The Blackheart fights totally killed my enthusiasm for running two accounts, so I abandoned the Playdom one. Unfortunately, this means that I'm not really having a pure "free player" experience anymore, because I've paid for gold for CPs on the Facebook account and bought past Special Operations heroes with them, which a totally free player probably wouldn't have been able to afford. And one of those heroes I'm running for PvP this season.
At the end of the last season, I was happy enough with my team, but feeling like Iron Man Mk 42 could use replacing, largely because I was tired of giving Tacticians extra turns. When Emma Frost went on sale, I picked her up, levelled her up, and experimented with her in Practice PvP and Incursions alongside Iron Patriot. I was happy with the results, and I've been using this team on both offense and defense.
I had planned on swapping out my Offensive Accelerator for the Shepherd's Staff, but my Agent gear plan changed when I won my first Scroll of Angolob during an Incursion fight. So I'm now using the Sinister Sceptre and Kuzuri to ghost tank on both setups along with the SoA, but using Shepherd's Staff only offense, and the Magnetic Field Generator on defense. The thinking here is that something like half the time the AI will do the right thing on round two, and use the MFG, keeping the Agent phased (assuming it used the Sceptre on round one).
At level 90, I'm ranking low Vibranium, with 17 days left. My hero bonus is often equivalent to, or better than, my opponents', but my Armory rating is almost always two-thirds to half of it, or even lower. Since I'm still not willing to spend money just to unlock and fill my Armory, my goal is to stay in Vibranium by using a team that can handle this imbalance. I'm winning around 80% on offense, which is satisfactory, and winning around 33% on defense, which is much better than I expected. Without knowing what I'm facing, it's hard to guess why this is. Are people still experiencing a lot of CVEs? Are people geared up to take out Phoenix / Rescue teams and not for my aggressive set-up? It's impossible to know, but since it's not broken, I don't want to mess around with it.
Which brings me to what I'm seeing and how I'm dealing with it. Obviously, Rescue and Phoenix are very well-represented. I'm also seeing a lot of Cyclops. Maybe half of my fights involve someone in the Blaster's Aegis Armor which is great for me when running two Tacticians. I've also seen some pretty unusual set-ups, including a few Human Torches and Dr. Stranges (sort of a retro play at my level).
There's a lot of conversation about whether or not SoA is overpowered. And it's true that it's frustrating to run into someone using one when one doesn't have it, or expect it, because it invalidates a lot of tactics for the price of one slot. But I'd say that when everyone has it, it instead makes the gameplay a little more interesting. I mentioned in my last season write-up that I found Iron Man and Iron Patriot somewhat boring to play, because the decision-making in the fight was limited; there's pretty much always an obviously correct decision about what to with their turns. With the Agent using the SoA, there's more thinking to be done.
With the way that my agent is geared, I have to decide on the first turn whether to go SoA --> Staff --> Sceptre, and thereby lose round two, or just use the Sceptre, and then go SoA --> Staff --> Recharge on round two. The latter only makes sense if the Agent is very early in the turn order, and there's nothing to dispel with the SoA yet.
There's not a lot to say about handling the biggest dangers I'm seeing that would be applicable for free players at this point. To deal with Phoenix, I use Iron Patriot's Brutal Strike ability. If Phoenix is a Blaster, and I have used the Staff, I may get three stabs, which takes her out. With Rescue, I use Emma's War Diamond hoping for the stun, and then wipe out whatever she does manage to get up with the SoA. I deal with the Warbringer Axe by ghost tanking and using the Scroll. Shadowcat remains a pain, but Emma can hit her without triggering a counter-attack, and everyone can usually survive taking at least one hit from her. All-infiltrator teams are a problem, but not one that comes up often enough to do anything about. I'd rather have Emma get extra turns against those Blaster armoured Agents than change her uniform to get a counter-attack against Tacticians, at least for right now.
I have six covers (and have gotten four duplicates), and have four lockboxes. According to this excellent blog by Titeuf that gives me a 58% chance to get Elektra without paying gold, which is actually exactly on track for the average person who gets five lockboxes a day.
I spent most of the tournament in Vibranium, and ended there. I didn't expect to make it into Adamantium with the armory bonus I have, and I wanted that free eight-socket Tactician uniform, so I'm pleased with the result.
A word about Armory bonus. Mine was low 40s to begin with, until the Stealth Field was released. I replaced all of my older, now outdated armory equipment with it as soon as I got it, which brought me up to the high 40s. By the end of the tournament I had hit level 100, which meant unlocking another armory page. That got me to 75k. The difference between battling people with 100k armory bonus when you have 40k vs. having 75k is profound. For a player who isn't spending gold on their armory, leveling up does have a real benefit.
I ended the tournament with seven Elektra covers and seven lockboxes. In a stroke of good fortune, I spent three gold, opened that set of ten, and got her.