Lockdown of a Different Color
by Len "RedneckJedi" Fowler
I always like to think of how one side's deck type is reciprocated, or perhaps duplicated, by another. One such deck type is the Dark Side Force Drain deck. It's been a natural and oft-seen deck type since the game's inception considering the number of cards the Dark Side has available for this express purpose. In strict reciprocation terms, the Light Side has a number of options available to recoup or generate Force to offset this, but again, that's a feature that typically must be built-in to the deck. So I wondered to myself for quite some time, "Why can't there be a Light Side Force drain deck?" Turns out that there has been a "Diplomat Drain" deck type lurking about, but I'd yet to see anything recent. It's taken 7 sets of cards to do it, and I finally came up with something quite workable, and extremely frustrating for a Dark Side opponent.
The Forests of Endor and Ewok Village Locations are what really got my mind buzzing with the possibility of Light Side Force drain. There were other cards released, to be sure, allowing the Light Side player to drain the Dark Side's Force, but to me, these heralded in the viability of the deck type. With the Light Side's propensity for build gain and efficiency, I chose Forests of Endor for its higher "Force drain-ability." For 4 build it's a pricey Location, but it causes the Dark Side player to pay 2 Force each time one of their Ground units would cause preventable damage to one of my Ground units. However, for half the build Ewok Village will prevent any preventable damage from any source, unless they pay 1 Force to do so. They both have their benefits, but I really wanted to stick it the Dark Side with the 2 Force payment, plus its high replace cost is always a big consideration for the Dark Side.
Now, what should I add to the Ground arena to drain Force? Hmm? I know! How about borrowing from the proven Bespin Ground setup! By now, long-time players have learned that the success of the Bespin Ground setup is directly proportional to the number of units in that arena. If your opponent wishes to tap these individual Bespin units, they must pay Force to do so, right up front, to avoid getting hit by these Accuracy-enhanced units. The Bespin Cloud Car Squad is the best unit to cause the most damage. It also makes for a good target, though, as damaging it will decrease its power. The Bespin Twin-Pod Cloud Car, though a smaller unit, takes a 2 Force toll to tap it, and otherwise will attack with 3 power and Accuracy. Finally, there's the slower, but still-powerful Cloud City Wing Guard that also accepts a hefty 3 Force toll, and gains power if Lando Calrissian is in the Character arena (who just happens to make a guest appearance in this deck). All of these units deploy quite inexpensively, and you want to deploy as many as possible.
Though taking a bit away from the full-on Bespin Ground Force drain strategy, I wanted to add a little something should I dominate the Ground arena. If the Ground setup takes the arena, then my opponent must have something going on in Character, and Return of the Jedi's Skiff was just the additional Force drain to fit the bill. In lieu of its attack, you can tap this unit to force your opponent to pay 2 Force to keep a Character untapped. With multiple versions of these out, you can quickly overwhelm your opponent and aid the Character arena by tapping powerful Characters residing there. Otherwise, at 4 build for a 50 speed, 3 power and health unit, it can also provide quick backup for the Bespin Ground units, if needed.
If optimally setup, you should really be hitting the Dark Side where it hurts... right in the ol' Force pocketbook. The Force drain in this arena alone, when combined with the units and Forest of Endor is massive. Regardless of any Force drain/gain strategy they're running, if they want to accomplish anything in Ground against this setup, it's going to cost a lot to do it. Now let's see what happens once the Ground arena has done its work.
What finally brought it all together for me was the Revenge of the Sith release. I couldn't help but add the new Padm? Characters to the list of Characters available to the Light Side that caused more instances of Force Drain. Padm? Amidala (H) "protects" all of your Diplomats by granting them the "pay 2 Force to attack them" ability. Since she's also a Diplomat, her ability covers herself, too. She also comes with the nifty ability to tap for a card draw and a gain of 1 Force. Padm? Amidala (G) also comes with the same "pay 2 Force to attack her" ability, but this version reflects her unfortunate demise, but promise of a new hope, at the end of the movie. By discarding her of your own volition anytime during battle, you gain 2 Force and draw 2 cards.
Speaking of "a new hope", here's one of the early Characters to progress throughout the Original Trilogy series of cards that have long been a headache for the Dark Side. I have 4 versions of Padm?'s daughter, Leia, to maximize her damage output, while minimizing her build cost. I selected Princess Leia (A), Princess Leia (B), Princess Leia (F), and Princess Leia (K). All of them have the "pay 2 Force for a Character to damage Leia" ability. Princess Leia (A) comes with the added feature of draining your opponent's Force by 1 at the end of the Character battle step (provided they still have any by this time). Princess Leia (B), though not high on the power curve, boasts Accuracy, and can be made more powerful through stacking. Princess Leia (F) is otherwise vanilla, but is inexpensive for stacking purposes and has 4 power and health. Finally, Princess Leia (K) gives you an out as a Speeder Pilot, and is also cheap to deploy. Other versions of Leia can also enhance her usefulness, and can easily be added, or swapped out with, perhaps, the less powerful versions of her.
Another Diplomat good for Force draining is Lando Calrissian (D). For a mere 2 build (!), you get a 50 speed, 4 power and 5 health unit with Accuracy!!! However, he can be "bought" by your opponent if they win the Force bid. The key to using this Lando is to make sure you have at least as much Force as your opponent, or that they'll be definitely spending it in a fashion allowing you to keep him on your side when the Character battle begins. Even if your opponent does manage to change his allegiance for a turn, you've still got other Force drain units looking to prevent any damage he may do. One thing I have noticed, is that this deck tends to start building up its own Force over time, and this helps ensure Lando sticks with you the majority of the game.
Rounding out my Force Drain Diplomat choices is Mon Mothma (A). She, too, has the "pay 2 Force to attack her", and she also has the wondrous benefits she bestows Rebel units (build-cost reduction or an Accuracy boost!). Leia is a Rebel, and many Light Side Space arenas are loaded with Rebel units. However, her build cost is a bit problematic when trying to get those other swarm-style units that benefit from this Force drain strategy. Theme-wise, she makes sense, but otherwise there are units that might work better in her stead. Playtesting has shown that given a turn or two, the deck really starts ramping up Force. Therefore, the Hidden Cost value of Boba Fett (H) can easily strengthen a relatively weak Character arena with his awesome power and defensive capabilities.
Okay, so I do have one other Rebel Character in the mix. Han Solo (G) is in here to take the edge off a hit for one of the diplomats, should the Dark Side have Force to pull through. He's also in as a relatively inexpensive 6 build for a 6 power with Accuracy punch. One of the possible changes to the Leia stack could be to include Princess Leia (G), who prevents damage to Smugglers (Han and Lando, in this deck) by putting just one damage on her. Using this version, though, means she won't have the Force Drain protection her other versions that support this deck theme.
Heh, what deck doesn't Orn Free Taa (A) work in? Though a costly 8 build, this Senator (oddly, though, not a diplomat) requires an opponent's unit to tap in order to damage him. If the Dark Side player isn't running support Characters, he virtually can't be touched. His biggest boon, justifying his build cost, is his ability to tap an opponent's unit, no matter what size or type, for the cost of tapping him and paying a build point. This can be handy in dropping the amount of damage being thrown around in an arena, particularly the one he resides in.
And what deck would be complete without Ewoks? Well, this one, perhaps, since we're concentrating on Force drain, and having Forests of Endor in the Ground arena. As long as there is an Endor Location in any arena, both Chief Chirpa (A) and Wicket W. Warrick (A) gain the "pay 2 Force to damage them" ability. (It's really ramping up now, isn't it?) While Wicket helps reduce the cost of your unique Light Side Characters (which this deck has nothing but) by 1, he's not too shabby with 3 power and 4 health for 4 build. Chirpa, though, is a blessing in disguise. With just 1 power, he's nothing you want to attack with... that's why he "supplies" you with 1 build point and 1 Force for the cost of just tapping him. That said, the Ewoks are good for something after all!
||The final addition to the Force drain frustrations is the Max Rebo Band (A). This single unit requires your opponent to pay 1 Force every time they want to attack with a Character unit. The Band is a bit costly, otherwise for just a 20 speed unit with 3 power and health, but again, with all the Force drain ramping up on the Dark Side player, it's well worth it.
The Space arena is the one place where neither player has any Force drain of significance. Tantive IV (A) is the one exception, and I threw in a copy just for good measure. If your opponent sees what's already going on in the other arenas, they might think twice about attacking Leia's blockade runner. The rest of the Space arena can be "player's choice", but one other addition I recommend is the Millennium Falcon (E). Its ability to attack units in the Character arena should especially be focused on those with Force activated damage prevention abilities. Any damage it inflicts is good, and while it's draining Force through your opponent's damage prevention efforts, it only helps out your remaining Force drain strategy. Another good option to include with this Falcon is the save-your-Characters Millennium Falcon (F). After all your other Force drain efforts, if a Character is going to be discarded by damage, why not save it to live another round? The remainder of my Space unit selections are relatively standard fare for the Light Side, and is easily modified. More Rebel Space units would benefit from Mon Mothma greatly. From what I've seen recently, speed is the key to the Light Side Space arena... we can't have TIE Interceptors and Droid Missiles ruling the arena now, can we?
Now it's time for the support cards. I chose to reserve build points for just my semi-swarm units, so no Missions are included in this deck. In their place, I loaded up on Battle cards to prevent my opponent from doing "a great many things." I chose nothing but Disrupt-themed Battle cards, the first, logically, being Disrupting Strike. For just 1 Force, the Dark Side player must pay 2 Force to allow their (hopefully Force costed) Battle card effect to occur. Once again, the deck hits them in the Force bank.
My other two Battle card selections are Foil and Thwart. They Disrupt Mission effects and Activated Ability effects respectively. Things that troubled me about this deck type was Emperor's Bidding, Subtle Assassination and especially Dissolve the Senate. The Dark Side's Emperor's Bidding Mission card's win condition can really be a problem if none of the Jedi Starfighters happen to show up, and Subtle Assassination can eat up the majority of the Characters in the deck. Finally, the "big kill card", Dissolve the Senate, discards all Diplomats from the Character arena, and though it sees little play, you just never know who's teching against a Diplomat deck.
The activated abilities I chose to target with Thwart were for the new cards, specifically Darth Sidious (E), Darth Vader (S) and Droid Missiles. I'd really rather that the Dark Side didn't throw those kind of abilities around, especially considering the low health of many of the cards in the deck. The Battle card can also shut down the damage prevention effects of the Jedi the Dark Side typically employs, particularly Darth Vader (R)'s unpreventable Deflect damage.
Rounding out my Locations, are Lars Homestead to reduce the build cost of MANY of the units in the deck, and Kashyyyk System to grant my Space units Retaliate. However, these were really just off-the-cuff choices as no other Locations fit the bill. That said, I've had my eye on Free Coruscant lately due to its recent popularity, cross-arena deployability and that it grants 1 build point to the Light Side each turn. The choices I currently have are, unfortunately, easily susceptible to the Dark Side's Search for the Rebels Mission card... which, of course, I may still choose to Disrupt, if possible.
I can already hear it now. "Key" cards are missing. Why not use "this?" I'll address the glaring ones right up front.
I didn't set out to build a Diplomat deck. While Bail Organa (A), Rapid Recovery and Support in the Senate seem like natural fits, the deck has only four Diplomats. Bail, though, can fill in for Orn Free Taa at a reduced build cost, but for twice the unit build point tap cost. He also has no Force drain protection other than what Padm? Amidala (H) can provide. Another benefit of Orn Free Taa over Bail is that Orn contests with another Orn deployed by the Dark Side. If both are in play, the Dark Side may choose his Orn's ability to tap your Orn, effectively cancelling them out.
Rapid Recovery is only going to benefit the four Diplomats, and they aren't going to have a lot of base health to begin with for the damage removal effect. The untap effect, though, can be beneficial. Finally, Support in the Senate is only going to net an extra 2 build if all the deck's Diplomats happen to be deployed.
The problems this deck faces are still many. Unpreventable damage completely negates the "pay Force to damage" effects. Also, the "pay Force to attack" and the "pay Force" effects that key off "from unit" damage are useless against damage coming from other sources such as Torture Room and Homing Missile. With this kind of damage-dealing at the Dark Side's disposal, a play choice one might consider is the use of the new GH-7 Medical Droid to remove damage from your critical Character units after it's been done. I had especially considered replacing Mon Mothma with three of them to dispel her expensive deploy cost.
This is another one of those decks that can really fluster your opponent to no end. (Lockdown decks tend to do that.) Players hate it when they're not allowed to freely do the things they can normally do. As long as you're on the giving end of that and not the receiving end, there's a certain sense of gratification that comes from stymying your opponent. It's fun (for the Light Side) when it goes off, and if the Ground arena is being challenged, a great deal of math tends to start processing in the Dark Side player's head as they weigh their Force budget choices for the future of the Ground and Character arena battles.
16 September 2005