Monday, February 20, 2017

Imperial ship review: Imperial-class Star Destroyer

Let's talk about the first Imperial battleship seen in all of Star Wars, the Imperial-class Star Destroyer. With wave 7 including two new chassis for this iconic ship, this article will be covering all four of the available options and so is going to get rather lengthy, so settle in someplace comfortable!

TIE Fighter squadrons not included (but recommended!)
All variants of the Imperial-class Star Destroyer (alternatively and much shorter, the "ISD") have many elements in common:
  • 11 hull points, the highest available currently in the game.
  • 4 front, 3 side, and 2 rear shields (for a total of 12 shield points).
  • 1 brace, 2 redirects, and 1 contain defense token. This is a very similar defense token suite to the VSD but adds the situationally-useful contain. This suite will stand you in good stead against bombers and the occasional big ship attack but it does not like getting peppered at long range consistently and the one brace is prone to getting locked down by accuracy results.
  • Lots and lots of upgrade slots, differing slightly (but importantly!) between different chassis.
  • A generous front hull zone with 7 or 8 dice and a wide firing arc.
  • Engineering 4, which is adequate for their size.
  • Command 3, which means they're going to need to plan ahead for their command-setting.
  • A maximum speed of 3 and an adequate amount of maneuverability. Nothing amazing there but for a large ship it's not bad at all.
In short, you get a huge chunk of ship in an Imperial-class Star Destroyer and it's costed as such - 110 points minimum for an ISD-1 up to 120 points maximum for an ISD-II, with the Kuat(ISD-K) and the Cymoon(ISD-C) at 112.

Basic usage recommendations
Ideally, you'll want to apply your front arc to enemies as consistently as possible and achieving this is similar to using a VSD except you aren't as restricted in your speed and maneuverability: navigate commands are still your friends and you'll find speed control and leading your enemies to be invaluable. In particular I find it's common for newer players to crank their speed up too high and overshoot enemies and then have a hard time turning around later on. In general, I'd recommend considering speed 2 your default speed, but keep an eye out for opportunities to stay on target at speed 1 or pounce on prey at speed 3.

ISDs have an awful lot of everything (attack dice, hull, shields) but they can't tank an entire enemy fleet. In particular, the damage really starts to pile up when their defense tokens get overheated and their shields are dropped. Do your best to send them after an appropriate amount of the enemy fleet. Sailing them right into the middle of the enemy fleet will nearly always result in a very dead ISD fairly quickly.

Because an ISD is such a large portion of your fleet, they often enjoy being supported by numerous other cheap ships, such as Gozantis and Raiders, that can mind their flanks, help with some support duties, and provide cheap ship activations to make up for the extremely expensive activation provided by the ISD. When your opponent has substantially more ship activations than you do, it can sometimes be tough to get your ISD to perform as well as you'd like because your opponent can wait out your ISD activation and then activate their nearby ships with the knowledge of what the ISD's ending position is. Your cheap activations can help get around this problem. It is for this reason that I generally do not recommend using more than one ISD in a 400 point game (although two in a 500 point game is a blast). It should be noted that running two in a 400 point fleet can absolutely be done, but it requires a high level of skill to make it work consistently against decent opponents.

Similarly to other highly destructive ships, I recommend deploying the ISD as close to last as possible. Knowing where the meat of your opponent's fleet is can set the ISD up very well to both avoid problems of its own and cause them for your opponent.

Try to avoid over-upgrading your ISD. It's a ship that can really get a lot of mileage out of upgrades but because of its numerous upgrade slots and endless hunger for more upgrades you can go overboard and wind up with a 150+ point monstrosity (not counting the commander if it's your flagship) that starts seriously cutting into the points available for other necessities like additional ships and squadrons.

Titles
ISDs have a lot of titles available to them and they can all be useful in the right builds, although some are a lot easier to get working than others. The new Seventh Fleet generic title merits its own small article about fleetbuilding around the "theme" title, so it won't be mentioned here.

It feels the need to avenge itself against FFG due to a mild FFG nerf
Avenger's effect is straightforward but occasionally quite powerful - exhausted (red) defense tokens cannot be spent against Avenger's attack when you exhaust the title. This can be used pretty flexibly but it's obviously dependent on some kind of attack landing against the target first, so it can be a bit clunky to set up if the Avenger ISD absolutely has to get activated pronto and cannot wait until later. Otherwise, any other kind of ship that does sufficient damage to make defense token spending appealing can cause a conundrum: if your opponent doesn't spend defense tokens against those earlier attacks they take the full impact of a mean attack but they're "safe" from Avenger's effect later on. If they do spend those defense tokens, Avenger may just get them later. It can cause some head games. Avenger can also be quite useful for swatting down flotillas that used their scatter tokens earlier in the round.

Avenger can set itself up with no extra help from other ships in two different ways. First is by double-arcing a single ship - attack with one arc against a target and dare it to spend defense tokens and then wallop it with the second arc using Avenger. Second is by activating bomber squadrons - sending 4 bomber squadrons against an enemy ship will usually get its defense tokens spent to minimize the hull damage dealt by the bombers, but Avenger is still waiting to get its attacks in afterward and this can cause big trouble for the defender, usually for his redirects.

Avenger can be used well with accuracy results against redundant defense token ships. For example, if an enemy MC30 spent one of its two evades earlier in the turn and you attack it with Avenger and use an accuracy to lock down the ready (green) evade, it cannot evade at all against the attack. This can come as a rather unpleasant surprise.

Avenger also favors two objectives that come to mind: Planetary Ion Cannon and Advanced Gunnery. With Planetary Ion Cannon you can attack an enemy ship prior to any ships activating and its critical effect causes them to choose and exhaust a defense token as well, so it's a great setup shot for Avenger. Advanced Gunnery is a good pick if you're running an Avenger without a Gunnery Team because two consecutive attacks against the same target from the same hull zone (front plz) with the Avenger effect is extremely strong - your opponent may get to brace against the first attack but the second is going to hurt.

I've thus far discussed Avenger's uses against ships but please be aware that Avenger can be used against a squadron as well if there's a particular ace that really needs to eat some flak and already has a spent scatter, for example.

Avenger loves working together with Boarding Troopers to exhaust all of a close-range foes' defense tokens and then unloading on the now-defenseless ship. It's a one-time trick, but it's a very powerful one-use trick regardless. On a similar note, Admiral Sloane can get work done with Avenger by having her fighters spend prospective targets' defense tokens (usually brace or scatter) prior to having Avenger open up. Avenger itself can command squadrons prior to attacking to set itself up for this trick! Anything that's fairly low-maintenance and can exhaust defense tokens is a possible friend for Avenger, such as the Gozanti Suppressor title, but you need to be careful that your combo isn't too elaborate. On that note, I covered it in the Admiral Screed article, but I advise against making a fleet based on combining Overload Pulse and Avenger. It's a fragile but expensive combination that's prone to getting disrupted and the Overload Pulse-bearing ship is usually relying heavily on combining with Avenger and is pretty weak otherwise.

Currently in fierce competition with the word "Rogue" for "most-frequently-misspelled word in Armada"
Chimaera adds a fleet command slot to your ISD's upgrade bar but you can't take it if you had one already (sorry, Cymoons). It also allows you to change your equipped fleet command out for a different one at the start of the Command Phase, so you can make use of it in the upcoming ship phase. A few things worth noting:
  • You still need to spend the points to equip a fleet command upgrade to the ship. Chimaera gives you the slot, not the card.
  • Because you can change out fleet commands, it's usually best to equip one of the 5-point fleet commands initially and then swap it out for a 6-point fleet command if that's the one you actually wanted to use.
    • This feels very clever until you remember you paid 4 points for Chimaera, so you're still spending 3 more points than someone would just filling that slot normally 😉.
  • The rules prohibit you from having two of the same unique-named anything in your fleet at a time, so you can't use a Cymoon and a Chimaera ISD to sneak in two copies of the same fleet command by changing out Chimaera's originally-equipped fleet command for another copy of the Cymoon's fleet command. Sorry.
  • If you've discarded Chimaera's current fleet command for its effect (not using a token, just discarding it), then you can no longer swap around your fleet command upgrades using Chimaera, as the fleet command upgrade has already been discarded.
  • FFG clarified in the FAQ that Chimaera title simply replaces the previous fleet command, so you can cycle through different fleet commands and even return to an earlier-used one. If Chimaera is destroyed, only the cost of its current fleet command counts against it, not its original fleet command.
    Chimaera's basic use is pretty straightforward - you use it to cheat fleet commands onto an ISD that can't normally use them and will need to include some kind of mechanism for feeding your ISD command tokens, like a Comms Net Gozanti. When/if it becomes necessary to suddenly change up your fleet command, you will hopefully have a spare token or be comfortable discarding the new fleet command. In this regard, you're primarily spending points for Chimaera as a Minister-Tua-style upgrade, allowing you to spend points on another upgrade that is normally inaccessible to you, and the emergency hand brake function is extra garnish.

    The more complex way to use Chimaera is with a commander like Grand Armiral Thrawn or Grand Moff Tarkin that can set the tone for what your entire fleet is doing that round by a providing specific dial or token for your whole fleet. When used in this way, your fleet leverages the fleet-command-swapping element of the upgrade more than the more straightforward earlier method. When your entire fleet gets a repair token from Tarkin and your ISD resolves Shields to Maximum!, it's going to be a very repair-happy round for your fleet, for example, and you can turn around and resolve Intensify Firepower! with fleet-wide concentrate fire token next round if you want to pivot from defense to attack.

    Bringing devastation to itself and enemy ships too sometimes!
    Three things to note first about the Devastator title:
    1. It works once per round, so you cannot use it multiple times in one activation.
    2. The only restriction is that you are attacking from your front hull zone, so it can work at long range.
    3. It can be used against any target, so you could add some extra blue dice while attacking one squadron if necessary.
    Devastator ideally wants to get itself down to one brace and one redirect for the best balance of getting mileage from the title (+2 blue dice) but still being capable of defending yourself, which you can accomplish by spending defense tokens needlessly when attacked - for example, you can spend your contain even if no damage is going to get the hull and you can spend your redirect and opt not to redirect damage. With Commander Vader you can speed up this process through his ability and optionally you can supercharge the Vader spending by targeting your own defense tokens with an Intel Officer, which is totally a thing you can do. Devastator also allows you to power up your ISD in a meta where defense-token-discarding fleets are common (for example, against Sloane).


    Overall, I'm more comfortable with Devastator on an ISD with a defensive retrofit slot (whether naturally or from Minister Tua) so you can use Electronic Countermeasures, which synergizes with Devastator. In the early game, ECMs allow you to deliberately overspend your defense tokens reliably, as canny opponents will realize what you're trying to do and use accuracy results on your exhausted defense tokens. Once you've reached just a brace and redirect left, ECMs allow you to more comfortably rely on using them to keep yourself alive.

    To get to the point, the main benefit of Devastator is that if you can get it working, it adds a substantial amount of dice for its cost. Compare the points cost of most Modification upgrades to 10 points for the possibility of adding 2-4 blue dice to an attack from your front arc at any range and the hefty expense of Devastator starts to make more sense. It's very dangerous, however, and you need to manage your risk very carefully or risk being complicit in destroying your own Star Destroyer. With that said, it's important to understand when it's time to step on the gas with Devastator after destroying its targets to put some space between it and enemies hoping to converge on it and overheat its diminishing defense tokens.

    Relentlessly loving Skilled First Officers since wave 4.
    Relentless has a nice simple benefit for a low cost. It effectively turns your ISD into a Command 2 ship that has all the benefits of being Command 3. The difference between correctly assigning commands to a Command 2 versus a Command 3 ship is quite substantial - seeing what you expect to happen next turn (and setting a command for that) isn't too tough, but trying to prepare for the turn after that one often relies on numerous variables that won't always turn out quite like you were hoping which can result in some non-ideal command choices.

    Relentless isn't too flashy, overall - it's not going to really define the Star Destroyer like the more expensive titles will, but it's the cheapest ISD title and it doesn't require the kind of additional support (which costs more points) like the other titles do to get working well. Relentless is certainly happy to have a Skilled First Officer as its officer for all the same reasons Command 2 ships love Skilled First Officers, but ISDs have very hotly contested officer slots and it's still quite content simply being a fake Command 2 ship.

    "You exist because we allow it. And you will end because we demand it."
    Sovereign is Grand Moff Tarkin's flagship and it works very well with him, as you might expect, but is also handy in the right fleets with other commanders. There are a few rule clarifications we require before I discuss it any further:
    • Sovereign triggers at the start of the Ship Phase (prior to activating any ships), just like Grand Moff Tarkin and fleet command upgrades, and you can resolve them in whichever order you please.
    • Sovereign can work on itself, as the card doesn't specify other friendly ships.
    • Because the original tokens are discarded, you can't save them with Wulff Yularen or the like that trigger on spent tokens.
    I wish there was a lot for me to say about this title, but the short version is provided you have enough command tokens circulating in your fleet, it's pretty darn good. The easiest way to do that is Grand Moff Tarkin, but if you've got a high enough concentration of Comms Nets and/or Hondo and/or other token generation/retaining Imperial officers (like Taskmaster Grint, Wulff Yularen, Aresko, etc.) to keep at least 2 and preferably 3 tokens around that might merit swapping every round, Sovereign has you covered. It's particularly handy at feeding fleet command upgrades and other command-specific upgrades like Engine Techs by allowing you to pile up some general-purpose command tokens and then keeps converting them to the preferred token type without too much extra order of activations hassle.

    The front arcs are a colorful rainbow of pain - a "painbow," if you will.
    Brawler ISDs
    I'm pairing off the ISD-I and Kuat, as they share several similarities in contrast to their longer-ranged siblings, the ISD-II and Cymoon (which we'll get to later). Why would you want to consider a close-ranged brawler ISD over a longer-ranged artillery ISD? Generally because they're cheaper (inherently and/or because they're less upgrade-hungry overall) and because their damage potential is higher than longer-ranged ISDs, although that potential is only realized at close range. Because both of these ISDs are shorter-ranged, they are often using their weapon team slot on some kind of offensive booster like Ordnance Experts or a boarding team that makes close-ranged fights with them particularly brutal. Ideally, your close-ranged ISDs want to get tougher juicier targets in their front arc and one side arc so they can eliminate them with a huge burst of damage.

    Basic tips and tricks
    As with any ship relying on black dice, brawler ISDs like going first if they can and are happy in fleets with a bid to try to make that happen. That said, however, their large base size combined with speed 3 and decent maneuverability makes it easy for them to clog up landing zones of their prey in ways that Gladiators and Raiders just can't, which makes them a bit more forgiving as second player than most black dice ships. For example:

    The Assault Frigate, even at speed 3 with a navigate command for extra yaw, cannot find a place to land that is not overlapping the ISD, and thus it will be stuck in the ISD's front arc at short range while the ISD and Assault Frigate keep dealing one another hull damage for overlapping until the Assault Frigate or ISD is destroyed. This tactic will not work against more maneuverable small ships, especially those capable of getting up to speed 4, but in general it's a near-guarantee against any ship going speed 2 or less and against anything medium-sized or larger going speed 3 (you can still catch those light ships going speed 3, but it's very dependent upon positioning and their maneuverability so be careful). Basically, you're using the ISD's larger size to its benefit to keep ships from getting out of your front arc and you're quite content to mutually take damage when overlapping your prey because you've got more hull than any other ship in the game.

    Okay, so let's say you've settled on a brawler ISD. Why take one over the other?

    ISD-Is
    Compared to the Kuat, the ISD-I has some advantages:
    • Longer-ranged side and rear arcs, which can help when you're closing in the early game or have been outmaneuvered.
    • Squadrons 4, which is twice the Kuat's Squadrons 2 and allows the ISD-I to operate as a capable battle carrier.
      • Also not to be overlooked are the two offensive retrofit slots, which can help in this role as well.
    • A turbolaser slot, which allows you to equip some mean defensive-token-hosing upgrades like XI7 or H9 Turbolasers.
    • Slightly cheaper. Hey, sometimes those 2 points need to go somewhere else!
    I won't lie to you: if all you want your ISD to do is get into knife-fighting range and throw black dice, the Kuat is likely more your speed (we're getting there soon!) but the ISD-I is still no slouch at close range and can be built into configurations the Kuat can't. Its Squadrons value of 4 is particularly remarkable as a point of differentiation in this regard, and you can expand on that or simply enjoy being able to fling 4 squadrons from your ISD once or twice a game while it's doing other things. Otherwise, the ISD-I wants the same kind of officers all large ships like, with some extra attention paid to Minister Tua; being able to sneak a defensive retrofit onto your ISD can be very appealing but isn't mandatory: choose your officer carefully!

    Let's cover some builds that demonstrate the advantages I mentioned above. As a reminder, the builds I present are what I consider to be the minimum upgrades required to qualify. Feel free to fill the remaining slots (or not!) with anything else you prefer.

    Builds
    Battle Carrier
    Expanded Hangar Bay+Boosted Comms+Flight Controllers
    This is for when you absolutely want your squadrons to hit like a ton of bricks, particularly your fighters. Activating 5 squadrons (6 with a squadron token) at up to long range and giving them all +1 blue dice on their anti-squadron attacks cleans up enemy squadrons pretty quickly. Effectively, this is a compromise option between running a dedicated brawler ISD and a Quasar carrier but for less total points, and it works well with commanders like Jerjerrod (who can help it maneuver while it commands squadrons), Thrawn (who can help it command squadrons while it does other commands), and Sloane (who would like to have Avenger on the ISD to help tag-team targets with her squadrons).


    Bruiser Extraordinaire
    High Capacity Ion Turbines + H9 Turbolasers + Ordnance Experts
    This is a build I've been fond of and it's deceptively mean. Due to the High Capacity Ion Turbines adding a blue die to the side arcs(which always roll an accuracy, hit, or crit) and the H9 Turbolasers allowing you to change any dice with a hit or crit to an accuracy, you get a mean short-ranged bruiser that has a guaranteed accuracy in every attack. Small ships like to run around your sides when you get up in their business and with a guaranteed accuracy + an average of 4 damage from your side arcs at close range, you can usually kill light ships trying to escape provided they've already taken a bit of damage. You can also one-shot flotillas (by locking down the scatter, then 1 damage to shields and 3 to hull = dead flotilla) this way. It also turns your front arc into a pretty beastly thing. You can add an Intel Officer if your meta's juicy targets tend to have Electronic Countermeasures to snipe the brace for good.

    This build doesn't have the raw damage potential a Kuat can achieve (it's still pretty respectable, mind you), but its guaranteed accuracy can be decisive in destroying ships whose scatters or braces would otherwise reduce a Kuat's damage substantially.

    Boarding Party Version ISD-1.0
    Boarding Troopers + Avenger + XI7 Turbolasers + Leading Shots

    While Kuat Avenger builds are also competitive, ISD-Is have the definite benefit of Boarding Troopers using Squadrons 4 to tap out all of a defender's defense tokens whereas the Kuat is usually limited to leaving a heavier ship with one redirect still ready to go. This type of build is generally inferior to the Kuat as a brawler on non-Avenger-Boarding-Troopers-shenanigans rounds, but it's generally better on the Boarding Troopers super activation.

    Leading Shots is only helpful on the front arc, but given how important getting your Avenger super activation to go off is, it's still the best ion cannon choice in most cases for this kind of build unless you've got easy rerolls from Commander Vader or the like. The XI7 Turbolasers are for non-ABT super activations but are also helpful for getting the side arc's attack to still reliably get some damage into the hull after the Avenger shot.

    Governor Pryce can help set up your attack run, but be careful to time her correctly!

    Kuat ISDs
    Compared to the ISD-I, the Kuat is more focused on brawling to the exclusion of just about everything else (Squadrons 2?). To that end, it has some advantages there:
    • An ordnance slot, which can make its close-ranged attacks particularly destructive.
    • A defensive retrofit slot, which is particularly welcome on a ship that needs to get in close to do its job.
    • A minimum of one blue die and one black die in each arc. This allows for anti-ship attacks from each arc to use die-specific effects (notably Leading Shots) and/or potentially trigger blue or black critical effects, especially when stacked with a reroll or used with Screed.
      • This is an advantage when it comes to being a close-ranged brawler, but it comes with the downside of being almost comically ineffective at longer ranges in the side and rear arcs. ISD-Is aren't amazing in this regard, but they're better than a Kuat.
    As mentioned before, the Kuat is generally where you want to start if all you want your ISD to do is get close and smash face. The biggest problem you'll experience in this regard is sacrificing the ISD-I's turbolaser slot, which would've been greatly appreciated for its access to defense-token-screwage upgrades. If the Kuat can't roll an accuracy naturally (my math gives it about a 62.5% chance in the front arc naturally, which is good but not as reliable as I'd prefer), it risks having its hefty pile of damage casually braced (or worse, scattered) down to something more manageable. There are a few ways to get around this problem, which I'll present in the builds section soon.

    Builds
    Bunker Buster
    Assault Concussion Missiles + Ordnance Experts + Leading Shots
    Your goal here is very simple - get your prey double-arced and unload your front and side arc at it, pouring in lots of damage. Between the Leading Shots and Ordnance upgrades, all of your dice can get a reroll followed by your black dice getting another reroll. With all of that working in your favor, you've got slightly higher odds of producing an accuracy result in the front arc and your black dice are very reliable at triggering the Assault Concussion Missiles out of your front and side arcs. The upside here is that even if your attacks are braced down, your ACMs are adding 2-4 extra unbraceable damage and you'll be gobbling up shields at a very rapid pace. Combine this with a Heavy Ion Emplacements helper ship and you'll be crushing even heavy targets in no time flat.

    The main downside of this kind of build is it's more specialized against medium and large ships and assumes your targets will be redirecting. Against smaller ships (especially those without redirects), it's generally overkill and you run the risk of flubbing your attack rolls against flotillas.

    Devastator Dice Hose
    Devastator + Electronic Countermeasures + Expanded Launchers or External Racks

    What if I told you it was possible for a ship to throw 15 dice in one attack without using Most Wanted or Opening Salvo? That scenario is implausible but not impossible with this build. Devastator is a good fit on an ISD like the Kuat that has access to a defensive retrofit slot inherently and is prone to getting some defense tokens shot out from under it during the course of regular use. Might as well turn them into extra dice, right?

    "Ackbar gets to drink from the fire hose!"
    There are a few upgrade options to round out this build that will depend a lot on the rest of your fleet. If you're using Screed or Vader as your commander, I'd consider Heavy Ion Emplacements as your ion cannon upgrade to pour more damage into the target. Otherwise, Id' recommend Leading Shots in the ion cannon slot and always Ordnance Experts unless you have a very good reason not to for rerolls. For your mountain of dice to do serious damage to the target, the brace absolutely needs to be dealt with and if you're not using Leading Shots or Vader to reroll the blue dice and/or fear Electronic Countermeasures, then I'd consider using an Intel Officer for your officer and/or having Captain Jonus around for the guaranteed accuracy.

    Boarding Party Kuat
    Boarding Troopers + Avenger + your choice of ordnance upgrade + Leading Shots

    The Kuat Boarding Troopers Avenger ISD works pretty similarly to its ISD-I cousin, with some pros and cons. I already covered earlier how the ISD-I has the benefit of tapping out 4 defense tokens with its Boarding Troopers, whereas the Kuat has to make do with only exhausting 2 of them. Against ships like MC75s, Interdictors, and Assault Frigates where only 2 of their tokens were going to meaningfully help against the attack anyways, the Kuat Avenger has a leg up. Otherwise, however, you'll usually find that the best course of action is to leave a single redirect unexhausted while tapping out a brace and redirect (or in the case of the LMC80, both braces). Regardless, however, this combination is a fairly effective way to answer the "how do I deal with braces?" question I mentioned earlier, even if you're not going to go all-out trying to maximize the Boarding Troopers activation.

    Because most heavier targets can redirect to a hull zone for at least 3 and sometimes 4 shields' worth, the Kuat starts "down" 3-4 damage required to knock out meatier targets compared to its ISD-I sibling. That damage can be mostly made up by its ordnance upgrade and access to rerolls on the side arc from Leading Shots (whereas the ISD-I has to usually just accept whatever gets rolled there unless it has access to some other form of rerolls). Otherwise, on non-Boarding Trooper activations, this Kuat build is generally superior to its ISD-I counterpart and can more comfortably accomodate Governor Pryce or Strategic Advisor as Minister Tua isn't needed.

    For ordnance upgrades, any of the standard anti-ship options are pretty good. Expanded Launchers and External Racks can produce a lot of unbraceable damage when used with Avenger, but if you can get Assault Concussion Missiles or Assault Proton Torpedoes to trigger on the front and side arc attacks, they can also produce a lot of damage. The ACMs are a bit weird in that they can be helpful for stripping side shields to make redirecting less appealing, but generally they're more useful the more you apply ACMs or Heavy Ion Emplacements to the enemy ship(s), so they'll depend on the rest of your fleet and how you intend to use your Avenger Boarding Troopers Kuat during its other activations.

    Upgrades
    Before we move on to the artillery ISDs, I want to touch on boarding teams when it comes to the Kuat. In short, while I'm generally keen on using Ordnance Experts and Leading Shots together by default, a single source of rerolls (usually that's Leading Shots) is often sufficient to allow you to devote your weapon team and offensive retrofit slot to a boarding team if you would like to. It's a good match: both the Kuat and boarding teams want to be at close range, the Kuat doesn't mind giving up its offensive retrofit and weapon team slot, and the Kuat can hang on to a squadron token pretty painlessly. The question becomes "which boarding team to use, exactly?"

    The answer is "basically any of them, provided you build for it," although there are some that have more obvious uses than others. Boarding Troopers combines well with the Avenger title to prevent braces from being used against the Kuat, but even without Avenger, they produce an effect similar to a turbocharged double Intel Officer - the defender can certainly use those tokens if you don't get an accuracy, but they'll be gone for good if they do, and the effect applies to both of your attacks and any subsequent attacks from other sources that round. The Darth Vader boarding team is a bit more meta-dependent, but is a great way to remove pesky Electronic Countermeasures or Lando or other such defensive upgrades from defending ships right before you drop the hammer.

    One final thing I'll add is your choice of defensive retrofit is largely dependent on your meta and your fleet build, but in general I recommend filling that slot unless you have very compelling reasons not to. The Kuat is going to be the center of attention and it needs to commit itself to a decent level of danger to do its job and a defensive retrofit helps keep it alive.

    *Red and blue dice gathering intensifies*
    Artillery ISDS
    Similar to my pairing of brawler ISDs, our remaining two candidates are paired together as "artillery ISDs" due to their preference for medium and long-ranged combat. If you've decided you want an artillery piece instead of a knife-fighter, you'll turn to one of these two. Although artillery ISDs lack the damage potential of brawler ISDs (they're still no slouches, however), they're easier to get on target due to a suite of dice with much more generous range that can still threaten smaller ships with destruction with only one or two serious attacks. Heavier targets require more work, but having some help from specialized upgrades and/or other damage-dealers will make the task easier.

    Artillery ISDs are frequently equipped with Gunnery Teams to allow their front arcs to (at least threaten to) contribute as many dice as possible and diminish cases where a secondary target can "hide" behind a higher-priority target in a given arc. Given the expense of artillery ISDs, your generally want to get as many dice out of them as you can and you especially want to have some means of levelling the playing field against swarms as quickly as possible, given it can take more than one attack to drop small ships, especially at long range where their evades work at full strength.

    Basic tips and tricks
    Artillery ISDs are often angling to get their front arcs covering as much table space as possible to keep their options open for flinging lots of dice with Gunnery Team, but if they're up against heavier targets they can and should still try to apply their front+side arc to the same enemy ship, just like a brawler ISD (although with less explosive results overall). Speed control remains important - generally artillery ISDs will prefer to go a bit slower than their brawler siblings to try to keep targets in their front arc for as long as possible, but jetting up to speed 3 to threaten enemies who thought they were safe can be very satisfying; you'll just need to prepare for cranking the speed back down so you don't accidentally overshoot them in the future.

    As I mentioned already, their damage output is good but you won't be able to produce burst damage like the brawler ISDs can. You will usually need friends to help you bring down sturdier targets; it might be worth ignoring them, focusing your attacks on softer enemies, and flying past them if you won't be able to solo them by yourself.

    ISD-IIs
    Compared to Cymoon, the old-fashioned ISD-II still has some advantages:
    • A defensive retrofit slot, which when combined with a tendency to be used more cautiously, can keep the ISD pretty safe.
    • An ion cannon slot, which can make a huge difference in dice reliability with Leading Shots.
    • 8 total dice in the front arc compared to 7.
    • Squadrons 4, which is a bit more helpful than Squadrons 3 when it comes to incidental squadron-pushing or when used as a flagship for a squadron-heavy fleet.
    • The side arcs are better at long range, but otherwise the two side arcs are fairly equivalent.
    • Two blue flak dice combine more favorably with Gunnery Team for hosing down a lot of squadrons, combine well with upgrades that are commonly seen on the ISD-II (like Leading Shots and H9 Turbolasers), and are useful against scatter aces.
    The main issue with the ISD-II is justifying the 8 points it costs over a Cymoon for a worse long-ranged front arc. Generally, you're not going to win that argument assuming both ships are at long range, but once it gets to medium range, the ISD-II really shines with its ion cannon slot and hefty 8 dice front battery. Leading Shots in particular is a clutch upgrade in that comparison, given it offers the ISD-II with a lot of dice control where the Cymoon inherently has little to none, depending on the build.

    Otherwise, a native defensive retrofit removes the pressure to use Minister Tua in favor of the usual cast of characters vying for the officer's chair. Given how beneficial it can be for enemies to get into range of you before you need to activate, activation shenanigans officers like Strategic Adviser or Governor Pryce are definitely worth considering. That defensive retrofit slot also makes the ISD-II a welcome choice for flagship, provided you're comfortable with putting so many eggs into one fairly robust basket.
    Builds
    Old Country Buffet
    Gunnery Team + Leading Shots + buffet options include:

    Turbolasers:
    • XI7 Turbolasers if you're confident of getting an accuracy and/or are using an Intel Officer to eliminate brace tokens and plan on going after heavier prey.
    • H9 Turbolasers if you'd like to guarantee an accuracy and would like to threaten flotillas and the like from long range. They also make your flak nearly guaranteed to deal 1 damage to scatter aces (by flipping a crit or hit to an accuracy if you need one), which can add up.
    • Quad Battery Turrets if you're planning on keeping your ISD-II going relatively slow and would like to be able to use Leading Shots on long-ranged attacks by adding a blue die. Also helps make your side arcs scarier against small ships trying to run past you.
    • Spinal Armament if you just want to focus on your front arc producing as many dice as possible without relying on tricks.
    Defensive retrofits:
    • Electronic Countermeasures if you're teching against other large ships. Usually paired with XI7 Turbolasers (see above) for that reason.
    • Early Warning System if you're teching against squads and swarms.
    • Reinforced Blast Doors if you want to keep it cheap and versatile.
    And then add an officer and title to taste and you're basically done! This basic buffet ISD-II has been a staple in fleets since wave 2 in some form or another and is a very versatile (if expensive) build. You can consider replacing the Leading Shots with Heavy Ion Emplacements in a fleet led by Vader to dramatically increase your damage output against shielded targets (I would not recommend pairing it with XI7 Turbolasers, though).

    Sloane Special
    Flight Controllers + Boosted Comms + Electronic Countermeasures + Avenger + Leading Shots
    This ISD, as you can surmise from the name, is designed to be used with Sloane and sacrifices the Gunnery Team for Flight Controllers (and is therefore nearly always paired with Advanced Gunnery as an objective). The reasoning for this is fairly simple: Avenger exhausts to use, getting the token spend lined up is difficult on occasion, and so the ISD is just going to focus on finding one ship and ruining its day each round, often by commanding squadrons to exhaust relevant defense tokens prior to the attack. Some Sloane ISD-II builds use Heavy Ion Emplacements to add extra shield damage, but without a reroll source it can be a little risky. The turbolaser slot can be filled or not, depending on your preference and remaining points.

    Cymoon ISDs
    The Cymoon has some advantages of its own over the ISD-II:
    • 8 points cheaper. Points is points, and 8 of them is enough of a savings to afford a pretty nice upgrade.
    • A second turbolaser slot, which can be very nice but only matters if you're intending to use both of them.
    • A fleet command slot. The Cymoon is the only ISD with a natural fleet command slot that doesn't need to use the Chimaera title to cheat one in.
      • In general, if you're not using Intensify Firepower! in this slot, you better have a very good reason, though, which I'll touch on shortly.
    • 5 red dice in the front arc makes the Cymoon the red-dice-heaviest ship in the game at the moment (not considering add-ons like Ackbar and the like).
    • 2 black flak dice do superior average damage against squadrons compared to 2 blue flak dice (1.5 versus 1.0), which can help against generic squadrons that get too close, although the shorter range and inability to generate accuracy icons present some difficulties.
    In short, similar to how the Kuat makes some sacrifices to be an ISD-I more specialized at brawling, the Cymoon makes some sacrifices to be an ISD-II more specialized at long-ranged attacks (as opposed to medium-ranged attacks, where the ISD-II remains king). Because it lacks an ion cannon slot for Leading Shots, A Cymoon ISD can be occasionally let down by fickle red dice that you can't fix with a reroll. That is why Intensify Firepower! is nearly-mandatory in its fleet command slot (assuming a single Cymoon, with doubles the second has more options) - it's a useful buff for your whole fleet and it gives the Cymoon some control over its own attack rolls that it otherwise lacks. This is also why Vader is a great commander for a fleet with a Cymoon - he can provide the dice control that makes the Cymoon truly terrifying. The Cymoon's lack of an inherent defensive retrofit slot and preference for keeping at a distance can make it a bit gun-shy about getting too close to the action unless it outclasses whatever is nearby.

    One final note about Intensify Firepower!: it's a pretty swell upgrade, especially for the Cymoon, but you need some kind of support system to feed it tokens to get use from it more than maybe twice. That support system (usually a Comms Net Gozanti) costs points, so consider that when planning out your fleet.

    Builds
    Turbolaser Build-a-Bear
    Gunnery Team + Intensify Firepower! + build your own turbolasers

    Similar to the Old Country Buffet ISD-II, you've got a lot of options for turbolaser pairings here, the main limitation being that many of them are Modification upgrades:
    • Spinal Armament + H9 Turbolasers: This is what I'd consider the default pairing for the Cymoon and it offers an attractive extra red die (6 red dice front arc!) with a guaranteed accuracy, which helps keep your long-range attacks threatening. Don't forget that Intensify Firepower! can flip a blank die to a hit so your H9s can then flip it to an accuracy.
    • Spinal Armament + XI7 Turbolasers: This is similar to the preceding build, but it's designed to go after large ships. It's best combined with accuracy generation (Captain Jonus would be my recommendation) and/or an Intel Officer.
    • H9 Turbolasers + Quad Turbolaser Cannons: This combination is more attractive when using Darth Vader as your commander, but in short you have a guaranteed red accuracy that then adds another red accuracy to your pool. If you need all those accuracy results, great! If not, then Vader can reroll the extra accuracy die with his ability and you've got Intensify Firepower! to act as backup. Getting two guaranteed accuracy results makes the Cymoon substantially deadlier against double-evade ships at long range (like CR90s) as well as flotillas and even heavier ships with only two stronger defense tokens, like MC75s and LMC80s (lock down both braces!).
    • Turbolaser Reroute Circuits + Spinal Armament + Captain Needa: This is a bit of a weird build no doubt, but between Turbolaser Reroute Circuits and Intensify Firepower! this is the best non-Vader method you've got for dice control, allowing you to flip one die to a hit and one to a double-hit or crit.
    • If you're planning on slow-rolling, Quad Battery Turrets can always substitute for Spinal Armament if desired.
    Beyond that, the main defining features will be your officer choice and title. There's definitely some room to be a bit unorthodox with Cymoons beyond the Turbolaser Build-a-Bear, but it's the basic solid option for Cymoons so far.

    Final thoughts
    This article's scope has expanded substantially since its original writing and with 4 ISD options nowadays, they're a common sight in Imperial fleets. If you have any questions about anything, don't hesitate to let me know in the comments!

    2 comments:

    1. Is it just me or is the Kuat Refit the Tector-class in all but name?

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    2. A build I'd consider worth mentioning for the ISD2:
      Vader + Intel Officer + Gunnery Team + ECM/EWS + HIE + QBT + Devastator

      Lifted from Green Knight's HIE Article on his blog, I've been enjoying playing around with this build. It's crazy expensive at 201 points total, but when slow-rolling at Speed 1 it can pretty consistently put out 4 reds and 2 blues at long range (by Intelling your Contain on the first shot) and then follow up with rerollable 10+ dice barrages if/when the enemy survives closing to medium.

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