Silver Surfer Skan

Impact of the Silver Surfer and Zabu Nerfs on the Metagame and Decks

With the release of the new Marvel Snap Season, the powerhouses Silver Surfer and Zabu has also been nerfed. Den analyzes the balance changes, and explores what decks they can still fit into to be competitive!

We are just about to enter the new season, and MODOK is starting to turn heads with the possibilities it brings to the discard synergy. As previously forecast, the two previous Season Pass cards (Silver Surfer and Zabu) have been hit with the nerf hammer without the need to patch Marvel Snap. Due to the prevalence of both cards in the current meta, we can’t ignore their effects on the metagame. For the full details and insight from the game designer Glenn Jones, check out the article below:

Here is a summary of what has changed for Zabu and Silver Surfer:

Zabu: 3/2 – Ongoing: Your 4-Cost cards cost 2 less. (minimum 1) ➡ 2/2 – Ongoing: Your 4-Cost cards cost 1 less. (minimum 1)

Silver Surfer: 3/0 – On Reveal: Give your other 3-Cost cards +3 Power. ➡ 3/2 – On Reveal: Give your other 3-Cost cards +2 Power.

At first sight, it doesn’t seem like any of these card were nuked and are now unplayable as the result of the changes. They are weaker, obviously, as that is the goal for any nerf, but they should still be able to push an archetype. The big difference now is that both cards might not be enough to represent a win condition on their own.

We have already seen Surfer be paired with Mister Negative or Patriot in order to form archetypes with multiple ways to develop points. As for Zabu, the card was pushing a lot of different decks, and logically we should see fewer dominant archetypes around it. Nevertheless, I am quite convinced we are far from seeing the end of Zabu in Marvel Snap.

Let’s explore what those changes mean for both cards and discuss which decks could still be sweet to run, even after the nerfs.


Silver Surfer

Silver Surfer was already on the decline recently, mostly because of Zabu, granted, but still seeing much less play than during its dominant run in December. The card was still able to represent 15 to 18 points on turn six as the Sera Surfer deck usually had five to six targets for it, which way too much for a 3-Cost card.

In its new form, Silver Surfer would represent 12 to 14 points in the same scenario, a roughly 20% loss of power. It still creates enough points to compare it with some of the best 5 and 6-costs card in the game, but it is a significant downgrade.

Now that the math is out of the way, the big question is: Will Silver Surfer still be enough to be the sole win condition in a deck?

Seracle Surfer
Created by den
, updated 10 months ago
1x Collection Level 1-14
1x Collection Level 18-214 (Pool 1)
4x Collection Level 222-474 (Pool 2)
6x Collection Level 486+ (Pool 3)
2.9
Cost
0-
1
2
3
4
5+
3.1
Power
0-
1
2
3
4
5+

If we look at Seracle Surfer, the synergy with Brood still looks very solid; they represent a combined 14 power. Other 3-cost cards in the deck, like Maximus, Polaris, and Killmonger, are just very good cards overall. The important question when it comes to whether the deck will be able to survive is the spread of points.

Up until this point, Silver Surfer was basically dumped onto our abandoned lane and helped to win the other two. Now that its buff is reduced, one can only wonder if the deck will have enough punch to fight for two lanes without making it extremely obvious which two lanes it covets.

If we look at the maximum amount of points on a lane for the deck, we would be looking at 26 points total (28 if Mister Fantastic is helping too). This would be Maximus, Polaris and two cards with three power, all buffed by Silver Surfer on turn six. If, however, you actually try to go for this number, the highest total for the other lane would be 17, consisting of the remaining three power card alongside three cards with two power and the Silver Surfer buff.

To be honest, I don’t think 17 is enough to win the second lane in the current Marvel Snap meta, and we are talking about a perfect draw here as well. Of course, one can spread the numbers around and have both lanes around 20 points each, but that doesn’t really change my opinion; it doesn’t seem enough to consistently win against decks like Shuri, Lockjaw, and Patriot, decks which routinely are able to reach 20 points on several lanes.

So how do we help Silver Surfer keeps its status as one of the best win conditions in the game? We help the card and try to alleviate the load it needs to carry by mixing it with other win conditions.

Surfer Patriot
Created by den
, updated 10 months ago
1x Collection Level 18-214 (Pool 1)
8x Collection Level 486+ (Pool 3)
1x Recruit Season
2x Starter Card
3.3
Cost
0-
1
2
3
4
5+
2.8
Power
0-
1
2
3
4
5+

In the Patriot Surfer archetype, for example, Silver Surfer wouldn’t have to do all the heavy lifting alone, and it could be used as more of a nice bonus. I mean, a 3-cost card able to contribute for double-digit points isn’t something we want to pass on ever, right? Still, until we figure out if Silver Surfer still deserves its own archetype, I think considering it one of the best secondary win conditions in the game isn’t insulting in any way.


Zabu

If Silver Surfer feels mostly like a points’ problem, Zabu’s changes make the card much more difficult to analyze since we are working with energy here. The fact that Zabu will not reduce 4-cost cards by two changes the dynamic of how we want our deck to construct its game plan compared to before. Also, and this is a big also, the most important point for analyzing Zabu: We get one less card drawn in order to find Zabu!

I cannot stress how critical this is. Zabu is a timing card, meaning we want to play it on turn two for maximum efficiency. When played on turn three, it already means we lost the ability to play a 4-cost instead. Compared to Silver Surfer, it’s important to note that while Zabu probably retained more power, the change meant the window for drawing it in time is much smaller.

Before the nerf, we had 6 cards to draw into it which equates to a 50% chance to be able to play the card on time (or 58% with Chavez in our deck). Now, we have only 5 draws, which lowers the chances to around 42% (45.5% with Chavez). This is the key part of this nerf. Zabu lost close to 10% chance of being played at the right time. Indeed, it is a smaller number to the 20% power loss for Silver Surfer, but whenever you draw Zabu late in the game, the card is close to useless, which isn’t true for Silver Surfer.

Let’s talk about what happens when we do draw the card, though.

Up until this point, playing multiple 4-cost cards was considered the optimal route for almost any turn in the second portion of the game. Two on turn four felt insane, three on turn six was bonkers, and even on turn five, where it would mean losing an energy, Spider-Man quickly showed it was well worth the small loss.

Now that we will only be able to play multiple 4-cost cards on turn six, it is a completely different story, and turn five especially seems like the worst turn of them all to play just one 4-cost card. Here is what might be a standard Zabu curve after the change:

  • Turn two Zabu.
  • Turn three, a 4-cost, likely a building block to our strategy such as Dracula, White Queen, or even Rockslide.
  • Turn four, a 4-cost and a 1-cost.
  • Turn five seems flexible. It could be the other turn where we would play Zabu if we missed it on turn two, opening a double 4-cost on six still.
  • Turn six, double 4-cost, and typically where we would want to use our reactive cards such as Shang-Chi or Enchantress.

Looking at this game plan, there are several key points we can take from it:

  • We probably don’t need to run as many 4-cost cards as we did in the past. Five seems to be the most we can play in the entire game, that is, if we get Zabu on turn two.
  • Turn Five is the most important one here, as we need to find something else to do with our energy, or find good enough 2-cost cards to complement our 4-cost.
  • Disruptive play patterns such as Moon Girl into double Spider-Man are now impossible. We are likely going back to better standalone cards rather than highly synergistic 4-costs.
  • We cannot play two 4-cost cards together before turn six, making cards like Wong much weaker as they will be exposed for at least a turn (unless you play it on turn six).

Overall, it feels like Zabu won’t be a combo machine anymore. It will likely serve as a nice tempo engine rather than the card you want to build your entire deck around. Of course, if you have some solid 4-cost cards to play, include Zabu in the mix as the card should contribute nicely. For example, the Shuri Zero build shouldn’t refrain from using the card:

Shuri Zero
Created by den
, updated 10 months ago
2x Collection Level 18-214 (Pool 1)
1x Collection Level 222-474 (Pool 2)
8x Collection Level 486+ (Pool 3)
1x Series 4 Rare – Collection Level 486+ (Pool 4)
3.2
Cost
0-
1
2
3
4
5+
5.6
Power
0-
1
2
3
4
5+

Let’s talk about that key turn five now since it should be the essential element to determine if a deck can adapt to Zabu‘s change. Most decks full of 4-cost cards will probably need to revisit their plan and include a little more diversity. As several of Marvel Snap’s best cards are 5-cost cards, I don’t think it will be much of a problem for some proactive builds to adapt.

Here is an example with Zabu and Darkhawk, now including the Devil Dinosaur package and Aero to pack some great 5-cost cards. Funny to note, one can now Zabu on turn two and Mystique on turn three to go back to discounting its 4-cost by two energy.

Zabu Darkhawk Dino
Created by den
, updated 10 months ago
4x Collection Level 18-214 (Pool 1)
5x Collection Level 486+ (Pool 3)
2x Series 4 Rare – Collection Level 486+ (Pool 4)
1x Starter Card
3.1
Cost
0-
1
2
3
4
5+
3.1
Power
0-
1
2
3
4
5+

Lastly, if we are going to talk about strong turn five cards, we need to mention Sera at some point. For now, I guess it is the Control archetype which makes the most sense as the deck already has Sera in the rotation. The build probably suffers from Spider-Man being the most impacted card with the Zabu change, but it still feels like it has some strong play patterns.

The attention to 3-cost cards in particular is crucial, and we could often end up playing one alongside our reduced 4-cost on turn six. Killmonger is obviously a strong consideration in the Control archetype, but Juggernaut seems like a great fit for the disruption theme:

Zabu Control
Created by den
, updated 10 months ago
3x Collection Level 18-214 (Pool 1)
4x Collection Level 222-474 (Pool 2)
4x Collection Level 486+ (Pool 3)
1x Series 4 Rare – Collection Level 486+ (Pool 4)
3
Cost
0-
1
2
3
4
5+
2.8
Power
0-
1
2
3
4
5+

Closing Words

It might take a bit of time before we have a clear picture of how impactful the changes to these two cards truly are. With a new season started and MODOK joining the game, players will likely focus on climbing the ladder and testing the new card before giving the new Zabu and Silver Surfer a real shot. I wouldn’t be surprised if these two disappeared for a week or so just to come back once the fuss around the new season has quieted down a bit.

Personally, I believe both cards are still playable but probably not worth building your entire deck around. Now, Zabu and Silver Surfer are nice commodities that can contribute to your game plan and make it more competitive, but they lack the game-breaking abilities they previously had.

The only way to know their true potential is to test them once the changes go live. Until then, I hope the new season may be full of success and fun times.

As usual, come discuss with our team and community on our dedicated Discord, and you can find me directly on Twitter for any inquiry or coaching request.

Good Game Everyone.

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den
den

Den has been in love with strategy games for as long as he can remember, starting with the Heroes of Might and Magic series as a kid. Card games came around the middle school - Yu-Gi-Oh! and then Magic: The Gathering.

Hearthstone and Legends of Runeterra has been his real breakthrough and he has been a coach, writer, and caster on the French scene for many years now. He now coaches aspiring pro players and writes various articles on these games.

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