The absolute best thing about sports and gaming is that they’re not scripted. Individuals or teams meet in contests where the outcome has yet to be decided. Even if one side is heavily favored, the upset exists. That moment when something low-percentage comes true and David beats Goliath is an unbelievable emotional payoff. Whether it’s the Kick 6, Max Verstappen winning the Championship, the $16,000 Lightning Helix, or even just Jonathan Lowe holding the improbable Imperial Might to beat me in a draft, these are the moments that form memories and stories that deepen our love for the contest.
Destiny is a game that is uniquely suited for setting up these moments, whether they pay off or not. Every roll of the dice is a caught breath. A moment where time stands still and fate is balanced on the edge of a knife. Do you win? Do you lose? No one knows until the dice stop tumbling. This is one of the biggest reasons we all love this game, but there is a dark side to this.
Pain. When you’ve worked and hustled for every advantage to put yourself in a position to bring home ultimate glory, and, right at the moment you’re about to succeed, that little shit you’re competing against pulls something off that snatches your hard-earned victory from you. Something that would happen only a few times in a thousand actually occurs in this reality, and all your hard work turns to ashes in your mouth as you sit in stunned silence while the confetti falls for the wrong person.
Destiny has this pain. For every tumble of the dice and play of a card someone wins and someone loses. As game designers, our job is to balance the sweet, sweet ecstasy of dice coming up aces versus the agony of an opponent playing the most devastating card at the most devastating time. For all the highs that Destiny has there are corresponding lows, and it is our job as creators to navigate this high wire for our players.
One of the ways Destiny designers have attempted to walk that high wire is through limits. Whether it’s an explicit limit like Rigged Detonation or Unending Hate or a soft limit like Side By Side, restricting how hard a card can work by limiting its application has been a core tool in the designer’s toolbox from the beginning. Are these limits useful? Probably. Easy Pickings was insanely powerful even with the restrictions. Side By Side, however, was completely unplayed. The added randomness of not knowing if you’d get to use the removal part limited its utility to the point that it simply never made the cut. What about hard number limits? Are they necessary? How amazing would it have been in FFG-era Destiny to punish someone for 10 damage for accumulating too many resources? The inner Bernie Sanders inside many would stand and applaud seeing the rich pay for their greed. Alas, that wasn’t to be. The pain of being on the receiving end was either tested to be too great, or designers preemptively censored themselves based on how they thought the players would react. Is that right? Is that wrong? Should we all just ‘git gud’ and learn to deal with the swings, or should we all cry at the pain and ask the mighty gods of design and balance to step in and ease our woes? The answer to that is personal to all of us, and no one is completely correct. Personally, I savor the stories of upset, even when I’m on the receiving end of the pain. That might not be you, though. Maybe it hurts too much to take 6 or more damage from an Unending Hate no matter how rarely that actually happens.
What does any of this have to do with Seeking Answers spoilers? Well, I’m glad you asked. Take a look at our first card.
Destiny has a history of struggling with how much power a 1-dop should have. What should a player get for being able to add a die to their side of the table while still keeping up a resource for removal? What’s more, that target has shifted as Destiny has evolved. The power and value of a single resource today are not the same as they were in the early days. The unplayable Infiltrate from Awakenings was obviously too bad, but DH-17 Blaster Pistol (the OG one) went into every deck that could run it. Today, however, the DC-17 Hand Blaster, a better card than the DH-17 Blaster Pistol, is routinely axed from decks it seems perfectly suited for.
Where does the Special Operative title lie, then? Its die is certainly not as powerful as the rarely played DC-17 Hand Blaster, but maybe its target deck isn’t the same. Han Solo’s Dice doesn’t do damage, but it sees plenty of play in decks that need all the money. Enter its Power Action.
The Power Action on Special Operative, at first glance, seems amazing. Paying one resource to get a die that will repeatedly remove your opponent’s die looks like a no-brainer inclusion for any list running Red. Reading a little more, though, we run into that designer tool I was talking about earlier, restrictions. The power of Spec Op’s PA is tightly controlled by the face of its corresponding die. You have to match both the symbol and value of the die for it to work out.
Well, let’s look at the die then. With five 1 sides, the limitation on value means you’re never going to remove anything game-breaking. When you use the removal Power Action you’re almost only ever going to only use it to remove a die that landed on something suboptimal that was going to get rerolled. The additional restriction of matching the side further pushes us down the realm of probability. There are 10 (wait, no, 11 now) different sides possible on Destiny dice. This die has six of them. I’m going to assume that an opponent has, on average, three different sides showing when you’re ready to use this. Furthermore, most folks only run one kind of damage, so that essentially blanks one of the six sides on this die in terms of Power Action. So, in order to use it, my opponent:
- Must be playing and rolling dice that match the five valid sides I have available to me on the Spec Ops die.
- Of the sides they’re playing that match this die, one of the three sides they have in their pool must also match whatever I randomly rolled with this die.
- Must have that same die be on a 1 value.
That’s extremely narrow. One of the things I try to teach people when I help them build decks is that each, “if this happens” you have to add for a cool combo to work means it is exponentially less likely to happen. Having three of them doesn’t mean it will never happen, but it will be rare, and, because you’re limited to removing a die showing a 1, the impact will be low. Given my druthers, I would have loved to see this card without the ‘value’ restriction to see if the randomness of all those different sides would keep its power in check enough to be playable. I’m curious if the restrictions on this card were preemptively added, or if playtesting showed far too much pain in letting a 1-drop remove a larger die despite its rare occurrence.
So if the PA is marginal and the die is erratic, how would I rate this card? Well, it’s still a 1-drop. There is still value to be had in throwing something out there immediately that has the potential to throw a kink into the opponent’s plans. That being said, however, I just don’t currently see the deck this will excel in. To me, this feels like the card I will try to throw into every Red deck but will hit the deckbuilding bin when I make those agonizing cuts getting from 34 to 30 cards. Maybe in the future when we elect Andrew Heintz commissioner of Destiny and he drags us kicking and screaming into the world of 40 card decks there will be room for a generic utility card like this. When that happens it will be played everywhere, but until then I see this losing out to cards that simply have more power. Hopefully, I’m wrong about our current 30-card world. I’m really looking forward to someone at Dragon’s Lair ruining my night with this card simply because I somewhat panned it in this article. That would make my evening.
One of the hardest things I’ve found as a designer in Destiny is trying to balance effects that lend themselves to the Negative Play Experience (NPE). Pirates was a recent example of this. Players love playing Destiny. They do not love trying to play Destiny only to have their opponent take their stuff and not let them play. As a mechanic, Pirates was strong but beatable. You had to change your style of play, but it was not inherently stronger than other mechanics. Most people just hated it anyway because it didn’t let them play the way they wanted to play. (I love having my thinking challenged, though, so I had a blast fighting it). Similarly, mill has been hated from the beginning. It forces players rethink their play style, and people hate that.
One potential NPE that has been even harder to pull off has been playing your opponent’s cards. There have been a small few cards that tried, but the mechanic is so incredibly boom/bust that they’ve never really caught on. You’re revealing a small pile of unknown cards with the hopes that there will be something useful in there. It’s a mechanic that, in my experience, hits about 30% of the time on a back-breaking Round-finishing move, but 70% of the time on a resounding meh or thud.
Let’s add another one to the fray.
This is a very interesting card to me. Previous attempts at playing your opponent’s cards generally take them out of their deck. That can be useful but doesn’t impact them this Round. Taking a card from the opponent’s hand has a much more profound and immediate impact on the game. It’s a Reversal effect where you’re not just getting the utility of whatever you take from your opponent, but you’re also denying them the same utility. Using an opponent’s card to remove their dice both protects you from the effects of their dice while simultaneously allowing a greater chance for your dice to land. That’s a lot of power to pack into one card, and that means restrictions meant to reign it in. Let’s take a look at those.
Red Hero – The color part of this card isn’t too much of a restriction. Most decks that run spies are already in Red, and, if not, it’s generally pretty easy to slot a Red character in. The hero part, though, is limiting. Cards that let you manipulate your opponent’s hand with foreknowledge of the cards they’re holding (as opposed to blindly, like a discard) are pretty rare in both Hero and Neutral. At the moment, Rebel Schemes is the only one that exists. There’s just nothing like Face the Enemy or OG Thrawn in a Hero deck that grants you perfect knowledge of your opponent’s hand to go along with damaging it.
Discarding a Card – By costing zero resources to play, you’re effectively just playing a card out of the opponent’s hand for the resources printed on that card. Without some other cost, that would be far too strong an ability. In addition to gaining the benefit for yourself while denying it to them, you’d also be removing an option for them to pitch to reroll later in the round. That kind of card advantage would put them in an even deeper hole than this already leaves them in. By adding a ‘discard a card’ cost on your end, the designers have framed this in a way that shows they wanted to limit the power of this card to just the first portion, you gaining utility while denying it to them.
Spot a Spy – This is an important restriction on two fronts. First, it’s just thematic. I love me some theme, and forcing there to be a spy in play for you to do some espionage stuff is perfect. Second, and more importantly for gameplay, you definitely don’t want to give every Red hero deck the option to shred your opponent’s grip. By adding this restriction you’ve made it my favorite type of card. It’s a staple for the decks that can use it, but it’s not something that just gets jammed into every deck. Some of the cards I hate the most are the ones that are just objectively head and shoulders above everything else with nothing limiting their inclusion (Vibrosword I’m looking at you). This is the antithesis of that.
Another restriction that’s not written into the card is an important one to note. Previous, ‘play your opponent’s card’ cards granted you the ability to spot cards on their side of the table as if they were your own. This line granted a much higher hit rate when using the ability because you could play cards like Electroshock without actually being in Yellow. That’s not on this card, so the opposite is true. If you have no Leaders on your side that Command is going to just mock you when you reveal it from their hand.
Overall, I think this is a well-designed card that will find a home in Spy decks across the format. With Jyn/Han gone I don’t know if it’s enough by itself to push them to the top of tables, but I do think dedicated Spy/Detect players are getting a solid tool to help them compete.
One of the recurring themes in Star Wars is changing sides. This universe is rife with stories of both fall and redemption. Anakin becomes Vader. Vader is redeemed. Kylo follows a similar path. Even the central government goes from protagonist to antagonist to protagonist to antagonist over the course of the Skywalker Saga. While some of these large story arcs have been covered by Destiny in the past, there are countless smaller stories that have not shown up in the cards. Imperial Mud Trooper Han Solo? Haven’t seen him. Padawan Dooku? Nope. Imperial cadet Wedge? Wrong again. Our final card today does explore one of these lesser-known side-changing stories. If you’re familiar with the Rebels story, the vast majority of the show pitted the plucky underdog Spectres against the crushing might of the Imperial machine. Arihnda Pryce, Thrawn, and Alexsandr Kallus were the main faces of this foe, constantly hunting for our heroes to bring them to justice. Near the end of Season 3, however, it is revealed that Agent Kallus, a once implacable foe of the fledgling Rebellion, has turned his coat and been feeding intelligence to the other side. This agent’s codename? Fulcrum.
Kallus’ abilities seem like he has some opportunity to exist in a couple of different styles of deck with unique benefits for each. In one mode, you’re trying to win as a Big/Little pair through the traditional damage model. Beating your opponent’s characters into submission with the Big while using Fulcrum’s disruptive powers to toss monkey wrenches into your opponent’s plans. Stripping removal from their hands to use on their dice means clearing the way for your big fat dice to hit and stay on the table.
Some of the Bigs I see as potentially strong pairings with Kallus are Obi-Wan Kenobi – “Rako Hardeen” and Jyn Erso – Rebellion Operative. Both of those will help you maximize the plink damage from Kallus’ 1 indirect ability, and both will give you some insight into what you might be hitting when you fire off Kallu’s Power Action. This type of knowledge is key to gaining an advantage when using symmetrical abilities like this. In each of these teams, Kallus is only running one die, but the disruptive nature of his text box more than makes up for that loss.
Alternatively, you might try using Kallus in a mill deck. With two discard sides, he has the ability to put some hurting on your opponent’s hand. This does invalidate the indirect damage part of his ability, meaning you’re paying a points cost for this character that includes a feature you’re not using, but he might be good enough to pay that tax anyway. With an elite Kallus you’re hitting a 56% chance that you’re knocking two of the cards out of his hand per turn above what he’s playing (Probability of at least one die landing on discard + Power Action) with a solid chance (after rerolls) of getting three. If you’re going the mill route, you definitely want him elite.
One possible character pairing here is with our favorite Star Wars mamma who has yet to find a home, Padmé Amidala – Political Idealist. An elite/elite pairing would leave you with three points leftover to run one of the more powerful plots in the game. Extra Firepower can resolve discard sides or Rescue Han Solo adds a ton of health to your team. This also puts you into Hero Red and Yellow with access to the best removal suite in the game.
Another would be to team up with a pair of Republic Senator and Solidarity to completely wreck their hand. It would be interesting to try and mitigate your opponent’s dice by simply denying them any and all rerolls. If you’re familiar with the game Destiny, sometimes you get to the end of a match and you or your opponent cannot reroll your cards simply because you have no cards left to pitch. Can you imagine that every round?
One final way to try and abuse Kallus would be to find a way to squeeze a Jawa Junk Dealer in with him and load up on expensive Gray neutral removal. While you’re living in world of extra cheap Block and Dodge, your opponent is left with a sour taste in their mouth when they have to pay full price to MAYBE hit one die.
And there you have it! Our spoiled cards for this set. We have a series of new tools where I range from ‘I’m not sure where this fits’ to ‘that has piqued my interest in building around in multiple ways’. The new set hits on May the Fourth, and all the cards are absolutely free to download and play from A Renewed Hope. If you’re looking for a more professional quality version of your cards, check out our professional printing of this set (and all of the others) at the Kingwood Hobbies.