Playing with the big boys (again)

The intro…

Sometimes life is just, well, a bit odd. Never more so (in my lifetime at least!) than in these times of covid I suppose but while huge, historical world changing events are, by their very nature, unusual and noteworthy, sometimes the smaller, more day to day things can also be just a bit strange.

‘What on earth is he wittering on about?!’ you ask? Well let me explain. My second season of the Sith Taker league hadn’t really started too well. I’d lost my first 2 games and looked to be on course to repeat a similar record to last season (which was 1-7).

Then in the 3rd week I got a bye. One win for me I guess.

In the 4th week I had changed list (from Dash based to Rey based), was matched with an opponent who was tired and distracted and got some ridiculous dice in my favour. Two wins then.

In the 5th week I straight up won a game. Three wins now?

So what happened in week 6? Well, I was paired with someone who was supposed to have been dropped but hadn’t. After a short exchange of messages in the Discord channel as the TO checked if I could be paired with someone else, I was given a default win.

So here I am with a 4-2 record looking really impressive but actually 2 of those wins were byes and one felt like I stole it.

Anyone order a totally irrelevant cat meme? No? You sure?

I will add though that over the course of ANY 6 game tournament run (in person or online, 1.0 or 2.0, hyperspace or extended), this is actually the best I have EVER done.

(Well, sort of. I did go 3-1 in a 1.0 tournament which is technically a better win percentage but it was over less games so…)

It does feel a *little* cheap an unearned if I’m honest but I can’t control player drops or dice.

So why am I telling you this? Its basically a really convoluted way of saying I had no arranged game this week.

The end.

Nah, not really!

If you’ve been following my blogs then let me take you back a few weeks to when I took part in Phil GC’s birthday tournament (which I covered over several posts: one, two, three, four). I’ve never been too enthused at the prospect of a ‘2 day, 6 games Swiss with cut’ style tournament online. It doesn’t fit with my lifestyle (even in lockdown!) and, while I don’t normally spend all day in front of a screen in an office (or at home) for work, I just don’t want to spend my time that way.

Phil’s tournament was just 4 games, was really good fun and a great challenge for me (well, for everyone I guess but for me in particular!).

In the aftermath of the day, another Phil spoke up. Phil Pond (of the Firestorm Firecast) said he liked it so much that he wanted to do the same thing for his birthday.

I had enjoyed the day for many reasons, social interaction, the challenge of playing great players, getting several games in a row (rather than just one a week). Would I take the opportunity to do it again? Absolutely!

And so, just about 2 months on from the last event, the date had arrived.

So, all signed up, it was time to pick a list. Ok, it’s not much of a choice really. I’ve flown the Rey-Wings for two proper games (because Fly Casual doesn’t quite count) and so if I want to get as many reps as I can before AMG decide to nuke this Rey build, this is an opportunity I should take.

Rey (68)
Korr Sella (6)
Rose Tico (9)
Finn (9)
Rey’s Millennium Falcon (2)

Ship total: 94 Half Points: 47 Threshold: 6

Tallissan Lintra (37)
Heroic (2)
Proton Rockets (5)
Advanced Optics (5)

Ship total: 49 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 2

Zizi Tlo (41)
Heroic (2)
Proton Rockets (5)
Advanced Optics (5)

Ship total: 53 Half Points: 27 Threshold: 2

Total: 196

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Resistance&d=v8ZsZ200Z244XWW245W173W174WWW193Y240X172WW102W186Y387X172WW102W186&sn=Rey-Wings&obs=coreasteroid5,core2asteroid1,core2asteroid2

It’s fairly straightforward and pretty well known by now but in case you’re not aware, the main ‘trick’ is this:

Rey can roll to attack (3 dice or 4 at range 1), add a blank result with Finn gunner, spend a result (normally the blank) to gain a lock with Rose crew, then spend it immediately to reroll. Rey can then spend focus or Force for eyeballs and, provided the defender is in your front arc, even spend Force to change blank results to hits.

In addition, Rose crew and Finn gunner can be used when defending.

It’s rather filthy and does somewhat feel like cheating but while it’s legal and affordable, I’ll use it.

The A-Wings try to draw fire from Rey and can swoop in to (hopefully) wreck things with Proton Rockets before disengaging and firing on the way out.

So, list is picked, let’s get on with the games!

The batreps… (JARGON ALERT!!)

As before, this tournament was jammed full of X-Wing dignitaries and champions.

And me.

We gathered in Discord voice chat as we loaded our lists in YASB, ready to import into TTS and discussed lists and lateness. Sadly Mr World Champ Oli Pocknell wasn’t able to make it but it was still very much a field of VERY good and vastly experienced players.

I was equal parts excited and nervous. Last time I managed to go 2-2 (which I considered a huge achievement!) but I recognised the very real possibility that I could go 0-4 here (not that there’s any shame in that, particularly given the calibre of players!).

And so, first pairings were made…

Game 1 – Dom Flannigan

Ok then, here we go. First game is against Firestorm Firecast member and Worlds Top 32 finisher Mr Dom Flannigan. Cool. We have chatted before when I’ve played on the Firestorm stream but not played. I finally have full house on the Firestorm Firecast bingo card.

As we load up TTS I take a look at his list. Very interesting…

Lyttan Dree (37)
Synced Laser Cannons (6)
Target-Assist MGK-300 (3)

Ship total: 46 Half Points: 23 Threshold: 4

Alpha Squadron Pilot (31)
Ship total: 31 Half Points: 16 Threshold: 2

Alpha Squadron Pilot (31)
Ship total: 31 Half Points: 16 Threshold: 2

Alpha Squadron Pilot (31)
Ship total: 31 Half Points: 16 Threshold: 2

Alpha Squadron Pilot (31)
Ship total: 31 Half Points: 16 Threshold: 2

“Wampa” (28)
Ship total: 28 Half Points: 14 Threshold: 2

Total: 198

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Galactic%20Empire&d=v8ZsZ200Z418XW354WWW356Y182XWY182XWY182XWY182XWY221X&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

In this build Dom is using the Brute like Howlrunner, giving rerolls to his swarm ships. However, rather than using standard TIE fighters, Dom has the points to make four of them TIE interceptors and then add Wampa in just for fun.

The target priority is clearly the TIE/rb but will I be able to get to it?

Dom’s setup was very good, spreading his ships across his side of the board with Wampa and Lyttan (the least manoeuvrable) in the middle. Not matter where I started he’d be able to head to me fairly quckly.

As we reached the first engagement there was a very real possibility that I’d be able to wipe three of his ships off the board before firing.

It did not go that way.

I missed bullseye with Zizi (but only just) and failed to do any damage at range 1 to that TIE. Tallie got bullseye on an interceptor but it was obstructed and only rolled paint on 2 dice. Sad times. 2 shots, no damage.

Rey made up for it by wiping out the interceptor sitting in front of her.

But.

Dom had got Lyttan into Rey’s side arc (just) and so EVERYONE got rerolls. All 5 ships fired at Rey and between his rerolls and my green blanks he got through EXACTLY the right amount of damage to kill Rey. In one turn. 20 minutes into the game.

Ok, sure.

Tallie vs the world.

As much as it should have been over there I kept going and managed to last out another half an hour or so before finally succumbing to concentrated fire.

Not an ideal start but this was never going be an easy day!

Result: 59 – 200 loss

Conclusion – A combination of tough matchup (for me, I think anyway… it’s either that or I suck), great dice (for Dom, in the first engagement at least…) and dodgy positioning (for me) meant that I wasn’t ever in this once Rey was gone. Note to self – dodge the swarm matchup!

Game 2 – Julian Hood

As we gather again in the general Discord chat room ready for parings, Phil GC casually mentions something along the lines of there being 5 players in the 0-1 bracket who went to Worlds and three of those made the cut.

Oh boy.

The curse of TTT strikes again and I’m paired up to a 1-0 player. And not just any 1-0 player, it’s Julian Hood. Yes, 186th Squadron member, serial X-Wing player (apparently averaging 30 games a week, give or take) and very much top tier player, Julian Hood.

I don’t fancy my chances.

We load up TTS and I look at his list and, just for a second, I’m thrown.

It’s Dash. Julian is flying Dash.

Dash Rendar (85)
Trick Shot (4)
Bistan (10)
Kanan Jarrus (12)
False Transponder Codes (2)

Ship total: 113 Half Points: 57 Threshold: 5

Lando Calrissian (78)
Trick Shot (4)
Nien Nunb (5)

Ship total: 87 Half Points: 44 Threshold: 7

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Rebel%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z39X133WW77W41WWW369Y43X133WWW52WWWW&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

Interesting.

In terms of target priority, it’s kind of a 50/50 split. Lando isn’t as dangerous as Dash in terms of damage output which would make Dash the priority, but at the same time, Lando makes Dash more dangerous by giving him free actions. Remove Lando, reduce Dash’s effectiveness.

Being that Julian is a top level player I’m probably just going to have to see how he approaches and shoot what’s in arc.

The opening few turns are VERY cagey as Julian runs both ships up and down his own board edge.

As the A-Wings edge closer to, well, whichever ship is in the area when they get there, Rey starts to turn in.

At a crucial point I go straight and bank boost with Rey when (as discussed afterwards with Julian) I should have turned in over the debris for a range 1 unanswered shot into Dash.

The big ships try to exchange damage but it’s slow going except for Dash getting Tallie to half from range.

Julian gets both ships inthe middle of the board and decides not to boost with Lando. Rey turns in behind (avoiding the bump by a VERY small margin) to sit at range 1 of both ships. My A-Wings turn to get rear arcs on target and between them all Lando is wiped out while Rey survives on 1 health.

However, Dash has taken just one damage while Rey is severely limping and Tallie is halved.

Up to now I have very much only stayed in the game because of dice. Rey should be dead and Lando probably shouldn’t. Julian is able to work out predicted/average hits in his head, on the fly (which I most certainly can’t) and I’ve managed to get over the average several times in a row.

However.

It’s now time for me to make an enormous error.

Wanting to run with Rey to preserve points I decide for a 4 straight, intending to boost out of Dash’s range.

But

I forgot Rey was stressed. (as a side note, I seem to miss tokens a LOT with the pancake ships covering them!). So it’s a white 2 straight. Dash shoots. Rey is dead. Poop.

As we continue I manage to chip damage onto Dash, eventually getting him down to just 1 health.

In return though Julian has got half points on both Tallie and Zizi.

As we get down to just a handful of minutes left I’ve made a hash of Tallie’s positioning, meaning she can’t get a shot on Dash (but can’t be shot in return I suppose). Zizi zooms in for a suicide shot.

If it stays as it is then Julian will win 146-144. If I can get just 1 damage onto Dash, I win no matter what.

Dash fires and kills Zizi. Expected.

Zizi fires and rolls THE worst combination of dice for Heroic/Optics A-Wings – it’s blank and eyeball.

I spend the focus for 1 hit.

Julian rolls.

Blank eyeball. He spends the Kanan force and lives.

Talk about a close finish!

Result: 144 – 172 loss

Conclusion – What.A.Game! Admittedly I was rather unjustly still in it right to the end but sometimes the dice just decide go your way. If I hadn’t gone for the red 4 straight with a stressed Rey (or, more to the point, if I’d seen the !&#!?! token…) then I’d have saved 47 points of Rey and won it. In all honesty though I’m just chuffed to have pushed it this close.

Game 3 – Steve Boulton

After a quick break for lunch the round 3 pairings were done and Steve and I were drawn together.

Having met at last year’s System Open (which feels like sooooo long ago now) when he played against Cai, we got chatting and kept in touch. We have played each other twice since then, once in Steve’s Vagabond Open tournaments and once at the Cardiff Firestorm Store Championship back in September. Steve won both games.

Time for revenge?

Steve was running 4 Resistance A-Wings, made popular by Marcel Manzano of Gold Squadron Podcast.

Merl Cobben (32)
Intimidation (3)

Ship total: 35 Half Points: 18 Threshold: 2

Seftin Vanik (37)
Heroic (2)
Marksmanship (1)
Proton Rockets (5)
Advanced Optics (5)

Ship total: 50 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 2

Zizi Tlo (41)
Heroic (2)
Marksmanship (1)
Proton Rockets (5)
Advanced Optics (5)

Ship total: 54 Half Points: 27 Threshold: 2

Tallissan Lintra (37)
Heroic (2)
Marksmanship (1)
Proton Rockets (5)
Advanced Optics (5)

Ship total: 50 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 2

Total: 189

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Resistance&d=v8ZsZ200Z444X122WWY447X172W125W102W186Y387X172W125W102W186Y240X172W125W102W186&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

Ok, it could be tricky to actually get something into Rey’s front arc since Steve has the bid and makes me first player.

He spreads his ships across his side of the board as we start while I group my ships in a corner to try and creep out slowly.

A steady engage brings us to plinking distance but Steve’s Tallie clips a debris.

Sad Tallie. Well, one them is sad.

Thinking that it’s worth a try, my Zizi and Tallie fire at Steve’s Tallie and take a shield each. Giving in to the temptation, I shift Rey’s target from Zizi (who is clearly going to throw Proton Rockets in my face) to Tallie and manage to get the last 2 damage on to finish her off.

Feels harsh. Steve says that’s probably the game done there but we’ll carry on.

Steve’s Zizi unloads Prockets into Rey’s face but Rey loses just 2 shields.

The following turn sees Steve lose half of Merl in exchange for Rey’s last shield and a damage card, plus a shield from Zizi.

The turn after that though is a bloodbath.

My Tallie fires Proton Rockets at Merl (who dies) and Rey and Zizi (mine) fire at Zizi (Steve’s). She dies too.

With my full list now lining up against just Seftin, Steve concedes the game with 40 minutes left on the clock.

We go on to have a good chat and while I usually like to end a game with ‘good game’, I actually can’t bring myself to say it this time because actually, it wasn’t. One marginal mistake from Steve combined with some decent dice from me ended the game before it really got anywhere.

It was great to chat with Steve though and despite finishing so early we are dropped in on to ‘see how we’re doing’ (i.e. hurry up and finish so we can draw the next round!). Among other things we discussed how playing against better players helps us to improve, even if getting your butt kicked over and over doesn’t feel great during the process!.

Result: 200 – 0 win

Conclusion – A rather freakish whitewash result but also highlights the power of Rey. Overall I was happy with how I approached the game and think I could have done ok even without the mistake from Steve.

Game 4 – Phillip Pond

For the last round (and with a couple of people dropping through the day), I was drawn against the birthday boy! I have played against Phil before, in the Vagabond Open back last year some time. I can’t remember much detail off the top of my head, only that I lost! Still, I’m feeling positive off the back of my win and then I see Phil’s list.

Ketsu Onyo (66)
Fearless (3)
Zam Wesell (4)
Contraband Cybernetics (3)
Shadow Caster (1)

Ship total: 77 Half Points: 39 Threshold: 5

Palob Godalhi (40)
Deadman’s Switch (2)
Moldy Crow (16)

Ship total: 58 Half Points: 29 Threshold: 3

Dengar (53)
Contraband Cybernetics (3)
Punishing One (5)
R5-P8 (4)

Ship total: 65 Half Points: 33 Threshold: 5

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Scum%20and%20Villainy&d=v8ZsZ200Z126X121W336W92WWW160Y112XWWW93WWW156Y115XWWWWW92WW159W8&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

What the crap is this?!

I’ve talked in blogs before about knowing yourself, knowing your weaknesses and strengths and how to get better you need to be aware of them to leverage them as necessary.

One of my (many) weaknesses is my knowledge of/experience against Scum. I’ve never faced Zam or Palob and as Phil runs through list list before we play, the main highlight that I catch is that Ketsu has the capability of tractoring Rey since she can dish out 3 tractor tokens in a single turn. Nasty.

I have the bid and make Phil first player since hopefully it’ll help me deal with Ketsu. We place obstacles and ships and all the while I’m thinking about target priority and approach and coming up blank.

In the (eventual) opening exchange I get two shields from Ketsu and one from Dengar with nothing in return. Not bad.

Then Ketsu dives in at Rey and manages to pull off the tractor trick, sending Rey one forwards over a debris while, in the same turn, Palob steals Zizi’s focus (an ability that I’d totally forgotten about), preventing Zizi from firing Prockets at Ketsu.

Damn you Scum!!

Rey dies the following turn (initiative killed by Dengar) and in exchange I get shields from Palob, 1 more shield from Dengar (self inflicted from the R5-P8 crew) and get some significant damage into Ketsu.

After some nifty A-Wing work (even if I say so myself!), I manage to kill Dengar and start working on Ketsu.

My approach isn’t amazing though and shieldless Tallie ends up range 1 of her and she gets tractored in and killed.

Tallie, pre-tractored.

However, Phil has tractored her into bullseye and the dying Tallie unleashes Proton Rockets into Ketsu’s face.

I can’t remember the exact combination of dice results but between Tallie’s Prockets and Zizi’s range 1 shot Ketsu takes 4 hits and survives on 1 hull.

With time running out Zizi turns to run, finishing Ketsu with an unanswered rear arc shot and while we play out what felt like a record number of turns in just 6 minutes, Zizi can’t get that single point of damage I need to half point Palob.

Result: 142 – 70 loss

Conclusion – That was close. A bit like the game against Julian it all hung on the last dice roll but didn’t go my way. I feel like this one might have been a bit more justified than against Julian though. Rey being double tapped and tractored to take her out was almost certainly avoidable if I’d had a better understanding of what was going on but overall I’m not too unhappy with the game.

The conclusion…

On the surface, yes, technically it’s a worse overall result than the last tournament for Phil GC’s birthday.

However, aside from the first game where Dom’s swarm stomped all over Rey, my win was good (although maybe a little fortuitous to be quite so convincing) and my losses were close, pretty much as close (in terms of margins of dice rolling rather than points differences) as you could get. And all this against a very tough field of really good players.

Not bad.

In the end Lloyd Boman won it, going 4-0. I have no idea what list he flew since I didn’t play him and he didn’t publish his list! Still, anyone who managed to 4-0 in this group of players is doing very well indeed.

So, how do I feel about the list now it’s had a ‘proper run out’?** I feel like playing consecutive games close together like this really help me to better understand it’s strengths and weaknesses and what I should/shouldn’t do, much more so than playing it once a week.

(** not that my other games with this list don’t count! See the rest of the paragraph for context!)

Rey seems to flip flop between being devastating (and not dying) and somewhat inconvenient (and dying quickly). Still, as long as she puts out a not insignificant amount of damage before burning down, I’m reasonably happy.

But the A-Wings.

It turns out that I may in fact be a bit better with A-Wings than I thought I might be. I think that many reps with Jake in an RZ-1 when flying with Dash has helped me grasp the dial and the fact that these ones can shoot out the butt as they run away is just so good. I do miss the double reposition AND focus that Jake gets but you can’t have it all I suppose!

I did find that I very frequently forgot the pilot abilities though (special thanks to Phil Pond who pro-actively reminded me to use Zizi’s charge AT LEAST 3 times!), Tallie in particular. In fact I looked at changing Tallie to Seftin (whose ability is so forgettable that I can’t even be bothered to look it up for this reference!) until I realised they’re the same points cost.

Either way, I do like the list.

On a slight tangent, last week’s Fly Better podcast was a really excellent listen and did an amazing job at breaking down list archetypes into categories that I better understand. I’m hoping to be able to use this knowledge to better analyse my opponents lists in future and help me to quickly come up with an effective (or at least non-catastrophic) plan for approach.

I say all of that to say this – looking at what lists I’ve favoured over the last year or so it seems that Battleship + X is preferred list archetype. Rey, Dash, Lando, Hera, they’re all in there.

There’s no real purpose to me sharing that, I just really liked the episode and it made me think about it.

Aaaanyway, that’s more than enough ramble from me. Thanks for reading and feel free to pop back next week for me to talk about my next game in the Sith Takers league!

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