Monday, July 28, 2014

X-Wing French National Championship Top 16 : How to train your Phantom

Final Cut Top 16:

Given the recent release of Wave 4, I was expecting 2 list archetypes in the Top 16 :
 - the new hotness: Phantom + mini-swarm
 - the botoxed old timer : YT-1300 + support
plus a smattering of Tie-swarms and double YTs.

I didn't want to play a Falcon (too vulnerable to swarms) or a Phantom (too hard to play perfectly and struggles against Falcons). But I knew that I would need firepower to kill falcons and a way too shut down phantom agility.

Right till the morning of the National, I was still hesitating between 2 swarm lists, either the 8 Tie swarm or a 7 Z-Swarm with 4 missiles. Both have the resilient firepower to kill falcons and the number of bodies necessary to hamper phantom movements. I wanted to play the Z-Swarm as it's really powerful on paper but a few practice games (one on the eve of the tournament) left me wondering whether the Zs list would be as forgiving as the Tie swarm.

Z-Swarm or Tie-Swarm? My dilemma cosplayed at the tournament
It all came down to a dice roll during breakfast, hit the Ties, miss the Zs. I was happy when I rolled a hit, plus my Ties were all repainted, so the Tie swarm it was.

I finished second of the qualifications, so I faced the 15th Mulot with :
Whisper, VI, rebel captive, ACD
Carnor Jax
Black squadron

The organisers decided to keep the final cut on 1 hour game time for the top 16 and top 8, moving to 75 minutes for top 4 and 90 minutes for the final.

My plan was basically to destroy his support ships which die like 3 tie fighters, then  either deny or destroy Whisper.

He deployed his asteroids in a well spaced line on my side while I placed mine in a triangle closer to the center to hamper Holwrunner formation and to reduce Whisper options.

I deployed my academies in front of the left corridor and the Obsidians to the right. He deployed Holw + Carnor+ Black in front of my academies and Whisper to their right:
On the first turn, I moved 3 forward with the academies and 4 forward with the Obsidians, to globally turn my formation toward Whisper while recentering the Howl group. He advanced 4 and took a shot with Carnor on the lead Obsidian.

Turn 2, I split my formation to decrease Carnor impact but made a small miscalculation. I moved the front academies 4 forward (should have moved 5 to block the black), while the back only moved 2. The lead obsidians moved 3 bank to block and one moved 2 forward. He advanced 2 with hol group, bumping with carnor, Howl and focusing with the Black. Whisper decloacked 2 right and turned toward the fight:

Open FIRE! Due to no actions for Howl and Carnor, he only dealt 1 or 2 damages to Jet 6 and a damage and a crit to Jet 5 the 2 front Academies.
In return the combined fire power of the 8 ties destroyed Carnor.

At that point I started my deny or destroy strategy: 3 academies moved to either block Whisper decloack or his subsequent move, while the rest positioned to finish Howl. Leaving the black for later :
 As planned Whisper decloaked in front of Jet 7 and bumped. The black K-turned behind and Howl bumped into Jet 3. With no actions, I think he only did a damage or 2 but on undamaged Ties (Jet 6 K-turned behind Howl and Whisper wiffed his no action attack roll against Jet 5, this also meant no free token which would prove important for the return fire). In return Jet 4 and 3 stripped 2 shields from Whisper, stressing Jet 3, but the other 4 Ties failed to finish Howlrunner.

Turn 4: At that point my material advantage was so important that I spread my ties everywhere facing likely positions for his ships but more importantly preparing for next turn decloak while denying actions to howl and the black:

After his moves I had 6 Ties facing Holrunner and 3 facing Whisper. He took down 2 ties but I finished Howl and destroyed the black with a lucky shot from Jet 1 and Jet 6. Jet 3 with a range 1 focused shot also did a damage to Whisper.

A that point we had about five minute left to play so I kept denying his decloak moves with my horde of Ties. Some of those moves where K-turns, plus rebel captive, here is what you get:
Probably the record number of stress tokens for a side in a top 16 national game : 7 stress tokens with 6 ships!

Victory is mine with 2 ships to spare! As planned I destroyed his support ships, and denied his phantom decloaks or moves which really reduced his firepower. I was helped in that by the 1 hour time limit, but with 6 ships to his one, I'm pretty confident that I would have won in a last man standing match. I think Mulot made 2 mistakes: 
1) joust with the swarm, as I have a firepower advantage at close range even with Carnor. A less aggressive approach might have reduced my numbers more  before I could finish his support ships, helping for the end game.
2) get Whisper close to the swarm. A blocked phantom is a dead phantom and I have enough bodies to block him. A more ranged game might also have played in his favor.

Top 8 here I come!

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