Duels for the Fate of the Galaxy
Why World Champion Mick Cipra Loves Star Wars™: The Card Game
"Only a fully trained Jedi Knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor."
–Yoda, Star Wars: The Empire Stirkes Back
While the coming 2018 May World Championships won't see the end of Star Wars™: The Card Game, they will see the rise of its final World Champion. As we announced in January, the final Force Pack from the Alliances cycle, Promise of Power, will also be the last of the game's Force Packs, and the 2018 World Championship will be the game's last.
So what might we see from the game's final World Championship? Will we see a villainous mastermind manipulate the metagame to his advantage, rising through the field almost unnoticed until he pronounces himself Emperor? Will we watch some rogue blast through the field at lightspeed, masterfully piloting her way to the finals? Or will the World Championships close upon a heroic final duel in which the World Champion uses the Force in some surprising fashion to emerge victorious?
Likely, those of us who follow the results at the event and via social media will find a measure of all these things—clever schemes, daring gambles, and Force mastery. After all, they've long been a part of the game, shaping it and the unique experience it offers its players.
For more about what makes the game unique and what players can expect at its final World Championship, we turn to two-time World Champion Mick Cipra.
Two-Time World Champion Mick Cipra on Star Wars: The Card Game
It is, of course, bittersweet when I think of the upcoming World Championships for Star Wars: The Card Game. It will be great to see so many friends again for five days of gaming, but it is also the last World Championship tournament for our game. I’ve participated in every World Championship tournament since Star Wars: The Card Game came out. Each one has changed my view of what the game is—and what it can be—but this last one… This last one will push everyone to their limits, and it will be amazing.
I love Star Wars: The Card Game. There are three things it does that no other game comes close to and why it’s simply irreplaceable in my heart—objective sets, the alternating strikes and resolution of combat icons, and edge battles. Whoever wishes to take The Greatest Prize in Gaming™ will certainly have to be a master of all three.
Objective sets were the bold and controversial move that defined Eric Lang’s design of the game. I think they’re awesome; they completely change how you think and talk about cards. Whenever you’re in a discussion with another player about the merits of a single card you’re actually in a discussion about five other cards as well. No card stands by itself in this game, and as a player you must view every card as part of a constellation. Sometimes the constellation fades, and sometimes there’s a new card that revitalizes an old objective set by introducing a new interaction.
After five years of development, there are a lot of objective sets out there. Will the players at the World Championships stick with what is known and powerful? Or will we see some older sets being dusted off after an innovator has decided that the time has finally come?
During the Regional Championship season, we’ve seen a lot of players experimenting with the new cards from the Alliances cycle. Tom Melucci’s Wookiee set adds additional power to Chewbacca from Wookiee Life Debt (Edge of Darkness, 69–1), which also combines nicely with Desert Recruitment (Desperate Circumstances, 270–1).
I think the main choice players will be torn between at this World Championship is which of the new affiliation cards to run, or even to run any of them. The 2017 World Championship was dominated by mono-affiliation Navy and Dark Lord of the Sith decks on the dark side, but at this World Championship, we should expect to see a lot of split decks. Promise of Power (Allies of Necessity, 2073) is particularly potent as it makes it almost impossible for the light side to lock down an enemy board. It also combos very well with the Energy Spiders in The Spice Trade (New Alliances, 195–1) giving the dark side player two fantastically under-costed units that can keep going turn after turn.
The idea that objective sets are constellations of cards also reinforces the fact that Star Wars: The Card Game is a game of information. As soon as your opponent flops his or her starting objectives you know thirty percent of the deck you're facing. After the first turn, you probably know fifty to sixty percent of what you'll face. By the end of the second turn, you'll know nearly all of what's in your opponent's deck. This is crucial information that lets you know what kind of combat tricks to expect as you can count exactly what cards and how many copies your opponent has remaining. There’s a reason near the end of the game the top players in the cut are always looking through their opponents' discard piles… Which brings me to my next point: Edge battles!
Ok, I skipped ahead to my third point, but I’ve always been more of an abstract random thinker than a concrete sequential one. Edge battles are the lifeblood of Star Wars: The Card Game. Whoever wins the edge battle will strike first, and all their units in the engagement will be more powerful. Problem is: neither player knows who will win the edge battle until the stacks are revealed, and losing an edge battle can be catastrophic, depending on the board. It is quite the thrill!
The edge mechanic is awesome for several reasons. There’s a high amount of risk analysis that goes into every edge battle, but these battles also lead into another defining aspect of the game that often blows players’ minds when they’re coming from any other customizable card game—they define your card draw. At the start of your turn, you get to draw up to your hand size of six cards. The number of cards in your hand size can change, but every turn presents myriad choices about how to play, keep, or pitch your cards—and the options keep coming turn after turn after turn. Pitching cards in edge battles is one of the key ways you can thin your deck to see the cards you really want to see.
It was also pointed out to me years ago that one of the key skills a player must develop in Star Wars: The Card Game is identifying which edge battles are actually important. Some edge battles are simply irrelevant, while others are risky for one player but not the other. Occasionally, however, you will find those edge battle that decide the fate of the galaxy. If players blow their good edge cards in edge battles that are low risk, they may not have the hand they need on a future turn. Other times, players will want to engage in edge battles simply to pitch cards out of their hands so that they can dig for the cards they really want to see.
Having a game plan for the important edge battles is something players at the World Championships have to have in mind when they create their decks. I’ve long been a subscriber to the idea that a deck should have two to three “aces” for clinching the important edge battles. Traditionally, this means Twist of Fate , but by this point in the game, the options have expanded.
The light side still has the classic Millennium Falcon set (Edge of Darkness, 72–2), which comes with both Edge 1 and a Twist, but now light side players also have three varieties of Speeder Bikes and Captain Rex (Desperate Circumstances, 271–2) for additional Edge. Also, the timing of Teamwork (Allies of Necessity, 261–5) will catch a number of dark side players off-guard and have them kicking themselves.
For the dark side there’s still Twist of Fate, but a number of the classic objective sets that run it have fallen out of fashion. Very few players run the old staple Counsel of the Sith (Core Set, 20–1) anymore, despite its fantastic card draw and edge capabilities. The Tatooine Crash (Edge of Darkness, 82–1) has also fallen out of fashion, although it has found new life in a few decks with Vader's Army (Aggressive Negotiations, 267–1).
Last year, the Imperial Navy relied on the strength of the two Twists from their two copies of The Tarkin Doctrine (Imperial Entanglements, 178–1) and the Edge potency of an army of Gladiator-class Star Destroyers (So Be It, 1000) to hold back the light side, but with the introduction of the "Starting Reserve: 7" affiliation cards and new card draw options for the light side, a number of players have given up on even trying to compete in edge battles as the dark side. Some players will opt for dark side aggro lists that don’t really even care about Edge battles. Others will slot in Guri (Jump to Lightspeed, 170–2) to punish the light side for winning the edge battle.
Once an edge battle resolves it comes time for players to alternate focusing their units to strike.
I love this mechanic for two reasons—the decision tree of how to resolve the strikes and the visceral feel of resolving them. In most situations there’s a “correct” order for how a player should resolve strikes in order to eke out the maximum amount of damage, but sometimes a player must choose between opening up further attacks or keeping their units alive—to secure board position or push for the final blast. The choices involved in these strikes keep the game complex, and any slip-up can hand a game to your opponent.
This year, I look forward to seeing how the new fate card Allies of Necessity (Allies of Necessity, 2079) changes the resolution of combat icons. It will be particularly interesting to see how players allocate the black gun and black blast to their units during the Edge battle when they know that they’re going to the lose the Edge battle and will not strike first.
The other reason I love resolving combat icons is that it is fun to see who exactly is doing what on the battlefield. Of course, it’s fun to lock down the entire rebel fleet with Emperor Palpatine (Core Set, 23–2) and his tactics icons, or to obliterate the Executor (The Forest Moon, 200–2) in one strike with Yoda (Join Us or Die, 112–2). But for me that’s not nearly as much fun as taking down the Chimaera (Imperial Entanglements, 179–2) with Jawa Warriors (Trust in the Force, 2173), or going to battle with Luke’s T-16 Skyhopper (Technological Terror, 256–2) and Yoda’s favorite lizard (Join Us or Die, 112–3), bidding four Allies of Necessity, and taking out the Emperor and an objective in one go. There’s a certain glee that Star Wars: The Card Game players get the more ridiculous the situation becomes, and as a community we’ve grown to revel in it.
There are, of course, many more aspects to Star Wars: The Card Game that you'll see come together at the World Championships, but I tried to touch on the elements that are unique to the game. Whenever the top players play against each other, you can expect to find their duels fueled by intimate knowledge of the objective set system, edge battle risk analysis, and combat icon resolution feature prominently in their games.
Like you, I look forward to seeing everyone who’s coming out in May and to see how their games and sense of community make this World Championship a truly memorable one!
–Mick Cipra, Two-Time Star Wars: The Card Game World Champion