I don’t like reviewing spoilers before I can take a look at an entire set in it’s entirety, but I am still human and get super excited by new cards. While we all eagerly await a full Convergence spoiler list I figure I can split the difference and talk about the new draft kit.
I… kinda hate draft. Just not a fan of it in Destiny, but I can totally understand why some people are. A big portion of my distaste for it was its previously binary nature. I always felt that if you weren’t going for a weird mill deck, the card to pick out of any given pile was obvious to the point of being boring. I’m holding out hope that some of the things in the new draft kit change my views on that, but this will primarily be a review of the set as it applies to competitive Standard play. Let’s begin.
I like this guy. Right off the top of my head he’s the new obvious partner for Kylo Ren, and performs better on paper than both Anakin Skywalker and Arihanda Pryce. And since Holocron is out of the picture I’d wager he’s better than even Snoke as a partner, Bitter Rivalry notwithstanding.
The value of the power action cannot be overstated here. Even aside from the biggest damage dice at the time of release, a huge portion of AWK Darth Vader’s power came from the fact that he reduced opponent options every round. Dooku does the same, but doesn’t require a tempo advantage to make use of it.
Nine HP is on the low side, but I doubt any non-rainbow deck can really afford to allow Kylo to keep taking activation triggers against them, meaning Dooku gets you to the late game hopefully with a couple redeploy weapons. No paid sides and a nice focus rounds this guy out in a pretty sweet package.
Competitively Viable? Unfortunately, probably not. 9HP without Force Illusion is a hard sell against Shadowcaster and Vader dice, and his non-elite cost pushes him two points above the line.
Crossguard by another name… But different. It’s really cool to see some very simple things that we’ve seen previously remixed into something totally distinct from what has come before. Damage from hand is always nice, and this certainly passes the “Is it as good as Shoto?” test. While the damage doesn’t proc off of Kylo, expect to see two of these with every ATG Vader, Legacies Dooku, and possibly even Legacies Palpatine.
But the real backbreaker here is using it on Draft-Dooku himself with the power action, ripping 40% of an opponents hand prior to even rolling out. It is also nice to see the double discard sides here, giving people drafting mill a solid include where they didn’t have one before aside from BWG.
Competitively Viable? Absolutely. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Ancient Saber, but villains like what they get here far more than Treasured Lightsaber… Though perhaps not quite as much as Grappling Boa at the same cost.
This is everything you want in a core draft kit, I’ll say that. What this is going to come down to is deck space, pure and simple. It’s good, but I can’t help but feel like it will be card numbers 31/32 in many decks that otherwise would love it simply because it shreds your tempo.
Competitively Viable? Yes, for decks that don’t need to roll first. The Trooper subtype most likely opens up additional room to maneuver as well, and the 2-cost side is neither here nor there when evaluating the card. That three ranged side is quite nice, especially for Snoke decks that want roughly the same effectiveness as a Hand Cannon without tying it down to a character, with solid upside when you’re flush with cards and/or cash.
Okay I don’t even know if this is worthwhile even in a dedicated mill draft deck. It’s not unreasonable to assume you can get three cards out of this plot, but two points is a very hefty price tag.
Competitively Viable? Absolutely not. I just can’t see this ever being a better option than Taking Ground to prevent Theed, or Stolen Intel to smooth out your first round. Especially now that Force Speeds and Force Illusions are gone.
Every set has filler cards, here’s one. Take Cover plus Jedi tribal enabling. Sure. It’s never going to be the worst thing in the world to get an HP for free but this puppy reads “Discard this card to reroll any number of your dice” to me.
Competitively Viable? Lol.
A pilot AND a Trooper. Value. He’s every bit as playable as Dooku in draft, and the power action is actually really good insofar as there are playable red cards. Never turn down free damage right?
Competitively Viable? No. Vehicle decks want Wedge and gun decks want Rex at this cost, and both Rose and Cody come in under Fenn’s point value, leaving this guy strictly in your draft box. Even if Hero troopers become a big deal, Clone Trooper carries the banner at a three-point discount.
Woah. Incredibly versatile no matter how you look at it. Almost always better than your pick of Recon, Emulate, or Targeting Computer. Don’t get distracted by Trooper/Sith/Jedi typing, and pay more attention to the things that say Upgrade – Weapon.
Competitively Viable? Really difficult to say without peering into the future, but red decks of any stripe are always looking to either press an advantage or dig themselves out of a hole, so until proven otherwise I think the sheer utility of this earns at least one slot in most red decks.
Hmm. I do love drawing cards, but support-based decks usually run right up to the 30 point mark to get more health.
Competitively Viable? No. The second a character can come in at the usefulness level L3 currently has but for two points cheaper is the second vehicle decks upgrade their third character from Gungan Warrior to Rebel Engineer. And even then, I’d rather just shave one additional point and take Armored Reinforcement.
This guy. This guy is so awkward. Paid sides on char dice are my bane, and if you want me to spend a third of my points on an 8HP character, naming it Maz Kanata is a better way to convince me. On the villain side of things, Val and Mando Commando strike me as better choices. This guy is really nice on ambush events though. Take Flight and In The Crosshairs are the only two things thus far that meet the standard though.
Competitively Viable? Nope. Better options by far for both hero and villain, and re-rolling is nowhere near as good as removing or focusing.
Dooku got you down? Shadow that guy, make him pay. Fenn? Low rent version of BT-1 now. I can see why this card was made, and it makes yellow a pretty attractive color to be in.
Competitively Viable? Ask me later. If there’s downgrade synergy to be had then I love anything free (not to mention making Snoke’s PA cost two HP). In a vacuum though, I don’t think this one card makes the cut.
How many downgrades are going to get printed? Again, two points is a huge barrier to entry.
Competitively Viable? Even with downgrade synergy, this seems like a stretch. Mando Commandos don’t get played currently, and they have direct damage every round pegged to an easier condition.
Now this is a beat-stick and a half. For the cost of resolving Force Storm ONCE, this die gets resolved THREE times. Sure it doesn’t ramp itself, but does it need to? It has it’s issues, and opponents can disrupt you out of resolvability, but that doesn’t spook me any.
The format-warping thing it does is require all Yellow decks to run 2x Vandalize, which was already probably a decent idea anyway but is now an unavoidable fact. The effectiveness of this card probably makes every deck want to run yellow just to run it AND vandalize to be honest.
Competitively Viable? I think so, absolutely. Even if all you do is look at it just as a two-cost weapon with redeploy that shreds your tempo I think you still end up pretty pleased with the flexibility it provides. And at it’s absolute worst where it gets immediately vandalized, it disrupts, discards, and removes an opposing char die and acts as a psuedo shield generator for whatever else you had going on. It’s no Vader’s Fist, but it can do a REALLY good imitation of one for a fraction of the cost.
Ah, so this is why all the plots cost 2. 6+11+11+2=30. It is nice that you can get an even 30 points out of just the kit, even if two of those points are somewhat feel-bad expenditures. Tribal enabler all around and no paid sides, I like it more than Jawa.
Competitively Viable? Well, it’s not red so Gungan still probably keeps his seat in Hero decks. Anyone who was running Vader/Jawa is now rolling this creepy looking thing out though, with a slight, but measurable efficiency increase.
Tribal stuff! None of these modes is very good, though, and to turn any one of them on with just the shapeshifter you need to see the future. Draft filler.
Competitively Viable? God I hope we don’t sink this low.
Flank is Flank is Flank. It’s good!
Competitively Viable? Yup. Was before, is now. And it’s a good sign to me that it seems like one money for one die with a reasonably easy to meet and easy to anticipate condition will be a perennial card. Happy to see the lifespan on Flank extended by yet another year.
It’s the name on the box! They said it and we all clapped! Two extra points is a LOT of extra points, and it’s pretty easy to see why the drawback and conditions are so major. For what really comes down to rolling back every Balance of the Force to date, it would have to be hard to prevent people from going nuts. It also opens up a few more options in draft where the loss of starting resources isn’t quite the backbreaker it is in Standard.
Competitively Viable? Thankfully it seems like the playtesters and FFG really didn’t want this to be playable. Or they just didn’t want to spend the time mathing out every other possible starting lineup. That being said, Vader/Talzin is now in the mix, and the first test point for this plot. Coming in hot on their heels though, is Dryden/Bib, who could very well not care about resource loss at all.
Draft games do tend to extend out for a lot of rounds, but do they go long enough to make this worth it? Even assuming you can play it round 1, the special needs to be resolved at least once before the die can even start to pull the weight of it’s cost.
Competitively Viable? Not even with an Aphra discount.
Eyyy, it’s expensive Vibroknife! With a ranged side? Is someone… Throwing swords? Fine in draft if for no other reason than because it has redeploy and it enables modified sides.
Competitively Viable? IDK, look at Dagger of Mortis and Heirloom Lightsaber and you tell me how it stacks up with Force Illusions gone.
I like that type-agnostic Tribal stuff extends to the battlefield, and takes a little more sting off maybe being forced to run the Changeling.
Competitively Viable? Ehh. If it’s worth taking at all it’s probably only going to go great with Troopers, since red is usually the color needing to reroll the most. Everyone else probably just sticks with what they have, and what they have is a whole lotta Theed at the moment.
This battlefield is so cool, and very very well designed. There is an incredible amount of strategic depth to be found in just this one card absent anything else in the game.
Competitively Viable? Whoever actually sat down and designed this card, I want you to know that you are appreciated and I see the work you did. I’m sorry I can never run the risk of playing this while Theed still exists.
Overall Thoughts on Drafting
Discard sides, tribal options, and a guaranteed three-char team with an… Acceptable plot all go a long way to make me more amenable to drafting. There is still a very high priority on drafting 8/9 Point characters out of the packs you open, but I don’t think it will doom you to the losers bracket if you don’t get one like it could with the previous sets.
I do think that Hired Muscle takes the spot of Fang Fighter in the “I must have this color or else” category, and I don’t like seeing one die towering above all others in usefulness. Red especially seems to be the color of last resort in this kit, lacking the super-synergy found with both Dooku cards.
The battlefields are far more interesting than the last ones we got, and are a subtly powerful way to influence how games will feel in practice while the events themselves are more suited for a dynamic experience.
Should I Buy This?
Absolutely, you should buy two. FFG has some shrewd business sense here, and the least controversial claim I can make is that Count Dooku’s Lightsaber and Hired Muscle are going to be cards you want two of. If that isn’t enough, I’d be willing to wager that Test Of Character is good enough across the board competitively.
Please don’t make me draft, I’ll be good I promise.
Agent Of Zion
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*Since I had already won Las Vegas and am not going to take away someone’s Worlds Seat or Nationals Bye, I conceded in the final round. Jefferson and I shook hands, then since we just so happened to be in the same place at the same time he offered to play a match on stream with me with nothing on the line but a trophy, which I went home with.
The deck selection process for this was actually pretty straightforward as compared to previous tournaments. I very specifically did not want to try and figure out what the best deck is. I didn’t have an answer to that then, I don’t have an answer to that now.
I knew I was going to use my bye because it was my home regional, so the big question is Vader. But as I’ve said before, there isn’t enough room to maneuver in any iteration of Vader that I have built or seen someone else build. The Terror To Behold is certainly effective, and he is certainly capable of winning any game if things go his way but he is very rarely doing anything unexpected.
And yet… I did briefly consider playing Vader, and even had Pearl Yeti bring me a deck all the way from Portland just in case I audibled over to him (my wonderful wife LadyVader has first last and permanent claim over any Vader related cards in our house). But I stuck to my guns and picked from a very short list of decks that met some very specific criteria I had laid out beforehand.
A.) Be able to defeat Vader convincingly, the majority of the time, on either player’s BF.
B.) Be something people aren’t very well practiced against in a general sense, or be able to change the specific contents of the deck enough to introduce surprise plays.
C.) Have a viable game plan against Firespray and Shadowcaster aside from Disable.
D.) Have no more than one auto-loss matchup against any commonly considered deck that is able to meet the condition A (Mill, any Sabine variant, or Kit Fisto)
About a week out, I had it narrowed down to three decks. Yoda/Leia Mill, Han/Qira, and Hero Vehicles. Han/Qira left consideration pretty swiftly, because I am a coward. Han/Qira has zero auto-loss matchups that I have seen in this meta, not even against Kylo. The problem I had was that it had zero auto-win matchups either. The level of play and decision making necessary to go six BO1 and three BO3 matches was beyond what I was willing to put myself through.
I’ve never really played mill at a high level so I reached out four days prior to the best mill player I know, Reflex of The Hyperloops, for some deck advice. He gave me a grip of new cards to consider, prodded my way of thinking to reach a conclusion I am sure he had figured out months ago, and patted me on the head. I sure did feel smart!
After trying things out for a couple of days, I ended up totally disregarding the majority of the advice I was given because I was not going to be able to adjust my playstyle and shore up my own weaknesses as a player enough to make it work. I kept a few suggestions though and ran with them, ending up at the final list below. I know I am being vague about the details but I was asked to keep his specific tricks under wraps until his regional.
Note: Reflex ended up running three-wide, but his version was very focused on maintaining speed and BF control, with Snuff Out and Command Center as two major inclusions.
In the back of my mind though, was Hero Vehicles in two forms, eYoda/eL3/Gungan, and Wedge/eRose/HG. Both were very comfortable to me, and definitely felt good against Vader, but the decision to go Vehicles at GenCon was still haunting me. So coming all the way up to three minutes prior to the deck registration I was torn. The final deciding factor was both Yeti and LadyVader herself telling me to shut up and play mill.
As always, human memory is imperfect and any incorrect retelling of events in the recall of these rounds were inserted by me wholesale. If I get names mixed up or a sequence of events out of order please contact me and I will correct them ASAP.
ROUND 1 vs BYE
Used the bye. Just as good this year as it was last year. Gave me time to listen to music, get some caffeine, and chat with some people I haven’t seen in a while.
Round 2 vs Randy
All of my testing had indicated to me that some very bad things would have to occur to lose to a Vader deck. Welp. Bad things happened here, and I don’t think any deck I could possibly have played would have gotten the job done. Randy pushed me to a loss so fast and so unerringly that I was thinking about taking my Artificery shirt off and trying to go unnoticed for the rest of the day.
Leia was dead by the end of Round 2 against a Round 1 Vader’s Saber gotten off the back of Theed, bolstered by a card I had not considered in the slightest. Legacies. This card is awesome for Vader, and Randy definately knew where his priorities lay. He made a beeline for Leia’s head and didn’t let off the gas until he got it. I was able to wipe his whole hand in Round 1 and 2, but it didn’t matter because I never even considered the possibility of a “stranded” saber die getting resolved.
I did take him to the very bitter end though, the last sequence of the game was Yoda sitting on 1 HP left, nothing of note rolled out across his dice or the Force Jump and Force Speed. I had plenty of mitigation in hand, and he rolled out base melee on both Vader dice, and a resource on both a Darksaber and Ancient. I knew he had B&S in hand, and Beguile can only touch three dice.
Round 3 vs Revan86
I kept my jersey on, checked the pairings, and despaired. Revan is one of our top local players, and the number of times we have had what anyone could consider to be a “good game” in a Store Championship or higher event is zero, we just alternate merciless beatdowns. We both very diligently track who won the last showdown in a “Ha Ha only serious” sort of way. I was due a win this time, and I got it.
I received a near-perfect draw with both Force Jumps, I won the BF roll (but missed one of my own triggers like a dummy), I had adequate backup mitigation, and timely Commando Raids with focus to spare at the end for Leia’s power action. My deck ran itself this round, I just happened to be in the chair.
Round 4 vs Justin eYoda/eL3/Gungan
Justin hails from the Los Angeles area, we only see each-other when making the Store Championship rounds. Being able to spend time with the players from other areas is one of the reasons Store Championship season is my favorite time of the Destiny year, and people like Justin are why.
Ritual exchanging of pleasantries occurred, and we were underway. His deck was pretty similar to one of my shortlisted candidates, in my opinion with some better and some worse card choices. I was taken by surprise when he took control of Landing Dock with his last card in hand after I claimed Round 1, then surprised again when I was reminded the hard way that the PA on that battlefield can hit any die on the field.
Since his first vehicle played was an X-Wing I immediately shifted everything I had to prioritize burning his deck rather than his hand, with the reasoning being that if he had any X-Wings at the start of a round he would play them immediately, and that the Hailfires he was sure to have brought would be less effective with less vehicles to draw into, and that I could do a hail-mary discard at his hand if necessary if I ever saw a resource stockpile.
I managed to get one other X-Wing into the discard, but more importantly took both of the Hailfires out of the deck in the process. He was able to get the last two X-Wings down and bolster them with an N-1, but with no actual direct damage dealt for the entire game I was able to finish off his last remaining cards and play a Mind Trick on all dice in the pool to keep both characters alive.
Round 5 vs Kevin from the Roll-On Podcast
Man this was tough game. Of all the Vader pairings to play mill into, Vader/Red is the hardest. Of all of those, the one that gives Vader free damage even when his char dice are removed is the worst by far (though Nute is irritating). Combine that with someone who both clearly tested against mill and put thought into the matchup from both points of view, and it took everything I had to hold on.
I can’t remember very many details from the match, except that I won the rolloff and he immediately put shields on his droid, telling me he either has two copies of The Best Defense or that he had one in his hand. I was able to get a Force Jump out early and focus on removing his Saber while just keeping the char dice unresolvable, but it was slow going through the actual cards.
The weird thing about mill is how close or far away from winning you feel at any given time. I usually ask for a deck count at the start of round 3 or 4, and no matter what I’m blown away by the number. 4? How did I get that deep? This match was at the other end of the spectrum. Seven left in deck and five in hand at the end of round 4. How can I be so far behind?
Two At-Odds, and Vader’s Meditation Chamber. That’s how. I managed to mill a copy of Vader’s Fist earlier, which he ended up putting on the bottom of the deck and he had the Saber in play, so I needed to keep my Flames in hand all the way from Round 1 and only have Pacify and Overconfidence as mitigation in hand. I rolled out Yoda to an extremely good roll except for the Force Jump but with only 4HP remaining.
He rolled out Vader to nothing of note except his own Force Speed. I can’t play Pacify because Yoda takes 1 from Retribution, then has a 33% of dying on a Force Speeded power action roll. I go in the tank a bit and come up with a high-risk high-reward play that ended up paying off. I play overconfidence on my Force Jump and his Force Speed, and came out on top. Strict rationing of my Yoda specials and use of Pacify for the rest of the round kept Yoda alive and burned both At-Odds and the Fist buried earlier in one go. This ended up letting me Commando Raid his hand the next round and have an auto-win on board the next round.
But since he had ended round 5 with more than 5 resources, that’s when I realized the mad genius of Kevin. He only put one copy of Fist in the deck, and held his second saber the whole game! It very nearly won him the match by clogging my hand up the whole game, which was far more impactful than him holding on to one card would ever be. Notably (unless my memory of the top cut is wrong), Kevin is the only person I played against who never missed an Occupied City trigger while they had control of it.
Round 6 vs Ken
Another Vader round, this time with his Jawa friend. Jawa I don’t mind so much but the Retribution plot reared its head again.
I can remember very little from this round, my apologies to Ken. I know it didn’t go very well for him from the start since I was able to set up Commando Raid hand-wipes relatively early and stockpile a slush fund for a rainy day. The end of the game was him playing Vader’s Fist, then needing to reroll the die into my held Flames of the Past. With either one or two cards left total and both of my chars still alive I closed it out.
Round 7 vs Jerry
Oh boy. I had heard there was a Planned Explosion deck running rampant on people. Was hoping to dodge it, but it was my fate. I won this round through luck. Pure and simple.
I keep EMP grenades in my opener, windmill slam it on Yoda thinking I’m king of the world, roll Yoda out to double discard sides for the green man and a natural special on EMP Grenades.
Jerry goes to play a card, I see that its Shadowcaster. I’m singing tunes to myself in my head. Before he actually lays the card down or even moves his resources he says wait a second, I didn’t see that was showing a special. I’ll play…
I couldn’t help but just laugh. I’m thinking there is no way I am coming back from getting double-disrupted out of my one answer to the one vehicle I am all but powerless to effect otherwise. I saw the Shadowcaster, he knows I saw the Shadowcaster, I have to resolve double discard from Yoda and take my 50/50 shot at clawing back. Not only did I get the Shadowcaster, I get a Planned Explosion.
At the end of the round he had claimed early and left a couple dice hanging out which I thought was odd. With only one card left in his hand and a Leia 2-Discard side on my side of the board I went with my gut to take the card from hand rather than two off the deck and got the other Planned Explosion.
Subsequent to that, across a total of two Partnerships and one Attack Run with the Legacies Falcon chosen twice, and his other Shadowcaster chosen once, he only found four damage he could resolve ahead of my mitigation.
Like I said. Pure luck. And not to retread old ground, Jerry ended up in 9th place overall when by all rights he should most likely have been in the top 8 but for some other unpleasantness. He had nothing but the most upbeat attitude throughout the entire round and every time I saw him thereafter, so it just goes to prove once again that Destiny really does have the best community of any game right now. I wish that he had gotten able to take his shot at the trophy inside the top 8.
I actually have stream coverage of my run in all three rounds of the top cut! In the process of commentating over it I started to feel drained, almost just as drained as playing through the top cut in the first place, which really shows why mill isn’t very popular to play or play against I think. It was hard all day, against some very tough opponents, and even then I required a certain amount of luck to get through it all. I hope you enjoy the matches and find some value in the commentary, if not and you would prefer to just watch with table audio the VODs are available for the entire tournament over on Twitch.tv/Artificery for all the Table 1 matches, and all of the Table 2 matches over at Monks Gaming Battlefield.
Conclusions and Random Thoughts
The deck treated me very well, and I would play it again for sure. It has the capability to win against the most popular decks you are nearly guaranteed to see in every tournament. Solid all the way through.
I don’t have anything to add to the main unpleasantness that happened in San Diego, but here’s some you may not have heard of if you weren’t in attendance yourself. The store chosen to host the regional totally dropped the ball on the experience. In no particular order:
A.) Tournament was capped to 60 players to give priority to an MTG event. Store did not provide adequate notice that the tournament was capped, resulting in 20 people driving hours out of their way to be turned back.
B.) Store did not provide any employee staffing or support to organize, run, or judge the tournament. This resulted in the TO responsibilities being shouldered by one of our local mainstay and competitive players, who would have preferred to play, and did not anticipate any of the issues which arose and made the best of a bad situation.
C.) Store did not initially provide printing supplies for pairings and match slips, resulting in a 50 minute delay in tournament start time.
D.) Store did not provide adequate toilet facilities, one single-stall restroom was shared between over 100 people for a large portion of the day.
E.) Store charged $20 entry and gave zero prize support aside from the tournament kit. This is a contentious point to make. The kit costs around $200, and stores aren’t charity. I get it. I’m a capitalist. If a store doesn’t expect or can’t hold more than 32 or so people, I don’t expect much if anything at all in addition to the kit. The first ten people buy the kit, the next ten pay for store labor costs, and then the store gets to keep the lights on and make profit from the rest of the players plus snacks/drinks purchases. Perfectly fair.
What I don’t expect is absolutely nothing from a store that sells out all 60 spots at $20 a head, and provides nothing in the way of support aside from the roof over the tables. This meant that 60 people came together to rent a room for $1000. If we had just done that, we would have exclusive use of the space and wouldn’t have needed to cap attendance. Not to mention, event venues usually have adequate restroom facilities. Right off the top of my head, the store could have offered $300 in store credit to the top cut or as an attendance raffle, and thrown in a couple of boxes. The boxes cost the store about $55 each wholesale, and anyone from out of town would spend the store credit immediately, which when you include the expected (and necessary) markup a brick and mortar location has, means the store gets a fair amount back right off the rip depending on what was bought. Call the outlay $250 as a good will offering, taking some sting off of the rest of the venue issues which plagued us. By itself, this is irritating. Combined with all of the other stuff above? I’m never walking back in there, and that store was the most convenient for me to go to by a wide margin.
Thanks for reading,
Agent Of Zion