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Kylos, Phasmas and Poes, oh my! Two-Player Game Review

Thirty-seven new cards and four re-imagined characters have hit the streets very close to Empire at War’s release date. The question is, are they worth it?

If you look at it under a certain light, this just makes EaW an oversized set assuming none of the new cards are…. Reprints? Or would the EaW printing be a reprint? Who knows. All I know is that many of these cards are good enough for competitive play, and the new deck possibilities will tide us all over for a couple of weeks. Let’s jump in.

Author Note: My scanner decided not to work this evening so many of the card images are not the highest quality. As properly scanned images become available, they will be replaced.

Flagship Cards: The Reason You Should Buy This Set

 

 

Hey there Kylo! Three damage sides, plus a direct damage ability that also gives hand information? Sign me up. He comes in at the same elite cost as Anakin, but has one additional HP, no pesky ranged side to get deflected, and most importantly has a resource side. This does of course come at the price of raw rolled damage.

His ability will be very rewarding to players who do their meta homework, assuming that rainbow lists don’t continue to dominate the top tables.

I’ll go out on a pretty sturdy limb and say that this guy is better in general than Anakin, although there is (currently) no competitively viable mono-blue deck you can put him in. Pairing him with eFN is definitely worth exploring however, and a Kylo rolling out with a Riot Baton is a Kylo who is going to get some work done.

 

Wow. If FN wasn’t already pushing the boundaries of what you can get out of 13 points, Phasma surely is. If you only want one die, you still get more HP than you put in with points. With one less HP than before, and no guardian to back her up she is much more vulnerable now but with action cheats everywhere it might not be a major loss.

Her focus sides carry over from the previous iteration, but the oftentimes awkward discard side has been traded up for a very thematic executioner style special. No randomness or hard to meet conditions on the special either, just cold-blooded and efficient brutality, just what I like to see dressed in Imperial Red.

Possible decks are almost endless in variation, but ePhasma/Bala seems like a great starting place, and allows enough points for a Nightsister, Enforcer, or Stormtrooper with room to spare. And if that doesn’t suit your fancy, nine points is a perfect fit for our good friend Darth Vader.

 

The only direct comparison we have for Droid Commandos is Slave 1, which has a higher top end. What the Commandos give decks that would run Slave 1 is immunity from Rocket Launchers and whatever other vehicle disruption will be available, an oppressive discard side, and a wholly adequate way to put out some damage on 3/4 char lists.

That being said there is no resource side to Bait and Switch from, and these Droids gain no benefit from your own vehicle affecting cards or effects.

My gut tells me that this will see play in dedicated support lists so long as three and four character decklists remain popular, but will get replaced by Slave 1 in a heartbeat should the meta shift.

 

I promised myself I would keep the #HelpOurHeroes talk to a minimum this article, but Phasma’s Blaster is making it really really difficult. Poor A180 is all I’m going to say.

This card completely obsoletes the IQA-11 in Villain though. Villain ranged decks will be packing two of these for the foreseeable future for sure, and  FN players around the world are foaming at the mouth to get this card in a sleeve.

With single serving Redeploy if you bring the gun’s namesake along for the ride and an always suspect resource side, this gun is absolutely bonkers.

 

Paetorian Guard is interesting for sure, and gives a weird look at what Mikashi Training in villain red can do.

Considering that it is an ability, FN decks are disinterested in it almost entirely. It does upgrade nicely into a Riot Baton however, meaning that should a cheap melee partner for General Grievous ever become available this card could gain some traction.

Until then, this one is sitting in the binder… Except for the decklist at the end of the article.

 

 


It’s a very weird spot to be in when you’re the same cost as a vibroknife, fulfill the same “I hate shields” function of a vibroknife, but are not clearly better or worse than vibroknife. That’s the signature of some very elegant card design, and this has me quite excited to experiment.

Obviously in Kylo Ren decks, getting “free” damage out of hand will be the tipping point in making the call to include this alongside or even in replacement of the neutral gray format staple, but that isn’t the only thing worth considering.

No Mercy loves having this in hand, but Armor Plating and Force Illusion are still online when this is played. And from another perspective the more consistent damage sides are difficult to weigh against the often-used control functions of Mikashi Training.

 

This may be a holdover feeling from my MTG days, but this feels like a misprint to me. Direct die manipulation seems to be something much more fitting in Blue, especially when there is no weighted condition behind it like battlefield control or color conditions by spotting chars or specific dice. Recon, pictured below looks much more fitting overall but isn’t quite as playable

That being said, it can force damage through on otherwise unreliable ranged dice or even function as a slower third and fourth copy of Force Strike so it will probably see some limited play even if Imperial Discipline is likely to be more valuable overall.

At some point, someone somewhere is going to flip a table after a hero player plays Swiftness into I Have You Now, into It’s a Trap. It isn’t a very reliable combo, but it will sure as hell be unexpected.

 


Welp. This is what fifteen points in Hero will get you, even when you can’t be played with Awakenings Rey or abused with elite Maz “Focus to Special” Kanata. With no good partner to pair with her at one or two dice, I don’t expect to see much play out of her.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit too unfair. Her die is clearly better now than before, and that ability is worth considering building a deck around. The extra health is a good cherry on top, and if you need action cheating force speed is still widely available.

I would love to see a death by a thousand cuts type of deck where Willpower, an upcoming upgrade, cheap and easy shields, Synchronicity, and the new version of Rey all combine to just bleed your opponent to death. eQGJ is the obvious (though impossible) pairing for that, but maybe eKanan can get the job done.

 


I’m trying to find something great about new Poe, I really am.

What I do like is the introduction of a mixed die side. Shield and Focus on one die resolution is cool to have, especially when you look for a limitation of modifying your opponents dice and find that it doesn’t exist.

At his point costs, the only remotely viable use I can think of with him at the moment is putting him together with two Rookie Pilots. With wingman to maintain BF control for Dug in and Defensive Position usage and some hard hitting It’s a Trap plays, the deck could win some games. Sadly the combo is too unreliable to be taken seriously.

 

I really like the theme of giving iconic characters an upgrade specific to them. Very flavorful overall.

Poe’s blaster fits in the same slot as Overkill currently. Even if it can be disarmed, it doesn’t get auto-removed with doubt.

The continued lack of Hero red redeploy hurts it but it isn’t a bad weapon by any measure, merely mediocre most of the time moving into slightly above average range when played on Poe himself.

 

 

YES. This card times two, every blue melee deck from now until the end of time.

Strictly better than Lightsaber, 99% of the time better than Luke’s Lightsaber, two GOOD base sides, a shield side to enable Synchronicity, “free” defenses for anyone, and the equivalent of turn 1 Jedi Robes at any time for Rey herself. And if you’re rich, another die that can My Ally for six damage.

It may not be quite as good as Riot Baton in a vacuum, but the synergy between this and everything else Hero does in blue is unmistakable.

 


No redeploy, special only works on a Char under fire, max of one damage per turn, and it costs 2? Bad right?

Pretty dang good in fact. Those two shields and repeatable willpower effect go a long long way to discourage your opponent from trying to kill the Char you play it out on, or if they remain resolute in their targeting it at least makes it pretty difficult. As long as the timing is correct when playing it out, it punishes your opponent no matter what course of action they take.

The subtle effect giving your opponent an incentive to resolve shields they otherwise would have re-rolled is not to be overlooked either.

 


Hero red needed removal.

Hero red now has removal. This is an automatic two-of in every hero red deck, and could make taking Docking Bay as your BF worthwhile entirely on it’s own. With Planetary Uprising and Honor Guard sitting on the table and Docking Bay as the BF, almost nothing your opponent does is going to feel great for them. Color me excited.

With the only condition that Honor Guard needs to be on the table before your action this is certainly one of the top cards in the starter box, and is tied with Isolation as the most powerful removal effect in the entire game.

 


To be completely honest with you, I have no idea exactly how good this card is. It is entirely impossible to get a sense for it without actually using it in the field.

I will say that it punishes your opponent equally for their very good, and very bad rolls. The hard part is the in between situations where there is one blank and one good die, when your opponent will of course make the choice that is good for them.

Of course removing even a blank Vader die is extremely useful, and while this backfires much less often than Overconfidence does, it also has an upper limit on how effective it can be. I’m certainly going to play with the card until it proves that it doesn’t deserve a spot in my decks.

 

The more powerful and flavorful of the two new battlefields, I can see very little reason to bring Echo Base out of storage.

Assuming that blue decks continue to include two vibroknives in their lists, it is also one of very few battlefields that when brought to the table can almost never be incredibly effective when used against you.

Battlefield balance is tricky to achieve, and this slots in as an effective tool just looking for the right deck to be used in.

 

 

Conditionally Interesting Stuff

 

 


In a format that is skewing more melee Clash can do some seriously decent work for you.

While it isn’t quite as versitale as I Have You Now, this functions as the Hero stand in for Force Strike, with upside if sticks are showing on the table across from you.

I won’t go so far as to say this will be a staple in melee decks and it depends heavily on your local meta, but this is just one more way to demonstrate why blue is the undisputed king of control cards

 


Hunker down in blue with it’s own pros and cons.

It slows down decks which typically try to maintain a tempo advantage, but gives them repeatable sustain that’s lacking in the mono-blue decks.

It hurts your draw potential, but doesn’t go away with melee damage and can be whisked away with Maz’s Castle.

Jury is still out on the card, but the foreman just told me that if Take Cover doesn’t get played now, Luke’s Protection doesn’t mean much.

 


Weird art, weird effect, weird card.

This enterprising Ewok occupies a small space in between Unpredictable, Scramble, and Disturbance in the Force.

I wouldn’t be necessarily surprised if it saw play because it is a cool panic button. That being said, with how many powerful specials are widely played and the fact that this can actually make things worse for you, I don’t think it ever makes the cut in any but the most questionable deck.

 


The first completely unconditional die removal card, and it is villain grey.

I’m having trouble picturing a villain deck where this is a better option than what is currently available as removal.

Even in mono-red decks where this seems to fit best, Cannon Fodder and The Best Defense are widely used alongside Flank. Perhaps if there is a two-character mono-red deck to be found this will be included but if not then it will probably collect dust.

 

 

 

Taking Up Space in Your Binder: “Meh” Options, Baddies, and Reprints

 

 

  

 

Every CCG needs “bad” cards and Destiny is no exception. They give us a baseline for effect costs, a challenge for enterprising deckbuilders, and a way to introduce certain concepts in a starter deck.

Some of the new cards pictured here may be decent in the future, but I’m not willing to bet on any of them in particular.

There was definitely a missed opportunity in naming Do Or Do Not, it should have been “Self-Doubt”

 

Bonus Section! Two Decklists to Take for a Spin

 

They probably aren’t Tier 1, but they both give a new experience for the seasoned Destiny player. Give them a try, come talk about the new starters on the Artificery Discord server, and check out our upcoming events!

 

eVader/Phasma
Phasma is Vader’s bodyguard here. If she does some damage that’s great, but using The Best Defense to wipe your opponents turn only to be followed up with a Leadership play will be brutal. Getting Praetorian Guard on her early leading into a Riot Baton just before death gives Vader a major damage boost while allowing you the space to stockpile resources for Rise Again. Maz’s Castle helps dig for anything you need.
eQJG/Rey
Although the character point limitations (#HelpOurHeroes) preclude us from playing four dice, the amount of defensive capability is nearly unmatched. Normally that would be a non-starter but with eight ways to negate vibroknife those shields get put to good use while utilizing synchronicity and riposte along the way. Making judicious use of all your pinging, you need less raw power to secure a win. Obi-Wan’s Hut  will help keep QGJ alive and Rey’s ability online, but most of the time you probably want to take your opponents battlefield.
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An SoR Post-Mortem

Or: Five Rules to Follow to Make a Winning Deck

With pretty much all the Store Championships done and only one major tournament left in the season, we look ahead to the possibilities Empire at War is bringing. The purpose of this article is to take a retrospective look at the SoR meta and establish a baseline for effectiveness moving forward. While the deck options will expand drastically with each new set, it is all for nought they can’t outperform what is currently available. What our deep dive into the SoR will do is show why the top decks are the top decks.

Much of this is intuitively obvious. Why does Poe/Maz win? It deals a ton of damage! Well even now Jango/Veers does a ton of damage, but one is objectively better than the other. It is easy for me to Monday morning quarterback these rules after the fact but it is important to SPECIFICALLY QUANTIFY the difference in deck power levels in a way that can guide decision making. While some of the top decks did break one of these rules none of them broke more than one, and compensated heavily for the rule they did break.

A few things up front.

Pilot experience and practice goes a hell of a long way to compensate for any shortcomings in a deck. Case in point, both the AWK and SoR Phasma decks are and were considered the bottom end of Tier 1 at best, and most commonly placed into the very upper end of Tier 2. Yet Nick “Tacster” Obee took Runner-Up at worlds and Top 4ed GenCon because he has at the time of this writing over SIX MONTHS experience with that one specific deck.

Mill decks are their own animal entirely, and will vary wildly from this baseline in almost all respects.

Specific card evaluation is taken under the most common use cases. Although I am positive someone somewhere has pulled off the sickest Emergency Evacuation or Diplomatic Immunity plays they simply don’t happen often enough to warrant discussion in a broad overview.

No-one knows your meta better than you, proceed with caution and a grain of salt.

 

Rule #1: Be able to reliably threaten at least 4 damage on average starting turn one.

Here we have an “at-least” output generated from the extremely powerful and useful Anydice.com for the overall best decks over the entirety of the SoR meta. While there are multiple versions of three char FN decks, I’m lumping them all together because the numbers don’t vary to a significant degree.

The # column defines the total amount of damage that can be shown, while the percentage next to it shows the probability of you rolling at least that much damage.

Assumptions:

1.) Kylo special hits for 1
2.) Maz focus will modify a Poe die to show what it rolled previously but add 2 (even a blank can turn into at least two damage) while Poe special hits for four.
3.) FN/Nightsister/eBala will roll one two-cost upgrade two times.

This shows the same output but for a handful of the most popular T2 decks for the same timeframe.

Assumptions:

1.) Force Strike will be used on a Vader die not showing damage 50% of the time, which is the rough percentage of starting the game with Force Strike if it is aggressively mulled for.
2.) Snap dice will be resolved if showing damage.
3.) Bait and Switch will be used in Phasma/Enforcer/Trooper when a resource is showing 50% of the time, again assuming an aggressive mulligan.
4.) FN/Vader and FN/Jango both include a two-cost upgrade rolled two times.

The difference is (Force) Striking.

The T1 decks all have a better than even shot of rolling more than four damage, and all four have much much higher top ends that can be achieved through a combination of rerolling (all), claiming for effect (EmoKids and Poe/Maz) or better than average card draws (Poe/Maz, FN).

Meanwhile many of our T2 decks can barely threaten 3. Even if played to their respective strengths like action cheating, resource denial, high health pools, and forced discards, the primary method of winning the game is dealing damage. Our outliers all have a steep dropoff for anything higher, or rely on specific cards in hand.

If you fall short on average damage you have to leverage every other rule in your favor to have a decent chance and/or be willing to discard often to make up the difference. The ability to do one or both is what seperates the upper and lower end of T2 or puts decks in what sometimes gets referred to as Tier 1.5 (Phasma, Vader)

 

Rule #2: Include some damage from hand that is easy, cheap, and deals at least two damage per resource.

In other words if your dice don’t cooperate, have an alternate way to get your damage in or amplify what little you do have available. Setting aside the fact that when FN or Poe are involved EVERYTHING is damage from hand, these are the most widely played cards which fulfill that function.

  

The conditions to play each of these are all very easy to meet. Damage gets rolled eventually in most games which sets up the first two, simply having dice is good enough for Force Strike, and resources are almost as common as damage, and much more benign. When even No Mercy gets cut from a large percentage of blue Villian decks (while dealing up to FOUR) would anyone play Force Strike or Lightsaber Throw for 2? I highly doubt it. Bait and Switch may still have a home if it cost one, but it would more than likely get thrown into our next pile.

Moving forward into EaW, be on the lookout for cards that do roughly same thing at the same or better price (especially in hero), though it is going to be hard to top these mainstays.

 

Our second tier of damage from hand cards are mostly free but all have more difficult to meet conditions, have a significant downside, or both. While cards in this tier have seen play and may occasionally shine under the right conditions (looking at you Riposte), none of them are commonly played in the top decks and in many cases are only played anywhere at all because no better options exist. If Force Strike existed in Hero I wouldn’t play My Ally, that’s for sure. The fact that these get sleeved up at all is the only thing keeping them from the final group. But if they get functionally reprinted for cheaper or with fewer conditions on their use, be ready to pounce.

What a sad bunch of cards, why did they fail? For some it is because the damage dealt just isn’t enough to warrant a card, even if it might heal you or disrupt at the same time. For others they just cost too much to be relied on no matter what other effect you might get. For the rest you either don’t ever want to meet the conditions (Anger) or are so unlikely to meet the conditions (Sensor Placement, Planned Explosion) that they may as well be blank.

We may see Firepower get bumped up a notch right out of the gate for EaW but my instincts tell me that a red Lightsaber Throw isn’t good enough when it hinges on a vehicle die. A Reversal effect printed at two-cost would be amazing to see, even if it was gated behind a small condition.

 

Rule #3: Include at least eight easy to play mitigation cards that can prevent/remove two or more damage for one resource or free.

That’s a mouthful for sure, but it does highlight that figuring out what removal is best is the hardest part of deck construction.

Why eight? With eight mitigation cards, the odds of having at least one in any random five card hand is just above 80% and gives you at least four different options to handle a variety of opposing deck types. Going from down to seven and then six, you lose 5% off of your sample rate, then once you go down to five you start losing more than 8% and increasing. With mulligan decisions already difficult enough for game-winning cards, trying to mulligan for things to simply not get blown out is a bad position to be in.

 

These are far and away the most commonly played mitigation cards at the moment. All of them have very easy to meet conditions, are free, or in Defensive Position’s case are SO powerful in their effect that they are worth planning your turn around. Where one-cost or free removal usually fails is by giving your opponent choice in whether or not the removal actually happens (Let the Wookie Win, Closing the Net, Kryat Dragon Howl) or by being hyper specific (Parry, Evade).

We see no mitigation that is commonly played for two or more resources at any power level, and the reason comes down to opportunity cost. If you pay one for removal, you still (usually) have money available to pay for dice resolution, damage from hand, or simply to save up for an upgrade in a future turn. When you use an entire turn (or more) worth of resources you aren’t progressing your win-condition enough, while allowing your opponent to use their resources to advance their board position. A saying from other card games: “That just makes you lose slower” is very appropriate here.

However, when you can negate or prevent an entire turns worth of your opponents effort the guidelines go right out the window. To use these cards and any other cards that completely alter the basic structure of the game you need to plan for them starting turn one but the payoff can be huge.

 

Rule #4: All your upgrade dice need to deal damage, most should cost two, and redeploy is ideal.

These are the sum total of non-redeploy upgrades commonly played at more than two cost.

Rocket Launcher is only planned to be paid for in the FN decks, where it functions more as a damage out of hand card alongside IQA and Vibroknucklers and all three are replaced ASAP with a Riot Baton. Thermal Detonator is never paid for of course, and DL-44 is only played “fairly” because it has soft mitigation built in and both Han and Rey get additional use out of the ambush keyword.

 

Two-cost is really the sweet spot. If you have free mitigation turn one, you can immediately start building your board but if you have to pay one for some other effect, you can do the same on the following turn and still have the resources to get your upgrade on the field. Most of the weapons that cost two are playable, and redeploy is just a bonus when you can get it. And if you are playing fair with your three cost weapons, you had better look for the word redeploy.

Of course rules are meant to be broken. Free dice will probably always be worthwhile no matter what their effect is, it just so happens that this one enables an entire class of upgrades.

 

Rule #5: Have some action cheating, and have something to do with your extra actions.

I think force speeds are the first two cards added to any primarily blue deck these days, and with good reason. Being able to protect a reroll, deal damage then claim, chain mitigation, or simply regain tempo in an otherwise clunky deck are great reasons to include the card. Then again, there are a couple of characters that function as action cheating on a stick, which is a major contributing factor to their common use.

It is important to not spend too much effort on getting so many actions that you run out of meaningful things to do with them. Or as I like to call it, the Han/Rey effect. If you have a lot of extra time on your hands, cards like Planetary Uprising, Hyperspace Jump, Backup Muscle and Hunker Down can be a good fit. Free action cheating is always better than paid action cheating, hence why Tactical Mastery and All In aren’t taken in any competitive deck any more.

 

Conclusion

As you are perusing spoilers and coming up with concepts for new decks keep these rules in mind to start off a step ahead. The one wild card that I see already looming is the efficacy of Vehicles, which may well shatter rules one, four, and five simultaneously to just overpower your opponent in the mid to late game. Agree or disagree, come talk about it on the Artificery Discord server, and stay tuned for upcoming events!

 

Bonus Rant!

The only effective damage out of hand is Villain. The overwhelming majority of good removal is Villain or Neutral. All the best weapons are Villain or Neutral. The only cost effective way to play blue abilities are Villain. The point cost to HP ratio is stacked in Villain’s favor, and the abilities/dice for Villain chars are at least as good as the Hero ones for comparable cost. Nothing we have seen thus far from EaW changes ANY of these facts. The one thing Heroes have in their favor are gimmicks like My Ally, Hyperspace Jump, and Second Chance, but all of those require significant compromises in deck building and play-style to use effectively.

By way of example, take a look at the A180 Blaster. On paper, the A180 costs beats out Holdout Blaster and F-11D hands down. Four damage sides and a ton of flexibility on half of them? Amazing! Unfortunately the opportunity cost to not play great damage out of hand and removal leaves it by the wayside. It simply cannot carry a Hero deck on it’s back, a fact which is only exacerbated by the lack of redeploy.  Want to hear a sick joke? The card on the left is fake, The A180 actually costs three, and has a worse die.

Repeat the process for almost every Hero card in all three colors and you end up with a competitive meta that shakes out to be over 70% Villain on tournament entry and 80%+ after the cut. Changes need to be made, either through errata or aggressive compensation in future sets.

#HelpOurHeroes