Teaching Destiny, Part 2

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Read Part 1 here.

In your day job, when you are giving a presentation or meeting with a client you generally bring along some sort of teaching aid. Your slideshow, your handout, or your charts and graphs serve as tools with which to facilitate understanding. Your tool doesn’t accomplish the mission on its own, but serves to support you in your objective.

Teaching Destiny is no different, except that your tools are the decks you use. Certainly, you can teach successfully with nearly any two decks. However, choosing appropriate and streamlined decks will not only make your job easier, but can make learning more fun and straightforward for your student.

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I very much despise the Rey and Kylo starter decks. Granted, they work against each other thematically, but their value really ends there. First off, the decks are not even legal. Sure, this may not directly matter for teaching, but at some point you have to explain it to your student who now realizes “Oh I wasn’t even playing for real”. Second, the two decks are nowhere near being balanced. Finally, the decks don’t even work well with themselves; mixed damage, non-synergistic cards, and over-costed upgrades.

We can do much better by our students than FFG did by us. In this article – the second in the series about teaching ‘new to card game’ players – the focus is on developing simple yet effective teaching decks.

Use Familiar Characters with Diverse Dice

Starting with characters in play is a large part of what makes Destiny great. Immediately there are things to do and choices to make. This mechanic also allows you to easily control the learning process. Using familiar characters allows the student, right out of the gate, to feel inside the Star Wars story and be invested in the game.

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Making wise choices on team selection can facilitate learning by forcing the student to interact with the various die symbols, modified sides, and “pay-to-play” resource cost sides. For example, a character like Kylo Ren brings this sort of diversity whereas a Death Trooper does not.

It is also important to select characters who do damage and have relatively straightforward abilities. A character like Unkar Plutt isn’t a good learning or teaching character because his job is (literally) to disrupt the flow of the game. Characters like FN-2199 and Jango are fun to play for someone who knows the game, but their ‘rule-bending’ doesn’t facilitate straightforward learning.

By far, my favorite teaching deck is Han and Leia (doesn’t matter which of them is elite). Both Han and Leia’s dice bring a good mix of symbols; enough damage to consistently keep the game moving, and enough resources to buy things. The student gains exposure to pay-to-play sides, learns how to use focus, and Han’s simple ability forces them to be aware of simple card interactions. The red-yellow combo allows access to plenty of guns and many simple event cards.

eDooku/eKylo has been my go-to melee deck for teaching (sans Holocron). First, the pair looks dark and sinister and gives a very real dark side feel. Functionally, Kylo’s dice have a strong mix of sides with damage, a pay-to-play, shields, money, and a special. Dooku brings focus and through his ability quickly teaches hand economy. Sabers and force powers bring modified sides and additional exposure to specials.

The only three-character list that I have used with success is ePhasma/Trooper/Trooper. This deck has access to all sorts of guns which quickly teach modified sides and introduce Redeploy. The deck rolls consistent damage and makes a fair amount of money. Phasma brings a focus side, which pairs well with the trooper blanks which are themselves useful for forcing reroll learning.

Build A “Shooty” Deck And A “Choppy” Deck

guard Teaching Destiny, Part 2

My teaching decks tend to end up as ranged vs melee. To be clear, there is no reason for this from a teaching perspective. This is merely a logistical move – very few of us have four Holdout Blasters laying around.

Normally when deckbuilding we avoid mixing damage types when possible. This fact thus, for the most part, divides the collection into two pools. By building one deck from each pool, it becomes easier to build dice-heavy decks as you aren’t competing for the same cards. Building one of each type makes it easier on yourself (and your wallet).

Go Dice-Heavy

Since both the SoR release as well as the unveiling of some trend-bucking decks at various events, it seems that many decklists are shifting towards fewer dice upgrades and a lower overall cost curve. This may very well be the future of the meta, but is absolutely not the proper approach for constructing a teaching deck.

Recall that your student is naturally going to want to roll those big, chunky dice. Dice are also a main mechanic which will help to drive the learning process. Ensuring an ample supply of dice-based cards in the teaching deck will increase the student’s enjoyment and help to facilitate learning.

You should thus consider using what would (to all but an FN player) seem like an absurdly high number of dice-based cards. Using twelve to fifteen dice-based upgrades should ensure a steady supply of dice without too much hand-clogging. Remember, cards can always be ditched for rerolls, and teaching games won’t be as efficient at hand turnover. This higher mix should ensure the student is able to play an upgrade every turn.

Don’t Dismiss “Bad Cards”

Building two dice-heavy decks can certainly present logistical problems in that you may start straining your collection. Luckily, you aren’t building competitive decks. It’s perfectly acceptable to shift your mindset to consider cards which most of us have long ago dismissed. If you’re strapped for those last card slot, don’t hesitate to dig into the bottom of your dice box.

One such card is Infantry Grenades. I personally haven’t seen this card hit the table since the first few weeks of the game. For sure, it’s not a good card. But as a teaching tool, the card actually brings a lot. It’s a two-drop upgrade which can thus be played on any turn, can be played on any character, and it brings damage and a special. Sure, ideally you might prefer a different card, but seeing as how all of us have at least one of these guys, don’t automatically write it off.

To date, the meta has largely avoided dice-based supports, finding them too slow. But teaching games will (and should) generally have more actions per round than your normal games. As such, having a BB-8, R2-D2, or a TIE on the table is completely legitimate in a learning environment. Smuggling Freighter can probably stay in the box, but many of the dice-based supports can serve a real teaching purpose.

Utilize Your Toolbox Cards

An auto-include card in every teaching deck I make is Take Cover. I love this card not just because it is neutral grey and thus goes in everything, but rather because it has high value as a teaching tool. It costs zero, can be played any time in the round, and is completely straightforward. As an action the student plays the card, and should be able to resolve it on their own. The student’s confidence increases, and they get hands-on learning with shields. Simple but high impact.

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Look for these type of cards when putting together your teaching decks. Toolbox cards like Take Cover exist for every color and every faction, and as a bonus, most are commons. A short (but by no means comprehensive) example list is below.

Grey – Take Cover, Evade, Parry, etc.

Red – Field Medic (H), Hit and Run (H), Cannon Fodder (V), Suppression, etc.

Blue – Defensive Stance (H), Enrage (V), Intimidate (V), Isolation (V), etc.

Yellow – Unpredictable, Bait and Switch (V), He Doesn’t Like You (V), Negotiate (H), etc.

Streamlined But Not Optimized

In the previous article we discussed the importance of not rushing strategy during teaching. As your decks are your primary teaching tool, they should support this philosophy. A strong teaching deck is synergized and streamlined, but should not be optimized for play.

Characters and upgrades are chosen for synergy, such that damage types match and upgrades have more than one valid target. The draw deck is streamlined such that simple events and ample upgrades ensure a consistent hand, which sets up straightforward decisions.

An optimized deck often relies on combos to work. Because we are aiming to avoid “advanced” combos and concepts, these decks tend to be poor choices. Choke, control, and mill have no place as teaching tools. The mixed damage, combo-heavy, recursion-dependent Han/Rey would be an awful teaching choice. Not only is Poe/Maz too fast and aggressive, but it doesn’t play in a style that facilitates learning (or fun, for that matter).

Such decks and others like them can force you into the in-depth discussions that the student may not be ready for. This risks confusion and frustration. Keep it simple, straightforward, and set your student up for success.

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This is a great time to get some of your friends into the game, and hopefully the tips laid out in this series are helpful for getting them up to speed. Thanks for reading!

Part 1