Part II: Nerves of steel
In Part I: Mind Like a Trap of Steel, I looked at Jeff Berling’s innovative and effective Dengaroo build. Now it’s time to look in detail at how the final progressed and how such a great build was undone by the broken ship that we’re not allowed to complain about Soontir F. Fel.
Unsurprisingly, Jeff’s oppo was no ingenue either. Duncan Howard was X Wing Famous even before the final. He was running a classic list, that’s re-emerged to dominate Wave 8 after the Jumpmasters saw off the Rebel Regen:
Omicron Group Pilot + Sensor Jammer + Emperor Palpatine
The Inquisitor + Push the Limit + Tie/v1 + Autothrusters
Soontir Fel + Push the Limit + Royal Guard TIE + Autothrusters + Stealth Device
You don’t have to play X Wing long to see 35 point Soontir. And these days 31 points of Inquisitor is often seen with him. Both ships are offensively and defensively rock solid. Their high PS means they can boost and barrel roll out of the arcs of fighters, whilst the Autothrusters and Stealth Device have it covered against turrets.
His eyes might point in different directions, but
he’s still the best value 27 points in the game
Palp-Shuttle ensures that the green dice don’t fail, and sensor jammer keeps the shuttle alive a little longer.
It’s a build that ensures the odds are always working for it, just like Dengaroo, as we’ll see.
Duncan and Ryan set up with Fel covering the right flank and Inquisitor and Palp on the left. Dengar opted to harass Fel on the Left flank, and Manaroo took a central position to see which way was safest:
Happily, these players were both fighters, not dancers. They didn’t mess about and quickly closed to engage:
As you can see, the Inquisitor swiftly found himself facing those 4 hits from Dengar, whilst Manaroo escaped up the left flank. After Zuckus forced re-rolls, the green dice gave 3 evades – 2 of which were Palp and a token, pipping a shield off the Inqy.
Then Soontir closed to pressure and nip shields from Dengar on his flank, before flying on right in front of Dengar:
And Dengar did the beautiful sloop:
There was an argument there that Fel could have barrelled back to block the sloop, but if Dengar had pulled a hard 1 to the left that could have caused the shuttle all kinds of problems – effectively a free shot from Dengar, or two shots against the shuttle’s one. Plus, Fel with tokens…
Jeff had lined up an ideal shot. Range 1 at Fel. No Autothrusters. Only the shuttle to worry about for incoming fire. And he took the shot:
2 hits after a reroll… bad luck, no? And then Ryan is forced to reroll his pictures on his 4 evade dice – but 2 evades persistently turned up for him. So no damage. But actually… that’s exactly what you should expect.At range 1. With focus. And Lone Wolf. And Zuckuss. The experienced commentary team treat F. Fel’s good fortune like Duncan had diced his way back into the game after being outplayed by Jeff. Actually, he’d made the perfect move on the maths. Instead of taking a big risk to block that would have cost him at least a token, he played the odds. Nerves of steel.
Iron War Dog’s excellent X Wing probability counter tells us that the probability that Dengar’s shot does any damage is just 33%. Compare that to the likelihood of damaging the Inquisitor at range 1, with just his 3 dice: 50%. This is the stuff that the top end players know. They don’t play with their gut and see what feels ok. They know. Like Tyrion Lannister.
I’m guessing that Jeff and Duncan probably weren’t drunk.
Jeff knew his odds too. Next turn was another 2 sloop:
Note how many stress Dengar is carrying. He’d run through a couple of clouds, but almost every one of those tokens represents a successfully rerolled green dice – Palp was rarely needed for defence and the Inquisitor had lost a shield from Dengar.
This set up another lovely shot. The red dice did their thing this turn – hit – hit – focus – miss turning into 3 hits and a crit after lone wolf and glitterstim. 3 evades and a focus rolled in reply. All of which were Zuckus rerolled for 3 evades to go with the evade token. Duncan’s so lucky right? Actually… no. The chances of a hit remained one in three. The only “luck” was in being able to keep Palp for use by the shuttle, when it shot at Dengar scoring a hit and a crit. So Jeff was unlucky? Yes. This time, he was. The chance of 2 hits getting through was just 7%. And it left Dengar crippled.on a single pip of hull. Ouch.
Dengar proceeded to chase and kill the Inquisitor through the debris, the lack of actions meaning the Inqy couldn’t evade, dramatically increasing Dengar’s chances of getting a hit through.
Jeff slooped again to take a risky shot, knowing that if he could take out F. Fel in exchange for Dengar (both ships being PS 9) Manaroo could take out Palp at her leisure:
This time, F. Fel shot first and the 43% chance of doing one or more hits on Dengar materialised, killing him. But Dengar had two chances to shoot back, this time at Range 3 with autothrusters. Odds of doing a hit? 0.3%. That’s 3 in a thousand. Next to none. Virtually zero. Not very much at all. Miniscule. .003 out of 1.
And, of course, Fel rolled on his merry way. Manaroo managed to close to Range 1 to drop Feedback on Fel, who also unluckily took a meaningless crit from a debris cloud, but the game finished with Fel poking Manaroo to death.
There’s a lot to learn from this final between 2 great players. The first is to remind ourselves of something we already know: Palp takes a good list which needs the right dice and makes it amazing. Thanks to estimable Manchester blogger Dave Sutcliffe, we ought all to know about variance. (And if you don’t, go and read that article right now – short of the “How to Play” booklet it’s the best 15 minutes you can spend reading about XWing.) But these lists both worked to remove luck from the game. With Palp, Autothrusters, extra focus actions, Zuckuss, Lone Wolf, Manaroo etc etc etc they were both low variance lists. Certainly, the shuttle’s shot on Dengar was at the far end of the bell curve, but aside from that it’s unfair to say that Duncan won this game on dice. He took a tested reliable list and played it to get the best out of it.
Second, Dengaroo is a thing, for all the reasons mentioned in Part I.
Third, Palp Aces takes nerves of steel to fly well. Sitting in front of Dengar at Range 1 in order to ensure tokens are there? Gutsy. But absolutely the right move.
Fourth, try to kill Palp first. If I was to criticise Jeff’s strategy (and I do so immediately and humbly recognising that a bloke who made the final of US Nationals twice probably doesn’t need a lot of advice from me), it would be for his failure to remove a green dice from the aces and get rid of a 3 dice threat that was easiest to kill before turning on the aces. And whilst I doubt Han “never tell me the odds” Solo would ever have been all that good at X Wing, the chances of a Range 1 Dengar shot on F. Fel hurting him climb from 33% to 64%. I bet Jeff tried that in testing though…
Fifth, with Dengaroo, if you are going to take on F. Fel, then maybe you should consider using Manaroo’s manoeuvrability to block Fel to deprive him of an action. That way, your chances of knocking off that stealth device rocket to over 90%. Sweet.
Sixth, next time you want to reach for a Nerf bat when the new hotness arrives, just remember the power of the singularly unNerfed Palp Aces. Maybe someone should take a look at them. Maybe?