Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

The intro…

Well hello! Welcome to this week’s blog!

It’s been a bit of a bonkers week for me as I’ve been away over the weekend to volunteer at a ball for a charity that my wife and I support. We were both supposed to go but with Cai having caught Covid* plans were thrown out of the window and Jody stayed home while he isolated.

*he’s fine, he got basically a bit of a cold and played a LOT of X-Box. To date it has been 9 days since he left his room for longer than 10 minutes….

I don’t normally go in to too many personal details on t’interweb but since I mentioned the ball I do want to just spend a moment talking about the charity we work with because it’s relevant timing wise. I’m going to try and keep it brief, I promise.

For the last 8 1/2 years my wife and I have volunteered for Saying Goodbye. They are a baby loss charity, supporting those who have lost babies at any stage of pregnancy, infancy or at birth. We found them following our own experiences with loss which resulted in our not being able to have any more children. We received direct support and attended a remembrance service and from there we started volunteering.

I say that the timing is relevant because next week, the 9th -15th of October, is Baby Loss Awareness Week. When we experienced our losses we felt like we were the only people who were going through it. Or that had gone through it. We didn’t know where to turn.

But the thing is, baby loss is more common than you think. In fact the statistic is 1 in 4. 25%. A quarter of all pregnancies end in loss. In the UK alone over 250,000 babies are lost in a year.

It is FAR more common than you think but nobody takes about it. That’s understandable of course, it’s painful and personal, but the lack of talking means that when going through it, there may be people around us who have also experienced loss, we just don’t know about it.

I’ve already talked enough here so I’m just going to finish by saying that if you or someone you know is struggling after the loss of a baby (no matter whether it’s recent or decade ago), check out the website above or get in touch with the charity via their Facebook page. If you want to, feel free to comment or to message me directly. I’m happy to talk. Always.

Ok, serious and real-life section covered, let’s get back to plastic spaceships.

I started this post in anticipation of the points update as some thoughts popped into my head and since that’s what this blog is all about, I ran with it.

Before we get started, a small apology in advance. As implied above, this post was written in many sittings over the course of 3 weeks both pre and post points update. If it seems a little disjointed, that’s why!

Ok, on with the show!

The preamble…

Life can be a bit of a roller-coaster, can’t it. Sometimes you’re slowly on the up, sometimes flying high and sometimes hurtling towards what feels like certain doom.

This applies to many aspects of life. Some things that happen are serious in potentially life changing ways and others are, let’s face it, significantly less of a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

Yes, today I’m going to talk about the points update. But before diving in I want to just cover something really quickly.

Are points changes a big deal within X-Wing? Of course they are. They’re the basis for squad building and dictate what we can and can’t fit into a legal list. Are points changes a big enough deal to start slating AMG/devs/play testers? Absolutely not.

Before the points dropped I saw a comment by Lewis Witham on a Facebook post asking about the anticipated points update which perfectly sums up my feelings on recent matters:

ADMIN: keep this level headed and constructive, don’t use it as an excuse to pointlessly attack AMG or other players for opinions.

NOT ADMIN: Jesus christ, slow down. AMG got handed the reigns in the middle of a global pandemic that has lasted 2 years, they’ve had to take over FFGs work (this is the same FFG who’s upper management handled the last few weeks of their ownership terribly remember and fired everyone without much notice). So they’ve been juggling creating an entire new department AND crossover from an entirely different company AND a god damn global pandemic all at the same time.

-We have new ships.
-We have some ideas for the near future.
-We have reassurance that there’s another couple of years in development.
-We have reassurance they’re working on competitive OP.
-We have a shake up in rules that is yet to be tested by the wider community and will be adjusted when constructive information and attendance numbers roll in from its trial.
-We know that AMG like money and success and will do what needs to be done to create said things.

We’ve waited two years, surely you can handle another couple of weeks before we find out whether you can run 2 or 3 TIE whispers in a list.

This game lives or dies on its community and the constructive nature it generally creates. If we start bashing on AMG because they haven’t ticked every tiny box of our own personal expectations then all we’ll create is a negative attitude and community that AMG would likely not bother to support. Give them a chance or X-wing will just end up fading away after nearly a decade.

Lewis Witham

If we want to keep getting fed, we certainly shouldn’t be biting the hand that feeds us. And just to be clear, when I say biting I mean verbally (or textually I guess?!). I’m not aware of anyone going into AMG offices and biting people. So far.

Ok, I’m done with that, time to move on…

The main bit…

I don’t normally talk about points changes because, well, I know what I know and I know what I don’t know. Know what I mean?

No? Ok, that’s fair. What I mean is that I’m aware that analysing points is not something I’m good at (nor enjoy for that matter) and therefore my talking about it can not only lead to me looking stupid (insert your own ‘too late for that’ joke here) but also detracts and distracts from people who do know what they’re talking about.

But today I’m going to make an exception because I want to talk a little about ‘the meta‘ (JARGON ALERT!!).

First, a little back story/recap in case you weren’t around for 1.0 or the transition to 2nd Edition.

One of the major reasons (I mean, as far as I’m aware of) for the change from 1st Edition to 2nd was down to power creep. New stuff comes out with fixed point values and in order to sell it, it has to be good. The thing is, over time, the older stuff just gets more and more left behind. Proof of this was included in the last 1.0/first 2.0 release where the poor old T-65 X-Wing, the ship that the game is named for, was given a new lease of life with zero point Servomotor S-Foils (allowing them to boost, not dissimilar to the 2.0 version) , the 1 point Flight Assist Astromech (which gave you free reposition in certain conditions) and the utterly ludicrous -2 point Renegade Refit (which added an extra mod slot AND reduced the cost of talents).

Yes, the humble T-65 X-Wing needed that much help just to keep up.

And so the launch of 2.0 came with non-printed points with the promise of periodical changes to reign in anything that was found to be too good.

Before the recent points changes on 23rd of September we had the longest period of unchanged points. Yes, we had some new releases along the way and maybe the odd tweak as we went along but nothing wholesale.

Now, before I get to my point I want to add – I’m a proponent of points updates. Keeping things balanced and as fair as possible while also enabling long forgotten ships/pilots/upgrades to be dusted off and be ‘good*’ for at least a little while.

*with good meaning efficient or good value for the points cost. Even some of the most terrible upgrades can be worth it if they’re cheap enough to include! Not all though…

With a ‘long overdue’ (based on the usual 6 months established from release) and ‘much needed’ (due to some pretty overpowered/undercosted combinations) points update on the horizon, big tournaments (namely the Gold Squadron Podcast Galaxies series) seemed to be made up of a mix of ‘the usual suspects’ with a selection of 3 or 4 lists very often making top cuts and usually winning.

I’ll admit that for the most part, I would listen to podcasts break these lists down and explain what they do and make a sort of mental note just in case I ever faced them. Across various platforms such as Reddit, Facebook and Discord there were MANY conversations along the lines of ‘xxx is undercosted’, ‘xxx is too strong’, ‘xxx needs to be nerfed’ and ‘I can’t wait for the points update’.

Interesting.

And I can’t say I disagree. While I’ve never directly faced ‘Procket Barons’ or ‘Fivesight Inquisitors’, I HAVE faced ‘Jango/Zam’ and Bossk, Asajj and Lando and it is not an especially pleasant experience.

All lists lean on various components that are very competitively priced, whether it’s pilots or upgrades. Heck, even the much maligned (and previously ridiculed!) TIE Aggressor has had a place in the top competitive game in the last 12 months. Whether it’s sheer volume of green/red dice, double tapping or token stacking, the very top lists in any given meta will include at least one of these, probably more.

So yeah, points updates for the win, right?

Right?!

I mean, yes, but also, maybe not so much?

Before you go get your pitchforks and torches, just hear me out.

In episode 226 of the Gold Squadron Podcast, there was a good discussion on the then upcoming points change which had been expected in June-ish but delayed until ‘Fall’-ish and eventually came on the 23rd of September. I listened eagerly as the guys talked about various aspects of changes and how the same stuff was being seen in tournaments and while I don’t know that they said word for word that the current meta was stale and solved, it’s certainly a fairly common view. Ryan Staniszewski then made a very good point.

In all this talk of the points update being desperately needed, a few months ago the ‘best list in the game’ was a Scum list of spammed M3-A Interceptors with a mix of Tractor Beams and Autoblasters. A little while later it was the TIE Advanced V1, first five Inquisitors with Foresight and then 6 Barons of the Empire, two with Thread Tracers and four with Proton Rockets.

At some point, Andrwe Oehler put together a Rebel list with the newly released Hera in an RZ-1 A-Wing which was deemed so strong it got an almost immediate errata/clarification from AMG.

General Hera Syndulla. Scourge of the galaxy, apparently.

Later in the year, Bossk builds began to surface, going through a few iteration before eventually culminating in a list with Asajj and Lando Calrissian in the Falcon with Jabba and Greedo crews (and the inevitable Zam Wessell).

The point Ryan made (and that I’m reiterating now I guess) is that innovation still happened. A strong list appears, laying waste to all before it. List becomes popular. People look for a hard counter to the list. And so the cycle continues. The only variables (in terms of points) during that time were new releases.

So what is my point? Well I guess it’s this:

Points updates are great. As I said before, it can breathe life into struggling pilots/ships/factions and address any issues with one or two things in particular being dominant.

That said, I do wonder if we’re not quite being patient enough or innovative enough. Not being much of a list builder myself this feels perhaps a bit (ok, a lot) hypocritical but, massive problem lists aside (*cough* Spamtex *cough*), I think that we as a general community perhaps aren’t taking enough time or effort to go and look for or dig out the potential in whatever is the current points set, find what’s good or might be good and try it out consistently for a few games.

It’s easier said that done, definitely. Between real life and online play I will get an average of one-two games per week. Am I spending those games trying and tinkering with something I think could be good? Or am I flying whatever did well at the last big tournament? Don’t get me wrong, neither option is more or less valid than the other, my point is that with the seemingly endless list of pilots and upgrades, there simply MUST be some things out there that we’re missing out on and that someone would eventually come across.

Anyway, mini rant over and on to the title of today’s piece.

Good Riddance…

So following this update, what is it exactly that we’re glad to see the back of? Well, like much of life, this topic is entirely subjective. Ok, well mostly, at least.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure is a line that maybe kind of almost but not quite sums up what I’m getting at here. It’s all about perspective.

Let’s start with an obvious example. Most will be glad that Zam (specifically as a crew) has gone up. In fact, glad might be an understatement. When you compare the benefits that Zam gives you (free target locks during engagement phase, double tapping) for the previous points cost of 4 against, well, pretty much any other upgrade really, even popular and commonly used ones, the difference is astounding.

Will the real Zam Wessell please stand… oh, wait…

In fact I heard a discussion on a recent Gold Squadron Podcast that that’s an argument to be made that she brings more value than other crew with Force and should be costed accordingly. She now comes in at 11 points which is almost 3 times the original cost but, based on the comparison with a Force crew, is still reasonable value and more than likely still playable.

There’s a whole other question about whether or not she’ll see play since, going by past experience, anything previously broken and then pointed ‘correctly’ (again, somewhat subjective) tends to get dropped like a hot rock when people start searching for the new shiny thing.

Other examples are less obvious. Like False Transponder Codes. 2 points for a one time use illicit upgrade seemed fair on release. In fact I was a little surprised when I heard podcasts talking about how undercosted it was. I mean, jamming a token off someone one time doesn’t seem like a big deal.

I just didn’t see it.

Taking a lock and getting a ‘free’ second action with the jam (with no range 2 restriction) was good. Jamming your opponent (technically a free additional action) when they lock you? Also rather good. With it being just 2 points it was pretty easy to spam, giving serious issues to your opponent. But then some builds came to light which not only made pretty good use of them but, through various means (Jabba crew, Cutthroat), were able to regenerate that charge and use them again. And again. And again.

Bad times. Well, for those on the receiving end anyway.

They’ve been bumped up to 3 points which, while totally affordable as a one off upgrade, spamming it now has more serious implications in any list.

Another oft used phrase that I’ve heard throughout this meta is ‘the tyranny of 3 agility’. Historically the lower end points of low health ships such as TIE/ln and TIE/FO’s are what enabled the swarm archetype, being able to fit 7 or 8 ships into a list.

There’s…too many of them!

But with points creeping downwards for other 3 agility ships which were also able to take some pretty juicy upgrades you now started getting lists like the M3-A swarm conceived (I believe) by David Sutcliffe and made popular by Akhter Khan which had 7 Cartel Spacers, 3 with Tractor Beam to reduce your agility and move you about (often into the bullseye of the others…) and 4 with Autoblasters to beef up their damage output with bullseye. On top of that, with 3 agility they’re often tricky to get damage onto. And there are 7 of them.

Yuck.

But now it’s gone, coming in at 217 points.

There are other cards which have been very popular which have increased in value such as Disciplined, Cutthroat and XX-23 S-Thread Tracers. These ones haven’t been massively increased but as their effectiveness was often made by having multiple copies, small increases will still have the overall effect of at least making it a real decision as to whether you include them in a list.

Like I said, this is all subjective. Some will be sad to see the points hiked on cards I’ve already mentioned (while some, obviously wont) and, some will be glad to see the points hiked on one major player in my favoured faction:

A-Wing Hera

A-Wings! Zoom zoom!

At 42 points she was cheap enough to throw in to such a huge variety of Rebel squads and even though her ability was errata’d/clarified shortly after release to prevent it from being used to fire ordnance by other ships, her ability to dish out tokens with full board AND dice knowledge was deemed just too powerful for the points cost.

While I understand the need to raise her points to at least make it a decision as to whether to include her or not, at the same time, she seemed to really unlock a faction that, being honest, has precious little else going for it. Of course, Rebel is my preferred faction and so my opinion is admittedly pretty biased here. Still, on her own I still argue that she’s not an especially overpowered ship/pilot.

The original Heratanni list seemed to tip the scales with Hera enabling a huge amount of token passing/exchanging to make other ships more dangerous and/or durable.

She now comes in at 48 points. Some will say it’s still to low but personally I think that it’s a touch high and that probably 46 would be fair. She’s a force multiplying support ship, not a standalone piece, and so making her much more expensive limits what else you can fit in your list.

What’s crazy is that the initially ‘unplayable’ B-Wing Hera with the same ability dropped by 7(!) points to be THE SAME PRICE. But before I get ahead of myself, it’s time for another heading…

Rise of the B-Wing meta?

Time of Your Life

So, what cards have benefitted from this points change? Well, quite a few actually!

If you want to check out all of the ups/downs individually there’s a spreadsheet here but, again, as I’m not analysing everything I’m going to just focus on what things have caught my eye.

Can you guess what my first highlight is?

Go on, have a guess…..

YES!!!!

OMIGOSHOMIGOSHOMIGOSH

DASH RENDAR DOWN BY 6 POINTS!

Now, yes, he’s lost his gunner slot so he can’t double tap any more which is sad. But the 6 point drop makes up for that in my mind and the addition of a second crew slot to replace it has it’s own interesting implications (which I’ll get to in a minute).

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!

THE OUTRIDER TITLE DROPPED BY 8 POINTS!!! 8!!

EIGHT!!!

Now, before I get too carried away, I have to say, I semi-predicted/wished for this almost exactly a month before…

24th of August – no crystal ball required

So what do I do with this information? Well, I already have a partial answer. You see, during my musings with various Dash lists, particularly when pairing him with Lando around a year ago, I found that the combination of Perceptive Copilot and Jyn was really useful in it’s versatility. Want two focuses to make sure you get full use of Bistan? No problem. Want a decent chance to take 2 shots but might be taking some damage? Focus and evade. Totally screwed up your position and getting shot a fair bit? Well, probably still take focus and evade but you could take 2 evades.

All that was missing was a 2nd crew slot on Dash to make him self sufficient and not need Lando to be around. Yes, it’s come at the cost of a 2nd shot but for me, the degree of points dropped makes up for this by allowing you to have more powerful ships to accompany him.

With the title finally affordable one of the first builds I’ll be trying is this:

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=

But given that I’m now reasonably practiced with flying him fairly stripped back it’s also feasible to drop the title and Trick Shot and have a whopping 110 points for other ships.

Bonkers.

Moving on from Dash (grudgingly), as I alluded to earlier, I think that B-Wing Hera being the same points as A-Wing now could be interesting. Will it see more (i.e. any) play? I think so. I’m certainly tempted.

The Heratanni list I used in various forms is now is still pretty viable since only Hera and Jyn went up but dropping Leia (from Benthic in the original version) counter-balances that and means you can still do something like this:

Kyle Katarn (31)
Jyn Erso (3)
Moldy Crow (16)

Ship total: 50 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 3

Hera Syndulla (B-Wing) (48)
Fire-Control System (2)
Stabilized S-Foils (0)

Ship total: 50 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 4

Benthic Two Tubes (46)
Perceptive Copilot (8)
Pivot Wing (0)

Ship total: 54 Half Points: 27 Threshold: 4

Garven Dreis (X-Wing) (46)
Servomotor S-Foils (0)

Ship total: 46 Half Points: 23 Threshold: 3

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Rebel%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z48XWW40WWW156Y450XW113WWWWW313WY36XWW54WWW140Y6XWWWW142&sn=Heratanni%20-%20evolved&obs=

It still generates focuses for Hera to pass but she can also reposition into a linked lock, use FCS for a reroll and then pass it over to the other ships when she’s done with it. It also means that Hera is in a ship which moves more like the same speed as the others in the list. I’ll certainly be giving this a try.

Heratanni’s dead you say?

Obviously with the A-Wing and B-Wing versions you can of course just keep A-Wing Hera in there but 48 points for a ship which can be one-shotted always feels a little risky to me (*hears Soontir players laughing in the back*). Moreover, I normally find her damage output to be limited and you no longer have scope to put Prockets on her. Time will tell I guess.

In terms of negatives from the changes? Well, there are a few but on the whole it seems like most point hikes are generally agreed with. The only example I’ve seen of people unhappy is the loss of the cannon slot on the Eta2’s meaning that Autoblasters (or any alternatives, ah, who am I kidding? It’s only ever Autoblasters) are no longer possible, making the whole ‘unblockable crit Jedi combos dead in the water. To counter this, though, the points did drop on the ship across the board for all pilots so it’s not all bad.

In CIS several droids went up in price but the various associated configs came down, meaning they’re now zero point auto-includes which, given that’s how S-Foils and Pivot-Wings work makes total sense to me from a game perspective and from a ‘fluff’ perspective is a lot more sensible than the idea of droids who can’t land on rocks because their struts weren’t added.

Sorry mate, you can’t open those today, they’re not in the list!

All in all every faction except CIS had an overall drop in points (and for CIS the net increase was only because Zam crew and pilot both increased significantly), some more than others

The conclusion…

Overall I believe that AMG have done a great job with this points update. They’ve addressed the ‘problematic’ things while also reducing a lot of things by a small amount which encourages experimentation and also lets up play with more of our toys that we spent our hard earned cash on.

I’m excited to try out some new Dash builds but even looking at the Rebel faction as a whole there are now lots of very viable options in ‘build to 200’ lists. Looking at other factions this appears to be the case everywhere

Will there be some horrible thing that was missed? Probably, yes. Because devs and playtesters aren’t all-knowing or infallible. What AMG have shown this year though is that they are keeping an eye on what happens and what people are talking about and a willingness to listen and act.

So now, no matter what our opinions of the new points, we are stuck with them (or blessed with them!) for the next 6 or so months. What do you think will rise up? What hidden gem did you notice get dropped by a point or two which now allows some degenerate nonsense?

Please comment with your predictions!

The outro…

Thank you so much for visiting my blog today, I hope you’ve enjoyed it! If you’d like to support me in continuing my X-Wing blogging adventure there are a few ways you can do that.

I have recently enabled commenting on my posts. You do need to log in to do it and there are a couple of conditions which I’m trialling for now but please feel free to post feedback here or if possible, wherever you found the link (Facebook, Reddit, etc).

You can also follow my social media accounts for updates:

If you’re looking to buy some gaming ‘stuff’ and don’t have a local gaming store, you can use my affiliate link for Firestorm games. They’re great!

This blog is supported by thegamingplace.co.uk
Links from cards mentioned in the post will take you to the relevant page to buy that card from their website. These links are sponsored.

Leave a Reply