Monday, April 3, 2017

Know Your Enemy/Commander's Corner: Admiral Gial Ackbar

That's right, he has a first name.  It's not just "Admiral."  And he's today's Know Your Commander!

A little bit of me hopes that's Toryn Farr on the right there, working for the Resistance.
Throwing up the Card!
Make sure to note the timing issues here!
So before you make your attack, you need to choose where you're attacking from.  Which also means you don't get to see your initial side roll BEFORE you use his powers.  But for adding sheer raw power to your dice, Ackbar is your man.... fish.... Mon Calamari.  2 Red Dice can turn ship damage output from Good to Substantial.  You have the opportunity to get 4 extra damage if you fire out of your sides.

Why Play Him?
I will fully admit that I (personally) have always liked Admiral Ackbar, but I also read a lot of the X-wing book series growing up.  Wedge was great, and Admiral Ackbar was one of the few people he respected and viewed as someone competent and worth talking to.  I've always wanted Admiral Ackbar to be good in every game I play with him, and I think I've come to understand him a bit better.  He may not be the deadliest Admiral, but he's always super fun to play.

His Great-Great-Great-Great Uncle, Wyatt Yosemite Ackbar
Eric has described him as "the best Admiral to play to convince someone that Ackbar is worth playing."  He's not necessarily a full top tier, but he is super fun and just a delight.  The ships he uses get to potentially CRAZY damage outputs and just knowing you can get there changes your opponent's entire mindset when calculating where to move.  I personally am not going to move CLOSER to that MC80 side arc with the Demolisher if you're not going to kill it this turn!  Usually about once a game (unless your dice are running super cold) you'll fire off a side shot that will cause a ship to evaporate.  There was an Arquittens, and then: there wasn't.

Red Dice aren't the most accurate at guaranteeing damage, so you'll need to find some ways to either reroll them or fix them.  But sometimes you roll 12 damage and an accuracy from a Concentrating Fire MC80 Assault Cruiser at long range, and you get to smile as you tell that Enemy Star Destroyer you're going to use it on the Brace.  Let's not even get to Medium Range and Defiance.....yet.

I'm physically possible!  And that's terrifying!
Ackbar ships with the right builds and rolls have the potential of one-shotting almost any enemy ship, even an ISD.  If you ever wanted to fight the Empire with (again, potentially) better damage from more dice, Ackbar!

Common Ships
Before we begin talking about Ackbar's ships, we need to talk about the "reason" for Ackbar's ability; why his ability is the way it is.  In the Expanded Universe Books....

Want to hear about my DnD character, too? He's a Dragonborn Paladin who...
Yeah, I know, nerdy, but let me finish, it actually relates.  So there's a thing called the Ackbar Slash he came up with, where you sail a ship in between two other ships.  You can fire ALL your guns at their ships and they (supposedly) have to be more conservative since they don't want to miss you and hit their own ships.  This (in my opinion) is the origin of Ackbar's ability.  So why did I tell you that? Well, clearly the strongest way to use Ackbar's ability is to get to fire out of BOTH side arcs at the same time!  This is a VERY easy (if you play it badly) way to result in you getting your ships killed by firing at two bigger ships.

On the left, we have most likely 2 dead arquittens.  On the RIGHT, we have a dead MC80.
So while it's super tempting to try to sail in between 2 ISDs in order to kill them both, the SMARTER plan is Gunnery Teaming your ships (or Advanced Gunnery for the ones that can't take Gunnery Teams...) and only taking the damage from one of them by staying far away from the 2nd.  If you can kill one and circle in further to hit the other, go for that.  Don't double up on attacking them from their front arcs, though.  You're not going to survive, I can almost guarantee.  If you CAN land inbetween them where they can't really fire their front arcs at you more than once (say, if the two ISDs are far apart), go for it (keeping in mind to keep repairing OFTEN).  A good opponent won't let you do that though.

This is the much smarter way to Act-bar, yuk yuk yuk.
Anyway, his preferred ships!

Assault Frigates:
In Wave 2, the common Ackbar plan was 3 Assault Frigates circling the battlefield, firing red dice out the side repeatedly.  To steal from my Assault Frigate article, this VSD is in for some bad times...

Conga like you mean it, please don't make me shock you!
The problem with this approach is that as soon as you get a ship parked in front of that first Assault Frigate, the Conga line breaks down and ends up ramming itself.  It also prevents your ships from doing the damage they WANT to do, as their front damage is nowhere near as good as their side damage, ESPECIALLY with Ackbar.  3 Assault Frigates isn't necessarily something I've seen in a while, but it can still get some work done.  Just be aware of that weakness in the build.

That's going to be a defining trait for many of our Ackbar ships, that their side damage is better than our Front ones.  Not all of them, but it's an easier trade-off with Ackbar's ability to NOT fire their front damage in order to increase their side damage.  You give up a good amount of dice in the front of a lot of these ships in order to deal more damage in your one shot at the enemy ship.  The OTHER thing to note is how Dice Addition works in regards to Ackbar's ability.  BEFORE the dice addition (Ackbar) step, you first check to see if you have dice in the pool to attack at that range.  If there are none, you don't get to add.  Zero stays zero.  See the example below.

Pictured for the Rebel side: A Combat GR75, a CR90A, and a Torpedo (blue dice) MC30
Based on the picture, it sure looks like that ISD is in for a bad time, doesn't it? Too bad the Rebel player is throwing ZERO dice against it.  The CR90 is in red range (pictured), but there's a station in the way, obstructing his shot.  So 1 red dice becomes zero red dice, which means: no Ackbar powers.  The GR75 has ZERO dice in its side arc, which means zero stays zero, and no Ackbar powers.  As for the MC30, that's not obstructed? Sure looks tempting, but it's also in Red dice range (i turned off the overlapping fields, but I promise it's in there).  I have an open shot, but I have no way to get an INITIAL shot.  Zero red dice (we'll talk about upgrading those in a second) in the side means: yup, you guessed it, zero Ackbar ability.  Keep this all in mind driving your ships and piloting.  If these ships were in Blue Range, then 2 minus 1 would be 1 for the CR90, and then you CAN add Ackbar's dice into the side.  This works the exact same as the Concentrate Fire rules, only it's an extra Ackbar dice.  If you don't have Range, you can't add Ackbar or Concentrate Fire.

So speaking of them, Ackbar loves him some other fish ships.  He can actually get use out of both types, depending on build.  The obvious one is the Scout Frigate with TRCs for a potential 4 Red dice out the side, 5 if you Concentrate Fire with them.  With a better movement profile than an Assault Frigate, you don't get as many dice, but if you can stay long, you can stay alive.  Put Gunnery Teams on it, and treat them like a wiggly VSD.  The black dice are there as a deterrent, and you're sailing around throwing Red Dice.

But the other option is the Torpedo Frigate. I just put an example up above so you may be saying "Why would I use this Blue one?" Because if you do one of two things, you'll be OK.  The first, easiest option is to get into Medium Range.  If you can, then you can get 2 Blue and 2 Red out the side, which is good.  If you can get into Short range, though, 2 Red, 2 Blue, and 3 Black.  That is gonna mess some ship up.  The alternate idea is to put Enhanced Armament on them to give them Red Range.  They act much like an ISD-1 in that case (same dice load out in the ISD front and MC30 side), and I refer to them as Ackbar ISDs (I didn't come up with the name, but whoever came up with it originally, let me know and I'll throw you credit.  I tried searching the forums, but oof, a lot to look through there.)

The other potential upgrade you can take with them is Sensor Teams.

Upgrades I swear exist, Volume 2
If you're rolling 8 dice (3 red, 2 blue, 3 black) out the side, sometimes you may want to give up some of your dice to ensure that you get the damage dealt to the ship, either by Accuracy'ing their Brace or their Scatter.  I understand the reason for it, but I'd personally rather have Ordnance Experts, if I'm even putting an upgrade in that slot.  Yes, potentially changing a die to an accuracy will help you against Flotillas or ensuring it doesn't get Braced down, but I like the ability to reroll my Black dice as needed more, but I'm usually sailing my MC30 in super close.  It's really a matter of how you want to run your ships, and I can see the merit in both.

I've heard of Ackbar running several, and I've run one or two under him.  3 Red dice out the side is a good addition to your damage, especially if you're running them with TRCs.  51 points for a guaranteed 2 damage into a ship is pretty fun, and that assumes you roll blanks on your other 2 Red dice.  If you can roll better (which is pretty doable), that's 4 or so damage or better.  If you have only 1, the Jaina's Light Title is a great choice to ignore the obstruction  problem.  If you have several, well then I can't recommend highly enough....

The Home One MC80 is how you purchase Ackbar, and it his baby to run.  With a few upgrades that have recently been released, it can become a ship built for survival.  The Home One Title (Ackbar's actual command ship) is one worth bringing if you can bring a few other ships with it.  Giving out an accuracy for free to every ship within distance 5 of it, you can get to some ludicrous damage that locks down Scatters, Braces, whatever you want.  If you field the H1MC80 with several TRCR90s, its very akin to keeping several dogs on a leash, but man, they can get work DONE.  2 more dice out the side, one of which is a guaranteed accuracy and the other 2 damage from the TRCs? Nice.

I don't think forcing this joke in was ruff at all.
The other option, instead of going with the Home One Title is the Defiance Title.  For when you want to ensure your target dies.

Let's Talk the Addition of Dice!
So you roll your 6 Red Dice out the sides of your Assault Cruiser, and you get 4 blanks, a hit, and an accuracy.  If only there was some way to ensure that you could get a Blue die to trigger your Leading Shots! Oh, well, hello Defiance Title!

Yup, you roll everything you HAVE first.  Then you get to see what you want to add (maybe it's a blue for Leading Shots at long range! Maybe it's a black to do MORE damage in close!) with the Title, and then you can even add in another dice if you Concentrated Fire.  This turns those side arcs of the MC80 into places you DO NOT want to be.  If you're there, you're in some trouble.  In either case of MC80, you take what's great about it (amazingly crazy good side arcs) and make them better with Ackbar.

Nebulon B's
These are very tier 2 with Ackbar, but they CAN do work.  I know Shmitty likes using them with Ackbar, but at most I'd take one.  These don't follow the standard Ackbar plan of circle-strafe the battlefield, but you use them as a finisher.  Any ship that's been damaged by other shots over the course of the match probably really doesn't want to be taking substantial shots from a Salvation Nebulon B after it's been injured.  You put your opponent's ship in between a rock (your other ships shooting it in the side) and a hard place (coming towards the Nebulon) in order to just keep pushing damage into them.  It's not the first ship I would reach for when building an Ackbar list, but they can do decently well with him.

A lot of the above ships are Command 2 or 3 and can go for having something else either pushing squadrons or Comms Netting tokens over to you.  Take 1 for that activation advantage you want to create with them, but cheaper is better with these.

Adorableness in this Commander Thread, a FURTHER yuk yuk yuk.

Anything He Doesn't Like?
Carrier Builds on Your Ships and Massive Squadron Investments:
This is vague, but Yavaris doesn't really want to be used under Ackbar.  For 38 points, you want to get the most out of his ability as possible.  Squadrons are good, and you want some in every list, but you don't want 134 points of them.  That results in 172 points from Ackbar and your squadrons before you even get to USE his ability on a single ship.  So while you want squadrons and you want to push your squadrons, you don't want to overinvest in them.  Keep that in mind when you're choosing how to build your ships.

Yes, he CAN give them 4 Red dice and a Blue out the sides, but you are ignoring their great front arc, and you have to deal with the fact that you're going to do less damage than if you had rolled your front arc at that same ship.  It's not a great fit.

He can, I just don't know if he SHOULD. Their side arcs are rather small, and they only have 1 Red dice each.  It's a less good CR90 for ship to ship damage in that case, and they also have a significantly better front arc.  Their ability is helpful, but you really don't want to be running carriers with Ackbar so All Fighters Follow Me! is out, and Shields to Maximum! while helpful may not necessarily be worth it.  Entrapment Formation is good, but you need to evaluate the other ships you're bringing to see if changing speeds by 1 every turn is worth it or if you'd rather just have a Comms Net Flotilla.

How Do I Fight This Guy
Hard hitting analysis from me, just what you came to expect!
In an actually more helpful bit, let me give you real advice.  To get the most use out of Ackbar, the Rebel player is going to have to start in a vaguely circling the battlefield plan.  For serious, don't go into those side arcs expecting to live through what he's throwing at you, as he's going to throw a LOT at you and then scoot away to do it again next turn.  You either need to get in front of his Conga line or get in front of one of the ships he's throwing dice at you with.   I realize that doing this while staying out of the side arcs isn't easy, but with practice you can get good at Navigating and knowing when you need to be where in that MC80's path.

He also doesn't likely have a large squadron presence, so you can hopefully pull out a win with your squadrons and then start attacking his ships.  As in all fights, concentrating your fire against a specific target can cause it to die pretty fast.  Just... don't assume the MC80 is such a target.  With all the multiple upgrades on it, it's NOT easy to kill that thing, and you'll likely end up in a side arc trying to do so, resulting in you exploding.

The traditional shell of an Ackbar list with an Assault MC80 you'll see is below, which I'll need for the rest of this part.

Faction: Rebel Alliance
Points: 243/400

Commander: Admiral Ackbar
Assault Objective: Advanced Gunnery
Defense Objective: Fire Lanes
Navigation Objective: Intel Sweep

[ flagship ] MC80 Assault Cruiser (114 points)
-  Admiral Ackbar  ( 38  points)
Defiance  ( 5  points)
-  Walex Blissex  ( 5  points)
-  Engine Techs  ( 8  points)
-  Advanced Projectors  ( 6  points)
-  Reinforced Blast Doors  ( 5  points)
-  X17 Turbolasers  ( 6  points)
-  Leading Shots  ( 4  points)
= 191 total ship cost

2 A-Wing Squadrons ( 22 points)
2 VCX-100 Freighters ( 30 points)
Given the usual Ackbar list's trio of Unholy Objectives (Advanced Gunnery, Fire Lanes, Intel Sweep), they're completely happy going second or first.  First Player lets them end a turn with a Defiance activation, move in with it, and then shoot you with the Defiance and run away next turn, resulting in your ships blowing up.  It's hard for most ships to take a double shot from an MC80 and live, so you may want to go first against it (if given the option...).

As saddening as it is for me to suggest this, (because it's gonna hurt me every time i take Ackbar, haha!) you probably shouldn't give the Rebel player Advanced Gunnery.  Again, you think you can take out the Defiance.  It's firing twice out that side arc (potentially at the same ship!) and circling the battlefield, so you better be SURE you can bring enough guns to bear on it, because it will not die easily (and with XI7s, Defiance, Advanced Gunnery, and Leading Shots, he'll be putting MASSIVE damage into the same ship (that you can only redirect 1!) with the Defiance shots).  He'll usually move his VCX fighters for Fire Lanes and Intel Sweep, guaranteeing him a mess of points THERE too.  So, good luck there?  If you have your OWN Intel ships, you can usually contest on some of those objectives.  Contest.  Just make sure you don't land your ships near that Defiance, because it's going to HURT.

Final Thoughts
Wow, I'm surprised.  Somehow I made it through the ENTIRE Ackbar article without making any jokes about-

Woop woop woop woop!
Nah, I couldn't do it.  RIP Erik Bauersfeld (one year ago today!), you were a defining voice of a lot of our childhoods.  Raise a glass of Fish Juice in his honor.  As for this article: it's a wrap.

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