X-Wing French Nationals: The big 3!

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My last piece about the French national championships where I quickly ran through the event and posted the top 16 players with their lists. Today we are going to talk about the top 3 lists which I’ve respectively labeled; Wave 1 or Bust, Phantom & Friends and The Z Chromosome. Their strengths, their weaknesses and how they got so far in such a top level competitive environment.

Without further due let’s get started with the champion himself:

1st/ Jean-Cristophe “Icareane” Hu – Wave 1 or Bust!
Obsidian Squadron Pilot – 13
Obsidian Squadron Pilot – 13
Obsidian Squadron Pilot – 13
Obsidian Squadron Pilot – 13
Academy Pilot – 12
Academy Pilot – 12
Academy Pilot – 12
Academy Pilot – 12

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The Tie swarm has been a fearsome list since X-Wing hit the shelves. It’s a very forgiving list as losing one or two ships won’t hurt you as much as it would with a lot of other lists. Offensively it is capable or rolling a lot of dice. Ties have no problem getting in close and when 5/6 of these are churning out 3 attack dice each, even without actions, you can really start to pile on the damage cards.

Despite their high agility Ties remain very fragile and it’s not uncommon to destroy them with one or two attacks. With this in mind Icareane didn’t opt for more expensive variants like the infamous Howlrunnner as he didn’t want a keystone model that could easily be taken out. He decided instead to go for a list which maintained a high model count by using the cheapest ships available. This gives him an edge as for the loss of a “standard” ship like an x-wing, he would have to lose 2 Ties for his opponent to break equal in both points and firepower.

One of the inherent weaknesses of this list is that flying that many models at once is truly a daunting task, one or two mistakes and a lot of your ships could be out of position and without actions. This is something that can only be countered by player skill and Icarene told me that his biggest aide is having preprogrammed maneuvers for each of his 4 ship formations. He admits that errors are easily made when flying this many ships however at the end of the day they are still only Ties and losing one or two for a turn doesn’t impact your game that much.

In the finals Icareane used this knowledge of the Tie and his numerical advantage to blow the opposing Howlrunner out of his opponent’s mini-swarm in second turn before clogging the space around Whisper which stopped him from being able to decloak, running him into an asteroid which then allowed him to line up the final shot.

At the end of the day the swarm remains not only a strong list but also a strong tactic due to the inherent synergy it has with X-Wing mechanics.

 

2nd/ Renaud “Aldé” Desrey – Phantom and Friends

Whisper – 32
– Veteran Instincts – 1
– Advanced Cloaking Device – 4
– Fire Control System – 2

Howlrunner – 18
Black Squadron Pilot – 14
Black Squadron Pilot – 14
Black Squadron Pilot – 14

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The Phantom was possibly the most anticipated ship from wave 4. A lot of people were treating it as broken and whilst strong the events of last weekend have proven that is does have some inherent weaknesses.

We’ll start with the quick stuff; Howlrunner with his mini-swarm: Rerolls on PS 4 Ties that allow them to set up and fire before most standard craft. They form the main line and draw attention from whisper as he gets into position. If you choose to ignore them and go after Whisper, well that’s not forcibly a good idea either. They adhere to the same Tie mechanics as discussed above so we shall move on swiftly.

Accompanying them is Whisper, the most expensive pilot from the phantom expansion who weighs in at a whopping 39 points which is a lot for a ship with only 2 shields and 2 hull however with veteran Instincts and Advanced Cloaking Device it will fire before most ships and then immediately cloak which allows it to maintain an impressive 4 Agility against attacks. It is its maneuverability however that really keeps this thing alive and allows it to inflict the most damage. After a bit of practice it’s not hard to maneuver into range 1 of your target whilst staying out of its firing arc. Yes they are very powerful but in keeping with their points cost phantoms are meant to do a lot of heavy lifting and despite all their bells and whistles they remain nearly as fragile as a Tie fighter if you can catch them out.

In the Finals this is what happened as after an unlucky series of dodge rolls left Aldé’s Whisper on 1 hull point it was only a matter of time before the Remaining Ties caught up to him after using their numbers to restrict his movements. The mini swarm fared little better as after losing Howlrunner in the first round of combat, the Black squadron pilots didn’t have the rerolls in order to effectively leverage their higher PS against the numerically superior Obsidian and Academy pilots.

The Tie Phantom is definitely a force to be reckoned with and has changed the face of competitive x-wing but I think FFG has once again handed us a very balanced and interesting ship. It will force a change in the Meta, forcing people to mix up their lists, which is always important in the evolution of a game but I think it’s inherent weaknesses mean it’s not as broken as everyone fears it is.

 

3rd/ Philippe Jourdren – The Z Chromosome

Airen Craken – 19
– Concussion Missiles – 4
– Swarm Tactics – 2

Bandit Squadron Pilot – 12
– Assault Missiles – 5
Bandit Squadron Pilot – 12
– Concussion Missiles – 4
Rookie Pilot – 21
Rookie Pilot – 21

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Phillipe was tipped to be the 2014 champion after going undefeated in the qualifying round and at the end of the day everyone was talking about the Z-95 Missileboat.

What we are looking at here is a list whose alpha strike consists of 17 attack dice + the Assault Missile area damage. This is enough to severely cripple large ships or reduce swarms down to a more manageable number. Once their secondary armaments are away the list functions much like a mini swarm, with the x-wings doing most of the work supported by the headhunters.

Compared to a Tie swarm of similar size it isn’t as maneuverable however can pump out more damage thanks to the target lock action present on the majority of rebel ships. Airen is crucial for this because even though he acts much like Howlrunner in his purpose (I.e. buffing the swarm and giving out ST boosts), his free action is specialized compared to his counterpart’s general reroll. It may not seem as effective, however, when you can get a target lock and focus off on an X-Wing at range 1 you are nigh on guaranteed to put the hurt on your opponent which allows you to reduce the amount of return fire against swarms and wear down a lot of big ships.

The weakness of this list is that if you’re alpha strike doesn’t do enough damage you will be fending off your opponent with just a mini swarm and the key pieces of it are the X-Wings, once they go down the headhunters can’t do much with their two damage dice. This is what happened when Phillipe played Aldé in the semifinals.

Phillipe opted to take out the mini swarm first but after some bad rolls and tricky piloting by Aldé, 2 missiles didn’t do enough damage, leaving Howlrunner alive and Whisper untouched. Aldé saw his opportunity, destroying the last missile toting Z-95 before it could fire and then put everything into taking the X-wings out of commission, only losing Howlrunner and a pair of Ties in return. It didn’t matter as by then Whisper was enough to mop up the remaining headhunters.

The addition of the Z-95 has given Rebels access to tactics that were, until then, only available to imperials. Allowing Rebels to also play numerically superior lists. Like the Phantom this has created a major evolution in the meta which is great to see.

 

Frankly I was pleased to see such diverse lists in the top three, even in the whole event the lists remained very flexible and reflected the playstye of each commander. What do you guys think though? Comments in the section below as usual!

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3 thoughts on “X-Wing French Nationals: The big 3!

  1. Hello Jamie,
    Nice blog you have here!

    Thanks for the report, I’m looking forward to seeing the finals video. As you’ve probably seen I’ve started reports with pictures for each of my games in the National and I’m up to the top 16. However due to the time constraints and pressure of the last game, I only have the start/finish pictures and no intermediate ones. Could you please send me 2 or 3 middle of the game stills to help with my report?

    regards,
    Jean-Christophe

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