Sunday, December 13, 2020

Imperial squadron review: Jumpmaster 5000

It's time for a wave 2 Imperial squadron review! Given the importance of Intel, the Jumpmaster seemed to be the clear place to start. So wear your pants backwards, put on some fantastically dated hip-hop and get ready to jump jump!

I mean if it's on a sticker, it has to be priceless, right?
If you think this looks silly, you should've seen the previous 4999 Jumpmasters!

The Jumpmaster is a fairly straightforward Intel squadron. It's Imperial-flavored compared to its HWK-290 counterpart: it's faster (speed 4 > speed 3), and its non-Intel keyword works better when it's making attacks (rather than when being attacked, like the HWK-290's Counter 2). It's also horrible at any task that doesn't involve providing Intel: with one blue dice against ships, it's just as bad as a TIE Fighter at attacking ships but at 50% higher cost. Even with Swarm, 2 blue dice averages out to 1.38 damage (1 without Swarm), which is helpful for adding a bit of damage to enemy squadrons here and there but absolutely awful compared to what dedicated fighters can do.

The truth is, though, that you're not bringing Jumpmasters along for any of that. You're bringing them along for Intel. Although Intel has been nerfed in Armada 1.5 down to granting Grit to friendly squadrons at distance 1 of the Intel squadron, it still has its uses in larger squadron groups. This is typically the case with bomber groups that would really prefer to not get stuck dogfighting, but Grit can also allow you to reposition fighters or attack and then disengage with vulnerable TIE Fighters and the like. So long as you keep your squadrons a bit spread out, you should be able to get fairly consistent use from a distance 1 Grit bubble - keeping all your squadrons in one big blob makes them easy to engage with numerous enemy squadrons all at once, which makes Grit tough to get much use out of except on the periphery of your squadron blob.

Given the Jumpmaster isn't exactly tough to destroy and Grit may cause annoyance to your opponent's squadron groups, it's not a bad idea to keep your Jumpmaster safe with a bodyguard Escort squadron. The alternative option is to simply keep the Jumpmaster towards the rear of your squadrons and send it in on an as-needed basis and just hope your opponent is too busy chasing your other squads around. That won't keep your Jumpmaster alive for long, but it is cheaper than bringing along an Escort buddy if points are tight.

Also known as "Charmin Ultra" for his impeccable taste in headgear.

For +8 points a (67% increase) over a generic Jumpmaster, Dengar gains:
  • +1 blue dice against squadrons.
  • Anti-ship attack upgraded to a black dice, improving his average damage from 0.5 to 0.75.
  • His unique "the Oprah of Counter 1" ability, where he's just giving it away like crazy.
  • A scatter and brace defense token. This combination on hull 4 aces can make them pretty durable unless they receive a lot of attention.
 As usual, let's cover some of the specifics of his unique ability:
  • Dengar does not give himself Counter 1. Note that his ability affects "another friendly squadron." This means people like to prioritize killing Dengar even more than regular Jumpmasters, as he can't Counter for himself.
  • Remember that Counter attacks are attacks and so benefit from anything that triggers while making an attack; if for example, Dengar gives a TIE Fighter Counter 1, that TIE Fighter will get to reroll it with Swarm if the target is engaged by another friendly squadron and the TIE Fighter would also gain a bonus blue die from Howlrunner, increasing the total number of dice rolled to 2.
  • Note that Dengar's Counter-bonus ability works up to distance 2, although his Intel is still limited to distance 1.
Dengar is an expensive upgrade to a generic Jumpmaster, but he brings a lot with him and with his defense tokens he's usually at least twice as durable, so I'd strongly recommend him over a generic Jumpmaster if you've got the points and the ace slot free. You need to be careful with where you put him, though, as enemies have a double incentive to shoot him down quickly to remove both Intel and his Counter ability. Affording both Dengar and an Escort can be difficult so it's common to see him without a bodyguard when he is taken. In squadron groups like that, he likes having a strong fighter presence to clear away potential assassins. He combines particularly well with anything that already has Counter (like TIE Interceptors and Decimators) to boost their Counter value higher and it's not uncommon to see him used with Howlrunner to boost Interceptors up to effectively Counter 4, which makes them very deadly even on defense.

Immortal Rastafarian Muppet Cyborg Bounty Hunter Evil Frisbee Pilot, at your service.

For +5 points (42% more) over a Jumpmaster, Tel gains:
Let's talk about Tel's two special rules:
  • Fairweather Escort:
    • So long as he's got a green defense token, Tel is an Escort.
    • This can make his defense token spending, especially with his immortality special rule, rather tricky. You don't want to make him too tired to be a meat shield too quickly but you also don't want to be caught vulnerable and get Tel's head chopped off so his Highlander powers don't kick in. 
  • Immortality:
    • Destroyed squadrons don't go below 0 hull, so if this kicks in when he's destroyed, it will restore him to 3 hull points. Otherwise, he'll go back up to maximum.
    • This only happens if you discard a defense token while defending. For most purposes, that means spending an exhausted defense token (although Intel Officer flak can trigger this too if your opponent is trying to help you out for some reason).
      • If you spend a readied (green) defense token but get destroyed, Tel is out of luck.
      • If you can't spend defense tokens due to accuracy results and get destroyed, Tel is out of luck.
      • If you are destroyed by damage not due to an attack (like from Mauler Mithel or Soontir Fel or taking a Wide-Area Barrage crit), Tel is out of luck as he can't spend defense tokens against those.
      • Note that there's nothing stopping you from spending defense tokens that do nothing. If Tel is at 1 hull and gets attacked for 1 damage, you can spend an exhausted brace token which doesn't change the damage total at all to trigger his Phoenix Protocol and return him to life. If Tel is at 1 hull and gets flakked but no hit icons come up, you can still spend and discard his exhausted scatter to restore him to 4 hull. Keep an eye out for opportunities to do things like this if your opponent gives them to you.
    • If you're desperate to ensure Tel is safe and sound, there's nothing stopping you from spending both a brace and scatter against an earlier attack (even though the brace will do nothing) so you'll have two exhausted defense tokens to spend against future attacks, making accuracy shut-downs less likely.
Tel is good as a cheap fast scatter kind-of-Escort and he's good as an annoying-to-kill squadron but he's not generally good at both of those things at once. Good use of Tel requires sacrificing one role to do better at the other, and if you play him just right, maybe being able to do both over the course of the game. It's important to note that Tel himself is slightly worse than a TIE Fighter against squads and ships (he has 3 blue dice but lacks Swarm against squadrons and is the same at a higher price point against ships), so it's up to you to position him somewhere that forces your opponent to have to deal with him. For extra fun, run him with Asteroid Tactics to keep bringing his brace back, potentially reviving him from the dead multiple times. All that said, he's a fun ace squadron for a very cheap price and when used well can be very effective, just don't think he can do everything all at once.


  1. Tel as the only rouge escort-ish squad in the game seems to gain a pretty big bump in the 1.5 nerf of intel. I plan on using him a lot more paired up with Hondo as my only two squads in MSU lists while my squadron murder machine flacks.

    1. It feels like you're paying a good number of points for mostly getting in the way against enemy squads. Hondo is okay-ish against squads and Tel is TIE Fighter or worse so it doesn't seem like you're going to kill much before getting shot down. If you just want hull points and Rogue, then why not Advanced Transponder Network and YV-666s or Decimators?

    2. I guess I like Hondo for the multi-tool aspect (shut that super annoying squad down or bombing). Regardless of Hando, I see Tel as a good friend to a Kallus Raider as he is fast enough to chase down most squads at speed 4, has grit to avoid that single cheep squad counter and presumably can go without support against anything without grit. I typically run 2-4 squads on empire and like to keep the majority of them leaning strong into ship attacks, leading me to usually include Kallus, but if I run into no squads or take care of a small group early Tel and the 7 points on Kallus/Impetuous seems like a cheep insurance policy vs YVs and Decimators that my normal opponent's biggs, wedge and dutch are gonna gobble through in short order. I totally have a limited sample set on this admittedly.