In designing some of these recent decks, I’ve noticed something about card combinations: A deck can’t rely upon them. It’s nice to have them, and having them should have big effects, nearly game-winning effects. However, you can’t design a deck where that’s their only real path to victory, unless it’s going to include 6 or so of the decks’ talent cards. I don’t have the math on this, but I’ve played enough to tell you, having two cards that combo together isn’t enough to count on having more than once in a great while. If a deck is going to rely on combos, it’s going to need 2 of each of the cards to have a decent chance of making it work. Better, though, is to have at least 6 cards that can work together towards a Path to Victory. It can be either 3 cards of 2 copies each, or 2 cards of 3 copies each.
In terms of the original decks, the easiest combo to think of is Anakin’s ANGER-CALM combo. Of all the times you’ve seen Anakin, how many times did he pull that exact combo off? Not half the time, maybe more like a quarter. When he pulls it off, he has a good chance to win the game. If he can do it twice in one game, he’ll almost for sure he’ll win, but it’s rare. It’s important, though, that ANGER can work independently of CALM. Anakin can go ANGER-ANGER or A5-ANGER-COUNTERATTACK. It’s nice if he can get CALM to play with it, but it isn’t a requirement. This is critical. Another original deck with a big combo is Emperor Palpatine’s YOU WILL DIE-MEDITATION combo. It only has 3 cards in the entire deck, but like Anakin with ANGER-CALM, Palpatine doesn’t really rely upon getting the exact combo. For Palpatine, just getting YOU WILL DIE is the main thing, and he will almost for sure get something to go with it, since any offense card can follow it, and because 6 other cards besides MEDITATION can work well with it. If he gets the YWD-MEDITATION combo it’s even nastier, but he doesn’t need it to win.
In terms of our own decks, this is where we’ve gone wrong with our Kit Fisto deck. He sort of depends upon a NAUTOLEAN INSIGHT-INSIGHTFUL ATTACK combo. Either card can work without the other, but doesn’t do a whole lot to help Fisto win the game. The combo can help him win, but isn’t YOU WILL DIE-MEDIATION, it isn’t even ANGER-CALM. So he’s kind of left to rely upon his 3x A7s, which never seems to be quite enough for him. The recent deck I’ve seen this play out in is Chirrut & Baze, based upon Freaky Mutant Man’s design. It’s so obvious for Chirrut to have a I AM ONE WITH THE FORCE-THE FORCE IS WITH ME combo. However, right now, both cards really need to be played together, in a specific order. It’s kind of like ANGER-CALM, but the cards don’t work as well on their own, especially AND THE FORCE IS WITH ME. The way to deal with this, as FMM figured out intuitively, is that you need to have 3 copies of each card just to have a chance to pull it off with any frequency. What I improved upon from FMM’s original design was making the lead card, I AM ONE WITH THE FORCE, a defense OR an attack instead of just a defense card. If it’s just a defense card, you’re really requiring a very specific set of circumstances to pull the combo off, which just isn’t going to happen very often. Even with 3 copies of each card, I think I’ve seen Chirrut pull the combo off maybe once in 5-6 games, and it’s not even a game-breaker when he does, just a solid couple of cards to play.
It gets even trickier if the combos are spread among different characters. In our Obi-Wan-Anakin deck, the FOCUS YOUR ANGER-DO WHAT I MUST combo comes up just once in a while. Meanwhile, the Luminara-Barriss deck works so well because they have 5 cards that work together in the 2x movement card, 2x FORCE BUBBLE and 1x TANDEM FIGHTING card. They don’t pull great combos off every game but they tend to win when they do, and the cards work on their own well enough without being combined.
Overall, combos are great, but a combo of 2 cards with 2 copies of each is only going to happen once in a while, so it should go ahead and have a big effect when it does. If you want a combo to happen consistently, you need 3 copies of each card to have that happen. Some of the most fun decks have been ones where there are 3 cards of 2 copies each that work well together, my Eomer deck in LOTRED is a good example.