Another look at the Star Wars
Trading Card Game's newest card now that we've settled in
By Len Fowler (A.K.A. RedneckJedi)
It's been a few months since I wrote about the new card "Locations" presented in the Empire Strikes Back (ESB) expansion on TeamBus. There were some strong feelings about them, and a few about my point of view. That just goes with any aspect of personal strategy and analysis, though, so no sweat there.
Having covered the cards at face-value with a little cursory thought into their potential, enough time has passed to take another look. I've seen a few things and run a few things and here's where I see Locations as they stand today. Again, let's start with the Dark Side Locations.
Carbon-Freezing Chamber - Character Location - 4 Build
When the Character battle step starts, choose one of your opponent's Characters in any arena or his or her build zone. Return that Character to your opponent's hand unless he or she pays 3 Force.
- A month ago...
- You could hear crickets chirping in someone's head when you mentioned this Location. I never saw this card played. In general, I stopped seeing Dark Side Force denial, most likely because the Light Side had so many options to gain Force, that there weren't enough options for the Dark Side to keep up. Perhaps with Darth Vader (K) and Imperials being the current trend, players hoped to "muscle out" the Character arena, rather than pull nasty stunts to remove them through other means.
- I playtested with a single copy of this Location in a deck, and the one time I played it, it mattered very little. The Light Side was churning out Force faster than they could say, "May the Force be with me," and taking out 3 Force per turn was a minor leak in the Light Side's well. Granted, this was a late-game deploy, and will factor into what's happening today.
- Force denial is BACK! Using the staple cards of old, and a few new ones supplied in the ESB release, you can keep the Light Side on the ropes with an early drop of Carbon-Freezing Chamber. This card works on ANY Character that's been deployed, regardless of the arena it's in, or build zone. Draining 3 Force per turn to keep a Character in play is a huge drain for the Light Side. The earlier it's played, the better, especially in conjunction with other Force denial cards.
- I have already seen a number of Light Side strategies having to mitigate this threat.
Cloud City Prison - Character Location - 1 Build
When each turn ends, each player loses all of his or her Force.
- A month ago...
- Again, another card I never saw, or personally used, in play. The only benefit the Dark Side player sees is keeping Jedi from using some of their more powerful abilities. However, the Light Side can counter this with Force gain abilities from cards such as Mace Windu (A), Yoda (A), Dagobah System, Jedi Youngling and a host of other Force gain cards. This Location also neuters the majority of good Dark Jedi units for the DS, plus any high Force cost Battle cards. The Cloud City Battleground Location offsets the latter point, but may have brief longevity for the Dark Side.
- In my opinion, if/when the fervor over Vader dies down, this Location can do wonders for high-powered, non-Jedi Dark Side decks. Rogues and Scoundrels, here we come.
- Tusken decks and other decks that swarm the Character arena get a HUGE boost with this card. Unless the Light Side is mainstreaming a LOT of Force per turn, their Force activated abilities are limited in use and number.
- This is a Location that, if played in a turn prior to Carbon-Freezing Chamber, can be quite devastating to a Light Side opponent.
Dark Cave - Character Location - 3 Build
Each time a Light Side Character attacks, the Dark Side player places a "Corruption counter" on Dark Cave.
When the Character battle step starts, you may remove all Corruption counters from Dark Cave. If you do, choose one of your opponent's units in the Character arena with build cost less than or equal to the number of counters removed. You gain control of that Character until end of turn.
- No one is taking a chance on this card, and for good reason. The Light Side can quickly replace this Location, especially at an inopportune moment when you're about to enjoy this Location's effect.
- The delicate nature of this card makes the 3 build points cost-prohibitive, and using the build points on, heck, just about anything else is preferable.
- One note of interest. Unless Yoda (C) shows up, Darth Vader (K) tends to last the requisite number of turns to control even the most powerful of Characters for a turn, and a LOT of people are running decks featuring Vader.
Executor Bridge - Character Location - 1 Build
Each of your Pilots costs 2 fewer build counters to deploy.
- This Location is one that has seen some play, albeit limited and to rarely good effect. The General Maximilian Veers (A) Walker Pilot sees play, and this Location helps out his deploy, but the other Dark Side pilots don't tend to see as much play.
- Though they may exist, I've yet to see a dedicated Dark Side Pilot deck have worthwhile results.
Executor Hangar - Character Location - 1 Build
When the Character battle step starts, you may move any number of your Pilots from units in the Space arena to the Character arena. Untap those Pilots.
- Although Darth Vader (D) has some offensive punch, and General Maximilian Veers (A) can apply some damage here and there, it would take a lot of Pilots and a death wish to send all of your weaker pilots into the Character arena fray. I've never seen this one played.
Meditation Chamber - Character Location - 1 Build
When the turn ends, you gain 1 Force and your opponent loses 1 Force.
- This one I've seen a little of, and I personally play a few copies of it. That small gain of 1 Force, perhaps even regardless of the Light Side's 1 Force loss can make a lot of difference for the Dark Side, especially Darth Vader (K). I discovered that even this unit can fall due to a gradual loss of Force, but one extra little Force per turn can keep Vader's demise at bay.
- A month ago...
- The Light Side rarely played a Character Location, and this one certainly fits in nicely for any Dark Jedi, or as a beneficial quick replacement of a Light Side Character Location.
- I'll address the Light Side's current love affair with damage removal and speed boost Locations in the Light Side Location discussion.
Torture Room - Character Location - 1 Build
When the Character battle step starts, choose one of your opponent's units in the Character arena. Do 3 dice of damage to that Character.
- A month ago...
- Here's a card that I think should see some play, but doesn't... even by me. 1 build for a 3 power attack per turn can frustrate a Light Side Jedi counting on maintaining its Force. 3 power may not be much, but I sure see a lot of people running Navy Trooper with Vader, for their 4 power.
- I believe many players feel they get more bang for their build point buck with the other Character Locations.
- This Location also gets around the frustrations of the Leia Characters that require you to pay 2 Force for a Character to damage her, Princess Leia (H) if other Rebels are in the Character arena, and the Retaliating Chewbaccas.
Hoth Battle Plains - Ground Location - 1 Build
Double all damage that would be done by units in the Ground arena (before damage prevention).
- This is still a scary card in my opinion, and due to its lack of appearances, I think many other feel the same, too.
- There are a few combos the Dark Side can capitalize on with this Location. If the Dark Side can gain the speed advantage, once the Dark Side units attack, they may then play Occupation to nullify the effects of this Location, leaving the Light Side to normal damage output… if they have units left to damage with. This card also works perfectly with the ever-popular AT-AT Assault Group, since its damage prevention still limits it to 2 per attack. Add Blaster Barrage or an Overkill enhancement to the AT-AT Assault Group, and let him go to town.
That covers the Dark Side-specific Locations. While some are showing potential, only a few of the purely beneficial cards for the Dark Side are having a big effect on the game.
Without further ado, here are the Light Side Locations.
Cloud City Penthouse - Character Location - 1 Build
Each Character costs 1 fewer build counter to deploy.
- Here's our first "mutually beneficial" card, and it belongs to the Light Side. The effect of this card shows… as, once again, I've never seen it played. It would seem Light Side players don't want the Dark Side stacking for free or deploying units cheaply either.
Medical Center - Character Location - 1 Build
Each of your Characters gets "Tap -> Remove 3 damage counters from this Character. Play only during your build step."
- Here's one of the two popular Light Side Locations I've seen played extensively. Non-evading Rebel Characters and evading "tank" units get the benefit of this Location, and who could blame the Light Side for 1 build point? If the Dark Side can't put the hurt on a Character in one turn, then here comes a quick damage remove for the Light Side.
- For all its popularity, though, the most dangerous Light Side Character will receive the most damage. If it's tapped for a turn, that's damage the Dark Side won't be receiving.
- The obvious benefit of the card, though, means that it has a place in a large number of Light Side decks, and can be used to easily replace Carbon-Freezing Chamber for the additional build points.
Rebel Command Center - Character Location - 1 Build
When you finish building Rebel Command Center, draw a card.
All your units win ties for speed.
- A month ago...
- Apparently, this Location's benefit doesn't hold up in the eyes of many, as I haven't seen this Location in play either. It can certainly benefit the Light Side, especially in Space, but apparently most decks are relying on existing speed and power (and the Dark Side's relative inverse proportion of speed and power) to survive the attacks and live to attack afterwards.
- For 1 build point and a card draw to replace it, it's the second-coming of Anakin's Inspiration.
- Another good candidate to easily replace Carbon-Freezing Chamber for the additional build points.
Rebel Hangar - Character Location - 1 Build
When the Ground battle step starts, remove up to 2 damage counters from one of your Space or Ground units.
- This is the other popular Light Side Location. A lot of players, believe it or not, enjoy removing 2 damage from a unit every turn. I know I do!
- Again, an excellent Location to replace Carbon-Freezing Chamber for the additional build points.
Yoda's Hut - Character Location - 3 Build
When the roll for build points is made, each player gains +1 build point for each Jedi Character he or she has in any arena.
- For as many Jedi as the Light Side may have, the Light Side player can also count on Vader being in the Dark Side's court... sometimes with Tyranus, Sidious, or Maul as support. In my opinion, this Location will be relegated to Quorum decks due to its mutually beneficial effect.
Rebel Trenches - Ground Location - 2 Build
Each of your units in the Ground arena gets Armor (each of those units is hit only on a 5 or more).
- This Location sees some play, but primarily plays second fiddle to Cloud City Battleground. For 2 build points, this Location renders Major Bren Derlin (A) immediately obsolete.
Dagobah System - Space Location - 1 Build
When your build step starts, you gain 2 Force.
- A month ago...
- I've only seen this Location used once by another player. I can't imagine why there wouldn't be as many of these in a Light Side deck as there are Cloud City Battleground. In conjunction with Cloud City Battleground, the Light Side's ability to pull off massive combos in the early game can be frequent.
- From personal experience, this Location helped me win a hotly contested Character arena with Mace versus Vader when time was called. Mace Windu (A), along with this Location allowed me to continue gaining 3 Force per turn. Mace was still able to evade Vader's attack every turn.
- A favorite Space Location for many Light Side decks, especially those heavy with Jedi and high-cost Battle cards.
- Finally, the Dark Side has few choices to counteract this Location, especially since the Dark Side wasn't given any Space Locations, besides the Neutral ones. Of these it does have access to, they are either mutually beneficial or mutually detrimental.
There's no question that the Light Side gained more usuable and beneficial Locations than the Dark Side. Also, the sudden surge in Character Location advantage the Dark Side has gained has been offset by the Light Side's willingness to replace them with their own. The popular Light Side Character Locations are being put in decks mainly to counter the Carbon-Freezing Chamber threat.
Let's conclude with the Neutral Locations available in both decks.
Belly of the Beast - Character Location - 1 Build
When the Character battle step starts, choose an untapped unit in the Character arena at random. Tap that unit.
- It seems quite evident that no one likes a random element in the game. Never seen.
Cloud City Dining Hall - Character Location - 1 Build
Characters can't retreat.
- A month ago...
- It also seems evident that everyone would like the option to retreat their Characters. Never seen.
- At best, this is a situational card to be played if you have your opponent on the ropes in Character, and would prefer not to see a unit(s) return in a comeback.
- Apparently, this Location does come in handy to keep a flagging Character from retreating for later use.
- Also, the Dark Side can use it to counteract the Anakin/Vader (and other unique unit) contesting.
Wampa Cave - Character Location - 1 Build
Each of your Creatures costs 1 less build counter to deploy.
- I've personally never seen a Creature deck since ESB was released, but I have been tinkering with one (although it hasn't faired well). Apparently no one else is trying one out either, although there is an interesting one posted on Wizard's Official site.
Cloud City Battleground - Ground Location - 1 Build
Each of your Battle cards costs 2 less Force to play.
- Hands down, everyone LOVES this Location (when it's on their side)! And why not? By now, most everyone has come to the conclusion that if they're not playing it, someone else will, so that's all the more reason to play it yourself. As I wrote before, this card should be in EVERY deck, with multiple copies.
Cloud City Landing Platform - Ground Location - 1 Build
When you put this Location into its arena, draw a card.
When the roll for build points is made, you may reroll it once.
- Changing the fate of a build point roll doesn't seem to be on the mind of many players. Never seen.
Hoth Icefields - Ground Location - 1 Build
When you put this Location into its arena, draw a card.
When the Ground battle step starts, Hoth Icefields does 2 dice of damage to each unit in the Ground arena.
- Although I've never seen this card in play, I have seen similar Battle cards such as Snowstorm and Blizzard played.
- I still feel this is a somewhat worthwhile Location to play if you've conceded the Ground arena, or to have in your deck if it simply isn't that strong in that arena. Got a great Dark Side Bombard strategy? Enhance it with this Location!
- If you can afford to take the damage yourself, it works wonders against stall decks.
Jungles of Dagobah - Ground Location - 1 Build
Each non-Creature Ground unit gets -20 speed.
- Like Wampa Cave, this Location sees just as much play. Players are still looking, but apparently not finding, that competitive Creature deck.
- If it's not already apparent, Wizards R&D want you to build Creature decks!
Streets of Cloud City - Ground Location - 1 Build
Fight the Ground battle before the Space battle.
- Filler... that's what I call it. Though I have seen it in play, it has made little difference in the outcome of the game.
- Though that is my opinion, I do believe there are viable Ion Cannon based, or cross-arena decks that benefit from this Location.
Swamps of Dagobah - Ground Location - 2 Build
Each unit costs one more build counter to deploy.
- Another mutually detrimental card yet to see the light of day.
- Not only that, but they gave it a build cost of 2, ensuring this will hardly be played!
- The only possible advantage I could see is if you're using it in a deck with LOTS of damage prevention, and want to deprive your opponent of getting units out quickly.
Asteroid Field - Space Location - 1 Build
When the Space battle step starts, Asteroid Field does 2 dice of damage to each unit in the Space arena.
- Since I generally feel down about the Dark Side's Space arena superiority, I play a couple in some of my Dark Side decks, should I concede that arena.
- Ultimately, its uses are the same as Hoth Icefields.
Bespin System - Space Location - 1 Build
Each player draws one extra card during his or her build step.
- Another mutually beneficial card that neither player wants the other to benefit from. Perhaps it will see time in Discard/Mill decks, but I've only heard rumors of less-than-successful ones built since ESB.
- This is the primary option for Dark Side decks to replace a Light Side Dagobah System Location.
Hoth System - Space Location - 1 Build
Each Space unit costs 1 fewer build counter to deploy.
- Finally, we end with yet another mutually beneficial card that neither player wants the other to benefit from. I still feel it could find a place in decks that swarm Space, but we'll see.
The Light Side gets the primary advantage of replacing Locations the Dark Side may play, and probably the widest practical use of them. The Dark Side gets a few particularly nasty Locations, and should ensure their deck makes the most of these when they're included. Of obvious use, then, is the Search for the Rebels Mission. It's well costed for its ability to remove key Locations from a Light Side opponent's deck. Use it to remove Locations you don't want your opponent to benefit from, or those that may push one of your own Locations you need out.
So ends my follow-up on Locations. Most of this is probably well-known by now, but perhaps somewhat enlightening. Credit and thanks to the staff at DIEHARD On-line, who are really on top of the game, and provided some Location insight I may not have noticed. Here's my personal ranking of Locations for you to agree with or complain fiercely about:
- Cloud City Battleground
- Dagobah System
- Carbon-Freezing Chamber
- Rebel Hangar
- Medical Center
- Meditation Chamber
- Rebel Trenches
- Cloud City Prison
- Cloud City Dining Hall
- Hoth Icefields / Asteroid Field (tied)
- All the rest.
16 February 2004
Next time... Rogues and Scoundrels?!?!?