Note: As a member of the Marvel Contest of Champions Content Creator program, I was granted early access to a 5* rank 3 Sig 200 Nova for the purposes of this review. I do not get to keep this champion and he has already been removed from my account.
A long requested fan-favorite, Nova (Richard Rider) first rose to prominence as a member of the New Warriors before leaving Earth to roam the stars, eventually becoming a leading player in the Annihilation War. His heroics saved the Universe from destruction at the hands of Annihilus and the Annihilation Wave, and led to the eventual formation of Peter Quill’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Now, it is time for him to join the Contest of Champions.
With Nova, Kabam have added the first new defensive champion of 2020, although he may have some limited offense use, if you like his damage rank-up mechanic.
Art/Design: Once again, Kabam have delivered a gorgeous champion. This version of Nova is based off the Richard Rider from the Annihilation comic series (probably Nova’s finest moment), and his classic blue and gold uniform looks great. The energy blasts in the specials have tremendous color and detail. While not as fluid as Squirrel Girl, he’s fun to move around the battlefield and very easy to medium-intercept with.
Gameplay: Nova plays a bit like Ronin crossed with Silver Surfer, in that you are dashing around a lot, and also have to hit a tight window to ramp-up his damage. I think there will be some really high-end players that like this, but it’s not for me (much like Silver Surfer).
Damage: Nova’s damage output is highly contingent on the your ability to gain Fury Buffs. You can get some decent damage when he is at his maximum stack of 4, but it is a tight window to hit and I wouldn’t want to try it in a competitive situation. If you can’t ramp-up the Fury Buffs, he’s stuck in neutral for the whole fight.
Utility: Nova has quite a few bits of utility in his kit, including power generation, auto-block, and the ability to go unblockable, but he doesn’t have any immunities, which is fairly rare for a cosmic champion.
Fun Factor: Nova, like Silver Surfer, is another champion that requires a lot of clock-watching on the left side of the screen. This may be fun for some Summoners, but it’s just not for me.
Conclusion: All in all, Nova isn’t a champion I would look to invest in as an attacker except in some pretty select circumstances. I just don’t trust being able to ramp him up in competitive/end-game situations. He clearly has value as a defender, and with his high prestige some will want to rank him up for that reason (although at the top of the game, people have just ranked-up Surfer so they won’t care about Nova’s prestige).
That’s it for the editorial part of the review. Keep reading for an explanation on how to play the champion, tips, and additional pros and cons.
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As you would expect, being a Nova Centurion, Nova gains his power from Nova Charges. These increase and are spent in a variety of ways throughout the fight. The maximum number of Nova Charges Richard can maintain is 100.
Nova charges start at 0 and will passively generate over the course of the fight. Dashing forward generates additional charges. The longer the dash, the more charges generated. 50 Nova Charges are also generated if Nova is struck with a True Strike, Unblockable, or guaranteed critical hit. If one of Nova’s buffs is nullified, he loses 25 Nova Charges and can’t generate Nova Charges for 6 seconds.
Nova Charges can be used multiple ways. Nova can consume 25 Charges on his second medium attack to deal an extra 20% energy burst damage. At 50+ charges, Auto-Block can be triggered while stunned, purifying the stun debuff. At 75+ Nova Charges, Nova gains a Fury Buff and refreshes his active Fury Buffs (max 4 stacks). At 100 Charges Nova becomes Unblockable for 2.50 seconds and then consumes all 100 Charges. Against tech champions, consuming Nova Charges inflicts a 24 second-long armor break. Nova Charges can also be consumed during special attacks, and that will be covered in the special attack section of this guide. Finally, when Nova has a Fury Buff, he can Auto-Block when dashing forward. This removes his Fury Buffs and consumes 25 Nova Charges.
Nova also has a number of passive abilities. He gains 30% less power from striking opponents, but gains up to 20% of a bar of power when dashing forward. Nova’s medium attacks are non-contact energy attacks. Nova gains a permanent Fury Buff at the start of the fight, and when struck with True Strike, Unblockable, or a guaranteed critical hit opponents suffer -70% attack rating.
Nova’s damage output is increased by gaining Fury Buffs, up to a maximum of 4. As mentioned earlier, Nova gains a Fury Buff at 75 Nova charges. The trick to quickly gaining Fury Buffs is after gaining a Fury, to immediately drop below 75 Nova charges (usually with a second medium attack) so you can then get back over 75 to gain another, until you are at 4 Fury Buffs.
Nova’s Signature ability is called “The Human Rocket.” It grants several abilities, including bonus damage to his medium dash attacks, auto-block at 75+ Nova Charges, and increased buff duration. The dupe is sufficient for AW Defense. Given there are both higher prestige and better attackers in the Cosmic Class, I can’t recommend using an awakening gem.
Team Building/Key Synergies:
Nova has a number of useful synergies. Unfortunately, his best synergy is with Rhino and Iron Fist, two champions you don’t want to waste roster spots with. This synergy is called “Full Speed Ahead” and allows Nova to generate an additional 5 Nova Charges when dashing back and then dashing forward (baiting/evading a special and then punishing). The “Phalanx Feud” (Annihilation Conquest call-back) with Drax and Gamora increases Nova’s Fury by 15%. “Maximum Output” with Havok and Bishop grants Nova an additional Nova Charge each time he takes energy damage. “Total Annihilation” with Annihilus grants Nova +40% perfect block change on Auto-Blocks, and “New Warrior Blood” with Night Thrasher and Darkhawk gives Nova’s heavy attacks a 50% change to refresh Surge Buffs.
If you’re a Dawkhawk player, check out the New Warrior Blood synergy. Darkhawk gets Permanent +45% Armor Buff, which will make him really tanky and a Havok counter.
Nova doesn’t have any healing or immunities so suicides will really hurt Nova, which is too bad because he needs all the damage help he can get.
Alliance War Defense:
Nova has the potential to be a solid, possibly great alliance war defender. Any champion that has auto-block and can generate power is going to get a kill once-in-a-while. Furthermore, if struck with a true strike, unblockable or guaranteed critical hit, the opponent has -70% attack rating (sorry Corvus and Ghost). Combine that with energy-based projectile attacks and the ability to go unblockable, and Nova is a champion you’re going to want to bring a counter for if you see him on your path.
The SP1 pauses Fury Buffs for 3.5 seconds, and consumes 25 Nova Charges to gain an Energize Buff increasing power rate by 30% for 7 seconds. If at 75+ Nova Charges, gain a 7-second True Strike Buff. During testing, the damage of this special attack was very disappointing, with Act 5 defenders surviving the SP1 when they only had 5-10% health remaining.
The SP2 has the best damage for me during testing, although it was rarely impressive damage. The SP2 generates a Nova Surge Buff granting +100% additional Nova Charges for 9 seconds, and consumes up 50 Nova Charges to deal up to 50% of the damage done as burst energy damage for each hit of the special. In short, make sure you’re above 50 Nova Charges when you use the SP2.
The SP3 consumes all Nova Charges to deal up to 50% of the damage done as burst energy damage with each hit of the attack. Also it reactivates Nova’s permanent Fury Buff if it is on cooldown.
His medium attack doesn’t make contact, and he deals energy damage so he can be used as Korg counter. Nova can take down Electro using only Medium attacks.
Designed to counter two of the dominant war attackers, Ghost and Corvais Glaive.
Ability to go unblockable will have some solid uses against more defensive opponents/AI.
Easy to control whether or not you are using your Nova Charges.
Auto-block can save you if you get too aggressive with the dash-intercepts.
Is able to generate power without making contact with the opponent or getting hit, which is very useful if you are on the verge of a full power bar.
Medium reach makes for easy intercepting.
There are so many champions in the cosmic class that combine utility and high-end damage potential, and Nova isn’t one of them.
Window to hit Nova’s damage potential is narrow and requires understanding of his mechanics and a cooperative opponent. Not ideal for end-game or competitive content.
Requires synergies with weaker champions, and isn’t a strong enough champion on his own to warrant building a team around.
Doesn’t have the damage to capitalize when his utility grants him a favorable match-up.
No immunities or regeneration.
After maxing out at 100, the unblockable is triggered automatically, so if you haven’t timed it well, you may end up wasting a very valuable ability and have to restart the ramp-up.
While he has a good defensive kit, he is very vulnerable to mystic attackers who can nullify buffs or any nodes that will nullify his buffs.
Base attack, critical damage, and critical rate stats are mediocre.
Poor match-ups vs opponents like Bishop and Captain Marvel Movie that can use energy damage against you.
Be careful taking Nova against Dardevil, as he will evade all Nova’s medium attacks (unless you have a True Strike Buff)!
Ramp-up your Fury Buffs as soon as possible for a quicker fight. To hit the maximum Fury Buffs, you have to strategically use your medium attack during the ramp-up. Once you get over 75 Nova Charges, end your combo with a second medium to spend 25 Nova Charges before you hit 100. That way you can quickly cross the threshold of 75 again to again another Fury. Do this until you have 4 Fury Buffs.