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Evolution: Laurel and Hardy

R2-D2 and C-3PO represent one of the most successful double-acts in science fiction history. From the height of Jedi power through the rise of the Empire to the resurrection of galactic democracy, these unlikely heroes have played a part in some of the most important moments in the Star Wars universe. Without R2-D2, Padme would have been melted on Geonosis. Had C-3PO not suggested to a certain moisture farmer to take the little astromech droid on Tatooine, the Rebellion would have been squashed (literally) on board the first Death Star.

It may surprise you to learn that these two droids can be just as valuable in the Star Wars Trading Card Game as they have been in the films. In this follow-up to the "Evolution: Obi-Wan" article, we take a look at these often-overlooked characters and provide you with a host of reasons to include them in your next deck.

Humble Beginnings

When they first appeared in Attack of the Clones, our two favorite droids were interesting, but not pivotal options for Light Side decks.

In the initial play environment, C-3PO (A) was a cheap means of getting rid of unwanted cards in favor of new options. With 10 speed and 1 power, the protocol droid often went overlooked during the Character Battle phase, enabling you to continually cycle through your deck to find needed answers to your opponent's deadly questions. The problem was discarding before drawing, and as soon as the Jawa Sandcrawler was printed, C-3PO (A) was immediately forgotten. What C-3PO (A) expressed, however, was the power of support units -- power like R2-D2 (A).

The most successful tournament players always look backward. Each new set of cards unlocks a host of new options that aren't always immediately apparent. It's when you look back and combine them with older effects that their true power is revealed. R2-D2 (A) is a good example. The Critical Hit 1 bonus is a powerful tool, but in the Attack of the Clones era, this unit was easily dispatched. In today's environment, the situation is far different. With the right intercepting support such as Dark Woman (A) or, even better, Chewbacca (M), you get a sustainable bolster for your entire space fleet -- all for 3 build! With careful selection of your space units, you can deploy a fleet of Delta Six Starfighters, IG-2000 (A), and Anakin's Starfighter (A) that swarms over your opponent dealing 2 to 3 damage for every natural 6 rolled.

Sith Rising is a time better forgotten for our metal friends. C-3PO (B) and R2-D2 (B), while offering good one-shot bonuses for slight build costs, just aren't effective deck options. Our astromech droid is easily dispatched, and Wedding of Destiny is a better utility choice than C-3PO (B).

A New Hope gave us our first noncombat version of R2-D2 and the most expensive version ever printed. Again, you need some serious damage prevention such as Yoda (E) or characters with Intercept for this unit to last longer than the first round, but if you can pull it off, R2-D2 (C) is extremely versatile. Not only can you ensure that your opponent doesn't receive any further options for a particular arena, but you can also avoid that deadly human shield or life-saving high-speed dodge.

This set also brought us C-3PO (C), a slight, unassuming character that enables a predominantly neutral deck to quickly deploy multiple inexpensive units such as Tuskens or the bounty hunter Space units such as the Virago (A). The power of C-3PO (C) has grown with more recent expansions as more cost-effective neutral units have been introduced, such as Jabba's Guards in the Return of the Jedi set.

Gaining Power

Battle Of Yavin gave us what has become my favorite version of Artoo. R2-D2 (D) is perhaps the ultimate pilot and was a must in the powerful (but now defunct) pilot/Luke's Garage combo deck. For its staple 3 build, this version of R2-D2 can make a starfighter such as Luke's X-wing (B) or Plo Koon's Starfighter (A) virtually unstoppable.

C-3PO (D) is not really in the same league as his comedic partner, but can be an effective addition to a Light Side Chewbacca (G)/droid deck, especially as his ability can be used multiple times.

Empire Strikes Back was the power set, introducing many cards that are still staples in today's most effective tournament decks. While not quite in that category, the droids still stood tall. C-3PO (E) is a cheap (2-build point) stack option for more playable versions of himself such as C-3PO (C). It can also be swapped to the top of the stack during the build phase to enable your entire Threepio stack to be re-shuffled back into your deck.

The R2-D2 units can appear deceptively average, but are actually very useful. R2-D2 (G) continues the tradition of Space arena support by granting every one of your units +20 speed, and R2-D2 (F) at 2 build points is like a mini Jawa Sandcrawler! Empire Strikes Back was also the first time that R2-D2 and C-3PO appeared as Rebel units.

While only R2-D2 was represented in Jedi Guardians -- R2-D2 (E) is a slim line Pilot's Dodge on a stick -- Rogues and Scoundrels saw two solid units enter the play environment. C-3PO (G) is a fantastic addition to a Light Side-based neutral deck as he can pay for Prince Xizor (A)'s upkeep, with the crime lord paying for everyone else's! R2-D2 (H) – while in my mind not as good as R2-D2 (D) – is still a decent pilot.

Neither units were present in The Phantom Menace, but Return of the Jedi brought us one of the most popular C-3PO units ever. C-3PO (H) is an upgraded version of Threepio (A) with the same build cost, but better stats and a better ability. Not only does it enable you to draw before discarding, but it also provides an alternative option of discarding a Battle card instead of two other cards. C-3PO (H) quickly became a staple addition to Han's Promise decks with his low-cost draw/discard engine ability.

R2-D2 (I) bucks the Artoo mold by providing Character support instead of the Space and Ground arena focus it has previously held. +2 power and accuracy 1 to any character is certainly nothing to be taken lightly, especially if the recipient is a character such as A'Sharad Hett (A)!

Finally, we come to Revenge of the Sith. C-3PO (I)'s ability can be used to discard unwanted cards from your deck in the hope of better options, or to give you an instant veto over your opponent's next intended play. R2-D2 (J) returns to space and provides not only 1 point of healing per turn, but also Lucky 3. Combine this Artoo with a pilot such as Luke Skywalker (E), and you have one serious powerhouse!

These ARE the Droids You're Looking For

Hopefully this article has sparked a few ideas. The next time you're trawling through your box of cards, pause and consider that golden protocol droid or mischievous astromech droid.