For those of you that don't know me, my name is Justin McBride and I have been playing cards games for the past 20 years both casually and competitively starting with the Star Wars CCG printed by Decipher and most recently Star Wars: Destiny. One of my favorite decks from the old Decipher game was based on the Bring Him Before Me archetype. For those of you that don't know, it was basically a deck type built around the climatic end of the original trilogy, where you pitted Darth Vader against his son, Luke Skywalker in an all-out duel of fates for the entire galaxy. Overseeing this momentous occasion was the evil manipulator himself, Emperor Palpatine! The flavor that was oozing from those games was incredible, and it was an amazing feeling whenever you got to turn young Skywalker towards the dark side (though like the movies, it didn't always go as the Emperor foreseen.)
When Spirit of Rebellion was spoiled, one of the first cards many people got excited about was Palpatine, Galactic Emperor. The idea of him zapping away at all of your opponent's characters looked incredibly hard to resist. However, I initially didn't think he was that competitive. Sure, you get to do damage with whatever you roll out, but dice control would instantly ruin your parade. I never thought I would play him in an actual competitive environment, let alone a store championship in Las Vegas (I currently live in the Chicago Metropolitan area)!
Let's see how we got here...
The Spirit of Rebellion meta is FAST! Decks are now able to achieve actions much more quickly compared to the Awakenings meta. Action cheating is rampant. Big, splashy damage is prevalent. The current environment currently favors incredibly different decks - One being incredibly quick trying to avoid traditional removal, while the other extreme being entirely too slow but almost invincible. With cards such as Planetary Uprising and Maz Kanata, ePoe/eMaz is an incredibly fast deck that is SUPER consistent at dealing a ton of damage very quickly and for many players, this deck archetype is probably their favorite going into the store championship season. Another interesting development in the meta - Vibroknife. Decks built around the card can take advantage of it's anti-shield ability which means shields are slowly dispersing from the meta.
For many players, local tournaments really are the gateway to competitive tournament play. I always like to think of it more as a unique place to try new ideas whether it's to test new inclusions for some of the more standard competitive decks, or it's to bust out new, experimental brews. For the most part, I try and bring a new deck with me every week. For the Spirit of Rebellion release week, I went with a rather unique version of eVader/Raider (I'll spare you the details, it was semi-good but KINDA risky.) However, two of my locals showed up with the shiny new Emperor. After winning my first game, I got to finally play against the Galactic Overlord in round 2... I lost. I wasn't accustomed to how quick Palpatine truly was. The second game against Palpatine fared a lot better since I gained a grasp on how to actually play against the deck type, rather I got accustomed to how many people would consider playing Palpatine. After I was done with the tournament, I had a sinking feeling that Palpatine was incredibly overbearing when you don't understand the match up very well, but that he is an easy victory for players that are prepared for the deck or understand it's weaknesses. That was my initial thoughts from the first week actually playing with him. In a few weeks, that would change, but let's not ruin this story just yet...
So a couple months ago, I planned a trip to visit my twin brother Jarrett in sunny, fabulous Las Vegas. (Seriously, if you've never visited you really, really should.) My brother called me up one day, and told me that when I was scheduled to be out there, a store called Maximum Comics was going to host a store championship. I was pretty excited. For the past few weeks, I had been building an incredible amount of decks to play test on Tabletop Simulator, as well as different decks for the local tournaments. The week before I was scheduled to go out there, I was dead set on running my variant for eVader/Raider I was working on. (The deck is 13-2 in tournament play as of this writing after playing three different locals.) It deals consistent damage, and it does great against mill archetypes. Well, after I flew out to Vegas, my brother and I devoted the entire first night I got out here to play testing (what can I say, I was excited for the SC, plus enjoying TCG's with my brother has been a thing for the past 20 years.) We started brewing, and it was then that my brother explained his local meta: For the most part, most of the competitive locals were on eMaz/ePoe, one was on eJabba/Dooku, a few enjoyed FN-2199/New Vader, a couple Crime Lord decks, Red Heroes, some Phasma variants, Jango builds and finally a heavy splash of Rey. A pretty diverse meta, however - based on the power level of Maz/Poe, I knew it would probably be the most played deck by a far margin (especially with Tiny Grimes posting his list a few nights prior, as well as some of the early SCs being claimed by the deck with top 4 places all over.) Oh, and did I mention the deck is all over the place on TTS???
After play testing various decks, I couldn't for the life of me figure out a deck built CONSISTENTLY to overtake Poe with his little orange friend (I found decks that did fine, but nothing that had an incredible overwhelming advantage). Finally admitting defeat, I settled on just simply running a Poe/Maz variant myself, but as I started to sleeve one up, I decided to take a look again into building a deck with Palpatine just because I thought he would be a fun deck to play that I haven't played before, but mainly because of another thought I had: Poe/Maz has many cards designed to deal damage spread out among many different characters (Thermal Detonators, U-Wings) and just does huge splash damage. What if I could play a deck designed to make some of those cards a tad bit worse? What if I could take advantage of the lack of shields in the meta? Most builds of Palpatine are designed to be slow, control-ish. What if I built him to be as quick as possible, but able to control the pace of the game on his own terms? A mid-range deck if you will. Well, here is what I came up with...
Vegas Store Championship Palpatine
Battleground: Otoh Gunga
2x Sith Holocron
2x Force Speed
2x Force Illusion
2x Lure of Power
2x Force Throw
1x Force Push
2x Force Lighning
2x Feel Your Anger
1x High Ground
1x All In
2x No Mercy
2x Rise Again
Let's start with the upgrades. Sith Holocron is a pretty powerful ability. This deck has nine targets for it, but overall it isn't a card you just jam down as soon as you draw it. Palpatine has to play smart (This goes for any of the upgrades included in this deck.) Really, for the most part, I just activate Palpatine right at the start of a turn. Why? We'll get into that later.
Force Speed, while not entirely necessary, is a great inclusion for helping you resolve different dice types or by creating a small window to re-roll. Force Illusion is a great card for mitigating non-vibroknife-in-the-pool damage. Great against Poe specials, vehicle damage and planets uprising.
Lure of Power is a great inclusion for this type of deck, mainly because we want to resolve our dice as fast as possible, regardless of what you rolled out. That's right, we don't really care what we roll out because we are trying to resolve Palpatine's dice ASAP. This allows you to get consistent damage out while furthering your own game plan. (See, I told you there would be some strategy.) Having a modified dice that can match any type allows the deck to push through the turns quicker. Force Throw is still one of the best upgrades in the game (which is why there are two.) Force Push allows the deck to gain a little more aggression while occasionally offering some mitigation or discard sides. Force Lightning is just an big, dumb upgrade that happens to be fetchable with Rise Again or able to be cheated into play by Holocron.
When it comes to playing upgrades, remember this:
Get Palpatine's dice out as quickly as possible. Even if you have a free, or affordable upgrade, get him activated. You can play upgrades later through the turn at your own pace, just remember to claim whenever you feel it's possible.
ALWAYS value removal in hand over playing an upgrade. Removal whether it's turn one of turn 5 helps keep Palpatine around much longer.
With a game like Destiny, cards that your opponent doesn't know about can greatly affect the course of any given game. Let's start with our two most powerful, which happen to be the most expensive events in this deck: Rise Again and No Mercy. These cards do kinda the same thing, but do them drastically different. No Mercy shortens the game dramatically. If you happen to roll out a damage side, you can deal 7-9 damage in a single shot! Doing this puts your opponent on a very quick clock that many decks may not be able to deal with. On the other end, Rise Again is a card that you have to plan ahead on seeing many games as it buys you more time to finish the game. If you've taken a bit of an early beating, you need to try and conserve as many resources as you can to anticipate playing Rise Again. Both of them are very powerful, and as the game moves forward, you should be looking for these cards and plan on playing them when it comes time.
Our removal is varied, and since we are stuck in mono-blue is somewhat conditional. Doubt is an all-star, it costs 0, and if you play it against the correct kinds of dice (Look for heavy modified sides, or inconsequential sides) it can be a game changer. Feel Your Anger punishes any type of roll that includes blanks. Just remember not to get too greedy with it, if you can take even just one dice out if could be the correct play. Isolation is a solid inclusion just because it hits a deck's more valuable dice, your opponent's characters. Overconfidence is a very solid card, but can create a few random situations. (I actually didn't run it in the tournament, I actually went with two High Ground but I would change it to two copies of this over High Ground.) High Ground is decent enough, just too narrow for my tastes. One of these could easily had been a deflect.
Enrage is a fantastic card that accelerates your resources. A common play i made with it was simply play it, not use my resources for the turn, the next turn play a Rise Again. Perhaps you foresee a need to play a 3 cost upgrade, or maybe you just need one resource to bluff a removal card. This card has you covered.
Rejuvenate is a great card in Palpatine, effectively making him go from 15 health to 16 or 17. When combined with our battlefield, this gives Palpatine longevity in the match that he may desperately need.
Finally, I included one copy of All In. This card allows you to quickly resolve multiple different sides in a pinch when you need it the most. It also allows you the opportunity to set up a quick claim. Definitely an underrated card.
This will ultimately depend on match up greatly. Keep up to 2 removal cards you draw, and try to look for an early No Mercy. Holocron/Force Speed isn't necessary right off the bat, but it doesn't hurt keeping them. Just remember to play them after you activate because it's important to just put Palpatine's dice right out there. The reason? If they are spending resources early game, they are not setting up. Any three cost is a fine keep as long as you draw an Enrage to go wth it. If no Enrage present, keeping a three drop to later pitch during re-rolls, discard step is acceptable to setup a powerful Rise Again. Send back any Force Illusions, Rise Again and/ or Rejuvenates you draw unless you are playing a super aggressive deck. Just don't keep all of them. A first turn Lure of Power is a fine play as well, just don't value it over removal.
Just remember, with this deck (short of blanks) you really should try and resolve your dice as quickly as possible. Obviously resolve damage sides ASAP. Shields and Resources are also fantastic most of the time, so don't be afraid to resolve those as well. (Shields are the best against Poe/Maz.) The discard side can be useful as well. Remember, all of Palpatine's dice deal damage, the faster you resolve them the faster you accelerate your game.
I'll spare most of the details (mainly since I can't remember much and I can't take notes.) We had 15 players, one shy of a top cut to 4. But I played against two eMaze/Poe, 1 FN-2199/New Vader, 1 Kylo/New Vader. Throughout the course of the game, opponents would remove a Palpatine dice here and there, occasionally I would roll double blanks and a savvy opponent would Feel Your Anger away both of my Palpatine dice. Sometimes I would lose the battlefield, then subsequently my opponent would play a powerful Defensive Position. I was even shown the power of a Best Defense a few times. All of my games were incredibly fast, with the longest lasting 14 minutes with the shortest only lasting nine. Throughout the course of the day, Palpatine was victorious claiming character after character. Throughout the day, I won only 2 battlefield rolls (2 more than I actually expected.)
The final game was a bout of epic proportions up against my twin brother's eMaz,ePoe deck. McBride vs. McBride. Brothers pitted against each other- one representing the lightness and the other eternal darkness. The winner getting all the spoils (and a regional bye) - the other getting mostly the same prizes, but no trophy or a regional bye. After a well fought match, unfortunately for Jarrett the dark side of the force prevailed that day. Young Skywalker is now one of us.
Premonitions - This card just feels too gimmicky for my taste. It is powerful, however I wanted to run Force Illusion in my build because of Poe. Therefore it runs the risk of milling the potential targets.
Now You Will Die - Meh. This card is okay since it essentially turns non-damage sides into more potential damage. If Hunker Down was still prevalent, I would say run it to knock those bad boys off.
Dark Presence - It cost 0 and is repeatable removal. However, we don't have that many discard sides and we generally want to activate first. Good card for a heavy discard themed Palpatine, just not this build.
New Orders - I feel like I want to include a singleton of these in the build because it generates a claim ability whenever you can afford to pay for it. It also helps against decks you lose the battlefield roll to make sure Palpatine lasts longer because of Naboo.
Defect - I like Deflect, I really do. It just does nothing against Specials or Melee damage. Some people still swear by it, and I can see myself adding back in one of them.
This early meta is still wide open. However, at the start of any rising meta, aggressive decks tend to be the most powerful until a true control deck can emerge. This early, many deck lists are still being refined and something that takes down one Store Championship can easily lose another. I actually enjoyed this variant of Palpatine very, very much but I do see weaknesses in this current build, that are exploitable. Do I think this is the best deck in the meta? No, that's still Maz/Poe. However, I feel this variant is highly favored in that match up (and I don't say that lightly.) I have still yet to lose that match up out of 19 games that I have played with the deck specifically against it, so there's got to be something there right?? I hope you enjoy the list, it's incredibly fast and consistent with the right player behind it. I challenge you to keep finding new decks out there. Try new cards and keep rolling those dice! I'll see you out there on the battlefield!