We just seen Ebony Maw’s stat card spoiled on Twitter. Now that’s a spicy meatball.
Double mystic attacks: that’s new. Black Tongue doesn’t compare so well initially to the free attacks on the other 5 threat characters. Less powerful than Thor’s Strike or M.O.D.O.K.’s Psionic Blast, and only generates one power. But anyone who has played Shuri knows the power of an push on an attack, and this is even better! Pushes will always be stopped by any kind of terrain or model. This attack gives an advance, which can move characters through other characters and over terrain up to their size. If the character being targeted by Maw is a flier or wall crawler, they can advance over size five terrain. It’s significantly harder for your opponent to set up counter-play. The only thing that currently springs to mind is Till the End of the Line. Hitting the wild you need on 5 dice is a 53% chance, so if you attacked twice at the chance of getting at least one advance is 78%.
Looking at this attack, it feels a little like it must have been toned back in testing. Putting the advance as a wild and limiting the power generation feel like downgrades, especially in comparison to Thor and M.O.D.O.K.
Herald of Doom is an amazing attack though. 8 dice base is very high and stopping your opponent from gaining power from your attack really breaks how the game is designed to work. Your aim is going to be to use this attack as often as you possibly can. The more times Ebony Maw can use this, the more likely you are to win the game. The wild throw is a nice addition, increasing the damage potential, but it’s gravy. The veneer of a control character is hiding the true purpose of Maw: he’s a power denying monster.
The game has an elegant catch up mechanic – if you take damage you gain power. That fuels bigger attacks back in your turn, or superpowers that can really impact the game. Breaking that mechanic means you can had out damage with impunity, and if you leave a character on 1-2 stamina left, when another character dazed them they will only have a small amount of power for their comeback turn. Hulk is the obvious case where it’s huge: Hulk relies on taking damage for most of his power generation – denying him power really impacts how effective he is on the board, especially if you can control him a bit.
Well, that’s an unusual stat line.
2s are bad. But 6 is amazing. Add in his defensive tech and it makes more sense:
If he is powered up, Ebony Maw is incredibly tanky. Rolling 6 dice on all your defenses is really, really good!
Roughly 50% chance of 3+ blocks and a one-in-four of 4+ blocks. That’s a lot of blocks. You can also see just how bad 2 defense is. If you don’t keep power on him, or protect him some other way, like bodyguard, he will go down quickly.
That puts him in a really interesting position. He wants to spend power on Herald of Doom, but he also wants to end his turn with plenty of power. That makes the power generation of Black Tongue being limited to one much more important. Finding the balance between offence and defense with him is going to be the key to playing him well – and I don’t expect that to be easy!
He solves some of his own power problems by having the same power generation as Hulk: 3 a turn natively. Given his lack of a typically strike, he needs it.
He also has a throw, but – vitally – he can only throw terrain, not characters. Size 4 is great. L distance is great. 3 cost seems high. Not throwing characters means this is just a damage dealing tool, and it does generate power for the opponent, unlike his attack that costs one more but stops power gain. Obviously there will be cases where you need to finish off a character, and this is an action-less ‘attack’, but most of the time I think he’s going to want to use that power for his two character defining abilities.
He can also take either of the mind or space gem. That helps with extra power generation. My first thought with him was to give him the mind gem to maximise his control elements, but on reflection, he is not reliable enough to be a control character. If he takes a gem, I feel like it’s to power him further: the extra ability the gem gives is going to be a situational thing: focussing on managing your power for attack and defense feels like his main skill to master.
Hmm. I wish I had a chance to run more games. Like a lot of new character introductions, he seems incredibly powerful, but if I recall correctly he is set up like MODOK where he has higher health (7?) on his undamaged side and then very low (3?) on his wounded side.
His Herald of Doom is obviously a big deal and, as you say, breaks one of the core mechanics of the game. I hope they don’t tap this well too often because I think if people can put together a true“power denial” list it will really cause the first serious problem for the meta of this game. Creating a scenario you have to be prepared for and requiring a complete re-evaluation of every roster to ensure it has enough 0 cost attack power to put up a fight.
Otherwise I think he’s going to suffer from “Hulk” syndrome where he’s so obviously the biggest threat on the board that your opponent puts the target lock on him and no matter what else happens he is off the board by the end of turn 3 every game. The question is, does he do enough in those three turns to justify soaking up 5 (or more) threat in your squad? I’m guessing people will have polarized opinions on that.