Theory Crafting (or How to list build)

Theory crafting.

What is theory crafting? Well maybe I’m not 100% accurate in my description here (and sorry if not!) but to me it’s when you build a list based around an idea and then see what you can add to that idea to enhance it. It’s not something I’m good at. Historically I find good lists based on suggestions, trial-and-error or sometimes net listing.
When X-Wing 2.0 first dropped I really struggled to find a list that I liked that I have come up with myself that I can consistently play to a decent standard. Partly out of lack of regular play opportunity and party out of excitement to try some different things out it actually took me until Christmas (so nearly 3 months) to find something I liked and was comfortable playing. It actually eventually became the list I took to the UK System Open (which at some point I’ll post about in detail!).

So having educated myself more on the ins and outs of X-wing over the last 6 months or so I thought I would give it another go. With the July 2019 points change my 3 current lists were all toast so it’s time for something new. I *could* try some stuff that I’ve heard on podcasts and I *could* try some stuff that has been suggested on Facebook (at time of first draft of this post no big events have happened yet so net listing proven lists isn’t possible). So I guess it’s time to put on my big boy pants and do something myself. Let me run you through the process that I used to get to where I did.

Know thyself


I like chunky ships. I’m definitely not good with re-positioning, acey type ships and too often end up in the line of fire, so ships that are able to soak up some damage are definitely more my style. Up until the last points change in July I have been running three lists that I had been enjoying. The main one was the list I took to the system open which was 2 Warden Squadron K-Wings and 2 Grey Squadron Y-Wing bombers all with proton bombs and various other bits and bobs. I liked it and got pretty good with it and was quite sad when it became unviable.
The other two lists I came up with more recently. The first was a Ghost with Hera pilot (packing dorsal turret, VTG (JARGON ALERT!) and Leia crew), Norra Wexley in a Y-Wing (with the usual ion turret and VTG) and Thane Kyrell in an X-wing (naked except for the s-foils). All 3 pilots are initiative 5 and Hera, whilst with 0 agility she burns down quite quickly, gives a really good punch in the face with 5 dice at range 1, especially with a turret and VTG for a bonus shot. The other list was based on my love of Dash Rendar from 1.0 and inspired by the ‘Fat Han’ (more jargon!) list where around 75% of your points go on one ship. It’s a ridiculous premise but surprisingly Dash is quite survivable (if you’re careful!). I’ve paired him with Norra Wexley in a Y-Wing or Wedge in an X-Wing or Jan Ors in a HWK-290 all of which enhance in their own different way but all are workable.

I want to try something new and different… but not too different.

Start at the very beginning…

So here are my criteria. Something that isn’t going to get one-shotted and is likely to last out at least 1 round of focused fire. Something where I can have other ships of the same initiative so I can choose which of my ships move first depending on the situation. Rebels cos I like rebels. Something that synergises well to create some good action efficiency.

This last one in particular is an area that I struggle in as my knowledge of all pilots, upgrades, etc isn’t always the best.

So where to begin?
K-Wings and Y-Wings have been my staple for the last 7 or 8 months. With recent points increases on the low initiative pilots for K-Wings and also in the Ion Cannon turret and VTG that I like to run on Y-Wings I was slightly put off by this. I like Miranda Doni’s ability but it is defensive not offensive and I normally like to take the fight to my opponent. So that leaves the other K-wing pilot – Esege Tuketu. His ability is to allow other ships to use his foucs token as their own. My problem here is that with out spending a big chunk of points on other upgrades (like barrage rockets or proton bombs) a K-Wing base chassis isn’t actually that powerful. A rotating 2 dice turret just doesn’t have enough punch but I like the idea of passing off focus tokens.
Enter the ARC-170. Garven Dries’ ability is that when you spend a focus token you may give that token to another ship within range 1-3. So we have a decent ability on a chunky rebel ship, looks like a good place to start. If you’re using the focus action the next step to maximise the effectiveness is to add Perceptive Co-pilot. It isn’t cheap but if you use a focus to attack and to defend in one round you can potentially pass off two focus tokens to other ships.

Ok, time to look at what else might go nicely with it.
Garven is initiative 4 and I have two ARC-170 models and know that there is another initiative 4 ARC pilot. Shara Bey’s ability allows her to add a focus result when you spend a target lock against the ship you are attacking. Immediately this works well with Garven. You can focus with Garven and lock with Shara then when it’s your turn to attack attack, shoot first with Garven (hopefully) allowing him to pass a focus to Shara then attack with Shara use the target lock to add focus result and use the focus received from Garven to flip that result to a hit (or, in the case of the first roll being terrible it’s still a normal double modded shot). Good synergy. Looking at what upgrades work well, R3 astromech allows you to maintain 2 target locks and to acquire those locks at the same time. Double lock with Shara means she isn’t commited to just 1 target to use her ability on.

So now we have a double modded shot from Shara how can I get that from Garven as well? Time for Dutch Vander. Dutch allows you to give a target lock to another friendly ship when you take a lock action. Throw R3 astromech on him as well and in one turn Dutch can target lock two different ships and give a lock to Garvin for one of those ships. Not bad. I just can’t bring myself to field a Y-Wing without a turret so Dorsal turret (because it’s cheaper than Ion) and VTG go on as well.

So with Garven and Perceptive co-pilot, Shara with R3 astromech and Dutch, that now leaves me with a 36 point gap in my list. The question here is whether to fill it with upgrades or squeeze another ship in. Knowing myself as I do there’s already enough to think about in this list without more complicated shenanigans so I decide to go with another ship. It’s not a lot of points though so I’m looking at something less substantial than what I already have whilst still having some use.

The sheathipede is a possibility, with enough points to fit in AP-5 or Zeb to coordinate but it doesn’t leave enough points to add a helpful crew (Leia) and it’s not I4 so I’d have to be more careful with moving. In the A-Wing Jake Farrell has the ability to give a focus token after completing a boost so maybe he’s the better fit?
Potentially this gives me 4 initiative 4 ships all with a focus and 3 with a lock (2 with 2 locks) in the one turn for the first engagement. Looks exciting to me! I just need to remember to trigger it all!

I put the list together in Fly Casual and test it a few times. Fly Casual helps me to remember triggers but also punishes me when I forget to do things in the right order (for example shoot first with anyone except Garven). After a few goes in fly casual against different types of list it’s still looking positive so it’s time to put the list together for real and fly it against people actual people.

For reference here is the full list

Rebel 4’s

(50) Shara Bey [ARC-170 Starfighter]
(3) R3 Astromech
Points: 53

(49) Garven Dreis [ARC-170 Starfighter]
(8) Perceptive Copilot
Points: 57

(40) “Dutch” Vander [BTL-A4 Y-wing]
(3) R3 Astromech
(3) Dorsal Turret
(8) Veteran Turret Gunner
Points: 54

(36) Jake Farrell [RZ-1 A-wing]
Points: 36

Total points: 200

…a very good place to start

So I turned up at our Wednesday gaming night to give it a go. I ended up going against the resident 10 year old who was also trying out a new list, flying a Jedi Knight with fully kitted out Odd Ball and Wolffe coming in at 199 points and decided to take initiative.

Now, this kid is good. He can definitely mix it with the adults so I was a little confused at his set up when he split Odd Ball off from the other 2 ships. I ended up with my 3 heavies across from odd Ball and Jake just left of middle while his other 2 ships went in the opposite corner from my main force.

I slow rolled forwards towards odd Ball while Jake caught up. Odd Ball came straight at me while the Delta 7 and the other Arc angled in towards me. 2nd turn and more of the same but this time odd Ball was in range of Shara and Garven. We exchange shots at range 3 but with no locks from Dutch (who was out of range when taking an action) and no focus for Shara (Garven rolled no focus) we exchanged 2 hits each (mine on Shara).

Now the interesting turn. I moved Shara 2 forwards to attempt a block while moving Garven and Dutch 1 forward to keep Odd Ball in range while Jake was now caught up. I achieved action perfection as Shara took a lock on Odd Ball and the now in range Jedi, Garven took a double focus, Dutch locked Odd Ball, gave a lock on Odd Ball to Garven and took a 2nd lock on the Jedi Knight and then Jake did a focus boost and gave a focus to Dutch (as I expected Shara to be bumped).
What happened next was not expected.

Now you see him

How does that even work??!???! It fit with no bump!
This put Odd Ball out of arc of Garven and Jake but at range 1 of Dutch and Shara (though only through the rear arc). Odd Ball fired at Jake at range 1 and whiffed spectacularly. I then fired first with Shara, then Dutch’s primary and then Dutch’s VTG dorsal shot and wiped Odd Ball off the board.

Now you don’t

Next turn and I turn in towards the other ships. He unexpectedly puts his Jedi in front of my entire force while landing Wolffe on a rock (only just though!). With 2 locks already on the Jedi and focus tokens for days the Jedi is deleted while the poor kid’s green dice betray him completely (even when he tried again with 6 of them!!).

I put some damage through on Wolffe while he sits helpless on a rock before we move to the next turn.

Shara and Jake blast past Wolffe while Garven and Dutch plod 1 forward. Wolffe comes off the rock and bumps Dutch to deny the shot. Wolffe pumps 2 damage into Garven before using his tail gunner shot to out 2 more damage into Shara, giving her my first damage card.

Even without shots from Jake or Dutch the 2 arcs finish off Wolffe and the game is done in 5 rounds and 40 minutes.

So what’s the conclusion?
Well I don’t really know. Not yet anyway. I played one real life game against an opponent who was also trying a new list and variance was rather in my favour so it’s a bit hard to judge at the moment. When under focussed fire the 1 agility ships often have a tendency to melt rather quickly even though these ones have a reasonable amount of health. That said all of the components of this list work well well on their own they don’t suddenly become useless if I lose 1 ship. They become less effective, but not useless.
I have posted the list on the gold squadron podcast discord server in the list of the week section and asked for opinions. One reply suggested that perceptive co-pilot is good the previously mentioned K-wing pilot Esege Tuketu. I can see how it would be better because you don’t require him to spend a focus to pass it on (and Garven kept on rolling hit/blank when I really wanted a focus) however you do only get that focus once whereas with Garven you get it twice. Also the K-wing only has a 2 dice gun and there’s not enough points in the list to put something like barrage rockets onto it. That said it does free up for points which I could use something with and might be worth putting on the table to see how it feels by comparison to Gavin. The question is is how many reps do I give to a list before doing any tweaks or before dropping it completely? Maybe the question should be be how many reps can I get in a reasonable amount of time.

Take 2… and 3

So another week passes and game night comes back around. The school holidays have started so a late night for the kids is a non-issue and I can get 2 games in with my new list. A reasonable amount of time has passed since these games (plus I’ve slept so my brain has done a full reset) so these reports are less detailed.

Game 1 is against Ben with his Biggs, Thane, Wedge and Evaan Verlaine list. We set up for the joust and it is brutal.

The honourable joust!

I wipe Biggs off the board (since he’d just take Wedge’s damage anyway) in the first engagement before he gets a shot. In return I take a few hits to Shara but nothing too severe. Without going into lots of detail (since this blog is already mahoosive and the aforementioned brain thing), we play the game out in a very small area and I win, losing Shara and I think half of Dutch.

Wedge is sad

Game 2 and I’m against Alex with Anakin (Aethersprite), Ric Olie (Naboo N1) and a 104th Battalion Pilot in an ARC-170.
Now, I’m continuing to write this post almost 2 weeks on from that game but here’s my take away – don’t screw up. I made at least 2 significant mistakes which made it much easier for Alex.

Set up as normal with lots of space for me to completely avoid

Firstly I misjudged my turning in manoeuvre with Garven. Nothing too drastic so far, we were too far for engagement yet but it led to a rather terrible position where Garven ended up on a rock (taking a damage), with no action, no shot and in arc for Anakin. Bad times.

Before I screwed up too badly

I then planned for Shara and Jake to end up in the same spot, moved Shara first when it should have been Jake who would then boost out of the way and hand out a focus. Instead I bump and Jake ends up with no action, no focus handed out and pointing away from all targets. The game didn’t go too much further as it was getting late, I was definitely behind on points and I clearly wasn’t going to get a good result.

It looks like I’m doing ok but looks can be deceptive!

So, further conclusions?

  • This list likes to joust. Double mods with 3 dice guns can be brutal and even better at range 1.
  • Turn 0 is important. Allow space for bank and hard turns if your opponent is looking to avoid a joust. 3 of these ships don’t turn well (especially with no room for Leia) so clustering obstacles and keeping to open space can be important.
  • I still believe that losing any 1 of these ships first is ok, there’s not 1 in particular that I have to protect.
  • Against Ace lists I can’t decide if it’s the list or me that struggles, still to be confirmed!

Overall, I like the list. The thought of so many double mods makes people nervous and unsure where to focus. I feel like I know what I’m doing with it, I just need a few more reps with it to see how it fares. We have a short 4 game summer league starting this week and I think I may take this along and see what happens!

As I’ve already said, coming up with new lists isn’t really my thing but I fell like I’m getting there!

How do you go about putting lists together?