At GenCon last week, we got announcements for our next 4 heroes in Marvel Champions, including our second Mystic but not (surprising some) our first Mutant.
Today I’m going to take a bit of a look at Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, one of the upcoming heroes for Marvel Champions.
For those who want to read up on her twin brother Pietro, aka Quicksilver, check out 1-2-Punchboard’s recently published Fastest Man Alive.
Wanda Maximoff was first introduced to the comics in the 1960s and – like so many comic-book characters, has undergone various revisions to her origin story over the years (we won’t bother talking about the Whizzer) Thinking too hard about her backstory can definitely make your head hurt, but here’s an attempt at a brief summary…
For many years, the best-known story of Scarlet Witch was as the daughter of everyone’s favourite Villain/Anti-Hero, Magneto. She and her brother were founding members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants before switching to the good guys and joining the Avengers. Wanda’s Powers are “Hexes” or “Hex-bolts,” which basically meant that she was able to do whatever Stan Lee and Jack Kirby needed her to do for that week’s storyline! Despite her superhero name, she was not originally an actual magic user, although this angle was explored in later stories, where she came under the tutelage of Salem survivor Agatha Harkness.
Wanda found love in the Avengers, marrying Vision and having 2 sons with him (magically conceived) but was not destined for happiness, suffering not only the standard comic-book challenges of her lover’s death (he got better…), but also finding her children erased from reality entirely. This experience would be traumatic for most of us, but coupled with unpredictable, reality-warping powers, led to a nervous breakdown, in which she first re-wrote the world as a mutant-led “Utopia” (unless you happen to be a human) in the House of M event and then swung back to the other extreme, eliminating the vast majority of the global mutant population in an instant. Whilst this “Decimation” was eventually more-or-less undone, it won her more than a few enemies among mutantkind.
In the most recent, and probably final, retcon of her backstory, it was established that she and Pietro are, in fact normal Homo Sapiens who had been subject to experimentation by a character known as the High Evolutionary to give them their powers. Rather than try to define too closely what exactly this experimentation unlocked, the most recent runs have focused much more heavily on Wanda as a sorcerer and explored far more closely how she relates to the wider world of magic.
In the MCU, of course, mutants aren’t a thing yet, and Wanda and Pietro’s powers are the result of dark experiments involving the Mind Stone, something much more akin to the most recent version of her comic-book story. It seems a fair bet that the decision to remove the Mutant aspect of their story had a fair amount to do with Marvel not having the film rights for X-Men and making a broad, concerted attempt to minimise the visibility of mutant characters across their stories.
Assuming that brief summary hasn’t already prompted a migraine, let’s see what early hints we’ve had about how Scarlet Witch will play in the game…
What do we know?
Wanda is a Mystic and, when in her Hero form, also an Avenger. Her abilities are both pretty low-key: in alter-ego form she can cycle cards from her hand, getting a net draw effect if her brother is in play.
In hero form, she can mulligan the number of boost icons on a card (although not cancel boost effects), which might save you some damage, but could equally just come back and bite you.
As a Mystic, she will be only the second character after Dr Strange to be able to take the Sorcerer Supreme card, giving her a nice hand-size of 6 whether in Hero or Alter-Ego form.
Given how understated these powers are, I’m hoping for big things from her set of 15 and the one card spoiled so far looks very promising in this respect. Hex Bolt is a 2-cost event, Spell and superpower. It discards 3 cards off the encounter deck and depending on the number of boost icons on each of them, it can damage enemies, remove threat from schemes, draw you cards, or place status cards on characters – this has the potential to be really high-impact, but is also really unpredictable (unless you’re running Falcon) and comes at a significant cost, as you’re milling the encounter deck more quickly, hastening the inevitable growth of the Acceleration tokens. The designers have indicated on stream that this kind of unpredictability and high power at a cost are themes we can expect to see a lot more of in her deck.
What are we hoping for?
The scale of Wanda’s powers are truly incredible – in the comics, she has single-handedly dismantled the Avengers, re-made the entire world into a Mutant-dominated society, changed it back at the same time as de-powering millions of mutants and, ultimately re-instated mutantkind as a species. There is very little that would be implausible for her to achieve. That said, game balance still has to be a thing, so I don’t think we can expect a card which simply makes all the minions in play cease to exist.
One area where I think there is room to explore is with the Confused status: most people tend to find waking up in a new timeline pretty disorienting, and even without re-writing history, she’s well capable of messing up the villains’ best-laid plans. I’d be particularly keen to see a card which does for Confuse what Webbed Up does for Stun, and think that as a 4-cost Hero-card it wouldn’t be particularly OP.
Wanda has never really had a particular “Nemesis” of her own. She certainly clashed with the man she believed to be her father a fair few times, but I’d be amazed if we see Magneto in this pack.
Rumours kicking around the internet suggest that Agatha Harkness might be the main villain in the upcoming Disney+ series Wandavision, but in the comics she has generally been more of a mentor/ally to Wanda, so this would seem an odd direction in which to take her.
Given that FFG seem to be pushing the more modern idea of Wanda as a magic-wielding character, I’d like to see what they could do with the Emerald Warlock – he’s certainly a newer, less well-known character, but no more of a deep cut than Thomas Edison for comic fans. I’d imagine that his power-set would probably be quite similar to Baron Mordo’s (Dr Strange’s Nemesis) in terms of acting as a dark mirror to Wanda’s own powers. I’d also like to see them find a way to mechanically represent Emerald Warlock as someone who just seems to enjoy fighting Scarlet Witch for the sake of it, as much as for his own grand goals (which often, but not exclusively, seem to involve conquering Ireland…)
Whatever happens, I’m sure that FFG won’t disappoint, and I look forward to getting my hands on the Scarlet Witch pack, probably early in 2021.
In the meantime: – Scarlet Witch: selected reading list
- Avengers Disassembled
- House of M
- Avengers Vs X-Men
- Uncanny Avengers
- Scarlet Witch: Witches Road