Wednesday, 8 February 2017

"Many Bothans Died To Bring Us This Information" - A Regionals Metagame Snapshot

I've been compiling results from a number of Regionals since the start of the year, seeing what that could tell me about 'the metagame' and the state of X-Wing at the moment.  I've picked up the results from the online resource Listjuggler for the Top-8 lists at a bunch of Regionals.  This isn't every regional, but I've tried to grab the bigger events, and in particular those from USA and Europe where I know the game is strong and all releases are up to date (sorry, Brazil!).

What you see below, therefore, is a snap shot of the top end of the metagame during the period between TIE Striker & UWings becoming legal and the rest of Wave 10 arriving (Upsilon, Quadjumper, Sabine's TIE).  Because all of this data comes from squads that made Top-8 it's a focused look at what has proven successful, and in particular what has been repeatedly successful.

Overall this is data on 523 ships from 186 squads in 26 Regionals.  (yes, I know 186 divided by 26 is only 7.2 squads per Top-8 - not every regional had all their Top-8 squads filled in)


At the very highest level of breaking down the lists Scum & Villainy edge the battle of the factions slightly, but overall you have to say this appears to be pretty healthy - far different from the way it looks about a year ago, before the Punishing One expansion really thrust Scum into the limelight.


All hail the TIE Defender, most ubiquitous of all ships in the metagame today!

Once again this isn't a result you could possibly have called a year ago, when TIE Defenders were stuck on player's shelves gathering dust at an impressive rate thanks to their multi-angled solar panels   Of course it's all down to one card, really, the /x7 title, and it's not really a surprise to learn that of the 91 TIE Defenders featured in these Top-8 squads 89 of them equipped the /x7 title.

/x7 is crazy good.  I say that in the sense of: "they must have been crazy to make an upgrade this good".

Below TIE Defenders the Jumpmaster 5000 has survived the nerf to Deadeye and simply morphed into Manaroo action economy and Dengar double-taps.  You can't keep a good ship down and the Jumpmaster 5000 is a VERY good ship.  Joining the Jumpmaster in Scum lists are the two Wave 9 Scum releases, the Protectorate Fighter and the Shadow Caster.

Rebels, meanwhile, have run to the safety of their K-Wings.  That's right, their K-Wings.  When you break down the popular ships by Faction, though, what rapidly becomes clear is that Rebel players are still casting around for that 'killer app' ship, especially once you get beyond the K-Wing in first spot.  35% of all Rebel ships were not in the Top 5 choices, while for Imperial and Scum players it was much easier to pick a ship to fly and only 14 and 17%, respectively, selected something for from the norm.

In actual fact over 50% OF ALL IMPERIAL SHIPS were TIE Defenders.    The TIE Defender has basically replaced all other TIE Fighters in all their specialist niches.  Want to play TIE Swarm?  Use Defenders/  Want to play PalpAces?  Use Defenders.  Want to partner your Decimator with something?  Use a Defender.

Did I mention yet that /x7 is crazy good?


Let's stop to talk about one of the statistics I've presented in that table above.  The '% Progressed' column is looking at what % of that ship in the Top-8 then won it's first match after the cut and got into the Top-4.  I think it's something that can be really revealing about the ships/pilots/squads that are good enough to beat average players and get you into the cut but then be found out by the stronger players who were also in the Top-8.

There's actually a clear trend behind the big losers in "% Progressed" which I think is very important.  If you look it's the little vulnerable guys like Z-95s and TIE Fighters, and the big hog large ships with low agility - YT-1300, YV-666, Ghost, arguably even the ARC-170 fits this bill.  This is interesting because it shows that it's not just particular ships that are struggling in the cut, but that there's consistent reasons why they're struggling that appear to be common across different ships.  When you get up to the best squads the TIE Fighters and Z-95s can't really trouble the better ships with just two red dice, or are flattened by attacks, while the big hogs that rely on a lot of Hull/Shield to stay alive are losing an attrition race against the big ships that also have more green dice/tokens to prevent damage.


The list of popular pilots largely repeats some of the information from the ships side.  If TIE Defenders are highly played then of course Countess Ryad and Colonel Vessery will be played a lot as well.  There are some interesting things we might be able to draw from this extra detail though.

The '% Progressed' difference between Manaroo and Dengar is stark, for instance.  Although Jumpmasters as a whole do ok there's actually a world of difference between the success rate of Manaroo and Dengar, who actually behaves more like the 'hogs' of Bossk or Rey.

Another example: I personally would always have championed Commonwealth Defenders with their Palpatine Shuttle over Triple Defenders, and yet the success rate of Delta Squadron Pilots looked a lot higher than it is for Omicron Group Pilots - that might be something I've been getting wrong (although it might not be correct to assume they're always appearing as the third ship alongside Ryad & Vessery).

Warden Squadron Pilot stands out once again as one of the strongest choices - more on those guys later.

There's a couple of interesting things to note that actually happened just below where this chart cuts off.  The 5th most common Scum ship with the Scum HWK and when Palob Godalhi was on board it progressed 80% of the time but when it was Torkil Mux is progressed 0% of the time.  Similarly although Ryad, Vessery and Delta Squadron TIE Defenders all did very well in progressing there were only 4 copies of Maarek Stele in the Top-8, and none of them won their matches to make it into Top-4!

Oh and Soontir Fel?  Yeah there was no copies of the once-feared Imperial ace, and in fact the only Interceptor pilot to dare show his face was Carnor Jax (3 copies).


Let's cut to the chase.  While the Faction split looked very healthy the split by Wave looks anything but.

It's really hard to deny that power creep is happening when you get something like that - 78% of ALL PILOTS came from Wave 7 or later.  There was just one lonely entrant from Wave 2 (Chewbacca in the Millenium Falcon) and two ships with Wave 3 (two copies of Jan Ors in the HWK)

For transparency I'm making two key assumptions - I'm calling all Lambda Shuttles with Palpatine as effectively being released with the Imperial Raider (Wave 7) and all TIE Defenders with /x7 as effectively being released with Imperial Veterans (Wave 9).

2016 saw the power level of X-Wing rocket through the roof, and quite simply if you're not playing ships that were released in 2016 or the back end of 2015 then you're making life hard for yourself.  Anything dated before that faces and uphill battle to even make it into the Top-8 cut, let along progress further than that to actually win the tournament!

Wave 7 is rescued by Emperor Palpatine, K-Wings and the Hound's Tooth although, as we've seen, the Hound's Tooth and Shuttle are odds-against to progress beyond the Top-8 and you're better off playing more Wave 8 and 9 stuff if possible.


50% of ALL Scum & Villainy ships equipped Attani Mindlink.  50%!  

When you rule out all the two ship lists that don't really benefit enough from Mindlink, and all the generic pilots that don't have an EPT slot available, it adds up to almost every Scum pilot that could reasonably play Attani Mindlink chose to do so.

Attani Mindlink is also crazy good, especially in conjunction with Manaroo.

If you want to do well you will probably want action economy, and Attani Mindlink and Push The Limit are bringing that in spades - by far the two most common Elite Pilot Talents.  And you can see similar weighting towards a few key upgrades across other types as well.

I'm going to get a bit personal opinion here: Push The Limit and Attani Mindlink are terrible for the health and diversity of X-Wing and need to be banned or errataed to the point where their cost is so high people don't use them in most circumstances.  The power of the action economy they drive FAR outweighs the cost (both points and stress) that is incurred.  Look at this table...

Push The Limit and Attani Mindlink are the gatekeepers for how competitive new ships are likely to be.  Do you have the green maneuvers to make use of Push The Limit?  Great, you're probably a good ship.  No?  You're probably bad.  And this does not bode well for the ships we've just got in Wave 10 because none of them look like a natural home for PTL or Attani Mindlink, with the possible exception of the two Quadjumper pilots that have an EPT slot and may be good enough to fit Attani Mindlink on over similar cheap options that are already available.

I'm not saying "all ships that can't use PTL are shit" but the correlation between the ships that regularly and consistently do well and those that don't is a strong one.  There are exceptions (those pesky K-Wings again, for instance) but more ships fit the rule than don't.  Trying to compete with the inherent advantages these ships have drives away a huge range of more diverse ship/upgrade combinations that we would otherwise be seeing on the table a lot more.


Paratanni heads the list with the most appearances in Top-8s (17), a very strong win rate to progress to Top-4 (71%), and also winning the most of this selection of Regionals (5).  For those unfamiliar with Paratanni it's a deceptively simple list that maximises the value from Attani Mindlink (see above for my opinions on that).
  • Fenn Rau - Attani Mindlink, Concord Dawn Protector, Autothrusters
  • Asajj Ventress - Attani Mindlink, Latts Razzi
  • Manaroo - Attani Mindlink

Only 8 points of upgrades means you're buying a tremendous amount of ship for your points, and it's all Wave 8 onwards so all that juicy 2016 power creep is baked in as well... in fact only 2pts of Autothrusters are pre-2016!  Paratanni is hugely successful and very fun to play and challenging to play against.  It's also probably the single strongest X-Wing squad ever in the game so far, with no particularly bad matchups that have currently been exposed.  It's got portions of the Rebel Toolbox list (tough ships, stress control) with other traits that are very similar to Palp Aces (Manaroo's focus/target lock passing is equivalent to the Palp Shuttle, Asajj turtles harder than Soontir Fel, Fenn Rau punches like Prockets Darth Vader).  It look innocuous but is actually a monster of efficiency.
Fangaroo is similar but a bit more dicey - it trades out the tanky Asajj Ventress for a second Protectorate Fighter and some more toys on Manaroo.  You can see from its '% Progress' that it's a step behind Paratanni, but still a formidable threat.

The two lists based around TIE Defenders are about as strong as Paratanni in this data sample.  Interestingly this reverses the apparent advantage Triple Defenders had over Commonwealth Defenders when we compared the particular pilots earlier on.  It must be that the shuttle was appearing in some non-Defender lists that weren't doing so well, or that the Delta Squadron Defender was doing well in some lists outside of Triple Defenders.

The list that is missing here due to some minor variations, but still proving very successful as we've seen from the Ships/Pilots tables is the K-Wings so let's finally take a look at them.  I've spoken before at length about just how good Miranda Doni is right now and you see that reflected in her appearance as the #1 most popular Rebel pilot in these Regional Top-8s, but it was the Warden Squadron Pilots who boasted that hugely impressive 91% progression into the Top-4, and they look more like this...
  • Warden Squadron Pilot - Cluster Mines, Seismic Charges, Extra Munitions, Advanced SLAM, Chopper
  • Warden Squadron Pilot - Cluster Mines, Extra Munitions, Advanced SLAM, Sabine Wren
  • Warden Squadron Pilot - Cluster Mines, Seismic Charges, Extra Munitions, Advanced Slam, Intelligence Agent

Bombs, bombs, bombs!  The Warden Squadron lists play X-Wing in a completely different way, eschewing their primary weapons almost entirely to instead SLAM their way around the table dropping Cluster Mines in their wake.

When I discussed Paratanni I made the comparison to Palp Aces, which isn't necessarily a link that I think many players would immediately make and with Warden Squadron I'm going to make a similar tenuous link, this time to the Triple Jumpmaster lists from summer 2016!

If you replace the high damage output from Plasma Torpedoes with the high damage output from Cluster Mines (just a different type of Ordnance) then most of the other pieces kind of fall into place.  Advanced SLAM gives the K-Wings the maneuvering and repositioning that Jumpmasters could have with their big bases, strong dials and Barrel Rolls.  It also gives them some of important action economy Jumpmasters got from R4 Agromech.

Away from the ordnance Jumpasters and K-Wings are both tough ships with 2 dice primary turrets to mop up what the ordnance left behind.  It's a bit of a stretch to say "they're just Triple Jumps again" but I think sitting them side by side helps to frame what Warden Squadron actually is, and that it's not a fluke it's doing so well.

And bombs, right now in this metagame... especially at the top end of tournaments... their time is now.  There are so many tough ships up that rarified atmosphere that the automatic damage of Cluster Mines and Seismic Charges is very attractive.  You don't need to worry about the free evade token of /x7 Defenders, you don't need to worry about all the focus-stacking and Latts Razzi evading of Paratanni... they hit the template they roll the dice, that's all there is to it!  And more than that, when you've got TIE Defenders flying their very predictable straight lines up and down the table, and the huge Shadowcaster bases whizzing about on their big green moves then lining up those Cluster Mine drops is actually pretty easy.

It's great to see K-Wings and bombs doing so well - I said as much when I talked about Miranda - but at the same time it's kind of worrying too.  It's worrying that best answer to all the token-stacking that's going on seems to be to just given up trying to beat it at all and just drop bombs.  Has defensive dice modification gone so far that it's not even worth trying to beat it?  Hopefully not.


This is a snapshot of two dozen big tournaments.  It's not every game of X-Wing, it's not even every Regional and it's certainly not what games of X-Wing will be played next weekend, or the weekend after that.  Wave 10 could change all this, or it could change nothing.  Learn what you think you can from it, ignore what you think is misleading or where I've drawn the wrong conclusions.

And bring bombs.  Lots of bombs.


  1. I agree. Attanni is too good. Hard to find reason not too fly Attanni. My next goal is to find non-PTL, non-Attanni, non-bomb Parattanni counter :) But after Yavin/Tattoine ;)

    1. I went 2-1 against Parattanni this past weekend at chicago regional, and the one loss was very close and a mistake on my part that lost the game. Was flying Kylo + Palp Rac with whisper.

  2. Fantastic analysis of the regionals right now. I'd love to see a follow up article that dealt with the 'Other' category - the lists that only one or two people took, that did well!

  3. A great analysis, thank you very much for putting time and effort in it!

  4. Hi David!

    Just a minor comment: "50% of the S&V ships are equipped with AM"

    Please consider that AM to be useful has to be equipped to at least 2 ships; therefore we should consider this data limited to "squadrons" rather than single ships :)

    1. Fair point Piffo, Mindlink is x3/x2 or nothing.

  5. I'd agree again that Attanni stats are a little eschew. Consider that the stress aspect of it means that it is fairly detrimental on a 2 Ship list, more so than a 3 or more ship list. And the more ships are in the list, the better it gets. So squads with it are 3/4/5 ship squads, and those without it are probably no more than 3 ship squads. So yes, I'd like to see how many squads overall equipped AM rather than how many ships were equipped with AM.
    It's a powerful upgrade, as it allows that action economy regardless of red moves, blocking, asteroids, etc. But it requires the whole squad to be on board, and once ships start dropping, the economy stats dropping drastically. And any sort of stress mechanic reduces the mobility of the entire Mindlinked squad. Powerful? Absolutely. So is the x7 title. Godly? Far from it. Before wave 9,the designers said they were trying to push bombs and make them viable in competitive play. Whether they wanted it to happen like this as a result of the defensive creep or not is uncertain, but they did succeed in making bombs a competitive option.
    I like the writeup, and would be interested to know what the two non-x7 Defenders were running. As soon as I saw the x7 title previewed, I thought it was too good for -2 points. I think this is indicative of that. It'll be interesting to see if the rest of Wave 10 changes this scene up before worlds, or if we are looking at what we can expect to see in May.

  6. My response is here:

    I'd love to see the pilot by wave statistics weighted by points, and also excluding Scum. :)

  7. Very good analysis. I am a bit surprised to see that the Phantom does not show up at all.

  8. What about Dash? He seems to be a pretty awesome rebel ship and you only mention him in your tables. 4 red, PWT on a large base, potentially PS9 with EU he can deal with anything, the question is just his partner. Was in Mr Horn?

    1. Eco Dash (Lone Wof, Rey) + Super Miranda is very successful in Poland and USA. Please bear in mind that David analyzed only part of regional results, so data even if representative, doesn't cover all the things out there.