Friday, December 25, 2015

Holiday Tournament Winner - an Interview with Truthiness

I was lucky enough to get the chance to chat with Truthiness (check out his blog for AARs of his tournament games!), the winner of the FFG Forums Holiday Vassal Tournament - the first major tournament to include Wave 2 ships.  I've asked him a few questions (Bolded) and here are his answers.  Hopefully we can all learn something from his success:

Describe your list - What was your thought process in designing it?  How did you decide on the build? 

It all started with the B-Wings. I’ve been trying to make them work since Wave 1, which was pretty damned hard. I honestly think that’s why I stuck with them. I have a perverse pleasure in making the “sub-optimal” choices work for me. That said I was greatly anticipating wave 2. I was jazzed about Intel and Boosted Comms right off the bat. They both majorly compensated for some of the B-Wings weaknesses. I had dismissed Independence during the initial spoil, but over a couple weeks I started to re-think it. When I finally got Independence to the board, the advantages were obvious. The 8 point cost was well worth the positioning advantage. Rather than spending the first two turns trying to play catch up hoping to get a shot on turn three, I spent one turn flinging out the B-Wings to have in position for turn 2, usually well ahead of the ship I intended to target.

Independence, however, is more like the setter in volleyball (crap I just lost everyone didn’t I?). His job isn’t to provide the kill. He’s there to set up the spike. That’s where Yavaris comes in. Yavaris, like B-Wings, has been a staple of my builds for a long time. I love flying squadrons and Yavaris makes them undeniably better. It’s an incredible force multiplier. The full strategy, therefore, was to get the B-Wings out in front of Yavaris so that it could start double tapping as soon as possible. Adar Tallon assisted in that by guaranteeing at least one double tap (and often a triple tap) no matter how the opponent moved to avoid the B-Wings. Salvation was the final filler. It provides very cheap firepower, even if it is as fragile as Yavaris. Neb-Bs fall into a similar “sub-optimal” category as B-Wings, so obviously it had to be included.

I should note that this list started with Dodonna at the helm and Ramyus on Yavaris. That changed once I started playing with Independence. The command stack ended up being pretty obvious: squadron, squadron, and more squadron. The problem was, that left little flexibility to deal with other problems, such as need to change speed or move some shields. I usually like to spend the first turn or two collecting tokens. Independence just plain couldn’t do that since I had to use a first turn squadron command on the B-Wings. That’s when I decided to drop Dodonna and Ramyus for Garm. It made perfect sense with how I had to fly Independence. It also gave me a couple more points on the bid since I could then drop Raymus.

The final element was the fighter component. I love to rave about Independence because it was so maligned immediately after the spoil, but the real MVP has been and probably always will be Jan. I knew she was going to be critical part of my squadron builds from the get go. Everyone loves Dengar, but I honestly think Jan is better. Sure, Dengar gives you Counter 1. If I kill his escorts, though, I can still take him out pretty quickly. Since his primary purpose is to provide Intel, his ability doesn’t do much to make that ability stay around. Jan, on the other hand, does exactly that. She makes her escorts that much tougher. If you choose to ignore her escort and go for the B-Wings, she makes them tougher. I cannot stress how much Intel and her unique ability enhance this list. Speaking of escorts, I’ve always had a soft spot for Wedge. You obviously can’t have Wedge without Dutch in a list with a high initiative bid, so along he came too. I had a theory that Dutch might be a pretty good counter to all the Rogue squadrons I expected to be floating around anyway.

Editor's Note:  Here is Truthiness's list, for reference:

Truthiness  390/400
MC80 Command Cruiser
-Adar Tallon
-Boosted Comms

Nebulon-B Escort Frigate

Nebulon-B Support Frigate

-4x B-Wings

Describe your strategy going into the tournament.  How were you expecting your list to function?  Did you have any matchups you were concerned about?

As I went into a little bit above, it was all about B-Wing delivery. I also went in doing my best to use Independence and Salvation to shield Yavaris. At the start of the tournament, I considered it the most critical ship in the fleet. This turned out to be a mistake, but I’ll go into that in question #6.

I worried a bit about lists with a heavy fighter wing, but I figured if need be I could re-task the B-Wings to assist Wedge and Dutch in the dogfight. After all, B-Wings aren’t exactly slouches in a dogfight. I was also worried about an Ackbar gunline. In theory I thought I would match up well against such a list, but despite testing this list as much as possible, I somehow never got a game against Ackbar.

Describe your R1 matchup - What went well?  What went wrong?

This was a mixed bag. I flew the ships extremely well. I was dodging out of arcs at just the right time, picking the perfect times for navigate commands and tokens. My squadron play, however was poor. I also deployed poorly, but that’s more forgivable since I had taken Fleet Ambush as the objective. That’s a hard objective as a Rebel. I managed to just barely kill Foresight near the end of the game, which got me the 7-3 victory. Had it not been for a lucky critical effect, this would have been a 5-5. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the problem, so I played a handful of pickup games between rounds to figure it out. Again, I’ll go more into this in question #6.

Describe your R2 matchup - What went well?  What went wrong?

There wasn’t much that went wrong. In contrast to the first game, I used Fleet Ambush to actually help my game plan. I basically charged directly at Green Knight with Yavaris and Salvation, while Independence supported from the send tier with its broadsides and squadron commands. Yavaris stuck around with one hit point at the perfect moment. It got off the critical command of the game, using three B-Wings to kill a Raider and cripple Green Knight’s ISD. It then died to the ISD, but Salvation followed up with the kill shot on the ISD. The B-Wings were also very very angry in this game. I seemed to roll nothing but 3 damage shots. I also completely neutralized Green Knight’s small Fireball. This match vindicated my belief that Dutch was a hard counter to Rogues. The Fireball only got off one volley the whole game, and that was because I needed a turn to take down Dengar.

Describe your R3 matchup - What went well?  What went wrong?

In hindsight, I should have been more nervous about Green Knight’s match, but this was the match up I was dreading the most. I had seen both HERO and Iskander use their lists (which were very similar) extremely well. More importantly, I had never faced Ackbar. My plan of attack was entirely theoretical. I rehearsed the hell out of my plan, but I still had lingering doubts. I certainly didn’t expect a big win even if I pulled it out. Needless to say, the plan worked better than I could have imagined. I did a full battle report on this one, so feel free to jump over to my blog for the full details. The basics of the engagement were I used Salvation to cap the head of the congo line and ignored the CR90. By boxing in the lead ship with Salvation, I was able to rapidly close with Yavaris and the B-Wings and then cascade down the line. Picking Fire Lanes as the objective was also a big part of the margin of victory. It was 210 points out of the 549 total victory points. It also gave Iskander a clear point where he really had no choice but to focus his ships, allowing my B-Wings to swarm all over it. My only mistake was letting Independence getting into a ramming contest with Home One while Home One was overlapping the station. I wanted a ramming contest to box in Home One, but I mismanaged the distance ever so slightly. The result was Independence taking five damage cards from ramming while Hone One took one. It didn’t matter in the end, but the boxing still let Yavaris, Salvation, and the B-Wings come around the flank to finish off Home One.

Did anything about your strategy change as the tournament went on?  Did the effectiveness of any ship / squadron surprise you?

I’ve talked about this in a couple places now, but I have to give one final shout out to JJ Juggernaut. I had two pickup games against him between rounds one and two that changed out I approached the list. The mistake I had been making was prioritizing the squadron fight over bombing runs with the B-Wings. I was frequently using the Yavaris double tap on Wedge and/or Dutch to try to get those kills. I realized that I didn’t need to kill the enemy fighters in order to ensure the bombing runs. Wedge, Dutch, and Jan, even if they couldn’t win the fight outright, were more than capable of buying me the time I need. The B-Wings needed those Yavaris double taps way more. This immediately played off in the game against Green Knight. By changing the priority from killing the Fireball to neutralizing its effectiveness, I utilized the B-Wings to their maximum effectiveness.

I also started flying the list more aggressively after the JJ games. I realized that protecting Yavaris was counterproductive. Attempts to keep in safe just make it less effective. My strategy became all attack in rounds two and three. I accepted that Yavaris was almost certain to die. The goal was to get it into the perfect position in rounds two and three to deliver the B-Wings. If it died after that, it didn’t matter. If I got off 15 B-Wing shots in two turns (10 shots from Yavaris double tap commands plus a token, 3 normal shots from Independence activations, 2 extra from Adar Talon) Independence and Salvation could mop up the rest. Even if Yavaris only got one round of double taps, that was often enough. Independence worked better as second tier support a little further back from danger. It was the bigger point piƱata anyway.

What are you looking at going forward in Wave 2?

I foresee a major resurgence in squadron use. I doubt my list in particular will be replicated all that much. It is extremely hard to fly right and good luck on my part had a lot to do with the wins. However, squadrons in wave 2 just cannot be dismissed like they were in wave 1. They’re just far too dangerous. I expect the Fireball to be the preferred squadron build, which should make all ship builds go extinct. We already saw a trend toward that in this tournament.

For myself, I’ll probably set aside this particular build for a while. I’ve been trying to make it work for a long time now. I need a break. I’m currently eyeing what I’m going to call a “dodgeball” list featuring four MC30 Torpedo Frigates and Mon Mothma. My main dilemma, ironically enough, it how much fighter cover to take.

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