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A Gift from the Prophets

by Danny Nuttall, Staff Writer

19th November 2013

Crystal

If you are anything like me, then the release of the latest First Edition expansion is the source of much excitement. Deep Space Nine is my favourite series, but it has to be said that, on the whole,  DS9 decks have not been as competitive as those from Voyager and, more recently, The Next Generation. I’ve been building up to this release by playing Bajorans a lot recently and I’ve even started to watch the series from the start again. I can’t wait to see how the new cards impact on DS9 based decks, but for now I’m going to divert that enthusiasm away from thoughts about pernicious Cardassian decks and steer it towards an analysis of the four new dilemmas that have been revealed thus far.

Three of the four are brand-spanking new, with only Hard Time being a conversion from Second Edition. The first, Encased in Crystal, is based on the episode ‘Heart of Stone’, where Odo wrestles with his feelings for Nerys. This wall presents your opponent with three possible routes to get around it. The first and last of these are quite tough to fulfil, as Geology is not a skill held in abundance by many decks and Music is, unless playing Federation, even less plentiful. The middle requirement of one Geology and two Security is, however, considerably easier. Security is hardly scarce and Defend Homeworld is a commonly used device that ensures most players have Security in the early stages of an OTF game. 

Even in block, where you might expect a limited card pool to increase the power of Encased in Crystal, particularly when Defend Homeworld isn’t available, this dilemma might not be as much of an obstacle as first thought. The problem lies in the popularity of two shady characters within the block meta. Vekor and Sunad are mainstays of almost all block format decks; they are non-aligned and, therefore, available to all, they both play for free and generate card draws from Continuing Mission and they both have a high number of useful skills. Vekor’s consistent presence in block format decks has already undermined the effectiveness of Dangerous Climb and Captain’s Holiday (the latter is much more powerful in OTF, as it happens) as she has the skill of Geology, whilst Sunad is also stocked in multiple by most players as he provides Leadership to initiate battle and brings Security with it too. Perhaps Encased in Crystal is one to watch out for as block settles down post-Emissary. If TNG decks are less popular in the future and the chances of a Vekor/Sunad double-act diminish, it might become a more potent option.

Hard Time

As Charlie mentioned is his release article for Emissary, one of the converted dilemmas included in the set has been a staple Second Edition card for many years now. Hard Time appears frequently in the dilemma segment of many a competitive 2E deck listing, including that of Sunday’s UK national champion – Johannes Klarhauser. I’m not sure that it will have quite the same impact on the First Edition scene, but it is definitely a very interesting and innovative card design and will certainly see play in OTF.

The first aspect of the dilemma is very useful, potentially removing a key personnel card from the action whilst forcing your opponent to use resources to play it again on their following turn. If they are far enough away from the locations where that personnel can report, this might be a real nuisance to them as well. Of course, this always depends on the type of deck you are up against. Again TNG decks, where several cards allow direct reporting to ships and when Continuing Mission allows players to draw cards from many of these reports, Hard Time might be a welcome boost rather than an untimely irritation. 

As many TNG decks are based around personnel with four-or-less skill dots, to maximise their draw potential, the second element of Hard Time is also less of an obstacle. Even so, it is highly likely that a crew sent in to red-ship a space mission will still need to be five or six personnel deep. Even if Hard Time only manages to pick out a three-skill personnel to send back to your opponent’s hand, they are still going to require four further bodies to plough through to the next dilemma.

Where Hard Time might be devastating is in games against decks which rely on personnel that have a high density of skills. The Delta Quadrant just took another hit here, as many personnel who report there have skills in abundance. You might be thinking “well, Danny, the DQ has mission specialists too, wouldn’t they just throw four of these numpties at a mission first?” This is definitely an important thing to consider, but many Hirogen, Vidiian,and Voyager decks are as reliant on those mission specialists as they are on Karr, Danara Pel, and Tom Paris. Throwing Ayala and Hogan at a mission might help you ease past Hard Time, but if they are lost in the line of duty as a result, working your way up to 140 points in order to satisfy You Are a Monument might be that much harder to achieve. 

Precision Piloting

Precision Piloting is definitely the stand out dilemma of the four we’ve seen so far. It’s not just because there are obvious uses for this card in both casual and high level play, but the image is stunning too! Great job here by the Art Team!

Precision Piloting will prove itself to be a very popular filter with players trying to set up some potentially nasty, game-changing dilemma combinations at their opponent’s space missions. As soon as I saw the card it reminded me of a match I played earlier this year, at the London Regional Championship, when Will Hoskin tried to devastate my crew with a Subspace Seaweed and Abandon Ship combination. Thankfully, I had three navigation on board and thus managed to negate both dilemmas, but if Will had been able to front this with Precision Piloting it could have been an entirely different outcome.

Although it is not one of the 2E conversions within Emissary, Precision Piloting is probably most effective when coalesced with some of the rarely used 2EBC dilemma cards. At present, there are not many dilemmas which require Navigation in multiples in order to pass them. However, Caretaker’s Wave, Crippling Attack, and Quantum Filament can all be preceded by Precision Piloting to decrease your opponent’s chances of wading through your dilemmas and completing the mission. That said, using these 2EBC cards does represent a bit of a gamble. On the one hand, if Precision Piloting helps you out, all three of the aforementioned dilemmas reward you by damaging your opponent’s ship - reducing both its hull integrity and all of its attributes. On the other hand, each of those dilemmas has a caveat – a different set of requirements to pass them which don’t involve Navigation at all. Perhaps that age-old Star Trek adage that “the riskier the road, the greater the profit” is pertinent here!

Unlikely Pair

The likelihood of damaging your opponent’s ship using Precision Piloting is increased when it is combined with either Stellar Flare, Three Vipers, or a trio of Premiere dilemmas which are boosted by Shade of Gray: Anguish. All of these will damage your opponent’s ship unless they have a personnel with Navigation in multiple, and are most beneficial to aggressive, battle orientated decks. If you are seeding Battle Bridge Door and can use these dilemmas to kill some of your opponent’s crew with Tactics, you will get even more out the synthesis they have with Precision Piloting. If you can then swoop in for the kill with one of your ships, you might be able to thwart your opponent with just a single attack.

Finally, we have Unlikely Pair to consider. After jabbering on for so long about the others, it seems odd that I have little to say here. In block play it’s an improvement on Pinned Down from The Next Generation, that’s for sure, as it locks those people down for an additional turn. However, the choice element of this dilemma severely restricts its playability. So few decks will be mono-species that Unlikely Pair will almost always give them some degree of control as to how this dilemma affects them. Put it simply, if they can chose to stop two personnel of different species to ensure that key crew members continue, they will do it. And what’s the worst that can happen to them if they don’t have two personnel of different species to conveniently stop? They put themselves forward for two random selections and, depending on the situation, will probably still get through fine.

These cards represent a great start to the DS9 block and I’m sure OTF players will, from now, be more precise when piloting at their space missions and may experience a hard time trying to complete their missions every so often.


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