Hello all, Xyceres here!
We are continuing on our series on efficiency here. If you missed my last episode which covered damage reduction and healing it can be found here. Last time I had a video with all the examples covered and an article with the bigger picture this time I’m going to be covering both in both places so if you prefer to watch a long video and have me ramble at you you can do so here. If not you should find all the information from the video here. So let’s get started.
Several assumptions will need to be made to assist with the evaluation – These are not strictly true but can be quite nebulous to pin down exact values for as such we will consider them true to facilitate evaluation.
- Cards and resources are equal (this will lead)
- Damage and healing or damage prevention are valued at 1 card cost for 2 effect (this is consistent with conclusions from the 2 videos I’ve done on the subject)
- Threat removal is valued at 1 card cost for 1 effect
- Villains attack for 4 damage
There are 3 forms of value that I try to categorize allies as having as such before I talk about them I believe it best to define them.
- Base Value (the value an ally generates from play till defeat by itself)
- HP value (the value an ally can generate with 1 HP)
- Engine Value (the long term value an ally can generate)
This is likely the easiest value to identify. It basically resolves around assuming you’re going to play the ally, use whatever it’s best stat is until it has 1 hp left, then block with no other cards used.
Nick Fury is capable of coming into play drawing 3 cards (the other 2 options are situationally useful but from raw value the cards are better) then thwart for 2 then block an attack (saving 4 HP). This would be 7 total value generated for the cost of Nick Fury of 5 cards in hand 2 higher then expected (or a ratio of 1.4 if you prefer)
Mockingbird is capable of stopping 2 attacks and thwarting for 2. Giving her a value of 6 for a total cost of 4 cards from hand. Still quite positive but also starts to show a trend of +2 versus the cost paid.
A decent number of allies fall into this category of around cost +2 for value (Maria Hill, Daredevil, and Agent Coulson to name a few) as such I believe this is the balance point used for allies during design
Now let’s look at Hercules. His stat line is quite good and due to his high hp can generate 9 damage and a block for 6.5 value. At his full cost of 7 this would be quite bad relative to other alternative allies but if you have 2-3 minions engaged you could play it around the same efficiency as the other allies available. He is however quite good at turning HP into damage leading to our next section.
HP value is the amount of effect you can generate off a single HP. It’s important as first aid, med team and even honorary avenger, can provide more HP to your allies and some options that have quite good base values (see the prior mentioned Mockingbird) do not also have good HP Values to use. However characters with 2 thwart and 1 consequential are capable of generating 2 value per hp and have a great value here even if there base use isn’t great (Black Widow is 4 for 4 in base value) but sometimes they are capable of being great in both base value and HP value (Daredevil can thwart for 2 and deal a damage per HP but also is 7 cards of effect for 5)
The previously mentioned Hercules is probably the best example of this concept in from an attack perspective being one of the few allies with 3 attack and 1 consequential damage each HP becomes 3 damage making the card first aid effective deal 6 damage when used on him
Lockjaw is an example of a character that doesn’t have a lot of value in this category as the 2 consequential damage makes it so that he only ever gets 1 value per HP healed.
Due to there nature of staying in play some allies generate an effect that persist and can be used turn to turn to generate value (potentially infinitely). These allies can justify their overall weaker base values by bringing something you may not be able get elsewhere in the form of a combo play (Nova with an energy generator can generate 2 damage every turn) or an ability that can be triggered without cost (Tigra, Black Widow, and Quake).
Engine allies should always be evaluated on a deck by deck basis as they will tie up ally limit for potentially the entire game. Speaking of Ally limit it’s a good idea to look at the non-resource costs of allies now.
Allies have 2 features that hold back there potential that stop from from invalidating other cards types by being too efficient. They are the uniqueness of the allies and the ally limit.
All allies are currently unique which increases the variance on your deck by including each one but also means that in multiplayer you can’t have two people using the same ally for value possibly requiring you to remove an ally a turn or two early so another player can use their copy.
The ally limit is probably the biggest drawback of allies as you can only have 3 in play at a given time with very few options to raise this (Triskelion and Avengers Tower). This puts a limit on the number of allies you’ll want to run in a deck as you’ll want to get full value out of each one and if you run too many you’ll be sacrificing them to play more constantly. If it helps imagine a deck with 40 allies after 1-2 turns you’ll likely have filled your ally limit and every time you play a new ally you lose the block on another one you played previously.
Due to this I think it correct to view ally space as a resource your deck has to spend to keep allies around each turn to get the value out of them.
Now that we have the bigger picture aspect of ally efficiency out of the way it’s time to look at some of the support cards that allies have. Considering we have a whole aspect that is focused on allies there are quite a few cards that are designed to support allies and increase what they can do.
The first example are cards that let you retain or recur allies (such as Make The Call and Rapid Response) the value of these cards is based off the value of ally being retained thus they combo very well with high base value allies.
Healing cards as mentioned previously can be turned into some very good values of other stats by using them on high HP value allies.
Engine or Combo cards can be used to turn on some engine that may otherwise not be able to work or tie up an ally slot for some good value effect that may not be otherwise available. Examples including tying up all your ally slots with near defeat allies in order to Strength In Numbers to draw large numbers of cards (an effect that is basically impossible to do otherwise) or using Enrage and Teamwork to store a high damage ally for the entire game so each of your teamwork is capable of doing 5+ damage at the cost of 1 card (instead of the normal value of around 2.5 cards).
Putting into Practice
Hellcat is a great example of a hero signature ally as they normally have quite high base value (as hero cards in general are normally stronger then aspect/basic counterparts) however Hellcat fits the cost+2 value. However unlike other hero allies hellcat has a much higher value as an engine ally allowing you to tie up one ally slot to remove 4 threat every turn (2 when played and 2 from last turn) a similar effect to drawing and paying for a For Justice every turn. This can be quite expensive to do long term but she does benefit from some cost reduction due to the avenger trait.
Hulk is always an interesting ally to consider his incredibly variable effect on board stemming more from your decks construction over the base value he achieves in game. As a base value he can only be used to defend and can only really generate value if he blocks to exactly 4 damage then block a villain attack this can be OK for the low investment but his real strength comes from using him as a HP value ally. If you can consistently hit physical each attack hulk can do 5 damage per 1 HP for a total of 25 without healing. The problem with this is the bit where you need to do it consistently as the worse case for hulk (mental on first attack) leaves you dealing 3 damage for 3 cards, quite a bit of loss of efficiency vs normal allies.
Wonder Man is currently one of the only allies in the game with 3 attack and at 3 cards cost is one of the cheapest. However due to the additional cost of using that attack he is actually most efficiently used by not using him at all. This can be done to good effect by using Teamwork. As such cards that combo well with teamwork will have greater value when used in conjunction with wonder man. He is also awful with ready effects as that forces you to pay more this turn to get value from him.
Vision to contrast makes very good use of ready effects. but also kind of requires them and other effects to boost his value. With just his stat line he is capable of generating around 4 resources of value but costs 5 cards to play. his ability too is only capable of adding 1-2 value of effect for the cost of 1 resource so a ready effect is needed to get him back to baseline of non-ally cards and some further combo is needed to justify him against other ally’s that could take his slot.
Allies appear to generate effects worth about 2 higher then the cost put into the card but this is being paid for by the increased variance in the deck and the use of an ally limit space. They are still quite efficient cards and will likely continue to be so going forward but even these small considerations should keep in check the idea the efficiency they can provide by forcing them to be considered against other allies for slots not other card types.
Regardless of what happens just remember the real power of allies is the friendships we made along the way.