I'm fresh back from my run at the 2017 X-wing Regional Championship in Tulsa this past weekend. There was no Regional in the great state of Arkansas, so I had an excuse to go meet Team Covenant on a wild day-trip, and got to get my butt royally kicked by some very impressive players!
I've been to a fair number of competitive X-wing events, and all of them have been really good. It's a game that, for the most part, lends itself to a competitive Tournament very well, and there's enough support from FFG and various fan groups that most places do just fine.
That said, the Team Covenant crew in Tulsa, being old hats at this, ran a truly terrific tournament. Everything went like clockwork, right on time, pairings were quick and clean, and the very few ref calls were resolved very quickly. It was also a smaller event, 42 players total, which helped things go smoothly.
Plus, beer on tap, that was a big plus!
I didn't want to spend the night, so I got up at 5 a.m. Saturday morning (my car pre-loaded with apples, cliff bars, a couple varied energy drinks, and my whole X-wing collection) and drove out to make it in time for the 10 a.m. registration. All things considered, I was actually feeling pretty good when I got to the event, but I'll blame my poor performance on the early morning ;)
During my drive, I listened to 4+ hours of X-wing Podcasts I'd loaded up on, with an emphasis on recent Regionals (this being the last one of this cycle) and the current meta. There was a lot of talk of the dreaded Paratanni (Manaroo, Fen Rau, Asajj, with Attani Mindlink), a lot of talk of Triple-Defenders and Palpfenders (Palpatine in a Shuttle and two Defenders) as these were the lists, supposedly, dominating the top tables at Regionals. There was some chatter about Wave 10, particularly the Upsilon Shuttle (please people, it's UPsilon. Y'all gotta stop saying "OOPSilon," it's making Zeus cry) and little to no talk about Rebels, although Miranda/Dash was mentioned a little.
So, I took mental notes, and worked out my tactics. I'd been practicing against Defenders and Mindlink variants for months. I felt pretty good going into this. Here was my "VenGar" list:
Dengar (Jumpmaster 5000)
- Attanni Mindlink EPT
- Punishing One Title
- K4 Security Droid Crew
- Engine Upgrade Mod.
- R5-P8 (painbot)
- Inertial Dampeners
Asajj Ventriss (Lancer-Class Pursuit Craft)
- Attanni Mindlink EPT
- Gyroscopic Stabilizers
- Latts Razi Crew
- Inertial Dampeners
It's quick, it packs a punch, the Attanni was a late change - I wanted the action economy, and it replaced Lone Wolf on Dengar, because I wanted synergy, not to wait for Asajj to die to use my EPT. It also helped me token up, because if Dengar did a green, he'd get a free TL from K4, and if Asajj Focused, he'd have the coveted TL/Focus and be free to Boost or Barrel Roll into a better position. Latts Razi is too good. I tried not using her, but damn. She replaced a second K4, switching my impressive damage potential for ridiculous tankiness.
I also brought big Asteroids, because I'm very good at flying through them, having practiced with them for years. I figured Debris might help Asajj, but I'd be more likely to misjudge and clip it when flying. Fly what you know, right?
With my beer in hand, I went to my first table and found my Round 1 match!
An experienced player, and really nice dude (Eric Riddle), he'd brought a weird list, with the intention of making pros scratch their heads and wonder WTH he was thinking. But, it was actually really clever-
Ten Numb (B-wing) with Blistan, Ion Cannon, FCS
Biggs Darklighter (T-65 X-wing)
Nien Nunb (T-70 X-wing)
So. I didn't know what to make of that at first. I did know it was a *terrible* matchup for him. Large ships, turret/semi-turret, and his Regen, while not zero, was not great. He had Integrated Astromechs and some other upgrades to mitigate it, but right off the bat he admitted it was an uphill battle.
But, I played like an idiot, and it worked because I had every advantage. I more or less flew straight at him and did more damage than I took.
The photo above was the final move. Asajj was around half HP with an Ion token, Numb was down to I think two Hull with Stress, tough spot. At the end of the previous turn, I'd rotated my Mobile Arc to the left side - I'd assumed that was broadcasting my intentions, when I did the 2-bank to the right for a broadside, he blurted "I didn't think you'd be that stupid!" then turned beet red and apologized profusely. But he quickly explained, with 1 Ion token, at that range, I was basically guaranteed a second (Blistan allowing Ten to change one Hit to an un-cancellable Crit) and would fly off the table. In planning his maneuver, he'd assumed I was bluffing with my Arc turn.
As it was, he rolled cold, I rolled hot - not only did Asajj not take any damage (or Ion), but she finished off Ten. So ultimately, it was a bold risk, but not an awful one.
Still, despite starting off with a loss, he went on to do considerably better than me in overall rankings. I'm glad he had a good day!
Had I been at least a little cautious, I would have had a very good chance of going 100-0 in this match. As it was, I lost Dengar, and Asajj was down by half for 100-57, so my MOV (margin of victory) was 143.
Our match was very quick. Because I pushed the first engagement recklessly, and I was flying 2-ship to his 3-ship, we had a solid half hour to banter and grab a beer before Round 2-
Round 2 was, predictably, a much tougher match. My Opponent (Logan Jones) and I had each won our first round, and he'd only lost one ship, where I'd lost 3/4 of my list. He was running a three-ship, Sabine in her TIE with Adaptability, Jake Farrell with the usual VI/PTL combo, Autothrusters and Proton Rockets. He also brought my most hated nemesis, Miranda Doni, with Twin Laser Turret (TLT), Conner Nets, and Homing Missiles.
Ordnance. And bad Ordnance for me - that's two ships custom built to eat Large Ships for breakfast.
I was more cautious this time. Not only because I wanted to avoid those missiles, but because I was somewhat aware of how I'd screwed up my engagement in the first game. With the TIE and A-wing's 2-die Primary attacks, I wasn't really worried about those, but I knew I had to take down Miranda if I got the chance, and I could finish Jake next.
Now, I knew about Sabine's ability - before revealing a maneuver, you may perform a Boost or Barrel Roll - but I hadn't fully grasped how fast she was, or how good of a blocker she could be in the right hands. You can see in the picture above, Asajj is poised to overshoot and flank his mob, while Dengar is pointed to Joust, but my Maneuver was a right bank, to try to get around the hard-Left I assumed Jake was doing.
What happened though was that Ahsoka Boosted Left, then pulled a 3-Left Bank to land smack in the middle of where Asajj was going (block), which then pushed her back far enough to stop Dengar's slow-Bank (double block!)
The one saving grace was that Jake had done some harder-left dancing to wind up in front of Asajj at R1, but out of his Arc, so no Prockets this turn. I wound up taking the Adv. Homing Missiles square in the face with Dengar, although that gave him two rounds of shooting and the Painbot at Miranda, all of which he took. He went down to mid-hull, shields down (yikes!) but her shields were down and she'd taken some Hull damage as well. Asajj took a shot at Jake and dropped his Shields as well. Things looked kind of ok, but not great.
Shortly thereafter, Jake finally got that Procket shot, and between that and the TLT, Dengar went down, and Asajj was hurting. She kited and tanked, doing well. In one turn, Miranda rammed her (saving grace!) and so was unable to drop the Conner Net that would have ended the game right there. However, in the following turn, she led with a 1-straight and did drop the net, but misjudged by the tiniest margin:
Woo! No flying off the board for me!
After this was taken, Asajj took some damage, but finished off Miranda, before Jake and Sabine finished her off. Tough game, those missiles really messed me up, and although I'm sure I could have done better, this was going to be a very hard match for me no matter what. I did get some points, so I wasn't doing so badly (yet) with a 51-100 loss. This one wasn't surprising, and it some ways I'd lost in list-building, but more than anything that one Block, getting me totally out of position and a full turn with no Actions on the first engagement... ouch. In short, I was brutally out-flown, no shame in that!
On to Round 3!
A really nice guy named Tim (didn't catch the last name), we'd both gotten beat up Round 2, but were still doing all right at Table 11. At Round 3, really good performances from here on out could still get us in good standing.
But, right off the bat, I felt kinda bad. He again brought Miranda, with TLT, but this time with Sabine Crew, Conner Net, and two TLT Gold Squadron Y-wings, one with a Stressbot. Not a bad list, but one that mine should just bulldoze straight through. Lacking quick damage options, his TLT's would be hard-pressed to take my ships out before I took them down.
First Engagement, a few pot-shots, Asajj lost some shields, and Miranda opted not to shoot at Dengar, so as not to be shot twice. I took two shields off her, but had to be satisfied with that. Then, this happened:
Dengar had pulled a Hard Right 1, which was going straight through that Conner net and bumping Miranda. I *should* have just done it, but I opted for the R1 shot at Miranda and popped my Inertial Dampeners. I got a volley at Miranda, took her shields down, and stripped shields off the Y-wing that had shot Dengar, and lost shields on Asajj in return (Miranda and one Y-wing both shot at her, the one shooting Dengar whiffed).
I was doing fine here, and I was more than a little cocky, especially since his last maneuver hadn't gone at all to plan, so I had Dengar pull a left 2-sloop (white) and cleanly avoided the Conner Net.
...But that clipped the corner of the board, and I lost a full-health Dengar in one fell swoop. Easily my bottom, worst, most shameful and stupid moment *ever* flying in X-wing. And with a ship I've flown for years straight, no less. God. Dammit. Not only that, but it handed an out-matched opponent and easy win. Asajj took out one Y-wing, and almost the second, but Miranda kited, and I just couldn't pull the game out with 1 ship.
I was now sitting at 1-2, with a 26-100 loss in Round 3. Ouch. So much for doing well.
But, what the hell, I was here to see it through, and I played on.
That said, I was feeling the hours by this point, so I dragged myself a few doors down to get a mammoth burrito, and I ate that sucker like it was my first meal in a year. During that (my last game had ended REALLY fast) I checked out a neighbor's list. He'd been having an absolute blast all day with this malarky:
Now, he wasn't winning much, but he was putting up a good fight and really enjoying himself. So rock on, man!
We shared a good laugh, and I went on to Round 4.
What the shit.
My opponent was Matt Dykes, and he was simply the nicest guy in the world, but he had built the single most frustrating list I've ever played against, and played it well. It was a Rebel Sympathizer, with Rey and Threepio Crew, and the Evade Title. Flying behind him was Lando Calrissian, in another Falcon, rocking Luke Skywalker and some other upgrades I don't remember. What he did was deploy both Falcons on one corner of the board, pointed directly at the far corner, then slow-shark his way around the board. He used Green maneuvers at R1 to let Lando feed Focus tokens to the mook, who was also Focusing and feeding Rey all day long. I knew attrition was not my friend here, so I rocketed out and went straight for the Sympathizer, intending to chainsaw through it as quickly as possible.
What he did from here on out was fly in a tight line, the Sympathizer staying out of easy range taking pot-shots and forcing me to shoot at Lando, who flew a little more slowly. I took Lando down fairly quickly, but in the exchange I lost Dengar (theme, much?)
The rest of the game was just frustrating and sad. With Rey, the Evade action, and Threepio, I had to deal three hits *minimum* to even push a damage through. Rey's constant Focuses were spent for defense, shooting back, or re-banked. It was his 8-hull to my 7, then 7 to my 5, then 6 to my 3...
And so on.
In the end, predictably, I lost. I wasn't rolling hot enough on Offense and rolling garbage on Defense, but I lost the second Dengar died. 1-on-1 there's almost nothing out there that can out-attrition that ship, and I hated everything about it. I mean, it was clever. It was flexible. It was forgiving to fly, and staggering Lando and his "mook" that way was top-notch play for that list, but it just didn't feel like playing.
Sigh. I did so much damage, I wound up with a respectable 78-100 loss, my best since Round 1, but I didn't feel good about it, myself, or my list at all :/
Last but not least, Round 5!
Oh look. More Rebels.
No shame on Tim Shaefer here, he made a great list, and he flew it really well. I was depressed as all hell from my crushing mistake and throwing away my first truly easy match of the day, and then punching a metaphorical wall until it fell on me. Also, I'd played four rounds that reinforced my same critical mistake: Dengar is not a Jouster. He's an Ace, an Arc-Dodger, a murdery survivor and a game-closer. You should *not* fly him face-first into three-ship Rebel lists, and he shouldn't be the first ship to die unless you screw up or get caught off-guard.
Matt's list was Braelyn Strahm, Biggs, and the PS9 Poe Dameron, a truly classy Rebel three-ship designed for damage output in ways I'd never seen before.
You can already see my classic mistake: Jousting. Round 1, I Jousted, and I got lucky. Round 2, I'd tried not to, and was brilliantly blocked and forced into Jousting. Rounds 3 and 4, I'd been facing Turret ships, so it didn't matter if I Jousted or not.
This time though, I should have known better, and tried harder to control that first engagement. As it was I was tired, grumpy, sad, and still a little cocky seeing another three-ship Rebel list.
In hindsight, it is not remotely surprising that I got murdered this game, 0-100. Tim was amazing, leap-frogging Biggs and Braelyn so I had to split-fire between them, allowing him to keep both alive. Poe was every bit the Ace I expected, and neatly finished out the game. This one was never even close.
Kudos to Tim for writing and playing that list, and I'm surprised he didn't wind up higher in the rankings than Table 10.
At the end of the day, Defenders, Mindlink, and Party Busses were all over the top 10 tables, with some few Rebels (like Eric Riddle from Round 1, swooping up to 8th seat!) squeaking in. I never even saw another Scum or Imperial ship on the table, where I was sitting, it was all Rebels all day long, and I was totally unprepared for that.
But, at the end of the day, I'm still really happy I went :)
I always learn something at these events, but also it was just nice to say I did it. I got one of the Red Ace alternate-art cards, which is a cool thing to take home, and I was the only person from all of Arkansas who made the hike. I still think my list is very potent, but it doesn't fit my play style all that well, and frankly after the better part of a year practicing it, I'm ready to fly something different. That said, if I were to fly it again, I would fly it like this:
- Push the Limit
- Seismic Torpedo
- Engine Upgrade
- Punishing One Title
- K4 Security Droid
- Scavenger Crane
- Unhinged Astromech
- A Score to Settle
- Latts Razi
- Inertial Dampeners
If I'm going to fly like an Ace, let's really fly like an Ace! Action economy makes Dengar what he is, and PTL lets me get some of that Mindlink economy, while also allowing me to Boost/Barrel Roll in the same turn for those critical repositions. Unhinged Astro. is one of my favorite cards conceptually, and if I'm going to be stressing, I need to have more Green maneuvers - which also makes K4 more flexible.
Seismic Torpedo/Scavenger Crane were impulse adds, I may swap them out for Gyroscopic Targeting and some other Illicit on Dengar. I used the heck out of GT in my tournament, but I also want to try Seismic Torpedoes for their "free" damage, ability to remove obstacles, and potential to reduce kiting by Dash or Miranda, and deal a little damage to both massed ships and beyond Range 3.
Asajj is still in it because she is a good Wingwoman, and a solid ship. Latts and ID are cheap and powerful, and A Score to Settle is a cheap way to amp her damage output, which is what I found I was most lacking while flying her. It's also very much in-character, which helps ;)
That's what I've got for now, I hope I haven't bored you too much, and I'll be writing more about X-wing along with my other posts in the near future!