What follows is a rambling account of my matches from the 2015 X-Wing Regionals held in Toronto, Ontario at 401 Games. In a field of 53 people that went in, only one of us was going to walk out of there as the champion. It was like Thunderdome, but without the bad casting.
My hopes were high, my ship count was low, so let’s get to it…
The List, all 99 points of it;
• Corran Horn (46pts) Veteran Instincts, Fire Control System, R2-D2, Engine Upgrade
• Dash Rendar (53pts) Lone Wolf, Heavy Laser Cannon, Recon Specialist, Outrider
As it happens, my choice of Dash had less to do with a solid meta pick and more to do with my love for the Outrider. When X-Wing was first trotted out at GenCon in 2012, I was mildly interested until I had seen that FFG was releasing a Millennium Falcon, and then I was all in.
When Wave 3 came out and I spied the HWK-290, I knew in my heart that it had to be only a matter of time before the YT-2400 would make an appearance. FFG didn’t let me down, and upon its release, I was determined to make it a winner. Of course, it helped that Dash and Leebo both make solid foundations for builds and Outrider/Heavy Laser is no joke either.
The only thing FFG could release at this point to truly complete the circle of my beloved Star Wars ships from the 90’s would be the YT-2000, the venerable “Otana” from X-Wing Alliance, but I digress.
I’m a staunch Lone Wolf player when it comes to the “Super Dash” builds. I feel like when it comes to Dash, Push the Limit is for chumps and Soontir Fel. If I wanted any undue stress, I’d go wait in line at a government office.
The Wolf lets you really get away with a lot of evade results that you’d never see otherwise. Pair it with the 2 Focus from Recon Specialist and you have yourself a solid closer. Your opponent will curse the day you forsook the Push/Kyle/Engine combo and got with the program.
For Corran, shifting the Engine Upgrade off of Dash (where the 58’ers typically put it) and giving it to him lets you maximize his arc-dodging potential, and Veteran Instincts keeps him typically moving last to set up a good Double-Tap.
On obstacles, now that the rules have been updated to allow for debris fields and a “pick 3” selection, the only sane choice was to take the 3 largest footprint debris fields and go to work.
That about sums up my choices on the list, so on to the rounds;
Round 1: The Store Championship Bye
What can be said here that isn’t obvious already; a free win with a 200pt MOV is always nice to have. I used the time to socialize with the other Byes and talk about some of the lists that we were seeing on the tables while we wait out the round.
It’s nice to get a chance to chat with some of the familiar faces from other events, and maybe even do a bit of light trash talking about the runbacks we hope to have if the pairings work out. There’s nothing like a good salty runback with an opponent that put you out in a previous event. While I always advocate not taking the game too seriously at the expense of fun, redeeming yourself from a previous loss that taught you a valuable lesson is something I look forward to.
As it would later turn out, I was going to have three such encounters.
Round 2: vs Lucas Crosby (100pts)
• 3x Blue Squadron Pilot
• Bandit Squadron Pilot
• Gold Squadron Pilot w/ R3-A2 and Autoblaster Turret
I don’t think I’ve ever been so completely abandoned by Lone Wolf in all the times I’ve run it. Whiffs on attack and defense for Dash meant that my usual shenanigans weren’t going to be able to close out Lucas’ ships fast enough to tip the scales my way for when Dash was going to inevitably go down.
As the match was going to time, and victory was not looking too likely, my only option to keep my MOV intact (in case I can still put up a 4-1 record) was to sit on that loss and let the match go to time, without giving up Corran for the points.
When it was all over, I had lost Dash and Lucas had lost the Z and one B. Lucas did a good job of protecting his other ships with the Autoblaster to prevent a late-game upset with Corran’s Double-Tap strafing runs I would normally resort to.
I would need to zoom in to a solid Range 1 Double Tap to clear another ship off the board, but I’d be risking the wrath of a good Autoblaster roll going through and putting me in a wounded state for his ships to capitalize on when I need to slow down and get shields back.
I played it safe and lost the match with a 19pt differential, leaving my standings at 5pts/281 MOV. I’m not off to a terrific start, as I’ve already racked up the one loss I was allowed to take if I wanted to make the cut. On the bright side, I didn’t get totally pantsed 200-0 on MOV, so I was still on-track, but with little room for error.
Round 3 vs Peter Smith (100pts)
• 4x Blue Squadron Pilot w/ Accuracy Corrector
Trying to come back in the standings after the last match, I was happy to see 4 B’s sitting across from me. I’m not trying to take away from my opponent when I say this, but I feel like a 4 B list is a free matchup for my list.
Then again, I was in a relatively advantageous spot last match before I hit the bottom of the probability curve. No sense in worrying about the past; let’s just stick to the playbook and get that win.
Sure enough, it went relatively by the numbers. 4 B’s coming up on me let me slow roll Dash up the board and start drifting to the bottom middle to start sniping B’s with the Heavy Laser while Corran took off full speed into the backfield to start breaking up the formation.
Ultimately, my opponent split up a bit and thus cut down on the incoming fire to Dash, so RecSpec and Lone Wolf kept him relatively safe. Corran can move around a couple of B’s, playing ring-around-the-asteroid all day.
When it was all over, I walked away scoring 200-0 on the MOV. My standings at this point were 10pts/481 MOV.
Now it was time for a break in the tournament. A quick trip to get a coffee and a small snack and it was back into the madness. The air was thick with humidity and the musk of so much perspiration.
Round 4 vs Ciaran Russel (100pts)
• 4x Syndicate Thug w/ Ion Cannon Turret, BTL-A4 Y-Wing, R4 Agromech
This match isn’t going to be as free as 4 B’s, as the Warthog Y-Wings can put out a lot of shots if any catch me in their front arc. With the Agromech, those shots will be even more effective. As well, being the son of infamous X-Wing tournament player Gerry Russel, I would expect the boy to know his craft. He does, by the way.
Cautious play and the usual flanking setup saw Corran go down in the late game from Ion fire after Ciaran was able to squeak through a shot I thought I could Boost away from, leaving Dash to contend with the remaining 2 Warthogs.
No problem; judicious use of turns and Barrel Rolls kept him out of arc and in position to slowly whittle the Warthogs away.
My standings at this point were 15pts/635 MOV. If I can pull out the win on the final match of the Swiss pool, scoring all 100pts, I should be able to sail cleanly into the Top 8 cut. Losing one of my ships would be acceptable, just as long it leads to a complete tabling of my opponent. Who would the final pools match be against?
Round 5 vs Mike Ritacco (99ts)
It would be against Mike. Salty Runback #1. We have thrown down here and there at events and meetups in the past, but the previous week saw us matching up in a small tournament. He was rocking the traditional “58 Dash” (Push, Kyle, Engines) against my Lone Wolf build.
That match was quick and decisive with me giving up my Corran to close out the win. But that was then, this was now. He was speaking with me after that game and saw the value in the Wolf build and had made the switch. It seems I had a new member of the converted that knew a lot of my moves, so this true mirror match, both in list and skill, was going to be interesting.
Mike won the initiative roll and passed it off to me, as many would presume to do. Typically when you’ve got some arc-dodging shenanigans up your sleeve, letting your opponent commit to their movements and actions first gives you more information to decide if you should Boost/Barrel Roll rather than, say, Focus/Evade.
However, as I had tested previously and confirmed to myself when the two of us played the week prior, you actually want the initiative in this match. So when Mike won the roll, I hoped he hadn’t come to the same conclusion and with my best poker face on, awaited his decision. Initiative to me, and off we go.
So we deploy our ships and a sea of debris fields and we begin opening moves. I know I can close this out 200-0 on MOV if I set up a situation when I move my Dash to block his Dash, while still keeping my Dash in range of where I hope his Corran will go, and have my own Corran in a Range 1 position to inflict maximum damage. Still with me?
Two turns in, and I did precisely this. I managed to get his Corran off the board before the Double-Tap phase, and mine was left with his shields gone but Hull intact.
A couple of turns of Dash Cannons trading fire while my Corran got his shields back, and I finished it off by getting in his way to block his RecSpec, while getting Corran into range to close it out.
I find the Dash mirror match is always quick and dirty, and this was no exception. For a day that was promising to be a long one if I made the Top 8, I was happy to wrap this match up in 25 minutes and have a good while to sit down and relax in an adjacent air-conditioned room.
Waiting for Round 5 to finish, my standings were 20pts/835 MOV. Unless the other 4-1’s were able to put up an even more impressive MOV, I was a sure-thing for the Top 8.
I spent the rest of the time chatting with other players, as well as the commentators, while giving them a little interview on their stream to pass the time.
When the Top 8 was announced, I was actually the third seed, being at the top of the 4-1’s and having the second highest overall MOV for the Swiss, with Spencer McClung wracking up an impressive 5-0/932 MOV for the top spot.
The Top 8 bracket looked like this;
Prizes were awarded for the results to that point, with the Top 16 and Top 8 getting their loot. A crash prize was awarded to the lowest ranked Swiss player in the form of the TO’s set of custom dice. I really like when big events award a crash prize, as it gives players on the bottom some incentive to play out the event.
A lot of people tend to drop when they take that second loss, which I can appreciate in the sense that you have no hope of making the cut, so why bother? You bother because the only way you get better is to keep playing and learning. If you can go through all your rounds and do your best, then you can still go home and feel good about that. Hopefully you’ll reflect and see where things might have swung around if you made a different decision, and lessons will be learned. This isn’t the time to blame your dice.
As an aside, I have to give some mention to Nelson Cravo, who went 4-1 on Full Wins, but missed the Top 8 cut by a total of 6 MOV points. So close, Hermano. You’re a great player, and I always hate to see someone get edged out over a couple of points.
My dice really left me in the dirt in Round 2, but I refused to let that tank my day, and I pressed on and got into the Top 8 on that attitude. They could have abandoned me all day, which is statistically possible, and if they did, that would certainly not be optimal, but that’s the nature of any game when it uses dice to resolve combat.
If I could give one piece of universal advice to everyone who wants to be a better player in tournaments, it’s to play it out every time. While you work on your game, you’re strengthening your mind to endure the stress that comes with playing through what would turn out to be a 15 hour X-Wing marathon to take home the big win.
I’ve fought my way out of pools from a discouraging start, and now it’s time for the bracket.
Top 8 vs Shereef Ishak (100pts)
• Rear Admial Chiraneau w/Expose, Mercenary Copilot, Rebel Captive, Gunner
• “Echo” w/ Veteran Instincts, Fire Control System, Recon Specialist, Advanced Cloaking Device
As this match was starting out, the TO made the announcement that we were going to be doing the bracket with untimed elimination rounds. I didn’t think about it too much at the time, as I know this matchup is going to be quick and dirty like last round, regardless of who wins.
Chiraneau has the tools to put out a lot of hurting on my ships, and if I get donut-holed by “Echo”, I’m not going to be standing long. The only way to close it out would be to use Corran’s Veteran Instincts to ensure a Range 1 shot on a decloaked “Echo” to soften the target for the Double-Tap kill, while Dash starts whittling down Chiraneau before somebody on my side folds to the strong 4-Dice attacks coming my way.
A few turns in, “Echo” and Dash were gone, and I was able to close it out by keeping Corran at Range 2 to keep the Merc from going off, while still not taking 5 shots a turn from Chiraneau. I don’t typically prefer to use Corran as my closer, but in some cases, he’ll do in a pinch. Green moves for shields, Evade action, repeat. I saved the Double-Tap for a turn when I knew I could close it out, and that was that. Corran stayed on the table and I had a fair bit of time to pass before Top 4.
I didn’t realize it at the time, as I wasn’t looking closely at the bracket, but the pairings should have had me matching against Gerry Russel for Top 4, not Joe Silva, who should have matched against Spencer McClung. What I think happened here was that the TO reseeded the bracket for Top 4, which would explain the pairings, even though you’re not supposed to actually do this. I’m not calling the TO out on this, as it could have just been an oversight on a long, tiring day.
In any case, it was on to Top 4 for Salty Runback #2, and the one I was looking forward to the most.
Top 4 vs Joe Silva (100pts)
• Etahn A’baht w/Push the Limit, Advanced Sensors, R2 Astromech
• Tarn Mison w/R7 Astromech
• 3x Bandit Squadron Pilot
Some background on this match; Joe and I had squared off a couple of months previously at X Planet’s Store Championship, specifically at the final table, and specifically with these two exact lists. I had managed to bait out his Etahn and Tarn into running around with Corran in the backfield while Dash took apart his Z’s. When I reformed my ships, I was able to regenerate Corran back to full health and had no damage on Dash, facing off against Joe’s two remaining ships. He fought well, but I won the day there, and lessons were learned on both sides of the table.
Prior to that one, we met in battle at the final pools table at the 2014 X-Wing Regionals in St. Catherines, Ontario. The match was to decide who would go on to the top cut. Joe kept the pressure on and I cracked, sending him on to the bracket and me back to Toronto.
I got my runback at X-Planet, so now it was his turn for a little payback.
So back to this match; he wasn’t going to be so easily taken. I offered up Corran and he said “nope”, and proceeded to go all in on Dash. When the dust cleared, I had Corran and he had 3 Z’s. What followed was a drawn out game of cat and mouse where Corran would buzz the Z formation to try and Double-Tap one out before fleeing again. Rinse, repeat. Tedious and unnecessary, but because we were playing in an untimed bracket, we had to see it through.
Realizing the implications of this, the TO decided to put a cap on the matches in progress and we timed out after another round or two, with Corran left on the board with an almost-finished Z.
I didn’t know at the time who my final opponent would be, as I was starting to get a little weary of the long day. Would it be Gerry’s Headhunter swarm or Spencer’s Fel/Chiraneau?
Story time again; let me briefly go back in time to about 9:30am that morning, as I parked my car near the venue. After grabbing some breakfast in the area and walking back to my car to pick up my gear, I ran into Gerry and his son Ciaran. We compared lists and had a nice conversation about our hopes and expectations for the day.
When I last saw Gerry, I was facing him in the final round of Swiss pools at Kaiju Games’ Store Championship back in February. He had flown a Headhunter swarm backed with a Procket Tycho, and we had a somewhat decisive match when a lucky shot from Dash 1-shotted Tycho off the board in the third round. My full list against 5 Z’s wasn’t going to be an issue, so that was 200-0 there.
He would then go on to adapt my Dash-Corran build to the new Scum meta that released the following week and take a Store Championship prize home by swapping Dash’s Heavy Laser to a Mangler and Stealth Device. I caught word of this and appreciated the nod by running The Wolf with that change. I tried it myself but I still feel better with that extra attack die the Heavy Laser provides.
Getting back to the then-present time of the match; Spencer’s Decimator build finally packed it in and Gerry is ready to throw down at the final table with his 8 Z’s. Salty Runback #3, for all the marbles. My opponent knows my list. He’s played my list, and he’s even won a Premiere event with a subtle variation of it. Worse still, he’s aware of my personal bag of tricks and is himself a sharp player that has been hammering on that Z swarm for I feel like the better part of a year.
You also might have noticed at this point that I am now facing down the father of the young man that I took out in Round 4. So not only is Gerry on deck for his Store Championships runback, but he’s there to avenge his fallen cub. Yikes! There’s a lot of (friendly, mind you) banter and subtext going on while we set up the board.
Here it is…
Final Table vs Gerry Russel (100pts)
• 4x Tala Squadron Pilot
• 4x Bandit Squadron Pilot
Watch it here.
So it should be noted that Gerry’s obstacle choices really made this match interesting. I haven’t commented on it much at this point as nothing was particularly remarkable, but by having 6 Debris Fields going, we were both set to have our ideal scenario.
I want the fields so I don’t need to waste an action on a Barrel Roll if I miscalculate a move, and Gerry wants one so he can keep formation and keep shooting, stress-be-damned. The 1 in 8 chance of taking damage makes it an acceptable risk.
We populated the middle of the board with the obstacles, and my hope was to screen Dash with them as best I could while Gerry inevitably brings all his guns to Dash to get him dead quickly.
While Dash could in theory 1-shot a Z, I’d like to think more realistically that he’s going to be putting 2-3 damage a turn on one. This means that it will probably take me 2 rounds to eliminate a ship. With Corran, I can’t bring him too close to the fight at the onset for two reasons; first, I’d risk being too close for Lone Wolf, which Dash will absolutely need to shrug off 8 shots a turn. Second, one round of those Z’s turning in on Corran and I’m probably going to be out an E-Wing.
I set Dash up across from the swarm, daring him to bring it on, while Corran went on the opposite flank to try and hit the back of the formation when it swings in.
My goal was to fly along with Dash, making use of the obstacles for cover while firing away and trying to thin out the Z’s as much as possible before they closed the whole group into Range 2.
Lone Wolf and Recon Specialist really pay off here, as you can typically put up 3-4 hits on the Heavy Laser a turn, stop the Z’s from getting the extra green die at Range 3, and collect one yourself. I weathered a few turns of shooting without taking any damage just by keeping them out. Meanwhile, my goal with Corran to pick at the flanks had an unexpected shortfall as I boosted up to be “just” outside of a Range 3 Double-Tap that could have picked off another Z nice and early. I had to pull him out and around the board, just in case Gerry decided to swat him down early.
What followed was a long chase around the board and Dash ultimately going down to the combined arms of the Z’s, but not before 4.5 Z’s were put down as well.
The game slowed to a crawl for a bit here, as it’s very tricky getting Corran to zoom in on 4 ships in a way that won’t get him killed. Eventually I managed to get 1 down, but I wasn’t out of the woods yet. A hit here or there meant that I’d have to pull back and recharge the shields before being able to make another safe pass.
As we got down to a couple of Z’s, a couple of good reads on my end and liberal use of the Engine Upgrade got me out of what could have been a game-winning trap for Gerry, and allowed me to break off and joust his last 2 Z’s. One went down, I broke off, recharged, and met the last Z in a game of chicken that it had no chance of winning. 3 Shields and an Evade token on my end mean that even at Range 1, it would be mathematically impossible for him to kill Corran on a pass.
The match was finally won, and we shook hands after a 2.5 hour game, and a 15 hour day overall.
Harkening back to our morning run-in at the parking lot, it was funny to think that we were able to meet as friends and talk shop before the day got going, only to have to throw down for all the marbles on the back end. It’s a testament to our community that a high level of respect and sportsmanship can be maintained all the way through.
If you watch that video closely, you can see that we’re moving each others’ ships when it would make things easier, and have a lot of discussions about cleaning up Target Locks and other things that might leave opponents a chance to use the confusion to slip something by on a missed opportunity. I always enjoy playing against opponents that act like true professionals, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better final match…except for maybe an hour less on the run time.
You can get all the rankings and matchups here.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading!