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.

Greetings from the Star Empire, winners of this week’s Arena. Why did they win the arena this week? Because discard is everything when every card is good.

This week’s format is Ruthless Efficiency and it really is ruthless. There are critical decisions starting from turn one, because of the Scenario: Each player can spend 1 Trade to scrap a card in their hand. This means that, in most games, players are going to have very efficient decks. This will tend to make the games go faster — though I have had a couple of games in this arena that went past turn 25 due to authority gain.

I have yet to win an arena run this week. On seven attempts, I finished with a record of 16-14 overall, including two 5-2 runs. According to the stats released about last week’s arena, fewer than one in ten players managed a six-win arena run to win the foil Cutter. It’s not easy! Hopefully, you will learn from my mistakes. These tips could help you get this week’s foil, Space Station.

Lockdown – The New Win Condition

Last week’s arena introduced a new win condition, in effect, with the all-bases victory. This week, the arena introduces something I call Lockdown: making your opponent discard their entire hand. Yes, this can happen once in a long while in the normal version of the game. But in this format, it is possible to fill your deck with cards that draw cards, and cards that make your opponent discard, and cards that do both.

Imperial Fighter, Imperial Frigate, Battlecruiser, and Battle Barge are all good cards in the normal format. But this week, they are dream killers.

If you can make your opponent discard five cards in a turn even once, you win. I haven’t seen someone come back from that in this format. You don’t need to get the full Lockdown in place to win, though. Even making your opponent discard three cards can be back-breaking.

One mistake I have made is overcommitting to this strategy. Grabbing every Star Empire card just because it enables Lockdown seems sound, but it neglects important other aspects necessary to win the game. If you aren’t defending yourself with bases or authority-gain, you can get taken out of the game before you can set up your lock!

The Full Scrap – The Secondary Win Condition

You would think that this week’s Scenario makes Machine Cult cards not worth acquiring. I learned the hard way that this isn’t right. If your opponent grabs two scrapping cards, they can empty their deck a full shuffle — or two turns — before you do. If neither player can reach Lockdown, the game often comes down to who can first achieve what I like to call “The Full Scrap” — removing all ten starting cards.

Managing the scrapping race is important. If your opponent begins to out-scrap you, you need to make a decision. Either abandon scrapping in favor of going for an aggressive win (because you will lose the long game), or try to go for an even longer game through bases and authority gain. This super-long-game strategy is usually not the best one to take, but sometimes you just need to go with what the trade row provides!

if your opponent doesn’t scrap when they go first, the pressure is off slightly for you to do so. But, if they scrap going first, you must follow suit or else risk falling far behind.

Scrap Vipers First? More than that. Scrap Vipers Immediately.

Most of my losses came in games where I purchased cards during the first shuffle instead of scrapping my Vipers out of my deck. You can’t always scrap them both before your first shuffle — you don’t always draw them into two separate hands, and if you go first and don’t draw either you literally cannot scrap them both before the shuffle. But if you can, you nearly always should.

There is a small list of cards I would purchase during the first two turns of the game rather than scrapping a Viper. They either make my opponent discard a card, or let me scrap a card on future turns.

And Cutter. I have to show off my foil Cutter.

Heroes matter less this week than last week.

The Heroes from Crisis aren’t as impactful as the ones from United. Don’t ignore them, though. Especially don’t ignore the Star Empire Heroes, as they enable lockdown strategies.

Trade row control is much more important than normal.

Battle Pod and Battle Screecher are both powerful ways to control the battlefield. Sometimes, I am afraid to buy something from the trade row because it might give a card to my opponent to further their Lockdown strategy. With the power of the Blob, I can wipe those cards right off the trade row. This works to disrupt any plan, of course, but it is critical against Lockdown.

The Rolling Stones were right. “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you find, you get what you need.” Those Blob cards allow you to take out a card from the trade row when you are ending your turn.

Of course, nothing is foolproof. I wiped out a Cutter only to see it be replaced by another Cutter. The conspiracy is real.

In Conclusion

This is a difficult, skill-testing format which rewards technical play. Starting from the first turn, you need to pay careful attention to everything. You should keep track of damage totals in each deck as well as keeping track of starting cards remaining for both players. And, above all else, you should praise the Star Empire, for they rule the stars this week.