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Let's talk about Marvel Snap, the best mobile game of 2022

Two A.V. Club staffers talk strategies, meme decks, and style in Marvel's shockingly good card game

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Marvel Snap
Marvel Snap
Image: Marvel

Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?


There’s no especially good reason for Marvel Snap to be as good as it is. A collectible card game leveraging the company’s vast IP, filled with lovely art, jammed with all sorts of addiction-inducing mechanics, was going to make money no matter what.

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But after several months out in the world, Snap isn’t just good: It’s great, blending fascinating theming with deceptively simple core gameplay that allows the developers at Second Dinner to expand, twist, and sometimes break the whole thing in half in delightful and inventive ways. The result is one of the best mobile games in recent memory, a game that lives up to the brand it so gleefully plays with.

Rather than a dry recitation of plaudits, though, we’ve opted to have the two biggest Snap fanatics on The A.V. Club’s staff, staff writers William Hughes and Sam Barsanti, talk out what’s so compelling about the game on Slack. This is that conversation—minus the eight million or so emojis that usually fill up an A.V. Club Slack convo.

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William Hughes: Sam, let’s start with the most important question you can ask any Marvel Snap player: What color is your go-to card back?

Sam Barsanti: Oh, I thought you were going to say “How embarrassingly high is your Collection Level?” (Mine is 994.) The secret trick to my Snap decks, and please don’t tell anyone I said this, because it will spoil my strategies when I play online, is that I use a specific color based on the deck’s theme. The deck based around Jubilee, for example, has yellow. Doctor Doom is green. Agatha Harkness is purple. Death is black. I’ve seen people with a Daredevil card back, though, so once I figure out how to get that it will be the only one I use.

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WH: That is an absurdly high Collection Level! (Mine is much lower; I took a break from the game because it absolutely murders my phone’s battery.) I do think the visual element of the game is super important, though: There’s a reason that all of the more mechanical unlocks are built around making your cards look increasingly cool. (Although, can we agree that the “Animated” upgrade to the cards is profoundly underwhelming? I was expecting to see Squirrel Girl bouncing around all over the place, not just... wiggling slightly.)

MARVEL SNAP | Gameplay Trailer

SB: Honestly, all of the card upgrades are boring after 3D, which is actually very cool (it tilts based on the way you tilt your phone!). Spending a ton of in-game money to turn your card’s border from purple to gold isn’t very interesting, even if it is… the entire basic motivation for playing the game. You upgrade your cards to get more cards or more money (based on your Collection Level), and then with that money you upgrade your cards. If you think about it too hard the whole thing starts to crumble, which is why it’s a good thing that playing the game is also very fun.

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WH: It also encourages you not to stick to a single deck, since the easiest way to build your Collection Level (and thus get more cards) is to start playing with your lower-level cards. And building decks is very fun, in part because they’ve come up with a clever way to theme them: The extremely powerful 6-cost cards, which, because you’ll only have the energy to play one of them (in most games, anyway) let you set the tone for an entire deck. You’re way deeper into the game than I am, Sam: What’s your favorite 6-cost? (And least favorite? I’m guessing it’s poor, boring Hulk.)

SB: First of all, I’ve come around on the Hulk, if only because I have the Patriot card, which gives +2 power to every card with no abilities (so it’s an advantage that the Hulk is a very boring card that isn’t interesting in any way). My favorite 6-cost is the Infinaut, a Marvel character I don’t even know: He has a staggering 20 power, but you can only play him if you didn’t play any cards the previous turn. So when you pair that with cards that incentivize not playing (like Sunspot, possibly my favorite card), he becomes very useful. My least favorite is probably Magneto: He moves some of the other player’s cards to where he is, which means if his location is full it will do nothing, and if the other player doesn’t have the right kind of cards that can be moved, it will also do nothing. All of that for only 12 power makes him just as strong as the Hulk but somehow less useful. I want to hear your 6-cost opinions. But also, do you have a favorite 1-cost? The bread and butter of a Snap deck!

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WH: I’m just now trying to build up my deck-building game, so my current 6-cost of choice is Monica “Spectrum” Rambeau (Nextwave fans of the world, unite!), who boosts the massive number of Ongoing ability cards I’ve shoved into my latest deck. (Although Onslaught, who doubles Ongoings at his location, is looking very enticing.) As for 1-cost cards, which define your opening turns as much as 6-costs define the late game, I’ll admit to having a weakness for Nightcrawler, on the sheer versatility of being able to bounce him around to misdirect my opponent. On that same note, I’m really enjoying Uatu The Watcher, who lets you see all of a game’s unrevealed locations—which can have massive, game-defining impacts as they roll out each turn. (Knowing there’s a Bar Sinister or a Gamma Lab looming can really change up how you play those opening turns.) What’s your favorite 1-cost? And do you have locations you love or dread?

SB: Sunspot is my favorite 1-cost (he gets more power if you have unspent energy, so nothing goes to waste), but I’m also partial to Nova, if only because I’m an old Annihilation War kid and I like seeing him. Even if I don’t use his power, which is that he buffs everyone if he gets destroyed, it’s nice to know he’s still out there (though Marvel itself often forgets that). As for locations, hoo boy, there are some that I despise. Anything that automatically destroys cards is frustrating, but you can counter that with cards that are good to destroy (anyone in the Wolverine family, for instance).

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If there’s one that I absolutely despise it’s the TVA location, which ends the game after 4 turns instead of after 6. That means it’s just a mad dash to play anything, throwing any strategies out the window. I love the strategies, so that means I’m having zero fun when the TVA shows up. My favorite locations are the ones that give you bonus power to the other locations, so I can dump some huge 6-cost in one spot and suddenly win all three areas by 20 points. (I once beat somebody so bad with one of those that I’m pretty sure they deleted the game. I would have if the shoe were on the other foot.)

WH: One of the things I love about Snap is that the basic structure is so simple that it can be screwed with enormously, with a minimum of effort. Extend the game, shorten it, make everything in your hand absurdly cheap: The locations, maybe even more than a lot of the powers, add variety and flavor to every single match. (Although I’ll confess to hating Danger Room, specifically because of the luck-based nature; I prefer an even, if exploding, playing field.)

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We should wrap this up, Sam, but do you have any favorite strategies you’ve developed? Totally wild decks you’ve seen people bust out? (I just fought somebody whose whole deck was about drawing from my deck so I’d run out of cards; very clever, very annoying.) Cards where the theming was just too perfect not to use?

SB: I’ve seen a ton of what I would consider “troll” decks lately, where the whole strategy is throwing out every card that makes my deck worse (forcing me to play rocks with no power, raising the costs of my other cards) or playing the hated Hobgoblin card (which flies over to your opponent’s side and has -8 power), so those people can go to hell. But my favorite strategy currently is with a deck I call “Deez Cards” (as in… “discard”), where it’s all cards that get stronger based on discarding the cards in your hand. One of the key cards to the strategy is Morbius, which means I get to say that really funny meme catchphrase in my head whenever I play it. You know the one. Don’t make me say it. How about you? Please don’t tell me you have an entire Hobgoblin-based deck, because you’re actually a bully in online multiplayer games.

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WH; The closest I come to bullying (so far, at least) is using Cosmo and Enchantress to shut off opponents’ abilities; nothing like seeing someone slap down an obvious game-winner and see it get nullified by what the Yu-Gi-Oh children call “my trap card.” And if they’ve snapped right beforehand (wagering more points on a just-snatched-away victory)? Oh, the death of hope is oh so sweet. (I’m a monster—although at least I’m not the kind of monster who’ll use an emote to announce it to my opponent.)

SB: While we’re talking about the emotes, which I love (because they’re almost all positive things), why don’t more people use the “Spider-Man pointing” one? If somebody has the same avatar as me, or plays the same card in the same spot as me, doesn’t that warrant a Spider-Man point? Why is it there if not for that? If you’re going to play the game, play the game! That’s the last thing I’ll say, because it’s very important to me.