When Age of Ultron came out, it was the first time we’d seen any character appear in 3 different sets in the game. With the release of the amazing Spider-Man set, another 4 characters were added to the list: Hulk, Spider-Man, Black Widow and Wolverine. Over the next 4 Dice-Masters articles, I want to consider each of the different versions we have now seen.
For Hulk, I’m drawing a line based on the rules of the game: all cards named “Hulk” are up for discussion, as only one can be used on any given team. By contrast, Red Hulk and She-Hulk have different titles (I don’t think we have a Red-She-Hulk yet, do we?), so don’t get looked at, despite their overall hulkiness.
Avengers vs X-Men
Hulk was a starter character in the very first set in the game, and he is still a powerhouse today. He was a Fist-energy character, in classic Hulk green, with big numbers (minimum 6 attack and 5 defence). His purchase and field costs are also high, but his overall efficiency still remains above 5 for the most part.
Anger Issues – The first starter version was “Anger Issues” a 7-coster who had the potential to get massive when he took damage, +2A, +2D every time you or he took damage. If you just want someone Big, then this Hulk does the job, and he works well as a blocker, or to take out opposing defenders. However, you need to combine him with other toys to really get maximum mileage out of him – as it stands, he can be blocked by a single side-kick, and with such a high cost point, I’ve never seen him used.
Annihilator – At a rather more reasonable 6, Annihilator offered speedier recycling of your Hulk dice, moving them from Used to Prep, every time you or he take damage. The problem with this, is that it only works well if you have lots of Hulk dice, and they still cost 6 each – in most games involving a Hulk, people only bother bringing 2: this would require a new strategy where your team was heavily weighted towards the top end, and again, it’s not one I see people bother with.
Jade Giant vs Green Goliath
The real question for people running Hulks out of AvX was Jade Giant or Green Goliath. Both weigh in at 6-cost, and both have a similar premise: whilst active, if you or your hulk take damage, you can hurt your opponent’s characters.
For Jade Giant, each trigger allows you to KO an opposing level-1 character, upgraded to “any level” if Hulk is on a burst (which happens when Hulk is at level 1 or 2). For Green Goliath, each trigger deals 2 damage to each character your opponent has fielded, going up to 3 on the burst level.
Whichever version you take is a massive game-changer. Suddenly your opponent is afraid of damaging you, and finds any number of the basic elements of the game completely changed. Personally, I prefer Green Goliath – it has the potential to completely clear the field of characters, and allow you to put through a swathe of unblockable attacks. If you pair this with some kind of direct-damage global, pinging your own Hulk twice, especially with a burst, could do 6 damage to everything your opponent has fielded, which is unlikely to leave a great deal left.
Jade Giant is a more finessed option – the removal is very targeted, and that offers some definite potential: with a burst, you can take out a level 3 Thanos in one turn, and you don’t need to worry about cards like Jocasta (although actually, if you can take the 2 / 3 damage, Jocasta would re-trigger Hulk, and loop back on your opponent anyway, which may not be a bad thing…) However, if your opponent has 6 sidekicks in the field, it will take Jade Giant 6 activations to get rid of them all –which could be enough to lose Hulk (or at least make him very vulnerable).
Age of Ultron
After sitting out Uncanny X-Men, Hulk returned in Age of Ultron with a new, translucent, dice and a different stat and energy make-up. Instead of fists, Hulk was now Shield energy, his attack had taken a hit (particularly at level 1), but his defence was shored up slightly. As before, all of his versions were Avengers.
Smash! – coming in at 5, Smash! Was the cheapest version of Hulk seen so far, but he came with a disadvantage, rather than an ability, namely that he can only attack alone. For 5, you might want to consider him as a very efficient defender, but otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.
The remaining three versions of Hulk all came with Overcrush, something that was noticeably missing from AvX. For 6-cost, the Overcrush is not automatic, but comes when you field another Avenger (easy enough to do, especially if you’re using my old favourite, Nick Fury). At 7-cost, Overcrush is automatic, and he has potential to damage your opponent and come back again for the next round by spinning down a level. These are nice abilities, but 7-cost is a lot (I very rarely use anything over 6), and Hulk’s attack just isn’t high enough to make it worthwhile. I tend not to bother.
The most recent and, in most respects, the most puzzling versions of Hulk come in the Amazing Spider-Man set. In a first for any character we’ve looked at so far, he gets a third new die mould. Still shield energy, he has the same attack total as the Age of Ultron version, but more evenly spread over the three levels. His defence is now particularly huge – 7, 8, 9 across the three levels, and he is unaffiliated.
I’m given to understand that this Hulk is inspired by the Planet Hulk and/or World War Hulk story-lines, neither of which I’ve read, so these cards do nothing for me on a thematic level. (Broadly, from what the internet tells me, on a not-too-many-spoilers basis: Hulk is sent away from earth, bad things happen, he comes back and is pretty miffed with those responsible for sending him away). Mechanically, they are both enormous defenders, but at very steep costs: 7 for his common and uncommon, and 8 for the Super-Rare.
All 3 versions come with an Aftershock effect – a new introduction for the Spider-Man Set, which triggers automatically whenever the character leaves the field as a result of your opponent’s actions (damage, re-rolling, removal etc).
In all 3 instances, the Aftershock effect targets both players equally – firstly by removing sidekicks (sacrificed, so you don’t even get to re-roll them), secondly by making each player sacrifice a character, and lastly by moving all dice in the game from the Prep Area to their owner’s Used Pile.
The high purchase costs mean that the efficiency on these cards is low – Warbound is the worst of all the Hulks in terms of straight numbers, although his sheer bulk means that he is still not as bad as many other characters.
For me, the real flaw with these characters is the ability – nobody is buying a 7 or 8-cost character for sheer numbers, they are going to be looking for a corresponding ability. The amount of devastation this contribute has little to no guarantee of being any more useful for you than it is for your opponent – in fact, the way that Aftershock triggers, actually gives you less control than the player opposite.
I think the best illustration of this I can provide, comes from when we did a Rainbow Draft of my Spider-Man box. As all the dice were going home with me, unlike a standard competitive draft, people were looking for gameplay rather than rarity and cash-value, which led to the strange sight of a super-rare being passed round. And round. And round. I think somebody finally took it as the last-but-one card in a hand, and that was just to get an extra Hulk dice.
The various different Hulks we have seen are all trying to do slightly different things, and your mileage will vary, depending on how well he meshes with your strategy.
That said, it’s slightly disappointing this far into the game’s life that we’ve seen 11 different Hulks, and the best one is still the first. For me, Green Goliath is the winner by a country mile. Thematically, a Hulk who indiscriminately damages friend and foe might make sense, but for gameplay, it doesn’t seem worthwhile.