Ophidian Shenanigans – Adam Friedman (and a ROC Ban List Update)

Adam Friedman by Adam Friedman

UPDATE: As of February 5th, 2018 Ophidian will be added to the ROC Ban List (Felix Faust now has a friend! To see why, read below).

2018 is upon us, and with it the announcement of a whole new circuit to the competitive Heroclix scene, and a very different format. The Majestix Open Series Invitational is an exciting development for the game, and one I am greatly looking forward to. Most interesting is the format utilized for the qualifiers, ROC Age Unlimited.

While ROC Age itself isn’t all that new, it is quite rare for it to be run without the typical “Limited” restrictions. As far as I’m aware, the only major event to be run this way was the U.S. Cup around August of 2017. The format featured something relatively new in competitive Clix, a Format-Specific Ban List.

The list featured many of the most dominant effects Heroclix has ever had to offer, including Team Bases in general, and the Orange Lantern Power Battery amongst others in specific. Items that went on the list could be summed up in one of three ways. First are effects that are just so inherently broken that they just cannot be allowed to roam free. This included Team Bases (whose multi-action capability and the potential to bring out additional high-powered figures at little or no additional cost violates many fundamental principles of Heroclix), and Juston Seyfert (who does much of the same thing, by allowing a Robot on your main force to act a second/third time in a turn). Next are effects that either are themselves overly disruptive to gameplay generally, or pose a substantial risk of enabling degenerate combos. This includes Morphing Jar (who can abuse First Round Immunity, various “can’t be placed” effects, or characters with ordinarily-situational effects that rely on occupying opposing starting areas to enable absurd map-crossing strategies), Copycat (who violates the fundamental principle that people should get to actually play with the figures they bring along, and is one of the least fun figures to play against in the history of Clix), Resurrection Man (the single least interactive and most powerful tool in “un-dying” strategies), and the Orange Lantern Power Battery (which is entirely capable of shutting out players by stripping them of core tools such as Improved Movement, causing them to be incapable of doing much of anything at all). Finally are figures that were deemed too strong or flexible given their history to allow into the format. This includes Jakeem Thunder and Super Skrull, both of whom substantially dominated their respective Modern Limited formats, as well as Modern itself in recent memory. Of course some figures on the list can realistically fit into more than one category (Felix Faust).

The announcement of the format, however, had a subtle change from the original Ban List. The new list includes a peculiar new addition that at first glance seems out of place.

WoL 63 Ophidian.

While always remembered for being the Pulse Wave-granting Possessor, the recent rules-change had some collateral damage, and that damage is it made Ophidian the single most unfair Heroclix piece ever printed by virtue of changes to basic Heroclix terminology. As of the new rules “counter” is no longer part of the Heroclix lexicon. Accordingly, every figure in Modern (barring any that rules team missed) has gotten updated in the clarifications section to reflect this. There are many effects in Clix that reference countered abilities, and they all read much more like Nick Fury’s Watcher’s eye (with “can’t use” language).

Thankfully, there weren’t too many particularly odd cases in Modern, but the same is not true for older figures. Ophidian stands out because of the following effect.

  DESIRE OF GREED: Ophidian can use Outwit. When it does it can use the countered power or ability for as long as it’s countered.

Since “Counter” no longer exists, and “Can’t be used” has replaced it, the power now has the effect:

DESIRE OF GREED: Ophidian can use Outwit. When it does it can use the chosen power or ability for as long as it can’t be used.

Note, there is some syntactic changes here, since obviously “can’t be used” doesn’t operate as a verb, and obviously the new Outwit wording determines the power based on the choice made, not based on whether anything is countered, and so this wording reflects that. At first glance this doesn’t seem so different, but in reality this effect is miles ahead of its former counterpart. This is because Outwit underwent a serious revision. Outwit no longer must choose something showing on the dial, or even something on the character’s card. This means any power at all can be chosen (barring those with Protected: Outwit, which state they cannot be chosen).

This means that Desire of Greed no longer must choose something currently showing on the opponent’s dial, and since Ophidian is Greedy and takes the effects removed, Ophidian also gets to use them. (Which, honestly, is rather on-point thematically in my view). This has the unfortunate side effect of making Ophidian the most degenerate Pick a Power figure of all time. Because it allows Ophidian to Pick a Power with special powers, using the entire game as its database to choose from. Even played at full, Ophidian can happily play an Omega Drive for 3 points, pick it up, and then start Outwitting powers on other Friendly figures in order to gain access to them. Giving Ophidian the ability to use many of the most degenerate effects in all of Heroclix on-demand (and pick a new one every turn).

All of D20 Strange’s sides are defined as “Powers” so they are all fair game. This includes Orange (which stops Power actions), Plus (which gives IT Elevated Hindering Characters to Ophidian and Adjacent Friendlies), Damage (which Handcuffs the opposing character on a hit), Yellow (which can attack an 11×11 square grid anywhere on the map regardless of range or Line of Fire), Dark Blue (which severely limits speed), and White (which makes Ophidian and adjacent friendlies unable to be ranged attacked). Best of all, there is no random D20 involved. Just pick the best one every turn. This itself would be powerful, but it actually gets better as you dig into the deep reservoir of special powers to consider.

Ophidian can get Multi-Attack, create additional figures, ranged attack anywhere on the map without targeting, Capture, Deal damage without attacking, prevent power actions and ranged attacks at the same time if the opponent is too close, negate a power that would normally be immune to Outwit, remove the Carry ability from all opposing figures, or drag the two most expensive opposing figures adjacent, and many others. And this is in the least-powerful case, where you pay 185 or more points and need to do a little bit of work to have continual access. It can get much, much worse.

G.O.OD (thank you PJ Bolin for the ackronym on this one)

Greed, Ophidian, Omega Drive

Greed is 67 points, and allows a player to pay for a relic to start him off with that doesn’t interfere with the rest of your build. Omega Drive is 3 points. Ophidian assigned to greed is 25 points.

For those counting along at home, this means for 95 points, zero power actions, and zero relic rolls (so no need to bother with Splitlip to make Ophidian’s life easier and more consistent) it would be possible to have access to nearly every special power in Heroclix at your disposal on any given turn. Along with this Greed has the Mystical keyword for easy theme access.

That’s less than one-third of your build, allowing for whatever killboxes (assuming you want to go the Chanos route), defensive options (if you want to go the grindy route), or just additional/alternative strategies you might concoct (You still have room for say, small Quinjet with resource, a drone, some carnages and a full set of ID cards, 75+30+10+10+10+10+(5×9)= 190 quick mafs).

Even worse is that while the X-Men set looks like it might finally have some answers to Pick a Power which can hopefully remove Jakeem and ZSS from the Ban List (I don’t know that it is actually a good idea, just yet, and I’d personally give it at least a few months of testing to see if it’s safe to unleash them on the format), they don’t do a whole lot against G.O.OD. Smart players who see Darwin coming will be able to answer him in fairly short order abusing the interaction with retaliators to punish Darwin right away and get ahead (and with the 95 pt version of the build losing out on a turn or two of access while you ping and then heal up isn’t THAT much of a loss for allowing you to remove a figure off their team with your retaliator), and neither Leech nor Prodigy interact with special powers that are chosen. Overall this means that there is really nothing hemming the single most absurd Pick a Power effect of all time in. And worst is that at the most extreme, Desire of Greed enables some of the most degenerate and un-interactive Heroclix possible, taking situational powers on fairly expensive figures and giving permanent access to them on-demand. While brewing up possibilities for G.O.OD team it was possible to find exceedingly nasty setups.

Combining Teleport my Greatest Enemies with any combination of Krampus, the Utility Belt (to get Handcuffs), Drones (to call in heavy hitters), Mistress Death (to put on some damage immediately and also set up double-damage kills), and Blind Al (for the automatic penetrating) allows for games that can come close to ending on turn 2.

A failed Handcuff power action can immediately mean that character is out of the game after taking Energy Dampener and preventing power actions (and it is a 50% failure chance to remove the handcuffs). Also even if you GET out of them, it is possible to just reapply them alongside dampener. With a Drone it is trivial to get access to Venom Hulk or other high-damage high-attack Flurry pieces to just delete opposing figures on-demand. And Krampus will happily capture opposing figures while standing in the starting area, allowing him to immediately deposit them on the next turn with no trouble.

But it isn’t even really necessary to go to these lengths to remove the opponent from contention. Just taking the Orange power off d20 Strange every turn makes the vast majority of teams unable to perform properly, because whether it’s Charge, Hypersonic, Call-ins, Special Powers, or Telekinesis, Power Actions are just a core component of high level gameplay. Even worse, since the Dampen tokens can persist, this means opponents are forced to act basically every turn or risk allowing Greed to pick something ELSE to do while they are already burdened with a lack of access to power actions (such as Yellow, to put a threat of damage on the table). And since the Dampen effect is asymmetrical, this doesn’t stop Greed’s team from taking power actions themselves to stay ahead.

But it actually gets worse. By taking THREAT ENGAGEMENT PACKAGE: Alpha Class Sentinel (Attack Mode) can use the Multiattack ability. “As a free-action” in the way multiattack is worded is also now defunct, replaced with “at no cost” (Odin Prime actually uses an effect nearly identical to multiattack, with the only real difference being that his is restricted to only working when he has 1 action token). This means Greed can use Multiattack to Outwit two effects in the same turn. This is obviously powerful since it can allow Greed to take Orange as well as defensive effects like Beta Ray Bill’s damage special. With some random taxi, this allows Greed to constantly keep the opponent from engaging, without power actions it is going to be difficult to get close enough to melee attack through Sanctum Sancturum (d20 Strange’s white power) which Greed can choose at the same time as orange two out of three turns (thanks to Multiattack), and since you have to take non-free actions to remove the dampen tokens it is exceedingly likely that Greed will have a free turn to either clear up safely, or take only Sanctum without fear of being attacked.

Hopefully, we would judges to be skeptical of allowing Oops! to function (for those who don’t remember, I wrote an article about the combo about two years ago before Pat’s second Worlds win), for tournament integrity reasons (infinites are a bad thing in Heroclix, mmmkay). But while this normally would be a corner-case issue that comes up relatively infrequently on a 150 point piece that isn’t absurdly playable otherwise, Ophidian’s access to it on a non-random basis is problematic. Unlike the original version, Greed would have a 100% success rate. Immediately taking infinite actions on turn 2 with the capacity to deal infinite damage (thanks to infinite Charge activations off of newly generated bystanders off Rick Jones).  Even if you put on a clock in place to limit the number of actions to a ‘reasonable amount,’ a fast player can easily get 20-35 attacks inside of five minutes using the combo (this estimate comes from seeing how quickly it is possible to point to squares in a movement path and then roll dice and say the relevant words indicating the effects over and over), since basically it takes very little time at all to demonstrate your move path across the map with the carry-chain, and once you’re in range the pog-sac loop is very easy and fast to demonstrate as well. Even if the opponent lives through the barrage, they will be limited to a single non-free action (and likely with no access to power actions, since Grey is passive and thus eligible for being chosen on a Multiattack turn alongside Orange).

I could go on and on some more (really I could), but I think I’ll end the actual discussion here and just give you the cheat-sheet to victory with using Ophidian. Listing the full text of some of the powers he can choose to obtain on any given turn and let you decide for yourself whether being able to “pick” any of those powers is just too strong and deserves a ban.

Ophidian Powers Reference:

(as we know from ye olde Hope Summers, when a character acquires a power from another character, references to the character’s own name replace with the character using the power)

EYE OF AGAMOTTO: Doctor Strange and adjacent friendly characters can use Improved Targeting: Ignores Elevated Terrain, Ignores Hindering Terrain, Ignores Characters.

CRIMSON BANDS OF CYTTORAK: When Doctor Strange hits an opposing character with an attack, place a Crimson Band of Cyttorak token on that character’s card. Even if this power is lost, opposing characters with a Crimson Band of Cyttorak token on their card can only be given a power action to remove the token. (goes well alongside uses of Orange for permanent lockdowns)

SANCTUM SANCTORUM: Doctor Strange and adjacent friendly characters can’t be targeted by ranged combat attacks.

RED: Give Doctor Strange a power action. Each player places all friendly characters in their starting area.

ORANGE: Give Doctor Strange a free action. Place an Energy Dampener token on each opposing character’s card. While an Energy Dampener token is on a character card, even if this power is lost, that character can’t be given a power action. Remove the token from a character’s card when that character is given a non-free action.

YELLOW: Give Doctor Strange a ranged combat action. Choose a square and make a ranged combat attack targeting all characters within 5 squares of the chosen square. Hit characters are each dealt 3 damage.

BROWN: Opposing character’s combat values can’t be modified or replaced unless the replacement would halve the value.

GREY: Your force may be given any number of non-free actions. For each non-free action beyond your action total you use, decrease all opponents’ action total by 1 (minimum 1) on their next turn.

THREAT ENGAGEMENT PACKAGE: Alpha Class Sentinel (Attack Mode) can use the Multiattack ability.

B: Nekron can use the Multiattack ability and friendly characters can use Improved Movement: Ignores Hindering Terrain and Improved Targeting: Ignores Hindering Terrain.

D: Give Nekron a free action, choose a power or team ability that a character on the map can use. All friendly characters can use that power or team ability until your next turn.

(#115D) OBLIVION IS YOUR REWARD: Adjacent opposing characters can’t use powers.

STEALTH FIELD: When Alpha Class Sentinel (Defense Mode) is adjacent to a square of blocking terrain, lines of fire drawn to it are blocked.

SUMMON REINFORCEMENTS: Give Alpha Class Sentinel (Defense Mode) a power action when it has 1 or more action tokens and place a DOFP #001 Sentinel in an adjacent square on its orange starting line.

IMPERIUS REX!: Give Namor a power action to place adjacent an Atlantean Warrior bystander -or- Give Namor a double power action to place adjacent two Atlantean Warrior bystanders. You may not use this power if there are more than 4 Atlantean Warrior bystanders on your force.

SUMMON THE DRONES: Give Ultron a free action if she has no action tokens. Put a CW #002 Iron Man Drone or CW #003 Ultron Drone in your starting area on its 30 point line if less than 4 total friendly characters with those names are on the map.

TELEPORT MY GREATEST ENEMIES: Thanos can use Plasticity. Give Thanos a power action and place the two highest point value target opposing characters in squares adjacent to Thanos.

STONE GOLEM: Give Thanos a double power action if no friendly Stone Golem tokens are on the map and place a Stone Golem token on the map in an adjacent square. That token becomes a bystander token as described to the right.

CALL IN THE AIR STRIKE: Once per game, give Thunderbolt Ross a double power action. Choose a square anywhere on the map. Modify General Thunderbolt Ross’ attack value by +3 and make a ranged combat attack that does not target, and compare the result to each character occupying the chosen square or a square adjacent to the chosen square. A hit character occupying the chosen square is dealt 3 damage. Other hit characters are dealt 2 damage that causes knock back from the chosen square. Destroy all walls and squares of blocking terrain in or adjacent to the chosen square.

GENESIS REBORN: Give Highfather a power action and replace him with SLOSH #051 Takion on the same click number.

WAVES OF DESTRUCTION: Dark Phoenix Cyclops can use Energy Explosion and Pulse Wave. When he uses Pulse Wave and there is more than one character within the area of effect, his damage value becomes 7 minus his click number, minimum 2. (if you do this while on click 1, that’s a 6 damage multitarget Pulse Wave)

RAPID-FIRE TRICK SHOOTING: Hawkeye can use Running Shot. Each time Hawkeye hits an opposing character with a range attack, after actions resolve, he can use Running Shot again as a free action, but only to target a character that wasn’t attacked this turn.

[ISSUE #5] DROWN IN TIME: Once per turn, give Thanos a power action. Each opposing character must choose to be dealt 1 unavoidable damage or it can’t attack Thanos during its next turn.

STEAL YOUR TRANSPORT: Opposing characters can’t use the Carry ability. If there is an opposing character possessing the Carry ability, Nebula modifies her speed value by +3 and can use the Carry ability.

SLAVE ENGINE DEGENERATION: Opposing characters within 3 squares possess Battle Fury and can’t be given power actions.

WATCHER’S EYES TO SEE SECRETS: Nick Fury can use Probability Control. Give Nick Fury a free action and choose a power that an opposing character within range and line of fire can use. That character can’t use that power until your next turn.

BUILDING SHOVE: Give Giant-Man a power action if he is adjacent to elevated terrain. All characters occupying that level of elevated terrain within that same continuous border are dealt 1 penetrating damage and knocked back 1 square.

PLANETS BECOME WEAPONS (300PT DIAL): Give Ziran the Tester a power action. At the beginning of your next turn, deal 1 unavoidable damage to each opposing character if Ziran the Tester hasn’t taken any damage since your last turn.

LANDING (600PT DIAL): Once per game, as a free action you may have Ziran the Tester gain the “boot” symbol for the rest of the game. When you do, Ziran may use Quake as a free action to target all opposing characters that can’t use the Flight ability.

ASGARD MUST FALL: Once per game, give Sentry and Void a double power action. For the rest of the game even if this power is lost elevated terrain is considered grounded hindering terrain. Deal Sentry and Void and each character occupying elevated terrain 1 unavoidable damage.

CAPTURE: Leash can use the Capture ability. When he does, he may target a single opposing character with a ranged combat attack instead of a close combat attack, but modifies his attack value by -2.

MY EARLY ADVENTURES WITH SHIP: Jason of Sparta can use Charge and has “wing symbol”. When he uses the Carry ability, he may carry up to 3 characters if they each share a keyword with him. Once per game, give Jason of Sparta a free action and he and characters he carried this turn can’t be targeted by opposing characters until your next turn.

FIND MY CONTACT, AGENT REDBIRD: Once per game, give Colonel Wayne a free action and place adjacent a Redbird bystander.

[every Colossal Retaliator effect aside from Stiltman]

I INFILTRATED YOU LONG AGO: Give Helspont a double power action and select an opposing character of a lower point value. Place Helspont and the chosen character in each other’s squares, and after actions resolve, Helspont may be given a close or ranged combat attack as a free action. (primarily useful in the mid-late game to pick off any straggling support pieces the opponent left behind, and also get Greed out of dodge, on Ophidian proper it is a great way to move their best piece away from the rest of their team).