Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Fighting Fleets: Tackling Two-Ship!

As I'm sure several people are aware, it's Regionals season.  And so many of you are trekking towards your stores, getting ready to play games and win you some shiny new stuff.  Nebs, candy dice, or even a fancy pants trophy medal thing.
I must have it, no matter WHAT Nathan Coda plans on doing to stop me (jokes 7 people in my local meta will get)!
But if there's one thing that all of our readers should be aware of and what it can do, it's the new hotness that is Imperial 2-ship.  Take a look with me as I do a quick dive into this list so you don't immediately lose to it.
What is it?
The skeleton of the build is built upon 2 ships, an ISD and a Quasar.  One of them has Governor Pryce, and the other usually has Captain Brunson.  Complementing this ship is 134 points of squadrons, usually also with super-best friends Maarek Stele and Colonel Jendon.  Oftentimes you'll see Morna Kee along for the ride, but I've fought lists with and without her.  A basic skeleton of a Thrawn list is seen below.

[ flagship ] Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer (120 points)
-  Grand Admiral Thrawn  ( 32  points)
-  Governor Pryce  ( 7  points)
-  Gunnery Team  ( 7  points)
-  Electronic Countermeasures  ( 7  points)
-  Leading Shots  ( 4  points)
= 177 total ship cost

Quasar Fire I-class Cruiser-Carrier (54 points)
-  Squall  ( 3  points)
-  Captain Brunson  ( 5  points)
-  Boosted Comms  ( 4  points)
= 66 total ship cost

1 Colonel Jendon ( 20 points)
1 Maarek Steele ( 21 points)
1 "Mauler" Mithel ( 15 points)
1 Morna Kee ( 27 points)
It's a lot like trying to fight this....

This doesn't seem that bad....
Well, I haven't added in the other 50 odd points of fighters, usually with a Jumpmaster in tow.  And those fighters are ALL deadly.  There might be a few points of upgrades elsewhere (I've seen Flight Controllers on Squall, I've seen titles and turbolasers on the ISD, there's all sorts of slightly different flavors that can impact how you run it.  Most important to ALL of that is if Pryce is on the Quasar or on the ISD itself, as that VASTLY changes how the list plays.
Pryce in found file footage

It's still 2 ships, though....
Right, but it's 2 ships that aren't playing the activation game.  Usually, the player will Pryce somewhere between turns 1 and 3 (earlier if Pryce is on the Quasar, usually, and I've often seen turn 2 if she's on the ISD).  The "trick" behind it is in a general Armada game you can't shoot your opponent turn 1 (barring them doing something really stupid).  Squall takes that away, by first pushing the squadrons distance 2, and then launching them right into you and yours.  Did you zoom your ship forward preparing to kill them next turn? It's dead this one.  Did you deploy on the line with your CR90? You can theoretically get shot turn 1 before it activates if their placement is good enough (or if they have Rhymer.  Yeah, he's back).

Squall has insane range of attack with its squadrons, and it takes some of the best ones in the game and gives them a free speed 2 boost.  Remember when there were all those issues with Yavaris using FCTs, where out of activation movement pushed something that WAS out of range of you into range of you and then made you sad? What if I changed it from distance 1 to 2? That's what Squall can do for you.  And because it's bringing 7-8 squadrons with Squall able to push 4 without a token, the 4 meanest ones are coming in.
Please, Jendon, call me Maarek.  All my "friends" (heavy wink) do.

"Normal" Armada usually has a back-and-forth give and take, where you trade the life of a flotilla or CR90 for the life of their ISD.  Or you move and stay out of range of their ships, forcing you to come into range of another one of yours.  Or you take one heavy shot on the chin with your flagship before blasting theirs and running away.  2-Ship ignores that.  BECAUSE Pryce happens early, they only have to move 1 other ship into or near harm's way.  And a good player with it generally WON'T put it actually in harm's way, because they want to use it next turn.  After their one ship goes, you get to use your squillion other activations to attempt to do SOMETHING before their other ship comes in, launching all the damage dealing they can at you.  If you've deployed across from them, you walked into their trap and all that you have left is the ability to try to stay alive by running.  It's weirdly messing with the activations game you normally see, as there just isn't anything else to kill before Pryce goes and thwomps you.  Strategic Advisor is useless against it, as its one ship already went on the Pryce turn.  Come at me, bro.

Often these lists have a bid but not always a huge one, because a last+first with a Pryce Quasar or ISD-II pushing 4-6 squadrons can break lists apart.  So after the Pryce turn, they activate again, usually with the ISD and blow through whatever they need to.  The ISD then goes running away, having smashed through most of your stuff and is going to get the win.  That's right, running away.  It blows through your stuff and lets the fighters do the mop-up work of whatever you have left, the ISD zooming away on the other side of the board where you really can't catch it after it blows through your line.
She has EVERYTHING where it counts, kids
Well then I'll kill the Quasar and win THAT WAY!
The Quasar is 60 odd points.  Maybe 70.  It will die.  It is supposed to.  When they table the rest of your list, that's still a 10-1 for them.  Ain't THAT a kick in the head.

The strength of the list comes from the fact that the only way to get a SOLID win against this list is to table it, but you have to murder your way through 134 points of Imperial squadrons, a Quasar, and THEN an ISD.  It's NOT easy.  There's no Gozanti there as activation padding, because those points went into upgrades instead.  It's a lean, mean, killing machine that you have to table the hard way.  Each one of the 2 activations are incredibly strong, usually the Quasar pushing 4 squadrons from Boosted Comms long range or the ISD-II following up the 4 squadrons it pushes by getting into range of the ship you least want it in range of.

It's also got objectives that you're going to hate.  USUALLY, I've heard of people doing things like Close Range Intel Scan (for the dust clouds, but they're sometimes bringing Captain Jonus in tow to rack up a few extra points, too), Fighter Ambush (notice that Boosted Comms on Squall, guys? Because your opponent did and he's going to use it to hurt you), and Superior Positions.  The general wisdom is to take Close Range Intel Scan, but then you've got your opponent putting down dust clouds.  You know, those things I love that prevent you from getting shot through, period?

You're in for some hard times, Daddy, when you see these.  You'll get a gold watch and a kick in the butt, that's hard times!

Who's flying this thing????
People-wise, I can't tell you.  But Commander wise, I've seen Jerry or Thrawn, though I've heard of Sloane and people are already doing mock-ups for Piett as well.  The benefit of Thrawn is that he has those 3 squadron dials (they're usually squadrons) that you can't counter, can't slice away, and can't do anything about (short of killing Thrawn, of course).  The easy answer of "Slicer Tools the carrier, brah!" falls apart when the squadron dials are Thrawn's, out of the game and unable to be sliced away.  You'll see a lot of Thrawn not necessarily because he's amazing with squadrons (like Sloane or Rieekan can be) but because he prevents the obvious counter.

Jerjerrod lets you do the squadron dialing as needed or concentrate firing, letting his ability do much of the navigating for you.  Some of the Jerjerrod fleets may tend towards a few more Rogues than the Thrawn ones (so that the Quasar isn't overtaxed, or so that the ISD can navigate/do what it wants to without having to concern itself with the squadrons.  Let the Quasar handle THAT!), while the Sloane ones may tend more towards squadrons Sloane likes.
It's NOT B-wings, I can tell you that.  Hmmph.
The ISD hasn't had to sacrifice upgrades for another activation, the squadrons are all deadly/at maximum amount of points, and the Quasar is incredibly helpful and even if it dies, you'll have gotten strong work out of it.  Enough that most of what you have left is cleanup of their stuff, really.  The ISD often ends up at about 180-190 points, and it's the most difficult thing to bring down, as well, it being the strongest current ship in the game.  There AREN'T 2 kinda OK ships to kill that will just pop the flotillas too when the tabling happens; it's 2 real ships and everything they can do with that.
It's that TIE Fighter video, over and over again.  It'll be over soon, I promise
Well this is my new nightmare - should I just give up and join the Empire now?
You're telling me! But no, there are answers.  First, this list has its fighters doing a LOT of the work.  If you can find a way to bog them down (Biggs and friends, Ketsu, Gallant Haven preventing damage, Valen and Decimators or whatever weird Imperial squadron plan you have) it ends up in a lot more trouble than expected.  If you let Maarek, Morna, Jendon and a friend (usually another Defender, but I've seen Boba Fett used too) squish a CR90 a turn, however, well, that's not good for you and starts resulting in problems.  Four of the deadliest Imperial squadrons hitting your small ship can really put a dent in it (a dent that may be deadly if Maarek or Boba Fett pull the right crit!)  Heck, they can wipe out a lot of the shields from your MC80 too!

Related to that point, Morna Kee is target number 1.  She hits like a freaking truck, and when Jendon tells her to swing again, it's a CR90 that just fired into your ship.  Here comes 3 and 3.  Ugggggh (side note for Morna: her Brace comes back when she ACTIVATES, not the START of the turn.  Don't be a jerk about it, but if your plan depends on hitting Morna with an alpha strike and then another one top of the turn next turn (hi Han Solo!) she won't have her Brace token).  I know we all remember Maarek Stele coming in and blowing up our everything, but Jendon found a new, sexier life mate.  Maarek is heartbroken about this news, even IF Jendon goes back to Maarek after Morna dies.
Back off, scrub.  Lemme show you how a REAL Decimator pilot works
If you don't want to run squadrons, you need to have an answer for what to do about 4 legit ones zooming across the board at you.  The "strongest' counter to Pryce is not letting her have a last+first activation, but that's not always possible; I've seen several of these fleets with near 30 point bids to ENSURE they get it.  If they somehow pick your Most Wanted, the right ship is the Quasar.

But it's not worth anything! Why not the ISD?
Because the Quasar NEEDS TO DIE.
Doot doot doot.  Kill that Squall.

Squall giving a free speed 2 maneuver to things like Maarek or Morna will ruin your day.  I played against a proto-version of this list back in the day against my friend Nick (who brought an incarnation of it to Worlds) and I was able to both outbid him and kill the ISD.  The Quasar both ran away and was able to finish off my 3 other combat ships with Maarek and Morna and (in his case) Boba Fett just walloping my everything.  It seems really stupid to say that the 70 point ship is more dangerous, but dodging an ISD isn't impossible.  Dodging where the Squall squads can end up almost IS from a good player if you're not going fast enough.  This is why I said above that you have to table the whole thing to get a solid win against it.

I HAVE had some minor success being able to jump into range of the ISD/Quasar on the Pryce turn and kill it before it gets to activate.  This is not something you can count on, however, and is best used as a potential Swiss Army knife for anyone dumb enough to get into range.  You will need to be able to go up to speed 4, deploy effectively across from the ISD, and pray your ship doesn't die before it activates.  So, Admonition, basically.  You can also get CR90s into range of the ship as well, but your black dice ships are your usually deadliest.  A Hammerhead won't make it.  Don't try, he'll just die sad and tired.  But 2-3 long range ships (Arqs, HIE Raider-IIs?) skirmishing with your opponent's ISD and depleting its shields before Demo comes in and cracks it isn't an impossible idea, for that matter.
Hit their ships like some kind of.... demolishing implement.

The main piece of advice I can give you is that you need to be ready for the Squall squadrons to be hitting you turn 1.  It seems insane to be launching squadrons turn 1, but it can, and it will hurt you with them if you give it the opportunity.  If you have squadrons ready to counter attack with, you can usually take something out as well.  They may not hit you turn 1, but I wouldn't count on that, personally.  You may just not have the TIME to get a token and get ready for turn 2 when the action begins.  It began last turn, and you're in trouble already.  Also fun: deploying your squadrons fully on obstacles to obstruct their shots or next to your ships, ensuring you're flakking them turn 1.

IF you can find a way around all their squadrons hurting you and killing your ships, you still win by tabling your opponent, so squadronless COULD work.  That's a possible plan, too.  Make sure you're going FAST, though, as their squads are going fast, too.  Speed 4 minimums, almost, as those Squall squads are gonna HURT.

Because a decent majority of these are Thrawn, I can't tell you to use Slicers against them, as Thrawn is effectively anti-Slicer tech with this list.  But what does seem like a very helpful plan is speed control.  That's right, CGYSO's 2 favorite commanders, Ozzel and Leia, offer potential answers.  Because you have so much control over your ships' speeds with those Commanders, you have the potential of zooming into range of the Pryce ship on the Pryce turn and blowing it up before it gets to activate last, turning her into a liability.  The list is built around Pryce as its gimmick more than any other part of it, so if you can break that gimmick, you've got a better chance*.  With respect to that, don't deploy across from them unless you know EXACTLY how you plan on countering their plan of attack.  Because their plan works with a lot of simplicity, and yours might not.

*Don't count on your opponent being an idiot who deploys across from you and then just runs forward into your trap.  They may deploy on the back edge and try to wait YOU out.  Waiting them out isn't a bad plan, either.  Again, Ozzel and Leia, man.
See, everyone ignores the A-wings coming in.  Make them regret that.
Any other tips, tricks, sneaky pete plans?
Well, I alluded to it above once or twice, but finding a way to "counter" or "hinder" Pryce will serve you well and is the best step around the list.  I know several lists have started including Bail as both a Pryce counter and because of the ability to use HIS own ability in those other games where you don't see her.  Jimmy Smits is always worth a look.  If you can't include Bail, a heck of a bid may serve you.  But again, I've seen 30 pointers (looking at YOU, Nick Griffiths...) so you can't always count on it.  A 30 point bid could get you 1st 98% of the time.  But that other 2%....
He's one bad mother- SHUT YO MOUF - But I'm talking bout Jimmy Le!
Other things like Rogue squadrons of your own (or friends of Rogues like Hera) can jump in in between the Pryce last and the first activation of next turn.  YT2400s en masse haven't been seen in a while, but they still get work done.  I've jumped Morna with Han Solo before and brought her down to 1 health, which is helpful but isn't DEAD.  You need her DEAD.

And as always, General Rieekan is still a great counter to lists like this that are built around leveraging one super-awesome-mega-death-dealing-monster activation that takes out everything you've ever loved and nothing will live through it.  Rieekan ain't care.  He's the honey badger of commanders.  Kill his stuff, he still gets to blow you up.  Just make sure you save the RIGHT ship/squadron to get a strong attack off.  Ten or Yavaris or whoever lets you blow up the most and kill the most, just make sure it's worth keeping around for your attack.
In this picture, Ten Numb is represented by the fangs.

Theoretically, you can also deploy in depth instead of in a line.  Have some ships lined up behind others, so if/when (it's a when) the ISD blows through the front line and tries to do a runner away/through you, it won't actually be able to get there, leaving you in position for a counter attack.  This might be more of a "hopeful plan" than anything, but it's a start? You're gonna need to make sure you don't gum up your own lines and your own strategy for winning the game, as a "prevent defense" barely even works in football against a strong offense.

Speaking of deployment, you can often outdeploy the list.  Two ships and 8 squads means 6 drops.  If you can find a way to force them towards turning to face your ships on one side or hitting another, you might be able to rush in with something to sweep the leg.  This is more of a "hope" than an "actual plan", especially as I've been working with more drops myself.  But I do want to note that it gets relatively predictable in where it drops and its direction as soon as the first ship is down against it.  IF you can find a way to exploit the lack of deployments (again, I point to Demolisher) then you're in for a better chance.

The BEST advice I can give is ask one of your local friends to run one against you once or twice and see what you can do to handle it.  That'll give you the best chance of understanding it.  Good luck and remember that even though this list is just like the shark from Jaws, that thing died too.
Then you and Dreyfuss can swim back to shore!


  1. Great article, and as always, both informative and hilarious. Both it left me thinking, "Why am I not playing an Imperial two-ship list?" Thanks again.

  2. I have one big disappointment. I've already lived through one "Imperial 2-ship" meta; to me that means "ISD+Demo". My disappointment lies in the fact that hot Rebel metas get catchy names like "Fish Farm" and "Rieekan Aceholes".

    We can't just use "Imperial 2-ship" as a bland (and redundant) descriptor for a hot new meta.

    As such, I would like to suggest this list be called the "Bob Barker". Because "The Pryce is Right". Eh? Ehhh? XD
    (I'm sure there's probably a joke about neutering other fleets in there, as well)

  3. First/Last turned up to 11... the huge range of the squad threat and the need to not line up arcs or actually put a ship in a dangerous place just makes this even more spineless easy mode...

  4. So I'm new to the game and I'm trying to figure the order of operations. So (for example) on turn 1, Pryce pops on the Squall. The ISD sends 4 fighters forward, and moves into position for Turn 2. Next the opposing player moves all their stuff, then the Squall sends 2 squadrons (Morna & Jendon?) forward, then activates 5 more (using Thrawn's dial converted to token plus a natural dial) and throws them at the opposing player. Next turn the ISD pops 4 fighters again, cuts loose with a barrage, and bails. Opposing player moves, then Squall sends more fighters in?

    1. It really depends a lot on the setup. It can go after you round 1, but as late as round 3 for the Pryce round. You'll also usually have the ISD holding off on activating squads until after Pryce does her thing on the Quasar (usually Pryce on the Quasar but not always, mind you), because activating squads when they're not attacking something is usually a waste.

      Usually the Quasar or ISD will be doing nav dials with Thrawn helping out with squadrons as well - they don't really need or want squad tokens, but the speed control and extra yaw can help the ISD and Quasar set up to avoid getting stuck in the worst of it, which is much more helpful overall.

      But the basic gist is Quasar goes last with Pryce on round X, bumps up some squads with Squall and lobs them at whatever. Then the fleet goes first next round and activates a bunch of squads again with whichever of the two ships seems most in need of it, followed by the other ship activating and commanding the remaining 4 squads. Ideally the Quasar avoids the fight altogether and the ISD is looking to blow through whatever's in front of it with the option open to make a run for it afterwards if it's not safe to stick around, but can otherwise hang out to go for tabling the other guy if that's a safe option.