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Top Tier Gaming - A Fresh Approach

Star Wars Top Tier Gaming Jarrett

Star Wars: The Card Game is relatively new, and one of the major problems new card games have is that they end up having a lack of deck diversity, due to the fact there is a smaller card pool. While the card pool is growing every force pack, how is deck building going to change in a game where decks are constructed by swapping a set of six cards out in place of a traditional trading card game? Is there ever going to be a truly new deck type in the near future or are we going to be going back to the same powerful cards that have been around since the Core set? Early examples of this include the Big Red Bus Sith deck and the Smuggler’s Den deck type. These decks have been showing up at the tournaments and tearing the field apart, but they have pretty much been modified versions of core set decks, with a few exceptions. The question is, will we have to wait until a deluxe expansion to see new, original decks being piloted to success, or can it already be done? Can you break the mold and build something that looks completely different than what others have been playing, and have a tournament winning deck on your hands? Or is it just too early.

I’m going to be using the Light side for our model for our comparison. Let’s start off with the Jedi.

A typically played Jedi core set list looks like the following:

2x A Hero's Journey (1-1)
2x In You Must Go (2-1)
2x Forgotten Heroes (3-1)
2x The Secret of Yavin 4 (5-1)
2x Questionable Contacts (15-1)

This deck has staying power. They control the board and deal direct damage to your opponent’s units. Your units have protection from your opponent’s damage. C-3PO and Counter-Stroke offer some protection against the Sith’s grueling objectives, or can cancel the tempo of an Imperial Navy Build. Other early builds replaced Questionable Contacts with A Journey to Dagobah (4-1) or Last Minute Rescue (6-1), but both saw little success in tournament play. Because of Sith being so popular, people were also throwing in Jedi Training (7-1) wherever they could as Jedi Mind Trick was the one card you wanted to see all the time against the Sith, and with four of them in the deck, you could really slow the opponent down or push damage through. However, the mainstay was the list above, and it quickly become the go-to deck for the light side.

Once Desolation of Hoth hit, people saw the amazing new Jedi set – A Message from Beyond (37-1). This really helped keep your units on board and the deck saw a huge wave of being played – even to this day. The lists replaced Forgotten Heroes with A Message from Beyond due to the fact that Obi-Wan was a bit more expensive than your typical unit and was the logical choice to take out. The deck sacrificed a powerful unit for brute force in staying power. It quickly dominated the playing scene until Search for Skywalker came about. Sadly, with it being the only force pack released, it was only a supplement to the core game and not a true new decktype that came about.

Search for Skywalker saw two really useful pods that the Jedi could utilize – Preparation for Battle (45-1) and Renegade Squadron Mobilization (44-1). Some saw players swapping out A Message from Beyond for Preparation for Battle. Others saw players switching A Message from Beyond for Renegade Squadron Mobilization. Renegade Squadron Mobilization gives the deck Echo Caverns (44-5), and it can be a powerful control card against the Dark Side. Preparation for Battle gives the deck a bit of early game damage prevention and tactics to help slow the game down but doesn't feel as powerful as the Echo Caverns variant due to the fact that you may not get the objective at the start of the game. Both gave the Jedi deck some control and staying power on the field, but again, we are using the same core. Even with the addition of A Dark Time, a Jedi deck hasn't seen a better deck than this core. Do the Jedi have another viable deck type that can be compared to this gold standard? Right now, tournament results are saying no, just because what would be better than having Luke, Han, and the Guardians protecting your board? This setup ensures longevity with your units, and direct damage and control against the opponent. You just don't get that with any other Jedi pod mixture.

Rebels seem to be a bit different. Let’s take a look at a typical Rebel deck from the core set:

2x The Rebel Fleet (11-1)
2x The Defense of Yavin 4 (8-1)
2x Mission Briefing (9-1)
2x Draw Their Fire (12-1)
2x Mobilize the Squadrons (13-1)

Pushing out damage was the key to this deck. Most of your units are cheap and your few higher-cost units were easy to pay for. Any early Home One (11-2) could spell certain doom to an opponent if they didn't have an answer. Admiral Ackbar (12-2) can completely lock out a board for your attackers to push damage through. Heavy Blaster Emplacement (9-5) with Battlefield Engineers (9-3) can spell doom for an opponent with a small board. However, the big problem with a deck like this is an opposing deck full of tactics and winning offensive edge battles. The deck does get past this issue a bit with a specialized playstyle. A smart rebel player won’t wastefully attack unless they have a hand they think can win an edge battle, or separate attacks into key battles. Tactics are still an issue but you could draw a timely Covering Fire (13-6) to cope. However, once the force packs came out, the decks slowly evolved to include some resistance to these issues.

When Desolation of Hoth was released, Hoth Operations (38-1) felt like the much needed card to help combat these issues. Rogue Three (38-3) was a unit that not only had a cheaper cost, 3 health, and 2 non-edge blast damage, but it could also combo well with The Defense of Yavin IV objective set for some explosive damage. And then if you added in Fleeing the Empire, in place of Draw Their Fire, and the deck had some shielding to take on an opponent’s tactics.

2x Hoth Operations (38-1)
2x The Defense of Yavin 4 (8-1)
2x Mission Briefing (9-1)
2x Fleeing the Empire (10-1)
2x Mobilize the Squadrons (13-1)

Still, this was really a core set at heart. Just the addition of one force pack took the deck from playable on a good draw, to consistent. By time Search for Skywalker came out, the surprise factor for a deck like this on the metagame was gone, and people were prepared. Search for Skywalker had two pods that would change how the light side played their games – Renegade Squadron Mobilization and Preparation for Battle. The deck swapped out Mission Briefing for the amazing staying power of Preparation for Battle that gave the deck consistent tactic and shielding, but could also swap Mobilize the Squadron for Renegade Squadron Mobilization. Both versions saw success and both relied more on force packs than core set cards, and both made the rebels a threat.

Looking at A Dark Time, it looks like the rebels got something else. We finally see a successful deck that isn't mainly core cards. Tiny Grimes recently piloted his “Untouchables” deck to a win at a recent tournament, and with good reason – the deck was less reliant on winning edge battles unless they were important and the rebels gained some new protection. The deck is as follows:

2x The Rebel Fleet (11-1)
2x Preparation for Battle (45-1)
2x The Defense of Yavin 4 (8-1)
2x Hoth Operations (38-1)
2x Prepare for Evacuation (49-1)

Notice that we finally have a build that is mainly not Core set cards? This is nice and refreshing as it also feels completely different than a core set Rebel deck and is our first truly new deck. This deck has a ton of non-edge blast damage, and it doesn't have to worry as much about winning edge battles (but still does have to worry about tactic units like Emperor Palpatine). This is a taste of what the future has in store for this game, and it excites me to see that we're going to have multiple ways to building competitive decks and having them be viable.

So, the answer to our question seems to be yes – it’s possible to build a competitive deck without core set as the main focus, but it’s going to be a little bit before we see completely different things being done with the decks in this game. The biggest example was the Rebels. They were sort of on the verge of unplayable at the start of the game, but because of the Force packs, they've been a growing force that is only supplemented by core set cards. Jedi, however, remains pretty much the same from the core – Luke, Han, and Guardians. The cards this decktype have seen only add to an existing strong decktype. The core is really where the power is and the new additions only enhance them. At this time, Smugglers and Spies really only can be a splashed in a decks, but the power they add to those decks is amazing, and worth the splash.

Sith hasn’t really seen anything outside of The Killing Cold that changes how it plays – unless you’re mixing in Navy affiliation but even then the decks are mainly core set cards. Heck, you could get away with running a pure Core set Sith deck and run fine. The navy has pretty much seen the same types of decks in tournament play that it has before, only enhanced with newer cards. TIE’s seems to be pretty much the same list as it was before, maybe with the inclusion of Deploy the Fleet or A Dark Time for the Rebellion. Trooper decks are there, but really haven’t gotten anything outside of Lord Vader’s Command. A Hoth deck is there, and can be very powerful and fast, but sometimes it relies too much on getting the right objectives out at the right time. Scum and Villainy is pretty much unplayable at this point – the cards in their pods seem to point towards a decktype that isn’t quite there yet, and can only be something that is geared towards the future.

So with this in mind I want to challenge you, the reader, to look outside these prebuilt cores and see if you can create something that is different and just as viable. Part of the challenge is due to how the decks are constructed in the first place – the objective pod system is a little limited on creativity, and it’s easy to just keep updating decks by swapping out one or two objectives, here or there. But take a fresh approach to your deck building and you can be the next big event winner.


4 Comments

Nice article.

I think Jedi and Sith decks aren't branching out as much from the core decks because of the limited number of resource generating cards. If they throw some more Sith Libraries or Degobah Training Gounds into the new sets, you'll see people be more willing to try out more builds. But to give up a Luke, Yoda, Han AND lose a resource generating enhancement is a tall order.

On the other hand, you have Navy. They are breaking out and I'm seeing all kinds of builds that don't look like anything from the core set. But again, the big reason for that is Deploy the Fleet and its resource generating cards like Death Squadron Command.
Great article, well written.

DS Troopers/Walkers seem to get a boost in A Dark Time along with the upcoming packs: hopefully that will make for a competitive Navy alternative to TIE/Destroyers :)
Good overview. I'm hopeful that the first big box expansion will open the builds a lot more, so that we don't see the same variations on core deck builds as much.
I like that Navy "trooper" build is moving in a direction of pure "charecter" resource cards will make it week to Han and jedi but will give great strength to new cards like the turbo lazer battery