Footenotes: Benchmark Deck Guide - Or - How do you fly this thing?

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Foote
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Footenotes: Benchmark Deck Guide - Or - How do you fly this thing?

Welcome to a gameplay guide edition of Footenotes. Geeze, when was the last time this forum saw a Footenotes post huh?

Benchmark is a level 3 complexity hero deck that utilizes a unique hardware/software mechanic, where the more equipment hardware he has in play, the more ongoing software cards he can sustain. Sounds simple enough, but with 9 unique hardware cards and no way to search for specific ones, Benchmark feels like his suit plays him to some degree and you are in his shoes figuring out how to hold it all together. Benchmark earns his 3 complexity rating through the sheer number of actions and interactions you need to play attention to ever turn. Against villains with limited board clear ability, Benchmark can rack up more cards on the table than even Argent Adept. Luckily, there are tools to reorganize the mess you'll find yourself staring at and we can't learn to fly this thing until we do. But to do that, we need to understand the pieces and how they all fit together.

Hardware: Building the Suit

In order to push all the fancy buttons and do attach the bells and whistles to this baby we need to build the foundation first, and the first thing Benchmark players need to look for are hardware cards. There are 9 total in his deck, each one with a unique ability. If you didn't find one in your opening hand, there are 4 copies of Deployment Actuation which will allow you to dig for the first Hardware in your deck, and you have Overhaul Loadout for card draw in a pinch, so chances are you will have 1 by your first turn. Benchmark does not have a way to search for specific hardware cards, and the order of a select few of them do matter. Due to this, early game Benchmark can feel like the deck will dictate the games playstyle for a few turns. 

I view the Hardware cards as belonging to three groups, Body, Engine, and Systems.

The Body cards lay a foundation for not only the tankier aspects of his deck, but also create synergies with the other Hardware. This section consists of Reinforced Chassis (+1 self damage reduction), Subcutaneous Cybernetics (self healing + Missile discard), and Micro Fabricator (extra hardware cardplay or card draw + Missile discard). Chassis is your standard hero armor card and is always beneficial. Micro Fabricator's ability to let you play more hardware a turn is incredibly helpful, since you have a lot of cards you'll want in play later so any extra plays are great. Later on when you have the choice, I prefer to have Micro Fabricator as my first EoT effect if/when you use Overhaul Loadout in the game. Both Fabricator and Cybernetics offer discard options, which we will keep in mind for when we get to the Systems sections. Cybernetics has the heal ability on EoT and first time youre damaged a turn for a discard. Both the heal effect and the discard have synergies with other hardware cards, making CYbernetic far better as a mid to late game play.

The Engine cards give us more Software interactions and synergies that are the true keys to making this suit fly faster and harder. Legion-Core Processor sits at the heart of this engine, allowing for SoT power use (and you will have A LOT of powers) or padding your hand size for Missile discards. Flash Installation Drive is another EoT that is best when activating after Fabricator and it lets you put a Software card from your trash into play and discards the top of your deck for Missile. Having it after Fabricator just makes your table setup nicer as you can have the new hardware out for the new software to sit next to (it's something I do to keep track of my Hardware/Software ration at a glance and a helpful table organization tool to keep all your abilities straight). The last card in this section is Upgraded Memory Unit. It synergizes with Cybernetics by increasing all HP recovery, and it is also a great tool for when your hand is low on cards and you need more fast.

Systems has a focus in weapons and damage while providing synergies to the other groups.  Onbaord Cooling Systems is an essential card for Benchmark. There is synergy to be found everywhere, and it is the extra power use that really starts to make Benchark shine. Secondary Cannon is actually exactly what it's name implies, it is a secondary weapon whos purpose really isn't the small damage ping it does on the discard per power use, it's the discard itself. So I've mentioned discarding in every section so far, and it is all due to Inferno Missle Pod. Inferno Missle Pod really needs to be the last EoT effect in the order, so keep that in mind after you reorganize with Overhaul Loadout. This is because you want all of the other possible discard effects to all happen before Inferno Pod pops to get the most damage out of it. There isn't a choice to "not" destroy cards under it, so make the most of every missile you can load up. This card can feel underwhelming in the early and mid game, but once the rest of your cards are out and you are churning out damage increases and discards, Missile Pod/Cannon/Cooling will have you belting out some really great damage.

Software: Pushing Shiney Buttons is Fun!

Let's talk about all the fancy bells and whistles that we can put into the Benchmark suit as we construct the frame. The majority of Software cards translate gameplay wise into extra powers he can use through Legion-Core and Cooling. You have two direct damage powers in Shunt Energy, which is 4 out but 1 to self and represents his largest single damage whomp. He also sports a 5 target 1 damage AoE with Auto-Targeting Protocol. He has two ways of increasing damage. Tactical Communicator makes the next damage a selected target deal become irreducible and increased by 2, which is useful for clearing annoying DR granting enemies. Multi-Point HUD increases self damage by 1 until end of turn which will be your main tool when you're focusing on Missile/Cannon damage. Intel Analyzer even fuctions within the deck as +2 Missiles for a power use which isn't bad. With all three powers avaliable, two HUDs and an Analyzer use means your Missile launch will be pretty sizable by the end of turn.

His powers are not all damage oriented though. Ally Matric, or even a few of them, can turn Benchmark into a full blown Argent Adept, granting another player card draw and a power use. Oh, and it requires a discard, which means more missle synergy on top of it. And no hero deck that can go full-blown Argent clone is complete without some enviro and ongoing destruction, and Benchmark brings that too with Threat Neutralizer.

There are 3 Software cards that do not come equip with a power option, but each offer some additional interesting utility. Load On Initialization allows you to draw a card or play more software on SoT before the check to destroy unsupported software. It is generally far more useful for the extra card draw considering the amount of cards you will want to discard each turn, but the option to play more software is really useful when you want to trigger the software destruction clause. Countermeasures is a really unique tool that Benchmark can deploy. Any non hero target that would damage him with 2 or less HP get destroyed instead. I encourage you to look for ways to combo this card with other redirect effects. It's not always easy to get this card to proc, but in the situations where it's useful it feels very satisfying. Intervening Path Calculator is a poor mans Smoke Bombs, giving Benchmark the option to redirect damage to the lowest hero to himself. This isn't always useful, but there are times you can get a few extra discards and heals in combination with the Cybernetic hardware that could make this effect worth while if you plan for it, not to mention that Benchmark is just really super tanky with a full setup out. 

With all the extra plays and ways to get Software cards in play, you will find yourself in spots where you have some software in play that you'd really like to switch out due to a shift in your current line of play. The destruction clause on Software is not a punishment or a limitation nessesarily. Use it to your advantage. It nets you a card draw and room to play a more useful Software for your situation. This aspect might be easy to miss, so look for interesting ways to utilize it while not missing out on Coolant damage.

One-Shots: Bolts and Brooms

There are only 3 one-shots in Benchmarks deck, and they are all quality-of-life type cards. Fly-By is a versitile straight-up damage card, bringing 2 damage to up to 3 targets while allowing a second card play or the option to return it to your hand. The option to return it to hand after playing I've found very useful for times when the heart of the cards is just not going your way and you just have nothing much of impact to play. In times like those, Fly-By is a compfort blanket of sorts, since you'll pretty much know that you always can lay it down and bring it back if nothing else.

Deployment Actuation is a fairly critical card. You have far more software in your deck than hardware, so getting hardware out faster to support more software faster is always a central goal in the early and mid game. Use the ability to dig out hardware from your trash that you discard for any reason since it is harder to get those out of the trash once there. 

Overhaul Loadout has a few main uses. It's first and most overlooked use is just flat out card draw. Forget the rest of the text if you want to, but it is a card draw focused card. With that said however, the obviously more fun aspect is the ability to completly re-play and re-organize your entire board, meaning swapping out less useful software/hardware for a better board state instantly while also letting you re-arrange all your SoT and EoT effects in ways that are easier to see and track and that work in your favor due to ordering. Its a great excuse to take a miniute and get your area cleaned up incase it got messy during the initial build. 

Paint Job: Red or Blue?

Benchmark does have a promo card and an alternate base power. That suit also comes in a stylish "war-torn magenta" coating. Base vBlue Benchmark provides card draw with a little damage. Supply and Demand vRed Benchmark replaces the little damage with a little heal, and the card draw with a top deck card play. Blue is more consistent early game, while Red has a little more risk/reward early game (due to hardware/software ratio) but can get to a midgame setup potentially much faster, though your ability to discard compfortably is notably lower. Neither one changes the play style of his deck much, because your lines of play early all revolve around the specific hardware you end up getting first, so any "which one is better" debate comes down to more consistency vs more risk, so your milage will vary. 

 

Benchmark might look harder to play than he is. And it is a sight to behold when it's all on the table. But once the pieces of your suit are in place, you will find that it's much easier to fly after you get the hang of it. All of his cards have small little synergies with themselves. You don't always know the order in which you will play your hardware, but knowing how all the parts fit together in the big picture will make it easier to start when youre handed four random pieces of it and terrible IKEA instructions for assembly at the start of every game.. 

 

 

 

Kratos13
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Very nice guide, thanks!  I’ve been enjoying Benchmark a lot since the MiniPack 4 release.

Few comments:

1.  Since Flash Installation Drive discards from top of deck, it doesn’t go to Missile Pod which is only for discards from hand.  For this reason, optimal hardware order would be Missile Pod before Flash Drive so that any Software under Missile Pod will be in the trash and can be put in play with Flash Drive.

2.  Agree that Intervening Path may not always be useful if Benchmark isn’t set up with his tanking equipment, but one nice and noteworthy thing about it is that it works regardless of the source damage, whereas Smoke Bombs only works when the source is a Villain Card.

Great job, again.

Foote
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great point about card ordering! Thanks for mentioning that.

Dr. Kaylo Epsilon
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A couple extra tips with overhaul loadout:

* Got a power-granting software that you want to use an extra time? Use the power during SoT from the legion core then bounce and replay the software with an overhaul so you get a fresh use during your regular power phase. With cooling, you can say "Triple HUD use for 4-fire per pod rocket? Why sure!" Even more fun with an Augmented Ally from Captain Cosmic to get four power uses plus a discard.

* Already triggered some cooling damage from an Initialization-granted software play? Do it again by bouncing the cooling system and at least one software card, then replaying the cooling system first so it's fresh and ready to be triggered again by the software.

Also, I second the "flash installation after missle pod" suggestion, in order to maximize software-in-discard that is ready to bring back to play.


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TakeWalker
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So that's what Overhaul Loadout is for! I've just been using it as go-to from-hand discard fodder. :B Then again, my playstyle with him is still "just play whatever and stuff happens". The best strategy I can do is getting the start-of-turn power use and using it to boost his damage for the turn. That always feels good. :D

Glad to see these guides are still a thing!

robertmaxfreeman
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I've had a lot of success with the 'Supply And Demand' Variant, focusing less on damage (besides fly-by, which is amazing), and more on defense/support (Ally Matrix, Intervening Path Calculator).

In one game I got both Subcutaneous Cybernetics and Upgraded Memory unit into play. SC combined with his base power heals him 4 each round (along with playing the top card of his deck), and with UM he can discard a card and heal 2 each time damaged, and draw an extra card at the end of his turn if he has less than 5.

All said and done, every turn he healed 4-6, played fly-by, played a free card from the top of his deck, and drew 1-2 cards at the end of turn. 

It was glorious. cool

 


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Foote
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TakeWalker wrote:

So that's what Overhaul Loadout is for! I've just been using it as go-to from-hand discard fodder. :B Then again, my playstyle with him is still "just play whatever and stuff happens". The best strategy I can do is getting the start-of-turn power use and using it to boost his damage for the turn. That always feels good. :DGlad to see these guides are still a thing!

i wanted to get that point across better than I did. But your style of “just play stuff and see what happens” isn’t just your play style for his deck, that’s the play style of the deck.

You don’t usually get an option for which hardware you look for first, let’s say in the same way the Argent or Wraith have ways to decide their lines of play. Benchmark is at the whim of the deck, and depending on which hardware you pull first can really dictate to a large degree where you’re next synergies and card plays should be focused. Finding LegionCore first is very different from finding Coolant to finding Fabricator. 

The difference in playing his deck and playing his deck well is knowing exactly how the bigger picture is supposed to fit together so you can make the best lines of play when you’re just starting the setup. 

 

Also so if you play mostly on mobile, Overhauls re-organization ability is easy to miss, but when you’re actually playing him physically it’s a small godsend. 

MindWanderer
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Foote wrote:

You don’t usually get an option for which hardware you look for first, let’s say in the same way the Argent or Wraith have ways to decide their lines of play. 

Benchmark with Sky-Scraper's Micro Assembler is amazing.

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PlatinumWarlock
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MindWanderer wrote:

Benchmark with Sky-Scraper's Micro Assembler is amazing.

I haven't tried this yet, but it seems like a great combo.  Pull out your choice of Hardware and discard a card for Inferno Missile Rig?  Yes please!

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Foote wrote:

Benchmark is at the whim of the deck, and depending on which hardware you pull first can really dictate to a large degree where you’re next synergies and card plays should be focused.

Though I'll add, to this and both while I was originally reading the guide, all I could think of is my friend who plays Omnitron-X a lot, who will love Benchmark, and how she tends to do things at the start of turn in whatever order she wants, at least partially out of a need to make things easy to keep track of (stacking duplicate Components, for example).

And I just sit back and let it happen because hey, this isn't the digital tabletop. :B

Chilly Steke
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Seems time for me to make an admission-- my friends and I completely do all start of turn and end of turn things in whatever damn order we please.

Foote
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Chilly Steke wrote:

Seems time for me to make an admission-- my friends and I completely do all start of turn and end of turn things in whatever damn order we please.

 

for hero decks it’s not as important honestly, but you should hit up the villain and enviro decks in the right order at least. 

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I feel it should probably be made clearer that Overhaul Loadout is useful in that it allows Benchmark to play multiple hardware in a single turn. You aren’t constrained to the same types as what you returned to hand. So you can bounce three Software and get three Hardware out. This is important because he’s got all of one other card that lets him play extra hardware, while he’s got six that play Software. Also enables you to use the same software again after having Legion Core Processor use that power. Enabling shenanigans with 3 HUD usages or ludicrous deck rummaging with Intel Analyzer.

The one other issue I have is that you actually want Flash Installation Drive after the Missiles. As mentioned it doesn’t contribute towards the missiles because it discards from deck, and by having it be afterwards you can play any of your Software that had been used as a missile. All in all though a good guide for a very complex hero with a lot of interesting interactions.

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My favorite late-game nuke combo goes like this:

SoT: Hud (discard for Cannon)
Play: all Fly-bys, returning the last one to hand; have one if them hit Benchmark, to let him discard (to Inferno) to heal
Power 1: Hud 2 (discard for Cannon
Power 2: Intel Analyzer (draw 2, discard 2 to Inferno; play a software, triggering Coolant; discard 1 for Cannon)
EoT: Discard with Replicator
Unleash Inferno, for 3 x 6 damage

With no buffs or out-of-turn discards, damage totals:
Cannon: 2, 3, 3
Fly-by: 3-3-3 x 4
Coolant: 4-4
Inferno: 3 x 6

42 damage on one target, and a bunch of instances of 3 and 4 to spread around to others.


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You can squeeze a bit more out by playing a Software in your Start of Turn with Load on Initialization, then, instead of recalling the last Fly-By, play Overhaul Loadout to recall and re-play Coolant Systems to reset it and use it a second time.


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Martin Tenbones
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I posted this in Dr Medico’s guide, but it’s worth mentioning here as well that Upgraded Memory Unit synergizes beautifully with Dr Medico’s Second Opinion - Experimental Medicine combo, most notably as triggered by Universal Donor which lets Dr Medico give Benchmark a power use every time the good doctor takes damage (including self-inflicted).  Combined with someone who can turn power plays into card plays (i.e. Argent Adept) and let Benchmark play Overhaul Loadout to refresh Ally Matrix, you can do some long, long turns.