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Joey Leake

I Want My HPC…

The days of “Missions for nothing” will soon be over. Starting on June 20th, Holoprojection Chamber and Kessel System will be banned from constructed play. In addition, Falcon's Needs, Peace on Naboo, Lost in the Asteroids, and Lull in the Fighting will be restricted. So what does this mean for the constructed environment?

Well, for starters, it means a couple of decks that absolutely dominated the Qualifier season will lose most, if not all, of their punch. Kessel System was the gasoline that fuelled the Creature deck, just as Holoprojection Chamber was the power behind the Mission-based deck that could spew out four Falcon's Needs (or Guidance of the Chancellor) on the first turn. Without access to these Locations, these two powerhouses will likely fade into obscurity. These decks represented the best that the Dark Side has probably ever had to offer. Now that they’re out of the picture, the first thing we should notice is a huge shift in the bidding process. In the more recent Qualifiers, it wasn’t uncommon to hear people bidding the Dark Side at 25 build or less. After June 20th, this will no longer be the case. Expect the bidding to swing back to the Light Side—and expect that bidding to be fairly aggressive.

Chewbacca and the Dining Hall

Why is Light Side suddenly so attractive?

Chewbacca (G), a dominant force in the Qualifier season, has been left completely unaffected by the bannings. The Light Side now doesn’t have to worry as much about being overwhelmed in Character arena by an army of creatures, or about having 4 Falcon's Needs slapped on Chewie. The Chewie deck will be free to reanimate Guri (A) and IG-88 (A), and send them into the fray turn after turn. With Light Side’s almost unbeatable position in Character and its traditional edge in Space, it’s easy to see why players will be more eager to reach for the blue lightsaber.

Another deck likely to show its teeth after the bannings is the Falcon/Dining Hall deck. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, this deck aims for a quick victory in Space, followed by establishing inevitability in Character, by deploying a Millennium Falcon (F) and Cloud City Dining Hall. The Falcon’s ability allows you to prevent all lethal damage to your Characters; and, since Dining Hall forbids them from retreating, they stay in the arena. Thus, your Characters are almost invincible, barring unpreventable damage or non-damage effects that remove them from play.

Enter the Jawas

Is it hopeless for the Dark Side? Not exactly. We’re really not in unfamiliar territory here, as around this time each year we find ourselves in a similar situation. The Light Side looks dominant, and the Dark Side looks weak. Even though this has traditionally been the case, it’s also been the case that the players who come up with the killer Dark Side decks are the ones who do well.

The reason is that with everyone bidding down Light Side, you’ll get to play your killer Dark Side deck at 30 build all day. Then, after you absolutely crush the Light Side in game 1, you’re likely to get your Light Side deck at 30 build for game 2, which is even better. So it would be wise to spend a fair share of your time trying to beat the popular Light Side decks.

Where should you start? Well, since we don’t know what’s in The Phantom Menace yet, aside from the few previews we’ve seen, we really can’t be sure what curveballs await us. However, using the current environment as a basis, I’d say those pesky Jawas could be the sleeper deck of the season.

I had heard discussion about the Jawas before, but first saw it in action at the Charlotte Qualifier. I was extremely impressed with how the deck played out, and especially how well it matched up against the Chewie (G) deck. It packs several major weapons against Chewie and his army of droids. First and foremost, the deck runs an IG-88 (A) and Guri (A) of its own. Combine that with Cloud City Prison, and you’ll be able to successfully contest the Chewie deck’s most problematic droids out of the arena every turn. Another powerful tool it has against the Chewie decks is Jawa Scavenger—a 40/2/1 Jawa Character that puts any droid it damages on top of its owner’s deck. Against the Chewie (G) deck, this is even better than just killing droids outright. A droid in the discard pile is easily yanked out again. One on top of the deck negates your opponent’s next draw, and forces them to find some way to discard it in order for Chewie (G) to use of his reanimation ability. Finally, the bounty granted by Het Nkik (A), and the huge build swing granted by Jawa Supply Trip, allow you to easily drop large droid units (such as the Battle Droid Division), accelerating you in whatever arena you need the most help. Whether or not Jawas get any further boost from The Phantom Menace, expect to see it doing well in future tournaments.

A Time to Refocus

Another thing all Dark Side deckbuilders should keep in mind is that both the Chewbacca and Falcon/Dining Hall decks focus on Character and Space. Many popular builds of these decks only give marginal consideration to Ground, frequently running Bespin units that can be tapped down with Force payments. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to try focusing a deck on the Ground and Space arenas, as the two dominant Light Side decks are so difficult to fight in Character. Solid units backed up with good Battle and Mission cards could go a long way toward negating the advantage these Light Side decks hold. The new card, Unconventional Maneuvers, previewed in Mike Kelly’s recent article, is a wonderful tool for the Dark Side. It has the ability to minimize the impact of the Light Side Space units with huge Critical Hits, and increases the damage output of the Dark Side unit you slap it on. A Dark Side deck that can win Space is a Dark Side deck that can win tournaments. These are all good things to think about when approaching the Dark Side.

To wrap things up, the bannings on June 20th represent a return to the way most people feel the game should be played. SW:TCG should be about combat, about epic battles swaying back and forth. It should not only be about showing up with a superior deck, but also about outplaying your opponents. To that end, I think the bannings will be successful. We’re certainly in new territory as far as an environment without degenerate auto-win decks... but there's something comfortingly familiar about it. Time to start building!

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