I'm old(ish). I've played CCGs for a long time. My world exploded in the spring of 1994 during my senior year of high school when my local comic shop introduced me to Magic: The Gathering. It was literally the most amazing thing I'd ever seen, and I couldn't get enough. I was voracious. Eventually, during and after college, I started playing at some higher levels. I traveled to GPs. I made a little money.
There was a ceiling on what I could accomplish, though, and it was put in place by my pride. I didn't just want to win; I wanted to win My Way. I was out to prove that I was not only good at playing the game, but that I could do it while playing some deck I'd built myself. Time and again I limited myself by not heeding the advice given to me by people who were much better at the game than I. "Just play the best deck," they'd say. "But what about..." I'd stammer. "Nope, stop being stupid," they'd say. "Just play the best deck."
Here's the secret. You might be smarter than literally everyone else that plays this game, but you're not smarter than everyone else who plays this game combined. Markets work. Evolution works. With the Internet having broken down nearly all barriers to communication, we all get the benefit of all the millions of hours play testing that others are doing. Stop being stubborn, and just play the Best Deck. At least, if winning is your goal.
With that in mind, I decided to grow as a human being and stop being stubborn. If I want to win plastic Phasmas and tiny plaques, I need to put my ego on the shelf, pick up Poe/Maz, and learn the shit out of it.
For over a month now my play test partner, Brian and I, have put in the work to learn how the deck works, why it works, what the best build was, and how to squeeze maximum value out of it. This list is the result of our work.
This list has continued to evolve throughout our tournament experience, but in the last month Brian and I have combine to run through eight tournaments (four each) including six Store Championships.
What Makes the Deck Tick?
Before I get into any deck, I like to examine exactly what makes that deck tick. After all, other decks can put more damage on the table than Poe/Maz. What is it about this deck that puts it over the edge?
All Destiny decks exist somewhere on a graph of possibility when describing their dice play. The EV (Expected Value) of any given die in any given game can be computed as a function of:
The deck achieves its consistency in four layers.
Layer 1 - Weapon Selection: Every upgrade in Poe/Maz is a Huge Gun. It wouldn't matter if they printed the Happy Cracker Fireball with one 10R side and the drawbacks of costing 10 resources and having five blank sides. With a Poe special you are going to hit that 10R EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
Layer 2 - Poe and Maz Dice: With Poe's dice you start with a 30% chance of hitting a special. Even if you miss on the initial special you still have a 2R and 3R1 side to shore up your rolls. Rolling in Maz's dice boosts that special chance to 86%. This is beginning to approach certainty rather than chance.
Layer 3 - Action Cheating: Your opponent has an extremely narrow window to remove your dice, one action. If they miss on the action immediately following Poe's roll in, then you are going to get at least one Poe die to resolve. The opponent can't even remove your best Poe die and continue because whatever die remains is simply going to get turned to a special and resolved. Add in the Hit and Run, twice a game action cheat, and you have key moments of the game where your opponent simply watches themselves die.
Layer 4 - The Battlefield: Even whiffing on the first two rolls doesn't mean you're going to miss. Simply claiming your battlefield gives you a 100% certainty on hitting the biggest side of the biggest card in your hand.
This redundancy has lead me to describe Poe/Maz as not having dice. Rather, it simply has turns. If it gets its turns, it will do its thing. There is a vanishingly small chance that Poe/Maz will ever lose to its own dice, and, if it does, it's usually because the pilot made a mistake rather than the deck failing.
There have been many builds of Poe/Maz posted to the Internet. Many iterations of people trying to find the optimal build. Here are some of the cards I chose or didn't, and why I believe I am correct:
New Orders, Specifically, Two Copies: Getting your battlefield is crucial with this deck. You always want it, and you always want it very early. Having two copies of New Orders maximizes the chance of drawing it early. There is no better feeling to starting the game than this sequence of plays:
Ascension Gun (vs. Cunning or Holdout Blaster): The card in this slot is generally there to upgrade Maz. I've found Cunning to be generally swingy-er than the other options. It's trying to either do what you're already doing with the Poe dice or make Emo Vader stab himself in the face. With the former you run the risk of either running out of gas in hand or getting an unusable side, and with the latter you run the risk of not playing against Baby Vader. Holdout Blaster offers a bit more punch in this slot for helping Maz finish out a game on her own and the Ambush plus Redeploy are certainly nice. The 2R side costs a resource, though, and resources are at a premium in this deck. I've found that Ascension Gun has both the 2R (for free) to help Maz put that last opponent down, another focus for enabling Poe dice, and a special that gives you additional access to your battlefield if you happen to be in the unfortunate situation where you lost the roll and don't have New Orders. Don't underestimate the psychological damage you can do to your opponent by rolling out Maz and claiming three dice out of nowhere to seriously damage their character(s). (Maz Focus > Ascension Gun Special > Emperor's Throne Room Claim Ability > Poe Special)
C-3PO: I like the card C-3PO quite a bit. I think it's power level is some of the highest in the game. The problem with it in this deck, though, is that it's slow. While it does give you an additional layer of certainty, it does it by slowing you down and exposing you to additional dice mitigation from your opponent. Claiming the battlefield is incredibly important with this deck because so much dice mitigation relies on the mitigating player having dice in the pool (He Doesn't Like You, Negotiate, Loth-Cat and Mouse, etc). If you're going first and rolling Poe immediately, you have the opportunity to turn off all of that dice mitigation long enough to resolve at least one of Poe's dice.
Playing the Deck
The standard hand you want in your opening five goes something like:
One card I see people excited about getting in their opening hand is Hit and Run. This card is weakest at the beginning. It's much better later in the game. Much of what goes into optimally playing this deck (or any deck, really) is accurately managing the expectations of your opponent. Your opponent is carefully planning how they're going to use their actions to stave off defeat and/or bring about your ruin. A mid-game Hit and Run to accelerate their demise is an excellent way to completely hork up their plans.
Poe/Maz 101: The Script
You will need to expand your repertoire of Poe/Maz skills to achieve higher levels of success, but it all starts with the basic script. Get these steps down pat before moving on to trickier skills.
Poe/Maz 102: Deeper
You Actually Have an Opponent Trying to Stop You
Your dice are going to get controlled. It's a thing. Leave them exposed as short a time as possible. If you can't immediately Fast Hands something, get them off the table on the next action. If you have something else to do on your turn, like dropping Ascension Gun or Planetary Uprising, do that before you roll Poe out. At the absolute worst give them just one chance to stop you. As stated above, a significant amount of removal in this game requires your opponent use their own dice. Remember that just because they rolled out instead of controlling your dice on their action it doesn't mean that a Negotiate is not coming your way on their next action.
Pick Your Spots to "Waste" Actions
Almost always, you're going to need the help of some of your support cards to help implement The Script. Recognize when a round might not stay on message and utilize that moment to to play Dug In, Electroshock, Ascension Gun, Planetary Uprising, or Field Medic
DL-44 Heavy Blaster is an Excellent Play
Don't push for it too hard, but if you find yourself in a situation to activate Maz by playing DL-44 Heavy Blaster Pistol it's an excellent play. It doesn't cost you an action, can mitigate a powerful die on the other side of the table, and has an excellent 3R side you can focus to and resolve when you roll Maz.
Many, many games with Poe/Maz end with a Claim followed by a first action Claim in the next round. With Planetary Uprising on the table you claim to resolve a Poe die + 2, and then start the next round with the claim to deal the final two. Before pulling the trigger on this move, total up the possible damage your opponent can do to you. If they simply cannot kill you, feel free to watch the hope drain from their dead eyes as you claim on the first action of the round.
Poe/Maz 103: Wizardry
Maz is (usually) a Support
For the most part, Maz isn't a character in this deck. She's a mechanism for turning and resolving Poe dice. To that end, it may not be necessary to roll her out every time. Pay attention to what your opponent is going to do. A claim on your part is also a claim they do not get, and sometimes going first (and turning off your opponent's die-costing mitigation) is more important than resolving both of your Poe dice. With that in mind...
Architect The Next Turn
Before blindly grabbing your resources and untapping, stop and think about what's going to happen on the next turn. Is this your turn to heal and mitigate dice? Do you have one resource left over and DL-44 in hand? Plan how to order your turns to sucker your opponent into exposing one of their big dice so that you get the maximum benefit from it.
Dig, Dig, Dig
Discard aggressively at the end of the round. Are you at zero resources and plan on landing that Planetary Uprising? Ditch that Rocket Launcher. Will a Hit and Run finish the game? Pitch your whole hand to dig for it. Even if you miss the Hit and Run you will most assuredly get something useful. One reason we have so many Ginormous Face Smashers in this deck is so that every fresh five cards has an excellent chance of pulling at least one.
I put a few games into this to show you how to put people away. It was more difficult than I would have expected to get a good recording, though, as a high percentage of folks just get angry and quit when you start performing shenanigans.
There actually is a Best Deck. Right now that deck is Poe/Maz. It's not just the best deck; it's BY FAR the best deck. Over a significant sample size, there is no deck that can take on the field and consistently dominate like Poe/Maz. There are plenty of Good Decks, but they're all at a significant disadvantage against Poe/Maz. Every other deck has to deal with bad dice at some point. Poe/Maz just doesn't.
As much as I love playing with this deck, I hate that this deck exists. At its core, Destiny is a game of dice, and by removing the dice rolling from the equation FFG has broken the game. Other decks can do more, sometimes, but they can also do less. The certainty of the dice in this deck are utterly oppressive to the viability of anything else. I look forward to the day when FFG wakes up and cripples this deck. I have thoughts about the best way to accomplish this, but I will save that for another time. (hint, errata in a CCG is a terrible idea) For now, I will continue to play the Best Deck so that I can win, and so that my results will contribute to the data FFG needs to do something about this.