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For the second in our series on the Trilogy format, we will be digging deep into all the other dice available. Upgrades and supports are variable in nature, but can be format-defining (Vibroknife anyone?). If there are a few or even a couple upgrades in a category that are far and away the best value which happen to coincide with the characters we identified previously, we get a huge leg up and can start building with a purpose.
Once again, a certain liberty was taken when assigning numbers to things. The biggest assumption I might be making is that you’ve read the Part 1 of this series because I’ll be cutting to the chase with my reasoning and explanation process, jumping straight to the full spreadsheet for each category and jumping off from there.
I’ll be using the term upgrade as short-hand for supports as well for this article because their functionally the same thing for our purposes. Supports are assumed to have redeploy for comparison purposes, but they do of course slow your games down to a crawl in most cases.
All upgrades have the “one reroll” assumption factored in, with the same annotating style for significantly likely rolls.
Modified sides and paid sides are mostly assumed to be paid, but there is a catch. When evaluating an upgrade for its suitability for a certain type of damage, the upgrade only actually gets added to the mix if it has at least one base side, or two modified sides matching the category (melee, ranged, indirect). Once there however, any sides which are resolvable on their own get factored in to the efficiency and average damage results, but modified sides for other damage types are not. This doesn’t effect entirely too many cards, and in a very evenly split mixed damage deck they might be more efficient than other upgrades though at the inherent tempo cost that running mixed damage entails.
Right off the rip, you can see that if you want to get anything done in melee at all, you’ll be paying for it. Not only do the vast majority of the cards cost three or more, but they have paid sides. Our top end of the scale is also rife with modified sides which will need to be reconciled. Fiddle with your evaluation of those factors and you’d see Rey’s and the Heirloom Lightsaber rocket towards the top, and even the otherwise terrible Vibrosword and Stun Baton getting a decent bump.
The top end for efficiency is definitely skewing towards Villain, but with a couple of drawbacks. The “best” weapon is Red, which aside from Kallus himself, will be pretty difficult to slot in to decks, and the villain suite are all-or-nothing affairs. If you can’t actually dish out their pain then they may as well be nothing but blanks, offering no consolation prizes. Flipping back to our Character evaluation I see that the villains are already below average when it comes to health, so this is emphasized doubly. Sitting just a little below the surface is the realization that in villain, only the Heirloom Lightsaber and the BT-1 droid will stick with you for the entire game.
Heroes lag behind on the raw numbers, but their two flagship upgrades make up for the shortfall significantly. Zeb’s Rifle is always capable of resolution even if it is in an awkward color. Obi’s Lightsaber looks pretty good to resolve for shields (more on this in the mitigation section), and if done properly that special side really kicks your opponent in the teeth. Meanwhile Rey’s Lightsaber gives up front mitigation combined with redeploy. Hero health combined with a second slam-dunk redeploy weapon gives the type of resiliency that I like to see, and is thematic to boot. Because of this Crafted Lightsaber may as well say hero instead of villain in Trilogy, especially as far as Kylo Ren is concerned.
Grey… Yuck. Just yuck all around. Redeploy and conditional mitigation as an either/or (and paid to boot) simply can’t make up for those numbers.
Villains need money to pay for their stuff, need their upgrades as early as possible, and desperately need to resolve the dice for damage every time. That’s a lot of need, but if it can be worked out their top end is ridiculous. Crossguard is probably the go-to for a turn one slam, giving side benefits against those pesky hero shields.
Heroes get some breathing room, but only some. You can’t win the game through shields, and villain raw numbers will overpower any health benefits a Hero deck receives if there is more than a one-turn lag on getting a major upgrade on the table. While the consuming need to get something down immediately isn’t there, being able to do so will feel great.
Yellow Hero and Red Villain are dark horses when it comes to melee, if the character combinations can support a mix without too much sacrifice there are some interesting directions to go in your upgrades beyond what just Blue can give.
Well that’s just… A mixed bag isn’t it?
There is quite a bit of bleed-over into Indirect Damage, but when you compare what you get for the cost, the average numbers as a whole match up pretty well with Melee. The HWK-290 and wrist rockets are the only two that come up over the top of both curves, but at the expense of tempo and money. In the Trilogy format, I see no compelling reason to specifically set out to deal ranged damage over melee because of that.
Red is far and away the undisputed king of ranged damage, especially Villain red because I value Phasma’s Blaster over Poe’s in this format. Zeb’s Bo-Rifle gets an appreciative nod, but there just aren’t any characters aside from Zeb himself to take advantage of it, certainly none that would convince me to take him over Phasma with her blaster at a lower point cost.
But is there a case for Yellow? The numbers on Wrist Rockets caught my attention really quickly. It looked pretty good at first glance, but wowzers. Taking that as a cornerstone, the Verpine rifle slots in as just good enough to make the cut with unblockable damage as a bonus, and if you combine with Red then adding in the E-11, Auto-Cannon, Phasma’s Rifle, and Hidden Blaster is only natural. And whats that? Boba and Phasma fit together perfectly? Something to keep in mind. I didn’t really intend to jump straight into deckbuilding in Part 2, but it kinda just builds itself.
Blue gets just about nothing for ranged, as to be expected. Even if we were to transplant Force Lightning two sets ahead, I doubt it would make it into any deck without something similar to the Sith Holocron or Rise Again to offset its cost. I can’t see any Kylo deck that doesn’t also take his fighter but that’s about it, and none of the other ranged supports are particularly appealing over what blue has access to in their melee upgrades.
In fact, supports don’t seem worthwhile at all. the HWK has some serious issues to contend with, and the runner up appears to be the Millennium Falcon which is best viewed as a fourth upgrade for any particular character due to its ability. Slave I could be contender, but is totally contingent on how well the removal aspect works. Seeing as how it is a support that requires tempo and possibly messing with your own good rolls to do so, I wouldn’t bet on it.
The bleed-over from our ranged upgrades is still present here, but the separation between good and bad stuff is much better defined.
Yo, did anyone get a good look at my boy Frag Grenade though! I contend that the drawback isn’t nearly as bad as people make it out to be. You get to choose whether or not you resolve it, and the only difference between it and Chance Cube is the timing of paying the cost. Focus sides obviously make it better, as does being in the late game but it is still a more than decent bang for your buck at any given point. The Resistance Bomber does great work for its cost, and even better if you can pull damage from it with Rose or Finn or boost it’s output with Wedge. Stats aside though I don’t think there is quite enough overall cohesiveness in the upgrades and supports to make Resistance Bomber worthwhile in any but the most dedicated of decks, where it will be a linchpin card.
Wrist Rockets and Auto-Cannon make the top cut once again. This plus the characters they work best with directly intertwine indirect damage and ranged damage in the format, the upshot of which being that Melee decks will be faster on the whole. Interesting change from Standard.
Mortar Team and Lookout Post are on the cusp of being great cards. The issue is that either one of them alone cannot be jammed in to an otherwise mixed damage deck because of tempo concerns, and Wedge can’t do anything to help them out.
Now is the best time to dig deep into my issue with the HWK-290 and BT-1. The single most important thing this statistical deep dive is accomplishing is establishing relative rankings. The “extra” damage you get out of each is totally wiped out by the fact that they hurt you just as much resulting in little to no relative damage bonus at all. Without Rose/Finn there to remove the damage from the HWK-290, you barely break more than even as far as the damage is concerned and have to pay for the privilege two thirds of the time making it an absolutely terrible turn one play. BT-1 comes out to a net zero overall, though both cards have a small consolation prize when used with Dr. Aphra’s ability.
Those aren’t mitigation upgrades! You caught me. But mitigation upgrades and mitigation events (when we get there) need a basic assumption filled in. If a card says to remove a die, how much damage on average are we saving? Survey says two damage for the most likely to be played characters, and when it comes to upgrades it will be riding the line between two and three. I’m going to round down to two for our evaluations because upgrades probably won’t get rerolled off of 2-damage sides on the hope of getting higher, and character dice start the game already in play.
The second question is how much shields are worth. There is exceedingly little damage in the format which ignores shields or gets bonuses against shields, and even less that is actually reliable. With that in mind and how indirect damage can get thrown into whatever shields you have available lead me to just count shields as health, straight up and no qualifiers. So anything that removes dice, can take damage for you, or has two or more shield sides to resolve will get evaluated.
That’s pretty sad on the whole. Upgrades marked as difficult are things with qualifiers on their processing, whether it is hitting specific types of dice requiring payment, or some other condition to be met. Some “difficulties” are easier than others, but they all tend to be specific to one meta environment or another.
As a surprise to absolutely no-one, Honor Guard remains super solid. I’m going out on a very sturdy limb in calling Bubble Shield good enough to count in the same category so long as your meta doesn’t skew to upwards of 80% melee decks. Suppression field is exceptional in effect, if not cost. When used on two-damage sides it can actually pull four damage off the board before going down, but if only used on a single 3-side it is strictly worse than Honor Guard. The cost-prohibitive nature of it keeps it off of my go-to list, but I can see some potential there in decks swimming in cash.
Apart from the three red cards, only these two blue beat-sticks catch my eye. They aren’t cost-effective for their mitigation benefits alone, but they at least do something when they aren’t cauterizing your opponents, and in certain ways do both at the same time.
Everything else? Pretty much garbage for protective purposes from my point of view. If you are taking additional actions and only getting one or less effective health point for your team per resource spent, you’ll find yourself miles behind someone getting on average one damage per resource since they will be ahead on actions along the way, and able to dedicate more resources in the long run on more damage dice. The phrase “it doesn’t help you win, it just lets you lose slower” is apropos.
Villains get absolutely nothing other than Bubble Shield and the specialized Slave I in this category, again re-emphasizing their need for swift and merciless aggression to win.
Here’s another mixed bag, not due to the cards themselves but due to my broad categorization. All of these upgrades just exist to make your deck “work better”. The easiest to quantify is focus sides, and money.
These are the front runners for enabling cards by a country mile. The one-cost blue cards are either going to smooth out your first turn while leaving cash on the table to pay for other things, or at least give you back your investment. The two villain cards give the faction exactly what they need to get things resolved, and provide side benefits on top of it all. The edge goes to Dark Counsel for sure, but Crystal Ball isn’t too far behind on the whole (and better with Tarkin/Talzin). Force Focus and Maz’s Vault are not things you just put into your deck willy-nilly, and don’t provide a blatently obvious advantage to you unless you build a deck with them specifically in mind. The trick is not overly relying on them when building because you may not actually see them. A fine line to walk for sure.
As for everything else?
Some give you action economy, and that’s nice in a vacuum, but dependent on being able to recoup your initial tempo loss over multiple turns… A poor proposition if you don’t get them out very early, and not exactly great as an upgrade even then.
Others do nothing but reroll your dice in various fashions something even a blank card can do for you with less restrictions (great in draft/sealed though), though there are a couple of interesting ones here.
Resilient is a really odd effect, where you’re making a bet that your opponent will want to remove the attached character dice more than once, and that your character dice are strong enough to make it worth paying two upfront as a method to combat that. I can definately see the appeal for the card with SoR Palpatine, but none of the Trilogy format character dice come close to that power level. It does ramp into bigger and better things, but so do other upgrades. Interesting for sure, but hard pass from me.
Quickdraw Holster saves actions and cards in the long run if you plan on needing to reroll dice (which I do), but it is limited only to weapon dice on that character… Meaning two dice maximum. Probably not worth the card, but because it’s free I like it well enough to keep it in mind in this smaller and more limited format.
The Odd Ones Out
Defensive Teaching is a card that does literally nothing on its own. Peering into the next article in the series, it would get comboed with Obi’s Lightsaber and Ataru Strike for some serious beat-downs but it is a win-more addition and I just don’t think it actually works better than Luke’s Protection for the same purpose.
Nightsister Coven is trash. It relies on your opponent both already rolling poorly in a specific way while also having an odd card on top. Bleh.
Separatist Landing Craft could have been thrown in with the rest of the mitigation upgrades for evaluation (poorly) but it really is in a category of its own. For a sum total of four resources you get 6HP and a damage die added to your team which is a pretty sweet deal, but needing to roll one side to get there and doing not too much else along the way in a facton/color combination with low focus makes it pretty difficult. Super cool though, I fully intend on losing a bunch of games with it.
Force Wave… Oh Force Wave. It will net you four damage on average when you use it (assuming the one damage hits your own team), but that cost is incredibly prohibitive. This is another one of those cards that wants a Holocron, and in Trilogy can only realistically be paired with Yoda where it can do some really good work. So following my own format, I’d color it green with Yoda but leave it in the binder otherwise.
Hunter Instinct feels like a misprint to me. Are we 100% sure that it doesn’t cost one and trigger two damage if the char has five or more damage? Or maybe still two cost and deal it’s damage unblockable? I guess it can go into any yellow villain deck, but good luck making it better than the other options of any damage type.
Too Long Didn’t Read
If you want a successful deck, the upgrades and supports listed here should be your first stop. I’m sure that the others not listed here (second stop are the ones shaded purple above) will mostly have their place in decks specifically built as a whole to take advantage of them, but even then these should probably take precedence if at all possible because of how much better they are statistically than anything else in their slot.
Where to Next?
Looking at the upgrades and supports, you’d think that yellow as a whole was a color to be ignored in this set. Our roguish and/or scumlike (depending on faction) definitely have their advantages though, which we will thoroughly examine in Part 3: Event Evaluation!