Ranking the 6 Cost Cards

By Patrick Myers aka karmakanik

Once players have grasped the basic strategic principles of Star Realms, they understand that the early game is often about building up enough trade/economy in order to purchase the “power” cards that cost 6 or above.  But what happens when you finally get to up 6 trade and you have a choice of four different 6-cost cards?  Which ones are the best?  The worst?  Which ones fit into which kinds of decks?  When do these cards shine?  When are they weakest?  Read on to find out…

Tier 4 – The Junkyard (You usually don’t want this)

  1. Junkyard

Junkyard is the weakest card at its price level by a considerable margin.  Its issues are numerous: opportunity cost, no combat, trade or ally ability, and low defense (for a 6-cost base).  At a cost of 6, Junkyard competes with every other card on this list, is impossible to buy (without gambits or events) until your second deck, and offers the same amount of scrap as a bunch of cheaper ships.  Junkyard typically requires a very specific and narrow set of circumstances in order to shine: little or no damage on the trade row and in your opponent’s deck (so that it has a reasonable chance to stay in play more than one turn, thus getting you more than one scrap per play), a lack of cheap scrappers on the row (which you would usually rather have, or already have in your deck, and thus not need the extra scrap that Junkyard provides), and no other 6+ cards on the row (which you’d almost always rather buy).  Alternatively, there may be a few occasions where you need defense and/or want to trigger red ally abilities.  But even cheaper cards like Battle Station and Mech World would suit both those purposes at a better cost.

Tier 3 – Situational and/or Reliant on Strong Ally Abilities (You sometimes want these)

  1. Royal Redoubt

Royal Redoubt is not a bad card per se, and the fact that it ranks this low is more a factor of the strength of the remaining 6-cost cards.  Its relative weakness is a lack of synergy between its biggest strength (high defense), and its faction (yellow is primarily an offensive, combat-oriented faction).  If you are playing a predominantly yellow deck, you would usually rather have, say, War World.  Both cards provide 3 damage unallied, but War World allies for an additional 4 damage, and you would usually rather have the extra damage in exchange for lower defense (4 vs. 6) and the Royal Redoubt’s discard a card ally ability.  However, If you already have War World and/or other yellow bases, Royal Redoubt is a great addition to your deck – getting up a “stack” of Royal Redoubt, War World, Fighter Base or Space Station is a truly intimidating base wall.  The 6 defense also makes it useful for any base-heavy deck, or if you are running a scrap-heavy deck and need to buy yourself some more time for your scrappers to do their work.

  1. Construction Hauler (*)

Construction Hauler is a very “swingy” card.  Unallied it is just an embassy yacht that doesn’t take up space in your deck (since it draws a card and replaces itself).  The ally ability (put the next base you acquire directly into play) on the other hand, can be a huge game changer.  Utilizing this power to its fullest extent is dependant on a number of factors, some of which are outside your control.  First, obviously you have to actually trigger the ally ability (which as a corollary implies that Construction Hauler is a weak card if it is the only blue card in your deck).  Second, there has to be a base (or bases) in the trade row, and third you need to have enough trade in order to buy the base and put it into play.  This all adds up to a lot of uncertainty when you buy Construction Hauler as to how much it will benefit you in the end.  But the inherent swinginess also makes this a great come-from-behind card.  If you’re down and need to pull off a huge combo just to have a shot at winning, this card could give you a bigger turn than any other on this list.  It is also strong early in the game where, even unallied, you can use the trade to ramp up your deck.  This card is better when playing with the Heroes expansion (though I don’t think it would affect its ranking).  Often you can buy a cheap blue hero and hang on to it until you draw Construction Hauler to trigger the ally ability.

  1. Blob Carrier

Blob Carrier is not unlike Construction Hauler in that it has a decent primary ability (7 damage) paired with a very strong ally ability (acquire a ship for free and put it on top of your deck).  It is a little less “swingy” than Construction Hauler; the 7 damage is nothing to sneeze at, so it fits into more kinds of decks that are looking for combat, especially if there are not any other strong combat cards on the row.  Many green cards let you scrap from the trade row, so with these already in your deck you are more likely to both ally your Blob Carrier and find a good target for its free acquisition ability.  Unlike every card ranked above it, however, Blob Carrier does not draw a card (or ally/scrap to draw a card).  This often makes it a dubious late game purchase, where generally you are trying to string together long combos to generate the killing blow.  Also, like Construction Hauler, this card can be stronger with Heroes in play, where it is more likely you will be able to to reliably trigger the ally ability.

Tier 2 – Strong but Situational (You often want these)

  1. Flagship

An allied Flagship (draw a card, 5 damage and gain 5 authority) is a very strong play with a 10 point net swing in authority that also draws another card.  If you already have 3 or more blue cards in your deck, and thus are likely to trigger the ally ability, Flagship might actually be the best 6-cost card you can buy.  Unallied, 5 damage and a card draw is nice, but not a game changer.  A useful comparison is the Peacekeeper card from the Colony Wars set.  Peacekeeper is a blue ship that gives you 6 damage, 6 authority, and allies to draw a card.  I have not included the Colony Wars cards here since I don’t think I have enough experience with them yet to do so, but I would certainly rank Peacekeeper ahead of Flagship.  An allied Peacekeeper is strictly better than an allied Flagship, and often you would rather take the extra authority and point of damage over the guaranteed card draw.  Ultimately, I think of Flagship as being the average/baseline strength for a 6-cost card, so it makes sense that it would settle into the middle of this ranking.

  1. Port of Call

Of all the cards on this list, this one was the most difficult to rank.  The reason being its value is so high – perhaps highest on this entire list – early in the game, but declines steadily over time as the game goes on.  Bases left up in play are very strong, but getting a Port of Call up early when your opponent does not have enough combat to take it out can let you take over the game in a hurry, effectively letting you start each hand with 3 extra trade, buy up all the heavy hitters on the trade row, and soak up damage in the meantime.  After you’ve bought a bunch of bombs you can either keep it to ally your blue cards or trigger it’s excellent scrap ability to take out an opponent’s base, draw a card, and hopefully deliver the killing blow.  On the other hand, once you are on your third deck its value is often negligible.  If you need defense or are going for a base wall strategy a 6-butt outpost never hurts, but generally you should be looking for combat and favor other cards that provide that.  Lastly, if there are cards on the trade row that offer free base destruction, like Missile Mech or Blob Destroyer, Port of Call’s value takes a hit as your opponent will be much more likely to take it out.

  1. Obliterator(*)
  2. Missile Mech

If your opponent is going base-heavy, there is no card you’d rather see turn up in the trade row than either one of these (or both).  If your opponent doesn’t have any bases (unlikely if playing 1B, but fairly common in Vanilla), the base destruction/damage bonus will just be superfluous.  Both ally to draw a card, Missile Mech gives you 6 damage, and Obliterator gives you 7 (without the 2-bases-in-play bonus).  On the surface they are very similar, but the reason I have Missile Mech ranked higher is that it shines in a wider variety of situations.  Here’s an easy (and frequent) example:  your opponent has one base in play.  Obliterator’s bonus damage is not triggered, and you have to use its 7 combat on the base first, and then the remainder on the face.  Missile Mech destroys the base, and you can use the full 6 combat on the face.  Scenarios where Obliterator is preferable are less numerous.  Perhaps the ideal situation is when your opponent has two or more non-outpost bases in play – you get the bonus damage and can decide how to allocate the damage between the bases and your opponent.  Useful for getting in that kill shot, or bypassing two weaker bases (say two Trade Wheels).  But leaving an opponent’s base(s) in play is always risky, and not an option for outposts.  Obviously, if you already have a green or red-focused deck, you would prefer to match the color and increase the odds of triggering the allied card draw.  But in a color vacuum, most of the time I will take the guaranteed base destruction over the chance of getting Obliterator’s bonus triggered.

Tier 1 – Beneficial to Any Deck (You almost always want these)
2. Battlecruiser

Battlecruiser’s base ability (5 damage + draw a card) is identical to Flagship’s, and it’s ally ability (discard a card) is decidedly weaker than Flagship’s (gain 5 authority).  So why then is Battlecruiser near the top of this list and Flagship in the middle?  The answer, as you’ve probably guessed, is its scrap ability.  Particularly in the endgame, base destruction is extremely powerful, often netting you an extra 5 or 6 damage that you would have otherwise spent taking out a base, and drawing an extra card is always beneficial.  This makes Battlecruiser a great finisher, and the fact that it is guaranteed to draw a card means that it never takes up space in your deck no matter which factions you are favoring.  At the very least, even if your opponent does not have a base in play, you can scrap it to draw yet another card, giving you a net +2 cards, on par with some of the most powerful ships in the game.

  1. Battle Blob

As Homer Jr. says, Star Realms is a race, and all other things being equal there’s no card that gets you to the end of the race faster than Battle Blob.  Dealing out a whopping 8 damage (more than any other card in the base game) and scrapping for an additional 4, with one play you can take out 20% (12 points) of an opponent’s starting authority.  Any of the ships on this list here are fearsome when copied with the Stealth Needle, but if you copy a Battle Blob you draw two cards and can scrap the Battle Blob and Stealth Needle for a combined 24 points of damage or nearly 50% of a starting authority score.  That is just obscene!  Its lone weakness is that it must ally in order to draw a card, but even in the absence of any other green cards in your deck, the hefty damage output is usually more than enough to offset this.

(*from the Bases & Battleships Crisis Expansion)

The Final Standings

Tier 1 – Beneficial to Any Deck (You almost always want these)
1. Battle Blob
2. Battlecruiser

Tier 2 – Strong but Situational (You often want these)
3. Missile Mech
4. Obliterator(*)
5. Port of Call
6. Flagship

Tier 3 – Situational and/or Reliant on Strong Ally Abilities (You sometimes want these)
7. Blob Carrier
8. Construction Hauler(*)
9. Royal Redoubt

Tier 4 – The Junkyard (You usually don’t want this)
10. Junkyard

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to post your vehement disagreements in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Ranking the 6 Cost Cards

  1. HomerJr

    I completely agree with you here. The only think I’ll add is that both the Blob Carrier and Construction Hauler go up to Tier 1 for me in formats that include Heroes. Heroes are the perfect mitigation for the main weakness of these cards. One can usually count on a Blob or Fed hero to show up at some point in the game to guarantee an ally trigger. In fact, I will always prioritize grabbing Blob and Fed heroes just to deny my opponent the opportunity to use these cards, even if the Carrier and Hauler haven’t even entered play yet. 😉

    And thanks for the shout out. 🙂

    Like

    Reply

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