There are many different types of special conditions in Marvel Crisis Protocol. It’s easy to lose track of which does what, especially since many of them are rare (or, at least, rarely taken). In this article, I will describe each of the special conditions in the game (in roughly ascending power order) and try to give examples of when it is useful to go out of your way to apply.
Easily the weakest condition, poison simply removes one power from the poisoned character after they power up. It has some uses against power starved teams, especially web warriors, but since it doesn’t prevent the character from getting power in other ways it certainly isn’t worth building around.
Stun is an interesting condition that is unfortunately very difficult to apply. By limiting power generation to a maximum of 1 from any source, it prevents characters from getting huge amounts of power from builder spikes or having a large health pool, but most ways to apply stun come from an attack (thereby providing the power you were trying to prevent). Also, it obviously does nothing against characters who only gain one power at a time and oddly doesn’t affect most power gained in the power phase (since things like cubes are counted as different “sources”)
On the other hand, Bleed is extremely easy to apply, but often doesn’t do much. The best case scenario for this condition is to apply it to a character with one health remaining so your opponent has to choose between treating it like a stagger by shaking or letting their character die at the end of their activation. That’s the problem, though, that your opponent gets to choose what’s best for them. Even the normal use of applying the bleed and doing damage over time isn’t impressive, because it only does a maximum of 6 damage over an entire game (and that requires applying it turn 1 to the deployment line and never dazing that character) and because of marvel dice 1 damage often feels inconsequential.
Slow is only occasionally powerful. Obviously, reducing a character’s speed to slow does nothing if they’re already speed short or if they’re carrying an extract that makes them speed short – but if you can slow a character, take an extract and run away with it you can drastically change the outcome of the game. Also note that slow is more powerful on flip secures, since those crises tend to require moving between objective points and in most cases making a character slow increases the number of movements required to move between them.
Root is very hit or miss – there are some characters for whom paying 1 power extra for their superpowers does almost nothing, and others that are completely shut down by it. Magneto and Thanos spring to mind as characters that use a ton of superpowers even in a single turn, but you can also look at Steve-led Avengers lists for a good inspiration of characters crushed by root (Cable, Hood, Heimdall, etc). Finally, while it doesn’t use the word “Root”, Loki’s God of Mischief aura acts identically to Root – but doesn’t need to be specifically applied and cannot be shaken.
Judgment is quite rare, and for good reason. Once applied, it removes one of the core balancing acts of the game – namely that as a character takes more damage, they get more power to do things with. Forcing characters to rely on their own power generation can be devastating, especially since unlike stun, both of the current sources of judgment are not linked to attacks, and do not provide power when applying them.
Shock is almost always useful, since most characters make at least a couple of attacks per game, and lowering the number of dice they get greatly lowers their damage output (since they have fewer chances to crit and therefore fewer high damage spikes). Shock is especially useful against characters with rapid fire, since it lowers the damage of all four attacks they make per round and makes it more likely that they won’t get the rapid fire trigger in the first place.
Incinerate is when we start getting into truly powerful conditions. Removing a defense die from a character dramatically increases the amount of damage a character takes (again because there are fewer chances to crit and spike) and since it applies to all incoming damage can often increase the power of several of your characters at once. Additionally, there are several characters who can apply incinerate regardless of the attack roll, making it much easier to plan around. Incinerate is especially powerful against the Hulks, since they have a lot of HP, only have defense dice to reduce incoming damage, and don’t get to clear conditions by dazing.
In addition to being a powerful condition, Hex is a great way to show the difference in MCP dice between expected value and actual damage. Since characters can’t explode criticals when hexed, their damage output and defenses revert to simple expected value (like other games’ dice systems) instead of the feast or famine spikes that MCP dice usually use. In addition, hex affects both offense and defense, often providing a similar effect to being shocked and incinerated simultaneously – and can be stacked with those effects. Note that Loki’s God of Mischief on his injured side provides a similar effect to hex, even if it doesn’t say the word.
Last, but certainly not least, is stagger. This condition reduces the most precious resource of a character, the number of actions they can take. This can have a massive impact on scenario (by preventing characters from being able to move between elements) and attrition (especially if you can get out of the attack range of a staggered character). Obviously, the more important the action of a character, the more relevant stagger is – so try to get it on characters with big attacks and no way to move themselves or another character with a superpower. Interestingly, stagger specifies that you must spend the first action of your activation to shake it, so if you manage to get staggered after taking your first action (for example by using Face Me on Black Cat), it won’t affect you until that character’s next activation.