World Champion Daniel Weiser on the Star Wars™: Destiny Metagame
"You have great potential, but perhaps it is I that might teach you."
–Seventh Sister, Star Wars Rebels
Over the past weeks, we've highlighted a couple of the games that we'll be putting on our Twitch stream during the 2018 May World Championships. Today, we continue this series with a review of the Star Wars™: Destiny metagame by none other than the game's reigning World Champion Daniel Weiser.
In 2017, Daniel conquered the World Championships with a deck that paired Darth Vader with a Tusken Raider , but Daniel doesn't rate that deck among those he expects to see at the top tables in 2018. So what decks should you expect to see? And why are these decks the most competitive in the current environment? Keep reading to find out.
World Champion Daniel Weiser on the Star Wars: Destiny Metagame
The 2018 Star Wars: Destiny World Championships are rapidly approaching, the current Legacies metagame looks incredibly diverse, and I am excited to see which decks show up on the big day.
Today, I am going to give you some insight into my preparation for the World Championships, breaking down the major archetypes that I expect to be popular, their strengths and weaknesses, and their good and bad matchups.
Seventh Sister Reset
This first category of decks is probably public enemy number one going into the World Championships—both in terms of power level as well as popularity. Seventh Sister reset decks have consistently performed well at various Regional Championships, often placing in the Top 8 or taking home the trophy.
In the past, these decks were tricolor, playing Ciena Ree, Bala-Tik, and elite Seventh Sister; but recently a Blue-Red version with Nightsister instead of Bala-Tik has taken over in popularity. Both decks play out similarly, using events to ready Seventh Sister and generate additional ID9 Seeker Droid dice, each more powerful than the last. Through multiple activations of the Sister and the growing piles of ID9 dice, this deck can output large amounts of damage early in the game.
As I mentioned earlier, I think these decks are excellent choices for the World Championships, and I expect lots of players to bring them. Fortunately, this category is not invincible, and does have some weaknesses. As synergy-driven decks, they tend to suffer from poor draws. Cards like The Price of Failure are weak in the opening hand, and discarding them for rerolls deprives the deck of its critical power plays in the mid- and late-game. Getting stuck with cards that are both useless early and poor discards is terrible, and it takes careful planning and often a bit of luck to win from situations like this. Additionally, if Seventh Sister goes down, the game is usually over; the other characters have a very hard time finishing games on their own. Decks that are able to shrug off a character loss and fire back with enough damage to take out Seventh Sister tend to do well against this archetype.
- Good matchups: Coming out of the gates quickly allows Seventh Sister to crush slower decks such as Hero Vehicle decks and Hero Mill decks before they ever set up. The games against Sabine Wren decks tend to be close, and whoever loses their namesake character first almost always loses the game too, but Seventh Sister tends to do more damage faster and is a solid favorite. Generally speaking, any deck that is based on a single character is going to struggle to keep that character alive against Seventh Sister and her friends.
- Bad matchups: Thrawn and Mother Talzin, Two Threatening Characters. I'll explain more about each deck's bad matchups in the section under the deck that is favored.
Although I do not expect Sabine Wren decks to be as strong or as popular as the Seventh Sister Reset decks, I wanted to group them close together, as they are the two decks with the strongest burst damage in the game.
Where Seventh Sister gets her large amounts of damage from multiple activations in a round, Sabine tends to deal all her damage at once by rolling and resolving immediately to bypass die removal. Sabine decks also tend to play Never Tell Me the Odds , and they combine it with Running Interference to set her dice to maximum damage while preventing their opponents from interacting with the dice. This does give Sabine an insurance policy for when she rolls poorly, although the three-resource cost of Never Tell Me the Odds is incredibly expensive.
Recently, Sabine has paired with either Yoda or elite Ezra , with both options having moderate success. The Yoda variant is better at keeping Sabine alive with cards like Impersonate and Force Illusion , and it's better at guaranteeing damage between Yoda’s focus sides, Force Speed , and Concentrate. On the other hand, Ezra gives the deck a significantly higher maximum damage output—but at the cost of reduced survivability, making it even more of a glass cannon.
Many players are terrified of playing against these decks, and Sabine is certainly powerful when she rolls well, but after playing with and against her, I am underwhelmed. I think as humans, our inherent cognitive biases make it very easy to remember the times that Sabine sets off fireworks and deals eight or more damage while bypassing removal, but we tend to forget about the much more common “boring” games where she sputters and fizzles. I have experienced games where the Sabine decks haven't drawn an ambush weapon in the first two rounds and failed to function, games where she rolled poorly and was not able to do enough damage, games where her eleven health evaporated all too quickly, and games where she even managed to defeat an opponent's charater early but was unable to finish the job.
Sure, each of these things is individually unlikely to happen, but they add up to a troublesome fail rate that makes me hesitate to play this deck in the most important tournament of the year. Another major weakness of the Sabine decks is that once she is out of the picture, the deck basically ceases to function, and the secondary character can almost never win on its own.
Sabine does prey on decks packed full of die removal such as Thrawn and Talzin, as well as the same slow decks as Seventh Sister Reset, but has a similar weakness to two individually solid characters that can power through an early character loss.
Ultimately, the fact that Sabine loses the advantage to Seventh Sister Reset—potentially the single most popular archetype in the tournament—forces me to recommend Seventh Sister over Sabine as the aggressive character of choice.
- Good matchups: This deck is way too fast for slow decks to keep up with. The time they take to build their resources and develop their board is all the time Sabine needs to run away with the game. Unlike Seventh Sister Reset, I believe Sabine is actually somewhat favored against Thrawn and Talzin.
- Bad matchups: Seventh Sister Reset, Two Threatening Characters
Two Threatening Characters
This vaguely titled category is exactly what it sounds like—two individually solid characters who both have good potential damage output. By putting synergy on the backburner and avoiding too much reliance upon any single character’s survival, this group of decks has a good matchup against both Seventh Sister Reset and Sabine Wren.
While being able to lose a character and still remain in the fight is particularly excellent against those two archetypes, it is also just a valuable trait in general. Especially in a long tournament such as the World Championships, there will be times where your opponents get lucky and roll lots of damage early. It definitely helps to have a built-in backup plan for when you lose a character.
This group of decks includes the formerly dominant Poe Dameron and Rey, Two Player Starter Captain Phasma and Boba Fett, Two-Player Starter Kylo Ren and Mother Talzin, and Two-Player Starter Kylo Ren and Anakin Skywalker. Recently, Seventh Sister and Boba Fett seem to have become the most popular character combination among these decks, winning large regionals in New York and Las Vegas.
The combnination of Seventh Sister and Boba Fett, in particular, has a number of cards that match up well against Seventh Sister Reset—in addition to its natural resiliency in the characters. Friends in Low Places and Close Quarters Assault efficiently pick apart an opponent’s hand, stripping them of their defensive cards or the events that ready Seventh Sister. Boba’s special is also good against Maul’s Lightsaber and a pile of ID9 dice, allowing Boba Fett to fire three, four, or more damage back at them.
Where the Two Threatening Character decks struggle is when they encounter situations where your opponent is able to do bigger things than your characters, denying just enough damage and buying just enough time to drop big upgrades or multiple vehicles—and then shred through both characters in quick succession.
- Good matchups: Seventh Sister Reset, Sabine Wren, Hero Mill—The Two Threatenting Characters archetype features enough inherent damage in its charater dice that it doesn't worry too much about Fall Back, and it's able to pump out enough damage to beat the mill decks before its cards are fully depleted.
- Bad matchups: Hero Vehicles, Thrawn and Mother Talzin
Hero Special Chaining
These decks are really a subsection of the Two Threatening Characters category that typically play two of the three following characters: Yoda, Two-Player Starter Poe Dameron, or Hondo Ohnaka.
The goal is to deal damage through powerful specials that can be set up by character dice. By sequencing chains of die-turning specials into damage-dealing ones, these decks resolve their dice faster than the other Two Threatening Characters decks and get to claim the battlefield more frequently. Getting to roll out first in an otherwise semi-mirror matchup can be gamebreaking, and I have had success using hero special decks against the more generic Two Threatening Character decks for this reason.
The tradeoff is that the special chaining decks have fewer damage sides on their character dice, so they depend more on upgrades to provide damage. This results in a weaker matchup against slow and controlling decks, costing them percentage points against Thrawn and Talzin, Hero Vehicles, and especially Hero Mill.
Note that Aayla Secura and Two-Player Starter Poe Dameron is another possible character combination for this deck, although I have seen it much less frequently than the other pairings.
- Good matchups: Seventh Sister Reset, Sabine Wren, Two Threatening Characters
- Bad matchups: Hero Vehicles, Hero Mill, Thrawn and Mother Talzin
Thrawn and Mother Talzin
Similarly to the Two Threatening Characters archetype, Thrawn and Mother Talzin is a deck that has picked up some steam recently—largely due to its good matchup against the top dog, Seventh Sister Reset.
I first saw this archetype surface with a Minnesotan player's Top 8 Regional finish, and it has some excellent defensive tools to stifle the aggression provided by multiple activations of Seventh Sister:
- To start, Thrawn’s ability is consistently amazing in the matchup, preemptively removing dangerous threats from the opponent’s hand. The early elimination of Seventh Sister’s upgrades significantly decreases the power of her activations, and—in later rounds—the Thrawn player can choose zero or one to discard the events that ready her.
- Thrawn and Talzin also run a number of powerful defensive cards to help protect its characters, typically including some combination of Force Illusion, The Best Defense… , Overconfidence, Deflect, and Rise Again . Witch Magick and Spell of Removal are some of the best defensive options in the game, provided your deck is entirely odd costs. This deck uses these cards to their fullest, as well as Mother Talzin’s ability, by playing thirty odd-cost cards.
Speaking of Talzin’s ability, it is one of this deck’s keys to success. By guaranteeing Thrawn’s two-resource side in the early turns, this deck is able to play all these defensive tools while still dropping Z6 Riot Batons like they’re no big deal. Once the upgrades are established, Talzin goes to work setting dice to two- and three-damage sides, ending the game in a hurry. Tactical Mastery and Three Steps Ahead are particularly scary cards out of this deck, as they provide a surprisingly high amount of burst damage with focus sides and Talzin’s ability.
When playing against this deck, you cannot afford to wait around before playing your defensive cards! A board of focus sides and blanks may not look immediately threatening, but if you let your opponent use Tactical Mastery to resolve focus sides and then resolve damage, you will immediately regret holding that Electroshock—and that’s if Thrawn hasn’t taken it away in the first place.
One of the downsides to this deck—and one of the factors that I believe will keep it from seeing truly widespread play at the World Championships—is the fact that it is incredibly difficult to play. Understanding which costs to choose with Thrawn’s ability is paramount to success, and will change from matchup to matchup, even from turn to turn. Mother Talzin’s ability is also one that presents a ton of different options on each activation, and finding the path to victory takes both practice and constant focus (pun intended). Even something as simple as determining the optimal balance between offense and defense is difficult. Thrawn’s die deals no damage, so the deck relies on its upgrades to provide quality damage sides. Getting damage-dealing dice into play is a huge priority for this reason, but you also need to spend resources on defense, or Mother Talzin’s nine health will prove all too squishy.
This is a deck that really rewards practice and metagame knowledge, and I expect a few dedicated and very well practiced players to succeed with it at the World Championships—even if it is not a popular choice throughout the room.
- Good matchups: Seventh Sister Reset, Two Threatening Characters
- Bad matchups: Sabine Wren, Hero Vehicles, Hero Mill
This deck is one that has seen good success in the Regional Championships, and is certainly one that I want to be prepared to face at the World Championships.
Typically this deck plays elite Aayla Secura, elite Rose , and Ezra, for a strong start with five character dice and twenty-six combined health. This high starting health pool, combined with a suite of powerful defensive cards, prolongs the game much more than many decks are used to. Combined with the fact that it doesn’t lose any important upgrades as its characters go down, the late-game for Hero Vehicles is incredibly strong. In other words, this deck aims to play a war of attrition, generating resources, staying alive for as long as possible, and eventually overwhelming the opponent under an avalanche of vehicle dice.
This gameplan is very slow, both in terms of actions taken per round and the length of the game, but it is very effective against any other deck trying to play relatively normal-looking games. For that exact reason, this was one of the most successful decks early on in the Legacies metagame. However, this deck has one major flaw: its large quantities of indirect damage.
Indirect damage, while always worse than other damage, is especially bad when playing against a deck that focuses on supporting one key character. The reality of the situation is that Hero Vehicle decks take an exceptionally long time to eliminate a critical character, and this lack of pressure results in abysmal matchups versus Seventh Sister Reset and Sabine. While I do not expect Sabine to be particularly prevalent at the World Championships, having a bad Seventh Sister Reset matchup is a big obstacle to success.
Playing Hero Vehicles right now is a huge gamble. The deck has great matchups against most of the off-meta character combinations you may encounter, and can effectively grind out the slower decks that are expected to show up, but it really struggles in situations where it needs to produce a fast character kill. At the end of the day, I can’t fault anyone who brings this deck; I just ask that you understand the risks first.
- Good matchups: Thrawn and Mother Talzin, Two Threatening Characters
- Bad matchups: Hero Mill, Seventh Sister Reset, Sabine Wren
Hero Mill decks are, for all intents and purposes, the ultimate late-game decks in the format.
When both players are able to build up piles of resources over the course of a long game, Hero Mill decks will eventually get their opponents handless and deckless. Other defensive decks, in particular, struggle against mill, as many of their cards don’t do anything when the deck is being attacked instead of their characters' health.
Hero Mill decks play several cards in particular that are excellent in drawn out, high-resource games. Fall Back is devastating against opponents who are trying to ramp their resources and play lots of upgrades. Against decks like Thrawn and Talzin or Hero Special Chaining that rely on their upgrades for damage, a timely Fall Back often guarantees an easy win. Other impactful expensive cards in the deck include Retreat and Hyperspace Jump . These tools really shine against Hero Vehicles, as that deck needs a long string of actions before it starts dealing damage, and cutting the Hero Vehicles player's turn short can be thoroughly crippling. Retreat and Hyperspace Jump are also excellent against a Seventh Sister that has just been readied, but the large resource cost can be problematic in that matchup.
Another deck that I first saw piloted to Regional Championship success by Minnesota players, Hero Mill enjoyed a breakout performance relatively early on in the format, but has since become overshadowed by other archetypes. Issues with the deck include its reliance upon drawing Chance Cube early to fund its expensive cards, the downside of starting with only three character dice compared to the four that most decks start with, and its difficulty surviving early aggression. Seventh Sister Reset and Sabine are both scary decks for Hero Mill to face, but even the Two Threatening Characters decks output enough damage to be a solid favorite in the matchup.
This deck would be a good choice if I were expecting a lot of Hero Vehicles or other slow decks to see play at the World Championships, but as things currently stand, I am keeping it on the backburner and not looking to it as my primary option.
- Good matchups: Hero Vehicles, Thrawn and Mother Talzin, Hero Special Chaining
- Bad matchups: Seventh Sister Reset, Sabine Wren, Two Threatening Characters
Of course, the archetypes that I explored in this article are not the only ones you might see played competitively in the format. They're merely a sample of the most popular and successful decks I have noticed to-date. Other options that I have seen being played include Obi-Wan and Maz , Yoda and Zeb , five Battle Droids, and Seventh Sister with Tarkin .
If you are confident in a brew of your own creation, please do not hesitate to bring it to the World Championships or any other tournament. After all, the variant of Darth Vader and a Tusken Raider that I played to win the World Championships last year was an entirely unknown entity before the tournament, but between the three people who played the deck, we finished first, Top 4 (only eliminated by me in the exact mirror match), and Top 32. If that isn’t a testament to the rewards for successful innovation, I don’t know what is.
Once again, I look forward to seeing everyone at the World Championships this year, so good luck, and may the Force be with you!
–Daniel Weiser, 2017 Star Wars: Destiny World Champion