Last Friday, February 15th, I drove down from Seattle to Portland for this year’s Regional Championship. There were 70 players (including 17 byes) which meant eight rounds of Swiss on Saturday. The Portland Game Store hosted the Top 8 cut the following morning, which was a great alternative to stretching the entire regional out over one day.
I had a great time at the Portland Regional last year, which was actually my first in-person Destiny tournament. My experience both years has proved that everyone at Artificery and at the Portland Game Store knows how to run a top notch regional.
Why I Chose Darth Vader
Ever since FFG spoiled the regional prizes, I had my heart set on earning that menacing Vader playmat. However, I failed to qualify for the Top 8 in either of the first two regionals that I attended.
I brought Thrawn / Snoke to Vancouver last December, but a couple of key misplays hurt me. There was a chance for me to qualify for the Top 8 if I had won my last game of Swiss, but a hot-rolling Darth Vader crushed any hopes I had.
Then in Lacey, Washington, two weeks ago, I brought another control deck; Tarkin / Snoke. While I minimized my misplays this time, luck was not entirely on my side that day. My third loss (eliminating any chance of reaching Top 8) came at the hands of Lukas Litzinger’s Darth Vader.
I began to fear the Terror to Behold. That fear led to anger, anger led to hate, and hate led to…
I wanted the deck to hit hard and fast. I built it with every combo card I could fit, including Bait and Switch, Force Strike, Friends in High Places, The Price of Failure, Truce, and Force Speed. And while some lists have cut one of the copies of Fear and Dead Men, I expected an influx of three-wide decks in response to Tarkin / Snoke’s recent success.
The other significant factor in my deck choice was the minimal level of fatigue experienced when playing a deck like Vader. I knew that with a large tournament there would be more rounds of Swiss, which meant more opportunities to misplay. Having quicker matches also meant I went into each round fresh and focused.
Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Darth Vader / Jawa (Thomas)
My first game of the tournament was against a fellow Cloud City Roller, Thomas. I lost the battlefield roll, but it remained close as we both got a Vader’s Fist down in round 2. In the end, our Fist rolls were the difference, as he once had to use the Power Action just to resolve the die. On the other hand, I had consistent damage rolls.
Round 3: Count Dooku / Mother Talzin (Brian)
I was worried about this match up because I knew it had a lot of consistency. On top of that, Dooku’s ability gave him free soft mitigation every round. The game was a shootout from the start, with Talzin going down in round 2 while Vader was over halfway dead himself.
Brian’s rolls with Dooku never hit the burst damage he needed to close out the game. A timely Force Illusion ensured that my Vader stayed alive long enough to live up to his title, taking out a full health Dooku in the final round.
Facing the winner of both the Vancouver and Washington regionals, I knew I was in for a tough match. We both had strong starts, but I took the advantage when a Price of Failure ensured that Tarkin went down in the second round.
Not to be counted out, he dropped a Vader’s Fist that left him one damage off lethal. I activated in the following round and shortly thereafter secured the win with a Bait and Switch.
My first match on stream and also my first of four true mirror matches. In the second round, I chose to play Friends in High Places rather than secure a Price of Failure reset. This choice paid off as the FIHP scored me a Darth Vader’s Lightsaber.
Going into the last round, the game was still up for grabs. However, a hand full of dead cards at that crucial moment meant that Ben could do nothing when I rolled exact lethal—11 damage—on my initial Vader activation.
Win, 5-0. [Stream link]
In a consecutive Vader mirror on stream, I took the lead early on as another huge Friends in High Places pulled a Darksaber.
Despite this, I thought Mitchell had sealed the game when he got a brutal roll and took out my Vader while his only had six damage. However, the Darksaber redeployed and I got an important fourth resource (and not to mention two damage from Greedo). Mitchell then claimed the battlefield, knowing he only had to get four more damage in the next round.
At this point, I was holding the exact cards needed to give myself a chance to win. I played Truce into Vader’s Fist and then hit three natural damage sides in four rolls, killing his Vader while he had a Force Illusion and Hidden Motive in hand.
Win, 6-0. [Stream link]
Despite losing my Friends in High Places to his lower-placed friends, I got a solid start by playing on my battlefield and dropping Vader’s saber. But after taking out Ciena in round 2, I made a misplay and targeted Snoke next. I could have gone for the kill on the Traitor that round thanks to a Bait and Switch.
This ultimately made the difference, as the Traitor stayed alive and allowed Andrew to both continue receiving value from Snoke’s Power Action and also to satisfy the spot yellow requirement on a 2nd FILP.
Loss, 6-1. [Stream link]
Having played against Ingrid’s Vader leading up to the regional, I knew that she had one card that I cut which could make the difference: Prized Possession.
The match started in my favor, as I took out her Greedo in round 1. However, she targeted my Vader, which allowed me to use a Price of Failure. A couple lackluster rolls prevented the extra activation from making the difference and I was unable to end the day on a win.
After eight rounds of Swiss, the top cut was established:
My first game of the Top 8 was a no-holds-barred shootout. I struck first, winning the battlefield and opening with a big Fear and Dead Men on my four melee side. Jason matched my damage by dropping a Vader’s Fist. This continued into the second round as I used a Price of Failure to bring myself close to victory.
Then I had my biggest misplay of the tournament in the third round. I was holding both a Rise Again and Vader’s Fist, but for some reason that I can’t explain, I decided to discard the Fist and not the Rise Again to reroll. Had I kept the Fist, it would have given me a chance to win the game, whereas Rise Again only delayed my defeat.
I thought that I was bound for a quick exit from the Top 8 after Vader dealt zero damage in the opening round. I was already recovering from the tilt of losing due to a misplay, but then I knew I had hope when Jason’s luck completely failed him.
He rerolled his Snoke and Traitor dice three times, but never once hit a single focus side or resource on Traitor that would have allowed him to ramp out a Firespray. Instead, he had to settle for a Snoke Power Action on an indirect damage side.
My rolls were consistently strong down the stretch and I was able to close the game out before he could ramp enough to take the lead. I breathed a big sigh of relief as I knew I was still in it, despite my earlier mistakes.
I took out Ciena in the first round thanks to great rolls with Vader and his Saber. Jason was able to get a re-activation on his Firespray, but his rolls bricked and he did zero damage on the second roll-in. Later in the game I had a huge Force Speed re-roll that ended with seven damage to kill Snoke.
Match win, 2-1.
Semifinals: Vader / Greedo – Shane
For the Top 4 I was in yet another mirror match, this time against fellow Cloud City Roller Shane. Our decklists were rather different, as his list cut some of my combo cards like Force Speed and Force Strike and instead included more control cards like Beguile and Abandon All Hope.
I won the battlefield roll, but had a misplay at the start of the match. I sequenced my actions improperly and allowed him to use a Close Quarters Assault that pulled a Truce and Vader’s saber from my hand.
Luckily for me, Shane never found any of his own upgrades. He spent the majority of his resources mitigating my dice (including two Beguiles) through the first two rounds. My rolls never cooled off, and the game was over pretty quickly.
Now fighting on his battlefield, Shane put the pressure on by using all his resources to drop a Vader’s Fist in the second round.
I noticed that he had used both of his Hidden Motives, the only zero-cost mitigation card in his deck. I then used a Force Strike to turn one of my Vader dice to the four melee side. Unavoidably telegraphing that Friends in High Places was coming, I left the die in the pool.
The gamble paid off, as Shane was not able to stop the play. Friends in High Places came down, hitting a Rise Again that healed Vader for 3 damage and pulled a Darksaber from my discard.
In the following round I resolved the Darksaber die for three resources, allowing me to pay for a second Rise Again. Healing Vader for a full five and playing his own lightsaber from the discard, I ran away with the win.
Match Win, 2-0.
As we compared decklists and I prepared for a rematch against the two time regional champion, I soon realized that Cody had teched his deck for Vader. Tarkin / Snoke already typically runs cards that can severely hurt Vader’s gameplan such as Anger, Force Jump, and Probe. Cody took it a step further and included a copy of I Am Your Father, which I knew could decide a game. That said, I knew his damage output would fall off a cliff if I could kill a character early enough.
My starting hand was close to ideal, containing two Force Speeds and an Ancient Lightsaber. I won the battlefield roll off and ended the round with five damage on Tarkin, feeling good about my chances.
Unfortunately, Cody punched back with twelve indirect damage. Twelve. Having lost over half of my total health pool in the first round, I was starting to feel a bit worried. But I still knew I could win if I took out Tarkin ASAP.
On my next activation, Cody Mind Tricked and removed both of my Vader dice. After a Force Speed special and a Vader Power Action into a lucky roll, I had Tarkin one damage from lethal. Hoping he wouldn’t see the potential combo coming, I left a seemingly innocent Ancient Lightsaber die showing a shield.
He then activated Tarkin, and I followed up by finishing him off with a Force Strike on the Ancient die. As a result, he was not able to capitalize on the strong start and I closed out the game.
Win, 1-0. [Stream link]
My best luck of the entire tournament came at the most clutch moment. On my first Vader activation I hit a roll with a combined value well over the target of seven needed for Friends in High Places. Cody could not mitigate, so on my following action I played the event and revealed the top card of my deck… Lo and behold! The feared 501st Legion was waiting. Vader’s Fist hit the table for free and the match was over before I knew it.
Tournament Win, 2-0. [Stream link]
In the end, the MVP cards were all the combo pieces, especially Force Strike and Friends in High Places. I am sure that I am not alone in looking forward to FIHP rotating, as it caused way too many match swings for a zero-cost event.
Changes I’d make to the list
- -1 At Odds, +1 Prized Possession – There ended up being a surprising lack of mill decks and an equally surprising plethora of Vader decks.
- +2 Lightsaber Throw – I think this would have been a spicy addition for a bit of sneaky damage. It’s one of those cards that not many people would expect since it hasn’t been in the meta for awhile.
Cards that missed the cut
Prized Possession – Prior to the tournament, my notes about this card said: “tech for the mirror; but don’t expect much Vader.” Oh boy, was I wrong.
Darth Vader’s Meditation Chamber – I initially included this for the mill match-up, but it’s just bad. I replaced it with At Odds which helped against more than just mill.
Bazine Netal – I liked her on paper for a couple of things, such as the resource opportunity and extra health. However, Marcelino and Pedro convinced me to stick with Greedo, and I’m glad I listened.
No Good To Me Dead – I prefer Truce for the surprise factor.
Maul’s Lightsaber – I find the card fun but it just wasn’t great in my testing.
After every tournament I am reminded of what an amazing community we have for Star Wars: Destiny, as a whole and particularly in the PNW. I want to give another shout-out to Artificery and The Portland Game Store for running an excellent tournament (and for putting on a first class stream).
I got a chance to talk in more detail about the regional with the guys from the Dice of Failure podcast! Check them out here. I also just started my own YouTube channel to initially feature some of my Tabletop Simulator matches. If that’s something you’re interested in, feel free to check it out!