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AoZ NOVA Top 8 Tournament Report

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.
New Orders 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.
All In 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

 

Yoda

 

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)

 

Executioner

 

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)

 

Executioner

 

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

 

Yoda

 

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.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

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

 

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We’ve Lost the Plot

Plots are objectively terrible, end of article.

Ok, that might need some qualifiers added. Plots are not to be built around, and I predict that any deck which attempts to bend characters in service to them instead of the other way around are doomed to failure in their current state with exactly one exception, which isn’t even based on a particular plot.

You’re Not Getting Your Points Worth

There are two plots which we can point at very directly and nail down a “true cost” on. Fortify and Profitable Connection. And I can do both with just one comparison piece.

Fortify is the easiest here. On the face of it, one shield is directly equal to one health on the first round of the game. This is slightly muddled by cards like Adapt, Ataru Strike, and Obi-Wan’s Lightsaber in favor of shields being worth more than health, but on the flip side you have enough shield hate in the meta with Hidden Blaster, Intimidate, and Frighten to make me just throw my hands up and call it a wash in either direction.

So how much is one health worth converted to points? One. Obviously! Look at Anakin there, and our old standby FOST and any number of other characters that take a one-to-one ratio. Hold your applause for this incredibly insightful post. And yet, a health is actually worth less than a point as evidenced by elite costs. If you consider Anakin’s second die only costs three points, that puts his total converted health value at 4:7. Not a super easy ratio to work with, and it ignores the cost of his ability, but for a character that is actually incredibly limited in on-paper capability this is as close as we’re ever going to get to a secret FFG formula for character costs. So to even be an equal deal, Fortify would have to give us 3.5 shields making it over-costed by 300% minimum. Gross.

The face value of Profitable Connection is exactly equal to one Anakin die. Assuming that you’re willing to reroll your dice at least once per round, an Anakin die is worth 0.75 resources each turn. It’s a pretty unlucky day when you lose a character before resolving its dice round 2, so even if you can’t afford the reroll on round 2 and just have to resolve what you can get, that second Anakin die is worth 1.25 resources in any given game, and that totally throws away any sort of auxiliary value you can attach to his shield and discard side.

Blockade is next up on the docket, and even worse. There’s no character with three disrupt sides just yet, but both Blockade and Profitable Connection are there to influence a resource differential, not just a flat number of resources. I’m willing to concede that hurting your opponent is worth more points than helping yourself, but if you gave me a choice between single die Nute/Cienna and Blockade, or the same character as elite, I’m taking that second die every day of the week.

The other plots are just as bad, but not easily compared. Lets save a bit of time and throw Boonta Eve Classic out of contention entirely for obvious reasons. Taking Ground and Home Turf Advantage can’t be built around as a plot because whatever deck you try to use with them specifically isn’t a “Plot deck” but a “Battlefield Deck”, and are just flat out better served with more expensive (read: higher value) character dice to get your choice of battlefield, and to carry you through the game in its absence. Preemptive Strike is a joke, even in the plot business. If I’m ever in a spot where I can’t convert an extra resource at the start of the game into more than two damage by the end of round two, take my dice rolling privileges away. Stolen Intel is better, but I’ll come back to it.

But this is all just preparatory for the “Big Three”: Built To Last, Calling In Favors, and Long Term Plan.

Built To Last is hot garbage. I can convert one extra resource to a 2HP differential easily enough, but how many resources would I need to make a differential equal to starting with an extra QGJ die? How many resources is a second Obi die worth? I’ll stack the odds in BTL’s favor and just say its worth three resources. If I resolve an Obi die for damage once, thats worth more than three “plot points” already! If instead of plot points we follow the adage that two damage is equal to one resource, then all I have to do is resolve it twice. Sure, QGJ would have to resolve three times but remember those BTL resources are on an installment plan. But Redeploy is worth something! Yeah, but with Rey’s Lightsaber, Dagger Of Mortis, and Heirloom Lightsaber all carrying the keyword already how much are you really gaining here? And before you say that it doesn’t just apply to blue upgrades, I’d like you to point me in the direction of a blue hero that prefers Zeb’s Bo-Rifle or Poe’s Blaster over the blue stuff. I’d love to meet them.

Calling In Favors is the most successful of the trio thus far, but this is much more of a function of how effective Sabine is than how good the plot can be. No other Yellow Character can carry any game by their lonesome from the start, so I’ll round up and call this plot for six resources. One round with no use, two with more than one living character, and two final rounds for two resources a pop. Seems great, but Yellow is the color most likely to have money on demand, this plot is on the installment plan again, it’s best when you’re losing, and you can’t cash in the resources on meta-staple events like Entangle or Easy Pickings. Oh, and Streetwise is a thing. Anakin would like to say hello here too. For LESS points once you discount his HP value, you get a pretty comparable resource generator plus an extra body to hold stuff. “But AoZ, I get to do super tricky Hyperspace Jump, Into the Crosshairs, and Reversal plays!” Well Mr. Strawman, once good players see that plot the only thing on their minds is going to be how to mess with your Jumps, Crosshairs, and Reversals. Good luck.

If Calling In Favors is banking on things going wrong, then Long Term Plan is an exercise in hoping for the best. I’m not going to try and put a resource or health price on LTP, trying to do so dips so far into the hypothetical that it makes my head hurt. What I will say is that you’re trying to get to Round 3, use it twice at a minimum, and be in a position to resolve a decent die. But it is Red, and Hero, which puts it squarely in one of two camps. Either you’re artificially increasing your round number (Finn/Maz currently) or you’re going for the long game to get more use out of it (Rose/Par/Par currently). A middle ground simply doesn’t exist when a second Rex die is the same point cost, sorry. In both cases you end up needing to spend more money on mitigation to buy another round, which could have been spent on more or better dice to end the game with. And both sides of that coin rely entirely on the opposing deck not being able to interact their respective level.

Arguing With Myself

My opinion on the matter needs scrutiny in the form of two major counter-arguments. The first is the null hypothesis. Implicit in everything I’ve said is the comparison between Plots and Characters, but is there any association at all between the two? Absolutely, at least until a Plot comes out that alters the game in a way no Character can. Deck-building is an application of deferred costs and opportunity costs. If you can easily get something via a better or elite character, then a plot is useless. The vast majority of plots thus far can have a line drawn between them and your HP/Resource pools, both of which are almost entirely Character driven.

And no matter what deck you run, sometimes one or the other is irrelevant at the start of the game. If your mulligan goes poorly, sometimes you really just can’t take advantage of the resources any one particular plot would gain you. And as much as starting the game with one extra can help, if you aren’t able to spend it until round 2 then its far less useful. On the HP side, there is always going to be a certain percentage of games where your life doesn’t matter. Mill is on everyone’s mind right now, but it wasn’t too long ago Crime Lord was a thing and it could be again.

So what can a plot give you that no Character can? Stolen Intel is the closest at the moment, only Luke natively draws you a card. I can’t bash Stolen Intel very easily, Round 1 is often the most important round of the game, getting an extra card there is pretty major. But I don’t think it is very reasonable to try and build a deck around Stolen Intel, and no non-combo deck (and none of the current ones with how good card draw is right now) would sacrifice the quality of their character dice or HP pool in pursuit of it. We’ve already been teased with an upcoming negative point cost plot, and I am intrigued but cautious. If the current state of things requires 10% of your character points to get one resource, what is the level of drawback going to be to gain 10%? Until we see a plot with an alternate victory condition, or one that can induce immediate character death, I’m not enthused about any “build-around” plots.

But very close to the null hypothesis is the argument that I have it totally backwards. Maybe the power creep of the characters has already shot past the first set of plots we got, and the true power of the more interesting ones from Way of the Force have yet to be revealed? Or maybe FFG is bad at nailing down character costs which pushed plots to the side from the get-go? Maybe, but majority rules here. When I can point to over a dozen characters whose second die are better than the same cost plot, I’m not about to try and say there needs to be a nerf list a mile long.

The most difficult to refute argument against my statements is the results-oriented thinking. Mads Utzon took Rey/Aayla to the finals of the World Championship with Profitable Connections and I’m going to say the card is bad? Yes and no. Rey/Aayla was a perfectly reasonable deck to run at Worlds even if Profitable Connection didn’t exist at all, or if Aayla had been nerfed prior to worlds. An extra resource is obviously a force multiplier to the deck, and helps out a ton but it isn’t the single most important thing the deck was doing. In a Worlds environment where Aayla costs 13, is starting Rey with a shield really that much worse than one extra money? It’s worse by some amount, but is it “this deck is no longer competitively viable” worse?  Or an even better question: Was QGJ/Aayla that much worse of a deck? The opportunity to take the extra resource was there, so the meta in general went with that option, but if you did a full 30 card deckswap with just QGJ added in place of Rey I would bet that Mads still hits that final table with it. The 30 cards were good enough to support any character suite relatively reasonable, and the player had the skill to back it up.

Plotting for Victory

The final few sentences there bring me to an overarching point, and what I interpret as FFG’s intent with Plots. Plots are best used as force multipliers. When the opportunity cost is low enough, they can be added to a deck to give you that little extra oomph. The fact that the most successful plot thus far was used with a character suite that can no longer get that level of power bump lends credence to this. Hondo/Yoda was perfectly viable without a plot, I know this because I had a really bad habit of forgetting I brought a plot to the table and won plenty of games with a 28 point deck. So before jumping through a million hoops trying to make a plot work, just get the basics down with your deckbuilding and make sure the deck concept is solid as is. Plots are not as non-interactive as they appear, no matter which one you choose.

Every rule of course has an exception, and my eyes are on one moving forward. Building to use plot, if not any one plot in particular might be a competitively viable start-point when you consider the Comm Tower. If your deck is swift enough, playing with a plot on Comm Tower gives you half the effect of Long Term Plan, in addition to whatever benefit your plot has, and is worth keeping an eye on. Currently I have a deck that leverages that effect decently well, and is also in fact pretty viable in the mill-heavy meta. I’ll leave it here for you.

Until next time,
-Agent Of Zion

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AoZ’s Scrub Life: GenCon Edition

Deck Selection

What is a succinct way to explain that I was lazy? Oh. That works. I was at a complete loss on what to play at GenCon to be honest. I put approximately zero value or stock in store championship results until one particular deck or archetype hits an overwhelming win-rate. I don’t want to take anything away from Store Championship winners (this is what prefacing a statement with “no offense but” looks like in 2018) and people can only play the matchups they are given, but when I take a peek at the DB and see that something went 4-1 to win a 14 person SC I just keep on scrolling. And for as interesting IRebel’s tracker is, all the Kylo2/X instances hitting the top table tell me is that people like easy-to-play decks.

So knowing that Kylo2 and Thrawn were going to be particularly prevalent at GenCon, and that there would probably a higher percentage of the field taken by mill decks than I was used to, I immediately started working on a mill deck of my own. Something that could take a beating, accomplish its goals faster than other mill decks, be somewhat color diverse, and not rely on any particular card too much. Above everything else, I didn’t want to lose against Launch Bay and mill of any flavor is a good way to make sure that doesn’t happen. Luke3/Leia2 was my choice and I went to town for a while.

Then I got scared. I wish I could say it was the surge in popularity of Finn/Maz, Solo Sabine, or the random Rex decks that put me off my initial plan. That would probably be believable, but the fact of the matter is that over the last six months I have gotten entirely too comfortable with a very specific playstyle and was banking on raw efficiency to carry me over any hurdles. So I registered a vehicle deck, and ran it headlong into a meta I knew wasn’t very advantageous. Truthfully I was lucky to even get that. By all accounts I should have had at least one additional poor matchup at least.

 

Round 1

 

 

He won the battlefield roll-off, took Obi-Wan’s hut, and hit the ground running with an Ancient on Luke, which forced me to target Rey with any direct damage I could scrounge up. If memory serves, I was able to get a HWK down on round 1, but only one damage off of it. The super big deal though, is by splitting my shields between Rose and Wedge I was able to get maximum efficiency out of First Aid which allowed Rose to survive into round 3 and add some value to a Crait Speeder.

The breakpoint was when I hit my opponent with a big bunch of indirect in round 4 post-claim. He did the math on what I had sitting in front of me and assigned damage in such a way that he thought I would not be able to kill anyone even with C-3PO working his magic but an extra Airspeeder out of hand pushed the total up to a point where I was able to one-shot Luke, invalidating the Ancient heal and ensuring my remaining removal (one Easy Pickings and one Garbage Chute at that point) would work well. The plan worked as expected and I walked into round 2 at 1-0.

 

Round 2

Mandalorian Super Commando  

 

Three-wide of any flavor can be difficult for vehicles to handle, made even more so when a good player knows how to avoid Easy Pickings. Basically, the maximum amount of mitigation I would ever be able to get from any one card would be three and it would cost me the use of a character in the process. Meanwhile the pings would and did just keep coming.

He was able to get a Holocron and Chance Cube early, and turned the former into two Force Pushes which were incredibly oppressive. I know he would probably have preferred a Force Rend, but the 2-discard sides were plenty good on their own. The minutia of this match is a bit blurry, and would be boring regardless save two things. The first is that my opponent and I both tried to play Flank when the play restriction would not allow it. We were both so used to being able to Flank at will, and had a sensible chuckle both times it came up.

The ending round had us both on the ropes both in damage and in cards, with 2 cards left on my side, 4 left on his end, and four HP remaining on my HG as compared to his 5 or 6. He rolls out into 2-discard, 1-discard, a shield, and 1-Ranged. I use my flank on the Force Push showing 2-discard, with my reasoning being that even if I am guarunteed to get milled this round, I at least probably won’t lose to damage and get my full final round. In his single play mistake I saw all game, he rerolls all three dice into something irrelevant and then immediately realizes how close to milled I was. I am able to get a shield side showing on an Airspeeder, keeping me a bit more safe from a damage loss while he has to reroll again, into three damage across three dice. This allowed me enough time to get a HWK die out, and when he rerolls again he gets a discard side on the Vambraces, and two damage across the other two. I am forced to reroll, and get lethal damage so he uses his last card to remove the HWK die. He pulls the Vambraces back to hand to reroll a final time hoping for a 1/36 kill-shot, which would have forced me to use C-3PO for shields (and thus very probably lose to BF control on dual-mill) but ends up whiffing and I take a hard-earned 2-0.

 

Round 3

Kylo Ren

I don’t think I could make this interesting if I tried. Kylo is bad vs vehicles, and when I target Pryce first because I don’t like The Best Defense being used against me, the Throne Room value actually shifts to my favor due to Y-Wing. 3-0

 

Round 4

Do you know what a vehicle deck does when both Rose dice get Entangled round 1 and a Holocron gets resolved for Mind Probe? It struggles. Do you know what a vehicle deck does when the Holocron gets resolved again for a Force Throw and a Snoke PA pulls three cards from your hand? It loses. Man, I got absolutely wrecked in this game, worse than any other on the day. My opponent was super nice though, and was kinda surprised himself as to how well he was doing. After the match we chatted for a bit and he had flown all the way from Alaska with the deck his wife built since he hadn’t had any free time recently to do his own practicing and testing. Even though I got demolished from top to bottom, I enjoyed this match simply because of how upbeat and positive my opponent was, which is one of the reasons I love Destiny so much. 3-1

 

Break

Lunch break happened at this point, and it sucked. I hate breaks in tournaments in general, and usually don’t eat even when they occur. The problem is that everyone else knows I don’t eat before or during tournaments so on the wife’s orders, the entire team conspires to get me to consume SOMETHING. On the promise of food trucks I relented, and walked all the way out to the food truck alley just to find out that it was shift change time out there and there wasn’t any food actually available. This was bullshit and I’m still mad.

 

Round 5

Christ this deck is still a terror. I lost this match, but it was close. Nothing went particularly wrong for me, but when a very large percentage of your damage is indirect OTK can kinda just shrug it off. I wasn’t able to snatch away either Price of Failure and opponent used both in one round on me, while my blowout removal wasn’t anywhere in sight and my characters ended up dropping like flies after two consecutive rounds of ID-9 discards for 2+. I was still clawing at his last remaining health but by the time he got his third Ancient Lightsaber, the writing was on the wall. 3-2

 

Round 6

Aside from mill, this was the matchup I was most concerned about. I got off to a very good start and was able to get all the damage cleared off of both HWKs before Rose went down, but there were two turning points. I thought I was very clever in keeping both C-3POs in my opening hand, but in Round 3 my opponent found an AT-DP. I tried to entice him to blow up a HWK, but he saw through my ruse and went straight for the droid instead. Even so, I was able to get him on the ropes with only three health remaining on Thrawn (targeted Snoke after seeing a Rise Again discarded). In the last round he rolls out Thrawn (gets Blank and Focus) and says one. He stares really hard at both my Scruffy and my Garbage Chute before discarding the Garbage Chute, and I had a choice to make. He was down to his last few cards, he had 5 money, and I haven’t seen the other Rise Again or a Dark Ritual. I’m out of removal. So my choices are to Scruffy for event, or roll HWKs for lethal. I thought about it, but eventually decided to roll out a HWK. My thought process was that I hadn’t seen a Dark Ritual, and with the focus on board I have a clock of three opponent “free actions” before I lose. And by being aggressive, I force him to remove lethal dice.

Well. He had Dark Ritual. Still not all was lost since my first HWK had rolled four indirect. My second HWK rolled three indirect, and then he rolled in a Fang Fighter. I roll in my ARC hoping for the 1/6, and whiff. He rolls in the other Fang Fighter. I reroll my ARC for another bite of the apple, and whiff. He focused to lethal and thats all she wrote, which sealed my fate as one of the 219 people who did not make day 2.

 

Round 7

Ezra Bridger Aspiring Jedi  

Man. I was pretty ashamed at this point, and I almost dropped. To be blunt, the prizes for Destiny aren’t very inspiring. I play for the competition, and I play to prove things to myself and justify my ego. I imagine that this is roughly the same for the majority of Artificery’s readership, so I hope you all can understand the way I was feeling at this point. This is where having such a great group of friends and teammates help, and why I am so grateful to them. They reminded me that as bad as I feel at 3-3, and as bad as the possibility of 3-4 or 3-5 sounds, it would be worse if I didn’t at least try my best for the remaining two rounds. So I went back onto the tourney floor a bit butthurt, but at least faking happiness.

So there it was. A Launch Bay deck. Pull five to hand, ditch five. Get a C-3PO. Play the C-3PO, roll out Rose, get a money, play a HWK, get an extra money from opponent Truce, Wedge PA the HWK to 4-indirect, then resolve it as discard with C-3PO. Do the same for the next two rounds to absolutely shred his hand. I end up winning this via mill, but if I didn’t know ahead of time what the Launch Bay deck looked like or what it was trying to do it could have demolished me. 4-3

 

Round 8

With my confidence somewhat restored, I was able to go into the final round in a kinda-sorta IDC attitude. I wasn’t the only one knocked out of day 2 at this point, so I just had a YOLO mindset with this game. I got a HWK down, managed to get the damage off of it with Rose, then played a Y-Wing in the same round and slammed seven indirect damage right off the rip. My opponent wasn’t about to be outdone though, and jabbed me right back for six damage on Wedge and had a Rex’s blaster with control of the Outer Rim Outpost. I had a feeling I was going to get jumped so I pitch everything else in hand to try and get a Scruffy, which did get the jump out of hand, but the next round a Hit and Run ended up dealing 12 damage across all of his available dice. My opponents downfall in that round though was paying for a DH-17 pay side, leaving him trying to reroll a Cassian die in search of a resource with which to play Second Chance. His resource did not appear, and I sealed my final win of the tournament with C-3PO’s help.

 

Tournament Thoughts, and Thoughts Moving Forward

I need to get out of my comfort zone. There wasn’t a single game that I won that I would not have been able to win with Luke3/Leia2 if given the same quality of rolls and draws, and I would have very probably won one additional match, though not the DJ/Snoke. That guy was on fire. I was lucky I didn’t face mill, and still came up short. I was lucky I only played one Thrawn/Snoke and I still came up short. With perhaps one decision excepted, I don’t think I made any play mistakes but I felt like my choice in deck was holding me back all day. Something needs to change, and that something is me.

The tools are there, there are harder to play and more capable decks at my fingertips and trying to jam a vehicle deck down eight-plus rounds is artificially (or Artificerilly) holding me back because I am too scared of abject failure to take the kind of risk necessary to win big. In the case of mill, I could very well run into back to back to back solo-Sabine, Cad, or Rex matches. But it wouldn’t be any worse than taking a very mediocre deck into an absolutely hostile meta. “But it’s what I’m good at” is a good platitude to tell people, but it’s not winning me a trophy. To be very honest, the average player today is a mile ahead of the average player six months ago and I can’t rely on my opponents making more mistakes than me any more.

With 3-wide mill and Talzin/Commando/Commando hitting the final, the meta is certainly very different. It’s not certain yet, but I might be able to attend NOVA and put my Nationals bye to work. With that in mind I have a few conditions that I need to meet for a deck to take, and they are conditions I encourage you all to keep in mind when selecting decks of your own.

  • Methods of dealing with multiple chars
  • High HP pool
  • Multiple unconditional methods of removing at least one Thrawn die per round through his disruption
  • Viable anti-mill plan
  • Viable anti-hyperspace jump plan
  • Effective ramp

 

GenCon Ramblings

This was my first GenCon and holy crap was I blown away. Highlights included:

  • Battletech Firestorm Pods! I’ve wanted to play with these for YEARS and finally got to
  • Dinosaur Island is an amazingly fun game, and worth the price tag
  • Picked up a copy of HeroQuest!
  • I am very excited for the new Battlestar Galactica miniatures game, and the rules system feels very fluid
  • IDK how Steak and Shake actually turns a profit, but they are a previously unknown national treasure
  • Picked up a copy of X-Wing 2.0 and my wife is already tired of me asking her to play, its super fun

Until NOVA,
-Agent Of Zion