Game Theory (Changing Your Attitude, Part.1)

This article is not trying to look at characters inherently. It is not trying to evaluate whether or not characters or cards are under costed, possess inherently (too) powerful abilities. It is about how we as competitive players approach the game.

There will invariably be many definitions on "what a competitive gamer is", just like there will be many opinions on whether or not "one should first and foremost be a competitive gamer". In the context of this article I define a competitive player as "someone who is playing each game of Star Wars Destiny trying to maximize their own influence on the game in order to win".

As an addendum it should be noted that although I do not find the game inherently balanced, neither between characters (in terms of innate power level comparative to cost), factions or even colours, I will not be engaging in that design discussion in this article!

One of the hardest things as a competitive Star Wars Destiny player is to get accustomed to the variable aspect(s) involved in the game. Obviously, there are a lot of variables, but the two most dominant ones, and usually the ones that are the scapegoats for our losses and the opponent's "unfair" wins, are:

1. Card Draws
2. Dice

We've scratched the surface of the aspect of card draws in a previous article on mulligan strategies, and while that's definitely worth analyzing further, the focus of this article is really an extension of both aspects, and it does not deal with one or the other in detail, but is an attempt to go beyond them, by examining the state of mind or the attitude of the competitive Star Wars Destiny player.

I've heard this expression numerous times. Commentators are using it in streams or recordings of games. Players are using it. Let's just cut to the chase: The expression is used as a derogatory term describing how a player (your opponent) without any kind of skill defeated an opponent's character. That expression in itself has become a catch phrase for players who don't understand how their excellent character team, superior game plan and perfect execution of it, was defeated by an inferior opponent and his incredible luck.

In game terms "Sabine doing Sabine things" can be translated as follows:
The player controlling Sabine activates that character, uses the before activation trigger to play a weapon upgrade from the discard pile on Sabine and rolls all the character and upgrade dice into the pool. IF the upgrade has the Ambush keyword, that player is allowed to take one additional action after playing the card.

Normally this is translated into the following by players: "So Sabine hit me for 7 Ranged damage and of course Ezra's dice were showing +2 Ranged damage, so he killed my Rose round 1, and that was sort of game. I mean, I tried to fight my way back into the game, but he just kept doing Sabine things".

There are other examples like the one above, but the Sabine argument is the most prevalent and the one that is used the most. That is why we will use it here as our case example.

The chart below shows the probabilities for various die results from Sabine (without upgrades). We only account for the possible outcomes where damage is dealt, from 2 Ranged damage to 6 Ranged damage. There are a total of 36 possible outcomes (6^, ^n=2). 20 of those outcomes will deal damage (20/36), which means at least 2 Ranged Damage is dealt in 55,55% of the times you roll 2 Sabine Character dice.Sabine probability10jpg
Breaking up the numbers further, you are looking at the following odds for Sabine Wren dealing:

6 Ranged Damage = 2,77%
5 Ranged Damage = 5,55%
At least 5 Damage = 8,33%
4 Ranged Damage = 2,77%
At least 4 Damage = 11,11%
3 Ranged Damage = 22,22%
At least 3 Damage = 33,33%
2 Ranged Damage = 22,22%
At least 2 Damage = 55,55%

Remember that we are looking at a Sabine without any upgrades on her, and the examples are merely here to underscore the following points: It's totally randomized whether or not you are dealt 6 damage or 4 damage (or any other double result). And one result, i.e. 6 damage, is not more lucky or unlucky (depending on which side of the table you are sitting) than the other result, i.e. 4 damage, and statistically there is 2/6 = 33,33% chance of hitting EITHER 4 or 6 damage compared to any other double symbol result! None of the players have any control of this. If you are banking on receiving NO DAMAGE (0 damage), the odds are against you (55,55% for Sabine to hit at LEAST 2 damage).

Let's see how it looks if we add a Hidden Blaster played from the Discard pile as part of Sabine Wren's before activation trigger:Sabine probability plus hiddenjpg
So the 2 charts are essentially giving us the probability (in %) of Sabine Wren with a Hidden Blaster dealing a minimum of 7 damage (image above) and a minimum of 6 damage (image below). Sabine probability plus hidden2jpg
And then there's of course the illusive 8 damage. Maximum damage output that cannot be mitigated because of the Ambush keyword on the Hidden Blaster.
8 Damage: 0,93% (2/216)

It is in other words highly unlikely that you will get hammered for 8 damage, whereas the 6 damage might be unlikely, but don't roll your eyes if it does happen. This is all math though, and it's not really what this article is about. On top of that - this is rarely what happens (translated: 99,07% of the times you encounter Sabine Wren, you'll not be taking 8 damage to your face in the first Sabine activation). Yet it seems as if it happens much more often because you know "Sabine does Sabine things"?!

My contention is that there are a number of choices made in a significant amount of games, and not just against Sabine, that very often puts a player in a position where it seems as if the unlikely happens way too often.

Now, imagine the above example again (Sabine Wren is activating and uses the before activation trigger to play a Hidden Blaster from the Discard Pile), but this time there's already an Ezra die on +2 Ranged damage sitting in the pool. That dramatically changes the odds of Sabine Wren hitting 7 damage.Sabine probability plus hidden3jpg
The odds in the above example is now at a whopping:
17% (37/216)

That is an extreme swing from 3,24%, but that swing came from the fact that the opposing player (maybe you) didn't remove the die from the pool! Ezra's dice had been sitting there for at least a turn, most likely two if your opponent was discarding to re-roll to get the Hidden Blaster from his hand into his Discard pile! You had 2 turns to make the odds drop from a doable 17% to a highly unlikely 3,24%, maybe in the process preventing lethal damage to one of your characters?

Have a look at the following situation. You have 2 Rey dice in the pool, and your opponent has 2 Ezra dice in the pool. It's your turn. You have an Overconfidence in your hand (and it's your only mitigation card), while your opponent has a Hidden Blaster in the Discard pile. Do you activate Aayla to try and get something out of her dice? Do you play your Overconfidence? If, yes, which dice are you overconfidencing?Untitled-6jpg
If you Overconfidence the two Ezra dice, there's a 30,56% chance of one of the two hitting another +2 Ranged damage, which means it is guaranteed to stay in the pool, but if you Overconfidence one Rey die (i.e. the Disrupt) and an Ezra die (the +2 Ranged Damage), you'll remove the Ezra die in 86% of the roll-offs.

Also, if you leave the +2 Ranged damage in the pool, Sabine can activate, play the Hidden Blaster from the Discard pile, trigger the Hidden Blaster ability (Stripping a shield), roll out the dice and be at 28% (61/216) chance of hitting 4 or more damage (2 Sabine dice, 1 Hidden Blaster and the +2 Ranged from the Ezra die). If you remove the +2 Ezra die, Sabine needs to roll out 6 damage, lowering her odds os killing Aayla outright to a mere 6,48% (7/216).

As you can see, the damage output from Sabine starts much earlier in a round than merely looking at that isolated moment when Sabine activates and (maybe) deals damage.

Both you and your opponent made a number of choices prior to that.
Your opponent activated Ezra, knowing that:
  • There was 30,56% (11/36) chance of hitting a +2 Ranged damage on at least one of the dice. Improving the odds of doing at least 6 damage from 6,48% to 28% (if the Ezra die hits +2 Ranged and is left unmitigated).
  • There was 55,55% (20/36) chance of hitting either a 1 Ranged damage or a +2 Ranged damage.
  • There was 5,55% (2/36) chance of hitting a 1 Ranged damage AND a +2 Ranged damage.
  • There was 2,78% (1/36) chance of hitting two +2 Ranged damage.
  • Your opponent needed Ezra's dice in the pool to improve his chance of maximizing his damage output.
  • By having Ezra's dice in the pool there were now dice that could potentially be re-rolled, putting the Hidden Blaster into the Discard pile, now a target for Sabine's activation trigger AND improving his bid at maximizing the dice results.
You might say that all of this is self evident, and anyone playing Sabine/Ezra should know this, but playing the devil's advocate, isn't that then the sign of your opponent entering the game with the right attitude? Playing his deck to the highest skill cap and thereby improving his chances of winning the match-up? If your opponent has done everything right, reducing the misplays, improving the odds for the best possible out comes, but you failed to read his plays properly and act accordingly, who has proven to be the better player at the end of the day, regardless of what decks were piloted respectively?

Are you playing against Kylo/Anakin and is Kylo continuously hitting with his special ability? Are you optimizing your hand or are you making it too easy for Kylo to guess the composition of it? In this situation where you are playing Sabine/Ezra. You don't have any resources and it is your turn, what would the right play be? Mentality article6jpg
The strongest play (in my opinion) is given below ... take a bit of time to think about it before scrolling down!

Mentality article5jpg
The right play in this situation would probably be to empty your hand of Yellow cards:
  1. Play Truce, and with the Ambush action,
  2. Play Easy Pickings removing an Anakin Special and an Ezra Special.
Even though this play would mean removing one of your own dice in the process, it would ensure that you:
  1. Do not have any yellow cards in your hand, most likely making Kylo miss on his activation trigger and not killing Sabine outright.
  2. Prevent Anakin from using his special to deal two damage (if it is a Villain card in his hand) and thereby not killing Sabine outright.
A monoyellow deck is obviously going to have a hard time against Kylo/Anakin, but on the other hand, there are so many things you can proactively do to improve your position against it. If your opponent ends up killing sabine, then it's not just "Kylo doing Kylo stuff!", but because he has 58,33% (21/36) chance of rolling two or more Melee damage. But you managed to reduce the risk of Sabine dying quite significantly from an almost certain kill (the activation trigger + the card in your opponent's hand) to "just" 58%.

Looking at what YOU can improve, where your potential blind spots are, is also changing your mentality. Rather than blaming poor luck or bad draws for potential losses, look for the outs. See the possibilities. "The overconfidence battle" is a great way to begin. Get your sequencing right. Take a step back and ask yourself: "Did you make your deck (with all its limitations and variables in mind) perform optimally under the given conditions? Yes! Congratulations. If, no, how can you optimize it then?

Boxing brainjpgAre you maximizing and playing to the strengths of your deck? Yes! Then maybe it's your deck you need to take a look at? If you are not drawing into mitigation, maybe you've added too little (we are talking a bit about basic deck building tips in the YOUR Destiny Podcast Episode 6 as well as the YOUR Destiny Podcast Episode 16). Didn't you draw into the cards you needed? Maybe your mulligan strategy was wrong (we deal with mulligan strategies in this article). Once you are clarified with all of these things, then you need to reconcile yourself with the fact that the variables can at times be unfavorable, but Sabine NEVER EVER just does Sabine stuff. It is facilitated, planned an executed by players.

William Faulkner used the phrase "In writing, you must kill all your darlings" indicating that it might just be your own affinities that hold you back. You are so used to doing things in a particular way, and it has sort of worked out "ok" - most of the time - that you are reluctant to change it. And while it can sometimes be the right strategy to hold on to what you know the best, whether it's a deck or certain style of play (there are many great examples of that), at other times the right approach is simply to alter it and adapt.

Have someone from your testing group take a look at your deck or supervise when you play a couple of games. Go through the plays afterwards or even while you play. Don't get annoyed at the corrections of your plays, even when "you know you're right": KILL YOUR DARLINGS!

There's also the option of joining our Patreon, where you'll get immediate access to our Discord Channel, which is also the hangout for our testing group: The European Gauntlet. Patrons has priority seats at the training sessions run by Mads Utzon and Claus Staal.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The article has been edited. The percentages mentioned in the "Overconfidence Battle" with Rey/Ezra dice were off. It originally said 89% percentage of removing an Ezra die, whereas it is in fact 86%. Thank you to our reader Jordan McClure for making us aware of this!).

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