Jedi Mind Tricks: Shieldpocalypse

I’ll skip the obvious “A million voices” joke, and jump straight in. As you may or may not have heard, things have changed in the world of Star Wars Destiny. There’s a lot of stuff that’s shifted and flipped, but arguably the biggest overall impact was the change to Vibroknife. In essence, only Vibroknife dice, and dice Vibroknife modifies, are unblockable. And that single change has single-handedly brought back shields as a gameplay mechanic.

Qui-Gon Jinn

Op? This guy?

And now we’re in a world where once again, people are talking about the power of shields.  In dark corners of the internet, the dreaded word “OP” is being thrown around.  Ignoring the delicious irony of people talking about OP shields, the crux of the argument is “With the nerf to Vibroknife, there’s just nothing you can do about people like Qui-Gon Jinn and new Rey!  Shields are a just so hard to get through!  We just can’t keep up!”

And let’s be clear: shields are tough!  Qui-Gon is good!  He’s got a 1 melee and a 2 melee for free.  He’s got a 1 shield and a 2 shield.  He’s gaining “life” and killin’ fools!  But a couple of weeks ago, he was firmly tier two, at best.  People were telling us how weak shields were, how damage always won.  Because beating shields was easy – you put in two Vibroknives, which were nifty cards on their own with Ambush and good sides (1m/1m/+2m/discard/$), and you just ignored shields for most of the game.

And because of that, people got spoiled.  No one played shields, so no one teched against shields.  No one worried about it, because Vibroknife killed it, so you bindered all your anti-shield tech and moved on.

And now that VK is out, we’ve all forgotten that are, in fact, OTHER WAYS to deal with shields, ranging from the strict niche tech to legitimately good cards that have simply gotten better.

The Ugly (differently attractive?)

Let’s start with the niche.  If you truly, truly fear shields, you’ve got options.  I mean, you can run Ewok Village as your battlefield (Claim: Remove all shields from a character) and eat them all!  Except really, shields at the end of the round aren’t really the issue.  Qui-Gon don’t care about no Ewoks – he’s adding and removing shields like mad anyway.  Rey just needs one, and that’s easy to get in a turn.  It does help you chew through shields on Heroes that are just buffing up with Caution every turn, but it’s a big tempo hit to either avoid taking shields, so the Village can do it’s best, or to take shields that you could clear later.  Plus, you have to claim, so you’re pushed to move fast.  And if you’re playing a shield based opponent, they’re probably going to try to use their own battlefield anyway.  So, as always, Ewoks are overrated and useless.

Slightly above the Ewok Village, you’ve got Intimidate (assuming you’re still playing Villains, because everyone knows Hero can’t win).  0 cost, strip all shields.  It’s not a bad card.  It’s free, it kills all shields.  It still suffers from the same issue, though.  It can be great if someone is just trying to turtle up and play for value – 3 damage for 0 is a *pretty* good ratio.  But it’s a dead card (well, as dead as any card can be in a game where you can discard to reroll) against a lot of decks, and it’s often just a 0 for 1 against incidental shields.  Playable in a meta, but not the best.  Sustained Fire is in a very similar place – pay 1, remove all shields if you have at least 2 ranged showing.  If you’re playing Guns, it’s not hard to trigger, and once again, if you can clear 2+ shields, it’s probably worth it.  But also a dead card in most places.

And then there’s Jedi Rival: the poor card that exists in its own category and just feels like it so much wants to be played.  And, I mean, I dunno, put it on Ashoka to get two uses a turn in a draft game?

The Not-So-Much-Bad-as-Just-Playable

But now let’s move to the better stuff.

CD-1 Cutter Vibro-Ax

It’s an ax! That vibrates. OOOOH!

Empire at War warned us the great Shieldpocalypse was coming – it gave us a weapon everyone assumed was just to put on Wookiees and hit things with because you were already paying billions for damage.  The Vibro-Ax.

The Ax has a huge damage curve.  2 melee, a couple 3 for 1 sides, and a resource.  And two blanks (you’re gonna want focuses here).  That’s half great and half “Oh, uh, well then.”  But in our Whole New World, it’s the text that matters here.  Before it deals damage, remove all shields from that character.  This is a card people were already playing in burst damage decks or high focus decks, because 3 for 1 is good.  How about 4 for 1? 5 for 1? 6 for 1?  7 for 1?!?(someone’s running Mandalorian Armor, right?).  50% of the time, you’re getting a side that takes shields, which is a pretty good ratio.  Given that it’s yellow, the other 50% of the time you can use it for Loth Cat and Mouse or…something?  And you could get some value out of Against the Odds with it, but I wouldn’t….

There are a few other cards that make the big ol chopper useful – Roll On puts your odds of hitting damage at a number too high to be calculated (ok, 93.75%).  And Bait and Switch, which is already a damn fine card, takes the sting out of the 1 resource side.

First Order Tie Fighter

Only one owner! Low miles!

If giant axes aren’t your thing, maybe you like spending your money on spaceships instead?  Can I interest you in a First Order Tie?  2 free damage sides, a 3 for 1, a disrupt and a special that just wipes your opponent’s board of shields?  Plus it plays well with all the vehicle cards and characters that are showing up?  Not a bad deal.  Probably not a card you want to splash in random red decks, but definitely something that moves up the list for vehicle decks now!

On the Hunt

Nice hat, fella.

On the Hunt was already starting to show up in some villain decks – 1 cost, a yellow die, 1 ranged and melee modifiers and a disrupt are fine.  The disrupt side can power a few cards in certain decks.  But On the Hunt was being played for its special already (and it’s got 2 special sides to boot) – a 1/3 chance to get an Isolation on a stick?  Seems good.  The fact that it just casually wipes shields in the process?  Super bonus!  This is one of those cards that I think a lot of people put in their decks and then cut in the editing phase because it was good, but not great.  And if you’re in the camp that you just can’t keep up with 3 extra life a turn, maybe this crosses the line now.

There are a few other cards that are playable if you’re really, really, *really* scared of shields.  Momentum Shift (a conditional 2 health swing for 1).  Drop Zone.  Main Plaza.  They can find a place.  Just not a great one.

The Good

Kylo Ren's Lightsaber

It’s a little cool, okay?

Let’s be honest.  Vibro-Ax is fine, but most people love Star Wars for the cool space swords and ability to throw stuff around with brain powers (count the number of people who immediately rolled Jedi in the NGE vs those of us playing Commando or Smuggler (RIP SWG)).  And while we all snickered a little bit at Kylo’s goofy cross-guards, we all still think it’s kinda cool too.  So that makes it handy that Kylo Ren’s Lightsaber loves to live in a shield based meta.  Strangely, unlike the generic Crossguard Lightsaber, which gets a boost from being played on Kylo, Kylo’s literal saber goes wherever it wants (which is handy, since poor NewKylo is currently lacking a reasonable battle buddy) as long as it’s to a blue villain.  The very popular 3 for 1 side (seems to be a theme in anti-shield tech).  +2 and +3 sides (and if you can’t pull a single melee side in a blue villain deck, you’re in trouble anyway), a shield (just for grins?) and a special that literally won’t quit until all the shields are gone.  I gotta believe this puppy is going to start showing up in blue villain decks, assuming everyone doesn’t just go eKanan/Whatever until Legacies.  Also, Crossguard Saber just does extra damage if you’ve got shields, so that’s nice too.

In fact, pretty much every lightsaber is fine seeing shields.  Grand Inquisitor can blank shield sides on dice.  Plain ol’ Saber has unblockable.  Luke’s Saber has unblockable.  Rey’s Saber says “Eh, I’m doing 3 for 1 anyway.”

On top of that, there’s a whole slew of other cards in the “we’re already good, and don’t care about shields” category.  Backup Muscle,

The Best

Ironically, the two best ways to counter the new “Everybody loves heroes and their little helmets” meta comes in the form of a card that a lot of heroes were playing and a card

Handcrafted Light Bow

We all know it’s just a gun, right?

that pretty much every hero was playing as a two of (and yes, technically villains can play it too).

Handcrafted Light Bow was already on my list of “Why aren’t people playing this” cards.  3 cost is well within the range of dangerous cards – it’s a blue weapon upgrade, so you’ve got It Binds All Things, Reaping the Crystal and a Padawan all holding out their hands expectantly.  Hell, dream-turn one, you can play It Binds All Things for 1, Reap a Crystal, exhaust IBAT, and put the Bow on a Padawan, roll it out, and do 4 damage shockingly quick.  Once again, it’s got 2 damage sides (the mixed type is annoying, but Blue Heroes are used to that) that are both 2’s and free.  It’s got a shield side, which people are probably looking for in Hero decks.  It’s got a discard, which is almost never a bad thing to see.  And it’s got the special.  Oh, that special.  Kanan and a Padawan?  Roll a Focus on Kanan?  Start of your turn, focus the Bow with Kanan, boom.  You’re hitting for 3 on anyone you want, regardless of shields.  If they have more than 1, we’re back to the mythical 4/5/6!  And if you’re running Funeral Pyre, it’s got redeploy!

But the absolute best way to say “Shields?  Oh, aren’t you adorable?!” is with the best friend of wormheads that aren’t Twi’leks: Shoto Lightsaber.

Shoto Lightsaber

Let’s be honest.

Shoto Lightsaber

Everyone runs them in pairs

As in every card game, the best cards are the ones that reward you for doing what you’re already going to do.  Shoto synergizes with blue weapons.  Hmm.  Weirdly, most blue weapons seem to be weapons that like to crush characters that love shields.  And they’re mostly great value already.  And then every time you activate (which is *probably* something you’re doing anyway), you’re taking a shield.  They’re popping shields on, you’re popping shields off.  Everyone wins!  No, wait, you win.  That’s the point.

Shoto’s also got a melee side, two good modifiers, a shield (fine, join them, whatever) and money (which you may need to pay for all these upgrades).  I am never unhappy to see a Shoto saber in my hand, and that’s my best recommendation for it.

Overall, I love the new meta.  I wasn’t around prior to the 2 player set, so I didn’t play in the Awakenings or SoR metas.  Maybe this is how it was back then.  But a game where two actions in a row feels super powerful, people are willing to try all kinds of stuff.  I can play eJango/e7thSister and feel good about it.  Both Reys are great!  Sure, new Kylo is sad, FN is “useless” (Uh huh), and Thrawnkar doesn’t make you flip the table.  That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make!

Ergonomic Cat

Father of 3, husband of 1, gamer of all stripes (rarely an author), geek, X-Wing (Imperial and Scum), Warmahorders (and Warmahoarder), reluctant Magic Player.

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