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Return of the Jedi: Limited

"Limited." You may have noticed the word cropping up from time to time, as in: "This is a very average card, but in Limited it can be utterly dominant." But what exactly is "Limited"? Simply put, it's the best way to play the Star Wars Trading Card Game.

(Message boards flooded by response. Wizards of the Coast staff members shaking their heads as the mailbags pile up by the front doors.)

Hold on, hear me out.

In the Star Wars TCG, there are two formats. What we are used to playing is the Constructed format, which means turning up at a tournament with decks carefully pieced together from our collections and finely-tuned over weeks of play.

Don't get me wrong; this is heaps of fun and immensely challenging. Your decks have to be versatile and able to take on Location-based strategies, Mission-based win conditions, and uber-single unit powerhouses. To be good at Constructed, you have to be innovative and able to field a deck that has multiple ways to win.

Then you have Limited. Leave those Princess Leia (G)'s and Nexus at home, because in this format, you turn up to an event without a single card. The Limited format is so much fun because everyone starts off in the same place -- with nothing.

Packs of Fun

There are two types of Limited tournaments: sealed and draft.

In a sealed tournament, each player receives five boosters of their choice, and it's from these that a deck is made.

In a draft tournament, each player chooses four boosters and opens just the first, choosing a single card before passing the rest of the pack to the person on their left. Each player chooses a single card from those passed to them until there are none left. Then, the next pack is opened and it all begins again, but this time passing the cards to the person on your right. When the last booster has been drafted, you have your pool of cards to make your deck from.

Why is this so much fun?

You have no idea what's going to happen! What cards could you open from the boosters you have picked? What is going to be passed to you? What strategies are you going to use to help you win, and what are your opponents up to?

Before we go there, we need to bear in mind that the rules for Limited are quite different than the rules for Constructed.
Now all you have to do is make a deck out of all this!

First of all, you only need to build a single deck. That's right, Jedi mud-wrestling fans, one deck. In Limited, you can play both Light Side and Dark Side cards in your deck! Darth Maul can fight back-to-back with Yoda, and the Millennium Falcon can orbit a Death Star without fear of getting pulled inside! Just remember that the normal rules for unique units still apply, so don't rely on a stacked Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker two-punch to take out the Character arena!

Even though both players have just a single deck, someone still needs to be the Dark Side, and someone still needs to be the Light Side -- someone still must roll for build points, after all, and remember that the Dark Side player wins all ties. (In Limited, everyone wants to be Dark Side!)

Your deck size is also different, with 30 cards as the minimum size. What about the rest of the cards you have drafted/opened? Well, these form what's called a sideboard. This is an extra pool of cards that you can draw from after the first game, enabling you to fine-tune your deck against each opponent. Just remember that your deck needs to be reset to its pre-sideboard look before you start your next round.

The other fundamental difference in Limited is with your arenas. In Constructed, you must have at least 12 units for any arena, and no arena can have more than double the units of another. But in Limited, you can do whatever you want. To win, you still have to control two or more arenas, but you don't have to do anything about the third. No good Ground units coming your way during the draft? Don't worry about it; take all Space and Character units instead!

Planning, Scheming and Building

Limited play involves plenty of strategy.

First is choosing your battles. You don't have to contest all three arenas, so unless you have some great tricks and units that can single-handedly hold an arena (like Trade Federation Battleship Core), don't try. Concentrate on your strengths, and add support units that give build/Force/card drawing, etc., rather than moving into that third space. Your set-up investment needs to be in an arena you're going to contest, and when you only have 30 cards, each needs to earn its place.

In draft tournaments, notice what is being passed. Great, you first picked a Millennium Falcon, but don't fixate on it. If you are being passed lots of Ground and Character units, take the hint and shift to these arenas.
What would you choose?

And then there is Force. You get huge amounts of it. Odds are that unless you are heavily into Jedi Characters or evading Space units, within a few turns your Force total will soar beyond 20 points. Rather than an annoyance, see this for the opportunity it is. Those ridiculously expensive Battle cards are suddenly playable, and just look at what you can do with Return of the Jedi's new Hidden Cost mechanic and Force-related effects such as Force Lightning.

On that point, take notice of Battle cards -- especially damage prevention and disrupts. Unless there are lots of the same boosters in circulation, you will not get many opportunities to take Strange Lodgings, Human Shield, Discuss It in Committee, or Change in Destiny cards. Grab them while you can, as they can dramatically shift the balance of power in a tightly contested battle.

Try a Limited Tournament

Well, I hope you liked this quick glance into the Limited format. If you get a chance, ask your store to put on a sealed or draft tournament to celebrate the release of the Return of the Jedi expansion set. It's a great way to discover the new cards as well as build your collection. (Official tournament rules may be read here.)

SW:TCG Character Poll

November 2nd, elections were held -- between the Light Side, Dark Side and Neutral Characters. The final results are as follows, with Vader (K) once more dominating the field. Our thanks to everyone who particpated!

Version Votes Percentage
Darth Vader (K) 313 52.7%
Boba Fett (G) 187 31.5%
Luke Skywalker (E) 94 15.8%
Totals: 594 100%

Thoughts or comments? Visit the message board thread for this article here.