Tarkin – Merciless Leader

The Coruscant Initiative‘s Tarkin has crept up a number of times in events, taking 6-0 in the release event under the steady hand of MaliciousMawloc (and also featuring in lineups from 4 out of 8 of the runner-up spots in the same event) claiming multiple runner up spots since, and winning this week’s echobase TCI night. It seemed only right to do a full review.

And so, we present, a character analysis of Tarkin – Merciless Leader, written by this week’s echobase TCI champion and echobase event regular, OJ:

Hi everyone,
I’m here today to talk to you about one of the new characters making waves on The Coruscant Initiative Destiny scene, everyone’s favourite cold, clinical, ruthless tactician the OG himself – (Grand Moff) Wilhuff Tarkin. When I initially saw him, I thought he looked super potent, mostly because I like to redraw my hand 1 card at a time, and misread his text, so thought upon drawing a new hand I’d deal my opponent 5 indirect damage. After being disappointed corrected by echo3ofclubs, I thought he seemed underwhelming, particularly compared with the other red ‘support’ leaders available, like Director Krennic or Wat Tambor, both of whom have comparable stat lines but strong abilities.

Red villain leaders for similar points

Oh how wrong I was. After being the on the receiving end of relentless barrages of indirect damage from Tarkin in my games, I rapidly reassessed his potential. Plus, a Tarkin deck being one of two to go undefeated in the TCI release event made me pay attention.

So what exactly makes Tarkin so potent? First up, he has the leader keyword, which opens up cards such as Megablaster Troopers, Counterintelligence, Salt Flats, and Make Demands. Which all have a ‘Spot a leader’ requirement.

Ok, maybe Make Demands is a stretch, but you get the idea

His ability ‘After you draw one or more cards except during setup, you may deal 1 indirect damage to an opponent’ is very consistent, and the damage dealt by it racks up very quickly. It’s going to be triggering every round during the upkeep stage, so the longer the game goes on, the worse it’s going to get for your opponent as Tarkin whittles them down.

This ability also combos very well with his special: ‘Draw a card. You may reveal that card to deal indirect damage to an opponent equal to half its cost rounded up’. In addition to drawing another card (a very powerful ability in itself), this is also likely to deal at least 1 indirect damage, even if you draw a 1 cost. However, if you flip over a bigger card you could potentially be dealing an additional 2 or 3 indirect damage (or 4 if you crowbar in a 7+ cost). Executrix, Superlaser Siege Cannon and Megablaster Troopers all fit quite nicely with Tarkin. Lead From The Front seems like a bit of a stretch, but pointwise elite Tarkin and elite Enfys Nest adds up, and that’s a big pay-off if it works.

Anyone thought about Tarkin and Enfys Nest?

The one indirect damage side on his die seems distinctly meh, but barring the blank side all the other sides on Tarkin’s dice look good, especially for a 13 point character.

Building on Tarkin’s ability The Coruscant Initiative (TCI)  introduced a number of new cards which enable you to draw more cards synergising very well with Tarkin. Three of these seem like an auto-include in a Tarkin deck.

Draw more cards? Yes please

Prepare To Fight is very versatile card, allowing you to covert the cards into instant resources if you choose, enabling you to drop those big supports early or keeping the cards if you prefer.

Fear Of This Station further reinforces the idea that Tarkin’s natural home is in a support deck, as it requires you to spot a support to play it.

Imperial Rank is a superior version of Promotion (Awakenings). Mixed damage sides are clunky to resolve, and even worse when they are on modifier sides.

Which version would you prefer, huh?

On initial inspection these cards don’t seem particularly potent but having been on the receiving end a number of times I can assure it rapidly starts to stack up. Dealing damage without having to resolve dice is an incredibly powerful mechanic (I’m looking at you Ewok Warriors) and cards which deal damage from hand are relatively rare due to their effectiveness.

A chain of events might go as such:

At this point you’ve dealt your opponent 3 damage and drawn a further 6 cards, and you haven’t even activated a character or resolved a die yet. If you were mining for a key card in your deck, say Megablaster Troopers or a mitigation card you have great odds of drawing it. At this point I’m having flashbacks to Doctor Aphra decks, who always seem to have the card they needed due to her draw ability, and would ping you to death (man, I hated 0-0-0). Except, you don’t have to rely on pulling 0-0-0 to fire back ping damage, Tarkin is doing it all by himself.

The dream team

And this is just playing cards from the deck to trigger Tarkin’s ability, we can also trigger his ability through our character line-up, partnering him with the plot Grand Design, or the new TCI character Force Sensitive Trickster, or both.

What’s that, you want to draw more cards? Well, ok I guess…

Grand Design is an easy way to trigger Tarkin’s ability, and allows a number of different line-ups. For example, elite 4-LOM, elite Tarkin, and Grand Design – a line up that battered me in the TCI release event. Him having both copies of Dead Or Alive in his opening hand felt distinctly unfair.

Tarkin has Grand Designs for 4-LOM

The Force Sensitive Trickster is the new Sentinel Messenger, I’m very glad he’s a neutral character. This character opens up so many possibilities, being able to cycle your hand, and stack the cards in the order you want is a very powerful ability. You can play the cards you want from your hand, then switch the others out for fresh cards from your deck. Didn’t hit any of your draw cards? No problem, just activate the Force Sensitive Trickster and get a new hand. Furthermore, because Tarkin is a red character you can draw an additional card – swapping your 5 cards for 6 new ones, in addition to dealing an indirect damage.

Alternatively, you can mess with your opponent’s hand if you think they have a clutch card forcing them to cycle their cards. I’ve had an opponent do this to me, forcing me to put my amazing mitigation cards, Flee The Scene and Jump To Lightspeed, back into my deck then drawing a bunch of useless upgrades (thanks Erik). This is even more powerful if you combine this with something like Mastermind, Counterintelligence, or Cultural Records so you have hand knowledge before you decide whether or not to swap their hand, or yours.

Can I see your hand pleeeeease?

With his points cost, Tarkin is very flexible. Two very successful iterations of Tarkin decks are Mawloc‘s Wat/eTarkin/Trickster deck from the release event and Erik‘s eWatto/Tarkin/Trickster deck from echobase’s first TCI gaming night.

Mawloc‘s is a red heavy support deck with Wat Tambor, and he kindly offered his thoughts on the deck:

Credit to MalicousMawloc going undefeated at the release event with his creation

The deck overall is really efficient, with a constant stream of damage from Tarkin whenever you draw a card, and the ability to burst large amounts of damage through with Wat’s ability and some very strong support options. Wat and Tarkin also provide you with 2 different characters who naturally come with the Leader tag. Being able to see most, if not all, of your deck is a function provided by our lowkey MVP the Force Sensitive Trickster, as well as a very strong die at his point cost. He combos beautifully with Tarkin allowing for a guaranteed extra damage a round, and helping you draw into the impactful supports as that is historically a weakness of any ramp deck.

With access to plenty of resource sides and focus, you should have no problem getting your supports out either, the hardest decision points in the deck usually came from when to activate each character in the course of a round. And with money management between wanting to draw, play supports, and play removal to keep you characters alive. The events suite is the most malleable part of the deck. I ended up choosing to play all 4 copies of cards that let you draw, but went with extra removal over extra hand control to fill out the rest of it. When mulliganing, the dream round 1 hand is Prepare to Fight, Merchant Freighter, Imperial Rank, Forsaken, and a TIE Bomber or Megas. Lots of ramp, some draw, and a piece of zero cost removal to top it off. The deck is very strong into most 2 Wide builds, but can struggle in the Qui-Gon and mill matchups. I think that’s all from me for now so always remember your triggers and that.
Han shot first, Mawloc

If instead you wanted to run a serious money maker like Watto, with an Entourage support package, the Force Sensitive Trickster is also a scoundrel, meaning that special is going to be hitting for 3+ damage each time.

Erik’s echobase event deck followed this approach, and a bonus point to Erik for his battlefield Abandoned Refinery which provides another method to trigger Tarkin’s ability. This is also incredibly flexible, allowing you to convert something like an exhausted Tech Team or a resourceless Merchant Freighter into a discount on a new support, a new card from the deck, and an indirect damage. Here’s Erik’s deck with thoughts below:

Tarkin plus entourage package, list credit to Erik

I wanted to try something different (other than blue hero) for the event, so I went for a villain supports deck. One of the main reasons for this decision was that Tarkin just looks very cool, but the top reason is a little red villain card called Separatist Embargo. After having lost the previous final against Lando, Han, and A Game of Sabacc, I knew that I needed some sort of plan for dealing with that deck. Taking out the Millennium Falcon before it hits the table sounded like a good start.

Side-note: I came up against the same deck (and player) in the final, where I did a hard 5-card mulligan for Separatist Embargo, didn’t get it, used my Force Sensitive Trickster’s first action to draw another 5 and still didn’t see it. I believe that I drew it round 2, but by then it was too late. By the way: I fully support TCI‘s change to A Game of Sabacc, now requiring all the resources on the plot and allowing some counterplay.

The text on Force Sensitive Trickster contains a single word prompting me to take it in the direction that I opted for: Scoundrel. Starting with two scoundrels on the table is very nice when going the Entourage package route. I’m not sure that this is the best route for a Tarkin deck but I liked the idea of my opponent not knowing which character to target first. Watto makes a lot of money and is a scoundrel himself, but Tarkin can get very threatening and in the endgame allow for unmitigable damage. Damage from triggers like Tarkin, Kylo Ren– Tormented One, or Anakin Skywalker- Reckless One is not to be underestimated. Note, the upkeep phase comes after the action phase, so if a game goes to time, you do get that extra one damage off drawing your cards.

While Tarkin and the Trickster are alive, you’ll mainly want to target your own hand with the Trickster‘s ability, although it can be a good play to target your opponent, even if they end up with one more card, especially if you suspect them to have Jump to Lightspeed in their hand and ready to go.

I should note that I didn’t test the deck prior to the event, so there are probably several improvements to be made. Defensive Blast looks good, but I typically prefer mitigation that doesn’t have spot requirements. Beguile can serve a similar purpose, but is less reliable. On the other hand, it deals with specials more easily and doesn’t damage Tarkin. Prepare to Fight could also deserve a second look, but I figured that Watto already makes quite a lot of money.

We’ve only just begun to explore the potential of decks using TCI cards, but I fully expect Tarkin to a staple character in villain decks as the meta develops.

Thank you to OJ, MaliciousMawloc and Erik for their thoughts on this interesting character.

One final thing to note: this week The Coruscant Initiative teased the date May the 4th on discord, layered over an image of Maul and Ahsoka. I think it would be fair to say that they plan to release something on that date, which is a mere 9 and a half weeks away. It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with this time round.

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