Card Spotlight: Blockade
Shortly after The Phantom Menace was released, we held a poll on TeamBus.Net asking players which card from the set they felt would have the biggest impact on the game. The winner, by a large margin, was Blockade. I'd like to take a quick look at what makes this card so powerful, and what decks it works best in and against. Let's start by looking at the three effects Blockade has on the game.
Vs. the Build Zone and Locations
First, Blockade prevents cards from moving from the build zone to any arena. This means that units cannot be deployed, Locations cannot be put into arenas, and retreated units cannot be un-retreated. While this effect applies to both players, you shouldn't really notice it, because by the time you drop your Blockade, you'll already have finished moving your cards into the appropriate arenas.
This ability is especially nice against several of the more popular Light Side decks. For example, the Chewbacca (G)-based decks generally like to retreat Chewbacca every turn, bringing him back only during the build step to use his droid-reassembling ability, and then retreat him again. If you wait until your opponent retreats Chewbacca on turn 1, then Blockade him on turn 2, Chewie won't be bringing back any droids. This gives you a good window in which to claim the Character arena -- and possibly the game.
Another time this comes in handy is against Light Side decks that use Locations to make their units more difficult to kill. Some examples include Quorum decks that use Dantooine System to protect their build-generating Space units, and Pilot-based decks that use Rebel Trenches to make their piloted speeders nearly invincible. Blockade will give you a one-turn head start on those annoying Locations, giving you the opportunity to deal with units that will become much greater threats once the Locations are out. Not only does Blockade protect you from the abilities your opponent's Locations provide, but it protects your own Locations from being overwritten as well! No more worrying about whether your Carbon Freezing Chamber will get to trigger. Barring a timely Melt Your Way In, your opponent will be losing three Force or bouncing a Character.
Blockade's next effect is that units can't retreat. This is a solid ability, but not one without risks. The ability to completely wipe out units that your opponent likely would have retreated from an arena you're winning is very nice, in that it prevents (or greatly delays) your opponent from staging a comeback in that arena. It's also very nice against the Chewbacca (G) decks mentioned earlier, since you can force Chewie to stay and fight, and (hopefully) die. But as I mentioned, this ability has notable drawbacks. If your opponent has out a Millennium Falcon (F) when you play Blockade, you've just made all of his Characters unkillable by normal combat damage for one turn. Not good. You also want to be careful not to strand your Rune Haako (A) in the Character arena, because Blockade's effect will prevent him from using his "Pay 0 Force Retreat Rune" ability as well.
Finally, Blockade prevents both players from playing Battle cards for the turn. This is a deceptively good ability. While it does appear to affect both players equally, the fact that you can control the timing of when Blockade is played makes it a definite advantage to the Dark Side. If you're playing against a deck like Quorum that relies heavily on "fogging" to stall while gaining an advantage in resources, you can play the Blockade early; this allows you to hurt your opponent's early board position, which can have a huge impact on their deck's development. On the other hand, if it's later in the game and you've heavily damaged some of their units, but you're fearful the units will survive the turn (due to all the wonderful damage-prevention cards the Light Side has access to), you can use Blockade to make sure your damage sticks and their units go away for good. When you know you don't have to worry about Battle cards, combat is infinitely more predictable -- which is usually a very good thing.
Dark Side Decks
Now that we see what makes Blockade so strong, let's take a look at a few Dark Side decks that really take advantage of the card's power.
At this year's SW: TCG Championships, Team Force Infinity brought a Dark Side deck that centered on Blockade. The idea of the deck was to deploy the most aggressive units possible, while stunting the opponent's early-game development by hitting them with Blockades as often as possible. The team accomplished this consistently by running four Blockades as their only Missions, as well as the Mos Eisley Location to ensure that they would draw a Blockade every turn by naming it "Mission." The deck deprived opponents of the ability to reinforce arenas or make use of Battle cards for four consecutive turns, while they were able to make full use of their build and exploit the lopsided board positions.
Another deck that benefits greatly from Blockade is Death Star. Death Star decks have always wanted a way to end the game quickly. Before Blockade, they often found themselves in "attrition" mode, where they would control the Space arena, use the Death Star (C) to blow up all Ground units (often with the exception of their Snowtrooper Elite Squads), and try desperately to keep Darth Vader alive as long as possibly to further exhaust their opponent's Ground units. Now there's no longer a need for this stressful scenario. If you control Space, you retreat your Ground units. You blow up Ground. Next turn, you bring back your Ground units. You Blockade. You win. Your opponents can't deploy new Ground units or play Battle cards to save their skin -- they just lose. This also frees up slots in the deck that were previously taken up by Snowtrooper Elite Squads and Vaders, to allow the deck to make use of more flexible and useful units.
Try It Yourself!
As we have seen, Blockade is a very powerful card indeed. All that's left now is for you to try it out for yourself! As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to email them to me. Thanks for reading!
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