Jedi Guardians: 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 Battle of Yavin set – a follow up expansion to A New Hope. The next set released by WOTC – Jedi Guardians – pivots the story and returns us back to the prequel trilogy era.
The Jedi Guardians set was not directly named after a particular scene or movie like some of the previous sets were, but when we take a closer look it’s easy to see this set as an expansion to Attack of the Clones. Jedi Guardians is 105 cards, and covers some of the best moments in the movie...like the Battle of Geonosis! Let’s dig in!!
“My own council did I keep” – Yoda, Empire Strikes Back
In Jedi Guardians we are introduced to the 12 members of the infamous Jedi Council led by none other than Master Yoda! Not only is this super cool in and of itself (I mean, who doesn’t like playing with new, awesome Jedi?!)...but they also create our first alternate win condition, which we’ll cover later in more detail.
We also get two new Keyword Abilities – Overkill and Reserves. These additions really expand the game in fun and interesting ways by offering new interactions and decisions for both players. In my opinion, interaction is probably the single most important consideration when designing a fun and balanced game, particularly when creating new content to progress and evolve the game. If you can’t interact or respond to your opponent’s actions, games just aren’t as fun to me. Let’s take a look at what these new Keyword Abilities do!
Overkill grants a unit the ability during its attack to divide hits in excess of the defending unit’s health between the defender and another unit in the same arena. Essentially, any amount of excess damage from an attack can be dealt to another unit, again in the same arena. This is a great ability, and it adds a new layer of decision making for both players. For example, when a unit with Overkill – like Battle Droid Division – deals damage, the attacking player must choose to deal any excess hits greater than the defending unit’s health to another unit in the same arena after attack dice are rolled. This can be a loaded decision as Overkill damage is assigned BEFORE damage prevention. That means your opponent could use evasive abilities or a Battle card – like Obi-Wan’s Maneuver – to potentially prevent enough damage to save one or even both units! It’s this interaction and decision making that makes Overkill a really fun ability.
Reserves abilities are actions that can only be performed while the unit is in your Build Zone. There are so many playable Reserves units to consider adding to decks, especially for the Light Side – Jedi Youngling, Yoda (E), and R2-D2 (E) are just some of the new cards that will drastically impact the game. The strength of Reserves units is that they remain in the build zone, and are therefore protected from the dangers of the arena. But this protection is also their weakness, as Reserves units cannot help you to control an arena while in the Build Zone.
While Reserves may seem like an utterly non-interactive ability with minimal decision making, I would argue there’s still decisions to be made...they just happen before the match with deckbuilding. Your opponent’s Reserves units can be quite strong and powerful if left unchecked in the Build Zone. Therefore, when building a deck, it is now vital to consider what cards to include that can interact with Reserves units and their abilities. For example, new cards like Homing Missile, Jango Fett (G), and Zam Wesell (C) allow you to directly attack or deal damage to Reserves units hiding in your opponent’s Build Zone. If you don’t include answers in your deck to some of the most common and powerful Reserves units and then you get wrecked by them...that’s on you (harsh, but true). 😉
Jedi Guardians is a fantastic set, and there are plenty of additions in Space to both Light and Dark sides for casual and competitive players.
On the Light Side, we have another version of Obi-Wan’s Starfighter (B), which is better than its predecessor in a few ways. First, it gains Evade, which is a more consistent and dependable method of keeping this unit alive. Second it can attack Space units in your opponent’s Build Zone, allowing you to damage any retreated or Reserves Space units. The Republic Army gets some new units with Republic Assault Transport, Republic Light Assault Cruiser, and Republic Hyperdrive Ring. Even though it’s a little disappointing that we never got any “tribal” synergies for the Republic with WOTC cards, these new units were all good enough to be included in any player’s competitive deck at the time.
For the Dark Side, the new and most powerful Slave I (C) is a welcome addition. Jedi Starfighters have long ruled the Space arena since Attack of the Clones. While this Slave I is costly at 8 build, it certainly packs a punch and makes quick work of any Jedi units. New supporting units include Trade Federation Blockade Ship and Trade Federation Droid Bomber, which both have Bombard – add in Death Star Superlaser Gunner and you have a potent and lethal combo.
The only new Neutral Space unit is the Sabaoth Starfighter. While it’s cheap at 2 build and it does have Overkill, its stats of 40 speed, 2 power, and 1 health make this unit pretty useless.
If you are a fan of Clones (like me), this set offers some essential additions for a Clones “tribal” strategy. Tipoca Training Ground, while not a Clone, is a Reserves unit that is a must-have for any Clones deck. It can prevent 2 damage to one of your Clones or grant a Clone unit Accuracy 1 for an attack. Clone Fire Team is probably one of the most relevant cards for this strategy because it grants all other Clones +10 speed. Most importantly, unlike Tipoca Training Ground, it has the Clone subtype and is searchable with Clone Facility, the primary engine for this style of deck.
Coruscant Air Bus is a fantastic Light Side Reserves unit that will draw you a card each turn. I know I get an unusual amount of joy from drawing extra cards, so I really like this unit – especially since it’s Reserves, so it has the added protection of not being in the arena.
If you like combos, then Jedi Guardians has you covered! The new Overkill Keyword Ability lends itself to some pretty sweet, thematic combos for both the Light and Dark sides by supercharging one unit with lots of power...and that’s exactly what Overkill units want!
On the Dark Side, the Battle Droid Division already has Overkill and 8 power...combo it up with an old staple like Dark Speed, Pilot’s Speed, or even better Alien Rage and you can do some serious damage!
Other noteworthy Dark Side Ground units include the Executioner Cart to provide some much-needed utility for those pesky evading Jedi, as well as Tyranus’s Geonosis Speeder which can actually search for Executioner Cart . Lastly, Orray is actually a key component to fuel dark side Creature “tribal” strategy decks – you’d be surprised just how strong this type of deck actually is, and it’s fun to see the arenas full of different galactic beasts!
Let’s look at Neutral Characters first. There are several good new additions in Jedi Guardians to improve existing strategies. Scurrier is great in Creature “tribal” decks. RIC-920 makes your Tusken Warriors deadlier than ever. And last, but certainly not least...Boba Fett (B) (“Baby Boba” as we call him) is a fantastic pilot for Slave I (C), allowing you to “rain fire” on your opponent’s Jedi in the Character arena with +2 power and Accuracy 2! It’s worth noting that “Baby Boba” gives you 5 power when attacking characters plus effects, but you cannot use stacking bonuses. So no matter how many copies of Slave I you have in your stack, if you’re attacking a character you have 5 power plus any written card effects or abilities.
On the Dark Side, we get a new version of Darth Sidious (C), commonly known as “Secret Sidious”. His ability conceals the amount of damage he rolls on attacks, forcing his opponent to trigger any evasive abilities first – it’s super thematic and quite powerful. In my opinion, this is definitely the most offensively potent version of Sidious. We also get new versions of Darth Maul (E) and Aurra Sing (B) who are super underrated but both fantastic in any force drain deck. I really love this Maul because he only costs 7 build points, and Aurra is “dirt cheap” at 4 build and deadly efficient when her drawback is neutralized in a force drain deck. Finally, Kouhun is the best Dark Side Character in the set – these cheap and efficient deadly insects are sure to poison a character or two if your opponent can’t deal with them immediately.
Even with all these great Neutral and Dark Side units from Jedi Guardians, the Light Side still has many more awesome additions. Let’s start with our favorite couple...Anakin Skywalker (H) and Padme Amidala (F) go all-in on their forbidden love by blowing the top off on this synergistic duo. You could easily build an entire deck around these two, and it probably would have seen more competitive play back in the day if it wasn’t for the rules on contesting Anakin and Vader since they are the same character. Next, Jedi Younglings are just great – they are cheap to deploy and sit in Reserves fueling force for your Jedi and Battle cards. There’s also a new, very strong version of Obi-Wan Kenobi (I) – this is exactly what we needed as a top-end Kenobi for our stack!
Finally, as I mentioned up at the top of this article, Jedi Guardians introduces 12 members of the Jedi Council! I won’t go into detail on all of them (that would be a Star Wars novella on its own), but you can see them all below. Sadly Anakin Skywalker will be on the Council, but he’s not a Master yet...
Assembling the Council
While many of the Council Members have their uses individually, together they explore a whole new type of combo deck. The Jedi Council Quorum Mission card introduces a brand new win condition to the game – at the end of a turn, if you have at least 7 Council Members in play you win!
Affectionately called “The Council Deck” (and not-so-affectionately called “The Durdle Deck” in our house), this strategy typically included all the Jedi Council Members, Gather the Council to pull double duty gaining you force and searching for all of your Council Members, plus 4 copies of each of the “fog” effects from Attack of the Clones to prevent all damage in an arena including Lost in the Asteroids, Lull in the Fighting, and Peace on Naboo.
The “Council Deck” was incredibly powerful and imposed its will at the most competitive events back in the day, causing the arena-wide damage prevention Battle cards from Attack of the Clones to be Restricted forever.
Tyranus’s Return is the only Dark Side Mission in the Jedi Guardians set, and unfortunately it’s only semi-playable at best.
Thankfully, the Neutral Missions in this set are much better and more versatile! Homing Missile is definitely the stand out card that deals direct damage to any unit in play in a fun way by requiring you to physically drop it on your opponent’s unit – don’t miss! Guidance of the Chancellor, Remember the Prophecy, and Train for War also have their uses in the right deck. I particularly like Remember the Prophecy because for only 1 build point, it will either get you a unit you need or, worst case, it “mills” you closer to a unit you need.
Battle cards can often turn the tides, swinging control of an arena between players...and Jedi Guardians delivers us some new great ones!
Obi-Wan’s Maneuver may not seem like much, only preventing a single damage to a Space or Ground unit, but it is free at zero force! Believe me, sometimes a single damage prevented can be the difference, particularly with the introduction of Overkill.
Rapid Recovery is a great card for any diplomat deck, especially those with Padme.
Synchronized Systems might have a heavy force cost, but this card packs a punch by boosting two of your units in power and bringing one of them up in speed.
Lastly, I can’t say enough about Jedi Knight’s Survival. The best thing about this card is that it’s Neutral, so it provides the Dark Side much needed access to powerful damage prevention in any arena.
(Queue the Music)
At the time of its release, Jedi Guardians was a game-changer. So many of its additions had a lasting impact on the game itself and truly defined the competitive scene. I am happy to be a person who loves the prequels for what they added to the Star Wars universe, and while Jedi Guardians isn’t the best set ever, I love it for how it forever changed the game.
If you want to try out any of these strategies, don’t forget to join the Star Wars community on Discord and jump into the Beginner League! Jedi Guardians will unlock in the Beginner League on 10/5/2020 – sign up here! What strategies will you put to use?
This is Gold Leader, signing off…
Links and other good stuff:
Article: How to Play SWTCG Online
Online deckbuilder: www.swtcg.com
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