In March, I attended the Naboo System Open, my first national X-Wing tournament. It was the first major event after the Palpatine/Zuckuss/Manaroo FAQ, and, as a new player, I struggled to come up with a list.
I settled on Ketsu/Asajj. The Lancer was a ship I enjoyed flying, so I figured (brace yourself for advanced list-building logic) why not fly two? After going 4-3 at Naboo, however, I decided I would try different ships and never flew that particular squad again.
In the months leading up to last weekend’s System Open at PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia, I put the full power of my accumulated knowledge and collection from 11 months of X-Wing toward building the most competitive possible list. I scoffed at the classic “fly what you enjoy” advice and became stuck in the following feedback loop of thought:
I practiced several three-ship rebel builds involving Draw Their Fire Lowhhrick as a result. I ultimately settled on Lowhhrick/Kanan, as I had been using Kanan/Biggs as a Nym deterrent for the past month.
But like Bruce Wayne shaving his mustache in his sleep, my subconscious actions set up my recidivism. After a particularly tedious time flying Kanan at Friday’s Hyperspace Qualifier, I returned to the Airbnb to find I had packed Asajj and Ketsu, “for hangar bay,” I guess.
So for the first time in eight months, I flew double Lancers. Apparently I have a list that I will only fly at System Opens after major FAQs.
I ended up going 4-2, a respectable result, but a disappointing one after I started well. Alas, it was the on-demand Blinded Pilot, not the Harpoon Missile, that I should have feared more. The Lancers turned out to be great all-around, but especially good at managing range against munitions carriers. I think this archetype is really strong, as evidenced by a variant of my list making Top 4 in the hands of a more skilled pilot.
I’m going to skip the detailed battle reports and proceed straight to my general observations on the post-nerf metagame.
Firstly, the game feels better balanced. I’d still go in for a straight-up Twin Laser Turret ban, but the scourge of scum Nym and the inanity of Biggs have been reigned in. In March, Ketsu and Asajj had a real uphill climb against Kanan/Biggs lists. At this Open, I felt I stood a good chance in every match-up.
And yet there are some unexpected side effects of all the nerfs that have tempered my enthusiasm for the game just a bit:
- Lists feel muted—Andrew Bunn won the tournament with a diluted Parattanni. (Congrats!) He beat Johnathan Grasser’s “Inaldrattanni” variant in the finals. That’s a testament to both the skill of these players and the continued usefulness of Attanni Mindlink. But it made me weirdly nostalgic for pre-nerf Attanni. It feels a bit like the Warriors beat the Cavaliers yet again, but this time with Draymond Green and Kevin Love injured. I know this feeling is irrational and the nerf was necessary. But I’m the kind of guy, to extend this NBA metaphor as far as it will go, who roots for the Warriors dynasty over league parity.
- Fluff is still missing—I got into X-Wing as a Star Wars fan, not as a guy who had any tabletop gaming experience. I loved the idea of the “party bus”—all the bounty hunters from Empire working together. Narrative “fluff” plays into my list building. And given the sheer number “T65 fix please” posts on the forums, I know I’m not alone. As much as power creep has killed the classic Star Wars lists, so have the nerfs eliminated some lists with “head canon” appeal. Dengaroo was the ultimate husband-and-wife team. The aforementioned party bus stirred the imagination more than Zuckuss and Inspiring Recruit (or 4LOM and K4 Security Droid). Old-school Palp aces (which admittedly can be a force in this meta) ticked this box better than anything. Say what you will about Biggs, but at least I know who he is. Who the hell is Lowhhrick? Hopefully, as things shake out, the FAQ allows more famous characters to return.
- Every hero needs a villain—I kind of liked having a hated list that everyone is either running or gunning for. There’s a unique satisfaction in taking these squads down, and creates a unique challenge in list building. Everything feels slightly boring without the rogues gallery of the old meta.
I suspect, though, that the upcoming waves will address most of these complaints. Nothing would stop my whining that X-Wing needs ships that are more powerful, more synergistic, and more Star Wars-y, than an A-Wing II vs. TIE Silencer meta.
Overall, I had a great time at PAX, and wanted to thank all my opponents for great games and being very friendly. I also want to give a shout out to local boys Stephen Wooten and Matthew Kreiner doing well with neat builds.
In the end, my not making the cut just gave me an opportunity to get sucked into Destiny. Help.