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.


Star Realms Arena has launched. The full details can be found in this announcement post. I am excited for the chance to compete through in-app tournaments, partly because I do not have the time to ever get to the top of the monthly or yearly leaderboards. These events last for several days at a time – a short burst I can commit to. It gives me a chance to, oh, hang on. Prizes. What’s this? Foil Cutter?!

Yes, foil Battle Station too. Great! Winning it isn’t too hard – just two wins? I’ll get that at some point. But Foil Cutter? That requires winning the Arena. To get the Foil Cutter, I was going to need to win 6 wins before I got 2 losses. How? I am a lifetime 52% win percentage player. No one loses their mind when OrionBlue shows up as an opponent.

My plan was to attack the format and understand it as quickly as I could.

Arena promises to be an amazing thing for Star Realms — including formats no one has ever seen before. Arena Week 1 “Rushed Defenses” is this brand new format:

Since Promo Pack 2 doesn’t exist in physical form (though maybe some day), I can honestly say that this format is completely unexplored.

So, I explored it. It is a real challenge, one that requires a completely different set of assumptions. After beginning 2-2, 2-2, and 0-2 in my first three Arena runs, I had a look at my games and determined what was working and what wasn’t. Bases entering play immediately causes several changes, including the most-surprising one: United Heroes are bases that can’t be destroyed. Basically.

Here are the keys to victory for the Rushed Defenses Arena format.

The beginning of the game is now completely different.

I lost many games before understanding the power of acquiring a base on the first two turns of the game. In most games in the normal format, this is not the best strategy. You’ll usually want to buy some trade-generating cards, or some card-scrapping ones. Sometimes the board dictates an aggro strategy, and I’m fine buying as many Blob and Star Empire cards I can when playing with Colony Wars. But bases now begin the game providing immediate impact, sometimes forcing your opponent’s next move.

Here is an example:

On the first turn of the game, I purchased Storage Silo. Purchasing this meant my opponent would have to buy one of the two Predators. And, sure enough, that is what happened. I forced my opponent into buying combat early, which then opened up the possibility of me winning later by building a larger economy. I got to do that by protecting the Silo for a long time — that one base generated 16 authority and 10 trade over the course of the game.

Storage Silo is a base you can purchase early that requires your opponent to buy combat immediately or risk losing the game. Since it has 3 defense, it can’t be destroyed by your opponent’s starting deck. Here are a list of the bases in the format that you can purchase before the first shuffle, that can survive your opponent’s starting deck:

Stellar Reef2 (net 1)Blob3
Storage Silo2Trade Federation3
Orbital Platform3Star Empire4
Central Station4 (net 2)Trade Federation5
Command Center4 (net 2)Star Empire4 Outpost
The Oracle4Machine Cult5 Outpost
Stealth Tower5Machine Cult5 Outpost
Mercenary Garrison4Unaligned5 Outpost

Central Station is an amazing purchase – 5 defense and not an outpost, means that it can be protected by the Outposts you do purchase. It costs 4, but you get 2 trade back right away, so its “net cost” is just 2. This is a must-purchase card in most situations.

After the first two shuffles, unless you have multiples of them in play, bases start acting like Crisis Heroes.

They are unlikely to survive more than the turn you play them. This means they primarily serve as a trade-sink to enable ally bonuses for your ships, with the side effect of potentially slowing your opponent down a little. However…

Purchase bases based on your opponent’s ability to destroy them on their next turn.

Pay careful attention to your opponent’s deck (a major difference between digital and physical play) to see how likely it is that your opponent will destroy them. If your opponent has 5 or 6 cards left and they can’t get enough combat to destroy the base you might buy, that base becomes much more valuable to your Star Realm! Keeping a key base in play for just an extra turn or two can make a real difference.

If you can establish a base and keep it in play for a turn, this can start a chain of turns where you buy more and more bases that your opponent cannot destroy. This is almost an alternate win condition in Arena 1, not unlike making your opponent discard 5 cards in a turn. (Sure, they can come back from that, but it almost never happens.)

If a base does not give you resources the turn you purchase it, think long and hard about buying.

As I said, Storage Silo is great to purchase early, as is Stellar Reef. Central Station and Command Center both only have a net cost of 2 trade, and if they survive just one turn, they have paid for themselves and have benefits above and beyond.

On the other hand, Orbital Platform plummets in value in this format. One of my favorite bases in Colony Wars, but neither one of them provides resources the turn you purchase it. Unless you are in the late game, where you are willing to spend any amount of trade just to draw one more card, Orbital Platform is a must-avoid. The Oracle has a similar problem, and should similarly be avoided.

United Heroes are worth more comparatively in this format, because you are more likely to put trade into your deck.

Normally, there comes a point in the game when you don’t want to purchase trade-generating cards any longer. But since bases enter play directly, trade has value on every turn of the game. And because that is true, the United Heroes are better value than in normal games, because you can take that extra trade and “store it” into a Hero to cash in near the end of the game.

All of the 5-cost Heroes (CEO Shaner, Commodore Zhang, Confessor Morris, and Hive Lord) have a card-draw ability when you scrap them, in addition to giving you an ally trigger. When you are building towards that one big final turn (as I did in the video you see above), these cards are great. But they are even better in this format, because of the trade-heavy nature of it.

Authority gaining cards are much, much better than in the normal game.

Because bases do not stay in play, you cannot count them as extra authority forever (as you can in the normal game). This has the effect of increasing the power-level of the Trade Federation and their authority-gaining cards. Frontier Ferry and Federal Transport are both much, much better than expected in the Arena.


There you have it — the tips I used to get my first weekly foil. It took four arena runs to do it, but I got there. I hope these tips helped! The way I won is by no means the only way. If you have a great tip to share, please post it to the Facebook group.

Good luck for the rest of this week’s Arena!