Sunday, December 20, 2020

Imperial squadron review: TIE Phantom

Wow, we're at the final wave 5 Imperial squadron much sooner than I anticipated! It's time to cover the TIE Phantom.

We've made all kinds of improvements, like changing the billiards ball to a soda can!
So why are they shooting at us if they're not supposed to know we're here?
The TIE Phantom is one weird squadron. You're looking at:
  • Speed 4, the same as a regular TIE Fighter or TIE Bomber.
  • 4 hull, which is a bit more generous than your usual TIE Fighter or TIE Interceptor, but still a bit on the fragile side - it's not going to live any longer than an A-Wing, and those aren't terribly difficult to destroy when faced with serious fighter opposition.
  • 4 blue dice anti-squadron: equivalent to an Interceptor but without Swarm, or slightly better than a regular TIE Fighter utilizing the Swarm reroll. You'll do on average 2 damage against enemy squadrons and you've got a 68.4% chance of producing 1+ accuracy results, which is fairly effective against enemy aces.
  • 2 red dice anti-ship (but not a Bomber). This is one of the most interesting elements of the TIE Phantom: it will on average do 1 damage when attacking a ship, but it's extremely swingy: 39% of the time, it won't do any damage at all when attacking; conversely, 28% of the time it will deal 2+ damage. You've even got a 1.6% chance of doing 4 damage, but don't count on it!
  • The Cloak keyword, which has some interesting applications.
  • 14 points. Here's where people typically lose interest. This is not a cheap squadron and is only 2 points shy of the more user-friendly TIE Defender.
So why, exactly should you consider using a TIE Phantom? Well, I'm not going to deny this is a tough question to answer. Effectively, you need to consider what exactly the TIE Phantom does better than a TIE Defender and whether it's worth making the switch-up to save 2 points.

First of all, let's discuss some of the fun times you can have with Cloak. The easiest demonstration of its use is the extension of threat ranges. Because the distance 1 portion of the distance ruler is the longest section, a speed 1 move followed by a speed 4 move later on is superior to a speed 5 move:
Behold my amazing MS Paint skills!
This means that the TIE Phantom is effectively the fastest overall squadron available to the Empire, even though it initially doesn't appear to be due to its base speed of 4. The improvement over speed 5 is not particularly large, but it is notable.

Cloak is useful for a lot more applications than simply extending your straight line movement. For example:
  • If your Phantom attacks an enemy near an obstacle, they can use their Cloak move to hop into an obstacle for obstruction at the end of the Squadron Phase, which will grant them obstruction until it's time to pounce next round.
    • Bonus points if you move onto the station with Cloak, which heals your TIE Phantom for 1 point of damage, as the Cloak move is a squadron move in every way.
  • Provided there's room to back away the full distance 1, Cloak allows you to disengage from enemy squadrons, even those in base-to-base contact (just barely). This gives you a few options:
    • A disengaged Phantom is able to pounce on a different more high-value enemy squadron next round. This is particularly helpful when trying to leapfrog over meat shield squadrons like X-Wings that want to stop you from punching out crucial support squadrons like Jan Ors.
    • A disengaged Phantom can also make a break for it if they're near death rather than being stuck in a dogfight they'd rather leave. Again, bonus points for running to the station to heal up and then heal again with next round's Cloak move so they can get back into it afterwards.
  • You can also use your Cloak move to push further in if you've blown through the tough fighter squadrons and want to engage and tie down the juicy weaker squadrons that were hiding behind them.
Basically, Cloak has a lot of context-dependent shenanigans available to it and shouldn't be overlooked or forgotten about. Otherwise, when using Phantoms against enemy squadrons, it's important to follow some of the basic principles I laid down in the TIE Fighter article about not biting off more than your Phantoms can chew. Try to engage only one enemy squadron at a time and you can use Cloak to pull back when enemies try to gang up on you or push forward as earlier targets are destroyed. Effectively, your Phantoms' main benefit over other squadrons is Cloak and their primary weakness is their low hull for their cost, so you need to use your positioning and Cloak to make up for your hull-weakness.

Speaking of hull-weakness, it's good to have a plan to address that. The most straightforward answer is to have an Escort squadron or two to tank attacks for your Phantoms to help carry them into the mid-to-late game where they do best: their surprising versatility of target selection can help mop up squadrons or go after ships, and with less squadrons around, using Cloak gets even easier. They also appreciate hanging out with other more dedicated fighter squadrons that can help mop up enemy fighters quickly before they cause too much trouble, and then the Phantoms can contribute anti-ship attacks later that those dedicated fighters typically struggle with.

Speaking of their anti-ship attack, it's a total crapshoot, as mentioned above in the bullet points. On average you're dealing 1 damage (the same as an unaided TIE Bomber) but it's extremely unpredictable how the attack will turn out. This is an obvious hindrance in that they don't produce a steady reliable stream of damage like TIE Bombers with a Bomber Command Center can, but the sneaky silver lining is your opponent is also in the dark as to what's going to happen. It can be difficult to prepare for, especially when multiple TIE Phantoms are attacking a ship. Suppose your flotilla is under attack from a TIE Phantom that rolled 2 damage. Is it worth scattering, knowing that a follow-up Phantom might roll 3 damage but also maybe 0 damage? It's a bit of a head game.

In short, I feel like TIE Phantoms have a place as part of a mixed squadron group. They're not the sort of squadron I would spam as the core of a squadron group, but a few mixed in can bring some interesting tech benefits with Cloak and build out your anti-ship (albeit a bit unreliably) without compromising much of your anti-squadron. Sloane in particular is keen on a few, as she helps even out their anti-ship attacks a bit and 4 blue against ace squadrons is likely to produce an accuracy for her ability.

"...pull my finger"
"Seriously, I can barely hear you because you whisper all the time and I'm not pulling your finger again!"
Okay so for 6 points over a regular TIE Phantom, Whisper gains the TIE Fighter ace token suite (scatter+brace) and her special ability. That's short and sweet because it's a potent upgrade. The TIE Fighter ace defense token suite on a 4 hull squadron is much better than on a 3 hull squadron (it still helps there, no doubt, it's just way better with 4 hull as your brace token stays relevant longer). When paired with Whisper's special ability, Whisper is extremely difficult to pin down and is extremely annoying. Whenever Whisper spends a defense token against an attack, she effectively gets a Cloak move immediately afterwards. She can keep on bamfing out of trouble provided she spends a defense token while defending against an attack. A few things to note about this:
  • This works against any attack, which includes enemy ships flakking her.
  • You can spend defense tokens even if they don't meaningfully affect the attack. Your opponent flubbed his dice roll and did 0 damage? Spend a brace token (0 halved rounded up is still 0) and then bamf away.
Whisper's inherent durability as a 4 hull ace with a brace and scatter gets substantially augmented by her special rule. Never underestimate how useful it is to get an impromptu Cloak move after defending against an attack. You can back out of threat range of other not-yet-activated squadrons or ships, you can duck onto an obstacle for obstruction, you can hop on the station to heal, you can hide behind a friendly Escort, etc. It's the kind of ability that seems all right until you play it and then it becomes clear how fantastic it is. For extra fun, pair her with Asteroid Tactics to keep bringing that brace token back!

Don't forget to also use her regular Cloak move at the end of the Squadron Phase. Sometimes I forget to Cloak move Whisper because I've already moved her several times earlier in the round and I figure I'm done. Nope!


  1. Worth also noting that Whisper can spend Defense tokens (like the Brace), *even when the enemy has done no damage*... Enemy ship fired at you with one blue and rolled an ACC? Brace, Move, Repair on Station...

    1. Yep, I covered it in the article ;). No worries, though, I'm honored Dras reads the blog!

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

    1. It's a promising if somewhat unreliable combination. You'd still want some Escorts to run interference for them, and TIE Advanced don't really jive great with Sloane (she doesn't help them at all against ships, for example). I haven't gotten around to testing it out for myself just yet, but I've heard tentatively optimistic murmuring here and there about it. I'd give it a try if you were interested!

  3. 1.) Thank you for your answer.
    2.) It would be very interesting for me to here about your experiences with a Sloan Phantom combo.