Wednesday, 17 January 2018

State of the Meta - Wave 7 Edition

Rating the ships in Star Wars Armada 

Below is my attempt to give a summary and guide to help less experienced players make some good decisions when assembling fleets. As always you need to remember these opinions are just mine and there are plenty who would take different positions. Similarly these perspectives are heavily influenced by the Australian meta which may be very different to your own. Perhaps you can take some ideas to help mix up your own local meta or maybe they won't be compatible at all, take what you like and feel free to offer your own ideas below! 

(edit) since writing this the last of the Wave 7 gear has been spoilt but interestingly I don't think it changes my opinions much if anything it boosts big ships again and downplays squads to a certain extent, all good things. 

Part 1- Imperials

Imperial Star Destroyer 
Let’s start with the big fella himself. imperial star destroyers in my mind are hands down the best thing in the game right now. Yep, no grey area, just amazing. It wasn’t always so but with the upgrades from recent waves you’ve got boarding troopers avenger which has the highest damage output going and you’ve always had amazing options to make these guys supercarriers, gunnery team monsters or just whatever else you like. There is still a real debate between loading them up like a Christmas tree with every upgrade possible which leads to them being 170+ points or keeping them lean like the one I took to regionals recently which only had about 10points of upgrades plus Sloan. I don’t think there’s any magic answer to that question, more a case of personal preference. If you load it up it will be able to kill anything else in the game but if you lose it.. ouch... 

The new ones coming just make the ISD even more appealing. A huge long-range red dice checker just begging for Darth Vader to command it or a torpedo variant that does everything the BT avenger does but with more flexibility in upgrade slot. I think the only reason we would see the old ISD 1 after this wave is out is if you are super keen for a carrier so the squadron value means a heap to you. 

Overall rating - 10/5 

Victory Star Destroyer 
In my mind the most ironically named ship in the game, running one of these flying death traps will not help you achieve anything resembling a victory. Let’s face it, this guy was king of the tables right up until the release of wave 1 where it was quickly knocked off my the Gladiator and hasn’t ever really been able to regain its spot. Some people try and use it still and a few new upgrades have made it a possibly more interesting option but whether you want a gunboat or a carrier there are just straight up better options. For the points difference, I’d be taking an ISD any day of the week.

Overall rating – 1/5

Gladiator Star Destroyer
Another solid choice for the Imperials, Demolisher being the obvious choice here and the titles really do impact the value of the ship. Demo used to be an easy 5/5 but after the engine tech nerf it would drop to 4/5 in my books, still great but trickier to use. Insidious sits around the same spot as an untitled glad at 3/5. The biggest problem with Glad’s these days is that with the rise in prevalence of big ships even going last/first and doing a triple hit with Demolisher probably won’t kill off the enemies big threat. Squadrons are so powerful now too that Demolisher can easily end up out of position by diving past the enemy’s front line where it becomes super vulnerable to enemy squads whilst being beyond your own protection. I still love my Gladiators but I’d still stick to an ISD for the time being if I was only going to have a fleet with one big hitter, as soon as I decide for 2 this one is my next go to.

Raider Class Corvette
Definitely one of the ships that has bounced around in value depending on its upgrades. These days I think a nice cheap Raider 1 with ordnance experts and external racks (or possible flechettes) makes for an excellent backup threat to whatever your big hitter is going to be. The biggest problem with using them is just how quickly they will die to attrition damage from bombers or general shooters, a lack of redirect really hurts these guys. My best use for them is to hold it back at speed 2 with a token and manoeuvre order ready to jump up to speed 4 and do a big hit on something important in the second half of the game. Timing is everything because usually after that it becomes so beat up that it’s time to run away. The flechette variant can be a great place to gather your squadrons as a safe launching point too, not many people are going to be willing to engage your squadrons inside that bubble.

Overall Rating - 4/5

Arquitens light cruisers
Good little all-rounder ship, bringing in something unique to imperials through long-range broadside shooting. Some cheap upgrades like dual turbolasers and reinforced blast doors mean you can easily fit a couple of these into a list if this sort of build is what you are looking for. They do have some major drawbacks that you would need to plan for if you want to get the most out of these guys, the first being their appalling nav chart, but that is why they combo so well with Jerrijod as your admiral. The other big issue is how susceptible they are to big burst damage like Gladiators or MC30s. The trick is really to sit in that mid to long range bracket where you can maximise your damage output without much risk.  

Overall Rating – 4/5

Quasar Class Cruiser Carrier

On paper this is such a nice ship, great price point, able to do amazingly big hits with squadron combos and if you go the pricey option even a red dice flak that combos so well with Agent Kallus. On the table through it just doesn’t translate as well. It’s limited guns mean that very little is scared of getting close to this guy and it’s defence tokens are woeful. Titles like stronghold are great for the squadrons but require you to expose the ship to risk it can’t handle which makes it really counter-intuitive. Ultimately It’s a good little ship but the Imperials really don’t’ need it. They have the best relay options in the game if you want to use Gozanti’s as your squadron pushers and the ISD is a much better squadron platform if you want to go for expanded hangers/flight controllers etc.

Overall Rating – 2/5

Interestingly this remains the only Imperial ship that I’ve never bought or fielded. All of my experience has been against this guy and honestly, I’ve never regretted not buying one. Each of its unique upgrades offer interesting tactical possibilities but I’m yet to see any of them win games. Targeting scrambler will help your ships survive longer for example but the sheer expense of the interdictor in your fleet means the enemy can spend those points on far more effective killers than you will be able to have.

Overall Rating – 2/5

Gozanti Class Cruiser
Saving the best to last, these little gems have generated more internet rage than anything else in this game but I warn you to neglect them at your own risk. Imperials have incredibly good relay options for squadrons with either shuttle choice giving relay 2 linking perfectly with a Gozanti. The result being that you can run your Gozantis safe from the enemy guns using the full expanse of the table whilst they still have a valuable contribution. The abilities buff other ships through comms net or increase the reliability of your bombers through bomber command just makes these super versatile support ships amazing value. I consider two to be an absolute minimum in any fleet, the rest depends on how many activations you need and what value you can gain from more Gozantis.

Overall Rating 5/5 

Coming soon, part 2 - Rebels! 

Also, expect to see a semi-regular series of sample lists and bat reps to highlight interesting and competitive builds. Armada has a steep learning curve for the new gamer so if we as a community can do more to make it accessible that's to everyone's benefit! 

Signing out. 

Monday, 15 January 2018

Epic - Cancon 2018 List Breakdown

Cancon lists 2018 - Can you smell the cheese? 

Well, it's that time again, time to see what varieties of craziness and filth have turned up for Cancon this year. I'm sorry to say that I don't foresee any great controversies this year, our TO Kendall Williams (actual photo Left) has done a great job using our DBAD (Don't be a Dick) comp system to keep the OTT lists in check which really limits my ability to destroy someone before the day :( 

This year I'm going to do a different format where I cut and paste the actual lists in and put commentary after each, it will help build up your scrolling finger, here goes... These are not in any particular order. 

Dark Eldar CANCON '17, 3000 POINTS
Dark Eldar Kabal of Pain's Way 2017 (NetEA 2017)

4 Incubi, 1 Archon character, 2 Wyches, 3 Raider, Ravager

6 Ravager, Dracon

6 Ravager, Dracon

6 Warriors, 2 Scourges, 3 Raider

6 Mandrakes

1 Vessel of Pain

1 Vessel of Pain

1 Tormentor Titan

2 Razorwing

2 Voidravens

First off the bat looks to be some Dark Eldar. Let me be the first to admit my own ignorance to this list, I’ve had a few experiences but generally it all theory hammer to me, if you’ve got some good ideas feel free to let me know!
What I do know though is that DE toys are really good so the first things I’m looking for are how many Vessels of Pain and how many tormentor titans are around because the TK death coming off those will shred you. In this case the army has a nice spread of units and a most friendly 10 activations. It’s a tough army to play well but it seems to have a solid range of tactical options.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Star Wars Armada Regionals 2018

Regionals Roundup and Meta Commentary

Meta in Australia has been an ever changing feast. With a small but committed competitive community everyone knows everyone so what you ran last month for pure awesomeness will be countered by next month when you end up going up against the same crew. The result has been some huge shifts in Meta build, just consider this:

  • Two years ago… Our Nationals was utterly dominated by a pair of Garm led whales backed by a few rebel transports and 12 generic squadrons comprising equal amounts of Y-wings and A-wings.
  • Last year our regionals were utterly dominated by Imperials taking top 3 at both I attended, ISD’s taking 1st/3rd both times and demolisher being second twice with a mixed bag of squadrons.
  • Last year’s nationals saw Demo/raiders/max squadrons/big bid (18ish points) dominate every round of the swiss convincingly only to go down in the final to a brutally unsubtle Akbar double MC80 build with a couple of flotillas and only a couple of named A-wings to make any effort in the squadron phase, basically polar opposites of each other. You can watch the full replay here and it’s totally worth it just to see if you can spot the exact minute when our NSW hero realises that his best laid plans have gone completely up the creek.

Then of course we pause for another of those all to familiar grand canyons of dead air from FFG between waves… I think this is the biggest problem with our game, I don’t even care if its one major release a year but get some more content on the web dammit, bat reps, competitions, something! In Australia our regionals season is running now, but realistically they will all be current wave which is the same as our nats so I’m not expecting huge amounts of innovation here. In simplest terms I’d summarise our meta currently in these broad terms –

For Rebels it’s all about attrition fleets – By this I mean lots of small clumps of damage coming from multiple sources, could be whales, almost guaranteed to include a Yavaris Nebulon, sometimes it’s Akbar MC80s, sometimes It’s about corvettes. Sometimes more squadrons, sometimes less but almost never a big bid. There’s lots of variety in the fleets but they all tend to play the same way, bits of damage building up to big damage over 6 turns.

By contrast Imperials are all about the Death Star – It started with a Demolisher Triple tap years ago and it’s now more commonly headed by an ISD1 Avenger combo but the basic principle is the same. Higher activations, higher bids, maybe squadrons, maybe not but ultimately designed to get a huge burst of damage onto a given target and blow it to hell in one impressive blast. None of the patience so common amongst rebel builds. At the 2017 nats for example consider that 1st in the swiss was 6 activation demolisher with a 20(ish) point bid… and in the 5th round it was outbid by a 4 activation Avenger ISD who had a 20+ point bid… There were at least 2 other imperials running either Demolisher or Avenger who also had huge bids.

So what happened to these two guys? 

The recent FAQ and clear use of the nerf bat by FFG had two significant impacts on the Aus Meta, we almost never see Reikan anymore nor do we ever seem to see Major Rhymer. Now while neither of these were a great loss to us it does seem to make us quite unique compared to many other sites. To us the big hitting Imperial lists are the obvious counter to the attrition based Reikan lists and visa versa. Competitive builds here either have lots of squadrons or a clear plan on how to deal with lots of squadrons and you really wouldn’t expect to get far with less than 4 activations. The flotilla rage so common on the internet here has been met with a healthy dose of flotilla acceptance and we tend to just shove 2 in by default at a minimum. One of the most interesting lists from Nats contained 8 activations including and Avenger ISD, 1-2 raiders and the rest made up of red dice toting Gozanti’s led by Vader, and it did very well overall. 

Fast forward to this year’s regionals

At the most recent regionals this is what I ran: 

A few notes on my list - For anyone seeking to use the list I ran here’s a few thoughts – The ISD is big enough to take on anything smaller than a similar ISD. So basically if the enemy is cheaper than you, you can kill it. The big activations are more of a defensive measure than anything else, to help prevent getting alpha struck yourself. There is an interesting argument though to drop one goz and go for a stupendous bid… About 1/3 of the bids at this week's regionals were over 10 points with the highest being 25pts. The squadron ball is also really good when using Sloan, if you’re running a different commander you can make a better ball. It hits enemy squads hard but you do need to be careful and it can be tricky dropping it in piecemeal via relay. In one of the games I fought another local player using the identical squadron ball but by the end of turn 3 he had zero squads left and I lost 2 aces overall, timing is everything, engage at the wrong time and you will dissolve.

Taking on the Reikan deathblob in the final round

In the end some solid wins saw imperials taking home the trophy with two rebels completing the podium. Some of the other highlights were a double whale + 12 y-wing horde, a double MC30 build that took second and even someone bravely taking a Reikan Aceholes list (which is really quite a novelty downunder).


Time for some cool new toys! 
But of course this meta is about to get turned on its head with some cool new stuff coming. While I’m still expecting some awesome new upgrades that will no doubt shake things up more I’m already thinking there will be some interesting new builds, these are just a few of my early thoughts, no doubt there are many others floating around and I fully expect that some of these will flop badly when I actually put them on the table…

Sato Hammerheads – (not so much a new wave as an interesting idea)

You know there are still some out there who disparage our game, they think of it only as the poor cousin of mighty X-Wing. I feel sorry for those players. Our game has a much steeper learning curve and is easy to give up on as a new player without a supportive crew. It takes a hefty investment of time to master the complexities of movement and activation order but for those of us who persist it offers a deep and strategic interplay of really amazing mechanics. For me it has one of the most balanced and interesting metas of any system (something increasingly challenging in an online netlist age) and has just gone from strength to strength since the Corellian Campaign set. We lost so many potential players in the beginning thanks to some appalling delays with early wave releases and I watched entire communities just disappear but if you’ve taken the time to read this maybe its time to get some more games on the table and see if you can’t drag some of those fence sitters back in. At least we can count on a stable and developing meta which won’t be flipped on its head every 6 months by a new radical errata!