With great power, comes great responsibility. The phrase might cause you to think of Spider-Man, but it definitely applies to Phoenix. She is a hero capable of completely losing the game by unleashing her full power at the wrong moment. Phoenix switches between being Restrained and Unleashed. Both have benefits and drawbacks.
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Phoenix is a capable hero even when Restrained, but once she unleashes the Phoenix, her cards become exceptionally potent. However, she balances her own scales with a vicious Nemesis set in the form of Dark Phoenix, who has the potential to Consume the World herself.
It isn’t just Shadows of the Past that Phoenix has to fear. If she draws her Obligation, Burning Hunger, while she is unleashed, Dark Phoenix enters the game. Playing Phoenix means riding the line between playing it safe and going all out, with the knowledge that there’s a ticking timebomb somewhere in the encounter deck if you ever decide to let loose.
Balance of Power
Phoenix starts with her core upgrade, Phoenix Force, on the Restrained side with four power counters. Once per phase, she can spend a power counter as a wild resource, and various aspects of her kit can add or remove counters. Such as recovering while in alter-ego form. While not as explosive as being Unleashed, having access to renewable wild resources is still very powerful. Especially since cards such as Cyclops, Phoenix Firebird, and White Hot Room can add more.
While Restrained, Phoenix also has 3 thwart, which shouldn’t be slept on. Once she is Unleashed her thwart, and attack basically switch places, and she becomes a heavy hitter instead. Many of her cards become a lot stronger.
Telekinetic Attack changes from a 7-damage card to 9 damage card with Overkill. Telepathic Trickery adds stun and confuse alongside removing 4 threat. Psychic Blast deals 4 damage to the villain, but also every minion engaged with you while you’re unleashed. Her suit always grants aerial, but switches between steady and retaliate depending on whether or not she’s unleashed.
An Unleashed Phoenix can be absolutely monstrous. Especially with support from combining various aspect cards. However, she’s versatile enough that she could remain Restrained all game and still be effective. Knowing when and how to stack or remove power counters is the key to playing her. It also means she can adapt to evolving situations or fill gaps in the team.
The rest of her kit is solid no matter her form. Telekinetic Shield can absorb 5 damage from a friendly, while Rise from the Ashes resets her to full HP if she is defeated, with the caveat that you dump all your counters and go Unleashed.
She has two great anti-minion cards. They can’t be used on Elite minions, but they can be game-changers. Mental Paralysis stops a minion from activating and remains in play until you switch to alter-ego form.
Then we have Mind Control, which is so much fun to use. You simply convert a minion into an ally that takes 1 consequential damage and converts their scheme to thwart. It feels so good when you play it.
One of the most interesting things about how Phoenix is designed is that her Nemesis set doesn’t feel like a semi-connected thing that you put aside and is only sometimes relevant. It’s a part of her character, and a balancing factor to counter how strong her cards are when she’s Unleashed.
This is especially true in multiplayer where you have less of a chance of drawing Shadows of the Past. No matter who draws your obligation, it gets handed to you. If you’re unleashed, Dark Phoenix says hello.
Dark Phoenix is a nasty minion with 12 HP, toughness, steady, and villainous, but she’s only half of the equation. The Consume the World side scheme comes into play, and it’s permanent, it never leaves. When Dark Phoenix Schemes she adds threat to it, and if there’s ever 12 threat on it, you lose.
At the same time, three copies of Fiery Rage enter the deck, which causes Dark Phoenix to activate, or add threat to Consume The World if she isn’t present.
Going unleashed means anticipating that there’s a strong possibility that Dark Phoenix will show up. You don’t want to simply leave it to chance, because chance will bite you for it every single time. If Dark Phoenix showing up would lose you the game, keep it in your pants and stay Restrained.
I wish more heroes had their nemesis sets integrated with the hero as closely as Phoenix’s. Not in the exact same way, of course, but it’s definitely a tool that can be used to help address the game’s ongoing power creep as more heroes release.
Phoenix is a strong versatile hero that can fit in pretty much every role and aspect. A Restrained Phoenix has strong thwarting and economy. An unleashed Phoenix is a powerhouse, and she can even work in defensive roles, just in unconventional ways.
Her weakness is herself, and it makes her a fun hero to play because you get to experience the full scale of her power without entirely breaking the game. Even if you never leave Restrained, there’s always a chance Dark Phoenix will show up thanks to Shadows of the Past.
She also requires a lot of strategy to play. Managing her counters and forms is a delicate process that could leave her unable to respond to the changing board state if you don’t do it well.
From a thematic standpoint, Phoenix is well represented. She feels as powerful as Jean Grey should, and her kit largely makes sense. Telekinetic Shields, Mind Control, and Psychic Blasts are all very in character for the hero.
Powercreep has certainly been an issue from Sinister Motives onward (with the exception of Colossus) however, many heroes are coming with unique balancing factors, and Phoenix is a prime example of it. She’s simply a great hero character at a time when my expectations for the game are increasing.
A good portion of the cards included with Phoenix interacts exclusively with the Psionic keyword. That’s great for Jean Grey, but less valuable to the game as a whole because we have no idea when another Psionic character might release. That said, when one does, it will have plenty of toys to play with.
The existence of these cards also makes Phoenix that much more versatile, and honestly an attractive choice to play because the Psionic-specific cards are also really strong, plus they can be thematically clever.
Psychic Manipulation is a bit pricey but super cool. It forces a villain to remove threat during a scheme, and that can be massive against certain scenarios.
Cerebro is just insane. Normally, it allows you to search the top five cards of your deck for an X-Men ally. If you’re psionic, you search the whole deck. It’s practically an auto-include for every aspect when you’re playing as Phoenix. Being able to yank any specific ally card out of your butt is super strong.
Psychic Assault deals three damage and confuses the enemy. An effect that’s rarely seen in the aggression aspect and one that is most welcome.
Psychic Kicker alone will probably make Phoenix one of the best choices for leadership in the foreseeable future, especially since Cerebro exists. Giving an ally +2 thwart or attack for their next related action is already amazing for a 0-cost card. But Psychic Kicker also readies them. You can’t beat that.
I tend to dislike when a defense event cost is higher than 1. But Psychic Misdirection wins out for the coolness factor alone. Forcing an enemy’s attack to hit another enemy instead of you is just so much fun.
Phoenix also has two different team-up cards, one with Storm and one with Cyclops. The Storm ally is also included, she has the unique ability to move threat around, which is neat.
Outside of the psionic stuff, we have multiple reprints with different art in the form of Downtime and Swift Retribution. I really hate that they went down this design route, even if I can appreciate the new artwork. Reprints with new artwork just makes going through your collection messy, especially when deck building.
Overall there isn’t much in the pack for non-Psionic characters. As I write this review, only one such character exists, and she’s in this pack. However, the pure synergy with Phoenix gives you a lot more to toy with right out of the box and without waiting for additional keyword support.
Phoenix really taps into a design space that’s been relatively untouched, and that’s the nemesis sets. Sure they have always existed. But they have existed the same way that nice potted plant you put on your desk exists. It’s so irrelevant that your brain filters it out to the point you no longer see it. You only notice once someone points out that you have a dead plant on your desk because you forgot to water it.
Phoenix’s Nemesis set is like that plant is an overly aggressive mutant cactus that shanks you twice a day so that you can’t forget it. It’s a part of her and a central piece of her design, and I think that’s really neat.
I also tend to think that the versatile characters are the most fun because they offer you flexibility when deck building. Phoenix is very versatile and since so many of the aspect cards included in her pack are Psionic specific, she has some cool toys to play with no matter which aspect you choose. Phoenix is a great addition to the X-Men roster.
Interested in the card holders I use in my photos? They are from InfinitionsTabletop on Etsy
More Marvel Champions Hero Pack Reviews
- A powerful new hero with a unique balancing mechanism
- The nemesis set is integrated into the character
- Powerful aspect cards for Psionic characters
- Phoenix and most of the cards in the pack are highly thematic
- Phoenix is versatile but requires skill to play
- More reprints of cards with new art
- Cards in the pack heavily rely on Psionic Heroes. Phoenix is the only psionic hero (for now)