ChahDresh takes a (non-)controversial stance and brings the math to support it.
You’ve probably noticed, but… there are a LOT of Jumpmasters out there.
I laid it out during my meta-analysis of Worlds, where the globe’s most competitive X-Wing players came to rumble. Out of the 25 Scum players who went 6-3 or better, 16 of them played at least one Jumpmaster, and there were 27 Jumpmasters in total. Every Jumpmaster pilot option made a showing, making the Jumpmaster the inverse of the one-ace wonder.
Let’s put this another way: the Jumpmaster chassis is so good for its points, it almost doesn’t matter what the pilot abilities are—the ship is worth playing regardless. Its cost is too low for the power it buys.
Time to Explain
Let’s buttress that argument with math and non-math factors. First, non-math. The Jumpmaster has been dominating tournaments since the moment of its introduction. It has been nerfed both directly and indirectly ever since:
- the timing chart nerf “incidentally” toned down R4 Agromech because Jumpmasters were using them;
- the Deadeye nerf was specifically aimed at the Jumpmaster;
- Manaroo’s text was nerfed outright.
Yet Jumpmasters are still comfortably the most common ship on the top tables. With every nerf to cards and effects around the Jumpmaster, the clearer it seems that the ship itself is the problem.
Now, math. There’s a reasonably similar ship to the Jumpmaster elsewhere in the game: the YT-2400. Each is a moderately-durable, two-agility, two-attack-turret, large-based ship with lots of upgrade options, an identical action bar, and an expensive title for its true aces. Having that many similarities can help us get a sense of what the Jumpmaster “should” cost.
First, the Wild Space Fringer has one more shield than the Contracted Scout. Shield Upgrade costs 4 points, so that’s a credit to the Fringer… except that FFG doesn’t actually charge ships that rate for its base cost or a B-Wing would be 30 points naked. Essentially, for each point of shield or hull you have, each additional point of shield or hull is slightly less valuable. A Shield Upgrade means a lot less to a B-Wing (12.5% more health) than it would to a TIE Interceptor (33% more health).
But we’ll be generous, and say that’s a three-point credit for the Fringer.
The Scout is one more point of PS than the Fringer, which generally costs half-a-point to a point. We’ll say a point here, because the difference between 2 and 3 is very significant (most generics are 2 and 3 trumps them, and it turns off Predator). Each additional upgrade slot generally costs you a point—that’s what we learn from the example of B1/E2, R2-D6, and TIE /X7. The Fringer has cannon and missile slots. The Scout has Elite, torpedo, torpedo, crew, illicit, and salvaged astro—that’s four more upgrade slots, so that’s four points for the Scout.
Except that upgrades are the reverse of health: they get more valuable the more of them you have. This is because having a larger number and (key here) variety of upgrades unlocks combos that are increasingly powerful. The obvious example here is Unhinged Astromech and K4 Security Droid, which (BY THEIR POWERS COMBINED) give the Jumpmaster a stupid-good dial and nearly endless target locks.
So we’ll add one more point to the Scout’s credit to represent this. One other thing about the Scout’s upgrade configuration: compared to the YT, double torpedo slots are far more functional than a missile and a cannon. With the points efficiency from Extra Munitions, using the Scout as an ordnance carrier works swell. Without it, giving a YT a missile is almost futile. (See also: the YT-1300.) We could add a point for this, but by now it feels like piling on.
Let’s sum up: based on our logic thus far, to get a Contracted Scout, we would take a Wild Space Fringer, subtract three points for the shield difference, then add a total of six for the Scout’s PS and upgrade bar. That would leave the Scout at 33 points, assuming they had identical dials.
The Scout is 25 points and has a MUCH BETTER DIAL.
Don’t get me wrong, the Fringer’s dial is functional. It’s a fine dial. The Jumpmaster dial is just fantastic. Not only is there a lot of green, the green has lots of variety in its final positioning, a fact amplified by the barrel roll; AND there’s the white S-Loop; AND the Scout can take Unhinged Astromech, which turns the dial greener than the Fringer’s envy.
There’s an obvious objection to this analysis: no one plays the Wild Space Fringer. The YT-2400 is a one-ace wonder because the base ship is so cruddy, so using that as the starting point for the Scout would just doom the Scout. That’s a valid objection! Still, that eight (!) point difference (even disregarding the dial) suggests that the Scout is stupidly efficient for its cost. Tournament results bear this conclusion out.
The Answer is 27
Since no amount of nerfs to upgrade cards will change this basic underlying fact, the only way to address it is to adjust the ship itself. A “bad” Scout would have a base cost of 33; today’s too-strong Scout has a cost of 25. Splitting the difference would be 29. We still want to see Scouts, lest we be accused of making a ship in bad faith, so we’ll err on the moderate side. Let’s say we make it 27, a two-point boost, and up the named pilots one or two points apiece also.
Why 27? At 27 you’d still be able to fit three ships with torpedoes into a list, but you wouldn’t be able to ladle on all the upgrades like a generous cafeteria server. You’d have to choose between which upgrades you wanted to get—a better dial OR better action economy, but not both. Or, if you wanted all the upgrades for the U-Boats to function at full power, you’d have to compromise the firepower of your third ship and strip its torpedoes.
This would carry over to other lists, too. OldFennAroo? You can have a big initiative bid OR a jack-of-all-trades-Aroo, but not both. RauBoats? You can keep your top ace OR your fully-upgraded Scouts, but not both. And so on.
This, I believe, is the proper way to ease the Jumpmaster back to the pack. The strengths of the Jumpmaster are a super-efficient base cost and a generous upgrade bar, allowing you to cram lots of stuff on to it. You can pick away at the upgrades one-by-one, but that’s unsatisfying for the players and doesn’t approach the heart of the matter. Instead, by easing up the cost juuuuust a little bit, you would force players to make choices about which upgrades they really want, or compromise on their third ship. Both of those are far healthier than the all-you-can-eat buffet the Jumpmaster offers now.
There’s no precedent for FFG using the FAQ to adjust points value, and there won’t be… right up until there is.
Some of you are doubtlessly saying by now, “The real problem is Attanni Mindlink!” Sure, the combination of Mindlink and the Scouts is potent, and was all over the place at Worlds. I submit to you: Mindlink is a little too strong even in the absence of Scouts, AND Scouts are a little too strong even in the absence of Mindlink. Again, we’ve been down this road before: we’ve nerfed cards around the Scouts and they still bubble to the top, while Scout-less Mindlink lists excelled also.
I would maintain the price hike to Scouts, while also making one subtle change to Mindlink. Here’s the current text, for reference:
Suggested Revised Text:
“Each time you are assigned a focus token, each other friendly ship with Attanni Mindlink may take a free Focus action. Each time you are assigned a stress token, each other friendly ship with Attanni Mindlink must also be assigned a stress token if it does not already have one.”
Most of the time this won’t look any different from today. However, it would re-emphasize the card’s vulnerability to stress counter-play, slightly weaken Manaroo, devalue Palob as a way to avoid Mindlink’s drawback, and potentially weaken a Mindlink list’s efficiency on turns after receiving stress. It would also prevent Fenn from being able to stack tokens on the turns he makes his daring dives, forcing him to more carefully choose his spots instead of terror-bombing whole formations.
The other advantage of this change is that it’s a wording change, and by now there’s plenty of precedent for those. The biggest downside? That’s a LOT of text; it might not fit on the card, or might need a smaller font. It’s a serious consideration for a game like this.
The Ultimate Goal: Balance
Balance, as I’ve written before, is more of an ideal in an asymmetric game than an approachable reality. In the grand scheme of things, maybe the imbalance of the Jumpmaster and Mindlink is minor enough that we can deal with it. Only FFG knows for sure how much imbalance is too much for them.
That said, FFG has invested a lot of effort and reputation into competitive X-Wing, and has shown a growing willingness to intervene to support it. If they adjusted the Jumpmaster and Attani, either like I’ve said or by some other way I haven’t imagined, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
~Do you think this would solve the Jumpmaster “issue”?
ChahDresh is an amateur writer and an even more amateurish X-Wing player. Tell him how the Jumpmaster is fine and he needs to learn to play in the comments below.