Thursday, 15 March 2018

Some Squads What I Wrote


November, huh?

That's a long time that's gone by since I last wrote a blog.  Almost 9 parsecs.  A long time.

Well, let's start back off slowly and I'll just share a few squads I've been playing with in all the time I've not been blogging, just to prove to myself I can actually still get round to sitting down and writing something...

Hibernation Sickness (Han's eyesight will return... in time)

This is a squad for the Original Trilogy format, which only allows ships that appear in Episodes IV-VI.  It's one of the more common alternate tournament formats and a favourite among a lot of old school X-Wing players who want to remember the the good old days of TIE Fighters and B-Wings without having to deal with the likes of Dengar, Asajj, Fenn Rau or the Ghost.

As thematic and as fun as the tournament format is, it also has one pretty major problem: Fat Han is an utter beating.  Basically the tournament format includes one of the most dominant squad lists the game has seen (a fully loaded Han Solo), but most of the things that have since kept him from dominating aren't allowed, so in many OT tournaments Han just runs wild.

This squad was shamelessly built with one key objective: beat Han.

Darth Vader & Soontir Fel are two classic Imperial Aces so their inclusion isn't too unusual, and the magic in the squad is in the TIE Bomber.  I can't remember precisely where I stole this bomber build from, but I'm going to go ahead and make a wild guess and say Duncan Howard won a Hyperspace Qualifier with it in his squad (it could be another player in another event... anyway, I saw it win something and shamelessly stole it).  

It's a FANTASTIC build for playing against a two-ship squad, especially one like Fat Han where the weighting in the opponent's squad is so heavily towards one of the two ships.  Kylo Ren lets you blind and debuff your opponent's main ship for large portions of the game, while Agent Kallus keeps your dice modded against them despite Kylo grabbing your actions.

The only other real piece of 'tech' in the squad was that I deliberately kept the bomber a cheap Scimitar so that I could take Homing Missiles on Vader and bring a bid.  I wanted to give Soontir a good chance of winning the bid against other PS9 pilots, and Homing Missile on Vader was likely to come in worthwhile against dodgy aces that my opponents brought.

And did it work?

I'm happy to report that it did!  I won the Original Trilogy tournament that I played in, and I completely ran rings around a Fat Han squad in the final.  Huzzah!

Wretched Hive

The Wretched Hive is my catch-all term for a family of scum squads that I've had fun trawling out from time to time over the last year or so.  It's intention is always the same - to feature janky combinations, odd control effects, and pilots or ships that you might not normally see played.

The reason it's been a theme I've constantly returned to is because:
  1. it's a lot of fun to fly
  2. it wins WAY more than you'd expect it to and constantly catches people out

The original Wretched Hive featured four copies of Attani Mindlink, before it was nerfed, but it laid down the template that has been followed ever since.
  • Sarco Plank - Attani Mindlink, Pattern Analyser, Spacetug Tractor Array
  • Serissu - Attani Mindlink, Heavy Scyk, Tractor Beam
  • Palob Godalhi - Attani Mindlink, Ion Cannon Turret
  • Concord Dawn Ace - Attani Mindlink, Concord Dawn Protector, Autothrusters

Two tractors beams, ion tokens from Palob, and stealing the opponent's tokens to boot.  The Concord Dawn Ace was in as the damage to actually remove opposing ships after the rest of the squad had finished toying with it.

On paper this is a janky pile, but I repeatedly found it just had so much annoying control that even strong squads would rapidly get tangled up and be unable to function.  Once the likes of Quickdraw or Fenn Rau got sucked into the spider's web their demise was just a matter of time!  Wretched Hive just had one critical problem: large ships.  Large ships make Tractor Beam and Ion Cannon sad and it was always an uphill struggle to take on the likes of Asajj and Dengar.

Would it have ever been good without four copies of Attani Mindlink powering it along?  Maybe not, and when Mindlink got nerfed to two copies per squad the Wretched Hive took a break.

I recently returned to the Wretched Hive format when I realised I'd never actually put a Kimogila onto the table.

Tractor tokens from Unkar Plutt... check.
Ion tokens from Inaldra... check.
Stealing opponent's stuff with Thweek... check.
Big gun on Dalan... check.

This modernised version of Wretched Hive reminded me how much fun I'd always had with it in the past, and I've had a couple of friends pick it up and come back with good results.  One put it onto the table against his store's best player only to be met with derision at some of the choices in the squad... then won 100-0.  Happy days!

And if you want to do it all a bit differently, maybe with a bit of Mindlink still there and some more green dice...

The spirit of the Wretched Hive lives on.  Wherever in the galaxy there is jank, wherever there is unloved pirates or luckless bounty hunters... there is a wretched hive waiting to be born.

Jump Jump Scump

This is my current project, which has gone through a few iterations to reach the form you see here...

It started out with somebody posting a version of the squad that was just three Contracted Scouts with Expertise, Rigged Cargo Chute and Anti-Pursuit Lasers.  I think it was posted mainly as a joke, but it triggered a memory in me of a similar squad that I blogged about when Attani Mindlink was just beginning to explode in popularity, so I wanted to give it a bit more of a chance.

I tinkered with the triple Expertise squad a bit over a few games but ultimately kept struggling to keep the three Scouts from getting in each other's way because they all wanted to be doing the same thing.  

Going back to the original Mindlink squad I saw that only two of his Jumpmasters were dedicated to bumping while the third brought a Torpedo threat, and that led me to swapping out the third Contracted Scout for a Scurrg bomber.  It immediately made all the difference in how the squad worked together on the table, and I've been enjoying it greatly.

A 4k huh?  Sorry about that...
Three ships, all tough, and a lot of hull and shield the opponent has to work through.  A lot of disruption and control effects, bumping and taking up space with Rigged Cargo Chutes and Cluster Mines, with all my ships able to S-Loop or T-Roll into position to sow destruction right in front of the enemy's advance.  Powerful offense in Harpoon Missiles, but also the added distraction factor of Boba Fett crew on the Jumpmaster, with my beloved A Score To Settle to help force the crits.

This squad was built from the ground up to be something I'd enjoy flying, and I've certainly succeeded in that, but there's always a little bit of me that still enjoys trying to build genuinely good squads.  I found one in that PS10 Rebel Alpha strike list I wrote about at the end of last year, and while I've not had that sort of success with this yet... yeah, I think it has potential, at least.

What's interesting is that this past weekend a semi-similar squad of triple Jumpmasters performed very well for Marcel Manzano when it took it into the Top-8 of a 100+ player Regional.  

Same squad?  No.  But not entirely unrelated, and that gives me added confidence that the good feels I'm getting from my list aren't entirely a figment of my imagination.  The humble Contracted Scout may have lost its torpedoes and droids, but it's still a phenomenally efficient package, especially given it has an EPT slot to play with.

There you go.  I can finish a blog after all.  See you again in, uh... July?  

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

"I need someone to show me my place in all this" - Wave 12 Ships: should you buy them, and what are they for?

The holiday season is upon us, and FFG are bringing us a bumper supply of presents as all five ships of the combined Wave 12 & 13 are hitting the stores on December 7th.

I won't update my buying guides until the ships have had a bit of time to settle in, but if you're wondering what the ships are going to be good for let me share my two cents.  Please bear in mind I've played as little of these ships as you have, but here are my best guesses...

Phantom II

The original Phantom shuttle has very rarely been seen without the Ghost as the main thing it brought to the table was the chance for a second round of attacks.  The Phantom II feels like they've tried to change that by giving you a shuttle that does more undocked than docked, and which you'd actually want to put on the table as a standalone ship.  There's some really interesting effects and upgrades in here; Maul and AP-5 give you some new ways of clearing stress, Chopper could be the new go-to mech for keeping a key ship alive, while Flight Assist Astromech promises to be a great boon to all the Rebel ships with a mech slot.

  • Maul - very interesting
  • Courier Droid - harmless buff to anything with an unused crew slot
  • Chopper - probably not as good as people think, but a great option to have
  • Flight Assist Astromech - potentially the best astromech in the game?

It's almost certainly worth grabbing one of these shuttles, and if that Flight Assist Astromech turns out to deliver on its potential you could be going in for quite a few more.  I've not really got any firm plans for the Phantom II itself, but there's a couple of squads sitting in my drafts waiting on those juicy juicy upgrade cards...
Dark Ghost

  • Lothal Rebel - Advanced Sensors, Twin Laser Turret, Maul, Ezra Bridger, Ghost
  • Zeb Orellios - Phantom
  • Lowhhrick - Draw Their Fire, C-3PO, Chopper

So this is an interesting remix of the Kanan/Lowhhrick model (probably a little worse) and it highlights how Maul's stress removal can help you out.  This Ghost can take an Evade with Advanced Sensors, throw a 5k, hit you with the big main gun with Ezra's focus mod, clear the stress, spend the evade, hit you with TLT and mod that with Maul and Ezra again... then be stress-free at the end of the turn to do it all again!  

I really like how Maul can not just add damage but also open up a restricted dial by clearing stress.  Do you need Advanced Sensors?  Depends how many red moves you're planning on doing.  Possibly not, and that might free points up for Lowhhrick... FCS on the Ghost and Rey for Lowhhrick?  Could be.
Roooarrgh ur roo*
  • Gold Squadron Y-Wing - Ion Cannon Turret, Flight-Assist Astromech, BTL-A4 Y-Wing
  • Gold Squadron Y-Wing - Ion Cannon Turret, Flight-Assist Astromech, BTL-A4 Y-Wing
  • Kashyyyk Defender - Tactician, Courier Droid
  • Kashyyyk Defender - Tactician, Courier Droid

*Translation: "I've got a bad feeling about this"

The BTL-A4 title works very nicely with Flight-Assist Astromech as they both limit your turrets firing out of arc anyway.  This allows you to field four robust ships with control effects tacked on, and given how well the 3 & 4 Wookiee lists are doing at the moment I think this hybrid (Y-brid?) could be a genuinely strong squad.

Alpha-Class Star Wing

I've already written about the gunboat in detail so I won't repeat myself except to say that a month or so on my opinions haven't changed at all.  Definitely not bad, but I'm not sure it's top-notch tournament strong.
  • Saturation Salvo - terrible
  • Linked Batteries - good, but a big shame it's Small-Ship Only
  • Jamming Beam - niche

A lot of players decided to buy the Gunboat years before it was even announced that FFG were making one, but if you're not in that group I'd be slow to jump on the Star Wing.  It's got a lot of options in how you build it that should be explored, but I've a feeling it's going to be a lot more awkward to use than a lot of people expect.

Since I wrote about the Gunboat a month or so ago I've refined my expected squad a little bit to add some more variety in the control effects it's bringing...
The Nu Day
  • Nu Squadron Pilot - XG-1 Assault Configuration, Flechette Cannon, Harpoon Missile, Long Range Scanners
  • Nu Squadron Pilot - XG-1 Assault Configuration, Flechette Cannon, Harpoon Missile, Long Range Scanners
  • Nu Squadron Pilot - XG-1 Assault Configuration, Flechette Cannon, Ion Pulse Missile, Long Range Scanners
  • Nu Squadron Pilot - XG-1 Assault Configuration, Ion Cannon, Tractor Beam, Cruise Missile, Long Range Scanners


A very self-contained expansion with little that crosses over to be good on other ships.  There is a good chance that only the top ace pilot Torani Kulda is going to be very strong, which is an argument for buying at least one copy of this expansion, but to be honest I don't think it's an essential buy.  
  • Saturation Salvo - terrible
  • Scrambler Missile - for funsies only
  • R5-TK - almost deliberately terrible
  • Contraband Cybernetics - fine, a nice option for those ships bringing Cikatro Vizago

If you're worried about five new ships hitting your wallet at once then the Kimogila could well be one to skip.  Torani Kulda threatens to do fantastic things with his Bullseye arc if you can get it on target but he feels a lot more like a Zuckuss than a Fenn Rau, both in terms of how he flies and how strong he's going to be.

He fits into an Attani-style squad, maybe, to replace Fenn?  But yeah, I'm struggling here...
  • Torani Kulda - Veteran Instincts, Glitterstim, Unhinged Astromech, Enforcer 
  • Asajj Ventress - Attani Mindlink, Latts Razzi
  • Contracted Scout - Attani Mindlink, Intelligence Agent

Resistance Bomber

I think the Resistance Bomber is very cool, and Trajectory Simulator genuinely changes how people play bombs, but I'm not sure it's actually good. The Resistance Bomber is hampered by how much it's entirely dedicated to bombs, and not just bombs but primarily the ones you use on revealing the dial (so no Cluster Mines or Conner Net goodies).  After Miranda Doni and Captain Nym it's actually quite nice to have a Rebel bomber arrive that may just be average, though.
  • Trajectory Simulator - unique bomb buff, very cool
  • Advanced Optics - good on Poe Dameron

The Resistance Bomber is going to be an interesting ship to see on the table and Crimson Specialist in particular can threaten a huge amount of the table with his bombs.  I'll be picking one of these up but holding fire on going in for more than that - I mostly just want to give Trajectory Simulator a try on my TIE Punishers!
Han Yolo
  • Crimson Specialist - Trajectory Simultor, Proton Bombs, Ordnance Soli, Deflective Plating
  • Han Solo - Lone Wolf, C-3PO, Luke Skywalker, Millenium Falcon, Engine Upgrade

Of all the Bomber pilots I find Crimson Specialist's ability to put bombs all around him the most interesting, and I've combined him with another bit of thinking... 5pts for a Proton Bomb is a lot to pay, but 7pt for four Proton Bombs is a lot more attractive!  It's a brave man who wants to get too close to Crimson Specialist with this loadout, and that control over a large part of the board makes Han's job of evading enemies a lot easier because he knows there's large areas they won't want to follow him into.

Or if you really want to go all-in on the bombs...
The Big Bang Theory

  • Crimson Specialist - Trajectory Simulator, Proton Bombs, Ordnance Soli, Deflective Plating
  • Captain Nym - Veteran Instincts, Trajectory Simulator, Bomblet Generator, Twin Laser Turret
  • Rebel Operative - Twin Laser Turret, Intelligence Agent

TIE Silencer

The flashiest and most obviously eye-catching of this Wave's ships, the TIE Silencer is a premium grade Starfighter that seems to come wrapped up with a premium grade points cost.  People are loving the potential of darting about at PS9 with Kylo Ren, and while I think the potential for that is a lot more exciting than the reality will be, you're definitely going to see a lot of these things on the table once they're released.
  • Debris Gambit - flavourful, but naff
  • Threat Tracker - very cool, although 3pts feels a bit much
  • Advanced Optics - very good on Poe Dameron, not so hot anywhere else

Given it's premium cost (both in points and in actual real life money) I would need to be persuaded to pick up more than one of these things, but having a TIE Silencer in your arsenal seems like something that any self-respecting Imperial player would want to have.  It's going to sit right alongside other top ace options like Soontir, Vader, Quickdraw, Whisper etc.  God damn, but Kylo Ren is an expensive pilot, though.

While everyone else seems to be getting tied up in trying to turn Kylo into a 45pt super-Soontir, I think that's a red herring.  He doesn't have an Evade action, he doesn't have a 4th green dice, he doesn't have a free Focus token... even with 3 more hull he's massively more vulnerable than Soontir Fel so sitting that many points on him feels like a trap.  

I think Kylo Ren is best fielded as a knockabout jouster and you want to keep his cost down as much as possible...
I Will Settle What You Scored (Silencer Edition)
  • Kylo Ren - A Score To Settle, First Order Vanguard, Collision Detector, Autothrusters
  • Darth Vader - Veteran Instincts, TIE/x1, Advanced Targeting Computer, Engine Upgrade
  • Omega Leader - Juke, Comm Relay

Monday, 13 November 2017

"Use your harpoons and tow cables!" - Introducing 'Triple-10s' the Rebel Alpha Strike

Guns For Hire is with us and along with the changes from the recent FAQ I'm not alone in noticing  the rise of the Scum alpha strike lists.  Former UK champion Jesper Hills took a break from terrorising us with Ion Brobots to trial Captain Nym and a couple of Deadeye Black Sun Aces,and Phil GC demonstrated the potency of his triple Kihraxz PS9 alpha strike in his recent blog.

It got me thinking a little bit about how I would respond to and counter such a squad, and that initially led me to think of the likes of Wes Janson and Poe Dameron's Black One title to try and throw off those target locks and dodge the dreaded Harpoon Missiles.  That initial first draft was looking pretty anaemic on offense though, and rapidly took on it's own alpha strike potential when I realised I could drop Poe to draft in Airen Cracken and Captain Nym alongside Wes Janson.


Phil posted his blog on the Saturday, and by the Monday my alpha striking plans starting to form.

By Wednesday I'd realised that I could save a point by switching Wes Janson for Wedge Antilles and still throw my lasers around at PS10, and that this would make a big difference to Nym's loadout by letting him use Bomblet Generator.

Two days later, and on Friday the forum member Gilarius had joined in to say he'd played the same thing, and I should drop Extra Munitions from Nym for an Autoblaster Turret.  To my mind this was the missing piece of the jigsaw and this list started niggling away at me that it was probably quite good.  I had planned to play my Sabine Ghost alongside Miranda Doni but now this thing was trying to grab my attention.

My big worry was that if I wanted to play PS10 Rebel missiles... wasn't I better off just playing the PS11 Imperial missiles (Quickdraw, Vader, Inquisitor). I tried a bit of a head to head comparison:

  • Inquisitor vs Airen Cracken - Inquisitor is better
  • Darth Vader vs Wedge Antilles - Vader is better
  • Quickdraw vs Captain Nym - Nym is probably better, but he's got a lot of work to do to make up for his weaker wingmen.

Did I really believe that Nym offered enough to mean that the Rebels could win games the Imperials might lose?  I'd played Rebel Nym for UK Nationals and really enjoyed it.  I understood Bomblet Generator and I knew his ability could be really good.  I definitely wasn't sure he was good enough to make up for flying him alongside a T-65 and a Z-95... but I started to believe it might be interesting enough to find out.

Saturday evening I hastily repainted one of my Z-95 Headhunters to match the blue and yellow colour scheme of Captain Nym, and Sunday morning I rocked up at Element Games in Stockport for their latest Taking The Sith tournament, ready to play my first ever game with this squad!
  • Airen Cracken - Veteran Instincts, Harpoon Missile, Guidance Chips (24)
  • Wedge Antilles - Adaptability, BB-8, Plasma Torpedoes, Guidance Chips (34)
  • Captain Nym - Veteran Instincts, Autoblaster Turret, Rey, Harpoon Missile, Bomblet Generator, Guidance Chips (42)

Round One: Adam Tudor - Rey & Lowhhrick

Rey and her furry compadre seem to be becoming quite a fixture in the post-FAQ meta and almost a third of the room was flying Falcons!  Adam had tweaked his build specifically to fend off a Harpoon Missile by adding C-3PO and the classic Evade title.  With 3PO, an Evade token and some help from Lowhhrick Rey only needed a bit of luck from her green dice to completely avoid a Harpoon shot.

It almost worked for Adam.  On the first Harpoon, at least.  The second Harpoon slammed him hard, though, then Wedge's torpedo followed up with another hammer blow.  Rey was wounded and died next turn to a range 1 volley of laser fire, then my ships dropped in behind Lowhhrick and quickly chased him down.

I bagged the win despite somehow managing to bump Wedge into his teammates three times in 5 turns!  A bit more carewas needed in flying the formation, it seemed.

Ordnance Used: 3 out of 3

Round Two: Glenn Coulthard - 4x Glitter/Harpoon Binayre Pirates & Contracted Scout (Tac Jammer, Rigged Cargo Chute)

This was a matchup I was very interested in.  My theory (boldly proclaimed off no actual play experience) was that Harpoon Missiles were so potent that firing a few of them early with high PS was better than having a lot of them at low PS.  Time to test the theory!

In actual fact I didn't fire a single torpedo or Missile all game.  The wildcard was the disruption his Scout could be as it tried to screen for his pirates so I set about destroying that with primary weapons to save my Harpoon splash damage for his Z-95 formation.  

By the time the Scout was dead it had all turned into a close-range furball, though, so Missiles weren't happening.  It turned into the first of many games where my raw primary weapon fire and dice mods would remove threats before they could fire and I just picked Glenns Zs off one by one.

Ordnance Used: 0 out of 3

Round Three: James Alexander - Rey & Miranda

From where we deployed I corralled James's ship to run across their back line and out the far corner, but then was waiting for them in the middle of the board when they finally emerged.

James had a big dilemma with Mirandas action, who had found herself out in front.  He could either focus with Recon Specialist and try to ride out my missiles strike or SLAM forward and hope to bump something.  He picked the SLAM but unfortunately it just left Miranda at range 1 of all my ships with no tokens and she melted in one round.

That was about the last thing James did wrong, though, and he really worked me with his excellent Rey piloting.  Wedge died and Airen lived only by a roll of double natural Evades!  

Fortunately Captain Nym kept chipping away with both main guns and turret, kept leaving bombs where Rey couldn't avoid them, and I finally sealed the win that had seemed like it should have been much more comfortable.

Ordnance Used: 1 out of 3

Poor Wedge had a bad day!

Round Four: Dean Richards - Dash & Miranda

I want to focus on two turns of this game because they highlight just how much this squad has tricks to play, and how much it's not just going all-in on landing the big alpha strike to win.

At first engagement Airen and Wedge found themselves just in range 3 of Dash but Nym was a hair's width out of range.  He had Countermeasures on Dash but I was able to sidestep that by taking Focus with Airen and Wedge, then giving Wedge his target lock in the combat phase thanks to the action Airen gave him.  Dash lost 4 shields, taking 2 shields off Wedge in return.

The next turn I looked at Dash's options - if he turned back away from me I could follow and hunt him down so I expected him to 3 bank and barrel roll, trying to get past on the flank and move behind me.  I dialled a 1 straight for Airen to keep his options open, a 1 bank on Wedge that I could flexibly use with BB8 to pressure either direction, and a 2 straight with Nym that I could barrel roll either way to track whichever side he went.

Dash did neither!  Instead he threw a 4 forward and barrel rolled to half a ship's base length in front of my firing line, looking to bump both Wedge and Nym.

It would have been a great play but I had shenanigans.  Airen's 1 forward gave him a range 1 shot at the back of Dash's base, Wedge used BB8 to bump into the back of Nym not into Dash, then Nym bumped Dash.  When Airen fired he passed an action to Nym, who barrel rolled off Dash.  Instead of bumping two ships the poor YT-2400 took range 1 shots from my whole team and exploded!

As her teammate vanished Miranda couldn't turn round and run away fast enough and Nym tagged her with a lethal Harpoon shot soon after.

Ordnance Used: 2 out of 3

I keep coming back to that match because it shows just how much value there is in Airen Cracken's ability.  That combat phase action nullified Dash's Countermeasures one turn then unbumped Captain Nym the next. 
Little Airen Cracken probably added 5-6 damage to Dash with his seemingly-innocuous pilot ability!
BTW, do you know who Airen Cracken is?  I looked him up - he's only a bleedin' General!  
Although this is from the time of the Battle of Endor when they were clearly throwing around General titles for free in a box of cereal.  So anyway it turns out that General Cracken was the dude sitting behind General Calrissian in the Falcon's cockpit (which General Calrissian had borrowed from General Solo) as the fleet jumps to hyperspace. 
Cracken's not in the cockpit later in the actual battle because there's deleted footage of him and Lieutenant Blount running to man the Falcon's turrets. 
He's even got his own LEGO minifigure!
So now you know.  Let's get back to the action...

Round Five: Dan Slobodanian - Ketsu & Asajj

Dan and I were the only unbeaten 4-0 players and as such our place in the Top-4 cut was all but guaranteed.
Me: "I think I can just joust you"

Dan: "Everyone who tries to joust me just dies"

Me: "..."

Dan: "They die really quickly"

Me: "I really think I can joust you"

Dan: "Ok.  Either way it'll be a quick game!"

*** ten minutes later ****

Me: "I shouldn't have jousted you"

Ketsu bounced Wedge onto a rock and he died without hurling a single red dice.  In return I'd started to put the hurting on Ketsu, though, and it turned out that in hurling himself forwards to close range with Ketsu and avoid my missiles he he given his Shadowcasters little choice but to carry on around the corner right into Nym's bombs.  I knew that was what he had to do too, and Airen and Nym dropped in right behind.

Some hot red dice removed Ketsu on the next turn and dug me out of the hole I'd jumped into with my decision to joust, then Nym just sat behind Asajj and chipped away.  Dan had the classic Asajj problem of having to pick his arc while I could barrel roll into either one, then the sheer speed of the Shadowcaster meant he inevitably had to accelerate away to Harpoon Missile range and that ultimately ended the game.

Ordnance Used: 2 out of 3

Semi-Final: Mike Guina - Intensity Poe, Snap Shot Nien Nunb, M9-G8 Jess

The number of X-Wings on the table was making me very uncomfortable and it didn't look very much like an X-Wing game at all as there wasn't a single Jumpmaster in the top 4 cut!

I felt a bit sorry for Mike as this match was probably the most straight-forward of the day and my higher PS firepower just ripped his ships apart.  On the first round of firing Poe took a Harpoon Missile from Airen and a range 1 volley from Wedge and died, then on the next turn my ships all rounded on Nien Nunb and he exploded as Wedge bagged yet another kill.

And as for Jess... poor, poor Jess.  She survived for one more turn with a single hull remaining before finding herself with all three of my ships pointing at her, Nym's harpoon locked and loaded, and to make matters worse she was in range 1 of two of my bomblets when they detonated!  

The first bomblet did the job.  

Ordnance Used: 1 out of 3

Final: Dan Slobodanian - Ketsu & Assaj

I looked at Dan.  Dan looked at me.  We both looked at the clock.

"Split the prizes and go home?"

"Fine by me!"

With nobody else affected by the result we final salvoed for the official champion's title (my 8 red dice beat his 6 red dice) and then we both headed off into the night.  

I'd won our meeting in the Swiss but I'm not sure either of us knew what would happen in a rematch.  I was the only person who had beaten Dan that dayand I'm sure Dan would have fancied his chances if my red dice hadn't run as hot as they did in the Swiss.  But on the other hand I'd now learned not to mindlessly joust him heads-up so wouldn't just throw Wedge away this time.

Who would have won the rematch?  Who knows.  Maybe we'll save it for another time.


I don't think I've ever had anything quite like the experience I just had in playing this list for the day.  Bear in mind that I started out having never played this squad before and I managed to go unbeaten with it from a completely standing start.  Every round I was just falling more and more in love with the list, from self-bumping my formation all over the place against Adam at the start of the day to the clinical dismantling of Mike's X-Wings in my final game.

I thought it was going to be a one-dimensional alpha strike list with a bit of Captain Nym goodness tacked on, but I learned that it was so much more.  After beating Glenn and James with barely firing a missile I had learned that the list wasn't reliant on using the missiles as a crutch but it could dogfight and win games without them.  Then the next game when Airen Cracken used his tricks to avoid Dash's defenses and wipe the dreaded YT-2400 out I was convinced that I was playing something that was actually very good indeed.

I punted the engagement on purpose against Dan in the fifth round, throwing Wedge away. And won anwyay.  And then the way that the squad just dissected the X-Wings 100-0 in my semi-final... 

It's not just an alpha strike.  In fact the only round where I really got to deliver a classic multi-ordnance alpha strike was my first game against Rey.  The threat was always there, and responding to that threat always meant the opponent leaving himselves vulnerable in other ways, but it was a real eye-opener to me just how dogged and versatile this squad proved, and I won games in a variety of different ways.  

Over the time I've been playing I'd like to think I've developed a bit of a nose for when something is 'competitive enough to have fun playing it' or 'competitive enough to be seriously good'. 

I think this squad is good.  I think this squad is very good.  

I opened up with that comparison to PS11 Imperial alpha strike lists are trying to work out if this would be able to win games that would lose.  I'm now sure that the answer is an unequivocal 'yes!'...
  • Inquisitor vs Airen Cracken - Inquisitor is better but it's closer than I thought
  • Darth Vader vs Wedge Antilles - BB-8 Wedge is bettet
  • Quickdraw vs Captain Nym - Nym is definitely better, and it's not even particularly close
That said, I'm pretty sure that if this ever did run into PS11 Imperials it would be a very tough match!  The Rebels hold the advantage against the wider field, but they'll have a tough time keeping Airen & Wedge on the table if the Imperials are firing their missiles first.

One thing I want to make clear, by the way.  I can't claim this squad as my own because although I arrived at the design myself there''s clearly a bunch of players who had already been there or thereabouts long before I ever started thinking of it (as I said up the top, it was Gilarius' existing experience with the squad that convinced me to give it a try).  I just have the advantage of having a blog and a big mouth to get the word out about it's awesomeness.

Z-95s and X-Wings that aren't Biggs.  Who knew???

Well, a few people already knew, clearly.  Now go out there and pew pew!

Monday, 6 November 2017

"Didn't we just leave this party?" - Is There Life After Nerf?

In an oddly perverse way the nerfs to several major cards in FAQ 4.40 have actually led to me using those cards a lot more since the FAQ came out.  I guess I must just like batting for the underdog team, or be a sucker for punishment or something.  Anyway, because so many people are bemoaning the loss of their favourite ships or upgrades or squads I wanted to take a minute to share some of the squads I've been pootling around with.

I'm sure that in most cases (maybe not for "Genius") there is life after nerf!


The Punishing One expansion pack took a double-whammy of a nerf in the recent FAQ, with both Attani Mindlink and the Jumpmaster 5000 itself catching a swing of the nerf bat.  When I came to update my scum buying guide I was still quite positive about both the ship and the Mindlink, though, and this squad is a good example of why that is...

When Attani Mindlink got reduced to only being on two ships in the your squad it took a big hit in efficiency - just one 'bonus' Focus token instead of two.  However there's still some good reasons to take Mindlink, I think.
  • When you can get the Focus token without taking an action (eg. Guri or Palob)
  • When you want a ship to have two Focus tokens (one from Mindlink, one from a Focus action)
  • When you know you have a ship that wants to do other actions than just Focus
  • When you want a ship to be resistant to being bumped

Those are advantages that are still quite unique to Mindlink, although you also need to keep on eye on the ships you're Mindlinking because if one of them is a weak link it could be destroyed quickly and you lose the benefit of the link. In this squad I'm putting almost all of those benefits in one place when I pair Guri with the Contracted Scout.

Guri can get me a focus without taking an action.  Guri would also like to have two Focus tokens as she lives on her green dice.  Both Guri and the Scout have other actions they'd like to do - with Mindlink, her ability and Fire Control System it means Guri is free to maximise the benefit of the new StarViper MkII barrel rolls, and the Contracted Scout wants to be dropping his Proximity Mines or barrel-rolling to block opponents.  And finally Guri is already resistant to being bumped thanks to her ability, but Mindlink doubles down on that and helps protect the Scout too!

As well as Attani Mindlink the squad also showcases that the Jumpmaster 5000 has a life away from torpedoes and astromechs.  I'm using the unique white s-loop of the Scout to threaten large areas of the table with Proximity Mines, looking for bumps on enemy ships, and providing a solid body and turret for low cost.

Jumpmasters and Attani Mindlink both took serious nerfs, but they're both still good enough to deserve time on the table!

Paratanni Rides Again

Sideways to the above squad, there was a brief discussion on the FFG forums about whether a classic Paratanni squad could survives the nerfs too!  At first glance this seems very ambitious as Paratanni was really the high point for showcasing the outrageous benefits of Mindlinking three ships, so how could it work with only two Mindlinks?

And yet when you think about it there's definitely reasons to think that it could.  The Jumpmaster in Paratanni always ran lean so losing the Torpedo and Astromech slots doesn't really hurt it, and both Fenn Rau and Asajj Ventress are in ships with great green maneuevers on their dial that can easily switch to Push The Limit.  The only real question is who you leave out of the Mindlink because there's pros/cons for all of them.
  • Fenn Rau works perfectly well with Push The Limit in Dengar squads so that's a proven Good Thing.  But on the other hand he really likes having two Focus tokens, and gets very vulnerable when bumped so Mindlink helps there.
  • Asajj Ventress has run with Push The Limit in a lot of other squads as well, and can use her extra actions flexibly for Evades, or Target Locks or to move her arc.  But on the other hand restricting her to green moves does make her quite a bit more predictable, the flexibility of doing white moves and keeping action economy is good.
  • The cheap Jumpmaster was always the little token stacker for the team, moving early in the activation phase its got the least problem with being bumped and losing their action.  But on the other hand it's doing the least good with that Focus token of all the ships.

There's probably not a wrong answer and within a ten minute window we managed to talk ourselves in and out of each one.  We ended up in the position of adding Manaroo back into the squad while Mindlinking Fenn & Asajj to each other.  

The advantage of Manaroo is that that she can use her pilot ability to kick-start the Mindlink even if she's not Mindlinked herself, so in the worst-case scenario or both your other ships being unable to Focus then Manaroo might be able to ride to the rescue of her teammates anyway!

It's definitely not as powerful as the original Paratanni - the reason it's such a hard choice who to leave out of the Mindlink is because the correct answer is 'all three, thanks!' - but it still seems playable, and once again demonstrates that you can make the nerfed ships work if you really want to.

Experimental SLAMterface

You may remember my recent efforts to jump onto playing fat turrets and bombs, which ultimately led me to playing a Lothal Rebel with Sabine Wren on board at Nationals.  

I've continued to really enjoy flying this ship and have just been searching for the best wingman to pair Sabine with.  At nationals I flew Captain Nym, but flew him very badly and got badly burned so I've been a bit reluctant to return to Nym.  I went out and bought a second VCX-100 and paired Sabine with Kanan Jarrus for a while... it worked pretty well and I won more games than I lost, but I really felt like two VCX-100 just limited my maneuvering a bit too much.

The nerf to Advanced SLAM came just at the point that I was about to give Miranda Doni a try, but undeterred I put on my best Experimental Interface face and decided to plough on regardless.

I've only played a couple of games but it immediately felt like Miranda was the perfect foil for the big VCX-100 (which I guess is why she was in the original Kel Special!).  

With C-3PO crew Miranda's late game threat is hugely potent and that gives my opponents a choice they've never had to make from my other wingmen options.  It's always been clear that you can batter the Sabine Ghost down quickly and it's just a question of how much she takes out while you do, but with Miranda as wingman it's now so much harder to win the lategame after you've had a bruising run-in with my Ghost.  But if my opponent decides to prioritise Miranda in the early game then Sabine can run wild and do a lot of damage.

So, how is Experimental Interface as a replacement for Advanced SLAM?  Well on early indication it's done fine.  When I spoke to people regularly playing Miranda they often fed back that they rarely used Advanced SLAM anyway because opponents didn't put themselves where you could SLAM-bomb them.  Experimental Interface may give me a stress to use it, but if it's having an effect on my opponent's positioning simply by sitting in my squad then the stress doesn't make a difference.

So far I've used Experimental Interface only twice, but both times it was well worth the stress, including one time that it won me the game.  The big question I need to answer is whether it's doing enough to justify taking it over a Missile and Guidance Chips or Long Range Scanners.  I'll be trying both versions out, though frustratingly it may mean having to lose C-3PO to fit the powerful Harpoon Missiles in, and it's also a very different way of flying Miranda to be looking for those Harpoon shots.  

C-3PO and Exp Interface, or Rey and Harpoon Missile?  Defense or Offense?  That's the choice I have to make.

"No Disintegrations"

The last squad I'm going to share has nothing whatsoever to do with nerfed cards, but I really like it's janky awesomeness, so just sit there and read about it anyway.  I can take very little credit for this - a friend passed it my way because he knows I like anything with Boba Fett in, and I just tweaked a couple of cards around to suit my playstyle a bit more.

The short form of this is kind of 'Ketsu/Bossk but different', but when you get under the skin this list is setting up an alpha strike that is much more brutal than anything Bossk could manage!  

Get your approach right and you can deal an incredible amount of damage.  What you're trying to tee up is Boba Fett unleashing his Cluster Missiles at Range 1, meaning he benefits from his reroll on the attack dice and also from a free Hit result thanks to Fearlessness... on both of his Cluster Missile attacks!  Mathing it out, your Range 1 strike with Boba deals an average of 7.8 hits.  7.8!

But why would your opponent ever give you that head-on joust at range 1 to use your missiles?  Well the obvious answer is 'they won't if they know what's good for them' but that's where Asajj Ventress and her Shadow Caster title come into it.  Running alongside Boba, Asajj's job is firstly to corral the opponent into Boba's arc, and then to give them a Tractor Beam token and barrel roll them into Range 1 of the dangerous Mandalorian (having taken an agility off them to boot!).  That ability to line up a killer one-two strike can deal massive damage.  My first opponent foolishly tried to joust Boba Fett with Rey only to take 12 damage and explode in a fireball!

Rey took 12 damage while Boba lost 1 shield.  The Blinded Pilot crit on Rey was especially cruel... oops!
Everything else in the list is really about giving you the action economy to both deliver that big alpha strike, and also to not just cripple over if it doesn't work out.  K4 Security Droid in particular lets you bump into the opponent and get a target lock, then have Asajj tractor beam the opponent off you for a big Cluster strike!  That you can deliver your strike when bumped, or by tractoring the opponent into range 1, really adds to just how potent the combo is and how often you'll make it happen.

It's a Firespray.  It doesn't turn very well.  You're probably going to have to k-turn more often than you want.  But when it works (and it's really not that hard to make it work) then your opponent is going to just melt away.  

Or should that be... they're going to be disintegrated?

Yes, I like that.