Alternate Team Abilities: Who wins? Who loses?

Posted on July 13, 2010

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As with most changes to the game, the new Alternate Team Abilities mechanic produces some win/lose situations in HeroClix.
ALPHA FLIGHT
Keyword(s): Alpha Flight
Cost: 4
Once during each game, choose any team ability or opposing character. Each friendly character using this team ability modifies its attack value by +1 when attacking the chosen character or a character possessing the chosen team ability.
WHAT’S CHANGED: It’s gone from an alt. Avengers TA to an Alpha Flight-specific one. Its cost is also dramatically higher. Finally, since all current Alpha Flighters have the Avengers symbol, they don’t have to give up the free move TA.
WHO WINS? Wildcards can copy it, so adding a random Alpha Flight member may be useful for the whole team. Box is usable in Modern Age games (over 300 points, IMO…he’s too much of your team otherwise — though I think he might work in 200). 129 points for a decent brick and an AV boost for the team? Could work.
WHO LOSES? Avengers, obviously, who are now stuck with their own TA (horrors). Pure Alpha Flight teams are also wounded due to the cost increase killing feat optimization for a team that needs ‘em.
BOTTOM LINE: For a mechanic shifting to thematic use, it’s not friendly to the theme. (Yet. Maybe the ubër-Wolverine we’re hoping the Web of Spider-Man versions to be will have an Alpha Flight keyword and change everything. But I’m not holding my breath. Wolvie’s never been a member of Alpha Flight.)
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AMAZON
Keyword(s): Amazon
Cost: 4
Whenever a character using this team ability takes 2 or more damage from an opponent’s attack, put a Sisterhood token on this card. Before being given a non-free action, a friendly character using this team ability may remove any number of Sisterhood tokens from this card. Modify that character’s speed, attack, or range value by +1 for each token removed until that action is resolved.
WHAT’S CHANGED: It no longer overwrites existing TAs. Characters no longer have to possess the TA to benefit or contribute.
WHO WINS? Wildcards, again, thanks to it not being a feat and changes to the wording. Similarly, Amazons can get a boost thusly as part of a Warrior theme. Every Wonder Woman and most Wonder Girls with a natural TA also gets to keep hers now.
WHO LOSES? Nobody? Seriously, I don’t see a downside to this ATA shift at all.
BOTTOM LINE: Good for themers and powergamers alike. Rejoice for the Sisterhood!
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CHECKMATE
Keyword(s): Checkmate
Cost: 6
Minion: Kings and Queens and Bishops. When another friendly character using this team ability and with a point value greater than 50 is within 8 squares, this character can be given a power action to use Perplex if it can’t already use Perplex.
WHAT’S CHANGED: It no longer is only equip-able on the Checkmate 50-points-or-less set and no longer is only usable by same. It also spares existing TAs.
WHO WINS? Wildcards, again, so long as the 50+ Checkmate “king/queen” is near enough to activate it. Definitely one for the cheaper WCs, though, or those with Willpower. Similarly, now the Kings and Queens can use the Perplex ability. The Willpower-using and generally-only-supporting-anyway Amanda Waller gets a big boost from this tweaked ATA. So, too, do the OMACs  and V Mr. Terrific in Golden Age versions of the team.
WHO LOSES? Pure Checkmate teams with a lot of generic fodder may find themselves entirely too weighted down by the cost of the ATA to field enough fighters. Many of the King/Queen pieces end up paying for a TA they’re not realistically going to use much, if at all.
BOTTOM LINE: This one can be useful for theme players, but it’ll take a powergamer’s savvy to properly leverage it. Meanwhile, it’s too unwieldy for most min/max players. Checkmate’s kind of a wash.
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FANTASTIC FORCE
Keyword(s):Fantastic Four
Cost: 5
Characters using this team ability may replace their defense value with the unmodified defense value of an adjacent friendly character using this team ability.
WHAT’S CHANGED: It used to not require adjacency or the FF keyword (just the symbol) or add a cost (other than wiping out the real FF TA).
WHO WINS? Wildcards, who’d been banned from using the FF ATA feat version for the past couple of starter sets. The Fantastic Four keyword also benefits by getting to share DV AND get the healing effect if things go way south — or, more proactively, if players push members of Power Pack (or the Alicia Masters pog, in Golden Age) to get back some clicks lost to light damage or pushing.
WHO LOSES? Power Pack, big time. Lacking the keyword means their sad DV values get no boost anymore. LE Sue Storm is no longer the team-making cornerstone (literally. Her role was to hide in the corner and keep the DV up) she was.
BOTTOM LINE: Ultimately a needed change to a nearly broken ATA.
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GREEN LANTERN HONOR GUARD
Keyword(s): Green Lantern Corps
Cost: 5
Whenever a character using this team ability attacks, modify their attack value by +1 for each other friendly character that attacked the same target this turn while using this team ability.
WHAT’S CHANGED: No longer requiring the GLC symbol or overwriting the TA granted by same, it also doesn’t require ownership of the new TA to gain the AV boost or ownership of the GLC symbol to activate said bonus. All this comes at a cost, though.
WHO WINS? Wildcards, hugely. A GL tank of SI Spider-Men could be an absolute deathmobile.
WHO LOSES? Ironically, the Green Lantern Corps itself. They still can’t use their natural TA, being all flyers (so far), so they are paying extra for an TA that, due to the high cost of the average GLC keyworded character (only 3 of a total 36 pieces cost less than 70 points — and well over half are 100 points and up) they just won’t get enough attacks to really benefit them.
BOTTOM LINE: Better for powergamers than for themers.
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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Keyword(s): Guardians of the Galaxy
Cost: 5
Powers possessed by characters using this team ability can’t be countered. This team ability can’t be used by wild cards.
WHAT’S CHANGED: It got a 1-point price bump in return for not overwriting Phyla-Vell’s characters’ existing TAs. It can be countered now, though.
WHO WINS? Phyla-Vell and the whole Guardians of the Galaxy keyword. They get to keep their natural Defenders TA, which is very good for Star-Lord, a lynchpin of the team with the weakest DV. And now Phyla-Vell no longer has to give up half her natural TA’s ability. Rita DeMara is also a potential winner, especially if she’s the only GotG on her force. Finally, Skrull Yellowjacket has a new target for his TA-busting SP.
WHO LOSES? Wildcards, for once. But not badly, since they get to use the Defenders TA now.
BOTTOM LINE: Totally theme-friendly and not bad for powergamers including a qualifying character on their cheeseball teams.
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JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL
Keyword(s): Justice League Antarctica, Justice League Europe, or Justice League International
Cost: 3
Whenever a character using this team ability would be dealt damage, you can choose to reduce damage dealt by 1 if you deal 1 unavoidable damage to a friendly character using this team ability that is adjacent to this character.
WHAT’S CHANGED: Super Buddies are no longer among the keyword prereqs. Possession of this TA is no longer needed for its effects. It no longer overwrites the JLA TA. :)
WHO WINS? Wildcards need only be next to a JLI member to use the ATA.
WHO LOSES? Super Buddies who aren’t also JLI. Poor V Elongated Man, V CD Mary Marvel and V HT Blue Beetle.
BOTTOM LINE: I guess they won’t be handing out the Super Buddies keyword anymore. The TA still isn’t super-great.
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LEAGUE OF ASSASSINS
Keyword(s): League of Assassins
Cost: 7
Lines of fire to a character using this team ability are blocked if this character is adjacent to a wall or blocking terrain.
WHAT’S CHANGED: They get to keep existing TAs.
WHO WINS? Wildcards can copy this, making it very useful for certain Martial Artist builds. LoA members with other TAs really benefit as well.
WHO LOSES? Pure LoA forces will sacrifice a lot of extra characters and feat room due to the extreme expense of this ATA. That 7 per character adds up quick with as many super-cheap characters this keyword can pack on!
BOTTOM LINE: Better for wildcard abuse than for theme players.
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LEGIONNAIRES
Keyword(s): Legion of Super Heroes
Cost: 2
Whenever the friendly character with the highest point value that’s using this team ability is KO’d, remove one action token from each other friendly character using this team ability.
WHAT’S CHANGED: It has a cost now in return for not wiping out their wildcard ability, and no longer requires the Legion symbol to use the ATA.
WHO WINS? An optimized Legion of Super-Heroes team under the Teen or Future theme with TAs to WC (provided you don’t field a Legionnaire significantly higher than the rest. Smart players may isolate and nerf that piece to concentrate on weaker ones that won’t trigger the mass token clear). Cheap LSH members rounding out a team (say, as tie-up and secondary fighters) can also gain a bit of extra usefulness in even while copying other TAs. And oh yeah, other wildcards can use this, too.
WHO LOSES? A pure LSH team, like the GLC, doesn’t gain anything from the change. Actually, they gain even less, since it only kicks in when you’re losing. But at least the cost is modest.
BOTTOM LINE: Probably best for teams where the Legionnaires are the wildcards abusing other TAs, assuming there’s no better ATA to have on the force.
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MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL
Keyword(s): Injustice Society or Monster Society of Evil
Cost: 5
At the end of your turn, you may roll a d6 for each friendly character using this team ability. On a result of 5 or 6, deal 1 damage to each opposing character adjacent to that character that hasn’t already been dealt damage by this team ability this turn.
WHAT’S CHANGED: The Superman Enemy symbol isn’t the prereq anymore. It also doesn’t work at beginning of turn anymore. It doesn’t wipe out existing TAs anymore. And possession of the TA isn’t needed anymore. All this for a not-so-modest 5 points per piece instead of 0!
WHO WINS? Injustice League keyword and the very few actual Monster Society of Evil piecesif they have a powerset that lends them to basing or being based. Wildcards also get a boost.
WHO LOSES? It’s sad that solo Superman Enemies who lack the keywords needed for this ATA are saddled with a most expensive and utterly useless TA. There are also quite a few Calculators who won’t be able to copy this TA due to owning it outright…but is this really a loss?
BOTTOM LINE: Hurts a TA that needed the help, and only modestly improves its new targets. Not a fan.
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MORLOCKS
Keyword(s): Gene Nation or Morlocks
Cost: 2* (0 if the character possesses the Morlocks team symbol)
Whenever a character using this team ability makes a close combat attack, modify its attack value by +1 for each other character using this team ability adjacent to both this character and the target.
WHAT’S CHANGED: Nothing, except an additional cost for the oodles and oodles of un-symbolized Morlocks made since Ultimates.
WHO WINS? Wildcards playing alongside V Marrow or Dark Beast. And yeah, I guess those two as well.
WHO LOSES? Characters who should have the TA (E XP Storm, maybe).
BOTTOM LINE: I suppose it’s enough to just have these morts back in the game!
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RUNAWAYS
Keyword(s): Runaways
Cost: 3
Whenever a character using this team ability attacks, modify their attack value by +1 for each other friendly character that dealt damage to an opposing character this turn while using this team ability.
WHAT’S CHANGED: Possession of the TA is no longer needed to activate or use the AV bonus, and it no longer wipes out existing TAs.
WHO WINS? You guessed it: Wildcards! But the Runaways also get a boost because many WCs have a better chance of landing damage on a foe than these kids do.
WHO LOSES? Pure Runaways teams. But whaddaya expect from a team whose battle cry is “Try not to die”? And they really only stay on the old status quo, so this really isn’t a loss.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s better for themers and powergamers.
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SERPENT SOCIETY
Keyword(s): Serpent Society or Serpent Squad
Cost: 6* (0 if the character possesses the Serpent Society team symbol)
Characters using this team ability can use Phasing/Teleport.
WHAT’S CHANGED: Nothing, other than a not-so-modest cost for any potential Modern Age Serpent people we may see.
WHO WINS? Serpent Society is back, baby!
WHO LOSES? No one, because any new Serpent Society folk, if they don’t get this TA as a trait, Watchmen-set-style, will be costed for the addition of this ATA.
BOTTOM LINE: Serpent Society is back, baby!
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THE SOCIETY
Keyword(s): Secret Society of Super Villains or The Society
Cost: 3
Whenever a character using this team ability is targeted by Outwit, you roll a d6. On a result of 4-6, the opposing character that targeted your character cannot use Outwit to target that character this turn. This team ability cannot be used by wild cards.
WHAT’S CHANGED: The IL symbol is no longer the prereq, and unlike most of these post-feat ATAs, it’s not wildcardable. It also won’t override existing TAs and now adds a modest cost.
WHO WINS? The keyword prereqs, many of whom couldn’t use the former version of this ATA. Unfortunately, both were pretty sparingly given. Other DC villain themes loaded with wildcards only might finally have a piece or two that has some sort of TA (thinking of you, Rogues)!
WHO LOSES? Wildcards lacking the keyword, which includes a lot of Calculators. The IL symbol, too, is stuck with a natural TA that isn’t very good.
BOTTOM LINE: Another old ATA nerfed by the new era through no fault of its own.
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SQUADRON SUPREME
Keyword(s): Squadron Sinister or Squadron Supreme
Cost: 5
While at least two friendly characters using this team ability are adjacent, one of them of your choice can use Mind Control. This team ability cannot be used by wild cards.
WHAT’S CHANGED: This ATA is purely for its namesake keywords now, not for all Defenders. It also doesn’t wipe out the Defenders TA if they’ve got it, and it allows them to swap who’s got Mind Control at the moment.
WHO WINS? The Squadrons alike, esp. the Sinister, who couldn’t use it before. This TA could work well combined with their natural Sinister Syndicate TA.
WHO LOSES? The rest of the Defenders, who probably weren’t using this ATA anyway.
BOTTOM LINE: A wash, but a good one, I think.
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THUNDERBOLTS
Keyword(s): Thunderbolts
Cost:8
Once at the beginning of the game, choose any one Marvel team ability other than an alternate team ability, a wild card team ability, or a team ability that can’t be used by wild cards. Characters using this team ability can use the chosen team ability if they can’t already.
WHAT’S CHANGED: No more DC abilities available. No Avengers symbol prereq — it’s actual keyworded Thunderbolts ONLY. No loss of natural TAs. And a significant price hike.
WHO WINS? Thunderbolts lacking the Avengers TA get quite the boost, especially the cheap ones who can act as a TA source for Wildcards, who also get their groove back re: T-Bolts. (R FF Songbird springs to mind.) V Bullseye just got way more awesome than LE Lester.
WHO LOSES? Pure Thunderbolts teams may find the cost of the TA too great. And, of course, Avengers are the huge losers.
BOTTOM LINE: This old ATA, more than any other factor, is what’s ushered in this whole change. I, for one, wished WizKids had let the old ATAs remain as feats (with immunity to the 10% cap) with all their TA-overwriting clauses intact, to give players a wider range of choice and to not render the B&B ATAs instantly obselete.
But something had to be done about Thunderbolts. It couldn’t remain as was and maintain real game balance. (Alt. FF, too, but it was only a hill compared to the mountain of TBolts.)
So I don’t blame WK for making a clean break the way they have, and hope this analysis (which took way longer than I anticipated) has helped put things into new perspective.
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