Long before I began playing Star Realms, I played an unhealthy amount of Magic: the Gathering. It has always been my favorite thing to counter a spell and shut people down. I could never actually finish someone off with aggressive decks, and they were lacking in choice and card advantage. I’ve always loved to draw extra cards and to come back from behind. So, it’s no surprise that I lean towards blue/red decks in Star Realms, with lots of bases. For a long time, I didn’t touch green cards if I could avoid it.
Furthermore, back in the days before Colony Wars, what is now “top row” was the “big deck” format for a very long time. I felt very confident in that format, and still believe that the top-tier deck is one revolving around bases/scrap/life gain, and that aggro decks are considerably weaker.
While Vanilla is a somewhat fast format, adding an expansion chock full of overpowered bases (Y1 promos), two expansions with very few cheap, aggressive cards (Bases & Battleships, Fleets & Fortresses), and two special expansions (Gambits and Events) that make accessing large bombs and bases much easier, aggressive decks got worse and worse. Then Colony Wars came.
I think we’ve correctly underscored a lot of changes with Colony Wars. The Star Empire cards are phenomenal; the direct-to-hand cards fundamentally change the game’s pace in the same way as Heroes, Events and Gambits; Repair Bot sucks, etc. But to me, the most important addition among those 80 cards is the three copies of Convoy Bot. Sure, if you are playing with accelerants (Events/Gambits), Ark is the best card in the game. In “good deck” (all ships/bases/heroes, no Gambits/Events) Star Realms….
Convoy Bot is the best card in the game.
I am serious about this. It is better than Cutter, or anything else I can think of. (I haven’t dived into Frontiers enough yet, but it’s better than anything from United or before.) Why, you ask?
It fits into every deck, more tightly than other scrappers.
Scrap is king. Every deck is better when those starters are gone. However, trying to build an aggressive deck around Trade Bots or Probe Bots can be difficult, when they aren’t providing damage. Convoy Bot provides a lot of damage at a very cheap cost, and has “normal good scrap” (unlike Repair/Battle Bot). It should be the centerpiece of any aggressive deck that can grab it.
On the other hand, if you are wanting to go the bombs & base walls route, more trade is good and less trade is bad: with one exception. I have beaten many players who wish to fight me base to base, but don’t buy any cards to deal with my bases. I knock theirs out while mine stay, and I have the game locked shortly after. Even if you don’t want to go the aggressive route early, you have to have some damage to deal with bases. Even if your opponent is going a mostly aggressive ship route, they may have some small bases that you cannot afford to let them sit on. One Convoy Bot (paired with the occasional Viper) is often enough to solve two problems at once (scrap, base wall damage) and then the rest of your deck can focus on trade.
And since it fits in every deck, it’s also a way to keep yourself “open ended”. What I mean by that is, in deckbuilders and drafting games, it is often good to wait as long as possible to shut yourself out of different archetypes, as long as you aren’t purposely making weak picks to do so. Convoy Bot is strong in any deck – meaning that you can wait until a turn or two later to decide what kind of deck yours is. On the other hand, something like Turn 1 Blob Fighter + Battle Pod is often a commitment to aggro that will be hard to undo.
It opens up completely new archetypes.
Okay, okay, Convoy Bot is good. Most of you already knew that. But the main point of this article is that Convoy Bot is so good that you need to be reevaluating your entire approach to Star Realms. I remember a lot of posts (probably some by me, too) when Colony Wars first came out, how the set was flawed because you too often ended up with 10 trade and nothing good to buy. That’s because we were playing it like the original core set. Yes, Trade Hauler is basically Trade Pod, and yes, Ravager is basically Battle Pod, but all those little differences add up to a core set that feels completely different, and has to be played much differently. I approach my Vanilla (original core set) and Colony Wars games extremely differently. I am telling you here that you need to make the same reevaluation for bigdeck, (almost) entirely because of Convoy Bot.
Players who have played a lot against me since the release of Colony Wars can testify that I’m more willing to lean aggro than ever before. True, almost all of the bottom row expansions have helped this, in the opposite way of their counterparts. But the biggest change is how to approach aggro archetypes.
Before, if you had in mind to go hard and fast, it was signaled by early strong green or yellow cards (typically green), and red scrappers went into the deck as support, but not the focus. Everyone noticed that Star Empire became insanely aggressive in Colony Wars, but because of that, I think people didn’t notice Machine Cult’s new look. Now, “mono red aggro” is entirely viable in Star Realms. Between Convoy Bot, Battle Bot, Mech Cruiser, and even strongly timed Warning Beacons (do you realize how aggressive that card can be?), it is entirely possible to scrap yourself down to a five card hand that doesn’t draw anything, but knocks out 20+ life at once (e.g. Convoy Bot, Battle Bot, Warning Beacon, Mech Cruiser, Missile Bot). If your opponent hasn’t scrapped down to a gigantic base wall, that’s plenty to end the game in a couple of turns. I’m not suggesting “mono red” is an optimal archetype, but it’s doable.
Instead, what I’m suggesting is that the dominant aggro archetype is no longer G/r (as in GREEN/red), nor is it Y/r (although that it is far more viable post-Colony Wars), but instead R/x, where x is any color, really – and Convoy Bot is the linchpin of this archetype. Support the aggressive scrappers with a few Ravagers or Lancers, and you’ve got an aggressive deck that’s going to come together incredibly fast. Going back to an earlier point, perhaps the best part of Convoy Bot at the center is that it’s not a very clear signal to your opponent as a first or second pick, and it keeps you flexible since it fits in every archetype. By the time your opponent figures out what line you’re on, they might already be dead.
So, I have two charges for you: 1) reevaluate how you think about red in aggro decks in bigdeck, and 2) always buy Convoy Bot. Unless you’re playing against me…