Making an appearance in the first local Store Championship of the year forStar Wars: X-Wing Miniatures, I faced a difficult choice in list construction. As I discussed in my previous article, I have a feeling, looking at the new threats coming in the Wave VIII releases, that my beloved Interceptors are no longer going to be viable to stand on their own. More and more counters for their abilities are appearing in new ships. And while I wanted to try something new and make use of the recent releases, I haven’t had enough time lately to test the builds that I might bring. So I split the difference and compromised, bringing Soontir Fel and Carnor Jax equipped as normal, but substituting in Omega Leader as a splash of the new tricks.
The change from a Royal Guard Pilot (Imperial Aces) to Omega Leader did several things for me:
1) My lowest Pilot Skill is 8, up from 6 with the RGP. I’m almost guaranteed to see at least a portion of my opponent’s setup before deciding on mine, thus allowing me to control the area of initial engagement.
2) I shave a couple points, allowing me to win initiative bidding against other PS 8 and PS 9 pilots.
3) Omega Leader has proven recently to be a great counter to token-based ships like Soontir Fel, who shows up often in our local meta.
With 43 players in attendance, we would be having 5 rounds of Swiss play followed by a single elimination bracket of the top 8 after Swiss. I settled in for a long day of X-Wing.
No pressure here, I’m just facing last year’s champion for this event to start the day. I hadn’t seen a competently flown T-70 in a tournament setting yet, and this was going to be a heck of an introduction. The TLT equipped Y-Wing I don’t consider much of a threat compared to the others, as any one of my ships should be able to out-duel it in the end game. I also was able to breathe a sigh of relief, as I expected the Y-Wing to be a “Stresshog” variant carrying R3-A2 (GR-75), as was the case in the mostly identical list on the next table over. The T-70s were the threat; both had regeneration abilities, and while neither was taking multiple actions each turn, each could get the equivalent benefit of multiple actions per turn.
My opponent, like any good Rebel player, slow-rolled his approach. And I have been working on my obstacle placement and controlling the engagement. As we entered firing range, my opponent faced a choice: splitting his squad to fly around an asteroid, or committing to moving to my left, while I was approaching from the right. So right out of the gate, I had created a unique opportunity for myself. Only Poe could safely turn to my right. With Poe bumped up to a higher pilot skill and being dependent on Focus tokens for his regeneration abilities, I gambled that I might be able to block him in and score a quick kill. Carnor and Omega Leader tokened up and prepared for combat, while Soontir, who had been closer than the others, pushed ahead and used his actions to boost and barrel roll to where Poe would be if he took the bait. This gave me either 3 shots at Poe while he had a focus, or 2 while he didn’t. I got the block, but the dice didn’t treat me well, and I didn’t deal significant damage.
The next turn, I scrambled for position, as all my ships were stressed and pointed the wrong way. I attempted another block on Poe with Omega Leader, but came up empty this time, and would be relying on his Target Lock on Poe to keep him safe. No such luck, as Poe rolls 4 natural hits; which Omega Leader thankfully avoided with a hot roll of his own and an evade token. On the next turn, Poe got yet another Range 1 shot off, for 3 hits and a crit, naturally. Omega Leader wasn’t so lucky this time, and took most of the damage.
Meanwhile, with Poe isolated and hunting down the TIE Fighter, my Interceptors had switched to a target of opportunity in Red Leader. The dice gods smiled on my opponent, and I never managed to really get a solid hit. With R2-D2 and the persistent Evade token, what little damage I managed to put through just wouldn’t stick.
Omega Leader finally shook Poe off of his tail, only to be downed by the pesky Y-Wing that was circling the field, and this slow moving game was now an uphill battle. Taking stock, killing the Y-Wing would be the easiest target, but wouldn’t get me a win on its’ own. Red Leader just wouldn’t go down. So Poe had to go. After a few turns of positioning, I finally got a good attack run going, and blasted Poe off the table with a couple rounds of consecutive fire, putting me into “Modified Win” territory. Unfortunately, to make sure I got Poe off the table, Carnor had to spend his Focus token, and he would have needed it to stay alive through Red Ace’s return fire. With Dameron off the board and given enough time, Soontir Fel could have (eventually) won that battle. Unfortunately, time ran out during the very next turn, before I could recover from Carnor’s loss.
I don’t feel like I did anything especially wrong in this match. I changed targets several times between the X-Wings, but I hadn’t actually hurt either of them so it wasn’t like I was spreading damage out. But Omega Leader never really had an impact other than as a decoy, and his ability didn’t help.
Result: 37-61 loss
Standings: 0-1, 76 MoV
Commander Kenkirk – 44 (VT-49 Decimator)
Seismic Charges – 2 (TIE Bomber / IG-2000 / Slave 1)
Ysanne Isard – 4 (VT-49 Decimator)
Emperor Palpatine – 8 (Imperial Raider)
Engine Upgrade – 4 (Millennium Falcon)
Lone Wolf – 2 (YT-2400 Outrider)
Standard Fel, we know the drill there. But the rest was interesting. A Decimator, without Gunner (Slave 1), and without Vader (Lambda Shuttle)? That doesn’t seem like nearly as much of a threat as most other builds. With a higher PS across the board, I couldn’t be caught off guard by those Seismic Charges. With Isard and Kenkirk, it would be slower chewing than normal, but the Decimator would eventually die.
My opponent deployed his Decimator in the corner, and I set up my squad as far away as possible, hoping to tempt him in to splitting his force. He obliged, and placed Soontir directly opposite my trio. With the Emperor involved, Soontir would be hard to take down, but it seemed a great opportunity to at least put a point or two on him. And I didn’t want to be trying to eat through all of Kenkirk’s hull while his escort felt 100% safe to engage from the rear.
I didn’t manage to hit him though, on the first pass, the second pass, or any subsequent ones. And I chased him for far too long. Again, just like in the previous game, Omega Leader took some damage early on and flew around as a liability for the rest of the match, simply trying to save points.
There was a very tense period, about 7 turns in, where my opponent managed to block my Soontir with Kenkirk, creating a traffic jam in the middle of the field, and dropping a seismic charge all at the same time. Omega Leader narrowly avoided death via bomb, and my Interceptors were corralled nicely for his Soontir, who thankfully didn’t manage to do any harm. We played “chicken” there for several more turns, as I couldn’t read what he planned to do; turning in to him would continue to bump if he bumped me to stay still, flying straight would either bump or place me on an asteroid, and turning away from him would bump into him again if he chose to move past me.
About the time we finally broke the standoff, a warning was called for the end of the round I swapped targets – with no time to chase Soontir further, I needed to score points, and fast! But I wasn’t fast enough – time was called while the Decimator was still two hit points above half health, leading to my first ever 0-0 tie, and making my chances of making the cut look extremely slim.
Result: 0-0 tie
Standings: 0-1-1, 176 MoV
IG-88B – 36 (IG-2000)
Heavy Laser Cannon – 7 (Lambda Shuttle / Slave 1 / YT-2400)
Push the Limit – 3 (A-Wing / Imperial Aces)
Advanced Sensors – 3 (Lambda / E-Wing)
Autothrusters – 2 (Starviper)
IG-2000 – 0 (IG-2000)
This looked familiar, yet very strange. In fact, swap the Mangler for an Ion Cannon (Firespray/B-Wing/TIE Defender/M3-A) and add in Glitterstim (Hound’s Tooth / Kihraxz Fighter), and it would be identical to the way that I’ve run IG-88 to relative success over the past few months. The strange part about it is that my opponent has run IG-88 x 2 almost exclusively since their release a year ago, and I’ve never seen him use this configuration. The combo of a seasoned player and a more effective (in my opinion) version of the list could spell trouble for any slim hopes I had for the day.
The downside of my opponent’s familiarity with other loadouts for IG-88 was a lack of a full toolbox for this one. I expected several hijinks with the Advanced Sensors / Push the Limit combo because there’s so many ways that I use them to my advantage, and it surprised me to not see them here. And on top of that, the dice were my friend in this match. Several times I chose to spend a token to evade a mediocre attack, only to risk a more damaging shot that would end up failing to connect at all – you could read it in my opponent’s body language (and inventive verbal language) how badly he missed the Fire-Control Systems (B-Wing / TIE Phantom) that he would normally have equipped.
Carnor Jax bit the dust fairly early on, as he represented a large threat to my opponent’s token-based offense and defense, but not before one of the Aggressors was nearly destroyed. The other scum ship was dispatched quickly thereafter, as Soontir was his normal beastly self and Omega Leader showed up on offense for the first time all day, but my opponent did manage to sneak a pair of damage through onto Soontir in the process.
That’s where things got a little screwy. With plenty of time remaining in the match, and having mostly lost hope in the game and in salvaging his own run at a finish near the top, my opponent began flying very erratically, not even pretending to look for a shot. I thought for all the world that he would intentionally fly off the board in his frustration. But not wanting to give up points by doing something stupid, I remained patient and looked for good shots, which came up empty time and again. Then the turns began moving faster. And faster. Until I eventually made a mistake, in which I used Soontir’s second action to Barrel Roll into what I thought from across the table would be a better chase position, but found myself staring at an asteroid I couldn’t clear the next turn with any green maneuvers.
My opponent saw this predicament and pounced, turning back into the fight. Omega Leader bumped the Aggressor, and was unable to fire at it. And Soontir had to keep his stress, taking a speed 1 hard turn right into the sights of IG-88. One HLC shot later, and suddenly I’m losing this game. Omega Leader had to put the team on his back, and was barely able to finish the enemy off in time. It was quite frustrating to my opponent, the only action he could do that would matter was Boosting, as Omega Leader’s Target Lock prevented all other effects. But without spending that lock, all I could do was hope to eventually beat 3 evade dice with 2 focused attack dice. It eventually happened, but it took far too long for my comfort.
Result: 100-69 win
Standings: 1-1-1, 307 MoV
It’s like clockwork. Every time I come to a major tournament, I’m destined to play this guy. Our one stalwart defender of the T-65 X-Wing, I’ve played this game or ones like it out more times than I’d like to count, and it still amazes me that I might come out ahead if we go back over the results of the whole series. Wes always leads the charge, generally backed by Luke and Wedge, but there’s occasionally a different pilot mixed in. At most, an initiative bid lets me see Wedge’s move before Soontir’s, all of my other ships are moving completely blind. And in lists past, such as Cloak and Dagger led by Carnor Jax, even that wasn’t an option. Wes strips a token and/or double stresses an Interceptor via R3-A2, and then the remainder of the squad clobbers the defenseless ship over the next turn or two. Things get even rougher now with Integrated Astromech potentially adding 3 extra hit points into the list for free. It’s always an interesting cat & mouse game flying arc dodgers, and in this matchup I don’t feel like I’m the cat.
Some games, though, you’ve just got it. You’re in the zone, or as game designer David Sirlin (http://www.sirlin.net/) puts it, you’ve got “Yomi” (the ability of players to know the mind of the opponent). This was one of those games. My opponent wanted Soontir dead, and wanted him dead badly. So I denied that combat. Soontir flew straight by my opponent on the left flank, and never once let himself get caught in Wes’s arc, or much of anyone’s for that matter. Carnor Jax and Omega Leader, on the other hand, settled in with a couple of side-slipping barrel rolls to the right, and got beautiful strafing runs on the Rebels as they turned in vain to track the Baron. With Wes falling to a rapid sequence of unusually accurate attacks, Soontir then turned to engage. At that point, all trickery went out the window, and I could rely on sheer firepower to overwhelm the remaining enemy ships. It was quick, it was brutal, and I couldn’t have done it much better had I been setting my opponent’s dials for him.
Result: 100-0 win
Standings: 2-1-1, 507 MoV
Do I have to play this game? Really? Every one of these ships has something about it that makes it brutal for my list. The Y-Wing can apply multiple stress tokens to anything it can shoot. Ten Numb moves after I do, and can deal unblockable critical damage. And Poe moves after I do, has that ever-present regeneration mechanic that he never leaves home without, and that pesky ability to modify multiple results off of a single token. Short of a swarm of Feedback Array (IG-2000) equipped Z-95’s, or a Decimator carrying Vader (Lambda Shuttle) and a Gunner (Slave 1), there’s not a lot of things that my Interceptors like less than what was about to come across the table at me.
What I had in my favor, however, was experience. I had seen this player before, but she was relatively new to the game. She made comments about being surprised at how well she had done for the day, and I didn’t know it at the time, but a strong win would have put her into the cut to top eight for single elimination. I wasn’t about to let her have that strong win though, because I was close enough to the top table to do mental math and know I had a shot depending on what happened in front of me. I didn’t control my own destiny, but a loss would doom my day.
Going back to our first game of the day, and the importance of setup, I placed a few obstacles up field and near her deployment zone. I wouldn’t know where Ten Numb and Poe were going until after I had finished setup, but I had a pretty good idea based on the Y-Wing’s deployment, and formed my exact plan on the fly after seeing her final placement. And then, knowing that the general plan for Rebels against arc dodgers is to approach slowly and maintain a wide field of fire, I picked a likely point of transit for Ten Numb past an asteroid, did my mental guesswork, and sent Soontir off to the races up that flank.
My opponent obliged me with slow and deliberate movements, leaving her with no option to safely turn in Soontir’s direction as she approached the asteroid, and being caught off guard by my aggressive approach. This resulted in an unopposed shot that stripped a shield or two off of the B-Wing before the entirety of our forces could engage. This is always a clutch moment for me – with 3 ships I have to get really lucky to clear a B-Wing in a single turn, but sneak in a point or two extra on another turn and it’s a much more manageable task. And when you’re playing Interceptors, limiting Ten Numb to a single shot is pretty much the best hope you can have.
Well, that’s not entirely true. You can also hope for a shield that will soak up that crit, which Omega Leader conveniently had. Ten Numb came off the board right on schedule, and then we went to work on the rest of the list. Next up, Y-Wing, can’t risk taking any more stress than it had already applied. From there, I played more cautiously, knowing I had a win in the bag without a major screwup, and knowing my actual margin of victory no longer mattered. But Poe didn’t put up too much of a fight, only taking Carnor Jax down with him.
Result: 100-34 win
Standings: 3-1-1, 673 MoV
As I stated coming in to round 5, I didn’t control my own destiny. I was pulling hard for a friend to win his match (still going at the end), and only realized afterward that I shouldn’t have been so excited for him – he was playing an undefeated player so his opponent was in the top 8 players regardless of outcome, but his win blocked me out of the playoffs. Instead, I ended my day in 9th place out of 43.
Full tournament results, including the winning lists, can be viewed on List Juggler.
I can certainly point to a couple of mistakes I made over the course of the day, the biggest one being that I didn’t swap targets to go after Kenkirk earlier in round 2. And perhaps I was just a little too aggressive with Carnor at the end of round 1. But all in all, I’m fairly happy with this as the first run of the season, and having gotten this out of my system, I can move on to some new and exciting builds for the rest of the season. And what a busy season it will be…
– The Tabletop General