Author - People’s Champion
The buzz about Maul-Skilled Duelist was very interesting to follow. Everyone had a different opinion to share. My friends who play hero told me he was crazy over powered, and that villains get all the best characters. Some content creators told us that he was another great “big.” Others told us that he wasn’t all that good, and being way overhyped. Lots of opinions were flying around, so I decided to keep mine to myself (partially because my friends wouldn’t believe me when I said he wasn’t overpowered). But I will share them with you here.
My first thought was that I liked this character, for several reasons. I like Maul from The Phantom Menace much better than the TV show versions, and this card gave us that Maul. And this version of Maul was actually playable, rather than the Vengeful One version. I also liked the theme of Maul fighting two people at once with his power action. And finally, I liked the way they designed him so that his lightsaber was one of the best cards to play on him. In all, my first thought was that the design team did a good job with him.
My second thought was that I already have Darth Vader, and I put a lot of effort into collecting him. When I looked at Maul, he seemed like a lower powered version of Darth Vader-Terror to Behold. Sure, there were several distinctions. Vader's damage and resource sides were bigger, while Maul had the dual damage power action. But what Maul lacked, most importantly, was the power action. Darth Vader is strong because his dice are incredibly difficult to remove. That's the challenge most big characters have had in the past: susceptibility to removal. A well timed Easy Pickings or Entangle can end a whole round. Vader doesn't have that problem as much because he can power action his dice back in. But Maul's dice are easily removed. Sure, you can essentially use one dice twice, which is decent, but Maul's power level is just not quite there like Vader's is.
And I held this opinion for a while. But then I started seeing decks coming out, and I realized one important difference between Darth Vader and Maul: three points. The three point difference opens up a lot of options for Maul. Here is what I mean: the number of characters that can partner with an elite Darth Vader without using a negative plot could fit onto one hand until the introduction of the Nightsister Zombie in this set (and why you would use one of them is beyond me). The other characters are Greedo, First Order Stormtrooper, Battle Droid, Jawa Scavenger, and Clawdite Shapeshifter. And besides characters, the only plot that Vader can bring is Retribution. Maul, however, has dozens of partner options, and depending on those partners can bring any plot except for Calling in Favors (since there is no six point yellow character). And so in this article, rather than diving in depth into a single deck and talking about the details, I want to spend some time discussing some of the parings that you can bring with Maul where Vader is really limited.
10 Point Pairings-No Plot
Gideon Hask-This is a very aggressive pick, where you are hoping to deal a lot of damage, and hopefully kill a character early, especially since Hask becomes essentially elite when you control the battlefield.
Ahrinda Pryce-Another pick that is more aggressive, since she can flip Maul to a 3 melee and then turn it into a 4 with her special.
Neither of these characters would be my top pick. There are benefits to both, but neither really adds much to Maul himself. And since they are 10 points each, you miss out on strong plots that you can bring along.
9 Point Pairings
Wat Tambor-Wat has a really strong dice for making other characters great. 1 focus, 2 focus, and two 1 resource sides, all of which can push the damage narrative on Maul, either by giving him bigger upgrades to play, or by making his dice hit their best sides.
Watto-Watto gives Maul a lot of potential resource generation, with three sides that can pump out the money. And Watto’s power action is really good on Maul’s character dice, with a 2/3 chance of hitting melee.
Mandalorian Super Commando-The Super Commando is an interesting support character. He will give you ping damage off of playing cards on him, and he has fifty percent damage sides. He doesn’t give Maul himself much, but rather advanced damage on his own. And, of course, you get the theme of Maul leading the commandos later in his life.
Veteran Stormtrooper-Another damage centric option, with the potential to hit the 3 indirect side and spread more damage across your opponent's team. Also has two blanks, so can be rather swingy.
Mother Talzin-She is good because she can push the damage narrative by focusing your worst side into your best side. The problem with her is that if you build around her ability, your deck becomes expensive, and this deck doesn't look to make a lot of money. And add to that the fact that you would be running a mono blue deck, which have not been the strongest recently.
Retribution-The only plot that is worth playing at one point is Retribution. But, Retribution can be very good, since Maul's character dice will be a high priority for removal. Even if your opponent does remove one of your dice, you can still deal a damage, advancing your win condition. True, it won't be the three you were hoping for, but it's something.
Of these parings I would probably go with either Watto to give money, or the Mandalorian to increase your damage output. The others sound fun to try, but maybe not as a starting point.
8 Point Pairings
Executioner-The Executioner is a strong partner for Maul, synergizing melee sides, having the trooper subtype to allow cards like Measure for Measure, and getting the rerolls against low health wide decks like Ewoks.
Nute Gunray-This is a fun thematic pairing, with Nute being the wall that stands in front of Maul, absorbing the focus from him, or spending the whole game stifling your opponent's resources or cards.
Enfys Nest's Marauder-This is another yellow option, has the melee synergy, and can give you a hero card. With the Marauder paired with a big like Maul or Captian Phasma, you can always use that hero card to bring a value play like Easy Pickings. But personally I always want to bring something crazy fun like Moxie to get a second use out of the power action. Being able to resolve two of Maul's dice against two characters can be very strong.
Sentinel Messenger-Another mono blue option, but the Sentinel is a strong character, with a dice that has strong sides, and an ability that lets you play the top card of your deck. The value you get out of the messenger is high enough to make him a consideration.
Lightsaber Mastery-This is the card that made me start thinking of Maul as having some advantages over Darth Vader. When I realized the design space that they were creating, with this card as a centerpiece, I was thrilled. The idea of being able to train your characters in different forms seemed so cool. And now we have Maul who, with an eight point ally, can use this plot excellently. Using Niman Mastery to advance your damage, especially with the high damage upgrades you're looking to play on Maul, and then having Pushing Slash and Draw Closer available at all times makes this plot a lot of fun to look into.
Execute Order 66-This plot. It's a cool, thematic idea, but it can really shut down some games. But I don't want to get into that. I just want to point out that it fits, and can go well if you're avoiding pay sides on dice. And if you bring red, you can have six copies of Execute Order 66 in your deck.
My favorite option for a partner for Maul, overall, is the Executioner with Lightsaber Mastery. If you are facing a several wide deck like droids or especially Ewoks, the combo between Maul's and the Executioner's abilities means you could have a snowball round where you can eliminate several characters in a single round. And being able to use Lightsaber Mastery to up the ante on playing Niman Mastery sounds like incredible fun.
7 Point Pairings
First Order Stormtrooper-The Stormtrooper is a solid partner for Maul if you are looking for a three point plot. He has decent damage, a resource side, and all the access to trooper cards. The only reason you would run him over the Executioner, however, is so you could bring a three point plot.
Greedo-The yellow option. He can turn a close game with his ability, but he doesn't have a resource side, which makes him significantly worse in my opinion. So unless you really want to play the Darksaber, I would play the Stormtrooper.
Armored Reinforcement-Easily one of the best plots in the game, giving you access pretty early to an extra support, and everything it can bring to the table. I probably wouldn't run this plot, since Maul isn't typically looking for supports but for upgrades.
Profitable Connection-This is the reason you would bring a seven point character, for the extra resource round one. Most significantly this plot will allow you to play Maul's Lightsaber on him as your first action, giving you that significant damage boost first thing in the game.
Maul-Skilled Duelist isn't quite a Terror to Behold, but he is frightening in his own right, being able to dish out a lot of damage. And what he brings to the table over Darth Vader is a wide array of potential partners and plots, that entirely shift the dynamic of how you can play him. So explore the possibilities, and have fun with this new character.
Thanks for Reading!
Author - People’s Champion