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.
RAPID RESPONSE FORCE
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"
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 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!