How do you identify the correct target?
The choice you make when you sit down at the table and form your plan for the game. The correct target priorities for the entire game, not the tactical choice in a specific situation. Correct always carries the implicit question “correct for what?”, so don’t forget your immediate objective: winning the game! The way to do that can change during a game. Here we have a second question, “correct for whom?”, to emphasize that your list and your playstyle absolutely affect the answer!
In my opinion, there are two opposite ways to tackle target priority. You can (1) throw everything at a specific threat, or (2) you can try to grab points from whatever you’re offered and stay ahead to win on time. Both are legitimate approaches, and they often lead to different target priorities.
In any case, you have to identify what pilot in your opponent’s list is:
- the biggest glass cannon: the best offense combined with the lowest durability, e.g. Wedge in rebel beef; in Oli’s aces maybe Vader,
- the critical linchpin of the list: often utility ships with something very important, e.g. in rebel beef the Leia carrier; in droid swarms the tactical relay carrier; in a Sloane swarm the Sloane carrier,
- the best endgame ship: usually some pilot ability that makes a 1v1 or 2v1 very hard, often with double reposition and passive mods, and often expensive, e.g. in rebel beef Braylen; in Oli’s Aces Whisper,
- at what point cost, compared to the point costs in your list.
Not every list includes points 1-3. But if it does then you should be able to correctly identify each role – and its role against your list! Because sometimes the usually critical capability of a ship is not actually critical anymore. Four Jumpmasters don’t care much about a homing missile, but Soontir does.
The next steps depend on your list and your preference. Sometimes it is best to take out the biggest glass cannon, sometimes you should remove the endgame ship, and sometimes an important component of the list has to be taken out first. I used to think that removing the endgame ship is the best approach. Then I realized that it really depends, sometimes there is a key linchpin or a glass cannon that must be targeted first. However, second edition X-Wing has a large amount of games that don’t end with total destruction at 200-X points. Instead, many games go to time. Why waste shots on a resilient endgame piece when you never actually get to an endgame? Granted, that’s not something you can easily tell before the game. But there are those games where you realize it has been 45min without a single shot. I remember at least two games, a frustratingly slow one in Paris at the System Open 2019 with 5A against WedgeHan, and September 2019 at our hyperspace trial where I hunted down a Kylo with the BigXXXDeal. That’s maybe the moment when you should switch from endgame piece to some other target. I missed the moment each time, lost both games on points, and both times it cost me the cut.
I am not saying that one approach is better than the other. Personally, I always hope for a game of 12 turns where I usually prioritize 1. glass cannon, 2. endgame ship. But I have to be conscious of the change of circumstances and adapt my own decisions accordingly. In practice, I alternate between four strategies: glass cannon, linchpin, endgame ship, or grabbing points.
Talking about target priority in a general way is difficult. My battle reports always have target priority as first point where I explain a bit my thought process. Let’s look at an example from the UK SOS, where I played 5A and wrote the following:
His squad is pure efficiency, and has that one cool trick with Rivas and LeHuse. Rivas can constantly gain locks on my ships, whenever I stress one of them. And LeHuse can use that lock for his 3 dice attack.
The two main ships to take out are LeHuse and Vonreg. LeHuse because of the 2 agility, and Vonreg because damaging him is as difficult as the others, but he yields about twice as many points per damage threshold with 59 vs 33 or 31. Rivas can be largely ignored. Scorch would be third, so he will collect stray shots. I have to stress though, a list with that many green dice is tough to crack!
LeHuse was the glass cannon here. He gets double modified shots with help from Rivas, and he has only 2 agility unlike the rest. That means his durability for my list was the lowest, as 5A have trouble punching through 3 green dice. Vonreg is next in this category, as he has the next highest damage output with the same defense as the rest. Vonreg was the endgame ship. He is more expensive, dishes out a lot of damage with double mods, and is very hard to nail down with his double reposition. My mistake in this game was that I didn’t switch to Vonreg as second target. I lost track of my objective during the game because I had gotten a bit of tunnel vision.
- BobaDengar: remove the endgame ship. I have two i6, I should be able to outmaneuver Boba and initially ignore Dengar. My Homiebro should deal 4 damage to Boba and then save his points. Soontir with his talent should manage to get 2 good shots, maybe at range 1, to deal another 4 damage total (8 red vs 2 green, seems plausible).
- DroidSwarm: grab points and stay ahead. The occasional potshot at a droid on 3 hull can already take it out. Fifth with his missile can finish any damaged ship. But at the same time, it takes a lot of shots on my part to win 200-X, and games don’t take that long.
- Oli’s Aces: remove the endgame ship. In this case Whisper, with her decloak even for an i6 annoying to handle. Ignore GI. Keep FifthBrother a bit in reserve to take an opportune shot at Vader or Whisper.
- Moldy Swarm: remove the linchpin. Torkil reduces the initiative of a ship, which is extremely dangerous here. Next target is Seevor, who can jam defensive tokens or Vader’s lock away and soften the target for the Marauders, whether he actually hit or not.
- IT’S THE RESISTANCE: grab points and stay ahead. Zizi has to be largely ignored. Maybe attack the linchpin Rose, but surviving is more important. Fifth can half any ship in this list with an attack, so that is a great threat.
- BabyAni Padme Luminara Wolffe: remove the glass cannon. Ani hands out between 3 and 4 hits, even at range 3. That makes him very dangerous. He’s also the most expensive ship, so he’s target number one. After that, grab points and stay ahead.
- SixtyScyks: grab points and stay ahead. Each piece is such a threat, and at the same time cheap enough that one can be lost without much problem. That means for me to focus on dodging arcs and taking the shots I can. Again, FifthBrother is rather valuable as he will half one or two ships.
- RAC and 4 Academies: remove the linchpin. Four academies should not win against whatever is left once I destroyed RAC. He is 112 points, or more than 1,5 from Soontir+Vader.
As a side note, that is why list building and the ability to play various ships are important skills in X-Wing. Not because you will build the next meta staple or can compete with anything. But because you can gain a much better understanding of the critical vulnerabilities in a list, and do so faster. Ideally, I start thinking about my strategy and target priority from the moment I know the list. The opening, from obstacle deployment to ship set up to first maneuvers until the initial engagement should all be following this chosen strategy.
How do you determine your target priority?