I’ll do a batrep and then an analysis of the list based on this and several other games played with it, so if you’re more interested in that just skip to the bottom!
Battle Report: Part of this Nutritious Breakfast!
Last night, I had a rare Wednesday off of work and thanks to a generous community member’s offer to fill my car up for the the drive back home, I drove down to The Wizard’s Chest in Denver, CO for their monthly competitive tournament! Two of the participants were squeezing in last-minute practice for their trip to Worlds (Bonne Chance!), but I… was not! So I decided (since HOTR was legal) to play “Snap Snacks,” my new favorite five A-Wing swarm!
Snap Snacks: *100 Points*
Green Squadron Pilot x5
- Snap Shot
- Crack Shot
- A-Wing Test Pilot
- Chardaan Refit
I faced one of my good X-Wing friends and the gentleman who had made it possible to come down. Right off the bat, he hit me with his Worlds squadron, and it was a doozy for Snap Crackle Pop:
- Veteran Instincts
- * TIE /x7
- * Lone Wolf
Delta Squadron Pilot
At 99 points to my 100, he took the initiative, which was important: Snap Shot and TIE/x7, at least how they currently stand without a specific FAQ, both have the same trigger, which means their effects resolve in initiative order. Since my opponent took initiative, they got their /x7 evade BEFORE my Snap Shot could ruin their day, which would make it tough to punch through with shenanigans.
I deployed in my own variant of the Finger Five Formation, which is a widened Finger Four with the “Leader” tucked in the middle of the formation. My opponent deployed fairly light near to the opposite corner. The asteroids were fairly tightly packed – I had tried to deploy them such that a good majority of Defender K-Turn lanes were blocked off, but there was still a large diagonal in the middle that was straight and open front-to-back, so I knew I needed to try to stay clear of that area, at least when I couldn’t block the K-Turns with my own ships. Approaching this list, I was certain that Brath, despite Vessery’s awesome danger, needed to be my first target as killing an /x7 Defender with Lone Wolf in the end game is nigh impossible without weight of fire and more dice than I had at my disposal.
The game opened with some characteristically slow Defender opening moves, except from Brath who shot ahead to gain distance for Lone Wolf. As we converged on the center of the asteroids, I split mo formation into two groups – of two and three – to split around an asteroid and engage from multiple angles. I attempted a flank maneuver and to set up a Snap Shot on Vessery, but misjudged and went too far forward, and Vessery was able to get past my Snap arc then roll back into a shot. On the same turn, though, I managed to trap Brath who had only done a short maneuver but was still under Lone Wolf range and, with the expenditure of two Crack Shots, knock off his shields to the loss of a couple of my own.
Snap now became a real hassle for my opponent – it’s tough to move a Delta into blocking position without getting Snapped! I myself managed to, while losing an A-Wing in the process, block Rexlar, Snap Shot strip his evade, and then expend the rest of my Crack Shots to bring him down. The game got extremely tense from there on out – My opponent was flying exceptionally well and I had to think cleverly to get around it. Picking exactly when to K-Turn, when to predict his K-Turns and hard-turn out the side, or simply bug out was taxing mentally. Before stripping Vessery’s shields I lost another A-Wing and had to hug the asteroids, using them when I felt a K-Turn coming to boost around them and protect me from pursuit. It was far tougher with Crack Shots expended to put damage into Vessery, but I wasn’t taking any in return – none of my other three remaining A-Wings had lost a shield. I finally managed, in one spectacular round, to trap Vessery, Snap strip his Evade, drop his last remaining shield and do two hull damage, one of which was a Stunned Pilot crit. I now only needed to block Vessery once and the game is mine! Unfortunately, I never got the chance – excellent piloting on my opponent’s part, combined with some rushed and misjudged moves on mine ran out the 60-minute round timer until the game ended with Vessery, the Delta, and 3 Snap Crack A-Wings still alive and kicking. I took the loss, but only barely! With another 15 minutes on the clock, it would have been anybody’s game!
I faced off against a player running the excellent Miranda/Esege Special-K bomber list! This round really was going to be a nutritious breakfast… for dinner!
- Sabine Wren
- Connor Net
- Proton Bomb
- Extra Munitions
- Advanced SLAM
- Twin Laser Turret
- Connor Net
- Proton Bomb
- Extra Munitions
- Advanced SLAM
- Twin Laser Turret
Fortunately for me, a local player in my own corner of the woods plays a lot of Bomb lists, so I was determined not to let the shenanigans catch me off guard. I also knew that the typical K-Wing trick: Get close, SLAM to leapfrog, Connor to the FACE – was coming and also vulnerable to multiple Snap Shots as SLAM is explicitly a “Maneuver,” upon which Snap Shot triggers! I knew that to approach this list I had to be setting up my Snap Shot arcs, but couldn’t be baited into chasing the K-Wings because of the Proton threat. When fighting bomber lists, the best way to approach them is from the side. However, this would be tricky for me as well because of the TLTs – it is this matchup where I lamented the lack of Autothrusters! I also knew that I should not waste my Crack Shots on Miranda unless I was reasonably certain I could bring her down quickly – I should not let her regenerate!
I deployed identically to the previous match with a reasonably similar asteroid field – a center cluster. My opponent deployed near the middle but offset towards the opposite corner, and alternated SLAMming forward and creeping ahead to keep me guessing as I shot forward and split my groups. I attempted to slow down with my approaching group as my flanking group shot around the asteroids in a bid to avoid the leapfrog maneuver, but didn’t quite manage it, taking a Connor to the FACE as punishment. However, my opponent did in fact trigger two Snap Shots in the process: one from the initial maneuver, and one from the A-Wing I had set up behind it to catch the leapfrog SLAM (when I realized I couldn’t avoid it, I boosted around to set up Snaps to mitigate), and Esege lost all her shields before the first Combat phase began.
The way this list played is dirty, and especially effective against four-health ships: Conner away the first 2 HP, and then TLT the others. Another well-placed Connor off of a 2-hard from Miranda managed to ionize an A-Wing into death by Proton Bomb, but Miranda paid the price with positioning – that 2-hard took her into my firing arcs and a combination of Snap Shot and Combat Phase fire (expending my Crack Shots) took her down to two hull, which made her ripe for a Snap kill: Snap. Crackle. Pop goes Miranda!
From here it was a matter of chasing Esege, who had now changed tactics. Instead of going in close for bomb kills, she had broken free and was TLTing my ‘Thruster-less A-Wings, doing great amounts of damage. Unfortunately, she wasn’t quite able to finish any more off, nor was I baited into straight chasing her and taking Protons. I hid damaged A-Wings behind asteroids, patiently setting up a final killbox which Snapped her to death as she tried to escape.
Turns out, low agility ships are extremely vulnerable to Snap Shot.
With a 1-1 record, I was paired against a variant of Nathan Eide’s Worlds runner-up list:
- Push the Limit
- Fire-Control System
Poe Dameron PS8
- Push the Limit
- Chardaan Refit
Great… more regen. People who know me also know that I have a vendetta against Corran Horn. He needs to DIE. He needs to DIE! So I went into this match with a single-minded determination to make that happen!
Asteroids this time favored a deployment on the other side of the map, but otherwise the approach was generally the same: Split the Finger Five into two groups, pincer your target of choice in the center. Unfortunately, initially my opponent flew Corran beautifully, staying out of Snap Shot range on the first engagement. He then gummed up my squadron with a stellar A-Wing block, and K-turned Corran in a brilliant, close, unexpected maneuver, popping off an A-Wing, Crack Shot and all, in one shot with a beautiful range-1 attack! Unfortunately for him, I could not allow this to happen and, expending the rest of my Crack Shots, got revenge on the pesky Horn, taking him down!
Poe then escaped the trap I had set for him! I thought about going right for the throat and chasing him down, but I was patient and took a couple turns to set up a killbox by turning out, setting up Target Locks, and then racing back in at full tilt. Although he started with full health, Poe ripped straight into three Snap Shots, followed by three R2 Combat Phase attacks, which finished the legendary pilot off. From there it was a matter of mopping up the Proto and the tournament was over!
I ended up in third place, behind one person attending Worlds (flying a very clever and nasty Defender-killing PalpAces variant) and a seriously fun Poe/Norra/Proto list by MOV, although I never got to face either of them. Excellent tournament! I will definitely be attending more there when I am able!
Part 1: The A-Wing Platform and the Rebel Crack Swarm Archetype
This list is a variant on the “Chihuahua Swarm” (5x GSP with Adaptability, Crack Shot, and Autothrusters, ATP and Refit), which is itself a Rebel variant of the Imperial powerhouse Crack Swarm – Howlrunner and as many Blacks or Omegas that fit with Crack Shot equipped. With this heritage, and discounting just for a moment Snap Shot, I’d like to analyze what the platform and Crack Shot can give us.
The A-Wing is an extremely fast and flexible ship. About the only thing that it cannot do out of the box is barrel roll, and that’s not a monumentally terrible failing. If I had to pick one weak point, it would absolutely be its weak offensive output. Two dice is simply not enough in many cases to be a consistent, significant threat to most ace-type ships, and even just tanky ones – it doesn’t do a lot of damage fast, and that’s what you need in a lot of cases. Hence its compatibility with Crack Shot! Just looking at the basic composition of 5x GSP with Crack Shot, you have some excellent power: If all five Crack Shots go off against the same target, that’s a lot of potential damage. Corran will be dead. Soontir and Vader will be dead. Defenders and Poe are at one hitpoint, and that is assuming Crack Shot provides the only damage that you do. Imperial Crack Swarms have proven this archetype, and two Regionals wins by the Chihuahua Swarm have further exemplified its efficacy.
There are, however, a number of ways where this sort of list differs from a traditional jousting archetype like 4Bz or the Crack Swarm it traces its lineage to. First and foremost, The Crack A-Wings do not straight-up joust. This is suicidal. With Autothrusters, the Chihuahua swarm can survive a Range 3 engagement well but the amount of dice variance makes its alpha strike far less reliable. For this reason, I believe that it is not a list that can reliably engage in the same manner as an Imperial Crack Swarm: Face someone dead on and erase them with Crack and Howlrunner rerolls. The A-Wings don’t have those Howlrunner rerolls, and they are one body (and one Crack Shot) down over the traditional 6-ship Imperial list. Based on dice alone, they have a hard time topping out over more reliable joust-oriented list, so their opening needs more finesse: Pincer your opponent, block with some, drag them through the rocks, split them up and peck them to death.
There is no one-round killshot with this type of list. Its opening is weaker, and its endgame, with Crack Shots gone and multiple ships destroyed, is weak as well (although probably stronger than an Imperial swarm). It is in the midgame where the A-Wing Swarm excels. Twisting, turning, violently gumming up your opponent’s lanes, being everywhere and at once ephemeral to your opponent’s attacks – this dirty, close-in maneuvering game is where the A-Wing shines and this list really comes alive. Games are won and lost on the third and fourth rounds of combat, not on the first. Because it likes to get down and dirty, order of movement is important and therefore homogeneous Pilot Skill is of high value. You will need to get out of your own way. You will need to be very cognizant of your orders and your dials. It is not easy to maintain that level of focus over a long day!
Since it is a swarm, you must concentrate fire in order to be effective. I will get a little bit more into flight strategies that I use to achieve this later, but a general rule of thumb is that 3 arcs on target, at least 2 at Range 1, is enough to do damage against most things. Small amounts of damage, to be sure, but little damage is better than none! As I said, it pecks and pecks and slowly wears the opponent down. To this end, blocking and action denial are critical to actually getting damage through, especially when Crack Shot is expended.
As you might gather, this is not a list archetype that has many super easy matchups, but I believe that it is a squadron that doesn’t have many terrible ones, either. Its record in your own hands will come down to your own piloting skills – getting that opening right, blocking, selectively Crack Shotting at key moments, and mastering the midgame scrum. Each game, especially at a tournament, will require your mind to be constantly engaged and fighting – it is a list that rewards the focused. It is a list that rewards patience. It is a list that is a battle, but it is unquestionably the most fun list archetype I have ever played. There is quite an adrenaline rush from flying this list, and, in any case, isn’t fun the point of this game?
Part 2: Snap, Crackle, Pop!
Heroes of the Resistance brought us Snap Shot, a new two-point Elite Pilot Talent that brings a host of new capabilities! Since it’s two points, in order to put it into a five A-Wing list, you need to sacrifice Autothrusters. Why would you ever forego such an amazing upgrade? Well, Snap Shot does two very, very important things for the A-Wing Swarm:
- It allows you to fire at tokenless ships, exploiting dice variance.
- It overcomes lower PS vulnerability to being removed from the board before you can fire.
I will tackle each of these in turn.
Dice Variance is something that the best X-Wing lists do their best to mitigate. Howlrunner, Predator, Guidance Chips, Target-Lock and Focus stacking all make attacks consistent, while Emperor Palpatine, defensive token stacking, Autothrusters and Lone Wolf do wonders for defense – it is no surprise that these effects make it to the top tables of every premier tournament! Low-variance lists are excellent, and they provide good consistent results, with more good matchups than bad. High-variance lists, on the other hand, can fall quickly to a poor maneuver or an unfortunate roll, or to a contering list, but they can also be extremely high reward. This is the biggest point that I have to make about Snap Shot on the A-Wing Swarm vs. Autothrusters:
Snap Snacks is a very high-variance list, but is uniquely poised to exploit this variance.
Why do I say that last part? Well consider the fundamental differences between red and green dice: Red dice have a 50/50 chance (4/8 faces) of turning up a result – a hit, or a critical hit. Green dice have only a 3/8 chance (3/8 faces) of turning up an Evade result. Red dice are always more consistent, and lower-variance, than greens. Palpatine is so powerful because he mitigates the disastrous results of green variance. Token stacks and Autothrusters are powerful for the same reason. This is the reason why Snap Shot is so good on these A-Wings: Snap Shot exploits the difference in dice color consistencies. Let’s run the math to figure out why.
Consider the matchup of an unmodified 2-dice attack vs. 3 agility, token stacked with Focus/Evade like most of the prevalent aces. You have a dismal chance – 1.3% – of actually getting a hit, a SINGLE hit, through, and you will never get two. Add a Focus on the attacking side and you still will never get two hits, and your chances of a single one only improve to 2.9%. Even with Crack Shot on this attack, you will be doing damage only 20% of the time – not great!
Snap Shot, though, flips this on its head. Although you are rolling unmodified dice, crucially, so is your opponent, as Snap Shot goes off before your opponent performs actions. Now, your unmodified Snap Shot has an almost 35% chance of doing any damage at all, and with Crack Shot you will push through damage more than 50% of the time. Much, much better odds!
That’s why Snap Shot is good, but the same logic applies to everywhere you can put Snap Shot. Snap Shot makes this list good because of the number of Snap Shot arcs, and the amazing flexibility in where you can place them. I talked earlier about the A-Wing swarm winning midgame, in the tight and dirty scrum. Now this becomes exceptionally dangerous for your opponent as they must contend with not only blocking, but out-of phase attacks on defenseless ships that do not preclude your normal attacks in the combat phase! And they have to deal with FIVE of these things. Against low agility, high-HP ships, it is dangerous because their traditional enemy, the Swarm, now effectively gets an additional volley before they can maneuver out of the way. Against high agility, low HP ships, it is dangerous because they can not rely on their typical actioned dice modifications – and Palpatine only happens once! Snap Snacks is a whirling, twisting minefield of dangerous arcs that multiplies the effectiveness of the entire swarm.
Now, on to the second point. It’s simple, really! Traditially, low-PS ships, especially TIE Fighters and A-Wings, can have disastrous bouts of bad green dice and evaporate to a higher-skilled attacking ship before they can retaliate. Snap Shot always happens first – before the one-hull, tokenless A-Wing is plinked away. Before that Proton Bomb goes off and destroys it. Before the higher-PS ship even has a chance to get rid of it and save itself! Short of completely skirting your entire swarm’s arcs at longer range, there is simply no way for opponents to avoid getting shot, because they have no chance for an alpha-strike. And we all know that arc-dodging is tougher at longer ranges, anyway…
For these reasons, Snap Shot completely changes the way this list flies, for the better. It is a tremendously powerful upgrade on this archetype! It does a couple of crucial things over the original Chihuahua swarm, too: Snap Shot improves the A-Swarm’s opening by allowing you to set traps for overeager opponents, exploiting your ability to be from past R3 to inside R1 in a split second. Snap Shot further improves the midgame too by making your scrum supremely dangerous for your opponent, and it even improves the endgame as even a single Snap Shot A-Wing can now effectively double-tap, with one of those shots against a tokenless defender.
Embrace dice variance! Snap your way to victory!
Part 3: “Patience, you must have.” – Flight Considerations
Flying tips this list has crept into all parts of this article. There are really three main considerations when flying this list:
- What is my formation? How do I concentrate fire while being flexible?
- How can I control the midgame scrum?
- How can I best leverage Snap Shot?
All of these go hand-in-hand. Setting up a good opening is essential for success in the long term, and for getting the most out of Snap Shot. Before you go any further, I would encourage at least a cursory reading of Jonathan Scott’s Finger Four article on this site, as the lessons learned there about flexible formations is sort of a key precursor to flying this list well. You can also take a look at my own articles about the Korriban Criss-Cross and Fleur-de-Lis openings for more education in fast, flexible A-Wing openings, as well as the theory behind why these sorts of formations can be necessary.
Key to all of these is the idea that Flexibility in your formation is key. Let’s consider a box or pinwheel formation: very, very good for concentrating firepower on a single target but tough to maneuver as a whole through asteroids and tight spots, and can get tricky to split or scatter when necessary. The key difference between something like that and the Finger Four formation, or openings like the Cross or its Fleur-de-Lis extension, is that these “formations” are designed to be split – they are designed to have an element of seat-of-the-pants flight and scatter at some point for their full effectiveness, while maintaining the ability to stick together, transition rapidly from abreast to line-ahead, and concentrate firepower as necessary.
This flexibility is key because Snap Snacks must cover multiple angles at once in order to not be outmaneuvered. Take my examples from the tournament report above, for instance: Usually, I will split my Finger Five into two groups, semi-jousting/blocking with one and flanking with the other. This seems pretty traditional until you consider the implications of the long-term game: by splitting up and covering multiple angles, Snap Snacks is set up positionally for the midgame. This is that “Scrum” I spoke about on many occasions: the dirty, close-in fighting where Snap Snacks excels. You have to set this up! You cannot provide clear avenues for your opponent to escape, and covering multiple approach and escape vectors is key to creating this necessary condition. By covering so many angles and spreading your arcs, you can best leverage Snap Shot to set up multiple shots from multiple angles. It is also far, far easier to form a killbox when you have one coming in from the front, two from the back, two from the side, etc. than it is when all of your ships are approaching from one direction. With this flexibility, you also make it more difficult for your opponent to predict your maneuvers and you make sure that there is always an A-Wing where you need it, when you need it.
Finally, there is this: Have Patience. Instead of K-Turning immediately, consider whether a hard-turn outside and a Boost or Target lock would be a better option – spend a couple turn to set up killboxes, and you will be rewarded. Mix aggression with careful planning. Never block when you can’t take advantage of it! Don’t overextend yourself. These are tips that apply universally, but especially to this list, as it will reward those with the patience to learn it.
Part 4: Specific Strengths and Weaknesses
This, I think can be summarized in a nice series of bullet points:
Strengths and Good Matchups
- Low AGI, high-HP ships: the Snap Shot gives them effectively an extra volley, and the swarm is their natural enemy.
- Token-staking aces: Snap Shot and Crack Shot, what more is there to say?
- Confusing flying style: Once you master it, your opponent can be put at a loss as to where your ships will be and how they get there.
Weaknesses and Poor Matchups
- /x7 Defenders: If you don’t have initiative, that Evade token is a pain, even though you may be able to force it to be stripped before the Combat Phase.
- TLTs: A savvy TLT player who stays at Range 3 can easily peck down the Autothrusterless A-Wings, but it’s not by any means insurmountable.
- Little room for maneuver error: Self-bumping at the wrong time can easily spell doom for the entire list, especially during the tight engagements.
That is all for now! Stay tuned for the next installment of A-Wing Aces! Sound off in the comments with your own experiences, comments, and questions! You can also reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org for one-on-one discussion, if you would like!