Or, wow, I really just let him use that same Sense 3 times…
Happy Star Wars day! I figured that today would be the perfect day to finally release this article!
When I first got back into Star Wars ccg, easily one of my weakest areas as a player was in the realm of Defensive Shields. Maybe it is because they weren’t a thing when I played “back in the day,” or maybe it’s because they sit under an effect and I literally forgot that they’re even there until my opponent plays one of their own. Regardless, they are an integral part of the game that cannot be ignored!
I want to start out by saying that I think Defensive Shields bring a lot to the game, so if you’re feeling frustrated with them, or opting to play without them altogether, hold strong! Once you get the hang of using them it’ll click, and you’ll see why they do what they do.
Let’s quickly go over how to play shields before we dive in. Defensive Shields can be played at any time you could play a “top level” action. This means that you can play them at almost any time, including your opponent’s turn, even between each force they activate. However, once your opponent has played a card or, for example, retrieved a force, you cannot play a shield to have it retroactively effect that action (there’s no stack here, for the mtg folks). You are typically allowed to play four per game unless you have a card such as Onyx 2(v) or Hear Me Baby Hold Together(v) in your deck. Because of this it is always important to weigh your options and not throw out shields that will have little impact on the game overall, especially considering one or two shields are sort of “auto-plays” meaning you’re really choosing between two or three shields to play during a game.
Contrary to that advice, if you are just starting out in the world of Star Wars CCG with Defensive Shields, I’d actually suggest starting the game by pulling a couple shields and just having them out all game, instead of trying to wait out the opportune moment, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll miss it. For Dark Side, I’d start by playing Allegations of Corruption and Secret Plans. For Light Side, go ahead and play A Tragedy Has Occurred and Aim High. These shields are typically useful in just about every game, and we’ll get to why soon. If your deck starts any of the effect versions of these shields, you can’t play the shield.
Now let’s get into the real reason you came here – the shields!
Allegations of Corruption/A Tragedy Has Occurred
Almost every game of Star Wars CCG starts with both players playing these shields, which are referred to as “grabbers,” because they, well, grab an opponent’s card. The way they work allows you to have them sit in play as long as you want before deciding what to grab, so getting it out right away is the way to go.
You can only grab one card, and it must be an interrupt. Any copies of that card they play throughout the game will be automatically grabbed by the shield as well and, for each copy of the card on the shield, your opponent must pay 1 extra force to play the interrupt.
As far as what makes an interrupt grab worthy, you’re mostly looking for Used Interrupts that have a significant impact on the game. Rebel Leadership and Imperial Command are popular targets, as well as each side’s Barrier. The combo cards All Wings Report In & Darklighter Spin and Short Range Fighters & Watch Your Back can also be really nasty if they’re allowed to use them multiple times, so you may consider grabbing those. Light Side has a couple other high-priority targets in the cards It Could Be Worse and We’re Doomed, as these can be cycled to greatly reduce all of Dark Side’s damage late in the game. If your opponent has some sort of retrieval engine, or something like Luke’s Bionic Hand(v), it can be worth grabbing nasty Lost Interrupts as well. There are, really, countless good targets and it ultimately comes down to the match-up, so you’ll have to play some games to really figure out what you should be grabbing.
Secret Plans/Aim High
Another shield that sees play nearly every game, because no one wants their opponent to be retrieving force for free! Simply put, this shield makes players pay one force for each card they wish to retrieve when a card allows them some retrieval. Popular retrieval options these days include Luke Skywalker (v), Scum and Villainy and the Firepower (v) and Weapons Display (v) Defensive Shields, just to name a few. I’d say that a good majority of decks have at least some kind of retrieval, so this is almost always a good play.
Battle Order/Battle Plan
No one wants their opponent to be able to sit in one theater (ground or space) and drain away to their heart’s content, and these shields prevent that, to a degree, by requiring a player to pay three force to initiate a force drain if they don’t occupy a battleground site and a battleground system. These cards, I think possibly more than any others, really shape how decks are built and games are played. If you’re going to build a deck without any ships, for instance, you must be prepared to pay three force for every force drain you make throughout the entire game.
You’ll want to have this down before your opponent’s first control phase in which they’ll be able to drain without occupying a battleground site and system. Remember that you can play shields as your opponent activates force, and that is pretty much your last chance to get these down if needed.
I was a little apprehensive about these two, perhaps because they read more like actual cards you’d have in your deck than shields (considering they can both do damage and retrieve force, which is pretty powerful). Their actual impact on games is less crazy than you might think, especially because they are not at full power unless you control a battleground site and a battleground system.
The retrieval aspect of both cards function identically, if your opponent plays a card with ability and doesn’t initiate a battle in the same turn, you get to retrieve one force if you control both kinds of battlegrounds (a site and a system).
The other function of each card is slightly different. For Dark Side, you get to deal some damage if they’re using tricks to move around during your turn, such as Path of Least Resistance or Dodge. For Light Side, your damage is triggered by your opponent excluding a character from battle, using something like Imperial Barrier or You Are Beaten.
These shields are also especially useful against certain decks. For example, as Dark Side, you’ll probably want this every game you play against Quiet Mining Colony, as that deck relies heavily on escaping from battle. As Light Side, you’re looking for cards like Imperial Barrier and Stunning Leader, which are common choices for decks like Court of the Vile Gangster.
These two are another set that see a lot of play, and also shape the game quite a bit. They both essentially say that as long as you occupy three battlegrounds, your opponent can’t force drain for more than two per location. This is great for limiting force drains set up by mains decks especially, which like to put a lightsaber on a site where you have two icons and get a big drain in. Be especially careful in these situations, though, as these same mains decks are just waiting to punish you for spreading too thin to cover those three battlegrounds.
Do, or Do Not/There is no Try & Wise Advice/Oppressive Enforcement
These are the anti-Sense & Alter shields and as such will only be played against opponents who are running those cards. Mains decks are the most common deck type to use these cards, but they can pop up in anything with high ability characters like Emperor Palpatine or Yoda.
If you’re given an opportunity to verify an opponent’s reserve deck, make sure to check for copies of Sense or Alter, especially if you have important interrupts or effects that are not immune to them. Otherwise, it is up to you whether or not your cards are important enough to warrant spending a shield pull on these shields without knowing for sure if your opponent is running Sense or Alter. Despite my brain telling me how inefficient it is, there is no shame in playing one or both of these shields after having a card canceled by Sense or Alter, because it is better to be prepared for the next time these nasty used interrupts resurface.
Come Here You Big Coward/Simple Tricks and Nonsense
This pair of shields is meant to punish players who are stacking a single battleground, and can be used to further hurt an opponent who you have knocked off of battlegrounds by canceling all of their retrieval outright. It also prevents opponents who don’t occupy two battlegrounds from force draining at non-battlegrounds.
These shields are really great against mains, especially light side mains, mostly because of Wokling(v). If you find yourself locked in battle at one battleground, you may consider playing this shield so that your opponent has more incentive to spread out (or more punishment for not being able to do so). It is common, in the first turn or two, to have Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight come down to your battleground with his lightsaber and start a battle. If you have some tricks (or lucky destiny draws) you can clear him, and they will most likely want to use their Wokling(v) to retrieve his saber. These shields will mess up that whole plan, hopefully long enough for you to bury that saber under some other cards.
A Useless Gesture(v)
This one doesn’t have a light side mirror and is specifically meant to help curb the awesome power of the Watch Your Step objective, the flip side of which allows light side to play an interrupt from their lost pile every. single. turn. If you played on GEMP before this shield was implemented you know that WYS was the dominant light side choice.
Death Star Sentry/Yavin Sentry
These shields exist to stop massive swarms of non-unique characters from coming down on a single location in one turn by increasing the cost of each of them by the number of copies already at the site. This is an especially important one for the light side to have in their toolbox because of the existence of the powerful and often free First Order Stormtroopers. These shields also cancel Colo Claw Fish, an effect that can be used for all sorts of tomfoolery.
These shields say hey, are you playing that for free? Did that card’s game text make it free, or was it made free by something else? If the latter, it actually costs two now. Why? Because Blizzard 4 is an unfair card, among other culprits like Nightfall. If you know your opponent has Blizzard 4 or They Must Never Again Leave This City, you will probably want to use this shield. The 2 Force they must spend is most detrimental to them in the beginning of the game, so this is really one you don’t want to miss the opportunity to use early. The more you play, the more you’ll be able to tell when you’ll need this shield.
Do They Have Code Clearance?
This is a pretty great shield, though it doesn’t see play all that often, when it does it has some pretty interesting effects. It basically grabs an interrupt or uttini effect played by your opponent that causes them to retrieve force. If you manage to grab something with it, your opponent’s retrieval for the entire rest of the game is -1. This can be really great vs decks that use something like Harvest or On the Edge in conjunction with something like Tatooine Celebration. Jedi Levitation(v) is another good one to look out for, and if you have shields to spare, you can throw this down to limit its effectiveness.
Don’t Do That Again(v)/Fanfare(v)
These shields are interesting and do a lot of things. One, they allow you to, once per game, take an immediate effect into hand from your reserve deck. That in itself is pretty cool. Then, they suspend opponent’s effects that pull systems and increase force generation unless said opponent occupies a battleground system. The shields also both reduce the effectiveness of two mean interrupts, Always Thinking with Your Stomach and Lost in the Wilderness, which would usually make your characters go missing. With these shields, those cards just make their targets unable to move for a turn instead. The dark side shield, Fanfare, also cancels a couple nasty effects. These can also be used if you need to look through your reserve deck, perhaps to check your destinies before a big battle, or to make sure a card you’re about to try to search for is actually in your reserve deck.
Only Jedi Carry That Weapon/Weapon of a Sith
Maybe Kabe is secretly super sweet? In all actuality, this is for when you are playing mains and toys and you see a Weapon Levitation in your opponent’s deck. The shields prevent your opponent from stealing your weapons. Unfortunately these shields do nothing if they are played after an opponent uses their interrupt, so you have to be on the lookout when verifying their reserve deck.
The Republic No Longer Functions/Vote of No Confidence
Senate can do some pretty crazy things, and is personally one of my least favorite decks to play against, so I’m glad these shields exist. As far as I have seen, however, Senate doesn’t even need political effects to be good, so this may not be an auto-pull against it. It also protects you, as dark side, from losing your entire hand to The Shield is Down. Lastly, they can protect you from Uncertain is the Future and Recoil in Fear, which are both parts of combo cards with the ever-useful Sense.
We’ll Let Face Decide, Huh?/Your Ship?
Sabacc can be a bummer, and it will often times slip through once before you get to play one of these shields (much like Weapon Levitation mentioned above), so these make sure you aren’t getting slammed by sabacc constantly.
Another Pathetic Lifeform/Wipe Them Out, All of Them
I’m honestly not sure what the light side version of this shield is really used for, but the dark side one is used primarily to stop Palace Raiders (non-v) from being next-level bananas.
A Useless Gesture/He Can Go About His Business
These two shields counter specific cards that are considered, by some, to cause a NPE (negative playing experience, or in other words, a bad time). The cards in question are Ketwol and Brangus Glee. These characters essentially let players exchange docking bays from their hand with cards in their lost pile, which led to a bunch of shenanigans.
Affect Mind/I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing
Another shield pair mostly aimed at one specific deck, these shields help tone down the power of “combat” decks, which play the objectives Let Them Make the First Move or We’ll Handle This. They also cancel a couple effects that increase the deploy cost of main characters.
Leave Them to Me/Let’s Keep a Little Optimism Here/No Escape/Ounee Ta
These four shields all have essentially the same function, stopping operatives from being a thing. If you played the game in 1998 when operatives hit the scene, you know why, otherwise, just know that there is a very good reason why two shields for each side and an entire rules entry exist to tone these guys down.
A Close Race/Your Insight Serves You Well/You Cannot Hide Forever/You’ve Never Won a Race?
These four shields effectively stop you from taking damage from podracing, something that sees very little play. A Close Race and You’ve Never Won a Race are actually obsolete because they do the same things the other shields do, but not as well, and with no added benefits like the other two, which cancel certain overpowered cards, such as “insert” cards which, if you don’t know how those work or what they are, count yourself lucky and never travel back in time to 1997 when the stupid things were everywhere.
Proton Bombs are pretty painful and considered NPE, so here’s a shield for that. I believe the second function is to stop TTO from blowing up planets, but I could be wrong.
This shield tones down the power of S-Foils and Maneuvering Flaps.
I think that just about covers it! This one got pretty long so I’m going to keep the outro short and leave you with a link to The NARP Fortnightly Defensive Shield article if you’d like a second opinion on all of this! Thanks for reading, and May the Fourth be with you!