Written by Bill Yankosky (aka Yodaman)
Following the 4 month delay between the end of the Hoth cycle and the release of the Balance of the Force deluxe box, there was another 2 month gap before FFG finally started releasing the Echoes of the Force cycle. The 6 month delay between the end of a cycle and the beginning of the next one certainly impacted to popularity of the game. The cycle itself included very powerful cards and mechanics. Unfortunately, it also introduced in the opinion of many, including myself, the most broken combo that ever existed in the game as well as several cards that were so powerful they had to receive errata.
Choose Your Fate
As the title of the cycle suggested, many cards in the Echoes of the Force cycle focused on the Force Struggle, the Balance of the Force and committing units to the Force. Two new fate cards were specifically designed to interact with these aspects of the game.
Normally, a player can only commit a unit to the Force during the Force Struggle phase. This fate card allows a player to either commit a unit to or remove a unit from the Force during an edge battle. The card can be used in a multitude of ways since you can use it on your own units or your opponent’s. You could commit a non-elite unit to take Balance, and then use Echoes to free it up before it would strike and avoid getting 2 focus tokens on it. You could commit an opponent’s unit with the card and cause it to double focus when it strikes. You could also use it to combo with the other fate card introduced in the cycle, Seeds of Decay.
The Dark Side’s M.O. in the early days of the game was to play powerful units like Vader or Palpatine, commit them to the force and then just control the game by having them available for defense. The Seeds of Decay fate card allows you to place a focus token on a ready unit committed to the Force. This card could shut down a committed Palpatine before he could use his tactics or Vader before he could use all of his guns. You could combo it with the Echoes fate card and commit something, then focus it with Seeds during the same edge battle since Echoes resolves before Seeds, or keep one of your own committed units from being hit with Seeds by resolving Echoes on your own unit to remove it from the Force first. The interactions of Echoes and Seeds carried on throughout the life of the game even though Seeds is usually recognized as the more powerful of the two fate cards.
Force Resource Enhancements
The cycle also introduced Force resource enhancement cards. These resource generating enhancements allow for resource acceleration if timed properly. They cost 2 resources to play and generate 2 resources, but you can remove a focus token from the enhancement after winning a Force Struggle. When the first one of these, Experimental Tech Lab, appeared in the Navy objective set Dark Trooper Project. Players immediately took notice and saw how good they were. Fortunately, every affiliation got a version of this card at some point during the cycle so there was some semblance of balance and fairness.
Dark Side got a few notable standout cards and sets.
This set featured fan favorite Mara Jade, who was initially introduced to the Star Wars universe in the Legends novel Hier to the Empire, written by Timothy Zahn. The set quickly became a popular inclusion in dark side decks. Playing off the Force Struggle theme, while the objective is undamaged, when you commit a Sith unit to the Force, you can place a focus token on an enemy unit. Mara has a good spread of combat icons and while she’s committed to the Force she gains Elite, Shielding and Targeted Strike. Her set also includes Mara’s Lightsaber, which automatically makes Mara considered to the Force. This means you could get her benefits without having to use a Force commit card on her. The set includes the Imperial Shadow Guard which protects units committed the Force to help keep Mara and other powerful units alive and in combination with the Emperor’s Royal Guard from the core Palpatine objective set, the dark side player could make it difficult to near impossible for the light side to take out main units. Rage is a powerful 2 cost Sith event that lets you remove up to 2 focus tokens from a unit committed to the Force as long as the Dark Side has the Balance of the Force. This event could set up powerful double striking capabilities on offense of defense. Core Palpatine could use this to potentially place 6 tactics on units!
While the main unit in this set, Sariss, has long been the target of criticism due to her high cost and low health, the rest of the set features some pretty powerful cards. The objective causes each enemy unit committed to the Force to lose 1 icon. In addition to just helping dar side keep the force, it set up a combo with another card in the set, the powerful Deadly Sight. Deadly Sight causes a unit to lose 2 force icons until the end of a phase and destroys the unit if the reduction puts the unit at 0 force icons. The set also includes the Seeds of Decay fate card and the Sith version of the Force resource enhancement, Dark Temple.
While Scum got a few decent sets, in my opinion, this is the one set that really stood out. The objective lets you capture a card from the top of your opponent’s deck after you win a Force Struggle. Coupled with the Tatooine Crash objective, players could really mess with the light side plans by capturing cards. Even though you have to return a captured card to your opponent if you lose the Force Struggle, the main in the set, Zygerrian Slaver, helps mitigate that. The Slaver lets you give a captured card back to your opponent in order to draw 2 cards. The set also includes 2 copies of the non-unique unit, Galactic Scum. These 1 cost, 3 health units come with 1 black gun and 1 white tactics, making them cheap efficient blockers who seemed like a direct counter to the popular “Unblockables” decks that had been prevalent in the meta before the Echoes of the Force cycle was released. They do have the downside of automatically taking a damage whenever the dark side loses a Force Struggle, but for 1 cost, it’s worth the risk. The set also contains the Scum version of the force resource enhancement, Slaver Holding Cells.
In general, while Dark Side got some powerful cards in the Echoes cycle that saw play for quite some time, they were nothing compared to some of cards Light Side received The LS received cards in the Echoes of the Force cycle which changed and impacted the game forever. Cards received errata and one combo was so overpowered that it led to the establishment of a restricted list for the game. While there were other good LS sets and cards in the cycle, the following ones defined that era of the game and many were still widely played throughout the lifetime of FFG’s support for the Star Wars LCG. We’ll actually work backwards a bit and start with some cards that helped Mick Cipra win his first of 2 Star Wars LCG World Championships.
These two enhancements found in the Jedi sets Ties of Blood and A Deep Commitment respectively, both ended up receiving errata. Native Support lets you remove a shield from a unit to remove a focus token from it or an Ewok unit. Asteroid Base allows you to remove a shield from a unit to give it a black blast (objective damage). As originally written these abilities are essentially unlimited. The ET-74 Communications Droids from A Deep Commitment allow you to put a shield on a friendly unit after you remove a shield from another unit. Coupled with cards like Covering Fire from the core set objective Mobilize the Squadrons, which allows you to sacrifice a unit to give all your other units a shield as well as Force Barrier from A Deep Commitment, which just gives all your unshielded units and objectives a shield. Asteroid Base could be used to effectively give all your units extra black blast and Native Support could be used to free all the Ewoks up to strike again. Mick Cipra used this impressive combo to win his first of two Star Wars LCG World Championships. He built a “Destroy the Death Star deck” based on the alternate win condition on Trench Run. Mick used the combos to give his units multiple extra blast damage and was able to one-shot the Death Star throughout his tournament games and ultimately win the 2014 World Championship. Shortly after that, both Native Support and Asteroid Base, not surprisingly, ended up receiving errata making their abilities “Limit once per turn”.
For those who want to relive the magic and see just how crazy the combos were when they went off, here’s a video of Mick’s Star Wars LCG finals win in 2014.
An iconic phrase from the Star Wars universe led to an iconic set in the Star Wars LCG. This set is widely considered to be the best set ever printed in the Star Wars LCG. From the time it was printed until the end of FFG’s official support for the game, this set ended up in almost every light side deck making top cuts at major championships, despite being nerfed multiple times. As originally written, the objective allows you to remove all focus tokens from a unit after you commit it. Eventually, the objective received errata to make it limit once per turn, since being able to potentially play 3 units, use them on offense, commit them, then free all of them up for defense was way too good. Even then, the objective still eventually ended up on the restricted list because of other powerful interactions with other sets and cards that came out later.
If the objective ability was the only good thing about the set, it might have been a different story, but the set is full of great cards. A 2nd version of Yoda is the main of the set and this little green guy is vastly superior to his original core version. He has 3 health rather than 2, has a black tactics and black blast as his combat icons and also gains a black gun for each point on the Death Start Dial. Late game, this Yoda can go into an engagement with 8-10 guns which is enough to one shot even the biggest DS unit, the Executor. The set also contains the Dagobah Nudj, a free creature that has 2 force icons and reduces the Death Star dial by 1 when it enters play, allowing the LS player to slow the game down and build a board. If the Nudj leaves play, the Death Star dial increases by 1, but that just helps pump up Yoda with more guns. Just in case you’re worried about drawing your Yoda, the set includes Yoda, You Seek Yoda, a 2 cost event that lets you search your deck for Yoda, increase the Death Star Dial by 1 and put him into play. The set also contains a copy of the neutral resource enhancement in Dagobah Training Grounds and, just for good measure, a copy of the Seeds of Decay fate card. This set has every tool the light side could really every want.
This objective set earns the distinction of being the only set ever created in the Star Wars LCG to be changed to a Limit 1 per deck set after initially being released as a set which players could use 2 copies of it in their deck. At first glance, people will notice there is a lot of text on the objective itself, but it quickly became clear as to how powerful the ability was. After the Force phase begins, the light side player uses the ability on the objective to look at the top card of their deck and count the Force icons on that card towards the Force Struggle. If the LS wins the Force Struggle, they get to add the card to their hand. If they lose it, they discard it. Savvy players were able to use Gamor to get card advantage and combo it with May the Force be with you in order to guarantee a Force Struggle win and extra card. It also allows light players to sometimes keep balance on the first turn when they flip a card with at least as many icons as the dark side player has on the table. Gamor includes two copies of Hired Hands, a one cost unit with 3 health and three combat icons including a white tactics. The Hired Hands do have to be discarded if the LS player loses the Force Struggle, but they have incredible value. The main in the set, Hyperspace Maurader, synergized well with the Hired Hands. When the Maurader is committed to the Force and light side wins a Force Struggle, they can put a unit that costs 1 or less into play from their hand or discard pile so even if you lose a Hired Hands, there’s a way to get it back. To help win the Force Struggle after the light side got units out, the 0 cost event Make Your Own Luck gives a unit 3 extra force icons during the Force Struggle. To round things out, Gamor also includes the Smuggler Force Resource enhancement, the Deneba Refueling Station. Being able to have 2 copies of the set with the cheap units and a crazy ability to help win Force with an extra card, in combination with other objectives was clearly too powerful. It was no wonder FFG issued an errata and made this a Limit 1 set.
Dash-Freeholders. This combo just typing brings back a flurry of memories. Nothing was more detrimental to the competitive scene of the Star Wars LCG than the existence of this combination. In retrospect, it’s hard to see how FFG allowed the combo to be printed in the first place. There were different variants of the deck, but they all relied on the power of the first two Smugglers objective sets released in the Echoes of the Force Cycle.
This set came out in the first pack of the cycle. Smugglers cards had already formed the backbone of most light side competitive decks and this one just upped their power level even more. The objective itself gives the LS a chance to wipe the board and reset because when it enters play, the light side player can choose to return all units on both sides to their owner’s hands. To help set this up, the set includes the free event card, Slicing In, which allows the light side player to look at the top 2 cards of an objective deck and move one card to the bottom of the deck. The board wipe possibility synergized well with the mains in the set, the Aquaris Freeholders. The Freeholders have a printed cost of 8 with 4 health. They have 1 black gun, 2 black blast, 1 white gun and 1 white tactics, so they are powerful units with an apparently expensive cost and aren’t even unique. But, as a direct counter to the Sith Control decks that dark side had favored since the start of the game, their ability reduces the cost to play them by the number of cards in the dark player’s hand. If the dark side player wants to play a single unit and sit back with a large edge hand to defend, the light side can play these powerful units at a great discount. If the dark side player happens to be playing an aggressive deck and blows up a light side objective or two, they risk flipping up False Report, bouncing all cards to each player’s hands and allowing Freeholders to come down and have an open board to attack. The set also includes a 2 cost event, Outmaneuver, that lets the light side player return a Smugglers unit to their hand in order to return a dark side player’s unit to its owners hand. Since Freeholders have a printed cost of 8, any dark side unit, including Palpatine and Vader, is vulnerable to being bounced off the board by Outmaneuver. If played during the deploy phase, the LS player could even potentially play the Freeholder again after using it to bounce a powerful DS unit back to the DS player’s hand depending on what kind of discount they get on the Freeholder. Dark side players realized fairly quickly that there were ways to play around some things. They tried to get cards out of their hands to prevent Freeholders from coming down cheaply. They avoided attacking light side objectives until the dial was high enough that they could just end the game and not have to worry about a False Report board wipe. The strategies were sound, but they were about to be all for naught when the next pack in the cycle released.
The Freeholders were powerful enough on their own, but they got even more help in the form of the Smuggler objective set in the 2nd pack of the Echoes of the Force cycle. The objective gives each light side unit an extra blast icon when attacking an opponent with more cards in hand. The entire focus of the set was to set things up so the dark side player had a lot of cards in hand before light side attacks. The main of the set, Dash Rendar, gets an extra blast for each card the dark side player has in hand when attacking alone. While the dark side player could play around this by pitching lots of cards into an edge battle, the other cards in the set countered that strategy. Shifty Lookout, the other unit in the set, is 1 cost and when ready, makes it so the dark side player is considered to have 1 more card in hand. So as long as the Shifty Lookout is out, Against All Odds and Dash’s ability gives Dash 2 blast without much effort. But the real problem card in the set is the event Holding All the Cards. There are 2 copies of this 0 cost event in the set. What it does is quite simple, but its effect created the most abusive combo the game ever saw. As an action, Holding All the Cards makes each player draw 2 cards. With 4 copies of Holding all the Cards available when playing 2 copies of the set, it was natural to see the combo potential with Freeholders. Holding All the Cards timed correctly, could result in the Freeholders coming out for very little cost, and possibly even free. Not having to pay for Freeholders to get them on the board meant light side could use resources for cards like Bamboozle to double strike, Swindled to remove dark side units that cost 2 or less or the aforementioned Outmaneuver to bounce a dark side main back to hand and then replay the Freeholder for free. Holding All the Cards can pump up Dash and allow him to 1 shot an objective with relative ease. The combo was downright abusive.
It was clear that Dash-Freeholders was effectively a busted combo, but I realized just how broken it was one evening when I was playing on OCTGN against Elrathion. Some of you may recognize Elrathion from Star Wars: Destiny where he was a prominent member of Artificery. But, before he was involved with Star Wars: Destiny, Elrathion was one of the best Star Wars LCG players around. I regularly played games against Elrathion on OCTGN during that time period and always felt like he was just on a different level from me as a player. Shortly after Against All Odds was released, the CardGameDB forums were buzzing with discussion about the Dash-Freeholders combo, so I decided to build my own version of the deck and try it out. That night I got on OCTGN and joined a game with Elrathion. I played my Dash-Freeholders deck against a dark side deck he had built and easily won the game. It wasn’t even close. I had never had that kind of success against him before, so I knew right then it wasn’t anything I did differently. I hadn’t suddenly become as good of a player as Elrathion overnight. The Dash-Freeholders deck and combo was definitely broken.
The 2nd pack in the Echoes of the Force Cycle with Against All Odds was released during Regional season for the Star Wars LCG. Immediately, people took Dash-Freeholders to Regionals and it completely dominated. About 2 weeks after that OCTGN game I played against Elrathion, a Regional took place in Texas and Elrathion won it with a Dash-Freeholders deck. The Regional had about 30 players, if I remember correctly, which was fairly large for the Star Wars LCG.
I’m a much more experienced card game player than I was back in 2014 and I realize now that people often toss the terms “broken” and “ busted” around almost too casually when talking about combos. This simply isn’t the case when talking about Dash-Freeholders. The combo really was broken. Team Covenant members happened to play in the Regional Elrathion won and also recorded several matches, including the finals. Those videos are still out there. For those who’ve never seen the combo in action (or just want to be reminded about how abusive it was), here’s TC’s video of the 1st game of the final. Keep in mind, this is between the two top players at the event. Yet, it was over before it started. Elrathion piloted the Dash-Freeholders deck masterfully and his opponent, Matt K, who was another great Star Wars LCG player, just never had a chance.
The week after this Regional, FFG established a Restricted List for the Star Wars LCG, in the middle of the Regional season. They organized the Restricted List so that any two objective sets on the Restricted List could not be played together. Against All Odds and False Report were the first objective sets (and only ones at the time) added to the Restricted List, and the Dash-Freeholder combo was no more. FFG often gets criticized for not acting quickly enough to address problems in their games, but in this case, they moved at almost lightning speed. I assume they heard about the abusive combo, but some things are better seen rather than heard. I can’t help but think the designers may have watched the video I posted above and realized they couldn’t wait any longer to act. After all, the set had really only been out for a couple of weeks. Before FFG acted, some in the community wondered if there was some counter coming in later sets in the cycle which hadn’t been released yet. The Restricted List was basically an admission from FFG that no silver bullet was coming to counter Dash-Freeholders, and they had just missed how abusive it was. The really crazy thing to think about is that this all happened BEFORE Along the Gamor Run and May the Force be with you were even released. One can only imagine how degenerate the game would have been if all 4 of those light side sets had been allowed to be played together untouched.
Looking back, it is easy to point out that the 6 month delay between cycles followed by the Dash-Freeholders combo and the introduction of May the Force be with you was probably the beginning of the end for the Star Wars LCG. The designers fell into the trap of printing 0 cost cards with powerful, repeatable effects and it nearly ruined the game. Despite their relatively quick response in restricting Dash-Freeholders and issuing errata to May the Force be with you, Gamor, Asteroid Base and Native Support, the damage was effectively done. FFG continued to release products for the Star Wars LCG for nearly another 4 years after the Echoes of the Force cycle and my future articles will revisit those cycles and deluxe boxes, but the popularity of game certainly waned after that.
As mentioned in the my previous articles, there is a player led committee, the Star Wars LCG Council, that has worked to keep the game alive for its small, but loyal community. There is a fall online tourney taking place right now, that just started. If you’re interested in learning more about the game and what’s going on with it, you can check out these resources.
- Previous Enties into this series
- Star Wars LCG Council Facebook page – the official page of the Star Wars LCG Council.
- Star Wars (LCG) Facebook page – this community-led Facebook page has been around since the start.
- Cardgamedb SW LCG General Discussion Forum – This is where the community really started and the Star Wars LCG boards are still active, especially when things such as the online tourney are going on
- Yoda’s Hut Youtube Channel – As mentioned before, you can find literally hundreds of Star Wars LCG gameplay videos with recorded commentary on my Youtube Channel.
- Frozen In Carbonite – Another member of the Star Wars LCG Council, Darthbs, has had his Youtube channel around in various forms throughout the years.
- CoDameron, a long-time Star Wars LCG player, has been recording his matches in the top cut of the current online tourney and posting those games on his Youtube Channel.
- Former 2015 Star Wars LCG World Champion Tom Melucci aka Ozrix, also has recorded some of the top cut matches from the current online tourney. Those are on his Twitch Channel and include commentary from him and other members of the community.
- Many years ago Team Covenant did an introductory gameplay video and they have many older recorded games with commentary on their Youtube channel as well. They also recently revisited the game on one of their daily streams during the pandemic isolation period and it was great to see that.
Thanks for reading and thanks to I Rebel for allowing me the opportunity to write about this game that I have loved for many years.
May the Force Be With You.