X Wing: 4 is the New 3!

TO Harrison Sharp returns with musings on the changes in X Wing’s Metagame since the release of Wave 4, and how it affects your game. Is it for better or for worse? Read on to see what Harri thinks, and be sure to leave your opinion in the comments section beneath!

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Welcome back, fellow wild space fringers! Today I’m going to talk about something that’s been happening in the game for a while now, and with the Jumpmaster Wolf Pack I think it’s finally hit critical mass. Ever since Wave 4 hit with the TIE Phantom, we’ve seen a trend toward people gearing up to get four dice, not just as a bonus for getting into range 1, or defending at range 3, but as a norm. What does that mean exactly, and how did we get there? Well, in this article I’m going to lay down some of my thoughts on the matter.

Back in the heady days of Waves 1-3, the TIE Swarm reigned supreme. There was no disputing the fact that more ships was just a better idea as, for the most part, an Ace didn’t have the pool of upgrades needed to really shine, and the humble Z95 Headhunter had yet to be released to give the Rebels their cheap filler ship. During this time there were very few good ways of getting a reliable four-dice attack. In all honesty, it pretty much boiled down to throwing a Heavy Laser Cannon on a B Wing and calling it a day there; but a seven point investment in a ship that will get quickly burnt down is a heavy price to pay. It did see some play, and a few of you grizzled veterans will probably fondly remember the Bloody Daggers (three Dagger Squadron B Wings with Fire Control System and Heavy Laser Cannon), but not even firepower of that magnitude could unseat the Swarm as king of the hill!

Dash-rendar-crewEnter the TIE Phantom. This ship had not only four attack dice on its primary weapon, but also could cloak and have four defence dice as well! Suddenly, the floodgates opened. No longer could you rely on a load of two-attack-dice ships to reliably take everything off the board, especially when the Phantom could so easily arc dodge your ships; instead you had to plan for the daemon that cloaks appearing on the opposite side of the table! However in trying to topple the Swarm, FFG created a worse monster, forcing the Meta into “Phantom or Anti-Phantom” as your only two truly viable choices. By the time FFG had corrected its mistake another two waves had come and gone. We saw the birth of the Scum and Villainy faction, as well as two more fat turrets, but this time there was a difference. This time people were building lists with four dice in mind.

Dash Rendar in the YT-2400 saw the birth of the four-dice turret, while Soontir Fel got upgraded with Autothrusters to pair with his Stealth Device, making him the four-evade beast we see on tables today. That brings us up to the Jumpmaster and the birth of the Ordinance Meta. Three ships that have an extremely high chance of getting four hits on their first salvo means almost anything that gets in their way will be swept off the table.

So where does that leave us? The increase in viable lists that will have access to either four attack or defence dice mean you have to have an answer to ships that can deal a lot of damage, or evade a lot of hits. Let’s look deeper into what we can do to mitigate the effects of both in a list.

First off, lots of attack dice are going to be able to push the damage through a high agility ship, which is especially bad for them as they usually have a low amount of health. For these high agility ships, this problem can be tackled in one of two ways: either bring a lot of ships, or bring ways of making sure you can get the most out of your evade dice. While the TIE Swarm is no longer the undisputed king of the hill that it was, it still holds up in the current Meta. A lot of ships to spread the firepower over can work wonders to mitigate the amount of your list you’re losing to any kind of hyper-accurate, four-dice list such as Dash, Brobots or JM15k. Just make sure to keep them in your arc and, if possible, throw out a blocker to deny them actions. Alternatively, you can go for quality over quantity and run some Aces, preferably with Palpatine riding shotgun in a Shuttle. All the attack dice in the world won’t avail your opponent if he can’t keep you in arc! Added to this, at range 3, a ship with three agility and Autothrusters, backed up by Palpatine, is odds on to roll four evades. Just keep out of multiple arcs and watch those four attack dice bounce off you. Just remember that the Shuttle handles like a school bus, so don’t expect it to last long if it gets into the thick of it.decimator

Instead of having a lot of ships or a few arc dodgers, there are other options. Enter the Decimator and the Ghost. These ships may not have a lot of evade dice, but boy do they have the hits to soak up those heavy hits! For a list that is based around ordinance and only has a few of those four-dice shots, being able to weather the storm is almost as good an idea as not getting shot in the first place. While the Decimator and Ghost are the obvious choices for this kind of strategy, other ships can fill this role as well. The humble Y Wing is also great in this role, as it takes on average three torpedoes to take one off the board. Anything with a lot of hull points is going to hang around, especially as any ship with four attack dice has usually paid a premium to get them. This means that, while one ship will be throwing out a lot of dice, you will probably not be having as many dice thrown at you compared to a swarm or other list built around more than two or three ships.

So we’ve looked at the ways four attack dice can ruin your day and how to mitigate them, now let’s look at those treacherous green dice. There are two main places you will see a base 4 defence dice: the TIE Interceptor and the TIE Phantom. Both of these ships also are extremely difficult to pin down to get shots on in the first place! However, although neither will come stocked with four agility, they have an upgrade or action that allows them to get there. The problem to your list is, once you do manage to get these ships in arc, they will usually be able to slip away without a scratch. So how do you mitigate this? First off, you can bring something that deals out a lot of Stress tokens. Stress is the natural enemy of the high agility Ace, who relies on his actions to arc-dodge and gain tokens to augment his defence. R3-A2 and Tactician are both great upgrades to achieve this, as well as some unique pilot abilities like Imperial Kath Scarlet and 4-LOM.

WhisperAs long as you have the threat of being able to shut down your opponent’s Ace, they will try to ensure that you don’t. This leads nicely into the next way to deal with a pesky four-dice Ace, a little thing I like to call a Kill Box! A lot of the Aces can become quite predictable as to where they are going to be the following turn. This is made even easier to predict if you have a large no-fly zone in the form of a stress dealer. With this in mind, and with a little fancy flying, you can position your ships so you have multiple arcs where you expect your opponent to be, then you can throw out a ship to block your opponent’s Ace. This can get even more difficult if the particular Ace is Whisper. The adage is that an un-tokened Ace is a dead Ace, but Whisper will get a Focus Token if she hits with an attack, as well as being able to re-cloak. The only piece of advice I can give for this is to practice. Fel will usually have the 2 Turn or 4 Forward dialled in. Whisper will usually de-cloak and throw out either the 2 Forwards or Bank, or the 1 Turn. A ship with Boost or Barrel Roll will be invaluable for blocking.

OK, I know what you’re thinking, “what if I want to run a ship with four dice?” Well, let’s have a deeper look into some of the current builds that are in the Meta. First off, there are two ships in the game that naturally have four attack dice: the Ghost and the TIE Phantom. The Ghost is the latest of the two ships to be released, so let’s have a look at it first. The usual build for a Ghost fills a Crew slot with the Hera Syndula Crew. This is because she allows you to perform red manoeuvres while stressed, making your pretty terrible dial pretty damn amazing. This is the only upgrade that I would consider essential. The other Crew member you see a lot of on the Ghost is Han Solo, paired with a Fire Control System. This means that, even when stressed, you can keep getting Target Locks and modifying your dice. Han finds a home on the Ghost, as he gives you a lot more consistency in your damage output, as with all the stress you are going to pile on, you are never going to have the chance to Focus. I also have a soft spot for the Ezra Bridger Crew, as you are constantly stressed so he will always be able to convert a Focus Result into a Crit. If you’re running an Autoblaster Turret and not using your System Upgrade slot for the Fire Control System, an Accuracy Corrector is not a bad idea. At the moment, people are running either the Lothal Rebel with FCS, Han, Hera and the Autoblaster turret, or dropping out Han to upgrade to Chopper as the pilot.

This gives you 58 points to put into another four-dice attack monster, Dash Rendar. Dash hasn’t changed much since his introduction to the game in Wave 4. He still runs with Push the Limit, Heavy Laser Cannon, Engine Upgrade and Outrider Title, but since the arrival of the Ghost, he has dropped the Kyle Katarn Crew for Kanan Jarrus. This really opens up his dial and makes him next to impossible to catch.Heavy_Laser_Cannon

Talking of the Heavy Laser Cannon, we have to mention the Aggressor. This ship is seeing a resurgence in the Meta right now, due to being the natural predator of the Swarm. The current double HLC BroBots build of choice uses IG88-B and either IG88-A or C, depending on if you want more game against Swarm or lists with lower ship counts respectively. This gives you a Gunner-like second attack if you miss with those lovely four red dice, and a defensive buff. For double HLC, there are two Elite Pilot Talents that see a lot of use: Crack Shot and Veteran Instincts. Crack Shot works extremely well with the Gunner effect of IG B, as it means you will push through even more damage. Veteran Instincts is also great, as you can then start to threaten those pesky Pilot Skill 8 Aces like the Inquisitor and Omega Leader. Fire Control System also fits nicely here, as you can intentionally miss with your first shot and gain a Target Lock to modify your second attack. As the Aggressor has Boost, you have the option to take Autothrusters. Helpful hint: always take Autothrusters. Finally, you have four points left to take Glitterstim on both IGs, giving you a truly scary Alpha Strike.

Whisper is the TIE Phantom of choice as, with Veteran Instincts, she can bid up to Pilot Skill 9. This is really important for the purposes of the Advanced Cloaking Device Modification, which allows you to re-cloak after attacking, putting you back up to four defence dice. These two upgrades are the bare essentials for a high Pilot Skill Phantom, but you still have a System and Crew slot to fill up with goodies. As the Phantom doesn’t have access to Target Lock, the Fire Control System finds a good home here; however, people also like to use Enhanced Sensors to still gain some pre-manoeuvre movement at a high Pilot Skill. Personally, I prefer the FCS as it makes your damage much more consistent, which is exactly what you need when you are spending 40+ points on a single ship.

41KB4aXgDOL._SY300_Now we’ve spoken about the Phantom, it would be a good time to talk about another ship that can have four defence dice, the TIE Interceptor. The TIE Interceptor is probably the only ship that consistently sees use of the Stealth Device Modification. This is because its title allows you to take two mods, meaning you get to keep your Autothrusters. Add to this Push the Limit and you have a four-evade, double-tokened ship that laughs in the face of any turret that isn’t at range 1.

This leads to my final point. There are a lot more options to gain four attack dice than there are to gain four defence dice effectively. This may seem like a bias toward attack, until you realise that the evade action allows you to add an evade result; so while there is a definite bias toward attack in this game, the gap is not insurmountable for a ship with the right upgrades and actions.

I think I’ve taken up far too much of your valuable time with my ramblings, talking about a time long gone and how it’s affected the game we have today … I have avoided references to “back in my day”, which is probably for the best as it was a long time ago, in a galaxy far away! So until next time, fly casual!

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1 Comment on X Wing: 4 is the New 3!

  1. Great article. Ive been playing just over a year and came in between waves 6/7. I have seen some significant changes to the way i play and the factions i prefer. I would be interested to see how all of this relates in context to the recent Defender and bomber upgrades. Tomax with crack shot and ordinance is proving tricky as is a two shot Vess or Juke’in Ryad. Squeeze in a stealth device and youre asking for trouble. Thanks for this though.

    Ross | July 14, 2016 at 10:03 am () ()