Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Z95s: Baby's First Starfighter

So we wrap up our wave V squadron coverage with the cheapest starfighter squadron in the game, the Z95 Headhunter.  Hit the jump for a lot of scattered thoughts on it!
It's like you told a 5 year old who just saw Star Wars to draw you an X-wing.

So we have the card, and for 7 points, it's not bad! Mmm, tasty, tasty, faint praise!
It's actually not that bad, I promise!
So we get, just like TIE fighters:
  • Swarm! Reroll that dice, get the hits you need!
  • 3 attack dice against squadrons! More on this in a bit!
  • One dice (non-bomber) against ships! Don't use it unless you have to!
  • 3 Health! Oh dear me do they need friends to eat shots for them!
The difference between them and TIE fighters is stark, and it comes in 2 main points, each of which is going to need a paragraph of explanation.

First, they are speed 3.  Not 4.  You have ways of increasing their speed after a fashion (so many links!) but just by themselves, they aren't going to get the jump on anything.  And realistically, they don't really want to.  With swarm, they want a friend to go in first and take the shot to set them up as finishers with their 3 dice and swarm attack.  And the best friends are not just the ones that take the shot first, but they also take the shots back.  Which means they want an Escort.
Because we are somewhat family friendly, look, a Ford Escort! That's the only appropriate joke here!
No, I mean X-wings and YT-1300s.  You NEED them around to eat shots for your Z95s before they evaporate like paper tigers.
If you don't bring Escort friends in some fashion for them to work with, your Z95s are going to get jumped and shot and die, and then you basically just wasted points.  The beauty of the Escort fighters is that they both live through 2-3 shots of fire from your opponent's squadrons, and the YT-1300 can even return fire back with Counter!

Second, they have red dice as attack dice.  Blue dice have 4 sides with hits, and 2 with accuracies (the remaining 2 are crits, but they don't count against squadrons).  So you have 4/6 sides helping out your attacks, and that "slash 6" is whether or not you want/need the accuracies.  Great use against scatter aces, not so much against generics.  Red dice have 3 sides with JUST hits on them (never you mind that one of those sides is 2 hits, we'll get there), 1 accuracy side, 2 crits, and 2 blanks.  That basically means that 4 of those sides are useless, and realistically 5.  You should NEVER throw your Z95 against a scatter ace unless the scatter is gone OR you're going to attack the scatter ace with several other squadrons this turn.  With 1 side in 8, you CANNOT count on that accuracy happening when you need it.  Cannot.  Full stop, no ship getting out for you.
Reference the blog title, I will!
However, as previously mentioned, one of those 3 sides that actually counts has 2 hits on it.  So you can often get spikes of damage onto something that blow it apart.  Using the Z95s, I've rolled 4-5 hits on 3 dice several times.  They can spike like CRAZY, but you can also roll garbage like CRAZY too.  Weirdly, when going IN for the attack, you want a friend to come and hit the other squadron first to damage it and trigger swarm for you.  When you're in the furball, you potentially want the Z95 to fire first for the potential of that crazy spike of like 4-6 damage to one shot a TIE Phantom or Advanced or Rhymer.  NOTHING more demoralizing for your opponent than killing Rhymer with your 7 point squadron, so much fun.  They're very luck dependent.

Keep in mind with any plan that you NEED to push those Z95s, else you're wasting points and just letting yourself get shot.  Referencing the TIE commandments (wow, that brings us all back, doesn't it!), take a look below.
  1. Thou shalt not rush thy TIE Fighters into battle near enemy ships where flakking them is an easy decision.
  2. Thou shalt not allow enemy squadrons to get in the first attack against thy TIE Fighters unless there is a good reason
  3. Thou shalt not engage more enemies than necessary with any given TIE Fighter.
  4. Thou shalt concentrate fire on enemy squadrons to eliminate them before they can fight back.
  5. Thou shalt use squadron commands on TIE Fighters.
  6. Thou shalt disengage if possible with wounded TIEs.
  7. Thou shalt make use of obstruction.
  8. Thou shalt use thy TIEs alongside thy ships.
  9. Thou shalt prioritize using TIEs against squadrons, not ships.
  10. Thou shalt deploy TIEs to delay deploying thy real ships for as long as possible.
2 isn't fully applicable as you REALLY can't do much to attack other squadrons before they attack you, but you have a lot of ways of mitigating the damage they take/forcing other squadrons to get attacked first (Escorts, Gallant Haven).  See Eric's original article (linked again!) for better descriptions of these all, but using these as general advice is a very good way to start thinking about Z95s.
What the heck is he looking at?
So Lt. Blount continues the Armada trend of putting everyone on the Falcon in Jedi into the game.
I had scenes and everything!
They've made everyone on there into Armada, it's great!
Well, almost everyone.  Where's my Nien Nunb card, dangit!
He's basically the Z95 Howlrunner, with almost everything that entails.  Same defense tokens, same cost in relation to a basic squadron (doubled), and same incredible squishiness.  If you bring him, bring Escorts even more.  Your opponent is going to target Blount as much as they can to decrease the ability of your Z95s to do anything against him.  Make sure an X-wing or YT-1300 is nearby to help keep him alive, or else he gonna die.

His ability lets all your squadrons with Swarm reroll ANOTHER dice if desired.  Because of the way modifying the dice works, you can either reroll the same dice twice (if you don't like your first result) or reroll 2 different dice (individually, of course).  Note that he, JUST LIKE HOWLRUNNER, doesn't buff himself.  It's ANOTHER friendly squadron with Swarm.  Eric's points in the Howlrunner article apply here mostly as well.  Good to take Blount when you're running out of the ability to command squadrons.  Unlike Howlrunner, you really can't use his ability too defensively (as nothing Rebel with Counter has Swarm), but what he does is give you a much better chance of letting your Z95s actually hit and damage squadrons.

Fun fact: you know who else has Swarm? Dagger Squadron.  Not necessarily a reason to bring it, just pointing that out to you.

For a few more scattered thoughts on them, feel free to read THIS. 

How to Use Them
Most of the uses I've seen with Z95s fall into 2 categories with varying degrees of success, but I'm about to argue there's a third category.  The first and obvious one is the "I have somewhere between 125 and 127 points of squadrons and it works out to be an odd number."  You add in a Z95 to even out your squadron deployments, and it gets some work done during the game.  It's not the best thing ever, but we can't make up an entire team of All-Stars.  Not everyone gets to be Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, Aroldis Chapman, or Kris Bryant.  Miguel Montero contributed to the Cubs in 2016, too.
Heck yeah I'ma put that Grand Slam pic in here.
You treat the Z95 in this case like it's a fighter, but you don't let it get stranded by itself.  An X-wing and a Z95 can hurt some squadrons real good, and anything the Z95 gives you is basically gravy.  Don't expect too much out of him and you'll be fine.

The OTHER usual way I see people do things is to try to run about 14 Z95s and think "this will beat everything!" First, no it won't, they throw rocks at capital ships.  And not 2 rocks like a Phantom.  One rock. One non-rerollable rock.  Second, you need to command 14 Z95s somehow.  If only I had an entire series of posts that told you time and time again to command your squadrons to get the best use out of the non-Rogues!  They end up clogging up your opponent's squadrons, but they don't really DO anything/much against his ships.  You sure did blot out the sun with your Z95s, but that's all they did: blot.
So the third way (warning: conjecture ahead) that I can see to use them is to use them as a part of a more expensive SFC.  Put some GOOD escort friends in there who will stay alive and take some hits for them, and then you can send in a good chunk of them to throw damage out.

Example (61/67 points (depending on choice of X-wings and Z95s)):
2-3 X-wings/YT-1300s
Lieutenant Blount
3-2 Z-95s

If you can find a way to command 4 squadrons at a time, you can push one of the Escort squadrons, Lieutenant Blount, and 2 of the Z95s towards something, hitting those squadrons with a bunch of dice that swarm repeatedly.  Add in Flight Controllers and you can roll 3 red AND a blue, which that Blue is Toryn Farr-able! Or rerollable with Swarm! The remaining Escort squadron and Z95 (in some fashion, whatever 2 squadrons you have left) can then go engage a different side of the enemy fighter blob.  You can even add on 2 more Z95s for 14 points, less than the cost of one flotilla (but you then need to find a way to COMMAND 8 squadrons....).  Combine all these with say, Gallant Haven, and some GOOD defensive objectives, and you've got the Rebel version of an Interdictor list.

This is a lot of theoretical speculation, of course, though, as I usually have different goals for my squadron component than that.  If you REALLY want to go hard cheap on Z95s, you can, just realize that they won't provide anything better than a mediocre-ish speedbump that your opponent can potentially plow right over FAST (looking at you, existent Sloane lists....)  I will also state that Nathan Coda, Worlds winner, brainstormed something similar as a fighter defense force (tooting my own horn here that Nathan thinks my idea is competent, haha).

They're the only Rebel squadron that can use Reserve Hangar Decks, so if that's something you wanted to do, you can keep respawning them, but I'm not really ecstatic about doing this with a speed 3 squadron as opposed to a speed 4 Imperial one.  The one reason you might take them is that for 28 points you can have 2 deployments.  If that's worth it to you, go for it.
Come on down to Crazy Greeblax's House of Squadrons, get you a Z95!
The Z95 is not one I've used often, but it CAN get work done, IF you use it intelligently.  Give it a try, command them well, and you can get a very good imitation TIE swarm for the Rebel side.  Just know that because you've got a discount TIE fighter, it can end up with a discount TIE fighter's attacks and do 1, maybe 2 damage.  Or you can get the one that rolls 5 hits in 3 dice, either or.  In the words of Clint Eastwood, do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya? (Grimace face).

1 comment:

  1. I’ve used 3x z95’s, Lt. Blount, and an X-wing commanded by a assault frigate with flight controllers and Toryn Far. It makes for a nasty little ball and I’ve evaporated entire imp fighter groups in one go with it. Is it tier one...absolutely not but it is fun watching your opponent cry as your 7pt squads do 6 damage with an accuracy...