Black Widow

It's been just over two years since Black Widow was released, and she still stands as a wholly unique hero.

First of all, her stats (2/2/2) are surprising, particularly since she is an unpowered human that doesn't have power armor or a vibranium suit. I am very surprised she didn't come out with at least one basic power as a 1.

This makes her Synth-Suit even more of an anomaly, as it gives her a 3 DEF natively in her kit. Only Captain America can claim to do the same. To be clear, other heroes have a native 3 DEF (Spider-Man, Hulk, Groot and Ghost-Spider) while Ant-Man and Wasp can flip to a form with 3 DEF as well. But this means that there are eight heroes in the game that can have a DEF of 4 in a solo game, out of thirty three current heroes. Slightly less than one quarter of all heroes can hit 4 DEF and Widow is the only one without superpowers or a super suit.

But more than anything else, Widow seemed to herald a new direction for Champions, with the Spy and Preparation traits being front and center.

Honestly, so much of her deck and aspect cards were based around Preparation and/or required you to play as a Spy character, that no one could blame us for thinking that Spider-Woman's impending arrival (also a Spy) meant that we were going to spend the rest of the year building Metal Gear Solid themed decks.

Instead, FFG almost completely forgot about Preparation and spies. In the 772 days since Widow's release, there have been exactly two additional Preparation cards released. Lie in Wait with Wasp and Anticipation with Valkyrie. This has left Widow as a uniquely orphaned Hero in Champions. She has numerous upgrades as well as her innate ability that rely on triggering preparation cards that it forces players to try and meld new cards with the one or two Preparation cards per aspect that Widow introduced.

What's truly remarkable is that Widow gave us Rapid Response which has recently risen to the top of the Leadership meta of recursion decks. This suggests that there may be a very interesting Black Widow Leadership deck that hasn't been discovered, which I would be very happy about.

What became the achilles heel of quality Black Widow decks was that they were largely 'counterspell' decks. Her greatest strength was that she could shut down so many things that take place on the villain's turn. A decent Widow player was never going to allow Shadows of the Past or a three boost card hit the field. They were also going to have a boatload of cards in play ready to trigger, since the hallmark of Preparation cards are that they are upgrades and live on the table.

On the one hand this let you build up a visually impressive armory but it also turned table space into a premium commodity as players scrambled through their arsenal to determine if they had put that perfect Preparation into play. Playing as Black Widow was just as tedious for the player as it was for their teammates.

Remember though, that Black Widow was cursed by timing. The hero packs prior to her were Captain America (who has never stopped being a heavy hitting powerhouse) followed by Ms. Marvel, Hulk and then Thor. These were dark times for Champions and we still haven't turned the corner on poor Hulk. Which has justifiably incensed the fanbase because...it's HULK.

Let's move on.

Black Widow was a very interesting, unique and effective alternative hero, but she came at the end of a line of heroes that were mostly used for their parts. (Though I made a Ms. Marvel Deck recently that was pretty killer, so I am coming around on her.)

Champions fans were looking for a shake-up, and Widow didn't provide that so much as remind us that FFG was capable of it but hadn't delivered for nearly six months. (Personally, I think having 4 hand size heroes is always a set-back.)

If there was was a defining moment of the era of Black Widow, it was the arrival of Doctor Strange 28 days later (ha!) that served more as an epitaph than epilogue. There was simply no way to maintain mental shelf space for Widow in the face of the awe-inspiring Strange. He was the shake-up fans had hoped for, and his design was so remarkable that two years later he is still an unrelenting force that has only been improved. There are people that refuse to play him because in their perspective, running a Doctor Strange deck is like playing Champions on easy mode.

So here we are on the second anniversary of the Widow, a hero frozen in time. But maybe it's for the best, since many of her hero cards are costed just a little bit too high, and her resource generators only work on Preparation cards. She is a hero of her moment, and she's still the best at what she does. It's just that what she does is make you wait until the villain does something. sigh.

If I were to make a prediction, the near future of the X-Men introduction is unlikely to improve Widow's playability, so get in some playtime if the opportunity arises. You probably won't be back to that corner of your collection for a while.

MacGhille · 87
A very detailed review that makes some great points but also overlooks a lot. First of all, Captain Marvel can also reach DEF 3 with her helmet and flight. Second, while her kit synergizes with Preparations, the recursive power of her safe House means that you really only need a single good option in her deck to get high value. a 1-of Counterintelligence or Rapid Response will power you all game. And her kit gets strong every time we get a new ally who synergizes will with Rapid Response or cards that synergize with alter-ego - of which Natasha is still an absolute queen. The expansion of the S.H.I.E.L.D tribe and Meditation have been incredible boons for her, and she is still the only character in the game with a good Thwart event that is playable in AE. With her gauntlets and safe House, her preparation game plays itself without any strain on your hand (in fact it gives +1 card each turn), so if you are sitting around waiting for the villain to act rather than using her 6-7 cards in hand' - that sounds like you are playing her wrong! — Death by Chocolate · 2
Synth-Suit

What an interesting card.

This is makes Widow one of five heroes that have a +1 DEF in their hero deck. (I you are interested, the others are Quicksilver, Valkyrie, Captain America and Captain Marvel) And of those five, she is one of two who start with 2 DEF.

This means that in the Protection aspect, Widow is among a rare few who can be a 4 DEF, which is huge. She can walk away unscathed or with a single damage from a vast majority of hits. Plus with Synth-Suit she can ready herself if you are able to trigger a preparation card during the villain's phase and defend again. This should be pretty straightforward since her entire build is directed at preparation cards, and many of them are responses to villain actions.

MacGhille · 87
Ironheart

Probably the best Basic ally in the game. Cheap, no restrictions, provides tangible benefit. She's removes a point of damage or threat and then chump blocks the villain. The block is hard to quantify, but I would gladly pay one resource to do a point of damage and prevent all damage from the villain for one turn.

Absolutely, any turn in the game. Ironheart ruled even before she was a proper hero.

MacGhille · 87
Jarnbjorn

Here's what you need to know:

It triggers every time you attack and requires a might resource to deal damage.

QS has Friction Resistance which generates a might resource when exhausted, and readies every time QS does. QS can ready repeatedly every phase.

You can use Jarnbjorn (as long as you dedicate Friction Resistance to paying for it) every time QS attacks to add an extra 2 damage to ANY enemy in play. It far exceeds its cost almost immediately with QS.

MacGhille · 87
Sector Scan

This is that clutch card you play in those games where you're one turn away from victory, but aren't sure if you should hold on to that 'counterspell' or roll the dice and draw your full hand at the end of the turn.

Since Protection and Justice have so many 'counters' to boost and treachery cards, there is some real synergy here...but there's only one copy.

It seems clear that the intent of the card was for it to be a late-game play like I described. It costs a lot so has limited use in the early game, but that cost is mitigated by your hero being in later stage. By stage 3 Ironheart, this card is essentially free. Next, New and Improved doesn't grab from your discard, so any useful search for Sector Scan is probably going to happen on your second pass through the deck.

It does seem like an overcosted Spider-Woman ability, but when you have a late-game Ironheart-J with a Protection partner, this card could provide you with all the information you need to have a huge turn against the villain.

MacGhille · 87
Note that Sector Scan lasts until the end of the round, so you get a brief preview of every boost card and encounter card shortly before they're flipped. Handy for Protection decks running Defiance, Preemptive Strike, or the like. Also helps you decide whether to have Black Widow Ally cancel Player 1's encounter card, when you know what's been dealt to players 2-4 and what's still lurking on top of the deck. — Fry · 67