The best action you can take in Destiny is the one which wins you the game. The second best is the one you take which prevents you from losing the game. Everything following that is of a varying nature, but not all actions are created equal. The rulebook says you can take six actions, and of course the oft-maligned option to pass but in reality there are only three types of actions.
Before I get to that though, think of the single best turn 1 first play you can make. Let’s not go off the deep end into magical Christmas land with Rey1/Force Speed shenanigans but other than that, how far can you push things? Activating Palpatine into double 3-Ranged sides is a contender for sure, Truce into Maul’s Lightsaber feels pretty good too. Windmill slamming a Tech Team with a Rally Aid waiting in the wings has been a personal favorite, and Sabine players know how good an Ezra special is when playing against someone with Profitable Connections. A while ago, a Hit and Run into two Poe specials would almost immediately win you the game but we live in saner times now. Double Yoda specials are the current dream of many, and for our
hated disturbed rage-inducing friendly mill players that Scrap Heap coming down early makes a huge difference.
For my money though there is one single thing that in our current meta that is far and away the king of the hill, and I pray to RNGesus regularly to allow me to make this turn 1 action 1 play happen, which brings me to my first of the three types of actions you will ever take.
The Open Action
An open action is when you don’t have any pressing considerations on your game plan and you are free to pursue victory in any number of ways.
Your decision tree is wide open, with many paths leading down to your success state. Some of them may be more efficient than others, and entirely dependent on draws and the match-up and so forth, but your skill as a player can guide you through those decisions as well as you are able. How many options can someone have at any given time?
- Activate a character x2
- Play Ancient Lightsaber on a character x2
- Play Lightsaber Pull x4 (searching for Heirloom, Maul’s, Ancient, Shoto)
- Play Well-Connected
- Play FILP
- Discard a card to reroll zero dice x5
- Claim the Battlefield
Throwing out the last three bullet points as ridiculous that still leaves you with the ability to choose between any of 10 distinctly different lines of play with their own entrance points on the decision tree. As an aside, I think the best play in a vacuum is to FILP because the information gained will help you decide more precisely where on the decision tree you pop in at. But that is the entire point right? You have the freedom to pick the path. Add some dice in the pool, and your options go up exponentially.
The very beginning of the game is the simplest point to select your open action, but it is pretty common to see open actions on the second or even third round of any game. The longer or the more often you get open actions, the greater your chances of winning are. You can achieve this by being non-interactive, or by being extremely controlling, or even through luck (my preferred method).
But lets change the situation just slightly. Now instead of playing against Hero Vehicles, you’re up against Han/Rey and everything changes.
The Forced Action
Same hand, same deck, but now you’re locked in to only two realistic options out of the ten you had previously. Your choice was made for you, with no recourse or appeal. You’re forced to play the Ancient Lightsaber on one of your characters (probably Boba) or else run the risk of the Han/Rey player action cheating their way into a 2-disrupt on Han’s rollout. In fact, if you rewind to the battlefield roll you didn’t really have a choice there either.
Players don’t opt for their battlefield against Han/Rey because they can’t deal with Second Chance recursion from the Starship Graveyard, that problem has been pretty much solved since Awakenings. They choose their own battlefield because the mere threat of getting two resources wiped out with one die is too severe. Against all but the strangest decks, breaking their starting resources (among other things) is a major advantage well worth the price of admission imposed by Rey’s terrible dice.
When faced with that threat your decision tree gets chopped down.
- Have only one event left in hand and your opponent plays an Interrogation Droid? Looks like you’re playing it or rerolling. Forced action.
- Opponent can threaten lethal with a rollout on a character and you don’t have mitigation? Roll that character out now or lose your chance forever. (Or threaten lethal of your own)
- Ezra special showing across the table? Spend that resource or lose it buddy, let’s see what you have in hand.
- ID9 showing a two-strength discard? Looks like you’re playing your best card right now.
- Three money for you against Vehicles and all dice resolved in Sabine/Ezra? Whether you actually have the Hyperspace Jump or not, they gotta play that Scruffy now if they can. Oops, looks like it was actually Second Chance. Too bad so sad, sorry for your loss of resources.
- Coercion. Just… Coercion.
And this brings me back around to Fast Hands on Hondo. Not only are their resources under threat until they are able to either stockpile or kill Hondo, but their best available card in hand is as well. Just resolving the specials are nice too in the absence of anything else, and really the only type of rollout I would hate to see under that condition is both Hondo dice on Focus. An action one turn one Fast Hands on Hondo completely ruins your opponents decision tree from the start of the game like no other possible play at the moment.
And one of the best things about forced actions is that sometimes your opponent won’t see them at all and get punished for it. You can’t always count on it but even at the World Championship the strongest players wouldn’t parse the game state well enough to see that they really only had one choice they could make.
The more forced actions you can drive your opponent into, the more likely you are to win the game. As I said above, this can happen in a variety of ways. In something like Boba/Phasma it takes the form of slamming so much damage into the opponent that they have to focus primarily on controlling dice, and mill is on their own program from top to bottom. When playing any deck, consider what forced actions you can impose and work towards them. A discard side is not always a lost damage opportunity, sometimes it is a threat to chop away your opponents decision tree beyond repair.
From the other side, be aware of the forced actions you may have to take and get out ahead of them as far as possible. If you don’t have something that costs two and your opponent can roll a disrupt, maybe think about paying full price for both of those Tech Teams in advance. And speaking of disrupt…
The Forbidden Action
Deciding to do nothing is still a choice, and I’m standing by that. The easiest way to demonstrate Forbidden Action is like this.
If it’s your action would you reroll that Yoda? Probably not. Me either. The decision tree isn’t totally pruned, you can do anything you want really except touch the Yoda die. Only one option has been removed, and you can’t do anything about it until the board state changes on the other side. Conversely, that opponent can’t expect to be able to resolve the Hired Gun die until something changes either. Many cases like this get settled by the opponent playing out the rest of their turn, until finally they resolve the resource side and create a Forced Action just to get the Yoda die off the field. Other permutations exist though.
- Playing against OTK, and you have mitigation while they might have Price of Failure in hand? Time to pass, and pass, and pass, and pass again. You can do anything you want except claim.
- Opposing Ezra showing a special? That Well-Connected looks like a pretty good reroll candidate right now I guess.
- Ahead on tempo and on Ewok Village? Your opponent’s Caution is either getting played after you claim or not at all.
- Last character near death and enemy Y-Wings have yet to roll out? Guess you’re holding on to your money.
Forbidden actions won’t always win you the game, but they can help. One of their best uses is so-called “soft” mitigation and tempo management. In the situation pictured above, the Yoda player is much less likely to claim that turn. All things being equal, until the Hired Gun player makes a move there is little fear of a two-focus side from Yoda turning other dice into maximum damage. Generating Forbidden Actions for your opponent is one of few ways to come back from a losing position, and one of the best ways to widen a lead.
And to take it all the way back to the top, once a decent amount of damage has been dealt, anyone facing off against a Fast Hands Hondo is under even more pressure as the game proceeds. Forbidden to go broke else risk unmitigated character death, Forced to claim early else they possible lose all their resources or their best card, Forbidden from playing out any cad with a high impact special under threat of Cunning, the decision tree is mangled until Hondo dies.
My decision making process in any game goes like this.
1.) Can I win the game with an action? (Duh)
2.) Do I have to avoid losing the game with an action? (Forced)
3.) Am I about to fall too far behind? (Forced)
4.) Is there any action I should not take? (Forbidden)
5.) Can I impose a Forced Action on my opponent?
6.) Can I Forbid my opponent from taking an action?
7.) Advance towards victory either by dealing damage, threatening damage or developing my board.
Knowing the answers to those questions involves practice, deep meta knowledge, and the ability to parse all the information available to you quickly due to the 35 minute clock. Tradeoffs will always need to be made and the decision to mitigate balanced against the decision to press an advantage or add another die to your board is always dependent on the situation. Keeping the Forced, Forbidden, and Open actions in mind during each game you play will improve your rate of success. Obvious plays are obvious, but getting to them (or avoiding them) isn’t. The vast majority of misplays are a failure to discern the difference between the three types of actions and internalizing the identification process was one of the biggest leaps forward in skill level I ever made.
There is no Unified Field Theory for Destiny yet, but until there is:
“I’ll play Fast Hands on Hondo, your action”
-Agent Of Zion