In the first of my two wave two Imperial ship reviews, let's cover the biggest angriest triangle in the game: the Imperial-class Star Destroyer.
|TIE squadrons not included (but recommended!)|
- 11 hull points, the highest available currently in the game.
- 4 front, 3 side, and 2 rear shields (for a total of 12 shield points).
- 1 brace, 2 redirects, and 1 contain defense token. This is a very similar defense token suite to the VSD but adds the situationally-useful contain. This suite will stand you in good stead against bombers and the occasional big ship attack but it does not like getting peppered at long range consistently and the one brace is prone to getting locked down by accuracy results.
- A generous front hull zone with 8 dice and a wide firing arc.
- Numerous upgrade slots that can fit all of the following:
- Title (obviously)
- Weapon team
- Ion cannon
- Offensive retrofit
- And then either an additional offensive (ISD-I) or defensive retrofit (ISD-II) slot
- Squadrons 4, which makes them quite adept at activating a number of squadrons all at once and can be further boosted through offensive retrofits.
- Engineering 4, which is adequate for their size.
- Command 3, which means they're going to need to plan ahead for their command-setting.
- A maximum speed of 3 and an adequate amount of maneuverability (1 click at 1 and two total clicks at speeds 2 and 3, each at 1 click at the two last joints). Nothing amazing there but for a large ship it's not bad at all.
Basic usage recommendations
Ideally, you'll want to apply your front arc to enemies as consistently as possible and achieving this is similar to using a VSD only you aren't as restricted in your speed and maneuverability: navigate commands are still your friends and you'll find speed control and leading your enemies to be invaluable. In particular I find it's common for newer players to crank their speed up too high and overshoot enemies and then have a hard time turning around later on. In general, I'd recommend sticking around speed 2 but be willing to go down to speed 1 (particularly with the longer-ranged ISD-II) or up to speed 3 (particularly with the shorter-ranged ISD-I) for brief periods when necessary, but endeavor to have a navigate command or token on hand for changing back quickly before you get stuck going somewhere you'd rather not.
ISDs have an awful lot of everything (attack dice, hull, shields) but they can't tank an entire enemy fleet. In particular, the damage really starts to pile up when their defense tokens get overheated and their shields are dropped. Do your best to send them after an appropriate amount of the enemy fleet. Sailing them right into the middle of a fight with no additional support from your own fleet will see them getting destroyed in most cases.
Because an ISD is such a large portion of your fleet, they often enjoy being supported by numerous other cheap ships, such as Gozantis and Raiders, that can mind their flanks, help with some support duties, and provide cheap ship activations to make up for the one extremely expensive activation provided by the ISD. When your opponent has substantially more ship activations than you do, it can sometimes be tough to get your ISD to perform as well as you'd like because your opponent can wait out your ISD activation and then activate their nearby ships with the knowledge of what the ISD's ending position is. Your cheap activations can help get around this problem. It is for this reason that I generally do not recommend using more than one ISD in a 400 point game (although two in a 500 point game is a blast).
Similarly to other highly destructive ships, I recommend deploying the ISD as close to last as possible. Knowing where the meat of your opponent's fleet is can set the ISD up very well to both avoid problems of its own and cause them for your opponent.
Try to avoid over-upgrading your ISD. It's a ship that can really get a lot of mileage out of upgrades (and we're getting to those soon-ish) but because of its numerous upgrade slots and endless hunger for more upgrades you can go overboard and wind up with a 150+ point monstrosity (not counting commander if it's your flagship) that starts seriously cutting into the points available for other necessities like additional ships and squadrons.
Don't forget that with Squadrons 4, even an ISD not committed to being a carrier can still get some serious squadron activations in when necessary. Even 4 generic TIE Fighters activated all in one go can cause some serious anti-squadron damage. The only real limitation on the squadrons command is your need for navigate commands and the occasional engineering command. Speaking of which, I maintain very similar advice to what I said with the VSD: in general, I really can't recommend using concentrate fire on an ISD. One more dice in a pool that will usually be 4+ dice already is not that significant compared to the benefits you receive from other commands: in particular, the navigate command is in more direct competition as it results in better odds of getting to bring that juicy front arc to bear. A navigate command that allows you to use your full front arc instead of your full side arc was effectively a concentrate fire for 4 dice. That's pretty swell.
ISDs have three different titles available and I can recommend two of them.
|You're avenging the hurt feelings of the crewmen on your other ships that didn't quite kill the enemy ship, I guess?|
Avenger can set itself up with no extra help from other ships in two different ways. First is by double-arcing a single ship. Attack with your best arc (preferably the front) first, get those defense tokens spent, and then attack with your second arc against which those exhausted defense tokens can't be spent. Second is by activating bomber squadrons - sending 4 bomber squadrons against an enemy ship will usually get its defense tokens spent to minimize the hull damage dealt by the bombers, but Avenger is still waiting to get its attacks in afterward and this can cause big trouble for the defender.
Avenger can be used well with accuracy results against redundant defense token ships. For example, if an enemy MC30 spent one of its two evades earlier in the turn and you attack it with Avenger and use an accuracy to lock down the ready (green) evade, it gets no evades at all against the attack. This can come as a rather unpleasant surprise.
Avenger also favors two objectives that come to mind: Planetary Ion Cannon and Advanced Gunnery. With Planetary Ion Cannon you can attack an enemy ship prior to any ships activating and its critical effect causes them to choose and exhaust a defense token as well, so it's a great setup shot for Avenger. Advanced Gunnery is a good pick if you're running an ISD-I Avenger without a Gunnery Team because two consecutive attacks against the same target from the same hull zone (front plz) with the Avenger effect is extremely strong.
I've thus far discussed Avenger's uses against ships but please be aware that Avenger works against squadrons as well. Pesky light ace squadrons already used their scatter tokens? Pour flak into them and inform them those exhausted scatters cannot be used!
I covered this in the Admiral Screed article, but I strongly advise against making a fleet based on combining Overload Pulse and Avenger. It's a fragile combination and the Overload Pulse-bearing ship is usually doing little but hoping everything will work out with the Avenger. It's much easier simply using those points towards other combat ships that combine well with Avenger but can also take out enemy ships just fine on their own.
|Bringing devastation to itself and enemy ships too sometimes! But for sure itself.|
1) It works once per round, so you cannot use it multiple times in one activation.
2) The only restriction is that you are attacking from your front hull zone, so it can work at long range.
3) It can be used against any target, so you could add some extra blue dice while attacking one squadron.
Devastator works best when you have some means of getting your defense tokens thrown away quickly (through Vader and optionally by also targeting your own defense tokens with an Intel Officer, which is totally a thing you can do) and getting down to just one brace and one redirect. It thus works best on an ISD-II for the defensive retrofit slot so you can use Electronic Countermeasures to keep your reduced pool of defense tokens getting work done. Don't forget that you can always spend defense tokens against attacks even if they don't really do much. Brace that 0 damage attack down to 0 damage, spend a redirect and then don't use its effect, spend a contain when there's no chance the generic crit effect will be used, etc.
You can give up your contain to get an easy 1 blue die from Devastator and quasi-safely get about 2 extra blue dice from Devstator. You can pretty unsafely get 3+. My main issues with Devastator is you're assisting your opponent in making your ISD easier to destroy by compromising your defense in order to gain a benefit and the title itself is very expensive at 10 points. The restriction to just the front arc can also be tough if you're up against a very maneuverable high-activation enemy fleet that now has even more incentive to avoid your front arc and will be ideally ganging up on your ISD with numerous ships, which is even worse because now you have even less defense tokens.
In short, I don't recommend the Devastator title. I find the other two titles easier to use and less expensive with less restrictions and no real need to deliberately decrease your own survivability to get them working. If you're committed to trying it, I'd consider using it with Vader or Tagge - Vader for obvious reasons and Tagge because he can bring back discarded defense tokens at the start or turns 3 and 5 so you're only temporarily vulnerable.
|Relentlessly loving Skilled First Officers since wave 4.|
Relentless really enjoys being paired with a Skilled First Officer. For 1 point, the Skilled First Officer allows you to discard him to discard your top command dial right before activating your ship. This is quite good on Command 2 ships because you then have only one command dial remaining: the one you assigned at the beginning of the turn. This way you can make a spot command reassignment for cheap in addition to just enjoying being quasi-Command 2. But wait, there's more! During your next Command Phase, Relentless will have zero command dials assigned so now you will need to assign both of them. This means you get to choose for two turns in a row exactly what you want Relentless to do. That's quite good for a total of 4 points, and it also offers some Slicer Tools counter-tech, should those be a problem in your meta (by discarding the Sliced command on top of the stack prior to activating).
You can, of course, use whichever officer you prefer instead. The neat thing about Relentless is it's a useful all-around title for any kind of ISD and you can choose to simply enjoy it as a small perk without feeling the need to add in a Skilled First Officer as well.
The ISD-I has something of a bad reputation but it's quite potent when used well, it just requires a bit more finesse than the "artillery battery" ISD-II. The ISD-I has a three main benefits over its more popular cousin and those are:
- An extra offensive retrofit slot for doubling-up (as of wave 5, usually to be a super-carrier). It should be noted that you cannot use two of the same upgrade on the same ship, so no double Expanded Hangar Bays for Squadrons +2.
- Higher average damage from close range in the front and side arcs at a cheaper cost:
- Front = 6.75 (7.5 with Ordnance Experts) versus 6
- Sides = 3.5 (4 with Ordnance Experts) versus 3
- It's generally less upgrade-hungry than the ISD-II, so it starts cheaper and stays cheaper.
I should mention before I get to build recommendations and I'm going to underline this upcoming part because it is very important: you can build ISDs in innumerable ways and many of them are meta-dependent. ISDs are very flexible ships and so any build recommendations are not intended to be an all-inclusive list. With that out of the way, let's proceed to the ISD-I upgrade options and builds I recommend giving consideration to:
One of the downsides of the ISD-I is it lacks a defensive retrofit slot you could use to keep it better-protected. Minister Tua provides such a slot, and if you choose to include her I would generally recommend using Electronic Countermeasures to keep your brace token safe. If you've got a free slot, she's always welcome.
Given ISD-Is tend to hit hard but won't reliably generate accuracy results, Intel Officers can be a helpful addition if you have a free officer slot. If you struggle with command decisions, a Support Officer or command-specific officer can help if you're not using Relentless. Wulff Yularen is always a welcome inclusion on larger ships so you can keep using engineering and/or navigate tokens throughout the game.
A quick note on Leading Shots
It's not uncommon to see people put Leading Shots on their ISD-Is. The basic logic behind the decision is the front arc has 6 dice that have 2 blank sides apiece (reds and blacks), so being able to reroll a bad roll there could be pretty helpful. The issue I have with this decision is Leading Shots does absolutely nothing for the side arcs and thus it's very "best case thinking," as enemies are going to be doing their best to sneak out of your front arc, where you may only get the one serious chance to put damage into them before they're gone, which Leading Shots cannot help you with. Spending the same points towards High Capacity Ion Turbines (making your side arcs more deadly and reliable) or Ordnance Experts (rerollable black dice are deadly black dice) would get my vote.
If it was ever going to be a useful weapon team, it's on an ISD-I that's likely to have a blank die or two in a front arc attack anyways. I'm just not 100% sure what kind of upgrade suite really makes them sing and isn't better than going for Ordnance Experts with the "Bruiser Extraordinaire" or "Cheapo ISD" builds, below.
Expanded Hangar Bay+Boosted Comms+Flight Controllers
This is for when you absolutely want your squadrons to hit like a ton of bricks, particularly your fighters. Activating 5 squadrons (6 with a squadron token) at up to long range and giving them all +1 blue dice on their anti-squadron attacks cleans up enemy squadrons pretty quickly. Add an officer and other upgrades to taste - you could include a squadron-friendly officer (like Admiral Chiraneau or Wulff Yularen for reusable squadron tokens or a Flight Commander or such) or one of the other officers I recommended above if you wanted to also put points into being a gunship in addition to a carrier (but it does get expensive!).
High Capacity Ion Turbines + H9 Turbolasers + Ordnance Experts
This is a build I've been fond of lately and it's deceptively mean. Due to the High Capacity Ion Turbines adding blue dice to the side arcs(which always roll an accuracy, hit, or crit) and the H9 Turbolasers allowing you to change any dice with a hit or crit to an accuracy, you get a mean short-ranged bruiser that has a guaranteed accuracy in every attack. Small ships like to run around your sides when you get up in their business and with a guaranteed accuracy + an average of 4 damage from your side arcs at close range, you can usually kill light ships trying to escape provided they've already taken a bit of damage. You can also one-shot flotillas (by locking down the scatter, then 1 damage to shields and 3 to hull = dead flotilla) this way. It also turns your front arc into a pretty beastly thing.
It should be noted that if you're using Vader, you don't really need the Ordnance Experts, as he allows for superior rerolls through his ability. You're welcome to further spruce up the build with an officer or title, but the core upgrades above are what make it work.
Intel Officer + Ordnance Experts
It's basically a more barebones "Bruiser Extraordinaire" but it gets work done for only 121 points. You can sub out the Intel Officer for XI7 Turbolasers if your meta has a lot of redirect defense token ships and bring the package down to 120 points.
Spinal Armament + Gunnery Team
Quite simply, this build seeks to produce the same average damage at long range as an ISD-II, gives up some ability at medium range, and is far punchier at short range. It's not a bad deal considering the core package of Spinals+Gunnery Team is only 126 points, 6 points more than a naked (pre-Gunnery Teams) ISD-II. You can jazz it up with Minister Tua if you miss the defensive retrofit slot of the ISD-II, or go with other options outlined above. Normally I'm not huge on Gunnery Teams with ISD-Is due to their shorter-ranged dice, but with 4 red dice in the front they become a more compelling option.
As mentioned already, the ISD-II is generally the more popular ISD variant. It picks up a rare-for-the-Empire defensive retrofit slot and has longer-ranged dice compared to the ISD-I variant. The ISD-II is overall easier to use as its longer-ranged dice (both anti-ship and anti-squadron) and access to a defensive retrofit slot are much more forgiving than the ISD-I's shorter-ranged dice and no intrinsic defensive retrofit slot. It likes going at a bit slower speed (2 and 1, usually) than its more aggro cousin and tries to keep as many targets in its front arc as possible.
The ISD-II is also much more likely to generate accuracy results due to all those blue dice which makes it better at hunting down flotillas.
There are some fairly easy choices when it comes to the ISD-II and so we'll be covering the upgrade slots more and the builds less, given the basics of the ISD-II remain the same regardless of build, but minor changes in upgrade preferences will change its function slightly.
Always Gunnery Team
The ISD-II is a big chunk of points and you need optimize the quality of its attacks. It's got a big juicy front arc that can often get one target in medium and another at long range (or if you're lucky, two in medium or closer). Gunnery Teams are unrivaled in terms of competition for the ISD-II's weapon team slot for this reason. You won't always get them to "work" every turn but you're effectively investing 7 points to substantially improve the odds that your 120+ point investment gets two attacks every turn, which is crucial, and it makes it foolish to "hide" several targets (including squadrons) in the same arc, figuring the ISD can really only meaningfully attack one of them.
Some players leave off the Gunnery Team in the hopes that their opponent will pick their Advanced Gunnery objective and allow the ISD the option of attacking twice from the front arc. This is not a good idea. Any plan that relies on you going second (perhaps your opponent would prefer to go second? you can't rely on being second all the time) and then picking the objective you really want them to pick as otherwise your ISD is worse than giving it a Gunnery Team is a bad plan.
Always defensive retrofit
Very similar logic on this one, really. The ISD-II is a big investment, so spending a few more points to fill its defensive retrofit slot is a way to protect that investment. The default for many players is Electronic Countermeasures so you protect your defense tokens from accuracy lockdowns, but in metas with more swarm of ships approaches and/or bombers, you may get more mileage from Advanced Projectors (to make use of opposite-hull-zone shields) or Reinforced Blast Doors.
Captain Needa and other officers
Given the ISD-II prefers to engage in combat from long to medium range, you'll get more use from evade tokens overall than an ISD-I. Giving up the contain defense token is a pretty easy choice for Captain Needa. Overall there's not as much competition for the officer seat on an ISD-II given you'll be generating accuracy results a lot more regularly and therefore there's less desire for an Intel Officer and you come standard with a defensive retrofit slot and therefore you can't take Minister Tua.
Leading Shots is a reliably good 4 point investment for the ion cannon slot on an ISD-II given you get blue dice in every arc and once you hit medium range you're hitting 8 dice out the front and 4 out the sides, so situations where the rerolls are tempting despite the blue dice cost will come up more often (red dice let you down, blue dice rolled too many/not enough accuracies, etc.). I don't think Leading Shots is absolutely essential, but being able to have a shot at fixing your dice for such a potentially large attack is very appealing.
It should be noted that Leading Shots can be used on anti-squadron flak attacks as well, so if you roll two non-hits against a squadron with an ISD-II, you might as well pitch one of those disobedient dice to reroll the other and try to luck into an accuracy.
Conventional wisdom is its best to use the XI7 Turbolasers as the default ISD-II turbolaser slot upgrade. The reason being that being able to redirect only 1 damage is pretty effective when the ISD will usually be locking down the brace token (on larger ships), so a decent amount of damage will bore straight through into the hull. It's also helpful (particularly with Leading Shots) for focusing on raw damage against no-brace ships like CR90s and MC30s that are counting on their redirects to keep them alive through a stronger attack.
The other two options I would consider, however, would be Spinal Armament (to simply throw more red dice, improving your front arc to 5 red and 4 blue) or H9 Turbolasers. The H9s can feel a little bit like overkill with all the blue dice you're throwing being likely to generate an accuracy on their own, but they have some surprising uses:
- At long range they allow you to more consistently chisel away at flotillas. Your odds of naturally generating an accuracy on 4 red dice is only 41%, which means nearly 3 of every 5 long-ranged attacks on a flotilla from an ISD-II will be wasted. With the H9s factored in, you can usually get at least some damage to stick through the evade (or maybe even get two accuracy results!).
- They work on anti-squadron flak, which means provided at least one of those two blue dice is a hit, the other can be an accuracy. This is quite helpful for getting damage to stick to scatter-equipped aces.
- When combined with Leading Shots or Darth Vader you get a lot more control over how many accuracy icons you generate through the judicious use of rerolls. Sometimes you need two accuracy icons when you would normally generate only one (for example, when firing on a ship with double evades or double braces) and other times you really need only the one and would like to reroll your red accuracies looking for more damage and/or your blue dice looking for crits safe in the knowledge that even should things not go great, you still have a guaranteed accuracy you can use at the end.
Gunnery Team+Electronic Countermeasures+Leading Shots+XI7 Turbolasers
This is pretty much the "default" ISD-II through much of wave four. With the increasing prevalence of flotillas in fleets, H9 Turbolasers are an easy swap-out for the XI7s. It's not cheap at 144 points (prior to officer and/or title, if you wish), and Leading Shots can be dropped if you feel it necessary to free up 4 points. Effectively, most ISD-IIs in competitive fleets are variants of the Ol' Reliable in some fashion or another, with some tinkering done around the edges on occasion.
Commanders that synergize with ISDs
The only thing better than improving an ISD's hull points from 11 to 14 is faking your way to 17 with Reinforced Blast Doors 😉 (please note that this isn't always ideal - ECMs are still probably the best all-around choice for dealing with enemy ships but SEVENTEEN HULL POINTS COME ON).
With Darth Vader around, ISD damage output against other ships can be quite high and is very consistent. Given they roll large dice pools and have a "meh" contain and redundant redirect they don't mind spending, either ISD variant is happy to have Vader around.
It should be noted that with Vader present, you can often spare yourself reroll effects from other upgrades such as Ordnance Experts (ISD-Is) or Leading Shots (ISD-IIs) in favor of Vader's generally-superior reroll ability.
Continuing my praise of Moff Jerry from the VSD article, ISDs love having Jerry around for the additional maneuvering shenanigans. The best effect is at speed 3 where Jerry can push them up to 4 total clicks with no navigate commands required. Even more interestingly, you can get some great sharp inside turns done with ISDs at speed 3, or repositional shimmies that help you keep your front arc on target. For example:
I should note I don't feel this isn't as strong a synergy as the earlier-mentioned commanders, but being able to go back and forth from speed 3 to 1 with a navigate command can be helpful for both ISD variants. Generally being able to rush at speed 3 to a specific location and then crank it down to speed 1 with a tight two-click turn from a nav dial can be situationally great.
Screed isn't really a great combination with ISDs: he can do okay with an ISD-I because he gets the most mileage from black dice but there's no great ordnance upgrade combo waiting there for him; he generally would've rather had 2 ordnance upgrade ships for the cost of an ISD. However, he can still do just fine with an ISD in the fleet given they're quite self-sufficient and can bring features to the fleet that it was otherwise lacking. This is true of basically every other commander as well. Tarkin would've preferred VSDs for his ability, but ISDs can still do just fine. Tagge needs to arrange some silliness (often with Needa and Turbolaser Reroute Circuits as well as Electronic Countermeasures and maybe even the Devastator title) to really get some synergy from his ability, but it still works just fine despite the stronger synergies available to Tagge elsewhere.
What I'm getting at basically is I can't strongly recommend ISDs with any commander not already listed above, but ISDs can do well enough with anybody. They may not be a great combination but neither would they ever be a bad combination with any commander. Ozzel absolutely hates the idea of running a VSD and Konstantine wouldn't want to run a fleet of nothing but small ships, but the ISD can go with anybody.