Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Imperial squadron review: TIE Fighter aces

One last bit of TIE Fightery goodness before proceeding on to other matters!

So we covered the basics (and then some) of TIE Fighters in my previous article. Here I'd like to briefly go over their unique counterparts...

For when only the Emperor's most committed masochists can get the job done.
Black Squadron takes your regular ol' TIE Fighter and for +1 point you get:
Otherwise everything else is the same. The main problem you can see with Black Squadron is it clearly wants to be a meat shield (with the Escort+Counter combination) but it is not well-suited to survive being a meat shield. Losing Swarm also hurts a bit as it means Black Squadron is weaker on the attack than a generic TIE Fighter.

Black Squadron is effectively a bargain-bin TIE Advanced. If you're desperate for points and are okay with an Escort that drops in one to two attacks, Black Squadron can work for you. If you want a dedicated Escort, I'd look to the Advanced ace Zertik Strom for 6 more points.

Who is Samus Aran? Why do people always call me that when I take off my helmet?

is 16 points, the cost of two generic TIE Fighters. She otherwise has identical stats plus the standard "TIE ace" defense token combination of scatter+brace and her special ability, which is frequently misunderstood by newer players. In order for her ability to trigger, you need to answer "yes" to 3 separate questions:
  1. Is Howlrunner at distance 1 of a friendly squadron?
  2. Does that squadron have the Swarm keyword, regardless of whether or not Swarm is being used?
  3. Is that squadron attacking another squadron?
If all of those prerequisites are true, Howlrunner adds a blue die to your attack. This includes for Counter attacks, which can create some fun times with Dengar giving out Counter 1 to Swarm squadrons and/or TIE Interceptors with their inherent Counter 2. This also includes Saber Squadron's Snipe attack.

In my opinion, Howlrunner is worth considering when you have at minimum 3 other Swarm squadrons she can buff, which justifies her costing two generic TIE Fighter squadrons. Ideally, she's buffing 4 or more additional Swarm squadrons. Keep her safe, though, as when she's buffing all those squadrons she tends to become a priority target. If you're worried, you can always park her on the safe side of distance 1 of your Swarm squadrons doing the fighting to pass out her buff (ideally in an obstacle) until things clear up enough to send her in personally.

Mauler Mithel, stop watching C-SPAN and get back to work!

For +7 points over a normal TIE Fighter, Mauler Mithel gets the TIE ace defense token suite and an offensive ability that can do phenomenal amounts of damage. It should be noted that his ability has two requirements:
  1. Mauler Mithel needs to complete a movement. This means he will not trigger on placement (such as if he is overlapped by a ship or picked up and dropped by Hondo) and he will not trigger unless he is able to move and chooses to do so (even if he just flies around doing space-donuts and lands in exactly the same place).
  2. He deals damage only to foes engaged with him after the movement.This means that enemy squadrons that are obstructed to him (hiding behind ships, hiding in obstacles) after he ends his movement are not damaged, as he is not engaging them.
Mauler Mithel's auto-ping is not an attack and doesn't interact with defense tokens. If Mauler lands engaging you, you take one damage. End of story. It's a phenomenally good effect on a 15-point ace and getting solid use out of the ability alone can make Mauler more than worth it even without his standard TIE Fighter attack added in. The main issue with Mauler is deciding how much to risk with his ability: he tends to bite off more than he can chew to affect numerous enemy squadrons and then gets killed because he's now (not surprisingly) engaged with numerous enemy squadrons. Oops. Using him this way is fine, but there's nothing wrong with playing him more conservatively to get several smaller hops in as he aides fellow fighter squadrons chiseling into an enemy squadron group. If you do want to make the suicide hop option less perilous, a source of Escort and a way to move again (Chiraneau is the most reliable method but Intel can help so long as you have friends to peel enemy squadrons off him so he can Grit-jump) can allow him to get more than one big damage splash in. It's tough to recover from more than one big Mauler hop in an otherwise-equal squadron matchup.

You' too will soon have the same smug look on your face!

Valen Rudor
is the cheapest ace in the entire game and for a mere +5 points over a generic TIE Fighter he gets the TIE ace defense token suite, has his blue dice replaced with black dice, and gains an interesting ability.

The blue to black dice upgrade is something of a "sidegrade" - it provides superior average damage (2.57 with the Swarm reroll, 2.25 without, which is about a 25% to 33% upgrade in average damage, with the greater benefit being in situations without Swarm) but at the cost of no chances for an accuracy icon. This makes Valen Rudor great against generic squadrons, decent against brace aces (as he's trying to get up to 3 damage so bracing only reduces it to 2), and awful against scatter aces.

His extra ability is where it gets particularly interesting. Enemies engaged with any other of your squadrons can't attack Valen Rudor. This includes Heavy squadrons, which gets a little weird - Valen Rudor is himself not Heavy and so he prevents squadrons he engages from moving away or attacking ships but a friendly Heavy squadron also engages the enemy squadrons even though it does not prohibit them from moving away or attacking ships. The end result is Valen Rudor holds squadrons in place and disqualifies them from attacking ships but when it comes time for the enemy to attack a squadron, he hides behind the Heavy squadron. He basically makes nearby squadrons a weird kind of Escort squadron but only for him. This is particularly annoying when he hides behind high-hull Heavy squadrons like Decimators and TIE Bombers.

But wait, there's more! Due to how Valen Rudor's ability works, an enemy engaging another of your friendly squadrons can't Counter Valen Rudor's attacks! Because Counter attacks must obey the regular rules for attacks (which is why the Escort keyword notes that it's ignored by Counter so there's no confusion there), they check with Valen Rudor to see if they're allowed to attack him and he responds "no." This makes Valen quite good at chewing through Counter squadrons with a little help from his friends.

I consider Valen when I've got some Heavy buddies for him to hide behind if I need to pin enemy squadrons in place as well. He's also good if I want a bit of extra anti-Counter tech in my squadron group when teamed up with other friends who hate on Counter. For example, IG-88 ignores Counter directly, Saber Squadron can Snipe outside of Counter range, and Mauler Mithel can deal automatic damage without having to directly attack a Counter squadron. If I've got at least one of those two elements in my squad group, Valen is quite welcome to bring along everything he does for a very affordable 13 points.


  1. So let me ask this question.
    Instigator cannot be attacked if there are squadrons engaging the enemy near by.
    Then Valen cannot be attacked when enemy squadrons are engaged with another squadron. Does this mean this is like a perpetum mobile that cannot be attacked?

    1. It would be nice to get an official answer on that, but my take is that he can be attacked in that situation. The current FAQ seems to interpret the engaging as active for stopping movements and triggering swarm and the like but it doesn't seem to change targeting options when it comes to real models on the table.