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....
HYPERSPACE SCOUTING REPORT
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!
HYPERSPACE SCOUT REPORT - THE BAD GUYS
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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.
HYPERSPACE SCOUTING REPORT - THE GOOD GUYS
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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?
HYPERSPACE SCOUTING REPORT - 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...