Arena can be very humbling. I almost didn’t write an article this week because I could just not come up with a plan that was even close to good enough. Never mind actually winning the foil, I wasn’t even getting the one-star trophy! I started 0-2, 1-2, 1-2, and 0-2, for a 20% win percentage. I was dining out on humble pie and gave it one last go… and promptly went 6-0 to win this week’s foil.

Why was this week so difficult to tame? It looks incredibly simple and straightforward. Why did I need five runs to even have even a single decent one? I was stuck using standard strategies when I should have known better. Learn from my mistakes as we explore the Heightened Awareness Arena.

Format Rules and Technical Data

The Heightened Awareness scenario rule appears basic, but it has far-reaching effects that shouldn’t be ignored.

At the start of each player’s turn, they gain 1 trade and 1 combat.

We’re playing with the Colony Wars starter, along with United: Assault and United: Command. Trade decks begin with 104 cards this week.

No technical notes to share this week, so I will include this statistic: There are six cards in the trade deck that are acquired directly to hand if you play a card of the same faction before you acquire them: Emperor’s Dreadnaught, Plasma Vent, Colony Seed Ship, and (three copies of) Warning Beacon. Once the game begins, there is about a 6% chance that the next card to appear in the trade row will be one of these cards. (Obviously, the odds increase the longer the game goes without one appearing, and they decrease once one actually appears.) Keep these odds in mind when you are panic-purchasing near the end of the game. It is a longshot to find one, but it is game-changing if you do!

Accelerated starts require extra attention.

The bases in Colony Wars and the United sets are very strong once you have four trade. About half of the time (46.7% of the time, to be exact) player one will start with three Scouts. Those three ships plus the extra trade from the scenario rule means they will have the first crack at a good base. If this happens, you have to purchase combat cards right away. That sounds obvious, but it is very easy to stick to the established pattern of “buy scrap or big trade if you can” for the beginning of most games.

Player two will usually have five trade and will occasionally (24.8%) have six trade on one of their first two turns. Six trade is a LOT of trade. Player one should purchase combat proactively on their second turn if they know their opponent will have 6 trade on their second turn. Obviously, they buy combat reactively if player one grabbed a big base on their first turn.

It is very easy to lose games after your second turn, if one player gets a big base early and the other player doesn’t have enough combat to respond. Don’t make this mistake!

Buy all of the dual-faction cards you can.

Dual-faction cards are really, really good. They help with allying. They help with the Colony Wars acquire-to-hand cards. They usually have easy-to-ally abilities, or they have ally abilities in two different factions. Either way it’s a bonus. Alliance Frigate is my favorite card from United, and it’s easy to see why: Deal 7 and Heal 5. All of that for three trade! No other card in the game comes close to that in terms of raw statistical power at three trade.

In my final run I was determined to buy the dual-faction cards even if there was a “better” option available. My best decks were all three or four colors by the end, and my “great big turns” to win the game usually had ally abilities across the spectrum.

Don’t rely on basic strategy. Scrapping is not that great this week.

I did not find scrapping particularly useful this week. Yes, buying a Battle Bot early is still a good idea, but don’t rely on scrapping as a win condition in and of itself. Opinions on this are mixed on the Star Realms Fan Page on Facebook; others strongly disagreed with this view. I guess you can take my advice with a grain of intergalactic salt.

Bases are slightly less useful overall because of the bonus 1 combat your opponent gets each turn. However, bases are a fine strategy this week. If you can pick up a Central Station it is completely reasonable to just buy the most expensive base of any faction each turn, and then try to win through attrition and ally abilities.

In Conclusion

I’m glad I stuck with it this week, because Colony Seed Ship is this week’s foil and has always been my favorite card from Colony Wars. When I first saw the design of the card, I knew that Colony Wars-based games would feel completely different than ones that used the Core Set.

I hope this week’s hints will help you on your Arena runs. Don’t get discouraged by runaway games, as they are going to happen a bit more than normal this week. Stick with it, and put yourself in the best position to succeed the rest of the time. Good luck!

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.