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!

1 comment:

  1. Riffing on this... I'm tempted to fly 2 Logistics Pilot Resistance Transports with Tractor Beams, and 3 Blue T-70s. The "hefty chonker" or "oh lawd he commin" version of the list.

    If 28 points is good for a Tractor TIE/fo, 35 might be acceptable for a tractor B-Wing.