It’s time for a second run of Commitment to the Cause. As I said back in May, you could call this format Super Hyper Turbo Star Realms (non-scrapping edition)!

Format Rules and Statistics

The Commitment to the Cause scenario rule ensures the fastest games of Star Realms you are ever likely to play.

Scouts and Explorers produce an additional 1 trade. Vipers produce an additional 1 combat.

This week we are playing with the Core Set and Promo Pack 2. A small 92-card trade deck ensures that you will see expensive, rare cards regularly. The scenario rule ensures that you will be able to buy them, starting on the very first turn.

Because this week’s rule is very simple, there are no technical notes. I do have some statistics:

  • Games are ending on turn 16 or 17 on average.
  • During the majority of my games this week (6 out of 11), the winner had less than 10 authority left when they won.

I said this last time: I cannot overstate how different the game is when the player going second is guaranteed to have 6 trade on turn one, and will have 8 trade on average. While there is some disagreement about how much the first-player advantage is in Star Realms, most top players believe it exists. This week’s Arena rules put player one at a significant disadvantage.

Star Realms Turbo Mode

I will start by quoting from the last tips article about this format:

Every purchase you make gives your opponent an opportunity to purchase an 8-cost card on their turn, if the trade deck flips up something great. Don’t buy cards just because you can! Cards that provide 2 trade that normally are good, are terrible in this format, because your Scouts provide 2 trade. Think carefully before you buy anything that provides trade.

Look at your opponent’s deck, especially when they have 7 or fewer cards left. Can they even purchase an 8-cost card should one appear? If not, you can be a bit more aggressive with your spending spree. Just remember that every card you put into your deck makes it less likely that you draw your best card. Be sure that you don’t buy so many cards that you find yourself shuffling your deck less than your opponent.

Player One Must Defend

Again, quoting from last time because it still holds true:

While there are few absolutes in Star Realms Arena, I am pretty sure this is one of them: This week, if you are going first, you need to buy cards assuming your opponent will have much more damage potential than you will have. If there is a 7+ cost card in the opening trade row, you can’t buy it but your opponent likely will. The only way you get a big card into your deck in the early game is if your opponent buys incorrectly. You need to defend!

This time, because of the different sets, my opinion as how you should defend is different. In the prior format, I suggested that player one should invest in bases. This time, there are many eight cards with “Destroy target base” as an ability. That’s nearly 10% of the trade deck! Two of them are War Kite, an uncommon that costs just two trade! Stay away from most bases this week. They are not reliable enough.

Authority Gain Is Your Friend

So how should player one defend? Authority gain. In fact, I recommend authority gain for both players, because the games are so fast and so close. In normal Star Realms, authority gain usually helps to stall the game past turn 20 or 22, but it is not good enough to stall into a very late game situation. You really need bases for that. But this week, turn 22 is the very late game. Even putting one or two authority-gaining cards can make the difference. Good news, Cutter is in the format! But so are Federal Transport and Security Craft, both from Promo Pack 2. That pack is the least-used pack in the arena so far (excluding the Gambit sets) so people may not be as familiar with the power of those cards. Grab them, especially if you are going first!

Ally Abilities Still Matter

It will be tempting to buy the most-expensive card you can and ignore ally abilities. That doesn’t appear to work this week, even with the ramped-up trade available so early. Yes, go ahead and buy that Command Ship when it appears, no matter what your deck is. But don’t stray too far away from making your ally abilities count. I have won this week through the Star Empire Lockdown (making your opponent discard 3+ cards), and through hitting those Blob ally abilities I love so much. Don’t let the extra trade shake you from the fundamentals of the game.

In Conclusion & Game Log

This week is a great week for players who love fast games with huge effects. Games are over in just a few minutes, with some games ending before turn 14. Some players will dislike this format for just that reason, and that’s ok! Next week there will be something new. For the rest of you, get your Super Mega Turbo Star Realms on while you can, and enjoy the ride.

Here is a log of my first two runs from this week.

Win on turn 16 with 47 authority remaining.

Purchased Brain World on my first turn. I played it on my third turn and it stayed in play for three turns. The number of games I have lost where I purchased Brain World on turn one remains at zero. I made my opponent regularly discard two or three cards a turn. Most games this week were not like this.

Loss on turn 13 to weteh3op.

Purchased Command Ship on my second turn but then bottomdecked it, so it missed a shuffle entirely. This let my opponent keep The Hive in play, and they drew two cards and got 6 extra damage in, and that hurt. I began turn 10 at just 9 authority and I wasn’t able to recover. This was a bit frustrating, honestly.

Win on turn 16.

Buy Freighter turn two. Buy two scrapping cards turn four. Draw those on turn eight and scrap a Viper and a Scout. Buy powerful ships on turns six, eight, and ten. Play them on turns twelve, fourteen, and sixteen and win by 8 authority. It was pretty much by the book.

Loss on turn 16 to NurGuz.

Got several early scrappers and a turn four Fleet HQ. The number of games I have won with a turn four Fleet HQ remains at zero, as my opponent got a turn one Command Ship and a turn three Flagship. Some bottomdecking by my opponent made this look much closer than it actually was.

END OF RUN ONE AT 2-2.

Win on turn 22.

Neither player got a card that cost 6+ in the early game, so this one took longer than normal for this week. The shuffler added to maximum drama for both players as either could have won it from turn 18 onward.

Win on turn 16.

I purchased Freighter on turn 4 and used it to buy Brain World on turn 8. Freighter is a total sleeper card in this format – you wouldn’t think it would be great because of the extra trade you are likely to receive each turn, but I am usually rewarded for picking it up.

Win on turn 18 with 1 authority left

  • Opponent’s first turn: Scout, buy Cutter, two Vipers, deal 4 damage.
  • My first turn: Play 5 Scouts, buy Battle Blob, War Kite, and Trade Bot.
  • Opponent’s second turn: Play 5 Scouts, buy Flagship and Patrol Mech.
  • My second turn: Play 3 Scouts, buy The Hive and Trade Bot.

Seems extremely favorable to me, but bottom decking both scrappers in deck two really hurt. What should have been a quick game went long (in this format, anything after turn 17 is a long game). I barely won it with good topdecking after the shuffle. The RNG gods taketh away, and the RNG gods giveth sometimes too.

Win on turn 15.

I purchased some expensive cards, as did my opponent. I was in only two factions, while they were in all four. I’m pretty sure that was the difference in this game — I hit ally abilities on turs 9, 11, 13, and 15, and my opponent didn’t a single one. (Two early scrappers made that a bit more likely for me. Those didn’t hurt.)

Loss on turn 16 to Lez1z1.

My opponent purchased a turn 2 Blob World. I purchased 5 scrappers in my first three turns, and the race was ON. They got way ahead with a turn 10 Brain World. (How many Worlds does one player need?!) I lost the race.

Win on turn 19.

Just barely put the pieces together. I picked up a Blob World late and on the final turn of the game I could have put my opponent down to 1 authority. Instead I used Blob World to draw two (leaving them at 6 authority) and I drew a Viper for 2 damage and a Corvette for 1 damage and a card, and also two ally abilities for four more damage. That was just barely enough for the win.

Win on turn 19.

War Kite, you beauty. Purchased it on turn 15, and it showed up on turn 17 to clear a path for me to win the game and this week’s foil.

END OF RUN TWO AT 6-1.

Andrea Davis is an award-winning designer and producer. She has 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.