27 April 2018 | X-Wing

How to Conquer the Galaxy

An Interview with the 2017 X-Wing™ World Champion

The past weeks have seen a lot of great X-Wing action. March concluded with a flurry of Regional Championships, and those led into the System Open Series events at AdeptiCon, Birmingham, Hanover, and Bologna. These were all top-tier events, full of heated starfighter battles, but the best of these starfighter dogfights are yet to come—at the 2018 May World Championships!

With players hailing from all over the globe, the 2018 X-Wing World Championships promise to highlight the best of the game's players, squads, and competition, and if you're not participating, you'll be able to follow the action on our Twitch stream.

So what can you expect to see? Well, if the recent Regional Championships and System Open Series events are any indication, you can expect to see a resurgent Rebel Alliance. After the game's Scum and Villainy won both of the last two World Championships, the faction has fallen out of favor among the top tables. Although the Scurrg H-6, JumpMaster, and Shadow Caster have still made the top tables at a number of events, the Rebellion has dominated recent events, along with Emperor Palpatine and several of his ace pilots.

As we draw closer to the World Championships, you can expect that competitors are carefully reviewing the metagame and trying to assemble the squad that they feel gives them the best answers to everything they expect to face. But guessing the metagame and assembling a squad are only the first steps. After all your preparation, you still have the game itself.

How do you learn how to harness your squad's most effective synergies, to fly with a plan that looks two or three rounds into the future, and to anticipate your opponent's maneuvers? The answer is that you learn by following the examples of the aces who have flown before you.

Today, as we look forward to the challenges of the 2018 X-Wing World Championships, we're happy to provide you a chance to learn from one of these aces—2017 X-Wing World Champion Justin Phua!

Interview with 2017 World Champion Justin Phua

FFG: How did you first get started with X-Wing?

JP: Well, I have always been a miniatures wargamer. I started with several of the more common miniatures games and became a more serious gamer in 2011. In 2012, I formed a team of nine players. We traveled to Europe for the annual European Team Championship tournament for our favorite game. This continued for 2013, 2014, and 2015. In 2016, when the game received a significant revison, I decided to take a break.

I brought my wife to Europe for a fourteen-day trip to celebrate our twentieth anniversary. Then, I decided to focus on X-Wing.

A few of the players from my team also joined me in taking up X-Wing. We took about six months to establish ourselves in the local X-Wing community.

FFG: When you decided to focus on X-Wing after your anniversary, what was it about the game that appealed to you and drew you away from other miniatures games?

JP: I liked the focus on deployment and maneuvering and the simulation of a real-time setting. Making calculated guesses on how my opponents would respond. That’s the intriguing part of X-Wing.

And X-Wing is so beautifully simple.

Dial in your maneuver. Reveal the dial. Place the template. And voilà!

FFG: So you got into X-Wing more for the rules and the gameplay than for the Star Wars theme? I could see that if you prioritized the gameplay much higher than the theme, it might be easier to compete at a higher level.

JP: Both appeal to me. I find myself trying to get the most from iconic ships and pilots, even when their statistics and dials aren't the best.

FFG: You said it took you about six months to establish yourselves in the local scene. What does that mean? What can you tell me about your local scene?

JP: I started attending local store tournaments. It used to be a monthly event. I managed to win my first store tournament at my third attendance. I then went on to win another five. My gaming buddies also started making progress. That was when we decided to participate in overseas events to test our skills.

The local community is quite tuned in to the metagame in US and Europe, so it’s quite common in Singapore to fly against lists that have recently been doing well in tournaments overseas.

The JumpMaster 5000 conquered all in two consecutive World Championships.

FFG: Apart from playing a lot—as I can tell you have—what do you think has been most instrumental in your development as a player?

JP: I would say it’s grit. Never say die. Even when the match-up or dice rolls aren’t in your favor, you continue to soldier on and wait for the break.

You eat humble pie when you lose, but you don’t give up.

FFG: Do you mean that you should learn how to fly your list differently in those bad match-ups?

JP: Yes, and also how to follow through for the win. I have encountered players who gave up the moment they lose a valuable piece of their squad.

FFG: Other than grit, do you feel that you have any particular strengths or weaknesses as a player, and how do you adjust your game to play to your strengths or to avoid your weaknesses?

JP: Consistency has always been my strength. That means I always think one or two moves ahead to avoid getting into a mess one or two turns later.

I also avoid taking unnecessary risks. In the long run, this will usually translate into better results despite bad rolls.

FFG: Can you think of an example from the World Championships that would help to illustrate this planning for consistency?

JP: The final with Nand comes to mind. I planned to fire my first salvo at Miranda,  but she was too shy and avoided Dengar and Tel.  I fired at Jess and then went for the bump. Then I disengaged and re-engaged, mindful to bump when necessary.

After firing two torpedoes at Jess, Dengar bumped into Jess and fired his second salvo at Miranda, also shutting down Jess's shot.

Nand Torfs competed against Justin with a variant of the squadron he submitted for an X-Wing 101 article.

FFG: And you lined up the bump with a green maneuver for the target lock?

JP: Yes. And then I planned for Dengar to disengage to his right and Tel to her left.

FFG: Do you have a favorite ship to play outside of competitive games?

JP: The Dengar and Tel list is out of character for me, to be honest. I am what my friend labeled a “dodgy” player. I love to arc dodge.

FFG: You played a lot of Imperial aces with Emperor Palpatine, then?

JP: Yes. My first tournament was with Darth Vader,   Soontir Fel,  and a Shuttle.   Dash Rendar,  Soontir Fel, and Dengar with Push the Limit and Engine Upgrade are my favorite pilots.

FFG: How did you end up choosing the Dengar / Tel list for Worlds, then? And how do you go about selecting your lists for tournaments?

JP: Well, I noticed certain trends emerging from various Open, Regional, and Store Championship tournaments from the US and Europe. For Rebels, it revolved around Biggs Darklighter.  For Scum, it was Mindlink and Dengar with Bossk or multiple JumpMasters. For Imperials, it was the Special Forces TIE, plus the TIE defender.

Knowing the meta was critical to Justin's success. What answers will he find to the current meta?

FFG: And you felt the answer to all those lists was ordnance? Avoid Biggs, hit for the extra shields with Plasma Torpedo ?

JP: I had a list with Dengar and Tel that I used to win a store tournament in 2016. I used it for Singapore Nationals also in 2016. But Dengar had Push the Limit and Engine Upgrade and got blocked easily. So when Expertise came out with the U-wing Expansion Pack, I armed Dengar with torpedoes.

They were the answers to most of the meta lists floating around. For instance, two salvos of torpedoes would finish off “Quickdraw” or “Backdraft” in one round of combat. As another example, against Kanan and Biggs, an initial salvo of two torpedoes, followed by bumping into Kanan and then slooping back for a second salvo, would also take out Kanan easily.

I experimented Dengar and Tel against other meta lists and it was quite effective—provided I got the Rule of 11 right when approaching for the engagement.

FFG: How much do you feel you owe your victory to this shrewd response to the metagame? And how much do you owe to flying?

JP: It's a mix of both. Both are equally important. Towards the latter part of my training I realized that I could not deal with certain lists. But I still went ahead with the same list because I have been flying it for quite some time. So flying a list that you are comfortable with, despite a poor match-up, is very important.

FFG: If you had one piece of advice to offer to newer players looking to raise their games to a higher level, what would you tell them?

JP: I have a few pieces of advice. Play as many games as possible to train up your stamina. Play against as many good players as possible. Watch as many games on YouTube as possible. Never give up when you’re losing. Last, but not least: it’s a game meant for fun.

Want to watch an exceptional game of X-Wing on YouTube?
Try Justin Phua's 2017 World Championship finals against 2016 World Champion Nand Torfs.

FFG: Okay, you mention the videos. What should players pay attention to while they're watching the videos?

JP: Anticipate the players’ moves. Ask yourself why the players did what they did. There comes a point in time when you are no longer baffled by their moves and you can starting picking out their mistakes. That’s progress.

Follow the Action from Home

Whether you're looking to improve your game or you just want to know which squadrons find their way to the top of the heap, you'll want to catch the X-Wing World Championships on our Twitch stream. We'll be streaming X-Wing live all day on Saturday, May 5th.

Watch the games. Cheer on your favorite players. These are the galaxy's greatest starfighter battles, and you don't want to miss the action!

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