How to not win the Canadian Nationals

As one of the five Canadian Regionals winners I decided to make the trip to Hamilton for the Canadian Nationals and I’ve been asked to provide my thoughts on the event. But I’m getting ahead of myself – I’ll start with a little background:

I’ve been a Star Wars fan forever and a gamer for almost as long, so when X-Wing was announced I knew I’d be buying in. As the manager of The Sentry Box in Calgary I get to see all the cool stuff coming out, so there was no way I could avoid it. I’m mostly a board gamer now, having given up my miniature games long ago due to lack of time, effort and painting ability. So a Star Wars miniatures game with pre-assembled, pre-painted minis was right up my alley.

I got in at the beginning, but one thing about working at a games store is that it usually means you get less time to play games. So I played a few learning games, taught a few people, enjoyed the game immensely, but ultimately didn’t have time to think about it too much. We applied to run a Regional event in 2013 and then ended up having it run at a local convention that was on the same day. I believe the turnout was 8 players, including my TO Bill Ramsey.

Since then, the interest locally has increased massively and so has my own involvement. As new waves came out I kept up with everything and then decided to run a ladder tournament over a four month period, as well as a few one off tournaments. When the time came around to run the 2014 Regional I was all in TO mode and set to run the event instead of playing. Then the weekend before Bill offered to run it himself as he’d been having a bad run of form and just didn’t fancy it. I hadn’t thought about a list and hadn’t had much practice but figured I should just go for it. Since I didn’t have time to practice I decided to just play the list I’d been running most of the time over the past couple of months:

Gold + Ion

Dagger + Adv

2 x Gold Squadron with Ion Cannon Turret

2 x Dagger Squadron with Advanced Sensors

At the time we were in wave 3 so the meta was a lot of low PS 4 rebel builds, TIE swarms, triple bounty hunters, so I liked the Advanced Sensors on the B-wings and the control of the two Ion Turrets.

I won’t go into detail but suffice to say I somehow went undefeated that day (nice match-ups, great red dice, plus a little bit of good flying). The final was against Jean-Luc LaRue who was the youngest competitor in the 26 man field at just 9 years old.


I got a fair amount of stick for beating up a kid. All I can say is that I was the only person to beat him that day and if you ever play him and underestimate him I will be there to laugh and say ‘I told you so’ when he kicks your ass.

After winning I wasn’t planning on attending the Nationals as it’s hard to get the time off work and afford the flight, etc. However, I decided that it was worth a shot to ask my boss Gord if he’d be willing to spend store airmiles to send me and he actually agreed!

In the months after the Regional I actually played quite a lot of X-Wing, the only problem being that the meta was potentially going to shift quite a bit with the release of Wave 4 and then Rebel Aces, so I wasn’t able to nail down a squad for Nationals and practice with it. In the month or so before Nationals I got super busy at work and barely got any games in at all.

So I found myself in the hotel in Hamilton the day before the event with no idea of what to play and no practice under my belt. I’d heard that the local meta had seen a bunch of rebel swarms recently, so I was considering a phantom list. But I was also expecting to see a bunch of Fat/Super Han. I went round and round in circles trying to decide what to play. I did contemplate running the Golden Daggers list just because I knew how to fly it well, but I felt like it was only ok against most of the lists I’d end up facing. After much deliberation I went for the following list:

Whisper + VetBounty + Recon

Omg + Vader

My hope was that Whisper would cause havoc in any 4-6 ship rebel builds and that against Fat/Super Han or mirror matches the two large ships would have enough firepower and hull to win a war of attrition. My bad match-ups would be against Falcons though, so I was hoping to avoid them if possible.

With hindsight there are a few glaring problems with my list:

  1. I’d never flown Whisper before. Ever.
  2. The Intelligence Agent was a waste.
  3. I’ve only flown a shuttle a couple of times before, always very badly.

Onto the day itself. My buddy Kris Sherriff had also traveled out from Alberta to the event so the two of us grabbed a cab over to the Legion where it was being held. I’m a big fan of using Legion venues back in Calgary as they offer cheap space, food, drink and lots of room. I was happy to see that we were in the Legion here and everything was being set up ready to get started on time. The guys running the event did a fantastic job and everything went smoothly the whole day which was awesome.

As a Regional winner I was fortunate to have a super-bye in the first round. That meant I could relax a little and just watch some of the other matches. There were less Falcons than I had expected, although still a reasonable number, and there were more Phantoms than I had expected. There were also a few unexpected lists like 2 ship Imperials with Boba Fett and Echo, plus an 8 Z-95 swarm which was cool to see. There were a few rebel 5 and 6 ship lists and a bunch of 4 ship rebel lists with HWKs. Overall a good mix and I felt like if I could avoid the Falcons I’d do ok.

Round 1) Super-bye

Result: Win (200 MOV)

Round 2) I was up against Victor Naqvi running one of the aforementioned 2 ship Imperial lists with Boba Fett and Echo. Boba Fett was a good counter to Whisper as he had VI (plus an HLC and Gunner). I sent Whisper for Echo and charged the shuttle and Bounty Hunter towards Fett. After the initial engagement Victor made a costly mistake. After firing with Echo he failed to announce that he was re-cloaking and didn’t  put a cloak token by him. When it came to the next round he announced he was -decloaking and I had to point out that Echo wasn’t cloaked. That allowed me to get Whisper in for a range one shot and I killed Echo. In the meantime Fett had outmaneuvered the shuttle who was now going for a pleasure cruise around the far side of the board trying to turn around get back in the fight. The bounty hunter had been trading fire with Fett, obviously coming off worse but giving out a bunch of damage too. I decided to re-engage Whisper despite being at a disadvantage in that fight and sure enough Fett made short work of the phantom, but it did allow my Bounty Hunter to keep pounding away so that Fett was close to death. Then came my own mistake as I misjudged the space at the edge of the board. My Bounty Hunter pulled a hard turn to end up parallel to the edge of the board, but with 1mm of the base off the edge. Fortunately for me, at this point Fett was on one hull and my shuttle finally got back around to fire it’s first shot in anger. With Vader on board it was a guaranteed damage but the cannon was able to do the damage anyway.

Result: Win (124 MOV)

Round 3) After round 2 I caught up with Kris who was also 2-0 at this point. We joked about getting drawn against each other and how his list would be very tough for me to beat. Naturally, we did then get drawn against each other. A shame that happened since we’d both come all the way from Alberta but thems the breaks.

Kris was running Han with VI, Gunner, R2-D2 and Engine Upgrade, plus 2 Prototype Pilots with Proton Rockets. I knew I needed to kill Han first to have a chance of winning the long game. I also knew Whisper would be cannon fodder for Han.

I decided to send Whisper after the A-Wings so she could hopefully do something other than just die. Unfortunately my shuttle once again got outmaneuvered and was pretty much useless, leaving the Bounty Hunter to take on Han on his own. Not a fair fight. Kris outplayed me easily, firing off his proton rockets from both A-Wings, killing Whisper with Han and only losing one A-wing near the end. In a somewhat amusing twist of fate he shot at Whisper and got two hits. If I rolled anything except double evade I would take damage but live and get to return fire. Obviously I rolled double evade, allowing him to use his gunner and on his next attack he got four hits and Whisper died. Then Han suffered the crit that gave him pilot skill 0 immediately afterwards. That actually proved important as it then allowed him to block my Bounty Hunter from turning properly, making him fly off the board for the second game running. This time by 1mm of one corner of the base.

Result: Loss (20 MOV)

Round 4) At 2-1 there was still a chance of making top 8. My round 4 opponent was Norm Weir who was flying 3 Bs and 2 As. I felt a bit more confident about this match-up. He decided to ignore Whisper altogether allowing me to flank with her. I flew my shuttle a little better and as the two large ships traded fire with his Bs, Whisper came round the side and started mopping up. Once he’d lost a couple of Bs with no loss on my side he was in trouble. Whisper was the star but the two large ships put out a bunch of damage. In the end the shuttle fell but it was a relatively easy game overall.

Result: Win (176 MOV)

Round 5) Kris had lost his fourth round after beating me in round 3, so we were both 3-1 with one round to play. A good matchup for us both and there was a chance of that top 8 spot. Unfortunately for me I got drawn against Jeff Dunford who was playing Double Falcon. With two Falcons Whisper has nowhere to run and hide. I decided that I just had to go for it and send her straight in. The only saving grace was that I had PS on them both so I could at least be cloaked when taking fire. Sadly I mis-flew my large ships once again, and then ended up in a situation where Whisper was facing towards a corner with both Falcons coming around that corner. With the asteroids I had no choice but to end up at range one of both Falcons. As it turns out I could have survived the fire of both shots (despite both having TL and focus) but I whiffed my four green dice with focus defence roll against the second attack, allowing three hits through to kill Whisper.

So then the shuttle and Bounty Hunter were quickly mopped up, with two Falcons getting 5 actions between them each turn and having more hull and turrets to boot. A sad effort on my part.

Result: Loss (0 MOV)

A check with Kris saw him also losing to a 4 B-wing list, meaning we both ended up 3-2 and missed out on both top 8 and top 16 prizing due to poor MOV.

My evaluation:

Don’t try flying a brand new list for a big event. Although 3-2 is fine and I finished in the top half, I don’t think I was really in danger of making top 8 and I feel like I flew badly because I hadn’t practiced with the list. I might even have done better with the Golden Daggers. The key is to practice your list, preferably against bad match-ups if you can. I feel like I learned a lot just from the two games I lost and if I had a chance to play them again I would do much better (maybe not win but who knows).

More specific thoughts: The shuttle can be powerful but it can also do nothing if you fly it badly. Vader is no good if you don’t get to fire or if you only get to fire late on when you’ve already taken heavy damage. The Bounty Hunter with Rec Spec is a great ship. Just don’t fly it off the board twice. Whisper is not like Echo. I’ve flown Echo before and it seems like you always want to get out of every arc if possible. With Whisper getting to recloak and have a focus I feel like you are fine to go head to head with one other ship on occasion. Definitely a slightly different way of thinking.

Overall though, I had a lot of fun at the event. It was well run and it was nice to play some games against high-caliber opponents (Jeff ended up winning the whole thing). It’s made me want to play more X-Wing and run more tournaments back here in Calgary. I hope to write more articles in the future with info on the Calgary scene, metagame, players, repaints, etc.


3 thoughts on “How to not win the Canadian Nationals”

  1. Fantastic write up Greg. Thanks for sharing.

    I agree, you should never run a new list at a big tournament, or a list you don’t find fun to play for that matter! I’ve made both those mistakes, so I feel your pain.

    I think that Whisper needs a Gunner to guarantee his special ability triggers. I agree that Intelligence Agent was a waste of points. It’s better to take nothing for the initiative bid.

    That really sucks you had to play your friend Kris, like really sucks but I’m glad you guys made the trip. It makes it seem like more of a “National Event” than the “Ontario Cup of X-Wing.”

    Thanks for the offer of keeping us posted on what is happening in Calgary! It’s always interesting to know what shenanigans people in other parts of our country are up to 🙂

  2. You know, I am pretty bad because I get bored with lists very easily if they don’t click super well with me. I’ll train up for a Tournament, and when I feel I have a good list I’ll take it to an event, but then retire it after the Tournament. It’s hard, because I want to try new things always, but there is really something to be said about flying a list you know.

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