When building decks, one technique that can be very helpful is working backwards. In addition to thinking about all the things to put in a deck to make it stronger, you should also consider the cards that are likely to be played against your deck, and make sure you have a plan for how to deal with them.
In this article, I’m going to highlight some cards that are in a large number of competitive decks. Not only can these cards have a huge effect on an individual game of SWCCG, but their existence also has a seismic effect on the meta, influencing card choices and strategies on both sides of the Force. The next time you find yourself asking “Why don’t more people play this (card/deck/strategy)?” it might be due to one of these.
Most of the previous “Cards of the Fortnight” fall into this category. Because I’ve discussed them before, I won’t repeat them here. Here’s the list, in no particular order:
Dooku is one of the most meta-warping cards in the game right now. Like Emperor Palpatine, he can use Force Lightning, but unlike the Emperor, he can deploy and move to sites occupied by the Light Side. With a Force Lightning in hand, Dark Side can deploy Dooku and immediately Force Lightning a character, while Emperor Palpatine pulls Force Lightning every turn for Dooku to use. It’s an extremely potent strategy that makes its way into a lot of decks.
To combat this, Light Side is forced to play differently: You should think very carefully before putting a character with defense value below 4 or 5 at a battleground site (without a vehicle for protection, or a Sense for the Force Lightning). Yoda, Keeper Of The Peace can protect his site from Force Lightning. Kanan Jarrus can also cancel Dooku’s immunity to attrition if he’s with 2 Rebels. (He cancels the Emperor’s immunity automatically.) This is important because Dark Side can’t zap characters with Force Lightning unless they have immunity to lose.
Although it’s been in the game for 20 years, Program Trap is in the midst of a renaissance. It started to see a lot of play in late 2015 as a counter to We Have A Plan stacking characters in the Theed Palace Throne Room. But it’s a useful card in many situations, and it can be particularly nasty if you aren’t ready for it.
Good opponents will be able to track destiny draws for Program Trap, or at least find ways to draw lots of destinies to make it go off. Counters to it include (1) finding a way to change the number of characters at the site, such as stacking 6 or more characters there or Nabrun-ing everyone away; (2) finding a way to remove the trapped droid before everyone blows up; (3) stopping your opponent from drawing destiny, such as It’s A Trap! to cancel a battle; (4) putting your characters on enclosed vehicles; (5) Alter; and (6) Fire Extinguisher.
This card does several things, but the most important is preventing battle destinies from being modified or canceled. Note that “may not be canceled” also prevents “cancel and redraw” on cards like You Do Have Your Moments (V) and Captain Han Solo. This also affects the destiny canceling of Wedge Antilles, Red Squadron Leader and They Will Be Lost And Confused. If you play some of those cards, be on the lookout for Dark Time.
Any deck that relies on playing interrupts in space battles needs to have a game plan for when these ships show up. In practice, they’re usually used to stop All Wings Report In & Darklighter Spin, Short Range Fighters & Watch Your Back!, Rebel Leadership (V), and Imperial Command.
These cards have been the bread and butter of aggressive SWCCG decks since they were released in 1998. The only real way to stop them is to make sure to save some Force at the end of your turn; nothing’s worse than having a Houjix in hand but being unable to play it.
This card (along with Overload, I Have You Now, and Cease Fire!) is why many (probably most) Light Side decks are playing at least one copy of Hear Me Baby, Hold Together (V). Having your opponent draw a 2 and capture Jedi Luke is not fun, and Hidden Weapons has had an uptick recently, as Agents Of Black Sun has increased in popularity.
Not in every deck, but that only makes them that much more brutal when they hit the table. Excluding characters from battle and beating down the (hopefully weak) remaining characters is a great recipe for success. Clash is seen more often than its Dark Side counterpart, because of the Weapons Display (V) shield and Blaster Deflection, a commonly played canceler. Dark mains decks may need to consider Crush The Rebellion or Blow Parried to lessen the impact of this card.
The existence of this card is probably the sole reason why Organized Attack is almost never seen in tournament play anymore. After I returned to the game, my first couple decks were X-wing swarm… until the first time this card was played against me. It also stops the ubiquitous All Wings Report In & Darklighter Spin, although that one is still useful for finding ships in the early game, before Black 2 (V) is deployed. And if that weren’t enough, it combines with Darth Vader (V) to reduce battle destinies twice. A nasty ship that’s a staple of Dark Side space packages.
Was there ever a time when these cards weren’t in competitive decks? Experienced players always expect a Barrier. There’s a variety of cancelers, and you should strongly consider playing a canceler or two in your deck: Blast Door Controls, They’re Still Coming Through!, The Bith Shuffle & Desperate Reach, and Inconsequential Barriers. (Dark Collaboration, Skywalkers, and Mercenary Armor are rarely seen.) Also consider playing a Barrier or two yourself.
The “Control” function is good—can’t go wrong with cancelling Sense, Alter, or a Force drain—but the “Set For Stun” function is what earns it a place on this list. Always assume that your low-ability characters are not safe; this is the reason why Inconsequential Barriers is often played over Bith Shuffle combo even though the latter has the higher destiny number.
Another pair of cards that have been in competitive decks since Premiere, they’re played both offensively (to create beatdowns) and defensively (to run away from beatdowns). Like Barriers, they have several different cancelers. Unlike Barriers, they probably have more cancelers than any card this side of Lateral Damage: Those Rebels Won’t Escape Us (and combo), Quite A Mercenary, Oo-ta Goo-ta, Solo?, It’s A Hit!, Tarkin’s Orders, Greedo (V), Lobel, Sic-Six, Imperial Arrest Order (and combo), Insurrection (and combo)… even Double-Crossing, No-Good Swindler. (No, not really.)
Decipher gave us Cease Fire! in the Theed Palace expansion, and the PC has given us Keep Your Eyes Open (V) in Set 4. They’re not exact mirrors (lose 2 for a used interrupt versus lose 1 for a lost interrupt, different destiny numbers, different alternate functions), but they do the same thing: at the start of a battle, prevent all weapons from firing. These are important cards to watch out for if your strategy depends heavily on weapons (lightsabers, Quad Laser Cannons, et al.).
Keep Your Eyes Open (V) is brand new, and unlike Cease Fire!, it doesn’t have a canceler (except Sense). My gut tells me it’ll start seeing a lot of play…
Close Call (V) has been with us for a while, and it’s one of Dark Side’s best “utility” cards—a card that you can throw into pretty much any deck and never be disappointed to see in your hand. It’s a card to be wary of when you absolutely need to hit Vader with that lightsaber or crack Saber 1’s immunity to attrition. The used function means that you should also be wary of drawing the last card in your Reserve Deck for destiny: If you draw the last card for battle destiny, Close Call (V) cancels and redraws, and you have no more cards in Reserve, then the draw fails.
You Do Have Your Moments (V) is another brand new card, adding 3 instead of subtracting, which means it shines in the moments(!) when Close Call (V) would hurt Light Side the most. It will be used to crack immunity and hit those big Dark Jedi when it’s really important.
These are slightly different, but their lost functions are used pretty rarely. The meat of these cards is blocking your lightsabers when you swing them at the characters you most want to swing them at. You should expect mains decks to be running 1 or 2 of these. There aren’t really any counters (except Sense); you just have to be aware that your weapons are not guaranteed to hit or even to draw destiny.
Imperial Decree (V) limits Light Side direct damage, which is most prominent in We Have A Plan, but You Can Either Profit By This… is starting to see more play as well. Any Dark Side deck that can’t interact well with those decks or stop them from flipping their objectives will be playing (and often starting) Decree v. So, if you do play WHAP or Profit, know that your “ping” damage will usually be for 1.
Escape Pod & We’re Doomed is a new card that may shake up the game quite a bit. If you rely on one of the listed cards to do direct damage, this new interrupt is a prime target for a grabber like Allegations Of Corruption or Something Special Planned For Them (V).
Continuing with the damage reduction theme, we have another Premiere staple, It Could Be Worse. This one is another good grabber candidate for Dark, because Light Side could loop it every turn in the late game, with the help of Threepio With His Parts Showing.
However, if you’re playing It Could Be Worse in your Light Side deck, be on the lookout for Ommni Box & It’s Worse. Playing It Could Be Worse can be very risky in the early- to mid-game. It’s helpful to have It’s A Hit! In hand, just in case.
There are some really good Mauls in the game, but the best is (usually) the one with the built-in double-bladed lightsaber. It can remove three characters on its own (two from the saber swings and one from attrition). The only thing EPP Maul lacks is immunity to attrition. That’s provided by The Phantom Menace, a powerful effect that makes him fully immune when with a Jedi, boosts his defense value, goes to the Used Pile when Maul is lost, and, oh yeah, is destiny 7. (I actually used it to pull a Neimoidian once, and it was hilarious!) Dark Side mains decks often pack 3 copies of EPP Maul and 1 to 3 copies of The Phantom Menace, and both are cards you should be prepared for. Like Dooku with Force Lightning, Maul eats low-ability characters for breakfast, so avoid putting those characters on the table if you don’t have a way to protect them.
Darth Maul (from the Tatooine expansion) was the first Maul ever printed. He’s a close runner-up to the EPP version, and the Maul of choice in many decks that prefer to put him on his Sith Infiltrator. “Tatooine Maul” reduces Light Side’s total ability to 0 unless they have a character with ability >3 at that location. This means Light Side would no longer be considered to occupy that location: Neither side can battle, and Dark can Force drain as if Light has nothing there at all.
This is good in both theaters, but particularly potent in space (where there are fewer Jedi running around). High-ability pilots are very important for Light Side: Corran Horn, Luke Skywalker (V), Anakin Skywalker, Padawan Learner, Rey, Melas (V), and others. (You can also put high-ability characters in passenger slots.)
The Sith Infiltrator is a powerful Dark Side space option that can “cloak” to avoid battles while still occupying a system (for the purpose of Battle Plan and Battle Order). It’s a nasty card that can win games if Light Side doesn’t have a counter for it. Luckily, there are several counters for both Darth Maul and his ship: Obi-Wan In Radiant VII, Melas (V), Leslomy Tacema (V), and Theron Nett (V).
Like Tatooine Maul, this version of Leia can completely blank Dark Side’s ability at her site—but only if all the Dark characters there are aliens. For this reason, any Dark deck that uses a lot of aliens has to play a few non-alien characters too. However, Dark decks that play a lot of aliens usually don’t play Imperials or many other types of characters. Agents Of Black Sun severely limits the available characters, and Scum And Villainy doesn’t get its bonuses if you have ability provided by non-aliens. The solution here is to use droids: They satisfy Leia’s condition while legally deploying in AOBS and keeping Scum And Villainy humming.
Leia, Rebel Princess also cancels Force drains at related sites, twice per game, “retrieving” a Force each time. Cancelling the drain while Light gets a Force back can be a potentially large swing in Life Force. It’s up to you whether to just “eat” the cancelling for a turn or two, and “spend” Leia, or go out and try to kill her. Depending on the matchup and the situation, either can be the right call.
Both of these cards mess with your carefully planned Force generation ratio: Harc by activating an extra Force for each non-battleground Dark Side has on table (which could be as high as 4 or 5 in some decks); and the flip side of Watch Your Step by limiting Dark Side’s generation to 1 at non-battlegrounds (their 2/0s and 3/0s are now 1/0s). There isn’t a great way to counter either of these (except killing Harc, but a good player won’t give you the opportunity); you just have to know that your amazing 12/3 activation ratio could be more like 12/8 or 7/3 in some matchups, so build your deck accordingly.
If you play your own 2/0 or 3/0 sites, you need to be wary of spies taking them over and draining. Especially against decks like ISB Operations (which plays upwards of 15-20 spies), it’s a good idea to hold some good characters in your hand so you can battle those spies. Be on the lookout for ways to kick your opponent off their second battleground; then you can use Come Here You Big Coward or Simple Tricks And Nonsense to cancel those drains.
Multiple battle destinies
There are dozens of cards that add battle destinies in SWCCG, but these are the most prevalent right now:
I Have You Now
Baron Soontir Fel
Grand Moff Tarkin (V)
Grand Admiral Thrawn
Boba Fett, Bounty Hunter
Colonel Jendon In Onyx 1
Death Star II: Capacitors
Lando Calrissian, Scoundrel
Admiral Ackbar (V)
Captain Hera Syndulla
Captain Han Solo
Captain Rex, 501st Legion
This Place Can Be A Little Rough
Han, Chewie, And The Falcon
Ric Olie, Bravo Leader
Rebel Leadership (V)
We’ve already covered some ways to address these in previous articles. In practice, many decks will want both destiny adders and destiny limiters, such as Imperial Justice (V) and Evacuation Control (V).
That wraps it up for this fortnight. This is already over 2500 words, so no “Card of the Fortnight” this time. (I just gave you a few dozen of them anyway!)
Peace, Love, and High Destinies,