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abUse the Force - The Emperor's Hand

Star Wars abUse the Force divinityofnumber

Greetings, everyone. Thank you for reading another edition of abUse the Force. As the brief description said, this week we are focusing on the new objective set The Emperor’s Hand. Those of us who have read The Thrawn Trilogy were of course delighted to see Mara Jade appear on the core set cards Force Stasis and The Hand’s Blessing, and are now excited to see her get her own card as a unit.

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First, let’s discuss the pros and cons of the objective itself. Being a “Limit one per objective deck” (L1POD), there is no way to achieve maximum consistency with this objective set; there will never be more than one of each of these cards floating around within your deck of 50. Yes, there are two Agent of the Hand cards, so you will see those with the same frequency that you see other cards that are only 1x in their respective objective sets, given that you are running 2x of said set. The main point here is that we must consider that Join Me and Mara Jade will be 1x in your deck, if you include this objective set.

The five damage capacity and one resource are standard and unremarkable. The objective’s ability has obvious pros and cons in 2v2 play: if you do not play cards from your common reserve, you are more likely to win a force struggle – but, if you don’t play cards from your common reserve, you are giving up board position or edge battle strength. Sith are good at keeping a big fist full of cards. So, it is often that one or both DS common reserve cards are not essential to having a good turn as DS. A good Sith strategy with this objective in play would be to drop a couple of decent units, and maybe a minor supporting unit, keep your hands of 4-5 cards, take the force, and pass the turn. Then, when the LS attempts to push through, you can defend with your wall of units, depleting your hands in edge battles, but trying not to use the cards in common reserve unless absolutely necessary, and then taking back the force with the benefits provided by The Emperor’s Hand objective.

In 1v1 play the ability on this objective is useless. But, it has the Coruscant trait, so it can be protected with Coruscant Defense Fleet, if you are also running The Heart of the Empire. Given that spoilers have revealed some forthcoming DS cards that grant special benefits if you can hold on to the force, the ability on The Emperor’s Hand is likely to increase in power and usefulness in the near future, but only in 2v2 play, obviously.

Is this card, in and of itself, a good 1v1 card? No. Not only is it a L1POD objective, limiting consistency, its ability is useless, and it provides nothing beyond the standard five damage capacity and one resource. It is a Coruscant objective, so can be protected with Coruscant Defense Fleet, if you run Heart of the Empire. But, that is, of course, not a major benefit.

Next, let’s talk about Agent of the Hand. As I always say, a mediocre or bad 2x can break an objective set; it makes up 40 percent of the cards in the set (not counting the objective itself), so it had better be at least tolerable. First, this card is 3-cost and neutral. The price tag of three resources means that Sleuth Scouts and Blockade Runners will slip by this unit all day long. Compared to some of the LS 3-cost options such as Yoda and Chewbacca, Agent of the Hand appears underwhelming. In 1v1 play, this card is downright bad. In 1v1, if you happen to take control of a LS unit while it is in play, you can remove a focus token from it. That means that if Agent of the Hand is in play, and if you take control of a LS unit, you can remove a focus token from it, if there is one on it. This just is not a good card for 1v1 play. 2v2 is a different story. In 2v2 players take control of units and play cards from each other’s common reserve nearly every turn, making Agent of the Hand a reusable attacker or defender. Even though this is a nice 2v2 ability, this card is still expensive. This card seems like a great mid- to late-game play for the DS in 2v2. Agent of the Hand is far from a game changer, but she does give your LS opponents another moving piece to contend with. Given that Agent of the Hand is a 2x in this objective set, I would really think twice about running The Emperor’s Hand in 1v1 play. The two force icons could be the thing that makes this objective playable in 1v1. As we will discuss, Mara Jade and Join Me, and Supporting Fire are good cards, but Agent of the Hand drags this set down when it comes to 1v1 play.

Join Me is a great card. The effect is powerful and it is cheap to play. The first thing that came to my mind was how nice it would be to take control of a Guardian of Peace. Taking control of a minor LS unit can be a devastating effect. The best targets for Join Me, in my opinion, are Twi’lek Loyalist, Twi’lek Smuggler, Guardian of Peace, Wookie Warrior, Cloud City Operative, or a Renegade Squadron Operative. If you are desperate, you could confiscate an awful unit, such as an Ewok Scout or a Rookie Pilot. Taking control of a LS unit that has a tactics icon is powerful for the Sith, who are great at winning edge battles. Likewise, denying the LS one of their supporting characters with the Protect keyword can be powerful. As the card pool grows, there will be better targets for Join Me. With Vader in play Join Me could potentially kill off one minor unit and give you control of another. And, since Vader’s ability is a reaction, you can steal a character with protect and then put the damage from Vader’s ability on a more valuable LS unit. As things are at the moment, I think that Join Me is an excellent card in 1v1 or 2v2 play.

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Now let’s look at the superstar of the set, Mara Jade herself. For those who are curious, the Aurebesh text on the neon sign in the background reads, “Th…Ranco…Pit”, which is obviously The Rancor Pit. Sounds like a fun bar. Given Mara’s story [I will not spoil anything for those who have not read The Thrawn Trilogy], this is a nice piece of flavor. The artwork here is great. My only complaint is that she seems a bit too small on the card. It might have been nice to have more of a close-up, something akin to Luke Skywalker (Core).

Mara has Targeted Strike, which is a big deal. Targeted Strike is very powerful. She has but a single unit damage, but that could be enough to put that one last damage through on a battle torn Luke, Han, Home One, etc. Furthermore, Mara Jade’s icons are all black, which we like to see. Sith are usually good about winning edge battles. But, Mara’s non-edge-dependent icons can come in quite handy in many situations in which the outcome of the edge battle is less certain for the Sith. Mara has an ability similar to that of Luke Skywalker (Core); you may remove a focus token from her after your turn ends. This is essentially equivalent to having elite, given that no other card effects act on her. That is to say that you can have her committed to the force, strike with her, and have her ready again on your next turn, if she does not receive any additional focus tokens. The other half of her ability, “you may give control of this unit to another friendly player” is obviously worthless in 1v1 play. It needs to be noted that, in 2v2 play, the DS team has its turn, and the LS takes its turn as a team also; individual players do not have turns in 2v2. So, you cannot deploy Mara Jade as DS Player 1, attack with her, and the send her over to your teammate ready to go within that same DS turn. You do not have a turn as an individual player. But, you could deploy Mara Jade, attack with her, and then give control of her to your teammate as the DS turn ends, leaving her eligible to defend on the LS turn. This creates another moving piece for the LS team to have to consider. Because of this ability, Mara Jade will truly shine in 2v2, as she was meant to. Not to worry, however; we will soon see a more solid 1v1 version of Mara Jade.

What do we say about Supporting Fire? From the Balance of the Force rules document we read, “The term ‘friendly’ applies to a player himself and to his teammate(s), but not to his opponents.” So, you can drop Supporting Fire into an edge stack and then add in another non-fate card of your own as Supporting Fire resolves. This is a nice effect, a fate card that allows you to place more into an edge battle post facto. But, I would rather have a solid edge card itself than a card that lets me put another card in. In 2v2 this really shines, in 1v1 not as much, although it still has the ability to grant some surprise edge battle wins. The ability to see what was revealed in the edge stack, and then add a card after the fact to give yourself the edge battle win is amazing and powerful. For instance, if you are worried about losing your Emperor Palpatine to a Twist of Fate, you could put Supporting Fire in, and then, once you see that there was no Twist of Fate revealed, throw in your edge stack beast for the win. Supporting Fire is a lot of fun in 2v2 play, and also has its uses in 1v1 play.

The Verdict
So, is The Emperor's Hand worth a slot in a 1v1 deck? Let's make an old-school pros and cons list, although cognitive psychology research has shown that this is generally a poor way to make decisions, given no weighing of individual items.

1) Mara Jade is a good card. Three force icons, loses a focus token at the end of your turn, has targeted strike, and all of her icons are black.
2) Join Me has the ability to affect the board more than one might think at first glance. Stealing a Guardian of Peace, a Wookie Warrior, or one of the Twi'lek can be great, especially if you also get to trigger Vader's ability while doing it.
3) Supporting Fire allows you to watch out for Twist of Fate before tossing your Executor, Emperor, or Vader into an edge stack. This can be quite important and powerful.

1) The objective is substandard in 1v1 play. It is a standard 5-1 with no ability in a 1v1 game. Given that The Emperor's Hand is a L1POD objective, you will never have to choose it when first selecting objectives. But, it could hit the board later in the game as a replacement for some other destroyed objective.
2) The Agent of the Hand is seriously underwhelming in 1v1 play; this is edge fodder, mostly. It has low health, bad icons, and is expensive.
3) This is closely related to item 2, but the fact that Agent of the Hand is a 2x in this set drags it down even more in a 1v1 setting.

The fact is that Join Me, Supporting Fire, and Mara Jade are good cards in 1v1. But, the objective itself and the two Agent of the Hand units are just plain bad in 1v1, which means that 50% of the cards in the set are bad in a 1v1 environment. Are Mara, Join Me, and Supporting Fire good enough to make up for Agent of the Hand and the lack of any ability on the objective in 1v1 mode? Discuss in the comments!

I think it is quite obvious that this set is great for a 2v2 DS deck. Is there anyone out there who does not think that this set is worth adding to a DS 2v2 build?

Thank you for reading abUse the Force!

Interested in writing some Star Wars strategy articles? Contact Darksbane with your ideas!
  • admiralacf likes this


I know I won't be playing it in 1v1...
Dec 24 2013 02:28 PM
1v1. In a straight Sith build, the objective is never going to contend with any of the other possibilities, so the real question is the same as many other pods; Is it worth two bad cards to get three good cards in a deck?
I think Mara Jade functions as a poor man's 3rd Vader when it comes to Sith taking down objectives. Given, Executor does pretty well. But, on the bright side, Vader's light saber isn't an auto edge or discard if Mara is on the board. I won't be surprised to see this objective in some winning 1v1 deck lists.

Finally, if the community can ever agree upon a good draft variant for this game, this set becomes very, very good.
Sith not only received the worst pod for 1v1 in BotF, but arguably had the best objective selection already. This makes The Emperor's Hand a suboptimal choice.
Regarding the good cards in the set...

1. Mara is very strong, being able to apply pressure to the opponent objectives WHILE being able to defend as well on the next turn. Honestly, I wouldn't ever commit her unless absolutely necessary.

2. Join Me is yet more strength against characters deck, which Sith doesn't really need. Great card regardless.

3. Supporting Fire is amazing. But with Sith being the faction that plays the most ToF overall, I feel they don't get as much utility from Supporting Fire as the other factions.
Not worth it in 1v1, clearly. Likewise really great in 2s. The previewed Mara in the next arc of packs is clearly better in just about every way in 1v1, and probably 2s as well. Is too bad, Join Me is so good its not really even funny. Really, the derp being horribad in 1s is what kills it. I could have lived with getting a blank objective here/there if the pod on the whole was better.
If the agents of the hand were a 2 cost, I would run this set every day. I'm also not a fan of Join Me, it only works in your deploy phase, and only a non-unique character. It's way too restrictive.
Dec 24 2013 07:32 PM

If the agents of the hand were a 2 cost, I would run this set every day. I'm also not a fan of Join Me, it only works in your deploy phase, and only a non-unique character. It's way too restrictive.

That is exactly where my thinking kept leading me. 3-cost for such a bad card in 1v1, and the fact that there are two of them, and the fact that the objective itself is useless in 1v1 just kind of sinks the pod for 1v1. Agent of the Hand is more useful in 2v2, but still expensive.
It's really a shame that the set is unplayable in 1v1 because I really wanted to use Mara, she's one of my favorite EU characters. Perhaps this will get me to play some extra 2v2.
The Agents would be too good in 2v2 at 2 resources. The agents should be removing multiple focus each turn. They are also neutral so you can pass the 2nd one to your teammate.

The Agents would be too good in 2v2 at 2 resources. The agents should be removing multiple focus each turn. They are also neutral so you can pass the 2nd one to your teammate.

Oh I'd agree with that much. Still, they should probably get a black blast icon to match the Wolfmen from the Jedi set. I still wouldn't be happy to play them in 1v1, but at least they'd be playable.
Mara Jade has targeted strike. That is a pretty good reason to include her in a deck. Add to that her Luke like ability to attack and defend, all black icons including tactics and she can't be killed with one rebel assault and she is a pretty awesome unit for 4.

Supporting Fire is fine and Join Me is still good. Think of it as a unit and not a trick, except it is a trick because it steals one of their characters. Even against a vehicle deck this is probably useful because the only characters vehicle decks are likely to play are non-unique.

I would say that this means you have 4 units in the pod but the Agents of the Hand are a bit too expensive for 1v1 unless you have nothing else. The 3 cost means they can't block sleuths either.

I'm sure that Mara is enough of a reason to try this pod in 1v1. It might not fit every deck but it will be pretty useful in the right one.

It would have been really nice and both this set and the Jedi set actually had 2 copies of the mains. It works even better here, 2 Mara's and 1 Agent would have been much better, maybe too good because it only costs 1 objective slot to get 2 Mara's. But I really feel that both this Mara and the new Obi-wan could be the backbones of a some pretty neat decks, but when you only have 1 copy you just can't rely on that which is a shame.