by David Tietze
(editor’s note: David is our newest staff writer. David has only been playing the game for a year and secured two Top Cut finishes in Regionals this season.)
The Jedi affiliation possesses some of the strongest objective sets in the game. With the Rogue Squadron cycle, Rebel decks now have some interesting cards to the mix as well. In turn, many competitive players have been searching for a viable solution to their light side counterpart. In a recent sampling of the top cut in a regional here in Texas, light side (comprised solely of Jedi or Jedi/Smuggler) won over 80% of the matches in the initial rounds. Dark side sneaked in just under 50%. This leaves many players questioning their DS deck, as well as the overall game state and in some cases.
This has been a massive problem. Recent attendance of Star Wars LCG tournaments has declined substantially over the last year despite rumors that the game is one of Fantasy Flight Games’ top selling games. This leads us to one of several conclusions:
1. People are only playing the game at home with friends/family on a “game night”
2. There are more overall regionals and players are only attending 1 regional a year
3. The rumors are inaccurate
An alternative view suggests that the ability to win consistently with the dark side would allow a player to make and compete in the top cut on the competitive level. The purpose of this article is to examine the dark side affiliations and explore potential playing options for those not quite ready to put their cards up for auction.
Many players have fallen back to what is familiar. Initially, the dark side was extremely powerful with the core set objective triumvirate of Emperor’s Web, Fall of the Jedi, and Counsel of the Sith dominating the play scene. Events are the core of this faction build, with the main characters abilities enhancing their play. Since then, the objective sets of Plan of the Prophetess, Scouring the Empire, and Agent of the Emperor have seen play as part of the character and event driven Sith deck. A sample deck may look something like:
Fall of the Jedi x 2
Emperor’s Web x 2
Plan of the Prophetess x 2
The Executor Arrives x 2
Counsel of the Sith x 2
Issues that this faction sees on a consistent basis are getting overwhelmed by a Jedi deck with tactics icons. Another issue is that the Jedi faction also now has quick strike ability not allowing for the Sith to gain control of a board before it gets locked down. With the limited ability to remove focus tokens (ie Rage), players get frustrated when their units are buried under a sea of focus tokens. Additionally, the May the Force Be With You objective set has made keeping the force more difficult as well as allow for Yoda to enter play readily as an action. As a single card, Yoda is able to counteract the Sith deck’s goals by holding the force, controlling the board and win edge consistently.
Navy may be the most fun dark side faction to play. Many beginning players enjoy the “fun and gun” aspect to the Navy deck with the philosophy of the secret to a good defense being a good offense. Filled with low cost units (and the ability to make high cost units low cost) and an army of blast icons, players can either choose from troopers and fighters to capital ships and AT ATs. The goals to this deck build are very simple – strike and destroy before your opponent does. A sample deck may look something like:
The Empire’s Elite x 2
Defending the Trench x2
Guarding the Wing x 2
Black Squadron Formation x 2
Black Squadron Assault x 1
The Emperor’s Sword x 1
Issues with this build include winning the force struggle and winning edge battles. This victory or death philosophy puts navy builds into a tough situation. As each objective for the light side is destroyed, the death star dial only clicks up by the number of objectives destroyed. So, if the death star dial is at 6, the dark side player would need to blow up three objectives that turn to win the game (even if one objective was already destroyed). Additionally, an over aggressive strategy can lead the navy deck vulnerable to targeted attack by the Luke from A Hero’s Journey and a well-placed Size matters not event card.
(editor’s note: this article was written just prior to Attack Run’s release, which has added the capture and pilot ability of Boba Fett – those deck concepts aren’t on display here)
It can easily be seen why a favorite faction of many players is that of Scum for the Dark side. A diverse faction including pirates, bounty hunters and gangsters; the hallmark of the scum decks is the ability to capture. This ability is meant to delay the game, limiting your opponent’s options and sometimes winning by forcing your opponent to draw from an empty card pool. With events that switch edge stacks, objectives and enhancements that increase objective damage and capture enhancement events like the Utinni!, it can easily be seen why many experienced players have turned to the Scum affiliation for their choice dark side deck. A sample deck may look something like:
The Hunters x 2
The Slave Trade x 2
The Tatooine Crash x 2
Jabba’s Orders x 2
The Findsman’s Institution x 2
Issues with this build once again include the overwhelming board presence of the Jedi . Against a Jedi deck, Scum will have issues with winning edge battles and holding the force. It should be noted that Scum do offer a lot in terms of board control with the ability to lock down units with tactics instead of destroying them, however, with MTFBWY all focus tokens placed are instantly cleaned away and a unit is ready for another engagement. Another option for Jedi include the Hero’s and Legend’s objective set which allow a player to switch out mains without worry they will get locked down.
The upcoming (editor’s note: now released) release of the Attack Run pack has many clinging to hope that the new Darth Vader and Boba Fett sets will turn the tide in favor of the Dark Side. Playing off the rest of the pod, each of these cards is a pilot and each comes with their piloted vehicle. Abilities for the two mains include canceling all card effects, including fate cards, during an engagement (Vader) and capture (Fett). The synergistic nature of Vader with Guarding the Wing and Fett with Training Procedures is encouraging to say the least.
Perhaps the solution to dominating the Light Side doesn’t exist in an objective set, but more of a fundamental look at the rules themselves. One player suggests that if you destroy an objective with captured cards, those cards should be discarded. His reasoning is:
“If you blow up the Death Star and Leia is on board, she dies along with everyone else. It doesn’t make sense that once you blow up the death star she would magically float through space fully intact then be able to start fighting again.”
…and he has a point. Perhaps the capture mechanic should be a devastating part of the game. Then cards like Renegade Squadron and the rescue mechanic would see more play as well as maintain a strong theme from the Star Wars series.
Several players have proposed an event cancel card for the dark side not unlike Imperial Suppression in Lord Vader’s Command. The largest drawback to Imperial Suppression is that it only delays the event being played instead of completely discarding it. This event card canceling could easily fit into either Sith or Scum factions and may be needed in both. With the ability to cancel Yoda, You Seek Yoda and Desperation, the Dark side would have a chance to maintain control of a board once they obtain it.
Another area of concern is that of the identity of the factions themselves. Recently the Sith have added pods that capture and discard similar to Scum builds. In the sake of fairness, it would not be wise for each of the factions to lose what makes them so unique. The challenge for FFG in this case may be to strengthen on the existing working mechanics for the factions while still maintain the relevance of their older cards.
It is best to be patient. Throughout the game, different factions have seen their time in the sun; initially with Sith then to Smugglers now in Jedi. Core set objective sets are still seeing play on both sides of the table. Perhaps, with the new box expansion, the new Tarkin objective set will make Navy the new “broken” faction and players will be clamoring for a light side equivalent. It is also my opinion that this “Jedi problem” has made me a much better player as I have had to think and rethink my deckbuilding and playing strategy multiple times. It has also allowed new players to come to the game, which is excellent for its longevity, but I still find in the majority of cases that the more experienced player will be victorious regardless of which side of the force they are playing.