James Lau and Donovan McFeron have graciously taken time out of their busy schedules to answer a few questions for us about their GenCon experience! These two are no strangers to Star Wars LCG and we couldn’t be happier about their fantastic run at GenCon 50! Without further ado, let’s jump into the interview:
Please tell us a bit about yourself, including how long you’ve been playing, prior past accomplishments in SWLCG, and any other sick brags you’d like readers to know!
Donovan: I started playing about two and half years ago at the end of the Rogue Squadron cycle. I was looking for a new game to play with new people and went to a local board game cafe. John Heath-Clark told me about SWLCG, and I bought in right away. This is the first and only game that I’ve played competitively, and it’s been a lot of fun. I made the cut at the last two World’s and GenCon this year, so I’m going to try to keep that up.
James: Hello, my name is James Lau and I’m part of the NYC SWLCG community. I have been playing Star Wars LCG since October 2014, with my first major tournament being GenCon 2015. My prior performance is Top 4 in Worlds 2017 and finalist twice at Regional’s, with my friend John taking first place both times. During Worlds 2015, I placed 17th and had to deal with this bubble curse, as I lived in apartment C17C in New York City. So my friends were saying “See! 17, see!” to me for a year!
Can you tell us a bit about how you came up with the deck or any changes/challenges you faced leading to its final construction?
James: The light side deck was all Donovan’s creation. He would be best in answering this section.
Donovan: For the LS deck, I wanted to use the Guardians of Justice affiliation. I was leaning toward playing a modified version of Colby Bennardo’s World’s deck, but a week before GenCon Colby told me I had to play Brainiac. I used the same Brainiac, BTS Luke, Owen, etc deck for the last two World’s events, but I wanted to look for something better/different, knowing that I could always pick that deck up and play it at the last minute. Likewise, James was comfortable playing the Rebel Cap ship deck with Yoda, if we didn’t find anything better.
I set out to put my favorite Jedi and Rebel pods with numerals together, however, I was worried about character hate in the meta, so I avoided BTS Luke. That put me at:
2x Matter Under Mind
2x Running the Canyon
2x Command and Control
1x Fleeing the Empire
I love Brainiac and Leia together. With Brainiac and the Unhinged Astromech Droids, you can make Leia leave play whenever you want. At some point though, you need to play units that hang around, so 2x Leia was probably not going to be good. That’s where Dodonna fit in. He has a twist, a great resource, card draw from the objective, and from himself. In a pinch, Brainiac can make Dodonna draw 2 cards when you use a Yavin 4 resource. I didn’t want too many of those Rebel Tactician’s, because I didn’t have many leaders and Force Choke was being played a lot. 1x Planning the Attack made it into the deck.
Brainiac and Independence work great together, and with Defense of Yavin 4 on the board, those Corellian Corvettes become discard a card, spend one resource, then draw a card. Spamming Corvettes without diminishing hand size couldn’t be passed up. Also, Brainiac with Luke’s Skyhopper and Rebel Assault deals 4 damage to an objective. So 2x Defense of Yavin 4 was added.
The Rebel side was set, so I had to figure out the last two Jedi pods. The Secret of Shantipole had to be included, but was it going to be one or two? Keyan being able to make vehicles strike right away was great, but two didn’t feel right. This was being put together on Monday afternoon before GenCon, so I played it safe and went 1x The Secret of Shantipole and 1x May the Force Be With You.
Now that we had the full deck, we had to play it. I don’t think I got to play it with James that day. I played four games with the deck on Tuesday with JonAlf Dyrland-Weaver against mono-navy, mono-sith, and sith-scum twice. The deck felt very strong, and I told James that the deck is for real. We played a little in the hotel before bed on Wednesday and Thursday, and we were set.
James: With Dark Side, we were testing Force Hunters and mono-Sith with Shuttle archetypes. I didn’t do much testing for mono-Navy, because we recently came back from Worlds 2017 and the Navy deck Donovan McFeron, Colby Bennardo, John Heath-Clark and I ran went undefeated for me, so I wanted to look for inspiration in Scum and Sith. After about 2 – 3 weeks of testing, Force Hunters had the best win percentage and was consistent in its performance. I, on the other hand, was playing a mono-Sith deck similar to Travis’ deck at Worlds. I built it to try to understand the play style of double Jerec.
Eventually, I landed with a blend between mono-Sith control with Echoes Palp. Whenever I play control archetypes, I always like splashing Ice Trompers to control the tempo of the game and noticed Rav made Ice Trompers have an offensive and defensive effect. In addition, control decks I build require events which are crucial to its sustainment mid-late game. Therefore, Rav’s objective can return such things (Telekinetic Strike, Visage of the Dark Lord, etc). Finally, Cassian’s chuds make mono affiliation decks sad, so a simple affiliation swap (courtesy of Colby Beenardo’s suggestion) makes the deck immune to a current tier 1 pod.
How many hours did you put into testing for GenCon and what decks were you specifically testing against?
James: Between Worlds and GenCon was play test, period. With our weekly meet ups and 3-4 day marathon with Donovan, I think I played a little less than 90 hours.
Donovan: We considered the entire time between World’s and GenCon to be testing, which included weekly meet-ups at Aether Game Cafe in Hoboken, Store Championships, and whatever extra time we could manage. I would say about 100 hours total. However, it wasn’t until after the FAQ was released that we could really test. Sith-Sum refresh, mono-Navy, and both Navy with 7 reserve affiliations seemed to be prevalent in the meta. We tested as much as we could against the different archetypes, but there are so many ways to go with the new affiliation cards. It’s great!
Your past Worlds performance featured Rebels for the Light Side, would you say you prefer Vehicles over Mains and if so, can you discuss that in detail?
James: I currently prefer vehicles, because since I started playing this game I have been focusing my efforts on characters and avoided pilots during the introductory period of Tarkin Doctrine.
As for MedFreeman’s Rebel deck, I played this deck after he posted it on CardgameDB. The deck immediately captivated me because I love creating opportunities with shields. Many of my friends in my local play group know that I enjoy “Shieldnanigans” and Shielding is my first choice for keywords in the game. I consider the deck to be a masterpiece, I still to this day find nuances in the deck by altering play styles.
I mainly enjoy playing with ships because I enjoy their mechanics with other cards. The abilities of cost reduction, icon generation and many many bombs is something that gets me coming back to vehicles time and time again.
Which of your decks, Dark and Light, were you most confident in and why?
Donovan: I was playing a version of Force Hunters, which had been thoroughly tested by others, so I felt more confident with that going into the tournament. After Swiss though, I think we both felt more confident with our LS deck. Its explosiveness is tough to deal with, and I think the percentage of decks with mono-navy went down after Swiss.
James: I very much enjoyed playing both decks. I would say I wanted to play the Light Side deck more because it was newer and at that moment more fun, because both Donovan and I are still learning about its potential.
What did your records look like going into the final round of Swiss and which match of the day were you most proud of (and why)?
James: 7-3 (including 3 IDs). My highlights are playing with all my previous opponents from other events, as I enjoy the development of chemistry we have with each other throughout events. I was most proud of winning a match against David in Top 8 because he is, in my opinion, one of the toughest and most consistent players I know and playing him twice was a privilege.
Donovan: We were both at 6-2 going into the final round. We got there a little differently though, since I lost with Dark in round 2. Beating Kiramode with the LS deck in round 1 was the best win for me. Partly because he’s such a great player, and partly because it helped me believe in the deck. There were a lot of fun moments all day though.
Which side did you play the most in the top cut? Did you play that side the most by choice and if so, why?
Donovan: I chose to play Light Side first, and a coin flip meant I was playing Light Side again in the second match. I was too aggressive in the first match and misplayed an edge battle. I talked it over with James and did much better in the second match, but still lost. We were still learning how to play the deck optimally at that point, but James mastered it first.
James: I played Light Side three times and Dark Side twice. I played Light Side a bit more due to Erik Dhalman’s coin. His coin seems to favor me playing that side as this was also the case at Worlds 2017.
What were you overall thoughts on the GenCon meta and the experience overall (be as honest as you’d like)?
James: Overall I had a wonderful time. The people in the tournament I spoke and hung out with were all very nice and open. This atmosphere most definitely made it comfortable for me and made it feel like I was playing my favorite game at a local game store. The overall meta in the game has been the most diverse it has ever been since I started playing, the fact that we have a total of 18 affiliations creates limitless possibilities and I’m so excited to play more jenky decks! With regards to the tournament structure, I think allowing for 1 ID in the final round of Swiss is okay but more than that makes it very difficult for other players to qualify.
Donvan: There were so many different types of decks, I think the meta is in a great place. GenCon is always a lot of fun, but people end up dropping early, because there’s so much else to see and do, and they feel like they have no chance of making the cut. I think a lot of people would like to see fewer Intentional Draws. I don’t have any other competitive play experience, so I don’t know how to fix it.
Thanks guys for taking the time to answer our questions, we know you have a lot going on but we’re confident the playerbase benefits a lot from your insight and design process. Thanks again!
Affiliation: Imperial Navy
Donovan’s DS list:
Promise of Power
2x Hunter for Hire
1x Spice Trade
1x Hutt’s Menagerie
1x I Don’t Like You Either
2x Dark Lord of the Sith
2x Power of the Dark Side
1x Lure of the Lost