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 – 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!

Journey to PAX Unplugged – System Open the Second

Back in April, I attended the UK System Open, which I believe remains to this day the largest X-Wing event ever. Things did not start well, having purchased (well, re-purchased) my ticket during a low point in my competitive X-Wing career. I finally settled on a list, a modified version of the “Danger Zone” Resistance list, but my five play-test games had not gone particularly well, leading me to believe I was making something of a mistake. Fortunately the event went reasonably well, going 3-3 in the main event and ending up 299th; a score I hope to better (since I doubt there’ll be 299 players) at the Philadelphia System Open hosted at PAX Unplugged in exactly one month.

Annoyingly, System Opens in the US appear to be connected to larger events, meaning you need a ticket for the event and the tournament, bumping up costs fairly significantly. Fortunately, I live close enough to the event that I won’t be needing a hotel, otherwise we’d be looking at a pretty expensive weekend!

So, tickets bought, what to fly? I’ve got three weeks to practice, since my FLGS has X-Wing nights on Thursdays and the last Thursday it’ll be closed for Thanksgiving (and all that yummy Turkey); it’s not a lot of time to conjure up a new list and get the reps in, so I’ll likely be resorting to an old favourite. But what?

  1. Danger Zone is a competitor; it served me well in the past but that was before the points change, having become more expensive since then. That said, without Trick Shot on L’ulo, it probably still comes in below 190 points to ensure I move second against most things. Nantices and deep-pocketed Imperial Aces/Jedi will probably still outbid me, so I can probably play with whatever points I have left (Autoblasters on Nien, perhaps?). Still, that’s one list I’m reasonably confident with, though my competency with Resistance Aces has never been anywhere near 100% and this room is going to be as tough as the UKSO was, but with tighter margins between below average, average, and above average player skill.
  2. 5x RZ-2s is always a solid choice; they served me well at Highlander Games despite not a whole lot of practice beforehand, and are definitely my backup option should nothing else pan out. Though running without a bid still feels weird, if I can block a Nantex and deny its action, I stand a decent chance of bringing it down with focus-fire if I need to. Crucially, this list is also less susceptible to Torkil Mux shenanigans than many of my other lists.
  3. 4x X-Wings, be they T-65 or T-70 variety. Simple to fly, reasonably manoeuvrable, and tanky to boot. Biggs with some Red Veterans with Selfless or four Black Aces with Heroic are my current ponderings; the latter’s I4 giving me the opportunity to trade simultaneous fire with meta staples like Grievous or Chertek should I need to, while also giving me options to outflank or arc-dodge lower-Initiative pilots should the need arise. Only problem is, I’d need a fourth X-Wing and the required cards/tokens (I left all of my generic bits back in the UK because I was on a Unique pilots-only rampage at the time).
  4. Rebel Aces, whatever that may be. I’ve currently got a few ideas how to run this; all of them involving Wedge and Luke (who should, in my opinion, star in every Rebel list) with one or two friends. I’ve got ideas about Torpedoes and Jake Farrell, upgrade-lite with Jake and Arvel Crynyd, or throwing Thane Kyrell or Corran Horn into the mix and running a three-ship build of some form. Though all of these appeal to me one way or another, the Torpedo-throwing shenanigans of Wedge/Luke/Jake probably appeals to me most. The issue is I am uncertain exactly how to engage with it, so I will probably choose one of the other options simply for simplicity’s sake, and for the sake of my own psyche and/or ego when it comes to playing the game and probably getting it wrong.

Of the above, the only thing I haven’t tried yet is the four X-Wings; mainly because, as I said, I don’t own four. Though I could get a fourth and repaint it in the white/orange scheme we’ve seen in Rise of Skywalker teasers; there’s also rumours of a white and green variant of the same pattern, but that’s based off marketing material for toys, and Hasbro has to make their money somewhere!

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It’s bold, I’ll give it that!

It should, however, prove reasonably simple to fly; so long as I stay in formation and don’t self-bump (which I’ve not done for a while unless I was blocked by someone else). The old “One-Forward to Victory” should work, right? My main concern with this list is the likelihood of getting Initiative-killed by aces (or Torkil’s mates); even a T-70 is likely to die in one round under concentrated fire. The Selfless/Biggs damage-spreading of the Rebel variant means things might survive longer, and I can afford R2 Astromechs on 3 of the 4 ships, but that’s not necessarily a good idea either…

So as you can see, I’m in a dilemma…

I don’t even know what the 2019/20 Season’s prize support will be like, so beyond a 3-3 win/loss ratio, I’m not sure what I’m aiming for! What goodies do you have planned for us, FFG?! I’d quite like to finish my Red Squadron card collection, I need Jek Porkins and Garven Dreis (I foolishly bought a Wedge earlier this year); I also enjoy frosted cards, though knowing my luck they’ll be for ships I don’t own or fly! Anakin, Poe, and Norra need frosted friends!

Speaking of Anakin; I haven’t been enjoying Republic since my move to the US, so I sold them all. It was a rough decision, and I regret it a little bit because I really did have fun with the Fine-Tuned Controls shenanigans, but with so few events locally that are easy to get to without a car, I need to concentrate on lists that will do well rather than ones that’ll just be fun to fly. That may mean moving further away from ace lists and towards more generics, which isn’t the way I want to play X-Wing, but at what point do you start to sacrifice fun for competitiveness?

In other news, with the release of Epic, I’m really excited to try the new Aces High format: a furball situation reminds me of the good old days when I was in an X-Wing vs TIE Fighter/X-Wing Alliance clan/gaming group and we used to have weekly online melee combats either internally or against other groups. Perhaps when PAX is done with, I’ll dive into making some fun Aces High builds for certain points values, see what I can come up with, and whether or not temporary alliances built over the tabletop survive the crucible of battle!

Finally, I purchased, read, and finished the new Star Wars novel (Resistance Reborn) yesterday; which details the gathering of new assets for the Resistance in the immediate wake of The Last Jedi; it was a good read, and brings several older characters back into play (General Rieekan, Wedge Antilles and Norra Wexley to name but three). Makes me hopeful that someday we’ll see Resistance Wedge/Norra, and maybe, just maybe the T-85 will get it’s own official model…

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It’s not the prettiest in the X-Wing line, but it might make a good showing…

Check back next week to see what I decided, and whether or not my first week of testing fills me with confidence or leaves me thinking I’m going to crash and burn like Porkins into the Death Star…

Journey to the System Open: Highway to the Danger Zone!

So, the big weekend has been and gone, and I’d like to start with something of an apology.

My last blog entry was somewhat negative, as have some of my other posts that discuss the concepts of fun, mental health, etc. It turns out that several people (more than I’d expected) have become concerned about my well-being, and I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise for worrying you and to assure you that I’m fine, I was just having a rough time of it. The Open cured that, and I for one am glad I got to go, see so many familiar faces, and meet some people I’d never played before!

Thursday night post-rant brought with it some trouble sleeping; Dale Cromwell, who is an absolute legend, stayed up until past 1am helping me write some lists, but was (probably) asleep when I woke up at 4 so I made a few of my own before falling back to sleep. Friday started with a trip to The Oval to watch Sussex play Essex, and by the time play was called off for bad light at about 5pm, Essex were chasing Surrey’s 395 and looked comfortably able to catch them before the end of the weekend (damn!). A long wait and a short train-ride dropped me at the Hilton, where I checked into my room and was informed registration was still open. Wandering over to the hall, I handed over the first list I’d managed to grab; Danger Zone. I briefly considered swapping it, but I figured some kind of divine providence or fate had made me choose it (it was also by far the most interesting list I’d packed), so I left it. Then, off to the bar, intending a drink or two followed by a reasonably early night. I crawled into bed at 1am, woke up at 4.30 (and got the near-hangover out of the way then), before falling back to sleep at about six. This is usual for me before an event; it wasn’t nerves, I wasn’t expecting to win anything (my goal was a frosted Norra, so I could lose eight games over the weekend and still emerge “successful”), but anticipation. Or insomnia. One of the two.

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Saturday morning arrived, and I took myself off to the event ready for six games in which I expected to face all manner of Extended filth and shenanigans, hoping not to draw Phantoms, Y-Ion, or Drea Scurrgs. Still, even if I did, my ships looked pretty (even though they weren’t finished).

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Yes, Nien is in Black One, which threw just about everyone off over the weekend!

Game #1 vs Phil Pond – Assajj Ventris, Palob, 4-LOM

This wasn’t a list I particularly wanted to face; Nien Nunb might be immune to stress shenanigans, but Poe and L’ulo are not. Little did I know at the time that Phil is a member of Basingstoke’s Firestorm Squadron and has been mentioned regularly on PhilGC’s blog; had I known that, I probably would have been even less confident going into my first match!

I made a critical mistake with Nien early on, which left him mostly-dead and unable to do a whole lot, but at a crucial moment Phil’s dice went cold and Nien lived long enough  for Poe to draw first blood and remove 4-LOM from the field. Nien and L’ulo joined the droid soon after, as Poe hunted down Palob before finding himself double-stressed and unable to function; denying me the one hit I needed on Assajj for half-points and causing his untimely demise.

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Poe vs Assajj and Palob. This is fine!

Result: 114 – 200 defeat.

Game 2 vs Iain – Boba/Fenn/Lando

Boba Fett and Fenn Rau are something of boogeymen for my X-Wing playstyle, especially when they move last. Fortunately for me, with Lando’s Escape Craft in the mix, they would be moving second and allowing me to be doing the arc-dodging for a change.

Despite what Iain felt at the end of the game, he made only one single mistake, and that was to co-ordinate Boba early-on. This left him stressed, unable to re-roll any of his dice, and open to range three fire that he hadn’t expected; Lando evaporated. Boba was next, but not after stripping Poe’s shields from a Proximity Mine and dropping one of L’ulo’s shields at range 3 despite the four evade dice and a focus. The killing move on Boba was a Nien Nunb three bank into a Tallon-Roll, out of arc, at range one.

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The first (and only) shot that Fenn would make all game.

Fenn bailed on the engagement, having taken a Torpedo from Poe and barely survived, but I got greedy and Poe overshot his target. Fenn half-pointed Poe before being gunned down by Nien; the first time the Mandalorian had fired all game.

Result: 200 – 42 victory.

I was ecstatic with this result: not only had I won a game in what was possibly the toughest gaming room in the country, if not Europe, but I’d very nearly won it 200-0! I was content with that, and knew that regardless what the rest of the day brought, I’d won a game at the System Open!

Game 3 vs Geoff – Han, Norra, Jake

This game was a nail-biter: there was a lot of health to chew through, and a lot of damage to be put out. I’d never faced a list like this before, and it was one of several I knew to be being played across the weekend owing to Nathan Eide’s success with it. Still, 1-Agility ships do not like Torpedoes, and I knew roughly where I wanted to put them.

The game stared poorly: Nien found himself half-pointed early on, died soon after, and I found myself unable to push damage through on anything. Han finally went down, but it was still two vs two, and Norra is a tough cookie.

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The game’s afoot: Poe and L’ulo vs Norra and Jake

L’ulo failed to land a killing blow on Jake and died for his failure; leaving Poe to deal with multiple foes alone. He managed it, but I once again got greedy: I wanted Jake off the board, and in the process lost the one hull that meant he, too, was half-pointed. Looking back, I probably should have just run the two or three minutes down on the clock and preserved 40-odd points, but I wasn’t playing for a World’s invite, so I wanted to finish the game properly (though I do admit, I could have easily rolled badly and lost thanks to that greed!)

Result: 200 – 146 victory.

Game 4 vs George – L’ulo, Tallie, Nien, Ello

Not a matchup I wanted, not at all. It’s one of the most solid lists out there, and George is apparently a fairly good player, seeing as he made the cut. One of the issues with not following all of the podcasts or blogs is that, at an event like this, you’ll come across someone well-known in the community and think they’re just another player on 2-1.

L’ulo died on the first engagement, followed quickly by Poe and Nien. It was a short and brutal match, yielding the worst result I’ve had in X-Wing 2.0. I freely admit I made mistakes, but I own that I was outflown by a better player with a better list.

Result: 20 – 200 defeat.

Game 5 vs Ben – Drea, Lok x3

Oh wonderful! After the humiliatingly bad performance in game 4, this was just what I needed! Much like Phantoms or Y-Wings with Ion Cannons, this list is a strong contender for NPE of the year. However, Ben, or “Bengar” as he is apparently known, was a laugh and a great opponent. His tactic was not to just trundle one forward to victory as he could have done; that’s boring, we were here to play X-Wing!

So he Tallon-Rolled his Scurrgs every other turn, keeping arcs on target while being unpredictable and blocking the manoeuvres of my ships at the same time. He also nearly fell out of his chair laughing when Nien, who he thought he’d boxed in, did his three bank into a Tallon-Roll behind Drea (thanks Black One!) out of every arc he had.

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There’s only one way out of this! Prepare the SLAM button!

Ultimately, however, the match went horrifically badly and ended with another sound and rather painful defeat.

Result: 26 – 200 defeat.

Game 6 vs Paddy – Vader, Whisper, Sigma Ace

I was tired by this point; it was around 9pm, I’d not slept well, McDonalds food fills a hole but lacks the nutritious value one needs at an event like this, and I don’t drink coffee or energy drinks. So a matchup against Vader and some Phantoms wasn’t one of those things that I was really looking forward to!

The opening engagements saw Vader lose two shields from a Torpedo from Poe, while L’ulo and Whisper were both dropped to half-points. Vader, suddenly realising that he was moving before Poe’s double-modded Torpedo, bugged out and went to victimise L’ulo while Nien pulled his now-signature three bank into a Tallon-Roll behind Whisper and killed her. Denied his shot at Vader, Poe put a torpedo into the Sigma and caused a Damaged Engine; making life hard for the lowest-initiative ship on the board given it was edging dangerously close to a board edge! Still, it took another two turns to put enough damage through to kill it, at which point Vader had given up trying to run and was flanking around to attack from the rear.

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Vader got backed into a corner from which he couldn’t escape…

Cue the honourable joust! Vader tried, he really did, but facing down two ships at a significant health defecit isn’t really what he wanted to be doing, and despite his valiant attempts, he too was slain.

Result: 200 – 41 victory.

Final Result: 3-3 and 299th place.

I was really happy with this result (though that’s an understatement), given how I wasn’t expecting to win even one game with it. I think had I not made errors against Phil and George, and had Ben’s list not been wildly out of control with those Tallon-Rolls, none of my games were unwinnable. I certainly could have put up more of a fight, given my opponents a bit more of a game, and maybe come 290th or a bit higher. That said, I came in the top 300 of a 600(ish) person event and placed higher than several well-known personalities, so I can live with that!

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Obligatory “swag photo”! Not as impressive as some, but I’m happy with it!

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Shout out to the talented artists from the Wayland Wampas, Firestorm Squadron, Hull’s Angels, TNX’s own Kevin, and Omer of Can’t Sleep, Must Paint!

Special Thanks To:

Obviously I’d like to thank all six of my opponents for their patience with me, and for providing six great and varied games; and to FFG/Asmodee/the MK Stadium staff/Hilton Hotels for providing a great weekend.

However, there are a few people I’d like to thank individually, without whom this weekend might not have been so fun.

In no particular order:

  • Dale Cromwell (186th Squadron) for staying up late and offering to help with lists.
  • Joel North (186th Squadron) for being supportive and offering advice and reassurance after reading last week’s blog.
  • Harrison Sharp (186th Squadron) for offering me somewhere to stay if I didn’t have a hotel room.
  • Henry Westcott (TNX) for looking out for me even when he should have been worrying about the cut (and maybe for the hangover…)
  • Kevin Branch (TNX) for the ride back to London so I didn’t have to faff around quite so much with public transport.
  • Darren Palmer (Wayland Wampas) for never being too busy for a quick chat and generally being a nice guy.
  • Phil Marshall (Wayland Wampas) for telling me how pleased he was to see me at the event, and for being a supportive reader.
  • Omer Ibrahim (Porg Patrol) for checking up on me and the two fancy Luke Alt-Arts (I now have a sizable collection!)
  • And just about everyone else who has liked or commented on this blog over the last two weeks: without your support, this blog entry wouldn’t have happened!

That basically concludes my review of the event: Sunday’s Hyperspace Qualifier went badly owing to another 1am finish after celebrating three TNX pilots (and one pseudo-TNX pilot) making the cut (good job Henry, Janus, Ben and Jake (who has only been playing since November!)). I might write about it next week, but that all depends on whether or not I have something more interesting to write about!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll leave you with the theme tune of this entry!

 

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!