Written by Bill Yankosky (aka Yodaman)
While there have been a few GQs and other large events over the past few months, it is fair to say that Star Wars: Destiny is currently experiencing a lull in high-level competitive events, especially in the U.S. However, just because there haven’t been many high-level competitive events lately doesn’t mean that Destiny isn’t being played.
I live in a somewhat rural area in eastern North Carolina and the closest gaming stores are about 50 miles away in Raleigh. Due to family obligations, work and distance, it has been difficult for me to get involved with a local Destiny community. For most games, including Destiny, local communities are the lifeblood of the game. Strong local communities can provide welcoming environments for players of all levels to come and meet others who have a common interest. Many local communities are continuing to thrive thanks to great community leaders and stores dedicated to supporting the game. One local community that seems to be thriving is based at Game Theory in Raleigh, NC thanks to the efforts of two outstanding community leaders, Ryan Mahon and Ben vonBlun. During this downtime they have both come up with some creative ideas to keep things fresh and motivate players to come out week after week to roll some dice.
Thursdays at Game Theory
I knew from the North Carolina Destiny Facebook group that Game Theory in Raleigh, NC had held regular Thursday night Destiny events pretty much since the game came out. However, the first time I made the trip out there for one was last December when they had a “Regional prep” open play night on the Thursday before their Regional. When I got there I saw Ryan, whom I had met a couple years ago at some Destiny events held at a different store. He immediately introduced me to other people and everyone made me feel welcome. The experience was so positive, I left that evening determined to find a way to coordinate things on my end so I could make the trip more regularly. I’m pleased to say that I have been able to do that for the past 6 months and have enjoyed every minute of it.
Not surprisingly, there was a large turnout at the “Regional prep” night and the Regional itself had 49 players. When there’s a major event like that to prep for and play in, it’s easy to attract players and get them to come play games at a store. It can be difficult to maintain player momentum after the event is held though. However, Ryan has done a great job keeping people involved.
Ryan took over as the community leader for Destiny at Game Theory after a spot had opened up not long before the Regional was held. Up until then, they had been holding weekly Standard tournaments. Ryan felt like that approach was leading to player attrition overall. He thought that people tended to bring their best decks week after week since there was always a standard tournament being held and that meant people also often end up getting tired of playing against the same decks over and over again. Ryan decided to make some changes in an attempt to both bring people back and attract some new players.
Ryan knew that there were certainly people who wanted to get in competitive games, but also realized holding casual events was necessary too in order to grow the player base. He decided to just have one standard tournament a month rather than holding them weekly. On the other Thursday nights he would mix in open play nights, theme nights and drafts. Weekly raffles were introduced so everyone has a chance to win something Star Wars related just by showing up.
There’s even been a Star Wars Trivia Night where the Destiny and X-Wing players got together to compete and win prizes based on their knowledge of Star Wars. In an effort to help build the community, Ryan also regularly does a player Spotlight where he highlights a player in the community, asks them to answer some questions, and puts their responses and a photo on the Star Wars: Destiny NC Facebook page. Ryan also knew that some people have trouble making it out during the week to play and made arrangements with Game Theory to hold an event one Saturday a month called Destiny and Donuts. If you feed them, they will come!
The Emperor’s Cup and Rancor Pit Invitational!
Destiny players come in all forms. It can be difficult for a local community to find a way to balance the interests of both the highly competitive players in the group and those who would rather play for fun and create thematic decks. Ryan came up with a clever way to try to find that balance that seems to have worked. He decided to tie in attendance with a 6 month low-key competition and ending tournament. These have been thematically named the Emperor’s Cup and the Rancor Pit Invitational Tournament.
The inaugural Emperor’s Cup “season” at Game Theory began in January and will end the last week in June. Ryan created this system as a way to encourage people to play games. People are rewarded for coming out and playing each week even though there were no longer weekly tournaments. Simply by showing up and playing at least one game each week, you earn one point. For each tournament, bonus points for the Emperor’s Cup season are awarded based on performance. First place in a tournament earns 5 points, second place earns 4 points, third and fourth each earn 3 points. At the end of the season, the top 16 players in terms of points will get to play in the first Rancor Pit Invitational Tournament. That event is scheduled for July 13 and will be a standard tournament with a best of 3 format.
In addition to the monthly tournaments, there have been draft tournaments and theme nights (both in open play and for tournaments) where you could earn points. The themes have been lots of fun. These have included themes such as:
Ladies Night – Character teams had to include only female characters.
“For the Love of Lobot” – Play at least one game with a deck that included Lobot and you got a bonus point for the week.
“Droids Just Want to Have Fun” – Play at least one game with a deck with that included a droid character and you got a bonus point.
“Traitor” – You could mix hero and villain characters on your team, but your deck had to be declared hero or villain and only include the side you declared and neutral cards.
“Free-For-All Battle Royale” – Everyone brought a single, non-unique character and deck of 20 cards and went at it in groups of five since we had 10 people show up that night. (These were some of the most hysterical games of Destiny I’ve ever played.)
“No Vader, no Cry Tournament” – This was at the height of Vader domination. Every card with Vader or Anakin in the title was banned.
Adding League Play into the Mix
Of course, like Han had with Chewie, it’s always good to have a trusted co-pilot to help keep things moving along. Enter Ben, who coordinated things with Ryan to also introduce leagues in with what Ryan had set up on Thursday nights. When Ryan first became community leader at Game Theory, Ben and Ryan spoke about how to potentially add in league play with the theme nights. Like Ryan, Ben had thought the continuous grind of playing standard tournaments every week was draining enthusiasm for the game. Ben thought adding in some league play could get people to come to the store and have fun by focusing on different formats, such as sealed, or creating achievements for people to chase during league games. Whether you play league games or other games for fun, you still earn points for the Emperor’s Cup as long as you play one game at the store that evening. Ben said he got some league ideas from well-known members of the larger Destiny community like Pearl Yeti and Smerle via Discord and went to work.
The first “League” began the week the Obi-Wan and Grievous starter sets came out and was essentially a sealed format with a bit of flexibility. The League was set up to run for 5 weeks and you could play as many games each week as you wanted, with the restriction that you couldn’t play the same opponent twice in one week. Players got rewarded just for playing games because you got 2 points for a win and 1 point for a loss. Regular sealed/draft deckbuilding rules were in place (so you could include hero and villain cards, but still had to follow color restrictions, you could have more than 2 copies of cards in your deck, and decks had to be 20-30 cards). You could build decks with one of either the Obi starter, Grievous starter, Rivals or Allies of Necessity as the base for the deck. Each week you were allowed to get 2 packs of Convergence and 1 pack of Awakenings to your card pool. One nice thing was you could change what starter deck you were using each game if you wanted. If you played a game with the Obi set as your base and the rest of your card pool and it just didn’t work, you could switch to the Grievous starter deck as your base the next game. Game Theory was even willing to let people buy Awakenings packs at half-price in an effort to get it off their shelves. This was a great way to get people started with the game since the initial investment was relatively inexpensive and each person basically was on the same level playing field in terms of the card pool available.
We are now in the middle of the second league that Ben has organized. This league uses standard constructed decks, but has a series of achievement to shoot for in order to earn points. Like the previous league you get points just for playing games no matter your result, but get extra points for wins. You can play people multiple times in the same week in this league. There are 21 achievements you can get points for each week, 21 achievements that everyone can earn 1 points for just one time during the entire league season and 10 unique achievements that everyone can get points for once per season, but the first three players to complete them get 5 points rather than 1. For example, here are some of the things we’re currently striving for at Game Theory.
- Play a game with a mono deck = 1 point. Win with a mono deck = 2 points.
- Play a game with a 3+ character deck = 1 point. Win with a 3+ character deck = 2 points.
- Play a deck with a plot = 1 point. Win with a deck with a plot = 2 points.
- Play a Trilogy deck = 1 point. Win with a Trilogy deck = 3 points.
- Win by mill = 2 points.
- Win 5 games in a single week = 3 points.
You can actually complete multiple achievements within a single game. During the first week, I played an Elite Phasma3/Trooper/Advanced deck and won with it. In one game, I was able to complete 8 of the once per week achievements and earn 13 points!
Season Achievements include things like discard to reroll 10+ dice in one action, have 6+ upgrades in play at one time, defeat a character without resolving a die and win a game with a character at full health.
The 10 unique achievements not only earn 5 points for the first three players who complete them but also come with a special deck box decal. Each week I’ve built some decks to try to get these and have completed 7 of the 10 so far. For 6 of them, I was one of the first 3 people to do so which meant I got the extra 5 bonus points and the decals. The unique achievements I’ve completed are:
- Have 4 TIE Fighters in play in 2 separate games.
- Have 4 X-Wings in play (I used Double Down in the deck I built for this to have 5 in the deck and increase my chances of drawing them).
- Reset the Falcon with L3-37.
- Have 9+ upgrades on Palpatine – Unlimited Power (I actually managed to get 12 on him in one game, it’s fun rolling so many dice).
- Have 9+ trooper dice in your pool at one time (I did this with my ePhasma3/Trooper/Advanced Trilogy deck, that deck was a point machine!)
- Deal 24 damage with Leia – Boushh specials.
- Deal 15+ damage with Vader3 in one action.
How I’ve Been Doing
The first league was a lot of fun. It was interesting to see how people adapted to the sealed environment and we saw some pretty neat combos when Awakenings cards were allowed to be played with Convergence cards. Even though I kept adding packs, the dice cards I got in them basically led me to playing with the Grievous deck as my base. I kept opening characters that just didn’t work. The first week I pulled a Phasma, Kes Dameron and Outpost. I put Kes in with Grievous and a Commando Droid and just splashed in a few other cards including a Hit and Run that I had pulled in my Awakening pack and went 3-2. The next week I pulled more characters including Ventress and the original Awakenings Grievous. I stuck with my starter Grievous3/Commando/Kes deck and went 3-2 again. Week 3 was also the week of the monthly tournament so I only got one game in that night before the tourney started. I pulled a Chewie and his Blaster along with a First Order Stormtrooper in my Awakenings pack. I was seduced by pulling both the Wookiee and his weapon so I figured I should try them and take a break from playing mono Red. That did not go well and I lost the only game I played. The next week, no longer blinded by pulling the Chewie/Blaster combo in my 2 Convergence packs the week before, it hit me that I could actually go with a 4-die start of Grievous3/Commando/Commando/Trooper and start with a whopping 30 health (32 when I took the shields). I still hadn’t drawn any good dice cards to pair with the team so I relied heavily on the cards in the starter set as I had done since the start. That was the turning point in my league campaign. After adding the Trooper to my team and returning to mono-Red, I ended up going 8-1 the last two weeks of the League and came in first place! Pulling another Hit and Run and also a Field Medic in packs the last two weeks didn’t hurt my cause. I’m still a bit surprised that I was apparently the only person who pulled a First Order Stormtrooper during the entire run of the league even though they were in both Convergence and Awakenings packs.
The unique achievements component in the 2nd league has made for some hilarious interactions and negotiations. There have been lots of “gentleman’s agreements” among players to help people succeed and not intentionally use silver bullet cards to stop each other. Everyone seems willing to do that because it’s definitely a casual “competition”. The first week, I played someone who was running a 5 die deck and I got my single copy of the Falcon on the table, but hadn’t been able to kill off my own L3 yet. He drew a Vandalize, but rather than Vandalize my Falcon, he Vandalized the R2 Astromech I had put on the Falcon to give me a chance to try to get L3 on it (which I eventually did). In one game when I was trying to get TIE Fighters on the table, I was playing someone who actually had “Mauler” Mithel on his team of all characters! I got 3 TIES on the board and was going to play my 4th on my next turn. He had rolled into damage with a vehicle and could have used it to take out a TIE before I played the 4th, but instead dealt the damage to my Watto to defeat him and I got out the 4th TIE for the second time and completed the achievement. To return the favor I played games against people trying to complete unique achievements involving Chewie (which is using his Guardian ability to eventually guardian 20+ damage total over multiple games) and Han (which involved revealing 7 hero and 7 villain cards total with his special over multiple games) and agreed not to target Chewie or Han with damage until they were the only characters left for my opponent in order to give them the chance to make progress to their achievements (both of my opponent’s were able to complete them over the course of a couple games). To be honest, I’m not even sure how many points I have earned so far. We are keeping track of our own results on paper everyone received to track things and are expected to complete it via an “honor system”. I’ve been having so much fun, I feel like I’m on Who’s Line Is It Anyway and the points don’t matter!
As far as the Emperor’s Cup and Rancor Cup Invitational Tournament, I am comfortably inside the top 16 in the overall standings (I’m currently 7th) and I have already mathematically qualified for the big event. Going to the store regularly has been a lot of fun, kept my interest and paid off in terms of the result even though I actually missed 2 of the monthly tournaments due to conflicts and didn’t have the chance to try to earn bonus points at them. A couple top 4 tourney finishes haven’t hurt either 🙂
Ultimately, Ryan and Ben’s efforts have paid off. Weekly attendance at Game Theory has increased since the changes have been made and there are regularly 10-12 people in attendance each week. Some of the tournaments and weekend events have had 16 players or more. People no longer seem to be burned out and are willing to try creative decks rather than focus only on the “best decks” since there aren’t weekly tournaments any longer at the store. The competitive players still have something play for thanks to the monthly tournaments, the Emperor’s Cup and Rancor Pit Invitational. Over the course of the Emperor’s Cup “season” nearly 40 different people have earned points which means they’ve all come to Game Theory and played some Destiny over the past several months. That includes people of all ages and gender.
If you’re ever in the Raleigh, NC area on a Thursday night, make sure to head over to Game Theory to play some Destiny. You’ll find a great group of people there and have a blast rolling dice and playing cards. This local community is as strong as ever and you never know who may show up!