Thursday, March 9, 2017

Squadrons Encyclopedia 4: Large Fighter Coverage

Alright, this is what we've been leading up to, this is where it's all been headed: the Large Fighter Coverage (LFC) group.  I'm here to show you how to put together a solid 120-134 points of squadrons that are going to let you kill ships.  You want to paint ISDs on the sides of your X-wing? Well let's hit the jump below....
You can paint Raiders on the sides of your squadrons, too, but they're not as fun as Star Destroyers.  Or Demolisher....
Goals
Before we begin assembling this all, let's talk about the goals of the LFC.  We went over the Small
and Medium groups before, but the LFC has very different goals:

1) Deployment aid
2) Increased damage from your ships
3) Substantial damage into enemy ships
4) Objective Help/Choice

1) Deployment Aid
With the points you're putting into your squadrons here, this group is going to make up a significant portion of your deployments.  With a usual 8+ squadrons in your list (roughly), you've got your first 5 deployments with your initial ship followed by those squadrons.  With the bomber blob, I cannot recommend enough the ability to deploy everything early on.  Squadrons can go ANYWHERE as needed based on your opponent's choices.  See the diagram below.
The red superhighlighted rings are speed 3, made extra bright for ease of explaining my examples.
As seen in the pictures, the 2 Y-wings we placed down can get to potentially either end of the speed 3 ring (red circles), so it really doesn't matter if your opponent deploys on your right or your left: you'll be meeting him soon enough, and you can then deploy your later ships to better take advantage of that fact.  The 3 Raiders on the Imperial side aren't intended as an actual deployment but a clarity of the points.  If they deploy directly across from you at Center Raider, you can deploy the rest of your ships on the sides and catch them in in a crossfire pincer movement (I know it's not a Pinscher movement, as that's a dog).  If they deploy many of their ships near the Right Raider, your squadrons deployed on the right side will want to be headed towards the 2 o'clock point on the ring to move in and attack as one.
1. Green is one squadron's path, red is the other's.  They have a very good chance at hitting that Raider turn 2 or 3 as needed, just from this base deploment.
And a similar but flipped choice for Left Raider.
2. Similar to the opposite side, the closer squadron moves towards its friend (and the opponent ship!) to have them both hit at the same turn if desired.  The 2 red lines show alternate paths the Y-wing can take as desired for your attack run.
I haven't been super clear on this point yet, slash I haven't been as definitive as I've been before, but I'll go with it now.  I've mentioned the First Law of Squadron Combat before (and I'll rehash it again later in the post, haha!), but now I'll mention the Second Law:

95% of the time, deployments 2 through X should be squadrons, where X is the turn you run out of squadron pairs.

95% gives me some wiggle room in case anyone wants to comment on their super special build that involves a weird combination of Shara Bey and Tycho that requires them to be placed last, but it also applies to all lists and their uses of squadrons.  As seen above, they can get almost anywhere you need them to, so there's very little (again, wiggle room; i really want to say "no") reason to wait on deploying them.  I mentioned in the SFC article about the importance of delaying activations, but it's doubly so with the LFC.  You don't have nearly as many hard hitting ships as a LFC list, so you're going to need to make sure your ships get the work done that you need them to do.

The other benefit of deploying your squadrons early is that you can make sure that your later ship deployments don't run over your own squadrons.  If you run over a YT-2400 with your MC80, that's not amazing, but the YT can get up closer and contribute soon enough.  If you run over a B-wing, that's a B-wing who's not contributing until at best 2 turns from now.  Not ideal.  Armada is played on a 6x3, so use your space as needed to get the best deployment for your situation.  Don't forget to avoid the obstacles with your ships!

2) Increased damage from your ships
With the exception of a few ships (looking at you, Ackbar MC80, and a loaded MC30 in general), many of the Rebellion ships don't have as strong a damage as if you had fielded an ISD.  An ISD-I front arc rolls 3 red, 2 blue, and 3 black dice.  The Pelta, in a vacuum, has less than wonderful damage dice than what you're paying for it.
I'm I was on a TV show! (RIP, Commander Sato)
Two red dice and two blue dice out the front don't seem like much to write home about.  But when you combine them with squadron friends:
I love math.  That's not even a joke, I'm a nerd who majored in it in college.  Weirdly, Eric is better with probability!
Suddenly you're contributing 6 more dice and rolling potentially as good as that ISD!  You're dealing better damage IN TOTAL than any other Rebellion ship can put out.  A list with a focus on LFC is one that you have to view in total.  It's not a matter of "the ships deal X damage and the squadrons deal Y," but it's more of a "Here comes a potential X+Y damage at my ship or ships, and I have to weather this storm."
In the eye of the hurricane, there are Y-wings.... a Gold Squad sky...
The even better thing is that you're paying for it in small lump sums.  If I kill the ISD, that's a LOT less dice coming at me.  But if I only lose 1 B-wing, that's just 1 less blue and black dice coming at me.  Still terrifying from the squadron loadout, especially when I replace that dead B-wing with a new friend that wasn't doing anything this turn.  Spoiler alert: that friend may be Luke Skywalker.

3) Substantial Damage into Enemy Ships
Tying into 2, you're trying to put a good amount of damage into ships.  As we've seen in Eric's ISD article, ISDs have 1 brace token, 2 redirects, and a contain.  Identical for the H1MC80, and nearly so with the VSD (without the contain, of course).  What does that mean? In order to kill those monstrosities with your squadrons, you're going to need to put significant damage into those ships.  You're investing significant points into these squadrons and their support (more on this below) in order to damage and blow up enemy ships.  Anecdotally, I've blown up more Large based ships with squadrons than without them.... but that also is because I'm usually the guy running squadrons!

The best way to do that with squadrons is to overload their defense tokens.  Jumping back to that ISD example, an ISD-II, with 4 reds and 4 blues, if it rolled perfectly on damage, could get 12 damage, if the reds all rolled doubles and the blues all rolled hits.  (The ISD-I can get 14).  Bracing that damage down against whatever ship is being attacked, that can be braced down to 6 (7).  Still not something I want to take, but potentially survivable.  A Pelta and 3 B-wings (with just the front arc) rolls 6 and 3, 3, 3 damage total maximum.  Not only is that potentially more, but because of the way tokens work, that can get braced down to 3, 2, 3, 3, for a total of 11 damage, and a removed brace token.  That's a ship that's running into issues FAST.  With the LFC hitting ships, you're not adding damage in giant lump sums, you're nickel and diming them to death.  Eric usually refers to this as Death By 1000 Cuts, and he's not wrong.  There's nothing more aggravating than being forced to use a brace token to reduce damage from 3 to 2 from a B-wing attack.  It frustrates opponents to no end.

4) Objective Help/Choice
The other benefit to bringing good squadron coverage in the LFC is that you've got several other objectives that you want to bring that force your opponent into bad choices.  If I didn't bring squadrons of my own, I'm really not going to want to choose your Fighter Ambush (yellow objective), and I have serious concerns being forced to choose between Precision Strike (red), and the Superior Positions (blue, we all know my thoughts on it).  If you're stuck going second, forcing your opponent into BAD choices with objectives is how you play it.  Those are the usual 3 chosen for second player, but keep in mind: Rieekan cannot die until the end of the turn, so that Precision Strike can come back to haunt you if you don't defend your ships well and have him as your commander.

How to Build
First, I'll talk about some of the more "well-known" LFC groups, how they worked/ran when used, and then some tips on building your own.  I'm JUST covering the squadrons groups in this part of the article, and in a bit we'll talk about supporting your squadrons with upgrades for them.  This is a long article (mainly because I'm wordy, but at least I'm honest with myself), so here's a picture of a kitten thats entirely unrelated, but may help.
What picture would you use to describe the excess length? He's so hungry and adorable!
1) JJ's Juggernaut (130 points)
2 HWK-290s
2 YT-1300s
8 Y-wings

Yes, that is not a typo.  JJ brought 8 Y-wings to Worlds, and he WON it all with them.  I've played this list to try it out.  It's a very swarm army feel, in that your Y-wings and the YT-1300s with Counter 1 don't provide CRAZY anti-squadron damage, but they provided ENOUGH to just plow through.  My point in part 3 above about overwhelming defense tokens works just as well against enemy aces with Scatters and Braces too, which is what this list does.  If it needs to deal damage to those squadrons, 16 blue dice from the Y-wings in individual doses will work through any defense token suite, given enough time.  But his mastery with the list comes from the 8 black bomber die coming at enemy ships, especially with the 2 Bomber Command Centers he was running in the list (pre-FAQ, when you could reroll multiple times).  That's a potential 16 damage that needs to be accounted for, and that's not easily done.  With the YT-1300s moving and acting as bodyguards for the HWK-290s, it's a hard list to fight against.  If you try to chew your way through the squadrons, they will outlast you.  If you try to go around them, JJ had an MC30 waiting for you.  He was a master at using it and ALL of its placements, and it's a very fun list.

2) The Wave 5 Rebel Hotness (133 points)
Jan Ors
3 B-wings
Norra Wexley
Wedge Antilles
Shara Bey
Gold Squadron
Z95 Headhunter

This list won a few wave 5 Regionals, and it worked pretty well (the Commander was pre-FAQ Rieekan, keeping all those heroes alive for the rest of that turn.  Sometimes one of those B-wings is Dagger Squadron).  The strengths of each squadron are documented in their individual articles, but it's how it all works together that makes it sing.  Shara Bey can get launched and go occupy an enemy squadron blob distance 5 away, preventing them from (hopefully) moving away.  Wedge and Gold Squadron CAN, if needed, act as occupiers and delay enemy squadrons from slowing down Norra and the B-wings (which always sounds like a 50s Doo-Wop group) who, under Pelta command, can evaporate enemy shields and then enemy ships.  B-wings are a common sight in killing enemy ships, and they do that job well; if you need them to attack enemy squadrons, however, they CAN do it.

3) The "Cracken Special" (128 points)
8 YT-2400s

This squadron support is usually seen with a commander that doesn't want to be issuing squadron commands.  This is an extended version of the MFC and its goal of "Kill the Squadrons, then Kill the Ships."  The benefit of this group is that you've got 48 squadron health to chew through and it's rolling a potential 32 blue dice each turn if needed.  It's not getting there first (Rogue), but it's ending the threat.  And then here comes 8 black dice at your ship.  Even without the BCC reroll, it's still on average 6 damage a turn coming at your ships in individual chunks.  Redirecting 1 damage is even more aggravating than bracing 3 down to 2 or 2 down to 1.  The benefit to this is that it doesn't need support from the rest of the ships, which is why the usual Commander running this is Cracken, as he's usually running his ships all over the map.  The reason I put this in here is because its goals are more in line with the LFC than the MFC.  Yes, it wants your fighters dead.  But it also really wants to roll 8 black dice at you.  Later waves have brought on variations of this grouping, but it always comes down to a significant (7-8+) amount of Rogue squadrons that would first end your squadron presence, followed up by one dice ship attacks.  Corran, Han, and Dash have all made appearances in this group, and it has been successful.
Downside: purchasing 8 of these little buggers is expensive, but man is it worth it.
So how do you build your own list? Well, as we said way back in the HWK-290 article, you're going to need Intel for a start.  Because your LFC (in general) depends on using Intel to push bombers where you need them to be, you NEED escorts to protect your sources.  Jan Ors and X-wings usually are seen here, but YT-1300s also work well, IF YOU CAN OVERCOME THEIR SPEED ISSUES (we're getting there, i promise).  The "usual" Rebellion plan is Jan Ors and 2-3 X-wings or 2 YT-1300s and 2 HWK-290s.  The reason for this is because Jan lets the X-wings use her brace tokens (as we talked about way back when), and the YT-1300s provide 7 health of escort for the HWK-290.  Having 2 sources of Intel let you move a HWK and a YT-1300 around to provide a Heavy bubble as needed for moving your bombers around, which lets you focus more on just providing a strong bomber punch.  With all that, though, you need to be able to command them (Next section!) though.  Jan and YT-1300s work well together, but I haven't run them in a while.  Usually as the X-wings do good work and do it well enough for me (enough that I'm usually turning them into Bombers by turn 4 or so), not for any other specific reason beyond that.

You need Escort, so they don't kill Jan first.  So while several Z95s and Jan Ors seems like a good plan, you need a way to keep Jan ALIVE against an alpha strike, especially now that Quasars and 6 TIEs getting launched with Flight Controllers is a thing.

After that? It's really a matter of what you want.  Norra is great, Keyan Farlander is good too, I've heard of E-wings and Scurrgs to free up your grit bombers, Ketsu Onyo seems like she would be very good at occupying enemy forces before they can get to you, Luke is the devil himself at the right time, but there's still something to be said about good old Y-wings and X-wings.  As they're cheaper than the Aces, you get more, and sometimes more damage is the best damage (see JJ's list above).  Relay is something that not a lot of people here in my meta have been incorporating YET, but as more people start using VCX-100s, I imagine they'll start seeing more play.  It allows your flotillas to lurk in the back and command THROUGH the Relay ships, if you want to protect them that way.  I always like throwing in an ace or two, but that's usually more thematic and coolness points than anything for me, haha!  Ten Numb is a great way to boost your anti-squadron killing power.  Then when he's done, he's still a B-wing 2 dice bomber, and that cracks ships fast.  For a little more on knowing what to bring and whether to hit squadrons or ships with it, we'll talk about this again in Chapter 6 (Using the LFC to fight other squadron groups) and Chapter 7 (Actually bombing ships), our newest article in this series.  I AM wordy and do have many thoughts on this whole subject, but good squadron play is important to learn.

The key to WHATEVER you bring is knowing and realizing that your bomber group lives and dies by that Intel.  If you don't have the Intel, you're back in that wave 1 life where you're dependent on rolling your blue dice correctly to kill whatever is blocking you.  Spoiler alert: this is not a good plan.  I say again that you ALWAYS want an Escort for your Intel source, forcing your opponent to attack the Escort before they can get through to your Intel squadron.  The Wave 5 Rebel hotness above has only one Escort, and I personally would worry about facing another squadron blob with 2-3 X-wings or enough A-wings to swarm Jan Ors (or Saber Squadron and IG-88 and Jendon...).  Quasars and Flight Controllers ARE things, now, and they WILL wreck you if you're not prepared for them.

The more Escorts you have, the harder destroying your Intel becomes for them..... but you don't want to overdo it, as while Biggs and a bunch of X-wings are GOOD at staying alive, I personally didn't find they were the strongest killers of ships that I needed them to be (when I tried them out).  The Rebellion has always had some bombers and some fighters in every movie battle, so combining them is a good start.  If it makes you feel better, real WWII squadron groups had fighters and bombers together to deal damage and stay alive.  There may come a time where you have to sacrifice an X-wing or A-wings or potentially even a B-wing to keep your Intel alive.  If it keeps your squadron bubble strong, and lets you keep dancing that Intel squadron around in order to maneuver squadrons as needed, sometimes you need to do what you need to do.
Murder is for the greater good! That was the message of the movie, right?
Ship Support
Alright, here's where things get big.  I've mostly avoided talking about building your fleet with all this, in order to try to avoid biting off ANOTHER big topic that Eric and I will need to hash out (he says, only halfway through his squadron article series...).  But in order to use a "standard" LFC (ie, not the Cracken Special), you NEED to command squadrons.  As I said earlier, I would get to the First Law again, and it is now that time:

Squadrons activated by squadron commands > Rogue squadrons > Unactivated regular squadrons

One of your goals, if you remember, is to do significant damage to enemy ships.  The best way to do that is by commanding those squadrons, throwing 3-4 B-wings or significant Y-wings at an ISD front arc.  So when you are determining your squadron choices, you have to take your ships into account.  When you build a squadrons list, you want to be able to command (at least) all your non-Rogue squadrons in one turn (if not EVERY squadron, if necessary).  This is why you generally don't see massed CR-90s in a heavy B-wing list, as they can't command them well with Squadrons 1.  Not commanding your squadrons when you need them to be is an easy way to feed points to your opponent who IS commanding his/her squadrons.  Actually fighting with all this is going to be addressed in our next series of articles, so we'll end that discussion today.  But expect me to quote that First Law several dozen times more (once in every article), haha!


There's a lot of good upgrades on the Rebel side for using the LFC, but let's talk about the 3 "biggest" ones.

The Yavaris:
I covered this in my Nebulon B article, so I'll just point you back there for now.  Why not attack twice when you attack, just to keep throwing more damage into things?

68 points of double attacking B-wing Death!
All Fighters Follow Me!
Found on the Pelta as the Fleet Command upgrade, and I mentioned it in the B-wings articleB-wings at speed 3, X-wings at speed 4, E-wings at speed 5, A-wings at.... also speed 5.  There is no speed 6, so keep THAT in mind when building your squadrons.  X-wings being able to actually get the jump on TIE fighters turns them around on their head and makes for some sad TIEs that can't abide by the TIE Commandments  You can build your Pelta to be the ultimate carrier, able to push squadrons extra distances AFTER having already moved them Distance 1 (with Fighter Coordination Teams and Flight Commander on it, of course).  If there's any questions about how this all works together, I explain its abilities in-depth in that B-wings article (to be fair, I'm discussing its abilities with respect to Yavaris, but the Flight Commander and Fighter Coordination Team explanation is in there).
76 points for one of the strongest carriers the Rebellion can bring.
Bomber Command Center
This was one of my favorite upgrades from wave 3/4, as it lets you reroll Bomber dice when they're attacking ships.  When you send your bombers in to attack a ship, you have a much better chance of that Hit+Crit on black dice, and at the very least you have less chance of rolling that blank on Red X-wing dice.  Even bringing one of these takes an X-wing's average damage up to 1.03 per bomb attack.  That's better than a TIE bomber, from an X-wing.
Luke, be a Jedi tonight... Do it for Yoda and all the other Muppets!
These 3 upgrades can turn your squadrons into the murderous monsters they want to be.  Notice, however, that each of my example ships has other beneficial upgrades on it.  Fighter Coordination Team and Flight Commander (FCT and FC, respectively) let you activate your squadrons later in the turn, which helps when you want to move your slower B-wings along, or even add speed boosts to your X-wings and Y-wings.  The Pelta has Expanded Hangar Bay to activate one more squadron each turn, making it an even stronger carrier than it already was.  You don't NEED all those things as much as either the Yavaris title or the AFFM! (I've seen lists that just run a Nebulon with the title, and the Pelta can be run more bare bones than you think), but those extra upgrades help you get your ship to do the job you want it to do BETTER, if that's what you want/need.  If you're going squadron-heavy, at least 1 of these 2 ships (if not both.... but see below on that!) will probably be in your list, just to improve your ability to do what you want with your squadrons.
I feel like he's judging me for my poor tactical choices.  Or this shirt I chose to wear today.
Adar Tallon
The original personal upgrade, he's been around since Wave I, and he's still just as strong.  He lets you keep one of your squadrons untapped to activate again.  If only we Rebels then had a way to have that squadron attack again, possibly two more times!  That sure would be fun, having Luke Skywalker roll 3 times against a ship that pretends it has no shields anywhere, or having Nym roll 3 times for that Blue Crit to remove almost every defense token a Ship had (I cannot recommend doing either of these enough).  Yeah, Adar is fun.  He WANTS to be paired with an expensive squadron, as he effectively creates a double of that one for everything it gets to do that turn.  He also really loves being paired with Yavaris, (but on a different ship!) as he can "unactivate" a squadron that just moved into position and attacked, so then when Yavaris activates it's already in the perfect spot to attack a ship twice.

I've used him well with Wedge, Dutch, Luke, Nym, and Keyan Farlander.  Keyan is a delightful dream, because here comes 2 black dice with reroll potential TWICE (without Yavaris.  THREE times if you have it).  So evil.  When you bring him, though, try not to use him on a basic Y-wing if you can help it, as he then doesn't really become worth his points.  The more points in the squadron you untap, the better his ability turns out for you, as you're almost fighting over your points total there (i brought another Luke, it's like a free 10 more points!)  The main downside for taking him is that he occupies an Officer slot (thank goodness the Phoenix Home has a fancy 2nd chair for him to sit in!) and is 10 points.  Is he worth it, or would another Y-wing in your list be points better spent? You'll have to evaluate that yourself, but when you're going heavy squadrons, he's a very solid choice.
Fun note: she DOESN'T AFFECT HERSELF.  Keep that in mind and don't put her on a combat GR75.
Toryn Farr is another great upgrade for fleets based around squadrons, as she lets you reroll ANY one blue dice.  Need that accuracy to fight an enemy scatter ace? Need a Crit for Nym? Need NOT an accuracy from your B-wing? Need that accuracy (because I assume you're fighting a flotilla?) She'll let you reroll it!  She has that range 3 disclaimer, though, so be careful you don't overextend either your squadrons or whatever ship she's on.  She helps your fighters attack squadrons better, but she's gotta get a lot closer than is normally safe for her, so be careful you don't lose whatever ship she's on to return fire.
There is another title besides Defiance.  "You mean Home One?" No, the OTHER other one.
The Independence title on the Home One MC80 has fallen out of favor recently, but it's still a pretty strong title.  Letting you push your squadrons speed up to speed 4 (at the cost of not letting them attack this turn), it can double your B-wing speed on turn 1 (when you want them getting pushed forwards instead of having to wait until turn 3 to attack).  If you combine it with FC and FCT, you can move 4 B-wings (assuming a Command MC80) speed 1 after you've moved your MC80, then move them speed 4, for a better than speed 5 stretch on TURN ONE.  You're getting your B-wings where you want them to go.... but you better have Intel close to bail them out on turn 2 if needed! Don't let your B-wings get stuck and bogged down in TIE Defender Swamp!  It's a crappy swamp that no one likes!

Expanded Hangar Bays/Boosted Comms/Rapid Launch Bays
These all occupy your Offensive Retrofit slot, and they all help in some way.  EHB lets you activate an extra squadron (always helpful when launching bombers, as sometimes you just need that one more B-wing to kill your problems away!), Boosted Comms lets you attack from a distance (less useful now that Relay exists, BUT MC80s would probably not want to be taking 4 Relay squadrons to be able to push everything in one turn), and Rapid Launch Bays....
Sweet art, though, that's for sure
My problem with Rapid Launch Bays is that it takes away deployments.  A minimum of 1, and potentially a second if you only brought an even number of squadrons.  If you set things up right, you can always have even deployments, but thats a heck of a cost to dump a few squadrons out of your ship.  I like the idea people have run on the forums of Hyperspace Assaulting in an Assault Frigate with 3 B-wings in it along with 3 OTHER B-wings, but that's a GOOD chunk of your points NOT there and NOT being deployed and NOT letting you see your opponent's deployment.  If you vomit a squillion B-wings at things, it's cool, sure, but I feel that good play and support with your B-wings seems like a better and smarter way of doing things.

There's potential there for a Raddus list.  Whatever ship is in hyperspace shows up, vomits every squadron it has, and then just starts attacking your back arc(s) repeatedly.  I doubt I'm going to try it (I have other zany Raddus plans), but if you, Constant Reader, were going to try it, I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand.

The problem I have with Rapid Launch Bays is that it's a gimmick.  If you don't see it coming, it's a gimmick that works.  But if you DO, you shoot the ship carrying the squadrons as fast as you can.  It may get to deploy the squadrons, but it may also be half dead, so it won't be commanding them long.  You could put them on flotillas, but again, the smarter plan in my opinion just seems to be commanding your squadrons better.
Because Wedge might need to roll 7 blue dice!
Flight Controllers! I like the IDEA of Flight Controllers.  The only viable ship you can place it on in the Rebellion is the Assault Frigate, as LMC80s need Gunnery Team and Hammerheads don't realistically want to push squadrons that much.  It's a great way to ensure the 3 squadrons you activate from your Assault Frigate get an extra blue dice to ensure that whatever they attack gets shot FAST and dies hopefully even faster.  One more chance of an accuracy against scatter aces, one more potential damage from your anti-squadron attack, one more chance of a Ten Numb crit...  Is it worth 6 points and your Weapons Team slot to ensure the squadrons you activate get an extra blue dice against whatever they hit? Quasars say yes....

The PROBLEM with all these upgrades is that with just your commander at ~20/30 points, squadrons at ~130, one flotilla (at least) with BCC (18 base+8 upgrade=26), and the Pelta AND Yavaris (76 and 68, from my examples, remember), you're down to 80/70 points (depending on Commander) left for a 4th/5th ship and upgrades to deal damage to ships too.  I'm not saying "Don't take all these", just make sure your ships aren't JUST based around commanding squadrons (as if you get jumped by a bunch of TIEs and killed, you're going to be in trouble.  You want to be able to do damage to ships, too, through sheer firepower, if needed.  This is why I like the Independence title still, as the MC80 chassis can put a good chunk of damage into your opponent's ships by firing out the side.

Always remember that Admiral Motti exists as does Reinforced Blast Doors... at least until that Death Star blows.  I'm not saying you CAN'T nickel and dime 17 health to death, but a sock full of quarters in an MC30 sure helps put a dent in that amount.  That or TRCs on the Nebulon.  At the end of the day, you're bringing at most 1/3 of your points in squadrons.  The other 2/3 need to do work towards helping destroy your opponent's full allotment of points, WHATEVER THEY BROUGHT.
Finally, someone let me out of my cage!
A wild Eric appears!
I agree with pretty much everything John said above in terms of the basics. Your large fighter coverage groups should, at their core, be a means to deliver damage to enemy ships, as that allows their large points investment to go towards winning the full game rather than just winning the squadron mini-game. Bombers are quite adept at getting damage into ships due to the fact that they overheat defense tokens rapidly due to piling on damage in numerous small packets that defense tokens don't handle very well. Due to the increased focus on using squadrons to deliver damage to ships, more of your fleet will be based around commanding those squadrons and augmenting them in one form or another. Intel will be essential to keep your bombers doing their job.

I'm not invited into John's articles just to agree with him, though. I'm here to give you the Imperial perspective!

Upgrades
A quick side note regarding some of the ship upgrades John covered earlier: in general, Imperial carrier ships aren't great candidates for the Flight Commander+Fighter Coordination Team combination, as we lack support team slots on most of our ships, especially our more carrier-friendly ships. The good news compared to the Rebels is we have a lot of weapon team slots and getting access to Flight Controllers isn't as difficult, particularly on the Quasar. Similarly, we have offensive retrofit slots on all of our carrier-friendly ships and therefore getting some extra help from Boosted Comms and/or Expanded Hangar Bay isn't difficult if you want it. Boosted Comms in particular can be quite helpful on carriers to allow them to operate at a safer distance from serious combat and/or to ensure your odds of using all your Squadrons points remains high and you're not just barely out of range of a crucial squadron.

Ships
Imperials have a few good ship options for LFC fleets, and you're generally going to need a lot of squadron command muscle to get all your squadrons pushed around when you need them to do their thing. At the moment, I'd recommend considering any of the following for carrier duty in your fleet:
All of the above ships have access to offensive retrofits and some mixture of "good Squadrons value for their cost" and "can command a lot of squadrons at once," but the more important distinction is the Gozantis and Quasars are more dedicated carriers and the Star Destroyers are mixed-role carrier/battleships. How many and which type to use will largely depend on your fleet build and how much you're counting on the squadron mini-game as opposed to more conventional ship-on-ship attacks to carry the game for you. There are upsides and downsides to dedicated carriers versus mixed-role carriers, though, which I'll cover briefly below:

Dedicated carrier pros:
  • Cheap, and therefore the best cost-to-Squadrons ratio available
  • Often able to focus on issuing squadron commands most rounds to keep your squadron game a consistent threat
  • Lower Command values so anticipating when squadron commands will be necessary is easier to do
Dedicated carrier cons:
  • Undergunned for their cost and size
  • Fragile when pinned down by legitimate combat ships
  • Without squadrons to command, can struggle to meaningfully affect the game during their activation
Mixed-role carrier pros:
  • Comes packing serious guns that discourage lesser enemy ships from getting too close
  • Can contribute to combat alongside your anti-ship squadrons
  • If squadrons aren't available can still bring the fight to the enemy
Mixed-role carrier cons:
  • Can't function as 100% carrier and 100% battleship simultaneously - activations spent commanding squadrons are activations not issuing other commands that assist in keeping your best arcs on target and/or keeping the ship itself safe/healthy
  • Higher Command values can make knowing when you can and can't afford to command squadrons difficult without some additional points invested into command control upgrades
  • Higher points cost makes fleet less activation-healthy and provides a mediocre Squadron value for the cost.
They're to some extent inverted forms of one another, with the pros of one flipping to the cons of the other. An LFC fleet with only dedicated carriers and no other combat ships is relying completely on winning the squadron mini-game and then using its bombers to crush the enemy fleet. If it loses the squadron mini-game, it doesn't have a prayer. Conversely, an LFC fleet with only mixed-role carriers will have a more well-rounded game plan that isn't overturned by setbacks in the squadron mini-game but it also won't have as consistent or powerful a squadron approach as its more dedicated cousin. How far you go in one direction or the other is up to you. The one "must" I can think of is if you're counting on Bomber squadrons (which most LFCs are), a Gozanti with Bomber Command Centers is nearly mandatory for the increased consistency in your bombing dice.

Once your squadron command needs are met, you can spend your remaining fleet points on combat vessels of whichever sort you think will best support the LFC element of your fleet. Raiders can be valuable additions, as they are cheap activations (which you'll want more of) and can accompany the bulk of your squadrons to provide flak coverage if enemy squadrons want to pick a fight with you, but they're not mandatory, especially if you've got a strong fighter presence.

Squadrons
Before I get to specific builds (of which I can categorize 4 major archetypes) for an Imperial LFC group, I want to reiterate what John said earlier about Intel and Escort. If you're running strong on bombers, you need Intel. This is especially true with Imperial squadrons due to the fact that bombing is pretty much all your bomber squadrons do. They do not handle getting stuck on enemy fighters well at all. Sure, Y-Wings and B-Wings would rather be bombing than dogfighting, but they can do all right against squadrons if they need to. Your TIE Bombers, conversely, are just miserable at dogfighting and anything that can get them on their way to maximize their bomber specialization is appreciated. With that said, Imperial fleets with Intel usually feature a Jumpmaster, either Dengar or a generic, or in some cases two generic Jumpmasters.

On a related note, putting together an LFC with Imperials can be a tricky balancing act and can be meta-dependent. This is due to how specialized most Imperial squadrons are: over-invest on fighters and support elements (Jumpmasters, TIE Advanced, regular fighter assistance) and you'll find they're not much good at helping you bomb things later on like the more mixed-role Rebel squadrons are. Under-invest in fighters and support elements and you'll find your big investment in bombers is getting held up with almost comically little effort. Feel free to toggle with any of the basic archetypes until you find the right mix that works for you. With that said, let's cover the three archetypes:

Note: these archetype builds were updated in wave 6 to have a bit more emphasis on fighter squadrons. With Sloane lurking about, you need some kind of a plan for handling tenacious enemy fighters should you encounter them, and counting on Escort shields to last for long against a determine Sloane fleet offensive without doing some serious fighting back is a recipe for failure.

1) TIE Defender spam
7 TIE Defenders and Maarek Stele (133 points)

This is the most straightforward and "hedge your bets" style of LFC group I can imagine Imperials running. Simply put, this is the Imperial version of the Rebel YT-2400 spam bomber wing. It needs little additional support beyond ships to issue squadron commands and one Gozanti with Bomber Command Center. The Defenders will prioritize destroying enemy squadrons and then putting damage into ships in the later game once that's been accomplished. Feel free to replace a Defender with Major Rhymer or Captain Jonus for no change in cost - Rhymer assists the Defender blob at focusing down one hull zone's shields by his range extender and Jonus is more useful in a fleet with the Defender swarm plus some serious combat vessels. Or use both, if you think you'll be okay with a bit less muscle!

The main downside to this approach is your bombing windows are uncertain as it brings no Intel. It won't have the same damage ceiling as a more dedicated bombing fleet because TIE Defenders (not including Maarek) are mediocre bombers, but it's not nearly so prone to getting stuck at times as the Defenders will happily dogfight until they can create an opening, unlike stuck TIE Bombers.

2) TIE Bomber wing
Major Rhymer, 3 TIE Bombers, Tempest Squadron, Maarek Stele, Jumpmaster, Mauler Mithel, Valen Rudor, Zertik Strom (132 points)

This is a more conventional "go big or go home" TIE Bomber group, weighing in at a substantial 10 squadrons, 6 of which are bombers (Maarek pulls double duty as a fighter ace and Tempest Squadron does the same as an Escort Bomber hybrid). With two sources of Escort and a Jumpmaster, you should be able to focus on either getting your bombers to their targets while your Escort and fighter squadrons handle the enemy or you can assign your Escort and Intel resources to keeping Mauler Mithel and his buddies in the fight to blow out fighter opposition and then move on to bombing a little bit later, depending on how serious your opposition is.

The main problem with this approach is you need to be able to command a good portion of those 10 squadrons. That requires a lot of squadron command muscle and it makes a big part of your fleet committed to the Rhymer ball of doom.

3) Imperial ace superfriends
Colonel Jendon, Maarek Stele, Boba Fett, Morna Kee, Zertik Strom, Bossk (132 points).

This combination is light on the total number of squadrons (just 6 of them) and only has 4 non-Rogues who need squadron commands. Only 2 of the actual squadrons are bombers (Boba Fett and Maarek Stele), so you may not even need a Bomber Command Center around. The idea is similar to the TIE Defender spam plan in that you're looking to wipe out enemy squadrons early and then bomb hard in the later game. With Colonel Jendon around, any of your potent aces gets an extra attack every turn, which allows you to focus on tearing up squadrons earlier on with powerhouses like Bossk and Maarek and then transitioning over to double-bombing with your stronger bombers like Boba Fett, Maarek, or Morna. Zertik provides some Escort coverage for the group, particularly Jendon, and can ping Bossk to activate his auto-accuracy ability. This group also operates well at range given Jendon is also packing Relay, just be sure to keep Jendon alive for as long as possible if you're relying on Relay.

You can produce an alternate version of this group by dropping Bossk and Zertik to pick up Darth Vader and Major Rhymer. The alternate version is better at bombing but doesn't have the same anti-squadron muscle.

The main downside of this build is it has few deployments and it won't produce the same laser-focused all-game-long bomber pain a more committed bomber group can. It doesn't benefit much from bomber support options like Bomber Command center, which keeps it cheap, but also keeps it from excelling in the same way. It's combo-oriented and it can suffer when crucial combo components are picked off earlier than you were expecting.

Experimentation is key
These are just the basic archetypes and there's a lot of room for experimentation by fusing elements of each together or by incorporating elements of the medium or small fighter coverage groups together with anti-ship squadrons. Beyond that, there are lots of tweaks that can be made here and there. Here are some examples:
  • Sub in a Lambda Shuttle (or two!) and bid for second player to milk an objective token-based objective (like Intel Sweep or Sensor Net) you can exploit with the Strategic keyword, particularly if you're using a source of extra squadron movement like Fighter Coordination Team or the Quasar Squall title
  • Replace TIE Bombers or some Defenders with Firesprays and/or Decimators to make a more compact Rogue bomber group
  • Create an alternative mixed-role fighter group by using a combination of TIE Phantoms and TIE Advanced instead of/in addition to TIE Defenders
So with all that said, hopefully you patient Imperials who made it to the bottom of this article have been rewarded with some food for thought. I encourage you to give John's advice careful consideration as he's on point regarding a lot of the basics of how to prioritize your commands and how to coordinate your bombers, even if he is Rebel scum who is about to show us a horrifying and banned picture of cartoon Screed in a stupid hat.

Back to John!

Final Thoughts
Obviously, I can't cover everything in this screed but-
ACTUALLY, I don't need a squadron presence to crush Rebel traitors!
(Yes, I stole the same kind of joke from my MFC article, and I found the ugliest picture of Screed I could, with his trucker hat. Deal.)  This SHOULD be a decent start to building your LFC lists, but the most important point to playing with squadrons is PRACTICE.  It takes time to get good with them, but when you do, the results speak for themselves in the number of dead Star Destroyers you create.  Using squadrons and using black dice ships are two of the trickiest things to "get" in Armada, but with time, you'll get there.

The other thing I'll say is that while I have examples above that have worked in the past, and Eric has some good examples as well, I really CAN'T give you new and current squadron plans that work really well for always, etc etc.  This isn't me trying to duck the issue and not have to update these sections, more that A) squadron plans are always changing and Eric's point above about needing to practice and see what works in your meta are important.  Combine THAT with the fact that Rebel squadrons have multiple varied roles.  Luke is an incredible Bomber, but he's also an X-wing that rolls 4 blue dice at squadrons, so what role you need him for this turn is going to define what he rolls, a yuk yuk yuk.  Practice, talk to your opponent after the game, see what's working and what isn't for you and what you need and don't with regards to squadrons that lean heavier towards Fighters and those towards Bombers.  More simply put, how MANY X-wings/YT-1300s and how MANY Y-wings/B-wings do you need? But it's really more than that, of course.

Next time, we'll finally start talking about using these for fighting against squadrons, in chapter 6 we'll discuss using the LFC to fight other squadron groups, and later in chapter 7 we'll finally talk about using these to attack ships.  Good luck squadronning!