The Cantina: I’ve Always Wanted to Fly One of These Things!
Points change time!
Points change time! This week we got a points update from Atomic Mass Games that also includes some minor rules updates and additions to the list of banned cards and errata. Check out the documents on their site here:
At this point the major podcasts have had time to weigh in and Fly Better has even done an interview with the game's developers (highly recommended) so what follows is my impressions of the changes after I have played a few games and built dozens of squads. I'm not on the level of those writers who build points change spreadsheets and am an okay player at best, but here are my takes, informed by my personal preferences and my current experience level.
Republic has lost some of their no-brainer good listbuilding pieces and the Jedi will miss being able to mod Range 0 shots with Force, but enough good options remain that it seems like Republic will still be in a good place. Not the standout best faction that it sort of was, but still a contender that I can fly on casual night without feeling like a jerk. The Clone Z-95s also seem positioned to give some fun new options.
- I don't know, I think it's good that the faction can take some targeted adjustments and still probably be competitive. I guess time will tell.
- 7B Anakin came down a point and got a Talent, making him a real option.
- Eta-2 Anakin is now cheaper as well.
- The price increase on Afterburners hurts the absolutely terrifying Y-Wing Anakin
- Ban on Autoblasters isn't great for Etas, but they were definitely already struggling when compared to the hyper-efficient Delta-7. Maybe try Ion Cannon?
- No more 2-point pilot.
The Probably Necessary:
- 3-point Barriss Offee with a missile is no more, which is probably a good thing.
- Same goes for Contrail...RIP. Though he's still pretty neat at 3 points with a bit of Loadout.
- The Aethersprites lost their missiles but those didn't make a lot of sense to me in the first place.
Now, I'm not much of a Separatist player but I'm hearing that point changes are favorable for droid swarms, which sounds neat. Separatists also probably won't be hit as hard by changes/bans on some of the staple upgrades as they have some of their own weird combos.
- Points decrease for the celebrity Firesprays. Yikes.
- Lots of options for Vulture Droid swarms at 2 points now.
- Added slots for the Tri Fighters
- Honestly not much? It seems like aside from the above and the addition of the Rogue Class not much changed. Hull Upgrade had been making General Grievous even harder to kill but he was already in pretty good shape.
The I probably just don't understand:
- Rogue class pricing seems fine, though I think it remains to be seen if the CIS version without Dead to Rights is really worth the same 5 points as the Scum pilots. Cad Bane being the same price as the droids and the presence of a cheaper non-limited seems pretty cool.
- As mentioned above, seems like Separatists got what they wanted but not much else changed. Seems good to me.
This may be a knee-jerk reaction but it seems like the Empire is coming out of this points change in a GREAT place. Good TIE options at 2 and 3 points, iconic aces and cool ships getting more affordable, and some errata to the atmospheric TIEs give the Imperial player a lot of options that I think will take a while to explore.
- Return of the Defender? Most options are down to 7 points and Vader is 9.
- Speaking of Vader, he's now cheaper in the X1.
- Wampa, Valen Rudor, and ISB Jingoists are the new 2-point TIE options.
- The increase on Afterburners may hurt X1 Vader but his squad point decrease helps.
- I personally loved Outmaneuver on Soontir Fel and its increase to 12 points now puts it pretty much out of reach.
- Ban on Hull Upgrade makes a lot of fragile Imperial aces a bit nervous.
- The only 3-point options are TIE Fighters but...there are a lot of them and many are quite good.
- My buddy Lyttan Dree went up to 5 points and I don't think an LV increase, gunner slot, and Target Assist MGK for free will make up for it. But I just played a game against him last night and he still seemed good, so...?
The Possibly Great?:
- Are we finally going to see the return of the TIE/ln? The ban on Admiral Sloane possibly has made it feasible to price the TIE Fighters in a way that lets us fly them the way they were designed. And the ban on Trajectory Simulator means you can use more ships and not have to worry about bombs flying around everywhere.
- Striker and Reaper ship ability errata seems like a step in the right direction to make these more fun to use. For both the text for the Ailerons ability has been changed to make it a boost (though not an action) and not a maneuver so it can fail, which reduces the risk of colliding with a friendly and the Reaper's boost is now optional which makes it less unwieldy to fly.
Rebels are...interesting. My first take is that the changes aren't necessarily good or bad. Gone is the horde of Hobbies and Blounts at 2 points. B-Wings now start at 5 points and Trajectory Simulator is banned along with Sabine crew, so good riddance to that. For every weird, efficient combo they once had, though, it seems the Rebels now have a more accessible iconic centerpiece pilot. Luke, Ahsoka, Han, Lando, and a few others got a points drop. Feels like a nice trade to me, personally. When Rebels became the faction of Hobbie, Blount, Ibtisam, and some weird combo with Ursa Wren and Bistan I kind of lost interest so I'm looking forward to getting back to our roots.
- Luke , Han, Lando, and Ahsoka down a point? Sounds like fun.
- Arvel Crynyd and Jek Porkins both got back slots they had lost, enabling the return of their various fun combos. And Dutch Vander got his Torpedo back.
- No more cheap B-Wings. Now you're paying at least 5 points for a B-Wing. Though the ones that were increased got added LV so any B-Wing that you fly will be a real slugger.
- Those hyper-efficient 5- or 6-ship Rebel lists are probably no more, though I suspect there are still really good options to be found.
- Ursa Wren crew errata, limiting her ability to only trigger on enemy locks, makes a ridiculously good thing now just good.
The Your Mileage May Vary:
- It definitely seems like Rebels are, more than other factions, being pushed toward being a faction of known hero pilots. That's cool in that so many of our favorite pilots are becoming more accessible, but that may not be your personal cup of tea.
Scum and Villainy
Scum, like Separatists, maybe won't suffer as much from the loss of Outmaneuver, Afterburners, Trajectory Simulator, Hull Upgrade, and other upgrades that were either banned or made less economical as they have a lot of their own faction-specific ways of getting the job done. Points-wise it feels like Scum lost a couple of their efficient must-haves in exchange for points reductions that suddenly make some neglected pilots and ships viable again. Should be fun, right?
- Price drops on M3-A Interceptors should hopefully put those back on the table.
- More Scum HWK-290s now have access to the Moldy Crow title.
- Boba Fett came down a point.
- Manaroo isn't super cheap any more. Was Manaroo good?
- No more cheap Mining Guild TIEs, maybe because ignoring obstacles is good.
- ST-70s lost some LV
The I Honestly Don't Know:
- Losing the ability to recharge Contraband Cybernetics with Jabba the Hutt crew definitely eliminates a popular Scum combo, but is probably healthy and there are other options for dirty tricks.
- Not sure how to interpret the pricing on the Rogue Class. Will probably have to wait and play against some.
The First Order
First Order players, it seemed, were starting to find some really good options right before this points/rules change and, if anything, those options appear to have maybe gotten better. The TIE/fo and /sf seem to be priced just about right for creative squad building and the Xi Shuttle is now consistently 4 points so you can pick the pilot who works best for you. Also, AMG clearly want us to play Kylo more often, maybe to counter the threat of Defender Vader and Luke. I'm no expert but I honestly see few downsides for FO in these changes; they got what they needed but nothing necessarily seems broken either. I just started buying more First Order expansions a few weeks ago so I'm very excited.
- Both Kylo Rens dropped by a point!
- All Xi Class Shuttles and many of the mid to low tier TIE/fo Fighters are consolidated at the same or similar price points with different LV and slots. Now you have lots of different building blocks to put together a squad based on your preferences.
- Honestly, not sure if the FO took any big hits this time around. Just minor things like the increases on Afterburners and Outmaneuver and the ban on Hull Upgrade possibly making Major Vonreg a bit less effective.
- The ban on Commander Pyre hurts but, to be honest, he was a bit of an aggressive feels-bad and the faction got plenty in return.
- No more 2 point TIE fighter.
The Sounds Like Fun:
- Wrath in the Whisper got a cannon slot for easier double taps and a full front arc. Seems neat?
- Sounds like TIE/se bombers may be back with a vengeance with Breach at 5. Though they were never really gone.
I warmed up quickly to Resistance once I started using them and so my first question here is...why? What did The Resistance do to deserve this? I mean, nothing that happened to them in this change feels particularly bad but they also really didn't get anything too helpful either. Losing the 4-point X-Wings and the single cheap A-Wing definitely hurts. I personally love the Intuitive Interface Y-Wings and the added LV will help build some pretty annoying combos, but that's small consolation. The Resistance should still be fine but it kind of feels like they aren't allowed to be good. Every other faction got a point drop on their primary hero pilot but Poe remains at 7 or 6, Rey is still 8, and we got reductions for...Jess Pava, Nien Nunb, and Ello Asty? I mean, they're good but come on!
The Good (or just okay):
- Nodin Chavdri, my favorite Transport pilot, got a bump in LV. Not sure what he'd use it on, though, and a Transport or two could probably come down a point because I still don't think anyone is going to use them.
- BB-8 in the Pod makes Resistance one of the few factions with a 2-point option, and one with some LV.
- Finn in the Pod is now down to 3 points and he is a known Big Deal. Maybe 2 Pod lists are back? Personally not my favorite but I know they used to be good.
- 6-Point Commander Poe got some much-needed added LV.
- Resistance just generally needed a bit of help and didn't get it when other factions seem to have gotten almost exactly what they were looking for. But maybe there's something good hiding in the Y-Wings and the increased LV for the other fighters.
- Wartime Loadout to 10? Ouch.
The Was That Really Necessary?:
- Why can't we have a 3-point RZ-2 A-Wing or one or two 4-point T-70 X-Wings? They never really hurt anyone. I'd be fine with 0 Loadout!
My Lukewarm Take
Many people who are a lot smarter than me will do more detailed breakdowns and statistical analyses, but my gut feeling is that the developers did a nice job of addressing both the things that we were frustrated about and the things that were starting to feel repetitive. At a glance, it feels like the factions are generally more balanced across the board and, while some standouts will surely emerge and a few got more love than others, every faction seems to have some fun, viable options and new things to try. The removal of 2 point options for most factions was, according to the developers, because the intention was for them to help build lists when you had a hard time building a combination to 20 but they ended just being auto-includes. Makes sense to me, I didn't enjoy playing Rebels when not taking the 2-pointers to start was simply the wrong decision.
Personally, I enjoy when points changes are more of a shakeup and it makes more sense to just delete all of my old lists and start fresh. I understand and acknowledge that this isn't everyone's cup of tea but I enjoy trying new combos and watching to see a meta emerge. I'm happy with this change overall and impressed that it looks as good as it does after such a quick update. If I had to guess I would think that we'll be allowed to sit with this set of points a bit longer now that the first pass at points in the new listbuilding system has been adjusted.
- There were a couple of scenario changes and I highly recommend you read the document and check them out: First, there is no now objective scoring or scenario actions allowed until round 2.Scramble the Transmissions now only has 3 objectives and you no longer have to roll a die to "retake" an objective an opponent has claimed. Salvage Mission now allows you to do advanced maneuvers while towing a crate but you can no longer utilize reposition actions. Chance Engagement scoring has changed so that everyone gets a point for contesting the center objective and you get an additional point if you're the only one contesting. These changes seem to be intended to equalize the round counts for games and, based on a couple of test games I've played (and lost, ouch) work pretty well!
- There are some changes to ion rules and I recommend you read the document to fully understand. Essentially, you can now execute the ion maneuver as a 1-bank as well as 1-straight. If you were ionized after your dial was set then your ion maneuver will be in the direction of your dialed maneuver. Sounds interesting?
The willingness to errata cards is, I think, a good sign. The changes to the Strikers and Reapers, I think, are a good example. I am starting to worry that we'll need a card pack available soon, though. My hope is that AMG are getting to the last of their identified issues and a card pack will follow soon. I'm not going to list the errata here because I don't want to make a mistake so I definitely recommend you check out the list and maybe print some out.
I'll be honest, I was a little nervous about a ban list when it was first announced but I'm coming around on the concept. It's a pretty good way to remove cards that may cause issues instead of having to rework everything else to accommodate them. As far as this round's specific bans go I think they're falling into two categories for me:
- Yeah, makes sense: Trajectory Simulator and Sabine Wren crew. There are, of course, other ways of dealing with this but banning for now seems like a clean way to remove this combo from play until it can be reassessed. I still maintain that it wasn't broken, but it was definitely only fun for the person using it.
- I mean..why not?: Hull Upgrade. Look, I loved my new TIE Advanced health Soontir as much as the next guy but I also played my share of frustrating games againt a swarm of bulked up X1s. Some time with Hull Upgrade on the bench should be fine and we'll be seeing a lot more ships removed from the table. Additionally, non-limited health-regenerating Astromechs are off the table for now which follow the theme of wanting to make it easier to score points by destroying ships. Finally, there was always discussion on whether or not Admiral Sloane should be banned because she's tough to balance and if she's the cost for bringing some cool Empire lists back then I'm all in favor.
I think it's important to remember that there's no guarantee that the ban list is permanent so maybe we're just being asked to take a break from these cards for a bit like we had with Hyperspace format. The AMG folks on the Fly Better podcast also gave us a hint about the philosophy behind the ban list, effectively saying that errata are being used for cards that need to be fixed and then left alone, but errata/print and play is an imperfect solution. One purpose of the ban list, in their eyes, is to temporarily "bench" crew that will possibly get a reworked release in the future. That sounds fun!
Well there it is, my hot takes on this most recent points and rules update. If I missed or misquoted something please let me know and we can get it updated.