Monday, April 24, 2017

Imperial ship review: Interdictor cruiser

We've made it to wave 4! I mean to be fair, waves 3 and 4 are basically the exact same wave because they came out together, but... technically it's wave 4!

Oh hello there, I didn't notice you getting choke-slammed out of hyperspace!
So in Armada, the Interdictor is a cruiser that seems to be very similarly-sized to a Victory-class Star Destroyer. This is a bit different for those of you used to Immobilizers and Interdictors from the old EU days, but hey whatever. The important thing is it's a triangle and it has weird gravity balls.

Team America: World Police gets where I'm coming from.

Okay so like most ships your two Interdictor variants have a large amount of overlap. Some highlights:
  • A high points cost at 90-93 base points. The Interdictor starts off just slightly cheaper than a Liberty-style MC80 (large ship!) and is the most expensive medium ship in the game thus far.
  • A very high 9 hull points, the second-highest in the game (behind only the ISD) and an extremely high amount for a medium base ship.
  • A competitive Command 2, which is the lowest Command value for a medium ship, making it much less cumbersome in its command requirements than other medium or larger ships.
  • An extremely high (best in the game) Engineering 5, which makes it the champion of repair commands. A repair token even gives you 3 repair points, which is an awful lot. Spent together, a repair dial+token is an amazing 8 repair points!
  • 4 defense tokens, although keep in mind 2 of those are contain, the weakest defense token.
  • A low maximum speed of 2. The good news is it has one click of yaw on each movement joint at speed 2, making better at maneuvering than the VSD at the very least.
  • Squadrons 2, which is adequate but not great for its cost. It's not really a capable carrier all things considered but it can pitch in on a crucial turn or two more frequently than the Squadrons 2 Gladiators will.
  • 9 total shields, which are just a smidgen on the low end for an Imperial vessel of its size but combined with its 9 hull it has the same total durability as a Victory-class Star Destroyer with 18 shields+hull. The two contain tokens help keep this from being too much of a liability by making attacks that hit the hull unlikely to resolve the standard critical effect.
  • Experimental retrofit slots, which we'll be covering below. Unique upgrades are always exciting!
Basic usage recommendations
First and foremost, it's clear that compared to ships in a similar points bracket that the Interdictor has some selling points but it's not wowing anyone with its raw combat power. With that established, always fill all of your Interdictor's Experimental Retrofit slots. Always. The Interdictor is counting on applying those unique upgrades to justify its cost increase over a Victory-class Star Destroyer. Effectively, a portion of the Experimental Retrofit's costs are subsidized into the base cost of the Interdictor. Please use them. Yes, we're getting to them! Be patient 😉.

Secondly, double-arcing is important. The front arc of an Interdictor is mediocre but the side arcs are better than usual for an Imperial ship of its size. A front arc+side arc is substantially better against most targets and brings your total offensive output up to the same level as a double-arcing VSD. This is extra important given the Interdictor lacks a weapon team slot for using things like Gunnery Teams so getting both of your attacks whenever possible, and preferably against the same target, is important.
Immortan Joe is not impressed with only getting one attack!
Repair commands can be quite effective with an Interdictor and especially so when you have a reliable means of getting repair tokens (from Tarkin, Wulff Yularen, or a Comms Net Gozanti, for example) to use in addition to your repair dial for 8 repair points. The Interdictor is lacking in offensive power but it can definitely tank attacks better than many other ships, so repair commands are often more appealing for it than on other ships.

Because many of the Interdictor Experimental Retrofits affect enemy ship speed (during play or deployment) and/or alter obstacle placement, Interdictors are amazing at objective play when equipped properly. What it lacks in offensive oomph an Interdictor can make up for in scoring lots of objective points. For this reason I find it's often best to make a small bid for second player when using an Interdictor and to consider your objectives carefully so they synergize with your Experimental Retrofit suite.

In short, the Interdictor is more of a support/denial ship with some combat and repair options and getting use from its support/denial upgrades will determine whether it was a useful inclusion for your fleet. As a quick side note, it does prevent enemy fleets from jumping to hyperspace in Corellian Conflict, which gives it more strategic importance there. We won't be covering CC in this article, but it's even better in that format.

 It has one, and the name is not imaginative!
"So did you mean the Interdictor Interdictor or an Interdictor Interdictor?"

As usual when discussing upgrade cards, let's discuss some particulars on how this works:
  • The ability triggers upon the activation of any ship at all anywhere in the game (including the Interdictor itself). This means at the start of the activation, not during the activation.
  • The Interdictor title itself is exhausted (taps, for you MtG-familiar folks out there) to ready (untap!) 1 other (non-Interdictor) card equipped to the Interdictor ("this ship").
In short, the Interdictor title is swell when you've equipped an exhaust-to-use upgrade to the Interdictor that can be used during other ships' activations. That would normally include two of the Experimental Retrofits but can also include Electronic Countermeasures equipped to the ship through Minister Tua, for example. Because it only works at the start of an activation, it won't let you double-use cards that exhaust to gain an effect during your activation such as Intel Officer or Engine Techs or the like. I highly recommend using it if you have a card like Target Scramblers, G-8 Experimental Projector, or Commandant Aresko equipped to your Interdictor.

Experimental Retrofits
Because the Interdictor's usefulness is based strongly around what Experimental Retrofit it's equipped with and it's the only ship in the game (...for now) that can use them, we should talk about them before going any further.

Just make sure to install that hobbit-proof fencing. They seem to keep showing up and throwing rings into it.
The G7-X Grav Well Projector messes with ship deployment speed. There are a lot of things to note about its effect:
  • You place the token after deploying obstacles but before deploying fleets. This allows you to see what places are more favorable for opponent deployment and mess with them.
  • The token can go anywhere in the play area. Normally due to its effect range, it's best to place it at your opponent's distance 3 deployment line (see the example below).
    • In the case of Fleet Ambush it can be great fun to put the token in the ambush zone, however!
  • The effect applies to any ship that deploys, even later in the game. Normally this is pointless after fleet deployment (and the tokens can be removed once the first turn starts), but when a ship deploys due to Hyperspace Assault or Admiral Raddus or the Profundity title, the G7-X grav well token can make it speed 0! Sneaky!
  • Remember that the effect applies to any ship"at" distance 1-3 rather than "within," which means if even a tiny piece of the ship is in the debuff zone, speed 0.
  • You can use the G7-X on your own ships if for some reason you want to be allowed to deploy your ships at speed 0 (normally the minimum is 1).
The important thing to note about its ability is that the token projects an extremely large circle of "you'll be sad if you deploy here."

For the strongest example, here is a deployment zone with two G7-X tokens in it (which would require two Interdictors, but bear with me), with the red circles representing the "speed 0 zone." Because the token measures distance 1-3 in a radius, the total circle is over one foot in diameter. It takes up a considerable amount of real estate and can really crimp your opponent's meaningful options in a game where he'd rather not be starting at speed 0.

Why wouldn't your opponent want to be speed 0 on the first turn? There's a lot of possibilities, some of which you have control over:
  • You're second player playing an area control or token-grabbing objective (Fire Lanes, Contested Outpost, Salvo Run, Intel Sweep, Capture the VIP) and your opponent doesn't want to let you just walk away with it.
  • You have a Rhymerball that can theoretically punch an enemy ship on turn 1 (with some help from Fighter Coordination Teams and the Squall title Quasar and the like) and your opponent would like to be able to spend some of his defense tokens against that.
  • Your opponent simply wants to use a ship that would normally like to go speed 2 or higher most of the time (which is most ships) and doesn't want to spend the first few turns stepping on the gas to get there.
In short, the G7-X is helpful for a number of reasons but like many of the other Experimental Retrofits, it shines when used in objective play, so try to leverage that to the best of your ability by choosing objectives that synergize with it.
"Wait, slow down just a moment - did the Imperials put a glowing brassiere on their ship?"
The G-8 Experimental Projector also gets some bullet points! Bullet points for everything!
  • The exact timing trigger for this one was uncertain until the FAQ resolved it: if you intend to use the G-8 you must do so at the beginning of an opponent's ship's Determine Course step. Your opponent then gets to decide if and how he wants to spend his navigate tokens/dials in response to the G-8 going off.
  • Remember that the speed debuff is temporary. It's only in effect for that one maneuver then the speed reverts back to normal.
    • That means that if you're moving at maximum speed and the G-8s slow you down, you can spend a navigate dial/token to bring you back up to maximum speed, because, for that maneuver at the very least, you are below your maximum speed and can increase your speed using a navigate command. At the conclusion of the maneuver, your temporary speed reduction will expire and the game will try to set your speed to above its maximum and then fail, leaving you remaining at full speed.
      • There is nothing in the G-8s that prevent this from happening. If the G-8s were written differently with text that said something like "the targeted ship treats is speed as one less than its current speed for its upcoming maneuver," then it would be different, but it doesn't.
The G-8s are primarily useful for speed-control and are usually seen in a fleet using Phylon Q7 Tractor Beams and/or Konstantine. The end goal is usually to focus-slow specific ships down so they're stuck going speed 1 or speed 0 rather than their desired speed. The strategy often works better with a Slicer Tools Gozanti around to stop the prey from queuing up a navigate command to speed up out of danger. It's a fair amount of setup in terms of both points spent and coordination, so there needs to be some kind of strong benefit you can derive from all the speed-screwage, which is usually lacking in speed control fleets (more on that in the Konstantine article if you're interested).

Because the G-8 Experimental Projector exhausts to use during an opponent's activation, it enjoys being paired with the Interdictor title so you can use it twice in a turn.

Unknown to most Imperial crew members, the Interdictor's systems are secretly powered by a droid rave happening deep within the ship.
The droid rave is fueled by bullet points!
  • The timing windows on Grav Shift Reroute (hereafter GSR) are very important:
    • The GSR token is placed after deploying obstacles and before deploying fleets. This means you can premeasure to get the most obstacles of interest in your GSR bubble and then put the token down.
    • The actual movement of obstacles happens after deploying fleets. All your opponent knows during deployment is that there is a token on the table and which obstacles it can affect. This can be extremely nerve-wracking and sometimes very powerful in actual implementation.
  • When moving obstacles, keep in mind that the obstacle itself can be moved to within distance 2. This means you need to be sure that despite any repositioning or turning of the obstacle, its end position doesn't have any protrusions that made any part of it move beyond distance 2. If you intend to reposition/turn the obstacle, I find it helps to measure from the current obstacle distance 2 in the direction you want it to go and then you can spin it around a bit but ensure it doesn't go past that distance 2 line.
    • Another thing to note about moving obstacles is they can move in whatever direction you like so long as they're within the GSR token bubble. You can pull them together, push them apart, shove them wherever. Just make sure the obstacle stays within 2 of its original position is all.
  • In instances where obstacles have tokens on top of them (like Dangerous Territory), the tokens come along for the ride. Just make sure not to move obstacles on top of tokens already on the table, as that's specifically disallowed.
Okay, so Grav Shift Reroute is amazing. So amazing that they made it unique so you couldn't use it twice. It's extremely cheap and its effect is surprisingly powerful. You can use it to throw obstacles into inconvenient places for your opponent after he's done with deployment, you can also/instead use it to clear obstacles out of your own fleet's way (allowing you to deploy in places your opponent may not have expected), and you can use it to pull objective obstacles (like the Contested Outpost station) into more advantageous positions for you, which can be very strong. It's an unexpectedly powerful upgrade in practice and it's effectively my default first Interdictor Experimental Retrofit purchase in most cases. Don't neglect to deploy obstacles within distance 3 of a central point to get the most mileage from GSR - it's not uncommon for it to affect 3 or 4 obstacles in a given game if you keep your obstacles roughly within that large bubble along with 1 or more opponent obstacles. For example:

In the above example, four obstacles are covered in the distance 3 bubble of the GSR effect. You and your opponent would both deploy your fleets like usual and then afterward, you would get to mess with the final positioning of four different obstacles. In general I'd be looking to move the debris field and asteroids near the opponent's deployment zone into the paths of his deployed ships (by moving them up and/or sideways). The asteroids closer to my deployment zone would either be added to the mess of those other two obstacles or shoved out of my way to the side, depending. The station would get moved to a more convenient location for me. And that all happens after fleet deployment. It can be pretty decisive.

Man, EPCOT got weird.
Targeting Scrambler is a bit more straightforward but... bullet points regardless:
  • The Interdictor is a friendly ship to itself, you can use it on your own Interdictor
  • It's important to distinguish that the friendly ship needs to be at distance 1-3 of the Interdictor and the attack against it needs to be at close range. You need both of these elements to be true use the Targeting Scrambler.
  • Because it triggers during the Spend Defense Tokens step, I recommend using the Targeting Scrambler first and then deciding what other tokens to spend once you see how the rerolled dice turn out.
As usual with any effects that allow you to reroll opponent's dice: be careful. You may reroll into something worse if you get too reckless. Priority targets are dice that cannot get any worse (black or red dice inflicting two damage) and secondary targets are blue dice in general (as there's a 25% chance they'll turn out to be a useless accuracy result). Rerolling dice that could get worse is always a gamble (so red or black dice with one hit), so be careful.

With all that said, Targeting Scrambler is a solid upgrade in the right kind of fleet where you expect to be taking fire at short range and it can really do a number against ships like MC30s or Gladiators that were planning on doing some serious crit-enabled burst damage at short range, reducing their damage significantly by (hopefully) rerolling crits into non-crits and turning off their black crit upgrades. Worst case, it's helpful for preventing some damage from enemy bombers by forcing B-Wings and the like to reroll particularly strong attacks.

Targeting Scrambler enjoys being used with the Interdictor title for the same reason as the G-8 Experimental Projector - being able to use it twice in a turn (in two separate enemy activations, mind you) can be quite powerful for reducing incoming damage to your fleet.

I'll get you, space frisbee!

Interdictor Suppression Refit
The Interdictor Suppression Refit is in my opinion the "default" Interdictor. I feel this way because it is slightly cheaper than the Combat Refit and has access to two Experimental Retrofit slots. Given Experimental Retrofit upgrades are one of the strongest reasons for including an Interdictor in your fleet, having access to two of them is pretty appealing. We've talked a lot about the Experimental Retrofits above as well as some basics of Interdictor use and those all apply here.

Offensive Retrofit slot
Disposable Capacitors all the way! For a very affordable 3 points, your Interdictor can once per game use its blue dice against ships at long range! This allows your Interdictor to start seriously contributing to combat one turn earlier, to some extent improving its otherwise-mediocre combat performance. This is particularly true of the Suppression Refit due to all its blue dice, but also helps on the Combat Refit.

Ion Cannon slot
Because the Suppressor Refit is packing a lot of blue dice, would like some extra oomph in the aggro department, and should preferably be double-arcing, it's quite possible to treat it as an overweight team-player CR90B and equip it with SW-7 Ion Batteries to ensure its blue dice will always be dealing damage. Because the Interdictor's arcs won't regularly be dealing more than 3 or 4 damage, accuracy icons are of limited use against targets other than flotillas and thus converting those accuracy icons into more damage is frequently quite helpful.

The other option for the ion cannon slot is the oft-forgotten-about Ion Cannon Batteries. Particularly when used with commanders like Darth Vader or Screed, being able to get reliable blue crits can increase the damage the Interdictor deals indirectly by triggering the Ion Cannon Batteries' critical effect. This either removes enemy command tokens (if they have them) or (more frequently) deals an additional shield damage.

Support Team slot
It's rare for Imperial ships to get access to this slot at all and the Interdictor has a lot more meaningful options with it than you'd first think. I'll mention the ones that are independent of specific builds we cover later:

Engine Techs are the easy (if expensive) choice when you'd like to speed your Interdictor up a bit. At the very least, they're quite effective for helping your Interdictor cover more ground and with a navigate dial + the extra speed-1 maneuver, you get 4 total clicks of yaw at speed 2+1, which is not bad maneuverability at all!

Engineering Team has value if you've got a means of supplying the Interdictor with constant repair tokens (from Tarkin or other sources) and don't intend to use repair dials much. 4 repair points (3+1) is 2 shields per use and equivalent to what heavier ships get from a full repair dial, so it's not to be overlooked as an option.

Projection Experts have some value in the Interdoctor build, which we're getting to shortly...

Officer slot
You have a lot of good options here. A few that come to mind immediately:

Wulff Yularen is great for on-demand token regeneration (often a repair token due to the Interdictor's high Engineering value) but can also be useful in builds focusing on maximizing your repair ability. Similarly, Commandant Aresko can find a welcome home as an officer on an Interdictor with the Interdictor title, as you can use his ability up to twice per turn to get some free command tokens. The only issue with Aresko is you need to be careful to stay near friends and it helps if those friends are usually doing commands the Interdictor wants tokens from (but free tokens are still good, really, it's just Wulff is usually better unless you're getting tokens you actually want with Aresko).

If you'd like to make the Interdictor even tankier, you have a lot of good options there too. Minister Tua allows you to equip a Defensive Retrofit (I would recommend Electronic Countermeasures or perhaps Reinforced Blast Doors) for even more tankiness. Captain Needa can replace one of your contains with an evade, giving you much better defenses against long ranged attacks. The Damage Control Officer is solid on an Interdictor due to its two contain defense tokens - you can substantially reduce damage from Assault Proton Torpedoes, Assault Concussion Missiles, Ion Cannon Batteries, and Norra Wexley's ability too. I wasn't really sold on the Damage Control Officer originally, but having played against him a few times now, in the right circumstances he can be amazing.

Failing all that you can always use every Command 2 ship's favorite "might as well" officer, the Skilled First Officer. Getting some Slicer Tools insurance and having a great deal of control over your command stack at a critical point for only 1 point is a steal on a Command 2 ship.

Objectives lock-down
Grav Shift Reroute + G7 Grav Well Projector + Disposable Capacitors
These two Experimental Retrofits go well together for making objectives relying on obstacles quite strong for you. You can include other elements in as you please, but these two are the cornerstone. You can include Admiral Titus on another ship (I'd use a different officer for the Interdictor) to further mess with enemy speed early on while you lock down your objective points.

Wulff Yularen + Projection Experts + Targeting Scrambler + Interdictor title + Disposable Capacitors
The "Interdoctor" is all about making life easier for your nearby ships and increasing your tankiness. With Wulff Yularen able to provide an infinite repair token + a repair dial, you can use Projection Experts to send 2 shields out to help other ships and still have 6 repair points left to regenerate 3 shields of your own. Combine that with Targeting Scrambler and your Interdoctor can be a potent source of damage prevention for your fleet. This build works fine with either Interdictor chassis given the only requirement for Experimental Retrofits is the Targeting Scrambler. If you're using it on a Suppressor Refit, fill the remaining slot with whichever Experimental Retrofit you prefer. When using this build with Tarkin, you won't need Wulff for the tokens so replace him with another defensive officer.

Speed Control
Phylon Q7 Tractor Beams + G-8 Experimental Projector + Interdictor title + Disposable Capacitors
I mentioned earlier that I wasn't too keen on the speed control archetype as a fleet and I haven't changed my mind since writing that. However, it can be fun even if it's not a really consistent sub-theme. If you'd like to give it a try, here's the basic setup

Pew pew pew! I hate MC30s!
Interdictor Combat Refit 
For +3 points, the Combat Refit differs from the Suppressor Refit in a few ways:
  • Replaces 1 anti-ship blue die in the front and side arcs with a red die
  • Gains a black die for its flak
  • Loses one Experimental Retrofit slot
The end application of the ship is still pretty similar and there's definitely some benefits from running a Combat Refit over a Suppressor Refit. Specifically, the 2 red dice in the front and side arcs can allow you to meaningfully contribute at long range and much earlier in the game and it's also easier to line up double arcs that do something due to the better long-ranged attacks. The better flak comes in handy here and there as well but it's a bit more circumstantial.

In the end, it mostly comes down to "how many Experimental Retrofits would you like to use?" If the answer is one, then I'd strongly recommend the Combat Refit over the Suppressor Refit as those 3 points go a little ways towards making the Interdictor a bit more effective as a combat vessel.

The options here are pretty much the same as the Suppressor Refit. One particular exception I would like to focus on regards the Ion Cannon upgrade slot. Specifically, due to having only 2 blue dice per hull zone, upgrades that buff blue dice (like the SW-7 Ion Batteries) or rely on blue crits (like the Ion Cannon Batteries) are less reliable and thus less appealing as upgrade choices. Overall, I'd recommend leaving the Ion Cannon slot empty on a Combat Refit. If you'd like to put something there anyways, then I'd recommend High Capacity Ion Turbines to add an extra blue die to the side arcs.

Again, the options here are pretty much the same as the Suppressor Refit. The "Objectives lock-down" build is impossible but otherwise any of the other 3 work just fine as a Combat Refit.

Commanders that synergize with Interdictors 
Admiral Motti
Bringing the Interdictor up to 11 hull makes it a rather serious problem to remove, especially when that Interdictor equips a defensive officer and/or is using Targeting Scrambler. Make it a full-fledged Interdoctor and you've got a ship that makes killing Motti's ships even tougher than usual. The main downside is you can find your fleet particularly slow (say you're using VSDs and Interdictors), but with good objective choice and something like Grav Shift Reroute added in you can hopefully get some benefit from a small bid for second player.

Grand Moff Tarkin
Because Grand Moff Tarkin can run a variety of fleets, there's a few different ways to use Interdictors with him. My favorite is running an Interdoctor build and having Tarkin spam repair tokens later on. With a whole fleet repairing continuously, it can be difficult to crack through into your heavier ships. I won't claim this particular combination is top tier, but it is fun.

Darth Vader
Vader at first seems an odd choice here, but he actually works fairly well with an Interdictor. Because the Interdictor has 2 contains to spend for rerolls, Vader can get blue critical upgrades to fire pretty consistently. This combined with rerolling blank red dice and in most cases accuracy results from both dice colors ups the damage output of the Interdictor fairly well. The Interdictor itself can also add some fun tricks to Vader's fleet, making it a bit more nuanced. Good uses of Targeting Scrambler can also allow some of your ships to avoid problems caused by exhausted defense tokens due to Vader whipping the crews into shape. The main problem with this combination is the expense (Tarkin has this issue too): Vader himself is an expensive commander and the Interdictor is a relatively expensive ship that punches below its weight class. It can be tough to get a fleet that feels "complete" at 400 points here. At 500+ points, it's much less of an issue.

Final thoughts
The Interdictor is currently struggling a bit in the competitive scene. I can understand why: in a 400 point game, devoting 100 or more points to a support-oriented ship that punches under its weight class can be a tough sell. I will say in the Interdictor's defense that even though it doesn't hit the table when I'm going to a competitive event, I've always had fun with it when I do play it. It's a bit unforgiving in that you really need to get value from its support abilities to make up for its weaker attacks. Therefore its Experimental Retrofits and other upgrades need to be chosen with a strong consideration of your objective suite as well as the rest of your fleet. It's really difficult to throw an Interdictor into an Imperial fleet "just because" and have it pull its weight for that reason.

When used well in a fleet it can still pull its weight. In particular, many of the "how do I fit this thing into a fleet?" problems vanish when playing at higher points levels in either a casual setting or in a Corellian Conflict campaign (which can go up to 500 points and where the Interdictor gains an additional debuff for the enemy fleet by preventing them from jumping out of battle). It's not one of the first Imperial ships I would recommend picking up but it should not be ignored. Once your Imperial collection matures a little bit, I recommend playing around with an Interdictor.