This week, ships are cheaper and bases are stronger, and it might as well be a completely different game. I went 6-0 this week and I’m on my way to another set of stars, and I did it by throwing out almost five years of experience of playing Star Realms.

Is it true that Explorers should only be purchased in an emergency? Not this week. Explorers are your friend. Buy four of them. Find out more as we explore this week’s Arena.

Format Rules and Technical Data

The worst way to play is to not know the scenario rule. The Arms Race scenario rule changes every card in the format.

Ships cost 1 less to acquire. Bases have +1 defense.

One more time, we’re playing with the Colony Wars starter, along with Crisis: Fleets and Fortresses. Once again, trade decks begin with just 92 cards this week so you are more likely to see the high-powered rares than in most seasons.

Technical Notes: Ships cost 1 less to acquire when you are spending trade to acquire them from the trade row. The Blob cards that let you acquire for free (Parasite, Moonwurm, and Leviathan) check the printed cost of the cards, not the cost as modified by the scenario rule. My expectation is that this will be the case for every scenario rule that modifies the costs of cards in the app.

Statistics: My games lasted 20 or 21 turns on average, but almost none of my games were actually average. Most were done on turn 15 or 16, or on turns 25+. Why did this happen? Read on…

You like Colony Wars? This might be the most Colony Wars format ever.

Since I began playing, I noticed tendencies about the game. When I compare the Core Set to Colony Wars, the differences are pretty clear: there are more expensive cards, the cards that cost 4+ are stronger than in the Core Set, and there is more trade available than before. Now take those things, and make every ship cheaper. You can fill your deck with good ships, if you want. I would advise against this, however.

The other way that this Arena is the most Colony Wars format ever, is that it is bomb-heavy. The expensive cards from Colony Wars and from Crisis: Fleets win you the game, and they are all better than ever. (You know how to make Star Fortress even better? Give it a 7th point of defense. Peacekeeper is pretty amazing when you can acquire it on the first shuffle, too.)

Last thing you want to do is get caught without a plan. So in a format that is all about the bombs, how do we win? Don’t fall into the trap of buying cards just because they are cheap or free. Sure, buy every single cheap card that draws a card (Cargo Launch memes incoming!), but avoid the other ones unless they are in-faction. By keeping your deck trim and neat, you will shuffle it more often than your opponent, meaning you will draw your best cards more often than your opponent, meaning you are more likely to win.  

It takes money to make money. Buy trade ships, even in this aggro format.

Worst feeling in the world is losing to an aggro deck. At least, for me. There are plenty of aggressive ships you can buy to deal 25 damage very quickly. But in my experience, it is much harder to deal that second 25 damage to finish off an opponent that spends their trade resources wisely. Investing your first two shuffles towards trade, and either authority-gain or defensive bases, will set you up for success.

One or more of you might be saying, “But Andrea, that isn’t always possible! What if the board is filled with aggro ships?” The trade row might be filled, but don’t forget about the Explorers. It is completely reasonable to spend all of your trade on turn two just buying three to five Explorers. This makes it likely that you have a turn on the second shuffle with 6 to 8 trade, surely enough to buy the best card on the trade row. And, since they are Explorers, you can scrap them out for a chunk of extra damage. This is important to deal with people that buy a great base while you are buying trade (and therefore not buying damage) early in the game. It also thins your deck back to near the starting point.

Halfway through my first run I discovered this tactic out of desperation. My opponent got a turn three Moonwurm. There were two other expensive cards on the trade row, and I filled my deck with Explorers (and a Cargo Pod I was happy to deny my opponent). When the midgame got going, I had all the trade I needed to buy the other bombs. With a bit of luck and some key topdecking, I was able to hang around and win. Now, I employ this strategy on the first shuffle if the board looks expensive. People aren’t expecting this and you can catch them off-guard!

(I suppose they might be expecting this if they have read this article, but you’ll beat the other players this way.)

Bases are still worth your time. Especially Warning Beacon.

Most of the low-cost bases should be ignored. A slight bonus to players with the Blob ships that allow you to scrap from the trade row, this week, because there are plenty of cheap bases in this format. And you should ignore them. Every base that costs less than 5 should be skipped, with a couple of exceptions:

  • Warning Beacon because 3 defense for 2 trade is nice, and because allying your Machine Cult abilities is very, very nice in this format.
  • Orbital Platform because card-drawing will never be bad.
  • The Oracle is so-so. 6 defense for 4 trade is worthy of attention. The scrapping is nice, too. But for 4 trade you could buy some amazing normally-five-cost ships…
  • Border Fort is in a similar place. 6 defense for 4 trade but you don’t even get a scrap or a chance at 3 damage. I have almost-always passed this one up.

In contrast, almost every base that costs 5 or more should be strongly considered. The only exception to that would be Supply Depot, because the potential damage or trade you get is not worth passing up a normally-seven-cost ship. (Or even two normally-four-cost ships.)

In Conclusion

Go big. This format favors those willing to take the risks to get the unreal ships that cost five or more. Invest in some trade early and you will usually be rewarded with a second and third shuffle that will make up for the early damage you may suffer.

That, and trust me about the Explorers. As always, good luck this week.

Andrea Davis is an award-winning designer and producer. They have designed Star Realms promos, Hero Realms Boss Decks, and cards for Epic Card Game. Andrea is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Game Design and Development at the University of Limerick in Ireland.