What happens when a character dominates the competition, and you constantly ask yourself “how do I beat him without playing him”? I want to talk about the king of the kingdom in both limited and modern, Mr. Jakeem Thunder, and what you can expect when facing him.
A lot of you are probably attending the Majestix ROC event this weekend, or are attending an ROC in your area if you’re lucky enough to get them. I’m sure those of you who don’t fall into this category have played against Jakeem once or twice as well. Either way, we should all know just how terrifying this guy is and it’s easy to see how much of an impact he’s had since his release late last year.
Rather than go through the character in-depth like I do in my team builds, let’s just sum him up.
- 140 Points, Flight, JSA team ability, 8 clicks of health, 8 range, two targets.
- Solid numbers in every category, with relatively high defense.
- Probability Control for a good portion of his dial.
- Pick-A-Power, but much different than others before him.
- Prime, so you can’t pair him with Nighthawk, Anarky, etc.
If you aren’t aware of how Jakeem’s pick-a-power works and didn’t read over it in the photo above, it’s a bit better and worse than Super Skrull or Engineer. At the beginning of the turn, Jakeem can pick any two powers and can use them until your next turn. However, some powers are part of a group that he can only pick one of; Hypersonic Speed, Pulse Wave, Outwit, Perplex, and Defense Powers. This doesn’t mean Jakeem has to pick one of these powers; it just means that if he does pick one of these, he can’t pick another from that group. For example, Jakeem can pick Invincible and Shape Change (a common selection for approach) but he can’t pick Invincible and Perplex. He can also pick two powers that aren’t among that group whatsoever, much like Charge and Flurry (another popular pick).
Where he’s different than other pick-a-power characters is that Jakeem has to do this at the beginning of the turn, he’s relegated to certain powers, and he can pick powers in the same slot. While Super Skrull was incredible because he could pick any four powers he wanted every turn, he never had access to things like Charge and Flurry at the same time, and his numbers were somewhat low since he was a Zombie. Super Skrull did get to resurrect though, so in my book, that puts him over Jakeem for just 30 additional points, let alone he didn’t take your Prime slot.
Regardless, Jakeem is still the undisputed master of the game right now, and based on top-8 that we’ve been seeing from various ROC events, he’s showing up more than Krang did when he came out last year. At less than half your build total, Jakeem brings an unparalleled amount of utility and aggression that no one else in the environment can really match. From running the ship like he did on JSA and Mystical teams, to becoming an honorary X-Men with Age of Apocalypse Magneto and sharing the burden, he’s the go-to guy for competitive play.
So how do you beat him? If Jakeem is such a problem and he can shift based on what you’re playing, what’s the answer to dealing with him? Well, I don’t proclaim to have the absolute answer. If I did, I would be utilizing and stomping him at any event I went to. What I can do is walk you through the various strategies on your options.
One of the biggest weaknesses to Jakeem is his lack of Willpower, and no element in limited can grant him that ability. Heck, to my knowledge, once rotation hits in June and Pandora’s Box is gone, I don’t know of any way to grant Willpower. This forces Jakeem to pick his battles very carefully less he takes pushing damage. Sure, he can take Willpower for a selection, but remember that he only gets one Defensive power and if he goes that route, he’s lacking any reducers or any of the other A+ powers like Pulse Wave. You can play with that advantage knowing that on turns when Jakeem has a token, the opposing player is going to have to carefully consider just what their play is on the next turn. Do they rest him so he can go ham the next turn, or do they risk pushing damage or no reducers to capitalize on an opening? Granted a player can bring the Hulkbuster Torso for Invulnerability in Limited or possess him in Modern to guarantee reducers, but it’s still something to consider and requires extra points.
NO IMPROVED TARGETING
Jakeem might be a tank in both life-span and artillery, but he can’t see through any kind of terrain, making Stealth and Elevation strong defensive counter-measures. Although he can fly over Elevation, he still has to line up shots, meaning that you can play the map and have a better chance at creeping up on him. Stealth is probably the best option since it doesn’t require map roll and forces Jakeem to get up close and personal, or pick Pulse Wave to which you can counter-play by grouping up. You can also keep your more important pieces behind ‘fall-guys’ so that Jakeem has to eat through them and possibly leave himself open for a kill shot.
GOOD AT OFFENSE, GOOD AT DEFENSE, BUT RARELY BOTH
While it’s true that a master tactician will be able to off-set this slightly, the way that Jakeem works is that he’s either very good at offense or defense, but doesn’t do both very well. In the times I’ve played Jakeem, it’s either go for a power play that can knock a strategic piece out or wall-up and stay hidden. This, combined with the lack of Willpower, means you can capitalize on where Jakeem is and what powers he picks. If he guns for a Charge + Flurry on one of your pieces that might be a great time to strike on him. Chances are he either has nothing to protect him (sans his natural ESD on 18), or a defensive power from equipment that can be penetrated. Make careful marks of what he picks and choose your best time to strike.
TIE-UP PIECES PISS HIM OFF
Not only does he not have Improved Targeting, he lacks Improved Movement which means that in order to get away from tie-up pieces with Plasticity (like Bizarro Joker), Jakeem has to pick powers to offset his predicament, further reducing his utility. He absolutely is better at this than most, but it still forces him to either deal with that piece which further locks him down, or take a power like Plasticity or Hypersonic in a situation that doesn’t call for it. The more you can lock him down, the better. Furthermore to chain off of this point, multiple sources of Poison is better than it seems as it will force him to take a reducer if he’s pushed.
CAN’T USE AND LOCKING NUMBERS
Outwit looks pretty useless on Jakeem since the powers he gains access to are “can use” effects which Outwit can’t touch, but pieces like Nick Fury and Peggy Carter are large threats to him. A single strategic use of one of these pieces can turn off whatever defensive power Jakeem has which opens him for a gigantic strike that could put him down into his deep clicks with nothing but Regen and large numbers to save him. While Nick is 120 points with low mobility, Peggy is only 60. With proper planning, you can maneuver Peggy into place via a super taxi, counter his defense (which you picked at the beginning of the turn), and hit him with a one-two punch. Likewise, his stats may be pretty decent, but locking combat values ensures that he’s capped out on what he can do. This also doubles as an effective strategy against Krang, another big player in the competitive scene. No Ranged Combat/Close Combat Expert from you today, Mr. Genie Man!
MELEE IS STRONGER THAN RANGED
18 defense with Energy Shields and the potential to pick up Shape Change or Super Senses makes Jakeem very difficult to deal with from range. Nick might be able to turn off anything he’s got, but he can only do it once, and he’ll probably need to turn off Invincible so that his hit is big, so he still has to hit a 20. Melee pieces don’t really care as they only have to deal with that natural 18 defense. Jakeem can absolutely pick Combat Reflexes, but again that reduces what else he can do. If you’ve got a good melee piece with solid numbers, that’s a great option if you can get to him.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
More than any other tip when combating this monster is patience. Perhaps it isn’t the best idea to jump on him on turn 2 after he’s just hit one of your pieces due to positioning. Maybe if you wait until the next turn and see if your opponent pushes him, you might have a better shot at hurting him or taking him out completely. Weigh your options and what’s to come. With a piece that shifts so dramatically, you have to pick your battles well. Don’t go on tilt if he snipes off one of your lower-point pieces as that will just draw you out so he can mop up the rest of your team. Stay calm and wait for an opening as most of the time there will be one.
There’s no denying how strong Jakeem is and to say these tips will help you obliterate him would be foolish. However, I’m hoping these will help you figure out a better way of dealing with him and giving you a chance rather than sitting down next to him and throwing up your hands in surrender. If you’re playing competitively, you will be facing him, so it’s a good idea to just get somewhat comfortable in dealing with him.
I hope you enjoyed this article as the first “how do I beat this piece”. I won’t do too many of these, but after helping my judge and fellow player test for the ROC this past weekend and seeing just how powerful Jakeem was and his placings, it was clear that I wanted to address him and his power levels.
Are there any silver bullets that you can think of or strategies that you’ve found particularly useful? I would love the read about them, as I’m sure others would as well if they’re planning on competing. Take care and I’ll see you again on Thursday!