Hello again, and welcome to a very special day at Critical Missives! We’re introducing a new recurring column gimmick! It’s called “Heat Check,” and we’re going to use this space to count down the Top Ten versions of various Heroclix game elements.
Today, as we start to analyze where the game is at now that Justice League: Trinity War has released, we’re going to take a look at the best Named keywords in Modern Age play right now. Why? Well, first, because it’s always fun to rank stuff in a blog post, and second, these rankings may help you decide what team you want to play the next time you’re getting ready for a game at your local venue–or at least give you a hint as to which Named Themed Team keywords you might run into at your next event!
We’re going to judge keywords based on a bunch of different criteria:
We Are Legion!: This one’s pretty straightforward. This is just the total number of available characters. The higher the number of total characters, the more options you have for team building.
Uncle Sam Wants You!: This is basically asking if there’s a recruiter–that is to say, is there any way for the keyword to pull characters without the keyword into your army while still keeping Theme. Which is a complicated way of asking if there’s someone like Amanda Waller, G.W. Bridge, Duhg, etc. who has a Trait that gives a certain Named keyword to a character who doesn’t have it during army construction. Recruiters obviously open up your options quite a bit; not every Named keyword is going to have a Recruiter–most don’t–but those that do definitely have a leg up when it comes to being able to construct a competitive team for just about any gametype.
Also Known As: Is there an available ATA? This is a big one. There’s some really great ATA’s out there, and some Named keywords even have access to more than one! The presence of an ATA can vastly increase the effectiveness of your team in many cases.
Working Together!: Does this keyword have access to a Team Base? If you haven’t heard, these things are stupidly good. The presence of a Team Base also means that the keyword can support larger game types as well.
Prime Time!! Prime Time!!: Prime characters are usually ridiculously efficient for their points. That’s why (in all but one case) you can only play one per Build. If a Named keyword doesn’t have access to at least one Prime character, they’re gonna have to work a little harder to be as effective in a competitive environment. If they have MORE than one Prime to choose from, um… damn. That usually doesn’t happen… Usually.
Straight, With Chaser: Chases are cool. But, more relevant to our purposes here, Chases are usually really effective (much less consistently than Primes, and they’re not intended to be equivalently as good, but still), primarily because they often all share at least one really good Trait (if not more) that’s often synergistic (for example, the Z-Virus Traits on the Zombie Chases from Deadpool and Guardians). Plus, they’re just that little extra bit of fun to play. If a Named keyword has access to one or more Chase characters, again, this will only give you more options while building your squad.
Shadow of the Colossus: Like Team Bases, Colossal characters are just fun as hell to play, and often overpowered (just by their very nature). Most venues only allow them for certain gametypes. Still, the presence of a Colossal within the pool of available figures often means that the Named keyword can field not just a great 300 Point team, but great teams at point levels up to 1000 and beyond for those weeks your venue is running an epic clash.
Micro Machines: The other end of the spectrum; if your putting a team together for a micro game (200 or less), does this keyword have enough good figures to make a team? Also, a larger number of smaller character would indicate that this keyword has a lot of supporting characters to choose from. Another sign of overall versatility.
Who Let You In?!: Our pick for the least likeliest figure in Modern that ACTUALLY has the keyword.
So, with all that said, let’s count ’em down, Dave Letterman-style!!
Here are your TOP TEN KEYWORDS IN MODERN AGE.. RIGHT NOW!!
We Are Legion!: Pretty darn small roster, actually. 18 distinct characters with 20 different dials (17 figures plus a 3-dial Team Base). But Z-Virus makes up for its small quantity with a high amount of quality!
Uncle Sam Wants You!: In short, no, although all but two Z-Virus characters (everyone but Headpool and the Team Base) can resurrect opposing characters that they KO as new teammates, which I suppose is a roundabout way of recruiting, no? Still, this won’t help you during army construction, which is what this category is really about.
Also Known As: No ATA. Frankly, they don’t need one.
Working Together!: They do have a Team Base, and it’s pretty damn good!
Prime Time!! Prime Time!!: No Primes, but…
Straight, With Chaser: … they have access to 16 DIFFERENT CHASE PIECES!! Only Headpool (Common) and the Team Base (LE) aren’t Chases. As mentioned before, all the Chase Z-Virus characters have Improved Movement: Ignores Characters AND the same two Traits in common: ZOMBIE HUNGER: When Super Skrull damages an opposing character, place a Food token on this card if there are less than 5 Food tokens. When Super Skrull would be KO’d by an opponent’s attack, turn to its first KO click, remove all Food tokens from this card, and heal it that many clicks AS WELL AS ZOMBIE INFECTION: When Super Skrull damages an opposing character, give that character a Virus token if it has less than 5 Virus tokens. When an opposing character is KO’d by this character, you may add it to your force, turn to its first KO click, remove all of its Virus tokens and heal it that many clicks.
This makes almost every character with this keyword hard as heck to kill with any finality.
Shadow of the Colossus: Shockingly, Zombie Galactus does NOT have the Z-Virus keyword. Ninwashui and I often “House Rule” him to have it; regardless, he still has the Monster keyword so he can make a generic Themed Team with any of the Z-Virus characters. Still, this really hurts–very annoying, WizKids!
Micro Machines: Not so much. Only Headpool at 38 Points is under 50, but most Zombies are actually pretty reasonably priced.
Who Let You In?!: Has got to go to GOTG061 Skrull. The Zombie Villain no one was asking for. It’s the only Zombie Chase that isn’t Unique. Even Wizkids is like, “Naw, man, go ahead and play as many as you want. Trust us, it’s not to your advantage.” For so many reasons, this should have been Zombie Thanos.
Why Z-Virus Is #10: Because of their innovative Zombie mechanics, these guys are a blast to play. The Team Base is much more effective to play than it is on paper. Now, outside of Headpool, it is a nightmare trying to cobble all these characters together (after a lengthy pursuit over two sets, I myself have Headpool, five of the Chases and the Team Base–basically 33% of the available Zombies. Sigh… ), but it can be worth it. Headpool, Electro and Super Skrull in particular are Meta-Worthy, with Super Skrull having headlined at least one ROC-winning squad (if not more).
Must Have Pieces: Headpool, Electro, Super Skrull.
We Are Legion!: Huge roster. Go spelunking for the Avengers keyword on HCRealms.com’s Units section and you’ll return 120 results!!
Uncle Sam Wants You!: No recruiter, at least not as yet, although who knows how the Avengers Round Table Resource that’s gonna hit this summer will work…
Also Known As: Yup–four different ATA’s!! The best is probably Secret Avengers (Characters using this team ability can’t be the target of an opponent’s Outwit or Perplex unless they’ve been targeted with an attack previously in the same turn. 5 Points per character.).
Working Together!: A pretty decent Team Base from AVX that offers a ton of different cast options (more than a dozen characters to choose from).
Prime Time!! Prime Time!!: Yup! Invincible Iron Man gave us three–Hyperion, War Machine and Silver Centurion!
Straight, With Chaser: Just a few Chases to choose from, at least until this summer. The best is probably the Cap/Black Widow duo from Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Shadow of the Colossus: At the moment, none, although Phoenixbuster Iron Man is a giant… and a giant sculpt!
Micro Machines: One pretty good one (Tony Stark from Iron Man 3 is exactly 50 Points) and NOTHING ELSE. Wow!
Who Let You In?!: Gonna go with wkM-012 Firestar. I remember the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon fondly from my youth; never thought I’d see those characters made into ‘Clix with Avengers keywords. Crazy! I’d say the runner-up here is Mantis–I think of her more as a Guardian now.
Why Avengers Is #9: Just on sheer variety, Avengers has to be a part of this list. Man that’s a big roster! But they’ve also got some wickedly effective pieces, too. They’ve slid down to #9 because of all the quality they lost when Chaos War rotated (Hawkeye or Sentroid, anyone?), but I’d expect Avengers to be Top 3 (or better) by the time Nick Fury and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. releases this summer as there’s no fewer than THREE sets devoted to the Avengers coming out between April and May.
Most of the AvX pieces were quite solid, with Scarlet Witch being especially effective at her 100 Point level, but the fact is that since at least half of the Marvel Universe has been in the Avengers at some point, just about every set has a quality Avengers piece (heck, even Deadpool gave us Shang-Chi… along with a Deadpool piece that didn’t have the keyword but somehow was allowed on the Avengers Team Base!).
Must Have Pieces: AvX Scarlet Witch, Captain America and Black Widow Duo, Silver Centurion.
8. Black Lantern Corps
We Are Legion!: 17 different Modern Age characters with, like, 27 different dials.
Uncle Sam Wants You!: Yup! WOL060P Black Hand will bring any character you want over to the dark side for a measly 25 Points! Also, if you’re using the Black Lantern Resource, you can dish out the Black Lantern Corps keyword to whoever you want, but that won’t help you during force construction.
Also Known As: Uh-huh. They’ve got just one, but it’s a good’un! Only costs 1 point per character and it guarantees at least 1 click of health will be restored whenever a BLC member uses Regeneration (which, with their dials, will probably happen quite a bit)!
Working Together!: No Team Base…
Prime Time!! Prime Time!!: Yes! Exactly one, and he’s awesome! Zoom, the Super Rare Prime from Flash!
Straight, With Chaser: None–even Black Hand is just a SR.
Shadow of the Colossus: Two!! Nekron and Black Lantern Anti-Monitor! Nekron is a straight Boss Battle piece (which basically means he costs a ton of points and is definitely over powered in larger games) as would be expected of the Grand Prize Piece for a 6-month long OP campaign. BLAM is great in his own right; not as powerful, but he doesn’t cost as much, either.
Micro Machines: Just 2–Black Hand (as a Possessor only, so he doesn’t really count for this) and Black Lantern Reanimate, who’s not bad for his 35 Points.
Who Let You In?!: The Modern Age BLC roster is pretty tight, so we’re gonna twist this category around and complain about who HASN’T been let in yet. The biggest no shows so far (in order of “totally egregious omission” to “would have been nice to have”) are Black Lantern versions of Elongated Man, Hawkman and Hawkgirl (these two could have even been a duo!), Martian Manhunter, Sue Dibny and Jean Loring. Now, we got a pretty good Elongated Man in Flash and a very good Hawkman in JL: TW, so theoretically you could Black Hand Possess either of those pieces and be comic accurate. BL Manhunter was also a big antagonist in “Blackest Night,” so he would have been nice to have as well. At least there’s a Brave and the Bold Golden Age version of him, so at least he isn’t as yet Un-Clix’d like Ms. Dibny and Ms. Loring.
Why Black Lantern Corps Is #8: They are just hideously effective. Playing a Black Lantern Corps team isn’t entirely dissimilar than playing a Z-Virus team–both keyword families get exponentially stronger every time you KO an opposing figure. But the fact that they have both a Recruiter (Black Hand) and TWO different Colossals to choose from means that this keyword can be a contender in almost any size game. And we haven’t even mentioned the fun that is Black Lantern Firestorm or Aquaman yet!
Must Have Pieces: Zoom Prime, Black Hand, Nekron.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy
We Are Legion!: 29 different figures with 33 distinct dials!
Uncle Sam Wants You!: No recruiters. Bummer.
Also Known As: Two! The first basically makes team members un-Outwittable for a measly 4 Points a character. Extremely useful. The second (GotG Silver Age) is now practically useless (makes team members Wild Cards, but erases all other team abilities they possess. Which, y’know, makes being a Wild Card preeeeeeeety pointless.
Working Together!: No Team Base… this clearly needs to be remedied.
Prime Time!! Prime Time!!: Surprisingly, none.
Straight, With Chaser: Two, and one’s a must have! The Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Set gave us what has to be considered one of the best Rocket Raccoons ever!
Shadow of the Colossus: None.
Micro Machines: Not one. Mantis I think is the closest at 56.
Who Let You In?!: No actual complaints here; roster is solid, with a few classic characters (Killraven!) mixed with a heavier tilt towards the modern roster (Iron Man, Angela, etc.).
Why Guardians of the Galaxy Is #7: Because there’s barely any stinkers on the roster. Even some of the common, easily available figs like Mantis and Major Victory have turned up on Top 8 winning ROC squads. You want to get up to some shenanigans? Main set Star-Lord makes every team member’s Defense value equal to the highest native Defense value possessed by a team member (hello Chase Rocket Raccoon and his 19 D!!).
If there’s a power or game mechanic you want, you’ll probably find it on one of these folks! Consistent quality.
Must Have Pieces: A bunch. Rocket Raccoon (Movie Set Chase), Star-Lord (Movie Set Starter), Major Victory, Mantis, Yondu, Star-Lord (Main set Uncommon).
6. Heroes for Hire
We Are Legion!: 26 characters with 27 different dials (for those keeping score at home and wondering about my math, the Colleen Wing and Misty Knight duo fig can actually be played as separate dials that distinctly represent each character, or played as a whole dial representing both as a duo piece). Also, for those wondering why I’d choose Luke Cage to headline this section when THERE IS NO MODERN AGE LUKE CAGE, well, yeah, that’s kinda my point! We need a Modern Luke Cage, dammit! (And with Avengers Assemble and Age of Ultron OP coming this year, I’m pretty sure were getting at least one, if not two or more, since we know he’ll have an ID card… )
Uncle Sam Wants You!: No recruiter.
Also Known As: Yup! Their ATA was, at one point (circa 2013) the best in the game. So good, in fact, that WizKids had to nerf it, since every tournament was being won by Ghost Rider with the HfH ATA and, well, anything else.
Working Together!: No Team Base.
Prime Time!! Prime Time!!: Two. One is a super-efficient close combatant who starts with Charge, Flurry, Stealth, Quake (with a 12 Attack!), Super Senses, CCE (and the ability to use it as a close combat action, so it pairs nicely with Charge or Flurry!) and a Trait that has a 33% chance to nerf opposing Relics and Resources if a character using one of those attacks him.
And he’s the “bad” Prime.
As good as Cat is, Brother Voodoo will go down as possibly the best Prime ever made (although we shall watch the Modern Age careers of Zoom and Captain Marvel with interest, methinks–and yes, unfortunately that was a Phantom Menace reference. Deal with it!).
Straight, With Chaser: None. Don’t really need one. That ATA turns almost any piece into a Chase-level efficient attacker!
Shadow of the Colossus: Again, none. And again, probably don’t need one.
Micro Machines: Just two–Black Cat from Deadpool and Johnny Blaze from ASM.
Who Let You In?!: So, again, just to be clear: 2 (really three, when you count the fact that you can play the Duo as separate dials) Modern Age versions of Misty Knight and Colleen Wing; 2 Modern Age versions of Black Cat; a Modern Age freakin’ Humbug… and no Modern Age Luke Cage?!?!?!?!? Suuuuuuuurrrre…
Why Heroes for Hire Is #6: Because they’re still going strong two years after they’re Modern Age reintroduction in ASM! It’s funny, everyone thinks of HfH as a ASM sub-theme, which it certainly was, but Deadpool actually gave us more than twice as many HfH figs, which really rejuvenated the keyword. Once ASM rotates out, HfH will definitely suffer, but given the roster overlap in the comics between the Avengers (who, as mentioned, have, like a bazillion sets coming this year) and the Heroes for Hire, I wouldn’t be shocked if HfH shows up on this list again in 6 months!
But you could argue that right now, they deserve to be even higher. They have Meta pieces coming out of their earholes: Ghost Rider; Speed Demon; DP Main Set Elektra; FI (White Ranger) Iron Fist; Brother Voodoo; Shang-Chi… all these pieces have made a Meta impact, whether at a ROC tourney or elsewhere.
Must Have Pieces: Pretty much the list above. Also, HfH pieces are probably the easiest to collect. Individually, there’s none that will cost more than about $20, and most are much cheaper. Kind of like the opposite of collecting Z-Virus pieces.
Alright! That’s the end of part one! We’ll count down all the way to number 1 in Part 2 next week! Also, later this month you can expect Ninwashui and I to give our JL: Trinity War Top Ten Set Reviews!!
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part 2 is live! And you can find it right here!]