Update 10/18/21 – Please view the 2021 update of this article which includes information on Variants 6 and 7.
One question I see quite often from progressing Marvel Contest of Champions Summoners, usually those in the middle of Act 5 exploration or newly Cavalier, is about when they should start to tackle Variant (Back Issues) content. Variant rewards offer a great way for Summoners to build roster depth.
So which Variant should you attempt first (or next)? Well, a lot of that is going to depend on what you’re working with in terms of your current roster, and how well it plays into the theme of the different Variants. Let’s look at each of the 5 Variants to see which one might be a fit for you!
Back Issues Variant 1 – Ultron’s Assault
Variant 1 is the longest Variant in terms of number of quests (9) and total paths and it requires high-end roster depth because of the class restrictions in each chapter. Chapter 1 allows only Skill and Mutant, Chapter 2 only Mystic and Tech, and Chapter 3 only Science and Cosmic. The average fight difficulty in Variant 1 is also greater than what you’ll see in the other Variants,
I would recommend having two to three 5-Star 5/65 or better of EACH CLASS before attempting Variant 1. Chapter 3 (Science/Cosmic) is particularly difficult if you don’t have the best options such as Void, Thing, Quake, Hulk Ragnarok, Corvus Glaive, Hyperion, and Captain Marvel Movie at a high rank.
Because of overall fight difficulty, and the need for a mature roster, Variant 1 is usually the final Variant you’ll want to tackle.
Back Issues Variant 2 – Mystery In The Microrealms
Back Issues 2 is all about the XL champs. While you don’t have to play only XL champions, it will make your life a lot easier. If you have multiple XL champions ranked up, ideally at least three at 5-Star Rank 4 or better, this could be a great option for your first clear. Some of the best XL champions for Variant 2 are Venom, Venom The Duck, Sentinel, Red Hulk, Thing, and Warlock. Dormammu and King Groot are useful in the chapters where they receive a unique buff. Newly released XL champions such as Mojo, Sasquatch, and Dragon Man are also likely to perform well in Variant 2.
If you are looking for a work around because you don’t have many XL champs, some people have cleared Variant 2 using the Domino-Red Hulk-Masacre Trinity. Blade, Void, and Archangel are useful if you just spam heavy attacks.
In my experience, exploration of Variant 2 was significantly easier than Variant 1, but it is more difficult than Variants 3-5. Note that like Variant 1, Variant 2 also has 9 Quests.
Visit Auntm.ai for a full list of XL Champs.
Back Issues Variant 3 – Polar Opposites
Variant 3 is all about Tech champions, so it’s a great option if your roster is Tech heavy. All the best tech champions – Guillotine 2099, Stark Spider-Man, Warlock, Ghost, Darkhawk, Star-Lord, and Hulkbuster – are excellent in Variant 3. Additionally, Sentinel receives a fantastic unique global boost. Even a 4-Star 5/50 Sentinel can do a lot of heavy lifting in Variant 3. To maximize the Tech Enhancement nodes, you’ll likely want to run a team with 4-5 Tech champs, and have at least two at 5-Star 4/55 or better.
Starting with Variant 3, the total number of Quests is reduced to 6, making completion runs easier.
Please see my Variant 3 Overview for a full breakdown.
Back Issues Variant 4 – Waning Moon
Variant 4 rewards roster depth, as every chapter is star-level restricted. In general, long-time players will be fine with this, but newer players who skipped over ranking up 1, 2, 3, and 4-Star champions will need to do some roster building before attempting it.
Overall the difficulty level of the fights is in line with Variants 3 and 5, although the bosses in the first 2 chapters can be tough, and the 1-Star restriction in the final chapter makes the Hulkbuster and Caustic Temper Mordo fights problematic.
Please see my Variant 4 Overview for a full breakdown.
Back Issues Variant 5 – Blood & Venom
Variant 5 is restricted to Spider-Verse Heroes, Mystics, and Symbiote champions. Each chapter gives a unique boost to one of these three champion types.
You’ll likely want to load up on Mystics for this Variant. All the big Mystics like Doctor Doom, Claire Voyant, Longshot, Magik, Morningstar, Mojo, Scarlet Witch, Sasquatch, and Sorcerer Supreme can do great work here. Symbiote Supreme has extra value because he is both Mystic and Symbiote. Dragon Man, Mephisto, and Dormammu have increased importance because of their Poison-Immunity for the Scarlet Witch boss. The Mystic boost is also quite beneficial to Guillotine.
Stark Spider-Man and Stealth Spider-Man are the top Spider-Verse Heroes, but don’t be afraid to use Spider-Gwen or even Symbiote Spider-Man. Venom is an overall monster, and Venom the Duck is another fantastic option.
The difficulty of Variant 5 is generally in line with that of Variants 3 & 4. Ideally you’ll want at least three of the above champs at 5-Star 4/55 or better to run Variant 5.
One final note is that the rewards for Variant 5 are better than those for Variants 1-4, so take that into consideration when deciding what order to clear content. The rank-up gems work for champions released through 2017 and they are generic, so they can be used on many more champions than the ones found in the earlier Variants.
Check out my Variant 5 Guides, starting with Chapter 1.1.
See Auntm.ai for the full list of Spider-Verse, Mystic, and Symbiote Champions.
One useful rank-up strategy is to focus on champions that can be utilized in multiple Variants, as you can then use them to gain more resources to build-up your roster. Here’s a few champions that are helpful in multiple Variants.
Sentinel – He’s an XL Tech champion, so he can be used in Variant 2, and in many regards is the best champ for Variant 3. Sentinel has double-immunity, and a bunch of utility including Heal Block, Armor Break, Shock, and Incinerate, and as such can be used in a number of different circumstances.
Stark Spider-Man – He’s a Tech Spider-Verse champion, so he can do a ton of work in Variants 3 and 5. In addition to the huge damage at 10 Poise charges, good old Sparky still has a ton of useful utility including a clutch auto-evade, stun on his SP1, shock on his SP2, and power drain on his heavy attack. He’s the only Tech eligible for Variant 5, making him extra valuable when Domino shows up as a defender.
Venom – Venom is an XL Symbiote, making him a great option of Variants 2 and 5. He’s got Regen, huge bleeds, and counters those nasty evading Spider-Verse champs.
XL Mystics – Dragon Man, Mojo, & Sasquatch – These champs can help in Variants 2 & 5
XL Techs – Warlock & Hulkbuster – These champs are great for Variants 2 & 3.
In general, all the above champions are also useful in Variants 1 & 4 for the chapters they are eligible for based on their Star Level/Class.
Best of luck with your journey through the Variants!