Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Know Your Enemy/Commander's Corner: Jun Sato

So I've been somewhat lazy and somewhat trying to ignore this, but it's time to get through Wave 5 (especially now that wave 6 is revealed....) with the Rebel Commander, Jun Sato
His frustration echoes mine when I often try to play him!

The Card!
Where in the world IS Carmen San Diego??
So, his ability means that if you get a squadron near a ship, you can throw different dice.  Better dice! STRONGER dice! Meaner dice!

What does that actually mean though?
Red dice can become blue or black (more likely black).
Blue dice can become black or red (again, more likely black).
Black dice should stay black dice, don't be dumb.
Pants become shorts!
Remember, though, only 2 dice get to change.  You can't change your whole output of dice, just two.
Well, they actually CAN change less if they want, but.... why?
You also need to have a squadron within distance 1 of a ship.  I imagine a lot of this reason is because in the Rebels TV show, Hera and Phoenix Squadron keep hitting ships (And to be fair, losing pilots....).  As soon as you lose your squadrons, you lose your Commander's ability.... almost like Konstantine and medium ships!  Protect your squadrons and make sure you're not wasting them for your attacks.

Why Play Him
The best reasons to play him are that he makes your ship attacks stronger.  Black dice have a better expected damage output (1/dice) than blue dice (0.75) or red dice (0.75), so you're likely going to want to switch whatever 2 you have FOR black dice (makes sense, especially with everything you can do with crit effects from black dice and all).

The less smartly strategic but much more fun plan is that you can use different ships to get black crit effects from long range.  We'll get there, but triggering APTs from red range is AMAAAAAAZING.  What he can ALSO do is turn your generally lighter carrier dice (Nebulon front of Yavaris, Pelta, Assault Frigate) into much deadlier damage..... provided you roll it.

I've been ignoring/not addressing it, but my problem with Sato before Wave 6 is this: if you bring a ship that you can't put Ordnance Experts on (or get a reroll of some sort...), any black dice you roll (and for the most part, like I said, you're going to want black dice) are entirely dependent on your roll.  We'll talk about mitigating some of this in the Builds/Common Ships section below, but it's always seemed to me to be a difficult setup to just get 2 black dice in place of your normal role.  No lie, a CR90 rolling 2 black dice out the front and 2 out the side with a concentrate fire order is great! Sometimes it rolls 8 total damage! Sometimes you roll 2 total, and you curse the fact that you didn't put TRCs on it and play a different commander instead.  The downside to Sato is that a lot of the cheaper ships with turbolaser slots have ways of fixing red dice turbolasers, but no way to fix black dice.  We'll get to that below, too.
Always two (blank sides on black dice) there are. No more, no less.  I'm done with that joke now.
There's also the issue I have where an Evade token just sends that black hit+crit right out the airlock, which is... frustrating to play against, that's for sure.  The further downside is that most of the Rebel ships (Everything but the MC80s basically) have an Evade, as does every Small ship in the Imperial fleet (so not the Quasar, VSD, or ISD).  Do your opponents use small ships in their fleets? They DO? Well who would have thought that would happen, making Sato's job slash landing crits harder?
Sarcasm! That's original!

Overload the defense tokens (especially that Evade) by focusing your fire on 1-2 ships at a time.  Don't splash your damage around, it's not going to do anything for you when they just Evade it.  I will also admit that it gets aggravating when you roll a black dice and either get a blank or just a single hit.  I know we all WANT the black dice to come Hit+Crit every time, but that's not how they work (short of microwaving your dice.  Don't..... don't do that).  So you really can't tell if he's helping you as much, what with 4 of the red dice sides (the 2 basic hits and the 2 crits) being of equal or better value at hitting ships and 6/8 blue dice sides the same.  The thing you have to keep in mind is that you have a better chance of getting damage out of the dice you're rolling (6/8 black dice sides have stuff, which is better than the 5/8 reds and equal to the 6/8 blues).  He's not as immediately able to tell how useful he is, but if you can get Monty Sato's Flying Circus going, it'll start to sing and you'll be blowing apart ships in no time.  Just give him time until you start playing him well.
Oh, I'm a Nebulon and I'm OK, I squad all night and I sleep all day....

Common Ships Seen With Him
Before we talk common SHIPS, we gotta talk common squadrons.  Sato's ability is based around squadrons, so only taking 2 of them is dumb.  You're going to need at least 6, and potentially even more.  Who do you normally see with him?
Tycho, Shara, A-wings, or YT2400s and Lancers.
You want fast, you want hitting your opponent's ships.  The benefit of all these guys is that they both can hurt your opponent's squadrons and throw black dice at the ships.  Lancers (and Dash) are the only ones with Bomber, but every black dice you throw is more potential damage (one damage is almost as good as another).  Tycho's ability to extricate himself from damage is always helpful, especially when you need him near some other ship to hit it hard.  I've definitely considered running Sato with Tycho and 7 YT-2400s and just starting from there.  Something to consider for the future.

X-wings, Y-wings, B-wings - You go heavy bomber and you hit your opponent's ships HARD.  Nothing better than following up a bunch of squadron bomber attacks with Bomber Command Center that you then follow up with more black dice they don't want to take (you need Flight Commander to do this properly, of course).  Scurrgs could go here too, but you're throwing your squadrons generally out pretty far to hit things from red range.... which means I usually like having squadrons that can (if necessary) defend themselves.  Speaking of launching your squadrons out far....

I don't want to say I consider them mandatory, but they end up getting put into more builds of mine than I would have initially expected.  Besides the ever present "having your squadrons extended farther than you'd normally have them," the other thing the VCXs do is help you with your objectives.  You're rolling 2 dice, generally black, at hopefully long range.  As I said above, those dice sometimes roll blank.  Luckily, Targeting Beacons exists.  So you can wing black dice at long range and then reroll them, so long as you have a squadron in range 1 of the ship.  The VCX exists here to both move the token and paint your opponent's ship as a target.  Which... then means you end up with blue and yellow objectives that manipulate strategic (I generally like Salvage Run and Hyperspace Assault myself, but my Sato list is still a list in development).  If you build Sato with VCXs, you need other squadrons that can hurt your opponent's ships and/or squadrons, even if you build cheap.  If you use Targeting Beacons with Sato, your opponent if he's smart will see what's in store for him and generally not choose it.  Ackbar has Advanced Gunnery, Sato gets Targeting Beacons.  Practice with your yellow and blue objectives!

Speaking of building! There's effectively 2 ways of building Sato: cheaper (4-6 A-wings to get close and paint the target) or heavy (you build a bomber list with 134 points and a mess of carriers and carrier friends).  I can't say which is better or not, I don't play Sato enough (I've been focusing on Store Championships.... which we'll get a post-tourney article, probably one from me and one from Eric, about after it happens next weekend!).
Me prepping my ships to fight the Imperial war machine this Saturday
Han Solo? Eh, not terrible, but he's 26 points, so while his ability can let you paint a target no one expected at the start of the turn, you can do it for 10 points cheaper with Tycho.  So.... I'm unsure.  There's a fair amount of this article that turns into a "Here be dragons" thing, which I apologize for.  I WANT Sato to work, but up until Wave 6 I've had issues doing it, so I haven't played much with him.

Anyways, the ships, the meat of this section.
Assault Frigates: Yes, the often overlooked Assault Frigate is great with Sato.  Command 2-3 squadrons to go hit your opponent's ships, then wail on them with Black dice.  For even more added fun, add in Ordnance Experts.  You don't get to gunnery team, but when you throw 2 black dice from your front and side each, it's pretty great and makes up for it.  Also cheaper, so you save points.

MC30 Scout Frigates: Red dice become black dice, allowing you to throw 2 dice with APTs/ACMs at long range.  And isn't that what we all dream of doing?
My dream, your nightmare.  Whatever.

Peltas: You're going to need to push squadrons somehow.  The Assault Pelta can take an Ordnance upgrade, and you can turn those reds into blacks (a common theme here!) and toss them from downtown.  The Command Pelta can let you push those squadrons all over the map, wrecking face as you do it.

CR90As: 2 red out the front becomes 2 black, and concentrating fire lets you get another 2 out the side.  If you do this, i would say that using Dual Turbolaser Turrets may become a much more necessary choice in order to mitigate the inevitable blank roll.  Your opponent won't ALWAYS pick Targeting Beacons for you.  I have heard of them run naked, though, just to save points for them all.

Nebulon Bs: 3 red becoming a red and 2 black is greaaaaaaaaat! Until you roll like garbage and get literally zero hits on your 1 red dice, 1 red dual turbolaser turret dice, and all 3 of your black dice when you concentrate fire.  This may or may not have been a true story and may have almost caused me to throw Salvation off the table.  And yes, Salvation's ability means that the black hit+crit side IS 3 damage total.  Just... blanks happen, and it sucks.  Again, you can't force your opponent to take Targeting Beacons, so... good luck?

Hammerheads: This is all conjecture, but man, that Torpedo Hammerhead sure looks sweet, right? Put Task Force Organa on there and concentrate fire.  You've got 2 red (you mean black!) dice at long range, and you might even feel crazy enough to try including APTs or ACMs on the hammerheads as well.  You can put Task Force Antilles on them, instead, and add in Ordnance Experts to ensure you're always getting the reroll, but it's getting expensive here (I'm not necessarily saying that's a bad idea, though...).  This section hits more of that "Here be dragons," as we ALL need play experience with the Hammerheads before we can say if they're good or not.

MC80s: This is a "kinda?" section.  I've heard of using Star Cruisers with him and switching out 2 of the red dice for blue dice.  With SW7s that's 6 damage coming in at your ship, no matter what you roll.  That hurts a LOT of small ships, especially if you have XI-7s on there too.  You can also use him to manipulate a H1MC80 and get you Leading Shots dice even if your opponent is only at long range from you.  I haven't tried them, but they are certainly fun tricks you can try out.

Anything He Doesn't Like?
MC30 Torpedo Frigates, CR90Bs.  You CAN turn blue dice into black dice, but why not spend a few more points and turn red dice into black dice?

The other not-as-commonly seen ships are the MC80s.  Not because of any not-workable reason, but mainly price point when you already need a decent squadron presence to use him.  It's harder to justify, but not impossible.  It's your build, and several commenters on our blog have suggested builds to me (why they're in the Builds section above!) but just know they are points heavy in an already crowded list.

How Do I Fight This Guy
"Cause I'm wannnnnnnnnnnnnted, dead or aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive." No, just dead.  All the dead.
Kill his squadrons.  No Squadrons means no Sato ability means it's a wasted 32 points with ships that probably are all upgraded with the assumption that your opponent is going to be rolling black dice.  Dead squadrons means an unhappy Rebel player.  If the squadrons are dead, Ordnance Experts on the Assault Frigate is a wasted 4 points.  Failing THAT, prevent his squadrons from landing near your ships if you can, and try not to land near HIS squadrons when you're moving.  IF ONLY SOMEONE HAD WRITTEN A BUNCH OF STUFF ABOUT RUINING YOUR OPPONENT'S SQUADRON PLAY!

If your opponent chose a build with Strategic objectives and squadrons, use your own to move the tokens far away so they don't affect you.  Or kill his Strategics first, of course.  The rest of his ships aren't as defensive as Mothma/Cracken or as deadly in their side arcs as Ackbar.  Generally, the way I've seen him used is to have your ships all gang up on one substantial (re: non-flotilla) ship to take it off the board FAST (which also hopefully gives him activation advantage, of course).  Try not to deploy or run into where you're going to face 3-5 ships worth of black dice from red range on round 2, else you gonna die.
I can't stress "Don't deploy across from 3 deadly ships" enough here.

Other than that, of course, I see him even less than I play him.  A lot of "Here be dragons" in this part, too, and I apologize for that.  If anyone has any other tips for fighting against him, please let me know.

Final Thoughts
Sato is a Commander that I will fully admit I haven't figured out yet.  His ability is good, it just takes a bit of time to set him up before you can start knocking down Imperial ships.  With the arrival of the Hammerheads (just like in the show!), I aim to try him out a lot more and see what I can do to get him to work for me.  A lot of this post will get updated as Wave 6 goes on and I try to get more experience with him..... but Leia is calling me, too.  Well, I INTEND to get more experience, haha!


  1. He was looking pretty sweet on the initial reveal before the "nerf" (when the replace effect was also an informed reroll). If you compare the dmg buff he gives compared to ackbar, I feel like he was costed with that original design in mind. He would've certainly been beastly, but I don't think it wold be overpowered.

    1. The first image didn't have that "before rolling attack dice" clause I mean.

    2. i think the reason he's up there is because black dice CAN roll 2 damage sides, you just need to ensure you're putting in the best way of doing so. OE, Task Force Organa, etc.