It’s a Trap!*

By: Dane Young

When you have played TCGs for a long time, you develop a lot of tricks and habits that work for you, and it can be hard to change them. Don’t think that applies to you? Try Star Wars: Destiny and spot them for yourself.

All of us are inherently good at some aspects of gaming early on, while other skills and talents are unlocked as you play more and against better competition. Whether it’s figuring out a way to coerce the opponent into playing one more card into your board sweeper (or how to not fall victim to the same trick), being able to get a read on what your opponent is holding or planning and playing around it, or maximizing your resource usage–you learn these things the hard way and they become ingrained in your gaming DNA, but they aren’t always correct.

I’ve been playing Magic: the Gathering for 23 years, and have played Vs. System and the World of Warcraft TCG competitively over the latter half of that time frame. Now I’m jumping into Star Wars: Destiny and having a blast, but the game is punishing me for wanting to fall into my old habits of being too passive. Sometimes you just need to roll out–that is, activate a character to roll its dice into your pool.

As I’ve played more games of Destiny, I have noticed a lot of plays that would be academic in Magic are flat out wrong. In Magic, you generally want to make the most efficient plays you can, which is often accomplished by waiting for your opponent to play out their hand or their turn, so that you can assess the completed board. In Destiny, however, the desire to wait around for more information can be flawed and will often result in you losing. This is due to two things: one or more of your characters can die (which snowballs into all of your characters dying), and the fact that you need to activate your characters to get their dice in the pool before you can use them.

The first of those is straightforward: less characters available to you means less options, less damage, less team health, inability to play certain cards, and a slew of other problems. Not rolling out dice quickly enough where I see most of the mistakes happen in my own play and in watching other people play, because they forget that it takes multiple actions to activate a character and resolve its dice. Sometimes maximizing your resources and turns can be the correct move, but often it is correct to simply keep the pressure on the opponent and force them to react to you, especially if you’re an aggressive deck or want to keep control of the battlefield. Don’t fall into the trap of loading up a character with upgrades, only to have him die before you make full use of him.

[Tip] Cards like Force Throw on an opposing character can really punish you for taking so much time, as the special ability may already be waiting for you in their pool before you get the chance to roll out. In this case it is even more important to get your dice active before the Force Throw can be rolled. You can play your upgrades later. Remember–it takes an action to play an upgrade, another action to activate your character, and yet more actions to resolve the dice.

Assuming you have read Kirk Buckendorf’s Introduction to Star Wars: Destiny and/or already know how to play Destiny, or are interested in getting into it from another game, let me try to flesh this out with a real-life example to try to help you avoid the same trap:

My friend (and yours) Eric Buckendorf and I finally got to play a lot games this weekend–something neither Eric, Kirk or I have been able to do since we got into the game a few weeks ago (though I have consumed significantly more Destiny content than they have). Eric was frustrated early in our play session because he was falling into the trap.

(* Don’t hate me for saying this, but I don’t actually like Star Wars. This makes the fact that I’ve fallen in love with Destiny a little tilting, and now I’ve made yet another bad Star Wars joke/reference (they’re all bad) this week, so basically I hate Kirk for getting me into this amazing game.)

Eric was playing an updated version of his favored mid-range deck featuring three characters: Elite Phasma, Bala-Tik and First Order Stormtrooper, I was playing a fun but not quite great deck: Elite Luke Skywalker and Admiral Ackbar. Eric started off our session in the trap of waiting to see what I did so that he could react to my rolls and plays with more complete knowledge and an eye for card advantage and efficiency.

I started the majority of my turns by simply activating Luke to draw a card and put his powerful dice in the pool. Getting my dice in the pool first put a lot of pressure on Eric by forcing him into difficult decisions between trying to mitigate my damage, advancing his own board or getting dice in the pool for me to react to. Often I would be able to threaten a big turn, force him to react, and then build my board before claiming the battlefield, which let me keep the pressure on, even with few upgrades.

After several frustrating losses, Eric figured out that his issues were coming from trying to be too reactive and efficient with his plays. He adjusted accordingly–sometimes snatching the battlefield from me unexpectedly, leaving several dice unused–and he started winning games.

Part of his turnaround was due to reevaluating the importance of claiming the battlefield and the trickle-down effects of that in the particular match up. Red decks make controlling the battlefield not only matter, but reward you greatly for doing so with Dug In and Defensive Position, and taking that away from me, combined with speeding up his own pacing and rolling out quickly, really stifled my ability to interact with his big turns. Now he was the one putting pressure on me, and with a lot of my cards under powered or even useless when not controlling the battlefield, I lost some games from positions I was easily winning previously.

[Tip] Rolling out quickly is especially important when characters are near death–you want to try to get your character’s dice in the pool and resolved before he dies and they go unused, and you want to immediately threaten the enemy character so that they don’t get to use their dice. Even better if you have different types of damage available on your dice, since events generally only deal with one type at a time.

I’m still making a lot of mistakes, but learning this lesson about taking the initiative has been eye-opening, and these types of strategic shifts are why Destiny is so refreshing. It’s unlike any game I have played before in the way it rewards strategic flexibility and adaptability, including the times when you should wait to roll out, contrary to what I wrote here. I have only begun playing the game, but I’ll be sure to share whatever nuggets of information I find, including sharing my Luke/Ackbar deck for you heroes of the galaxy, but in the meantime, let me know if you have found any interesting contrasts between Destiny and other games on the Daily Metagame Facebook page!