Saturday, November 27, 2021

Last words: a critique of ROAD and other rule changes

Even though I've retired from X-Wing, I've been clarifying my thoughts around why I dislike the Random player Order After Dials (ROAD) rules change and AMG's other stated rule changes. Such is the reality of leaving a community and game of six years, it doesn't come easily! But hey, critics review games they don't intend to play in the future all the time. I guess I can as well.

I don't know if this is closure or the last gasp of the bargaining stage of grief. A benefit of leaving the game is I can root for the community and be happy for those who enjoy the new rules, rather than fighting to save my place in the community. This post is not consistent with that. Forgive me. You are free to close this window and leave the rest unread.

To help explain my reasoning, I'm about to introduce a "Clearly Bad Rule Change" for a different game, one which everyone would agree is bad. Before I do that, I need to explain what I am NOT doing with this example and the two reasons I'm using it!

I am NOT saying ROAD is the same as Clearly Bad Rule Change. That would be a false equivalence. I do not believe they are the same and there will be clear differences between the two.

The first reason is to filter out weak arguments in defense of ROAD. An argument that applies both to ROAD and to Clearly Bad Rule Change proves too much and can be dismissed. Alternatively, this provides a standard for good argument in defense of ROAD. They must be specific enough to not also be a defense of Clearly Bad Rule Change.

Second, it's helpful to examine why Clearly Bad Rule Change is bad. It serves as a comparison and lets us consider how ROAD in X-Wing is both different and similar. Using these differences and similarities, we can consider the effects of ROAD on X-Wing and explain one reason why players have had different experiences with ROAD.

Clearly Bad Rule Change

Consider a social deduction game like Secret Hitler, Werewolf, or Resistance. Imagine a rule change where the roles are dealt after the game is over.

(If you're less familiar with social deduction games, imagine a game of Poker where all private cards are dealt after bidding ends. In the examples below, substitute the roles with "good hand" and "bad hand".)

We can agree this rule change would destroy the entire premise of those games and is clearly bad.

Again, I am not saying ROAD is exactly the same as Clearly Bad Rule Change. Let's consider the two ways I'm using this example: as a standard to evaluate arguments and as a comparison to examine the similar and different effects of ROAD.

First, let's consider arguments made in defense of ROAD that can also be made in defense of this Clearly Bad Rule Change:

  • "You're just afraid of change."
  • "No play-style/strategy/sacred cow should be protected."
  • "You never knew if you really read your opponent or if you just got lucky, so not much skill expression was lost."
  • "This change would make the game more skillful." (without explanation)
  • "This change just forces you to make a plan that is good both if you are the werewolf/fascists/bad guys and if you are the villagers/liberals/good guys."
  • "You just got used to making decisions with perfect information about your role."
  • "This change lets you decide whether to play aggressively assuming you have a specific role, or conservatively which would work if you had either role."

These arguments could be valid if they come with specific clarifications or examples that show why they apply to ROAD in X-Wing and not to Clearly Bad Rule Change in social deduction games. They could be some specific tactical or strategic considerations that ROAD adds or a specific scenario that illustrates them. Otherwise, in these general forms, these arguments must be insufficient or fallacious because they defend what is clearly a bad rule.

More interestingly, why is Clearly Bad Rule Change so bad? In social deduction games, all of your goals are the result of your role and the roles of people you're interacting with. Forcing players to make all of their decisions before roles are assigned means players don't have any goals to achieve when they are making their decisions, so those decisions are pointless.

To evaluate ROAD, we should ask what goals in X-Wing are independent of your player order and what goals in X-Wing rely on knowing your player order. Of course, the overall goal of X-Wing (kill enemy ships) does not depend on player order, so we'll be examining sub-goals that lead to winning the game on a smaller basis (such as round by round or ship by ship).

Unlike social deduction games, there are some sub-goals in X-Wing that do not rely on player order. No matter what the player order, you want to point your firing arc in the correct location and avoid your opponent's fire arc if possible. There's also shooting the correct targets. These goals still exist with ROAD.

Outside of these, many sub-goals in X-Wing do rely on player order. Dialing a maneuver to arc-dodge relies on player order. Whether to position your ships to block or avoid a block relies on player order. Strategically, the optimal location to place your ships this turn to set up for future turns also relies on player order. Range control to ensure getting target locks on engagement relies on player order. Ensuring your ships either block enemy K-Turns or can clear their K-Turns next round relies on player order. The optimal spot for trailing enemy ships so you can pursue them without running into them relies on player order. Whether to spread your ships out to avoid blocks or potentially get isolated matchups relies on player order. Whether to deploy across from or far from your opponent's ships depend on player order. All of these sub-goals are lost with ROAD.

ROAD only matters for overlapping initiatives and should be evaluated on these situations. However, even when there are some overlaps, ships of different initiatives will move in a set order in relation to each other. In those cases (likely the majority of games with overlaps), the difference in initiatives can enable these sub-goals.

There is another important difference. In X-Wing with ROAD, there are often some decisions which can still be made after dials are set and player order is determined. When ships have strong repositioning abilities, especially ones before execution of maneuvers, these sub-goals can still exist with ROAD.

It's telling that from the games I've seen with ROAD, it is best when players have ships of different initiatives (e.g., both players have one ship of initiative 4, 5, and 6) and where ships have lots of options after dials are set and player order is determined (e.g., strong repositioning abilities). ROAD seems most problematic when most of the ships on the board are at the same initiative and when those ships do not have good options after dials are set (e.g., ships that just want to take a Focus token).

This is a problem that can't be addressed through list-building. This is an issue that affects the enjoyment of lists, not necessarily the strength of lists. Lists with ships of the same initiative and few repositioning abilities can still be powerful with ROAD, they just might not be fun against overlapping initiatives. It's very possible to design a game where the optimal strategy is not fun (camping in FPS games, Nantex-apocalypse in X-Wing), and that's usually a bad outcome.


One important consideration is where hidden information adds to the game. For example, revealing everyone's role at the start of a social deduction game also destroys the game.

Could something similar happen for ROAD and X-Wing, where the randomness creates new goals for players to play with? Yes, specifically in solved or degenerate matchups like ace vs. ace with overlapping initiatives where one side moves second. Perhaps there are others, but I have not seen such examples (set player order can influence joust vs. joust matchups but to a much smaller extent and allows for skill expression). We'll consider this below, but as we do, let's not forget the costs paid to achieve those benefits and whether there could be a better alternative.

What about other benefits of ROAD?

The strongest reason for ROAD is to reduce matchup variance and the number of "phantom games" that are effectively decided before ships are even deployed. Another possible reason for ROAD is to make the game more casual and broaden its appeal.


Addressing the second benefit first, ROAD only affects games with overlapping initiatives. All of the tactics and strategy would remain in games without overlapping initiatives. That makes ROAD a poor way to make the game appeal to a more casual audience.

The primary goal for ROAD is to reduce matchup variance in ace vs. ace matchups with overlapping initiatives. I agree this was a concern and ROAD accomplishes its goals in that area.

While ROAD may reduce matchup variance in ace vs. ace matchups with overlapping initiatives, it's unclear how much it reduces matchup variance in the game overall rather than shifting the "phantom game" problem into other matchups.

Specifically, it's possible that ships with strong repositioning abilities are now much weaker with ROAD against ships without such abilities of overlapping initiatives. Not only can the repositioning ships not set a dial to aggressively take advantage of their repositioning abilities for arc-dodging, they also cannot do so for blocking. For aces flying against jousters, ROAD is in some ways worse than going first the whole game.

This is best illustrated with an example. Consider Soontir Fel against Wedge Antilles. Soontir Fel costs about the same as Wedge Antilles. Soontir Fel and Wedge Antilles throw the same dice against each other (three attack, two defense). Soontir Fel has half the health of Wedge Antilles. For this to be a fair fight, Soontir Fel must get one free attack for every attack they trade or get similar value from his free token. It's unlikely that can happen consistently with ROAD. ROAD could eliminate "phantom games" in ace vs. ace matchups but create new "phantom games" in ace vs. joust matchups.

One major source of matchup variance in X-Wing is facing a list of slightly higher initiative. A list of initiative 5 aces facing a list of initiative 6 aces is usually as much of a "phantom game" as two lists with overlapping initiative 5 aces. ROAD does nothing to address this.

Any attempts to balance matchups of overlapping initiatives with a points adjustment would increase matchup variance with non-overlapping initiatives. Soontir Fel is bad against Wedge Antilles because he stomps lower-initiative pilots much harder than Wedge Antilles. ROAD has no effect on Soontir Fel stomping Kylo Ren. Any reduction in Soontir Fel's points to make the Wedge Antilles matchup closer would only make the Kylo Ren matchup more lopsided.


Defenders of ROAD correctly say that we should not compare ROAD to a perfect world with no problems. That is true. Overall, I strongly believe the old bidding system with all its flaws was still better than ROAD. But some people found the old bidding system unacceptable, and that's reasonable.

I do not have to defend any existing rule system to argue against ROAD. I can instead propose alternatives could also reduce matchup variance while also preserving the tactical and strategic depth of X-Wing. Here are two to consider.


First, it's possible that most of the flaws of the old bidding system came from being an all-pay auction. The winning bid not only secures player order but also destroys the opponent's bid. The one-shot nature of bidding in X-Wing limits the craziness, but all-pay auctions can get pretty wild. Wild, as in paying hundreds of dollars for an ordinary $20 bill.

The advantage of bidding is that it reduces matchup variance. One solution to Soontir Fel being strong when moving last and weak when moving first is to implement a system where Soontir Fel almost always moves last, and costing Soontir and the bid accordingly (or rather, upgrades that compete with a bid). Players will naturally bid more when their ships strongly require moving second and less when their ships are fine with moving first and thus organically reduce matchup variance. (I had predicted that player order randomly assigned at start for the whole game without bids would increase matchup variance, and it seems to be the case.)

This breaks down with the all-pay nature of the old bidding system. A large bid to move last for Soontir might be fair against a list that bids nothing, but it's a steal if the bid only wins by one point or by a coinflip on a tie. Then they'd have the player order advantage and the other player sacrificed about as much value in raw points.

It could be that changing to a winner-pays auction in X-Wing could solve most of the problems of bidding. Here's one way to implement this:

During list construction, players construct a primary list and a secondary list. The primary list is constructed as usual. The secondary list must be identical to the primary list with the following exception: any unspent points in the primary list may be spent on additional upgrades, or to exchange upgrades to upgrades with higher point costs and the exact same upgrade slot requirements.

At the start of the game, the bids of the two players' primary lists are compared. The player with the higher bid (or winner of the coin flip, if tied) plays their primary list. The other player plays their secondary list.

This makes bidding more risky, especially since it also oapplies even if the lists had no overlapping initiatives! The lower-bid player in a mirror match can offset a disadvantageous player order with additional upgrades, which can be specifically teched against matchups where they are outbid. (I'm not sure whether deficit scoring would still be appropriate with this rule-set, but if so, I would recommend that the bid is only scored if any other points are scored.)

Second, we could have alternating player order. The first player token is assigned randomly before deployment and alternates players after every round. This allows both players to get an equal number of turns moving second. It also preserves strategic and tactical depth since both players know what their player order is in the current turn and in future turns.

From testing reports, the main complaint about this rule is it might encourage passive play and discourage engagements. However, passive play is a broader problem that applies not only to player order with overlapping initiatives but also fortressing or mobile fortressing. If that problem is solved, then the main drawback of alternating player order would also be addressed. Here is an Aggression Tiebreaker that can solve passive play while affecting a minimum of other games:

This rule introduces a Tiebreaker Token (please use any agreed-on object to represent this). The holder of the Tiebreaker Token wins the game if the game ends with neither player having scored any points, instead of triggering a Final Salvo.

At the end of each round, if the Tiebreaker Token has not been assigned and points have not been scored, either player may call for a tiebreaker check:

  • Each player selects one of their ships and measures from that ship to the nearest board edges.
  • If only one player's chosen ship is outside Range 2 of all board edges, then that player is assigned the Tiebreaker Token for this game.

Once the Tiebreaker Token has been assigned or points have been scored, no more tiebreaker checks can be made this game.

(Tip: Any ship can move beyond Range 2 of all board edges on the first round with a central deployment and a 3 straight maneuver.)

This rule makes it strictly disadvantageous to play passively from the start of the game. Once your opponent has the Tiebreak Token, they can force you to engage on their terms. That is enough to kill fortressing and mobile fortressing since these strategies will have to end or they will automatically lose the game.

I like this rule over some competing rules because it gives agency to the player who wants to engage. A rule where both players lose if no points are scored allows a fortressing player to hold the other player hostage and either engage into the fortress or suffer consequences. Because every ship can contest the Tiebreaker Token on round 1, it is your own fault if you allow your opponent to have the Tiebreaker Token and then play passively afterwards. This rule also has a small footprint. You can safely ignore this if you plan to engage and score points during the game.

It's impossible to know, but I would guess that one of these rules could achieve the matchup-variance goals of ROAD without its drawbacks of reducing strategic and tactical depth. I would also guess that at least one of these solutions would be much more acceptable to the community overall compared to ROAD.

Changes to Bumping

Could the problems with ROAD be solved with other rule changes under consideration? In their stream, AMG mentioned they are considering rule changes where bumped ships may take focus tokens and ships can shoot at Range 0. Their stated reasoning for these changes was to reduce the consequences of bumping, even outside of overlapping initiatives.

While these rule changes may reduce some of the chaos of ROAD, they do nothing to restore the sub-goals removed by ROAD. Instead, they actually remove the value of blocking across the board, even when initiatives do not overlap.

These rule changes would likely increase matchup variance. One of the hardest matchups in the game is when a jousting list faces another jousting list with a slightly higher initiative. Initiative killing is extremely powerful in these matchups. Still, the disadvantaged lower-initiative player can threaten blocks and retake the advantage with skillful play. The higher-initiative player usually has to deploy in the far corner and may have to spread out to avoid blocks, limiting some of their advantage. One player is heavily favored but a game still has to be played and even the advantaged player will still need to make good decisions to win.

With these rule changes, the higher-initiative jousting list can deploy across from the lower-initiative jousting list, smash into range 0 with no consequences, and initiative-kill everything at close range. These matchups would likely become unwinnable for the lower-initiative jousting list. Worse, it takes all of the skill out of these matchups for both players.

This rule change also means that lower-initiative ships with strong repositioning abilities can no longer use them to gain an advantage by blocking. Again, that hurts the disadvantaged player and further polarizes matchups.

With just ROAD, I was planning to play casually since I can sort of pick my matchups and avoid overlapping initiatives. But these rule changes would affect all games. I know these rule changes are not finalized, but the reasons AMG stated behind these rule changes was what led me to quit the game. Based on the casual way these rule changes were discussed during the stream, I do not have any confidence that AMG understands the potential problems with these rule changes. I strongly suspect AMG has holes and/or biases in their playtesting, especially around jousting lists.


Why did I spend thousands of dollars on X-Wing? I could have bought dozens of games with that money! Is any game worth spending thousands of dollars on?

The value of X-Wing was not just the game, but in the community. It provided a fun activity that got people out to the same place every week. It created interesting discussions both in-person and online. We made friendships and communities. That is worth thousands of dollars and more.

It's unclear exactly how many players favor and how many players dislike these rule changes. Surveys about ROAD show players are about evenly split, with maybe a third in favor, a third neutral, and a third opposed. I expect the numbers to become more favorable over time due to survivorship bias as players opposed to ROAD stop seeing the surveys.

This is our neighborhood dive bar turning into a health food shop. The craft beer and fried food are being replaced by smoothies and quinoa bowls. Maybe one is better than the other. But not every regular at the dive bar is going to like the health food. We're probably going to lose some people in the transition.

Is any rule change, no matter how good for someone, worth giving that many of the community a worse experience or perhaps losing that much of the community?

I do not know what the exact motivations of AMG are in making this rule change. I generally follow Hanlon's Razor. Perhaps this was AMG's best attempts to improve the game, or changing the audience for the game, or perhaps a "planned obsolescence" strategy to turn over the community for new blood. Either way, X-Wing is no longer the enjoyable activity that brings me back to the same place and people. X-Wing is no longer a safe place for me to invest for a community.

I wish the community was not so divided and could have presented a united front to the developers. But that is unrealistic to expect and is now in the past.

It's impossible to tell the future, and maybe X-Wing will one day return to being a game I find enjoyable. In the meantime, it is much healthier for me to leave. I can root for my friends to keep their hobby and their community, rather than fight them for my place in it.


Good luck and have fun!

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Thank you all, and so long!

All good things come to an end, and it doesn't feel right to leave without saying goodbye. I've had a wonderful 6 years playing X-Wing. It's time for me to step off the ride. The community here is truly special, and I'm going to miss it. I wish you all the best.

Big shoutout to Miranda Ketita, the person who got me into X-Wing. Thanks for taking me under your wing and showing me the ropes.

A huge shoutout to Marc de Bruyn, my playtest partner back in London. We spent a long time theorycrafting and practicing, and you gave me tons of feedback on my model.

The London Ontario X-Wing community through the years, including Dave Roy, Ryan Ferguson, Rob, Ryan Slager, Eric Lalande, and Dave Ryersee. Justin Leonard, Andrew "Pineapple", Alex Kanski.

Team Canada for XTC: Andrew Oehler, Remi Dumais, Steve McLean, Stephen Kim, Cam Murray, Mike Massiah, and Devon Monkhouse.

Other X-Wing players of Ontario, including Andrew Durham, Brendon Osmann-Deyman, Tristan Singleton, Solon Wong, Timbo, Ryan Dwornik, Jackie Luong, Jeff Asiri, Alan Fung, Kelvin Lau, Evan Cameron.

The great people I met at Worlds. Jesper Winstrom, Rasta Maice, XY, and everyone else I played in the tournament and side events.

Special props to Jeff Bizzak. We didn't interact much outside our game where you destroyed me, but I did steal my Canadian Nats list from you :).

Community leaders. Dee and Ryan of the Fly Better Podcast, thank you for letting this rando on your podcast. Dion, Marcel, Ryan, and Will of GSP, thank you for all your contributions to the community. Members of the community I've interacted more or less with through the years: Ablazoned, GreenDragoon, Gisli, the Midwest Scrub community.

I apologize for anyone I missed.

I wish you guys all the best, and I hope we can meet again someday. Who knows what the future will bring? In the meantime, good luck and have fun!

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Can we improve the way we talk about X-Wing ships?

(I hope Betteridge's Law doesn't apply.)

This is an article where I say there's a problem and have no idea how to fix it.

The source of all of society's problems

Imagine a discussion about Punishing One Dengar. He was extremely weak at 74 points at release and is now a competitive option at 58 points. If someone asked at release why Punishing One Dengar is weak, the responses would probably have talked about his awful dial, being a clunky big-base ship, not really having a turret, no extra dice mods, dying under focus fire, etc. If someone asked why Punishing One Dengar is strong now, responses would probably have talked about Initiative 6, above-average health, having a double-tap ability, being able to learn how to fly with his clunky dial, etc.

Besides the problems with cherry-picking and confirmation bias, the funny thing is both sides are right and always have been. Punishing One Dengar has always had these features. He had all of these features when he was weak and when he was strong. What isn't usually discussed is the only thing that changed which is his points cost, or how many points he is worth so it can be compared to a changing point cost. This discussion isn't useful for understanding why Dengar is good or bad.

(Edit to add: there is one case where I find a discussion of features is helpful and that's when I didn't know about a certain interaction with a ship. But even then, it's often not discussed exactly how beneficial that is and how often that comes up.) 

It's really hard to talk about whether a ship is good or bad. It's hard to talk about the effectiveness of ships. Even comparing two vanilla ships often requires non-simple math and running the dice calculator several times to get an accurate comparison. Conditional abilities are harder because we also need to guesstimate the chance the ability triggers and more dice probabilities will have to be calculated. Talking about features that are less numerical like arc-dodging or dials is even more difficult.

Even when we can convey how effective a ship is, whether a ship is good or bad depends crucially on its points cost. This is a problem that requires dividing by two numbers that are not friendly for division and we have to do this again every 6 months.

I noticed this most recently when talking with Raithos about Darth Vader in the TIE Defender after a test game. It was an unproductive discussion of our feelings, some head-sims that were probably in completely different places, and whether the dice or strategy in our sample size of one favored one side or the other. I don't think either of us changed our minds on the ship after our discussion.

(I remembered this after posting, so I'm editing this in now.) One option is to compare ships to other ships. This makes it easier to discuss the effectiveness of a ship compared to its point cost. The challenge with this method is that the comparison ship still has to be evaluated. For example, there was a recent post that argued the First Order Provocateur was underpowered by comparing it to a Saber Squadron TIE Interceptor. My evaluation is that the First Order Provocateur is one of the best options in the game and the Saber is bordering on being overpowered. However, this isn't too problematic if we're just concerned about finding the best ships in the game and using comparison ships that are known to be strong. Still, that limits the amount of comparison ships and thus the applicability of this method.

What if we just talk about tournament results? Besides not being able to predict what we should play, I stand by my previous article on why this may not work. Imagine tournaments as shuffling a deck of cards, and we want to know whether a certain card is more likely to be on or near the top of the deck after we shuffle. We shuffle the deck and the Jack of Hearts is on top. You might have realized how many shuffles we need to figure out if the Jack of Hearts is actually more likely to be near the top of the deck or if this was complete luck. We don't have that many tournaments/shuffles.

Even with the tournaments we have, we often don't pay enough attention that the Queen of Spades was #2 or the 8 of Clubs was #7. On top of that, think of all the pilots in the game or the even vaster number of possible lists in the game, only a small portion of which are in a single tournament. A tournament doesn't even shuffle the full deck. And if there's a systematic way players of varying strengths picks lists, then even an infinite sample size would give us a biased result of how strong lists are.

Obviously, this is all just a plug for my model, right? Well, sort of. For example, version 1.9 of my model rates the TIE Silencer "Avenger" at 57 points, which is roughly fair. Chris Allen, in the recent Fly Better Podcast, thinks Avenger is much better than that. We can dig into the model and see that I based Avenger's strength on his ability triggering 1 time per game on average and he gets an extra dice mod for his attack when it triggers. Chris would likely point out that I got it wrong: Avenger's usually flown in 5-ship lists so his ability would trigger more often than once a game on average, and being able to reposition makes his ability more valuable than just a dice mod. We can have a productive conversation about how often the ability triggers: I might say that sometimes Avenger will die first, sometimes the ability triggers when Avenger is stressed or can't benefit from the action, and sometimes none of your ships die during the game and you win or lose on time. But in the end, the focused area of disagreement makes it easy to change my mind or otherwise understand why we disagree. If I give Avenger 1.5 uses of his ability and value the benefit halfway between the extra token and a full initiative-7 coordinate, then I'd think Avenger is worth 62 points (+10% over his current cost of 56 points). What an improvement this is over vague talks about feelings or generic listings of features!

The model is great for talking about ship strength -- for the two people in the world who understand how it works. It's a messy and poorly-documented jumble of equations and assumptions. I often forget how some of the more obscure parts of it work. It's exponentially harder to read someone else's code and understand their logic. Otherwise, you're just taking my numbers at face value and relying on my judgement. I've spent more time systematically thinking about and evaluating X-Wing ships than most people (than everyone?), but many different people will have a better evaluation of a specific ship they're very familiar with. Anyone who thinks I got things exactly right in my model should look at how many versions there have been :).

And there are definitely ships which the model gets wrong. For example, version 1.9 of the model values Eta-2 Anakin at 45 points, for a whopping -22% difference from its current point cost of 56 points. From the games I've seen, including Paul Heaver's VASSAL League games, and the one game I've play-tested him, I know Eta-2 Anakin is almost certainly better than that. But is Anakin average, competitive, among the best options in the game, or broken OP? I have no idea, and I probably won't know until there's more data on the ship or I figure out what my model (and by extension, what I) got wrong about how to evaluate the ship. In the meantime, I don't know how to have productive conversations about how strong this ship is.

Do I have any ideas how to solve this? Eh. I've written some articles in the Evaluation and Calculation series to try to explain some of the math behind evaluating ships, but that's still not easy to have a discussion about. I've yet to write about more difficult topics like arc-dodging and the articles are a bit time-consuming to write. I've thought about creating a table (actually 6 tables, one for each initiative) of fair vanilla ship point values for attack and hull combinations. That still requires some assumptions about the meta of attack and defense distributions, but it could help establish a baseline for further conversation. And I can also expose some more calculations in the model such as durability and damage output to show how I'm getting results. All of these solutions are very mathy. I'm not sure any of these would solve this broader problem, especially in more casual conversations. Hopefully some more clever people will come up with a good solution for this :).

Friday, August 28, 2020

Beginner's Guide to Competitive Listbuilding Principles

For a lot of players, part of the fun in X-Wing is building your own list. Unfortunately, building a strong list is hard, and it's easy to fall into various traps and build a weak list.

If you are a net-lister, you also need good list-building skills. You will have to decide which list you choose and whether to tweak it.

This article will go over some fundamental list-building principles I've come across. It covers what you should think about when you approach building a competitive list and discusses some common list-building traps to avoid.

Play strong lists

The first advice I have for list-builders is to copy and play the strongest lists. 😛

Wait, this isn't what it looks like, let me explain!

One of the most important skills for list-builders is the skill to figure out whether a list has potential after playing it only once or twice. You don't have time to playtest a list for dozens of games to figure out how strong it is. The worst thing that can happen is you spend a month playtesting a list only to realize it's not very good the week of the big tournament. Once you have this skill, you'll be able to quickly discard the weak lists, giving you more time to playtest and tweak a list with actual potential.

You need to know what it feels like when you fly a strong list. The best way to learn is to feel that power first-hand. You'll then be better equipped to build your own lists. That's why my first recommendation is to fly the strongest lists and see what it feels like.

You have my permission to strike this pose after your first time playing the strongest meta list

Against weaker lists, it should feel like you've got reasonable winning chances when you make a bad decision or have weaker dice. You should only be losing when you both have bad dice and make worse decisions. The game should feel absolutely crushing when you have good dice or make better decisions, where your opponent is completely helpless and they're losing no matter what they do.

Against strong lists, you should be able to come up with a reasonable plan for winning the game before it starts. This plan shouldn't rely on favorable dice or achieving a very specific and unlikely board state. When you have bad dice, it should feel like you can pull the game back to even if you make one great outplay. When you get outplayed, you should still be in a state where lucky dice can bail you out and bring the game back to even.

If you really need this guide, you're probably not great at evaluating list strength (if you're good at that, you probably don't need this guide 😊). You might misjudge how strong or weak your opponent's list is, and you may end up with a false sense of security if you play against a very weak list. In this case, the safest thing can be to remove that element by playing against other strong meta lists which have done well in tournaments.

An astute reader may have noticed that you'll need to be able to judge who had better dice. It's really easy to fool yourself on this, so spend some time on the X-Wing Probability Calculator to develop a better sense for much damage you can expect out of common situations. Remember, it's quite uncommon to get exactly even dice, and it's possible for dice luck to even out over the course of a turn or game (although often it does not). 

Do not focus too much on "synergy"

One of the common list-building traps is "Control-F" list-building. Coined by Swim, a Legends of Runeterra streamer, this is where you blindly go all-in on a synergy or mechanic. For example, General Grievous gets a bonus for not being in his target's firing arc. Outmaneuver gives the ship a bonus for not being in the target's firing arc. It's tempting to put them together because these cards have the same words. Another example is spamming the same ship in efficiency lists.

X-Wing is not a matching game

Control-F list-building isn't always a bad thing. In some cases, it will make sense! For example, it's often a good idea to run many copies of the same generic pilot. There are lists where Outmaneuver on General Grievous may make sense. The problem is this is not a reliable way to build strong lists. It may or may not work, and it can distract list-builders from more effective options.

Start from power, not from countering a list

Another list-building trap I often see is when people build a list with the idea of countering a list. This usually doesn't work out. In a tournament, you're not likely to see a particular list more than once or twice, and you may never see the list you tried so hard to counter. Even when they get their matchup, these "counter" lists often still lose!

The problem is this mindset often gets list-builders focused on the wrong thing. The best counter to a list is a stronger list. That's why "counter" lists often lose to the list they tried to counter: they were built around some gimmick that may be slightly stronger against that list, but overall they are simply weaker lists.

The moment you realize you should have played a bigger dynamite

Instead of building a list to counter a list, you should build a strong list that has reasonable or good matchups against the field.

That doesn't mean you should never think about other lists when list-building! You may want to pay special attention to strong ships that are also good against the meta, or at least not weak into the meta. For example:

  • Ships tend to be especially weak against ships with one higher initiative, or against arc-dodgers with the same initiative but a bigger bid.
  • More evasive ships (e.g., 3-agility ships, ships with lots of defensive mods) are relatively weaker against more attacks, big attacks, and reliable attacks and are relatively stronger against fewer attacks, smaller attacks, and less-modded attacks.
Once you have a strong list, you can also consider adding some tech choices to improve your matchups against certain lists. But start from building a strong list, not from building a list to counter another list.

Focus on matchups and board states

The most important things to think about when list-building are matchups and board states. As Swim says, the only thing a card can do is take a game that was lost and turn it into a game that was won, or turn a game that was won into a game that was lost.

X-Wing is a game with dice luck, and MOV sometimes matters for making the cut. "Win more" does have some value in X-Wing. Still, when list-building, your primary focus is to turn losing matchups and board states into winning ones while minimizing the amount of your winning matchups and board states that turn into losing ones.

As a quick aside, this skill will also improve your strategic and tactical decision-making while playing the game. You have many reasons to develop this skill!

Here are some common situations to consider when list-building:

  • You're facing arc-dodgers that move after you.
  • You're facing the strongest jousting list in the meta.
  • Your opponent has you flanked.
  • You've flanked your opponent, and they can choose which part of your list to turn on.
  • Your opponent flies to deny you one of your tricks.
  • You've lost one or two of your ships.
  • You're down to your last ship or last two cheap ships.

When you consider filling out your squad with extra ships, choosing between different pilots, or adding pilots, you should be thinking about how this changes your winning chances in these situations, and any other common situations you may be facing given the expected meta.

For example, if your list is really strong against jousting lists but weak against arc-dodgers that move after you, you may want to consider spending some points to shore up that matchup. This can be a good idea even if it weakens your matchup against jousting lists a bit. Of course, you should be careful not to tunnel-vision and weaken your good matchups too much for what you gain against weaker matchups.

One of the results of this situation-based analysis is you usually don't want to mix tanky ships and glass-cannon ships in the same list. Your opponent will have an easy time killing your glass-cannon ships first and your tanky ships won't deal enough damage to punish this. Unless you have some way of protecting your glass-cannon ships (e.g., they are very difficult to catch), you should include ships of similar durability-to-damage ratios.

Let's return to that Grievous with Outmaneuver example. Suppose you've got a list with Grievous and a Vulture swarm. If your opponent ignores Grievous and turns on the swarm, Grievous gets double mods while they slowly chew through your Vultures, and you probably win. If your opponent goes after Grievous first, the Vultures may not be able to deal enough damage to punish that hard enough and you'll probably have a good chance to lose.

What happens if you add Outmaneuver to Grievous? Well, your winning situation is even more winning! Now, what happens if they turn on Grievous first? Outmaneuver does nothing, you just handed your opponent more points, and your Vulture swarm has fewer points to spend for offense to punish this. And unfortunately, you don't have a great way to force your opponent to ignore Grievous. Outmaneuver is only a "win more" card in this list and is probably a bad idea unless it's extremely under-priced.

Now, let's consider a list with Grievous, Ensnare Sun Fac, and Ensnare Chertek. If your opponents turn on Grievous, Ensnare Sun Fac and Ensnare Chertek get free rein to tear your opponent's list apart. You're probably winning those games. Your biggest chances of losing are probably when your opponent turns on Sun Fac first and kills him quickly. Outmaneuver can turn those losing situations into winning ones or perhaps even change your opponent's decision of who to attack first, so the upgrade may be a good idea for this list. Of course, you should still consider if there's a better way to spend the points (examples include a bid or Gravitic Deflection on the Nantex, and these will depend on the point cost of the upgrades and the meta).

Remember, even if your list doesn't really need a bid and you have spare points, you don't have to spend them. Since games often end on time, unspent points can be helpful and sometimes the bid will deny your opponent some value. In the Feb 2019 Toronto System Open, I lost my first game by 2 MOV. I'd upgraded a Bandit Squadron Z-95 to a Tala Squadron Pilot with Selfless for 5 points. The Tala died and I didn't use Selfless that game, and the higher initiative didn't matter much either. Adding Selfless with my spare points turned a won game into a lost game. It was still probably the right call over the long run, but you should remember it's not free to spend "spare" points.

Look for value

The best thing you can bring to a tournament is a 240-point list, and the worst thing to do is to bring a 160-point list. As long as the cards aren't perfectly balanced, a keen sense of value is important when list-building.

Don't do this to yourself

There are several common traps you can run into. First, some players try to "chase" value with a weak ship by loading it with upgrades. Unless the upgrade is extremely strong on that ship, usually transforming it into a different ship in some way (examples include Special Forces Gunner for Quickdraw or Advanced Sensors for Guri), adding more upgrades isn't going to fix the ship. If you buy a lemon used car for too much money, adding fancy speakers at fair market value isn't going to get your money back. The solution is to avoid the lemon and buy a good car at a great price.

Second, one of the most common list-building traps is to load too many upgrades on ships. Upgrades are often balanced around a ship that uses them the best, and many are mediocre for their point cost on any ship. Loading your fleet of good cars bought at a great price with speakers at fair market value may not be as good as spending that money on an extra car. You should be especially careful when adding upgrades on cheap ships. The value of most upgrades is multiplicative, which means they are stronger when the ship itself is stronger, but the cost of most upgrades do not scale with the quality of the ship they're equipped on.

Another list-building trap is to run a ship without a staple upgrade. Some ships, like the aforementioned Quickdraw and Guri, depend on having a specific upgrade to be worth their points.

Finally, a trap that often shows up when value isn't considered strongly enough is a list without enough offense. My rule of thumb is to bring at least three ships with 3-dice attacks, or a similar equivalent. 2-dice attacks count for half, and a 4-dice attack counts for 1.5 ships. These ships should also be durable enough to survive one average round of combat. When your list doesn't have enough offense, it often gets hard to play because you can't remove problematic enemy ships (examples include a ship with control elements, or firing arcs to give your arc-dodgers space to breathe) fast enough. This is not a hard rule, especially if your ships are extremely good at arc-dodging, but you should have a very good reason to bring fewer ships.

Unfortunately, outside of playing a bunch, scouring tournament results, or doing lots of math, I'm not sure how to really develop this sense for value. Situational thinking can be one way to approach this. Often, bringing too many inefficient ships or upgrades will ruin some of your matchups for little gain in other situations. Let me know if you have any other ideas!


When list-building, you should be looking to add value pieces to your list, which have a low point cost for the impact they have on the board. As you add ships and upgrades, you should be thinking about your chance of winning in different matchups and board states. You want to add ships and upgrades which flip losing situations into winning ones without flipping too many winning situations into losing ones.

As you list-build, there are many traps to watch out for. Don't tunnel vision on synergies. Build a strong list first, and don't list-build to counter another list. Be very careful to add ships and upgrades that bring more value than they cost, and try to bring enough offense in your list.

Finally, if you haven't done this before, go check out some recent tournament results, pick one of the top-placing lists, and play that a few times. Get a sense for what it feels like to play a strong list. Once you do that, it will guide you in your future list-building. Good luck and have fun!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

My E-Wing Recommendations

There seems to be renewed interest in the E-Wing with the latest points drop, and there's been a lot of advice thrown around on how to run them. I thought I'd share my experiences and suggestions flying E-Wings.

I've been running generic E-Wings on and off since shortly before the mid-2019 points update. At first, my list was Crack Shot Wedge, 2x Knave Squadron Escorts with R3 Astromech, and Sheathipede Zeb. After the Knaves dropped by 2 points each, I could fit Leia crew by dropping Crack Shot and downgrading to AP-5. With the latest points update, I think 3x Rogue Squadron E-Wings might be the way to go, along with a cheap filler fourth ship. I still need to test it out, but I think it has the potential to be an A-Tier competitive squad.

What is the E-Wing?

Let's first examine the E-Wing chassis to see what its role is.

The E-Wing chassis is a 3-attack ship that's more durable than X-Wings and B-Wings. Against 3-dice attacks with a single mod, an E-Wing is expected to survive an extra attack compared to the X-Wing and an extra 0.7 attacks compared to the B-Wing without spending mods on defense. The extra durability comes in the form of 3 agility. That means it's more vulnerable to big attacks, it's stronger against weak attacks, it gets large value from focus tokens on defense, and it's more exposed to variance.

The ship chassis ability, Experimental Scanners, is a good offensive ability which gives the ship a chance to have double-mods on your first attack. Having that second mod on a 3-dice attack increases your expected damage from 1.5 to 2 against a 2-agility ship without mods, and from 1.2 to 1.7 against a 3-agility ship without mods. For comparison, double mods is more than half as good as adding a fourth die. A 4-dice single-modded attack averages 2.3 damage against a 2-agility ship and 1.9 damage against a 3-agility ship. It's closer to the damage output of Crack Shot or Juke, which deals 2.1 and 1.9 damage against 2-agility and 3-agility ships without mods, respectively, although Crack Shot is stronger against ships with focus.

There are two downsides to Experimental Scanners. First, you will occasionally miss out on a free target lock when you are too close to a target. This is especially likely to happen if you use an E-Wing to block. Second, it can be partially nullified by your opponent being flying cautiously with the targeted ship. While it is sometimes possible to re-select your target in later turns before engagement, you will still be forced to choose between a priority target which you may have a hard time getting in arc and a more available but less-critical target. Even with these drawbacks, the Experimental Scanners ability is strong.

The E-Wing has good tools for strategic positioning. It has both boost and barrel roll actions. It also has every basic maneuver with only the 1-speed turns being red, and a K-Turn and two S-Loop options for turning around. Further, the boost and barrel roll options can link into a target lock in preparation for the engagement. These options mean the E-Wing has the tools to get where it needs to go before the engagement occurs.

However, the E-Wing does not have great tools for tactical positioning. The ship can't double-reposition. Once engaged, the linked actions lose most of their value. The ship often already has a lock thanks to Experimental Scanners, it's often at Range 1 after repositioning, and it can't link into a defensive action. The base chassis also has low initiative. The high-initiative pilot, Corran Horn, doesn't have a great ability as an ace (namely, something with action efficiency or additional repositioning). The ship probably needs Afterburners to function as an arc-dodging ace, and that's not ideal because pilots cap out at initiative 5 and the ship lacks useful linked actions after repositioning. E-Wings will get some arc-dodging opportunities against lower-initiative ships since they have both barrel roll and boost, but you shouldn't count on them arc-dodging everything as a win condition.

As such, the E-Wing functions most naturally as a premium jouster. It has the maneuverability to reach the ideal position for the engagement. Once the shooting starts, the E-Wing has above-average damage output and durability.


The generics come with initiative 2 and initiative 4. The initiative 2 Knave Squadron Escort would probably C-Tier around 53 points and the initiative 4 Rogue Squadron Escort would probably be C-Tier around 56 points. Subtract 5%, 10%, and 15% for B-Tier, A-Tier, and S-Tier respectively.

The currently-released named E-Wing pilots, Gavin Darklighter and Corran Horn, are mostly premium jousters like the generics since their abilities don't affect their roles too much.

Gavin Darklighter's ability is pretty interesting. Because the ability isn't that powerful and because it works on his own attacks, you don't need to use Gavin exclusively with swarms. I estimate the value of the ability at roughly 6 points over a Rogue Squadron Escort even in 3- or 4-ship lists.

Corran Horn is not nearly as strong as his former 1.0 iteration. His double-tap ability is much more situational since it requires a bullseye and he can't run away as easily. In the old days of 1.0, Corran Horn was happy to run away with a focus, an evade, and a shield regen. Today, he no longer has triple mods on defense or the potential to double-reposition. Corran's double-tap ability is only useful when the bullseye shot at the end of the round is more valuable than the shot he'll have next round. I estimate the combination of the initiative bump and the ability is probably worth roughly 8 points on top of the Rogue Squadron Escort, and his role is a (more) premium jouster instead of the points fortress arc-dodging ace he was in 1.0.

Why R3 Astromech?

R3 Astromech is usually a bad card. Most ships want to focus instead of taking a lock, and there's no guarantee they'd have two enemy ships in range to lock or that they survive long enough to use both locks.

The E-Wing chassis solves all of those problems. Experimental Scanners means the E-Wing is guaranteed to get two locks on before the engagement and the E-Wing is durable enough to have a reasonable chance of using both locks before dying.

R3 Astromech grants the ship an extra mod for one attack. As discussed earlier, double mods is slightly worse than Crack Shot against unmodded defenses and significantly worse against modded defenses, but it's easier to benefit from the second target lock than Crack Shot. This is especially true since you gain the benefits again if you can disengage for a turn. Crack Shot is probably worth 3 points, and I estimate R3 Astromech is probably worth around 4 points on the E-Wing.

At first glance, it seems like the R3 Astromech benefit is slightly worse since it's delayed: you only benefit from it over two turns. However, it's actually an up-front benefit in that it almost always guarantees you'll have double mods against an available target on the opening engage. In some cases, the extra damage from the second lock could kill or score half points on that target in the first round, allowing you to comfortably turn on the first locked target next round.

Beyond its mathematical value, R3 Astromech makes flying E-Wings much easier and flying against E-Wings much more difficult. I tested R4 Astromech for a couple games and was struck by how hard it was to choose which ship to lock. I had to think really hard and ended up making some really bad decisions. R3 Astromech can provide a significant mental advantage over the course of a tournament.

The opposite is true for your opponents. With only one lock, you have to announce your target priority. Your opponent can respond by keeping their locked ship safe. With two locks, you can lock a ship on both flanks (e.g., Soontir and Vader against Imperial Aces), or lock both a filler ship and a premium ship against joust + ace lists (e.g., Kylo and a generic TIE against Kylo Generics). It's much harder to keep two ships out of the fight and it means you have a stronger threat of turning your guns on either flank.

Why not R4 Astromech?

Even if you decide not to run R3 Astromech, I would not recommend running R4 Astromech. R4 Astromech is tempting because it turns the 1-speed hard turns white as well as giving the ship blue 2-speed hard turns. An under-stated benefit of R4 Astromech is the blue 2-speed banks. Sometimes, you'll want to turn and move faster than a 1-speed maneuver the turn after being stressed, and R4 Astromech lets the E-Wing to do that.

That said, R4 Astromech is a luxury that usually does not fit on the E-Wing. As premium jousters, E-Wings usually want upgrades that improve their damage output or durability. Blue hard turns can improve damage output and durability if the ship has a good linked action. For example, the TIE Advanced v1 benefits from its blue turns more than the TIE/fo Fighter from its blue turns (except Scorch) because of its linked reposition to focus actions. R4 Astromech really helps Poe Dameron because he wants to be stressed every turn for additional mods and the option to double-reposition. Unfortunately, the E-Wing does not get added value from being stressed since it doesn't have a good linked action, so R4 Astromech doesn't do too much for the E-Wing.

R4 Astromech can also be useful for ships that don't have blue banks or turns to one side. For example, Dengar would love to have R4 Astromech. It's probably also useful for BTL-B Y-Wings. However, not only does the E-Wing already have blue 1 banks, it also has both a K-Turn and two S-Loops to adjust its facing on the turn-around turn so it can most likely use its blue straight options the following turn.

That leaves the 1-hard turns. It's a great maneuver to have, but it's unnecessary. Plenty of jousting ships work fine without the 1-hard turn. With some planning, it's rare that doing a 1-speed hard turn instead of a 2-speed hard turn will make a significant difference in your games.

Overall, I think people tend to overrate the value of having a good dial on jousting ships without linked actions. Most jousting ships can do their jobs as long as they have a high-speed turn-around maneuver (Tallon Rolls don't count), a 1-straight, and a set of banks and turns. Outside of some combo which gives the E-Wing extra power for stress, the R4 Astromech is probably worth only 1 point on the E-Wing.

Other upgrades

As a premium jouster, the E-Wing doesn't need a ton of upgrades to do its job. Outside of R3 Astromech, I'd recommend using spare points to bring better and more ships rather than adding extra upgrades on an E-Wing.

Until Crack Shot goes up to 3 or more points, it's a strong consideration for any small ship with a Talent slot. The E-Wing is no different.

Elusive is OK on the E-Wing, but it competes with Crack Shot and with other ship upgrades. Half of a Shield Upgrade is worth about 3 points on the Rogue Squadron Escort. You can come out ahead if you use it at least twice, but you may have a better place to spend the points. If you bring it, don't choose bad maneuvers to chase its effect.

I've seen people include Fire-Control Systems on their E-Wings. I don't recommend it for a couple reasons (with one exception, see below). First, the benefit itself is marginal without a bonus attack or some reason to keep the lock, such as ordnance or the TIE Advanced x1 ship ability. It only increases your chance of keeping your lock by about 40 percentage points. It's also reasonably common to kill the target in one round with multiple double-modded attacks. Corran has a double-tap ability, but it's not likely to be used frequently enough for FCS to be worth the 2 points. Second, the E-Wing has the option to disengage to re-acquire locks, making it less of a priority to hold on to a lock. 

I'm skeptical about Proton Torpedoes on the E-Wing. It gives you a scary alpha strike, but it's very expensive. You may be better off bringing more and better ships. Advanced Proton Torpedoes is both very situational but also relatively cheap. I think having Advanced Proton Torpedoes is the only case where Fire-Control System could make sense. R3 Astromech is probably an auto-include if you bring torpedoes.

Some other upgrades which IMO aren't great:
  • Predator: The benefit is normally lower than Crack Shot, and Predator is uniquely bad on E-Wings because they're likely to have rerolls already.
  • Daredevil: The E-Wing is mainly a jouster and not an arc-dodger, so it doesn't get too much value from this.
  • Outmaneuver: This is best on super arc-dodgers like Guri, or on very tanky ships like TIE Defenders. The E-Wing is already more of a glass cannon so it's hard to get value from this.


This is the most points-dependent section of this article, so I'm not going to give any specific suggestions. Ideally, you want to run strong ships, and that's going to change with every points adjustment. However, I do have some observations on what types of wingmates the E-Wing likes.

Thanks to its double mods on offense, the E-Wing leans towards being a glass cannon ship with a relatively high damage output for its durability. It's even more of a glass cannon if it takes R3 Astromech. Glass-cannon ships work best with other glass-cannon ships and work poorly with tanky ships that have a relatively low damage output.

The E-Wing has a couple quirks in how it flies. First, it's a ship that wants the option to disengage to reacquire locks. This means it wants wingmates who can also disengage. It's no good if the E-Wings fly off to reacquire locks only for their wingmates to get isolated and destroyed.

Second, the E-Wing likes extra actions but only after the engagement happens. Coordinating a damaged E-Wing gives it focus and evade on defense. Coordinate also gives you opportunities to pick up another set of target locks or reposition with a mod. However, unless you only have one E-Wing in the line of fire, the E-Wing doesn't make good use of coordinate in the first turn of the engagement because it will already have a focus and lock. If you coordinate an evade token on one E-Wing, your opponent will just shoot the other one. That means if you bring a coordinate ship, you want a non-E-Wing ship to get value out of that first turn's coordinate (I used Wedge as my primary coordinate target).

Finally, the E-Wing isn't the ideal blocker. It has an above-average attack that's sacrificed if it blocks and it has poor linked actions after a reposition. Pairing them with cheaper blocking ships can shore up this weakness, or you'll want another way to deal with arc-dodgers like a high-initiative ship.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Ship Effectiveness Model v1.8 and the July 2020 Points Meta

With the release of the July 2020 points, I've released version 1.8 of the Ship Effectiveness Model. As always, you should make a copy of this sheet if you want to change the view (e.g. sorting by %Diff).

Let's take a look at the factions and see how things shook out! For this article, I'm going to focus on the competitive setting, so I'm going to focus on ships the model thinks is more than 5% under-costed.

Here's a description for the headers in the table below:
  • Calc Pts: The ship's point value calculated by the model. The benchmark is the median ship, which you can roughly think of as a 23-point Academy Pilot TIE/ln Fighter.
  • Diff: The difference in points between the ship's actual point cost and the calculated point value. Positive is good, negative is bad.
  • %Diff: The difference in percent between the ship's actual point cost and the calculated point value. Positive is good, negative is bad.

Rebel Alliance

Norra is interesting. She's consistently highly-rated in my model, but hasn't seen a lot of play. My model likely overrates medium and large ships with front arcs that only have 1 K-Turn option. Norra's other problem is that she's a very tanky ship in a faction that mostly has glass-cannon ships.

The other unpopular perennials are various Attack Shuttles with Dorsal Turret, which have the opposite problem of being too much of glass cannons. Dorsal Turret can be a pseudo-defensive upgrade in that it lets them arc-dodge while still having shots more easily, but investing more points into these fragile ships is scary.

I've been a strong fan of the generic E-Wings since last year before their first buffs, and they just got yet another buff. They are best used as premium jousters with just the R3 Astromech upgrade (and maybe Crack Shot, and maaaaaybe but probably not Proton Torpedoes). R3 Astromech is really strong not only gives them a potential extra modded shot, it also makes your decisions much easier and makes it harder for your opponent to guess your maneuvers. If you want results out of your generic E-Wings, stop trying to get cute with them and just shove them in your opponent's face.

One thing to note for Rebels is they have very few good Hyperspace options. Leia, Kannan, and Luke are the heavy hitters, and Dorsal Y-Wings make reasonable fillers, but that's all. The generic T-65 X-Wings are their next best options at around +3%.

I'm sure everyone will have questions about the YT-2400. They're mostly still not great, with Leebo topping out at +0%. Dash with Kanan lands at -3.8%. However, this is one ship that benefits from being hyperstacked. I'm skeptical, but there may be a YT-2400 list that works.

Galactic Empire

Empire has a lot of swarm options backed up by Sloane. The best swarm option is still probably a combination of Academy Pilots and Alpha Squadron Pilots, and it has seen moderate success. Empire also got a strong generic option in Hyperspace with the TIE Interceptors and Baron of the Empire. Outside of the generics, Vader (with Hate) and Soontir still look like great options.

The TIE/ag Aggressor with Dorsal Turret might be an interesting option now with the Dorsal Turret buff. Compared to the I2 V-19 Torrent, you're basically paying 3 points for a Dorsal Turret, which seems reasonable.

One notable option not on here are the Decimators. RAC with Darth Vader is rated at +4%, and I think it might be stronger with some other upgrades.

Scum and Villainy

Scum is spoiled for choice. Not only is this list longer than the other factions, it cuts off at +6.6%. I couldn't fit all of the Scum ships above 5% on my screen! Other ships above 5% include the Binayre Pirate, Guri w/ Adv Sensors Shield Upgrade and Title (Outmaneuver seems to be the crucial upgrade for her), Sarco Plank, Old Teroch, Tel Truvura w/ Hull Upgrade, Spice Runner with Title, Captain Nym w/ Ion Cannon, Palob Godalhi w/ Title, and the Skull Squadron Pilot w/ Fearless.

The buffs to the Quadjumper and the Lancer-Class Pursuit Craft probably make Scum the best Tractor Beam faction. Unkar Plutt is especially strong in the 2.0 rules because you decide where you tractor your own ships, including Unkar. He was strong before and got another big buff. Similarly, the Lancer-Class Pursuit Craft was already pretty strong (with the caveat again that my model may overrate large ships with only one K-Turn option), and only got stronger with their buff.

M3-A Interceptors also show up prominently. Autoblaster Cannon is annoying to model so I don't have them, but I suspect it's probably comparable to the Ion Cannon numbers.

Another big beneficiary of the buffs are the Scum YT-1300's. They're now cheap enough that they are a very reasonable option, and both Lando and Han look good. Just don't try to make them carry your list. Keep an eye out for a good Scum support crew in the future; the Scum YT-1300 is probably one of the best support crew carriers, but Scum doesn't have any good ones right now.

A real surprise is Dace Bonearm! I give him no credit for his ability; the model just seems to like a generic I4 Moldy Crow at 49 points.

Notably, Boba Fett falls off the list. With Maul and Slave 1, he's at +3.5%. He should be even stronger with a Proton Bomb and Hull/Shield Upgrade, but that's not currently in my model. Most of the Boba lists will suffer from the nerfs, but Boba Fenn should still be viable.


The usual Resistance suspects are up here: Finn, Nien Nunb, Rey, Talli, Zizi, and generic T-70 X-Wings. Zizi doesn't suffer too much from the slight nerf. On the other hand, Rey and Chewbacca were already pretty strong and only got a buff.

Notably, some of the StarFortresses are showing up on the bottom of the list. I don't have a great handle on these ships, especially how they interact with bombs. I suspect Perceptive VTG Vennie is stronger than the base version.

First Order

First Order got some very interesting buffs. The generic TIE/ba looks very strong! You should always strain for the lock unless you need to keep a hurt one alive. The 1-point buff to Special Forces Gunner and Lieutenant LeHuse also makes him an interesting option.

I've been suspicious of Supernatural Kylo Ren's rating in the model, so I've tested him out a couple times. Against both a Sear Swarm and a double Decimator list, I was ahead on points going into the last round, made a bad maneuver choice, and lost. Given the strength of these opposing lists, I think the rating is probably right. However, Supernatural Kylo Ren is probably the ship that suffers the most from the time limit, and he has some really skewed matchups.

Galactic Republic

Galactic Republic really suffered from their nerfs. Most of their high-initiative ace options have fallen behind. Still, they have some good low initiative options. The Y-Wings have finally caught up with the other hyper-efficient generic options. And while the aces have fallen off, the lower-initiative Jedi are still strong.

Separatist Alliance

Is that a +20%!? Yes, the Nantex buffs appear to be absolutely massive. I guess FFG wanted to sell more of them! If the model is anything close to accurate, these might need an emergency nerf in a few months.

The Vulture nerfs will hurt, but I think Separatists are going to be alright. The Hyena is still extremely strong, and with the OP Nantex and the new ships entering the Hyperspace format, they've got plenty of good options.

Notably, Sun Fac is sneaking in at +4.8% with his newest buffs. Sun Fac has some of the most polarized matchups in the game (absolutely awful against medium/large ships, god against small ships), so he's a great option for players who prefer to play matchup lotto over a strategic and tactical game of maneuvering.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Beginner's Guide to Not Jousting

I've said in the past that flying arc-dodgers is not harder than flying jousters at the tournament level, but there's an initial learning curve on how to avoid jousting.

Here's a basic idea you can try to avoid jousting: Don't put your ships in the same place.

In this case, "same place" means "area covered by the same firing arc(s)". In other words, flank with your ships.

This is not a flank:

This is a flank:

The important thing is where your ships are during the engagement, not where they are deployed. You can start your ace ships anywhere as long as they are spread out before the engagement. Similarly, don't get baited by spreading your ships during deployment but have all your ships end up in the same place by the time the shooting starts.

Of course, things get more difficult if enemy ships have multiple arcs, but this general concept still applies.

There are several reasons to spread out your ships. First, it's easier to arc-dodge and avoid shots with one ship than it is with three ships. When your ships are in the same place, their escape routes may end up getting blocked off by your own ships.

Second, it's hard to arc-dodge and get shots at the same time. Even when all your aces successfully arc-dodge, you may not have gained anything. Flanking means the ships that don't arc-dodge get free shots.

Third, it forces your opponent to make decisions and thus gives them more chances to make mistakes. If all your ships are in one place, your opponent's choices are obvious (turn towards all of your ships). When they have to decide which of three ships to turn toward, they might make the wrong choice and give you a significant advantage.

There's an added benefit of flanking for all ships, even ships that aren't aces. When ships are flying head-on at each other, they usually have to K-Turn to keep their guns on target. Flanking ships can keep guns on target without turning around. This means flanking is especially beneficial for ships that are often stressed and can't K-Turn (e.g. Soontir Fel, Braylen Stramm) or ships that don't have a K-Turn (e.g. the Upsilon Shuttle).

As such, flanking is also important if your list has both a jousting block and a flanker or arc-dodger, or if you only have ships with average or below-average maneuverability but you'd lose a straight joust.


For the other side of the matchup, there are a few ways to play against a flanking list. First, you can try to jump on one ship before the others can capitalize. In the best case scenario, you can kill or cripple one ship for free. If you play it especially well, you may have time to regroup before your opponent can punish even if you don't catch or cripple the target.

Second, you can try to herd your opponent's ships together. You can threaten to jump on a ship and force it to turn into its allies. Once your opponents ships are in the same place, you'll have an easier time catching them.

Sometimes, you can split your firing arcs. This threatens your opponent with at least some damage and may make them play more cautiously with spending tokens on offense. Don't do this if the enemy ships have strong defenses that require focus fire to overcome. This can also leave your ships uncoordinated and in a position to be picked off by the aces.

Finally, you can make sure you catch at least one ship in your arcs, even if you have to give up the flank to the other enemy ships. As long as your ships are shooting, you may still win the damage race. If possible, leave yourself with an option to threaten the flankers with your maneuver the next turn.

There's currently one more strategy against flankers that's potentially problematic for the game: "mobile fortressing". This strategy involves only flying your ships along the board edges, either waiting for your opponent to approach or for a favorable final salvo. It removes one of the flank approaches using the board edge while threatening the other approaches with hard turns and K-Turns. It's often the best strategy if you have a less-maneuverable list. Unfortunately, this strategy could be degenerate since it's pretty easy to execute and has limited options for counterplay. I believe the rules should heavily discourage mobile fortressing for this reason, and judges at various events may already be using their discretion to penalize mobile fortressing.