Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Imperial squadron review: TIE Advanced

Moving on to the second (and shorter!) review of the wave one Imperial squadrons, we have the TIE Advanced:

It was in Star Wars: A New Hope that one time ever, how could you not recognize it?
The TIE Advanced is an Escort support squadron with a bit of fighter mixed in. It's fairly contrary to the usual Imperial design philosophy: it can act as something of a multi-role fighter in that it has 3 blue dice against squadrons (which at 1.5 average damage isn't great but isn't bad either) and throw one black dice against ships (which is not as good as a bomber, but 75% of the time, it will deal one damage). However, a side-by-side comparison to the Rebel X-Wing will see the TIE Advanced coming off fairly jealous of the X-Wing's +1 blue dice against squadrons as well as  the X-Wing's Bomber keyword, which opens up synergy with Bomber Command Center in addition to its inherent benefit. For only +1 point more, the X-Wing is a more versatile squadron.

Although the TIE Advanced has the benefit of 1 point of speed over its X-Wing competition, I would be lying if I told you I felt generic TIE Advanced were a great deal. They're not. X-Wings weren't considered terribly competitive until they got support from Jan Ors, Bomber Command Center, and Biggs and the like. The generic TIE Advanced hasn't received anything since it was released in wave 1. The good news is their unique alternatives are pretty good.

So he just kind of... brings a Death Star wherever he goes?

Tempest Squadron
is a TIE Advanced unique squadron from the Corellian Conflict that for +1 point gains the Bomber keyword. It's a natural upgrade for a TIE Advanced that would have been guarding a bomber group anyways, as it increases your average damage against ships from 0.75 to 1, and makes you eligible for those Bomber Command Center rerolls (which brings you up to an average of 1.25). In short, Tempest Squadron actually compares pretty favorably to its X-Wing counterpart, unlike the generic TIE Advanced. In a bizarre way, it's almost an upgunned TIE Bomber, going up to 3 blue against squadrons, losing Heavy, and gaining Escort for 4 points.

Darth Vader crushing it at the elliptical machine.

Darth Vader
takes your standard TIE Advanced, gives it two brace tokens, one extra black die against squadrons, and adds a neat special ability where all of his crits count as an extra damage point. A few things to note about this ability:
  • This means the hit+crit side of black dice counts as 2 damage!
  • While being very similar to the Bomber special rule against ships, Darth Vader can't trigger critical effects (crits do still add damage, though).
  • If Darth Vader is given Counter (from Dengar, for example), the critical symbols on his Counter attack will also count for damage, giving him a 75% chance of doing damage on his Counter die.
  • This significantly improves his average damage against squadrons from 1.5 to 3.25, more than doubling the average damage done by the generic TIE Advanced and doing substantial anti-squadron damage in one squadron activation. 
  • Darth Vader is great against enemy aces, as every single side on his blue dice contribute to bringing those aces down. Just be a bit careful against Scatter aces as you're at that point strongly relying on rolling at least one accuracy. 58% of the time you will roll at least one accuracy result with Vader, so be aware that it's likely but not guaranteed.
Vader, however, is not cheap at 21 points. You're spending 75% more points than a standard TIE Advanced for what he brings and Escort is a bit of a double-edged sword: it's great that you can have a 2-brace 5 hull point squadron taking hits for your weaker squadrons, but it means Vader himself can't hide behind another Escort squadron to continue destroying the opposition. As such, he's often destroyed earlier on as he draws lots of enemy fire. It also bears noting that you can only have one Darth Vader in your fleet, so he disqualifies his other versions from being used.

So when to use Vader? He's an expensive but hard-hitting ace that shows his worth primarily against other squadrons, especially aces. I like him a lot in a fleet with Flight Controllers to bring him up to 4 blue one black against squadrons, which does an average of 4 damage per attack and a 68% chance of 1+ accuracy results, which is great for going after a wide variety of squadrons. He's good largely despite Escort instead of because of it: in a pinch he can be used as a disposable meat shield, but he's too expensive for that to be a good Plan A. Generally I like to use him on the outskirts of a squad fight, selectively going after one squad at a time and trying to leverage his Escort when it suits me to soak up weaker squad attacks while my flimsier fighter squads help mop up.

Zertik the Stromest there is! Zertik smash friend and foe alike!

Speaking of disposable meat shields, for an extremely small cost increase of +3 points over a regular TIE Advanced, Zertik Strom gains two brace tokens, replaces the anti-squadron blue dice with red dice, and gains a weird special ability. It should be noted that the replacement of blue dice with red dice produces the same average damage as the regular blue dice (1.5), but decreases your odds of rolling an accuracy result and is much "swingier" in that there are now four dice sides that do nothing for Zertik against squadrons: 2 blank sides and 2 critical sides. If your target doesn't have defense tokens, increase that to five sides because your accuracy results do nothing as well. Zertik's ability exists to remedy this fact by providing rerolls, but at a cost. Assuming you are attacking a non-ace squadron and use the reroll ability, Zertik goes from each dice having a 37.5% chance of doing damage to a 61% chance of doing damage. This improves his average damage from 1.5 to 2.44, which is pretty considerable. You can also use his ability when attacking ships, which isn't bad but is generally less necessary (as you're only fishing for one damage point, but sometimes that one damage point can be crucial).

Regardless of whether or not you choose to use his special ability, Zertik has mastered the art of being a meat shield. Even if you only use him as a roving blood bank, 2 brace tokens alone for +3 points is quite excellent for a TIE Advanced.

So when should you use Zertik? Any time you're bringing a TIE Advanced primarily for its ability to get in the way, basically: Zertik is a strong consideration given he will likely survive an extra hit or two for a mere 3 more points over a regular TIE Advanced. Zertik also has great synergy with Bossk, as he can do the one point of damage to Bossk to activate his accuracy-generating ability and then cover for him for quite some time while Bossk ruins lives.

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