Darth Vader: The Gift of the Sith

Darth Vader: The Gift of the Sith

This article comes to us from Kevin over at Roll On Gaming. Be sure to check out he and his brother, Corwin, on YouTube and Spotify for more great Star Wars: Unlimited content!

Remember that feeling you had as a child when you woke up on Christmas morning, raced to the family room and saw the presents lying under the tree, pristine and colorful and just aching to be opened? Think back to that first gift, the one shaped so inconspicuously that you couldn’t guess what it was… the surprise, the joy, and the desire to IMMEDIATELY play with it.

There’s a piece of that youthful exuberance that as adults we’ll likely never be able to replicate. But every so often, an ember from that fire flickers back to life for a brief moment in time.

So it did for me this Christmas 2023 when I opened social media and saw Darth Vader, Commanding The First Legion (SOR 87) on my timeline.

 OK, so maybe it wasn’t all that dramatic. But the arrival of a Darth Vader Unit in Star Wars: Unlimited has me excited enough to be sitting here on Christmas night and the days following, sharing my thoughts with all of you brave enough to read them.

The Star Wars lo-fi beats are bumping in my headphones, which means it’s time to get down to business.

A Surprise, to Be Sure, But a Welcome One

It would have been natural to assume, as I did, that Darth Vader would be an Aggression/Villainy Unit - after all, we’d seen Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight (SOR 51) in the same Vigilance aspect as Leader Luke (SOR 5), so why wouldn’t Unit Vader be Red just like Leader Vader (SOR 10)? As it turns out, the Dark Lord of the Sith arrives in his Command attire, which automatically puts him in a position of greater strength in the current card pool than possibly any other aspect… on the Villainy side, anyway.

In a color that boasts potentially the best Base in the game - Energy Conversion Lab (SOR 22) - as well as other universally-desirable cards that are already shaping the Spark of Rebellion meta, Darth Vader is poised to shine like the gleam from his iconic jet-black helmet. Even against the fastest of decks, a player should have little trouble reaching the 7 resources needed to unleash Vader into the Ground Arena, thanks to Superlaser Technician (SOR 83) and Resupply (SOR 126). He provides a native Ambush threat, which previously Villainy only achieved with Bossk (SOR 182), as well as the additional shenanigans granted by Admiral Piett (SOR 79). And his 7 health is enough to survive that Ambush attack against anything in the Ground arena, save for a Blizzard Assault AT-AT (SOR 88) or a 97th Legion (SOR 118).

But what about that When Played ability?

Vader's Legions

When Darth Vader kicks down the door, he brings with him any amount of Villainy Units with combined cost 3 or less that you find in the top 10 cards of your deck. (IMPORTANT NOTE: This isn’t written on the card, but once you’ve searched the top 10 cards of your deck with Vader’s ability, the remaining cards go in random order at the bottom of your deck.)

As it stands, there are 23 Villainy Units that have been revealed in Spark of Rebellion which cost 3 or less: three 1-cost, eleven 2-cost and nine 3-cost Units. How you distribute those 3 resources’ worth of Units depends on the current board state, and the aspect pairing you’ve tied Vader to.

Need a way to stem the tide from your opponent’s onslaught? Drop a Cell Block Guard (SOR 229) to add a Sentinel to your Ground forces, a Death Trooper (SOR 33) to finish off an enemy, or a Cartel Spacer (SOR 178) to exhaust one of your opponent’s Units.

Star Wars: Unlimited Cell Block Guard (SOR 229), Death Trooper (SOR 033), and Cartel Spacer (SOR 178 )

Trying to go on the offensive? General Veers (SOR 230) can buff Vader’s attack and HP before his Ambush ability triggers, and Snowtrooper Lieutenant (SOR 227) can chain another Imperial into a second attack with added power.

Star Wars: Unlimited General Veers (SOR 230) and Snowtrooper Lieutenant (SOR 227)

Want to build up your board? Three Death Star Stormtroopers (SOR 128) ought to do it. Or limit yourself to one and pair it with General Tagge (SOR 80) to add some Experience tokens to the party.

Star Wars Unlimited Death Star Stormtrooper (SOR 128) and General Tagge (SOR 80)

Whatever your needs, Darth Vader may just have the tools at his disposal to address them. But let’s dive a little further into that final scenario, because I believe it brings us to the ideal aspect pairing for Vader at this stage of the revealed set. After all, you can’t pull multiple Death Star Stormtroopers out of your deck with Vader unless you’re playing in Command/Aggression Villainy.

Fueled by Aggression

When I started thinking what a deck built around Darth Vader would look like, my first thought went to the Trooper-themed list that Star Wars: Unlimited’s Senior Designer Tyler Parrott played on the FFG livestream earlier in December. (Watch the stream here.) Tyler attempted to leverage the strength of Units with the Trooper trait - mostly Imperials, but with some other traits as well - to overwhelm his opponent’s board. His build (possibly because Unit Vader had not been revealed yet) lacked a large endgame presence, aside from his Darth Vader Leader, which deployed and was summarily defeated in the same round. Thus, Tyler ended up suffering defeat at the hands of Senior Designer Jeremy Zwirn’s Chewbacca deck, buoyed by the strength of two Home One (SOR 102).

What if all Tyler’s deck was missing was another Darth Vader?

We haven’t quite reached the dream of 8 Vaders (you kind of had to be there), but as Taylor Swift says, two is better than one. So I used Tyler’s concept as a building block, added some higher-costed cards, and ended up here.

View the complete decklist on SWUDB. 

First, we removed the non-Imperials and as many of the non-Villainy cards as we could. Having Leader Vader’s ability online as often as possible will help offset some of the trades we make early on.

The goal of this deck is to play Troopers early and buff them in the mid-game, increasing their power with cards like Tagge, Veers, our favorite (Snowtrooper) Lieutenant, and TIE Advanced (SOR 231). Ideally, our strength in numbers will allow the deck the time it needs to ramp to both Vaders and beyond.

In the late game, both Leader and Unit Vader are supported by 2 copies of Emperor Palpatine, Master of the Dark Side (SOR 135) and 3 copies of Ruthless Raider (SOR 134). Both of these Units deal damage out of hand, which means even if they are instantly dealt with, they have made an impact on the board.

Star Wars Unlimited Emperor Palpatine (SOR 135) and Ruthless Raider (SOR 134)

Of the 36 Units in the deck, 22 of them can be pulled with Unit Vader’s ability, giving us a feast of options in our 10-card spread. It’s unlikely that you would find all 3 Death Star Stormtroopers so late in the game, especially when playing a 1-cost Unit Round 1 is so beneficial with Vader’s Leader ability specifically, freeing up the second resource to damage your opponent’s base right away. But in a game of random draws, you never know what you might find!

There were some tough cuts for this version of the deck, some of which you’ll see in the sideboard. Most notably, Maximum Firepower (SOR 234) could end up paying dividends with so many Imperials on the board as additional Unit - or Leader - removal. You’ll notice that the sideboard is only 9 cards… the tenth is reserved for a third copy of Emperor Palpatine, in case we aren’t drawing him regularly in the late game.

You could easily make the argument for two additional Command cards that aren’t represented in the main deck or sideboard. Emperor’s Royal Guard (SOR 82) may have some staying power if you can consistently keep Tagge, Veers or Palpatine on the board, but I left him out because in addition to always having Sentinel online, Cell Block Guard is also a Trooper, which synergizes well with the rest of the deck. Agent Kallus (SOR 115) also missed the cut because he’s not a Villainy unit and he doesn’t fit with Unit Vader’s ability, but he has proven to be a solid card and is worth consideration.

Watching Your Career with Great Interest

I mentioned on our most recent podcast episode (recorded before Vader was revealed) that I was excited to see a Darth Vader Unit that was on par with the Luke Skywalker Unit. For the record, I don’t know that we got one, at least in the current card pool. At the same price point, Luke brings one additional HP, and Restore 3 is likely more useful than Ambush. Both iconic Units do affect the battlefield immediately, though, giving you the feeling that your 7 resources meant something, regardless of what happens afterward.

Star Wars Unlimited Unit comparison between Darth Vader (SOR 87) and Luke Skywalker (51)

That said, where Vader overtakes his offspring (40+ year spoiler alert!) is in his potential. As a standalone Unit, Luke’s ceiling is limited to the abilities printed on his card. Vader’s apex evolves with the cards around him, and with approximately 70 cards left to be revealed, plus more sets on the way, Vader can only go upward in trajectory as more 1-, 2- and 3-cost Villainy Units are discovered.

Whether you are excited or hesitant about our first Darth Vader Unit, I am confident that much will change for him in the future: his preferred aspects, the targets for his ability, and his position on the inevitable SWU tier lists.

And if you’re still not convinced, well…

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