Draft Day: A Closer Look at the Rivals Draft Set

This is a guest post by our friend John Lynch.

A new format has come to Destiny! With the announcement of the Rivals Draft Pack late last year, Fantasy Flight Games opened up a completely new world of play for their successful card and dice game. Currently there is only a “preview” wave out for the set, meaning that product is extremely limited (if stores chose to sell their limited stock at all). While we wait for it to have a full release, I present to you my analysis of the Rivals cards and how they can bring you to victory in your next draft event.

CHARACTERS

Before I jump into the four Rivals characters, let me just start with this: drafting a character is going to be important. Take note that you can only get two of Anakin/Lobot/Ketsu along with the Jawa to keep yourself under the 30 point limit for characters; so 26 or 27 is all you’ll get from the Rivals pack. Unless you draft a 3-point plot, drafting a character to get toward that 30 point maximum should be high on your list. I would also like to add that all of these characters will probably end up in one of your drafts eventually, so it’s a good idea to know how to use them. 

At 10 health, Anakin is the beefiest of the four characters. He also has the most damage sides of any Rivals character, if you have a villain card to discard for his special. Outside of the draft pack, I feel that blue has one of the most rounded out upgrade and event suites in Destiny, so taking him feels worth it if you drafted well in blue. A downside is that you need to have a hero or villain card to discard for his special, and you may not always be in a situation where you have a card you are able/willing to throw away, essentially giving him two blanks. You may also find yourself in situations where you are unable to pay for his 2-damage-for-a-resource side.

There are three things I like about Lobot: His special, his focus side, and his ability. His special is amazing. Increasing a damage side is always great, but resolving his special with a resource or discard side is no joke. Lobot’s focus side helps get what you want, which is always a positive. His guardian ability, while battlefield dependent, is awesome, because in this format the only removal cards you are guaranteed come in the Rivals set, meaning you’ll need all the help you can get. Aside from that, when I draft, Lobot is probably the first of three unique characters from the Rivals set to go back in the binder.

Ketsu is probably my favorite character in the draft set. She does have some weaknesses, namely the 9 health for 11 cost, but her ability and two 2-damage sides make up for that. In Destiny, losing an upgrade with a defeated upgrade can hurt, especially if you payed quite a bit for it. With Ketsu, you can play an upgrade on your most threatening character and not have to worry about it going to the discard pile. Alternatively, if they target Ketsu first, you know your upgrade is safe. Additionally, she gives you access to Destiny’s amazing yellow event suite, notably the removal. Finally, I love the 1-discard sides in the draft format for the chance to remove the limited upgrade cards or key events from my opponent’s hand.

Jawa fulfills one main purpose in my mind: you somehow drafted 20-24 points’ worth of characters (or no characters!) that you really want to play and you need that third member of the team. Aside from that, there are situational uses. Putting a big weapon on Jawa can help direct damage away from your more impactful characters, and can get some further use if that weapon has the redeploy keyword or you have Ketsu on your team. Jawa’s die can also be useful for such cards as Fight Back or Resourceful. If worse comes to worst and Jawa or another character with a non-redeploy upgrade are about to be defeated (and Ketsu is nowhere to be found), you can always activate Jawa and get a resource for that weapon that otherwise would be lost.

DICE CARDS

Just as with the characters, what dice cards you put in your deck will be completely subjective. Honestly, as long as they are legal to play, you’ll probably want to include each of these in your deck. Knowing that, I’ll mostly highlight some thoughts on each card. 

I’m not sure how I feel about this upgrade. It has 50% damage sides, but the big downside to that great damage output is having to play it on a character after you’ve already activated. That’s not a big deal early on, but late game that delay can be deadly.

The Fang Fighter is decent overall, and given that you’re not likely to have any elite characters, it sort of acts like an additional member of your party (especially if you get it out round 1). The ambush is nice for when you want to speed things up a bit. My beloved discard side makes another appearance. Note that the 5th and 6th sides are a resource and a blank, which do not show in the image.

Next up we have the big gun of the draft set. This upgrade’s biggest feature is the ability to keep it in the pool after resolving the special, which is handy in a format that doesn’t see loads of burst damage.

A big hitter with redeploy and a discard side. Those facts coupled with the damage sides make this my favorite dice card in the Rivals set.

This last dice card seems pretty okay to me. It feels similar to the crafted lightsaber, without the need to play it on an exhausted character. Also, due to removal being a less guaranteed commodity in the draft format, the focus side is amazing.

NON-DICE CARDS

These three are my “include unless there’s a damn good reason not to” cards. Hidden Motive is crazy good, not just in draft, but in constructed as well. If I’m running blue, I’m running Hidden Motive. In general, at best, you just removed one of their big hitting dice. At worst, you are making them discard to reroll a side they didn’t want. There’s the occasional case of dice like Ketsu, where it’s a crapshoot, but I’m normally using it on other dice anyway.

Tinker may not seem great on the surface, since most damage dice are 2+, but this shines for getting you to the resource, discard, and focus sides (maybe shields if you need them), which all have further value. Combined with Lobot’s special, any of those sides can go from great to straight up ridiculous.

Finally, Bespin Wing Guard seems like an amazing card, whether mill (winning by forcing the opponent to discard all their cards) is your chosen deck strategy or not. At minimum, you cost them a reroll (which in turn saves you from taking damage). Even better, you may have caused them to choose to discard a card that they wanted to keep. Draft games are rarely blowouts, so getting this card out early means increased returns on your investment.

These four cards will find their way into most of my draft builds eventually, simply because they have some value in what they do. If I get something better, great. If not, I have these to fall back on.

Removal is at a premium in draft, and Fight Back is the only other one included in the set. It may cost you a die, but removal is removal.

With removal not as prevalent, changing your own dice to different sides is less risky than in constructed formats. Both Targeting Computer and Emulate help you do this. Targeting computer costs one and excludes character dice, but overall this is a great way to get a last second, unexpected damage, especially if your opponent has already claimed. Similarly, Emulate can only affect character dice, and only as long as another copy of that character is in play (but it’s free!). While mostly worthless in constructed, you are very likely to see another copy of any of the Rivals characters at a draft event, so don’t be afraid to add this in if you have the space. Both of these cards also have the ability to screw with your opponent’s dice.

Surprise attack is just okay to me, but one damage can sometimes mean the difference between victory and defeat.

These two cards are what I consider to be in the “leave out unless…” category.

Resourceful is going to any draft deck that includes Jawa, being a great way to turn a side you don’t want into money. However, being spot Gray means it needs the Jawa on your team and alive to work, so keep that in mind.

I’m not high on the supply pack. It saves you valuable card resources by saving you a discard, but at the same time you’re probably only rerolling two dice until later in the game, when I’d rather have a second or third upgrade on a character. This card can be valuable if you managed to get many upgrades on the board, but I’m more often than not going to leave this out. I could be wrong, but right now, it seems like the most solid choice to replace with something else.

BATTLEFIELDS

In the event you don’t draft a battlefield, you have a choice to make: if your field is chosen, so you want to play it safe or be aggressive? Dry Fields is the conservative choice. There’s a chance you get nothing, but same with your opponent. Resources are certainly impactful, but I have a feeling that draft is not going to be a format where a player is going broke every round. Sith Temple is more aggressive, and costs you a die to resolve its effect. One damage may not always be a lot, but an aggressive claim (or two… or three…) from you or your opponent has the potential to pay dividends down the road.

PARTING THOUGHTS

Draft is going to be a fun, new addition to Destiny, a nice break from the rigors of constructed play. That being said, despite its random nature, draft does have some strategy. Here are some tips that I have for helping make the best of your draft events:

  • Be flexible – Your initial gameplan may change after your first few draft choices.
  • Find a balance – If you draft a lot of yellow and blue, that red gun on the fourth pack may not be worth it
  • Draft removal – There are only two removal cards in the Rivals pack, and you don’t want your opponent to play their dice unchecked
  • 7-9 point characters are your friend – Remember what I said about the three named characters in Rivals? A 7-9 point character can help you get a powerful Rainbow (Blue, Red, Yellow) character combination, giving you access to nearly everything you have drafted. As always, your mileage may vary, and some are better than others
  • Draft dice upgrades/supports – Destiny is a dice game. If you can overwhelm your opponent with dice, you’ll increase your odds of winning
  • Draft FN-2199 – Remember, errata does not count in draft. At 10 points and 11 health at one die, he is a massive upgrade to Lobot. Nines’ ability is active 100% of the time and can usually be taken advantage of more often Lobot’s special. Resolving a weapon die twice is no joke

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