It has now been just over two weeks since the end of the Yavin Open. With 414 players in attendance on day one, this was by far the largest X-Wing tournament ever, anywhere. I know that regardless of how each of us fared, every member of the squadron who attended was honoured and pleased to be a part of it.

For myself, I can only say that I went in with pretty high expectations, but wildly exceeded them. I settled on my list about a month before the open. It was a direct response to two factors. Firstly, the large numbers of Triple Jumpmaster lists I expected to see, and secondly, the long held belief that 7-TIE Swarms are the master race.

"The Pattiswarm"

"Howlrunner" (18)
Crack Shot (1)

Black Squadron Pilot (14)
Crack Shot (1)

Black Squadron Pilot (14)
Crack Shot (1)

Black Squadron Pilot (14)
Crack Shot (1)

Academy Pilot (12)

Academy Pilot (12)

Academy Pilot (12)

Total: 100

It is designed to combine the extra firepower of Crack Shot with the blocking and raw dice output of the Academy Pilots. Both of these things are vital for defeating both Imperial Aces and triple Jumpmasters.

I’ve been flying a swarm for just under two years at this point and I estimate that in that time more than half my games have seen me flying lists with seven Ties. The current environment, with the advent of the Crack Shot EPT, is quite good for swarms. However, you have to know how to beat a variety of very different things. These are mainly: triple Jumpmasters, Double IG-88s, Imperial Aces with or without a Palpatine-Shuttle, and various Rebel builds involving the VCX-100, Dash, or K-Wings.

Of course, I never seriously expected to go on and win the tournament overall and it’s taken me a while to really consider the scale of the achievement, and the reasons I managed to do so well.

I played a total of 12 games over the two day tournament, but I don’t intend to give a blow-by-blow account of every one of them (mainly because some of them are a bit of a blur, but also because I’m pretty sure no-one wants to read that particular wall of text).

I won five and lost one on the first day, and went undefeated on the second, so I’ll work through a few of the most interesting from day one, before discussing the rest from day two.


Game 2: Luke “Fishy” Townsend

IG-88B (36)
Crack Shot (1)
Fire-Control System (2)
Heavy Laser Cannon (7)
Glitterstim (2)
Autothrusters (2)

IG-88C (36)
Crack Shot (1)
Fire-Control System (2)
Heavy Laser Cannon (7)
Glitterstim (2)
Autothrusters (2)

Total: 100

Aggressors are one of my worst matchups because they have the ability to avoid a lot of damage while one-shotting Tie fighters. To make matters worse, Luke is a great player who always seems to beat me whenever we play. On the other hand, this build is far less scary to me than "the Hillbots" which I consider my only real hard counter.

Luke knew exactly how to approach this and set up his Aggressors in the opposite corner to my block of ships. He then flew right round the edge of the asteroids and came at me from behind. This meant I had to turn my swarm right around to face him. When playing a mixed pilot skill swarm this is extremely difficult. In the opening engagement, when it finally arrived, the chosen Aggressor soaked up all but one or two points of damage thrown at him with the help of Glitterstim. And I started to lose ships. At this point, we both thought it was all over, but Luke made a couple of mistakes, intentionally bumping where he should have cut and run, and I was able to gradually wear him down with my remaining TIEs. In the end, I had three damaged Ties remaining, but due to some successful blocks, I succeeded in taking down both Aggressors.


Game 5: Faan Langelaan

Contracted Scout (25)
Deadeye (1)
Plasma Torpedoes (3)
Overclocked R4 (1)
Guidance Chips (0)

Contracted Scout (25)
Deadeye (1)
Plasma Torpedoes (3)
Extra Munitions (2)
Overclocked R4 (1)
Guidance Chips (0)

Contracted Scout (25)
Deadeye (1)
Proton Torpedoes (4)
Extra Munitions (2)
Boba Fett (1)
R4 Agromech (2)
Guidance Chips (0)

Total: 97

Faan was one of around 10 Dutch guys who had come over for the Open. It’s fair to say they all knew what they were doing, and most placed very highly. I played three of them, and Faan was the only player to beat me over the course of the tournament. I consider this loss to be vitally important to me going on to win it, as it taught me some very valuable lessons about how to beat Jumpmasters with the swarm.

For me, the opening was very good. The obstacles were favourable, and I set up and dialed in my first move as usual. He set up centrally, and moved for the joust. Stupidly, I three banked in to meet him when I should simply have done a two forwards and stayed out of range for one more turn. He got all three torpedoes off, with me only having shots from the three Academy Pilots at the front. Fortunately, Faan had one bad roll with one of his torpedoes, and I rolled good evades. Two of my TIEs were left on one health each but none died. At this point, I was feeling pretty lucky, and ploughed into his ships, rapidly taking down one, and leaving another seriously damaged on two hull.

We had a great game of cat and mouse (I am still unsure who was the cat, and who was the mouse), and eventually he made a major error and hit one of my blocking TIEs with his damaged ship. When I took it down, I was winning on points.

At this point I was still taking a focus each turn, even if I had no shots, but half way through the game it dawned on me that even if I had a shot, an evade was better in almost every case. Jumpmasters, with only two dice, are very unlikely to do any damage to a TIE Fighter with an evade token, and when you are winning on points, it’s all about survival. However, with only minutes left on the clock, I was still trying to take his remaining ship down, instead of simply running away, and this meant he was able to take a range one, focused shot in the final turn, resulting in the death of a damaged Black Squadron Pilot.

From a full win to a loss because of tunnel vision, but lesson learned; when you are winning on points against an enemy with no teeth left, just run away and take evade actions. It’s not big or clever, but it will win you the game.


Game 7: Ian Holmes

"Whisper" (32)
Veteran Instincts (1)
Fire-Control System (2)
Gunner (5)
Advanced Cloaking Device (4)

"Echo" (30)
Veteran Instincts (1)
Sensor Jammer (4)
Recon Specialist (3)
Advanced Cloaking Device (4)

Academy Pilot (12)

Total: 98

At the start of day two I was feeling pretty confident but at the same time, utterly terrified. I was the only 186th Pilot on 5-1, and the field was full of stuff I knew I could beat. Well, most of it. When I looked at the pairings and saw Ian’s name, I mentally gave up. He was flying Whisper, Echo and an Academy Pilot. Of all the things you don’t want to see as a swarm player, this is fairly high on the list.

The asteroids were again, great for me. This was starting to be a recurring theme. Ian is an experienced player, but even he was allowing me to set up and move around the edge of the table with no trouble at all. Due to extreme nerves, I serious screwed up my opening and successive moves, with lots of self bumps and a partial formation breakdown. Luckily for me, Ian was having a lot of trouble bringing guns to bear as well, because despite my mistakes, I was still a scary prospect. Not even a TIE Phantom can usually tank that amount of firepower.

Accordingly, I was forcing him to run away each turn in the hope of a better angle. There came a point where he was one turn away from being backed into a corner, so I split my TIEs, abandoned all semblance of formation, and rushed him through the rocks. I don’t know if I spooked him, or if he was tired, or if he just made a rare error, but I was rewarded by Whisper bumping into Echo, in range of around five TIEs, and she was swiftly removed from the table. Although Ian went on to kill at least one Tie, it was then a simple matter of playing until the time ran out ten minutes later.


Games 8, 9, and 10: Scott Reed, Charlie Ter Horst, and Brian Clarke

Contracted Scout (25)
...

Contracted Scout (25)
...

Contracted Scout (25)
...

Having lost to Faan the day before, I had thought about what I did wrong all night. I therefore felt reasonably confident in my ability to tackle the Jumpmaster threat. This confidence turned out to be well founded, since I faced four players using them on the second day. All three of these guys were flying variations on the triple Jumpmaster lists, and while each game was very different, the same basic truths apply, so I’ll tackle them together.

It’s worth noting that of all the players I faced over the 12 games, only Scott used the rocks to deny me my optimum opening. He then proceeded to lead me round the board in a merry dance, drawing me through the rocks in the middle in a bid to get at him before he could turn and hit me with his torpedoes. However, in doing this, I feel he actually damaged his own chances because he denied himself an alpha strike.

He also did something which every other opponent also did – he kept his three Jumpmasters together as a single unit. This is the best way to virtually guarantee that the swarm will beat you. It’s the result of either inexperience, or lazy play, and if you really analyse it, all you are doing is providing a lovely target for the massive block of red dice to concentrate on. Jumpmasters have a great dial. They can go fast or slow, and they can turn on a dime, so why each of my opponents decided to stay together as this immovable block is incomprehensible.

Nevertheless, each game was close. The Jumpmasters are strong enough that even at a disadvantage they are dangerous. Against both Charlie and Brian the straight joust and subsequent furball resulted in the quick death of one jump, the slow death of another and the survival of between 3 and 4 remaining TIE Fighters. Even against Scott, who played more imaginatively, I can say that in retrospect, the outcome was not in doubt once I had killed one of his ships and put myself in blocking positions for the following turns.


Game 11: Kenneth Chamber

Darth Vader (29)
Juke (2)
Advanced Targeting Computer (1)
Stealth Device (3)
TIE/x1 (0)

The Inquisitor (25)
Push the Limit (3)
Proton Rockets (3)
Autothrusters (2)
TIE/v1 (1)

Omicron Group Pilot (21)
Emperor Palpatine (8)
Anti-Pursuit Lasers (2)

Total: 100

Ken was using an interesting Palp Aces list with The Inquisitor with Proton Rockets, and Darth Vader with Juke. He also had Anti-Pursuit Lasers (APL) on his Shuttle. This will prove to be rather important. We rolled for initiative and I won it. This will also prove to be rather important.

Again, the asteroids were favourable, and I managed a lovely bank in from the right with my entire swarm in perfect formation. Perhaps because he had APL, he planted the shuttle in front of the swarm, and it was removed in short order. Meanwhile, Vader, who was flanking, took a potshot at Howlrunner from Range 3. I had stupidly taken an Evade token which he Juked, and combined with a bad roll, I took a hit and a direct hit. Not good!

Ken then played a series of blindingly good turns, in which he evaded multiple blocks by dialing excellent and unanticipated moves. I was gradually taking shields off his ships, but at the same time, he was removing hull from mine. Another direct hit resulted in an Academy Pilot dying. We played another few turns, during which the Proton Rockets failed to kill a Black Squadron Pilot despite all odds, and then we both realised that as things stood, the score was tied. We had about 15 minutes left.

After a few turns, it became clear to me that I was unlikely to kill anything else. The Inquisitor was on 2 Hull, and Vader was on 3, so I made the decision to just try to survive until the end. I was very conscious of the fact that if I were to win due to having initiative, I would have to make every conceivable effort not to waste time, and believe me, I tried.

Both Ken and I were effectively playing ‘Speed X-Wing’ for the last four or five turns, and it was one of most tense ten minutes of gaming I have ever experienced. It came down to the last shot of the game, with The Inquisitor shooting at a TIE with 2 Hull remaining. He rolled two hits and a crit, and I rolled a single evade, and used my Evade token. I flipped the crit, and it wasn’t direct hit.

It sounds insincere, but it was a terrible way to win, and I'm sorry it came down to that. On the other hand, I took initiative with this scenario in the back of my mind, and did the right moves to pull it off at the end. In the top four of a massive event like this, a win is most certainly a win!


Game 12: Chris Hudson

Contracted Scout (25)
Deadeye (1)
Plasma Torpedoes (3)
Overclocked R4 (1)
Guidance Chips (0)

Contracted Scout (25)
Deadeye (1)
Plasma Torpedoes (3)
Extra Munitions (2)
4-LOM (1)
Overclocked R4 (1)
Guidance Chips (0)

Contracted Scout (25)
Deadeye (1)
Proton Torpedoes (4)
Extra Munitions (2)
Boba Fett (1)
Overclocked R4 (1)
Guidance Chips (0)

Total: 97

PS. This game was filmed and live-streamed on Twitch by Simon Green. You can watch that broadcast at around the 09:00 mark and follow along!

So, barely able to believe it, I was in the final. Chris was flying triple Jumpmasters, and as such, I was feeling quietly confident. Having played them three times already that day, I was happy that I could beat them if he kept them together as I had seen him do in previous matches. If he decided to split them up however, like Mike or Alex had done in various practice games, I knew I’d be in for a much tougher ride.

The asteroid setup was the best of the weekend for me. With four along my own board edge and the other two out of the way to the far left of the table. This gave me total freedom to bank and turn in the centre, while he would have to turn through the rocks to get to me when he came round from my left. And then he did the unthinkable – he didn’t set up on my left at all, but put his ships down for the straight joust. I think at this point I glanced at James and raised my eyebrow quite severely.

I still expected Chris to turn away on turn one, so I hedged my bets and began with my usual opening. This allows me to bank or turn in, while also providing blocking options at various ranges. I was even more shocked when Chris revealed forward maneuvers, and was just out of range.

The following turn was brutal. One Jumpmaster was blocked, while the others were at range one of everyone except Howlrunner. The central ship was dead before it had a chance to shoot. I rolled well enough at this point, but with a focus and a Howlrunner re-roll, those kind of dice results are not unexpected. With Crack Shot in play, the jumpmaster stood little chance. I didn’t have it all my own way though, as Chris unceremoniously nuked Howlrunner with his only range two torpedo shot.

At this point, one of his jumps was free and clear, so I decided to ignore it for now. The other was completely stuck and I couldn’t see a single possible move that could get him out. I used one of my Academy Pilots to self block the rest of my ships so that they would all have a shot once more, and took it below half health. Again though, I lost one of my Black Squadron Pilots to the combined range one fire from both Jumps. I feel that Chris had effectively given up at the point, and he said as much, but I knew all too well that if the greens desert you, Ties can never be sure of victory.

The rest of the game was a matter of wearing the two remaining ships down. Since Chris was facing my right corner, I had several turns to reverse my ships and take range two and three shots before moving in for the kill at range one. Having successfully blocked his damaged ship onto a rock, where is met its end, it was only a matter of time before the final ship succumbed to the remaining Ties.

In many ways, this was the easiest win of the day, and I feel it was more down to Chris’s play than my own. Jousting any tie swarm would have been risky, but with my blockers, it was borderline suicidal. Chris said at the time, that if he had gone more slowly on the first turn, things would have been better. While that may be true, based on the four previous games at the Open, I still believe he would have lost that ship on the first turn and the result would have been the same. With all that space on the board, if he had simply split his forces, he would have stood a much better chance.


Victory

Winning such a massive event, after having played three full days of X-Wing, was utterly incredible. Usually, I let myself down by making small errors and throwing games away, but this time I feel I barely made any. The months and years of practice paid off and even when very tired I was able to see the better moves and follow them through to victory. That said, my opponents had more to do with many of my wins than I did. In some cases it was inexperience, but in others, it was an inability to adapt, or just plain old unforced errors. And of course, I don’t think anyone wins a major tournament without an element of good luck at the right times, and I certainly had my share.

All that remains is for me to thank all my opponents for 12 amazing games of pew-pew, and to thank Vince Kingston, Alec Thorne and all the other organizers and helpers, for running such a massive event so smoothly. Above all though, thank you to my teammates in the 186th, and every other supporter I had that day. Your cheers and handshakes meant such a lot, even in my stunned and exhausted state.

Next stop: the Coruscant Invitational, where you will all see how terrible I am at flying anything involving less than seven ships!