No More Second Chances
Welcome back to the TURN ZER0 GAMING blog! Today we are taking a look at the newly revealed Punisher from Atomic Mass Games. Frank Castle is a fun character and great read in the comics, but what does he bring to the table in Marvel Crisis Protocol?
No More Second Chances
The Punisher's kit can seem a little lackluster on the surface, but I want to unpack his potential to influence the battlefield. His first attack Hip Fire is the standard zero power attack. Range three and four dice are nothing particularly special. However, he gains one power every time he uses this attack, and he has the Rapid Fire ability like Black Widow 2.
If you have tuned into the TURN ZER0 GAMING podcast, we have discussed the Widow Bomb in the last few weeks. For those who haven't heard the show yet (shameless plug: How To Roll 64 Dice Against Your Opponent) the Widow Bomb is a combo play that rolls a maximum of 64 dice using the Tactic cards Doomed Prophecy and All You've Got.
Doomed Prophecy adds four dice to Black Widow's attack for eight dice total per attack. She can attack four times per activation, and using All You've Got allows her to activate a second time to attack four additional times.
Taking those cards into account and seeing Punisher with a Rapid-Fire attack begins to get the gears turning. Doomed Prophecy adds your Physical defense to your attack rolls, and unfortunately, Punisher has three defense and not four. His maximum dice output is now 56 dice instead of 64 compared to Widow 2.
- Base attack of 4 dice
- Doomed Prophecy adds +3 dice for a total of 7 per attack
- Punisher uses Hip Fire 4 times in a round (Maximum of 28 dice rolled in a single activation)
- Play All You've Got and attack 4 more times with Punisher for another 28 attack dice (56 dice rolled total).
Frank's next attack is Aimed Shot. This range five, seven dice attack costs three power to use. The attack has Pierce and the ability to give the target Stun (The character only gains one power maximum) and Slow (The character can only move Short while advancing) if damage is dealt to the target.
Seven dice and range five is a pretty potent attack. With Frank's Hip Fire, he can store three power to get his big attack online. Realistically, Punisher is going to be using Hip Fire as his primary attack. Three power for Aimed Shot can be impactful, but I don't think Punisher wants to use this attack more than a few times each game.
In terms of offensive ability, I believe Punisher will see play in factions like Cabal to increase his power battery or Avengers to discount his superpowers. He fits into Avengers as a strong pairing with Black Widow 2 for a list we call "The Bomb Squad." Black Widow 2 was already a threat who could delete models with her insane number of attack dice. Now, Punisher and Widow 2 can run around the board and threaten the opponent with two different bomb characters. Being able to split the field between two characters and pressure the opponent to commit gives Punisher and Widow 2 a lot of options for assassinating targets.
Punisher's superpower lineup ports some unique tools and could lend to a very anti-terrain style list if built right.
No More Second Chances is a combo superpower that works in tandem with The Fallen. The Fallen gives the Punisher a Punishment token whenever an ally is dazed or KO'd by an enemy effect (Max 3 tokens at a time). No More Second Chances allows you to discard 1-3 Punishment tokens to add that many dice to your next attack. Although this is a cool ability, I have two problems with it.
- Gaining Punishment tokens when your team is getting dazed or KO's isn't winning the game. When your allies are dazed, they can't contest points against Healthy models. When your allies are KO'd, they die. Gaining a small bonus for losing fights feels mediocre. I can appreciate Punisher giving you a limited comeback mechanic, but I don't plan on purposely sacrificing allies to power up Punisher's attacks.
- I wish discarding the Punishment token added an effect like Hela. Her Soul Tokens offer a similar ability AND leave the target of the attack with a Bleed status condition. I do understand Punisher is three threat while Hela is four threat. But, the token mechanic should feel unique, and the Punisher's variation is uninteresting in my opinion.
Spec Ops training is arguably the best superpower on the Punisher's kit. For two power, he can advance Short in any direction. We have talked on the podcast in length about how powerful movement is without spending an action. Being able to trade power in exchange for movement is always something you will be happy to see on a character.
The big combo here is inside the Bomb Squad list. Black Widow 2 cannot move once she is in a position to explode. The Widow Bomb is powerful but dependant on the opponent being in range three of her 64 dice. The Punisher has a unique advantage here over Black Widow 2. He can reposition himself once when using the Doomed Prophecy + All You've Got bomb. As we said earlier, he can only roll 56 dice compared to Widow's 64 dice. But you now have the option to either use more dice when attacking or pressure a larger threat bubble for your explosive plays.
War Zone is the last superpower in the Punisher's kit and by far the most interesting one.
As an action, you can choose terrain of size three or less within range four and destroy it. Enemies within range one of the said terrain take a flat two damage. Although this superpower depends on the map design, it has some fascinating applications.
- Spider Friends like to use the terrain on maps for cover as much as possible. Gwen, Miles, and Peter only have five health, and taking a direct two damage hurts a lot. Ignoring Spider Senses and the affiliation re-roll is a great way to stick damage on the Spiders.
- Rocket Raccoon hates Punisher. Models with low health like Rocket and Wong have to respect Punisher's Medium move and range four threat bubble. If they stay away from any terrain they are safe. But this can put squishy models in the open with no protection.
- Control lists can use Punisher in a combo to set up War Zone. Spiders can easily Web Line characters around the map. Using out-of-affiliation characters to support that level of board control is powerful. Spiders can Web Line enemy characters within range one of terrain that Punisher can detonate and land daze/KO damage much more consistently.
- When recording the super-special-awesome September Tier 2.0 list, Menion spoke about Ebony Maw. He said that Maw gains value depending on the map setup. I feel Punisher falls into the same place. If the map has a plethora of size three or less terrain, such as cars, light posts, trash cans, and small newsstands, then Punisher can have a field day. If the map is more open with larger buildings size four or more, then Punisher is less effective with War Zone.
How good is the Punisher? That is an excellent question. In time and with reps, I feel the Punisher might see competitive play. His tools are very diverse, and we already have a few ideas on where he may fit. However, without actually playing games and testing which lists he fits in, everything is speculation.
We have touched on his strengths in the article, but I also want to address some of his weaknesses.
- No strong power generation. Hip Fire allows Punisher to generate one power per attack. That means he can ONLY ever cap out at gaining four power in a round from attacking. Aimed Shot does not generate any power when used.
- War Zone is highly dependent on map design and available terrain to detonate. Having a superpower that may or may not be useful is always risky, and may be a slight turn off for some players.
- War Zone is an action. That means Punisher cannot attack with Hip Fire four times and then detonate terrain for the last two damage to secure a daze/KO. The Punisher has to balance his actions very carefully to get his maximum damage per activation.
- Punisher is somewhat power-hungry. Doomed Prophecy costs three power. All You've Got Costs four power. Punisher should be able to generate the power to play All You've Got if your setup is correct. But Punisher also needs two power to use Spec Ops Training for a mid-turn reposition. All this power adds up fast and Punisher may not be able to generate all he needs on his own.
- Currently, Punisher has no affiliation.
- No re-rolls or defensive tools. Punisher may have a lot of fun tools to play with, but he is at the mercy of dice rolls. He cannot naturally change his dice, and that does not feel great for a character built to be an offensive midrange threat.
Overall, I like what AMG is trying to do with Punisher's design. I am most interested to see if it pans out how they anticipated when playtesting his character. He reminds me of Solid Snake from Super Smash Bros. You needed to set up big plays and think a few steps ahead of everyone else. Punisher feels like he needs support from his team to be the most destructive threat possible. He has tools to run with Black Widow 2 and pressure the Widow Bomb or Punisher Bomb play. He can turn terrain into two damage if the opponent isn't paying attention, and can add dice to his attacks as the game goes into rounds three and four. Punisher has a lot of tools in his toolkit to be a strong midrange assassin.
However, with all his strong points, Punisher also sports some glaring weaknesses. I think balances like this create unique and distinct characters that we as the community get to test and push to the limits.
Will Punisher be a competitive character? Who knows? With time and more games played, I believe Punisher will find his place in the Marvel Crisis Protocol meta.
Even if he isn't the most competitive character designed, he looks like a lot of fun to play. And that gets me excited to give him a shot and see where he fits best.
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Keep on rollin'