29 May 2013

Tournament Lists- TIE Swarm

Standard X-Wing Miniatures List Discussion Disclaimer- The most important element you can bring with you to any X-Wing Tournament is your own experience with the game. You can take the nastiest, meanest, and most bestest internet list with you to a Tournament, but if you don't know how to manage Pilot Skill, Actions, and Maneuvers, you are going to get sent home with an donut for your W's. 

I can't stress this enough- this game is not 40k where you plop down the most points-optimized net list from the latest codex, push it forward the max amount, then win. Your list is important, but you need to be familiar with the game and you need to be familiar with playing the list you're using if you want to consistently compete at a high level. 

Despite what the internets may have you believe, the TIE Swarm is still very much alive and kicking on the Tournament Scene. Don't believe me? The guy that won the FFG Regional ran a TIE Swarm. Yeah. And he beat a 2 Bounty Hunters and Howlrunner list. That was being run by the former World Champion. 

So.... that. 

Here's the thing about TIE Swarms now versus TIE Swarms six months ago, guys- the folks still rolling TIE Swarms likely never stopped running them. Sure, lots of Imperial players went and shelved all those TIEs when they got themselves some Interceptors as soon as Wave 2 dropped, messed around with builds, figured out that despite what the naysayers were, uh, nay saying, Slave I wasn't nearly as bad as everyone thought it would be and was in fact, as it turned out, nothin' to eff with. Found out that Turd Ferguson is in some ways, actually better than the more expensive Soontir Fel, though neither of them are exactly slouches in the pilot seat. 

Not some guys though. 

Some guys just kept on keepin' on, and by kept on, I mean they never stopped running those TIE Swarms and now, the build that a lot of people new to the game called broken and uncounterable (yeah- even me, remember?) before they learned how to really play, is still around and in many ways, much more dangerous than it ever was before. 

Why is that? 

Well, first, as I'm wont to say, this game is less about your list and more about your skill playing your list, your familiarity with the Pilot Skill mechanic, and the ability to think spatially. If you're taking a TIE Swarm to a tournament these days, it's for one of two reasons- one, you've been playing one for quite awhile and you're really, really good with it, or two, you're pretty new to the game and thought running a Swarm would be fun. 

(If you run into one of these guys from the first group you're probably in trouble.) 

Secondly, lots of folks, especially Rebel folks, are bringing a big ship to Regionals. Generally, this means they're running a two or three ship list. Yeah, there are plenty of builds that include a Firespray and four other ships, but you can't honestly look me in the eye and claim there are as many of those 5-ship Firespray lists and 3-ship Han Solo lists. 

Well, so what, right? Han Shoots First and blah, blah, blah.  

Here's the thing- yes Han's likely to do four damage each and every turn, but he's only doing it to one ship at a time. A proper TIE Swarm is going to be 6 or 7 ships. So while Han's working his ability, Gunner, probably Marksmanship, and whatever else, congrats! You just downed a ship worth somewhere probably between 12 and 20 points.

Is that statement a little heavy on the hyperbole? Yeah, probably. Kinda not though. TIEs just aren't worth much. Howlrunner's the most expensive TIE, but even sticking her with Swarm Tactics still leaves her a point cheaper than Rookie X-Wing. Mauler Mithel? 4 dice at Range 1. Night Beast? Free Focus when pulling a green. Dark Curse? No Focus against him and no rerolling dice. Yeah. Backstabber? Extra Attack die when you're outside your opponent's arc at any range. Nasty and provides some stealthy long-range fire support. 

Put all those guys (and girl) in one list (not saying you'd want to necessarily, just making a point) and you're at 82 points. Want to throw in another TIE and some Mods for everyone else? No prob, Bob. 

Again though- the list has it's shortcomings. TIE Swarms win when the guy flying them can focus his fire from several ships on one enemy ship. Many of them win by having everyone fly in a formation as tight on Howlrunner as possible. I've talked at length how that can be a hell of a lot harder than it looks (or sounds on the internet), so I won't spend a ton of space here rehashing. Suffice it to say, as the opposing player, the best thing you can do is not drive straight at the TIE Swarm trying to shoot Howlrunner. If you can force them to make a couple of turns, you'll likely invoke some collisions in all but the most practiced Swarm players, or worst case scenario, at least cause that formation to loosen up a bit. Ideally, after either of those things happen is when you'd engage the Swarm.

While a TIE Swarm can be forgiving for a new player because so many ships can help mitigate loss of Actions due to overlaps and mistakes in maneuvers, if you're still having trouble with stuff like that you're probably going to have a tough time winning your local Regional with a Swarm list. However, if you know what you're doing with one, you can definitely inflict the ol' Death by a Thousand Cuts on your opponent, even if they bring a Chewie Falcon

So what's a typical Swarm look like? Much like the 4 X-Wing lists I talked about yesterday, a Swarm can take on many different forms, but two of the most popular lists have something that fairly resembles the following- 

Sample 100 Point TIE Swarm Lists- 

Classic TIE Swarm
Howlrunner w/ Swarm Tactics
Dark Curse
Black Squadron Pilot w/ Swarm Tactics
Academy Pilot
Academy Pilot
Academy Pilot
Academy Pilot

I ran against lists like this a lot back six months ago or so. 7 TIEs, 3 of which are attacking at Howlie's Pilot Skill 8 because of the Swarm Tactics relay. Dark Curse is darn near unhittable. Anybody within Range 1 of Howlie benefiting from her special ability. If you can move this list effectively, it's a real bitch to fly against and do anything but soil your flight suit. 

Give this list the cold data treatment like I did the X-Wings and you get something like this- 

7 TIE Fighters
Total Attack Dice at Range 2: 14* (some re-roll possibility from Howlrunner)
Total Hull: 21
Total Shields:
Total HP: 21

Recall the 4 X-Wing stats and you see why this list gets people worried when the guy running it at Regionals says, "Yeah, I won a Falcon at my KRT with this list." 

How do you beat it? Get Howlrunner off the board at all costs. It gets much easier after that. Also, like I said earlier- make this list maneuver. Fly through asteroids, start totally on one side of the map, whatever. Just don't let it fly straight and K-Turn the entire match. 

The other Swarm I used to run into quite a bit looked something like this- 

6 TIE Vader Swarm
Darth Vader w/ Squad Leader
Howlrunner w/ Swarm Tactics
Academy TIE
Academy TIE
Academy TIE
Academy TIE

Flies similarly as the Classic Swarm, but Vader's usually in kind of a roving role away from the main pile. This can make the Swarm easier to maneuver as you don't have that oddball Advanced out there to mess around with and since Squad Leader works out to Range 2, you can still have Vader pass off one of those free Actions to Howlie or whoever. Passing to Howlie is pretty effective if you can do it since it lets her pull two Actions so long as they're not the same ones. As you'd expect, this increases her survivability quite a lot, which is fantastic since she's such a high priority target for your opponent. Taking down a TIE Fighter that always Focuses and has an Evade Token is either going to take quite a few shots or a pretty good amount of luck. 

Best advice against this kind of list is to play contextually. Vader and Howlrunner are your priorities, but go after the one that you're more likely to ding and/ or kill that particular round. I wouldn't go out of my way for one rather than the other- they're both equally important in my book. Barring that, if you can get rid of a couple of the Academy TIEs, by all means do so. It's not as good as getting Vader or Howlie off the board, but you can at least take away a couple more shots coming your way. As always, make them pull some turns and banks, then go after anyone who loses their Action for the turn. 

You'll noticed I haven't talked much at all about Mods. It's not because I don't think they aren't good on a TIE Fighter in a Swarm, but be really careful about including too many.

Despite what you might think, a 5-ship Swarm performs a lot differently than a 6-ship Swarm. If you've thrown down your models and you've got the points left, sure, stick a Stealth Device on Howlrunner or whoever. It's not likely to be the dumbest thing you've done all day, but be careful not to waste too many points on them. It's sorta like when I saw people talk about 3rd ed 40k Guard armies with Carapace Armor. I mean look, if you've got some fluffy reason that your Guardsmen are wearing 4+ armor, by all means- I'm not going to tell you how to play your game. But if you're coming into the Guard from a Space Marine army and you're trying to get a little closer to that 3+ save you're used to? Well, frankly, you're doing it wrong. Guard are the cheap and the dead. And that's ok because even back then, the points would balance things out. Same deal here- don't make Howlrunner cost more than a stock Luke or Wedge- it's just too many eggs in one basket that everyone is already trying to dump all over the ground. Go for more TIEs, and you'll probably be glad you did. 

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