Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Three questions about the early X-Wing 2.0 meta

Now that all the information about wave 1 in 2.0 is out, it's time to speculate on the early 2.0 meta. I haven't played any 2.0 games yet, but I've got some guesses on how things will turn out. I have no idea if I'll be right, and let me know if you have reasons to think otherwise!

Quick note: All point costs will be in their 2.0 equivalent. That means points for all 1.0 ships and upgrades are doubled.

1. Will swarms define the meta?

I have a hard time figuring out how strong swarms are in 2.0 (examples: TIE Swarm, BBBBZ, Rebel "group hug" lists). On one hand, they were weak in 1.0. The last days of X-Wing 2.0 were mostly fat turrets and efficient ace platforms with lots of action efficiency. Still, swarms were pretty viable in 1.0 even a few waves ago. The most recent "swarm" (Fair Ship Rebels) took a solid nerf and Harpoon Missiles to remove from the meta, and TIE Swarms were A/B-Tier in the Jumpmaster metas until bombs and stronger alpha strikes became too prevalent.

Almost every change in 2.0 favors jousters. Action efficiency through upgrades is much more expensive, Autothrusters is gone, repositioning is nerfed, turrets are now mobile arcs, Harpoon Missiles are gone, and bombs now drop in the system phase. In total, it's now harder to arc-dodge, ace platforms no longer hit as hard, and AOE damage is much harder to pull off. What hasn't changed is the cost of adding a stand-alone ship that doesn't require upgrades to function. It still gives you an extra attack, an extra action, and an extra blocker to potentially deny actions.

It's natural in "list-building" games for efficient stand-alone cards to be strong early in the game's life-cycle while upgrade platforms shine later. Unless the cost of a repeat-use upgrade are based on a percentage of a ship's base cost, it will always be more efficient to use them on expensive ships than cheap ships. If a ship survives longer, it gets more rounds to benefit from offensive upgrades. If a ship hits harder, defensive upgrades are more valuable since each extra shot it gets is stronger. Until the powerful repeat-use offensive and defensive upgrades are printed, ships that make good upgrade platforms are likely to be overcosted, and stand-alone ships are more likely to be the best values.

Bombs may still be one way to beat efficient jousters. A proton bomb takes a significant chunk out of a TIE swarm, and it's still a threat for Rebel group hug jousting lists. However, it's much harder to pull off a bombing run in 2.0, especially if you want to avoid bombing your own ships. There are also ships like Luke, Boba Fett, and the Fang fighters which do especially well against swarms, but these ships are usually expensive. With their counters nerfed and with ace platforms being so limited, will swarms devour the early 2.0 meta?

2. Are ships with lots of dice viable?

A ship has "lots of dice" when it has a combined attack and agility value of 6 or more. Examples of these ships include E-Wings, TIE Interceptors, TIE Defenders, and Fang Fighters. The YT-2400, A-Wing with missiles, M3-A Interceptors with secondary weapons, TIE Advanced x1, Grand Inquisitor, and ships that attack twice in a round are also ships with lots of dice.

Dice are only good if you have dice mods to back them up. A focus token improves red dice by 50% and green dice by 66%. Ships with lots of dice have historically needed to modify both their attack roll and their defense roll (or multiple defense rolls) to get full value out of their points, and the generic versions of these ships were usually weak in 1.0. This can be fixed by reducing their point costs, and some of these ships did get cheaper (notably the TIE Advanced x1 and the M3-A Interceptor). However, many of these ships remained at roughly the same cost as their 1.0 counterparts, and some elite pilots like Soontir Fel and Scum Fenn Rau got even more expensive. Since a ship only gets a single action by default and there are no linked actions with two dice mods, these ships need action economy from upgrades to be viable.

Of course, action economy upgrades got significantly worse in 2.0. Reliable action economy upgrades cost around 6 points in 1.0. The most common action economy upgrades in 2.0 are one force for roughly 12 points (a force point isn't that much worse than a focus token). Cheaper upgrades tend to be highly unreliable, like the bullseye-arc requirement for Predator. Ships with built-in action economy like the E-Wing and TIE Defender are now extremely expensive, or they require strict conditions like Soontir Fel. Scum Han gunner is a notable exception (although only the Marauder Firespray, Y-Wing, and Lando's Falcon have gunner slots), but overall, it's now much harder to get multiple dice mods.

The loss of action economy is especially felt on defense. Consider a TIE Interceptor that's attacked by one or two X-Wings with focus at range 2. With only one focus token instead of having focus and evade, it takes about twice as much damage from one or two 3-dice attacks with one dice mod each. Many of these ships were also arc-dodgers who will have a harder time with the nerfs to repositioning and the removal of Autothrusters.

On the plus side, aces that previously needed Push the Limit now have room to take other EPTs like Lone Wolf or Juke, and both add some kind of action economy. Still, they certainly don't make up for the action economy these ships lost in the transition. Ships with lots of dice were arguably too good with action economy upgrades in 1.0; we'll have to see whether they're balanced or overnerfed in 2.0.

As an aside, I really wish evasive aces could have a linked evade->focus/calculate. It can be expensive and restricted, but as frustrating as flying against them can be, I think a Soontir Fel or A-Wing that's very hard to hit is an important part of the Star Wars lore.

3. Are 3-attack fat ships viable?

By fat, I'm talking about a ship that takes about half or more of your list. The most prominent examples include the Decimator and the Rebel Falcon, but a kitted-out E-Wing or TIE Defender ace also counts.

If you bring one fat ship, it's natural to build a 2-ship list. However, these lists may not have enough offense in 2.0. With 8 rounds of shooting, two 3-attack fat ships throw 48 red dice, which should convert to 36 hits if they have one offensive mod each. The classic BBBBZ list has exactly 36 health. The damage would be improved by range 1 shots and extra dice mods, but green dice, missed actions, lost shots, or losing a ship means the two-ship list usually won't have enough offense to kill off the BBBBZ list. If there's 8 rounds of shooting and you lose one ship halfway through, each ship has to average 3 damage after evades per round to deal 36 damage! Most lists will have less HP than BBBBZ, but evasive ships are now more resilient to fat turrets since Gunner effects are nerfed. The fat ships also lost reliable offensive dice mods, arc-dodging capabilities, and the 360 turret in the transition.

If a two-ship list doesn't work, what about pairing a fat ship with some heavy-hitting smaller ships? The math improves, but these lists have a strategic weakness. Your smaller ships will usually be more fragile, and your 3-attack large ship probably won't have enough offense to match their damage-to-survivability ratio. If your opponent focuses your small ships first, then the extra survivability spent on the large ship won't be useful until near the end of the game. Points that give you an advantage early in the game are much more valuable than points that only have an effect later on, so these builds start from a disadvantage.

There may still be some ways to build viable fat ships. Strong support abilities may be one way to give more threat to your 3-attack large ship. Alternatively, you can build a powerful alpha strike to improve your offense and move to an end-game where your large ship can use its survivability to clean up. Otherwise, keep an eye for buffs or better double-tap gunner effects, new crew and pilots with powerful support abilities, or maybe even a cost reduction for big ships.


  1. Well put. Thanks for these posts it must be a lot of work. I agree with section 1 particularly, and enjoyed the whole thing.