Green Rookie’s Playbook: how do I approach my first tournament?

Joel North
Jan 28, 2018 · 10 min read

This article will be about how to approach your first game at a tournament and hopefully come away with a win. Whether it’s a casual tournament, or one of the impending Regionals over the next month, you should read this and come away with a clearer idea of your approach, what your win conditions should be and how to achieve them.

I’ve been playing competitive X-Wing for nearly two years. Whilst I’m yet to win a tournament, I’ve come darn close a few times. Nothing major. If you will, this is a journey we will take together over the next few weeks.

What might I face? This question is dependent on so many variables. The contextual factors here are simply nebulous. What sort of tournament is it — casual? Quarterly Kit? Regional? My first tournament was a Store Championship in Aldershot, I went there thinking about what little grasp I had of my local meta.

Before I go further, I just want to take a moment to clarify what I mean by meta and then step away from the term. Language is complex, especially in the written form. By meta, I might mean a number of things. I came into X-Wing as a longtime desirer of plastic crack, but never somebody who had played a game. Not a kitchen top. Not a table top. I’m a wiz at Cluedo (Clue for anybody reading in the States) and I wrote myself an entire playbook for Monopoly. Nothing else. Zip. As an English teacher, my understanding of meta has always been in the form of an adjective where a text will either have many layers to it or reference itself within its @genre. I may talk about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, for instance, and I would be referring to its structure and its canonical place in gothic literature.

That’s not what we mean here. Within the realm of gaming, meta can take on a number of meanings:
- highly competitive
- what’s good right now
- broken (does not function properly)
- broken (functions too well and breaks the game)
- local competitive environment
- local gaming environment

Your interpretation of this might be all of these, one of these, none of these. Ultimately, I want to use the term local competitive environment.

You may be one of those snowflake ninjas, who’s all like:

‘Yeah, I don’t even play the meta. Those guys are like win at all costs. I’m gonna play this and watch those guys cry as I delete their ships. I don’t even care.’

Sure. If that’s your thing. In fairness, you probably cared enough to want to gather an opinion on a competitive gaming environment and decide to swim with or against the stream. Even whilst teching against the meta (highly competitve) you must understand that you are:

  1. attempting to create your own meta (notice attempt)
  2. adding to the meta and therefore changing it, not going against it

The competitive gaming environment is very much like a food chain. It’s organic and grows with each new element, whether that’s a new wave, a new competitive list emerging, a sell out of ships in one area. It changes, but I would go so far as to argue that it doesn’t die.

Tangent done. My first competitive tournament was in Aldershot, at a Store Championships in March 2016. Blogs were at a minimum and I’d scoured the internet for advice as to what I might play. I’d been through Paul Heaver’s Turn Zero articles but still had no clue what to play. In the end I went for Bro-bots, two ships that I loved the look of, knowing that Dash was dominant in my local competitve environment (LCE) along with small base ships across Rebels and Imperial. Scum had only been out since the previous wave and was yet to make a big dent in London (or so I perceived as a greener than green Rookie). Was taking Bro-bots even a good counter to anything? How would I have known? Major Juggler of Nova Squadron Radio was in love with them and Jesper Hills had won the Nationals with them. I was looking to win one game. I should have really practised with them.

I live in central London — that’s 45 minutes away from Aldershot by train (at least) so it would be perfectly reasonable to assume that the LCE would be different. This was furthest from my mind at the time. I lost each and every game and loved every minute of it.

Ironically, I had spent so much time building a list within my local meta that covered the three pillars of X-Wing ships according to Heaver (Jousters, Arc dodgers and Turrets) but I didn’t go through with it through fear.

I’d looked at the most dominant ships, assessed their health through shields and hull and looked at their potential firepower. I came up with the following:

Why not Poe instead of Ello? The snowflake had always been strong with me. I tried to kid myself that it was because of points and Ello’s ‘killer ability’ — let’s be clear— everyone else was flying Poe.

Would I have won a game if I had gone with this? Who knows? The important thing is that I had more practise with this list than with the Bro-bots. The Bro-bots that I’d only taken out of their packaging the night before the tournament.

Where would I start now? Others may disagree with me, but I find meta-wing a really valuable resource. It draws information from List Juggler via an algorithm. There must be ships that you love, factions that capture your imagination and ships that you just downright dislike. Once you figure out those in order of priority, you should have something that looks like this:

Ships I love
- A-Wings
- T-70 X-Wing
- Millennium Falcon
- StarViper
- IG-2000 Aggressor

Ships I dislike
- YT-2400 (because Dash)
- K-Wing (just plug ugly)
- Z-95 (over here, even the English players refer to them as Zee Ninetee Fi-ve. Shudder)
- YV-666

These are my lists, not yours. I really struggled to come up with a fifth ship I dislike. Most of my ship bias comes from Aesthetics. Foolish. Through process of elimination, I can take A-Wings off of the list, they simply lack punch unless you fly them as a swarm. I return to IGs now and again, but never with enough conviction. I LOVE StarVipers, but even with the Guns for Hire fix, they still don’t suit my playstyle right now. That leaves me with T-70s and the Millennium Falcon. More of that in a later article.

Assessing your opponent’s squad: for target priority and doing the maths

The above picture was taken from meta-wing this morning. The next thing I would do would be to look into any contextual factors that might impact my thinking, whilst also trying to take into consideration what I want of a list. One massive thing to take into account right now is the FAQ that dropped last Monday. The biggest change here is the new ruling of how Trajectory Simulator and Genius are no longer able to interact with each other in Final Form (Nymranda as named by Sozin of Scum and Villainy because of its ability to take all of the nasty toys at once). This ruling doesn’t mean the list will disappear, but it likely means that it will see a decrease in numbers.

One way of exploring how the competitive gaming environment might be affected here is to look at a comparison of the Maryland Regionals with Nova Scotia Regionals. Although they took place across the same weekend, one ruled in favour of Trajectory simulator (Nova) and the other didn’t (Maryland). There are still some similarities across the top 10 lists after the cut, but there is a noticable decline in Miranda being flown, along with a rise in ordinance via the gunboats.

How does this affect my win conditions? Know your list. How much is each ship worth and how much can you afford to lose?

If I compare lists 2 and 3 from the top five from Meta-wing, they look like this.

That’s 34 points for Quickdraw and 22 points for each Nu Squadron Pilot (66 points), giving us 100 points altogether.

This re-genning Poe is worth 43 points, Dash is worth 56, that’s 99 in total.

Already, player B (Dash/Poe) has an advantage over player A (3bqd) because of the initiative bid. Both aces are at ps11, yet player B will be able to decide if he moves first or last based on the point difference.

Quickdraw is worth 34 points, whereas Poe is worth 43. So if player B kills Quickdraw but loses Poe, they have lost on points difference. Similarly, Dash is worth 56, so if player A only manages half points on Dash, but loses Quickdraw, or two Nu Squadron Pilots, they will have scored 28 points for Dash, but lost 24 points per boat.

Player A’s minimum win condition is to get a half points on Dash whilst losing only one of their Nu Squadron Pilots.

The choice really isn’t that simple for player B. The minimum win condition for the Rebel player is to kill a Nu Squadron Pilot whilst not losing any points on Dash. However, Quickdraw is worth the most points, whilst also being able to create agro throughout the game. It’s not a ship that you would want to face in the end game. If this is made the primary target, player B will have scored 34 points.

Most would be scared of Quickdraw’s ability, but this is only a hazard for a maximum of three turns. By focussing fire here, you might well reduce this to one turn. Of course, the other worry is the three Nu Squadron Pilots and their Harpoons. R2-D2 Poe can break at least one target lock a turn with the Black One title. Dash has Countermeasures for that pivotal moment where player B will need to break a lock and use an extra agility die.

The Imperial list relies on it’s strength in numbers. Your rock placement will help with how you attempt to split the list, whilst also considering how your approach and initial engagement should happen.

How does this apply to the real world? Practise.

When I play, I attempt to take photos of the initial engagement to check against when evaluating. I took two Lok Revanamts and a bumpmaster to a q4 tournament in Brighton. Through a mixture of luck and some handy flying, I stayed at the top table throughout the day. My final game was against Ben Lee of the 186th. He was flying Miranda and Dash and this was by far my hardest match of the day.

Our initial engagement did not happen until about 35 minutes in. It looked like this:

Ben’s Dash was worth 55 points and his Miranda was 43. My list was 99 points, with each Lok Revenamt being worth 36 points. My lowest ship in value was the bumpmaster. My easiest access to a win condition was getting Dash to half points.

You’ll notice that we are each fans of Lego. One of my Loks has Boba attached. With this first engagement, Ben and I have each offered up the lowest points to our opponents.

Our game went to time and Boba had taken off the Outryder title from Dash. Unfortunately, Ben had killed one of the Loks (36) and I had only half pointed Dash (28). He had beaten me by 8 points. It was an amazing day and playing against Ben is nothing if not stimulating. Thank you Ben.

As another example, I took Miranda, Lowhhrick and AP-5 to a tournament in Stratford shortly before Christmas. I had only flown the list once before.

My opponent played A Lothal Rebel with TLT, Ezra attached in the shuttle, Maul crew and Lowhhrick.

Our Lowwhricks were identical at 30 points (roughly) , which meant the Lothal Rebel with the Shuttle attached was 66 points. My Miranda was 52 points and my AP-5 Sheathipede with R3-A2 and Tactician was 19 points. My minimum win condition would be half points on the Ghost but Lowwhrick would complicate this. As well as this, my list has several jousting elements but cannot do this against the Ghost. Miranda does not fair well against TLT, or a 4 dice primary.

This intitial engagement was not ideal for either of us. It was only our Auzitucks that would have a range 3 of each other. A simple dice off. With the next encounter, I would get the Harpoons into the Ghost, along with hits from the Auzituck and the Sheathipede. I won the game with the Lothal Rebel on half points and not having lost my ships. Pitiful MOV but a win condition fulfilled.

My next article will explore obstacle placement and initial engagements. Until then, you can’t go far wrong with Paul Heaver’s Turn Zero article on Obstacle placement.

Fly casual y’all!

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You can also read some of my older posts at

186th Squadron

Group of gaming enthusiasts and tournament players from around the Greater London area. We write and talk about the X-Wing Miniatures Game.

Joel North

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186th Squadron

Group of gaming enthusiasts and tournament players from around the Greater London area. We write and talk about the X-Wing Miniatures Game.

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