Two years ago, I went to my very first Star Wars Legion tournament at NOVA Open. It is now September 2020, and Star Wars: Legion is now more than two and a half years old. Last weekend would have been NOVA Open 2020, if 2020 was anything like a normal year. But it isn’t, and I’m feeling a little nostalgic, and missing my Legion buddies.
In this article, I am going to take a look at the evolution of the game and its meta through my own personal lens and my own Legion journey. As such, this article will not cover every Legion event or anything close to it, though I will make an attempt to hit most of the ones I was personally involved with in some capacity as well as the really big ones like GenCon. My sincerest apologies to the non-US events, in particular.
August 2017 – GenCon
Star Wars: Legion is announced. Much hype ensues. A Star Wars miniatures game!? Sign me up!
I’ll be honest, at this time Legion wasn’t even on my radar. I was busily engrossed in Warhammer 40k, which I had been playing on and off for the better part of 20 years.
March 2018 – Legion launch weekend
At this point I had become personally aware of Legion, though I hadn’t bought in yet. My good friend Mike G. (not my cohost… I have a surprisingly large number of friends named Mike) started poking me about Legion. Well, I still have a lot of 40k crap to paint… but hey, maybe I’ll give this thing a shot.
I did a demo game with Mike, and man, was I hooked on the mechanics. A miniatures game can have alternating activations? An order system where you have to allocate orders to time sensitive units and adapt on the fly to bad pulls? Cover that actually matters? Flanking? Incredible. Not dissing 40k, or anything…
Anyway, I split a core set with friend Mike. Just dipping my toes, I said to myself. Totally not cheating on 40k. Just a minor side piece.
May 2018 – Veers, Leia, Fleet and Snows release, Invader Season 1
This was actually a big deal, as previously we only had the three units in each core set to work with for each faction plus the heavies (Luke/Vader, Storms and Rebel Troopers, AT-RTs and Speeder Bikes, AT-ST and T-47). People almost certainly don’t remember, but there was an unexplained delay with Leia and Fleets, who were supposed to release at the same time as Veers and Snows. Rebel commanders had to wait an extra two whole weeks to get their hands on Leia and Fleets. Much outrage ensued.
Leia and Veers were the first “support commanders” available for the game, and they really opened up list building options. Players found they could fit a lot more beef into a list when they only had to pay 80-90 points for their commander instead of 160-200.
The Rebel archetype known as “Wonder Twins” started to develop, fielding Leia and Luke at the same time in the same list. This archetype remained a staple of Rebel list building all the way through Worlds in June 2019 and was probably the longest running, most enduring Rebel archetype. The Invader League Season 1 final, which occurred somewhere around this time, was a Rebel mirror of Wonder Twins vs. Wonder Twins.
We also got the “Veers triple bikes,” and “Veers AT-ST” archetypes, which showcased heavily in the first two major Legion convention tournaments…
August 2018 – Gencon
I was pretty heavily invested in Legion at this point, enough to have started a blog, which I dubbed “Never Tell me the Odds” (which of course is now part of Fifth Trooper). Though I had maintained hopes to somehow do both Legion and 40k at the same time… well let’s just say I failed, and my previous love of 20 years was left to collect dust in my foam carrying cases.
GenCon 2018 was somewhat marred by an unfortunate terrain situation, or rather lack of terrain situation (you’ll notice a theme). Legion is a ground combat miniatures game and thus heavily dependent on terrain to be interesting and tactical, and very different from previous FFG miniatures games like X-wing and Imperial Assault, which require and use essentially no terrain.
Terrain building is difficult and time consuming, and apparently there was something of a snafu where all the terrain slated for GenCon 2018 didn’t arrive in time. Regardless of the cause, the result is you ended up with some tables that looked like this:
Yikes. I hope you brought an AT-ST.
AT-STs did indeed carry the day, though “Wonder Twins” and Veers triple bikes also had good showings. This was also the first proper showing of the potential problems with the Key Positions objective, which was also showcased previously in Invader League Season 1. Bids were running as high as ~20 points simply for the possible privilege of being blue on Key Positions, which allowed blue player to place two of the three objectives and essentially staked blue player to a 2-1 lead before the game started. If you were red player and Key Positions flipped up in that third slot, you were a very sad panda.
GenCon was the first official tournament for the first official Legion “season.” Basically if you went undefeated at a Legion tournament (which at the time was only at conventions), you earned an invite to High Command, which would occur at Adepticon 2019 and consist of 32 players. The top 8 from High Command would then advance to the World Championships, which would occur at FFG headquarters in Minnesota later in 2019.
Besides the tournament, Clone Wars for Legion was announced. Much excite.
September 2018 – NOVA Open
My first Legion tournament! I was so excited. NOVA Open is right in my backyard (front yard?) literally just 25 minutes from my house. I had competed in the 40k tournament the previous year but after getting into Legion so heavily I quickly discovered it was not really possible to have two mistresses.
The terrain was a minor improvement over the GenCon terrain in quantity, though it still felt oddly unsuited to Legion itself. While pretty, the pieces were all very blocky, and the sets noticeably lacked in scatter terrain and area terrain. Basically, you were out of line of sight entirely, or you were in the open. I wrote an entire article on NOVA Open where you can find here, so I won’t dwell too much. Suffice to say speeder bikes did quite well at this tournament; they excel at flanking at have native cover, so they were well suited to tables like the ones that existed at NOVA 2018.
For my own part, I brought Luke, Leia, a bunch of Z-6s, and some AT-RTs with Laser Cannons. Yeah, those used to be good. Besides being the only thing Rebels could take that was Range 4 (!), with the relatively limited options at the time your opponent was very likely to have either their own AT-RTs or an AT-ST. Laser cannon RTs shred opposing RTs in a mirror (a lot of people brought rotaries instead and found them quite inadequate in that matchup). Anyway it was good enough for me to go undefeated on Day 2 and get my Adepticon invite.
Han and Commandos were released just before this tournament but weren’t yet legal, so NOVA was the last tournament before strike teams were introduced to the game. Yeah, there was a time before snipers.
September – December 2018, Invader League Season 2
This was the first Invader League season I had the privilege of participating in. This was the first tournament where strike teams were legal, and also the first one that included Wookiees, Imperial Royal Guard, Han, Boba Fett, and a partially previewed Emperor Palpatine and Chewbacca.
Invader was still somewhat off the radar at this time in the game, being an online tournament. This one, however, really previewed the impact strike teams were going to have on the game. Most successful lists in this tournament ran two or even three of them, which is now taken for granted but was somewhat revolutionary at the time. At this time the snipers were also unlimited range.
For my part, I took Luke, Leia, a bunch of Z-6s, two sniper strikes, and Wookiees (!). What can I say, I love Wookiees. Anyway, it was good enough to sweep my round robin group and earn a bye in the first round of single elims. Unfortunately I was bounced in Round 2 of elims by the illustrious Garnanana and his Veers/Boba/IRG list, which was not a common archetype at the time but Garn popularized. Garn went on to the finals, where he ultimately lost to Kingsley and his Luke, Leia, triple sniper 6x Z-6 list.
This was also the last tournament where Key Positions was in its original state. It was errata’ed in December to automatically place one of the three objectives in the center of the table and thus be more fair for red player.
I was also around this time I started doing the Notorious Scoundrels podcast. It’s hard to believe it had been that long ago.
January 2019 – Las Vegas Open
Las Vegas Open was the largest Legion tournament to date and the first convention tournament where strike teams were legal. This was also the first tournament where the specialist packs were legal, though the impact of medics in particular was not really explored fully until Adepticon. I had the privilege of being able to fly out and judge for this event, where I got to meet many of my Legion buddies for the first time, including my partner in crime Brendon Franz:
What can I say, it’s Vegas. I cobbled the Rebel officer outfit together from some stuff I got from the thrift store (really) and Duluth Trading Company, as well as some loaners from friends. The DL-44 is courtesy of Matt Dunn, and the awesome leather jacket I borrowed from Kevin Valliere.
The terrain for this event was truly top notch. It was the first tournament where it was essentially community sourced instead of supplied by FFG, and it showed. LJ and Brendon did an excellent job getting 32 tables together.
Those that followed Invader season 2 were not surprised at the incredible representation of strike teams at the top tables of LVO, but it showcased them to the public that had not yet appreciated their impact. You can find my article on my experience and the top lists here. I also wrote some data articles on it: Data Part 1 and Data Part 2.
March 2019 – AdepitCon Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) and High Command
AdeptiCon! I had personally never been before, and I was thrilled to be able to finally go. Besides being beyond excited about participating in the Legion tournament, Fifth Trooper was streaming the event, which meant I got to do commentary for the LCQ. I was living in a dream.
The only new legal release between LVO and Adepticon was Jyn and Pathfinders. This didn’t have a huge impact on the meta, though I did bring pathfinders (yes, really) to High Command and I can at least say they didn’t actively hurt me. I brought them alongside my usual Luke, Leia, snipers, Z-6 situation. They actually had quite a large impact in my first three games where I basically used them like tougher, objective focused Rebel Troopers, but they were basically useless in my last game against Kingsley. All four of my games were really tough, sweaty grudge matches and my opponents were all class acts. Each of them also went at least 3-1 and made top 8, so I got to hang out with them again in a few months at FFG Headquarters for Worlds.
You can find my recap and the results here.
We also got our first look at the models for the Clone Wars factions, as well as some cheeky previews of their rules.
April 2019 – May 2019, Invader League Season 3
Invader Season 3 occupied the space between High Command and Worlds. This was the first major tournament for which Krennic, Deathtroopers, Bossk, and Sabine were legal, and all of them made quite a splash. The occupier and X-34 were also legal, but those made a decidedly smaller splash.
On a lark, I decided to play Empire for the first time. I didn’t own any Empire models, but I figured there would be some value in diversifying my experience. I didn’t anticipate Worlds being too much different from Adepticon and I already had plenty of reps in with Luke and Leia, so I wanted to do a little bit of opposition research, so to speak.
Unfortunately things were kind of crazy with my two young kids during this time (they still are…) so I didn’t get in any practice games with Empire, either before or during the tournament. I wouldn’t recommend going in cold with a new faction you’ve never played before.
To aid my transition to the peacekeepers of the galaxy, I went with a list that was very similar to what I was used to running as Rebels: a playmaker (Bossk), a support commander (Veers), a bunch of corps with heavies (Storm DLTs) and sniper strikes. It worked out really well. I found this archetype fit my playstyle like a glove, arguably even better than what I had been running with Rebels. I am all about getting an attrition advantage via poking and then throwing weight of dice and bodies at my weakened opponent in the latter turns, and this works perfectly for that purpose. I also got a non-zero quantity of hilarious and lucky Bossk bounty wins. The crit lizard led me to a 10-0 season and my only Invader win.
Sabine also featured heavily in this tournament, though similar to Bossk, did not significantly change the existing list archetype, which was basically still support commander (Veers or Leia) plus playmaker (Boba, Bossk, Luke, or Sabine) plus a bunch of corps and snipers.
You can find my recap of the round robin portion of the season here. Unfortunately I did not get to an article incorporating elims.
June 2019 – World Championships
The big hootenanny. The final showdown. The last brouhaha. The big kahuna. Eight enter, one leaves. Well, actually eight still leave. Seven of them just leave sad.
This weekend was a blast. Everyone that went knew each other already from the tournament scene, and we had great camaraderie. I think my favorite moment from the whole weekend was playing Outer Rim in a random hotel room after the first day of games with the guys.
Anyway… the meta for Worlds was very similar to Adepticon. Bossk and Sabine actually didn’t get released in time to be legal (I was a very sad panda) so I ended up running good old boring Luke, Leia, Z-6s, and triple snipers with a medic. By this time everyone had really latched onto the value of medics, particularly in the sniper war. Most of the eight lists had three snipers and at least one medic. You can find them here (note, the lists in that article are just ordered by seed, not actual performance). Palpatine played by the very capable Eric Riha was a clear off-meta standout from the typical “support commander, playmaker, corps, snipers” mold. Palpatine is something of a sleeper in skilled hands and was (and arguably still is) particularly good against Rebels. Daniel Lupo also made a splash with sabs instead of snipers, and proved that they could be equally as terrifying in the right hands.
For my part, despite a relatively poor showing on the first day, I squeaked into the second day due to my seeding and the slightly unusual tournament format. I managed to make it to the finals and got the privilege of losing my first of many games to the kid, Luke Cook, who to this day remains the World Champ.
Congrats to Luke… and it looks like all of us will have to wait until at least 2021 to try and unseat him.
July 2019 – Northeast Open
Northeast Open was held in Syracuse, NY and put on by The Fifth Trooper network. I can say with no bias or corporate brown-nosing whatsoever that it was the most fun Legion event I’ve been to.
NEO was not part of the official FFG tournament structure (which had kicked into 2020 mode at this point) and was a casual, fun tournament. We gave away awards for jankiest list, among other shenanigans. We had a bounty board where players could put bounties on other players. We all had dinner out at a delicious barbecue (yes, everybody). Good times were had by all. The best part of this game is the getting to hang out with all the fabulous people that play it.
NEO was the first convention tournament where Sabine and Bossk were legal, and they made a big splash. “Double Bounty” (Bossk and Boba together) and “Kriss Kross” (or Jump 2: Electric Boogaloo, if you prefer) which is Sabine and Luke, were very popular. This trend continued from Invader Season 3 where both Sabine and Bossk were also legal. The final featured our own Jon “Bushfacts” Bushman and his Kriss Kross list against Douglas Kropp and his Double Bounty. Double Bounty took the day, but Kriss Kross took my heart. For the list name, obviously.
August 2019 – GenCon
This was the first “Continental Championship” for Legion in its new, slightly confusing, tournament structure. Basically you had two “heats,” and the top X players from each heat got to advance to a single elimination day. The top 8 would get invites to the World championships. You could also earn invites for the first time at store tournaments (Primes) and other convention tournaments like LVO, Warfaire Weekend and NOVA Open (National Championships). I’m not really sure how you have multiple National Championships in the same country, but I’m not a geographer or anything. Unfortunately I didn’t get to go to GenCon (again). It’s still on my short list.
Anyway, unit legality was basically the same as NEO, and the meta looked very similar, again. Sabs had some higher representation that previous, but Luke, Leia, bounty hunters, and strike teams still ruled the day. Our own David Zelenka took this one home with a spin on the classic “Wonder Twins” list which cut an activation for some more beef in the corps units.
September 2019 – NOVA Open
NOVA Open 2019 rolled around. There was a lot of anticipation, meta wise, around this tournament, because it was the first tournament for which the illustrious and famously unstoppable heroes of the Battle of Hoth were legal. I’m talking about Tauntauns, obviously.
NOVA Open was in the awkward spot between release windows, where one faction’s units (Tauntauns and Rebel Vets) were out and legal but the other (Shoretroopers and Dewbacks) were not. It showed in the results too… only two Empire players made it out of the heats to single elimination day. For my part, of my six games, I did not face one single Empire opponent (all six of them were against Rebels).
This was a bit of a weird tournament for me, because I basically lucked into a list that turned out to be a great counter-meta pick for all the Tauntauns I was going to see. I had been musing about the possibilities of Palpatine as a Tauntaun counter, but I had a scant three games total of practice with him from a previous weekend tournament. Ultimately I decided I was going to fall back on what I knew and had reps with and bring Wonder Twins.
However… the night before the tournament, when I went to put my cards into my card holders in preparation, I was unable to find my binders with all my cards. As it turns out, I had left them in the store the previous weekend, which of course didn’t open until after the tournament started the following day. I was stuck with the list I had already in my card holders, which was Palpatine. Needless to say Palpatine is pretty good against Tauns (even without Shores available) and it worked out for me.
It would be remiss of me not to mention yet another terrain fiasco. NOVA Open insisted on doing all the terrain making for the event itself, without allowing the organizers to community source it, which basically meant it was 40k terrain. Lots of big, blocky pieces. Not ideal for Legion. The elims day was fine, because the organizers were able to basically pick the “best of” bits from all the tables as they had to just make four, but there were some really weird tables on the play-in days.
NOVA Open was the last US tournament before the big points changes and errata of late September (UK Nationals was the last official tournament before they went live). Meta change, here we come… (maybe)
September 2019 – The Big Points Update and Errata
This came as something of a surprise, though a welcome one. There were a lot of changes, but the most impactful ones were certainly to snipers: they traded their unlimited range for the new Range 5 (which did not previously exist) and the strike team cost was bumped by four points.
I won’t go over all the changes in here because I already did that. Basically, besides the sniper changes, there were a lot of drops that in hindsight look too small (I’m looking at you, Darth Vader) as well as a lot of solid drops that moved previously maligned units and upgrades back into the competitive scene (AT-RT weapons, comms jammers, Chewie, AT-ST).
October 2019 – January 2020, Invader League Season 4
Yeah, those dates are right. This season ran weirdly long. Invader Season 4 was without question the largest tournament to date with nearly 150 players.
Anyway, this was the Tauntaun and Shoretrooper season. This was the first tournament with the new changes in effect, but it is sort of hard to de-couple those from the Tauntaun and Shore releases, as both of those units made huge splashes. This was also the first major tournament with the new Clone Wars factions being legal, which added a lot of extra spice. The final was a Tauntaun vs. Tauntaun affair (Kingsley vs. Ellis Priestley). Ellis took it for the Season 4 Invader title.
Anyway, I brought Jedi Luke (who had just been previewed alongside Operative Vader), a Rebel officer, some Z-6s and snipers, and an FD turret (yes really). It was good enough to earn me a spot in the bronze match opposite Luke Cook for a nice Worlds redux. He was running Krennic, Shores and an AT-ST, so we got to have a nice Tauntaun free bronze match.
At this time it was pretty clear that the Rebel meta was forming very stubbornly into a triple Tauntaun, minimum naked corps, triple sniper, Leia situation (some brought Luke instead with good success), while Empire lists were almost exclusively Shoretrooper gunlines. Even bounty hunters were left behind to make sure the Shores benefited from orders and Aggressive Tactics, which was released in the Clone Wars core box and proved to be excellent in conjunction with Shores. At the time comms relay could be used to basically bypass the mortars in a Shoretrooper order chain and duplicate their coordinates from a single order, like a B1 chain. This was later errata’d so that emplacements could not take comms relay (after LVO 2020).
November 2019 – Warfaire Weekend
Another con I sadly didn’t get to attend. Warfaire had basically all the same unit legalities of Invader Season 4 (having occurred in the middle of it) and basically solidified the Taun and Shore dominated meta that was shaping up. Eric Riha took this one with a triple tauntaun plus commander Luke list, though LJ Pena made an impressive run and made the final with a CIS core box list (Grievous, B1s, droidekas).
January 2020 – Las Vegas Open
If you told me LVO would be the only convention tournament in 2020, I A) would have been very sad, and B) made greater efforts to go. As it was it would have been quite impossible for me to attend both LVO and Adepticon, which are in too close of a proximity to each other for husband equity purposes.
In any case, the unit legalities were essentially the same for LVO as they were for Warfaire. Operative Luke, Operative Vader, and R2-D2 were known but not yet officially released and thus were not legal.
The reigning champ stormed into the tourney with a last minute plane ticket booking and ended up taking it. He correctly perceived that Tauns were the list to beat and took Palpatine as a counter-taun pick, and piloted it skillfully to victory. Kyle Crosser also made the final with a solid Shoretrooper/Bossk gunline that was equally well positioned against Tauns (he had no less than five copies of Hunter in his list). You can catch Luke and Kyle’s lists along with the rest of the top 8 here.
March 2020 – World Championships at AdepitCon.
RIP. I am sad panda.
April 2020 – June 2020, Invader Season 5
Well this has pretty much been the only major tournament of 2020. It was quite the doozy, though.
We got our first look at Iden, Cassian, Phase II Clones, ARC troopers, BX droids, AATs, and Saber tanks in action. This was also the first tournament with Vital Assets. It became quite clear rather quickly that Galactic Republic had some very strong bones in its faction identity with token sharing, and it just needed some cheap activations to push it over the top. When those cheap activations also happen to be ARC Troopers and R2-D2… well. It’s a recipe for success.
CIS made a good showing in this tournament also. I was pretty determined to make a change of pace, and I brought Dooku, a bunch of B1s, and some BX droids. Unfortunately it was not quite enough, and after making it out of a tough round robin group unscathed I was bounced in the third round of elims by Luke Cook and his clones (yes him again). Luke ended up taking it all the way to the house. My cohost Mike “Dashz” Barry also had an excellent showing, bringing a list that included two full ARC trooper squads all the way to the finals. Mike put together a solid power rankings after Invader that I think summarizes where it left things pretty nicely, meta-wise.
Rebels still were mostly Tauntaun lists, though Cassian made a big splash and proved his worth, especially as a counter-meta pick for GAR. Empire had almost certainly it’s poorest showing to date in any major tournament; though the match data shows they pulled even with CIS and Rebels, they got absolutely shredded in matches against GAR. Iden was nonetheless very popular.
July 2020 – GenCon Online
RIP real GenCon. We still managed to put something together. I had the privilege of helping out and judging my first fully online, live tournament.
This was a bit of a weird one, from a meta perspective. We used street dates for legality, which means ARCs and BX droids were not legal, despite having been used in Invader which just concluded.
Nonetheless, GAR took this one too; Josiah Burkhardsmire took the title with a Rex/Saber tank list.
To the Future!
And here we are, on the cusp of an uncertain tournament scene and still mostly unable to play on real tables. Yavin Base Team League is currently going on (and excellent team format tournament) and should provide some fun insights. ARCs (if you can get them) and BX droids have just been released officially, and we have STAPs, AT-RTs (for Republic), Inferno Squad, and Clan Wren right around the corner. I’m excited to see what the next year holds, and hopefully I can see all of you at a convention sometime in early 2021.