The Star Wars Pocketmodel TCG took about one month to put up two predominant deck archetypes: Droid Damage reduction and Imperial Swarm. These decks manage to use (perhaps abuse) a couple of very powerful rare Objectives from the SWPM base set: Geonosis Droid Factory and Mustafar Mining Platform. Geonosis Droid Factory enables the Droid deck to keep ships alive by removing damage counters as soon as they get placed on the ships. The Mining Platform allows Swarm to recklessly destroy ships by ensuring a constant supply of reinforcements. This deck actually reminds me of Zapp Branigans strategy to defeat the Killbots throwing wave after wave of his own men into the fray until the killbots reach their preset kill limit (See Futurama to understand the reference).
After seeing these two decks in action (on a small scale: my wife gravitated towards Droids and I gravitated towards Swarm with our initial purchase of SWPM product), I wanted to try and create a cohesive build that can compete with the big boys. As ships rarely have inherent abilities, and Combat cards are all one time use (Yoda excepted), it seems that the best way to influence a game over time is to use an Objective. The Objective that steps to the forefront in my effort to create a third option is Jedi Academy.
For those who may be curious as to what this card does, lets take a look (you could just jump over to
the Gallery; it truly is brilliant):
OK, so at first glance, this may draw a funny look. I am supposed to build around a card that lets me run away? Whaaa??? That was my first impression as well. But think about it a little deeper. It doesnt say you have to move backwards after surviving the battle.
One of the great equalizers in the SWPM TCG is that no matter how big your ships are, or how many ships you have, you can only move or battle with 5 *s of ships each turn. It can be incredibly annoying to have to move your ships, then wait a turn to battle with them. At best, it takes three turns to shoot at an opponents Objectives. One turn to get them in the Contested Zone, another turn to get them into the opponents Home Zone, and a third to finally shoot. With that in mind, Jedi Academy is brilliant. Why? Because, it allows you to cheat. Turn one, you move a group of fighters into the Contested Zone. If your opponent shoots at them fine. If they survive the battle, if you played a force card, you get to move your ships into the opponents Home Zone. On your next turn, you get to shoot an Objective. You dont even have to survive the typical attempt of an opponent to shoot your ship down upon entering the Home Zone before you take a shot.
Of course, this idea requires a few things from us. First, we want force cards a lot of them. Second, your ships need to be able to survive a battle. That means high Defense and/or shields. Third, you want ships with a decent attack value, to increase the chance that your free shot at the opponents Objective will be a success.
Which ships fulfill these requirements? Thankfully, to meet these requirements, we can throw two normally important
statistics out the door. First, the damage values on our ships dont make too much of a difference. Second, and perhaps more
important, the icons on our ships dont matter. Think about that. For a Droid deck, they need to choose ships from among those
bearing the droid icon. An Imperial Swarm has to choose among the ships with leader
icons and of course, trooper icons. I have identified a few ships that seem ideal for our purposes here.
The all-star for this sort of build would seem to be Screamer Squadron.
Name: Screamer Squadron
Attack: 3 Defense: 10 Damage: 1 Shields: 3
** laser trooper
Screamer Squadron has a high natural Defense score, a pretty decent attack score, and equally important, it has managed to
leverage one point of damage, which dont interest us nearly as much, for an extra point of shields. Now it is more likely
to survive combat than similar builds, helping us to get it into the opposing Home Zone to make a strike. The problem is that
this ship comes on the same card as Darth Vaders TIE Advanced, making it harder than the dickens to acquire. If anybody wants
to part with just a Screamer Squadron, Id be willing to trade for it. A little bit easier to acquire, while still fitting our
needs well, is a member of Blue Squadron:
Name: Blue Squadron
Attack +4 Defense 11 Damage 1 Shields 2
Blue Squadron is giving you a great chance to survive the shot with 11 Defense, and a great chance to hit the target with +4 attack. Another shields point, like the Screamer, would be great, but that is life.
Another ship that jumps out for consideration in this build is what may be the ideal single * ship, 3rd Group:
Name: 3rd Group
Attack +2 Defense 10 Damage 1 Shields 1
While one hit will destroy the 3rd Group, that 10 defense gives it a better chance of survival over similar * ships.
3rd Group is also able to leverage something we dont care about in this build, namely icons, into something we do care about,
higher defense AND attack totals. The other * ship that jumps out for inclusion is Avenger Squadron:
Name: Avenger Squadron
Attack +1 Defense 9 Damage 1 Shields 2
Avenger Squadron fits into our build because of its ability to survive. It has a pretty decent defense total (9), but it really shines with its 2 Shields. It is the only * ship that has more than one shields, giving it a chance to survive a hit and get to that opposing Home Zone for a strike.
Since our goal is to destroy the opposing Objectives, one natural inclusion along the lines of Objectives for our own deck is Rebel Base. A Rebel Base in play greatly increases the likelihood that our ships that have cheated their way into the opposing home zone will then be able to use that opportunity to destroy the opposing Objectives on their strike.
To succeed with our strategy, we need to do our best to keep in the game. While our strategy itself encourages the survival of our ships,
we also need to protect our Objectives. There are two ways to go about doing this. First, we have an attack force that we
keep in the home zone to shoot anything that looks funny and moves. In this attack force, unlike our primary units, we want
to have high damage totals. Among the * ships, the best candidate is Saber Leader:
Name: Saber Leader
Attack +2 Defense 8 Damage 2 Shields 1
Saber Leader gives us a heightened chance to hit over other * ships (+2 vs. +1 or +0) that deal 2 damage. As far as
** ships are concerned, the one that sticks out to me is Specter Squadron:
Name: Specter Squadron
Attack +3 Defense 9 Damage 3 Shields 2
Wow, this deck is just begging for ships from sheet 06, isnt it? This particular ship fits our home zone protection scheme by doing extra damage (3) over normal ** ships with healthy attack and defense totals.
An alternative way to protect our Objectives (and provide us with other opportunities to thwart our opponents actions) is the use of the Dagobah Swamp Objective. With Dagobah Swamp, we will be able to work to keep opposing units out of our Home Zone and will be able to even help clear out the contested zone on occasion. Additionally, when playing second, Dagobah Swamp is a Time Walk (Magic buffs will get the reference). On the first turn, you can completely undo the opposing first turn, setting them back a turn. Later in the game, it can wreak havoc with an opponents plans. It is brilliant!
At this point, it might be useful to think a little further about main deck strategy. Again, we want force cards. A lot of them. In fact, at this point, I have identified 3 Objectives to play. With three copies each, that adds up to 9 cards. At that point, we have further need for 21 cards. Sounds like the deck will have 21 force cards. As with most games, we can look at the rares to find the most compelling cards to include in our deck. As we look at these, we bear in mind that in most battle situations, our goal is to survive. Thus, we will place a premium upon Defense boosters (unfortunately, no force cards reduce damage dealt).
Among the rares, the following have force icons: Anakin Skywalker (084), Count Dooku (089), Darth Vader (090), General Grievous (092), Leia Organa (097), Mace Windu (099), Obi-Wan Kenobi (100), and Yoda (120). Of these, the following are eliminated out of hand, as they do nothing compelling for us: Count Dooku (089), Darth Vader (090), Yoda (120). Of the others, a couple really scream out Include Me! First among these is Anakin Skywalker (084), who creates across the board increases for every ship in the deck. He is a definite 3x. The other super obvious inclusion is Leia Organa (097). First, she is +2 Defense right off the bat. This will increase likelihood of survival greatly. Second, with any luck, you will get an additional +1, either to attack or defense.
The borderline cases for inclusion are General Grievous (092), Mace Windu (099), and Obi-Wan Kenobi (100). General Grievous helps you to cancel out force cards. If this deck becomes popular, Grievous will become a possible inclusion, but right now force cards are seen less often. Obi-Wan cancels out Droid cards, which are seen quite often. However, against any other deck, he is not going to help you achieve your goals. He is just too narrow. The third option, Mace Windu, is tricky and confusing. You would rather not be initiating battles. If you dont initiate, Mace is less helpful (though the +1 Defense makes your survival more likely). However, if you do initiate a battle, you may be able to freeze out an opponent on playing anything in the battle. That is pretty sweet, and at the moment, I lean toward playing with Mace.
There are very few uncommon force cards: Anakins Pride, Fear Leads to Anger, Masters Touch, No Such Thing as Luck, and Vaders Call. Of these, Masters Touch (misprint and all) jumps out as being superior to the rest. Indeed, it may be the best Combat card in the deck. It provides you with whatever you need at the time need to make sure you hit? Add attack. Need to make sure you live? Add Defense. Need to make sure they get destroyed? Add Damage. The versatility of Masters Touch is just stellar. If you could pack 12 of these, you probably would. Since you cannot, 3x it is.
The deck is filled out by commons, which do incredibly basic things that help you survive. Jedi Meditation gives a +1 to defense, plus a +1 to attack. Jedi Reflexes end up giving +2 to Defense. Jedi Wisdom gives +1 to attack, with an additional +1 bonus to defense. Basically, it mirrors Jedi Meditation. Jedi Strength gives +1 Defense, along with a +1 to Damage. Each of these helps you to live longer to achieve your goals. Lets take a look at the whole run-down (ships intended to start the game in the reserves are marked with an R):
3x Avenger Squadron (06c) (1 R)
3x 3rd Group (16c)
3x Blue Squadron (08a) (2 R)
3x Screamer Squadron (09a)
1x Storm Squadron (08c) (1 R)
1x Elite Squadron (05c) (1 R)
3x Saber Leader (06b)
3x Specter Squadron (06a) (1 R)
3x Jedi Meditation
3x Jedi Reflexes
3x Jedi Wisdom
2x Jedi Strength
3x Masters Touch
3x Anakin Skywalker (084)
3x Leia Organa (097)
1x Mace Windu (099)
3x Jedi Academy
3x Rebel Base
3x Dagobah Swamp
Consideration needs to be given to the total number of Objectives. This quantity may be susceptible to Objective logjams. If this problem manifests itself too much, it may become necessary to drop an Objective (either Dagobah or Rebel Base) in favor of another Jedi Strength or Mace Windu.
All throughout, I have been ignoring the big elephant in the room. Just as when you were younger and you got in trouble in school, you more or less were ignoring the fact that youd have to serve time in detention, we also have ignored detention. In this case, detention manifests itself with Detention Block AA-23, which shuts down all force abilities. This is, thankfully, not as bad a concern as it seems.
First, we still get natural combat bonuses from Combat cards, just not the extras. Second, Jedi Academy still works, as that ability is not an ability of a force card, but of an Objective. Third, you can always try to blow up the Detention Block. Destroying Objectives is, after all, your goal.
The bigger worry is not drawing Jedi Academy. You are really trying to abuse that card in this deck. Without a chance to get it in play, you are missing out on a lot of possibilities. I would thus suggest playing cards whenever you possibly can until you do get your fingers on an Academy. Also, until you draw the Academy, it is to your benefit to battle to cycle through cards. Like any good bully would tell you, the key is finding the ship least likely to fight back. In SWPM TCG terms, this means you have to start fights with the ship least likely to be able to damage you. Anything to cycle cards and find the Academy. Until next time, enjoy!