While teaching people Star Wars at TsunamiCon, a local gaming convention, I began to notice a disturbing trend: When I gave the new player my far-from-optimal Jedi deck and piloted my Sith deck, I lost. At first, that pleased me, for it meant the new player got to experience the thrill of victory. But when my Sith deck continued to lose against people who were already into the game, I decided it was time to replace it with something better, or at least something new and interesting enough to take the sting from my losses.
In the latest version of my old Sith deck, I’d included one copy of The Call of the Cult. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the objective. If it is in the Dark Side’s opening flop, the balance of the Force gets set to the Dark Side before the first turn, which means the dial starts at two instead of one. I also had a lot of fun using Hate to turn May the Force Be With You Yoda into a non-elite unit with only two combat icons, deny the original Luke his refresh and Targeted Strike, and disable Chewbacca’s reaction.
So I decided to build a deck around two copies of The Call of the Cult. That meant my deck would have four copies of Believer Initiate, which must be sacrificed the instant the Balance is with the Light Side. This applies as soon as the card enters play, so for all practical intents and purposes, they can’t be played unless the Dark Side has the Force.
To benefit from the Believer Initiates, I needed the deck to keep the Force. Toward that end, I included two copies of Serve The Emperor, which contributes one icon to the Force struggle; a single copy of The Plan of the Prophetess, which reduces the contribution of all committed enemies by one; and Scouring the Empire, which has a great Force holder in Jerec, a four-pip, four-cost unit.
That left four objective slots open. Because I’d seen my opponents use Mara Jade’s Targeted Strike and Shielding to good effect, I decided to include two copies of Agent of the Emperor. I didn’t realize this initially, but she fits with the deck’s emphasis on keeping the Force. By committing her through her lightsaber rather than a card, the Dark Side player can have four units involved in the struggle.
Two copies of The Emperor’s Web completed the deck, making it:
Total Cards: (50)
Objective: (10) 2x The Emperor’s Web (Core 23-1) 2x Serve the Emperor (A Dark Time 50-1) 1x Scouring the Empire (Heroes and Legends 100-1) 2x Agent of the Emperor (Lure of the Dark Side 104-1) 1x The Plan of the Prophetess (Knowledge and Defense 110-1) 2x The Call of the Cult (Darkness and Light 124-1)
Unit: (25) 2x Emperor Palpatine (Core 23-2) 2x Emperor’s Royal Guard (Core 23-3) 2x Prophet of the Dark Side (A Dark Time 50-2) 2x Prophet of the Dark Side (A Dark Time 50-3) 2x Anzati Elite (A Dark Time 50-4) 1x Jerec (Heroes and Legends 100-2) 1x Imperial Inquisitor (Heroes and Legends 100-3) 1x Imperial Inquisitor (Heroes and Legends 100-4) 2x Mara Jade (Lure of the Dark Side 104-2) 2x Imperial Shadow Guard (Lure of the Dark Side 104-3) 1x Sariss (Knowledge and Defense 110-2) 1x Servant of the Dark Side (Knowledge and Defense 110-3) 2x Cularin Cultist (Darkness and Light 124-2) 2x Believer Initiate (Darkness and Light 124-3) 2x Believer Initiate (Darkness and Light 124-4)
Enhancement: (13) 2x Sith Library (Core 23-4) 2x Anger (A Dark Time 50-5) 2x Mara Jade’s Lightsaber (Lure of the Dark Side 104-4) 2x Sith Library (Lure of the Dark Side 104-5) 1x Dark Temple (Knowledge and Defense 110-4) 2x Hate (Darkness and Light 124-5) 2x Hate (Darkness and Light 124-6)
Event: (10) 2x Force Lightning (Core 23-5) 2x Force Choke (Core 23-6) 2x Force Push (A Dark Time 50-6) 1x Force Storm (Heroes and Legends 100-5) 2x Rage (Lure of the Dark Side 104-6) 1x Deadly Sight (Knowledge and Defense 110-5)
Initially, I tried a single copy of Shadows of Dathomir in place of the second Web. While I like the Nightsisters’ ability to turn off while undamaged objectives, the set’s primarily appeal was A Disturbance In the Force, a two-cost event that focuses all of the enemy’s committed units. The event allowed me to win difficult Force struggles in one or two games, but I rarely liked drawing the cards it came with. That made replacing it with Palpatine’s an easy decision, because all of the cards in his set work well with the rest of the deck.
The deck performed surprisingly well. I’ve lost more games with it than I’ve won, but many of my losses have been with the dial at 10 and an objective or two destroyed. Most of my victories were equally close, with two objectives down and three or four damage on the third.
That makes sense. Early on, the deck focuses on deploying the resources it needs to pay for events and disrupt the Light Side’s momentum. Because most of the events cost two or three, I don’t have enough resources at my disposal to flood the board, so I often have to choose between letting damage through or losing a unit I’ll need next turn (and possibly losing the Force struggle this turn).
But with Mara Jade to take out units and Palpatine to bury them in focus tokens, the deck can often come back from the brink of defeat. That has led to some enjoyable games, but I doubt the deck is consistent enough for competitive play.
The more I’ve played the deck, the more I like the Initiates. They’re frail, but if you can keep them alive, they’re useful throughout the game. Early on, they can power unit removal events such as Force Lightning and Deadly Sight, kill weaker units with their single black blaster, or keep the Light Side from getting unopposed damage with their high health. Later, they can seal the game by destroying objectives with their two blast icons.
I’ve been less impressed with the Cularin Cultist. As a three-health blocker with a black tactics icon, it is a decent defender. Its reaction also can be used to move Mara Jade’s saber to her or put Hate on a deadlier foe. However, I almost always felt that I had something better to play. Since the Cultist has three Force pips for edge battles, that’s fine.
To my surprise, I also enjoyed playing with Serve The Emperor. The objective’s contribution to the Force struggle often made the difference. More importantly, it allowed me to keep the Force even if I had to send all of my committed units to the front lines.
Force Push also proved effective, allowing me to bury enemy tauntauns in snow, disable Y-Wings, and make Hired Hands re-evaluate their contract. However, because it can only target non-unique units, its usefulness varies greatly from game to game. Even when I had abundant targets, it seemed expensive unless I had The Emperor’s Web out.
The Prophets of the Dark Side proved as uninspiring as forum comments had led me to believe they would be, but I’m still glad I had them. They’re no Galactic Scum, but in a few games, their draw-on-deployment effect helped me find the event I needed or increased my hand’s pip count enough for me to win a critical Edge battle.
As Sith units, the Prophets can trigger Agent of the Emperor’s reaction. Because they have such low health, it’s easy to get rid of them when you want the Force card back.
Despite only having one health, the Anzati Elite proved to be decent. When you’ve got protectors out, you can play them to gain access to two black tactics. When you don’t, they’ have three pips for Edge battles or holding the Force.
I didn’t like Anger. In fact, I’ve never played it. Because the enhancement destroys a unit if the owner loses a Force struggle on his turn, it encourages the Light Side to keep units back in an attempt to win the Force struggle. In another deck, that might be great. But encouraging the Light Side to win the Force Struggle is the last thing this deck wants to do.
That should come as no surprise. The deck has seven cards that can’t be played when the Light Side has the Force (the four Believer Initiates, the two copies of Rage, and the Force Storm) and six cards that lose their effectiveness when the Light Side has the Force (the four Prophets and the two copies of Force Push). I need to keep control of it.
Although I played against Jedi decks devoted to keeping the Force, I occasionally managed to control it. If my opponent relied on high-pip units to win the struggle, I could often kill them with Mara Jade or bury them in focus tokens with Palpatine. If they relied on objectives, I could often take it out with an Initiate and Mara Jade.
But because the deck relies so heavily on keeping the Force, I doubt it would be competitive. It took on its share of May the Force Be WIth You decks, but I never had to deal with Along the Gamor Run and May The Force Be With You at the same time. I had trouble in the games where my opponent had Green Squadron Deployment, Sacrifice at Endor, or Along the Gamor Run out.
In casual games, it is a mixed blessing. When the games were close, as they often were, my opponent and I had a lot of fun. But in two games, I drew the right string of events to destroy or focus whatever units my opponent played, making the games so one-sided that he didn’t have much fun. Those games are rare enough that I will continue to answer the cult’s call from time to time but common enough that I’ll never bring it to a game night without a backup deck.
I wish I wish had more time to play. I’d love to see how The Call of the Cult does in a deck with Scum’s tricks for holding the Force, particularly Containment Field. I’d also like to play around with an enhancement-heavy deck so I can get more mileage out of the Cularin Cultist.
Have any of you experimented with The Call of The Cult? If so, what did you try, and what were the results?