Spy, assassin, hero, Black Widow embodies all these traits and more. Natasha Romanov joins Marvel Champions as a fully fledged Justice hero, bringing with her a new and powerful card type, preparations. But how will the designers utilize her spy persona and reflect it in the game mechanics? Join me for a deep dive into the latest hero pack for Marvel Champions.
Black Widow/Natasha Romanov
Like Black Panther last week Black Widow enters the game as a versatile hero with 2’s across her stats and a very human 9 health. Her hand size of 5 is very reasonable, especially when paired with her abundance of preparation cards. Her hero ability is also pretty cool providing an always on effect that deals a damage each time you trigger a preparation card and because this is direct damage it neatly circumvents abilities like Guard or Retaliation.
As Natasha you have a hand size of 6 but a low recovery of 3, although unless you get swarmed by enemies Black Widow is actually very difficult to damage. Natasha’s special ability is to draw a card after playing her first preparation card each round. This paired with Safehouse #29 which allows you to search your discard for a preparation card and Widows Gauntlets which give you resources to play preparation cards means in alter ego form you can easily have a hand size of 7 whilst having already played a card for free!
There's a lot to like among Black Widow’s signature cards. First up we have the suit. As well as her Gauntlets, which provide 2 wild resources for preparation cards, we have her Synth Suit. This card boosts her Def to 3 and allows her to ready any time she triggers a preparation card. Because of this you’re going to want to defend often with Black Widow, a Def 3 will turn aside most attacks and if you can utilise a copy of Attacrobatics you won’t need to worry about any boost icons either. Unfortunately Synth Suit gets exhausted so if you’re facing a lot of enemies it might be better to flip to alter ego and evade them rather than attempting to defend.
Next up we have her preparation cards. These are really the meat of the Black Widow sandwich. Many of her abilities trigger from preparations. These act like Traps in Lord of the Rings, activating outside of the normal turn structure when their triggering condition is met. All of them, however, require Widow herself to be in Hero form.
Attacrobatics not only cancels boost icons but deals damage back equal to the icons cancelled, you don’t even have to be defending to trigger it. Grappling Hook simply cancels an encounter card that was just revealed. And Widows Bite deals to damage to a minion and stuns it as it is revealed from the deck.
Widow’s signature ally is Winter Soldier, a solid 4 health, 2 attack, 2 thwart ally that has his cost reduced for each preparation in play, often making him free.
Finally we have her events Dance of Death and Covert Ops. Both of these are pricey at 3 a piece but they are both excellent. Dance of Death makes 3 separate attacks at 1, 2 and 3 damage sequentially. This is great for picking off multiple enemies or clearing conditions like tough or stun without wasting Widow's own attack. Covert Ops on the other hand removes 4 threat and confuses the villain, but more importantly can be played in Alter Ego mode making Widow one of the first heroes who can control the scheme while undercover, which is very thematic.
Widow’s Justice set brings two new allies to the game in Quake, who can meet out damage while you’re in Alter Ego form without taking consequential damage and Coulson, who is a good thwarter and can draw you any preparation card. Stealth Strike is an event card that adds some much needed punch to Widow’s deck while also clearing threat if you defeat an enemy.
Finally we also add two more preparation cards here, Spycraft, which is a weaker version of the grappling hook, discarding an encounter card but dealing a replacement. While Counterintelligence can be triggered to cancel upto 3 threat being added to the main scheme, with the caveat that you can only have 1 copy per player in play.
Widow’s neutral set comes with all the usual suspects but adds a few new cards. Target Acquired is another preparation card, this one allows you to cancel a boost ability, which can be very handy especially against enemies like Green Goblin. The other is the Quincarrier which generates a wild resource.
I’ll be honest I never saw the nemesis set added during any of my plays and I can’t see any reason you would either. Between Grappling Hook and Spycraft you really shouldn’t ever let Shadows of the Past actually trigger.
If you do, Taskmaster will join the game. He enters play with 4 health so you can easily beat him with Stealth Strike or teaming up with Widow and Winter Soldier/Quake, but if you let him attack you’re in trouble. He is boosted by every upgrade you control and in my plays that would have given him an average of 10 ATK, of course, if you control that many upgrades he really shouldn’t be getting into play at all.
The Side Scheme “Killer For Hire” has an acceleration boost and 3 threat +1 per player, but with Covert Ops you shouldn’t have any trouble cleaning it in short order.
Black Widow is my favourite hero so far. In Lord of the Rings threat control was more like a necessary evil, vital for your survival but it was never an interesting part for me. So when I realised that Black Widow in her Justice build was mostly about threat control I figured she’d excel at keeping things tidy but would ultimately fail to excite me. I was very wrong.
Widow's preparation cards emulate one of my favourite deck types in LOTR, the trap deck. With preparation cards you can spend your resources in anticipation of events to come, meaning you are never without options on your turn, everything has a potential use. However, this makes Widow a tricky proposition for a new player, within a turn or two your entire play area will be stuffed with cards, each with their own triggering conditions which can be a lot of information to get your head around early on.
However once you settle into a rhythm with Black Widow you’ll find most scenarios are plain sailing. Unlike other heroes in solo play, Black Widow can comfortably spend several back to back turns in Alter Ego form, planning out the mission and using cards like Covert Ops and Counterintelligence to keep the villain’s schemes at bay.
And once she flips into hero form she can stay that way for much longer than her hit point total would seem to allow for. The combination of Synth Suit and Attacrobatics/Target Acquired means that not only will you be unlikely to take damage but you can defend and ready better than a hero running a protection deck and deal damage in the process.
Black Widow is weaker against scenarios with higher numbers of enemies, such as Green Goblin and the Wrecking Crew, simply due to the fact she doesn’t have a lot of damage dealing events. However, she is still perfectly capable of beating these scenarios, it just might take a little longer as she returns to the safe house and gets tooled up for a second or third onslaught.
Black Widow’s playstyle is thoughtful and methodical and fits right into my wheelhouse. It is also highly thematic, allowing you to spend longer infiltrating a villain’s scheme as your alter ego and keeping trouble at bay, but unlike your standard quester she’s not weak, she might not be as grandstand-y as an aggression hero but she can definitely get the job done, even if she does it with a thousand paper cuts.
Black Widow offers a very different playstyle to the other heroes available in Marvel Champions. She relies on secrecy and planning, dealing out a few good hits before disappearing into the shadows. Hard to hurt and always prepared, she can easily survive any scenario while keeping the villain’s scheme under control, easily my favourite hero to date!