Plo Koon/Padawans Deck Analysis

Screen Shot 2018-07-29 at 223031png

1. GENERAL COMMENTS:

The only reason anyone talked about the x/Padawan/Padawan deck prior to Way of the Force was due to the genius Eric Wainright who piloted the deck to several major victories (including 2 Regional trophies). Eric Wainright was also the sole reason why our Alternative Art BB-8 cards ever saw play. The Padawans even made it into a few Gauntlet lists on the back of Wainright's fame.

We've asked Eric to add his comments on the various sections to hear his expert thoughts and suggest a preferred deck list as well! His comments are marked [clearly in blue throughout the article following each relevant section] and his current, but in his own words "still not completely optimized list" you can find at the end of the article!

2.CHARACTERS:
Character Plo Koon articlejpg
Fast forward to the first spoilers released by Fantasy Flight Games during the live stream at Worlds 2018, and everybody suddenly got a PLO KOON on. BIG TIME! Initially the discussion point was whether or not Plo Koon's special ability would stack, i.e. whether or not 2 Padawans in the same character team would give Plo Koon a decrease of the cost to play his first upgrade of 2 resources!

FFG let the discussion go on for some time, and I assume the designers were laughing every day at work sifting through the various fora and rules discussion groups, but at the end of the day decided to move on to other laughs, including the issue of Luke Skywalker - Reluctant Instructor and Ataru Strike. Goddammit FFG ... They released an official rules clarification for Plo Koon, which means that the Jedi Protector can play an Ancient Lightsaber for free round 1:Clarification Plo Koon articlejpg
Now there were some serious Plo Koons on!

Obviously, this has meant that Plo Koon's stock is sky-rocketing whether or not it is entirely merited. Plo Koon article1 YOUR Destinyjpg
If you look at comparable characters on either side of the points cost of Plo Koon (11/14e), his die sides are actually not that impressive, even Aayla Secura (10/13), post-nerf, looks better, boasting the same health, but a considerable stronger die, although not as likely to trigger a Synchronicity due to the lack of a Shield side, but with a much stronger "Focus" side in the guise of her Special. And compared to Luke Skywalker, at 12/15e (or Rey2 which is probably a fairer comparison), he is really lacking. If this was a draft for a sports team, Plo Koon would not make the first pick, probably not even the second pick, but then suddenly you realize that Plo Koon comes with an ADIDAS endorsement ... and Adidas is not a company to be trifled with (alright, just to make sure ... this is not an Adidas commercial. It could as easily have been a Nike or Reebok sponsorship). That special ability is just crazy good - that's your mega company endorsement right there. Resources, as we have talked about at length in our previous articles, is one of the most precious commodities in Star Wars Destiny. Getting a weapon handed on a silver platter like this is almost too good.

Interestingly enough Aayla Secura, even when she was 9/12e, and could bring with her a plot like Stolen Intel (or Fortify/Taking Ground) never really made a splash, and few people ever got "an Aayla on", although there were a few highlights for eAayla/Padawans, like the London Regional 2018 top8, but these were far in between, while another character pairing working off the same template that made a strong showing, and more regularly, were the eAayla/Padawan/Yoda team, which took the Adepticon GQ by storm.

COMMENTS ERIC WAINRIGHT:
My two regional wins came with Ayla/Padawans/Stolen Intel. I really wanted Rey1 to hold Ayala Secura off, but Aayla’s Special proved just too powerful to ignore.

My first thought when seeing Plo Koon was, “can I afford to lose stolen intel?

Round 1 The Padawans are card hungry, and with Plo Koon I’m ideally trying to drop 3 weapons instead of 2. That leaves just 2 cards for mitigation and re-rolls. Trust Your Instincts helps a bit with this, but if you have 7 dice out in the pool round 1, you are going to need some re-rolls most games to get good value from all those dice. After some testing I think Plo Koon's "2 free resources" are definitely worth it. Round 1 has a higher average yield from dice than Ayala/pad/pad however, it is less consistent.
[/COMMENTS]

Somehow it felt as if the x/Padawans were always caught between a rock and a hard place. You only had a 4 dice start, no matter which setup you opted for, and the Padawans really needed to put some work in, because their dice were/are usually the strongest, with three Melee damage sides. But you also wanted to upgrade them with lightsabers to swing the board state in your favor and make them hit hard before they eventually perish. All you could hope for was that they wrestled down enough of your opponent's characters before the decisive midgame where your alleged main character was going to take over. At the same time you really needed to preserve your resources to play some of your mitigation which was not dice dependent, so what to do?!
COMMENTS ERIC WAINRIGHT:
I never saw pads as having a 4 dice start. I saw them as having a 6 dice start (with Force Speed or Journals it was not uncommon to be 7 dice). Where as most 4 dice starts normally dropped one more dice to have 5 in round 1.

I’ll agree that the Padawan's dice are not up to the level that most other 2 character starts have so it isn’t apples to apples. The padawan's 1 melee side is pretty underwhelming. Early game you really just want to see the Resource side or the 2 Melee damage. However the nice part about Padawan is if you are using your last re-roll of the round, you can feel pretty safe to re-roll since the other 3 sides are all usable (unless the Focus has nothing to work on).
[/COMMENTS]

The fact that aforementioned Eric Wainright, the PadaMAN himself, did so well with the x/Padawans is really a testimony to his skill with the deck rather than the inherent strength of the character team. It always felt sub-optimal and definitely never tier1.
COMMENTS ERIC WAINRIGHT:
I guess it depends on how you define tier 1, but personally I haven’t seen any reason why Padawans was not as strong as the other tier 1 decks (except for during the FN-2199 silliness).
[/COMMENTS]

There's probably no doubt that Plo Koon is going to push the limits for what is doable with the Padawans deck. The question remains whether or not it's going to be enough. The mere fact that you can have a boardstate like this after round 1, turn 1, should be argument enough to turn some heads (which it certainly did in the beginning straight after Plo Koon was spoiled):Boardstate round1 Plo Koon deckjpg
Sure, it's going to be hard to achieve (it's actually pretty close to 0%, although closer to 1% if you can live with any three of the two Ancient Lightsabers and two Vibroknives) and it doesn't necessarily embody the best possible start, although it does look somewhat frightening - it is a potential 15 Melee damage after all!
COMMENTS ERIC WAINRIGHT:
Regarding the Round 1 board state (which is then not going to be a turn 1 showing): If you expand that to be any 3 weapon start, it happens more than half the time. To get a 3 drop down you also need to resolve a resource, so your potential damage on round 1 does decrease. But I don’t think round 1 damage is where this deck shines. You are trying to grow your board state while trying to slow down any aggro deck just enough for your extra dice will win out over time.

Against any control or mill you are still trying to get a huge board state just so that 1 for 1 mitigation is inefficient against it. Easy Pickings, Force Misdirection, and Guard are the cards this deck doesn’t want to see.
[/COMMENTS]

The problem with the Padawans is their measly health, and 7hp really isn't a lot in a game where Kylo Ren with a lightsaber can kill a Padawan each round finishing off with a nice guillotine blow on Plo Koon. And losing a Padawan is not just losing a character, but also the deterioration of your board state at an alarming speed. This problem is exactly what made some people switch to the Jedi Temple Guards over the Padawans:Padawan vs Temple Guardjpg
However, anyone who has ever taken the Padawans and the Temple Guards to the battlefield will know that they are two very different beasts altogether and the decks constructed for them will essentially have to look very different. While the Temple Guards are brilliant at keeping your main character alive it will be at the expense of your board state, and your killing power will inversely deteriorate at the same rate as your staying power.
COMMENTS ERIC WAINRIGHT:
7 health is a problem. Having a Padawan aced before she can use her ability is brutal. Worse is having her die with a non-redeploy on her. Most games I lose with the Padawans, one of those things happens. That said once a target has been picked the deck has a lot of ways to de-incentivize finishing that Padawan off.

Caution, Force Illusion, overwrite with a Redeploy weapon. Combine that with the fact that if your opponent manages to chew through 14 hit points worth of Padawans, You are still left with your “main character”, probably with 3 weapons on them, which is a fine late game.

I do like Temple Guards a lot. It is just a very different deck. Padawan's health and dice are well below the curve. If you are running Padawans you are doing it for the ability. And that ability is worth way more on round 1 than on round 2. So the deck needs to be built with the plan to ramp round 1. If you are running temple guard that screams to me that you want to make it to the late game. Extra hp, Guardian and the two Shield side on the dice all add to your sustainability.
[/COMMENTS]

The trick it seems is not to swap the Padawan for Temple Guards, but finding a way to keep your Padawans alive long enough, or use Plo Koon as a deterrent, so that your overweight of upgrades will make a difference.

Apart from Plo Koon himself, if that wasn't enough, Way of the Force did bring some nifty toys to the monoblue 3 wide lineup, that might just be what they needed to finally claim a seat at the table of champions.

3. UPGRADES & SUPPORTS:
Choosing your upgrades for Plo Koon/Padawans is never going to be easy. There are, naturally, a few auto selects, but it really starts off with the choice of whether or not to go with It Binds All Things.IT BINDS ALL THINGS OR NOTjpg
We've already talked about It Binds All Things at length in the YOUR Destiny Podcast Episode 13, and while it can be great card, it can also be a miserable card. Destiny, which proved itself magnificent in Rey/Aayla belongs in the same discussion, and while it had legs in Rey/Aayla and really took the deck to unprecedented levels of ramp, it doesn't seem to have any legit place in the Plo Koon/Padawans, for 2 reasons:
  1. Both the Padawans and Plo Koon have horrible dice for a Destiny play. 2/1/1/1/1/- does not secure the best odds for being able to play another 2 cost upgrade. Most of your 2 cost upgrades have equally horrible dice for a Destiny play, barring the occasional +3 Melee side on the Ancient Lightsaber.
  2. You are already ramping pretty hard! You just need to secure at least 2 weapons in your starting hand and with the combined auto-ramp of Plo Koon and the Padawans your board state should be vastly superior to that of your opponent, unless they play Thrawn/Snoke, in which case every deck is confined to playing second fiddle when it comes to ramping.

COMMENTS ERIC WAINRIGHT:
Along with It Binds All Things and Destiny, I’d add two more cards to the "build around options": Reaping the Crystal and Power of The Force. I think all 4 of those cards lead to significantly different decks. When I had 6 card starts I looked hard at all 4 options, and I’ve found success with each.

Now with only 5 cards (lacking Stolen Intel) I just can’t seem to justify an economy card on round 1. And if I’m not playing these cards round 1, what are they doing in my deck? Power of the force is not an Economy card, so maybe I should have brought it up somewhere else, however it warps your deck even more than the 3 other cards, so you kinda need to know if you are leaning into that plan before you choose anything else.
[/COMMENTS]
I've seen a lot of games being played with the Plo Koon/Padawans where players are trying to emulate the board state shown in the previous chapter, with three 2cost upgrades played round 1. And while I think it's an impressive and powerful start to the game which can be difficult for an opponent to catch up with, it can also be a dangerous line of play, leaving your characters super vulnerable round 1 (we'll return to that point when looking at the mitigation in the deck).Plo Koon mitigation article2jpg
Your 2 cost upgrades are of course the bread and butter in this deck! You love 2 cost upgrades! All of the 2 costs in the deck, apart from EZRA'S BRIDGER LIGHTSABER (which then redeems itself by having redeploy), has three Melee damage sides and goes well together with all your three characters. All, but the VIBROKNIFE can reliably trigger Synchronicity as well as Guard, and have amazing abilities respectively.

The Vibroknife is a bit troublesome because it doesn't trigger the SHOTO LIGHTSABER ability, but is so good at slicing through the defenses of an opponent that it deserves an include. I do feel though that if there were another blue 2 cost weapon upgrade (looking at you Luke Skywalker's Lightning Rod!) it would push the Vibroknife out of the deck. Another option in this slot is of course Rey's Staff, but the 3 Melee damage for a resource is a downer.

ANCIENT LIGHTSABER is an auto-include. It's healing ability can be phenomenal on either Plo Koon or the Padawans and will go along way to keep the squishy minions alive! The fact that it can be played for free on Plo Koon, used to heal, tutored back into your hand with a Lightsaber Pull and then played for free again is just bonkers!!
COMMENTS ERIC WAINRIGHT:
If I had to rank the 2 cost upgrades for this deck it would be: Ezra Bridger’s Lightsaber, Ancient Lightsaber, Vibroknife (unless you are using Power of The Force), Rey’s Staff, and then some order of Shoto Lightsaber, Crafted Lightsaber, and Stun Baton.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this is NOT a Shoto Deck. We are spreading our first 3 weapons out. And Shoto Lightsaber without its ability is just an expensive dice. Vibroknife lets you sneak some kills in the mid game, and Rey’s Staff has a very relevant Special in round 1, that can help us eek out an extra round of a character dice. I really don’t like crafted, but if you are gathering resources and drop it down end of round its upside is pretty high.
[/COMMENTS]

Plo Koon Upgrades3 YOUR Destinyjpg
All three 3 cost upgrades have Redeploy and all extremely well suited for the deck. The HEIRLOOM LIGHTSABER definitely feels like the weaker of the three, because you are flush with base Melee damage sides in your deck, and even with the 3 Melee damage side on the REY'S LIGHTSABER being a payside, it makes up for it with the free shield when played and the sides being huge.

DAGGER OF MORTIS is a beast! The ability to move shields around when resolving the die (showing Melee damage), and not just from an opponent's character to your's, but also between your own characters, is a really strong play!

LIGHTSABER PULL is your 11th weapons upgrade allowing you to fetch any of the 8 blue weapons you have in your deck. It allows you to get a 2 cost upgrade if you need one or find a Redeploy weapon at the exact right time!
COMMENTS ERIC WAINRIGHT:
In regards to 3 cost upgrades, I agree that Dagger of Mortis outshines the rest. I’ve put Heirloom Lightsaber as number 2 just because of the Rey’s Lightsaber's pay side, but it is close. I agree if you are running three to four 3 cost upgrades these are the ones to grab since redeploy is critical to the deck. However there is probably a Reaping the Crystal build out there that makes use of Obi Wan Kenobi's Lighsaber and/or Handcrafted Light Bow. The other side benefit that having a Light Bow in the deck did was once a target was chosen putting handcrafted somewhere else would sometimes get them to change targets. It’s a dangerous game, but there is some play there.

Lightsaber Pull has to be a 2 of. It does everything this deck wants to do (except against mill). Having extra access to Ancient Lightsaber is probably argument enough, but an extra Ezra’s or 3 cost redeploy weapons helps too. And it thins your deck so you are less likely to draw dead weapon cards late in the game.
[/COMMENTS]

Plo Koon support YOUR Destinyjpg
R2-D2 is an amazing support, and in some ways "replace" a number of tech-cards that would have been great to include in the deck, such as Lightsaber Training and Concentrate. Turning one of your dice to any side AND drawing a card is just so powerful! Whether drawing into an upgrade or a card that can be an upheaval of the turn, i.e. Close Quarters Assault, or simply another card you can pitch to re-roll.

4. EVENTS:
Events cost padawan Plo Koonjpg
Picking up from the discussion in the previous section on the strongest possible opening play with this deck, it's worth taking note of the fact, that the version of the deck I have chosen as my case example, although not necessarily the best iteration, probably shares in common quite a lot of the mitigation cards that you are likely to see across the various versions.

Cost-wise the selection is good with five 0-cost mitigation and six 1-cost mitigation, but 10 of these mitigation cards EITHER requires:
  • Dice in the pool: GUARD, PACIFY (if used to generate shields for yourself), OR
  • 1 resource to play: FLANK, INTO THE GARBAGE CHUTE, OVERCONFIDENCE
The only mitigation card in the deck which is 0-cost AND can be played without dice in the pool is HIDDEN MOTIVE, which would then be an argument for including two copies rather than one, and do the trade-off with one of the two Into the Garbage Chute.Plo Koon events5 YOUR DestinyjpgPlo Koon events6 YOUR Destinyjpg
In order to protect your low-health characters, and I even include Plo Koon in this equation, you then need either resources or dice in the pool. The only card that allows you to upgrade and get dice in the pool immediately is the Vibroknife! Problem is that the Vibroknife die can't be used for GUARD and is bad for OVERCONFIDENCE plays. The case in point is that the optimal opening play is not aiming straight for the superior board state, but aim for the strongest possible board state that at the same time allows for playing your best possible removal!Boardstate round1 alternative Plo Koon deckjpg
COMMENTS ERIC WAINRIGHT:
Mitigation is a personal choice. Personally I want stuff that helps me round one (read as: 0 cost), or mitigation that is blowouts in later rounds. There is one card that fits into both categories:

Guard
Which I’m fairly sure that is going to be near the top of everyone’s list.

For 0 cost I like:
Guard, Caution, Pacify, Hidden motive

For blowout I like:
Force Misdirection, Mind Trick, Guard, Willpower, Deflect

Flank has been in and out of my list over time. But 1 cost for 1 dice seems a bit too fair. I’m personally not a fan of Overconfidence, while Into the Garbage Chute costs 1 more than I want to spend on round 1. And every round after that I’ll be exhausting an equipped Padawan. 1 resource +1 card +2 dice seems a steep price for mitigation.

In this deck I like Caution over Pacify (although running both seems good). The extra shield is real value. And it is more than likely that your opponent will go after the Padawan with no weapon yet who has not rolled in, so I can’t Pacify as easily. Pacify does adds versatility so it's not entirely obvious which is better, I may change my mind a month from now.
[/COMMENTS]

5. TECH CARDS:
PLO KOON DECK Tech cardsjpg
This is not the best CLOSE QUARTERS ASSAULT deck in the format, that honor probably still goes to Kylo2/Anakin, but it is pretty good at it because of the amount of weapons it'll be able to play. And in this instance the second tech-card LOTH-WOLF BOND could prove quite decisive in setting up for a fast and devastating CQA.

I'm still not sure how good Loth-Wolf Bond is, but I have a pretty good gut feeling about it. Being able to activate 2 characters and put shields on them is in itself pretty decent for 1 resource, but putting pressure on your opponent is the most important part. By getting your dice in the pool you turn quite a lot of your events online, i.e. Guard, Pacify, aforementioned Close Quarters Assault, and you force your opponent into suboptimal plays because he now has to be the reactive player. Loth-Wolf Bond can even be used in combination with your Battlefield, Fort Anaxes, to put shields on 2 characters and Guardian away 2 dice (particularly powerful against all those potential Snoke Power Actions).

Last tech slot is a single SYNCHRONICITY to bypass shields and Force Illusions for a killing blow on a character.
COMMENTS ERIC WAINRIGHT:
After Lightsaber Pull, Trust Your Instincts is the card I think Padawans want the most. The goal is to maximize round 1 board state and get the most value out of all our dice (resources, damage, or shields). Trust Your Instincts has been an all star for me. Unfortunatly the card is basically dead against mill, so it joins Caution and Force Illusion in mocking me if mill is a major player in the meta.

I haven’t tried Synchonicity in this deck in a long time. With Vibroknife back in the deck, it might warrant another look.

My verdict is still out on Loth-Wolf Bond. Sometimes it has been excellent. Lots of times it has been dead. It certainly has earned the right to fight over the tech slots in the deck.
[/COMMENTS]

6. BATTLEFIELD:
PLO KOON DECK battlefieldjpg
I prefer FORT ANAXES as the battlefield in 3 wide midrange builds, in particular in decks that are fairly low on health, and a collective 24hp for 3 characters is definitely in the weaker end of the spectrum. Obi-Wan's Hut could offer a defensive boost, or going in the opposite direction with an offensive battlefield like Secret Facility, but you'll most likely lose the claim against a number of meta defining decks out there, i.e. Snoke/x, Yoda/x decks, that stand to gain more from the battlefield than you!

COMMENTS ERIC WAINRIGHT:
I definitely think you want Fort Anaxes or Secret Facility as your Battlefield. Most decks go faster than you, but most of those can’t (or don’t) utilize guardian very well. It also helps your round 1 plan of staying alive while you build boardstate.
[/COMMENTS]

7. MULLIGAN OPTIONS:
You are looking for two 2cost weapon upgrades and at least 1 mitigation card. If you also draw into an R2D2 to help sifting through your cards and offer some consistency, you look pretty set! A Close Quarters Assault to round it off will be a killer against most decks, and against vehicle decks an absolute death knell.HAND Plo Koon padawans ARTICLE2jpg
COMMENTS ERIC WAINRIGHT:
I want three weapons (only 1 can be a 3 cost). And a zero cost mitigation, probably Guard slightly above Caution in most match ups.

I’ll also keep one Trust Your Instincts over anything else, since it will replace itself later. So without knowing the opponent my ideal hand would be: Ezra Bridger’s Lightsaber, Ancient Lightsaber, Lightsaber Pull, Guard, Trust Your Instincts.

The Lightsaber Pull is better than a third weapon because it can be a 2 cost if I get no resources on my first 5 dice, or the Dagger of Mortis if I do. Or if they go after Plo Koon, I can end up getting my Ancient back, and healing a second time on round 1!

If the Trust Your Instincts gets my third weapon and I just need a re-roll I can toss it for re-rolls, or I can dig out my second copy of Ezra’s Lightsaber or Shoto/Crafted just to get them out of my draw pile ( since I have three weapons round 1, I want to see much fewer on future rounds).
[/COMMENTS]

8. HOW TO DEFEAT THE DECK?

BY ERIC WAINRIGHT
Round 1 and 2, attack the hand and the resources. I can’t tell you how many times people have re-rolled their disrupts to make my life much easier.

Ace a Padawan before they get to use their ability. If Plo Koon gets a weapon that is not ancient, he is probably the correct target. If he has an Ancient Lightsaber it is way more difficult to decide.

Try to play around Close Quarters Assault, Guard, Force Misdirection, and Mind Trick as much as possible.

Don’t give them extra dice by letting their redeploy weapon move over to a readied character. The redeploy dance is a fun game inside the game with this deck.
[/COMMENTS]

9. ERIC WAINRIGHT'S LIST:

Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 132640png

Written by

CLAUS STAAL

Commented by
ERIC WAINRIGHT