The Paradigm Shift of Red Dice

I want to take you on a journey back in time, all the way to Wave 2. The game was basically brand new, many people were scoffing at me for saying Engine and Expert Handling were strong cards, and Soontir Fel existed but was not yet “the man”. It’s that last point that I want to address; Soontir Fel existed, but he was not all that powerful. Autothrusters and Palpatine didn’t exist, allowing a number of counters — the YT-1300 with Gunner/Luke crew, some concentrated fire, and even the lowly Y-wing with Ion Turret was enough to scare him. Your standard 4 ship build with ATT 3 guns was enough to defeat him sometimes. Players often questioned buying Stealth Device for Soontir, not wanting to put more points into him than was necessary.

A number of cards have appeared in the game since Wave 2 that have both strengthened and weakened Soontir Fel:

Rebel Captive has proven more than a match for Soontir. He cannot survive very long when he is double-stressed. Lists that can send Soontir’s support against the Rebel Captive carrier can render this card moot, but it’s not easy.

Vader crew, especially in tandem with Gunner crew, erases Soontir and is his biggest weakness. It’s a lesser seen option, because it can be weak against some swarms (Z-95s and Prototypes) and against high-health targets. Lists that can fit Vader crew in get pretty much an auto-win when paired against Soontir though.

R3-A2 is a way for Rebel lists to double-stress Soontir, and can be even more effective than Rebel Captive.

Carnor Jax can just rush and hound Soontir, keeping him out of position and making him squishy.

Autothrusters, especially in concert with Stealth Device and the Royal Guard Pilot title, has made Soontir mostly immune to all turret shots. Even Dash’s HLC, often sporting TL+Focus accuracy, struggles to break the defenses of a turtling Soontir Fel. You have to block him and then make sure your turret is accurate, just to have any chance to hit Soontir.

Palpatine on top of Autothrusters + Stealth guarantees Soontir will not go down unless blocked, double-stressed, or ionized. This has also made those Range 1 shots Soontir likes to get much more dangerous, adding a crit to his results. Often this means you face a sloe shuttle, but a Decimator + Soontir build is also quite lethal.

We’ve also has a change to the ACTION:DROP bomb rules, which give those tools teeth against high cost fragile ships like Soontir Fel. In addition to that we’ve seen some very capable pilots to help use those bombs. It’s a lesser seen option, because these bombs are so weak against swarms and high-health targets.

So why am I mentioning Soontir Fel?

AIMING AT A HARD TARGET
In the attempt to hit Soontir Fel with attacks, the game has seen more and more accuracy buffing cards. This trend doesn’t need to cease, but with no strong cards to combat them the game begins to tilt out of balance in a very serious way. How do you counter Predator‘s improved accuracy?

X-wing began a trend at the start of Wave 1, by giving us Wedge and a few other easy ways to action-stack TL+Focus using Dutch or Garven.  Ever since the release of the cards Lone Wolf and Predator, the game of X-wing has been pushing steadily away from attack dice only being modified by a Target Lock or a Focus. Often now, ships are built for extreme accuracy with attack dice or have some way to push damage through. We have cards like K-4 Security Droid, Crack Shot, Juke, Omega Leader, and Wampa. Wave 8 will bring us Dengar crew. As the number of cards that boost accuracy above just “I’ll spend my Focus”, the game of X-wing begins to develop a significant balance problem. This emerging balance problem is what I want to address.

What is easy to miss, unless you are both a math enthusiast and highly competitive at X-wing, is that when you change the accuracy level of red dice you change the effective value of green dice as a defense relative to shield and hull. Basically speaking, the original balance of the game for AGI defended ships has undergone a steady shift. Especially the card K-4 Security Droid severely undermined AGI as a defensive stat. Health (Shield + Hull) has not taken a hit to the same degree, but of course taking more damage means it did take a hit as well.

With AGI (and to a far lower degree health) fully gelded as valuable stats, the nature of X-wing has turned to two other methods of defending ships — positioning (meaning Pilot Skill and Boost/Roll/etc), and killing off enemy guns (meaning Pilot Skill and those accuracy buffing cards, often paired together). While this has created a meta of bloody fighting between nimble ships and things that counter them, it has also left behind almost everything else as a serious option. Those ships hit hardest are those who sport no accuracy buffs, defend themselves with AGI instead of health, don’t particularly position at all, and sport lower PS.

If you think of the ships that are least scary these days, you’ll see that the list is thick with ships that fit that description:
— T-65 X-wing (Integrated Astromech has helped, but not quite enough)
— Z-95 (not badly; ATT 2 has become weaker now though)
— Kihraxz Fighter
— MA-3 Interceptor (Scyk)
— TIE Fighter (not badly; worse than Z-95 but this ship is a better blocker)
— TIE/FO Fighter
— TIE Bomber
— TIE Advanced (except Vader; his PS and ability provide alternate tools to stay viable)

If you want a list of ships TLT most loves to face, look no further than the very same list. And this is where the game is at; the cheap jousting ship is struggling for a place in the game. It is supposed to be more efficient to make up for the fact THAT’S ALL IT IS GOOD FOR, but the math no longer bears out for these ships the way it once did. They no longer serve any purpose, except when you can’t afford a better ship or need one to carry some kind of counter (like R3-A2, Flechette Torpedo, etc etc). Bringing them can lose a share of games, because you are bringing dead weight.

ATT 3 w/ Focus is now below average firepower. Most of what is fielded these days is more accurate than that; it’s not hard to do. the correct [durability+output]::cost for various ships is in need of some adjustment. AGI is less valuable as a static defense, and something has to give for these ships to come back into the game as anything more than a chump target for the real ships to murder. A limited number of ways exists to make these adjustments; namely mods and titles, adjusting some efficiency stat of the ship (AGI, SHIELD/HULL, cost, offensive output). What was done with the TIE Advanced, A-wing, and T-65 X-wing are good examples of measures taken to bring inefficient ships back into a playable state.

A FOUNDATION MADE OF SAND
Where I believe balance in X-wing went wrong is from the beginning. Wave 1 was not balanced at all; the TIE Fighter was far stronger than other ships, with Biggs + Wedge and pilots like Garven and Dutch (and Horton actually) able to nerf AGI as a defense to mask the fact no real math was ever done before Wave 1 was finalized. As the game grew and players themselves tabled out the math behind offensive and defensive rolls, why certain things seemed to win and lose became obvious. The TIE Advanced, Vader aside, was shelved. Wedge became popular and was guarded by Biggs; Luke was brought as a third ship because his ability is very strong vs TIE Fighters and his PS is high.

What has changed since Wave 1?

Honestly, Waves 2-3 were extremely well done. Cost::capability ratios were more on point, balanced against the TIE Fighter. B-wing vs TIE Fighter made for a good match, evenly fought. A-wing came in a little over-costed — needing Focus to live, but costing a lot more than TIE Fighter mainly just for Boost access, was not on point. But otherwise the game began to shape up. Near the end of Wave 3 we were seeing the Ion Turret Y-wing being used to combat B-wings, X-wings brought over B-wings to help combat Ion Turret’s control, and even Chewbacca-crewed HWKs brought over Y-wings to win the Ion Turret trades. Assault Missile was a thing. We were in a fantastic place, all due to the glory of good math being done in the background of the game.

Wave 4 was basically a disaster. TIE Phantom was far too capable for the game (and has since gotten a flat out nerf). TIE Defender and E-wing were too expensive for what they did (and now the TIE Defender is getting 2 titles that buff it; the E-wing still needs one). The Z-95 was good at the time; it was easy though, a 12pt ship comparable to the TIE Fighter. The reason for this disaster? NO GOOD MATH BEING DONE. The “feel it out” method of costing things spectacularly failed. The game has moved away from a balanced state since Wave 3, although I have seen glimmers of hope. One such hope is the new TIE/D card. It raises the offense of the TIE Defender, and also improves the value of the AGI stat. I hope to see more cards like this in the future.

Waves 5-8 have all steadily moved the game away from old notions of accuracy. It’s now easy, if you want, to build ships that regularly roll maximum damage. From PTL Dash to the new Jumpmaster’s Proton Torpedo prowess, we just do not see as much ATT 3 + Focus caliber offense like we did when the game was young. Targets have to withstand much greater firepower than before — meaning they need health rather than AGI, and they prefer the PS and positioning options to not be targeted or kill guns that are about to shoot.

WHAT HAS BEEN MISSING
Imagine, if you will, that something like this card existed:

Homing Torpedo (2pts, ship mod, Range 4-5, ATT 1)
“ATTACK (Focus): Discard this card to perform this attack.
The defender rolls 1 less Defense Die against this attack.
If you hit, deal 2 critical damage to the target.”

That’s a cheap upgrade that you could spam, but it’s only good against low AGI targets:
— 100% chance of 3 damage to AGI 0 and AGI 1, unless the target can Evade
— Even with Predator to help, only pitiful chances (less than 37%) to land the attack vs AGI 2+ ships.

Do you risk bringing low AGI ships, if this card exists? Do you consider T-65 over B-wing?

What about this card:

Launch Drone (2pts, ship mod, Range 4-5, ATT ?)
“ATTACK: Discard this card to perform this attack.
This card’s Attack Value is equal to half of the
defender’s Pilot Skill, rounded up.”

Do you dare bring a high PS ace, if this card exists? Do you maybe opt for Royal Guard over Soontir?

The answer to both questions is that of curse these cards change your concerns when squad building. You aren’t likely to face such narrowly useful cards every game, but if they exist you ARE likely to face them at tournament as counters. And the more cards like them that exist, the less viable that certain type of ship becomes.

What’s missing from the game of X-wing, as I see it, are cards that hunt AGI 0-1 ships well. We basically have Ion Turret, which is only viable on Dace (and just barely if at all) because of damage output issues against those same AGI 0-1 targets. Even that weapon is really more dangerous to small AGI 2 ships, which still can’t avoid the damage but lose a higher percentage of their health. There are more and more cards all the time that make AGI less valuable, but we don’t really get cards that make it more valuable. (We did get Lone Wolf; but that card also added too the pool of anti-AGI cards.) This pro-AGI void in the design space has created a need for certain types of cards. I would love to see some cards in coming waves that address these voids.

JUST A FEW PRO-AGI AND ANTI-ACCURACY CARD IDEAS
I don’t wish to advocate any particular card idea here; my ambition is to demonstrate that such cards can be made.

R2 Combat Droid (2pts, astromech)
“When defending, if you roll any [Evade] results cancel 1 hit result.”

Evasion Scripter (3pts, system, small ship only)
“When defending, if you roll any [Evade] results assign 1 Evade token to your ship.”

Enhanced Stabilizers (2pts, ship mod, small ship only)
“When defending, you may re-roll [Focus] results.”

Proton Cannon (2pts, cannon, Range 2-3, ATT 2)
“ATTACK: Attack 1 ship.
You may not modify dice during this attack.
If you hit, deal 2 critical damage to the defender.”

Proton Cannon Turret (4pts, turret, Range 2-3, ATT 2)
“ATTACK: Attack 1 ship, even if it is not in your primary firing arc.
You may not modify dice during this attack.
If you hit, deal 2 critical damage to the defender.”

Giggity Sams (14pts, unique PS 2 S&V Z-95)
“When friendly Z-95 pilots at Range 1 are defending,
opponents cannot modify Attack dice.”

 Brill Mada (29pts, unique elite PS 4 Star Viper)
“Opponents may not re-roll Attack dice against you.”

Wing Leader (2pts, unique title)
“When defending, non-unique friendly ships
of the same type share your printed ability.”

That last card might take some explaining; here’s a list you could make with it:

27 Tarn w/ Wing Leader, R7, Integrated Astromech
27 Biggs w/ R7, Integrated Astromech
46 (x2) Rookie w/ R7, Integrated Astromech

It happens that R7 provides a counter-measure against hyper-accurate weapons; the attacker cannot re-roll dice that you’ve already made them re-roll. Even if you are against AGI-nerfing cards like Juke or the Evade canceling Crack Shot swarm, R7 is going to be there to defend you a little. Right now, only a few ships can use R7 effectively so its meta affect is small:

-99-
46 Corran w R7, FCS, PTL, Engine
25 Tarn w/ R7, Integrated Astromech
28 Gold w/ R3-A2, TLT, BTL-A4, Loadout, Ion Bomb

-100-
38 Poe w/ R7, Predator, Autothrusters
35 Dutch w/ R7, TLT, Engine
27 Biggs w/ R7, Integrated Astromech
(I can see R3-A2 on Poe or Dutch here as anti-ace tech.)

-100-
25 Tarn w/ R7, Integrated Astromech
35 Dutch w/ R7 (R3-A2?), TLT, Engine
27 Biggs w/ R7, Integrated Astromech
13 Bandit w/ Thread tracker

With the introduction of a Wing Leader card, we’d see the x4 T-65 X-wing TANK LIST emerge as a clumsy but deadly threat. We haven’t seen that list since my Wave 2 Stealth-wing list, when swarms were the only real threat and all other lists were counters to them. (Shout out if you remember the terror of Stealth Biggs!) It’s a much higher firepower/durability list than current R7 lists, and would be a nice tidal force against lists that are just spamming accuracy to win jousts.

Keep in mind Wing Leader has no range limitation; like with Palpatine, you just need to be on the field.

Here are 2 hypothetical S&V lists that might use some of these sample cards:

-100-
31 Graz w/ Wing Leader, Enhanced Stabilizers, Cloaking Device
69 (x3) Marauder w/ Enhanced Stabilizers, Thread Tracker

-100-
22 Giggity Sams w/ Wing Leader, LW, Enhanced Stabilizers, Thread Tracker, Dampeners
30 (x2) Pirate w/ Enhanced Stabilizers, Thread Tracker
38 (x2) Pirate w/ Assault Missiles, Glitterstim

Here are 2 Imperial lists:

-100-
36 Valen w/ Wing Leader, Juke, Autothrusters, TIE/V1, Homing Missiles
64 (x4) Seinar Test Pilot

-100-
35 Soontir w/ PTL, Autothrusters, RGT, Stealth
20 Dark Curse w/ Wing Leader, Enhanced Stabilizers
45 (x3) Obsidian w/ Enhanced Stabilizers

Just some thoughts to put out there. I’m not sure on costs for various cards here; I just put something I felt within 1pt of correct, and I tended to round down if unsure. The general principle I’m advocating is to provide the tools for joust lists to trump hyper-accuracy cards, so that joust lists gain a serious place in the game again. Right now they are the whipping boys.

FRAMING MY THOUGHTS SIMPLY
If a ship cannot position well (or at all), it must try to trade shots and soundly win that trade EVERY TIME.  This mean being significantly more efficient than turrets and positional aces; significantly better offense::cost and defense::cost ratios, not just slightly better ones. Currently this class of ship has lost its efficiency on the defensive side, due to the growing pool of accuracy buffing cards that have made the AGI stat on ships virtually worthless relative to other traits. The health driven fighters, like B-wing and Lambda, have been hit much less hard and are still viable. The poor AGI 3 Scyk, which is over-costed in addition to being AGI defended, has become 100% the worst ship in the game and loses to pretty much everything.

The game of X-wing needs taken in a particular direction, the one that I suggest. If it is not done, the game will begin to suffer. It will create a pitfall scenario in building, where it is too easy to build a squad that stands no real chance of winning. The larger a card pool gets, the easier it is to mis-build. Options abound, and some combos are always better than others. The number of god-awful unplayable builds must be kept to a minimum… but that’s not the current direction of the game. We are building toward a cataclysm where all viable ships are high PS, position well, and use health as a defense. The game is already 4-5 waves into this cataclysm, more than half the life of X-wing so far. It’s going to get worse if it doesn’t get better.

I love the game of X-wing, and don’t say I see trouble as a warning to “abandon ship” for some other game. This is a call of concern for something I value and want to see taken care of well. I’ve been calling things pretty much perfectly since Wave 1, and I’ve learned over the years to trust my uncanny intuition. I hope that FFG will read my article and see the point I am making. The helm of this game needs very carefully managed, until a slew of pro-AGI cards are created to ensure the meta always has the tools to adjust to any popular type of card. Right now so little exists to combat hyper-accuracy, it warps the game.

MY THOUGHTS FRAMED EVEN MORE SIMPLY
If you pay a bunch of points for PS 8+ on every ship and face a PS 1-2 squad, you should get murdered that game.

Think it over. PS 3-4 beats PS 2 perfectly. PS 5-6 beats PS 3-4 perfectly, and PS 1-2 a bit less perfectly. But as you get to the top, PS 9+, you shouldn’t beat everything. You have to have a point where you have given up so much efficiency buying your PS, that PS 1-2 lists trounce you. Otherwise PS dominance is the primary determiner of games.

Where we are currently at is that VI is far more popular than it deserves to be (given it’s in a critical upgrade slot on high value pilots), and PS 9 Soontir has been given the tools to hose PS 1-2 swarming lists, instead of losing to them the way that he needs to lose. PS 1-2 lists are generally not viable, except for turret lists because they position so much better than point-to-shoot fighters. The game’s mechanic of adjusting your squad’s PS to trump the meta has vanished; we now operate on PS 9+ (PS 9 Soonit/Vader and counters to it) and PS 6 (Aggressor’s dominant efficiency; especially vs ATT 2 guns), and the PS 3-5 ships unless needed (R2D6 or pilot abilities) are not played because they are wasting points for no gain. The PS 1-2 lists are turret and/or health heavy now because nothing else quite works.

In order for the PS mechanic of the game to function again, two things need to happen:
— PS as a trump and hyper-accurate aces need squashed by some new cards, to make that tactic less auto-win.
— AGI needs re-valued (by these same new cards) as a stat, relative to health. Right now health is FAR better/safer.

My latest tournament saw Kihraxz Fighters and Scyks get a +1 health boon, to demonstrate that they become more viable without becoming anywhere near dominant. They start winning again in the one situation that favors them; trading shots openly with an enemy squad that bought PS, positioning, and turrets. But they still lose their share, when those other things players can buy are put to good use against those ships. Unfortunately the list of hamstrung fighters is longer than just those 2 ships, and more unfortunately I don’t work for FFG making cards for this game (though I’d work for cheap! Consider!). I want to start a conversation here though, and I hope it reaches the right ears.

It’s good to be writing again. =)

  1. Nice article. I’ve seen a lot of what you’ve been saying currently with wave 7 coming out and looking forward to wave 8. It looked like they didn’t do enough play testing of how strong certain cards/ships were (use vassal! it does not infringe on your market it helps it!) and it looks like they are in the system of band-aid fixes, which doesn’t work when a game gets more options. Example: Autothrusters was made for arc dodgers to be able to survive against turrets better. Now ships like Soontir can basically be untouchable at R3 and out of arc, no matter how many shots you put in on them. Small turret ships underplayed, strap on TLT, which edges out the B-wing in efficiency and destroys TIE fighters. I don’ know yet, but am looking anxiously on at the ordinance changes and how they will increase the power of ships in comparison to that of the original TIE Fighter.
    Currently I’ve been playing with Soontir at 32 or 34 points, 4 Academies and Howl. The swarm element is almost the same size as the past formations that were flown in waves 2 and 3. However, what was once an efficient killing machine I’ve found to struggle in pure jousting value in the current meta against some of that hyper accuracy that you talked about such as glitter FCS, crack shot IGs and TLTs. In some cases, with most ships shooting at R1-R2, I have done no damage to IGs when rolling only slightly below average, and this used to be the jousting force to be feared.
    However I do disagree with you about the pilot skill wars. If you are simply jousting with a way higher pilot skill, then I believe that you are right. However, arcdodgers with higher pilot skill still need to dodge around the efficient jousting machines. Part of what I love about this game is the maneuver dial system, where you do not know where your enemy is moving until it is their turn to move. This makes the game much more interesting and less based on efficiency, with an element of trying to outwit, outmaneuver, or trap your opponent. And that’s an element that has to be built into the low PS lists in order for them to beat the high PS arc dodgers. Although I do see some of your reasoning, like with the difference between Soontir Fel and the royal guard pilots. At even 32 points, Soonitr Fel can be nye impossible to hit, just 2 points above the stealthdevice autothruster royal guard, and in that you get an extra action ( in a lot of ways better than a stealth device because it gives both extra turtling power and the ability to modify attack dice after both boosting and barrel rolling) and the highest natural pilot skill. This example can also be seen in a lot of other meta forming abilities being on higher pilot skill ships, such as Soontir, Vader, Poe and Jake.
    I’ve tried many a time to think up good Imperial builds in this meta with and without Soontir that aren’t the current staples. A lot of the imperial options are however of that low hitpoint, high agility variety such as Fighters, FO Fighters, Phantoms, and the advanced to some degree. The phantom can be tanked up a bit and its 4 dice are great, but then it reaches up into the low 30’s in its point value. Predator, lonewolf, ATC, TLT, Poe, Crackshot, are all accuracy increasing and not only have the effect of decreasing the effect of natural defense, but of causing the reaction of high HP or accurate defense in the form of Whisper cloaking, Poe with autothrusters, Soontir with autothrusters, autothrusters in general, and IGs with glitterstim. This accurate defense makes the traditional 3ATK with focus, or multiple 2 die attacks with focus and reroll almost useless in some cases. This combined with the speed of regenerating ships, the maneuverability of some arc dodgers, and the speed and arc dodging capabilities of big turrets leaves the old meta in the dust.
    But if traditional jouster don’t work, then what does? For one, blocking and trapping can do A LOT against these evolved builds. Blocking has also gone down in effectiveness with actionless accuracy and some cases of autotriggering actions, but overall, it is still a powerful tool. So while certain ships will lose almost all of the time against other ships, but with hard work in flying and building lists not necessarily as tool boxes, but for the components to complement eachother, it is a relatively balanced meta.

    1. Generically speaking PS needs to be a rock/paper/scissors endeavor.
      — High PS beats middle PS, but loses to low PS.
      — Middle PS beats low PS, but loses to high PS.
      — Low PS beats high PS, but loses to middle PS.

      Don’t misunderstand. I don’t mean auto win/lose. I mean 55/45 or 60/40 chances instead of 50/50 chances. Soontir and similar aces can outfly a quad of FCS B-wings or TLT Golds. The Dutch + Garven connection can lose to those same squads. A trio of HLC Daggers might wreck Soontir. But these aren’t 50/50 fights; they are upsets.

      If the game gets away from a solid PS dynamic, the affected PS group quickly becomes unplayable. If you are always the underdog, that’s called not being competitive. You have to beat your share of lists, and in X-wing the only solid way to manage game balance is to preserve the PS bid as a gamble rather than a sure thing.

      Where we are in this game is that some ships (the ones I have cited) are ALWAYS the underdog. They match up well against virtually nothing, mainly just each other. They don’t serve in the role they are supposed to serve, which is as a jousting trump card. When you bring more guys and mob the enemy squad, the opposing ships are supposed to have to pull some shenanigans to beat you. They should need to dance a bit. Kite you, get out of your arcs. Avoid your blocks.

      The problem is that anymore, these highly positional squads just joust you and run you over. They use accuracy and higher PS to kills things consistently before these fragile AGI-defended ships can shoot, and snowball to a big win without having to fly well. They don’t have to do much dancing, don’t leave much in play to block them, and shrug off well orchestrated shots.

      There are some combos I left out of the anti-AGI meta, that I meant to include — R3-A2 + BTL-A4, Tactician + TLT, and Tactician + Gunner (especially on YV-666). When you over-stress a target to where it’s not getting actions, AGI as a defense becomes extremely weak while health remains basically unchanged as a defense. Just like Predator, K-4, Dengar crew, etc etc, this has devalued AGI as a useful stat.

      We just need some cards that make AGI jousters strong again, useful again.

      Also, 24pt FCS Blue is superior efficiency over 2+ turns to 24pt TLT Gold. It is weaker positionally since it has to dive, but it’s stronger as long as it isn’t the enemy’s first target. Here’s an example of what I mean:

      26 Biggs w/ R4-D6, Integrated Astromech
      26 Gold w/ R3-A2, TLT, BTL-A4
      48 (x2) Blue w/ FCS

      26 Biggs w/ R4-D6, Integrated Astromech
      26 Gold w/ R3-A2, TLT, BTL-A4
      48 (x2) Gold w/ TLT

      26 Biggs w/ R4-D6, Integrated Astromech
      26 Gold w/ R3-A2, TLT, BTL-A4
      48 (x4) Bandit

      Each one has advantages over the other. The Bandits are the toughest to kill off completely. The Blues are better against a tougher kiting ships (K-wing, Outrider, etc) due to ATT 3 TL + Focus shooting. The Golds are weak to a rush but very good vs kiting/positioning. But paired with Biggs + Gold, which is strongest?

      I’d say B-wing. You don’t need to worry about Gold’s anti-position weapon when you can stress-pin the target. The extra durability of the Bandit is not as useful as the range 3 band damage from the others. You do want to dive a target that is helpless and kill it quickly, which Gold is not strong at.

      Interestingly, FCS is one of the cards that has made AGI less valuable as a stat.

  2. “If a ship cannot position well (or at all), it must try to trade shots and soundly win that trade EVERY TIME. This mean being significantly more efficient than turrets and positional aces; significantly better offense::cost and defense::cost ratios, not just slightly better ones. Currently this class of ship has lost its efficiency on the defensive side, due to the growing pool of accuracy buffing cards that have made the AGI stat on ships virtually worthless relative to other traits”

    I think this is the most salient point. There is a long way to go for these ships to become viable, largely because of what they’ve done with TLTs. Those ships now have to become more effective that I believe they’ve defeated the point of integrated astromech and even the Tie Advanced fix. If TLT is removed, I think we’d see most of those ships used more consistently and having more success.

    All that said, Wave 8 introduces a lot of cards that aces are going to hate, especially of the imperial version. (4LOM crew and pilot, R5P8, Dengar crew and pilot, the Contract Scout as a super blocker, Zeb on the Ghost, Sabine) and I think there are combinations that are going to punish TLTs. Unfortunately, I think those builds will also punish the generics you’re talking about unless they are cheap ordnance carriers themselves.

    1. TLT is just one card among many, and the removal of any one card would change nothing. It’s the absence of any way to counter hyper-accuracy and make the AGI stat on AGI-defended jousters as valuable as it once was that is the problem. We cannot go back in time enough to remove the problem; it is core to the game to have this issue if good counters to hyper-accuracy do not exist.

      You are wrong that these ships would see more success. They would be brought more often in the power vacuum, but they would LOSE rather than see success; those players switching off TLT to these ships wold on the whole do worse, relative to those who just switched to hyper-accuracy and PS buys. TLT Gold would be replaced with FCS B-wing. S&V would be much less viable as a faction, at least until they got FCS Mist Hunter. Small turret ships would utterly vanish, except for maybe Blaster Turret Kavil. The meta would be less diverse and no better off.

      The only viable solution is a slew of easily brought new cards that counter hyper-accuracy cheaply.

      If I had to choose just one card as an immediate mend, I’d like to see this card exist:

      Stealth Ship (2pts, generic title, small ship only)
      “Attackers may not re-roll Attack dice against you.
      After rolling defense dice, re-roll all Focus results.”

      It’s a counter to hyper-accuracy, it is more valuable on higher AGI ships, and it functions when you are stressed and getting no actions. I’m unsure on the correct cost, but it needs to be cheap enough that you could spam it so I think 2pts is the way to go.

  3. I agree with you and you may be right that we wouldn’t see more success from those ships.I just think TLT made it that much harder for them to come back. It’s both more efficient and kills them efficiently. Sure, it may be responsible for adding diversity to the meta now, but I think it will be interesting to see if it helps the game balance long term. I Iook at both the Bwing and the Z as the benchmark for what actually gave generic jousters their final shove out of the meta. These were cost efficient ships that started to disappear en mass more recently (Sozin pointed this out on S+Vs latest podcast). Both of them survived the Wave 4, 5, and 6, though others (Ties especially) were pushed out by hyper accurate ships in those Waves. The ships that needed a push are now going to need a lot more than that. Maybe your cards provide some gateways for that.

    1. Z-95s as a swarm have been pushed out by twin Aggressors — they can’t hurt that ship at Range 3, and they face Predator + AdvS. That configuration can deliberately ram your lead ship and still get maximum offense vs a target (or a Focus to defend if needed), or it can just pre-boost and shoot your squad from flank. It’s a nightmare scenario for swarms in general, but it’s positionally worse for the Z-95 than the TIE Fighter due to the lack of Barrel Roll and the awkward k-turning (because 3k into 2 bank recovery is really terrible vs fast ships).

      I believe Guidance Chips will help somewhat. The 16pt Cluster Missile build to try and nuke Aggressors at Range 1-2 is much easier to arrange than a full Range 1 mobbing, and you can outfit 3 Z-95s by dropping just a single Z-95 from the squad. The build I like so far is this, which also helps solve the Z-95’s viability issues some:

      26 Biggs w/ R4-D6, Integrated Astromech (bro-bots cannot kill this in a single turn)
      26 Gold w/ R3-A2, TLT, BTL-A4 (this neutralizes one or possibly both bro-bots)
      48 (x3) Bandit w/ Cluster Missiles, Guidance Chips

      A pair of FCS B-wing goes well here, as does a single FCS B-wing and x2 Bandits as blockers. But I like the alpha strike here to try and pull ahead in the game. Most of the positional lists can’t beat Biggs + Stresshog very easily; that leaves the high health tanky ships, which Cluster Missiles is pretty good against. I did nearly lose a game when my missiles managed to roll especially rubbish, but I’ve also run over a number of lists with it.

      Z-95s stand very well against TLT; it usually takes 6 TLT rolls, not 4, to kill one Z. They can close as a swarm and generally outpace TLT handily. TLT had nothing to do with the demise of the Z-95 as a viable ship. The cheap 13pt upgrade to PS is very powerful against TLT as well.

      28 Gold w/ R3-A2, TLT, BTL-A4, Loadout, Ion Bomb
      48 (x3) Bandit w/ Cluster Missiles, Guidance Chips
      24 (x2) Bandit
      (Just 6 Bandits here is also quite good; the Stresshog does good work.)

      FCS B-wing on the other hand is just getting momentarily eclipsed by TLT Y-wing, due to the difference in skill burden. It’s combat potential is fine, and it’s actually better against Autothrusters carriers (aka 2/3 of the meta) than the Y-wing by quite a lot. 4 FCS Blues will generally defeat 4 TLT Golds, and in the hands of a skilled player the Blues are definitely the better ship in general. TLT is just easy to use, and it’s strong against a few things FCS B-wing is not so great against — mainly large Engine-carrying turret ships (especially 58pt PTL Dash), but also Corran and Vader. TLT can be a bit better vs a Crack Shot swarm as well. But B-wing and Y-wing are definitely about equal in usability right now, and a lot of players bringing TLT Gold in their list should probably look at FCS Blue to see if it’s not a better fit. B-wing is actually OK in this meta. It’s health defended, and with FCS it’s actually playing the hyper-efficiency game rather well relative to TLT.

      I’m expecting this list to become popular in Wave 8:

      26 Gold w/ R3-A2, TLT, BTL-A4
      50 (x2) Blue w/ FCS, Tractor Beam
      24 (x2) Bandit

      The spoiler in Wave 8 is going to be Sabine on the Attack Shuttle. This build for her I have found to be absolutely bananas positionally; If Stresshog doesn’t catch her, she can out-position PS 1-4 squads whether they are bringing TLT or not:

      33/34 Sabine w/ LW/Predator, Chewbacca, TLT (I like the LW version)

      Sabine can see where an enemy Stresshog pointed then use her ability to radically change her destination. Pre-boost, do maneuver, then as action Barrel Roll if necessary. If you face multiple enemy TLT and might get whittled down, you can easily rush Range 1 on targets. If you are against higher PS, this is the best small ship blocker we’ve seen because you are Boost+Roll doing white moves (2 turns mainly) while shooting accurately with your TLT turret. I have absolutely made fun of positional aces like Soontir with this ship. Early he gets blocked to death, and if he lives to the end he simply cannot get an arc on something as wily as Sabine. NOTHING can. She can be beaten but I think she’s going to be an absolute handful.

      1. I agree with you on the Attack Shuttle. Most people are dismissing it but both Sabine and Ezra will provide some interesting options.

  4. Great article jeff you make a lot of points but speaking on the 8+ vs 1-2 I may be biased cause I tend to lean toward generics but I think it is probably a little harder for those 1-2’s than it should be.

    1. TIE/D is a pro-AGI card; the Tractor Beam, Flechette, and Ion Cannons all have a crippling effect you badly want to dodge — you need AGI to do that, health won’t save you. It’s a bit unfortunate that Tractor Beam is yet another anti-AGI card (there’s nothing sadder than a Scyk with a Tactor Beam token on it), and Tractor Beam has a better timing with TIE/D than the other two cannons do. But I think the best combo for TIE/D is Ion Cannon by far, so it should work out fine there.

      The x7 title is a very good pro-AGI card. The value of 1 damage stopped is relative to how hard that damage was to deal to the target, so it’s better to Evade with AGI 4 than it would be to Evade with AGI 3, and so forth. (It’s also better on ships that regenerate, like Corran Horn.) I expect we could see things like this a bit:

      99 (x3) Onyx w/ x7, Stealth

      62 (x2) Delta w/ X7, Stealth
      38 Vader w/ X1, AdvTC, VI, Rockets, Engine

      The problem is that TIE Defender is actually heavily reliant on AGI 3 doing work. AGI is so bad as a defense right now that I’m not sure TIE Defender can cope. The Ion Cannon trio looks dangerous enough positionally to win that way though, despite PS 1. I think it will see some problem fights that will hold it back.

      I just realized I neglected to mention bombs in my article. Let’s say Seismic Charge does 1 damage to half of your ships — would you rather be on an 8 TIE Fighter swarm, an 8 Z-95 swarm, a quad of HLC Scyks, or a quad of FCS B-wings? Automatic damage from bombs, obstacles, and even crit cards (Direct Hit!) disproportionately affects AGI-defended ships. Consider how much worse 1 extra damage is for Dash (10% of total health) than Han (~7.7%) or Chiraneau (6.25%), even though they cost roughly the same.

      The best pro-AGI card I have seen lately in waves is Accuracy Corrector. Its lower output scales in reverse, where AGI 3 is very good relative to AGI 1 against the card. It also lets the carrier reserve Focus or Evade for defense, which is much stronger on high AGI carriers.

      The problems with that card have been:
      — no offense vs things like Soontir Fel; solutions exist though
      — a lack of carriers; TIE Advanced is really the only one
      — AGI as a defense sucks so much that TIE Advanced is weak

      52 Patrol w/ Gunner, Vader, Engine
      48 (x2) Tempest w/ x/1, AccC, Rockets
      (Oicunn w/ Predator over Patrol w/ Gunner is an option.)
      (Oicunn w/ EH over Patrol w/ Engine is an option.)

      This list in particular looks like it has the tools to wreck ace, swarm lists, bro-bots, and mass TLT. The weakness by my eye is probably Stresshog, especially Stresshog + Biggs which is a wrecking ball to anything that isn’t getting action-free efficiency or mobbing with lots of ships. I don’t know that I’d want to take on 49pt AdvS Corran with this either, but he’s not too popular right now. I don’t think you can make due without the Proton Rockets here; AccC Tempest really needs some kind of way to punch at high AGI targets.

      The crux of the issue is that cards like Predator, K-4, Dengar crew etc etc all raise your damage vs pretty much all targets. They are not ever useless, unless you are rolling super hot. Cards like AccC that hunt low AGI targets are not the same way; they suddenly suck against high AGI targets. There are plenty of high AGI ships carrying anti-AGI cards — Crack Shots swarms, Predator + HLC and FCS+CS+Glitterstim Aggressors, Palpatine buffed Soontir/Vader/etc. They are basically winning games against each other by PS, positioning, and anti-AGI tech. The lists that are bringing health and anti-AGI are thumping them and slowly replacing them in the meta; this trend is going to continue until that meta has to deal with TIE/D + Ion Cannon, which will help AGI as a buy a little but not enough to even half-fix the problem.

  5. I agree with the article 100%, but consider this list by Matt Congdon that he and I used yesterday to win different store championships:

    2x Syndicate Thug w/ TLT, R4 Agromech
    4x Binayre Pirate

    This list also would have won Erich Ridlon a championship last week but he flew one of the thugs off the board in a match with me in round 3, resulting in a draw that put him 2nd.

    1. Hi Dan! (this is Matt)

      I think there are a few things that have made this list work despite the relative weakness of Z-95s:

      1) Critical Mass – 4 Z-95s collectively are significantly more valuable than a single Z-95 in isolation. The numbers add another trait that a single ship is weak on – board presence. The fact that the Z-95s are able occupy a huge amount of real estate and cover multiple maneuvering positions/firing arcs is a huge part of what makes this list scary. Even highly maneuverable ships can have basically all of their options blocked/covered if they over-commit.

      2) Unfamiliarity. Very few players I have run this list against have had much experience dealing with this sort of durable swarm. Defeating this type of list requires a very conservative approach and many players don’t realize they’ve over-commited until it’s too late.

      3) Smaller Tournaments. This list is exhausting to fly (at least for me) since it requires a lot of spatial reasoning/advance planning to avoid unwanted collisions and keep guns on target. I’m not sure I could keep my ships flying without running into each-other beyond ~6 rounds. Smaller tournaments also reduce the likelihood of bad matchups. A+B Adv Sensors Brobots with Predator would be my nightmare scenario.

      1. One more thing that makes the Z-95 swarm here strong is that the Z-95s compartmentalize damage, which is fantastic for forcing opponents to overkill them and thereby waste attacks. 4 health +2 AGI means that even high caliber shots generally won’t 1-shot a Z-95, so the opponent is forced to take a 2nd shot and the overkill damage just gets wasted. Same thing with TLTs – in my experience, a TLT with just a focus token will miss about 1/4 of the time against focused AGI 2. That means that it often takes 5 individual TLT shots to kill a Z-95, with that 6th shot going to waste. Over the course of a match, this means that a significant portion of the damage the opponent has dealt is overkill damage that doesn’t impact the game. Considering that many popular lists have fairly low damage outputs, this lost damage can be critical.

      2. It also taps into the red dice paradigm Jeff’s talking about in the TLTs with R4.

        There are definitely lists that are strong against it, but I think some of them go against the red dice meta – I got beaten by 4x Green Squad w/ wingman, PTL, and hull upgrade. Jon specializes in A-Wings so he knows how to fly them extremely well, but that list in particular makes it hard to block down a target which is what your list relies a lot on.

        There are definitely counters to it, as there are with any list, but I think it battles a lot of what’s strong in the meta right now. When I flew against Erich I was pretty conservative with my first approach and managed to get round 1 with 1 or 2 of his Zs at range 3 and one shooting through a rock, but there was still nothing I could do to stop him.

        It is definitely a mentally challenging list to fly, but regionals last year and the 6 rounds yesterday are the longest tournaments I’ve been in and both were tiring. I have no idea what it would like to go longer with a list of any shape. But part of what I love about flying this one is all the spacial reasoning.

      3. Agreed on the TLTs w/ R4 Agromech in terms of being part of the problem Theorist is talking about here – they crank out 2-3 hits with very high reliability and most high AGI ships short of tokened up Soontir at Range 3 aren’t able to deflect 3 hits consistently.

      4. I mentioned how cards extend health below elsewhere in comments, but it’s important to note here as well.

        A-wing has Boost, so it has a strong positional game. Boost is stronger than Barrel Roll to get and deny shots. PTL to get E+F tokens is a way to extend health; you are just regenerating the 1+ damage you’d otherwise be taking. Hull (or even Autothrusters) is also just buying health to make up for how weak AGI 3 is. And at the end of the day you still have a squad that will lose badly most of the time if it faces AdvS + Predator Aggressor, PTL Dash, Predator RAC, Soontir/Vader + Palpatine, etc etc. You can’t really hurt those lists with x4 ATT 2 guns, even if you find a way to stack TL+F and try to mimic Accuracy Corrector.

        The TLT + Aggromech combo is very good output at 26pts, and all points on the Z-95 are solid. The expectation of overkill damage is common with lower AGI targets, and part of the anti-AGI traits in this game that sort of stack up. I like the squad and it definitely fits into the hyper-accuracy health driven meta. Z-95s are not good in it, but they fill in squads nicely.

        52 (x2) Thug w/ Aggromech, TLT
        48 Moralo w/ K-4, Engine, HLC

        This looks more solid to me against something like Soontir/Jax + Palpatine, plus it should deal more and take less damage over the long term. You keep the part of the list that is actually winning you the game, ditch the ships that sometimes cost you the game, and generally come out ahead in chances.

      5. I will say that I settled on 4x Pirates out of a lack of good alternatives to fit in a 48 point slot in Scum. A single Aggressor at 48 points isn’t quite there, the YV-666 can’t really play defensively if it has to, Firesprays just no. Small ships for Scum is similarly slim pickings – I originally had 2 Z-95s and Ion Torkhil, but 2 Z-95s isnt really enough to block past the first exchange and the HWK’s slow dial meant it got left behind pretty often as the dogfight moved around the board.

        As far as bad matchups go, perhaps this is more telling of my local meta, but I haven’t really had issues flying against Palp Aces, Decimator + Ace, PTL Dash + Ace, type lists with this sort of swarm. Generally, the Z-95s are able to get in front of the elusive ships and disrupt them long enough to deal crippling damage. Although 2 dice attacks will bounce off pretty much everything at range 3, range 1 works just fine and even range 2 you can sneak a few random shots through. Green dice eventually fail and if you force your opponent to roll them a bunch it eventually pays off. That said, the R4 TLTs end up doing the bulk of the work against elusive aces, but the Zeds always manage to earn their place in the list simply by either punishing my opponent for ignoring them or eating up time as they slowly get shot to pieces.

    2. Scary squad you got there. I have been playing 4x Alpha Sq. Pilots with a support shuttle, and it has a lot of the same advantages in the meta that your squad does. But somehow I don’t think we would do so well against yours because of the accurate TLTs. Don’t know though – I’ve never faced TLT with my squad.

  6. Hi, I was wondering what your thoughts on Comms Relay is. I believe it can be seen as a Pro-AGI upgrade as you define it. Also after reading your article I have put together a list which I would like to try that uses some of the ideas mentioned here and Comms Relay. Here is the list for reference:

    84 (x4) Epsilon w/ Comms Relay, Hull
    16 Dark Curse

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    1. Comms Relay is basically extra health, in a weird form. Every time you Evade in this game, you are basically regenerating 1 damage you just took. (The same is true of Focus; it’s just less reliable.) Health is more valuable on higher AGI targets, so it’s a pro-AGI card in that sense. Even if T-70 had access to Evade (and it can via Jan Ors crew), Comms Relay is still most valuable on the TIE/FO. (Red Ace may be an exception. R2-D2/R5-P9 carriers may be an exception.)

      Comms Relay does not combat hyper-accuracy, encourage opponents to run higher AGI, or punish opponents for running low AGI; in that sense it’s not really a pro-AGI card. It’s just a card that can extend your effective health, so that your AGI isn’t doing all the work (since AGI is so weak)… sort of a band-aid for a ship that otherwise would struggle more. Some cards don’t really swing things in one direction or the other much.

      I have not been impressed with the competitiveness of TIE/FO ships so far. The Zeta Leader because he can roll 3 reds and run Predator does a good job of being a cheaper hyper-accurate positional ship in the current meta, but the others are sort of rubbish. The main issue with this ship is its offense::cost ratio, which isn’t as bad as pre-Raider TIE Advanced (and you get a better durability::cost ratio as well) but is still pretty bad. ATT 2 ships just cannot fight AdvS + Predator Aggressor well enough to ever win. I think the TIE/FO is waiting on some kind of tech/mod card that’s similar to Feedback Array, in order to find a place in the game.

      Dark Curse would be very solid right now, except that it’s a unique pilot. That’s why I suggest a card like Wing Leader, so that you can find yourself against an entire TIE Fighter swarm that you can’t modify dice against.

      -100-
      18 Dark Curse w/ Wing Leader
      22 Howlrunner w/ LW, Enhanced Stabilizers
      60 (x5) Academy Pilot

      The existence of this sort of threat would bring things like Seismic Charges, Proton Bombs, Emon, AdvS Deathrain, Cluster Missile spam, Juke, Crack Shot, and maybe Outmaneuver forward as strong cards to try and deal with this sort of list. IG-88B and Gunner/Luke crew would see play as alternate ways to land damage past Dark Curse’s ability. Gunner + Vader + Engine Decimator/Lambda would probably see play to hunt Dark Curse out of the backfield and make all the TIE Fighters easier to kill.

      Definitely the better arc dodgers would still have a pretty good time. They can shrug off swarm shots, get Range 1 on flank to land damage (they already do), chase down a Dark Curse hiding well behind the main swarm, etc etc. What would change is that they could no longer just face down a swarm and outgun it in a joust. “PS 9 and access to Barrel Roll” is not a demonstration of superior skill. It needs to take much more than that for ace ships to win games, or joust ships have no place. It’s actually very hard to get more than 2 guns on a Soontir Fel, when you are running 4-5 ships. Often you are luck to get 1 gun. The game has tilted to expect you to block him and get 3+ guns on him also, which only a newbie Soontir player would ever let you do. The burden has increased too high to play joust lists, they were already the hardest list to play because you have to guess with your dial so much.

  7. I’m not sure it’s been mentioned explicitly, though it’s implicit in Theorist’s examples (I haven’t read all the comments). but it needs saying:

    It’s important to give these defensive buffs to those ships WITHOUT impressive arc-dodging capabilities, or at least to give much less boon to them. (Remember, the Phantom was a problem for three reasons, and while arc-dodging was the main one, 4 Agility (when shots did rain on it) compounded the problem. (The big gun was the other short leg in the triad.)) That takes some care, because high Agility and arc-dodging are pretty highly correlated in the game.

    1. I definitely agree here. Cards to counter hyper-accuracy will need carefully worded, so that they aren’t just a new way for Soontir Fel and similar already dominant ships to dominate more. I didn’t “vet” the cards I listed, but the mod I listed called Enhanced Stabilizers I definitely made while thinking such a card shouldn’t be a new Soontir tool. I do like that card on lesser Interceptors though. I could see Royal/Turr w/ PTL + Autothrusters + Stabilizers, or something.

      1. How’s this for a option
        AI Control 1pt mod
        While defending if you have no tokens assigned to you, you may covert one eye result into a evade result

        With assinged token covering pretty much any token a ship can get (focus evade stress ion TL red or Blue) feel like that would help out generic high agi ships while being so easy to turn off on aces it serves no use there.

      2. If lower PS pilots shot first, it would help them. So probably Torkil squads (or squads chaining Swarm Tactics) could use the card. But generally that particular card as written is pro-PS. You shoot first, spend your TL and/or Focus, and then get to use the card as a pile of mock-Focus vs all enemy attacks.

        Better would be:

        Underdog (2pts, universal title, small ship only)
        “When defending, if your Pilot Skill is lower than the attacker
        you may convert 1 [Blank] result to an [Evade] result.”

        This forces superior PS ships to out-fly inferior PS ships, or risk getting out-jousted. It’s not so great for TLT ships, who don’t want to be flying toward enemy craft. Soontir can’t run it, but suddenly it makes some sense to run Turr Phenir (PTL + Autothrusters + Underdog) or even the lowly Saber. An Academy Pilot swarm makes sense again. S&V’s weaker Z-95s like the card more than Rebel ones.

        Blue > Rookie w/ Underdog > Dagger > Blue

        You get this sort of flow to the low PS AGI-defended ships, and a rather powerful counter-force against high PS and hyper-accuracy as a tactic to bring down AGI-defended craft. There’s also an anti 2-ship list element here that’s harder to see — if you aren’t rolling blanks as a low PS defender, you are Focusing and often getting 2-3 Evades. An enemy squad with few attacks would not easily push damage through. Lists would move toward 3, 4, and maybe 5 ships a little more. (Currently it seems like 3 ships, 1-2 strong 1-2 weak, is where we are at in the meta. We’d probably move back to 4 ship builds being strong.)

  8. As a more casual player I have observed what you are saying, but thought FFG was trying to make the game less dependent on how well you roll on the attack dice. After reading this though I see what you are saying.

    1. Improving consistency somewhat would be fine to do, and it certainly seems like that’s the INTENDED direction. FFG simply needs to introduce cards that raise the efficiency of ships otherwise left behind by the change. If they don’t want to make AGI strong again, these AGI-defended jousting ships need more health (in real or abstract form) “for free” or need much better offense.The Integrated Astromech card was in this direction. So were the TIE/D and TIE/x7 titles. The Targeting Astromech card is legitimate. But what I’ve noticed with these fixes, excepting maybe TIE/D, is a level of conservatism in fixes that gets hugely outpaced by the ever-increasing accuracy and positioning capability of ships.

      I’ll put it to you this way. This is roughly where I value those jousting ships currently:

      18 (-3) Rookie
      11 (-1) Bandit/Pirate
      16 (-4) Marauder
      11 (-3) Spacer
      10 (-2) Academy Pilot
      13 (-2) Epsilon
      14 (-3) Scimitar
      17 (-4) Tempest

      I might be off 1pt low here or there concerning appropriate cost, but with ships that require more dial-guessing and dice-risk it’s better to be 1pt too low than 1pt too high. These ships get made fun of positionally, cannot land damage, and cannot avoid taking heavy fire or getting chased down rapidly.

      Where things have gone wrong from the beginning of this game is that ship costs should have been based on a ship’s durability under fire when it had no Focus token, rather than when it did. Or at least use the TL+F offense numbers against Focus for defense. That would have put us in a reasonably good place right now; all of these ships would have come in at lower cost, higher health, or maybe higher offense. Personally because of how potent AGI debuffing is, I’d say the right call was to use TL+F vs bare AGI (no Focus to defend) as the defensive baseline when costing ships. The design space would have been free to make cheap AGI debuffing and ATT boosting cards that way. But X-wing started elsewhere, and recovery is awkward.

      Consensus is the main issue. Everyone has a surface opinion ready to share, but few people care to first look at the numbers and break down what’s really going on. It’s so easy to ramble, especially for me, when I seek to explain what the damage tables really mean.

      The T-65 vs B-wing comparison is the easiest to make — at 6 health (Integrated Astromech), the T-65 defends against shooting as well as a B-wing vs most caliber shooting provided you had a Focus to defend with. T-65 does better against ATT 2 swarm guns outside of Range 1, but dies faster to ATT 4 Predator/TL + F caliber shooting. As soon as you toss -1 AGI onto these ships or say that they don’t have Focus to defend, B-wing survives better hands down. And even in the scenario where they have a Focus to defend, X-wing will have to spend Focus more often to get those numbers while B-wing will not be able to spend it and just reserve Focus to reply against the enemy.

      In other words, by the damage tables we’ve had for this game since Wave 1 at 22pts the T-65 should have 7 health and as many good traits as the B-wing. It’s not nearly as good as B-wing, and B-wing is barely able to keep up in the game now that lots of 2-4 ship squads have the firepower to erase a healthy B-wing before it can shoot (which was not true before Wave 6; guess when B-wing started to vanish into the same hole as T-65?). T-65 relative to B-wing loses to more ships heads up, has much weaker upgrade access, and really has very little going for it other than the longer k-turn and access to the ace-countering R3-A2 card (note that you can’t really take advantage of both; what poor luck for this ship).

      The game is not in a fully bad place. It would really only take one wave dedicated to putting the right cards out there to become 100% healthy. My dream would be to help FFG with the upgrade cards for just one wave, get the cards out there, and then it would be done. This isn’t a problem that would ever resurface, once that card void was filled.

  9. I spend a lot of my X-wing time thinking about Defenders, and I 100% agree that the TIE/D title is going to push AGI up. I look at what one of these things would do to some of the pretty popular mid-low AGI ships out there right now, and in warms my cold, cold Imperial heart. Poe immediately gets to be a risky bet, because while he shrugs off damage left and right, he maxes out at 2 hits stopped, and if he’s hit with the Ion Cannon, R2D2 stops working. Miranda is almost hard countered. Without access to faster SLAM moves, she’s not dodging arcs, and will get torn down pretty fast. Higher AGI stuff won’t get hit nearly as hard.

    In general, though, I wonder if the Ordnance stuff is part of FFG’s thumb on the scale to bring new tools to jousters. Aces can make use of Ordnance, sure, but the free mods (Guidance Chips or Long Range Scanners) are in a pretty contested spot. More significantly, it lets a single jousting ship shrink the time needed to do damage to an arc dodger that is caught in arc. Since Target Lock is a bankable action, it also lets ships that have trouble getting aces in arc “save” their action for the next turn. Stuff like Deadeye JM5Ks with Torpedoes and Gamma Squadron Veterans with Homing Missiles and Crack Shot are also strong against high PS aces, even though they’re also anti-AGI cards to a degree.

    1. Raising the offensive efficiency of jousting ships that way would be fine, except that if you want accurate payload delivery (spend TL+F) you are not as defended. High health ships are better delivery vehicles for payload than high AGI ships, as a result. I do believe TIE Bomber will become much more viable once it has Long Range Scanners and joins the hyper-accuracy meta, although FCS TIE Punisher will be better with LRS.

      1. I think the FCS Punisher is stronger on a ship to ship basis, but for the points, the Bomber seems much stronger, to me. You get a lot more bang for your buck and I don’t think FCS gets around the LRS Range 3+ restriction. My mind does keep coming back to the Punisher for the reasons you state in the OP, though. It’s this tough ship that can go slow or fast. Almost as tough per point as the Lambda, with lower offense, but way more maneuverability. The right bomb and missile loadout might give you the right tools to do serious work, even if it’s not conventionally efficient. It’s kind of the perfect platform to go for a block, then move past the blocked ship the next turn and drop a Prox Mine or Connor Net on someone. It will survive a couple of full-power Missile/Torp/HLC shots as well.

        I wonder if a Scimitar with LRS, Missile, and Connor Net (~29 points) is a reasonable expenditure of points. It’s way less scary than equivalent points of, say Royal Guard Pilot, but it has a few useful tools. It probably doesn’t die the first round if firing, it contributes to an initial alpha strike, and it has an anti-high PS tool. This is getting away from your initial thesis, though.

        Regarding that, I wonder about an anti-low AGI version of Crack Shot. Crack Shot has done wonders for jousting ships with EPTs, allowing them enough threat to eat into high AGI-token stacking aces if the get them in arc. The downside, of course, is that cards that work on low AGI stuff don’t work on high AGI stuff, but cards that work on high AGI stuff, also work on low AGI stuff, just a little less efficiently. So when you build your squad, you make sure your guns can hit high AGI stuff, because if it can’t, no amount of good flying will help.

      2. Strange that I should read this today, after spending last night putting a Punisher list together. I agree with much of what was said above, and thought the Punisher could address some things I have seen. Without further ado:

        54 RAC w/VI, Darth Vader, EU
        45 Deathrain w/Assault missiles, flechette torps, conner net, proximity mines, extra munitions, munitions failsafe, and FCS.

        Viable? Who knows. I’m heading into my 4th SC and have yet to see a TIE Punisher, so I’m either cutting-edge, or insane.

      3. The list I like currently for Imperials:

        61 RAC w/ Predator/Ruthlessness, Vader, Gunner, Engine
        39 Redline w/ FCS, Extra Munitions, Cluster Missiles, PT, Guidance Chips*
        (*: will come out with the TIE Advanced Prototype)

        You delay Redline and send RAC for a pass at the enemy, then bring in Redline 1-2 combat turns later to start mopping up the ships RAC has injured. Predator Oicunn also works here, and gives you 4pts. I’d suggest an Ion Bomb on each ship if you run Oicunn over RAC. Ruthlessness Oicunn isn’t accurate enough.

        Position, health, and firepower currently win this game. The only missing element to this list is PS superiority for Redline, but Vader + Gunner tends to erase anything that shoots before Redline and Redline’s Cluster Missiles are still good. As the meta is forced off of AGI as a defense Redline’s offense is only going to get stronger. Those Cluster Missiles are going to land 4-6 damage to low AGI targets. FCS will ensure Redline isn’t shut off by Stresshog. It’s a list I’ve had together since TIE Punisher was spoiled, and it’s still doing well for me.

        If you get a x4 TLT fight, you dive with RAC and deliberately ram when necessary. You’ll lose more than half your health but if you delay Redline properly while hounding with RAC you win every time 100-32 which is a pretty good score.

  10. The things will be worst: ghost armed with double attack autoblaster turret + accuracy corrector, and two defenders with D title tractor beam and ruthlessness – both autokill ships with 4 or less hull + shield without any green dice rolls

  11. Theorist what are your thoughts on some of the new Scum crew options such as Zuckuss, 4LOM and Dengar, which all add massive benefits for cheap which make defense dice even more worthless? Do you think they were necessary for Scum to catch up, or do they just add to the problem?

    1. The cost to deal +1 damage a turn is very low with Zuckuss and 4-Lom. 4-Lom crew’s ion token penalty makes him pretty perfect for YV-666, which has ample crew space and needs 2 ion tokens before it drifts. Zuckuss’s penalty is much steeper, but again something like the YV-666 doesn’t really care much.

      39 Slaver w/ Zuckus, Dengar, Gunner, Dampeners
      37 Slaver w/ 4-Lom, K-4, Engine
      24 Thug w/ TLT

      The paramount fact is this — health-defended ships could care less if they have no Focus or their 1 green dice gets neutralized, while any buff/debuff impacts AGI-defended ships dramatically.

      There’s nothing wrong with accuracy buffing cards. These cards are not problems. The problem is the absence of answers to these cards that AGI-defended joust ships can bring. The card pool needs expanded in a particular direction.

  12. Simplifying the whole article into this!

    When you convert cards that effectively mean +1 damage dealt into a percentage of the target’s health, it becomes immediately apparent that AGI-defended ships take a bigger hit from these cards than health-defended ships. With not many cards that ramp the effectiveness of AGI for common ships like TIE Fighter and T-65 X-wing, these ships become unplayable levels of inefficient when facing any cards that buff accuracy.

  13. I think that real problem is when these AGI defended ships roll blanks, so for now we need is some kind of modification, for example

    small ship 2-3 AGI only, 2 cost – evasion corrector: when defending, You may spend focus token to change all blank results into evade result.

    Or other green dice buff.

    IMHO also bombs, torpedos and missiles needs rework. Guidance Chips and extra munitions helps here, but only few rockets and torpedos are playable. There is what I think:

    Bombs and torpedos should be hard counters to large, slow 0-1 AGI ships, becouse they should not avoid the blast! for example 4-5 attack dice (reduce this value by AGI of affected ship). On the other hand things like homing missiles should be counter to manoeuvrable ships, and maybe should possible to attack outside firing arc.

    1. Some interesting ideas here.

      Important is to avoid making powerhouses better with the fix; Mainly I’m looking at Soontir and Aggressors with cards like you suggest. There’s also the fact that T-65’s mod slot is spoken for, and it’s one of the ships that needs help.

      I’d go with this instead, which I suggested elsewhere in comments:

      Underdog (2pts, universal title, small ship only)
      “When defending, if your Pilot Skill is lower than the attacker
      you may convert 1 [Blank] result to an [Evade] result.”

      This keeps the upgrade off of ace ships and lets the T-65 bring Integrated Astromech.

      A card that made payload weapons more effective vs low AGI targets would be good to have. That wouldn’t be so difficult to create either:

      Marksman (1pt, universal generic title, small ship only)
      “When attacking with a [torpedo] or [missile] weapon, if the
      defender rolls no defense dice add 1 [crit] result to the results.”

      You’d combo with AGI debuffing cards of course. Intimidation, Crack Shot, Outmaneuver, Tractor Beam. AGI 0 Decimator would fear the card, AGI 1 would some as well. AGI 2 would be difficult to debuff that well, and AGI 3+ would be pretty much immune to it.

  14. I agree with your concern. I’m not sure the fix should be done through pilot and/or elite pilot skills : in current meta it is quite easy to get rid of Ship like Mada/wing leader x-wing in 1-2 turns. I’ll more enjoy title for low PS ship like “Tie support -Title Tie fighter only : When an enemy ship inside your firing arc is attacking a TIE fighter with PS3 or lower the defender can re-roll one green dice 1pts” or “red squadron rookie – X-wing rookie only : when defending or attacking you can use focus token from any other rookie pilot at range 1 – 1 pts”. Both are agility boosting capability that cannot be used by named pilot

    1. The reason for no range restriction on something like Wing Leader is to potentially hide that ship from the enemy a little, maybe a lot. Consider this squad, and how you’d ever get Tarn off the board quickly:

      27 Tarn w/ R7, Integrated Astromech, Wing Leader
      27 Biggs w/ R7, Integrated Astromech
      23 Rookie w/ R7, Integrated Astromech
      23 Gold w/ R3-A2, Dorsal Turret, BTL-A4

      And what about this squad, if Dark Curse hangs out across the board while the rest of the TIE swarm rushes you down to force some combat? You can’t just pluck Dark Curse out of the enemy formation if Dark Curse isn’t in the enemy formation. Can you slip by and get Dark Curse down? Suddenly you aren’t just outgunning a swarm face to face, but having to out-fly the joust list.

      18 Dark Curse w/ Wing Leader
      16 Backstabber
      65 (x5) Obsidian

      I’d love to see at least Wing Leader and Underdog enter the game. Just those 2 cards I think would swing things back into balance a lot, making the hyper-accurate builds more of a risk and making both low PS and high AGI jousters valuable. It would be nice if S&V got a good pilot for Wing Leader like Giggity Sams, but they do have a lots of PS 1 pilots to make strong use of Underdog so it’s not strictly “needed”.

      E-wing is in need of a new expansion. I could see both Wing Leader and Underdog as part of that. The set could give us 2 new E-wing pilots, these needed cards, and maybe a new generic droid like R2 Combat Droid. It would be very easy to introduce a slew of pro-AGI cards into the meta, tailored to be strongest on the ships that need it most. It’s just a matter of wording those cards properly, and not making them too weak. As for the risk of making them too strong, consider this “broken” card:

      R7 Copilot Droid (4pts, astromech,T-65 X-wing only)
      “When defending, if your Pilot Skill is lower than the attacker
      and the attacker in in your firing arc, cancel all dice results.”

      Would Rookie w/ R7 Copilot Droid be broken, despite being flat out invincible against ships it can shoot? The answer is actually no, not even close. It’s easy enough to slip out of the arc of a T-65, fan out your squad to flank it with more than half of your guns, or just bring PS 1-2 ships to make the droid an utter waste of 4pts.

      It is excessively difficult to make a busted card for a low PS jousting ship. It’s not impossible, but it would have to be deliberate (no arc restriction! invincible to anything higher PS than you, all the time!) or have an interaction with some other ship that wasn’t intended. For example, what if this card didn’t specify that the attacker had to be high PS than you? It might be a new way for Corran Horn to dominate, which is not the card’s intent. Playtesting would have to catch such things, to make sure cards were worded correctly.

      1. I still think it leaves the combo vulnerable as most list can take out a TIE / X wing quickly even if they end up for 1-2 turn with positional disadvantages. Additionally it forces into certain pattern with names pilot, meaning some ship type might not get a boost (E-wing). Lastly I’m less and less fan of “open boosting card” i-e card that could lead to some nasty combo with further release. I hope the game will also go for more targeted boost (like title for some basic pilot or ship + PS limitation).

  15. I really like the Wing Leader idea. Other good candidates for it would be Luke (would be fun to see him around more) and Poe (not so much!). Even Talonbane Cobra could use it at least a little. It would be great to see this in an E-Wing/X-Wing aces pack, along with a few pilots that could use it, such as a pilot that gained a free focus token upon being declared the target of an attack by a ship in his firing arc.

    How about this for a pro-Agility/anti-health card:

    “Structural Targeting”, ept. 2 points: After you perform an attack, before modifying dice, if the defender did not roll any [evade] results, they receive 1 [hit]. Then deal damage as normal.

    The way this is worded should allow things like Ion/Flechette Cannon or even tractor beam to deal extra damage to low agility ships, without boosting hyper accuracy ships attacking high agility defenders.

  16. If the devaluation of agi is the crux of the issue, isn’t the easiest fix to issue new green dice (e.g., with one more eyeball)? Would make Soontir harder to kill, but the strategy for killing him — deny him tokens — is pretty much the same.

    1. Interesting suggestion. There are four problems that I see.

      The first issue is how targeted the adjustment would be. All ships, even the Decimator (Range 3 and PS 6 Kenkirk also), would get tougher. Some ships do not need the boost, but would benefit from such a broad change to dice odds.

      The secondary issue is how common AGI neutralizing cards have become. In particular, we have Crack Shot, Tractor Beam, and Juke (assuming you can strip the target) all making the roll smaller and its outcome less meaningful. An extra eyeball would not help much.

      The third issue is the revaluing of certain cards. Autothrusters and Lone Wolf come to mind. They would become much weaker, and I’m not sure they deserve that caliber of nerf. In fact I’d say they don’t need a nerf at all, although I’d hear that argument.

      The last and most damning issue is a physical one — distribution. Making new green dice for the game and mandating them for competitive play would be awkward at best, and very much unwelcome with too many existing players. It could irritate a lot of people who don’t want to buy new dice and don’t think the change is a good one. It’s not like a new card, changing things like that feel drastic in measure.

      I’d say that new cards that sabotage hyper-accuracy are the best avenue. Cards can target-fix the ships that need it most, giving them a competitive role in the game. They will excite players rather than offend them, more than a complete change to the game might (although some people do card-hate). Things that leave the Focus-only odds alone would be good. Things that don’t stack onto existing turtle ships like Soontir are the only safe way to go with it.

  17. To flesh out an idea that I posted half-formed in the thread linked above, I don’t think anti-low AGI cards help high AGI ships too very much, because people will kit their ships against the hardest targets. A card, say, that put 2 damage cards on a target if it hit wouldn’t help against Fel, and if you can’t deal with him, you’ll have a rough time of it. That, I think, is what it comes down to. Even anti-high AGI specialist cards can do good work against a Y-wing, but the same does not work in reverse.

    1. That is true to a degree, which is why pro-AGI weapon cards would need to be low cost. They are not valuable against all targets. The Autoblaster fell into this trap; it was an anti-AGI card, but worthless vs low AGI and costed far too high. At 2pts or maybe 3pts, it migt have seen serious play. (Granted it would have joined the ranks of other playable anti-AGI cards.)

      I definitely agree that it’s better to counter hyper-accuracy and buff green dice for some ships in a way that already tank+ace ships like Soontir and Corran struggle to use without switching out one defense for another. The two cards I’m drawn to most, Underdog and Wing Leader, are like that. What might be dangerous for the game would be more stackable offense/defense buffs available to that kind of ship.

      Not to derail my own thread, but I’ve heard people commenting that Poe is hard to kill. I haven’t figured that one out yet. Each time I have flown or faced Poe he’s not been all that hard to destroy. He’s sort of a cheaper less durable Corran, as far as I can tell. What is do difficult about killing this ship? He is vulnerable to heavy fire, especially when blocked. He can’t safely k-turn or Talon roll. Is it just green+Boost + Autothrusters + regen, every turn vs ships that cannot keep up?

      I do like BB-8 + PTL Poe. He’s very mobile and cannot be so easily blocked, though he still has issues turning around safely. But that’s not the Poe people are talking about I don’t think.

      1. Even low points cost anti-hull cards could be an issue, because they’ll have an opportunity cost, which suggests a munitions slot is probably the place to put them, as the opportunity cost is not very high on those right now. I think the thing that really would help basic high AGI ships is a weapon that specifically counters high AGI, high action aces that the extremely accurate attacks are needed for in the first place. We have those to a degree, the most obvious being the stress hog, but I’ll admit I’m surprised that Connor Net didn’t take off in a bigger way. Maybe it’s just a little too hard to use. I actually think Ion Torpedoes starts looking really interesting right now to counter mobile ships, since they can be made accurate now, and totally change how a whole squad flies.

        I’m with you on Poe, I don’t really get the difficulty.

      2. I too have considered the new Jumpmaster as an Ion Torpedo platform:

        37 Scout w/ Aggromech, Deadeye, Ion Torp., Extra Mun., Outlaw Tech, Guidance Chips

        I believe the control of the Ion Torpedo will find a home here in some lists, over PT and PlasmaT. Outlaw Tech to enable launch off of the red turnaround moves looks like a missing piece people haven’t gone crazy over just yet, regardless of torpedo choice.

        There are 3 slots that makes sense — payload, mod, and title. Different ships that need some help would want different spots, and some that don’t need help could be avoided by conflicting with slots they want for other things. For example the Underdog and Wing Leader titles are questionable on TIE Defender; do you take Underdog and give up TIE x/7 or TIE/D? But they are also questionable on the Scyk, who would be a better TIE Fighter analog but would lose access to the Heavy Scyk title… and the Scyk still needs help.

        Definitely any assists to ships will have to be intelligently designed. If just the right upgrades are not deliberately created, ships that struggle now will only continue to do so. I can’t see “the right upgrade” being fashioned by accident to help. It would have to be a deliberate effort by FFG to create the needed cards.

  18. Please remove the personal attack posts from the thread. (1) it’s a huge downer at face value, even without knowing any of the historical background behind it – knowing *that* of course makes it far uglier and worse, (2) it has nothing to do with gaming, (3) Anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.

      1. Thanks! Now let’s get back to the article that had the explosive effect strong enough to blow up the death star! If my 2 cents has any real value, I think it’s healthy to be vigilant as players and try and brace ourselves against a trend that will occult whole styles of play which were omnipresent (read: not just a card or two) not so long ago.
        I don’t really have a game designer backbone, so I’m ill-equipped to offer a solution, but I trust FFG already has a thing or two up their sleeves, not as a final solution, but as incremental, progressive stuff that’ll keep the game rolling. Perhaps not even in the direction you were anticipating. Not necessarily strictly better, just different. I wish I knew what that was but at the same time, I want nothing to do with any beta testing – I want to be surprised at the same time as my fellow players.

      2. And I also feel bad about being the one who brought it up. Lesson learned, something like that will be a mail or a PM next time.

        Let us carry on with the great discussion spawned by this nice article by Jeff.

      3. There are certainly cards that exist that are sort of intended to push back against health as a defense — Plasma Torpedo for example is very strong if, AFTER you’ve dealt normal damage, the target still has shields remaining. That impacts some of the 4-5 shields carriers, when the Plasma Torpedo is the first shot into them — Aggressors, Outriders, Ghosts, Falcons, B-wings, etc etc. It happens not to be so useful against the humble T-65 or TIE Bomber and similar health driven ships, which is nice. If it were a stronger torpedo we might see it shift the meta more than it will (which in my expectation is nearly zero).

        It’s currently not really a matter of offensive cards that attack low AGI well. We actually have those card already, and issues against high AGI keep them from being used as much as they otherwise might be:
        — Cluster Missiles, TIE/D and BTL-A4 titles, Corran, Dengar (attack spam)
        — Accuracy Corrector
        — Plasma Torpedo
        — ATT 2 swarm ships, especially the 12-13pt ones
        (Of note; Sensor Jammer is a direct counter to most of these cards.)

        The issue is more on the defensive side. AGI as a defense has been gutted more deeply than health as a defense, mathematically speaking. There is an absence of cards that protect AGI as valuable or counter TL+F style accuracy. I would not say there is a complete void — the new ghost pilot Kanan’s ability is pretty good against hyper-accuracy, by nerfing the shot. Maybe Kanan + Prototypes could have some legs?