Upgrading on Blue Hero Upgrades
This week I took a deck I’ve been working on recently to the local weekly tournament to see how it would play in a ‘live setting’. Often I find that a deck has been working smoothly on TableTop Simulator, only to fall short when I sleeve it up for some ‘IRL’ games. Some might say the TTS level of competition is lacking (I disagree), but for whatever reason, I was anxious to see how the deck would perform in actual games. Because it was amazing. I wanted it to be true. Welcome to three character upgrades.
I originally started working on this deck while doing prep for an analysis on the various ways to build Blue Hero, and the deck was originally born as an ‘afterthought’ created by ‘obligation’. What I mean by that is I didn’t really expect much out of the deck when I initially drew it up, and I figured going in it would be one of the worst options I would end up testing.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Three character blue upgrades has been around as long as Padawan has been a card (so, since the beginning) and the deck has always been horrible. Like, slightly above Luminara horrible. Some versions even played Luminara, which should give you a clue as to the type of company Three Character Blue has kept. Nevertheless, I perservered, and quickly discovered that the archetype’s past failures have largely fallen on unfortunate circumstances it has found itself in. In other words, it had to play the cards it was dealt. With Empire at War granting Aces to the archetype, I firmly believe the odds have shifted in its favor. Let’s break it down, and then I’ll walk you through my experiences with it at the event.
On paper, the deck looks about the same as it always has. Three characters, It Binds All Things, tons of upgrades, yawn. While that’s true, you shouldn’t knock the deck because the core remains strong three and a half sets in. It Binds All Things, played early, in a deck full of upgrades should see play, and you shouldn’t discount it just because you carry with you outdated thinking on the card and the deck it finds itself in.
That point sounds aggressive, and I don’t mean it to be. I’ve just noticed an inherent bias in the community to discount something ‘old’ that players think they have figured out. Have you faced Poe/Maz yet in the Empire at War meta? I haven’t, and I’ve played a ton of games with and against various decks. Poe/Maz is a big question mark for me right now, so before I pass judgment for or against that deck I force myself to pause and think about what I really know about the archetype. In that same way, I learned a lot about myself when I initially dismissed Three Character Upgrades, before quickly learning my mistake.
Still, you’re not convinced, and I understand. I haven’t given you anything to be excited about yet. How about Power of the Force? Feel like resolving a lowly 1 melee die for 5-8 damage? That’s not Magical Christmasland. It happens, often. The weakness of Blue Hero traditionally was a lack of cheap upgrades we’d happily play to power out strong Power plays. We had Force Speed, Force Illusion, and…that’s it. Our choice dried up past that point, and we had to stretch to things like Vibroknife or Makashi Training as two resource plays, because there literally wasn’t anything else. Padawan playing a Lightsaber on round1 wasn’t powerful because we were getting it at a discount, it was powerful because it was covering up a weakness in our deck as we didn’t have any two cost upgrades.
Luckily, FFG heard our cries, and Empire at War answered the call, giving us tons of new upgrades to play. Ancient Lightsaber, Shoto Lightsaber, Keen Instincts. Yes, you heard that right. Keen Insticts doesn’t necessarily do much, but it doesn’t cost much either. A free upgrade that we can drop to power out early Power plays, and potentially turns blanks on Jedi Instructor into a shield or something is just fine, once we realize our main plan is to build a critical mass of upgrades as soon as possible. In that vein, Protective Mentor, an ‘old’ Spirit of Rebellion card feels new to us, as I’m finally coming around on the power of this card.
I first caught on to Protective Mentor in a Qui Gon/Rey build, where I was loading up shields on both characters thanks to Caution, Jedi Robes and Rey’s Lightsaber. Normally, if its early enough in the game, our opponent might switch targets if we fire off an early Caution, leaving those shields ‘stranded’ until our opponent eventually comes back to finish that original target off. Protective Mentor allows us to put those shields to work, as well as ‘overload’ our shields by essentially allowing all our characters to hold more than three. Usually the downfall of ‘shields decks’ is that our opponent will just build a ton of damage in the pool and then resolve all at once. So, no matter how many shields we can potentially make, we can only stop three of that damage. Between Protective Mentor letting us spread shields around and Force Illusion, we can soak up tons of damage. More on that later.
Another great tool for us is Bestow, which works as an excellent source of extra value while also letting us move upgrades off of Padawan to keep ramping out weapons. Play Ancient Lightsaber at a discount and Guard away the first die before moving it to Kanan with Bestow is a solid early play. We can even focus it to the +3 with Kanan and resolve, then Bestow it over to Jedi Instructor and roll back in, getting maximum value out of that die while progressing our gameplan.
These types of value plays are everywhere with this deck, and even with multiple games under my belt I’m still finding powerful things to do. That Kanan focus the Ancient Lightsaber to +3 play for Guard can happen in one action, remember, with Kanan’s ability letting us surprise our opponent by turning blanks relevant out of nowhere. In the same vein, Jedi Instructor is great for rolling in and turning a Kanan blank to something useful ‘for free’. Finally, Power of the Force is an incredibly fun card to play, whether its early to resolve a resource die for ‘mega resource’, resolving on focus to set all of our dice (like a Heat of Battle just for us), or on damage to just kill somebody out of nowhere. With 26 health, tons of shields and great mitigation (we even have room for Flank in this list) the “yeah, you’re never getting more than four upgrades out” argument falls apart.
I was hoping for a huge turnout at my local store, but a bunch of people were out of town, so it ended up being a small event with only three rounds. Nevertheless, the deck went 3-0, but more telling than the record, the deck did worked according to plan, which is even better.
In my first round I played a speedy, consistent Poe/Rookie Pilot x2 vehicle deck with all of the tricks. Hit and Run to swing in with Poe, All In on Poe’s focus dice to add a surprise four to any showing ranged, things like that. This kind of matchup was one I was worried about, as he can just build up a ton of damage dice and potentially overload my shields.
Except, of course, for the fact that Guard, Caution, Force Illusion, Flank and Protective Mentor build up an insurmountable wall of damage prevention. At the end of the game my opponent was halfway through my first character. At one point, he did eight damage, but Force Illusion and 5 shields from two Protective Mentor’d characters prevented all of it. The game ended in convincing fashion with Power of the Force on one melee die for eight damage, plus another eight at least from the rest of my dice in the pool.
Round 2 was against Baze/Snap, another flavor of consistent, tricky Red Hero ranged. Ancient Lightsaber on Padawan, along with a Journals of Ben Kenobi gave me tons of card in hand to discard to reroll, and a timely Kanan focus to Ancient Lightsaber’s +3 let me deal 8 on round 1 to kill his Baze. Slow, grindy, plodding midrange upgrade engine you say? Take eight damage! The game was basically over at that point, but we played it out, with Guard and Flank acting as all stars, halving his damage output when I could remove even just one Baze die.
Round 3 was against a strong local player running a fast, hard hitting Grievous/Gamorrean Guard list. I knew I had to soak as much damage as possible, as he was all in on things like Backup Muscle to sneak extra damage. Caution and Protective Mentor were all stars here, and even though he had the Vibroaxe that removes all shields before dealing damage, I was still able to soak a ton and kill his Grievous before he took down even one character. The game ended with a satisfying Power of the Force for 7 to kill his Gamorrean Guard.
For the event I played two copies of Journals of Ben Kenobi over the Funeral Pyre, and I have to say I liked the swap. The deck wants to drop upgrades as quickly and numerously as possible, so getting that extra draw every round can add up to 3 or 4 extra cards over the course of the game, which is really helpful when we’re trying to dig for that Power. Still, I like the idea of Funeral Pyre if I can use it twice (potentially to move Shoto around when characters die) so I feel like it should stay in. Return of the Jedi is a card I wish I had, to grab back extra copies of Caution and Power of the Force. I might play one over one copy of Destiny, as while the card is normally excellent for me, I found myself using a surprising number of dice on Caution and Guard, and often was just able to pay for upgrades outright thanks to It Binds All Things and Padawan. More testing is needed, but I really like where the list is at and I’m happy to see that the deck not only is a blast to play, but it actually wins games! While my tournament matchups were a little on the soft side, I’m convinced the deck can hold its own against most of the top tier aggressive decks in the format.
Thanks for reading,