When Proton Rockets was initially revealed, the thing that jumped out at me first was the fact that TIE Advanced could now get off a 5 dice Attack at Range 1. Coupled up with the fact that they have a couple of Shields, 3 green dice standard, a decently maneuverable dial, and no real function in the current game I figured they could probably get close enough to their prey without getting pummeled, it might even be a viable tactic to try and play competitively. Or as competitively as I ever get, really.
I played around with the idea a little on (Yet Another) X-Wing Squad Builder, but couldn't come up with anything I really liked. Either I was going to have to run pretty well naked Advanceds other than the PRs, or I was going to have to run a 3-ship list, which at that time was anathema to me.
At some point, I realized that Jake Farrell was born to shoot Proton Rockets. His card text, in case you've forgotten, says anytime he Focuses, he can perform a free Boost or Barrel Roll. So basically, you almost always want to Focus with him anyway, and since PRs need a Focus to fire but you don't actually spend it while firing it, I switched the idea over to the Rebels and started tinkering some more.
Looking at Gemmer, I figured he was a pretty dang good candidate for this Proton Rocket mission too. His card text allows him to roll an extra Agility die when he's in Range 1 of an enemy ship. That's pretty sweet as it more or less gets rid of the extra (primary) Attack die my opponent would be getting while my A-Wing zooms in to touch off those PRs.
After that, things got a little murky, but here are the highlights in something of a condensed form.
For the points, you can make a four ship list with Gemmer and Jake along with a couple of Proto pilots, but either somebody is leaving their rockets back at the arsenal or no one is going to have an Elite Pilot Talent or something. I wasn't nuts about it, but the idea of firing 20 Attack dice worth of Focusable ordnance with no real setup work had me interested. Especially from such a small and maneuverable ship.
A-Wings are fairly hard to hit to begin with, but by giving them a Stealth Device, they get even harder to hit. With all the turrets out there these days, I liked this idea a lot, so Stealth Devices became a must have. Of course, as it turned out, I only had two copies of the card and wasn't all that hot about buying a Firespray just to get more, so it was a cool idea, but maybe not practical to stick it on everybody.
I'd already been considering running Tycho because of my new reservations about a 4-ship list mentioned above, then when it turned out I only had 3 A-Wing miniatures anyway (the expansion I won at Kessel Run, the normal Expansion, and one from Rebel Aces), I was firmly shoved into the corner just before the Evansville Store Championship.
So I've got three A-Wings and two Stealth Devices. I'm pretty well into Jake and Gemmer. Tycho comes along simply because I don't think I can spend enough points to get Arvel or a Green close to 30-ish points before I simply run out of spots to bolt stuff on.
Giving all three of them Proton Rockets and handing off my two copies of Stealth Device to Gemmer and Jake consumed 87 points. Tycho I want to give Push the Limit because of his card text, so now I'm at an even 90. PTL obviously synergizes with Tycho's card text and also because A-Wings have so many different Actions available to them stock, but with him not having a Stealth Device, I'm thinking he needs something else to help him stay alive while trying to get to Range 1 to drop his load. I kicked around the idea of Shield Upgrade or Hull Upgrade, but I couldn't quite talk myself into it. In the end, since he didn't have a Modification anyway, I gave him Enhanced Interface since its only real penalty is Stress and Tycho doesn't care about Stress really, and A-Wing Test Pilot which allowed him to take another Elite Pilot Talent which I wasted on Marksmanship. Gemmer got Opportunist and A-Wing Test Pilot because I only had two copies of the Test Pilot card and didn't notice that Jake can take an Elite because he has the medal on his card stock. Opportunist works well on Gemmer because he has a kind of middle of the road Pilot Skill and A-Wings have so many green maneuvers on their dials he can get rid of the Stress fairly simply. As for the benefit, a six dice Attack from an A-Wing just isn't expected.
I ran that at the Evansville tournament and did pretty badly. Mainly because not only had I never run a list with all A-Wings before, not only because I'd never run this particular list before, but mainly because I straight up hadn't played much X-Wing at all lately.
One week later I was to play in the SC at Armored Gopher, so I went back to work changing things.
First thing, Marksmanship. I already talked about why it had to go in previous articles so I won't rehash again why, but it had to go. I did like the pile of Actions available to Tycho, so I kept the Enhanced Interface but it limits you to something that says, "Action: blah, blah, blah." I started looking around for other "Action:" type Actions and recalled how handy it was to have that option to Boost or Barrel Roll with Jake, so I stuck Expert Handling on Tycho.
I went back and forth on whether to keep Opportunist on Gemmer because Predator would save a point and still give some good results on getting that 5-dice Proton Rocket Attack to be all hits, but in the end, I left him with Opportunist because I just couldn't really think of anything else to spend the points on that I would have saved going to something cheaper than Opportunist.
The point I saved from changing up Tycho, I gave to Jake in the form of Veteran Instincts. So long story long, that's what I rolled at Armored Gopher.
Yeah, so that's where we're at now. Post AG tournament, I still really like the list, despite my results with it. I'd go so far as to say that I like this list more than any other X-Wing list I've ever played. It's just really fun to fly and it's different enough that folks don't immediately know how to play against it. To have all those movement options and stuff is a trip and I honestly believe if I played a lot more, it could be a pretty competitive list. Knowing that the Titan Games tournament is at the end of the month, I'm tinkering around with it again since I've got some time to acquire cards and models and perhaps play a few more games. Autothrusters will probably make it in some form or another on at least a ship or two, but once again, what do you spend the points on you save? I'm still messing around with this.
I guess the main reason I wanted to write this article was not to bore you all into submission with the evolutionary minutia of an X-Wing list that so far has 1 win and 5 losses, it was to show the process, warts and all, at how I arrived at it.
I'm not going to get on a soap box and talk about not using "net lists" or whatever- that's up to you guys. We're all into this hobby for slightly different reasons, but when I read forum posts on the FFG boards about how the game is becoming scissiors-paper-rock with Fat Han (which let's be honest is just a revised Han Shoots First) vs. Phantoms vs. Swarms or whatever, it's disappointing to me because this game is not played on paper with stats. There's just so much more to it than that, but now that X-Wing is really picking up some serious steam in the amount of people playing it, I feel like a lot of new players feel compelled to take a net list to be competitive; much like how it is in 40k which is where many of you, me included, came from.
I feel that this is very much not the case. Maybe that's my own naivete, maybe it's changed over the years and I don't see it, but I still strongly believe it. That Armored Gopher tournament had some really solid, competitive players, and nobody ran a Fat Han. Hell, the only lists that used the same ships were the guys who brought two Decimators and y'all know how differently you can kit those ships out.
I worry that when these new players see these net lists and see people talking in absolutes about them, they probably feel as though they just traded one set of models for another, but have the same issue. Namely that if you're not running the list du jour, or in 40k terms what is usually the latest codex, you don't have a chance to compete. It kills innovation and creativity and there's so much room for that kind of stuff in this game where the balance is better between factions and does get addressed by the publisher trying to correct past mistakes, that it bums me out when I see stuff like that.
So by all means, play whatever you want, but don't be scared to try new ideas and figure out ways to make them work. Just because people on the internet don't buy it means nothing. Including me!