Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Know Your Enemy/Commander's Corner: Jun Sato

So I've had a change of heart in Wave 6 with a few things.  Namely, I've had a change of heart about getting Sato to work for you.  He's not the EASIEST commander to work with (I will fully admit that some of this may be my inexperience with him), but he can be life-changing if you do him right.  That is one mighty big if, but let's get into it.
His frustration echoes mine when I often try to play him!
The Card!
Where in the world IS Carmen San Diego??
So, his ability means that if you get a squadron near a ship, you can throw different dice.  Better dice! STRONGER dice! Meaner dice!

What does that actually mean though?
Red dice can become blue or black (more likely black).
Blue dice can become black or red (again, more likely black).
Black dice should stay black dice, don't be dumb.
Pants become shorts!
Remember, though, only 2 dice get to change.  You can't change your whole output of dice, just two.
Well, they actually CAN change less if they want, but.... why?
You also need to have a squadron within distance 1 of a ship.  I imagine a lot of this reason is because in the Rebels TV show, Hera and Phoenix Squadron keep hitting ships (And to be fair, losing pilots....).  As soon as you lose your squadrons, you lose your Commander's ability.... almost like Konstantine and medium ships!  Protect your squadrons and make sure you're not wasting them for your attacks.

Why Play Him
The best reasons to play him are that he makes your ship attacks stronger.  Black dice have a better expected damage output (1/dice) than blue dice (0.75) or red dice (0.75), so you're likely going to want to switch whatever 2 you have FOR black dice (makes sense, especially with everything you can do with crit effects from black dice and all).  Relatedly, you can also change different colored dice to blue dice when you're hunting flotillas, as blue dice are the best chance of getting accuracies to lock down their Scatter tokens.

The less smartly strategic but much more fun plan is that you can use different ships to get black crit effects from long range.  We'll get there, but triggering APTs from red range is AMAAAAAAZING.  What he can ALSO do is turn your generally lighter carrier dice (Nebulon front of Yavaris, Pelta, Assault Frigate) into much deadlier damage..... provided you roll it.

I've been ignoring/not addressing it, but my problem with Sato before Wave 6 is this: if you bring a ship that you can't put Ordnance Experts on (or get a reroll of some sort...), any black dice you roll (and for the most part, like I said, you're going to want black dice) are entirely dependent on your roll.  We'll talk about mitigating some of this in the Builds/Common Ships section below, but it's always seemed to me to be a difficult setup to just get 2 black dice in place of your normal role.  No lie, a CR90 rolling 2 black dice out the front and 2 out the side with a concentrate fire order is great! Sometimes it rolls 8 total damage! Sometimes you roll 2 total, and you curse the fact that you didn't put TRCs on it and play a different commander instead.  The downside to Sato is that a lot of the cheaper ships with turbolaser slots have ways of fixing red dice turbolasers, but no way to fix black dice.  We'll get to that below, too.
Always two (blank sides on black dice) there are. No more, no less.  I'm done with that joke now.
There's also the issue I have where an Evade token just sends that black hit+crit right out the airlock, which is... frustrating to play against, that's for sure.  The further downside is that most of the Rebel ships (Everything but the MC80s basically) have an Evade, as does every Small ship in the Imperial fleet (so not the Quasar, VSD, or ISD).  Do your opponents use small ships in their fleets? They DO? Well who would have thought that would happen, making Sato's job slash landing crits harder?
Sarcasm! That's original!
In order to get your black crits to trigger, you either need to have more than one black crit in the pool (so they can't Evade both of them away) or you need to eliminate their Evade tokens' ability.  It's really not doable to guarantee more than one crit in the pool, but more dice is usually a better option.  Opening Salvo to add in 2 more black dice for potential black dice crits is the BEST way to add in more dice from all of your ships to get those crits to trigger.  If you're trying to overload the defense tokens (especially that Evade), focus your fire on 1-2 ships at a time.  Don't splash your damage around on several ships, it's not going to do anything for you when they just Evade it.  Hit the same ship multiple times so they either need to discard their Evade token or start taking crits and dying faster.

At this point, we have to discuss using him versus using Ackbar.  Competitively, a lot of common Ackbar builds rely on Strategic in order to force you to close with him so that way you can't just ignore his damage.  By forcing you to come towards him, he makes you have to deal with either his damage or let him win on Objective points.  Ackbar commonly uses Fire Lanes and Sensor Net/Intel Sweep in order to just move sideways and make you come closer and prevent him from just winning the game.  Sato CAN be built similarly, but Ackbar does that better.  And as Sato's ability is similar enough (that you want your opponent coming towards you, getting closer so that he can't use Evade tokens to get rid of your damage), you're GOING to want (slash really NEED) strategic objectives that will force your opponent to come towards you, or he'll just let you walk away with a win.  As opposed to Sensor Net/Intel Sweep, as Sato generally runs smaller ships, you can make a very good argument for Salvage Run.  A free 80 points and 2 dust fields that prevent your small ships from being attacked is a pretty good way to start.  As for Yellow, Hyperspace Assault is not a bad choice, but Fire Lanes (if you can keep moving them forwards) can work too.  Go very slowly and make your opponent come to you.  Jamming Barrier isn't a terrible plan, but you're dependant on your rolling.  Really, whatever objective you pick, you need your opponent coming towards you in order to get those Black crits to stick.  Otherwise, you're kinda wasting your time.

I will also admit that it gets aggravating when you roll a black dice and either get a blank or just a single hit.  I know we all WANT the black dice to come Hit+Crit every time, but that's not how they work (short of microwaving your dice.  Don't..... don't do that).  So you really can't tell if he's helping you as much, what with 4 of the red dice sides (the 2 basic hits and the 2 crits) being of equal or better value at hitting ships and 6/8 blue dice sides the same.  The thing you have to keep in mind is that you have a better chance of getting damage out of the dice you're rolling (6/8 black dice sides have stuff, which is better than the 4/8 red sides and equal to the 6/8 blues), especially if you're rolling a LOT more black dice.  With Ordnance Experts or other dice fixing upgrades, you have a better chance of damage being rolled.  Not crits, as 1 or 2 dice isn't enough to guarantee anything, but straight damage, crits just add to the value (to quote Undeadguy from the forums directly).  He's not as immediately able to tell how useful he is, but if you can get Monty Sato's Flying Circus going, it'll start to sing and you'll be blowing apart ships in no time.  Just give him time until you start playing him well.
Oh, I'm a Nebulon and I'm OK, I squad all night and I sleep all day....

He IS very good at whale hunting, as VSDs/ISDs don't have Evade tokens.  Keep in mind though that whatever Medium/Large ship you're attacking is both probably coming forwards toward you and is probably REALLY not happy that you keep critting on him.  Get ready for the end of Reservoir Dogs with your ships and his.

Common Ships Seen With Him
Before we talk common SHIPS, we gotta talk common squadrons.  Sato's ability is based around squadrons, so only taking 2 of them is dumb.  You're going to need at least 6, and potentially even more.  Who do you normally see with him?

Tycho, Shara, A-wings, or YT2400s and Lancers.
You want fast, you want hitting your opponent's ships.  The benefit of all these guys is that they both can hurt your opponent's squadrons and throw black dice at the ships.  Lancers (and Dash) are the only ones with Bomber, but every black dice you throw is more potential damage (one damage is almost as good as another).  Tycho's ability to extricate himself from damage is always helpful, especially when you need him near some other ship to hit it hard.  I've definitely considered running Sato with Tycho and 7 YT-2400s and just starting from there.  Something to consider for the future.

Jan Ors and HWK-290s
Related to Tycho, the benefit of HWKs is that they also have Counter 2 and can leave engagement to go give your ships the Sato bonus.  The one issue I have with them is that if they're already engaged AND near a ship you're trying to hit, they only roll 2 blue dice.  This is good if you're fighting basic TIEs or TIE aces that don't want to blow their defense tokens against piddly attacks and your related flak, but against Defenders or YT-2400s, it's almost nothing.  The Counter helps when they attack you back, but you're also probably near death.  I wouldn't make my entire LIST HWKs, but they're a decent addition to your force and can get you what you need.

X-wings, Y-wings, B-wings - You go heavy bomber and you hit your opponent's ships HARD.  Nothing better than following up a bunch of squadron bomber attacks with Bomber Command Center that you then follow up with more black dice they don't want to take (you need Flight Commander to do this properly, of course).  Scurrgs could go here too, but you're throwing your squadrons generally out pretty far to hit things from red range.... which means I usually like having squadrons that can (if necessary) defend themselves.  Speaking of launching your squadrons out far....

I don't want to say I consider them mandatory, but they end up getting put into more builds of mine than I would have initially expected.  Besides the ever present "having your squadrons extended farther than you'd normally have them," the other thing the VCXs do is help you with your objectives.  I've made mention several times of forcing your opponent to come towards you, and VCXs manipulating objective tokens is the best way to do that.  Build your list with that in mind.

Speaking of building! There's effectively 2 ways of building Sato: cheaper (4-6 A-wings to get close and paint the target) or heavy (you build a bomber list with 134 points and a mess of carriers and carrier friends).  I can't say which is better or not, I don't play Sato enough.
Me prepping my ships to fight the Imperial war machine this Saturday
Han Solo? Eh, not terrible, but he's 26 points, so while his ability can let you paint a target no one expected at the start of the turn, you can do it for 10 points cheaper with Tycho.  So.... I'm unsure.  There's a fair amount of this article that turns into a "Here be dragons" thing, which I apologize for.  I WANT Sato to work, but up until Wave 6 I've had issues doing it, so I haven't played much with him.

Anyways, the ships, the meat of this section.
Assault Frigates: Yes, the often overlooked Assault Frigate is great with Sato.  Command 2-3 squadrons to go hit your opponent's ships, then wail on them with Black dice.  For even more added fun, add in Ordnance Experts.  You don't get to gunnery team, but when you throw 2 black dice from your front and side each, it's pretty great and makes up for it.  Also cheaper, so you save points.  Reliable damage is nice.

MC30 Scout Frigates: Red dice become black dice, allowing you to throw 2 dice with APTs/ACMs at long range.  And isn't that what we all dream of doing?
My dream, your nightmare.  Whatever.
Don't count on the dream, but when it happens it is nice.  Leaving the Ordnance slot empty on your MC30 is not a good idea in my opinion, but you're going to get a lot more mileage out of it when you move into close range with your ship.

Peltas: You're going to need to push squadrons somehow.  The Assault Pelta can take an Ordnance upgrade, and you can turn those reds into blacks (a common theme here!) and toss them from downtown.  The Command Pelta can let you push those squadrons all over the map, wrecking face as you do it.

CR90As: 2 red out the front becomes 2 black, and concentrating fire lets you get another 2 out the side.  If you do this, i would say that using Dual Turbolaser Turrets may become a much more necessary choice in order to mitigate the inevitable blank roll.  Your opponent won't ALWAYS pick Targeting Beacons for you.  I have heard of them run naked, though, just to save points for them all.  Hammerheads can equip black crit effects, but there's no doubt that CR90s are more survivable than any Hammerhead, and running them naked is an effective play.  Turning the red dice into blacks makes them more reliable with damage, but you may still roll blanks.  Considering you'll be running your CR90s at long range (hopefully), you'll be fine throwing dice and Evading anything coming back at you.  It's a trade-off between the two, and you need to decide what you'd rather have.

Nebulon Bs: 3 red becoming a red and 2 black is greaaaaaaaaat! Until you roll like garbage and get literally zero hits on your 1 red dice, 1 red dual turbolaser turret dice, and all 3 of your black dice when you concentrate fire.  This may or may not have been a true story and may have almost caused me to throw Salvation off the table.  And yes, Salvation's ability means that the black hit+crit side IS 3 damage total.  Just... blanks happen, and it sucks.  Again, you can't force your opponent to take Targeting Beacons, nor can you equip Ordnance Experts/Veteran Gunners on the Salvation, so... good luck? Build it cheap and hope?

Hammerheads: Hammerheads work GREAT with Sato. Put Task Force Organa on there and concentrate fire.  You've got 2 red (you mean black!) dice at long range, and you SHOULD try including APTs/ACMs on the hammerheads as well (Sato is the only commander I recommend doing this with).  You can put Task Force Antilles on them, instead, and add in Ordnance Experts to ensure you're always getting the reroll.  This pairs great with a Shields to Maximum! Pelta regenerating health all over the place with them, but remember that you need a way to keep your squadrons near your opponent's ships to be able to do any damage to them.

MC80s: This is a "kinda?" section.  I've heard of using Star Cruisers with him and switching out 2 of the red dice for blue dice.  With SW7s that's 6 damage coming in at your ship, no matter what you roll.  That hurts a LOT of small ships, especially if you have XI-7s on there too.  You can also use him to manipulate a H1MC80 and get you Leading Shots dice even if your opponent is only at long range from you.  I haven't tried them, but they are certainly fun tricks you can try out.

Anything He Doesn't Like?
CR90Bs.  You CAN turn blue dice into black dice, but why not spend a few more points and turn red dice into black dice?

The other not-as-commonly seen ships are the MC80s, LMC80 or H1MC80.  Not because of any not-workable reason, but mainly price point when you already need a decent squadron presence to use him.  It's harder to justify, but not impossible.  It's your build, and several commenters on our blog have suggested builds to me (why they're in the Builds section above!) but just know they are points heavy in an already crowded list.

How Do I Fight This Guy
"Cause I'm wannnnnnnnnnnnnted, dead or aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive." No, just dead.  All the dead.
Kill his squadrons.  No Squadrons means no Sato ability means it's a wasted 32 points with ships that probably are all upgraded with the assumption that your opponent is going to be rolling black dice.  Dead squadrons means an unhappy Rebel player.  If the squadrons are dead, Ordnance Experts on the Assault Frigate is a wasted 4 points.  Failing THAT, prevent his squadrons from landing near your ships if you can, and try not to land near HIS squadrons when you're moving.  IF ONLY SOMEONE HAD WRITTEN A BUNCH OF STUFF ABOUT RUINING YOUR OPPONENT'S SQUADRON PLAY!

If your opponent chose a build with Strategic objectives and squadrons, use your own to move the tokens far away so they don't affect you.  Or kill his Strategics first, of course, slash prevent them from moving tokens around.  The rest of his ships aren't as defensive as Mothma/Cracken or as deadly in their side arcs as Ackbar.  Generally, the way I've seen him used is to have your ships all gang up on one substantial (re: non-flotilla) ship to take it off the board FAST (which also hopefully gives him activation advantage, of course).  Try not to deploy or run into where you're going to face 3-5 ships worth of black dice from red range on round 2, else you gonna die.
I can't stress "Don't deploy across from 3 deadly ships" enough here.

Other than that, of course, I see him even less than I play him.  A lot of "Here be dragons" in this part, too, and I apologize for that.  If anyone has any other tips for fighting against him, please let me know.

Final Thoughts
Sato is a Commander that I will fully admit I haven't figured out yet.  His ability is good, it just takes a bit of time to set him up before you can start knocking down Imperial ships.  With the arrival of the Hammerheads (just like in the show!), I aim to try him out a lot more and see what I can do to get him to work for me.  A lot of this post will get updated as Wave 6 and 7 go on and I try to get more experience with him..... but Leia is calling me, too.  Well, I INTEND to get more experience, haha!


  1. He was looking pretty sweet on the initial reveal before the "nerf" (when the replace effect was also an informed reroll). If you compare the dmg buff he gives compared to ackbar, I feel like he was costed with that original design in mind. He would've certainly been beastly, but I don't think it wold be overpowered.

    1. The first image didn't have that "before rolling attack dice" clause I mean.

    2. i think the reason he's up there is because black dice CAN roll 2 damage sides, you just need to ensure you're putting in the best way of doing so. OE, Task Force Organa, etc.

  2. I've been playing him a lot lately with Pelta to get AFFM and Yavaris with either an AF mkII B or a CR90A and a GR75. Is the Pelta necessary? I mean, It speeds up the B-Wings, but It also seems like AFFM + Raymus to get the tokens, and everything else I have going on there is a big point sink in a slow ship. Any thoughts on that? Also, it seems like sine you are using Squadrons to paint the target, then you may as well be using bombers to that they can really be getting the most out of their anti-ship attacks, and if you're doing that then would it follow that Precision Strike is a go-to objective? Is there a better argument to be made for something else?

    BTW: This is the only blog anywhere that I follow on anything. You guys are doing a great job here. I appreciate it.


    1. First, thanks!

      Regarding bombers versus non-bombers, I've heard both arguments. The bombers camp turns it into a weird angry pseudo-Dodonna bomber list with less control over the crits but better damage from your ships. A-wings and HWKs and such turn them into spotters, allowing you to go cheaper on squadrons and heavier on ships. So basically, both approaches can work, just a matter of what you WANT to do.

      Regarding objectives, a bunch of bombers do combine well with precision strike, yup. Or if you have APTs on all your black dice ships, too.

      I don't think you want a Pelta and Yavaris and an assault frigate, but 2 of those together are fine. I realize my answer basically comes down to "what donyou want to do?" But I still don't have enough Sato experience yet. That's for March-ish, and I definitely plan on using Wide Area Barrage and the new MC75 with him. THAT'S a good new place to start at for sure.