Today we interview our National Champion in X-Wing, Spencer – lover of Star Wars, family man and X-Wing Ace. He was also kind enough to do a battle report which you can check out here.
How did you get interested in X-Wing?
About 2 years ago I bought my brother-in-law a copy of X-Wing for his birthday. We played a couple times and I HATED it. I had no strategy at all and just saw it as a random dice rolling game, which frustrated me quite a bit. In an effort to stop losing to him all the time I found some X-Wing strategy videos online. They gave me a whole new appreciation for formation flying and list building, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Who was your favourite character in Star Wars? Are you a big Star Wars fan?
R2-D2 was definitely my favourite growing up. He pretty much saved the rebellion every 20 minutes in the original trilogy, and had a little bit of attitude to boot. I am a fan of Star Wars, I don’t think I’d play X-Wing at all if not for the Star Wars theme. The movies first caught my attention in middle school when the special editions were released. I got addicted to the Decipher CCG in middle school as well. I remember walking to a comic book store at the end of my street to buy expansion packs for the Hoth set every week after getting my allowance. It was pretty exciting when I finally pulled Commander Luke Skywalker from one of those packs. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that our youngest daughter’s name is Leia!
That’s pretty cool Spence! Do you have a gaming background?
No! I’d never played any game competitively before X-Wing. I had a few 40k models, but that was more because my friends were into it; I think I may have only played 1 or 2 actual games. I have always loved board games, my wife and I own quite a few. Like many others, Catan was the first Euro-style game I played and we enjoy a lot of other similar type games (Ticket, Stone Age, Puerto Rico, Power Grid). Shameless plug here: I’ve even made my own board game, Census, check it out at https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/census.
Are you going to X-Wing worlds in America?
Short answer is no. Long sob-story answer is as follows. I was one of the lucky few to actually register for a spot in that small 45 minute window we initially had. I figured I’d register first and then figure out a way to convince my wife to let me go after the fact. Turns out that close friends of ours from here in Toronto were moving back to Minnesota at the end of the summer. I convinced my wife that it’d be fun to bring our kids and go visit them for a week, with me slipping out to play X-Wing for a day. She agreed! On the day our friends were set to drive the moving van back to the States the husband actually flew out to London, England for an interview at Oxford. He ended up getting the job and instead of moving 30 minutes from the X-Wing world championships, they moved across the ocean. There is no way I can spend the money and vacation time to fly out there by myself (leaving my wife alone with our 2 kids both under 3), and so ends my dream of attending.
How do you feel about the new rule changes coming with the Force Awakens starter? How will multiple obstacle hits, new asteroids, a new damage deck affect the game? Will anything affect future list builds?
I’m a fan of the new core set overall, my favourite part being the new damage deck. I think that you should really be afraid every time you have to flip a crit over, and this new deck definitely accomplishes that. The old deck had a few cards that didn’t affect certain ships at all, but there is no escaping the pain with this new one. I’m not sure that anything in this core set will be especially meta-shaping, though certainly the new damage deck strengthens specific abilities like the mangler cannon, advanced targeting computer, and Chewie.
There has been quite the reaction to the new rule that half damaged Large Based ships will award points in MOV standings. What are your thoughts?
I like it. From what I saw there was an initial overreaction from people thinking that this new rule change would make it impossible to win with large based ships; I disagree. Large base ships will still be viable, but you’ll no longer be able to run away at the end of a game in order to preserve your point-vault of a ship. Fat Han’s and fat Decimators will still be powerful ships, as they can dish out plenty of damage; the emphasis now will really be on engaging the enemy early and often because you will need to wipe their whole list off the table in order to ensure a win.
Time will tell, but I think this change will shake up the meta. I think we will see a decrease in the number of 2 ship lists out there which, in and of themselves, are not a bad thing; but it will be more fun facing a larger variety of lists than ever before. Good players will still rise to the top, and creative list builders will be rewarded now more than ever. I’m not a turret-hater myself, but it will be nice to see a few less pancakes out there.
Do you have a passion for any ship or pilot in the game?
For competitive play I rarely leave home without Soontir Fel. He’s so hard to kill, and can hit so hard with his attacks; I just need the remainder of my list to do a little bit of damage to the enemy before dying and Fel is able to mop up quite nicely afterwards. I love the risk of flying him as well; one mistake and you’re quite often finished (why is every crit a Direct Hit with Fel?).
Casually, I really love Horton Salm. I actually took him to a Store Championship and did quite well, I loaded him up with 2 Proton Ttorpedoes, Veteran Instincts, Engine Upgrade and an Ion Cannon Turret. I will have to test him out now with extra munitions and the new TLT. He’s a lot of fun to fly, but does die quickly.
When you build lists, what are the things you consider?
The first thing I consider is the survivability of my list. I guess I’m more of a defensive, arc-dodgy, take my time kind of player; as opposed to a super aggressive player. I don’t like to leave my defense to chance either, so I like ships with the ability to regenerate shields, I like Autothrusters, and I like Push the Limit ships that can focus + evade.
You’ve also got to think about some of the major archetypes out there, and make sure your list has a plan against them (even if it’s a poor plan!). You have to consider a Fat Han, and how you plan to get a PS9 large base boosting ship in arc. Since wave 7 was released, you’ve now got to think about how you are going to deal with TLT’s, especially if you’ve got 4 of them coming your way.
One major theme of my lists is action economy. I like ships that can take more than one action, and I also like ships that don’t rely on actions in order to survive. Upgrades like C-3PO, Gunner, Accuracy Corrector and Predator are all examples of great upgrades that work even if you have no actions! So you can intentionally (or unintentionally) bump without too much fear, and you can K-turn and perform other red maneuvers as well. There is nothing worse than sinking a bunch of points into upgrades that you don’t even get to use, or use to very little effect.
What list did you consider the biggest threat to the one you took to Nationals?
I was not looking forward to facing off against Brobots. I think a well flown Brobot list would’ve given me major problems. MajorJuggler’s build of B&C with HLC + FCS is, in my opinion, the best build, and really killer to Soontir. That gunner effect is really tough on Fel. I would’ve had to have blocked them in order to take them down, and I’m not sure I would’ve had the firepower even if I had blocked them effectively! In fact, I think well flown Brobots may be just about the best list out there right now, in terms of consistent performance against all comers. The rule change to MOV definitely knocks them down a peg though.
There was a lot of griping about the cost and barriers to entry for Nationals at Fan Expo. As a player who went, what was it like? Were there hassles besides the expense of a ticket ? Did you manage to see any of the Convention?
I had never been to Fan Expo before so I didn’t know what to expect. I ponied up the extra $20 to have my wristband delivered to me at home, so in total it was $80 plus the cost of entry for the tournament. It turns out that lineups were not an issue at all, some guys that came up from the States had no problem buying their passes right at the door and making it in plenty of time. I lined up 2 hours early, which was great because I got to hang out with Gary and Arfive, but again it turns out that wouldn’t even have been necessary to get there so early.
The bottom line is that it was way too expensive, which limited the number of players who came, which really sucked. It would’ve been impossible to see any of the convention because the breaks in between rounds were short and we finished 4 or 5 hours after the convention itself shut down for the evening. I hope it’s not at Fan Expo again next year, but I would probably go again even if it was.
How do you mentally approach the game of X-Wing? What do you think a good player should always keep in mind?
First and foremost, always keep in mind that it’s a game! When 2 people sit down, you have to know that one of you is going to lose, so don’t get too worked up about things if it’s your turn to lose.
In terms of strategy, I think you really have to know your own list well, and you have to be able to quickly analyze your opponent’s list. You have to know your own strengths and weaknesses and have a lot of practice with a list you plan to take to a competitive event. When you sit down with an opponent you have to quickly identify which ship(s) are the biggest threat to your list, and who you plan on targeting first.
I think a lot of games are won and lost even just in the setup phase due to the difference between correctly and incorrectly identifying how to approach the opposing list. And then there are the dice. Don’t start grumbling if you’re rolling poorly, or if I’m rolling really well. Do what you can to put yourself in a position where the luck of the dice won’t hurt you as much, and just shrug it off when those triple blanks come up. Moping over poor dice the previous round is just going to put you in bad headspace for the rest of the game. You need to have a short memory when it comes to dice!
And finally, the most important question of them all… Do you think Episode 7 will be a good movie?
Yes! Can’t wait, I’m ready for Ep7 to wash away all the terrible memories of the prequels.
Let’s hope you’re right! Thanks for the great interview Spence and congrats on the National Championship. Keep flying casual!