Sunday, December 20, 2020

Imperial squadron review: VT-49 Decimator

We're trucking right along through the Imperial wave 5 squadrons, which brings us to what is effectively a well-armed Imperial space truck, the VT-49 Decimator!

The segue was as bad as this picture is sweet!
It's an alternate reality evil Millennium Falcon because of course it is.
The base VT-49 Decimator is bringing a lot of stuff to the party and it's a little difficult to keep it all straight without your eyes crossing a little bit. So to break it down piece by piece, we get to my one true love, bullet points:
  • Speed 3. The Decimator is on the slow side for an Imperial squadron but not drastically so (speed 3 is much easier to make use of than sluggish speed 2, especially for Imperials).
  • 8 hull. This is an astounding amount of hull and is the highest amount of hull available to any squadron, period. It's not invincible by any means but it takes some serious work to destroy it and it's nearly impossible to destroy with ship flak alone.
  • 3 black anti-squadron dice. This will produce an average of 2.25 damage when attacking squadrons and can't ever produce accuracy icons. As an individual attack it's decent but it can struggle against scatter aces (who will just scatter and ignore it) and for the 22-point cost it's at best mediocre against squadrons.
  • 3 blue anti-ship dice. This will produce an average of 1.5 damage when attacking ships, which is pretty decent. It produces the same average damage against ships as a Firespray for 4 more points. Because it's not a Bomber, you'll never count crit icons for damage or resolve critical effects, but with 3 blue dice you handle obstruction very well (only losing 1/3 of your dice instead of losing 1/2 like a Firespray or your entire attack like a TIE Bomber or TIE Defender).
  • Counter 1. It should be noted that Counter dice are always blue (I've seen people claim it's black due to the anti-squadron attack being 3 black, but that's wrong). This means when attacked by another squadron, the Decimator has a 50% chance of dealing the attacker 1 damage. That's not amazing by any means but it certainly helps a little bit.
  • Heavy is never a positive trait to have. Decimators engage enemy squadrons but that engagement doesn't stop them from attacking ships or leaving. We'll talk about this a little bit more later.
  • Rogue. Rogue is always handy to have and it makes the Decimator less of a burden to squadron command. Given its high hull, the Decimator is usually fine activating in the Squadron Phase, but don't be shy about giving it a squadron command when necessary.
  • 22 points. Oof. When your generic squadron is more expensive than nearly all other ace squadrons, you can't just throw this thing in for the fun of it.
When you smoosh all these attributes together you get an expensive but durable and self-sufficient squadron that can perform a variety of roles but prefers to attack enemy ships over squadrons. The Heavy keyword and the Decimator's anti-squadron armament make the Decimator a mediocre asset against squadrons.

In particular, I find the Decimator is best compared to the Firespray, as they're somewhat similar. Effectively for +4 points over a Firespray, the Decimator is:
  • The same speed (3)
  • +2 hull
  • Upgrades 3 blue anti-squadron to black (1.5 damage versus 2.25, but can't generate accuracy icons)
  • Same average damage against ships (1.5), although the Firespray does this through being a 2-blue-dice Bomber and the Decimator just does it through 3 blue dice without Bomber.
  • Both are Rogues
  • Decimator is Heavy and has Counter 1
So when to choose one over the other? My general recommendation is that Firesprays are superior when you're more committed to bombing and willing to invest in bombing support: they benefit from a Bomber Command Center nearby (their average damage against ships improves to 1.92) and they're more cost-effective as bombers. Decimators are better as more all-around squadrons that can be tacked on to light fighter coverage groups or medium fighter coverage groups (usually "upgrading" them to the next level in terms of points expenditures) in small doses. The Decimators want more conventional squadrons around to handle enemy squadrons (as they themselves are Heavy and can struggle against scatter aces) but don't mind contributing their 3 black dice to the party until they're available later to go after ships. They're also great Swarm nodes as they can tank a fair number of attacks and engage a few enemy squadrons without too much trouble and generally make unappealing targets (8 hull and Counter 1? Oof). Decimators are also preferable to Firesprays when flak-focused ships are running wild in your meta, as those 2 more hull points can let them survive about one more round.

Decimator spam is an option and does fine in metas without a lot of squadrons because flak alone tends to struggle to drop 8 hull squadrons, but it's a gamble. Decimators just don't handle enemy squadrons very efficiently and you'll struggle against a serious squadron group that knows how to dogfight. It'll take a while to kill all the Decimators no doubt, but with all the squadron force multipliers available in most Heavy Squadron builds, your Decimators will get stuffed sooner or later. They also won't stop enemy bombers from attacking your ships due to Heavy (unless you brought along Advanced Transponder Network).

"I got this, bro."
/Chariots of Fire begins playing in the background/
So for 5 more points, Morna Kee gains three main benefits over a generic Decimator:
  1. Loses Heavy. This is a big deal at 8 hull and with Counter 1.
  2. Gains one brace token. This is unreliable against sufficient numbers of blue dice (as there's just the one), but it's definitely better to have than not. Especially with 8 hull.
  3. Gains an ace special ability which I'll discuss below.
Morna Kee's special ability is rather neat and it comes with two components. First of all, when she's attacking she may spend a defense token to reroll any number of dice in her attack pool. This applies to any attack she makes, so it can work on her anti-squadron attack, anti-ship attack, or even a Counter 1 attack if necessary. This improves her average damage as noted below:
  • Anti-squadron improves from 2.25 to 2.81 (25% improvement)
  • Anti-ship improves from 1.5 to 2.25 (50% improvement!)
  • Counter 1 improves from 0.5 to 0.75 (50% improvement, but... come on, really?)
In short you'll note that the damage boost is most significant against ships. 2.25 damage from one low-maintenance squadron every attack adds up.

The second component of Morna Kee's special ability is whenever she activates, she regenerates her discarded brace token (if it's been discarded). This can allow for more aggressive usage of the reroll function of her special ability but it needs to be noted that this only triggers when she activates. Depending on what your opponent's squadrons are up to (and what kind of dice they throw at you) and how you want to use the possible reroll and when you expect her to activate, this ability is potentially quite powerful but can be a trap. If you overuse this ability, you'll find her defense token vanishes on round X and then it won't come back until the Squadrons Phase of round X+1 (as you wait to use her Rogue keyword); in the meantime, enemy squadrons can beat down Morna Kee as though she was a regular Decimator. That's bad. Conversely, if you underuse her ability, you're leaving a lot of potentially nasty rerolls on the table for fear of exposing her to too much danger. The best method to thread this needle is to keep a squadron token handy. If it looks like Morna is in for some bad times, you can activate her early if necessary to bring that token back.

In general, I consider Morna a great 5 point upgrade to a Decimator. She removes the problem with Heavy, her reroll ability is fantastic, and a brace token on an 8 hull squadron is pretty swell (even if it's a bit unreliable). The main issue is 27 points on a single squadron is more than I'm usually spending on a Gozanti, so she can't be casually added to a fleet. If you're going to bring Morna, however, I strongly recommending bringing Colonel Jendon too, as doubling her up is fantastic and can produce a lot of self-sufficient anti-ship damage.


  1. Great article.
    I've played a "swarm" of 3 Decimators + Morna Kee, running with Vader and Dengar. I almost wiped out the 134pts of rebel squadrons, lead by Rieekan : Biggs, Luke, Wedge, Dutch, and other Y-Wings and B-Wings.
    I was impressed by their efficiency in anti squadron attacks. No scatter in the Rebel ranks. The Rebels spent most of their anti squadron attacks in the second round on Morna, they killed her, but only her... then they dealt with the VT49 swarm and Vader. Then Vader has been killed... VT-49 still on combat.
    The rebel told me the VT-49 totally disturbed its strategy, he wondered : "should I use my bombers to target the ISD and let the swarm of VT-49s wipe out my squadrons, or I lose most of my strength against them for a bad result..."
    Each time I played VT-49, I noticed that the ennemy usually chose to ignore the VT-49. To destroy Morna Kee, he wasted about 6 squadron attacks on her. They spend too many attacks on them for only 22pts or 28 for Morna.

    And... I had Dengar... Imagine the potential of the VT-49 swarm : Counter 2

  2. Valen Rudor might work pretty well with Decimators. Valen keeps the enemy squadrons in place AND forces them to kill all Decimators before doing anything else with their squadrons (unless they have intel)

    1. Yep, I mentioned that in the TIE Fighter aces article that he works in the way you describe with Heavy squadrons:

      The main issue there being you ideally don't want your Decimators stuck fighting squadrons, as they're not great at it for their points cost (they'd rather be going after ships if they can, they don't mind punching squadrons for a round or two but anti-ship attacks are more their thing). If you're looking for a high-hull Heavy squadron that wants to be attacking enemy squadrons, the YV-666 is a better fit but that speed 2 is tough to play around (likely needing the Squall title on a Quasar).

  3. New player here, so I'm years behind the curve. Does Morna Kee's token come back readied or exhausted?

    1. Unless the effect says otherwise, defense tokens come back readied.