The last few sets released for the Star Wars Trading Card Game have been pretty exciting. Rogues and Scoundrels, The Phantom Menace and Return of the Jedi have introduced some of the most powerful cards ever seen. Mission cards such as Falcon's Needs and Duel of the Fates have dominated the tournament scene (at least, until Duel's recent banning). Battle cards such as Discuss It in Committee and High Speed Dodge can completely alter the balance of power in an arena, and units such as IG-2000 (A) and Gungan Grand Army occupy at least half the decks at any modern tournament.
These sets have done more than just introduce new options for Light Side and Dark Side decks, however. They've made what was a casual deck concept -- the Neutral deck -- into a serious contender.
Prior to Rogues and Scoundrels, the only tournament-feasible Neutral deck was one built around Tusken Raiders. Now, don't get me wrong; the deck is quite powerful and remains a very annoying deck to contend with. But it has several major weaknesses, including its vulnerability to units that can attack from Space into other arenas -- such as Millennium Falcon (E) and Bombard units -- and the relative weakness of key characters such as the Tusken Sharpshooter and RIC-920.
Rogues and Scoundrels changed the way we looked at Neutral decks. Powerful Bounty Hunter Characters, impressive Space units and good Neutral Battle cards were introduced and offered fence-sitters more than one army to take into battle. With that hope came a serious drawback, though -- Upkeep. Once again, Neutral generals were forced to keep the faith and field substandard decks, or "adjust" their foreign policy and field Dark Side or Light Side support units and Battle cards.
No longer, my non-side-choosing friends. The Phantom Menace and Return of the Jedi have yielded a serious amount of solid Neutral cards that have finally brought the Neutral deck out of the shadows.
Finally we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi . . . and just about anyone else out there.
First of all, let me warn you that you may never play a deck that's more fun than this one. It incorporates some of the most powerful cards in the game. It can beat down with Critical Hitting, Overkilling, and 100+ speed units. It's led by some of the most famous names in the Star Wars universe, and it has more tricks than a swamp-hiding, little green ex-Jedi Council member. What more could you ask for?
While this deck doesn't really try to win the Space arena -- concentrating instead on the Ground and Character arenas -- it does provide options. Without any resistance, Death Star II (and other random Bombard units) plus Millennium Falcon can wreck your game plan. The IG-2000 (A) and Modified YV-330 (A) give you powerful options. Furthermore, the CloakShape Fighters with Brutal Assault can be utterly insane.
One thing to remember with a Neutral deck: You quickly build a very silly amount of Force. With that in mind, the "All Stars" deck features a number of popular units, such as the Millennium Falcon, that many opposing decks are built around. Using your accumulated Force, you can happily contest these units and take key powers away from your opponents' arenas -- a sneaky path to victory!
We have nine units at 50 speed or above, two units with Accuracy, another four that can give Accuracy to everything, plus four units with Intercept and Retaliate, a damage-dealing speeder and Overkilling 10 power armies... I see the light!
The Kaadu Scouts are solid on their own, but they also provide amazing damage prevention to the Gungan Grand Armies, capable of holding the entire arena alone! The new boys, Jabba's Guards, are one of my favorite units from Return of the Jedi. Can't or don't want to pay the Upkeep? Then don't! For 3 Force, you can Intercept any attack and Retaliate with 3 power -- all for 4 build!
Guri (A) and Prince Xizor (A) provide the power in an arena that offers so many headaches for your opponent that it's not funny (for them, anyway). Remember, the Prince also boosts your Jabba's Guards and your IG-2000 (A).
Chewbacca (C) is a solid beefcake that can win the game if your opponent is playing a Chewie Reanimator deck, as you win over 80 percent of all contests -- that's how much Force you accumulate during a game!
Han Solo is a cost-effective beat-stick, and Bib Fortuna (A) happily eats CloakShape Fighters and near-dead units for breakfast before coming in with 12+ dice (it happens more often than you think).
Alongside them are the support units of healing Leebo (A), Location-building Lando, and unit-returning Watto (B). Boba Fett (H) and Jabba's Spies may seem a little second tier, but they use your Force gain to great effect by suddenly leaping out at your opponent with the new Hidden Cost mechanic.
What tricks! Three disrupts, six awesome damage-prevention cards, two power-ups, a unit-stealer, and something to deal damage and tap that Darth Vader (K), Yoda or Mace. All these cards are cost effective and spring unpleasantness on your opponent.
Drop cards from the sky, search for powerful Locations, or play the most hated Mission card ever to be printed. Like the Battle Cards, these Missions can dramatically alter the state of power in any arena by taking out or locking down key units.
Ah, Jabba's Palace... The rest of you: Thanks very much for coming, but you can all go home now. Yes, your opponent can get rid of the Palace by playing another Location into the same arena, but during the one turn that it's out, the card can change the game.
What's more, Forests of Endor makes an already powerful Ground arena near impenetrable. Who needs Rebel Trenches?
Credit Where It's Due
Thanks to Col Col Binks for showing me the ways of the Neutral side, and to the Brisbane players for great games at the Star Wars Trading Card Game side event at the recent MTG Brisbane Grand Prix. (Apologies to all the judges for the cheers and laser sounds echoing around the hall and disrupting the main event!)
It's Poll Time Again!
The Ground Arena can be the most awkward arena to build, but invariably its Neutral units provide the backbone. With this in mind, we'd like to know: Which of the following is your favorite Neutral Ground unit?Which is your favorite Neutral Ground unit?
Thoughts or comments? Visit the message board thread for this article here.
About the Author
Canadian born David "Darth" Cornford currently lives in Sydney, Australia after spending most of a former life in England. His aim in life is to write as much as possible -- preferably getting paid for it. David has written for various British newspapers, music and hobby magazines; and produced enough marketing literature to cover a small African country. David is currently working on his first fantasy novel and will offer his first born to anyone willing to publish his work.