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The Best Decision I Didn’t Make In Denver – Artificery

I normally do a tournament report after events, but you probably won’t be seeing one from me this time around. First of all, the next meta-cast will have a full and in-depth discussion about Denver as a whole from multiple perspectives, and I feel the value provided by a tournament report is far overshadowed by what we can provide via audio.

Secondly, there’s a bunch of micro-decisions or pieces of games that are interesting, but there wasn’t a single game that I felt was actually interesting enough in itself to give blow by blows. My generalized assessment of the meta is such that there are only so many ways a man can write “Well first I played Probe/Scruffy and then I focused everything, and my opponent didn’t have an answer”. Videos as always will continue, but nothing fills me with more dread than trying to articulate eighteen rounds of Destiny in which every single game has one character on each side with 2-Focus sides.

Oh but it could have been different, had I possessed the forethought and inspiration to look just slightly back in the past and run what I feel is the single standout deck of the weekend. Hindsight is 20/20.

So What’s This All About

Success at a GQ is broadly considered to be hit at a 5-1 finish or higher, with 4-2 getting a respectful nod. But if that’s all you were looking at from the Denver results, you were missing out on something major. Cloud City Roller’s own Cheshire made what I consider to be the most intelligent and insightful deck decision for the two Standard tournaments. This deck was a damn near perfect creation, and the character combination was definitely the right move.

There was one loss Cheshire took on each day that as best as I can figure were based on pure luck, and if not for them I have no doubt this list would have been getting pored over by everyone faster on the keyboard than me. As it stands, I hope to create a few converts out of the readership here and to highlight Cheshire’s hard work that went into this past weekend.

Beyond the results I haven’t had a super in-depth discussion with Cheshire about how these games went, so a certain amount of my analysis is conjecture but the conjecture laid upon an extremely strong foundation on how things currently lie in Standard-format Destiny.

Results Up Front

Han/Chewie– win
Snoke/Watto/Fost – win
Snoke/Watto/Fost – win
Snoke/Watto/Fost – win
Snoke/Watto/Fost -loss
Saw/Padme – loss

Aphra/Grievous/Sentinel – win (this was me)
Aphra/Grievous/Sentinel – loss
Leia/Lando – win
Leia Lando -loss
Snoke/Watto/Fost – win
Mace/Satine – loss

All those lines to come up with the following stats out of a mere 12 game sample size.

80% Win-rate vs Snoke
50% Win-rate vs Mill
50% Win-rate vs Aphra

The unlucky games here that I can identify are the one loss to Aphra, and the loss to Saw/Padme. In my experience the Saw matchup is always a shitshow no matter how you slice it and it’s an absolute blowout one way or the other, dictated nearly entirely on how Impulsive, Seize the Day, and Instigate line up in the draw pile.

In the Aphra game, I have to imagine that she lost the BF roll had had zero threat density in the opening couple of rounds, which allowed the indirect engine to get online. With how Aphra decks are currently constructed I don’t think I could see them ever getting above a 40% win-rate in Swiss, and less in BO3.

A loss to any flavor of mill is always in the cards, Vader does remain vulnerable to Suppressive Fire after all, and his power action feeds their win-condition.

The loss to Mace/Satine is pretty reasonable in my opinion, Impulsive can rear its head there. Fatal Blow is kinda a silver bullet for Vader whether it’s on Mace himself outlaid with a bajillion equipment, or Satine with inherited lightsabers punching through enough health to slam a 5-7 indirect damage fatality.

There is a big gaping hole in the board where Palpatine match-ups are concerned, and I could see the bogeyman of the day rearing its head with Vader getting Force Stormed out of existence, but put a pin in that for now and I’ll touch on it later.

But again. 80% Snoke Win-Rate. 80%. Four Out of Five, single game matches. With no specific tech required. Against the single most commonly played, and frankly easier to pilot decks in the Format, which attracts tournament grinders and weekend warriors alike. How does this happen?

Staple Mitigation Vader Doesn’t Give A Shit About

There goes the neighborhood. Exceptions exist of course, but come on. If you’re rolling out first because your opponent has twelve supports they need to work with or a bunch of focusing actions they need to do before the end of the round, things like Measure For Measure, Rout, and Forsaken are pretty much blank.

Sinister Peace and Doubt are barely playable against Vader at best, and better used on his Saber rather than the character dice which lets him go wild with Fear and Dead Men in a meta dominated by three-wide decks.

Riot Shield especially gets dunked on. Not too many modified sides running around at the moment, so in a lot of decks it’s considered just slightly worse than Force Illusion because it can’t fully eat a Fist die on its own. Vader’s Lightsaber (and Fists of his own) punches through that card almost into irrelevant territory.

Staple Mitigation Vader Does Care About

Slight theme here. Three out of the six are Hero, and what’s at an all-time low for playability? Poor heroes. Of the rest, only Beguile is actually concerning if not followed up immediately on because of the conditions that have to be met by a large percentage of the other staple cards.

When Vader is credibly threatening 9-12 AOE damage immediately upon activation and Satine/Watto/Lando all have paid money sides that they want very much to resolve, playing Beguile just to have a Vader die rolled back in and remaining under the gun really wrecks game plans. The only thing that the average villain deck can actually accomplish usually starts in round 2 with back-to-back paid removal, which is often very easily handled by a Vader Probe prior to activation, leaving Measure and Forsaken as the telegraphed and feel-bad options left on the table.

Well How Often Do You Have Tempo Anyway?

That’s not a very entertaining picture to be sure, but at the end of the day it comes out that only Leia/Lando has a decent chance of getting their choice of battlefield, and even then zero hope of actually keeping it.

Of all the rest, it’s conceivable that Palpatine or Phasma might outclaim Vader early on but never late where it really counts.

And Fighting Pit HURTS. The odds of Fighting Pit failure are really low for Vader, and the upside is all the way through the roof hitching rides with low-flying aircraft. Rolled a focus side on Snoke? Try again and take at least two damage for your trouble. Woah, Watto rolled the nuts! Not today, Vader is about to treat you like the creepy rat-hummingbird you are and swat that down with a swiftness.

Side story: In my game against Cheshire, she used her last card to reroll a single Vader die which came up irrelevant and I had a Sentinel die on 2-dmg. I thought the round was over on her end, and rolled something else out. Sentinel got dragged into the pit and slapped for 3, Grievous took that 3 to the dome, and the only thing I could say was “Well that was pretty stupid of me”. Just to make sure I didn’t get any funny ideas about who was in charge of the game, without missing a beat, Cheshire looks me dead in the eye and replies “yeah it was”. It was like Satan staring into my soul. I still haven’t quite recovered.

Making Good Enough Into The Best

My suggested changes moving forward into the rest of the meta are in no way to be construed as me saying that Cheshire was wrong in how she built the deck, and a million miles away from saying she did anything wrong piloting it. She took Vader to Top 8 in Portland, and only got one less Standard win this past weekend than I did.

What I do think is that there are painless alterations that can be made to stack the deck against mill a bit better, and give extremely credible methods to avoid getting Force Stormed.

I’m not a huge fan of Conflicted in the deck, in a lot of cases you are really riding on one result or the other and the money can be better spent as either dedicated mitigation cash or for a paid side or lightsaber trigger. -2x

At the same time, the second Beguile feels too conservative. Probe is at an all-time high, so Beguile’s primary use-case in the meta is as a god roll panic button. Some decks like Phasma can profit with two of them because they have an overall lower resource requirement but here it feels clunky to me. -1x

Hidden Motive goes lower every day in my eyes because in terms of disruption on an even playing field, you’re oftentimes trying to use it with a 33% or less success rate. Fickles will soon be cut for Hired Muscle across the board and any use against an Aphra or Phasma deck is a crapshoot. One stays as anti-Padme, but even that is pushing it. -1x

Seize The Day gets cut out of personal preference, I’d prefer to draw and hold the card when it feels useful rather than draw one I’ll never want to play. Plus I have something to pair with it that there simply isn’t room for with both copies. -1x

Intimidate just isn’t great right now. If someone is resolving shields against Vader they are losing slowly more than anything else, and the only character you’re highly likely to run into that stacks shields is Palpatine who we have other plans for. -2x

Meditation Chamber is outstanding in even-output long games that can develop against Vehicle decks, and almost guarantees an extra round against mill, who operates on the slimmest of margins with 30 card decks. Turn that into a 32+ card deck and things fall apart. +1x

Vigilance kinda needs to be played in every villain red deck right now, each time you play it against Palpatine you get out of jail free for a round. I cannot overstate how useful it is against the rest of the field either with all the Salt Flats being slotted and shoring up against Padme/X plays. Even mills focus plans or Senate Chamber get really hurt here. +2x

At-Odds is there purely for mill, but thankfully isn’t totally useless in other areas. Generally does what you want it to when you want it to, and in the absence of Vigilance can cut off the focus chaining at the neck. +2x

Grand Entrance took a Seize slot, again personal preference here. One additional action is sometimes wasted because of a bad roll/reroll, but post-probe or in combination with a Seize, someone’s going to die. Average damage roll assuming you keep 3-sides or better on a Grand Entrance is 6 with just Vader’s Dice, and 8 with his saber included. Add value if you can pay for the saber trigger or Vader paid side. +1x

Law and Order is the Palpatine silver bullet, and more reliable to shut him down than a single copy of Mind Extraction would be. Its existence against a savvy opponent at the very least means FOST eats a couple resolutions, and if you can push Palpatine to 10dmg getting another few usually isn’t a tall order. Everyone else is resolving char dice for two damage, we’re throwing 4s in Vader country. +1x


I want to give a shoutout to the entire Cloud City Rollers crew who took Denver by storm, and a very heartfelt thank you is in order to Cheshire in particular for allowing me to showcase her deck on our site. I know you may not have gotten the exact results you wanted across the two tournaments, but I fully recognize the good play and hard work that was done in preparation for the event. Outstanding job!

All of us here at Artificery expect nothing but continued success from the Seattle gang, and encourage you to follow along with us by checking them out here.

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