Why do some ships seem to dominate the X-Wing meta while others sit collecting dust? Read on for my take!
I’ve been rattling on the past few weeks about how to build a solid squadron in X-Wing Miniatures, but it occurred to me tonight that I’ve never really discussed the ships themselves.
So at this point, we’ve talked about lots of different things to keep in mind when building a winning X-Wing squadron, and while I’ve alluded to it on here in the past, the fact of the matter is some ships in X-Wing are just “easier to fly” than others. Today I’m going to talk about which ships are easiest to get results from and why I believe that is.
All Starfighters are Created Equal… If you’ve browsed around X-Wing forums and sites at all, especially ones that tend to focus more on tournaments and lists, you’ve probably noticed some trends revolving around certain ships. Now, I’ve always maintained, and still believe that just about every ship and pilot in X-Wing is, or can be made, viable. That said, you sure do see the same ships turning up in a lot of winning lists, right? So what gives?
Like most folks, I have a bad habit of generalizing and not sitting down and really dissecting meta; just sort of taking it for granted rather than trying to consider it and understand it. I’ve said on my site that some ships are “easier to fly” than others, but never really came out and said what that means.
First, what are the ships that are often represented in tournament lists that perform well? Or put another way, what are the ships that are dominant in the meta- both currently and in the past? It’s still a little early for Wave 4 meta to really be established, so for now, I’m leaving those ships out with the exception of the TIE Phantom which Imperial players are doing Robert Plant impressions and showing a whole lotta love already.
But Some Are More Equal Than Others For the Rebels, X-Wings have been well represented from the start and have always shown up in one flavor or another ever since.
X-Wings are a solid choice because they’re fairly hearty with 2 Shields to eat up before you start flipping cards over, have a decent maneuver dial especially at lower speeds, respectable Attack and Defend values, and have a bevvy of named pilots with tons of useful special rules that are for the most part, reliably easy to apply. Even the generic versions though are solid choices for their points, and while many folks don’t bother with them, the ability for an X-Wing to equip and Astromech droid can further customize the intended role of the ship.
Many games of X-Wing end up in a “hairball”- a big cluster of ships bumping into each other, usually in the center of the board. The X-Wing’s dial offers lots of choices at low to medium speeds which helps them navigate this mess better than other ships.
B-Wings have also been well represented in the Rebel meta since they dropped in Wave 3.
You remember that old action movie The Last Boy Scout? No? Just me? Ok. Well, Bruce Willis plays… well, Bruce Willis basically. Point is, his catch phrase for that movie is “And then some”, which he uses in a way that’s basically synonymous with how we say, “This”, in response to stuff on the internet. It’s like an amplified agreement, you know what I’m saying?
Anyway, most of the stuff that I said about the X-Wing in the above paragraphs? The B-Wing says, “And then some.”
The one Defend die is tough, but is offset to a pretty good degree by the 5, count ’em 5, Shields! Of course, those 5 Shields are on top of a very respectable 3 Hull too, so you’ve got a pretty survivable ship to go along with a nice 3 Attack value. Don’t forget that in addition to the K-Turn at Speed 2, the B-Wing has Barrel Roll as one of it’s Actions which makes it more nimble than it might appear at first glance at low speeds, which again, is where the B-Wing really shines and probably scores a ton of its well deserved reputation for being nasty in close quarters in and around the inevitable hairball.
While the B-Wing doesn’t sport the named pilots that the X-Wing does in either amount or straight up usefulness, the fact that the generic B-Wings are only a point more than the generic X-Wings at the same relative PS value makes them the kings of the no names on the Rebel side of the fence.
With the B-Wing able to sport Secondary Weapons in the form of Cannons and Advanced Systems upgrades, there’s a decent amount of customization to be had, if you’re going for that.
The last Rebel All-Star has to be the YT-1300. Big ship base makes it easy to reach out and touch folks at Range 1 to grab that all important extra Attack die, a 3 Attack Primary weapon that can fire outside the firing arc, decent maneuverability, the ability to take Crew Members, and a ton of Hull and Shields made the Falcon a veritable must have for lots of Rebel tournament players. After the ever-present TIE Swarm, Han Shoots First was one of the most popular meta builds out there.
Not to sound like a broken record, but the Falcon is another ship that’s great at low speeds (maybe the best) when you look at her dial. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s as easy to drive in close quarters as the B-Wing or X-Wing because of its big base, but the dial is better on paper as far as moves available at Speed 1 and 2. Couple that with the fact that you don’t have to worry about shooting at who is in front of you, and you’ve got the framework for a very useful ship in the hands of a new player or experienced veteran alike.
It’s certainly not cheap, using one more or less locks you into a 3-ship list once you stick a couple of the most common upgrades on her, and 3-ship lists are currently out of vogue, but the fact is it’s hard to kill and too dangerous to ignore for long. While Han grabbed all the attention as the best Named Pilot early on, a lot of folks have come around to the fact that Chewie is probably the toughest to actually fly against and as new Crew Members keep trickling out with other, newer ships, the Falcon continues to receive new viable options.
And Now a Word From the Dark Side
For the Imperials, the list pretty well starts and ends with the ubiquitous TIE Fighter.
On paper, they’re not much to write home about compared to those Rebel ships I mentioned above, but Imperial lists play differently than Rebel lists do to win. X-Wing Miniatures isn’t one of those games where the two sides are basically mirror images of each other skinned into two factions with largely cosmetic differences. Oh no. While the Rebels excel at staying power and ruggedness and individual ships with big guns, the Empire largely deals in numbers, agility, and weight of fire and the TIE Fighter is no exception.
Great maneuverability and speed for a low points cost are the two main driving factors into the effectiveness of a TIE Fighter. There are some great Named Pilots with fairly varied benefits that allow an Imperial player to really exploit a central list idea though Howlrunner and her ability to give nearby allies a re-roll on Attack is the most undeniably well represented of the bunch. TIEs might not be as sturdy as the workhorse Rebel ships, but their dial allows them to maneuver the hairball and the fact that one can take so doggone many of them at tournament points level translates to it not being that big of a deal if you lose a Perform Action step or two because of collisions.
In fact, the sheer numbers one can field is the main perceived advantage of flying TIEs and for good reason- it’s the whole death from a thousand paper cuts deal, y’know? I mentioned it before, but with X-Wing’s shooting mechanics (namely the fact that one ship can attack only one enemy ship per turn), having more target selection options by having more ships on the table than your buddy is always going to be hard to beat.
I really want to write about Firesprays and Shuttles in this article as they do get some traction on the tournament circuit, but I’d be remiss to mention them in the same breath as the TIE Fighter because truthfully, there’s a pretty big drop off in Imperial meta after the TIE Fighter.
The Shuttle is tough to fly with an abysmal dial, but it tends to fit the typical Imperial playstyle a little better than the Firespray because it’s relatively cheap for what it is and sports some named pilots with area of effect type benefits which pay off big time in an Imperial lists where they usually have lots of buddies flying around. There are a few different builds that are relatively popular, many of which are discussed with precision by Shuttle advocate Ricky White on FFG’s site, but as the general vibe of this article is talking about ships that are easy to fly, I can’t really fully advocate for the Shuttle because well, it isn’t. Can you get good with it through practice? Absolutely. Is it accessible to a new player? Nyet.
The Firespray I think actually is pretty accessible to a new player, especially a new Rebel player wanting to field some Imperials because it reminds me a lot of a Rebel ship. Unsurprisingly, this is why it finds itself as an odd man out in a lot of die-hard Imperial players’ lists.
You used to see Imperial lists that would sport a Firespray and four TIE Fighters. It works pretty well, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not really all that complimentary. The problem with the Firespray in traditional Imperial lists is that it doesn’t do much for the ships around it. There’s no Named Firespray Pilot that does anything for their teammates, in other words. Scarlet turns her cancelled Crits into Stress, Trelix re-rolls when he fires a Secondary, Boba can change his mind. All of those are good abilities, but they don’t really buff up the guys around them. In other words, they’re Rebel-type pilots and as such, I think that’s why they didn’t find a permanent home in Imperial rosters.
I mentioned that Firespray + Mini-Swarm earlier, it’s not bad, and it can work pretty well, but truthfully, I think its time has passed as we’ve seen folks gravitate back to “pure” TIE Swarms. It wins when it wins, kind of in spite of itself.
What’s a Rookie Pilot To Do?
So wrapping up here, keep in mind that I’m not saying that ships not mentioned on here aren’t worth taking- Y-Wings started decidedly out of fashion, then came back into style, and currently land somewhere in between. A-Wings have never had a lot of fans amongst the hardcore, but the upcoming Rebel Aces will likely change that at least to some degree. The HWK-290 is an Imperial style ship in Rebel clothes in that it’s almost sole purpose in life is to make it’s buddies better, which like the Firespray stuff above, can work, but forces the player to kind of go against the grain with the way the faction generally plays. The Headhunter and the E-Wing both definitely have their uses, and in time I think we’ll see Etahn A’Baht and Airen Cracken well represented in tournaments, but it’s still a little early to tell.
Same way with the Imperial side of the fence- Interceptors had the bad luck to come out at the same time as the Falcon, which is kind of the natural rock to their scissors, if you take my meaning. The Bomber has some uses and if Flechette Torpedoes become the norm in Rebel meta, will probably get a lot more playing time on the field than what they see currently. Advanced excel at being difficult to kill, which unfortunately doesn’t really count for a lot in X-Wing Miniatures, at least right now. The Defender is definitely trailing the highly unpredictable Phantom early in the Wave 4 ships, but again, it’s still pretty early to be betting on Wave 4 horses.
If you want to get into X-Wing Miniatures but don’t know your Evades from your Target Locks, by all means, stop on by the hippest pilot bar in the galaxy- TheMetalBikini.com. We serve all kinds (yeah, even droids- they’re the best tippers), and have a whole bunch of articles from breakdown summaries of every single card released so far, to tactics articles, to our Bikini Battle Basics new player guides- all served up with a heapin’ helpin’ of my own personal brand of slang and humor. Can you dig it?