Ever since The Phantom Menace was released in theaters in 1999, I’ve been fascinated with droids. So, when the expansion set The Phantom Menace was released in 2004 for the Star Wars Trading Card Game, I began work on my very own droid deck. It didn’t take me long to realize if you wanted to stand a chance with droids, the deck needed a Trade Federation theme.
I’ll begin where I typically begin my articles, in the Character arena. Undoubtedly, the most important factor in the Trade Federation deck is the slimy Neimodian himself, Nute Gunray (C). He reduces the build cost of all of your Trade Federation units by 1 and gives all of your Trade Federation units Pay 0 Force Intercept. Although the reduction of 1 build doesn’t seem like too big of a deal, when combined with the location Trade Federation Hangar, it instantly becomes fierce. With both out at the same time, it lowers all of your Trade Federation droids' build cost by 2. Once again, this 2-build reduction may not seem too great, but when you have several 2-build Trade Federation droids in your deck and you can deploy them for free, it becomes quite powerful.
Rune Haako (A) -- Rune and Nute are sort of like bread and butter. Rune Haako (A) has the unique ability to Pay 0 Force Retreat. Yeah, big deal, right? Well, it isn’t necessarily just that ability that makes this Neimodian phenomenal. He also has the ability to tap, draw two cards and discard two cards, unless one of them is Trade Federation. If Nute Gunray (C) is in play along with him, he draws cards, intercepts an attack, and then retreats without even taking any damage.
When I first constructed this deck, I kept running out of little 2-build units and soon after depleted my entire hand. I needed more drawing power, and that's exactly what I found in the units Battle Protocol Droid (A) and Infantry Battle Droid, B1 Series. They are both 2 build (meaning they deploy for free when Nute and the Trade Federation Hangar are in play), and when they're discarded, you get to draw one or two cards. They can be discarded by intercepting an attack to save Nute, playing Departure Time to gain build, or even by playing another Battle Protocol Droid (A) into play.
The Trade Federation MTT is the very unit that gets this deck going. Normally, it would cost you 6 build, but when you have the Nute and Trade Federation Hangar combo discussed earlier in play, you get 10 speed, 4 power, 4 health, and armor for 4 build. Also, when the MTT is deployed, you get the chance to search your deck for three Trade Federation droids. When you're playing 2-build droids for free, this really comes in handy. You can get any three droids you want out of your deck, but I generally like to get two 2-build droids along with another MTT to get even more droids.
The Trade Federation STAP is solid. The best thing about this card is that it costs only 2 build -- meaning it deploys for free. It has 50 speed, 2 power, 1 health, and the kicker, accuracy 1. Basically, it's a dependable swarm unit that worked well with the deck.
The Patrol Mode Vulture Droid also contributes its part to this type of deck's strengths. For 7 build, you get 20 speed, 8 power, 8 health, accuracy 1, and shields 1. But in a Trade Federation deck, you get all of that for 5 build, making this card an absolute monster.
The Walking Droid Starfighter is in this deck for one reason and one reason only: stalling. The simple fact that this unit (well, if two are out at the same time, which is made easy with MTTs) can single-handedly stall the Space arena is amazing.
Blockade Battleship is the big dog of the Space arena. For 8 build, you get 20 speed, 8 power, and 8 health, and your opponent can't retreat. It makes a great interceptor for your smaller, valuable units.
The Trade Federation Droid Bomber is a swarm-type unit that's quick with 60 speed and has bombard. Although it costs 3 build, when Hoth System is in play, it deploys for free.
When I was playing with this deck, the Droid Starfighter DFS-1VR seemed a perfect fit. It was a 2-build swarm unit with a potential big bite. The ability to get +5 power and do 1 damage to itself (which usually results in casualty) makes it a little beast.
Battle cards are like magnets. Put them together the right way, and you get a tightly unified deck. Put them together the wrong way, and they'll push your deck apart. The first and seemingly most important battle card for this deck is Dark Sacrifice. The ability to discard one of your units from an arena (particularly Blockade Battleship, Trade Federation MTT, or Patrol Mode Vulture Droid) to give all of your other units +X power is amazing -- especially when Trade Federation Droid Bombers, Trade Federation STAPs, or Starfighter DFS-1VRs gain the bonus.
Imperial Misdirection has helped me win many times with this deck. Being able to move large amounts of damage from bigger units onto the smaller, free, swarm units is a great tool.
Of course, these battle cards probably wouldn’t get you anywhere without the support of Dismiss. To me, this is a better fit for this deck than, say, Change in Destiny, primarily because Dismiss is more versatile. The only downside is the fact that you have to discard a card, but that's not really a problem with this deck.
All three of the mission cards in this deck -- Departure Time, Hatch a Clone, and Take the Initiative -- seem to make the deck go round and round until your opponent can’t take the beating any longer. You can discard a unit (which you generally played for free) to gain build or draw cards, and then play Hatch a Clone and Take the Initiative to return the discarded card (along with other discarded units) back into your hand. The three mission cards seem to give you an endless supply of droids, and can make or break the game.
Locations in this deck are extremely important. Earlier, I discussed the importance of the Trade Federation Hangar and mentioned Hoth System. I threw that one in mainly to protect you from other locations such as Asteroid Field, which could seriously ruin your day.
In setup, the most important card to get out is Nute Gunray (C). If you don’t draw him in your initial hand of seven, mulligan one or two. If you still don’t have him, begin building with some smaller units to cycle through your deck.
Never deploy a Trade Federation MTT in setup. I generally end my build step with three or four build counters on an MTT so that I can deploy it in the first round to draw more droids.
After you play about ten games with this deck, you should get the hang of how the Trade Federation works. Happy playtesting, and may the Force be with you!
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