Deck Selection: Or Why I can Never Just Pick a Deck
I kinda want feedback on this section, do people actually find value in hearing the thought processes behind choosing a deck?
Anyway. Here was the deck I was going to run at Nova, all the way up until five minutes prior to deck registration closing.
If you’re wondering how I was ever going to beat the mirror, the answer is I wasn’t. Barring crazy swings of luck, I was going to get the brakes beat off me six ways to Sunday in any mirror match I found myself trapped in. BUT, I felt much better against any of the villain vehicle and Aphra decks rolling around. Very few things feel as good for a mill deck as using Confidence on a Bazine shield side, or a focus die sitting out there alone. Anticipate was the spicy sauce, briefly considered then locked in after a conversation with Serdapi. It’s a bit trickier to use, but in situations where you can force opponent to blow a lot of focus and clear a ton of dice while only coming up with a couple resources and maybe one to three damage you’re happy to have it. It does put quite a bit of resource pressure on the mill deck, but Yoda’s dice should nearly always be used for resources anyway so it isn’t too far out of reach. The Rends make for a nice segue into the reasons I decided to ditch this deck at the last minute and run with a dark horse.
All three of these are the worst things to see hit the table across from you as mill, and all three are very common in the meta with the Talzin/Commando’s list using two of them, any number of decks using Chance Cube, and the aggro decks always slotting in two Speeds. That got my noggin a joggin, and I went searching for a shell in which to use all three. If you refer back to my GenCon report, I had a short list of ways to beat the meta as it was defined at the time.
- Methods of dealing with multiple chars (Force Wave)
- High HP pool (Find the right char suite)
- Multiple unconditional methods of removing at least one Thrawn die per round through his disruption (Villain Blue)
- Viable anti-mill plan (Very Rarely Chance Cube can buy a round, otherwise an amazing amount of Focus can help)
- Viable anti-hyperspace jump plan (Force Speeds for tempo, frontloading the round otherwise)
- Effective ramp (Chance Cube, Snoking for money)
First stop was just taking eSnoke/Bazine/Trooper and jamming a holocron package in instead of vehicles. This met most of the conditions, but the problem was that the surprise factor in not running vehicles is lost immediately if you don’t run Weapons Factory Alpha and lost pretty much immediately in any case. What this translates into is Snoke being your opponents primary target, which was already going to happen if you got matched up against a full-aggro player anyway. When Snoke goes down in this shell you wind up with no way to get additional dice on the table aside from Holocron, and that usually translates into a loss.
What I did learn was that the shell was pretty bonkers against mill, and only lost that matchup once. Felt amazing.
So then I wanted to meet all of my same conditions, but with an additional blue character. So I cut all the Yellow stuff, added in a bit more Blue and Red and started playing around with Nightsister/Snoke/Veteran Stormtrooper. It felt much better against aggro matchups, and vehicles, but the winrate vs Mill and Aphra tanked. And I do mean TANKED. In the absence of a Force Power in hand, Nightsister/Snoke/Vet. Trooper does pretty much jack shit. Snoking for 5 indirect feels pretty good, but that alone will not win you a game. A very…. Ill-advised foray into a Snoke/eKylo1/Droid deck later and I was pretty much resigned to trying to make the concept work in a two character suite.
Holocron concept down to basically three options, all of which fail the “High HP Pool” requirement. Ouch.
Dooku Talzin definitely gave me things to do when I didn’t have a Force Power in hand, but 6 0-cost cards off the rip dropped reliability by a noticable amount and it was incredibly difficult to actually pay for the force powers without resolving chance cube for max at least once. Very binary in results.
Kylo Talzin was just more of the same, but worse.
Snoke/Kylo was the final choice. Being able to Snoke for cash to fuel the Force Powers, focus into Chance Cube money or Holocron specials, Force Power specials, and everything else just felt right. Snoking three-disrupt was devastating against vehicle decks at the proper time, and mill has to control two Kylo dice at a minimum to escape a round unscathed while they had no meaningful way to stop ramp.
But that all of that doesn’t really answer the question of WHY I decided to ditch a deck I had over 150 practice games with in favor of the one I had less than 10. I hope I buried the lede far enough down that my wife doesn’t read this, but just in case… She is an amazing person who is incredibly supportive in everything I do and I wouldn’t give her up for the world. Samantha is a very decidedly average player. The kind of player that if given a lot of time to practice, could probably have a good chance of winning a store championship if you catch my drift. She offered to play a few games with me for practice the night before, and I gave her a version of Kylo/Snoke… With a lot of the essential cards pulled out because they were sleeved in MY deck.
She beat the brakes off me.
If a worse player (though much better human being) can take a poorly pieced deck in her hands for the first time, and beat me playing the best tuned version of a deck that she hadn’t played against before… How were my chances looking through 7 rounds day 1, and a top cut that was already rife with a possible mirror match I had already conceded?
Kylo/Snoke it was.
You’ll notice an usually high number of 1-ofs. This serves two purposes, first being in swiss, if people see one of a stable card like Beguile or Hidden Motive, they assume there’s one more in the wings and take steps to play around it that are never worse for us and can at times be quite beneficial. Then in the cut, assuming decklists are swapped, having so many one-ofs puts a mental burden on the opponent to keep way more things in mind. The second is that when you’re in one color, especially blue, there are quite a few effects that are relatively redundant at the same or similar costs but they play out in very different ways. Being able to craft a hand in between rounds to find the most effective solution to a current or likely problem can find an edge where one previously didn’t exist.
It Will All Be Mine
is the spicy one of the bunch. This is perfectly castable under damn near any conditions. One specifically that makes it great is when a Chance Cube is showing blank, and with both Holocron and Chance Cube having 2/3 blanks respectively, I felt that carrying potentially dead cards like Rend was unnecessary. It is an outstanding include, and I could easily see myself running two copies if given another opportunity.
was included for obvious reasons, but popping it off even round 1 for a Holocron resolution is pretty outstanding and allows for best of both worlds situations. Paying two for two shields isn’t the best deal in the world, but doing so with majorly game impacting upside really is.
was a crutch that I didn’t need. I put it in to prop up my inexperience with the deck and looking back I’d trade it out for something more universally appealing like Deflect
or Abandon All Hope
or hell, even Isolate
Speaking of which, Abandon All Hope
was amazing for me but only when I used it correctly. It’s the classic round 1 action 1 play, but it took me doing so a couple of times and getting bit for it to learn my lesson and wait for the right moment. Learning during a tournament is less than ideal, but it ended up serving me well regardless.
On to the tournament. I didn’t take notes on names so if I misremembered any of them, please let me know and I’ll make a correction.
Round 1 vs Bye
Hells yeah. Starting in the top 50% does wonders for strength of schedule, mental fatigue, and getting above the majority of the truely random decks. Personally I wish that winning a bye card would give more than one bye, in MTG and other games you can get up to three byes which drops you off in the top 12.5% of the field.
Round 2 vs Casey
With Comm Center as his displayed battlefield, I had to make a very particular choice on my mulligan. Not knowing whether he was damage or mill I had to either keep a Beguile and Overconfidence (useful if damage) or pitch them back in search of a force power and chance to go along with my Holocron. Force Speed and Holocron were auto-keep, as was the New Orders.
I ended up splitting the difference and tossed the Beguile back, and ended up with a Lightning. He ended up being damage, and got four dealt to Kylo and two dealt to Snoke while also discarding my New Orders from hand. I clapped back as hard as I could with Kylo that round and ended up sticking five on Cassian. My thought process was that by putting the resource pressure on him and forcing early Hyperspace Jumps or Second Chances that I could limit the number of dice on the field, and limit what Yoda was going to inherit.
My assumptions paid off even more than I expected, and I ended up dropping Cassian mid-way through round 2. Yoda was holding two Holdouts, and he overwrote one of them with an X-8 after I rolled out Snoke showing a special on the Lightning and Speed. He rolled out, ended up with a blank on the X-8 and I got rid of that then rolled in Kylo off the Speed special. I Snoke power actioned for disrupt, locking him out of any other removal or Jump for the round and focused to maximum damage and got a Mind Probe down with the Holocron.
One thing I want to mention here, is how good of a guy Casey is. He was going to drop from the tournament later on, and I asked him to stay in it to help my strength of schedule out noting that it was a 100% selfish thing to ask him to do. He agreed on the spot with no hesitation after I told him why, and went on to win his last game. Totally stand-up move on his part, and I am incredibly grateful. 2-0
Round 3 vs Rami (Destiny Council)
I got blown out here, plain and simple. My mulligan had me with zero removal aside from a Feel Your Anger which doesn’t sound too bad until both of his executioners hit 2-dmg. He threw down BT-1, snatched a resource with Aphra, and 0-0-0 hit the table as well. A reroll on both of those dice and an Aphra die found him 2-ind, 1-ind, and 2-melee, which slammed me.
I was still marginally in it because I was able to drop an Executioner on Kylo roll-out but I needed to Snoke power action for damage the round previous, and a relentless pursuit sealed Kylo’s fate. A Climate Disruption Array came down right after, and his deck concept of driving a huge wedge through any health disparity paid off in spades. Rami (one of the lesser known Destiny Council members) was a great opponent as well, and our match was pretty jovial with some jabs at each-other going back and forth. Fun times, even if it did give me a loss far earlier than I was comfortable. 2-1
Check out the Destiny Council deck tech and tournament report here.
Round 4 vs (Can’t Remember)
This one went well for me right from the beginning. He won his battlefield, but whiffed on his Thrawn activation. I dropped my Force Speed on Snoke, he played DH-17. I roll out Snoke, he rolls out Snoke. I play a Chance Cube on Kylo (not intending to roll it out that round because I had Beguile in hand) just to pass the time, and he focuses a Thrawn Die to money. I resolve 2-ind again, just to pass time, then he predictably Snokes for four dollars. I use the Speed special to roll out Kylo, hoping for a disrupt to power action most of his cash away. I didn’t hit the disrupt but I did hit max damage. Slammed four into Thrawn leaving the other Kylo die hanging out, which got Hidden Motived away. The rest of my round is totally uninteresting, while he played out a Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced and focused into four combined damage between that and DH-17.
Round 2 sealed the deal, I can’t remember the exact sequencing of things but the long and short of it was that I was able to play It Will All Be Mine and resolve his Chance Cube, DH-17, and Vader’s TIE in my favor. There is basically no coming back from that, but the game went for two more rounds, and I was able to continually disrupt his money away keeping him from adding any more than an AT-DP on to the field. 3-1
Round 5 vs Kyle (ABG)
I don’t remember entirely too much from this match, and it was my first exposure to the ABG deck of the weekend. I won the roll-off and opted for my field. I fired off an Abandon All Hope as my opening action, which prevented any droids from coming down immediately, though he did play 0-0-0 later. I then got seven damage applied to Snoke and claimed the BF to replace my holocron with a Force Wave.
Round 2 ended up with Snoke dead, and Aphra in the hurt locker. He got BT-1 down, but the Climate Disruption arrays were dead in hand because the HP differential was in my favor and his removal was pressured to remove too many dice.
Round 3 sealed it for me with an All-In play, after a Rise Again, sequenced somewhere after replacing the Wave with a Force Throw but both of my chars had less than three HP. I don’t know if I would have lost the match if Kyle had remembered the 0-0-0 triggers from both Dangerous Maneuvers and a Crash Landing, but it would have been much closer. 4-1
Round 6 vs FlaccidBaron
I’m going to say it right now, Artificery’s own FlaccidBaron is the best Thrawn/Snoke player in the world, and knowing that psyched me into misplaying terribly. I used Abandon All Hope as my first action, which was incredibly dumb. I don’t know what I was thinking other than if he said “2” on Thrawn rollout, but if I had just played Force Speed instead I don’t think he would have. And if he didn’t, knowing AAH is in my hand doesn’t help him any unless he disrupts me before I can play it.
But as it stood, my entire game-plan was to slam damage as hard as I could and prevent Grand Moff from hitting the table. The problem with that plan is that the two goals are mutually exclusive. I revealed Grand Moff with my Kylo activation, and therefore snoked for disrupt that round which left him at three resources going into round 2. Judicious use of my removal on his resource sides kept the board relatively clear, but he was able to get an ARC out and running wild on me until I couldn’t stop his ramp any longer.
While he never did play a Grand Moff, he did play more vehicles, and he was able to keep Thrawn at full shields for most of the game which kept him out of striking distance. I don’t think I could have won this match given our respective draws, but I certainly couldn’t win the match by misplaying things from the very start of the game. I’ll be yelling at Flaccid to post his own deck-tech and tournament report, but he ended up taking the win off me and finishing in the top 8 as well. 4-2
Round 7 vs Jon (Destiny Council)
After Rami rolled over top of me in Round 3, Kylo apparently kept a grudge and refused to roll and reveal anything but hot fucking fire against Jon.
In the conversation after the match, Jon told me I had a 33%, 20%, 40%, and 80% on my Kylo activations for damage, and I hit every single one of them. Holocrons were on point, Force Speeds refused to roll anything but special, and it was rough. The Destiny Council guys are always a pleasure to play against however, and he took everything in good humor. My hunch in going after Executioners sight-unseen proved correct though, in that his Emulates ended up being blank cards after the opening action of round 2, and he wasn’t able to get his droids out soon enough to make an impact. 5-2
Round 8 vs HonestlySarcastc (Hyperloops)
Its hard to fully impress in text form after an event that none of these matches were particularly easy, even when things were going my way. But out of all the swiss rounds, this was the most difficult by far. I’ll focus on just a few things here. First, Snoke was my target but was a super tough nut to crack when HS was able to get both Force Illusions on him relatively early.
Bazine wasn’t going to be able to be shrugged off early though either, given that I had lost the BF roll which meant I couldn’t Snoke PA a damage on Kylo prior to a special resolving. Sure I could have put two shields on Snoke to force the issue, but at that point just one PA and one Bazine special puts Kylo at the same HP anyway, and that isn’t counting any additional damage that could have come in. To make matters worse, HS was able to see my spicy It Will All be Mine in hand from a FILP, ruining my chances of getting some work done on that front.
In going after Snoke, I was also resigning myself to never be able to Rise Again even though I could have made a break for it a couple different points during the match. I know for a fact that if I ever represented 5 money, the disrupt would have put a stop to those plans immediately, and while an argument can be made that by going for it I would be removing a die and dealing a damage on my opponents time, I really don’t think it would have been worthwhile.
The final round is where the magic happened though. Here is the board state in picture form.
I can’t remember what my other three cards were, I know one was a removal but of course that was going to be totally insuffecient. I decide to go for the hail mary. I roll out Kylo with Chance Cube and end up with Holocron Special, 1-Disrupt, 1-Money, and 1-Money. I say red on the activation and hit, putting Trooper at 5 HP remaining. HS looks through my discard and recognizes that I have kept a Mind Probe between rounds, and in the absence of removal has to pitch a card to reroll 0 to keep Trooper out of lethal.
Predictably, I resolve Holocron and pay to roll the Mind Probe in and hit the 3-Ranged for 1 side. He rolls in Trooper and whiffs for lethal. I resolve my Kylo and Chance Cube money leaving the Kylo disrupt on the field alongside the Probe. HS then rolls in Dooku’s Solar Sailer, and draws a card. I’m pretty sure he did this anticipating that I would be resolving the Probe for 3 and rerolling Kylo, and drawing any removal or rolling a shield on the Sailer secures him the win. He ended up rolling a shield, but by going up to 5 cards he put himself at lethal to my New Orders.
Come to find out after the fact, I didn’t need to win this match to make cut (my SoS would have been higher than every other 5-3) but by winning I got to get a better matchup in the top 32. Still, a load off my mind for the evening. You can check out what I assume to be the first of more than one tournament blog from The Hyperloops here.
Top 32 vs Jeff
After hoping for the matchup all day on Friday, I finally got a crack at mill for the top 32. Shuffle, mulligan, roll-off (which I won), and then the TO announced the current time and time the end of the round would be, so off to the races we went.
Long story short, we both had great starting hands (Force Meditation and Podracer for him, Holocron, Speed, and Cube for me) and his initial hit off the top of my deck was three force powers. After we get kinda deep into the round, the TO tells everyone to reset the game because time hadn’t officially started. WTF? This is the one bone I have to pick with the TO all weekend, and any rage Jeff wants to get out about this situation would certainly be cosigned by me. Obviously, hand knowledge is pretty critical to Kylo and we call the judge over to figure out what to do.
Judge says we can’t just continue the round, but he would be alright with us remulliganing. Jeff asks me if he can reshuffle and mulligan, I don’t want to myself but said I’d be fine with it if he lets me just reshuffle my deck. Understandably he opted for no.
Game 1 was pretty close, I ended up doing basically nothing round 1 anyway, but in the end repeated Force Wave resolutions sealed it with three cards left in my hand and zero in deck.
Game 2 on the other hand was not close. I ended up getting both Mind Probes down, one on each character and opponent had actually opted to play on my battlefield (I assume because he started with both Force Meditates?), so I was able to claim-kill Yoda far ahead of schedule. Second Chances came out, but in the absence of Podracer they just prolonged things.
As an interesting aside, Jeff is actually a very new Destiny player, and only made two mistakes I saw the entire match. Making top cut at Nova is no easy feat, and coming that close in a very bad match-up is commendable. I hope to see more of him at future events, and if he sticks with it could easily see him getting snatched up by a team very quickly.
Top 16 vs Yodaz
Forgive me, I don’t recall play by play specifics for this one. It was an absolute slog though. I won game one by slamming overwhelming damage into Snoke early, while he used three different removals trying to get rid of a Chance Cube that rolled 2+ each and every time except when targeted by Hidden Motive.
Game 2 went his way, I couldn’t get anything done in my first two rounds and Rising Again in Round 2 was necessary to avoid death, but I wasn’t able to get anything back but a Force Illusion. While he didn’t get Natural Pilot out, he didn’t need it with the readily available focus and multiple vehicles.
Game 3 went back my way, by keeping him off of resources I was able to maintain HP parity. Through a series of events I cannot accurately recall, I ended up getting four damage on Bazine and six damage on the trooper in a combination of indirect damage and Force Wave. I used a Force Speed special to roll out Kylo, get another speed special, then focused and power actioned four damage to kill Bazine, and one to kill the Trooper. In this game Yodaz opted to put both Force Illusions on Snoke, and was one HP short of killing Snoke but missed a Salvage Stand trigger, allowing me to all-in not just for enough resources to Rise again on Kylo with a Mind Probe, but also to maximize damage. His final board state was having only an ARC and weakened Snoke to face down a very healthy and kitted out Kylo.
Top 8 vs Drew (ABG)
Game 1 I got absolutely bodied. After a Crash Landing and power action putting his Droid at 4-HP, I decide to PA lethal on it which was almost certainly a mistake. Both threatening droids, a ton of damage, and if I’m remembering correctly, a Climate Disruption array cut deep deep wounds in me and I was unable to recover.
Game 2 Went significantly better, with an Abandon All Hope fired off I delayed his game plan long enough to get enough money and free dice on the field to establish dominance. Winning play of the game was forgoing damage in the short term to grab the battlefield, letting me use All-In to force through a lethal damage spike.
Game 3 was super close. I can make excuses, but at the end of the day I forgot to use Kylo’s ability in the first round and ended up two damage short to close it out. The final count was Drew at three cards left in deck and one in hand, with a Slave 1, Snoke, and Hailfire die needing to find three damage to finish me off (but no resources for paid sides) he pitched, rerolled, found the damage, and went on to win the tournament! Congratulations are in order for Drew, his teammate finalist Cody, and the rest of the guys at ABG. You can read part 1 of their report here.
Amazing competition, great players, incredibly good games throughout the entire tournament. Was an absolute blast. Even better was the fun times the entire Crew had outside the convention. Whether it was crew and Patreon supporter drinks night out in Arlington, making an AirBnb owner regret their decisions, crashing my in-laws for Thai food and board games, or doing historic and current sightseeing all around the D.C. area, there wasn’t a single bad time to be found in any of the three Artificery households this past weekend.
On the deck itself, I think it is a contender and recommend it’s usage moving forward… If you have an understanding of what that locks you in to. This deck has zero auto-win matchups. None. Even mill, which is it’s best is still often won on a one-to-three card margin, and anticipate fewer if Rend picks up in popularity. Every other match takes nearly perfect decision making, good sequencing, a focus on what matters from moment to moment, and a deep understanding of the meta as a whole to pull off. The vast majority of my wins were with less than four HP remaining total, and it was mentally draining to play for two days. I feel like I earned each and every win this weekend, and nothing was handed to me on a platter.
That being said, Kylo/Snoke has zero auto-loss matches either. Average draws combined with average rolls can bring a smart and focused pilot victory in any match currently part of the meta. For our North American readers, the meta is pretty much over and eyes are on the future Across The Galaxy holds. For our international readers, I highly suggest picking this up and tweaking it slightly to run with. This is a pilot-supporting deck that will reward you for your effort.
Until Next Time,
-Agent Of Zion