Sunday, December 20, 2020

Imperial squadron review: TIE Defender

Continuing our wave 5 Imperial squadron reviews, we have reached the TIE Defender.

Okay so hear me out, what if TIE Fighters had an extra wing and also its wings were each two triangles and those triangles had lasers?
Back in the EU, TIE Defenders were basically the King Tiger tank of the Empire: just about the best at everything they did, but substantially over-engineered and ridiculously expensive. One-on-one you certainly didn't want to tangle with one, but strategically, the Empire would've been better off devoting the same resources into producing tons of conventional fighters rather than a super-engineering vanity project.

In Armada, they're similar. The points cost can be problematic but one-on-one they're probably the best generic squadron in the game, which is thematically fitting. Let's move right along...
Beware the flying billiards ball!
TIE Defenders are packing some top-notch stats for a generic squadron. In particular, the blazing-fast speed of 5 attached to a high hull value of 6 and a strong anti-squadron attack are otherwise unknown in Armada - normally, your speed 5 squadrons are lighter craft designed primarily as anti-squadron interceptors (like TIE Interceptors or A-Wings), but the TIE Defender is more of a deluxe anti-squadron asset with some backup bombing utility. In that regard, it's like an Imperial X-Wing on steroids, although it's not a team player (no Escort).

The TIE Defender was initially received with much rejoicing by the subset of Imperial players who hate TIE Fighters. The TIE Defender "solves" a lot of the TIE Fighter problems by being much more durable (twice the hull!), its attack dice aren't dependent on exploiting Swarm, and adds some flexibility in being able to attack ships due to Bomber. To some extent the TIE Defender is still made for these particular players, as it largely ignores a lot of the Imperial squadron design philosophy by presenting a squadron that's great to okay at everything. So why not just take tons of Defenders in every list?

The answer to that question is "Defenders are really expensive." Every TIE Fighter ace and TIE Bomber ace is the same cost or cheaper than a generic TIE Defender squadron, to put it in perspective. If you want a fighter and a bomber, a TIE Fighter and TIE Bomber (appropriately) come out to 17 points, just a bit more than a single Defender, and combined do a better job. To put a fine point on it: Defenders are a bit weak when it comes to damage output for their cost when compared to their more specialized aggro-focused TIE cousins: TIE Fighters and Interceptors do much better anti-squadron damage for their cost - the TIE Interceptor with a Swarm reroll does nearly the same average anti-squadron damage as a TIE Defender but for 5 points cheaper and gains Counter 2 and you can bring a pair of TIE Fighters for every TIE Defender. The black dice on the Defender improve its average anti-squadron damage up to 2.5 overall but they're not much help if you're going after scatter aces and only your 2 blue dice can have a shot of shutting down the scatter (a 44% chance, to be precise).

The Bomber keyword can also be deceiving - TIE Defenders do a single damage against a ship 75% of the time, improving to a 94% chance of doing 1 damage if you've got a Bomber Command Center around. For a 16 point squadron, that's not amazing, getting left in the dust by cheaper dedicated bombers. The Defender, much like the X-Wing it was designed to outperform, isn't really much of a dedicated anti-ship squadron despite the Bomber keyword.

So I've torn down the Defender, let's build it back up. It's still 6 hull. It's still 5 speed. It weathers counterattacks better than your flimsy 3-hull fighters and it tolerates going after a range of targets better than almost any of your other generic options, even if it's mediocre at best against ships. For this reason, TIE Defenders are valuable additions to a squadron group in a few circumstances:
  • You've hit your fleet's squadron command ceiling and instead of adding additional generic fighter squadrons you won't be able to command (initially, anyways), you'd rather spend the points to upgrade them to the deluxe package.
  • Your squadron group is very aggressive and you intend to be fighting it out while also being flakked by enemy ships. The Defender's 6 hull and speed 5 assist with both the alpha strike and surviving flak, where your usual 3-hull fighters would just melt.
  • You simply want a somewhat-versatile squadron to assist the aces you're already using.

Defenders' stock has gone up in Armada 1.5 now that you're ace-limited, so give them another look when making your new squadron groups. Just please supplement them with other squadrons to compensate for their shortcomings.

Autographs are 10 credits, kid. I better not see this on space eBay!
For 5 points over a regular Defender, Maarek Stele gains:
  • A neat special ability
  • Grit
  • 2 brace tokens
  • an extra blue anti-ship die
Which is to say quite a lot, actually.

Maarek's special ability is quite potent as it allows him to "fix" blue accuracy dice rolled against a ship to a critical icon and can improve his black anti-squadron dice when they roll blank(by flipping to the hit+crit side). This improves his average damage against ships to 1.94 average damage, which is a huge increase over the 0.75 of a regular Defender and better even than heavier anti-ship squadrons like Firesprays and generic Decimators. It also improves his average damage against squadrons to 2.94, which is a mild improvement over the default Defender's 2.5. It should also be noted that Maarek's special ability works whenever he attacks, so if he's given an extra attack by his BFF, Colonel Jendon, his ability applies to both attacks!

Grit is also not to be overlooked, as it can allow you to reposition and attack or to chase after ships more easily once the enemy squadron presence has been thinned out a bit. It comes in handy here and there and it's not infrequently forgotten about until suddenly it makes a big difference.

In short, Maarek Stele is one of the best squadrons in the game, with a good argument to be made for being the very best squadron in the game. He's not cheap, but for a moderate cost increase over a regular Defender he makes the basic chassis far more effective against ships (making it a very potent anti-everything squadron) and the two brace tokens make those 6 hull points go even further.

Don't make me destroy you dot dot dot

John here, popping in for a quick write up! Darth Vader, the Imperial ace out of Rapid Reinforcements I, is a bulldozer disguised as a squadron.  He hits HARD; I've experienced him wipe Jan Ors in one shot when I overexposed her. He suffers somewhat from the "where am I taking Vader" problem that plagues Imperial fleet design, but THIS squadron version is well worth an inclusion (see ya later,  TIE Advanced version....).

With his ability, you're going to want him ace hunting; geniques (Gold, Black) especially, but he loves hunting down SharaJan Ors, Maarek, Clone Anakin, and other linch pin aces.  He puts out damage from the black die, but you're going to be incredibly luck dependent trying to get those accuracies to lock down a scatter ace.  Adept MAY make up for that, but Flight Controllers and actually CONTROLLING him (I'm aware he has Rogue, yes) may result in a better chance of that accuracy.

With Rogue, he doesn't allow you to spend accuracies under Sloane, but that isn't saying "Don't take him with her." Again, dude PUNCHES. He DOES need an escort friend or two, as his token suite isn't strong him enough to keep him alive from sustained fire.  He also doesn't have Grit, like our friend Maarek above, so he can't escape too easily if caught.  Generic X-wings with a nearby Hera can cause some major trouble for him for sure.  His bomber ability and Adept generally means you don't need Bomber Command Center, as he'll fix his own dice as he fires.

Vader fits in great in an MFC or LFC, and is almost an auto-include at this point.


  1. Great review, as always on this site. I really enjoy reading these.

    In a sea of idiotic and information-poor youtube videos, reading someone's article about the game is really refreshing. Keep up the good work.

  2. hi!
    what are your thoughts on sloan and defenders?

    1. It's okay, but not amazing. The main benefit is anything that the Defender rolls when attacking a ship does something, but it means you're spending points on the crit reroll Sloane ability and generally not using it much. Defenders are also expensive and the TIE Fighter aces are as expensive or cheaper, and they're often better with Sloane. Only 2 blue dice against squadrons means you're not as likely to mess with ace defense tokens either.