Release Review: New Affiliations

Dav Flamerock: As we’re going to see, the new affiliations based around running a 5/5 split and each affiliation being splashed “in” to an affiliation will determine that affiliation’s effect. For example, if you’re splashing Jedi or Sith into a different affiliation, you’re going to be able to refresh your units more effectively. Why is this? Because if you’re going to be committing your units to the Force, then the Jedi/Sith can help you do that without penalty.

What does this mean for the game? First of all, a 5/5 split is a lot less inconsistent than you might think. Your chances of hitting 5 objectives that match your affiliation card (and being resource-locked) is about 2.3%, meaning that it will happen about 1 in every 43 games. Will it suck when it actually happens? Absolutely, but a deck with such a flop is very playable (especially if you have a contingency, like affiliated resource enhancements). Of the three, I expect this is going to be the least flashy of the new affiliations, but it’s power is in deception. Anyone who’s been playing this game for any length of time has gotten into a rhythm of what units are able to be “overfocused” and which ones aren’t, and what it will take to prevent a key unit from participating in the following turn.

These affiliations throw that out the window. This will make it all but impossible for your opponent to overfocus your units, particularly because it’s so easy to forget that this reaction exists: I’ve played scores of games with the new affiliations and I still put two focus tokens on an enemy Royal Guard thinking it won’t refresh. It might only give one of your units elite, but because it also works with elite (clearing 3 focus tokens) it means that you’re going to always have your best units available, and your opponent often won’t even try to overfocus you because of it. It may reach the table less often than you think due to the fact that it’s less exciting than the other two affiliations, but you should absolutely consider it because it’s excellent.

GreedoShotFirst: How they got it right: Believe it or not, this (S&S affiliation) is actually one of my favorite of the cards because it allows me to run two copies of the extremely versatile Zeb in a Jedi world while still keeping a 7/3 split (thanks to Zeb’s influence). It also makes that 4 cost non-elite Zeb… elite. Problem solved! You can build this around Spark OR you can use the diversity of Zeb to run Jedi/Falcon with Jyn or Dash or whoever. This is where I think many “classic” light side decks will land building out falcon/MTFBWY/Luke/Zeb. Rebel is more limited to Spark of Rebellion as the Sabine include for influence to make a 7/3 split will necessitate strong three unit pods and there is more synergy here with Kanan than with Yoda. Add Cassian and/or Hera to the party and you have the makings of another really strong deck with enough pods with 3 units to allow for Sabine to see a lot of play (even if it as only as a one-of). These affiliation cards gives all non-elite units significant reason to rejoice!

How they got it wrong: Navy likes to play with itself. All joking aside, it operates best as a mono-affiliation. Locally, one player has taken to an Executor/Rav/Avenger deck which may be the right direction to take this particular affiliation card especially since that 8 cost giant capital ship from Sith can now be elite. It should be noted, however, that splitting Navy from Sith decreases some of the better pod options of both.  Tarkin Doctrine turns on with 3 Navy objectives. Dark Lord of the Sith turns on with 3 Sith objectives. Losing the best objective set in each affiliation is tough. Combine that with occasionally being locked out of one of your affiliations and you’re going to have a few bad times playing the deck. Scum faces a similar problem with The Hunters. I am sure that many people wanting to throw some shade at the mixed affiliation love with Snoova will be upset that they themselves don’t get The Hunters bonus from having 3 Scum objectives. At seems at this stage in the game, if you want to try this affiliation with Dark Side, including Dr. Aphra for the influence enhancement is pretty much mandatory.

Farsight: These affiliations are definitely the least exciting of the three, but we might end up seeing them in some weird decks. The specific effect has already been seen in the game on units like Motti and Kanan so we know how it plays – a nice bonus when you have it that can really mess with tactics heavy opponents, but certainly not essential and some turns you may not even trigger it.  Still, the elite trait is so good that we’ve pretty much been building decks with it in mind since the game came out. Plenty of potential mains like General Willard or Sim Aloo that would be great defenders and force holders if they had elite have been judged poorly because they don’t have it, which means this affiliation looks both not very impactful on the surface and could also be extremely strong if it enables pods that have previously been ignored to see play. Due to the extremely wide range between those outcomes I’m just going to give this one a low grade and hope to be surprised. It does look like we are getting some units in this cycle like Dr Aphra that are practically dependent on these affiliations to function so if one of those ends up being very good that would also improve these by extension.

Navy/Sith is the least interesting place for this since they already had plenty of elite units and way to make more with cards like Might of the Empire. The Scum/Sith one is worth consideration almost entirely because of one unit – Energy Spider. Is that strong enough to build a deck around? Probably not, but worth a look at least. Dr Aphra can appear in either deck, as well, and both sides can support droid decks of varying quality though the Scum one with IG-88 and friends is certainly more exciting.

Rebel/Jedi seems like the more likely of the light side affiliations to find a home here thanks to units that don’t have elite but really want it like Willard, Qu Rahn and T’ra Saa. The rebels also have several units with multiple resources like Crix Madine and Mon Mothma that could be powered up by getting an extra refresh. For the Smuggler/Jedi deck, the thing that grabs my attention most is pods like Talon Karrde’s. While this affiliation can’t refresh the objective, it can make the blastboats much better.

Dav Flamerock: Without a doubt, these 7 Reserve affiliations are going to be the runaway stars of the show when it comes to new affiliations. I suppose it’s the Rebel and Navy’s strategic resources that allow them to give out extra options to their allies, though I’m not sure that Jedi needed the edge advantage? You might think that a 6/6 split is odd considering the rest is 5/5, but when you’re drawing an extra card per turn you actually need the two extra objective sets to make your odds of drawing a specific card stay the same. (Not to mention the threat of running out of cards, which would be increased.) Players love having extra options, especially in a game as deep as this one, and this is a relatively easy way to go about that. Getting +1 card on your opponent each turn is a pretty major tactical card advantage, especially since all the other tactical card advantage engines (Counsel of the Sith, Planning the Attack, “Mouse” Droid) still work in addition to it.

Of these four affiliations, I expect the Jedi and Scum ones to see the most play. Jedi is pretty straightforward: Colby Bennardo was playing with a 5/5 Jedi/Rebel Spark deck at Worlds 2017, so it’s easy to add two pods to that deck and improve its card advantage. Also, the Scum/Navy Fighter decks featuring Soontir Fel and Boba Fett have been a high-level staple for some time, so it’s not difficult to migrate into a 6/6 paradigm and get the extra reserve (which Fighters kinda need).

Smuggler/Rebel decks have existed for some time, especially now that Jyn and Cassian are out, but without the tools of Jedi (Yoda, Spark, and Guardians) it’s difficult for them to keep a board on the table. When your units keep dying, how are you going to advance to victory? The Phantom can’t save everybody. And while Sith and Navy are both powerful affiliations, they don’t have much mechanical overlap. Navy wants Vehicles, Sith wants Characters, and both reward you for staying 100% in-faction. I have seen a very powerful deck featuring this affiliation (the Sith/Navy Coruscant deck) but it’s super slow and difficult to make work in a tournament setting.

People have already started claiming that “7 Reserve is the future!” and while these affiliations are definitely very powerful, there’s only a limited space for them to operate in. I think they’ll be very common, but not omnipresent.

GreedoShotFirst: How they got it right: Once again, the current meta flavor (Spark of Rebellion) is rewarded. Why? Well they have influence on Jedi, Smuggler, and Rebel objectives. Combine this with the fact that you don’t need a resource match to pay for Kanan’s pod and we have the makings of a truly bonkers Spark deck. Even more since Ezra and the random Specter droids like to further your card advantage by making your opponent pitch cards from their hand. For me the auto-include for any 6/6 build for LS would have to be Zeb as I see him as the most versatile of the influence Spectres. With the influence on the aforementioned objectives, a deck can now operate more like an 8/4 deck and make your affiliation match more consistent. On a more Force-control related note, I think that the deck will also be used to help Jedi and Sith with what they were already good at: winning edge battles with high pip cards. We have already seen in the creature decks what cycling a Sith Wyrm can do to disrupt an edge battle. This does that even better as the extra card you’re getting every turn comes for free and during the deployment phase, meaning you have extra options at the start of your turn.

What I can’t figure out from my early testing is the necessity for MTFBWY with these builds. My playtest partner, Stephen Hinton, and I used a basic rule of thumb for when to take the Force. If you can only do an unopposed damage, it likely wasn’t worth swinging in and you were better off taking the Force. Doing 2 damage was situational depending on board state. Are they locked out through their next turn and only had 3 resources? If so, swing in. If not, taking the Force was likely a better situation. The magic number was 3. If you could do 3 damage instead of taking the Force, it was likely worth the aggression. With fate cards such as Allies of Necessity and a 7 card reserve, that 3 damage mark is a lot closer to being consistent pretty much every turn. With all the counters to Yoda as a unit, I think the best argument in favor of using May the Force Be With You is the Seeds of Decay. But, Crix has one of those as well and there are plenty of fate cards roaming around.

Finally, if you haven’t built out the Jyn/Cassian/Hera deck with this affiliation card, then get off your ass. My current build has Gamor and Bo Shek in it for flavor (because I’m sentimental and still like to try and take the Force), but feel free to go nuts with the concept as the tag teaming lovebirds of espionage will absolutely go ballistic on the majority of dark side decks.

How they got it wrong: You know what really wants a 7 card reserve? Rebel Capital Ships. It is really a shame that a deck architype that could use extra cards can’t use one of its major players in Solidarity of Spirit which requires a Rebel Affiliation to play. The ability to pitch a card from hand to reduce the cost of a ship with Defense of Yavin 4 is a nice break from the improved edge of Sith and Jedi which is what a lot of people will likely use it for. Also plays well into Resupply Depot where that extra card can be used to waste away an enemy unit or lock out another main. Instead, we are left to be ensured the payment of the powerhouse capital ships of Redemption and Blockade Runners. The 6/6 split means that getting locked out of a particular affiliation is a very real possibility and since the base affiliation isn’t Rebel, there exists a situation that you could draw a hand full of glorious rebel capital ships with no good way to play them. Can a pod based game have this be a viable option or would a deck begin to lose some of its synergy and consistency?  The only option for Dark Side (since they don’t have influenced objectives) is to play Might of the Empire for the free Fleet Staging Area or Aphra in my opinion. Should you get locked out, pray that you see those enhancements or a game may be over before it even begins.

Farsight: These are the affiliations that have everyone the most excited, and for good reason. We already have some experience with seven reserve from objectives like Planning the Attack and The General’s Imperative, so it’s not a surprise that this effect is great. Normally the main benefit from seeing an extra card each turn is the increased play opportunities you have from that card, but in this game the real change could be the bolstering your edge battles. That could take the form of making sure you can win one key edge battle on your turn, or letting you contest multiple ones over the course of your turn and the opponent’s turn. This will not bolster a specific archetype but any deck that can be made to fit these combinations, since pretty much everyone needs to win a few edge battles each game.

Of course, this effect isn’t free – you have to run 12 pods, and split your colors in half. Statistics-wise, you have roughly an equal chance of drawing a card in a 60 card, seven reserve deck as in a 50 card, six reserve deck so you don’t suffer much there. The objective flop is where you are most likely to get in trouble, either by getting affiliation-locked out of cards you need to play, or if your deck is dependant on flopping certain cards. The influence objectives that light side got in the last cycle can be a big help in increasing the reliability of your objectives, and it looks like in this cycle every faction will be getting a neutral resource enhancement with influence which should also work well here (and in all the other affiliations discussed here). As for decks that really want to see specific objectives like Spark of Rebellion, they simply may not be good fits for this set of affiliations.

Before looking at the specific cards I just wanted to note in general that pods with Twists or edge increasing effects like Baron Fel, Gladiators, and Boshek can turn your edge advantage from a large one into a crushing one and are probably even more valuable in these decks than normal.

The Jedi/Rebel combination isn’t that highly played so decks based on this will be a little offbeat. They could go for a vehicle deck based on fighters or speeders, perhaps based around Running the Canyon or Keyan Farlander. It could also be a character deck that tries to give some of their underplayed guys like Endor Han and rebel Kyle support from Jedi pods. The Smuggler/Rebel combination has seen more play historically and has a few decks ready to be slotted in here, such as the Well Paid fighter deck, or Cracken rescue decks with Tamtel Skreej. Regardless of which faction and archetype, I’d expect a lot of variants of these decks to be tried out over the next few months since being able to deploy units while having cards to fight edge battles with is very desirable for the light side.

As for the dark side cards, these affiliations will be interesting to see in practice. Outside of the odd deck such as Force Hunters, almost all the best dark side decks are mono faction. Black Squadron fighter decks seem like an easy choice for Sith/Navy, and they could also do a bigger vehicle deck with the Sith Executor or based on shenanigans with the Emperor’s Shuttle. Scum/Navy can also tend towards vehicles with pilot Boba Fett and the navy fighters.

Dav Flamerock: It took me a while to figure out just how good 2-resource objectives are, and these are 2-resource objectives that never leave play! I’m going to assume that the Smugglers and Scum that are providing the other affiliations with an unreasonable wealth of money, which is how this is working out. The biggest weakness of these affiliations, I suppose, is the same weakness of any 2-resource objective: if you use it on a single turn, you lose access to it on the following turn. I think that weakness makes these the weakest of the new affiliations (not saying much) because it exacerbates the potential of getting affiliation-locked on any given turn. In general, I don’t consider getting affiliation-locked to be too much of a concern, despite the forced 5/5 split, but when you’re double-tapping your objectives (or affiliations) it’s surprisingly likely to happen if you’re not careful. If I have the Jedi “No Questions Asked,” and all my objectives flop into Smuggler… can I really afford to lock myself out of Jedi on the following turn?

That said, starting with a guaranteed 5 resources is pretty stellar, especially when that number can only go up if you have other 2-resource objectives. I think this will be least relevant for the dark side—how many resources does Scum really need, when their expensive units all already come with 2-resource objectives? Perhaps you can use this to reinforce a Vader/Xizor Black Sun Sith deck, but I find it more likely that the counterpart affiliations will be chosen in that case. On the flip side, this seems pretty incredible for light side. Not only are their 5-drops pretty important (Obi-Wan and Falcon often go into the same deck anyway!), but they have access to the Specter objectives that have influence to help make up for the possibility of overfocusing the affiliation card and getting locked out of Jedi (or Rebel). I think a new take on Falcon Jedi is very possible now with this affiliation, and being able to maximize the Falcon with the good Rebel characters sounds pretty appealing when you have The Last Warrior protecting your affiliation matches.

GreedoShotFirst: How they got it right: Ever want a turn 1 Darth Vader EVERY TIME? How about Palpatine? Two resources on a Sith Affiliation card now ensures precisely that every single time you play a deck with Vader in it (and Palpatine too if you get a little objective help). The advantage of this is of course that you no longer have to rely on pods that have 2 resource objectives, buying the whole pod and getting a hand full of ISB Liaisons or Imperial Inquisitors. Should you also happen to get at least 1 Scum objective (which the affiliation pairs in a 5/5 split), it could also means a turn 1 Xizor which in a meta full of Spark, having a unit with 2 guns and 2 tactics you can effectively deal with 3 units on the board with one strike. On light side, the Spark objectives which contain influence make the most glaring problem of these cards a non-issue. Explosives Artist and Stand Together as 2-ofs in decks with these affiliation cards essentially mean that the deck can operate at a 7/3 split without worry of being locked out of one of either affiliations. With the Jedi having 2 resources on a paired smuggler grouping also ensures a turn 1 Obi-Wan or Falcon as well (although, you are likely playing Ezra to do it). A Rebel objective with 2 resources also means a turn 1 Home One. It provides a nice 5 resources to play that awkward 3 drop Rebel main and their 2 cost chud. Utilizing Sabine in these decks will make for a good time especially since her Custom Paint Job is sure to skyrocket in value (just be sure to have enough pods with 3 units in them to balance it out). Moving forward in what appears to be a cycle that will encourage cross-affiliation play, having an advantage on your affiliation with no major penalty may mean the difference between winning at the final table or finishing as a runner up… again.

How they got it wrong: As I alluded to earlier, the worst part of these objectives lies specifically for the Dark Side.  There is the possibility that you can get locked out of one of your affiliations for the entirety of a game which would be massively frustrating. The advantage of having influence on an objective over not needing to use a specific affiliated cards to pay for things (such as Aphra in Rogue Archaeology) is that you can still get locked out of playing other cards with that affiliation (like Reconstruction). If this happens, a player would need to find Secret Information pretty early in a game. Moving forward, I certainly hope that there are some objectives coming for the Dark Side that have the influence keyword as I feel that it is critical for the affiliation cards to see play regularly on Dark Side. Now that I have stated the obvious, let us dive a little deeper into more advanced game play. Navy? Really? You gave the one affiliation which has NO ISSUES with ramping up resources a 2 resource affiliation. So, this may allow for an earlier Death Star? I also disagree with the pairing for Scum as they too have GREAT 2 resource objectives like Spice Trade and Masterful Manipulation. I suppose the board swarm with starting with 8 resources on turn 1 would keep up with a meta that is going Spark-crazy, but as mentioned earlier, is the possibility of getting locked out of one of your affiliations (albeit a small probability) worth it? I just don’t think there are that many great neutral objectives in the game. I suppose Mission Command and Palpatine luring people to the Dark Side or an Exectutor/Rav/Avenger build will make be a possibility for those set on playing these two resource affiliations.

Farsight: The two resource cards are not as interesting as the seven reserve ones but are still worth a look. Resourcing is a vital part of the game and being able to start with five guaranteed resources instead of four is a game changer for some decks. Being able to stick with 10 pods instead of 12 means you don’t lose consistency on objectives like you do with the seven reserve decks, but you still have the same issue with making sure that you have the right colors to pay for everything. I think these will be much more impactful for the light side than the dark side, since Navy and Scum in particular have enough two resource objectives to practically guarantee starts like this already, and those pods see lots of play – I would not expect to see much of these affiliations. On the other hand, for the light side having the money to pay for a turn one Falcon is a big deal, or just to play one of the many two-for-one resource enhancements we’ve got these days and still be able to drop a four cost main.

Rebel/Smugglers have plenty of things to spend that extra resource on, from the Falcon, Renegade Squadron, or capital ships like Home One. This could either be a vehicle deck or something more traditional with the falcon and characters. In the Jedi/Smuggler deck, I think those extra resources will mostly be used playing resource enhancements or letting you play characters while holding up money for effects like Bamboozle or Force Regeneration.

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