This past weekend saw what I think (?) was the biggest regional to date with 85 players showing up at FFG’s event center. The Destiny Council spent quite a lot of time preparing for the event, play testing among ourselves and with a couple others (Luke Magnuson, Rami Chehouri, and Gil Nevils). With a week to go we were quite varied in our deck choices, but as we came down to the wire, the most recent iteration of Qui-Gon Kanan was having such success that everyone ended up running it at the regional.
Why was it having success? Well that’s what I hope to tackle in this article.
The first statement that needs to be made is that in no way am I claiming Qui-Gon Kanan is a more efficient deck than R2P2, it just isn’t. R2P2 will win any game in which Qui-Gon Kanan doesn’t make some significant outplays. R2P2 simply does math better, its characters and cards are more efficient. I however, disliked playing R2P2, as well as several others in our group, so we set out to build a deck that could beat it.
Ultimately what we found is that to beat R2P2 you can’t go through its shields and Force Illusions, you need to avoid them at all costs. The best option for this is still, even post nerf, the Vibroknife, and the best character for abusing it is hands down Kanan, with his psuedo-cheat focus really helping to guarantee the +2 side on Vibro. However, even with Vibroknife in the deck, it’s still too easy for the R2P2 player to play around, he can see it on the board after all. So, being the combo player that I am, I added Swiftness Concentrate to the build. I had already messed around with this earlier in the meta, but before I added Vibroknife to the deck, without much success. What I found is that in combination with Vibroknife, and the multitude of other + sides in the deck (+3 on Ancient, +1 +2 on Shoto), the combo was extremely devastating.
The simple fact of the matter is that the R2P2 Player looking at a 3 shield, Force Illusioned Rey is not going to play around 7 unblockable damage being dealt next action when all you have showing is a 2 on Qui-Gon’s or Kanan’s die. However, with Ancient and Vibroknife on the board, if they don’t heal/remove immediately, they will die next action, and lose the game from there. Rey often has all the early upgrades, and they’re almost never redeploy (Shoto’s and Ancients). Killing through the shields would therefore secure the game for the QK player. Furthermore, having Swiftness Concentrate simply made the end game more reliable, it wouldn’t matter what you rolled out, you’d just play the combo and win.
In addition to this Qui-Gon Kanan has one of the most busted cards in the game right now, Close Quarters Assault. This card has not gotten the attention it deserves. Every melee weapon run in QK has 50% melee sides. Together with Force Speed you have an easy way to get those dice into your pool early enough for the discard to matter. Notice that even if your opponent removes one of your melee sides after rolling in, it doesn’t diminish the effectiveness of CQA as they just discarded that removal card anyway. Having played 2 CQAs for the past month of testing and tournaments I can assure you that somewhere around 75% of games you will end up dumping your entire opponent’s hand early on in a turn. This is huge, not only will they not be able to remove your dice while you’re re-rolling your 1s and non-melee dice into better sides, but if they roll poorly they get stuck with it. Especially on turn one we’ve found it can just straight win games, as mulliganed hands typically hold above average cards, and the early lead is so important. Furthermore, as we got into the later version of the deck we began running 4 re-roll effect cards, (Trust the Force and Sound the Alarm), and in combination with CQA these cards are extremely effective. Finally, the Concentrate play can also be used and instead of immediately resolving the melee, you can CQA your opponent’s hand, as they wont have any removal left to affect your turned dice.
It was the combination of these two factors that made playing R2P2 into Qui-Gon Kanan absolutely miserable. Sure, you could still win close to half your games (although towards the end QK had a much higher winrate), but you felt powerless in your losses. Qui-Gon Kanan was always in the driver’s seat, and having to consider whether you need to Ancient heal when your Rey still has 10 effective hp was just plain annoying.
Let me mention in brief a couple other interesting aspects of our list:
No Caution: We found that in the shield hate meta, Caution was losing a ton of value. Additionally, it’s an entirely dead card once you lose a character, so we replaced it with other options that would be online the entire game.
Trust the Force: This card is absolutely insane in a blue meta. Both in the mirror match, and against R2P2, it’s essentially Sound the Alarm on all die sides, while also re-rolling your own dice. Note that typically R2P2’s upgrades are blue, and they often use Poe’s focus sides to turn the blue dice to high melee values. Having 4 zero cost re-roll effects was huge in denying these focus plays. It’s worth noting that Swiftness in combination with Trust the Force can be strong when followed up with a CQA, a Force Misdirection (re-roll your opponent’s non-melee dice), or simply immediately resolving the dice.
1 Lightsaber Pull: This is probably the most controversial, but what I found is that especially against R2P2 trying to set up the double Shoto Qui-Gon was a huge risk. Instead I would focus on getting Vibroknife and Ancient on Kanan, and go for the early unblockable snipe on Rey.
It’s also worth noting the resource curve of the deck. QK typically will buy upgrades turns 1-3, but after that, you’re pretty much done. Additionally, we’re only running 5 (non-combo) 1 cost events, with everything else at 0. This is what allows us to afford Swiftness Concentrate.
So how did the deck perform? Well, here’s the breakdown after swiss:
- Andrew Rothermel 7-1 (1st)
- Jonathan Magnuson 7-1 (3rd) >Myself
- Rami Chehouri 6-2 (6th)
- Luke Magnuson 6-2 (8th)
- Will Klein 6-2 (9th)
- Brian Lindberg 6-2 (11th)
- Gil Nevils 5-3 (15th)
I’d call it a great showing for a tournament with a grand total of 27 R2P2s attending.
This is where the sadness begins however, as in the first round of the top 8 cut I end up playing Rami and Andrew plays Luke, so we by default eliminated half of us in the first round. Then going into the top 4 my brother (Luke) and I end up facing Arthur Reynolds and Dan Weiser respectively (the only 2 R2P2 players who made top 8). It’s worth noting that they are both in a play testing group together (as well as with the Jaba Unkar player who made top 8) and that Dan was the 2017 World Champion and is an extremely solid player.
Side Note: Dan was playing R2P2 pre-nerf, and contributed, at least in part, to its rise to popularity. One of the members of Knights of Ren took R2P2 to the first Galactic Qualifier, and he helped popularize it. In their podcast he gives credit to Garret Larson from MN for showing him the deck. Garret will tell you that he started playing R2P2 when he had Dan beat him with it several times at local tournaments. (EDIT: see Garret’s comment below)
Back to the top 4. My brother and I both end up winning our first games (we were playing best of threes). However, we end up losing the next two resulting in a tragic R2P2 mirror match final. I can’t speak much to how my brother lost, other than that he remembers a specific tragic Sound the Alarm in game 2 where he had Arthur re-roll a 2 +3 and he rolled right back into 2 +3, which ended up losing him the game that he felt ahead in.
I know that in my third game I actually thought I had won, Dan even turned to Arthur and said something like “Well I’ve messed up, looks like you’ll have to win for us” (highly paraphrased). This came after a Force Speed Concentrate play for 7 unblockable to kill Rey. However, nearly everything that could go wrong, did go wrong after that. It all culminated in a huge Force Misdirection. I had CQA’d Dan’s entire hand twice that game, but looking through his discard pile I noticed he still had his 1 Misdirection in his deck or hand ( we were given each others’ deck lists) and a +1 on Shoto sitting on the board. I have no good options other than just rolling out Kanan (I had rolled Qui Gon the action before to force Dan to kill him, moving the Rey’s Saber to Kanan). Despite Kanan having only a single melee side, I manage to roll it on both his dice, as well as melee on 2 of my upgrades. Lo and behold, Dan has his Misdirection and plays it. Now, if he didn’t have it, or if I’d rolled non melee and a single focus on Kanan, he would have lost. Poe had 3 damage and 3 shields, but I would have been able to focus Swiftness Concentrate for 8 unblockable. Failing that, I could have dealt some damage, then Swiftness Concentrated next turn for the kill. Instead, Dan wipes my entire board and wins the game next round.
All my bitterness over my poor fortune aside, Dan is an extremely solid player, so props to him. He did end up winning the final game and securing the regional. Despite the poor ending for the deck, it performed quite well over the course of the tournament, and I know I’ll be sad to set it down as Legacies begins. I know you’re all probably excited to leave behind this meta, but when you’ve played a deck hundreds of times, there’s something sad about saying good bye to it.
Let me know what you did and did not like about this article, and feel free to check out my ramblings in the below video. Also big shout-out to HonestlySarcastc from the Hyperloops for his article/vlog he did on our list: https://www.thehyperloops.com/mmffgreg/