X-Wing: Meta Watch – March 2017

ChahDresh takes stock of where the last few whirlwind weeks of X-Wing news has put us.It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the X-Wing world! First, FAQmageddon hit, completely upsetting the apple cart right ahead of the Naboo Open and the Tatooine Open. Second, we got a preview article for the new Scyk Interceptors coming with the C-ROC Cruiser. Third, we got the Wave XI announcement.

Each of these is a worthy topic in itself, but rather than dive into the details of each I want to stay at the high level and look at themes.

FAQ

The short version is that the game’s most powerful cards got brought back towards the pack. Specifically, the cards that got nerfed were those that allowed players to not care about stress or blocks; those cards were nerfed in ways that restore the importance of these effects.

Zuckuss and Manaroo, for example, were part of a greater Scum ecosystem that made stress and blocks completely irrelevant. Scum is loaded down with powerful effects that are supposed to be balanced by giving you stress: Zuckuss, Inertial Dampeners, Glitterstim, to name a few. Yet with Manaroo, Dengar crew, and those cards themselves– not to mention white SLoops– Scum ships could very easily stack stress tokens to the sky without losing a bit of combat effectiveness. And, obviously, if you don’t care about stress, you care even less about blocks. Two-ship Scum lists practically want to be blocked, since that’s one fewer ship shooting at them.

Is this the face of a man who cares about stress?

Similarly, the /x7 title and Palpatine allowed Defenders to get two guaranteed evades a turn with no possibility of counter-play from blocks or stress. Traditionally, a block on Soontir Fel was followed almost immediately by an exploding Soontir Fel. Not so with the dreaded Commonwealth Defenders. This ecosystem helped make swarms and control lists unplayable, crowding them out of the meta (incidentally making Dengar crew even more efficient). They also contributed to an arms race: if you couldn’t survive a Party Bus shot or overpower a two-token-plus-Palp Defender, it was hard to find a place for you in the metagame, in turn forcing players and FFG to even higher heights. This is why we’ve seen so many K-Wings. (FFG pointed in this direction by buffing Cluster Mines in the last FAQ.)

If the overall level of power in the game goes down, there’s more room for different lists to breathe and more space for player skill to be decisive. Things had been seizing up a bit. This should help un-stick them a little. (By the way, I may not have called these specific nerfs, but I totally called this method of game balancing.)

SCYK INTERCEPTOR FIXES

Scum’s run of bad small ships is almost impressive. The faction inherited the Y-Wing, Z-95, and HWK intact and usable; in fact, their HWK pilots are arguably better than the Rebels’. All of the Scum-unique ships, on the other hand, have been either unable to compete with their larger brethren or just outright lackluster. The G1-A, Starviper, Scyk, and Khiraxz have all been more notable for the upgrade cards packaged with them than their tabletop performance.

FFG gets it, at least. As with the TIE Advanced, they’re using the release of the Scum epic ship to give us tools to make the Scyk more usable. Some of the pilots have very specific niches. Genesis Red, for example, can copy the evade and focus tokens of his target when he gets a target lock. This means he prefers to fly against lower-PS but token-rich prey, and with his PS7, that’s a short list. (You could always bump up to 9 with VI, I suppose.)

The most notable card, for my money, is the Arc Caster dual card.

Here’s what strikes me most:

  • It slings four dice at range 1, meaning it’s a super-targeted upgrade for the Scyk (all other ships with cannon slots natively throw four dice at range 1)
  • Its reusable nature, so long as you’re taking turns off in-between, would seem to suit jousters exceptionally well

The second point is due to how jousters often operate. Unable to turn and burn with aces, jousters will use the turn after their range 1 shots to K-Turn; without any actions to help their attacks, their shots that round often do very little, especially for a two-red Scyk. With this upgrade, you can toss that shot away completely and recharge your actually good gun instead. One of the other unique pilots, Quinn Jast, has a pilot ability that works the same way, towards the same end but with ordnance.

It’s an awful lot of cardboard to toss at a swarm ship. FFG is clearly hoping swarms can make a comeback, and the Scyk, of all ships, is leading the charge. When combined with the errata to anti-swarm upgrades, maybe it can do it.

WAVE XI ANNOUNCEMENT

Wave XI continues the trends we’ve seen in the nerfing and Scyk changes, and adds a theme of its own: filling in of roles.

The Scurgg is the largest small-base ship we’ve seen yet. Given its size you’d almost expect it to be a large-base ship, but Scum already has more large ships than Rebels or Imperials. Play-wise, it looks to be the analogue to the K-Wing or Punisher in the bomber role– except that its 3-dice primary and barrel roll action (and ten total HP!) make it appear far more suited to direct engagements than those two ships.

Similarly, the TIE Aggressor gives Imperials the turret ship they’ve longed for, and comes packaged with a Twin Laser Turret in case the hint wasn’t clear enough. It also comes packaged with Lightweight Frame, another seeming slam-dunk upgrade, and is priced such that an Aggressor with those upgrades comes in at exactly 25 points, making the parallel to Thug Life Y-Wings complete.

This is an interesting mini-trend that bears watching. Several of the revealed upgrades seem to make natural combinations, while those same cards have limited applicability outside those ships. The Auzituck comes packaged with Wookie Commandoes, which sucks up both crew spots but only puts the points cost of the Auzituck at 25 (hm…). Most of the ships with two crew slots, though, are big expensive ships that want more and different crew to maximize their potential.

(Incidentally, this matter of giving up extra upgrade slots to get benefits for fewer points reminds me of Battletech. In Battletech’s customization scheme, the resources you were balancing were space and weight (and, sometimes, heat, but never mind that). Frequently there were multiple versions of a given component, one larger-but-lighter, the other heavier-but-smaller. Balancing those choices was a key element of good design.)

The fact that both ships seem pretty respectable with 25 point out-of-the-box builds reinforces the swarm-ish theme, and the double-sided EPT we see with the Aggressor is consistent with the Arc Caster as a potential new avenue for upgrades, somewhere between always-on and one-use-only.

Also interesting: none of these ships appear to have any condition cards. Wave X gave us three; here, none. I wouldn’t say that means FFG is backing away from the idea, though. Design for Wave XI undoubtedly started before Wave X went live, and FFG likely wanted to see how conditions play out in a live environment before going further with the concept. I would expect to see more conditions in Wave XII.

~Where do you see X-Wing going?

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