This article will be a summary of the top 8 armies at LVO 2023 and some of my takeaways from the results.
During this past weekend, the Legion community had the Las Vegas Open Grand Championship. The event was particularly exciting as it was both the largest Legion event in the game’s history, with 143 players, and the first major event after the new rules and points update. So, without further ado lets dive in!
LVO 2023 had a total of 143 players in the Grand Championship, making it the largest Legion event since the game’s release. Of those 143 players, 63 played Empire (22 Blizzard Force), 34 played Rebels (3 Echo Base Defenders), 24 played Republic (2 501st Legion), 19 played Separatists (2 Separatist Invasion Force), and 3 played Shadow Collective.
Dave Grant – 6 activation insanity
Dave Grant used this 6-activation army in a competitive Legion event and went 5-1 with it. Traditionally, this type of army would be considered casual and not competitive, but Dave proved that notion wrong. The army includes two Sith Lords and a heavy vehicle, using the Occupier Tank as a delivery tool for either Sith to devastating effect. It was a crowd favorite over the weekend, so we had to feature it.
Ryan Sliwowski – Top Rebel Player
Despite being the second most popular faction at LVO, Rebels failed to advance any players into the top 8. Some guy from the STABcast was the top Rebel player finishing 5-1. This army is an efficiency gunline backed up by 3 charging tauntauns. The army makes good use of the Echo Base Defenders command cards to augment the firepower and utility of the army. Rebels seem to be struggling post-points/rules update, but it’s great to see units like the Tauntaun Riders back in play.
The top 8 at LVO 2023 were 4 Empire players (2 Blizzard Force), 2 Republic players (1 501st), 1 Separatist Invasion Force player, and 1 Shadow Collective.
Austin Miller – Dooku Invasion Force
Austin Miller was our one CIS player to make the top 8 cut. He played the Separatist Invasion Battle Force led by Count Dooku. With the suppression changes, courage 3 commanders are more important than ever and Count Dooku is your only option. Separatists have few ways of removing suppression, as the Droid Trooper keyword traditionally allowed them to ignore it. Now that units cannot score when panicked and CIS has no real ways of removing suppression Dooku is the go-to for his courage 3. The army also has the IG-100 MagnaGuards as a melee hedge and the AAT Battle Tank as your main ranged firepower. Overall, a solid army that can deal with a variety of threats.
Izzy Gambliel – Empire Hero Hammer
Izzy Gambleil won Gencon 2022 with a similar list, this time swapping Bossk for IG-88. The army still plays extremely well post points/rules changes. You have Iden for courage 3, Boba Fett is even more deadly with the Flame Projector and new command cards, and Inferno Squad can repair IG-88. This army has some great synergies and continues to be a powerhouse.
JR Deeter – Maul Bus
JR Deeter was our 2022 LVO champion. This year he once again had an impressive run landing in the top 8 of the event in 2023. JR was one of the 3 players who brought Shadow Collective to the event. This army is a modernized rendition of the Maul Bus army we saw last year. Because of points increases the army is much more trimmed down. In this version the Pyke Syndicate Foot Soldiers have no Capo Personnel upgrades. Essentially the army plays very similar to before but now has a much weaker gunline backing it up. That being said the army is still extremely competitive and viable but now sits in a more balanced state than before.
Michael Hollingsworth – Double Bounty
Michael Hollingsworth played a Double Bounty gunline. As an avid Double Bounty fan, I was pleased to see the army perform well at LVO. This version had 12 activations, allowing for greater control over the two bounty hunters. With 12 activations, you can make multiple attacks after your opponent even with the new pass rule. Rule With Respect is also highly effective in this army, giving the snipers and Shoretroopers extra dice on their long-range attacks. Overall, a fun-looking list!
Before covering the top 4, I need to do a little bragging. The top 4 at LVO 2023 were all TFT team members or alumni. I’m super proud of the team for sweeping the largest Legion event in the game’s history. This marks the second time TFT team members were only eliminated in TFT vs. TFT games (it also happened at Nova 2022). Now that I’ve gotten that shameless gloating out of the way, let’s dive into the top 4. We had two Blizzard Force players, one 501st, and one plain Republic player in the top 4.
Tim Veldhuis – Anamé
Tim Veldhuis brought a classic Anakin Padmé gunline (Anamé) to the top 4. This army really benefits from some of the points reductions and the mobility changes. Now that essentially everything can Jump at speed 1 generic core troopers like Phase I and Phase II Clones are extremely mobile. When you give everyone mobility it buffs the previously least mobile units the most. Anakin is also a solid courage 3 commander to help prevent your units from panicking under the new rules. He is also an excellent duelist because of the Deflect nerf. In addition to all this the Pass mechanic was a slight buff to Fire Support. While the Republic lost the standby sharing gimmick, they have become much more well-rounded. Removing this interaction will help with internal balance of the Republic in the long run. Overall, this army is a strong efficient gunline with a great playmaking jedi.
Evan Paul – Vader Blizzard Force
Dr. Evan Paul placed in the top 4 with a Vader Quadruple bike Blizzard Force army. This army was without a doubt the most popular army at LVO and for good reason. Before the points/rules update my statistical analysis of Legion tournament data revealed there were 4 main archetypes dominating the meta: Pyke Gunlines, Black Sun Speeder Truck Armies, Imperial Bounty, and Blizzard Vader Bikes. Pykes and dodge spam were nerfed heavily along with the Black Sun and the Speeder truck. Low courage commanders, strike teams, and offensive push were all nerfed indirectly affecting Imperial bounty hunters. This leaves just Blizzard Force as the one army to rule them all. Evan’s top 4 match was a loss in a mirror match against our other Blizzard Force player, meaning Blizzard Force was undefeated in the top 8 against other armies. I will go more into detail on this army later in the article since we will see it again.
Mike Barry – 501st Legion
Mike Barry finished in second with a unique 501st Legion army. I had a hard time understanding why this army worked so well upon first glance. The 501st Battle Force and full ARC Troopers have really struggled in the past. Mike is one of the top Republic players, so it is not surprising he come up with such an unconventional list. With the new changes to cover and climbing it is easy for trooper units to get cover. This army uses the prevalent cover on both sides to its advantage. First the army can use Force Barrier, the Clone Medics, and the rampant cover to be extremely hard to kill. Then on the other end the ARC Troopers have Sharpshooter 1 reducing the cover of your opponent making them deadly and effective. The BARC Speeder is just included as a cheap activation to get the army up to 8 activations and can flex on more mobile objectives. While the 501st command cards are not the most powerful they augment Anakin’s effectiveness and are better than taking generic command cards. The 3 pip Leader of the 501st helps deal with suppression since GAR does not have many ways to clear suppression. At least for me this army was quite unexpected but after seeing it in action it seems super strong!
Kyle Dornbos – Vader Blizzard Force
Our 2023 LVO champion was Kyle Dornbos. Kyle is currently undefeated with Blizzard Force at major events resulting in a 14-game winning streak between LVO 2023 and PAX 2022 (and 20 games with Empire generally if you include NOVA 2022). Kyle is an excellent player and when you combine him with an army as over-tuned as Blizzard Force you have a winning combo. When discussing Evan Paul’s Blizzard Force army, I touched on some of the reasons why Blizzard Force seems to have no equal currently. Here, I am going to go into more depth on the army and how it functions.
Blizzard Force has four main things going for it, Darth Vader, Stormtroopers Heavy Response Units, the ability to run 4 Speeder Bikes, and the ability to bid deep for favorable objectives. First Darth Vader pre points/rules changes was one of the strongest force users. Now post changes he is even more deadly. Suppression matters much more now making his 3 pip Master of Evil a potential one card win condition. The nerfs to Deflect do not hurt Vader nearly as much as other force users since he has Reliable 2 which makes him even better than before in a force user duel. Vader also heavily benefits from the climbing changes since he was one of the few force users without Jump. The second thing making Blizzard Force so dominant is the Stormtroopers Heavy Response Unit (HRU). This unit costs only 30 points and comes with 3 models, making it cheaper on a per model bases than the normal Storm Troopers at 44 points with 4 models. Typically, smaller units come with more of a points premium because of the overall lower cost per activation (such as scout troopers costing 12 per model in the full unit and 20 per model in a strike team). At this lower price the HRU also has the keyword Unhindered and the ability to equip two separate heavy upgrades. This means you can bring an HRU for only 74 points with the RT-97C and DLT-19. This unit had 6 dice at range 4 and packs a hard punch at range 3. The new wound allocation rules also really help the HRU since you could often kill the heavies early and the new climbing also makes them even more mobile. The third main attribute of Blizzard Force is the alpha strike which is made possible by the four Speeder Bikes and the Overwhelming Barrage command card. Speeder Bikes are mobile and can focus down a single target. You can flank and focus all your firepower on venerable units while your opponent is out of position. The bikes engage and your HRT’s and Overwhelming Barrage follow up safely from long range leading to heavy early attrition. The final thing that makes blizzard force so deadly is its ability to both bid deep and take strong objective cards. Because of the insanely low cost of HRU you can bid 10-20 points with Blizzard Force easily. Vader is amazing on Hostage Exchange since he can use Scatter, Force Choke and Force Push to toss the enemy Hostage around. Vader is also amazing on Key Positions, his 1 pips make is so he can remove 2 units off the center objective and his 3 pip Master of Evil has the potential to make even more units unable to score. This army also has the 4 bikes so Bombing Run and Break Through are a no brainer.
While Blizzard Force did have two things in the update that negatively affected it, they are overshadowed by the previous list of advantages. The change to cover hurts the Speeder Bikes as they previously could flank to get enemy units out of cover. Additionally, the tiebreaker change also hurts the army, as now in Breakthrough, you cannot simply walk past your opponent to score; you must kill something. This is not a huge issue for Blizzard Force since engaging Blizzard Force plays right into the hands of Vader and the swarm of Bikes.
LVO was our first look at the new rules and their impact on the game. I think the event highlighted a few things. It is clear the community believes Empire and Blizzard Force are the top armies since they represented 44% of the armies played. I personally think Republic, Shadow Collective, and non-Blizzard Empire are in a good place with a variety of options and units to play. Shadow Collective now exists in a much more balanced yet still competitive state. Separatists have competitive options, but I think they are really limited to using Dooku because of the suppression changes making him an auto-include. Rebels got caught in the crossfire and suffered smalls nerfs that all combined to really hurt the faction. As we look to worlds, I hope we see a nerf to Blizzard Force before Adepticon 2023. Dark Troopers and Gideon also have the potential to shake things up which I look forward to. Overall, I am really happy to see LVO had a massive turnout this year making it the largest event in the history of the game and I look forward to our international communities coming together at Adepticon!