Marvel 3 is almost 3 years old now. There were a lot of suckers out there who spent Valentine's Day 2011 with significant others. What losers, am I right? For the rest of us (who didn't get early copies), there was Marvel, and it was good. We've come a long way in those three years. So happy early 3 rd birthday Marvel. In honor of this milestone it's time to talk about the 2014 Team Tier List!
The best teams in UMvC3 usually have something in common. Even if you haven't put it into words yourself, you definitely understand the concept. The goal of UMvC3 is to keep the other person from playing for as long as possible. It's too easy to lose in this game; even weak characters can kill an entire team given the proper opening and the right amount of resources. So it becomes the goal of the best players and the best teams to minimize these opportunities as much as possible.
This is not a new concept in the Marvel series. Early Marvel limited player interactions through the infinite. Land one hit, the other side doesn't get to play. XSF added onto the concept with infinite, guard break, then infinite the 2nd character. MvC1 introduced team beatings which took “you don't get to play” to the next level especially when Gold War Machine became popular. So UMvC3 isn't really paving new ground on this, it's just adding to the Marvel legacy. If anything UMvC3 is a lot more fair than some of the previous Marvel titles. You're probably not going to block Zero/Dante incomings but hey, at least you have a chance, right?
So with that in mind we're going to try and rank the teams at the top of UMvC3. The reason I'm going to do this by teams and not individual characters is because ranking the individual character is relatively meaningless in this game. We know who the 5 best characters are (some order of Morrigan, Zero, Vergil, Doom and Magneto), but what does that mean? The goal isn't to play the strongest characters, it's to construct the strongest team.
When I did the first team tier list a year and a half ago, one of the things I mentioned was that a lot of teams weren't fully defined three character units yet and that a lot of the best teams in theory weren't always the teams that were getting played. This has changed. I think by now we all know who the best characters are and who they pair up well with, and more importantly, people are playing these teams frequently and matching them up against each other often. So in other words, breaking news guys, Doom/Vergil is really good. In other news, fire is hot, water is wet and Taylor Swift is wonderful.
Let's get to it.
I don’t think this is much of a surprise to anyone. It’s one of the cases where theory fighter and pure results oriented thinking come to the same conclusion. In theory the team dominates almost the whole top tier and that’s pretty much exactly what we’ve seen happen over the past 24 months or so. Succeeding in Marvel is about creating stability. Chris G started playing Morrigan because he was frustrated with how “random” early game Ultimate Marvel was and his goal was to create order out of chaos. By adding Vergil, he’s done that.
Last year I wrote that MorriDoom might not be the best team but it could be the most important because of how many common team constructs that team invalidated. The addition of Vergil to the MorriDoom shell makes the team even harder to fight against. Not only is Morrigan a dominant early game force, having Vergil waiting at the end makes her even harder to fight against. At 950k health, Morrigan is actually a high health character relative to the other most common characters. In addition to that, hit confirming Morrigan is complicated. There are usually missiles coming at you if you happen to land a hit, and things that can surprise her during her zoning game like meteor smashes, assist vajras or teleport helm breakers all require x-factor to finish her off. Normally it’s worth it to kill her at all costs but with Vergil waiting in the anchor position? Now you have to actually think about it. Do you want to get choked out by Morrigan or have to fight Dark Vergil without x-factor? There is no right answer. That’s the point.
What value synergy?
Zero/Dante/Strider | Zero/Dante/Vergil
This team is interesting to me for a couple reasons. One, this team that doesn’t guarantee that the other side can’t fight back once they’re caught, it just makes it exceedingly difficult on them. While there are possible Zero/Dante unblockables, that’s not really what this team is about. This team is about hitting you once, landing the lightning loop then setting up unfair 50/50 mixups on your incoming characters that chain into other 50/50 mixups. Nothing is guaranteed but Zero just stacks probabilities in his favor and any successful conversion eventually leads to the lightning loop and a dead character.
Everyone already knows that though. What makes this team REALLY interesting to me is how you go about completing the team. The choice between Strider and Vergil anchor says a lot about how you play Marvel and what you value. On paper Strider is the obvious choice. Zero doesn’t get all that much out of rapid slash assist in the neutral game. Sure he can use rapid slash in sougenmu patterns, but it’s mostly a combo extender on this team and one that isn’t entirely necessary. Zero can finish and extend his combos just fine on his own. On the other hand, Strider is very useful to Zero in neutral, especially if you have the other side set up to expect jam session coming as often as possible. Strider is one of the 3 dominant anchors of Marvel (Vergil and Phoenix as the others). And most importantly Strider is probably Dante’s best assist making Dante into a full-fledged attacking character as opposed to a one dimensional support character.
So why does anyone pick Vergil on this team? Simply put, Vergil anchor is just that much better than Strider anchor for most people. So how much value does synergy actually have in this game? Honestly at this point I don’t think there’s a right answer and I think it’s more a matter of opinion. Is anchor Vergil that much of an upgrade over another great anchor character that you’d be willing to weaken Zero AND Dante just to have him waiting in the wings with level 3 x-factor and meter? The fact that it’s a tough call says a lot about where we are in this game right now. That’s the power of Vergil.
Versatile but vanilla
Magneto/Doom/Vergil | Zero/Doom/Vergil | Wolverine/Doom/Vergil | Nova/Doom/Vergil
These teams are grouped together due to the Doom/Vergil shell but they don’t play very much alike in the early game. The Zero version of the team tends not to TAC since Zero can kill off any touch no matter how scaled. The Wolverine version is hyper aggressive and tries to parlay Wolverine’s early game edge into multiple mixups. It’s likely the weakest version of the four but the easiest to play; just keep running mixups until you get pushed out and if you do get pushed out, you’re only a plasma beam + berserker slash away from getting back in. The Magneto and Nova versions are probably the best and most versatile since they can be both a dominant zoning team and a dominant rushdown team and switch between the two styles at will.
The overall theme of the top tier in UMvC3 is the fact that they turn the game into a 1 player game. But outside of the Zero variant there is a lot of multiplayer interaction in these teams. So why are they so good? Simply put, no character is better at what they do than Doom is at providing support with the possible exception of Vergil anchor. And this team gets both.
For Doom consider this. The character has the best TACs in the game, 2 top 10 assists and rocks assist is pretty good also. If the point character dies he has multiple solid evasion options on incoming and can safe DHC in your anchor if you choose to play it out that way. Outside of having hard drive to guarantee a safe incoming he has everything you could want. The built in downside to his great assists is that they’re designed to cripple your damage. If you get hit with a combo that starts with plasma beam or 6 missiles you’re supposed to either live through that or force them to burn their whole meter stockpile to kill you. For example, you start a Wolverine combo from the start of the round with plasma beam + berserker slash. The combo builds a meter and ends with OTG into rapid slash into double fatal claw. This combo will do somewhere between 775-900, depending on what hit started the combo (the berserker slash or the beam) and what variant of air combo you do. But the point is that Dante/Viper will probably live and that everyone in from Joe/Morrigan/Wolverine on up should definitely live. And it will cost the whole meter stockpile leaving him without berserker rage for the near future. It’s similar with Magneto and missiles. If he catches you with missiles he’s not supposed to be able to kill you without DHCing through the order or ending with gravity squeeze.
That’s how the game was designed, but that’s not really how Ultimate works. Thanks to TAC infinite to Doom you can start combos off anything, get a kill and have enough meter for Vergil to go crazy at the end of the game. Doom was designed to have his support qualities neutered by giving him relatively poor damage on DHCs and by having his combos scale tremendously. TAC infinites ruin everything though and have boosted teams like this up to the top. Strong point character, Doom, dominant anchor is the most vanilla team construction but it gets results and since Capcom refuses to patch TACs and this game in general, we’ll all have to put up with these teams until we move on from Ultimate. This is the game we play.
Dual anchor power
Zero/Vergil/Strider | Viper/Vergil/Strider | Dante/Vergil/Strider | Doom/Vergil/Strider
The hardest part of playing a Vergil/Strider team is playing Strider. In theory these teams have everything you can want. Vergil/Strider have a few different round trip glitch lockdown patterns that can limit the other side from playing for extended stretches. The teams all have excellent mixups and 1 touch kill power with the point characters. The teams are snap-proof since snapping in and killing Strider just means you have to face XF3 Dark Vergil which is probably worse for the opponent anyways. Both of the anchors can kill and then mix up the other side without letting them play.
But... you have to play Strider well in order to make these teams scary. And really that's why we haven't seen the Vergil/Strider shell explored as much as other top tier teams. Even in 2014 there are only a handful of Strider players out there that scare people. And if your Strider isn't at an elite level these teams aren't true top tier teams.
What's more, you're going to have to play Strider without x-factor sometimes on these teams. A common situation that arises while playing these teams is Vergil lands a helm breaker or vajra lands as an assist. Does Vergil use level 2 x-factor and go for the kill and the incoming mixup or should he save his x-factor for Strider. Technically the right move is to go for the kill and the mixup but if your Strider is only strong with orbs and x-factor you might not be able to make the optimal play.
So not only do you have to be a strong Strider player under normal circumstances, you have to be strong even without any resources at your disposal. The fact that there are so few successful Vergil/Strider players out there right now just details how hard it is. It also shows that these teams have potential and room for growth in the future.
Lesser MorriDoom teams
Zero/Morrigan/Doom | Magneto/Morrigan/Doom | Morrigan/Doom/Ammy | Morrigan/Doom/Strider
These teams are very strong but are just outside of the top grouping. The why is interesting though. For the 2nd two teams with Ammy and Strider isn't a huge mystery. Not having Vergil makes the teams easier to fight against and it makes the opponent's decision to use XF1 on Morrigan easier. Strider and Dark Ammy are still strong, but if you can XF kill Morrigan and successfully mix up Doom you're almost certainly going to win the game.
For the other two teams, the answer is that Morrigan just isn't as good when she's not a point character. She's still one of the strongest characters in the game but if you put her second then you give the other team the opportunity to build meter in order to stop her and it increases the odds that she's going to have to face an incoming mixup, meaning you could potentially lose Morrigan without even getting to play her.
Morrigan wins for a lot of reasons, but the most underrated reason is because she controls the meter game so well. Characters like Dormammu and Vergil depend so much on their meter to stop her. If you let them get 2 or 3 their odds of winning go way up. And because Doom is in the back on those teams, if they land anything they're definitely going to x-factor and kill her because they have no reason to fear anchor Doom.
So even though these are definitely strong teams consisting of some of the best characters in the game, because the characters aren't maximized, the teams aren't as good as they could be with a minor change.
The team that is Funding Nemo
This may seem a little low for this team given how strong Nemo has been lately but I think this is just about right. Really, what's the difference between this team and optimal Zero teams? Both kill you off one touch but the incomings aren't quite as strong on this team. This team can kill off a ground throw and most Zero teams can't, but that's one of the only tangible advantages. And yes, saying that Zero is better than Nova isn't hard hitting technical analysis or really news to anyone but it bears mentioning that the strategy for this team and Zero teams is basically the same.
Spencer and Strange aren't Vergil; as I talked about on a blog post last year, this team is extremely front loaded. If you can get the first hit and kill Nova the threat level goes way down.
This is Spencer's first appearance on my list and I think that says a lot. What is Spencer's role in UMvC3 in 2014? He's not really one of the elite point characters. He's good but not elite. He's not a dedicated support character even though this team takes advantage of the unique properties of his assist. He's not one of the dominant anchor characters either. He's passable but he's not Vergil or anything. Spencer is a very strong character who kills basically anyone off one touch but that isn't all that special anymore. Spencer is already starting to fade a little bit and I think in 2014, outside of this team and a couple of other custom teams, his role in UMvC3 is decreasing, not increasing. As we move more into the era of specialization on top teams, Spencer will be the big loser of 2014 just as Wesker was the big loser of 2012-2013.
Have you see my Doom, dawg?
This is Dormammu's only appearance on the list, which seems strange given that he's a very strong character and very important overall since he fights Morrigan as well as any other character in the game. Filipino Champ has argued that optimized Dormammu is one of the 5 best characters in the game overall and while I don't necessarily agree, he makes some strong points. So why aren't there more strong Dormammu teams?
I'll answer this with another question. What's the second best Dormammu team? I asked people what they thought and got a variety of answers. Some people like Firebrand/Dorm teams, with all sorts of characters filling the 3rd spot like Ammy, Doom, Shuma, Dante. I've heard MODOK/Dorm/Doom, Strange/Dorm/Doom, Haggar/Dorm/Doom, Dante/Dorm/Doom, Zero/Dorm/Doom, Zero/Dorm/Magneto, Wesker/Dorm/Magneto, Magneto/Dorm/Strange. The Firebrand options are intriguing but nothing really stands out as deserving of being a top tier team.
Here's the problem with Dormammu. He's weak to being rushed down in the beginning of the match so he's not really a point character. His assists outside of fully charged liberation aren't neutral assists so he can't operate as your sole support character. Dark hole can give you combo extensions and it can act as a semi-lockdown assist situationally but Dorm cannot be your primary support character. He's not the worst anchor in the world but not the best either. So he's hard to build a team around in the orthodox/traditional sense.
If you're going to play him in the 2nd spot, you're going to need to play a support character in the anchor spot and you have to accept all that entails. Specifically on this team you're going to need to play Doom well enough to hold up against a lot of Vergils and Striders and oftentimes you're going to have to do it without x-factor. Since the main player of this team (F.Champ) has one of the best Dooms in the world, he can get away with it. That's the reason for his success. In other words, it's not about his Dormammu, dawg, it's about his Doom!
This is why other players haven't had the same level of success with this team and why there aren't more strong Dormammu teams floating around. Until you can play a support character at the same level as other people play anchor characters, Dormammu just doesn't fit even though he's one of the strongest characters in the game.
She hears voices in her head and they miss 2012
Viper/Magneto/Dante | Viper/Doom/Strider | Viper/Doom/Dante | Viper/Dante/Strider
Viper has dropped a little bit since the last time I made a list. It's not really that she's a weaker character now than she was then, just the game has changed around her becoming more air based and more keepaway oriented. Her stock has fallen a little bit as Zero and Morrigan's have risen. They don't have to challenge her strong ground tools as much and can attack her from angles that she has difficulty reaching even with Strider or Dante behind her.
Her gameplan is still the same as it was before, land a hit, get the kill then unblockable the incoming character and that's great...presuming that you can get that initial hit. She's not getting as many first hits against Morrigan and Zero and that's causing her to fall down the list a little bit. The matchups that she's strong in just aren't as common anymore.
Lesser Morrigan teams
Morrigan/Dante/Strider | Viper/Morrigan/Dante | Morrigan/Vergil/Strider
These are interesting teams that are mostly unexplored. We know that Morrigan with vajra and Morrigan with jam session definitely can work, just not a lot of players have put the work into these teams. All of these teams have 2 difficult characters, with Morrigan/Dante/Strider being probably the best but also the most user-unfriendly of the lot.
They need to be mentioned due to their strength but also because of what they mean for Morrigan and for the game in general. We know Morrigan is at her BEST with missiles, but that doesn't mean she's tied to them. I've even heard some players saying that Morrigan isn't even that strong a character outside of missiles. They're wrong, but there isn't a lot of proof to show that; almost all the top Morrigan players outside of Chrisis are still playing Doom. As more people pick up these teams, they'll show that there is life for Morrigan away from Doom, and it can be a good life at that.
Phoenix is not rising, but falling
Mag/Doom/Phoenix | Zero/Doom/Phoenix
So for right now Phoenix is just a lesser form of Vergil. This isn't really news to anyone; I've been saying this for awhile and I think most people agree.
Still, Phoenix is a misunderstood character, not just in 2014 Ultimate but in Marvel 3 as a whole. The goal of a Phoenix player is to never actually play Phoenix. I think the biggest misconception came early on in MvC3 where Phoenix players would frequently get blown out early and still win due to everyone's inexperience with the Marvel 3 engine and the Phoenix character herself. That still happens occasionally but that's not really the goal and that's definitely not something you can count on in high level Marvel anymore. If you're that consistently weak in the early game then Vergil isn't just a better pick, he's a significantly better pick since you need fewer resources to make a full comeback.
Phoenix is for players who are extremely dominant in the early game. You pick Phoenix to put pressure on the opponent in the early game and occasionally get a second chance at playing your point character. The character that a lot of people used to pick for 1 on 3 comebacks if they couldn't get it done in the early game is only hanging on to bolster an early game edge now. Again, this isn't really news, that's how it's always been for Phoenix players even in vanilla.
The future of Phoenix as an individual character and not as Vergil-but-worse is in Morrigan/Phoenix teams. Morrigan meter build assist takes pressure off the point character and it also opens up a backdoor strategy of using a freshly turned Dark Phoenix to battery for Morrigan. Alioune has been playing Magneto/Morrigan/Phoenix for some time with mixed results. New Southern California player Rusty Shackleford has been running Ammy/Morrigan/Phoenix with good results recently as well. Teams like Zero/Morrigan/Phoenix or even Doom/Morrigan/Phoenix could be dangerous in the future and could breathe life back into the Phoenix character.
And she needs it. She's very close to being gone from top tier Marvel for good. The current top Phoenix players like F.Champ and Neo should have dropped her long ago. Loyalty is all that's keeping her and these teams relevant.
Magneto, a leading actor in a supporting role
Dante/Vergil/Magneto | Wesker/Vergil/Magneto | Wesker/Magneto/Vergil | Zero/Magneto/Doom
Magneto is probably the most versatile of the top tier characters. While he's most often seen as a point character he's an excellent support character and can serve as a passable anchor character in a pinch. Disruptor assist is very fast, clocking in at full screen 35f (by comparison, plasma beam is 46f, unibeam is 47f, and bolts are 43f. Hawkeye arrows are 34f startup but have travel time). The speed allows Magneto assist to work effectively to counter-call other assists like missiles or to threaten a point character trying to set up a zoning pattern from full screen.
For example at Capcom Cup when Yipes faced off against Nemo in winners bracket, Yipes used the power of Magneto assist to fight off Nova/Strange. The speed of gunshot+disruptor was enough for him to react to Nemo trying to set up a gravimetric pulse from full screen and convert into a kill. Other assists can't really do the same thing. Even if you can use arrows, plasma beam or unibeam to get a similar conversion, they scale damage heavily, which matters for these teams. If you're going to be picking Dante or Wesker as your point character, you have to value damage. Magneto also has a relatively simple TAC infinite. If he wasn't such a strong point character he would still be picked pretty often since he can still hold these teams together thanks to his value as a support character.
Follow my lead...back to mid-tier
Firebrand/Doom/Ammy | Magneto/Doom/Ammy | Viper/Doom/Ammy | Vergil/Doom/Ammy
The original “follow my lead” teams have started to fade; really only the Firebrand version of this team is worthy of inclusion among the top teams. The other versions included more for completion's sake than actual merit. The Firebrand version has a mostly guaranteed kill on the incoming (if you're willing to spend the resources) after getting the first kill which sets it apart from the others. Firebrand's hard tag combos into Doom and synergy with the cold star assist make it a more complete team also.
Some players are getting better at blocking or countering “follow my lead”. I mean...I'm not, I'm pretty sure I went 0 for 2013 at blocking that but I notice players success rates improving. That's what this team comes down to at competitive level. The value you give up by having Ammy instead of a premium anchor (Strider or Vergil) has to be made up with Doom on point and that value is mostly coming from the team super. Once that decreases in value the overall team's value decreases in relation to the more optimal forms of those teams.
When theory fighter attacks...
Nova/Frank/Dante | Doom/Frank/Dante | Zero/Dante/Frank | Vergil/Dante/Frank | Spencer/Frank/Dante
There aren't many Frank/Dante players out there which makes this one of the harder teams to categorize. It's mostly Bee running this style team seriously and he plays the weakest variant. I think most people recognize that Frank/Dante is strong but they underestimate how strong it is. Getting Frank may cost you the kill (depending on the combo used this isn't always necessarily true) but it gains you a match winning character.
These teams are more volatile than the teams above them which is another reason they aren't played as much. Getting Frank comes close to guaranteeing you the win, but for most players losing their point character early comes close to guaranteeing the loss since they're left with some order of level 1 Frank (Frank Wack) and Dante, both normally weak characters.
It doesn't have to be like this though. Anchor Dante is never going to be confused with his brother but he can still get it done as an anchor character or with Frank supporting him and hopefully leveling through the next touch. Until the Dante players level up enough to feel confident and salvage some wins with this team even when things don't go exactly as planned, this team is going to remain more theory fighter than reality. Make me proud Frank/Dante players, make me proud!
So now that we've explored where Marvel has been, let's talk about where it's going in 2014 and beyond. Since work prevented me from being there in person, I had the opportunity to watch NEC on stream and was surprised at how upset stream monsters were with the diversity in the early rounds. There was a stretch of 7 or 8 matches where every match had a Zero in it and some matches were Zero mirrors. Everyone “knows” how dominant Zero is but they hated seeing it in action.
So is this it? Is Marvel in the future going to be less about creating new teams and more about eliminating existing teams? Is Marvel 3 destined to be like Marvel 2 with a handful of top tier teams and then everything else pushed aside as “low tier”?
I don't think so. The cream will rise to the top, definitely. More people who are tired of losing are going to pick up Zero teams and then more people are going to pick up Vergil/Strider teams or Morrigan teams to counter those teams. Late rounds of tournaments will see more top tier and fewer unorthodox teams as everyone tries to optimize what they have. But we're not at the point where only optimized teams can win just yet. Evo was won this year by a non-optimized Zero team and was ALMOST won by Wolverine and two mid-tier characters with an unorthodox Shuma team in 3rd place.
And we haven't even fully explored what we have. There's still room for new teams to emerge. Most top tier teams right now are constructed according to a pretty specific formula.
We know who the strongest point characters are. Morrigan, Zero, Magneto, Nova, Wolverine.
We know who the strongest support characters are. Doom, Dante, Dr. Strange.
And we know who the strongest anchor characters are. Vergil, Strider, Phoenix.
So for right now the strongest teams are made through UMvC3 mad libs. You take the top tier point character you want to play, match them up with their favorite top tier support character and finish off the team with an anchor that benefits both the best.
But as players get better and fully master their characters there's room to think outside the box and be more creative. The most obvious way to break the mold is to master your support characters and put them in the anchor position which opens up new team construction ideas. As mentioned above, since Filipino Champ can play Doom so well, he has the opportunity to play anchor Doom and Dormammu in the second spot. Since Angelic can play Shuma so well he can also play Dormammu 2nd on his teams as well. Bee's Frank West team works because he's confident enough in his anchor Dante.
So even though a lot of players are going to be concentrating on optimizing their teams in 2014, there's still a chance that we're going to see all new top tier teams start to take over. Strong characters in different roles like anchor Zero or anchor Nova may open up new potential teams. Shuma becoming a more common support character opens up new teams also. In the end, that's what keeps Marvel hype to the majority of people and that's what keeps us coming back. The chance to try new things and see new things. So while the top tier IS definitely getting stronger, I don't think the age of exploration is fully over. I can't wait to see what people come up with throughout 2014. Here's to 10 more years!