I will go to the European Championship in Kraków, Poland, on August 23rd-25th in roughly three months. What list should I bring along? Here is how I am going to decide on it.
First, I need a goal. My last big event in Hannover, Germany, at the System Open 2018 went rather well. That was more luck than skill, but it now helps me narrow down my goal. Making cut was fun. Getting to play good opponents was interesting, too. Doing both with a list I really liked was even better. Thus, I define my goal as making cut with a list I like. I don’t doubt that I will have a fun time anyway, but I also don’t want to be miserable during the games because I try-hard with some meta list.
Here is what I want in the list that I’ll practice and bring to Poland:
- I have to like playing it, independent of wins or losses;
- It should give me an actual fighting chance;
- It should not change too much with the release of Wave 4 and the upcoming points change, so I can already practice it. I won’t get many games in until August, so the ones I get should count;
- It has to do ok (read: not lose instantly) against meta staples, particularly the current big 4. Soon to be big 3, hopefully.
As a second point, I need to consider the context of the championship.
- The European Championship in Poland will be a fun event. Rumor had it that it will be in a brewery? It doesn’t look like it from Facebook, though that doesn’t matter – I have no doubt that the amount of beer will be plentiful. One consequence of this is that I will very likely have a good time, independent of results. Another one is that my chosen list should not be too difficult to play;
- The same consequence as that last one can be drawn from the event structure itself: it will be six rounds, and that is mentally exhausting if you play a difficult list;
- A third point to consider is timing. Late August will be at least 4, more likely 6 and maybe even 8 weeks after the points adjustment. That last one is optimistic, maybe the points will change with the now delayed Wave 4 drop. The time might just be enough for a new meta list to emerge and spread widely. The extended meta generally moves slowly. Most likely, players will try to rebuild the currently good lists with the new points for some time, because they always do. Depending on the individual changes, that will work more or less well. For example, Rebel Beef will not go away and players will keep trying. But it might lose its edge. Quad Phantoms will still be around, even with only two Jukes. But that might be too little to push enough damage through. Vader and 3 Imdaars will still give it a try, but Vader might have lost the initiative bid. DreaLocks will put a lot of ScumBeef on the table, even if they have to resort to some Dorsals instead of Ions. HandbrakeHan is an example that might vanish completely, but I doubt the others will.
That brings me directly to the expected opponents, point number three. As just mentioned, I strongly doubt that all of the current big 4 will vanish – only Handbrake Han might. What lists do I expect to be around and doing well? Will any of them be an option for myself? How should I play against them?
I will eventually take a closer look at the exact meta of the most recent System Opens. Maybe there is a hidden gem that I can use somehow. But for now…
What is seen as the best version at the moment is the one linked, the variation “Beef Wedgington” with upgrades to taste (credit for that name might go to user viedit). In the – for Beef players – worst case, this list will lose the B-wings. If you followed my meta analysis, you know that that is not actually a problem for the archetype, as the variations with XXYU and XXXU are doing better anyway. Removing Braylen and Ten allows players to change Cassian, too. So any points increase on Cassian is less impactful than some might currently believe. Early versions were using Partisans and Blue Squadron Scouts, and those might become popular again to replace Cassian. Wedge will likely remain in the list. Horton and Dutch have been successful fillers, as long as you take just one. One pilot that is ridiculously undervalued is Biggs. So, that might be the Rebel Beef after points change: pick 4 out of Wedge, Biggs, Dutch, Horton, Partisan and BlueSqScout.
Locally, UUUU and XUUU do extremely well. It is very nasty if four U-wings are saying no to any flank attempt. Maybe it will break through on a larger stage, as I doubt that U-wings will get a significant general points increase.
Quad Phantoms and Vader-3xImdaar
These lists are similar enough to take them together. Quad Phantoms had one Juke removed. Popular demand asks for either a talent slot removal or simple points increase. I think the latter is more sensible, but either way: the list will remain in some form. Maybe FFG implements a variable cost on spammed upgrades, too. But the detail does not matter so much because we see two things: First, 4 Phantoms with 3 Jukes was still good enough to win or dominate the cuts of several large events. And second, Vader and 3 Imdaars performs well enough to demonstrate that the lack of Juke is not the big obstacle that some might think it is. Based on that, I strongly expect both lists to remain in some form. At most, Vader will be changed to another Ace. Maybe losing that competitive edge is just enough for me to win against these current meta monsters?
There are some variations of this list. Niklas God Nilsson demonstrated with his SOS Malmö win on May 19th that Drea does not really need a turret. The SOS Atlanta showed us that one Scurrg can be replaced with a VTG Crymorah Goon. Together, these two adjustments give the list a flexibility of 17 points! I do not see FFG increasing points by that much (nor should they, probably). So whatever the exact loadout: Drea and 3 fat wing mates with potentially 7 shots will remain an option.
In conclusion, these lists will stay. And I don’t like any of them for myself to play. One important detail that the future versions have in common is the decrease in initiative. And all these lists like to stay somewhat close to each other, even if there is no actual reason to do so besides convenience and reduced difficulty to play it. My immediate reaction is to play something ace-y. And that brings me to the next point, my own list options.
The lists I am seriously considering are always of two types. One is a (mini) swarm, the other is a combination of aces and a heavy hitter. My list in Hannover, the one I have played the most so far, was of that type with Quickdraw, Inquisitor and a Gunboat. The early extended days featured a very similar one in Soontir Whisper Redline, and I happily played it until A-wings arrived. Which brings me back to the other type of list. Five RZ2-A-wings was some of the most fun X-wing I have had, ever. But not just 5A, also TIE swarms are fun to play. I will go through them one by one.
Anakin Mace + X
What I called Vaapad for myself, based on Mace’s sword form. Hey, some Star Wars lore is almost mandatory from time to time! It looks like the name it got in the meantime is Arc-77. Either way, Anakin as i6 and Mace as i4 are moving before most of the mentioned ships. I need a deep enough bid to get below the point-adjusted version of Vader+3Imdaar or wherever Wedge will be included, and to help Mace against all the i4: RebelBeef, Sigmas, Drea. I liked Sense to counter lists that can bid even deeper, but I am less afraid of those. The downside, as mentioned in the last battle report, is that I can not add anything useful to the ARC-170. But then again, maybe I don’t have to. The alternative of two Torrents and not taking Sense is tempting as it keeps performing quite well. I can end up with a 2-8pt bid. The Jedis are good brawlers, despite being aces. This is a serious contender for the final list.
A variation of the Hatchetman. The difference in my version is that Vynder does not get help from Jendon to acquire his locks. Depending on the points changes, the original Hatchetman might remain the better choice. Anyway, the current minimal list clocks in at 183 points, and thus it will remain playable after the points adjustment. One option is, of course, to replace some ordnance with the Diamond-Boron missile and nicely hurt all these clustered up ships, whether that’s massed Phantoms, Rebel Beef or Drea Locks. Pushing damage through 2 agility is not that hard (70% for lock vs focus) and will deal a lot of additional damage to the rest. Or maybe the Plasma Torps will be a good choice, allowing me to take them, Diamond-Boron and ATPs? Who knows, but the list is fun and so far I’m 1-0 with it. But it seems to perform rather poorly overall. I will keep it in mind and might even practice it every once in a while. The individual pieces are ships I know how to play a bit, so this is a backup list that I can get up to a good level in little time, I think.
I like the list. It is an obvious choice, plays nicely and placed rather well. Initiatives of 6/6/5 mean that it can initiative kill quite a lot. I doubt that it will be untouched. However, the bare bones version has currently 16 points to play around. The downside is that this list is not so easy to play and requires some crisp decision making. Maybe?
The most beautiful and fun list I have played to date. I dropped it during early wave 3 though. The old 1.0 problem is back: punching through 3 agility or lots of passive modifications (= force) is extremely difficult. That means they have plenty of tough matchups. Luckily, Fenn and Guri are not as widespread anymore in Scum. Among other 3 agility ships, Soontir is ok, Vader is near-invincible (especially with Hate), and 3-agility Vynder or the newly upcoming Defenders take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to take out. At the same time, the Arrowheads pop too quickly against all these double modified attacks – another 1.0 problem that has been creeping back in. The matchups against Drea Locks and some Beef variants are a balancing act where one small mistake loses the entire game, and that is not exactly ideal for a long tournament day. And if you think about it, a Phantom has no reason to be scared of an A-wing, does it? On top of all that, I have been playing a worse variation with Lulo and 4 Greens. I would have to relearn the good list, but it is beyond any reasonable doubt that Lulo will get a hefty price increase. I could stay with my version and try anyway. Or I could just not take this list with its many bad matchups.
The TIE swarm, the most honorable list because all it does is to fly straight at you and joust. For the longest time, you fly a block where you set one or two dials per turn. And after the bump and joust, it takes some more rounds of individual movements. I think I could play it ok, but I lack the experience necessary to play it on a high level. But then again, this list feels like the one I could practice alone more easily than all the others. The swarm does its thing. Splitting and reforming the formation, changing into pinwheels, going into 4+2, or even some sort of duplex acies with intentionally filling the gaps can all be practiced alone. I almost regret now that I didn’t give it the try I wanted to when 2.0 dropped. But there was so much else to play, and so little time.
New list ideas
As mentioned earlier, many current lists like to stay close to each other. Whether they should or not is up to debate. But the fact is that they do. Wave 4 will give us two new instruments to punish that. One is the Diamond-Boron missile, and it’s part of the reason why I am staring at the Hatchet Aces. The other new option is the Electro-Proton bomb. The latter has a ridiculously large radius of range2. To put that into perspective and onto the game table: The obstacle placement area is 5×5 ranges. A circle with a diameter of 4 ranges almost covers the entire obstacle placement area. That really is quite large and near impossible to escape. Fortunately for all of us, it comes with a fuse marker and so the effect will not so often be the damage/ion/weapon disabled token. Rather, the opponent (and you!) will try to get out of the blast radius. A candy cane by Phantoms or a 1 forward to victory by Rebel Beef is not possible anymore. This device really shapes the engagement in a way that is entirely new. Maybe there is some way to use this? Ships to keep an eye on are Punishers,
Scurrgs, and Strikers (yes!) (edit: They don’t have reload. Thanks /u/Elr3d!). I don’t see myself playing a Scurrg, but the other two are definitely an option.
I have now 13 weeks until the European Championship in Kraków, or rather 12 weekends. I will spend 6 of those weekends with another “project”, far away from any computer or X-wing table. So, I don’t know how many games I will actually get in until the end of August. That is an important factor to consider – I won’t learn a new list in time. Hatchetaces or the Arc-77 are the lists I take into closer consideration. I will definitely bring my 5 A-wings anyway. But I doubt I will greenlight them.
In summary, I want to go 4-2 or 5-1 with a list that I already know a bit. But more importantly, I rather go 0-6 with a list I like than 6-0 with one I hate playing. The exact list depends on the point changes. One possibility is that some higher initiative ARC-170 gets cheaper, or maybe even the i2 torrent. In these cases, I would definitely bring those. Maybe there will be some truly radical changes and most of what I wrote becomes pointless. But this helped me to think about what I will look out for.
You will see how often I practice, because I will definitely write up all games with contender lists. Writing battle reports helps me a lot to improve, and improve faster. Let’s see how it goes. As they say, the road is the goal.