New Toys Part 3: Friendly Fire

The intro…

Welcome to my blog! Pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable and settle in for 18 minutes* of X-Wing related distraction from life!

*Wordpress tells me this is the average read time of my posts of this word count. Don’t blame me if it’s over or under!

It’s been a pretty interesting week in terms of normal life here in Wales. Shops reopened which meant I had the opportunity to call in to Firestorm Games Newport, my FLGS (JARGON ALERT!!).

*light sobbing*

Actually being able to play games there still feels like a really long way off but I’m happy to be able to go in at least.

Turning to X-Wing then (since that’s the point of the blog I guess!), the last two weeks have seen me post out blogs about lists built out with options from the recently released new content.

My first post was basically theory crafting. Looking at what fits (and what doesn’t), what might work (and what won’t) and what new possibilities are opened up. All of these (well, actually, all bar one) were based around my favourite pilot – Dash Rendar. I came up with 6 lists in total and focused on 4 of them as possible options.

I had some great responses to the post with tweaks and changes to what I’d put and some alternatives with more differences too.

Last week’s post was a follow up to this. I took the lists and tested them out in Fly Casual. I took on board some of the tweaks and changes and tried some new things based on results from the testing. I flew each list (well, four of them) against Fly Casual’s AI several times and summed up the results. From those results I drew a general conclusion and sort of settled on a final form. Looking back, I’m not 100% happy with the way I tested. I should have probably picked 3 very different type of list and played each of my list options against each archetype 2 or 3 times. I think that might have given me some more consistent and informative results.

And that then leads me to this week’s post. You see, for all my theorising and ideas and testing against a slightly (very) predictable AI, I still don’t have a proper grasp on how good (or not) the list is because I haven’t tested against the most important factor – a real person.

Yes, I need to see how this works when a human opponent looks at it, analyses it, formulates a plan against it and tried to stomp all over my hopes and dreams.

The Sith Taker league starts back up next week (yay!) and while I’m tempted to just jump into the first game with this list (because I get to fly Dash again!) I know that’s really not a good idea. I need to temper my enthusiasm with some stark realism in a non-pressured environment. Does it matter if I lose the first round game? Probably not. Will I be slightly miffed with myself if I could have won the game by not taking a list that totally sucks? Probably.

And so proper testing is required. I want someone who knows what they’re doing to pick it to pieces. Someone knowledgeable to tell me afterwards where I went wrong versus where the list isn’t up to scratch. Someone honest enough to tell me that Dash is just too expensive and that while this list might be fun it isn’t competitive. Let’s be honest though, I already know that last part.

I should probably mention the list at this point since I never actually posted any sort of final version in the last blog!

Dash Rendar (85)
Expert Handling (4)
Bistan (10)
Perceptive Copilot (8)
False Transponder Codes (2)

Ship total: 109 Half Points: 55 Threshold: 5

Jake Farrell (34)
Proton Rockets (5)

Ship total: 39 Half Points: 20 Threshold: 2

Hera Syndulla (A-Wing) (42)
Lone Wolf (5)
XX-23 S-Thread Tracers (2)

Ship total: 49 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 2

Total: 197

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Rebel%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z39X120WW77W54WWW369Y50XWW102WY451X124WW332W&sn=Dash%20%26%20Jake&obs=

With the list from last week at 190 points I decided to add False Transponder Codes to Dash to make his first shot hit like a truck. This is made (hopefully!) possible by Hera’s Thread Tracers passing locks out in the first engagement. I also added Lone Wolf to Hera on the suggestion of a comment from the last blog. It doesn’t seem to synergise well with Hera’s ability so when I asked about that the response was simply that Dash will most likely die and when he does this gives Hera even better survivability. It’s expensive but, for a lack of better options I figure it’s worth trying out.

While chatting about X-Wing in general, I was propositioned for a game. An opportunity for testing!

My opponent?

Well, it’s Mr Dan ‘Eggs’ Xuereb. Yes, the man who recently made top 8 and top 4 in GSP Flight Club Qualifiers before then finishing in the top 4 of the ACES tournament (made up only of players who had won 5+ games in any of the qualifiers).

xuereb
Mr Xuereb. Space Pirate. ARRRRRR!

He’s recently been recruited to Team Malta for the upcoming X-Wing Team Championship – XTC (while having been approached by other teams!).

Crikey.

He’s also a player at my local store and a friend who I love chatting X-Wing with.

He knows his stuff too. Since their release last year Dan has been regularly flying the HMP Droid Gunships and, as the synopsis above suggests, he’s pretty bloomin good with them.

I also know that I can trust his feedback on both my flying and my list’s strengths and weaknesses and while I’m not expecting my list to go on to become a massive meta (JARGON ALERT!!) defining force, I’d like to know what he thinks about it and whether it’s decent enough to get me a win or two in next season’s league.

So with a day and time arranged to play, I do a little more testing with the list. Overall I’m quite happy. The A-Wings are survivable (mostly) and Dash pumps out damage (mostly). I’m not getting much use out of Lone Wolf on Hera though. Will that change with a real life opponent? Or should I drop it for something else?

I was given a really out-there suggestion by someone who commented on Reddit which is a change I could make – drop Lone Wolf on Hera and use the points to give Dash Proton Rockets. Woah.

I have NEVER* put ordnance on Dash. When I’ve got my arc set left-right and I’m trying to kite around the board it just seems really counter intuitive to put missiles on him.

*that I can remember, at least!

But…

When that repositioning ace dives in to range 1 of Dash (triggering Dash’s negative ability of losing a red die at range 1 rather than gaining one) and rolls or boosts out of his side arc to dodge his turret? Smash it with Prockets.

I like the idea. Will it ever trigger though?! Thinking back I can’t really think of any significant times when that’s happened but then again, I’ve played a lot of games with Dash.

It does also mean Dash has a threat out of the front even when his arc is side to side.

I decide that it’s an option to consider but not for this game. For now I’ll stick with the Lone Wolf on Hera I think and see how it goes.

On with the game then!

The batrep… (JARGON ALERT!!)

When Dan joined the table on TTS and started a Discord chat I was slightly surprised to see that he wasn’t rocking the HMP’s as I’d expected. He wanted to try something from the newly released packs and so he’d gone with this:

Gideon Hask (TIE Interceptor) (48)
Trick Shot (4)
Sensitive Controls (2)

Ship total: 54 Half Points: 27 Threshold: 2

Fifth Brother (42)
Passive Sensors (2)
Homing Missiles (5)

Ship total: 49 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 2

“Deathrain” (43)
Passive Sensors (2)
Diamond-Boron Missiles (5)
Thermal Detonators (3)
Delayed Fuses (1)

Ship total: 54 Half Points: 27 Threshold: 5

“Pure Sabacc” (43)
Ship total: 43 Half Points: 22 Threshold: 2

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Galactic%20Empire&d=v8ZsZ200Z456X133WWW374Y394XW240W100Y192X240WW238WWW339WW236Y210XWWW&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=gascloud1,gascloud2,gascloud6

Very interesting. Potentially lots of dice being thrown here by each piece in the list with hints of splash damage and auto damage thrown in too. Horrible.

I have the bid though and Dan’s brought 3 debris clouds. Perfect for Dash.

I make Dan first player so Jake can reposition after his ships have moved and we begin placing obstacles and then forces.

My general strategy is to stall a bit with Dash while Jake goes in, fires Prockets (ideally with a lock from Hera somehow) and then loops back around to start giving Dash focuses. Hera will start by flanking, fire off Tracers on something and then try and stay out of harm’s way while also feeding tokens to Dash.

With that in mind (and with all my ships being placed after Dan’s), we were set like this, ready to go.

I’m aiming to semi-flank with Hera so she gets a 3 straight while I work out my approach. Jake gets a 2 straight while Dash will hard turn left. I’m sure Dan knows I won’t be jousting him with just Dash and is expecting the turn but it gives more time to get a decent position.

Dan starts moving ships with Deathrain, Fifth Brother and Sabacc generally heading at Dash while Gideon hard turns and rolls in the corner.

No shooting this turn of course so back to dials we go.

I now need to try and switch some positions over. Hera gets a 2 bank right, Jake will hard turn right while Dash will just shuffle 1 forwards.

Dan’s ships now start to resolve into a loose formation with Deathrain going 1 straight, Sabacc zooming out in front and Fifth Brother slotting in behind. Gideon goes straight and banks in, looking for a slow flank.

We’re still too far apart for shooting so we go back to planning.

Now my plan is to get Jake into position to fire his Prockets while also being able to shoot at something with Dash. If I can I’d like to fire Hera’s Tracers at something too but she’s a bit too far away for that. Hera will take a 2 hard to the right, Jake will go 2 bank to the left while Dash will cross over with a 1 bank right.

Dan comes in a bit more this time, banking in with Deathrain, Sabacc and Fifth Brother while Gideon continues to take up a position further back, looking to swoop in following turns once things are damaged.

Jake banks, rolls left, gives himself a focus and then banks right with a boost, getting Sabacc in bullseye. Lovely.

Dash’s 1 bank keeps a reasonable distance out from Dan and takes a focus. Hera takes the 2 hard and an evade (to pass off to whoever needs it later on). I consider the boost but I’m not 100% sure it’ll fit so I leave it.

Time to start firing then! Hera doesn’t have anyone in arc so it’s Dash to go first. When I check arc, Sabacc is in but Deathrain is out by a whisker. On one hand that’s good because he took a Passive Sensors charge and has some pretty nasty ordnance to hit Dash with. On the other hand this Dash build is based on being able to shoot two targets a turn and not doing that here is a little annoying.

Dash fires at Sabacc and manages to get a crit on but it’s not a Direct Hit so doesn’t manage to turn off her ability. Poop.

Now, the down side of going in for the Prockets with Jake become apparent. Fifth Brother declares a Homing Missile shot at Jake. As he has 2 Force available I don’t want to guarantee losing shields immediately and so I decide to roll dice. Dan rolls a full house of hits/crits out of hand and then spends 2 Force to add another crit. Great.

In a stunning turn of events, Jake rolls 3 natural evades and in the end we arrive at the same result as if I’d chosen not to roll. Jake’s shields down, Fifth Brother having spent 1 Homing charge and both force.

Deathrain follows up with a Diamon-Boron missile shot at Jake, using his Passive Charge to get a lock. Dan spends the lock to get 3 hits. Jake rolls greens. In the back of my mind I’m already keeping the focus to fire the Prockets but it doesn’t matter as Jake rolls 1 evade and 2 blanks. He’s dead.

Sabacc fires at Dash but can’t get anything through.

Time for the simultaneous fire revenge shot from Jake. He fires Prockets at Sabacc. Oh…my…dice. One hit and one eyeball. 3 blanks.

Sabacc blanks out on greens so takes 2 hits, leaving her on one hull.

To say that’s not really how I would have wanted this turn to go is a bit of an understatement.

As we begin to set dials I remember Hera’s evade. Oh man. She could have passed it to Jake for Deathrain’s shot and survived!!!!

Never mind, it’s a harsh lesson but one I’ll hopefully remember for next time.

Back to dials then.

I look at teh board and figure out where I want Dash to be. I deally I want to keep back from Fifth and Gideon but in range for Deathrain and Sabacc so I set a 1 straight.

I need Hera to do something constructive here so she will take a hard turn left.

Just as we’re almost done I re-check the distance and realise it’s not enough for Dash to complete a 1 straight. I quickly change it to a 4 straight, sacrificing the likelihood of a shot on Sabacc but avoiding a disastrous bump.

Dan starts moving ships. Sabacc makes use of the ailerons to disengage and preserve points. Fifth Brother hard turns left to stay neutral and recharge Force. Deathrain takes a 1 straight and spends his Passive charge while Gideon rolls right and goes 2 straight, sitting neatly behind a debris.

Dash reveals the 4 straight and…it freaking bumps. By nubs. Look.

If the ships are even marginally to the left or right of their current position, it fits. Balls.

With Dash bumped right in front of her, Hera’s hard turn doesn’t fit either and now both of my ships are stranded with no tokens.

It’s bad.

It’s so, so bad.

Hera doesn’t have anyone in arc so Dash fires at Deathrain, unmodded, and gets 2 hits past Dan’s green dice.

Dan decides that he won’t have a better chance to hurt Hera. Deathrain fires at her with Diamond-Boron missiles, spending the lock (from the Passive charge he took) and gets maximum hits. Hera blanks. Oh dear.

Dan then spends his last Diamond-Boron charge to make Dash roll a die for damage which, of course, hits, costing him a shield.

With Hera limping on 1 hull Gideon now rolls 5 dice (3 +1 for ability +1 for Trick Shot) at her and rolls 3 hits and a crit. Hera will have 4 greens to roll, she might survive!

Maybe not then.

The turn is over and now I’m 2 ships down in exchange for an almost (but crucially not quite) dead Sabacc and 2 shields on Deathrain.

Safe to say, this is not really going as planned.

Next turn then.

First course of action – get Dash out of danger. It’s entirely feasible for Gideon to come in for a block so I’m hope that this time a 4 straight will do the job.

Dan stars moving his ships. First Deathrain starts moving in the systems phase by taking actions after dropping Thermal Detonators, rolling and boosting before taking a 2 straight and reloading missiles. Sabacc begins turning in towards Dash while Fifth Brother hard turns again and is back up to full Force charge.

Gideon rolls in the systems phase (with the new config), banks in and then banks out again with a boost, landing in front of Dash.

Dash’s 4 straight carries him right over Gideon with no issue. I’m fairly sure he’s out of all arcs but I’m not convinced about his position for next turn so I take a barrel roll to the right (which is what because of Expert Handling). On reflection a lock may have been better but I wanted to deny Dan a chance to get 3 or more ships in range of Dash. I’m almost certainly going to lose from this point but I at least want to make a fight of it!

Nobody is in anybody’s arc and so we’re back to dials.

No real long debate here, Dash needs to hard turn to get his guns on target and still focus for maximum offensive output.

Dan’s ships being manoeuvres with Dan being particularly pleased that Sabacc’s aileraons, Gideon’s systesms boost and all other moves all worked perfectly with no bumps. Very impressive! Dan takes the opportunity to reload again with Deathrain too.

Dash’s hard turn puts him further from Dan’s ships than I’d expected (based on their position, not mine) and while a roll out put me close enough to shoot it also prevents a focus meaning I can’t shoot two targets. I decide to focus and just wait another turn.

Back to dials then. I don’t think you can make it out unless you zoom but the clock says 33 minutes left in the screenshot. That’s a long time. Much longer than Dash can hope to hold out.

This time Dash will bank to keep his side arc on target. I’ll keep it to a 1 bank.

Dan begins moving ships, dropping 2 Thermals with Deathrain again to roll and boost before then banking and taking a lock on Dash. Sabacc ailerons around the debris and hard turns in, taking a focus. Gideon also moves in the system phase and follows up with a bank to take the long way around the debris. Fifth Brother just hard turns in behind Deathrain.

Dash has Deathrain and Sabacc in arc while Fifth Brother is out. Perfect.

First shot is at Sabacc, hoping to get her gun off the board. Dash rolls and gest 2 hits. Sabacc simply rolls natties (JARGON ALERT!!) and survives. Balls.

Dash fires at Deathrain too but this roll is equally as bad and takes just 1 shield as Dan rolls an evade with his single green.

Deathrain shoots back with Diamond-Boron missiles. Dash blanks out and loses 2 shields. Sabacc fires too. Dash blanks out, losing his last shield and takes a damage card.

*Sigh*

Back to dials then.

While a straight move will perhaps keep more of Dan’s ships out of range there’s a chance that I’ll miss arc on Sabacc so I set a 3 bank instead.

Sabacc aileron’s around before banking back in at Dash. Deathrain and Fifth Brother hard turn right while Gideon also turns in but is still a way out.

Dash’s 3 banks lands squarely in front of Sabacc. A roll away will give me an added die for attack and remove one for Dan but means I can’t shoot twice.

What the heck, I take a focus.

Right, this time Sabacc’s got to die. Dash fires and rolls 3 natural hits. Nice. This time Sabacc doesn’t roll out of trouble and (finally) dies.

Looking to try and claim some points (not that it matters in a friendly game but still…), Dash targets Deathrain and rolls 3 more natural hits. Deathrain blanks out, giving me half points.

Now it’s time for the pain. Deathrain fires at range 1 with primary weapon and scores 2 hits. Dash rolls and spends a focus to evade one. Gideon fires from range, rolling 4 dice since Dash is damaged. Dash rolls 2 paint and spends a focus to take just 1 hit. Then Fifth Brother spends his second Homing Missiles charge, forcing me to choose again. This time I opt not to roll, take the hit and Dan spends 2 Force to add a crit which ends up being a Structural Damage.

Dash survives on 1 hull. Crazy.

Dials then, probably for the last time.

Trying to be unpredictable (i.e. not doing a hard right turn) I set Dash a 4 straight, hoping to avoid a bump and take something down before he dies.

Deathrain hard turns right and then boosts. Fifth Brother banks right and Gideon rolls left, takes a 2 bank right and focuses.

Dash’s 4 straigh bumps into Deathrain. Sad.

Dash has very little chance of doing damage to Fifth Brother so he shoots at Gideon. Maybe I can one-shot him?

I roll hit, crit. Hmmm. Still technically possible I guess. Dan rolls 1 evade so just takes the crit which turns out to be a weapons failure. No points scored. Poop.

Gideon fires back at Dash and despite the weapons failure rolls enough hits to finish Dash off.

Result: 70 – 200 loss

The conclusion…

Ok, well, on the surface that was terrible. My list wiped out with more than 15 minutes to go against a somewhat experimental list and my opponent still having 3 ships on the board.

Here’s where some honest self reflection and detached analysis needs to come in. To try and determine whether it was all that bad, I need to separate out three different factors here: bad play (by me), bad luck (i.e. dice) and bad list.

My general feeling is that the game swung on two major incidents.

1. Losing Jake. This comes under two categories. First was bad play. I think that being this aggressive with Jake (which I pretty much NEVER do) in order to get the Prockets off was incorrect. As much as I want to make sure that the Prockets get fired, it’s not worth losing Jake over. The second part of the ‘bad play’ aspect is that Hera had taken an evade specifically to pass off to someone and I forgot about it. If I remember at the right time then Jake lives (or at least it takes a shot away from Dash) and the game is different. The second category is bad luck. Two paint on Prockets is, well, unfortunate. Ideally he’d have had a lock (if Hera had been close enough to fire Tracers) but even with just a focus I’d be hoping for 3 paint. Dan’s green roll with Sabacc meant that one more paint and she’d be dead. Again, it becomes a very different game from then on.

2. Bumping Dash into Hera. I want to say this is bad luck. If Dash was even just 1mm left, right or forwards from his position, it fits, he focuses, Hera moves, fires Thread Tracers and something feels a LOT of pain. But. Was it bad luck? It was essentially a risk that I took, seeing that it was close. Being that a better call would probably have been to either bank out left just to make sure, I’d probably have to hold my hands up and say bad play. The move means that both Dash AND Hera end up with no tokens. Dash can only fire once and Hera’s green dice produced nothing.

In the end, the way that it played out meant I lost Jake in exchange for half of Pure Sabbacc and then lost Hera without her even firing.
It was a culmination of poor decisions and back luck against an excellent player.

While we discussed the game afterwards we agreed that the list isn’t horrible. It may in fact be as optimised as a Dash-centric list can be with the possible exception of Lone Wolf on Hera. That said, Hera didn’t get the the end game to utilise it so it’s a bit of a moot point.

In all honesty, had this been played in-person (and with time to do so), I’d have probably suggested a reset after losing Hera because from that point the game only goes one way. Dash can be good but facing 4 ships was just too much.

So, what’s my conclusion for the list?

First off, do I like it? This is easy, yes, I do. I don’t know what it is about the combination of ‘big chunky ship’ and ‘small nimble ships’ but I feel comfortable with it. Dash flies very differently to Rey, of course and while Hera and Jake’s roles are different to Tallie and Zizi, there’s still a familiarity about it.

Secondly, is it any good? Well, as I mentioned before, it’s possibly as good as any list which includes Dash could be. Dash is there to punch things while Hera and Jake are there to enhance his output but can also land some hits or play out an end game if they need to. There’s plenty that I know that this list can do that I didn’t get to do in this game. That alone means (to me, at least) that this warrants more testing.

Thirdly, does anything need to change? It does, mostly my play! Dan suggested holding off with Jake’s Prockets next time, waiting to fire them later in the game and just focusing on handing focus tokens to Dash initially. This will also allow Hera to get a Tracer off on something, meaning my ‘2 paint Prockets’ issue should be mitigated a little. In terms of the build? Well the jury is out on Hera’s Lone Wolf. I think to a lesser extent it may be out on Jake’s Prockets too but I’m still a little on the fence there.

Not so comfortable

Dash’s build works for me. It is an option to drop Lone Wolf and add a shield or hull to Dash (which ups his half points threshold) but I’m loathe to make him even more expensive than he already is.

I will mention again what I brought up last week – Dash is directly comparable to Scum Boba. Boba is in a better base size and has a pilot ability that makes him one of the best ships in the game and he is 1 point more than Dash.

What if I compare him to Rey then? Large base ship and initiative 5. Rey’s ability is strong and, like Dash, she needs a few upgrades to take full advantage of that. Bearing in mind that she has 2 Force charges (although there’s no fixed algorithm for the value of those charges as far as I know!) she is 17 points cheaper than Dash at base cost.

A fully loaded ‘Death Rey’ (with Finn gunner, title, Rose crew and Korr Sella crew), allows her to sloop, boost and rotate while stressed, add a blank die to ALL rolls, turn blanks to hits/evades by spending a force and spending a blank result to add a lock during combat comes in at 94 points.

And what’s crazy to think is that for all those benefits at 15 points cheaper than my (pretty stripped down) Dash build she is STILL not particularly popular in the current meta (JARGON ALERT!!). There are ships out there that are more efficient (and, therefore better) than Rey at her current points cost.

So what does this all mean? Should I just drop Dash like a hot stone? No, I can’t do that, not yet at least. I will fly this Dash build. I doubt I’ll use it for all my games in the next season of the Sith Taker league but I will play it in a couple at least. I want to test it some more and see what further options shake out or whether I can find something tasty to do with those points.

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