Marvel Champions: Nebula Hero Pack Review

You can find a video version of this review here!

Sister Act

Nebula is a pretty close copy of her villainous side, right down to using the same card names. If you have ever battled against the Nebula villain, you know what a pain it can be when she combos into multiple techniques. The good news is, now you can do the same, sort of.

Nebula is all about techniques. Each one grants her a benefit while they are attached, but also have a second effect when you begin your turn in hero form. They are then discarded. Playing Nebula requires some forward-thinking to get the most out of her, and you will likely want to switch to alter ego often to set up those combos.

Her alter ego ability allows her to draw two cards for the simple act of playing a technique. So it’s always worth considering whether or not you can make the switch. In addition, Combat Ready can only be played in alter ego form. It’s a particularly powerful and versatile card for no cost.

Nebula has two in every statistic, and her variety of Techniques make her incredibly versatile. Cut Throat Ambition grants piercing and overkill, but then wipes three threat when it activates. Evasive Maneuver allows her to ignore guard and patrol, then it will stun or confuse a villain once it resolves.

Wide Stance protects her from damage and lets her manipulate the encounter deck. Weapons Master grants her offensive capability, while Unyielding Persistence boosts her stats then gives her toughness.

The technique cards themselves all have a cost of 1. That’s insanely cheap for the variety of effects they offer. The tradeoff is that you have to plan ahead to get the most out of them. Like her Sister Gamora, Nebula is a jack all of trades hero that can handle most situations regardless of aspect. Unlike Gamora, Nebula is balanced better because she has some actual weaknesses.

She has almost no permanency. The only cards she has that remain on the field are Nebula’s Ship and her signature ally, Gamora. While they are both great cards, Nebula doesn’t get stronger as the game progresses. That is, unless you build her deck specifically to do so. Most of her cards only last a single turn. This means if she ever put on the back foot, it can be nearly impossible to catch up to the villain without some help.

She can also get overwhelmed by minion swarms. Weapons Master hits hard for a low cost, but isn’t reliable enough to clear the chumps and still be able to make progress against the villain. These two weaknesses combined with her low health can lead to long slogs in solo. Where Nebula can keep pace with the villain, but never makes any progress toward ending the game.

She feels balanced, it’s just a weakness you have to account for when deckbuilding. Multiplayer is another story, and only further convinces me that the entire game is still not being designed to scale effectively at different player counts. In multiplayer, Nebula is much more powerful.

This is because of Lethal Intent. Being able to activate all the special effects of your equipped techniques before they activate is exceptionally powerful. You’re getting what amounts to multiple low-cost, but powerful abilities twice from the same cards. In solo, you have two options with Lethal Intent.

You can play it the same turn you played the techniques, which can be difficult and limiting due to resources. Alternatively, you can swap to alter ego form to delay their activations while you set up a combo. This is more reliable, but risky, especially with the lower threat caps for Main Schemes in solo play.

In multiplayer, you have a third option. Lethal Intent is a Hero Action. Another player can ask you to activate it on THEIR turn. This allows you to double the effect of your technique cards much easier and without flipping to alter ego. That is a massive power boost for the simple cost of the other player okaying it.

Teaming up with Gamora might also be the most potent hero combo in the game for two reasons. One I’ll talk about now, and I’ll get to the other when I mention the Nemesis set. The Nebula pack comes with two copies of Daughters of Thanos. One copy for her and another for Gamora. This is actually a bit awkward, the Gamora pack should have included her own copy instead.

In any case, as with all team-up cards, Daughters of Thanos can be used when both heroes are in play, be it an ally card or the actual hero. As always, purely using it with the ally card is very inconsistent. However, if two players team up as Nebula and Gamora, the card is very potent. Drawing cards is strong for both sisters, and playing together makes it very easy to use.

In the end, I think Nebula’s power level is around the hero average in solo play and slightly too strong in multiplayer. She is undeniably fun to play either way. Her combo playstyle leads to many action-heavy turns, and that always feels great. Especially because you have to strategize on how to best set those combos up. But the sheer power difference between solo and multiplayer is hard to ignore.

It’s also weird that there is nothing to address the fact that going by rules as written, you can’t fight villain Nebula with Hero Nebula. Sure, it makes sense, but it still doesn’t feel ideal to lock off entire villains from a hero. Though the card game police won’t kick down your door if you do it anyway.

Other Cards

Justice Goodies round out the Nebula Hero pack, and I have mixed feelings. The pack brings some much-needed variety to the Justice Aspect, but I’m not entirely sold on all of them.

Determination is an interesting concept. A resource card that grants you an effect just for spending it, is a nice tempo boost. But removing a single threat with a card that you can only have one copy of doesn’t seem worth making room for.

Venom is underwhelming as well, while his stats are nice, a four drop with no ability outside of possibly taking less consequential damage makes his usage limited. Not to mention, a little boring.

On the flip side, both Eros and Wraith are nice additions, even if they aren’t particularly ground-breaking. The next three cards, however, bring a nice dip of versatility to the aspect. One Way Or Another lets you trade taking a side scheme for drawing a whopping three cards.

The brilliance of the card is that it’s terrible if you use it recklessly, but a potential game-changer if you use it carefully. Justice Served gives the aspect a way to ready heroes, and Brains over Brawn lends some additional offensive power while sticking to the aspect’s playstyle

I harp on it a lot, but a bunch of yellow cards were beginning to blend together as just “remove threat”. These additions go a long way toward keeping Justice from feeling stale while allowing different types of deck builds. That’s the kind of thing I like to see.

Outside of Justice, we have a vicious ally upgrade card for Aggression with Energy Spear. Not only does the low cost make the card extremely attractive, but I’m happy to see ally upgrades outside of leadership. It may be locked to Guardians, but so many great Guardians allies are basic cards that it doesn’t matter.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a new team card for leadership that adds even more fuel to an already insanely strong archetype. Guardian leadership decks are super good right now.

Defensive Training is an interesting one. Protection certainly benefits from shoving its cards back into the deck, but it definitely feels like a niche card. It is strong, but specific and that’s perfectly fine.

Finally, Honorary Guardian is simply the Guardian version of Honorary Avenger, and that’s cool.

Sadly there are a bunch of reprints, Cosmo, First Aid, Knowhere, and Heroic Intuition. You can add Determination to that list if you were lucky enough to get your hands on the Thanos box. (Mine is lost in the mail somewhere…)

Nemesis Set

Nebula’s nemesis set follows in the footsteps of Gamora’s, it may be thematic, but it’s also disappointing. Gamora is Nebula’s nemesis minion just like Nebula was Gamora’s. If you happen to have the ally out, it gets discarded when Gamora enters play as she switches sides and fights you. It doesn’t have the same novelty for Nebula since Gamora already had the mechanic.

The set itself definitely has some bite. Gamora forces you to discard upgrades if she hurts you, and she has enough HP to require effort to remove. When you combine all that with Self Preservation, it’s a nasty situation.

Now here is where things get clunky. Lethal Weapon and Old Rivals are both aggressive encounter cards. But what happens when you’re playing with someone piloting Gamora? Well, first off, you negate both of your Nemesis minions. Neither Gamora’s or Nebula’s nemesis minions can enter play. That definitely feels like overkill for the sisters and poor design.

The encounter cards are also messy. I can tell you that Lethal Weapon does not attach to hero Gamora as it’s not an upgrade. Attachments are a villain and minion only card unless otherwise specified. Now, Old Rivals actually specifically states that even the hero Gamora will attack you, which is…weird.

NOTE: I got this wrong, as silly as it is, it does appear that lethal weapon can attach to hero Gamora.

As for self-preservation, I can’t be certain, but it definitely reads like the hero Gamora actually gets a boost in power with +1 attack and pierce. Honestly leaving Nebula with the -1s might actually be a worthy trade.

The implementation just feels clumsy. They now have team-up cards which, makes them an ideal duo. But playing them not only negates both of their nemesis minions but potentially helps them if Nebula draws Shadows of the Past. It’s silly. It’s one of several things in the pack that is once again shaking my confidence for the future of the game.

Theme

Nebula’s pack falls the flattest when it comes to maintaining the theme of the game. Now to be fair, the actual mechanics of playing Nebula feel great. She feels like a master assassin that can adapt to any situation, just like Gamora. Her combos going off conveys the sense that she’s unleashing a can of whoop-ass in all the ways that she does best.

The cards however, both hers and the aspect cards, mostly consist of vague concepts. Cutthroat Ambition is a concept, not a technique. Unyielding Persistence is a concept, not a technique. Most of the cards in her kit follow that principle. I do like Combat ready though, as it shows that Nebula is never off guard.

The aspect cards aren’t any better. One Way or Another is just a phrase! What is actually happening in the context of the game’s world? What is the hero doing? The only thing that One Way or Another invokes in my mind is the Blondie song of the same name on repeat, and that definitely doesn’t endear the card to me.

A strong theme is pretty important to any game that isn’t abstract, but I’d say it’s even more important with the Marvel IP. It’s always disappointing when a new pack struggles with it.

Out of the Box

The premade deck attempts to show Nebulas’ strengths, but for me, it’s what made her weaknesses most apparent. Not only are her options for dealing with many minions limited, but the premade deck has no way of making a comeback if Nebula is put on the defensive.

Nebulas’ techniques are potent but don’t usually have a large effect on the game until the turn after you play them, at least in solo. If Nebula loses too much tempo, she has difficulty recovering, and the premade deck does nothing to remedy that.

I really think Nebula is built best with a lot of cards that stay in play to offset the fact that most of her kit doesn’t. Plus it allows you to cycle her techniques faster.

Instead, the premade deck has cards like Justice Served that also gets discarded. And One Way or Another which, can be incredibly powerful, but not once Nebula is already overwhelmed.

It manages to give you a taste of her potential but falls short of the promise that you can reasonably take on standard villains. You might do okay against a couple and get lucky on others, but you will be aware of the decks’ limitations against all of them.

Verdict

I’m aware that I’ve done a lot of complaining in this review but to be perfectly honest, I really enjoy the pack. Most of the additions to the card pool are great, and Nebula is fun to play. She really nails a combo playstyle that should appeal to plenty of players.

I do take issue with many things in the pack, but I still recommend it overall. The failing theme, the weirdness with the nemesis set, and Nebula’s power jump in multiplayer are concerning. But will likely have little impact on your enjoyment when the cards are on the table.

I stand by my criticisms, but I believe Nebula and her pack are worthy additions to anyone’s Marvel Champions collection. Her combo breaker playstyle is a great one, and I enjoy it a lot. Everything surrounding it just could have been a whole lot better.

You might also enjoy my review of Gamora.

Pros

  • Nebula’s combo focused playstyle is effective and fun
  • Nebula is a ‘mostly‘ well rounded hero with defined weaknesses
  • New Justice cards add variety to the aspect
  • The other aspects also receive great support

The Cons

  • Nebula has a very stark power difference when playing multiplayer vs solo
  • The theme falls completely flat, with vague concepts for cards
  • The preset deck is poorly made
  • Nebula’s nemesis set is incredibly clumsy when played alongside the Gamora hero
  • A lot of reprints are present