I’ve always been a fan of a Rube-Goldberg machine – a complicated series of intricate movements to achieve something. Round one herb plays have been a bit of pet project of mine since the crisis first came out. They are often janky, require significant resources to achieve and tend to be easy to disrupt with a wide range of counterplay. This one is the best one I’ve seen, and it’s got a few people I talk to a little worried about how unreasonable it is. Lets see why.
We were waiting for full grunt rules before drawing firm conclusions about the new grunt-bringing models, but we’ve seen them now, as some packs are in the wild, and there is an insert with the rules for the grunts. One thing that was previously unknown, was would the grunts start on the table or have to be summoned? It turns outs they are deployed at the beginning of the game. That takes certain round one extract plays off the table for Fury, but opens up one big one – on Mystic Wakandan Herb: Fact of Fiction. Here’s how it works.
Step one: get three power to Nicky Fury. Step two: On Fury’s activation, the grunts go first (they have to) and move twice to get the vessel where the herb in scored. Fury then activates and moves twice to get the herb, spending one power.
He then plays his team tactics card, Reposition, teleporting him with the herb to the vessel.
This card is unaffiliated, so any team can play it. It is unusual in that it allows a placement whislt holding an extract.
So how do we get him three power? Advanced R&D can be used to get him one, and is needed in most ways of building this play. Certain leaderships can get him another power: Dormammu straight up gives him one. Magneto can throw a thing. Mystique can refund the power spent to grab the herb. Black Bolt can get two power onto Fury without R&D. She Hulk, might be able to, but that relies on your opponent playing along.
But anyone can get the third power on to Nick Fury Jr by using Wong. He can easily put that power onto Nick and then go sit on a secure.
So the cost of this play is bringing this 4-threat character, two tactics cards (Advanced R&D and Reposition) and one other leadership or character. As far as costs go, that’s on the low side, but that isn’t what has worried some people.
At first sight, it looks like the big issue is that this play all takes place inside one activation. Most of the counter play to these sorts of herb plays happens on your activation. On the surface this looks like you could go last with a wider list than your opponent and leave no window for counterplay once Fury gets to the vessel. I do all my other activations, have more models than you, and then as the last activation of the round do the sequence outlined above. But because this is a grunt, there’s a trick you really need to know about.
Grunts are characters. They get activated tokens. You can pass if your opponent has more unactivated characters than you do. Imagine you are down to your last character and your opponent is running this play. You have one unactivated character; they have two – Fury and the grunts. You can Pass. The grunts and Fury then have to go, leaving you with a window to react, albeit losing priority to do so.
It can take a while to really get your head around how grunts mess up what you thought you knew about priority – play some games with them and you’ll see what I mean. But for now, it’s enough to say that those worried this was literally unanswerable should be reassured. Well, moderately anyway.
It’s easy right? Kill the grunts. Well that might be easier said than done. The grunts get a full activation, including the possibility to move twice. From the picture above you can see that one move is easily enough to get them from the edge of deployment to the vessel. If I deploy right on my board edge, they are safe from anything I can think of, short of dumping nearly all your round one power and cards and most of your activations to kill a 0 threat model – doesn’t seem a great return. So lets explore other options.
Block the Herb
In testing out a number of these herb plays, often a decent option is to stand in place that stops the M move 35mm base model from getting the herb. Two models of any size can make it so that Fury can’t get to within one of the herb with two moves.
Move Fury Back
Getting Fury displaced back is enough that he can’t get to the herb round 1. There are a bunch of models with the ability to displace round one, but most of them need help to get their attacks/super powers in range. The only model I’m aware of that can do it unassisted is Thanos with Space gem and Mind gem. Deploy opposite Fury, Double move, space gem Thanos forwards to within range 3 of Fury, mind gem him back Short. But that did take an 8 threat model a whole activation, and he isn’t really standing anywhere that useful after he’s done it. You stopped the play, but it might still lose you the game.
Other characters can do it too with a little help from a tactics card. Shuri: double move, Wakanda Forever, and hope there isn’t a model or terrain deployed right behind Fury as a backstop. Enchantress, with something to get her forward a bit, like Tactical Analysis. Medusa, loaded up on power from Black Bolt’s leadership flipping across a table and launching him back. There are more I’m sure you can dream up. But these all have significant costs attached.
Pass, go last, move Fury off the Vessel.
Same idea here. Move Fury off. But this time he is closer to your deployment than before, so it requires less investment from you. If Fury is the full range 1 back from the vessel, some things are still out of range, like Ghost Spider’s walk, Impact webbing for a power (and maybe a free push), Web Line, or Shuri’s walk shoot, but Enchantress can walk, walk, Siren’s Call. Any flavour of Thanos with a mind gem also works, and he’s in a much more relevant position, playing goal keeper to the vessel. Again a number of these can be enabled by leaderships (Storm, Blade) or tactics cards (too many to list), but there is some counterplay possible. It’s relatively narrow, but it is there.
Play it yourself.
Bleurgh. The worst counterplay – do the same thing back. But it would work. The fact this can be run in literally any affiliation (or none) is part of the problem, so having it as part of the solution is fitting. But still a problem.
If you look at these options, they look almost identical to the counterplay you had to round one Hired Muscle plays. And we know what happened to that…
So everything is fine, right?
Sadly, probably not. This is exactly the kind of play pattern that has been weeded out by recent balance updates. It’s bad for new players to walk in to. It is a hard gear check for experienced players that could shape roster construction as you have to have an answer or pretty much lose the game. The range and scope of counterplay is tighter than any other iteration of herb one plays I’ve seen, and at a lower opportunity cost in roster creation.
I’m not writing this because I’m going to abuse it. These articles are always about raising awareness. You can’t plan for something you haven’t ever been exposed to, so if someone pulls this on you, you’ll at least know what to expect. At times, articles like this have lead to immediate corrections coming from printing errors on cards. Maybe we’ll see that happen – I could imagine a ‘no extract’ clause on Reposition that was intended in development which didn’t quite make it to the printers. Maybe it will precipitate another look at Wakandan Herbs possibly joining Panic Grips Citizens as Evacuation Efforts Continue on the Banned and restricted list. In the mean time, keep a weather eye out for this sort of jank.