With the Scum and Villainy expansions for X-wing travelling across the land in the cargo holds of countless spice runners (a.k.a. UPS trucks), it’s hard not to come up with a bunch of new lists to try out for the newest kids on the block. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself, so I’m just going to take it step by step. Fantasy Flight continues to make their champions into bona fide gamer celebrities, publishing great articles like this excellent one by repeat world champ Paul Heaver. In addition to some excellent strategy basics (describing the rock/paper/scissors nature of jousters vs. turrets vs. arc dodgers), Paul provides some interesting lists to try out for the Scum. Let’s take a quick look at the ship archetypes as he describes them:
Jousters are straight-forward, efficient little buggers that often blanket the battlefield in no-frills ships. A little underwhelming individually, they are ruthlessly effective in medium to large sized groups, even without upgrades.
Arc Dodgers are very dangerous, slippery little space ninjas really. Fast and highly manoeuvrable, they generally pack a large punch but can’t take a hit in return. Their best defense is usually to avoid being shot at all, and they do this by arc dodging — moving last and often spending their actions boosting or barrel rolling into prime locations. The ultimate goal is often to get into range band 1 of an opponent who isn’t able to shoot you back, but a lot of the time you settle for range band 3 against targets with lower agility than you. Your mid-strength attacks can still hurt them, but their attacks will hopefully fail to crack your higher agility, range bonuses and/or defensive tokens. Either situation benefits the arc dodger.
Turrets are rampant right now due to the strength of the Phantom, which is an arc dodger on steroids. It’s difficult to catch and often even harder to hit (with 2+2=4 agility while cloaked), and brings huge firepower to the game as well. With turret ships, you are generally throwing big attacks around in any direction, which negates at least some of the Phantom’s big strengths. Even in the hands of a brilliant player, swarmy jousting lists (and even many arc dodger squads) can’t keep up with the Phantom.
The relationship between the three archetypes is a lot like rock, paper, scissors. Turrets are rocks. They bring a ton of hit points and are fairly simple to use, even for beginners. Jousters are paper, blanketing the opposition in ships, covering a lot of territory, and inflicting death by a thousand paper cuts. Arc dodgers are scissors, cutting through paper by applying a lot of force onto single ships in the swarm, while dodging some, most or all of the return fire. And looping back around, turrets largely laugh at arc dodgers, as their points spend on manoeuvrability count for a lot less against a ship with 360 degree attacks.
However, there’s definitely room for mixing archetypes in your squads. Some of the preferred jousting lists can barrel roll to their heart’s content (TIE swarm and B-wings). Many turret ships have become excellent arc dodgers with the combination of high Pilot Skill and Engine Upgrade; throw in some passive bonuses to accuracy (Predator, Gunner, etc.) and they can freely dodge arcs of most opponents while holding down the trigger and inflicting steady damage output. As Paul’s article indicates, many excellent squads feature a heavy mix of two pillars, maybe even a touch of all three. The super popular Rear Admiral Chiraneau and Whisper list combines arc dodging and turret supremacy, while Paul’s Worlds list featured Han with Engine Upgrade and a trio of cheap Z-95s for support. The Fat Han list truly had the right stuff for crushing the wave 4 meta.
With a lot of players growing frustrated about the number of tanky turret ships out there, Scum may bring a breath of fresh air, as they lack a true turret on any of their ships. A few retro-fitted Rebel craft can buy a turret (but none of them work at range 3), and the Firespray has a juicy rear firing arc, but generally they are finding themselves some new niches to exploit, rather than directly competing with the ships that are already in the wild.
Even the retro-fitted ships have some new abilities that change up how they play. Let’s take a look at various Scum lists that might appeal to a new player, or someone becoming reacquainted with the game after an absence. I know some of you (Tim!) are going to have a hard time staying away once some cool new ships arrive on store shelves.
With my friend Tom (one of my co-hosts from the Hobby Night in Canada Podcast) looking at possibly starting X-wing with the Scum Faction, Paul’s article provides the following list which would be a decent enough place for him to start. I’ll be sure to suggest a list like this to Tommy boy.
You get one high PS character that buffs allies, and a swarm of cheap and versatile Z-95 to form the bulk of your list. They all have Hot Shot Blasters, which are effectively one use only mini-turrets. With PS1 ships, even experienced players will find themselves outmanoeuvred by higher PS ships with boost and barrel roll actions, and these little disposable blasters will let you get unleash some respectable firepower in any direction.
There are a few downsides to this list, however. You would need to purchase 3x Most Wanted packs for all those Z-95s, plus a single M3A expansion (honestly really not an issue since you’ll probably want a couple), and finally those Hot Shot Blasters need to come from somewhere. From the promo shots, it looks like you only get one Hot Shot Blaster card per Most Wanted box, and another single one in the IG-2000 Expansion, so this list would be rather pricey to assemble. Even with my “buy two of everything” approach to X-wing, I will probably end up with only four cards, leaving me one shy. I hope I’m wrong and you get two cards in the Most Wanted box.
With that in mind, I propose the following starter list instead.
2×25 Syndicate Thug (Y-wing) with Ion Cannon Turret, R4 Agromech, BTL-A4 Title
3×16 Binayra Pirate (Z-95) with Hot Shot Blaster, Munitions Failsafe
The result is a 98 point list with some fun options (you can also upgrade one Y-wing to carry a Seismic Charge if you have one — the new IG-2000 pack has one as well). With the title, your Y-wings lose the ability to fire their turrets outside their forward arc, but they gain the ability to fire both their weapons in the same round, and they even gain some action economy from the droids. When you spend a focus to attack, you gain a target lock on the defender. So if you roll any eyeballs on either your primary attack or the follow-up Ion Cannon attack, you get a free target lock. You can even spend a focus token when you have no eyeballs if you really are desperate for a re-roll. These little ships aren’t fancy but they can take a beating and throw a lot of red dice.
All of the ships come in the Most Wanted box; two copies would even get you a spare Z-95 since there’s two per pack and the single Y-wing. Beginners may have to borrow the Ion Cannon Turret cards, which come in the Rebel Y-wing and HWK-290 packs, but you’ll likely want 1-2 of those HWKs anyway since Scum can use them. For those who don’t already know, there are extra cards, dials and bases for HWK-290s and Firesprays in the Most Wanted pack — bonus! Looks like you even get two sets of these Y-wing accessories, so buying a single Rebel Y-wing for the alternate paint job and upgrade cards isn’t a terrible idea, either. For someone like me who already has a couple Rebel Y-wings, this is awesome to see.
The Z-95s also pack a little bit of insurance, as the Munitions Failsafe card allows you to avoid discarding a one shot secondary weapon when it fails to hit the opponent. For a meagre 1 point investment, it’s not a bad purchase here. The Failsafes currently come in the Rebel Z-95 expansion pack and the TIE Defender. Most players will have a few of these to borrow, and hopefully they are thrown into at least one future release for the Scum (along with an Engine Upgrade and Heavy Laser Cannon).
Enter the Mandalorians
Moving away from the basic Most Wanted pack, Paul also suggests a very cool list that combines Guri with some Scyk fighters in a supporting role. The Scyks’ Mangler Cannons boost their number of attack dice to three and convert one hit to a critical for free, and this is one of the cannons that works across the entire range band 1-3. I think they are a solid choice on support ships that first after your ace pilot, who will likely be stripping shields with his (or her!) earlier shots.
I really like this list. Even before Paul posted it, I had a list saved that was about 95% the same, with Guri and a trio of Mangler Cannon Scyks. I think my original version of the list was identical to Paul’s, but I talked myself into some changes.
The only thing I might suggest for tweaking this list would be a different loadout for Guri’s StarViper. I’m paranoid about stress nowadays (Rebel Captive is amazing and very popular for Imperials!) so I am starting to hesitate before throwing PTL on the ship that shoots first in my list. I was thinking that Guri might like Predator and Sensor Jammer, giving her passive offensive and defensive bonuses. I’d keep the Autothrusters, which give you another passive defense bonus against turrets and/or any weapons targeting you from range 3+. You have to ditch the Inertial Dampeners to afford it all though, giving her less freedom of movement. Both builds have strengths and weaknesses, but I think they both work here and I believe this list would be very fun to fly.
If you’re looking for another (cheaper to purchase) variant on this list, I’d consider a pair of Tansarii Veteran Scyks with Heavy Laser Cannons instead of Manglers (note: you’ll need to get the Heavy Laser Cannons from an Imperial or Rebel pack, they currently only come in the Firespray, Lambda Shuttle and YT-2400 expansion packs). The Veterans have Elite Pilot Talent slots for equipping Predator or PTL, and the list can spare the points to do so. Alternatively, you can keep the Mangler and add a Stealth Device, Hull Upgrade or Shield Upgrade to make them that much tougher. I’m not convinced that the upgrade in toughness and Pilot Skill value is worth losing the fourth ship, but it’s a thought.
Other Scum List Archetypes
I’ve already touched on dual Aggressor lists featuring a combination of IG-88 pilots, so I won’t bore you again by repeating the article. I will however provide a link to it.
Looking at this week’s Team Covenant Aces post, there’s some intriguing lists being played by some of the world’s best players right now. One of the interesting trends is to spam a bunch (4-5) Z-95s with Feedback Arrays. This is a weird card that allows you to forego your attack entirely to inflict 1 damage onto an enemy at range 1. This ability comes at a steep price – you take 1 ion token and 1 damage every time you trigger it. Yikes! Good thing Z-95s are cheap and plentiful. Like Hot Shot Blasters, these Feedback Array lists add a whole new element to the joust game, as the ships can pile tons of automatic damage onto an enemy ship within range, taking dice, tokens and firing arcs entirely out of the equation. It’s far from a turret, but it accomplishes some of the main goals against positionally strong opponents.
Warhammer players (especially Skaven and Empire/Sigmarite fans) may find this tactic amusing, as your cannon fodder ships all self mutilate to bring down a dangerous opponent. Combine with a debuffer like Torkhil Mux or Palob Godalhi, and you present your opponent with some really nasty no-fly zones. Up until now, there was nothing remotely like this in X-wing, except maybe Carnor Jax or some crazy fortress of TIE bombers that never moves and then suddenly drops bombs when the enemies get too close. But that’s not exactly something you’d ever expect to see on the tabletop!
I think the real trick with the Feedback and/or Hot Shot builds is your support element. These Z-95 swarms will provide some unconventional forms of board control, and you’ll have to find some support ship (likely in the 30-40 point range, given the costs of Z-95s) that can really exploit it to the fullest. That could be a Firespray, a tooled up Y-wing or HWK mini-turret ship, a well rounded craft like the StarViper, or maybe a defensively equipped Serissu, like Paul Heaver suggested from the beginning. There ought to be some extremely cool and unique builds to emerge once everyone wraps their heads around the new faction.
Just a few more sleeps…
It’s pretty painful to have all this stuff known prior to release of the kits and not being able to use them, but at least the stock is on its way to shops this week. I’m just hangin’ tough, wasting time by painting models and whatnot until my Scum ships arrive… is the weekend yet?