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Max Brooke Discusses the Nantex-class starfighter

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The TIE/rb Heavy Expansion Pack and Heralds of Hope Squadron Pack for Star Wars™: X-Wing hit stores this Friday, bringing a totally new ship to the Galactic Empire while enhancing the Resistance with new pilots and upgrades as well as fresh paint schemes for the T-70 X-wing and RZ-2 A-wing. The points for these ships are now availble in the Support section of our product page, but this is also an opportunity to make adjustments to other ships, pilots, and upgrades. Today, X-Wing developer Max Brooke is here to discuss changes to one of the most prominent ships in the current competitive scene: the Nantex-class starfighter. Join him as he breaks down these changes and lets you know what to expect in the future!

The Nantex-class Starfighter has been a ship on a complex trajectory. In a faction full of fragile, high-maneuverability ships, we knew that wanted it to stand out as unique by highlighting its special features—its Geonosian pilots with their capability for high-intensity maneuvers, the specialized tractor array with which it is equipped, and its turret. All of these factors made close-in maneuvering a large part of its identity, which we reflected with the ship ability and upgrades. Making things even more interesting, it was the first high initiative option for the Separatists, which meant access to ace-style play for the faction, albeit an unusual form of it. Further still, thanks to Ensnare, it provided a control-style list to the faction in the form of multiple lower initiative ships with that upgrade.

These control-style lists are ultimately what lead to the first points change to Ensnare and tractor changes, far more than the dreaded Sun Fac. Sun Fac’s performance at tournaments was generally underwhelming, but multiple Petranaki Arena Aces with Ensnare could play havoc with middle-tier lists. It wasn’t overpowered, but it proved too frustrating a barrier for new players.

So when Ensnare got a points increase and tractor mechanics were changed last January, the Nantex was generally set aside by players. This isn’t too surprising: hit with both an efficiency decrease and a change to one of its core mechanics, it’s easy to see why players stepped away from it. Conventional wisdom and test data alike seemed to support the conclusion that it was not competitively playable, and that even a significant points drop might not be enough to resuscitate the ship in competitive play.

Obviously, this second conclusion was not exactly correct. After the July points change, we discovered that the Petranaki Arena Ace crossing the six-ship threshold, with ample room for upgrades, bringing the swarm buzzing back to life fiercer than ever. Instead of being a control list, these new, six-Nantex lists are efficiency lists that burn down the opposing ships with amassed firepower. On a purely conceptual level, this sort of straightforward swarm isn’t necessarily a problem. However, this form of it has clearly proven too efficient.

While the six Petranaki Arena Ace swarm hasn’t yet had a chance to win a major event, this has more to do the pause on Organized Play events in many countries as a result of the global pandemic than the efficiency of the list. The six-Nantex list would surely have been a contender at the top tables of events this fall. More significantly to this change, though, the list’s raw efficiency makes it a gatekeeper that has pushed players to seek increasingly niche strategies to tackle it. While some amount of list-based Rock-Paper-Scissors is inevitable, the degree of advantage this list has in a good matchup is too high. We have enough data, both numerical and experiential, to show that the list needs to be brought down to a reasonable playing field with everything else.

However, we also don’t want to completely push this list out of the game. Extreme shifts in balancing have been a major problem for the Nantex so far—due to the uniqueness of the Nantex as a ship, changes to its points and mechanics have sometimes carried unexpected results along with the more predictable ones. As such, we are going to take a lighter touch, even as we implement this unscheduled points change.

This points change is aimed to break up the current incarnation of the 6-Nantex list, but not to push the Nantex swarm archetype out of the game entirely. The Petranaki Arena Ace will move to 35 points, and the Stalgasin Hive Guard will move to 33 points. The aces are also being adjusted slightly, accordingly.

That means that by downgrading some or all of their ships to the Initiative 3 Petranaki Arena Ace (or Gorgol!), players will be able to have 6 Nantexes in a list. Our testing suggests that removing the list’s ability to have a deep bid or lots of upgrades, and pushing the initiative lower, will help many middle-tier lists compete with the Nantex swarm. This should give other efficiency lists a chance to defeat it, and thus create more room for aces to fly against those lists.

While the development team debated waiting for the November update, we have decided to implement this change now for three major reasons:

  • There are relatively few major Organized Play events going on at the moment due to the global pandemic, so we do not have the usual concern about disrupting people’s plans excessively with this unscheduled change.
  • In regions where events have been able to safely resume, the list has conclusively shown to be too prevalent a gatekeeper, and there is no indication it will not continue to do so.
  • If this change proves insufficient to curb the Nantex, we can make additional changes at the end of November, equipped with far more data than we would have if we only tested internally for that time. While our internal playtest process is robust and our testers are extremely diligent and insightful, the sheer number of players means that we have much more data to work from after something has been released publicly.

While we prefer not to enact unscheduled points updates without due consideration, they are an option we will continue to exercise when needed.

X-Wing’s dynamic points balancing remains a core element of the game, and one of many tools we will use to keep the play experience fresh and exciting for players over the lifespan of the game!

Thanks Max! For more information on Star Wars: X-Wing, including rules information and other support materials, be sure to check out our product page!  

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