I’ve written multiple times about the boogeyman of the “extra BAs” mechanic in the 40K CCG. While it was incredibly fun to be the player who got to play a string of extra BAs during a battle, it was rarely fun to be on the receiving end.
Some races, specifically Orks, depended on extra BAs to make up for their subpar unit quality. Others, like Chaos, got a plethora of extra BA cards despite having superior units across the board. Yet other races, such as Space Marines, Imperial Guard, and Eldar/Dark Eldar, received very few to none (although Eldar’s Imeniell command line was a strong reason the first Avatar was banned).
Every competitive (as in closely matched) game in the 40K CCG is a hard-fought battle of attrition. Sectors, and by consequence, entire games, can be won or lost by the difference of a single flag. In the back-and-forth, chess-like pattern of a 40K CCG battle, extra BAs blow the game system wide open. Could you imagine if you got to make two moves in a row in a chess game?
While a comparison to MTG’s Time Walk may sound a little extreme, extra BAs function similarly: an extra BA may not be enough to pull you back from a decisive defeat, but it can certainly help deny your opponent the sector, or solidify a winning position.
The most egregious applications of extra BAs, in my opinion, are A) when the condition is too easy to satisfy, and B) when you are able to string more than one extra BA card in a row with little effort. While this may have defined competitive decks back in the day, it sucks away the essence of the entire 40K CCG. There is no Force of Will or Counterspell to interact with this mechanic. Loss of interaction leads to loss of fun, defeating the entire point of playing.
A third reason – and perhaps the guiltiest – is when you pair extra BAs with the suite of mass-kill assault units in the game:
I imagine Sabertooth realized the error of how they implemented extra BAs (perhaps far too late to sufficiently correct), and by the release of Invasion: Verdicon, they had introduced a number of cards and mechanics to curb the use of extra BAs.
Enter: Planetary Defense Cannon.
I’ll be honest: a lot of fortifications in the game kinda suck. Many grant symmetrical bonuses to each player, or don’t provide enough of a benefit to warrant their inclusion over an actual flag unit, or are far too niche in application to be worth playing.
On its surface, the Planetary Defense Cannon is focused on another niche application: denying your opponent extra BAs. If you plan on playing it, you: A) do not play extra BAs yourself, and/or B) want to hose your opponent’s extra BAs. That alone would not make it worth playing in your average deck.
So, let’s look at the rest of the card. It has a flag, armor 4, and can’t be assaulted. That makes it incredibly difficult to destroy for most armies. The most common method to destroy a PDC would be to shoot with a Devastator-type unit (firepower 4 and speed 1), or to boost another shooting unit to the required 4 firepower needed to destroy it. Plus, as a 6-die card, it can actually boost your deck’s dice rolling average.
It’s going to take a bit of effort to remove the PDC from the sector. What happens if you don’t? Here’s the kicker: the PDC is going to replace itself with the Event trigger.
Here’s what I mean: even if your opponent does not play extra BAs, if they do not remove the PDC, at the end of the battle it will let you deploy a card to any other sector. If the sector is not taken, this can happen multiple times in a game.
There are very, very few cards in the game that generate pure card advantage in this way. Most generate card advantage by destroying multiple units, or by giving you additional opportunities to destroy units (e.g., rallying, infiltration). Few cards actually make new units, and the PDC is one of them.
And while we’re talking about card advantage: if your opponent decides to play an extra BA while this is in your command hand, you get to blow up a unit for free. Most command lines don’t come close to that level of battlefield efficiency.
The Planetary Defense Cannon is one of the most heavy-handed corrective actions I’ve seen in a card game, with a design so obviously pushed in power level to fix a broken mechanic. So, does that mean PDC goes into every deck? I don’t think so. Sometimes it is more valuable to play flag units that can hit back. I personally play 4 copies in my Eldar deck, despite also playing a few cards that utilize extra BAs, simply because Eldar can’t afford to let BA-heavy races like Orks and Chaos run amok with them. The margin for play error is too small, and the danger is too great.
Fortification-friendly races like Imperial Guard would also gain more of a benefit from playing PDCs. As for the rest of the races? I’m not entirely sure. Let me know what you think!
4 replies on “SCD: Planetary Defense Cannon”
Could have easily been a Foil rarity card for how strong it is. Used to play the game with my best friend at high school. My first army were the Tyranids while my friend was an Eldar player. I never really understood the Tyranids’ core strategy whereas my friend – a long time MTG player – was very comfortable with his deck and its combo-oriented philosophy. Result: I think I won a single time over countless battles. I swapped to Chaos then and turned the situation around. Beefer units and most of all plenty of cards granting extra BAs – this time it was him almost always being defeated… until he found a few copies of this fortification. When this card was in play my deck was shut down completely. Sure, extra BAs were a bit broken in the vanilla edition of the game and a corrective action had to be taken – and geez did they take it! I hated it at the time but today
I realize it was the game evolving and aiming to be more balanced – In a certain way I was witnessing the game growing up.
My rough theorycardhammer assumes a card at a battle can kill one other in one BA. If both players started with the same number of cards, they would end the battle with half their cards dead and half locked. But, if one player takes an additional BA, she would kill an additional ready enemy unit before its time, saving her a card and costing her opponent an additional card. In other words, 2 extra BAs creates a 2 card swing, right?
I think in theory that sounds correct, but I’d probably add that each consecutive extra BA exponentially widens the gap between players, mainly because 2+ extra BAs now opens the window for a free assault. For most decks, which rely on blocking to defend their setups, this can be a huge blow, especially if it’s a greater daemon or Avatar getting the free assault. I imagine it’s also why Chaos Veterans got the boot – you could easily set up Kharn + Veterans at a sector and blow up multiple units with little effort.