Friday, 10 August 2018

"You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned" - Approaches to Squadbuilding in 2nd Edition

X-Wing Miniatures Game Second Edition is nearly upon us and that means pretty soon you're going to need a squad!

Uh-oh!

What's worse is that instead of just having a few new ships to weigh up and decide how to fit into your existing plans, this time you've got A WHOLE NEW GAME to get straight before can even really start.

Double uh-oh!!

And what's worse than that is because it's a brand new game there haven't even been any big tournaments yet so you can't netlist something and just wing it with that.

Triple uh-oh!!!

It really does seem like there's nothing else for it.  We're just going to have to get our hands dirty and work out how to build squads in 2nd Edition...

What's not in this article:
  • The best squads in 2nd Edition (because I don't know what they are)

What IS in this article:
  • Some general pointers about how to approach squadbuilding for 2nd Edition (and some squads that hopefully don't completely outright suck).


The Needs of the Many Outweigh The Needs of the Few.  Or the One.

In my travels across the many forums and chat channels of X-Wing 1st Edition I saw that a lot of players were really focusing on maximising their individual pilots rather than looking at the overall health of the squad.  

I'd see people ask questions like "what's the best loadout for Ketsu Onyo" or "I really like this Corran Horn build, what should I play with it?" as real calling cards of this type of thinking.  Fix a pilot, find something to fly with it.  

It's never really been my approach to squadbuilding and I've always tried to have a clear line of sight on bringing an overall strong squad over a single really powerful pilot (that's how my 'Nettling Imps' squad came about, by trying to bring in Quickdraw for a budget price).  That said, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that in the final days of 1st Edition my approach was starting to hold me back, and the sheer number and power level of upgrades that you could throw onto a single ship was capable of creating a game-winning piece on the table - that's your Captain Nyms, your Timewalk Assaj's, your Sensor Jammer Ghosts, and ultimately the '100pt' Reys & Mirandas were the final form of this line of thinking.


I'm pretty sure that 2nd Edition will require players to unlearn those instincts to fill every slot, maximise every stat, create all-conquering heroes and unstoppable behemoths.  It's just not possible in 2nd Edition with the current cardpool, and what's more the cost of attempting to do so will suck oxygen out of the rest of your threadbare squad.

There's three overarching factors that I think create this dynamic:
  • Upgrades are worse.  There's no Push The Limit, no Glitterstim, no TLT, Autothrusters or Expertise.  There's not even a K4 Security Droid, Rey or Kylo Ren and a lot of the upgrades that have survived the move to 2nd Edition are either worse (Lone Wolf, Fire Control System) or significantly more expensive (Stealth Device, Engine Upgrade, Saw Gerrera).  If you're trying to kit out a super-Ace you're fighting uphill all the way to pay more points for worse upgrades.  Sure it feels nuts to leave Soontir Fel naked with barely any upgrades to cover his modesty but when the upgrades are what they are, and they cost what they cost... it's probably a pretty smart move.

  • Evade tokens are worse.  A lot of the very best ships have been ones that are super-hard to kill, and those are also usually the ones you're happiest to load up with upgrades.  That mechanic worked both ways - often it was upgrades that added to a ship's survivability that were the first to go on, and also once you'd established that solid base for a ship you could be more confident in spending points further points piling on offensive upgrades.

  • Ace pilots are better value.  Below there are three tables that show the relative points cost of ships in 2nd Edition vs their 1st Edition counterparts and one of the most striking thing across all three factions is how much the points costs for each ship have been squeezed a lot closer together.  By that I mean that the top ace pilots for each ship are much closer to the base generic cost of the lowliest pilot - Ten Nunb, for instance, in only 50pts whereas his 1st Edition counterpart would have equated to 62pts, a massive 12pt saving!  This dynamic creates a stronger incentive for you to, for instance, discard an Academy Pilot in favour of bringing Del Meeko, and that in turn means that the points you'd often be spending on Upgrades in 1st Edition are maybe best spent on just buying better pilots in 2nd Edition.
Imperial

Click to Zoom!

Rebel (YT-2400 includes HLC/Outrider)
Click to Zoom!

Scum (Scyk includes Heavy Scyk title)
Click to Zoom!

So with all that in mind, what's the better approach to squadbuilding?  The 1st Edition approach would be to maximise a Millenium Falcon and field a fat Han Solo with as much action economy as possible, maybe support him with Fenn Rau in the Sheathipede.  The 2nd Edition approach might be to shave as many as 25pts off the Falcon relatively painlessly, keep the action economy by playing Lando instead, and field a punchy Ghost as my wingman...




More Is More

If we believe that filling every slot to maximise our pilots in 2nd Edition is a poor points investment then it should follow that a very good investment of our points is on just putting more ships onto the table, even if that means they're naked.  For players who have joined X-Wing in the last two or three years that sounds like madness, but to be honest it was pretty standard for a lot of the earlier period of 1st Edition X-Wing and it seems like a trend that's going to come back.

I can use a couple of squads I've been tinkering with as great examples of this...


One of the first things I really hooked into with my Imperial squadbuilding was the awesome synergies you could get from pairing Lt Sai with Soontir Fel.

If you've not seen this combination before, it goes something like this:
Lt Sai moves and takes a Coordinate action, giving Soontir Fel a Focus action.  Because Lt Sai also has a Focus on his action bar he takes a Focus token too (and if he's got the Lambda title he can get a Target Lock as well).  Soontir banks his Focus token than uses Autothrusters to chain a red Barrel Roll action off it.  Soontir reveals a blue maneuver then takes an Evade action and chains a red Boost action off it to dive into Range 1 of his opponent and trigger his Bullseye arc for a second Evade token. 
Two actions = 3 Focus tokens, 1 Evade token, 1 Target Lock, 1 Boost, 1 Barrel Roll!

Once I'd loaded out Sai and Soontir I needed a third ship and the obvious choice was the Dark Lord of the Sith himself, Darth Vader.  I kitted Vader up with everything a growing boy could need until he cost a whopping 93 points!  For that money I worked out I could buy a Decimator instead of just a TIE Advanced, and then better yet again I could buy a hefty TIE Punisher and bring a 4th ship in a canny little TIE Striker.  Or maybe, better yet again... I could trade that supernatural Darth Vader our for 4 whole TIE Fighters!

The second example came when I picked up a list that was shared which looked to maximise what Lando Calrissian's version of the Millenium Falcon could do.  I'd probably been guilty of dismissing Lando and his glorified Outer Rim Smuggler but this squad really made me sit up and take a second look as it was entirely possible that the Falcon could be throwing 4, 5 or even 6 red dice on a pretty reliable basis as it scooted around outside debris clouds picking up extra dice from all over the place.



The original list paired this tricked-out Falcon with a discount Asajj Ventress but I tinkered with it a little bit and scraped points together for a pretty much fully loaded Ketsu Onyo alongside the Falcon.  But when I was discussing the squad and trying to get other people excited about it they pushed back and made the (I think correct) observation that I was still guilty of throwing upgrades on to maximise the ship when I should be trying to keep it lean and bring something else instead.  It was a fair comment, and certainly in upgrades like Engine Upgrade, Dengar and the Autopilot Drone I was sinking a lot of points into just trying to make the Falcon arc-dodge a bit and stay alive a little longer... they weren't really changing it's damage output at all!



And it turned out I could rejig my squad entirely and fit a whole third ship in to create something much more robust.  I kept the damage of the Falcon build, added a tough old Trandoshan Slaver to host Lando's party, and even had points left over for a whole Scurrg bomber that could lob Proton Bombs at incoming TIE Swarms!



Steal With Pride

When the 2nd Edition unboxing videos landed and we had 60+ ships thrown at us all at once along with a slew of brand new pilots, mechanics and upgrades I'm sure I wasn't alone in feeling a little overwhelmed.  

Where the hell was I supposed to start?  Sure I could focus on Imperials as my faction of choice, but if I did make an Imperials squad how the hell was I supposed to judge if it was good enough if I didn't even know what the other 2/3rds of the card pool even were?!?


I started doing something that was at first unintentional but then rapidly became a deliberate strategy once I realised what the benefits were... I started doing what everyone else was doing.

I don't mean that I was just copying other people's squads verbatim, but what I began doing was making a real effort to pick up squads that people had posted and, even if it wasn't something I was especially interested in, see if I'd have built it the same way they had.  At first this was just because I was a bit bored and had five or ten minutes to waste cross-referencing what all the Scum crew did with their points cost just to see if I'd load the ship differently.  Then after I'd done that for a couple of squads people had shared I realised... I now knew what all the Scum crew did.  And I knew what all the Pilot Talents did.  And most of the Gunners.  And that Illicits.  



And not just that I knew what they did but I was learning their synergies and interactions.  I knew that Lando Calrissian crew and IG-88D cew was a powerful combination.  I knew that other people seemed to like Dengar but I wasn't a fan, I knew that old stalwarts like Fenn Rau were probably a bit too expensive but that Palob in the Moldy Crow was probably a great investment.

An Imperial Silo.  Possibly.
I made it a part of my 2nd Edition prep to not just look at somebody else's squad and go 'huh, looks neat' but to really go into it, pull it apart, see how it was working and then put it back together.  

I think that's been paying real dividends in how quickly I'm learning the 2nd Edition cardpool, but it's also played a really key role in expanding my horizons from just the Imperial silo I would have been exploring if left to my own devices - a silo not just of Imperial squads, but of my type of Imperial squads.  

Two weeks ago I was locked onto the Sai/Soontir axis of efficiency, but as I begin to coax my playgroup into playing some proxy games of 2nd Edition two of the three lists I want to play aren't even Imperial - they're Scum!

So if you're feeling overwhelmed by 2nd Edition - like I was - don't be afraid to steal other people's ideas with pride (and add your own twists along the way).  You'll learn a lot in a short space of time and I found it much easier and more interesting than starting from a fresh blank canvas every time.



Y'all Come Back Now, Y'Hear?

And there we have it, or as best as I can muster at the moment.  I can't claim to know what the best squads are in 2nd Edition, nor even that the squads above are the best ideas I've managed to come up with so far (of the three squads I said I want to play most, only one is shared above).  But I think in sharing the thought process behind both how I'm going about learning 2nd Edition, and some of the broad stroke assumptions that I think we can make about how it's very different to 1st Edition, hopefully I've been able to give you something to think about, and maybe even some new lines of enquiry that will send you to explore the 2nd Edition cardpool in your own way in the near future.

This is an exciting time, as myriad opportunities and options open up before us and the hard reality of tournament competition has yet to mow down many of those ideas.  Don't be scared to plunge into deckbuilding for 2nd Edition while it's still new.  

After all, everyone loves leaving the first footprints in fresh clean snow, right?  Don't be waiting for it to all turn to brown mush after the others have walked on it!





3 comments:

  1. Great writing! I Will try the "less is more" squadbuilding tactics :-)
    / Erik

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. Excellent analysis on the graphs showing pilot cost compression and where their value is in relative cost. It's that sort of detail where you are doing us a service in understanding the game more. Good stuff.

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