Building for a Post-Nerf Meta
We stand upon the brink of change.
If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past couple days, you might have missed IT. No, I’m not talking about Pennywise the Dancing Clown (though you shouldn’t miss that either). I’m referring to Running Interference and what you can do with it, also known as brokencombo.dek, also known as helluvagoodtime. Running Interference and the craziness it is capable of are undoubtedly not long for this world, so I don’t want to waste time talking about how to beat it. Besides, I already did that.
Instead, I’m looking ahead, hopefully not too far ahead, to a world where FN-2199 and Running Interference don’t do the things that they do. Today, I want to spotlight a deck that I believe has what it takes to compete in a still volatile Empire at War meta, but perhaps is currently overshadowed by all the attention being paid to FN, Interference decks, and Thrawnkar. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that FN and Interference have been given a nerf, and, while still in the format, no longer dominate and invalidate other strategies. Let’s begin!
Mace – Maz
Interestingly enough, Mace – Maz was my deckbuilding starting point in Empire at War that eventually led me to discover the power of Running Interference, but that’s a story for another day. I originally experienced Mace Maz early in spoiler season (basically when all we knew was Sabine, Thrawn, Mace, Master of the Council and a few other cards) and initially dismissed it. Maz was weak, FN could push incredible amounts of damage, and Mace, while capable of hitting hard, didn’t provide enough of a unique effect to make me choose that pairing over something like Vader/Guard.
During spoiler season, I watched as tools for Blue Hero got spoiled left and right. Battle of Wills. Ancient Lightsaber. Lightsaber Pull. My thoughts were on Qui Gon/Rey, but I knew the affiliation was getting enough options that other archetypes would be viable. And then, without much fanfare, one card was spoiled that pushed the archetype over the top for me.
Look, I’m not saying Defiance is on Force Speed levels of power or anything. It’s just a solid card, good rate with valuable effect, that helps further our gameplan while not being too restrictive that we can’t play it at any point in the game. We’re all conditioned to look for that splashy, unique effect that does something game-breaking (ahem, Interference), when really a Field Medic that rerolls a blank can be just as good, or better, in the right context. Blue Hero has had contextually great effects for a while (Use the Force in Awakenings, Caution/Guard in Spirit of Rebellion) and has really only suffered from a lack of depth and thin options at the character slot. Mace Windu, Defiance, and a few other role-players are potentially all it needs to get pushed over the edge.
So, the deck. Originally I thought Mace cost 21, and I could play him with Ackbar for Leadership, but sadly that’s not the case. After my dreams were crushed, and I looked around at all the other options, I knew my Mace deck would be just that, a Mace deck. That means Plan A, all-in, no hedging, in it to win it. Something like Vader/Guard can play for the long game, potentially surviving once our main character goes down. Padawan and Jedi Acolyte unfortunately don’t have what it takes, sorry.
If we’re all in on Mace, we need to focus on two things; speed, and survivability. Opponents will be gunning for him hard, which means outracing their damage is essential. We can do this a variety of ways, but the primary means are speed, control, disruption, and protection. Master of the Council is a build-around-me card, and deservedly so, so speed fits in to that gameplan. If we can land it early (round 1, or round 2 with something else along with it) we should be competitive. If we’re dropping our Guard (heh!) to drop an expensive upgrade on the early rounds, that means damage is probably getting through, so control is out for the most part. Healing a la Field Medic effects like Defiance act as control in the sense that we can imagine the damage we’re healing to be similar to a delayed Electroshock, where we take the damage and remove it later, the benefit of course being that we’re awarded flexibility in when that resource has to be spent. There’s caveats, of course, but that’s the gist. As for disrupt, the best options for that strategy are Red Hero and Yellow Villain, so…
I say all that to say this. I didn’t intend on playing Chance Cube. Look, I get it. Your skeptical. Not only am I all in on one character and playing Hero, I have the audacity to play something like Chance Cube? I’m right there with you, or I was, until I figured out how great it is.
See, Mace Maz is all about one thing. Getting out that early upgrade, and riding Mace’s excellent dice to victory. Hero decks are plucky, which is another way of saying they fly by the seat of their pants, which is another way of saying the deck is stacked against them, which is another way of saying they’re bad. We need a little luck to get there, and as we all know with Chance Cube, we make our own luck.
When we’re looking hit Mace’s 4 damage side and Master of the Council’s special, Roll On is a card we already don’t mind playing. Three shots at a good roll for no resources is nothing to sneeze at, especially when our dice hit so hard to begin with. Basically, would you discard to reroll 1 or 2 dice once (assuming we’re leaving a dice that already ‘hit’) or would you discard to reroll one dice three times? The answer to that is contextual, and things like Chance Cube tip the scales (or the die weight, if you want to be thematic).
Chance Cube gives us a powerful opening sequence, wherein we play it on Maz and activate on our first round, looking to focus to the 3 resource side to net 2, getting up to four for either Master of the Council or One With the Force. This start alone is often enough to jump out to an insurmountable lead, and it’s the primary focus of the deck. In this sense, I see Mace Maz more as a combo deck in the sense that we’re looking to assemble sequences of plays, rather than a traditional ‘aggro’ deck that just wants to push damage.
This identity informs deckbuilding decisions like Battle of Wills and Decisive Blow. We can’t really afford to play one for one mitigation, but we’ll gladly take advantage of Mace’s character dice and remove our opponents, while activating all at the same time. Decisive Blow performs similarly, but might need to be another Battle of Wills if I’m being honest. If we’re comfortable enough to play the first, we really should be playing two, but Decisive Blow does offer up unique things, like getting rid of character and upgrade dice without having to ante up our own.
Running Interference is here as well, if you remember, this was the deck that led me to the Interference promised land. Setting aside all the unfair interactions for a moment, Interference on a Battle of Wills means we can activate while playing a card to prevent our opponent from doing likewise, without having to set up ambush shenanigans. We have Truce, but no Infamous, so ambush for us is harder to come by. If you were on the fence about Battle of Wills vs. Interference, and considered the choice 50/50, interactions like Running Interference should weigh in to your decision one way or the other.
As a brief aside, weighing options in this way can do a lot for your deckbuilding, like if you had room for two resource generation cards and couldn’t decide between Smuggling and Truce. Are you disrupting? Playing Han or Interference? Want a specific card in your discard pile, potentially for Sabine or Rearm? What about the metagame? Is there a lot of discard to punish you for committing two cards for one resource? Or will giving your opponent a resource as well set us behind? All these little interactions is what makes deckbuilding great, and the very definition of an ever-changing puzzle that can never be solved.
To conclude, I like a lot of what this list has to offer, and I feel strongly that all of the cards are pulling their weight. We’re at the point now in Empire at War that we have 3 (and an eighth) sets worth of cards to pull from, which gives us more than enough options for powerful cards to fill out our deck. Lately I’ve found my deck sketches start at 40 cards and need to trim down, rather than beginning at 25 and looking to be filled out. If you’re searching for playables, or playing situational low-impact things like Scramble, I’d take a second look through the set or re-investigate your strategy. Not that I don’t love Scramble, its how I eat my eggs in the morning. Hopefully soon Interference will get hard-boiled, and I can make omelettes out of my opponents.
Thanks for reading,