Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Know Your Enemy/Commander's Corner: Leia Organa

I am disgruntled.  

Hi, John! I'm the call and response questionnaire that will let you address the audience! Why are you so disgruntled?

I WAS having a pleasant Friday. Work is going well, I got to see the reveal of the new Wave 7 Commanders and new ISDs for my Imp friends, I see we Rebels have a ship of some type coming out (seriously FFG, where's my news? And can you give me the secret list that will let me win Worlds and get to design a Commander card like JJ did to get Thrawn? I'm not sure WHAT the Rebel leader I have will get, but it'll be great, for realsies)

I was reading the forums on a break and then I saw it, several times.
"Thrawn is clearly better than Leia."
"Leia is overcosted and not good."
"Leia's a bad Commander."
Oh, it is ON, NOW!
Let's calm John down a minute and ask him to show us the card!
The red diamond is where she's wrecking your face at
So she is in ESSENCE a Raymus Antilles for ALL your ships, provided it's the only command you do that turn. What Leia does is turns your ships from good at their abilities and appropriately costed for what they CAN do into great murder monsters that are worth FAR more points than what they're able to.  Let's talk Engineering for a second.  When you have an Engineering value of 2, like CR90s, flotillas, and Hammerheads, to repair damage you need both a token and a dial normally.  That's a turn of setup followed by the actual engineering command itself, by which time you're usually DEAD.  Not helpful.  Leia says "Here, engineering 3 for this round.  That crit that's bugging you? Gone." A Nebulon heals a shield (generally side) AND repairs a damage.  Solid work.

When you navigate with a lot of the Rebel small ships, there's several times where you want to be at speed 1, and then you want to be at speed 3 running AWAY from pie that ISD in your front arc.  Much like in Empire Strikes Back, you need to scoot around that ISD (hopefully Admiral Ozzel is on it after it got hit with an ion cannon blast...).  You CAN jump if you have the token... but what if you needed that squadron token last round to push an extra guy?  Leia lets you jump 2 speeds, taking you straight from "firing and messing with the enemy speed" to "get the heck outta Hoth speed."
Make sure to make a "woop woop woop" Zoidberg noise as you scoot on by.
The squadrons amount is nice.  Throwing 3 squadrons from a flotilla (4 if you stick Expanded Hangar Bays on it) is a great way to get the jump on your opponent.  Even more fun is throwing 2 squadrons from a Hammerhead or CR90 with Leia.  No one ever sees it coming, and it's just fun when your opponent thinks he's NOT about to get 2 A-wings upside his head. We've been pushing 2 squadrons from flotillas for so long, you know it's worth it.  When you can push 2 squadrons from another ship that doesn't look like it's able to do so? Even more fun.

And as anyone who has played them can tell you, Nebulon B's can be either your greatest friend or your most hated enemy.  When you concentrate fire from Salvation, the ability to know BEFORE you roll that you can reroll one of your dice is so freeing.  You still sometimes roll a blank into a blank, but with Quad Battery Turrets on it, you have 2 blue dice (you DIDN'T add a blue dice with concentrate fire? .....why not?) and 3 reds, one rerollable (or if you use Linked Turbolaser Towers, 4 total red, 2 rerolls as needed).  If Toryn is nearby, you can reroll one of the blues, too! Smoothing out your red dice some is SO wonderful, and it's great on CR90s and Nebulon B's.  Heck, even throwing a red dice at long range from the Torpedo Hammerhead lets you add one and reroll one of them, putting out helpful damage at long range!

Leia takes your commands and makes them super awesome.  You just need to give up the ability to do anything else that turn, as you end up getting hyper-focused into doing what you say you're going to do.  Many, many, MANY Rebel ships can benefit from the dial and token effect.  What you get to do is determine how to best keep getting that effect, turn after turn, ship after ship.

So clearly I should just take Leia with any ship I want and roll out however? Sweet deal!
Let me break down what she is NOT, because that's going to help define her and her ships and her role.  First, Leia is not Garm bel Iblis.  She lacks a mustache (thank goodness!), and they both want different ship types.  Garm wants to dump tokens into things for eventual use on later turns in order to either spam the dial and token OR to get the token for one command while he's using the dial on another (push 3 squadrons, reroll a dice, get 2 engineering points, and change your navigation speed on an Assault Frigate).  Leia DOESN'T want her ships using tokens, which means she generally tends towards lower command ones.  She's better on ships that want to really do just the one thing this turn.  She makes them super amazing at it, at the cost of being unable to do other things.  But you get the ability to do it turn after TURN, what EVER you need to.

Second, Leia is not Grand Moff Tarkin.

Tarkin gives out the SAME token to each of his ships.  Which means he tends towards ships that want to do the same thing often.  He's also, as Eric talked about in the linked article, looking for those "deep buckets," very much similarly to Garm.  Leia DOES NOT WANT deep buckets, as she can't use the tokens with her ability.  She wants "shallow buckets." Lower command value is her friend, unlike Tarkin.  She also might not want to do the SAME thing with all her ships this turn.  Not everything needs a concentrate fire boosted this turn.  Sometimes you need engineering or navigate, too!

So why do you keep writing about her then, doofus?
I enjoy playing her and trying to figure out how to best make her tick.  Our friend Matt described my playstyle as "dynamic" which means characterized by change.  When things change, I know personally I need a commander who can adjust to that change as well as can be.  Hence, I play Leia.  It sounds really crappy to say this, but the thing standing between you and getting good with Leia IS YOU.  I'm not saying you, generic reader, are good or bad, but Leia LIVES AND DIES by her command choices.  If you pick the right one for the ship for the turn, you're crafting a Bernstein symphony.  If you pick the wrong one, you've got late stage Danny Elfman for Tim Burton levels there.  Derivative and sad and a waste of a good talent.
"You can't print that [review], can you?"
So Leia is not a plug and play.  She doesn't grok as easily as Madine, for example, or Dodonna, Mothma, or Cracken.  Those ones, while not necessarily easy, are easy to understand how to get to work.  Slash we've all been playing them for so long that they're second nature to us.  Leia takes a bit of time to get, but I promise, when your Salvation rolls for 8 damage and an accuracy because of Leia's reroll power, it's the BEST.  You have to know WHAT order you're going to need this turn at the very least in order to make sure your ship is doing the best thing it can to maximize her ability right now.  If you don't pick the right command, you don't use her well, and that's how you get the "she's just bad, dude" opinion, which is....false.  Leia is good if YOU can pick the right command at the right time with her. And that's not always easy to do.  Again, it sounds really superior and not-helpful when I say "get good with Commands and then you'll get good with Leia" but that's what it sorta breaks down to.  She also means that you can run without a Comms Net usually, which is 20 more points to play around with in your fleetbuilding. Don't need tokens to power up your command when your commander is doing it for you!

I liken her a lot to Ackbar, actually, as you can't just run the same ships in the same way as a lot of other commanders.  She plays Armada in her own different way.  Not better or worse than others, but with the ships I recommend, you CAN'T just rush in and be OK.  (Side note as I go back and edit this: one of these days I'm going to learn to read what I write and listen to myself...)

Common Ships seen with Her
Leia wants command 2 or less ships with decent navigational patterns on their own (for those turns you're not navigating).  There is a place for the Assault Frigate, but keep it cheap.  Otherwise, the ideal Leia ships are ones that theoretically can/want to use 3, if not all 4 of the possible commands and you can dial up (see what I did there? Ha!) as needed the command you need THIS TURN.  You don't really want to be spamming all the same orders with her too much, as then that begs the question of "Why didn't you take a different commander for this?" If you JUST spam squadrons, pick a better squadron commander (below....).  If you spam navigates, Madine is right there.  Con fire? Dodonna is right down the hall.  Are you hitting Engineering a lot? Have you considered Rieekan or Garm, weirdly enough?
My dream ship plan for a Leia list involves Navigating turn 1 to get into place, concentrating fire turn 2, throwing 2-3 squadrons out turn 3, Navigating to run away turn 4, Engineering turn 5 to stay alive from whatever damage they threw at me, and then navigating to run away turn 6.  In PRACTICE, I usually sub that squadrons one for another concentrate fire, or one of those Navigates for more squadron pushing.
Dial up a Navigate command, I have an idea!
I've found that I don't generally run a mess of upgrades on her ships.  Leia is most of the upgrade I need.  Do you need Expanded Hangar Bays? Nah, I get a free fake token as needed.  Do you want Ordnance Experts on the Hammerheads? I got the Task Force Organa title and a con fire reroll, I'll be alright.  Much like Leia and the Rebellion around Hoth-time, you need to make do with what you can find and run, and you can make a very good fleet without a significant number of upgrades.  Her benefit comes from maximizing what your ships can do, so try to get as many ships in as possible.

Look at it this way: when you decide to play Leia, you need to answer "Why am I not running Commander X instead?" and the answer I came up with is "Because I can push 10 squadrons a turn with 3 or 4 ships, none of which can meaningfully get SUPER hurt by Slicer Tools."  And for me, that was worth it and the answer.  See that GenCon write-up for more "Rieekan v Leia" thoughts.  Again, with this entire section, I will fully admit my bias. They are, as always, YOUR plastic spaceships.  Run what you want, but if you're having a harder time with getting her to work, give my advice a try and see if that helps you.

Fleet Builds:
You CAN focus on a squadronless MSU list, but I don't personally like the idea of not doing an entire command when she can make some GREAT squadron pushing abilities happen.  Otherwise, again, I'd focus on everything with command 2 or less, personally.  This is not an easy build and choice in a haymaker meta, but it's doable with practice.  You can also legitimately make fleets without flotillas in them, which is a scary thing to say/do, but the sheer firepower.....  Bring some squadrons to push just because you can handle a lot of your issues with opposing squadrons.... with your own squadrons.  She also works great with boarding teams, both Rebel-specific and generic.  You get the command "as if" you spent a dial and token, so you can command X+1 squadrons from your ship while still discarding a token for the boarders.  It's a discard effect to use all the current ones, so it doesn't count as a spend.

Anything else to add?
Nothing really.  I've made my points, and I promise she is really good.  Much like the Raider, she may not be the easiest to get to work, but when she does work she is on FIRE.  I never thought when Eric and I started this that I'd have something I'd be just as passionate about as he is the Raider, haha.  I will fully agree with the argument that she is not the easiest Commander to get to be good with, but I WILL disagree with you completely if you say she's BAD.  I likened Leia once to my friend Ian (lemme pick up that name I just dropped there) to fighting in a medieval battlefield with a fencing rapier.  You can do it, and get work done (see my GenCon wrap-up), but is it worth the struggle? Only you can answer that.  For me, it is EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Can you post a pic of her in a bikini?
I'll let Carrie handle this one herself.
Appropriate response


  1. Oh, the amount of comments I got out of that Store Champs where I took Leia and 6 Hammerheads and a CR90... (Along with 5 Zs and a VCX)...

    My opponents were constantly complaining at the way all the Hammerheads seemed to jump and turn on dimes and squeeze into places with speed changes, but dish out surprising amounts of reliable firepower, as well as occasionally mess up squadron plans by throwing some Zs into the Mix and keeping them commanded and supported.

    She does require a modicum of thought, as you have entailed, about what you want your ships to do - but if you find ships that want to do one thing at a time, and do it well, she is GLORIOUS.

  2. My issue is I can't even get her to the table. I'm not sure I have yet built a fleet I like for her. And thats mostly what I use my brain for next to regulating breathing.

  3. In my opinion Thrawn>Leia because Empire>Alliance but (fortunately) not everyone shares that opinion

  4. Another great article. Leia is a commander I thought was rather pricey and just okay but the times I ran her I had either an mc30 or a larger ship in my list. I'll give her another go with the advice in mind. I will add that both times I ran her I used hammerheads and she made them amazing so I agree with what I've read here and realize my mistake in using her well.

    With the arrival of thrawn later this year I would like to see an article about the best ways to tackle ISD's specifically. They are already rampant in my local meta and most games are decided on if you can take it down or not. I'm currently trying to work out the best ways to thwart them but haven't quite perfected the science and would like to hear your advice on the matter since they are obviously coming back in style soon. I realize there is a small section on the ISD article itself but a full on Rebel vs the ISD article would be good :)

    Keep up the good work guys!

    1. Graeme, thanks for your response!

      Once we're a bit more caught up, "how to handle X" articles are something I've been considering lately. In particular, how to handle beastly large ships and how to handle swarms of small ships are both pertinent for many players, but I'm sure there are other topics as well. John did a good job of explaining how to handle squadrons with squadrons, perhaps an article that includes a ship/flak component would be a good idea on that one as well...

  5. Yesterday I tested Raddus and dropped a paragon AFmk2 behind an ISD. It was super effective. So there is one way to deal with them XD

  6. Yeah I'd be down for "how to fight against x" articles. Eric and I will talk and we can figure out who's going to want to write what there.

  7. I'm going to try her tomorrow on an MC80 CC with Expanded Hanger. 6 X-Wings in your grill. Blount + a swarm of Z-95s that just never end.

    5 B-Wings + Jan to keep them unengaged adds 5 blue and 5 black to my incoming side arc.

    I was never excited to use Leia before, but I really want to see how that works out.

  8. Trying out Leia MSU (5 ships, 2 flotillas, 6 squadrons) this Friday and I'm thinking the old "first turn Nav token bank" might still be a wise move, but I want to get your take on it. Sure, I won't get Leia's ability if I use the token later, but I can still resolve a normal command and use the token if I want to, like Concentrate Fire (w/o the re-roll) and then a Nav token speed-up-and-escape/ram to either get away or finish them off.

    It's giving up her ability for a turn, but it could be situationally helpful, and unless there's a vital Turn 1 Nav maneuver, I can't think of a reason to use her ability on Turn 1 anyway. Thoughts?

    1. It's my usual plan, take a token turn 1 and use it if needed. I've seen lots of people go down swinging because they HAD to use Ackbar this turn or they HAD to stay at speed 3 for Cracken. Use it if you need to, but taking a token if you don't isn't a bad plan!

    2. Used and it worked great. I only used 2-3 of the 10 Nav tokens (my opponent wanted to play a 600-point game, so Leia brought 10 ships and 7 squads) but the ones I used were life-savers.

  9. You could use Peltas and Raymus to maximize the benefit of Leia and Fleet Commands, couldn't you?
    Using AFFM! on a Command Pelta as an example, you'd still basically bank the first turn's token, but every turn after that you'd spend the Squad token at the start of the Ship Phase to activate AFFM!, then reveal the Squad dial during the Pelta's activation, immediately gaining a Squad token via Raymus for use next turn. And you could still use the dial (plus Leia's bonus) to push four squads that turn without spending the token. At least that's how I think it could work.

    1. It definitely does work that way, yup! Just need a GOOD reason to be pushing squads max speed every turn, haha

    2. That sort of thing can definitely work, the main issue is whether the extra expense (AFFM and Raymus, arguably the Pelta) is worth the extra cost on top of Leia's cost. AFFM can also struggle to be relevant more than once or twice a game in my experience as well, but you can do something similar with the other commands - IF, for example. The other issue being if it's worth spamming one command on the Pelta to keep the fleet command going, likely to the Pelta's inevitable doom.

      John may feel differently than I do about it, though.

    3. True, it's not every turn that your squads will be free to travel at max speed. Maybe IF! or StM! would be more universally used, and also benefit the host Pelta (especially shields).

      My initial attraction to this was the notion that, under Leia, two GR-75s and a Command Pelta could push 10 squads per round, and the GRs at least don't necessarily need to make use of any other commands.

      If you really only want to jump squads in turn 2 and maybe turn 4-5 after they've blown up whatever they were fighting and need a new target, you could probably get by with something else, like FCT on a different craft. Or at the very least leave Raymus behind, and bank the Squad token on turn 1 and burn the card later in the game.

  10. Surprised there's no overjoyed comment regarding her 1.5 points drop

    1. Hahahaha we had that in a few different posts; suffice to say i'm still playing her all the time

  11. How terrible an idea would it to be if I ran her in a CR90 backing up two groups of three Hammerheads loaded up with Ex Racks in the current meta?

    1. My opinion, John's may differ:
      Bad. You've got 6 close-ranged activations that are all fighting with one another for priority and with an abundance of longer-ranged threats nowadays the only thing that can really fight back is the 90, which is already a huge target because Leia is on it.

    2. I don't hate the idea of 6 Hammerheads so long as only 2 of them are External Racks and the other 4 are Slaved Scouts, but I feel even then you'd do better with just 3, maaaaaaaybe 4 Hammerheads (in that same 2 scout 1 torp orientation) and then points spent on other stuff instead. But if it was 6 external racks ones, then yeah, I'm with Eric and don't do that. With her concentrate fire reroll you can do well with red dice ships with her for sure.