World Champion Norm Weir on the Star Wars™: Armada Metagame
"Proceed with the countdown. All groups assume attack coordinates."
–Admiral Ackbar, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Ever since the 2017 May World Championships, players all across the globe have been tinkering with their strategies, tactics, and fleet designs. They've taken their fleets to battle, analyzed the tactics that have worked and those that left them vulnerable. They've promoted some officers and jettisoned others. They've recruited new squadron leaders and even new commanders. They've explored the advantages offered by newer ships and weighed those advantages against the benefits of tried and proven synergies.
For a full year, these players—these fleet admirals—have gone to battle and learned from their engagements. And soon the best of them will arrive at the Fantasy Flight Games Center in Roseville, MN to face all challengers.
Will they rely on the positional advantages afforded by multiple activations? Will they fly balanced lists that allow them to pursue as many points as possible from objectives? Will they lean on their squadrons, expecting them to chew through enemy shields over time? Or is this the year we'll see the game's largest ships explode onto the top tables, obliterating all that stand in their way?
To answer these questions, we called upon 2017 World Champion Norm Weir to provide us with his best analysis of the upcoming battles.
World Champion Norm Weir on the Star Wars: Armada Metagame
We are quickly approaching the culmination of the 2018 Star Wars: Armada tournament season. The Store Championship circuit yielded to Regional Championships, then to National Championship events across the globe, and now to the season's final destination—the World Championships. Soon, the world's best players will converge in the Fantasy Flight Games Center to compete in a multiple-day event for the title of 2018 Star Wars: Armada World Champion!
Much has happened in the year since the 2017 World Championships. Both Wave VI and Wave VII were released, and these waves have reshaped how players build their lists and execute new strategies and tactics at the table. In Wave VI, Admiral Sloane arrived aboard the Quasar Fire-class Cruiser-Carrier to bring Imperial fighter swarms back into competition with their Rebel counterparts. Grand Admiral Thrawn made his long-anticipated appearance in Wave VII with the vision provided by Josiah Burkhardsmeier. At the same time, Admiral Raddus provided the Rebels access to brash hyperspace tactics while leading them into battle aboard the Profundity . Strategic Adviser , Governor Pryce , and Bail Organa all started crowding the bridges of various ships, providing activation parity to fleets built around large ships. These new ships, squadrons, and cards have opened up the widest possibility of viable fleet options the game has ever seen.
More than this, the number of viable fleet options has expanded without leaving behind content from earlier releases; any type of list can win any level of event! It is a strong assertion to make, but not one made without the data to back it up. From a Garm Bel Iblis Assault fleet of frigates that used no ships or cards from beyond Wave III, to lists with flotillas numbering few to none, to Interdictors with Captain Brunson on the bridge, no list is beyond the realm of winning. This year, the World Championships will be more ripe than ever for the upstart admiral willing to take risks and try something new.
What to Expect at the World Championships
At an event with top-level competition like the World Championships, players will always gravitate toward whatever they perceive gives them the strongest chances of winning. Currently, the lists that fit that description are large-ship centric and squadron-focused lists. The ability to manipulate initiative and activation order with cards like Strategic Advisor, Bail Organa, and Governor Pryce has reduced the prevalence of the lists with multiple small units and large numbers of activations that dominated tournaments for so long. Still, at its core, Star Wars: Armada is a combined arms game, and most fleets require at least a small squadron screen to protect their capital ships.
To get an idea of what these large-ship-centric fleets might look like at the World Championships, we’ll explore two lists—one Rebel and one Imperial—built around large ships. Both also include moderate squadron complements. We'll also explore a list built to leverage the power of Grand Admiral Thrawn!
The Rebel Ambush
The first list we’ll investigate is one commanded by Admiral Raddus, who can deliver threats at incredible range.
Commander: Admiral Raddus
Assault: Advanced Gunnery
Defense: Fleet Ambush
Navigation: Solar Corona
MC75 Ordnance Cruiser with Admiral Raddus, Bail Organa, Ordnance Experts, External Racks, Assault Proton Torpedoes, and Profundity
Ship Total: 152 Points
MC80 Battle Cruiser with Caitken and Shollan, Leading Shots, and Mon Karren
Ship Total: 121 Points
Hammerhead Torpedo Corvette with Cham Syndulla and Garel's Honor
Ship Total: 45 Points
GR-75 Medium Transports with Comms Net and Quantum Storm
Ship Total: 21 Points
Z-95 Headhunter Squadron x4
Squadron Total: 61 Points
Fleet Total: 400 Points
This Admiral Raddus list arrives at the maximum 400 points and does not care whether you'll be first or second player. Bail Organa, strong objectives, and Admiral Raddus’ own penchant for going second after arriving on the table lend to a list that is quite comfortable going second. First player is always welcome, as it allows either of the two large ships to unleash their firepower or for Cham Syndulla to create chaos in your opponent’s plans. Meanwhile, the fleet's small fighter screen won’t win a battle on its own, but it has the ability to stall for time, protecting capital ships from bombing runs.
The list relies on the synergy between the Profundity and Admiral Raddus’ ability. By first dropping a small ship with Profundity and following up with Admiral Raddus’ ability, you can deploy the Mon Karren in position to cross the board and get straight into firing position. Even though the Mon Karren may not be able to act immediately, its favorable arcs and long attack range ensure that damage will be inflicted.
Darth Vader commands the Imperial fleet from his place aboard the bridge of an iconic Imperial Star Destroyer in this next list.
Commander: Darth Vader
Assault: Advanced Gunnery
Defense: Contested Outpost
Navigation: Solar Corona
Imperial II-class Star Destroyer with Darth Vader, Intel Officer, Gunnery Team, Early Warning System, Spinal Armament, Chimaera, and Entrapment Formation
Ship Total: 195 Points
Imperial Star Destroyer Kuat Refit with Governor Pryce, Boarding Troopers, Early Warning System, External Racks, and Avenger
Ship Total: 137 Points
Gozanti-class Cruisers with Hondo Ohnaka and Comms Net
Ship Total: 27 Points
Squadron Total: 30 Points
Fleet Total: 389
This list delivers the devastating one-two punch established by using Boarding Troopers to exhaust an enemy ship's defense tokens and then capitalizing on the Avenger to cripple or destroy any ship it tracks down. Darth Vader's Star Destroyer cleans up the remains with reliable long-range firepower.
Governor Pryce and an aggressive initiative bid are key to seting up the Avenger and its assault. With careful planning, Governor Pryce resolves the round before opposing fleets enter long-range, allowing you to maneuver the Avenger into a position where it can bring two firing arcs to bear on to the same target. Then you use the first-player advantage to activate the Avenger at the top of the following round, and its Boarding Troopers knock out up to two brace tokens before you unleash its full firepower on your target!
The list contains a tiny squadron complement, which is just enough to stall for a turn or two. It leverages the new Early Warning Systems to protect the Star Destroyers’ approach and force your opponent's lurking carriers to come out of safety to command the bomber wings.
Following upon the devastation wreaked by the Avenger, you have the fleet's second threat—the Chimaera with Darth Vader. Should the Avenger fail to destroy your opponent's fleet, Darth Vader will arrive to correct the actions of his subordinates.
Setting the Trap
The third list featured features Grand Admiral Thrawn at the helm.
Commander: Grand Admiral Thrawn
Assault: Station Assault
Defense: Contested Outpost
Navigation: Solar Corona
Victory I-class Star Destroyer with Grand Admiral Thrawn, Skilled First Officer, Quad Turbolaser Cannons, and Warlord
Ship Total: 124 Points
Victory II-class Star Destroyer with Governor Pryce, Gunnery Team, Disposable Capacitors, Quad Battery Turrets, and MS-1 Ion Cannons
Ship Total: 109 Points
Gladiator I-class Star Destroyer with Ordnance Experts, Assault Concussion Missiles, and Demolisher
Ship Total: 77 Points
Gozanti-class Cruisers with Jamming Field
Ship Total: 25 Points
TIE Fighter Squadron x3
Squadron Total: 64 Points
Fleet Total: 399
Grand Admiral Thrawn has proven to be a challenge for many players to successfully use.
His effect is incredibly powerful; he delivers the command dial you need, when you need it. In general, a command dial has higher impact on ships with higher command value, while tokens do not offer any advantage with ship size. Thus, when using Grand Admiral Thrawn, it is most efficient to reveal your hidden dials only when the command is absolutely needed or if the command is generally beneficial. This particular list takes advantage of that fact. Even as it benefits from having Navigation and Engineering commands that you can hide from your opponent, Thrawn's ability allows the normally sluggish Victory-class Star Destroyers to be far more reactive than your opponent would typically expect.
Why use Grand Admiral Thrawn in this list instead of Moff Jerjerrod ? While Moff Jerjerrod may arguably offer more instantaneous maneuverability, he cannot change the ship’s speed, and his ability helps your opponent sink your own ships!
The fleet's small squadron complement is made rugged by the presence of the Jamming Field flotilla. By selecting the Jamming Field, the flotilla must enter combat, rather than escaping from battle around the peripheries of the board. The added resilience with the splash damage from Mauler Mithel will allow the small investment to compete with fleets that have brought far more squadrons.
Epic Fleet Battles Captured Live
The 2018 Star Wars: Armada World Championships run from May 2nd to May 4th. The field is divided between two Day 1 flights on May 2nd and May 3rd. Then the top two players from each flight will compete in the Top 4 elimination rounds that start at 2:30 PM on May 4th. These rounds will be on FFG's live stream on Twitch.TV, so be sure to catch the action!
–Norm Weir, 2017 Star Wars: Armada World Champion