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.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Factions: Imperials

This series describes the strengths and weaknesses of the factions in X-Wing, with this article covering the Imperial 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
Scum

1. Best arc-dodging aces


Imperials are best known for their arc-dodging aces. These pilots share five features. First, they have six or more green maneuvers, some of which are hard turns. This lets them use Push the Limit (elite pilot talent; A-Wing or Imperial Aces) to perform two actions each round at a minimal cost. Second, these pilots have high pilot skill and both the boost and barrel roll actions. Combined with Push the Limit, they can perform a boost and barrel roll in the same turn and have great flexibility in dodging enemy arcs. Third, they have access to the evade action. When they can't dodge arcs, they can focus and evade to become very difficult to hit. Fourth, they have a pilot ability which effectively gives them a third action or denies actions from the opponent. Finally, they can equip Autothrusters (modification; StarViper) to counter turrets. These pilots come in at an affordable 31-35 points, which makes it very easy to fit them into a list.

Thanks to their defenses, these ships are excellent in a 1v1 endgame. They can even win some unfair fights with luck and good flying. These ships depend on their actions, so bumps and stress can get them killed pretty quickly.

  • Soontir Fel (pilot; TIE Interceptor) [1]. Stealth Device is optional. Soontir Fel used to be the premier arc-dodging ace, but he's fallen in popularity thanks to the prevalence of stress and auto-damage effects like bombs.
  • Carnor Jax (pilot; Imperial Aces) [1]. Hull Upgrade is optional. Carnor Jax has seen more play recently since he can disrupt lists which depend on focus or evade tokens.
  • The Inquisitor (pilot; Inquisitor's TIE) [1]. Sometimes takes Proton Rockets. Very popular since he only costs 31 points and has more health than the TIE Interceptors.


2. Best selection of closers


Besides the arc-dodging aces, Imperials have a generous selection of evasive ships which are very strong in a 1v1 endgame. Some of these ships can even win when outnumbered. For the most part, these ships have great defenses along with consistent offense.

  • TIE/x7 (title; Imperial Veterans) [1][2][3]. TIE Defenders with the TIE/x7 title are extremely durable. It's great in the end-game since it can out-K-Turn its opponent while being very hard to hit. These are some of the easier Imperial ships to fly, and they're a good place to start for beginner Imperial players. The first two TIE Defender pilots are the most popular since they have consistent offense to go with their strong defense. The third is a cheap generic with the same defensive abilities, but doesn't have the consistent offense.
  • Omega Leader (pilot; TIE/fo Fighter) [1]. Omega Leader is the strongest 1v1 pilot in the game. He pushes consistent damage through with Juke, and being able to modify his dice when his enemy can't makes him fairly durable. He's very easy to fit into lists at just 26 points and forces opponents to deal with him early.
  • Whisper (pilot; TIE Phantom) [1]. Agent Kallus is optional; it's insurance against ships with higher pilot skill. Whisper is a dangerous but streaky ship. She can explode the first turn she's shot at, or she can destroy your opponent's list by herself. When Whisper gets to shoot first, she rolls 4 dice on attack and on defense with plenty of tokens to modify them. She has one of the best ways of staying on her target with the "candy cane" maneuver of decloaking to the side and doing a 1 hard turn towards where she came from. While strong, Whisper is expensive, and she's vulnerable to disruption (stress prevents her from cloaking), ships with higher pilot skill, and bad dice luck.
  • Quickdraw (pilot; TIE/sf) [1]. He takes more damage and is less maneuverable than most traditional closers, but Quickdraw has the high pilot skill, action economy, and offense to win a 1v1. His pilot ability puts opponents in a bind where they don't want to attack him early, but he's also a very strong late-game ship with shields. Quickdraw's other advantage is he's a bit more resilient to disruption than some of these other pilots thanks to his back arc, Fire-Control Systems, and not running Push the Limit.
  • Darth Vader (pilot; TIE Advanced) [1]. He's often regarded as an arc-dodging ace, but he's a tier below thanks to a less consistent offense, less action economy, and his vulnerability to turrets. Still, he's one of the few aces that can reach pilot skill 10. He's a great pick to counter other aces if you don't expect to face turrets.


3. Three-crew ship with a turret


The VT-49 Decimator is one of two ships in the game with 3 crew slots. The other is the YV-666, which doesn't have a turret and has a hard time turning around. You'll almost always want Gunner (Slave I or YT-2400 Freighter) in one slot. The other slots can be filled with Darth Vader (Lambda-Class Shuttle), Hotshot Co-Pilot (Heroes of the Resistance), Kylo Ren (Upsilon-Class Shuttle), Rebel Captive (Lambda-Class Shuttle), or Ysanne Isard (VT-49 Decimator). Unlike other large ships with low agility, the Decimator doesn't have access to defensive abilities like C-3PO or Kanan Jarrus's pilot ability. They die very quickly for their cost, which makes the Engine Upgrade modification and arc-dodging especially important.

  • Rear Admiral Chiraneau (pilot; VT-49 Decimator) [1][2]. The first build tries to miss with the first shot to strip enemy focus tokens, leaving the target vulnerable to the Gunner shot and the wingmate. The second uses Kylo Ren to put Blinded Pilot or Damaged Cockpit on enemy ships.
  • Captain Oicunn (pilot; VT-49 Decimator) [1]. Oicunn is a cheaper Decimator with a strong ability. He doesn't use Hotshot Co-Pilot or Kylo Ren as well as Chiraneau does, but Darth Vader and the defensive crew are still strong options. Engine Upgrade is still a strong upgrade for maneuvering, but the lower pilot skill limits Oicunn's ability to arc-dodge.


4. Swarms


The TIE Fighter is the best swarm ship in the game. Not only are its stats and dial superior to comparable cheap ships, it also has a cheap offensive support ship in Howlrunner and generics with the ability to equip Crack Shot. I list several TIE swarm variations in this post.

  • Howlrunner [1]. The force multiplier of your swarm, She often adds 2-3 hits across the rest of your swarm. Expect your opponents to focus her, so don't be afraid to spend actions defensively to keep her on the board.
  • Black Squadron Pilot [1]. This is the cheapest generic pilot with the ability to take Crack Shot. Extra points can be spent to upgrade these to named pilots, or to upgrade to the equivalent TIE/fo Fighter for the extra shield.
  • Pure Sabacc [1]. This isn't a TIE Fighter, but it's worth a look in a TIE swarm. It's the cheapest way to get a 4-dice attack. However, including this ship limits the swarm's maneuvering options. Without Adaptive Ailerons, it lacks a 3 hard turn and the 4 and 5 straight. With Adaptive Ailerons, it effectively loses its 1-speed and 2-speed maneuvers.


5. Support crew cards and platforms


Imperials have the best selection of support crew. Most support abilities costs one action to generate an action, or passes a token from one ship to another. Imperials have the best selection of crew which generate additional actions for allies, including Emperor Palpatine (Imperial Raider epic), Fleet Officer (VT-49 Decimator), and General Hux (Upsilon-Class Shuttle). Imperials also have the best ships to put support crew on, so they also take the most advantage of support crew like Operations Specialist (Upsilon-Class Shuttle), Systems Officer (Imperial Veterans), and Inspiring Recruits (U-Wing). Finally, Imperials have the best targets to support with these abilities. Most of their ships have high agility and can make good use of extra focus tokens, and their aces can make especially good use of extra actions and defensive abilities.

  • Omicron Group Pilot (pilot, Lambda-Class Shuttle) [1]. The Palpshuttle is the cheapest way of running Emperor Palpatine. Palpatine is best used with evasive ships where one less damage taken per round significantly increases their lifespan. His errata makes him less consistent, but he's still very strong when used correctly.
  • TIE Shuttle (title; Imperial Veterans) [1]. While a bit fragile, the TIE Bomber with the TIE Shuttle is the cheapest way to field support crew. They're also maneuverable enough to consider adding Tactician to disrupt enemies, although the range restriction severely limits its reliability.
  • Major Stridan (pilot; Upsilon-Class Shuttle) [1]. Major Stridan's ability is great with support crew and his Coordinate action.


6. Glass Cannons


Imperials have several ships with a high damage-to-survivability ratio. While they're not true glass cannons in that they probably won't explode right away, they're awfully reliant on luck of the green dice. These ships reward good flying. If they survive even a turn longer than they should thanks to good dice or good flying, their high damage output can win you the game. If you run these ships, you probably want at least two of them, and your third ship should either be another glass cannon or a high-damage closer. Otherwise, it'd be too easy for your opponent to kill this ship first, since it's both your most threatening ship and your easiest-to-kill ship.

  • Colonel Vessery (pilot; TIE Defender) with TIE/D (title; Imperial Veterans) [1]. Makes two 3-dice attacks every turn, both with target lock. While Expertise is a strong option for the elite pilot talent upgrade slot, you usually want Veteran Instincts to shoot before other PS8 ships in your list that use target lock. Tractor Beam is a cheaper option if you need the points. You'll generally see Vessery paired with The Inquisitor, Omega Leader, Darth Vader, Whisper with Fire-Control Systems, or a TIE/sf with Fire-Control Systems.
  • TIE/sf Fighter [1][2][3][4]. The TIE/sf deals consistent damage with Fire-Control System, but it does require them to survive a round of shooting to use it. A fully loaded Backdraft or Quickdraw can survive and close decently, but you can also build these on a budget. These builds depend mostly on dice luck and range control to survive. You can also consider Crack Shot for the elite pilot talent for these builds. The last build uses Rage with Electronic Baffle to trigger Quickdraw's ability in the activation phase for a powerful double-tap.
  • Pure Sabacc [1]. Pure Sabacc shows up again, this time with upgrades to try to keep him alive a bit longer.
  • Tomax Bren (pilot; Imperial Veterans) [1]. His ability lets him use Crack Shot on every attack. He gets two strong 4-dice attacks, and then deals consistent damage like a more fragile Omega Leader.
  • Deathfire (pilot; Imperial Veterans) [1][2]. I prefer the loaded version with a Homing Missile to make him more threatening. The cheap version offers some disruption which Imperials otherwise lack.



Imperial Weaknesses

Imperials have a couple weaknesses. First, their ships tend to have less health and rely on green dice to survive. While this can keep them alive longer in the end-game, it means they're vulnerable to bad luck. It encourages you to spend your focus on defense, which weakens your attacks. It also makes your ships vulnerable to disruption. Stress, tractor beams, and automatic damage (e.g. bombs) are all especially deadly for Imperial ships.

Second, Imperials don't have many great options for disruption. It has a few options including TIE/D Vessery with Tractor Beam or Ion Cannon, Rear Admiral Chiraneau with Hotshot Co-Pilot and/or Kylo Ren, Upsilon Shuttle with Kylo Ren's Shuttle, TIE Shuttle with Tactician, and Deathfire with Conner Net. However, these options tend to be fragile, unreliable, and/or expensive enough to limit their use.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How good is the Twin Laser Turret?

The Twin Laser Turret is the best turret upgrade, and FFG has come out before saying it probably should have cost 7 points. With the recent grumbling about Twin Laser Turret, I thought I might run some numbers and see how good it really is.

Based on calculations using the X-Wing Dice Probability Calculator, the short answer is Twin Laser Turret is strong. It's comparable to a 3-dice attack if you have the token advantage over your opponent, but it's much stronger if your opponent has a token advantage over you.

On the other hand, a Twin Laser Turret Y-Wing is the same price as a Fire-Control Systems B-Wing, so it's not quite the apples-to-apples comparison. The 3-dice attack with focus and target lock has much better damage output. If you have focus and the target is a 2-agility ship with focus, the damage is roughly even across the first two turns of shooting. Still, the target lock takes a round to kick in and the Twin Laser Turret is harder to avoid. I'd say the Twin Laser Turret is still a bit too strong when using an equal-point benchmark.

Even if it's strong, it's hard to say whether Twin Laser Turrets is worthy of a nerf. I'm not sure Twin Laser Turret really pushes ships out, unlike torpedo U-Boats. If FFG were concerned about it, the easiest way to nerf Twin Laser Turret is to allow range bonuses to apply to turret secondary weapon attacks (I'd like to see it applied to all secondary weapon attacks for rule simplicity purposes). This also has the benefit of buffing the other turrets, none of which are strong enough to see consistent play.


Twin Laser Turret vs. 3-dice attack

With focus, against a tokenless opponent:
0 Agility: -0.35 (1.90 TLT vs. 2.25 3D)
1 Agility: -0.13 (1.75 TLT vs. 1.88 3D)
2 Agility: +0.01 (1.54 TLT vs. 1.53 3D)
3 Agility: +0.08 (1.30 TLT vs. 1.22 3D)

With focus, against an opponent with focus:
1 Agility: +0.03 (1.66 TLT vs. 1.63 3D)
2 Agility: +0.27 (1.30 TLT vs. 1.07 3D)
3 Agility: +0.26 (0.90 TLT vs. 0.64 3D)

Without focus, against a tokenless opponent:
0 Agility: +0.25 (1.75 TLT vs. 1.5 3D)
1 Agility: +0.30 (1.47 TLT vs. 1.17 3D)
2 Agility: +0.28 (1.18 TLT vs. 0.90 3D)
3 Agility: +0.26 (0.93 TLT vs. 0.67 3D)

Without focus, against an opponent with focus:
1 Agility: +0.35 (1.30 TLT vs. 0.95 3D)
2 Agility: +0.32 (0.87 TLT vs. 0.55 3D)
3 Agility: +0.24 (0.54 TLT vs. 0.30 3D)


Twin Laser Turret vs. 3-dice attack with Target Lock

With focus, against a tokenless opponent:
0 Agility: -0.81 (1.90 TLT vs. 2.81 3D)
1 Agility: -0.69 (1.75 TLT vs. 2.44 3D)
2 Agility: -0.52 (1.54 TLT vs. 2.06 3D)
3 Agility: -0.40 (1.30 TLT vs. 1.70 3D)

With focus, against an opponent with focus:
1 Agility: -0.53 (1.66 TLT vs. 2.19 3D)
2 Agility: -0.27 (1.30 TLT vs. 1.57 3D)
3 Agility: -0.09 (0.90 TLT vs. 0.99 3D)

Without focus, against a tokenless opponent:
0 Agility: -0.50 (1.75 TLT vs. 2.25 3D)
1 Agility: -0.41 (1.47 TLT vs. 1.88 3D)
2 Agility: -0.35 (1.18 TLT vs. 1.53 3D)
3 Agility: -0.29 (0.93 TLT vs. 1.22 3D)

Without focus, against an opponent with focus:
1 Agility: -0.33 (1.30 TLT vs. 1.63 3D)
2 Agility: -0.20 (0.87 TLT vs. 1.07 3D)
3 Agility: -0.10 (0.54 TLT vs. 0.64 3D)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Factions: Rebels

This series describes the strengths and weaknesses of the factions in X-Wing, with this article covering the Rebel 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:
Imperials
Scum

1. Regeneration


Rebels have the best ways of recovering shields in the game. Regeneration effectively mitigates 1 damage every round. It's better than an evade action since it can recover damage taken on previous rounds. Combined with other defensive abilities, these ships can be extremely hard to kill, especially in the end-game. If focused early, a common strategy is to run the damaged ship away and bring it back into the fight at full shields.
  • R2-D2 (astromech; Red Core Set) [1][2][3][4]. One of the best cards in the game. It single-handedly makes some of the more expensive Rebel ships viable. R2-D2 is the most reliable regeneration card since it'll always work after doing a green maneuver.
  • Miranda Doni (pilot; K-Wing) [1][2][3]. Twin Laser Turret has special synergy with her pilot ability, since she can recover a shield on the first shot and take the second shot with the full 3 dice. Unfortunately, running away to regenerate with Miranda is more difficult since she needs to shoot to regenerate. Twin Laser Turret doesn't work at range 1, but she can spend a shield to make a 4-dice primary attack instead.
  • R5-P9 (astromech; Rebel Transport epic) [1][2]. This isn't seen nearly as often as R2-D2 since the focus token is a large cost, but it works with some ships. The main selling point is the ability to use both R5-P9 and R2-D2 in the same squad. It has special synergy with Poe Dameron since he usually won't have to spend his focus token. It lets him regenerate while doing white maneuvers and is a point cheaper than R2-D2, but it does make him more vulnerable to bumping and stress.



2. Stress control


Stress is a strong counter to ships which rely on their actions. Not only do Rebels have the cheapest options for stressing enemy ships, they have the best ways of giving enemy ships two stress in one turn. A ship with one stress can do a green maneuver and still take an action next turn, but a ship with two stress will almost never get an action next turn.
  • R3-A2 (astromech; Rebel Transport epic) [1][2]. Both of these example ships can shoot twice in one turn and stress the target with each shot. Note the Stresshog only stresses their opponent with the primary attack and the first shot of the Twin Laser Turret, and doesn't stress a third time on the second Twin Laser Turret shot. Braylen wants to miss with the first attack, and you can make it easier by not to adding the extra attack dice from the title for that attack.


3. Biggs


Despite flying a weaker ship, Biggs Darklighter is one of the most powerful pilots in the game. Rebels have many ships which are vulnerable to focus fire. Biggs prevents your opponent from killing those more powerful ships first, and those extra turns can make all the difference.

  • Biggs Darklighter (X-Wing; Red Core Set) [1][2]. I like to keep Biggs cheap since he will die quickly, but sometimes you can get value out of R2-D2. Biggs is sometimes seen with a different astromech like R3-A2 or M9-G8 to provide utility.


4. Tanky 1-agility ships

The C-3PO crew greatly improves the tankiness of ships with 1-agility. By guessing 0 evades, it guarantees a ship with 1 agility will get at least one evade result every round. It's strongest when combined with other defensive measures like the evade action and/or regeneration. Ships with C-3PO and another source of damage mitigation are very hard to take down in a 1v1 endgame.

  • C-3PO (crew; Tantive IV epic and promo) [1][2]. Han mitigates two damage per round by taking the evade action, and Norra can mitigate three damage a round thanks to her ability and regeneration.


5. Bombs


Bombs are interesting because they let you deal damage without having to get through defense dice. Rebels get the best use out of bombs thanks to Sabine Wren (crew; Ghost) and K-Wings with the Advanced SLAM modification. Sabine deals one damage to a nearby ship when a friendly bomb detonates, even if the bomb was dropped by another friendly ship. This often doubles the damage of a bomb and is especially deadly against evasive ships with low health. Furthermore, K-Wings with Advanced SLAM have unparalleled flexibility in where they drop their "action" bombs (see below).

There are two types of bombs: ones dropped upon revealing your dial ("reveal bombs") and ones dropped as an action ("action bombs"). You'll probably want at least one of each. Reveal bombs are better if you move after your opponent, and action bombs are better if you move before your opponent. You want to drop these bombs directly on enemy ships or when you otherwise know they'll hit. The most popular reveal bombs are Seismic Charges, Ion Bombs, and Thermal Detonators. The most popular action bombs are Cluster Mines, Conner Net, and Proximity Mines. Note a ship can only drop one bomb per turn, no matter what type, and using the SLAM action doesn't let you to drop a reveal bomb since no dial was revealed.

  • Miranda Doni (pilot; K-Wing) [1]. Miranda is used when you want a closer with bombs. Her Twin Laser Turret gives her consistent offense after her bombs are expended, and her pilot ability keeps her healthy. Choose the bombs according to your preference.
  • Warden Squadron Pilot (pilot; K-Wing) [1]. The generic K-Wing pilot lets you run multiple bombers at the cost of a weak attack. You can have up to three if you use cheaper bombs. If you already have Sabine (crew) in your list, they can take Intelligence Agent to make bombing runs easier.
  • Ahsoka Tano (pilot; Sabine's TIE Fighter) [1]. Most lists can't attack Ahsoka until she's your only ship left thanks to the Captured TIE modification. A common strategy against bombing lists is to kill the ship with Sabine first, and the Captured TIE ability makes that strategy impossible for lists who don't have a pilot skill 9+ ship. It also lets her freely run into the enemy formation and generally be a nuisance. Her weakness is requiring a ship to die in close range before she can drop a second bomb.


6. Dash


Dash Rendar can freely move through obstacles and land on debris fields. This makes him incredibly hard to pin down by ships with lower pilot skill. Combined with Push the Limit and Engine Upgrade, he's one of the best arc-dodgers in the game. Thanks to his Heavy Laser Cannon and Outrider title, Dash is also one of the heaviest-hitting large ships with a 360-degree turret.

Dash has a weakness against ships with higher pilot skill, and he only has a pilot skill of 7. Because of his cost and inability to use Gunner, he often uses the Heavy Laser Cannon. This gives him a "donut hole" since he can't shoot ships at Range 1. Ships with higher pilot skill can exploit this weakness by closing in after Dash commits to his position.

  • Dash Rendar (pilot; YT-2400) [1][2][3]. The first build has the best arc-dodging capabilities, and basically has his whole dial available every turn. The second build trades maneuverability for more tokens, but keeps Engine Upgrade. The third build is a cheaper build without Engine Upgrade.


7. Heavy-hitting ships


All faction have heavy-hitting ships, but Rebels have the most access to ships that can throw out 4 or 5 attack dice with consistent dice modification.

  • VCX-100 (ship; Ghost) [1][2][3]. The first build is a relatively cheap support ship with a scary offense and the ability to K-Turn to its heart's content. While expensive, the second and third builds get an extra turret shot at the end of combat and are effectively two ships in one. The second build also gets an extra attack die from Finn, although it's only effective when rerolled with target lock.
  • Dash Rendar (pilot; YT-2400) [1][2][3]. As discussed above, Dash is one of the heaviest-hitting ships with a 360-degree turret.
  • Rey (YT-1300 pilot; Heroes of the Resistance) [1]. Finn synergizes nicely with Rey's ability to give her a consistent 4-dice attack against targets in arc. Expertise helps with Rey's action economy since she craves focus tokens for both offense and defense. The new Millennium Falcon title with Kanan lets Rey turn around without stress so she can keep targets in arc and still get use out of Expertise and focus.
  • Norra Wexley (pilot; ARC-170) [1][2]. Norra's ability adds an extra hit when you have target lock and focus. The first build is the standard tanky build, while the second has some fun repositioning options.
  • Miranda Doni (pilot; K-Wing) [1]. Miranda's back, and this time she uses her ability to make a 5-dice Homing Missile attack with focus and target lock on the first round of combat. If you have extra points, you can add Extra Munitions, bombs, and Sabine Wren, or instead give her C-3PO for more durability.
  • Corran Horn (pilot; E-Wing) [1][2]. Corran doesn't have a 4- or 5-dice attack in the traditional sense, but his double tap ability lets him do incredible burst damage. You usually don't want to use it at Range 3 against an opponent that still has defensive tokens. Instead, you want to use it when you wouldn't have a shot next round anyway, ideally against a target at Range 1 who doesn't have tokens. He's extremely strong in a 1v1 endgame. However, Corran has some weaknesses. He has trouble turning around, he's reliant on green dice, and he's especially vulnerable to effects that deal damage cards through shields.


8. Cheap damage-dealers


Rebels have several options for ships with 3 attack and enough health to survive a turn of being shot at an affordable cost.

  • Gold Squadron Pilot (pilot; Y-Wing) [1]. The Twin Laser Turret is the most efficient turret in the game, and putting it on a Y-Wing makes for a cheap and efficient damage dealer.
  • Blue Squadron Pilot (pilot; B-Wing and Rebel Aces) [1][2]. The Blue Squadron Pilot is cheap and efficient by itself. Adding Fire-Control System is a strong option that greatly improves its offense assuming it can keep shooting the same target.
  • Blue Squadron Pathfinder (pilot; U-Wing) [1][2]. The U-Wing costs 1 point more than the B-Wing and trades a more awkward flight pattern for 1 more agility die. Like the B-Wing, it can be run with or without Fire-Control System. You should strongly consider adding Hera Syndulla (crew) to this ship so it can stay in place forever.


Rebel weaknesses


There are two things Rebels don't do well. First, its closers tend to be more expensive, starting at 37 points with strong reasons to go even higher. The other two factions have closers under 35 points. These extra points make a big difference when building lists.

Second, Rebels don't have a full-featured small-base arc-dodging ace. The A-Wing almost fits this profile, but its 2-dice attack means it can't reliably provide enough offense to justify spending ~30 points on it. Some small-base Rebel arc-dodging ships exist, but they tend to be too fragile for their cost. Imperials have many options, and Scum have the Protectorate Starfighter. That means most small-base Rebel ships want to fly at the enemy ships, and have limited options if they are outgunned.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Your First 100-Point List

Building your first 100-point list as a newbie can be pretty intimidating. I've got some guidelines for building lists, but they might be too abstract for your first game. I've also made some tournament-worthy budget lists, but they can be too complicated for your first game. I haven't been able to find a simple list-building resource for complete beginners with limited collections.

This article hopefully fills that gap by giving you some simple guidelines for your first 100-point list. Basically, pick a combination of ships so you have enough offense, add some upgrade cards that won't make your list worse, and you'll be good to go for some casual games! These guidelines are intended to make it harder to completely mess up your first 100-point list. These aren't ironclad rules, and there are tournament-level lists that break some of these guidelines.

Here's a rough priority list for how to spend your points.
  1. Spend on ships so your squad fits one of the recommended categories. Upgrades which improve your ships' offense should also be prioritized first (e.g. turret upgrades).
  2. Spend points to upgrade to pilots with strong abilities.
  3. Spend points on upgrades which provide extra offensive or defensive actions.
  4. Spend points on extra ships.
  5. Spend points on pilot skill upgrades for pilots which already have PS 7 or higher.
  6. Spend points on other upgrades which can't hurt you (e.g. the survivability upgrades) or to increase your generic pilots' pilot skill.

I'll explain these in more detail below, but first, let's look at some examples. These examples use both Core Sets plus one expansion (in parenthesis). As you read further, pick one of these lists and see if you can explain how it fits my suggestions.

Beginner Rebels 1: Poe Biggs Miranda (K-Wing)
Beginner Rebels 2: Poe Biggs B A (Rebel Aces)
Beginner Rebels 3: T-70 Biggs Chewie (Millennium Falcon)

Beginner Imperials 1: TIE Aces Swarm (TIE/fo Fighter; use a TIE/fo from the Core Set for Omega Leader)
Beginner Imperials 2: Ryad Tomax Miniswarm (Imperial Veterans)
Beginner Imperials 3: Oicunn Miniswarm (VT-49 Decimator)

Ships

Start by picking your ships. There are good and bad ships with the same attack value, but for now, focus on bringing enough offense. Even fragile ships can be salvaged by a couple rounds of good flying, while it's extremely difficult to outfly your opponent over the course of many rounds to make up for a lack of offense.

Pick a squad of ships which fit one of these categories:
  1. Three ships with 3 attack dice.
  2. Two ships with 4 attack dice.
  3. Six ships with 2 attack dice.
  4. One ship with 3 attack dice and four ships with 2 attack dice.
  5. Two ships with 3 attack dice and three ships with 2 attack dice.
  6. One ship with 4 attack dice and three ships with 2 attack dice.
Note these are minimum numbers; you can always bring more ships. When you're new and have limited upgrades, bringing extra ships is often the better use of points.

If you really want to play with a certain ship and can't fit it in otherwise, it's acceptable to be 1 attack dice below the guidelines (e.g. two ships with 3 attack dice and one ship with 2 attack dice). Your offense will be weaker if you do this, so try to compensate by making your attacks more consistent through upgrades or abilities which give you extra actions (see below).

Some upgrades and abilities can affect the ship's effective attack value:
  • If a ship equips an upgrade that increases its attack by 1, it counts as having that higher attack dice value. For example, an ARC-170 which equips the Alliance Overhaul title counts as having 3 attack dice.
  • A ship with Gunner (or other effects which allow for two attacks in 1 round) counts as two ships with that ship's attack dice.
  • A ship with Twin Laser Turret counts as one ship with 3 attack dice.
  • A ship with an effect which reliably and repeatedly adds an extra die or hit (e.g. Zeta Leader, The Inquisitor, Norra Wexley) counts as having attack dice 1 higher than the printed value.
  • A ship with an effect which reliably and repeatedly negates an evade result (e.g. Omega Leader with Juke + Comm Relay, Tomax Bren with Crack Shot) counts as having attack dice 1 higher than the printed value.

Feel free to experiment with the pilots within your point budget. A good rule of thumb is you should only pay for more expensive pilots if it comes with a strong ability or Elite Pilot Talent upgrade slot you need. In general, the best abilities improve your ship's attack value, give you extra focus/evade/target lock actions, let you reroll dice or convert focus/blank results to hit/evade results, or deny actions from your opponent. Movement abilities can be fun, but those are more situational and are strongest on pilots with high pilot skill.

Upgrades

Once you get your ships, you can fill out leftover points with upgrades. You don't have to fill up all of your available upgrade slots, and most lists won't fill up every upgrade slot. Don't forget you can always spend leftover points on more ships!

As a beginner, your main goal here is to avoid upgrades which make your list worse. You should avoid upgrades which cost an action or replace your attack. That's not to say these upgrades are always bad, and I'll list some exceptions when I go into more detail below. However, many of these are worse than your default actions or primary attack. As a beginner, you may not be able to evaluate when they're better than your default action or attack, so I suggest you avoid them for now. The worst-case scenario is that you've spent points to make your list less effective.

Thankfully, most other upgrades won't hurt you. Even if they're not amazing, they can be fun to try out and will only help you if you have left-over points to spend. Upgrades like Wired, Weapons Guidance, and Cool Hand may be situational and/or weak, but they will never hurt your list as long as you don't go out of your way to activate them. Treat them as a small bonus when you need to take the triggering maneuver or action anyway, and they'll only help you. Even upgrades which are overpriced such as Hull Upgrade and Shield Upgrade are OK for your first lists since they will only help you.

Here's some specific types of upgrades I'd recommend to fill up your extra points, along with some upgrades I'd suggest avoiding.

Turrets

If a ship has a turret slot and only 1 or 2 attack, you'll almost always want to equip a turret on it. The best turret by far is Twin Laser Turret. Dorsal Turret and Ion Cannon Turret are also OK.

Ships with stronger primary attacks like the Attack Shuttle or VCX-100 don't need to equip a turret, but a cheap turret like Autoblaster Turret or Dorsal Turret makes them more flexible at a low cost.

Extra actions

The first are upgrades that reliably give you extra actions for 2-4 points, specifically ones that let you get Focus + Target Lock (or other ways to reroll dice) or Focus + Evade (or other ways of negating 1 damage) every turn. These are usually amazing upgrades, and competitive lists often feature several of these. Here are some examples:
  1. Autothrusters
  2. Push the Limit (on ships with at least 5 green maneuvers, ideally with hard green turns)
  3. Fire-Control System
  4. Expertise
  5. Predator
  6. R2-D2 for Rebels
  7. M9-G8 for Rebels
  8. Rey (crew) for Rebels
  9. Attanni Mindlink for Scum
  10. Dengar (crew) for Scum
  11. K4 Security Droid for Scum
Extra repositioning actions or upgrades that double-up on an action (Recon Specialist) aren't as good as ones like above, but they can be useful if you have extra points to spend.

Extra pilot skill on pilots with 7+ pilot skill

Veteran Instincts is a reasonable-to-great options on ships with 7+ pilot skill. That puts them above most ships in the game, which makes them more reliable at arc-dodging, catching other arc-dodgers, and shooting first. Adaptability is also a good option. Since it's free, it's even reasonable on pilots with lower pilot skill.

Extra survivability is a decent last resort for evasive ships

These usually aren't that great. For example, the Push the Limit upgrade on the right ship gives you an extra Evade every turn it's used for 3 points. The Hull Upgrade modification only gives you one "Evade" for the whole game for 3 points. Still, these upgrades will only help your list if you have leftover points to spend. Examples include (in rough order of desirability in general; the first 3 are better than the rest):
Put them on your most evasive and most valuable ships first. A Hull Upgrade on a very evasive ship might let the ship survive an extra two attacks, but it may only cancel out half an attack on a 1-agility ship. Similarly, Stealth Device might last 3+ defense rolls on a ship with 3 agility and Focus or Evade for defense, but will usually break on the first defense roll for a ship with 1 agility.

Avoid secondary weapons besides turrets (Missiles, Torpedoes, Bombs, and Cannons)

For the most part, these require a combination of upgrades and/or pilots to be better than primary attacks or actions. I'd avoid most of these when you're just starting out. Some can actually make your ships worse if you try to use them. There are a few exceptions:
If you really want to take ordnance, you need the Extra Munitions upgrade. You'll also want the Guidance Chips modification or Long-Range Scanners modification for missiles and torpedoes, and Sabine Wren (crew) or bomb-improving pilot abilities for bombs. The best ordnance options are Homing Missiles, Plasma Torpedoes, Cluster Mines, Conner Net, Ion Bombs, and Seismic Charges.

Avoid upgrades which cost your action

The Focus action is extremely strong. Most upgrades which cost your action aren't better than Focus, much less also make up for their point cost. There are some exceptions:

Think about whether the ship can use the upgrade

When you put an upgrade on a ship, make sure you think about under what circumstances you'll use it! For some reason, I keep seeing the Wired upgrade on the original Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon. The only way to give Han stress to activate the Wired upgrade is to K-Turns. Since it has a turret, he probably won't need to K-Turn too often. Wired is a decent option on many ships, it just isn't a good idea for most turreted ships. Contrast that with Wired on Rey with the new Millennium Falcon title. Even though she has a turret, she has a powerful ability which requires getting opponents in her firing arc. She'll often be using K-Turns and the title ability and picking up stress (before you get Kanan Jarrus crew). She can get a lot of use out of the Wired upgrade.

These aren't awful uses of points since they generally won't hurt you, but there are probably better options. Even a mediocre survivability upgrade might be a better use of points than an upgrade you'll almost never use.





These guidelines will get you started with a decent list for your first few games. As you get more familiar with the game, you'll probably notice most of the strong tournament lists follow these guidelines, along with some other guidelines like these:
  • Expensive ships should be hard to kill through tankiness and/or maneuverability, unless they bring extremely high firepower with moderate survivability. "Expensive" starts around 35 points.
  • Ships with 3+ attack and 2+ agility usually need action economy to modify both their attack roll and their defense roll.
  • Action economy is pretty strong in general, along with ways of denying actions (e.g. stress).
  • Ships with a true 2 attack need to be cheap (as close to 12 points as possible) or have fantastic utility. If you're relying on them for your offense, they need Crack Shot or maybe Juke.
But you don't need to worry about these in casual games, and especially not for your first few 100-point games.

Now go build a list and play some games! Good luck!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

My Thoughts on the ZuckManPalpx7 Errata

The 4.3.0 errata nerfed several of the top tier lists. I personally think this was a nice change because the meta was getting a bit stale and this shakes things up.

I've seen some people overreacting to some of the nerfs, so I thought I'd bring my experience into this. I've played and followed League of Legends, a computer game which frequently gets patched. Many years ago, they nerfed a character in League of Legends. People played the character less, and its win rate dropped several percentage points. It turns out they actually forgot to make the changes nerfing that character. It wasn't changed at all. The changes in play rate and win percentage were entirely due to a placebo effect.

It's easy to overreact to changes. We got used to how things were before the nerfs, and now they look much worse. That doesn't mean they're weak. Let's take a closer look and see how bad the changes actually were.


Zuckuss



Let's start with Zuckuss. I actually think this nerf is minor. You can use him for 1 every turn until you're about to die, and it contributes significantly to your offense. When I ran the numbers a while back, Zuckuss for 1 is roughly equivalent to Push the Limit for Focus + Target Lock. Think of him as a 1-point K4 Security Droid.


TIE/x7



I think the TIE/x7 nerf looks small but is larger than it looks. My TIE Defenders tended to survive a long time on 1 HP, and I've often used the option to stay stressed or go over asteroids. Losing even 1 health can swing a game. It also makes them a lot more vulnerable to stress control and blocking.

That said, this is still a fairly minor nerf and it can be circumvented by good play. I think Defenders are still strong, and the TIE/x7 title is still better than the TIE/D title.

Emperor Palpatine



I think the Emperor Palpatine nerf is minor and very significant at the same time. On one hand, it's rare you'll waste his effect entirely. I forgot the exact numbers, but he'll let you save a token on defense over 75% of the time.

However, it's a significant nerf because you can no longer use him on offense for free at the end of the turn if your defense rolls worked out. That's pretty significant when you consider how often 1 damage or a crit from Palpatine swung the game.

At the end of the day, I think Palpatine as he was originally printed was a ~12-point card. This change makes him worth it at 8 points, but now he's not exceptionally strong at this price point.

EDIT: I've since learned that Palpatine triggers immediately after the roll, before any modifications are applied. This makes it worse against Zuckuss on defense (even though that one Palp'd die can't be rerolled) and much worse on offense with Target Lock.

Manaroo



I saved the best for last! This is a huge nerf, and I think Manaroo will be much less common. My article on Support Theory suggests supports have to make their allies a lot better in order to be worth it. A Range 1 restriction not only makes Manaroo more unreliable especially in asteroid fields, it also gives opponents a soft target to go after.

On its own, Manaroo's ability lets you pass actions to another ship for ~1.5 points (I value +1 pilot skill at 0.5 points). That's pretty expensive for not gaining extra actions. However, with Attanni Mindlink, Manaroo gives any of your other ships an extra Focus token for 1.5 points while keeping her own Focus. That's fantastic value compared to other action economy upgrades which usually cost 3 points.

I think the "problem" with this is Attanni Mindlink, not Manaroo. If Manaroo were removed from the game, Attanni Mindlink will still be a very strong card. If Attanni Mindlink were removed from the game, I think Manaroo would be a very niche pilot. That said, Attanni Mindlink is hard to nerf. A range restriction on Attanni Mindlink feels even worse than a range restriction on Manaroo, and raising Attanni Mindlink's cost to 2 is too much. I can see FFG treating Attanni Mindlink as Scum's format-defining card like R2-D2 for Rebels.

With this nerf, I don't think Manaroo will see nearly as much play. In Paratanni, a Contracted Scout and 2 points is a strong alternative. In other lists, Kaa'to and Palob are much cheaper options.

Paratanni is still a strong list. Attanni Mindlink is still strong and Fenn Rau and Asajj Ventress are strong ships. They can keep Manaroo and accept her ability won't be as consistent, or swap her for cheaper options. The biggest challenge is in order to use Manaroo's ability, they have to present her as a target. Unfortunately, Manaroo is often the easiest ship to kill in the Paratanni list, and losing even one ship makes Mindlink much less effective.


The Overall Meta and the Future

I think these changes make swarms a lot more attractive. Besides nerfing some of their biggest weaknesses, the remaining top meta lists often use low-agility big ships which can be vulnerable to swarms. I think non-swarm Rebels are still in a rough spot thanks to Rear Admiral Chiraneau with Kylo Ren crew.

I think Kylo Ren will eventually get errata'd, because like Zuckuss, it's not very fun to play against. We'll see if I'm right!