Total War is back for a second run through the Arena, but it is completely different this time around. With high-quality authority-gain cards in the format, this week is not simply about All Out Aggro. Though, make no mistake, unanswered aggro strategies can win before turn 15. So how do you respond? How do you know which way you should go? Follow me, fellow star traveler, as we embark on a journey through the most dangerous of times – the Total War.

Format Rules and Statistics

The Total War scenario rule ensures that you will always have something to spend with your loose change.

Once per turn a player may pay 1 trade to gain 3 combat.

We’re playing with the Core Set starter and Promo Pack 1. A 92-card trade deck that features many routes to victory. As this format features a starter with only one expansion added, the rares are more likely to appear than you would expect in most Arena weeks. (A larger trade deck increases the chances of not seeing cards of a particular rarity.)

Route One: Aggro.

As I mentioned in June 2018, the scenario rule can cause games to end two to three turns faster than normal. Instead of games ending on turn 20 (plus or minus a turn), games are generally ending on turn 18 (again, plus or minus a turn). This week you get some of the best aggro cards ever printed: Merc Cruiser, Battle Screecher, Blob Fighter, Ram, Blob Destroyer… the green team delivers a ton of damage, same as it ever has. Even if you can’t get all of these cards, just a few of them can get you going nicely.

The Star Empire route is second best, but still attractive. Discard is generally more powerful this week than normal, because discarding that one extra trade can mean the difference between dealing 3 damage or not. Many games come down to “who clicked Total War the most,” so the discards matter!

Absorb and Respond

Quoting from the last time we had this scenario:

If everyone is bringing rocks to the fight, it is time to play paper. In this case, paper is authority-gain. While the bases in Colony Wars are priced assuming multiple uses, the authority gain cards are still available at a reasonable price. (No, there is no Cutter, but Trade Hauler isn’t too bad.) In fact, the Trade Federation was my main route to victory. Almost no one went for it, assuming that Route One was the only way.

This time, we do have Cutter! We also have other worthy authority-gaining cards: Starmarket and Embassy Yacht. If you go down this path, I advise picking up other bases as well: Barter World, Defense Center, Blob Wheel, and Battle Station. Yes, the three-cost bases are amazing in this format! Unless your opponent gets the base-destroying cards early, these bases represent 10 or 15 additional points of damage your opponent has to deal out before they can win the game. They both have scrap abilities worth using, and neither are paying for an ally ability you won’t use. If you cannot be the aggro player, you must get these cards so you can make it to the late game.

Of course, if you are going down the defense route, grabbing the deck-scrapping cards the Machine Cult has on offer is an obvious next step. Given this format, Fortress Oblivion is an MVP for your deck, but literally any deck-scrapper will do.

When To Use The Scenario Rule

Whoever uses the scenario rule the most, wins. Usually. There are some exceptions though. Here is the procedure I use to determine if I should use the Total War card:

  • Don’t use Total War if you are going first and can buy a card spending all of your trade. The 3 damage you get now is likely outweighed by the benefit of the better card in your deck.
  • Don’t use Total War going second on your first turn if you can spend all of your trade, for basically the same reasons. This is especially true if you can deny your opponent all of the trade-generating ships from the trade row.
  • Don’t use Total War if you are buying an 8-cost ship and there are no 7-cost ships to buy. Same thing with 7 and 6, and 6 with 5.
  • Don’t use Total War if the damage would bounce off of an enemy outpost.
  • Don’t use Total War if you are in the defensive role (whether by choice or not) and spending all of your trade advances you closer to your win condition. Of course, if you can destroy your opponent’s bases, then go ahead and use the scenario card.
  • Otherwise always use it. Big letters in shouty font, because if you don’t do this you won’t win.


I consider this week’s format to be one of the most skill-intensive in the game. You have many options to build, and very few games are decided by a bad shuffle or a tilted trade row. Some in the Star Realms Fan Page on Facebook considered this week to be all about “RNG” (all about luck), but with this article I hope to change some minds.

I am 10-6 in my first three runs this week. Winning 62.5% of the time is a great record, but it isn’t good enough to grab the foil. I’m still working on it, because it looks amazing. Good luck getting your foil!

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.