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Four Is The Magic Number?

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OK, so everyone's well aware that Paul Heaver's won three back-to-back World Championships, and with a different list each time.  But have you noticed one of the things all his lists have in common?  They're all four ship builds.


We've seen two and three ship builds popular for quite some time now - Double YTs, Whisper/Chiraneau, Dash/Corran, Brobots, the Palpmobile Aces and more.  Quality can clearly outperform quantity... but there's safety in numbers as well.  The more ships you take, the less badly you're hit should you lose one, and the harder it is for your opponent to decide on target priority.


There's clearly room for both quality and quantity in competitive builds - but where to strike the balance?  Four ships, maybe?

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Most people that I play against have 2 or 3 ships. My reason for wanting 4 is purely to outnumber them. I should note that I have a warped sense of the game, the first 6-7 months that I played I only used Empire, and only used 5-6 Tie fighters/interceptors and occasionally the Decimator (still with 3-4 ties). Transitioning to other factions has made it diificult to make a list that I like, especially the super expensive rebels.

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I started a thread a few months back about how I felt a 4-6 ship meta is probably the way to go.  You go with an all purpose list that has a lot of tricks.  It's not rock/paper/scissor and has a chance to beat all lists if played well.   It won't have synergy strength of all having the same thing, but it doesn't have their weakness either. 


Glad to see it has come to fruition.  

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The game has done a great job of changing up the meta.  Back in W1, TIE swarm was the way to go on imps, with rebels primarily sticking to 4 ships, with at most 1 ace, either as an XXXX list or XXXY list.  Sure, you had the occasional XXX triple ace list (it was always WLB, poor Garvin), and while it was runner up at worlds, it wasn't considered to be as competitive as the 4 ship version.


Then in W2, not much changed.  TIE swarms were still king for imps, and for the most part XXXX still maintained dominance for Rebels, but the YT-1300 could replace two of those.  Han Shoots First was the build to beat.  Fel was a thing, but wasn't dominant since he was basically an auto lose to HSF, but an auto win to most other lists.


W3 opened up some build variety, a shuttle could replace two academies.  B wings could replace Rookies, and then you could debate adding FCS or AdvS or even HLCs.  But the game still maintained quantity over quality mindset.


W4 changed everything.  Specifically the Phantom.  Specifically Whisper w/ VI + ACD.  But it also brought the 12pt Bandit to the rebels.  The Phantom pushed everything to high PS, which started the trend of Quality > Quantity.  Predator helped this as well, giving those aces an easy way to deal with scrubs.  This single ship had the largest impact on the meta, but with the exception of Han + Corran, there still wasn't a good way to get 2 aces in a list, so often you saw 2 aces and some scrub to fill in the rest.  3 aces were too expensive to truly be aces.


W5 added the Decimator and YT-2400.  The inclusion of these ships opened up the build variety and made the 2 Ace list dominant.  It was the first time that the imps could realistically field only 2 ships.  Though I suppose the 88pt Phantom list would argue that it was possible back in W4.  


W6 introduced Scum, which didn't change much itself.  The only competitive list to come from Scum was IG88B+C. But it also introduced Autothrusters, which made Fel viable.  This just continued to push the meta towards dual aces.


I feel like W7 with the K wing and Punisher are designed to start balancing the meta towards low PS being viable, and utilizing bombs to do so.  However, it didn't truly accomplish its goal.  Or perhaps it did.  It doesn't seem like there's a truly dominate archetype at this time.  One could argue that Poe+Corran is that dominant list, and it would be difficult to deny that fact, but its play percentage isn't as high as previous dominant lists.


I for one am excited for W8 and what it'll bring.  I feel like this will be the first time that Scum is truly a viable faction, which will open up a ton of different lists and potentially put their HWKs in some super awesome support roles.

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Talking pure on non synergy lists for rebels:

I think 4 ships gives you better options then 3 or less at forcing your game plan unto the opponent. 4 ships over 5 leaves rebels with solid ships and enough points for an ace (late game tool).


But numbers are not what make Pauls lists winners, below a breakdown of his lists.


Rule of thumb:

1. Get a game plan.

2. Get a core of ships that fill in the game plan.

3. Find weak points in your game plan.

4. Supplement it with ships that cover the holes.


Below are Heavers winning lists with the follow through on thought process and counters at that time.


Heavers list (2015):

1. Strong mid game and a viable end game.

2. TLT's and new x-wing with auto thrusters.

3. Endgame ships (corran and soontir) stronger than Poe, strong initiator lists like (swarms). 

4. Stress lockdown Y-wing for endgame and solid damage in the early/midgame and a cheap ship that takes the initial hits and forces movement while able to add in weight in the mid game.


Another example can be: crackshot ties with Vader in an advanced.


Heavers list (2014): 

1. Viable mid game and a strong end game.

2. YT for a very stong end game.

3. Getting the YT to the end game, enough damage needs to be done to get to that point. 

4. Adding in as much red dice as possible, 3 Z-95's


Another example can be: Whisper with a mini-swarm.


Heavers list (2013): 
1. Pure mid game.

2. Get as much value out of value ships such as Biggs and advanced sensor B-wings.

3. Getting overwhelmed by initiator lists

4. Getting the cheapest blocker/initiator that can add his weight in the jousting game, basic x-wing.


Another example: 3 B-wings and 2 A-wings (there was not really a valid mirrored Imperial version at that time).


What makes Heavers lists winners? He has a game plan and has lines of play to execute it.

Edited by PS10

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I think this isn't something that can be applied the same to all factions.

4 ship builds work fine for rebels mostly because they can make 4-5 ship builds with a lot of hp and a lot of 3 die attacks. A naked bwing costs 22 points and has 8 health and 3 attack. The much maligned xwing costs 21 points and has 5 health and 3 attack. Ywings with tlt can even fill the role (for 2 factions even) with 8 hp and an attack that is arguably better than 3 attack at range 2-3.

Imperials don't have an analog to this (which is fine, variety is good). 3 dice small base options in imperial: interceptor, defender, phantom. Interceptors cost 18 points base which seems like a steal except they have 3 health so almost any time they fail a green roll they die. Phantoms are z95s strapped to rail rifles for 25 points, so not really an option for 'cheap beefy filler'. Defenders are too expensive until imperial veterans at which point maybe an imperial 4 ship list becomes more viable.

Honorable mention goes to accuracy corrector tempests but they're consistent, not powerful when they shoot. A bwing rolling into range 1 is scary, a tempest is just annoying.

Once imperial veterans and wave 8 hit I foresee a rise in viability of 4 ship lists by fixing the defender's cost and baffle fixing the shuttle's sluggish dial. Until that time the Imperials don't really have the proper sort of ships to land in the 4-5 ship range. They are just ideally suited to 2-3 ship ace lists or 6-8 ship swarms with the odd miniswarm trying to do the rebel 4 ship boogie without great success at replicating how it functions.

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There is the general idea right now that if you find an efficient ship type then you spam the heck out of it to maximize it's efficiency.  So, you get BBBBZ, Tie Swarm, and Thug's Life type lists.  Everyone will find a good thing and run as much of it as possible.  The problem comes in when you do this that you also maximize your weak points, as well.  You open yourself up to the things that are good at beating your type of list.  It turns the game into more of a rock/paper/scissors type game. 


Paul Heaver found a list with a lot of different elements and found ways to play that list against all comers.  He practiced a lot to know how his list should fly vs. about every other type of list out there.  Instead of having a lot of one thing, he has a whole toolbox of different ships and upgrades to use when flying against everything.   Oh, there might be some lists that are harder than others, but few lists that straight out beat an All Comers list.  


I think it's a different mentality and a good one to take. 


I don't think it's specifically 4 ships. I think it's somewhere between 4-6 ships that can do it.  I think all Factions can pull it off.  Nigeltastic is saying that there aren't any base ships with 3 attack dice for Imperials, but there are named Tie Fighters and Tie FO's that have abilities to give 3 attack dice for not that many points.  Often cheaper than a Rebel ship. 


I think it's a different mentality when approaching ship builds...and I like it.

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OK, so everyone's well aware that Paul Heaver's won three back-to-back World Championships, and with a different list each time.  But have you noticed one of the things all his lists have in common?  They're all four ship builds.

4 ship REBEL builds to be even more accurate. 


It's something the Rebel ships do very well.  Good firepower, decent durability, and easy to fly dials.  The ships don't excel at any one particular thing and the loss of any one of the four does not devastate the list's efficiency. 


Can this be done with the other two factions?  Yes, but maybe not as well as the Rebel faction can.  It's a good methodology for the long term (knowing you are going to play dozens of games).  It gives you room to mess up and keeps your options simple.  Both good things for a list to have when preparing for mental fatigue and effectiveness against a diversity of list types. 

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