Bring The Hired Muscle

Welcome everyone to another TURN ZER0 GAMING article! Today we are going to break down a unique Tactic released in the Criminal Syndicate wave.  


A majority of Tactics focus on damage, movement, healing, and unique affiliated effects. Hired Muscle allows players to interact with token placement and shift board positioning on demand. Hired Muscle is the first card with such a different approach in both design and impact. Once used, Hired Muscle can impact a significant aspect of play by repositioning upwards of 66% of the civilian tokens on the map (Skrulls).


The low power cost of this Tactic also puts it in the same position as Drop Off before it was banned. The moment the game starts, characters have the resources to use this card. But what does this card do? Well, that is what we are about to discuss.


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Currently, there are four Crisis cards Hired Muscle can interact with:


  •  Mayor Fisk | 16 points | Blue Secure | Map C
  •  Spider-Infected | 17 points | Red Extract | Map F
  •  Skrulls | 17 points | Red Extract | Map C
  •  Panic Grips City | 19 points | Red Extract | Map B


On the surface, four Crisis Cards out of what is available doesn't seem like an impactful spread. However, the Crisis cards listed above have high Victory Point scoring potential. Another point for Hired Muscle, being able to move three Spider Infected tokens into your half of the board is nuts. The level of board control this card can shift is massive. Now, this is not a game-winning turn one gimmick. You still need strategic positioning and good pilot skill to win the other rounds. But this Hired Muscle play can start you off with a strong lead early game. This situation can put pressure on the opponent and give you some wiggle room for subsequent rounds. 


The first example I want to observe is using Spider Infected. Our KennyG21 had an idea we are going to breakdown.


1 - Starting with Mystique as your affiliation leader, you set Toad and Wong in the middle of the map. 


2 - With priority, Wong activates. He will gain +1 power by using Meditate, then use Faithful Assistant to give Toad +1 power.


3 - Use Advanced R&D off another ally so Toad has 3 power total. 


4 - Wong moves to an objective.


5 - Toad activates next and moves to the side opposite of where the opponent activated their first model. 


Toad's range to either side of the map


6 - Toad spends -1 power to pay for Hired Muscle. He moves three Spider Infected tokens closer to his side of the field. 


7 - Toad spends -1 power to grab the Spider Infected closest to the opponent. 


8 - Mystique's leadership activates and Toad is refunded +1 power.


9 - Toad spends -2 power to use Hop and retreat into the backfield.


What the field looks like after hired Muscle has been played


Once Toad has completed the Hired Muscle play you can see how much the board has shifted in your favor for the Red objectives. Here are a few notes on who and who cannot reach Toad.


Who can attack Toad:


  1. Big Base + Short Move + Range 5
  2. Medium Base + Medium Move + Range 5 
  3. Small Base + Medium Move + Range 5 (Rocket, Hawkeye, Shuri)
  4. Small Base + Long Move + Range 4 or more


Who cannot attack Toad:


  1. Big Base + Medium Move + Range 3 or less (Ghost Rider)
  2. Big Base + Short Move + Range 4 or less (MODOK)
  3. Medium Base + Medium Move + Range 4 (Green Goblin)
  4. Small Base + Medium Move + Range 4 or less
  5. Small Base + Long Move + Range 3 or less (Proxima)


When you begin to break down who can attack Toad after he Hops away, the number is astonishingly low. There are some janky ways to get your attacks to land on Toad:


  • Hawkeye can use Hook Arrow and then be within Range 5 without using any actions. However, he has to deal one damage exactly or one-shot Toad with his first attack. Otherwise, Toad will have the two power he needs to use Slippery and move out of Hawkeye's range. 
  • Our newest crew member, UtilityCookie, suggested using Pentagrams. Nuff said...
  • Todd would suggest Hulk and Gamma Throw ;)
  • Mothership and Asteroid M could get someone into range of Toad for a significant power cost.

As you can see with these observations, the options to land an attack on Toad are limited. Even if you can hit him, you have to one-shot him or deal exactly one damage. Otherwise, Toad has two power and uses Slippery to retreat where no one can reach him on round one. Even if Hawkeye lands a Slow on Toad, he can still escape with a Short move outside range five attacks. 


Mind you, this is an example where we use Toad. You can also use Hawkeye with even better results. Follow the same formula, and instead of using Hop for -2 power, use Hook Arrow for -2 power, and a Range three move. Here are the models who can attack Hawkeye:


  • Small Base + Long Move + Range 5
  • Medium Base + Long Move + Range 5
  • Big Base + Long Move + Range 4-5


Not many options with this lineup either. Again jank like Gamma Launch, Pentagrams, Mothership, or Extreme Conditioning can work on the first round. But we are observing how one power spent via Hired Muscle creates a pretty substantial advantage.


Remember, this is the second activation of your team. The Spider Infected objectives are just one example of how powerful Hired Muscle can be when used correctly. Let's discuss how Mystique + Toad/Hawkeye interacts with Citizens on map B.


But Wait...There's More!


We are going to use the same formula KennyG recommended for Spider Infected:


  1. Mystique is the affiliation leader
  2. Use Wong to power up Hawkeye or Toad 
  3. Use Advanced R&D to give one of those models a third power
  4. Move + Move and play Hired Muscle
  5. Pick up Citizen and get refunded +1 power (affiliation ability)
  6. Spend 2 power for Hop or Hook Arrow away


Similar to the Spider Infected scenario, not many models can attack Hawkeye in the photo above. Small base models cannot get to the back Citizen token Hawkeye is standing on. A Medium or Big base model has to move Long twice to get within range one of that back Citizen. 


Playing Hired Muscle on Citizens almost guarantees you score three of the four tokens. The only way your opponent can stop you is by running a Long mover two times to your point on the opposite side of the Hired Muscle play. 


Once again, this is not an auto-win situation. This gives you a setup to push the advantage on Red Civilian tokens but doesn't account for the Blue Scenario whatsoever. Using Hired Muscle, good positioning and strong pilot skills will win the game. Using Hired Muscle is simply a tool to improve your odds of winning. But you cannot bank on this card to give you an easy win. 


So Now What?


An excellent question! Well, Hired Muscle is a very good card inside the right roster. There are other synergies out there we have not discussed. This article covers using the Brotherhood affiliation as a cornerstone for Toad and Hawkeye. But this is not the only way to use Hired Muscle or the best option. 


Hired Muscle is a tool that has many applications. The way a pilot uses the tactic is what intrigues me the most. It has powerful effects and gives the alpha player a significant board advantage. But the beauty is that this card is in no way an auto-win. Opponents can focus on Blue objectives or pivot to the other side of the board. After round one, you still have to respect enemy models moving downfield. Even though Hawkeye or Toad may have escaped death in round one, that doesn't mean they will survive into rounds two or three. 


TURN ZER0 Gaming likes Hired Muscle a lot. We have been testing this card since it was announced by AMG and found some incredible results from a one power tactic. Will it get banned? Who knows. Is this Tactic OP? Possibly. It asks the user to dedicate extra power and additional tactics to make these tricks work. By itself, Hired Muscle is not nearly as impactful as the combo plays we discussed in this article. When used inside a synergistic list that can use movement tricks to push the limits, Hired Muscle is a powerful tactic card. 


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