I’m continuing my Marvel Champions streak with another core box character breakdown! Today I’ll be checking out the beloved Black Panther, whose playstyle is an interesting middle ground between Iron Man’s upgrade-centric deck and Captain Marvel’s event-focused one. As a reminder, I’m only talking about the unique fifteen-card character deck in these posts–I’m not good enough at deckbuilding to get into Aspect options!
We’re dealing with the original Black Panther here, meaning we’ve got T’Challa on the alter-ego side (and, obviously, Black Panther on the hero side). As is standard, the player will have a hand size of 5 in hero mode or 6 in alter-ego; T’Challa has a healthy 11 hit points, coming in just under Captain Marvel in that regard.
T’Challa has 4 Recovery, so he can do solid healing when he’s in alter-ego. He also has our first-ever setup ability! Setup abilities activate at the very start of the game, usually giving you an immediate edge (at the cost of not having a repeatedly triggerable effect). T’Challa’s is Foresight, which allows you to search your deck for a Black Panther upgrade and put it in your hand immediately. As you’ll see, upgrades are an important part of using this character, so the fact that you can pull out any one of them you choose right at the start of the game is great!
Flipping to Black Panther, we’ve got well-rounded stats: 2 Thwart, 2 Attack, and 2 Defense! He’s also got Retaliate 1, which is a keyword you usually see on villains–whenever he gets attacked, the attacker takes 1 damage. I love this, as it’s a nice automatic ability that can help you take out minions or whittle away at the villain. You don’t even have to get hurt for it to activate, either, since it keys off the attack itself instead of taking damage; you’ll still Retaliate even if you defend or have a Tough status card. I also think this ability is a nice way to represent that cool impact-absorbing armor Black Panther wears that lets him channel hits he’s taken into concussive force.
As I’ve said, upgrades are a central part of Black Panther’s deck, so you might be surprised to see that there are only four of them (I mean, yeah, that’s a fair few, but compared to Iron Man’s seven…). You’ll also quickly notice that they work a little differently than most upgrades: each has two different abilities, and each can only be used when you play the Wakanda Forever! event card.
The first upgrade is the 2-cost Energy Daggers. When activated, you choose a player, then deal 1 damage to each enemy engaged with that player (as well as the main villain). However, if Energy Daggers is activated last, it deals 2 damage to all those targets instead. Now, I know what you’re thinking–activated last? What does that mean? Well, that’s what sets Black Panther’s suit apart from Iron Man’s: none of these upgrades do anything on their own, but when you play Wakanda Forever!, every one of them activates in the order of your choice. When I said earlier that each upgrade has two abilities, it’s because each of them does something special if it’s the last upgrade to be activated.
Energy Daggers is a great way to clear minions, but it’s not dishing out huge damage. If you’re looking to bring a bit more hurt, though, you can go with the 2-cost Panther Claws instead, dealing 2 damage to an enemy (or 4 damage if it’s the last upgrade activated). Again, not devastating, but definitely a bit more oomph for a single-target attack!
Next up is the 2-cost Tactical Genius, which allows you to remove 1 Threat from a scheme, or 2 Threat if it’s activated last. Not much to say about this one–clearing Threat is always good!
Finally, there’s the 2-cost Vibranium Suit. This one allows you to move 1 damage from yourself to an enemy (2 damage instead if it’s activated last). This is my personal favorite, as it’s both hurting an enemy and healing you.
If I’m being honest, I do feel like these are a little bit underpowered; however, given how easy it is to get them on the field on the high potential for activating them frequently, I suppose it makes sense that none of them are bonkers–and they’re certainly all useful! I just can’t help but feel a little frustrated when I have a bunch of sweet upgrades on my board but I can’t use them because I didn’t draw the right event this turn.
Allies & Supports
T’Challa’s deck features a fairly standard number of allies and supports, which is to say one of each. For his signature ally we have his sister Shuri–nice! She only costs 2 resources to get out, but then again, she only has 1 Thwart and 1 Attack. She’s got 3 hit points, though, which is nothing to sneeze at! However, her real utility is her printed ability: when she enters play, you can immediately search your deck for an upgrade and add it to your hand. It’s great to have another way to quickly get your upgrades, and the fact that this card doubles as an ally is just icing on the cake!
T’Challa’s lone support is The Golden City, a 2-cost card that you can exhaust to draw 2 cards–but only when you’re in alter-ego form. It’s a nice way to up your draw and help you find those precious upgrades and Wakanda Forever! events. It reminds me a little bit of Iron Man’s Stark Tower card, which serves a similar function and also requires you to be in alter-ego form.
Events & Resources
This section makes up the bulk of Black Panther’s deck, with nine of his fifteen unique cards finding their home here. First up is Ancestral Knowledge, a 1-cost event that can only be played in alter-ego form. It allows you to shuffle three cards from your discard pile back into your deck–super handy if you’ve been forced to discard something precious like an upgrade or a Wakanda Forever! Honestly, even outside of that, it’s pretty useful for how low-cost it is.
After that there’s a whopping five copies of Wakanda Forever! You already know what this 1-cost event does: lets you fire off all your upgrades. This is obviously the most important card in the deck, since none of your board-building matters without it.
Finally, Black Panther (like Captain Marvel) features a special resource card: Vibranium. Vibranium is a simple but effective card, offering two Wild Card resources–enough to pay for any of T’Challa’s upgrades! Double resource cards like this are extremely useful, so it rocks to have several of them built into the deck. It also makes perfect sense for T’Challa to have lots of resources at his disposal, since he’s the king of a wealthy nation!
Nemesis & Obligation
Black Panther’s Nemesis is, of course, Killmonger, while his Obligation is Affairs of State (heavy is the head that wears the crown and all). Affairs of State forces you to either exhaust yourself in alter-ego form to take the card out of the game, or discard one of your Black Panther upgrades to discard the card. This is probably the easiest choice yet–why would you ever willingly get rid of one of the upgrades that your whole playstyle revolves around? Just exhaust! Besides, I think exhausting as T’Challa actually makes more thematic sense here–ostensibly the card is about his royal duties interfering with his superheroing, and wasting a turn in alter-ego form seems like a good representation of that.
As for Killmonger, he’s a nasty minion with 5 health, 2 Scheme, and 2 Attack–ouch! Worst of all, he can’t take damage from Black Panther upgrades, so Wakanda Forever! won’t save you from his wrath. He’s got a simple but effective side scheme that forces players to draw an extra card in the Encounter Phase and has 3 Threat per player on it, which could really be a nuisance in larger parties. In terms of encounter cards, he adds the Heart-Shaped Herb, which gives a Tough status card to the villain and each minion engaged with the poor chump who draws it. It’s also got Surge, so you’ll have to deal with even more nastiness on top of all that! Oh, and if it’s drawn as a boost, the villain gets a Tough status. Killmonger also brings the Ritual Combat card, which forces you to discard the top card of the encounter deck and take damage equal to one more than the number of boost icons on the discarded card, which could be negligible or devastating depending on how lucky you are.
Black Panther has a really unique arc, and I appreciate that. Since he’s incentivized to take a lot of attacks because of his Retaliate keyword, Protection seems like a good for him Aspect-wise, though I admit I haven’t tested him out with a lot of different decks.
I think the theme is very on-point here; the upgrades and the retaliate ability do a good job of making you feel like you’re wearing that badass suit from the movie, and I love how cards like Vibranium and The Golden City represent the vast resources available to T’Challa through Wakanda. Shuri being his signature ally just feels right, as does the fact that she helps her brother out by supplying him with tech in the form of an upgrade. Even his Obligation feels a bit more flavorful to me than some of the others.
His playstyle has never clicked with me, personally–like I said before, I just get frustrated when I have the suit built and can’t use it. That said, the turns where you do get to fire off a Wakanda Forever! or two really do feel amazing. I like the tactical aspect of choosing which upgrade to activate last, and the effects on each upgrade are different enough that each one feels interesting; most of the time, choosing your activation order really warrants thinking about, and that level of strategy is something I enjoy… it just doesn’t happen often enough for my liking. I’ve seen other people use the deck to great effect, but ultimately, it’s just not for me.