Written by Brad Elkey aka PanicFire
With the Legends Series approaching there is a lot of interest in learning and playing 1B since the tournament will be run in that format. Whenever playing a competitive game it’s important to always be aware of the format you are in and how that affects the gameplay and the decisions you make. Let’s take a deeper look at 1B to understand what is different about this format if you don’t play with these two expansions regularly. If you want to do well in the tournament you will need to study and play in the format quite a bit, otherwise some of the tried and true strategies you’re used to may be lost in translation.
The 1B Trade Deck
1B is the base set (Vanilla – 80 cards in the trade row), the Year 1 promos (15 cards), plus the Bases and Battleships expansion from the Crisis decks (12 cards) – 107 cards total, 27 of which (25%) are not in the base set. The base set contains 25 bases, Y1 has 6 bases (all of which have an effect only when bases are played), and B adds 4 bases. Additionally, if we look at base support ships the base set has 2 (Embassy Yacht), Y1 adds 2 (Battle Barge), B adds 3 (2 Defense Bots, 1 Mega Mech). 1B increases the number of bases from Vanilla by 10 (40%) and the total number of bases plus base support ships increases by 15 (45%). This makes the role of bases in the game more important than in Vanilla. There are also several big ships such as the Ark, Megahauler, Obliterator, and Mega Mech which tip the balance of play and can often decide the game early if one opponent gets to the bomb and the other hasn’t developed a contingency plan. First let’s look at bases and base support ships, then we’ll check out the bombs.
Bases can be seen as a secret fifth faction because bases go great with other bases. The more bases you have in play the less likely it is that your opponent has enough combat to take them out which means you are more likely to remain with more bases in play. This strategy is known as the base wall. Eventually you accumulate more bases than your opponent can counter with combat and they start to pile up. If you look at any base next to a ship of a similar cost you’ll see it’s initial effect is usually a lot smaller than a ship, but where bases really shine is their staying power. They effectively add to your authority level by making an opponent spend combat on them instead of you (unless they have automatic base destruction which is amazingly strong in 1B), they can get their effect for a few rounds in a row, and bases can also speed up your deck by staying out in play rather than going into your discard if they survive. This is especially true of non-outpost bases which often have higher health than outposts and force your opponent to make hard choices if they want to kill it or let it stay out.
A base strategy is usually a pretty safe bet to go into but be on the lookout if your opponent is going aggro and trying to rush you with combat – especially if they can auto-kill your bases! Remember, bases are not as good as ships initially and they need time to build up their value by staying in play which is much easier once you have more bases, so this is a slow strategy vulnerable to rushes. If you see your opponent start grabbing bases and/or base support ships recognize that they are probably looking for this strategy and shut it down by getting aggressive combat (especially base removal) or by getting your own bases and base support ships before they can buy them. When purchasing bases, you are thinking about a few different factors: cost, the hit points or “butt” of the base (the higher it is the more likely it will stay in play), it’s faction if you have cards with good faction abilities or there are some on the trade row, and its usefulness in the current game state. Much like ships, bases which give you a boost in economy are usually useful early but weaker late game whereas the role of combat is reversed. This is of course a generalization and there are many exceptions. If you’ve committed to the base wall strategy don’t be afraid to take a base that isn’t all that great either since there is safety in numbers when it comes to bases. Your opponent might leave it in play longer so it has more of an effect or it might soak the hit to save a better base. Having a lot of other bases in your deck makes weaker bases more powerful.
The bases from the Y1 Promos are interesting since they only have an effect when they or another base enter play. These bases are only useful while in play if you have another base or a good faction ability for a card of the same color. To get full use of these bases make sure you follow up with purchasing more bases or at least ships which faction off of them. Before taking out your opponent’s Y1 bases check to see if they have any other bases coming up or any really good faction abilities; if not, leave them in play and they have no effect. I call these nerfed bases since your opponent took away their power by not following up with other bases. One strategy is to leave them in play until right after they shuffle before destroying them so it takes longer for them to come back out, but if they have other bases coming up you need to make sure you have the combat to destroy the base before then. Also be wary if they have any base support ships to see if they have any interaction there. These cards get stronger and stronger the more bases you have in your deck. Particularly nasty are the Breeding Site and Star Market which give 5 damage or 5 health every time a base is played – try not to let your opponent get both of these! Starbase Omega is pretty weak on its own but it shines in a deck loaded with bases where you might get an extra card play every turn as well as triggering Star Empire faction abilities (watch out for Yellow in 1B, they win the award for most improved faction!). All three of those bases have high health and are annoying to try to take out. For more info on whether or not to leave bases in play listen to Megahaulin episode 31: Bypass the Base, Go Straight for the Face!
The base support ships in the game (Embassy Yacht, Battle Barge, Defense Bot, Mega Mech, and to a lesser extent the Construction Hauler) can be good on their own but really shine when combined with bases. Be very careful leaving your opponent two bases out if they have an Embassy Yacht, Battle Barge, or Defense Bot, or even a single good base if they have the Mega Mech. Battle Barge and Mega Mech can both return bases into hand which is usually more powerful if done on your own bases to get the effect twice (make sure you activate the effect and/or faction it off before returning it!). Mega Mech is particularly brutal since it doesn’t require you to have two bases in play so it’s like a more reliable Battle Barge. If you are not playing a base this turn but you are returning an existing one and you have a regular base and a Y1 promo base in play make sure you return the regular one after doing its effect – you’ll still get the effect of the Y1 Promo base for having played the regular base this turn. You can return an opponent’s base into their hand to sneak a little extra combat through but be very careful doing this, especially if they have any Y1 bases in play which will trigger when they play that base. Remember for all cards returning a base is optional. Always think carefully before doing it. If there are a lot of base support ships on the trade row make sure you are buying bases with them and not just chasing those ships hoping that bases will come as well, especially if your opponent is buying all of the bases. I’ve seen a lot of opponents build a base strategy with those ships but fail to realize that I’m buying the actual bases before they can.
As important as base support ships is base destruction. Missile Mech is extremely strong since it can do it every time unaided, but Blob Destroyer, Battle Cruiser, Port of Call, Command Ship, and the Ark can all do it either by factioning or scrapping the card. The Obliterator doesn’t kill bases for free but gives an extra combat boost if your opponent has two or more bases which is a nice offset for what is usually a bad situation for you. If you are starting to build a base wall and your opponent gets base removal be careful before continuing. It’s only useful to continue if you have a lot of bases to soak a free removal, but then again leaving them a lot of free bases is dangerous too. A general rule for any game of Star Realms is to always have enough combat to kill your opponent’s bases, and this is especially true in 1B with all of the extra bases and base support. If your opponent is building a base wall you need to be able to knock it down one brick at a time before it overwhelms you, and base destruction is the most efficient way to do this. There’s nothing quite like taking out a nasty 7 strength base for free, and it lets you use your remaining combat on the other bases or directly to them. Remember, every single strategy has one thing in common – you need to get combat to reduce your opponent’s authority to zero, so don’t go chasing after too much economy and let your opponent’s bases pile up. Counter their bases with combat and base destruction and/or a base wall of your own. You can even do a hybrid strategy and hurl big bombs at your opponent while hiding behind a base wall.
In addition to the higher importance of bases 1B also includes several high profile ships, commonly known as “bombs”, to watch out for. These include all of the bombs from the base game, the Megahauler and Ark from Y1 (and Battle Barge with enough bases) and the Obliterator and Mega Mech from B (also Defense Bot if you are really base heavy but don’t count on it otherwise). The addition of more powerful ships increases the return value of purchasing economy early since there are more bombs up for grabs – but be careful since those bombs cut both ways! I have lost a lot of games in 1B chasing after a big bomb like the Ark on the board, overbuilding my economy and either my opponent gets it first or goes aggro and kills me before I get much use out of it. If there’s a single big bomb on the row and you have the trade advantage, go for it; but if there are cheap combat cards don’t be afraid to hammer your opponent while they overbuild their economy going after it. Just remember: race but don’t chase! If you can win the race, go for it. If you think they have a better chance of getting a bomb don’t chase after them and get stuck with all economy cards while they destroy you; go into combat mode early. The Ark is the strongest card in the game but even that needs to get a couple of plays in before being really nasty. If you shorten the game with combat they won’t get much use out of whatever they purchase. The big bombs are often needed to get through your opponent’s bases so try to get them if you can or get more bases to soak the damage if your opponent gets to them first.
With the addition of so many bases and big ships, the pace of 1B can be much faster or slower than in Vanilla. The game is much faster if neither opponent goes base heavy since there are more ships that hit hard, and it will go very fast if one player does not have enough combat to kill the other’s bases. Bases that stay in play do not slow down your deck and can quickly add up damage which will kill your opponent, making for a faster game. If one opponent buys enough combat to kill the other’s bases, or if two opposing base walls are being built, the game is much slower than Vanilla. The pace of the game is very important when considering scrap, as Scott Heise aka Homer Jr. detailed in his Pace of the Game series and Betcha Can’t Scrap Just One article. The longer a game goes the more cards you will scrap out and the more useful purchasing scrap cards early (or even in the midgame if you see it’s going really long) will be. A game without many bases and with big bombs on the row is not a good time to invest in scrap since it will be too short to pay off, whereas scrapping cards while hiding behind a base wall is an excellent strategy since you’ll get several plays out of them and therefore make your bases and bombs come together quicker and more reliably. Just remember if you have a scrap advantage your opponent can catch up very quickly by getting the Ark or Brain World so don’t think you have the game in the bag, and there are more regular scrap cards up for grabs so it’s harder to get a monopoly on scrap like in Vanilla. If an opponent gets a significant scrap advantage, loading up on combat to take them out early is the best bet, but if the trade row doesn’t cooperate hiding behind a base wall and waiting for your lesser amount of scrap to catch up isn’t nearly as good but it’s better than nothing.
In conclusion, 1B can be a very schizophrenic game. The key is recognizing if it is going to be a fast-paced slugfest of big bombs or a slow-grinding defensive base wall game. Sometimes it’s an entertaining mix of the two and an unstoppable bomb deck will hit an immovable base wall. The key to 1B as opposed to other formats is to keep an eye on the bases/base support ships and the big bombs on the board and to recognize how the pace of the game changes with these different cards. The timing of a game changes so much based on these cards that knowing when to transition into midgame and endgame based on the different types of games played in 1B is a crucial skill that is only honed through playing in that format often. As with any other format, keep your options open and switch your strategies to fit what your deck is turning into, counter what your opponent is doing, and react to the changing traderow and game state. In 1B in particular though, recognize the role that bases and bombs play and always factor those into your decision-making process.
See you in the Legends Series.