by Mick Cipra
Edge battles are one of the most exciting elements of Star War: The Card Game. Are they Twisting? Will they put in another card? I have three covered, but what if they bid their Yoda? No! They wouldn’t bid Yoda. That’s crazy. They only have the one Yoda left and they need it! …crap, he bid Yoda!
That last sequence was actually running through my head at Worlds during my first game against Thomas Kisselbach, the Germany national champion. Edge battles are where the game enters the unknown and your heart skips a beat before stacks are revealed. They also don’t really matter.
I tend to be very risk adverse. If I were on Deal Or No Deal and it came down to two briefcases, one with the million dollars in it and one with a penny, and the banker offered me $200,000 to walk away – I’d walk away. I’d probably even walk away for less. I like to know exactly what is going to happen and for me, as far as money goes, the first $200,000 is more valuable than the next $800,000, but that’s a conversation for another time. This is Star Wars.
Time and again I see people going for the million dollars in an edge battle. Sometimes they win and the results are amazing. More often, however, they wind up with the penny and lose their entire board. You cannot afford to risk everything in the early or mid-stages of a Star Wars game. The quickest way to lose is to have your board repeatedly wiped while barely making a dent in your opponent’s board. So how do you decide when to attack or block?
Some people have asked me if being a math teacher means that I crunch a lot of numbers while playing—calculating the probability that my opponent will have a certain card or combination of dots in their hand for the edge battle. That sort of thing. Do I do that? No, not really. I do like calculating the odds for various objective flops but that’s on the deck construction side of things. While playing I don’t calculate odds. It’s too hard and I’m a slow enough player as it is. I do, however, go through all the casework.
One of the first things I work through while looking at my hand after draw is what is going to happen if I attack and lose the edge battle. Maybe you lose that unit but you open up other engagements to be unopposed. Maybe if you attack with enough units you can at least get one of their mains off the board. Or all you’re trying to do is get them to block with a chud that’s committed to the Force so you don’t have to worry about that unit next turn. Even losing a unit or two is ok if it somehow advances what you otherwise want to have happen on the board. But maybe, given the amount of tactics and guns they have on their side of the board, attacking could mean losing everything. If this last one is the case…then don’t attack!
Once you’ve made the decision that you’re not going to initiate any engagements, there’s really only one choice of what to do: build. Flood the board with dudes and start crafting an edge hand for the future. Even if you can’t win an edge battle next turn, the sheer unit count should start shifting in your favor where you can start taking out their mains if they block. Light Side has more options for building since it often means they can take the force back and slow the dial just enough to get in those extra turns later on. It’s possible to build on DS too, however.
Building on DS is much more about not losing the units you do deploy to the board. An easy example of this is how to deal with a first turn Falcon. Letting it go unopposed isn’t at all unreasonable as even winning the edge often means losing your unit unless you’re lucky enough to have a tactics icon. Even then, I may not want to block the Falcon with a Galactic Scum because if I lose the edge, I lose my unit. Keep your units and work up your defenses for the following turns. It’s tricky on DS, because you want to have a relatively good edge hand at all times. But occasionally there are situations where you can tell your opponent’s game has stalled. In those cases, don’t hesitate to play a massive number of units – then let your opponent do some damage on their next turn. And then crush them in the following turns when you have more dudes than them!
Choosing to build also has the added benefit of slowing down your opponent’s deck-velocity—to borrow a phrase from Tyler Parrott. Often times the DS actually wants LS to attack so they can start pitching cards to dig to the stuff that really matters. If LS chooses to build, it can mean fewer units hitting the board on DS as they may only draw into one unit if they can’t pitch their hand. It does mean that once you do go in for an attack, the DS will likely have the edge hand they want. However, if you’ve built more than they have, your forces should be able to manage losing an edge battle. What could possibly go wrong?
When Building Goes Bad:
During the 2015 Store Championship at the FFG Event Center, my final game against Josh Grace became a stand-off where we were both building. He had managed a turn 1 Sith Holocron into Emperor Palpatine and took the Force – even with my Jedi Training objective giving me assistance (yes, I was playing Jedi Training — it has Jedi Mind Trick in it, which would have been awesome in my starting hand). I deployed triple-tactics Yoda and a weenie. My edge hand was terrible and I didn’t feel like getting focused down to oblivion, so I took the Force. Then the game entered a really weird back-and-forth where neither one of us deployed much. I didn’t want to attack him because my edge hand wasn’t that good and an attack would accomplish little other than getting my units focused down and shot.
Josh didn’t want to attack me either because of what he would need to commit to win an edge battle, and losing it would mean triple-tactics Yoda going crazy on defense and then again on offense. So we built. And built.
The dial was moving slowly. I felt I had a chance, but eventually Josh hit enough mains to secure the Force permanently on his side. I could have kept building, but at some point I would have to attack and if I did so too late I might not have the blast to win. I had just drawn a Twist of Fate, so I figured this was as good a time as any. I loaded core Luke up with Trust Your Feelings and a shield and sent him and a Guardian of the Peace in at the Dark Side board.
Palpatine had one damage on him and there were no protect units out, so he did have to win the edge battle. I played a one dot card. He Twisted. I called and we started over. We double Twist. Then the real edge battle begins. I bid four, keeping one dot back, he bids his second Palpatine. Stuff gets focused down, my units get shot, and then there’s a massive counter attack and my Yoda and single card can’t hold any of them back. Hmm… I guess edge battles can matter.
Except I had encouraged a situation where one massive edge battle would decide everything and gave my opponent enough turns to have the double-twist-Palpatine edge hand ready. In hindsight, I should have attacked earlier when the stakes weren’t as high. Palpatine only has tactics icons, he can’t kill anyone by himself. He’s not as good as Xizor! Had I put pressure on my opponent, it would have flushed out those good edge cards and given me a better chance at winning edge battles in the late game. If he didn’t have a good edge hand early on I could have dumped tactics all over him with box Yoda. It still would have been a tough battle, but I think I would have had better odds.
So what did I do after this crushing defeat? Well, I have a bit of a mania so I actually calculated the probability of getting a first turn Sith Holocron into Palpatine. This is not to detract from Josh’s skill at the game, he piloted his decks brilliantly. That opener from Sith, however, is very oppressive and I needed to know how likely you are to get it for deck construction purposes.
Never Tell Me the Odds
I’ll end this article with a section called “Never Tell Me the Odds”, so we can all enjoy bringing math into our recreational card game!
1: I’m playing Sith with x2 Emperor and x2 Executor. How likely am I to start the game with Holocron into Palpatine if that’s my mulligan condition? (It doesn’t matter how playable the hand is otherwise, if it doesn’t have Palpatine and Holocron I mulligan!)
2: I’m playing Scum with x2 Xizor. How likely am I to start with Masterful Manipulation and use it to power out a turn 1 Xizor? Getting Xizor is my mulligan condition.
You can email your responses diretly to me here and then, in my next article, I’ll post who was the first person to get the correct answer! We’re also currently working with fliptheforce.com for a prize structure for my Never Tell Me the Odds section, so stayed tuned to the site for more details!
Hope you have fun with these probability questions. I do like knowing these types of things when considering a deck for a major tournament, although it’s not my primary concern. In my next article I’ll focus on the first thing I ask myself whenever I build a Dark Side deck.