Atomic Mass has now previewed Dooku’s apprentice, let’s take a look!
Ok I have a confession…I still haven’t seen past the first five minutes of the original Clone Wars film. I’ve catalogued before that its combination of uninteresting plot, fairly wooden acting, and “Reboot” quality CGI make it a tough sell. So, in honor of Asajj Ventress finally being fully previewed today (we first got a look at her last June) I’m gonna give it another shot.
First of all this movie is buried in the “Specials” section of Star Wars in Disney Plus because they literally have to put it somewhere, good luck finding it anywhere else in the app (they aren’t idiots). Anyway, alright…eight minutes in, it’s still weird that the clone pets R2 like he’s a dog by the way…Obi Wan keeps pausing for one second between each line of dialogue…they keep shaking the camera for no reason and I’m getting nauseous….oh hey here’s Asajj…did they really make the plot to this about a staged Hutt kidnapping? Oh god the faces when they laugh I ccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc
Well, I woke up in a haze a couple hours later again, I’ll try harder next time.
Goodness that’s a lot of keywords!
- Deflect, Immune: Pierce, Red Saves, Speed 2: Standard force user faire, it’s notable that like most other force users she is affected by the recent changes to Deflect that mean it no longer allows her to surge to block with spent dodges against melee attacks.
- 5 health: Asajj is now technically/theoretically the most fragile force user, although her other features (especially from one of her command cards) do fairly well to mitigate the lower-than-average amount of “HP”
- Jump 2: An interesting choice to demonstrate that she’s very light on her feet, the extra height will certainly come in handy sometimes…just not most of the time
- Independent Dodge 1: Clearly, Asajj benefits here from the faction she’s in. Since she’s a 5 health force user she’ll actually want guaranteed order control but also to not have an order token…and, welp, you know who’s pretty good at doing that…by the way, she’s the first non-mercenary with Independent which is interesting design space to think about for the future.
- Indomitable and Courage 2: Congrats to Asajj on being the first force user with Courage 2! Indomitable helps mitigate that by a lot, but not on the turn where you’re playing her 1 pip and she could put herself in the panic zone before her activation is over (though that doesn’t matter immediately since she’s already passed the start of the Perform Actions step). At least when it comes to rallying, she’s actually better than most three courage Jedi and that advantage gets higher the more suppression she has to roll off.
- Relentless: Asajj joints Vader as the only force users with unlimited, unbound access to Relentless. This mostly (only?) is distinct in the context of packing saber throw, which might be a bit of a trap on her due to how bad her dice are with it.
- Jar’Kai Mastery: It’s dodge marksman…neat idea! It goes particularly well with her one pip, but it’s notable that she’ll often be able to use it in melee as long as she’s willing to take a little bit of risk by relying on the surge tokens from Into the Fray (which should be stapled on her card honestly) to keep her safe. A fun fact is that we know Ahsoka will have this keyword as well per stream conversations at Atomic Mass, something to look forward to.
One thing you will not see above, or anywhere, is Master of the Force, and she won’t get it from those command cards either, so players will have to be wary about how they use exhaustible force powers. Also? No surge chart, which means you’ll be reliant on other cards (mostly Into the Fray, probably) to supply her with those precious little tokens she’ll want for both attack and melee defense.
I’ll admit that I’m disappointed that we’ve mostly only gotten unit-specific upgrades from AMG. This may be a balance decision out of risk that too many generic upgrades can upset game balance but it feels long overdue for a new force power or training. Anyway, she has two slots of training and two slots of force powers.
- Intro The Fray: Since Deflect doesn’t allow you to convert in melee anymore her name is piled on to the growing list of force users that are basically forced to take this card to like…not die.
- Tenacity: Apparently most sabers are created equal when it comes to the CIS, which average about the same number of raw hits for each other when tenacity is added…which it should be. The only possible hang up here is how fragile she is; once she’s taken damage she might just be on two or three health remaining, and unlike Maul or Vader she doesn’t have the ability to take that damage voluntarily on her own time in a measured way. Ideally you want her taking no damage at all.
- Defensive Stance: You could consider taking this instead of tenacity since she gets use of it on both attack and defense, but even this seems a little niche…Tenacity is fairly close to to adding a hit and it doesn’t need an extra action.
I don’t think any other trainings make a ton of sense, aside from maybe Seize but the object with her seems to have order control by ordering literally everyone else in that CIS army instead of her (called a reverse sort) so she can get the dodge from Independent.
- Force Push: Obligatory “take the upgrade that allows force users to do force user things.”
- Saber Throw: Not nearly as good as CIS Maul but she does have Relentless and Jump 2 for some mean peekaboo action. Notable that the dice pool on this is actually quite bad, as she doesn’t surge. It’s a naked Rebel Trooper pool. With the cover changes you are likely throwing into heavy cover most of the time, which means this straight bounces on average. You also can’t use Jar’Kai on this.
- Burst of Speed: Given that she really wants to get to the relative safety of melee when she’s not doing peekaboo attacks this could get in there.
- Fear: Demoralize 2 when you choose the bottom option for her 3 pip? Seems alright.
- Force Choke: Some would say that even one use of this is worth 5 points, and her 2 pip provides a recover so I think there’s an argument for it just like there is with Maul.
Asajj comes with FOUR command cards, one of which is actually for her boss!
- 1 Pip – The Jedi Shall Fall: This is sort of like Maul’s “At Last” but instead of an aim it gives dodges that can basically be used like aims. It gives her a very scary attack for that turn, though if you take all 4 she will be automatically panicked until the end of the turn (unless you just use her second action to recover) so buyer beware if you’re gonna need her to earn VP’s.
- 2 Pip – I Am Fear: Since Assajj doesn’t have MOTF she very much appreciates this recover card. The attack is honestly icing and a little situational. It has to happen after the end of her activation, so either you are in melee and your target doesn’t die (great) or you are in melee and it does die (less great). If you’re attacking at Range 1, you may be in trouble either way because you don’t get to force push or move or do anything after this attack is done.
- 3 Pip – Yes, My Master: Gosh, I was worried her base card didn’t have enough keywords, thank goodness! I kid (sort of) but this card is probably even more of a binary “configuration” than Maul with or without the Darksaber is.
- Bounty and Reinforcements: Deploy last, hunt down the loneliest jerk, profit
- Demoralize 1, Makeshi Mastery, and Outmaneuver: This will likely be the “typical” config., just a trio of especially strong keywords, particularly Makashi Mastery.
- As a side note, I’m not clear on why this card states that it “remains in play” after divulging. Divulging explicitly doesn’t play the card you’re showing per the rulebook, I think the intent here was that it actually will always be relevant from the beginning of the game to the end, without ever having to actually play it via the normal command phase process.
But wait! There’s more!
First, notice that this is a Dooku card and that Asajj doesn’t need to be in your deck to include it. This does mean that if you use this you’ll have 3x 3 pips, but because of Cunning, this and “You Disappoint Me” are both kind of “2.5 pips.” There’s a lot of text but basically Dooku gets an aim and a dodge and Asajj (if present) has to activate right after him if she hasn’t gone yet.
This will be quite good in any Dooku deck to be honest, but I’m not positive it’s better than Orbital Strike since that’s a card that lets you accomplish something at long range before you engage. You could run this instead of Dooku’s other 2 pip (Double the Fall) as well.
I think Asajj will be best played with her conservative Makashi build rather than the all-out but risky Bounty mode. An extra VP is always attractive but that she often won’t last long enough to collect that. She has a lot of keywords, but a lack of Master of the Force and an upper limit of 5 health mean that this here is a Sith who is really going to live or die by her pilot. Force users are already inherently high skill pieces that can biff it with one mistake, and Asajj looks to take that to the extreme. The important question for me is…is she better than Maul? She has more natural keywords but lacks his flexibility when it comes to objective play. They each have all the Jedi keywords but they each will be very concerned if there’s an AAT on the field.
It’s great to see new units at a much faster clip than before, I’m looking forward to putting Asajj on the table! With any luck we’ll get Cody soon…?