You can find a video version of this review here: Marvel Champions: Star-Lord Hero Pack Review – YouTube
Something good, something bad? Bit of both?
Star-Lord is an interesting hero that I was initially concerned about. I recently wrote an article on Fixing The Imbalance with Marvel Champions. In the article I go into detail about the action economy, how tempo works within the game, and how it can break. Most under or overpowered characters boil down to how they mess with those two concepts.
Star-Lord hinges on meddling with that balance. His core power deals himself an extra encounter card to reduce the cost of playing a card by three. Much of his kit receives bonuses based on how many encounter cards are facedown in front of you. More than that, several of his cards seem to have a higher cost to incentivize the usage of his what could “go wrong ability.”
A lot, can, in fact, go wrong. Overly abusing his ability will make you lose every game unless you get extremely lucky. I could see a lot of players not realize the delicate nature of his mechanics and walk away hating the hero.
The reality is Star-Lord isn’t bad at all. His playstyle is very much about pushing your luck. If you add some tactical thinking about when to deal yourself extra encounter cards, he is far more effective and fun to play rather than simply spamming them and hoping for the best.
It can be tempting to utilize a bunch of encounter cards to play heavy hitting cards cheap, stack your hand using Star-lords Helmet, or nuke the villain with a super-powered Sliding Shot. But you really have to be prepped and read the situation.
Waiting for the right moment to pop extra encounters can help Star-lord get ahead. His cards are quite strong, if expensive. His kit is capable of dealing damage, removing threat, and netting you extra cards making Star-lord decently well-rounded. He is defensively weak, however, with few options to mitigate damage. Every Star-Lord deck will need to account for his squishy nature, given his risk versus reward playstyle.
Bad Boy is a great card that can save Star-Lord every once in a while, but there is only one copy in his kit. Jet Boots is wildly inconsistent and can’t be relied on that much. If you have enough encounter cards on the field for it to make an impact every turn, you’re going to lose anyway.
Star-lord’s Element Gun is an insane upgrade, especially since it pierces toughness. It’s not uncommon in smaller games to bring an entire stage of the villain down within a turn or two with just Element gun and Sliding Shot alone. Gutsy Move, much like a Sliding Shot can be powerful, but you have to time them right.
Leader of the Guardians is just great all-around since Star-lord makes all of his allies guardians. Nova Prime, while costly, has managed to carry his own weight in a lot of my games. Simply deleting a non-elite minion just for playing him is really powerful.
Star-Lord’s power is very versatile with the exception that you have to be careful about when to apply it. It may not look like it, but Star-Lord is a set-up hero. He needs to build an engine of support early on in order to deal with the rapid tempo changes that encounter cards bring.
Generally speaking, encounter cards cause you to lose tempo far faster than any hero’s individual cards or actions can help you gain it. This can vary wildly based on individual encounter cards, but that’s also important to realize. Sometimes, even if you play Star-Lord perfectly with a great deck, you will still lose.
If the encounter cards tip the tempo too far into the villain’s favor at any point, it’s over. Star-Lord can’t catch back up because a whole lot of his entire kit and design expects you to add encounter cards at some point. If you already lost too much tempo, adding more encounter cards will just seal the deal.
This is true even in multiplayer. Star-Lord can sink entire games with sloppy play, though there is much more wiggle room with higher player counts.
Star-lord can indeed gain a tempo increase with his gambling nature. His cards and abilities are powerful, and increasing his hand size is huge. But luck can never be removed from the equation. You have to approach Star-Lord with that mindset.
Taking calculated risks is the key to playing him, with emphasis on the word calculated. But the dice can still roll against you even then. Losing entire games from bad luck is going to be far more common with Star-Lord than any other hero.
That said, I eventually caught on to how to play him and stopped smashing the give me things button without thinking about it. He became incredibly fun to play, win or lose. Most games were an intense back and forth where good draws were cheer-worthy and bad ones were tear-worthy. Any hero who messes with the action economy is going to chance being either too good or too weak.
Luckily for Star-Lord, he is neither over nor underpowered and likely sits somewhere in the center with the average power level of other heroes, even though luck is going to play a larger factor in any game he enters. If you’re cool with that, and your table is okay with it, you can have a lot of fun trying to tip those odds in your favor.
Star-Lord adds all kinds of goodies to the card pool, with an unsurprising focus on Leadership and Guardians. Adam Warlock is one of the most fun ally cards I’ve used. He has a dash of Star-Lord’s gambling nature, but all of his effects are incredibly potent and probably worth the discard cost.
Yondu is expensive, but he can be a monster when stacked with ally upgrades since he doesn’t take consequential damage when attacking. Beta Ray Bill’s steep cost is hard to swallow, but he certainly has a place against minion-heavy scenarios.
Knowhere, Laser Pistol, and Blaze of Glory are all-powerful Guardian Focused cards, and we get Cosmo! Whether the card is strong or weak, I don’t care. It’s an astronaut dog!
Star-Lord is also the first hero pack to really see support for the aerial keyword, and every aspect receives one. Air Supremacy was the most difficult to set up, but that will likely change as more and more aerial heroes and allies release.
Ever Vigilant is a weird fit in Protection but is undeniably powerful with the right deck. Agile Flight is versatile, to be sure. But I do wonder when the designers are going to run out of ways to reword “remove threat” into a new card. The Justice Aspect really needs more personality.
Dive Bomb is a massive 4 cost EVENT. Granted it hits really hard, but it’s going to need to be built around to get the most mileage of it. Regardless, it’s about time we got some aerial-focused cards, and it does add value to the pack, even if I’m not happy with the execution of some of them.
Sadly there are reprints of cards already released outside of Star-Lords deck. The pack includes three copies of Enhanced Awareness, and that’s disappointing. I get the need to have reprints in a hero’s premade deck, but outside of it? It’s a bummer.
The overall design philosophy of the nemesis sets does seem to be shifting to be more dangerous to the player, which is something I’ve wanted since I began playing. While not to the level of Groots nemesis set, Star-Lord’s is decently threatening. Though that does mean it’s a bit of a double kick in the nuts. Star-Lord draws Shadows of The Past far more often than other heroes due to his reliance on generating encounter cards.
His Nemesis Mister Knife has 6 hit points, which is just enough to ensure that he can’t be swatted away without a cost. He has retaliate so you’re probably getting shanked at least a little bit anyway.
The Budding Crime Syndicate Side Scheme is fairly generic, but Hazard symbols are not to be taken lightly, especially with Star-Lord. The rest of the set are three copies, of Spartoi Cunning, which are incredibly nasty. The one damage and one threat hurt as it is, but anything that makes you discard cards from your hand can cause a massive shift in the game.
Ironically, I wish that Star-Lord’s nemesis set was a little less threatening which is hypocritical given my past grumbling. But the reason why I wanted them to be more threatening is that they only ever see play based on the hero drawing one specific encounter card, Shadows of the Past. Star-Lord draws it far more often.
To quote Jedi Master Spock, Captain of the USS Serenity, “Strong with the theme, this one is.” Star-Lord is a heroic idiot. His kit captures that feeling incredibly well, even if you, the player are a tactical genius. While Star-Lord is a skilled hero and leader, he tends to fail upward, getting by on luck as much as talent.
The semantics don’t always line up exactly, but it’s the overall feel that the pack really nails. It might not make sense that a Sliding Shot deals more damage based on how much the villain is going to mud stomp you this round.
But it does make sense that Star-Lord did something idiotic like a Sliding Shot into danger because it looks cool, and it somehow worked. That’s the character in a nutshell. This is someone, who in the movies, defeated an Infinity Stone wielding villain, by dancing. It worked because it was absurd, and it’s only something that Star-Lord would think to do. The very essence of that boneheaded success is spread through his entire kit.
Out of The Box
Star-Lord’s premade deck is terrible, it may even be one of the worst ones so far. Do you remember how I harped on the need to use Star-Lord’s abilities sparingly and intelligently? The premade deck is made to do the exact opposite of that.
It’s the first deck to lack the basic dual resource cards such as Genius and Strength. It also lacks any other kind of resource kicker. Star-Lord’s kit has a lot of high-cost cards, and the leadership deck is also inflated.
The premade puts a huge reliance on using “What Could Go Wrong” to make up the difference. Replacing a solid resource economy with encounter cards is not even close to an even trade. I have no idea how this made it past playtesting.
If you are gaining encounter cards to be able to play the same amount of cards as a hero with actual resource generation. You’re taking a tempo loss every turn. It’s awful.
Furthermore, the deck is just unfocused. It seems to have a split between wanting to play Air Supremacy, Blaze of Glory, or using Target Practice, but supports nearly none of it. Any combo takes ages to set up and at the cost of gaining encounter cards to do it. It’s relies’s on keeping allies on the field, but doesn’t give Star-lord any real way to offset his squishy nature besides chump blocking.
Attempting to play the premade deck isn’t only going to fail to teach you how he works. It’s going to actively teach you how to fail with him, instilling bad habits in how you handle his risky abilities.
Star-Lord succeeds in having a unique but swingy playstyle. He is a ton of fun if you play him right and don’t mind adding an extra factor of luck to the game.
Judging by the pre-made deck, however, I strongly feel like his intended design is to abuse his encounter card powers. If that’s the case, Star-Lord’s design is a complete failure, and you would lose nearly every time. The game’s math crumbles under it.
The more cautious playstyle I speak so highly of might just be a happy accident of his design. But it does salvage the character into being a solid, very fun, and thematic hero that fits with most of the others that have been released.
If you’re interested in Guardian-based decks, his pack is probably a must-have even beyond his own hero kit. There is a lot of Guardian support spread throughout the cards. The new Aerial focused cards also add to the pack’s value since that mechanic has been starved since the game’s inception.
Something good? Something bad? Bit of both!
- Unique push your luck playstyle
- Highly thematic
- Star-Lord has strengths and weaknesses and is fairly balanced
- The new leadership cards add a lot to the Guardian card pool
- New Aerial support, finally
- The Nemesis set is solid and threatening
- While luck is inherent to a card game, Star-Lord adds an additional luck factor to it
- There is a way to play Star-Lord wrong, for the lack of a better term. That will nearly always cause you to lose, the design itself encourages that playstyle
- The premade deck is terrible, possibly one of the worst
- There are reprinted cards outside of Star-Lords deck
- The new Aerial cards are a bit iffy on if they are good or bad