Out of the Shadows….

Competitive Balance Team announces errata to Shadows Of The Empire and Planetary Defenses (V).

Greetings, SWCCGers!
As we wrap up another tournament season, having crowned a new (new again?) World Champion (congratulations to Bastian!!!!), I wanted to update the community on a few developments from the Design and Development and the Competitive Balance Teams that we hope will make the game even more enjoyable going forward.

Worlds was certainly a great time for those lucky enough to attend. Throughout the weekend it was great to see familiar faces, meet some new ones, and just talk and play cards. While the general tenor of the conversations were overwhelming positive and that players felt that the game is in a very good, fun state, certainly this year’s Worlds was dominated by that evil criminal syndicate – the Black Sun. This became evident to D&D and the community pretty early on following Set 9 and as the tournament season unfolded. A decision was made that although it was certainly strong and meta-warping, it did not rise to the ATRT (or even original Watch Your Step (V)!)-level of dominance and, although a change was warranted, it would be unfair to everyone who had been preparing and testing for the event to suddenly shake up the meta so drastically as to remove it form the Worlds meta entirely.

As such, D&D had some internal discussions and plans going into Worlds, and the team spent much of the weekend gathering feedback from the player base (sometimes surreptitious, other times simply by asking), as well as paying close attention to the discussions happening on the forum. Suffice to say, Black Sun has a lot of moving parts that all work well together (admittedly, too well), and given the amount of informed and astute opinions gathered, we recognize that no single solution would likely address everyone’s individual suggestion or even personal preference about how to attack this Black Sun Beast. We hoped to come to a consensus about what to do about it, while still being mindful that it was a deck many people enjoy playing and we wanted to keep in the meta. Another concern we had was that, as with any time we make a change (as opposed to coming up with a new original design), we did not want to “re-write the deck,” so to speak. We wanted to keep the core and feel of the deck in place, but with a toned down power level, rather than just hitting the reset button and starting over.

With those tasks in mind, we went to work. We shared our experiences, brought up many points and suggestions given by the player base. I can honestly say, a great deal of avenues were discussed and debated. As mentioned above, with so many moving parts to Black Sun, an initial list was created of what likely made the deck too efficient, too early, which led to its incredible power. Some of the areas we talked about were:

1. Xizor’s Palace: Sewers. The card was intended to represent the scene in Shadows Of The Empire where the good guys sneak into the palace using the sewers; in the game, it was representative of a character getting beaten up in the palace and being washed away in the sewers, only to be revived later on (getting retrieved into hand to fight again). With Black Sun’s limited character base, this was truly intended to be a way to get Xizor back each game, with the potential to be risky and use it on someone other than Xizor. However, in practice, it was most often used to have Boba Fett, Bounty Hunter come back to fight a 3rd or 4th time or return Guri after the Light Side fought so hard to break the Fist’s immunity – or even to have Dr. Aphra come back to recur U-3PO. We considered limiting who it could retrieve (whether it just be [Reflections II] Black Sun Agents or Xizor or non-[Maintenance] Black Sun Agents) and conditioning it to require the Dark Side to control the site (representing the bad guys needing to be there to grab the floating body of their character).

2. Xizor’s Bounty. This card being pullable and immune to the typical “barrier” cancelers made aggressive early plays and spreading late game very safe. It also helped increase the power of the Sewer because by and large, Xizor was safe from early attacks via weapons with this card, so the Sewer pull could be used on the bigger characters. Here, we thought about limiting where it could be played (to just Prince Xizor’s site or to just a [Reflections II] Black Sun Agent’s site) as well as changing who it could stop from battling (such as just Luke, a Jedi or an EPP-character).

3. Dr. Chelli Lona Aphra. While we were okay with Black Sun having a spy, her text (when combined with the Imperial Square’s text to deploy the Emperor for free, and the Vigo’s text to deploy a forfeit 6 character for free, and the Xizor’s Palace text that moved for free) to deploy for free to sites like the Jedi Council Chamber (and to be able to back her up with any Black Sun Agent to activate Xizor’s Bounty) did seem to just be overkill in a deck that was so efficient and did so many things for such little Force. However, most of our concern rested with her ability to recur droids – specifically U-3PO. With Black Sun being able to set up steady damage on Coruscant, U-3PO being able to block a drain elsewhere and then even to come back with Aphra proved to be very frustrating. We also discussed this interaction outside of Black Sun and how many games would come down to whether you could clear U-3PO twice.

4. Shadows Of The Empire. This was obviously the linchpin of the deck. It pulled any Coruscant site (all but obsoleting the very-properly costed Vigo (V)), including one that played the Emperor for free and another one that pulled your other sites for free. And by eliminating the need for Vigo (V), it freed up the Imperial City text to pull non-virtual Vigo (for free) to back up Xizor, who would then move with him and bring that nice fat 6 forfeit with him (again, moving for free – notice a pattern here?). We also really loved the mechanic and interplay of the 7 side of the objective and being able to draw a card from your Force pile at any time, but recognized that being able to cause 1 Force loss during both players’ turn could add up quite a bit. Against a deck that could not find its Luke quick enough, that would be 4 force loss each turn cycle, all without even having to drain. The deck can also be annoying from a mechanical point of view: for instance, during Light’s activate phase, Dark would often activate a force using Wipe, then draw a card with Shadows, then ping with Shadows. Such actions disrupt the normal flow of Force activation, and serve to slow down an otherwise-quick phase. This card had the most discussion about which aspects to change or not change. Almost every line of the card was suggested to be tweaked, re-written or even deleted, in some manner. For example, with the “ping damage,” suggestions were made to eliminate it completely, to making it only during 1 player’s turn, to putting that text on The Emperor (from Reflections II), to restricting to a phase, to letting the Light Side player shut it off by occupying three battlegrounds themselves. The site pull was debated again to be removed entirely, to pull only the Square, to be once per game, to be 2 Force, to be 3 Force, etc. There were also several really great suggestions from players, including many from the forums that allowed the pull of the Emperor instead of just the site.

As you can see, there are many moving parts and many different ways to attack the deck. We did not want to “bury” the deck and we wanted it to remain in the meta, but at a less prominent rate as it was at Worlds. So we were cautious to not simply change everything we could just because it all seemed good. We liked much of its efficiency and we felt that tweaking each card just a little would be too much. We also recognized that those issues that were problematic outside of Black Sun alone could also be dealt with in the traditional ways that may not require immediate errata (ie, yeah, we get that no decks really love U-3PO coming back over and over – stay tuned!). However, we felt that if Shadows was really the linchpin of the deck, it should be the card we focused on, and live with the others in hopes that they will continue to make the Black Sun syndicate work well, but not too well.

For those reasons, the Competitive Balance Team is announcing the following two errata (subject to proofing), which will be legal and effective November 5, 2018:

•Shadows Of The Empire [Visage Of The Emperor (V)] 5
[Dagobah – R]
Lore: Blank
Text: If Agents Of Black Sun on table, deploy on table. May use 2 Force to \/ Imperial Square. Once per turn, if Emperor on Coruscant, may draw top card of Force Pile (if during your turn and you occupy three battlegrounds, opponent also loses 1 Force). [Immune to Alter.]
[Set 9] [E]


•Planetary Defenses (V)
[Reflections III – PM]
Plays on any site. This location may not be targeted by Proton Bombs. Cancels Program Trap here. Unless Death Star: Docking Bay 327 on table, Commence Primary Ignition is canceled.
[Set D] [E]

As you can see, the site pull is now limited to just the Square. We decided we liked keeping an otherwise wholly unused card in the game by keeping the Square an option in the deck. We also liked that Black Sun did not require the typical We Must Accelerate Our Plans + Bridge activation package. However, it brings Vigo (V) back into the fold to reliably get your Xizor’s Palace sites out – this cuts into the very early (over) efficiency considerably. What used to cost 1 Force + get you a free forfeit 6 guy now costs 3 Force, which makes a large difference about how you can play your first turn, let alone how you build your deck (whereas previously it was not uncommon to see multiple non-virtual Vigos being dropped for free). This also impacts, to some degree, the deck’s efficiency in space, as Vigo (V) is not a pilot.

The second big change is obviously cutting the ping damage in half. Doing up to 4 damage in a turn cycle all because Light Side could not find their Luke seemed excessive, especially in a set where a conscious effort was made to allow Luke to fly his X-wing. It also was going to be an inevitable design constraint for Black Sun and aliens going forward to have this be such a steady source of damage, especially when combined with Wipe.

With Shadows cut so much, we felt that further direct tweaks to it would hit the deck much too hard and at this time we are excited to see if those other interactions in the deck still loom as strong as they were pre-Shadows change.

However, one other change that was decided on quickly was the very negative reception about Program Trap. Although not directly related to Black Sun, that deck did highlight the negative play experience that card often brought out. With Black Sun being able to check its destiny, run plenty of droids, recur them with the Sewers and Aphra, wanting to stack on Coruscant, and wanting to clear Luke without putting its best fighters at risk, Program Trap was a easy include. The new text of Planetary Defenses (V) makes it so the Light Player does not have to over-commit just to keep a site (or character in the case of Luke or Amidala) safe. However, if someone really does wish to run Program Trap in some sort of droid deck, they may try to spring it at other sites, so the shield is not an auto-play canceler. Instead, it requires LS to make a decision: What site should they protect, or if a character, what site should that character be protected at?

And please note that with an effective date of November 5, the goal is for them to be coded onto GEMP that day so that they will be legal for Round 2 of the OCS playoffs.

Oh, and one other, previously announced, tweak is Admiral Raddus. He is no longer independently a Rogue Squadron Pilot (just like the mooooooovies!). That interaction was never intended and was overlooked by D&D at the time of his creation. While he can still be utilized by Squadron Assignments or Get To Your Ships! With Rogue One, that interaction did not warrant an errata because Raddus was specifically made to get Rogue One on the table easier. However, he should not let Wedge cancel a destiny absent him actually piloting a Rogue Squadron vehicle or ship.

I wanted to thank all of the players for their feedback, thoughts, and suggestions given to me and the rest of the design team, both in person at worlds and through our website. I can say all of your threads and posts and messages were read and I appreciate your passion for the game and our shared desire to have a fun, balanced game. Your patience during this process is also appreciated and we wanted to ensure to announce these changes in advance so that those participating in Local Tournament Weekend and the OCS playoffs could plan accordingly. And, finally, I wanted to thank the community as a whole. This has been a very difficult time for many members who have experienced losses in their personal lives, including the loss of our own John Anderson. My continued thoughts and prayers are with his family and I am beyond proud of us as a community in our efforts to donate money to such a worthy cause in honor of him. Thank you to all who donated and for all who helped rally us together during this difficult time.

May the Force Be With You,