We now know that this chill upon the meta will persist until the end of the World Championships, so let’s think about what to do about it.
Let’s start with something nice: I had a great time at Las Vegas Open. I got to meet a lot of people who’d only been Discord names to me before, I ate some real good food, and I got plenty of lovely complements about my writing, which has been a wonderful hobby/distraction for over a year now. But let’s be honest, the “goodness” of the time I had was certainly helped by the fact that I got third place in the whole thing. There’s no sense in being insincere about it, winning games feels good, and getting to the semi-final only to be knocked out by some jerk (who won the whole thing and who probably is continuing to ride on his power trip right now as he hunts through this document for grammar and punctuation errors) felt like quite an accomplishment when the field was so strong.
My ironic Desert-themed Blizzard Force vs. Kyle’s normal one. Yes, they put us on Hoth to have a laugh…and it was pretty funny actually. If it wasn’t for the fact that his strategy AND tactics were better than mine, I would have had it. IT WAS MY DICE!
I did have another objective though: I wanted to perform above expectations most would have of me as a player with a broken list to demonstrate its silliness. I’m not going to name a bunch of people to make it look like gloating, you can check out Game Uplink if you want, but I did in fact beat some really good players on the way to my loss to Kyle, and in most of those games I won largely on the back of the insane combination of efficiency and an oppressive battle deck that Blizzard Force represents. I won games that I am not sure I would go the same way on a more level playing field, and I wanted to be one of (I imagined) many players who would exemplify that so that Worlds could be a bit cleaner.
Unfortunately, it was confirmed recently on a Twitch stream that Atomic Mass will not make a any balance adjustments before Adepticon. And yet, a brand new Battle Force (Remnant) and Dark Troopers are releasing right now. Asajj Ventress will be legal as well, despite coming out mere days beforehand meaning many people in the world may not have access to her at all. I could write a whole article challenging the reasoning of concern for adjusting the meta “so close” to Worlds, but what’s done is done: Blizzard Force is going to be the list to beat at worlds. Not only does it have all the advantages we’ve covered ad nauseum on this site, but it also seems quite excellent against the new stuff (Impact 10 is pretty good against armor that can’t get cover or so I hear).
So, do you want to win worlds? Or make it there from the LCQ? You’d better do one of two things:
- Join ’em: In which case just make sure your general play with speeders and sith is average or above, and you’ll have game. That’s all you get, I already got your clicks! You could go check out Kyle’s Blizzard Force Guide, I guess. Or, of course…
- Beat ’em: And yes, this is what I’ll be trying to do when I go to Worlds, I’ll get to that part at the end. As for the details on how? Read on…you fools, but here’s a hint: don’t reach for your snowspeeders to take down THIS Blizzard Force.
Pictured: Blizzard Force not particularly caring about the existence of T-47’s. This Battle Force may be accurate after all?
The Cold is Biting, Bring Mittens
Blizzard Force is undoubtedly at its most frightening in the first two turns of the game. It (usually) starts things off with an insane blast-beam attack and then adds two HRU’s and four bikes that can focus down the same target (usually the closest one, to protect themselves) in a coordinated fashion. By comparison late game can actually be quite average, especially if it suffered attrition, but that barely matters if the majority of their opponent’s army is dead from a combination of the alpha attack and Vader doing Vader things. So, before we get to the really fun stuff (killing Blizzard’s units), we should focus on how to survive long enough to have a chance to do that.
Getting a look at what proven survivors are made of is a good start. So, let’s combine the results from two large recent tournaments (LVO and PAX) to get an idea of what this juggernaut of a Battle Force has already lost to in big events.
A quick few caveats before we dig in:
- This is not meant to be scientific, because it isn’t, but it does provide some clues nonetheless
- I’m only counting Op Vader Blizzard here, which went 47-17 (73% win percentage, excluding the 5 mirrors which were 23% of its total losses despite being 7% of total matchups) overall in these two tournaments. I apologize if this sounds dismissive but…we’ve seen the results in Invader League, Pax, and LVO: Op Vader is the dominant flex piece, more than an AT-ST, Commander Vader, or Veers. Op Vader Blizzard is cheating-level-good, the rest of these are merely “very very good.”
- If you see that I made some kind of an error feel free to let me know in the comments, I double checked these numbers but I’m no Lucas.
On the left you’ll see the lists that beat Blizzard at PAX and before the cut in LVO, on the right is the list after the cut.
That’s right, half of the Blizzard losses after the first cut were to mirrors. Shout out to Dave Grant by the way who smacked me on bombing run by surprising me with his devilish tactics, adding to his legend on Day 1. A key shared feature among many of these lists is damage mitigation. Blizzard, after all, is a list that has no ranged pierce or high velocity and relies on big piles of dice that mitigate or straight-up eliminate cover. And what pray-tell gets around that?
- Free dodges in the activation phase
- Force Barrier
- Armor on troopers (who will usually also benefit from cover)
Most of the armies that beat Blizzard in these cons use at least one if the tools above. Again, Blizzard employs zero high velocity and zero ranged pierce so the damage mitigation that’s really good for everyone is extra good against Blizzard.
All that said, no list on its own is going to be enough, here are some other tidbits to making it out of the other end alive in the early game:
Remember that your exposed flank is going to be the ideal bike target
Bikes are extremely fragile and a good Blizzard player will protect them in the early game. Sometimes that will be via clever “pancake” hiding but the more reliable way is to simply use the range game. The best way for a Blizzard player to do that is to focus in on a very exposed flank, so as long as it’s not WAY out there they’ll have to risk moving in to range for return fire.
“Five men is a juicy opportunity, one man is a waste of ammo”
The favored target of the Blizzard 2-pip is white save units with low health and no dodges. That includes strike teams, speeder bikes/STAPs, and rebel corps to name a few. Hide them if you can, but if you can’t then space them more than range 1 apart so your opponent at least has to try.
This also applies to when Vader is rushing you down, if you can put enough separation between his likely targets you can avoid one engagement from turning into an automatic loss secondary to the death of your entire army. Speaking of which…
Consider Vader getting into your lines a “Game Over” until proven otherwise
This doesn’t always mean that he will murder everyone, in my second game of Day 2 at LVO he dove into my opponent’s droid ball and eventually died to Magnas. He did, however, take out two units with him and distracted the majority of my opponent’s army while my speeders snuck around the back and scored Breakthrough points. Vader has two 1-pips that are extremely disruptive to the game-state, and veteran players know exactly how many minis you usually end up tossing into your carrying case when he’s allowed to execute both to good effect.
The Fun Part: Fighting Back
This is an area where your own list matters a bit less in the grand scheme of things. Blizzard itself is a bit of a “glass cannon” and you don’t need anything extra fancy. That said, here are the keys to this particular castle:
Kill the bikes, kill the bikes, and kill the bikes
Bikes require active effort by their player to even be alive at the end of the game. Yes they have natural light cover, but getting heavy involves significant effort and once you’re past that you have white saves and very occasional dodges. Pretty much every trooper unit in the game that has a heavy is a pretty significant threat to kill one bike mini, and once a bike unit loses one mini, it’s bordering on uselessness. When I’m playing bikes, my personal rule is to never end an activation where I will take more than one return shot in that same activation. Keeping to this rule does involve some discipline, which no one is able to maintain all the time. So, if an opponent over-extends to get at someone on the edge of your force, getting a measly three wounds through will make things that much easier later.
I cannot stress enough how much the bikes matter to this list. Yeah the HRU’s are busted, yeah the 2-pip is a mess, but the primary reason this list works is the efficiency of four bikes from a combat and objective point-of-view. As a case-in-point, my top 8 game against Austin Miller (playing Dooku, AAT, Magna Invasion Battle Force) was very close. Yeah Dooku died early but that was after an HRU unit got nearly completely nuked by an opening shot from the tank. The real reason I was able to pull out a win at the end of the day was that I had two healthy bike units and one not-healthy one to dive quickly from across the board onto his hostage carrier that by then was deep behind his own lines. This was a feat only a speeder could do, and if Austin’s dice had cooperated a bit more earlier to have killed another bike model, things may well have gone the other way.
…KILL THE BIKES!
Looking forward to the “Inanimate Object” Battle Force which is gonna kick ass against those damn bikes
Either dump enough dice into Vader to kill him or avoid fighting him altogether
On some maps, Vader will be quite shootable. On others, he’ll be in your grill before you can do much about it. I’ll be honest, a lot of lists will just straight up lose if Vader gets into their lines. This proved true even in the final at LVO, when Kyle’s opponent was one of the best in the game who also had a Jedi of his own. In that match, Anakin was unable to prevent Vader from slicing and choking all the shooters who could possibly threaten the bikes and HRU’s. Yes, he pushed Vader around and melee’d him, but Mike’s 501st squad was still out-activated and thus Vader could respond by just chucking Anakin a few feet away and plunging back into the troopers turn after turn.
The above is not meant to say you should give up on killing him, but unless you out-activate him AND have your own Jedi it’s going to be very tough to break through the red dice, 6-7 health, and two surges if you’re only responding with one Jedi of your own. To have much of a chance of dealing that final blow, you have to either whittle him down with shots while he’s on the way in or have a dedicated melee unit like Magnas, which are very good at ruining his day. If you can’t do either of those things, it may honestly be a good idea to actively avoid Vader, making him chase you around…while you take out bikes.
Pretend that HRU’s are a hero with three health
Got two sniper units with heavy cover shots against HRU’s? You may want to consider going after the bikes instead. Over the course of the tournament I took a few hits from various piercing shots on these units, but it never actually mattered until I got that third wound. Remember that most trooper units with heavies are designed to function at range 3, meaning that “every wound counts.” Well, HRU’s for some damn reason were made to make those extra troopers nearly irrelevant, those six dice at range 4 are exactly as potent in a three-man-unit as a five-man. So, if you actually want your shots to count, then you’d better have a plan to put three wounds on it in total or else you’ll come to the unfortunate realization later that those shots were basically wasted activations. Their threat range also means that suppressing them ends up being middling at best, they’ll have an officer who can give them an aim and they’ll very rarely be in a position that the lack of a move will disallow them from having anything to shoot. A pure range 5 suppression on them can be useful, but that’s only if you literally have nothing closer, which isn’t common.
What a world we live in, where the two trooper minis that shoot as well as a Saber tank is your third-highest target priority in most games…but it’s the truth.
Putting it all together, and my own plan
Synthesizing everything above, if you want to have much of a chance against Blizzard force you likely need decent damage mitigation against non-piercing non-HV shots, someone who can keep Vader busy, and a good sense of target priority. Again, that last part is gonna be up to your skill as a player but for the other stuff I think the following lists might be the best bets:
- Cad Bane and STAPs (this is the only list to beat Kyle piloting Blizzard Force, in the recent Invader League Round Robin stage) because STAPs can play most of their objectives just as well or better and Cad can keep Vader occupado. I think this may be the best bet and can do great against the field, but takes practice and minis that I can’t accomplish in enough time.
- Maul Pykes: Lists with Pykes make for very frustrating Blizzard 2-pip targets and Maul is decent enough against Vader, but I think the points change which hit this list hard and barely grazed Blizzard could make things rough even if it looks alright on paper
- Anakin Gunline: This will be my strategy. I am still working on the actual list I’ll take but so far it’s:
That’s right folks, Blizzard has gotten me desperate enough to consider whips! While it would be really nice to use Boil in here, we can make do with a scanner-wielding whip guy whose job will be to help hold back lines and share dodges with Anakin. I thought about R2 and Threepio, but meh, they’re not gonna score much anyway let’s just have something we know can help in the fight (mostly against Vader). This will probably change, and also probably flame out day 1, but at least I’ll have tried!
What’s your way to stay warm during these hard times? Leave a comment below, and…kill the bikes.