Monday, November 16, 2015

Swarms of Bee-wings - A Utah Cup Prelims Battle Report

                This weekend I had the fine privilege of participating in the Preliminaries of the Utah X-wing Players State Cup! This tournament was held simultaneously in three different divisions: Odgen/North, Salt Lake/Central, and Provo/South. As a proud resident of the city of Provo (and a user of Google Fiber) it was really fun for me to be one of the players representing my area and the local game stores therein. For those of you who are curious, the winning lists of each division were as such: Ogden's winner flew Talonbane with 2 Cartel Kihraxzs and a Trandosian Slaver, Salt Lake's winner flew a 5 Kihraxz swarm, and Provo's winner flew a Howlrunner Crackshot TIE swarm.
                I ended up 9th in the Provo division but I didn't really mind at all. My tournament goals haven't changed since last time: have fun, meet new people, run a unique list for exciting results, and get sweet participation prizes. But apart from all of that, I feel that I still won in many ways. I am happy to say that during the whole tournament I never once clipped an asteroid! Ha! There were some seriously close misses but every time I had to make a hard call I was able to make the right decision. I only started playing X-wing this year and it makes me happy to see how much I have progressed in my skill. My second win is actually even sweeter: I walked away from the tournament with 4 large ship kills under my belt! Moreover, my first game marked the first large ship I ever took down in a competitive scene. My final win was that I was good enough to compose a Scum list that got me a final score of 2/2 with a MOV of 400.
                But wait! The Poor Grey Pilot flew a Scum list? Haha, yes. I decided I wanted to try something different and I also wanted to take my new Star Viper for a whirl. I just barely got it this month and I have been having a blast learning to fly the Space Butterfly. Here is the list I took to the Prelims:

Morgan's Scum Bucket - 99 points
Scyk w/ Serissu - 25 points
                Expert Handling
                Stealth Device
Viper w/ Guri - 33 points
                Veteran Instincts
Hawk w/ Spice Runner - 26 points
                Twin Laser Turret
                Intelligence Agent
                Moldy Crow Title
Z-95 w/ Pirate - 15 points
                Hot Shot Blaster

                After practicing Scum for awhile I picked my favorite bits and threw them together in a list that is pretty cohesive. Serissu isn't a surprise after I did a whole article on her. But Expert Handling might pique some of your interest. My first choice was Juke but that hasn't been released yet. My second choice was Veteran Instincts, thus making my Bothan a PS 10, but I only had one copy and I wanted it more on Guri. So I looked at the rest of my EPTs and deliberated for a long time. Finally, Expert Handling won out because it had everything I wanted: a cheaper EPT that doesn't self-stress and still makes my ship a more slippery target.
                Next, I wanted a Star Viper in my list. Normally, I speak of how one pilot sticks out to me in an expansion. And when I opened my Viper I immediately fell in love with Guri. To save space here I will save my analysis of her for my next Pilot Highlight. Suffice it to say that her ability is amazing! I have a blast every time I fly her ship, the only downside is her low pilot skill. So for me, adding Veteran Instincts was a must. That way I can get the most out of her strong mobility. I also wanted Autothruters. I am a player on a budget so I've had to make do without AT for the longest time. But now that I had them I was sure to make use of them.
                My third choice of ship was the Binayre Pirate. By adding the Hot Shot Blaster I created a ship that can joust effectively for its cost and then, if ignored, can slip behind enemy lines and take a turret potshot. I play-tested it in several causal games and it was both effective and fun. It is quite fulfilling to do a sharp turn when your opponent is expecting a K-turn and then you shiv them in the back. Yeah, the card should be called the Space Shiv. lol. To visually represent my Hot Shot Pirate, I used the Headhunter model I modified awhile back.
                The final 26 points were the hardest to fill. I wanted a Hawk but I couldn't decide on a pilot. Palob was a good choice but I found that he drew more aggro than I liked. Players don't like having their tokens stolen! I then decided on a Spice Runner with the Crow title. Not only would PS 1 draw less aggression, he could fly better with my Pirate. But the big question is this, why a TLT Hawk rather than a Y-wing? The answer is that the Moldy Crow has much better action economy. A focus battery is much stronger than the R4 Agromech or even the BTL-A4 Title because it can give needed modification to both defense AND offense.
                In a previous article I talked about how the Scum faction mechanic works in-game. I applied that knowledge to my squad. Here is what I mean. Rebel ship mechanics rely on heavy shielding to outlast opponents. Imperial ships use high agility and mobility to dodge attacks that would normally obliterate them. And I have found that Scum ships excel at not getting one-shot! Haha, I know that sounds funny but it makes sense. The Scum & Villainy of the galaxy rely on medium agility and minimal shields to last long enough to dish out their punishment. My list has one goal: joust the enemy, take a black eye, but survive. During the alpha strike my generics stay close to Serissu for protection. And after the initial joust I break the formation and take the better positioning with my aces and turrets. This greatly punishes enemies because I am now behind them and I can hound them for several turns. Let's get into the details.

Round 1 vs Brobots - Loss
                Honestly, I was scared when I saw two Aggressors across the table from me. Ever since the tournament were I got slaughtered by two different Outriders I have been somewhat averse to large ships. But I knew that large ships aren't inherently overpowered, especially since the half HP rule change, and after watching small ships take X-wing Worlds by storm. FFG has done so well at game balance that the skill of the player is much more important than the ships that are flown. So with a deep breath I courageously went into the fight.
                My opponent's Aggressors were letters B&C and were twins on upgrades: Mangler Cannon, Predator, Sensor Jammer, Inertial Dampener, & Title. We placed our asteroids in two straight lines, creating 3 landing strip lanes. I placed my Scyk, Pirate, and Runner in the left lane and Guri in the middle. Both my generics greatly need Serissu but my Viper flies better when tagging close to the formation. Opponent 1 placed his ships in the left lane as well but boosted the first turn towards the middle lane. I slow-played my squad up the lanes to charge my hawk battery and to use the rocks for cover. Then the alpha strike came and I was in great position. My mini swarm came out from behind cover and had a clean shot and Guri flew a 4 straight right up the middle. I then boosted her past the arc of Aggressor C and into range 1 of the second. Just as I planned, my ships took a beating but none of them died. In return, I sure gave some solid hits right back and Aggressor B took serious damage.
                The next round I broke the formation, with my generics going up the lane and Serissu cutting across to stay out of arc. But sadly I was outmaneuvered when Aggressor C did a 4 K-turn and B did a stall with inertial dampeners. Serissu was sitting in a very deadly pincer move. I am still learning how all the scum ships fly but I will be sure not to fall into that kind of trap again! However, things went in my favor because my opponent forgot that use Predator and his stressed ships didn't have actions for modification. My Scyk took 4 cannon shots and only lost 1 shield and the Stealth Device. Guri and the Spice Runner's fired to bring the Aggressor down to 2 hull points and that is when I knew I had to use the Hot Shot. I caught my opponent by surprise and my hot shot dealt the final 2 damage to IG88 B. As I have said before, true subterfuge in X-wing is not hiding your cards from your opponent but rather being able to pull a fast one on them, even after they have seen every card in your list. And this marked the first large ship I killed in a competitive game! I actually felt that I had a chance to win this one.
                However, two things went bad for me here. The first was that the Tournament Officiator stopped by our game and saw how my opponent was using Sensor Jammer. He said that we were playing wrong and that SJ took effect AFTER I spent my focus token. I wasn't sure that was how it worked, especially since I've specifically studied dice mod order of operation. But the ruling of a TO is final and I was willing to accept it. Yet I do not blame my loss on that ruling. That was out of my control but what was in my control was how well I flew.
                In the subsequent rounds I was outflown and outsmarted, which lost me both Guri and Serissu. That took away my squad's high PS and high mobility. And that effectively lost me any power to hunt down large ships. So for the rest of the match I tried to fly evasively till time ran out to save some squad points. But his Aggressor was too mobile and was able to catch both my ships each in a boost to range 1. Though his supercharged Sensor Jammer gave him a definite edge, I know that if I had flown better I would have at least had a chance. I know this because Opponent 1 didn't take 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place at the end of the tournament. One of these winners must have had to play him and was able to eat through his ships, even with the unfair bonus. So I will learn from my mistakes and move on.

Round 2 vs Outrider & Escorts - Win
                I wasn't scared this time as I sat down across from the third large ship in two matches. The first reason I wasn't scared was because Opponent 2's HLC Outrider had Dash with Veteran Instincts instead of Predator. That meant that his ship had to choose between an offensive or defensive action. And that meant a possible weakness in his strategy. The second reason why I wasn't scared was because I had just had my first taste of large ship blood...and I was thirsty for more. After doing it once, I knew that I could do it again. His large ship was also escorted by Etahn A'baht with a Sensor Jammer and a Prototype A-wing.
                I played my asteroids safe, sticking my obstacles in 3 of the 4 corners of the map. He placed his debris in a small cluster in the middle, thus creating a circular arena. I placed my squad formation on the right side and he set up in the middle. Trying to think like I had Dash, I would have flown fast forward through the middle cluster to get to a flanking position. If he did that then Etahn would be vulnerable so I decided to gun for the E-wing first. I again slow played with my mini swarm while Guri boosted on ahead. Since Guri had VI, she was higher than Etahn and so was able to barrel roll easily into range 3. However, things got dicey when his PS 9 Dash turned sharply towards me instead of flying for the obstacle cover. He measured for a target lock on Guri but barely failed. And things were too tight for a barrel roll so he settled with a focus token. Whew! The A-wing was on a wide sweeping vector and was well out of range for the alpha strike.
                Guri fired on Etahn but didn't break through the SJ. His E-wing fired back and my green dice blanked, giving me only 1 evade from Autothrusters. A hit and critical went through on Guri, giving her a Damaged Sensor Array. However, Guri's ability specifically states that you ASSIGN a focus token to yourself, rather than getting a FREE focus action. Therefore Guri can still use her ability, even with the damaged sensors. I flew her straight at Dash, going for the block, and fixed the Damaged Sensor Array as my action. Etahn casually moved 1 forward, wanting to keep his firing arc on me as long as possible and the A-wing came in from its flanking maneuver. My mini swarm had not yet received fire but I still had to split it to get around the debris cluster. However, due to careful planning and lots of practice, I was still able to keep both generics at range 1 of Serissu in a loose formation. Dash finally moved and went 1 forward, nestling right in front of Guri. Not only did my Viper get her free focus toekn, she was in the range 1 blind spot! Because of this my opponent switched targets entirely, taking a target lock on my Hawk.
                Here was the strategy weakness I spoke of. Though the Outrider is fearsome, it has no more damage mitigation than an X-wing. And without a focus token for defense, Opponent 2's Dash was very vulnerable. My Viper and Hawk did a combined 3 damage on Dash, not as much as I wanted but still good. And Serissu & the Pirate were facing the A-wing at range 3, so not much happened on either side. Both Dash and Etahn shot at my Spice Runner but his many focus tokens and Serissu's reroll ability kept him from losing more than his one shield.
                The next round I did a 1 sharp turn with Guri to stay in the direction Dash was heading and used the Hawks IA to look at Dash's dial. The Outrider was doing a 2 turn back towards its starting edge and so I was able to barrel roll Guri right back into the range 1 blind spot. The mini swarm moved further up towards the A-wing. Dash moved and took a target lock on Serissu, my opponent now seeing where my defensive strength came from. But again he left himself open on defense. All of his ships fired on Serissu but her Stealth Device and focus token allowed her to block all but two of the shots and she kept going with 1 hull. Guri fired at range 1 to take off Dash's final 2 shields. It was then that I did the math and saw the solution: Opponent 2 had forgotten about my Hot Shot Blaster. I shot with my Hawk first, dealing 2 damage with the TLT and leaving 3 hull. I then announced that I was firing my Hot Shot at range 2 and that is when things clicked for my opponent. I rolled 3 hits with the help of a focus token and the Outrider rolled 2 misses. With shock I saw the YT-2400 leave the board and could barely believe it! That marked my second large ship kill for both me and my Hot Shot Pirate.
                Going back to maneuvers, I did a K-turn with my Headhunter, a 1 forward with my Hawk, a Segnor's Loop to get Guri Behind Etahn, and a 3 bank to rocket Serissu out of harm's way. Sure enough, my opponent had come in for a pincer to try and catch my 1 hull Scyk but found that she didn't stick around. He shot at my Hawk and it came perilously close to death. I shot back with three of my ships on the E-wing but the Sensor Jammer saved Etahn, allowing me to only deal two damage. At the end of this round I realized I had a choice. The asteroid cluster limited his E-wings movements and he really only had two paths: down towards my edge or up towards his. I made the guess that he would go down and so I set up my ships accordingly. My Headhunter purposefully moved across the debris field to get the block, Guri did a 1 forward, and Serissu did a 5 K-turn to get way out of the way. However, I was outflown as his E-wing did a 3 turn up! Not only were all of my ships out of position, Serissu didn't have an action to barrel roll away. She shot at Etahn but with no effect. And Etahn shot back and destroyed my Scyk. I will have to be more careful of when I K-turn that ship in the future.
                I had done a 1 forward on Guri because it is a classic chase move. If your ship is behind a lower PS enemy then you chose a maneuver that will place you where they are right now. They will have to move first, leaving it open for you. And since you end up where they started, you almost always have a shot on them. Since I did that, Guri wasn't too far out of position when the E-wing went the other direction. And so I was able to do a 1 sharp turn the next round towards Etahn and get him back in arc. My Hawk kept his straight course, building up focus again. My Headhunter was far out of the action and stressed, forcing me to take a slower path back to the action. Etahn did a 3 K-turn to attack while his mobile A-wing started hounding my Hawk. However, the Prototype pilot was too close to Guri and gave her the range 1 focus token.
                My Viper shot at the E-wing, getting 2 hits and a focus. Sensor Jammer turned 1 hit to another focus (since he was flying the system upgrade correctly) and I used my token to get 3 final hits. He rolled and got 2 blanks and a focus, allowing my Viper to eat through his last shield and 2 hull. Though I had made a big mistake the round before, this sealed the deal on me winning the match. For the next two rounds his Prototype tried to flee but I was able to catch it with my TLT and with Guri's high PS.
                Though killing Dash was a great highlight of this match, it wasn't my favorite part. During the first few rounds when we placed our ships and jockeyed for position, my wife showed up unexpectedly! She brought some lunch and only stayed 30 seconds to give me a hug and kiss. It was a simple gesture but it was really sweet of her. Some people pin their wins on skill or the luck of the dice. This win was definitely because of my wife! lol. Not only was it a great morale booster, it meant that I didn't have to run out during the quick 30 minute lunch break, trying to find something to eat. I would greatly recommend the institution of marriage to anyone. :)

Round 3 vs Triple Imperial Ace - Loss
                As I said in the analysis of my squad, it was built to joust and then take better positioning. It had worked really well so far but in the third round I was up against 3 Imperial Aces. Opponent 3 was running Darth Vader with Ruthlessness and the Advanced Targeting Computer, Whisper with Veteran Instincts and Fire Control System, and Dark Curse with a Stealth Device. I wasn't quite sure how to approach the enemy but I did know one thing: I would have to get blocks to overcome his higher PS and throw the balance in my favor. If I didn't block then he would have plenty of actions to stay mobile and fly circles around me.
                Asteroid placement was similar to last game with a cluster in the middle and a few on the outskirts of the map. I approached on the right while Dark Curse came down the middle and his PS 9s came from the left. As our squads closed, both Guri and Dark Curse approached an asteroid on the top right side. His TIE Fighter flew up next to the asteroid for cover and I decided to do the same, barrel-rolling my Viper behind the rock so we both faced each other obstructed. However, this turned out to be the wrong move and I found out why when Vader activated. He flew in fast and was able to catch a target lock on Guri. If I had barrel rolled towards Dark Curse instead of away, or if I had just taken a focus token then I would have been in better shape. That is because the Advanced Targeting Computer doesn't care about asteroids! Sure, the enemy gets an extra defense dice but you are already get a guaranteed critical hit. So despite my range, cover, and Autothrusters, Vader hit Guri hard with an unanswered hit and crit to give Guri a console fire. No one was close enough for Ruthlessness to take effect.
                The next round for movement I decided to fly Guri in fast to slip past Dark Curse and get the block on Vader, using my action to stop the console fire. And his Whisper was in the middle of the map so I sent my squad to block the most favorable approach vector, a gap between two obstacles in the middle. If I guessed right on Whisper's movement then she would have to deal with my whole squad's firepower. However, when she decloaked she didn't move forward like I hoped but rather up, past the debris field that I was sure she couldn't get around. And when Vader and Whisper moved, they nestled right into range 1 of Guri, rather than being blocked. My opponent decided to fire first with Vader and struck the killing blow on my Viper. However, when he measured for Ruthlessness he found that Guri was just out of range of my mini swarm and so had to put a damage on Whisper. That was somewhat consoling. lol.
                Whisper shot next at Serissu but the range and the SD kept her from taking fatal damage. I shot back with my squad but only managed to take off the remaining shields of Vader and Whisper. I had one last hope and that was my hot shot blaster. I moved into knife range and actually did the best I could have hoped for. My Hawk managed to get the block on Dark Curse. And I was able to see where Whisper was going to move from my Intelligence Agent. So I barrel rolled Serissu out of what would have been a horrible spot, which removed the target lock and left Whisper with no shot and no use of the Advanced Cloaking Device. However, despite all my success I was still outmatched. Vader causally moved into range 1 and shredded my poor Spice Runner in one shot with a Direct Hit critical. My opponent then measured for range and put the Ruthlessness damage on Serissu's last hull, killing her despite her first miraculous escape.
                With a chance to earn some points this round I used my Hot Shot blaster on a very vulnerable Whisper. Yet the dice went in my opponent's favor and the Phantom survived. In the next few rounds Whisper flew away to safety while Vader and Dark Curse did a dance with the Pirate. My opponent was actually impressed with how well I was able to fly my Headhunter to keep it alive but finally the inevitable came and I lost the ship for a final MOV of 100-0.
                Thankfully it was the only time I was fully wiped in this tournament. And I came from the battle happy, especially since I knew I had had a good chance of getting Whisper. Now that Three Ship Aces is a popular meta build I will have to start practicing against it.

Round 4 vs Bossk & IG88 B - Win
                Opponent 4 had a Hounds Tooth and an Aggressor. His Aggressor was IG88 B with a Heavy Laser Cannon and Predator. His Hounds Tooth had Bossk with a Mangler Cannon, Marksmanship, and the Title. Hehe, I spotted the combo right away, have you? Bossk shoots with the Mangler Cannon and Marksmanship, giving himself an almost guaranteed 2 criticals every time. He then uses his ability to change one critical into two hits for a powerful offensive volley. For the same amount of points, Bossk gets a HLC that can also give critical hits. Now I had never flown with a Hounds Tooth before but it is a large ship and it follows the same large ship mechanics. So it was time to hunt it like the others I had that day.
                My opponent placed his asteroids in a wall in front of my starting edge and I placed my in the corners. This created a box arena with my side closed. Perhaps my opponent wanted me to be delayed while he got into position but all I did was place my squad on the right side and bypassed the wall. He set up on the opposite left corner and the first few initial rounds was us moving up past the obstacles and turning 90 degrees into the box. Things were set up for a harsh joust in the alpha strike. But remember, my squad strength is in shrugging off initial joust damage.
                We approached each other at extreme range three and his Aggressor targeted Guri while Bossk was just barely out of range. The Aggressor fired and rerolled a blank to get a critical. Since the HLC's ability triggers only after your roll the first time, IG88 B got to keep the critical. Guri blocked two of the hits but took a shield damage and an Injured Pilot hit. However I wasn't deterred by this because, just like with Damaged Sensor Array, Guri always has two avenues to get her focus token. Without her ability, it just meant I had to fly smarter to hunt the now higher PS enemies. Then my squad's concentrated firepower took off the Aggressor's shields.
                Now was the time for me secure better board position. If I didn't then I would just be taking more of a beating. The Pirate did a 4 forward to block the Aggressor and my Hawk did an unexpected red 4 forward to block the Hounds Tooth, with Serissu following up right behind. Guri did a Segnor's Loop to put her on the side still facing the right direction. My block half worked. The Hounds Tooth was caught in my snare but the Aggressor did an S-loop himself, putting him right behind my pirate. But that was ok because Guri was still able to keep him in arc. The Aggressor shot at my Hawk but didn't have a focus and so couldn't overpower my Crow's focus battery paired with Serissu. And Bossk fired at my Pirate but Serissu helped so that he only lost his shields. I then fired into the Aggressor with extreme prejudice. The combined efforts of Guri, the TLT, and my Hot Shot brought the large ship down.
                Like a pack of orcas swarming a space whale, my squad now had the board position to dog the Hounds Tooth. My opponent flew it on a red 2 turn though, which I didn't expect since I don't the ships dial very well. Serissu was caught out in the open. Bossk used his combo at range 1 and one-shot the poor Scyk. However, the Hounds Tooth only has 1 evade die and I was able to shred through it quickly since I stayed behind the ship and outside its 180 degree firing arc.
                The match wasn't over since I still had to deal with the Pup. It launched from its dock, doing a backwards 3 K-turn to put Bossk behind my whole squad. And I learned that the Pup keeps Bossk's PS of 7. What a crazy, cool upgrade card! I turned Guri into a blocker to make sure that Bossk couldn't finish off my badly hurt Viper. And my Pirate and TLT Hawk were able to finish off the Pup for a good win of 100-25.

                As I said before my final score was 2/2 with a MOV of 400, which is literally 50%. So not half bad! And it makes sense that my placement was 9 out of 16 players in the tournament. It still amazes me how well balanced this game is. My hat is off to you FFG! I want to give a shout out to everyone who worked so hard to put this tournament together: you did an amazing job! This article has already gone quite long so I will put my post-analysis in the afterwards, if you want to stay for that. Thank you so much for reading. I hope you have an amazing week and have fun flying your own unique, fun builds! PGP out.

                First things first, the original damage deck punishes this list. The new one would have been much better but I do not have the new Core Set. But even with the old deck I wan't debilitated by the criticals. In fact, this squad is strong at still pressing on even with critical damage. Serissu died every game but she did her job of keeping allies alive at key points. Expert Handling, though not used often, was crucial at the times it was needed. So I stand by my previous statement that it was the best fit for my build. But as soon as Juke comes out I will be enjoying that! Guri did a remarkable job, though she was still vulnerable to enemy aces. Perhaps I should consider using my own Sensor Jammer. The Hawk exceeded all my expectations! Though weak on its own, it added immensely to the strength of my squad and the Moldy Crow title came through time and time again when a Y-wing or a Recon Specialist would have failed. And finally the MVP of my squad was definitely the Binarye Pirate. His hot shot blaster was on fire and he was generally the last target of most engagements. I really have fun flying ships that people underestimate and, as such, give me the upper hand. Apart from the Juke, and maybe the Sensor Jammer, I really don't have anything else to tweak on this list. I feel it is as perfect as it can be. The only thing that needs improvement is my own skill, so we'll see how that goes.


  1. Awesome tournament report! I have run a Guri-based list with sensor jammer, autothrusters, and predator, a tlt y-wing, a tlt spice runner, and a pirate with feedback array casually without losing a game. We have a store tourney at my LGS in February and I might take that list. After reading your report, I really want to find a way to fit in the Moldy Crow title. Like you, I really love that Guri can very effective, even with stress or without traditional dice modifying actions. Also, with the sensor jammer, she laughs at opposing tlt's.

    1. I really love the Moldy Crow Title. But I realize now that my Hawk build would be better for a Rebel list since the same price would get me a PS 2 for the Rebels. Your list is pretty solid even with the Crow title but it couldn't hurt to have it. Thanks for sharing!