Penguins and Ants and MODOKS, Oh My! Analyzing Bystander Generators

In the last 9 months, we’ve seen a massive upswing in Bystander generating pieces – characters that can bring in a vast supply of other characters during the game. Why is that? What’s so strong about these pieces?

Back in May of 2016, the Heroclix world saw the release of Superior Foes of Spider-Man. There were some pretty great pieces in this set and a lot of folks saw some gems that they thought would be big staples in the meta. None of these were more prevalent than Devil Dinosaur. For months, this big, red T-rex with a smoking jacket and pop-gun took the ROC world by storm and chomped his way into the competitive scene. Since then, Devil and other pog buddies have been huge contenders and find their way on lots of different teams, but why?

Pogs are a great way to bring more control to your match up. Some of these pogs are wonderful for tying people down while some are pretty devastating if they get the chance to attack. Regardless of what they do, the idea behind these pieces is to overwhelm your opponent and heavily influence where they go and how they act. They’re disposable in that you generally don’t care if they get KO’d and in some cases, you want them to bite the big one.

Today, I’m doing something a little different than normal. Rather than building around a piece or coming up with a number of team builds and exhausting our already exhausted supply of modern pieces, I’m going to go over each of the big three token generator pieces in modern and their buddies that they bring in (along with a lucky fourth person). What makes each of their bystanders strong? Let’s take a look.

SFSM 054 Devil Dinosaur

Devil was the dude that made waves with Bystanders. Although Hank Pym came first, Devil took the idea and ran with it, spawning many different teams and dominating the meta in Summer of 2016. Unlike other token generators, Devil Dinosaur has three different bystanders to choose from, and he can spawn a group of 3 of them only once. That means that Devil has a total of 9 pogs he can call in all for 100 points. They’re all really great too.

  • Drop Bear: 5 Charge, 10 Blades, 16 Combat Reflexes, 1 damage, and Tiny Size. These little Koala’s are mean and have potentially the highest damage output of any pog out there and that’s why they’re so brutal. If you’re lucky enough to get them to your opponent, they can dish anywhere from 1-6 damage and have an 18 defense while based. Since they’re tiny, they’re super easy to carry as well. When they gain the Inspiration of Swordsman via his ID card, things get out of hand quickly since now you’re getting Flurry + Blades for 5 points (the cost of the call-in).
  • Rockabilly M.O.D.O.K.: 4 Running Shot, 10 Pen/Psy, 17 defense, 2 damage, 4 range, and Flight. With no damage reducers or increasers, they’re a little scary and dainty, but these guys are very strong. Being able to carry, even for two squares is a big bonus, and their ability to Running Shot over terrain and zap you for 2 penetrating is a big deal. They’re probably Devil’s most consistent damage dealers.
  • Homicide Crab: 6 Leap/Climb, 10 Pulse Wave, 15 Super Senses, 1 damage, and 4 range. These guys are downright deadly. Free Pulse Wave is nothing to scoff at, even though they’re only dealing 1 damage. That’s still 1 damage that ignores everything out there. They can create a deadly little mine field that opponents are terrified to walk through. When combined with TK, they can really catch people off-guard.

JW 050 The Penguin

Penguin is pretty new, but he’s already making big waves. At under half the cost of Devil, he’s already seen big presence in the first ROC event of 2017 in the limited format. Although he can’t produce the sheer volume of tokens Devil can, he’s not limited in how many he can spawn per game. He can also ‘super-size’ one of his pogs, giving it +1 to all combat values which is a big deal. Now you’re going from nuisances to secondary or tertiary attacker that can just keep spawning out. Penguin also can give himself and action and move all of his penguins on the board, so he doesn’t need a taxi as badly as Devil does. Finally, all of Penguins tokens are tiny sized, meaning they don’t block your own line of fire like Devi’s do (aside from the Drop Bears), so they’re wonderful tie-up pieces.

  • Robo-Penguin A: 4 Sidestep, 9 Pulse Wave, 16 Toughness, 1 damage, 5 range, and Tiny. These guys take the homicide crabs to a new level since the +1 stat boost gives them a 2 damage. With Sidestep over Leap/Climb, they can waddle their way into position and nuke on the same turn, not requiring the obvious set-up turn that the crabs do.
  • Robo-Penguin B: 4 Charge, 10 attack, 16 Combat Reflexes, 1 Exploit Weakness, and Tiny. Although these can’t deal as much potential damage as the Drop Bears, Exploit Weakness is a nice trade off. With the +1 stat boost, you’re getting an additional Charge square, 11 attack, and 2 penetrating damage. The now-19 defense in close combat is going to make him really tough to KO as well. Even without the boost, 10 attack isn’t bad at all, and the 1 penetrating damage puts them on a similar playing field as the Homicide Crabs.
  • Robo-Penguin C: 4 Running Shot, 10 Pen/Psy, 16 Energy Shields, 1 damage, 5 range, and Tiny. Like the Rockabilly, they sport the same offensive setup, but they’ve got a little protection with ES/D. Keep in mind that the +1 from making him super will also raise their range. That’s an effective +2 to their threat radius since Running Shot can go farther as well. Although he lacks Flight and only has 1 damage, I like them better than the MODOK’s.

It’s worth noting that Penguin does have worse names for his tokens than Devil does.

AOU 202 Ant-Man (Morphing Hank Pym’s)

Hank here was pumping pogs before Devil Dino made it cool. Rather than having a slew of pogs to choose from, Hank changes his own dial and produces a bystander each time he does it. While it’s not as fast as say the Shifting Focus pieces from World’s Finest, the sheer amount of characters you can pump out if left unchecked is somewhat horrifying and can really slow down someone’s progression. You very rarely see Hank played at his full 100 points as his 50 point lines are just a better value.

Rather than showing what his pogs do, I’m going to look at the different effects each of the Morph figures have. Keep in mind only the box set pieces have the trait to bring in Ants, so I won’t be talking about the Morph characters in the main set. First, let’s look at the two different Ants he can bring in.

  • Ant Swarm: 3 Sidestep, 9 Poison, 16 Super Senses, 1 damage, and standard size. Although their stats aren’t very good, it’s worth noting that for some odd reason these guys are standard size. That’s a big deal because they’ll block line of fire and they’re harder to break away from. Poison gives them free damage which is good because that 9 attack with no penetrating or Precision Strike is unlikely to do anything. These guys are mainly used as fodder to clog hallways.
  • Giant Ant: 7 Sidestep, 10 Blades, 17 Willpower, 2 Exploit Weakeness, and standard size. Again, it’s weird that their size is standard; Giant is in their name, and they’re supposed to be much bigger than the swarm, but oh well. These guys are a bit more rare in competitive as they aren’t really worth the time. Sure, they have a good source of potential damage with Blades/Exploit, but with no way to dodge attacks, they’re more fragile than the swarm. The biggest issue is that all the Hank’s that buff ants only do so for Ant Swarms, not Giant Ants.

Alright, so let’s look at the different effects each of the Hanks give:

  • 201 Hank Pym: Gives your Ant Swarms Empower. That’s pretty good. Not only are they going to raise that pitiful 1 damage, they’re going to help out your other melee pieces. This guy is typically used for his Sidestep/TK combo, but Empower is always a good thing.
  • 202 Ant-Man: When an opposing character adjacent to a friendly Ant Swarm is moved or placed, after actions resolve, you may place that Ant Swarm adjacent to that character. Holy cow, that’s good. Essentially, you’re forcing a breakaway anytime the opposition wants to do anything. Sure, they still get to use the effect of their action (like Running Shot), but after that’s finished, your ants stick with ’em. If you have a way to get through their defense, the poison can add up with this.
  • 203 Goliath: Replaces an Ant Swarm with a Giant Ant. Not particularly useful for the reasons I stated above. He doesn’t buff your ants in any way, so he’s lower on the totem poll.
  • 204 Yellowjacket: Friendly Ant Swarms can use Exploit Weakness. Not all that great seeing as they only deal 1 damage and have a 9 attack. Since you can’t stack this effect with the Empower (unless you have two Hank’s), there’s very few times you’ll want him.
  • 205 Ant-Man: When an opposing character targets a friendly Ant Swarm with an attack and misses, deal 1 penetrating damage to each opposing character adjacent to that Ant Swarm that didn’t attack. This might seem useless with their 16 defense, but it’s actually quite powerful. Since you want your ants to tie people up anyway, this penalizes low attack rolls for anyone who didn’t make that attack. I recently got this to trigger and it was hilarious and unexpected.
  • 206 Wasp: Ant Swarms can use Stealth, the Flight ability, and modify their speed values by +3. This is by far my favorite of the traits. Now your ants can move a total of 8 squares per turn and can carry figures, and hide in hindering to protect them from getting sniped off. The boost from this piece is just nasty.
  • G200 Giant-Man: Same as Goliath; he swaps an Ant Swarm for a Giant Ant. Same comments as him.

BONUS CHARACTER – AVAS 067 Rick Jones

Rick is a different kind of pog producer because A) he does it automatically, B) his pogs are quite strong, and C) he has no limit to how many he makes. Able to summon the likes of actual heroes, Rick can be a great piece for his fairly low 75 point cost. His dial is also pretty amazing as well with thinks like 10 range triple target, Pen/Psy, TK, Perplex, Mind Control, and the ability to deal damage o virtually everyone on the map. Rick doesn’t see a lot of play and ever since WizKids banned the infinite loop team line-up, he’s practically fallen off of everyone’s radar. Let’s look over his friends.

  • Captain America: 8 Sidestep, 10 Precision Strike, 17 Willpower, 2 damage, and 4 Range. Cap is a beast and that short 4 range is a lot better than it looks. With Willpower and the effect of being replaced as soon as he’s KO’d, you have no reason to not just rush him into your opponent’s face and try and get some damage off.
  • Namor: 9 Charge, 10 Super Strength, 17 Toughness, 2 damage, and Dolphin symbol. This guy has some huge potential for damage with that Super Strength, and the Toughness ensures he doesn’t get poisoned to death as soon as he gets to his target. He’s probably the most well-rounded of the bunch.
  • Blazing Skull: 8 movement, 10 Quake, 16 Combat Reflexes, and 2 Exploit Weakness. No range and no special symbols make Blazing Skull a little boring, but I like his adaptability. If you’re facing a swarm team (like Devil Dino or Penguin), Quake will be a life saver. If you absolutely need to hit a big bruiser, Exploit Weakness will make you happy you got him. Still, the lack of any movement power is frustrating.

Bystanders are a big deal in modern and we’ve seen quite the increase in these guys in the last 6-8 months. I don’t see any signs of them slowing down as they just bring so much nuisance to the game. Keep in mind how low their points are for the immense amount of offense capabilities you get and try and incorporate them into your builds. I guarantee you’ll have fun with any of these picks.


This one was a little different than previous articles. I thought it would be nice to break down a certain mechanic that we see a lot in all game modes; not just competitive. With the WKO starting up again this weekend, it’s important to know just what these guys can do. Did you like this article? Was there a token producer in Modern I forgot about? Sound off below!

Take care and I’ll catch you later in the week.

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