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Nova Meta Full Spoilers

Edit: Answers Added Below

It’s almost time to spoil all the code-named lists from the Nova Meta that’s gotten a few of you riled up and gotten the rest of you to invest in popcorn futures. But first, how about a little game to test your ability to predict what the squads were? Below you’ll see a matching quiz to play. Just match up the code name to the archetype and then guess if it made the cut to the extra swiss rounds (must have gone 4-2 in its flight). Answers will be posted at about 10:30am, once Flight 2 begins.

(And yes, this was made on MS Word, that’s why there’s the red squiggles.)

CodeNames*Making the cut refers only to Nova region players. Some squads were flown by others, but this is just if the Nova player flying that squad made it.

Come back in about an hour to see the answers posted!

And here’s the answers!

CodeNamesSpoiled

The Nova Region White List

This is a list of squads that have put up winning records in tournaments in the Nova region since the release of Wave 9. Of course, this excludes squads that people want to keep quiet before Worlds. No charts, no weighting, just a list of squads, no particular order. A couple may be missing just do to not getting squad sheets turned in. And if you want the exact lists, you’ll have to do a little digging on List Juggler, since I’m on my lunch break and have to get back to work soon (some lists are still being added, so chill out if you can’t find it).

Squads that have gone undefeated:

Old Fenn’aroo

Braylen/B/B/Z/Z

Asajj/Fenn/Kaa’to

Poe/Blue Ace/Braylen

Ion Kanan/Biggs

Stress ARC/Bomber K/Tarn

 

Other squads with winning records:

Corran/Poe/TLT Y-Wing

Vessery/Ryad/Quickdraw

Fenn/Zuckuss/Roo

Ace/Vessery/Backdraft

Vessery + 2 Omega Specialists

Oicunn/Omega Leader/Wampa

Red Ace/Nera/Warden

Guri/N’Dru/TLT Y-Wing/+1

Triple Defenders

Wedge/Norra/Biggs

Two Defenders + Omega Leader

Howl/Omega Leader/3x Black Crack

Luke/Wes/Wedge

Roo/Fenn/Kavil

Shadowcaster/88B

Fenn/2x Torp Scouts

Braylen/Biggs/Corran

Tomax/Ryad/Palp

Fenn/Bumpmaster/Party Bus

Vessery/Ryad/Deathfire

Poe/Red Ace/Stresshog

Poe/Ello/Braylen

Asajj/N’Dru/Old T

Wedge/Biggs/A-Wing/A-Wing

 

And of course, what would a post about squads be without some jimmies getting rustled, here’s a list of code names, ordered more or less by their current standing in the meta.

Black List:

“Billy Evans Classic”

“NonRonConSpecial”

“RonConSpecial”

“Jankymech”

“Scum Salad”

“Zoolock”

“Rhymer Ball”

“GenCon Special”

“Operation Overlord”

“Rice Gambit”

“Howard Aces 2.0″

“Not Braylen/Biggs/Corran”

“STOP IT JUST STOP POSTING THESE ARTICLES”

“Popcorn Ensues”

“Maul Kills Ezra”

“R+L=J”

“Many of the Special Edition and Blu-ray Edits are Actually Significant Improvements”

Heading into Worlds, what are the viable squads?

In light of the uproar over the last meta breakdown post, I thought I’d share with everyone a moderately comprehensive list of the squads that are “viable” these days. And by “viable” I mean something very specific: A skilled player who has put in the time and prep work to understand how the squad works and the dynamics of common matchups has a fair chance to go undefeated at a 3 or 4 round tournament in the Nova region. Basically, what’s “Nova viable.” Unlike the meta analysis, this isn’t what is actually winning, but what could reasonably win. This is based on playing a ton of games, watching a bunch, talking to other players, some historical data, and just a smidge of theory crafting. Some, but not all, of the black boxed squads may be mentioned here (that’s all I’ll say, so don’t ask).

Many of these squads will have an “I have a bad feeling about this” quality to them. You may think they’ll get stomped. I’ll just refer you back to the criteria: They won’t always win. They probably won’t win in the hands of a mediocre player. A few have some hard counters. They simply have the potential to go undefeated in a short-but-competitive event in the Nova region.

As for what’s viable at Worlds… eh, no one knows. The person holding the winning squad right now doesn’t even know it. The meta is diverse enough at this point that a lot will come down to matchups and the timing of those matchups (hit your tough game first round of swiss, not in the elimination rounds). It’s really hard to say squads have the staying power to win 8ish matches and then another 4-5 more. But, if a squad can go 3-0 or 4-0 at a smaller event, I think it’s hard to argue it’s not viable. Maybe an underdog, but it still has a shot.

If you want to know the exact loadouts on a squad… then you’re asking the wrong question. Almost all of these have several different good options. Open up a squad builder and season to taste.

 

Starting with the Rebels:

Kanan and Biggs. TLT and Autoblaster are the most popular options here, but I prefer Ion Turret, RecSpec and Jan Ors on Kanan with enough points for R2-D2 on Biggs. Season to taste.

Ghost + Bomber K. Kinda straight forward. K-Wing takes Connor Nets and sets up for the Ghost to drop the hammer. This one won Nova Open.

Double Ghost +1. Two ghosts with autoblaster and FCS, and some other ship. You’ve all seen the Y-Wing variant, but an A-Wing can go in there as well, or a support HWK.

Double Ghost. Two ghosts with autoblaster, FCS, extra munitions, guidance chips, and your choice of torpedo. Lots of points left for crew or pilot upgrades. Season to taste.

Miranda and Esege. Loaded with TLTs and a ton of bombs, the trick is to force your opponent to split up their fire so neither K drops until very late in the game.

Bomber K + 2 Bomber Ys. Not enough points for a turret on the K, but you can give the Ys TLTs and two bombs each. I like Cluster Mines here for the width of the bomb drop and Sabine damage. Bombers need to joust to be deadly with the bombs.

Biggs + 2 Rebels. Pretty basic formula here, pick your favorites. Jake, Corran, Wes, Wedge, Poe, Miranda, Keyan, or those newfangled ARC-170s. Just fly whatever you have fun with, it’s a strong template.

Han and Jake. It struggles against triple jumps or double jumps +1, but that squad has become less common here lately. Does about 50/50 against Dengaroo, and some very careful planning can tip the odds.

5 Rebels. If it’s stupid but it works, then it ain’t stupid. Season to taste.

 

And now the Imperial squads.

Palp Aces. Ol’ faithful squad, of course. Season to taste.

Palp Defenders.

Triple Aces.

Triple Defenders.

Two Defenders +Tomax. I like Cool Hand, Fleet Officer, and Rebel Captive for more survivability. I find Systems Officer a bit harder to get mileage out of.

Oicunn +1/2. Load him out and take a high point cost ace, or go a little leaner and take Wampa and Inquisitor/Omega Leader.

Deathrain + Mini Howl Crackswarm. Advanced Sensors, Experimental Interface, and two Connor Nets makes Deathrain brutal (though very expensive). The net sets up for the mini swarm to chew through a defenseless target.

TIE Swarm. Most popular version is Howl, 3x Black Crack, 3x Acadmy TIE, but you can season to taste.

 

And finally, the scum.

Triple Torpedo Boats. It’s not popular here, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t win tournaments.

Double Torp Boats +1. Zuckuss was the most popular add-on for a while, but now it’s the Party Bus. You can also run one of the new Fangs or a Bumpmaster.

Dengaroo. Season to taste.

Old Fenn’aroo. Fenn, Old Teroch, Manaroo. Go in very aggressive. Season to taste.

2 TLT Ys +1. Really simple scum formula: Take 2 Y-Wings, give them TLTs, and add the large base ship du jure.

3 TLT Ys +1. Same idea, but add on a cheapish small base ship. 28 points to play with if you don’t have any droids on the Ys. Heck, you could do this with rebels and Biggs.

4 TLT Ys. Triple torp boats knocked these guys out of the meta, but Dengaroo, Ventress, and Defenders could bring them back.

Bossk +1. Typically that +1 is Tel, but you can do Dengar or any of your favorite heavy hitting scum ship. Lots of ways to trick out Bossk — don’t overlook the Concussion Missile.

I Don’t Know …Fly Casual

Let me start by first saying thanks to Ned, Aaron, Liz, Guy, and the fine folks at the Scum and Villainy podcast for their contributions to the Shaken Pilot Drinking Fund.

Now, let’s talk a little bit about what Fly Casual means, because a bunch of you nerfherders on the galactic holonet seem to have some misconceptions about it.

Fly Casual does not mean “Bro, you gotta let me cheat.” Mistakes are mistakes. Missed opportunities are missed opportunities. In a tournament setting, there is nothing wrong with holding your opponent to the rules. (More on this at the end.)

What Fly Casual does mean is that you keep in mind a basic fact about how X-Wing is played …that it involves tiny plastic spaceship models being moved around with cardboard templates, often in a very small, cluttered area.

Ships should be placed with a reasonable amount of precision. Yet, the very nature of the components means that things will sometimes be imprecise, especially as bumps start happening. Fly Casual means everyone is expected to try their best, and also that you shouldn’t get too bent out of shape when your opponent accidentally nudges one of your ships because his hands are shaking from the DTs.

And speaking of the DTs, let’s take a break to talk about my favorite kind of prize support:

Here we’ve got two drinks made possible by those lovely people I thanked up top. (The lovely people are Ned and Liz; everyone else I thanked is butt tugly.) First, Airen Cracken’s Kraken Mojito. Guaranteed to spice up your night. Just have a drink, and give someone close to you some free action.

And then the Tatooine Sunrise. It’s tequila and Sanpellegrino blood orange soda. Red Ace swizzle stick optional. This shouldn’t be confused with my personal favorite, the Tatooine Sunset, which is made by purchasing a Sanpellegrino regular orange soda during Tuesday night x-wing at your favorite FLGS, drinking a bit, and then topping it off by pouring tequila directly into the can.

 

Where was I? Something, something fly casual. I’ve been to a lot of tournaments, and have a bit of a reputation for going to damn near everything in the area (and in NoVa, that’s a ton of stores). The number of people I’ve seen clearly cheating by manipulating ship placement is somewhere between 0 and 1. The number of people I’ve seen simply being careless — but not seeming like they’re trying to get an advantage — is somewhere between 1 and 2. Literally every other person I’ve gone up against has attempted to do the best they can while working within the limitations of little plastic spaceships, cardboard templates, and clumsy human fleshpaws.

And speaking of clumsy human fleshpaws, here’s another picture from the Lego X-Wing Cantina. Just imagine trying to move ships with Lego hands.

Yes, that’s IG-88C. Yes, that’s Gonk. Yes, that’s Airen Cracken holding a teddy bear.

The one area where I think there may be some genuine unsportsmanlike conduct going on is in regards to taking too much time. I don’t want to say stalling for time though, because I can’t see into anyone else’s heart. Except the Howard brothers. Their hearts are full of rot and termites. Everyone else though, I don’t know if there’s any intention to stall or not. All I know is that sometimes I think people are taking too long.

If on average, you take longer than 3 minutes to set your dials, you’re taking too long. 2 minutes is pretty reasonable for most rounds and most squads. Some squads obviously take a little longer than the average, and some rounds will present particularly tricky options. And that’s why I said on average you shouldn’t take longer than 3 minutes.

Here’s the thing though, taking too long even when you’re genuinely trying to decide on a maneuver is also unsporting in my book. You’re essentially using your idiocy to gain an advantage over your opponent. The only ways being stupid should help you out is if you’ve brought a wacky list no one knows how to fly against because it’s too stupid for them to have thought about (Latts, Kavil, Palob anyone?), or because you’ve picked moves that are too stupid for your opponent to think you’d actually execute (4K onto a rock!). But, grinding down the clock because you need to check for a fifth time to see if your Lambda Shuttle has a white 1 hard turn, that’s not okay.

Yet, Fly Casual means I don’t think we should have an official time limit on the planning phase, or introduce chess clocks to tournaments. Fly Casual means we solve this problem by setting a standard, and the standard is to just try your best within the limits of your alcohol-addled meat-based brain. It also means to give your opponent not only a relatively fun experience (within the bounds of his crappy dice rolls), but also a fair chance to win or make the next cut that isn’t hampered by your own ineptitude.

And now here’s another picture:

 

My final thoughts on Fly Casual have to do with missed opportunities and stupid mistakes. You are well without your rights to hold your opponents to their mistakes. Missed opportunities are explicitly addressed in the rules. But speaking of the rules, let’s see what it actually says:

“If a player forgets to use an effect during the timing specified by that effect, he or she cannot retroactively use it without the consent of his or her opponent.”

The rule here is interesting because it says both that you can hold your opponent to the mistake, and that you can let them fix it. The key point here though is that Fly Casual does not require you to let your opponent fix a mistake.

The rule of thumb I go by is that you can always retroactively take an opportunity so long as you have not received any new information that could reasonably impact your decision making. New information would be something like seeing an opponent’s dial, learning where precisely a ship lands, or seeing the result of a dice roll.

Can you get R2-D2’s shield regen midway through a round? I’d allow it. You’d take the shield regardless of what else happens in the round, so your decision is the same no matter what new information you’ve received.

Can you take a Focus action at the start of combat with a ship that took no actions? Sure, go for it! Focus is just the default action choice. (TL and Evade tend to be based a bit more on seeing ships’ positions though, so unless it’s clear from the build and play of the game that a different action has become the default for a ship, I’d only allow a Focus.)

Can you choose to un-spend an evade token when your opponent starts to activate gunner? I think so. You’re making the change based on information you forgot — you’re not changing because you didn’t think they’d use gunner.

So, can un-spend a token when your opponent announces that the Luke (crew) shot will be on a different target? I think not. They’ve revealed a secret tactical decision that you didn’t know about before, and this new information locks in the choices that have been made.

You can’t decide to barrel roll a ship or move in a different order once you’ve realized you’re going to bump. But, you can take back a focus action to flip down your console fire.

The important thing here though is just that these are the allowances I would make in a game. The rules don’t require you to make them, and I don’t think you should be accused of not flying casual if you don’t allow your opponent’s the same latitude. I think it makes the game more enjoyable when we give people these little corrections, but it’s still on you to get your shit straight to begin with. Be nice to each other, but don’t blame other people for your mistakes.

 

No more Lego X-Wing pictures. For now.

 

 

This Is Why You Fail

The first step to improving at X-Wing is admitting you have a problem. And your Win-Loss record will typically make that easy enough to do.

The second, and much harder step, is figuring out just what that problem is. What makes this so difficult is that there are many different kinds of problems. Some issues are very obvious (forgot I moved first, and now my K-turn is blocked…), but many are very subtle. Hopefully this will help you to figure out where your problems are coming from.

1. Piloting Error

This is the most basic type of problem. That 3 bank went a lot further than you thought and landed you on a rock. Piloting error is when your ships land somewhere other than where you thought they would.

While this is usually very obvious (because you see your ships bumping and hitting obstacles), sometimes it can be a hidden problem. If you routinely have to use barrel rolls to get around obstacles, you may be suffering from piloting error. Sometimes the roll was exactly what you planned — and that’s okay — but if you’re using it to correct because you didn’t plan right, don’t trick yourself into thinking you’re actually a good at flying. The poor piloting is now costing you Focus and Target Lock actions, and probably costing you games as well.

2. Tactical Error

These are the small, turn-by-turn decisions. Taking a Target Lock when you needed a Focus. Spending a Focus on offense when you should have kept it for defense.

This type of error can be hard to spot because it doesn’t always come back to bite you the way landing on a rock does. If you boost your T-70 into Range 1 (4 dice, expect 2.0 damage) instead of taking a Focus (3 dice + Focus, expect 2.25 damage), you might end up rolling hit-hit-blank-blank and feel lucky you didn’t need that Focus after all. It doesn’t feel like an error. But, over a series of games, those sub-optimal decisions stack up. You can make tactical errors and win, but you won’t win consistently. Best way to fix this is to sit down with the back of an envelop and do a little bit of math. (1 natural red die  = 0.5 hits. With Focus or TL = 0.75 hits. With Focus and TL = 0.94 hits.)

Making poor maneuver decisions is also a kind of tactical error. You don’t know where the enemy might go and are trying to plan for multiple possibilities. Most common error I see is over-committing to a guess. It’s typically harder to recover from overshooting. Better to go slow and try to trap the opponent over multiple rounds. There are some situations where you have to get ambitious, but most of the time it’s better to miss a shot because you moved too slow than too fast.

3. Strategic Error

These are the big, game-plan decisions. How do you set up your squad? Which ships do you focus on first?

Like tactical errors, strategic errors can be tough to recognize. The results of the bad decision are often far removed from the decision itself.

The best way to get around a strategic error is to create a path to victory. Think about what you want the mid-game and end-game to look like. What’s the most favorable match up once you’ve both lost half your points? What’s the worst match up? This tells you who to hunt on the other side, and who to protect on your own side. Focus on forcing a trade that favors you. In other words: Kill Omega Leader first.

Pay attention to pilot skill, damage output, and damage mitigation to figure out what your squad’s path to victory is. When facing ships with consumables (munitions, bombs, crackshot, glitterstim, etc), ask yourself how big a threat that ship is after it’s used up its tricks, and if you should focus on someone else first. Pay special attention to ships that require focusing fire to kill. Soontir Fel, Red Ace, and Omega Leader are almost impossible to kill in a 1-on-1 matchup, so they have to be dropped early.

4. Squad Building Errors

Sometimes there’s just boneheaded mistakes, like putting Gunner on the Outrider. But, assuming you have at least a few competitive games under your belt, you’re not likely to mess up that badly.

Instead, squad building problems come down to leaving yourself vulnerable to too many opponents. I like to think of my squads as a toolbox. I need to have the right set of tools to defeat a range of different squads.

To identify problems with your squad, look at the most common list archetypes in your meta, and see if your squad can create a path to victory for each one. At the moment, here’s the squads I’d think about:

Palpatine Shuttle, Omega Leader, Ace to be named at a later time

3 U-Boats — Plasma torps, proton torps, Boba Fett crew, 4-LOM crew

Triple Imperial Aces — Assume Soontir, Carnor Jax, and Omega Leader all present

Poe, Red Ace, Stresshog. This is becoming pretty rare, but still something worth theorizing against.

Dash and Miranda. Both can be tough to face in the end game.

TIE Salad — Ben’s Roanoke championship list. Palp shuttle, Alpha w/Thrusters, Wampa, Scourge w/Crackshot, Howlrunner w/Crackshot

4 TLTs. Also becoming somewhat rare these days, but someone still brings it once in a while.

4-5 Rebels: Either 4 B-Wings; BBBBZ; or 2 T-70s, 2 Z-95s, and Roark w/TLT (in any case, lots of hit points, lots of fire power)

Rear Admiral w/Vader and Gunner, plus Whisper

To be clear, you probably won’t find a squad that thinks of each of these as a favorable match-up. But, if you can only figure out how to beat 3-4 of them with your squad, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. A few of these should be great matches for you, and most of the rest should be no worse than 50/50 odds.

You’ll probably have 1-2 “hard counters” out there, which are almost impossible for you to beat, and this becomes more likely with every new wave. Best case scenario is that your hard counter is something that loses to other popular squads.

5. Moral Failure

People who play against me regularly have probably heard me refer to winning through good morals and losing because of moral failure. It sounds like a joke, yet there is something specific I mean when I say it.

Moral failure is blaming anything but yourself for your loss.

If you got bad match ups, you should have built a squad that gets better match ups. If you get outmaneuvered, you shouldn’t have let that happen. If you get bumped and landed on rocks, you should have flown better.

But the big part here is dice. Your dice went cold? Tough. You should have planned on that happening. When you’re formulating a plan, you should be thinking about how it will go if your opponent rolls well and you roll poorly. Do you have re-roll mechanisms in place? Evade tokens? Can you arc dodge instead of risking the shot?

When there are 20-30 attack rolls in a game (and just as many defense rolls), and you’re playing in a tournament with 4-6 rounds of Swiss and another few rounds of single elimination, you will get on cold streaks and your opponent will get on hot streaks.

Moral failure is blaming luck for losing. Good morals is figuring out how to optimize the things that are under your control to avoid leaving things up to luck.

 

[And yes, I understand that’s not what “moral” means. I just like saying Moral Failure.]

 

A Word About the Intentional Draws in Roanoke

By now you’ve probably heard abut the fiasco with the top 8 players at the Roanoke Regionals at Star City Games all taking byes in the final round of Swiss to be guaranteed a place in the top 8. This prevented the 9th and 10th place players from moving up into the top 8.

9th place at least got a set of dice though (the tournament kits come with an extra set as a gift to the TO, which they gave away). I think getting to play in the top 8 is worth more than the dice themselves, but as far as consolation prizes go, it’s pretty damn good. Very classy move by Star City.

But what about 10th place? A player who would have made the cut, but who didn’t, and walked away with nothing but the participation prize. What about him?

More importantly, What can you do for him?

I asked, and he said you can send him tequila. Seriously, for all the salt y’all are putting out there, some tequila to go with it would be nice. I’ll supply the limes.

Also, 10th place was me. I’m saying send me tequila. Or quit whining about the tournament. Either one is fine by me.

I prefer the tequila.

If you’re in the NoVa area, I’ll be at Chuy’s from 5-6pm tomorrow before Curio’s Tuesday night tournament. If you’re not in the area, I’ll give you my address and you can mail me a bottle. Minis, pints, fifths. However pissed off you are, send me that much booze. Are you 1.75 liters pissed off? Faaaantastic! You can either PM me on Reddit, or leave your e-mail address as a comment here, and I’ll give you my mailing address to send booze to.

Otherwise, shut the hell up.

Look, I’m not saying you can’t have an opinion about tournament structure. I’ve got one, I’ve written about it, and that’s fine. But, if you’re going to get mad at the players, especially if you’re going to start insulting them, the price to entry into that conversation is that you buy me a drink.

I’m serious. If you think the situation is so bad that it calls for insulting other players, but you don’t think it’s bad enough to buy someone directly harmed by it a single friggin’ drink, then you’re not just an asshole, but a cheap asshole.

You can be cheap, or you can be an asshole, but don’t be both.

 

In all honestly, while I think the rules do have some issues (in this case it’s that mod wins effectively made this a 44 person tournament instead of 45, so it only needed 5 rounds to begin with), I have no hard feelings towards the players.

Did I get knocked out because they all took draws? Sure.

But, I also got knocked out because I didn’t fly Jake aggressively enough in my first loss, and because I flew him too aggressively and made a poor barrel roll in my second loss. I got knocked out by the draws just as much as I got knocked out by having 2 losses in the first 5 rounds.

I had a good time, and I’m not mad.

What I am is sober.

And that’s not okay.

Intentional Draws vs. Intermezzo Elimination Round

Much ado has been made recently over FFG allowing for intention draws in X-Wing. And, while there’s definitely a lot of good criticism out there, I want to start this post by a brief defense of the rule. (Ultimately I think there’s a better rule, but let’s start with what this rule gets right.)

Let’s set the scene: It’s a regional championship with 40 players under the Basic Structure. We’ll have 5 rounds of Swiss and a cut to top 4. The expected results after 5 rounds is 1 5-0 player and 4 4-1 players. This means 1 of the 4-1 players will not make the cut.

So, it’s round 5, and two players with 4-0 records meet at the top table. In 75 minutes, one of them will be 5-0 and guaranteed a spot in the top 4. The other will be 4-1, with a chance (roughly 25%) of not making the cut. If they instead draw and both have 4-0-1 records, they will both make the cut. It’s in their interests to draw.

What This Gets Right(?)

The ultimate effect of the intentional draw rule is that it favors Strength of Schedule of Margin of Victory.

There’s some common sense to this. If your 1 loss was at the top table in round 5, you necessarily only lost to a player who went undefeated. Not only that, but you played nothing but undefeated players all day. Compare that to someone who loses in round 1 and then wins the next 4 games. This player’s next 4 games are all against people who’ve lost games, and his one loss may have been to someone who ultimately went 1-4.

Granted, some people will get an unlucky draw and have a tough opponent in round 1, and then end up playing against very good opponents the rest of the day. It happens. But, the rule is trying to get at what works most of the time, and most of the time W-W-W-W-L is a better record than L-W-W-W-W.

There’s Gotta Be a Better Way!

And there is! Let’s call it the Intermezzo Bracket.

Have everyone with only 1 loss (or 0 losses) make the cut. In our scenario here, this would mean a cut to Top 5.

The matheletes out there will notice it’s very hard to run a single elimination tournament with an odd number of players, or any number that’s not a power of 2. But, fret not, there’s a solution.

#4 and #5 play each other, while #1-3 take a break. After this “intermission round,” we’ll be down to 4 players and can proceed to normal single elimination.

This tournament structure stops caring about MoV or SoS, and says that all that really matters is your Win-Loss record. MoV will determine if you have to play that extra round to make it from Top 5 to Top 4, but all that extra game comes down to is Win or Loss.

What’s more, the players at that top table in round 5 of Swiss no longer want to take an intentional draw. Doing so would mean that one of them may have to play in the extra intermission round. Better to go 5-0 and avoid the extra game. Correction: They’d still be the top 2 players and avoid the Intermezzo round.

If someone did intentionally draw, it wouldn’t immediately knock another player out of the cut anyways. And, making MoV less important should encourage more diversity in squads.

Only downside is that we’ve now got an extra round, which makes the day go longer. But if you’re the type to say that “more x-wing” is a real downside, then maybe premier tournaments aren’t for you.

 

[And just as a bit of clarity, if for instance you have 12 players with 5-0/4-1 and wanted to cut to top 8, you’d take all 12, and then the bottom 8 all play an extra round. 4 players are eliminated during the intermission, and you’ve got a top 8.]

Rock and Roll – Obstacle Placement Against Jake and Soontir

Conventional wisdom in X-Wing is that highly maneuverable ships (especially those with 1 hard turns, and the Barrel Roll action) like tight rock placements, while less maneuverable ships prefer room to breathe.

Having played north of 100 tournament games with Han and Jake, I’ve reached a completely different conclusion. Jake (and his Imperial cousin Soontir) loves to have rocks fairly spaced out from each other. I don’t want lanes that are easy for the enemy to K-turn in, but I don’t want a very tight cluster of obstacles either.

This is because there is something far more important to me than navigating around obstacles: Arc Dodging.

Given a big open space, Jake and Soontir almost always have some excellent movement options. They can use both Boost and Barrel roll (and still have a Focus) to move out of arc entirely, push an attack to Range 3 for a bonus die and autothrusters, move in for a Range 1 attack on an enemy, or close into a TLT or HLC Outrider donut hole.

Obstacles serve to severely limit these ships’ options. Jake especially loses his effectiveness when he can’t close into Range 1 of the target.

I think it helps to look at maneuverability in terms of squad points. There’s some number of points being used to give these ships their arc dodging ability, and that comes in their dials, actions, and high pilot skill. Denying them the ability to reposition is like turning them into a generic pilot. I love flying Han and Jake, but there’s no way I’m bringing Han and a single Green squadron pilot to a tournament. And that really is what it’s like to get your actions limited. I can’t get the free movement, so I have no pilot ability, can’t reposition so higher pilot skill doesn’t help, can’t close to Range 1 to fire my rockets — it’s like I have 8 points of upgrades that just disappeared.

 

And then there’s the dials. Honestly, as far as Jake and Soontir are concerned, the 1 hard turn doesn’t exist (with rare exception). They’re limited to green maneuvers, and the rocks can really help you to get them in a place with no good moves. A close clump of rocks can easily make it such that you only need to block up one space to force a bump, or have a single ship that can threaten to bump in multiple locations.

In short, all those ships that you may think of as loving a close clump of rocks, they have to the most to potentially lose by flying among them. Arc dodging is easy. Rock dodging is easy. Doing both is tough. To win against these ships, give yourself the most opportunities to force a mistake by your opponent.

Worlds Battle Report

I started the day feeling like Paul Heaver. Well, just heaver. I was heaving. Into the toilet. Puked up all the mucous that had pooled in my stomach over night.

I had been sick for a couple days, and was running a 102F as I arrived in St. Paul around 11:30pm the night before X-Wing worlds. I managed to get about 3 hours of sleep, kept up mostly by Anakin-on-Mustafar level of pain in my tonsils. So that’s the state I was in for the World Championship of Spaceplanes. And in that context, I feel pretty darn good about my performance.

First, my list: Han w/Lone Wolf, Falcon Title, Engine Upgrade, C3PO, and Luke; Jake w/Push the Limit, VI, Autothrusters, and Proton Rockets. 96 points.

Round 1: VI Mangler Boba Fett w/2x TLT Y-Wings

Running two PS9 ships with a 4 point initiative bid, one of the last things I want to see across from me is a PS10 ship. Luckily, Fett has trouble getting in shots consistently every round, allowing Han and Jake to quickly tear up the Y-Wings. Han took some damage, but I had the game locked up away pretty quickly.

And then I landed on a rock and took a Range 1 shot to the face. Han was down to about 2-3 hit points after that, but luckily was able to survive the next round of shooting from Fett, and put him away that turn.

Record: 1-0

Round 2: Predator Vader w/ATC and Engine, Soontir w/PtL Auto, Carnor w/PtL Auto (Martin Hoffman, #16 Swiss)

I got overly aggressive with Han, hoping to boost past his squad in the opening joust. Blocked by about an eighth of an inch, and Han took 7 points of damage. This literally never works. (Actually, it has worked, but most of the time the gamble fails. Don’t do it, kids.)

After that, it took me too long to take down Vader. Don’t recall if I got to fire my rockets at him or not. Had I killed Vader a round earlier, I think I’d of had a chance.

Or, if I’d just not been stupid. This is probably the match I feel worst about because this is where my PS9s with the initiative bid should be able to out dance his ships easily. At least I lost to an excellent opponent. Would still like to have this one back though.

Record: 1-1

Round 3: Brobots Mangler B, HLC C

Got aggressive with Jake, perhaps too early in this one. I fired off my rockets at B, and only did 2 damage. Had to spend my Focus on the attack, leaving Jake defenseless, and lost him that round.

That left 8 HP Han against a half-health B and a full-health C. At one point Han got caught at Range 1 of both 88s and my choices were to either eat a lot of damage with just 1 Evade and C3PO to protect me, or to boost directly at the board edge with barely any space left. I boosted.

Next round I made a hard turn, and before executing it, went to my opponent’s side with the 2 straight template to measure distance from the edge just so there wouldn’t be any argument about bumping the template or something. The template just barely fit, which meant Han was safe (since you back up just a little on the 1 hard with a large ship).

After that turn, I had several easy shots on the wounded B without taking return fire. I was able to chance him down and get the kill. After that, Han against 88C is a pretty easy fight.

Record: 2-1

Round 4: SVP – Soontir, Vader, Palpatine

This wasn’t the list I was used to, and he had VI Vader with Engine instead of Lone Wolf Vader and Sensor Jammer on Palpatine. I’d played Jeremy Howard (lost to Paul in top 4) a lot, and knew to get my rockets into Vader first, then just arc dodge Soontir while shooting down the shuttle. With VI Vader though, that’s not an option.

He set up classic shuttle in the corner pointing along his edge. I put Han directly across in jousting position. Jake was on the opposite side. Opening round he does a hard 2 in with the shuttle and I have a 1 forward on Han and boost. He sends Vader after Jake.

I forgot if this happened second or third round, but I gave Han a 4-K and landed side-by-side with the shuttle. After that I was able to just pump shots into him, and have Jake bail out to avoid getting shot by Vader. He had to change the plan with Vader, sending him to help against Han, and then I turned Jake back in.

Eventually he pulled a 1 bank towards the board edge to force Han to bump. I saw it coming, did a 4-forward and got the kill. Vader dropped next, and in the final round Han and Soontir went toe-to-toe. He got the kill, and I put on damage with simultaneous fire. Jake finished the job.

Record: 3-1

Meal break, went to Wendy’s with Paul and Jeff F. (#31 Swiss). Chocolate Frosty on my raging tonsils and I went completely derpy. Holy shit, such relief I didn’t even think was possible. Too bad my stomach couldn’t take much of that, so I had to stop and let the pain slowly work its way back. At least spirits were high.

Round 5: 88B w/Lone Wolf, HLC, FCS, Glitterstim, 2x TLT Y-Wing (Jeff F. #31 Swiss)

I’ve played against Jeff with this list a couple times and knew the odds were slightly in my favor. He set up IG too far away in the corner, allowing me a couple quick strikes at his Y-Wings. I was able to pop them both, and it came down to the 88 with 4 HP, Han with 2-3, and Jake around 1-2.

Should have been able to win this one, but Jeff’s a worthy opponent and I was reaching the worst point of my sickness. Absolutely most miserable I had felt, and he got Han with the HLC, then managed to sneak in a hard 1 around some rocks with 88 to get the last shot on Jake just before time ran out. I probably could have run a little earlier, or just forced some bumps at the end to take a mod win, but I wanted to go for it all and ended up with a very narrow loss.

Record: 3-2

Round 6: Don’t remember the exact list, but it had a bomber K-Wing, a couple bandits, and I think a stresshog.

While he managed to hit Han with a Connor Net and put some stress on him, I dropped the hog quick, and sent the K-Wing on extended vacation with a damaged engine crit. After that, Han was going to make short work of the rest of the squad with no real chance for him to recover, so my opponent conceded and dropped the tournament.

100-0 win!

Record: 4-2

Round 7: Jake w/VI, PtL, Thrusters and Rockets, Po w/BB8, PtL, Thrusters, Stresshog

He came in at 97 points so that Jake could fire his rockets into all those Imperial aces out there. I came in at 96 points so that Jake can fire his rockets into other Jakes. Really bad matchup for my opponent.

I plink away at the Stresshog early on and let my Jake be the bait, running him all over the battle field and keeping just out of range of the stress shots. Eventually he gets really aggressive with Po, try to trap me in a pincer move. I pulled Jake in with a hard 1 (wasn’t stressed) and gave him a face full of rockets. Don’t recall if Han needed the follow-up or not, but Po died that round.

Next round he gets his Jake into perfect position. He already had a lock on Han, and Han is about to move into Range 1 with nowhere to boost away to. I decide to move my Jake first, and am able to barrel roll towards Han, forcing Han to bump with now Jake and Han safe from the rockets.

With just Jake and a Y-Wing that was going to die that round, he conceded.

100-0 win!

Record: 5-2

With those two perfect rounds, I’m starting to feel like I’m maybe still in it. Getting excited, and either way ready for the day to be over so I can get some sleep.

Round 8: 4 TLT Ys with Unhinged

Opening round I set up Han across from the Ys in jousting formation, Jake’s on the other edge. He goes 3 forward, I 4K Han. Only the first two Ys are in range, and I do 3 damage while taking 2. Not a bad exchange. 1 bank and boost the next round and have a good exchange again.

After that, I got stupid. I turned Han into the asteroids hoping to get some bonus dice. I also bring in Jake to help the balance of damage go my way.

He turns his attention to Jake, and is able to force me to split up my shots. Jake only manages 1 round of shooting before committing to running away. He’s able to avoid a ton of shots and I’m happy with how I flew him (never bumped despite my opponent’s best efforts), but eventually Jake drops. The next round I’m able to boost Han into 2 donut holes while killing one of the other Ys, but at this point Han just can’t dance well enough.

I manage to kill 3 of the 4 Y-Wings, but just lost the slug fest. Really needed to play Jake even more conservatively than I did. I wanted to be able to drop 2 Y-Wings before Han died, so I brought in Jake for a little extra damage, but even against 3 Ys, he has a change (especially with rockets left), and against 2 he can win. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep him around, and Han doesn’t work as a closer against TLTs.

Record: 5-3. 42nd in Swiss, 1058 MoV. The cut for 6-2s to make the top 16 was a 1108 MoV, so had I beaten Jeff (or the Ys), I would have move ahead to the next day. Had a very gruelling 3.05 Strength of Schedule, and was 3rd of the 5-and-3s.

Despite being physically miserable the whole time, it was definitely a great experience and I’m pretty happy with my performance. Obviously disappointed to be so close and not make it (just like the 3 Nova guys who went 6-2 and missed the cut), but I did well enough to know I don’t absolutely suck at this game. Not bad for having started in March.

An attempt at making Decoy viable

Decoy. You probably don’t recognize this card because basically no one has ever played it.

Actually, I used it once in a pirate tournament (no unique cards, only 1 of any given ship, no faction restrictions) on a PS6 Royal Guard TIE with the expectation that the PS5 Phantom w/Advanced Cloaking Device would be a popular choice, so I could give higher pilot skill to whoever happened to have a shot. Only 1 person brought a Phantom, and we didn’t play.

So, 1 recorded instance of Decoy in a gimmicky tournament, and none in regular play. What is this card doing? Did FFG just make a horrible mistake? Who knows, and maybe. But, I’m going to approach the card as if it has a viable use and see if I can figure out what it must be.

Let’s start by comparing it to its close cousin, Swarm Tactics, which allows you to give another ship at Range 1 your same pilot skill. Swarm Tactics has the advantage of not lowering anyone’s pilot skill, but Decoy has the range bonus. Range 1 bubble is pretty small, while the Range 2 bubble is quite large. But, the range bonus doesn’t seem to make up for having another ship shoot later. That’s quite the disadvantage. Except that as discussed here there can be a benefit to shooting later. (tl;dr: ships more likely to land crits should shoot later so you have a chance to remove defensive tokens and shields.)

Sidestepping the disadvantage of shooting later (and thus being more likely to die before you can fire), let’s look at ships with pilot abilities that are more advantageous the later they shoot:

Tarn Mison: Gets a Target Lock when declared the target of an attack. He wants to shoot later, after he’s gotten his free TL (assuming he didn’t just use it with R7). But, he’s already PS3, so he’s just where he wants to be.

Wedge Antilles: His ability to reduce the target’s agility makes him much more likely to land crits. But, he’s also so good at finishing enemies off that you probably want to keep him high in the shooting order to avoid letting the enemy ship get off a shot.

Eaden Vrill: He gains an attack die against stressed enemies, so you want him shooting after other stress mechanics have landed. But, like Tarn he’s PS3 already, and doesn’t need to drop in the shooting order.

Lt. Blount: His missile attacks always hit, a skill made specifically for Ion Pulse Missiles. If you’re running other ion weapons, you want Blount to shoot last. Wait to see if the other attacks land, and if they don’t, then Blount is your sure thing. With Decoy, he can let a Gold Squadron Y-Wing shoot its Ion Cannon before he decides whether or not to use the missiles. Since Decoy comes with the Z-95, this would appear to be the intended use, as it’s awful on Cracken.

But, I think the better choice with Blount is Lone Wolf and Munitions Failsafe. Use Lone Wolf to intentionally muff your attack to trigger Failsafe. You get to keep your missiles while still ioning the opponent. Plus Lone Wolf adds a little bit of defense. (I was insufficiently coffeed when writing that part. Please ignore.)

So as far as the Rebels go, that seems to be it. Let’s take a look at the Empire now:

Maarek Stele: His ability to pick what crit lands makes him really want to not waste his shots against shields or Evade tokens. With only 2 native attack dice (until the Raider Expansion), he isn’t likely to penetrate any strong defenses. Letting him shoot last can make him much more effective.

Rexlar Brath: Like Stele, he has a great ability to deal crits. And like Stele, he has a hard time using it against a well-defended opponent. You need to land hits without using your Focus token. Hard to do that against a ship with defensive tokens, so let someone else shoot first.

Kir Kanos: He can turn an Evade token into a hit. This is a mediocre ability if he shoots before the enemy and has to decide whether or not to give up his Evade. But, it’s a great ability if he gets to shoot last. Normally you want to avoid shooting at a ship with 3 green dice and an Evade token and go for a softer target, but letting Kanos hold the token is dangerous. Unfortunately, Kanos doesn’t have an Elite Pilot Talent slot, so he can’t take Decoy. (And he wouldn’t want to, Push the Limit for Focus+Evade would make him a beast.)

That’s about it. There don’t seem to be any Scum pilots where Decoy is particularly useful. But, there is one very significant part to Decoy that I haven’t yet discussed. Since you’re trading Pilot Skill, you get to pick which of the two ships to put Decoy on. If you want Maarek and Rexlar to shoot later, you don’t have to give them Decoy. Instead, you can put Decoy on a Black Squadron TIE Fighter or a Royal Guard TIE Interceptor.

Decoy doesn’t let you just pass your pilot skill down to someone else, it also lets a pilot pull themselves up in the shooting order. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a pilot who really wants to shoot earlier:

Garvin Dreis. After spending a Focus token, instead of discarding it he may assign it to another friendly ship at range 1-2. He’s PS6, so if he’s flying with other ace pilots, the added Focus isn’t a huge benefit. It can help on defense, but you’d really like him to set up a nice TL+Focus attack, or let a B-Wing barrel roll while still getting a Focus for firing. Without Decoy, Garvin has been pretty lackluster, only really useful in a squad using R5-P9.

Of course, Garvin doesn’t have an Elite Pilot Talent, so you’ll need to give him R2-D6. After that, the question becomes who he ought to trade with. An X-Wing ace like Luke or Wedge might make sense. If you’re letting Wedge take TL+Focus, he doesn’t need the Predator talent that’s very popular on him. He could take something like Outmaneuver or even Adrenaline Rush instead. Or, you just have Garvin there to help Wedge modify his attacks after pulling a K-Turn.

What I think would be particularly interesting though is Garvin flying alongside Jake Farrell. When Jake takes a Focus action or is assigned a Focus token, he may perform a free Boost or Barrel Roll. (Garvin actually says to “place” the token, not “assign” it, and this hasn’t been addressed in the FAQ, but I’d read them as meaning the same thing.) Jake could take his move, Focus, Barrell Roll, then Garvin shoots, spends his Focus, gives it to Jake, who then uses it to Boost. Alternatively, Jake takes an Evade action, then Garvin passes the Focus, and Jake can use Push the Limit to take both actions. This is great if Jake is up against higher pilot skill ships and needs to adjust his position after everyone else has moved. It also creates a bizzaro quadruple action Jake. With Test Pilot, you have the option of putting Decoy on Jake (while still having another EPT) or Garvin with R2-D6.

But, I think the better option if you want to pull this type of gimmicky thing with Jake is either just Cracken since he’s much cheaper. Kyle Katarn also works.

 

And now finally, at long last, the real thing Decoy is actually useful for: Phantoms.

The bane of Whisper is ships that shoot at Pilot Skill 10. They catch him with her pants down, with only 2 green dice, 2 shields and 2 hull, she’s little more than an overpowered Z-95.

One way to counter this is to take Rear Admiral Chiraneau or Boba Fett with Veteran Instincts, and then put Decoy on Whisper or Echo. If your big ship has an Engine Upgrade, it should be easy to keep them within Range 2 of each other (with a bit of planning and practice, of course), and now you’ve got yourself a PS10 Phantom. Enjoy pissing off your local meta.