Worlds Battle Report: Preparation and the Event

As with my last reflection on a major tournament (Regional Recap), I want to split this into a few parts.  First, I’ll reflect on the strengths and weakness of my list, as well as the event as a whole.  Then, in part two, I’ll dive into the games I played.  Finally, I’ll provide insight on the meta and where I believe Imperial Assault is going from here.  Keep in mind that my impressions only represent my own experience – I’m sure most players will have slight variations of how they experienced the event. 

My List and Command Deck

To start, let’s go over the list I ended up playing at the event, Heavy and the Jets:

2 Elite Heavy Stormtroopers – 16 points

2 Elite Jet Troopers – 14 points

Captain Terro – 7 points

Imperial Officer – 2 points

Zillo Technique – 1 point

The list had quite a few things going for it.  First, the amount of health in the list was insane (76 health in total), with every unit (except the officer) designed to require more than one attack to remove from the board.  This paired well with this list’s second strength – it excelled at controlling objectives.  There were a number of matches where I planted Heavy Stormtroopers on an objective and forced my opponent to react.  Typically, my opponent would much rather remove Jet Troopers or Terro, so by aggressively controlling objectives with Heavy Stormtroopers, my opponents generally had little choice but to target the most difficult to remove (and least valuable) figures.  Finally, the strength of this list was in its surprise factor.  I can say with confidence that not many opponents knew how to address the threats in this list.  Many knew that Terro had to go as soon as possible, but many of my opponents mistakenly prioritized removing Heavies.  This freed up my Jet Troopers to go on the offense and the damaged Heavies would often walk away with 1 health, tucked safely in a corner for the remainder of the match.  

All that said, the list is not without its weaknesses.  For one, the list lacks Pierce – and that ended up being a huge problem when facing Elite Gammorean Guards and the Rancor.  The best roll for Elite Jet Troopers is 5 damage and 1 surge, for a total of 7 damage.  If an Elite Gammorean rolls his best (3 blocks plus the free 1 block from Gamorrean Honor Guard), a Jet Trooper can only do 3 damage to that figure, not even half of its 8 health.  That’s not good when Elite Jet Troopers are arguably my strongest offensive activation each round, and the Elite Gammorrean my opponent's weakest (outside of support units).  Another issue with this list was that it was generally weak on maps that didn't have positional objectives – such as Reconnaissance on ISB Headquarters.  In situations like this, my opponent was free to ignore the Heavy Stormtroopers at his or her leisure, as I had no objectives to threaten.  This problem also arose on Anchorhead Cantina if I was forced to deploy at the bottom of the map (note: the objectives are all located on the top half of the map), because this list had no mechanism to contest those objectives.  The Heavy Stormtroopers are not only too slow to grab the objectives themselves, but also too slow to threaten enemy units that grab the objectives.  Finally, the list took a lot of endurance – in that the list doesn't close out games in a quick fashion like other lists do with pure offense.  Rather, this list relies on what can best be compared to a Rope-a-Dope strategy - i.e., let your opponent throw ineffective attacks until he tires himself out.  It's a winning strategy when played correctly, but it is also exhausting and it invites mistakes.  I certainly made a some foolish moves due to fatigue over the course of the tournament.

Overall, I really enjoyed playing the list and would encourage others to give it a try.  Again, it takes practice, but is very fulfilling when executed correctly

Which leads me to my Command deck.  Another enjoyable aspect of this list was that it really liberated me from the traditional format of Command deck building – which I see is a matter of identifying the strongest cards and putting them in your deck.  For instance, if you’re running Hunters, you’ll clearly want to include Assassinate, Tools for the Job, and Heightened Reflexes.  Similarly, if you’re running Troopers, you’ll want to run Grenadier.  However, the week before Worlds I decided to take a different approach – analyze what my list lacked and include as many Command cards as possible to fill that hole.  This essentially meant that I wanted to include as many cards as possible that provided a surge result to my Heavy Stormtroopers.  Heavy Stormtroopers roll a dice pool of blue and red, which gives them decent damage potential, but horrendous surge potential (1/6 on the red, 2/6 on the blue.  Yet, their surge abilities are fantastic (2 damage and Blast 2).  I stripped the deck of all 3-point Command cards and loaded it up with as many Trooper and surge cards as I could manage.  The result looked like this:

Call the Vanguard – 2 points

Squad Swarm – 2 points

Lock On – 2 points

Overrun – 2 points

Inspiring Speech – 2 points

Fuel Upgrade – 1 point

Ferocity – 1 point

Focus – 1 point

Camouflage – 1 point

Blitz – 1 point

Overcharged Weapons – 0 points

Element of Surprise – 0 points

Take Initiative – 0 points

Against the Odds – 0 points

Planning – 0 points

Now Command deck considerations are always a bit fickle because you never know what you’re going to draw.  That said, out of this pool, I always wanted to see Call the Vanguard (I think I only saw it once in my 7 games at Worlds) and Fuel Upgrade (which I think I saw every game).  However, the strength of this build was that I had a lot of confidence that I’d get some surge help for my Heavies with this setup.  This approach won me more than one game over the course of the tournament.  Moreover, if you’ve never removed a dodge result with Lock On, I highly recommend giving it a try.

Ultimately, I think what benefited me the most with this list was practice – essentially what is needed for executing any list.  I chose this list over a month before the tournament and basically didn’t change it at all, outside of the Command deck.  Moreover, I made sure to practice against various types of lists – Jedi Luke, Hunters, Captain Terro, as it's necessary to understand what makes these lists strong in order to combat them.  I’ll elaborate on that more in my next post, but I can confirm that I won more than one game over the course of the tournament where I relied on knowledge acquired in practice games.

Thoughts About the Event

I basically have only positive things to say about the tournament as a whole.  Not only was the tournament fun and the players enjoyable, but I think Fantasy Flight put on an amazing experience for Imperial Assault players in particular.  For instance, on Wednesday, the first day of the Worlds event (it wasn’t the first day of the Imperial Assault tournament), FFG was selling the new wave of figures that were set to release in another week – the Jawa, BT-1/0-0-0, and Hera/Chopper.  Whether you were excited about the actual Imperial Assault tournament or not, it was awesome knowing I’d have some new lists to build once it was all over.  On top of that, FFG also announced the new Heart of the Empire expansion, along with another new set of figures.  They had the expansion on display with some of the new figures, again capitalizing on the event and keeping the excitement levels high.  I have no idea if this was planned or just good timing, but I think it would serve them well to time all of their releases in this way.  I appreciate these little extra benefits of attending Worlds because some players invest a lot of time and money into the trip, not knowing if they’ll do well in the tournament or not.  By releasing these packs and spoiling the next expansion, even players that had a rough tournament can leave with some new figures and the feeling that they were part of the latest announcements.  I thought this cross promotional activity was a great way to thank players for making the trip.

To that end, I think my only complaint was with the way the prizes are handled, in particular the prize wall.  The tournament featured a prize wall where players could spend tickets to buy tokens, deck boxes, alternate art cards, etc.  Players won these tickets by winning matches in the tournaments.  I found this to be a little less than desirable, because players that were winning games during the tournament were already receiving prizes as a result of those wins (for instance, if you were in the Top 32 players at the end of the tournament, you received a special set of dice).  This may just be me, but I'm inclined to favor providing the losing players with more prizes, because I want them to have an incentive to come back to the tournament next year.  At the very least they could have a few more random opportunities to win tickets during the event, thus maximizing opportunities for players at all skill levels to go home with some of the prizes.

As for the tournament itself, I thought it was well run.  We played in a hotel near the Fantasy Flight Game Center, which actually made for a pretty comfortable play space.  I thought the rounds moved at a decent pace and overall I didn’t sense any significant amount of disorganization.  Overall, I think I was at the tournament on Thursday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM, and we played five games with a break (and I arrived early and stayed a little after it ended).  Considering the tournament accommodated around 100 players, I think everything went pretty well.

Finally, nearly every player left a good impression on me.  My Worlds experience actually started with us setting up a small get-together after the tournament on Thursday, for which I reserved space at Parkway Pizza in south Minneapolis.  It was a pretty entertaining experience, as when the tournament started on Thursday I had a table for 6 reserved, but by the time the tournament ended I had to increase that reserveration to hold 20.  We had a good turnout, played some Star Wars trivia, and generally relaxed after a long day.  I won’t go into any names (as I may forget some and I’m sensitive to others’ privacy), but thanks to all the players that took some time and chatted with me – it was great meeting you all.

In part two, I’ll get into the actual games.  Until then, thanks for reading!

- Dietz