by Nathanael Tripp
Slave Trade x2
The Tatooine Crash x2
Jabba’s Orders x2
The Findsman’s Intuition x2
The Investigation x1
Carbonite Transport x2
(editor’s note: Fliptheforce.com is pleased to announce the latest edition to the staff here at Flip the Force – Nathanael Tripp – known online as Ketricel. Nathanael has been a very important part of the Star Wars LCG community since the game’s creation, a leading Tournament Organizer in the North Carolina area, and fantastic tournament player with many strong finishes – including a Top 16 run at Worlds 2014)
A few weeks ago at the Store Championship in Hickory, NC, Nathan S. ran the above mentioned deck to great success; finishing 2nd. Since then I have toyed around with the deck some myself and have learned quite a few things in the process about the capture mechanic and Scum decks in general.
When Between the Shadows first come out, I will admit I was rather underwhelmed with some of the options that Scum had available to it. I built multiple iterations of Scum and never could get the right combination going for a deck I felt comfortable running. Decks either felt too slow, too expensive, or they just didn’t DO anything. Sure Corrupt Officials are good at stalling out the game, but once you run out of them what then? Snoova, in combination with The Slimest Scheme objective, offers for some great capture interaction. But Light Side is running a lot of mono decks and the Snoova targets are limited in that type of environment. Xizor is a beast and can cause all kinds of problems, but what if you don’t get him early? These were all issues I was struggling with and I didn’t see any solution in the Scum cards currently in the pool and I 100% neglected to even give the shiny new Sith one-of set any consideration.
That is until the Hickory, NC Store Championship, when Nathan walked his way into the top cut by locking down every opponent he played against using an oppressive amount of board control and capture. I sat down and watched a few of his DS games and it was impressive to see the interaction between the capture mechanics and Isard. While the deck did slip in the finals, it was a very impressive showing and got me thinking about not only this deck, but also the capture mechanic and what I will refer to as “deck control”.
What makes this deck good?
First I should define what I mean by “deck control”. This is when you purposely build a deck that is able to control what your opponent can (1) draw, (2) play, or (3) discard. With capture you are taking away options 1 and 3 by removing certain cards from the pool of available cards to draw into or discard from hand; for example the Shistavanen Wolfman is a card you are happy to discard. Both objectives “The Tatooine Crash” and “The Slave Trade” allow you control your opponent’s deck in this manner, capturing cards from the top of their deck. The deck also packs extra control over what your opponent can draw into with access to Relentless Pursuit, Zuckuss, and Official Inquiry. These cards work well in combination with the objective capture effects as you can stack your opponent’s deck against them so they draw into suboptimal cards, or so that you capture even more vital components. Most Scum decks offer this level of deck control so none of these things are earth shattering revelations. That is where we get to the key component of this deck: the ability to affect what your opponent can PLAY!!
Ysanne Isard is hands down one of the best Star Wars female villains in the entire Expanded Universe; second only to Admiral Daala in my opinion. So it is only fitting that her representation in the SWLCG is just as oppressive and controlling as she is in the comics/books. Her ability reads, “After an opponent plays a copy (by title) of a captured unit or enhancement, reveal that captured card to return the just played card to its owner’s hand.” This allows you to completely lock your opponent out of some of their best cards. Never before in this game have we seen this level of control over what your opponent can play. Sure we have cards such as Rash Action, C-3P0, and Counter-Stroke that for a onetime cost let you have some control over what your opponent is playing; but Isard’s effect is on a completely separate tier, allowing you to lock them out of any unit/enhancement you have captured. Add that to the extra board control offered in effects, such as Uttini or capture from hand effects like Get Me Solo, and all of a sudden you are able to reliably keep your opponent from accessing some of their best cards.
That brings us to one of the last unexpected side effects of this particular deck: you can win by decking your opponent. With the sheer amount of capture here, I have had games where I was able to capture upwards of 15 cards – that is 30% of a standard 50 card deck! Even if you are only able to capture 8-12 cards through the course of a game, you have shortened the number of times your opponent can completely refill their hand from 0 to 6 cards. While winning via decking your opponent won’t be a goal in most games, when your opponent sees their deck thinning at a rapid pace, it definitely will change how free they are with their cards and can give you a slight advantage.
What isn’t so good?
Sadly everything isn’t all rainbows and unicorns with the deck. It does have a few problems that keep it from being “the best deck…. of ALL TIME”. Primarily, the inherent flaw in capture objectives; their ability is random. One game you could hit Yoda, Obi-Wan, Luke, and a Guardian with your first 4 capture effects while Isard is on the board and all but lock your opponent out of a game. In the very next game you could get a Rookie Pilot, Ewok Scout, Dagobah Training Ground, and Heat of Battle and have to deal with all of your opponent’s answers. The randomness built into capture here keeps it from being a surefire winning strategy all on its own.
Because so many of your eggs are in the capture basket, you are running sub-optimal sets in order to facilitate this. The majority of your units have 2 damage capacity, are not elite, and have low force icons which makes it hard to keep them alive and to win force struggles each turn. The low force icon count also means that edge battles are tricky to win unless you have card advantage. Findsman’s Intuition helps win force at times, but again with the majority of your capture coming from objectives it is hard at times to guarantee that you will be able to get Findsman online early and often enough to make it a reliable option.
The last thing that hurts this deck is the lack of blast damage. In Nathan’s original version, he was running Carbonite Transport for the closing potential of Slave 1. Unfortunately, I don’t think he saw Slave 1 all day and even if he had it just doesn’t feel like enough of a threat to close out the close games. And that is the key rub I have with this deck – it struggles to win close games. I have found that the deck can run away with games and win them in the first two turns by capturing and controlling the game. But then it can sometimes fail to control anything of relevance and lose very quickly (but that could happen to any deck). The biggest issue is the games where things are right on the fence; you have things semi-controlled, you built up a good board presence, and your opponent is struggling but you just can’t seem to close out the game. I can’t even begin to count the number of games where I can get the dial to 9+ and have the game stolen from me because my opponent was able to sneak in a few damage here and there, get back a huge hand of captured cards, and thus get out from under The Investigation lock. This inability to close out games or come back from a slightly off-balance start are what keep this deck from truly being a driving force in the meta right now.
A few options I have been trying in place of Carbonite Transport are:
Hive of Scum and Villainy – More cheap dudes and another capture option.
Trandoshan Terror – Lots of guns, a good capture effect in Bossk, and Bounty can be relevant.
“No Disintegrations” – Boba is a great finisher/blocker with his built in double strike and Flamethrower can help clear the board.
All Out Brawl – Extra guns and a board wipe are good.
The Hunters – Snoova!!! Plus the extra objective health can help, especially in combination with Jabba’s Palace.
I personally find The Hunters as the best choice in place of Carbonite Transport, as it has some extra blast damage, objective health bonus, and Snoova’s effect.
So, with a few (rather large) drawbacks, you would assume that I have shelved this deck and moved on to something else. You would be wrong. For some reason, I keep coming back to this deck. There is just something enjoyable about it. The joy of having captured a Luke or Yoda on the first turn, with Isard on the board, and getting to watch your opponent’s look of dejection as you reveal to counter the one they had in hand is priceless. The deck has its flaws, but it also has some great potential.
Who would have thought that a new Sith set would be what rekindled my love of Scum decks?