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Are Side Boards a Good Idea in Star Wars Destiny?

Star Wars: Destiny Side-board

This guest article is written by Mike Christiansen of Smuggler’s Run Gaming.

Side boarding is a game concept that allows a player to bring extra cards not included in their standard deck build above and beyond the maximum allowable number of cards.  The cards in her side board cannot exceed a certain count and are documented prior to the start of competition.  The player is allowed to change cards in her deck between games or matches that she feels are either not working or that will be more effective in the current tournament.

Side boarding or Side decking is not a new concept to competitive card games.  Magic the Gathering tournaments have included a side board since I first started playing in 1997.  Other games such as Yugioh and Dragon Ball Super all have rules for replacing cards in your deck mid competition.  Why not in Star Wars Destiny?

Any time you add a rule or change a major game concept some questions needs to be answered.  What has changed in the game that makes you feel that something needs to be corrected, and what are you trying to accomplish?  These questions will have different answers depending on the group and game, but in our group the change started with the proliferation of the Launch Bay OTK deck and then the rise of the mill deck in our local scene.  Our hope in experimenting with a side deck was to allow players more flexibility and reduce the number of auto losses to certain decks.  Vehicles, for instance, often sit down across from someone running an obvious mill character pairing and spend the next 25 minutes playing a game they know they have no chance of winning.  What if you could increase the level of strategy while at the same time reduce the number of these “auto losses?”

Another question that needs to be answered before altering core game concepts is what are the negative side effects of the change?  For side boarding in Destiny they are pretty obvious.  The game was built around the concept of an easy to play game with quick rounds and back and forth action.  Adding 6 cards to deck construction increases complexity.  It adds time to game rounds.  It also makes it harder for newer players to be competitive as it adds another layer of strategy to the game.

Our lab for this experiment was our local Monday Night Dice casual tournament.  We often task our players with playing within a theme for bonus chances at prizes, so the group is pretty flexible and almost always game to try new things.  I announced that everyone would be allowed to bring a 30 card standard deck with a six card side board.  The side board could only be events, upgrades, and supports.  You would sit down across from your opponent, examine their set up, and have 2 minutes to make a 30 card deck from the 36 cards you brought that night.  I brought my eYoda/eCassian Aggro deck:

https://swdestinydb.com/decklist/view/23107/breakerofchainsyodacassianaggrowwave-1.0

It runs 4 cards that are useless against mill in Force Illusion (x2) and Second Chance (x2).  If I played an obvious mill deck then I would remove those for Riposte (x2), Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Lightsaber, and Fond Memories.  I was also packing a CR-2 Heavy Blaster and Friends in Low Places.

Let’s examine some of the key questions and answers after collecting four rounds of game play data:

Did we accomplish the goal of increasing flexibility and adding layers of strategy?  The answer to this questions was a resounding yes!  Allowing a player to bring a tool box of sort to deal with their weaknesses makes every deck more flexible.  This causes you to think about what your opponents could be bringing prior to the event.

Did we lower the number of auto losses to certain decks?  I need more data on this one.  One side effect of having a side deck is that no one brought mill to the event.  The specter of people being able to tech against your mill deck on the fly was spooky enough to discourage it being played at all.

Did it increase the complexity of the game?  Absolutely.  Several people struggled to get their deck right in the time allotted.  It would take extra rules and oversite to use the side board in a competitive setting.

Did it make it harder for newer players to compete?  I didn’t have any new players show up, but there is one social media-averse player in my group who didn’t get the memo and didn’t have a side board.  This is probably what a new player would feel like if they showed up to your local and your vet players were able to swap out cards based on the new player’s set up.  It would be a negative for sure.

Most frustrated players I speak to about Star Wars Destiny express a similar aversion to be being out of control of their game experience.  All of the dark days of the game were times when your opponent got execute their game plan and there was nothing you could do about it.  I’m talking about watching your opponent play 3 upgrades on FN-2199 after you claimed only to play Boundless Ambition and then play 2 more;  getting demolished by Sabine after she rolls in, plays Never Tell Me the Odds, and activates Running Interference; not being able to play any cards or resolve any dice against a mill deck.  Side decking increases a player’s control over their game experience.  I’m thinking that most would agree that is a good thing.

I was not in favor of a side deck concept in Destiny prior to this week.  It took some prodding from an associate to get me to try it.  I now believe it warrants more experimentation.