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Scott Landis, SWTCG Player

Unfriendly Fire, as Friend and Foe

Part I of II in a series.

"Is the Dark Side stronger?"
"No. Quicker, easier, more seductive.."
- Luke and Yoda, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

A lot has been said about the merits and misgivings of Unfriendly Fire in SW:TCG. For those of you who do not know, here is the wording of this Sith Rising rare:

Battle Card: Pay 7 Force Choose an arena. Unfriendly Fire does 2 damage to each unit in that arena. (This includes your units).

This card simply dominated the World Championships, and for good reason. Before Sith Rising was released, Light Side swarm decks dominated the scene. In space, I went so far as to play all units with Shields to mitigate the damage potential of this fast horde. Once UF was released, however, our "problems" were solved.. The card essentially reads "all units in this arena gain +4 power until end of turn (assuming mathematically you hit half the time). Since you are playing with it, you should be prepared for it, meaning that your units are faster, stronger, or not in the arena when the card is played."

For those who have played other TCG's, this card is a lot like a Wrath of God type effect from Magic: The Gathering. This card is the definition of card advantage in SW:TCG. Card advantage is basically defined as having to use less cards or resources than your opponent to achieve an effect. For example, if your opponent plays out a Bravo N-1 Starfighter, an X-Wing Red Two, and a Luke's X-Wing (A). You have nothing in space. You proceed to play Unfriendly Fire in the space arena, doing 2 damage to all of his units, killing the Bravo and the Red Two. That is card advantage, nullifying 2 cards for one of his. Now do not get me wrong, card advantage is not the end all and be all in SW: TCG; resource management is equally as important as card advantage. Resource management (spending your build and force points each turn to their maximum), is something that cannot be ignored.

Much has been said that UF is "broken," meaning that a card is too powerful given the current circumstances. Some people go as far as to say that this card should be banned. I do not agree with this at all. If this card was banned, the Light Side would simply dominate. Many times UF is the only thing keeping the Light Side in check. The point of this discussion is to show you a few things. First, as the Dark Side player, how do you exploit this gem? Second, as the Light Side player, how do you deal with it? Over the next week, I will give you my take as to what should occur going forward with this powerful card.

Part I: Mass Destruction
Exploiting Unfriendly Fire in your Dark Side Decks

"Wipe them out. All of them."
- Darth Sidious, Episode I: The Phantom Menace

You are probably saying to yourself, "Well I can see what you are saying, but not only is 7 Force a lot to put out for one card, but my units have to survive also you know!"

There is no question that in order to optimize Unfriendly Fire, you will need to keep your units alive. The key to successfully using UF is three fold; Speed, Force Gain/Denial, and/or Large Health.

The first and most obvious way to exploit UF is through speed. Before the release of A New Hope, this was the major way to exploit this powerful card. If your units are faster than the Light Side's, then it stands to reason that you should damage them before they have a chance to retaliate. If you are then able to play UF before they can attack, their units will not even get an attack phase, and you will survive that combat with only having 2 damage on each of your units. The other point is that your units need to be faster so that you can assure yourself the ability to damage their units first, so that in the end (or even next turn) the Light Side units are susceptible to UF. For example, you have a Geonosian Defense Fighter (2 power, 3 health, 60 speed) and your opponent has an X-Wing Red Two (2 Power, 2 Health, 60 speed) and a Jedi Starfighter 3R3 (50 Speed, 3 Power, 3 Health) in the space arena. You, as the Dark Side player, go first. You attack the Jedi Star fighter, and if you hit on average of one (half of 2 power obviously), it will be left with 2 health. Then it is the X-Wing's turn to attack. If you have the 7 Force necessary to play UF there, you will leave your opponent with no units, to your heavily damaged one. Even if you cannot, and the Light Side winds up killing your Fighter, you can still UF the space arena and take out 2 of his units, for your one card, thus card advantage.

Before the release of A New Hope, 50 speed was generally the cut off for the Dark Side to go first in space (most Light Side units had a maximum of 50 speed without a Padme Amidala (A) in play), 50 speed on Ground (to go faster than the Jedi Heroes and AT-TE Walker 23X ), and 60 Speed in Characters (to be faster than Anakin and Mace). What units did this leave us with? Well the most popular ones played before ANH were Droid Starfighter DFS-1VR, Geonosian Defense Fighter, Slave I (B), Sith Infiltrator (A), and Tyranuss' Solar Sailor (A) in the Space Arena. ANH gives us all the individual Tie Fighters (including Vader's Tie) and most importantly the Tie Fighter Squad, which will most likely be the fastest unit in space.

Commerce Guild Spider Droids were the only effective 50-speed unit in Ground arena, so many players turned to Luxury Airspeeders to speed up the plethora of Dark Side Droid Units in the Ground Arena (I even used Droid Control Ships at Worlds).

Finally we come to the Character Arena. It is very unlikely that you will wind up using UF in the character arena (with all those Jedi packing Evade), but if you do the Dark Side has some very fast units to help you out. Jango Fett (A)/Jango Fett (B)/Jango Fett (C)/Jango Fett (E), Zam Wesell (A), and Darth Maul (A)/Darth Maul (B)/Darth Maul (C) are your major hitters here. A Jango or Maul stacked will go a long way to helping the speed front. Do not forget the most important card the Dark Side has for speed, Dark Speed. Basically if you are looking to hurt the Light Side fast and then UF to finish them off, these are the ones you want to add to your decks.

"At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge."
- Darth Maul, Episode I: The Phantom Menace

One of the more popular ways to exploit UF involves the use of cards that both increase your own Force and decrease the Light Side's. Obviously UF is expensive. Seven Force is usually two turns worth, and the ability to play this powerful card early and often cannot be ignored. The best card to exploit both of these features is obviously Maul's Strategy. Darth Maul was already covered above in the speed section, and he fits perfectly into the Force Denial section. On turn one gaining three Forces and leaving your opponent with one, can be devastating. Most of the Light Side's damage prevention costs at least two Forces, and leaving them with one can cause for a crippling turn. Many Light Side decks cannot deal effectively with a first turn Unfriendly Fire, and Darth Maul makes sure you can accomplish this.

Finally, we need to look at another option for the Dark Side- large health units. When it comes to large units, the Dark Side is unparalleled. Droid Control Ships, the various Trade Federation Bombard units, and the Imperial Star Destroyers are the best ones to use in the Space Arena. On the Ground, the Trade Federation Control Core is the largest unit in the game, and a great one to hold the arena to wait for the UF. Lastly, Character Arena, any stack will do. The point of the big units is they will slowly whittle down the health of the larger and faster units, after they attack you, and then typically finishing off the arena with an UF. Remember you can use UF on any arena at any time, so many times you can be fighting in the character arena, and then wipe out the remaining space or ground units.

That is quick overview of how to exploit the awesome power of UF for the Dark Side. A combination of these three strategies should help you maximize the destructive power of the Dark Side.

Next week, I'll discuss the other side of this card in Weathering the Power of Unfriendly Fire.