Viper Probe Droid

There’s been chatter recently on Facebook and various Destiny threads about Viper Probe Droid. There’s also an excellent video on the subject from the Dice Commandos.

On 9 June, someone asked a question about how the card operates, and Trey Dismukes of Kingwood Hobbies pointed out something which I (and he until that point) had missed.

Up until now, I assumed this card could only remove one die. However, if you read the card carefully, you can see that is not the case. It can actually remove any number of dice that have just been rolled or rerolled and have hit damage.

Seasoned Destiny players with a good knowledge of the rules will see why right away, but for less experienced players, let’s imagine this scenario:

My opponent has a Viper Probe Droid on the table. I roll out (or reroll) 4 dice and they all hit damage. This is what the queue looks like:

There are 4 triggers for the VPD which get added to the queue. Let’s say my opponent chooses to utilise the first trigger by spending 1 resource and removing die 1. Then they discard the support. The remaining three triggers stay in the queue, as the rules state:

They may then remove my second die (spending one resource), but just skip the step which says ‘discard this support’ as the support is no longer in play. They may then proceed to remove my third and fourth die.

The reason you can do this with Viper Probe Droid and not Suppressive Fire is that discarding the support is not part of the cost for removing the die. There’s plenty of cards out there for which discarding the card is part of the cost:

If any one of the above were rephrased so that they did their thing and then you discarded the card, each of them could remove multiple dice. The fact that Viper Probe Droid is unique in having the discard after the dice removal made me assume this was the way the card was meant to behave, and I’d just been playing it incorrectly. Why else would it break the mould in phrasing?

Apparently I was wrong. Nicholas Nelson has publicly reported that Jeremy Zwirn intended this card to only remove one die. I’m not going to criticise this oversight. The fact that it took the Destiny community many months to notice, while surprising, is testament to how easy this error was to overlook.

The curious thing here is that the decision has been made to do nothing about it. The way I see it, there are two extremes in dealing with cards which are broken or don’t work as intended:

  1. Errata everything as soon as it looks like it might be a problem or when issues around wording arise, and keep tweaking until we have a level playing field
  2. Only errata when absolutely necessary

There are pros and cons to both approaches, and a huge grey area in the middle. The former may potentially be fairer, but is time consuming, harder to keep track of and removes the potential for players to find in-game and meta-gaming solutions for problem cards. The latter is simpler and puts the onus on the players to find solutions, but risks overpowered cards from running riot and increases the chance of negative play experiences until cards are finally fixed.

The decision not to errata Viper Probe Droid could be a deliberate decision to follow the second path: of trying to avoid errata where possible, and giving the players a chance to play it as printed (even if it was printed in error) meaning we don’t need to keep track of so many changes. Or it could be apathy, or some hidden motive. I’m inclined to side with the former, but I appreciate that the opposing viewpoint is equally valid.

Given that the card can remove multiple dice, is it broken?

For a start, this card is well above the curve. When choosing mitigation for your deck, you’re normally trying to decide at what price point to place your mitigation: cheap removal is great, especially early game, but it burns your hand and is pretty useless late game if your opponent is rolling in 5+ dice at once. Expensive removal is less costly in terms of hand advantage and normally removes multiple dice, but is useless if you don’t have the cash, and can be annoying early game if it’s all you’ve got while you’re just trying to build your board state.

Very few cards let you choose how much you want to spend. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only cards to date that have let you do so are Outgun, which requires you to spot a mod (and spend a resource) for every die removed, and No Questions Asked, for which you have to give your opponent the resources (effectively a 2 resource swing per die). The flexibility VPD can offer is huge, even if it does require the dice to roll damage simultaneously. It’s also a support so cannot be targeted by Counterintelligence or Probe.

Given it doesn’t matter how the die is rolled to trigger Viper Probe Droid, I’d be inclined to include it in a deck with Sound The Alarm, Nature’s Charm or Controlled Chaos. The disadvantage of rerolling the opponent’s dice has always been that if they god roll, you’ve forgone the opportunity to do anything about it. With a VPD on the table, you can Sound The Alarm on a strong roll (or after some focusing, which is immune to VPD) in the hope that they roll poorly, saving the VPD for another day. But if the opponent rolls hot, you can trigger the VPD and remove any dice which happened to roll into damage.

Controlled Chaos has the added advantage that all dice can be rerolled twice, so you have two chances of hitting the damage side to trigger the removal (though it is more costly). It doesn’t even matter if the die hits damage on the first roll, then you reroll it to something else (maybe you called melee on a Kallus die but it landed on ranged and you hoped to get that 1 indirect ping): VPD has still triggered and you can choose to remove it.

While I may dream of removing 5+ dice at once, this just isn’t likely, partly due to the cost but also the chance of actually hitting that many damage sides in one roll. However, I can see 2 or 3 being very common, especially as you can pop this on the table at the end of a round, and trigger it in later rounds, even in response to an ambush roll out or Seize The Day/Tactical Mastery/Reach The Stars reroll.

The ability to be confident that you can mitigate any number of dice showing damage and then take an action afterwards is huge late game. Nevermore will I have to hold the battlefield going in to that (probably) final round of a game for fear of being forced to play reactively just to stay alive.

The playing of this card is also now a potential death knell for Vader TTB, as you can remove both his character dice without the opponent being able to Power Action them back in.

As The Gandork says, “knock yourself out, go try and break it”. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

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