Written by Bill Yankosky (aka Yodaman)
For the past year or so, I Rebel has been kind enough to let me contribute articles about Star Wars: Destiny. As a college math professor, I’m always interested in doing some number crunching so most of my articles have focused on data and statistics. However, this time I decided to write about my experience leading up to, playing in, and ultimately making the Top 4 at the 2020 Destiny Prime at Game Theory in Raleigh, NC. As I started writing, I realized it things were getting long so I’ve decided to split this up into two separate articles. Welcome to Episode I of II.
I definitely consider myself a casually competitive player. While I certainly prefer winning over losing, ultimately my main goal whenever I play a game is to have fun and interact with people. Some of the most fun I’ve had playing Destiny has been in casual settings or drafts when you can have interactions that are really amusing and out of the ordinary. But, to be fair, I also enjoy playing in small local tournaments. Those are pretty relaxed and the social interaction is great. I consider tournaments a way to just challenge myself to play better. Many people play meta decks at them so there is still an element of good competition.
I’ve done well enough to win several local Destiny tourneys since the game was released, but I realize my own limitations. I harbor no illusion about getting to the level of supremely talented players like HonestlySarcastc (the player widely considered to be the best Destiny player in the World) or Agent of Zion (the fact he piloted Dryden Vos to a Top 4 finish at a major event still makes me shake my head in disbelief), so if you’re looking for some grand insight from a top player and their performance at a major event, you may want to stop reading here. However, if you’re interested in hearing the story about what an “everyday” player did to prepare for, play at and ultimately finish in the Top 4 at what turned out to be a relatively small Prime, hopefully, you’ll enjoy these two articles.
PREPARATION AND PLANNING
As my longtime screen name of Yodaman suggests, like Yoda, I’m older than I care to admit and a bit of a hermit. Traveling a long distance to play in a major event has never been and never will be on my radar. However, when I found out Game Theory in Raleigh, NC was going to host a Prime, I knew I would go to it to help support the store and the Raleigh Destiny community. The previous Regional held at Game Theory in 2018 was my first foray back into competitive Destiny after not playing in a tournament for over a year and a half. Even though it’s a good 45-50 minute drive from where I live in eastern North Carolina, Game Theory is one of the closest gaming stores to my house and I’ve been playing there regularly for over a year (basically since the last Regional). I’ve written about Game Theory in some of my other articles because I really enjoy the atmosphere at the store and the community there is great.
I play a fair amount of Destiny. About once a month I get together with my best friend Jerry at my house and we play in person. It wouldn’t surprise me if we’re the only 2 people in our small town of Wilson, NC who’ve even heard about the game. However, for about the past year when Jerry and I’ve gotten together, we’ve just actually played a bunch of 2 person draft games. We went in and bought a bunch of boxes of older sets (8 boxes to be exact) for cheap on Amazon and we still haven’t finished opening and drafting all of them yet. Those games are always a lot of fun, but drafting is certainly not the same as playing constructed.
I do make it out to Game Theory when my schedule permits to play with the amazing people out there. I also occasionally play on TTS against a couple of the guys I know from Game Theory, Joseph and Ben. However, the vast majority of Destiny games that I play are on TTS against my friend Derek (aka Queklaine) who lives in Oregon. Derek and I have known each other since our days playing the Star Wars LCG even though we’ve never actually met in person. Seeing the end of the Star Wars LCG was near, Derek and I both started playing Destiny when the game came out so it was natural for us to start playing games on TTS. We probably play 2-3 games of Destiny against each other most days each week.
Unlike me, Derek has always had a regular Destiny scene close to where he lives in Portland, Oregon. His local community includes the members of Dice Commando, Andrew and Mike (runner up at LVO), and they have weekly tournaments in their local area twice per week so the level of competition is pretty good. People say the only way to get better is to play people better than you and I think that statement is certainly true. Derek is definitely a better player than me and I’ve improved thanks to playing him. I think he’d say he’s gotten better by playing people like Andrew and Mike regularly. So there’s some sort of trickle-down effect from these interactions.
I regularly help Derek test for his weekly tournaments and for the Primes he attends. Whenever there is a monthly tourney coming up at Game Theory, he’ll help me test decks for those. Derek typically encourages me to play something he’s come up with so it can be tested in a competitive setting before he plays the deck at his events. That way we have more information and he can figure out if it needs further tweaks. In reality, my testing for the Game Theory Prime was really a by-product of helping Derek test for his regular weekly events and from me playing in the monthly tourneys held at Game Theory. All those games just led to some natural conclusions about what to play and what not to play.
In December I went to the monthly tournament at Game Theory and decided to take eSnoke/Mandalorian/Mudtrooper after watching a video of HonestlySarcastc piloting it to a Prime win. I went undefeated that evening and won the tourney. I liked the deck a lot, but figured Covert Missions would be out by the time Game Theory hosted its Prime so it wasn’t going to be an option. But, by the end of January, we unfortunately found out that Covert Missions wouldn’t be released before the Game Theory Prime. Shortly after that we found out that Derek’s last Prime in Oregon was also going to be held before Covert Missions would be legal. That made testing for our Primes much easier as we knew the main Spark of Hope meta decks and there were multiple decks that could do well (even if those were the same ones that had been around for months). We both were in a position to test things for our respective Primes knowing what the meta would be. I was leaning towards playing Snoke/Mando/Mud at the Game Theory Prime even though I felt like I’d be comfortable with most of the meta decks. Derek kept coming back to Ewoks, which he had played before at a Prime and really liked even though he just missed out on making the Top Cut with it.
At the end of January, I went to the monthly tournament at Game Theory. There was a Prime scheduled for two days later outside Charlotte, NC. Even though I knew I couldn’t go to Charlotte that weekend due to family obligations, several of the Game Theory regulars planned to make the trip. Because of that, I expected people to play meta decks at the local tourney to get some prep in for the Prime. Rather than play Snoke/Mando/Mud again, I figured I’d play 5-die Chopper Droids (eChopper/eC-3PO/R2) since I assumed the people going to Charlotte were likely to see it that at the Prime and it would help them test for it. We had 8 people that evening. I won my first two games easily with Chopper Droids and went to the last round against Jeff who was the other undefeated.
Jeff is a Game Theory regular who is a great player and friendly guy. He finished in 2nd place losing out to Menion Croll in the finals at the Northern Virginia Regional last Regional season. Jeff and I always have fun playing and chat a lot during our games. I sat down against him and saw he was playing eSnoke/eKallus/Order 66. Order 66 had always intrigued me and I knew Elrathion had done well with a version of the deck at LVO before he realized he had an illegal deck and had to drop (for those who don’t know Elrathion accidentally used Theed Royal Palace as his battlefield when he forgot to bring Salt Flats, but forgot it was restricted with Order 66), but I hadn’t really seen the deck in action and didn’t remember what was in it. I mainly knew I would have to play around Execute Order 66 in terms of how I sequenced things to make sure I didn’t have a bunch of droid dice on the table at once. Things started out rough for me and went downhill from there. Jeff did 4 damage to C-3PO round 1 thanks to Snoke’s PA on a Kallus die. He took resources with Snoke’s dice and even though I had been playing around Execute Order 66, he managed to flip into a 3 melee for 1 on Kallus with Salt Flats. I knew I was in trouble since I had no removal. But he caught me off guard when he then played Fear and Dead Men and did 3 to each of my characters. I had to reread the card when he played it because for some reason I thought it only worked on blue melee dice (probably due to it typically showing up in Vader3 and Maul2 decks) and never thought about it potentially being in the deck. To put it bluntly, Jeff absolutely crushed me in that game to win the tourney.
CHANGE OF PLANS
The day after losing to Jeff’s Snoke/Kallus/Order 66 deck, I got in touch with Derek and told him about the deck. It was something a bit different from the common meta decks so it seemed like a good option to explore. We found a few different versions on SWDestinydb and Derek and I each initially built our own versions to try. We tested things over the course of the next couple of weeks. Most of the cards were pretty common to all the decks we saw. There were a couple changes we made as we worked towards a single version for the two of us. Derek had pushed for removing Inflict Pain. He thought that against 3 character decks with a lot of health, it may end up being a dead card due to Snoke/Kallus having a lower health pool so we took that out. Even though the majority of decklists we saw didn’t use Fear and Dead Men, we went with 2 copies of that instead. All the decks seemed to use Doubt, but neither Derek nor I have been a big fan of that card since better removal came out. We both think there are too many times you don’t end up any better off after playing it. Also it’s really risky to play it on a die with focus sides (of which there are many now). We included 1 copy of Mind Extraction just for the potential of an auto-win against Palp3 decks if timed correctly because we expected to see Palp at any Prime we attended.
The deck seemed to be good against a variety of decks and didn’t seem to have a glaring bad match-up from what we could tell. When we played it against Ewoks(Chirpa/Ewokx5) and Plowoks(Plo/Hoth/Chirpa/Ewok) decks, the matchup seemed similar to what happened when we played Ewoks against other two character decks. Basically, if Ewoks or Plowoks could get a Target Acquired on Kallus early, they had a decent chance of winning. Without that, it just depended on whether or not the furballs drew into enough dice control to survive and damage cards to outrace Snoke/Kallus for damage. I was doing well with the Snoke/Kallus/Order 66 deck, but towards the end of our time testing I started losing against 5 die Chopper droids. That felt odd because Jeff had crushed my droids deck when he played Snoke/Kallus against it. After a few games of testing and losing, Derek suggested we switch decks and I played droids while he played Snoke/Kallus. The games were close, but Derek always seemed to find a way to win when he played Snoke/Kallus. We played the match-up several times, switching sides and it didn’t matter which side I played, I always ended up on the losing end. Derek couldn’t see anything I was doing that seemed wrong in terms of sequencing or plays, but I was convinced I clearly didn’t understand the match-up since I was losing it whichever side I played.
I had been pretty set on using Snoke/Kallus at the Prime, but I started to second guess that idea. I thought I might need to tweak it to help me in the Droids match-up and fit my own playstyle (I tend to be more cautious than Derek). One thing I did notice in the games I lost to Droids was how much damage Chewie’s Blaster did to me when it hit the table. We had initially left Act of Betrayal out of our deck list, but I suggested putting that in (I noticed Elrathion had included a copy), simply to help deal with things like Chewie’s Blaster since that would remove a big damage side on an upgrade and also deal that damage back. Derek thought that was a good idea and we pulled out a Scorched Earth to make room. Ultimately, we ended up with the following list about 11 PM the night before the Game Theory Prime. It was something very similar to what Derek had come up with in his initial take and something pretty close to Elrathion’s version. Salt Flats is the battlefield, but for some reason that got cut off in the image.
The night before the Prime, I sleeved up the Snoke/Kallus deck, a version of Plowoks and a version of 5-die Chopper Droids. Derek told me to just play the Snoke/Kallus deck because he thought most people wouldn’t have much experience against it and I had been doing well with it during testing except for the odd stuff that happened when I played it vs. droids. He thought everyone was tired of playing with and against droids so they weren’t worth playing either. He likes Ewoks, but he pointed out people could have tech cards to deal with them and also most people were more familiar with playing against Ewoks than against Snoke/Kallus. I digested his opinions, but I still wasn’t sure what to play and the Prime was now less than 12 hours away.
Being undecided only hours before the Prime was probably not the best idea, but I really thought I could do decent with any of the three decks. I had tested each of them in a bunch of games with Derek and I had also gotten some games in against Ben and Joseph on TTS the week leading up to the Prime. I figured I’d take all three decks with me and decide which one to play when I got to the store. I even downloaded the decklist slips from FFG’s site and filled out the decklist for each deck. That way I would be prepared no matter what I decided to play and wouldn’t have to rush to fill out the decklist when I got to Game Theory. It was pretty late by the time Derek and I had played a couple more games and finished talking about what I should play the night before the Prime, so I decided to head to bed and get some rest for the upcoming day. With any luck, I thought sleep would help me decide what to play when I woke up in the morning.
To Be Continued…
Thanks for reading and thanks to I Rebel for allowing me to contribute.
May the Force Be With You!