Aphra/Grievous/Sentinel - Deck Analysis

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1. INTRODUCTION:

Written by CLAUS STAAL

We first wrote about Doctor Aphra in a Aphra/Snoke/Ciena character team when Steve Thompson took down a Store Championship with it in August 2018, almost 8 months ago during the Way of the Force meta, and the sassy Artifact Hunter was again on everybody's lips when she formed a fearsome trio with Snoke and a Battle Droid, the so-called SAD deck that shared the spoils in the US Nationals 2018 finals at the hands of Drew Warren and Cody Williams of Arrow Brook Gaming. The Aphra/Grievous/Sentinel deck is EXTREMELY similar to the SAD deck even if the character team is totally different and is based on a host of amazing synergies that ties the deck together!

Mike Gemme of the Hyperloops recently wrote an article on why this deck might be the most broken deck in the game - many of his thoughts and insights are repeated in this article, and reading the original piece is definitely going to be worth your time as well (AFTER you finish this one of course)!

Also, I'll do a follow-up article in a couple of weeks discussing various match-ups for this deck, while our Patrons can go to our Discord now and find TWO recorded games already (one pitting two different versions of the deck against each other in a mirror-match from the YOUR Destiny League and a test game pitting it against Snoke's Unholy Trinity!).YOUR Destiny test gamejpg

2. CHARACTERS:

Aphra 2jpgWhile DOCTOR APHRA is not an enabler by Snokeesque standards, she combines plenty of "small elements" that still makes her incredibly powerful and ideal building a deck around. She does several things that combined makes her a power to be reckoned with!
  • The ability to play a Droid at a discount puts her on par with staple cards like It Binds All Things and Tech Team (both reprinted in Convergence), and while it only works on specific supports and support vehicles, the droids available are mostly of high quality, which in addition to her two murder droids, BT-1 and 0-0-0, that are uniquely interacting with her abilities, also includes more overlooked droids like:
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  • Her ability is in fact MORE powerful than It Binds All Things and Tech Team as those two cards only give you a functional "resource advantage" in the second round (they break even in the first round) and usually are dead cards in your hand in any round after round 2! Aphra's ability allows you to ramp immediately and build a powerful boardstate with a minimum of resources available (which is good in a deck which generally is resource strapped).
  • The ability to draw a card whenever you deal yourself Indirect damage is INCREDIBLY powerful as it allows you to sift through your deck rapidly, and should as early as round 1 functionally give you a card advantage, which is further augmented by the Sentinel Messenger.
GENERAL GRIEVOUS also allows you to do several powerful things which works well with several of the cards in the deck. First of all, he allows you to add the Sentinel Messenger to the character line-up at a discount. 7 points for the Sentinel is outrageously cheap, while also giving you a Power Action allowing you to reroll some of the most powerful dice in your pool: Any droid dice!Aphra 4jpg
Thirdly he provides you with what is arguably your strongest character die! The hard choice is whether to go elite with Grievous or add (as has been done in this deck) an Armored Reinforcement. Both are outstanding choices and while I do think adding the elite Grievous die is stronger in mirror matches, I'd still be inclined to lean towards Armored Reinforcement. I can't really blame you though if you're not! And I'll add an alternative version of the deck (without AR) at the end of the article.aphra 6jpg
I've really come around in regards to the Sentinel Messenger! He's much stronger than I gave him credit for when he was first spoiled and in this deck, most decks really, his ability really shines as it allows you to dig deep for some of your combo cards, i.e. the two droids, or just find some mitigation and play it straight out of the top of your deck.

Even when you do have your combo pieces in your hand, it's still often going to be worth it to activate the Sentinel BEFORE playing any cards to see if you draw another copy of a card in hand, enabling your hand by turning the one in hand into a potential discard to reroll, or you might draw a Tech Team or a Reprogram to allow you to play your Droid in hand at a discount or a Bubble Shield before activating the BT-1. Getting the sequencing right here is vital to maximise the efficiency of all elements of the deck.

3. DOUBLE UP OR REINFORCE?
As mentioned above, it's a really tough call on whether to go for Armored Reinforcement, which is definitely one of my favourite cards, or the elite die on Grievous! I've tested both, also the two different versions pitched against each other ... so far inconclusive.aphra 15jpg

4. MURDER DROIDS:
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Both 0-0-0 and BT-1 are HUGELY important to your deck! It's not really difficult to see why! They synergise with each other, activate BT-1 to deal 1 Indirect damage to both you and your opponent, deal another Indirect damage to your opponent due to 0-0-0's ability, while they also synergise with Aphra allowing you to play them cheaper AND drawing a card when activating BT-1. Synergies like that is exactly what characterise powerful cards in Destiny: Multiplication of effects.

On top of this they both come with reasonably good dice, four damage sides on BT-1 and no Blanks on 0-0-0 with a die reminiscent of Kylo Ren's ... not too bad!

5. RAMPING:
This deck plays with both TECH TEAM and REPROGRAM, and while both of them can be good, this might be where I'd look into some changes. This deck doesn't use lots of supports, and instead attempts to use a few powerful synergies to push through wins. Tech Team is probably my least favourite of the two although it has the most target cards in the deck. Tech team just very often seems obsolete and is definitely a dead card in hand by round 3 (it's also usually dead if you draw it late in a round with Aphra's ability).Aphra 8jpg
Another card that could be worth considering is Testing Procedure, which allows you to activate two supports and if any of those support dice rolls damage you gain a resource! This is particularly powerful when combining the Hailfire Droid Tank with the BT-1. You are looking at 89% chance of hitting at least one damage side between the two!

The strongest argument for keeping either Tech Team and/or Reprogram is actually the Sentinel Messenger's ability. Because you get that extra card draw (as well as Aphra's ability, but that usually comes late(r) in a round), your chance of digging for those cards and get the early are higher. They are both good round 1 while significantly less valuable round 2 and almost useless round 3!

If you were to replace the two cards, I'd also look at restructuring the number of supports in the deck!

6. SUPPORTS:
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The ARK ANGEL has reasonable die sides for a 2 cost support and can help you to apply pressure on your opponent! The deck is generally a slow roller, and slowly wears your opponent chipping at him with small portions of consistent Indirect damage. Sometimes though, you need to threaten with lethal damage fast, and usually that requires several dice in the pool! It can be a combination of activating both the Ark Angel, 0-0-0 and BT-1, dealing 2 Indirect damage immediately and having three potentially dangerous dice in the pool! Admittedly though, I've been on and off regarding the validity of the Ark Angel in the deck.

GENERAL GRIEVOUS' WHEEL BIKE
Luke Magnuson predicted that this was one of the cards that would get stronger with Convergence because we finally have a General Grievous which is actually playable. This in turn means that the Wheel Bike might be moving from trash level to playable. The die sides are not phenomenal, but being able to reset it when spotting Grievous can be pretty crutch. The +3 Melee side is supported by several other dice including the Messenger and the Murder Droids. I've only picked it up once with Armored Reinforcement, but that actually almost won me the game ... almost!

SLAVE-1 is one of my favourite vehicles and although it's not a droid, you can still search for it with AR and play it round 1. The free mitigation provided by the Power Action works on plenty of dice in your deck and can be absolutely nuts at times.
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The ASSASSIN DROID is amazing if played with the discount from BOTH Aphra and Reprogram, but it has admittedly been somewhat of a disappoint for me. Even if the die functionally doesn't have any Blanks due to the 1 damage dealt when activating it and can be rerolled with Grievous' Power Action. If Reprogram is cut from the deck, so is the Assassin Droid ...

There are 4 targets for your Armored Reinforcement, but it should actually ALWAYS be the HAILFIRE DROID TANK you are looking for! With the discount from AR and Aphra it can be played in turn 1 and you get to roll it into your pool immediately! Pray you hit the 2 Disrupt side and force your opponent into either removing the die or spend his resources immediately! If he spends his resources you can always reroll the die with Grievous' Power Action. It also means that any time you play a droid you get to activate it immediately. It adds application of pressure which I sometimes feel can be the weakness of the deck.

I've tried different approaches with Armored Reinforcement, tutoring for different vehicles ... it's almost always a mistake not to find a Hailfire! If you start with a Hailfire Droid Tank in hand, you should activate the Messenger first to see if you are lucky enough to draw into a Reprogram, which means that you'll be able to play it from your hand immediately and use the AR to tutor for a different vehicle later!

7. INDIRECT DAMAGE:
This deck is all about Indirect damage! Dealing yourself Indirect damage and dealing your opponent Indirect damage ... Hopefully more Indirect to your opponent! It's about synergy, synergy and synergy! You get it, right ... S Y N E R G Y! Alright, I'll shut up now.Aphra 11jpg
BUBBLE SHIELD
is a great utility piece that can either take the Indirect damage you deal yourself either from removal cards like BY ANY MEANS or when healing/'moving' damage with DANGEROUS MANEUVER! And you still get to draw cards with Doctor Aphra and deal damage with 0-0-0 because it's not about damage taken, but damage dealt!

8. REMOVAL CARDS:
Aphra 12jpgFORSAKEN
Now easily becoming my favourite removal card for villains. It's such a strong opener as well as a great card to pull from the deck with the Messenger! It is so ridiculously easy to set up the Forsaken play. This card will probably never see the inside of my binders!

I love to hate on HIDDEN MOTIVE and yet it feels like a must include. It usually has 33% chance of removing a die, but against more consistent dice it has 50%. Dependent on how Snoke'ish the meta is going to develop (stay), I'd actually considering swapping it for Doubt. Doubt is better against Snoke sidekicks because the die affected is always EITHER resolved OR removed, which means that it can't be targeted by Snoke's Power Action. Doubt unfortunately doesn't work on Watto's dice (your opponent can always choose to "remove the die" which he can't, but it's perfectly legal to choose an either-or option that has no effect!).Aphra 13jpg
AUTOMATED DEFENSE is always active since you'll always be spotting a droid ... at least, if you are NOT spotting a droid, you are probably losing the game. It's the replacement for Flank and it's good!

ENTANGLE feels expensive in the deck although it removes two dice, but I've often felt like I was caught between a rock and a hard place when using my precious resources for an Entangle.

THE BEST DEFENSE... on the other hand is just amazing. Sure, it's going to sting on Grievous, but removing two powerful dice for 3 damage is a trade-off I'll take any day!

Generally, I feel the cost curve of the removal suite can feel a bit steep and prohibitive, where you often have to either choose between improving boardstate or removing dice, while a bit of reshuffling could streamline it a bit!cost curve aphra drpodsjpg

9. TECH CARD:
Aphra 14jpgPROBE is incredibly good and can be exactly what you need to have the time and opportunity to capitalise on the relatively few dice you operate with! I've also tried to add the Inferno Squad ID10 Seeker Droid in place of one one of the Probes, and while it can be played for free (if you don't have other Droids to play), I tend to gravitate more towards keeping the ratio of 2 Probes: It's just too good! Maybe removing one of the non-droid vehicles could be an option to make space for a Seeker Droid, which also has the advantage of giving you hand knowledge and removing ANY one card!

10. BATTLEFIELD:
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PETRANAKI ARENA is probably the Battlefield you should be going with if playing this deck! You are not going to win the Battlefield a lot because you have 3 mediocre dice, but always count for those opportune moments when a double claim can deal 2 Unblockable damage and 2 Indirect damage to end the game (if you have 0-0-0 in play).

Theed Royal Palace is also a decent Battlefield option and can solve some of your resource problems while Salt Flats is a distant third with Grievous actually being a leader as well!

11. MULLIGAN:
HAND Aphra droids ARTICLE2jpg
It's pretty simple ... you need one or both of your murder droids in your starting hand! You can go with a combination of Tech Team, Reprogram, etc. after mulligan, but my advice is to pitch everything to draw either 0-0-0 or BT-1. Armored Reinforcement is your fail safe to pick up a Hailfire Droid Tank if you do not get either of them!

12. SEQUENCING:
Everywhere in this article I've been mentioning sequencing! Always keep in mind when you can draw what. Top card with Messenger or extra draw with Aphra. ALWAYS make sure to maximise your options before you start dealing damage or activate characters and supports!

13. ALTERNATIVE DECK LIST:

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