Battle of Yavin: Star Wars TCG
Welcome back to our Star Wars Trading Card Game (SWTCG) article series where we are breaking down each set printed by Wizards of the Coast (WOTC)!
Last time we discussed the first set to include original trilogy content – A New Hope. Battle of Yavin is the 4th set released by WOTC, and it’s an expansion of content from the same time period. What’s more, WOTC did a great job of building on the mechanics introduced in A New Hope, including the Pilot and Intercept keyword abilities. They also created a brand new keyword ability – Retaliate.
Retaliate New Keyword Ability
Let’s dig into the Retaliate mechanic introduced in Battle of Yavin. Retaliate allows a unit to roll dice of damage back at its attacker in the same arena after the attack ends, even if the target of the attack was defeated. Here’s the exact wording: “Retaliate X – if a unit in the same arena as this unit is attacking this unit, this unit does X dice of damage to that unit when the attack ends.”
Retaliate isn’t an ability you will see a lot of in competitive play, but there are some great units with this keyword in the game. Elite Guardian and Jabba’s Guards are some of the best, but they won’t be printed for a while. Chewbacca (A) and Grand Moff Tarkin (A) are the two Retaliate all-stars from Battle of Yavin.
Retaliate seems to be the perfect, thematic keyword ability for Chewbacca (A), and he definitely gets a lot of love in this set. There are four versions of Chewie, so we’ll hold off on discussing him for now and revisit in the Character section below.
While Grand Moff Tarkin (A) might not seem very good with 30 speed, 6 build, 4 attack power, and 4 health...his second ability is what makes him stand out. Tarkin grants Retaliate to each of your Jedi units while he’s in play – “As long as Tarkin is in the Character arena, each of your Jedi gets Pay 1 Force → Retaliate 4”. There are a few space units in particular where this ability really shines, including Sith Infiltrator (A) as well as Vader’s TIE (A) and (B); they each have the Jedi Subtype, and paying 1 Force to Retaliate 4 is a huge value when most of the best light side ships have 3 health or less.
The Battle of Yavin set certainly lives up to its namesake with some of the best, most iconic Space units in the game!
On the Light Side, we get a new version of Luke’s X-Wing and we see the debut of the Millenium Falcon! Luke’s X-Wing (B) is, in my opinion, the best card in this set, and might be the best card ever printed by WOTC for its cost. For 5 build points, we get a unit with 60 speed, 3 attack power, 3 health, Evade, and Critical Hit 4. This ship is a powerhouse! I can totally see what the designers were going for here with theme...Luke uses the force to evade while he lines up that miracle shot with Critical Hit 4! Gotta love it! This ship will become the staple “go-to unit” in just about every single competitive Light Side deck. The Millenium Falcon hyperspace jumps into the game with 3 versions, each of which are playable. Millennium Falcon (A) is often overlooked, but it has good stats for its cost with Shields and a built-in ability to repair itself. Millennium Falcon (B) is probably the most popular version because it can carry an additional Pilot, it has very efficient Evade, plus it can remove damage from itself at the start of the Battle phase if it’s being piloted. There are lots of cool, fun piloting synergies you can build with this Falcon that are quite strong. Millennium Falcon (C) is neutral, meaning both the Dark and Light sides can benefit from its low cost, high speed, and Accuracy. This also gives the Dark Side a chance to contest one of the Light Side’s best ships and force it out of the arena at a crucial moment, but that’s a double-edged sword since it goes both ways.
While the Dark Side gets some new, fun and thematic Space units, unfortunately they are quite weak relative to their Light Side counterparts. The most noteworthy addition is the first appearance of the Death Star with 3 different versions, each depicting a different stage of its preparation to fire – Death Star (B) is moving into position, Death Star (A) is charging up and Death Star (C) is firing! Death Star (A) is the “middle size” version, at a whopping 15 build points! But it does have 15 attack power and health as well as Bombard 8...so there’s that. Death Star (B) is the cheapest version, so this is likely what you’ll try to build during Setup. It “only” costs 12 build (it’s all relative LOL), but the ability to search your deck for a Starfighter with Intercept will be the key to the Death Star’s survival. TIE Fighter DS-61-9 is the perfect unit to protect your Death Star, as it’s the cheapest ship with Intercept. Death Star (C) is the fully powered Death Star, with 20 attack power and health plus the ability to destroy every unit in the ground arena! Ka-Boom...Pretty thematic huh? WOTC did such an amazing job capturing the theme of the Death Star, almost to a fault. Its static ability of giving all Starfighters that attack it Critical Hit 3 pretty much means the Death Star will never be competitive...but it’s definitely fun to play out thematic battles, fending off a trench run from the filthy rebels!
Battle of Yavin adds a nice mixture of Ground units for both sides of the force.
The Light Side’s best new Ground unit is the Rebel Armored Freerunner. This vehicle comes from Legends lore and first appeared in Dark Force Rising, the second book in the “Thrawn trilogy” by Timothy Zahn. I’m a huge Expanded Universe fan, so I’ve always loved this unit. It has an activated ability that lets you deal 3 damage either to one unit or split up between two different units; the fact that it deals guaranteed damage (no dice rolling) is definitely its strength. There are also a number of “combos” that can be pulled off with this unit. For example, at the time of its release, Peace on Naboo wasn’t restricted, so you could activate the Freerunner – often first since it has 50 speed – then play Peace on Naboo to prevent additional damage in the Ground arena; obviously this combo gets stronger the more Rebel Armored Freerunner units you have in play.
On the Dark Side we get a Death Star Turbolaser Tower to protect our Death Star in space, which is cool. This unit has pretty decent stats for its cost, and the Ion Cannon 5 can be a real nightmare for your opponent’s starfighters. I also like Dewback Patrol – might not seem like much for a “vanilla” unit with no abilities...but its stats are quite good for 6 build points. I remember playing this card in some of my more competitive decks at the time. As an added bonus, this card does have the Imperial, Stormtrooper, and Creature subtypes, so there’s some deckbuilding synergy available there.
Finally, there are some pretty decent Neutral ground units from the Battle of Yavin set as well. Tusken Raider Squad and Tusken War Party can really help flush out a good Tusken deck. Jawa Salvage Team is a nice, cheap addition to the Jawa strategy. Also, Tatooine Hangar is an often overlooked card with a powerful ability that can fuel different space-focused decks for both sides.
“Let him have it. It’s not wise to upset a Wookie...a droid don’t pull people’s arms out of their sockets when they lose.” And with that famous quote in mind, it makes perfect sense why Chewbacca would have Retaliate! Chewie makes his debut in the Battle of Yavin set as a main character with 4 different versions, each with Retaliate. Unfortunately, Chewbacca never saw much competitive play – paying Force to Retaliate just isn’t as appealing as paying for Evade or Deflect to prevent damage – but he’s still fun and thematic to play with, and he can definitely pack a wallop. Chewbacca (A) is pretty straight forward; for 8 build points he has 40 speed, 6 attack power, and 8 health plus the Intercept and Retaliate keyword abilities. In my opinion, Chewbacca (B) is underrated. While his cost and stats are just ok, I think his ability is really great to build a deck strategy around – “When you draw a card, if Chewbacca is in the Character arena, remove 1 damage counter from one of your Space or Ground units.” There are quite a few very good “card draw” units, several with high health like Jawa Sandcrawler or Coruscant Freighter AA-9 (A). By combining Chewbacca (B) with these key “card draw” units that are already very good on their own, you will make it incredibly difficult for your opponent to kill your units. Think about it...the Millenium Falcon’s high speed, consistent damage, and evasion are already hard to deal with, but if Chewie is also repairing it?? That’s a nightmare for your opponent and can feel like a “no-win” situation. Chewbacca (B) would also be great at repairing seldom-used units with very high hit points like Naboo Defense Station. WHRRRAAARGH! We love you too Chewbacca!!
On the Dark Side, unfortunately there aren’t too many new characters to shake things up. Grand Moff Tarkin is really the only one. We already talked about Grand Moff Tarkin (A) and his Retaliate synergy. Grand Moff Tarkin (B) can also be useful for your Death Star deck; he has a pretty low cost and removing 5 damage from your Death Star every turn is great. There are a couple new Darth Vaders, all of which are playable but not particularly powerful. It is nice to finally have our first Vader Pilot with Darth Vader (D), but he’s a little expensive at 8 build to go pilot a ship rather than compete for the Character arena. This is a good Vader to have in your stack in case your opponent doesn’t have any Character threats, so he can hop over into Space. R2-Q5 (A) is a pretty good support unit in Dark Side force drain strategy decks. Its ability will either drain four force from your opponent or net you a build point, plus your opponent will have to waste an attack targeting it in order to prevent you from getting these effects, which protects your better characters for a turn or two.
There are really only two Neutral characters of note in Battle of Yavin. Han Solo (A) was the preview card from the A New Hope set, as we discussed in my last article. Jawa Scavenger is also quite a good addition for the Jawa themed deck strategy.
Unfortunately, there are only 7 mission cards in this expansion, and the only ones I’ve used are Your Powers Are Weak and Visit to Mos Eisley. Both of these cards saw play when this set was released, but never as a full playset in decks.
There are quite a few good battle cards in Battle of Yavin, some of which are still played in competitive decks today. Let’s touch on the best ones...
The Dark Side gets the best Battle card in this set – Countermeasures. This is a fantastic Battle card, and I often have 1-2 copies in every competitive Dark Side deck I own. It allows the Dark Side player to deal with hard to kill, high damage output units of which the Light Side has a plethora at their disposal. For example, before Luke’s X-Wing (B) attacks, you can play this card, and if your opponent rolls that natural six...they can kiss Luke’s X-Wing goodbye!
There are also some strong Neutral Battle cards in this set. Alien Rage plus Krayt Dragon is hands down my favorite combo in the game – increasing the Krayt’s speed to 50 and giving it 11 power and Critical Hit 2...plus it untaps each time it eats (defeats) a ground unit?! Say goodbye to your opponent’s Ground forces! Pilot’s Speed is another good one – +40 speed to a Space or Ground unit. Bumping up the speed of your Death Star sounds like fun!
(Queue the Music)
In all, the Battle of Yavin is a great set, and a fantastic expansion to A New Hope! There are plenty of standout cards that can be used in thematic or competitive decks, and I tried to hit on the main ones in this article. As always, I’m sure there are some cards other people really like that I haven’t found a good use for yet...but I’d love to hear all about it!
Leave a comment below, and let me know what your favorite Battle of Yavin card is and how you use it!
Starting September 1, our casual Beginner League will be expanding its available card pool to include Battle of Yavin. If you’d like to jump into one of our Organized Play events, you can sign up here!
This is Gold Leader, signing off…
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