Thursday, November 17, 2016

Interview with Josiah Burkhardsmeier - World Champion 2016

Here at Steel Squadron HQ we have a tradition following the World Championship of interviewing the winner.  At least, it is a tradition now, as previously it was just something we did once to see if it would work and couldn't believe we lucked into.

Anyways, here is our interview with Josiah (JJs Juggernaut) Burkhardsmeier, the World Champion of Armada!

Heya Josiah.  First off, congratulations on the big win!

World Champion Josiah (center) poses with two good looking gentlemen.

Hey! Thanks so much! I'd be glad to answer any questions can. I also plan on doing a write-up of my games in the near future, though it depends on how hectic my schedule gets!

First tell us all a bit about yourself.  What do you do when you aren't pushing plastic spaceships across a table?

Well; I'm 21 years old and currently am a student at the University of North Dakota, though I was born and raised in Minnesota! I'm pursuing a bachelor of science in computer science of which I am in my Junior year. In my free time I enjoy board games, PC games (strategy titles mainly) with some occasionally Xbox in there, Reading, as well as your average Netflix binge watching/YouTube timewasting! If given the opportunity I'm usually up for dropping individual plans to hang out with friends for all sorts of activities. Depending on the weather I'll play sports, especially watersports in the summer, and occasionally I'll venture out in winter.

By now, most players have seen or heard about your list:  8 Y-Wings, 2 HWKs, 2 YT-1300s, AFII flagship, Admonition, and 3 flotillas.  What didn't we see?  I know you had a 400 point bid, so were you hoping your opponents would go first or second?  What did you think was the "weakest" of your objectives?

​​That's really pretty much it. My AFII has Dodonna and Flight Controllers, Admonition is a torp frigate with H9s, APTs, and ordnance experts. Of my three flotillas one had Bright Hope, Toryn Farr, and BCC; another just has BCC, and the third had Leia and Comms Net. My objectives were Most Wanted, Contested Outpost, and Superior Positions. I changed to Most Wanted from Precision Strike a few weeks before the event due to some high activation APT fleets out scoring me with tokens, so I went with a safer bet, even though I only had two ships which could get the extra attack die.

I expected to go second throughout the tournament, especially with the recent addition of Admonition to my fleet. Previous versions lacked some punch if I was given first player; 4 bombing attacks isn't bad, but I wanted an even heaver retribution if I was given first. I was confident in my objectives and my ability to threaten with Admonition as a counter to someone who tried to use the activation order against me, though I did expect to take losses due to being second. I'm someone who prefers first player, but recently I've almost always been building to 400 and tried to do my best to learn how to play second player. Evidently it worked out, but if I had won a roll off for choice at the beginning of a 400 v 400 match I probably would have chosen first player.

I was second player throughout the tournament with the exception of my game against WWDP Steven, who chose to make me first player. That was also one of my closest games in the tournament. I played all of my objectives over the tournament, though I felt like Superior Positions was the weakest. The ability to rack up points is huge (especially with Rieekan zombies out there), but I already have a major deployment advantage anyway, plus bombing the rear can sometimes be counter productive or over-extend your squadrons.

Tell us a bit about how you refined your list.  What revisions did you make while you got it to the state it is in now?

​This really has been an idea pre-wave 3. It's origin was in a 3 AFII 12 Y-wing list after hearing about Y-wings spam from the IFF podcast. Ruthless strategist and double flight controllers with Garm. The list had some beauty with its perfect squadron activation number with Garm, then you'd take losses anyway so you could still command all that mattered. The AFIIs are tanky, but it had some flaws. Namely no Intel (I used debris to avoid engagement often), all Heavy squadrons, and lower activation count. I had fun with the list, but after some close games and a few close losses I tabled the idea for a while since I couldn't find a way to keep what I liked and fix the flaws.

Then wave 3/4 came along. Flotillas solved the activation issue by swapping an AFII for two GR75s and I swapped out 4 Ys for 3Xs and a HWK. The remaining points gave me tons of upgrades on the two AFIIS and I continued testing. I found my X-wings died fast without Jan and my HWK would get picked off sometimes with one or two Xs still alive. However I did see how good HWKs became with Toryn rerolling attacks, counters, and their anti-ship. This made me consider dropping the escorts and going 4 HWKs, but I felt it would be too soft and went for 2 YT-1300s since they benefit the same from Toryn. At this point I still wanted another activation, so I tried removing upgrades for a TRC90. It was better, but I still didn't have as strong a punch as I would have liked or a good way to kill flotillas, so away went the TRC90 and another AFII to make room for Admonition and another GR-75 for activation. And that's really how I ended up with my current fleet.

I had a few other ideas I never got around to testing. One was Yavaris instead of the TRC90, though I decided against it due to assuming it would get nuked without first player or Rieekan. Speaking of whom I'll just mention my Commander. The good ole' standby General Dodonna! I love pulling crits, and APTs plus bomber swarm seemed like a good fit. No other Commander really fit the fleet archetype since I had no named squadrons which made Rieekan less desirable. I also needed all the points I had! A few things I wish I had the points for, but just couldn't fit in:

ECM on the AFII. I lost it in my first round game with 7-8 shields left due to double ISD accuracy, surprisingly, that is the only time it dies, though it was taking more damage than it should have.
Jan instead of a HWK. The problem here is I only have 4 more squadron points before I hit the limit, so an upgrade isn't possible without dropping another squadron, which would lose a deployment, plus I was really, very adamant about having 8 Y-wings!

Skilled first officer on Admonition. Such a wonderful utility item! I just couldn't drop even 1 point!
Dropping Leia: I only used her ability once the whole tournament. Since my AFII commands where fairly set (squadron until death!!) and I had Comms net for emergencies. It really was slicer tools insurance, but I only saw one tools that tournament.

Your list has been described as "High Skill" to properly use.  Do you expect more people will try to copy this list's success in the coming Regional season?

I think that every list takes skill to use effectively. Nothing really comes easy in Armada (though Demolisher can help make it easier). That's the beauty of this game. I don't know that I've ever witnessed the "perfect" game of armada. Some players have lists that fit them better as players, which means they can play them better than others. In any case the more practice you have with a list, the better you will be able to do, though we can all agree not all fleets are equal. Some things are better than others, especially following current trends in the competitive scene. I don't feel like my list takes an incredible amount of skill, it just plays the fundamentals of Armada. Using activations, concurrent threats, and massive focused damage. These are general Armada skills, which I'm still working on myself.

I definitely think people have been paying attention and I've seen some slight shift in fleet builds lately just due to the overall Worlds meta. It will be very interesting to see how the regional season plays out. The main advice I'd give to players is focus on playing a clean game, minimizing errors and making good decisions. Now that's really easy to say in broad terms, and may even sound a little "Madden," but the fundamentals will win you games. Knowing your potential damage output, threat ranges, and list weaknesses will define how you approach your games. I've played many games of armada where the game was, if not decided, heavily influenced in deployment. I always have a plan on what I want to do in a game before it begins. From attack vectors to prime targets, I know my goal and keeping your opponent in the dark on what your plan is for as long as you can definitely helps out in the long run. Obviously no plan can account for everything, so being able to adapt is very important; I most often find this adaptability comes in the form of deployment, activations, and maneuvering. Make sure you leave yourself options if need be to shift your plan if things go poorly.

Describe what you were expecting to see at Worlds - did it meet your expectation, or did you have to change your strategy on the fly?  Were there any matchups that you were hoping to not run into?

​I really didn't know what the general trends would be. I expected nearly every fleet to have at least one flotilla and numerous squadrons, but there were even more flotillas than I expected. I figured for some Rieekan and DeMSU builds. Was also expecting a lot of Rhymer. My main plan though was to be ready for anything. I was surprised at the number of Rieekan aces, but other than that there was a large variety. I really didn't want to face MC30 MSU lists. I've struggled with my fleet against them at times, though my losses have been close games. They can tank my bomber hits, and I've had difficulty with killing Admonition at times. I'm also not fond of playing against Ackbar, but I wasn't really worried about that matchup other than if it turned into a toilet-bowl 6-5. I definitely wasn't expecting to face an 8 YT-2400 list and then a 7 YT-2400 list + Tycho however, but I managed to get through.

Did the small MOV win on R2 against Steven give you any cause for concern?  How many tournament points did you expect you would need to hit the cut?

​​Yes, I was actually concerned at that point. It meant that I couldn't afford another small MoV game since I was sitting at 16 points, at least not without another 10-1. Beforehand I figured I should average 8 points a game to make the cut, but after seeing the competition I figured I needed more like 8.5 - 9 points a round. I also knew I was in for some tough games once I scored a 10-1 the first round, though I was glad to be skipping over the national champion BYE bracket!

Tell us a bit about your preparation.  What lists did you fly against?  Where to you usually play:  Vassal alone, or do you have a local scene?

​I got in as many games as I could in the several months leading up to worlds. I was still tweaking my list up until a few weeks before the event, at which point I ran out of time to practice due to exams. I would play against anything anyone wanted to bring. This contained a fair spectrum. I don't even remember what exactly. I know I played against a number of squadron heavy lists, both bomber and aces lists, some MSUs, and an occasional Ackbar or other heavy ships lists. Most of my games were on Vassal, since the stores than run Armada in my area don't get to hold that many events. We have fairly few regular players, and most live in an hour to two hour radius. The distance it also to far for me to make any sort of midweek events or league play. Hopefully though out community will continue to grow, as we have heard of some newer players in the area!

What has you the most excited for Wave 5?  More importantly, what does wave 5 (and specifically Snipe) do to your list?

I'm very excited to see what all the new squadrons add to the game and how that effect the meta. Same goes for the Corellian Conflict squadrons. the new ships should fit some nice new roles in both fleets, and I already have a number of things I can't wait to try out! The biggest thing I'm excited for though, is new objective cards! I feel like the ones we have are definitely getting a little stale, and we have a few that hardly ever see play. I'm really excited to open up the options, which will also diversify fleet builds and totally change how each game plays out on the table.

As for how wave 5 will affect my list? Who knows! That's the wonderful thing. Maybe I'll find ways to update the list even more to my liking, maybe the new squadrons will dominate my build? Only time will tell. I can see Snipe being powerful, but just like anything else in the squadron game I think you can play around it to keep your Intel safe, though it will become more challenging. I just know I've had a blast flying my fleet which is my I kept tweaking it and eventually decided to give it a shot at Worlds. In the end it managed to take me to the top!

Thanks for taking the time to respond to this interview.  I'll see you around.

​No problem and thanks for the interview! Great questions and it really did get a lot of my general thoughts out here so my actual write-up can be shorter! Whew! I really am long winded when it comes to typing.

Thanks Josiah!  Good luck out there at the next World Championship (not to mention the World Cup which you qualified for 3 times).


  1. Congrats to JJ. It takes a cool head to be the world champion!

    Will be interested to see how many copy-cat styles we will see at the Stockport regionals this weekend. It looks like a high skill list to fly.