Some Marvel Champions heroes sometimes happen to be a little more complicated than others for new players, and we’ve noticed that Phoenix falls under that category. In this guide, we’ll take a look at her defining features and cards in order to give you a better idea of how to play and build Phoenix, and make her work for you!
Aspect-wise, Phoenix works well as both Justice and Aggression. Justice cards compensate for the lack of threat management when unleashed, which is great, but, Aggression is so much easier to play for new players as it really helps to manage her greatest weakness – the Dark Phoenix, and being the main damage-dealer means that you can ignore restraining yourself and go crazy unleashing as fast as possible.
The complexity of Phoenix comes from her Phoenix Force, and knowing when to unleashed and when to stay restrained. This balance can win or lose you the game. I will go in more details for each aspect but here are ways you can influence Phoenix Force.
Phoenix’s signature ally Cyclops is one of the key cards you use to influence the counters on Phoenix Force. As an ally you are in control (most of the time) on when he brings you 2 force counters or takes them away. Putting on counters makes sense – you can use them as resources to play cards or even ready Phoenix. Taking them away sounds more like a punishment to new players and that is where it’s easy to go wrong. Sometimes you want those counters to be gone so that you can unleash for your next turn! If you play aggression, getting unleashed will be your main priority and it can take a while if you don’t draw Phoenix Firebird and have to rely only on her hero ability – Psionic Bond. So play Cyclops at the right time, and make sure you throw him under the bus only when you have a hand or board state that needs you to be unleashed. Love is cruel.
Phoenix Firebird gives you the option of either putting counters onto your Phoenix Force, or readying up. It really depends on the situation and the deck you are playing, but you need to bear in mind what you’ll actually get out of those counters, as adding two counters can delay you unleashing. Both effects are great for 1 resource, but generally you don’t want to add counters to Phoenix Force without considering whether you’re going to want to unleash in your next turn, as you can usually guarantee removing 1 counter per turn.
White Hot Room
White Hot Room is very good card to generate some extra resources for you. The reason I say “resources” over “get you back into restrained” it is because it’s actually not that good for it. Look at it as a backup more than anything. For most decks, Phoenix likes to stay in Phoenix form, and the only time you will flip to alter ego is to heal up, unless your deck is built around heavy use of her resource generation and regular flipping. It depends a lot on your opponent, number of players, and your aspect, but most of the time you will typically use White Hot Room for topping up your hit points so you don’t exhaust your identity before flipping back to hero form, as Jean’s recovery stat is… not great, and if you do recover, it generates a counter anyway. Speaking of…
Jean Grey‘s response to recovering in alter ego form generates a counter, and is more of a little bonus than a sustainable way of keeping up counters. You can’t rely on it to stack up counters for you because in some cases (mostly in solo or low-player count aggression decks) you will probably not want to waste your hero exhaust on recovering. When you also take into account the amount of other ways that you can use to heal or top up your hero, such as the X-Mansion, White Hot Room, or just plain First Aid, and the number of ways you can defend to prevent you from losing health in the first place, I would not rely on this ability to get me back to being restrained.
With these in mind, getting back counters can start to become tricky, so flipping between unleashed and restrained is not something you can do easily. Most of the times when you unleash you will stay unleashed for the rest of the game. This is good for focusing on her hero cards, because her events switch from just being decent, to becoming incredible with their unleashed effects.
Why Restrain Yourself?
But Ina, the voices in my head ask, unleashed makes me so powerful and you’ve just mentioned how easy it is to unleash and stay unleashed! Why even bother staying restrained? Well that is a good question, and also get out of my head, Charles. Staying restrained can help you a lot with stabilizing the board, particularly at the beginning of the game, and here’s a few other good reasons to hold back unleashing until the right moment:
- Basic thwarting – If you are restrained and are the main source of threat control you might want to stay restrained to keep your 3 basic thwart, until you stabilise the main and side schemes. This is particularly important with Phoenix Firebird, which can let you use basic thwarts to remove 6 threat per turn for a single resource. This can be extremely helpful against difficult content with important side schemes that come in with a ton of threat early on.
- Phoenix Suit – If you are facing a villain that likes to stun or confuse you, having the steady keyword can be very useful. Those villains usually come with harder content, and you will probably want to build your deck around having the suit in play, which gives you a great reason to stay restrained until those cards are in the Villain discard.
- Burning Hunger – Phoenix’s obligation is one of the most brutal obligations out there, because it brings in her nemesis Dark Phoenix, who is one of the most powerful nemesis minions in the game. If you are unleashed when the obligation is dealt, you need to be ready, because this could be a game ender. A good strategy for difficult content is to make sure your obligation is in the discard pile before you unleash, at least for the first trip through the deck. Dark Phoenix hitting the board early can end your game before it even begins.
Basic Cards to Add to Your Phoenix Deck
Next I want to highlight a few cards that work great with her in any deck. These cards are not tied to any aspect, and are great in just about any Phoenix deck.
- Professor X – Professor X is the Nick Fury of the X-Men.. well… sort of. He might not shine as well as the S.H.I.E.L.D. leader, but he is perfect with any X-Men hero. When you get get so much from your basic powers in combination with Phoenix Force already, readying your hero is a very powerful move. And once he’s done, just throw him under the bus to soak up a big hit. I’m sure he won’t mind.
- Cerebro – This support allows you to fish out any X-Men ally from your deck when you’re in alter ego. Yes, any! This is a great card to guarantee that you have Cyclops or Professor X when you need them! There are decks built entirely around this concept, and while it’s not our favourite way to play Phoenix (spending so much time in alter-ego can be problematic in hard content), it’s certainly effective.
- Team-Building Exercise – Most of Phoenix’s cards that you’ll want to play are either X-Men or Psionic, so this card can help you play her expensive upgrades and events easier. With Phoenix Suit she gets also the Aerial trait, so you can play cards like Agile Flight or Ever Vigilant.
For new players, aggression Phoenix is by far the easiest aspect to play. All you need to do is unleash and dish out damage, without being concerned about Phoenix Force. Use the counters as resources, ready up your hero and burn down the villain as quickly as possible. Telekinetic Shield will help you avoid defending, and Rise from the Ashes will keep you alive just in case you get overconfident and forget you have only 9 hit points.
Use her Mind Control or Mental Paralysis to ignore minions so you can just go for the villain and end the game as quickly as possible, and when Dark Phoenix inevitably comes out due to being constantly unleashed, fix your own mess by beating the crap out of her with your own two hands before she becomes a problem.
Justice is gives you a more strategic way to play Phoenix, which is super effective but requires a little more finesse. She comes in with great damage potential when unleashed, and the Justice cards help you to keep down the threat while she takes down the villain. Playing Phoenix as Justice is essentially a balancing act – do you spend this turn thwarting, or nuking? Is the threat stable enough that you can afford to unleash and lose your basic thwarting ability?
Check out our example Phoenix Justice deck.
Protection Phoenix can work, and is very interesting concept. Unleash, again, will give you the damage you need to take down the villain, and the protection events keep you alive while you’re doing it. I only really recommend doing this in multiplayer games, however, because it’s going to lack threat removal, and it’s not going to be as quick to take down the villain. Prolonging the game puts you at risk of Dark Phoenix, and as protection you might be able to survive her, but you probably won’t survive Consume the World.
You can never go wrong with Leadership. Allies can defend for you, attack for you, thwart for you, and all you have to do is unleash and play your super powerful events. Ally-focused Leadership decks typically have high resource costs, and you can use Phoenix’s innate resource generation to pay the costs. But in general, it’s not going to be as good at dealing with Dark Phoenix as Aggression, and it’s not going to be as good at threat control as Justice. Leadership is a good middle-ground, and as more X-Men allies are added to the game, this could work for a Cerebro-focused alter-ego heavy deck.
Dealing with Dark Phoenix
Dark Phoenix can absolutely feel like a second villain. She comes in with her own game-ending side scheme that you cannot remove because it is a permanent. You can only manage it, but this in turn presents an opportunity, as Justice effects can benefit heavily from a side scheme that can hit zero threat regularly, such as Clear The Area. Dark Phoenix is the true threat, as she’s packing a ton of brutal keywords:
- Steady – This is going to mean that you’re not going to be able to easily stun her or confuse her to control her activations. Damage is the best control here.
- Toughness – Coming in with tough means it’s a lot harder to just burst her down in one turn unless you’re playing Aggression and packing Piercing effects.
- Villainous – Boosting her attacking and scheming like a villain is going to make her a real threat and empty your encounter deck faster, as well as triggering any nasty boost effects in the deck.
She is an elite so most of your attachments like Mental Paralysis don’t work on her, so the best way to deal with her is through raw damage. Fortunately, if anyone can dish out damage, it’s Phoenix!
If you are not unleashed already when Dark Phoenix comes into play, now it’s the time. Piercing and allies will allow you to knock down her Tough status so that you can go to town. You will rely mostly on your unleashed attack followed up by a high damage card like Telekinetic Attack. The ideal case is: basic attack to remove tough, spend resource from Phoenix Force to play Phoenix Firebird, removing a counter and reading up your hero (hopefully you will be unleashed by now), basic attacking her again, have Cyclops (or another ally) to attack her, and then finish her off with Telekinetic Attack. Now she is dead. Yes, it was that “easy”. You can and should be trying to kill her the turn after she hits the board so that she never has a chance to activate.
While you can burst her down easily if you’re ready to do so, you still need to be very careful with her. Never ignore Dark Phoenix. She will occasionally just smack you for 5 or even 6 (depending on the encounter deck) damage that you weren’t expecting, and having an extra scheme to thwart can really make your life difficult.
Top Phoenix Tips
That was a lot, so let’s quickly review the tips we’ve covered:
- Don’t be afraid to unleash! It powers up some of your strongest cards.
- Save Cyclops and throw him under the bus when you’re ready to go next turn – he’s your most reliable way to unleash on demand.
- Unleash at the right time – staying restrained too long limits your impact on the game, but unleashing early can cause you threat problems and tempt Dark Phoenix into play.
- Cerebro and Psionic-only cards are the most powerful tools you can add to your deck. Don’t sleep on them!
- We recommend Aggression for easier content and newer players, and Justice for difficult content and players who enjoy a little more complexity.
- Kill Dark Phoenix on sight, never leave her in play.
We love Phoenix, and hopefully after reading this guide, you will too! Let us know how you get on by tweeting us over at @cardboardchamps on Twitter, and if you have any Phoenix tips we can add, we’d love to hear them.