Great Ball of Fire!

So, Barnes & Noble did it again; releasing stuff before the official “street date” as part of an alleged deal with their distributor, don’t you love big business?

Despite having a Fireball pre-ordered with my FLGS like a good loyal hobbyist, I ended up acquiring another one anyway (who knows, flying two might be fun) and thought I’d give it a spin last night at the local store. With new points out, it was likely to be a busier night than it has been recently, with less Legion and more X-Wing taking place (there was even an Attack Wing game, but we don’t talk about that game any more!)

The Ship

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Artist Credit: AdamKop on DeviantArt

Let’s look at the ship first; overall, not terrible. Six hull (reduced to five at setup) with Astromech, Missile, Illicit, Title, and two Modification slots for 26 points. It’s a Headhunter on steroids. Dial isn’t terrible either, blue one forward/banks and two forward, with red three turns and four forwards. No K-Turn ability but the Tallon Roll is nice, not that you’d need it with the ability to turn hard one and then SLAM another one.

Speaking of SLAM; the action bar isn’t terrible, either. Focus, Evade, Barrel Roll and SLAM are pretty nifty on a low-Initiative ship with two attack and two defence dice; even if you don’t use the “Explosion with Wings” ability, it’s a pretty sharp blocker. I could see it being used in the same manner Torrents were used in the 2 Jedi/2 Torrent lists we saw rising to the top a few months ago.

Explosion with Wings

This is an interesting ability; Deal 1 facedown damage card at setup, after you SLAM, flip a facedown damage card to not take the Weapons Disabled. When paired with the Kaz’s Fireball title, you get to choose which card you are dealt at setup so long as it has the ship trait. For me, the no-brainers here are either a) Damaged Engine when paired with an R4 Astromech, or Disabled Power Regulator which turns the ship into an infinite-use Black One.

However, when you have more than one facedown damage card, the little booklet says you have to shuffle them and your opponent picks which one. This bit me hard on the arse last night when a 5 damage Kaz got a Direct Hit! flipped over and ended his day on a negative note. Bear this in mind when considering that last-chance attack; it might not be as worthwhile as you think!

Title

“Kaz’s Fireball”: “Setup: When you resolve Explosion with Wings, you may search the damage deck and choose a damage card with the Ship trait: you are dealt that card instaed. Then, shuffle the damage deck.

You can perform actions of damage cards even while ionized.”

For two points, this is a pretty nifty title; you get to pick which damage card you take at the beginning of the game as long as it has the “Ship” trait; there are several different tactics for this, including (if you have no desire to SLAM anywhere) siphoning out a Fuel Leak or Direct Hit from your deck and reducing the chances of that card ruining your day later on.

The ability to repair damage cards while ionized is also pretty handy; damage piles up on the Fireball and if, like me, you keep using the Disabled Power Regulator crit and then find yourself with a Console Fire or Fuel Leak, you might find your day gets really bad really quickly; being able to clear the Ion and repair a damage? Pretty nice, especially if you have the R1-J5 Astromech aboard.

The Pilots

Jarek Yeager

Jarek

Former Rebellion Pilot. Mechanic. Father Figure.

Pilot Ability: “While you have 2 or fewer stress tokens, if you are damaged, you can execute red basic maneuvers even while stressed. If you are critically damaged, you can execute red advanced maneuvers even while stressed.”

33pts for Initiative 5. Not bad! The ability isn’t terrible either, being able to still move at speed four in a straight line or do those three hard turns around an obstacle even while stressed (though good luck shedding those stresses without an R4 Astromech). Damage card faceup? Why not try a Tallon Roll instead?

I think you take Yeager for the I5 as opposed to his ability, in this case. At three points less than Tallie, however, I think you need to be very careful when considering putting him in the list.

Kazuda Xiono

kaz

Possibly the least likeable protagonist in the entire franchise! Grow up, man!

Pilot Ability: “While you defend or perform a primary attack, if the enemy ship’s initiative is higher than the number of damage cards you have, you may roll 1 additional die.”

Kaz sitting at 40pts is an interesting place to sit for a pilot in the Resistance; Tallie and Greer are both four points cheaper, the soon-to-be released Zizi is the same points, and L’ulo is only three points more; all for ships with equal or higher Initiative. Rookie T-70s are similarly costed, though they crucially have shields to soak those early crits that might sneak through.

Kaz is an interesting pilot: utterly useless against ships that are I1 with three attack or agility unless you fork out on an R5 Astromech to repair that first damage card, but surprisingly effective against Aces (if you can keep them in arc). I flew Kaz three times yesterday, and he was an annoyance (like in the show) to I5 and 6 ships in all three games, right up until the damage started to pile up and suddenly he was dead. He needs to be flown more carefully than I’ve managed so far, perhaps on a flank and use those initial SLAM actions to get into a more advantageous position; running him with anything more than Heroic and Kaz’s Fireball is probably a mistake, though a case could be made for Advanced SLAM if you’re like me and want to be particularly aggressive.

R1-J5

R1-J5

“Bucket”

Pilot Ability: “Before you expose 1 of your damage cards, you may look at your facedown damage cards, choose 1 and expose that card instead.”

Not terrible! If you were looking to put a single Fireball in as an annoyance/blocker, Bucket at 29pts is a steal. Getting to look before you pick which card which card to expose is huge; I wonder if this works with abilities like Rexler or Thane Kyrell? This guy can SLAM about all day and not care about accidentally flipping a Direct Hit or Console Fire or any of those other nasty cards that nobody wants.

Also, he can take an Astromech, which is just weird…

Upgrades

R1-J5 (Astromech)

“While you have 2 or fewer stress tokens, you can perform actions on damage cards even while stressed.

After you repair a damage card with the Ship trait, you may spend 1 charge to repair that card again.”

It’s an R5 on steroids! Being able to repair while stressed may be crucial to the survival of not just a Fireball pilot, but a T-70 or Resistance Transport as well. Better than that, the ability to discard a damage card when it repairs is a great way to keep your ship healthy, especially if it repairs automatically (like, you guessed it, Disabled Power Regulator)!

At six points it’s a bit pricey, but probably worth it if you can manage your damage cards and charges properly, and ensure you’re engaging in such a way that you can get the most out of the repair ability while also ensuring you’re not just going to take that damage again.

Coaxium Hyperfuel

“You can perform the SLAM action even while stressed. If you do, you suffer 1 critical damage unless you expose 1 of your damage cards.

After you partially execute a maneuver, you may expose 1 of your damage cards or suffer 1 critical damage to perform a SLAM action.”

Right now as far as I’m aware, only the Fireball can take this as it’s an Illicit that requires the SLAM action, but I might be mistaken. For 2pts, this isn’t bad as a get out of trouble card, the risks don’t outweigh the benefits and if you only need to use it once to keep yourself from being trapped at range one of a swarm, it’s earned its points back!

Overall Thoughts

I like it. It handles like a Z-95 or X-Wing with a few extra toys to play with. I think we’ll mostly see the Generic as a blocker or swarm ship and Kaz as a pocket ace, though I do hope I’m wrong as Yeager and Bucket both seem to have their place as well.

I think these things need to be kept cheap, Kaz at anything more than 45pts may as well be replaced by an A-Wing (Greer/Tallie with Optics and Heroic is 40, Zizi is 45), and even then I do wonder whether he’s the better choice. Regardless whether a Fireball is the right choice for a list, it’s usually the fun choice, and that’s important in a game that, for me, very nearly got left on a shelf after PAX and not looked at again.

This is what I’ve tried so far, with and without R1-J5:

Kazuda Xiono (40)
Heroic (1)
R1-J5 (6)
Advanced SLAM (3)
Kaz’s Fireball (2)

Fun? Yes. Good? Not in my hands. That said, I was flying with Poe and Nien and I’ve forgotten how to fly Resistance Aces, apparently. Perhaps in a four or five ship list with less upgrades? We’ll see. I’ll probably still favour the RZ-2 over the Fireball competitively, but only time will tell…

I hope you all enjoyed my 1600 word (ouch) review! If any of you got this far, thank you so much! Fly safe, be well, take care of each other, and so on!

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It’s all good fun until your engines explode…

January Points Change: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

It’s January 10th, 2020; a new era of X-Wing 2.0 has arrived. The points update occurred 22 hours ago with the announcement of a fully curated Hyperspace list for the first half of 2020, to vastly mixed emotion worldwide – some love it, some hate it. There are people jumping for joy, and others throwing their toys out of the pram and flipping the table and disgust.

Without going into detail, there are other bloggers and streamers who have more time and inclination to do that, I’m going to quickly recap what I consider the good, bad and ugly changes to the game that came with the new PDFs.

The Good

What do I like about the points update?

Generics appeared to come down across the board, which is going to please the swarm players. Mid-initiative unique pilots also mostly came down in points, which opens up more options for a lot of factions and means that a lot of the lesser-used pilots might start seeing competitive play.

The creation of a truly curated Hyperspace list means the next six months will be very interesting; a lot of the more popular pilots or ships have been removed. Though this may throw a spanner in the works for some people, particularly Ace players, I think the game will be more healthy if it’s not flooded with I6 Aces as it traditionally has been; losing Soontir, Anakin, Quickdraw, etc will mean that the days of aces dominating in Hyperspace should hopefully be over. I’ll miss Wedge, though.

Sear and TA-175 went up, potentially making the much-loathed (or beloved depending on what faction you play) Sear Swarm less common. Likewise Ensnare got dumped from Hyperspace, which will be interesting.

People might fly TIE Aggressors now! Remind me I said that when people start putting Barrage Rockets on them and

Tractor Beams and Gas Clouds also got fixed, which is good; Gas Clouds went from no consequences to the most likely to have consequences, which is a huge jump. The Composure fix means I won’t be flying Snap in my 4x T-70 list any more, but with Vonreg & Co on the horizon, it needed to be done.

The Bad

What don’t I like…

Jedi didn’t go up. Well, that’s not true. Obi-Wan, the most popular pilot in the game, went up by one measly point. Fortunately this is offset by the increase in R2 Astromech and the changes to Hyperspace, but when you consider that Obi-Wan is only six points more than the rarely-used Turr Phennir for one more health, access to regen, a better dial and three Force, it makes you wonder where the proper price point for Force really is. In my mind, FFG have probably stopped looking.

Also, no Torrents for the Republic in Hyperspace? Really? I understand the Sinker Swarm was popular, but that’s maybe going too far…

R2 Astromech got a points boost because of Jedi and N-1s, meaning it’s probably now overcosted on worse frames like the Y-Wing and X-Wing.

I actually think those are the only things I don’t like, wow, short section!

The Ugly

What do I define as “ugly”? Probably changes that are neither good nor bad. In the movie, Tuco wasn’t good nor was he bad; he was just Tuco.

Losing about 75% of the generic Talent slots and a large percentage of upgrades is an interesting choice, as are the smaller factions losing access to entire ships; First Order without the Upsilon will be in an interesting place competitively until the Xi is released probably sometime in late spring. Resistance without the Bomber? Eh, I’m sadder about losing L’ulo, Ello and Pattern Analyser.

I’m also a little disappointed that Corran and Gavin didn’t come down, but that can’t be helped I suppose.

You can now run Fearless Fenn and three Fangs. Not entirely sure how I feel about this… My Liberty Squadron colleague Andrew is probably very happy, I imagine Oli Pocknell probably is as well!

Overall Thoughts

I’m enthused. Having spent the past month since PAX playing Legion Skirmish following what I can only assume is X-Wing burnout, I’m looking forward to playing X-Wing again.

Being able to play 5 Rebel X-Wings is something I never thought I’d see, having missed that part of 1.0, and I’m tempted; I just don’t want to spend another $40 on two more ships. I’m a little disappointed that I can’t use Ello, L’ulo or Wedge in Hyperspace, they’re three of my favourite pilots in the game, but I get it; there are a lot of I5 and 6 pilots floating around, a lot of whom have pretty cool abilities, and they couldn’t remove them from some factions and not others.

Composure, Gas Cloud and Tractor fixes make the game healthier, in my opinion. No more “no consequence” abilities return an element of risk to the game, no matter what you are flying.

I’m also really excited for the Fireball, which might be a decent cheap filler ship for Resistance. The First Order Interceptor, likewise, excites me; I don’t fly First Order, I probably won’t fly it now, but it’s nice for them to have something new and exciting.

This has been a short and sweet article, I’ll probably have more to say once I’ve experimented more.

What do people think? With all System Opens and Prime Championships until June being Hyperspace, how does this affect everyone? Is it time to rejoice for the golden era of X-Wing, or is everything going on eBay? Perhaps you occupy a middle ground and just enjoy pushing toy space ships around? Let me know!

Philadelphia System Open: World’s Largest Hyperspace Trial (So Far!)

On December 6 and 7, a little under one hundred people descended on the Pennsylvania Convention Center for the first System Open of the 2020 series. Being the first in the new Hyperspace-form of System Open and given the late announcement (two weeks prior to the event), the low attendance is perhaps understandable; players who had registered for the event prior to the announcement either cancelling their ticket or not attending for a variety of reasons – disappointing for them and for the competitive X-Wing community as a whole, but not necessarily surprising.

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Prize Wall in all its glory

Being Hyperspace, the range of list diversity was going to be smaller than I think anyone would like; and with four T-70s (especially low Initiative T-70s), I’d need to avoid Imperial Aces and Triple Jedi if I was to have any chance of competitive success: the downside of the event being before January’s rebalance.

Game 1 vs Jesse – Vader, Soontir, Duchess

Imperial Aces, great…

I started the game aggressive, using prodigious use of the T-70’s four-forward and native boost to force an engagement on my terms. The first engagement saw both Vader and Duchess halved for half points on Temmin, which was a favourable result for me. I made a crucial mistake the following turn, changing Bastian’s lock from Vader to Duchess before she died, meaning Vader could swing back in without feeling too cautious.

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Bad times for Duchess and Vader.

Temmin was second to fall, followed by Soontir and the Blue Rookie. Bastian and Jess, both on half, vs a 2-hull Vader should be easy, right? No. I couldn’t push the damage through, having changed that lock from Bastian and being unable to really reacquire it.

Result: Loss 130-something – 200

Jesse would later go on to make Top 4, well done sir!

Game 2 vs Marc – Resistance Beef

Early engagements yielded poor or worse results, often netting one hit with a double-modified shot that was then promptly evaded even by a one agility Resistance Transport; being brutally honest with myself, I wasn’t flying at my best, and was on the ropes from the moment my dice first went cold on me.

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Fortunately, the dice swung back in the final turn of the game. Last-minute heroics from Bastian and Temmin managed to cinch me a win by seven measly MoV.

This was a game I don’t think I deserved to win based on my early strategic decisions, but also probably did not deserve to lose based on my absolutely atrocious luck, which would come back to bite me again later on in the day.

Result: 131-124 Win

Game 3 vs Justin – Vennie, Rey, Greer

This game was brutal. The initial engagement saw Rey dropped to one hull before dying to a Console Fire the following turn. Vennie then found herself surrounded and killed while Greer, despite putting up a valiant fight, found herself corralled into a corner before the end came for her.

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Sad times for Greer…

Result: 200-24 Win

Game 4 vs Tom – Grievous, 2x Fethan Autopilots, 2x TF Drones, Baktoid Prototype

Ever have a game where you can’t hit anything? This was that game. Three shots into the Baktoid Prototype, one of which was double-modded, no damage. Tom’s evades were as hot as my attack dice were cold, and his attack dice were as hot as my evades decided they were taking their union-mandated lunch break.

Bastian managed to one-hit-kill a Trade Federation Drone and Temmin finally put the kill hit on the Bomber, but it wasn’t enough to recover from a few disastrous turns of combat.

Struts need to go up to two points, I think, the ability for things to land on rocks or debris without penalty then rotate to their heart’s content while still getting actions means that you’ve got two choices when fighting against Droids – take gas clouds, or hope they screw up. Neither happened in this game.

Result: 58-200 Loss

Game 5 vs Ben – Obi-Wan, Plo, Luminara

Who doesn’t love Regen Jedi? Oh wait, my list. Ben is a lovely guy, and a great player, but no amount of description or analysis of my moves or his moves will change the simple fact of the matter that Jedi were always going to wipe the floor with this list.

And they did.

Game 6 vs James – Sun Fac and Maul

This list was…interesting. James had gone 2-0 early in the event and then dropped to play with the fun people down at the 2-3 level. Maul with Dooku is bad enough, but when you’re also factoring in Sun Fac? I was in trouble.

Enter Blue Rookie, Hero of the Resistance.

Banking across a rock, the Rookie blocked Sun Fac. Sun Fac tried to tractor Bastian onto the same rock, failed because of angles, and promptly missed. Jess did, well, Jess things…and Bastian finished the Nantex off with a range one shot with both Focus and Target Lock.

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Not appearing in this picture: a recently-deceased Sun Fac…

Maul put up a fight; stripping Temmin and Jess of their shields, but he couldn’t quite do enough damage to get anyone off the board. Bastian half-pointed himself on a Proximity Mine which I knew was coming and decided to do the K-Turn anyway (Maul had like three Hull left anyway so the game was mostly in the bag by this point), before James conceded before losing Maul to the Rookie (who more than earned his fancy blue paint scheme).

Result: 200-24 win.

Overall Result: 3-3, 45th/98

Final Thoughts:

3-3 echoes my performance at the UKSO and 45th out of 98 is better than 299th out of 560-something. So I can be pleased I haven’t gotten worse. That said, I’m disappointed I didn’t do better. Still, it was a fun event, and I got to meet the legendary Dion Morales, Dee Yun, Chris Allen, Marcel Manzano and Paul Heaver; all of whom are really nice people with an abundance of enthusiasm for the game; if these people were in charge, X-Wing wouldn’t have any problems at all.

The points rebalance and alleged changes to Hyperspace can’t come soon enough. I wasn’t alone in feeling a little annoyed by the format change so close to the event, especially since the changes will affect every other competitive event of the 2020 season except this one: had this been Extended or post-change Hyperspace, I might have done better. I may also have done worse. The fact that I only faced one Nantex is fortunate, I believe there were four at the event spread across three lists, but I couldn’t avoid running into Jedi – I used to love flying them, but now I’ve sold mine and have to fly against them, I now understand where people were coming from.

I leave you with an obligatory swag pic before I pack away my X-Wing until the New Year’s points are released, crack open my Black-Friday Legion stuff, and start learning how to play a game that, while not a replacement for competitive X-Wing, will probably allow me a chance to breathe and reflect on why I play these games and really, whether or not competitive play is my thing after all.

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Obligatory swag pic!

If I don’t write any further entries beforehand, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, etc and a Happy New Year! May 2020 bring balance to the meta, allow us to see through the lies of the Jedi, and introduce Baby Yoda to the game!

Organised Play – Changes Ahead?

I wasn’t actually going to write an entry this week, mainly because I believe everyone is fed up with me talking about four T-70s and how I don’t feel at all prepared for the System Open at PAX Unplugged on Friday; I was going to do a writeup for that next week, followed by a year-in-review style post that I imagine a few other bloggers will be doing, and then diving into Star Wars Legion in the New Year (FLGS had 40% off all FFG products for Black Friday, I really couldn’t help myself!)

But then I saw this:

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Courtesy of X-Wing TMG 2.0 Discord

No more Hyperspace Trials!

It looks like most FFG OP events from now on will be Extended affairs, with the exception of the System Open Series. This is an interesting change from FFG, especially since last year the majority of events that led to a Worlds Invite were Hyperspace format.

Why has this change occurred?

Obviously this is all pure speculation, and the FFG OP people will be putting an official announcement out in January, but personally I believe this has something to do with simplicity: every six months, points change and the people at FFG have to decide what is or is not Hyperspace-legal. This could mean a ship is introduced or removed the week before an event, or the points changes might ruin a list entirely; while these changes need to happen to keep the game from stagnating, this isn’t going to make many players happy!

It could also be something to do with the fact that these are qualifier events for the World Championships: Worlds is an Extended-format event, as we all know, and it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to have the main qualifier be a different format if there were no other major competitions of that format (Hyperspace Cups suddenly becoming not-Hyperspace being a case in point here!) By mixing up the formats this way, Hyperspace remains a premier-level competitive format, but doesn’t impede or restrict people’s ability to practice with lists for bigger events; the world is now the X-Wing player’s oyster, with all 65 currently available ships ready to be used (except maybe the poor TIE Aggressor…)

Note: The cynic in me also wonders whether FFG just wanted to put Hyperspace on the back-burner so they didn’t have to worry about rotation.

So what does this mean for local events?

Well, prepare yourselves for more Phantoms, Defenders, Torkil & Friends, etc. On the other hand, this might not necessarily be a bad thing despite my own misgivings about certain aspects of Extended, which are actually more problems with game design than anything else (looking at you here, Tractor!); people are free to fly whatever they want, which can promote a wider range of diversity in the meta, or they can gobble up the newest and best net-list and still come dead last, proving that player skill is still a thing in this game.

What does it mean for me?

Honestly, not a whole lot!

I own exactly four ships that aren’t Hyperspace-legal under the current system: E-Wing, K-Wing, HWK-290 and YT-2400. I honestly can’t see myself using the YT or the K-Wing any time soon, but I’ve had a lot of fun with E-Wings since 2.0 came out, and flying Jan Ors next to Wedge Antilles to give him a 5-dice attack at Range One is always fun.

Ultimately, Hyperspace lists are still competitive even in Extended environments, so this shouldn’t be a problem for anyone who prefers their list on the more restricted side (someone remind me of that next time I see Defenders, Quadjumpers or Ketsu on the board!) It just means people will be playing against a much broader range of ships on a more regular basis at official events.

Though I was (and remain) a staunch supporter of the Hyperspace Format and prefer it to Extended, this can only be good for the competitive scene going forward.

System Open Series: They Did What?

It’s been three days since the announcement regarding the change to the System Open format, two weeks prior to the first System Open in the new season: PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia. Personally I was hoping for an announcement of new and interesting prize support, but what we got went far beyond that…

FFG have turned the entire series on its head. Literally.

Format

Rather than being an Extended format event like last year, followed by a Hyperspace Qualifier, 2020’s System Open Series will be Hyperspace for the main event followed by an Extended “World’s Qualifier”. 5-1 makes cut in the main event, with Top 8 winning an invite to Worlds; any undefeated player in the Qualifier also receives an invite. So while the format may have changed, the qualification requirements remain the same.

But what does this mean for players?

Well, personally it means I’m glad I didn’t put too much effort into developing and testing a list with Corran Horn! It also means we are less likely to see combinations that were considered the staples of Extended events in 2019: Phantoms of any shape or size, Torkil and his scummiest friends, and Inquisitors with Jendon, for example. This has its downsides, however; limited ship availability may limit interest in some corners of the community, and until ship/card rotation is introduced, Hyperspace is not truly a limited format: with every wave it gets bigger until it ultimately turns into Extended anyway (this may be FFG’s intention long-term, but I don’t know).

Personally, I’d like to see R2 Astromechs rotated out of Hyperspace; this may sound odd as a Rebellion and Resistance player, but Regen Jedi need to go away. Put them in a box until something rises to truly compete with them, and then let them back out to play while being priced appropriately. Supernatural Reflexes can also be tossed into the fire, otherwise Precognitive Reflexes really has no purpose, and of the two it’s probably the more balanced card despite the vast price difference.

Of course, any rotational changes will only take effect in January at the earliest; they won’t affect PAX and will likely mean the top tables are dominated by Regen Jedi, Imperial Aces, and some form of Rebel Beef that isn’t Daniel Taylor’s list. Can’t say I’m looking forward to facing off against that with four low-Initiative T-70s, but it’s too late to change my list and get the practice in I need (which is a problem for Liberty Squadron colleagues who wanted to use ships like Jendon or Ketsu), so it’s time to make the best of a bad situation.

At least the prizes are good!

Prizes

No participation prizes for everyone this year, which is kind of sad. I really appreciated the S-Foil and R2 Astromech cards last year, and the free Damage Deck was also really nifty. Plus then there was the Prize Wall and all of its myriad goodies that players could spend their hard-earned tickets on.

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Very Inferno-centric this year; with an Imperial Damage Deck, Inferno cards/cardboard, and Imperial-themed Marksmanship and Swarm Tactics cards. They’re cool but are of little to no interest to me, if I’m honest; if the cards are 1 ticket each again they’ll make handy little trinkets to either sell to recoup some of my ticket costs, or to donate as prize support to smaller events in the region. Last year my main goal was 8 tickets to get myself a frosted Norra Wexley card, because frosted cards are cool, so what do we have this year?

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Oh dear…

It may just be me, but does anyone else feel that frosted generics don’t have the same desirability as frosted uniques? I can’t really see people combining tickets for an Academy Pilot or Hired Gun, for example, it just doesn’t have the same pizzazz as frosted Guri or frosted Quickdraw did last year. Admittedly this may mean that they may cost fewer tickets, or that it’s less likely they’ll all disappear after Round 2; both are good, but I can’t help but feel that this wasn’t the best move. Perhaps they’re saving their more-upmarket prize support for Grand Championships and/or Worlds 2020?

Overall Thoughts

Overall, not feeling too bad about this: eleven games of competitive X-Wing over the course of a weekend is still eleven games of competitive X-Wing, despite any changes FFG may decide to make.

I won’t say I’m not disappointed by the prizes this season, but I know a lot of Inferno Squadron fans out there will be overjoyed; thematic prize support is always good to see, and after Red Squadron last year the change to Imperials is neither surprising nor a bad choice. It’s the frosted cards that surprised me; with so many interesting unique pilots in different ships, it’s a shame that they instead decided to go for the generics; I guess they’re more likely to appeal to people who don’t fly unique pilots?

I’m in favour of the format change; hopefully it’ll add to the prestige of the Hyperspace format as a major competitive format outside of Hyperspace Trials, and hopefully as further waves are released it’ll give FFG adequate incentive to start rotating cards to properly and effectively balance out the format. On the other hand, I’m aware that Hyperspace isn’t held in the highest esteem by some corners of the competitive X-Wing community, and we could see lower attendance figures because of it; I really hope this isn’t the case, because I think a limited-format competitive series can only be a good thing for the overall health of the game – this isn’t to say that Extended doesn’t have its place, of course!

It does make me wonder what the 2020 Worlds format will be, though…

That’s really it from me; what do people think about the format change? Yay? Nay? Don’t care?
Will this be a rousing success or a dumpster fire?
Are you planning to attend a System Open this year? If so, where?

Journey to PAX Unplugged: 1, 2, 3, 4

Time until PAX Unplugged: 17 days

Regular playtesting sessions remaining: 2

This weekend has been busy; eight games over two days, each event involving over an hour of travel in either direction. I am exhausted, how I expect to go six rounds on Saturday at PAX and then another five on Sunday at the main event, I do not know. Healthy food, plenty of water, and a good night’s sleep is probably the best option; snack bars and Coke/Pepsi probably the wrong way to go…

Saturday

I travelled up to East Coast Gamers in Tom’s River, New Jersey, to play in a twenty player/four round “casual tournament”. I considered bringing Wedge/Luke/Corran to get some reps in with that just in case I choose to use it as my backup, but instead took four T-70s to give them a chance to prove themselves competitively. Even though three of the pilots are Unique and have their own abilities, there is something satisfying about the simplicity of grouping your ships together and aiming them at the thing you want to die. This was going to be a challenging weekend, a true test of the list’s (and my) performance under competitive pressure in an Extended environment, and I can honestly say I wasn’t exactly confident!

Game 1 vs Chris – General Grievous, 3x Precise Hunter, Trade Federation Bomber

This list was interesting; the sheer amount of Cluster Missiles and the Hunter’s reroll ability worried me greatly. I started off facing down the enemy force, splitting away and leading him through the obstacles in the middle of the board before swinging around and deleting Grievous in one volley.

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Can’t share Calculates if you can’t Calculate!

Chris’ green dice hated him; admittedly it didn’t help that his ships were all Initiative 3 and I was getting fairly good at using the Blue Rookie and Bastian as blockers to prevent the Droids Calculating. When the last Droid fell, I still had four ships on the board: Jess and Temmin still with two shields apiece, Bastian with one shield, and the Blue Rookie at 3 Hull.

Game 2 vs Darren – Lieutenant Tavson, “Muse”, 2x Epsilon Cadets

I. Hate. Upsilons.

I made a fundamental mistake this game, in that I tried to rid myself of the TIEs before concentrating on Tavson; who had both Advanced Optics and Pattern Analyser, and thus really didn’t care about stopping and was more or less un-blockable.

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What should have been a masterful block turns into a really bad day for the Blue Rookie…

Long story short: everything died. For one and a half TIEs. A terrible way to play the game (though I believe the stop manoeuvre isn’t playing the game), my opponent entirely deserved the win

Game 3 vs Nick – Anakin Skywalker, Ric Olie, 2x Blue Squadron Protectors

Nick and I had played on Thursday, and he had made the mistake of jousting me with a rather fragile list. Suffice to say it ended poorly for him. This time, though he engaged in a much more effective manner, he still suffered the wrath of four T-70s pointed at the same target. The Torrents fell for half-points on the Blue Rookie before Nick forgot R2-A6 on Ric and bumped, quickly getting focused down and killed soon after.

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When you’re flying at low Initiative, getting arc on Aces is a real pain!

Anakin killed Jess with three minutes left on the clock, while Anakin escaped death with one Hull left; a vast improvement over Thursday’s game in which he fell with 45 minutes left on the clock.

Game 4 vs Dan – 4x Inquisitor

Four Inquisitors with Supernatural Reflexes and Passive Sensors; able to reliable token stack Focus/Evade tokens every turn, and also my nemesis chassis. With aces, killing the little buggers off was less of an issue than it is with the lower-Initiative ships.

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Snap deleted one in one shot, giving me early hope for success, but in the end the tables turned against me: two Inquisitors remained against the Blue Rookie as time was called, leaving me 2-2 for the day. 7th out of 20 was a good result given I had zero confidence in my list at the beginning, and the organiser made sure that everyone went home with plenty of prizes in alt-art cards to make the journey worthwhile.

Sunday

Sunday saw me travelling deep into Pennysylvania to Gamer’s Heaven in Phoenixville, a combined video- and tabletop game venue with an attached Ramen cafe. Though I’d gone 2-2 the previous day, I knew most of the people at this event as good players and knew that with PAX around the corner, they’d be bringing their A-Games.

Game 1 vs Matt – Grand Inquisitor, 2x Inquisitor, Colonel Jendon

Matt and I drove up together so being paired in Round 1 was a bit of a pain, especially since it was this exact list that gave my Black Aces such a rough time several weeks ago. Matt had given me some advice on how to deal with his list, however, and that was to get rid of one or more of the Inquisitors before going for the Shuttle.

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So that’s what I did. I traded down, Temmin for an Inquisitor and Jendon’s shields isn’t a good trade, especially when that means I’ve lost my “Ace” and the Grand Inquisitor is still zooming around. Instead of turning in against Jendon, I charge the Grand Inquisitor and make him disengage which frees me up to remove both Jendon and the other Inquisitor in fairly short order.

With seconds left on the clock, the Grand Inquisitor zooms into a kill-box and mistakenly decides to try and kill one of the three remaining ships rather than escaping. This costs him greatly, seeing him removed from the field just as time is called.

Game 2 vs Ted – Hera Syndulla, “Zeb”, Jake Farrell, Biggs Darklighter

VCXs scare me: four dice at range two-to-three, five dice at range one makes for a bad day for anyone unlucky enough to get caught in front of it; this one had an Ion Cannon Turret and Zeb docked, meaning potentially eight attack dice double-tapping out the back; enough to make a T-70 go away if I’m not careful.

The initial engagements went my way thanks to a combination of blocks and rough dice on Ted’s end; Hera lost four shields and two hull in exchange for three shields on Bastian, followed swiftly by Biggs getting executed by converging fire at range one.

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Somehow Temmin managed to get away with his life, I still don’t know how!

Temmin got halved by Hera, who in turn was blown apart by the Rookie (he’s really been earning his pay recently, he needs a new title!) This left four T-70s vs an A-Wing and an Attack Shuttle; neither of whom lasted long, Jess blasted Zeb in one shot while Temmin cornered and killed Jake for the second win of the event – half-points lost on Temmin and Bastian.

2-0 wasn’t where I expected to be at this point, and the other three 2-0 players had lists that frankly scared me quite a bit; I wasn’t looking forward to facing any of them, but I would have to hope that the matchup I drew was more favourable than I feared it would be.

Game 3 vs Eoin – Lothal Rebel, Luke Skywalker, Thane Kyrell

Another VCX, and two T-65 Aces; this had the potential to be rough, I could tell! The Lothal would hit like a tonne of bricks, and both Luke and Thane are decidedly dangerous targets; Luke would have to be eliminated quickly or he’d be a major problem for me late-game, if there was a late game!

Luke over-committed early and collided with the Blue Squadron Rookie thanks to Temmin’s free Boost ability (we actually didn’t think it would initially clear, had it not, Luke would have hit Jess and not taken shots) and was blown away by the combined shooting of Temmin and Jess. The T-70s then turned their ire on Thane, who met a similar fate the following turn.

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And now the VCX becomes the blocker!

Four T-70s vs a Lothal Rebel was going to be an uphill struggle for Eoin, especially as Bastian managed to keep rolling double evades while on one Hull remaining. The Lothal finally fell, having been unable to kill Bastian, and putting me at 3-0 and still in contention for the top spot – something I’d not considered possible at all with this list.

Game 4 vs Rob – Poe Dameron, Tallisan L’intra, Greer Sonnel, Zari Bangel

It was Rob’s birthday, so I was already getting some good-natured ribbing about “letting him win”. We’ve played each other once before and he soundly beat me, and his list had many advantages over mine; speed and time on target in addition to the all-important Initiative. I would have to be careful, especially with the A-Wings, as three of them with Advanced Optics could easily ruin my day.

Rob engaged too cautiously, not wanting to joust with the A-Wings; leaving them exposed from the flank without return fire; Tallie lost her shields and the next turn forced Poe to burn his Black One SLAM early to avoid being caught in four overlapping fire arcs.

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Poe and his Angels flee, but are running out of room.

Tallie was the first to fall – traded for Jess’ shields, followed by both Greer and Zari. It’s now Poe versus the world, something that he might actually be able to manage had more of the ships taken damage to their shields.

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In a last gasp to put more points on the board, Poe dives into the kill-box.

Desperate to finish Jess, Poe pounces and unfortunately fails to take Jess’ last Hull thanks to her re-roll, before being picked off by Temmin for the win.

4-0 for the day and First Place, something I didn’t think this list could ever achieve. Admittedly a significant portion of my success can be attributed to good dice rolls on my part or poor rolls on my opponent’s, but I’m finally comfortable with the list. Confident enough to take it to PAX? For the Hyperspace Qualifier, certainly. Main event? Maybe, we’ll see.

What’s interesting is just how resilient this list can be: I lost one T-70 all day on Sunday, to Matt’s Inquisitors and their Concussion Missiles; T-70s can hang in there when T-65s or E-Wings would be blown apart, which is probably why it’s my favourite of the three. I’m also pleased with how well the list performs as a group: I know I could run Temmin as a pocket-Ace against I3 ships or lower, but I can’t help but wonder if that would make Jess’ reroll less useful if she rolls particularly badly (it happens) – more experimentation is required.

There are two more Thursday test sessions until PAX, with next week being out thanks to Thanksgiving, and I’m still not sure I am 100% prepared: I’ve only got 10 acrylic shield tokens and 3 of the 4 acrylic dial covers I want if I’m taking this to an event (it’s probably a form of OCD I didn’t realise I had). I can only hope that Curled Paw Creatives comes through for me before then!

I may treat myself to a new Resistance Damage Deck as well, if it’s out before the event…

Still no news from FFG about Prize Support, which doesn’t bode well. FFG haven’t even officially announced the event yet, so it’ll be interesting to see what the numbers are like on the day.

That’s it from me for this entry, I need to find my paints and get my fourth T-70 painted; after this weekend it’s earned a paint scheme!

Journey to PAX Unplugged – The T-70s went in Two by Two!

Time until PAX Unplugged: 24 days

Regular playtesting sessions remaining: 3

Last week’s playtesting efforts have been…eventful. I took four T-70s to Top Deck on Thursday (well three T-70s and a T-65 standin) to test the four Black Aces out. The first two games I won fairly comprehensively; once against Republic Beef that had been thrown together at the last minute, and once against a tanky Rebel five-ship list. This made me feel quite good about my choice of list, especially since the legendary Dylan Jones had offered to send me the required pilot cards from Wales for free; I wanted to put that on the blog now in case further playtesting takes me away from T-70s, so THANK YOU DYLAN! (Sidenote, his blog is a pretty good read, people should check it out!)

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At I4, a T-70 can do almost anything. It can joust, it can flank, it can arc-dodge. It’s truly multifunction!

Of course, that’s when things took a turn for the worse. Against a Scum beef list I struggled to put damage through against ships with three agility, and successfully defending against a Fearless Talonbane Cobra at Range 1 is almost impossible. That defeat was swiftly followed by a matchup against one of the current meta staples – Jendon TAPs; again, I failed to push any significant damage through. Though infuriating, this game taught me a valuable lesson about the T-70; it can’t turn for crap when against something as nimble as a TIE or Delta-7.

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Trying to dodge these things is like trying to smell colours… Glitterstim is the only way!

So suddenly I’m 2-2 with the list that I’d had a lot of confidence with that morning. The early successes had been comprehensively stomped on, and I was about ready to call it quits on the Quad-70 idea already. Annoyingly, I’d just purchased my fourth and opened it, so I couldn’t refund it; so I was honour-bound to keep trying, and refine the list if possible.

Enter shenanigans:

  • Blue Squadron Rookie
  • Lieutenant Bastian
  • Jessika Pava
  • Temmin Wexley w/Composure

Comes in at 199pts, and has some fun interactions. The issue is, with Jess in the picture, I want to fly in the block which might not be strategically sound; I also don’t really like I1 and 2 pilots (despite my success with A-Wings) as they’re susceptible to being Initiative-killed. That said, as a jousting block, it’s pretty reliable; Snap should have a focus/lock 9 times out of 10; Jess gets re-rolls, and Bastian should always be able to focus then acquire a lock.

First game with this list, played on Friday, was against Hera w/Saw, Luke w/R2-D2 and Braylen – 100% pure jousting ridiculousness. It was a mess. Luke died early, but then I suffered horrifically at the hands of Hera who wouldn’t stop rolling maximum damage. Quite heavily on-tilt, especially at my evade rolls, this game ended quickly. Perhaps targeting Luke first was a mistake, I should probably have tried to get Hera out of the picture (though with Reinforce that’s easier said than done). The second game was against Poe and 3x RZ-2s, and this game swung in the opposite direction: my opponent couldn’t escape the kill-boxes made by the four T-70s, and lost all three RZ-2s without killing a T-70 before conceding; not believing Poe could fight his way through three healthy T-70s before the timer ended.

So 2-2 with four Black Aces, 1-1 with the Resistance 1234 list. Not exactly heartwarming statistics with such a limited timeframe before the event. On the other hand, I can learn from my mistakes; one consideration is to exchange Heroic with Crack Shot on the Black Aces, use their higher Initiative and (hopefully) line up the bullseye to put the hurt through on those three-agility ships (especially those Inquisitors); obviously this means no defensive re-rolls, so they lose something in terms of tankiness, which I’ll probably need against lists with multiple I5 or 6 ships…

I’m going to keep trying with the T-70s, but I can’t help but think that my dislike of crew carriers like the Resistance Transport has hamstrung my ability to do well with a list like this; Cova Nell with an Ion Cannon might be a good replacement for the fourth T-70, for example. That said, I’m not prepared to sacrifice my gaming enjoyment for performance just yet (though I may regret those words if I don’t enjoy the event!)

I still have backup lists available, both for the main event and the Hyperspace Qualifier on Day 2. All I know is that to progress to the Elimination Rounds, I need to go 5-1 on Day 1. I’ve never gone 5-1 in swiss before: my best was 4-0 with my Headhunter Swarm way back when, and 4-2 at Highlander. Still, it’s doable, I suppose! Still no sign of a Prize Support article from FFG, which isn’t helping, but I can be patient for another week or so; when I know what I’m fighting for, I’ll know whether to keep struggling through with a list I’m not 100% comfortable with or to abandon it for something I’ve had more practice with.

Until then, I’m going to trawl through YouTube for streamed games involving four T-70s to get an idea how to deploy them, how and when to engage with them, and so on. Admittedly most appear to be based around three Red Experts and Jess Pava, which helps for the 1234 list but less for the four Black Aces who don’t necessarily want to joust everything they come across…

In other news, apparently several Corran Horn lists made the Top Cut at the Spanish Grand Championships; maybe my Wedge/Luke/Corran list isn’t as non-competitive as I initially thought it might be! I’ll keep it packed and ready to go, just in case, but for now I’m going to be sticking with the Resistance and hoping I can a) settle on a list and b) learn its foibles and quirks before the 6th.

Wish me luck, folks!