Star Realms Card Tier Lists UPDATED (incl B&B, F&F, Heroes expansions)

by Scott Heise aka HomerJr

[Updated 1/21/2017] 

A lot has happened since I originally wrote this card tier ranking almost a year and a half ago. Not only have four new expansions containing 16 new ships/bases been released (B&B, Heroes, and F&F), but I played about 5500 more games in that span.  Both of these demand a lot of discussion and necessitate an update to my Tier Lists, so let’s get into it!

Before we get to the updated card tier lists, let’s talk quickly about the new cards introduced in the B&B, F&F, and Heroes expansions.  I think these cards are still new enough to many players that it’s worth going into each card in a little detail.

(If you want to skip to the update Tier Lists, they’re down below with my original ranking concept description.)

B&B + F&F Ships and Bases:

  • Trade Raft [B] ($1) – No worse than a half cost explorer, which becomes “free money” when allied.  A great way to spend a leftover $1 in the early game in any deck, or in the mid game also in blue-heavy decks.
  • Construction Hauler [B] ($6) – An extremely powerful ally ability makes this a very dangerous card thus usually a must buy, even if just to deny it to your opponent. It becomes especially potent in Heroes formats, as a trade fed hero can be used to guarantee the ally trigger.
  • Customs Frigate [F] ($4) – It deceptively sounds like a strong early game card at first glance, but actually works much better as a late game buy when the ally and trash abilities can be used effectively.  Otherwise, if you really wanted to add a $4 card to your deck, why didn’t you just buy it in the first place?
  • Capitol World [F] ($8) – One of the weaker $8 cards, as it doesn’t provide any offense or deck improvement abilities at all, but never a bad buy if you have the trade to spend due to the card draw.  Trying to extend the length of the game via lifegain is usually not as effective as trying to shorten it by aggression.
  • Defense Bot [B] ($2) – Very similar to the Missile Bot, but worse in the early game and better in the late game.
  • Mega Mech [B] ($5) – A very potent late game card, but generally overrated in the early due to the relative weakness of early game bases and finickiness of its base replay ability timing (it usually needs to be drawn in the same hand the base it’s going to replay, which is not likely in the early/mid game). But it can be totally game changing in the late game when paired with a $6+ base.
  • Patrol Bot [F] ($2) – Extremely useful in most decks due to the $2 price point, even without the ally ability, and a much better overall value than its big brother the Patrol Mech because its nearly the same value for half the cost.
  • Border Fort [F] ($4) – A very powerful early game base when bought with 1-2 other red cards, but weak otherwise.  Mostly worthless in the late game (worse than Battle Station).
  • Trade Wheel [B] ($3) – Generally an underwhelming base, but can be quite useful in the early game if you paired with other weak blob cards such as Trade Pod.
  • Obliterator [B] ($6) – Very similar to, but lightly weaker than, the Missile Mech in the mid game and the Battle Blob in the late game. But damage is damage so it’s never a bad buy.
  • Spike Pod [F] ($1) – A mediocre $1 buy, it’s best used for removing expensive cards from the trade row that you can’t afford and/or destroying an early game base.  It’s best feature is it’s self-trash ability, so it can do it’s job then get the hell out of your deck.
  • Death World [F] ($7) – A relatively weak buy in the early/mid game, it’s best value comes in the late game where you can use trade (which is now worthless anyways) to buy a non-green card and immediately trash it for the card draw (you weren’t going to get around to drawing that card anyways).  
  • Fighter Base [B] ($3) – An absolute boon in yellow-heavy decks, but weak otherwise. Don’t let your opponent get both of them!
  • Imperial Trader [B] ($5) – Arguably now the best $5 opening buy (sorry, Battle Mech), getting this card in Deck 1 basically means you can skip buying any more trade and get straight to business.  A very strong card in all decks in every phase of the game.
  • Cargo Launch [F] ($1) – One of the best $1 buys in the early game, and never a bad buy at any phase of the game due to the auto card draw.   Trade-wise, its just about as useful as Survey Ship but for 1/3 the cost.  (Its great at spawning memes, too!)
  • Star Fortress [F] ($7) – It’s the big brother of the Recycling Station and every bit as useful.  It’s beefier, provides some combat, and draw-discard is superior to discard-draw and less likely to get nerfed by discards.  The $7 price point is a little steep, but it’s better than Machine Base though probably not quite as good as Central Office. 

Heroes

All of the heroes are never bad buys because they don’t take any space in your deck and can be used immediately (no shuffle required).  When in doubt, always buy a hero off the board even if they don’t appear to fit well with your deck.  At worst, they’re a harmless way to spend $1-2.  At best, they can be game changers, especially for the blue and green heroes which can be used trigger the most powerful ally abilities in the game.

  • Special Ops Director [H] ($1), CEO Torres [H] ($2) – Blue ships have the strongest ally abilities in the game, so grab these when they’re available and hold on to them in case the Construction Hauler comes up and spend them to ally your Cutter, Flagship, Trade Escort, etc if it doesn’t.  The authority gain is icing on the cake.
  • War Elder [H] ($1), High Priest Lyle [H] ($2) – Very useful in the early game, especially in Deck 1 to remove vipers before the first shuffle.  Scrap is always good, but these heroes don’t have the game changing potential in the mid/late game like the blue and green heroes do.  Consider holding on to them to ally with your Patrol Bot or Patrol Mech for a double scrap.
  • Ram Pilot [H] ($1), Blob Overlord [H] ($2) – Extra combat is always good, but I prefer grab these and hold on to them as long as possible in case the Blob Carrier shows up. Save them for when you need to take down an opponent’s base, or till the end of the game for the final blow
  • Cunning Captain [H] ($1) – Not very useful overall due to the yellow-specific discard ability and weak yellow ally abilities (mostly just +2 combat). Best kept on hand to make sure you can trigger a double discard of the Fighter Base/Royal Redoubt or the 2nd draw-and-discard of the Star Fortress.  Obviously we all dream about forcing a Discard 5, but the opportunity doesn’t come up often enough to add significant value to this hero.
  • Admiral Rasmusson [H] ($2) – A “colorless” card that is useful in every deck, it’s best use is in the late game to fuel that big turn or avoid an unlucky bottom-decked bomb. It’s not as strong in the early game, as the $2 is better spent buying a ship or base… unless you’re chasing a big $7+ bomb and already have enough trade in your deck.

Original post from August 2015 (updated tier lists below):

Here are my Star Realms Card Tier Lists!  The intent of these Tier Lists is to provide a quick reference to help players, especially newer or less experienced players, when deciding which card(s) in the trade row they should buy (or whether to buy a card at all).  Every card that is available in the online app (base plus year 1 promos) is contained within these lists and grouped into one of three tiers based on the overall value of the card relative to the cost of the card.

While every card in the game can be valuable and help you win, not every card will have equal value over the course of the game thus there are separate Tier Lists for different phases of the game (opening buys, mid game, late game).  Furthermore, many cards are highly situational or valuable only in certain decks.  Please note that this is all just my personal opinion based on over 3500 8000+ online plays, so don’t take anything in here as law.  🙂   I am always open to feedback, criticism, and discussion.  I also hope to do a deeper dive into how/where/why many of these cards derive their value and how best to use them in future strategy articles.

I rank each card into one of three tiers as follows:

  • Tier 1:  Strong value and/or agnostic to situation; beneficial in almost any deck; you almost always want to have it in your deck if you can
  • Tier 2:  Solid value and/or somewhat situational; may rely on ally ability triggers to be effective; generally a good buy if no Tier 1 card available
  • Tier 3:  Weak value and/or highly situational;  may need exactly the right game circumstances to be effective; best to avoid buying except in rare cases
  • Tier 4:  Poor value in nearly all situations;  buying this card will probably worsen your deck;  you’re probably making a mistake if you’re buying this card

Please note that my intent is not for cards in the same tier across cost brackets to be considered equivalent in value.  In general, I like to think of cards in the next higher cost bracket have a value one tier higher.  For example, a Tier 2 card in the $3-5 cost bracket would have a value on par with a Tier 1 card in the $1-2 cost bracket.  Also, cards are listed within a cell by faction and cost;  the order of cards within a cell is not meant to imply anything about the value of the card relative to the others in the same tier and cost bracket.

($X) = Cost to buy card

[1] = Year 1 Promo/kickstarter card

[B] = Bases & Battleships expansion

[F] = Fleets & Fortresses expansion

[H] = Heroes expansion

NEW CARDS IN BOLD


Opening Buys (Deck 1)

I prioritize strong trade and scrapping cards for my opening buys, as well as bases that provide good long-term value.  Combat cards are generally only valuable at this stage for destroying opposing bases, or for all-out rush strategies when the trade row is combat-heavy.

Updated 1/9/2017

$1-2

$3-5

Tier 1 – Must Buy

  • Cutter ($2)
  • Trade Bot ($1)
  • Patrol Bot [F] ($2)
  • War Elder [H] ($1)
  • High Priest Lyle [H] ($2)
  • Cargo Launch [F] ($1)
  • Freighter ($4)
  • Starmarket [1] ($4)
  • Ram ($3)
  • Blob Wheel ($3)
  • Supply Bot ($3)
  • Fortress Oblivion [1] ($3)
  • Battle Mech ($5)
  • Imperial Trader [B] ($5)

Tier 2 – Good Buy

  • Explorer ($2)
  • Trade Raft [B] ($1)
  • Special Ops Director [H] ($1)
  • CEO Torres [H] ($2)
  • Missile Bot ($2)
  • Patrol Bot [F] ($2)
  • Blob Fighter ($1)
  • Trade Pod ($2)
  • Battle Pod ($2)
  • Ram Pilot [H] ($1)
  • Blob Overlord [H] ($2)
  • Admiral Rasmusson [H] ($2)
  • Embassy Yacht ($3)
  • Barter World ($4)
  • Trade Escort ($5)
  • Blob Destroyer ($4)
  • Breeding Site [1] ($4)
  • Battle Screecher [1] ($4)
  • Patrol Mech ($4)
  • Stealth Needle ($4)
  • Border Fort [F] ($4)
  • Mega Mech [B] ($5)
  • Space Station ($4)
  • War World ($5)

Tier 3 – Meh Buy

  • Federation Shuttle ($1)
  • Defense Bot [B] ($2)
  • Corvette ($2)
  • Cunning Captain [H] ($1)
  • Spike Pod [F] ($1)
  • Trading Post ($3)
  • Customs Frigate [F] ($4)
  • Defense Center ($5)
  • Trade Wheel [B] ($3)
  • The Hive ($5)
  • Battle Station ($3)
  • Mech World ($5)
  • Survey Ship ($3)
  • Imperial Frigate ($3)
  • Fighter Base [B] ($3)
  • Starbase Omega [1] ($4)
  • Battle Barge [1] ($4)
Tier 4 – Don’t Buy
  • Imperial Fighter ($1)
  • Merc Cruiser [1] ($3)

 


Mid Game (Deck 2-2.5)

I consider the mid game to be the period after the opening buys where there is still time for trade and scrapping to amortize, and both players have enough authority to survive through at least their opponent’s next shuffle and a full deck thereafter.  During the mid game, I tend to value cards that help buy $6-8 cards (but also have late game value), strong bases, and cards that sow the seeds for big rallies in the late game (card draws, top-decking, etc). But be careful… often the mid game doesn’t last very long!  If you’re not sure if you’re in the mid game or not, it’s usually best to play as if you’ve already progressed to the late game.

 Updated 1/9/2017

 

$1-2

$3-5

$6-8

Tier 1 – Must Buy

  • Cutter ($2)
  • Special Ops Director [H] ($1)
  • CEO Torres [H] ($2)
  • Starmarket [1] ($4)
  • Blob Destroyer ($4)
  • Breeding Site [1] ($4)
  • Stealth Needle ($4)
  • Battle Mech ($5)
  • Recycling Station ($4)
  • War World ($5)
  • Imperial Trader [B] ($5)
  • Central Office ($7)
  • Megahauler [1] ($7) 
  • Command Ship ($8)
  • The Ark [1] ($7)
  • Brain World ($8)

Tier 2 – Good Buy

  • Missile Bot ($2)
  • Defense Bot [B] ($2)
  • Patrol Bot [F] ($2)
  • War Elder [H] ($1)
  • High Priest Lyle [H] ($2)
  • Blob Fighter ($1)
  • Battle Pod ($2)
  • Ram Pilot [H] ($1)
  • Blob Overlord [H] ($2)
  • Cargo Launch [F] ($1)
  • Corvette ($2)
  • Admiral Rasmusson [H] ($2)
  • Embassy Yacht ($3)
  • Barter World ($4)
  • Customs Frigate [F] ($4)
  • Defense Center ($5)
  • Trade Escort ($5)
  • Battle Station ($3)
  • Fortress Oblivion [1] ($3)
  • Patrol Mech ($4)
  • Border Fort [F] ($4)
  • Mega Mech [B] ($5)
  • Ram ($3)
  • Blob Wheel ($3)
  • Battle Screecher [1] ($4)
  • The Hive ($5)
  • Imperial Frigate ($3)
  • Space Station ($4)
  • Battle Barge [P] ($4)
  • Starbase Omega [1] ($4)
  • Flagship ($6)
  • Port of Call ($6)
  • Construction Hauler [B] ($6)
  • Battle Blob ($6)
  • Obliterator [B] ($6)
  • Mothership ($7)
  • Blob World ($8)
  • Missile Mech ($6)
  • Machine Base ($7)
  • Battlecruiser ($6)
  • Dreadnaught ($7)
  • Star Fortress [F] ($7)

Tier 3 – Meh Buy

  • Explorer ($2)
  • Trade Raft [B] ($1)
  • Trade Bot ($1)
  • Spike Pod [F] ($1)
  • Trade Pod ($2)
  • Imperial Fighter ($1)
  • Merc Cruiser [1] ($3)
  • Trading Post ($3)
  • Freighter ($4)
  • Supply Bot ($3)
  • Trade Wheel [B] ($3)
  • Survey Ship ($3)
  • Fighter Base [B] ($3)
  • Capitol World [F] ($8)
  • Blob Carrier ($6)
  • Death World [F] ($7)
  • Royal Redoubt ($6)

Tier 4 – Don’t Buy

  • Federation Shuttle ($1)
  • Junkyard ($6)
  • Fleet HQ ($8)

Late Game (Decks 4+ or Authority < 30)

I consider the late game to be the point at which trade and scrapping no longer have enough time to provide value, and/or one or both players do not have enough authority to survive the next full play through of their opponent’s deck.  During the late game, I tend to value cards that provide maximum combat in as few cards as possible and help fuel big rallies via card draws.

Updated 1/9/2017

$1-2

$3-5

$6-8

Tier 1 – Must Buy

  • Special Ops Director [H] ($1)
  • CEO Torres [H] ($2)
  • Ram Pilot [H] ($1)
  • Blob Overlord [H] ($2)
  • Admiral Rasmusson [H] ($2)
  • Blob Destroyer ($4)
  • Breeding Site [1] ($4)
  • Stealth Needle ($4)
  • Mega Mech [B] ($5)
  • Imperial Frigate ($3)
  • Recycling Station ($4)
  • War World ($5)
  • Flagship ($6)
  • Command Ship ($8)
  • Missile Mech ($6)
  • The Ark [1] ($7)
  • Brain World ($8)
  • Battle Blob ($6)
  • Obliterator [B] ($6)
  • Mothership ($7)
  • Battlecruiser ($6)
  • Dreadnaught ($7)

Tier 2 – Good Buy

  • Battle Pod ($2)
  • Blob Fighter ($1)
  • Corvette ($2)
  • Barter World ($4)
  • Customs Frigate [F] ($4)
  • Defense Center ($5)
  • Trade Escort ($5)
  • Battle Mech ($5)
  • Battle Station ($3)
  • The Hive ($5)
  • Battle Barge [1] ($4)
  • Starbase Omega [1] ($4)
  • Imperial Trader [B] ($5)
  • Central Office ($7)
  • Megahauler [1] ($7)
  • Capitol World [F] ($8)
  • Death World [F] ($7)
  • Blob World ($8)
  • Star Fortress [F] ($7)

Tier 3 – Meh Buy

  • Cutter ($2)
  • Missile Bot ($2)
  • Defense Bot [B] ($2)
  • Patrol Bot [F] ($2)
  • War Elder [H] ($1)
  • High Priest Lyle [H] ($2)
  • Spike Pod [F] ($1)
  • Cargo Launch [F] ($1)
  • Imperial Fighter ($1)
  • Merc Cruiser [1] ($3)
  • Embassy Yacht ($3)
  • Trading Post ($3)
  • Starmarket [1] ($4)
  • Patrol Mech ($4)
  • Border Fort [F] ($4)
  • Ram ($3)
  • Battle Screecher [1] ($4)
  • Survey Ship ($3)
  • Fighter Base [B] ($3)
  • Space Station ($4)
  • Port of Call ($6)
  • Machine Base ($7)
  • Blob Carrier ($6)
  • Royal Redoubt ($6)

Tier 4 – Don’t Buy

  • Explorer ($2)
  • Federation Shuttle ($1)
  • Trade Raft [B] ($1)
  • Trade Bot ($1)
  • Trade Pod ($2)
  • Freighter ($4)
  • Supply Bot ($3)
  • Fortress Oblivion [1] ($3)
  • Blob Wheel ($3)
  • Trade Wheel [B] ($3)
  • Junkyard ($6)
  • Fleet HQ ($8)
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8 thoughts on “Star Realms Card Tier Lists UPDATED (incl B&B, F&F, Heroes expansions)

  1. David Miller

    Hi,

    I appreciate this list and your previous version of it. What about cards that you don’t include on any tier, such as Recycling Station in the Opening Buys list or Mech World in Mid Game or Late Game?

    Thanks.

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    Reply
    1. HomerJr Post author

      Thanks, David! Those cards got left out by accident. I consider Recycling Station to be a Tier 1 Opening buy and Mech world to be a Tier 2.5 buy in the Mid and Late games. Mech World’s value increases as the game goes on due to the increased chances of triggering more ally abilities.

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      1. David Miller

        Do you mean 2.5 as something between 2 and 3 on this new revamped 4-tier model? Or do you mean 2.5 the way you were using it in comments on the old list but which you’ve now named Tier 3, since you’ve added a 4th tier? Sorry to be so persistent. I’m seriously interested in what you’re doing here. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. HomerJr Post author

      I mean between a Good and a Meh buy. Strong bases are never bad buys, but whether is Good or Meh depends on the strength and variety of ally bonuses in your deck.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Sándor Kolok

    First I’d like to congratulate you for this excellent and exhaustive article, also for sharing all that data of yours during the years. Having said that, I’d like to beg to differ on some minor points here or there, I’ll definitely punch well above my weight doing that, I just hope that not to that extent when – during my noob days – I (uncharacteristically and more like unconsiously confidently) engaged in a debate about the valuation of the promo bases with some FlyingArrow and RailBaron… and perhaps with you as well. My bad.

    So to my points then.
    Mega Mech: IMO it’s pretty darn good even without its ability. 6 auto combat, only Blob Destroyer does better than that (well, the Ravager will change that but not yet). At 5 it’s still in the affordable category, it’s a great addition to almost any deck, esp. to rush or even more to scrap/rush decks. Also, it falls into the category of those dangerous cards, esp. if the game format includes ‘1’. So I would be cautious calling it overrated under almost any kind of circumstances.

    Corvette/I.Fighter/I.Frigate: Come on, I know you’re a fan of the Empire! 🙂 (you’re not alone in that 😉 ) So these are definitely not bought often deck one. But to say never (IF) or the Frigate as a meh… I think it comes from vanilla, but with the Empire making a comeback with Crisis it’s more nuanced than that. But hey, I like that sentiment, I can almost count on those invariably left there even when they shouldn’t IMO. 😉 And that’s not that rare, IMO.

    Merc Crusier: I know you’ve had a debate with sy on this here before, and defended your stance so do not want to go over that again. I think there’re cards for which allies are crucial to get the most of them and Merc just does that. During (scrap/)rush games those +2s can make the difference. Hell, when all that debate rages on about the significance of ‘Scouts/Vipers first’ one cannot meh on those +2s IMO. And 5 combat for 3 is OK IMO. You don’t buy it over Ram, of course, but I’d still put it a tier higher everywhere.

    Fighter Base: connecting to my prev. 2 points… I understand why you say it’s weak in the absence of yellow deck tone but it’s still the cheapest defense in the game (with Battle Station which is of course better in most cases). Also, your aggro/rush decks most probably will contain some yellows (unless you’re lucky enough to go pure Blob) and then it becomes a double/triple whammy (counterpick/yellow ally/disruptor – the later esp. with Heroes). It’s not an instabuy, and my enthusiasm for it has been kind of pared down somewhat from the initial ‘whoa’ but still think it’s pretty good.

    So those are my 2 cs and it may very well be that I’m off on them (just like I was on Starmarket and Breeding Site ;-), alas, I definitely see the light about those now) with my views shaped by the fact that I do not play vs top-level opposition as much as I should.

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  3. Kilhor

    This is so good! Especially for us, newbies.
    It would be even better for us, newbies who do not know cards by names, if the card names are somewhat clickable (like http://www.starrealms.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/cutter.jpg from http://www.starrealms.com/card-gallery/) so that we do not need to search each single card we see in the list or read about in the text. You made the effort to color the card name, which is great and helpful. This is just one more step. The URLs to card images are quite predictable, if that helps.
    Cutter was just an example, of course. Everybody knows what Cutter is :).

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    Reply
  4. Neria

    Thanks for putting the time for writing this guide.
    I started to read your tier list and couldn’t ignore how in the Opening Buys you rated Explorer as tier 2 while Federation Shuttle as tier 3.

    While both provide 2 coins, Federation Shuttle costs only one coin and has an additional faction effect of +4 health.
    Does it come from the ability to throw out the explorer later on in the game? is a Federation Shuttle not a good card to keep?

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    Reply
    1. HomerJr Post author

      That’s right. The value of trade cards like Fed Shuttle,Trade Pod, and Freighter (if unallied) diminishes quickly over the course of the game because the game is likely to end before the cards bought with the trade they provide will come into play. This means they can become albatrossesby taking up space in your deck, which their paltry allied bonus cannot make up for. The Explorer, on the other hand, provides the same economic value but can remove itself from your deck before it clogs it.

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