Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader: as a kid growing up watching Star Wars, you tend to choose one or the other. Luke Skywalker happens to be my fictional childhood hero still to this day. I chose to be a Rebel in all my years of Star Wars fandom and it boils over into the faction I play in Star Wars Legion. However, that’s not why we’re here today. Today, we’re going to talk about the thing I feared most as a Star Wars fan: Darth Vader.

I’ll never forget seeing him on screen for the first time, I want to say around the age of four, just charging into the Rebel “Consular” ship like it’s his own and demanding the plans. He chokes a fleet trooper while holding him like six inches off the ground like it was nothing. They capture Leia and you think to yourself: this guy means business. As A New Hope moves onward, you see him do some cool stuff and of course he kills Obi-Wan. However, its in Empire Strikes Back that he becomes the nasty, vile Sith that we all know. He orchestrates the attack on Hoth, hunts down the Millenium Falcon, palms Han blaster shots as if he was swatting away a fly, and freezes Han in Carbonite to set up a trap for Luke. Then there’s the lightsaber duel with Luke. Not only does he demoralize Luke with his skills with his red lightsaber but he’s constantly taunting him with his ways of the force. Then, as we all know, crushing all of our souls with his big reveal to Luke. However, we never see him at the height of his powers. The years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope…his Jedi hunting days. Which all leads us into the real topic of this article: Operative Vader: The Emperors Apprentice.

New Command Cards

Darkness Descends 1 I think Mike started with Luke’s one pip last week but I think its far more important to start with Vader’s three pip. For those familiar and unfamiliar with Darth Vader in Star Wars Legion: he has a hard time getting into the battle a lot of the time. There are certainly players who have had success with Vader (Dashz of Notorious Scoundrels and Nerfley of Team Relentless) but for the most part he is an expensive piece that is hard to figure out. How do you fix Vader’s trek into the battle? Infiltrate and Scout 1 seems pretty good. So, of course there are some caveats to playing Darkness Descends. First of all, you need to play this at the Deploy Units step and it is a three pip that only gives orders to Darth Vader. I don’t think this matters as much for the Empire or Vader as you typically want an order on Vader and don’t typically NEED an order on other things, unlike some hero heavy Rebel lists. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this plays out for Vader because a lot of lists don’t really have an answer for the menace in black leather when he’s in your face fast. Also, credit to the FFG team and the artists they select because the art on this card is just absolutely beautiful. 

Darkness Descends 2

As someone who doesn’t read the comics I still know that this iconic scene comes from the Vader comics. In terms of Legion, this card is a bit of a catch twenty two. What I mean by that is that it’s great that Vader gets these dodges to deflect, but any time he deflects he is also taking a wound. You’re going to be rooting to take out some troopers with you, but at what cost? Especially when Operative Vader has less health than Commander Vader. As thematic as this card is and as many potential dodges you get with Vader, I think it needs to be very timing sensitive. That said, if your opponent is smart, you probably don’t shoot Vader on a turn where he has a bunch of dodge tokens stacked up.

Darkness Descends 3

Have you ever just wanted to pick up your enemies troopers and throw them across the map…..well here’s your chance. This card is the epitome of Darth Vader in the height of his Jedi hunting days. The ability to move a unit range 1 and height 1 of its current position is just incredible. This is basically force push on steroids AND it dishes wounds out too. I could see a case for you to use this on a well placed enemy trooper unit, move that unit, make them roll the dice, whittle that trooper unit to a few troopers, and just slice the rest of them up with your lightsaber. All I imagine while reading this card is basically the end scene of Rogue One and those poor Rebel Fleets.

Unit Cards

Darth Vader

Commander (190)

Health: 8
Courage: –
Attack: 6 red  with Pierce/Impact 3 (Melee)
Keywords: Deflect, Immune: Pierce, Master of the Force 1, Relentless
Upgrade Slots: Force, Force, Force

Darkness Descends 4

Operative (170)
Health: 6
Courage: 3
Attack: 5 Red with Pierce/Impact 3 (Melee) & 2 Black with Blast, Scatter (Range 1-2) Keywords: Deflect, Immune: Pierce, Jedi Hunter, Master of the Force 1, Relentless, Spur
Upgrade Slots: Force, Force, Gear

Commander Vader just got a ten point cut in the latest points changes but when you factor in the cost of Saber Throw and Force Reflexes, it was really a twenty point change. There’s a lot to factor in here when thinking about which Vader to run and I’ll give my educated opinion on who I would run out of the two. Before I do that, let’s discuss the major differences between the two. The most important things here with new Operative Vader is his health pool drops by two and his courage now sits at 3 versus having none at all. Hand in hand with that, we should discuss Spur. Spur allows you to take a suppression to enhance Vader’s speed by one and you CAN do this twice. So let’s say in theory, Vader gets shot twice, takes two suppression tokens and then you activate him and spur twice. You now have four suppression on Vader, which could come back to bite you next round when he still sits at three. That’s a dangerous game as you are gaining speed but possibly sacrificing actions later on. You lose a red die on his lightsaber but he does gain Jedi Hunter which is a nice piece if you’re going against Luke, which happens often. You gain his Force Throw attack, which is certainly interesting. It almost acts like a beefier version of Force Push and you can deliver some wounds. Mix that in with Vaders Might and Vader has some interesting ways to engage units and quickly. 
Now, the biggest question: do you run Commander Vader or Operative Vader and how do you use Darkness Descends to its full capacity? I think Commander Vader is who you’re going to want to take here for a few reasons. First of all, his non existent courage bubble is a key to Vader success. Vader needs all of his actions and what stops actions? Suppression. Second of all, when you bring Commander Vader you don’t have to pay a “Commander tax”. What I mean by that is when you bring Operative Vader you have no Commander. You’ll need to bring a Generic, Veers, Krennic, or (blasphemous!) Palpatine along for the ride. So if you think about it, really, Operative Vader costs a minimum of 220 versus the 170. (even more when factoring upgrades) Personally, I think you take Commander Vader with Choke, Force Push and then circle back to see what kind of points you have left over. Since you’re bringing Commander Vader I think it’s important to note that you should use Darkness Descends conservatively. I think the issue with Darkness Descends is going to be that you try to get aggressive with it. Getting Vader in the face of your opponent is ideal, yes, but putting him too far in front of your army may present yourself with some issues as well. If anything, use Darkness Descends to put him at range three ahead of all of your forces, who are eventually going to move up anyways. This gets Vader ahead on the battlefield but also there to keep the rest of the list from panicking. 
Choosing Command Cards and Final Notes
Last but not least, what Command Cards do you run with Vader now that you have an option of six different cards? I think the issue right now for Imperials is that Shoretroopers want orders and some of Vaders cards don’t give you that option which makes me lean on the fact that perhaps you don’t bring a plethora of Shoretroopers with Vader. In fact, something that’s been bounced around is pairing Vader with Dewbacks, especially with New Ways to Motivate Them. Based off some of that, I think the answer here is to load your hand up with all six Vader cards and leave your opponent at the mercy of the Dark Lord himself. Now, of course, if you run Operative Vader this all changes and depends on what commander you bring with Op Vader. However, I think that’s really the issue, right? What commander do you bring with Op Vader? I think there’s a case for Krennic, perhaps, and most certainly the generic. I just still think Commander Vader is better for you at that price point, though, and it makes Command Card selection a lot easier. Additionally, Fear and Dead Men becomes significantly better on Commander Vader, as the extra two health gives Vader much more staying power if the opponent does in fact shoot at him.
Either way, I think these new cards and the recent points adjustments by FFG have put Vader in a great position going forward. I think he struggled to see the board in a lot of places mainly due to his points cost and lack of speed, but that’s certainly fixed by a card granting him Infiltrate. (Not to mention the theme that FFG nailed here with all of these new Command Cards.) Even though many players, such as myself and Mike, tend to mainly focus on the competitive aspect of Legion you can never forget how thematically great this game is. A part of me collects most units in this game because of how great they are thematically and I can’t wait to someday share it with my son. Hopefully he can enjoy the same things I did in my opening excerpt of this post and then says “Hey, let’s play some Legion, dad.” Then I can put this new look Vader on the table, roll nothing but fire dice and teach the kid all about the Dark Lord during his hey-day as a Jedi Hunting, cyborg killing machine. When he asks for a cookie after because of the loss I’ll simply give him some broccoli while telling him: “I’m altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”