No Card Left Behind, Part One
An X-Wing™ Strategy Article by Guest Writer Neil Amswych
When you're an X-Wing™ squad leader, there's never a dull moment. If you're not engaging the enemy in high-speed dogfights, there are always ways to prepare for your next battle: recruit new wingmates, refine your talents, upgrade your ships and Astromech Droids, practice your maneuvers, and adjust your strategy.
X-Wing and its metagame are constantly evolving with each new fighter, pilot, and upgrade. Even among these constant changes, though, the recent addition of the new Scum and Villainy faction stands out as a major event. As the new faction's thugs, pirates, bounty hunters, and mercenaries begin to engage Rebel and Imperial forces in earnest across the galaxy, it's a great time for all players to explore new strategies.
With their unique talents and their selfish, idiosynchratic tendencies, the galaxy's Scum offer natural counters to a number of the more popular strategies. Palob Godalhi disrupts a number of strategies built around sharing focus tokens, and Torkhil Mux warps the standard bid for pilot skill and the right to fire first. Along with Boba Fett , Prince Xizor , and the other Scum pilots, they give squad leaders from every faction good cause to review their ships and their strategies.
Today, as you think about how you might tinker with your ships and tweak your squad lists, guest writer Neil Amswych (aka "The Tusken Tactician") calls your attention to some pilots and upgrades that you might have previously set aside, but that might be worth another look with the recent changes to the metagame. In this first part of his review, we look at his top three "Second Chance" picks for Astromech Droids and elite pilot talents.
Because most players are reticent to stress their own ships, few players have ever seen R4-D6 in action. The stress-factor aside – and it is a big aside, especially with so many other potential ways for your opponent to cause your ship to suffer stress – this Droid could very well save valuable Rebel lives when assigned to Biggs Darklighter . Though R4-D6 is probably still eclipsed as an addition to Biggs Darklighter by the combination of R2-F2 with Experimental Interface (which also causes stress), it is far cheaper than that combination, and offers you more freedom with the rest of your squad.
If you can don't mind seeing Biggs being so loaded with stress tokens that he resembles Tycho Celchu , then R4-D6 might be worth another look. In the face of so many different possible attacks, it can potentially keep Biggs alive just a while longer, and that means the rest of your squad survives longer, too.
R5-P9 is another underappreciated Droid that you may have previously pushed aside for R2-D2, despite the fact that R5-P9 is a point cheaper. Like R2-D2, R5-P9 allows you to regain a shield, but it forces your pilot to hold onto a focus token until the end of the combat phase. Since most of the time you'll have cause to spend your focus token on either offense or defense, it's hard not to use any focus tokens that you buy with your valuable actions. However, if you have Garven Dreis or Kyle Katarn nearby, dishing focus tokens out for free, this Droid could function perfectly well as a cost-effective substitute for R2-D2 or to add greater resilience to a second fighter in the same squad.
One particularly good candidate for this Droid is X-wing ace Luke Skywalker , since he can take Predator as an elite pilot talent, and his unique pilot ability decreases the likelihood he'll need to spend his focus token on defense.
1. R5 Astromech
The R5 Astromech is another frequently overlooked Droid that deserves more attention, especially now that the Most Wanted Expansion Pack has revamped the Y-wing with the Bomb Loadout and BTL-AR Y-wing Title upgrades. Y-wings, with their hull values of "5," are able to live through a number of hits once their shields have failed, and that makes them prone to critical hits. For just one solitary squad point, this Droid undoes the detrimental ongoing effects of any Ship crit you suffer. You don't even need to use an action to undo the damage; you can just flip it over.
That means that if you’ve been hit by Structural Damage , your agility can go back up, and that one defense die is sometimes all you need to live another turn. If you have a Console Fire , you can put it out without losing an action. If you have a Damaged Sensor Array , you don't need to miss a beat; you can keep on performing actions, which is especially helpful if you’ve got a Blaster Turret on your Y-wing. So long as it isn't the shot that destroys your ship, you can even flip a Direct Hit! facedown, effectively restoring a point of hull!
It's true that the R5 Astromech won’t help against Ship crits like Minor Explosion and the Y-wing’s worst crit – Munitions Failure – since these cards have an immediate effect. Still, this Droid can, nevertheless, play a valuable role in keeping your Y-wing functional and threatening for much longer, and that’s certainly worth one squad point.
Elite Pilot Talents
Elusiveness is an interesting elite pilot talent for pilots who want to increase their defense. A pilot equipped with Elusiveness can force an attacker to reroll an attack die, but it hasn't seen much action in X-Wing tournament play because, again, most tournament players are reticent to stress their own ships. Still, there are a handful pilots who don't care so much about stress.
The first is Jek Porkins , that oft-neglected X-wing pilot who can immediately remove any stress tokens he receives, sometimes with no penalty at all. With Elusiveness, an attacker can be forced to reroll an attack die, either forcing a blank or an eye which may lead them to spend a focus token that they might have preferred to use in defence. The risk, of course, is that they reroll to a hit or crit and the EPT is wasted for that turn, meaning that your ship has taken a stress token for no reason. This is why even better than Porkins, Elusiveness fits very nicely with Ibtisam who can use the stress to improve her attack or defence dice.
Decoy is another elite pilot talent that rarely turns up among the tournament crowd, although the recent arrival of Torkhil Mux has prompted an increase of its use in squads that rely upon having their TIE phantoms fire early to trigger their Advanced Cloaking Devices . For example, most people traditionally equip the unique TIE phantom pilot "Echo" with Veteran Instincts , but you could instead put your Veteran Instincts on a nearby Rear Admiral Chiraneau , giving him a pilot skill value of "10." Then, if "Echo" were equipped with Decoy, he could swap pilot skill values with Chiraneau to fire and activate ACD near the top of the order – if not at its peak. Most notably, if you equip your “Echo” with Decoy and team him up with a Chiraneau equipped with Veteran Instincts, it means that your “Echo” fires and cloaks before your opponent’s “Echo” or "Whisper."
Alternatively, you could use for Decoy on a Sigma Squadron Pilot paired with a "Howlrunner" swarm. Here, your Sigma Squadron Pilot gets an Advanced Cloaking Device and a boost to pilot skill value "8" through "Howlrunner." This affords you more points for the rest of your squad than if you were to field "Echo" or "Whisper," and it makes it difficult for your opponent to decide who to target first – "Howlrunner" or the Sigma.
- "Howlrunner" with Decoy and Stealth Device
- Sigma Squadron Pilot with Recon Specialist and Advanced Cloaking Device
- Black Squadron Pilot with Draw Their Fire
- Alpha Squadron Pilot
- Academy Pilot
Total Squad Points: 100
The fact that Bodyguard hasn’t yet featured prominently among the galaxy's squadrons may be because it's still new, but it's probably because few players are willing to spend a ship's action and leave it vulnerable to enemy fire in order to boost another ship’s agility. However, the picture on the Bodyguard card – that of Guri - points to a great combination.
Guri's ability has already led to a lot of conversation about a combination involving Advanced Proton Torpedoes ; she draws into Range "1," performs the target lock action and then uses her free focus token to modify her five attack dice, up to three of which are automatically converted from blanks to eyeballs. Still, this isn’t the only Range "1" combination for Guri; because she gains a free focus token anytime she begins the combat phase within Range "1" of an enemy ship, she can easily afford to spend a focus token to activate Bodyguard and boost the agility of a nearby friendly ship. After all, she can still perform the focus action to gain her own focus token.
This also means that Guri can still be helpful in the fight, anytime she gets into close proximity of her foes, even if they have higher pilot skills and boost or barrel roll out of her firing arc. Better yet, if you equip Guri with both Advanced Proton Torpedoes and Bodyguard, your opponent won’t know your intentions as you fly her into Range "1," and that means that your squad is far less predictable.
X-Wing is a game of daring, high-speed dogfights. Your enemy's ships are always in motion. Your enemy is always tinkering with new technology and new strategies. Sometimes, the best way to gain the upper hand in your duels is to seize the element of surprise. As you prepare for your next battle, you might consider taking Neil's advice, revisiting some of the game's less commonly played ships and upgrades, and building your squad around them.
In the meantime, stay tuned for more X-Wing news, including the second part of "No Card Left Behind," in which Neil reviews his top three underrated crew and pilots!
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