In keeping with the #RetroFriday spirit, EP20 of HorsePLAY! LIVE delved into the simple little games that have us addicted. Are games like Hearthstone and Marvel Puzzle Quest the real next generation of gaming we’ve been waiting for? We think so.
Here are some of the highlights of the show before we jump into some Marvel Puzzle Quest strategies. We did not quite get into Hearthstone as heavily as we wanted in the episode but don’t worry: we’ll be revisiting the game lots.. Yeah, I know: we talk about it lots here at Geeky Antics – we’ll convert you yet!
- ARS Technica Steam game library usage and ownership stats.
- Microsoft announces XBox Originals Channel. New video games.. Sure, we’ll have those too.. Eventually.
- Bungie veteran, Marty O’Donnell fired without cause.
- Hearthstone Fireside Gatherings a flop so far… or are they?
- Twitter changes have been rolled out – hello Facebook Junior!
Opinions & Discussions:
- Dear consoles, please focus on GAMES… We have junk to consume as it is.
- How Marty discovered Bungie years ago.
- Remember the precursor to Halo? Neither do we.
- Macs have games too!
- Imagine if Halo was an Apple exclusive.. YUCK.
- The state of the gaming industry is pretty sad now BUT…
- Tabletop gaming and indie games are on the rise – YAY!
- Twitter, if you become craptastic like Facebook, FUCK YOU!
Don’t forget: if you want to join the conversation, perhaps disagree with our points or shed some light on things, leave us voicemail at (206) 415-4987. Keep it simple and sweet, por favor – we will play them during our shows and discuss!
So, during EP20, we hit upon a lot of key strategies for newbies and players having trouble in Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign. The idea is to prevent endless grinding and dropping money, which sucks unless you have tons of money and time to throw away. Here are some of the things Chip Cella (a.k.a. @CaptinChaos) of The B-Team Podcast, our resident MPQ ninja, suggested to keep the game fun and help you PWN (without making it into a lifestyle game):
- Save Hero Coins for roster spots.
- Focus your ISO on maxing your top characters, rather than leveling them all up evenly.
- Keep “Fishnet” Black Widow or Amazing Spider-Man in your to keep your teammates healed.
- During PvP events, farm newbies instead of going for difficult targets – use the skip button to avoid needless knock-outs.
- If you’re just starting out, grind the campaign and AI battles to get easy ISO and Hero Coins.. Farm newbies too.
- Do not waste Hero Coins on health packs – they regenerate once you go below a five count.
- Remember: this is not Candy Crush.. MPQ is the match-three puzzle game for strategy lovers and deep thinkers!
Here are some other tips that I have found useful. I will preface these tips by saying I avoid any scenario where I am playing for several hours at end. I love this game and want to avoid burning out on it and making it a grind like I did with my previous mobile game of choice, Rage Of Bahamut (a.k.a. Mobage’s relentless money grab).
Fishnet & The Support Crew
Original Black Widow, affectionately called “Fishnet”, is easily one of the Top 5 characters in Marvel Puzzle Quest. She compliments any team you add her too, especially against teams that need black, purple, and blue matches to activate abilities. Her abilities can best be described as follows:
Heals and steals.
Ideally, you want to place her alongside a higher-level, tankier (high life/hit points) character(s) with same-colored abilities. This will prevent her from taking too much damage, which is good since she can be one-hit by certain characters (i.e. Wolverine). Some good teammates for her include…
For heavy grinding sessions, I find the combination of Daken, Fishnet, and Moonstone/Thor/Wolverine works really well. Daken adds stacking damage and tanks incoming damage while the third character provides the burst damage and “bigger body”. Your preferences may be different depending on how aggressive you want to be. Admittedly, Daken takes time to build up damage with strike tiles but his self-healing ability makes him great.
Fishnet Black Widow is what I would call a support character. If you don’t have her, there are other options for mitigating damage, whether you are healing or blocking damage. Amazing Spider-Man is likely your next best bet since he can stun AND heal. Here are some other solid picks:
- Modern Black Widow
- Yelena Belova Black Widow
- Captain America
- Iron Man Model 35
- Iron Man Model 45
- Magneto (ALL)
Support roles go beyond healing and stealing. Characters like Yelena Belova (evil Black Widow), Loki, Magneto, and Bullseye can create and manipulate special tiles, which can be devastating against opponent teams that rely on them.
Between Captain America and Moonstone, I feel Moonstone is the best pick. Captain America feels like an under-powered Iron Man Model 35. Here is why he sucks:
- His powers/abilities take too long to ramp up.
- His damage output is poop.
- He is balanced and, by extension, not very good at anything.
Captain America does have more HP than most support characters. He also has a stun ability plus the ability to cycle abilities but, if the countdown tiles get removed, his effectiveness is negated. Cap is just not good for aggressive wins and, thus, using him becomes a grindfest… Meh.
Moonstone, on the other hand, can manipulate the board, do massive burst damage (based upon how many red tiles are in stock), and she can stun opponents. She is amazing yet she doesn’t get nearly enough love. I love you Moonstone.
Why Moonstone Rocks
Moonstone, the EVIL Ms. Marvel, is deliciously good. No one amongst my circle of friends or MPQ alliance seems to dig her. It boggles my mind.
I can’t think of another character that is a jack of all trades AND can put out the damage. On top of that, her base HP breaks 4K when she is maxed. This is not typical for a character that can be considered a support role.
Instead of looking at her abilities, as they are written and perhaps intended to be used, here is what she can do single-handedely:
- Stun a target AND convert an enemy countdown tile to a friendly countdown tile (if one is available).
- Deal out massive bursts of around 1400-2000 damage!
- Remove special tiles by swapping them into matches.
- Perform huge combos and matches using her Warp.
- Delete a tile completely using Warp.
Her kit is super impressive, if you ask me. You could say there are better options if you want more damage output but she has staying power and tactical abilities, which makes her a fine addition to any team. She is particularly good against teams that rely on black, purple, and/or red matches because you can focus on those, starve opponents, and then strike back.
Moonstone and Fishnet are a fantastic support duo. One of my favorite pairings in the game, if not my #1 pick. It makes me a sad panda when Moonstone gets knocked out.
But what about beyond support roles?
Know Your Role!
I would say there are three classes of characters in Marvel Puzzle Quest: offense, support, and tactical. Tactical roles are an extension of support but these are the guys that offer seemingly useless abilities until you realize how good the powers really are. Amongst these are tactical characters are:
- Yelena Belova
- Classic Storm
- The Hood
Some of the abilities you’ll find seem useless on their own until you see how they synergize with other abilities and characters. Consider how useful Loki and Moonstone against teams consisting of Daken, Wolverine, Captain America,
Now, with that in mind, there’s good reason Thor, Hulk, and Wolverine are considered amongst the best characters in the game. They are tanky, deal lots of damage, and all offer some sort of board manipulation. That’s pretty OP, if you ask me!
Again, I love Moonstone because she is pretty much an all-around character with some VERY nice damage. She can one-hit certain characters if you have enough red tiles in play. Again.. OP.
Another unsung hero in the game is the lesser-played form of Spidey: Bag-Man Spider-Man. He may not be viable in most PvP events but, against teams deploying only or mostly countdown tiles, he is lethal. Bag-Man can freeze and increase the timer on countdown tiles. He can also switch tiles around to remove pesky special tiles or make some big plays.
Bag-Man is part of an elite club of tactical characters that pwn the H.A.M.M.E.R., Maggia, and Brotherhood missions and scenarios. Other characters that pwn countdown tiles include:
- Moonstone (There she is again – w00t!)
- Classic Storm
- Classic Hawkeye
- Thor (Hey, he produces colors out of his ass!!)
- Hulk – HULK SMASH!!!
PRO TIP: The web tiles Bag-Man Spider-Man creates with Switcheroo are delicious to Venom. A maxed Venom can literally EAT the entire enemy team with his Devour ability if there are enough web tiles out.
POW – Right In The Kisser!
Now for the offensive weapons in Marvel Puzzle Quest. These guys fall into two schools:
- Massive/burst damage dealers
- Combos and DoT (Damage Over Time) damage dealers
Burst damage is essentially any type of attack that does a massive amount of damage in one shot. Everything else is what I would group up as combos and DoT. The foremost can be more aggressive and incapacitate threats quickly, while the latter may distribute damage more evenly. The type of offensive teams you build depends on your personal preferences and what you’re up against, really. Personally, I don’t run the same team all the time as I like to adapt and exploit enemy weaknesses.
There are tons of options for dealing damage but here are some of my personal favorites:
- Modern Hawkeye
Thor and Wolverine remain the top picks even after the nerfs. Of the two, I prefer Wolverine for the burst damage and self-healing but Thor does help set up combos and does some substantial damage. The fact that he can produce yellow and green tiles makes him great with Daken, Storm, Hulk, and others.
Modern Hawkeye is one we have not mentioned up until now. Hawkeye is versatile as hell. He is highly effective because of his three awesome abilities:
- Electric Arrow – Arguably the best stun in the game, maybe after Modern Storm and Modern Black Widow. Electric arrows do high burst damage and stun the target for a few turns.
- Blast Arrow – This arrow puts the hurting on the entire enemy team. It works a lot like Storm’s Wind Storm without the bonus of a stun to a specific target.
- Avoid (Passive) – Hawkeye can avoid all income damage, whether it targets him specifically or his entire team. The catch is: you have to keep pink tiles on the board.
Modern Hawkeye packs a real punch but my issue is that he ends up being the lone survivor if you don’t pair him up well with others. Ideally, you want some tanky partners as they’ll be taking the damage while Hawkeye hangs back. You really don’t want him to be singled it because his abilities take a while to prime up.
….And now for a few more tips!
There Can Only Be One
Marvel Puzzle Quest is good about not forcing a daunting pay wall on you but it is still a typical mobile game in that the events are neverending.. And it’s easier, not necessary, to pay money to remain competitive. With the onslaught of events, chances are you can only focus on one event at a time.
My advice is to play the events that fit the following criteria:
- Require characters you already have buffed up. Later levels will require stronger leads in order to really compete.
- Provide rewards that are worth the intended effort.
- Last long enough to realistically climb the ranks.
With that, it’s best to spread out your gameplay so you are not grinding hard in the final stretch. You’ll often have to grind the last hour or two to maintain your ranking.. Or you can buy a shield to lock in your spot – IF the rewards are worth the Hero Coin investment. I’d recommend a short-term shield as opposed to the pricey full-day shield. Hero Coins are too precious to waste.
Phew, I’m Exhausted!
The biggest frustration with mobile games is that there is this notion of energy and having to wait for things to recharge, craft, or what-have-you. With Marvel Puzzle Quest, skill outweighs time but you still have to be mindful of the time requirements.
if you find yourself waiting for your team to recuperate, chances are your team compositions are lacking. The weaker your teams, the more importance you should give to the following notions:
- Starving your opponent of high-value tile matches is CRITICAL.
- Abilities hurt more than basic attacks / tile matches.
- Enemy Strike tiles and other special tiles should be remove ASAP.
- Go for four or five-tile matches whenever possible.
- Plan each move ahead or you might give up a bigger play.
If you follow these rules of thumb, you’ll find each run will last longer. It’s tougher at lower levels because each mistake is far more costly. Marvel Puzzle Quest is easy to get into but difficult to master. There are layers of strategy that you will continue to discover even as a veteran – don’t let that overwhelm you.
If your main team gets knocked out, try out other teams but be wary that losing battles lowers your score. It’s also worth noting that health kits regenerate once you go below 5 (you generate 1 for every 35 minutes or so). This allows you to keep your big guns in play with minimal, if any, collateral damage.
Synergies, Combos, and Vicious Cycles
We touched upon the synergies and combos that you can unlock when you mix-and-match the right heroes and villain. Let’s talk about that some more because there is a scary thing that awaits all MPQ players. I like to call it the vicious cycle or endless loop of BULLSHIT. This is when your opponent gets a lucky drop which starts a chain reaction of tile matches and then…
BOOM!! A swarm of abilities ensue and all you can do is watch and take your lumps.
You’ll see this endless loop happen a lot with Black Widow and Storm in just about any of their iterations. Fishnet and Classic Storm are particularly vicious because Storm has abilities with low cost which set up board clear, stockpiling of tiles, and then tons more stealing and clearing. Rinse and repeat.
It’s very satisfying when you are the one pulling this off but being on the other side is painful. This only places more of a focus on using Fishnet and starving your opponent so they can’t set up the combo cycle. The Hood is a solid option who compliments Fishnet well; however, he is rather squishy and unremarkable on his own.
Be wary of being short-sighted. You might see a quick match that could help you set up abilities next turn BUT that very move may very well set up your opponents. I’ve seen the Storm-Widow cycle go on five times in a row without taking a turn. It’s BRUTAL!
Other synergies exist but there’s too many to list in detail here. I’d say that Hulk, Thor, Daken, Falcon, Ragnarok, and/or Wolverine can be pretty nasty. Keep in mind that certain boards have environmental tiles that create specific colors and feed certain characters. Classic Storm can clear all environmental tiles with her low-cost red ability, making her priceless in most scenarios. Personally, I find the board with the city tiles the most useless. 50 HP heal.. WTF is that shit?
Thor is particularly favored because he can create yellow and green tiles and set up more powerful abilities for himself and his teammates. Hulk and Ragnarok can create green tiles as welll. They’re not the only ones who can manipulate the board in this manner so make sure you pay attention to the hidden benefits of each character.
Okay, Just A Few More Tips
One thing I’ve noticed is that relying on strike and countdown tiles is tricky business. If they get removed, your effectiveness is lowered big time. The best time to deploy special tiles is when the corresponding tiles are not easy to clear. For example, if you can put a 2-turn Blast Arrow on the board, you’ll want to make sure there are not easy red matches in play.
Since Marvel Puzzle Quest is a mostly asynchronous PvP game, you can count that the AI will prioritize certain choices. If an opponent team has use for certain colored tiles, you’ll want to clear those matches first. It may be good to choose a team comp that can take advantage of those colors as well.
Many of the pro players will recommend an aggressive all-offensive team with maybe a healer in it. This is sound advice except that you may have a lot of easy targets as a result. Experiment a bit with team comps until you find the ones that are consistently good for you.
Protect/shield tiles are pretty darn useful. A maxed Bullseye can be a great addition to your team against teams that rely on pink matches. All it takes is around three protect tiles to make basic attacks do practically no damage. From there, all you have to worry about is starving your opponent.
With that in mind, a team comp that I think can really work is Fishnet, Bullseye, and just about any tanky damage dealer (Thor, Wolverine, Moonstone, Hulk, etc.). It may not be an aggressive team in terms of fast damage output but you will survive longer and win more matches than you lose. Give it a try and tell me whatcha think.
Got any Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign tips? Tweet them to us @GeekyAntics, @Yogizilla, and @CaptinChaos so we can discuss further. We’d also love some related voicemail messages at (206) 415-4987 – bring some backup (friends and family) and we will restore order to the world together!