You know what the best time to start preparing for a Regionals tournament is? Two days before the tournament begins, and by preparing I mean playing my first skirmish games in any context since shortly after the release of Wave 7. I only remember that because someone was trying out a full Force User list with a brand new Obi-Wan Kenobi at the last tournament I attended. Two maps have rotated in since then. If nothing else, I figured I ought to at least play them and learn the rules.
So I made my way to the regular Thursday casual session and brought along a fairly unimaginative Rebel Twins list of classic Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Loku Kanoloa, Gideon Argus, C-3PO and two regular Echo Base Troopers. Nothing fancy. Luke offers punch and rerolls. Leia offers focused fire and command card recycling. Loku is some cheap, long-range attack. Gideon and Threepio are support, and the Troopers are solid. There’s a lack of trait synergy for command cards, but I splashed in some Spy cards for the control. It’s fine, but it didn’t really excite me.
I lost the one match I played that night. He was playing a Mercenary Alliance with a Bantha Rider and new Luke Skywalker as its hitters. The map was To Your Stations! at the ISB Headquarters. I made an early play for the two grouped stations and managed to focus out the Bantha Rider that came up to block the hallway fairly easily through classic Luke, Leia and the Troopers. I was feeling good. I had knocked out one of his major threats early and was ahead on points with control of two stations earning me more every round. I could sit back and wait for him. Unfortunately, new Luke showed up and ripped right through everyone. This would be a theme in my testing.
Some guys were meeting up for further testing on Friday, and I joined them, not the least reason being that I still hadn’t played the Anchorhead Bar. This time I brought the list I was excited about: Kayn Somos with Advanced Com Systems, two Dewback Riders with Feeding Frenzy, elite Jet Troopers, regular Snow Troopers, an Imperial Officer and Zillo Technique. The Riders were the punch, and Kayn and command cards like Call the Vanguard and Ferocity let them just keep punching. Jet Troopers were backup punch, and Snow Troopers could run for objectives and clear Stun. The Officer could do his thing. The list offered a lot of additional activatations and could really focus fire on single units, something I was particularly concerned about considering the recent ravaging by new Luke.
I was wrecked worse this time. He was running a Rebel List with new Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi, elite Alliance Rangers and support. We played both missions on Anchorhead Bar, and they both went similarly. In the first mission I conceded before he lost a figure. I rushed my units out to grab the crates in Line of Fire, and the Alliance Rangers plinked them from a distance, grabbing a kill or two but mostly just softening me up for Obi-Wan and new Luke to come in and finish them off. The Pierce was brutal. I may as well have not rolled dice at all for how many times my blocks stuck around. We played Gaining Favor next, and it felt pretty similar. I was more careful to take cover from the Rangers, but new Luke and Obi-Wan just came in and did work. I was able to knock out Obi-Wan with an attack from Set a Trap, but he won on objectives.
So, for the second time in as many days, I was starting over from the beginning. The list was fun, but my Riders weren’t sticking around. I made mistakes and was careless in getting them in range of enemies. Feeding Frenzy never really came into play, and I could play with those points, maybe a second Imperial Officer or upgrade a Rider into Captain Terro. The point is, the list could be good but needs time and work, and I had no time.
In three games of testing I had learned one thing: I needed to kill new Luke. I considered going back to an old list with the SC2-M Repulsor Tank for the double attack but dropped it as too slow and fragile. I considered a Mercenary sampler anchored by Jabba the Hutt, but it wasn’t pretty enough. Around 7 the morning of Regionals I admitted failure and the need to join him if I couldn’t beat him. I decided I needed to run new Luke. Then I began to consider the team I had first lost to. I found a similar list that seemed to provide a good framework to build from. New Luke with Motivation and the Bantha Rider was potent, just kept Stampeding, but I didn’t want to run the Bantha. Following the scoring change, swarms seemed a lot less viable, and I was more concerned about single heavy targets. I switched the Bantha and Devious Scheme for a Rancor and tweaked the command cards.
Behold. The list.
The core of this has already been covered: new Luke with Motivation and the Rancor. Luke is the Rancor whisperer. It moves when he says. It feels better when he says. It shakes off Stun, something I was very afraid of coming in, when he says. Then they hit you hard. They are both fairly durable, as well. So long as the Rancor is Trained, it’s rolling two black dice, and new Luke can hit and run. Weequay Pirates and Vinto Hreeda are both just solid groups and great filler at their slots with the bonus of sharing the Hunter and Smuggler traits which both got a lot of love in Jabba’s Realm. New Luke and Vinto also have wonderfully similar abilities to send single unblockable points of damage and distribute as needed. Gideon is the same solid support he always is. Temporary Alliance and Beast Tamer need no explanation.
Behold. The command.
The first theme of my command deck is extra activations. There only five cards and six units in my list. I need to get every attack I can out of them. Ferocity, Parting Blow, Pummel and Son of Skywalker all allow this. I was particularly proud of the inclusion of Parting Blow. Who cares if your Rancor is Stunned if new Luke is going to motivate him out of it immediately? It never actually worked out that way, but the card had a huge effect every time I played it.
The second theme is extra movement. Only Vinto has a Speed higher than 4, and my two biggest hitters are melee. They need to get in there. Hit and Run, Opportunistic and Urgency all fill this need.
The third theme is making my attacks count. Imperial Assault is a dice game. Bad players rely on them. Good players mitigate and control them. Element of Surprise, Hard to Hit, Heightened Reflexes and Stimulants all add attack dice, remove defense dice or allow rerolls. Those are good things.
The rest? Cripple was a meta call. If I ran into new Luke or the Rancor or Banthas, I wanted them to stay put. If you’re not playing Take the Initiative, you’re playing wrong or wonky, and Negation cancels their Take the Initiative.
I was still sorting figures and finding cards twenty minutes before I left, but I had a list. A list had never run and four figures I had never played but a list.