Monday, December 14, 2020

Imperial ship review: Raider Corvette

What? Where's the star destroyer designation? Cor...vette? Is this a real Imperial ship review? It is, in fact! Not everything must destroy stars. Or... be a destroyer ship of the "star" classification, I suppose. Whatever it is exactly that "star destroyer" means in Star Wars anyways - it seems to get used on wildly different ships when you really think about it and that can't be any kind of reasonable categorization system for a military dictatorship that spans a healthy chunk of a galaxy, right?

There's no good way out of this tangent, so enjoy some sweet missiles!
First things first, let's clear the air on this one: the Raider is a ship a sizable number of Imperial players hate on. It is one of the trickiest ships (if not the trickiest ship) in the game to get the hang of, so it's clear to me why people get frustrated with it. What bothers me a bit is people accusing it of being useless or telling others to avoid it altogether. You may have even encountered such discussion already and I urge you to proceed with an open mind. Not to toot my own horn so much as to establish my own credentials: I won the 2016 Adepticon Armada tournament and in 2017 so far have placed top 25% (5th place both times by my recollection) in two Regionals and won the Friday 2017 Adepticon Armada tournament and every time the fleets in question had 2+ Raiders. I have a hard time imagining the fleets being nearly so successful without the Raiders and I've grown really fond of the poor little buggers.

Alternatively, perhaps this dapper gif will convince you!
With all that said, let's proceed to the rest of the review like normal, shall we?

You can have an Imperial ship in any color so long as it's gray.
Both Raider variants are very similar, sharing most of their traits:
  • 4 hull
  • 2 evades and one brace defense token
  • 2 shields in every hull zone (for a total of 8)
  • Command 1, Squadron 1, Engineering 2: adept at making command choices on the fly but miserable at commanding squadrons and your standard corvette "not very good at repairing."
  • Speed 4 maximum with two clicks of yaw at speeds 1 and 3, three clicks at speed 4, and four clicks at speed 2 (the sweet spot). 
    • That's still a good number of clicks for each speed total with the notable exception of speed 3 being mediocre.
  • 4 upgrade slots with room for an officer, weapon team, offensive retrofit, and weapon upgrade (ordnance for the Raider-I, ion cannon for the Raider-II).
  • Anti-ship dice strongly favoring the front arc and growing increasingly weak as you approach the rear. The front hull zone is set up "Imperial standard" with a generous front arc that takes some real estate away from the side arcs.
  • Two anti-squadron dice, which is impressive for such a cheap ship.
Basic usage recommendations/mitigating downsides
In general, I'll be defaulting to the Raider-I with advice here, as it's a little bit trickier to fly overall and any tricks that you learn for Raider-Is work just as well for Raider-IIs. The upsides of good Raider use are pretty obvious: for such a cheap ship, you get a lot of potential damage out the front(albeit short-ranged), very potent flak, very high max speed (the first and thus far only Imperial ship that can naturally go speed 4), and pretty good maneuverability (with some exceptions).

There are downsides and common play errors that need to be mitigated/avoided to get the payoff, though, and that's where inexperienced Raider commanders can struggle. Your ability to succeed with Raiders will largely depend on dealing with those downsides, so I'll cover those below. I'll warn you that the article is rather lengthy in an attempt to preemptively address concerns, so get comfy, it's a bit of a ride...

1) Your defense token suite and attack dice seem at odds with one another.
A pair of evade defense tokens and a brace can keep you pretty safe at long range against smaller red dice attacks (which is most of them, barring long-ranged specialists). At medium range it gets a bit dicier as the evades are downgraded to a reroll and dice pools get larger. At short range, evades thankfully retain their reroll potential (thanks, 1.5!) but dice pools are at their maximum level and it's not uncommon for your brace to get locked down. You can get the distinct feeling that you need to choose between surviving while doing nothing versus attacking while being very explosion-prone.

How to handle this
Successful Raider use often involves a lot of navigate commands (dials and/or tokens) for speed and, at speeds 3 and 4, yaw management. Frequently I see people misuse Raiders by deploying them at speed 3 or 4. This is usually a mistake, and often a fatal one. Ideally your Raiders should start at speed 2, or rarely, speed 1. They should take a nav token on the first round and often receive a navigate command again on turn 2. This gives you a considerable amount of control over where exactly you will be committing to moving early on and lets you play it cagey in the early game where you'll be out of range or at long range on round 2 rather than running suicidally into the kill zone. The Raider's survivability is very dependent on positioning and you want to use its superior yaw at speeds 1 and 2 while waiting for your opportunity to strike.

Specifically, what you're trying to accomplish is to stay out of range altogether or at long range of enemies when they are attacking and then attack them back at short range starting around round 3 (or round 2 if the enemy is barreling at you) to get in 1-2 rounds of pummeling before repositioning or escaping, depending on the circumstances. This can be accomplished a few ways, but the easiest and most applicable is to "catch" enemies that must move towards you. The Raider is well-suited to this tactic, able to stay at long to medium range and then take advantage of its large front arc to catch enemy ships that activate, make a weak to mediocre attack against the Raider, and then find they can't escape getting attacked at short range when the Raider activates later.

For example, here the Raider used its superior maneuverability earlier and ended in the Assault Frigate's front arc. It took a two red dice attack at long range (which it handled with 2 evades and a brace) and then the speed 2 Assault Frigate had to move into black dice range. The Assault Frigate attempts to make the most of the situation by lining up a broadside on the Raider for next turn, but the Raider will still get to activate afterwards and put its front arc to good use on the Assault Frigate.

This sort of tactic is best when you've got equal to or preferably greater activation count than your opponent, and anything else that assists with leveraging your black dice ships will come in handy as well, so I'd recommending reading the article about that so you're not reading the same things twice.

I also want to note that you need to be aware of what the ships you're squaring off against are capable of. Weathering the attack at long range is in most cases not a problem for Raiders, but against very large long ranged dice pools with guaranteed or highly likely accuracy results (which can lock down your brace and still send in lots of other damage-dealing dice), which can be found occasionally on Cymoons, VSD-IIs, long-ranged focused LMC80 Battlecruisers, Ackbar HMC80s, and Super Star Destroyers, you're still in trouble. Avoiding being at any range in that arc will be your top priority. That just means choosing other targets or trying to approach and then attack the long-ranged specialists in their weaker arcs. Spending the first half or more of the game maneuvering like crazy to successfully get an attack run off is far superior to running forward and dying for no benefit, so be patient.

I suppose if there's a short soundbite version of the advice above it would be "do not run your Raider into short range of unactivated enemy ships thinking it can tank the attacks just fine." You get better mileage from your Raiders by focusing on their positioning, speed, and order of activations to get them to receive attacks from further out and then attack back at closer ranges (and then decide from there if you can stick it out or need to GTFO). In some cases you can use a Raider more aggressively by running into short range of enemy ships before they're activated, but that's more of the kind of thing a Gladiator-class Star Destroyer can get away with (and even then, not against the scary arcs of stronger ships). If you're trying to use your Raider like a Gladiator, you'll be disappointed to learn that Gladiators are better Gladiators than Raiders are. What the Raider has that the Gladiator does not is superior maneuverability, especially at lower speeds, a much lower effective points cost (we'll get there in a bit), better flak, and a larger (and I daresay overall better) front arc that is easy to catch enemy ships in. By using a Raider more reactively, you can take advantage of those traits.

2) You have a lot of shields but lack a redirect token
Raiders have twice as many shields as they have hull, but getting full use of them can be tricky. It's pretty common for Raiders to be destroyed with 4 or more shields remaining, which can make them feel extremely fragile even compared to Rebel CR90s, which have 1 less total shield and no brace token but get some use from their redirect defense token. Damage to the front hull zone's shields in particular is the most common problem - your Raiders' largest hull zone is their front, it faces the direction they move, and it's the hull zone you're trying to line up to make your most potent attacks from (meaning the enemies you're trying to use it against can shoot it right back in many cases). Once you're down to 2 hull or less, attacks on unshielded hull zones just need to deliver 3 total damage (or 2 and lock down the brace with an accuracy), and you're done for.

How to handle this
If you're not able to simply avoid attacks through sneaky flying (as I outlined above), then you basically have 3 options as to how to handle this problem:
  1. Repair commands: with an Engineering value of 2, you can move 2 shields from healthy hull zones to a depleted one with a repair command dial (or regenerate 1 naturally). I've found this can substantially prolong the lives of Raiders that are taking light to moderate damage over extended periods of time. You can usually be pretty sure of which 2 hull zones are exposed to most enemy ships and keep those 2 healthy at the expense of the others. It's important to consider which hull zones will be under threat after you move, rather than upon activation of the Raider. The main issue with this option is Raiders are usually screaming for navigate or concentrate fire commands, so you'll need a banked (usually nav) token and/or some outside help from your commander to make this option more appealing.
  2. Maneuvering: especially at speed 2 and speed 4, you can control which hull zones are presented to the same enemy simply by changing the angle of your Raider to that foe. Pointing your shieldless hull zone into empty space and bringing a healthy hull zone lined up with a source of light damage can help prolong your Raider's life.
  3. Today is a good day to die: sometimes your Raider is just going to have to sacrifice itself in the pursuit of something greater and you can't wiggle your way out (#2) or meaningfully fake redirect shields with a repair command (#1). If this bothers you, try to keep track of all the damage your brace token saved you over the whole game compared to how it would've gone with a redirect. It can be more than you'd think and that might console you as your Raider explodes despite having some full shield hull zones left.
3) Your flak is powerful but short-ranged
Two rerollable (hello, Ordnance Experts!) black flak dice on the Raider-I are brutally effective, quite often producing 2 damage per squadron attacked, but unfortunately are close-range only. The Raider-II has one blue and one black, but isn't fully contributing with flak unless you can get to short range so it can go from one die to two. How do you get enemy squadrons into the kill zone?

How to handle this
The core piece of advice I have here is bring along a fighter presence. TIE Fighters (or any fighter squadron, really) + Raiders are greater than the sum of their parts. TIEs can engage enemy squadrons, pinning them in place for the Raider. The main problem is positioning your fighters so that any engagers are also going to eat Raider flak. Here's how I like to do it:

With the TIEs nestled right next to the front of the Raider, none of the X-Wings set at the maximum engagement distance furthest from the rightmost TIE Fighter (they're all barely at distance 1) can avoid the flak while also engaging the TIE Fighter. Given that dogfighting often begins round 2 and the initial move+attack fighters are often at the edge of their movement range to engage and attack (giving them little choice over their exact positioning), it's not uncommon for a fighter coming after your TIE to find it accidentally landed in double-arc flak range of the Raider. Suffice it to say that is a lethal mistake in most circumstances.

Similar to my warning about long-ranged specialists above, you need to be careful of situations where large numbers of anti-ship squadrons can go after your Raider without you being able to stop them with your own squadrons. You don't have a redirect and your brace isn't going to be capable of removing more than one damage at best from bomber attacks. Your evades can help with rerolls (try not to reroll black single hits, though, as you may find it gets even worse), but eventually enough attacks will melt through a single hull zone. If that hull zone is already stripped of shields, then fewer squadrons are required and you're in greater danger. Just be aware of when your Raider could be in trouble from squadrons and respond accordingly. Iden Versio is an amazing upgrade for substantially reducing that risk by letting your evade tokens cancel a die at close range (so good against squadrons!) and we'll talk about her later.

When applied to a whole fleet, you can get flak pockets that make sending bombers in recklessly very unappealing as you get decent coverage across a whole fleet, making it much more difficult to simply ignore the Raiders. Example:
The important element here once again being able to equal or hopefully exceed opponent activations. If you can wait out the enemy until he gets to his squadron command ships you can flak enemy squadrons after they've committed. If your opponent decides to be patient and wait it out rather than throw his bombers into a flak trap nightmare, then you can activate your TIEs from their bunkers later on in the turn to get in some punches and then have your Raiders follow them into the dogfight to dispense flak next turn.

The one last piece of advice on this subject that I want to impart is that Raiders are great at flakking but that's not all they do. Sometimes people bring along Raiders just for their flak and then are disappointed that the job could have been better done by investing 44+ points into fighters instead. The great thing about Raiders is that they can meaningfully contribute to the squadron mini-game while also threatening ships, but they're not a replacement for fighter coverage.

4) Your high speed maneuverability isn't great
If you compare a Raider and an ISD at speed 3, you'll find that somehow your little dagger of doom isn't really coming off better at maneuvering compared to the giant pizza slice. Speed 4 is definitely better (3 clicks of yaw versus 2) but still not as good as the Rebel CR90 (which gets the same nav chart at both speeds 3 and 4 but with a 2 click final joint). So what gives?

How to handle this
In short, speed 3 on a Raider is pretty poor. Sometimes it is necessary, but in general I would avoid it when you can by jumping from speed 2 to speed 4 using a navigate dial and token simultaneously. Speed 2 is the sweet spot for Raiders, offering a large degree of control over your destination with 4 clicks of yaw and a lot of room for maneuvering shenanigans. Two oldy but goody maneuvers a Raider can do at speed 2 with no additional assistance are:

Blue sparks!
The Tokyo Drift (1-2 clicks one way, 1-2 the other) is helpful for repositioning while not moving forward much. It's helpful for tacking over against targets looking to move horizontally. You can "underclick" any of the joints you like when necessary to realign better, but no other ship in the game has default access to both clicks for the first two joints without relying on the extra yaw from a navigate dial.

Also known as "the maneuver most likely to be mistaken as illegal"
The Inside Turn (1-2 clicks towards the inside of the Raider on the first joint, straight second joint) allows for a fairly tight turn for the short distance actually moved and is something you should keep in mind as possible for all small ships with 1+ clicks of yaw at a joint prior to their current speed or medium to large ships going speed 3 with a click of yaw on their first joint. The Raider's 2 clicks on the first joint at speed 2 gives it a lot more maneuverability here than any other unaided ship, making it a master of this technique.

All this is not to say you should never go faster than speed 2. Speeds 3 and 4 are often helpful for pouncing on targets of opportunity and for stepping on the gas to make a getaway from dangerous foes. Just be aware that going from speed 1-2 to speeds 3-4 is switching from "maneuverability/wait and see mode" to "step on the gas" mode

Summarizing all of this
The core mistake some players make with Raiders is they see the Raider's black dice batteries and high max speed and think of them as faster baby Gladiators. The Raider's defense token suite, hull zone arc geometry, unremarkable (for its speed/size) yaw at higher speeds, flak dice setup, and general desire to support and be supported by the rest of your fleet are opposed to this usage. It is often an attempt to use Raiders this way, and subsequently failing, that convinces players Raiders are worthless when the complaint from those players is actually "I can't successfully use Raiders the way I thought they should be used at first glance." Using Raiders well can be very rewarding but requires using them in support of a fleet with a moderate to high number of activations and keeping them at speed 2 or so to "catch" enemy ships/squadrons until necessity dictates a speed change.

Fleet-building and other basic advice
Beyond everything I wrote above, I find it's helpful to keep your Raiders as cheap as possible. They want to be in fleets with lots of activations (as I already mentioned, probably too many times 😁) and they benefit themselves by being cheap so as not to get in their own way by eating up points you want to spend on other ships. Additionally, Raiders can be fragile and even with adept piloting they will on occasion be destroyed, so over-investing into them can be counterproductive.

Phew, I'm glad we're out of that section. Aren't you glad we're out of that section? On to the Raider titles!

All the haters are going to eat crow.
Corvus is a neat cheap little title and it has some surprising utility. Rules-wise it's important to note that when you deploy a ship, you choose its speed. Redeploying a ship is deploying a ship, so you have a chance to reset Corvus's speed when you redeploy it as well. Also of note is that when you redeploy Corvus, it redeploys within your deployment zone. This means if you originally deployed it somewhere special due to the objective (say, for example, in the ambush zone in Fleet Ambush or on the station in Surprise Attack), you must redeploy it in your normal ol' deployment zone. That's normally a good thing.

The final bit of "huh, that's weird" rules interaction with the Corvus redeployment is that any upgrades that trigger on deployment, such as Local Fire Control or Gunnery Chief Varnillian will trigger twice on Corvus. That means with Local Fire Control you can replace up to 2 defense tokens with salvo tokens (side note: don't neglect to replace a salvo token with a salvo token if you only wanted one, although salvo is generally bad on Raiders anyways). It also means Gunnery Chief Varnillian will get two dice on her card and you get to choose which one gets swapped in and out. It gets weird. Presently this is a pretty corner-case situation given neither of those upgrades are terribly good on Raiders usually, but it bears mentioning.

The immediate use for Corvus is using your Raider as a "fake" deployment. You can put it wherever you please and it tells your opponent nothing about your future plans. It's pretty common for player 2 to start their deployment based on the information they gain from player 1's first deployment. If you're player 1, Corvus reveals nothing. If you're player 2, you get two player 1 deployments before you have to commit anything for certain.

You can also deploy squadrons at distance 1-2 of Corvus like normal, so don't hesitate to buy time with squadron deployments after your Corvus deployment to continue to keep your opponent guessing. Will you be deploying your carrier(s) to the left or the right of the squad ball? It's hard to say, and Boosted Comms and/or Relay makes it even more difficult to guess for sure. If those squadrons are Rogues, you don't even need a carrier to help them out afterwards!

In short, Corvus is 2 points pretty well-spent, if only for the deployment shenanigans. In my experience the title seems best on Raider-IIs and/or flagship Raiders. On Raider-IIs it's because they generally are happy acting as flankers due to their superior range, whereas Raider-Is tend to like to "catch" their prey as it drifts into them, so you can use Corvus to deploy at high speed on a flank safely to begin the chase. With a flagship Raider, it's mostly to ensure you're not biting off more than you can chew. I tend to prefer my flagship Raiders as Raider-IIs as well (as they can contribute at safer, longer ranges), so these tend to overlap for me.

Come on, Raider titles - I just spent way too many words explaining that you can't use Raiders impetuously and this is the name you give me to work with?
The Impetuous title does a good job of explaining how it works. It's effectively one free attack against a single enemy squadron once you're done with your regular attacks. It's a neat way to add some extra heat to a Raider designed to double down on flak and I'll cover the two different ways I'd recommend using it when we get to builds later. I would not consider it mandatory or even highly desirable outside of those specific builds but there are definitely worse ways to spend 4 points should you have some extra lying around.

It plays the chicken dance on loop on all comms channels! It must be destroyed!
The Instigator's effect requires a bit of interpretation and is covered in the Armada FAQ. In short, all enemy squadrons at distance 1 of the Instigator are engaged by 2 invisible phantom squadrons. This means a few things:
  • Friendly squadrons attacking enemy squadrons engaged by the Instigator phantom squadrons will benefit from the Swarm keyword.
  • Grit doesn't work when engaged by 2+ squadrons, so enemy squadrons at distance 1 of the Instigator cannot move away unless they have some kind of special exception (like Tycho).
  • The FAQ ruled that if enemy squadrons are only engaged by Heavy squadrons and the Instigator's phantom squadrons, they are allowed to attack the Instigator, so be aware of that.
Instigator is primarily useful as a means of tying up a squadron ball for a turn. This will often prove fatal or nearly-so for the Instigator itself but a relatively cheap sacrifice to keep hot bomber death off of your fleet for a round can occasionally be worth it, particularly if you're bringing a light fighter wing in favor of even more ships. If you want to improve Instigator's chances of surviving, I recommend landing directly on as much of the enemy squadron blob as possible. The subsequent placement around the Instigator should keep them from ganging up too much on any one hull zone. If you send some squadrons of your own to engage the most dangerous enemy squadrons in addition to that, your Instigator may very well live to tell the tale after holding up the enemy squadrons for a round and then getting in some sweet flak attacks. May. Iden Versio is also strongly recommended for this type of use, allowing your evades to shrug off the worst of the bomber attacks.

At last we meet again for the first time for the last time!
Given all my earlier advice assumed the Raider-I as the "default" Raider, we've already talked about this little guy quite a bit. We know his strengths and weaknesses and how to use him. Let's then not waste any more time and get straight to upgrades and builds:


Given Raider-Is like to be kept fairly cheap, I don't consider officers mandatory, although they do have some compelling choices:
  • Iden Versio is the officer designed for Raiders, so feel free to throw her on whichever Raider you'd like, especially if it's got an important job to do. I don't think she's mandatory, exactly, but she's very good with Raiders and I'd give her serious consideration. Being able to spend evades at close range to cancel dice is extremely good and helps make the Raider's defense token suite much more flexible at various ranges. In a pinch, Versio can remove 4 total dice in a single round against 4 different attacks by burning through all your evades (typically against a mob of squadrons), which is pretty swell. Afterwards you can always use a squad command to throw a raid token at an offending enemy ship.
  • Commander Beck helps you sneak in the little token-strength commands you'd like (usually navigate and/or repair) when absolutely necessary and at a cheap cost.
  • Intel Officer is great for making a single big attack, usually your front arc + concentrate fire dial + External Racks, deliver. The only problem being how expensive he is. If you're leaning on your Raiders hard for damage or expect them to drop in solo against enemy ships, this could still be worth it. But otherwise, I tend to shy away from officers this expensive on such cheap ships.
Weapon teams
  • Ordnance Experts. This is the default weapon team upgrade and for good reason. Being able to reroll your black dice is nice against ships but it's horrific against squadrons with two black flak dice, improving your average damage from 1.5 to 1.88, very consistently generating two damage. For only 4 points, it's an extremely potent upgrade on Raiders and you need a very good reason not to use it.
  • Darth Vader boarding team. The cheapest way to deliver "I hate upgrades" Darth Vader to an enemy ship, but be careful. A Vader Raider (occasionally referred to as a "Vaider") draws a lot of fire because nobody wants their clutch upgrades discarded.
It's External Racks. Just give in to how good External Racks is on a Raider for 4 points. Being able to add 2 black dice to any close-ranged attack (squadron or ship) is phenomenal on such a cheap delivery system. Assault Proton Torpedoes or Assault Concussion Missiles can be a tempting replacement, especially if your commander is Screed. Now that APTs and ACMs exhaust to use and are cheaper, they're more competitive here - so long as you're using Ordnance Experts, you've got a 76% chance of triggering a black critical upgrade while attacking from your front arc when you use a concentrate fire dial to add a black die. That's not too bad at all, but I still consider External Racks the default for the most part.

Offensive retrofits
This slot has its uses if you're bringing a boarding team, but otherwise can be useful for specific types of squadron support. It should be noted Raiders are terrible carriers but they can host some upgrades that help your squadrons regardless.
  • Advanced Transponder Net. Only really appealing for very specific types of builds, namely Raiders flying in mixed flak/anti-ship support for lots of Heavy squadrons (like TIE Bombers or Decimators), ATN can have its place. Especially annoying with Instigator in such builds, as the engaged squadrons can't move or attack the Raider.
  • Reserve Hangar Decks. If you're bringing generic Swarm squadrons (and Raiders do enjoy being paired with basic TIE Fighters if you're going for a lower squadron investment as I explained earlier), you want all the sources of RHDs you can get. And for 3 points, Raiders are happy to deliver.
Cheap and cheerful
Ordnance Experts and External Racks
This is my default Raider-I that I run about most games. 52 points for a self-contained little corvette of equal-opportunity pain. Nothing else required, but you're welcome to add other bells and whistles if you like.

Vader Raider
Corvus, Iden Versio, Darth Vader boarding team, External Racks
The whole point of this build is to redeploy to go after the most annoying enemy upgrade/ship, live long enough to deliver Vader, and to throw a lot of black dice before dying or running away. You won't have the dice consistency from Ordnance Experts and you'll need to make sure to get a squadron token or dial to Vader on his special round, but the Vader Raider can be quite fun.

Squadron Murder Machine MkI
Ordnance Experts, Impetuous, Agent Kallus, Flechette Torpedoe
The Squadron Murder Machine takes its job very seriously and it's good at it. You will get your regular two attacks each turn plus the Impetuous additional attack against squadrons and if any of those attacks are directed against unique squadrons, Agent Kallus adds a die of any color (usually black unless a scatter ace in which case maybe blue) and then your Ordnance Experts can reroll any blank black dice and then you can spend a hit+crit die to toggle squadrons to activated with Flechette Torpedoes if you need to.

I'm particularly fond of the Squadron Murder Machine when you're able to move it in last on a given turn near an activated bomber group and then open up with it first thing next turn. With two 3-rerollable black dice barrages, you stand a very good chance of sniping Jan Ors out of a Rebel bomber group and anything you don't kill you stand a good chance of toggling to activated before you make your getaway (or, if it's safe, keep circling the cloud pouring flak in). The main downside of this build is it's expensive at 58 points and it's specialized against a fairly slippery prey that wants to be nowhere near it. When it works it's glorious but results for me have largely been mixed compared to more general-use Raider builds.

You can substitute out Kallus for Iden Versio if you want to give up offensive oomph for better squadron defenses.
Winner of the wave 7 "most improved" award!
The Raider-II is similar to the Raider-I with a few important differences:
  • Front arc trades out one black die for a blue die, bringing it to 3 blue + 1 black
  • Flak goes from 2 black dice to 1 black + 1 blue
  • Ordnance slot replaced with an ion cannon slot
The Raider-II was for many waves a pretty awful ship. It finally has enough upgrade support to make a decent ship, but you may still hear people say it's hopeless. Thankfully, it's not (anymore, anyways).

Raider-IIs fly a bit differently than Raider-Is; generally they're happy to do the "catch" trick but they're also quite content to harass enemy ships by taking advantage of their longer range, particularly on their Disposable Capacitors activation. Otherwise the difference between close range and medium range isn't huge (it's roughly 50% longer) but it can make a big difference in what you're able to go after and how viable it is to chase after and harass ships, depending on how aggressive you're willing to be. Against weaker targets, get in there, double arc, and make those black dice work for you. Against stronger targets, harass and stay out of the strong arcs.

The main downsides Raider-IIs have compared to Raider-Is are they don't have nearly the same average damage or burst damage ceiling (as they're dealing with 3-4 blue dice out the front for most attacks compared to up to 5 black dice and 2 blue dice with the 2-black-dice reroll from Ordnance Experts) and the upgrades required to get them working can make them a fair bit more expensive. That said, they're great for delivering blue crits and tend to expose themselves to less danger than Raider-Is, so you can get your points' worth out of them if you can keep them contributing for 2-3 rounds.

The same selection from the Raider-I, really. Iden Versio isn't quite as good when you're trying to avoid close range. I wouldn't recommend Intel Officer for a Raider-II as you don't do enough regular damage to really make it a tough choice for your opponent.There's an argument to be made for Officer Ozzel if you want to give your Raider-II a head start on sneaking into someplace inconvenient to drop a Disposable Capacitors shot on the enemy early round 2, and he's extremely cheap. Officer Ozzel + Corvus can get some stupid things done in terms of being places your opponent can't really prepare for.

Weapon teams
You'll want Weapon Battery Techs for triggering blue criticals consistently. Otherwise, there's a bit of a niche build with Ruthless Strategists, but this is the Weapon Battery Techs slot unless your commander can give you dice control, in which case leave it empty.

Offensive retrofits
This is the Disposable Capacitors slot and that's not a suggestion so much as a command. This upgrade does substantial things for the viability of Raider-IIs and needs to be included, period.

Ion cannons
You're looking for a blue critical upgrade that can mess with enemy ships and increase your otherwise mediocre damage output. There are a few blue critical options but Heavy Ion Emplacements is widely considered the most competitive choice unless you have an extremely good reason to choose something else. Up to 3 more shield damage on a crit is pretty amazing and its downside of having to exhaust to use isn't a problem when the Raider wasn't likely to get it to go off more than once a round (from the front arc) anyways.

Light artillery
Disposable Capacitors + Heavy Ion Emplacements + Weapons Battery Techs
As mentioned before, Disposable Capacitors and Heavy Ion Emplacements are a great combination on Raider-IIs, but you've got a lot relying on that blue crit showing up. That's where Weapons Battery Techs come in: pop the Disposable Capacitors and use a concentrate fire dial to go up to 4 total blue dice and a 93.8% chance of getting one or more blue crits. That's pretty reliable.

If you're using Screed or Vader for better dice control, you can do away with the Weapons Battery Techs to save 5 points if you like.

Squadron Murder Machine MkII
Impetuous, Agent Kallus, Ruthless Strategists 
Similarly to the MkI version, you're hoping to leverage Agent Kallus and the Impetuous title together as effectively as possible. The MkII gains some benefits in that it can trigger Ruthless Strategists for guaranteed extra damage one more time due to Impetuous and it benefits from Agent Kallus being able to be used against more targets due to the longer blue+black flak range. It suffers a bit compared to the MkI in that it does not get rerollable flak dice and it can't play around with Flechette Torpedoes, but those are the trade-offs.


  1. Gresat review, mate, many thanks for that and all the other stuff! Can the fan-base donate some beer through PayPal? :-)

    1. That may need to get added at some point, haha ;).

      Hey guys, John and I are drinking for free tonight due to our fat stack of Cannot Get Your Ship Out bucks, wooooo! :)

  2. I won the only Swedish regional in May 2016 with a 1xISD, 3xRaiders and 1x Demolisher list. They are excellent Squadron Deterrent, (They rarely get to shoot much at Squadrons with a good opponent, but they limit the space the Squads can move in.)

    I have found that when using them, you have to be at peace with the fact that 1 or 2 of them will die. They are cheap enough, that you can still win a 10-1 victory even with them dying. So as long as you trade efficiently, they are very useful.

  3. So you're saying that just because I own a Porsche I don't necessarily have to drive it 100mph everywhere I go?

    PS. Good article, extremely long but very good.

  4. Nice to see that someone else figured out that the raider is a good flotilla killer

  5. Squadron Murder Machine MkIII

    Raider I-class Corvette (44)
    - Impetuous (4)
    - Rapid Launch Bays (6)
    - Flight Commander (3)
    - Flechette Torpedoes (3)
    - Ordnance Experts (4)
    = 64 total points

    Squadrons (21/134):
    1x IG-2000B - IG-88B (21).
    Fly in drop off ig -88b at the end of your turn. Watch as anyone left over dies to flak.

  6. What are you thoughts on throwing Disposable Capacitors on a raider 1 for the approach. Give it a 3-4 die shoot when it would otherwise be doing nothing in particular

    1. I've actually given it a lot of consideration but I always find when I get to the end of building a fleet I just can't justify the 3 points there instead of elsewhere. If you give it a try for a few games, let me know how it goes!

    2. I’ve played a few games with them and they have done really well for me. Hav been flying two raiders with them along side Tarkin in Soverneing Cymoon with IF.

      They can fit really nicely in a gunline type fleet. You fly them speed 1-2 get that long range 3 die shot off with the Dcaps and con fire. Then you just up your speed with the token tarkin gives them to them fly into close range. That way they act as mini kittens for a turn. Its usually always 3 damage and that is amount where using defense tokens becomes a difficult choice, knowing that there is a bigger shot coming later (in this case an ISD)

      As such I would only recommend the upgrade with Tarkin, Thrawn, and Ozzie. A commander that can give them that speed change effect so they can dial in that con fire command and still be able to hump in from long to close. So if you are running one of those three commanders, I would recommend that you add it to your raider.

  7. Raider 2 with pdic? Does it lose too much on the barrage turn?

    Raider 2
    Agent k
    62 points of anti squadron sort of barrage capable?

    1. It's a bit too specialized at anti-squadron for my tastes and the D Caps are... fine? They don't seem to synergize with what it's trying to do.

    2. Basically pdic plus Instigator
      is the idea, dcaps add another element in the romodi fleet im sort of thinking about? Or is raider 1 Instigator the king?

    3. I'm not jazzed about a Raider that's super-specialized vs squads in general (as I noted in the article) but I know there's interest in such builds so I put builds out just in case, basically.

      If you want maximum mileage from Instigator I can see the combination with PDIC for rerolling hits but against bombers it's unlikely to save you (rerolls still result in damage 75% of the time against blue and black bomber dice and 62.50% of the time against red bomber dice) and I'd rather Minister Tua with Early Warning System to prevent the attack altogether by obstructing it.

      Again, though, the ship ends up being pretty pricey and tends to die against concerted effort and can have a hard time catching squads as they'll move perpendicular to it or hop over it where it can't just run them down.

  8. GCV + DCaps + Corvus on a Raider II and if you're going 2nd, you could put 2 double reds...when attack time comes, replace ACC/hit with the double, maybe a ConFire dial, for up to 5 damage + whatever shenanigan Ion upgrade you have. HIEs could be 8 damage. Going first? Add in the blank to the attack roll with no worries by running a Screed fleet. It's probably too many points to invest on a 4 hull ship with a niche game play option, but wow would that surprise your opponent or what lol.