I’ve waited all year to get another shot at the regional tournament for Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures. Last year I squeaked out a win in two games and lost at least three before it dawned on me that I was out of my depth in that tournament, and I dropped out from a combination of exhaustion and frustration at how badly I was being beaten. So to have a chance to redeem myself, and practically in my own back yard… I was gearing up for this for months.
I really struggled in picking a list for this event. My instinct was to keep on with what got me here, the 3x TIE Interceptor list. In my previous article, I reviewed several lists which were winning in other regional level events. One of the archetypes that was doing well was a VT-49 Decimator (usually Rear Admiral Chiraneau) paired up with Soontir Fel. This isn’t something that I’ve seen locally, the two ship Decimator lists basically disappeared from my local meta with the changes to the decloak action that “crippled” TIE Phantoms.
In an attempt to discover how that worked and what they did well, I tried running a variant using Captain Oicunn (the winner from Stirling Scotland), and I really liked how it worked. It would have held up decently well against Chiraneau in a mirror match, but it would have been even more vulnerable than the Interceptors against a BBBBZ list, which I perceive as my greatest weakness.
As a result, I stuck to the Interceptors, with a slight modification – I took the stealth device off of the Royal Guard Pilot to make a 4 point initiative bid. I wanted to be absolutely certain that I could have Soontir Fel moving last whenever possible. I saw in testing that the initiative made a huge difference, especially against certain combos I had seen in practice such as Han Solo / Jake Farrell (with Veteran Instincts), or even against other lists containing Soontir Fel.
Total: 96 points
Hardest round of the day… waiting. Technically, I was working, serving as one of two assistant judges for the day, but there wasn’t much required of me other than keeping an eye on things and running some messages around. My nerves were on edge though, and I couldn’t wait to get on the table. If memory serves, seventeen other players brought first round byes to this tournament via Store Championship wins, and I was about to get dropped into the middle of them all. But first, I had to wait. I took a few pictures to pass the time…
1-0, 200 MoV – Just enough of a head start to ensure rough competition from there. Roughly 30 way tie for 1st place here.
IG-88 C – 36
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Lambda Shuttle / Slave 1 / YT-2400)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
Advanced Sensors – 3 (Lambda / E-Wing)
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 / Millennium Falcon)
IG-2000 – 0 (IG-2000)
A local player, my opponent called out three players in advance, saying he was sure that his first match would be one of those three. Roughly a 13% chance of that (yes, I ran the numbers), but he was right, as I was in that group. Earlier this year, he ended my day at this same location’s store championship with back-to back wins. I was determined not to let that happen again.
Giving him initiative, Stay on Target did nothing for him, and Veteran Instincts only put him moving after my Royal Guard, both Carnor Jax and Soontir Fel would have free reign to react. At the same time, with such a user-friendly dial, I had no idea where the enemy ships would be headed. Our match was a pure cat & mouse game from the start.
Shot for shot, my opponent held an advantage, especially outside of Range 1. Using the HLC, he had 4 dice with two chances against my 4 evade dice, 3 if without a stealth device, and Autothrusters to help at Range 3. Firing back, I would have my 3 attack dice against his 3 defense at range 2, 4 with Autothrusters at range 3. His advantage was expanded by having lower pilot skills, he could determine whether or not he would need his Focus tokens on defense first, then spend them freely on offense. So really, I needed to deny as many shots as I could.
Attempting to line up unexpected shots, he took S-Loops and K-turns where I wouldn’t have dared, boosting in advance to change angles. The fact that he narrowly missed so many obstacles speaks to how much experience he has with the Aggressors, he was doing moves (safely) that I wouldn’t have dared try. That turned out to be an edge for me though, as I started to understand where those moves would happen as I watched my opponent fly. Every time a ship flew out towards the edge and flipped around, I knew it had to come right back basically to where it was before on the next turn, and that let me start lining up some shots in advance.
Big momentum swings happened in this game, because the shots that did land hit hard. One of the IG’s lost all four shields… then the Royal Guard bit the dust… then that IG was finished off… and then Soontir Fel took two hits… It was crazy. Eventually, Soontir came in for a face-to-face attack run on the remaining IG, and managed to string together a Boost / Barrel Roll combo that left him just a hair outside of firing arc, barely able to make the next turn and stay on the table, and able to unload a Range 1 shot with Focus. My opponent just about lost it there, going on a mini-tirade about how hard these Interceptors were to catch. It took a couple more turns to deal out the damage cards, but mentally and emotionally I had won the game right there. My opponent pulled himself together after that match and went on to a second place overall finish.
2-0, 373 MoV – Still in the thick of it, in 10th place.
Bandit Squadron Pilot – 12 (Z-95 Headhunter)
The best laid plans all fall to pieces once someone opens fire. I told myself I was going to stay disciplined, skirt along the edge of range 3, and stay away from those B-Wings. But it’s easier said than done.
I managed to recover a little bit and scramble out of the kill zone for the most part. The Royal Guard and Carnor Jax got out on a flank at safe distance. Soontir Fel, on the other hand, landed on that debris field in the process of doing the only green maneuver that wasn’t guaranteed to be blocked and lead to his death. The plan was to do a Boost to the right and Barrel Roll back to the left, safely out of arc, and perhaps with a shot of my own. But clipping the debris field put an end to that plan. It got him a Focus token for the stress, but he was suddenly stuck at Range 1 of two B-Wings, and death came swiftly anyway.
I did get one B-Wing out of there, and had damaged a couple more. At one point, I felt like I was really close to tipping the scales in my favor and grinding this one out, despite the fact that the final score was 22 – 100. I’ve noticed that even with only one Interceptor left, I feel good about my chances to dodge arcs and wear down three small ships, especially if one of those is a Z-95 instead of a B-Wing. But I just couldn’t manage to finish off a second ship in this game.
My opponent would roll on to a 5-1 finish in Swiss, before being knocked out of the finals by the IG-88 player from the round before.
2-1, 395 MoV – That hurt, fell back to 29th place in the standings.
I scarfed down a couple slices of pizza as almost everyone else left for a meal break, and stepped back into the office where our Twitch stream broadcasts from. I was about to have a chance to participate in an interview of Doug Kinney, aka Hothie, aka “2012 X-Wing World Champion”. I had broken the ice a bit by speaking with him earlier in the day, but it was still kind of a surreal moment. I wasn’t the only one in the room though, and I certainly wasn’t the focal point. We wanted to give Doug an opportunity to discuss the whole reason he came to our regional. It’s better coming from him, so check out the recording (I’m off camera to the left) here:
Chewbacca and Leebo are hard to chew through. They’re even harder to chew through with only two Interceptors. Despite that fact, I subconsciously decided to try doing exactly that.
Complete bone-headed move on my part, I moved too fast and put Carnor Jax onto that big asteroid between the two YT’s. Without actions, he died a swift and ignoble death. I had already taken a shield or two off of Chewie, or I might have swapped targets. Still, the next turn I only really had a shot on the Falcon, so I stuck with it, knowing good and well that I wouldn’t crack through the defenses provided by the two droids onboard and an evade token each turn if I lost another ship.
Another game of cat and mouse ensued, in which I chased Chewbacca all over the board. It felt like it took forever for maneuver dials to be set. Fly casual, right? R2-D2 was appropriately annoying, never once actually flipping a damage card over, and providing several turns of shield repair. And my opponent did some really smart things with Leebo, attempting to cut me off and protect the other ship. But I saw most of those coming, and found ways around. Each turn that I got at least 4 hits between my two ships, I got a little closer to a kill. Still, the clock was ticking on me, and I had yet to score.
A few poor rolls stole what looked like a kill shot from me, and I had to endure another round of returned fire. We had just a handful of minutes remaining, I could see the timer clearly right behind my foe. And who was Chewie going to shoot…? Soontir Fel with 2 hit points, or the Royal Guard with one? Well, let’s see, they both have Autothrusters, they both have the same tokens left, they’re both at range 1… And that clock kept ticking down. Finally, I just had to call my opponent out on it; he had already left the table twice earlier in the game to do things, he was taking his sweet time picking maneuvers, and it was obvious that he was simply trying to run out the clock here by wavering over which ship to shoot. With several other players who had finished their games watching, at about the 15 second mark my opponent agreed to play one more turn before taking another 14 seconds or so to determine which Interceptor he wasn’t going to hit.
So, time expired, playing one more turn anyway. Leebo was too far away to do anything, I covered all the angles with my maneuvers, and ended up bumping with the Royal Guard. Soontir Fel, though, was left with a Range 1 shot, and scored four hits. My opponent evaluated the situation, guessed “one” result for C-3PO, and got it. Combined with his evade token, he canceled three out of the four hits, and only took one damage. He triumphantly picked up his dice to fire back… and I asked him how many damage Chewbacca had taken. Oh, hey, look at that. There’s eight cards there, not seven. Chewbacca’s time of death: approximately 76:30. Game over. “Fly casual”.
3-1, 514 MoV – Needed that win, but it was too close. I’m falling behind here on MoV, and there’s going to be some 5-1 players that don’t make the cut. I need a big win badly.
Bandit Squadron Pilot – 12 (Z-95 Headhunter)
Nera Dantels – 22 (Rebel Aces)
Gold Squadron Pilot + BTL-A4 Y-Wing + R3-A2 + Ion Cannon Turret
Biggs Darklighter + R4-D6
I thought I was running on empty after my last game, but this one made me dig even deeper. Nera is a great counter to the TIE Interceptors with Flechette Torpedoes handing out stress tokens like candy, and with the Munitions Failsafe, she’s got an infinite supply until she does damage with them twice. The Y-Wing has similar tricks, being able to potentially assign two stress tokens and an ion token within a single turn of shooting. Then there’s Biggs to keep the heat off of those two until they can do some work. What I had going for me, though, is that all three of my ships were higher pilot skill than the enemy, and he wasn’t exactly set up to do a whole lot of damage all at once.
So I played it safe. From the photo above, the Royal Guard (far left) danced away out of firing range, and the other two broke right, looking for unopposed shots and finding one.
Realizing that he would just pop back in at an inopportune time later, I converged on Biggs from here. Nera was too close to Carnor in order to fire with Deadeye, and out of range of her locked target, so it was safe to do so and I managed to clear him quickly. In the process, though, the Y-Wing got lined up on Carnor Jax, and started pouring on stress.
Carnor headed for the hills as fast as green moves would take him, but without actions for post-move adjustments, he couldn’t shake the Rebels. All three remaining ships gave chase, slipping through a couple hits and landing an ion once.
Things looked grim, but the cavalry arrived just in time. Zap, zap, Nera down, survived the other two shots.
Suddenly, Carnor stopped running away. Instead, he took a 1 hard toward the corner immediately following the photo above, and the Y-Wing overshot his target, only the Headhunter would have a shot on me.
Soontir and the Royal Guard make short work of the Z-95, saving their squadmate, and it was a formality to finish off the VERY stressed Y-Wing from there.
4-1, 714 MoV – Big win? Check. Up to 10th place, which means a decent sized win should put me into somewhere between 5th and 8th for the finals.
Rear Admiral Chiraneau – 46 (VT-49 Decimator)
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 / Millennium Falcon)
Ysanne Isaard – 4 (VT-49 Decimator)
Gunner – 5 (Slave 1)
Rebel Captive – 3 (Lambda Shuttle)
Engine Upgrade – 4 (Millennium Falcon)
(2 point initiative bid)
Of course I would face this list for the very first time in a win-or-go-home situation. It was going to be an uphill battle, but there wasn’t much I could do about it except go in and fly. After having dealt with so much stress in the previous game, I didn’t want to have my Soontir double-stressed AND trying to dodge his, so I resolved to leave the Decimator alone to begin with, and I had a sneaky idea for how to clear his Soontir off the field.
Staring at a 98 point list, my 96 points paid off for the first time all day, so I just gave him initiative. Turn one, everything moved up cautiously on both sides. Turn two, I moved up the Royal Guard and Carnor slowly again, looking for a range 3 exchange where no real damage would be dealt. But expecting RAC to get more aggressive and turn in towards the fight, and perhaps thinking his Soontir might not stress himself if still out of range, I dialed up a five forward with my Fel, hoping to both block the Decimator and catch his Interceptor mostly defenseless.
Soontir loaded up on tokens anyway, so I did as well. The Decimator did not commit as I had hoped, and instead caught me in forward arc and at range 1. One atrocious set of die rolls later, I lost my first ship. Carnor and his Soontir exchanged fire at range 3 to zero effect.
With my only advantage against Fel (initiative) gone, I had to get creative now. I was certain I knew where he would be putting Soontir Fel, so I successfully blocked that with Carnor Jax, and now the Royal Guard could fire on him without defense tokens… but RAC blasted him, and Soontir finished the job. Carnor Jax would come up empty on the next turn and take two damage. With one hit point left and without having dealt a single damage, the writing was on the wall, and I conceded in the face of overwhelming firepower.
4-2, 714 MoV, 25th place. That’s not exactly how I wanted to end my day, but my opponent from round 6 would go on to win the event, so it’s not like I got put out by some scrub off the street. In fact, as I understand it, he’s a reader of the Tabletop General, and he mentioned watching my Interceptors tear up the competition on Twitch over the past few months. So the morale of the story is to not fly something I’ve shown to the internet, then.
Looking back on it, there’s not a whole lot I would have done differently. In round 6, I was beaten when the matchup was drawn. But the tipping point was round 3, losing to BBBBZ. I’ve got to find another way to deal with those B-Wings.
Upon review, I had the 3rd highest strength of schedule overall, and three of my opponents were in the top eight, including the eventual winner. So not a bad day at all. I definitely feel like I’ve come a long way over the past year after getting knocked around to the point of dropping out of last year’s regional.
On a day where I felt comfortable talking and cracking jokes with a former world champion, the concept of watching my opponent send a text message saying something along the lines of “You’ll never guess who I’m playing against” still boggles my mind. I’m hoping for many more of those moments in the future.
– The Tabletop General