X-Wing Tactics: Countering the Meta
Want to take down some of the top squadron lists in X-Wing. Well come right in pilot…
Greetings all, Ed here from NOVA Squadron Radio! This week we will continue our look at the early Store Championship Season. So we know that Fat Han, Super Dash and the Decimators of Doom will be on or near the top tables in the early running of Store Championships. What we don’t know yet is what lists will challenge them? What dark horses can topple these super builds?
The Best of the Rest
As I outlined last week HERE, the meta really has shifted to large based turreted ships, usually with engine upgrade, with the release of Wave 5. They can do a lot of damage, absorb quite a bit too, and are surprisingly pretty good at arc dodging as well. This makes the big three, the Falcon, the YT-2400, and the VT-49 Decimator, pretty formidable builds moving into the early Store Championship season. So what can you do to counter these meta giants right now? We will explore some of the lists that could cause all sorts of problems for the big three.
The TIE Swarm isn’t going anywhere!
So at what point in time did the once all powerful TIE Swarm become a bad build again? I mean, there was a reason why the Falcon really wasn’t so good before right? Back in the Wave 3 era the Falcon was rarely seen competitively, and for a good reason. The TIE Swarm! It was THE build to beat back in the day. A good Holwrunner based swarm list could burn down the Falcon in one round of good shooting. At that time, TIE Swarm was pretty much the hard counter to everything in the game. So what changed?
Oh yes, now I remember, the TIE Phantom! The common line of thinking when Wave 4 released was that when matched up against a TIE Phantom, the Swarm simply could not compete. The TIE Phantom would run circles around the ‘old fashion’ formation flying box-o-TIEs and clean up a Swarm list almost by itself. We have all heard those stories too, the games where some guy cleaned up 100-0 with just Echo herself against a swarm and she never saw a shot fired back at her. That no one could ever get that ship in firing arc and even when you did, it was at five evade dice, with an evade token, and impossible to hit.
Well, while this may have been true at the onset of Wave 4, I am not so sure how true that is these days anymore. The TIE Phantoms have been ousted, and we all know its secrets now. Sure, I will be the first to admit I still love Echo, and I truly believe the Phantom is still a really outstanding ship in the current meta. But it is not without some pretty critical flaws either.
We have all learned how to play against them, from strategic rock/debris placement to help cut off decloak lanes in the center of the board, to running higher PS pilots to take shots at Whisper and Echo when they are at their weakest and decloaked. The word is out on these ships and their dominance has started to falter.
As the player based learned how to deal with the TIE Phantom, so too did the TIE Swarm players evolve new tactics as well. They recognized that into to counter the Phantom they had to break up their formation flying and spread out. While the Phantom was a good counter to formation flying swarms, it still has its issues with pin-wheel swarms capable of putting firing arcs all over the board.
This brings us back to the large based ships like the Falcons. With the Phantom not as much the boogieman it once was, granted it is still as scary ship, Swarm players can now do what they do best, and that is burn down low agility ships. The Swarm player still needs to be a little careful, as Falcon players have evolved just a bit too. Large based ships with engine upgrade can get behind you pretty quick, so Smarm lists need to learn to maneuver a little bit better to account for this. But I still see the TIE Swarm as a viable build for this wave 5 meta:
Tried and true, well played and practiced, always a force to be dealt with, the classic 8 ship TIE Swarm will be a solid match up over the big three. With the ability to spread out and block the Barrel Rolls and Boosts options of the large based ships, this list can help to lock down those pesky ‘fat’ ships and burn them down with a lot of red dice. The less green dice it has, the better this list is against it. Now, you need to be careful of the 3P0 and R2D2 Falcon builds, as they can regen enough shields to be a real pain in the butt in the end game, so focus fire the big ships down first and it will be smooth sailing.
Rise of the Rebel Swarms
One of the lists I thought we would see a lot more of post-Worlds was the Rebel Swarm. The Z-95 really added so much to the Rebels tool box with the ability to now take low cost filler ships. In the end I think that they have done well in the meta, filling a similar yet different roll to the TIE Fighter, and opened up the door for a lot of cool builds. Especially for the Rebels to now swarm-up, something they really could not do before the release of this ship.
With the Z-95 you need to watch your ranges against the big boys, as there is nothing more frustration then to have a Z-95 one-shot by a Falcon because you got in just a little too close and gave Han 4 dice against your Z. Now that being said nothing is funnier then consistently blocking out a big ship with an annoying Z! I like the named pilots alright enough, but I really feel like the Bandit and the Talas are the gems of this ship. They add in a lot of great blocking and decloak lane jamming fun! Multiple targets make for multiple firing arcs and a lot of dice to throw at those low agility ship.
You need to add in some beef to a list though, with a ship that has the maneuverability to help counter block those dangerous Phantoms but still have the punch to burn down a Decimator. Enter the B-Wing! Overall this ship really brings what is needed to beat down those big ships. A lot of shields to take some serious punishment, plenty of red dice, and numbers. I think that B-Wings are an amazing ship, and the native Barrel Roll ability really adds so much blocking potential to this ship, not to mention that fat sack of health with 5 shields and 3 hull.
Like the TIE Swarms, you need to take into account that the large based ships could boost right behind you, so slow rolling the big boys will help keep them in arc. Not to mention the B-Wings 2 K-Turn is perfect for tight quarters dogfighting. Take a look at this list our own Ron Brannon from NOVA Squadron took to the Canadian Nationals and went all the way to the final table with it. If time had not been an issue, Ron most likely would have won that event with this very list:
I am a huge fan of this list, and have run it several times myself, even won a local event with it. First and foremost 36 hull and shields is nothing to sneeze at, not to mention the 14 red dice this list brings to the table. The B-Wings have the ability to take quite a bit of punishment without worrying about the effects. Their 5 shields can soak up the damage while their ability to dish out the damage in return also a huge accept. Toss in a filler Bandit to fill out your last 12 points and you can block for your Bs or take a lucky pot shot here or there and you have a 100 point list that really packs a punch. Against the large based ships it can slow roll (that magic 1 straight maneuver), keep them in arc longer and pound away at the hull until they are dead.
The TIE Phantom still haunts the Meta
Ok, so I know I just spent some time earlier discussing how swarms were still able to go up against this ship and win. And all of that is still true, in the hands of a good player. However, the TIE Phantom is still something that needs to be addressed because in the hands of a good player, this ship is still a menace on the board. Namely Whisper and Echo, as their PS and abilities really do some amazing things on the board.
Fat Han is still Fat Han, and this is a poor matchup for either of the named Phantoms, usually. The key in that match is to try to say at range three with your phantom and get at least three green dice against Han. That’s the best case for you there, as Han really is a good hard counter to the Phantom. However your matchups get a little more favorable when dealing with the Decimator and the YT-2400. First, most folks are not putting Veteran Instincts on Dash these days, meaning his PS 7 is a real detriment. Echo and Whisper can both get within that magic doughnut hole of range 1 and put some serious damage down on him without seeing a shot back
And the Decimators are in basically the same boat against the Phantoms, their 0 agility being exposed by the high damage output of the Phantoms 4/5 red dice. The Phantom has an ideal range of 2-3 to really do the maximum amount of damage to these ships, and being within range one of a turreted ship is never a good idea for anyone. With an agility of 0, those 4 red dice that are most likely focused and target locked, really can rock the decimator builds, and every crit slowly chips away at what it can do.
Here is a list I am a big fan of that I think will do quite well:
I am really loving Rebel Captive lately, on Decimators and especially on Phantoms. Ships that try to exploit Push the Limit plus Engine Upgrade combo usually are in a constant state of stress, like the 58 Dash Special for example. So RC on Echo is really a powerful tool to keeping her alive and Dash Stressed or Double –Stressed in the next round. The rest is just your classic Howlrunner mini swarm. You can go a few way with this one, putting upgrades on Howl in exchange for the alpha, but I have found the late game red dice of the Alpha really help out in bringing those big boys down. Plus, it serves as a good bait ship as no one really wants to not shoot at an Interceptor.
Control and Munitions lists
The final wild card I would really like to toss out there is the Control and Munitions lists. These lists are not so much stand-alone great lists when you look at them on paper, however when you get them on the table it is a totally different story. They really bring a lot of pain to the big three and could be big players in the wave 5 meta. Let’s first look at the control lists.
Control comes in two forms in this game, Stress and Ion. Stress can give out free action denial and potentially limit the movement of your opponent. Never forget that your opponent can simply ignore blowing off stress for a more favorable position. Ion he can’t however. Ionizing a ship can force that ship into a bad position that you know exactly where it will be and can plan to do the most damage to it when it gets there. You can drop a ship onto a rock, keep it stressed (as it is a white 1 straight and not a green, so any stress on the ship will stay there), or if you’re really good, walk a ship off of the board with Ion. Lists that can rack up these tokens on an enemy ship really have the ability to lock them down and keep them from doing all the nasty things they want to do.
One of the lists that I really was impressed with from Worlds this past year was Scott William’s “Panic Attack’ list. This list has the ability to pile on the stress and toss in an Ion Token to add insult to injury:
Munitions Based Lists
Munitions, missiles or torpedoes, is something that I think has not really functioned the way that it should in X-Wing since Wave 1. We talk about this on our show all of the time. It sounded like a really good idea at the time, I’m sure, and was probably meant to be something really big in this game. And its iconic, as that is how Luke brought down the first Death Star right, torpedoes right down the exhaust port.
However over the last two years I think we as a competitive community have proven that munitions and munitions based lists just are not very optimal. Munitions are just too expensive for that they do and it is so hard to get a Target Lock on one turn and still fire it off the next. So why would I want to talk about them then?
Well, for a couple of reasons. The purpose of this article was to pose lists that could potentially bring down the heavy hitters in the meta today. And if used properly, a munitions based list really could burn down a Falcon or a Decimator pretty quickly. I am really a big fan of Proton Rockets these days, however they have one big hurtle you need to get over, and that is their range 1 limitation. A turreted, engine upgraded shit will simply boost out of your range and not give you the chance to shoot them.
Proton Torpedoes are alright, a little expensive but alright, Cluster missiles fall into this same category. So what then? IF you were to run a list, designed to take down the big guys, knowing full well that against most other builds you most likely would not do well, what would you take?
Here is what I came up with to bring down a Falcon, Decimator, or maybe a YT-2400:
So this list isn’t going to win any beauty contests! In fact, I am not claiming it to be the next big thing in X-Wing by a long shot. However it does have several key upgrades that set it up to have a good match up versus a ‘Fat’ ship. First, clocking in at 27 hull with some decent maneuverability mean this list will stick around for some time and give headaches to builds that are used to one shooting ships. Well, long enough for it to deliver its fatal payload at least.
I really like Cluster Missiles against the VT-49 as with 0 evades this is basically a 6 attack dice stick on that ship. With some luck, your land some good crits as well and really cripple that ship. You have the potential to do 12 hit/crits (law of averages) on any ship in the game. This bodes well for you in the Fat Han department as well. As 3P0 can only blow off one of that damage. Eventually your overwhelming firepower will start to wear down the big boys.
So that’s it, I hope this helps you counter those big ships out there. There’s no doubt that they are good, but I truly believe they have their flaws that can be exploited. Let me know what you think!
If you are a new player looking to get into the more tactical end of the X-Wing Miniatures Game, or an old pro looking to up your game, why not check out our podcast, NOVA Squadron Radio! Every two weeks we review what’s new in the world of X-Wing Miniatures. We break down those top lists from the big tournmament, interview X-Wing personalities from around the world, and review all of the new ships, cards, and combos that are all the rage in the meta today!