What a Marvel
A Closer Look at Ms. Marvel in Marvel Champions: The Card Game
Across the Marvel universe, every hero brings their own unique powers and personality—traits that set them apart from their compatriots and that help them to rise above the adversity thrown into their path. In Marvel Champions: The Card Game, these heroes come to life on your tabletop as you battle to thwart the villain’s dastardly schemes.
Today, guest writer James Phillips casts a special light on one of his favorite heroes: Ms. Marvel. If you’re considering picking up the Ms. Marvel Hero Pack or just wondering what this hero is all about, read on!
James Phillips Showcases Ms. Marvel
From the moment you open the Core Set of Marvel Champions: The Card Game, you’re given some of the most recognizable characters in popular culture today. Assuming you haven’t all been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you can probably hand your friend an Iron Man or Spider-Man deck, and be pretty confident that they’ll know who they’re playing. Likewise, Black Panther and Captain Marvel have had multi-million dollar movies in the past few years, helping to make the game even more recognizable and accessible.
However, Marvel Champions is a lot more than just a game about the Marvel universe. Within the Core Set, you also find some less familiar faces, like the She-Hulk hero, as well as various allies and enemies to face. Once you move beyond the Core Set and start adding expansions, the options get broader, and they will only grow with time. Today, I want to talk about who is probably the least well-known hero in this first wave of expansions, and tell you why she’s the best, why you should all be playing her, and why you should be reading her comics!
Who Is She?
Kamala Khan is a fairly ordinary teenager. She’s a first-generation Pakistani-American, living with her parents and her brother in Jersey City—balancing school, friends, and family, facing the challenges of growing up in a culture that is very different from the one her parents knew. Like many, she is obsessed with superheroes, particularly Carol Danvers—a.k.a. Captain Marvel, formerly Ms. Marvel. The twist in Kamala’s story (it’s in issue 1, so I’m not really spoiling anything) comes when a strange cloud descends upon the city, and Kamala finds herself gifted with superpowers. At first this includes shape-shifting, but it soon settles down into an ability to change her size—growing, shrinking, and stretching. As anyone familiar with superhero comics could predict, she decides to turn her new-found abilities to fighting crime, adopting the former alias of her idol: Ms. Marvel!
As much as we all love superhero films, superhero stories really work for me when they are driven by the characters, and Ms. Marvel is brilliant at this. I’d never actually read a Ms. Marvel comic before Christmas, but I started looking at a few in anticipation of her upcoming Hero Pack and ended up reading about 40 issues in a week! They have many of the standard set-piece punch-ups with bad-guys and monsters, but the driving heart of the story is Kamala trying not to grow apart from her friends and to balance the expectations of her family with becoming her own person.
Playing the Game
The struggles between her role as Ms. Marvel (Ms. Marvel, 1A) versus just being Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel, 1B) are brilliantly captured in her hero design in Marvel Champions! Her Teen Spirit ability gives her extra card-draw, specifically targeting her fifteen-card hero set, and that set includes three support Personas that can only be used in alter-ego form—her brother Aamir Khan (Ms. Marvel, 6), and her friends Bruno Carrelli (Ms. Marvel, 7) and Nakia Bahadir (Ms. Marvel, 8).
Nakia is the most straightforward: a one-resource discount for the next card you play. Amir lets you return a card from your discard pile to the bottom of your deck and draw an extra card each turn, whilst Bruno offers exciting possibilities for more skilled and experienced players who are want to really push the envelope of what Ms. Marvel can do in a turn. These cards are crucial for getting Ms. Marvel working at peak efficiency, and the fact that you have to be Kamala rather than Ms. Marvel to use them is a great thematic fit (not to mention allowing her to have access to some effects that would be straight-up broken if she could use them without restriction).
Beyond these supports, Ms. Marvel relies heavily on events. At one Attack, one Thwart, and one Defense, her stats are nothing to write home about, but that’s okay because you’ll rarely be using them! Instead, she can exhaust to return an Attack, Thwart or Defense event to her hand, allowing you to keep cycling that key event round after round.
There are some really efficient cards here, and they only get more efficient once you get out her Shrink (Ms. Marvel, 11) and Embiggen (Ms. Marvel, 10) upgrades which let you increase the power of those Attack and Thwart events once per round, making Ms. Marvel an absolute powerhouse.
Building Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel’s pre-built deck came with Protection aspect cards in it, and like any of the Marvel Champions Hero Packs, it’s playable right out of the pack, combining reprints of Core Set staples with some powerful new cards like Energy Barrier (Ms. Marvel, 17). Personally though, my favourite way to play this hero is in Aggression or Justice!
In Aggression, Ms. Marvel gains access to powerful events like Melee (Ms. Marvel, 30). When you combo Melee with Embiggen, you can hit two enemies for five damage each—enough to clear sizeable minions as well as being a reasonable amount of damage for the villain. Of course, there are other heroes who can match or exceed this level of raw damage output. Ms. Marvel certainly doesn’t punch as hard as Thor. However, what makes Kamala unique is her ability to hit this hard at the same time as thwarting five threat per round with Shrink and three copies of Sneak By (Ms. Marvel, 4)
Likewise, in Justice, you can keep the villain’s ability to scheme well and truly suppressed, and if you add in more recent cards like Under Surveillance (Thor, 31), especially in low player-counts, then you’ll rarely have to worry about the scheme advancing when Ms. Marvel is on the case. Her pack even includes Concussive Blow (Ms. Marvel, 31) which allows you to confuse the villain—perpetually if you keep pulling it back to hand! Again, Justice allows Ms. Marvel to show what an all-rounder she is, combining strong threat management with punching someone for six damage with those Embiggened Big Hands (Ms. Marvel, 3).
Of course, as Marvel like to remind us, whilst family and friends can be a hero’s greatest asset, they can also be a great weakness, and Kamala, like so many before her, finds herself in real peril when enemies uncover her identity and try to get at her through her friends. Her nemesis is Thomas Edison (Ms. Marvel, 27)—an evil clone of the famous scientist who accidentally got spliced with a parakeet (yes, really. Read the comics!) Edison only has three health, and does a single damage each round, but his three Scheme is something you need to keep an eye on. Of course, a minion is only a problem for as long as he stays in play, but Edison won’t be disappearing as quickly as it might seem, because he can’t take damage while you are engaged with any other minions. Obviously that will be harder in some scenarios than others, but even if you’re playing against a scenario without many minions, Edison brings a Giant Robot (Ms. Marvel, 28), an eight-health wall that can only be damaged if you spend a mental resource. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story behind Edison’s Generation Why? (Ms. Marvel, 26) side-scheme, but you’ll notice that this whole set is going to penalize you for having Persona supports, and do their best to neutralize the power of those cards that you do have in play.
If you weren’t excited about Ms. Marvel already, I hope that this article has helped. I’ve really enjoyed not only how much fun she is to play in the game, but the way that Marvel Champions has got me to explore a whole new corner of the Marvel universe.
James Phillips, or Mighty Jim, is a member of the Card Game Cooperative Podcast Team, and the writer of the Fistful of Meeples Blog. When he isn’t trying to keep up with three different LCGs and a toddler, he can be found playing D&D, or painting up miniatures for his board game collection such as Journeys in Middle-earth and Mansions of Madness. You can contact him via the Facebook pages for the blog or podcast, or by sending a DM to MightyJim#6786 on Discord.