Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Quick discussion on Admiral Sloane

Not a commander review just yet (I don't generally like posting full-fledged reviews of things until I have some experience with them to work out all the kinks and have some reality smash into all the fanciful combo elements my brain comes up with that don't tend to actually work), but I've seen a lot of talk about Admiral Sloane lately given she's coming out in 2 days.

Still too cool to look at explosions

To my mind, I've seen a lot of misconceptions about Sloane. Specifically, I've seen a lot of people building fleets with tons of carriers and squadrons with little other offensive output. I don't feel like that really synergizes with Sloane's ability very much. Just a few observations from me before we all get some actual table time with her:

Bombers aren't actually much good with Sloane. Specifically, TIE Bombers (as the Firespray and not-actually-a-bomber-bust-still-messes-ships-up Decimator are both Rogues). The TIE Bomber won't ever naturally roll an accuracy icon (it has but a single black die against everything) and if it rolls a crit icon when attacking a ship, it's happy to stay there, thanks. This doesn't necessarily mean "don't use any bombers with Sloane" but it does mean "I don't recommend using a lot of bombers with her."

Sloane's improvements to squadron anti-ship damage aren't that amazing. With your average TIE Fighter you do an average of 0.5 damage to a ship. With the reroll on the crit, you improve to 0.625 average damage. While the 25% improvement to average damage is nice, you're still not doing amazing damage to ships for your investment. What you are getting, though, is some commander-derived mixed-role ability on your normally-specialized Imperial squadrons.

The TIE Phantom does improve from 1 average damage to 1.22 average damage against ships, which is fun, removes some of the swinginess from your rolls and on an individual squadron basis is nearly as much average damage as a Bomber Command Center-boosted TIE Bomber (1.25) on a chassis that has some tech benefits and can meaningfully contribute to dogfighting too for +5 points. If you're looking for a bomber stand-in for Sloane, the Phantom is likely your best bet.

Spending enemy ship defense tokens doesn't synergize very well with squadrons. Quite simply, defense tokens don't do a lot against squadrons. You can brace to reduce some bomber attacks by 1 damage, you can redirect little ping attacks to side shields, evades do nothing at all, and scatters don't really accomplish much damage negation per use. This isn't to say defense tokens don't help at all against squadrons, merely that they're not nearly so well-used there as they are against attacks with larger dice pools from enemy ships where the individual token spend gets a lot more "done" than it does against squadrons.

So with that said, squadrons spending (and in some cases then discarding) enemy ship defense tokens with their accuracy icons doesn't have strong synergy with follow-up squadron attacks (it has some, but it's not strong). Those defense tokens weren't really going to be doing a lot against your other squadrons, anyways. In short, if you want the spent defense token perk to really work for you, you're going to need to combine it with stronger ship attacks that are more inconvenienced by defense tokens which are then no longer there or are exhausted (red) and thus the opponent is forced to brace but discards the token. In this way, I feel Sloane is similar to a less-janky Commander Sato. She wants a healthy squadron presence in her fleet, but the squadrons really serve to enable strong attacks from your ships. In particular, an ISD with the Avenger title is just red hot death with Sloane.

It should be noted that spending enemy ace squadron defense tokens is swell, though, and does synergize well with other squadrons piling on Tycho or Shara or the like. TIE Interceptors in particular are going to be amazing at zapping those ace defense tokens and they can even do so on their Counter attacks!

Spending enemy ship defense tokens isn't super reliable, especially with limited attacks. I see people freaking out about Sloane's defense token spending ability but it needs to be noted that for it to happen Sloane needs to get her squadrons to your ships (through/over your own fighter squadrons) and they need to roll that accuracy icon. Even assuming you're rerolling crits, that means your average one blue die TIE attack has a 31.25% chance of producing that accuracy result. It will definitely happen from time to time and when combined with a follow-up ship attack it could definitely get nasty, but it's not going to happen reliably or multiple times a round unless Sloane can get a large number of TIEs ganging up on an undefended ship. It's definitely a neat ability, but I'm seeing a lot of assumptions that come down to "and then the enemy fleet won't have any defense tokens" when reaching that kind of state just through the odd squadron attack is extremely unlikely, especially in the earlier game when the enemy squadron defenses are still intact. You can of course ignore them with Intel, but it means your TIEs are spending their activation jumping into flak range of the target ship and getting punched first by the enemy squadrons all for the hopes of getting some token-spending going on and that's just... not smart.

TIE Defenders are... eh? The issue I have with TIE Defenders and Sloane is because Defenders are blue die Bombers, they will always produce a useful outcome with Sloane when attacking ships (unless the enemy has no defense tokens), but they don't really benefit from the crit reroll element of her ability that much because they're otherwise fine with keeping the crits for anti-ship damage. Effectively Sloane's reroll only does something for them if they're trying to spend defense tokens more than they're trying to do damage. Given with Sloane you get more total oomph from TIE Fighters and much better anti-ship damage from TIE Phantoms, TIE Defenders are all right but not great with her. If you're running low on squadron-command muscle you can certainly include some because they're all-around good, but it might be better to invest in some aces instead.

Final thoughts/summary
We as a community are going to be playing around with Sloane fleet/squadron compositions for a while just to figure out what works well and doesn't work. The main concern I have with a lot of the Sloane "I'm going to run this once wave 6 drops" fleets I've seen online are the assumption that Sloane is a "bomber fleet" commander when her ability doesn't really work well with a conventional bomber blob fleet. Instead, she seems better suited to running a carrier presence alongside some heavier combat vessels supported by a medium fighter coverage group that intends to win the squadron mini-game and then start zapping defense tokens on enemy ships that are taking fire from your combat vessels.

Given that Imperial fighter squadrons are pretty dang good at their jobs for their cost, they've never really had a problem winning the squadron mini-game when fielded in sufficient quantity. The fundamental problem from there was that with their opposing squadrons destroyed, they didn't really allow you to capitalize well in and of themselves on your squadron mini-game victory by going after enemy ships. Sloane effectively removes that problem, but I feel (and hopefully you agree) that the squadrons still need to be used in support of your combat vessels to really maximize the benefit from Sloane. If you want a more conventional bomber fleet, the new Quasar certainly offers some exciting new muscle on that front but you might be better off using a more conventional commander like Motti.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a big (and still relatively inexpensive) swarm of basic TIE fighters would work, then. They can be used defensively versus an enemy bomber wing as well as against ships

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