Let’s take a look at the undefeated and one-loss lists from last weekend’s Cherokee Open!
Organized by one Ryan Silwoski who is apparently a host of a mom and pop content operation known as “the STABcast,” this tournament in Cherokee, NC was covered last year by our own Timbo. It squeaked past last year’s player total of 45 to 47 this year, and it’s interesting to look back to see what’s changed. Back then the winner was Richard Lavery’s triple STAP plus Kraken and gunline and…oh man. Ok, I was going to summarize the differences but I’m gonna call an audible because I think that this story is best told by….that’s right, a table!
|Most prevalent faction in top 8
|6! (Empire, duh)
|Number of factions
represented in Top 8
|3, and yes I’m counting Shadow Collective don’t @ me
|Number of factions represented in Top 4
|3 (CIS, Empire, GAR)
|Highest spot of lowest performing faction
|Top 8 (Rebel)
|Number of speeders in winning list
|Maximum within rules (3)
|Maximum within rules (4)
|How many Battle Forces or Bounty Hunters in the top 8?
|One Cad Bane, yes I realize this is unfair to compare but look at the other column…
|Six, and the last two had double dark troopers
|Number of General Grievous in top 8 (control category to make sure I didn’t mix these lists up with a game that isn’t Legion)
|Zero, ok looks like we’re good
Lastly, here’s the faction breakdown for the event:
Naturally, my journalistic integrity completely 100% forbids me from editorializing, especially evident in my neutral choices of categories for the table above, so I welcome you to come to your own conclusions …and if you’re in the mood for something less disingenuous than that statement, feel free to read the bottom section of this post where I’ll be editorializing the crap out of this thing! In the meantime, let’s take a look at the lists and consider the players’ good choices with the tools they have been given and leave them free about our feelings about the state of the meta until we’ve given each their due.
Titles on the image are reflective of their title on GameUplink, really love that feature (#ad)!
8th Place (4-1) – Kentucky Dan
The lone representative from the Shadow Collective, this represents the second time Maul Bus was a top performer despite the fact that relatively few people ran Shadow Collective at all. While it’s true that this list would have been able to feature at least a couple Capos in those Pyke squads in the previous meta, this sort of list still features a nice mix of shooting efficiency (Pykes), a great Jedi (Maul, who unfortunately for him has to take Fray instead of Tenacity after the deflect change), and an uppercut delivery system that is the combo of a bus and a Black Sun squad. This list along with the winner is one of the two lists that bid any more than 4, which is likely mostly about getting deployments that give the bus the best chance to get to its destination quickly enough given the lack of Reckless Driver or a gonk droid.
Lost to: Sam Collins’ Yoda and a mishmash of clone units including a full ARC, intriguing!
7th Place (4-1) – Michael Koren
One might see General Veers in the above list and ask themselves “he didn’t take any of his commands (see list name, haha) so why not just a generic officer?” Well, that would certainly have been a choice, but only Veers has two command slots which allowed him to both take two bounty hunters and also use improvised orders in a list that has very little order control from command cards (literally just the three pips order more than one unit). Between Tac Strike and Rule With Respect you could set up a lot of damage in the first couple turns then just kinda mop up after that with a variety of tough-to-kill units at the front while Veers hands out aims in the back, and a medic to boot to keep your key units alive (probably Boba or Inferno).
Lost to: Danny Williams, see below in 3rd place
6th Place (4-1): Nathan Morgan
Since this is the first appearance of Dark Troopers I feel like it’s important to point out that you should KINDA consider the activation count to be X higher where X is the number of Dark Trooper units. With that out of the way, man does this list represent a target priority dilemma. I mean, it’s probably the Dark Troopers because killing them takes away two attacks per turn, but Boba and IG are obviously not slouches, and then way down at 5th place you have…a dude with a lightsaber. Finally, you have two shore heavies and two mortars which are as always very efficient at range 4 shooting, plus the ability for Gideon to towel-whip them into getting some free actions done if need be. That’s…a lot, and ironically it only lost to a Dark Trooper list where they had more mobility via the GAV.
Lost to: Richard Lavery, see below in 4th place
5th Place: Chris Lawton
In a world where Dark Troopers are potentially going to be very common, double airspeeder feels like a pretty darn good idea assuming the pilot of the list is comfortable kiting them at exactly range 3 to minimize the number of frag shots they’ll take. Of course, there’s a lot of impact and crit out there to ruin their day, but clearly Chris knew what he was doing and he had a potpourri of support units (one taun, one FD, one medium blaster) to distract for them in a 9 act list with a LOT of ranged firepower. Funny enough this is an Echo Base list that doesn’t get a ton of benefit from its infamous 3-pip, but the list would likely have several games where it gets more use out of the 1-pip (Delaying Tactics) which will often leave Blizzard or a Bounty Hunter list with zero face-up tokens. Also, nice to see Leia in a high-performing list, her 1 and 2 pips are still quite valuable assets after all.
Lost to: Rovert Saville, see below in 2nd place and uh…you’ll see pretty quickly why double speeders had trouble against it
4th Place (4-1): Richard Lavery
I love the efficiency of this list as it appears on Legion HQ, exactly 4 builds for the whole list! This is one of the purest lists I’ve seen in the history of the game, it’s all about delivering double-activating monster trucks on legs directly to the enemy and daring them to deal with it. The tank can zoom in while firing with one unit on its back while Gideon catapaults the other to wherever he needs it on the board with his 2-Pip. This also further reinforces to me that Frag, Assault Cannon, and the programming is “the standard build” for Dark Troopers which makes sense from a raw efficiency perspective. I am guessing the Darksaber is mostly there to protect Gideon from diving Jedi, who have no choice but to swing at immune: pierce Death Trooper saves all day, although it’s not half-bad to swing in a pinch either.
Lost to: The winner, in the first high profile “Ice vs. Metal” match to date…and it did happen to go the way we’ve generally expected
3rd Place (4-1): Danny Williams
I have to say I hadn’t put a lot of thought into Dark Troopers using a LAAT to get around but it sure seems like someone did! Putting this together with the 4th place list we have a potential clue that they might function best when one has a transport and the other can be yeeted by Mr. Gideon. Dark Troopers do pair nicely with transports in general due to their unique order token rules: they can get one more activation after a disembark following a double move for the transport and after the transport is destroyed with them inside. The ideal situation for them is even more frightening, disembark->shoot then engage and mertalize (I’m guessing that the Mertalizer, which many will rejoice was in the top Dark Trooper list, was in the LAAT since that’s what gets them closer than Gideon’s 2-Pip). Unsurprisingly the Frag is the common thread between the two Dark Troopers, I hear that Blast is a very good keyword! I’d be curious how much the AP shells mattered, potentially they’d help against other Dark Trooper lists but I’ve always been suspicious of any weapons on the LAAT to be honest. Rudor and the transponders allows for one shot to be decently modified and it’s also the case that his 3-pip allows the LAAT to completely bypass one of its key weaknesses (lack of an attack surge chart) as long as Gideon or a corps unit is starting the attack.
Lost to: Robert Saville, who apparently just woke up and decided to murder airplanes with Impact 18 all day
2nd Place (5-0): Robert Saville
Well everyone, if nothing else, I think we can finally definitively say that there is a place for the HH-12 in the meta. It only took since the beginning of the game’s existence.
Now that stormtroopers can shoot then move with the damn thing (albeit, only in that order) the HH-12 is suddenly an extremely cheap-but-not-cripplingly-rigid way to add 3 black dice to the attack pool. This is superior to the 4 white dice of a T-21 from a pure “how many paint did I roll” perspective, despite being 3 points cheaper. For some perspective, an aimed shot from a stormtrooper with the HH-12 and a specialist will force slightly more saves than the shot of a Capo Pyke Disruptor unit with zero aims (both around 5.1).
And then there’s two bounty hunters with surge to crit and plenty of rerolls!
You can tell that armor doesn’t mean much of anything to this list, and Robert obviously made the correct call because between Dark Troopers, Dewbacks, B2’s, and a bus he ran into armor in all five of his games. We’re unfortunately left to wonder what exactly would have happened if we were allowed to bear witness to a true meta vs. challenger fight between him and Austin, but I would hazard a guess that its main concern against Blizzard would be the fact that it would be running a bunch of objectives and deployments that this list super would not have wanted to see, on top of the fact that it has two strike teams to fall prey to a Blizzard 2. Furthermore, without any melee threat at all aside from IG-88’s meat cleaver Vader would have the opportunity to really go to town on these dudes. Still, even if these assumptions about the matchup are correct, this goes to show that you don’t always have to tech against the boogeyman list as long as you have a decent enough strategy against it (such as, oh I don’t know, kill the bikes) if this allows you to give mega-wedgies to a wide variety of other lists. It reminds me of the Yoda v. Anakin debate about a year ago, where Yoda was bad against Magnas but could manhandle most other enemies but Anakin could have decent game against everyone.
Cool list! I imagine we’ll be seeing more HH-12’s in our future.
WINNER (5-0): Austin Miller
As Austin acknowledges in his title, and as we covered oh-so-recently, Blizzard is now even more definitively the boogeyman and it ain’t going anywhere until after worlds. Again, a bit more on this in the conclusion, but for now let’s focus on this version of the list itself. Kyle’s version (LVO winner) ran an 18 point bid by leaving binocs behind and my version (LVO third place) ran a 14 point bid by leaving Into the Fray behind. I think Austin smartly looked at the fact that nobody without speeders is bidding more than 10 anyway and decided to just keep both of those upgrades to land at a 10 point bid but with “all the fixin’s.”
I asked Austin which match was the toughest for him and it may surprise you to find out that it was against Ryan Grahn’s “Oops All Mandos” Gar Saxon and Super Commandos list which he was able to play the range game with to avoid taking too many unanswered rocket attacks at the edge of 4 which have the chance to weaken bike units into uselessness by destroying single models before they can do their thing. While I’m sure the Impact 10 was good against the Dark Troopers he faced, Austin also revealed that it was Vader who took care of business there, especially when choke allows him to make sure the heavy is eliminated quickly, including of course the beloved Mertalizer. Finally, Austin told me that a couple of the core truths about Blizzard (also catalogued in my article last week) were unchanged:
- Bikes are meaningful late game to dive deep to kill units that matter for scoring victory points
- The list gets into real trouble when those bikes die…kill the bikes!
I mentioned before that Austin and I played in LVO Top 8 and I really only won because my bikes lived long enough to finish off all his corps in the rear to release my hostage from his grasp, and his wins here carried similar themes.
I’m going to take a moment here to pick bones with some opinions out there (shakes walking stick), and even though it may seem a little self-serving I feel like it’s a point that needs to be made to make sure Austin is properly respected here (you may leave your opinions of me wherever they were before): just because this takes from a now-common template doesn’t mean that it’s “easy” to win with. If your instincts with bikes or Vader are below average, you will get clowned by a lot that’s out there. The key reason this list has been doing so well is the fact that people who know how to push its buttons with appropriate intensity and timing can create big gaps in results against players of similar skill. So, while I’ll be the last person to say nice things about Blizzard’s place in the meta, I really hope we can stop the dismissive talk about this being “easy mode.”
Now then, as you might have guessed from the table at the top where I made completely neutral choices of what to highlight, I am saddened that we’re in a place where between this tournament and LVO’s top 8’s there was exactly one list (Timbo’s Anakin Padme) that wasn’t completely centered around unit or Battle Force releases that have come out in the last year (and yeah the bounty hunter cards were big enough buffs that they count). I am positive that most of these (501st I doubt, and it doesn’t need it either) will be getting hit from a points perspective at the very least before the end of the year, but I feel as if we’re stuck in a cycle of new units being released overtuned only to get hit too late for it to matter because newER units have overtaken them. Take last year’s Top 8 for example, as you scroll down you will see ion spiders, magnas, wookiees (remember, the scale change is a massive nerf to their efficacy), Vader Dews (Dewbacks are riskier play these days with new suppression rules), and Yoda. ALL of these lists were weakened in the last two months, paving the way for more recent releases (of which Shadow Collective is the only one that was touched) to begin holding everything else underwater. I wrote what I wrote last week because at the end of the day you have to be pragmatic about what reality is, but I can only hope that in the future game balance won’t be an uroboros of new releases chomping the tail of last year’s meta as it gets its turn on the rebalancing wheel.
For now anyway, it appears that Blizzard and Dark Troopers will combine to make the meta an icy lamp-post that many lists dare not stick their tongues to (even if triple-dog-dared). I am sure we will see some surprises next month in Adepticon, and when those results are in you can bet we’ll be hear to yap about it. Until then, stay warm.
Archival footage of General Grievous players since his release, I’m sorry I keep picking on his fans it’s just too easy but I hope your boy gets his moment some day