Do The Loki Pokey Part 1

Posted by Jonathan Sugiyama on

Hello there True Believers! Sugi here, and today I wanted to talk about a list I am lovingly calling "Loki Pokey". Loki+Mind Gem/MODOK/Thor.

The idea of a similar list had been kicked around internally with the TURN ZER0 team but we never tried it and once BDT became hot, we shelved the idea.

I had always wanted to add Loki into a team and Todd had talked about how annoying Loki + Groot was using root and the Mind Gem to move models and throw around status ailments. I was trying to figure out a third character in the lineup but never got that far. Once BDT became popular we focused on how to beat BDT and refine the list and lines of play. 

The other day, Dave Ouden on Facebook posted about having played 6 matches with Loki Pokey (Loki + Mind Gem/MODOK/Thor) and going 5-1 against BDT. I was instantly interested in the list and pondered the standard questions. Why? How? What? So we decided to put this list into testing against BDT. I want to give credit to Dave for posting his success, the Crisis Cards, and Tactics he used in his testing. I also want to thank Dave for providing us a written article on his thoughts on the list, strategies, and information on Loki Pokey. That will all be in the second part of this article. 

From Dave's post on Facebook:

"Cards that were used:

Avengers

- Brace for impact

- Patch up

- Field dressing

- Gamma launch

- Medpack (we have em here already) switched with recallibration matrix in some games

Asguard

- Brace

- Patch up

- Sibling Rivalry

- Field dressing

- Odin's blessing

For crisis we assumed the BDT player wants to play gamma waves, we just played the 3 red crisis I bring in my roster each 2 times. Those were:

- Civillian evac, the 19 point one (most difficult one since hulk scored quick with these)

- The hammers (18 points one) made both games really dicey, lost once here and the other one was close as well.

- The 20 point one, slowest one of the bunch"

Taking that information we began to test our own games and ran through 4 of our own and I saw a lot of interesting things I wanted to share with our amazing community.

If You Can Dodge A Thor...

In a previous podcast, we joked, if you can dodge a Thor, you can dodge a ball. In our most recent podcast, we talked in-depth about our BDT versus Wakanda Wave matchup. Xavier Protocols wrote about the list and we had a LOT of people ask for the matchup and results. We also streamed a bunch of games on Twitch if you want to watch the results of our testing: https://www.twitch.tv/xchazux/videos

But on the heels of last week's testing Wakanda versus BDT we now have another list that looks to put some hurt into the currently popular BDT. 

I saw the list on FB and was reminded of how annoying Loki + X can really be into a BDT matchup. The idea is how Loki and his range 4 (or 8 inches for those Warhammer/Warmahoardes fans) bubble increases the cost of superpowers by +1 power. This is meant to counter Captain America and his -1 power discount and force the BDT list to pay full price for their abilities. Or increase the cost of powers without Cap's discount to a point where your strategies are slowed down.

At first glance (during his spoiler on Twitch), I said that Loki was going to be annoying and a great control model if he could ever find a list to do well in. Our goal in testing the list was to see how exactly Dave got a 5W-1 against BDT and if we could replicate that level of success.

Going back to what we learned with Wakanda vs BDT if you can deny Thor a back to back activation you have slowed down Thor BIG TIME. If you haven't seen or experienced a back to back Thor turn, this is what it can look like:

 Thor Activation:

  • Gamma Launch range 5
  • Thor charges M with the first action
  • Thor attacks with 6 dice range 2 + stagger from the charge
  • Thor may throw if he rolled a Wild in the attack
  • Thor attacks with the second action Thor attacks with 6 dice
  • Thor may throw if he rolled a Wild in the attack
  • Thor may throw terrain/character using superpower IF he has gained enough power

START OF ROUND 2:

  • Thor charges M with the first action
  • Thor attacks with 6 dice range 2 + stagger from the charge
  • Thor may throw if he rolled a Wild
  • Thor attacks with the second action
  • Thor attacks with 6 dice
  • Thor may throw if he rolled a Wild
  • Thor may throw terrain/character using superpower IF he has gained enough power

This is not the only thing Thor can do in terms of sequencing. But this is one of the more common options, AND Thor may not even need to charge in round 2 if the models are close enough with enough terrain in close proximity.

Moving down the field and giving Thor access to one or two of your models to toss around is not a great way to end round 1 and start round 2 if the BDT player has priority starting round 2. 

Loki also forces the charge + throw superpower combo to cost a total of 7 power instead of the Cap discount of 5. That may seem minimal but +1 power has come up multiple times in testing and is relevant in the matchup. 

All these things come together to be really annoying to BDT. It does not stop them from doing damage, but it can and sometimes does slow the turn down so you don't get stomped on super fast. 

The other thing Loki Pokey can do is move around the board so Thor cannot Gamma Launch into the middle of the map and mess with 2+ models that already activated. You can spread out MODOK and Thor to either score the back Gamma Shelter or move around the outside of the field to grab points. 

The whole idea we found in our testing is that Loki Pokey doesn't feed the Thor beast as often as wide activation lists do.

This realization plus the Loki "tax" means Thor has to spend power and may not be able to gain enough power to make big moves like Charge for 2 power (using Cap's Discount) and attack a second time to gain enough power to use his throw superpower (3 cost). 

Now Thor can potentially roll enough dice and deal enough damage in 2 attacks or 12 dice to land 3 damage and throw you or something at you. BUT, Thor still has to pay 6 power in total AND Loki can run away using Trickster. Loki also has access to Odin's Blessing and can reduce a huge damage swing to 1. This helps keep him alive and denies Thor (or anyone else) a big power soak.

Loki also is holding the Mind Gem. This means he gains 3 power at the start of each round. It also means he has access to Trickster and Odin's Blessing turn 1. The general idea is to post Loki on the center Gamma Shelter so you can do a few things.

  • Put the Loki "tax" bubble as close to BDT as possible
  • Threaten scoring objectives
  • Push enemy models off the Gamma Shelter using the Mind Gem if the opportunity is available
  • Suck up damage to flip into Loki's dazed side where you turn off criticals on top of the "tax" bubble

All of these little things begin to add up and make for some interesting turn 1 plays. This does not mean you auto win or anything. But it does start to create some tough decisions for the BDT player as the game begins and goes into rounds 2-3. 

But Wait! There's More!

We talked a little about Loki specifically but there are a LOT more things Loki Pokey can do with the Gamma Shelter + Red Crisis card matchup against BDT.

MODOK and Thor are equally powerful and important characters in this story. MODOK is all about using his (BTTWOM) superpower S advance to turn off enemy models by moving them off points or out of threat ranges. Dave mentioned he focused on turning off Hulk and that is very effective. I played MODOK as a control piece to keep points empty of enemy models and his Psionic Blast to sap power. 

Todd runs Recalibration Matrix in his list. So I decided that MODOK should be using his Psionic Blast to pressure both damage and sapping power on Thor/Cap as often as possible. The idea was to slow down or turn off rounds where Thor charges + throws because he has access to 4-6 power. After playing games 1 and 2 I stopped using MODOK to throw terrain into Thor/Hulk and giving them the power to counterattack my team. This seemed to do well because Psionic Blast was a range 4 attack, put pressure on Thor/Cap, and forced some Recal Matrix plays because Thor had to either take enough damage to get dazed or spend his power to survive the attack.

Putting pressure like this on a BDT list is one of the best ways to force your opponent to use their resources to survive a round. Spending 3 power to not lose an activation is important. But that also means 3 power Thor can no longer use to charge or throw (If within range 4 of Loki). The games I used MODOK's Doomsday Chair did not daze/kill Thor/Cap and gave him the power to charge MODOK, throw and essentially daze him in return. I took that as a learning moment and decided it was best to use MODOK to annoy and control than try to outright kill. 

Now, this doesn't mean I didn't daze models and ignored attacking. I just realized at game 2 that running down the field and rolling dice into BDT is what they want. You also have to pilot this list with a light touch. Otherwise, you set yourself up for bad positions where Hulk or Thor can run into you, attack, throw you and now you have a dazed or dead character. 

At this point, I decided MODOK became a point grabber/objective denier and power sapper. In the early games, I moved MODOK little and tried to get these spicy double Psionic Blast attacks off. That didn't work. In games 3-4 I began to move S + attack range 4 + BTTWOM range 3 (Bow to the will of MODOK) in each round. This proved to have a much stronger effect on my board presence and messing up the BDT model positioning. 

Sapping the power off BDT was more or less a cute move since the damage you deal ALSO gives the target power at the same time. But there were moments I wanted to try for a small damage roll with mostly wilds in the hopes of turning off a big power play from Thor. You will have to do the math to determine if that is the right play during a given round. But it can and did prove useful in some of those games. For example, there was a turn MODOK rolled 3 damage and 2 dice were wilds. Thor blocked 2 of the damage but I sapped 2 power and he took 1 damage. This moved Thor from 6 power to 5 after the attack, which turned off a charge + throw automatically. Eventually, I believe Thor charged Loki and he ran away with Trickster. Now, Thor had to charge MODOK (if he wanted to) and no current throw target. So Thor had to use a move action and then he could charge. 

I also positioned MODOK as far away from my friendly models so he would not be used as a 5 damage missile against the rest of my team. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn't (because I had to move MODOK to score objectives). But you should always be aware that MODOK is a floating 5 damage bomb if you aren't careful. 

Regular Size Thor

So I believe most people agree Thor is a good character. We might even agree Thor is above the curve in terms of abilities, attacks, superpowers, and options. But the thing that pushes Thor to BDT status (IMHO) is Cap's power reduction and Gamma Launch. 

This list doesn't have either of those options. 

Coming into a matchup where Thor arguably has some of his best potential tools available and you don't means evaluating what you do have. So I began to ponder what I have and how to use it to my advantage. 

Right off the bat, the list is using the Asgard affiliation. "At the start of each of your turns, one allied character may spend 1 power. If they do, remove 1 damage or one special condition from that character. Each allied character may use this power once per round."

This means you can shake off stagger from Thor's charge for 1 power. Or heal 1 damage and extend your life/presence on the board a little longer. In some games, this didn't matter because Loki got dazed round 1 and killed round 2. Ok, that stinks. I need to make sure that doesn't happen again. 

But the nuts and bolts are that the Asgard ability has application and can stall out a round where you don't get dazed. But that is not going to stand up to Gamma Launch by comparison. So now what?

- I began to see and use Thor as a positioning tool to put pressure on Captain America and the enemy Thor. In the game I killed Hulk, I lost. Feeding Hulk damage didn't feel great because of two reasons. Todd was running around with Thor and just messing up my characters freely. 

  • - Putting everything I had into Hulk also gave him more dice to counter-attack with more dice on the return swing. So I was losing the game on both fronts.

  • After game 2 I decided to stop targeting Hulk and start moving him off Gamma Shelter objectives. This forced Hulk to spend power to Gamma Leap back into position and give up power OR sacrifice movement actions to get back to objectives and be in range to attack. Either way, this kept Hulk at 6 dice on a standard attack and limited his power generation so he couldn't afford to Gamma Leap (3 power) + throw (2 power) + Hulk Smash (4 power) every turn or every other turn. 

    Experiencing Hulk at 6 damage (+2 dice on attacks), 12 damage (+4 dice), and 18 damage (+6 dice) was how my team got stomped into the ground. I do not recommend doing that, especially with the power Hulk gains each round (+3) and the power from damage you are putting into him. It was disgusting and a mistake I won't make again.

    But this part is about Thor. So what exactly does he do? Well, now that I know Hulk is not an optimal target I can focus on Captain America and Thor to either daze them, throw them or bait out Tactic Cards like Racal Matrix, Avengers Assemble, and Patch Up early game. 

    After game 2 I used Thor as a charge/stagger + throw character and found some great success. Once again I didn't want to deal damage until I could pressure a daze or force a Recal Matix in the first 1-2 rounds. I also wanted to put pressure on BDT and force Captain America to spend power to bodyguard attacks. This would hopefully either daze Cap or allow me to throw him off a Gamma Shelter.

    The nice thing about Gamma Shelter and throws is that characters lose 1 HP if they aren't in range 2 of the Gamma Shelter. This means Cap has 4 HP if not in range of a shelter. But it also means if I can throw him into something for 1 free damage, Cap now has 3 HP if he is at full health. So I began to start finding places with Loki Pokey to put 1-2 damage into a character with MODOK/Loki and then go for the attack + throw and get them out of range so they daze at the end of the round. This also denies 1 power because the Gamma Shelter doesn't count as an enemy effect when damage is dealt. 

    The other option is that if I have priority in the next round, I can set up a character to be sitting at 1-2 HP remaining and I can go for a daze with my opening activation and deny BDT 1 of their 3 activations. Now, that dazed character cannot score an objective, cannot move/attack or put any pressure on me that round. Yes, it does give BDT the priority in the following round, but if I can steal away a round with VP and board positioning, I will feel much more in control of the pace of the game. 

    Thor is also able to give staggers out to problematic characters like Thor and Hulk if necessary. His utility to move M + attack range 2 + stagger and maybe throw for 3 power is amazing. Making characters lose 1 action is critical to slowing down the pace of the match and controlling what options your enemy has available to them.

    A Few Caveats 

    At the time of this writing, Todd and I played 4 games of Loki Pokey VS BDT. During our testing, we had not yet talked with Dave about his list or seen his article that we will be releasing alongside this one. We also were testing on the TTS map for the week of April 17-23. So these factors weigh in on the results we have reported below.

    Map balance for terrain has a BIG impact on this matchup. In our test matches on TTS, we used the current weekly map and found a big issue. There are some small barriers right in front of the range 3 deployment zone and there is a single gap only 1.6 inches wide. Next to those barriers are other terrain features that turn into a blockade for any model larger than an S base. So only a S base model can walk through that small gap, L base models lose a significant portion of their movement. This affected both myself and Todd as we played 2 games on each side. 

    It may sound silly, but in these matches, every inch counts. Both MODOK and Hulk were unable to move their full distance and it was an issue in our testing for both players on the barrier side. If we play another 4-6 matches on a different table with different terrain, I believe we would see some different results. Mostly because one player had free movement and the other player had restricted movement options. 

    Another point to note was dice. There were some VERY favorable dice rolls for Loki Pokey and unfavorable dice rolls for BDT in testing. This does have an effect on the testing because there were moments where even "bad" or "low" odds/averages, BDT still missed a daze or was dazed by attacks with multiple crits and no blocks. I am not making excuses and saying the games were purely won/lost because of the dice. But I want to be transparent in this report by saying that dice had an impact and averages were not the common situations in our 4 games. 

    Another thing to note was we tested the games with no information from Dave on how he achieved a 5-1 W/L in his testing. So I piloted Loki Pokey games 1-2 in a fashion I assumed Dave might have done based on the limited information in his Facebook post. Games 3-4 I played with my control philosophy instead of guessing how Dave would play the list. This clearly affects the report I am giving here because we are gaining information from two completely different playstyles. In our second article, we have Dave writeup his testing results and strategies for you to enjoy. At the time of our testing, we did not cross-pollinate data between our two groups other than his Facebook post and our guessing what he may or may not do in a game. 

    I also want to reiterate we only played 4 games. 2 on one side of the map with barriers and 2 without barriers. We tested Hammers, Citizens, and finally Cosmic Cubes twice. Loki Pokey won 3-1 and the loss was Cosmic Cubes game 2.  

    The other point I want to make was that we were testing strategies and ideas in all 4 games that may not be actually used in a tournament game. These tests are NOT conclusive evidence that Loki Pokey is better or has a favorable matchup. This was just an opportunity to test data and report the findings as best as I can. 

    I hope that no one reads this and thinks, Loki Pokey can auto-win against BDT. The matchup may be favorable, but I don't think our 4 games can prove that conclusively.

    I think we are beginning to see a list that may have a chance to beat BDT and I hope to continue to test this theory and find more information to share in the upcoming weeks. But I want to be transparent and clear that these tests have various factors affecting the results (hot/cold dice, terrain setup, trying different strategies to see what works and what does not work, etc...). These are meant to showcase how Loki Pokey works and what tools you have to use as the pilot. We don't have enough data to prove anything about the list's viability against BDT. We also never tested against any other list, so we have no conclusive evidence to say it can or cannot defeat anything else. 

    It is very hard to provide perfect testing because of so many factors.

    • Dice (hot or cold)
    • Terrain placement
    • Pilot skill
    • Games played
    • Testing ideas or new strategies

    So we gave our best and I believe we have determined a few things that are useful for the community.

    • The list is fun. I like being annoying, controlling the pace of the match, and denying my opponent options. Loki Pokey can do all of the above and more. But I found the list to be a lot of fun to play against BDT.
    • The list has many lines of play. You should NOT run down the center of the board and try to trade blows with Cap, Hulk, and Thor. But you can run around the board, move enemy models and score points along the way. 
    • This list is probably going to have a bad match against the Wakanda Kids list. I need to test this theory. But I don't know if a 3 wide control list can outperform a 5 wide control list. Especially when your opponent can use Panther, Shuri, Doc Ock, and Valk to reposition your 3 models. It is something that has me fascinated but I need time and reps to discover how these lists fare against each other. I see how it could be a "bad" match for BDT but 4 games are not enough to prove anything. And with no reps against any other list, I could not in good conscience say it has any other favorable or non-favorable matchups in the current meta.  
    • You will need reps to understand how to pilot this list. Just like we said in this week's podcast, you can't auto win by showing up. You have to know your superpowers and abilities. You need to understand what BDT wants to do. You need reps to get positioning down and understand all the interactions between your team and the BDT list.
    • We are just getting started. As more people experiment with their ideas and lists, I believe we will see more innovation come out of the community. I am excited to play more games, test more lists and meet more amazing people as we continue to enjoy Marvel Crisis Protocol.

    Keep on rolling!
    -Sugi

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