The Black Orifice

Tabletop gaming resources and events from grumpy old games designers, Ben Redmond and Nigel McClelland

OMG! I won summink at X-Wing! I am now the X-Wing List Expert!

I thought I'd write a blog post about X-Wing. For those who haven't played against me, let me explain -- I am not a good X-Wing player. I like to think of myself as "that guy" in anyone's gaming group who comes up with the weird crazy list that is secretly filth -- like Kinetic Operator or Sable Griffon. The trouble is, I'm just not that good, and the only thing "stealth" about my lists is that I don't notice how terrible they are. To illustrate this point, I was the guy who took 2 Scyks with HLC, Kavil and Ndru Suhlak to UK nationals a couple of years ago.

What's surprising is that one of my janky weird lists recently actually managed to be proper competitive filth. Most of this is old news, but I'll dwell on it a little for the purpose of introducing the main point of this article... My lists since Wave 6 introduced the Scum and Villainy faction have been tool-box style Scum lists. It started with my Kavil, Ndru and the Scyks, but after I realised the internet is not wrong and Scyks are indeed terrible, I started to play around with trying to find different combinations of (usually 3) different named pilots that could fly together and handle most lists they came up against. It started with Kavil, Guri and Palob (which earned me third place at a little local tournament without a cut) evolved into Kavil, Manaroo and Palob in wave 8 (which did me really well in testing but failed at the one event I took it to) and when wave 9 came out swapped in Fenn Rau for Kavil, and low and behold I've "invented" Jesper Hills' Worlds' list. This list has fared me well at our local league, allowing me to win my division (admittedly the bottom division, but a win is a win, right?).

So, now I'm getting better at spotting the stealth filth, I thought I'd put together a list of my own and see whether it can be an equal contender to my Rusty Toolbox mk4 (or Fenn Manalob, or whatever else you want to call that list)...

Building on Swarm Leader

The card Wave 10 that's striking me as something I want to play with is Swarm Leader. As a scum player, the crew combinations you can get with 4-Lom, Zuckuss, Dengar, K4 Security Droid and others are incredible, and could potentially make great use of the extra dice from Swarm Leader. The trouble is, Scum don't have great access to the Evade action. However, there are a few contenders...

Overall List Structure

To begin with, a swarm leader list is going to need two components: a "Leader" ship and a "Swarm" of ships with access to the Evade action. I also think it's going to be important for all the ships to have a decent level of threat on their own. If the Leader ship is too reliant on the extra dice from the support ships, your opponent can simply arc dodge or kill off the swarm and leave you floundering. Similarly, if the Swarm ships carry no threat of their own, your opponent can likely concentrate on the Leader and easily mop up the swarm when things have been cleared.

I also think it's fair to say that using Swarm Leader means building a jousting list. As such the list will work better if constructed with ships built to be, and costed as, jousters rather than arc dodgers or turrets.

Let's have a look at the different components in more detail...

The Swarm Leader

For the swarm leader you need a ship that can both be upgraded with an EPT, and has a significant damage threat without needing that EPT, and this needs to be focused on their primary weapon attack as Swarm Leader doesn't boost secondary weapon attacks. It also needs to be a jousting ship. Let's rule a few (scum) ships out straight away: Scyks and Talonbane (just terrible), Z95s (too little primary weapon threat if flown in formation), Aggressor and Fang Fighter (arc dodgers), Kavil and Shadowcaster (turret ships) and Jumpmaster (either too little threat from primary weapon, or an expensive turret ship). That leaves us with a few options: 4-LOM or Zuckuss, Guri or Xisor, Boba or Kath, or Bossk. Of those I'm going to rule a few out straight away: The Star Viper is just too expensive for how good it is. I think it flies more like a Jouster, but it's costed like an arc dodger. Zuckuss and Kath both already have abilities that let them roll additional dice, so their EPT slots are better spent on getting dice modifications than rolling additional dice. So, just three ships to consider...

4-LOM: 4-LOM is potentially a really good choice. He synergises really well with that most broken of Scum crew cards, Zuckuss, and can use the systems slot for FCS to get target locks and glitterstim for focuses. As a small base ship, he's also going to be a lot easier to fly in formation. The downside of 4-LOM is that he is the easiest to kill of the three ships we're looking at.

< span style="font-weight: bold;">Boba Fett: Boba is an excellent choice here. With free rerolls at range 1 he can make the most of the extra dice if you can pull it off at range 1, and use his crew or illicit slot for focuses. The auxiliary firing arc is also really useful, allowing you to get those range 1 shots of two turns in a row, potentially. His downsides are the large base and that he is the most expensive of the ships we're looking at. He's also going to make less use of the extra dice if they kick in at range 2 as he's losing his free rerolls.

Bossk: Bossk is the ship I've been using so far. He's got a lot of hull and shields for anyone to grind through, and three crew slots to give him the dice modifications and shenanigans he needs, and a pilot ability to power through extra damage and really make the most of the big hits. Like Boba, he has the auxiliary firing arc to make the most of the opportunities to fire, but unlike Boba he has the full stop to really get stuck in if needed. His downsides are his large base and his awkward dial -- if ships can just get in behind him he can struggle to get back into the fight.

The Swarm Ships

For the swarm, we're basically looking at M3-A Scyks or G1-A campervans. The swarm ships need to be a threat in their own right, but cheap enough to be able to take multiple of them alongside the swarm leader. The M3-A gives us two different loadouts to consider, too.

Light Scyk: The newly spoiled light scyk title makes a Tansaari Point Veteran 15 points, or 16 with Crack Shot or 17 with Juke. I don't think any other scyks warrant consideration without the Heavy Scyk title, but as a little 16 or 17 point build, the Tansaari Point Veteran provides an option that is pretty cheap, yet carries some threat in its own right. The downside is that that threat isn't really going to worry some ships, and it's dial doesn't really suit it to formation flying with the Leader ships we've considered. However, as a cheap option, they may be worth considering as an extra ship if you've got points spare -- even a light scyk cartel spacer at 12 points might fit this role.

Heavy Scyk:At 20 points, a heavy scyk cartel spacer with mangler cannon, or 23 with HLC, is certainly a threat the opponent can't ignore, but having flown these a lot, without dice modifications (because you're going to be evading with them most turns) they can lose a lot of that threat. A better choice, perhaps, is the Tansaari Point Veteran again, with mangler cannon and mind link for 24 points, which should let you get two in most lists, but then you're only getting 1 evade out of 2 ships. I'm just not sure I can make this option worth considering.

G1-A: The campervan as they have become known locally, is one of my favourite ships at the moment. For 23 points in the Freelancer you're getting so much more than the 22 point Blue Squadron B-Wing -- a point of PS, a crew slot, a better dial (more white, more green, better and choice of K-Turns). With a 3 dice primary, they're certainly a decent shout for being a valid threat in their own right, and with FCS you can get a target lock despite having taken an evade action. Another nice addition is that they have a crew slot. This provides a number of great options, depending on which crew options you're using on the swarm leader ship. One crew that I've found useful is the new Wave 10 card, Inspiring Recruit. If you're using Zuckuss crew, having a couple of these lets you strip 3 stress from a green action! If there's a downside to this ship, it's the cost that they can rack up to. One of the build I'll discuss below uses a classic "buzz-saw" combo on a Gand Findsman with Juke - 34 points for a ship with 1 Agility and 8 hull and shields!

Sample Lists

Okay, so let's look at some sample lists that put these theories into action:

It's Like Busses [99pts]

This is the list I've been flying most recently. Dengar and Glitterstim ensure you get the most out of your dice without needing actions, the Engine Upgrade helps keep thing off your rear, and Zuckuss and 4-LOM make sure you make the most out of teh hits you do get, whilst the inspiring recruits help you clear stress Like a Boss(k).

  • Bossk [47 (35+12)]
    • Swarm Leader [3]
    • Engine Upgrade [4]
    • Zuckuss [1]
    • 4-LOM [1]
    • Dengar [3]
  • Ruthless Freelancer [26 (23+3)]
    • Fire Controll Systems [2]
    • Inspiring Recruit [1]
  • Ruthless Freelancer [26 (23+3)]
    • Fire Controll Systems [2]
    • Inspiring Recruit [1]

Caravan Club of Mandaloria [100pts]

This list takes the same sort of idea, but using Boba instead of Bossk. With a better dial and K-turns, the engine upgrade can be ditched. Zuckuss is still great, and with the doubled up inspiring recruits, Boba can get good use out of him without worring too much. With Counter Measures and Glitterstim, he can get great use out his range 1 rerolls if he can pop it at the right time.

  • Boba Fett [48 (39+9)]
    • Swarm Leader [3]
    • Zuckuss [1]
    • Glitterstim [2]
    • Counter Measures [3]
  • Ruthless Freelancer [26 (23+3)]
    • Fire Controll Systems [2]
    • Inspiring Recruit [1]
  • Ruthless Freelancer [26 (23+3)]
    • Fire Controll Systems [2]
    • Inspiring Recruit [1]

Three Wise Gands [100pts]

Using 4-LOM as the Swarm Leader gives you a few extra points to play around with. I've chosen to upgrade the Freelancers to Gand Findsmen, and have the poinst spare to give them glitterstim and Juke to really threaten the enemy. This seems to me to be a real "seat of your pants" list, relying on only 24 shields an hull and only 1 agility dice per ship. That said, it has advantages when flying in formation, so I think it's worth a try. PS5 on the findsmen helps in the Defenders meta, too, meaning you'll always get your shots back the turn you get taken out. Alternatively you could swap out all the Findsmen's upgrades except FCS for gunner.

  • 4-LOM [36 (27+9)]
    • Swarm Leader [3]
    • Zuckuss [1]
    • Fire Controll Systems [2]
    • Glitterstim [2]
    • Mist Hunter [0]
    • Tractor Beam [1]
  • Gand Findsman [32 (25+7)]
    • Fire Control Systems [2]
    • Juke [2]
    • Inspiring Recruit [1]
    • Glitterstim [2]
  • Gand Findsman [32 (25+7)]
    • Fire Control Systems [2]
    • Juke [2]
    • Inspiring Recruit [1]
    • Glitterstim [2]

So, are they any good?

I started off talking about the weird lists I like to fly and "stealth" filth, how I was surprised that I seem to have managed to find a fairly strong meta list despite my leanings to the unusual. I suppose the question is, therefore, are these Swarm Leader Scum lists any good? I suppose the list they have to beat, especially as a jousting list, is Palp Defenders. Running some quick stats through the X-Wing Probability Calculator it seems that my 3 ships trade damage at a roughly even ratio with 2 defenders (assuming Palp hangs back). The trouble for the defenders is that trading 6 damage for 6 damage (or even 6 for 7) leaves the defenders a ship down. If the shuttle engages I think it swings the odds back in the defenders favour, but makes the shuttle a really big target that these lists can very readily burn through. Overall I think its very close. This is an efficient jousting list that could give Palp Defenders a run for their money. It would need to be flown very well, and its a harder list to fly than defenders. Overall, it's likely that the k-turn advantage will play a telling difference, but I have an inkling it could give defenders players some cause for concern, and if your dice roll just a little hotter than your opponent it could overturn the meta-defining list.

Or alternatively I could just be as wrong as I was about scyks.