Evolution of the Beastie Deck – From Qualifiers to Worlds
As our team was play testing for Worlds this year, it didn't take us very long to realize that the Light Side was just far superior. Testing pretty much any Dark Side deck that we came up with at 30 build to 30 build was just about useless, and we were basically winning only when the Light player would get a bad draw or made some kind of horrible mistake. "I hope my opponent gets a bad draw" was not exactly a strategy that we wanted to rely upon for the World Championships.
I basically took it upon myself, with some input given by the rest of our play test group, to create a Dark Side deck that did a number of things. It had to have at least a 50/50 shot at winning when the opening build points were slightly in its favor, it had to be as consistent as possible, be able to handle many of the dual purpose and more powerful cards that the Light Side could be using, and it wouldn't hurt if the deck was fun to play so that we wouldn't fall asleep playing it.
The best way to do this seemed to be to start with our deck from the qualifier season. The original Beastie deck (see deck list below) was elegant in its simplicity. Originally thought of by Phil Titleman who said at a test session "If having 2 units in a deck that are 12/14 is good because you win when you play them, wouldn't having 8 of them be even better?" It was extremely consistent, and was able to win a match straight up at 30 build to 30 build with relative ease.
The first thing that was changed was the large stacks of characters. I tested out using alternatives such as Vader and Maul, or Vader and Tyranus, or Maul and Tyranus. Jango Fett just seemed to be the biggest bang for the cost, and Vader with the intercept ability is needed to keep the Jango alive. Besides those are the two big guys so far with the coolest costumes.
It stayed at 7 Jango and 6 Vader; however the stacks could be setup much better now that more sets were out and there was more of a variety to choose from. Jango A does the most damage on average so we went with 3 of those to make sure we draw one of them. For the other 4, it doesn't matter too much as you really want to always have the A version on top. Included in our deck were B, E, F, and G (after it was given the errata to not also be E). The B version is almost as good as A. The E is decent if they are playing tons of Jedi, although with the A version you can usually kill the smaller Jedi fast enough that it doesn't matter. F is decent in that it does a decent amount of damage when fully stacked and it does have a dual use since he is a pilot, although it hardly ever gets put on a space unit. G is very important since it can be used to attack the extremely useful Light Side reserves units.
The Vader stack also changed. Again it stayed with the same total number, 6, and just slightly altered it. The 2 A and 2 C were all left in there. The most important thing Vader can do is to keep Jango alive. One of the B's was left in. The sixth Vader can just about be any of them as it will hardly ever be on top as either and A or C will be on the top 95% of the time. If I had one of the new promo Vaders then I would have probably run that for the 6th one.
San Hill was initially cut to 1, and then taken out completely. He was eventually added back as only 1 and later raised back to 2. This was done in an effort to make room during testing for some of the newer cards that we wanted to try out such as Kouhun.
The intercepting Stormtroopers were cut completely. Initially they were replaced with Kouhuns. Later the Kouhuns were cut due to either not being a target, or dying to deflect before they could go, or doing only a single point to a Light side unit. The slots were used instead for Zam Wesell. Her C version is needed as again there are way too many good Light Side reserves units. The A version was played to either stack under the C and make it easier to attack the reserves, or to stack on top for more of an offensive force in the character arena when there are no Light Side reserves units.
The ground arena went through many changes. The first of which was to cut two of the smaller Trade Federation Cores and try two of the Executioner's Carts in those slots. We found that the carts are just too easy to play around. The Light Side has too many efficient units that go much faster and should on average kill the cart. Elite Jedi Squad is the perfect example. We eventually left the total number of Cores at 6, but for other cards besides the Carts.
The Sandcrawlers need to stay in the deck. Without those, the deck just doesn't work. While playing you need to cycle cards with it, in order to get to the Tyranus's Gifts and other battle and mission cards.
Elite Stormtrooper Squads were added into the deck to give the ground arena a bit more offense aside from just the Cores. Also, late game, the Elite Squads are easier to put into play should you need a unit there relatively quickly.
Space changed a bit. The Vader's TIEs were now ineffective due to the comparably amazing units that the Light Side could put into play. With Obi's and Luke's starfighters now both being able to evade, the space arena needed to be completely revamped.
The new card Trade Federation Battle Freighter has amazing synergy with the Cores so that was included. It also provided some bulk in the arena. Dual usage cards, those units that can affect multiple arenas, are hard to come by for the Dark side except for the bombard ability. The Battle Freighter is large enough to help win the space arena and if that is not going well, it can be sacrificed to then try and help win the ground arena.
Trade Federation Droid Bomber is just an amazing unit. At 3 build a 60 speed 2/2 unit would be decent for the Dark Side anyway. Giving it bombard 2 just makes it really good. This unit probably saw the most overall play out of all the new Dark Side cards from the Jedi Guardians expansion.
Slave I (C) was initially added and then taken out. It was just too costly for what it did and was mainly being used to stack underneath the B version of Slave I.
Battle and Mission
The part of the deck that saw the most change was the battle and mission cards. Most of the changes in this area were not due to getting better cards out of the new sets but were more of a reaction to and having to deal with some of the amazing cards that the Light Side received. Some of the cards previously in the deck became almost useless to new Light Side techniques.
The biggest part of the original deck that was essentially made obsolete was the Force denial. When the Light Side gets a card like Jedi Youngling, which on every turn can gain 2 Force and not to mention Seek the Council's Wisdom gaining them another 4… Force denial didn't exactly work effectively at all anymore, and eventually the Force denial was cut from the deck completely.
Tyranus's Gift was previously a huge part of the Beastie deck. If 4 of them is a good thing, then does that make 8 even better? With the inclusion of Lightsaber Loss, we eventually ran 7.
Another big change was that due to all of the Force gaining cards that the Light side had access too along with the new reserves Yoda that could easily prevent damage, it made it tougher to stand toe to toe with the Light side in the character arena. The inclusion of Mending made this much easier as then you could intercept and evade with Vader for a turn or two and then use a Mending on him. Hopefully this would remove all damage from him leaving your units uninjured and at least a few points on theirs.
Final Deck List
Playing and Final Thoughts
The biggest key to playing the Beastie deck comes during the setup phase. At first glace the build curve seems remarkably steep. However this is overcome but the ability to stack units for the cost of 1 build point. It is a rare occasion to not be completely setup by the end of the setup phase unless you happen to be playing at less than 30 points which in the current environment, the Dark side just should not need to do.
The perfect setup would be something like Jango A, Darth Vader C, San Hill A, Jawa Sandcrawler, Trade Federation Droid Bomber, and the remaining points on a Core. Granted of course that this will vary depending on what your opponent would do. No sense in putting Jango and Vader down when San Hill can hold the arena by himself.
There were a few things that were last minute changes. The two slots used by the Trade Federation C-9979 were many things through the course of testing. In the end we wanted something that had a relatively small build cost so it could be cycled during setup. It also had to stick around for at least one turn. The fact that the C-9979 could also draw us a card at least once made it a perfect choice.
Another last minute inclusion was Unfriendly Fire. The card just didn't have the effect on the metagame this year as it had in the past. The Light side has far too many units that evade for an Unfriendly Fire deck to prosper. The card became an automatic pitch at the beginning of the game and often times was dumped with Sandcrawler late game. There were only a few times when it would have been useful and the deck won anyway regardless of whether or not Unfriendly Fire was used. Were I to play Worlds again tomorrow the only change I would have made would be to take these out. I'd also probably cut down to only three Mendings and then run three Return to Spaceports in those slots.
That's the deck. Build it and play it for yourself. When you are playtesting I would suggest playing at 30 points with the Light side at 27 or 28. If you are winning at 30 to 30, then your opponent's Light Side deck probably needs some work.
Specially thanks to all of the Philly Death Squad, Phil, Jeremy, Murphy, Nick, Joel, Dirty, and especially Scott Landis for coming up with most of the Light Side deck I was playing. I would never have reached top 8 without these guys. Their help in playtesting both constructed and draft format was amazingly valuable.
Any questions, please feel free to contact me. I will be happy to expand on any ideas that I wasn't able to cover quite as in depth as I'd like here.
May the Force be with you.
Ben Weiner has been playing collectible and tradable card games since 1994, and is a founding member of the SW Team PDS (Philly Death Squad). He can be reached for comment at ObiWein@hotmail.com.