Gameplay

Dispatches from the Dog-Walker (Part 2)

The thrilling conclusion to how I went 0-5 in Invader League with a stubbornly off-meta list!

(Continued from Part 1)

ILcorellia.png

Objective: Intercept the Transmissions

Deployment: Battle Lines

Condition: Minefield

With just a couple of changes to my list – dropping one of the Snows for another DLT Storm unit and an astromech – I was excited to play the only Rebel list in our group.

That early revelation had been frustrating to me – the AT-ST, if anything, is excellent at being a Rebel hero killer. This truth would certainly play out in my game against Kenotooth. But this had been the first time I’d gotten to play them all Invader League, and despite my winless start I had reasonable hopes for this game.

Keno was running Luke and Sabine with two Snipers, some Fleet Troopers, and a handful of Z6s. A rare 9-activation Rebel list that had my heavy salivating.

Unfortunately, I made a silly mental error that likely cost me the game: I was tired, and not paying as much attention as I should have been to the terrain. I placed Veers about range 1 back from a catwalk that I incorrectly assumed provided heavy cover. But, of course, it was a catwalk – not only was it just coded for light cover, it didn’t even provide cover based on where I put Veers.

The result was predictable. One very dead Imperial General, much sooner than his time.

To be fair, we traded a lot of big pieces early. After Veers died to concentrated fire in turn 2, I killed Luke in turn 3 after an 8-dice, fully-modded AT-ST shot (I feel for Keno on this one: Luke’s saber was just barely visible above a wall, and I had Blast) and eventually took out Sabine in turn 5. But Veers’s death led to two of my DLTs panicking off the board. The small advantage I had given myself was quickly erased, and I was unable to cap off the last point (although it was shockingly close – if Keno hadn’t had an Officer on his remaining Fleets I would have panicked them off of the objective and given myself a tie on points, and a possible win based on units killed).

Keno should also be commended for some of the best Fleet Trooper play I’ve ever seen. He made me pick bad shots and then made me pay with a lot of white dice. I was seriously impressed in the ability of Fleet Troopers for the first time in a long time.

Weirdly, I felt less bad about this one than any of my previous losses. My primary error was a simple mental one at the beginning of the game that forced me to play uphill for 5 turns, but the lessons I had learned in the previous matches came through. I was more cautious with my units, used my Snows effectively as bait (and, hilariously, sniper-killing), and kept my AT-ST alive and extremely effective until the end of the game.

The E-Web, of course, never fired a shot.

A loss is a loss, but Keno is an excellent player and I didn’t mind taking him to the wire like this.

I signed off, immediately saw the below post from my friends at Critical X, and went to bed feeling OK.

rogers.png

Final Score: 8-4, Kenotooth

Record: 0-4


ILlahmu.png

Objective: Key Positions

Deployment: Long March

Condition: Minefield

Finally, I had reached the final chapter of my Invader League journey. With an almost guaranteed fifth loss against one of the world’s top players (and someone I would count as a friend) on the table, I decided to have a bit of fun and run the list I’d always dreamed of running.

Veers Walks the Dogs.

2 AT-STs, 5 Corps (3 naked), 1 Veers, and almost no competitive viability whatsoever.

Ork was running an unsurprisingly devastating Bossk/Veers gunline with an absurd amount of Range 4 firepower, plus medics. It was the most crit/impact heavy list I had faced throughout my IL run, and probably the best player I’d faced behind its controls.

The game went about as you might think between a worlds-invitee and an 0-4 Invader League player. Through some hot dice early on and good positioning, Ork quickly took out one of my AT-ST before it was able to do much damage (and what little damage it had done, he healed back).

To add salt to the wound, I foolishly put Veers within range of Bossk, thinking he’d prefer to knock out my second AT-ST. Instead, he took out my sole commander with one quick blast. The activation mismatch piled up, and the game was totally out of hand by turn 4.

Interestingly, we both essentially agreed on one point of my list: while I played it cautiously, keeping my scant few corp units well out of reach of Ork’s army, what I should have done is use them more aggressively, making Ork choose which of my activations he wanted to shoot down.

Either way, it was a concession before time expired. Finally my watch had ended, and it was time to digest everything that had happened.

Final Score: 3-0, Orkimedes

Record: 0-5


Lessons Learned

The AT-ST has its uses, but suffers in a 10-activation meta.

Nine activations is passable, just barely, but it is too easily outmaneuvered by lists with 10 or more activations, which can easily punish the AT-ST just by removing its support pieces. At the end of the day, this is the main downfall of the AT-ST – it is not worth what it limits you from taking. There are better ways to spend those points right now, without a doubt.

When you’re playing beginners, you can roll with this kind of list. It has a lot of scary toys that they don’t know how to handle. But as soon as you play someone worth their weight in Galactic Standard Credits, they’ll find a way to punish even a slightly sub-par placement early on and then ruin you with activation advantage.

Further, the Occupier Tank just seems better than the AT-ST in a high activation meta. Even decent double Tank lists appear to be possible at this point. It’s not a death knell for the AT-ST – I think it will see plenty of casual play – but I don’t anticipate seeing it in competitive environments when the tank exists.

The AT-ST is an anti-armor heavy in a no-armor meta, and it’s not worth it right now.

The E-Web was already in a precarious spot, and it’s only getting worse. 

As it stands, E-Webs are only barely passable when Palpatine is in the mix to Pull-the-Strings and let them move twice per round. Otherwise, they just go too slowly for a Range 3 gun to be effective.

I also think that the Rebel FD Laser was the better Emplacement option to begin with, given its Range 4 gun, but things are about to get even rougher for the E-Web. With the addition of Bossk (who can two-pip double-tap the E-Web into oblivion) and Death Troopers, there are now even more things that can nuke the E-Web at Range 4 with no consequence. At 55 points, you can spend less for a Sniper with better lane control, or slightly more for a Flametrooper with infinitely better zone control. Suffice to say, it’s in a bad spot.

If there’s one thing that can save it, though, it’s a well-placed Occupier Tank dropping it in a prime location in the middle of the battlefield on turn 1.

If you’re going to run something off-meta, you’ve got to practice, practice, practice.

I had never played an E-Web before coming into Invader League, and I had gotten in only one game against Bossk (an zero against Sabine, the tank, or Krennic). Despite my record, I was markedly better with my stubborn list in game 5 than I was in game 1. What would have happened if I’d really committed beforehand?

More than that, though, you’ve got to be very intentional about how and with whom you practice your jank lists.

Seriously, if you haven’t already then go read Nick’s battle report from Adepticon (a tournament in which he did decently, you could say, with a bit of an odd Rebel list). He approaches the meta-game and list-building in general with a very special viewpoint. It’s analytical, and it’s intentional.

At the end of the day, I did not go 0-5 with this list because of the AT-ST, or because of the E-Web, or because of the lack of snipers. I am sure that some of the folks who finished high up at Adepticon could take this list and run the table with it. But…

I may not ever run something this off-meta again, because I know my strengths and weaknesses. I am not an ultra-analytical player, and I don’t care to be. Net-listing is not a dirty word to me, not if it’s accompanied with rigorous practice and genuine reflection. I do better if I run something in the meta that works with my particular strengths. But those sorts of things are required when you’re going to run an off-meta list – innovation, dedication, and lots of practice.

So if you’re going to do something this weird, approach it like Nick. Find a niche, identify a problem, and solve it in a unique way. Then play it as much as possbile. That’s how you make jank (and even pseudo-jank) work competitively.


Some Final Ruminations

If you’ve made it this far and are still reading, thank you.

This was emotionally exhausting to write and edit and actually play through.

I had a lot of anxiety – a lot, lot of anxiety – about publishing a battle report in which I went 0-5, even if that was largely due to my inexperience in a competitive setting and stubborn refusal to run a truly meta list, not a reflection of my worth as a Legion player. (After all, there’s a reason I started a blog aimed at beginners!) I very nearly scrapped these several thousand words because of that singular anxiety.

Losing is good. Losing makes you learn better. But of course losing isn’t fun. The people you play with are fun, and the game itself is fun.

Despite my deep fear of being outed as a player whose opinion is not worth your time, I even had fun writing all of these battle reports up and watching myself get incrementally better each game. It’s a hard balance when the game’s main focus is, ostensibly, competition. But there are other ways to find value in the things we don’t do well: take pride in your painting, your listbuilding, your friendly attitude, or any number of a hundred other things.

And ultimately I wanted to post this to remind people that it’s okay – it’s okay to try something and go 0-5, as long as you learn something from it. And it’s certainly okay to not have the competitive sphere as your primary focus.

I’ll still be heading to a handful of tournaments this summer, including the Fifth Troopers’ Northeast Open and NOVA. It’ll be my first time ever traveling for a tabletop tournament, and I’m quite excited to meet up with online friends and test my mettle after some thorough practice. But hopefully I’ll be less anxious this time around.

So on that note, a final thank you to the Commanders from Group 8. I can honestly say that I enjoyed losing to every one of you. Best of luck to Sploosh and Ork in the single eliminations.

Til next time, Commanders!

1 comment on “Dispatches from the Dog-Walker (Part 2)

  1. Ron Armstrong

    Thank you for sharing your insights. I too want AT-STs to work. I’ll keep trying in my casual games. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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