Future Mechanics: Our Changing Destiny
In the past two weeks Star Wars: Destiny players have been blessed (or cursed, depending on how you feel about oversaturation) with spoilers from two new products coming soon, Rivals and Legacies. If you’ve been living under a rock, or perhaps preoccupied with less important things than Destiny (like life, or work, or family), you might feel a little overwhelmed at this point. The Legacies announcement carried with it a simultaneous announcement of new starters, so really there are three new products we’ve found out about in the past two weeks. Today, I’m going to be the voice of reason, breaking down what we know, and speculating on what these changes to Destiny could look like in terms of new cards. Let’s get to it!
We’ll start with Legacies first, as it was the first product announcement, and also because I’m specifically interested in what options could be possible in terms of effects to Destiny moving forward. In terms of mechanics, Legacies looks to bring two new keywords to Destiny, the first being power actions, and the second being indirect damage.
‘Power action’ sounds better than it is, which is really just a printed action ability on a character that you can only use once per turn. This essentially makes it a more restrictive ability in exchange for (presumably) a greater effect, but it does offer up some interesting capabilities in terms of design space and ‘feel’. The line between action/power action/special ability is increasingly becoming blurred, and something we need to keep in mind regarding power actions is that they should almost always be in the middle of that spectrum in terms of power level.
Specials on dice should have the greatest ‘effect’, as they require the die to live through your opponents action (most of the time) along with the obvious, which is that you need to either hit that side or focus to it. Power actions should have a powerful effect to make up for the fact that we are restricted to using them once per round, but shouldn’t be as powerful as specials, otherwise they will seem too oppressive. That being said, a beefy character with a huge power action (say a Palpatine-type character, or perhaps a future Yoda) could make for an interesting dynamic. Yoda especially would work really well with this ability, as his dice could be poor, or non-damage focused, while his power action might be something along the lines of “remove a die – deal two damage to a character”. This powerful action could fit with the ‘feel’ of Yoda, wherein he offers up wisdom and advice, while appearing small and weak, but he still does damage in his own way.
If we really wanted to pursue the ‘feel’ aspect of Yoda to the maximum, perhaps an even greater effect that requires investment would play off the idea of Yoda getting tired after his physical, acrobatic lightsaber battles from the films. Something like:
Power Action – Discard 3 cards. Remove all an opponent’s dice showing damage and deal damage to a character equal to the number of dice you removed.
This type of ability might be bordering on too strong in the abstract, but if his point cost is prohibitive (say, 12/15) and his health and die sides are low, it could make for a unique experience a la Palpatine that plays to the strength of the mechanic.
The other big reveal is the introduction of a new die type in the form of indirect damage. Indirect damage allows for a bunch of new options and flexibility in terms of design space, as ‘die cards’ can essentially get ramped up in terms of impact, without necessarily resulting in power creep. Resistance Bomber is an excellent example of this, in the sense that it offers LR1K Sonic Cannon type impact, but places the decision in the hands of your opponent, traditionally a ‘bad’ thing in card games. The logic here is that if your opponent gets to make a choice, the idea is that just about always the choice they make is the worst choice for you. Indirect damage counters this by offering higher damage values than if we got to choose where it went. For strategies like Palpatine (which currently is just Palpatine) that don’t care where the damage is going as long as they are dealing it, indirect damage will be a great mechanic. This will give some variability to how Destiny has traditionally been played, which is basically a ton of variations of ‘burst down the first character as soon as possible’, so some alternative strategies for winning besides mill and ‘control and pray’ will be gladly welcomed.
Finally, plot cards offer up a solution for those awkward character pairings that don’t quite reach 30 points. Each plot card offers up a small effect, ranging from a mini boost to mill (Espionage) to basically the only reason to play Lando (Profitable Connections). While these plot cards won’t make underpowered characters like Luminara suddenly tier 1 (which isn’t their intent), what they will do is open up some design space for ‘world effects’ that currently have been been relegated to supports. Tech Team, Rally Aid and similar cards aren’t that great, as they can’t be free (otherwise they’d be broken), but costing one makes them generally unplayable. Games play so fast that they are essentially dead past the first turn, and even then the initial investment is incredibly awkward if you can’t make the money back immediately.
Enter plot cards, which can absorb some of those abilities that couldn’t quite make it on supports, and have them actually influence the game. I’ll play with a 28 point team if my plot card rewards me for playing a bunch of supports, and I know I won’t lose because I didn’t see that integral card in my opening hand. An upgrade heavy deck that can start the game with something similar to It Binds All Things will feel unique. It will have an identity, which is what the plot cards can offer. Plot cards can, and should, have strong effects, which will inspire deckbuilding diversity and help prevent metagames where the strongest/most efficient 30 point combinations become the de facto best options. A two point plot that lets you add one to the value of the first melee die you resolve each round? Suddenly playing triple Magnaguard becomes, if not viable, at least debatable, and you can build your deck in such a way to extract more value out of the plot by extending the game for more rounds. Endless Ranks becomes an Aggro card, as its essentially buying you two more rounds to get the Plot bonus.
What about rewards for being monocolor or rainbow? A two point plot card that says “Action: Spot three colors on characters you control to draw a card.” can do wonders for deck construction and character diversity, but also in game decisions. Your opponent might have wanted to go after your 10 health ‘main’ character, but maybe he/she targets your weak 7 health character instead to try and deny you that effect? This is just the tip of the iceburg, but plot cards, if designed to be so, can influence Destiny in a myriad of ways that promote diversity and generate unique deck identity.
While Rivals is first and foremost designed for draft/sealed play, there are some implications for Constructed as well. The big change here, obviously, is the introduction of neutral characters/Gray characters, which I knew would happen at some point, but didn’t expect it in the first year. Anakin Skywalker smack in the middle of his Attack of the Clones angst is a perfect character for this, as well as other options that I hope they include as well. Saw Guerrera, particularly, would be great as a neutral character assuming they go the militant ‘Rogue One’ route, and hopefully we see a good mix of unique and non-unique offerings.
The big thing I want to see, besides just having characters that can go in Hero/Villain decks, are benefits/drawbacks that push you, as the deckbuilder, one way or the other. These types of characteristics can reflect on the character’s story arc/internal struggles, and I think they did a fine job with Anakin Skywalker. Gaining shields or dealing damage reflects on the violence/peace duality nicely, but the problem, obviously, is finding a way to balance the effect to the point where they are at least close. Damage is a much better option than shields as far as most are concerned, and while my predilections for Qui Gon means I think they are closer than most, even I have to admit that the Villain ‘version’ is stronger. This is fine, but something to keep in mind in terms of design space. While we have to worry about wordy text boxes, Hero Power Action and Villain Power Action would be something interesting to see further down the line. To do a passive, it would have to read like this:
“When you activate this character, if you can spot a Villain make the opponent discard a card, or if you can spot a Hero, draw a card.”
We obviously already have this reflected in the Vader/Luke polarity, and something to keep in mind is that we run the risk of ‘corrupting’ the novelty of that effect once we put it on a bunch of neutral characters. Still, definitely something that is worth exploring.
Finally, Gray characters offer up different options to us than neutral characters, and I hope we start to see some Gray characters that are not neutral. In Magic, colorless decks were always interesting curiosities in that they didn’t play well with others, and gave up some of the strengths of having a color, but in return gained synergies that were available only to them. While some might scoff at taking cues from Magic, I would be more open to the idea, as Magic is the longest-running, most-successful card game for a reason. For Destiny, Gray characters that work well alongside others while not necessarily fitting into a particular affiliation would be awesome. We haven’t seen Battle Droids yet, and I’d love a Droid/Droid/Droid/Droid Commander deck that plays all Gray cards, and offers powerful dice and Gray-only options at the cost of not getting to play with 80% of the card pool.
All this speculation wouldn’t be possible without a healthy format that rewards intricacies in deckbuilding and flexibility in design space, which is something Destiny is approaching, but hasn’t quite reached. FN-2199 and Sabine combo are still keeping down a ton of creativity in the format, but the game is improving. Personally, I’m excited to see what’s in store for the future of Destiny, and the new options announced recently have only increased my confidence that the design of Destiny is heading down the right track.
Thanks for reading,