ARH Holocron Update

Yesterday, A Renewed Hope gave us their as-promised one-month-on update to the Standard Holocron, and they’ve made some cautious but significant changes to ARH Standard, which are going to result in a bit of a shake-up. Today, we’re going to go over the changes, and what we think they might mean for the game.

The article by ARH on these changes can be found on their website here, and it is well worth a read. Here are the headline changes, all of which we’ll go through in more detail:

  • United/We Stand has been banned.
  • The restricted list has been replaced with the Restricted Pairs list.
  • C-3PO and R2-D2 are now a Restricted Pair (i.e. an illegal combination).
  • Desperate Measures and Military Camp have been completely un-restricted.

Divided We Fall
The banning of United/We Stand is almost certainly the most controversial change of this update.

The ubiquity of this card cannot be denied, but I’d be lying if I said I saw this one coming. However, I am supportive of this move, partly down to this card’s pervasiveness, but also due to its non-interactiveness. I’m not a huge fan in general of preventing player interaction; being able to respond to removal by rolling back in as an after effect is a prime example, especially when it comes on a card you start the game with. This plot also has effectively zero cost, undeniably in points value, but also in its deck building restriction, as there are many reasons beyond this one card to play mono anyway.

I like that ARH are willing to tinker with the meta in this way, even if it’s an unpopular move with some players. However, they have stated that they don’t expect this ban to be permanent. Regardless of how long it lasts, it’ll be interesting to see what effect this change has on the decks people play.

Restricted Pairs
I’ve not been silent in my criticism of the restricted list in its original implementation. It was introduced to prevent players from being able to play broken or OP combinations, such as Rebel Traitor/Order 66 or Delve/Vader’s Fist/Theed Palace. However, it evolved into a blunt instrument for limiting the power of overpowered cards, such as Desperate Measures, Face the Enemy and Hidden Motive.

While effective, this had the unfortunate consequence of killing combinations of cards which were not broken, but which just happened to feature two or more cards on the restricted list for other reasons. For instance Abandoned Refinery could not be combined with Face The Enemy, and Military Camp could not be combined with Desperate Measures.

I am very glad to see this replaced with the Restricted Pairs list, which lists a series of combinations of cards which are not allowed. Here’s what that looks like in the new Holocron:

In this new world, you still cannot combine Abandoned Refinery with Chopper, but you now can combine Chopper with C-3PO (and, say, K-2SO) and put Droids’ Day Out in your deck.

Mostly this represents an un-restricting of cards, but there is one glaring restriction which is new: C-3PO cannot be combined with R2-D2. I feel that droids have had their time in the sun and most people, myself included, are a bit sick of them. I 100% support this restriction.

It’ll be interesting to see if either of these characters can still shine in the right build without their respective counterpart. Below are images of all the restricted pairings, which hopefully makes this a bit easier to visualise:

Our new restricted pairings

And here are the cards that were restricted, but are now no longer restricted in any way.

What might the impact of these changes be, other than to kill hero droids?
The banning of United makes multi-dice removal more desirable. Despite having so little in the game, I still don’t include Jedi Mind Trick in my blue hero decks because it would be such a waste to play it just to have all those dice roll back in. I now will be putting this card back in my decks.

ARH have suggested that people may gravitate to red after the banning of United, thanks to its multi-die removal in the form of cards like Viper Probe Droid, Rout and The Best Defense… I’m not very good at red, so I won’t be, but it’ll be interesting to see whether others do.

The unrestricting of Desperate Measures means this card is likely to crop up a little bit more. Trandoshan Hunters are likely to now run this card (making them even stronger). However, other than Trandoshans, there aren’t many decks out there that suddenly have access to this card that didn’t have access already. If we do see this card more though, that will hurt villain red supports and decks that use supports for ramp, such as eVader/eTaron (which has also just lost eUnited).

Abandoned Refinery and Military Camp are both very good battlefields. Phasma is likely to be happier now that she can access Military Camp and Face The Enemy, but I think these will also start being good choices in a wide number of decks, especially Military Camp in decks with characters that share subtypes, for a bit of extra speed.

Finally, there are some builds which are entirely unaffected by these changes. Closing In decks operate exactly as before (they won’t be swapping out Nightsister Lair any time soon), Apt Lesson/Draw Closer decks will look mostly the same (though might consider Jedi Mind Trick), as are ReyLo and Valorous Tribe decks. Since these decks suffered no card losses, they are in effect now better, as their mitigation isn’t being stifled (pun intended) by United.

Errata/Balance of the Force
There was one minor errata: Extremist Campaign. As originally written, you could, technically, fail to find one of the 3 cards listed (Rebel, Disable and Act of Cruelty), and therefore didn’t have to shuffle them in. Now you have to, or you lose the game.

Otherwise, there were no practical errata and no characters were balanced. I think this is sagacious so soon after release.

The Watch List
ARH have a watch list: a list of cards that they are keeping an eye on and which might warrant an errata. In order to continue to have buy-in from the community, transparency is absolutely essential, and the watch list is a great example of this openness.

From 2 November, United/We Stand and C-3PO/R2-D2 were publicly on the watch list, and ARH have followed through with these additions by nerfing them. Vibrosword was also on the list but the conspicuous lack of yellow in the meta justifies not nerfing this card (at least not yet).

The cards currently on the watch list are below:

The addition of Kamino to this list is prudent. I’ve played against Kamino decks, and it does feel strong, but not yet broken. You have to play mono-red to really make use of this, and mono just lost United.

Force Affinity is a key card in mono-blue decks, be they villain or hero, and is well above curve. Hero are able to draw 3 cards for 0 resources (with the right lineup) and villain can draw 2 and deal 1 damage for 0 resources if they run Taron or Pong. I support the addition of this card to the watch list, though I do not have a good suggestion as to how it may be fixed. Perhaps replace “gain 1 resource” with “give a character one shield”?

Unending Hate is also above curve, as we discussed in detail in our spoiler article. Not only that, but it really hurts when it’s played against you right after you’ve rolled a couple of blanks. It’s being kicked when you’re down, and the presence of this card alone can severely restrict your ability to roll out lots of dice in order to economise your rerolls, without risking taking a huge amount of damage from hand. It therefore can warp a game more than I think a single card should. I originally proposed this be capped at 2 damage. I would still play this card with that nerf, and this is still my preferred errata for this card if it continues to be a problem.

Taron (with Vader) has proven to be very powerful, winning 5 of 11 events since release. And although this lineup has cropped up a lot, it’s not like it’s everywhere in events. I haven’t done the maths, but it looks like its success is far above what you would expect based purely on representation; in other words it is a genuinely very powerful deck. Taron has an average die and health for 11/14, but he is unique in having an ability and a action which are not only both consistently powerful, but also disparate in their effects.

Despite this, I don’t think Taron is especially overpowered. I think he has proven strong because of the support cards available to villain blue, such as Force Affinity, Unending Hate, It Binds All Things, Forbidden Lore and Forsaken, and that’s where I would turn my attention if I felt this character was too dominant, as discussed above.

Given Taron’s Power Action, this character is strongest in mono-blue. It will be interesting to see what the banning of United has on this character.

In Conclusion
I’m liking these changes. I think they’re relatively restrained but are likely to have a significant impact on the decks which will appear at events. I also think this bodes well for the future of the game and the maintenance of balance, though care will need to be taken to walk the fine line between maintaining balance and over-tinkering.

And Finally
It’s echobase Charity Tuesday today, and we’re playing with the new Holocron. If you want to join in the fun, sign up here. Games start at 7pm UK time tonight:

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Once you’ve entered, please pay your entry fee of £1.50 or more. All proceeds go to charity:

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