Monday, February 2, 2015

Pilot Skill and the Meta

In the early days of X-Wing, there was a bit of a meta game involved with bidding for pilot skill.  The general rule of thumb was either you wanted to win the bid, or go as low as you could.  The top PS pilots would win out against the mid tier, the mid tier would win out against a low PS swarm, and the swarm would overwhelm the higher PS ships due to sheer numbers.  Then wave 4 dropped, and the Phantom came.

Now, high PS ships that could arc dodge were not exactly a new thing to X-Wing.  TIE Interceptors and to a certain extent A-Wings were already part of the meta since Wave 2 as being ships that got much better the higher their PS vs their opponent, due to the option of moving with their action.  Even TIE Fighters and Advanced (and any X-Wing with evasive maneuvers) could do that with barrel roll in wave 1.  The Phantom though took it to a whole new level for one main reason - advanced cloaking device.  Now, combined with Veteran Instinct and Whisper for a total of PS9, you had a ship that became incredibly slippery when moving (and moved more or less last), and if you did get a shot on it, it was at 4 defense dice (since it cloaked before anything else).

So that brings up a bit of an issue in the meta.  PS 11 and 10 ships became the hottest thing.  PS9 became effective, but not amazing - either shooting first before the cloak, and lost the chance to maneuver, or shooting after the cloak, but with a chance to get into position.  PS 2-8 ships might as well be PS1 against any list running a Phantom.  You can run a swarm and try to pin down a phantom - which you can do with varying degree of success, but your PS 5 & 6 ships detract from the goal of putting as many ships on the board as possible in that case.  You can pimp someone to PS 10, but they you lose out on another elite pilot skill that would make them better.

Wave 5 added a new wrinkle in the 58 special - a very effective arc dodging Dash that clocks in at PS7.  Not as effective against a phantom - as a good Phantom player could still either sit beyond range 3, or fall into the donut hole - but still a decent chance of landing a 4 damage HLC shot against 4 defense dice.  With an arc dodging big ship that ignored rocks (when moving), PS 8 and higher becomes somewhat viable, but still falls prey to the same issue regarding Whisper.

Right now, the meta has become a bit of a rock / paper / scissors in two rounds.  You can either take a "Fat" ship (high PS large ship with 360 arc), a Phantom (usually Whisper) or a swarm.  Pick two of three.  You may actually chose two of the same (double phantom or two large ships).