20 July 2018 | Designer Journal

A Game of Prognostication

The Card Game Team with Gen Con Predictions

#DesignerJournal

Gen Con Indy—the best four days in gaming—is fast approaching! And while Gen Con is undoubtedly the perfect place to hear the latest announcements and demo upcoming games, it also plays host to the North American championships for all of our Organized Play games.

Today, the members of the card game team make their predictions about what decks and cards will leave their mark on the tournament field at Gen Con Indy 2018!

Aaron Haltom on Star Wars™: Destiny

Q: What’s your prediction for a winning deck?

At the time of this writing, the metagame seems wide open, and predicting a winner is very difficult. At the World Championship in May, the field was very diverse, with twelve different decks represented among the Top 16. The only teams to be repeated in the top cut were elite Sabine Wren (Empire at War, 40) / elite Ezra Bridger (Empire at War, 38), elite Rey (Two-Player Game, 24) / elite Aayla Secura (Legacies, 29), and elite Boba Fett (Legacies, 19) / elite Seventh Sister (Empire at War, 10). The European Championship in June also had a very diverse field, but again saw those same three teams tending to rise to the top. With the most recent Standard Format Holocron update, however, both Sabine Wren and Aayla Secura now cost one more point to field, forcing those decks to change partners and probably bring a weaker team overall. That puts Boba Fett / Seventh Sister in a potentially good place to inherit the throne.

But now that Way of the Force is out and affecting the meta, things are sure to change. On the Villain side, I expect to see  Snoke  (Way of the Force, 4) and  Arihnda Pryce  (Way of the Force, 18) seeing a lot of play. These two solid support characters should go a long way towards making those great seventeen-point characters like Cad Bane  (Empire at War, 18) really shine. On the Hero side of things, I expect to see Luke Skywalker  (Way of the Force, 56) and  Leia Organa  (Way of the Force, 73) getting integrated into a lot of teams where both characters are able to shine equally. 

With all of these powerful options just opening up, it’s still too early to guess what might come out on top!

Q: If you see those decks as your favorites, what’s a dark horse or X-factor deck that you feel has an outside chance of surprising everyone?

Villain vehicles is an archetype that hasn’t really had its day in the sun yet, but I feel like it could take some people by surprise now. 

Planetary Bombardment (Way of the Force, 33) is a heavy-hitter that rewards you for playing numerous vehicles, which is easier than ever thanks to the inexpensive new podracers. This deck also gained some great economy in the form of  Testing Procedure  (Way of the Force, 27). While this deck might be too one-dimensional to go all the way, it packs enough raw power that it could definitely make a splash.

Q: Are there any new cards from recent sets you’re looking forward to seeing in action?

Yes, so many! Red has been falling behind in popularity lately, but the new release offers some great cards that will hopefully make it a more alluring choice.  Suppressive Fire  (Way of the Force, 84) opens up a new strategy, allowing you to set up your die removal proactively and First Aid  (Way of the Force, 77) is capable of creating a four-health swing for just one resource.

There are also many cards in Way of the Force that have a lot of fun combo potential, and I look forward to seeing if the master deckbuilders out there can get enough value out of them to make them tournament viable.

Q: Are there any “unknowns” in the current meta you’re hoping to gain some insight on from the event?

There are several things I am keeping an eye on as this new meta develops. Will the tools from this set make mill decks rise in popularity? Will Cassian Andor enable a true mill / damage hybrid deck that can go either way? Will Villain vehicle decks become competitive? A new set shakes up the game so much, it’s impossible to predict exactly how everything will shake out. But therein lies the fun!

Brad Andres on Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game

Q: What’s your prediction for a winning deck?

I think we might finally see Phoenix take home the cup! They’ve picked up a couple of really great cards in the Elemental Cycle so far and I feel like that might give them the gas they need to overtake some of the front-runners like Crab and Scorpion. This includes the powerful Feral Ningyo (Tainted Lands, 36) and Asako Azunami (The Ebb and Flow, 66), who both can leverage the Water Ring to extra effect. This means if you are facing down a Phoenix, pay extra attention to the Water Ring!

Q: If you see that deck as your favorite, what’s a dark horse or X-factor deck that you feel has an outside chance of surprising everyone?

I’d say that the Unicorn are kinda the dark horse (har har) going into this tournament. They have not been top performers on the big stage up until this point, but they have gotten a big boost of new cards in the latest cycle, and I feel they have the potential to put up some really great games against the field.  Shinjo Shono (Breath of the Kami, 11) is an especially dangerous new Unicorn character with explosive potential that players will have to watch for.

Q: Are there any new cards from recent sets you’re looking forward to seeing in action?

Ikoma Ikehata (The Fires Within, 46) is a particular favorite card of mine that I am looking forward to seeing in action. The Lion Clan is typically weak on the political end of the conflict spectrum, but Ikehata helps them fight back by keeping your opponent’s most powerful political character out of the conflict. This could help the Lion gain some extra footing, and maybe even secure a surprise province break or two. Additionally, the presence of several Mantis Clan cards like Kudaka (Breath of the Kami, 13) or Yoritomo (The Ebb and Flow, 70) should have a very interesting effect across the board.

Q: Are there any “unknowns” in the current meta you’re hoping to gain some insight on from the event?

This will be the first major tournament to include cards from the Elemental Cycle, which makes this event the first test for a lot of new cards. The odds of a meta shake-up are pretty high, but the entire cycle will not be legal at the time of the tournament, so some new themes might not be fully present. Whatever happens, it’s gonna be interesting!

Danny Schaefer on A Game of Thrones: The Card Game

Q: What’s your prediction for a winning deck?

I'd predict that Targaryen The Wars to Come (The Sands of Dorne, 45) will win the tournament. Targaryen has been one of the top factions lately (alongside Martell and Tyrell), and they get some interesting new cards from the recent Chapter Packs. The Wars to Come builds in particular give players a lot of options for controlling the board and interacting with their opponent—a playstyle that I think top players will find attractive. And it doesn’t hurt that you get to make use powerful cards like Daenerys Targaryen (The Faith Militant, 93), Flea Bottom (Oberyn’s Revenge, 98), and Dracarys! (Core Set, 176).

Q: If you see that deck as your favorite, what’s a dark horse or X-factor deck that you feel has an outside chance of surprising everyone?

I’m leaning towards Stark as a dark horse winner. They’ve spent a long time as one of the weaker factions, but they’ve been gaining some momentum recently. Stark has gained a lot of interesting cards in recent Chapter Packs, including the new Arya Stark (The Faith Militant, 81), Wyman Manderly (The March of Winterfell, 21), and Northern Armory (The Shadow City, 3). Stark is great at putting pressure on the opponent and winning challenges, while also having the necessary interaction to stop any shenanigans, backed up with healthy levels of card draw and economy. This combination of strengths gives Stark the tools to go toe-to-toe with the top decks, and I’m excited to see what Stark players can accomplish at the tournament.

Q: Are there any new cards from recent sets you’re looking forward to seeing in action?

Lots! The Dance of Shadows cycle introduces a ton of exciting cards for various factions. I mentioned Wyman Manderly already, and  Meereen (The March on Winterfell, 34) is a new kind of card advantage engine that I expect to make waves in Targaryen decks, particularly those focused around discard pile synergy. The new version of The Wall (The March on Winterfell, 26) is an expensive but powerful location that pushes a deck stealing an opponent’s characters—very different than the original defense-focused Wall.

Most of all, I’m excited to see how shadows does! We’re still probably too early in the cycle for some of the more dedicated shadows-based cards—such as The Queen of Thorns (The March on Winterfell, 23) or The Shadow City (The Shadow City, 17)—to come into their own, but I still expect to see plenty of shadows cards running around.

Q: Are there any “unknowns” in the current meta you’re hoping to gain some insight on from the event?

My biggest question is whether any factions can challenge the “big three” of Targaryen, Martell, and Tyrell. While there’s no doubt that those three are powerful, I know that top players will be playtesting intently and looking for new ways to attack the metagame. As I mentioned, Stark is one of the factions that I think can mount a serious challenge to the top decks. Greyjoy is another faction that has a good mix of disruptive cards and the ability to apply pressure in challenges, making them an interesting contender. Honestly, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see any of the lower-tier factions make waves in the tournament. I’m excited to see what players build!

Michael Boggs on Android: Netrunner

Q: What’s your prediction for a winning deck?

For the Runner, I believe that a run-based Criminal deck has a pretty good chance of winning. For the Corp, my bet is either on Mti Mwekundu (Kampala Ascendant, 114) or The Outfit (Reign and Reverie, 50).

Q: If you see those decks as your favorite, what’s a dark horse or X-factor deck that you feel has an outside chance of surprising everyone?

The mini-factions gained a nice boost from Reign and Reverie. They’ve always been the underdog, but I think people should keep an eye out for them.

Q: Are there any new cards from recent sets you’re looking forward to seeing in action?

Yes! Both the Kitara cycle and Reign and Reverie have been well received by the community. I expect to see a whole host of cards from those two sets, and would be especially happy if someone brings a  Saraswati Mnemonics (Reign and Reverie, 34) deck.

Tyler Parrott on Star Wars™: The Card Game

Q: What’s your prediction for a winning deck?

It seems crazy, but the Ewok Swarm deck still seems almost impossible to defeat with traditional dark side strategies. The ability to generate free units with Spark of Rebellion (Galactic Ambitions, 1114) and Logray (Swayed by the Dark Side, 2139), and then keep them around with Native Blessings (Swayed by the Dark Side, 2138) means that the dark side can be facing a very intimidating board as early as turn one, and very few dark side decks have the ability to move fast enough to compete.

For the dark side, the Promise of Power (Allies of Necessity, 2073) Night deck continues to be very effective. The affiliation card allowing Energy Spiders (New Alliances, 956) to fight turn after turn means that it has the ability to close out a game quickly, and the combination of other hard-hitting units gives enough ways to damage enemy units that the light side can’t build up a sustained offense. There's such a variety of styles of this deck that even if you see the key objectives at the start, you can't be certain what the deck might throw at you.

Q: What’s a dark horse or X-factor deck that you feel has an outside chance of surprising everyone?

While it's not a consistent deck, I believe that writing off Light Side Pilots as a deck is a mistake. Leopold Hess proved that the deck can make it to the top tables back in 2015, and Andy Hornby piloted a similar build to the Top 8 of Worlds this past May. The ability to strike multiple times with a Rogue Squadron X-Wing can put a lot of early damage on dark side objectives, which cleanly sets up a Rebel Assault (Core Set, 108) victory once the dark side has stabilized. And if the dark side does build up an efficient defense, well… Trench Run (Core Set, 150) does say "win the game" on it.

I don't think it qualifies as a dark horse deck at this point, considering it won the European Championships, but a hyperaggressive Imperial Navy deck can also be a contender. When the deck features cards this efficient at destroying objectives, it's not difficult to close out a fast game by destroying four objectives before the light side has the opportunity to destroy three. If the light side decks that come to Gen Con aren't prepared to commit completely towards offense or defense, then a poor draw—or a miscalculated play—could easily see the field lose to this aggressive juggernaut.

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Thanks for reading! We'll see you at Gen Con Indy 2018, and find out who has the skills to claim the titles of North American Champion for our Organized Play games!

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