Building an Identity: The Vader/Phasma You Should Be Playing

Trevor Holmes
September 29, 2017
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I’m a big believer in deck identity. What I mean by that goes something along the lines of “what is this deck doing that nobody else is doing” which usually answers the question “why am I playing this instead of something else”. Often, I find that decklists many think are ‘good’ are in fact running a suboptimal version of what they could be, usually because they haven’t self-analyzed what they are doing to ‘pick a lane’. There’s a lot of colloquialisms there, so stick with me, I’ll be explaining all of this fully in my article today.

     

I bring up deck identity right out of the gate because today I’ll be going through a deck most of you know, or at least think you know, in Vader/Phasma. There’s a million and one builds of the deck out there, but few play to the strengths of the character pairing in a way that gets me excited to play the archetype. My experience with the deck (until now) has always been from the other side of the table (and Vader/Phasma was Vader/Kylo back then). This might make me an outsider to the archetype in player’s eyes, but I feel it gives me a unique perspective to approach the deck free from past biases, besides what I already know about the deck through the lens of seeing it as an enemy. With that, let’s break it down!

I feel strongly that a deck with Darth Vader can be played one of two ways, either aggressive, or midrange. Blue Villain is blessed with some of the best card quality in the game, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Most Vader/Kylo decks of the past just played a collection of 30 of the best 40 cards it had access to and called it a day, which worked out for the most part. Sith Holocron and Isolation and No Mercy and Enrage are good for a reason, and they should see play. Now that Empire at War is out we have access to more than enough ‘playables’, which has made decks more powerful, but also has resulted in deckbuilding getting a lot harder. While it may still be right in some cases to just ‘play the best cards’, that no longer is the only path to victory. Finding an identity, crafting a gameplan, and positioning to fight the meta are all steps we can take to extract the most value out of deckbuilding, which in turn will help us win games.

So, the list, but first, we need to talk about what we’re looking to achieve with Vader/Phasma. Vader/Kylo is the archetype’s predecessor in my mind, so that’s a good starting point to use for self-analyzing what we are hoping to achieve. Replacing Kylo Ren with Captain Phasma suggests we want to go aggressive, as Darth Vader and Captain Phasma’s dice are both very damage oriented, and the characters are aggressively costed (by this I mean low cost) for what we get.

If our goal is to be aggressive, cheap upgrades to give us quick value and let us use our resource for events is where we want to be. Both Vader and Phasma have great character dice, which will make them a target for opposing mitigation. We need a backup plan for when our damage dealing dice get handled, and we need to protect our characters at the same time. Even though we are an aggressive deck, most matchups in the format will revolve around us staying ahead in the damage race, and the best way to do that is by controlling opposing dice and making sure we aren’t one-dimensional with ours.

I’ve dragged you along long enough, so without further ado, here’s the Vader/Phasma list I’ve been playing to consistent success recently.

Vader/PhasmaTrevor Holmes Darth Vader - Dark Apprentice Captain Phasma - Ruthless Tactician Emperor's Throne Room Dark Counsel Datapad Force Illusion Force Lightning Force Speed Force Throw Mind Probe Sith Holocron Anger Boundless Ambition Enrage Isolation No Mercy Overconfidence Premonitions Trust your Instincts

What?! No Red cards? This guy is nuts!

So here’s the thing. Remember before when I said Blue Villain is blessed by some of the best card quality in the game? That remains true, and we need to play to our strengths. If we’re looking to diversify our damage dice while saving resources for events, Sith Holocron is the way to go. Still, if we’re playing no new cards besides Captain Phasma we need to ask ourselves whether we’re making the right decision to play an ‘old’ archetype in a new format, so we need to look at Empire at War to see if it gave us any new tools.

    

For Red, not many things excite me, old OR new. The best card we could play is The Best Defense, or perhaps Heat of Battle, but we’d much rather be resolving specials, not damage dice. Besides, The Best Defense isn’t too exciting when our opponent might be targeting Phasma first anyways, presumably to negate our The Best Defense (that we won’t even be playing).

Just because we’re playing Phasma doesn’t mean we have to play Red cards, especially if the Blue cards are just better. If we’re looking to be aggressive, No Mercy is one of the best ways to ‘snipe’ a character with burst damage, at the cost of two resources and our hand. No Mercy rewards a mono-color build, and the ‘drawback’ can be lessened by playing cards like Boundless Ambition to refill our hand. No Mercy is ‘balanced’ in such a way that we are getting a big effect, but at a big cost, and Boundless Ambition lets us play normal Destiny, reload, and then fire off a huge No Mercy, ‘cheating’ the card in a sense.

          

Once we’re playing Boundless Ambition (alongside traditional cards like Sith Holocron and expensive abilities) it makes sense to start playing Premonitions too. The card gets a lot of hate that’s undeserved, and comes from a false narrative that going down two cards puts us at a disadvantage. While this might be true, most Destiny players haven’t clued in to the fact that the best way to play and build decks is by playing every card in our hand every round, to draw the maximum number of cards and repeat the process. People still build decks with too many upgrades, waste valuable time and resources discarding cards to reroll, and don’t play everything in their hand at end of round. While there might be a time where the Premonitions ‘suspend’ play becomes a high cost, that time isn’t now. Instead, we hide a big upgrade, wait a turn or two, and then play it for free, often netting three or four resources worth of value in the process.

For the rest of the deck, Blue Villain didn’t see many new tools that could compete with the likes of Isolation and Enrage, but I believe one upgrade, Dark Counsel, has what it takes to make an impact. To preface, I’d like to say that I’m a big fan of just about any upgrade that costs 1, and I always try to include them in my decks assuming they’re not horrible, a la Scout. Getting to play an upgrade alongside a round 1 Isolation lets us put that resource to use immediately, rather than have it rollover across rounds. I firmly believe that a tenet of good deckbuilding is the ability to use resources immediately to start ‘paying back’ that investment through resolving upgrade dice the round we play them.

So, Dark Counsel. It’s not going to knock anyone’s socks off, but for what it offers, two focus sides, a resource, and a special that lets us draw a card and reroll is just fine, seeing as all we’re looking to do each round is trigger as many specials on our character dice as possible. The double focus helps immensely in this regard, granting us an extra 33% chance on activations at least, even more when you factor in the special.  Those extra draws add up too, with an early Dark Counsel potentially drawing us two or three cards over the course of the game, in addition to resolving it for resources or focus once or twice.

 

Now, here’s the thing about Anger. Anger is a bad card, in the sense that it only is working for us when things are going poorly for us, but with a little work, we can shift conditions around to the point where Anger can help us and ‘pull its weight’. By that, I mean that falling for the traditional ‘Anger trap’ by playing cards like Meditate and Manipulate and going all-in on the blanks plan is a mistake. Instead, we should ‘play our game’, maximize the individual value of our cards, and if Anger works for us, great. Luckily, Dark Counsel, Sith Holocron and Datapad’s two blank sides can help us trigger Anger more reliably, and if we get to play the card, the value gained usually can put us far enough ahead to win by itself. The trick is to not go too far down the rabbit hole by playing suboptimal cards to set up our Anger, focusing instead on just maximizing dice in the pool to hit it naturally.

This line of thinking supports flooding the board with cheap upgrades, most of which have focus sides to help our character dice. I wouldn’t be playing Force Speed, Sith Holocron, Datapad and Dark Counsel if they weren’t individually strong (removing Anger considerations from the equation). Just playing a bunch of upgrades means we can take advantage of Boundless Ambition earlier in our turn by dropping our hand and reloading before activating, when we really want to, and the multitude of dice we’re rolling in can support Anger naturally. As far as the metagame is concerned, with Thrawnkar throwing out big vehicle dice early and often, Anger can often turn the tables on them completely, punishing them for putting all the work into getting out a quick AT-ST.

To close, what I like the most about this list is the synergy between cards, and how one card choice supports another, which supports another, et cetera. Cheap/free upgrades play great in multiples and work well when we’re focused on maximizing our character dice, but they are low impact and need to be found early and often. Boundless Ambition supports this strategy, as well as helps us find the other half of our Holocron/expensive ability combo, No Mercy, and the elusive second Premonitions. All these dice we’re rolling in makes Anger better, which in turn circles back around and helps our primary goal of maximizing damage dealt while minimizing damage taken. The deck runs like a machine, which makes it fun to play whether we win or not. Spoilers though: we do win. A lot.

 

Thanks for reading,

Trevor Holmes

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