Having scrubbed out of last year’s Worlds due in no small part to my serial comedy of errors against Snipafist’s MSU Rieekan list, and fresh off of a powerful losing streak between the NoVA Regionals and almost every testing game against another human leading up to Adepticon, I was fiercely determined to break Top 16 this year. Winning, of course, was right out – one of my bigger failings in the way of competitiveness is to prioritize playing what I find fun over what is correct, which has led to a great deal of slightly-above-mediocrity in X-Wing and Magic: the Gathering. But I was determined to break into Top 16.
Being able to sustain focus is one of the most challenging hurdles to anything I do, whether it’s watching a movie to completion or paying attention to a complicated game state for more than thirty minutes or so. As anyone who’s ever played me (or played in a small enough tournament with me to notice) can attest, I’m the first person done each round, regardless of how slowly my opponent plays. Most of my games end, for better or for worse, at the one hour mark, and I can count the number of times I have gone to time playing Star Wars: Armada on one finger. But I promised myself that, this time around, this Worlds, I was going to take time every turn and every activation to think through all possible moves. I was going to get enough sleep each night, eat healthy breakfasts and lunches, bring healthful snacks, the works.
As you may have guessed, I didn’t do any of that ****. But I did make Top 16, so there’s that.
The list I went with is yet another variation of my Easter Fleet, which has achieved 1st, 2nd, and two 3rds across various Regionals, and snuck into 2nd at U.S. Nationals last year.
MC30 Torpedo Frigate (117 pts)
General Dodonna + Lando Calrissian + Ordnance Experts + Reinforced Blast Doors + Assault Proton Torpedoes + H9 Turbolasers + Admonition
This has been my flagship since I switched over from my Imperials MSU in February of 2018. Putting the Commander on the 75 is a trap. I treat it as a cruise missile. Your opponents have to commit to trying to kill Admonition, which takes significant luck and significant effort, and if they don’t then they’ve overcommitted their forces to a ship that’s got one hull damage and is hurtling across the board at speed 4 while the other ships move in. If they ignore it, you turn it around hard and get in a final attack run round 5 or 6, and it’s way too late for them to try and kill the 30.
MC75 Ordnance Cruiser (123 pts)
Strategic Adviser + Ordnance Experts + Electronic Countermeasures + External Racks + Assault Proton Torpedoes
You want a cliché? Here’s a cliché. “The 75 is the anvil to my 30’s hammer.” It took a year of losing the **** thing in almost every significant game to realize that I need to slow it the **** down, so I’ve worked really hard to practice both slowrolling the ship at Speed 1, and subsequently jumping it out of the fire at Speed 3 with a dial+token. I’ve tinkered a lot with other upgrades, like Hardened Bulkheads and Profundity, but keeping this thing lean for when your opponents outwit or outmaneuver you (and if you’re me, they will!) makes it a less devastating, though certainly not a smart, ship to sacrifice.
Hammerhead Torpedo Corvette (42)
Boarding Engineers + Garel’s Honor
This spicy little number doesn’t get to pull its weight every single game, but when it does it’s memorable as ****. The sole reason I’m 1-0 in matches against World Champions (I’m sure Nathan doesn’t remember that bull I pulled at GenCon, but you’d better believe I do). Didn’t really pull any miraculous turnarounds this tournament, though there was one match where it could’ve mattered – but everything else I did that game fell to pieces and losing Dodonna really mitigates the actually effectiveness. Was still fun laughing about how good it would have been in the post-game “What if?” shitshooting though. Structural ram, Boarding Engineers flipping two Structurals, then another ram for another Structural.
Hammerhead Torpedo Corvette (36)
Shouldn’t have been naked. Ended up just being activation padding, though it did contribute a little in my exhibition match against Ian Cross the next day (however, he did steamroll me regardless! So.)
GR-75 Medium Transports (20)
GR-75 Medium Transports (20)
I don’t miss Slicer Tools. I don’t use it effectively, and being able to send my last-firsters into the fray tokened to **** is a good, good feeling. Plus they made for phenomenal blockers and flakkers.
Also, activation padding, of course. It’s the most efficient use of points a list can make apart from maxing out squadrons, which I obviously did not do.
Tycho Celchu (16)
This was a mistake. Running a light squadron screen (like my classic Tycho + 3As) is a mistake. Anything short of 100+ points in squadrons may well be a mistake. Frankly, Intel was a mistake. The times Tycho mattered, he actually didn’t matter, and the times he didn’t matter, he really didn’t matter. Very minor speedbump at best for everything I went up against. Usually just a free 16 points for my opponent after they were done ignoring him and shooting my ships around him.
Most Wanted, Planetary Ion Cannon, Intel Sweep
Most Wanted is just the obvious, go-to objective. Frankly, once we get our new objectives from Rebellion in the Rim, I’m really hoping FFG switches up what is and isn’t allowed in competitive play, maybe on a rotating basis in a similar vein to the Hyperspace format that X-Wing 2.0 has been so successful with. Planetary Ion Cannon lends a lot to board control, as an extra four or eight blue dice can strip some nerd’s shields before one of my Hammerheads catches up to it after the initial engagement. For blue objectives, I waffle often between Intel Sweep and Dangerous Territory, but the only list I expected to outbid me in any significant way was one of the Canadians’ lists from regionals, and getting an extra 75 against them might make a significant difference if I ended up trading my 75 for their Quasar. Dangerous Territory is nice against a heavier MSU meta, though, as they have to risk taking an unpleasant crit of my choice if they want any dang points.
Having started writing this batrep about two weeks after the event, I’m ashamed to admit I needed to cross-reference Snipafist’s massive list spreadsheet to remember what the **** I played against round one. I went up against an ISD-II carrying Screed, with an Interdictor running alongside to force a few rerolls at close range and a light fighter screen. Fortunately, I’d practiced an absurd number of games against two-ship featuring an ISD-II (what I’d determined through prior testing to be the deadliest against me), and picked Contested Outpost, figuring I’d give up the fewest points by leaping across the board, killing the ISD, and contesting the **** out of the Outpost. After a series of first-lasts, the ISD went down at the start of round 4, but fighting the Interdictor ultimately wouldn’t have been worth it. Traded some Contested Outpost tokens for some Gozantis.
Oh, and also, Tycho died.
Just over the cutoff needed for an 8-3.
The second round was against a list similar to one that I’d tinkered with between Nationals and Regionals – a Raddus list with two big ships. Raddus was on Home One (complete with the title!!!), however, meaning that his kitted-out Liberty would almost surely be the drop. Curiously, one of his objectives was Fleet Ambush, and being one to capitalize on curious objective choices, I went with it, throwing my 30 in to last-first two of his smalls on turns one and two, with the 75 in a good position to last first turns two to three. I assumed he’d drop the Liberty next to his Home One and try to box my 75 in, but to my surprise, he threw it next to the MC30.
Turns out, Lando doesn’t do much to help against a ship running SW7s, Spinals, and Quads. Even after Landoing and burning a token to strip one of the remaining doubles, Dodonna lost all of his front and side shields and took a damage on the hull. Fortunately for me, however, my opponent chose NOT to double ram, which allowed my 30 to shower the Liberty with APT after APT. H9s allowed me to block his redirect, but it ultimately didn’t matter thanks to the first crit being Projector Misaligned and stripping all of the shields off of his front hull zone. The Liberty melted in short order, and the only thing I actually lost this game was the 30, which I drove off of the board trying to keep it away from his Home One before my 75 and Hammerheads killed it. Put in an Engineering command on a turn where the Nav would have easily saved it. Alas.
Oh, and Tycho. Tycho died as well.
At seventeen points, I was pretty sure I’d start having to play against players who were out of my league, and sure enough, I got paired up against Dong Lee. We’ve played exactly once, and while it wasn’t a curb stomp, per se, it was certainly a stomp. Third round of GenCon, running a very similar list to what he ran here. I picked Dangerous Territory, as I had bold aspirations of nabbing a bunch of tokens while last-firsting his ISD three times then running away.
But ****, is Dong a better player than me or what.
I tried doing a fancy little maneuver at the end of turn 2, throwing my MC75 up at speed three onto two of the asteroids and nabbing 30 points. Dong then proceeded, at the top of turn three, to throw his ISD forward from speed one to three and perfectly block my 75’s escape route. Demolisher closed in behind, and together they made quick work of the cruiser. The 30 durdles around being useless in space while Demo erases a Hammerhead.
Oh, and Tycho died.
Overall, this was probably the best and swingiest game I played across either day. I was paired up against Billy Wilkins, one of the Detroit crew, running another Raddus list. Admiral on a Hammerhead lifeboat, an Engine Techs CR90B hidden inside a kitted-out Profundity, alongside another Hammerhead and a pair of flotillas. I picked his Intel Sweep and immediately made for his objective flotilla with my MC30. Having the activation advantage, I was able to steer my 30 between his two flotillas, and he dropped Profundity double-arcing the 30 then spit the CR90B out behind the 75, hoping to block my escape and possibly ram me to death, Truthiness-style.
This was where I ****** up: rolled my side arc against his objective flotilla, which at this point has two of the three necessary tokens from Intel Sweep and is about to pick up a third. I roll two blue hits, three black hits, and of COURSE instead of just auto-killing his flotilla, I picked up ALL THREE BLACK DICE and threw it into one hit and two blanks. Muscle memory fishing for a hit-crit. Big oof. I manage to throw my MC30 to the other side of the 75, out of double arc and out of range of the CR90B, but Billy proceeds to unleash four double-hit results from his side arc, boosted by External Racks. Lando proceeds to reroll those four doubles and several blue hit results (13 damage) into a meager two doubles (down to 9), and one gets cancelled by Admonition, leaving me with 7 total damage including a crit result. XI7s generously allows me to redirect one damage, leaving three more to the shields and three to the hull. The crit, of course, was Structural Damage, spelling an early and undignified end to Dodonna. I chased down his Hammerheads with my 75, and attempted (and failed!) to smack the CR90 with Garel’s Honor.
Had I not made The Big Goof by wasting an otherwise excellent shot on his GR75, that’s a 101 point swing in my favor (Quantum Storm Slicer Tools dies, and neither of us gets the Intel Sweep points). This is why thinking about what you’re doing, instead of just rolling and rolling and looking for a hit-crit so you can see those good good face-up damage cards… alas.
Oh, and Tycho survived. Turns out he can at least not completely die to a pair of HWKs and VCXes. Good for you, Tycho.
At 24 points with decent MOV thanks to my sizeable early wins, I managed to sneak into Day 2. Feeling pretty exhausted after three hours of sleep the previous night, I of course went straight to the hotel and got two more hours of sleep.
My first match against a Canadian! I got way too cocky way too early going up against a pair of Ackbar Assault Frigates, having played plenty of reps against Daryle’s Y-Wings and feeling like the MC30 would be the star of the show. And frankly, if I’d LET it be, and also been a bit smarter about my objective choices, I might have performed a little differently here. Being able to guarantee damage through APTs allows my list to chew through Assault Frigates pretty rapidly, and a ship with one brace and no ECMs doesn’t fare well against H9s.
But I messed up. Having completely botched my Intel Sweep match against Billy, and seeing more VCXes across the table, I opted instead to play Hyperspace Assault, thinking that I’d be able to sideswipe Ackbar with my 75 before booking it, then letting the 30 do its job and having the Hammerheads clean up anything that escaped.
Instead, I managed to lose the 75 without it firing a shot, thanks in no small way to Captain Nym stripping the Brace before the rest of the squadrons dropped in by HA and Ackbar laid into him.
The 30 still coming in hot, though, and being fairly accustomed to losing my MC75, I turned both Hammerheads in to try and keep the Hyperspace ship from escaping while my flagship tangled with his non-ECM ship. The first shot was perfect – double hit-crits, blocking the brace, and of course pulling a Shield Failure to strip even more shields. But the second shot, from the side, rolled three hit results off of four black dice and four rerolls. His fighters pecked my 30 to death along with Ackbar later that turn, and that was that.
Tycho lived, but only because Jan Ors let all of my opponent’s squadrons completely ignore him and eat the actual, functional parts of my list instead. **** you, Tycho.
So at this point I got to hang out at the bottom table, almost definitively out of the Top 16, but as we were still racking up those beautiful speed and shield dials for each round played, there was no reason not to see the event through to the very end. My opponent was running an Interceptor-heavy Sloaneball that was probably keyed up to fight Thrawn 2-Ship. Neither of us had really faced much of the Regionals menace, somehow, but fighting his list was very similar for my purposes to fighting 2-Ship and it went off without a hitch. I picked Advanced Gunnery, figuring that my activation advantage would keep my ships safe from a potential Kuat double-tap. MC30 Cruise Missile flies in, obliterates the Quasar, then curves hard in case it needs to come back in to mess with the Kuat.
Fortunately, the MC75 rolls perfectly, and I don’t even need to bring the 30 back in. Garel’s Honor comes in to finish off the damaged Kuat, slamming into it, flipping up Structurals, then not even needing a subsequent ram in order to finish it off. I’d practiced this against Thrawn 2-Ship so many times that it felt almost cathartic to have it work well at the event proper.
Oh, and Tycho died.
10-1, MOV 512-16
Going into the last round up 10 points, I felt like maybe Top 16 was attainable, though I’d need a 9 at least, if not a 10. And after pairings went up, I saw that I was paired against my teammate / testing partner / hotel roommate, Interdictor master Jeremy Gaudreau. While I’d managed to pull a 10-1 on him in the last round of Nationals, he and I both acknowledged after the fact that it was a statistical improbability thanks to some unfortunate Targeting Scrambler rerolls, and realistically it should have been a low 9-2. I didn’t expect I’d be able to pull off such a significant upset this time around, as I’ve also had plenty of games against him where multiple turns of simultaneous double arcing yielded nothing but a dead MC75, a fleeing 30, and a smug and very alive Interdictor.
But someone goofed on the pairings, and the whole bracket got jumbled. Whoops! I was actually paired against Ackbar master Sean Sundberg, my OTHER teammate / testing partner who instead of running Ackbar, he ran Cracken MSU, despite my pleas to the contrary. That’s right, Sean, I’m calling you out here. What it do.
Traditionally, matches between Sean’s Cracken MSU and Easter Fleet have depended heavily on what happens on the first pass from our 30s. As I can’t last-first him effectively, I have to hope that my 30 kills two of the Hammerheads on that first pass, because otherwise he’s going to box my 75 in with the three that lived (because, c’mon, ONE is going to die) and slow it down long enough for the 30 to kill it. Not a huge win for Sean, but a low 7-4 is still a 7-4.
Fortunately, however, my Easter Fleet has evolved. Time and time again, my deep bid of 20-23 points didn’t mean anything if I wasn’t also outactivating my opponents – and six activations is just too achievable in a world with LMSUs jamming Strategic Adviser. After exhaustive testing resulting in loss after loss (thanks, Joey), I made the bump up to seven, losing my otherwise ineffective A-Wing screen in favor of Tycho.
And as we’ve established, he, too, was a mistake.
Sean created the perfect killbox for my MC75, with my 30 racing in from the side but unable to reach before four Hammerheads and Admonition surrounded my large ship. But of course, the 75 blasted through, killing two Hammerheads at the end of round two and critically damaging both Admonition and another Hammerhead at the start of round three before flying away almost completely untouched. My 30 made short work of the rest of his fleet, and I ended up with over 400 MOV thanks to victory points from Navigational Hazards clipping one of his surviving Hammerheads and the Slicer Tools.
Tycho, of course, bit the dust.
Two subsequent 10-1s propelled me back into contention, and as luck would have it gave me a significant enough MOV advantage over Snipafist that I clambered to 16th place. Running on fumes at this point, I crawled into a cab after watching Jeremy’s game conclude and slept for about 10 hours.
So, the obvious takeaway for me here is to continue developing conservative play strategies. Two of my three big losses came from being unnecessarily aggressive with my MC75 and losing it before it could do anything substantial. With seven activations and a bid this deep, there’s no reason to let my MC75 fall into a trap if I’m not 100% certain I can last-first my way out of it. Losing it without trading for a significant part of the opponent’s list is a waste.
Speaking of wastes, Tycho. Tycho did stone cold nothing this event. While I’m glad I went down from the 50 point screen I’d used at NOVA and Regionals, it’s clear to me in hindsight that even attempting a speedbump against heavy squadrons was a mistake. Sixteen points gives me even more flexibility in shoring up the weaker aspects of my list, like Garel’s Honor and the naked Hammerhead. Tycho did nothing to curb 2-Ship in all of my testing, and even though I was able to dodge the proliferation of Thrawns while at Worlds, Tycho proved himself absolutely useless across all seven matches.
This brings me to a conclusion that a lot of high-level players have acknowledged and will continue to: if you’re bringing squadrons, bringing less than maximum might be a mistake. Bringing fewer than 100 points, however, is almost definitely a mistake, and only players with a lot of talent and a significant game plan for leveraging the squadrons they do bring against 2-Ship and other max squad builds can do well like this. I’ve seen a lot of ideas thrown around for addressing this problem, and apart from “wait for Rebellion in the Rim to come out”, one of the more level suggestions I’ve seen is to limit aces to half of the allotted point squadron cost. This tackles MMJ (by one point!), tackles Rieekan Aceholes, and makes running Jan or Dengar a real and significant cost, thereby increasing the efficacy of small and medium fighter coverage builds.
It’s something, at the very least, I’d like to test.
Other takeaways are more generic. Get more sleep, make sure that I’m eating healthy leading up to and during the tournament. A regular exercise routine is something that I’ve neglected in stellar fashion since moving to New York from NoVA, and I’m trying to get back into the habit before GenCon rolls around. Four months is not a lot of time to fix your diet and get fit again, but it’s probably better for me on the whole than hunching over the table practicing match after match against 2-Ship. Not that I’m speaking from experience, or anything.
BONUS ROUND: IAN CROSS
The day after Worlds concluded, I somehow found it within myself to play one last round of Armada against none other than the rulesmith himself, Judge Ian Cross, who fielded a truly unique all-ship Motti build based around speed control. An early break for his Tua Slicer Tools with my MC30 unfortunately ended in the barest of failures, with Admonition dealing one damage short of lethal against the slippery ******. Meanwhile, I managed to not only park my MC75 on the rock next to the Contested Outpost, but also in double arc of his BT Avenger Kuat while his flagship ISD-II sped away. The 75 died gracelessly while my 30 and Hammerheads desperately pecked away at the back end of Motti. The Kuat came to a graceful rest just outside of the station, while his remaining Gozanti stripped my remaining Nav tokens from afar while crawling into distance 1 of said station.
To be completely honest, I don’t even remember if I was able to kill his ISD-II or not. He’d have to inform me. If I did, then I guess the match would have ended up a 7-4 in his favor. If I didn’t, then easily a 9-2. Regardless, it was a lot of fun being reminded that just because Ian gets roped into nobly and diligently volunteers his time to ensure the best possible Organized Play experience, it doesn’t mean that he can’t absolutely wreck face given the opportunity.
Worlds is incredible and I will do everything in my power to get back there a third year.