In this edition of Deck Building 101, I’m going to go in depth on removal cards, what makes them good or bad, and how to decide on removal for you deck. The inspiration for this article was some discussions with Jon about what kind of removal he likes vs what kind of removal I like. I prefer cards like Doubt and Hasty Exit, which he dislikes putting is his decks. On the flip side, he loves having cards like Flank is his deck, while I tend to shy away from those sorts of cards. So who’s right? The answer is, well, complicated. There are different characteristics that give value to removal cards, and depending on what you are trying to do with your deck you will value certain types of removal cards more than others. The goal of this article is to explain what those characteristics are, and to help give you some insight into choosing the right removal cards for your deck.
There are three characteristics that define how useful a removal card is: resource efficiency, card efficiency, and reliability.
Standard resource efficiency for removal is 1 resource to hit 1 die. We have all kinds of removal that costs 1 resource and removes 1 die, from staples like Flank and Electroshock, to lesser used cards like Battle Fatigue and Mislead. This is the standard from which we evaluate resource efficiency. So then, cards that remove more dice than the resources they cost are resource efficient. Most 0 cost removal fits into this category, which explains why they have always been considered valuable. Additionally, some of the best 1 cost removal cards, such as Easy Pickings, are resource efficient.
Standard card efficiency for removal is 1 card to remove 1 die. Again, your standard 1 cost removal like Flank and Electroshock fit into this category, and are the standard from which other cards are evaluated. So then, cards that remove more than 1 die are card efficient removal. Most 2+ cost removal fits into this category, and this explains why cards like Entangle and Mind Trick have risen in value. As resources become more plentiful in an age of Yoda and Snoke, filling your deck with card efficient removal becomes more valuable. Again, the 1 cost removal cards that remove multiple dice, such as Easy Pickings, are also card efficient.
This category is harder to define, but essentially, reliability indicates two things: how likely you are to be able to play the card and how likely a card is to remove the die/dice you want to remove. How likely you are to be able to play a card depends on play restrictions, such as “Spot a yellow character.” How likely it is to work depends on variables like target restrictions, and what the card actually does (reroll effects are less reliable than removal effects). Good examples of reliable removal cards are Flank and Pinned Down, which can remove any die in decks that can very easily meet the play restrictions – this explains why Jon loves including these cards in his decks. Cards that are very likely to do what you want them to do rank high on the reliability scale. In general, this is the category where 1 cost removal outshines 0 and 2+ cost removal. Resource efficient removal and card efficient removal that rank highly on this scale are very valuable (He Doesn’t Like You and Entangle are good examples).
The Best of the Best
The best kind of removal are the cards that rank highly in two or more of these categories. Lets give a few examples:
0 cost removal that is reliable or hits multiple dice.
Examples: He Doesn’t Like You, Sound the Alarm
– He Doesn’t Like You is very reliable, giving it an increased advantage over other 0 cost removal options.
– Sound the Alarm, while unreliable, can be very card efficient in the right meta, allowing you to hit many dice with one card.
1 cost removal that hits multiple dice
Examples: Easy Pickings, Force Illusion
– Easy Pickings is resource efficient and card efficient, and the fact that it is also fairly reliable makes it potentially the best removal card in the game.
– Force Illusion is ultra reliable (with no play restrictions and unblockable damage being the only play around), and has the potential to hit multiple dice if there are modifiers involved, making it resource efficient, card efficient, and reliable. It’s no surprise that this card sees a ton of play!
2+ cost removal that is reliable
Examples: Entangle, Beguile
– Entangle, while not hitting every time, can fairly reliably remove two impactful dice, making it one of best card efficient pieces of removal in the game.
– Beguile, with no spot restrictions or play restrictions, allows you to reliably hit 3 of an opponents dice at once.
Building the Right Removal Suite
Deciding which of these characteristics to value the most depends on the deck you are building. One of the most important factors is the resource curve of your deck. Decks with low resource curves, such as Boba/Seventh Sister decks, are going to value resource efficient removal more than anything. They just don’t have the flexibility to give up resource efficiency for better reliability, since they aren’t going to be able to afford to play those cards anyways (defeating the point of including more reliable cards). This is why cards like Doubt and Hidden Motive see so much play in resource starved decks. On the other hand, decks that can reliably churn out resources are going to be able to give up some resource efficiency for more reliability. This is why we see cards like Flank and Pinned Down as the bread and butter of Vehicle decks, which tend to have higher resource curves.
Another important factor is card slots. Decks with lots of important offensive cards, such as Obi/Maz, have less slots for removal and thus seem vulnerable to hands with few removal options. This is where card efficient removal can be extra valuable. It doesn’t matter if you only have one removal card in your hand if that card is Hyperspace Jump, which often deletes the majority of an opponents dice for that turn. So if you find yourself tight on removal slots, consider putting more emphasis on including card efficient removal.
Finally, include good removal cards! Your first considerations should be the types of cards I listed above in The Best of the Best section. These are cards that are great from multiple perspectives, and really help to anchor a solid removal suite. Beyond that, avoid cards that don’t rank well in any of these categories. There’s a reason no one plays The Force is With Me in a melee heavy meta!
This article is not exhaustive and there are other variables that I did not cover that could influence your decisions. Nothing can replace testing for narrowing down the best possible removal suites for you decks! But hopefully this article gives you a place to start, by giving you a better idea of what makes certain removal cards valuable and how to decide what types of removal options to include in your deck. Until next time!
Bonus Section: Using Removal Against Mill
With the Millpocalypse upon us, I thought it would be prudent to include a short section on using removal against mill. The general thought seems to be that using removal cards against mill feels pretty bad – you’re still milling yourself by using that card. However, I think it is still valuable to use your removal against mill decks, especially ones that center around characters with high value dice that also mill from deck (I’m looking at you Yoda and Cassian!). Let me give you an example to explain why:
Let’s say you have an opportunity to use He Doesn’t Like You to remove a Yoda die. Assuming they would use that die to mill from the top of your deck, playing the card is a wash when it comes to milling you. However, in the process you are getting rid of a fairly useless card for the matchup (He Doesn’t Like You), and potentially preventing them from milling an important card (the top card of your deck could be that Ancient Saber or Force Speed you’ve been looking for). The reality is that you still want to cycle through your deck against mill, because you need to get to your impactful cards. Sitting on your removal and letting your opponent mill your deck is a bad way to get those cards into your hand and onto the playing field. Using your removal cards gains additional value against Yoda and Cassian, since their dice are providing additional value along the way, which you are preventing by removing the dice. So even though it feels bad, you should still strongly consider using your removal in these matchups.
One more thing about removal in a mill world: as mill becomes more prevalent card efficient removal becomes more valuable. Mill players will tell you how bad it feels to get their Yoda dice Entangled or Best Defensed. Playing these cards actually saves you cards, in addition to providing the benefits I mentioned above. So if you are looking to tech your deck for mill matchups, consider adding more card efficient removal.