Hosting a Star Wars: Destiny Slow Grow League

At Covenant Tulsa, we’ve been regularly hosting draft events for Destiny since the game released. We actually even invented a draft format before the draft starters and official rules came along, knowing how fun and accessible the format can make the game. Even with regular drafts and an incredibly welcoming community, the gap between people who casually enjoy the game and those who play more competitively has been growing with every release.

I started seeing people in our community getting pushed out, unintentionally, by those taking the game more seriously. When I also saw people I consider veterans of expandable tabletop games struggling to get into our community, I knew we had a big issue.

The truth about Destiny right now is that the amount of product and knowledge it takes to get into the game is too high of a barrier for most people. This is really a shame, since Destiny is one of the most elegantly designed games I have ever played. It’s easy to learn and offers immense depth.

I started talking with the other local regulars week to week, considering ways we could make it easier for new people to join our community. One of our first steps was having extra decks with us that we would happily lend to new players. Still, it felt like there was more that could be done.

So, this past summer I created a new way to play Star Wars Destiny that I call a slow grow league. After I made a few posts on Twitter about our league, I started getting questions about the format and how to run something similar. Instead of sharing that information one person and 280 characters at a time, I decided the best way to share it would be through a blog like this!

Getting Started – Season 1

In the draft format, players all start with the same cards. These cards are essential to make sure every player at least has a functional deck. However, one of the down sides is that a lot of times you end up playing against the same characters over and over again.

For slow grow, I wanted players to be able to play with any starter they wanted. This simultaneously meant there would be a higher variety of character teams and also removed a potential barrier for new players. If they already had a starter or maybe even a favorite character, I didn’t want to put any extra barriers in front of them by requiring specific starter decks.

Since our weekly Destiny night was on Wednesday, I decided to launch the slow grow on the first Wednesday after a new set was released (in this case Convergence). I knew current players were likely to be there anyway and that interest in new packs would still be very high. I also didn’t want to compete against the excitement of release week, as players in Tulsa tend to want to draft… a lot.

We kicked off the league by drafting 3 packs each. Then, every following week, we drafted one more pack and made adjustments to our deck. Then we played a few rounds. This structure was designed to keep costs extremely low. If a new player walked in a month late, I wanted them to be able to join without a huge upfront cost. All they would need is a starter, 3 packs for week 1, and 1 pack for each other week they missed. Even if the league lasted the average 16 weeks between sets, the maximum cost would be $57 ($15 for a starter, $3 per pack for 14 packs).

I started talking about the idea for a slow grow a month or two before actually launching it. I posted about starting the slow grow league in our local Facebook group about a week before we started. I honestly wasn’t sure what kind of response I would get, so I walked into the store on the first night of the league and was thrilled to find nearly 20 players ready to participate!

Before we drafted our packs on the first night (pictured above), I made it clear that there was one primary rule above all others: have fun. The point of the league was to create a fun, low-barrier way for everyone to enjoy Star Wars: Destiny. If you weren’t enjoying your experience you could do whatever you needed to fix it. Do you wish you’d chosen a different starter? Switch. Do you dislike your card pool? Start over and catch up like any other player would who joined late.

While getting 20 players to the beginning of the league was great, what happened after was just as impressive to me. Since most players are already coming to our store on Wednesday, it was super easy for them to keep up with one pack a week. Our retention rate was incredibly high, with our lowest attended week at 10 players. Very few players completely dropped off from the league, as we had 15 players at one of our final weeks of the league.

Even though I think the first season went incredibly well, I learned a whole lot throughout the season. I watched carefully each week to gather ideas from my own experience and ask everyone else for feedback. After compiling all of the thoughts and feedback, I made quite a few adjustments as we headed into our second season.

Lessons Learned – Season 2

The first thing I noticed was that deck building was most interesting from about pack 6 until pack 12. I wanted to get to this point faster, so I decided this time we’d start with 6 packs instead of just 3. For new players this increases the upfront costs, but I also believe the extra cards will go a long way towards creating excitement and making sure we get a lot of unique decks in the league.

Since this is how many packs you get in a standard draft, it also meant current players could take any draft pool they had and launch right into the slow grow league. Since most of our locals draft several times throughout the first week or two after release, this actually reduces the cost of participation up front to practically zero for them.

The second thing that became apparent was that drafting a single pack each week became less exciting as the league went on. With only 5 cards, it is likely you would have at least a few weeks where you draft 5 cards and put none of them in your deck. I decided to increase the weekly packs drafted to 2. Drafting a stack of 10 cards with 2 dice cards would create more interesting choices and ensure that even late into the league you are getting cards that you actually want to add to your deck.

Of course, this is a fine balance. With 6 packs upfront and 2 packs per week, the initial cost is higher and the pacing is faster. The barrier to entry needs to be low enough that new players aren’t overwhelmed while also not being so slow that current players get bored. Striking the right balance here is one of the most difficult and critical elements of a successful slow grow league.

The third change came from something I noticed later in the season. There was a natural point where most players in our community were ready to play constructed, including the new players. After the first five or six weeks, interest waned – in part due to the issues that led me to make the first two changes. Based on what players were telling me from week to week, the slow grow was standing in the way of their desire to explore constructed.

Instead of letting the league drag on until the next set, I decided to set an end to the league at the seventh week. This would give our community time to explore constructed together before the next set, but it also came with a few other benefits.

Having a finite timeline meant there was a specific amount of product each player needed. Since we start with 6 packs and draft 2 packs a week for 6 weeks, players need 18 packs. This is exactly half a box, which makes it super convenient for players to split a box up front and have everything they need for the league. It also let me schedule a finale to celebrate the end of the league, which I think is a fun way to wrap things up.

While my version of a slow grow league is a work in progress, the results have been really promising. In the first season, we were able to add a few new players to our local community. I also saw a lot of players that I felt were drifting away from the community turn back into weekly attendees. We launched our second season last week and actually had 7 totally new players participating!

Hosting A Slow Grow League

Whether you have a local Destiny community or play at home with the same people, if you are interested in the idea of a slow grow league I definitely encourage you to host one. Not only has this been a great way for us to keep our current community engaged and provide a low barrier of entry for new players, but it has also been incredibly fun for me as a veteran player. I definitely gained an appreciation for cards that I otherwise wouldn’t have touched without doing a slow grow league.

If you’re not sure where to start, the rules for our second slow grow season are below (these are the exact rules I posted in our local group). I have no doubt that we have a long way to go before we run out of ways to make it easier for people to join the tabletop gaming community, so if you host a league like this one I’d love to hear about your experience on Twitter!

Current Slow Grow Rules

As was the case previously, the most important rule is to have fun. The goal of the slow grow is to be a fun, accessible way to play Destiny. Here is a run down of the structure for our Spark of Hope slow grow league:

1. Each player starts with a Starter Set of their choice. This starter can be changed at any time.
2. We will draft 6 packs of Spark of Hope on Wednesday, July 17.
3. We will draft on Wednesday nights, starting no later than 6:15pm.
4. We will draft 2 packs per week, starting July 24th.
5. The league will last six weeks, starting on July 17th and ending on August 28th. If you start late, you need a starter, 6 packs, and 2 packs for every week missed.
7. There will be a finale event on August 28th! This will be a celebration of the community and I’ll be giving away some cool stuff (based on league participation).
8. You will need 18 packs for the entirety of the slow grow season. The most cost effective way to get these packs is to buy a booster box, so I recommend splitting a box with someone else!

Slow grow has been a super fun and affordable way to play Destiny, so if you’ve been out of the game for a while or considering trying it, I definitely recommend checking out this league.

My Path to Worlds 2017 – Han + Rey Control

Are upgrades worth playing in Star Wars: Destiny? I found myself asking this seemingly preposterous question as I was driving home after a late night Destiny Worlds testing session with Steven.

If I’ve learned anything over the years as a card game player, it’s that you must constantly discover and test your own assumptions. Assumptions are very deceptive, as they are often made without conscious realization. As assumptions are created, deck building and play narrows. Since you are seeing the game through your own lens, it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that can entrench you in your own thinking.

Undoubtedly, dice are an important part of Star Wars: Destiny. Assuming upgrades are worth playing is only logical. If you play a game with a starter, you quickly realize the difference between Rey and Rey with Rey’s Staff. The upgrade advantage is obvious.

But the question lingered…

It was still a few months before the 2017 World Championship, so I decided I would take the time to test my own assumption that upgrades were important and necessary in Star Wars: Destiny.

I thought back to early games that I was able to win with Darth Vader even when I did not draw upgrades. I thought of these games as flukes and attributed them to luck. That is a great place to start testing assumptions.

I decided to start by attempting to replicate those early ‘fluke’ games. I built a deck with Darth Vader and swung the pendulum as far to the other side of convention as possible. No upgrades. Zero.

Guess what happened next?

I won games. A lot of them. After a week of testing, I was starting to become obsessed with the idea. What other assumptions had I unknowingly made?Was everything I thought about Star Wars: Destiny wrong? Everything had to be reconsidered, and I started laying down a new groundwork for evaluating cards.

In this post, I consider a new method for valuing upgrades in Star Wars: Destiny, show how it evolved the Han + Rey deck I played at Worlds 2017, reflect on what I would have changed about my deck with perfect information, and consider if this valuation method is relevant as Destiny expands.

So, why was my upgrade-less Darth Vader deck winning?

Luminous Beings Are We

Winning without upgrades went against a lot of my preconceived notions about Destiny. To understand why I was winning without them, I had to better understand two critical concepts about Destiny. These concepts are the resource and damage curve. I would like to walk through a ‘typical’ game of Destiny to showcase these concepts. Note that the goal is not to accurately represent the stats of a particular deck or character, like the average damage a Han + Rey deck will do in a game, but to illustrate foundational concepts.

So, let’s say our game is going to last five turns. The resource curve is how many resources we are able to spend each turn. Every turn, we gain our standard two resources. If we are able to spend both resources each turn, our resource curve is below.

This curve assumes we won’t gain additional resources in the game. If our characters are Han and Rey, how might we expect this curve to change? Since Han has two resource sides and Rey has a resource side and a +1 resource side, it is likely that our deck will generate additional resources. The pair could generate as many as four additional resources a turn, but for this exercise we will say they generate an additional 1, 2, 0, 1, and 1 resources throughout the game. Below you can see the resource curve with and without the added resources.

At some point in the game Han or Rey will probably be defeated. Losing a character means their dice are forever removed from the game. This will affect our resource curve, but how might we project when we could lose a character?

Similar to the resource curve, the damage curve represents how much damage a deck does each turn of a game. If we are playing against a Darth Vader + Tusken Raider deck, for example, we might expect Darth Vader to average 2 damage per die and the Tusken Raider to average 1.5 damage per die. If those averages hold, the damage curve of that deck would look like the below.

Before we get too far though, we must first consider our own damage curve. If we defeat one of our opponent’s characters, this will surely alter their damage curve. To understand when we might defeat a character, let’s consider our own averages. Han has a 2 ranged damage and 3 ranged damage (costing 1) and Rey has a 1 melee damage and a +2 melee damage. For our exercise, let’s say we expect Han to average 2 damage per die and Rey to average 0.5 damage per die. Our damage curve using these averages is shown below.

While the damage curve of the decks are close, we must make one further consideration. The health of the characters. With these curves, the Vader + Raider deck could do enough damage to defeat Han or Rey by the second turn. Meanwhile, the Han + Rey deck could defeat the Tusken on the second turn or Darth Vader on the third turn.

Given our understanding, let’s say we decide to attack the Tusken Raider first to ensure we can defeat a character. Our opponent, fearing shields or a Second Chance being played on Han, decides to attack Rey first. If our predictions about these curves is correct, on the second turn they defeat Rey, we defeat the Tusken, and we get a damage or two on Darth Vader.

Given that we expect to lose Rey on the second turn, this affects both our resource and damage curve. Below I show both our resource and damage curve if Rey gets removed on the second turn.

With an understanding of the resource and damage curve, we can now truly evaluate upgrades in Destiny! Let’s consider how our curves might change if we spend our first two resources on an upgrade. What happens if we play a Holdout Blaster on Rey on the first turn? If the blaster adds 1, 2, 0, 1, and 2 damage throughout the game, our damage curve now looks like this.

It is worth noting that we would also get to put a shield on Han because of his ability. Not only does the Holdout Blaster increase our damage output, but it may even buy us an extra turn with Han given our opponent’s average damage curve!

Now, let’s compare the Holdout Blaster to another common upgrade, Jetpack. What would our curve look like if we had instead opted to play a Jetpack on Han on the first turn? Not only would this make Han a more attractive target, it would also potentially spike our damage curve even higher. Let’s say that the Jetpack adds 2, 3, 0, 2 and 3 damage throughout the game. Below are the damage curves with no upgrades, Holdout Blaster, and a Jetpack.

As you can see, both upgrades increase the damage curve quite a bit. Comparing the Holdout Blaster and Jetpack is important, both in deciding which to include in your deck and which to play given the current board state. However, it is at this point that I believe most players are taking a leap of faith.

While we are comparing upgrades to each other, most players are failing to compare them to the rest of the cards in their deck. Have you ever compared an upgrade and a control card? Say, a Holdout Blaster or Jetpack to Negotiate? Both cards occupy the same slot in your deck, so why wouldn’t we compare them? The trouble is, how do we compare them? They fill two seemingly different roles in our deck.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s see if we can. What happens if instead of playing Holdout Blaster on the first turn, we had removed a Rey die and spent a resource to play Negotiate to remove both of our opponents Darth Vader dice? We are down a resource and a Rey die, which averages 0.5 damage. We also cancel an expected 4 damage from Darth Vader. The change to their damage curve is shown below.

This doesn’t really help us compare the Holdout Blaster to Negotiate. One is adding damage, the other is preventing it. However, I believe we are closer to being able to compare them than you may realize. What is the true value of preventing damage?

In reality, preventing 4 damage from Darth Vader gives us an extra turn with Han or Rey on the board. Not only does this directly give us an additional turn with whoever they decide to target first, but that extra turn spent targeting their first target also gets us an extra turn with our other character later in the game. Even if all we considered was the addition of one turn with Han Solo, what is that worth in terms of our own damage?

Using our math from earlier, we expect Han’s average damage to be 2 per die. If that holds true, we are getting 4 damage from Han per turn. Below, I show our damage curve losing Han on the second and third turns, respectively.

This graph is useful for demonstrating the value of having Han for an extra turn, but does it really let us compare a card like Negotiate and Holdout Blaster? For that, we need one last graph.

So, is playing a Holdout Blaster on Rey or Negotiating two of Darth Vader’s dice better?

In this particular example, playing negotiate is a better play. Remember though, this exercise was not to determine the exact math behind these cards or even which of these particular cards is better. In our own example, it could easily have been the case that we held a Negotiate and a resource, yet Darth Vader never rolled damage on either of the first two turns. It could also be the case that Holdout Blaster never rolled damage.

Even though we may not know which of these cards is better with mathematic certainty, we have a methodology for valuing cards of different types on the same scale. Therefore, we can accurately and fairly compare the different types of cards. It was this understanding that started a complete shift in my thinking about Destiny. In the months leading to Worlds 2017, my methodology for valuing cards evolved my Han + Rey deck from an “aggro” deck into a “control” deck.

So, what does this kind of thinking look like when applied to a deck? Let’s take a look at the evolution of my Han + Rey deck to see just that!

Only What You Take With You

I started playing Han + Rey when Destiny first released. I wrote two tournament reports in the first few months of the game after winning my first and second monthly tournaments at Covenant Tulsa. My Han + Rey deck as of late January is below.

Characters
Elite Han Solo
Elite Rey

Battlefield: Starship Graveyard

Upgrades
2 x Datapad
2 x Jetpack
2 x Holdout Blaster
2 x Jedi Robes
2 x Lightsaber
2 x DL-44 Heavy Blaster Pistol
2 x One With The Force
2 x Second Chance

Supports
1 x Infamous
1 x Awakening

Events
2 x Defensive Stance
2 x Dodge
2 x Willpower
2 x Riposte
2 x Deflect
1 x Mind Trick
1 x Scavenge
1 x Hyperspace Jump

This version of the deck had 16 upgrades and 2 supports. That’s nearly two thirds of my entire deck! I used a list similar to the one above against Steven that we have on video. We play with our hands face up in the video below, so you can get a sense for my thinking about the deck and the game at the time.

Early on, I was attempting to build my dice pool through upgrades. Pretty standard, really. In most games  I opened with a Holdout Blaster (or similar) on Rey. Then I proceeded to stare at the rest of my hand. Guess how many of the cards in my deck could be played on any given turn after I spent 2 resources on an upgrade? Spoiler, it was only three!

In one game, I opened with a Holdout Blaster on Rey that I replaced with Jedi Robes (still my favorite opening). I activated Han, attempting to get a 2-disrupt. Instead, I rolled two 3 damage sides. This was another epiphany for me. It hit me like a brick just how bad Han’s dice were when you didn’t have resources.

I soon started experimenting with a new style of playing the deck. Whereas before I might add a second upgrade to Rey on the second turn, now I’d overwrite whatever I attached to her on the first turn with an Ambush upgrade. This gave me the benefits of the Ambush upgrade, like extra actions and shields, but it let me activate Han with my first action and either immediately resolve his damage or disrupt my opponent’s resources.

After a month or so of playing like this, I started coming to terms with how few dice you need on the table to win a game. I started valuing 0 and 1 cost cards a lot more favorably, as they offered me incredible flexibility when I didn’t need to use my spare resources on Han’s dice. Overwriting instead of playing an additional Ambush upgrade on Rey significantly increased my damage curve and stopped Han’s dice from being controlled.

Soon enough, a lot of the common cards in a Han + Rey deck, like Jetpack and Lightsaber, were replaced with cheaper, always-playable cards like Unpredictable and Heroism. After months of testing, the deck evolved into the list below.

Characters (2)
Elite Han Solo
Elite Rey (Skywalker)

Battlefield: Starship Graveyard

Upgrades (11)
2 x Holdout Blaster
2 x Jedi Robes
2 x DL-44 Heavy Blaster Pistol
1 x Rey’s Staff
1 x One With The Force
2 x Second Chance
1 x Hunker Down

Events (19)
2 x Unpredictable
2 x Deflect
2 x Electroshock
2 x Mind Trick
2 x Negotiate
1 x Disarm
1 x Heroism
1 x Defensive Stance
2 x Riposte
2 x Willpower
1 x Hyperspace Jump
1 x Scavenge

When I’m watching games of Destiny, it feels like the players have an unspoken agreement. They spend most of their resources playing upgrades, and since they can’t afford the rest of the card in their hand, they usually discard most of them to re-roll dice. Once most decks spend their two resources on an upgrade, the rest of their cards are just dead weight.

It’s not that I believe upgrades have zero value, but that most decks just have too many of them. By reaching a more appropriate balance between upgrades and the rest of the deck, my Han + Rey deck became significantly more adaptable and consistent. I knew going into Worlds 2017 that my theory about the game was either very wrong or very right. Proof was in the pudding, as they say.

So, how did Worlds 2017 go with only 8 cards adding dice in my deck?

Wars Not Make One Great

It only took me a handful of rounds in Swiss to realize my foresight about the Worlds 2017 meta wasn’t quite right. Even with a few meta miscalls, my approach to the deck seemed to be reinforced each round. Every time I played Mind Trick out of Han + Rey my opponents would either be amused or confused. I finished in the top 4 of the 2017 World Championship and you can watch my top 4 games below!

SPOILERS: If you watch the games, you’ll witness me drawing no upgrades. The penalty for only including 8 dice upgrades is that sometimes you don’t draw them. In testing, I could usually still win the game without upgrades. Nick wasn’t able to do much damage throughout the early turns of either game because of how much control I played. However, he was able to aggressively build his dice pool. This meant when I was drawing cards like Mind Trick, his dice pool was smallest. By the time I was drawing all upgrades, he had a large dice pool and I had little to no control.

Difficult To See The Future Is

So, what did I get wrong about the meta? The first thing I got wrong was Jango. Back in March, I expected there to be a significant Jango presence at Worlds. In testing, Jango + 2x Trooper was supremely consistent and I still believe it to be one of the best decks in the meta. An early Jetpack on Jango can be nearly unbeatable.

The second thing I got wrong was Vader + Raider. I expected there to be some of this at the event, simply because it was the most viable way to play Darth Vader. I felt very comfortable with this match up because of my heavy control. I could often stop Vader from doing much damage at all through the first two turns, putting me way ahead on the damage curve. Negotiate can be absolutely brutal.

The third big thing I got wrong, and probably biggest thing, was Captain Phasma. I didn’t have her on my radar at all. There were a ton of Phasma + Bala + Trooper decks floating around and their style of play is almost the exact opposite of mine. That deck’s ability to buy time with Guardian and build its board is impressive.

If I were playing again at Worlds today, I’d definitely make some changes. The first would be to drop a Disarm for a Dodge. Disarm was in the deck for Jango, who as I mentioned was almost non-existent at the event. Dodge is a silver bullet against Jango, but it also would have given me another big control card against Phasma once her board is built. I’d consider going up to two Dodge if I had known how much Phasma I’d see at the event.

The second change would be to drop a Scavenge for another copy of Rey’s Staff. Steven specifically turned me on to Rey’s Staff late in our testing process. After using it extensively at Worlds, that card was an MVP every time it hit the board. Scavenge lets me stack a few Ambush upgrades for some insane turns and can get me upgrades when I don’t have any, but I’d rather just more consistently see Rey’s Staff.

The final change would be dropping Defensive Stance in favor of Hunker Down. I went down to a single Hunker Down after testing extensively against Vader + Raider. Hunker Down is still a good card even in those bad matches, but against Phasma and Jango it is absurd.

Are Upgrades Playable?

Yes, they are. However, I believe most players are currently overvaluing upgrades. This stems from an assumption that upgrades are more important than the rest of the cards in a deck. This assumption is left unquestioned due to players lacking a meaningful way to compare upgrades to the other cards in their deck. This keeps important cards off the table and results in inefficient decks that helps create a stale meta.

It is this imbalance that has given rise to the current meta of Star Wars: Destiny. The three cornerstone decks of the meta are Poe/Maz, Palpatine, and Unkar. It seems difficult to prepare for all three of these decks, because they win for very different reasons. However, the benefit of relying less on upgrades and having more options in your hand each round against these decks is significant. I was able to win the Covenant Tulsa Store Championship (33 players) using a Darth Vader + Royal Guard deck with only 8 upgrades! I’ll be writing about that deck soon.

I’ve been calling this way of approaching Destiny the Jedi Path, symbolic of the Jedi belief in having no attachments. If you’re interested in taking your first steps down the path, start by paying attention to the resource and damage curves of your deck. Try a deck with no upgrades and see if you can win games. Then, as you add upgrades evaluate them not just against each other, but against the rest of the cards in your deck. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results!

Road to the Open Series: Kanan + Biggs on Mustafar

The Road to the Open Series is a blog series documenting my journey preparing for and competing in Star Wars X-Wing Open Series events. If you’d like to jump to the beginning of the series back in early 2016, you can find the first post here. You can also jump to any blog in the series at the end of each post!

A month ago, I knew I had a problem… I hadn’t played a single game of X-Wing in over two months. With only one week before the Mustafar Open in San Antonio, it was starting to be a big problem! I had to get a handle on the post-Worlds meta and quickly. With the recent release of Heroes of the Resistance, the TIE Striker, and the U-Wing, there was some serious meta evaluation needed.

I tested Ghost in a Shell (aka Kanan + Biggs) extensively leading up to Worlds 2016, even proxying the Rey crew card after it was previewed. Though Rey ended up not being playable at Worlds, all of that testing made that list a solid choice for Mustafar. With few other enticing options and the Rey crew card legal, I quickly (begrudgingly?) decided my best option was to run Ghost.

Leading up to Worlds, I made adjustments to my list given that I couldn’t field Rey. At the time, I had a handful of cards that I felt were ‘win more’ cards in my squad. I switched from R2-D2 to R4-D6 to save points and prevent a single shot death on Biggs, upgraded my Phantom so I didn’t just lose when the Phantom hit the table, and switched from Accuracy Corrector to Fire Control System to help me get through high agility targets.

I finished 5-1 in the Swiss rounds at Worlds and the changes definitely paid off, but they came at a cost. I won two games after my Shuttle hit the board and one specifically because of Fire Control System. But, my margin of victory (MOV) was one of the lowest of ALL players that made day 2, including players that had finished a full game behind me at 4-2. A single loss, to any one of the best players in the world, meant I would be out of the running for the Top 16 at Worlds. I ended up losing my first game and at 5-2 was effectively out of the tournament.

I decided to spend the limited time I had to test before Mustafar looking at which of the ‘win more’ cards might help me not need the Shuttle to come out and which of the new additions weren’t really winning me games either. The Rey crew is a remarkably strong upgrade on her own, but I ended up with the below for Mustafar:

(51) – Kanan Jarrus (38) + Fire Control System (2) + Twin Laster Turret (6) + Rey (2) + Recon Specialist (3) + Ghost (0)
(29) – Biggs Darklighter (25) + R2-D2 (4) + Integrated Astromech (0)
(20) – “Zeb” Orrelios (18) + Autoblaster Turret (2) + “Chopper” (0) + Phantom (0)

If you’re unfamiliar with the cards in this list, here is an image of all the cards in my squad. If you haven’t had the chance to play against Ghost in a Shell… well, it’s brutal!

The Ghost with Twin Laser Turret (TLT) and the Phantom docked allows Kanan to shoot two TLT shots during combat and two more at the end of combat. After his second attack each time, he gets a free Target Lock on the defender from Fire Control System. Recon Specialist gives him two focus when he takes the focus action. Paired with Rey, I spend the first several turns staying out of the fight in order to store a stack of focus on Rey. This ensures I have three focus on the most important turns of the game!

It is tough for even the wiliest targets to not take damage against this many shots. An Imperial Ace stacked with tokens (and Emperor Palpatine ready to modify results) has trouble avoiding the onslaught. Kanan chews through ships that don’t have a stack of tokens or high agility. He also has a 4-die primary attack backed up by a target lock and a focus, which does work if your opponent ends up at range 1.

This list brings more than just offense, too.  When positioned correctly, the defensive potency is hard to overcome. Opponents have to shoot Biggs at range 2-3 while having their attacks reduced by Kanan. Biggs, of course, recovers a shield each round with R2-D2. This generally means that your opponent has to spend several turns of attacks to destroy Biggs. All the while, they are taking the brunt of four TLT shots each round from Kanan.

Any list with only two guns can really struggle to ‘crack Biggs’. This includes the ever-popular Palp Defenders and Dengaroo. Since Kanan can reduce both attacks and Biggs can save his focus for defense, he usually doesn’t take more than one or two points of damage a turn. With a shield being recovered each round, you can imagine how long Biggs takes to destroy. Once an opponent finally does crack Biggs, you usually have a full health Kanan.

With enough Focus stacked on Rey, you switch to taking evade tokens and moving a focus each round with Rey. You can reduce one attack and avoid one damage each turn. If your opponent is down to a single ship, this makes getting through Kanan’s 16 hull and shields a painful process. If they manage to get through Kanan, you have the Phantom that pops out and can finish the job. The Autoblaster Turret makes for a very mean one-two punch against your opponent’s final ship.

This list is certainly beatable, particularly against anything that can quickly get rid of Biggs with a burst of early offense. The games I do lose with this list are usually started with Biggs being off the board within the first two rounds of combat. Generally, this takes rockets, cannons, or a lot of ships. When faced with a mirror match (a similar list), most Kanan + Biggs players aren’t running R2-D2 or Fire Control System. I really feel both of these give me ways to create advantages in the mirror and ‘fight gravity‘ (incredible article by @Theorist about mirror matches), as it were.

Day 1: Swiss

During the Swiss tournament, my biggest surprise was playing against three other Ghost players! Each list was unique, including one that was very much like mine. One didn’t even have a Phantom docked and the other was very offensively built (similar to the Calen Wong special I wrote about in my ETX report). I went 2-1 against the other Ghost players, losing an incredibly close match against the more offensively geared Ghost. In one of the other matches, my opponent took out my full health shuttle with his shuttle on his dying shot, resulting in a final salvo!

In a final salvo, both players roll the total dice of all the ships that started the game. Whoever gets more total hits and crits wins the game. With identical dice (and a pinch of luck), I rolled one extra hit taking the game in my first final salvo!

Going into the final round of Swiss, I was 5-1 and had the privilege of being paired up against Jeremy, meaning that I was playing the only undefeated player! He was playing an Attanni Mindlink list. My friend and fellow Tulsan, Eric, was at Mustafar playing a Mindlink list. He had done well with it the week before at the Dallas Regional, so I knew enough about it to respect it. I had done zero testing against it though and Jeremy was obviously good at 6-0, so I knew it would be an interesting match.

I felt comfortable throughout the game and consistently felt ahead. I set up a turn to undock my shuttle and likely have my Phantom at range 1 of Fenn Rau. It worked, and with only two health left it meant that my Autoblaster Turret could one-shot him. I also had Asajj dead to rights at range 1 of Kanan, with two health left and a five die primary coming her way.

At the last second Jeremy decided to shoot at my Shuttle with Asajj, wanting to force me to spend my focus token and give Fenn a possible out. He rolled a hit, hit, crit. I rolled my three agility and got blank, blank, blank… If you’ve played X-Wing long enough, you know what comes next. I remove my shields and flip over my top damage card. Direct. Hit. This destroyed my Shuttle and my game plan in one fell swoop. Immediately, I knew the game was over. You win some, you lose some!

Day 2: The Cut

Going into day 2, I was 5-2 with almost double the MOV I had with a 5-1 record at Worlds. I likely still needed to win both games to guarantee I made the top 8 cut. Day 2 was down to 23 of the best players at the tournament, so that would be no small task!

In my first round, I was paired against Dengaroo. As I mentioned earlier, this is a list that struggles against mine so I was happy to start the day with this match. My opponent flew Manaroo at a safe distance across the board. This let her pass tokens to Dengar without needing the tokens herself. Unfortunately for my opponent, Dengar wasn’t enough to crack Biggs. I started day 2 not just with a win, but a 100-0 victory!

In the second round, I was paired against a player running Palp Defenders. Again, this is a match that I know favors me. I had only seen one Defender list on the first day of Swiss, so I was happy to see it across the table in the round I needed to win to make the cut.

Unlike the previous game where the support ship (Manaroo) stayed safe at a distance, my opponent decided to bring his Lambda Shuttle straight into the fight! This was smart, as it allowed him to take out Biggs quickly (which as I’ve mentioned, is how I lose). After that round though, he had the chance to keep his shuttle in the fight or head for the hills. Had he turned his shuttle down the board, I legitimately think he could have won. Luckily for me, he turned towards Kanan.

This let me take out the shuttle that turn, removing Emperor Palpatine from the board! I had Ryad down to a single health and Vessery on my tail. It didn’t take long without Palpatine for Kanan to eat through Vessery. On the final turn, I popped my shuttle out to all but guarantee the final damage with Autothrusters. My opponent was able to get halfway through Kanan though, doing some damage to my final MOV!

At 7-2, players around me were starting to ‘do the math’. It was expected that one or two of the 7-2 players wouldn’t make the cut. Ouch! I was hoping that last turn where Kanan took three damage wasn’t going to cost me the cut. Nothing I could do now though and I felt confident in my MOV.

After a bit of waiting, the rest of the games finished up and the list was posted… I made it! I was only 25 MOV points ahead of 9th place though, so it was really close!

I was paired against Marc, who I was very happy to see running a bizarre and interesting Imperial list. He had a TIE Striker, TIE s/f, and a TIE Defender. I have to admit, I was a bit jealous. I switched to Kanan to take a break from Imperials last August and ever since Worlds, have been wanting to get back to my Imperial roots. He was also using some of the new cards I was most excited about, including Adaptive Ailerons, Lightweight Frame, and Expertise.

For the first time in the tournament I had to really read my opponent’s cards. While this is pretty normal whenever new cards come out, it is certainly not ideal when you’re sitting in the first round of the cut of a big event. After quite a bit of thought, I was confident I could win the match. It was time to get started!

After the first few turns of maneuvering, he was positioned to flank me with Pure Sabaac. It was the third time we were going to dials and I actually had to make a big decision. I was on the left side of the board and he was to my right. I had enough space to turn left, away from the fight, tempting him to pursue me with Pure Sabaac. If I could snipe Pure Sabaac before our forces were really were engaged, Biggs would be free to recover and seal the game for me. I didn’t think he’d take the bait though, so I did the math on just moving ahead. He would still likely just have Pure Sabaac in range on that turn, which I ultimately found favorable.

I moved straight ahead along the outside of the rocks. I called it right and Pure Sabaac was the only ship in the fight that turn. While I was able to score two damage and take away his extra attack die, I was out of range to trigger Kanan. He rolled three hits and a crit against Biggs. I rolled all blanks. I removed Biggs’ shields, took a damage card, and then flipped the next damage face up. Direct. Hit.

So, I had to eject R2 on that turn and things were not looking great. On the next turn, Biggs survived the first attack. He went down on the next attack though, so I was now concerned. As I mentioned earlier, this is exactly how this list loses. While the odds weren’t bad, I was able to remove Pure Sabaac on my first two shots with Kanan and a bit of good fortune. Then with even more fortune I took two shields from Quickdraw without taking any shots back. All in all, not ideal but I was definitely in the game.

On the next turn, with three focus and a target lock on Quickdraw, I hit all four shots and had him down to 2 hull. Marc was able to strip all of Kanan’s shields on the same turn though, so we were roughly staying even. I now had four shots to get two damage through on Quickdraw to officially claim the lead. With a target lock and two focus, I had a good feeling about my odds!

I got one damage through on my first pair of attacks. I only needed one more damage to create a very steep wall for his Defender to climb. On my second pair of attacks, I rolled three damage both times after spending focus tokens and my target lock. Both times, Marc rolled two natural evades on defense. Lightweight Frame added a third agility and both times he rolled a natural evade. That card choice by Marc was doing some serious work here.

This left Quickdraw on the board and put me at a serious disadvantage. On the next move, I popped the Phantom out, hoping to get at range 1 of Quickdraw to finish him off. To make matters worse, the extra gun on the board allowed Marc to destroy Kanan that very turn. It just wasn’t possible for me to get back in the game. So, I was officially out of the tournament.

Marc played a brilliant game and made killer choices with his list. Even though I felt I had that game in my hands, I just wasn’t prepped to deal with Marc’s list. I was happy with a 7-3 finish and am ready now more than ever to get back to Imperials. Marc and Jeremy (the undefeated player that beat me on day 1) ended up making the finals and you can watch that game below. We break down both the Attani Mindlink list and Marc’s crazy Imperials in the video!

Looking Ahead

I’d like to say a big thanks to everyone who continues following along with this journey. I feel incredibly lucky to travel to these events. I’m going to return to Imperials for Hoth in late March at Adepticon, so if you have any ships or lists that you think are worth checking out before Hoth I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

I’d also like to say a general thanks to the X-Wing community for being fantastic. This event showcased again just how great this community is and I’m honored to be a part of it! Also, a shout out to FFG and the designers of X-Wing for continuing to make this game one of the best in the world.

Now, I’m off to fly a few new Imperial builds! I’ll be back when I have something worth writing about – until then, keep playing!

2016

Road to the Open Series: The Awakening
Road to the Open Series: TIE Swarm
Road to the Open Series: The Meta
Road to the Open Series: Palp Aces
Road to the Open Series: The Qualifier
Road to the Open Series: The Final Day

2017 

Road to the Open Series: Kanan + Biggs on Mustafar (this blog)
Road to the Open Series: Hoth Open (coming in April)

Road to the Open Series: The Final Day

The Road to the Open Series is a blog series documenting my journey preparing for and competing in Star Wars X-Wing Open Series events. If you’d like to jump to the beginning of the series back in early 2016, you can find the first post here. You can also jump to any blog in the series at the end of each post!

My first goal going into the Hoth Open was to make it to the final day. After going 5-1 in Swiss, I was starting to believe that I could potentially go the distance. The whole distance. I knew the final day of Swiss was going to be intense though, as only the best players remained. There would be no easy rounds moving forward and as I explained in my previous blog, I pretty much needed to go 3-0 on the final day to make the cut. By the time the pairings were posted for the final day of Swiss, I was very excited to get underway!

Round 7: Ethan – Poe and Co.

During my Swiss rounds, I kept being paired next to Ethan, but never against him. He was running Poe and Co., with his third slot filled by Jake Ferrel! I had played against a similar list during Swiss. His list doesn’t have enough fire power to remove my shuttle from the board before having to maneuver around it, so my strategy going into the game was to barrel my shuttle at his ships. He would either bump or give me superior positioning.

As I have done so often now, I took a 3 turn with the shuttle as we approached. His Poe was caught unprepared and bumped right into the shuttle. After this happened, I was able to remove Poe from the board a few turns later. The picture below is a turn just after Poe was officially off of the board.

The aftermath of that chaos is always fun to see. On this turn, Vader k-turned, Yorr absorbs the stress, and I destroyed the Y-Wing with Vader and the Inquisitor. With only Jake left, it was on to the next round!

Round 8: Ryan – Mynocks

After scoring a win on the final day of Swiss, I was paired with Ryan of the Mynock Squadron. He was running the ever popular version of Palp Aces that is featured in many of the top 8 games from Hoth (coming soon). To be honest, I felt confident I could walk away with a win in this match. With Vader at PS11, I would be able to consistently arc-dodge Whisper and attack before she cloaked. I also had Ion Projectors to force bad positioning for Ryan. My list was ready for the ace off!

You can get a sense for his setup in the picture above. Through a series of maneuvers from this position, he can setup what is called a fortress. Basically, his ships will stay in the corner until he is ready for them not to do so. I did one of my standard openings and a few turns in, realized Ryan had no intent of engaging me until I came to the corner.

I was confident I could win this game… but that was assuming we engaged in a normal manner. Realizing that Ryan could stay in the corner until it suited him, I recognized that this was the only way for him to take the advantage from me and put it squarely in his corner. If I chose to engage, I would need to bring my shuttle in to have equal firepower. The problem though, is that he can break the fortress at the right time and effectively remove my advantage from Ion Projector and have superior positioning for the entire match. The math suddenly slanted his way, assuming I chose to engage him on his terms.

An important part of doing well at a big event, like the Hoth Open Series, is understanding your own psyche. I am not one to back down from a challenge and a big part of me wanted to engage him anyway, even if the odds were in his favor. The logical part of me, though, recognized this as a mistake. If he was unwilling to play the game on standard terms, I was unwilling to play on his.

I considered it for a few moments and realized that I needed to win out to make the cut. A draw against Ryan was ultimately the same thing as a win, so long as I won my next round. I was unwilling to take the risky option of engaging him in the corner, so I called for a judge. We came back and I offered a draw to my opponent. He accepted. I took a walk.

Obviously, not what I wanted to happen, but better than losing to a Fortress!

Round 9: Tyler Tippet on Crack

Of all the things to possibly get paired against going into the final round, Tyler’s Crack Swarm was definitely near the bottom of my wish list. My very first article was about taking swarm for a spin. In testing, Crack Swarm was my weakest matchup. It was dependent on blocking and the first engagement, but I knew a good Swarm player could be a real problem for my list.

Win and your in. Lose and you go home. Game. On.

Tyler approached from the left of the board, as my Inquisitor and Shuttle approached timidly from the center. Vader was flanking far out to the right. My goal was to send the shuttle straight at the Swarm and cause Tyler to break his swarm or created a serious number of ‘bumps’. Meanwhile, my aces would strafe from the side, getting shots when they could and running when they couldn’t. Before my plan could be fully enacted though, a turn happened where Vader was barely at range 3 of two of TIE Fighters.

With an evade on Vader, Palpatine at the ready, and my Shuttle and Inquisitor in range to shoot from the side, I decided to take a Target Lock, Evade, and take a shot at a TIE Fighter. I was able to score two damage on his TIE and one on another with the Inquisitor. He fired back through a debris and rolled two hits. Blank, blank, blank, blank. I palpatine and he spends a Crack. He fires with the second not obstructed and gets a hit, crit. Blank, blank, blank. I spend the evade token, he spends the crack. Final shield is down and a critical is dealt… Direct Damage.

Often times in a moment just like this, a player might go on what is called a ‘tilt’. When something bad happens in a game, it is easy to let your opponent have the momentum. It also makes risky plays seem worthwhile and leads to lots of bad choices. I was committed to not going on tilt.

While two blank agility rolls were unfortunate, now was not the time to lose my cool. I reminded myself that he had used two of his cracks. If I could get him to spend more shots hunting Vader, it would be very hard for him to destroy my Inquisitor without Crack Shots. I examined the board and figured that Tyler would do everything he could to block Vader and ensure lethal damage.

After much thought, I decided a 3 right bank was my best maneuver. I knew only one ship could end up in that spot to block and if he cut off my shorter movement, even with a block he would only have two shots on me. I also knew that he could just as easily turn to the right and go straight at my Shuttle and Inquisitor, so I had to be careful with their maneuvers as well. If he went for Vader though and missed, Vader could boost and barrel roll out of arc to safety. Even then, that would leave Tyler out of position.

He maneuvered his ships and saved the ship that I knew could block Vader for last. I held my breath as he revealed his final maneuver. It was the maneuver that if paired with a barrel roll could block me. He took a moment to decide his action after moving… Focus. With a grin on my face, I moved my ships. Vader did a 3 right bank. He barely cleared Tyler’s final ship. With a boost and a Barrel Roll, Vader was clear of any shots and my Inquisitor and Shuttle were behind the now disjointed Swarm.

A few turns later, Tyler was able to finally successfully destroy Vader, but at that point it was all but too late. It eventually ended up being my Inquisitor against two TIEs without Crack Shot, a near impossible fight for Tyler to win. Over several turns, I was able to seal the game and my spot in the Top 8 of the Hoth Open!!!

Top 8: Nathan Eide – Trip Aces

After anxiously awaiting the rest of the games from the final round to end, the final standings were posted. I was the 5 Seed!!!

I would be facing Nathan Eide, the 2nd place finisher from Worlds 2015! I was very excited about this match. I had talked with Nathan earlier in the day, where I was extremely happy to learn he was running Trip Aces. I also had told him of just how much trouble my Ion Projectors had been giving other players. Now it was time to see if they could give Nathan some trouble!

Going into this match, I was excited to be flying against Nathan. I was confident I could win, for the same reasons I was comfortable flying against Ryan earlier. I have a lot to say about this game, but I will let the video of the game do all the talking. Enjoy!

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

I cannot say enough thanks to everyone who was involved in my Road to the Open Series. This community is absolutely first class and I am so proud to be a part of it. To everyone who has followed along in this series, left a comment, replied on social media, or gave me input, a huge thank you. Also, to my local play test partners (in particular to @mofficus) and of course to the oracle himself, @theorist, a bazillion thank you’s. I would not have been able to get anywhere near the cut without all of your help.

As I look ahead, I am very excited. I plan to compete at Worlds this year for X-Wing and cannot wait to see how the meta changes between now and then. The game is in a wonderful place and seems to only be getting better. I’m off to get do some more testing before heading to Seattle next weekend to play in the X-Wing Regional at Evergreen Tabletop Expo. If you’re there, say hello!

Until next time, may the Force be with you!

Zach

If you would like to read more about my Road to Open Series, below are all of the blog posts in the series! 

2016

Road to the Open Series: The Awakening
Road to the Open Series: TIE Swarm
Road to the Open Series: The Meta
Road to the Open Series: Palp Aces
Road to the Open Series: The Qualifier
Road to the Open Series: The Final Day (this blog)

2017 

Road to the Open Series: Kanan + Biggs on Mustafar
Road to the Open Series: Hoth Open (coming in April)

Road to the Open Series: The Qualifier

The Road to the Open Series is a blog series documenting my journey preparing for and competing in Star Wars X-Wing Open Series events. If you’d like to jump to the beginning of the series back in early 2016, you can find the first post here. You can also jump to any blog in the series at the end of each post!

The days seem to be a blur between when I started training for the Hoth Open and the tournament itself. As the tournament approached, I would squeeze in games of X-Wing at almost every free moment. I settled on my list (which I wrote about in my Palp Aces blog) as soon as I knew Wave 8 was going to be out in time for the tournament. I tested as much as I was able and before I knew it we were on the road to Chicago for the Hoth Open!

I hoped to arrive at Adepticon in time to walk around a bit to see what was doing well on the first day of the open series, but we were there a bit too late on Thursday for that. We grabbed some food and headed to bed, with the big event starting the next morning. You can actually watch a video recap of our travels (beware, Taylor Swift is definitely involved)!

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The Hoth Open Series tournament would easily be the biggest and most competitive X-Wing event I had ever played. My last truly competitive X-Wing tournament was at the 2014 Dallas Regional… Yet, as I stood in line to turn in my squad sheet for second day Swiss qualifier, the only feeling I had was pure excitement. I was ready to dive head first into the competitive X-Wing scene, but did I have the chops to make it to final day of the Hoth Open? It was time to find out!

Round 1: Zach – The Ole Pancake

In the first round, I was paired against Zach at table 49! After the obvious ‘only what you take with you jokes’, I took a serious look at his list. He was running a Rebel list with a decked out.. Chewie!? This is not what I had expected to see, so I actually had not tested my list against the YT-1300. I felt like the match favored me in general, with the Inquisitor being a very tough customer for the Falcon.

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My red dice were h. o. t., hot, even when I didn’t need them to be. I had several unspent target locks with the Inquisitor and a few turns where I didn’t even use Palpatine. The game was fun and and a great way to start the tournament, as Zach was a very friendly opponent. Ultimately, my list was too much for the Falcon to handle. Zach was able to get half health off Palpatine, but I didn’t lose a ship.

My excitement started growing! I knew that in a Swiss tournaments each win increases the odds of facing top level competition. I was ready to face the challenge!

Round 2 – Poe and Co.

I apologize in advance for not having my round 2 opponent’s name, although he is pictured below! He was running a very different kind of Poe list. He wasn’t running the stresshog and instead was running Luke and an A-Wing. He had R2 on Luke and R5 on Poe, so I knew whichever of those targets I went for first I needed to make sure I could concentrate fire on. Otherwise, my early attacks would be recovered with an Astromech.

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I originally took a shot at Luke, but then due to positioning focused heavy fire on his A-Wing to get it off the board. On that turn, my opponent collided head on into Yorr with Poe. On the following turn I revealed a 1 forward to stay in the same position. Then he goes 1 forward due to the Ion token, causing a bump. I roll for the projector and miss.

“Palpatine.” I said as I turned the die to a hit and handed back the ion token.

My opponent paused. “I just lost, didn’t I?”

Now I could focus solely on Luke and a few turns later, he was destroyed. I had all but won with a helpless Poe stuck colliding with Yorr and it only took me a few more turns to end the game.

Round 3: Darwin – The Redcapes Are Coming!

For whatever reason, every time I see the Jumpmasters I cannot help but hear Jesse Eisenburg’s Lex Luther saying, “The red capes are coming.”

Darwin was a very calm, kind, and calculated player. As I mentioned in my last blog, I only had so many games against the Jumpmasters. I had a general plan of attack, which was to bait the Jumpmasters with one ace (preferably Vader) and once Darwin commits to Vader, run with that ship like crazy. The goal is to draw out his munitions. In testing, even two completely undamaged Jumpmasters without missiles against Inquisitor is in my favor. If the missiles cannot destroy Vader, the odds of the match go insanely in my favor.

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All was going according to plan and Darwin fired his final missile at Vader, who had 1 shield left. After his menagerie of upgrades triggering, he rolled hit, hit, hit, and a crit. I had a focus and an evade, but spent Palpatine on an earlier roll. I roll blank, blank, blank. Spend the Evade token. Shield. Damage. I look up at Darwin as I grab the final damage, a crit, while I have only two hull left. Is it a…

Direct. Hit.

We both laugh, but with three Jumppasters on the board I realize this isn’t going to be an easy fight. Darwin has no more missiles, one Jumpmaster is missing shields, and another only has one health left. I do the math and realize that if I can get him down to a single Jumpmaster with half health, the game is mine. I’m still in it, but I look up and realize there are only fifteen minutes remaining.

Time to boogie! We play the song and dance and I’m able to remove a Jumpmaster. We are speeding through the turns and I’m pretty sure he was able to destroy the Inquisitor as time was expiring.

At 2-1, reality starts to set in. At max, I can lose one more game and still make day two. I was feeling confident and like I was definitely in the game I had just lost, so no hope or excitement was lost. I got water and food and prepared for the next round.

Round 4: Desmond – Scum, Firespray, Oh My!

When I got to the table and looked across to see two Y-Wings and a Firespray, I just smiled. I always love the players who go against the grain and decide to run the unexpected ships at a big event like this. These kind of players are honestly the scariest, because you do not test against these lists heavily and what if they actually are on to something? I was curious to find out if Desmond was indeed on to something and at 2-1, it was certainly possible.

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The reality of this game was that it was just bizarre. There was an early maneuver by Desmond that sent the Firespray really close to the edge of the board (as seen above, although he did not fly off the table), but it did choreograph his moves for me. I was able to effectively stay out of art of his Firespray, while staying at close range of the Y-Wings. I made quick work of his Y-Wings. Once they were off the board, his list simply did not have the firepower to deal with my ships.

3-1. 3. and. 1. Breathe. One more win puts me into day two! The excitement at this point was reaching a new high, as the reality of making day two was becoming very real.

Round 5: Lenny – Return of the… Starviper?!

After sitting across from a Firespray, at 3-1 I was bewildered to be looking across at two Starvipers and a Talonbane. If a Firespray was scary, this was terrifying! I could tell very quickly that Lenny was both hilarious and quite pessimistic about his chances in this particular matchup, but alas the show must go on!

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I had a lot of conversations at the Hoth Open Series about whether or not I should have been running Ion Projectors. A lot of players thought it was a gimmicky add to the list that did not really deliver as much as say Proton Rockets might have on the Inquisitor. This game was a very great example of Ion Projectors never being triggered but creating a huge advantage for me.

I put Yorr on the bottom left of the board. Lenny placed two of his ships at the top left of the board and one on the right (Guri). I came down the middle of the board with all of my ships, intending to create a serious problem for Lenny. I sent my aces to the right and used Yorr to block the path his ships would take to join the engagement. The fear of bumping the shuttle meant I successfully cut two of his ships off from the fight and was easily able to pick off Guri before engaging with his other ships. It also left his other ships in weird positioning.

It is worth noting that his list was built to be able to survive the alpha strike (first round of engagements) against Jumpmasters. At that point, the Starvipers are an amazing late game ship against the Jumps. Against my list though, he had so many points tied up into unessential upgrades and I was simply able to out maneuver him. This was a really unfortunate pairing for him.

While the match guaranteed a final day appearance for whoever won, it was nice that it turned out to be one of the most lighthearted matches of the day. I am continually inspired by the X-Wing community proving itself as a truly unique, amazing, awesome, friendly community and feel fortunate to get to be a part of it. I was also very happy to know that I was going to be playing on the final day of the Hoth Open!!!

Round 6: Nick – Finally, The Bros

Both Nick and I were guaranteed to make it to the final day, so did this match even matter? That is worth discussing!

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There are many elements at play when it comes to doing well at a big event. This ranges from preparation, to performance, to even staying hydrated. It also includes understanding the tournament format. This specifically includes the metrics by which players make it to additional rounds of the tournament. It seems obvious and in true John Madden style, but understanding how players advance is key to advancing. The format being used at the Hoth Open was something I had never experienced, so I took some time to really understand the system before going into my final match of Swiss against Nick.

Let’s talk about the final day of competition. A record of 4-2 guaranteed a spot at day 3. On the final day, the tournament combines all the players with winning records from day 1 and day 2 into a single pool for three more rounds of Swiss. After those three rounds are played, the players with the best combined records make the top 8.

According to good ole tournament math, anyone that finishes 9-0 or 8-1 was guaranteed to make it into the top 8. The ‘bubble’ (which is the record that some players will and won’t make the cut with) was 7-2. The tie breaker becomes critical if you end up at 7-2. So, what was the tie breaker? MOV (margin of victory) from JUST day 3. This may seem normal, but actually creates a very bizarre situation.

The winner of the game between Nick and I would go into the final day with a 5-1 record and the loser 4-2. To end at 7-2 or better, the winner needs to go 2-1 on the final day while the loser needs to go 3-0. So obviously, winning this game is better than losing it, right? This is the bizarre situation I am talking about.

In reality, since MOV is the primary breaker and is only calculated from the final day, a 4-2 player that goes 3-0 and a 5-1 player that goes 2-1 on the final day both end at 7-2. Which player has better MOV though? It is highly likely that the player who went 3-0 has a much higher MOV. So if you go 5-1 on the first day and then lose any of your games on the second, your MOV is going to probably take you out of the cut.

So the realization is that win or lose this game against Nick, I almost certainly need to win all three of my games on the final day to make the cut. The only difference is the record of the opponent I will face on the final day. Maybe this level of analysis seems crazy, but it is important to understand. Winning against Nick means I would certainly play against opponents with stronger records on a day that I need to not drop a single game…

Am I crazy enough to actually try to win this game and pit myself against the some of the strongest X-Wing players in the world?

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Of course not! The truth is, even if I make the cut I’m going to have to play against the best players at some point. I would never deny myself the chance to play in a win or you are out situation against the best of the best.

So, Nick and I played one of the most aggressive games of X-Wing I have ever taken part in and the game finished quickly. I was able to cause a few too many bumps for his Brobots. Due to positioning and a lack of actions, I quickly removed IG-88B from the board. Once he was gone, I picked the other bro apart, finishing at 5-1 on the first day of Swiss!

It Is The Future You See

Before signing off, I’d like to take a second to thank all of you for following along and commenting on my blogs! Your feedback has been paramount in me making the second day of competition. A special thanks goes to @theorist for his continual feedback on my lists and input on what to test against. Also, special thanks to all the locals for helping me test, too many to call out by name. Of course, a big, big shout out to Fantasy Flight Games for creating an amazing game and hosting a seriously epic event that was extremely well run. Finally, a huge, huge thanks to the entire X-Wing community for being one of the best tabletop communities I have ever been a part of. You are all truly the best!

It has been a crazy month since the Open Series for me, so I am off to squeeze in last minute testing for the Covenant Tulsa X-Wing Regional in a few days! As it turns out, I am also officially going to be attending the Evergreen Tabletop Expo in Seattle in late May and will be playing in the X-Wing Regional there as well, so I hope to see many of you there! I am also putting together the final details for me to continue this Road to the Open Series beyond Hoth, so who knows where this blog series will take us!

Until next time, keep playing!

Zach

If you would like to read more about my Road to Open Series, below are all of the blog posts in the series! 

2016

Road to the Open Series: The Awakening
Road to the Open Series: TIE Swarm
Road to the Open Series: The Meta
Road to the Open Series: Palp Aces
Road to the Open Series: The Qualifier (this blog)
Road to the Open Series: The Final Day

2017 

Road to the Open Series: Kanan + Biggs on Mustafar
Road to the Open Series: Hoth Open (coming in April)

Ashes Weekend Is Here

Friday at 5PM, we open the doors and kick off an incredibly exciting weekend at Covenant Tulsa with special guests from Plaid Hat Games! We will be streaming live via our YouTube channel and will be recording and posting plenty of content from the event! Keep it locked with us and catch the schedule below!

 

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Schedule – April 15th-16th

Friday:

5pm-11pm – The first two expansions will go on sale a week early for the first time, the store will be available for gaming, and Plaid Hat and TC staff will be in the house!
8pm – Live Panel – Hang out and watch as TC interviews Plaid Hat Games, live! Q&A will be at the end of the panel, so come ready to ask questions!

Saturday:

11am – The swiss tournament begins! Deck lists and registration by 10:45am. There will be a dinner break between the Swiss rounds and the top cut. The top cut will be held in the Covenant Studio and live streamed, so those that do not make the cut can watch the game live from the store!

Registration

Upon arriving, each attendee will receive Alt Art Mist Spirits, a signed copy of Rin and Brennen Fight Print, a promo Lulu Phoenixborn, a promo Dimona Phoenixborn, and a Plaid Hat!

Tournament Prizes

Random – Playmats, Alt Prints, Alt Art Cards
Top 8 – Rin and Brennen Alt Art Cards, Exclusive Top 8 Playmat
Top 4 – Exclusive Art Print
Winner – Custom Trophy, Custom Deck Box

Special Guests

Isaac Vega – Ashes lead developer
Fernanda Suarez – Ashes lead artist
David Richards – Ashes graphic designer
Bob Klotz – Ashes lead playtester
Brian Beyke – Community relations manager

 

Ashes Weekend

When we first saw the box for Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn at GenCon this year, we immediately took note and added it to our short list of titles worth serious consideration. Any company that cares enough to produce a game as stunning as Ashes – from the box, to the inserts, to the cards and components – likely cares deeply about every other facet of their business. Having already known the beauty of Summoner Wars and observing the culture of Plaid Hat Games over the past few years, we knew that this game was worth every bit of our attention.

On October 1, 2015, we officially added it to our line of supported games, began selling Ashes products, and added it to our Covenant Subscription service. We started hosting monthly Ashes tournaments at Covenant Tulsa, archiving the streams on our Watch page, and added the game to our in-store league.

And now, it is time to kick things to the next level!

Ashes Weekend is a joint event between Plaid Hat Games and Team Covenant, featuring the amazing people behind the game, early Ashes products, stunning alt arts, and exclusive prizes. It is designed for both the laid back and competitive player, with only one goal: celebrate this incredible game.

Details

Date: April 15 – 16
Location: Covenant Tulsa
Time:
 Store Hours (5PM-11PM Friday, 10AM – 8PM Saturday)
Cost: $30
Registration: Open now, limited spots – Register on our store!

Featured Plaid Hat Guests
Isaac Vega | Lead Designer | Watch Our GenCon Interview!
Fernanda Suarez | Lead Artist | Watch Our GenCon Interview!
David Richards | Graphic Designer
Bob Klotz | Lead Playtester
Brian Beyke | Community Relations Manager

Attendance Perks
1x Alt-Art Mist Spirit (pictured below)
1x Brennen Blackcloud v. Rin Northfell signed print (pictured below)
1x Plaid Hat (for your head)
Early purchase option for both the Rin Northfell and Brennen Blackcloud expansions. We will have them in-store! They will be usable in the Saturday tournament!

Friday: The store will be filled with the great folks from Plaid Hat, who will be playing games, giving autographs, and participating in a live-streamed Q&A panel. Join us for a wonderful, chill evening with some of the best people in the business.

Saturday: All day Ashes with Plaid Hat in the house, featuring casual games all day and a big tournament (the expansions will be legal) to heat things up! Random participation prizes throughout the day include playmats, alt arts, and tokens, while tournament prizes include Top 8 alt art Bren & Rin cards, exclusive Top 8 playmats, exclusive Top 4 alt art prints, and a trophy and custom deck box for the winner. Live stream will be going strong all day on our YouTube channel!

This weekend is going to be pure fire! We cannot stress pre-registration enough. Save your spot before showing up, as we will have a (very) full house! More information to come as we get closer to the event. Special thanks to Plaid Hat and to all of the Ashes fans out there who recognize the beauty! See you in April!

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Top 8 Alt Arts!

 

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Bren & Rin Print / Playmat

 

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Alt-Art Mist Spirit

 

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The first expansions, available early and tournament legal!