Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Sith Taking with Admiral Sloane - Extended Battle Report

It's just a few days to go before the Milton Keynes System Open, here in the UK, and this last weekend hosted a 100-player event local to me that made a perfect ground for a lot of players to practice: the Sith Taker Open.


The Sith Takers are a team based in Element Games in Stockport, and you may well be familiar with them from their podcast and Twitch streaming.  This Open was their first time hosting a big annual event of their own (althoughElement Games has previously hosted other events like the Nerf Herder Open) and the Sith Taker Open had been in the calendar for a long time.  Certainly longer than the Milton Keynes System Open which then dropped right on their doorstep 7 days later!


The Sith Taker Open was Extended format while the System Open is going to be the first big event for the brand new Hyperspace format and that's thrown a lot of players plans out the window..  Ordinarily you wouldn't voluntarily restrict your options by flying Hyperspace in an Extended event but with the opportunity for some much-needed list practice ahead of the System Open I knew a lot of the top players were planning on running Hyperspace lists just to get some reps in.

I was on the fence.  I've got a Hyperspace list that I really like and I know is locked in for the System Open and getting some games with it would be good.  But I also know that there's stuff in Extended it would be very sad to see (Crack Shot alone is a problem).  I spent the last two weeks before the Sith Taker Open wobbling backwards and forwards on what list to take before ultimately settling on taking an Extended squad.  If it was good and I did well then my decision was a good one, and if it was rubbish and I did badly then I'd just drop out and play Hyperspace side events to practice for Milton Keynes anyway.

I went with a complete wildcard: the YOLO Sloane Swarm!
  • Scarif Base Pilot (TIE Reaper) - Admiral Sloane
  • Alpha Squadron Pilot (TIE Interceptor)
  • Alpha Squadron Pilot (TIE Interceptor)
  • Academy Pilot (TIE Fighter)
  • Academy Pilot (TIE Fighter)
  • Academy Pilot (TIE Fighter)
  • Academy Pilot (TIE Fighter)
    (198pts)



Before the January points changes came into effect this squad cost 210pts and simply wasn't possible.  The main thing that's changed is that you can now afford to bring in two TIE Interceptors in place of basic TIE Fighters.  I love a TIE Interceptor or two and I had a couple of practice games with this swarm that I really enjoyed - the only problem was I spent 3 hours humming the Imperial March on an endless loop while I did so!  


The only problem is that I've never been a Sloane fan.  I don't think I've ever used her before and any time I've sat across the table from a Sloane Swarm I've been able to deal with it pretty easily.  Although it looked great, and although I'd played a couple of quick test games and really enjoyed them, I had the lingering suspicion that Admiral Sloane was actually just a bit rubbish.

That's the YOLO bit.  We were going in, and we were going in full throttle... let's see how I got on!


STOP!  LORE TIME!

So, who the hell is Admiral Sloane anyway?

Well there's an annoyingly voice-overed video here that explains it more fully, but in brief she's an Imperial officer whose story bridges the gap between the Battle of Endor and The Force Awakens.  Sloane was fighting at Endor then led some of the Imperial remnants in the decades that followed, tangling with the likes of Kanan Jarrus and Norra Wexley through her career.  

Ultimately she went on to serve with General Hux's dad, Brendol Hux, as the fledgling First Order was being assembled, and even helped raise the little ginger traitor Armitage Hux.

So there you have it.  


SITH TAKER OPEN - BATTLE REPORT

ROUND ONE - Jason Denton
Darth Vader, Maarek Stele, Major Vermeil

Jason is also known as the man behind Enigma Wargaming's fantastic repaints, and he's also proven no slouch on the X-Wing table in the past.  For the Sith Taker Open he had defaulted back to an old favourite, bringing Darth Vader, Maarek Stele and Captain Vermeil with Emperor Palpatine on board.  It's a squad he knows really well but as we set up to play I wasn't too scared of it and figured it fit into the sort of bracket of ships that would really hate the amount of red dice and red stress tokens that my swarm kicked out.  I was pretty sure I would win this one.

I really didn't expect Major Vermeil to be getting quite so aggro into the face of my swarm!
Expectations did not match reality and I started round two in the loser's bracket.  This happened for three main reasons:
A closer look at Jason's awesome Darth Vader


1) Jason knows his list inside out and flew it really well.  He knows why all the pieces are there and has flown it dozens and dozens of times so he knows exactly what it needs to do to win.  He also made some great decisions that threw me off - he came in hard and jousted my swarm.  I think that's the right decision but it left Vader double stressed after killing a TIE and with a debris cloud sitting in the way of all his blue maneuvers.  My TIEs closed in for what looked like an easy kill next turn but Jason calmly flew Vader straight over the debris and out the other side, collecting a third stress token.  The next turn he blasted Vader straight over an asteroid and Afterburner-boosted out into open space well away from my TIEs where he could take the time to destress. 
2) My dice were definitely a bit chilly.  I don't like to blame dice for defeats and I'm not doing - Jason's flying is why I lost.  But even though I was being outflown I was getting plenty of chances to roll dice and with a nudge of positive variance I could easily have been bailed out by landing a lucky shot or two.  It didn't happen and my TIEs folded like paper whenever Maarek looked at them.
3) I wasn't quite at the races for this first round of the morning and made a couple of bad plays.  The worst one was that Vader was just finishing clearing his stress as my TIEs caught up to him trapped in a corner.  I spent a turn carefully planning for how to block his Tallon Roll and get the killbox... forgetting that Vader still had his last stress token and couldn't do a red maneuver at all!  I simply don't make those kinds of mistakes normally.

LOSS   176 - 61

I tell you what, though: I learned new respect for Maarek Stele and I think Palpatine in the list really unlocks making Maarek a feared opponent in a way I've never had to face before.  While I chased after Vader his ability to find the right critical hits tore through my squad and were decisive in at least three moments (two Direct Hit kills, one Blinded Pilot to strip Focus and reroll from a 4 dice shot on Vader).


ROUND TWO - Jonathan Beattie
Fenn Rau, Boba Fett

My first round defeat had severely dented my already wavering belief in Admiral Sloane.  My second round game against Boba/Fenn did little to change my mind about Sloane, even though I wound up winning pretty easily.

Jonathan's plan was to make me chase Boba Fett across his back line while Fenn Rau flanked in behind me.  My plan was to make it *look like* I was going to chase Boba Fett... then turn in hard and smash Fenn Rau into splinters.  My plan won.


Fenn was completely caught out by my squad turning in on him then Jonathan got a bad spin of the green dice and everything I threw at Fenn was straight fire.  The Fang melted away immediately.  I then spent a while chasing Boba Fett across the table and gradually chipping away from long range.  In the end Jonathan had to turn Boba around and try to fight his way out, but as soon as he killed his first TIE Fighter it gave Boba the double stress and my TIEs pounced.  


The bounty hunter died with all six of my remaining ships firing on him, although Sloane had done very little to make it happen.

WIN 200-55 (half Reaper, dead Interceptor)


ROUND THREE - Alex McIntosh
Maul, Grievous, Chertek

In theory I was pretty comfortable that this was a good matchup for me - Maul would eat damage quickly enough and both the Belbullab and Nantex would hate picking up lots of stress tokens.  The wildcard was Chertek's tractor beam which had the potential to cause real havoc to my low Initiative  and fragile TIEs.  I've actually had very little experience of playing against Nantex so I felt my best bet was to just get that unknown factor off the table as quickly as possible.

This game started really well.  I managed to get the approach I wanted and drilled an unfortunate Structural Damage into Chertek in the first round of firing, while I saw both Maul and Grievous' shots bounce off my TIEs green dice.  

Chertek found himself in real trouble as a few TIEs harassed him and tried to get the kill, while the rest of my squad began work on Maul.  Then we came to this awkward couple of turns where Chertek... just... wouldn't... die and I started to worry that the game could slip away.  None of my TIEs had died but they were all getting chipped with damage cards and could easily start to pop at any moment.  Then next turn it all flipped: I killed Maul and Chertek in one round of firing and the game devolved into the last six of my ships chasing Grievous around the table much as I had Boba Fett in round two.

We had to put Chertek and Maul back on the table to take this photo! :-o
Just as Boba had found in round two, Grievous also finally decided he had to turn in and try to fight it out.  He died.

WIN 200-88 (dead TIE, lots of half-pointed ships)


ROUND FOUR - Adam Breen
Resistance I5's: Nien, Ello, Tallie, Lulo

Just as I'd picked Chertek out as a threat at the start of round three, this time it was Nien Numb who had the potential to cause me real problems with his stress-shedding ability.  If I allowed Nien to get in and among my ships he could easily be a hard counter to Admiral Sloane...
Tallon Roll in behind a TIE Fighter at range 1.  Take a focus action with Pattern Analyser.  Remove his stress from the T-roll and take a Target Lock action.  Double mod 4 red dice on my TIE Fighter and pop it.  Remove the two stress you get from Sloane.  Don't let any of my TIE Fighters reroll dice against him.  Repeat next turn to kill another TIE Fighter.  And another... and another... 
That shit could NOT be allowed to happen.  I threw everything I had at Nien Numb as fast as I could get it there and most of my squad opened up on him on the second turn, and I think I'd really caught Adam out with how hard I'd pushed after his T-70s.  Nien lost his shields and took 2 damage cards.  I wrapped the kill up next turn.

Lu'lo finds himself in a bit of hot water

With Nien off the table I felt much happier and now my squad could fall on Adam's ships one by one.  Lu'lo was next to go - chasing in to help Nien had put him in harm's way and I think Adam realised he could do little to keep the A-Wing on the table as my TIEs massed around him.  Then it was down to six ships vs two ships and it was Ello Asty's turn to go.   The match was over.

200 - 27 (half a TIE, half an Interceptor)


ROUND FIVE - Rich Polley
Vennie, Zizi, Bastian

FFS

A few days earlier Rich had been casting about for something to play and I pointed him back to his beloved Vennie.  I did so on one proviso: we couldn't play each other because my Sloane Swarm would lose.


Yet here we are.


I mentally checked out of this game and was packing my bags for home before I even got to the table.  This was destiny/karma coming back to roost - being smashed off the bubble by the guy bringing the list I'd helped him to decide to play.

I put my ships on the table, two turns later I picked them back up again.  That was the game.

LOSS 0-200

I was packing my ships up when somebody told me that a couple of 4-2 players might make the cut to Top-16.  I was pretty sure the 0-200 loss to Vennie had ruled me out of that but my other wins had been by a healthy margin so it seemed worth at least trying to win the last round and see what played out.

ROUND SIX - Andrew Fearn
7B Anakin, CLT Obi-Wan, CLT Mace

Jedi can be a little bit awkward for Sloane to face as they're maneuverable and fast but don't stress for their repositions, they also have passive mods for if they do ever get double stressed.  On the other hand: I've got a LOT of guns and there are blank results on the Jedi's green dice so it's kind of just a matter of time until I start hurting them.

I've not played Sloane that many times but one of the things I've observed is that players play against you like you're a Howlrunner TIE Swarm.  They expect to see a tight block of TIEs coming in, which covers a relatively small area of the table in a lethal cone of death and struggles to move through obstacles.  They try to bait and run and lead my TIEs through rocks to break them up.  But I've not got Howlrunner and I've got no incentive to hug tightly together and am free to draft through asteroids however works best for my loose collection of ships.

My Reaper has bumped both Jedi!
I think Andrew fell victim to this.  He tried to flank past my TIEs and pull them through rocks and arc-dodge them, only to find himself facing a broad firing line that covered the whole middle of the table.  Obi-Wan was the unfortunate Jedi who cut closest into the centre of the swarm and began eating laser blasts, while Anakin continued to flank further round into my deployment zone.

The wounded Obi-Wan tried to scoot away the next turn but my Reaper had lunged out of position with an ailerons-right, 3-bank left and succeeded in bumping both Mace and Obi-Wan right where I could get a killshot.  The rest of my TIEs turned their attention onto Anakin but he lived up to his reputation of being a great fighter pilor and proved a tough opponent to pin down.

Anakin had escaped that first trap but it was just a matter of time.  My TIEs covered so much table in both arcs and ship bases that there was always going to come a time where Anakin would duck when he needed to dive, or vice versa.  

Two turns later Anakin bumped himself into the side of a TIE Fighter at range 1 of my two Interceptors and went from full health to dead in one round of firing.


Andrew called it with Mace the last man standing.

WIN - 200-40 (half Interceptor, half Reaper)

I'd gone into the round knowing that I needed a big win to sneak into Top-16 and I'd got my big win.  Would it be enough?

***DRUMROLL***

No.  

The severe MOV loss to Vennie had indeed ended my chances and I was sitting in 19th place.  Still, out of 100 players with a list I'd barely played before I was happy with that result, especially with the context of having thrown away a game in the Vennie matchup.


And a quick word about how the Sith Takers Open went down: It was a great event, loads of great games and people.  Tim and Colm ran a really tight ship as tournament organisers, I believe they even finished ahead of schedule!  Props also to the other Sith Takers who stepped away from playing to help judge the event and keep things moving, which is a real display of the power of a team!  Good work everyone - see you again in Milton Keynes next weekend!


DO NOT FAIL ME AGAIN, ADMIRAL

I'm a Sloane convert!

This was a blast to fly, and I loved both Sloane and the TIE Reaper's contribution to the fight.  Compared to the Lambda I think the Reaper really suits my dynamic and aggressive style more, and I like how quickly it can move Sloane's R3 bubble around the table.  You really need that speed when you start bringing Interceptors to the table as they can easily get out of range.

I also *love* the Alpha Squadron Interceptors at 31pts.  I didn't play Sloane before the points change so I can't be sure of how much they add, but I can be sure that they were incredibly important in pretty much every game I played and the squad must surely have been a lot weaker before it included them.

I narrowly missed out on making Top-16 in a big event with the TIEs.  The Vennie matchup is just bad luck in the pairings, and the first round loss to Jason is understandable and it's certainly a winnable matchup.  The list certainly didn't let me down in not making the cut, that's on me.  There's some extended side events at the Milton Keynes System Open next weekend and I'll be taking this exact squad in my bag for those.

And Sloane wasn't just an isolated success for me as Christian Knight made it into the Top-16 with my second choice Sloane list of four Alpha Interceptors and an Academy Pilot.  It's really encouraging that we both got great results with her, and also that we both grabbed the value from those Alpha Squadron Interceptors!  We're mining from the same vein and both finding success.

All hail Admiral Sloane!

8 comments:

  1. Actually Nien only clears a single stress from sloane as per the once per opportunity rule, because both stress tokens are applied at the same time. The same goes for the pilot crit with double stress. Might be useful if you play again with that list ;)

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    1. Stress is gained one at a time, his ability triggers each time one is gained, he removes both. Same thing happens if he has static discharge vanes and gets multiple ions, he removes them as they are gained, one at a time

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    2. Yeah I'm 99% certain this is true and Admiral Sloane gives you stress twice, not two stress at once. Nien would remove both stress tokens as they're individual effect.

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  2. Nice write up!

    Could you share Rich list?

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All lists from the event are up on List Fortress already: https://listfortress.com/tournaments/1533

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  3. "Sith Taker Open", three known words that make no sense together... in the U.S. =)

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  4. Thanks for the good read, this might make me go back to sloane swarms. I still miss my first incarnation which was whisper carrying sloanne, 3 academy ties and 2 interceptors and since the phantom lost its crew slot I'm struggling to find a replacement for that list.

    I've tried a good few variations and with the points changes I'm trying stuff like Oicunn and 3 inquisitors or the lambda/reaper with 4 inquisitors. However seeing your list I might try that one next. :)

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