After a wild year of battleforces, mercenaries, and Imperial oppression, AMG today released their 2022 points changes for Star Wars Legion. These are only the first of five (!) rules and erratta documents AMG has promised us before the year end, and they don’t go live until January 1st. This is only one piece of the puzzle, but let’s see how well made that piece is, shall we?
State of the Empire
For the past few months, Legion has been in a pretty stable place, and honestly every faction has seen some real successes with a capable pilot at the wheel, even where the weaker factions struggled without defaulting to “the” build (such as GAR with Anakin/Padme/Pykes). CIS and Rebels sort of hung around the middle, Grand Army of the Republic lagged behind after some demonstrably overenthusiastic attempts at rebalancing last year (though still finding success in the hands of some of the best players), and Empire and Shadow Collective (and to a large extend the powerful SC units splashed in to other armies) ran away with the lead. Pyke Syndicate Footsoldiers and Capos in particular were problem units, largely due to the Dodge spam meta the game had warped into, while Blizzard Force for the Empire definitely needed looking at.
As a snapshot, at PAX Unplugged last weekend, the top eight comprised of one Shadow Collective army, one Rebels, one GAR, and four Empire lists, three of which ran Blizzard Force, and two others ran significant Pykes. The other note of caution was that CIS, the former boogieman of Legion, didn’t really go away because of nerfs, but fell from grace due to the meta – with Pykes so prevalent and being so immune to chip damage, which was a CIS staple, droids just suffered and melted away. Our fear was that if the problem forces got hit, and CIS didn’t receive any tweaks, they’d be right back to dominate the scene.
So, leaning into these updates Republic needed a leg up, Shadow Collective and Empire needed a kneecaping, and CIS needed some careful pruning. How did AMG do?
Two changes here – Death Trooper DLT-19Ds dropped 4 points to 30, and Shore Trooper DF-90 Mortar Troopers went up 2 points to 40. These are both worthwhile tweaks, and a good way of tweaking unit costs without changing the base unit wholesale and running into something unexpected. Death Troopers didn’t see much tabletime before, while Shoretrooper Mortars were an almost necessary component of any Empire list that didn’t run Blizzard Force.
And that’s… it. The problem units of the problem battleforce in the problem faction, Speeder Bikes and the Stormtrooper Heavy Response Unit, weren’t touched, and Blizzard Force really needed some points tweaks – bids of 20 points plus were pretty common, and when you can run an army that far under budget and still come out on top, somethings gone horribly wrong with the design somewhere. AMG has said that the battleforces aren’t designed to be necessarily competitive, but if you’re doing tournament points change you probably should do something about the faction that keeps taking home trophies at every event since its release…
It would’ve been nice to see a few more fine detail tweaks here (Kallus and Imperial Guard should come down a tad, and Iden Versio probably needs a look at), but we’re… not starting good here, guys, gotta be honest with you. The monster in the deep is apparently “fine”.
No changes. This is not great news, as we’ll get into when we look into the neutral card changes, which Rebels relied heavily on. Underperforming units like Leia and Mandalorian Resistance and Sabine Wren didn’t get the help they needed, so unless something meaningful changes in the next couple weeks, expect to wave bye-bye to Rebels until the next big update.
Where the Rebellion falters, the Grand Army of the Republic steps in to fill the void. Having fallen behind after some needed, but heavy handed nerfs to Rex-star early in, GAR armies had fallen into a very clear build of Anakin/Padme/Pykes as sort of the list, with Padme in particular almost necessary to just function. Worry no more, defenders of democracy! Arc Troopers (both the core unit and the Strike Team) and Phase II Clone Troopers both received valuable points costs, while a swath of upgrades got cheaper as well.
Legion is a game where small changes can have big effects. GAR wasn’t doing too well, but it was held up to okay level by some pretty strong pieces, and those pieces haven’t been touched. Anakin, Padme and to a lesser extend Yoda are the heroes the Republic revolves around, narratively as well as mechanically, and while I’m not yet nervous about them being left untouched while the army around them gets stronger, I wouldn’t want to encourage any balance tweaks for the rest of the faction until we see how the dust settles. Republic may have been hit too hard with their last nerfs, but the last thing we want to see is an overcorrection the other way.
The Magnaguard RPS-6 rocket launcher… thing went up six points to 34, while someone took a knock to the head and decided to spike the Dwarf Spider Droid Nose Mounted Ion Blaster from ten to twenty five points. The RPS was the first upgrade taken in pretty much every Magnaguard unit, but CIS were already struggling to get to top 8s at events, let alone take home the space-bacon. Someone at AMG has clearly looked at the CIS lists that are being played and gone “hrm, this upgrade is popular, better nerf it” without considering whether the faction needed a smack to begin with. Even worse, the DSD Ion Blaster stopped being a problem unit seven months ago when Shadow Collective came out and droids took a Dodge spam to the face. I’m wildly unconvinced that the hit to Pykes and other Dodge meta units will bring CIS back to the fore, and I can’t see a scenario where anyone takes the Ion Blaster at all now – this is probably a situation where it would’ve been better to buff the Flame thrower rather than nerf it’s rival. Was it undercosted? Probably a little, but this just functionally deletes the option from competitive play.
On the positive side, B1s got a nice collateral buff with the points increase to Pykes. B1s funcitoned as a horde, hard to take down without concerted effort while pushing out little bits of chip damage – not a lot per unit, but a whole tonne of units pushing fire downrange. Dodge threw that strategy right in the bin, with Pykes being able to almost ignore B1s while pushing their (much better) to take down droid units of consequence. Fewer Pykes in the game means B1s are in a much healthier place. It would’ve been nice to have some tweaks to empower less seen units like B2s and the poor foresaken Droideka but hey, at least we aren’t Rebels.
Suffer, ye fish faced fiends! Pyke Syndicate Capos (both the upgrade and Commander) and Footsoldiers both got a much, much needed nerf, with Footsoldiers going up a whole 10 percent. The Black Sun Vigo upgrade also went up slightly, but the other Black Sun units somehow escaped attention, which is a little concerning. Overall, these are good changes – the faction (both solo and as mercenaries) is still completely playable and in contention, just probably slightly less oppressive than they were before – maybe one less unit and a few more upgrades per army, which feels fair. The only Shadow Collective list to make top 8 at PAX last week just went up 38 points, which in a game as points tight as Legion is a pretty hefty cost. The losers in the faction (Gar Saxon, c’mon buddy, I still believe in you) need a leg up, and I’m not sure just bringing the best units down a little means that Mandalorians and Swoop Bikes are good yet.
This is the spice. AMG has clearly had enough with the prevalence of Dodge and its meta-warping ability (not sure why that’s my go to phrase of the week), and has taken some pretty drastic measures to get rid of it, with a swathe of neutral cards getting more expensive. Situational Awareness and Up Close and Personal hurt Operatives in particular, especially my beloved Cad Bane, while Vigilance going up more than twice its cost from five to seven is going to make Padme one very, very sad senator.
Some of the other changes make a little less sense. Grappling Hooks just… didn’t really see play, and doubling their points value to two doesn’t really gel well with where the game is at, unless AMG has a trick up their sleeve. Tenacity going up from four to six probably just means that a lot of melee units just got a sideways hit of +2 points, because it was almost an autotake for some units like Magnaguard, Wookiees and Maul. Offensive Push is also a bit of a tax on these units, while Burst of Speed more than tripling in cost was probably targeted at Shadow Collective Maul but is a huge hit to other units like Dooku and Palpatine, who really needed it to be viable at all.
An open letter to AMG
AMG, listen to me – we’re almost in 2023, it’s the future already, we have the technology where the same unit or upgrade can and should cost different points in different armies. Vigilance was to a pretty big extent what was holding GAR and Rebels together, despite being a problem for mercenaries, and bounty hunters have profoundly different impacts in different armies. Cad Bane is great in CIS, but you’d have to pay me to take him in Empire with so many better options for that Operative slot. Burst of Speed needed to change, but only for some units – trying to fix Maul may kill Commander Vader’s viability entirely. AMG really, really needs to start looking at points variety between factions – I don’t think anyone’s going to scream bloody murder if it happens.
AMG has also shown a pretty firm reluctance to reduce points on units – aside from GAR, which has been screaming for a fix for over a year now, only Death Troopers saw a slight cut, and even then only on an upgrade model. It’s hard to see why – wargames aren’t just about army balance, they’re also about internal balance, and Legion struggles here. Star Wars has such a huge scope of wonderful characters, and too many of them don’t see the tabletop, especially in a game as small-scale as Legion, where armies are much smaller than larger games like Warhammer or, hell, Marvel Crisis Protocol. The internet is filled with posts of Mandalorian fans asking how to make the unit work, because Mandos are just cool (give me Death Watch you cowards), and it’s a shame AMG hasn’t taken the opportunity to try and address internal balance at the same time as faction balance.
Winners and Losers
The biggest winner here is, by a country mile, Empire. Every problematic unit, card and rule they had has somehow avoided the nerf bat, while their closest rival, Shadow Collective, has taken the bat to the face. Without some significant rules changes over the coming weeks, Empire will be the Iron Hands of 2023.
The Grand Army of the Republic is happy with these changes. The dark days of Rex-star may not be on the horizon, but these cuts are a significant boost to an army that really needed it. There’s a really good chance that we’ll start seeing a bit more diversity in lists here, especially with Padme likely going the way of the dodo with the neutral card changes.
Separatists are probably a little better, but I’m hesitant to really call them winners. The big threats that kept them down, Pykes and Dodge spam, have been severely neutered, so they’re stronger by default, but two of their better options have also taken a hit. Jurys still out on this one – check back with us to see if we’ve been ground under a robot boot yet.
Shadow Collective players probably aren’t mad here. It’s hard to run that many Pykes and not see that something needed changing. Black Sun escaped any real changes this time around, and other units are still great, just not criminally undercosted. An investment in the Shadow Collective is still paying off.
Weirdly, the army with no points changes is the army that’s the biggest loser. Rebels are going to suffer with the price hike to neutral cards. Vigilance and Situational Awareness were key to keeping otherwise fragile units alive, Burst of Speed hurts Luke, their only decent Operative, and Tenacity and Offensive Push punish Wookiees, their only real melee threat. None of these changes were likely targeted at Rebels, aiming instead squarely at Dodge spam, but they’re a damn good case study in why faction specific points costs badly need to be a thing.
This is… a truly mixed bag. Shadow Collective units were doing nasty things to the game, and some of them have had that fix. Dodge spam was arguably even worse, and while it’s been nuked from orbit, that’s also caught innocent bystanders in the form of potentially crippling Rebels. CIS got a couple of confusing hits for an army that isn’t doing too well, and GAR is happy, but the huge rampaging gundark in the room is Empire and Blizzard Force and nothing happened to them.
There’s four more rules drops coming this month, so there’s still hope yet, but if nothing meaningful changes it might be time to start polishing those jackboots and reminding people how much you love democracy.
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