Gameplay Listbuilding

Competitive List-Building for Dummies, Pt. 2 (Guest Post by Orkimedes)

This week, we dive into the second half of Orkimedes' primer on the fundamentals of list-building.

I’m very lucky this week to be joined by Orkimedes, who is an all-around really nice guy and also a prolific content creator for the Legion community. You can find Orkimedes on his amazingly detailed blog, Never Tell Me the Odds: A Numbers-Based Look at Star Wars Legionor on the competitive-focused podcast he co-hosts, Notorious Scoundrels Podcast.

Orkimedes has written a really wonderful two-part primer on how to build competitive lists from the ground up for Imperial Discipline that is ideal for new or otherwise inexperienced commanders.

Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 is presented below.

3) Choosing Upgrades

Now that you’ve put your plastic on the table, it is time to give them some upgrades.  The key with upgrades is staying lean.  Every card you pick costs points, and you need to make sure each upgrade has a clear purpose and is returning value.

Generally speaking, most of your upgrades are going to go on your characters.  Let’s walk through some of the more competitive upgrades, and then talk about some situational ones.  There also are a slew of upgrades you should never really be taking, like Targeting Scopes and Exhaust weapons, but I won’t discuss them below.

Generally I consider heavy weapon upgrades part of the unit they come with rather than an upgrade in the “extra” sense, since they are so integral to their unit’s function.

Competitive Upgrades

Force Upgrades: Push, Saber Throw (on Vader)

Force Push is mandatory on both Luke and Vader.  Staple it to their card.  You can use it to disengage, pull units out of cover, push units off objectives, push units out of melee, pull units into melee, or just about anything else you can think of.  It also extends Vader’s melee threat range by 2” with the move-push-move combo.  Push is still very useful but less critical on Palpatine.

Saber Throw is also mandatory on Vader.  Relentless is there for a reason.

Command: Improvised Orders, Esteemed Leader

Improvised orders is great for maintaining activation control (coupled with a good token mix).  Esteemed Leader helps keep your squishier commanders in the fight.

Training: Tenacity, Hunter

Tenacity is practically mandatory on melee units: IRG, Wookiees, and Chewie.  4 points for an extra red die in melee is huge.

Hunter is a very solid upgrade on both Boba Fett and Chewie, though I wouldn’t take it over Tenacity on the latter.  I have also seen folks run full Commando Sniper units with Hunter.

Image result for boba fett comic panel
Pictured: Boba “Badass Hunter” Fett

Gear: Emergency Stims, Recon Intel

Stims are excellent value on high impact characters.  I think they are nearly mandatory on Luke, while also being very decent on Boba Fett, Han, and Chewie.

I don’t see a reason to take them on anyone else, though I’ve heard of them being taken on Snowtroopers with some success.

Recon Intel is a great all around upgrade.  2 points is practically nothing; if you have some extra points to throw around, this a great upgrade on any unit that wants to be up the table; Snows, Fleets, Wookiees, and IRG especially.

Grenades: Frag Grenades, Impact Grenades (On Snowtroopers)

Impact and Frag Grenades are both great upgrades for Snowtroopers.  Snows naturally want to be in Range 1 of their target, and both types of grenades upgrade their dice.  Impact Grenades allow Snows to pull double duty and go after vehicles as well.  Further, Snowtroopers have a longer Range 1 weapon threat range than all other units with grenade slots, because of steady (most units have a 12” Range 1 threat range; Snows are 14”).

Personally I believe the only unit you should ever be taking grenades on are Snowtroopers.  I think you could also make a case for taking Frag Grenades on a Z-6 unit, but I would rather just use Fleets for that purpose and save the points.  I’ve also seen Impact Grenades on Fleet Troopers, which makes them murderous against vehicles at close range, but Fleets are a fragile platform to be putting extra upgrades on.

Why aren’t you taking grenades on anything else?  Rebel Troopers and Storms generally don’t want to be within Range 1 of anything, if they can help it.  The spec ops units that have access to grenades, Scouts, Commandos, IRG and Wookiees, all have as good or better base attacks.

Comms: HQ Uplink

HQ Uplink is an excellent choice on a variety of units.  It is most commonly used on vehicles in armor builds, but you could also throw it on an FD Cannon with a generator.  Scout snipers can also get good use of it in a build with Veers, who allows them to refresh it for free with Imperial Discipline.

Situational Upgrades

Image result for those were the droids i was looking for

Force Upgrades: Jedi Mind Trick, Choke, Reflexes

All of these are useful if you have the force slot and the points.  Reflexes is most used on Vader, since he can refresh it every turn with Master of the Force.

Training: Duck and Cover

Duck and Cover can be a solid upgrade on units with Low Profile, as well as Wookiees, who don’t care about suppression and benefit quite a bit from cover.

I think it is a nice to have though, rather than a critical upgrade.  Generally commandos and scouts are fielded as sniper strike teams, where they have abundant access to natural cover.  Han only has two courage and really needs both actions, so you have to be careful about using it too much on him.

Gear: Environmental Gear, Grappling Hooks

Both of these upgrades are extremely dependent on what sort of terrain you typically play on (or expect to, for a tournament).  Environmental gear is great for assault units and characters on maps with lots of difficult area terrain, while grappling hooks can be really important on snipers for getting into position and clamber peeking (moving such that each unit ends on a different level).

Generator: Barrage Generator

If you have an FD Cannon or an E-web with an uplink, a generator can be a good choice, since you are refreshing both cards with a recover action.

Personnel: Extra Trooper

I sometimes throw an extra trooper into my linebacker units, if I have the points.  They can also be good if you are taking Rebel Troopers without the Z-6, but that is a rather niche strategy for certain builds.

For our Rebel list, we’ll take Push and Stims on Luke, Esteemed Leader and Improvised Orders on Leia, and Tenacity on the Wookiees.

For our Empire list, we’ll take Push and Saber Throw on Vader, Impact Grenades, an extra trooper, and Recon Intel on the Snowtroopers, and Tenacity on the IRG.

4) Activations

How many activations should you have?  Many activations, an army does not make.  I’m pretty sure Yoda said that.

Sheer quantity of activations is not something inherently to strive for.  You don’t want too few, but you also want your activations to be quality units.  Too few activations means you have many powerful units, but may be ceding control near the end of each round and being forced to show your hand early; too many activations means your units are too cheap and ineffective to have enough impact individually.

Based on the current unit mix, the “sweet spot” for activations is around 8-11 for Empire, and 9-11 for Rebels.  This could very well change over time as the unit mix available changes.

5) Token Mix

A good token mix is just as important as having enough activations.  Generally, unless you are using HQ Uplink or Entourage, you can only give out between 1 and 3 orders per turn.  When you go to your token bag, you either need to A) not care what you are going to pull, or B) know what you are likely to pull.

Before we talk about token mix, it is worth briefly touching on activation timing.  Generally speaking, the activation phase flows through three different types of units: proactive, timing neutral (stalling), and reactive.  Proactive units are units that are in danger and need to escape, or units that have an opportunity to do significant damage to a target.  Timing neutral units are those whose actions are unlikely to be effected by the actions of your opponent.  Lastly, reactive units are those whose actions will depend on the actions of your opponent over the course of the turn.

To move smoothly from proactive to reactive units over the course of the turn, you need control the contents of your token bag so you can either pull what you want or go to an order on the table as needed.

Most of your token bag should be corps units.  You are likely to have a lot of them on the table, which means you will generally have some flexibility to execute an activation with good timing when you pull a corps token from the bag.  In other words, on a given turn, some of your corps units will be reactive and some proactive, so as you pull tokens over the course of the turn you can choose the specific corps unit you need to activate at a given time.

Image result for star wars storm troopers
“Most of your bag should be corps units.”

It is somewhat inevitable that part of your token bag won’t be corps units.  On a one or two pip turn, you won’t have enough orders to give to all your important non-corps units.  Ideally, some of your non-corps units don’t have actions that are timing sensitive.

This is part of why snipers are so popular.  Their actions are usually useful regardless of when you pull their token, unless you are engaged in a sniper war.  They are a spec ops unit, so you can use them to “insulate” your linebacker spec ops unit (Wookiees or IRG), if you have one.  In the example Rebel list, if you want to hold your Wookiees until late in the round, you have to go through two other spec ops token pulls before you get to them (since you have two snipers).

Improvised orders helps here considerably as well.  Its best use is not to fish for a token you want, but to throw back one you don’t.  If you have mostly corps tokens in your bag, and you pull a non-corps token you don’t want, you will be reasonably assured of pulling that corps token on your mulligan when you improvise.

Our example Rebel list has two commanders, five corps, and three spec ops.

Our example Empire list has one commander, six corps, and two spec ops.

6) Bidding

Bidding used to be a much hotter topic, back when Key Positions was still a thing (or at least a blue near auto-win thing).  Now bids are much lower and more nuanced, but there are still some advantages and disadvantages to winning the bid.

Blue Player Advantages:

  • You use your battle deck (setup cards)
  • Pick table side
  • Win points ties

Red Player Advantages:

  • Deploy second
  • Veto last

Using your deck, picking a side, and winning ties are still all very solid advantages, but you may only need to bid a few points now to get blue, rather than 20 like we saw in the Key Positions days.

How much should you bid?  Well… how important are ties and a battle deck to you?  If you are running FD Cannons or Saboteurs, probably very important.  If you are running a more balanced list, those things may not be as critical.


First, you must know which setup cards are bad for your list, and how bad those cards are.  If you have a lot of snipers, you probably don’t want Limited Visibility; if you are running Vader, you are going to have a hard time on Long March and Breakthrough.

I personally prefer lists like the sample Rebel list that are bid neutral.  The only card for it that is truly bad is Limited Visibility, but most players run snipers and also cut that card.  It can react to just about any other setup.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run a list that favors certain objectives.  A list without any real battle card weaknesses is also one without any real strengths.  Wonder Twins/Snipers may be able to handle most situations, but it isn’t going to be uniquely strong in any of them, either.  If your Wonder Twins list runs up against a lower-bid Saboteur list on Moisture Vaporators, you are going to be in a lot of trouble.

7) Practice

Once you’ve created a list, practice with it, relentlessly.  Don’t scrap it based on just one game either.  Small tweaks are okay, but make sure you get at least a few games in with a given list before you abandon it.  If you thought it was a good idea in the list-building stage, it might still be; don’t let a bad game derail you.  The best list is the one you are comfortable with.

In Summary

List building is about creating a focus, supporting your focus, and staying lean.  Every point matters, and every unit and upgrade has a role.  Make sure you understand what that role is and how your choices effect how your list works together.

Most importantly, once you have a list, practice with it and test it.  Know your list and each unit’s role.

May the force be with you, and happy list-building.

Final Lists

New Wonder Twins (800)

  • Image result for rebel logoLuke Skywalker
    • Force Push
    • Emergency Stims
  • Leia Organa
    • Esteemed Leader
    • Improvised Orders
  • Rebel Troopers (x4)
    • Z-6 Trooper
  • Fleet Troopers
    • Scatter Gun Trooper
  • Rebel Commandos (Strike Team) (x2)
    • DH-447 Sniper
  • Wookiee Warriors
    • Bowcaster Wookiee
    • Tenacity

Imperial Might (798)

  • Image result for imperial logoDarth Vader
    • Saber Throw
    • Force Push
  • Stormtroopers (x5)
    • DLT-19 Stormtrooper
  • Snowtroopers
    • Flametrooper
    • Recon Intel
    • Impact Grenades
  • Scout Troopers (Strike Team)
    • DLT-19x Sniper
  • Imperial Royal Guards
    • Electrostaff Guard
    • Tenacity
    • Environmental Gear

1 comment on “Competitive List-Building for Dummies, Pt. 2 (Guest Post by Orkimedes)

  1. Xercius

    Excellent article! I’m new to the game, picking up my core set and other units this weekend. Seeing articles like this and reviewing the lists at various tournaments has been valuable to shape m initial purchases.

    Excited to get back into a competitive game scene.

    Liked by 1 person

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