Understanding the current meta, or specifically the meta for an upcoming event, is vital to your performance.
For the Tyler, Texas Regional, we knew that the Dark Side had an uphill battle ahead of them. We had tested many different builds, but the one Sith Control build we felt most comfortable with was the standard Vader, Emperor, Counsel, Executor x2. Our final two spots always felt up for grabs, in that it rarely felt like it mattered what we included. We tried multiple unique builds, ultimately ending up with the inclusion of The Second Phase and Plan of the Prophetess.
It’s mostly well known that I’ve never been a fan of the Plan of the Prophetess set. The objective is great, and you always want to see it in play, but I really dislike Sariss and I really dislike the Servant of the Dark Side. Units are a key aspect of winning, and I found that whenever I drew Sariss, she always ended up in an edge battle and rarely was I spending resources to have her in play. She just isn’t worth the four resources you spend on her, in my opinion. I do really love the Dark Temple and sincerely wish it was in a different Dark Side set (namely Second Phase). Deadly Sight is fine, but Seeds is always a point of contention for me, in that I never want to see it in the early game. When I see it mid-to-late game, I’m thrilled.
But Plan of the Prophetess has a glaring issue in the current meta: the Dark Side isn’t coming close to winning many Force struggles against Jedi and Rebels, the other leading LS list, rarely tries to take the Force. While the objective used to really hold weight, most Jedi lists are running Yoda x4, which means that reducing their Force icons by one doesn’t net you a huge advantage. This is key, because when the DS is already fighting an uphill battle, the last thing you want to do is to equip your list with something that won’t matter in a significant amount of your games.
In Tyler, The Second Phase set netted me many advantages against Jedi lists, which allowed me to inch my way into 2nd place. There were many games where healing objectives was clutch, as was adding shields to objectives opponents believed they were going to destroy that turn. The Droid troopers served two purposes: winning edge battles against Jedi typically meant that you could one-shot most of their threats and since they were droids, they couldn’t be turned off by Jubba Birds. In a deck with two Executors already included, having four units Jubba’s couldn’t effect was fantastic.
Looking back at our experiences in Tyler, we noted that hardly anyone at all was on anything other than Jedi. This prompted us to reevaluate our build for the Houston event, as we (naturally) assumed the meta there would be essentially the exact same as Tyler. This meant that we knew what Public Enemy #1 was: Jedi. We didn’t want to change our core concept of Sith Control, but rather we wanted to figure out the best two sets to include to defeat Public Enemy #1.
In all honesty, the very first place we looked for support was in Cruel Interrogations. Interrogation has always been a damning card, and the more it occurred to us that Jedi play a significant amount of hand tricks, the more excited we were to try it. We were really focused on hurting Heroes and Legends, namely because once a Jedi hand is set up for prime manipulation it becomes very hard to topple. Stripping out their recurring unit seemed like a good place to start.
After several test games with Cruel Interrogations added to the list, we knew we had found exactly what we were looking for.
The Dark Side can be very fickle sometimes. In Tyler, my DS list managed to go 1-3 during the Swiss rounds (I still blame this primarily on not seeing a single instance of Force Choke until round four), but then won three straight games in the Top Cut before losing in the finals. The focus on change to the DS list was mostly because I really didn’t feel like I could afford another 1-3 Swiss run.
Even with the changes, Houston still presented a fair share of oddities.
My DS was able to pull off an aggressive win in the first round for a 6pt victory, but it was only because I had pushed smaller support units into his objectives during the early game and managed to stack small amounts of damage. This build up of damage let me blow up three objectives with the dial at 7 to sneak in a win against an aggressive list. In round two, I was faced up against a Jedi/Smuggler build that started off strong with a turn 1 Rahn + Make Your Own Luck to secure a Wolfman return from the discard. This was a huge play, as unbeknownst to my opponent, I was sitting on an Aggression and had every intent of removing that Protector from the board. A turn two Force Cleansing on Rahn pretty much locked up that game.
In my third round at Houston, I was mispaired against Gerhart (the eventual winner of the event), who defeated me with a Rebel beatdown. We knew our DS deck would be weak to Sleuths and Rebels, but it was a risk we were willing to take based on Tyler’s showing. My fourth round opponent saw their Jedi list defeated, as did my fifth round opponent. Going 3-2 in Houston was a significant improvement over the horrible 1-3 in Tyler.
In the finals, my first game had to be as the Dark Side. I started off strong with a turn 1 Vader, followed by a support setup turn 2 with Royal Guard and a ISB Liaison. Gerhart didn’t do much at all this game, except deploy 1-2 units per turn and miss, literally every single time, with Attack Pattern Delta. This led to a turn 3 Emperor with a dial at 5. After bumping the dial to 7, Gerhart slammed an event on the table and said, ‘Desperation!’, which unfortunately doesn’t work until the dial hits 8. This mistaken reveal let me know that I needed to find an answer and quick. I did what I could to dig on that turn, but couldn’t find my Interrogation. My hand had an Emperor and Vader in it, so my hope was that he would blow the board before combat on my following turn, allowing me to redeploy my best units. That didn’t happen. I did Dark Precog and use ISB Liaisons to draw with the dial at 9, but the best I could find was an Interrogation Droid.
With my opponent holding five cards in hand, I dropped the droid and pressed my luck. Gerhart shuffled up his cards and laid them flat on the table. My gut told me it was one of two cards, and when I narrowed down my choice Gerhart flipped over a Desperation! I was tremendously relieved, but as I moved to my Force phase Gerhart announced he had an action and played a second Desperation from hand. Talk about devastating.
It got worse when he drew into a Trench Run on his turn, deployed Rogue Three, and blew up my Death Star dial without a single unit standing in his way.
The week of the Colorado regional, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out a way to pilot control without auto-losing to Desperation. And Jedi. And Trench Run. And Solo Smugglers. And the other sixteen bajillion Light Side deck options.
I had decided to attend the event because I was anxious to hang out with my good friend David Jones (aka, CHAMP David), who I hadn’t seen since Gencon 2014 (he took as a pass on the ‘surprise’ at last year’s Worlds). David and I spend hours during the week discussing the game and well, life intself, and it was a real treat to face him in the finals (we have played one another at every event we’ve attended together and this was the first time we haven’t been paired in the Swiss rounds).
The Thursday before the event, frustrated and unsure of what to bring, I went deep into the tank looking for a solution. Deeper than any player should ever go. I spent two hours searching for a solution to my problem and came up with some pretty poopy ideas.
Here’s a small list of what I ended up looking to for help:
Quadrupole Boba Fett (Targeted Strike destroys Rebel lists)
Reserve Troopers (All Out Brawl + Targeted Strike seemed awesome!)
AT-ATs (kills Spiders and Pilots!)
Zekka (Kill. Everything.)
After two hours of searching, I sleeved up the following:
The Bespin Exchange x2
No Disintegrations x2
Fall of the Jedi x2
The Emperor’s Web x2
Counsel of the Sith x2
One of the weaknesses with my original Quad Boba list was that Jubba Birds and BtS Yoda shut it down rather easily. By running a standard Sith Control shell alongside it, I assumed I could wipe the board and keep pesky Jubba’s from doing too much to stop me. After sleeving the list and goldfishing for awhile, I decided that the list had far too many ‘dead’ cards to justify. I liked that it gave me plenty of enhancements versus Desperation, but I just couldn’t commit to a list with only twenty units and 10 of them being very poor support units.
What I really liked about the list was the addition of enhancements to Sith Control along with the additional Targeted Strike. This made me think back to Mara Jade, who includes her lightsaber enhancement and has built in Targeted Strike as soon as she’s committed. She also brings with her a Sith Library, which for those of you who watched the OCTGN matches against Tierdal, saw the last DS build was lacking. I narrowed down my decision to one Cruel Interrogations and one Agent of the Emperor, on the condition that after testing if Mara wasn’t working I would swap it for one No Disintegrations because Fett brought a resource as well as an enhancement (Flamethrower). (editor’s note: Jon Herr won the Cleveland regional sporting both Mara and Boba in traditional Core Sith shell)
Testing Thursday and pretty much all day Friday, we determined that Mara was the right choice. In our Rebel matchups, a turn 1 Mara was nearly unbeatable. The best card in Agent of the Emperor is easily Mara Jade and you should never be disappointed to find her in your draw. Our final list for the Colorado Regional:
Fall of the Jedi x2
The Emperor’s Web x2
Counsel of the Sith x2
The Executor Arrives x2
Agent of the Emperor
The list performed swimmingly for me, winning every one of its games throughout both Swiss and the Top Cut (it played once). My first round opponent was Josh (who was also my first opponent in the Top Cut) and he showed a Rebel affiliation to start. I assumed vehicles and was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be Rebel characters. I felt like this was a strong match for my Sith Control list, especially if I could land an early Vader (which I did). My second round opponent was on Rebel vehicles, but of the bulky variety. This game went well for me, as my opponent had a hard time getting past my wall of denial due to a mid-game Executor. My third round opponent was Scumspert, who saw an objective flop of MTFBWY, Heroes and Legends, and Survivors. I was able to kill a turn 1 Yoda thanks to Aggression, and when he responded with a turn 2 Yoda I thought I might be in trouble. He had started Smuggler affiliation, so I assumed he was only on the two Yodas from MTFBWY, which meant if I could remove this one I’d be Yoda free for the rest of the match. After a forgotten Survivors damage-save, I was able to kill the second Yoda and continued to find Sith events to keep him from regaining position in the game. My final game was against GreedoShotFirst and I honestly can’t remember much of this game except for him failing to find multiple mains to take advantage of a flopped Heroes and Legends.
In the Top Cut, my first round was a repair against Josh from the Swiss matches. Since I knew that he was on Rebel characters and that my Sith events had done well the first time, I chose DS for this matchup. He almost won the game, with the game ending he had four damage on two objectives, and three on a third. I had failed to see many of my Sith events, so there were at least two turns where his 1dc units were free to engage my objectives with little consequence.
Overall, I felt very good about the list I piloted. It lost none of its games on the day, though admittedly two of those games were against a Rebel character deck that I think Sith is highly dominate against (Josh later told me that he loved his Scum list, but was aware the wins take the majority of the tournament time, so he had opted for a quick aggressive list to help counter the lost time).
With Attack Run releasing today, it feels odd to know how drastic the meta is about to shift, especially in favor of the Dark Side. This is the first pack in what feels like over a year’s time in which the Dark Side received cards players are excited to pilot (pun intended). I’m not certain Sith Control will remain dominate in the week’s ahead, as both BS Vader and Pilot Fett present new, powerful options the Dark Side is certainly not used to having.