X-Wing Theory: To net list or not to net list, that is the question?

Net listing does get a lot of unwarranted hate at times but it is a big consideration when deciding on what squad to fly for a tournament. Should one pick a net list, tinker with a net list or make one of your own?

Netlisting is cool. Usually the best players are netlisters, as they don’t waste time trying to figure out something “unique” but they practice with what is proven the best.” Maciej Paraszczak.

I personally don’t see the problem with net listing, after all there is not an exhaustive list of good combinations. Long-time readers might find my view odd considering I like to play with combinations and upgrades, possibly more so of late, but I am more than aware of the risk/reward of trying to dabble outside of the box. I wouldn’t describe myself as an innovator, more so someone who might just poke their hand out of the lid and try and grab something that appeals and might give an edge.

Vader, Echo & Zeta2

My three Tournament wins and podium placings all featured running either Rac and Echo or Triple Imperial Aces, plus one Palp build with Vader and Colzet when the Raider first dropped. They could all be labelled as net lists or variations on a net list. All bar one had a Tie Phantom in it with only two events being pre-nerf.

With X-Wing being relatively young in comparison to other miniature games and LCGs it was also born into the internet age where other systems like Warhammer 40K predate the internet. Although net listing exists in all the games systems, with X-Wing the amount of useable ships and combinations is comparatively small, the good lists, (or net lists), get popularised quickly in this day of social media and what not. Of course a few slip by and take a while to surface, as with all things, but should we jump down someone’s throat just because they are using a net list?

“We all know what is good, right?” Jeff Berling on a Mynock Squadron podcast interview.

A couple of days before our Christmas club tournament I helped Wretched Scum bash out a list. He was previously flying a version of Fenn, Old Terroch and Maneroo since August but wanted to swap out Old T for something else less squishy. We sent a series of private messages, (PM’s I believe is the shorthand), and came up with the idea of stripping Maneroo down to just Attanni Mindlink and slotting in a stripped back Assaj, (as he had a lancer to paint and Assaji is good, right), with Latts crew as Graham was finding it quite good on a YV-666.

Wretched Scum went on to win the tournament with his list, (five rounds, 32 players), whilst Calum Brown came in second place using an identical list, which he got from the net which had been doing quite well in Poland and called Parattanni. So with all the hub-bub of Christmas and organising a tournament we had not been looking at what was going down elsewhere in Europe in terms of regionals and quite independently and a month late came up with Parattanni. Naturally somebody felt slightly miffed at having thought they had invented a good list only to discover that it had already been out there for a bit. I on the other hand found it slightly amusing.

mind tricks luke

“..the only wrong thing is people telling people the correct way or best way to play X-wing.” Kris Sherrif, Nova squadron Podcast.

Kris shares the battered and tortured past of Warhammer 40K and the poisonous split between their tournament community and casual players and the perceived perception of each other. Some of the worst games I had the misfortune to play were against so called ‘casual’ players who made a point before playing about laying their cards on the table about their feeling towards tournaments, (which were not completely unwarranted), and then proceeded to play like the win at all costs rules lawyer that they had just given a ten minute diatribe about as a reason they do not go to tournaments.

X-Wing is fortunate that even though it has massively grown and you get the odd vocal voice of denouncing the tournament scene it is nothing like the quagmire of other systems in terms of “this is how or how not to play.” I’ve never moaned about people wanting to run themed armies that are not tournament competitive in terms of the meta at tournaments or elsewhere back in the day. And in terms of net listing or not, it’s a person’s time, money and game. If they want to run a net list then that’s cool as the internet now provides an effective database of what is a out there and doing well and might float your boat. If on the other hand you want to innovate then that is also cool. Just remember not to piss on someone else’s parade just because they have taken a different approach to craft their list, even if it is the method of just firing up the old PC and looking at list juggler.

fisherman net

The pitfalls of net listing

“Dengaroo was a great way of making the cut, but once there, the rest of the players knew how to beat it.” Alex Birt 186th Squadron Podcast episode 24.

There in one glorious sentence of twenty two words is a shorter version of Why Dengaroo won’t win Worlds 2016. Now, Nand won Worlds 2016 with Dengaroo for a number of reasons outside of playing well which boiled down to Dengaroo playing vaguely similar to the Han Solo builds he had been running previously and his selection of upgrades on Dengaroo. I felt that his combination of upgrades on Dengaroo was the optimum build, although I would have been tempted to not run the seismic torpedoes and have a 5 point bid rather than 3point. That is local meta dependant and it turned out okay for him anyway.

When picking up a netlist, whichever one it is, you have to ask yourself can you win the mirror match if it comes up and can you get in enough practice with the list to overcome the fact that a lot of top players will have prepared for facing your squad? Some like the now deceased Dengaroo or the now popular Ketsu Bossk combination allow for personal customisation on upgrades which can really help in the mirror match and throwing a small spanner in the works for someone who has prepared for the net list you are taking. If on the other hand you are taking something like ‘Pattiswarm’ there is no room for changing parts.

In a straight mirror match of completely identical squads player experience with the squad will be a telling advantage. If you cannot leverage a positional advantage you will be going into a basic dice off or at worse out positioned and mopped up frustratingly easily.

Tyrell F1 1996

The 1996 Tyrell Yamaha F1 car. With a limited budget the designers studied all the circuits and worked out that the most common type of corner was a particular type of 2nd gear one and aerodynamically designed the car to be amazing in that type of corner.

In the Constructors Championship they finished 8th out of 11 teams with 5 points. The Williams Renault Team finished first with 175. 

The pit falls of Innovating

“Relying on surprise is a sign of lack of preparation” Bill Walsh, “The Score Takes Care of Itself.”

Firstly the benefits of innovating are quite simple. If you can come up with something that you like, can fly well and counters the meta and the counter meta you are in a good place. If you can also get the practice mileage in with the list you are in an even better place. The downside is achieving this. It requires a lot of research and development time combined with fine tuning and practice. Then some more practice which can result in the binning of the idea.

Furthermore the list needs to rely on being better than just a ‘surprise’ factor for the opponent. You cannot rely on it being a bit out there in the hope of befuddling their strategic thinking. A good opponent well practiced with their list will identify which of your ships to prioritise first, even if they don’t quite get all the layers of synergy. As I like to quote from Mel Gibson’s re-make of Payback, “If you don’t understand it, get rid of it.”


Mclaren Honda17

The future is bright, the future is orange. Mclaren Honda’s 2017 F1 car

A quick sporting example is Honda’s return as an engine manufacturer to Formula One. They returned to partner Mclaren to much fan fair in 2015 in the relatively new era of the Turbo Hybrid V6 engines. They could have copied and built upon the ideas and basis of the all-conquering Mercedes engine but came up with their own take on it, (which also differed from the Renault and Ferrari engine design philosophies). Due to already being behind on the development of the other manufactures and having a unique approach, their engine started out about 110BHP down on the Mercedes unit. If I recall correctly this was about 30MPH slower on the straights or in X-Wing terms fielding an 80 point squad against a 100 point squad.

They persevered through 2016 and making gains going from 9th out of 11 teams in 2015 to 6th out of 11 teams. At the start of 2017 they decided to bin their idea and try and build their own version of a Mercedes engine. This has now left them back where they started in 2015 with the slowest car again in a straight line. Possibly the slowest overall on some circuits and with no chance of winning a race which was the intended three year aim at the start of the 2015 season.

merecedes F1 15

All conquering Mercedes team half a lap ahead of everyone in 2016.

“Currently it is dry January in terms of X wing tournaments so I will be a little cold in terms of tournament gaming going in, but I don’t feel that should be much of an issue.” Yours truly in the run up to Yavin 2017, D’oh!

There is nothing wrong with innovating or flying what you like and taking it to an event. If you want to be successful and have a good run or even win then you have to temper and decide if you have enough R & D time and practice time to build a good list. And also enough time to scrap it and come up with something else. I did this with Yavin 2017 where I had a promising start with my mindlinked Fenn, IG88B and Kaato build only for the wheels to fall off seven weeks before the event.

The choice I was left with was either soldier on and swap out Kaato for Sacro Plunk, (which looking back could have worked) or try something new with little practice time. I tried something new, came up with a good idea and didn’t have the required practice time. The B and C versions of the build where far superior to the one I took to Yavin as well as just not having the game time with the A version either.  I knew this going in and accepted it and still had a good time, but it could have been better from a results perspective with more R & D time.

Mclaren Merc 08

Driver’s Champion 2008 lewis Hamilton in a Mclaren Mercedes

Halfway House

Perhaps for those either not wanting to be a net lister or at least put their own stamp on a build for whatever reason, taking a net list and craft it to your own flying style and preferences. This is what Nick Yun did with his NickDraw build at Yavin2017. He took a list he liked the look of and mildly tweaked it with Mike Dennis to fit their play style and preferences. Another 186th member, Janus Avivson, also recently wrote of taking a tweak on Parrattanni to suit his needs. Even a simple tweak like dropping the title on Fenn Rau in Parattanni for the dreaded mirror match which Bob Dee did at Yavin on route to 17th spot.

The benefits of this compared to either pure net listing or pure innovating is that it is like buying a premade decent chassis and then slotting an engine of your choice in there. You just have to be careful that you are not taking a Mercedes chassis and taking out the Mercedes engine and sticking in a Honda power unit.

f1 crash

First-hand experience

“The best place to practice for a tournament is at a tournament.” Franco Marufo, 40K Global podcast.

At the point of originally writing, looking at my current schedule, I have about 7 weeks before the first store championship that I’m attending. I want to get back on the winning horse and the first three weeks or so in the build up to the store champs is going to be a non-playing affair for one reason or the other. This led me to try a tweak on a net list for the Q1 Mother’s Day Tournament at Ibuywargames in Woking.

Rather than run a version of a build I had been playing with recently with prepared openings and obstacle set up I got side tracked in my thought process by tinkering with a net list the night before.

Knights of Ren:

Kylo Ren Upsilon Shuttle: Swarm Leader Fire Control systems, (3 point crew upgrade), Title

2 x Delta Defenders: X7 Title

100 points

I decided that despite the Kylo Ren shuttle title being quite good and three points for a crew option, I could spend those total five points on upgrading one of the Delta squadron’s to Colonel Vessery for more all-round consistent damage.

Knights of Mother’s Day:

Kylo Ren Upsilon Shuttle: Swarm Leader Fire Control systems

Colonel Vessery: A score to Settle, X7 Title.

Delta Defenders: X7 Title

100 points


How did this pan out? From a pure results perspective terribly as I lost the first three games then got a bye in round four finishing ninth out of eleven. From a research perspective not bad as  I had managed to keep a slim chance of winning alive at time in both the first games and was competitive and made small errors in the third match.

Games one and three were against triple Imperial aces and my initial engagements cost me long term by not either lining it up correctly or taking the right action. Game two was against a Pattiswarm and really I should have just thrown the shuttle down its throat as it was going to die eventually but could have taken a ship or two with it meaning that the defenders just needed to blow one more away. Most pertinently this is what happens when you fly something completely new with no practice, no proven strategy and possibly slight tinkering from the original build.

f1 crash and burn

Crash and burn


Maybe depressingly it does not matter if you net list or not. The bulk of it will resolve around planning and practicing. Picking up a net list the day before a tournament without any proper planning or test driving will result in flying by the seat of your pants and “those that fly by the seat of their pants, later crash and burn by the seat of their pants,” dear old Bill again.

The added bonus of a net list is a proven track record but you still have to figure out if you like it or can fly it. A lot of Imperial Ace players switched over to Old Fangeroo/186th Special because of similarities in play. A home brew list that you have innovated, (even if it does turn out to be an existing net list), still has to be put through its paces to determine whether it floats your boat or not and whether you can be competitive with it. If you innovate a list you cannot rely solely on surprise as its dominating factor while on the other hand with a net list you have to be prepared for the opponent to have analysed the theory of how to beat your list in advance and probably practiced it.

In advance of the tournament that you are planning for you have to be happy with which decision you take in terms of research and development time you have and be prepared for the pitfalls and bonuses of either approach. Above all though enjoy the puzzle and the journey of either approach and respect other players’ decision on the use of their time.

Closing Thought

Today’s Jank could be tomorrow’s Meta

tyrell 6 wheeler

The Tyrell six wheel F1 car of the 1970’s, only team to competitively run and win with a six wheeler. Six wheeled F1 cars got nerfed first by tyre development then by the rules.

Further Reading

Wretched Scum: Tournament report

“No, I am your father Christmas,” Tournament breakdown

My Yavin 2017: Kylo Ren crew and Lt Colzet

Janus Avivson: Changing a net list 

Nick Yun Yavin 2017: Nick Draw 

Tom Tattersall: Tom picked up Parattanni to use in his assault on three Regionals and Yavin 2017 and there is a general upward curve detailed below in his exploits resulting in sparkly dice.

London and Exeter Regionals

Yavin 2017

Daventry Regional

X-Wing Theory: Success Diesease

X-Wing Theory: Perception Bias

X-Wing Theory: Controlling the Uncontrollable

Stay on the Leader: Net List and Chill

One thought on “X-Wing Theory: To net list or not to net list, that is the question?

  1. Pingback: Firefly 31: I’ve Been Sane Too Long Anyway – Such an X-wing Hipster

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