The European Team Championship (ETC) is a monster of a tournament. Only in its second year the X-Wing event had teams from 7 nations, plus a United Nations team to flesh it out to 8. Around the hall hundreds of other gamers competed in other systems like Flames of War, all the Warhammers and a few more besides, it’s a seriously cool event to go to.
Not only teams representing European nations, but as far afield as Australia and Argentina, and the hope is that in future years that X-wing portion of the event will grow as more nations are represented.
This is a tough competition, no two ways about it. If you play competitively and have been to local tournaments you’ll probably know the feeling of being 3-0 with two to play and that tension in your stomach when you realise next game you’re playing someone else who’s also having a good day… every match up you prepare for in the ETC has that feeling. There’s no chance you’re getting a lucky draw against some Janky nonsense here. (Not even any daredevil U-Wings!)
Each round starts with a drama on par with a Game of Thrones. The pairings, where match ups are decided. Each team puts forward a name face down, then the opponents submit two lists that the first team picks one of to play against. This game continues until all match ups are done.
Deployment can decide the result in a game of X-Wing, and in the ETC this is the deployment phase. Sometimes that first player needs to pick a list they shouldn’t be able to beat in order to give more favourable match ups later in the pairings. It’s a team event.
I was flying my Corran Poe Rebels list, it’s all kinds of fun, and turns out to be a real handful for contracted scouts to deal with as they just can’t stomach target locks vanishing and needing chunks of consistent luck to punch through any damage with their main guns. Black One may have come along as a way to do something about “Omega ‘I’m still a dick’ Leader” ruining Poe’s fun but boy is it effective against the scouts…
I played and beat three triple Jumpmaster lists, and to some amusement found myself being referred to in various languages as a something of a negative play experience for the dedicated Contracted Scout Player. Entirely by aiming for something fun to fly I somehow created a hard counter to one of the lists that has dominated the meta lately.
I won’t go into each game as that’d just take too long, but I learned some lessons… a whole different level of competition really emphasises some pre-existing points.
Lesson 1: Positioning is Everything
One of the keys to being a great X-Wing player is to fly well defensively. The game literally is physically weighted to benefit the attacker. Nearly anyone can take Fenn Rau and punch through a load of damage, and aggressive play is a skill of itself.
However I would argue that mitigating damage you are going to take is the greater skill. I think this is one of the reasons I’ve been so open of my dislike of Biggs and Kylo/Palp RAC. Each in their own way is a very defensive tool, but they just work by being there.
Ventress/latts is a pain but at least you have to get you plan of attack right and read the board well for her to trigger, and a savy pilot can fly in a way that limits her potential.
Four Y-wings with TLTs is a torrid list, but equally the scope for getting that list wrong defensively is huge. In a game where any number of alpha strikes and damage spikes can legitimately kill a Y-wing in a turn the Y’s simply can’t make mistakes at this level.
Sure the TLTs give you a nearly unparalleled consistency in a attack to allow you to focus on getting this right but get your positioning wrong and you lose. Watching Seb Brady win a couple of games that on paper he had no right to this weekend convinced me that there is far more to playing that list at a high level than I had previously given credit for. Outmanoeuvring ships with Poe and Corran is one thing, but doing it with PS2 y-wings is a whole other venture.
Lesson 2: Positioning is Everything
Yes, it’s the same title!
Predictive flying is another element of the game that you have to get right, and the higher the level of competition the better you have to be at it. Anticipating every move your opponent is likely to make, narrowing it down to a couple of options then setting your dials to match that, knowing that your opponent is probably doing the same and trying to counter it… it’s no wonder some of the best players I know take their sweet time placing dials. (*cough* Pocknell, Paul Smith*cough*)
The more fragile a ship, the more important this is. I was chatting with Tom Duncan over the weekend about the art of predictive flying and more importantly the fading skill of the block. As a well established (and decorated) tie swarm player Tom has had more practice than most at anticipating moves and using fragile ships. Blocking used to really annoy me! I mean how hard can it be to park a ship in front on someone? But I have come to appreciate the significant skill involved.
(It may be an issue to maybe look at elsewhere as to why blocking us less a part of the game now than it was, but I think the short answer is upgrades that give you the benefit of an action without ever having to actually do an action: K4 Security, Expertise, Mindlink, Bomblets with Genius, Dengar Crew… it’s an increasing list of cards as action economy is now an uncompromising part of the game)
Again, anyone with a few games under their belt and knowledge of a dial can predict a hard or bank 3 is coming from a Shadow Caster or a 4K from a defender. But the Art of predictive flying is to land that block and most importantly capitalise on it by having your other ships pointing in the right direction at the same time!
One thing I found running Corran Poe was that they made this really hard for my opponents. Something Scott Reed can attest to… when Poe doesn’t want to be shot, landing damage on him can be nigh on impossible. Black One ensures the target locks fall off at every move so no re-rolls. Even with two turret ships it took Scott 35 minutes to close the trap enough and land the right dice rolls to drop Poe.
Without the Punshing One title Jumpmasters simply cannot land damage on this Poe build without a huge dose of luck. But Dengar got me in the end! The only game I have lost with this list to a pure jumpmaster build (out of about 15 games). Fair play Scott.
Lesson 3: A Bit of Jank Never Goes Amiss
Having something unexpected tucked away in your list can be a deal breaker in a game. On my Firesprays it’s the Black Market Slicer Tools, with Corran Poe it’s the Seismic Torpedoes.
If you’ve read previous blog posts about this list you’ll know that RAC with Palpatine and Kylo is one of my least favourite things in the game, and generally eats this list in minutes. I managed to beat it for the first time ever at this tournament.
And it was the Jank that did it.
Blowing up a rock at range one of the Decimator, rolling a crit and getting Structural Damage was game changing. The Decimator is about all out attack, forcing it to play defensively makes it incredibly vulnerable, and the second Poe becomes the aggressor in that match up, tucking in behind him and staying at range 3, the Decimator is on a countdown.
Sure there was a heavy dose of luck in the stars aligning on my behalf with dice and cards, but without the seismics I wouldn’t have been able to create the opportunity for that luck to matter.
Incidentally, using advanced sensors to blow up a rigged cargo chute with Corran then flying over where it was is one of the most entertaining tricks in the game…
A Final Anecdote
Lining up for my game against Pablo Pintor of Spain I had a little shiver of excitement. He was running Soontir, Vader and Omega leader both of us were salivating at the prospect of of a proper aces off. 5 of the best aces in the game on the table at the same time, X-Wing as it should be!
But dice ruined the game… And all credit to Pablo, he was as frustrated as I was by how insanely hot his dice were. As much as he was happy with the result he was gracious enough to be unhappy with how it happened. The dice robbed us of what should have been a truly great game. Just a great example of the spirit that I believe X-Wing should be played in.
I went 4-3 for the event, in single standings 23rd out of 48. Not bad for 2 rebel ships with 11 health. Finishing with a positive score in such a challenging event was more than I had ever expected.
But what next for Corran and Poe? Sadly sometime on the sidelines. Unfortunately the heavy presence of Scum Nym in the emerging wave 11 meta makes the list just too vulnerable. Against the VI, autoblaster, accuracy corrector, genius and Bomblets madness that is about to ensure no amount of arc dodging can help. But bloody hell, they’ve given me some good memories!
Team Wales finished 6th but joint on points with both the UN and Italian teams, and only not making the cut on MOV. Had we managed one win against (now double) champions Poland then we would have made the top 4. England went on to finish second by a handful of MOV. I’m saving up for next year already in case I qualify!
Finishing the weekend in Salamanca’s main square in joyful banter with representatives from England, Wales, Italy, Greece, and TO Krzysztof from Poland just pushed home the fact that even on a global scale it is the community that makes this game.
If you’re reading this from a country that wasn’t at the ETC and are interested in getting involved in next years event then get in touch with either Oli Pocknell or Krzysztof Piszcz through one of the main X-Wing Forums on Facebook and find out how to get involved.
NO IDEA WHAT I’M GONNA FLY NEXT WEEK YET…
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