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Large Scale AAR

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I've been quieter on the forums over the past 12 months than I have been for the two years prior to that point.  Some of that is, undoubtedly, settling into the game, and finding a rhythm in life that includes Armada, but quite a few other things.  Some of that has been the slow release pace.  I am fascinated with strategy games because of the problem-solving skills they offer.  I believe that human beings are infinitely creative and love solving problems, and strategy games offer a great avenue for honing those skills.  They also offer a sense of free-fall, really being in the moment and caught up in something where concentration is easy.  You're not trying to concentrate.

Although I was at worlds a month ago, I was disappointed not to do well, and didn't make the second day.  In the grand scheme of things, I thought it made more sense to talk through my thoughts of the last 12-14 months with regards to lists, the push-and-pull of the local meta, the state of the game, and general excitement going forward.


The backstory:

I am probably most known on the forums for pioneering Madine and the Liberty as competitive in the wake of Wave-4.  My posts from that regional season (do a search) are not merely intended to discuss lists, but to illustrate a thought process for revision and refinement of a list.  What I hope to do today is much the same.  It isn't just merely putting a list on paper, but the thought behind it, the assessments, and the lessons learned that are the most instructive.  I basically stuck with the same concept and revised it considerably over time.  The early concepts started with a Liberty, MC30, CR90, flotillas, and light squads, and went through various iterations with various squad load-outs, eventually conceding to the squadron portion of the game and running the 6 A-wings and 4 YT2400s that Aresius pioneered.

Regionals, Jan/Feb 2018:  My local friend and buddy @Rikash had been steadily improving since joining us in Austin.  At approximately this time, he'd figured out Imperial squads well enough and more-or-less was running an Imperial version of the same style of list that I was running, except the Imperials were just slightly more point efficient at the archetype and I couldn't quite find the combination of squadrons, activations, and bid to do exactly what I wanted.  He scored his first major win against me in the San Antonio regionals that year, and went on to just barely miss the cut at worlds that year.

As our games evolved, we had a major event in Texas called the Texas Galactic Open in October.  In a search for points, I decided to try Dodonna.  The GO was larger than any of our three Texas regionals, and had a straight-forward 3 rounds and cut to top-2, where I again was playing Rikash.  Here, the lack of Madine played havoc with my maneuvering and he won the face-off to take the open.  So I was still in search for the concepts that would unify my old lists.

Regionals were finally announced, and we had three in Texas, the first being in San Antonio in December.  I was still running Madine, but had started to experiment with Rogues to provide key anti-squadron support against price.  I went through various iterations here, with Ketsu/Dash and YT2400s making lots of appearances as they did in other competitive rebel lists throughout the regionals and eventually worlds season.  Rikash were in the lead and set to play the final game, but with the second table being close enough, we had to go at it.  In the end, he scored a 7-4, which was enough to knock both of us out of first.  Some rough dice against Black squadron certainly tipped the squadron game against him, and I often wondered after the match if Coran instead of Ketsu might have opened a few more doors for me.  At this moment, I really wondered if Madine's run had ended.  Of course, Steel Squadron had long suggested that Raddus did what Madine did at just a bit cheaper.  I was starting to lean that direction myself.

Regional-2 Dallas:  I started running a variant of Truthiness' Raddus list.  I had my own spin on it, eventually settling on a GT variant more like I'd played with Madine.  The overall style of both lists is remarkably similar.  I even had a point where I was threatening Rikash's Two Ship Pryce seriously.  However, he realized this going into the regional and dropped an upgrade to have bid on me.  Two things conspired against me here.  First, I was behind in points going into the final round and needed at least an 8 to win the tournament.  Second, I was really stunned by the bid adjustment and wasn't clear at all on how to approach the list.  So sitting in the corner and taking the 6-5 was probably an option round-1, but wasn't going to be an option in the third round.  And I think when Truthiness proposed with respect to his own world's list that one deploy side-ways and wait out the Pryce, he also mentioned mostly 6-5 scores one way or another.  That's great and all, but I am one to want to have options against even the best lists.

Regionals-Austin:  I continued the same basic list, put up three 8-3 win in the Austin regionals, but got edged out on MOV at the end of the tournament.

A few personal life events intervened between then and worlds, but on the whole, I felt in a creative rut.  I really wasn't totally comfortable with the Raddus list.  He's always felt gimmicky to me.  And when you get used to extra clicks of yaw, it is hard to rethink flying your ships when you've always had more.  I don't know how many different lists I then tried between mid-February and worlds, but it was a bunch.  The creative juices just were not flowing.  And when you're playing somebody really good frequently who can play a good list to sixth at worlds, sometimes it can just get in your head.  I think after playing Monday going into worlds, Rikash and I talked about a few lists such as Coda's Chicago's list which he took to worlds and second place and Aresius' high place in the world cup.  Both had concepts that I had been exploring.  In the end, I split the difference between the two lists in a way that did not work out at all.  Like both, I was running Rieekan.  Like my old preferred lists, I was running a Liberty.  I ended up running only 4 squads (Tycho/Shara/Dash/Corran), and I definitely felt the lack of two additional squads.  Beyond that, I had Coda's CR90A/TRC, and his CR90B with Engine Techs and HIE.


Round-1:   Against a Sloan list.  We both had five activations.  He had Demolisher/Quasar.   The critical moment was when my Liberty had is Quasar dead to rights.  A single accuracy plus average damage would finish it off entirely.  An above average damage roll would finish it off.  Instead, I got no accuracies and pretty normal damage roll.  I still had to kill it, but needed a double ram on my Liberty to do so.  No way to avoid this.  I eventually ended up tabled, but had taken out enough to pull it back to an 3-8.  This is the first match-up where splitting the difference really hurt.  Two more squads would have helped put away some stands of his, weaken his attacks against my ships.  I was one deployment behind Coda's list, and so my ability to get the CR90B with HIE anywhere near anything at any convenient time.  It makes a great last drop and last activation, but its got to be close to the action.

Round-2:  Ackbar MC80 with max squads.  Biggs and several escorts for lots of damage redirection.  Here, I think two more squads start pushing enough damage through that it overwhelms Biggs and starts removing stands.  Instead, I struggled to get enough damage through for squadon damage to matter.  I was second, and he took my Planetary Ion Cannons, which proved inconsequential basically.  I think in the end, we killed squadrons and jetted with our ships.  I think this was 5-6 his way.  Wow, it had been a long time since I'd lost two games in a row in a tournament.

Round-3:  Interdictor, Gladiator, Gozanti, squads.  I'd played this lists several times myself, and rightly made it go first.  He took Salvage run recognizing that he was going to give me a bunch of points.  The money shot was the Liberty landing on the rocks twice, once regularly, and once with Engine techs to just barely get Demolisher in arc for a kill shot.  I had several ships scoot away with just barely any heatlh.  Of course, I had trouble putting enough meaningful damage on the Interdictor and led 3-1 in tokens for 40 points.  7-4 there.  The ships were fine here and the squads ok, but dropping a ship for 2 more squads might have tipped the squad game decisively, and the real money-maker is the Liberty.

Round-4:  This was a Cracken swarm, with a bunch of TRC90s and Admonition.  I sized it up pretty well and got things rolling very well, dropping several CR90s and seemed to be cruising to a good outcome.  He had unfortunately got two good slices off on my Liberty, which ultimately proved decisive.  My Liberty ended up at speed-3 and couldn't turn sharply enough to avoid leaving the table.  Here, the LIb got to shine, but CR90 versus CR90 match-ups are very drawish, so this is where two more squads that are continually pummeling small ships creates a lot of flexibility in where the Liberty and remaining CR90 go.



I think the following represent errors in my thinking

A.  Building out a list Tuesday ahead of flying out to worlds, and despite having ships that are familiar, not really playing out the intricacies of the list in other settings.

B.  Letting one list get really under me.  It was a good list by a good player, for sure, but I spent an awful lot of time preparing to see several two-ship lists.  The simple fact is that any of my regional lists would have been just fine.  And in a long tournament like this, you perhaps take the 6-5 and run against the two-ship.  Meanwhile, nothing was particularly bad with any of my three regional lists.

C.  Inflexibility:  Over time, we all develop preferences for particular ships, commanders, upgrades, and playstyles.  I've always enjoyed the speed side of the game, thus CR90s, MC30s, and the Liberty.  Maneuvering has been fun.  I've not enjoyed slow squadrons, and I've been reluctant to put strategic on the field.


State of the game:

Some aspects of list-building are extremely open.  Although people talk of the Rebel big four, Duckbird put Madine in the top 10.  My sense is that it is more about the ships and overall feel of your list than it is about the commander.  So let's take Duckbird and Coda's list, both of which feature and MC30, CR90s, and squadrons.  They both have different commanders which cause them to play differently.  The different squadrons cause the lists to have different options in the objective game.  So I think it is relatively easy to call them separate lists.  On the other hand, the basic core to the list has worked pretty well since wave-2, where Q won US nationals with a Mothma MC30/3 TRC90s, and 8 YT2400s, which eventually became Steve's Crackinator.  There's a certain core principle that hearkens back a long way, and while one list might be more successful at it than another, they remain variants of the same concept.  When the Imperial concepts were talking largely about taking just about any commander but only four ships, it really makes me wonder if all the talk specifically about commanders is a bit far-fetched and overblown.  While certainly you cannot slide commanders from list into any list and get the same result, we're still talking 20-38 points in a list, and much of the remaining points are the points that do the lifting, and they often do that lifting regardless of commander.

Some aspects of list-building are extremely narrow:  Squadrons still feels 110+ or nothing.  I've spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how one does a more medium-ish squadron list.  And although the upgrades and slots exist to get something working in a casual kind of way, the problem is points-fortressing.  Whether that be speed-4, pseudo-5 ships that escape quickly, tanky-ISDs with 7th fleet Star Destroyers titles backing them up, tanky MC80 builds, or simply nimble evasive ships.  A second direction of points-denial is in keeping some ships lean so that you don't give up a lot of points, say Coda's CR90B, which is imminently tradeable, or Tokra's Quasar/Arquittens.  Good players typically can give as good as they get, and if the points at the end of the trade favor them, that's how they keep winning.

I really enjoyed Tokra's explanation of his list aiming first for that 8.  My sense is that I didn't take that mentality seriously enough with my own list approaches.  I've been used to putting up enough 10s for a while that settling for lower wins bothers me more than it should.  In fact, I can say that it doesn't point blank, but then when I'm really working through a list and agonizing over its details and my mental approach to the game, it affects me more than I've let on.  But one doesn't have to kill every unit.  Killing anything gets you a 6-5, and it really doesn't take much killing to put you at 7-4, and even a small number of victory points can take you to 8-3.  So to put a thought exercise back to my Madine Liberty from the start of the season.  Was there some way to bring enough squads to basically trade evenly, or even win against a weaker player?  Was there then the possibility of just ignoring the ISD, and eventually cornering the Quasar?  Generally his squadrons were hitting/killing corvettes because those corvettes were actively trying to contribute to bringing down the ISD.  Granted, there's the maneuvering portion of the game where the 2-shipper is going to try to make the ISD as relevant as possible, but an ISD doesn't kill a Liberty without help, and in most of the games I've played, there's always a critical moment where you eat one shot and then scoot by clearly out of that deadly front arc and without any possibility of him turning to catch you.  And then consider my previous aversion to VCX.  The objectives enabled there are often worth some very critical points.    If the threat is "I'm going to bag a 7-4 unless you come to me," it introduces the possibility of overextending.


The good news is that worlds did shake me out of a rut.  I've been having fun again playing Armada, and have been trying a few new list concepts.  I am really excited to see what the new campaign expansion brings.  These kinds of expansions tend to shake up the meta the most and offer the kind of play diversity that I've come to love and enjoy about the game.  And although I don't play Imperial, the SSD is a real curiosity, because it creates a point fortress that one has to account for in list-building.  I wonder if the end result is that we're more frequently forced to think through getting an 8-3 versus always being able to force through a 10-1.

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Nice post dude. It is always comforting to me that you are still in Madine's corner as he will always be my favorite commander to fly. You really helped me when I was flying similar lists as you do, along with the same problems of getting to that magic 6 squads into it. On to present day, I was almost giddy when you said you switched to Raddus, as that is the direction I am currently pointing in to combat the dreaded 2-ship lists. I would love to know your thoughts and what you came up with in a Raddus world...

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Now that worlds is over, I'll probably run a variety of things.

I basically was running my own variant of Truthiness' Nova list, which he took to worlds.  I started by looking closely at both Truthiness and JJs lists, and ultimately settled on liking what Truthiness was doing, since I was already doing those kinds of things with Madine and was already piloting that kind of a list.  Both options can work, JJ has burst damage, whereas Truthiness was more slow and steady.  I think the real challenge with two-ship lists is that it can fortress so well.  Against sub-par competition, the 10s just come easier for it.  The real wins in my tournament games against two-ship happened because my opponent was up on me in points going into the final round, and it therefore forced a more aggressive playstyle from me.  But I hold that in a straight forward game, you have many more chances to play for the 6-5 or 7-4, and more if they get greedy or make mistakes, which you're much more likely to force.

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