Thursday, 16 June 2016

"Wars not make one great" - reporting back from the Yavin Open

You may have noticed a bit of a pause in my blogs recently, a pause that coincided with my increased preparation for the two biggest X-Wing tournaments I've ever played in - the Yavin Open and it's accompanying Regional.  Those two events are behind me now and they've stirred up plenty of new blogging material so hopefully I'll be able to commit some of those pent up ideas to the internet before too long.

Starting with this, my tournament report from the Regional and Yavin Open.  

The first thing to say is that I'm not really a fan of tournament reports in general - I don't get much from reading other people's thus assume you won't get much from reading mine - so there won't be much detail play-by-play analysis.  Instead I'm going to try and pull out the turning points in the games, and learnings I gleaned from them.

However the tournament report has to start by showing you what I was playing:


Welcome to the Slaughterhouse!

Slaughterhouse is a Crack Swarm variant which trades the sixth TIE Fighter from a classic Crack Swarm for higher Pilot Skill across the swarm and the endgame prowess of Omega Leader.  

With Zeta Leader and Scourge's abilities I still roll the same 12 red dice on initial engagement that a Crack Swarm does but, sometimes critically, I roll them much earlier in the combat phase as my PS is that much higher.  This is most material in matchups against other Crack Swarms where I'll frequently take two of their TIEs off and create a pivotal advantage before they can open fire, and it also flips the matchup against PS6 Brobots where instead of usually losing a couple of ships to their PS6 I've got a very good chance of removing one of the Aggressors before it can fire.





Occasionally the higher PS does matter for maneuvering as well - the Dash lists don't like that I could potentially have 4 of my ships moving after Dash as they're used to having perfect Barrel/Boosting information to keep the TIEs at arm's length - but most commonly the high PS is leveraged in firing earlier and removing targets before they can fire.


The transition down to five TIEs does come at a price, most notably that as my ships are destroyed you're taking a greater % of my firepower at a time and when I've played against some high PS lists I've had to be more cagey in my play.  Perhaps my single heaviest defeat with this list came at the hands of a Dengar/Boba Fett squad that had given both the pilots PS10.  Jousting me heads-up with Glitterstim for the initial engagement he simply blew me away.

But outside of that sort of scenario I'm convinced this is better than a basic Crack Swarm in most of the key matchups, especially mirror matches against other Swarms and against Brobots.  If Slaughterhouse is 'Crack Swarm+' then the '+' in that is Omega Leader, and I can't even begin to count the number of times that it's my trusty O.Leader who deals the lethal damage.  If he was just any other elite TIE then I'd be back at six ships, but bringing Omega Leader in for the endgame without sacrificing any of the Crack Swarm's alpha strike power occurs to me as being the best of both worlds.

I picked up a Crack Swarm for the first time about two months before Yavin and immediately liked how it matched my aggressive playstyle.  Slaughterhouse was born when I saw the 'TIE All-Stars' list being played by a couple of redditors.  Coming from a Crack Swarm background I saw the potential for dropping in additional Crack Shots and when I ran the maths I found that the difference between 4 Crack Shot & Juke and the original 2 Crack Shot and Juke was enormous in your ability to take a Jumpmaster off before it fired - 83% vs 35%.

Ready for battle!
I never looked back from that, and in four tournaments with Slaughterhouse I've only lost a handful of games, including winning the two final Yavin preparation tournaments at my local store.

I liked my TIEs and my TIEs liked me.  I was confident.  I knew that I wouldn't win the Open, I knew that among the players with many years more experience than me I find some who would simply outfly, but I also knew that my squad was lethal and would ruthlessly punish any mistake from my opponents.

I was as ready as I was going to get.

Time to play some serious X-Wing!


FRIDAY - REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP 

Approximately 120 players from across the UK with an estimated 60 Store Championships among them, this tournament is likely one of the toughest X-Wing events ever held in the UK.  Played on a Friday before the weekend Yavin Open it meant that playing in this Regional required booking a day off work, buying an extra day's pass for the UK Games Expo that would hold both events, and also a night's accomodation in a pricey convention hotel.  Only players who were committed enough to X-Wing and who fancied their chances of winning would be playing in this Regional - easy games and casual players would likely be few and far between.

ROUND ONE - Cai
(Miranda/Esege - two heavily bomb-laden K-Wings)

Esege lays his 2nd mine... then dies!
Our playtesting for Yavin had revolved around heavily playing the matchups against what we felt were the top lists in the metagame - Jumpmasters, Aces, Crack Swarms, Brobots and various large Rebel ship combinations like Dash/Ghost.  Although we'd spent most of our time on preparing for those games we'd always spoken about the fact that you'd need to earn the right to play against them by beating a whole variety of other squads that people might come up with.

A pair of Advanced SLAMming K-Wings with Proton Bombs, Proximity Mines, Conner Nets and Thermal Detonators?  That definitely fell under the latter category!  I'd never played against anything like this before so even though on paper I felt like my list was strong I was very uncertain about how to approach the matchup.  I also had in mind the humbling loss I'd suffered a few months ago when I faced bombs for the first time - playing against something you've not seen before gives you plenty of opportunities to throw the game.

My TIEs hurl themselves after Miranda
 Cai built the asteroids in a diagonal line across the table, then on the first turn his plan was revealed as he set about blocking up the gaps in that line by sending Esege Tuktu to SLAM-plant a Proximity Mine in one of them.

I guessed that his second turn would be to drop another mine in the second gap between asteroids so angled my approach... and called it just right.  Esege SLAMmed up the table and dropped a second Proximity Mine out the back then my TIE Swarm all swept in behind him and the first of Cai's K-Wings disintegrated under the sheer weight of fire.

I still had Miranda to deal with and I didn't want to give Cai too many turns to exploit her Twin Laser Turret so my TIEs aggressively darted over asteroids and proximity mines to close the gap.  Scourge paid the ultimate price for that haste but it was enough to prevent Miranda slipping away with a SLAM action and instead she turned back on herself.  My TIEs boxed her into a corner and a Blinded Pilot critical hit proved the killer blow, as a turn without firing meant a turn without regenerating shields.

WIN 100-19


ROUND TWO - Charles
(Dengar / Boba Fett)

Crap.

As I mentioned when I talked about my TIE Swarm perhaps the heaviest defeat I've ever suffered was at the hands of Lewis Whitham's PS10 Boba/Dengar list, which was almost identical to the one that Charles was bringing to the table.  I knew that the odds were heavily against me in this matchup, but I also knew from bitter experience that I couldn't just joust this one out.

With Boba dying in amongst the rocks my TIEs danced around Dengar
I thought for a minute or two about how I could change the matchup and decided that my best bet was to do something unexpected and deliberately fly into the asteroids and try to suck him in after me.  I built a circle of asteroids near my lines and cruised slowly into it while Charles took the bait and boosted Boba Fett over to join me.

With Charles' initial approach attack coming through asteroids at range 3 I was able to weather that one turn then swarm around the asteroids to block and trap Boba in place.  The Firespray quickly disintegrated, leaving me three TIEs to dance around Dengar with.  I played a very cautious game with an awful lot of Evade actions to protect my TIEs from his turret, while I tried to maneuver around out of Dengar's arc, before I was in position and Omega Leader could finally take the second bounty hunter off the table.

This was a bullet dodged against I list that had embarassed me last time, and I tried to find Lewis during the break to thank him for my earlier beating - if I'd not been so soundly thrashed a couple of weeks ago I would almost certainly have lost that round.  I couldn't find him, though.

WIN 100-35


ROUND THREE - Lewis
(Palp Aces - Vader/Inquisitor/Shuttle)

Ah, here he was!  Flaunting the 120 to 1 odds, right after failing to find Lewis between the rounds here he was as my next opponent... typical!  It turned out that my last round opponent, Charles, is a teammate of Lewis' and he'd just been hearing about the match so my thanks were a little bittersweet.  
Since he'd handed me a drubbing with Boba/Dengar a couple of weeks ago Lewis had changed squad, though, and was now bringing a pretty common Palp Aces variant.  My playgroup had discussed this exact list in great detail and we believe that target priority is key: Vader -> Shuttle -> Inquisitor is the correct way to go about it, we believe.  You take Vader off first because he's where the immediate damage threat is coming from but then you have to switch Palpatine off before you start chasing Inquisitor with his Evades and Autothrusters.  

Omega Leader is starting to feel lonely...
The first part of that plan went well enough and my swarm caught Vader with full guns on the second turn, then finished the wounded dark lord of the Sith on the next turn.  So far so good, but then I threw it away by abandoning the order of target priority because I felt I had an opportunity to get enough guns onto the Inquisitor the next turn.  

I was wrong and in the two turns that I spent fruitlessly throwing red dice at Lewis' TIE Advanced Prototype the game swung entirely his way.  I lost a couple of TIEs and now didn't have the firepower to rapidly drop the Shuttle even if I wanted to so was forced into trying to joust the Inquisitor with my sole remaining Omega Leader... it didn't go well.

My crime was hubris, thinking that I was so far ahead after easily killing Vader that I could wrap the game up in four turns by quickly finishing the Inquisitor too.  I should have stuck to the plan and downed the Shuttle ASAP.  

I paid the price for my lack of vision.

LOSS 39-100


ROUND FOUR - Cormac
(Manaroo Bumpmaster & 2x Overclocked Jumpmasters)

I've played the Jumpmaster matchup perhaps more than any other so I know that I'm handily favourite so long as I can avoid being bumped on the initial engage.  Cormac was playing a slightly different variant that I'd not played against, with Overclocked and Manaroo, but it wouldn't change my initial approach.

We rolled up and angled our ships for the first engagement, and I was feeling very happy that I had handily avoided the bump - in fact Cormac hadn't even tried for one.  From this point I felt almost certain to destroy one of his two Jumpmasters before it fired, and with Manaroo hiding at the back I would only be taking one shot back, so it should be comfortable.

First shot: he focuses to Evade, then Overlocks.  I get no damage through.

Second shot: he focuses to Evade, then Overlocks.  I get 1 damage through,

I began to realise that I might have miscalculated just how different Cormac's version plays vs Crack Swarm.  My whole Swarm unloaded on one of his Jumpmasters but barely scratched the paint, then in return he took off off two of my TIEs with the help of some admittedly shoddy green dice on my part.

My TIEs were in a great position on the initial engagement...but the multi-stress Jumpmaster refused to die!
Still, Cormac now had a critically stressed Jumpmaster so I only needed to worry about one of them firing Torpedoes for the rest of the game.  Oh, wait, Manaroo will donate a Focus to him despite the stress so in fact he was able to S-Loop behind me the next turn and unload anyway.  

For all my practice against Jumpmasters I had never played against this particular variant and I was completely blindsided by it.  Other information that I should have known: this list had recently won the Milton Keynes Regional so it was proven to be very strong.

LOSS 0-100

*****

It had been a rapid crash and burn - not long ago I was halfway through my game against Lewis after just killing Vader and looking at going 3-0, and suddenly I was feeling like a pretty dazed 2-2 and out of the tournament.  I decided to save my mental energies for the next day's Yavin Open and dropped out, still kicking myself for throwing it away in the third game.

*****

SATURDAY - YAVIN OPEN

The sandwiched A-Wings
after their B-Wing escorts were lost
ROUND ONE - Matt
(BBAAA)

Tackling a fleet of small low PS ships should be meat and drink to my swarm of Crack Shot aces, and so it proved.  In initial engagement I destroyed a B-Wing without taking any damage in return, then on the next turn my front rank of TIEs K-turned in behind his ships to sandwich them, taking out the second B-Wing before it could fire.  That left his 2 red dice A-Wings against my team of 3 green dice TIEs, which should make for a risk-free cleanup.

The A-Wings scattered but my TIEs rapidly chased them down, leaving just one lone Prototype Pilot that managed to scurry halfway around the table and back before Omega Leader could finally pin him down.

WIN 100-21


ROUND TWO - Duncan
(2x Scout & Zuckuss)

In theory the early rounds of the Yavin Open should be easier than anything we had to face in the Friday Regional, and so it had proved as my entire playtest team emerged victorious... correction, everyone but our stalwart Bob who had been pivotal in bringing the team together in the first place.  The first round lottery included just enough good players that one of us had to draw the short straw and Bob had been beaten by Duncan Callender, a very strong player.  Now I was to play the same Duncan in Round Two.


Can you guess where the first Jumpmaster used to be?
Facing the two Jumps and Zuckuss is slightly different to plain triple Jumps because with his higher pilot skill and better endgame dice Zuckuss poses a new threat.  He was my #1 target but the way the initial engagement happened meant Duncan fed me a Jumpmaster instead while Zuckuss hovered just out of range.  One Jump down, while I lost Howlrunner to a return fire torpedo.  My remaining TIEs all turned on Zuckuss and hunted him down over the next two turns, then we circled around and finished off the final Jumpmaster as it tried to run for cover.

Vengeance: Unlocked

WIN 100-35


ROUND THREE - Peter
(Kanan/Chopper)

Peter is part of my playtesting team so we had played each other a couple of times before, meaning that he was one of the few people in the room who knew to be scared of Slaughterhouse TIEs.

It turned out he was right to be so, as my higher Pilot Skill proved the difference in ensuring that I fired first, removing Chopper before he could fire his second shot, and then keeping me dancing out of range of Kanan's autoblaster turret range.

My TIEs scattered to avoid Kanan's front arc
Once I had Chopper's ship off the table I only had one arc to dodge, really, as I shouldn't get caught by the Autoblaster and I took my time in pecking Kanan down, though the result was rarely in doubt despite the fact that I probably threw away one more TIE than I really needed to right at the end, when Howlrunner suffered a rush of blood that she didn't really need.

WIN 100-56


ROUND FOUR- John
(Biggs, Stressbot, T-70, B-Wing)

Playing against a mix of Rebel ships, a lot like what I defeated in the first round, I was very confident here on the approach.  John was a tougher opponent though and judged his approach well, with Biggs Darklighter doing a fantastic job of splitting my fire on the initial engagement, meaning that instead of destroying any of his ships I only stripped the shields off his Stressbot and put a couple of damage onto Biggs.
The rebel scum fall into my trap (OR... Biggs is about to bone me).
Six or seven turns later, when the game finally ended, I hadn't dealt a single extra point of damage - Biggs was still happily cruising around with his one Hull point left.  My TIEs all died with their Crack Shots unspent because, for all my maneuvering for position to try and keep myself in the game, I simply couldn't roll enough hits that I had a reason to spend Crack Shot!  I finally got Biggs in the sights of Omega Leader, with his Target Lock and Juke, only to have his stressed K-turning Biggs roll three natural evades as variance flicked me one last middle finger.  It had been that sort of game, and perhaps the longest and most consistently poor run of variance I've experienced since I started playing X-Wing.

LOSS 0-100

My first loss of the Open, but it was to something I couldn't really avoid - dice will be dice sometimes.  Time to put that behind me and worry about the next opponent...


ROUND FIVE - Russell
(Scout, Scout, N'Dru with a lethal Homing Missile shot)

An experimental offset deployment for Youngster reaped rewards
Another Jumpmaster variant, which I think by now you now I'm comfortable against.  This one had the wrinkle of running the Z-95 elite N'Dru Suhlak as a lethal side attraction, which I've faced before and underestimated.

I tried something different on the lineup here and, unfortunately for Russell, it worked perfectly.  Instead of my usual formation deployment I set Youngster before N'Dru and deliberately faked out where I would deploy the rest of my TIEs, which Russell lined up opposite as I then moved to the left with my other four.

I then slow-rolled my main force while Youngster bolted forwards at full speed.  Russell had taken the bait and N'Dru also raced forward, getting to missile range and taking his shot at Youngster... the Homing Missile was fired, a Glitterstim was used and a Crack Shot spent - all to deal just 2 damage to my least important TIE!

It was a critical error and I could now virtually ignore N'Dru and focus all my firepower on the two remaining Jumpmasters, making short work of Russell's team.

WIN 100-16

Although the game was pretty straightforward after that initial mistake I want to call out that Russell was definitely the classiest opponent I met all weekend and a credit to how to play the X-Wing properly.  At a key moment in the game he destroyed Omega Leader only for me to realise, once I'd taken the model off the board, that a Weapon Malfunction should have meant he took one less damage and survived.  Russell didn't blink in allowing us to wind back the game and correct the mistake.



ROUND SIX - Ion
(Palp Shuttle, Carnor, Wampa, Omega Leader)

I've played Slaughterhouse enough in practice to know how the games against Palp Aces will go.  If they make a mistake my guys will utterly annihilate them, but if they don't then they've probably got the tools to win.  Palp Aces is a list that really lives and dies on the skill of the pilot at the wheel and I'm not so egocentric to think that, after playing the game for just a few months, there's nobody out there who will be able to outfly me.

Ion outflew me.

I thought I was delivering a masterstroke when I faked to roar straight down the line after his Shuttle and Omega Leader only to jink left instead and catch Carnor in the arc of all my ships.  It turned out that Ion was a good two or three steps ahead of me and had baited that move with Carnor in order to get me flying into the asteroid field, with the rest of his ships raking my back with fire as I went.

I could simply never get my fleet facing back the right way before the incredible dice modification of Omega Leader, Wampa and Palpatine tore my flimsy ships to shreds.


LOSS 31-100

That left me on 4-2 after the first day of the Yavin Open, which was enough to mean I had no chance of making the cut into the Top-8 and actually win the thing, but had secured me the opportunity to come back and play three more rounds on Sunday morning.  The Top-8 was probably out of reach but a clean sweep might get me to Top-16 and some bragging rights, maybe even some extra swag!

Time for a good night's sleep ahead of a third consecutive day of tough X-Wing competition.


SUNDAY - YAVIN OPEN

I left my phone at my B&B after checking out and had to drop out of the tournament before the Sunday rounds had even begun to rush back and get it.  My Yavin Open experience would end on 4-2, and a final ranking outside the Top 100 as a result.

Rubbish.

Still, let's look on bright side.  4-2 in such a seriously competitive environment isn't bad for somebody only just dropping their learner tags.

And one of those defeats was to CRAZY bad dice and I probably should have won that game, so really it was 5-1.

And if I'd been 5-1 and played on Sunday then I was due to meet some of those high-flying Crack Swarms I'd not seen yet, which I beat, and probably another set of Contracted Scouts, which I beat.  So I would have got to 8-1 for sure.

And 8-1 is enough for a Top-8 slot, and the whole event was ultimately won by the only Crack Swarm to make Top-8... that would have been me!!!

So it looks like I went 4-2, but really I probably actually won the Open.  Slaughterhouse is the best squad list, I've broken X-Wing, and you should all play it and thank me later.

Or something like that, anyway.

More seriously: congratulations to Andrew Pattison who actually DID win Yavin with a Crack Swarm.  After the experience of playing against that tougher level of competition I think I agree with the need for Academy Pilots as blockers and, were I to do it all over again, although I still like my Slaughterhouse list I think I'd be moving to something much more like his list (if not precisely his list).


CLOSING REMARKS

Playing in the Yavin Open was a blast, props to all of my opponents and HUGE props to the organisers, who managed to get it all to run much more smoothly than I expected.  Not without the odd hiccough but I've experienced some FAR worse tournaments from my early Magic: The Gathering days and a 400+ player X-Wing tournament is a learning experience for everyone.

Thanks also to the many disparate souls who came together and bonded under the crucible of playtesting and preparing for Yavin.  You definitely made me a better player, and hopefully I gave something back in return.

And finally, thanks to you for reading this.  Yavin has uncorked many great topics so I won't be short of things to write about for a while so thanks for bearing with me over the lean patch, and I hope you'll continue to do me the honour of reading my words!

5 comments:

  1. At 5 planes, I think the A-Wing with Autothruster is superior. For Ties I would want more than 5 planes.

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