Having a turn one play to score the Wakandan herb can swing a game if your opponent is unprepared for it. So far there’s only been one way to score it turn one, and that had big implications for your roster construction. But with Thanos’ release another way of doing it was… inevitable.
The thing that enables this is Thanos’ innate placement effect and access to the Space Gem.
Most charcaters can reach the herb in two moves and interact to pick it up. The slowest that can reach is 35mm base character with an M move. Any faster, bigger based, or flying/wall crawling charcaters make this easier and more widely applicable given terrain placement.
Ideally, you want to be on the side closest to the altar, the full range 1 away, but terrain may make that hard or impossible.
With a single M move up the board, Thanos will be within range 4 of the herb-holder, even from a central position. Given that he has an infinity gem, he will also be on two power, so he can pay for Cosmic Portal. That puts the herb-holder within range 3 for the Space Gem ability.
Two range 2 moves puts the herb holder in the middle of the board horizontally and in your half. To get them on to the herb turn one, it requires a flier to drop them off.
Thanks to Thanos’ placement shenanigans, that play is now in range. The flier moves up for first action, and Drops them Off on top of the altar to score the herb at the end of round one.
You can see that with a 35mm base there is about half an inch tolerance. A 50mm base significantly increases that, but may make it harder to place on small terrain.
The only issue is needing two power on the herb carrier – one for interacting with the herb and one to play drop off. If they don’t inanely start with two power, Advanced R&D is an option, but it requires another character with a spare power. Thanos might have one if he is sporting another gem or managed to get off a strike, or someone like Thor might fly and start with two power. Alternatively at higher threat level an extra character might pass off their starting power.
Teams that can do it
So it works, but what teams can pull it off? At higher threat levels, it’s pretty trivial to build a team that can do it, but at 15 and 16 threat it’s harder – but still possible. Here are some examples – though not an exhaustive list!
15 threat – one thing that can make this work is having a 2-threat character use Rocket Boots!? to enable a Drop Off. If the Rocket Boots!? go wrong, you don’t mind as much, as it’s only a 2-threat character. It’s also worth pointing out that Nebula is immune to stun, negating part of the downside of Rocket Boots!?
- Black order: Thanos, Space Gem, Corvus Glaive, Reality Gem, Nebula (uses Rocket Boots?!)
- Guardians: Thanos, Space Gem, another 1 threat gem, Drax, Star Lord (Uses advanced R&D). Star Lord could take the Power Gem instead of another Thanos gem.
- Avengers: Thanos, Space Gem, another one cost gem, Captain America, Core Black Widow (uses Rocket Boots?! and Advanced R&D)
- Wakanda: Thanos, Space Gem, another one cost gem, Black Panther, Okoye (uses Rocket Boots?! and Advanced R&D)
Of these, I think I like the Black Order one best. Corvus with the reality gem is very hard to deal with. Nebula is a great Price of Failure target and takes Thanos’ extra dice buffs really well with her rerolls.
It also seems to me that Black Order will regularly be including Wakandan Herbs in their roster to try to counter fast scoring teams.
Edit: Pat Dunford from Across the Bifrost has pointed out that with an L mover like Nebula or Proxima Midnight combined with the 50mm base of Corvus you don’t even need the space gem. One Cosmic Portal combined with the L move drop off gets Corvus there. Thanos still needs one gem, but it can be a one threat gem, allowing you to upgrade Nebula to Proxima Midnight. Nice.
16 threat: less necessity on Rocket Boots?!, as Iron Man and Star-Lord are three threat fliers you can slot in.
- Black Order: Thanos, Space gem, Corvus Glaive, Reality Gem, Iron Man/Star Lord
- Guardians: Thanos, Space Gem, Ronan, Power Gem, Star-Lord
- Asgard: Thanos, Space Gem, Valkyrie, Thor
- Avengers: Thanos, Space Gem, another one threat gem, Captain America, Iron Man (uses Advanced R&D)
If you see this lined up against you, there are a few things you can do.
The first is Shuri. Her range 5 pushes can move the herb-holder off the altar after they’ve been placed there. It is possible to get a 50mm herb carrier out of range of her on round one, but they need to end up about half an inch behind their herb. It does also require an unobstructed line of sight for her. Vision, either Black Widow or Crossbones have good defence against this, as is discussed here. The backstopping strategy discussed there is also effective in this case.
Another possibility is to throw/push the herb carrier away from the altar straight after they have activated to grab the herb, or after Thanos has activated to prevent the Drop Off being in range. Vision again makes a good herb grabber at higher threats for this reason, reducing your options to throws.
You could try to daze the herb carrier, but typically it would be a 4-threat character, or a tough 3 threat character like Drax. With only one turn to do it, that seems unlikely, though you could run the numbers through Jarvis.
Is it worth it?
That’s the key question: is this plan worth trying? If you can keep the cost – especially in team tactics cards – down, and the character choices line up with your roster selection anyway, I think it is.
I particularly like it in a list where you can choose the team and tactics cards to enable it, and then pivot to a different strategy at or after deployment, if it becomes obvious that your opponent has a counter lined up. The Black Order team is a good example of that, as gem-empowered Thanos and Corvus are going to wreck some face. Nebula can still Rocket Boots?! Drop Off Corvus who can get to work. I’ve also seen a reasonable amount of people considering Black Dwarf Rocket Boots?! Dropping Off M.O.D.O.K. meaning those cards might already be in their roster.
Will it see a lot of play in competitive scenes? I suspect not that much, but it will surprise an unprepared opponent, probably winning you the game on round one.