Thursday, 28 April 2016

"I'm not such a bad pilot myself!" - Pilot Skill and the Wave 8 metagame

The Regionals season is underway with the last few weekends bringing us results and winning squads from several big events across the USA.  What makes this particularly interesting is that Regionals is the first big test of the new Wave 8 ships and metagame, so I had a sharp eye out for what was changing as players got their hands on the shiny new toys of Wave 8.

The answer to "what has changed?" seems to be "a hell of a lot".  I've pulled together all the top lists that I'm aware of from Regionals, and then gone back to Store Championships season in February and pulled what is hopefully a representative sample of squads from the wide variety of lists played in the smaller Store Championships.  I'm comparing approximately 180 ships in Regionals with approximately 150 ships from my sample of Store Championships to see what has changed. 

The most immediate thing that I noticed was that Pilot Skill seemed to be much lower in Regionals than it was in the Store Championships just a couple of months ago, at least at the top end.  Down at the lower reaches there was a peak at Pilot Skill 2 in Store Championships that has now been replaced by two big stacks of ships at PS3 and PS4.

Pilot Skill 2 to 4

Digging under the numbers what appears to have happened is almost a total collapse in the number of Y-Wings bringing Twin Laser Turrets (both Rebel and Scum variants), and in supporting Bandit Squadron Pilots in their Z-95 Headhunters.  In the Wave 8 metagame almost all the ships left at PS2 are Lambda Shuttles with Omicron Group Pilot.

The surge of PS3 is entirely down to the popularity of the generic pilots in the Wave 8 big ships, with the Jumpmaster 5000's Contracted Scout accounting for approximately 1 in 6 of all ships fielded!  Joining the Contracted Scout is Lothal Rebel, the cheapest way to field the mammoth VCX-100 "Ghost".

What's happened at PS4 is very interesting, though, and I think needs to be seen in the context of the threat from Contracted Scout that has arrived at PS3.  What are known as 'Crack Swarms' were already a successful option before Wave 8 arrived but the huge front-loaded damage output of the Crack Swarm makes it one of the strongest options for destroying a Contracted Scout before it can fire.  Joining the classic TIE Fighter 'Crack Swarms' is something new and exciting, though - a Rebel 'Crack Swarm'!  Nicknamed "Chihuahua's" we are seeing flights of five Green Squadron A-Wings all kitted out with Test Pilots to run both Adaptability (to raise to PS4) and Crack Shot.  Joining both variants on the the Crack Swarm to ensure that PS4 is very crowded is the sucker punch-flinging TIE pilot "Wampa".

Pilot Skill 8 to 11

What is happening at the top end of Pilot Skill isn't directly affected by the changes at lower Pilot Skills, but is possibly even more telling.  First of all, fewer ships are in these top brackets at all: in my sample of Store Championship lists 47% of all ships were Pilot Skill 8 or more and 29% were true 'aces' and fighting at Pilot Skill 9 or more, frequently using Veteran Instincts to jostle for a higher position in what became known as "The Pilot Skill War".

Well, early results from Regionals suggest that the Pilot Skill War has ended, or at least that an uneasy truce has broken out.  From 47% of ships at PS8+ in Store Champs it's down to 36%, and more tellingly only 14% of pilots are PS9 or above in Regionals, less than half the 29% that was the case just a couple of month ago!

I can back that up with another incredible statistic.  Outside of TIE Phantoms, who need Veteran Instincts to get best use from their Advanced Cloaking Devices, in Store Championships a stunning 16% OF ALL SHIPS were running Veteran Instincts as their Elite Pilot Talent.  In Regionals it's only 4%.

Instead of ace pilots scrambling over each other with Veteran Instincts to try and climb as high as possible up the Pilot Skill tower Regionals has seen a slide back down to PS8, and also a change in what is happening at PS8.  

During Store Championships all the true aces were scrapping it out at Pilot Skill 9 to 11, and in fact the most common PS8 pilot in my sample was Miranda Doni in her regenerating K-Wing.  In Regionals, though, the Twin Laser-Turreted Miranda has suffered same fate as the cheaper PS2 Y-Wings and we've seen the bracket taken over by nimble fighters.  The Inquisitor is another Wave 8 ship that has come in and become a firm favourite with Imperial players and Omega Leader was already popular but has cemented his place by often being the saving over a more expensive ace that allows you to also field "Wampa".  In addition to this Carnor Jax is no longer the poor cousin to Soontir Fel's Interceptor as his ability causes the Jumpmasters some serious problems, while Howlrunner also picks up some more play as the TIE 'Crack Swarms' become more popular.

All in all PS8 is where a lot of action is right now, with the slightly cheaper aces available allowing players to squeeze just that little bit more power into their squads at the expense of some positioning against other aces.  With aces overall dropping as a % of pilots it's perhaps sensible that they'd refocus away from hunting each other to ensuring that they can handle larger squadrons of cheap pilots instead.

Ship Changes

Slicing the data by ship types rather than pilot skill really only reinforces the changes that I talked about above.

For the Rebels the humble A-Wing has been the big beneficiary of the new meta, becoming the go-to ship for low PS rebels.  What's dropped out is virtually all of the Twin Laser Turrets: 16% of all ships in my Store Champs sample were K-Wings or Y-Wings with Twin Laser Turret, but that's now only 4%.  There's also been a big drop in the dogfighting T-70s and those swarms of Z-95 Bandits.

There hasn't been such a seismic change in the Imperial ships being used, with the possible exception of Darth Vader falling out of favour to be replaced by cheaper aces and make way for the TIE Advanced Prototype coming in.  There's also been a drop in the number of Decimators, which is balanced off a little by slightly more Lambda Shuttles to ferry the Emperor around instead.

For the Scum, overall the times are good and more players are using Scum than ever before due to the allure of the powerful Jumpmaster 5000.  These tables are by ship and so some Scum pilots are 'lost' in the rebel numbers of HWKs and Y-Wings, but even allowing for that there are approximately double the number of Scum ships getting onto top tables in Regionals than was the case before Wave 8 arrived.  With 14.4% of all ships played the Jumpmaster 5000 is the second most heavily played ship in Regionals!  Not bad for a debutant, and with the low cost of a TIE Fighter if you were to rank the ships by the weighting of how many points were spent then the Jumpmaster 5000 would be the top dog by a distance!

Rounding Up

All of this data comes from just the first few Regionals, and we've a long season ahead of us for all of this to change.  But even at this early stage I'm finding the changes really interesting and surprising.  Some of this was easy to predict - that the Jumpmaster would make a big splash seemed almost certain once the 'Triple Jumps' squad concept broke out.  Some of the changes I'd been able to foresee as a result of the Jumpmasters coming in (Twin Laser Turrets taking a big hit, Regen Rebels suffering) but some have been really pleasant surprises (the rise of the A-Wing and the demise of Veteran Instincts).

Overall I'm really enjoying watching the X-Wing metagame reform and coalesce around PS4 and 8, instead of 2 and 9, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this story continues to develop as the metagame wheel turns.

There's just one last thing I want to end on.  In all of these results from the Regional Championships that I've shared, I have to own up and admit that I've ignored one of the tournaments.  The Regional in Marietta, Georgia didn't fit the pattern of changes as neatly as the others, with the metagame there really a halfway hybrid between Store Champs and Regionals.  We saw the low-end shift towards Pilot Skill 3 and 4, but the top end of the tournament still saw extensive use of Veteran Instincts and aces trying to out-ace each other.  This is an important thing to note for players trying to plan their own strategies off the back of what I've shared: experiences may vary, so know your own local metagame!  

Until next time: may the Force be with you.  

Saturday, 9 April 2016

"You can't win, but there are alternatives to fighting" - A Magic perspective on Draws in X-Wing

There has been a disturbance in the Force; a recent update to the tournament rules contained one hugely important change: Intentional Draws (IDs) are now legal.

Previously, agreeing with your opponent to draw a round of X-Wing was considered to be collusion, as both players were agreeing to fix the result of a match to their mutual benefit, hurting other players in the tournament who might otherwise have finished ahead of whichever player lost in their meeting, but now both will draw.  The changes to the rules make it entirely legal for players to agree to do this, helping each other out at the expense of players on worse records who might have otherwise hoped to squeak past them at the final hurdle.

This has caused huge controversy among many in the X-Wing community, highlighting a rift between a growing number of serious competitors and those who prefer to live by the game's unofficial straplineof "Fly Casual".  The back and forth has been quite unpleasant at times, for those unaware of it, but I think I can sum up the pros & cons of the argument quite succinctly:

Pro Intentional Draws
  • Being able to take the safe bet of an Intentional Draw to guarantee a prize is a 'reward' for the best players who have won all their rounds so far.  If you didn't want to lose out to players who have taken an ID then you should have avoided losing.

  • If it wasn't possible to agree to Draw then players could just play to create a draw anyway, eg. by flying in loops around the table for an hour without shooting at each other.  It's going to happen some of the time anyway, so you might as well make it legal.
  • Allowing IDs are how some other tournament systems run, most notably Magic: The Gathering.  If it's what Magic does then X-Wing should do it too.

Against Intentional Draws
  • Intentional Draws are elitist and make it easier for groups of friends/teammates to conspire to fix the results of a tournament.  They help the two players who get the draw but they hurt far more people who might have had a chance to play for a prize, and are now certain to finish outside the prizes.

  • This is an X-Wing tournament, where people come to play X-Wing.  Rewarding people for refusing to play a game of X-Wing is rubbish.  Worse still, you're rewarding people for basically being too scared of losing to play X-Wing.

  • Fly Casual.  This isn't Magic:The Gathering.  There isn't $25,000 on the line.  Don't be a dick.

As so many of the people in the Pro-ID camp have invoked the argument that IDs have existed for decades in Magic tournaments, I decided to call on some of my friends who are among the most prominent players and personalities in the Magic: The Gathering (and other TCGs) community to ask them for how they felt about IDs.

Neil Rigby
- 10+ Pro Tour appearances, 3 Magic World Championship appearances.  Contributer to The Blue Envelope Podcast

"I think IDs are left over from when judging and play was much more lax and whilst I obviously take advantage of them when possible would be fine if they were no longer a thing. There is the difficulty of policing it still and that's what would need the most looking at.  IDs are awful for the spectacle of the game with final rounds, that should be most exciting, meaning less."

Glen White
- Gordian Knot Games, tournament organiser for premier Magic events & European Magic: The Gathering Grand Prix

"My understanding for Magic is that they are allowed because they are difficult to police. In all other ways they feel unsatisfying. It should be noted that in some other TCGs they aren't allowed. However, I receive very few complaints from people about IDs so my inclination would be to allow them. They don't really ruin any spectacle, just change the focus to other tables. The real spectacle comes in the top 8 anyway.

As a judge my thoughts go to the person who has to make a call about an illegal ID. I'm guessing this would entail a DQ for two people just about to make top 8. That's a difficult trigger to pull for an experienced judge let alone a store owner running a fairly small event."

Rich Hagon
- Magic: The Gathering coverage supremo

"I don't honestly see how this isn't a straightforward issue. I genuinely don't believe there's much debate about those answers in terms of IDs not being ideal. The arguments are well-rehearsed, including being rewarded for NOT playing the game they're there to play, willful manipulation/perversion of a system that rewards winning more than losing, but occasionally rewards not playing even more than that, reducing the enjoyment/opportunities for everyone at 3-1 etc...   And, outside the world of Expected Value, the whole idea of IDs is entirely alien to an outside audience:  'What are you playing?' 'Nothing, because we're good at playing, so we're not.' 

It's hard to imagine a games company ever saying, 'hey, you know what would be cool? If we could get people to not play our game, and stop other people who are playing our game from continuing to play our game, making them go home instead while the people who aren't playing our game wait to play our game a bit later. Then the people who were forced to stop playing our game, potentially prematurely, can go home and tell everyone what a great time they had.' 

I don't believe the arguments that IDs are a net good are remotely valid. BUT, the policing issues are problematic for sure, and I can well imagine a company really struggling with this. In the 'real world', in part because of the existence of gambling, 'IDs' or their equivalent are harder to complete without actual criminal proceedings, since collusion is fraud, plain and simple. In gaming, the 'victim' is the 3-1 player, and the two 4-0s colluded to defraud them of the chance to win a prize. For the record, I did this at the 2HG prerelease, agreeing to split the final, thus guaranteeing my share of the first two prizes, and ensuring that nobody at 3-1 could possibly get to second. (We won the 'exhibition final', thanks for asking.) There was 'money' available to the best 'players of the game', and we decided not to play (officially) in order to ensure we got that 'money' (boosters).  As the rules stand, we would have been dumb not to do this, but nobody could seriously imagine this was all marvellous. 

The bigger question is whether IDs are a necessary evil, not whether they are somehow inherently a good thing - they are not."

Rob Wagner
- The Blue Envelope Podcast

"People will largely play to the tournament structure they're in. Swiss rounds with a top x seems like it'll invariably lead to situations where IDing is a better option for both players. I think allowing them is better than trying to make people fight human instinct in an irrational way.  I'd like to point out that I'm saying "given this tournament structure, I think it'd be difficult to not have IDs". I'm not saying "IDs are a good thing". I don't know what a tournament structure looks like that doesn't make IDs attractive or even an option."

Oliver Gehrmann
- One-man coverage whirlwind for Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh and formerly WOWTCG

"I truly hate intentional draws (as someone who's played a game that didn't have them, another game that did have them and a third game that didn't have them and that later added them to the game).

I prefer games that don't have draws whatsoever.  If you allow for draws, but try and prohibit intentional draws (this is what YGO has done), you're running into the issue of the judges having to decide whether the draw was intentional or not and that can be extremely hard to do. It is "less than ideal" and that's the nicest way I can put this.  So yes, at the end of the day, it's more a policy issue than anything else as it's hard to argue whether they are a "good thing" in the first place. They are not."

Craig Jones
- Magic: The Gathering Pro Player & coverage writer

"The game should do whatever gives everyone a level playing field. If players have the incentive to draw and it's easy to play in a way that results in that outcome then players are going to do it. Then you have an awkward situation of trying to get players to behave in ways that are detrimental to their tournament success without being able to enforce it. (Cheating is easy to identify and punish. Players colluding places an extra burden on the judge to read the game and is far too easy to get it wrong - for Magic anyway, might be different for X-wing).

IDs place everyone on a level playing field - if the best possible tournament play is to ID, everyone can take that option, not just the people with teams that are savvy enough to know how to engineer it with team mates.

That said, it always looks horrible to onlookers.

Personally I think the way to fix the problem is to get the incentives to line up with what you want the players doing. If you want them to play rather than draw, then make it an incentive to do so. Magic has done more of this recently. The player going first has an advantage, so giving the choice in the elimination rounds to the person who finished higher gives some incentive to play in some circumstances (which happened in the last round of the last Magic Pro Tour.)

The other way to mitigate the "lockout" problem of IDs is to do swiss properly. It used to infuriate me at swiss-only tournaments in the past where TOs would only run enough rounds to get to the point with one player standing alone at the top of the rankings. That is not a swiss tournament, that's a single elimination tournament. The same applies to swiss with a cut to top 8. If you're having scenarios where the 8 players with 4-0 records are able to lock out everyone else by IDing the last round, the tournament did not have enough swiss rounds.

My rule of thumb with any swiss system is that a player should be able to lose the first round and still be able to win/make the cut for top 8. Otherwise you might as well just have single elim."

An Unintended Solution to Intended Draws

So it turned out that they pretty much all agreed on the subject: IDs are a bad thing, but in Magic they're a necessary evil.  This is because in Magic it's relatively common for games to play to a draw anyway - each round is 'Best of 3' and if you run out of time at 1-1 then, well, it finishes 1-1.  If IDs were banned in Magic then you would have players trying to engineer them during games to try and ensure they ran out of time with the scores even, and asking judges to tell which players are doing that on purpose and which are innocent victims is far too difficult.

However, as the discussion wound down something interesting happened.  Being games addicts the Magic players weren't going to settle for just talking about the problem of IDs in X-Wing.  They were going to try and solve it.

The one piece of information I had given them about X-Wing was that drawn games are actually very rare, particularly relative to how often they occur in Magic.  So if IDs were bad, and if the reason you had to have IDs was that you couldn't tell them apart from genuine drawn games... then what if there weren't actually that many drawn games already?

Thomas Harle

- Magic: The Gathering veteran

"If unintentional draws are incredibly rare in x-wing then can they just not create a decider (most damage dealt etc.) then remove draws from the game entirely?  Obviously MTG is complex enough that a tiebreaker based on damage would favour aggro decks over control/combo but it isn't that much different to the current modo clock system that favours quicker to pilot decks over slower... if that change was made in MTG people would moan but the game would still be effectively the same thing, just with a slightly worse gameplay experience and a slightly better tournament experience, imo."

Tim Willoughby
- Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour coverage presenter

"I'd be more inclined, given the rules set that Dave outlined, to either produce a rule to completely eliminate draws, or to create a strong disincentive to draws (like them being worth zero points). 

It may sound crazy (and may in fact BE crazy - I haven't played X-Wing, so I don't really know), but what would happen in X-Wing games if there was a rule to say that in the case of a tie on points, whoever went first loses, or something like that? At that point you have slightly diminished the advantage of going first, and created a clear incentive for one player to be aggressive if you ever have a weird castling mirror. Assuming that a castling player can't realistically hold a match to 0-0 easily, it at least forces action. In a more regular game each player knows what they need to achieve - it's just that the player who started with an advantage (obviously you can switch it so the player going 2nd loses if going 2nd was clearly better without the rule) has a little more to do.

R&D at WotC have said on multiple occasions that if there were a way to reasonably eliminate draws from competitive Magic, they would. However, that would require so major a set of changes to the rules that it is unlikely ever to happen in paper Magic. If the adjustments needed in other games rules sets to get rid of draws is small, I think it almost always makes sense to do so"

Craig Stevenson
- Former Magic: The Gathering UK National Champion, former editor of

"I agree with the consensus, and agree that it's pretty much impossible to avoid them in Magic as policing is impossible.  I also agree that eliminating draws completely is likely the best solution for x wing (I have played both mtg and x wing, so glad to see the latter thriving). 

In my PTQ grinding days, I once was refused an ID at 4-1 and subsequently lost the match and top 8 spot. My entitlement was huge. I was LIVID. Even today I still hold a grudge against my opponent, despite knowing it's an irrational thing based on a wholly ignorant and asinine viewpoint that I no longer hold. My point is that the ID system in mtg is flawed even for those ultra-competitive players who see a top 8 slot as a god-given right after an x-0 start."

Wrapping Up

I really like Tim Willoughby's suggestion about using 'who goes first' as the decider, although I would adapt it to be Initiative that decided the winner, in event of a tie on MOV.  Initiative already has a role in the game of deciding what happens first in event of a tied game state, and the decision of who takes initiative is already one of balancing pros and cons, and that's after you've made other decisions about how much initiative matters to you and if you need to come in under 100pts to ensure you get to decide.

Tim might have no experience of X-Wing, but he's a smart man who knows his games and his organised play, and he could well have hit on a workable solution.  IMHO

Anyway, I'll give the last word to one man who probably knows better than any of us what the issues are that FFG have faced in making the decision to allow Intentional Draws in the first place, because he's been in those boots before with several other games...

Ben Drago

- Former Head of Organised Play for Upper Deck and Cryptozoic

"Intentional draws: 
1) Give an advantage to groups of players because it's easier to manipulate pairings/standings
2) Overvalue earlier rounds of tournaments
3) Hurts growth and legitimacy because explaining IDs via coverage is very difficult 

However, I don't think asking tournament staff to evaluate if a draw is intentional or not is a good idea. That is very hard to do perfectly, and friends who get paired together are much more likely to force a draw that benefits them. 

I agree that the best solution is to eliminate all draws. It didn't break Vs. or WoW, and eliminates the advantage of friends getting paired together and being able to choose the optimal result."

Sunday, 3 April 2016

"Bounty Hunters. We don't need that scum" - Bringing 4-LOM and Zuckuss to the table

I've developed a nasty habit of only posting a blog when I've got War & Peace to write, which I'm going to try and break up a bit.  This time is going to be much shorter and just look at something I'm mulling over at the moment, namely Wave 8's new G1-A starfighter and specifically the two ace pilots; Zuckuss and 4-LOM.


Just before Wave 8 was released a friend of mine played Keyan Farlander against me, and so when I saw 4-LOM he struck me almost immediately as something a bit similar.  The B-Wing and the G-1A are very similar basic ships in terms of both their stats and dial, and both Keyan and 4-LOM are pilots whose abilities 'unlock' a lot of the powerful red maneuvers on their respective dials by giving you a positive benefit for the stress you receive.

My initial approach to building a 4-LOM ship was that I was pretty sure I would want to be pulling red maneuvers most turns in order to build stress to pass off onto opponents.  This fit into the profile of being a tight-turning close quarters fighter, and it also made sense for 4-LOM as I would need to stay close to the enemy to hand them my stress with 4-LOM's pilot ability at the end of the turn.

This is kind of a stripped-down basics for the 4-LOM build, in that many of the upgrade slots are blank.  It's being driven by one key fact, which is that pulling all those red maneuvers will leave me unable to take actions: that means I want both Outlaw Tech and Fire Control System to give me Focus and Target Lock tokens without spending actions.  Outlaw Tech is a crew card that I think has really found it's perfect spot in the G1-A, which has some of it's most useful maneuvers coded red.  If you've any intention of using those maneuvers a lot, which the stress-loving 4-LOM is going to do, then the Outlaw Tech becomes something close to compulsory, I think.

Focussing on performing red maneuvers also means that I probably don't care much about the Mist Hunter title for this version of the G-1A.  Adding a Barrel Roll for just 1pt is usually a great bargain and fits the 'close quarters' profile of the build, but if I'm taking red maneuvers then I can't use my Barrel Roll action.  I'm not saying Mist Hunter is bad for 4-LOM, but it's something I'd only take if I had a spare 1pt floating around at the end.

As well as not taking the Title I don't think there's a Modification that I particularly want for this build, but there are a couple of optional extras that I think you can bolt on without investing a ton of extra points.  Both Lightning Reflexes and Inertial Dampeners open up more options for a one-shot special manuever that will also stress you.  The only thing really holding me back from taking this would be that 4-LOM only has a middling pilot skill, so there won't be much that has changed between you programming your dial and having to decide if you need to change your move.  Either works and they both have their strengths and weaknesses.  If you take the Inertial Dampeners then it does leave you with the Elite Pilot Talent slot open to add either Adaptability or Veteran Instincts to push your Pilot Skill up a bit.

What you get with this build is a 31 point fighter that dives in close and loves to rumble with opponents, handing out stress tokens to slow the enemy down then turning hard to stay on their tail.  He won't survive long if he tries to take on the whole enemy fleet by himself, but the stress will help him to prey on any lone ships that strayed away from their pack.

It's possible to spend a little bit more on 4-LOM if you really want to, and most of these higher cost builds are about adding Advanced Sensors into the System slot, which allows you to take an action before your red maneuver gives you stress.  With the addition of that action then two obvious directions open up, depending on which action you want to perform:

1) you can add an Evade action before your stress kicks in after the red maneuver, and you can compensate for the loss of your Fire Control System by playing something like Lone Wolf or Predator in your Elite Pilot Talent slot.  If the basic 4-LOM build isn't too durable then adding the Evade actions can definitely help with that, especially with Lone Wolf to help as well.

2) you can pick up the Mist Hunter title for that Barrel Roll and extra close quarters maneuvering.  Being able to barrel roll before you perform a hard turn can make a big different to where you end up and whether somebody is in arc or not.  The downside for going after this highly maneuverable build is 4-LOM's low pilot skill, which you could compensate for by playing Veteran Instincts to at least get up to PS8, although that's still not enough to get the jump on the real aces doing the rounds.


I was immediately attracted to exploring 4-LOM builds so it took me a while to come around and think about playing Zuckuss instead.

On the face of it his ability to add a dice to both the attacking and defending dice isn't that hot - you've got an extra chance of rolling a hit but they've got a chance of rolling an evade, so it doesn't add up to a whole load of extra damage.  Where this symmetry is broken is if you can use this ability when you've got a better way of modifying your dice than the defender, so that you've more chance of generating a hit with your extra red dice than they do an evade with their extra green dice.

The table below shows the difference in damage between rolling 3 dice vs different Agilities, or 4 dice with Zuckuss' ability but the defender getting an extra dice as well.

Without a Target Lock or Focus then Zuckuss barely adds any damage, but ff you can gain an advantage over the opponent in dice modification then Zuckuss' ability makes a lot more sense.  Firing with a Target Lock against a ship with no Focus tokens is worth an average of 0.75 extra damage, although this is affected by the defenders Agility.  with Zuckuss really paying off most against the higher Agility opponents who you weren't otherwise going to hit, dealing an extra 0.9 damage.  If you can double-down on dice modification with a Focus AND Target Lock then Zuckuss becomes a more reliable 0.6 additional damage per shot against opponents of any Agility.

There's multiple options for giving you the extra action efficiency to outgun your opponent in terms of dice modification, with perhaps the most obvious being K3 Security Droid, Fire Control System to add target locks, or Predator/Dengar to otherwise reroll your dice.  This leaves you free to perform a Focus action and double down for maximum effectiveness with your extra dice.  With Zuckuss adding extra dice you really want a Target Lock that can reroll any number of dice over Predator or Dengar, but that decision may be made by other factors.  

You've effectively got a choice of three places you can get the modification from (EPT, Crew, System) so what other upgrades you want may be a factor, and also that although Predator and Dengar allow you to reroll fewer dice than a Target Lock they don't require you to focus onto a single target, leaving you free to hit targets of opportunity as they present themself, which may be better for a mid-PS pilot who can't really reposition easily with his actions.

With the G1-A's dial having so much red the decision of where the Focus comes from could matter as well, because it may still force your hand to play Outlaw Tech.

This is a really basic Zuckuss build, with some upgrade slots open to be taken.  Zuckuss isn't quite as wedded to running red maneuvers the whole time as 4-LOM is so the Mist Hunter titles makes a bit more sense.  If I was looking to beef this build up some more then I'd say a Hot Shot Blaster packs a mighty punch with Zuckuss' extra dice and modifiers behind it, but the reason I'd probably avoid playing it is that you're adding a lot of extra cost to the G1-A without hugely adding to damage or survivability.  I think the G1-A, for both 4-LOM and for Zuckuss, is something to keep pretty cheap and efficient without trying to overload it.

One other build I like for Zuckuss is to turn him into a bounty hunter who specifically preys on the high agility aces by bringing 4-LOM to the fight as a sidekick to prevent them from spending Focus or Evade tokens and push your extra damage through.  What's extra-powerful about this is that it's one of the few ways of forcing the situation where your opponent doesn't have a Focus to spend on defense, which is a big boost to Zuckuss' extra dice damage against the high agility targets.  You can then go even further and take advantage of your Evade action on the G1-A to play Juke as well!

This ace-hunting loadout costs the same as the Predator & Outlaw Tech version of Zuckuss but deals more damage much more reliably, especially against the high agility targets like Soontir Fel.  But that extra firepower comes at a price, namely that you are now trying to avoid red maneuvers rather than trying to pull them, as you need to be able to make an Evade action to use Juke, and also that 4-LOM will hurt you when you use him to strip Focus off the enemy.

Ionising yourself with 4-LOM isn't a lot of fun, but if you think you're facing Soontir Fel then bringing a pilot who is an expert in nailing those fast-moving Interceptors could be helpful.  Just, as with 4-LOM, the hard part of chasing aces with the G1-A is that your pilot skill is too low.


What I see in the G1-A, with both their aces, is a ship that is looking to rumble, but also a ship that definitely needs help to make it effective when it's stressed because so many of the best maneuvers on the dial are red.  Cards that add efficiency without actions are prime for the G1-A aces and in Outlaw Tech, Fire Control System and Predator I think you get the core of the dice modification that you need.  Advanced Sensors unlocks a host of more flexible builds but it adds cost that I'm not sure the G1-A justifies.

I still prefer the cheaper 4-LOM for his stress-giving ability but there is a signficant boost in damage output for those prepared to make Zuckuss work for them.  I said in a previous blog that I would deliberately be trying to experiment with asking new questions of my opponent, and that's why I'm going to be giving 4-LOM a run out first. I'd love to hear what you've come up with for either of these guys, though!