1. GENERAL COMMENTS:
In the beginning of the Across the Galaxy meta Thrawn/Snoke ruled the Galaxy ruthlessly! For two weeks ... Then the Holocron update hit, and it has changed things quite significantly. The edge that Thrawn/Snoke held over other decks was severely reduced, some might even claim that the the duo is close to unplayable!
Listen to the YOUR Destiny Podcast Episode 27 for a discussion of the Thrawn/Snoke deck prior to the nerf and YOUR Destiny Podcast Episode 29 for some thoughts on the deck post-nerf.
Although, I agree - in principle - that the power of the deck has been stifled, I still believe the pair has staying power and belongs in the upper echelons of competitive decks. The Regional season might prove me wrong though (and so far it does not look good)! If for nothing else, then this will in any case be the swansong of Thrawn as he is about to rotate out of the Standard Format.
Keywords, that I'll be examining in this deck analysis, for the approach to the deck now is:
Read my entire analysis of the Balance of the Force and effect on the nerf on Snoke in my article on the Holocron Update, but needless to say, it matters quite a great deal to the entire construction of this deck. It is no longer a no-brainer pairing, and it requires some smart and decisive plays.
The main strengths of the deck remains the same though! Almost unprecedented resource generation capabilities, coupled with disruptive abilities and consistency, while it has suffered blows to previous strengths that have now become liabilities, i.e. health pool, control, etc.
Thrawn's ability is so important to this deck, in particular in its current iteration, that knowledge of any and all opposition is vital. You need to hit your opponents hand every turn, and you need to KNOW what you are going for. Just mindlessly guessing "1", without knowing what cards your can expect to see, is not going to cut it. You need to be able to identify the main threats to your deck and hit your opponent there.
The discussion on what to aim for with Thrawn is an interesting one, especially with the power of the Vader's Fist: Are you going for mitigation, upgrades or supports? My advice is to always go for mitigation. There has to be incredibly strong arguments not to do that!
Hitting mitigation allows you to have rounds where you only need to focus on maximising on your own outcome. Gaining resources, building your boardstate and dealing whatever damage you can. Counting your maximum damage output is important from the get-go. Sometimes you just need 2 rounds of Indirect damage to take the win home. And at times it's more important to remove your opponent's Shield sides than any other die side.
3. THE PLOT THICKENS:
There is only one negative plot that can be used to fit Thrawn and Snoke (31 points) into the same deck list and BITTER RIVALRY is a difficult choice as it simultaneously weakens the Thrawn/Snoke deck on two strands where it used to have considerable strengths:
- Dealing two unblockable damage to one of your two characters (normally Thrawn), effectively reducing his health to 10hp even if you start with shields due to having lost the initiative, which coupled with one or two Snoke Power Actions could leave Thrawn on the verge of defeat as early as round 1.
- While dealing damage at the beginning of the game can be a killer it's not a deal-breaker! You have plenty of mitigation to help you out of trouble, and although you need to be smart(er) mulliganing for your starting hand, and generally dig deep(er) into your deck for what you need and drop what's redundant, giving your opponent a starting hand of 6 cards is really nasty. That hurts! It's not only balancing out Thrawn's ability round 1, provided that you guess correctly with Thrawn (if not it's even worse), allowing your opponent a fully operational starting hand, but also giving him the chance of stacking mitigation and messing with your dice in the beginning of the game.
4. VADER'S FIST:
This is really a repeat of what has already been written several times in several deck analyses for our website, but Vader's Fist is the most BROKEN support in the game and represents absolute "out-of-this-world" value for its price. 5 Resources for a support that can be resolved 3 times in round 1 is stupidly good.
This deck aims to play a Vader's Fist as early as round 1 and has all the tools to draw into it early as well as play it and capitalise on each resolution. The easiest way to catch up to your opponent from the drawback of the negative plot is to throw a FIST at them!
Sequencing between when to use the Power Action and when to activate the support is important since you want to be able to always resolve the die without having to discard to reroll (remember that you can resolve a 3 Disrupt side even if your opponent doesn't have any resources, just to be able to roll it straight back into the pool). Activate the support first, then Power Action it back into the pool, since there are a few cards that can exhaust supports (although not prevalent in any way ... but hey, rather be safe than sorry), only using Focus sides when you can either maximise resolves or secure kills.
I don't think anyone is going to miss the CHANCE CUBE once it rotates out. Gaining 2 resources from a 0cost upgrade that can be bounced back into your hand and used to reroll when you don't need the resource gain anymore is pretty outrageous! It can lay the foundation for some nasty turns playing either supports or accumulating the resources to set up a Dark Ritual bringing Thrawn back at the end of a turn where you've already maximised on his dice and baited your opponent into using his damage to hit him.
It is ridiculously for the price, and other upgrades look pretty meek in comparison, but can only be used on 6 of your cards, the AT-ST, ARC-170 and the TIEs. I still remain torn in regards to the Dorsal Turret, and have had games where it was absolutely backbreaking when armed on a pesky TIE Fighter (and it does in fact feel and look like another copy of a TIE at half the price), while it at other times were stone cold dead in my hand. I might keep it as a one-off regardless.
HANDHELD LS-1 CANNON
Apparently you get a HUMONGOUS gun when you rip the laser-shooty parts of a vehicle and put it in the hands of a character. The Handheld LS-1 Cannon represents EXCELLENT value and looks good on either Thrawn or Snoke. If you also have an Imperial Discipline on Thrawn that action can be used to flip the Handheld Cannon to the Ranged damage sides. It combines well with the TIE Fighters, Vader's Fist or the ARC-170 Starfighter, and a single Handheld Cannon on Snoke can form the basis of 7 Indirect damage per round. Not bad ... Not bad at all!
The drawback of decreasing your upgrade slots with 1 is really not an issue in a deck running as few upgrades as Thrawn/Snoke.
IMPERIAL DISCIPLINE is one of my favourite cards with Thrawn. Being able to ALWAYS focus one of Thrawn's dice into a 2 Resource is just outstanding. It puts loads of pressure on your opponent's already depleted mitigation and ensures that you are not discarding cards to reroll early when you have only few dice in the pool, but can save it for when you are starting to put your "heavy hitters" in there!
6. CARD ADVANTAGE:
Prior to the nerf to Snoke I'd assume that a Thrawn/Snoke deck had 3-4 rounds against most decks, but with the introduction of Bitter Rivalry into the deck, I'm now assuming 2-3 rounds. This is not to say that the game will be over by round 3, but it will in most instances be decided at that time reducing one of the players, you or your opponent, to the role of innocent standby'er, playing catch up or hard-to-get, but nonetheless left dead in the waters.
Your job is to make sure that the game is decided by the end of round 2 and one of the most powerful tools to ensure this is by going all in on your card advantage.
You will be even on cards in hand in round 1 as your opponent starts with 6 cards, but you snatch one with Thrawn's activation ability, while you pull one ahead in round 2! At any time during round 1 or 2 you can use a BOUNDLESS AMBITION to redraw (up to) 5 cards, looking for either:
- A support, i.e. Vader's Fist,
- A Dark Ritual (to revive whoever is being targeted down)
- Another Boundless Ambition
Because you are expecting fewer rounds you also have fewer resources at your disposal. Sometimes, what you need is just a single Handheld LS-1 Cannon, a TIE Fighter with a Dorsal Turret and a Dark Ritual, while you might need to dig deep for an AT-ST or a Vader's Fist against vehicle decks or 3wide opposition.
The TIE Fighters themselves also represent a card advantage as long as you do NOT draw more than a single TIE Fighter in your starting hand. Drawing one TIE Fighter is massive as it quickly allows you to thin out your deck while playing several supports. The card advantage of the TIEs get exponentially worse the more you have in your hand.
Your PROBES also allows you a card advantage and provides a safeguard in the rare situations where you are aiming for a particularly nasty card and guessing an unlikely number with Thrawn. Sitting back with a Probe in hand allows you to aim for an upgrade or support with Thrawn, guessing 3-4-5, and still being able to pull possible mitigation from your opponent's hand afterwards.
7. OTHER SUPPORTS:
The AT-ST is there to protect against FAT Vehicle decks as well as Vader's Fist, while its massive Ranged damage sides can hurt as sh*t against low health characters. I've kept it as a one-off since it's expensive and I need more flexibility in the list.
I've toyed back and forth with the ARC-170 STARFIGHTER. It seems pretty mediocre, but goes well together with the TIE Fighters and the Handheld Cannon while also adding a bit of consistency with 50% damage sides. This could also be another support, but for now, I've found the ARC-170 to be decent.
8. MITIGATION CARDS:
Because you run on less resources than in the pre-nerf era, you also need to reshuffle your mitigation suite somewhat. This deck has less control and feels much more Gung-Ho!
I'm not a huge fan of neither DOUBT nor HIDDEN MOTIVE, but for 0 resources they are decent in this deck. Hidden Motive is best in round 2 and onwards where they have fewer cards in their hand to discard to reroll (or any round where you also have a Probe in hand) when you do not guess correctly and remove the die, and Doubt is better in your starting hand where you are looking to get rid of dice not caring as much what they will be resolved as...
BEGUILE and OVERCONFIDENCE are your only mitigation cards that affect several dice! Overconfidence, although requiring to spot a Blue character, should be pretty safe though as most people will go for Thrawn first, and you have some of the best dice at your disposal for an Overconfidence Battle.
Both DEFLECT and PINNED DOWN feels like flex spots, and I'd be willing to swap them out for better mitigation. While Deflect is definitely going to be a meta call, Pinned Down suffers from the fact that you might not always have a vehicle in play. If you dig for a Vader's Fist it's likely that you won't see a vehicle until round 2 if ever, and that makes Pinned Down a dead card in your hand.
9. DARK RITUAL:
Previous iterations of the deck played the Grand Moff/Jedi Temple combo, which in turn meant that the deck turned to Landing Craft to add health to the deck due to the risk of losing events such as Dark Ritual, secondarily although rare Rise Again, when your opponent claimed out with the Jedi Temple.
Leaving behind that combo, which is necessary with the changed conditions to the deck, means a return of the Dark Ritual. It's expensive to pull off, but can put a serious dent in your opponent's plans when you succeed. Thrawn is most definitely going to be the target for your opponent, and while 10hp (after the resolution of Bitter Rivalry) is nothing to scoff at, the possibility of bringing him back with 6hp can give you another round to finish off your opponent.
Dig into your deck with Boundless Ambition and discard aggressively from your hand to find the Dark Ritual. If your opponent suspects you are sitting around with it already, it can even work as a deterrent for your opponent to kill off Thrawn when given the chance and rather look for a way to find lethal damage on both your characters simultaneously! Another reason for you to approach the game aggressively!
10. MULLIGAN OPTIONS:
I obviously want to see a Vader's Fist in my starting hand and finding a Chance Cube and an Imperial Discipline is awesome as well. It gives consistency to your deck, while having a mitigation card is good to hamper your opponent's initial round as much as possible. The Boundless Ambition can be used to draw deeper into your deck for a Dark Ritual that could come in handy in round 2 or an AT-ST if need be against FAT Vehicle decks. I'd also keep the Handheld Cannon in my starting hand to offer an aggro out, but ditch any TIE Fighters beyond the first copy, Dark Ritual and Probes UNLESS you are playing against a deck that are likely to play a round 1 Vader's Fist, in which case you might want to go for the Fist with Thrawn's activation and remove mitigation with the Probe.
I'm still not entirely settled on the Battlefield, but am still leaning towards Weapon's Factory Alpha to get a cheap TIE Fighter or an AT-ST down round 1. You actually don't want to get your own Battlefield as the shields on Thrawn will be good (due to the effects of Bitter Rivalry), but also don't want a Battlefield that can potentially benefit your opponent. I could be leaning towards Ewok Village for some shield hate as hero decks might make a comeback, but the 2 Shield side on Vader's Fist speaks against that.
12. REVISED DECK LIST:
13. SAMPLE GAME:
(This game testing an early iteration of the Thrawn/Snoke/Bitter Rivalry deck has previously only been available to our Advanced and Expert Tier Patrons):
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