Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Close Encounters

I haven't written much of late but I have had a number of things, ideas and such rolling through my head. One of them that I hope will become a reoccurring post here, close encounters.

In the past I've written about my builds, either in X-Wing or Flames of war, but one thing I don't think I've talked about at length, is my opponents builds.

One of the things I've really enjoyed about X-Wing is the builds. I often joke that naming a list is my favorite thing about the game, but getting to see how other people build lists and play them is really interesting to me and often leave me thinking about games and lists for hours or days on end. (yeah I'm a bit neurotic like that.)

So I thought I'd start a type of post here "Close Encounters" where I talk about my opponents builds, what they did, what I think they're capable of and what I think I could do with them or how I would
perhaps tweak them.

So in the inaugural post I wanted to look at a really cool list a friend of mine ran in the Winter Tournament held at Imagine Games & Hobbies.

The reason the list caught my fancy was simple, it broke all the 'rules'. It was not the meta, it was anything but, a really interesting idea, and it had big teeth.

I've had the privilage to play Jeff Paul three times now, twice in the Regional tournament and in the Winter tournament. He's an awesome guy, very analytical, a fierce imperial pilot and just fun to play. So as we stared across the championship table at each other I looked at what he had completely wrecked everyone with. Not one, not two, but three Phantoms.

I've been affectionately calling it Sharknado.

A lot of people have faced Phantoms before so people are probably saying, yeah, so what. Well, there were no characters, and there were no advanced cloaking devices. That's what.

Jeff had brought three Sigma pilots with Stygium Particle accelerator, Advanced Sensors and Recon Specialists.

So yeah, three of these beasts. At first I think a lot of people shrugged them off in their minds. "Whatever, the only good Phantoms are Whisper and Echo", "He didn't even take Advanced Cloaking Device, so they won't be cloaked when I shoot", "Only PS 3? Easy game". Wow, people could not have been more wrong.

In hind sight I started to think of these less like other Phantoms, and more like normal ships, with a twist. In fact I think of it as basically an X-wing with a heavy laser cannon, and two Focus. You know, no big deal.

So the way this list works is pretty simple. Or maybe it's complex. It's quite possible I don't understand it. But here goes.

When I saw it in action first hand he had each of the Phantoms at about a four template away from each other, giving them room to move while uncloaking and making a huge area which was then a possible kill zone in front of them. It's like watching a pack of sharks or dogs advance on prey.

Using the Stygium, he waits to make the initial contact entirely in his favour before uncloaking, where he'll have two focus and an evade on each Phantom, making them very hard to crack with a single round of shooting. He focuses fire on  a single target, which even with people being unpredictable is made easy by the uncloaking mechanic. And well, three four dice attacks make short work of most ships. So the list often draws first blood.

Second combat turn is the big choice. Depending on the target environment he can either continue the engagement, if he's got the advantage, again with two focus on each ship, or he breaks off, cloaking and gaining an evade. He can then either turn back in or using his advanced sensors and recon specialist along with the stygium particle accelerator and do it all over again.

In four rounds of the tournament this list lost a few shields. And it wasn't until the finals that it lost a ship.

Pilot skill three is actually a big deal in this list. It lets you rip up swarms, but lets you pick and choose ground against elites, and can cause bumping and all sorts of problems.

So yeah. It's pretty scary. Nobody was ready for it, nobody expected it and it ripped up pretty much everything.

I think the list has a lot of options. It can go in wolf pack style, it can run a flanker with ease or use a hit and run tactic from multiple vectors. Give it a try. You'll be surprised at what it can do.

I used one of these in a swarm list without the Stygium particle accelerator (I didn't use cloaking at all) and it was pretty mean. I don't have enough Phantoms to run it all yet. One day maybe.

So weaknesses. Well, Phantoms are tough in a sense, but are really fragile. They can go down on an unlucky roll. Also Decimators or Lamdas with Vader can really ruin your day in a hurry, but the damage they do is right up there so you have to take them out fast if you want to end them. Otherwise they'll put so much hurt on you, you won't come back from it.

Stress is also a good mechanic to use against a list like this. Once a phantom can't cloak or gain focus it's got two dice unmodified for defense and that's a Phantom that's going to die. Ions can play into this but Stress can often come without having to do damage. Stack it up on a phantom and watch it wither, rinse lather and repeat.

Well that's all for this installment. Stay tuned for the next episode of Close encounters and do tell me what you think, both of this kind of post and the list itself. How you'd use it, what you'd change. You know, the usual.

Until next time.

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