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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.
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.
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.
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!