A day later, and it's still hard to believe. I've gone 4-2 and missed the cut in all of my previous big tournaments. On top of that, all of my playoff games except the finals match came down to the last dice roll. More on that later.
I ran Kanan Biggs with Recon Specialist and Engine Upgrade on Kanan, R4-D6 on Biggs, and a 1-point bid. I've been running this on and off after getting destroyed by Jeff Bizzak at Wixom last year (I was the round 3 opponent). I'm a huge fan of Engine Upgrade on Kanan because it lets me avoid some awkward situations. I used to run it with R3-A2 (stressbot) like Jeff, but I swapped to R4-D6 and a bid to counter the alpha strikes and to give initiative against Lowhhrick-Biggs lists.
The meta seemed right for Kanan Biggs. The four TLT shots are strong against Nym and Miranda and bypasses Selflessness and Draw Their Fire in Biggs lists. Contracted Scouts are a tough matchup, but fewer of them run Boba Fett.
The Swiss rounds were interesting in that I played a bunch of people I've played before (Biggs is 26 points, half points on Kanan is 27):
- Marc de Bruyn's Vader Quickdraw Ion Kestal. Marc's my playtest buddy in London. We were matched up the first round in the Hamilton Store Championships a few weeks ago, and hilariously, it happened again at Nationals. I won this matchup in playtesting both times we tried it, and I won again here 100-26.
- Thomas Ferrara's Dash Nym. Thomas won the Toronto Regional last year. He beat my Kanan Biggs with Dash Norra in the final round of Swiss to knock me out of the cut. A badly-flown Dash gets wrecked by Kanan, but well-flown Lone Wolf Dash is extremely underrated in this matchup. Obstructed TLT shots don't do much damage against Lone Wolf Dash with focus, and Dash has range control in his favor and always threatens to snipe Biggs. I don't remember the details, but I got a bit behind on damage. It came down to a 1-health Kanan against a 1-health Nym. I launched the shuttle with a 4 K-Turn and Chopper'd a focus. Thomas didn't see the Advanced Sensors escape route, banked in, killed Kanan, and died to Zeb (Zeb win #1). I won 100-81.
- Billy Chandler's Inaldratanni. I misunderstood his list; I've run the Overclocked R4 version and knew I couldn't kill Dengar. Turns out it was actually Unhinged-K4 Dengar (which I saw but didn't process right when I looked over his list). I could have potentially burned it down. Instead, I went fast to go after Inaldra, hit a rock and lost 2 shields on Kanan from Dengar round 1, then got donut holed by Dengar and Fenn turn 2. The game was over at that point. I still managed to kill Inaldra and Fenn, losing 46-100.
- Cameron Murray's Chewie Miranda. Unlike Dash, Chewie does not have a good matchup against Kanan Biggs. Cameron's a trooper and has a lot of experience with Chewie Miranda, but he couldn't take this one. I put some early damage on Chewie, then singled out Miranda when Chewie had to turn away from a rock. I won 100-0.
- Travis Johnson's Triple U-Boats. This is a tough matchup. Thankfully, Travis had Intel Agents instead of Boba Fett with Proton Torpedoes. I deployed a rock at 2 and 2 on the far left corner, and another rock range 1 away down the left side. He deployed in the center. I deployed on my left and rushed for the safety of that rock formation. Dice helped me a lot this game; I kept rolling 2-3 hits on TLT and he kept rolling focus-evade. R4-D6 dissuaded the alpha strike on Biggs. On the crucial turn, he turned facing the rock formation and target locked Kanan with two Jumpmasters while running an injured one away. I boosted further into the rock formation to get ahead of him and stop him from cutting me off. Kanan took a total of 10 damage that turn from 2 Plasma Torpedoes with a Direct Hit, but Travis never got another torpedo off and I killed the first Jumpmaster the turn after on some more lucky dice (Kanan was out of the injured Jumpmaster's primary arc but I caught him in Kanan's back arc). The game got a lot easier once one Jumpmaster is off the board and Kanan isn't in danger of getting bumped. I won 100-27.
- Nassim Ketita's Miranda Lowhhrick Biggs. Nassim was in London when I started playing, and he was the one who introduced me to the game. I beat his randomly-generated lists a few times with Poe Keyan Jake, and then he took the gloves off with Brobots 😁. This is a favorable matchup for me. Nassim opted for a few rounds of Biggs vs. Kanan 1v1. I killed Biggs in about 4 turns. Miranda sent a Concussion Missile into Kanan but wasn't able to do much before dying afterwards. I won 100-27.
Round of 16 vs. Jamie Comely's Miranda Regen-Norra Rex:
This was a somewhat favorable matchup that went south. I killed Rex in round 1, since Suppressive Fire's really nasty against Kanan. But then I rolled below average on some attacks against Norra and she survived a couple turns too long. It ended with Kanan with 2 health and evade against Miranda with 2 health. I popped out the shuttle. Miranda regened and killed Kanan, but had to spend focus on offense to get past Kanan's evade. Zeb rolled the 3 hits I needed him to roll (at range 2!), and Jamie rolled a focus. (Zeb win #2).
Quarterfinals vs. Bryson Eawanchuk's Dash Miranda:
Again, Lone Wolf Dash in the hands of a good player is really good against Kanan Biggs. Bryson happened to be one of the best Dash players I've seen. We flew around the board once where Bryson just barely missed getting Biggs in Range 3 (and Kanan was out). I had enough of that and flew Biggs in front (bumping with Kanan), but that meant one round of Kanan vs. Dash where I had minimal dice mods. Kanan took 4 damage and dealt zero in response. We traded more shots between Kanan and Dash, and then a few rounds of Biggs vs. Dash. By the time Dash went down, Kanan only had 3 health and Biggs only had 1+IA left. A couple turns later, I made a bad move and gave him Biggs for free.
On a crucial turn, Miranda clipped a debris field. Next turn, I pinned Miranda down in my primary arc. We traded shots and I put some heavy damage on Miranda while she whiffed a TLT shot. It came down to Kanan with 2 health focus+evade against Miranda with 3 health and target lock. His first TLT shot was 3 hits. I nerfed his second TLT shot. He rolled 2 focuses. Reroll: crit blank. I evade. Kanan's primary killed Miranda.
Semifinals vs. Ryan Dwornik's Fair Ship Rebels:
I'll let you watch this game yourself (it's too painful for me to watch any part but the end lol). I tried to get cute, messed up a bunch while trying to get cute, and was 100% sure I lost with ~30 minutes left. Let me tell you, it feels really strange when you're 100% losing for 30 minutes and then you win the game.
Huge props to Ryan for agreeing to play more quickly at the end. I've played him a few times, and he's always been a great opponent.
Quick response to commentary at the end: I shot Rex because I didn't know if killing Jess and Biggs alone would win me the game (I should have asked for point totals but didn't). I thought I had to kill 3 ships to win. Killing Rex also cleared the Suppressive Fire condition, and I had a target lock on him already. I wasn't sure I could kill Jess with 4 dice without target lock.
Finals vs. Nathaniel Moore's Rey Miranda
Rey's the biggest threat and I went after her first. Nathan made a mistake when he slooped instead of disengaging with Rey (as we discussed at the end), and that put Rey squarely in the sights of Kanan. Once Rey was down with very little damage on my ships, the game was over in my favor.
Quick response to commentary at the end: I stand by disengaging on the last turn (turn after this picture was taken). I had 10-health Kanan against 5-health Miranda, and I deal at least 4 damage a round compared to Miranda's 2. The only way I lose the game is if 1) I land on bombs, or 2) Miranda catches Biggs by himself and regens off him. Any way I try to turn Kanan left (right in the picture; down in the stream) would end with me eating a bomb. Chasing Miranda with Biggs means he might catch Biggs by himself. There was no way Miranda could catch Biggs after a 2-turn away before I can intercept Miranda with Kanan. Disengaging could have prolonged a won game, but I wasn't taking any chances in the finals 😊.
So yea, winning a big tournament for the first time felt pretty awesome. It felt really good to keep the trophy in Canada! It was so hard to believe it happened. I had two nailbiter games in the playoffs, and the third game was a loss until the very end.
I know Kanan Biggs doesn't have a lot of fans. It's very strong against some lists, but it has some limitations which makes it tricky to run at a high level (I don't think it's won any major tournament before this). These limitations will be exploited by good opponents. None of us flew perfectly (especially me), and three of my four playoff games were decided by the final round of dice rolls. Had my playoff opponents flown a bit better, they would have won the game. Had I flown a bit better, I would have won without the heart attack endings. For most lists, dials and actions still matter in the Kanan Biggs matchup. I had a lot of fun this weekend, and I hope most of my opponents enjoyed our games as well.
At the end of the day, I'm still a Tier 1.5 player. I chose the right list for this meta, Cryodex didn't pair me against too many bad matchups, I made the right decisions when I had to, and the dice came in my favor when I needed them. I could have easily lost in any of my playoff games and never reached the finals, but I also believe I deserved the win as much as any of my opponents would have had the dice rolled differently. I don't expect to repeat this performance anytime soon (or perhaps ever!). I'll probably go 3-3 or 4-2 and miss the cut again in my next big tournament 😊.
Ryan Dwornik. Ryan, I want to give you a special shout-out because you're a stand-up guy. You went out of your way to play quickly at the end of our game when even normal-speed play would have won you the game on time. You're a truly good sport. We've played three times and I've enjoyed our games every single time. Please do take credit for your top 4 finish. It wasn't just your list, you flew it excellently. You're scary with janky lists and you made the top 4 of Nationals with a strong one. You responded exactly as needed to me trying to get cute and really had me dead to rights. I look forward to playing you again!
Marc de Bruyn. Marc, thank you for being my friend and my practice partner. You helped convince me to take Kanan Biggs instead of Palp 11 Aces, and our games were pretty important for me to get back in shape after a stretch of not playing this list. Getting ramen with you after the Swiss rounds was a highlight in the weekend. Sorry I had to beat you in the first round of Swiss; let's tell Cryodex not to let that happen again.
Alan Fung. Alan, you were the other person who convined me to take Kanan Biggs. Thank you for your matchup discussions and your support in the playoffs. I may have succeeded you as the Canadian National Champion, but you'll always have the better hair.
Nathaniel Moore. Nathaniel, you're a graceful opponent and it was a pleasure playing against you in the finals. You're a skilled player, and it's a shame that one mistake swung our game so heavily. I look forward to meeting and playing you again!
Bryson Eawanchuk. Bryson, I've never seen someone fly Dash Miranda as well as you. Most would say Kanan Biggs is a tough matchup for Dash Miranda, but it felt like an even matchup against you. I really enjoyed our game, and I hope you did as well.
Jamie Comely. Jamie, thanks for that great match in the top 16. You've been a player to beat in the Waterloo area, and I'm glad to have finally defeated you. Our game was tense and it could have easily gone the other way. I hope you end your win-in-playoff drought soon (just hopefully not against me 😊)!
Nassim Ketita. Nassim, thanks for showing me the ropes when I first started. It's a bummer we were matched up in the final round of Swiss, both needing a win to make the cut. It was good to see you again, and I hope you'll be out to future big events in the area.
Travis Johnson. Travis, it was a pleasure playing you. Thank you for your kind words, and for being the first X-Wing famous person I've beaten in an official tournament. I look forward to hearing you discuss our match on the podcast!
The London Ontario X-Wing Community. Marc, Tyler, Evan, and Bryan (Ryan, I think you also count), thanks for making the trip out to Nationals. It's always nice to have local support at a big tournament. Dave, Scott, Edwin, Devin, and the rest of you who couldn't make it out: thanks for coming out on Tuesdays and keeping our local scene strong. (Eric, you'll have to make the trip down next time 😛.)
The Southern Ontario X-Wing Community. There are too many of you to list! I joined X-Wing for the community, and you guys are fantastic. The support I got going into the finals kept me strong, and your cheers afterwards made this so worth it. I'm happy I could defend Canada's pride and keep the trophy here.
Oh, and how could I forget? Devon, Don, Stephen, and the other organizers: thank you for running such an enjoyable event. Round 1 pairings aside, everything was very smooth. I noticed special effort was taken to fix some of the problems from last year (e.g. uneven tables), and I think we all appreciated it. Thanks again for taking the time to run this, and for keeping the GTA tournament scene strong.