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!

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.

op20xo_prize-wall1

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?

op20xo_prize-wall2.png

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?

Cavalcade of the Unloved: Not Appearing At Worlds

This was originally going to be an Outsider’s Perspective of the 2019 World Championship, but when I wrote it I think I allowed my bitterness at being unable to attend creep in to my writing, so I decided it might be best to scrap that idea, and leave that to those who were there and are able to comment more accurately!

What I can talk about without bias or too much emotion, is the fact that of all ships currently available in X-Wing 2.0, only five did not see play in the World Championship. Disclaimer: I do not know if these ships appeared at all during the Last Chance Qualifier, and this information is gleaned from a comment on FFGLive’s Twitch Stream rather than any first-hand knowledge.

The Cavalcade of the Unloved

Attack Shuttle (Rebel Alliance)
E-Wing (Rebel Alliance)
Aggressor Assault Fighter (Scum and Villainy)
Customised YT-1300 Light Freighter (Scum and Villainy)
Tie/ag Aggressor (Galactic Empire)

2.0, in my opinion, is in a place where every ship out there is viable; so why did this happen? What caused these five ships to see little or no play throughout the two days of Swiss at the world’s most Premier of Premier Events? Could it be there is something fundamentally broken with the design? Could it be a cost issue? Or are these ships simply not “competitive”?

Attack Shuttle

Perhaps the second-least surprising absentee was the Rebel Attack Shuttle: though it’s not exactly expensive and has a similar statline to a Z-95, being restricted to only unique pilots can be problematic; especially if, when compared to the Sheathipede/Phantom II, none of them can Co-Ordinate your forces (especially stressed ships).

That said, I still remain surprised that nobody thought Sabine would make good filler for their list; she’s reasonably inexpensive and her ability is on a par with Anakin in the N-1 (except she can’t do it twice). Hera is also a solid option for the Attack Shuttle, but I think she’s probably more effective in the VCX-100 (though I’d love to see her in the RZ-1, B-Wing, or T-65 (or all three)).

Ultimately, I think this fell by the wayside simply due to inflexibility and cost; why take Sabine at 42 points when you can take a Red Squadron X-Wing at 43?

TIE Aggressor

The current King of The Unloved, the TIE Aggressor. Though probably not a “bad” ship, it’s never going to stand up to similarly-priced ships like the TIE Bomber, which is one point more expensive, has equal firepower and one more hit point. Had the Bomber lost its second Missile slot, the Aggressor would’ve made a cheap and cheerful Barrage Rocket carrier, but as it is it’s pretending to be a Turret Fighter like the Y-Wing and fails miserably.

The problem is further compounded by the lack of “decent” unique pilots; Kestal is interesting and can prove a real problem for Jedi, but being only Initiative 4 means she may well have spent that Focus token before she attacks. Double Edge, on the other hand, requires a Turret or Missile weapon to have missed in order to trigger his ability, which means spending points on the off-chance that the ability will trigger.

This is a ship that needs love, and needs it soon if there’s going to be any point re-releasing it…

Customised YT-1300

This was a surprise, as it was all the rage when 2.0 dropped. Fast, reasonably chunky, Scum Han was literally everywhere for few months until Trick Shot got its well-deserved points increase. So why the sudden dearth of Scum YTs?

The cost can’t help, but recently Scum lists seem to have fallen into two main categories: Scum Aces (i.e. lists built around a combination of Boba/Fenn/Guri) or the new menace that is Torkil Mux and friends. The Scum YT doesn’t really mesh well with either of these archetypes, and we’ve steadily seen more use of the Escape Craft (because someone had the bright idea an Escape Pod can be used independently *facepalm*) as a support ship, the price and that Co-Ordinate action being far more useful than an I6 large base ship.

Aggressor Assault Fighter

Like the Customised YT-1300, this was a surprise, given it won the last 1.0 World Championship. That said, things have moved on since then and I believe the Aggressor got (perhaps unintentionally) hit with the nerf hammer as the editions rolled over.

This is also a difficult one to explain why it didn’t see play: the bump to Initiative 4 puts the pilots in a decent place competitively, and the ability to share abilities using the IG-2000 title is still pretty darn useful; for 65pts each, you can field two ships that have stat-lines not dissimilar to a TIE Defender. This may even be the problem; we’re talking near-Defender price for a near-Defender. The Aggressor may be the closest thing the Scum has to a ship like that, but it still falls far short in terms of action efficiency, and like the Scum YT-1300, does not really fit with the current Scum archetypes very well.

Also 64pts for a naked IG-88 is close to the 68 for Fenn Rau, and I know who I’d rather use…

E-Wing

Ah the E-Wing, the unloved stepchild of the Rebel Alliance… I wrote a piece defending the E-Wing a while back (almost a year ago, now!), when I shamelessly stole PhilGC’s two E-Wing list and went 16/16 with it over the course of several weeks (I believe the losses now outweigh the wins by a little bit). The problem remains the same despite a points drop across the board.

People don’t like it.

It’s too expensive compared to other ships with the same role, the linked actions don’t make sense for people who don’t adopt the Energy Fight/Boom-‘n’-Zoom play style (not jousting if you can help it), and there are other options out there that make better use of the points – if you were going to go for Corran or Luke, which do you choose? A double-tap every other turn, or potentially infinitely-regenerating Force?

Of all the ships that didn’t make it into Worlds, this was the only one that made me sad. I like the E-Wing, I like it a lot, and we know it can be competitive thanks to Gold Squadron Broadcasting (or whatever it’s called now) covering the South American Open where a Gavin Darklighter list performed exceptionally well. Maybe next year I’ll take a list with an E-Wing in it and see how I do (got to qualify, first!)

Honorable Mention

Ships that were only seen in one list in the World Championship were:

Jumpmaster 5000 (Scum and Villainy)
Auzituck Gunship (Rebel Alliance)
YT-2400 (Rebel Alliance)
YV-666 (Scum and Villainy)

I’m not going to go in-depth with these, but suggest that these fell short of the mark mainly due to price of the chassis and the abilities of the Unique Pilots. Though not terrible un-upgraded, these ships need a little bit of help to become “good”, and there are often more effective or efficient ships available for the same price point or cheaper.

A final note before I round this article out, the above list means that someone (actually multiple someones) out there flew the Rebel TIE Fighter; these person are either geniuses or nuts, as I really don’t see how that benefits any list beyond cheap filler! Perhaps people wanted Rex for his Suppressive Fire condition? I remain awed and slightly baffled…

Thanks for reading, everyone! And finally, a big congratulations to the legend that is Mr Oli Pocknell for securing the win and joining the list of UK World Champions!

Return to The Ravenspire – New Kayvaan Shrike

It has been…a long time since I played a game of 40k. Too long. 8th Edition may be the simplest and most fun ruleset the game has ever had, dispensing with the over-complicated rules that bloated 6th and 7th Editions and replacing them with simplified versions that allow each army/unit’s own specific rules to be published in their own Codices and errata-ed in a much cleaner way.

So why haven’t I played in a while? Well, I made the mistake of going to the first 8th Edition Throne of Skulls something like a month after the game was released, and had an overall “meh” time – when one pays £60 for a ticket, however much for a hotel, and travels over 100 miles to play in an event, something more than “meh” is what I expected. So my Raven Guard went back into the box to gather dust and reminisce about the good old days of 5th Edition, the Heresy-specific models that weren’t Corax went on eBay, and I focused on my Wanderers army for Age of Sigmar – the models were more fun to paint (they weren’t all black), I’d found some OoP models on eBay that made my army 100% female, and I just enjoyed the way the game played more.

Then I moved to the USA, and finding a game of either is a pain in the behind! Fortunately there’s a large X-Wing community, and several of those players also play Kill Team, so I’m not totally devoid of GW-based interaction, even if my local Warhammer store is in the next State over.

So what brought me back to 40k? Well, truthfully, it was the new Phobos-armoured Primaris Marines – they just feel like they’d be a good fit in a Raven Guard army. Infiltrators? Good. Reivers? Good. Eliminators? Also Good! Suppressors not so much, but I can work with those models when the time comes. I’d considered purchasing some of each primarily to engage better with the local Kill Team crowd, and to practice my painting (which has atrophied somewhat in recent months – X-Wing ships aren’t particularly labour-intensive to repaint), but it was the announcement from NOVA that dragged me back towards 40k as a whole; even though it’ll be a slow process given how expensive the models are in this country!

There’s a new Shrike coming!

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Old (3rd Ed? 4th?) Shrike. Still have mine, somewhere!

Old Shrike was a serviceable model; he had the Lightning Claws, he had the Jump Pack and the Grenade Launcher, and he fit nicely with any converted models that made up Shrike’s Wing (I miss that unit!). Unfortunately as things progressed, he started to look his age; the change to Finecast did him no favours, and Games Workshop did him a disservice when, after promoting him to Chapter Master in the Damocles Campaign, he retained his Captain’s statline. Early 8th Edition was a bad time to be Shrike.

Now, however, our overlords at Games Workshop have given him the Primaris Treatment alongside good old Marneus Calgar and Shrike’s White Scar Battle Buddy Kor’sarro Khan. The bandages come off, the mirrors come out, and we are given:

Nova-Aug29-40k-NewStrike9gr

Shrike 2.0!

I have conflicting thoughts about this model. First, why is he helmetless? Ignoring the emo combover entirely (though I guess that’s now officially the Raven Guard’s “thing”); this is the man who once dove head-first into a Valkyrie’s engine to stop it taking off, why on earth is he not wearing his helmet? He’s just asking for that head to be liberated from those shoulders! Second, he’s very…busy. While I love the ammunition pouches and bandoliers across his chest, I’m not 100% sold on the massive Jump Pack with all of those extra manoeuvring jets and steering vanes. On the other hand, this isn’t the best angle to show him off from, and seeing the model in person is always the only accurate way to judge – as we know from the Storm Raven waaaay back when.

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Looking at the other images posted, I start to feel better about the model as a whole; there’s a lot of detail here, the designer has really put the effort in and made excellent use of the larger model; the helmet dangling from the belt is the first Primaris Beakie we’ve seen, though I imagine it’s no larger than a standard Mk VI helm; the empty holster and feather talismans are both nice touches, as are the extra ammunition pouches on the back of the belt. The poster on the wall I can take or leave, I’m not a good enough painter to make that work properly, but I’m glad it’s there for expert painters who want to really show off their skills.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how the new model looks; there are changes that I’m going to be making; he’ll have a helmet, for one, and I’m not sure I’ll keep the claws on the back of his legs as they look a little odd.

I’ll be getting one, my only hope is that he’s reasonably costed both in points and in $$, that his rules aren’t hidden in some prohibitively expensive expansion book, and that his new Primaris abilities don’t suck.

I’d better get making repairs to my Marines so he actually has an army to lead when he arrives!

Imposter Syndrome

Warning: This is another of those “touchy-feely” posts in which I address concepts of belonging, wellness, and mental health.

Tomorrow is Thursday, it’s my usual day to play X-Wing and has been since the week before the 2.0 release; first at Warboar Games in Bromley, and now at Top Deck Games in Westmont. It is also the first day of the NOVA Open.

But what is the NOVA Open?

As the premiere East Coast tabletop gaming convention, the NOVA Open is a place where gamers, artists, and enthusiasts of all ages and interests can meet, compete, and experience the best gaming has to offer.

A convention dedicated to all things tabletop! Sounds fun, right? It probably would be, if I were able to go! I won’t bore you with intimate details, suffice to say had a recent house offer not fallen through, meaning I’m still living with the in-laws, I might’ve been able to attend after all. That in itself isn’t important, though I’m 90% sure it’s contributing at least slightly to the X-Wing malaise I’ve sunk back into.

Crucially, I believe I am experiencing a case of what is known in academic circles as “Imposter Syndrome”.

“Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.”
– Harvard Business Review, May 7 2008

I have never, nor do I think I will ever, consider myself a “good” or “competitive” player. At best, I am an “average” player, maybe towards the “above average” end, maybe not. At best, I consider myself “not bad”. I’ve prided myself on flying lists that are fun to fly, or fun to fly against, and I’ve always tried to be a player that other people enjoy playing against. Going fourth and then second at Warboar with two Jedi were proof of that. Except I’m no longer sure any of that is true; following the Top Deck Hyperspace Trial, I’ve struggled, quite hard at times. I put together an “okay” list in Wedge/Luke/Corran, but as my Liberty Squadron colleagues were practicing for NOVA, I threw my “competitive” list into the mix – the good old “Modified Danger Zone” I took to the UK System Open. Post-points change, the list needed some tweaking to still fit below 190pts, but it worked. Except it didn’t, I think I’m 0-4 or something like that. I’ve had some games that were enjoyable, but only after disastrous first or second engagements that left a bitter taste in my mouth and I had to claw my way back from.

So what is causing this? Part of me wondered whether I’d been playing silly lists back home for too long, that the Warboar/Greater London Community was a more healthy environment for the silly lists; except that two-ship lists are apparently in-vogue in the US, especially on the East Coast (Duncan Howard won a Hyperspace Trial with Anakin/Obi-Wan, for example). Another part of me felt that I am still “the new guy” around town, lacking both the geographical location (I live in New Jersey, the majority of my local group live across the river in Philadelphia – the next most local store being an hour away and a $20-25 round trip) and the shared event participation that the others have – aside from the Hyperspace Trial, in which I wallowed in sweat, shame, and self-pity near the bottom of the leaderboard while my colleagues went (for the most part) from success to success with three making the top eight.

If I’m thinking logically about it, it is neither of these things; though I miss my TNX squadmates back home, the change in location and player base isn’t the problem and it never was. I have had success at X-Wing, just not in this country; competitive lists are more prevalent here given that the density and availability of events is nowhere near what it is in the UK, and I’m going to need to accept that if I’m going to keep playing. It’s also not the people: I’ve been welcomed and treated as a friend from day one, something I was very worried about when I first arrived.

So what is the problem? Ultimately, it stems from my anxiety and my wanting to feel like I belong, not wanting to feel left out, etc. Currently, thanks to the slowness of USCIS processing paperwork, weekly games of X-Wing are my social life; when it’s not fun, my social life isn’t fun, leaving me feeling like I’d be better off at home playing video games. I also want to be better at X-Wing, I want to be as good as players like Dale Cromwell (who has the most fun-looking games on stream) or Alex Birt (who is also a very nice chap), Carson Wray or Duncan Howard (neither of whom I have met but seem to be well-respected over here!) Part of me knows I can be, if I fly the right list and put the practice in; but another part of me, the part that usually wins out, just pipes up and says “no way, not happening.”

Currently, that little voice has me feeling like everyone is better at the game than I am, and while there are many who are, there are also players out there who are not as good, or whose skill is on a similar level than I am – I need to remember that.

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So, what is the solution? Well, much as I loathe to say it, it might be to investigate a meta or meta-adjacent list and get practising. I refuse to touch Finn with a barge pole, he’s good on paper but an NPE to face thanks to his cost and the Strain mechanic; I won’t put my opponents through that unless I become very desperate to win an event.

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Five A-Wings, on the other hand… Well, at least they’re fun to fly! I’m currently 1-2 with these, so I’ve got to get much more practice before I’m comfortable with it, and not flying L’ulo really hurts the lists’s offensive output (looking forward to the new RZ-2 pilots in 2020), but I’ll keep at it. Meta it may be, hate flying against it I do, but I think I see where Jake was coming from back before the UKSO; I’m just sad I hadn’t tried it back then!

Of course, part of me rebels at this; I’m doing the thing I swore to myself I’d never do back when 2.0 began, and this may be the wrong choice for alleviating my anxiety, but it’s worth a shot right? The RZ-2s still require an element of skill to fly well, unlike Rebel Beef or the Sinker Swarm that 8/10 times can just reliably joust an opponent, so I can rest assured that any wins I do achieve are only 50-75% the list. Maybe 80%.

This is one hell of a gamble, I’m basically banking my enjoyment of the game on a gimmick, and if it goes badly I’m probably going to be in a rough place. On the other hand, painting them was fun, and I’ll have some custom RZ-2s to sell (since they’re allegedly becoming scarce in North America). Maybe closer to the end of the year, I’ll start to feel better about myself again and the silly/fun lists will re-emerge. Perhaps Anakin in a BTL-B Y-Wing with Torpedoes and Afterburners as a flanker…

Or I’ll just focus on getting people to play Aeronautica Imperialis for a while…

That’s it for this ramble; out of curiosity, has anyone else felt this way before?

Thanks for reading!

Journey to the System Open: Crisis of Faith

It is currently 10.18pm on Thursday evening. The System Open begins at 9am Saturday morning.

And I have come to the conclusion that I simply am not very good at X-Wing.

After last week’s post, I received a lot of kind words from the X-Wing community. Harrison Sharp offered me the spare bed in his hotel room, and Dale Cromwell offered to write me a list if I needed it. I was genuinely touched by the overall positive response, and the responses I’d seen to other people in situations where they needed tiles, cards or models to borrow the event proves that the X-Wing community is Good People.

Which is why this whole situation is making me feel a little low:

In order to do something a little different (i.e. not Resistance 5s or Trip-70s), I’d chosen to fly two T-70s and an RZ-2 in what has become colloquially known as the “Danger Zone” list. The first game I played with it, against fellow TNX-member Ian, I went 200-0 against his two T-70s and two RZ-2s. Since then, it’s been battering after battering. Five games, four defeats (three of them pretty crushing).

The irritating thing, is that I don’t think it’s the list, which I will post here:

Poe Dameron:
– Heroic
– R4 Astromech
– Proton Torpedoes

Nien Nunb:
– Heroic
– Pattern Analyser
– Black One

L’ulo L’umpar:
– Heroic
– Trick Shot

It comes in at 187, and is fun to fly (though I need to remember whose dial is whose, I keep giving Poe an RZ-2 dial). I just keep screwing it up! I either commit too early, or don’t commit hard enough, and end up getting hurt for it. Fights that in my head, at least, I know I can win (or indeed should win) are turning into defeats based on my over-aggressiveness or possible incompetence.

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One of the problems with the list, the glaring weak spot that isn’t my flying ability, is L’ulo. He wants to be stressed, and yet this is the sharpest of double-edged swords. Three dice primary, two agility dice. He goes from being a nimble arc-dodger/flanker to a glorified Z-95 just from one little red token. Fellow TNX member Jake is flying five RZ-2s, and his advice is to not stress L’ulo. Now if that’s the case, why take him over Tallie, who is cheaper?

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Dropping L’ulo for Tallie and giving her Heroic and Trick shot drops me down to 183 points; not quite Dale Cromwell’s 181 or PhilGC’s absolutely ludicrous 177. If I felt like it, I could give Nien Torpedoes. At 187, I could anyway, thinking about it… I’m beginning to wonder whether maybe I should stop pretending to be an ace player, which apparently I am not, and just use the high-Initiative pilots as blunt instruments to bludgeon my opponent’s ships to death with; like my Rebel Alpha Strike list.

On the other hand, maybe I’m reading too much into this? Of the 600+ players at the System Open, I expect there’ll be something along the lines of 200 Average players, 200 Below-Average players, and 200 Above-Average players. If I’m lucky and only get matched against fellow Average and Below-Average players, I might stand a chance. If I get matched against some Above-Average players, I might be able to learn something.

Ultimately, it’s too late in the day to start making changes (though I may drop Trick Shot from L’ulo and run at 185). As I grow more comfortable with the list, I might improve. And as I said in my last entry, the goal is that fancy frosted Norra Wexley card. I can lose eight games running and get that (though alcohol may be required for that to be an acceptable outcome!)

I now need to pack my bag ready for tomorrow, get together the bits a squadmate is borrowing, and print out my lists. I think I’ll watch Carson Wray’s version of the list (HLC and Afterburners on an Elusive Nien) vs Dee Yun’s TIE Swarm for ideas of how to engage properly with this list!

I remain optimistic about the weekend; not about the victories, as I know I’m not made of the material that Hyperspace or Open Champions are made of, but of the fact the event will be a chance for eleven games of X-Wing with friends I’ve known for years and friends I’ve not yet met.

Thanks for putting up with this demi-rant, and I hope to see many of you bright and early on Saturday!