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Strategy Articles

Matter of Time: Rigged!

by Johannes Klarhauser, Ambassador

21st February 2013

Shran (In Archer's Debt)A card that finds its way onto the list of "broken" tools that players are not allowed to use if they want to earn the Unbroken I and I Don't Need Your Cheese! achievements must be good for something. One of the most popular offenders in this category of borderline illegal cards is the infamously powerful Shran (In Archer's Debt), Returner of Dilemmas.

Shran neither appeared in the Top 10 cards for any affiliaton (not even [NA]!) nor did he receive even as much as an honourable mention James Hoskin's Non-Aligned Top Five article in 2008 - probably so as not to spread the word about his ability.

Overcome dilemmas are a hugely important factor in Second Edition. With the right dilemma pile, a good player can often stop a mission attempt with only one dilemma under the mission (or none at all), so being able to return that one dilemma to your pile right away by getting Shran stopped on your turn effectively negates any progress your opponent has made towards completing a mission.

Players who decide against stocking Shran, either because they feel that for a cost of three, his skills and attributes alone do not justify wasting a card slot, even though he can help to beat popular dilemmas like Where No One Has Gone Before or Whisper in the Dark and is immune to the six-cost cycle of Unfair Terms / Slightly Overbooked / Spatial Interphase. And the gametext? It only works if Shran actually gets stopped by a dilemma, which is not guaranteed to happen. What if their opponent is playing a kill-heavy pile? What if they have to face an attribute-reducing dilemma strategy? As always, the "what-if"-game could be played endlessly, but in this case, crunching some numbers makes a good case for running Shran:

As of February 2013, just before Matter of Time releases, Shran will have a chance to trigger against at least one of the five most-played dilemmas across every affiliation (except Maquis; they seem to tend toward a different kind of dilemma strategy):
Pitching In
[Bor]: Gomtuu Shock Wave, Personal Duty
[Car]: Personal Duty, Back to Basics
[Dom]: Pitching In, Personal Duty
[DS9]: Gomtuu Shock Wave, Pitching In
[E]: Breaking the Ice
[Fer]: Polywater Intoxication, Pitching In
[Kli]: Gomtuu Shock Wave
[Maq]: none
[NA]: Pitching In
[Rom]: Gomtuu Shock Wave, Polywater Intoxication
[SF]: Pitching In, Gomtuu Shock Wave
[TN]: Pitching In, Polywater Intoxication
[TNG]: Gomtuu Shock Wave, Personal Duty
[TOS]: Pitching In, Gomtuu Shock Wave, Polywater Intoxication, Legacy
[Voy]: Personal Duty

While some of these dilemmas have been around ever since the beginning of Second Edition, others were introduced at the end of STCCG's Decipher days or during the virtual era. It seems that Shran is a card that has become more powerful as more sets were released, as any new wall dilemma that was good enough to make the cut into players' decks was also a new chance to trigger Shran. With the introduction of the popular "choose one your personnel to be stopped" dilemmas Polywater Intoxication and Pitching In, Shran evolved into an auto-include (I'm counting myself among those guilty of overusing him just a bit), and, while I have never been on a design team for this game, I imagine that in a way he limits the design of new cards.

Ingenious Jury-rigTomorrow, Friday, the release of Matter of Time will give players a new tool to deal with the likes of Shran and Leonard H. McCoy (Chief Medical Officer). After stopping a personnel with Transporters, the [D] dilemma Ingenious Jury-Rig is placed in the core and from then on prevents players from returning dilemmas to their pile from incomplete missions (unless the dilemma happens to have the Persistent keyword).

That's right, Shran! No take-back for you! Leave those dilemmas where they are, and don't you even think of getting near them!

Now, what happens if my opponent wasn't even planning on returning dilemmas to his pile in the first place? In that case, Ingenious Jury-rig is still a decent dilemma. It's [D], which makes it flexible enough to warrant inclusion in many all-purpose piles just for the effect of stopping one personnel. At a cost of three, the price is quite steep for a single stop, but the fact that the dilemma does not go under the mission makes up for this.

However, be careful that if there are no personnel with Transporters in the attempting crew or away team, you end up stopping nobody. You still get the take-back-ban, and it doesn't go under, but you have just wasted three counters of your dilemma points without actually bringing down the skill/attribute total of the mission attempt.

With the number of popular Transporters personnel in the game, though, you have good chances of finding an eligible target even if you do not normally track skills that your opponent has in play or know the skills on each and every personnel by heart. Have a look at the usual suspects:

Tolian Soran (Renegade Scientist): Often played for his Cunning of 7 and useful skills all for a cost of zero, you could make the player using Soran pay double: if he has no other Transporters in the attempt, he must choose Soren to be stopped, which will trigger the clever scientist's gametext and result in an additional (random) stop. Good deal!
Ezri Tigan (Soldier of Fortune): Again, she often sees play for her decent Cunning and her [CMD] star alone. Why not use Disconcerting Displacement to make sure that she is actually in the attempting team (and not just doing piloting duty aboard the ship), then make your opponent stop her and watch her defect to your side!
Kahmis / Ro'suv: Klngons have always loved Rescue Prisoners, so here's your chance at stopping a mission skill without putting a dilemma under.
Gav (Diplomat): Stop him before he can use his skill-gaining ability on the next dilemma in the stack.
Giotto (Security Chief): Defuse him if his upgrade is active to prevent him from overcoming the next dilemma.
Kasidy Yates (Conflicted Captain): Let those Maquis try the mission without the Strength bonus.
Marla Gilmore (Conflicted Engineer): Once she is stopped, the Equinox crew can be stopped with An Issue of Trust.

Whisper in the DarkBe careful against Starfleet decks, as Lorian (Displaced Descendant) will be happy to take one for the (stopped) team. Oh, and also Shran (In Archer's Debt) - after all, if he gets so much hate from Ingenious Jury-rig, it's only fair that he should get one last opportunity to do his trick. (Plus, you can always let him relive some Old Feelings, if that helps to make him feel better.)

Of course, the fun part comes with dilemma combos. You didn't get a stop from Jury-rig? Well, that means your chances of getting one of these dilemmas to hit are a lot better then (caveat: some kind of filter dilemma in between might be useful!):

Cardassian Processing: Law is a rather rare skill, the Diplomacy/Honor/Transporters side has traditionally been the easier way to pass this capture dilemma.
Cave-In: It is rarely played these days, but after some attrition dilemma (Ingenious Jury-Rig and Cave-In only combine to four points, which should leave enough options to get some stops), the Strength part will be difficult.
Galileo Grounded: Enough people left on the ship..?
Greater Needs: Affiliations that are low on Integrity might have some problems.
Malfunctioning Door: This might look like a good combo against low-strength affiliations, like many [Fed] decks, but keep in mind that they can double- and triple-up Transporters with Security Drills, so beware!
One Step Ahead: Two hand-weapons? No, I don't think so either.
Optical Delusion: Holograms are easy to track.
• Whisper in the Dark: The Big One and obvious choice.
• Evil: Temporal Conduit - Ingenious Jury-rig only prevents returning dilemmas to the dilemma pile; shuffling them to a different mission is fair game.

Irony points if you manage to pull this last combo off - and please make sure to let us know on the message boards if you do!

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