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Star Wars TCG - Player Strategy

Designing a Deck Around Unfriendly Fire

Two weeks before GenCon, Joey Leake and I had just finished making our first decks that included Sith Rising. I put together the first draft for the deck, and Joey used his battle simulation program to put statistics behind the choices, and making adjustments where his program showed that a unit matchup had a different outcome than expected. We completely based our deck around unit efficiency, and at the time only threw Unfriendly Fire in the deck because "Pyroclasm for Star Wars HAS to be good."

Around that time, we decided we should prepare seriously for GenCon, and that we work with someone else to get an outside view of our builds, and so we could basically work together to create a more tuned deck for the championships. Well, in our area, the best deck builder we could think of was Steve Smith. The entire deck was built in one night; nothing was changed between when we first put the deck together and the GenCon championships itself. This was mostly due to the fact we only had a week to test it, although for that particular tournament I'm not sure we would have changed anything even looking back (it’s hard to argue with results).

We thought about how we should put our heads together to build this deck, and we finally came to a solution. Joey and I laid our deck out, Steve laid his deck out, and we sat around discussing each slot in deck. We asked each other questions about why we picked that particular unit for that slot in the deck (or that battle/mission card). Specifically, the following points were brought up:

  • What units that see a lot of play in the decks for the other side is it good against?
  • What kind of synergy does it have with the other cards in the deck?
  • How efficient is the card overall? Are there any other cards that do the same thing more efficiently?
  • How does this card affect the total build/force cost of the deck?
  • For every card we played in the deck, we spent about 5 minutes in a discussion about these factors. Some cards were obvious; they were already in both decks. Some were issues of hot debate. It also just so happened that many cards were brought up due to the fact we were playing Unfriendly Fire. What follows are examples of our discussion regarding specific cards.

    Maul's Strategy
    In my original take on the deck, I had Capture Obi-Wan in place of the Maul's Strategy. Steve's version had Maul's Strategy. The argument for Maul's Strategy was in that slot was that the difference between Light Side having 1 force versus 2 force on the first turn was tremendous. The argument for Capture Obi-Wan was two-fold. First, in general, 1 build is more valuable than 1 force. Second, in order to play Maul's Strategy, you had to play with Darth Maul (B) and Darth Maul (D). Both of those units are very unexciting overall. So, the 1 build difference plus the fact you had to play 2 poor units made me feel Capture Obi-Wan was better. The 2 factors that changed our minds about that was the fact that Unfriendly Fire could be cast on turn 1 with Maul's Strategy plus upping number of Splinter the Republics we played to help make sure we had a decent Darth Maul in play when combat rolled around made Maul's Strategy's a better choice than Capture Obi-Wan.

    Techno Union Warship
    I had these in our original build while Steve did not. There were 2 strong arguments for playing this particular unit. The first was the fact that its ability to roll 8 dice was ideal for that arena. Light Side almost always plays with Jedi Starfighters, Jedi Starfighter Scouts, and Obi-Wan's Starfighter. Most players will estimate that they will hit about 50/50, and build their deck under the assumption that something that rolls 6 dice will generally take out a 3 health unit. However, what this means is that they are wrong half the time and the unit ends up living. This is even worse for a unit like Obi-Wan's Starfighter, where 50% of the time you end up doing nothing to it. Rolling 8 dice reduces the chances of hitting for less than 3 by a great deal, and also can often mitigate damage reduction cards like Yoda’s Intervention or Pilot's Dodge. The second reason is that this unit came with 10 health and often you only had to do 1 damage to a 3 health starfighter before playing Unfriendly Fire. The ability to just roll 3 dice and have 10 health made it very survivable while providing fire support for Unfriendly Fire. The versatility in being able to provide both great support for Unfriendly Fire and being able to roll 8 dice at a starfighter when needed made this unit a great choice for the deck.

    Discussions about choices like these went around for every card we ended up playing, although for certain cards the conversation only took about 5 seconds. For example, I believe the "discussion" for Tyranus's Solar Sailer went something like this:

    "1 Solar Sailer right?"

    In the end, we came up with the decks you see in our championship decklists today. Were those choices the best choices we could have made for the tournament? Probably not. I'm sure if we analyzed what everyone else was playing we could have come up with slightly more optimal units here and there. However, in a large tournament where your opponents are going to be playing very varied decks, I think our strategy was correct in building your deck to play the most efficient units possible with emphasis on doing the best against the most efficient units from the other side. Sometimes you'll face a unit that may just happen to be superior in the matchup against the units you’re playing, but if your units are the most efficient ones possible that effect should be minimized.

    As we approach the release of A New Hope, we're finding out that the formulas and theories we applied to decks now are quickly being invalidated. New abilities like intercept and piloting add a new dynamic to card interactions and we'll have to put our heads together and hash out what we feel is the best deck for the next environment. The most important piece of advice I can give people is to communicate. One of the main reasons we feel our deck is so good is that we combined the deckbuilding knowledge of 3 people who have drastically different deckbuilding styles. We discussed and came to a universal acknowledgement of what should be in the deck and what shouldn't. Keeping an open mind between your playtesters and knowing to trust the judgement of the other people when they disagree with you is extremely important.