By: Ashley Knox
Luke Cage has been a favorite main character of mine since the debut of Defenders and has been responsible for all of my top finishes in local cash tournaments including one recently with the following deck list.
Since Defenders was spoiled I always felt that Luke Cage somehow breaks the deck building restrictions of the game as you’re incentivized on not making any recruiting plays in the first three turns of the game. This also takes a lot of pressure off your opening hand as you get to see between thirteen and fifteen cards before it even matters; all you want to do in the early game is to play locations. Given Luke’s huge starting body of being a four power three toughness main character I believe he puts a lot of pressure on the format on the two / four level one main characters to have something really special to make them playable.
Luke is one of the most consistent Main Characters you can play and he will always level up at exactly the same time every game.
The Thanos match up is really tough, it’s winnable on the proviso you dodge a Goblin Queen and are able to hit a Miss America you do have a great shot of recovering well from an Infinity Gauntlet due to how powerful your top decks actually are – though Thanos does have built in protection against Ghost Rider being able to team attack for fourteen power and toughness can still do the job.
Luke is a brilliant deck to play if your local meta game is either experiencing an unspoken soft ban on Thanos or is mostly populated by nonsense decks.
The Deck looks really clunky on paper due to all the play sets and the clumping at four through six but the reason are twofold. It’s really important that we hit our drops on four through six as we spend turns one through three not doing anything apart from leveling up our main character and making a Cosmo. We also want play sets because this means we are more likely to be able to power up to get our Loki engine going which in turn feeds our Ghost Riders.
I felt like the worst card was Valkyrie but I wanted to play her over rogue because of her backdoor synergies with Moon Knight/Loki.
Having Moon Knight and Loki in your deck pushes a strategy that rewards us for discarding character cards. Moon Knight was great and is the easiest way to be able to trigger Loki on an opponents turn. It always felt very important to have these engines in place as they all feed off each other.
The greatest strength of this deck is the team attack capabilities, you could play Sabertooth over She-Hulk and Drax over Valkyrie but being able to team attack into a dying Thanos gives you some live draws post-gauntlet. These team attacks are great for taking down titans like the Supporting Character Thanos and Adam Warlock when you don’t have Iron Fist available. My favorite team attack involves She-Hulk and Miss America, which not only is terrifying when you have a green source open but you use the leader ability to push the wound onto your still face up Miss America.
Having access to Ghost Rider offers a real inevitability against most decks and if you’re getting crushed on board gives you something to plan towards as you usually spend the first few turns of the game slamming Luke into their face to soften them up.
Punisher is an unsung hero and makes a mockery of Miss America, Abomination, Sabertooth and anything else that is resilient with multiple Health. Powering him up makes him almost unstoppable and is the only other character I would use a red source on.
I played the Luke Cage supporting character over Hidden Weapons as against some decks – notably Dark Phoenix, Sister Grim and Enchantress. A turn one power up can just be lights out and you can close the game very quickly. I didn’t play any Yondu as I didn’t want to tax my red sources and want them exclusively to use Iron Fist as a removal spell. Access to Miss America helps you pick off back row utility pieces which are mostly bricks against you anyway. Shock to the system is great, if you are ever in a mirror it is great against any Iron Fist but otherwise is used to help protect one of your pieces on the board that is important to your strategy. For example, keeping a Moon Knight in play when you’re looking to recruit a Loki on your next turn. Super Senses is great as all of your characters have huge power so you’re usually able to trade it for at least a card and more importantly a combat step. Using Super Senses to protect a Cosmo is usually correct as he’s lights out in the mirror and against Dark Phoenix.
Against opposing Ghost Rider/Captain Marvel decks at a certain point of the game feel free to make “bad attacks” just so that you can force yourself to be face down for their turn as this really helps you win races in the mid stage of the game. If your opponent is known to have Adam Warlock in their deck and you’re trying to use Loki try and get a maximum value out of her if you can’t beat his power and aggressively trade her away as you’re already up on cards and trading her for another card from your opponents board is just gas.
Be mindful of You Wouldn’t Like Her When She’s Angry in the early turns against Sister Grimm as all of your plot twists are defensive though I’ve always found using the same strategy as I had against Deadpool with Defenders works against her, ignore the MC and just clean up all of the support. Late game you should be able to kick her teeth in.
Thanks for reading, and always remember
“What doesn’t grow, dies. And what dies feeds the Ghost Rider”