Banned And Restricted List
Welcome everyone to a special TURN ZER0 GAMING article. If you haven't heard, Atomic Mass Games unveiled a new Banned and Restricted list of Tactic cards with the release of the Criminal Syndicate. We have been reading posts on social media, Discord, and arguing among ourselves internally about a lot of different ideas and topics.
I wanted to take a moment and write down some hot takes and thoughts on this new list while things are fresh. I also want to address that we will be recording a podcast talking about the impact this new list has on the game. This article is specifically hot takes and initial ideas based on chewing on this beefy reveal. Over time the meta will have to showcase if there needs to be more changes or if this was a healthy decision. But, this article is going to be a lot of fun to take into consideration and hopefully spark good conversations.
The ban hammer has finally struck, and the only victim currently is Drop Off.
This Tactic was one of the most impactful cards we had seen in the meta. Characters with the Flight keyword were always rated in conjunction with this card. "What size is the Flyer?" "What characters can they Drop Off?"
Rocket Boots?!?!?!?! was also another combo in the meta that allowed characters to reposition other allies around the battlefield. Although we joked about the Boots + Drop Off combo on the podcast, it was potent and empowered a lot of lists.
With those two Tactics in the wild, we saw things like Corvus + Proxima using RB?!+DO and then double activating for some deadly assassinations. Or Spider-Foes using Green Goblin to deliver Venom right to the frontline where he wants to be. Even without the standard Drop Off meta, we still could see Drop Off used in lots of creative and impactful ways.
But what happened? Why was Drop Off banned? The official statement from AMG reads: "Drop Off is included on the Ban list for several reasons. As the development of the game has continued, we have found the card severely limits design space for future characters. Being able to reposition characters vast distances for a very low power cost with little time for your opponent to react to your play goes against many of the core design goals of the game.
Drop off is also a powerful card that created situations we did not foresee during development or playtest. While this alone would not normally warrant a card to be banned, these two factors combined have led us to believe removing it is the best way to ensure the health and vibrancy of the game moving forward. "
I agree with a lot of the points AMG makes here.
- Being able to move models around the field for two total power is NOT prohibitive. The game gives you the resources to play this card every round. Not only do you get better positioning, but you get a free attack. This card is giving you movement and an additional attack for one power per character. The "limiting" factor is moving models the same size or less, and that honestly is not prohibitive enough (Especially with Rocket Boots?!?! in the game).
- Giving your opponent very little time to react. In my opinion, this also influenced the cards placed in the Restricted list. Most players knew that Drop Off was a very impactful card. To counter, they brought healing cards like Medpack and Patch Up to help deal with aggressive Drop Off plays. Or, they would bring their Drop Off to counter or reposition depending on the situation. Marvel Crisis Protocol is designed around the idea players have to go back and forth activating models. Using Drop Off to circumnavigate an activation to bring a model along with you is not allowing players to respond the way AMG desires. I can see how this might be adverse to the core design of the game.
- "Drop off is also a powerful card that created situations we did not foresee during development or playtest." I have seen people using this sentence against AMG, claiming this means they are not paying attention and missing crucial details in the game design. I want to go on record and say that the fact we have a list with these cards shows they are paying attention to the game's meta. Are they perfect? No. But they are attempting to address problems and give the players the most balanced and fun experience possible. Even Magic: the Gathering makes mistakes. And that company has a team dedicated to design, R&D, and a massive playtest group. I hope we, as the community, understand this game will not be perfect. But I am grateful the team at AMG is doing their best to make sure NPE is not commonplace.
- The health and vibrancy of Marvel Crisis Protocol. Internally we have a lot of conversations and jokes about power creep. We have recorded episodes on if the game has power creep or not and very well may do another one before the year ends. But the consensus among the TZG team is that Marvel Crisis Protocol is pretty well balanced. AMG is addressing the health and vibrancy of the current meta with this B/R List. I have already seen people on social media start looking at new Tactics and discussing what new cards will become more popular. The B/R List excites me because we are already seeing the community adapt and start conversing about the next shift in Tactics used competitively.
One last thing about the ban I want to discuss is who got hurt by this card. In my opinion, Spider-Foes, Guardians, and Black Order took some of the worst hits. Corvus and Proxima being able to use RB?!+DO was a strong activation. They could easily burst down a target of choice and arguably offered the best counter to MODOK. Green Goblin was by far the best model to use Drop Off to get his allies into combat. Now, he is unable to use his Flight to do more than move around the map freely. Guardians have the same issue with Star-Lord. He could pick up and drop off characters like Rocket for some aggressive plays while helping reposition for substantial battlefield presence.
I feel that banning Drop Off is a good thing. Our castmate Sooner5 brought up a point that Angela could be set up with Drop Off to flip all three Meteors by herself with a four energy defense roll per meteor. That would be not only oppressive but straight up unfun. On the flip side, I also feel that one card should not hurt models/affiliations so drastically. The previously mentioned affiliations are not regarded as very strong in the competitive meta. And now, one of their best tools to compete has been taken away. Meanwhile, top affiliations like Cabal are completely fine. While I do understand why AMG made the choice they did, I hope they show love to the affiliations who need a boost to hold their own against the current meta lists.
In addition to one banned card, AMG has created the Restricted list. A player may include two of these currently five cards listed in their Roster or Squad. The restricted cards listed are:
- Brace For Impact
- Doomed Prophecy
- Field Dressing
- Patch Up
AMG had this to say about why they chose these cards: "Brace for Impact, Medpack, Patch Up, Field Dressing: These cards are included on the restricted list because of their universal use – these cards are so popular in rosters and squads that it hinders the inclusion of other cards. We believe that by restricting their use, it will create more interesting and diverse rosters that add to the excitement and tactical and strategic aspects of the game.
Doomed Prophecy is included on the restricted list for its powerful effect and interaction with characters that generate multiple attacks per round, creating very specific strategies that can very easily catch players off guard should they not be prepared for it. This creates some rather negative experiences for newer players. Because it is included on the Restricted list, we hope this will help telegraph the play, further preventing players from being caught off guard."
First up, I want to address Doomed Prophecy. We have talked about the Widow Bomb on the podcast many many times. We recently wrote an article about Punisher and how he is a strong teammate to run with Widow to threaten a Punisher Bomb if Widow dies or is out of position. I understand that AMG wants to attempt to limit NPE, especially with new players. I don't think this is notably as impactful as the other four cards. But I can appreciate how they are attempting to limit and reduce the opportunity for players to get blown off the board.
Brace For Impact is probably the most unique card in the Restricted lineup. Throws have been in a rather weird place since Brace became a staple. Throwing terrain/models for X power into a model who could pay one power to stop damage felt unrewarding. Brace was a limiting factor in using one of the more interesting abilities in the game. Now, the card is available for usage, but it comes at the cost of eating up one restricted slot. I am not sure how the meta will adjust but, if Brace sees less play, then models like Thor might see more value with their ability to throw models and terrain frequently.
Medpack, Patch Up, and Field Dressing are on this list because, until today, these were almost auto-include Tactics. Being able to heal and keep threats online is a critical part of competitive Marvel Crisis Protocol. MODOK loves being able to tank damage, power up, and have someone else heal off the damage, so he keeps impacting the battle. Field Dressing was utilized to heal dazed characters who didn't activate that round or contest objectives late in a round. Healing cards were so powerful, they made Tactic card choices limited by comparison. AMG addressed this and, I agree wholeheartedly these cards needed to be limited.
Unlike Drop Off, I do not feel these Tactics hurt or help any specific list or affiliation. I believe these changes will shift the Tactic card selection process and open up the game to new Tactics seeing play. I am happy to see AMG recognizing that certain aspects of the game were getting stale due to how efficient these cards were. It was not uncommon to run Brace/Med/Patch/Dressing as four of your five Tactics. Those Tactics were so popular that you usually only needed to pick one or two additional Tactics to add into the Healing/Brace mixture. Now, I am excited to see diversity and more unique setups for Tactics as I believe AMG had intended.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Any time a game introduces a Banned/Restricted/Forbidden/Limited list to reign in what is considered too powerful, the community and game have a new hurdle to face.
Players have to accept the reality that the designers are human and make errors. We have to take the adjustments handed to us and adapt to a new level of play. Some people will dislike the adjustments, and others will find out new lists and combos. But the reality is we are in a new chapter in the story of the game.
The other reality is the designers have to be very careful. Some games and designers use errata/banned lists as easy ways to shift the meta and help propel sales. Others use the same list to help curb unbalanced cards/models/tools so that players can experience a fun game. Regardless, whatever happens, moving forward, I hope AMG does not use this list as a crutch. A healthy game has some changes and adjustments made over time. An unhealthy game has a long list of errata, bans, and restrictions in a short length of time. I believe Marvel Crisis Protocol is in a good place right now, even with these new adjustments. I sincerely hope AMG begins to support competitive play and make sure their designs don't get limited because of a Tactic card moving forward.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our Facebook page, TURN ZER0 podcast, YouTube channel, and Discord. We are always talking Marvel Crisis Protocol somewhere, and we want you to be a part of that conversation. Until next time...
Keep on rollin'