Monday, April 24, 2017

General Airen Cracken: Know Your Enemy/Commander's Corner

We continue Wave 3 with General Cracken, head of Rebel Intelligence.  Hit the jump and unleash the Cracken!
I was actually in the movie and this is the joke you open with? Ugh, I'm disappointed.
Basics of the Card
As in all times, let's throw up the card and break it down, y'all!
He really looks like he's telling me and some punk kids to get off his lawn.
So there's a fair amount going on here.  First, small or medium ships.  Keep that in mind while building him.  Second, speed 3 or 4.  So you gotta be going fast to get the benefit.  With ALL those benefits, what it does is treat the attack as obstructed.  So a dice gets removed from the pool before they all get initially rolled.  Relatively simple to understand what happens, so long as you qualify with the first two points.  If you're a small ship going speed 2, congrats, no benefit.

Why Play Him
Well, he acts a lot like Mon Mothma in a way.  She wants ships with Evade tokens, which are Small and Medium ships anyways, and he ALSO wants them.  His benefit is better at Long and Medium range, while hers actually takes effect at Short and Medium.  Breaking that sentence down, at Long range, his ability can still apply (if you're speed 3), while Mothma's works like normal.  The OTHER benefit of using him at Long Range is that when you remove a die because you're obstructed, you can also spend an Evade token to remove a SECOND die (or a third even, if you Foresight it!)

At Medium Range, Mon Mothma starts to apply, and Cracken can still apply.  Removing a dice of your choice after rolling (Mothma) seems a little stronger in my mind than removing it before it happens (Cracken), but that's often because I don't see very many ships rolling multiple Blue dice in my meta.  Mothma removes a die with an Evade token here, while Cracken removes one with his obstruction rule and rerolls one with any Evade tokens.  The obstruction is nice, as it prevents attacks (if they have only one Blue dice somehow), but you can't get double obstructed if you're behind an obstacle at Medium range or using Early Warning System.
We all knew I was going to be making the joke eventually, might as well get it out of the way now.
However, when you're in Short Range, Mon Mothma's ability seems stronger.  If Demolisher rolls up on you, and fires 3 black dice out the side (Cracken's obstruction coming in to play here!), it can still trigger that crit effect, just with less dice.  Mon Mothma can force a Reroll on a Hit+Crit Black dice there, but Cracken cannot.  Cracken does better striking and sniping from a distance, while Mothma tends more towards close range fighting (as her Evade tokens work at that range).  The longer you stay in Short range, too, the better chance you have of getting shot and killed.  You don't have very many hardy Small/Medium based ships that like staying in short range for long, there.

Cracken can double up on obstruction and Evade tokens to negate a lot of damage, but he needs to be careful with what ends where.  Getting too close to an ISD-II still may not save you, even if you ARE obstructed there.  You're going to want to be punctuating Long Range Red dice damage (Hello TRCR90s) with quick strikes at other ranges (Medium, some short.  Usually short).  Run in, hit a ship, and then leave.  You can also keep it all Long Range Red Dice too, but we'll cover that in the Builds Section below.

Common Ships/Builds/Ways to Run Him
There's a few schools of thought to Cracken.  The first major ship to use with him is the one that doesn't come with him.
Mighty fine blockade you have there, Imperials.  Be a shame if someone.... ran it....
The Cracken mainstay is the CR90 corvette.  Yes, he comes in the flotilla pack, but his ability impacts the CR90 SO MUCH.  There's nothing more hilarious than removing one dice with Cracken's ability and Evading another with a CR90 Evade token.  When you're building a Cracken list, you basically need to figure out HOW MANY CR90s you want to bring.  I've run 2, I've run 4, but you generally want several.  He does the most with this ship and for this ship, so you want multiples.  You ALSO want to hit the same ship multiple times in the same turn to just overwhelm their defense tokens.  4 CR90s hitting the same ISD can take it OUT (assuming its not obstructed to your attacks), but you need to hit it all the same turn (that's actually decent advice for fighting ISDs in general: hit them the same turn with multiple attacks and overwhelm their defense tokens as fast as you can.)
Construct more pylons? Rarrgh, he's got too many stupid units coming at me!
Cracken also can do very well with flotillas, especially with Boosted Comms and/or Relay VCXs commanding squadrons.  Just like CR90s, they're going to want to lurk in the back/at long range, pushing squadrons FAR away from the battlefield to not get shot.  And just like CR90s, they also appreciate one removed obstruction dice and one Evaded.  Someone will need SIGNIFICANT damage and 2 accuracies at long range to kill your flotilla.

The most recent entrant to this section is the Hammerhead Corvette.  One of the top placements at US Nationals 2017 involved Cracken, 6 Hammerheads, and 7 Rogue squadrons.  As the Hammerheads can go speed 3, he can definitely improve their survivability.  Just make sure that you don't end up in the wrong spot because you were going speed 3 and didn't navigate this turn.  Having never tried them with him, all I can immediately do is suggest NOT starting at speed 3 with them.  Don't ramp up speed until it's needed, and navigate constantly.  Using Task Force Antilles on them allows you to remove one dice from obstruction, Evade another die, and then pass 1 damage around with the title to your other friends using the title before ANY of it hits your ships.  If/when I try Hammerheads under Cracken, I will update this section.  For now, check out my Hammerheads article for more information.

The last ship I've seen him use and do well with is the MC30.  Just use those Evade tokens at long range, and keep out of trouble until you go on your cruise missile attack run.  End the turn with an MC30 moving into position, and then start the turn by shooting that ship you ended near.  You can use the Scout version, but as the damage at Long range isn't much different from the CR90, you'll likely want the Torpedo version.  If you DO use the MC30, you'll likely want a GOOD bid for first.

So he wants like 3-4 ships.  The OTHER thing he likes to use is Squadrons. He's great with Rogues, as the CR90, Hammerhead, and MC30 have Squadrons 1.  That's not a great ability to command them, so you either need flotillas/Relay with them, or you need Rogues.  The usual component (pre wave 5) is 8 YT-2400s.  It's almost like I've written about them before!  Now, with the existence of Wave 5, you can run Lancers, YT-2400s, Hera and friends, etc.  There's a lot of ways of getting decent squadron coverage in there now, and a lot of interesting Aces and attack possibilities.  If you bring Lancers and other bombers, bring one flotilla with Bomber Command Center, just to guarantee that you'll get damage when you need it (YT-2400s don't benefit from BCC, but they DO benefit from Toryn Farr, if you can find a way to keep her safe and at Range 1-3).
As I said before, purchasing 8 of these stinks, but they're so deadly! eBay is your best friend...
Anything He Doesn't Like?
MC80s, both the Home One and the Liberty, along with the MC75: They're Large based, you don't want them as they don't benefit.  Furthermore, they have so many hit points and shields that being obstructed doesn't even help them that much.

Nebulons and Assault Frigates: My problem with both of these is that while both CAN get to speed 3, they often SHOULDN'T be at Speed 3.  The Assault Frigate going at speed 3 BADLY needs to be navigating to get where it needs to and not get shot.  This makes it hard to do a lot of other things that it could want to do, be it Engineering or pushing Squadrons.  Combine that with the fact that its movement profile is really not that great (it's a baby Large ship! He's doing his best!)
An Assault Frigate painting a Star Destroyer with damage, a yuk yuk yuk.
I can see the merit of putting an Assault Frigate in there with Cracken, but you need to be VERY good at navigating with it at Speed 3 to get the benefit of Cracken's obstruction there (and also not getting comparable benefit from just sailing between obstacles yourself).  Gunnery Teams and ECM for sure on it, just sailing around and throwing damage.  I wouldn't necessarily command squadrons with it, but again, that's largely based around making sure your Frigate gets where it needs to go.  You can put it in there and try to get the Cracken benefit (they are YOUR spaceships and all!) but I'd look elsewhere first.

Similarly, the Nebulon at speed 3 goes from having its front arc and strong shields in a place where it's happy to be to a place where it's suddenly a lot closer to trouble.  You can't really use Yavaris with the Nebulon, as your speed 3 turning is as good as a GR-75.  That's not a great turning plan, with a basic Nebulon, but if you put Nav Team on the Nebulon it might work? Might? I'm willing to listen on the idea, but I can't say I had great success with it.  Furthermore, even using Navigation on a Salvation style can result in problems.  See below:
Good and bad ways that things can happen for Nebulons
The left example is what happens when a Nebulon starts in a good spot: it can end up in the side arc of the ISD, ready to fire on it next turn.  But on the RIGHT, if it's not in a great starting spot, it can end up right in front of an ISD.  If you can GUARANTEE a last-first activation, it's fine, you can jump over the ISD! If you can't (and you know you really can't, short of a ludicrous 20 point bid), then that ISD is going to HURT that Nebulon.  Because of the dice and arcs of the Nebulon, you need to point your Front at the ship you're attacking with, while Assault Frigates are fine pointing their sides at the ISD front and staying in Medium/Long range.  If you try to turn your Nebulon and run away, you're exposing your side arcs to the ISD's front.  That's a nice recipe for death.
Foorst yoo took the dood Noobulon...
With both of these ships, also, to get the benefit, they also HAVE to be at Maximum Speed, which puts you at a pretty predictable place you're going to end up.  If you're at speed 3, your opponent has a pretty good idea of where you'll be with your ship at the end of this turn.  They can predict moderately well, and that to me doesn't seem super smart.

A second ago, though, I said that flotillas work with him and their max speed is 3, too; what gives? The 2 and 3 stack Commands of the Nebulon and Frigate, respectively, make it a bit harder to get your way out of issues and Navigate if badly needed.  Combine that with the fact that flotillas generally stay on the outskirts more and more AND ARE FINE NOT ATTACKING (and are fine staying at speed 1-2 in the back until they need to go fast), and you have a much bigger chance of the Frigate and Nebulon getting in closer where they don't necessarily want to be.  You can use these, and I welcome stories of your efforts with them all.  As for maximum speed Hammerheads, because you can pass the damage around with the Task Force titles, and because they navigate much earlier, they're harder to predict ending shots and thus harder to pin down.  Given that they also are much harder to kill than you'd think, Hammerheads CAN get work done with him, I promise.

Peltas: Speed 2 max.  It does things, but you're not going to be able to use Cracken with it, no matter what it's doing for you.  There's other ways of pushing squadrons if you need them pushed.

How Do I Fight Him?
Why yes I WILL quote Hamilton again, because I DON'T have an unhealthy obsession with that musical, no.
How do I say "No" to this?
To quote the musical:
We will fight up close, seize the moment and stay in it
It’s either that or meet the business end of a bayonet
So what does that all mean?

"We will fight up close"
You want to get close to Cracken's ships.  If you're in close, he can't use the Evade tokens he's using to supplement his ability.

"Seize the moment and stay in it"
Start hitting his ships and overwhelming them with damage BACK.  Stay targeting the same ship as much as you can to get rid of their Evade tokens, even IF they're obstructed.

"It's either that or meet the business end of a bayonet."
I mean, the joke answer here is that do this or die, but you can show THEM a perfectly good bayonet too:
I stabbed him in the face with my lasers!
Cracken's chosen ships do not like being unable to mitigate the damage.  An inability to redirect with enough damage applied to a CR90 or MC30 is a dead ship.  Use your space bayonet!

Lastly, don't take the bullets out of your gun or throw away your shot, a yuk yuk yuk.  John's helpful advice is helpful.

Final Thoughts
Even his Lego looks angry!
I want to like Cracken, but my playstyle tends toward close range.  I've played a few builds and have ideas for other ones, but at the end of the day I go more close range knife fighting.  His ability to me seems like a slightly less Mon Mothma, but if he works for you, go for it.  I haven't hit full "Don't play this" yet, just saying that it's not MY style, so I can only tell ME not to play him.  Good luck to you if you want to, though!

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