So you’ve decided you’re all in. You want to buy Marvel Champions: The Living Card Game, and you’re already figuring out where to stick it on your board game shelf. The problem is, there’s a million different boxes, a billion different little hero packs and scenarios… where do you even begin to start building your collection? In this guide, I’m going to share what I believe to be the buying order for Marvel Champions… at least as far as the stuff that’s out there in January 2023.
Please note: The links to products and packs in this list are affiliate links to Zatu Games. If you have a local game store – buy from there instead! These links will help support our site hosting and content, but we’d rather you head down to your local independent hobby shop instead if possible.
1. Core Set
The Marvel Champions Core Set is fantastic. Let’s just get it out of the way – if you’re just dipping your toes into Marvel Champions, this is the way to go. It contains:
- 5 iconic Avengers: Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, Black Panther, and She-Hulk
- 3 villains: Rhino, Klaw, and Ultron
- A whole bunch of different cards for your hero and villain decks (which, by the way, you need to play the other content on this list – this is the only box other than the Hood to include the Standard and Expert encounter sets! Everything else is optional, but those sets are necessary to play the game)
- Lovely health dials, counters and other optional bric-a-brac
I’m not going to spend any more time extolling the virtues of the core set, because it’s necessary if you want to play the game (which I’m guessing you do if you’re reading this article), and the lovely Ina already wrote a review of the core set, so go check that out instead.
But what comes after the core set? Let’s keep going.
2. The Heroes You Love
You’re playing Marvel Champions, not some generic game with original heroes. This means it comes with all sorts of baggage when it comes to the heroes themselves. Chances are if you’re interested in playing, you like specific heroes and comics, and Fantasy Flight Games have done a spectacular job at capturing the essence of each character in their cards and abilities. The very first thing you purchase should be any hero that you particularly resonate with and love. At the time of writing, there are 28 Hero Packs out in various stages of release. These are (in no particular order):
In addition, there are currently three expansions available that contain two heroes each:
- The Rise of Red Skull – Hawkeye and Spider-Woman
- The Galaxy’s Most Wanted – Rocket and Groot
- The Mad Titan’s Shadow – Adam Warlock and Spectrum
- Sinister Motives – Ghost-Spider and Spider-Man (Miles Morales)
- Mutant Genesis – Shadowcat and Colossus
So if you want even one of those, buy that expansion first and ignore the rest of this list! But bear in mind some of the villain content may prove extremely challenging for heroes in the box without additional cards (though if playing on normal mode, you should be fine).
Basically, If there’s a particular hero in that list that makes you excited from a character perspective, get them. Not every hero is created equal, and some are much stronger than others with more powerful generic cards for your collection, etc., but the point of playing is to have fun, and you’ll have more fun with your favourite heroes first. The difficulty of Marvel Champions is hugely customisable, so every hero is playable at different difficulty levels. You just have to find the right one for each hero. There are no wasted purchases here.
3. The Rise of Red Skull
The Rise of Red Skull is a little harder to get in some places as it was the first expansion for the game, but it’s a solid expansion, with a lot of value in the box. Expansions in general are the best bang for your buck, with a lot more play time built-in through additional heroes, villains, and modular encounters. The Rise of Red Skull doesn’t amp up the difficulty unreasonably, but it does pose a nice challenge for anyone who’s mastered the core set.
4. Scenario Packs – Kang, Green Goblin, and Mojomania
Kang, Green Goblin, and Mojomania are my next pick on the list, even before the other expansions (unless you want their heroes!). This is simply because the other expansions are hard. Very, very hard. If you’re the sort of person that enjoys mashing your face against a challenge, then by all means skip this part, but the scenario packs give you some more villain variety to work with, some fun modular sets to make your old villains challenging, and generally just a different, fun experience.
They also won’t bloat your storage solution a huge amount, unlike expansions which add entire boxes to your shelf, which is a consideration at this stage of your addiction.
5. Other Heroes You Like or Want
The increase in difficulty from the other expansions is why I’ve put some other heroes before them in this list. While you absolutely could buy the expansions first, it’s unfortunately going to be even more of an uphill struggle without some powerful additions from the other hero sets. Again, prioritise heroes you like above all else, but here’s a few key packs that you might want to consider in no particular order:
- Black Widow, Wasp or War Machine – the Quincarrier is a hugely important Support card which can and will be played in almost every single deck you build. The only reason not to include this card is because someone else is using it in your team, or because you’re not playing an Avenger.
- Captain America – Not only is Cap one of the best protection and leadership heroes, this is the only pack I’m currently aware of that comes with Strength In Numbers. This card is so powerful that it catapults Leadership into the spotlight for enabling some of the most powerful builds in the game.
- Doctor Strange – The Sorcerer Supreme is a must-have card for any Mystic hero, so if you plan on playing him, Scarlet Witch, or Adam Warlock, you’re going to need this pack. Those are also some of the strongest heroes in the game, so that’s a plus!
- Hulk – While I wouldn’t recommend Hulk for everyone (he’s sadly one of the weakest characters in the game for lower player counts), his pack comes with Drop Kick, which is one of the best Aggression attacks in the game right now. Aggression is my least favourite aspect, but Drop Kick is a card that cannot be disregarded.
- SP//dr – Penny Parker is both fun to play and comes with some great cards for all heroes who have a ton of printed health, such as She-Hulk, Hulk, and Thor.
- Cyclops – Cyclops has a selection of iconic X-Men characters across multiple aspects, which makes him a great way to both get those characters if you’re an X-Men fan (though chances are you already bought Scott, let’s be honest), and to get access to some powerful allies like Blindfold for other decks.
Honestly, just about any hero pack is going to give you a boost, and as hero pack contents are fixed, you can browse the contents ahead of buying to find cards that you want for your decks.
Now that your collection is bulked up, it’s time to start taking on some major challenges. In order of difficulty:
- Mutant Genesis will be a particularly good purchase for X-Men lovers, as it introduces them to the game with the classic story of mutants, Magneto’s Brotherhood, and the Sentinels. It’s challenging, but not unfair.
- Sinister Motives is extremely well-made, and has some really powerful characters included.
- The Mad Titan’s Shadow is a great expansion, but the difficulty is tuned up in comparison to other content, so this is where things start getting hard.
7. The Hood Scenario Pack
The Hood is an extremely interesting villain pack that really lets you get the most out of your modular encounter sets and build your own awesome villain to face off against. For deck builders, The Hood is as close as you can get to truly building your own villain to face. The villain himself is great, and would be deserving of a higher slot up this list if it wasn’t for one major issue.
Most of the modular sets he comes with heavily over-abuse the Surge keyword, which can cause an unstoppable cascade of encounter cards that just make each turn feel like a coin flip. Tails, you lose. The same goes for the Expert II and Standard II encounter sets, which are an interesting way to spice up your games, but generally it’s going to result in massively random surges of cards.
8. The Galaxy’s Most Wanted
The Galaxy’s Most Wanted expansion is probably comparable on difficulty to the latter half of The Mad Titan’s Shadow, and for a while I straight up did not think it was possible to complete the campaign on expert difficulty reliably. I’m still not fully sold on that (Ronan and Nebula can just decide you lose), but as written, it’s just not that fun an experience. Villains that take away your cards, villains that either do nothing or straight up kill you in a single round with very little counter-play being possible… the only way you complete the campaign on expert difficulty is with brute force and hope that it decides to be merciful. From a true difficulty standpoint, many of the villains in other expansions are as hard or even harder, but they don’t feel unfair in the same way that Galaxy’s Most Wanted does.
You’ll still get a lot of value out of Galaxy’s Most Wanted, but it’s down this far on the list simply because it is almost the worst content currently available for Marvel Champions. It’s still worth getting but… get it after the rest of the fun stuff above.
9. Other Packs for Completion
If you’re still hungering for more, start buying up the remaining hero packs that you didn’t have any interest in at point. You’ll get more cards for deck building, more options, and generally some more play time. You might find some that surprise you! Pretty much every hero is fun to play, and they all come with new cards that make the above ridiculous challenges easier to solve.
10. The Wrecking Crew
It pains me to put them down here, but from an objective standpoint, the The Wrecking Crew just aren’t good value for money. They come with no modular encounters, and once you’ve beaten them once, you can reliably beat them in the future. The Wrecking Crew is basically a puzzle to solve, and once you’ve nailed the strategy they’re just… Rhino levels of easy. Actually, Rhino’s less predictable, so once you’ve nailed them down, the Wrecking Crew is probably the easiest content in the game.
This lack of challenge and replayability puts their value in the toilet, and while they’re fun the first time and spice up the game by having a set of rotating villains, they’re in last place simply because I have no inclination to take them off the shelf. There’s no villain deck customization to spice them up, so replayability-wise, they’re just not good enough after your first game with them. They’re great for a “game night” style setup though with players who don’t play regularly.
Our Final Buying Order for Marvel Champions in January 2023
So to wrap things up, here’s in the TL;DR:
- Core Game
- The Heroes You Love
- The Rise of Red Skull
- Green Goblin and Kang scenario packs
- Other heroes you like the look of or want specific cards from
- Mutant Genesis, Sinister Motives, and The Mad Titan’s Shadow
- The Hood
- Galaxy’s Most Wanted
- Heroes you only want for completing your collection
- Wrecking Crew
We hope that helps, and we think it’s great that you’re getting into the hobby! Tweet us your favourite packs, woes and wins over at @cardboardchamps on Twitter.