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Competition Squad Design 101

Author: Slie
Date: 1/5/2009

There are a ton of factors that need to be thought about when designing a squad for competition. Whether it's a local game store tournament or a major event like Gencon or PAX. When designing a squad for competition these are the things I consider in the order I think they should be thought about.

THE METAGAME:

You first need to consider what you will be playing against. This is known as the "meta". Meta is a term used to describe a perceived competition environment. If you think everyone is playing General Grievous, Droid Army Commander squads, you don't want play a squad that has inherent disadvantages against it, in fact quite the opposite.
I'm not going to go into what beats what here. That's for you to decide in your own meta. I did however feel it needs to be brought up, as often people bring squads to a tournament as "fun" then get upset when they lose. They didn't try to game the meta for an edge.
Now I can hear people already screaming at me that they want to play "fun" squads. Great enjoy, but don't expect to win tournaments.
Again, don't bring an all Jedi squad if you think 1/2 the field will be Vong...

POINT VALUES:

When entering a tournament you should know ahead of time what the point level is. In DCI play, there are 3 competition point values. 100, 150, 200. Each has it's own meta, and each has it's own design elements that are important to it.

100
This is the format I have the least experience with, so I won't go into a lot of details. At 100 points, the squads that seem to do best employ one major piece and some control elements. I will go into control elements later in the article. Previously the gate keeper squad at 100 pts was Darth Bane and 6 Ugnaught Demolitionists. This was one high-cost figure with a lot of damage output and Hit Points and the Ugnaughts give you some activation control and door control. However I think there are plenty of squads that can be made at this point level that use more medium-costed figs. Just make sure it can beat Bane.

150
This is I think the most difficult format to build squads for. This is the format the championship is played at. When designing for this format, you must be extremely selective as to the figures you run. You have to keep in mind the power-to-point cost ratio you are getting out of your figs. You must be playing the absolute best piece for each role in your squad. Efficiency of damage output and survivabilty should be the primary concerns.
If you look at the first place squads from the PAX Championship and the 150 Gencon Jedi Masters tournament, you will see they are nearly identical versions of Speedy Cannon (originally designed by thejumpingflea). Both winners have explained in detail on various forums the reasons for the one difference in their squads. The Gencon champion, billiv15 , chose to go with a Human Bodyguard to help counter Disintegration from Boba Fett, Bounty Hunter, while Maldorax, the PAX champion, chose to use General Dodonna. These choices both reflect the slightly different meta in which they were played. Gencon was before the Knights of the Old Republic set was released, Pax was after.
Maldorax and I playtested together for the PAX championships, so I have insight into his choice of using Dodonna. In the post-KotOR meta, he expected to see a lot of Mandalorian Scouts, hitting with BIG Opportunist Double Attack Twin Attacks. Dodonna reduced the risk of Opportunist hurting him.

200
This is my favorite format to build squads in. I think it allows for more synergy in the squads due to more room to pay for your pieces (more on synergy to follow). In this format, you can choose a "less efficient" fig more readily than in 150 as long as it has great synergy with the pieces around it. Here I think damage output is more important than survivability, unless you are designing your squad specifically for survivability (which is a valid strategy).
I believe this format to be the least defined of the three. At 150, there are 3-5 Squads that are just known to be the tier one squads, you kind of have to either play them or play a hate squad against them. If you play hate, make sure it can compete against the rest of the field. At 200, we have a lot more versatility outside of the "Big 5" squads. Lots of folks will take a tier 1 150 squad and add 50 points to it, so expect that. This is the format where non-standard squads can shine.

SYNERGY:

Synergy is how the squad interacts with itself. You wouldn't play General Grievous, Droid Army Commander without Droids, because then he'd have no synergy with the pieces around him. Not to mention he becomes hugely overcosted in that scenario.

This is the reason I'm writing this article. It kills me sometimes to see players playing a good squad idea, but just missing some very good synergies. This is the fun of squad building for me. Using one fig to make another fig more powerful. I'm not just talking about commander effects either. Although they certainly matter and do create A LOT of synergies.

As an example of a non CE based synergy, take any fig with Opportunist on it, now team it up with a fig that has Force Stun, or another ability that activates the target. Now you have a stronger piece than you started with. Instead of having to wait and hope your opponent will activate that key piece you want to kill before you can shoot it. You just stun it, and then get your Opportunist shot off. The control of the game is back in your hands rather than hoping for a mistake in play on their part.

Cross synergies, is a concept that is nearest and dearest to my heart. This is where multiple figs create synergy with multiple other figs. As an example, lets Look at Master Kota, GenoHaradan Assassin, and Captain Panaka. Kota gives +3 Attack and +3 Defense to the GenoHaradan, who has Cloaked and can move with out being shot at if he finds cover. His Defense becomes 23 outside of cover. Then you have Panaka, who can swap the fig that can't be shot with a huge muscle piece in Kota followed by Kota doing the big boom Force Repulse 5. Kota makes the GenoHaradan stronger, the GenoHaradan allows Kota to get into position for the big bang without taking fire, then Panaka swaps them. That is synergy. Use it. Love it. Design around it.

Another concept here that needs mention is anti-synergy. Yoda (from Clone Strike) has a great commander effect that allows you to reroll failed saves, but it is not optional. So you would not want him in a squad that was running Sly Moore to activate one of your own figs a second time. Yoda would make it twice as hard to fail the save on Dominate.

CONTROL:

There are three major types of control in SWM: door control, tempo control, and initiative control. Each form of control has synergy with certain squad types. But all are somewhat important to every squad.
Door control is a MUST have in any tournament squad. Whether it's Override, Door Gimmick, Satchel Charge, or Shatter Beam. If your opponent has Override and you don't have any door control, you should lose almost every time in a tournament. They can simply lock you out of strategic movement options, or get a lead and hide the rest of the game. Tempo control is about activations in SWM. General Dodonna is the premier tempo control piece in the game. He allows you to choose to activate either one or two figs per phase. Using tempo control can force your opponent to make most of his moves before you move your major figs. This means you know where he is, and can then set up your pieces to hurt him. If you have tempo control in SWM, you tend to go last, but going last means you have synergy with Opportunist, you shut down your opponents Opportunist, and you can safely move out more fragile pieces now that he has already gone and can't kill them.
Initiative control is a great thing to have. Master Tactician, Tactics Broker, Recon, or Anticipation. Initiative control means you know you go first or have a much better chance of going first each round. It also has synergy with tempo control in that you can go last in one round then first in the next round basically using your big guns twice in a row on the same target. It also lets you pass initiative to your opponent, so you can further out-activate them by one more fig. It also works great with Cunning Attack.

PLAYTESTING:

This is the method of play used to better your skills with your squad of choice as well as getting a feel for what squads it does well against and which it may be weaker to. Playtest against your perceived meta. Do it a lot, or don't expect to win a lot. Know your squad inside and out. Know how to beat the things that can cause you problems. If you rely on a CE, how do you deal with Disruptive? You better have a plan, and the best way to have that plan is to play it a ton of times and figure out how best to work around it. Do it.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

These are just some of the more important factors to consider when building your squads for a tournament. I promise you if you incorporate much of what I've said above into your squad building you will make better squads. You improve your chances to win any given tournament as well. Is what I've said the be all, end all of squad design? No, it isn't. Is it a huge chunk of it? I think so.

I'm no world champion. I don't know it all. And I'm very receptive to your comments and would love to hear and learn from the community. If you like the article or hate it, I want to hear from you. If you want to tear it apart line by line, I want to hear from you.

If you want to send me cookies, I like chocolate chip. Or you can just click the PayPal Donate button on shinja's wonderful Bloo Milk site.



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