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Sabine Wren is the Stone Cold Truth (Deck Tech)

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As the second of what I hope is only two parts in dissecting Sabine, I’ll be making a case for what I consider to be the best Hero deck currently in the format.

Sabine… Oh Sabine. As the first character to have been spoiled from Empire at War, few other cards from the set have undergone quite as much scrutiny and it’s been a long road from her flagship reveal back in April. The general zeitgeist started off very positively, having Vader’s dice plus an upside but quickly cooled off once the SoR meta fundamentally changed how characters were evaluated. With how ubiquitous Force Illusion became, and how common Isolation and Deflect stayed people (including myself) began to wonder how good “Vader Dice” were going to be overall even if she would occasionally be able to action cheat upon activation. Doubts continued to rise during the EaW spoiler season when it became clear that there was only one new card with the word thermal in the title, and scant few characters she could effectively pair with (and only one as an elite pairing). Add on the fact that eleven health melts like butter in the face of anything thrown by FN and Poe, and she appeared to most to be dead on arrival.

Well I’m here to tell you, Sabine is the Stone Cold Truth. Take a look at the best hero in the game, her best friend, and a sleeper card sent to us from our friends at FFG. You may not have seen it played before, but you should start getting very familiar with Never Tell Me the Odds. They are coming out of binders, and to a tournament near you.


  
  

So lets create (or at least recreate) a Sabine deck. No, not the Running Interference combo-deck. That horse has been beaten to death and it was barely alive before the beating to begin with.

 

Goals, Everyone Needs Goals

In true John Madden fashion, our goal is to kill the opponent before they kill us. Ok but really, we’re going to leverage Sabine’s action cheating combined with her great dice to resolve Never Tell Me the Odds for at least eight damage thereby killing the opponents main character, all without giving our opponent a chance to mitigate. When fortune smiles upon us, we’re going to do it twice. First things first.

 

Extra Actions Plus Damage

    

This group will form the core of our upgrades, and the entirety of our weapons. It is a low number of dice, but what they lack in quantity they make up for in quality. Crucially, they all have Ambush.

For those unfamiliar, since you PLAY (vice move) a weapon from the discard using Sabine’s ability AFTER you have declared activating her as your action but before you actually roll her out you get both the die from the weapon selected in your pool and the extra ambush action. So right off the rip we have the effects of both Han and Rey combined on one char, packing a pretty big punch. With just Sabine’s and Ezra’s dice plus the holdout blaster, we can expect to immediately resolve at least 4 damage almost 50% of the time. Decent but not amazing. That’s where the next suite comes in.

 

The Blowout Suite

     

The entire first and maybe second turn of the game is going to be spent setting this up to be executed as soon as we are able. We need Never Tell Me The Odds in hand, enough money to play it, and either Infamous or RI in play. Hidden Agenda all but guarantees that when you start your turn, you’ll be able to play NTMTO, regardless of your opponents disrupt.

Step 1: Roll out Ezra, hope for damage (Note: Skip this step if it is either irrelevant due to opponent HP, or if Sabine is in danger of dying to ANYTHING no matter how unlikely)
Step 2: Activate Sabine, using a discard weapon to gain an extra action. Downgrade DL-44 if we have to.
Step 3: Play Never Tell Me the Odds, using Infamous to immediately resolve the damage or Running Interference to prevent our opponent from playing a mitigating card.
Step 4: Win

Infamous and Running Interference also play other roles, making your tempo better and generally irritating your opponent. If you can lock your opponent out for a turn with both copies of RI, definitely do so and don’t feel bad about it. It’s their own fault really.

 

Stay Alive to Make it Happen

   

Second Chance should be obvious, and we can play it after action cheating Sabine out on to the field giving us a slight advantage in trying to remove an imminent threat if they are within striking distance. Do not ever play Second Chance on Ezra if they are targeting him first. Just let him die.

Usually, in any given round, Sabine’s dice are going to be resolved instantly or not at all (at least not for damage). Ezra’s dice are very good for his cost, but oftentimes you’ll find that the disrupt and special sides are unresolvable once they’ve been rolled because your opponent will spend their cash. So once Sabine has rolled out, any remaining character dice on the field are expendable. Loth Cat and Mouse is an easy include.

As a runner up, we have Double-Cross. Turns your useless dice into a 4HP swing at a minimum, and carries a huge upside with many specials in the game. The utility of resolving their own discard or simply coming out even with a Thrawn 2-Resource side is good, and if you can snag a 2-Focus the momentum of a turn changes in an instant. It is a bit pricier than most removal, but is well worth the cost and can be free at times.

 

The Money Machine

     

All that stuff before? It’s expensive. Sabine’s damage is free but all of the upgrades have paid sides, and while the removal is good for it’s cost it can be hard to maintain a build-up for Never Tell Me the Odds at the same time.

Ezra is a pain in the ass for your opponent. With two sides of his dice messing with opponent resources you can keep them on the back foot removal wise and completely negate their half of the Truce, sometimes to your own benefit. This is one third of the reason why rolling Ezra out should be your first action in a turn the majority of the time.

Smuggling is a god-send to the deck. Since you’re happy if weapons are in the discard, smuggling can indirectly enable an action cheat from turn 1 even if you don’t want to reroll any of Ezra’s dice. Smuggle those blasters out for sure, but its generally a better idea to wait until the end of turn one to get rid of anything else. Smuggle does significantly impact your re-roll potential so don’t think you have to play it just because it’s in your hand.

Stolen Cache is just plain good future planning. Not only does it smooth everything out with no downside (you’re usually ahead on tempo), but it can bait out Rend and even come back from the discard if you’re up against a niche deck running Docking Bay. It also gives us an out to the ill-advised RI combo-lock.

 

First Tier Flex Cards

            

We have four cards left to fill our deck, and I’ve found each of these to be incredibly useful in their own way. Friends In Low Places and Electroshock need no explanation.

Since we are incredibly aggressive Threaten will function as a way to artificially increase your damage per turn early, and as unconditional removal once you are sufficiently far enough into the game. While I am not a huge fan of giving my opponents a choice, both of the choices offered are pretty good for us.

Hyperspace Jump really ramps up the resource cost of the deck, but it’s not uncommon to have an awkward hand of primarily resource generation. Being able to resolve Sabine’s dice then playing your money-makers until jumping away once a legitimate threat is represented is a pretty decent turn.

Quick Escape is probably the most controversial card here. It can backfire profusely against villain Yellow due to Coercion, but against anything else it is almost on the level of Hyperspace Jump in impact. And if you Infamous it, you still get one additional action whether it’s to resolve dice, or even claim. But for real, don’t get let them Coerce you.

Sound the Alarm is quickly rising in my estimation. Great panic button, and it’s free. Also gives you a bit more of a chance to avoid taking two damage against the new Kylo Ren.

If you’re just starting off with the deck I highly recommend one Threaten, two Electroshocks, and one Hyperspace Jump.

 

Second Tier Flex Cards

             

If you’re looking for something a bit more esoteric, these may fit the bill in various fashions. My opinion is that Defiance (healing for three 33% of the time) and Hunker Down are the best of the bunch, but your milage may vary. In certain situations it Battle Rage could come through in a big way, as Sabine sits at six+ after a Second Chance, and Let the Wookiee Win also artificially bumps your damage per turn. With a Bowcaster, Ezra can really push some damage through in a pinch but my bet is that if he can’t seal the deal with Double-Cross, Chewbacca’s weapon isn’t significantly better than a Holdout Blaster.

 

The Battlefield

     

Any of these options are perfectly viable. Most of the time past turn one, you’ll be claiming first so it’s a matter of personal preference. Port District guarantees immediate Never Tell Me The Odds activation and slightly helps tempo if you find yourself needing to play Second Chance. Frozen Wastes helps shore up our removal suite, Moisture Farm fuels everything, and Starship Graveyard lets us do everyone’s favorite Hero move: Second Chance Recursion. My current favorite is Frozen Wastes, since it will rarely hurt us in an appreciable way and is one of few battlefields that can make up for the initial 4HP swing against us.

Speaking of which. We have a ~60% chance of rolling 5 or higher for battlefield choice. That is the highest average out of any deck I can think of at the moment.

Choose their battlefield, take the 4HP swing. Not even Throne Room, Weapons Factory Alpha, Command Center or Imperial Academy should dissuade you from this. Our tempo is good enough to prevent most opponents from claiming, and almost every other battlefield can help us in some fashion. Our battlefield is a consolation prize, not a primary means of winning the game. Even the Throne Room can occasionally snag us a money.

 

Concerning Matchups

Thrawn/Unkar: A savvy Thrawn/Unkar pilot is always something to worry about. The matchup isn’t specifically bad in and of itself, but if they are smart they will always guess three when they activate Thrawn. Losing a NTMTO in this way is very painful, and their resource disruption can be extremely difficult to overcome, especially when Imperial Inspection gets thrown into the mix. Luckily our tempo and action cheating can come through for us, and we like weapons in the discard pile. Kill Unkar as quickly as you can, and if you have the opportunity to force through a NTMTO, do it even if it’s just with Sabine’s base dice.

Three-Char Blue Hero, Ashoka/Whoever, QGJ/Rey: Never thought I’d put these in a bad matchup list, but their shields are never-ending, they don’t overly rely on any specific character, and they put way more dice on the field than can be reasonably handled. Their Vibroknives cut the initial 4HP swing in half, and their own action cheats can come out of nowhere to bite you. Kill whoever is holding the most stuff. Barring anything else, kill QGJ or Ashoka first. On the plus side, their non-shield based mitigation is all largely irrelevant.

Cad/Phasma: A pure skill matchup in my opinion, and the most similar deck to ours in the format. While they have an edge on health and cheap removal they are much more reliant on good dice rolls and keeping the money to resolve them. Play your Truces carefully, don’t immediately discount Ezra’s disrupt or special as useless against a blank slate, and be mindful of your tempo. Threaten is especially good here, making Cad’s 3-Side very painful to resolve. One of few matchups where using money cards to reroll for damage is the best play. Get Cad to 6HP as swiftly as possible to Double-Cross Phasma’s specials.

New Kylo/(Phasma/FN): Our worst matchup by a country mile. Kylo is the obvious target, but he’s likely getting six damage (otherwise known as a third of your HP pool) through to you just by saying “yellow” three times. I don’t have any great tips here other than to reroll when profitable and hope for the best. I might be missing something critical, but I don’t see a way to push a mono-colored decks matchup vs Kylo above 50%, much less one that is such a glass cannon.

 

Shameless Plugs

As always, the Artificery and KoR Discord servers are the place to be for discussion or finding a practice game. Check out our upcoming Sealed and Constructed events, and if you are in the Season 3 TTS League make sure to play your games!

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The Running Interference Combo is Fine, Here’s Why

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Over the past few days, a repeated and often hotly debated subject has been the existence of the latest combo discovered in Destiny, the Running Interference hard-lock.

Both Architect Gaming and The Hyperloops team published decklists and guides for how to perform the combo in exhaustive detail but for those who don’t know, the short version of the hard-lock is as follows:

1.) Have both copies of Running Interference out, Battlefield Control, an ambush weapon in your discard or on the looping char, an ambush weapon in hand, and thermal paint on Sabine.
2.) Play ambush weapon on Sabine, exhausting one RI and preventing opponent from playing a card.
3.) Activate Sabine, overwriting the ambush weapon on her with an ambush weapon from the discard, exhausting the second RI and preventing opponent from activating while they are forced to take one damage from thermal paint.
4.) Claim with your extra action from Sabine’s ability, using Starship Graveyard to move an ambush weapon to the top of the deck.
5.) Opponent can’t do anything but use a card action, must pass, and move on to the next round where the loop continues.

There are many many ways to reach and hold the initial conditions, and both Rey or Sabine can be used to achieve the hard-lock.

After a decent amount of testing I’m here to calm your fears and talk everyone back from the ledge. This is going to be a somewhat circuitous article, and all the information has to be taken into consideration at one time so bear with me as I go through all of it. For the impatient there is a TLDR summary at the bottom if you trust my analysis sight-unseen (which you shouldn’t).

 

How likely is it to achieve the lock in the first place?

Since every other condition is trivial to achieve, I’ll limit the conditions purely to the chances of getting both copies of RI out on the field at once.

With the generous mulligan rule, and both copies of Scavenge being played, and by dumping the entire contents of their hand at the end of round 1, the combo player can see 21 cards total at the start of round two. The odds of both copies of RI being included in those 21 cards is ~48%. With both copies of Don’t Get Cocky also played, the combo player gets to see 25 cards with a success rate of ~69%.

Why does round two matter? Because Sabine only has 11HP, and not being able to lock the game at the start of round three at the latest both gives the opponent really good odds of both killing Sabine outright by that point (making the combo more difficult to perform) and drawing disruption for the combo itself. While there are ways to get the combo online at the start of round 2 through the use of infamous or by being luckier than average in their draws during round 1, and the threat of the combo doesn’t disappear on Sabine death the odds are significantly decreased (though still possible).

Meanwhile, the opponent has the following odds of drawing at least one method of disruption by the same time frame. Our savvy opponent is assumed to be aware of the combo’s existence and will hard-mull and pitch all cards in an attempt to find an out.

With 2 ways to disrupt: ~75% without Don’t Get Cocky played, ~91% with both Don’t Get Cockys played.
With 4 ways to disrupt: ~95% without Don’t Get Cocky played, ~99% with both Don’t Get Cockys played.

As demonstrated, it is easier to disrupt the combo than it is to set it up, and the odds of the combo being in play while simultaeneously being completely free from disruption are ~12% at their most generous. It skews away from the combo player even more when you consider realistic scenarios IE: I am unlikely to mull away DL-44 or Night Sniper if playing Sabine, but incredibly likely to pitch all five to find an out if playing against the combo.

Not all methods of disruption are made equal however, and there are methods by which the combo player can instantly recover from the set-back involving some combination of the following: the BF is Starship Graveyard already, if Infamous is in play, Cheat, or if the combo player has a copy of Scavenge yet to be played. Generally speaking though, judicious timing of even the weakest form of disruption will buy one additional turn of not being locked out, with certain cards providing you with permanent immunity to the combo.

 

How effective is the combo?

I know what you’re thinking. “You already said it’s 100% effective when it gets on the field, and you gave two links to people showing me how to get it done!”

Well… Yes. But that isn’t exactly the measure I’m going by here. When I want to know how effective the combo is, I want to know how many EXTRA games the combo will win me vice just playing Sabine/Whoever and letting Sabine do Sabine things to win. By way of example, before its errata the Hyperspace jump combo was nearly infinitely more effective than a baseline Poe/HG/HG deck. “Hyperloop” was the best Poe/HG/HG deck you could play by a wide margin.

With Sabine? I’m not convinced. If you check out the lists posted above, there is an INCREDIBLY low amount of removal. Even with my slightly modified Sabine/Ezra and Sabine/Rey to up the removal count, the room simply isn’t there if the main focus of the deck is to both get the combo out, and protect it while it is being constructed. Something gives way. Even if we assume that RI would make any Sabine list by itself (which I agree with), there are anywhere from 6-10 cards being taken up just to support the concept. If the combo falters, your hopes of winning are almost entirely on the luck of the two player’s dice-rolling.

And that’s the rub. Sabine is pretty good in general! The meta is still too new to really say if she is squarely in the T1 category, but my impression is that she is. So again, the question isn’t how often the combo can win, but how many extra games you will win because of it.

I’ve played a total of 18 games this week with the combo, both TTS and in-person. I told my opponents consisting of the full range of skill levels about the combo before-hand, but did not allow deck alterations. I pursued victory to the best of my ability. Without bogging anyone down with an 18-match blow-by-blow, I won 11 games total with 4 of them being combo-victories, only one of which was achieved when I felt I was in a neutral or losing position before hand.

To me, the combo felt very much like a win-more thing. And in the games I lost it was due to opponent disruption of my combo combined with my total lack of ways to meaningfully interact with their turn. DL-44 looping is super good though, and Hyperspace Jump does still save the day. 18 games is a small sample, and I am not the paragon of Destiny play that I would like to be, so I will freely admit that as skill level increases the odds of winning through combo will go up. The same applies to your opponent and their ability to evade the lock-down however.

 

But if my opponent doesn’t have a way to mess with it, I’m almost guarunteed to win!

Well how likely is that to be the case?

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of these cards are seeing very wide play at the moment, and are playable turn 1 (save Quadjumper). While most of them are temporary relief from being locked-down (as if Night Sniper needed another reason to be good) we don’t have to reach too far to find total immunity and even more options to buy a turn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If a deck cannot take two different disruption methods from the previous list or is not naturally immune, none of these are bad cards in and of themselves, with all but Stolen Cache providing repeatable immunity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playing with these characters makes you immune from the combo so long as they remain alive. Of course it would be punishing to have Ciena as your only way out of the lock, but even then just spending two resources every other turn would provide ample opportunity to accomplish your goals. Cad Bane is especially popular online and locally at the moment.

Of course with those chars, the combo player’s first priority will be killing them but as I said before the lack of removal gives the opponent a decent chance.

Once we start looking deeper down the rabbit hole our options get worse and worse but they are still there.

 

Well infinite combos are bad for the game!

Full disclosure, I am a fan of combo decks. I really enjoy twisting cards for nefarious ends in unexpected ways. From a design perspective, I think they also provide a creative outlet for players to balance out Aggro and Control decks.

So my response here is no, but sometimes yes. Infinite combo oppressiveness is directly tied to its ease of use. If someone can only successfully perform a combo half of the time against similarly skilled players playing T1 decks, then I don’t see a problem. When we start trying to figure out how much MORE a deck can win through the addition of a combo, and how oppressive that is things get quite a bit murkier. If the combo is too easy, and too effective then it can certainly be a problem.

Simply put, I don’t think this hard-lock even approaches that level of oppressiveness and if I end up losing to it because my draws were bad, or because I didn’t take it into consideration when deck-building it’s not worse than losing a game because my rolls were bad or if I played a sub-optimal deck regardless. I feel way worse playing against Thrawn/Unkar than I do against RI, win or lose.

 

The other two infinite loops have been errataed away already though, this one should be!

Outer Rim Smuggler is the easiest to explain, so I’ll tackle it first. Due to the nature of the tournament rules, all a player had to do was get ahead on damage by one point then loop Return of the Jedi into and out of an empty hand for the remainder of the round to secure a win. Also, the existence of this would lead to unknown future repercussions for hero resource dumps (cards similar to Buy Out in use).

Hyperspace jump. Whoo boy. Were going back in time a bit on this one. On the surface, the Poe/HG/HG “Hyperloop” was never a serious contender. It required being ahead on damage, paying for or resolving a Poe special to get a Millenium Falcon, being on Emperor’s Throne Room (usually through the use of Hyperspace Jump) and having a copy of Hyperspace Jump in the discard pile.

Once all that was accomplished, the combo player needed to roll out the Falcon, avoid that die being removed by the opponent, then claim the BF to endlessly reiterate Hyperspace Jump until the end of the round.

Even with the help that Cunning and all the best Hero mitigation cards provided, it was simply too hard to pull off consistently. I don’t recall anyone running the deck at the World Championship which took place without the errata implemented, but let me know if I am wrong. I do know it didn’t breach the top 16 at least.

And yet it was still errataed! Why?

Two reasons. Number one, it was the very definition of infuriating to play against. Every game HAD to go to time and be resolved via tie-breakers or concession. There was no reasonably swift path to victory for either player, and like the Smuggler it abused the tournament rules document to achieve its means.  In contrast, one Thermal Paint will kill you and a second will give you a swift end to misery.

Number two:

 

 

 

 

 

 

These cards were all waiting in the wings to play a role in making the combo immediately stronger, particularly Planetary Uprising which would have removed the major condition of being ahead on damage prior to endless looping from the equation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course if SoR wouldn’t be enough to force an errata (which it was), the additional vehicular support EaW provided certainly would have pushed it over the top.

MAYBE we exist in a similar situation now, where future cards will push Running Interference through the roof. If so, I would support an errata of some sort but we are months away from that at a minimum. Until I can either peer into the future or identify a currently playable decklist which shoots combo reliability through the roof, I don’t think Running Interference is good ENOUGH to be errataed.

 

Giving the Devil his Due.

Getting hard-locked feels bad. It feels really bad. TTS table-flips and looks of dejection from my IRL opponents were had even after being forewarned.

While completely legal, the combo delves further into the “what is an action and what is a pass” rabbit hole than a casual or even semi-casual player can reasonably be expected to navigate. If you play this against a new player without warning, you’re a prick and you should stop driving people away from the game.

The rules issues don’t end at the players either. There is an incredibly high knowledge burden for any neutral arbiter to make the correct judge-call in every situation that will arise from this. While not an issue in high-level play the smaller local tournaments are guaranteed to make the wrong call at some point, and in high numbers. Ease of application is an important function for rules, especially in a newer game.

Maybe these are reasons enough to deserve an errata. I don’t personally think so, but any readers opinion is just as valid as my own.

 

TLDR of why Running Interference isn’t a big deal IMO:

1.) The combo isn’t reliable enough to lean on as a decks primary win condition.
2.) It does not take significant effort to disrupt with current decklists, and all decks have options to make minor adjustments to further secure themselves from lock-out.
3.) It is win-more, and carries a significant opportunity cost due to the space it takes up in a deck.
4.) There are popular decks in the meta which are naturally immune to the combo.
5.) Previous combo erratas are materially different than what is currently represented.
6.) It is the only combo deck in the meta right now, and fills a niche that appeals to many.

 

Parting Words

If you play with or against this combo, do an honest assessment at the end. Was it really the combo itself that won from a losing or at least neutral position? Or did Sabine just do Sabine things?

A thank-you is in order to both ArchitectGaming and The Hyperloops regardless of whether or not an errata happens, publishing the combo helps prevent people from getting blown out unnecessarily, and increases the collective skill level of the entire community.

Let me know what you think by jumping in to the conversation at the Artificery Discord server, and don’t forget to grab a ticket for our upcoming online Sealed Tournament!

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Star Wars: Destiny Sealed Tournament Details

Star Wars: Destiny Sealed Tournament

Join Artificery for the first ever online Star Wars: Destiny Sealed Tournament!

Head to the event signup page to join the tournament.

 

What is a Sealed Tournament?

A sealed tournament is where you open a certain number of booster packs then create a deck with the contents of those booster packs to play with for the duration of the tournament.

 

So you’re going to email me Destiny booster packs?

Kinda! At the tournament start time, we will run our in-house developed software that will generate 16 booster packs and output their contents into a TTS file with your name on it. Then we will PM you that file over Discord so you can load it in TTS and you will have 30 minutes craft your deck.

 

Are there relaxed deck-building rules?

Nope. All your normal deckbuilding rules still apply. 30 points, 30 cards, color and faction restricted.

 

What if I don’t open enough characters to make a deck, or enough cards in the right colors?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In that same file every player will receive the Deck Essentials Pack, which will help round out decks without being overpowered in and of itself.

Inside the deck essentials pack are two copies each of fifteen different cards from AWK and SoR. All the cards are faction-neutral and weapons, supports, and events are included for each of the three primary colors.

You will also receive one copy of every AWK and SoR non-unique character (except for Deathtrooper) to use as you see fit, but no duplicates are allowed. What you see is what you get.

 

What if I don’t open any battlefields?

In the INCREDIBLY unlikely situation that you don’t open a battlefield, one EaW battlefield will be randomly chosen for you to use.

 

Well this sounds great in theory, but how will you prevent cheating?

The same software that generated the files also creates a log of who has received what cards.

Every round during the tournament, the tournament organizer and any other available judges will be conducting random deck checks by entering the in-progress match and checking cards that are in play/hand/deck for both players against the log. This process should take less than three minutes per table, and time will be added to your individual match to compensate.

Any failed deck check will result in an immediate disqualification from the event. Anyone who deliberately evades a deck check by any means (deleting cards in TTS, denying access to staff, etc) will be considered to have failed, and will be disqualified.

At no time will anyone playing in the event have access to the log, the generated files themselves, or conduct deck checks.

 

So I’ll get 2 Legendaries and 14 Rares?

Not necessarily. Each booster pack is generated independently of all the others, and each pack has a 1/6 chance to contain a legendary. Each sealed pool has a ~51% chance to have at least three legendaries, and a ~5% chance to contain none.

 

Can I change my deck in between rounds?

Yup! So long as you only use cards given to you at the start of the tournament you can make any minor or major changes you like in between rounds.

 

What if I open Seventh Sister but no ID9 Droids?

You are assumed to own any number of ID9 Droid dice (but not the card itself) to use with her.

 

What are the prizes?

Prize support will consist of Artificery playmats, and (physical) Empire at War booster packs. The amount of prize support will be determined by event attendance.