Let’s talk about… Tempo




  1. MUSIC – The speed at which a passage of music is or should be played.
  2. The rate or speed of motion or activity; pace.

Tempo in any competitive game is always one of the biggest assets you have to win the game. Both players are vying for victory at the same time and let’s say it will take X amount of actions to complete their win condition. By using tempo we are trying to generate small incremental advantages over our opponent to get to our win condition first, whilst also hopefully delaying our opponents. If they fall behind the beat and we slowly move ahead of it we will claim victory.

In Star Wars Destiny there are currently two types of win conditions, via damage and mill. The next expansion Covert Missions is bringing additional win conditions via plots.

However for the rest of this article I’m only going to refer to damage, but don’t despair if you are one of those filthy mill players the teachings are exactly the same, you need to do ‘30 damage’ to your opponent’s deck before they can finish off all of your characters.

Your only goal in the game is to fulfil one of these conditions before your opponent can meet theirs, so getting ahead on tempo is essential as it will lead you to your win condition first. One of my favourite mechanics in Destiny is the action mechanic. You go, I go actions really give you the chance to pull ahead on tempo and you can almost always have a perfect read of the current board state. In other turn based games lots can change before you are given the chance to react.

So how do we gain tempo in Destiny?

First of all we have to know where we are at in the game, we need to always be tracking our opponents remaining health or cards in deck. It’s imperative we know how many actions we need vs how many actions our opponent needs in order to win. This is almost impossible at the start of the game but this is where we focus on building our board state. 

Using assets to generate tempo…

Resource can be a confusing word in Destiny because that is effectively our economy, however we have a lot of resources at our disposal: cards in deck, characters health, discard pile and actual resources. We need to utilise as many of these as possible while we are trying to get ahead on tempo. Let’s call these assets for now (credit to The Hyperloops from way back). One example is using our “health asset” to take some early damage while we build out our board state. Later in the game we can utilise our better “board state asset” so we can gain an action advantage instead of mitigating the damage. We need to know where we are at in the race to safely weigh up our options. 

Generating tempo through a better board state

Early in the game our focus is on building our board state so we need to use our other assets to buy us time to build out a good board state. The reason we need to build our board is because it will become very hard in the mid – late game to actually close the game with just character dice. Upgrades/supports help us execute our win condition faster as they grow the threat that our opponent needs to deal with. If our board state is advancing our win condition faster than our opponent we are ahead of the beat!

Generating tempo by delaying our opponents win conditions…

This is where zero cost mitigation is really powerful. Using ‘free’ mitigation to delay the opponents win condition while using our resource to speed up ours is a recipe to pull ahead. 

This can also be found in the form of multi die removal. Easy Pickings has been on the competitive roster ever since it was released. Removing two dice for one resource provides a huge tempo swing by delaying the opponents win condition, and still allowing us a resource to deploy another threat. Remember Tempo is essentially timing. If we can fulfil our win condition first we win the game. Simple!

The battlefield

One of the biggest tools to generate tempo in Destiny has been the battlefield. We have access to an extra card that can generate some sort of advantage every turn (if we can get the claim). Always look out for a cheeky claim if it will generate you an advantage. Action advantage has kind of faded from Destiny of late but it still an important factor in the late game. 

A very simple example of generating tempo through the battlefield is Obi-Wan’s Hut, close to the end of the round we could find ourselves with a shield side showing on our last die. If we resolve it our opponent could claim and gain a shield so we gain equal value but they are ahead by an action. Instead it’s best to not resolve the die and jut claim the battlefield, now we gain a shield, deny our opponent a shield and we are ahead by an action. We have had some fantastic battlefields over the times and lots of similar situations will come up with battlefields like Mean Streets, Outer Rim Outpost and even action battlefields like Theed.

Generating tempo through resource advantage… 

Cheap upgrades help us build our board quicker than our opponent. In Destiny we get two resources at the start of every round. Now picture your opponent pays their two resources to buy a ‘two cost’ threat (very common). We play a ‘1 cost threat’ and use our other resource to mitigate their die, now we are close to equal on the board but we have also delayed their win condition and advanced ours. 

Fickle Mercenaries

We have seen some really efficient threats since the release of Destiny but I’m not sure there has been anything as good as Fickle Mercenaries (if played right). Fickle can be tricky to play but don’t forget it can also be used against your opponent. Resources = threats, threats = win conditions. If we pay one for fickle and your opponent pays two steal it, effectively we net a resource advantage. However now they have a threat and we don’t so we need to back this up. If we can use this tactic to entice our opponent to spend their resources, we can now safely resolve our other die and get closer to our win condition.  This is a tempo play so we need to find the advantage. If we let our opponent steal our Fickle and we only resolve a couple of dmg they can possibly match that damage and have the Fickle, we need to capitalise on this and look to put out more damage than our opponent can for the turn, remember we have only spent one resource for Fickle so we have an extra resource to delay their damage while we present max damage to them. 

Tempo through denial

One thing we often overlook is the value of denying our opponents strategy and right now we have some really powerful tools for this. We can generate huge tempo swings if we can ‘counter’ our opponents win conditions for less than it costs them to deploy it. 

Example one is in Desperate Measures, this card is absurd in the right format and that time is now, we have some really strong supports right now and it can be a huge blowout to trade a couple of damage for equal resources. In the early days we essentially valued 1 resource as two damage with cards like Lightsaber Throw and mitigation like Electroshock. We had some all-stars like Caution and Backup Muscle but they were above the curve. We often looked for a higher rate than this with upgrades because their damage over time would exceed their cost and thus, we have the board state advantage. Example, our opponent pays two resources for Resistance Crait Speeder and its expected damage over time is 7+. Our next action we play Desperate Measures and take a measly two indirect. So we have traded two damage for zero resources, our opponents board state is diminished and we still have our resources to advance our own win condition. This is a huge tempo swing and will be really hard for your opponent to come back from. 

We have other means to deny our opponents by resolving disrupt, discard and even shields. If we can get a timely disrupt against an opponent preventing them from deploying their threat until the next round we can really put them behind the beat, the same applies for timely discards preventing their threats from hitting the board that round. 

Shields are tricky to evaluate but they generally serve the same purpose. Essentially we are always racing so if can take a couple of shields and still put out damage we are gaining tempo. As long as at the end of the turn we are equal in most elements (board state, resources, damage etc) We only need to gain an advantage in one and shields help us with the damage race providing we are putting out equal damage but we are taking less overall because of our shields.

Keep in mind we don’t need to hard counter everything just to gain an advantage. One of the main ways to create tempo is efficiency. One or two extra shields to pull us ahead in the damage race or a timely cheap mitigation event will be just enough. The main focus is to get just enough ahead on tempo and maintain that all the way through to the end of the game. 

End of turn effects

Its no secret that Hyperspace Jump was one of the most brutal cards printed and balanced!! Providing your deck was geared to play fast you could always generate a huge tempo swing with a jump. It cost three resources so all you really had to do was generate more than three resources worth of value, given that two of the three come back at the start of the round it wasn’t hard to play a threat, roll and resolve some damage and then jump away. Our opponents turn was essentially nullified and we were way ahead of the beat. 

Tempo through action advantage…

I mentioned earlier that action advantage has faded from Destiny but it is still very important especially in closing the game. When the game is coming close to a resolution you need to be ahead of actions and this is where it really pays to think ahead. If you can assess the current board state properly you can predict the last turn and take an early claim forgoing some of your dice if you know you have enough next round. 

Aphra was a great example of action advantage because of all the triggers. I would often look at my board state and my opponents remaining hp and calculate how many “triggers’ I would need to finish the game. I would also calculate how many actions they would need to finish my characters. Sometimes this is where you would utilise your last remaining ‘health assets’ by forgoing your removal and taking extra damage if it meant you would close first. You only need to win by one action so keep a good knowledge of the board state and both yours and your opponent’s win condition. 

Something counterintuitive to all of this is actually to durdle and try to get some more info.  sometimes it can be worth losing an action to make the most valuable play.  Taking shields, playing block effects like riot shield or even waiting for our opponent to play an upgrade before picking our target will give us an advantage over time and again we can ride that tempo to the end.

These are just some of the examples of gaining tempo in Destiny but what I really want from this article is to put it at the forefront of your in-game decisions. Remember, gaining tempo is about gaining small incremental advantages each turn pushing us ahead of the pace and closer to our win condition than our opponents is to theirs.  

Blake aka Bouncewithout is a 2x Australian Destiny Nationals winner, member of Hyperloops play test team and co founder of DDU.network.