Drax is a concerning hero. This is the third cycle of Marvel Champions which means early design hiccups continually grow more difficult to forgive. Drax has a four-card hand, a concept that should have been tossed a long time ago. I addressed the problem in my Fixing The Imbalance with Marvel Champions article. To sum it up, 4 card hands break the game’s inner math and action economy. That means those heroes can be a bit of a turd.
You can find a video version of this review here! Marvel Champions: Drax Hero Pack Review – YouTube
Drax is by far the best designed of the four card hand heroes, but his neat tricks can’t entirely shake the mathematic flaw. That said, he can still be pretty interesting. Drax is an aggressive hero with a twist, his power comes from vengeance.
Each time the villain attacks him, he gets a vengeance counter which increases his attack by 1, to a maximum of three. Further attacks allow him to draw cards instead. Drax has one of the highest capacities for basic attack power in the game so far. With three vengeance counters and Drax’s knife, he sits at five attack.
Many of his cards bank on his attack power or vengeance counters, and his entire kit is exceptionally potent once he hits his stride. Parry can block more damage than almost any other card for no cost, while Payback deals Drax’s hefty attack to the villain, just for being attacked himself. Intimidate allows Drax to remove threat equal to his attack. The mighty Knife Leap becomes a zero-cost card if Drax is full of vengeance, and hits just short of a Hulk Smash.
A pretty big hiccup comes into play anytime that Drax has to switch to alter ego. He heals for 2 for every vengeance counter, which is a huge deal, but he loses them and has to start from scratch again. Without them, Drax has a lowly 1 attack, and since so many of his cards rely on it, he can get hamstrung quickly.
In theory, this opens up a lot of strategies about when and how to flip over for that massive heal. To some degree, it’s true. In particular, Too Stubborn to Die can allow Drax to survive the worst possible hit and come out ready to fight some more.
Fight me Coward has the duality of forcing Drax to gain some vengeance by eating an extra attack and allowing him to ready and punch back. And just like the movies, Mantis is clearly the best alien waifu since she can sit back and continually heal Drax.
The four-card hand, however, causes a lot of that strategy to fly over Drax’s head. A lot of games are less about when to flip, and more about just attempting to keep up while not dying due to his lack of options.
Look at it this way. Drax has to eat three attacks, with 14 hitpoints to not only attain critical mass but to draw an extra card putting him on the same level as normal heroes. Spider-Man has a five-card hand normally and gets a free card when a villain initiates an attack against him at all. Drax has to survive three standard turns with no chump blocking to reach where most heroes start.
If Drax can get rolling, he can put out massive damage with a strong defense and dash of thwart making him well-rounded, but that momentum is often cut short since it’s not uncommon for a 4th attack to send him to alter-ego.
He can, however, stand his ground to such a degree that he is still fun to play. Drax has the most synergy with Protection since that aspect allows him to maintain his vengeance the longest, but he works well in every aspect. You just have to build him specific ways in all of them. That specific way is usually attempting to fix the gaping hole that the four-card hand leaves.
That’s kind of the reality of the situation. Other heroes build to be great. Four card hand heroes build to not suck. Drax’s thwarting is on the weaker side, and he has issues with minion swarms. Any effect that stuns or exhausts him can really steal his mojo. He had plenty of weaknesses even if he had a five-card hand. As it stands, you might as well take a nap if the villain makes you discard a card.
The most painful part is Drax is actually a lot of fun to play. The vengeance mechanic and his inherent tanky nature with Parry and Mantis feel great. There are grand moments where Drax can completely steal the table’s spotlight. But for every awesome turn, there are two or three others where you play one card and then watch the rest of the table have fun. You can feel like a badass at times, and you can feel invisible at others.
The Drax Hero Pack comes with a bunch of great new protection cards that definitely shift the aspect in a few other directions, which is nice to see. Both Martyr and Moondragon have unique effects that make them interesting for more than chump blocking. Deflection is a bit pricey but is a great card in multiplayer to protect other players, or in a solo deck that makes up the cost.
Hard Knocks is a fantastic minion swatter card that grants toughness while Leading Blow also lets protection do a bit more than take hits. Not every hero can use it, but it’s definitely a viable card. Subdue is another interesting one since it offers an alternate way to mechanically avoid damage.
Gamora shows up as a basic card like most of the other guardians and that’s fantastic. Playing her also nets you an event card which makes her pretty cost-efficient. Bring It On is a great aggression card against villains like Ultron. That kind of card draw can be massive. Think fast is a cheap way for Justice to apply confusion but I’m just happy it’s a yellow card that doesn’t say “remove threat”
Regroup is another niche card that could be really strong in the right deck or you could just stuff your hand with chump blockers. Niche, but powerful, cards are great because that’s the best way to diversify deckbuilding.
Sadly there are a lot of reprints in the pack; Counterpunch, Enhanced Physique, Athletic conditioning, and Indomitable. Just like most of the other heroes in this cycle, some of the reprints weren’t even used in the premade deck making their inclusion even harder to swallow.
Reprint gripes aside, all the new cards are solid additions with no dead weight. That makes the pack desirable beyond the hero, which is always nice.
Drax continues the recent trend of more threatening nemesis sets with Yotat the Destroyer. A three attack minion with five HP and Guard, which means he can’t be ignored. Then his retaliate makes you pay for it. Cull The Weak coming out at the exact same time is nasty because while it’s fairly easy to get rid of, you have to dedicate the resources and actions to deal with it or pay dearly, especially with minion-heavy villains. A straight +2 to buff is painful.
Challenge Accepted buffs a bad guy even further and doesn’t rely on Yotat being on the field. It surges, and it relies entirely on Drax to deal with it. That is a well-designed nemesis card.
I Will Destroy You is the final piece of the eat dirt puzzle, causing either Yotat or the villain to attack. Nothing like adding a couple of extra assault cards to make your butt pucker.
Drax’s Nemesis set fulfills its purpose, it’s a major threat that makes drawing Shadows of the Past a significant event. I also like that some of it specifically requires Drax to deal with it which makes the nemesis feel more personalized.
Drax’s theme is a little off course, which is kind of strange. The character’s pretty straightforward and should be easy to replicate. Drax destroys.
He is a brute, skilled fighter, and simple-minded. I get the idea behind the vengeance counters. A lot of what drives Drax is revenge…on Thanos. Drax doesn’t strike me as a character that gets stronger the more he gets attacked, he’s just powerful right out of the gate. The wimpy 1 attack without vengeance counters just feels wrong.
Most of his kit has a nice feel. He intimidates a Villain into losing progress, and Knife Leaps for a bunch of damage. He goads villains into attacking him with Fight Me Coward, and his knives are clever and fitting. Drax’s Knife and Drax’s Other Knife, you have to appreciate that.
You do feel like a badass when Drax gets rolling, and you feel like a dullard whenever you play a single card and end your turn. So I can’t say that theme truly missed the mark either.
When it comes to the rest of the cards, Think Fast stands out as the perfect blend of concept, artwork, and mechanics. A genetically altered raccoon with anger issues flying at your face would indeed be confusing, among other things. You will have to use your imagination when it comes to other heroes using it though.
Bring It is a great card but makes almost no sense. I’m not sold on vague concepts as a card. Hard Knocks is iffy, but I can reason it as a morale boost when you thump a minion. Deflection, Leading Blow, and Subue are all strong thematically.
Moon Dragon mind-controlling a minion is super cool. Mantis feels odd though, she has a whole host of abilities that would make sense more than healing. I get that they were going with the empathic comfort though.
The theme of the Drax pack is largely a mixed bag, which is par for the course. I still worry for the thematic future of the game. It’s clearly been difficult to strike a good balance thus far.
Out of the Box
For all the flaws of a four-card hand, Drax’s premade deck is one of the better ones. It takes advantage of his synergy with protection and focuses on keeping his vengeance counters in place so that he can use his kit. The cost curve is a bit wonky given his four-card hand and lack of resource kickers. You will have dead turns more often than normal, but the overall design is cohesive for a generalist premade deck.
If anything the premade really shows off the flaws of a four-card hand. Cards like Hard Knocks really seem ideal for Drax. Toughness is literally gold on him. But it eats his entire hand to play it. Reactive cards are always tough on heroes like Drax, but Deflection is costly even on normal heroes. It’s extra painful on Drax.
As I’ve said before, if you can get the ball rolling, Drax can be effective. That’s true with the premade deck. Keeping those vengeance counters on means Drax can block more damage with Parry, deal more with attacks, play Knife Leap cheaply and Thwart harder with Intimidate. The premade deck does a good job of introducing you to his core mechanics and hints at how to take advantage of them
You can contend with some villains on standard out of the box, pre Galaxy’s Most Wanted. Those ones are gonna be a bit much without tweaking the deck. Either way, it’s a decently designed entry point.
Drax is a mixed bag. His design is mostly clever and unique. Of the four-card hand heroes, his power level is the highest without dabbling into some house rules. But that’s a pretty low bar. The four-card hand is simply flawed and really should not be appearing this late into the game’s life.
Drax is still fun to play, despite the frequency of dead turns, and the new cards outside of his kit are great additions to the card pool. His nemesis set is threatening, which is great. Limp nemesis sets have been a long-time gripe of mine.
The theme is floppy, but the premade deck is surprisingly solid. It would be difficult to pass Drax up due to the new cards his pack brings, but the amount of reprints is a disappointment. I just hope he is the last four-card-hand hero we ever see, even if his design is leaps and bound ahead of the likes of the Hulk. Math is still math.
- Clever and fun hero design focusing on Vengeance counters
- Solid and threatening Nemesis set
- Great new additions to the card pool, especially for Protection
- Solid premade deck
- The four-card hand is a flawed concept that hampers Drax’s potential
- The theme is pretty floppy
- There is a bunch of reprints in the pack
- Drax’s design mixed with the four-card hand limits his deckbuilding diversity