Ever since Faltering Allegiances landed, we’ve seen the rise of a big new blue villain deck, eTaron/eVader, which has racked up 6 wins from 15 events, including a win even after the banning of the United plot. If you want to read a deck review from Vika, go here.
However, if you want to try out an alternative mono blue villain deck, today we have a deck review of ePong Krell/eCount Dooku, written by Jack Wiles aka Jrak. He carried this lineup to a Top4 spot in a non-A Renewed Hope event which took place on the recently re-branded On The Sensors Destiny webcam discord, earlier this month. Click below to join the discord and click here to see our article about this channel (before the re-branding):
I’ve played against this deck several times on the Discord server, and can attest to the fact it is a formidable deck, with the ability to fire off a burst of unexpected damage. Sure, the dice sides look a little underwhelming, but so do Taron and Vader‘s. In fact, I’d say Pong and Dooku‘s sides are better, especially as both characters boast 2, non-pay base melee sides. Despite the slightly weak looking dice, the strength of this archetype lies in its ability to ramp and drop upgrades, combined with a generous suite of mitigation and tech cards, as well as consistently effective abilities on its characters.
As relatively few Legacies block cards were included in his build, it only took a few changes to make this a solid ARH deck. Here’s Jrak with the full story as well as his FFG Standard and ARH Standard decklists:
The weekend of the 7th of November saw the Star Wars Destiny Discord group (run by Elliot and MajoBasil) hosting a themed tournament where your characters had to have featured together in the prequel films or the Clone Wars TV series. After some discussion I chose to play Pong Krell along with Count Dooku and Lightsaber Mastery. My justification is that Pong Krell directly refers to Dooku and this implies that he has been in contact, with something along the lines of “Take Umbara, become my apprentice” [echo7: tenuous, but OK, I’ll go with it]. And we all know how well that went! [spoiler alert] Rex and his crew apprehended Pong and he was executed. So this is a deck showing what could’ve been!
Now, aside from the (only slightly iffy) theme basis, why did I think these characters could hold their own?
Pong has received little play at my local and I didn’t see him get play at all competitively before the release of Faltering Allegiances. I’m not completely sure why this is as his dice sides are fairly solid with 1 and 2 melee sides [echo7: fairly solid maybe, but pretty much identical to Mother Talzin who came in at 9/12]. Granted the 1 side is a little wimpy but it gives more chance to resolve modified saber sides. More important is the potential for damage amplification which we’ll get on to later.
His ability can provide hero shield cards to keep him alive and the activation damage can be a kill, or at least put someone in range of a kill. As a side bonus his ability also works well against mill decks by putting cards back into your deck.
I also knew the theme meant there was clearly going to be a LOT of Jedi in play. Jedi means hero which guaranteed Pong Krell‘s activation is worthwhile. This made him a pretty confident choice for me. Also it’s Pong Krell! He’s from my favourite arc in the Clone Wars so I had been looking at possible partners and I couldn’t believe when I had missed his (potential) master!
Count Dooku (AON)
The most exquisite man in the prequals, Dooku is a very honed character and that is portrayed through his sides and ability.
I thought his ability would be especially useful here as both characters have discard sides so there was a lot of hand mill available to limit my opponent. Using his ability as my first action is a great way to reduce the pain of an early Steadfast, a card that has seen much more play since Transformations Anakin started flipping his way around [echo7: though not an issue in ARH Standard]. It’s also a good way to get a hero card into my opponents discard pile in case I don’t have one for Pong‘s activation.
My characters gave me a lot of melee sides to work with, but I knew they were not that strong, so I opted for Lightsaber Mastery to help boost my damage output. My picks were Draw Closer and Fluid Riposte, making Niman and Shien Mastery vital parts of my deck.
Fluid Riposte meant I always had a last resort of mitigation and jumping in a sneaky kill with an extra damage was a possibility. Draw Closer could allow me to turn that deeply unimpressive 1 Melee side on Pong into a mighty 4 damage hit, much more like how we see him in Clone Wars!
Battlefield Salt Flats
I didn’t see myself winning many roll offs with those pesky 1 sides, but both characters are leaders which makes this battlefield strong for them. It can work as soft mitigation, which might get used against me, but with the amount of focus I had, my opponents blanking my dice wasn’t too much of an issue.
Pong Krell’s Lightsaber is an absolute necessity when playing Pong, this is a brilliant overwrite tool as Pong can always Power Action in a saber (even if it’s on Dooku). This could generate 4 damage off the special side, a little bit of money, or even a shield to stay alive. To bring it in for free makes that die incredibly useful.
Count Dooku’s Lightsaber is a solid weapon because of the flexibility of the on-play where you can either force your opponent to discard a card or do a damage. It allows you to limit your opponent’s options instantly which is great, but it is surprising the amount of times you are 1 damage away! Play it on Dooku and then overwrite with a redeployable.
Niman & Shien Mastery become even better with the Lightsaber Mastery cards. The on-play actions are important and the dice themselves are top notch. Niman can work for soft mitigation and lets me use other cards for damage output. It also allowed a nice special chain with the Pong Saber.
Dagger Of Mortis is a classic redeployable and with the amount of Jedi cowering behind shields its ability becomes very strong. Heirloom Lightsaber is also ready for an overwrite, the main reason it’s featured. Good die, good overwrite, good choice.
The obvious It Binds All Things was all I used here. This was my only card to help with resource management as I opted out of Torment and Forbidden Lore, deciding instead to use those slots for more aggressive cards rather than generate money for upgrades.
Basic but reliable was the way to go here. I didn’t need to include too much as the hero cards were getting me shields. Hidden Motive, Isolation, Forsaken would do the job, I hoped! Burst Of Lightning was a last minute include as I thought it could really ruin some opponents’ rounds; to lose three shields and three dice is painful and could swing a game my way.
With Pong Krell’s ability I could include 4 hero cards in my deck. I chose Jedi Lightsaber, Loth Wolf Bond, Channel The Force and Republic Jedi Armour.
Jedi Lightsaber and Republic Jedi Armour give extra health and shields on play, which is an area Villain decks usually lacks. Jedi Lightsaber also was great to play in round one and then overwrite with Niman Mastery, letting me do Pong‘s activation ability and place it on the bottom of my deck.
Loth Wolf Bond allowed me to give Dooku a little shield love, as most of them would often go to Pong. It lets me quickly overwhelm opponents with a lot of damage sides and big upgrades. Having a lot of melee sides in the pool could almost guarantee I could play Draw Closer as my opponent was unable to remove all the dice in one action.
Channel The Force is a really flexible card and even if Pong was defeated I could at least reroll and turn a die. I opted away from Pacify and Nullify as I wanted my shields and I didn’t want my opponent to have any, so this alternative mitigation, served me well.
Cards that didn’t make the deck.
As it was a straight blue melee deck after the standard weapon and mitigation package, my additional cards to work with the forms didn’t have much wiggle room. The main card I debated was Falling Avalanche, however after playing a few games I quickly realised with the amount of weaponry I was packing, there was rarely 3 spare resources for this. In my ARH variant however I use this card, as I lost upgrades such as Dagger of Mortis and Heirloom Lightsaber, mainly to get a kill on a character.
The other card I considered was Torment, I took this out incredibly last minute after deciding that taking Pong/Dooku‘s die for resources IS NOT a bad thing if it let’s me play Pong’s Saber for example. In place of the Torments I included my anti-shield cards.
No Mercy has featured in most of my aggro melee decks. It’s a great way to turn an unthreatening 1 melee into a 5 and it often is able to get a kill on a character as people do not think a 1 is a threat worth doing something about. Chancellor’s Edict brings me some more needed shields and is useful to stop an opponent playing Nullify at a vital moment.
I ideally looked for one hero card, such as Jedi Lightsaber. An It Binds All Things in your opening hand is great, two is even better! Add in a Forsaken or Hidden Motive. A Mastery opening hand, preferably Niman, and a saber with redeploy to play on the following round. This allowed me to set up my ramp plus have shields and mitigation to defend me into the next round. Remember, I’ve got a cheeky Fluid Riposte tucked away under Lightsaber Mastery if I needed it.
These are the cards I was going to live or die by, so with my deck and characters ready I turned on my camera and prepared for the tournament.
Game 1: Plo Koon / Padawan / Jedi Instructor (Ozzy) 1-0
Killed Plo start of round 2 with Draw Closer. Played Chancellor’s Edict which exposed his stacked character to a kill. Round 4 was Dooku full shield with Shien and his Saber v Jedi Instructor with Anakin’s Saber. Was able to keep mitigating that and getting damage through.
Game 2: Anakin (TRF) / Mace (Elliot) 2-0
I exposed Dooku to a kill from the flip. However post flip Pong was able to come in with a fortunate roll with a Dagger and Niman and kill Vader. Opponent had no upgrades in most game so was then full health Pong vs weakened Mace with no upgrades. Many aspects went in my favour and the deck simply didn’t work for him.
Game 3: Luminara / Jedi Knight (Traxlenak) 3-0
This game came to the absolute wire, I believe No Mercy in the end was enough to break the shield wall and do one for my kill on the Jedi Knight.
Game 4: Jar Jar / Boss / Gungan (Qroga) 4-0
Opponent activated Jar Jar, rerolled 3 dice which then all landed on 2 sticks. Couldn’t have worked more against him, would very much like to have that rematch to see what it would be like without my spawny rolling.
Game 5: Maul / Talzin (Cashew) 4-1
My first non-hero game. Opponent was able to play down Maul’s Saber which PA’d for a 3. Then he brought it back and was able to kill Dooku start of round 2. All my money went to mitigation so Maul simply tanked Pong with all his dice coming out.
Semi Final: Anakin (TFR) / Obi-Wan Kenobi / BR (Superboy): 1-2
Opponent was able to use decent health and shields to ramp and kill Dooku. I had to keep dealing with the large 4 sides and avoid the Kenobi PA so I was unable to do that and do much damage. Also missed a piece of mit which let a 4 through. My low health couldn’t deal with all the damage and activations.
3rd Place Play-Off : Maul / Talzin (Cashew): 2-1
Round one went like the Swiss, he crushed me with quick aggression. Second round opponent missed on his Power Action on Maul. I also was able to kill Talzin quickly which stopped his focus. His rolling went cold by the end and also in round 3. Was able to play down Shien quickly, which let me mitigate and kill Maul. Ended up getting the kill on Talzin, fearing to activate due to a Possessed on me, from the one ping off a Fluid Riposte. Would like to play that match up again, hopefully where his dice work for him more.
Anything to improve the deck?
After playing it in tourni the main part of my deck which I felt was weak was when I didn’t pull the right cards or when a character died I ended up having dead cards. Pong/Dooku‘s sabers are great when their characters are on the field. When their characters go down they become pretty weak.
When I didn’t pull forms early as well my plot became weak. I don’t think the deck itself needs tweaking, however I think I should edit how I played the deck so I can make sure I play down a form round one as they are really vital in driving my damage forward. So whether this is by sacrificing damage for money or mulliganing 4-5 cards to get a form. Without a form they can do a chunk of damage but not as much as with a form early.
Moving to ARH Standard
Below is this deck updated to ARH Standard, with a decklist again provided by Jrak.
I believe this deck actually gets stronger in ARH, as it has not lost much but gained a lot. Here’s an image to show those changes:
The loss of Dagger of Mortis and Heirloom is a shame, but the events from ARH move the tech in this deck up a notch. Cards like Force Affinity and Unending Hate are exceptional value in Taron Vader, and they’re exceptional value here too.
Allowing villain to play BD-1 is a great include, plus Jrak has found room for some anti-downgrade tech in the form of Breaking Bonds, which is a good meta call.
I personally would be inclined to slot in Forbidden Lore, as it’s ramp and draw rolled in to one, for 0 cost. I’d probably drop the Form Drills, Recovered Sith Lightsaber or Chancellor’s Edict (though dropping shield hate is a meta choice). I also love Death Field, and would include it to make up for the loss of some of the more aggressive upgrades, but I know that’s a personal preference.
One other consideration is to include Apt Lesson and a couple of Draw Closers in the deck, perhaps swapping one from the plot with the Falling Avalanche. Neither Jrak nor I have tested this, but it’s proven very effective with Luke (see the deck review here). The disadvantage here is that you’re only allowed one copy of Apt Lesson (it being hero) so will be less consistent. However, this has the potential to turn a blank into 6 damage, using either of your characters’ dice, which is a pretty scary proposition.
For a deck that just started with “Why doesn’t the big fella Pong get much play?”, it ended up performing surprisingly well! It’s a fun deck to play and as we move deeper into ARH I believe this pairing could be very competitive.
Pong is definitely worth a try. And for those who don’t, in his words:
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