Sorry for the long delay, but we’re back! With the quick pace of releases, point changes, and hyperspace ship choices expanding, the meta has been in a constant state of flux. While I’ve been in love with the state of X-wing currently, things have moved too rapidly to put my thoughts down on paper. I’ve also invited a guest writer to help add content. So here with his first piece is Matthew Blaisdell. He’s a fixture in the Atlanta scene for Armada, Legion, X-wing, and I’m sure even more games that I can’t keep track of. You recognize may him from his well thought out forums posts under the handle ‘mastershake.’ He’s also performed superbly in the last 2 Atlanta regionals, placing within the top 4 and top 16, earning dice and glory both times.
“It is a poor craftsman that blames his tools”
The quote sounds profound, but in reality, it’s usually uttered by someone felling trees with a chainsaw to mock you for not being as fast with a spoon. If you’re going to say this, be prepared to show me your mad spoon skills or be ready for me to feed you this spoon.
The truth is, understanding the right tool and where and how to apply it is as much a part if the formula as anything else, but list building is too often treated as a secondary skull when it goes hand in hand with the ability to execute correctly.
In my opinion, list building in general and net listing specifically are looked down upon a little too much by the gaming community. Net listing has a place, when utilized correctly. If you have a new player, or a player who doesn’t feel like they’re progressing, it can be quite difficult for that player to construct an effective list on their own because it’s very likely the way that person is valuing game elements, and possibly entire aspects of the game, is fundamentally flawed. By extension, if they try to “git gud” with this flawed concept, they’ll end up taking away a lot of erroneous lessons (this is why you’ll see random threads complaining about “thing X is OP!” When that element clearly isn’t).
This is where net listing can have a place. Take something that you know can work if played correctly and get iterations in. Basically, use the scientific method and remove the potential variable of list-building to focus on gameplay. The best way to do this in X-Wing is to take a meta list, fly up to right before both sides start shooting, then pause the game. Ask questions like: Who has better shots, who has better dice modification, who has a better options for maneuvering next turn and try to guess who’s going to win. Then walk everything back, were there better maneuvers you could have plotted, could you have done better obstacle placement, could you have deployed better, did you rush to the fight or approach it too slowly. Then just keep doing it. If you’re only playing up to contact, these game can be really short and insightful ways to learn lessons. Generally speaking, in 2.0 right now, the person with better dice will win and what I specifically mean by that is, the person that can keep the most dice and most modifications on target the longest. If you consistently outplay your opponent in this aspect of the game, dice variance shouldn’t dramatically alter the outcome most of the time. Yeah, you’ll have those moments where someone hard rolls their way out of a bad spot, but if you look at the average over a game/tournament, those are in the minority. Setting up a good initial engagement can give you a solid early lead and allow you to play more conservatively for the rest of the match.
List building is a different skill, but requires a base of knowledge simply to analyze what is and isn’t doing what the player wants. My advice to refine list building is to first figure out what you want the list to do, then start with a prototype and don’t be too attached to any pilots/upgrades/etc in this prototype because everything here is subject to change. I would also say to do small and incremental changes. Again, going back to scientific method, if you radically change every variable every time, analyzing correctly what is/isn’t working is significantly harder. While my Resistance XXAA list mostly just swapped around some pilots upgrades, my Separatists list is almost unrecognizable from the first version, but both lists went through incremental changes, one list just needed a more substantial adjustment than the other.
Then, we all know “that guy” the one that constantly net-lists and faction swaps and loses regardless of what they actually put on the table. This person isn’t really looking to learn the game, they just want minimum effort quick fixes to put that W in the column. The problem is that this individual rarely understands what they’re playing or why it might be good. If it’s powerful enough, it will win them a few, but it will never go the distance for them in the same it would if they actually took the time to understand both the gameplay and list building elements that make it effective, so they’ll just move on to the next list hoping this time it will be different (spoiler: it won’t).