This guest blogpost was written by Andrea Joki (username Talvi) and was originally posted on the Megahaulin’ podcast web page. We thought it was very helpful! Andrea was kind enough to give us permission to repost it. Andrea Joki is currently a Level 44 Star Realms player with a Lifetime ranking of 20.
Often in Star Realms, you feel like the game was decided within the first few turns when your opponent gobbled up all the good cards. Early Brain World? Three Imperial Fighters? Four scrappers in a row? A Blob Armada ready to rain down on you? Insane blue authority gain? It can feel hopeless.
What’s important to realize is that the game does have a balance and there are countermeasures to an opponent with a strong set of draws from the trade row. Granted, luck may have to be involved (either for you to have it or your opponent to not have it), but most decks that are strong in one way do have inherent weaknesses you can exploit. Here are some common opponent-advantage situations, their decks’ strengths and weaknesses, and how you can try to avoid what feels like an inevitable defeat.
Let’s start with decks and then move on to powerful single bomb cards that need to be countered.
Countering An Authority/Gold Gain Deck
These are the decks that are daunting and morale killers because the opponent gains massive amounts of authority continually and can pretty much cherry pick whatever they want off the trade row with their gold superiority. In choosing how to spend all that gold, they often will either go aggro with big damage ships (risky) or shore up a nifty wall of utility bases that completely shut you down (smarter). This is often a deck with a lot of Cutters, interspersed with Federation Shuttles and heavier hitters such as Flagship or Trade Escort.
Strength: Lots of authority. Lots of gold.
Weakness: These decks are often slow and can be incredibly slow to get rolling/deal substantial damage.
Strategy: This deck tends to allow the authority gain to make up for the lack of solid damage early in the game. Bigger and bigger ships end up being acquired and useful bases such as Machine Base, Blob World, or Fleet HQ become problematic for you by late mid game. But the star players really are the Cutters – their damage adds up quickly when they ally.
Countermeasure: 1) These types of blue decks often lose to an aggressive scrap deck – so snatching up every single card that scraps is key – even midgame. Despite the authority gain, it is fairly quick and easy to take out a blue deck if you have scrapped out your starters and are doing 20-30 damage a turn. The inherent slow speed of a blue deck gives scrappers much needed time to do their job and create a quick and deadly deck. First – define as soon as possible if the player is aggro (aggressive) or defensive blue. Aggro Blue players tend to buy a Battle Blob over a Machine Base, for example. If aggro, go for base protection early or try to grab some blue yourself to stay alive long enough to scrap out. If they are the base wall striver, then a deck with scrappers and yellow or green support works to keep their utility at a minimum and then have the punch at the end. In nearly every instance I’ve seen, heavy blue decks will lose to an opponent with 3 or more scrap cards. 2) Buying cards like Battle Screecher or Battle Pod are key to removing the 6+ cards out of the trade row and wasting big blue buying power. Smart blue deck players will battle you for those scrappers – but e.g., if they gave up a Missle Bot for a cutter, you have a chance. Just don’t be daunted by an opponent’s authority of 75 – I’ve often seen that authority diminish to 0 within three hands thanks to a zippy red deck.
Countering A Red Scrap Deck
Sometimes, your opponent gets all the great scrap cards (and some bases like Battle Station to shore up defenses while they blissfully remove their starter cards). These decks are fast – with each shuffle, they become more and more powerful, like a ticking time bomb. And that’s the key to countering these decks: don’t give them time.
Strength: Fast – when they get going, they are a steamroller.
Weakness: Red decks can be very vulnerable to early damage. They need at least 3 decks (3 shuffles) before their decks start to gain momentum. Often red decks are gold starved – but a deck with two Supply Bots can have surprising buying power.
Countermeasure: The one tried-and-true way to defeat a red deck is to simply beat it to death with all the damage you can get early. If you wait to build up to the 6+ cost bases and ships, you’ll likely be too late and by the time one of those gets out, they are hitting you for 15+ damage a turn. Smart red players have at least simple defense outposts or authority gain cards bought later game to keep them alive long enough. So you will not only need to get all the damage you can find, but you’ll also need a way to get to that damage and have it ally better. Speeding up your deck with cantrips (card drawing abilities) is important – but Recycling Station is key. Never let a player with a lot of red cards get a Recycling Station! Yellow and green cards are choice here – don’t even bother with blue in most instances unless it is a card that draws a card automatically (e.g., Flagship) or you can throw it at your opponent through sacking it (as with Barter World’s impressive five damage). Avoid letting your opponent get an outpost or authority gain, if at all possible.
Countering A Green Aggro Deck
When the Blob army comes marching, they pretty much have a scorched Earth policy. You can try to slow them down with bases and work on scrapping – but the Blob Destroyer effortlessly punches through base walls and they ladder up far too easily (e.g., Ram or Blob Wheel to Battle Blob or Mothership).
Strength: Once these start to ally, it’s all over. More than any other faction, the key to the juggernaut that is a green deck is that they must ally. Rather than bringing extra damage (as with yellow allying), green brings tricks such as card draws, ship acquirement, trade row manipulation, and base removal. They become a card drawing machine with evil combos. As well, their bases, which are out there to ally more than anything else, are non-outposts that soak up a lot of damage if you need to remove them (and you do with a green heavy deck!).
Weakness: If they don’t ally, they can be very weak – especially cards like Blob Fighters. But most importantly: green also provides no outposts to slow down opponent damage (especially noticeable in Vanilla play). So a green deck deals a LOT of damage but they are also extremely vulnerable to damage from you with no way of stopping it in their native color.
Strategy: Really, there are two ways to go here. You can try to match them with yellow damage/discard if you have those options coming up on the trade row. A War World and two Frigates, for example, can be lethal to heavy green. Or you can go heavy blue and gain back authority faster than they can deal it. Surprisingly, a blue deck with outpost bases can last long enough to eventually kill a green deck, even without scrappers. Bases tend to be taken out easily, so utility bases are important – a Barter World is probably always going to be a better choice than Battle Station since you can gain authority if low or buy bases/Flagships etc. Especially since blue has so many card drawing options to match green’s card draw. As well, Blue has a neat trick that green doesn’t: its bases often sack for either damage or card draw. Just don’t let any green base survive to trigger combos – and definitely don’t let a green heavy deck get a Recycling Station (which is used to find more green cards to ally and speeds up the deck fatally!). Hate drafting a Battle Pod can ensure you control how many green cards they get – and cause them to dilute the ability to ally by forcing them to buy more support non-green cards.
Countering A Yellow Discard Deck
This is perhaps the hardest to counter – yellow decks provide heavy damage, sure, but they have extreme utility at the end game through countless sacrifice/draw card options. So while they shut you down through discard, they get to keep their options open.
Strengths: Obviously, the discard/opponent control is important. But really, the great strength of yellow is that so many can be multipurpose in the end game: damage, discard, AND then to sack and draw into more damage/end the game earlier/definitively. Yellow decks can be classified as stealthy – their potential can’t really be gauged until near the end when they start scrapping for draws. As such, yellow is the ultimate utility color, even more so than green. More importantly, unlike green, the potential for sick damage comes up when yellow starts combo-ing – especially with key players like War World. And unlike other colors, you can start yellow but if you have to change colors, you can scrap so many yellow cards like Space Station, Frigates, even Battlecruiser and then invest in a different color (e.g., go blue if you are losing the damage battle). Truly, the ultimate utility color.
Weakness: Yellow has some fatal holes that have to be shored up. Obviously, the lack of gold bearing cards in Vanilla means that yellow can run into econ problems. As well, there is a big hole in the damage: Corvette and Survey Ship can’t hold a candle to their green counterparts Battle Pod and Ram. Nearly every green does damage at the 4 and under cost cards – yellow only has two real damage dealers there. The card draw ability of Corvette and Survey Ship keep the deck lean and mean – but can be problematic if not enough Frigates come up in the Trade Row to make up the low damage (or if War World isn’t available).
Strategy: One of the hardest to counter since your resources are constantly stolen away through forced discards. Going blue is one strategy to counter the constant damage – it has so much gold and authority availability that it can make up for the discards. As well, blue’s buying power is a way to control the trade row, essentially buying away protection bases to leave them open to damage. Often, yellow decks simply peter out – doing massive amounts of damage early but as the deck got bigger, the cards no longer ally as easily, and the damage is less deadly. Too many yellow decks stall completely. As well, yellow decks can be a challenge to red decks – you’re going to be very dead before you scrap fully if you aren’t careful. Yellow is fairly terrible at base removal (Battlecruiser notwithstanding), so bases make a better strategy for protection than against a green deck. Just don’t let them get a Recycling Station! And watch for savvy players who stick a Fleet HQ behind cheap 5 outposts – they live forever.
Countering Early Brain World
Your ability to come back after an early Brain World buy by your opponent often depends on two factors: how they bought it and if they bottom deck it (i.e., luck). It’s hard to win in this situation – make no mistake. But it is possible. If the Brain World was bought in Vanilla, typically the opponent has a slow deck and used up resources to do it (either having slow cards like Freighter/Trade Pod or sacrificing a Blob Wheel or Space Station). It means they have a slow start on the way to creating a very fast beck. Your choices are limited pretty much – kill them as fast as possible through yellow/green damage cards is the best option most times. Probably best not to bother with blue or red unless you get an opportunity to draw cards – they will be too slow and you need massive damage fast. If, on the other hand, they got that Brain World through Events/Gambits combos, they didn’t have to expend resources too much and only sheer luck of them bottom decking it while you gobble up anything that hits hards can probably save you. Recycling Station is the only non damage card that works against an early Brain World – though you can get bases that you can throw at the opponent like Barter World or Battle Station. Base removal with greens like Blob Destroyer work well. But for blue/red base removal cards (Missile Mech, Port O Call), you probably don’t want to count on them since they will dilute your deck’s damage dealing ability (investing in red won’t help – stay green/yellow).
Countering Early Ark
This one is problematic – it’s the damage that it adds that really adds up fast. So while you are happily damaging your opponent, chances are you’ll be wide open at the same time. It’s just pure luck that they bottom deck it that will save you, unfortunately. And that’s the countermeasure – can you outdamage them or can you keep them from getting any further damage cards on the trade row.
Countering Early Megahauler
The Megahauler is a machine with a fatal flaw – if there are no good ships out there, it’s a very expensive Fed Shuttle with automatic authority gain. Fortunately, there are Blobs and trade row control to tame the Megahauling beast! Green has the unique ability to preemptively scrap juicy big ship bombs awayt while at the same time providing punishing damage to counter the authority gain. Cards like Battle Pod and Screecher (as well as a Blob Destroyer when allied) efficiently clean out the trade row of threats – leaving an opponent’s Megahauler unusable bases or chump ships for the taking. Another strategy is to have a lot of blue of your own (e.g., Freighter) so you can control the trade row by buying out the good cards first – leaving poorer cards for their Megahauler.
Countering Early Bomb Ships Such As Command Ship, Mothership, Etc.
While these may look scary at the beginning, following good deck strategies (scrap, balancing defense and offense) is your best bet. Clearly, the Command Ship is the most problematic and you’ll want to go in very aggressive in damage to counteract its draw/authority gain. The other bombs are mostly damage oriented and those need to be countered with bases to slow down the authority loss or matching with authority gain.
Countering Early Bomb Bases Such As Blob World, Fleet HQ
Pretty much, you’ll have to go aggro, especially green. The longer those bases stay up, the less chance you have to come back. Start earlier rather than later, as well, or you’ll be caught flatfooted. So if your opponent gets a Space Station and there’s a Blob World in the trade row, abandon scrap and Authority and start investing in damage/base removal (especially green!). Even buying a Barter World to throw at the base can make a huge difference in how long it lives. It’s rare I’ve ever seen anyone go red and scrap enough to survive an opponent’s early Blob World.
So, although some decks are going to take you out no matter what, and you need some luck on your side (especially with what the Trade Row throws you) or against your opponent, you can at least make them work for it and earn some respect/props for it. Also important is to take note of those weaknesses if you end up with one of those killer decks; too often I see opponents with strong decks who make poor late game decisions that allow other players to exploit the weaknesses. But the key is flexibility – don’t turn a blind eye to how your opponent’s deck is developing: what they are doing currently and in future turns.