Many, many weeks ago, with all in-person X-Wing being postponed indefinitely, the Fly Better podcast started up the Jank Tank Open, played on Vassal. There’s been heaps of online events running recently, but the big podcast name and cool alternate format, lead to a massive number of signups, nearly 500 players registered.
For those who don’t know, the alternate format – Jank Tank – comes from a segment on the podcast where the hosts and guest generate a couple of random squads using YASB and talk about the crazy nonsense generated and the potential matchup. So each player got given two randomly generated squads to choose between – one from a chosen faction and one from a random faction – and had the option of making a couple changes, they could remove one upgrade and/or they could add one upgrade. Lists were also Extended (Boo!), but being randomly generated somewhat made up for that.
With randomly generated squads, there isn’t very much list building, but there was still a few decisions to make. Firstly, there was choosing a faction. I went with Separatists, hoping to get a decent ship count with some vultures and hyenas, to fit into my playstyle with having lots of guns on the board, moving first setting up blocks and kill boxes.
A little while after submitting the form, I remembered Nantexes existed, and that I might get stuck with one of them, without Ensnare being pretty terrible. Oh well, fingers crossed that wouldn’t happen.
I got given this Separatist squad and this Resistance squad to choose between. The Resistance wasn’t the worst compared to what some people had, but was definitely lacking some more attack power or another body. The Separatists however had a 5th ship, 2 solid Belbulabs and 3 droids with Networked Calculations, and even Kraken, who’s great. The rest of the upgrade selection was .. uh … interesting. Useless Targeting Computer and Composure on Grievous, suboptimal Shield Upgrade on the Skakoan (when Soulless One exists), and a bizarre collection of ordnance. Nonetheless, it was the better choice of the two.
With tweaking the squad (removing and adding an upgrade), there were 2 different strategies, either remove the biggest piece of rubbish you could, or figure out the best thing to add, and only remove what was necessary. With option A I could toss out the Electroproton Bomb and free up 16 points, but there was nothing to do with the 16 points. I could add a Proton Torpedo, but getting good locks at i1 isn’t particularly likely. With option B, to add the most value, I could include either Soulless One, or
DRK-1 Probe dank droids. Soulless One at 6 points is a steal, but would only be adding a bit of survivability to one ship (Grievous), whereas dank droids could provide utility to the entire squad, especially with the odd munitions included. So dank droids it is, and the most points efficient bad upgrade to drop was then Targeting Computer.
Techno Union Bomber Hyena-class Droid Bomber (25)
Cluster Missiles (5), DRK-1 Probe Droids (5) – Total: 35
Techno Union Bomber Hyena-class Droid Bomber (25)
Electro-Proton Bomb (12) – Total: 37
Separatist Drone Vulture-class Droid Bomber (21)
Concussion Missiles (6) – Total: 27
Skakoan Ace Belbullab-22 Starfighter (38)
Shield Upgrade (6) – Total: 44
General Grievous Belbullab-22 Starfighter (44)
Composure (1), Kraken (10) – Total: 55
The main things this squad has going for it (apart from having 5 bodies), is the sheer number of dice mods. Between the dank droids, Networked Calculations, Grievous’ ability and Kraken, there are dice mods on top of dice mods. For the ideal opening engagement, the 3 droids all have locks and 5 calculates between them, the Skakoan Ace has a lock and a focus, and Grievous has calculate, focus, lock and ability.
DRK-1 Probe Droids (dank droids) have always looked to be a super efficient upgrade that hasn’t really seen the light of day very often, for some unknown reason. Imagine if all your ships went into the opening engagement with locks, plus whatever action they took that round. Double actions, double mods, double good.
Let’s see how far these droids can probe. Assuming you have an I1 Techno Union Bomber as I do, it’s generally deploying first, so for best coverage it can in the center of the mat. For maximum speed, the choice is between a 5 straight (red) and a 4 straight + barrel roll.
The 4 straight + barrel roll gives the probes better coverage, getting range to everywhere except the very corner of the deployment zone, which enemy ships will find difficult to all hide in that safety.
However, you don’t want to engage on that 2nd turn when you acquire the locks, and rushing the dank Hyena forward could put it at risk, so no need to go faster than necessary. Seeing how the opposition deployed, often a 2 or 3 straight, with or without a barrel roll is sufficient for the probes to get range on whatever you want to lock.
Then it’s just a bit of practice to get it working smoothly. Have the dank Hyena move fast enough round 1 for the probes to get range, have all your ships acquire locks round 2, and then have a cohesive first engagement on round 3 (or later I guess) with double modified attacks on all your ships.
But if I’m honest, it’s not quite as easy as it sounds, I definitely had a few sub-optimal second turn engagements where I didn’t have all my many actions set-up.
Round 1 (Top “512”) against John from Minnesota
486 sign ups was pretty impressive, with 26 players receiving a bye to make it a clean 512 player bracket.
Hired Gun BTL-A4 Y-Wing (32)
Han Solo (10), Cloaking Device (4) – Total: 46
Outer Rim Pioneer Escape Craft (28)
IG-88D (3), Angled Deflectors (3) – Total: 34
Overseer Yushyn Mining Guild TIE Fighter (26)
Stealth Device (8) – Total: 34
Asajj Ventress Lancer-class Pursiut Craft (72)
Contraband Cybernetics (2), Shadow Caster (1) – Total: 75
To be fair, John had a couple of terrible lists to choose from, the above scum or this republic rubbish. His list adjustments were removing Juke from Outer Rim Pioneer and adding Shadow Caster title to Asajj.
This wasn’t much of a game really. My game plan was kill Asajj and easily mop up the rest afterwards, and that’s how it panned out. I went all in on Asajj, taking her out at the cost of Grievous, and John’s other 3 ships didn’t have much going for them.
Win: 200-92 (1-0)
Round 2 (Top 256) against Alex also from Minnesota
Jessika Pava T-70 X-Wing (51)
BB-8 (5), Integrated S-Foils (0), Ferrosphere Paint (6) – Total: 62
Joph Seastriker T-70 X-Wing (51)
R2 Astromech (7), Integrated S-Foils (0) – Total: 58
Rey Scavenged YT-1300 (70)
Finn (10) – Total: 80
This is an interesting list. There’s enough little synergies (BB-8 on Jess, R2 on Joph, Finn on Rey) there that I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw this on Reddit looking for critiques, but still far from optimized. The changes from the randomly generated list were removing Concussion Missiles from Jess and adding Finn to Rey.
The most memorable play from this game was the Electroproton Bomb drop. And it was devastating. Here’s what the board look like for the System Phase of round 3, when I dropped it:
All 3 of his ships were heading into that corner, without a real escape route and I was in a position where I could punish it (and not completely hit by the EPB too). And then the next planning phase:
And the after effects of an Electroproton Bomb explosion:
Yes, the epic explosion hit 6 of the 8 ships on the table.
- Jess suffered a weapons disabled, 2 ions and a shield
- Rey suffered a weapons disabled and 3 ions
- Joph suffered a weapons disabled and 3 ions
- TUB 1 suffered a weapons disabled, 2 ions and a ‘shield’
- TUB 2 suffered an ion and 3 ‘shields’
- Separatist Drone suffered a weapons disabled and 3 ions
Pure chaos. There wasn’t much Alex could do to recover from this position, no attacks for the round, Rey went down, Jess was stuck in a corner, and my droids finished it out.
Win: 200-86 (2-0)
Round 3 (Top 128) against Evan from Seattle
Ember TIE/Ba Interceptor (52)
Mag-Pulse Warheads (6), Biohexacrypt Codes (1) – Total: 59
Avenger TIE/vn Silencer (56)
Proton Rockets (7), Biohexacrypt Codes (1) – Total: 64
Lieutenant Tavson Upsilon-class Command Shuttle (64)
Kylo Ren (11), Munitions Failsafe (1) – Total: 76
This was a scary list to see. Tavson + 2 ‘aces’, and with the low initiative of my squad, the I3 and I4 of his aces wasn’t bad. And Tavson is always terrifying. The upgrade change here was swapping Static Discharge Vanes out on Ember for the Mag-Pulse Warheads.
Fortunately, due to Kylo, Quickdraw, Tavson being a real archetype last year, I had some experience and a game plan against this type of list. I had to go hard in on one of the aces, and then get behind Tavson’s firing arc as soon as possible, to prevent the big 4-5 dice attacks, and be able to safely shoot Tavson.
For this game, I was very happy with how I flew and executed my game plan. For the first engagement on turn 3, I had 2 quality shots into Avenger (a double modded range 1 from Grievous and a double modded Concussion missile from the vulture), and got a bit lucky to take Avenger out (only a 3.2% chance for 6+ damage). But the next turn was the beautiful one, where I got all my ships behind Tavson’s firing arc and basically removed him from the game:
At this point I felt I had won the game, with the positioning of all the ships. Tavson’s not doing much and Ember can’t take them all on. Even if I hadn’t killed Avenger last round, I’d still be a really good spot.
I lost a couple ships, the vulture when I guessed Tavson move wrong and was deleted, the Ember got behind Grievous, as Grievous chased down Tavson, but not too much to worry about.
Win: 200-100 (3-0)
Round 4 (Top 64) against Brent from Texas
Deathfire TIE/sa Bomber (32)
Fifth Brother (11) – Total: 43
Rear Admiral Chiraneau VT-49 Decimator (76)
Freelance Slicer (3), Cluster Mines (8) – Total: 87
Seyn Marana TIE/ln Fighter (30)
Lieutenant Kestal TIE/ag Aggressor (31)
Ion Cannon Turret (5) – Total: 36
Another list with a scary large ship, and less scary smaller ships. The upgrade change removed Static Discharge Vanes from Deathfire to add Ion Cannon Turret on Kestal.
To be honest, I don’t remember much from this game (sorry Brent), but thankfully we have log files, so I can say a few things. The game plan again was take out the big ship (RAC) and then have my superior small ships finish off the rest.
I think RAC’s flight through the board was the most interesting part of the game. I got a bunch of damage in, played around the Cluster Mines for a turn (he didn’t drop them, just held them), and then next turn he dropped the Mines when I couldn’t avoid, and even made a mess to hit all of them with an unwise barrel roll onto one. RAC ended up succumbing to his crits, a nasty combination of Stunned Pilot, Loose Stabilizer and impending board edge finished him off, as Grievous went down before he could manage the killshot.
Other than the Cluster Mine snafu, went pretty smoothly for me.
Win: 200-55 (4-0)
Round 5 (Top 32!) against Niklas from Sweden
Wow, Top 32, what am I doing here?
Baron of the Empire TIE Advanced v1 (30)
Cluster Missiles (5), Collision Detector (6) – Total: 41
Lieutenant Sai Lambda-class T-4a Shuttle (47)
Tractor Beam (3), ST-321 (4) – Total: 54
Major Vynder Alpha-class Star Wing (41)
Advanced Sensors (10), Proton Torpedoes (13), Ion Missiles (4), Xg-1 Assault Configuration (0), Ion Cannon (6) – Total: 74
Sienar Specialist TIE/ag Aggressor (26)
Ion Cannon Turret (5) – Total: 31
Into the Top 32, and up against a pretty good player (won a System Open and made top cut at worlds last year I believe). Squadwise, he had a very thick Vynder, and a surprisingly scary shuttle, with Sai’s ability and ST-321 title leading to strong offensive output. And those 2 ships were the most expensive, so definitely the priority targets. The upgrade change was just adding Cluster Missiles to the Baron of the Empire.
This was a good, back-and-forth, tight game. I think the first pivot point of the game was the Electoproton Bomb drop (for only my second EPB drop in the tournament!) I dropped in round 4 system phase, knowing Sai and the Baron, and possibly Vynder would be somewhere near the explosion. (Pictures showing round 4 system phase – bomb hiding under the Vulture – , round 5 planning phase, and round 5 EPB explosion)
Only 3 ships hit this time, not so spectacular, especially as Sai was unscathed by it, suffering only 2 ions and 2 ‘shields’. The poor Baron of the Empire however was ruined by it, suffering 3 ions and a weapon disabled, turning off the good Cluster Missile attack, and being left dead in the water to be mopped up over the next 2 turns. TUB 1 was also took 3 ions and a weapons disabled.
The next, and game deciding big play was a couple turns later, as General Grievous, after taking volleys of fire was left on 1HP and a damaged engine, and maybe a little lucky to still be alive.
My first instinct for his maneuver was to sloop and trade some shots with Vynder, hopefully getting the big half points before dying. But then if Vynder turned away, Grievous would be stranded without a shot and the Aggressor could get an easy kill. So I took a safer option, and turned left (with my Damaged Engine), towards Vynder, where I wouldn’t get shot by Vynder or the Aggressor, and maybe get behind Vynder, if Vynder also turned that way.
Vynder went left too, and Grievous snuck in behind him. This left me in a very commanding position with all my ships still on the board, just needing track down and finish of the Imperial squad.
This game and opponent was a pleasure to play, one of my favorites of the event. Cool dude to play and chat with on the opposite sides of the world.
Win: 200-104 (5-0)
Fun Aside – At about this point, inspired by how well my silly random squad was doing, I decided to paint up a General Grievous Belbullab (I had already repainted my other Separatists in a generic theme).
At some point, this exact jank list might well see the table!
Round 6 (Top 16!) against Sebastien from France
Omega Squadron Expert TIE/SF Fighter (34)
Elusive (3) – Total: 37
Ember TIE/Ba Interceptor (52)
Holo TIE/Ba Interceptor (54)
Quickdraw TIE/SF Fighter (45)
Special Forces Gunner (10) – Total: 55
Here we go, into the top 16. And at this point in the event, the Fly Better guys started making picks on who they thought would win each match. For this one, both Ryan and Dee picked me to lose, and I can’t really blame them. This First Order list is super streamlined, not much fat to trim at all. The upgrade change made was to remove Juke from Ember and add Special Forces Gunner to Quickdraw.
I was a bit terrified of this squad, it looked very good for a random squad, but I was also a little quietly confident. Beating higher initiative ‘aces’ with lower initiative ships is something I’m pretty good at, and from my scouting of previous matches it looked like he was mostly just jousting, which I could handle. (Its a long tournament, with super convenient log files, of course there’s scouting. It’s basically a time honored tradition of vassal leagues).
Aside: Sebastien’s other squad to choose between had Ensnare Sun Fac. That’s a couple of pretty solid random squads to choose from.
This wasn’t a too eventful game, my opponent may have been preoccupied, as he needed to reschedule the game last minute. The FO ships rushed up to get a turn 2 engagement, before I could set up all my dice modifiers, but I still was in a very good position for the engagement.
Grievous was an epic flanking position, despite moving before most of the FO, and he just went on a tear. Grievous got off 3 consecutive rounds of double modded attacks, doing 2 shields to Holo, all 3 shields from Quickdraw then 2 more to kill Holo. For the first round of shooting, my front Hyena survived on 1 health and was never quite finished off in the game. That’s a pretty quick summary, my droids rolled through killing ships and not quite dying themselves. At the end of the 5th turn, Quickdraw, Holo and Ember were all down, and he conceded there, having only done half damage to TUB 1, the Vulture and the Skakoan Ace.
Win: 200-54 (6-0)
Round 7 (Top 8!!) against Joe from Texas
Top 8!!! How did I manage this?
Sabine Wren Lancer-class Pursuit Craft (61)
Zuckuss (2), Shadow Caster (1) – Total: 64
Gand Findsman G1-A Starfighter (41)
Torkil Mux HWK-290 Light Freighter (38)
Gand Findsman G1-A Starfighter (41)
Passive Sensors (3) – Total: 44
Autopilot Drone Escape Craft (12)
Youtube Stream replay courtesy of X-Wing Debrief. Quick shout out to the guys at X-Wing Debrief for streaming heaps of this event, and capturing this game because this was a good one.
What in tarnation? I’m 6-0 and in Top 8 with this nonsense? Unreal. But playing against some much, much chunkier nonsense. It’s not bad what’s Joe’s got here, an unoptimised Torkil list, with a Tractor Beam mechanic for more nastiness. And that was the upgrade he added (Shadow Caster title) with no removal necessary. Again, both Fly Better hosts and their guest all picked me to lose, and I don’t blame them again, this was going to be tough (hopefully not a massacre at the very least).
In terms of priority targets, Sabine was the biggest piece, and scary with the tractor beam, but wasn’t a good first target. Most health, most agility, and a defensive pilot ability. She also has a weaker mid-game than the other ships, only one way to turn around, and a fast dial, easier to block and control the arc. Better to be a mid-game target of opportunity than a first target. I opted for the Passive Sensors Gand as my planned first target. G1-A dial better for turning around and keeping arc on target, and Passive might mean no defensive token. Torkil wasn’t super threatening, mostly annoying, but squishy enough to take down when presented.
Onto the game! There’s lots of things I can (and will) say about it, but I’d recommend just watching it. Was actually a cracking match with twists and turns. It’s only an hour, 20 minutes (huh, vassal games don’t have to take 3 hours, unknowable).
I got off to a rocky start, where I hadn’t made my mind up about how to approach the Autopilot Drone, whether to hide from it in my deployment zone, or ignore/try kill it. I habitually threw Grievous forward to flanking position, which I guess made me pick option B, ignore/try kill it. I had a pretty decent chance of killing it round 2 (53%), but didn’t so lost a shield on Grievous from the explosion. But I didn’t let it dictate my positioning, and was pretty well set up for the round 3 opening engagement. Grievous and Skakoan hitting both the flanks, and my droids set up with best chance as possible of not having one deleted.
This could have gone better, also probably worse too. The front Hyena (Cluster Missiles) got deleted, which I would have been hard pressed to not lose a ship to the firepower of this list. To not die, I would have needed 3/3 paint on my green dice against Sabine, which wasn’t impossible at 24%. Grievous and the Skakoan did a few to Torkil (27% chance to kill) and the droids chipped a couple into a Gand.
From that position, is was a good, if not very obvious place to drop my Electroproton Bomb, with all his ships flying into that channel. I dropped it, and Joe predicted it, with his Gand’s doing early k-turns to fly away from it next turn. (Pics of system phase when dropped, next planning, and explosion.)
Despite the efforts to avoid the explosion, one of the Gands was still hit, but only took 4 ions. A weapon disabled and/or some shields would have been really good there. Nonetheless, avoiding the bomb had sacrificed a lot of positioning, and the scum ships were surrounded and vulnerable. I took advantage of it, slaughtering Sabine to leave me with a 4 to 2 ship advantage, and despite al my ships bleeding, I was looking pretty strong.
Then it started to go downhill. Exchanging shots, I lost Grievous, and then I forgot the G1-As can zero stop and was badly caught out. An attempt to initiative kill failed, with the Gand rolling a cruicial natural evade, and my 2nd Hyena and the Skakoan Ace fell in one turn. I had gone from 4 ships against 2, to my lone Vulture Droid against 2 ships.
Aside: Pour one out for my silent hero the Skakoan Ace! This was the first time he died all tournament, and had been putting in solid work every game, being the glue holding my squad together. Him dying here really did feel like it was all over. I told Joe this, and this was also the first game his Sabine had died, a very bloody game indeed.
Next turn the vulture takes a direct hit and goes to 1 health. Oh well, it had to come to end sometime.
It seems pretty over, but my vulture is the highest initiative ship, so could maybe to do some ace stuff and pull off a win. Unlikely, having 4 turns to kill both ships (4 hull combined), without taking 1 damage back. I do a talon-roll, which successfully arc dodges, and I get 1 damage through. But now both his Gands can k-turn and threaten me.
There’s not much else I can do except turn in, then see what I can arc dodge or initiative kill, and pray. He does his kturns, one of which very narrowly missed an asteroid, and leaves me where I can’t arc dodge anything. I want to kill the one who’s got the lock, give me a better chance of surviving a return shot. And oh, I’ve got these Concussion Missiles, what if I just killed them both….
I lock, take the Concussion shot into the 2 health Gand, kill it, and the ability goes off to flip one of the 1 health Gand’s damage cards. If I’d been paying attention, I’d know there was at least one direct hit in there, so I have a very real chance of a double kill to win the game!
Alas, not to be. I flip up a Wounded Pilot, and the Gand shoots me back and kills me (only 59% chance to do so)
Loss: 179-200 (6-1 and eliminated).
There was nothing in this game. Came down to 1 health left on his Gand Findsman, after a 1/4 chance of the Direct Hit being flip to have the result the other way. But there were countless little dice rolls throughout the game that could have swung things either direction. Any of the 1 health ships dying a turn earlier or later, or even the EPB not doing any shields or Weapons disabled to that Gand. The 1 health left over at the end was enough, or the Skakoan could have not been attacked that turn for 2 extra health.
It was good, we both thought we were going to lose at different points in the game, good friendly chat throughout, and a super dramatic finish. This is why we X-Wing. I might have lost, but I’m still happy about the game.
My random list really grew on me. I used every upgrade and ability through the course of the event, even ‘used’ Composure a couple times as it let me get lazy and not need to think whether boosts would fit or not. Electroproton Bomb was better than I thought it would be, definitely underrated. But it’s not an upgrade you’d use every game and so for the cost its still not good. It does have unironic planning 2 turns ahead though. The Hyenas were great, I will have to fly more of them in the future, worse linked actions than vulture, but better dial with the 1 straight and 2 kturn, and more tough. Grievous, super solid. Separatist Drone went for play of the tournament, but missed, so Skakoan Ace has to be MVP.
It turns out range bands are really big. Range 1 for networked calculations, no formation necessary at all. Range 2 for EPB, hits basically everything. Range 3 for Kraken, even having Grievous as a flanker, Kraken ability was still able to support.
Lots of ships are good. Dice mods are good. I was pretty happy to go far into the event, even though there was a huge element of luck with random squads, then so much single elimination, doing well with random nonsense must take a bit of good flying.
Best of luck to Joe in the Top 4, I’m cheering for him to go all the way. Gands on Top.