Beating Tuskens 101
I learned a lot at the SWTCG Championships this year.
First, I learned that the players I met and hung out with throughout the weekend are about the best people you can hope to come across in life. Seriously, there is no prize Wizards could offer that would be a bigger draw for me than getting to hang out with that group again.
Second, I learned that even the smallest metagame oversight could be your doom. What I mean by that is, we tested a little against Tusken decks. Too bad they were bad Tusken decks. When eventual champion Mike Bickford unleashed his wicked creation on the environment, we were caught entirely off-guard, and almost completely unprepared. Our Light Side deck was pretty teched out, but it just didn't have the right tools to deal with the tremendous pressure the Tuskens could apply early on.
Before I go on, I suppose I should give a brief background of our Light Side deck.
When the spoiler for Jedi Guardians was first posted to the net, we scrutinized it trying to find the "next big thing". Of course, the deck that popped into everyone's mind was a Jedi Council Quorum deck. We put one together, and started testing it. Like most other Quorum decks, it ran a glut of the "fog" cards (cards like Peace on Naboo that prevent all damage in an arena) to give the deck time to build the required seven council members. We all agreed that it looked pretty awful on paper. To our surprise, it actually tested quite well. Even against a Dark Side deck running a pretty focused discard package, it was a really tough deck to beat. One of the most surprising things we noticed about the deck was that a lot of the time it wasn't even winning by completing a Quorum. It was winning by beating down with its inferior units. This was mostly due to the ability the fogs grant you to wait until the most opportune moment to start fighting.
It was at this point that I took the Quorum deck, removed the Quorums, the Gather the Councils, the council members, and the build-generators, and put in the best units Light Side had at its disposal. The way the new deck would work would be to use Remember the Prophecy and Coruscant Air Bus to draw lots of battle cards. A good portion of those cards would be the fogs. You would then retreat in one of the arenas that you're able to contest, and prevent all the damage in the arena you left your units in. There would be no attacking, you'd just go on to the next turn where you'd do it all over again as long as you keep drawing fog cards. The new deck looked very promising, able to steamroll traditional Dark Side decks even when placed at a severe build disadvantage (we routinely tested it at 25 build). We tweaked it a little bit, and that was the deck we took to Gen Con.
The deck performed very well against the field. Teammates David Hsu, Steve Smith, and Adam Dittmer all put up respectable records at the Championships by almost exclusively playing the Light Side deck. We just couldn't beat Tuskens.
With Gen Con over, we had some time to reflect upon what we got right, and what we got wrong before the next tourney we would be attending, Dragon Con. Tusken decks were likely to be the rage, and we had to be prepared. We knew the core deck concept was a good one. Fogs plus card drawing was a devastating combination in the Light Side deck. People were happily paying two build for Seek the Council's Wisdom, when it was just as easy to drop a Peace on Naboo for free, buy another turn, gain the four force and get another build roll. That kind of ability to control the pace of the game and start fighting only when you felt you were advantaged is unbelievably powerful.
So we took a look at the different arenas. The problem wasn't in space. We were hardly ever losing space. Let's face it; something has to go terribly wrong for Light Side to lose space in the current environment. No changes were needed.
In ground, we definitely needed help. The Tusken deck was entirely too fast and too efficient at dealing damage in ground. The Mobile Artillery Divisions were solid, but entirely wrong in the Tusken matchup. Against Tuskens, we knew right away that we wanted to run Krayt Dragon. If we could just get a Dragon to attack, we felt very good about our chances of winning ground. We considered A Moment's Rest in the deck to act as extra fogs, and to guarantee Krayt Dragon got the chance to munch on some Tuskens, but ultimately we decided that Windu's Solution was a better choice since it also granted the Dragon +2 power, which provided a nice hedge against low rolls that could end your untapping fun.
Finally, even though we were able to generate a huge amount of force before fighting in character, evading just wasn't enough against the Tuskens. Tusken Raider and Kouhun were too much for our overworked Jedi to handle, so something had to change. Something we did notice was that "Pay 5 Force Deflect 2" was an incredibly strong ability. This led us to add another Mace Windu (A) and to substitute Yoda (B) for the somewhat lackluster Yoda (A). Since Vader (C) rendered our attacks ineffective against the Tusken mob, we needed some way to get the pesky Sith out of the arena. Anakin was our answer. We wound up taking out the entire Obi-Wan stack and brought in Anakin (A), (B), and (E). Since force generation was the key to everything, we also brought in a Jedi Youngling, whose extra two force a turn really adds up when you're fogging several turns in a row before the fighting even starts.
So, here's the deck we ran at Dragon Con:
We were confident with the deck going into the tourney. The turnout at Dragon Con wasn't quite what we would have liked, but the deck performed exactly as we'd hoped it would. Bin Chen, Steve Smith, Adam Dittmer, and myself all ran the deck, along with a modified version of Mike Bickford's Dark Side Tusken deck. All four of us made top eight. Adam, Steve, and myself advanced to top four. And I managed to beat out Adam in the finals 2 games to 1. I played the Light Side deck all three finals games, with both my wins coming after bidding the Light Side deck down to 27.
So, it worked. One thing I can now confidently say about this deck is that it beats the Tusken deck consistently. You have an awesome array of weapons to use against the Tusken deck, and all you need to do is get one to work. What weapons, you ask?
First off, you get to auto-win space. That means you want to put out one and only one unit in space during setup. Obi-Wan's Starfighter (B) is ideal, but any of the units with evade are fine. Auto-winning space means you only have to win either ground or character. That gives you the luxury of picking which other arena you have the strongest weapons for, and acting accordingly.
In character, you're looking to go with one of two plans. Both plans require a decent amount of force, so keep that in mind. You'll want to abuse every trick the deck has to gain force before initiating either plan. The first plan is to get a unit with "Pay 5 Force Deflect 2" into the arena, then turn their own damage back on them. Almost every unit they run in character has a health of 2 or less, so picking a target for the deflect damage isn't always easy. I can say, however, that most of the time you're going to want the Tusken Raiders dead first. If that's not an option, you'll probably want to take out the Kouhuns. The other plan is to get an Anakin into the arena along with at least one other Jedi, contest Vader out of the arena, and hack the Tusken army into little pieces. It's amazing how fragile the Tusken character arena is without Vader there to soak up the attacks. Also, even though it's not something you should plan for (as it comes up very seldom), remember that Yoda (C) can use his lightning ability without Vader being able to intercept (since it's not an attack).
In ground your main plan is to get a Krayt Dragon to attack and single-handedly annihilate the entire Tusken team. Since they run Pilot's Dodges and Dark Dreams, it's not the easiest task as they force you to do at least two more damage than the attacked unit's remaining health if you want to be safe. If you set up properly, however, you can pull off the victory in ground consistently. One trick I like to use to "soften up" their units, lessening the chance of a Pilot's Dodge ruining your fun, is to use Rebel Armored Freerunners in conjunction with Peace on Naboo to sneak in free damage in the turns prior to your big attack. Remember, the Freerunner's "tap to deal three damage" ability is not an attack. That means that if your Freerunner is the first unit up in combat, you can use its ability, deal three damage, and then play Peace on Naboo to prevent them from counterattacking. Be careful during the softening process that you don't make the mistake of putting nonlethal damage on Tusken units while there's a Tusken Camp out. If they have a Camp out, either just kill a unit with the three damage from the Freerunner, or spread it out on the Banthas so it'll stick. After you're ready to feed the Krayt, you have to make sure he survives long enough to attack. A single Windu's Solution is usually sufficient to make sure the Krayt goes first, but it's not uncommon at all to have two at your disposal by the time you're ready. Also, Anakin (B) is in the deck for a reason, and Krayt Dragon is one such reason. One nice little trick that comes up fairly often is to use Anakin (B)'s ability during the build phase to give a ground unit +2 power and +20 speed, then at the beginning of combat Anakin and Vader will become contested. Since Anakin (B) and Vader (C) both have the same build cost, you can always lose the bidding, allowing Anakin to safely run back to the build zone so you can use him again next turn. It's like a do-it-yourself Reserves ability. You can use that trick before the "big turn" to make sure the Freerunner goes first, enabling the Peace on Naboo trick. Sometimes you don't have the speed boost to make the Krayt go first. In those cases, you can usually get by with just preventing damage with Yoda's Interventions and Jedi Knight's Survivals. The big drawback with that is that you'll run the risk of a Dark Dreams copying one of your damage prevention cards to bring your attack to a premature halt. One final note about ground is that you'll always want to attack the unit with the least amount of health left with your Dragon. That minimizes the risk of them being able to break up your attack with a Pilot's Dodge.
Oh, and did I mention that Homing Missile is ridiculously good? The flexibility that card provides makes it almost a staple in any Light Side deck. Your list of targets goes on and on, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the Tusken matchup. It'll take out the key units like RIC-920, Tusken Raider, Tusken Sharpshooter, any of the 4/3's in ground... etc. But it's not only good against Tuskens! It kills annoyances like Nexu, IT-O Interrogator Droid, Senator Tikkes, and Tyranus's Geonosian Speeder. Yes, the dropping mechanic is silly. I guess we'll just have to deal with it though, because the card is that good.
So, there you have it. Easy enough, right? Seriously, I have played more games with this deck than any other deck since I began playing this game, and I'm still discovering new aspects I didn't see before. I've tried to give mention to most of the tricks you can use, but you really need to practice with this deck before taking it to a tournament. It will present you with a lot more options than most decks will, and making a wrong choice can easily cost you the game. With a little experience under your belt, you should be ready to go out and give the Dark Side a run for their money.
As always, questions and comments are welcomed. Just email me at Krypt0s@yahoo.com. Thanks again for reading!