Down the Rabbit Hole

The intro…

Welcome to this week’s blog!

It’s been a somewhat quieter one for me all round with the second positive covid result in the house (my youngest son) coming literally the day after Cai went back to school. So my qife has still been working from home and I’ve been working as normal but limiting my non-essential stuff since it’s harder for Toby to isolate within the house.

While I was willing to go to Firestorm (following a negative PCR test), it seems that everyone was having ‘one of those weeks’ and it turned out that nobody would be heading down to play. Booooo! To be fair though, that is the first time that’s happened since casual play started back in June which, all things considered, isn’t too bad.

So it seems like the final* game of this season’s Sith Taker league would be my only game this week.

*apart from the catch up game that Steve Boulton and I still need to have!

The thing is, with so many list options swirling around in my head, I could do with the games to figure stuff out. Still, I’ll take what I can get!

The preamble…

Following on from last week’s blog, I’m looking at how well Dash works with the recent points changes.

The answer so far is, pretty well when looking at him on his own. Despite losing the double tap from Bistan gunner, the ability to take Jyn and have focus and evade each turn and be worth less points means he’s still worth taking (in my opinion at least!). But the age old question that I’ve been asking myself for the last 2 years raises it’s head again – what other ships do I take with him?

After trying two different builds last week I have some things to think about. Having dropped a pretty tooled up Gavin Darklighter in the E-Wing in favour of Wedge Antilles in the T-65 with R2 Astromech (to regen shields and stay around a bit longer) and Afterburners (to try and get out of trouble), I’d found that my Wedge play was… somewhat lacking.

And so, I have a choice to make. Keep Wedge and practice getting better or drop him and see what else I can do. Now, I know I’m the sort of player who needs reps with a list (or probably certain ships is more accurate) so I have to resist the temptation of just dropping Wedge immediately but I do have to consider whether what I’ve currently got is the best option, not just what is objectively ‘best’ but also factoring in what suits my play style.

I got a good few suggestions in comments off the back of the last blog and while I won’t go through them all, I might mention a couple as I go through.

A small caveat here. I’m am building all these lists to 200 points. I know that the new rules regarding RPO (JARGON ALERT!!) and deficit scoring aren’t officially out yet but I’m trying to get into that headspace in my list building since that’s the direction that AMG appear to be steering the game. Ok, let’s get started!

First, what doesn’t change.

Dash Rendar (79)
Trick Shot (4)
Perceptive Copilot (8)
Jyn Erso (3)
Outrider (6)

Ship total: 100 Half Points: 50 Threshold: 5

Total: 100

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Rebel%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z39X133WW54W40WW157W&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

Yep, I’m happy with this Dash build as it is for the moment. He can hit hard with 4 or 5 dice, deny the obstruction die with the title and potentially double mod those shots, depending on whether there’s a support ship in the list. I have generally flown Dash with a support ship in the past because while rolling 4 or 5 red dice feels really great, rolling 4 or 5 blanks does NOT. Yes, more dice is good and with 50% of each die being a hit/crit it is techically weighted (not in a cheating way, obviously!) towards positive results, sometimes this just happens. Focuses are good but lock and focus gives Dash a very good chance of doing some damage, even to a fully tokened 3 agility ship.

In the last few games (and historically I suppose) I’ve had Jake Farrell in the RZ-1 A-Wing in the list in order to pass Dash a focus action so that Dash can then lock or maybe even roll for his own action. I’ve had a LOT of reps with Dash and Jake and I can mostly judge the distances needed to move Jake in close and pass off that action before Dash zooms off at the higher initiative.

Like this? Sort of?!

But realistically, Jake isn’t the only option here. AP-5 in the Sheathipede can do a similar job, in fact you can argue that AP-5 is better because not only can he coordinate ANY action (not just a focus) but he can do it up to range 2 (not just 1) AND can still do it while the target ship is stressed.

The down side of AP-5 is that he isn’t as fast as Dash and could potentially struggle to keep up. The range 2 reach of coordinate does mitigate this a little but it’s definitely something to consider.

So swapping AP-5 in for Jake then looks like this:

Dash Rendar (79)
Trick Shot (4)
Perceptive Copilot (8)
Jyn Erso (3)
Outrider (6)

Ship total: 100 Half Points: 50 Threshold: 5

AP-5 (32)
Elusive (2)

Ship total: 34 Half Points: 17 Threshold: 3

Wedge Antilles (54)
R2 Astromech (5)
Afterburners (7)
Servomotor S-Foils (0)

Ship total: 66 Half Points: 33 Threshold: 3

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Rebel%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z39X133WW54W40WW157WY72X119WWWWY5XWW2W105W142&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

But then I have to consider – is Wedge the right piece for the 3rd ship?

I did enjoy flying Gavin in the E-Wing and although he did die WAY too soon in the game I played against a real person I feel that was down to naïve play and some freakish dice (but mostly the first thing). Something that I’ve often lacked in previous Dash builds is an alternative threat. Double tap Dash always had such a massive target on his back that I felt that any list that was even slightly viable needed to give my opponent a tougher choice than simply – yes, must kill Dash.

I’ve had Luke in the T-65 suggested but my track record with him isn’t great. Yes he can regen his Force quickly and sort of double mod his attacks but T-65’s seem to die WAY too easily for my liking.

In my mind, Wedge is the ultimate ship for the job. He’s i6 so he’s going to fire even in a turn where he dies AND he reduces the agility of the ship he’s firing at. Unlike other i6 ships I don’t really consider him to be an end-game ship be cause he can’t double reposition and even a boost into focus requires him to have his s-foils closed, reducing his attack power.

But, given a choice between chasing Wedge or chasing Dash is now made harder because a) Dash no longer double taps (so is theoretically less dangerous), b) Wedge has less health to take down and c) Dash is worth less points overall than he was previsouly.

Now, going back to the comment I made earlier about play style, here’s where the waters are muddied. The Dash, Jake and Wedge list was suggested to me by Chris Burnett from Tin Squadron. I played it, I sucked with Wedge but I liked it overall.

Off the back of the blog, u/lythy2016 on Reddit suggested that if Wedge is only going to shoot once or twice before he dies (which, after all, is kind of his main job in this list), then why not consider dropping R2 Astromech and Afterburners and put Proton Torpedoes on Wedge and make those shots really count?

Interesting.

In theory then, could I make that switch and then use Jake/AP-5 to give extra actions to Wedge initially, hit something with the Torps (hopefully twice) and then scoot them back over to supporting Dash?

Hmmm…. Possible but maybe tricky.

I tried the list with AP-5 as the support ship in Fly Casual with decent results. Getting AP-5 to coordinate Wedge for the initial range 3 engagements worked well. Wedge got off both Proton Torps and a 3rd normal shot before dying but in doing so had done more than enough to let Dash take care of the rest. But that’s against an AI.

I’m really not decided either way between these two options on Wedge. I think that maybe the torpedoes suit my more aggressive play style better but I wonder whether the R2 and Afterburners choice might just need some practice.

With the game approaching quickly, I decide to give the torps version a go.

Dash Rendar (79)
Trick Shot (4)
Perceptive Copilot (8)
Jyn Erso (3)
Outrider (6)

Ship total: 100 Half Points: 50 Threshold: 5

AP-5 (32)
Elusive (2)

Ship total: 34 Half Points: 17 Threshold: 3

Wedge Antilles (54)
Proton Torpedoes (12)
Servomotor S-Foils (0)

Ship total: 66 Half Points: 33 Threshold: 3

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Rebel%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z39X133WW54W40WW157WY72X119WWWWY5XW136WWW142&sn=Unsaved%20Squadron&obs=

The batrep… (JARGON ALERT!!)

As I mentioned earlier, this is the ‘final’ game of this season’s Sith Taker league. I’ve not done especially well, having a 3-4 record with one of those being a temporary placeholder score for my yet to be played game against Steve.

My opponent for this week was Brian Lindamood, someone I’ve not played before (yay!). We get in touch and as we’re arranging which day to play (not easy with a 9 hour time difference!) I ask Brian whether he wants to use the old or new rules and he mentioned he was prepping for the GSP Battle for Alderaan which is the invitation only final of the Galaxies series of events (meaning that he’s placed in the top 32 at one of the qualifiers).

With me looking at trying out a list I say that I’m happy to be experimented on and that I’m not looking at being super competitive in this game since my win/loss record means I’m not being promoted from this league and it looks like enough people have dropped that I’m unlikely to be relegated. Probably.

I get up early on Saturday and get the computer loaded up for a 9am start. Unfortunately, with the rest of my household all asleep), I have to go for playing without voice (which I don’t like to do!) and we set up to get started.

Now then, what list is he playing….

Shaak Ti (43)
Brilliant Evasion (2)
Lone Wolf (5)
R5 Astromech (4)
Stealth Device (8)

Ship total: 62 Half Points: 31 Threshold: 2

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Eta-2) (48)
Shattering Shot (3)
Trick Shot (4)
R5 Astromech (4)
Stealth Device (8)

Ship total: 67 Half Points: 34 Threshold: 2

Anakin Skywalker (Eta-2) (51)
Brilliant Evasion (2)
Juke (6)
R5 Astromech (4)
Stealth Device (8)

Ship total: 71 Half Points: 36 Threshold: 2

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Galactic%20Republic&d=v8ZsZ200Z438X199W124W6W166Y440X419W133W6W166Y441X199W123W6W166&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

Oh my word.

One one hand, it’s 9 health IN TOTAL. That’s less than Dash. On the other? It’s a LOT of green dice backed up by Force and green tokens and R5 astromechs to repair damage.

Pre-Flight checks:
Target Priority
Obstacles
Deployment

We’re both at 200 and we roll for player order. I ‘win’ and so I’m going to be first player. Great….

We place obstacles and ships and are ready to begin!

Immediately I’m not pleased with my ship placement. Historically when flying Dash I’ve split him and the ‘other decent ship’ pretty far apart to make my opponent decide which to chase. Here I went together in order to threaten firing with both ships onto the same target but if Wedge takes too long to get in range then Dash will be at risk. It seems that turn 0 for this list needs some further thought.

I decide to go ahead with my initial plan anyway, send Wedge up the flank while Dash banks in to the middle or hard turns and runs, depending on who Brian decides to chase.

AP-5 and Dash go slowly forwards while Wedge goes 4 straight and (with foils closed) boosts.

Brian sends Shaak Ti straight while Ani and Obi bank and roll, pointing at my ships.

No firing and so we’re back to dials.

Hmmm…..

If Wedge is going to hit like I want him to then AP-5 needs to be close to him rather than Dash. I really have made a mess of this deployment!

I set AP-5 a 3 bank to catch up, Dash will hard turn left while Wedge will go 1 straight.

AP-5’s 3 bank allows him to coordinate Wedge a boost linked to red focus (in case Ani and Obi come in). Shaak Ti banks in but is still quite far away. Dash’s hard turn bumps into AP-5. Obvious, stupid but thankfully not disastrous at this point.

Obi-Wan banks towards Wedge. Wedge’s 1 straight now takes him in towards Ani and Obi following the coordinated boost but with the Jedi still out of range has to lock the debris. Anakin simply banks to sit in front of Obi-Wan.

We check for shots but are still out of range.

Back to dials then!

The question still stands, will Brian go for Wedge or Dash here? Has he done a good job of hedging his bets/not tipping his hand? Or have I made it easy by keeping them together?

AP-5 will go full support mode, hard turning to coordinate Dash a focus & evade as he’s looking to catch the Jedi with an obstructed shot even if they target Wedge. Wedge will go 1 straight again, not wanting to stray too close to the Jedi if they dive in at him.

Hopefully.

That’s not quite how it pans out though.

AP-5 turns and gives Dash a focus and evade. All fine so far. Then Shaak Ti dives in with a 5 straight and boosts at Dash whose 4 straight doesn’t clear and he bumps into her. Balls.

Ani and Obi both systems phase roll away and then slowly approach Wedge.

Oh it’s just so bad already.

With me being first player, Wedge shoots first, targeting Obi-Wan. At this point I realise that his foils are still closed.

So, so bad.

I roll my two red dice and opt not to spend a focus for 1 hit. Obi-Wan rolls his 4 green dice. Yes, even with Wedge’s ability. He’s fine.

Ani and Obi both fire on Wedge but miraculously can only take 1 shield from him. Phew! Shaak Ti fires at AP-5 who in turn takes a pot shot at Obi-Wan but no more damage is done this turn.

On to Planning then.

I need to pick this up here, this is not ok.

Given how fast the Eta-2’s are I opt for plan B with Wedge, dialling in a 4-K (JARGON ALERT!!) and planning to have AP-5 pass him a focus before he does it.

Ap-5 will just trundle 1 straight while Dash will bank in and try to do some damage.

I start with AP-5 and am ok with his position until Shakk Ti hard turns in right behind him. Oh.

Dash’s 3 abnk lands nicely and he takes a focus and evade. Then some things happen.

Brian turns Obi-Wan and clips the debris. Oops.

He rolls a die.

It’s a crit. He’s lost his Stealth Device die.

He pulls the crit. It’s a Direct. He’s down to a single health.

I don’t know the odds here but I feel that this sequence of events is very incredibly improbable.

As if to kick a man while down, Wedge’s 4-K lands perfectly behind Obi-Wan while Anakin has swung out wide and has no target no matter how he repositions.

Now, given that I’m treating this game more casually and that actually both of us are testing lists here, I pause the clock and make a suggestion – how about that didn’t just happen.

You see, Obi-Wan is now VERY likely to die, elimination over 1/3 of Brian’s list and it would have very little to do with me or how I played.

After a little persuasion Brian agrees, we roll back the crit and Obi-Wan simply sits on the debris where he was. Health and Stealth Device both still intact.

Sadly the best image I have from this turn. Obviously Wedge and Ani haven’t moved yet.

Wedge shoots at Obi-Wan, this time having remembered to open his foils and, spending the focus, gets 3 hits.

Obi-Wan evades them all.

Dash then fires at him too and gets a crit past his green dice.

Obi fires back, with Dash in bullseye and rolls all natural hits. Ouch. Dash’s greens aren’t great and he loses 2 shields. Then Shaak Ti fires range 1 bullseye at AP-5 and gets 3 hits past his greens. Eesh.

AP-5 takes a revenge shot at Shaak out of the rear arc at range 1 and rolls 3 natural hits which Shaak nimbly dodges with Force and her evade token.

Back to dials then!

Right, what do I want to do now. I set Dash a 1 straight to keep his side arc on target. I set AP-5 a bank to pu him in rage of both of my other ships. I set Wedge…. hmmmmm. I consider a 1 bank right to clear stress but that’s where I want to put AP-5. I go for a 2 straight to clear stress.

I did not think much of this turn through enough.

AP-5 clears his manoeuvre and gives Dash a focus and evade.

Shaak Ti’s system phase roll means her 2 straight bumps into the back of AP-5. Cool.

Dash moves and…. I don’t really like where he is. He’s in range 1 of Shaak Ti and I don’t know where Obi-Wan is heading. Nor Anakin for that matter. I decide to take the rarely used red barrel roll left.

Obi-Wan is trying to get out of the way but now bumps into Dash while Anakin hard turns and boosts and now has a hard flank on Wedge. Oh dear.

With Wedge pointing nowhere Anakin shoots first and puts 2 damage onto him, getting half points. With a few bumps in play the only other ship with a valid is Dash who takes a range 2 shot at Shaak Ti but the dice are poor and nothing gets past Brian’s greens.

Back to dials then.

This is not great.

I decide to bank right with Dash to clear his stress while AP-5 will hard turn to coordinate Wedge who himself will hard turn right to try and dodge the chasing Anakin.

AP-5 moves and coordinates Wedge a boost right into red focus. Shaak Ti launches forwards and manages to block Dash AGAIN but at least he clears his stress.

Obi-Wan continues to disengage, using an R5 charge to repair his crit. Wedge’s hard turn now takes him right around the debris and despite having full board knowledge, Anakin can’t get the angle to chase him.

The only shot ANYONE has is AP-5’s obstructed shot onto Shaak Ti which goes as you might expect.

Back to dials again.

We have around 15 minutes left in the game and while I certainly haven’t given up, I’m realising that I’m simply not getting quality shots into any of Brian’s ships while at the same time he IS getting decent shots into mine.

But what can I do about it?

Not a lot, I think.

Again I turn AP-5 and he gives Wedge a barrel roll right. Shaak Ti banks left, hoping again to block Dash but I righted him right instead, looking to get a shot onto Anakin.

Obi-Wan continues disengaging and uses another R5 charge to repair the already repaired crit, taking him back to full health. Bleuch.

Wedge’s new position from to roll means he can 2 bank and he locks Anakin for a future turn.

Brian calls the move (or at least hedged his bets) and a simple hard turn is followed up with a boost in behind Wedge, giving him a range 1 bullseye shot. Oh.

Wedge misses range on Shaak Ti. Anakin sinks multiple hits onto Wedge but the green dice bail me out and he survives on 1 hull. Woah.

Dash just barely has range on Anakin but AGAIN the sigle modded shot means the Jedi gets away without taking ANY damage.

AP-5 rolls a token shot at Ani and gets 2 hits but again the abundance of green dice mean he dodges all damage.

Crikey.

‘Fine’ I think to myself ‘if Wedge is going to die, let’s go down fighting’ and dial in a 4-K.

Dash is now pretty poorly positioned but if Anakin is going in for the kill on Wedge I can maybe catch him with a 1 bank.

AP-5 continues his orbit around the debris with a 2 hard turn, landing it very neatly (around 2mm from it…) and coordinates Wedge a focus. Oh yes, I WILL fire these double modded Proton Torps which I’m certain you forgot he had!

Shaak Ti just hard turns, trying to be relevant again. Dash takes his 1 bank and a standard focus and evade.

Obi-Wan K-turns now he’s at full health and a fair distance from danger.

Wedge take his 4-K, he clips the gas cloud and picks up a strain from the roll but it’s ok, he’s going to die but hammer Anakin while doing it!

At least, that’s what he thought.

Anakin has totally disengaged.

Well, crap.

As if to add insult to injury, Obi-Wan catches Wedge in arc, and the obstruction means that Shattering Shot and Trick Shot are both active (as well as that strain) and Wedge dies.

We go back to planning in what will be the last turn.

I set Dash a bank while AP-5 will go 3 straight because why the heck not at this point!

The reason why not is that the 3 straight clips the debris by less than the last move missed by. I roll and it’s a crit. Of course! It’s a Console Fire.

With no coordinate from AP-5 Dash banks onto the debris and, in order to get range on Shaak Ti (who turned in), he rolls right.

Obi-Wan also comes in while Anakin just disappears off into the horizon.

Dash rolls 5 dice at Shaak Ti behind the gas cloud but the roll is terrible and there’s nothing he can do about it.

Obi-Wan fires at AP-5 who is now on 1 health and with Shattering Shot easily gets the hits needed to finish him off without me even needing to roll dice.

Shaak Ti takes a pot shot at Dash but fails to land anything and after a pretty crazy game, we’re all done.

Result: 0 – 100 loss

The conclusion…

Interesting.

Following the debacle where we rolled back the crit, I did NOT play this well. In fact, my approach before that wasn’t very good either. Dash’s position wasn’t great with Shaak Ti easily able to get the early block and while I was happy with how I manged to utilise AP-5’s coordinate, I really didn’t achieve what I had intended to do with Wedge which is to try and wreck things.

Let me be clear though, I do NOT regret the decision to roll back the crit. In a tournament game it clearly stands (however harsh it feels) but on this occasion I saw much more value in playing the game out without it, not just for Brian but for myself as well. If Obi-Wan dies in that first meaningful engagement (and he would have) without trading something significant then the game swings dramatically in my favour and while it feels good, it’s not really achieving the proper test that I’m looking for.

While it’s not exactly as simple as it looks, in the end I lost 2 ships and scored zero points (with no damage cards on any of my opponent’s ships). Bloomin regen eh?

Now I do have to say that, while I was treating this as much more of a casual game, I was still trying to win and also that Brian played it very well. We discussed the game afterwards (when Brian should have been going to bed!) and went over thoughts on his list and then on mine.

Trying to analyse what I did wrong/could have done differently is somewhat of a massive task. I didn’t go into this match up with enough of a plan and while I was really happy with some aspects (Wedge’s 4-k in behind Obi-Wan with a focus from AP-5 being a particular highlight), I’m mostly not happy with my play here, particularly in turn zero and my use of Wedge.

It certainly didn’t help that I was first player and when combined with the matching initiatives I was facing an uphill battle, despite Brian’s initial concerns about his ships getting one-shotted!

We chatted afterwards for a while, talking about alterations I could make and what other options I could look at. Between us we came up with a couple of alternatives

Brian suggested a pair of B-Wings (i3 Blade Veterans both with Autoblasters, Marksmanship, FCS and foils) and also a naked Wedge with an Auzituck thrown in as a beefy blocker.

A viable option? Or too expensive?

I quite like both suggestions and will do some basic testing with them to see how I get on. In the short term I have to admit that I do quite like AP-5 as an alternative to Jake and will probably stick with him, at least for a little while. Is Elusive on him the right call? I don’t know but at the moment I can’t see anything that’s an obvious upgrade for those 2 points.

Overall I don’t really think that Proton Torps Wedge is a better choice for me than R2 and Afterburners Wedge which is odd because, given my generally aggressive playing style, I’d have thought it would be.

I want to be good with you Wedge!

My range control is an issue for getting the torps off. Looking back, I would probably have been better off sending Wedge at Shaak Ti than towards the others since he approaches with full knowledge of her position and there isn’t the threat of Anakin moving afterwards. Dash’s side arc could have kept a threat on Ani and Obi to warn them off fully flanking while I did that but Brian’s build giving his ships lots of green dice gave him a good chance of lasting longer than you’d normally expect.

Overall there’s a LOT to ponder off the back of this game but thankfully, with no tournaments on the immediate radar, I’ve got plenty of time to figure things out! I do want to say thank to Brian for the game, despite not using voice chat I felt like we were still able to interact quite well and I had a good time playing.

This result does put me on a slightly disappointing 3-5 record for this season – and that’s with my placeholder game against Steve Boulton being a win so it could get worse. Still, I’ve had good fun playing the games out and trying to discover what’s good in this new meta.

To round this post out I feel like it’s worth mentioning that Mr Marcel Manzano, one of the hosts of the Gold Squadron Podcast, won a local store kit tournament this past weekend flying Dash and Hera which is a list I really like the look of though I’m not likely to do too well with! So going back to my opening comment from the preamble, I guess Dash is doing pretty well out of this points change! Yay! Just not really for me so far! Booooo!

The outro…

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