Thursday, February 2, 2017

Imperial squadron review: TIE Advanced

Moving on to the second (and shorter!) review of the wave one Imperial squadrons, we have the TIE Advanced:

It was in Star Wars: A New Hope that one time ever, how could you not recognize it?

The TIE Advanced is a support squadron with a bit of fighter mixed in. It's fairly contrary to the usual Imperial design philosophy: it can act as something of a multi-role fighter in that it has 3 blue dice against squadrons (which at 1.5 average damage isn't great but isn't bad either) and throw one black dice against ships (which is not as good as a bomber, but 75% of the time, it will deal one damage). However, a side-by-side comparison to the Rebel X-Wing will see the TIE Advanced coming off fairly jealous of the X-Wing's +1 blue dice against squadrons as well as  the X-Wing having Bomber, which allows it to benefit from Bomber Command Center, which improves its average damage against ships to superior to the TIE Advanced and it can always trigger critical effects (although, to be fair, the red dice with Bomber is a bit swingier than that black dice without, the ability to trigger critical effects is pretty swell). For only +1 point more, the X-Wing is a more versatile squadron.

There is one area the TIE Advanced excels at and that's being a meat shield. With 5 hull points, Escort, and speed 4 the TIE Advanced is a superior bodyguard to the X-Wing due to its ability to simply move further and therefore dive on those grenades before they go off on your other squadrons.

In general, the basic TIE Advanced is a good inclusion in any kind of fleet where you'd like to protect crucial squadrons from enemy attacks for an extra turn or two. They like to hang around TIE aces, particularly those that buff nearby squadrons (like Major Rhymer) as well as Intel squadrons for that reason. If you have 4 points lying around, it can be worth upgrading a regular TIE Fighter to a TIE Advanced simply to present a meat shield for your remaining TIE Fighters, who do not like being attacked. The main problem the regular TIE Advanced encounters nowadays is the fact that in general it's not worth bringing more than one or two of them, and the unique/ace TIE Advanced options are pretty compelling upgrades, depending on the circumstances.

So he just kind of... brings a Death Star wherever he goes?
Tempest Squadron is a TIE Advanced unique squadron from the Corellian Conflict that for +1 point gains the Bomber keyword. It's a natural upgrade for a TIE Advanced that would have been guarding a bomber wing (particularly Rhymer) anyways, as it increases your average damage against ships from 0.75 to 1, and makes you eligible for those Bomber Command Center rerolls (which for one reroll brings you up to an average of 1.25). In a weird way I'd recommend considering Tempest Squadron almost as an alternative upgunned TIE Bomber. I have a hard time imagining a circumstance involving a bomber blob where you wouldn't want to cough up the extra point to turn your first TIE Advanced into Tempest Squadron for that reason.

Darth Vader does not skip out on doing his ellipticals.
Darth Vader takes your standard TIE Advanced, gives it two brace tokens, one extra black die against squadrons, and adds a neat special ability where all of his crits count as an extra damage point. A few things to note about this ability:
  • This means the hit+crit side of black dice counts as 2 damage!
  • While being very similar to the Bomber special rule against ships, Darth Vader still cannot trigger critical effects (crits do still add damage, though).
  • If Darth Vader is given Counter (from Dengar, for example), the critical symbols on his Counter attack will also count for damage, giving him a 75% chance of doing damage on his Counter die.
  • This significantly improves his average damage against squadrons from 1.5 to 3.25, more than doubling the average damage done by the generic TIE Advanced and doing substantial anti-squadron damage in one squadron activation. 
  • Darth Vader is great against enemy aces, as every single side on his blue dice contribute to bringing those aces down. Just be a bit careful against Scatter aces as you're at that point strongly relying on rolling at least one accuracy. 58% of the time you will roll at least one accuracy result with Vader, so be aware that it's likely but not guaranteed.
Vader, however, is not cheap at 21 points. You're spending 75% more points than a standard TIE Advanced for what he brings and Escort is a bit of a double-edged sword: it's great that you can have a 2-brace 5 hull point squadron taking hits for your much squishier squadrons, but it means Vader himself cannot hide behind another Escort squadron to continue destroying the opposition. As such, he's often destroyed by turn 3 or 4 as he draws lots of enemy fire. You also can't have Vader as your commander and as an ace squadron, but there's not too much pressure there: the kind of fleets commander Vader wants to run are fairly different from the kind of fleets that want to include ace Vader.

So when to use Vader? Well first and foremost, Vader makes for a great mixed-role Escort as part of a bomber cloud centered around Dengar. He can tank for Intel squadrons and Rhymer for some time, and Vader's Counter attacks granted by Dengar benefit from their crit sides counting for damage. Vader himself won't benefit from Bomber Command Center if he needs to attack ships, but he still does more average damage than a regular TIE Advanced (1) against ships. Effectively he's a tankier more anti-squadron-focused TIE Advanced at a considerable cost increase. He's also extra fun palling around with his buddy Soontir Fel, as Vader can force enemies to attack him due to Escort and then Soontir Fel deals those enemies an automatic damage because he's jealous they didn't attack him. The two of them can operate all right as a two-man wrecking crew, at least until Vader drops. He's not cheap, though, so you need a plan for him to justify his cost.

Zertik the Stromest there is! Zertik smash friend and foe alike!
For an extremely small cost increase of +3 points over a regular TIE Advanced, Zertik Strom gains two brace tokens, replaces the anti-squadron blue dice with red dice, and gains a weird special ability. It should be noted that the replacement of blue dice with red dice produces the same average damage as the regular blue dice (1.5), but decreases your odds of rolling an accuracy result and is much "swingier" in that there are now four dice sides that do nothing for Zertik against squadrons: 2 blank sides and 2 critical sides. If your target doesn't have defense tokens, increase that to five sides because your accuracy results do nothing as well. Zertik's ability exists to remedy this fact by providing rerolls, but at a cost. Assuming you are attacking a non-ace squadron and use the reroll ability, Zertik goes from each dice having a 37.5% chance of doing damage to a 61% chance of doing damage. This improves his average damage from 1.5 to 2.44, which is pretty considerable. You can also use his ability when attacking ships, which isn't bad but is generally less necessary (as you're only fishing for one damage point, but sometimes that one damage point can be crucial).

Regardless of whether or not you choose to use his special ability, Zertik has mastered the art of being a meat shield. Even if you only use him as a roving blood bank, the +2 brace tokens alone for +3 points is quite excellent for a TIE Advanced.

So when should you use Zertik? Any time you're bringing a TIE Advanced primarily for its ability to get in the way, basically: Zertik is a strong consideration given he will likely survive an extra hit or two for a mere 3 more points over a regular TIE Advanced. If you're using a bomber cloud, Tempest Squadron would by my first choice but if you're using a regular group of fighters without bombers, then Zertik would be my first choice - he can tank for your other squadrons for a very competitive cost and when you need a bit of extra anti-squadron muscle, he can ding one of the squadrons he's screening for to hopefully get in a bit of extra damage. Zertik also has great synergy with Bossk, as he can do the one point of damage to Bossk to activate his accuracy-generating ability and then cover for him for quite some time while Bossk ruins lives. Not a cheap combination there, mind you, but a damaged-but-living-for-the-next-few-turns Bossk is a nightmare for enemy squadrons.

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