X-Wing: Boom Goes the FAQ Dynamite!

ChahDresh talks the new X-Wing FAQ and its many changes, grading them for impact and import. Dive in!

At last! At last, it’s come to pass! We’ve finally kicked the pre-FAQ blues and a new order (not that New Order) is poised to assert itself.

Today we’re going to look at the changes and clarifications we got out of the most recent FAQ. These changes have two dimensions: first, how they change the ship or card; second, what they mean for the larger meta. We’ll grade these using a completely arbitrary and laughably inconsistent metric.

Another time we’ll speculate on where the larger meta might go from here. For now, let’s get frantic!

CLARIFICATIONS AND RE-WORDINGS: Targeting Synchronizer, Special Ops Training, Sunny Bounder, Hotshot Copilot, Jabba the Hutt, Sunny Bounder, LT Kestal, Double Edge, I’ll Show You the Dark Side, Pattern Analyzer, shield regen cards

Impact: 1 of 10 scared Mouse Droids

These entries don’t rock the boat. They re-word or explain the card text, or maybe clarify a specific timing question. In all cases, probably most players were doing it “right” anyway, so this is more in the bookkeeping category. The one that interests me most keenly is Pattern Analyzer, which validates my love for that card. (It’s a way to get around Snap-stress and debris stress—edge cases, perhaps, but a little extra value is always nice.)

INTERACTIONS: Advanced Targeting Computer, Cikatro Vizago, Gunner, Feedback Array, Boba Fett

Impact: 2 of 9 Force Persuasions

These are slightly more meaningful, as they clear up certain edge cases where particular cards interact. The big ones are Cikatro and Gunner, which validate two builds which caused their share of “RAW/RAI” arguments: Gunner + IG-88D crew (a build known as “double-tap-tap”), which took a deliberately missed first attack in order to proc Gunner and IG-88D for primary and cannon attacks a la TIE/D; and Cikatro + Cloaking Device, which allowed a ship like a Quadjumper or HWK (which can carry its weight without shooting) to avoid Cloaking Device’s drawback and stay cloaked indefinitely.

Both of those interactions now have official sanction, however weird they look at first glance. Since these cards and their interactions are on the fringes of the meta, it lowers the impact. That provides quite a contrast to our next selection…

PALPATINE

Impact: 3 of 8 ewok catapults

Cue Imperial loyalists crying, “Even when we win, we lose!” Quickdraw has been a mainstay of Imperial squadrons since the last FAQ. He also has a particularly juicy interaction with Palpatine and Lightweight Frame. Palpatine’s ability to dictate rolls, along with the weird timing of Lightweight Frame, allows players to let Quickdraw take damage one point at a time, maximizing his pilot ability.

The trickiness lies in which dice Palpatine could affect. Some people argued that they could roll, say, two blanks, declare Palp, roll an evade on LWF, and then (because there is only one dice pool) use Palp on a blank from the initial roll to come up with two evades. This FAQ clearly splits the main roll and LWF roll into separate events as far as Palpatine is concerned, with His Darksideness only able to influence either the main roll or the LWF roll.

It’s a minor nerf, and Quickdraw will surely appear in lots of lists still (he is really good). Palpatine, on the other hand, is a little more marginalized now, a little less efficient.

MINEFIELD MAPPER

Impact: 1 of 5 Anakin insults

To be honest, I wanted this one to go the other way. I liked the idea of Punishers deploying twelve bombs at game start. But the FAQ says that there is a “once-per-opportunity” thing with regards to Extra Munitions. That’s what the consensus among tourney organizers seemed to be anyway, so this won’t have much impact. It just disappoints me a little. Back to searching for the Card That Saves the Punisher…

GENIUS

Impact: 4 of 7 snowspeeder tow cables around the legs

Now we get into cards that weren’t “clarified” or “explained”, but ones that were errata’ed. Because these erratas were delivered explicitly for balance purposes, we may expect them to be rather more impactful than the others. Genius is our first example.

This is actually a tripartite nerf, although only one aspect is obvious at first blush. Let’s look at the ways in which Genius was impacted by the wording change:

1)      You can’t Genius if you bump. This is the explicit one. It makes bumping a more viable defense during the initial joust, and puts paid to the degenerate strategy of intentionally flying into bumps to avoid exchanging fire and win with bomb damage.

2)      Ion counters Genius now. With his old wording, Genius was a way to drop bombs even while ionized, as he was tied to executing a maneuver. Now his wording is “reveal and execute”—and since you don’t reveal a maneuver while ionized, those tokens shut him down.

3)      Genius no longer works with Bomblet Generator. Well, he does—but you have to discard the Bomblet Generator. The old text was general and only referred to dropping bombs; the new text requires you to discard the bomb upgrade card.

That’s pretty big! Genius was the go-to droid for Nym to enable Bomblet Generator. Now, the number of situations in which he’s great is much lower. That said, you’ll probably still see him a lot. “Free” is a pretty nice cost for an upgrade card. He just won’t be swinging games as dramatically.

 

ADVANCED SLAM

Impact: 5 of 9 crashing Porkinses

FFG kinda spoiled this for themselves by dropping the Gunboat preview article before the FAQ. Whoops!

This change would have been felt more keenly, say, six months ago; it would have been devastating twelve months ago. Although Miranda is being played as much as ever, she’s increasingly been loaded out with Long Range Scanners or Guidance Chips and used as an ordnance delivery platform, with bombs as the backup plan. This is doubly true with Bomblet Generator being the go-to bomb option. This change most strongly affects the generic pilots, who’ve been largely scared off tabletops these days anyway.

Still, Advanced SLAM was a reasonably popular upgrade, and getting punked with unavoidable bombs from half a table away was getting old. This makes a difference, just not a huge one.

Some people would argue the change is actually close to zero, since you can Experimental Interface to achieve a similar outcome. If people want to do that… wonderful! Experimental Interface is a much weaker card: it’s more expensive, stresses you, and only works with “Action:” upgrade cards, which means (unlike Advanced SLAM) it can’t help both your bombs and your ordnance shots. Prediction: not many people will swap to EI. Most will keep Advanced SLAM or transition to ordnance options.

ATTANI MINDLINK

Impact: 7 of 10 suicidal A-Wings

We’ve gone over this before, but it bears repeating: Mindlink and Jumpmasters *were* the Scum meta. They were it! There were more copies of this upgrade card than there were players who made the cut at Worlds 2017.

The action economy of this card in its previous incarnation was truly stupendous. Compare it to the gold standard for extra actions, Push the Limit: in a three-ship list, Mindlink gave a total of two extra actions for three total points. For the same cost, Push gave you one extra action; for the same actions, Push would run double the points; in all cases, you’d be taking stress for your trouble. No one would ever put Push on a HWK, but you’d sure as heck put Mindlink on one. And while the grip of Attani is a little looser these days (because of the chilling effect of bombs on Fenn Rau), it’s still been a pervasive and hard-to-stop phenomenon. People sure aren’t running Inaldra because of her hot ride.

Now, with only two ships able to equip Mindlink, you max out at one extra action for two points. That’s much more reasonable. It’s still powerful, but not so obviously the right answer that it’s oppressive.

JUMPMASTER

Impact: 4 out of 5 Executors hitting Death Stars

I called for this after Worlds 2017. In the time since then, Telgar, Triple Scouts, Dengar-Nym, and other lists continued their reigns of terror. Something had to give.

FFG finally came around that, as I suggested in my article, the fundamental problem was the Jumpmaster chassis. Nerfing cards around the Jumpmaster never got to the heart of the matter. The heart was a super-generous dial on an undercosted frame with a delicious upgrade bar (enabled by the low base cost). It was the last of the three that FFG addressed.

It’s hard to overstate how unprecedented this is. Not only did FFG nerf a chassis for the first time; they made it so the Jumpmaster kit includes upgrades the Jumpmaster can’t use. Guidance Chips and the unique droids in the Jumpmaster box can’t go on the Jumpmaster! (I mean, Chips can, but seriously?) This is a big break from past precedent.

But it was, for all of that, merited. I calculated that the proper cost for the base Jumpmaster was at least 28 points. By knocking off three upgrade slots, at a point per slot, FFG suggests that their math was about the same. Let’s also not forget that you could count on your fingers the number of Jumpmasters at Worlds that left their salvaged astromech slot unfilled. It was a surprise removal to me, but soundly merited.

What keeps this from being a complete table-flipper is that certain builds are unaffected. Ordnance-less Dengar is and will remain a thing. Bumpmasters still work. My favorite Worlds list, featuring triple Scouts with Trick Shot and Rigged Cargo Chutes, still works. But a lot of the old standards are irrevocably shattered.

BIGGS DARKLIGHTER

Impact: 3 of 3 exploding Alderaans

And there it is.

The standard bearer for the T-65—one of the most obnoxious pilots out there—a guy with a glaringly anachronistic ability—has been nerfed. Severely.

You can still have fun with Biggs. His ability nowadays is more of a mind-game than anything. The uncertainty it creates, and the way it forces your opponent to play around it, still has value.

It just doesn’t have the same value as taking all choice away from your opponent barring seriously distorted gameplans. It’s a nifty trick, not a bedrock principle to build around. Lists like Fair Ship Rebel just don’t function the same way anymore. They’re far easier to pick apart, leaving Biggs stranded and alone.

Formation Rebel lists are popular, though they have well-documented vulnerabilities to bombs. (And aces, but they’re out of fashion at present.) Now new threats to formation lists are emerging, like Harpoon Missiles, Jostero, and Saturation Salvo. Biggs was single-handedly sustaining an ecosystem of lower-PS Rebel ships that otherwise would have been bullied by the current spread of high-PS alpha strikers and turret ships. Now that Biggs can’t shelter it, and with these new threats coming around, that ecosystem might shrivel.

IN CONCLUSION

Some of the changes we got in this FAQ were unexpected (Genius, I’m looking at you), but several were if anything overdue.

~With Jumpmasters, Mindlink, and Biggs dazed from the blows of the nerf bat, who knows what will happen next?

  • marlowc

    Still think taking the torpedoes AND the droid off the Jumpmaster was too much. The droids are good fun. Shame they think the tournament scene is so important 🙁

    • ChahDresh

      My preferred choice was just to up the points across the board. That said, I get it. Unhinged giving the Jumpmaster more green maneuvers than non-green was a little silly. I don’t like no droid option– maybe they could have moved the droid upgrade to the title?– but I get it.

  • Donzo S

    I’ve been out of x-wing since the initial release of the Scum faction, so my question is at that time big ships followed up by swarms seemed to dominate everything, how have things evolved? I had a hard time winning with a specialized imperial list (tie phantoms, slave 1, some fighters) years ago, these types of list still unviable competitively? Better yet, do you see the same handful of ships in all comptative lists now a days?

    • tylran

      Now it’s 2-3 large ships (anything but Firespray or Brobots), add an optional Nym or Fenn Rau.

    • ChahDresh

      Broadly, you have some formation Rebel lists that joust; 2-ship lists featuring a heavy-hitting turret complemented by a versatile second ship (usually some combination of bombs, turrets, and ordnance); and three-ship lists with an even distribution of power amongst them. There are few swarms.

      Some ships are more powerful than others (Jumpmaster!), but the FAQ is shaking things up. There’s a fairly broad selection of ships doing well, though in general these are bad days for arc dodgers. Arc dodgers don’t like bombs.

  • Jörgen Karlsson

    The nerf to Biggs was too much imo (& I don’t play him).
    I would’ve made his ability either an action (no focus to help defense)
    or a once per turn, once per game is rough.

    • ChahDresh

      Making it an action… hm. Maybe. Not having a focus token hasn’t been an issue for Biggs; that’s why R4-D6 has always been his go-to droid. Modern lists have a lot of Biggs’ survivability outside Biggs himself. I think you would end up with Biggs (and the lists featuring him) as almost unchanged with that errata, which was clearly not the intent here.

      Once per turn? We’re in an era of two-ship lists and non-formation three ship lists; there are likely only one or two attacks a round anyway. In fact, making it “once a turn” would imply you make your choice in response to your opponent declaring his target, turning your Biggs usage into a mind-game for your opponent and letting you scatter fire around your squad. Criminy, I think you found a way to make Biggs STRONGER!

      • Jörgen Karlsson

        The focus token has made a big difference in my games against him at least.
        As for once per turn I would make Biggs have to declare whom first, the rest would be free to fire on anyone they see fit.

    • Dennis J. Pechavar

      It just makes it so that we won’t see any of the original Xwings anymore, at least until the release an upgrade set of cards that make them better. Too bad for the time being.

  • I don’t think they’re done with T-65s yet. Perhaps appropriately, Biggs was as much of an obstacle to FFG themselves as he was to people playing against him. With him out of the way, that frees up the design space necessary to buff the entire chassis.

    It feels like it would be in their best interest to keep THE most iconic starfighter in all of scifi–which is also, oh yeah, THE NAMESAKE OF THE GAME–playable. They couldn’t do that with Biggs stinking up the place.

    Knowing FFG, it’ll be another four or five waves before they get around to actually DOING it, but, oh well. Someday. I hope.

  • Dennis J. Pechavar

    Sad about mindlink even while I get it. I’ll miss my droid but can live without the torps.