Range to use is important. The builds of Captain Marvel in the days following the release of A-Force were mono-team, taking advantage of Loyal Soldiers and pumping up a huge Meggan. This was great for Meggan, but didn’t really take advantage of Captain Marvel’s strengths because only about every other character had Range. A-Force also has Plot Twists on a power level to match just about any other team in the game, so the deck is really good in a loyal type build but my testing found that it needed more answers to the metagame and the ability to control the board. Also going all in on Ranged characters seemed like a better plan to pump your Main Character who is in play every turn rather than a 2 cost character whom you need to not only draw early every game but also try to keep in play. You want Captain Marvel to have the most counters so the deck should be centered around that. Especially after she levels up and can start stunning characters with Photonic Blast. It can be a crucial finisher in the late game.
What all of our lists had in common was taking advantage of Guardians of the Galaxy and their best in the game 1 drops who happen to have range. David made a metagame choice of including Dagger to combat Femme Fatality and his awesome Spider Femmes deck that abused Cloak and Viper. I prefered Moonstone as a more versatile answer and used Build a Better World to reset any counters lost to Femme Fatality on Captain Marvel or Meggan. Michael took the best of both worlds and played both, but for my new build I think I’ll stick to Moonstone and Build a Better Worlds. Two things I did learn from David’s build, though was that top end of Magneto and Adam are too good to pass up and Deadpool is just too good not to throw a couple of in. Being able to bring a guy back into play in addition to your curve drop is really good. It also gave my Magneto discard deck headaches! I am going to drop the Sister Grimm tool box in favor of adding the top end big guys. It’s still important for Marvel to play drops on both turn 1 and 2, so you’re going to want to mulligan for Yondus and Cosmos.
2 Adam Warlock
3 Even the Odds
4 You Won’t Like Her She’s Angry
3 Build a Better World
4 Training Grounds
The character selection makes for an interesting deck. Not only are you the aggressor in most matches, but the characters that you put into play have a very controlling aspect to them in Cosmo, Yondu, Moonstone and Punisher. They are a very frustrating force for your opponents to face in that they shut down most strategies. A first turn Cosmo with a Laboratory or Arcadia to activate Captain Marvel’s Energy Absorption will shut down Dark Phoenix and Luke Cage for pretty much the rest of the game if unanswered as you build your army of back row Ranged characters to take down any mid to large sized threats they may play.
Against Thanos and other 4 Defense Main Characters you don’t want to activate Energy Absorption until your second turn, making Marvel big enough start stunning their Main Character and gaining XP. Thanos is still your most difficult matchup, and you’ll want to take advantage of Captain Marvel’s and Meggan’s size and flight to stun Thanos, whether he’s in the back row or not, before you stun any of his friends to avoid giving him XP. If you can do this and avoid the 3rd-4th turn Gauntlet, the matchup isn’t too difficult; unfortunately sometimes that draw just happens with Goblin Queen and you’re just going to lose. But Cosmo and how big Captain Marvel and Meggan get early game usually forces the Thanos player to spend resources on his Yondu or Court Death ability early taking away his ability to Gauntlet later on. I expect to beat Thanos against the average player most games, but if I have a better player sitting across from me, I’m probably just looking at a loss if they get the right draws.
The way the deck plays out most games is with Captain Marvel, and sometimes Meggan, tanking as a huge protector in the front row while stunning their Main Character every chance possible. Your Ranged characters sit comfortably in the back taking out all of their supporting characters at their leisure. As the game progresses and your opponent is playing bigger and bigger guys, Star-Lord hits the table uniting everyone under the Guardian’s banner letting them all team up to Range Stun just about anyone. Punisher with Lethal is your answer to higher than 1 Health characters like Miss America and is the character I most feared seeing hit play with my Magneto deck.
Going through all all the card choices, I’ll tell you what they are for and when they are important. Cosmo really doesn’t need too much explanation, as he’s been a thorn in everyone’s side since the Gencon 10k in 2015. He’s especially effective in this deck as Captain Marvel proves to be the perfect tank for him to hide behind keeping opposing Main Characters on lockdown. Speaking of Cosmo, Yondu isn’t ever out of the conversation when 1 cost Guardians are being discussed. As one of your answers to opposing Cosmos, Yondu also helps you take care of enemy Meggans, Pixies, Singularitys, Moonstones and any other annoying low drops with just a little whistle. (And by whistle, I mean Red resource)
I can NOT talk enough about Moonstone. I completely believe that she is the new member of the must play package of low drop characters that will grind your opponent’s hopes into the ground alongside Cosmo. Grounding all enemy flyers, she is a help to both aggressive and control decks and splashable into any deck because her power is a static keyword needing no colors to activate. Need to get your flyers through to your opponent’s back row? Moonstone. Need to shut down flyers from getting to your back row? Moonstone. Need a single card answer to an opposing Cosmo because you can’t play or don’t have a Training Ground for Yondu? Moonstone. Also, with the rules correction to Comso not being able to Nullify opposing Nullfies, she jumped up a spot as a better answer to opposing Comsos. I even expect to see Dark Phoenix decks making room for her where they used to use Cosmo.
Meggan is your other powerhouse tank, synergizing nicely with Captain Marvel. Most games she sits in the back row picking off big characters on her own with Flight and Range and a lot of +1/+1 counters. Against some decks and game states, she’s happy to come to the front row and protect alongside Captain Marvel or take over and do all the protecting in a pinch. Empathic Metamorph on its own is a great power, but add in the Flight, Range and 2 Health and you get a character that whole decks are being built around. With this build not being loyal, we’ve moved away from relying too much on Meggan and letting Marvel do most of the heavy lifting, but make no mistake Meggan still brings plenty to the table by diversifying your counters enough to work around opposing Black Cats and Even the Odds.
I’ll come back to how important +1/+1 counter management is in the deck, and how diversifying and having backup plans is important to not getting blown out by anti- +1/+1 counter cards. But I’m covering cards we have in the deck right now… don’t distract me!
Rocket is as Rocket does, he’s a 3 cost Range guy who can bring back important cards when you need them. Build a Better World, Even the Odds, You Won’t Like Her When She’s Angry, Cosmo, Moonstone, Meggan are all cards you’ll want back at some point. Nothing messes up your opponent’s plans like watching you return any of those cards. He’s also another thorn in the side of Helmut Zemo and Ronan, if your oppoent is playing them.
Star-Lord has been the silent MVP of the deck in all of my matches. By himself, he doesn’t have the power level that his smaller teammates have, but the synergies he has in this deck make him a power house. By teaming up all of your smaller back row Range guys, he makes keeping up with your opponent’s larger drops much easier. Range attacks are good enough on their own, but when they are taking down another character who also has Range his Leader keyword steps in to help keep you in the driver’s seat.
Getting back to the +1/+1 counter management I mentioned above, he also has a nice side effect. Because he makes your Meggan into a Guardians of the Galaxy character, your unused Knowhere’s now work to give her a Green if she needs it to reset after a stun, Black Cat or Even the Odds. Punisher doesn’t mind joining the team either if a Knowhere will give him a Perfect Position.
I’ve talked about Punisher and how useful Lethal is already; it’s even more so with Star-Lord in play when you have to take down bigger dudes like Ghost Rider or Thanos with an army of characters. Perfect Position gives him the trump card in battles with other Ranged characters and works great when teaming up with Star-Lord as you can choose for the defender to strike back at him, hereby avoiding all the damage.
Even the Odds may have a rival for best Plot Twist in the game, but there is no doubt it’s still up there, even more so with opposing Captain Marvel, Meggan and Enchantress running around. It’s also the only counter to most Combat pumps and tricks short of Shock to the System.
I’m going to lump Build a Better World, You Won’t Like Her When She’s Angry and all the locations together into the segment I mentioned earlier about +1/+1 counter management as that’s basically what all your locations are in the deck for. This deck really relies on Captain Marvel and Meggan always being pumped by +1/+1 counters. I’m sure by now you’ve read about 12/12 or 17/17 Meggans dominating games. I’m also sure you’ve been building decks with that in mind and packing answers like Even the Odds, Black Cat, Yondu, Dazzler and many other creative ways to deal with +1/+1 counters and stunning to reset them.
That’s all fine and good, but I’m here to tell you that I’ve thought of that as well. When I’m playing this deck I’m not going to put all of my eggs in one basket. Also, I’m not going to lean on Meggan as my biggest tank; that’s what Captain Marvel is for. She’s a little harder to deal with because she’s not a supporting character and she’s not going anywhere until the game is over. If it was one or the other, it would be much easier for you to deal with, but if you put all your efforts into keeping counters off of Captain Marvel, that’s when Meggan gets out of control and vice versa.
I’m only ever going to make them as big as I need them, always planning on them being reset from a stun, Even the Odds or Black Cat. Marvel always recovers from a stun, and so does Meggan at least once with her 2 Health. Characters generally have access to 8 cards in a deck to activate their Super powers in the form of Locations. Players have used Iron Man in the past to get more uses out of Locations and now we get to add Build a Better World to the mix. This is a +1/+1 counter reset in Plot Twist form for Captain Marvel and Meggan’s powers.
I count You Won’t Like Her When She’s Angry in this section because when you don’t have a Blue resource to use on Captain Marvel, you may have this plot twist instead. Marvel is almost always tanking in the front row making getting through her the only way to get to anyone else. On average, I’m only getting 2-3 Counters on her at a time with her Energy Absorption, so I like to count this plot twist as just another activation of that power or as a reset after a stun. Also, Meggan loves it when Marvel has more ways to get counters.
You also have Rocket digging up old copies of Angry and Build a Better World. On top of all these backup plans, don’t’ forget about Star-Lord making Knowhere’s usable for Meggan. It almost gets embarrassing how many times you can just reset all the +1/+1 counters. I even find myself sheepishly apologizing for it.
“I’m so sorry! I know you just got rid of all these counters, but I’m just going to have to put them all back. Really, it’s just a lucky draw, I’m sure!”
It’s been really frustrating for my opponents when they know they have put cards in their deck to deal with Meggan and Captain Marvel only to have them reset over, and over and over again.
So while the majority of the field didn’t feel like Captain Marvel was good enough to bring, I’d still put my money on her as a real contender. My list is tuned to my taste, but I suggest trying Michael and David’s as well to find which style you like better. I really like taking advantage of Build a Better Worlds to abuse Marvel and Meggan’s counters, but I also see the power of either using Shock to the System to keep your guys in play or abusing the team attacks with Heroines of Arcadia. I will add one last thing about Deadpool. Once you see how good he is splashed into this deck, you may start Splashing him into more decks with Main Characters who have range and play green. It’s really an innovative choice that David made that stuck with me.