In this series for newer or casual players we introduce the various Affiliations in Marvel Crisis Protocol, dip into their comic book history, and talk about building a roster around them. This week we look at the crew that shows us Friendship is indeed Magic, Convocation!
Near as I can tell Convocation is another one of those affiliations that doesn’t exist in the actual comics but was just put together for Crisis Protocol. But it makes sense that the Mystic heavy-hitters would all have each other on speed dial for when Shuma-Gorath tries to eat the moon or one of Strange’s spells goes horribly wrong (Rob: Realtalk – how often do Strange’s spells actually go right?).
And what better place to hang out and talk shop than The Bar With No Doors, a secret ye olde tavern in Manhattan that looks like at any moment a cleric, a rogue, and 1d3 fighters are going to be recruiting a wizard to head off to White Plume Mountain?
The Ancient One is the sorcerer who trained Doctor Strange and many others in the mystic arts. In the comics he was a really old dude with a long beard, so being played by Tilda Swinton in the MCU is definitely a step up. The Ancient One has been shown to transcend the death of his physical body, which is a pretty great trick.
Baron Karl Amadeus Mordo is gifted with perhaps the most baller name in marvel comics and a great talent for the dark arts. He was a student of the Ancient One and in true villainous form plotted to kill his teacher and steal his powers, only to be stopped by fellow student Stephen Strange. Typical evil wizard nemesis stuff.
Clea is a sorceress from the Dark Dimension and a relative of Dormammu. She is the Sorceress Supreme of the Dark Dimension and its occasional ruler. Clea is a Faltine, a being of pure magical energy, and trained with Doctor Strange, so she has some serious magical skills. She and Strange are married, and Mordo is kind of her step dad, which makes holidays pretty weird.
Doctor Strange is usually the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, at least when Doctor Voodoo or Loki or Clea isn’t holding the title. He has great skill at magic and a wealth of cool magic items. He’s often plagued by guilt and temptation toward dark magic, and is kind of a himbo.
Doctor Voodoo became a sorcerer to avenge his brother’s murder. In addition to having control over his brother’s spirit he can contact and draw on the power of the Loa (spirit gods in Marvel). Disappointingly, unlike Strange, Druid, and Doom, his actual last name isn’t Voodoo. What’s up with that?
Magik is Illyana Rasputin, sister of Colossus and member of the New Mutants. Her mutant power is teleportation by way of the realm of Limbo, where she was trained in sorcery and sword fighting. She wields the Soulsword and usually wears a partial suit of eldritch armor. Like most of the X-Man and New Mutants her backstory is hell of convoluted and she’s been dead on and off.
And of course good old Wong, always giving Stephen good advice he doesn’t heed.
Doctor Strange: Season One (2012) 1-7. A modern re-telling of Strange’s origin, with plenty of Wong, Mordo, and the Ancient One
Doctor Strange: The Oath (2007) 1-5. Explores the friendship between Strange and Wong, and also Strange’s balance between sorcerer and doctor.
Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural (2009) 1-5. Voodoo’s solo series didn’t last long, but this is one of the better places to see him in action.
Magik: Storm and Illyana (1983) 1-4. Illyana’s whole backstory and ten years of training that happened off-panel are addressed in this miniseries. But be warned, this is Claremont as heck!
Convocation in Marvel Crisis Protocol
Convocation has a lot of mystic attacks going for it. Currently in MCP there aren’t a ton of characters with high Mystic defenses – the ones that have it like Enchantress and Magneto have a lot of it but most folks only have heightened resistances to Physical and Energy. So that’s a big plus.
The Convocation doesn’t have a leader in the usual MCP sense. Instead it has The Bar With No Doors, a Team Tactics card that can be played by any Convocation character, granting that character a leadership ability. This gives you a lot more flexibility in building your list as you’re not restricted to any specific member.
The Bar With No Doors card is double sided, and whichever character has played it can pay 1 Power in the Power phase to flip to the other side. The ability on that side of the card is then in effect until the card is flipped again.
One side has Moons of Munnopor allows an ally to reroll one of their attack dice when attacking a character who does not have an Activated token, and to reroll a defense die when attacked if they (the ally) does not have an Activated token. Rerolls are always good, and attacking characters who have not yet activated is usually the best tactical move anyway. You know your opponent is going to go after models that have already activated when this side is up, though.
The other side has Circle of the Cosmos, which allows an ally to be placed within Range 1 when they have been damaged by an enemy effect. Free movement is also always good, although you don’t have control over who is going to be attacked so it’s hard to really rely on this.
How do you know when to switch from one side to the other? It really depends on whether you need movement or if you’re going for offense that round. Also if you’re getting your butt kicked Moons will probably help you out more than Circle. The best thing about these abilities though is, aside from flipping the card, they don’t cost anything at all. Grade: B+
There are seven tactics cards specific to Convocation, as well as ones that are tied to specific characters.
Astral Ring allows a Convocation member to place a Projection token up to Range 3 away. The token is now the origin point for any powers or attacks and is the thing that actually contests objectives (not the character itself). For only 2 Power this is a super useful tool. Grade: A-
Bane of Damballah lets you put the Root special condition on an enemy you just attacked and any other enemies within Range 2, if the attack roll contained any Hits or Wilds. Would probably be good if Root was more useful. There are certain situations sure, but enough to warrant this being in my ten? I don’t think so. Grade: C-
The Book of Cagliostro has a couple things going on. If a chosen character spends 2 Power, and two other nearby allies also spend 2, the chosen character removes its Activated token. Being able to go again in the round is huge.
The second part is that if you discard two Team Tactics cards you can get this card back in your hand. That’s really tasty but you’re sacrificing two cards to do it. Maybe you find yourself in a situation where some cards can’t be played, like the character they’re tied to has been KO’d. It’s a hefty trade-off but being able to remove an activation token a second time is a terrific payoff. Grade: A-
If you have any characters in your roster with great Mystic defenses but not great Physical ones The Iron-Bound Books of Shuma-Gorath can help mitigate that. Pay 2 Power during the Power phase and for the whole round when any ally is targeted by a Physical attack you can make it Mystic. Seeing how many of the Convocation you could stuff into a high school locker, this card seems essential. And then, when things go badly for you as they will often do, if an ally is KO’d you can take this card back into your hand. Remarkable, especially compared to the cost of the Book of Cagliostro. Grade: A
Ponder the Orb of Agamotto to get a Range 3 teleport for 3 Power. Only Convocation characters not holding objectives can use this, but there’s no limit on how many eligible characters can take advantage. A Range 3 teleport is insanely helpful. Unfortunately it’s priced so that you probably can’t use it in the first few rounds, but that’s called game design. Grade: A-
You want to play Plane of Pohldahk early in the round, and then your allies get to reroll any number of dice in Mystic attacks against a specified enemy for the whole round. Choosing which dice to reroll is so much better than having to reroll everything. And let’s see who in this affiliation has Mystic attacks, well gosh it’s everyone! Drop this card and focus fire to get a particularly scary enemy off the board.
The Wand of Watoomb has a couple different effects you can choose. It can give you a solid Range 5 Energy attack that also gives Incinerate, Slow, and Shock. Or you can reroll two defensive dice this round. Or you can use a superpower that is normally limited to once per turn a second time. Such flexibility, you’re definitely going to get use out of one of these abilities and probably wish you could get a second one as well. But, as They MIght Be Giants taught us, life is unfair. Grade: A
The Seven Suns of Cinnibus is a great extra attack for Doctor Strange but he’s not likely to have 3 Power just burning a hole in his pocket. If you take this one you’ll need to plan ahead to let loose your Wave Motion Gun at just the right moment, and it will be amazing. But it isn’t all that necessary in an affiliation that has decent damage output already. Grade: B+
Vapors of Valtorr requires that an already fairly tapped Doctor Strange spend 3 Power to give an ally within Range 3 a 1-in-3 chance to be able to force an attacker to reroll any dice. Bad odds for dicey (no pun intended, probably) defensive tech. Grade: C+
Seance doesn’t cost any Power and gives Doctor Voodoo an extra die for any Crits he rolls this round if he has the Brother Daniel token. Or if Brother Daniel is on an enemy, that character doesn’t get any additional dice for Crits. It’s not a guaranteed thing but it’s a nice boost if you’re bringing Doctor Voodoo in your squad. Unfortunately most dice fixing tricks happen after the resolve Crits step or this would be super good. Grade: B-
Journey Through Limbo allows Magik to teleport another character who is within Range 2 of her to within Range 3 of its current position. And because Limbo sucks that character now has the Incinerate special condition. The card doesn’t specify ally or enemy so you can use it on either one, if the ally is willing to eat an Incinerate (or maybe is immune). But if you’re using it on an ally the Orb of Agamotto is probably a better idea. This would be outstanding if it were reactive but you’re probably inconveniencing the enemy more than anything else. Grade: B+
Building Your Roster
You know how up above I said this affiliation was full of good Mystic attacks? Say hello to the Ancient One. Two Mystic builders, which would be average or decent attacks if they targeted Physical or Energy but are very good simply based on the low availability of Mystic defenses. The Ancient One’s builder, Astral Strike, has the added benefit of not allowing Crits to count on defense rolls and also not allowing Crits to add extra dice. Spicy! Defensively The Ancient One can reroll up to two defense or dodge dice for free. Which is great because their Physical defense is only a 2. Martial Artist helps by counting blanks but there’s only so much you can do with two dice. Keep the Iron Bound Books of Shuma-Gorath handy. Winds of Watoomb may be helpful to pull an attacker into range for Martial Artist or just to generally mess up their positioning. Oh, and The Ancient One has a range 2 teleport that only costs 2 Power. Lots going on here, easily worth the 4 Threat but you may want to have a bodyguard nearby. Grade: B+
Baron Mordo has the same issue with his Physical defense, although his Energy and Mystic are both good. Mordo, unfortunately, doesn’t have any cool defensive tech to keep him alive. Maybe his best defense is a good offense? Uh, not really. Two Strength 4 Mystic builders are, again, better than Strength 4 Physical or Energy builders, but still not great. Mordo’s spender is a little better and gives Incinerate and Poison. He can generate Power as an action, and he can give two extra dice to an attacking ally, although that ally takes 1 wound after the attack (he is an Evil Sorcerer after all). Mordo’s most interesting power is his Soul Barb – he picks a character within Range 3 with Hex, Incinerate, Poison, or Slow and splashes one of those effects onto all enemies within Range 2 of his target. A nice way to spread conditions far and wide. And if Scarlet Witch is in the neighborhood (seems rude they’ve not invited her into the affiliation) those aren’t going away any time soon. Mordo has to be a bit closer to his target than he’d like to do this though. Grade: B
Clea follows the same pattern – lousy Physical defense but great Mystic defense, no real defensive tech, not a great builder. But thanks to her Faltine heritage she can spend an action to generate 3 Power so she doesn’t really need the builder as much. The only catch is she has a chance of harming herself if she rolls skulls. A couple bad rolls and she could be Dazed. Clea’s spender only costs 3 and is Strength 6 so that’s pretty nice, but good luck proccing the two higher effects – Crit, Wild, Hit and Block on six dice without any rerolls is ambitious but Stagger is great if you can get it. Clea’s other two powers help her move folks around – a Range 2 Short throw and a Range 2 teleport for herself or allies within 3. These will be key to keeping her out of range of attackers. But as you’re spending that effort keeping her alive, what are you gaining? The spender is solid I don’t know that it’s enough to earn Clea a spot in the roster. Grade: C+
Doctor Strange (original version) remains a character with so many utility toys and not quite enough juice to pay for them. The Shield of Seraphim may help but it’s not dependable, and the Soul Gem can pitch in but then you’re looking at a 6 Threat character. Doc is one of the few characters with a healing power though, which could be incredibly helpful on this team. His Hoggoth’s Hoary Wisdom also gives allies much needed defensive dice. Strange really could be the keystone of a Convocation squad but there will be some very tough decisions on when to spend that Power. Grade: B
When he levels up to become Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme though his Power woes are gone. The Chosen of the Vishanti ability grants Stephen two extra Power each round, and he also gains Power for each Wild he rolls against Energy or Mystic attacks. That Power will be handy for his teleport as it is a pretty steep 4 Power – Clea only pays 3 for the same ability. This version of Strange loses the ability to hand out defense dice, but still has a heal and condition removal effect that can be triggered on his kind of pricey but really awesome spender. The heal on Shining Circle of the Seraphim is only 1 damage but all allies within Range 2 (including Strange) get it if you roll a Wild and a Block. It’s Strength 7 and you can do a full reroll so it may not be as far out of reach as it might otherwise seem. Strange’s other attacks on this version are also potent – a Strength 5 Mystic builder with Pierce and a 6 Strength Range 5 attack with a cost of 1 where you can decide which defense it targets. That’s a moneymaker right there. The Sorcerer Supreme variant is definitely a more offensive iteration of Stephen and a great include for an attrition based squad. Grade: A-
Doctor Voodoo also has strong offensive ability, and his attacks both remove a target’s Power (the builder with Sap and the spender with Burn) which is annoying/delicious depending on which side of it you’re on. Jericho can also use his Brother Daniel’s spirit to give himself better defenses or to make an enemy drop an objective token. His base Physical and Energy defenses are really bad, which is saying a lot in this crew, so mind where that spirit goes. All in all, Doctor Voodoo is a very solid all-arounder. Grade: B+
Magik is the (relatively) tough beatstick of the bunch. She has average Physical and Energy defense and a higher Mystic. Illyana has some additional defense against Mystic on top of that from her Sorcerer Supreme of Limbo, which is weird but further protection isn’t bad I guess when you run into a mirror match. Her Mystic builder is Strength 5 with pierce, nice, and she has an Energy builder as well that’s weaker but guaranteed 1 Power and helpful in the aforementioned mirror. Magik’s spender is only Strength 6 but adds the fails from her roll and the defender’s to the total, which is bonkers and I love it. Lastly she has her signature stepping disks allowing Magik to spend 1-3 Power to teleport the same Range. For 3 Threat she deals solid damage with the possibility of some nice spikes and has great mobility. Grade: A-
Other than the original version of Doctor Strange, there aren’t too many in affiliation characters here that run tight on Power, so Wong’s utility is lower. Still, he does have a healing ability and nobody ever said no to some extra Power. And with all the ally-moving tricks the Convocation has up their sleeves you can move Wong around to be near whoever he needs to heal or pass Power to. Still a good utility 2 Threat character, and fairly essential with original Stephen. Grade: B+
You have two choices really: put all your eggs in one Mystic basket and load up further on those folks (Enchantress, Scarlet Witch, etc.) or try to balance things out by bringing a Physical or Energy based heavy hitter. I expect lots of people are going to be leaning toward magic-themed lineups between Midnight Sons and Convocation so maybe have someone who can take advantage of those nice squishy defenses. Also: bodyguards. You want some bodyguards, at least Okoye, maybe Cage too.
For a multi-affiliation roster, Defenders is the obvious play and would let you include some real nasties like Wolverine or Iron Fist if your opponent goes Convocation. Or Hulk. Good lord, Hulk could murder almost this entire affiliation in one activation. You’re also most of the way to a good Midnight Sons squad if you want to keep within the magic-user family.
So Are They Any Good?
Convocation can be great in the right matchup – mainly enemies with low Mystic defenses. But those characters usually have good Physical or Energy attacks so you need to play with caution. Many of the affiliated characters have good movement tools, so a hit and run strategy may be the best approach. The Convocation has good flexibility in its Leadership ability so you can adapt to the current game state, and really impressive Tactics cards to fill in a lot of gaps. They may need a little support from unaffiliated characters to balance things out but you can make a very potent attrition based squad by staying mostly in affiliation too.
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