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. Now that I’m 100% finished with Variant 8, it’s time for an update!
Which Variant Should I Do First?
The answer to this will depend on the strength of your roster, as Variants often have specific buffs and restrictions to champions. If you pull a few of the right champs, some of the Variants will be much easier for you to complete or even fully explore.
Another factor is of course rewards. As Variants 5-8 have improved rewards over the first four, they are a good place to focus on first. Overall (assuming a developed roster), I think Variant 6 is the easiest Variant and can be fully explored with the fewest number of champions. If your roster is thin but you have a few quality villains ranked up (Magneto, Doom, Apocalypse), Variant 6 is probably the way to go.
That being said, let’s take a more in-depth look at each Variant to see which could be right 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 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, Apocalypse, Immortal Abomination, 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 the others. 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, especially without a 1-Star Hulk.
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 top 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, Spider-Ham, 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. Personally, Variant 5 is my favorite Variant in terms of the restrictions, nodes, and fights on the maps.
See Auntm.ai for the full list of Spider-Verse, Mystic, and Symbiote Champions.
Back Issues Variant 6 – Contamination
Variant 6 is the #Villain Variant. Personally, I found this to be the easiest of all the Variants released so far. Magneto is probably the most important champion for Exploration of Variant 6 (there are a few lanes that he is tailor-made for and are quite difficult without him), with Apocalypse, Void, Sentinel, Ghost, and Killmonger also having their uses. You’ll need at least one strong mystic Villain. Hopefully you have Doctor Doom, but Mojo is also very viable. I would say if you’ve got Magneto, Doom, and either Apocalypse or Ghost you should be able to 100% Variant 6 because there are very few niche fights. The Bosses are also quite easy to solo without too many restrictions. Because of the relatively few champions required and the strength of the meta-villains (who you’ve likely ranked-up anyways) I think Variant 6 is the easiest Variant to start out with.
Note that like Variant 5, Variant 6 rewards 2017 Generic Rank-Up Gems.
Check out my Variant 6 guides.
Back Issues Variant 7 – Arachnid Action
Variant 7 is the opposite of Variant 6, in that the main focus is Heroes instead of Villain champions. Overall, the average fight difficulty in Variant 7 is about the same as Variant 6, but the bosses are significantly more difficult. In particular, I found the last 2 boss fights to be more niche but they were made significantly easier by having Spider-Ham and Human Torch.
Variant 7 does require more roster depth than Variant 6, because in addition to the Hero restriction, there are also limitations on the classes you can bring into the quests. Chapter 1 is Mutant/Mystic, Chapter 2 is Tech/Skill, and Chapter 3 is Science/Cosmic. This means you’ll need significantly more roster depth to efficiently explore Variant 7 vs 5 or 6. As a general guide, it will be much easier if you have 2 or 3 of the top heroes of each class ranked up.
Note that like Variants 5 & 6, Variant 7 rewards 2017 Generic Rank-Up Gems.
Variant 8 – Deadpoolooza
After a Villains Variant and a Heroes Variant, it should be no surprise the next Variant is all about Mercenaries. For Variant 8, you’ll want to use only Deadpool and Mercenary champions, as all others suffer from a major damage reduction. They can be brought for synergy purposes though. You can view the list of Mercenaries on Auntm.ai. Note that Venompool is the only Deadpool champion not tagged as a Mercenary and he is viable for Variant 8.
In addition to the Mercenary restriction, classic Red Deadpool gains a significant damage boost, so much so that even a maxed 3-Star hits like a maxed 5-Star. If you do have the 4- or 5-Star Deadpool, they will hit extremely hard.
Other Deadpool champions will receive a regeneration boost in Variant 8. This is particularly useful for Gwenpool, who I found to be MVP of Variant 8. The vast majority of the difficulty comes from power gain, and Gwenpool has Enervate on her SP2 and can tank Specials thanks to her Signature Ability, and then heal back from the global node. This makes her incredibly sustainable and there are some fun interactions with her signature AAR and the crossfight abilities.
Other champions to consider bringing are Domino (with or without her trinity), Yondu for heal-block (particularly Lifecycle nodes), Nebula, Luke Cage (can tank SP3 with the dupe) and Hit Monkey. Black Widow Deadly Origin is unfortunately limited by much of the node design in the quests, but I think she’s the best option to solo the final Venompool boss, is great for the Symbiote Spider-Man boss, and the Peni Parker fight, which I found to be the most challenging non-boss in Variant 8.
Overall, I would rate Variant 8 more difficult than 6 or 7. The bosses are more challenging, and because of the limited number of Mercenaries in-game, you’re unlikely to be able to field a team at the power level you’re accustomed to. As a player of almost 7 years with a 2M account rating, I still only had one 5/65 Mercenary (BWDO) when Variant 8 was released, and I had to rank up Domino and Gwenpool to make life easier for myself. Unless you have a ranked-up 5-Star Deadpool, I would suggest tackling Variant 8 after 5, 6, and 7.
Variant 8 has the same rewards structure as Variants 5-7.
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 – Sentinel is an XL Tech champion, so it can be used in Variant 2, and in many regards is the best champ for Variant 3. As a Villain, Sentinel has some use in Variant 6 as well. 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. Until the release of Peni Parker earlier this year, he was 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 for Variants 2 and 5. He can also put in solid work in Variant 6, and there are some lanes where I found him to be the fastest option in my roster. He’s got Regen, huge bleeds, and counters those nasty evading Spider-Verse champs.
Magneto – The only Variant I’ve utilized Magneto in so far is Variant 6, where he was my MVP. His Unstoppable Buff buff gained via Heavy Attack is the clear answer to some of the trickier fights, and there are plenty of #Metal Defenders for him to shut down.
Spider-Ham – As a Spider-Verse hero, Spider-Ham can be used extensively in Variant 5 and was my MVP for Chapter 3 of Variant 7. In Variant 5, he is the clear answer to the Mojo that can otherwise force you to burn through items. In Variant 7 he is a fantastic option for the Venom and Miles bosses in Chapter 3.
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!