I’m in my full-blown Marvel Snap era right now, which seems pretty ill-advised considering how many incredible new games are coming out. But with the one year anniversary underway, it felt like the right time to check back in on the game that stole my entire summer last year. So much has changed, and it’s been a lot of fun getting caught up on all the new cards, gameplay modes, and systems for acquiring new cards and other rewards.
It’s also been extraordinarily frustrating. I stopped playing after the Symbiote Invasion season last October, which means I’ve missed 11 season pass cards, as well as the new cards that have been released weekly over the last year. At collection level 2530, I’m also still missing more than 30 Series 3 cards. All told, there’s close to 100 cards I’m still missing, which makes building competitive decks something of a challenge.
In the beginning, Snap was designed to limit the cards each player would have access to. There’s no packs to open and you can’t simply buy all the cards you want, so you have to work with what you’ve got. Last year this put most people on a fairly even playing field, but over time as new systems like Collector Tokens and Spotlight Caches were added to make getting specific cards easier, those who have kept up with the game have had an easier time collecting the most powerful cards.
If you’re brand new to Snap, this won’t cause too much of an issue – at least not for a while. The matchmaking ensures that you’re competing with players that are near the same collection level as you, so there is no chance you’ll run into top-tier decks as you’re just starting to build your collection.
But for returning players like me, climbing the ladder can be significantly more challenging. It’s discouraging to look at the meta decks on MarvelSnapZone and see that I’m missing two or three essential cards from every deck. You can’t build Loki Collector without Loki and the Collector, obviously, and all down the list I found nothing but decks that relied on cards I don’t have. As I attempted to climb the ladder towards Infinite, these meta decks are the ones that consistently shut me down.
And yet, despite missing virtually every staple, Big Bad, and meta-defining card in the game right now, I managed to claw my way to Infinite just two weeks into the season. I made it to the top without having access to Loki, Jeff, Dracule, Knull, M.O.D.O.K, Spider-Man, Shuri, Luke Cage, or Shadow King – all cards that are ubiquitous in the meta, and frequently make the difference between winning and losing.
There’s three keys to climbing the ladder with an underpowered collection: playing to your strengths, mitigating risk, and countering the meta. Playing to your strengths is about using the cards you have to build the best deck possible, but also playing decks that fit your playstyle. When the meta decks are out of reach, building on what you’ve got in a way that makes sense to you is your only hope.
Luckily, this month’s season pass card, Elsa Bloodstone, is quite versatile. The top-tier versions of Elsa decks are all focused on movement and bounce, but if you don’t have Jeff, Silk, Spider-Man, Kitty Pryde, and Beast, there’s still a lot of ways you can use Elsa effectively. Anything that fills your board like Ka-Zar Zoo, and Patriot decks can work with Elsa. I had a lot of success with a generic Blue Marvel/Onslaught deck – two cards everyone has access to, paired with board fillers like Squirrel Girl and Mister Sinister. When there’s an overpowered card that’s easy to access like Elsa, you can find success by taking advantage of it.
Mitigating risks is all about how you manage your cubes. This is the most straightforward tip, but one of the most difficult to put into practice. When I’m trying to climb I have to constantly remind myself that I’m playing to win in order to stop myself from making bad decisions and risking my cubes unnecessarily. So many games feel like a coin flip going into turn six and it’s so tempting to stay in it just to see what happens. Sometimes it works out, but if you’re serious about climbing you should bail on any game you don’t feel confident about winning. You can lose far more games than you win and still climb to Infinite as long as you only ever lose one or two cubes at a time, and always win with a snap. If you’re not confident enough to snap, you probably shouldn’t bother finishing the game.
Finally, if you want to succeed with underpowered decks, you need to react to the meta. I had a long climb from rank 17 with a lot of different decks along the way, and sometimes things would work for a while, but not forever. I climbed from 50 to 80 using a Deadpool deck without Knull, but once I started facing mirror matches against decks that did have Knull, I knew it was time to switch it up.
A lot of people are playing Wong decks right now thanks to the recent White Tiger buff, and his incredible synergy with Black Panther, Arnim Zola, Doctor Doom, Ironheart, and Odin. These decks overly-rely on Wong, which makes countering him with an Enchantress incredibly easy. Enchantress also counters Morbius, Patriot, Invisible Woman (for Hela decks) and Klaw. Similarly, Armor shuts down Deadpool and all other variations of destroy. A well timed Professor X can really mess up a move-focused Elsa deck, while Cosmo is still an effective counter to Hit-Monkey, Shadow-King, and plenty of other on-reveal cards. If your win condition isn’t strong because of the cards you’re missing, interrupting your opponent’s win condition can be an effective way to drain some cubes from them.
My final push from 80-100 was with a Tier 1 deck of which I was missing the three most important cards. And while there are no direct replacements for Nebula, Shuri, and Alioth in this deck, I substituted power for tech – Mobius, Enchantress, and America Chavez (for draw consistency) and it was enough to get me over the finish line. You don’t need the best cards to reach Infinity as long as you can play smart and make adjustments as soon as what you’re doing isn’t working anymore. It’s a long climb, but if I can do it, so can you.
Next: One Year Later, Marvel Snap Is Better Than Ever