The Art of Drafting 2.1 The Strategy: the TARKIN Doctrine
Written by Kamper_SWDHK
One of the most well-known acronyms in the draft world is BREAD. While it works in Magic the Gathering, it does not apply word-to-word in Star Wars: Destiny. This chapter will walk you through the differences, and talk about how you should prioritize and strategize when you are selecting your 30 cards.
SW Destiny packs come with 1 card w/die, 1 uncommon, and 3 commons. To win a SW: Destiny game, you need dice, and you can draft AT MOST 6 good dice in your 30 card pool in most of your draft.
6 dice (Drafted) + 5 dice (Rivals: 1 from each color and 2 Gray) = 11 dice.
However, if you want to rainbow, you must spend one of your picks on drafting a character, thus reducing the number to 10.
That means that a rainbow deck can at most have ten good dice in your deck in most drafts.
Here you can see why committing to 2 colors can be extremely scary. Not only are you automatically 1 Rivals die short due to not fielding one of the three colors. Your first three picks in the 2nd round can all present you with 0 playable dice cards in the form of more characters that don’t fit what you committed to, upgrades of the forgone color, and unplayable dice (i.e. Gang Up).
Within the packs, there can be battlefields, plots, and utterly unplayable combo cards (i.e. Planned Explosion) and they eat up valuable slots. Cards that draw you more cards (i.e. Ancient Wisdom, Boundless Ambition) are not playable in drafts either.
Meanwhile, in Magic, you draft Bombs, stick to a color or two, and then you build around them. In any given pack, there can be easily 10+ cards that are threats and answers. In some drafts, you can even end up with more answers than threats, which lead to decking in a control mirror.
Right off the bat, you can see the main difference between the two games: in SW: Destiny, you can only draft six cards that push towards a winning condition recurrently in most games.
Most importantly, you can see the dice before you commit to anything. The winning conditions are all visible before you pick anything at all. That makes formulating a plan crucial to victory as you can plan your strategy with the next few picks in mind.
The first three picks should be spent on getting dice. Here we see the first problem: some dice cards suck, and you cannot rainbow to accommodate all the dice cards you draft. What should you do?
That brings us to the new acronym: TARKIN.
Building a functional team wins you the game right there.
Ø Character dice come onto the board for free and do most of the heavy lifting.
Ø Having access to 3, or even 4, quality character dice can easily win you the game, regardless of what upgrades you have managed to find during the draft.
Small characters also open the door to drafting prominent characters like Darth Vader(Awakenings) in a pinch. Sometimes people pass on viable fat characters because their packs are drowning in characters. Take them if they are good because if you have a small character, Jawa Scavenger can often join and make the team. Darth Vader(Awakenings), Rebel Trooper, and Jawa build a strong team.
Team trumps everything in a draft. There are a few approaches you can consider when you put together your team, with 1 being the best, and 3 being the least desirable.
- Draft Cheap Characters
- Any characters who cost 9 or less can make a rainbow team with Rivals. This is your priority. A yellow character which costs 10 can make a rainbow team as well.
- If you draft two 7-cost characters, you can go 4-wide, and 4-wide wins games. If you start the game with more HP and a higher damage ceiling than your opponent, you usually win.
- If you find a 10 cost Red like Admiral Ackbar, don’t be afraid to plan around Red Blue with Ackbar/Lobot/Anakin. Ackbar can be brutal in drafts.
- Look around to spot a combo
- Will your next pack contain a cheap character (i.e. your neighbor finds a First Order Stormtrooper AND a Guavian Enforcer in their pack)? If so, it opens up the possibility of drafting a heavy hitter. In Legacies, for example, you would love to recruit Obi-Wan Kenobi – Jedi Master because his ability is hard to beat in drafts. At 15, however, you will need a 9-cost character to facilitate a 3-dice team with Young Obi-Wan in it. Pay attention to what others might pass you: sometimes even a 15-cost character can be your first pick! You may also hit the elite jackpot in the 2nd round!
- Pick a Carry
- Any characters who cost 13 or lower can make a 3-dice 2-color team with Jawa+1. To offer some context, General Grievous is a rock-solid pick at 13. He brings a lot to the table, and his ability is more than relevant in a draft. A non-yellow character who cost 14 or lower can make a 3-dice 2-color team as well. Grand Inquisitor is playable in drafts.
- Wait for Round 2
- This is entirely viable when you are presented with an 11 cost character or a 15+ with no combo in sight.
You need to build your arsenal after your team is set. Dice cards are more critical in drafts than in other formats because they present threats when your opponent has limited access to quality removals. A handful of non-dice cards can be considered part of the Arsenal as well. They are all conducive to a mill victory.
Here are a few pointers for dice cards:
> Draft support first
Supports do not leave play with dead characters, and they often come with 2+ black damage sides. They are safe and robust investments in drafts. Draft them over the upgrades you may find if they are of the same quality.
Vehicles are even better as the tag is relevant. ‘Refit’ may be of little use to an upgrade-centric draft, but it is rock solid when you have multiple impactful vehicles, primarily as your last few picks.
> Draft redeploy weapons
They do not leave play with dead characters either but they often come with modifiers. Modifiers are unreliable in drafts. Do prioritize the Vibrocutlass and Z-6 Riot Batons as these two melee weapons come with all black sides and the redeploy keyword.
> Bigger tends to be better
You need much luck to curve out in the draft. Most of the time, you do not get punished for gathering resources and doing 0 damage in a round, so the huge vehicles and supports are wonderful choices. Making money in the first two rounds and playing your first vehicle after resolving the character dice in round 2 can still win you the game if the support you are putting out is a Launch Bay or an AT-ST.
Regarding non-dice cards:
You should never draft this ahead of premium dice cards as committing fully to a mill strategy is utterly unnecessary in drafts. If you field quality supports/upgrades with even a faint hint of discard (i.e. Ketsu Onyo suffices), mill victory will be a reality. Lying in Wait is a winning condition all by itself and should be considered a low-tier weapon.
Other mill bombs are not nearly as crucial as they do not necessarily finish the game the way Lying in Wait does.
Removals are crucial to success in drafts because by removing the black damage die, you often render the modifiers useless as well. Removals are so much more potent in drafts because consistency tends to come from character dice and there is not enough of those in the draft format.
The best removals are the ones that are cheap and effective, much like the standard format. The fact that you can draft as many of the same cards as you want means that you can end up with more than 2 Doubts. If the opportunity arises, take it. There is no such thing as diminishing marginal return in drafts because every good card you draft replaces a bad one from the Rivals set.
You will be surprised by how good some of the ‘unplayable cards’ are in drafts. Cards such as Disable should be considered a tier 2 removal because the Fang Fighter is a winning condition and this card mitigate it for free. Following the same line of thought, Strategic Planning is another rock solid card in drafts.
Perhaps mind-blowing to some, Dark Scheme and cards with similar effect can be considered a removal as well. Looking at the top 5 and removing the best and sometimes only dice card from them is extremely potent. Your opponent will be drowning in resources while you freely upgrade with all your resources because his/her 3 character dice can barely pose any threats.
Do you know what is better than the temporary mitigation we affectionately call removals? Killing your opponent’s character.
The whole idea of these cards is that it extends your reach beyond the mathematical limitation of your dice. However, in drafts, your dice are REALLY limited. If your damage cannot hit critical mass (like 1~2 points off lethal), these cards are not nearly as sexy.
Moreover, hit point (HP) is not a scarce resource in drafts. Almost everyone has upwards of 25 Hit Points, and we usually do an insignificant amount of damage in the first few rounds in most games. While cards like Backup Muscles can often threaten to deal the lethal blow in standard as the “haha I got you” card, they can seldom have the same impact in draft games.
Besides, because of how long games tend to go, cards that give value instantaneously (i.e. Lightsaber Throw and Intimidate) are not nearly as good as cards that keep on giving benefit as long as they stay in play (dice). Value tech-cards like Intimidate can max out at 1 card for 3 damage, but a removal can often do even more in draft games when you nullify their modifiers. Therefore, these cards are straightly worse than removals in the draft.
Healing/Shielding fall into this category as well. You can think of them as reverse damage.
In SW Destiny, some powerful cards are situational. A draft is so slow that you have the time to set up the situation for your Defensive Position, I Am Your Father, and even It Will All Be Mine to shine. Moreover, these cards are the real bombs of Destiny because once they go off, you win the game. While these events are impactful, they are not as scarce as dice cards and quality removals. They do not go off every game. Therefore you should not draft too many of them.
Do make sure that you value them appropriately because you should draft them ahead of the Nice-to-haves.
These are cards like Enrage, Friends in Low Places, Truce, Logistics. They are excellent cards in standard because resources can be converted to dice efficiently, and targeted discard can remove game-swinging removals and even combos in standard.
However, in Draft, resources are often turned into inefficient weaponry. Because of how rare dice cards are and how bad the dice themselves are, you can seldom spend all your resources and stay on curve.
Even when you are short money, your resource-generating cards are often less impactful. Instead of playing a Truce into resolving your X-8 Night Sniper 3 Ranged Damage for 1 Resource with your two Bala dice showing +2 Ranged Damage for 7 Ranged Damage, in drafts you play a Truce into resolving Anakin’s 2 Melee Damage for 1 Resource and nothing else. The impact just isn’t the same.
Cards like Friends in Low Places are only nice-to-haves as well because you are not hitting Guard in an R2P2(eRey2/ePoe2) deck. You are hitting the likes of Targeting Computer. I am not even sure if that is worth it in some games. While it still protects your dice, they do not really win you games like they do in standard.
The TARKIN Doctrine is not meant to be a be-all and end-all guide to drafting. It is a valid strategy that can help you through a few drafts until you get the hang of it. I hope you like and feel free to leave a comment below!
Special thanks to Matt@SWDHK and his young padawan Alex who came up with the acronym TARKIN. It would not be nearly as cool if this were not called TARKIN Doctrine!