Marvel Champions: Doctor Strange Breakdown

Guess what? I recently bought a few expansions for my favorite card game, Marvel Champions, and you know what that means: it’s time for more character breakdowns!

Since it’s been a little while, let me refresh you. These breakdowns are a look at a character’s unique fifteen-card deck, examining how well that deck captures the essence of a hero. I focus more on theme than mechanics, and I don’t have much advice to offer about deckbuilding!

The Hero
As always, we’ll begin with our hero card. Doctor Strange ticks our usual boxes: hand size 6 in alter-ego mode, 5 in hero mode, with a very average 10 Hit Points. Nothing surprising there! When we look at his alter-ego, Stephen Strange, though, things get weird. He’s got your bog-standard 3 Recovery, but take a gander at his ability text: he gets a whole secondary deck of Invocation cards!

Okay, secondary deck is perhaps being a bit generous–the Invocation deck is only five cards. His standard ability, Natural Talent, allows him to discard the top card of the Invocation deck once per phase. Why would you want to do that? What even is an Invocation deck? Well, when we flip over to hero mode, we learn a little more.

The good Doctor has 2 Thwart, 1 Attack, and 2 Defense. Again, things get interesting when you check out his ability, Spell Mastery. You can exhaust Doctor Strange and pay the cost of the top card of the Invocation deck to resolve that card’s ability. See, you play with the top card of the Invocation deck revealed at all times, so you always know which spell Strange can invoke. That’s why Natural Talent is helpful: not ever Invocation is right for every situation!

Every Invocation makes you discard it upon resolution, but these cards don’t go into your regular discard pile–there’s a special one for the Invocation deck. When you run out of Invocation cards, you just shuffle them back up into a new Invocation deck and you’re good to go. There’s no penalty for cycling your Invocations.

I love the Invocation mechanic; it gives Strange a totally unique flavor. It’s also interesting because it competes with Strange’s basic abilities–why attack or thwart when you could hit your foes with a powerful spell instead?

Upgrades
As is appropriate for the Sorcerer Supreme, Strange has some mystical accoutrements to increase his odds of victory. The first of these is the iconic Cloak of Levitation, a 2-cost upgrade that can be exhausted to ready Doctor Strange. I love any card that lets you ready up your hero–especially since this one gives you the chance to fire off multiple Invocations in a turn!

The Cloak also works well with the next upgrade, Magical Enhancements. For 1 resource, Magical Enhancements buffs your Attack, Thwart, and Defense by +1… but only for one round. Still, this could help you make a big swing, especially if you can manage to get both copies out at once!

Finally, there’s the 2-cost Eye of Agamotto. This is one of those familiar “exhaust to generate a resource” cards that a lot of heroes have. Always useful!

Allies & Supports
We’ve got (you guessed it) one ally and one support for Strange. His ally is, of course, Wong. Wong has a cost of 3, and decent stats: 1 Thwart, 2 Attack, and 3 Hit Points. He can also be exhausted to either heal 1 damage from you or discard the top card of the Invocation deck. I love the healing mechanic; it makes Wong a potentially vital ally if you want to avoid the need to flip to alter-ego!

Stephen’s lone support is the 1-cost Sanctum Sanctorum. While in alter-ego mode, the Sanctorum can be exhausted to shuffle a Spell card from your discard pile into your deck, then draw a card. Card draw is always great, and adding one of Strange’s powerful Spell events back into your card pool is groovy, too.

Events
Strange has tons of great events, many of which are considered Spells (and therefore can be retrieved via the Sanctum Sanctorum). The first of these is Astral Projection. This allows you to remove 3 Threat from a scheme, look at the top card of the encounter deck, and remove an additional Threat for each boost icon on the card. Very hand for only 2 resources, and the usage of boost icons here foreshadows how the similarly magic-themed Scarlet Witch works!

If you need to attack instead of thwart, the 3-cost Magic Blast is where it’s at. Magic Blast deals 5 damage to an enemy, then makes you discard the top card of your deck. If that card’s resource is Physical, Stun your target; if it’s Energy, deal 2 additional damage; if it’s Science, Confuse the enemy; and if it’s a Wild resource, do all of the above. This is a useful card no matter what, but it can really turn the tide if you pull a Wild resource on the discard!

Master of the Mystic Arts is one of my favorite Strange cards. For 1 resource, it allows you to pay the cost of your current Invocation to resolve that card’s effect, then place it back on top of the deck. Put simply, it lets you use and Invocation without having to discard it. This can be insanely useful, especially if your current Invocation is a hard-hitting one like the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak.

Mystical Studies is another handy 1-cost card. It allows you (while in alter-ego form) to search your deck and discard pile for any Doctor Strange card and put it in your hand. Useful early on to find essential upgrades like the Cloak of Levitation; also useful in the late game to grab another Magic Blast to finish off your foe.

Last but not least, the Doctor has Protective Ward. Another 1-cost card, this one lets you cancel a Treachery from the encounter deck. Don’t want to deal with Shadows of the Past? Now you don’t have to!

Invocation
The Invocation deck features five cards. The first of these (and my personal favorite) is the 2-cost Crimson Bands of Cyttorak. These bad boys stun an enemy and deal 7 damage! Nice! There’s nothing I love more than using Master of the Mystic Arts to pull off two of these in a single round.

For threat removal, you can rely on the Images of Ikonn. This 1-cost card confuses the villain and removes 4 Threat from a scheme.

The Seven Rings of Raggadorr let you place Tough status cards on up to 3 characters, for only 1 resource. This is especially handy against, say, a Rhino with Charge!

Another favorite Invocation of mine is the 0-cost Vapors of Valtorr. This puppy lets you switch any status card in play with a different status card. Is your villain Tough? Not anymore! Now he’s Stunned! Alternately, are you Confused? Why not be Tough instead?

Wrapping up the Invocation deck is the Winds of Watoomb. This one merely allows you to draw 3 cards. This can certainly come in handy in a pinch, and hey–it costs no resources! And since it’s played from your Invocation deck, not your hand, you actually get the benefit of the full 3 cards–none of them are replacing something that used to be in your hand.

Nemesis & Obligation
Doctor Strange’s Obligation is Physical Toll. You can do the regular exhaust maneuver to get rid of it, or you can increase the cost of the next event you play by 3. Yikes! No thanks!

Baron Mordo is Strange’s Nemesis, and he’s a mean one. He’s got 5 Hit Points, 2 Scheme, and 2 Attack. Worse, when he attacks you, he pulls off a Magic Blast of his own–you discard your top card and either get Stunned, take extra damage, get Confused, or all of the above (the effects and their triggers are identical to Magic Blast). His side scheme, Open the Dark Dimension, starts with 3 Threat per player, adds an acceleration token to the main scheme, and worst of all, steals the top card of your Invocation deck! You don’t get it back until the side scheme is defeated. Mordo’s other encounter cards include Counterspell (which essentially cancels the next event card you play) and Thoughtcasting (which makes you discard the highest-cost card in your hand, adding equivalent Threat to the main scheme if you’re in alter-ego mode or dealing equivalent damage to you if you’re in hero mode).

Conclusion
Doctor Strange is one of my favorite heroes to play. His Invocation deck is just so interesting and flavorful! He’s often viewed as overpowered by the fanbase, and… yeah, I really can’t dispute that. A lot of his cards are great while also being fairly cheap, and the Invocation deck itself gives him a huge advantage. I can understand why some people find him boring, because it’s not too hard to stomp a lot of scenarios with him. That said, sometimes I just want to feel like a big, powerful superhero, and Strange scratches that itch!

I tend to play him with the Protection aspect; it’s what he came bundled with and he has enough built-in utility in his unique cards that I don’t think he needs the boost to Attack or Thwart that Aggression and Justice provide. He could probably be a real Thwart machine with a good Justice deck, though. I’ve never tried him with Leadership, but that’s such a solid aspect to begin with that I can only imagine he’d be great with it.

Doctor Strange is a great example of how the developers are thinking outside the box to make each character unique. No one else has anything quite like the Invocation deck, and I love that. Next up, we’ll tackle the Hulk–a similarly unique hero who, in my opinion, doesn’t work quite as well.

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