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We’ve Lost the Plot

Plots are objectively terrible, end of article.

Ok, that might need some qualifiers added. Plots are not to be built around, and I predict that any deck which attempts to bend characters in service to them instead of the other way around are doomed to failure in their current state with exactly one exception, which isn’t even based on a particular plot.

You’re Not Getting Your Points Worth

There are two plots which we can point at very directly and nail down a “true cost” on. Fortify and Profitable Connection. And I can do both with just one comparison piece.

Fortify is the easiest here. On the face of it, one shield is directly equal to one health on the first round of the game. This is slightly muddled by cards like Adapt, Ataru Strike, and Obi-Wan’s Lightsaber in favor of shields being worth more than health, but on the flip side you have enough shield hate in the meta with Hidden Blaster, Intimidate, and Frighten to make me just throw my hands up and call it a wash in either direction.

So how much is one health worth converted to points? One. Obviously! Look at Anakin there, and our old standby FOST and any number of other characters that take a one-to-one ratio. Hold your applause for this incredibly insightful post. And yet, a health is actually worth less than a point as evidenced by elite costs. If you consider Anakin’s second die only costs three points, that puts his total converted health value at 4:7. Not a super easy ratio to work with, and it ignores the cost of his ability, but for a character that is actually incredibly limited in on-paper capability this is as close as we’re ever going to get to a secret FFG formula for character costs. So to even be an equal deal, Fortify would have to give us 3.5 shields making it over-costed by 300% minimum. Gross.

The face value of Profitable Connection is exactly equal to one Anakin die. Assuming that you’re willing to reroll your dice at least once per round, an Anakin die is worth 0.75 resources each turn. It’s a pretty unlucky day when you lose a character before resolving its dice round 2, so even if you can’t afford the reroll on round 2 and just have to resolve what you can get, that second Anakin die is worth 1.25 resources in any given game, and that totally throws away any sort of auxiliary value you can attach to his shield and discard side.

Blockade is next up on the docket, and even worse. There’s no character with three disrupt sides just yet, but both Blockade and Profitable Connection are there to influence a resource differential, not just a flat number of resources. I’m willing to concede that hurting your opponent is worth more points than helping yourself, but if you gave me a choice between single die Nute/Cienna and Blockade, or the same character as elite, I’m taking that second die every day of the week.

The other plots are just as bad, but not easily compared. Lets save a bit of time and throw Boonta Eve Classic out of contention entirely for obvious reasons. Taking Ground and Home Turf Advantage can’t be built around as a plot because whatever deck you try to use with them specifically isn’t a “Plot deck” but a “Battlefield Deck”, and are just flat out better served with more expensive (read: higher value) character dice to get your choice of battlefield, and to carry you through the game in its absence. Preemptive Strike is a joke, even in the plot business. If I’m ever in a spot where I can’t convert an extra resource at the start of the game into more than two damage by the end of round two, take my dice rolling privileges away. Stolen Intel is better, but I’ll come back to it.

But this is all just preparatory for the “Big Three”: Built To Last, Calling In Favors, and Long Term Plan.

Built To Last is hot garbage. I can convert one extra resource to a 2HP differential easily enough, but how many resources would I need to make a differential equal to starting with an extra QGJ die? How many resources is a second Obi die worth? I’ll stack the odds in BTL’s favor and just say its worth three resources. If I resolve an Obi die for damage once, thats worth more than three “plot points” already! If instead of plot points we follow the adage that two damage is equal to one resource, then all I have to do is resolve it twice. Sure, QGJ would have to resolve three times but remember those BTL resources are on an installment plan. But Redeploy is worth something! Yeah, but with Rey’s Lightsaber, Dagger Of Mortis, and Heirloom Lightsaber all carrying the keyword already how much are you really gaining here? And before you say that it doesn’t just apply to blue upgrades, I’d like you to point me in the direction of a blue hero that prefers Zeb’s Bo-Rifle or Poe’s Blaster over the blue stuff. I’d love to meet them.

Calling In Favors is the most successful of the trio thus far, but this is much more of a function of how effective Sabine is than how good the plot can be. No other Yellow Character can carry any game by their lonesome from the start, so I’ll round up and call this plot for six resources. One round with no use, two with more than one living character, and two final rounds for two resources a pop. Seems great, but Yellow is the color most likely to have money on demand, this plot is on the installment plan again, it’s best when you’re losing, and you can’t cash in the resources on meta-staple events like Entangle or Easy Pickings. Oh, and Streetwise is a thing. Anakin would like to say hello here too. For LESS points once you discount his HP value, you get a pretty comparable resource generator plus an extra body to hold stuff. “But AoZ, I get to do super tricky Hyperspace Jump, Into the Crosshairs, and Reversal plays!” Well Mr. Strawman, once good players see that plot the only thing on their minds is going to be how to mess with your Jumps, Crosshairs, and Reversals. Good luck.

If Calling In Favors is banking on things going wrong, then Long Term Plan is an exercise in hoping for the best. I’m not going to try and put a resource or health price on LTP, trying to do so dips so far into the hypothetical that it makes my head hurt. What I will say is that you’re trying to get to Round 3, use it twice at a minimum, and be in a position to resolve a decent die. But it is Red, and Hero, which puts it squarely in one of two camps. Either you’re artificially increasing your round number (Finn/Maz currently) or you’re going for the long game to get more use out of it (Rose/Par/Par currently). A middle ground simply doesn’t exist when a second Rex die is the same point cost, sorry. In both cases you end up needing to spend more money on mitigation to buy another round, which could have been spent on more or better dice to end the game with. And both sides of that coin rely entirely on the opposing deck not being able to interact their respective level.

Arguing With Myself

My opinion on the matter needs scrutiny in the form of two major counter-arguments. The first is the null hypothesis. Implicit in everything I’ve said is the comparison between Plots and Characters, but is there any association at all between the two? Absolutely, at least until a Plot comes out that alters the game in a way no Character can. Deck-building is an application of deferred costs and opportunity costs. If you can easily get something via a better or elite character, then a plot is useless. The vast majority of plots thus far can have a line drawn between them and your HP/Resource pools, both of which are almost entirely Character driven.

And no matter what deck you run, sometimes one or the other is irrelevant at the start of the game. If your mulligan goes poorly, sometimes you really just can’t take advantage of the resources any one particular plot would gain you. And as much as starting the game with one extra can help, if you aren’t able to spend it until round 2 then its far less useful. On the HP side, there is always going to be a certain percentage of games where your life doesn’t matter. Mill is on everyone’s mind right now, but it wasn’t too long ago Crime Lord was a thing and it could be again.

So what can a plot give you that no Character can? Stolen Intel is the closest at the moment, only Luke natively draws you a card. I can’t bash Stolen Intel very easily, Round 1 is often the most important round of the game, getting an extra card there is pretty major. But I don’t think it is very reasonable to try and build a deck around Stolen Intel, and no non-combo deck (and none of the current ones with how good card draw is right now) would sacrifice the quality of their character dice or HP pool in pursuit of it. We’ve already been teased with an upcoming negative point cost plot, and I am intrigued but cautious. If the current state of things requires 10% of your character points to get one resource, what is the level of drawback going to be to gain 10%? Until we see a plot with an alternate victory condition, or one that can induce immediate character death, I’m not enthused about any “build-around” plots.

But very close to the null hypothesis is the argument that I have it totally backwards. Maybe the power creep of the characters has already shot past the first set of plots we got, and the true power of the more interesting ones from Way of the Force have yet to be revealed? Or maybe FFG is bad at nailing down character costs which pushed plots to the side from the get-go? Maybe, but majority rules here. When I can point to over a dozen characters whose second die are better than the same cost plot, I’m not about to try and say there needs to be a nerf list a mile long.

The most difficult to refute argument against my statements is the results-oriented thinking. Mads Utzon took Rey/Aayla to the finals of the World Championship with Profitable Connections and I’m going to say the card is bad? Yes and no. Rey/Aayla was a perfectly reasonable deck to run at Worlds even if Profitable Connection didn’t exist at all, or if Aayla had been nerfed prior to worlds. An extra resource is obviously a force multiplier to the deck, and helps out a ton but it isn’t the single most important thing the deck was doing. In a Worlds environment where Aayla costs 13, is starting Rey with a shield really that much worse than one extra money? It’s worse by some amount, but is it “this deck is no longer competitively viable” worse?  Or an even better question: Was QGJ/Aayla that much worse of a deck? The opportunity to take the extra resource was there, so the meta in general went with that option, but if you did a full 30 card deckswap with just QGJ added in place of Rey I would bet that Mads still hits that final table with it. The 30 cards were good enough to support any character suite relatively reasonable, and the player had the skill to back it up.

Plotting for Victory

The final few sentences there bring me to an overarching point, and what I interpret as FFG’s intent with Plots. Plots are best used as force multipliers. When the opportunity cost is low enough, they can be added to a deck to give you that little extra oomph. The fact that the most successful plot thus far was used with a character suite that can no longer get that level of power bump lends credence to this. Hondo/Yoda was perfectly viable without a plot, I know this because I had a really bad habit of forgetting I brought a plot to the table and won plenty of games with a 28 point deck. So before jumping through a million hoops trying to make a plot work, just get the basics down with your deckbuilding and make sure the deck concept is solid as is. Plots are not as non-interactive as they appear, no matter which one you choose.

Every rule of course has an exception, and my eyes are on one moving forward. Building to use plot, if not any one plot in particular might be a competitively viable start-point when you consider the Comm Tower. If your deck is swift enough, playing with a plot on Comm Tower gives you half the effect of Long Term Plan, in addition to whatever benefit your plot has, and is worth keeping an eye on. Currently I have a deck that leverages that effect decently well, and is also in fact pretty viable in the mill-heavy meta. I’ll leave it here for you.

Until next time,
-Agent Of Zion

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