I'm in a difficult spot with my X-Wing at the moment because I'm struggling to find a way to enjoy playing the game in the current competitive environment.
I was one of the early adopters of the 'Commonwealth Defenders' list but although I've never lost a tournament game with TIE Defenders I just don't enjoy playing them so I've been looking for something else to play. Unfortunately it turns out that the one thing I like less than playing with Ryad & Vessery is playing against Ryad & Vessery and I feel like the current tournament environment is very toxic and restrictive of viable lists, probably even more than it was when we had Jumpmasters in the summer. There's far too many lists that find the TIE Defenders to be bulletproof, and with everyone else trying to kill Defenders by swinging huge attacks there's even more options that just get swatted out of the sky by the 'anti-Defender' lists.
That's been the underlying cause behind my throwing things onto the table like Attani Mindlink (which is good) and the T-70 X-Wings (which are bad) in recent months. I've been thrashing around like the T-1000 in the foundry at the end of Terminator 2, trying out every possible form I can think of in the hope that one will be able to survive the searing fire of this metagame.
After the T-70s gave me very little joy I turned my attention towards the other half of the Heroes of the Resistance expansion: the Millenium Falcon. Courtesy of this expansion I've now got two YT-1300s (as I'm sure many of you do) and I wanted to explore the possibilities of running them both at the same time. This past weekend provided the perfect opportunity to experiment in this vein, with a casual post-Christmas 10-man tournament that allowed players to change their lists around between rounds.
4 rounds of Swiss with 8 different Falcons? I was ready to rise to that challenge!
ROUND ONE vs Dan Sievers
(Miranda/Corran - the Worlds #2 list)
Lando Calrissian (YT-1300) - Push The Limit / Kyle Katarn / C-3PO / Millenium Falcon (Evade) (54)
Resistance Sympathiser (YT-1300) - Rey / Gunner / Smuggling Compartment / Black Market Slicer Tools (46)
The objective of this list is action economy, with Push The Limit, Lando Calrissian, Kyle Katarn and Rey all contributing to letting both ships take fully modified attacks each turn - in a world of TIE Defenders you need to put a lot of pressure on their green dice and that starts by ensuring your red dice come up as hits. In theory my two ships could take 6 'actions' per turn - Lando with Focus from Kyle, Target Lock and PTL for Evade // Resistance Sympathiser with Focus from Rey, Target Lock and Slicer Tools thanks to Lando's ability!
Tying Lando Calrissian to green moves means that his Falcon is going to be tough but slow and predictable on the table and I could see my opponents bumping me a lot by sitting where I couldn't get past with a green move. Kyle Katarn and Rey would help me in this situation, providing Focus tokens to my ships even if they get bumped.
My list was causing Dan problems right from the moment we lined up, with the Black Market Slicer Tools a real concern for his Push The Limit build of Corran Horn as it threatened to easily push two damage cards past his green dice and shields. It turned out that Dan was perhaps a little too scared of the Slicer Tools, though, because his decision to avoid Corran stressing himself with Push The Limit left him defenceless against my normal attacks.
My plan in the early game was to slow-roll my start and stack some focus tokens on Rey crew for later use. Dan had been slow to approach at first but when he realised I was only getting stronger each turn with Rey he put his foot down a bit with Corran and my Falcons moved to engage.
The first engagement played out in a way that was decisive for the game, and it's what I took a picture of. My Falcons both target-locked Miranda with the intention of hammering her down as I was wary of all her ordnance but when Dan moved Corran into range of both my ships I changed plan. Dan was heading right for an asteroid on his next turn and Corran had to barrel roll out of the way. Dan decided he didn't want to Push The Limit and risk my Black Market Slicer Tools, so Corran was sitting there without any tokens in range of both my ships.
My Falcons might have had their target locks set on Miranda but a naked Corran was too tempting a target and they both unloaded, stripping Corran's shields away.
Dan never really recovered from that target switch - he deliberately bumped Corran into Lando the next turn, regenerating a shield with R2-D2 and limiting me to just one shot, but now the Resistance Sympathiser had closed to range 1 with Target Lock, Focus & Gunner and pushed Corran back down. One more round of that and Corran was toast, and then my two Falcons methodically wrapped up Miranda.
I felt like this worked pretty well - the action economy I had going on was hugely important, with both Lando and the Resistance Sympathiser pushing damage very reliably. The two ships worked nicely together, although holding them together in range 1`for Lando's ability was something that only happened occasionally. The decision to put Kyle and Rey in there for tokens even when I bumped was definitely a good call, though.
It wasn't exciting to fly as you're pinned to the green moves, but I'd certainly be happy to play this again and see how it does in more games.
ROUND TWO vs Scott Reed
Rey (YT-1300) - Expertise / Finn / Kanan Jarrus / Countermeasures / Millenium Falcon (Sloop) (61)
Outer Rim Smuggler (YT-1300) - Cassian Andor / Sabine Wren / Conner Net / Smuggling Compartment / Scavenger Crane* / Anti-Pursuit Lasers (39)
* as it was a casual tournament we were allowed to proxy Wave 10 upgrades.
Outer Rim Smuggler? Outer Rim Smuggler!
The perennial laughing stock of X-Wing is here and better than ever (which isn't hard)! Sabine Wren and Smuggling Compartment gave me the tools to turn the humble Outer Rim Smuggler into a fair bomber platform, and Cassian Andor and Anti-Pursuit Lasers give it some bumping potential.
Together these combine to mean that I can sit my fat PS1 base in front of somebody to bump them, then next turn almost any move I throw will let me drop the Connor Net right on top of the ship that bumped into me. Not only does that deal damage of its own but the Conner Net will also set up a sitting duck for Rey to sweep in and hammer. In theory, at least.
Although I was up against one of the Reed brothers in this round I had earlier detected the faint but persistent bleating that was a telltale sign that Scott didn't have the squad he wanted to play. A logistics screw-up between Scott and his brother Tom had left Scott scrabbling a squad together from bits they had lying around, and Dash/Miranda was definitely not his first choice for the day.
It all went wrong for Scott right out of the traps with Miranda Doni stumbling into the front of my Outer Rim Smuggler on his second turn. The next turn my Smuggler turned away and carpeted Miranda with a Conner Net, leaving her helpless as Rey swept into Range 1 and blew her away!
|Miranda had already got one foot out of the door when Rey rolled up...|
How was the plan doing so far?
- Outer Rim Smuggler bumped? Check.
- Outer Rim Smuggler lands Conner Net? Check.
- Outer Rim Smuggler lines up a shot for Rey? Check.
- Outer Rim Smuggler scavenges a new Conner Net with the crane? Check.
Miranda had treated my Outer Rim Smuggler to an Ion Bomb as she left the table and that came within a hair's breadth of seeing my Smuggler unable to turn around without flying off the table, but otherwise it was now Dash against both of my YT-1300s.
I didn't want to gloat too much at this point but I'd done the maths and YT-1300 x 2 = YT-2600, which is 8% better than a YT-2400.
Victory was certain.
Crap maths jokes aside this was still very much a live game. My Outer Rim Smuggler was still on the table after it's narrow brush with the edge of the board but a long way from the fight (and still an Outer Rim Smuggler) and I desperately needed Rey to keep Dash in front of her or she would rapidly lose that duel against Dash's Heavy Laser Cannon. Fortunately I was able to do so with Scott misreading my intentions a couple of times, such as trying to bump my hard 1 left when I slooped right instead, getting range 1 behind him. In other games this same chase would have been a lot less comfortable but in this one Rey managed to keep Dash in her sights and, with the Outer Rim Smuggler finally about to rejoin the battle, deal the last few hits to finish Dash off.
Outer Rim Smuggler FTW!
While the Smuggler acquitted itself very well and the Conner Net plan worked perfectly it was Rey who did most of the work. Expertise in particular took so much of the stress out of Rey constantly dealing damage that I'm instantly a big fan of this EPT on her. If the Outer Rim Smuggler had a 3rd dice I'd be a big fan of him to, but without it 39 points feels a lot to spend on this much jank, particularly when you can bring in a very similar YT-2400 bumper with the same trickery for just 1pt more (barrel roll, extra green dice, no Cassian Andor).
But still,.. I won a game with 39 points of Outer Rim Smuggler against a very good player, and the Conner/Rey setup worked precisely as planned.
ROUND THREE vs Tom Reed
(Ketsu/Asajj - Tom's World's Top16 squad)
Resistance Sympathiser (YT-1300) - Rey / Luke Skywalker / Ion Projector (49)
Resistance Sympathiser (YT-1300) - Jan Ors / Sabine Wren / Proton Bombs / Smuggling Compartment / Scavenger Crane / Ion Projector (51)
This was the last double Falcon list I had built in preparation for the day and probably the worst, so it wasn't exactly perfect timing that it would be up against the best squad/player in the room. The Sympathisers effectively borrowed tricks from two other lists I'd already used, bringing the 'gunner' that had partnered Lando Calrissian in the first round and an upgraded version of the 'bomber' Outer Rim Smuggler that had worked with Rey in the second round.
In place of the Conner Net trick I used on the Outer Rim Smuggler I decided to turn the jank up to '11' by playing Proton Bombs - something would bump into me and get Ionised by the Ion Projector and then drift forwards onto my Proton Bomb!
Yeah. That was never going to happen.
I've seen Tom run his double Shadow Casters enough to know how he tends to run them - they line up alongside each other on the flank then circle around the outside, herding the opponent into their auxiliary arcs that are turned inwards. My plan was to try and insert my YT-1300s into that loop like a stick jammed into a bicycle wheel, splitting the two ships up so I could pick them off one at a time. After early positioning that plan worked perfectly, and Tom even played to my advantage by boosting Ketsu Onyo forwards to separate her from Asajj, giving me even more room to drive my Falcons into.
My 'bomber' smashed into the front of Asajj while the 'gunner' slipped around the back and began to unload, stripping shields. The next turn I followed up with a Proton Bomb that Asajj flew right onto and yet more fire, dropping Asajj to just one hull remaining. With Ketsu Onyo separated and trying to loop back around Tom's Asajj was wounded and isolated - I smelled blood in the water...
|From here the 'bomber' (the black one) swept in to bump Asajj, while the other YT-1300 got round the back|
...then I lost. Free of bumps and bombs Asajj was able to tank up with tokens using Push The Limit, with Latts Razzi contributing even more defence. Ketsu swept in behind my Falcons and unloaded with fully modified attacks and my ships melted under the fire from the two Shadow Casters. A lot like my Lando Calrissian list Tom's Shadow Casters are based on driving huge dice modification and action economy with Push The Limit, Glitterstim, K-4 Security Droid etc, and once he got away from my blocking and was able to lock his auxiliary arcs onto my ships it became a very one-sided fight.
Too many of my points were unnecessary in this match. The Ion Projectors were both useless against big ships, Jan Ors never should have been there, the Proton Bomb/Scavening Crane was just overpaying for effects I didn't really need, and arguably Luke could just have been a Gunner seeing as I had Rey crew on for a Focus token already. Overall I think 12 to 15 points were probably misspent here and you just cant give that sort of advantage up to any half decent player, especially not to somebody like Tom. I could really tell that this was the last list I'd scrambled together and that I'd not had time to really think it through as much as the others.
My strategy to split his ships up actually worked very well, though, and partway through the game I thought I was in good shape. I managed to wedge my YT-1300 between the two Lancers and split them up, but my ships just didn't punch hard enough to make that good positioning count. In the end I think that Resistance Sympathisers are a little too weak to run as a pair - neither of them have an EPT slot so you kind of struggle to spend all your 100pts truly effectively. I'd consider having another go with the same type of list but spend the points a bit differently and hope to get more firepower. Maybe something like this...
Resistance Sympathiser (YT-1300) - Lando Calrissian / Gunner / Smuggling Compartment / Black Market Slicer Tools / Experimental Interface (50)
Resistance Sympathiser (YT-1300) - Rey / Sabine Wren / Cluster Mines / Smuggling Compartment / Scavenger Crane / Anti-Pursuit Lasers (50)
Still a 'gunner' and a 'bomber' but with a bit more action economy. I'm not hugely excited by this list but I think it's better than the one I used in the tournament, and it still fits the wacky bombing shenanigans in.
ROUND FOUR - Bob Dee
(Paratanni - Asajj/Fenn/Manaroo)
Chewbacca (YT-1300) - Expertise / Gunner / Hotshot Co-Pilot / Millenium Falcon (Evade) / Engine Upgrade (60)
Resistance Sympathiser (YT-130) - Rey, "Chopper" (40)
My most imbalanced list, with only 2pts for upgrades on the Resistance Sympathiser, but also the one closest to the classic 'Fat Falcon' builds. You can fix this up with a variety of crew options on Chewbacca, from aggression with Gunner/Hotshot like I have here all the way to maximum defence with C-3PO and R2-D2. Although this was the last double Falcon list to go onto the table on the day it was actually the first I had designed as it followed the default Falcon template so closely.
The Resistance Sympathiser fell back on the old Rey crew trick to at least have fully modified attacks and try to make it a threat so my opponent couldn't just ignore it and go after Chewie with everything they have.
The 'Paratanni' list that Bob was running is still somewhat under the radar but as I was the one who had sent it his way I knew full well just how powerful it was and this was going to be a really tough game. With his Engine Upgrade Chewbacca was going to be fast enough to chase down Manaroo so I lined up with that in mind, jetting him up the table while Asajj and Fenn Rau headed in the opposite direction.
Chewbacca began chipping away at Manaroo but Asajj and Fenn made much shorter work of my Resistance Sympathiser in a one-sided race. The Sympathiser tried to shake Fenn Rau off but the Protectorate Fighter was too agile, boosting to retain range 1 and throwing all those five dice with its attacks. The Resistance Sympathiser died very quickly before Chewbacca had even made significant inroads on Manaroo, and then with all three ships against him Chewbacca couldn't repel firepower of that magnitude and rapidly followed.
This result really told me what I think I already knew - without action economy the Falcons don't do anything in the modern metagame. In fact this whole day had been about action economy, pretty much, which had driven Lando's win in the first round and my defeats to superior action economy against Tom and Bob in the last two rounds.
If you compare/contrast the Chewbacca YT-1300 with the one that I flew with Lando Calrissian at the start of the day you can see the difference - Lando has three actions available (Focus, Target Lock, Evade) and can do all three of them every turn, while Chewbacca has four actions available (Focus, Target Lock, Evade, Boost) but can only do one of them each turn. In the Chewbacca build I'm paying a lot of points to add options to my Falcon, instead of paying to simply do everything without having to choose. Yes, Expertise gives Chewbacca a Focus on attack but that was only when not stressed, which Asajj Ventress did a good job of shutting down.
Would the Lando list have won this game? Probably not because Paratanni is an extremely strong list but I think it would have done better; at least put up more of a fight and scraped me some MOV.
= = = = = = BONUS ROUND = = = = = =
After a day or two of downtime for New Year's I returned to the fray with the Rey build I'd played alongside the Outer Rim Smuggler, this time partnering her with Norra Wexley in an ARC-170.
Rey (YT-1300) - Expertise / Finn / Kanan Jarrus / Countermeasures / Millenium Falcon (Sloop) (61)
Norra Wexley (ARC-170) - Push The Limit / C-3PO / R2-D2 / Alliance Overhaul (39)
I had spent a few days idly searching through other options to fit in alongside Rey before settling on Norra's ARC just because there didn't seem to be many other choices. 39 points was too little to pack in a couple of X-Wings/B-Wings for jousting with and also too little for a really good Miranda or Corran Horn variant, but equally it was too much to comfortably spend on a single A-Wing/B-Wing/X-Wing ace.
There were other reasons for choosing Norra, though. If the lesson of my experiment day with the Falcons had been action economy and dice modification then I was bringing that to the table in spades with this ship, and with C-3PO and R2-D2 Norra Wexley also gave my list some endgame staying power while also offering some up-front jousting power that might distract people from Rey early on... in a lot of ways she's the perfect counterpart.
I played four games with this list in the evening, including two more games against Bob's 'Paratanni' list that had summarily dismissed the Chewbacca list in the final round of the tournament. It comfortably beat down the other two lists it faced, which featured precisely the sort of A-Wing/X-Wing mixtures that simply don't work any more in this new age of hyper-modified attack dice. Rey and Norra proved far too good at forcing 4 or 5 hit results on every attack, and those withering hits quickly removed the smaller fighters from the table.
Expertise in particular proved very useful once again, with one particularly cute play seeing me dial a 1 hard turn that deliberately bumped Rey into a Poe Dameron who had bumped into her last round, meaning she sat in place with two A-Wings in front of her at range 1. That Expertise worked without me taking an action meant I could modify her dice up to hits even after bumping
The two games I played against Bob's Paratanni were different, though. In the first game I played for a fantastic first engagement that saw Asajj with just a few hull left right out of the gates (Norra swept into range 1 at the side of Asajj while Rey had slooped away to have Asajj in-arc at range 3, avoiding the stress she would give out). That seemed like a fantastic start but I couldn't capitalise despite Rey keeping the pressure on Asajj - I'd roll four hits only for Asajj to cancel them all with two green dice and Focus/Evade/Latts Razzi. She may only be 40pts and look like a Firespray for stats, but this Asajj Ventress can tank up more like Soontir Fel when she needs to! While Rey was rolling her red dice against Asajj to no avail Fenn Rau and Manaroo closed in behind and wore her down.
I'd misplayed this, underestimating just how tough Asajj was going to be and allowing my ships to get separated as Rey chased Asajj and Norra was still struggling to turn around at the other end of the table.
In the second game Bob went for a different fortress-type opening that fed me Manaroo as the first target and I obliged by smashing her off the table in the first few turns. Each ship you take away from a Mindlink list helps reduce the economy they're getting from it and I was just 1 hull away from killing Fenn Rau a turn later! Fenn escaped to fight another day, though, and the firepower from the Protectorate Fighter and Shadow Caster dragged Norra down as he slipped away.
|With Manaroo already off the table this is right about the time Norra made her excuses and left...|
We began a tough midgame as Rey tried to keep arc on either of Bob's remaining pilots while trying her best to stay out of Asajj's stress-dealing effect. With just one hull left Fenn Rau decided it was prudent to get as far from Rey as possible and danced out to Autothrusters range, leaving Rey to duel it out with Asajj. A key critical hit onto the Shadow Caster turned the game - a damage engine that made the hard turns red - and Rey was finally able to drag Asajj down now that she knew where it was going and could keep it in arc.
Unfortunately that still left me 69-68 down in MOV and we agreed to end the game there as Fenn would almost certainly be able to keep away from Rey long enough to get to a time limit, had we been playing to one.
The Rey/Norra combination felt pretty strong, well worth putting onto the table, and I'll keep it up my sleeve for more exploration in future. It still hit a really tough matchup against Paratanni, though, so I should probably just be playing that instead. I'm a big fan of Expertise on Rey, but the Countermeasures are of questionable value. They're not really in for a Mindlink match, more for against Ryad/Vessery to clear that target lock, and I'm not sure there's anything any better to use instead, but it's something I'll keep an eye on to see if there's better things I could be taking with those points.
ONWARDS & UPWARDS
I started this blog by saying that I was struggling to enjoy competitive X-Wing, so did I learn anything that changed my feelings about this? Well I certainly enjoyed mucking about with the YT-1300s, but they were hardly 'competitive' in the grander scheme of things and ran into much the same brick wall that the T-70 X-Wings ran into earlier, although the Rey/Norra pairing may have the firepower to get to the next stage - it feels like the type of list I could make a top cut with. It's probably the case that I should be playing Paratanni, which is certainly better than what I've been playing, and probably more interesting to play as well.
Ultimately though, I think the problem lies in my own head and the expectations I'm putting on what the game should be like. Right now I'm not enjoying it, but complaining about that is unlikely to have positive results - it's pretty long odds that I'll be in full flow whinge just as the designers of X-Wing are walking past and decide to do something to help me out. The game isn't going to change just because I want it to, and it's for me to change something - either change my mindset, or change the game I'm playing for something else.
The more I try and bang my head against the brick wall of what X-Wing has become recently the more frustrated I'm going to be. I need to either get in line and adapt to the new reality, or find something else to do with my time.