Maximizing Your Value: Empire at War
When this article is published, Empire at War will probably be releasing today. (YOU CAN CHECK OUT SINGLES HERE) One of the toughest aspects of a new set is figuring out what to keep and what to trade. For most of you out there, you don’t have endless resources to buy a full set of cards or purchase six boxes. This means prioritizing acquiring the cards that will have the most impact. Today I discuss three legendary cards that are worth acquiring immediately, and four cards that look great, and will be expensive, but you should probably avoid. However, of course, if a card just looks really fun, go ahead and ignore my advice!
Thrawn is going to be the most expensive card in the set. He is going to start out expensive, but he is going to retain his value. If you can trade any legendary in the set for him do it! Everyone loves Thrawn from the Timothy Zahn books to his current role in Star Wars Rebels. This may drive his initial value, but his long term value will come from Thrawn’s power level. At first glance, you may disagree with my assertion that he is going to be powerful. He has no damage and no discard sides. However, his ability is so powerful, that it will entice many of the best players in the game to use him. There are already a few obvious builds for him with elite Thrawn/elite Unkar and elite Thrawn/elite Kylo (Awakenings).
But that is just the tip of the iceberg for Thrawn. What makes his ability so strong is that he can remove any card on activation. His card may say guess a number, but players that understand the meta game, will almost never miss. They will know what cards their opponent will attempt to draw in their mulligan. Even if a player has no clue about the meta, guessing 1 will almost always hit a strong piece of removal. Therefore, Thrawn will always disrupt your opponent’s plans. Thrawn also has a 2 resource die side. This is incredibly strong and opens up many possibilities such as FN playing more weapons, vehicle decks, or even, gasp, Crime Lord.
The first decks will probably be mill decks paired with Unkar, since between their abilities at least 2 cards will be removed each turn. But my guess is that we will see a wide variety of Thrawn archetypes emerge. So, even if you think mill is boring, don’t trade Thrawn day 1 for some legendary that looks interesting. You will regret it!
Ancient Lightsaber is going to be one of the most valuable cards in Empire at War. I understand that looking at it, you may think I’ve lost my mind. It looks like a bland 2 cost weapon. But the challenge is to think of another 2 cost melee weapon. Makashi Training is the usual go to 2 cost melee upgrade, but it only has modified sides. Rey’s lightsaber is ok, but it only has 2 free damage sides. Therefore, while Ancient Lightsaber can’t quite compete with the amazing 3 cost weapons of the world, it’s the best 2 cost melee weapon in the game. This means that it will be in nearly every blue deck in the game. That’s a lot of decks wanting this legendary lightsaber. The release of Lightsaber Pull, makes this card even more valuable. It is the only 2 cost melee damage card that can be retrieved with Lightsaber Pull.
Additionally, its ability is quite impactful. Healing 2 damage, basically makes it a lightsaber with Field Medic attached to it. This ability is going to win a lot of games. If you use this ability after resolving the die, you lost nothing for that turn and gained 2 critical health. This ability is going to make Ancient Lightsaber valuable for many sets to come.
Finally, this card practically negates an entire archetype, mill. By putting his under your deck, your opponent can never run you out of cards unless they have deck destruction. Most mill decks focus on hand destruction. Once your villain opponent plays their last Buyout, it will be nearly impossible to run you out of cards, if you have an Ancient Lightsaber. Are you still not quite convinced? Imagine if Holdout Blaster was legendary. Now you understand why Ancient Lightsaber will be so valuable.
Cad Bane is certainly a speculative choice. But I think he’s going to be great. This is relying on some guesswork, but people are predicting that his ability is something similar to “Action: Play an upgrade on Cad and then activate him.” If this is correct, you could play one of the many ambush weapons on Cad, activate him, and then immediately resolve all the ranged damage that he rolls. For 17 points you get 3 dice rolling and immediate resolution. Beyond that, he has real staying power at 12 health. In fact, 12 health for 17 is strong, and maybe 12 health for 13 points is even better. If FN doesn’t receive any nerfs, you could have a Cad Bane, FN, Trooper lineup. This would net you 30 health and two really strong abilities. I have a feeling people might sleep on Cad at first, making him a great value pickup early.
Honorable Mention: Seventh Sister
Sabine is going to be very expensive at the start of Empire at War. I fully realize that this statement is going to be met with resistance, but … I think that she is overrated. Looking at her die, she basically has 2 blank sides, which is quite rare for a character. Sometimes the 3 disrupt for 1 resource will be amazing value, but most of the time, it won’t be worth resolving. Once you roll it, your opponent will spend their money before you can trigger it. Also a 2 and 3 damage side are solid, but it’s still only 2 damage sides. Spirit of Rebellion Darth Vader has 4 damage sides, the same health pool, and he costs a lot less.
Like the other overrated heroes in this set, her ability is quite flashy. Unlike the others, I think that it is quite powerful. However, it has some limitations. The weapon has to be in the discard pile, so you will have to find a way to discard it before activating Sabine. Her ability will combine really well with ambush weapons like Holdout Blaster. The main reason why people will resist my classification of Sabine as overrated is that she can loop Thermal Detonators for 2. If low health three character decks emerge, then Sabine’s value will go up considerably. But it is tough to put all of your resources into a Detonator every turn, hope to hit the free special side, and then hope your opponent does not remove it. However, when this scenario does work, Sabine’s price will rise even more.
I know some of you are noticing that I said Cad Bane was good, even though he has a worse ability and a worse die. The difference is that Cad is 2 points cheaper for a single die, and 3 cheaper as an elite. Additionally, Cad has a lots of good partners, while hero lacks mightily in the cheap partner category. The bottom line with Sabine is that you are only going to start with 3 dice, and when Sabine dies fairly early, you lose the game. I too want Sabine to be amazing, but I just don’t see it. To be clear, I’m not saying Sabine is bad. I just don’t think she is great, and in the beginning, she is going to be one of the most expensive cards in the set. I am recommending patience with Sabine. I will be acquiring her in a month when her price has dropped substantially, and I recommend you do the same.
Mace Windu makes me sad. I have been hoping so hard for a Mace Windu. But this Mace is really expensive. Yes he does have a 4 damage side for a resource. That is very appealing. But that is also expensive for heroes. It’s very tough for heroes to play its upgrades, My Ally is the Force, and all of its other tricks, if it has to pay money for Mace’s amazing side. My guess is that Mace will be one of the most expensive legendaries upon release. While I truly hope Mace ends up having a space in the meta, I struggle very much to figure out where that will be. Empire at War decks are going to do a ton of damage, and Mace’s 12 health is going to melt fast. If Mace is going to die quickly, the question becomes who do you pair with Mace? The obvious choice is Maz Kanata. However, my gut tells me that a nerf is coming for her. If she is off the table, I struggle greatly to find an 8 point, single die, character that is going to be strong enough to close out the game.
I can hear someone saying, “But Tiny, what about that insane ability, remove a die to kill a guy!” While it is true that Mace’s ability is incredibly flashy, I actually think it’s one of the worst abilities in the game. The amount of times you will be able to trigger it over a game or even 5 games is going to be low. Since Mace is the primary damage dealer, he will be the first to go. So he won’t be stealing any game closing plays with the ability. It will most often be used to finish off the first character killed. That can be useful, but Mace’s die has 3 damage sides on it already that do 2 damage. For me, Mace basically has no ability, and that just doesn’t work for a 22 point elite powerhouse character.
The bottom line is, Mace is a bad mo fo, with a flashy ability, but his point cost is just too high. He will definitely be a fun character to mess around with, but will probably be disappointing if you spend all your resources trading for him.
K-2SO is my favorite character from Rogue One, and I was so excited to see that he had a card. I assumed that he would be a support, like his droid friends, or maybe we would get lucky and he would be a character in a supporting role. Similar to the role he played in the movie. But instead what we have is a flashy, but expensive hero character. Thus far, this combination of words has meant, not great. We have seen people pilot Luke Skywalker with good results, but the consensus is still that he is over costed and inconsistent.
With K-2SO we actually have a character at 20 points, but doing less damage than Luke. His dice are more similar to Obi-Wan, but he doesn’t have the 2 focus side, guardian, or Obi’s cool ability. Instead, K-2SO has an ability that is murky. The first half of his ability is certainly a restriction, weapons cost 2 more when played on him. This is a real issue in red decks that often want to run piles of red guns and It’s a Trap. This particular strategy is made more difficult by the fact that K-2SO has melee damage sides. This means cards like Overkill will not find a good home in a K-2SO deck. Additionally, at 20 points, we are back to the constant hero problem of what character pairs with him. Opponents are going to burn down K-2SO immediately, so what character can hold down the fort after he’s gone. Maz is strong, but not a closer. One Rey die isn’t very exciting, as we’ve seen with Luke/Rey decks. This is troubling. Is elite Ezra the answer? I have a hard time believing that a 7 health character with shaky dice is enough to close out a game.
So why then will people be so interested in playing K-2SO decks early then? The second half of his ability is about as flashy as they come. When a weapon is finally played, or more importantly moved (funeral pyre), onto K-2SO, he readies and gets another swing. However, much like Mace, while this ability sounds amazing, it is an ability that will be used at most once per game. In most games, K-2SO is going to die first, so weapons won’t be moving to him. Therefore, most of the game you will be swinging a 2 dice K-2SO. Of course you can attempt to mitigate this by playing non weapon upgrades, but these dice usually have less impactful damage sides. When you do finally use his ability it is going to be at a steep cost. There are currently no 0 cost weapons and few 1 costers. Most likely you are going to be paying 4 resources to reactivate a character with 3 dice. There are definitely going to be moments where this play will have a huge impact. People will post about these moments on Facebook and Reddit, and decks will be posted on SWDB. K-2SO’s value will be high and he will be in high demand. But, unfortunately, as more efficient and refined decks emerge, we will realize that K-2SO costs too much for what he does.
The Ghost has become one of my favorite ships in the Star Wars universe. I’ve spent so much time watching the crew aboard this ship, that I hoped it would be great. However, at 4 cost, this card is unplayable outside of a dedicated vehicle deck. However, lucky for those of you who open this card in the first week, there is a deck everyone wants to play, that wants to play the Ghost. Hera Syndulla is a strong card and her vehicle deck will likely be the first deck that people build. If you are one of these people, I urge you to resist the temptation to trade a lot of resources for Ghost. You will most likely regret it, if you do. The main problem with Ghost is that expensive vehicles are almost impossible to play in decks not focusing on vehicle synergy. However, even in a vehicle deck, Ghost isn’t even close to the best vehicle available. It’s best free side is only 2 damage, and that is a bit crazy for a 4 cost card. I’m not saying it won’t be useful in Hera decks, but there are a ton of vehicles that you probably already own or rares from Empire of War that will do the job just fine. Wait a month or so, and you will be able to pick up a Ghost at a discount price.
Honorable Mentions: Grand Inquisitor, Grand Inquisitor’s Lightsaber
To wrap things up, I’m not overly impressed by the legendaries in Empire at War. There are plenty of interesting cards. There are tons of decent legendaries. However, unlike previous sets, there are not that many must have legenderies in Empire at War. If you want to maximize your value, I would trade for Thrawn and Ancient Lightsaber, while trading away the expensive hero characters. Having said that, if one of those heroes is your favorite character, and would make you happy, ignore my advice and grab them today!
Until next time, you can find me at www.patreon.com/TinyGrimes creating regular content and on Itunes/Youtube with the Smugglers Den and other videos.