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X-Wing: Restraining Yourself

5 Minute Read
Mar 19 2018

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Two X-Wing case studies from recent games.It can be deadly to forget the cards and abilities you pay points for. It is, at best, inefficient (when you could be fielding more, harder-to-forget ships instead); it is, at worst, the sort of oversight that turns a win into a loss.

It can be just as fatal, though, to try and force an interaction when the tactical situation doesn’t merit it. Positioning is king, and to sacrifice that positioning to try and take advantage of your special rules is rarely a worthwhile tradeoff.

Here are two examples from recent games of mine that show this rather graphically.

First the List

For both games I was using my favorite Snap Nien/Norra/Fenn list:

  • Nien Nunb: Snap Shot, R3-A2, Black One, Integrated Astromech
  • Fenn Rau: Flight-Assist Astromech, Hotshot Copilot, Veteran Instincts
  • Norra Wexley: R2-D2, Vectored Thrusters, Push the Limit, Alliance Overhaul, Tail Gunner

Example 1

In example one I set up in a corner, with Nien on the outside edge and Norra anchoring the inside. My opponent used a broader spread, with Push Ryad lined up across from me, Dark Curse a little further inside, and Test Pilot Blackout (with Push and Advanced Sensors) in pretty much the middle of the board. I set out expeditiously for a Rebel list, going so far as to barrel roll forward with Norra (which put her facing the nearest rock, a little more than two bases away).

On the next round, after Norra pushed up right against the rock, Blackout swooped in for a shootout– he pointed the rock, too. You can almost understand what he’s thinking here: even if he points the rock, with Advanced Sensors he can slip around it, and in the meantime he’s in a much-improved situation with the rock between us. He gets the defensive bonus, while Blackout dramatically worsens my defense.

There was just one flaw in his plan: I didn’t intend to trade shots on either side of the rock.

A Fenn Rau coordinate into a Norra barrel roll with a Push for a target lock, and Norra was lined up for an outstanding shot that ruined Blackout’s day. The game went very quickly after that.


To be fair, Blackout was going to be in a hard matchup regardless of his approach– arc-dodgers don’t like super-high PS coordinate actions on the other side. That said, he made things much worse for himself with the combination of his aggressiveness and his need to use his pilot ability. There was only one rock in that area– I went quickly to start, then slowed down to keep it in play. Because of that, I could use that rock as a proxy of Blackout’s position: if he wanted to use his pilot ability, there was really only one place he could be. He went exactly there, and paid the price.

What if he’d swung wider? If he’d resisted the urge to force his pilot ability, he could have come around in a broader arc and gotten to my side. This would have made his potential positions far less predictable (Advanced Sensors and Push with *that* dial!) and given me real heartache in subsequent turns.

Example 2

This next one is pretty painful for me to discuss, because it’s not every day you allow a comeback of this magnitude. I hope you never allow a comeback of this magnitude. Nevertheless, it illustrates the point.

My opponent was using Neo-Palp Aces: standard Inquisitor, Yorr ferrying around His Darkside-ness, and VI Quickdraw. He began with an extreme version of the turtling you see this list do frequently, with Yorr and Quickdraw pinning each other in place in the Northeast corner while Inqi flew aggressively down the board edge. The intent of this setup is to get you to chase the Inquisitor, who, being the Inquisitor, can squirm out of most engagements; this surrenders your flank or rear to the Quickdraw-Lambda combo, which swoops in for serious damage. It’s almost as dangerous if you fly right for Yorr and Quickdraw– the Inquisitor is that list’s preferred end-game ship, and ignoring him can leave you with an unwinnable matchup later on.

I played the first part of this well: I flew at very high speed east across the table, looking to pin the Inquisitor in the southeast corner. I even went so far as to take some rock damage to maintain speed. Although I got too clever with Fenn at the end and surrendered an avoidable shot from Quickdraw, I still did what I sought to do: I pinned Inqi against the east board edge such that his only safe maneuver would put him in Nien’s Snap range. Desperate to avoid that, he turned out– and flew off the table!


Awesome! Flying against Palp Aces and one Ace is off the board without firing a shot! But how will I capitalize on this boon?

And here I lost my mind.

Nien, remember, was facing east, and rather close to the table edge; Quickdraw and the Lambda were to his northwest, pointing southwest and south respectively. I decide that the way to get Nien in the fight is to T-Roll left, which will have him facing west (pointing Quickdraw). I’ll shed my stress with Nien’s ability, take a focus, and…

…ooh, about that.

I wanted so badly for Nien’s ability to kick in that I fooled myself into misjudging the distance. Nien was out of range one of Quickdraw when he completed his T-Roll, stressing him and leaving him exposed. I took a needless gamble that had little hope of paying off. After all, even if it all went perfectly, it’s not like Nien would be able to get a Snap-stress on Quickdraw; QD was moving away!

What’s especially painful is it was *immediately* obvious what I should have done instead. Rather than T-Roll left, a three-turn left would have allowed me to engage Yorr, then T-Roll on the *next* turn and slip in behind it (safe from Quickdraw). Instead the game took a quick and decisive turn downhill from there.

I wanted to get fancy. I was feeling bold from my great handling of Inqi, and I went for the flourish– a high-risk low-reward maneuver that I never would have contemplated if I’d been flying any T-70 other than Nien. The lure of using his pilot ability drew me into an egregious mistake.

Modern X-Wing features lots of pilot abilities and upgrade cards that interact with each other in fascinating ways. This poses a new sort of danger, because those shiny interactions can lure us away from our fundamentals. Resist! Don’t do something just because you can! Fly with intent and purpose. Let your abilities present themselves as part of your plan– don’t make your plan fit your abilities.

~Or suffer your author’s fate you will.

Author: Sam Durbin
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