This week, we look at my second favorite Sith Lord, Count Dooku.
Dooku is one of only two commanders available to the Separatist Alliance (or is it the Confederation of Independent Systems?), so it is worth comparing him directly to General Grievous, which we will be doing at the end of this article.
As usual, let’s hit some strengths and weaknesses first.
- Exercises extreme control over his immediate area
- Cunning paired with excellent command cards
- Strong defensively against aggressive units
- Good at forcing units out of position
- No Relentless or Charge (except with his one pip)
- No Scale or Jump
- Low health for cost, no access to medics or guardian units
205 points. Woof, that’s a hefty sum. Dooku is the most expensive unit in the game besides his master. He just might be worth it though. Is he 30 points better than Grievous? More on that later.
Defense: Red, 6 health. Basically standard force user fare, excluding Vader (8) and Palpatine (5 with surge). Dooku is fragile when focused, and he doesn’t have access to medics or guardian units to help mitigate mistakes.
Offense: Dooku’s Saber. Five red, Impact 2, Pierce 2, surge/crit. Super reliable. Dooku isn’t going to get crazy spikes like Luke, but he will be very reliably getting 4-5 hits per swing with Pierce.
Offense: Dooku’s Lightning. Five black, Pierce 1, Scatter. Less splashy than Palpatine’s lightning, but still very solid. Scatter is a great keyword for pulling stuff out of position.
Courage 3: Solid. Standard force user fare, again. Dooku can definitely lose actions if you aren’t careful, which is really, really bad. He needs both of them. Try not to get shot by suppressive weapons.
Slots: Three force, one command. Unlike Palpatine, Dooku is reasonably likely to be within range 1 of opposing units, and he has deflect, so you are likely going to be filling at least two if not all three of these force slots. The command slot is also fantastic.
Cunning: Hot damn. Winning ties on command cards is great, especially when those command cards are amazing. This is a keyword previously only seen on Krennic, who is fantastic, and he doesn’t have a lightsaber or shoot lightning out of his fingers. Cunning also leans very strongly into one of the strengths of CIS: activation control.
Deflect: Spend a dodge, get surge/block and maybe send some fire back at your attacker. Standard for saber wielders, but always solid.
Immune: Pierce. More standard force user fare. You still want to shoot him with snipers.
Makashi Mastery: Dooku’s money keyword in force user duels. Dooku is the only unit in the game that can ignore pierce and impervious. He doesn’t have a spikey double attack card (on one target) like Luke and he only has five dice, so you aren’t likely to wipe another force user in one turn with this, but the damage is steady and consistent.
Master of the Force 2: Dooku loves exhaustible force powers. Once he gets in there he is a like a little energizer bunny. An energizer bunny that throws dudes around and chokes them out every turn.
Before we get into Dooku specific tactics, lets take a gander at what his amazing command cards actually do.
Fear, Surprise, Intimidation
Well this card is certainly intimidating. This is quite the wall of useful text. Dooku gains Relentless, which he sorely needs. He gains Arsenal 2 and his ranged attacks gain Versatile, which basically means he can whack something with his saber in melee and then zap something else with his lightning. If you are running Saber Throw, you can alternatively perform two ranged attacks, (one throw one lightning) against two different targets or the same target. The Saber Throw/Lightning combined pool is three red, five black with Pierce 3, which is going to delete most targets that aren’t Pierce Immune. Dooku’s attacks also throw down two suppression on his target, which means your ranged attack victims will end up with 3 and your melee ones will end up with 2.
Note you can’t whack something with your saber and also attack that target with a ranged attack. Versatile gives you the ability to shoot out of melee, but it doesn’t change the range band on your lightning to make it a melee weapon. This is a common misconception, primarily because Grievous’ Annihilator (the only other thing with Versatile) is both a melee and a ranged weapon, like Palpatine’s lightning.
This is, of course, also a one pip with Cunning, which means you are guaranteed to go first unless you are facing Han. Since CIS can and should usually manage something close to perfect activation control, don’t be afraid to use this like Voracious Ambition and play it to go first with something other than Dooku.
Combined with Force powers you can disable and/or kill up to four units on your Fear, Surprise, Intimidation turn. More on that later under Tactics.
Double the Fall
Two pip with cunning? Neat. Two pip with cunning that throws your opponent’s order tokens back into their pool? Fantastic.
The relatively short range (1-2) on this card is important. Its ideal use is to strand aggressive units on their “dive” turns, leaving them fishing for the right token while you blast them to pieces with the rest of your army. For example, suppose Luke Skywalker is up in your grill, and you expect him to play… well, just about anything. He plays Son of Skywalker or something, and he gets an order. You play Double the Fall, and you kick that order token into a pool with 10 other tokens. While he fishes for his order token, you start blasting him with your horde of B1s. After he pulls that token (if he survives that long) he melees something… and then you go with Dooku, whack him, and if he’s still alive, Force Push him out into the open and blast him some more. Obviously if your target is in range of Dooku and low on health you could just pull Dooku and whack them to begin with. This also works quite well against units like Tauntauns and Sabine.
Don’t dive on the Count.
There is an important downside to using the ability on this card that is mostly avoidable with good positioning and list building. You have to throw Dooku’s token back into your bag, but it should be an empty bag, so that you can pull him out whenever you want. Order control will be its own section later.
Don’t be afraid to play this just for Cunning either. I find I do that a lot against lists that don’t have any aggressive units (like a Rex Clones centered gunline build) as the order token effect is much less likely to be useful unless Dooku himself is in the thick of it.
You Disappoint Me
Three free dodges to various units (one of them Dooku) plus a really nice on-attack effect. A speed-2 move with your target unit is quite far, particularly given you can also cohere them, and subsequently force push them, if you want to. Basically you can move a given unit leader up to 10″ from its starting position (a speed-2 move plus a speed-1 move with force push) and end up with the non-unit leader models 4″ (speed-1) even further from that. This easily brings a target out of position, out of cover, and into Force Choke range for Dooku.
Like Dooku’s other cards, don’t be afraid to use this just for Cunning or for the free dodges if you can’t make the ranged attack happen.
We will take a look at a couple key elements of utilizing Dooku; specifically, getting Dooku in the mix, and maximizing order control.
Getting Dooku Involved
Like Palptine, Dooku does his best work up close. Also like Palpatine, Dooku is pretty slow. He is speed-2, which is a minor improvement, but he doesn’t have Relentless or Charge like all the other speed-2 saber wielders… though of course you can play Fear, Surprise, Intimidation to get it for one turn.
Since Dooku is slow but powerful in a tight, specific area, he wants you to be the “control” player, so that your opponent has to come to you or to a specific area of the battlefield. There is a concept from Magic: The Gathering that translates roughly to Legion, where you have a “beatdown” (aggro) player and a “control” (defensive) player, though unlike in Magic the roles can change within the same game and aren’t entirely dependent on your list. The way I translate this concept to Legion: The “control” player is the one for whom the status quo is acceptable; the player that will win if the game continues on its current trajectory without interruption. The “beatdown” player is the one that has to make something happen, the one that has to proactively alter the trajectory of the game to change the status quo.
There are a couple of ways to facilitate becoming the “control” player that you need to leverage as Dooku.
The first and arguably most important step to becoming the control player is being Blue, for two critical reasons: 1) Blue player uses their battle deck, and 2) Blue player wins ties. The tiebreak order is nuanced but important, and it goes victory points, then points destroyed, then Blue player. Why does Blue player matter, then? Do you ever actually have a victory point and a points destroyed tie?
While very few games end in a perfect victory point and points tie, every single one of them starts that way, which means that if nothing at all happens, Blue wins. Of course, things do happen, usually, but it isn’t on Blue player to make them happen, besides successfully scoring their “home” objectives. There are some objectives that advantage Blue more than others: specifically, Hostage Exchange, Sabotage, Recover the Supplies, Bombing Run, and Breakthrough (on certain deployments). All of these objectives have a high chance of tying on victory points or being very close and going to points destroyed, which starts at 0-0, or a blue player win. Eliminating an activation is actually reasonably difficult against a good player, and usually involves taking some risks, which then puts your own units in the line of fire and gives your opponent a chance to score in return.
That doesn’t mean you should automatically include the above objectives as a Dooku player. In fact, Dooku lists are usually quite bad at most of those relative to certain others. Hostage Exchange, in particular, strongly advantages Galactic Republic, and even though force users are good at Hostage Exchange, they aren’t nearly so good as Clones, and you should probably be cutting that one.
Bidding with CIS is really important. If you aren’t running STAPs, you are mostly bidding for the deployments, because droids are really very bad on the “spread out” deployments. CIS needs their B1s to be able to chain to each other to avoid AI and maintain order control, which means they need to stay close to each other in a ball or tight line. B1 units are also individually weak but collectively strong, which means they are vulnerable to getting flanked and isolated.
Furthermore, Dooku likes tight areas, and you want your opponent to fight you in a tight area. Dooku is really good in the skirmish format, because a 3×3 battlefield is a really tight area. How do you make a 3×3 battlefield on a 6×3 table?
Hey look, a 3×3!
You fight the long way, across the length of the table. Long March is the best deployment for this; essentially you are cutting the deployment zones out of the table’s relevant area and moving towards each other in the area between the zones, which is literally a 3×3 area. Roll Out is the next best and plays basically the same way; you should include it even if you aren’t running vehicles.
Major Offensive is the third inclusion for a Dooku list; you fight diagonally, which isn’t quite as good as down the length of the table, but the deployment zone lends itself to a nice little B1 “crescent” style deployment.
The fourth deployment is up to preference. I prefer Hemmed In, but that’s a weird deployment that requires some practice; I would probably do Advanced Positions if you aren’t comfortable with Hemmed In. Disarray, Danger Close, and Battle Lines should be totally out of the question unless you are running STAPs. As a very important added bonus, all of the long march style “CIS friendly” deployments make it quite difficult for R2 or Padme to score Secret Mission.
The objectives are a little more of an open question. Payload, Recover, Key Positions, Intercept, and Sabotage all involve fighting over specific areas of the table and are all good choices. Hostage is notionally good for the same reason, but Clones can abuse the heck out of it and you just really don’t want to deal with that, so I would cut it. Breakthrough is pretty tough for Droids, especially against aggro mobile threat lists that include things like bikes, Sabine, or Tauntauns, so I would cut that as well if you aren’t running STAPs. Bombing run is even worse, being similar to Breakthrough for scoring purposes with the added danger of having all your little white save B1s getting blown to tiny metal bits.
Once you have established your favorable battle deck (hopefully), you need to think about the approaches you are going to take to the important part of the battlefield and how Dooku and his horde of soulless automatons is going to get there. The first couple turns of a game for me usually involves conservative moves up with Dooku behind terrain, while chipping with B1s and your longer ranged units. If you can identify a line of sight blocker near the center that Dooku can safely get to, you want to stake it out and own it, moving behind it with Dooku and covering the cross angles behind it with your ranged units.
If you are playing against a hyper aggressive list like Tauntauns, you might not have to do much to make your opponent come to you. Stay tight, advance on the objectives carefully, and make your opponent force something to happen.
Being the beatdown
If you are playing against a more traditional “gunline” style list like Rex and Phase II spam or an Empire Shoretrooper gunline that can shred you at your army’s ideal engagement range (3), you might need to force Dooku in there or risk your B1s getting bled to death. Line of sight blockers are still key here; your goal should be to set up a strong Fear, Surprise, Intimidation turn. That doesn’t mean you have to dive; just be cagey and get Dooku close enough to threaten it at the right moment. Make sure when you do pop that wombo combo you are at Range 3 or less with the rest of your army so your B1s can support Dooku. Fear, Surprise, Intimidation can disable a lot of units, but you need your core to be in position to pressure your opponent and dive through that gap Dooku is making, or Dooku is just going to get shot to pieces.
So how do you execute the dream Fear, Surprise, Intimidation turn? Dooku has essentially four separate tools to disable a unit or get it out of position, which can be applied to four separate units or concentrated on just a few: Saber melee, Lightning (with scatter), Force Choke, and Force Push. If you have Saber Throw that increases your options; more on that later.
The dream is: 1) Melee a unit with the saber, 2) zap another unit with lightning, killing a couple and scattering them out of cover, 3) choke a heavy weapon out of a third, and 4) force push a fourth either out of cover to be shot or into melee with Dooku where they have to withdraw. This is why having B1s close for follow up is extremely important. The only unit you might actually kill is your melee target; the other ones are merely out of position or on reduced firepower. There are so many possibilities on this turn I won’t dissect it too hard, but those are the tools available to Dooku.
Once Dooku is stuck in, if he can survive, you can essentially rinse and repeat the above every turn, minus Arsenal and Relentless. It is very important to “hide” in units that have activated already, if possible.
Dooku can’t (usually) kill everything by himself, but he can create some significant openings for the rest of your army to exploit.
Order control is critical for CIS and doubly important for Dooku, as you can utilize cunning to win priority for almost any unit you want without having to worry about fishing for a token.
We will get into sample lists later, but this section will assume two things: You are running no more than three units without Coordinate (excluding Dooku himself), and you are running at least two uplinks.
I like to think that CIS has an additional category on their force organization chart: Units without Coordinate, X+1, where X is how many uplinks you have. Let’s look at these examples with BX strike teams; I know they aren’t out yet on real tables, but they are in the TTS mod and that is how folks are playing Legion right now.
Jay did a great article on CIS order control, which you can find here: Seeing the Order in the Chaos. This section will build on that article rather than rehash it entirely.
Before we look at the specific command cards and how to hand out your orders, let’s revisit a few general tactics for keeping your chain intact:
Positioning is extremely important for any CIS list. There are basically three things you need: 1) Your B1s need to be tight to each other, 2) Your uplinks need to be in a position where they can kick off a chain or bounce to an end point, and 3) You need overlap, so if a particular unit or model gets eliminated it doesn’t break your chain. CIS has a lot less flex with how they position and use their corps units than other factions, but the restriction is worth the reward if you do it correctly.
Lets look at a quick example from a recent game. This is from my latest Invader League game against Acep, a tough clone player. You can catch the vod on YavinBase.
The light blue and dark blue B1 units on either end of the chain are the uplink units; the red arrows point to the BX droids (orange, burnt orange, and brown). This is actually a Grievous (not Dooku) game, but the principles are the same. Note how all the B1 units are overlapping, so they have more range to bounce orders and if one of them gets iced it doesn’t mess up your chain. Don’t forget that range is measured mini to mini (not unit leader to unit leader) for coordinate.
I put my uplink units at both ends of the chain, so that I can 1) start the chain from the end and bounce in both directions, and 2) bounce directly from an uplink unit to a BX unit if the chain starts on the opposite end. For the latter reason, I usually put my BX strikes at the end(s) of my chain. If you keep this tight it shouldn’t be an issue to get perfect order control every turn.
Here is how you would do your orders for the above style list, with a commander, 6 B1s, two uplinks, and three BX droids:
Assault: Order #1 to chain, bounce to BX, order #2 to BX, order #3 to Dooku or last BX: spec ops or Dooku by itself in the bag.
You Disappoint Me: Same as above, but be more aware of where your dodge tokens need to go. Obviously Dooku gets an order here, so you probably have a BX in the bag if you don’t want to burn an uplink.
Push: Order #1 to chain, bounce to BX, order # 2 to Dooku. This will result in two spec ops in the bag, unless you want to burn an uplink.
Double the Fall: This one is sort of tricky and important, if you want to use the card ability and throw Dooku’s token back. Order #1 to Dooku, order #2 to chain, bounce to BX; trip both uplinks, bounce to remaining 2 BX. This way you have an empty bag when you kick Dooku’s token into it.
Ambush: Order #1 to chain or Dooku; uplink(s) to chain to bounce to BX as necessary.
Fear, Surprise, Intimidation: Order #1 to Dooku; trip both uplinks, bounce to chain and then to two BX. One spec ops by itself in the bag.
Viola. Perfect order control on 6/6 turns, if you can keep your positioning tight.
Double the focus piece
CIS is uniquely suited to run a “double focus piece” style list, because of how their order control works. This is sort of like running the vintage Luke/Sabine list, except you never have to worry about one of their order tokens being mixed up in your stack.
The classic example of this is Dooku/Grievous, but I think Dooku/Bane is more interesting these days, so let’s go there.
Let’s use the example Cad Bane/Dooku list under the Sample List section below.
I Make the Rules Now: Order to nobody… (Bane when he is revealed). Trip both uplinks, bounce down chain to both BX 1 and BX 2. Dooku by himself in the bag.
You Disappoint Me: Order #1 to Dooku, Order #2 to chain, bounce to BX 1. Order #3 to BX 2 or Bane; BX 2 or Bane by themselves in bag.
I’m in Control: Order #1 to Bane, Order #2 to chain or Dooku. Trip uplink to bounce to chain to BX. Dooku or BX by itself in bag.
Double the Fall: This one is tricky if you want to use the card text. Order #1 to Dooku, Order #2 to Bane, trip both uplinks, bounce to chain and to both BX. Empty bag.
I’m Your Worst Nightmare: Order #1 to Bane, trip both uplinks, bounce to chain and both BX. Dooku by himself in the bag.
Fear, Surprise, Intimidation: Same as above except in reverse, with Dooku getting the card order and Bane by himself in the bag.
Don’t be afraid to play FSI just for guaranteed priority, if you are about to score a bounty or something, and pull Bane’s token from the bag.
Automatically delete a mini or cause a wound? Yes please. This is best used on heavy weapon upgrades, medics, or lone unit leaders. It is pretty common for Dooku to kill 4 models with his saber and leave one unit leader in melee with him. On the following turn, you can use Choke instead of Force Push to get out of such a melee if you want to. This should be stapled to your second force slot.
The last force slot is sort of up for debate. There is Team Reflexes and Team Saber Throw.
Free dodges are great combined with Master of the Force to refresh this every turn. The only thing I find awkward about Reflexes is the timing. Dooku wants to usually be reactive, and Reflexes wants you to be proactive. It does really help out when you need to be proactive, though, like on your Fear, Surprise, Intimidation turn.
The primary reason I take this is to save five points over reflexes, but it also gives you some nice flex on your Fear, Surprise, Intimidation turn to make a five black, three red, Pierce 3 ranged attack. It is also useful when making ranged attacks generally. If you are shooting something in the open, it is more consistent damage than lightning because of the red dice and Pierce, especially against red save targets.
Fear is a neat little mini Jedi Mind Trick. This is primarily a consideration because it is cheap, but it can also be useful for stripping standbys. Stacking suppression can also be handy on your Fear, Surprise, Intimidation turn, where you could potentially throw down 4 suppression on your ranged attack target, if it starts within Range 2.
I could see Battle Meditation to give you some extra order control flex, but I don’t usually find it necessary.
Aggressive tactics makes your B1s less terrible, and your BXs and Dooku more durable. This should be your first choice if Dooku is your only character.
Strict orders is most valuable on Dooku himself, to ensure he gets two actions. It is less useful on your B1s unless they are out of courage bubble range, since they have to get up to six suppression when close enough to Dooku for it to effect them. It does help if you get railroaded by War Weary. I would consider Strict as a good option in a multi-character list, but if you are solo you will get more out of Aggressive Tactics.
Esteemed leader is a strong choice if you aren’t running Aggressive Tactics. B1s are excellent targets to be wound sponges for Dooku, especially since CIS can’t take medics.
Dooku Full BX
This is basically what I ran for the first two games of round robin for Invader. You have a meaty core of B1s, two uplinks, a couple sniper strikes, a full team with swords for linebacking, and Dooku himself. You also have a couple of rockets for any pesky vehicles. I find I recover a lot on the uplink squads anyway so the exhaust on the rockets is much less of a downside.
This basically cuts the full BX and the heavy upgrades for Cad Bane. You can shift some things around, cutting Bane’s gloves and dropping Aggressive Tactics to Strict Orders or Esteemed Leader if you want to fit a fifth B1 heavy in there.
You can do quite a few other things as well; these is the classic Dooku/Grievous, which is basically Dooku, Grievous, and 6 loaded B1s. You can also do Dooku with vibrosword BX’s, for the full aggro experience. There is Dooku and the AAT, with a bunch of B1s and a BX strike or two sprinkled in. Lastly, I’ve been impressed by various versions of Dooku and STAPs, which runs Dooku, a bunch of B1s, a couple of strikes and two STAPs, or three STAPs and no strikes.
Dooku vs. Grievous
This is a very important comparison, since you only have two choices.
Advantages of Grievous over Dooku:
- More health (8 vs. 6)
- Permanent Relentless
- 30 points cheaper
Advantages of Dooku over Grievous
- Force Powers
- Much better command cards
- More consistent attacks
I find both defensible in different circumstances. The 30 point difference here is huge; usually when I am taking Grievous, it is because I want that extra heavy weapon on my corps or extra upgrade somewhere else.
Dooku is the ultimate control piece, exercising extreme influence over a tight area. Use him carefully and he will do you credit, but don’t expect him to charge in and carry the game on his back unsupported. Support him with the strengths of CIS and a horde of soulless droids.