As you are reading this, I am under two weeks out from leaving for Indianapolis in advance of Gencon. My car pool leaves Fredericton on Friday evening, July 24th, arriving in Indy Sunday morning after spending some time at Gettysburg. Due to the number of people in the car (and the length of the trip at ten days), we are very limited on the amount of luggage each of us are allowed to bring.
My father is one of the premier level DMs for Dungeons and Dragons over the weekend, so a large portion of the trunk space will be taken up by plastic cases with D&D terrain and models representing the monsters and villains he will be presenting to his players. This means that there isn't room for a 4000 count box of Neturnner cards or a full-sized toolbox full of X-Wing models.
Before I leave for work on Friday the 24th, I need to know not only what my forces will be in X-Wing (and my decks in Netrunner) but I need to know the exact makeup of them to a very large degree. I will be able to spot room for a dozen or so extra cards in either game in my fleet box and deck box; but I'll need to have 90% of my stuff decided and practiced before I leave a week before the events are set to occur!
This has left me more than a little anxious as it relates to my options. In X-Wing I feel more confident with Imperials than Rebels or Scum. I have more recent experience (and positive experience) with the Decimator than any other single ship in the game - so perhaps my best bet is to go with something simple like a two-ship decimator list in order to make my own gameplay easier.
I'm an Imperial player, like I've said before - I've tried out Rebels and Scum in events and felt neither did the things I really wanted to do. I like the zip-zooping of flying a TIE Interceptor, and the deep-seeded menace you feel as you slowly pilot your battleship across the starfield.
Rebels are defined by their ability to tank. They have more shields, more ways to support one another defensively, and their ability to leverage their high health threshold in order to progress through the phases of the game (the Advance, the Joust and the Chase), far tougher than the fragile, agile Imperial ships.
Scum are currently hard to define ,they don't have enough ships to have a truly defined identity within the framework of the game. They tend to be worse at jousting than TIEs, and better at chasing than B-Wings. So far there is a hybrid feeling to the faction, with more shields on average than Imperials, and better dials on average than Rebels... but it is this jack-of-all-trades aspect to the faction that has so far kept them out of the winner's circle. They just aren't AMAZING at any particular aspect of the game. They can't tank well enough to fly elite squads, and they don't fly well enough to be able to really effectively swarm along the TIE Fighters vein.
So I will be flying Imperials. I'm used to the way imperial ships fly (Hard ones, without straight ones), and I'm used to the way Imperial ships progress through the phases (weak on the approach, better able to joust, and once the joust is broken up, they can more easily chase than the Rebels). Their principal weakness is fragility - a weakness compounded by the number of high-PS turrets in the metagame - if your super quick and fragile ships are getting gunned down even while they are leading in the chase, you aren't going to have a very easy time of things.
This is the situation in which I found myself at Regionals - I was flying a Firespray with two elite Interceptors, and my game plan wasn't strong in the metagame. I faced Brobots in the first round and got destroyed because I hadn't really solidified my plan at that point. After that point, I faced Decimators, Falcons, and Firesprays the rest of the afternoon. I was very good at mitigating the weakness of the Imperials in the Approach by deploying off center and advancing in a way so as to break up formations, but when it came time to break up the joust, I was always down a ship, and unable to capitalize on the Imperials advantage in the Chase.
I feel as though my main error was in changing the gameplan in the list the night before. Originally the list ran the Firespray up the middle as an anvil; while the twin Interceptors angled up one side supporting each other as they scatter (and hopefully expose) the weakest flank.
At Regionals, I changed my mind on this plan, and ran Soontir Fel as a solo flanker, and put Jax with the Firespray in the middle. This was a horrible choice, as Soontir was usually able to make it into the Joust, but having a fragile interceptor in the middle meant that Jax was almost always taking the brunt of the first volley (almost always getting destroyed in the process).
This almost always wound up costing me the game, as my Bounty Hunter isn't built around being a long-term fire-support solution. This allows my opponent to break away off the approach early and begin jousting with a ship that isn't really designed for a rushed joust. The firespray is a "jousting" ship, but without any added abilities it is really just a glorified shuttle with an extra agility die and a somewhat better dial. In a Joust situation, you aren't able to leverage your rear firing arc as aptly as you can during the chase, where you can let the enemy get behind you, and still get your red dice into the fray.
I misinterpreted the roles of my ships, figuring that Jax supporting the Firespray would allow me to generate more red dice in the early phase of the game. This misinterpretation of my role was devastating as I wound up going 1-5 in the event - losing the ship early on each game put me at an unrecoverable deficit in every game I lost. And the only game I won was one in which I reverted to my original Hammer/Anvil setup from my testing.
All of this is simply to point to the fact that I was unprepared to fly my ships to the best of their ability and this failure to prepare an effective game plan led to getting rolled over in multiple consecutive games against lists I feel I might have been able to defeat had I not been a doofus.
So for Nationals, I would like to avoid being a doofus. I want to maximize my ability to survive the Approach, and leverage my strength in the Joust portion in order to get to the late game with my most valuable assets intact. This means that I want to make my list as tanky as possible (for an imperial list) and also be able to joust and chase effectively.
This leads me to Decimator/Interceptor. I know, this is super boring, but it is the best way to present a juicy target with tons of hit points in the approach to distract the opponent away from focus firing down the Interceptor which is able to leverage its agility dice and incredibly forgiving dial during the Joust. So that makes things very clear for me in terms of X-Wing, and I've been working on figuring out the correct 100 point Deci/Ceptor list that will help me execute the gameplan that I've devised for myself.
Prior to Regionals, I had been experimenting with a number of lists that were based around the Decimator/Phantom list I ran at the Gamezilla Store Championships, which you can see in action here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YidhBMm3mQk&list=PLigNMABBJz2d0MKuELTReukLZL3IdIB9b With the fact that the Phantom has been nerfed (at least enough that I don’t know if I am capable enough to pilot it at Nationals levels), I went to the Interceptor as the flavour of the month. I focused on making the Interceptor survive into the late game… so far this is just the same as everyone’s damned Chiraneau/Fel list!
The difference was in the Decimator - as I focused on maximizing the damage output on the boat by loading it with upgrades such as expose, darth vader and gunner. For Nationals, I’ve realized that the best way to leverage the list is to ensure the maximum survivability. The more turns the ship survives, the more red dice I get to throw!
To that end, I will be loading up this time on upgrades such as Rebel Captive, Ysanne Issard and Engine Upgrade, in order to ensure my opponents have to think twice before sinking my battleship. I’m really looking forward to giving this a try, and I’ll be sure to update you on my experiences with a tankier list in the next update!
Next week, I’ll be tackling Netrunner - unlike X-Wing, I can’t just get away with running “old faithful”... Old Faithful just isn’t in the cards for me!