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Trilogy Primer Part 1: Character Evaluation

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My first Artificery article was a detailed look back on the SoR meta, and put into words the very specific reasons why the decks which found success were able to do so.

I’m still happy with that article, and pleased to report that the axioms contained therin held true throughout the EaW meta. What I’m not entirely too pleased about is the really nitty gritty information was useless upon publication. Pointing backwards at FN/Nightsister/Bala is way less valuable than being able to see the potential ahead of the pack, even more so if you can do it immediately upon a sets release.

So what I’m going to do is attempt a feat of prophecy, though I will hedge my bet a bit by constraining the vision to the brand new Trilogy format.

Why Trilogy?

Three reasons: The first and least flattering is that trying to parse out 200 brand new cards into a format already containing 540 is daunting to say the least. The methods I’ll be using are very good (in my opinion), but cannot accurately put a numeric value on cards like Running Interference or Boundless Ambition, nor will my methods pull a deck like Rieekan/Padme/Instructor out of the ether. By limiting this to Trilogies at least initially, I’ll be able to keep things much more manageable.

Second, Trilogy is an important format that few people are diving into in a serious manner. Trilogy will be the format a full third of the Galactic Qualifiers are played in, not to mention the best entry point for newer players. Add in the inevitable side events and our own online tournaments to the mix and you can see why getting a leg up will pay dividends.

Last, because it looks like amazing fun. A totally new environment, unhindered by previous strictures or meta influence (with two notable exceptions to be discussed later). I started playing Destiny in a competitive way just a bit too late to get in on the discussions and exploration that established the first meta, so I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to map the new continent so to speak.

Character Evaluations

Decks are built around characters. Really riveting information, I know, but it still needs to be said. There are many exciting cards, but you can’t build a deck around any single one of them and expect success because the only tools you are guaranteed to have every single game are your characters and plots.

So what does a good character in Trilogy look like? We have to balance their cost against their effectiveness, where effectiveness is measured in health and damage. I’m purposely ignoring Mill, and would ignore any alternate win conditions like Crime Lord if they existed, because the way these decks select their characters is in a completely different realm than most decks.

It is incredibly important to keep in mind that everything is relative. Kanan is an amazing character, but if there was another blue Hero with the same HP and Damage at half the cost then he wouldn’t be very good at all. What we are specifically looking for are above average values and the higher above average those values are, the better.

HP Rankings

First up on the block is the easiest to measure: Which characters have the most HP compared to their cost?

Anyone above the average is marked in green. You’ll notice a few abnormalities right off the bat, where the HP value on the spreadsheet doesn’t match up with what is actually printed on the card.

Poe gets +2 HP because his special ability (which can cascade) combined with his already decent health makes it incredibly likely he will add two shields to your team in a game. This is a conservative estimate, but when evaluating characters it is better to undersell than hope for the best case scenarios.

Yoda gets +2 HP for the same reason, I just don’t see too many games where that aspect of his special isn’t used at least twice.

Finn gets +1 HP, less than the others because his specials can’t chain off themselves.

Obi-Wan gets a whopping +3 HP, since all he needs to do is activate to get a shield and if an opponent brings him down before he can even activate a third time chances are that game wasn’t going to be won no matter what characters you had.

What have we learned?

  1. By and large, Heroes are healthier at cost than Villains.
  2. Non-uniques provide the baseline when it comes to HP/Cost which makes since because they have the least “exciting” abilities. Importantly, none of the non-uniques are below average which is a welcome change from previous sets especially for Heroes.
  3. Being above average at non-elite doesn’t necessarily translate into being above the curve at elite and vice-versa.

Damage Rankings

Next, we need to take a look at their Damage capability. This is a bit more complicated, and will certainly be controversial because even a part-time statistician can manipulate numbers to show whatever they want. I went to the ever-useful AnyDice.com to crunch the numbers for me. What we will be looking at is the “at least” amount of damage any character will roll more than 50% of the time.

The first thing I needed to do was figure out how to measure everyone as a whole. I settled on assuming one reroll per turn. Assuming zero rerolls just seemed to be blatantly wrong; no one is going to roll a character out get two blanks and just let that lie if they can help it. From the other angle, factoring in too many rerolls is just as useless and unrealistic. People don’t generally pitch five cards every turn to try and god roll someone.

I settled on one reroll as my baseline. Nearly any hand in any deck can find one card to throw away in a pinch, but using more than one reroll introduced an issue with AnyDice. In a vacuum it’s very rare that a player would reroll a 2-dmg side showing on Vader to try and get the 3-dmg side. AnyDice will every time, and will artificially inflate the numbers as a result. So an assumption of one reroll is a good compromise.

The second thing I had to do was decide where exactly to draw the line for individual results. Not all base numbers are created equal, Palpatine and Ketsu both have a greater than 50% chance to roll at least 2 damage with a single die but Palpatine has a 75% chance to do it while Ketsu only has a ~56% chance. Not only that, but characters like Obi-Wan only ever roll 0, 3, or 6 damage with nothing in between. I needed to be able to separate those types of things out. I decided to accept anywhere from 50%-64% as the baseline result, but specially mark that same number if it had a greater than 65% chance of getting there as a way to signify a striking boost.

Next is everyone’s favorite question when it comes to Legacies. How much damage is Indirect Damage really? Do we count it at a 3:2 ratio? Equal? Try to avoid it entirely? I decided to just count it as equal. Indirect damage is too prevalent in Trilogy to avoid and the die values of Indirect damage are high enough to make an impact. There is an opportunity cost in action economy to using them but the same cost is already present in Special sides and we rarely see Special sides and Indirect sides mingling together. Additionally, I am reminded of Planetary Uprising. One or two instances of Indirect is a nuisance, but it starts stacking up way quicker than many give it credit for.

Lastly, I removed cost and modifier conditions and assumed that any damage would find a way to be resolved simply because of the impossibility to calculate otherwise. An aspiring deckbuilder still needs to find a way to reconcile those factors through actual play; i.e., don’t spend your money before rolling Maul out, and don’t include Finn as your sole source of ranged damage.

Green are above average results, with the larger and bolder numbers indicating that they are significantly more likely than 50% to roll that damage.

Aaannnnd… I was hit with an unforeseen problem immediately. Support characters like Tarkin and Yoda confound the results and drive the average down artificially because not only do they do exceptionally little damage, they clearly aren’t meant to. I don’t like to compare apples to oranges if I don’t have to. So here are the results with anyone who can obviously be labelled a support character removed from the list. (Rose, Tarkin, Jar-Jar, Nute, Yoda, Bib)

The following assumptions were made here:

  • Kylo’s ability hits 50% of the time.
  • Saw special deals 1 (conservative)
  • Phasma special deals 2 (conservative)
  • Anakin special deals 2, because he is way more likely to be used as a Villain than a Hero, especially when Aayla is competing for his spot.
  • Lobot special deals 2 (optimistic because I love Lobot and want him to be good)
  • Clone Trooper and Han reroll one of their dice one additional time.
  • Boba Fett special deals 2 damage (slightly optimistic, because he works on your dice too)
  • Hondos damage cannot be accurately calculated. He is on the sheet assuming the opponent doesn’t pay, but that isn’t realistic in the slightest. I have no clue how to evaluate Hondo to be honest.
  • Focus sides (including Poe and Aayla specials) are not reflected on the sheet, but should be heavily considered all other things being equal.

What have we learned?

  1. Villains remain supreme when it comes to dishing out pain, and the nature of the game means this will generally outweigh heroes’ Health advantages.
  2. Non-uniques mostly hold their own, but heroes have the advantage here in the Jedha Partisan giving access to yellow without sacrificing damage like Rebel Traitor does.
  3. Almost everyone is above average. Even with the support characters removed, the bottom end really make nearly everyone else look great by comparison. We need to go deeper.

Damage/Cost Ratio Rankings

As much as I’d like to run eKylo2/ePalpatine, we have constraints to consider and the entire purpose in character evaluation is getting the best bang for our buck. Lets see the cost-to-baseline damage ratios and see what shakes out.

There we go, that’s a bit better. There is a marked difference between the good and the bad, the vast majority of characters are either clearly above or clearly below the average. Not much to look at all on its own though, so lets pull everything together and take a look at each character as a whole rather than the sum of their parts.

Ok, that’s a lot of green… and a new column.

Compelling abilities are the uncalculable, and highly subject to interpretation. I define it as something that I can’t put even a rough number on like I can with Obi-Wan’s ability, and that in my opinion has the potential to be deck defining at a glance. Whether or not the cards exist to turn that compelling ability into reality is a different question entirely, but I wanted to flag chars that may not have great stats on the face but which should probably be looked at closely before discarding them entirely.

Observations and Interpretations

1. Villain Akakin has insane stats, probably the best in the format. Unless the opportunity cost of discarding a card is way higher than what I have it pegged at, he’s my go to guy when possible.

2. Single die Greedo is just as good as single die Phasma at cost. He’s arguably better due to his ability. I did not expect that.

3. Phasma, Luke, Han, and Aphra all fall just BARELY short of the average for HP/Cost at elite.

4. Phasma is odd in that her damage efficiency stays nearly identical at elite while still being quite a bit above the cutoff. Errata at work, I suppose.

5. Palpatine has the absolute worst HP/Cost ratios, and is 9th as far as damage efficiency is concerned. Given that his ability utility is already contingent on rolling well, he is the most feast or famine character in the format.

6. I don’t want to talk about Hondo. Where can you even really start?

7. Obi-Wan’s elite damage efficiency is somewhat misleading because of his binary nature with dice. Two dice with one reroll gives ~80% of at least 3 damage, and a staggering ~30% of 6. Insane

8. I wouldn’t feel bad about taking Clone Trooper, Jedha Partisan, or Veteran Stormtrooper as a filler especially if Anakin, Phasma, or Yoda are off the table for whatever reason. Non-uniques are good.

9. Yoda, Bib, Rose, and Jar Jar are all good deals when it comes to HP but only Yoda really jumps out at me as a direct enabler with what we currently have.

10. Tarkin and Nute…. Yuck all around as it stands. Tarkin especially.

11. Zeb has most of the stats of a Villain, but unless his ability allows you to net extra damage from other dice you’re probably better off actually playing Villains.

12. Luke is an odd one to parse out. His HP/Cost is solid, and If you’re flush with cash his numbers bump to 3 and 4 at non-elite and elite respectively. This would put him second only to Anakin in terms of damage efficiency.

13. Running a mono-colored deck is nearly suicidal if Kylo2 is a factor in the meta. Giving him 80% at guessing the right color pushes his elite damage efficiency to nearly exactly equal with Anakins… And they’re probably the single most likely pairing for each other… Or at least the most obvious. Luckily they are their own worst enemy.

14. Kallus is really interesting in that he can fit his damage to the situation. I couldn’t really throw a value on it, but he at least has more upwards potential than the stat-sheet indicates, which is already nearly equal with Kylo, and more reliable.

15. Aside from Hondo, Saw is the most enigmatic char. I went low, REALLY low on his Special assumption. Just a bump to 2 and he’s in the top 6 for damage efficiency, which isn’t even a far stretch because you can select your own hand and craft your deck in a way that is hyper-beneficial (though presumably at the cost of removal). Find a way to make his special hit for 3, and he becomes top dog by a decent margin. Anything above that and you’re in crazy town, though diminishing returns do apply.

The Takeaway

 

These are probably the kings and queens of Trilogy, at least until hyper-specialized decks make their way into existence. You simply cannot get more bang for your buck in the format. It is striking how much Blue is represented in the raw stats, and by association how little ranged damage is available.

 

Our second line of contenders cannot be ignored though. They are either separated only by the smallest and most arbitrary of percentages from the top cut (Phasma, Zeb), have enough potential to carry a deck on their own (Maul, Saw), or simply demand a chance to shine with their ability. I cannot in good conscious label this group “Tier 2”, so I will dodge the hard call and say that they are more specialized.

Two-Week Later Postscript.

Since the original authoring of this article, I’ve had the chance to play many games with several decks across both formats and I wanted to try and quantify Tarkin a bit more due to the big waves he is making in Standard. It’s still pretty difficult to put a damage value on his dice, he has a ~22% on his own of being able to use his ability, and exactly a 50% chance of dealing at least two damage with his own dice once you factor that in with his odds of rolling indirect damage. That isn’t the whole story though because he works with any of your dice.

If I were to go back up to the spreadsheets and put him back in with everyone else he still wouldn’t fare well overall and would continue to drive the averages down. The term supporting character doesn’t really apply here, because any deck Tarkin is in is by definition a Tarkin deck and everything else is there to support his ability. Dice flood would be the way to go there, and my initial thoughts are that if there is a Tarkin deck in Trilogy it is a specialized affair with Dr. Aphra to get cheap and free dice left and right.

Where to Next?

Characters alone do not make a format. Coming up, I will be examining the upgrades and supports to try and narrow the scope of the options and hopefully get a much clearer understanding of Indirect Damage in particular.

 

2 thoughts on “Trilogy Primer Part 1: Character Evaluation

  1. don’t know if you guys have new decks popping up soon or if you have a gauntlet you’ve been testing. If so where would i find such a thing.

    1. Decklists are in part 4 of this series, and we do run gauntlets for our Patreon supporters.