We all know Tony Stark, the genius tech-wiz who built his own power suit to compensate for his lack of super powers. It’s not surprise that is he is the one of the most popular Marvel characters thanks to Robert Downey Jr.’s iconic portrayal of him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and over 50 years of comic book appearances.
Fantasy Flight’s LCG Marvel Champions* does a wonderful job of capturing his essence with his tech focused indentify-deck, and he’s one of the few characters that can perfectly with all aspects. In this article, we’ll dig into his core cards and some of the ways we’ve found to play good ol’ shell head.
Like every superhero in the core set, Iron Man comes with 1 two-sided identify card and 15 identity-specific cards for your deck. These identity-specific cards include some powerful upgrades, and your main goal with Iron Man in all aspects is to set up those upgrades up as quickly as possible.
Tony Stark‘s alter-ego power is called Futurist. It allows you to look at the top 3 cards of your deck and pick one of them. This is a very strong ability, as you can quickly look for his upgrades, which are key to your setup, but it can lead to you going through your deck very quickly, increasing the amount of encounter cards you are dealt. His recovery rate is 3, which means that you want to try to avoid taking too much damage, particularly early on with his base health of 9 before upgrades. His starting hand size is 6, which is standard for most alter-egos.
Iron Man’s hero form only has a hand-size of 1. Yes, that’s right – 1. If you flip too soon, you’ll only get only 1 card. This is due to this form’s ability – with every Tech upgrade you have in play, you get +1 on your hand size, to a maximum of 7, which is a lot of cards. The core set doesn’t have many Tech upgrades available, but there are more than enough upgrades in Iron Man’s hero-specific cards to get to that point every game, and there are other tech upgrades available in later expansions.
Tony Stark’s Mk. V suit is represented by 7 cards which are the bread and butter of his gameplay. When it comes to deck building you will build around these pieces, whether it is to set them up quickly, or to utilise their powers the most. These upgrades cannot be used in alter-ego form, but are all devastatingly effective in hero form.
Arc Reactor (Core Set #35) is a unique 2 cost upgrade that is the literal heart of his setup. By exhausting it, you can ready up Iron Man again. This is a very strong card for all aspects, giving you the oportunity to attack or thwart twice per turn, or ready up from defending in the villain phase. This is less crucial in Leadership aspect decks, but is still far from useless.
Mark V Armor (Core Set #36) compensates for the low base hit points that Iron Man has, adding 5 hit points to his total, for a total of 14 with this upgrade alone. This single armour upgrade is key to keeping him in hero form, because once you are set up you want to switch back to alter-ego as infrequently as possible. It is also a priority card if you play him with Protection.
But that’s not his only health upgrade. The deck comes with two Rocket Boots (Core Set #39), which each give you +1 hit point. So combined with the Mark V Armor, you get a total of 16 hit points, surpassing even the 15 starting health of She-Hulk, one of the toughest core set heroes. They also give you the ability to spend a mental resource to gain the Aerial trait that enhances his other abilities. You don’t need both boots in play, so a valid strategy is to only play one and recycle the other with Stark Tower, which we’ll talk about in a moment.
What happens to my health if I am forced to remove an upgrade that gives extra hit points?
The moment you discard an upgrade that gives you hit points you remove that much hit points from your life total. If you are to drop to 0, your character is defeated.
Covered in Rules Reference, under Get (p8)
The Mark V Helmet (Core Set #37) is the only card in Iron Man’s starting deck that can remove threat. Removing 1 threat may not seem strong at first, but he really shines when you go Aerial and remove 1 from every scheme in play every single turn, especially when you have a lot of side schemes in play.
The last pieces of the Mark V suit are two Powered Gauntlets (Core Set #38) that deal 1 damage each when exhausted, or 2 if you are Aerial. That means that you can do up to 4 damage for free every turn. This helps a lot when you are engaged with low-health minions or need to finish off a villain stage, as the damage can add up quickly.
To assist with your initial setup there is a Location card specifically for that – Stark Tower (Core Set #34). Thematically perfect, this card will help you find the tech upgrades you need. When you are in Alter-Ego, you may exhaust it to reclaim the topmost Tech upgrade from your discard to your hand. You can use it also on allies, so they can return a tech to their hand. In the core set, only Spider-Man‘s Web Shooters can benefit from ability, but later expansions introduce a lot more options. You want to start with this card in your hand, as you will spend a lot of time in your alter-ego form to set up in the first few turns. This ability works great with Futurist, as you can look at the top 3 cards, take one card and drop an upgrade in the discard. Remember that you can decide in which order they go in the discard, so you can put the tech you want on top, and then immediately retrieve it with Stark Tower. Another strategy for using Stark Tower is to use a Tech upgrade such as your Rocket Boots to pay for another card, and then use Stark Tower to reclaim that upgrade, effectively generating a free resource.
Managing the top card of your discard pile is key when it comes to Iron Man. Not only because of Stark Tower, but also because of Pepper Potts (Core Set #33), a resource generating Persona that can be used in either identity. When you exhaust (tap) her, she generates the printed resources from the top card in your discard pile. Her 3 cost makes her harder to play, but you’ll want to have her in play as soon as possible to speed up your setup. Pepper is especially effective with cards that generate multiple resources, such as Strength or Energy, but not for aspect resource cards like The Power of Aggression as they have only one wild resource printed.
Iron Man‘s identity-specific deck is not just tech upgrades, however, he has two copies of a special card for that – Supersonic Punch (Core Set #32). This 2 cost Attack deals 4 damage normally, but benefits from the Aerial trait, doubling it to a whopping 8 damage. Supersonic Punch is a strong card that you want to rotate as much as possible to take down the villain and other high-priority targets quickly.
Another Attack card is Repulsor Blast (Core Set #31), with 3 copies in every deck. This is an interesting card, as you cannot rely on its damage output, but with a bit of luck, or very clever deck building, it can do from 1 damage to 13 in a single shot for only 1 cost to play. When you use it you do 1 damage and discard the top 5 cards of your deck. For each printed energy resource you do additional 2 damage to that enemy. ‘Printed’ is a very important word to note here, as the basic resource card Energy which has 2 of those icons printed will count twice, whereas cards that generate wild resources do not. It is not possible to have a deck with only energy resources as the identity-specific deck will pollute your deck with other resources, but it is possible to at least weight your deck towards energy cards.
What happens when my deck runs out of cards while discarding with Repulsor Blast?
You stop discarding the moment you run out of deck, even if discarded less than 5 cards. No cards are discarded from the newly shuffled deck.
Covered in Rules Reference, under Empty player deck (p6)
You cannot have Iron Man, without War Machine (Core Set #30) at his side. James Rhodes comes in as a 4-cost ally, and is a very interesting card. We believe that is could be one of the weakest identity cards in Tony’s deck, but that is in comparison to the very strong key cards we have already discussed. War Machine is particularly good when you fight Ultron, as he can deal 1 damage to each enemy, cleaning up the little 1 health minion drones at the cost of 2 of his hit points. If you don’t have a way to heal him, he can do this twice. Leadership or Defence can boost his survivability but it is a question if you really need him with the Powered Gauntlets and your limited hand size. When not dealing with large amounts of low-health minions, he’s best used to generate a wildcard resource, which you can always spend to go Aerial.
The Rise of the Red Skull introduces War Machine (RRS #30) as a basic card and here are some rule specifications.
Can Iron Man have two War Machines in his deck?
No. Both War Machines are unique cards and both of them are James Rhodes. This means that you are not allowed to put them in the same deck, and as such Iron Man can never play the second version of War Machine.
What to do with two War Machine cards in play?
When you play with other people, there can be only one James Rhodes War Machine in play at a time. For example, if Player 1, plays his Iron Man’s War Machine, Player 2 will not be allowed to play his basic card version. The only option is to keep it in their hand until the other War Machine dies, or just use it as a resource.
Covered in Rules Reference, under Unique (p17/18)
As previously mentioned, Iron Man can be played effectively in any of the four aspects, with our favourite versions of him being Justice and Aggression.
As Aggression, Iron Man’s biggest weakness is thwarting the villain’s schemes, and as such you’ll only be able to really deal with some villains if you are able to rapidly burst them down. This deck is not suited to this, and is intended to be played alongside at least one other player, typically playing Justice.
Justice may not be the aspect you’d expect to use with Iron Man, as his core deck doesn’t contain a large amount of threat-oriented cards, but it’s surprisingly effective with Iron Man’s ability to ready himself every turn thanks to his Arc Reactor.
Leadership is one of the less-effective aspects to use with Iron Man, but it’s still a perfectly valid option, which can allow you to remain in your hero identity for an extended period of time by defending with your allies. This allows you to offset Tony Stark’s poor recovery stat, and stay in the fight for longer.
Protection works in a similar vein to Leadership, by extending Iron Man’s longevity, but makes use of his ability to ready himself after defending. Protection Iron Man isn’t as effective as other defensively-oriented characters, so this deck is best played with other characters.
All superheroes have obligations that they need to deal with. Tony Stark’s is his business. His obligation card is Business Problems, and to discard it you need to exhaust every single upgrade you control. This is not the worst thing that could happen but it would set you back an entire turn as most of your powers come from the setup. As such, it’s almost always more efficient to simply exhaust your alter-ego and remove the obligation from the game.
Iron Man’s enemies are many, but his nemesis in Marvel Champions LCG is Whiplash (Core Set #172). As a minion Whiplash can be a bit annoying to remove as he has Retaliate 1 (after he is attacked, deal 1 damage to the attacking character), and 4 hit points. Leaving him on the field is also not a good option as he schemes for 2 and attacks for 3 which is a lot considering Iron Man doesn’t start with a lot of health early on. An early nemesis with Iron Man can end your game early unless you have someone else who can deal with the minion and his main scheme-accelerating side scheme, Imminent Overload while you try to set up.
The one of three treachery cards Whiplash adds to the villain deck is Electromagnetic Backlash, which works similarly to Iron Man’s Repulsor Blast. Each player discards the top 5 cards of their deck and takes 1 damage for each energy printed energy resource. This is a well designed card that can really punish Iron Man decks built around Repulsor Blast, as well as any friends you have playing Captain Marvel. The other two treacheries are both copies of Electric Whip Attack which deals 1 damage to you for each upgrade you control, or you can prevent it by discarding an upgrade. As bad as that is, this card can actually be scarier as a boost card, which just forces you to immediately discard an upgrade. This attack can also be a big hindrance to other characters like Black Widow‘s Preparations. When Whiplash is in play, it’s often a good idea to ensure you keep an extra upgrade in play to discard to Electric Whip Attack.
Iron Man is one of the most powerful heroes in the core set, and his flexibility allows him to excel in any role. His only major weakness is his over-reliance on building his suit before he becomes a useful character, which can lead to some unfortunate early-game issues.
- High damage potential
- Reliable consistent damage
- Multi-scheme thwart
- Weak early game
- Needs time to setup
- Weak solo play