by Lenny Rubin
[extremely Obi-Wan Kenobi voice] Hello there!
If you played SWCCG in 2001 or earlier, and you’re coming back to the game now, then there’s a good chance you’re daunted and perplexed by the teal-colored cards known as Defensive Shields. (Source: personal experience.) A lot of returning players take a look at these cards and say “nope, I’ll just keep playing Premiere-DS2 games on GEMP.” And there’s nothing wrong with those formats! If you enjoy it, by all means keep enjoying it. But the “modern” game has a ton to offer too, and if you need a helping hand with Defensive Shields, that’s what I’m here for. Let’s get into it.
What Are Defensive Shields?
At the beginning of the game, before any other starting cards are revealed (even your starting location), both players deploy a Starting Effect. There are only two options for each side, and one of them is better in every way than the other, so you should use it 100% of the time: Knowledge And Defense (V) for the Dark Side, and Anger, Fear, Aggression (V) for Light.
These cards do a couple things. First, they prevent your opponent from making you redraw your hand before you get a chance to take a turn. (Always handy.) Second, and much more importantly, they let you stack as many Defensive Shields as you want—from outside your deck—underneath that Starting Effect. That means your shields don’t count toward your 60-card deck limit, although your Starting Effect itself does. Four times per game, you can select a shield from under your Starting Effect and play it to the table. You do this as a top-level action (never as a response to another action), and the shield stays on the table for the rest of the game.
In addition, you will come across other cards that allow you to play shields, such as Perimeter Scan (V), Cold Feet (V), Red 8 (V), or Myn Kyneugh (V). Shields played in this way do not count toward your 4-shield limit, so it’s not uncommon to see someone play 5, 6, or more.
What Do Shields Do?
Like all SWCCG cards, they do … whatever they say they do! They work just like Effects, except they aren’t only played during your deploy phase and they can’t be canceled. But, because everyone has access to all the Defensive Shields, in every game, they tend to have seismic effects on the meta. For example, imagine if Dark Side had a shield called “Unlimited Power!” that said “Plays on table. Mace Windu is lost.” What would happen? Light Side would stop putting Mace Windu in decks! Because any time he hit the table, Dark Side could just play this shield to make him go away. That would be a shame because Mace is a cool dude. For this reason, it can be helpful to think of shields not as “more cards” but as “rules of the game.” If you play a card or strategy that’s addressed by a shield, you should expect to see that shield.
OK, So What Are the Different Shields?
That’s the meat of what we’re going to cover here. Let’s start with the Dark Side and go alphabetically:
This will usually make Watch Your Step put their Lost Interrupts out of play (more on that when we get to the next shield). It will also protect you from Don’t Underestimate Our Chances—but you need to play the shield before the DUOC is played, because you can’t play shields as a response—and stop Light Side from abusing Ketwol. In practice, I only play this shield if Ketwol hits the table. DUOC is rarely seen, and there are better ways of dealing with Watch Your Step…
A Useless Gesture (V)
This is the anti-Watch Your Step shield you’ll usually want. It makes them pay extra for each interrupt they play from their Lost Pile, which in practice means they only get to do that a few times per game. Also, in any game, if they have Solo on table (who can play an interrupt from Lost Pile once per game) and haven’t saved enough Force, this can be a good play to make sure Light Side can’t play their interrupt with Solo and also pay for other things they might want to do. Finally, this shield cancels Revolution, meaning Revolution is almost never played in the modern game.
Allegations of Corruption
This card and its Light Side mirror are probably the most commonly played shields in the game. I will often play it on turn 1 before I even activate. Being able to grab a powerful interrupt to keep it from cycling back into your opponent’s Life Force can be very powerful, not to mention making any other copies of that card cost extra Force. A useful card in almost every game of SWCCG.
You might be familiar with the Effect version of this card from the Endor set. It sets a condition for both players: Either have cards at battlegrounds in both theaters (ground and space), or pay 3 for each Force drain in your one theater. Because Force drains happen during your opponent’s control phase, you should check the board during their activate phase and see if they’re satisfying this condition. If they aren’t, playing this shield before their control phase starts could be a really good move. It might get them to decline to drain you (because they need the Force for other things), or they might pay to drain (and then they can’t deploy as much). As mentioned above, think of this as a “rule of the game” and build your decks accordingly; if you’re playing in only one theater, make sure you have plenty of activation, because you’ll probably need to pay 3 for your drains. (Note: Sectors count as neither sites nor systems—they’re sectors!—so they don’t do anything to help you satisfy Battle Order. That’s a big part of the reason why sectors don’t see that much play.)
Helpful Hint: After enough games, players may begin to assume Battle Order is always on the table and forego paying 3 to Force drain for 1. Don't always make this assumption.
Come Here You Big Coward
This can be a tricky card to get your head around. If (a) you occupy a battleground, and (b) your opponent occupies fewer than 2 battlegrounds, then they can’t drain you at non-battlegrounds, retrieve any Force, or play Asteroid Sanctuary. (That last one only shows up once in a blue moon.) There are some games and matchups where only a small number of battlegrounds will be on table. For example, in a Y4: Throne Room vs. Hunt Down game, there might only be the Battle Plains and the Downtown Plaza on table. This card is saying “unless you occupy both, you can’t drain me at my Holotheatre, and no retrieval either.” In matchups with more battlegrounds on table, like Diplomatic Mission To Alderaan, Old Allies, Imperial Entanglements, or Ralltiir Operations, this card won’t be as effective. Once again, think of this as a rule of the game, and don’t expect to retrieve any Force (or drain at their twixes) unless you also occupy two battlegrounds.
Helpful Hint: Sometimes it's tempting early game to pull this shield to prevent the opponent from retrieving a Force (via Luke Skywalker (V), for example). Have the "long view" in mind in such instances since shield pulls are finite and you don't want to regret one.
There was a time when S-Foils and Maneuvering Flaps were a big force in the meta. That time is over, for now. You shouldn’t ever need this card in competitive play.
Death Star Sentry (V)
This card makes it more expensive for Light Side to play multiple copies of a non-unique card to the same location, such as Rebel Trooper Reinforcements, Red Squadron X-wings, or Palace Raiders. If your opponent deploys a non-unique card and you suspect that they have more copies of that card, playing this card can be a good idea to make them pay extra Force. This shield also cancels Colo Claw Fish, which keeps that Effect out of the modern meta, for the most part.
Do They Have A Code Clearance?
Light Side can retrieve Force using a lot of different Interrupts and Utinni Effects, such as On The Edge, Harvest, Walker Sighting (V), Our Most Desperate Hour, Death Star Plans, and even (the very commonly played) Jedi Levitation (V). If you play this shield before they retrieve with one of those cards, you’ll stack the card here afterward, meaning there won’t be any chance of recycling the card back into Life Force (where it can retrieve Force a second time). Additionally, each card stacked here will reduce all of your opponent’s retrieval by 1, for the entire game. That means, for example, if you stack their Jedi Levitation (V) here, it will shut off the retrieval from Luke Skywalker (V) and Rose Tico for the rest of the game.
Failure At The Cave (V)
A new addition in Set 13. First, it prevents Light Side from playing Double Agent using their own Undercover spies—which is particularly annoying when they use it to get rid of Probot or Ysanne Isard when you were just about to break their spy’s cover. Second, it stops Mind What You Have Learned from playing Projection Of A Skywalker. (If they’re shutting off your Force drain bonuses, they shouldn’t also get to make your drains -1.) Third, it gives you some Grimtaash protection. If you have two Vaders and two Mauls in your hand, instead of losing all four, you can put one of each on your Used Pile and keep the other two.
Fanfare (V) is better in every way, so use that.
I can’t remember the last time I saw Staging Areas played, but it might be virtualized at some point. In addition to the upload of an Immediate Effect (if you have one of those in your deck, this is a good way to go find it), this also cancels a variety of abusive cards: Order To Engage, Scramble, Sandwhirl, Ice Storm, and Lost In The Wilderness.
As of October 2020, this card is blanked, so don’t worry about it!
I Find Your Lack Of Faith Disturbing (V)
This card is what keeps Goo Nee Tay out of the meta. It also helps make the Lightsaber Combat matchup more fair. Combat isn’t seen that often these days, but it does crop up from time to time. It limits them to using one combat card per turn (unless you are also playing Combat), and it stops the objective’s powerful “finger of death” ability. That ability triggers during their control phase if they have a Jedi with your non-Jedi character at an interior Theed Palace site. So if you end your turn with characters parked in front of their Jedi, it’s a good idea to play this shield.
Imperial Detention (V)
This card targets cards that make other cards deploy for free. (A card that makes itself deploy for free is unaffected.) Some examples of that are Artoo-Detoo In Red 5 and You Can Either Profit By This…. It can be a good tactic to make them pay a couple extra Force, especially if that limits what else they can do.
Helpful Hint: This card is disproportionately more valuable early in the game when those extra 2 force can be the difference of the opponent setting up damage (or otherwise speeding up their game plan) for the subsequent turn, prior to when players have deployed several locations.
Leave Them To Me
Another shield you shouldn’t ever need in competitive play. Operatives aren’t a viable thing anymore, and that’s a good thing.
The effect version of this is a good card. The shield version only affects <> sites with creatures at them… which was a thing in 1999 and 2000, but not anymore. Move on.
You have two different Sense/Alter shields to choose from. There Is No Try will penalize a player for playing Sense and Alter, whereas this one inflicts no penalties but allows you to “save” your canceled card and cycle it back into your Life Force. It’s up to you to decide whether saving your card is more important than inflicting a few Force loss. (Or, if you have enough shield pulls, you can even play both.) If your deck relies on a key Effect that isn’t immune to Alter, such as Scum And Villainy, this is often the right call, especially because There Is No Try doesn’t affect Alter (V). Oppressive Enforcement also has another use: making your Immediate Effects deploy for free. That can be a big deal in the right situation. As you look through the list of Immediate Effects and consider whether you want to put them in your deck, remember this card. You’ll be able to ignore those costs if you want to.
An easy one! If you occupy 3 battlegrounds OR they occupy none, you can’t lose more than 2 Force to each drain. The “opponent occupies no battlegrounds” part isn’t used very often, because you could instead just occupy a battleground yourself and play Come Here You Big Coward to turn off their drain entirely.
There Is No Try
The other Sense/Alter shield. This one inflicts a stiff penalty for playing Sense and Alter—but importantly, Alter (V) isn’t affected by it, so you’re really just talking about Sense. It will affect your own Alter (V) though, so watch out. This card is a double-edged sword, punishing both players for Sensing (whereas Oppressive Enforcement is only a benefit for you), so it’s usually only seen when you aren’t playing any Senses or Alters of your own—or after they’re already in your Lost Pile.
Vote Of No Confidence
Known as “the Senate shield,” this does a bit more than that: As long as you keep your hand size to a reasonable level, it stops stuff like Oola and The Shield Is Down! from messing with your hand. Against Senate, it’s a must-play, stopping the hand-removal text on the 7 side of the Objective and allowing you to suspend one Political Effect per turn.
We’ll Let Fate-a Decide, Huh?
The most important function of this card is that it keeps Beggar and Frozen Assets from being played in most competitive decks. The second most important function is that it lets you cancel Sabacc by losing a Force. That may not seem like a big deal, because Sabacc would normally only make you lose 1 Force anyway, but Sabacc is much more about the deck manipulation than the Force loss: You activate until there are 2 Force left in your Reserve Deck (so you can draw 2 battle destinies), your opponent plays Sabacc during your deploy phase, forcing you to draw those 2 cards into your Sabacc hand, and when it’s over, you have nothing left to draw destiny with. If you expect Sabacc, this shield is a good idea to play; it can save you entire turns of tempo.
Weapon Of A Sith
Also known as the “Weapon Levitation shield” because that’s what it’s usually trying to prevent, but I suppose it works against less commonly played cards like Kabe as well. If you deploy a big beefy character with a green weapon card and being able to use that weapon in a pending battle is significant, this is a good shield to play, just in case.
Wipe Them Out, All Of Them
The Effect version of this is pretty good with its extra Force activation, but the shield is not great. If you do get involved in a battle against non-unique aliens or non-unique starfighters where your opponent is going to draw three or more battle destinies, go ahead and pull this card if you can… but it’s not something you should usually have to worry about.
You Cannot Hide Forever
You Cannot Hide Forever (V) is better in every way, so use that.
You Cannot Hide Forever (V)
The existence of this card keeps ‘inserts’ out of the meta, for the most part. And when combined with Secret Plans and/or Come Here You Big Coward, it transforms podracing from “game-breaking side strategy” to “cumbersome retrieval strategy.”
You’ve Never Won A Race?
In theory, this card suspends I Did It! in some situations where You Cannot Hide Forever (V) does not. But you still want the other shield to eliminate the podracing damage, and it’s rare that you’ll be able to play both shields. But if you have an extra Cold Feet (V) and they’re only at two battlegrounds to your two (for example), suspending I Did It! is certainly worthwhile.
How about the Light Side shields? A lot of them are mirrors of Dark Side shields, so there’s not too much more to learn.
Unlike the case with You’ve Never Won A Race? And You Cannot Hide Forever (V) for Dark Side, this shield is inferior to Your Insight Serves You Well (V) in every way. Skip this card.
A Tragedy Has Occurred
Mirror of Allegations Of Corruption.
Affect Mind (V)
Mirror of I Find Your Lack Of Faith Disturbing (V)
Helpful Hint: Remember, Combat players, that undercover spies are not protected by these shields, so Undercover spy counters are not are critical as in other decks.
Mirror of Secret Plans.
Helpful Hint: If you're playing against ISB Operations or if Scum and Villainy is on the table, this shield is a must-pull.
Another Pathetic Lifeform
Mirror of Wipe Them Out, All Of Them.
Mirror of Battle Order. If both Battle Plan and Battle Order are on table, drains will still just cost 3, not 6, so if the mirror is on table, there’s no reason to play your own.
Clumsy And Stupid
A new one for Set 13, this cancels the powerful Field Promotion interaction with Stormtrooper Garrison. (“Leaders may not be targeted by weapons + an Effect that makes the Garrison a leader = bad news for Light Side weapons.) The Nevar Yalnal and Monnok protection are mirrors of Failure At The Cave (V).
Do, Or Do Not
Mirror of There Is No Try. This does not work like Battle Plan/Battle Order. If both Do, Or Do Not and There Is No Try are on table, playing Sense or Alter will make you lose 4 Force.
Don’t Do That Again
Mirror of Fanfare. Don’t Do That Again (V) is better in every way, so use that.
Don’t Do That Again (V)
Mirror of Fanfare (V), for the most part. (There’s no Dark Side equivalent of Order To Engage or Scramble to cancel.)
Helpful Hint: Some of the most commonly-pulled immediate effects with this shield are A Gift, A Vergence in the Force and Legendary Starfighter.
Mirror of Imperial Detention. This one is a bit more commonly seen because of a few powerful Dark Side cards that can deploy things for free: Blizzard 4, They Must Never Again Leave This City, Jabba's Space Cruiser (V), Coruscant: Imperial Square, Stinger and Emperor’s Personal Shuttle.
He Can Go About His Business
Responsibility Of Command and You Overestimate Their Chances are rarely seen in competitive play, but preventing Brangus Glee decks from reusing docking bays is pretty good if you happen to facing a Brangus Glee deck.
Let’s Keep A Little Optimism Here
Mirror of Leave Them To Me.
Only Jedi Carry That Weapon
Mirror of Weapon Of A Sith.
This one is not an exact mirror of No Escape; it doesn’t include the ridiculous creature requirement. If you see <> sites (outside of Spaceport sites in Ralltiir Operations (V)), this shield is free activation, and if you have a lot of Rebels in your deck, you can make things very annoying for the Dark Side. Because of this card (and the Effect version, which is also good), <> sites aren’t seen that often. But when they do crop up, this shield is here for you.
Planetary Defenses (V) is better in every way, so use that.
Planetary Defenses (V)
This does three niche things: it can protect an interior site from Proton Bombs, it prevents “blow up all the planets and stop you from doing any damage at all” decks from being a thing, and it lets you protect one site from Program Trap (best played after the Program Trap is deployed). None of these are seen that often anymore—in large part because of this shield.
Simple Tricks And Nonsense
Mirror of Come Here You Big Coward.
The Republic No Longer Functions
Mirror of Vote Of No Confidence.
There Is Another
If your deck relies on a non-DS2 version of Luke to be able to do its thing, this makes Bring Him Before Me target Leia instead. Some examples are space decks that rely on Luke Skywalker (V) or Luke Skywalker, The Rebellion’s Hope; or speeder decks that rely on Commander Luke Skywalker (V).
Mirror of Resistance.
Weapons Display (V)
As of October 2020, this card is blanked, so don’t worry about it!
Mirror of Oppressive Enforcement.
Yavin Sentry (V)
Mirror of Death Star Sentry (V)
Helpful Hint: Non-unique Dark Side cards that should signal consideration of pulling this shield: Stormtrooper Patrol, Destroyer Droid and Droideka.
Your Insight Serves You Well
Your Insight Serves You Well (V) is better in every way, so use that.
Your Insight Serves You Well (V)
Mirror of You Cannot Hide Forever (V), except that it also cancels Scanning Crew (but note that The Republic No Longer Functions can also stop Scanning Crew), and suspending Watto’s Box is generally not a big deal because it’s almost never played.
Mirror of We’ll Let Fate-a Decide, Huh?, except that it cancels A Dangerous Time instead of Beggar and Frozen Assets. Your Ship? (V) is better in every way, so use that.
Your Ship? (V)
Just like the non-virtual version except that it also cancels Imperial Supply (which doesn’t see much play anymore, now that this shield exists).
Final Thoughts: One concept to key an eye out for is "shield-busting". Some decks are more prone to causing the opponent to pull shields he/she will regret late in the game, once all pulls have been exhausted, since at that point shielded strategies are unable to be countered. Watch Your Step and There Is Good in Him are two Light Side objectives that can "bust" Dark Side. Podracing and the Combat objectives should instantly signal to a player to be judicious with their shield pulls and not use ones that may be "win the battle, lose the war" in nature.
And that’s it for the shields! They seem daunting when written down like this, but comfort comes with experience. With enough games under your belt, playing Battle Plan or Come Here You Big Coward at the right time is practically second nature. If you haven’t used shields before, the best way to learn is to just start using them. If you’re anything like me, you’ll make a lot of mistakes at first…but you’ll learn from them. Good luck! And may the Force be with you.
Peace, Love, and High Destinies,