Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Hyperspace Format - Initial Scouting Report

The following blog was written and ready to post about a month ago... then I got what I'm 99% sure was Coronavirus and X-Wing and blogging sank pretty low on my list of priorities for a while.  Thankfully we're all out the other side of it now, I'm fine and my family is fine and perhaps a little normality can return.
I mention that only because it explains why I'm using older data.  The performance of ships & lists that I'm discussing is what I pulled from Metawing in early March, so it covers the first month and a bit after the points changes.  On a calendar that looks like a long time ago now but as X-Wing events are frozen in carbonite it's probably almost bang up to date with all but the last weekend or two of Store Championships.
Who knows when we'll get back to playing again, but when we do this may be something you want to know....


After the points changes in January I wrote a couple of blog that ran-through of how I thought the various factions were looking ahead of the coming Hyperspace Store Championships season.

We've now got a good month of results behind us so let's have a little look at what's actually happening and see what we can learn about Hyperspace and how to succeed at it.  Deploy the probe droids!


Click to Expand
I foretold hard times for the Galactic Empire in Hyperspace and saw only two routes out for Imperial players - the Decimators and accompanying aces, or a high Initiative jousting list of aces that just tried to embrace variance and punch through.

What we can see from the last month of Hyperspace results is that I was mostly right and that Imperial ships have struggled to make an impact.  What I got wrong, though, was the call that it would be a selection of high Initiative aces that would work for the Empire when there's more evidence that going the other way and spamming in as many low initiative TIE Strikers or TIE Advanced as possible can work.  It's not a very reliable strategy as you're very open to swings of variance in these squads but if you bring enough glass cannons (like the 6 TIE Strikers list) you can stand a chance of doing some real damage before they shatter.  And it's also true that when you bring a collection of glass cannons like this just a little following wind in variance can be enough to send you all the way to the top.

It's grim reading, though.  Metawing isn't seeing many Imperial lists doing well enough to appear in List Fortress (which often only has the top cut lists) and when they do appear they tend not to do well.  The two most popular pilots - Darth Vader and Duchess are played more often - are clearly consistently underperforming given they've put up the worst percentile average scores of the main Imperial pilots.

Unless you can become one of those strange people who actually understand how to use Decimators successfully Imperial players seem destined to just strap themselves to as many red dice as they can find and pray to the green dice gods!

From one spinning Skywalker to another...

I finished my description of the First Order's prospects in Hyperspace with "you can put almost any combination of pilots onto the table and be a tough opponent to face" and from the incredibly even distribution of play across the First Order ships it seems like players have been doing exactly that and there's no clear favourites in what First Order players are choosing to take to the table.

There should be, though.  The TIE/fo is clearly outperforming all the other First Order ships and rapidly eclipsing almost everything but Supreme Leader Kylo Ren.  From what I expected to be a very broad faction what we're finding in competition is that the more Epsilon Squadron Pilots you run the better things seem to go.

What I find extremely interesting in the First Order results, though, is that although individual ships or pilots aren't really spiking hugely strong percentile performances the best SQUAD archetypes certainly are.  It seems like a clear case that it's the specific configurations of pilots that are driving results for the First Order rather than the pilots themselves... eg Kylo will feature in bad squads and good squads (overall percentile of 31% is pretty average), but the good squads with Kylo look really good (55-60% percentile performance is exceptional).  The same is clearly true of other pilots and ships as well.

For First Order players it's a strong case of... 

Separatist players were wringing their hands at the Hyperspace changes.  No Belbullab?  No Sear?  No Ensnare?  Their faction was finished if you chose to listen to most of the Separatist players and their crocodile tears.

Not so, I said in my Hyperspace appraisal.  Vultures were untouched and incredibly strong, while the Hyena Bomber was probably the most underrated ship in Hyperspace format.

Skip forward two months and Separatists have the #1 squad archetype in Hyperspace and four out of the top 5 Separatist squads feature Hyena Bombers.  At the risk of looking like Nostradamus with my predictions the Techno-Union Bomber is even rated the #1 pilot in Hyperspace format!

Who would ever have predicted that?

There is very little variation in the Separatist faction.  You play Vultures and Hyenas - some of one, some of the other - but 9 times out of 10 you never even look at Sith Infiltrators and 99 times out of 100 you don't look at Nantex Starfighters without Ensnare.  The Separatists are really only half a faction which is kind of a shame from a diversity point of view, but that half faction features two of the most undercosted ships in the game and access to some of the strongest Boba Fett counters in Discord Missiles and Plasma Torpedoes.

Hell, two ships?  Most of the time the faction may as well just be two pilots!  The Separatist faction is like wonder material Graphene - paper thin but incredibly strong nonetheless.


Click to Expand
If my outlook for the Empire faction in Hyperspace was bleak then I saw even less on the cards for Rebels.  I didn't believe in five T-65 X-Wings, I didn't believe in double-tapping B-Wings and I didn't see much hope for what was left of Rebel Beef either.

And yeah... pretty much all that came to pass.  Rebels are in a really terrible place for Hyperspace format with not a single ship, squad archetype or pilot consistently doing well.  There just isn't really any compelling reason to run Rebel ships at all.  Yes you can get assemble some great shared red dice modifications into a four-ship 'Beef' list, but even with all those dice mods you're going to lose out in a brawl against a swarm of TIE/fos or Vultures because there's just too many of them and you can't whack-a-mole the enemy fast enough to stay ahead of the incoming damage.

I know a lot of players have explored the Millenium Falcon with Hotshots & Aces cards - either Leia pilot or K2-SO crew.  The feedback I've had from those efforts, which seems to match the results on Metawing, is that it *CAN* work if you fly it perfectly at all times but you're on such a knife-edge of viability that a single mistake can end your chances at any moment.  It's probably the most fun to be had in the faction though, ducking and weaving with the Falcon.

Rebellions are built on hope.  Without Wedge there is precious little of that to go around.

I said that I expected the Resistance faction to be strong in Hyperspace and they have been... but I probably got as much wrong as I did right regarding why they were going to do well.  I expected to see the faction dominated by Poe Dameron and RZ2 A-Wings but in truth both those lines of attack have struggled to punch through in the way I expected.

The big swing towards cheap generic swarms has hurt the 5 A-Wings squad a lot, especially as they don't have Crack Shot to help their 2 red dice punch through against 3 agility opponents.  5 A-Wings hasn't been a complete failure but in hindsight I understand why it has struggled so much - five measly 2 red dice attacks simply isn't enough to bring to the table in this Hyperspace format regardless of how attractive your ship and pilot abilities are.

Like the A-Wings I think Poe has also suffered somewhat from just how much Hyperspace turned into an aggressive spam of cheap ships.  While he's perfect for hunting aces but vulnerable if he takes too many shots back, Poe has found tables full of ships and arcs to be very dangerous places to be.  He also hasn't enjoyed having Fenn Rau crawling over his back with the big points bids in Boba Fenn squads.  

It's not all over for Poe, I think, and the more that Boba-Fenn turns into Boba-Koshka the better Poe gets so I think he'll be around for a while.   But I thought Poe was going to be the poster boy for top ace play in Hyperspace and he's certainly not that.

What HAS been good, and certainly came out of my blind spot, was both Cova Nell and Kazuda Xiono.  Players are still adapting to getting best use of Kaz and he's been inconsistent in finding top finishes (watch this space, though - Kaz is very good!) but Cova Nell has the best percentile performance of any Resistance ship in Hyperspace.  While Rebel Beef has largely failed it seems like Resistance Beef has the tools, tricks, independent dice mods and stronger ships to be able to hold its own much better against the swarms.

For Republic players in Hyperspace I noted that almost all of the old stalwarts of the faction had gone as the Jedi dominance of the back end of 2019 was torn apart in FFG's own 'Order 66'.  But I also saw potential routes forwards in assembling some great four-ship lists based around the strongest remaining Jedi in their Aethersprite fighters.

And that's pretty much exactly what came to pass - I even had a Dedicated ARC in my example Republic squad two weeks before everyone was stunned to find Dedicated in the final of the Milton Keynes System Open!

Milton Keynes marked the launch of Hyperspace season and although the Jedi made an immediate splash in the System Open I think it's fair to say that the Republic hasn't really built on that initial platform.  They're not out of the running by any means but as other players have adapted to Hyperspace since the season began I think the Republic has largely stood still.  Maybe they're all suck in another endless council meeting?

What has changed for the Republic is that players found a way to break out of the four-ship squad shackles and we've seen lists based on massing the generic Jedi Knights do much better than I ever saw coming.  The Jedi Knights are uniquely expert at dismantling the generic swarms in Hyperspace with their mid-level initiative, maneuverability and CLT firepower.  They've struggled to cut through against some of the top lists and aces but when the local metagame is right the CLT Jedi have had tremendous success.  How else to explain why Barriss Offee and the Jedi Knight are outranking Obi-Wan and Ric Olie in Metawing?

One of the overarching learnings for all factions in this analysis is how much cheap generics are bossing things, be they Vulture Droids, Epsilon Squadron Cadets, TIE Strikers or these Jedi Knights.  It fits with the theme of this Hyperspace season that it's the humble knights who are doing so well for the Republic.

Maybe this is why Palpatine got rid of the younglings?


Annnnnd Scum.

I didn't do a Scum prediction for Hyperspace for two reasons.  Firstly, I knew that I was working on Scyk-based Scum lists myself and didn't want to tell everyone what I had planned for Milton Keynes, and secondly because it was already completely bleeding obvious that Scum were about to take over the world with Boba Fett and Fenn Rau.  Or Nom Lum.  Or Skull Squadron Fangs.  Or Cartel Spacers.  

Nobody needed me to give them tips on how to build scum squads for Hyperspace!

And what's happened?  Yep, it's a Boba-eat-Boba world out there, with more Mandalorians than an entire series of The Mandalorian.  Indeed, if this is what happens when the Mandalorians are allowed to take over then I don't blame the Empire for razing their kind into the ground!

What I think almost nobody saw coming was Koshka Frost.  All eyes were on Fenn Rau as Boba's wingman but Milton Keynes proved that we were all wrong and the best partner for a Firespray is...another Firespray.  No other ship is better suited to complement the playstyle of a Firespray than another Firespray.  No other ship can distract from Boba, or do such a good job of replacing Boba if he dies, as mini-Boba Koshka Frost.  

BTW: The fact that Boba Fett (35% percentile) has a lower score than Koshka Frost (47% percentile) doesn't mean that Koshka is better than Boba, it just represents that a lot of the time Boba is being played with Fenn Rau or Skull Squadrons and those squads are dragging Boba's average down.

It's not all there is in the faction, and as well as having the best pilots the Scum faction also has the best strength in depth (it's #10 pilot, Dengar, is ranked 38th on Metawing, much better than any other faction's #10 pilot).  There's a lot of things to like in Scum, and I've already bored everyone with how good I think Scyks are and you should all be playing Scyks, that's right Scyks, because Scyks are the bestest.  Scyky Scyky Scyks Scyks.

If you get this reference you're OK in my book
But Boba-Koshka really is something else, and it will take squads that are aiming directly for it to really keep this squad from dominating the rest of Hyperspace.  There certainly are those tools... Discord Missiles, Plasma Torpedoes, Outmaneuver etc... but the challenge for players trying to bring Boba down is to bring a list that can include those tools and still beat generic swarms.

Maybe Coronavirus is going to turn out to be just what was needed to save us all from Boba Fett!  Silver linings and all that...

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

"Guns. Lots of guns" - Taking Scyks to the Element Store Championships

Here's how I like to prepare for a tournament and get ready with my squad...
Two weeks out: I've picked the squad I want to play and I'm ready to get some practice games in and get good with it.
One week out: I didn't like that squad but now I've got two lists I definitely like and I just need to decide which of them I'm going to play.
Two days out: I've got five or six squads that I've never played before and I'm going to do ippy dippy or something to work out what to do. 
One day out: I'm just going to write "I am a fish" 400 times on my squad registration form then faint.

And somehow in among all these last minute changes I manage to do ok anyway.  In fact a lot of my best results in X-Wing have come from playing squads I'd never played before Round One of a tournament!  I don't recommend it for everyone, but it's just something I've become used to.

For the Element Games Store Championship this past week my usual attack of list indecisiveness was particularly acute.  Here are all the squads I genuinely considered and discarded at some point in the final 72 hours before the Store Championship...
  • Vader 6 TIES
  • Vader Duchess 4 TIES
  • Vader Duchess 3 TIES
  • Vader Maarek Duchess TIE
  • Vader Maarek Vermeil TIE
  • Vader Maarek Vermeil
  • Duchess 2 Strikers 4 TIEs
  • Duchess 2 Strikers 2 x1
  • Duchess 2 x1 3 TIEs
  • Duchess Maarek 4 TIEs
  • Duchess Vermeil 4 TIEs
  • 1 x1, 3 Striker, 3 TIEs
  • Leia Luke
  • Leia Luke Jake
  • Leia Luke Arvel
  • Leia Luke Jek
  • Leia Luke Thane
  • 2 Fang 2 Ion 2 Tractor
  • Laetin, Ahhav 3 Ion 2 TIE
  • 5 Ion Scyks, 2 TIE
  • Holo Scorch Rivas TN  2 TIE
  • Holo LeHuse Scorch Rivas TN
  • Kylo Scorch Rivas TN Epsilon
  • 4 JK Ahsoka
  • 4 JK Broadside
  • 4 JK Barriss
  • Obi Plo Ric ARC
  • Ani-Y Obi Plo
  • Cova, Jess, Bastian, Red Sqd
  • Kaz, Rose, Tallie, Bastian, Red Sqd
  • Poe, Kaz, Zizi
So what did I play?

None of the above...

Guns.  Lots of guns.
  • Cartel Spacer (M3A Scyk) - Tractor Beam
  • Cartel Spacer (M3A Scyk) - Ion Cannon
  • Cartel Spacer (M3A Scyk) - Ion Cannon 
  • Cartel Spacer (M3A Scyk) - Ion Cannon 
  • Cartel Spacer (M3A Scyk) - Autoblasters
  • Cartel Spacer (M3A Scyk) - Autoblasters
  • Mining Guild Sentry (Mining TIE) 

I invented that on Friday evening after one game my Laetin and Ahhav version of the Scum swarm proved to me that I didn't want multiple Initiative levels in the squad as it made movement order too complex and limited my options.

I'd never played Autoblasters before.  In fact, I'll go further: I had a pretty strong opinion that they were rubbish based on my understanding of X-Wing theory and headsim.  But everyone said that they were good... so give them a try?  I didn't really have another plan so let's go for this and borrow some more Scyks to finish the squad off.

Although I'd never played *this* squad before it was very similar to my old Scyk swarm with the two Fang Fighters in that I'd taken to the System Open.  Unfortunately I'd come away from Milton Keynes increasingly sure that I couldn't continue to play the Fang Fighters.  Until Fangs get into Range One and use Concordia Faceoff they're vulnerable and not particularly cost-efficient, but against Firesprays it's difficult to force range one as the opponent can control range so well with Slave I title and boost actions.  When you do get range one it might be in their rear arc so Concordia isn't on anyway.  You stress yourself a lot which Koshka loves, and loads of Proton Bombs being dropped is upsetting to ships with no shields too.

I hadn't been scared of the stripped-down Boba Fetts that I expected before Milton Keynes as they were all trying to outbid each other, and Fenn was so bad against all my arcs and control effects.  But the loaded up Boba Fetts with bombs and Fearless and Contraband were much more dangerous and Koshka Frost was a much more troublesome wingman than Fenn.

The Scyks choice was grounded in pure efficiency and maths.  In First Edition you could field this squad pretty much unchanged, just Autoblasters were different in 1.0.  You *could* field this squad... but it would cost 128 of your 100 squad points.  The raw efficiency I get in the new points values is crazy - it's basically two free ships!  In theory I could just wade into any fight and expect to come out ahead unless variance swung WAAAAYYYY against me, and that was the strategic call I decided to make.

I was going to back my maths.  Back my spreadsheets.  Back my conviction that cannon Scyks are the most cost-effective ship that has ever been in either edition of X-Wing.  

Money.  Mouth.  Same location.  Let's go.


ROUND ONE - Darren Grainger
Boba Fett, Koshka Frost

This was not a nice easy start to the day.  The last time I saw Darren he was running deep into the top cut in the System Open at Milton Keynes with his quad Jumpmasters and four large bases would be a real chore for me to chew through.

Good news: Darren wasn't playing quad Jumpmasters

Bad news: Darren is playing Boba-Koshka instead

I was really happy with the deployment and engagement despite managing to bump myself by tiny margins a couple of times.  My guys converged on Koshka as she screamed down my right hand flank, forcing her to run wide away from my arcs and into my deployment zone as she rounded a big rock that was on that corner of the table.  Koshka was about to become intimately familiar with that asteroid.

Kosha: meet rock.  Rock: meet Koshka.
I tractor beamed Koshka onto the asteroid (no damage from the asteroid roll) then double ionised her.  The next turn I bump a ship into the front of her so she stayed sitting on the rock (no damage) then tractored her again, dragging her across the rock (no damage), then ionised her again and bumped another ship into the front of her so that she spent a third turn pinned onto the rock (no damage again).  She had a console fire this whole time (yep: no damage).  I plowed my Autoblaster Scyks in and unloaded, she dodged it all and finally limped away living on her Hull Upgrade after avoiding 7 ~50% chances of taking a damage from the rock and Console Fire.

Why are you not dead yet, Koshka?!?
It was decisive.  While I was giving Koshka the lions share of my attention for those three turns Boba had swept in behind and started shooting my Scyks.  They were doing Scyk-y things and refusing to die but they were pretty much all smoking and in trouble... then on the final turn 3 or 4 of them exploded at once in a hail of unavoidable bombs and gunfire and I loston MOV.

It took probably two turns longer for Koshka to die than it really should have done.  Had I got to 6-on-1 vs Boba earlier the outcome could well have been different.

Still, it was a lot of fun just grabbing Koshka by the hair and scraping her up and down that asteroid for a while!


ROUND TWO - Jess Rushworth
Vader, Feroph, 2x Tempest Squadron

Jess was flying precisely the sort of jousting squad that my Scyk's should mathematically be able to just chew through more quickly than she could bite back.  The main risk I had was that the TIE Advanced's crits could be a real wildcard and a couple of unexpected Direct Hits could quickly tip the tradeoff maths back in Jess' favour.

I stalled my approach and let Jess come down my left hand flank, then went on the attack as she get my side of the table.  The way we'd engaged at a 45 degree to each other made it difficult for either of us to focus fire on a single target and the combat was really indecisive and started to get very messy as we just turned the corner of the table into a carpark.

Fortunately that worked out mostly in my favour and Jess' TIE Advanced struggled to get clear enough to get actions and set target locks.  The Death Troopers on Jess' Reaper were a bit of a chore as I tried to clear stress from my K-turns but ultimately my Scyks just did what they're supposed to do and traded consistently ahead the whole way.

It was a gruelling slug fest but one that I just inexorably inched further ahead in with each passing combat phase and I took the win.


ROUND THREE - Ben Hibbert
Boba Fett, Nom Lum, Genesis Red

I last met Ben when we played a mirror match with my original Sick Scyks last month and we'd both moved on from that squad but in different ways.  I was now doubled-down on Scyks while Ben had picked up Boba Fett and Nom Lum, with Genesis Red carting some Proton Torpedoes in for extra punch.

The early game rapidly went my way as my swarm surrounded Nom Lum like a shoal of piranha and just shredded the Jumpmaster in short order.  Ben had decided to delay lunging in for a block early and gave me a range 3 engage but then my Ion cannons removed Nom Lum's options and next turn the Jumpmaster just idled
forwards into a deadly killbox when Ben would have been looking for a 3 bank and bump. Genesis Red flung his first Proton Torpedo but then got caught up in the feeding frenzy around Nom Lum's ionised carcass and couldn't get away.

That left me with almost my whole squad available to move on and surround Boba Fett.  Ben did his best to scrap his way out of the fight but his cheaper Boba Fett - no Fearless, no Proton Bombs - didn't have the tools to keep my little ships at bay long enough.

Boba extracted his pound of flesh and a couple of kills as I hounded him across the table but the pressure was relentless and the Firespray could only take so much.


ROUND FOUR - Matt Farr
Fenn Rau, 3x Zealous Recruit

Four Fangs, even if one of the was Fenn Rau, was a matchup that I was pretty confident would go my way.  My range of cannons is almost custom-built to threaten all these low-health targets that simply can't risk getting a tractor beam or ion token assigned to them.

And I did win, but it was a bit tougher than I expected.  Matt broke Fenn off to threaten to flank with Outmaneuver while the Zealous Recruits came straight down the middle of the table.  I split my forces a little, leaving a couple of Scyks on Fenn to keep him from turning my flank too easily while the rest laid into the Zealous Recruits.  The first engagement went my way as I ionised one of the Fangs but then on the next turn Matt made a couple of nice little decisions that re-opened the door for him.

Matt had lined up his Fangs in a 'box with a gap' formation, two Fangs at the front with one Fang sitting behind the left Fang as I saw it.  That left a really attractive gap on the table behind the right-side Fang for one of my Spacers to throw a big 5K into and get behind his formation after the first engage.  But Matt had spotted that play and barrel-rolled his back Fang across into the gap, blocking my K-turn and leaving that Scyk out of the fight for much of the game.

It all got very clumsy in the middle of the table and I had to switch targets from the wounded Fang to shoot at targets of opportunity that wouldn't have Concordia Faceoff working for them at range 1.

The Skulls part of the table had become a proper mess.

The Fenn side of the table was still going my way, though.  After pushing Fenn out wide I sent an Ion Scyk after him with an Autoblaster Scyk following up and finally got my first unpreventable Critical Hit of the day from Autoblasters!  It was Damaged Sensor Array that really hampered Fenn's ability to sweep around the flank, then two turns later Fenn also ate an unpreventable Structural Damage.

It hadn't gone as cleanly as I'd hoped but the raw grinding power of the Scyks pulled through once again.  I finally got away from Concordia Faceoff and removed two of the Zealous Recruits and Matt decided that Fenn's Structural Damage meant he had to fight his way out rather than try to run and flank.  Fenn darted in and deleted a Scyk in one shot but it was his last involvement and I took him off bext time.  It was time for my remaining Scyks to mop up the last Fang.


ROUND FIVE - Jason Denton
Ric Olie, Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano

Last time I was at Element, for the Sith Taker Open, it was Jason who handed me my first round defeat with the Sloane Swarm.  Would I get my revenge with the Scyk Swarm today?

Jason was flying a very unusual but potent alpha-striking Republic list.  It featured both Ric Olie and Anakin Skywalker in N1 Naboo Starfighters with R2 astromech regen, Outmaneuver and Proton Torpedoes.  Either of those ships could easily light up a Scyk!  Running behind the two N1s was Ahsoka Tano to give Ric some extra punch.
Pros: he's got a low ship count, Tractor Beams and Ion Cannons are really good.
Cons: OMG Outmaneuver Proton Torpedoes will delete my Scyks very quickly!  I also have to be really aware of the danger of half-killing one of these ships and letting it get away to repair and regenerate.
I was very wary in approaching this list as it would be so easy for me to overcommit and hand Jason a flank to exploit with Outmaneuver.  For a couple of turns I feinted this way then that way before committing most of my forces towards Ric's flank.  With Anakin and Ahsoka in his team Jason had complete control of when the engage would happen and he decided to strike relatively early, pushing Ric forwards with a banked boost thanks to Ahsoka's pilot ability then hurling a 5 forwards to launch his Proton Torpedoes from both ships.

I forgot to take any photos of this game!
My Scyks managed to tank both shots pretty well.  I lost a shield to Anakin's Proton Torpedo and took a crit on another Scyk from Ric.  In return my cannons opened up and Ric was immediately in trouble - tractored forwards and eating damage from several ships even if he managed to avoid getting ionised.

I simply couldn't let Ric escape to regenerate so after a bit of consideration I decided to hand Anakin my flank and go all-in on blocking and killboxing everything Ric could conceivably do to get away - block the 5 forwards, block the 3 bank, block the 3 turn... the only move I didn't block was the one that Jason actually did, which was a 3 turn AWAY from my ships towards the board edge.  That allowed Ric a turn's grace but also sealed his fate - there was only one way out of that corner of the table and my Scyks were waiting for Ric when he reappeared from the corner on the next turn.

Ric running from my Scyks.  Artist's impression.
Ric was down and Ahsoka swiftly followed, surrounded and hounded by a swarm of Scyks and nasty cannons.  Anakin had largely been given free rein behind my team but with his second Proton Torpedo spent and his wingmates dead the little Naboo Starfighter was minimal threat.  Rather than spend the next half hour trying to run away and scrape MOV at the end of a long day Jason graciously called it quits and gave me the win.



I finished on 4-1 in 5th place, missing the cut on MOV but picking up a decent amount of the nice First Order alt arts and cardboard punchouts.  Sometimes sitting just outside the cut is the cause of bitter disappointment but the way that my day had gone, eating my loss and worst MOV win in rounds 1 & 2, meant that I had never expected to make the cut to begin with.

After round 2 I hated this squad.  Hated the stupid autoblasters and their stupid range 2.  Hated not having Fang Fighters to whizz about with.

After round 5 I liked the squad a lot more.  It's so dependably better than almost any other squad you meet so long as you can keep rolling dice.  In a lot of ways it's dull as dishwater as you never do anything but set dials and take Focus actions (at least with the Fangs in the old version you were boosting and blocking and things) but in other ways planning the killboxes and managing to create unavoidable traps and overlapping fields of fire was engaging enough.  I'd happily play this squad again, though I may tinker with it slightly.

The only decision that really remains to be made is on the specific cannon mix:
Tractor Beams:  They’re really good vs 3/4 ship ace lists.  The most dangerous gun you’ve got as a single red dice squeezing through can be disastrous.  But against other things they get weaker very rapidly.  It’s a meta call if you want 2 of them but in a Boba-heavy world 1 is fine.  Best R3 threat. 
Autoblasters: like a bad CLT but you do occasionally get uncounterable crits in which is nice.  It’s weak but probably does enough it’s not wasted points.  Bigger issue is playstyle which means they don’t work well for my desire to hold longer range area coverage arcs like I'm used to with Tractor Beams and Ion Cannons.  YMMV. 
Ion Cannons: just great vs almost anything.  Too many of them does become counterproductive, though, as you don’t deal big damage just unnecessary extra ion tokens.  Solid at all ranges.

All things considered, I guess I need to go and order myself another couple of Scyk models after all!