Worlds 2017 Day One: Swiss

As Day One wraps up, we should congratulate the players who made the top cut. A significant contingent from the Minneapolis metagame have made a remarkable showing, bringing five players into the cut, even some who are brand-new players. Of the other players in the top sixteen, there are a number of returning faces: Norman Horn, Nate Ferraro, Tom Melucci, Nate Nuhring. Team Aether Cafe have also pushed themselves into the cut, with Colby Bennardo, James Sin Lau, and Donovan McFeron poised to compete for the prize. And after many years of dedicated attempts, the British contingent have proved that they’re as good as any American: both Andy Hornby (FullyOps) and Callum Gillespie are the 9th and 10th seeds this year.

In six exhilarating rounds (which I did not place in the top half of), a sense of the Worlds metagame is emerging. While there are decks of many varieties, only a few are standing out as worthy of the top tables. Sith decks splashing Scum for powerful mains such as Xizor and Bane Malar are decently common, and there are more than a few Rebel Capital Ship decks. Yet the dark side diversity that was espoused last year seems to have dried up in favor of two and a half basic strategies:

  • Black Sun Sith or Force Hunters, which fields Sith Mains backed up by Xizor, Zekka, Bane Malar, and some Scum support
  • Navy Fortress, which defends with Gladiators while Tarkin, Yularen, and Chimaera simultaneously drag the game on and push towards the dark side victory condition
  • Death Star Ramp, which uses the Death Star’s objective and engineers to make Gladiators and the Chimaera even more efficient and effective, as edge battles become a nightmare and Star Destroyers refuse to ever be locked down.

I said “two and a half” strategies because the difference between Navy Fortress and Death Star Ramp is incredibly slim—both revolve around maximizing the Gladiator-class Star Destroyers and often share their defining objective sets (you might have a Fortress deck that splashes a Death Star, or a Ramp deck that prolongs the game with Yularen). The Death Star pod might seem like it’s a liability when it has no real units, but it turns out that the ability to consistently supply enough resources to flood the board with Gladiators can make it very difficult for the opponent to attack, and using Engineers as one-turn Gladiators is enough to make them earn their pay. That the Gladiators can simultaneously threaten two Twists (from Tarkin) and two five-pip Death Stars makes edge battles a nightmare, so games tend to drag on and that’s when Yularen is at his best.

The Black Sun Sith/Force Hunters lists are fairly standard returns from previous World Championships, but in a world where Spark runs the show, having access to lots of removal and Shadows of the Empire becomes fairly effective.

This leads us into the light side metagame that seems to have emerged in this year’s Worlds: the two decks one expected to see are mono-Jedi or Falcon-Jedi variants alongside Spark decks revolving around Kanan, Zeb, and Hera. Both are very well-represented, and while some players actually saw very few Spark decks, most of the Spark decks that did play didn’t find themselves in the losing position very often. One can Spark in only a single good unit (like a Zeb or Guardian of Peace) and still win the game off of that unit.

We’ll see how the decks fare out during the top 16 tomorrow, but anecdotal evidence points to a strong negative sense among the players that Spark and the Death Star are the two standout pods that springboard their respective decks to Tier-1 status, more effective than every other deck on their side of the Force. For myself, I regret not playing Spark because it’s just stronger than typical Jedi decks, even when it doesn’t flop the Spark of Rebellion objective. I felt like my Black Sun Sith deck did what I needed it to (it was fun getting to play with Core Vader again), but playing a traditional Jedi deck, even with Hera, was just too slow and durdly to be able to deal with the ominous board presence that appeared from three Gladiators backed up by Twist and the Death Star.

Check in with us tomorrow on Twitter to follow the Top 16, and at 2:30pm there will be games live-streamed on the FFG Live channel!

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