One of the most underappreciated and overlooked aspects of Destiny is the pre-game and setup strategy. While rolling for the battlefield doesn’t necessarily factor into the deck creation — I’ve never thought to myself “this character’s is a second blank, I should play a different one for the battlefield roll” — both mulliganing and choosing the battlefield to play on are two huge aspects that players seem to overlook. Once upon a time, you always took your opponent’s battlefield if you won the roll — the 4 Health swing was just too significant to look past in a meta game where most battlefields were interchangeable and several decks were using Mos Eisley because they just didn’t care. Even in Spirit of Rebellion, Nines was fine letting Poe take Throne Room as long as Poe didn’t get the 18 damage round one nuts.
This “shields first” mentality has changed significantly over the course of the last few months. At SXSW, several of the crew members and I were astounded by the sheer amount of people who were willing to give our vehicles deck Weapons Factory Alpha in exchange for taking shields, especially the 7th Boba players who were running Ewok Village and were generally willing to pass with a Boba up until we rolled in our Modified HWK-290. Even at Adepticon, I only played on my opponent’s battlefield in one of the games I lost the roll off. Earlier in the year, I was shocked during testing by how readily people would hand OTK Fort Anaxes despite the fact they were giving their opponent a huge defensive advantage in the first and sometimes subsequent rounds.
We’re going to take a look at some of the most prominent battlefields, overview the decks that play them, and discuss the situations where you can and can’t let your opponent have them so that you can take your precious shields. This might seem like obvious stuff, but it’s good to occasionally remind ourselves why we make these ‘obvious’ decisions. Bear in mind, nothing is ever set in stone with games like Destiny — use your best judgement.
Throne Room – eHondo/x
Emperor’s Throne Room has been a mainstay in some form or another since it was abused by Poe/Maz in Spirit of Rebellion. I mentioned earlier that Rainbow Nines was fine taking Throne Room and banking on the fact that their opponent wasn’t going to outpace them over the course of the first couple of rounds. The situation is a bit more different nowadays with Hondo. He has two favored companions — Yoda and Poe2 — and they both feature heavy lists that can make thorough use of the consistency that Throne Room provides.
In general, you want to avoid letting Hondo keep his battlefield, if only to get through the first couple of rounds and establish a dominant enough board state to deal with Hondo after his partner dies. In this case, the four health swing is significant but not crippling considering how consistently most decks can output 8 damage in a single round before mitigation. Unlike a lot of other character suites, the Hondo decks drops off in consistency once his chosen partner in crime is taken down. Both Poe2 and Yoda provide chaining that make cards like Poe’s Blaster, Canto Bight, and Obi-Wan’s Lightsaber into really dangerous cards that resolve their without much effort. Without these companion characters’ and sides driving up Hondo’s ability to resolve his favorite dice sides, Hondo struggles to do the damage he wants — especially once things transition into the mid game and resources are significantly easier to come by.
Throne Room ramps up the consistency of these decks so significantly that sometimes it can be too overwhelming to deal with all the damage and resource generation provided by the characters and their upgrades, to the point where those two extra shields you received might ultimately mean nothing compared to the pressure you’re facing. Hondo wants to claim early anyways; most of the dice practically resolve themselves with chaining and it’s rarely worth pitching a card for rerolls if they can just claim and flip their only worthwhile damage die to their favorite side. Make Hondo roll for that last side instead of just claiming for it; you’ll probably find yourself in a better position to claim early as your opponent pushes for that extra three damage they could have easily hit with Throne Room.
Fort Anaxes – OTK and 3-Wide Lists
Fort Anaxes is a sneaky one. “What’s the worst Guardian could do to me?” The answer is a lot. Even if your opponent is only able to keep the battlefield for the first round, letting them distribute and break up your damage can be crippling, especially if your list is relying heavily on killing a character as soon as possible or has to resolve a lot of modified sides. The biggest proponent of the battlefield is the oppressive One Turn Kill list that uses multiple activations of Seventh Sister to straight up win the game in a single round, but there are several lists that use three characters like Talzin 5-Dice Villains and 3-wide blue heroes using eAayla and some combination of two other blue characters.
Lists that use Fort Anaxes want to keep one or all of their characters alive as long as possible to get the most out of their upgrades and character dice. Being able to distribute damage over three characters helps extend the longevity of your dice and, ideally, gives you the edge you need to kill a character first and get ahead on the board. Giving your opponent the shields instead of playing on Fort Anaxes is typically just a better numbers game — you might not be able to immediately kill a character your opponent puts two shields on, but you can prevent an unshielded Padawan from being oppressive in subsequent rounds or kill off one of Seventh Sister’s companions before they can be hit with Leadership or Price of Failure. This is almost always better than watching your damage get plucked off the board by character that is just waiting to take a juicy 2+ damage side to their face. God forbid you actually let your opponent claim round 1 and get the battlefield again; the situation will only get worse.
Further, most two-character lists can’t really make a good use of Fort Anaxes. Typically one of their characters is being burst down, leaving the other one, who is probably the character you’re stuffing with all your upgrades, in the awkward position of not wanting to activate until you see damage on the board. If your opponent is playing properly and durdling — or just rolling poorly initially — you could put yourself in a situation where you’re not sequencing your actions properly and getting behind in action economy, which puts you in the unfortunate position of having to claim early to prevent your opponent from getting Anaxes again.
Weapons Factory Alpha – Hero Vehicles
Are you seeing a pattern between Weapons Factory Alpha and Fort Anaxes? These “when you control this battlefield” cards are incredibly impactful on the first round of any game and continue to have value if you’re slow on the claim. Weapons Factory is no different for eAayla/Rose/Ezra vehicles. Resources during the first couple of rounds are incredibly important for any deck, but especially one that is desperate to ramp into their powerful support cards and swarm the battlefield with high value dice. There’s almost never a reason to give vehicles the opportunity to use that extra resource. Unless your opponent somehow misses a vehicle round 1, giving them the battlefield is like playing a Defensive Stance that gives your opponent a resource instead of costing 1. I don’t know about you, but to me that makes an already unplayed card seem like outright garbage.
Weapons Factory lets vehicles do things like play a Modified HWK-290 (and potentially pair it with Tech Team) and then still have a resource left to hit you with Easy Pickings, Into the Garbage Chute, or Pinned Down — all before even considering whether or not Rose hits her for more cash. You can’t afford to be this behind in the first round against a deck that just wants to survive until round 2 or 3, which is when they usually have a C-3PO and all the vehicles in the world to kill you with. Vehicles will typically never be able to claim after round 2, meaning you get the full value from your own battlefield with practical impunity if you choose it.
Frankly, giving vehicles the shields frequently doesn’t matter, even if you’re angling to pull out a Maul’s Lightsaber; they will typically put one on Ezra and the other on Rose, which only barely increases the damage commitment necessary to kill either character. As the vehicles player, I rarely care about taking my shields over taking the extra resource unless I really got screwed over with my open hand. Further, this list probably doesn’t care about your shields either. Again, vehicles wants to survive until they can throw Fang Fighters and Y-Wings at you, and the best way to do that is to get as many vehicles out onto the field at a reduced cost as possible. Your two shields are probably completely insignificant once vehicles gets going — and you’ve probably already lost them from the myriad of sources the list will throw at you until then.
The Shields First Candidates
There are a handful of battlefields that you’re perfectly fine playing on if you’re not running a deck that’s eager to get on their own battlefield. These tend to be battlefields that two-character lists like running and they tend to be fairly interchangeable with one another. Outer Rim Outpost is perhaps the most prominent of these battlefields — it’s currently heavily favored by Sabine and Obi-Wan because they claim so consistently fast that they rarely have to worry about their opponents getting the resource advantage. While it’s not ideal to give these lists the resource and opportunity to cull a card from their next hand, Sabine and Obi are both incredibly reliant on one of their characters doing most, if not all, of the work — and if you can kill that character off before the plethora of resources becomes a problem, their battlefield loses a lot of its oomph. Taking the shields in this situation feels significantly better than giving Sabine, Obi-Wan, or Maz another two health.
B’omarr Monastery and Ewok Village are the other two battlefields that have made frequent appearances in lists. B’omarr was a frequent include after 7th Boba‘s rise to prominence, but the card has largely come out of rotation for a reason — it’s pretty garbage. I would feel ecstatic to take B’omarr any time I see it accompanying Boba Fett because Boba typically takes ages to claim because of mixed damage sides and doesn’t really get a lot of mileage out of the battlefield unless it has a Maul’s saber out. Even then, it never feels good to not get Maul’s out for a second resolution. The battlefield just doesn’t do much by default and other lists tend to be fine utilizing B’omarr just as frequently as 7th Boba, if not more.
Ewok Village isn’t quite as bad, but it’s still a pretty neutral battlefield that you should be comfortable taking shields for. It forces you to split up your shields if you don’t want to risk giving your opponent maximum value from a claim. A lot of decks that don’t benefit greatly from another battlefield are running Ewok Village specifically because it tends to make the health advantage moot. Most prominently, this includes the aforementioned 7th Boba, Thrawn/Talzin, and the largely rotated out Kylo2/x. Again, 7th Boba is a deck that is surprisingly slow to the claim and might not even get the chance to clean the shields in the first round. Kylo2 has similar issues with mixed damage, It Binds All Things, and 1-cost upgrades. Thrawn is much faster, but that still doesn’t change that Ewok Village is fairly low impact.
Finally, blue centered lists like Rey2/Aayla, Qui-Gon Jinn, 3-wide blue heroes, and Kylo2/x are sometimes prone to running Obi-Wan’s Hut, which is a card that screams for you to take shields. Your opponent has to claim twice to get the same benefit you did from taking their battlefield. This can obviously be annoying if you’re just off killing a character by that one damage, but there’s almost no harm in letting your opponent have the opportunity for the shield every round. There’s also nothing stopping you from getting out ahead of the claim with these decks. These blue decks can oftentimes be slow for their own reasons — usually a need for frequent rerolls because they lack consistency engines for their dice. You can almost always feel comfortable watching your opponent try to huddle in Obi’s hut at the end of every round.
The Mill Question
Mill decks have largely fallen out of rotation simply because they can’t weather the tide against aggro decks with consistency engines and action cheating like Sabine and Obi-Wan. They also tend to just struggle to survive through the sheer amount of hurt decks can output when they’re allowed to keep all their character dice for the entire game. The prominence of cards like Vandalize, Scruffy, and Friends in Low Places also tend to disrupt to big impact cards that mill wants to play in order to secure a victory. Still, it’s easy to forget that mill has had high placement in a number of tournaments and continues to be a go-to pick for many players when they don’t anticipate hard aggro lists like Sabine.
Mills lists have a handful of battlegrounds they can use. Otoh Gunga and Command Center have both been long term staples of the archetype, but the former only makes you lose more slowly and the latter doesn’t help the most prominent mill deck (hero mill) close out a game. This leaves Jedi Temple, Imperial Palace, and War-Torn Streets all ideal candidates for taking cards from the opponent’s hand at the end of a round. Whatever the battlefield choice ends up being, aggro decks obviously don’t “need” the shields against mill opponents; mill is rarely, if ever, going to do damage, and if they do, it’s exclusively in the form of from a Jedha Partisan.
The question then becomes whether or not you feel comfortable letting your opponent have their battlefield even if it pushes their mill agenda. In some cases, the answer is pretty easy — Sabine and Obi-Wan benefit greatly from quickly resolving their dice without having to worry about interacting with their opponent’s removal and tend to be claiming extremely aggressive anyways. These two decks aren’t forced to shy away from taking the mill battlefield because it often works in their favor by yanking cards out of their opponent’s hand. The rest of the field doesn’t have such an easy decision. Most 3-character lists can’t afford to take the mill battlefield because they run the risk of not being able to claim, even against a 3-character mill list. For the most prominent and successful 3-character suites, this doesn’t matter; both hero vehicles and OTK tend to just smash a character after their opponent claims, so the two shields don’t make much of a difference and they typically won’t have the opportunity to claim anyways. Other 2-character lists aren’t really fast enough to risk letting their mill opponent take a card from their hand. Hondo/Yoda might be in the next best position to play on a mill battlefield because of the nature of chaining, but it’s silly not to take Throne Room for consistency.
Long story short? Make sure when you’re getting in your reps for worlds that you’re making sure you’re not blowing off the importance of which battlefield you’re playing on. Especially in the best of three format during a top cut, you need to be confident about which battlefield suits your deck best in each match-up you’re liable to face.
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to join the discussion on our Discord, where we’re constantly discussing the game and throwing out reminders and announcements about upcoming events. We’ll be hosting an online regional in April that is going to feature a wealth of cool prize support like spot gloss cards from the Galactic Qualifiers. In addition, we’ve introduced a new tier to our Patreon where we’ll be sharing all of our playtesting videos as we prepare for Worlds and everything beyond. You can catch a preview on our Discord channel of the sort of content we’ll be putting out for our new Acolyte tier until Friday, 3/30. We greatly appreciate everyone’s continued support of our events and content and look forward to meeting all of you at Worlds!