Welcome back to another Release Review! This one closes out the Rogue Squadron Cycle, a cycle that at first looked like it wouldn’t do much to change up the metagame from the Echoes of the Force cycle but which contained a few sleeper hits and a few all-star champions. If you’ve been following the Imperial Entanglements spoilers at all, you know that my lackluster review of Grand Admiral Thrawn’s set was pretty immediately made irrelevant by giving Navy an in-faction way to increase the Noghri’s damage output, which will make that objective set from the last pack one of the most meta-defining sets of recent history.
What I want to know is whether this pack will bring anything on the scale of Rahn, Rogue Squadron, Boba, or Thrawn. The answer is probably not, but it has a ton of very juicy cards, and I especially am exceptionally excited to finally get my hands on Arden Lyn. Those events are so much fun! I suspect the Rebel Heroes set to end up stronger than they read, though being all-unique will be problematic, and I think a lot of people will have higher hopes for Han than what ends up playing out. Being in-faction with All Out Brawl and The Slimiest Scheme has the potential to make Guri very strong, but both she and the equally high-potential Arden Lyn may end up too inconsistent to ultimately work out. However, even if this pack doesn’t end up as powerful as the other expansions of the cycle, it’s easily one of the most fun!
The Forgotten Masters (Pod 166)
Being Forced makes this objective’s ability very difficult to judge. The Jedi are the ones who are supposed to control the Force, and they have the most Force icons, so doesn’t it make sense that they’d want to give that up to something as iffy as an edge battle, especially since it’s easy to lose an edge battle that you don’t defend in. That said, the Balance is most relevant at the start of a player’s turn and there will always be a traditional Force struggle just before that will help to counter the chaos that this objective may cause. Therefore it seems most relevant when dealing with in-engagement cards that care about the state of the Force, cards like Leia Organa or Wes Jansen, and it seems most “effective” at making it easier to keep the Force by tying the opponent’s force count… though that could easily backfire if it turns out you didn’t have the edge battle after all. I’m going to have to play this objective a lot more if I want to figure out whether it’s an effect I actually want or not, but given Jedi also happened to be the kings of edge at the moment… I guess it’s not all bad?
These are the cards people will want this objective set for, because quite frankly they’re all pretty insane. One-cost Believer in the Old Ways with the blast icon black (an improvement) but is forced to be committed and has the “your opponent can bounce it” clause seems bad… but the fact that it’s a one-cost Force User actually makes the rest of the card pretty irrelevant. Want to draw cards with Forgotten Heroes? Sure, just pay one resource (and if your opponent bounces it, you can do it again!). Want to put three focus tokens down with a Noble Sacrifice but don’t want to lose your Mains? Sure, here’s a chud. Want to kill out-of-faction enemy units with Obi-Wan Kenobi? Here’s some chuds to fill it out. Obi-Wan Kenobi has never been a strong Main (excepting his Wolfman version, which is a limit-one) largely because he relies on Force User tribal, which has never been viable due to the lack of a critical mass. This just opened up those doors and now I expect to see people running Jedi Mind Tricks and Noble Sacrifices all over the place. But Lost Master isn’t even the best card in the objective set! That honor belongs to the unpronounceable T’ra Saa, aka “who gave this four-cost unit FIVE COMBAT ICONS AND EDGE TWO???”
She doesn’t have elite, which is important, but her combat icons are exactly those of Ferus Olin… except with a tactics icon thrown in. Because, you know, there’s nothing wrong with just throwing the most powerful combat icon onto an already-respectable body. And then because they’re mostly white, let’s give her a clause that will often make her contribute a free edge (2) into the engagement (more if you’re running with the Moldy Crow, but either way that’s basically a free card every time). While I think she’ll be very vulnerable without elite, she’s strong enough as a basic body in the engagement that she’s a threat that must be dealt with.
The last two cards supplement T’ra Saa’s “have more committed units than your opponent” strategy, but it’s a strategy that usually amounts to running in circles. A Gift from the Past is going to make it easier to commit T’ra Saa or Qu Rahn early since you can then remove their commitment later, and you can most importantly use it to get free additional strikes out of focused Mains when you have May the Force Be With You out, but it’s been errata’ed to “Limit once per turn” so if you do that, you won’t be able to refresh and win a Force struggle. Echoes does the same thing, allowing you to uncommit Mains who may not have elite or who you want to re-use with May the Force Be With You, or even just to uncommit enemy units so you can win the Force struggle or turn on T’ra Saa’s edge (2). While these uses are technically, well, useful, it’s a pretty marginal advantage and I think most of the time I’m just going to be using them as edge fodder.
Ultimately this set’s greatest strength is its units, and considering they’re the backbone of this game that’s a great place to have your strength. I think this will open up new deck archetypes for the light side, as Force User Tribal can finally start to be a thing with the two “core” Obi-Wans, and T’ra Saa will combine very well with the mostly-ubiquitous May the Force Be With You, but playing this set will come down to a preference and it won’t beat out any of the other, far more powerful, Jedi sets that are already in existence.
Edge Count: 9 (Good)
Important Unit Cost: 4 (or 1)
Blast Icons: One black on three units, plus a white on the Main
Tactics Icons: One white on one unit
Overall Grade: C+
Heroes of the Rebellion (Pod 167)
Alright, so we have pilots and we have ships and I know the developers want you to use them together because this objective is insane. Once you get a pilot on your ship, it suddenly becomes immune to everything. Force Lightning? Nope. Vader’s reaction? Nope. Seeds of Decay? Echoes of the Force? Heat of Battle? Grand Admiral Thrawn?
Now it matters less against Scum, because a lot of their best targeted removal can’t hit enhanced units anyway (Boba Fett, Threat Removal) but being able to shut down Force Lightning, Grand Admiral Thrawn, and even Heat of Battle seems pretty crazy to me. And there’s virtually no opportunity cost, because if you’re running this objective set then you want your ships to be piloted as it is. As more targeted dark side effects emerge, I can only see this effect getting stronger and stronger. Wow, A+ for this objective ability.
Normally we’d look at the pilots first (they come first numerically), but as pilots are mostly meaningless without their ships, I’m going to look at their ships first instead. The first thing to notice is that these two bring quite a lot of blast damage. Both have black blast, with the more expensive unit having the potential to double that if they win the edge battle. I expect 2-3 damage from every three-drop I play, and since an unopposed Rogue Nine gives me three blast I’d call that happy. The fact that they both have additional upside when piloted is pretty juicy as well. So let’s look at it.
“While this unit is piloted, it gains .” Really? So I can just pay two, then play my Pilot for free (with Pilot Ready Room) and have a unit that would normally cost me three resources? And all the icons are black? Wow, that’s pretty good. And if you combo out and get Wes Jansen on it, it gains targeted strike? Um, yes please. This guy’s a winner. Next!
“While this unit is piloted, it gains +1 damage capacity.” It’s way less impressive, but considering it’s already got great stats, I’ll take what I can get. The fact that it gets +3 damage capacity instead when piloted by Tycho seems pretty silly until you realize what Tycho does, which is that he makes Rogue Nine the nuts.
Alright, so the ships are solid (actually they’re well above the curve). So what do our pilots do? Tycho gives shielding and protect (something we saw on Obi-Wan’s lightsaber, which turned out to be quite strong). Put him on his ship and your opponent’s going to have a very tough time killing your units, especially when half of them are Rogue Squadron X-Wings. But truth be told, he’s fantastic on any ship. Protect helps your team and shielding helps whoever he’s piloting. Even on a Rogue Squadron ship, that’s three HP with protect, shielding, and when you’re all done you can discard Tycho to remove it all. Fantastic. The fact that he’s also a surprisingly powerful unit (two cost, three health, black tactics? Seems legit!) really surprises me.
Wes, meanwhile, is very, very strong. For a two cost pilot (which can be reduced!) you get a Heat of Battle every turn, which will occasionally be a Rebel Assault every turn if you can win the Force struggle & your opponent decides to attack you. This looks a lot like Leia’s ability, which can completely take over board states, but it trades volume (Leia will usually do 2 damage) to be more proactive. Note that the ship Wes is piloting doesn’t need to be in the engagement, or focused, or anything—you just need to have him in play and ready to fire it off. Put him on his ship, as well, and that’s a ton of board control. Shoot the blocker, then targeted strike someone outside the engagement. Occasionally I expect to see people try him out with Blue Nine to get extra shots off, and frankly I don’t think that’s a bad idea.
Finally we have Ready for Takeoff, the card that will cost you one and draw you 0-5 cards (usually 1-2) whenever you play it. People will look at this and think they should build around it, jamming as many unique Rebel Fighters, Speeders, and Pilots into their deck as possible, and while that’ll make this a strong card advantage play (not to mention help get your unique pilots onto their ships), I think that’s a mistake. Play cards that are strong, not ones that make this particular card good. It’s not even like Attack Pattern Delta, which you can abuse the entire game if you build around it (though that set does go well with this one). I also suspect that the sheer power of this set will make people want to run it in multiples. I will certainly try it out a bit, but because it’s full of unique units I’m pretty sure that’s incorrect. We can only find out by testing, though.
Edge Count: 7 (Terrible)
Important Unit Cost: 2 & 3
Blast Icons: One black on two units, one with an additional white (Wes doesn’t count)
Tactics Icons: One black on one unit
Overall Grade: B-
That Bucket o’ Bolts (Pod 168)
First things first, seeing “Smugglers & Spies Only” on this card is very disenheartening. I would love to see a Smuggler/Rebel vehicle deck, and if you’re going to do this it must be primarily Rebel, which is a problem if you wanted to play it with Sleuths. Now I’m sure it isn’t as big a deal if you were going to splash it into a Rebel pilot deck anyway, as the only Rebel pilot you can’t run it with is Luke (hilariously), but it’s awkward because I could see a Smuggler Pilots deck that splashed Rebels for Defense of Yavin 4 and Rogue Squadron Assault. But as it is, it looks like the mechanic will be primarily out of Rebels, as I don’t think the Smuggler Pilots have gotten there (certainly not as a mono-affiliation).
As for the ability, it’s pretty generic. I expected to see this effect on an objective when the mechanic was first announced, and here it is. Focus the objective to get a Pilot unit into a ship. Seems nice utility in a Pilot deck, but given that I’m dubious as to whether or not this pod will end up in a Pilot-heavy deck, I don’t think I’m excited about it here. Ironically, this would have been best in a set with Bail Out, but they’re on opposite sides of the Force, and I don’t plan on playing most of my light side pilots as units.
Alright, a Smuggler set with two three-Edge cards! The Falcon is a pretty solid representation of the core Falcon, being a five-cost heavy-hitting unit with edge (1) and an ability to escape engagements. Considering it won’t be returning to your hand, it gains elite… but at the end of the day it’s a pretty vanilla unit. Unless you plan on using the Falcon to draw out defenders and then retreat (a trick that only works if they don’t have tactics icons), it’s largely just a five-cost, edge (1) combat Main, as even if you use the ability to strike and immediately vacate the engagement, you’re still only saving some damage on yourself at best. It’ll never be able to control the board or gain action advantage the way the core Falcon does. Han helps a lot by giving you the ability to control who defends your attacks, but then you have the problem of having only one unit in the set, and an expensive one at that. He’s a decently good unit, though not being Elite is rough, and I think the unit he’s best on isn’t the Falcon but rather something like a Sleuth Scout or a Blockade Runner. But these three sets don’t ultimately go all that well together, for their lack of resources if nothing else. If there’s a ship with lots of tactics, suddenly he gets a ton better… but then there isn’t a ship with lots of tactics and I don’t think I’d want to include this pod just for Han. I dunno, I’m not impressed by either one. The three edge icons on both of them does help, though.
If you were hoping this pod would be saved by funny-looking Han and his serious cash moneys, you were mistaken. I’m not super impressed by limited events (even limited “psuedo-events” like Sith Holocron and Owen Lars make me hesitate sometimes) and this objective set comes with two of them. Now I know you’re probably thinking “but I can play two Sleuth Scouts and other events in one turn!” and yeah that’s strong. Or maybe you’re thinking “But if I have A Hero’s Trial out, a Derek “Hobbie” Klivian in hand, and a Rogue Squadron X-Wing in play, this can allow me to strike infinite times and win the game!” and I’m just shaking my head that you’d want to run that monstrosity of a deck (if you don’t get A Hero’s Trial, what do you do? None of the sets have any synergy). Or if you just want to play it out for a resource or two, that’s fine… but then it’s no better than The Defense of Yavin 4, and that’s at its best case scenario. I think this card alone will make running this set in duplicate impossible, and that’ll be the death knell for Han & the Falcon.
The Heat of Battle in the set is nice, but it’s only as good as the rest of the set, and it looks like once again the Smugglers got the short end of the pilot stick.
Edge Count: 10 (Great)
Important Unit Cost: 5
Resource? No (Well Paid doesn’t count)
Blast Icons: Two black (plus one white on Han)
Tactics Icons: One black, but you’re probably not playing Han as a unit.
Overall Grade: D+
The Reawakening (Pod 169)
I’m going to start with this event because secretly it’s the core of the pod. You get two of it, which means you can easily fill your deck with four copies, and when it works it really works. Pay one resource, deal 3 damage when you discard the Executor? Sweet. Deal five damage for one resource with Palpatine? Sure. Pay one and do nothing when you flip Sith Library? Ouch.
This card can be either the nuts amazing or really bad, and I think decks that want to seriously consider this pod need to build around this event, because if this event is bad for you then you’re clogging your deck with lots of suboptimal cards. That means you want lots of Force Icons (which Sith fortunately has) but you also need to balance the fact that your best resources, as well as Twist of Fate, actively counteract this strategy. It also limits what objectives you can pair it with, because while it’s great with Vader and Palpatine, it’s definitely not with Counsel of the Sith (only four icons across the entire set? Ugh) or with Mara Jade (7 icons) or with Sate Pestage (8 icons). It’s surprisingly good with Jerec, as his set comes with two resources (which this set lacks) and the rest are either two icons or four (and you don’t feel bad about flipping Jerec when you do). But even when you do build your deck around it… sometimes it’ll fail on you. Sometimes it’ll be amazing! But be aware that the huge unreliability of this set will almost certainly keep it out of competitive play, especially given that it also is completely blanked by Vehicle decks.
If I’m going to be discarding cards from my own decks, I’d love to make it an advantage. Turns out, Arden Lyn loves being discarded from your deck! It lets her come into play for free! Note that she can also come into play for free if you discard her with Dark Precognition, but that’s an iffy pairing as that set doesn’t go well with Give in to Your Anger. So most of the time she’ll just be a four-cost, three-gun Main who doesn’t have elite. Occasionally she’ll be completely free, and if you miraculously hit her with Give in to Your Anger, she’ll kill someone when she does enter play. As a Main she’s pretty vanilla, but if you can get a strike off with her she’ll do a good job killing what you need killed. The pod comes with Return to Darkness, a card that’ll help you reuse your Mains (with the added advantage of allowing you to hit Arden Lyn again if she goes to the top and you can fire off her event), but otherwise does little, and with another copy of Dark Side Apprentice, a unit which is technically fine but really not good enough to compete. So you’re likely just running this pod for Arden Lyn and Give In To Your Anger, and that’s not a bad thing… just an inconsistent thing.
The objective gives you another way to discard Arden Lyn, and it also doubles as a means by which to help filter your draws. However, I suspect it’ll actually be more powerful when used on your opponent, as I assume you packed your deck with good cards you want to see, so discarding one of them will be difficult and unpleasant, whereas using it to snipe a Yoda, Luke, or Kyle Katarn that might be coming up for your opponent will be serious money. Now you have to win Force struggles to use it, but in Sith that’s not generally too much to ask.
What I haven’t mentioned about this pod, so far… is how EXCITED I am to play it! I don’t suspect this will be a terribly strong objective set, but it’s going to be tons of fun and will produce awesome stories (I already have one in which I played Give in to Your Anger on Yoda, who had Guardian backup, and flipped Palpatine so he died anyway). So ignoring the presence of a competitive circuit for this game… this pod will be tons of fun.
Edge Count: 8 (Average)
Important Unit Cost: 4
Blast Icons: One white on two units
Tactics Icons: None
Overall Grade: C-
Behind the Black Sun (Pod 170)
Guri exactly sums up this objective set. And boy is she incredible. In the faction that can already mess with edge battles almost as much as they want (Twist of Fate, The Prince’s Scheme, Reversal of Fate), this gives another wrinkle into the equation. Does your opponent think you have a Twist? Are you going to dominate them with Prince’s Scheme? Or are you bluffing to go off with Guri? If they guess wrong they’re in for a big pile of hurt. And there’s almost no signals that you could send, either, if you have all of those cards in your deck. If you are bluffing a Guri… then losing the edge battle is almost as good as winning it. Observe: With All Out Brawl (or her Vibroblade), Guri can jump in and immediately strike for the magical three points of damage, killing an unprotected Main or a Rogue Squadron X-Wing. Or, if you’re defending with someone extra-strong, like Palpatine or Xizor, and winning or losing the edge battle doesn’t matter because you can just pop in Guri, strike first with your big tactics main, and then even though they won the edge battle… they still can’t strike because you got your tactics icons resolved first.
The Vibroblade does the same thing, albeit in a much smaller way. If you have a character that definitely can’t be killed or tactics’ed in the first strike, or you have a unit so powerful that it must be dealt with first (leaving another to ensure it’ll get its strike), you can turn losing an edge battle into a vengeful blow that manages to get the extra damage in to kill your opponent. That said, I suspect it’ll mostly be used for its two edge icons or will just be played for the extra damage because if you somehow don’t lose the edge battle and it ends up sitting, wasted, in your hand… well then that’s the definition of a bad card. And to encourage you to kill things quickly and effectively, the set also comes with a Heat of Battle, for when your All Out Brawl isn’t showing up, or when Guri and a Vibroblade just isn’t enough.
Guri is a dangerous threat… but like Boba Fett, once she’s hit the table then the game gets a lot simpler for your opponent. Being able to keep Guri out of play becomes very important, as that allows you to keep up the bluff and drop her in when you draw the second one. If you can somehow return her to your hand, so you can keep the Guri Loop going… well then things get nasty for your opponent. For that reason, I recommend you draw your attention to The Hunters, which contains A Better Offer and two strong Black Sun mains (as well as an event that pairs quite well with Xizor). Or maybe you’re more optimistic and you want to make use of The Slimiest Scheme, which allows you to do it every turn. This plan is somewhat riskier, as the units in it are much worse than those in The Hunters, but they do start to look much stronger when paired with All Out Brawl, and the set does come with a Prized Possession. It all depends on how you best want to punish your enemies.
Guri does, unfortunately, have one exhaust-port weakness: if you lose the edge battle but only lose it by one icon, then she can’t do anything! This is where the objective comes into play. Assuming you’re on the defense, you can comfortably bid your edge battle with Guri in hand, because if you lose the edge by one then you can always either bump your side up to even (so you win on the tie) or bump your opponent’s side up to make sure you lose by two and trigger Guri. And when you don’t have Guri… well, then it’s just a free edge (1) that you can toss in after the fact once per phase. Your opponent may even start to play differently when they realize that you have the option to trigger this—but aren’t forced to if it would do you no good. So in that way, it’s kinda like having a free edge (1) on all your engagements, because you’re only going to use it if it matters. Things get even weirder when you have both copies of the objective out.
As it happens, making threatening edge battles can only go so far in this game. Sometimes you need more reliable ways of getting your opponent’s units off the table, and Guri’s set wraps up with a couple different means by which to do that. Freelance Assassin serves a similar role to the Reprogrammed DRK-1 Droid, in that she’s a one-cost, one-damage targeted strike unit. Not great, by any stretch, especially since the damage is white, but the fact that the Assassin always has targeted strike (unlike IG-88’s droid) makes her significantly stronger. This is largely due to the fact that she’s in the same faction as a number of damage-boosting cards—specifically All Out Brawl and the Hidden Vibroblade. It’s not difficult for her to become a 1 or 2 cost, 2-3 damage targeted strike unit that demands your opponent leave back a defender or else they’ll just start losing their best units every turn. Considering those cards already go so well with Guri and The Slimiest Scheme… it’s pretty easy to see how synergistic this pod can get.
And if damage isn’t going to work, whether because of The Survivors or protect or just because of a lot of hit points, Threat Removal is an event that can completely undo any Main that your opponent has attempted to throw at you. Granted, this is significantly worse than dropping Guri in and striking for the kill: it costs two, can be canceled, puts the unit into their hand (instead of discard pile), and can’t hit enhanced units. That includes all piloted ships as well as a lot of Jedi Mains, so I expect this card to actually end up being the worst of the set, as it’s entirely dependent upon what your opponent does (or doesn’t) play. That said, if Threat Removal is the worst card in the set… that’s a very strong set.
Edge Count: 8 (Average)
Important Unit Cost: 3? 1? 0?
Blast Icons: None
Tactics Icons: None
Overall Grade: A-
This is a very interesting pack, particularly for Scum and Rebel players, though the others could turn out to be better than expected. Guri is definitely the strongest of the lot, which will make any fans of Shadows of the Empire happy, and I can’t wait to start messing around with Looping Guri and Give In To Your Anger.
Will these cards stand up to the Imperial Juggernauts on the horizon? Find out next week as I begin my Imperial Entanglements review!