Monday, March 13, 2017

Know Your Enemy/Commander's Corner: Jan Dodonna

We'll get back to the squadrons blogging soon enough, but for now I wanted to touch on the other Commander commonly seen with squadrons (I have heard requests for more ships blogging, and I WILL get on that very soon, but it was a very busy weekend, so I figured I'd knock this out first.  It's been half done for a while now, so as of this post it's ALL done).  Anyway, as we all know, Rieekan helps your named squadrons stay alive longer, keeping you in the fight for longer while still getting to attack one more time before they die.

The OTHER end of the squadron spectrum for manipulating damage is Jan Dodonna (Old Man River, Dr Beardface (it's pronounced Beard-Fah-Say!), You Brought HOW Many Squadrons?).  Let's talk about him.

This was one of the few pictures I could find that DIDN'T show him looking mad at me for starting this piece instead of writing about how to fight squadrons with squadrons.
Why play this guy

Let's take a look at the card and start from there.

I'm getting too old for this s***....
First, he costs 20 points.  He's the cheapest Rebel admiral, and with the exception of Garm and Cracken, is 10 points fully cheaper than any other Rebel admiral.  The fact that he's so cheap is one point in his favor.  The other great point is his ability, which lets you CHOOSE the damage card from among the top 4 and let that be the face-up damage card.

You DO have to be dealing face up damage, though.  If you don't have the basic crit effect or APTs on your ship, you don't get to choose the damage.  So you'll want to be maximizing those effects.  Contain tokens, potentially shields, and rolling into just basic damage or choosing other crit effects (Nora Wexley, but she DOES let you use your ability faster....) means, again, you don't get to choose the damage card (because you won't be dealing anything face up!)

Dodonna is a hard admiral to calculate.  Just because he gives that ability, sometimes it's incredibly useful and sometimes it's not.  In the damage deck, there are 8/52 Structural Damage cards, which is a 15.4% chance of being pulled.  Dodonna gives you a better chance of that; if I'm calculating the binomial distribution correctly, Dodonna has a 48.2% chance of pulling a structural damage in that 4.  If you need a specific crit effect (Comms Noise, for example, or Projector Misaligned, each with 2 in the deck), Dodonna takes your chances from 3.9% to 14.6%.  Probability doesn't function perfectly, as we all know, but having the chance to get one of these improved this much can affect the game much more significantly than expected.  Knowing that your MC30 with APTs COULD potentially pull Projector Misaligned (and remember, the crit effect is dealt BEFORE brace and redirect defense tokens actually get resolved, even though they're spent before!) on an ISD has to make the Imperial player think twice about it.  The probabilities only improve as you draw more and more cards from the damage deck, but some of those cards may end up as face DOWN damage on ships you're attacking.  With the existence of 2 of each type of card in the deck, just keep drawing and doing damage and you'll hopefully eventually see the ones you want.  That's right, my brilliant advice is that by doing more damage to your opponent's ships, you can deal the damage you want and win the game.  More damage, win game.  This is why you come here, for hard hitting analysis like this, folks.

This DOES sometimes mean, though, that you'll draw Depowered Armament on a flotilla, Blinded Gunners against a Gladiator, etc.  It's all probability! This evens out for the turns when you draw Comms Noise on the ISD that was at speed 1 before you hit it with the crit, or Targeter Disruption on Demolisher.
Anchorman is always worth quoting
So while you can't really regulate it, Dodonna started (and is a major player in) the Rebels swinging their way into potentially crazy damage.  Turbolaser Reroute Circuits (TRCs, a common card seen with him for ships with evade tokens to spend) while OFTEN going to the 2 hit side, can just as easily go to the crit side, just to trigger Dodonna's ability.  And if you're choosing your objectives right (Precision Strike), that might even be what you want!  He also, as I mentioned above, works well with squadrons.  Dodonna's ability triggers on EVERY basic crit effect your squadrons pour into the hull of a ship.  Theoretically, you can pull from 4 successive B-wing attacks 4 different structural damages (the probability is astronomical, i'm not calculating it), which would be the 4 B-wing damages PLUS the 8 total damage from 4 pulled structurals.  That will wreck an ISD FAST. 

The basic answer of "Why play Dodonna" comes down to several potential reasons.  Sometimes it's a points concern, sometimes it's manipulating squadron damage, and sometimes it's because you just want control over face-up damage dealt to ships.  The last reason (I generally don't care for this one, but I can't deny it's a thing) may be that sometimes no other Admiral seems to fit what you want to do.  Dodonna's ability and cost is so generalist that he can sometimes fit into a list when no one else will do.

Common Builds
The common ship builds you see with him usually tend towards 1 of 2 types.  Combine the types together and you get your usual Dodonna fleet.

1) Carriers
Because of Dodonna's ability, squadrons with Bomber get the same benefit as ships under him.  H1MC80s, the Pelta, Assault Frigates, Yavaris Nebulon B's, etc, all want to be commanding squadrons and winning the squadron war in order to bomb ships repeatedly.  If only someone had written an article recently about how to run a bomber fleet correctly (Turns out this was the perfect time for Dodonna)!  B-wings throwing damage into ships can potentially do 4 damage if a Structural damage is pulled.  3 B-wings can potentially be 12 damage.  Dream, baby, dream.
"Well, the Empire doesn't consider a small one-man fighter to be any threat, or they'd have a tighter defense." Words to make your opponent regret.

2) Straight Up Damage
LMC80s, CR90As with TRCs, Salvation Nebulon B's, H1MC80s (if you focus on the damage part of them), the Garel's Honor Hammerhead, and MC30s.  Put more damage into ships, get more crits.  He LOVES MC30s, especially with Assault Proton Torpedoes.  The ability to ignore all their shields and just deal a straight up damage to the hull is wonderful and for ships built around shields to keep them alive, terrifying.  I wouldn't overdo it on ensuring this damage wrecks face, though; one source per ship is generally enough (APTs, TRCs) as you can use those points as upgrades elsewhere.  Instead of APTs AND TRCs on your MC30, why not APTs and an Intel Officer to make an even harder choice? Or find another point and put in a title on that MC30?

I love the smell of Roast Gladiator in the morning. Smells like.... freedom.
The benefit of Dodonna is that even if you go for the Carrier first type, you can easily slot in/reuse the Damage second type.  H1MC80s that push squadrons can with a few upgrades also wail on ships quite well; Yavaris can take TRCs too, and any spare points in your list are perfectly happy running TRCR90A's.

Anything he DOESN'T Like?
Not really.  I don't often see CR90B's with him, but I can see the argument for putting the Dodonna's Pride Title on a SW7 CR90B for one instance of them.  If you get the crit, great! Use it, wreck some face at medium range with it.  If you don't, fine, here's 2-3 guaranteed damage from the CR90 instead!  I PERSONALLY wouldn't recommend more than one of those, though, and it's also 50 points.  A regular CR90A with TRCs costs 51, so....
Titles that Exist, I swear, volume 1.

How Do I Fight This Guy?
It depends on the fleet.  If he's bomber dependent, take out his carriers.  If he's straight up damage based, stay out of the side arcs of the H1MC80s/front arc of Salvation.  If he's running a bunch of small ships (TRCR90s and MC30s), kill small ships the same way you'd kill OTHER small ships (throw another topic on the pile, fighting swarms is something we'll need to cover soon enough...).  Dodonna doesn't have a specific type of fleet you expect to see everywhere, which is both good and bad.  You can't go in expecting to apply the ideas identically, so do what you can to minimize the damage he can do.  If you can keep that mind, Dodonna's ability will trigger less and you'll get LESS screwed over by it.  Fight the Rebel fleet as normal then.

Final Thoughts
As a man who'll try to luck his way into what's needed, sometimes you need to roll a hard eleven.  Some of the most epic stories I've ever had were from Dodonna pulling that EXACT right crit at that EXACT right moment, and sometimes those are the best games.  To quote Wedge Antilles from the old X-wing series though, "You can't plan for luck.  Plan smart and let luck land where it will."  Using that strategy will let you leverage Dodonna's ability into being something that can cause controlled havoc, and for your opponent uncontrolled panic.