The Road to Worlds – 2020 – Part IV – Always in Motion
Welcome back to The Road to Worlds – 2020!
Up until this point we’ve talked about a lot of theory crafting and lessons learned leading up to, during, and after smaller tournaments. Today we’re going to take a bit of a different attack angle – I’m going to talk about preparing for a tournament effectively. We are not going to talk about any one specific list – but the process of choosing a list and how to effectively prepare it for the tournament.
Step I – Assemble Your Strike Team
The first step in this process is to find a group of like minded individuals who have the same goals as you do. They need to be on a similar investment level as well – people that are significantly more or less invested then you are generally bad candidates as you will find the process frustrating or overwhelming, depending on how much work the rest of the group is putting in. Once you do find people on your approximate level, they are going to become your “testing team”. So lets talk about the attributes of people you want on this team:
- Investment – Your team needs to care about the same goals as you. In the case of a tournament like Worlds, find people who are also going to Worlds and team up. It’s generally a bad idea to involve a large portion of the team that won’t actually be attending the event – They don’t have a true vested interest in the outcome. Try to avoid having more than 1 or 2 people in your group that don’t have a synergized goal.
- Trust – These are people you need to be able to trust. If your teammates take all the work you and the rest of the team put in and then just send it out to everyone else all your hard work may end up going to waste. A large part of this process is identifying if there is a powerful list available that the community at large has missed. You don’t want to let the world know until you’ve won the tournament with it!
- Diversified Knowledge – It’s important to bring people on board that are good at the game – which is likely a no brainer, you don’t need me to tell you that. With that being said, it is also good to bring people in with diversified skill sets. Bring in one player that plays well aggressively and one that plays well conservatively. Bring in players that are each different faction mains – at least one in each of the four factions is a good starting place. This will diversify your points of view so you can attack the tournament from all angles.
Once you have a team in place you should schedule an in person meeting where everyone can be present. Failing that, try and set up a skype or gchat session that everyone can attend in order to facilitate Step 2.
Step II – The Brainstorm
You’ve picked out your members. You’ve picked a time to gather. What comes next?
You and your team need to answer the following questions:
- What does the Meta look like right now?
- What will the Meta look like at the time of the tournament?
- What units counter the strategies employed in these Metas?
- Can these units be employed in effective anti meta lists?
- What list within the current and expected Meta has the highest win percentage against the expected field?
At this juncture, it’s important that you bring out your heavy hitters with deep knowledge of the current tournament scene to answer questions 1 and 2. Give them the floor and let them talk it out. Let’s take a look at a mock example:
What does the Meta look like right now?
The Meta is presently dominated by Taun Taun Riders and Shoretroopers. Rebel lists can be expected to go light on corps and Imperials should be expected to lean into order heavy lists to facilitate the usage of shoretroopers. The top 8 at LVO, the most recent U.S. tournament, included 3 Rebels, of which all played Tauns, and 5 Imperials, 2 of which were Palpatine Gunlines and the other 3 of which were Shoretrooper focused gunlines with various focus pieces (2 Bossk, 1 Tank). We can likely expect that netlists will follow this trend assuming no changes moving into Worlds.
What will the Meta look like at the time of the Tournament?
This question is fundamentally asking what changes are to be expected between the last snapshot of the Meta and when the event will be happening. In this case we can state the following truths:
- R2D2 will now be eligible for play
- Phase IIs will now be eligible for play
- B2 Battle Droids will now be eligible for play
- The Saber Tank will now be eligible for play
- The AAT will now be eligible for play
- Operative Luke will now be eligible for play
- Operative Vader will now be eligible for play
- All specialists packs will now be eligible for play
- Comms Relay is no longer an eligible upgrade for Emplacement Troopers
- Creature Trooper withdrawal rules have been reworked to be more punitive if a Creature Trooper disengages from combat
- Creature Troopers may no longer climb
- The RRG has been updated to include a myriad of misc. items as well as several new keywords
This is the start of the “Brainstorm” portion of the task at hand. I’d recommend throwing the list you come up with on a whiteboard or similar canvas. You can use several software options online if you’re meeting online. At this point it’s better to throw something on the list, even if you think it may end up being ineffectual in the long run. This is about putting everything at play in the potential bucket. We’ll eliminate non factors next.
Now that we have a list of direct changes to the game between the last tournament and this one – we need to address what changes the team believes to be relevant. Go through each bullet point, for instance, take the following as examples:
- R2D2 will now be eligible for play: R2D2 is expected to heavily impact the Meta. As a cheap 35 pt activation he will enable high activation rebel lists such as Taun Tauns. Additionally his ability to score a victory point outside of the objective scenario is invaluable and significantly changes the calculus of how objectives like key positions, sabotage the moisture vaporators and recover the supplies must be played. He is also extremely diverse and flexible in usage with the ability to repair the new Saber Tank or any of the old rebel vehicles. The addition of C3PO also makes him a tool to bolster Luke Skywalker and Kenobi by facilitating dodge tokens to fuel deflect. I would expect R2 to be in most, if not all, Rebel lists and in basically any Republic list that includes a tank at a minimum. Effect on Meta: High
- Creature Troopers may no longer climb: Tauns are expected to be a large part of the Meta, however they rarely used the ability to climb in the first place. The most relevant and practical impact of this change is that Darth Vader can now use Vader’s Might to strand Taun Tauns on top of terrain. The impact of this has yet to be seen and is largely reliant on the boards we expect to see at the tournament. Commander Vader is rarely scene competitively, though his new command cards introduce the possibility of that changing. Operative Vader is an X-factor – since we have no data to work with as far as effectiveness goes. If testing suggests that both Vaders will not be in the Meta this change likely does nothing and even if they are in the Meta it is heavily terrain dependent. Effect on Meta: Low
- Comms Relay is no longer an eligible upgrade for Emplacement Troopers: This is a very relevant change to how Shoretrooper gunlines work. Gone are the days that you can play standing orders and trigger Target and Aggressive tactics on 4+ units. Shoreline lists will require focused attention for orders and as such will work less well with operatives and other order intensive units that also require orders or limit the amount of orders dispersed. While significant, the effect of Shoreline lists are likely still achievable and definitely still above average in strength. Effect on Meta: Medium
- The AAT will now be eligible for play: The AAT brings a Sturdy, resilient platform with High Velocity, a keyword that disallows its target to used dodge tokens, into play. Overall, the most limiting factor for the AAT is that the faction in which it resides is limited on its Commander selection, making any army that includes the AAT limited to 8-9 activations. It’s unclear if these lists will be effective, but it is clear that the AAT is a lethal counter to Taun Tauns and Force Users. Of which we can expect to see both in spades at Worlds. Effect on Meta: Medium – High
Your group should continue to take your bullet pointed list and diagnose each on whether it is a relevant and substantial change to the Meta you care about. It’s best at this point to draw on any games that have been played with new units and effects to make sure your data points are good and not just theory crafting. The more real experience you are drawing from, the better. Once you’re done – set these assumptions up on your drawing board in order of relevance and start to loosely define what you believe the Meta to be going into the tournament. Based on the bullet points I’ve detailed above we can come to an altered Meta conclusion that looks something like:
The Worlds Meta will likely remain mostly the same for Imperial and Rebel lists. Imperial lists will likely lean heavier into Shoreline strategies by introducing comms technicians or lean farther away from it by swapping to units that are more focused like Bossk, Op Vader, or Boba Fett. Rebel lists will remain largely unchanged except they will introduce R2 as a cheap activation bump that also gives them VP utility. CIS will have the option to bring the AAT in the mix which dramatically changes its matchup against Tauns (In theory). The Republic will also likely default to Armor being it’s foremost option, though its tactics will have been given a significant boost with the introduction of Range 3 Standby sharing.
What units counter the strategies in these Metas?
Now that we have loosely defined the Meta (Notice that we have not actually constructed any lists yet) we need to talk about units that actively hunt down things that are likely to be prevalent in the Meta. The main items we need to work against are:
- Taun Tauns
- High Value Armor
- Overwatched Clones
- Force Users
A quick (but certainly not comprehensive list) of units that fight 2-3 or more of these targets well might look like:
- AAT – Able to deny Force Users and Tauns their dodge tokens while fighting back against Shores, Clones and Armor effectively from range.
- Sniper Strike Teams – Able to deny dodge tokens to Force Users and Tauns while piercing Shoretroopers and Clones saves effectively, all of which from a safe distance.
- Taun Tauns – All around unit that packs high damage against Armor due to Ram and can force 6-7 saves on red die save units on the charge.
- Shoretroopers – All around unit that buries its opponent in dice. Range 4 capability allows them to fight the front line of Clones and effectively manage Taun Tauns through Standby and use of things like Hunter.
- Saber Tank – Able to suppress multiple units in single activation it is also a FS platform that can decimate a full unit of anything in the game when combined with a Z6 shot.
- Phase II Clones – Able to hedge force users and Tauns out of initiating contact through the use of the Overwatch upgrade. Phase II clones completely change how gunlines with aggressive focus pieces interact.
You’ll note that several of the things that *are* the Meta are also on the *deals with the Meta well* list. This is okay! The things being played as Meta choices are Meta choices for a reason – you’re trying to find something that breaks the format if you can, but it is also okay to validate the choices within the Meta.
Can these units be employed in effective Anti Meta lists?
Now we start getting into some preliminary list building. Let’s take our list and hedge out an archetype that each might fit into:
- AAT – AAT, Grievous, B1 Spam, Droideka – gets to 9 activations and can theoretically can leverage the AAT’s range to bring an enemy list’s activation count in line with it.
- Sniper Strike Teams – We don’t need to theory craft here. They are in every Rebel and Imperial list for the most part.
- Taun Tauns – 12 Activation Leia or 10-11 activation Luke will be the most common use. Most Tauns will have uplink/tenacity attached
- Shoretroopers – Shoreline lists will be largely unchanged – some may drop an activation to introduce comms techs. Most will likely hand out orders manually.
- Saber Tank – R2, Saber, Rex alongside Corps. Likely between 8-9 activations. The effectiveness of the list will depend mostly on how effective the Saber is.
- Phase II Clones – Will be added to all Republic lists as at least a 1 of, likely a 2 of with overwatch.
These ideas will start to form your pool of lists that you will likely use to test against more meta lists, which comes next.
What list within the current and expected Meta has the highest win percentage against the expected field?
Let’s define the one list for each faction. This is an example so I am not going to use actual data, just some presumptions.
Imperial – Veers/Krennic Bossk Shoreline
Rebel – 12 Activation Leia Tauns
CIS – Double the Fall (Grievous, Dooku, 6x b1s)
Republic – Kenobi, Rex, 6x Phase Is
Clearly at this juncture we can say that the Imperial and Rebel lists are much more effective given their results at LVO and other events. These lists will act as our “control” group later on and we should use them as pillars of the Meta, at least for now.
Step 3 – The Gauntlet
So you’ve come to the end of your meeting. You’ve decided on several ideas and units that could counter act the meta and we’ve defined a set of lists that represent what the Meta is. What comes next?
For each new list idea you should run it against the lists you’ve identified in the Meta. So our Grievous AAT list should play against Veers Bossk Shoreline, 12 Activation Tauns, Double the Fall, and Kenobi Rex all at least once, preferably 2-3 times. You should record the results in a spreadsheet so you have firm data to draw from once you’ve finished. You’ll want to do that with each new list idea.
Some important points on this:
- Under testing is a serious problem. Multiple games is necessary to develop a thorough understanding of matchups and flaws in your strategy. The worst thing that can happen at this stage is to base the fact that your new list is good under the false pretense of a game or 2 games being played poorly by an opponent or that were overly lucky.
- The matchups should be between similar skill level players if at all possible. You don’t want your data skewed based on player skill. It’s best to have several different people pilot the same list if you have the time for it.
- Don’t dramatically change any of the lists until you are ready to revisit your assumptions as a group.
- The more games, the more data, the better.
Once you’ve gone through the gauntlet with all of your new ideas(each list should go through the gauntlet) you can then look at win loss ratios and talk through player experience. This is a good time to call another Team meeting with everyone present and talk about each list specifically and its viability. I can’t tell you how to operate here as it’s much more of a matter of what did you learn and whether or not you think the lists that you have come up with are viable. I would recommend however trying to get everything through the gauntlet as early as possible, having this meeting and then using these new assumptions to revisit Step II and start over from there. If you can repeat the process 2-3 times you will start to really strip away what is and is not working. Once you have all of the data from your spreadsheet and Gauntlet(s), including player thoughts and experiences, you should be able to decide on what list(s) are best for you and your team to take.
It’s also important to revisit the Brainstorm step if something unexpected happens, such as an RRG release, while you’re in the Gauntlet phase already.
I hope you’ve found this process helpful and a good outline to start your preparation for your next major tournament, whether it be Worlds or otherwise. At the end of the day, you are going to be as prepared as the time and effort you put in. The more concentrated and focused your preparation is the better it will be.
If I don’t see you at Worlds you can come hang out on our youtube page where The Fifth Trooper team will be live streaming the event!
May the Darkside be with you always,