26 February 2014

Tournament Talk: The Sleeper List, Part 2

Yesterday I ran part 1 of an article by Sean describing his APLs and Ionzes list. Here's the part 2. 

The strategy here is one of blocking and ionizing. Your ideal situation is to lure a ship (or several ships) into overlapping your YT base and to then use a nearby HWK to repeatedly ionize that ship. After you have impacted an opponent’s ship, you can effectively stand still with your YT by performing repeated 1-straight (or even 1-bank or 1-turn and sometimes higher) maneuvers since you won’t be able to clear the ship you’re blocking, and force the ionized ship to repeatedly do 1-straight white maneuvers into your YT’s base. This results in a repeated cycle of your YT and one (or more) of your enemy’s ships being in base contact (essentially) and unable to fire upon one another, while simultaneously allowing your YT to roll a red die and do a point of damage 50% of the time, outside of combat. I don’t know if it’s like shooting ducks in a barrel or bobbing for APLs. But I think it’s probably both. Probably both is happening at the same time. A basket of fruit. A box of chocolates. Is it Christmas or Valentine’s Day?

The great thing about this build is that low PS is a great benefit as far as your Outer Rim Smugglers are concerned. Though it may seem counterintuitive, this list runs best against higher PS pilots. The reason the Outer Rim Smuggler’s low PS is a benefit is that at PS 1 the Outer Rim Smuggler moves before almost every other ship in the game. There are only 3 ships that are capable of moving before it, and in a tournament setting where you run against an opponent’s 100 point list containing other PS 1 pilots, you still have a 50/50 chance (coin flip) of having initiative and moving before those ships too. When you move first with the YT, you maximize the circumstances under which Anti-Pursuit Lasers can be triggered, since you can fly into the path of your enemies and either let nature take its course or force them into your YT base with an ionizing HWK. And if that doesn’t convince you, keep in mind that the YT base is quite large. It is often quite difficult for your opponent’s ships to perform maneuvers to take those ships beyond the YT’s footprint. This is particularly true when your opponent is fielding a swarm or synergy build which requires his ships to be closely proximate with one another. So sit back and get ready for a pleasant flight through the trash heap. 
The odds of successfully navigating it are low, and that’s good because you’ve got them right where you want them.
The interesting thing about APLs and Ionzes is that you really don’t care about hitting enemy ships, and in some situations you will be trying to do just that. What you are trying to accomplish is exactly as depicted below. 

My first match of the tournament ended this way. Wedge and my YT were touching each other face to face. I continued to ion Wedge with my HWK and he continued to perform one straights into my YT because *he had to*. My YT continued to perform 1-straights into Wedge. Each time I successfully ionize Wedge he takes a damage and each time he hits my YT base he has a 50% chance of taking 1 damage. Meanwhile Wedge can’t shoot at me because my HWK is behind him and my YT is in contact with him. You don’t have to do this for too many turns until Wedge is dead.

In order to take full advantage of this build, asteroid placement and deployment are of key importance. You really only need half of the field of play to work with since you’re going to be crashing into people and not moving around a whole lot. I recommend trying to get the asteroids clumped on one side as much as possible and then deploying mostly on the other side. This will give you some room to move with your big base YTs. In deployment of your ships, ideally, you do not want to leave your YT without a nearby HWK that can ion for it. What you likely want to do is split into two teams of one HWK and one YT each. My favorite method of deploying is to put one team fairly near a board edge and run that team basically straight up the table as quickly as possible, while placing the other team at a 45-ish degree angle toward the line the other team will be travelling down and running them forward quickly to come in on the flank of the first team. This results in a nice “clump” of humanity over near a table edge which is just about what you want. Whatever you do, you want to try to close with your opponent as quickly as you can. Also, do be careful not to get your HWKs over too close to the board edge at the beginning. They have an unforgiving dial and you might run one out of play if you’re not careful, since you will have to perform a lot of red maneuvers with them to be effective. And you will have to keep them in the mix since they have no K-turn and are hard to get back into the action if they wind up out in the nether regions of the play area. Basically, you want the HWKs on the periphery of the battle, usually interior of the scrum, so leave them more toward the interior of the table. Doing so effectively means your HWKs will need to lag your YTs a bit so that they can take a peripheral course around the main battle.

If you do it right, your opponents ships will get stacked up and they’ll either overrun you because they didn’t really realize what your list was going to do or they will flat out run right into the black hole that is this list. Appreciate that one of your YTs is very likely going to get hit at range 1 multiple times in the first round or two of combat, but just try to remember that it has 10 hull and shields and at range 1, your YT shoots back with 3 attack dice…AND can shoot in any direction. Try not to sweat all the damage it takes too much because it will probably get harder to hit once you get your list into character. Most ships that are facing the wrong way and ionized don’t shoot back. What you do not want to do is pull a K-turn early on with your YT. You will want to do it. You will be getting shot up pretty badly by Wedge or whoever. But don’t make that K-turn. Just don’t do it. Sure, maybe there’s a point in the game when you have to, but you will want to keep banging into your opponent as long as you can. And that means sticking it out and repeatedly pulling 1-something maneuvers to crash you into the ship in front of you any time you can take advantage of your outer rim ion-APL oscillator.

Another thing to remember in this setup is not to underestimate how powerful and important the HWK is. Whether you are running this list or defending it, I cannot emphasize the utility of the HWK with Ion Turret enough. It’s only 21 points and it has a lousy maneuver dial, but people are likely to underestimate it, and it has 2 agility dice. It’s not that easy to take down, and often your opponent will fixate on the YTs. Remember that to a HWK firing an Ion Cannon there is usually no difference between range 1 and 2. It has a very challenging dial, but you are likely to get a lot of mileage out of the Ion Turret. Don’t be afraid to take red maneuvers with your HWK when you need to do it. Far better to have an unfocused shot with your Ion Turret than to get your HWK out of position. Even if you wind up losing both YTs, you could still pull this thing out with those HWKs, so don’t be that worried about using you Outer Rim Smugglers to tank for you. That is what they are there for. And in this list more than any other, you expect them to take a beating both from enemy fire and repeated collision. Remember to TL with your HWK when you are at range 3 since you can’t use the Ion Turret at that range.

If you’re running against it, in my opinion, I think the thing to do would be to take out the HWKs first. The weaknesses in APLs and Ionzes are: (1) the YTs’ low agility and (2) the HWK’s lousy maneuver dial. That’s really about it. If you fly against it, what you want to remember is that anyone running APLs and Ionzes should want to engage you immediately and to get into close quarters. One of the reasons this list works so well is that, often, X-Wing matches begin with everyone flying hard at one another right off the bat. That strategy plays into your hand if you are running APLs and Ionzes. One way to limit the effectiveness of APLs and Ionzes is for its opponent to spend some time flying around casually to force APLs and Ionzes to come to him instead of permitting himself to be drawn into a repetitive standstill. In so doing, an opponent of APLs and Ionzes can force the HWKs to fly around a little bit and once that happens, it can be hard to get the HWKs turned around and back into the mix because of the challenging dial.

In conclusion, APLs and Ionzes is a well-rounded list that is not immediately recognizable and operates differently than what your opponent may expect. It is good enough to be competitive against a wide variety of lists and unusual enough that many opponents won’t be ready for it. It has a fairly high durability (30 total hull + shields), multiple ways to limit your opponents maneuverability (Ionization and large base blocking), damage outside of combat and a way to cycle it (Ionization coupled with APLs), and 4 rebel ships each with the ability to shoot in 360 degrees. How ya like them APLs? It is weird, unusual, unsexy, and utilizes some ships that many people have probably never tried out or flown against, but that is exactly why you should give it a go.

So grab some Outer Rim Smugglers, throw on a couple of APLs and Think Different.

Hell. Now I sound like “The Man.” What is meesa saying?

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