The Coruscant Initiative‘s upcoming set, Altered Paths, will be released in November of this year, and today on echobase we are very pleased to be bringing you three exclusive spoilers from this set. We’ll look over those cards, and then have a look at the ones already spoiled by TCI themselves.
First up, the Lord of Hunger himself, Darth Nihilus:
“He is already dead; it is simply a question of how many he kills before he falls”
Darth Nihilus was a Sith Lord who was around in the Knights of the Old Republic, so continues the source theme of the already spoiled Revan and Bastilla Shan. Not to be confused with Nihilism (the philosophical school of thought that rejects knowledge or objective truth) or The Nihilists (the absurd antagonists from The Big Lebowski), Nihilus was an acorporeal Triumvirate (one of the three ruling Sith), who consumed the life force of his prey in order to survive.
First up, his stats are pretty unusual: 17/20 for 8 health! Pure damage and discard sides, with a potent 4 ranged for 2 indirect top side, but otherwise the sort of sides you might expect on a 17/18 point elite with 12/13 health. He also comes with the expected Sith subtype and the slightly unexpected Triumvirate subtype. The latter suggests to me that there’s going to be some Triumvirate spot cards, and that we might be seeing Traya or Sion make an appearance (the other two members of the Triumvirate).
Nihilus makes up for his extraordinarily poor health/points ratio with an equally extraordinary ability: he is extremely hard to kill. Like the old Magnaguard, if he is defeated he doesn’t die right away, but waits until the end of the round before being defeated. Contrary to the Magnaguard though, he cannot be defeated by non-damage effects (like Crime Lord), and, more crucially, if he heals before the end of the round he doesn’t get defeated at all. Before we look more closely at how this plays out, let’s look at his other ability. (EchoFives – make sure you have protection against Mind Extraction or it could be a very short game against an opponent using villain blue)
Nihilus’ Power Action nicely reflects the theme of this character. Every other character in play takes one damage (including any you control) and he heals equal to the number dealt damage. If you’re facing down a 2-wide deck, and you pair him with one other character, that’s a 4 damage swing (assuming you can heal 3), which is pretty huge from a PA.
When I first saw these combinations of abilities, I thought that it might be open to abuse. The rulebook states that “any excess damage taken by a character above its health is ignored”. So my thinking was you just wait for him to be ‘killed’ before using that PA, then heal. It wouldn’t matter how much damage they threw at him. None of it makes a dent, you just durdle, then heal.
In reality though, all your opponent has to do is to start passing. Eventually, you’ll have to PA Nihilus, and then they hit him again to finish the job. However, this does require your opponent to actually be sitting on a means to hit him with more damage. Pack enough mitigation, and you can, in theory, systematically remove all their dice at your leisure, before using the Power Action.
The important thing to do though against Nihilus is try to avoid wasting damage on overkill. There’s no point resolving a 3 ranged die on him when he has 7 damage already, if he’s just going to heal 3 afterwards and jump back up to 5 damage. Unless of course you have another 3 around to finish the job.
If you can consistently heal with Nihilus, you are going to be very difficult to kill, as the opponent will almost certainly be forced to damage him sub-optimally. This highlights something about Nihilus: he’s a bit of a meta call. He’s going to be much better into a deck that’s resolving some big damage sides, and worse into a deck that’s sitting on a pile of pings.
There’s a few tricks you could use to help him heal, like Bacta Therapy, Bounty Hunter Mask (honestly, if you can pair him with yellow, this card is an autoinclude), Sith Crypts – Exegol, Sith Cultist, and the following new spoiler, Claim Your Life:
A 2 cost event, allowing you to kill any of your characters with 4 or less health left, and heal your unique blue by the same amount. The extra bonus here is that the character your healed gains the dice of the character defeated.
On paper, this looks great. If you’re playing a 2-wide middle-middle, you can play it just before the opponent’s top target is defeated, to ‘redeploy’ their dice. However, in reality it’s likely to run into a couple of problems:
Firstly, the non-target character may have taken no damage yet, so you’re killing your own character for no health gain. However, this can be alleviated by picking characters with self-indirect pay sides, and the dice redeploy is certainly a big plus.
The main problem for me though is timing: the chance you’re holding this at just the right time to take full advantage of it just feels a little bit too situational. 4 or less health is a pretty narrow window. I can certainly see this making the cut in a Nihilus deck, where you can use it to save him for one more round with it, but even there I think I would probably leave it out of the final list.
Finally, we have a plot, Wound in the Force:
A minus 2 plot is pretty significant. We’ve only seen one such plot so far (Allies of Necessity), and it cost 2 resources, a card from hand, and had a build restriction.
This one is similarly prohibitive: you need a unique Blue, which isn’t hugely problematic given it’s Blue already, but you’re also taking 2 damage on every character, every round, which is pretty huge. However, it has an escape clause; when a character, any character, is defeated, you get to set the plot aside.
The first play I thought of here was to team Nihilus up with some Cultists, and play Claim Your Life to defeat a Cultist, heal Nihilus for 3, get a redeploy on that die (not that it counts for much, but it’s certainly not completely useless with cards like Meditative Truce around), and then set your plot aside. But this all raises the question of why? This combination means that you can squeeze in a 7 point character instead of another pair of Cultists, but it’s hard to see that being worth the risk.
Where I see this being useful is in a super aggressive pairing that expects to get an early kill, ideally round 1. It’s risky, but if those two extra points gives you the power to take down an opponent’s character in the first round of the game, this plot has no downside.
And this makes this a bit of a meta call. If you expect a lot of middle-middle builds, guaranteeing a round 1 kill is unlikely, so you’re probably going to be taking a hit. If you expect big-little or 3-wide, getting in a round 1 kill is much more likely.
I can see this getting play, and almost certainly more play than Allies. That plot always threw you into a hole right at the start of the game, one that was nigh on impossible to claw your way out of (with the exception of eEnfys/eLando). Wound sets you up with no downside, and the potential to avoid any downside if you build around it.
Of these three, I’m most excited about using Nihilus. He’s going to be a lot of fun, especially if you can keep him limping on a couple of rounds in a row. Knowing 100% that your main character can’t be unexpectedly spiked is really going to take the pressure off, though investing 20 points in 8 health is also a big cost to bear.
Next up, the three cards already spoiled by TCI:
Revan is a bit of a fan favourite, and comes into the game at 13/16 for 12 health and somewhat so-so sides. However, his ability effectively gives you an extra use out of his dice; it’s pretty easy in an upgrade-centric deck to discard upgrades by overwriting them. The obvious play here is to overwrite an upgrade with Niman Mastery, use Revan‘s ability to roll his die into your pool, then use Niman‘s after ability to flip it to any side. You’re also going to be including Palpatine’s Lightsaber to net some resources on your overwrites. (EchoFives – Pair with red and play Modular Framework for a free roll in of his dice)
He also joins the game with his apprentice, Bastila Shan:
11/14 for 10 health is again a bit so-so, especially when you look at those dice. Note that the shield cost has to be resolved before you resolve the die. You can’t resolve that 3 shield for 1 shield die unless you have at least 1 shield to remove; On Guard is going to be pretty huge here.
On Guard aside, of course you’re going to be building around these sides, with plenty of shield giving dice, especially when you look at that Power Action which lets you heal behind your wall of shields.
The fact that these characters are costed to pair together only makes sense when you look at the eponymous plot, Altered Paths:
Much like Temporary Truce, this card allows you to run a villain and a hero together, meaning you can include hero and villain cards (and also neutral). However, as is clear from the fact that Revan and Shan have A next to their card number, they’re flip characters. Therefore, you can use this plot to start with either Villain Darth Revan/Hero Bastilla Shan or Hero Revan/Villain Bastilla Shan. You could of course go double villain or double hero, but I don’t know why you would want to, as you would miss out on the chance to include hero and villain cards in your deck.
This card is pretty wordy, but the mechanism is very simple:
Play 3 hero cards and you have to flip a villain.
Play 3 villain cards and you have to flip a hero.
This makes the timing rather awkward: you really do not want to be flipping your characters when their dice are in your pool, as then their dice are removed. But so long as you plan your turns, you should be fine.
It’s really hard to judge how powerful this is at present without seeing the flip sides of Revan and Shan, however the fact that you can include villain, hero and neutral cards in Blue and Grey is pretty huge, and goes a long way to making up for the lack of power shown on these characters. In fact, it explains their lack of power. If they were on a par with current 13/16 and 11/14 characters, they would be too good given the presence of this plot.
One curious little bonus here, is TCI appear to have very deliberately omitted the word your from before the word character on this plot. This means that if you were facing down Luke from Transformations, you could play 3 villain cards and flip him to baby Luke. You could even flip Transformations Han back to his plot.
Overall, I like this plot mechanic. It’s going to make for a very interesting game, and going to force you to play your cards in a very intelligent way to prevent unexpected flips while still optimising your hand.
That’s it for now. With over a month to go, I’m sure we’ll be seeing some more spoilers from TCI before the release in November.