*Disclaimer: The following article is a reflection of my personal opinions about the state of the Metagame. I acknowledge the fact that I am not an expert on this game and make no claims to knowing more than anyone else on the subject. These are merely analyzed observations based on my personal perceptions of the game. Feel free to draw your own conclusions and to make remarks regarding the content in this article, I only ask that you do so respectfully to both myself, and other commenters should there be any. I offer no offense, and I apologize if any is given. Thank you!
I have been watching a lot of Battle Reports lately and I have to note that there are a great deal of Fat Han, RAC (Rear Admiral Chiraneau), and 58 Dash builds being played all around the world and winning consistently. Just take a look at the Regional Results compiled by MajorJuggler here. High damage large-based turret builds have characterized the Metagame. While turrets undermine the anticipation of the Planning and Activation Phases of the game, the worst part is most people aren’t even adding any new ideas to these lists. They are running them with the same pilots and the same upgrades that everyone else is. There is no innovation or creativity in the theory crafting. There is no assessment of the Meta or implementation of a new plan to challenge the current “strongest”. In my opinion, this is making the game stale.
When you look at these “strongest” builds they are mostly the same thing in terms of composition. The current “Two Ship Meta” is frequently built as a large-base turret with an arc-dodging flanker. You can almost argue that there is only one “strongest” build in the game right now.
You have Han with Corran, Dash with Corran, and RAC with Whisper or Soonir. All three employ an exceptionally similar strategy. They all lay on heavy turret fire, and attempt to outmaneuver with the Flanker for a range one, high damage, unreturned shot.
The X-Wing ship “classes” or “battlefield roles” are often compared to Rock-Paper-Scissors. They say that the ships can be classified as Turrets, Arc-Dodgers, and Jousters. For the uninitiated, Turret ships are durable that can fire on you regardless of firing arc. Jousters are defined by their cost-to-attack/hit point ratio. Typically you take them 2-3 at a time with generic pilots. Arc-dodgers are excellent at maneuvering out of the firing arcs of Jousters. They are typically low durability with good defense dice. The claim is that Turrets beat Arc-Dodgers, Arc-Dodgers beat Jousters, and Jousters beat Turrets.
Here is my issue with that logic:
One of the best Jousters in my opinion is the Rebel faction’s B-Wing. The B-Wing’s cost versus total hit points and damage output potential is the epitome of what a Jouster is. This allows you to take two to three B-Wings plus an “Anchor” ship of some kind. But, when you consider lining up the run against an opposing turret, your B-Wings will get one pass of very good shooting against the Turret. After that you receive a round of retaliatory shoots while your jousters regroup and attempt to get back on target. This allows the Turret two turns of shots to your one. Given that the B-Wing is only getting one defense die, this means you could be taking a considerable hits, not only from the Turret but also from the Arc-Dodger flanking you.
With there being such hostile overtaking of this build theory, you have to wonder what can be done to combat the mirror matches that keep occurring at every level of gameplay. How can the game expect to evolve and remain interesting, and ultimately fun, if it doesn’t grow beyond the age of the Fat Han style builds?
“Changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above.
They come out of struggles from below.”
With the approach of Wave VII, there is some hope that the Metagame will get shaken up a little bit. But even Two-Time World Champion Paul Heaver said in an article he wrote on FFG’s website that, “Your strongest current builds will still be playable. Nothing in Wave VII directly counters the strength of Han Solo or Dash Rendar turrets…” while claiming that the metagame will be “more varied than ever.”
I feel that to truly break the Meta, players will not be able to rely on the developers to create something new that will inherently revolutionize the way the game is played on any level. Rather, players will have to spend time testing new strategies and finding new synergies to employ in an effort to unseat the Fat Han/RAC/Dash builds that are dominating the game right now.
With that being said, I understand and fully appreciate that there are only so many ships in this game. I also know that there are only so many ways to build each ship and still achieve optimal performance. But rather than just taking what is known for being a tournament staple, players should attempt to bring something relatively original to the table. In my opinion, playing a list that you have seen win over and over again (that isn’t an idea/theory of your own) just isn’t very rewarding or fun.
For the record, I am not trying to discount player skill, because it does play a large role in this game. I am just saying when two opponents fly essentially the same thing right at each other, and each side has the ability to fire in any direction regardless of positioning, the game is no loner based on player skill but a game based on how the dice fall. It’s essentially the same thing as taking your dice from your dice bag and seeing who can throw 20 hits first.
Stay On Target my friends.