Starting back in May with the Season 3 Celebration tournament, right before the Season 3 Community Vote, I started working on a project to quantify the qualitative feedback you’ve all been providing us with some actual tangible data about the metagame. I used the lessons and skills I learned from creating my Automated Campaign Tracker (patent pending), to create a Google Sheet where I could copy and paste the lists either from a single game, or from a single player’s performance in a tournament, and have competitive data computed for each faction and each card in the game, like how often a card is played, how many players are using it, and what % of games are won when a player includes that card in their list.
With the help and cooperation of our players and community members, from 8 tournaments and a decent chuck of non-tournament games, we have over 200 matches played by 50 different players from Season 3 which we were able to draw extensive metagame data analysis from. Now of course, in the grand scheme of things, this is not a very large sample size, but it’s more comprehensive data than we’ve ever had for the game before, and it gives an important tool for comparing people’s reported play experiences against actual gameplay data.
It’s important to remember that while data like this is helpful for getting a bird’s eye view of the of what’s going on in the metagame, it doesn’t tell us everything. It doesn’t account for things like player preferences and player skill, variance, etc. We can hope that once we have a large enough sample size, we can make some educated guesses about what’s going based on what we see in the data, but that’s about it. We are using this data in conjunction with comments from the community about their player experiences to create a more complete picture about the game that IACP is creating for everyone to enjoy.
Looking just at the Meta Share % (# of unique lists in that faction out of the total # of unique lists), Empire does have the largest share of the meta, with Rebels close behind and Scum in last place as the least popular faction. While popularity is not always a good metric for balance since it depends on player preferences, in this case one follows the other. Rebels are the faction closest to our ideal win rate, while Empire dominates with a >60% winnings, and Scum trails far below the ideal 50% win rate with 31.07%
We can break this data down by month to view how the meta evolved over the months of Season 3’s approved play period. In the beginning, with the Celebration tournament and the few non-tournament game results I had, Rebels were extremely popular, with Empire a distant 2nd place and Scum in 3rd, but the win rates were all surprisingly close. Going into June, Rebels began a steep fall in usage and win rate, matched equally by the rise of the Empire in popularity and winnings, while Scum remained unpopular and saw their win rates also dropping. After showing many people in the Slack channel the meta numbers for May and June and how Scum was lagging behind the other factions, more players decided to try out scum in July to see if they could make it work, but their win rates actually dropped faster even though more people were trying out Scum. Meanwhile, Rebels saw a resurgence in wins even as their popularity continued to drop, likely because there were more Scum players in the meta to prey on. Empire had consistent numbers from June to July, staying above a 60% win rate in spite of Rebel and Scum players trying to figure out ways to beat them.
Compared to older formats where activation counts were consistently in the 8s and 9s for Rebels and Scum lists, activation count is definitely down across the board. Rebels and Scum have 7 as their most common activation count, with Rebels having 6 act lists as the 2nd most common while Scum has 8 act lists as their 2nd most common. Empire has stayed solidly in the 6 activation count, with a decent number of lists going up to 7, but a lot of lists venturing down into the 5 and lower activation counts to run multiple queen piece lists. It’s safe to say that if you were running 8 activations in Season 3, you were very likely to be going last in the round, and that it seems like going last in the round isn’t as big of a deal in Season 3 as it was in previous metagames.
Much like their overall faction win%, Rebels were in a pretty good place for Season 3, with not too many real standouts, but also not very many figures that were disappointing either. Unsurprisingly, C-3PO, Heroic Effort, Gideon and R2-D2 were at the top of the most popular figures list, as well as each showing a >50% win rate when used. Impressively, Yoda was actually the 5th most popular figure after these 4, with Ahsoka right behind him, which shows you just how popular Rebel Force Users were in Season 3 once Yoda had arrived in his final form. However the Jedi as a group show win rates in the 45-50%, meaning they were pretty balanced as far as their performance goes and may have even been under-performing a bit, but more on that a little later. We’re also happy to see Jedi Luke and Gaarkhan putting out a respectable 50% win rate.
Strong standouts for the faction include Han Solo, with a 59.26% win rate, Chewbacca with 57.69%, Saska Teft at 58.82%, Hondo Ohnaka at 59.09%, and Jyn Odan with 69.57%. Figures that are relatively popular but seem to be struggling are Biv Bohdrik with a 35.29% win rate, the regular smuggler with a 16.67% win rate, and the elite Alliance Rangers with a win rate of 15.38%. Some of the figures that surprised me were Sabine Wren sitting at a respectable but markedly lower than expected 46.15% win rate. Another surprise was Rebel High Command doing nearly as well as R2-D2 at a 52% win rate, a card that I think I had written off long ago as just being inferior to R2-D2 for 1 point less, but it’s putting up results. I was also surprised to see Hero Luke at 40%, he seemed very good an poised to take advantage of Yoda’s abilities better than any other figure. And then finally I was surprised by the lack of MHD in the meta, with only 4 players using him once each especially considering how many people were predicting that Yoda’s Force Deflection would lead to an uptick in Rebel box lists.
I think few will argue that Empire hasn’t had a very good time in Season 3, especially after seeing the results of the Beskar Cup. Empire has had a consistent win rate above 60% since the end of June, and surpassed Rebels in popularity around that same time. Unsurprising to most, Zillo Technique was the most played card in the faction, showing up in 91% of Empire lists, and with a win rate that is only slightly higher than the faction’s overall win rate at 63%. Behind that, Imperial Officers were the next most common card, then Rule by Fear. Interestingly, Rule by Fear’s win rate at 69% was much higher than the faction’s overall win rate, meaning that Empire players who run Rule by Fear are doing significantly better than the players that aren’t. Also interesting was how much less common Advanced Comm System was than Officers, especially since this data doesn’t count duplicate cards in lists extra, just how many lists ran at least one or more copies of the card. It may be that some Imperial players forgot to report the card in their list, but the majority of these lists come directly from vassal log files, which means that many players may be forgetting to play the card, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be hurting Empire players much to not include it in their lists. It will be interesting to see how ACS does in Season 4 with cards like Sorin and Krennic. Doubt and Extra Armor actually trend below the faction’s average win rate at 55% and 58%, meaning that players running these cards in their list are doing on average worse than other Empire players, which is interesting considering some of the discussion around Zillo Technique and Extra Armor.
Looking at the actual figures themselves, Empire has no shortage of figures winning more than 60% of their games. Thrawn, Jet Troopers, and Royal Guards were each found in over 33% Empire lists, and each had a higher win rate than the faction average. In over 20% of Empire lists, Palpatine, Darth Vader, and Boba Fett were less common but arguable doing even better than the previous 3 figures in terms of win rate. Some more niche figures that have been doing very well in the faction include BT-1, who after struggling a bit to find his feet, has recently been doing very well in a Vader Palp Thrawn list piloted by Tuukka running Suppressive Fire to move the slow Sith lords around. General Weiss, with an impressive 67% win rate, has appeared in a variety of different well-performing lists, like Davy’s double Jets list, Morgan’s 4-act Vader Palp list, and Tom Parish’s 3-act Vader Royal Guard Champion list. Speaking of the Champion, who has found success alongside the single Ugnaught Tinkerer in what is now the infamous “Junk Guards” combo, has also found success in other lists, such as alongside Riot Troopers in a list piloted by MadFuhrer in the Dagobah Trials.
So with all that, is there any chance that anything in Empire is struggling at all? Out of the cards that are seeing play, the only figures that are at less than a 50% win rate so far has been Sentry Droids, with a still respectable 47% win rate, and Scout Troopers, who are showing a disappointing 33% win rate. Suffice to say, there is some kind of secret sauce that a lot of Empire lists seems to have in common that is giving them an edge. While we will be adjusting 1 major player in the Imperial faction, we will have to see if the Empire’s hidden edge decreases with new cards from Season 4, with the map rotation to a larger map, or if there are are further adjustments that need to be made in the future.
Season 3 has not had the same good fortune for Mercenary, aka Scum, lists, but we’ll be comparing specific cards win rate to the overall faction win rate, which is 31%. C-3PO continues to be the most popular figure in the faction, being brought in by either Temporary Alliance, the 2nd most popular card, or the elite Jawa Scavenger, the 5th most popular card in the faction. Interestingly, Jabba in 4th place is seeing far more play than Gideon in 11th place, though Gideon is doing far better than the faction and the slug, showing a 40% win rate in Scum compared to Jabba’s 29.7% win rate. After Jabba, R2D2 continues to be the droid-based card draw engine of choice for the faction in 6th place, with Black Market coming in 12th place right behind Gideon, though their win rates are only 1% off from one another so the cards may be interchangeable for lists that can run either.
Looking at actual combat figures, Greedo was the most common figure, followed by Onar, with both pulling in win rates above 36%. IG-88 was actually quite popular among Scum players this season, but his win rate was a very poor 26%. Boba was far less popular than IG-88 in Scum lists with 14% of Scum lists taking him, but he’s doing much better than IG with a 42.9% win rate. Hondo was also very popular, showing up in over a third of Scum lists with a win rate at 33%. Zuckuss was right behind Hondo in popularity and actually doing better with a 36% win rate. The only figures in Scum lists that actually had win rates above 50% were actually non-scum figures. Hera coming in with an impressive 61% win rate in Scum lists, though that’s only from a sample of 13 games played. And Jyn Odan showing a respectable 50% win rate, though only from 8 games played in scum lists.
Overall, I believe there are multiple factors that have led to a poor performance by the Mercenary faction in Season 3. Competitive fatigue by veteran players that remember Scum as being the strongest faction in the game for years, a map rotation that was very hostile to long-ranged figures that make up the bulk of Scum lists, a justifiably conservative design approach for the 3 new scum hunters in season 3 (Dengar, Zuckuss, and 4LOM) to avoid a repeat of past Hunter domination that led to less excitement for new Scum strategies, and better synergy and support cards for Scum’s best figure in season 3, Boba Fett, are all likely factors which have led to Scum struggling as a faction. We are hoping that a map rotation to a larger map, adjustments to cards in other factions and exciting new designs for the Scum faction from season 4 will all help to restore Mercenaries to a more equitable position in the IACP meta.
Phew! So there’s Season 3 in a nutshell for you. With Season 4 playtesting starting next week, we will be monitoring the metagame data for season 4 just like season 3 and use the metagame data we get along with the individual feedback from players and playtesters to decided if further adjustments are needed. Based on this data and on feedback from many players, the committee will be updating the Royal Guard and Knowledge and Defense cards to fix some of the issues they were causing, and you can read more about those changes and the reasoning behind them here. I want to thank you all for taking the time to read this, and the Steering Committee thanks all of you that continue to enjoy and support Imperial Assault skirmish through the IACP project, whether it be online through Vassal and TTS, on your kitchen table at home, or hopefully someday at your local game store again. We thank you, and we hope that you stay safe, and fight on. See you all in Season 4.