Well, we’ve got a lot of great spoilers over the last week or so. So we thought we’d have a look at them.
On the Sensors released some amazing spoilers. First up, the foxy lady herself, Fennec Shand (by the way, that’s funny because a Fennec is a type of fox):
11/14, 11hp, bounty hunter and neutral, with 3 damage sides, focus and a resource. She sure ticks a lot of boxes, even if those damage sides are mixed and one is a pay side.
Her abilities also pack a lot of punch for a 14 point character. Her Power Action is a Conflicted for weapon dice, offering a free reroll and a guaranteed 1 health swing. It’s not exactly game-breakingly good, but it’ll certainly add up over a game. To make it count, you need to be playing a decent number of weapons. If your one and only weapon die gets mitigated, you’ll be passing on this ability. And talking of mitigation, this ability can of course be used as soft-mitigation of the opponent’s die.
Her after ability also gives you a reroll. These abilities combined mean you’re going to be playing with a significant hand advantage, and this latter one certainly encourages a yellow heavy build. My mind immediately went to looking at what yellow events there are with ambush, so you get a reroll then another action. This produced the following short-list from ARH standard: Truce, Tireless Pursuit (which would be solid in a villain bounty build), Ewok Ambush, I Performed Violence, Reap, Triple Dark Attack and I Have Spoken. I could certainly see most of these being a worthwhile consideration, though my dreams of playing Ewok Ambush with a non-elite Hondo in a Fennec pairing are dashed by the fact it’s hero. And talking of that pairing, since they’re both neutral and No Allegiance is on Echoes of Destiny, you can make it work. 12 health Fennec and 15 health Hondo is pretty generous, though you’ll be playing a neutral only deck.
Next up, a battlefield, and not just any battlefield, a yellow one! Yes, coloured battlefields are here, and they look good. This one has a generous draw mechanic, though be aware that since the upkeep phase happens after you claim, if you use the claim ability when you have fewer than 5 cards in your hand you’re not going to start the next round with 6 cards. You can however use this to clean your deck and get to the ones you want faster, which is a big benefit, especially with cards like the next one kicking around:
Black Market Connection is a card which seems to have divided opinion. The OTS team seemed to be pretty confident that this would be in every yellow deck. And wow, yes, it does look, on the face of it that it’s borderline broken. One card (because the second replaces itself effectively) and no resources for an upgrade tutor and a 3 resource discount on it?! Any upgrade at all? I can play General, or Shien Mastery with this?!
However, while I think this makes a very fun card, I’m going to take the controversial stance that I do not see it making the cut in most competitive decks. Let me explain.
First off, precedent:
Black Market Connection has roughly the power level of pre-nerf Long Con. That card was a simple 2 card for 3 resources, so long as you drew them both. And it saw essentially no play, until the “draw your whole deck” Launch Bay deck broke it and forced it to be errata’d [after publishing this article, it was pointed out to me that this card was effective in Poe/Maz, which was able to extend the game so long that you almost always saw both copies. But then Poe was balanced and the card was relegated back to the binder]. Note that, thankfully, this card gets set aside when you trigger it, meaning that you can never trigger the effect more than once (which by the way, would have been a much neater fix to the Long Con/draw-your-whole-deck problem and would not have completely ruined Long Con).
When you do eventually trigger it, you have to play the upgrade from your deck, or what’s left of it. By the time you do trigger this though, you may not have much deck left, which might make for slim pickings. At least Long Con was a straight up 3 resources, which is always useful. And yes, you can cycle the upgrade you want into your deck from your discard pile with Mandalorian Covert, but if you bring that card to the game, you’re taking the pretty high risk that your opponent uses it against you by cycling your already discarded copy of Black Market Connection. You can however cycle a card from you hand with Undercity, which is a very nice combo.
Second reason, maths:
When are you actually likely to trigger this card? You need to have drawn both copies. So which round of the game is that going to happen on?
Let’s assume that you play or discard every single card in your hand, and you don’t get milled from your deck. That splits the game into 6 rounds. Let’s also assume, for now, that you don’t mulligan for this card. What do the maths say:
What the above graph shows is the probability you’ve pulled both copies by a given round (known as a cumulative probability plot). So you have a roughly 10% chance of getting them both by Round 2, 25% by Round 3 etc. This means that if a game goes for 4 rounds, more than half of the time you don’t get 2 copies of this card at all. Yet it’s still taking up a slot in your deck, plus you’ve probably seen the first one, which means you’ve had a dead card. Yes, I know that dead card is just auto-discard fodder, but it’s still not great.
OK, so what if you hard mulligan for it:
Hard mulliganning for this card gives you a better shot at it, sure, but you’re still only getting the second copy by round 4 half the time, meaning in half of your games you’ve been hard mulliganning for a dead card. And even if you do pull it off, in most games there’s only 10 cards left in your deck to tutor from, which isn’t going to give you much choice unless you get lucky.
What I’m trying to say is, I think in an average yellow deck you’ll include this card a few times, not pull it off very often, and start to use it less and less. Sure, it’ll feel blowout and broken when you get lucky with your draw and with what’s left in your deck, and that might be enough to push it into danger territory for the errata gun, but on balance I think the power level is fine.
I should add that in casual games in a regular yellow deck, I am absolutely playing this card just for that fun of it, even having done the maths to show that most of the time it’s simply not worth the deck space.
However (and it’s a big however, which is why I put it in bold), if you play a mission plot and use Covert Mission to pull this card, the statistics change a lot:
With CM in the mix, I’m pulling this off Round 1 in a third of games, by Round 2 in 60% of games, by Round 3 in 80% and by Round 4 in 95% of games. Sure, the resource leverage is less, but it’s still a bargain.
Let’s say I play 1 Covert Mission, and naturally draw 1 Black Market Connection; I’m trading 1 card and 1 resource for any upgrade in my deck at a 3 resource discount plus I get a bonus shield. I’m still only losing 1 card, because Covert Mission and the second Black Market Connection effectively replace themselves thanks to the tutor effect. Even playing 2 Covert Missions isn’t completely mad: 2 resources and 1 card for a 3 resource discount, a tutor on any upgrade, and 2 shields. Seems good to me.
For that reason, I think this will see very effective play in yellow/red decks that are running a mission plot (you need red for Covert Mission). And yellow have no shortage of decent mission plots: Rescue Han Solo, Coaxium Heist, Sound the Horn, The Ultimate Heist and Intelligence Operation.
Next up, some blue villain courtesy of Diggity Destiny:
Asajj Ventress rejoins the game as her post-apprentice witch persona, touting her SoR die, but for 10/12 and 10hp, rather than 12/15 and 9hp. Her Power Action is similar to Ahsoka‘s, but is much easier to trigger, though it does force you into a witch build to make it work for you. We’ve got Talzin (9/12), Nightsister Acolyte (8/10), Old Daka (9/14), Merrin (11/14) and Zombie (5), as well as Nightsister Assassins for the spot requirement.
Meet the requirement, and you’re leveraging a lot of value off a weapon. The better the weapon, the better the value, and I could see this being most useful with something like Pulse Cannon, Security Baton, Vibrosword and Darksaber, all of which require either a red or yellow, pushing you into a 3-wide (maybe with FN-2199 to push the ‘good weapon value’ theme?). Talking of weapons, Asajj rejoins the game with hers:
Asajj’s Lightsaber has acceptable sides for the cost, as well as a title that avoids awkward possessive grammar, but where it really shines is in its brand new mechanic: you can make this upgrade elite. We’re awaiting a rules reference update to fully clarify this, but it means for 3 resources you’re getting 2 dice and still only taking up one upgrade slot. This not only represents excellent card and resource value, but is especially useful for Jar’Kai decks, as each one of those dice get a +1. Also, if we get an elite hero upgrade, or you can crowbar this into a hero deck somehow, you’d be able to roll both dice in with Ahsoka‘s ability, meaning her ability could be worth a potential 4 bonus dice in the future.
If you have this on a character other than Asajj, it’s a decent upgrade; but on Asajj you pass on the indirect costs on the two 2 sides, which, given you could be resolving this twice (or even three times) per round, will save you a lot of pain. For this reason, I don’t think this is going to see much play outside an Asajj build, except maybe in an aggressive 3-wide with a lot of health.
The big problem with this card really is it costs 2 resources. Which is an even number. If you want to pair Asajj with Talzin for Witch Magick shenanigans, you’re going to want to limit the evens in your deck. No more than 4 was the general rule during the age of the witch, and time will tell whether this card makes the cut in Asajj/Talzin pairings.
Crucially, the presence of playable witches makes Possessed decks a legitimate proposition, which is scary for characters like Din Djarin in a post action cheating meta.
The event Vile Machinations is another nice bit of cross-colour cooperation from Unlikely Heroes, giving you two separate effects depending on whether you can spot yellow and/or blue. Spot yellow and you can remove a non-damage die. Spot blue and you can do the classic blue villain move of blanking a die showing damage. And you have to do them in this order, meaning you can never use this card to remove a die showing damage, which is a nice limiter on what is otherwise an above-curve piece of mitigation for the right deck.
These cards together make me want to try Asajj/Talzin/yellow. Maybe eAsajj/eTalzin/Pyke Sentinel? Hmm.
Next up, some hero cards, brought to us by Rando Mando (mill nerd):
Medpack is good. Very good. 1 resource to heal 1 per round, or potentially 2 on a big character. Get this out round 1 and you’re getting a powerful health advantage.
However, it does require a bit of timing. You need to activate the character after the opponent hits one of your characters to get first round value. However, since you can heal either of your characters with this card, it should be fairly easy to pull off a once-per-round heal, which is great value. Compare it to something like Dex’s Diner which cost a resource each round to heal (though the health threshold to get the double heal was a mere 6). I could see this being a strong include in most red hero middle-middle or big-little decks, like Cody or Din builds.
Deep Meditation is probably the first straight-up mill cards from ARH. And it gives you an interesting choice. If you blank their die, you get no mill. Turn the opponent’s die to something big, and they get more value from it, but you get more mill. It also has amazing artwork drawn by our very own Echo3ofclubs. Nice work Oli.
The strongest play with this card is going to be turning to a modifier when the opponent has no base sides, or turning to a big disrupt when you have no resources left. It’s situational, but mill needs a lot of support to be even remotely viable in ARH right now, especially with Convergence and with it No Answer rotating, so it’s a positive step for the mill players out there.
Talking of mill, we also have a straight-up mill character:
12 health is welcome in a mill deck, and Padme comes with 3 mill sides on her dice: a discard side and a very interesting special, which discard 2 cards from the opponent’s deck and places a resource on her. Once you resolve this 3 times you can trigger her Power Action for a free Diplomatic Immunity.
Unfortunately, since this is an upgrade, to get maximum value you’re probably going to have to play it on your other character. The sequence will probably go something like this: activate Padme with 1 or 2 resources on her already, resolve her special, trigger the PA, play DI on your other character, activate that character. As a reminder, this is what DI looks like:
No blanks and pretty much all good sides for mill, especially those big shield sides. If you can get those shields resolved early I can see this being a strong play. I think her best partner is probably going to come from Blue, so you can play Yoda’s Teaching to special chain and get some more mill going.
Next up, a couple of spoilers from Destiny Junior, starting with some villain Yellow:
It looks like there’s going to be a new archetype incoming, a Black Stall Station deck. There’s a lot of mechanics for removing your own dice, and if you build around it, this could be hitting for a lot of damage in a game.
We’ve got Pre Vizsla in Unlikely Heroes, as well as Aurra Sing below, but in Standard there’s already Hound’s Tooth and Fight Dirty (in Echoes of Destiny), plus Any Means Necessary, Sith Eternal Cultist, Hostage Situation, Xanadu Blood, Rally the Covert, Supply Team and Ugly. Include a decent number of these and this one support could easily be doing 10 damage in a game.
The problem is that if you build around it, you’ve got a problem if you don’t draw it. We can immediately go to a Covert Mission build of course, which means we can’t play AMN, but it might be worth it for the potential damage.
Sith Master is an expensive upgrade, but one which could be quite powerful with the right character. The obvious target at the moment is Darth Bane (or maybe Maul), giving you an extra go with his amazing die. It’s also a title, so we can play this with You Are In Command Now on any character, which is fun.
Finally, the last 3 come from SWDBR, and bring more love for Yellow villain:
Aurra Sing comes with her SoR die, and a very similar ability to her original version. However, it’s definitely less powerful: previously you could discard a card to pump any of her dice as you’re resolving it, allowing you to use it as part of a regular dice resolution, and allowing you to modify it. Now however, it’s an Action, so while you can still use it twice, you can’t modify her dice in the process, and it makes you slower. You also have to remove a die to trigger it, which is generally worse than discarding a card. On the flip side, she’s a 10/13 bounty hunter with 11 health and a really very good die for the cost. Plus you get Black Stall Station synergy.
Honestly, I think this character is going to be very popular if bounty hunters are viable in Unlikely Heroes. No pay sides and two 2 ranged sides is very good for the cost.
Cad Bane’s LL-30 uses the elite upgrade mechanic from Asajj’s Lightsaber, and again uses a parallel die from the original LL-30. I’ve got to be honest; I love parallel dice. For players who are new to the game, it makes no difference. But for players with a collection of dice gathering dust, it’s a great way to crack out the old dice.
Originally this die came with Redeploy and Ambush, but it cost 2. Now the special is better (previously it turned a die to a side showing ranged damage, which I think was worse), and you can get two of these dice for the 2 resources if you’re playing Cad.
I think this could well be one of the best 1-drops in the game right now, and means that villains now have access to a solid 1-drop weapon in all colours, thanks to Energy Bow in blue and the DC-17 in red.
Finally, For Mandalore! This is a solid 2-cost event for a 2-die swing. It has to be an elite character’s die you roll in, but it doesn’t have to be yellow and there’s no spot requirement. You do have to actually remove a die to trigger it, as there’s a Then, but that shouldn’t be too hard.
Just like Sith Master, the better the character the more value you get from this. In yellow, Cad Bane and Bala Tik look like two of the strongest options. Ironically, one of the best targets may be Maul (SoH or Redemption), while Pre Vizsla is only a so-so target for this, as his die is not amazing for his cost. But I’ll still be including it in a Vizsla deck thanks to the theme.
Phew, that’s a lot of spoilers. Just 10 days to go!