Saturday, October 21, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Maneuvers

Maneuvers are the core of X-Wing, and one of the most important skills is being able to figure out where your maneuvers go. Straight maneuvers are pretty easy, since 1 straight is the length of a small ship base or half the length of a large ship base, and they scale up from there. I find judging banks and turns more difficult.

To help with this, I've made some images from VASSAL which shows you where your ships go on banks and turns. I use ship bases as the reference for distance, since you'll have these for reference on an actual board.

To use these images:
  • All maneuvers are from the small or large ship on the bottom-left corner.
  • The orange or blue numbers on the ships along the axis count out the number of ship bases.

Looking over these images might help, but reading isn't a great way to learn new material. I suggest doing these three things to improve your skills at judging maneuvers:
  1. Place a ship on a board, select a maneuver, and place another ship where you think the maneuver lands. Then, check how you did using the maneuver template. This is important because judging maneuvers on a board is slightly different from judging maneuvers on a screen.
  2. Summarize these pictures in a few bullet points. You'll learn it better, and it's easier to remember a few bullet points than a bunch of pictures.
  3. Suppose you had a small or large ship. Your opponent has a small or large ship and has to bank or turn in one direction. Where do you need to put your ship to block most of your opponent's options?

Small Ships

Small Ships: 1 Bank


Small Ships: 2 Bank


Small Ships: 3 Bank


Small Ships: 1 Turn


Small Ships: 2 Turn


Small Ships: 3 Turn




Large Ships


Large Ships: 1 Bank


Large Ships: 2 Bank


Large Ships: 3 Bank


Large Ships: 1 Turn


Large Ships: 2 Turn


Large Ships: 3 Turn


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

How to Win at X-Wing

Before I played X-Wing, my hobby was Lindy Hop or swing dancing, a style of dance to swing jazz and big band music from the 30's and 40's. I enjoy improving at all of my hobbies, and Lindy Hop was no different. A couple years into the hobby, I attended a workshop in Toronto taught by a couple of well-known dancers from the US. At the end of the workshop, they hosted a quick feedback session. We'd go up in pairs, dance for a minute or two, and they'd give us some personalized feedback.

30 seconds into my feedback session, the teachers stopped us. "Relax!" they said with a smile. It hit me that I'd been so focused on proving my competence that my face was red, my breathing was short, and I'd been swearing and muttering under my breath the whole time! I laughed, gave myself a shake, and started dancing again with a smile on my face. And hey, my dancing improved dramatically in that minute!

Years later in X-Wing, I fell into the same trap again. The Prototype Toronto League hosted their first PTL Open tournament earlier this year. It had a more casual three-list hangar-bay style format. I went into the tournament hoping to prove myself. I'd gone 4-2 and missed the cut in all of my previous big tournaments, and I really wanted to change that.

I ended up going on stream for the final round of Swiss. My opponent and I were both 4-1, and needed to win to make the cut. The combination of being on stream and trying to make the cut got to me. I had a hard time focusing on the game, made a bad move and missed a block, and got tabled. I went home bummed out that I once again missed the cut.

I reviewed my experience afterwards and realized I had the wrong mindset. I was so focused on winning that I forgot to have fun. Now, having a mindset focused on winning isn't inherently wrong and entering a tournament with the goal of winning is entirely valid. The mindset was wrong for me in a pragmatic sense. Instead of helping me, this mindset actually reduced my performance and hurt my chance to win. I've also noticed I'm not as friendly and positive when I'm focused on outcomes.

This observation is generally supported by the literature on motivation and performance. Studies have found that having fun improves your performance [1][2]. We've also known since the 1980's that a focus on rewards can reduce your performance [3]. In "The Happiness Equation" (fantastic book, highly recommended), Neil Pasricha argues a commonly-held relationship between success and happiness is backwards. Many people (my old self included) believe that hard work leads to great success, and great success leads to happiness. But haven't we all heard of rich and famous people who were not happy? Instead, Pasricha finds evidence that happiness is something we can control through concrete and simple actions, and that happiness improves our creativity, motivation, and performance. The relationship is backwards: being happy leads to hard work, which leads to great success.

After this realization, I took some steps to improve my mindset in future tournaments:

1. I really wanted the rectangular FFG evade tokens in the store kit. Rather than put pressure on myself to place well at tournaments, I bought a set online. I figured either I'll win a set, in which case I can just resell the extras, or I won't, in which case I'll still have the tokens I wanted. I ended up in 4th place in the next store kit tournament I attended (Milton). Only the top 3 players got evade tokens. Since I already had the tokens, I wasn't fixated on losing out on them. Instead, I had great games with fantastic people. I look back on that tournament as a success. I flew pretty well and had a lot of fun!

2. The Hamilton Store Championships at Black Knight Games was one of the last ones of the 2017 season. It drew 26 players, including some of the stronger players in the region. I ran a list which my buddy and I brainstormed: Palpatine in an Upsilon Shuttle, PS 11 Quickdraw, and Omega Leader. I was hoping to place in the top 2 so I could give my friend an Agent Kallus token, but I resolved to play for fun first. This would be a test run for an unintentionally-themed list which my buddy and I came up with. I kept having fun, played well, and ended up winning the tournament!

3. At Canadian Nationals, my goal was to have fun and to break even with three wins. After that, a fourth win would be great (matching my previous performance at large events, woohoo!), and if I made the cut, awesome! With a 3-1 record, I got paired up against Travis Johnson from the Carolina Krayts podcast. He was playing Triple U-Boats. It's a tough matchup against a strong opponent, and I had a moment where I got intimidated. I quickly decided to just give it my best try. If I lost, that's to be expected. I'd already gotten three wins, and I can still get a fourth in the last game. If I won, awesome! I'd prove that it is a winnable matchup. I played well enough and the dice cooperated, and I won the game decisively. I ended up making the cut for the first time after winning the last game of Swiss.

4. I kept winning at the Canadian Nationals and ended up on stream for my semifinals and finals game. I'd learned my lesson from being on stream at the PTL Open. Rather than try to prove to the world that I'm competent, I decided to just have fun and play a good clean game. I wish I could blame my bad decisions in the semifinals game on being nervous, but nope, I actually wasn't nervous at all. It was just bad decision-making and inexperience in the matchup! :) In any case, my mindset let me focus on what I had to do, and I managed to barely recover the semifinals game and capitalized on a key mistake in the finals game.

I think my experience speaks for itself. When I'm motivated by intrinsic factors rather than extrinsic rewards, I perform better, both in X-Wing and in other areas in my life.

I'm not going to tell you what to do. One of the things Pasricha suggested is to not take advice, but rather listen to other perspectives and take the things which work and make sense for you (the irony of telling people not to take advice in a "self-help" book was not lost on me). If you're focused on winning games, you can try this out and see how it works for you. You might find that you're not only performing better, but you're also a more positive person to be around. Even if you don't win Canadian Nationals, you'll probably enjoy yourself more. Isn't that what wining at X-Wing really means?



Postscript

I want to talk about the meta and net-listing. It's true that the strongest lists in the game often limit what can be played at the highest levels. If your favorite ship is hard-countered by the most popular lists in the meta, it may be more difficult to enjoy yourself. Turrets and bombs may also limit the value of maneuvers.

That said, while strong lists can win games against weaker lists on autopilot, they are still a good match against each other. Three of my four playoff games went down to the last die roll. A better move by either player would have tipped the game decisively in their favor. Despite playing a turreted ship and playing against turreted ships, I had lots of fun and I think my opponents did as well.

It's easy to despair when your favorite list leaves the meta, but there's probably at least one list out there which you'd enjoy playing that does well against the meta. It may end up being one of the meta lists, and finding this list may take time and effort. I think the rewards for finding a strong list which you enjoy playing are worth it. Besides, learning new things is also fun and has mental health benefits; you can always treat this as an opportunity to explore new ships.

(I actually had the opposite problem before Canadian Nationals; I had two lists I enjoyed playing which probably had OK matchups against the field. I went with Kanan Biggs. The other one was Palp Quickdraw Vader.)

I totally understand if you enjoy the list-building process and aren't fond of net-listing. That said, maybe you can consider a different perspective. Even when you copy a list from someone else, you're still making important and difficult decisions in the list-building stage. First, you can sometimes make tweaks to the list. Second, even after you copied a list, there were dozens of lists which you didn't copy. That requires decision-making and isn't trivial. Even if you're against net-listing, you can always give it a try with a list you think you might enjoy. If you have fun, great, and if you don't, you can always go back to building your lists yourself.

If your favorite ship isn't in the meta or you really enjoy the experience of getting ships in arc, you can try out alternate formats. The Prototype Toronto League has an Original Trilogy format which favors the older and more recognizable ships (I'm told Palpatine is no longer banned). I'd love it if more people tried out the Anti-Meta-Wing or Firing Arcs Only formats I've come up with (see below). You can probably come up with other formats where your favorite ships are viable.

After all, what's your alternative? You can make salty posts online, complain loudly to everyone in earshot, have lame games against stronger lists, and probably play less X-Wing. Those aren't necessarily bad things, and if you like them, more power to you. I just suggest taking a step back and seeing if those things really make you happy.

--------------------------------

Anti-Meta-Wing:

  1. Ban the top 30 pilots from www.meta-wing.com. Choose a date range that produces reasonable results and gets rid of the more influential ships.


Firing Arcs Only:

  1. Ships cannot attack outside of their printed firing arcs.
  2. Attacks affected by this get a free "Gunner" bonus: "After you perform an attack with a weapon which could target ships outside of your firing arc under the standard rules, if the attack did not hit, you may perform an attack with the same weapon against the same target again. Perform this attack even if you do not meet the non-range requirements, and you do not need to discard cards or tokens to perform this attack. For the purposes of abilities, treat the defender as being outside your firing arc for this attack. You cannot perform another attack this round."
  3. A ships may only use one ability or action which changes its own position in a round (includes boost, barrel roll, decloak, Adaptive Ailerons, Expert Handling, etc.). Any further abilities which trigger are ignored.
  4. Ships with a mobile or rear-facing firing arc cannot take Engine Upgrade
  5. Bomblet Generator, Guidance Chips, and Biggs Darklighter are banned.
Note only the first rule is really necessary for the format. The rest are an attempt to make more things viable and to head off some of the potentially stronger things in this format.

Monday, September 25, 2017

I won a thing

Wow. I'm the 2017 Canadian National Champion.


A day later, and it's still hard to believe. I've gone 4-2 and missed the cut in all of my previous big tournaments. On top of that, all of my playoff games except the finals match came down to the last dice roll. More on that later.

I ran Kanan Biggs with Recon Specialist and Engine Upgrade on Kanan, R4-D6 on Biggs, and a 1-point bid. I've been running this on and off after getting destroyed by Jeff Bizzak at Wixom last year (I was the round 3 opponent). I'm a huge fan of Engine Upgrade on Kanan because it lets me avoid some awkward situations. I used to run it with R3-A2 (stressbot) like Jeff, but I swapped to R4-D6 and a bid to counter the alpha strikes and to give initiative against Lowhhrick-Biggs lists.

The meta seemed right for Kanan Biggs. The four TLT shots are strong against Nym and Miranda and bypasses Selflessness and Draw Their Fire in Biggs lists. Contracted Scouts are a tough matchup, but fewer of them run Boba Fett.

The Swiss rounds were interesting in that I played a bunch of people I've played before (Biggs is 26 points, half points on Kanan is 27):

  1. Marc de Bruyn's Vader Quickdraw Ion Kestal. Marc's my playtest buddy in London. We were matched up the first round in the Hamilton Store Championships a few weeks ago, and hilariously, it happened again at Nationals. I won this matchup in playtesting both times we tried it, and I won again here 100-26.
  2. Thomas Ferrara's Dash Nym. Thomas won the Toronto Regional last year. He beat my Kanan Biggs with Dash Norra in the final round of Swiss to knock me out of the cut. A badly-flown Dash gets wrecked by Kanan, but well-flown Lone Wolf Dash is extremely underrated in this matchup. Obstructed TLT shots don't do much damage against Lone Wolf Dash with focus, and Dash has range control in his favor and always threatens to snipe Biggs. I don't remember the details, but I got a bit behind on damage. It came down to a 1-health Kanan against a 1-health Nym. I launched the shuttle with a 4 K-Turn and Chopper'd a focus. Thomas didn't see the Advanced Sensors escape route, banked in, killed Kanan, and died to Zeb (Zeb win #1). I won 100-81.
  3. Billy Chandler's Inaldratanni. I misunderstood his list; I've run the Overclocked R4 version and knew I couldn't kill Dengar. Turns out it was actually Unhinged-K4 Dengar (which I saw but didn't process right when I looked over his list). I could have potentially burned it down. Instead, I went fast to go after Inaldra, hit a rock and lost 2 shields on Kanan from Dengar round 1, then got donut holed by Dengar and Fenn turn 2. The game was over at that point. I still managed to kill Inaldra and Fenn, losing 46-100.
  4. Cameron Murray's Chewie Miranda. Unlike Dash, Chewie does not have a good matchup against Kanan Biggs. Cameron's a trooper and has a lot of experience with Chewie Miranda, but he couldn't take this one. I put some early damage on Chewie, then singled out Miranda when Chewie had to turn away from a rock. I won 100-0.
  5. Travis Johnson's Triple U-Boats. This is a tough matchup. Thankfully, Travis had Intel Agents instead of Boba Fett with Proton Torpedoes. I deployed a rock at 2 and 2 on the far left corner, and another rock range 1 away down the left side. He deployed in the center. I deployed on my left and rushed for the safety of that rock formation. Dice helped me a lot this game; I kept rolling 2-3 hits on TLT and he kept rolling focus-evade. R4-D6 dissuaded the alpha strike on Biggs. On the crucial turn, he turned facing the rock formation and target locked Kanan with two Jumpmasters while running an injured one away. I boosted further into the rock formation to get ahead of him and stop him from cutting me off. Kanan took a total of 10 damage that turn from 2 Plasma Torpedoes with a Direct Hit, but Travis never got another torpedo off and I killed the first Jumpmaster the turn after on some more lucky dice (Kanan was out of the injured Jumpmaster's primary arc but I caught him in Kanan's back arc). The game got a lot easier once one Jumpmaster is off the board and Kanan isn't in danger of getting bumped. I won 100-27.
  6. Nassim Ketita's Miranda Lowhhrick Biggs. Nassim was in London when I started playing, and he was the one who introduced me to the game. I beat his randomly-generated lists a few times with Poe Keyan Jake, and then he took the gloves off with Brobots 😁. This is a favorable matchup for me. Nassim opted for a few rounds of Biggs vs. Kanan 1v1. I killed Biggs in about 4 turns. Miranda sent a Concussion Missile into Kanan but wasn't able to do much before dying afterwards. I won 100-27.



Round of 16 vs. Jamie Comely's Miranda Regen-Norra Rex:

This was a somewhat favorable matchup that went south. I killed Rex in round 1, since Suppressive Fire's really nasty against Kanan. But then I rolled below average on some attacks against Norra and she survived a couple turns too long. It ended with Kanan with 2 health and evade against Miranda with 2 health. I popped out the shuttle. Miranda regened and killed Kanan, but had to spend focus on offense to get past Kanan's evade. Zeb rolled the 3 hits I needed him to roll (at range 2!), and Jamie rolled a focus. (Zeb win #2).



Quarterfinals vs. Bryson Eawanchuk's Dash Miranda:

Again, Lone Wolf Dash in the hands of a good player is really good against Kanan Biggs. Bryson happened to be one of the best Dash players I've seen. We flew around the board once where Bryson just barely missed getting Biggs in Range 3 (and Kanan was out). I had enough of that and flew Biggs in front (bumping with Kanan), but that meant one round of Kanan vs. Dash where I had minimal dice mods. Kanan took 4 damage and dealt zero in response. We traded more shots between Kanan and Dash, and then a few rounds of Biggs vs. Dash. By the time Dash went down, Kanan only had 3 health and Biggs only had 1+IA left. A couple turns later, I made a bad move and gave him Biggs for free.

On a crucial turn, Miranda clipped a debris field. Next turn, I pinned Miranda down in my primary arc. We traded shots and I put some heavy damage on Miranda while she whiffed a TLT shot. It came down to Kanan with 2 health focus+evade against Miranda with 3 health and target lock. His first TLT shot was 3 hits. I nerfed his second TLT shot. He rolled 2 focuses. Reroll: crit blank. I evade. Kanan's primary killed Miranda.


Semifinals vs. Ryan Dwornik's Fair Ship Rebels:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3abAkBWX8LY

I'll let you watch this game yourself (it's too painful for me to watch any part but the end lol). I tried to get cute, messed up a bunch while trying to get cute, and was 100% sure I lost with ~30 minutes left. Let me tell you, it feels really strange when you're 100% losing for 30 minutes and then you win the game.

Huge props to Ryan for agreeing to play more quickly at the end. I've played him a few times, and he's always been a great opponent.

Quick response to commentary at the end: I shot Rex because I didn't know if killing Jess and Biggs alone would win me the game (I should have asked for point totals but didn't). I thought I had to kill 3 ships to win. Killing Rex also cleared the Suppressive Fire condition, and I had a target lock on him already. I wasn't sure I could kill Jess with 4 dice without target lock.


Finals vs. Nathaniel Moore's Rey Miranda
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10fuEiNzp7g

Rey's the biggest threat and I went after her first. Nathan made a mistake when he slooped instead of disengaging with Rey (as we discussed at the end), and that put Rey squarely in the sights of Kanan. Once Rey was down with very little damage on my ships, the game was over in my favor.


Quick response to commentary at the end: I stand by disengaging on the last turn (turn after this picture was taken). I had 10-health Kanan against 5-health Miranda, and I deal at least 4 damage a round compared to Miranda's 2. The only way I lose the game is if 1) I land on bombs, or 2) Miranda catches Biggs by himself and regens off him. Any way I try to turn Kanan left (right in the picture; down in the stream) would end with me eating a bomb. Chasing Miranda with Biggs means he might catch Biggs by himself. There was no way Miranda could catch Biggs after a 2-turn away before I can intercept Miranda with Kanan. Disengaging could have prolonged a won game, but I wasn't taking any chances in the finals 😊.


Reflections


So yea, winning a big tournament for the first time felt pretty awesome. It felt really good to keep the trophy in Canada! It was so hard to believe it happened. I had two nailbiter games in the playoffs, and the third game was a loss until the very end.

I know Kanan Biggs doesn't have a lot of fans. It's very strong against some lists, but it has some limitations which makes it tricky to run at a high level (I don't think it's won any major tournament before this). These limitations will be exploited by good opponents. None of us flew perfectly (especially me), and three of my four playoff games were decided by the final round of dice rolls. Had my playoff opponents flown a bit better, they would have won the game. Had I flown a bit better, I would have won without the heart attack endings. For most lists, dials and actions still matter in the Kanan Biggs matchup. I had a lot of fun this weekend, and I hope most of my opponents enjoyed our games as well.

At the end of the day, I'm still a Tier 1.5 player. I chose the right list for this meta, Cryodex didn't pair me against too many bad matchups, I made the right decisions when I had to, and the dice came in my favor when I needed them. I could have easily lost in any of my playoff games and never reached the finals, but I also believe I deserved the win as much as any of my opponents would have had the dice rolled differently. I don't expect to repeat this performance anytime soon (or perhaps ever!). I'll probably go 3-3 or 4-2 and miss the cut again in my next big tournament 😊.


Shoutouts


Ryan Dwornik. Ryan, I want to give you a special shout-out because you're a stand-up guy. You went out of your way to play quickly at the end of our game when even normal-speed play would have won you the game on time. You're a truly good sport. We've played three times and I've enjoyed our games every single time. Please do take credit for your top 4 finish. It wasn't just your list, you flew it excellently. You're scary with janky lists and you made the top 4 of Nationals with a strong one. You responded exactly as needed to me trying to get cute and really had me dead to rights. I look forward to playing you again!

Marc de Bruyn. Marc, thank you for being my friend and my practice partner. You helped convince me to take Kanan Biggs instead of Palp 11 Aces, and our games were pretty important for me to get back in shape after a stretch of not playing this list. Getting ramen with you after the Swiss rounds was a highlight in the weekend. Sorry I had to beat you in the first round of Swiss; let's tell Cryodex not to let that happen again.

Alan Fung. Alan, you were the other person who convined me to take Kanan Biggs. Thank you for your matchup discussions and your support in the playoffs. I may have succeeded you as the Canadian National Champion, but you'll always have the better hair.

Nathaniel Moore. Nathaniel, you're a graceful opponent and it was a pleasure playing against you in the finals. You're a skilled player, and it's a shame that one mistake swung our game so heavily. I look forward to meeting and playing you again!

Bryson Eawanchuk. Bryson, I've never seen someone fly Dash Miranda as well as you. Most would say Kanan Biggs is a tough matchup for Dash Miranda, but it felt like an even matchup against you. I really enjoyed our game, and I hope you did as well.

Jamie Comely. Jamie, thanks for that great match in the top 16. You've been a player to beat in the Waterloo area, and I'm glad to have finally defeated you. Our game was tense and it could have easily gone the other way. I hope you end your win-in-playoff drought soon (just hopefully not against me 😊)!

Nassim Ketita. Nassim, thanks for showing me the ropes when I first started. It's a bummer we were matched up in the final round of Swiss, both needing a win to make the cut. It was good to see you again, and I hope you'll be out to future big events in the area.

Travis Johnson. Travis, it was a pleasure playing you. Thank you for your kind words, and for being the first X-Wing famous person I've beaten in an official tournament. I look forward to hearing you discuss our match on the podcast!

The London Ontario X-Wing Community. Marc, Tyler, Evan, and Bryan (Ryan, I think you also count), thanks for making the trip out to Nationals. It's always nice to have local support at a big tournament. Dave, Scott, Edwin, Devin, and the rest of you who couldn't make it out: thanks for coming out on Tuesdays and keeping our local scene strong. (Eric, you'll have to make the trip down next time 😛.)

The Southern Ontario X-Wing Community. There are too many of you to list! I joined X-Wing for the community, and you guys are fantastic. The support I got going into the finals kept me strong, and your cheers afterwards made this so worth it. I'm happy I could defend Canada's pride and keep the trophy here.

Oh, and how could I forget? Devon, Don, Stephen, and the other organizers: thank you for running such an enjoyable event. Round 1 pairings aside, everything was very smooth. I noticed special effort was taken to fix some of the problems from last year (e.g. uneven tables), and I think we all appreciated it. Thanks again for taking the time to run this, and for keeping the GTA tournament scene strong.

Friday, August 18, 2017

How squishy is Captain Nym? Comparing the durability of ships with different agility values.

I frequently see comments in the X-Wing community along the lines of:
  • Captain Nym is squishy because he only has 1 agility.
  • Y-Wings are better than TIE Aggressors because they have 3 more hit points (shields + hull).
Of course, these comments are missing at least half the picture. How long a ship survives depends on both its agility value and its hit points, along with its actions and damage mitigation upgrades (we'll ignore maneuverability, turrets, and extra firing arcs for now). Soontir Fel only has 3 hit points, but he's very difficult to kill with normal attacks thanks to his 3 agility, focus and evade tokens, and possibly Palpatine and Stealth Device. Han Solo might only have 1 agility, but he has 13 hit points and often C-3PO and evades to back it up. If you want to talk about how durable a ship is, you should at least consider both its hull and its agility, and also consider its defensive upgrades.

As it turns out, Captain Nym has comparable durability to other expensive aces without defensive abilities (e.g. Dengar and SuperDash), but he can't boost his durability as much when spending focus on defense. TIE Aggressors are less durable than Y-Wings and need to have focus on 3 defense rolls to even out.

To compare ships, I've created a durability spreadsheet. It lists the durability, modified durability (hull is discounted by 10% for critical hits), and a points-adjusted durability metric for all ships. This isn't the full picture for jousting value and it doesn't capture the benefits of pilot skill and maneuverability, but it lets you compare how ships stack up for durability alone.

If you hate math and just want to enjoy X-Wing, you can stop here! Otherwise, feel free to keep reading 🙂.

Durability


To make comparisons easier, we can use the following measure of durability. A ship's durability is the hit points the ship needs to survive the same number of 3-hit attacks with 0 agility. As an equation, it looks like this:
If a ship has 0 agility, its durability is equal to its total hit points. Ships with more agility have their hit points scaled up to reflect the lower average damage they take on each attack. The denominator can be modified to reflect any always-on defensive abilities like Luke Skywalker's ability.

As the Mynock Squadron Podcast mentioned (episode 80), hull doesn't quite contribute its full value to a ship's durability due to critical hits. I'll also use a modified durability measure which discounts hull by 10%:
Why did I choose 10%? Roughly 25% of the critical hit cards are double damage (treating Major Explosion as half), and other critical hit cards can be crippling. Only 1 in 4 hits are critical hits or 1 in 6 with focus, but critical hits are cancelled last. I think 10% is in the right ballpark.

Why should we use this? Well, I don't really expect this to catch on, but I'll explain below!

How many attacks does it take to kill the ship?


A simple way to combine a ship's agility and hit points is to see how many 3-hit attacks the ship would survive on average. Without spending focus, each green dice adds 0.375 evades per attack. This means on average, a 3-hit attack deals
  • 3 damage against a 0-agility ship.
  • 2.625 damage against a 1-agility ship.
  • 2.25 damage against a 2-agility ship.
  • 1.875 damage against a 3-agility ship.
Divide the ship's hit points by the damage per attack to see how many attacks it survives on average.

For example, let's take a look at Captain Nym. If we divide his 10 hit points by 2.625, we see he survives 3.8 attacks. For comparison, the Jumpmaster 5000 survives 4 attacks. Captain Nym is only about 5% less durable than a Jumpmaster 5000, and most of us know how annoyingly durable those can be. Of course, Captain Nym usually doesn't have the option of spending focus on defense, but he's definitely not squishy.

Similarly, we can compare the durability of TIE Aggressors with Lightweight Frame to Y-Wings. We can model the TIE Aggressor with Lightweight Frame as a 2.75-agility ship to account for range 3 and obstructed attacks. It takes an average of 2.54 attacks to kill them. On the other hand, Y-Wings take an average of 3.05 attacks before they go down, which is about 20% more durable than TIE Aggressors. Y-Wings definitely look better when neither spends focus on defense.

As an addendum, you should include always-on defensive abilities in this calculation. For example, Poe or Luke take an average of 1.8125 damage against 3-hit attacks. Thus, Luke with Integrated Astromech or Poe with a different modification survive an average of 3.3 attacks.

The usefulness of durability


Instead of using the number of attacks a ship can survive, it's often more useful to multiply that number by 3 (the damage each attack does). That gets us the durability number I mentioned earlier. It's the number of hit points the ship needs if it had 0 agility and survives the same number of attacks. Many damage mitigation options like evade tokens are only used once per turn. If we want to know how many times a ship needs to benefit from evade tokens to survive as many attacks as another ship, it's tough to calculate this using the number of attacks each ship survives. On the other hand, the difference between two ships' durability tells us how many times the evade token must be used for those ships to survive the same number of attacks.

For another example, consider focus tokens. Focus tokens greatly improve the value of green dice. With focus, each green dice adds 0.625 evades per attack, an increase of 67%. When focus is available for defense, an average 3-hit attack deals
  • 3 damage against a 0-agility ship (decrease of 0, of course).
  • 2.375 damage against a 1-agility ship (decrease of 0.25).
  • 1.75 damage against a 2-agility ship (decrease of 0.5).
  • 1.125 damage against a 3-agility ship (decrease of 0.75).
Earlier, we saw that Y-Wings are more durable than TIE Aggressors when neither spends focus on defense. How many defense rolls with focus do TIE Aggressors need to equal the durability of a Y-Wing?

To answer this question, we first calculate each ship's durability:
  • Y-Wing: 8 * 3/2.625 = 9.14
  • TIE Aggressor: 5 * 3/1.969 = 7.62
Having focus (and being willing to spend it) on a defense roll decreases damage by 0.25 for a 1-agility ship and by 0.75 for a 3-agility ship, with a difference of 0.5. Since the gap in durability is a bit over 1, the TIE Aggressor needs to have focus on three defense rolls to roughly equal the durability of a Y-Wing. A TIE Aggressor survives an average of 2.5 3-hit attacks without focus. It'd be tough for the TIE Aggressor to match the durability of a Y-Wing.

Durability for the points


Of course, a ship's durability is always relative to its point value. The Karthakk Pirate in the Scurrg (durability of 11.4) is extremely durable and only costs 24 points. On the other hand, Captain Nym can be loaded up to anywhere from 39 to 50 points, and those extra points don't improve its durability one bit.

To get a sense for how durable the ships are relative to their points, we can divide the ship's durability by its points and multiply by 100. This tells us how much durability you get if you spent 100 points on that ship. For comparison, without focus or other once-per-round defensive abilities:
  • 43-point Captain Nym gets 26.6 durability per 100 points. 
  • 53-point Dengar gets 22.6 durability per 100 points.
  • 50-point Aggressor (IG-88) gets 28.8 durability per 100 points (assuming 1 use of Autothrusters).
  • 58-point SuperDash gets 23.0 durability per 100 points.
  • 40-point BB-8 Intensity Poe gets 44.2 durability per 100 points (assuming 1 use of Autothrusters).
  • 24-point Y-Wing with Twin Laser Turret gets 38.1 durability per 100 points.
  • 25-point naked Contracted Scout gets 48 durability per 100 points.
We can see that without defensive tokens, Captain Nym is roughly comparable to other expensive aces without defensive abilities.

For the full list of durability per 100 points, please take a look at the durability spreadsheet I mentioned earlier. It also has modified durability, where hull points are discounted by 90%.

Other considerations


Agility and hit points aren't completely interchangeable. Agility doesn't help against bombs or automatic damage effects like Feedback Array or Autoblaster Turret. Hit points don't help against status effects like Ion Cannon which require the attack to hit. Ships with more green dice are also subjects to more variance than hit points. They will sometimes survive much longer than average, but sometimes they'll also die much faster than average.

Besides those specific cases, agility and hit points . Higher agility is better when defending against small attacks and worse when defending against large attacks. Soontir can shrug off a bunch of 2-hit or 3-hit attacks, but he explodes immediately if he takes an 8-hit attack from Swarm Leader Norra with Jan Ors support. I assume 3-hit attacks since the meta is trending towards bigger and more accurate attacks (3-dice attacks with focus average 2.25 hits; 4-dice attacks with focus average 3 hits). A 0-agility ship's durability will never change based on how large and accurate the opponent's attacks are, but higher-agility ships will be less durable against large and accurate attacks.

Similarly, higher agility is better when defending against fewer attacks per turn. Focus and other once-per-round defensive abilities cancel a larger percent of damage for ships with higher agility.

Finally, durability alone ignores other ways ships can stay alive. Captain Nym is fantastic at avoiding shots by arc-dodging, forcing bumps, or cutting off pursuit with bombs. Other ships like Dengar and Quickdraw avoid shots by threatening to deal extra damage to their attackers.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Turn < 1: Who's the Joust?

In X-Wing, the decisions start long before you put down your first dial. Asteroid placement and ship deployment is often called "Turn 0", and some have called pre-game preparation "Turn -1". This series will explore the strategy behind these decisions. We'll start with a fundamental concept which I'll be using in the later articles. Because it's fundamental, this is pretty long. You've been warned! :)


Joust (X-Wing): To fly your ships straight at your opponent's ships to exchange attacks.

A long time ago in a place somewhat far away, I played Magic: The Gathering. For those who haven't heard of it, it's a card game about mages trying to kill each other by casting spells and summoning creatures. One of the best strategy articles written for Magic was "Who's the Beatdown". To summarize, each player has a role they should assume based on the matchup. The player which can kill their opponent faster should play the "beatdown" role. They should deal as much damage as possible, even if it means sacrificing their own life or board position. The other player should play the "control" role. They should preserve their life total and play the long game instead of trying to win the damage race. If a player tries to play the wrong role in the matchup, they're probably going to lose the game.

This concept is also central to your pre-game preparation and opening strategy in X-Wing. When you're matched up against your opponent, you should ask yourself this question:

If we just line up our ships and fly straight at each other, who will win the game?

If you'd win, your role should be the jouster. You want to herd your opponent into a position where they can't escape your ships, get all of your ships to shoot at your opponent's ships, and blow some of them up with the sheer weight of your red dice. Then, you chase or K-turn behind the remaining enemy ships and blow them up.

If you'd lose, your role should be the arc-dodger. You need to get free shots, where your ships can shoot while most or all of your opponent's ships cannot. You need to limit the amount of shots you take by repositioning, flanking, and/or range control. You need to engage in favorable positions where you have easier ways to take follow-up shots. Your opponent often won't get themselves into a bad spot in the initial engagement, and you may have to play a longer game. You may have to sacrifice some health or even an entire ship to bait your opponent into a bad spot. Regardless, you can't afford to fly straight at them and trade shots.

If your list can't win a joust but also isn't maneuverable enough to reliably get free shots on your opponent's list, then you're playing a bad matchup. You'll need your opponent to make mistakes, and you'll often need the dice to help you out. Conversely, if you can win a joust but also consistently get free shots on your opponent, you're playing a good matchup. If you're playing for margin of victory and for less dice variance, you should probably take on the arc-dodge role. If you want to limit mistakes in long tournaments, playing a jousting role can be easier.

The terms "joust" and "arc-dodge" are often used as ship archetypes. For example, the Black Squadron Pilot TIE Fighter is classified as a jouster, and The Inquisitor in the TIE Adv. Prototype is classified as an arc-dodger. Here, I'm using "joust" and "arc-dodge" as roles taken on in-game, not as specific ship archetypes. Unlike the ship archetypes, these roles are situational. They depend on how your squad matches up with your opponent's squad, and can change as ships are destroyed. The Inquisitor might feel most natural when played as an arc-dodger, but if you're trying to kill Soontir Fel with him, you should fly him as a jouster. Similarly, the Black Squadron Pilot TIE Fighter might be OK with jousting a squad of B-Wings at the start of the game, but he should be the arc-dodger if they're the only two ships left on the board.

X-Wing has plenty of depth which complicates this simple analysis. The first complication is that many lists have split roles or options in certain matchups. For example, suppose you're flying Soontir Fel with 4 TIE Fighters against three Imperial aces with pilot skill 8 (e.g. The Inquisitor, Carnor Jax, and Omega Leader). In a straight-up joust, you'll probably trade Soontir Fel for one of their ships and end up in an unfavorable end-game with only four TIE Fighters against two agile aces. Even if Soontir Fel survives, he'll have a hard time turning around and contributing in the next couple turns. On the other hand, trying to arc-dodge with TIE Fighters against Imperial aces isn't a recipe for success. Instead, you want to joust with one portion of the squad (the TIE Fighters) while arc-dodging with another (Soontir). This lets you trade some TIE Fighters for one of his ships, and you can enter a favorable end-game where Soontir Fel can clean up.

Now suppose you were flying the three Imperial aces list in this matchup. Against many lists, you can play as purely an arc-dodger. Unfortunately, trying to arc-dodge Soontir Fel with lower pilot skill ships isn't ideal. Similarly, you can't simply fly straight at your opponent's list (assuming your opponent doesn't serve Soontir up on a platter) or the TIE Fighters will tear your ships apart. Instead, you have two good options. You can assume the role of the jouster against Soontir. Ideally, you'd kill Soontir at the loss of no more than one ship, and enter the favorable end-game of two aces against four TIE Fighters. Alternatively, you can play as the arc-dodger against the TIE Fighters. Soontir will almost always have good shots, but if you can limit the TIE Fighter's shots, you should be able to kill off enough of them to turn on Soontir before losing two ships. If you're especially skilled or lucky, you might be able to joust Soontir while also arc-dodging the TIE Fighters. I've found I can usually focus on one plan at a time, but I'm not that good :).

The second complication is some ships are more effective at certain range bands than others. For example, consider three Protectorate Starfighters with Fearlessness, Concord Dawn Protector, and Autothrusters against a TIE Swarm with Crack Shot. Which list wins the joust depends on where the engagement occurs. At range 3, the Protectorate Starfighters have the advantage with the 4th green dice and Autothrusters. At range 1, the Protectorate Starfighters have their title and Fearlessness, and while they'll probably take damage, they'll still probably inflict more damage than they take. At range 2, the TIE Swarm wins handidly. With only three green dice and a focus token for defense, the TIE Swarm will tear the Protectorate Starfighters apart with Crack Shot. The player with the Protectorate Starfighters can likely play as the arc-dodger, but can also choose to play as the jouster if he's confident in avoiding the range 2 engagement. That's easier said than done, since TIE Swarms have options for range control through blocking.

This central concept can be applied in many phases of the game. It can help you decide how to deploy the asteroids and ships, choose your opening maneuvers, and even build your list. I'll talk about these in more detail in future articles. For now, try asking yourself that question before every game you play, and see if that helps with your game plan!



Inspiration for this article was drawn from "Blue Five" and his post An Alternative Look At Arc Dodgers and Jousters.

Monday, May 8, 2017

My Take on the Worlds 2017 X-Wing Meta

Worlds 2017 featured some surprisingly-successful lists on day 1 and one of the more exciting finals matches I've seen recently. But unfortunately, it's pretty clear from the results that the state of the meta is not healthy. The top 16 was 11 Mindlink lists, one double-Jumpmaster list, two Rebel jousting lists with Biggs and Jess, a Dash-Miranda, and RAC-Whisper. Let's explore why Rebels and Imperials aren't showing up more, and what FFG might look at changing to address this problem.

Rebels


At first glance, Rebels have many different options available to them. They have various 3-to-5-ship jousting lists, two-ship options like Dash-Miranda, and even "one-ship" options like Kanan-Biggs. However, it quickly becomes clear these all face a common weakness in extremely accurate torpedoes. For example, a Rebel jousting list facing Triple Contracted Scouts often has its most important ship crippled in the first round of shooting. The two-ship and one-ship lists suffer even more, especially because Boba Fett can often nullify a loaded ship without killing it.

That's not to say Rebel jousting lists can't beat alpha strike lists. For instance, a list with two ARCs and Jess won the Stele Open after beating several Jumpmaster lists. Still, these wins don't seem to be consistent. They seem to require favorable asteroid placement and a favorable approach, which you can't consistently get against strong players.

Imperials


In the old days of Jumpmaster alpha strikes, Imperial lists like Palp Aces and the TIE Swarm were king. Why haven't they returned?

The TIE Swarm might still be reasonably viable, since its lack of success might be partially due to its difficulty and lack of popularity. It has a horrible matchup against popular Rebel pilots like Miranda and Dash, and also has a bad matchup against Dengar and high-PS alpha strikes.

Other Imperial options have fared much worse. Most Imperial ships rely on actions and green dice to survive. They've suffered the double-whammy of new counters along with nerfs to their own options. The stressbot (R3-A2) is still very common in Rebel lists, usually in the Y-Wing but now also showing up on Jess or Braylen. Scum now has its own tier-1 stress control options in Asajj Ventress and the Rigged Cargo Chute on a slooping Jumpmaster. There are also many ways to deal damage without going through green dice, including Sabine'd bombs, Feedback Array and Anti-Pursuit Lasers on Jumpmasters, and the ever-lurking Black Market Slicer Tools. Finally, there are an increasing number of ways to dish out reliable 4- or 5-hit attacks which are very difficult to evade.

Imperials have moved towards strong jousters of their own like Quickdraw and the TIE/D Vessery. Unfortunately, these ships suffer from alpha strikes much like Rebel ships do.

What can be done?


I think these results strongly suggest that the Jumpmaster 5000 and Attanni Mindlink are too strong. The Jumpmaster 5000 has consistently shown up at the top tables even through several nerfs. They're almost impossible to kill in one turn, have a fantastic dial that makes them very slippery and hard to get away from, and have a versatile set of upgrade slots. A 2- or 3-point increase in their cost would probably bring them in line with other ships.

Alpha strikes would be reigned in if the Jumpmaster 5000 gets nerfed, especially if Attanni Mindlink also takes a hit. Other options to look at include the K4 Security Droid (which should get the /x7 treatment and not trigger if the ship bumps or is stressed) and Guidance Chips.

Nerfing alpha strikes might be enough to bring back Rebels, but Imperials need more help. Stress control should also be nerfed. R3-A2 should probably be once per turn and/or have a range limitation, and Asajj's ability should probably only trigger in Range 1. This would also improve the viability of big ships like Rey which need their actions. Imperials could also use a cheap counter to automatic damage which gets around their green dice or a nerf to Sabine crew, but this probably wouldn't be required if stress was nerfed.

Finally, I'm not sure whether Attanni Mindlink should be nerfed. Attanni Mindlink is definitely cheap for its value. If they were 2 points each, it'd probably be a bit worse than Push the Limit. Both are 3 points per extra action, but Push the Limit is more versatile, doesn't get worse when you lose ships, and doesn't limit your list-building as much. Attanni Mindlink does have some advantages in that it is less vulnerable to blocking and stress, doesn't limit your dial as much, and lets you take two focus tokens. On the other hand, nerfs to its strongest ships could make it merely an efficient option in the Scum arsenal rather than something that dominates the meta.

One potential option is to make Attanni Mindlink require Pilot Skill 4 or higher. This would specifically nerf the Contracted Scout alpha strike lists and Paratanni (which often uses the Contracted Scout). Unfortunately, I'm not sure this is enough. The winner of Worlds used a Dengar/Tel alpha strike list without Contracted Scouts or Attanni Mindlink. The Jumpmaster 5000 would remain as a ticking time bomb. The platform would still be strong enough to break once another good Elite Pilot Talent gets released.

I wouldn't be surprised to see some changes in an upcoming FAQ, but it's hard to say what they'd look like. FFG has shown itself to be very reluctant to touch points or base statistics in X-Wing, but that is something they've done in Imperial Assault. It's hard to see good ways of nerfing some of these problematic cards without changing points.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Factions: Scum

This series describes the strengths and weaknesses of the factions in X-Wing, with this article covering the Scum and Villainy faction. Rather than general statements like "Rebels are more supportive and Imperials are more self-sufficient" (which isn't even true), I'll highlight the factions' strongest pilots and upgrades as well as some of its weaknesses. This can help you choose which factions you want to play and which expansions to prioritize.

For the other two factions, check out the links below:
Rebels
Imperials

1. Attanni Mindlink


Every faction has special ways to get extra actions. Rebels have regeneration through R2-D2 and evades through C-3PO. Imperials have pilots and ships with extra actions, and many of its ships have enough green maneuvers to use Push the Limit. The Attanni Mindlink elite pilot talent is Scum's faction-defining way of generating extra actions. You need three or four ships with Attanni Mindlink for it to shine. You'll usually want a cheap Attanni Mindlink carrier, a strong ship, and either another strong ship or two generics. Ideally, at least one ship will have a turret or a mobile arc. Attanni Mindlink prevents you from performing red maneuvers with multiple ships in the same round, so you may have a hard time turning the list around.

These ships are often used as the heavy lifters in a Mindlink list.
  • Fenn Rau or Old Teroch (pilot; Protectorate Starfighter) [1][2]. With 3 attack dice and 3 defense dice, Protectorate Starfighters crave extra actions and Attanni Mindlink gives them just that. Fenn Rau is the more common of the two. He's very strong in close range and has higher pilot skill. Old Teroch provides extra disruption and counters lists which rely on focus tokens.
  • Asajj Ventress (pilot; Shadow Caster) [1]. Asajj Ventress can be extremely tanky with an extra action thanks to Latts Razzi crew and her evade action. Besides being a solid jouster, she adds some disruption with her ability to stress enemy ships. Asajj is also great in an Attanni Mindlink list because her mobile arc reduces her reliance on K-Turns. Extra points are usually best spent on the Gyroscopic Targeting modification or on illicit upgrades like Black Market Slicer Tools.
  • Generic Jousters (Mist Hunter or M3-A Interceptor) [1][2]. These pilots function as efficient damage-dealers with a medium pilot skill. Unlike most other generic jousters, they have action economy thanks to Attanni Mindlink. They use it for more consistent offense with Target Lock or better defense with Evade.
  • Guri (pilot; StarViper) [1]. The StarViper isn't very efficient and you're almost always better off with the cheaper and stronger Fenn Rau. That said, Guri's ability can be especially useful in a Mindlink list. It provides some insurance against bumps, and it lets all of your ships take a different action instead of focus.

Usually, you'll also want to bring one of these as a cheap extra ship. Besides taking the focus for your other ships, they can also be quite disruptive.
  • Contracted Scout (pilot; Punishing One) [1][2][3]. The Contracted Scout makes for a cheap third Attanni Mindlink. Its durability and maneuverability makes it a good blocker, and its attack is good enough at close range. You can run it with just Attanni Mindlink, add R4 Agromech to improve its attack, or add Intelligence Agent and/or Rigged Cargo Chute to improve its disruptive capabilities.
  • Manaroo (pilot; Punishing One) [1][2]. Manaroo is a strong option for a third Attanni Mindlink, even after the errata which limits her ability to range 1. She'll usually give another ship a focus token while regaining a focus for herself. She can also take and pass a target lock to improve your other ship's offense. If you have more points, you can add to her damage output with Anti-Pursuit Lasers and R5-P8.
  • Kaa'to Leeachos (Z-95 Headhunter pilot; Most Wanted) [1]. Coming in at 16 points, Kaa'to Leeachos is the cheapest way to get a ship with Attanni Mindlink. He's otherwise unimpressive, and you may want to keep him out of the fight for a while so he can continue buffing the rest of your squad with focus tokens. If you have extra points, Concussion Missile and Guidance Chips gives him a bit more damage output.
  • Palob Godalhi (HWK-290 pilot; Most Wanted) [1][2]. Palob is interesting in an Attanni Mindlink list. Not only does he remove a focus token from the opponent, he can also use his ability to get a focus token for the Mindlink. This can come in handy if all of your ships bumped or otherwise needed to take a different action. He's pretty fragile, so you can either run him light or use Cloaking Device to mitigate his squishiness. Dengar crew is also helpful since it applies to both of the Twin Laser Turret attacks.


2. Jumpmaster 5000


If you were bummed out that you need to buy two copies of the Jumpmaster 5000 expansion for a full set of Attanni Mindlinks, cheer up! The Jumpmaster 5000 is an incredibly strong ship and you can easily have two in one squad. It features a relatively low cost, enough defense to survive a turn of shooting against all but the strongest alpha strikes, unparalleled mobility thanks to its excellent dial and barrel roll, and a vast array of upgrade slots. All four of its pilots have been played to high finishes in Premier-level tournaments.

  • U-Boat Contracted Scout (pilot; Punishing One) [1][2]. The U-Boat uses Attanni Mindlink, R4 Agromech, and Guidance Chips for a 92% chance of a 4-hit result with torpedoes. These ships can get both target lock and focus by either taking the target lock action and getting focus from Attanni Mindlink, or by acquiring the target lock with R4 Agromech the previous round. After spending the target lock to shoot the torpedo, it can spend focus to change any focuses to a hit, reroll any blanks with the new target lock from R4 Agromech, and modify a blank to a hit with Guidance Chips. The first build does an extra damage against shields, and the second build strips an important upgrade from the opponent with Boba Fett. Extra points can be spent on crew like Intelligence Agent or 4-LOM for the first build, and on Extra Munitions for the second build.
  • Bumpmaster Contracted Scout (pilot; Punishing One) [1]. The Bumpmaster abuses the Jumpmaster 5000's excellent dial and barrel roll action to cover most of your opponent's options. Feedback Array and Anti-Pursuit Lasers lets the Bumpmaster deal damage when blocking. Adaptability is usually used to reduce the Bumpmaster's pilot skill to 2, and can be replaced with Attanni Mindlink.
  • Dengar (pilot; Punishing One) [1][2][3]. Dengar's pilot ability gives this expensive ship enough offense to justify his cost. The first build takes advantage of his pilot skill and barrel roll action and enhances his arc-dodging ability. He's similar to Dash Rendar with a much higher pilot skill and the ability to shoot ships at range 1. The second build is slightly cheaper and uses Expertise to modify both of his attacks. The third build is used in alpha strike lists, often paired with Bossk in the YV-666.
  • Manaroo (pilot; Punishing One) [1][2]. As mentioned above, Manaroo is a strong option for a third Attanni Mindlink. Spare points can go towards Anti-Pursuit Lasers, R5-P8, Intelligence Agent, and/or illicit upgrades like Feedback Array, Burnout SLAM, or Black Market Slicer Tools.
  • Tel Trevura (pilot; Punishing One) [1][2]. The least popular Jumpmaster 5000 pilot, Tel Trevura is still a viable option. The first build takes advantage of Tel's pilot ability with Gonk, R5-P8, and Hull Upgrade. The second build is a pilot skill 9 torpedo boat.


3. Disruption


Scum isn't as good as Rebels for denying actions, but they've got some tricks up their sleeves. They have some strong ships which hand out stress and strip tokens from enemy ships. Scum also has the best ways to hand out tractor beam tokens.

  • Asajj Ventress (pilot; Shadow Caster) [1][2][3]. Asajj Ventress is reliable stress control in a great ship. The first two builds are more defensive, while the last adds the Shadow Caster title to also hand out tractor beam tokens.
  • Old Teroch (pilot; Protectorate Starfighter) [1][2][3]. Old Teroch has to put himself at risk to strip tokens, but he's pretty durable as long as he has arc on the enemy ship. There are three good options for the elite pilot talent but otherwise the build is pretty standard.
  • Ketsu Onyo (pilot; Shadow Caster) [1][2]. Ketsu is one of the few ways to assign a tractor beam token without hitting with an attack. The easiest way to trigger Ketsu's ability is to keep her mobile arc forward. She can bump into an enemy small ship, apply the tractor beam and barrel them off, then shoot them with a range 1 attack. She's not usually played as defensively as Asajj, so you'll generally see her with an offensive crew. Veteran Instincts is especially useful with the Shadow Caster title if your other ship(s) has pilot skill 8 or 9.
  • Jakku Gunrunner (pilot; Quadjumper) [1][2]. I usually don't like paying much more than 12 points for 2-attack ships with low health, but Spacetug Tractor Array is amazing. It doesn't require an attack, and it can be used before your opponent moves. You can easily set it up so they have to go over an asteroid twice this turn, or nudge them too close to the board edge. The first build is the barebones setup, but upgrades can make this ship much more effective. Intelligence Agent lets you know exactly how to move the ship (or not move them) to mess them up, and Pattern Analyzer lets the Gunrunner use the tractor beam after a reverse move.
  • Palob Godalhi (HWK-290 pilot; Most Wanted) [1][2]. Palob can't strip as many tokens as Old Teroch, but he does it more reliably. Since he steals tokens instead of just removing them, it encourages your opponent not to take those actions. Sometimes he'll get an entirely squad to change their actions, even though he can't steal more than a single token! The two builds here use Attanni Mindlink. If you're not running a Mindlink build, you should probably choose a 0-cost elite pilot talent since Palob doesn't particularly benefit from any of them.


4. Offensive crew


Scum have the best options for crew which adds offensive dice modification or denies defensive dice modification from your opponents. You've already seen several of these, but they're also useful in other builds.

  • Dengar (crew; Punishing One) [1][2][3][4]. Dengar is one of the strongest crew in the game. Rerolling two dice is almost as good as target lock, and Dengar gives it to you without limiting your maneuvers! You only reroll one die against generic pilots, but that's still on par with Predator and named pilots are much more popular than ships with pilot skill 1 or 2. The last two builds are ships we've seen before, and the first two are other ideas you can consider.
  • K4 Security Droid (crew; Most Wanted or Hound's Tooth) [1][2]. The downside of Dengar crew is it can't be used to shoot missiles and torpedoes, and you can't run it with Dengar. K4 Security Droid grants extra target locks, but requires doing green maneuvers. It's also an extremely strong crew that the other factions would love to have. I've highlighted its main strengths over the Dengar crew in these two builds.
  • 4-LOM (crew; Mist Hunter) [1][2][3]. 4-LOM lets you block a focus or evade token on an important attack. He's best used with large ships since they can use it twice before suffering any penalties.


5. Closers


Scum doesn't have the same selection of cheap closers Imperials do, but they have some strong options. Unlike Imperials, several of these are large ships which either get very tanky or deal lots of damage. We've seen many of these pilots before, but it's worth noting them here again. I won't list the Attanni Mindlink version of their builds since Mindlink isn't very helpful when you're down to your last ship.

  • Fenn Rau (pilot; Protectorate Starfighter) [1]. Despite the similarities, the lack of an evade action and the Concord Dawn title means Fenn Rau flies very differently from Imperial arc-dodgers. Without evade, he can explode with one or two bad rolls. Still, his offensive and defensive abilities and high pilot skill make him a strong closer. He's most effective if you can stay out of range 2.
  • Asajj Ventress (pilot; Shadow Caster) [1]. As mentioned earlier, Asajj is very tanky when she can take focus and evade every turn. Combined with Latts Razzi, she's guaranteed to mitigate 2 damage every round and will mitigate a third thanks to her green dice.
  • Dengar (pilot; Punishing One) [1]. We've seen Dengar before. He's a great closer thanks to his mobility and high pilot skill, and because his double-tap ability is very strong in a 1v1. He can be very difficult for small-ship closers to pin down. The downside is he is somewhat squishy for his cost, and he suffers against turrets.


6. Brobots


The Aggressor is an interesting ship because their pilots share each others' abilities. They're quite durable thanks to their 3 green dice and ability to equip Autothrusters, and they can put out good damage with a Heavy Laser Cannon and IG-88B's ability. Their main downside is they're a big-base ship that can't shoot out of its arc. They rely on sloops and K-turns to have shots on their target, so they have a hard time getting action economy. The most common pilots are IG-88B and IG-88C.

  • IG-88B or IG-88C (pilot; IG-2000) [1][2]. The first build is the standard heavy-hitting build. Fire-Control Systems with IG-88B's pilot ability means you'll rarely go a round without dealing damage, and Crack Shot can be used to push a key damage through. The second build uses Push the Limit with Advanced Sensors to stay free of stress so red maneuvers stay as options. It also highly maneuverable since it can boost before executing its maneuver. The downside with the second build is the Heavy Laser Cannon version costs 51 points, so one has to use the Mangler Cannon instead.
  • IG-88D (crew; IG-2000) [1]. The IG-88D crew lets another ship benefit from your Aggressor pilot's ability. Usually, you'll see IG-88D on a ship with a cannon paired with the IG-88B pilot. You can do this with any YV-666 build, but I decided to highlight a bit of a cheesy build. This build tries to miss with its first attack to then make two attacks: one with IG-88B's ability, and one with Gunner. This works because both are triggered once the first attack misses (even if IG-88B ability's cannon shot hits), and IG-88B's ability doesn't prevent further attacks.


7. Efficient damage dealers


Scum have a couple options for efficient damage dealers.

  • Syndicate Thug (Y-Wing pilot; Most Wanted) [1]. Just like its Rebel cousin, the Y-Wing with Twin Laser Turret is a cheap and efficient damage dealer. Unhinged Astromech and R4 Agromech are popular upgrades with extra points.
  • Cartel Spacer (pilot; M3-A Interceptor) [1]. The Cartel Spacer is an option for a cheap damage dealer thanks to the errata which adds 1 hull to the Heavy Scyk title. It should survive 2 shots from a 3-attack ship with one offensive dice mod, but it'll die quickly against stronger attacks or if it suffers from bad dice luck.


Scum Weaknesses


Scum is a flexible faction, but it has a couple weaknesses. Many of its small ships are awkwardly positioned. The Protectorate Starfighter wants to fill the role of a closer, but it's fragile and prone to exploding before the endgame. The StarViper is positioned as a heavy-hitting arc-dodger, but it doesn't have the greens or the dice modification to support that role. The Kihraxz Fighter is positioned as a jouster, but doesn't have a 1 straight. The M3-A Interceptor is in a better spot after the Heavy Scyk errata, but it's very dependent on green dice and also has trouble getting action economy to support its dice.

Some of these action economy concerns can be fixed with Attanni Mindlink, but that introduces also introduces problems. Since the Mindlink gets weaker with each ship lost, you ideally want to bring durable ships or keep a fragile one out of the fight. That's either very expensive, or makes some of these fragile ships less suitable for a Mindlink list.

Scum lists can be a bit light on offense. Many of Scum's strongest ships are big ships that sit best around 45 points and up, and it lacks options for damage dealers under 30 points. Scum ships with heavy offense can be a bit awkward to use, like requiring target locks for torpedoes, being fragile, or being hard to maneuver.