Context is Everything, or Why Qui-Gon/Rey is Good Again
There’s a little known secret in Star Wars: Destiny, one that has the potential to physically blow your mind. No, it’s not that Rey is a Kenobi (even though she is). It’s the undeniable, unavoidable fact that context is everything. Last week, we hinted at the ‘Matrix’ of Destiny, the ‘hidden mechanisms lying under the surface of everything that control the outcome of the match’. I defined these mechanisms as card advantage, synergy, and consistency, and drew parallels to binary one’s and zero’s in a computer program. This is true, but it’s only a half-truth.
Today, I’ll be diving deeper into the code, defining context in an attempt to uncover what really makes Destiny tick. Like Indiana Jones running from a giant boulder, this treasure hunt can be dangerous, but the rewards are fame, riches, and the chance to beat up some Nazi’s. You want to talk to God? Let’s go see him together, I’ve got nothing better to do.
What Is ‘Context?’
Have you ever wondered why Poe Maz has had so much success? Why Mill never seems to ‘get there’? Why Jango/Veers and Use the Force went from format staples to Kesha almost overnight? Why (insert pet card here) can’t seem to make the cut? All that we see in Destiny, why one archetype is good while another is not, why a certain card might be a great choice for the weekend, why Dodge is great but Block is rarely played… all these surface conditions are influenced and motivated by context.
Most players are familiar with a ‘two level’ view of their gaming environment. There’s the metagame, and then there’s our response to it. We’ve all experienced this on some level, consciously or subliminally. Poe/Maz and Vibroknife are running around, so I’m not going to play a three or four character deck that relies on Diplomatic Immunity to survive. That’s a two-level approach, one that looks at the ‘base’ (in this case, the archetypes and specific card choices that other people are playing) and adjusts our decisions, deckbuilding, or even deck-choice to align with these characteristics.
Unknown to most, however, is a third level, one that goes beneath the metagame. This third level is responsible for basically every environmental characteristic we see, and it influences nearly everything we interact with as players. Why Emo Kids is good but Vader/Grievous is not. Why Luke/Ackbar isn’t as strong as Luke/Maz. Why Deflect might vary in value, and Disarm might be a strong ‘narrow’ choice for an event. Tapping into this third level requires wading through a swamp of speculation, but the rewards are great. Colloquially, this is known as the “Next Level”.
You might be asking ‘what’s the point?’ This seems like pretty theoretical stuff, and it is, but beginning to think about card games in this way has incredible value. Staying a step ahead of the curve, learning how to correctly analyze decks, cards, and strategies to determine their worth, predicting trends and gaining an edge through deck selection, tuning, and gameplay all are potential rewards we can gain from building a strong foundation of understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the format. Sounds good to me. Let’s get started.
How Metagames are Born
So, enough theory. As it stands today, the metagame in Destiny can be defined as such:
Established archetypes: Various two character aggressive strategies like Poe/Maz, Vader/Guard, Emo Kids, with Funkar as the most popular FN macro-archetype. A step below these archetypes lie a smattering of similar-minded pairings, such as Mono Blue Hero and Palpatine.
New Players: Rainbow FN and three character Phasma decks have been floating around the format for a while, but have yet to make that ‘jump’ into the forefront of player’s minds. These decks potentially have what it takes to be considered ‘Tier 1’ (though I hesitate to use that term without defining it) but aren’t quite there yet, mainly due to a lack of popularity amongst the field.
Fringe: Maz/Snap/Rey, Han/Rey, 4 Wide, Mill/Control, Baze/Snap and other Unkar decks round out the field, each capable of strong performances. These decks lack either the consistency, favorable conditions or ‘experienced pilots’ to make a significant impact on the format, so while some diamonds in the rough might be present here, these decks remain among the least-popular options in the field.
To condense, the metagame for Star Wars: Destiny currently can be more accurately defined as two levels:
Level 1 – Established two character aggressive decks
Level 2 – ‘New’ three character strategies built to target the two character decks
Now that we know our metagame, let’s dive in to the context of why it exists, hopefully to gain an understanding of how to beat it. To do this, we’ll look at the second level, the decks built to attack the established tier.
Most of the two character decks should be familiar to us by now. Poe/Maz needs no explanation, but it doesn’t see anywhere near the level of play it used to thanks to the Fast Hands nerf. The prevailing thought is that the deck is ‘fixed’ now, but more on this later. Vader/Guard and Emo Kids play a similar game, with Vader/Guard claiming better survivability and consistency while Emo Kids is more aggressive and capable of burst. Mono Blue Hero isn’t as widely played or as successful as its villain counterparts because while the character pairings are similar in strength, the support cards have historically been worse (Isolation and Doubt versus Guard and Caution). Guard and Caution are great cards, but removing dice, no questions asked, is much more reliable than hoping for shields and melee rolls to get us there.
Rainbow FN is not a ‘new deck’ in the sense that it has been floating around for a few months, but only recently have players begun to collectively pick up the archetype to the point where it’s begun to affect the metagame. Widely regarded as the best ‘FN deck’, Rainbow plays all three colors to get the best upgrades, mitigation and events possible, and utilizes Bala Tik, 1 die FN, and either Royal Guard for sustain or Nightsister for burst. This strategy preys on the various two character aggressive decks thanks to superior burst and more survivability with three characters’ worth of health points. Vader/Guard and Emo Kids are, for the most part, outmatched, as they can’t keep up with FN’s damage or successfully fight through three characters worth of health to win.
Phasma plays a much more focused game, relying on guardian and consistent ranged dice to split incoming damage among its characters while gunning down the opposition. Phasma decks, like Rainbow FN, are built to prey on two character decks by presenting a large amount of health for defense while fighting back with fast, consistent damage. Both of these archetypes fight an established field through similar means, while at the same time presenting a unique strategy and remaining true to their identity.
So, Rainbow and Phasma are two decks that take advantage of weaknesses present in the two character decks, but why are we just now seeing them succeed? One common theory is that as Poe/Maz has diminished, disenfranchised Poe/Maz players have moved on to other archetypes, but I think the reasoning is much more strategic. Rainbow FN and Phasma are two decks that are able to capitalize on the lack of Poe/Maz in the field, and are beating up on the other decks as a result. Three character decks, especially decks with character health values like 8,7,11 and 7,9,12 are scary choices against Poe/Maz and wouldn’t do well in a field saturated with such a matchup. But, Poe/Maz isn’t seeing much play these days, in part due to a perception that the deck is no longer strong, which is allowing these three character decks to prey on a field while their natural enemy stays at home.
This whole train of thought is one example of how we can use existing information to draw insights about the format in the hopes of finding some avenue of attack. To save you from a 5000 word article, here’s a few other insights I gathered in the same way, with a brief description about my thought process behind them.
- The format is soft to Poe/Maz – Assuming the list can keep up post-Fast Hands (and trust me, it can), Poe/Maz is set to capitalize in a big way. It can go toe to toe with the other two character aggressive decks, and crushes the three character lists. Its worst matchup is two character FN and shields, but Rainbow, Phasma and Vibroknife have pushed those strategies out of the metagame.
- Burst is essential for victory – FN decks can push insane amounts of damage quickly, and when they are running smoothly with Boundless Ambition, no deck in the format can keep up. To beat FN decks, you have to be able to do more than six damage in a round. Vader/Guard needs to pull off a splashy effect like Price of Failure or Rise Again to keep up. Emo Kids has to roll incredibly well or fire off two No Mercy to get there. These plays, along with Thermal Detonator for 9 damage, remain the best things you can be doing in the format.
- Control and mill aren’t viable – I’m sorry, it is what it is. When left alone, FN can build into an unstoppable monster, and no mill deck can keep up outside of Loose Ends, and even then every matchup is an uphill battle. The best control deck in the format is Funkar, and Funkar isn’t actually control. It’s an FN deck with control elements, and an argument can be made that even that is the wrong way to go.
- Shields are back, baby – Rainbow FN decks are cutting Vibroknife, leaving only Vader/Guard and Emo Kids as matchups where we need to worry about it. Funkar plays it too, but they usually have to overwrite it with a three or they are leaving damage on the table, and Emo Kids has other sources of damage like Vader’s special which prevents them from blanking shields entirely. If you can plan for Vibroknife, almost all decks in the field will spin their tires against repetitive shields.
The Garbage Will Do
I haven’t been impressed with Qui Gon/Rey… until now. In a Fast Hands/Vibroknife format where I could burst over everyone with FN/Dooku, Qui/Rey just felt so small-ball. I got the synergies, I knew what it was capable of, but I was winning with Dooku, so why change? Luckily, the format shifted, and FN/Dooku doesn’t have the field full of great matchups that it used to. That’s okay, because I’ve found something great. Here’s Qui Gon/Rey, 2.0
This deck isn’t “new”. And it doesn’t need to be. Scroll back up to the bullet points and tell me what you see. Shields are good, burst is necessary, three character decks are prevalent and Poe/Maz is primed for a breakout. We need some sort of survivability, potential for big plays, and the means to adjust to a shifting field. Qui Gon/Rey has the capability to do all of that, and it’s the deck I’ve been testing the most leading up to this weekend’s Online SC.
We’ll start with the pairing, specifically Qui Gon, because if you are like me you’ve overlooked this guy, and that ends today. With a shield on, Qui Gon’s dice turn into 4 damage sides, a resource, and a blank. That kind of rate is just unarguably nuts. I specifically wrote that sentence that shock your brain out of the lull you’re probably experiencing. Unarguably. Nuts. With Qui Gon’s dice, Defensive Position and Caution, we can soak a ton of damage against everything but Vibroknife, and against Vibroknife, we’re even happier. Two Force Misdirection, two Makashi Training, and a ton of other mitigation makes our melee matchups a breeze, which sets us up nicely against the field. Vader/Guard, Emo Kids, Funkar, Rainbow with Royal Guard all play primarily melee damage, which plays right into our melee specific mitigation. The non-melee decks like Poe/Maz, Palp, and Phasma have to fight through a ton of shields, while our character dice can potentially push 6-8 damage right out of the gates.
Lots of upgrades in blue hero is a trap. We just don’t need them. Force Speed, Vibroknife and Makashi Training are all the best at what they do, and beyond that we don’t really need anything else. Jedi Robes is great as a free Defensive Stance on the first round and an extra die to roll in early assuming we don’t hit one of our ‘cheap six’, but multiple Lightsaber and Rey’s Staff and the like is unnecessary. Play a ton of events, save your resources, and take advantage of consistent dice.
As for burst, Synchronicity and Riposte are excellent. Eight damage on the first turn isn’t common, but definitely possible in multiple ways, like this sequence against an opponent’s Royal Guard:
Win roll, take shields, split between Rey and Qui Gon
Start with Jedi Robes into Vibroknife on Rey, roll in both characters, hit a couple irrelevants, two damage and a shield
Synchronicity for two damage, Riposte for three, resolve three damage (shield plus two)
In the midgame, Vibroknife on Rey (or a Swiftness on a Force Speed) gives us two actions to roll in both characters, potentially with an action to spare if we hit Speed special. Close Quarters Assault to take three (or more) cards from our opponent’s hand is excellent, especially in a field with Poe/Maz and FN decks. Players are wising up to deckbuilding now, and building their decks in such a way that they use all the cards in their hand every turn. Close Quarters Assault is a beating when played quickly, and can lead to some crazy blowouts.
I believe the format has shifted to a point where ‘shields’ is a great defensive (and offensive) strategy against the field. Qui Gon / Rey is a pairing capable of consistency, burst, interactivity and power, and I have found that most of the archetypes in the field, specifically the ‘top decks’ are unprepared to answer the challenges we are presenting. As always, multiple ways to win in Destiny exist, but for now, based on the context of the format as it stands in August, I’m looking at Qui Gon / Rey as one of the best. Thanks for reading, and go kill em’ with kindness.
Thanks for reading,
Trevorholmes91 on Discord