Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Guest Blog: Yavin Open Battle Report by Jon Browne

So I wasn't able to attend the Battle of Yavin (at least I got sunburnt instead!) but several of my friends from Weekend Warlords in Loughborough (UK) were able to go. Jon Browne was kind enough to write a guest blog for me on his experience of the day, so without further preamble i'll let him take it away.............................. 

Hello everyone! I was lucky enough (read: masochistic enough) to be able to attend the Yavin Open on Saturday at the UK Games Expo. With Over 400 players, this was by far the largest ever X-Wing tournament!

I’ve been playing the game casually since around wave 3 but have only recently dipped my toes into the competitive scene in the last 12 months or so, attending just a few tourneys at my FLGS, the excellent Weekend Warlords.

The Yavin Open was my first tournament outside the cosy confines of my local scene; I had no expectations of doing well at all, particularly as I’ve been falling down the standings recently.

I set my aim low: avoid going 0-6.

The Chosen One
I always make a habit of choosing a list that’s quite different to my last, for each tournament I attend.

Back in February I settled on a list and decided I would run it exclusively up until the Expo – allowing plenty of time for practice. This is easily the most I’ve ever flown the same list – around 30 or so plays, although only two small tourneys.

I liked the idea of flying something totally out of my comfort zone and that meant fragile aces. Palp Aces was the obvious way to go, but I didn’t like the idea of ‘only’ 3 ships and I’ve loved Wampa ever since he was spoiled.

That led me to the now well known, 4 ship version of Palp Aces – simply known as 4-ship Imps or more aptly “Imperial Assholes”:

The general idea is that there’s no obvious targeting priority: go after the shuttle and get flanked by some aces, go after the aces and get flanked by the shuttle, or go after Wampa, and find that he’s only a TIE fighter worth 14 points.

Of course I had been running a skinny 31 point Vader (Title, ATC, VI), but he really missed Engine Upgrade and was promptly replaced by the Inquisitor as soon as he became available. For the same 31 points he’s got boost, and Autothrusters so is pretty much strictly better in this list.

Omega Leader is arguably the best endgame ship right now and great against other aces. She turns off so many tricks.

Everyone knows how good Palpatine is and in recent test games I was flying him more aggressively – it’s easy to forget that he’s on a 10 HP, 3 attack ship.

Wampa is my favourite part of this list though. I just love that little guy. He’s such a great tool to have in your list. His ability coupled with Palpatine is bonkers and occasionally you’ll get a natural crit on his roll too. Being able to deal damage to anything, regardless of how many evades they have is so useful. This would be great on its own, but when you bring it to bear against a high evade, low hull target like Whisper, Corran, Fel, Poe or Red Ace, it’s amazing.

Of course, your opponent will know that, but you can still use him to herd people out of his firing arc. 

“You’ve taken your first step into a larger world”
 So, here we go, the largest ever X-Wing tournament – 414 players!

I was paired with Jonni, running Triple Jumps, with a slight variation of one Jumpmaster having a flechette torpedo in place of an Extra Munitions. This wasn’t going to end well. As we all know the Jumps are a pretty bad match up for everyone right now, and not having played many tournaments recently, I’m very inexperienced against them. In my few practice matches against them I never knew what to do against them.

I set up Palp in my left corner and he set up to joust him. I tried my best to slow roll in and keep my aces at the correct distance, wanting to flank the Jumps through the rocks. This kind of worked, as Palp got through the first salvo with 2-3 HP remaining, and by the time he was down, he’d soaked up all of the munitions, but for 1 Plasma and the Flechette.

I didn’t really push much damage through in the initial exchanges and by this point my aces were too close, Jonni managed some neat flying through the rocks, avoiding a couple by a whisker and blocked me up.

From then it was a pretty simple job of picking off my aces, and the Jump’s manoeuvrability meaning I had to split my fire and couldn’t get any half points.

So an expected, but bad start. I was also happy to tell Jonni that he could indeed use the target lock gained from R4 Aggromech in the same modify step. His list just got even better for him!
Result: 0-100

 “Ready, what know you of ready?”

Next up was Alex White, with a bit of an unusual list, though not without its dangers. Juno was well set up to outfly my aces and dish out some hurt to them. The Gamma could wreck stuff and after that he still had two decent Interceptors.

We lost around 10 mins at the beginning of the round, because unfortunately Alex was missing one of his Direct Hit cards. The TO said I wasn’t obliged to wait and could have a match win, but of course we waited for a replacement damage deck and got to gaming. (Great job there! - Luke)

He set up to joust Palpatine, with the Emperor creeping forward with a 1-Straight, staying out of range of the 4-speed bomber. Palp then speed up with a 3-Bank to the left, getting into range 1 and avoiding the torps. This also blocked some of the Interceptors.

Meanwhile I’d slow rolled in with the aces, with the use of 1-Turns to wiggle along. I wanted to flank around the rocks. Wampa had zoomed into the rocks, his obvious sniping target being Juno. Wampa did his ‘thang’ and the Inquisitor finished Juno off the following combat.
I got a bit lucky, one-shotting an Interceptor, the other following  soon after, with the Bomber picking away at stuff. Wampa and Omega Leader were lost in the exchange, with ‘Lockdown’ rolling a ton of fickle green dice to go down faster than expected.

Palp stayed out of the fight, whilst the Bomber and Inquisitor danced around, the game going to time with 2 damage on the Bomber.
Result: 76-55

 “Great kid, don’t get cocky!”

OK, so I had a win, and I wasn’t going to finish 0-6. Hurrah! In round 3 I was surprised to see someone ballsy enough to be running 5 naked Kihraxz – fair play Mike! (Unfortunately I didn’t get your surname…)

But I was also weary of 15+ attack dice being chucked at my aces, and knew they could just melt Palp.

He won, the initiative roll, but gave it to me, presumably to make me deploy Palp first, so he could joust it. But when it came to deployment he put 3 together in the corner diagonally opposite to Palp and 2 together in the middle of his edge. I tried to keep the rocks as tight as possible, hoping to either cause some bumps if he came through them, or to force him to the edges, giving me more time to position.

I went in slow, with Wampa deliberately getting in Palp’s way to slow him down. The group of 3 Kihraxz came down their edge fast and the group of 2 came through the middle of the board.

Wampa and Omega Leader then zoomed forward with some 5-Straights, dodging some arcs and the Inquisitor turtled up, leaving me unscathed in the first engagement and one Kihraxz badly wounded. I turned Palp into the fight ASAP; I knew I needed all of my guns against his 5 ships. 

The block was on for the group of 3 Kihraxz if they all 2-Turned to their right, through the rocks (which they did do!) and Inquisitor was in a bad place with not many options. He did a 3 bank to his left and a boost to the right, which got around the rocks and just dodged all 3 arcs. Tasty.

After that it was pretty simple dogfighting to pick off the Kihraxz one by one. I felt like this was definitely my best flying all day, but I was pretty lucky to not lose a single ship, with Mike’s dice rolls seemingly always being cold.
Result: 100-0
“I’m not afraid.”
“Oh, you will be. You will be.”

I was feeling a bit better after that and going 2-1, but then came the dreaded announcement: “Jonathan Browne, please report to the streaming table”.

To be fair I was excited and terrified in equal measure! And I was definitely a bit spooked in the first 15 minutes or so of the round. I just kept visualising the chat log on the stream bemoaning my mistakes! “Don’t make a mistake, don’t make a mistake” became my internal mantra.

If you’re interested in watching any of it, you can find it here (https://www.twitch.tv/firstearth/v/70448779) from 6hrs 45mins – 8hrs 05mins.

(Alternatively, here is a timelapse GIF that Jon's put together - Luke)

I wasn’t too happy to see the swarm, not only was it a bad match up – all those guns and crack shots could chew through Palp and/or all my defensive tokens, but I had gotten hardly any practice in against them.

I camped out in the corner diagonally opposite the swarm and slowed right down, as he wiggled across the map with 1-Turns. I managed to delay the engagement, keeping just out of range. Next the Inquisitor could have 1-Turned to his left around a rock and had a range 1 shot at range 3 with his ability, but I didn’t want him taking 6 guns to the face. So instead he did a 3-Straight away from the swarm and a boost towards the TIEs, getting an approach that would allow him to flank. At the time I thought this was a mistake, but having watched the game back, it was actually a good move, that could have been even better with a 3-Bank instead, followed by Boost and Barrel Roll to improve the angle. Without that, it left him with a worse approach.

I then made the biggest mistake of the match, and 2-Turned Palp into the fray, rather than staying put. The turn put him into Range 1 of pretty much the entire swarm, and he dropped in 1 round of shooting. I was hoping to block him, but the turn just wasn’t anywhere near big enough. The stop would have kept him out of range 1, he probably would have lived, had some return shots and then been able to get behind the swarm. D’oh!

I felt compensated when I rolled triple crit at Howlrunner that combat round and she rolled all blanks. One crit went on the FO with Draw Their Fire, but I still had hope of a one-shot, when the first crit was Major Explosion, but unfortunately Howlrunner lived, to give her re-rolls to the swarm, helping to kill Palp.

From this point I knew my only chance was to arc dodge and plink away at whatever I could get in my sights. The Inquisitors poor approach from early meant he missed a combat round, and Omega Leader got blocked up and almost took down. Wampa got a neat range one shot with a K-Turn that just made it past the swarm, but got all blanks. Wampa went down soon after.

The game was poised at 22-43. I had another great shot with the Inquisitor getting triple crit for the second time, against a tokenless TIE, and Mishary pulled out 3 natural evades matching it. I had no option but to offer a begrudging fist-bump. That was a blow. Eventually a TIE finally went down, as Omega Leader has zoomed out of the fight and then K-Turned to come back in. In the final round Mishary missed out on a full win, as Omega Leader survived two shots from some TIEs. Losing just under 10 minutes to the stream didn’t help (although it also cost him his full win), but Mishary played a faultless game and the best man definitely won.
Result: 37-43

“They’re coming in too fast!”

Oh deary me! This didn’t look good at all. I’ve always had trouble against Decimators with my list, all that HP to chew through with my low damage output aces, and to compound things Steve’s particular loadout was tailor made to take out aces.

Steve set up his whole list to joust with Palp, and I put my aces off in the other corner. Palp turned in to run away, along my table edge, and the aces tried to come through the rocks. I managed to one-shot a Blackcrack and Steve’s Wampa went down soon after too, Palp taking some heavy damage from the Deci.

After Palp was gone, it was left to the little guys, who didn’t fare well. Omega Leader and Wampa pushed a bit more damage onto Chirpy before they went down themselves and soon it was a full health Inquisitor vs a 2 HP Blackcrack and the 10HP Deci.

The situation was virtually impossible. Pursued by the Rear Admiral, I also had the choice of going after the TIE, which was made for me when I pushed a Blinded Pilot crit through onto the big guy. This was my chance to get the TIE off the board, whilst the Decimator couldn’t fire. Steve didn’t anticipate my change of targeting priority and so I got a range 1 shot on the TIE, but alas, I didn’t get any damage through.

From there, Steve simply got Inquisitor in range and killed him with the Gunner/Vader combo.
Result: 57-100

“You can't win. But there are alternatives to fighting”

I was amazed to be paired with Sim in the final round, he’s a great player from my local area, but unfortunately he’d had a bit of a bad day, hence why he was playing schmucks like me on the bottom tables!

You might think with that quote up there, that we ID’d, but we didn’t. That quote just sums up our feelings by this point. Both being 2-3 and after a long day, to say our heart and soul wasn’t in the game is a massive understatement. I was fed up of Triple Jumps, Sim himself was fed up of playing them.

We went through the motions with this one. They came in Alpha-striked, I kept targeting shield tokens and ended up with half points before I lost.
Result: 64-100

In Summary
So all in all, I had an absolute blast! I avoided going 0-6, won a few games, was privileged to get on the stream and all of my opponents were true gents.

I didn’t hear any bad stories about other players and the event was run incredibly smoothly considering the scale of it. Thanks to Vince, Alec, Frank and Zach for a brilliant tournament. 

And well done to my round 1 opponent, Jonni Reeks, who finished 16th – bet those extra target locks helped!

The chance to briefly chat with and thank Frank Brooks, Christian Petersen, and Steve Horvath was awesome, and I also got to meet Paul Dean and Quintin Smith from Shut Up & Sit Down too!

Finally a massive shout out to our Weekend Warlords group, with George and Kevin making day two and both finishing in the top 100!

Thanks for reading and Fly Casual!

Wow. Thanks Jon. A great read and actually really engaging story of the day - I really related to your highs and lows! A BIG thank you for writing that up and getting all the images sorted as well. X-wing is such a big part of my life and this blog that i'm glad Yavin featured on here in some way! 

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