Sp//dr is a true anomaly within the Marvel Champions sphere. Heroes with a hand limit of fewer than five cards are notoriously weak, and Sp//dr only gets three. To make matters worse, her alter ego only has a four-card hand. However, Sp//dr has some mechanisms beneath the surface that not only balances out her hand limit but can make her one of the most energy-efficient heroes in the entire game.
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In hero form, she can exhaust her interface upgrades to generate a resource. Furthermore, her alter-ego counts as an interface, so you have a pseudo-four-card hand from the get-go.
The other unique aspect regarding Sp//dr is the fact that her alter-ego and hero form are two different cards that can be exhausted and ready independently. Peni Parker turns into an upgrade in hero form, and the Sp//dr suit turns into a support in alter-ego. This means that if the suit is exhausted and Sp//dr flips to alter ego form, Peni can immediately recover or vice versa. That can make Sp//dr extremely flexible in ways that are unique from every other hero.
The three-card hand is still a weakness as it offers you fewer options on any given turn. But it doesn’t bring down Sp//drs power level simply because Sp//dr doesn’t lose action economy for having it. A mid-game Sp//dr can likely afford any card she draws. Although the early game can be a bit rough while she sets up.
Sp//dr revolves around the use of her interface upgrades. She has five in total, including the pilot upgrade that her alter ego flips to. With the exception of the pilot, every upgrade offers something alongside Sp//drs core ability to exhaust them for resources.
This is part of Sp//drs flexibility. Speed-Metal Alloy, Web Fluid-Compressor, and Psychic link all boost Defense, Attack, and Thwart for one relevant action respectively, while Host Spider can ready her. The interface upgrades alone allow Sp//dr to be built with a variety of strategies while using any aspect.
The choice of when to use the upgrades for their abilities or when to use them for resources is a core component of her playstyle and it varies depending on which role you want Sp//dr to fill at the table.
Sp//dr is another jack of all trades hero that covers multiple roles pretty well. Rapid Deployment and Web Trap both demonstrate this by giving Sp//dr heavy threat removal and damage with a potential stun. To get the most out of either you have to pay at least one resource using Sp//dr’s Sync Ratio ability. But at a cost of two, that’s pretty easy.
Alongside 14 hit points and Speed-Metal Alloy, Ejection Protocol gives Peni great survivability by resetting herself to 6 hitpoints, flipping to alter ego, and gaining a tough status card, all for the low cost of absolutely nothing.
Then we have Ven#m, an ally you could build an entire deck around. Ven#m gains +1 Thwart and Attack for every resource you used Sync Ratio to pay for. If you have four interface upgrades ready to go, that makes Ven#m a whopping five-five ally which is pretty incredible.
Sp//dr’s playstyle is double-edged in that she can fill any role you want, but some of her kit will be wasted to some degree in any role. In some deck builds you will never use Ven#m, others may only ever use her interface upgrades as resource generators. It’s all a small price to pay for such flexible efficiency.
Following in the footsteps of Miles, Ghost Spider, Nova, and Ironheart, we are clearly seeing some problematic power creep in this cycle. Each of those heroes was borderline overpowered, and despite initial appearances, Sp//dr is as well. By using her interface upgrades, Sp//dr has five potential resource generators built right into her kit, which is ludicrous. Her weaknesses are the limited options in her hand size and her need to set up. But both can be mitigated fairly easily because they aren’t as bad as they seem.
All Systems Go, for example, allows you to ready all of your interface upgrades, adding even more potential resources. Alternatively, she can search out an interface to add to her hand. By being aggressive with mulligans you’re bound to end up with either an interface or All Systems Go in your opening hand. Especially because Peni Parker’s alter-ego ability can exhaust the suit to draw two cards.
Sp//dr Command fulfills a similar role, giving you the flexibility to draw a card or ready an interface. Uncle Ben and Aunt May, combined with Peni’s alter-ego ability really make up for the hand size, however. Discarding cards and taking any of Sp//drs into your hand is potent because any additional card you gain is one that can probably be played thanks to her resource generation.
Sp//dr is incredibly self-sufficient. Any aspect cards you build around her can further extend her power, be it card draw, resource generation, healing, anything. Her strength makes her fun to play with, and her uniqueness can’t be understated. But every new hero that walks a thin line between being strong and too strong devalues existing heroes. That’s not healthy for the game in the long run.
No one wants to feel like they are bringing down the team for playing their favorite heroes who don’t happen to be as strong as the ones included in the latest cycle.
Protection is the focus of Sp//dr’s pack alongside additional web-warrior support. Spider-Man Noir has a nifty mechanic of hoarding treachery cards for extra strength, with the added benefit of keeping them out of the encounter deck while he stays on the board, it’s clever and effective. Thwip Thwip is a stunning one-cost card, literally. Trading damage for two stuns is potent for any web warrior. Spider-Tingle makes the same trade but cancels a treachery instead. Web Warriors are gaining a lot of playstyle versatility, and that’s great.
Forcefield Generator carries a hefty cost to block up to six potential damage. But you could combine it with Repurpose and toss it when it has a single counter left to add a whopping three to whichever hero stat you want. Repurpose is honestly a great card because it’s cheap and powerful but requires a specific trigger to be built around. I tend to prefer niche cards over blatant staples.
The new Spider-Man ally combos very well with Sp//dr to the point it feels like one of her cards. And then we have Spider-Ham, screw Spider-Ham, moving on.
The very specific Unshakeable and Limitless Stamina are very strong cards that can only be played by heroes with a printed hit-point value of 14 or higher. I’m not sure if they realized that this means Thor can utilize both God Like Stamina and Limitless Stamina, but hoo boy. And before you ask, these cards do not make Hulk any better. You’re better off checking out my fixes for him. That or writing the word Hulk, over top of Drax and just pretending it’s real.
The pack comes with a lot of great cards and very little binder fodder. You will have to deal with the taint of Spider-Ham being bundled with the pack, but you could always light it on fire for the enjoyment of watching it burn.
M.O.R.B.I.U.S is a nasty nemesis minion that deals damage to you for every resource you generate while he is engaged with you. That’s devastating for anyone, not just Sp//dr. Giant Monster Attack adds insult to injury by requiring you to spend a resource in order to thwart it. Which you kinda have to do thanks to its Crisis icon. If you happen to draw Energy Drain while M.O.R.B.I.U.S is still on the board you have the lovely choice of taking damage or taking slightly less damage while in hero form.
The Nemesis set is a good one. Much like Furnax, M.O.R.B.I.U.S requires immediate attention from the team, you can’t just shrug it off. It’s designed cohesively so that the cards work together to be a pain in the butt, and it’s fairly unique that it punishes you for the very act of generating resources. It’s very rough to counter in true solo play, however, but what in Marvel Champions isn’t anymore?
Iron Spider’s Sinister Six Encounter Module
Sp//dr comes with my favorite type of encounter module, one that adds unique-named characters as minions. Iron Spider’s Sinister Six also combos with any villain or module that uses other criminal minions, since threat can’t be removed from Grand Larceny while one is in play. Meanwhile, Surge in Crime gives them, the nasty surge keyword.
Every minion contained within the set offers some type of danger to contend with. Bombshell will wipe your minions. Electro steals your energy resources. Spot is a discount Loki. Sandman is a wall. Hobgoblin deals extra indirect damage, and Iron Spider is a badass.
It’s a challenging set that is made even more dangerous when combined with specific villains and modules, and it feels really good. I’m not the biggest fan of the surge keyword, but for the most part, it provides a solid challenge that doesn’t feel cheap.
It also has a distinct identity, even from the other Sinister Six set, Sinister Assault. Unfortunately combining the two to form a dastardly dozen doesn’t work too well due to Hobgoblin and Electro and the unique character rule. Bummer.
Sp//dr is a very strong hero to grace the Web Warrior team. Her apparent weaknesses are fairly trivial to overcome and that means I can’t truly hold her design up as high as I would like. But her unique nature isn’t debatable, and her flexibility means she’s fun to play in every aspect while granting you plenty of options within each.
Thematically I like the split between her alter ego and the suit itself and how it’s reflected in being two entirely separate entities. That said, I don’t really have the feeling that I’m piloting an awesome Spider-Mech. Her abilities and mechanisms regarding her energy generation are novel, but her cards feel fairly generic from a thematic standpoint.
On the plus side, Sp//dr’s prebuilt deck stands up to scrutiny with a fairly tight defensive focus followed by the heavy hammer of a well-timed Repurpose.
The cards outside of her kit are also worth having. Especially for fans of Thor and Drax, (sorry Hulk, you still, suck). Although I may be a fan of niche cards, Limitless Stamina and Unshakakle are a bit too far. We have a billion keywords, many of which have no support. I’m not sure an arbitrary limit on HP values is a great idea right now.
Taken alone, Sp//dr is a great pack with a strong hero, solid aspect cards, and a great encounter module. But the thing about living card games is that nothing can truly be taken alone, and the power creep is becoming a real concern.
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- Sp//dr is a very flexible hero that feels unique
- M.O.R.B.I.U.S is a great and challenging nemesis set
- The new Protection and Basic cards are solid additions to the game
- The Iron Spider Sinister Six Encounter Module is a cohesive criminal element set with named minions
- The premade deck is solid
- More Web-Warrior support
- Sp//dr is too strong compared to the average hero, power creep is becoming a problem
- The theme is a bit sloppy when it comes to Sp//dr’s cards.
- Limitless Stamina and Unshakable being limited to heroes with 14 printed hit points feels like an arbitrary restriction
- Screw Spider-ham, his ally card, and his existence