And here we have it… the much-lauded rise of the Imperial Navy. As I said in my last intro, I expect people will (and should) buy this expansion explicitly for the improvements it brings to the last straggling affiliation, as the importance of the Navy improvements far outweights the mediocrity of the Smuggler sets. It is awkward, however, that every dark side set (including Sith and Scum) except one gets a better grade than the best light side set from the box, and the best Smuggler set is only equivalent to the worst dark side set. Now that this game has officially released, the era of light side dominance has likely ended and the Imperial Navy may prove to be the most powerful affiliation. So what cards could shake up the game so much? I’m glad you asked…
The Tarkin Doctrine (Pod 178)
At first read, this probably sounds insane. You can force them to pay two resources or else they can’t attack? Then you realize that because it’s limited to once per turn, you can only prevent them from attacking one objective. However, if you’re in mono-Navy… this can be pretty insane. Navy has some of the most powerful “while undamaged” objectives out there (The General’s Imperative and Imperial Blockade come to mind, not to mention the ones below), and being able to protect them for the first few turns while your opponent is struggling to get their board state set up can be quite punishing. In particular I think if you flop this objective with Imperial Blockade and your opponent has no tricks to get damage through to it, the undamaged Imperial Blockade can probably just win you the game on its own. Resources are tight as it is, and making your opponent play the game perpetually down a resource will not only make it impossible for them to attack into your Blockade, but it also means your units will almost always be greater in number or superior in size to theirs, and then the need for them to attack, pay two resources, win the edge battle, and still not die to Navy’s tricks before they can get damage on the objective… all this before they can start setting up a proper board presence. And I haven’t even gotten to the other cards in this box.
The only tricks I can think of right now for how to get around this objective and turn off the “while undamaged” ones it protects are Rebel Assault, which can just immediately turn off Imperial Blockade, and Luke’s X-34 Landspeeder, which can allow you to attack one objective and after your opponent’s declined from making you pay the “Tarkin Tax” you can then redirect the attack to the one you want to engage. In a similar vein, the upcoming fate card Secret Objective and the ability on the new Endor Han will allow you to change engagements after they’ve already declared their blockers, so outs to Tarkin’s objective do exist.
But I still haven’t even discussed the most basic use of this effect: if they don’t have two resources, they can’t attack three times. That means that even if you have every objective at two health and no defenders, it’s still impossible for them to win in one turn, no matter how much blast they happened to have. This is where having two copies of the objective can be quite strong, because while there’s no use for a second Tarkin Doctrine when you’re protecting your “while undamaged” objectives, it can be great to lock your opponent down to one attack per turn. And I suspect that the upcoming Mission mechanic will really struggle to see play if this objective is omnipresent. No point in playing an objective you can’t attack!
If you think The Tarkin Doctrine and Imperial Blockade is gross, imagine that now supplemented by Rule By Fear. At first I thought this seemed like a bad card—it costs as much as Force Lightning and only bounces the unit, rather than destroying them outright. But I failed to recognize the most important difference, which makes this (I think) better than Force Lightning by quite a wide margin. That’s that once you have a Rule By Fear on the table, the next Main they play won’t be able to attack. And not only that, but it’ll take them two turns to get that Main into play, because this enhancement will cancel the first deployment. I’ve literally seen a first-turn Rule By Fear read “take an extra turn after this one,” and in a game as swingy as this one, that’s insane. They try to deploy their main character, you bounce it, and unless they have something like a Dagobah Nudj or Alderaanian Artist they probably won’t be able to compete the Force struggle, so you’ll even get your extra two dial bumps in addition to getting a fresh hand of cards (which your opponent is likely denied) and another turn to play out your board. How does the light side attack into a Navy board that’s had two turns to set up?
And as if the Tarkin Doctrine and Rule By Fear weren’t enough ways to deny your opponent their ability to play the game, along comes the old Grand Moff himself, with one of the strongest abilities in any card game. Blanking in any form is strong, especially when it can go to any card in play, and you can change it from turn to turn. Yes, it may only be for one phase, but given that you’re going to be blanking an offensive unit during conflict and a source of resources during deployment and a Force-struggle-matters card during the Force Phase… that’s not that big a deal. Most of all I’m amazed that this guy so easily counters Yoda (any version). Yoda’s “trademark” ability is that he gains combat icons based on some game condition, which means most of his combat ability comes from his text box rather than his stat line, and that makes him vulnerable to Tarkin (whose stat line is pretty comparable to Yoda’s once they’re both blank). But this can also do crazy things, like removing elite from units during the refresh phase, or removing resources from The Master’s Domain, or removing edge (1) or targeted strike from units (or blanking the Falcon during conflict!)… the list goes on. And if you don’t have any resources free, he can always pay for his own ability.
Remember how I said that Rule By Fear looked like it was a worse version of Force Lightning but it actually turned out to be better? Well Tarkin decided that he wanted all the goodies as well because in this Stormtrooper Assault Team we have what is essentially a two-cost Force Lightning that you can keep using every turn. Does that seem remotely fair? Not really, but you know how it goes when Navy gets its comeuppance. If your opponent has no defenders on your turn, this is almost exactly a Force Lightning every turn (unless they have protectors). If they do have defenders… well then that was one fewer unit that attacked into your fortress. And even then you can still win the edge battle and get something off the table with three offensive guns. This is one of those cards that your opponent will live in fear of, and the best part is that it’ll almost always cost less than the unit it’s killing, so even if you only get to use it once you’re still up on the deal.
So far everything we’ve seen from Tarkin is geared towards defeating Jedi (or Smuggler) Mains. Therefore the answer to beating him is clearly Rebel Swarm… right?
Nope, his set also comes with Moment of Triumph, a board wipe that basically only affects support units. And every unit out of an Attack Pattern Delta deck. Granted that deck can probably bounce back from a board wipe or two but still, this means that Tarkin has all the answers. Yes, it’ll destroy your one to two-cost units as well (including your Duty Officers and Logistics Officers), but if that’s what’ll win you the game… then at least you have that option. Tarkin can do everything!
I quite literally meant it, too. Twist of Fate is the most powerful fate card in the game, and Tarkin gives you one. That means that mono-Navy now will always have two Twists without having to do anything, just like Sith has always had “free” twists because Counsel of the Sith is one of the best Sith objective sets in the game. People have been claiming that this is one of if not the best dark side objective set in the game, and it’s hard not to agree with them when you see just how game-changing every single one of these cards can be. I don’t think it’s the best, especially given how silo’ed it is into mono-Navy, but every mono-Navy deck ever will run two copies of this objective set and it will do most of the work to make that deck viable. It’s even probable that Navy is now superior to Sith. Congratulations Grand Moff Tarkin, you have now brought the Imperial Navy into the fold of incredible dark side affiliations, alongside Emperor Palpatine and Prince Xizor.
Edge Count: 7 plus Twist (Fantastic)
Important Unit Cost: 3
Blast Icons: One white on one unit
Tactics Icons: One black on one unit
Overall Grade: A+
Might of the Empire (Pod 179)
Remember how I say all the time that objectives with two resources are important to have in every deck, and are functional yet boring? That’s still true. So why they decided to slap one of the best lines of text onto this objective is beyond me. People will run The Dark Trooper Project almost exclusively for the objective because granting elite can be so strong. This grants elite to far more units than the Dark Trooper Project, and they don’t even have to be committed… meaning they become very resilient to tactics icons. The Imperial Navy is full of strong Capital Ships, many of which cost as few as three resources, and this grants elite to all of them. This could almost say “units you control have elite” if you actually build a Capital Ship deck (not that I recommend it, necessarily). But it does answer a big problem that, say, the Death Squadron Star Destroyers have always had. I’m amazed that they printed such a blatantly powerful objective, and am curious to see what that means for the rest of the pod.
Obviously if the objective is going to care about Capital Ships, the set will come with some Capital Ships. Chimera is a monster of a Main, costing five and having a statline most Mains would envy. Because you’re only going to use its ability to gain objective damage if you’re attacking, you can kind of think of this ship as having a statline of , with the catch that you’ll have to sacrifice a blast damage if you want to kill a defending Main (unless you had another way to gain unit damage…). And even on a five-cost ship that’s really impressive. What drives it home is the fact that the white tactics icon is always there—if they don’t have a defender, they’re suffering free lockdown, and if they do have a defender (and you have someone else who wants to attack… like, say, a Stormtrooper Assault Team?) then they must block or the other unit is getting in unopposed anyway. Talk about versatility. And if you need it, it even gives you three icons to the Force struggle and it has elite whether its objective is out or not.
But strangely, the Chimera’s not the best card in this pod. That honor goes to its undersung support ship, the DP20 Corellian Gunship. It doesn’t look like much, but its got it where it counts. Shielding and… double-shielding… is way stronger than it looks, and the fact that the second shield can go onto any card, not just one in the engagement, means your opponent’s tactics icons will be virtually useless, and your opponent won’t be able to easily get blast damage on the objectives they want, even if they can prevent you from defending it. The lack of a third point of health is even mitigated by having a shield for itself to prevent the first damage every turn cycle. And if you win the edge battle, it can even do a nice chunk of damage, or even get in some free blast if there aren’t defenders, shielding what you need in the process (in case they draw something like a Jedi Mind Trick). I’m considering two copies of this pod for my dark side deck largely because of this card, and that should tell you something.
This resource is far stronger than it may seem. To date, the best resource in the game is probably R2-D2 because he’s free, not limited, and he increases the maximum resources you can spend the turn he comes down rather than forcing you to wait a turn to get your investment back. This card is, in most ways, the same as that. It gains limited (which balances the fact that it’s not a unit) and it has a downside, but honestly in almost any deck the reason you need resources is to play your expensive cards and follow them up with cheap support cards. You only don’t get to use this if you don’t play an expensive Navy card on your turn… and unless you’re splashing this into another affiliation I really just don’t see that happening. Every Navy set worth its salt has a 3+ cost card to use this on.
And it gives you the resource immediately, which is unbelievably important.
The last two cards in the set are events that can be dramatic. Tractor beam is a Bamboozle for vehicles, and since vehicles are slightly less popular than characters, it has three edge icons to make up for what it lacks in raw power. But honestly, given how powerful vehicle strategies have become (and how sets have started including a Character and a Vehicle, as Luke Skywalker and Owen Lars can attest) it’s not hard for your opponent to have an incidental vehicle for you to use your tractor beam on. But even if it’s just an overcosted Size Matters Not, it’s still a great card that’ll let you attack multiple times with your Chimaera or Thunderflare or what have you. All you need to do is move the focus token to a smaller Capital Ship, one that maybe gained elite with the objective, and you’re in business!
Empire Strikes Back is the weakest card in the set, only because its situational nature isn’t balanced by having good edge icons. However, its best case scenario is literally a zero cost “you win the game.” Dial bumps are quite powerful and the fact that you need to destroy an objective to get it is pretty marginal in the most offensive of dark side affiliations. Of course there exists the problem that you need to destroy the objective the turn you draw it, rather than setting up for a grand finish later on in the game, but it’s not a terrible card, and you can always pitch it at the start of your turn if you get it in your opening hand. Once you’re a few turns in, drawing it probably isn’t even a bad thing as you can likely sneak in an objective kill with the blast damage this set (and other Capital Ship sets) can put down, or even with the nuts effects that you can leverage from Colonel Yularen, Imperial Fist, and Enforced Loyalty (below). In that case, a free dial bump is amazing, whether it wins you the game immediately or not.
We’re already two objective sets in and we have two As. The only reason this gets an A- is because of the fact that every once and a while you’ll end up with a dead Empire Strikes Back in your hand but even that’s a pretty minor downside. If this trend continues, the Imperial Navy will almost certainly the strongest faction in the game.
Edge Count: 9 (Good)
Important Unit Cost: 5
Blast Icons: One to two black on one unit, one white on another
Tactics Icons: One white on one unit
Overall Grade: A-
Enforced Loyalty (Pod 180)
Remember how I said the Tarkin Doctrine could be really good at protecting “while undamaged” objectives? This is the one you want to be protecting, after Imperial Blockade. Sometimes I wonder how this objective even got printed, because it can actually turn a completely defensive strategy into suddenly winning the game. It’s like Ties of Blood on steroids. One damage to EVERY objective each turn, if you can keep it protected? That’s insane! If this goes off even three times you’re almost guaranteed to win that game. It’s a pity it’s “while undamaged,” though, because if they do get a chance to turn it off, you’d need some way to remove damage, and Repair and Refurbish can only go so far…
…which is where these come in. One basic effect, but you get two copies of it in the objective set. Again, I’m not sure how this got to print because this can be a four-damage swing between healing your own objectives and destroying your opponent’s. Because you can also choose which objective it goes to, it’s an easy way to swipe damage onto objectives that maybe you can’t attack, or you already attacked, or to get extra damage in when your opponent didn’t defend enough. As mind-bendingly strong as this ability is, it’s interesting that it’s actually a comeback mechanic—if you’re crushing your opponent, these two cards won’t do anything, but if your opponent’s put damage on all your objectives they become very strong. I wonder if it’s going to push the Jedi “ping your objectives” strategy out in favor of a more crushing Rebel strategy (featuring Advanced Proton Torpedoes?) or relying on cards like the Moldy Crow and Millennium Falcon to try to destroy objectives in one engagement. It’ll certainly increase the value of Twist of Fate on the light side. But probably the scariest feature of these cards is the ability to clear off “while undamaged” objectives in the middle of the game and to combo with the objective for an obscene amount of direct objective damage without attacking. I’d also be curious to see if a deck was built that could outrace the light side, between all the direct damage and cards like Deploy the Fleet to get out lots of blast very quickly. Certainly the combo between Deploy the Fleet and Yularen/Imperial Fist interests me greatly.
So we’ve already seen how nutty this objective set can be. Since they can’t possibly add in more direct damage, what could they put into this objective set instead? Lieutenant Mithel gives you an excellent body with a pretty silly ability—he’s already a three-health [content_tooltip id=”5540″ title=”SWLCG – Unit – Tusken Raider”], which is a passable Dark Side unit, and he strips blast from enemy vehicles? And he also gives you another unique Navy unit to trigger Imperial Fist? Count me in! This is the defensive strength that the objective set can leverage to help protect Enforced Loyalty in case Tarkin doesn’t show up. The other support unit is almost an enhancement, but a pretty silly one at that. For truly no cost, you get a unit that can focus itself to draw you a card. Yes, they can cancel it by focusing one of their units, but I’m pretty sure I’d be happy to use my zero-cost unit to focus their worst ready unit, and if they don’t then you can just immediately increase your reserve value by 1. I think I’d rather use the Mouse Droid on my opponent’s deployment, to try to lock them out of an extra attacker or to get another card for the edge battle (ala Counsel of the Sith), but I’ve seen it used just as often during the dark side’s deployment just to have more units and enhancements to deploy. The Mouse Droid may even be the strongest card in an already-outstanding objective set, because a zero-cost unit that says “draw an extra card every turn” is about the same as suddenly getting one of the best Sith objectives in the middle of the game. Card draw cannot be overstated.
This set is insane. I can see it going in Navy control as a way to accelerate the game, I can see it going in Navy Aggro as a way to race the light side faster, and I can see it going in even a Scum or Sith aggro deck for the same reason. It really changes the way you play against the Imperial Navy, that’s for sure!
Edge Count: 6 (Abysmal)
Important Unit Cost: 3
Blast Icons: One black on one unit… plus the objective… and the fate card.
Tactics Icons: One white on one unit
Overall Grade: A
Imperial Entanglements (Pod 181)
I said when Thrawn came out that while he was the best unit in the game, his set was pretty sub-par, in large part because two-damage Noghri Bodyguards just weren’t good enough. I said that if you could pair them with All Out Brawl, then they would be great because you could kill a Main with a won edge battle, but that Navy & Scum didn’t go great together. Well… now Navy has an in-faction replacement for All Out Brawl, and it’s arguably better. On the plus side, it’s one-sided, so you won’t accidentally have your own units killed by lethal light side attackers. On the down side, only one unit gets the extra in each engagement. However, because you get the bonus icon in each engagement rather than each phase, you’ll find that it’s often just exactly the same as a one-sided Brawl. Getting someone killed in one strike is the most important feature of these objectives, which means any extra damage granted to subsequent strikes often isn’t needed. Considering Imperial Entanglements trades the “often unneeded” extra damage to non-first striking units for not granting any extra damage to your opponents, I think the Imperial Navy actually end up on top in a direct comparison.
That said, each one is designed the way it is on purpose. Brawl wants to grant extra damage to its opponents to help get Zekka Thyne killed, while Imperial Entanglements combos with its own units, who often defend alone…
Edge battles? Who needs edge battles? If you have a Decimator and one or two copies of the objective out, you can often lose the edge battle and still kill an attacker before they get to strike. That’s… pretty insane, especially when you realize that whether or not you win the edge battle, you’ll get to strike first regardless, and the only icons that matter on defense are already black. Now you won’t be able to kill Mains without two copies of the objective in play (that seems like a board that’s incredibly difficult to punch through), but when the alternative is being killed in the first light side strike anyways, that damage will add up. And for when striking first regardless of the edge battle isn’t enough, the developers decided to grace this pod with a two-card combo that will stop just about every light side Main in their tracks. Introducing… Ion Cannon! Just put it on your decimator, and edge battles cease to matter! You can just tactics an enemy attacker before they strike even if they win the edge battle. Is the era of Mains over? It’s hard to say because between this set, Thrawn, and Rule By Fear you’d think that it was time to bust out Rebel Swarm… only to have it squashed by Moment of Triumph.
Certainly the age of light side dominance is over.
Believe it or not, the Decimators aren’t the Mains of the objective set. That honor belongs to the Imperial Raider, which is… actually not as good as the Decimators. That said, they’re very good and it’s still perfectly fine. It looks like it should synergize with them, but because they won’t be defending alone if you bring the Raider in, they’ll no longer be able to strike first. Still, bringing in a shield after the edge battle can be pretty clutch. Most of the time I think it’ll just be a generic blocker that drops a shield around, or that contests the Force, or that occasionally wields an Ion Cannon. Being a Capital Ship actually improves it quite a bit because it’ll gain elite from Might of the Empire and can be made cheaper with Deploy the Fleet. It’s the weakest card in the pod, but it’s not bad.
The secret star, however, is bound to be the Customs Blockade. For the longest time, players have been clamoring for a dark side event cancel that isn’t in a terrible pod, and they’ve finally got their wish. Only even more than that, they’ve gotten something better than an event cancel. As printed, it’s an enhancement that cancels one event every other turn. It seems like it’s something that could be played around*, and while that’s technically true, I want you to consider how many events the light side tends to play. One every turn, at the most? More often it’s one every other turn… which would be all of them. So instead you have to hope that you draw your events in order so that you get one you want canceled before you get one that you actually want to resolve. And you especially want the events that do get canceled to not have additional costs (I’m thinking of sacrificing a unit to Covering Fire or raising the Death Star dial to Yoda, You Seek Yoda). This isn’t a game that encourages you to sculpt a hand by holding cards from turn to turn, and that really empowers this enhancement. I find it unlikely that a player will spend more than one resource and a card to double-focus it and hope they’re setting up for a future event, which means that if the only event in their hand is a Rebel Assault and they’re facing off against a Customs Blockade, they’ll just choose not to play it, and the Blockade will remain online. And if a player ever gets two copies of this enhancement out… it’s just game over for all light side events.
Between a repeatable event cancel, a unit that can kill or tactics Mains before they get a chance to strike, and an objective that enables a whole swath of damage-based defenders… I expect to see this objective set in almost every dark side deck going forward.
*Note: if you’re playing against Customs Blockade, make sure to play your events on your opponent’s turn, so you have a longer turn cycle of it being focused out. You don’t want to play your event and then immediately watch them remove one of the two focus tokens.
Edge Count: 7 (Bad… but really, who cares?)
Important Unit Cost: 2
Blast Icons: One black on one unit, one white on two units
Tactics Icons: Ion Cannon!
Overall Grade: A-
Phantoms of Imdaar (Pod 182)
Shields are very strong. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This objective gives you shields. Therefore it must be good, yeah? Well… not exactly. A shield is certainly strong, but having to attack or block with two Fighters together is a high cost. Sometimes you won’t have two Fighters ready. Sometimes you won’t want to attack or defend with both of them together, preferring to attack two different objectives (especially with Tallon Rolls involved). Sometimes you’ll even do it, but you’ll want to put the shield on the objective you’re defending rather than your (often inconsequential) units. If one of the fighters is a piloted TIE Fighter Patrol then maybe we’re in business, but honestly I think this objective will be blank more often than not. I hope I’m wrong, but my experience with dark side Fighters is that a lot of them are pretty replaceable and the ones that aren’t often cost enough that you won’t want to be attacking and defending with them together. I’d much rather this say something like “after a Fighter attacks or defends, give it a shield (limit once per turn).” So, while it’s functional, it’s our first dark side objective that isn’t just completely insane. I’d give this objective maybe a C- or a D+ because of how inconsistent I expect it to end up being.
The infamous TIE Phantom ravaged the X-Wing metagame for well over a year before it got nerfed into the background, and now it’s joined the card game. Will it be as dominating? Honestly, I don’t think so. A lot of the strength of the TIE decks is that they swarm the board with smaller, more replaceable units, and outnumber the opponent with action advantage and sheer offensive power. They’ve always struggled with playing defense, but between Death from Above and Tallon Roll it’s not hard for them to get explosively offensive turns. So what can the TIE Phantom bring to the deck as it exists? A very solid Main but one that takes away from the decently-successful swarm strategy. Interestingly, being a Main simultaneously takes away from the swarm strategy but also increases the power of Tallon Roll, and being piloted by someone that augments its combat stats (like Maarek Stele) starts looking very interesting. Most of all, though, the TIE Phantom has a tactics icon, and that’s its most defining feature, and what might make it part of the TIE deck. Yes, while it’s in an engagement and ready your opponent can’t affect it with anything (though they’re free to tactics or targeted strike it if it’s not engaged), but really its biggest strength is the defensive capability it brings to the deck. I don’t think it’ll be great, but it’ll be solid. With only two health it’s annoyingly vulnerable but definitely fair.
The event is a cute way to help protect your Phantoms by bringing them in before an enemy tactics icon or targeted strike can hit them, and it can help get some extra safe damage in if your opponent doesn’t have any tactics icons, but otherwise I’m not super impressed. It seems very situational and, like all situational cards, the one force icon is a big unfortunate sticking point. I think this makes it a bad card, but I’m sure someone will beat me with it at some point.
The other secret strength in this set is these extra sources of damage. Enhanced Laser Cannon obviously wants to go on a TIE Phantom so you can block, ignore the edge battle, let them strike, and then decloak and snipe them for a ton of unit damage that can’t be prevented by shields. This seems like the best case scenario, along with being put on a TIE Attack Squadron for extra targeted strike damage. It’s actually pretty good, though all the usual riders of “enhancements are situational” continues to be true. This one, at least, has two edge icons so it’s a decent edge card. But even better than the laser cannon is the Heat of Battle that comes in this set! Being able to block with a measly TIE Fighter and just start blasting people off the table with Heat of Battle sounds very appealing to me, especially given that TIEs often lack in defense. Pairing this pod with Maarek Stele is sounding better and better, as that gives you four Heats to burn down attackers with measly TIE Fighters and Stele himself goes great on a TIE Phantom thanks to its “cloaking” ability. I think this pod will end up much like his pod: a little too fair to make the competitive tables, but very fun if you want to play with some tricky TIE shenanigans.
Edge Count: 9 (Good)
Important Unit Cost: 3
Blast Icons: One black on two units
Tactics Icons: One white on two units
Overall Grade: B-
Brothers of the Sith (Pod 183)
Anyone who’s played Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight in any significant capacity will recognize these two as the enemies in one of the most fun and memorable levels in the entire game. Being such an old videogame, Jedi Knight had a very simplified swordfighting engine, which meant that despite the fact that there were six levels that were exclusively boss fights against dark jedi, most of those duels played out the same: strafe the dark jedi, hit them with your sword a lot, and occasionally counter their Force attacks with your light side powers (unless you were playing dark side… in which case hit them with everything you’ve got!). This level was wildly more interesting because you had to face two dark jedi at the same time, and they both played very differently from each other. Gorc was the big dumb brute: slow, hardy, and if you ever made the mistake of being in front of him when he swung his lightsaber… very deadly. However, being slow meant you could usually see him start his swing and get out of the way. While you were managing that, Pic was bouncing around the room, Attack of the Clones Yoda-style, cackling maniacally and occasionally flickering in and out of visibility. If Gorc was the one you had to dodge, Pic was the one dodging you and while it only took a few hits to actually kill him (comparatively), actually getting a hit to land on him was quite hard. It took the emphasis off of the overly-simplistic “who will fail to auto-block first” swordfighting mechanic and turned it into a really interesting mobility game reminiscent of modern top-quality MMO combat.
Oh, and did I mention they both had Force Choke?
Erik Dahlman, lead developer of Star Wars: The Card Game, commented in an interview with the podcast Ion Control that this objective set is his one of his favorites, and it shows. Gorc and Pic’s cards perfectly match their video game counterparts, with Gorc being the big burly one that hits hard (four cost for five health and capable of dealing 2-3 damage in each combat?) while Pic bounces in and out of play, being difficult to hit, and trading his big buddy’s blast icons for the trickster-true tactics icon. The sequencing here is pretty apparent: you trigger Pic’s effect to put him into play and immediately strike with him, then when the opponent tries to strike back you instead put the damage on Gorc with protect, trigger his effect to return Pic to your hand (clearing a point of damage you chose to leave there?) and then immediately put Pic back into play, free of damage and focus tokens, to strike again and get more damage and focus tokens out on the table. When paired, these two are very potent, but even when on their own, Pic is a Tusken Raider that can wield a lightsaber (a perfectly acceptable floor) while Gorc is a Darth Vader clone that traded his ability to control the board for just being really hard to kill. Vader’s better, to be sure, but worst-case Gorc is perfectly acceptable. Having both unit damage be black is particularly important (compared to, say, Mara Jade) because with that and his five health means he can often ignore the edge battle. Do note, however, that if you’re using Gorc and Pic together, it doesn’t matter how many times you bounce Pic in and out of play, you need to win the edge battle if you want to get his tactics icon.
That said, I want to play this set for the art of the two Mains alone. I think those might be my favorite pieces of art in all of Star Wars: The Card Game… and this game has amazing art.
The biggest problem with “Exodia”-style cards (cards that refer to another card by name) is that sometimes you just don’t draw the pieces that go together. Fortunately the objective helps with this. If you’re willing to sacrifice one of your resources for the turn, you can go digging for as many Sithspawn cards as you can find in the top five cards of your deck. So far you can only have up to six Sithspawn cards in your deck, but as more cards with that trait are released I expect to see this objective go from “draw-smoothing” to an outright nutty card advantage engine. My favorite aspect, I think, is actually that the cards you get from the objective go into your hand, which means you can do things like dig for edge cards, or if you have Gorc in play you can trigger it during the conflict phase after all attackers and defenders have been declared to try to find Pic when your opponent might not have thought you had him.
The objective would be pretty bad on its own if Gorc and Pic were the only cards it could grab, so we fortunately got another Sithspawn card. Telepathic Connection is a strange card at first glance: it’s a zero-cost enhancement that doesn’t actually generate a resource, so it just sits in play and grants abilities to the Brothers of the Sith. But it’s also unique, so I guess it at least is a serviceable edge card once you’ve played your first one? And then there’s the fact that the card grants purely offensive abilities to the Brothers. In the early parts of the game, when the Dark Side has to defend against the Light Side’s initial onslaught, I’m pretty sure this card will be better served in an edge battle. However, the minute you plan on attacking with either Gorc or Pic this card will be invaluable. Targeted Strike on Pic will punish your opponent even further for not defending against him, and you can help encourage that by forcing them to defend against Gorc’s initial onslaught. Another trick is to attack with Gorc, force them to block with some chump, and then drop in Pic, start going after someone who didn’t defend, and then let Gorc finish off the defender while Pic jumps in and out of play going after other units. If you have a means by which to damage your own units (say, with Force Choke…) you can probably get some silly combos going with these two. However at the end of the day I think it’ll mostly end up as a two-edge card you can fetch with the objective, and that’s perfectly fine.
Ironically, I’ve raved about the two Mains… and I haven’t even talked about some of the best cards in the pod. Force Stasis is an amazing card that failed to see tournament play only because the set it came in was too expensive to be playable. Now we get a copy of it in a very good set, and light side players are going to have to deal with the fact that the dark side almost has their own version of Jedi Mind Trick, even if it restricts entering engagements rather than actually focusing the target. However, with a Scum splash or with a Telepathic Pic floating around, just locking them out of engagements can usually be enough to targeted strike them to death or just tactics them out the old fashioned way.
And then there’s Force Invisibility, a card that’s either going to be way too expensive to ever do anything with you, or it’ll be the card that means the difference between a dead Palpatine and your opponent having their board locked out. Two cost to protect one unit from one strike is very expensive, don’t get me wrong, and it doesn’t have the edge icons to make up for it. However, there are times when you just need to survive long enough to get your strike off, and this’ll make sure that happens. Sometimes you really need to get an initial tactics lockdown going, or you just need to hit those last few points of objective damage. This expensive event will get you there. Just don’t start calling it the new be-all-and-end-all Sith card, because it’ll be discarded in the draw phase probably more often than actually getting played… even if every time it’s played will be extremely memorable.
Edge Count: 9 (Good)
Important Unit Cost: 4
Blast Icons: Two white on one unit
Tactics Icons: One white on one unit
Overall Grade: B+
The Hutt’s Menagerie (Pod 184)
Now we get our “limit one per deck” Scum set. If the Rebel and Jedi ones are anything to go by, this has a pretty high bar to match. Does it get there?
The objective ability is strong. Recurring cards, even for a resource, is strong because it can just keep giving you back a good edge card every turn for one resource. However, that’s not generally what this card is going to do, because this card only gets back Creatures and there’s not that many of them floating around. Two of them come in the set, and pretty much the only Creature I actively see myself recurring is the one that says Protect on it. Honestly, if it said “Pay one to return Bubo to your hand” I think I would still love this card. Recurring Protect is unbelievable. I just hope you get to draw your card…
In case the “creatures matter” text on the objective didn’t clue you in, this set is about Scum Creatures. Ironically it only comes with one copy of two Creatures, but they’re both pretty insane. The aforementioned Bubo I think is the most important one, because it’s the first real instance Scum has gotten of Protect (arguably the most important ability in the game), and it protects basically all of Scum’s best units. Even better, it’s on an Emperor’s Royal Guard-like unit, in that it has three health but only costs two resources. Bubo loses a in the exchange, but I’m pretty sure I’d trade that for an objective that can recur him.
Jabba’s Rancor, on the other hand, is just a big dumb killing machine. When it was first spoiled on Flip the Force, I wasn’t terribly impressed, because it’s in a faction that’s not known for winning edge battles super reliably, and because it’s a lot of eggs to put into that one basket. However, there are two very important cards that make Jabba’s Rancor one of the best cards in the Scum affiliation right now: The Prince’s Scheme and Guri. Prince’s Scheme goes stupidly well with this entire objective set, since the set comes with three unique Scum units, but if you defend with the Rancor and have Prince’s Scheme in hand… I’m pretty sure it’s impossible for your opponent to save their two best attacking units unless they have a Twist. And any unit that can kill two enemy units in the first strike needs serious consideration. That combo already existed when it was first spoiled, but Guri is the other key piece that was just released. If I attack into a Jabba’s Rancor and I suspect or know that my opponent has Guri in their hand… is there anything I can do except lose in this endeavor? If I lose the edge battle, they’ll eat my best non-Vehicle unit and then destroy my best attacking unit anyway. If I win the edge battle, they still get to drop in Guri, strike first with the Rancor, kill my guy anyway… and they still have Guri waiting in the wings. In recent playtesting with this guy I’ve literally played a Rancor on my first turn, with no resource, and nothing else… just the Rancor and still killed all my opponent’s attackers just by manipulating the edge battle.
The one problem with a one-of objective set with five different cards is always that you can never count on seeing any one of them. After all, Bubo may be the card that Scum’s always needed, but you only ever have one in your deck. Conveniently, this objective set comes with two cards that answer the problem of all one-of objectives: tutors! Malikili will get you Bubo, meaning you have virtually two copies of your protector (which is comparable to the Royal Guards), and Jabba’s Summons will help get you whichever Bounty Hunter or Mercenary unit you happened to need. This seems especially strong with Boussh and Snoova, both of whom can be fetched with the event and who really want to both hit the table together. I don’t really have much more to say about these cards, except that they solve the “limit-one” objective set restriction by being able to react to any board state with greater precision (assuming you have Creatures and Bounty Hunters in your deck).
Finally we have Jabba’s dancers. This looks like a funny card, being another zero-cost enhancement that doesn’t seem to advance your board… but good lord can it be strong. We’ve seen Icetrompers do great work ejecting attackers from the engagement and dealing them damage, but that was never as strong as being able to eject defenders because the attacking unit could then just choose to attack a different objective. This is exactly like that, except you can kick out their best defender on the turn where you want to get some serious damage down, or their only defender if you want to get an attack through but don’t want to waste cards on an edge battle. I think that will be this card’s greatest strength, and it even allows you to do the Icetromper trick to help protect your important objectives (maybe ones with captured cards?) from attacks. The best part about this card, though, is definitely the threat of activation. As long as this card is sitting on the table your opponent is going to have to alter their play style, and you’re going to get some great disruption of their strategy without ever actually having to use it.
Edge Count: 8 (Average)
Important Unit Cost: 2 or 4?
Blast Icons: One white on one unit
Tactics Icons: None
Overall Grade: A-
I can’t get over how strong this entire box is for the dark side, and after the two sides had just been balanced after a light-side dominated metagame, it looks like we’re back into the era of dark side juggernauts, this time ruled by the Imperial Navy rather than the Sith. But they all look super fun in addition to being strong, so I’m excited to finally have them in hand!
I’m going to be taking a week off, so join me in two weeks when I’ll go deep on deckbuilding for people interested in the objective set system.