Saturday, January 2, 2021

Imperial ship review: Super Star Destroyer/Star Dreadnought

The age of the Big Chungus is upon us, so let's talk about it with an appropriately super-sized article. Get comfy.
Was real sweet they were able to get Dante in this bad boy.
The SSD is an unusual ship so this article itself will be a little unusual as well compared to the other ship articles. First of all, I won't be talking about the Executor-class jumbo-sized super star destroyers. They are by design only intended for large games played for funsies (not that there's anything wrong with that) and a lot of the principles you learn playing with the "regular" SSDs will inform how to use those. I may write an article on them at some later point, we'll see.

Before we get any further, let's take a look at the new huge ship rules. All six of them (the pass token got ditched in 1.5 to the new pass tokens system).

So basically you can poke the SSD's nose outside of your deployment zone, but some part of it must be touching the back edge of your deployment zone. No part of it can be within distance 1-5 of the short edges (as that's outside the setup area). You can't overlap obstacles when placing it. If you place squadrons within distance 1-2 of it, they can still only deploy as far forward as they could if deploying within distance 2 of a ship exactly on the distance 3 line. There's a little diagram that helps demonstrate this:

Per the FAQ: "Deploy Ships: When a player deploys a huge ship, it may extend outside of that player’s deployment zone as long as its base is completely within the setup area and touching that player’s play area edge." So no part of your base can be at distance 1-5 of the short table edges and in scenarios with different/larger deployment zones (like Blockade Run or Fleet Ambush) you can deploy like normal so long as you fit entirely within those alternative deployment zones.

When it comes to Surprise Attack, the FAQ stipulates: "While deploying fleets, if the first player’s flagship is a huge ship, it must overlap the station and also touch that player’s edge, if able. If that flagship cannot meet both restrictions, it must be placed overlapping the station with its rear hull zone as close as possible to that player’s edge." This does not override the stipulation that the SSD can't overlap other obstacles, so it's not too tough for an opponent to fence in the SSD and force it to deploy far forward off the station by placing the station up as far as possible and deploying other obstacles between the station and the back edge of your deployment zone. So don't pick Surprise Attack as first player if you're using a flagship SSD.

Raymus Antilles is hiding on the SSD. When you reveal a dial, before you decide whether to keep it or turn it into a token, you get an automatic matching token of that type. This is the same window where you deal with raid tokens, so you could reveal a navigate dial, get a free navigate token, discard that token to wipe an anti-navigate raid token, and then later in your activation resolve the navigate dial.

The SSD gets 3 attacks from different hull zones instead of the usual 2. Note that new 1.5 Gunnery Team allows the SSD to attack only once more from the same hull zone, so while it's still a nearly-mandatory SSD upgrade, you can't get all three attacks from the same hull zone (unless Advanced Gunnery but nobody is letting you do that).

The SSD is two large bases held together by a big piece of cardboard, with a cardboard bridge between the two large bases. You navigate from the notches on the rear large base. Because the point of rotation is a bit behind the middle of the base, clicks of yaw turn the front of the SSD more than they do on other ships where the point of rotation is at the front.

You also can't attempt a maneuver that puts the maneuver tool under the SSD, whether or not the end destination would be a legal landing zone.

If your opponent is able to get 11 damage cards or more on your 22 hull monstrosity, they get half its points. Given they're also probably going to need to work their way through a bunch of shields as well, it seems entirely fair to get ½ points for ¾ of the work required to kill the thing.

A quick side note is if you've got an SSD at 11+ damage cards playing Opening Salvo, both rules kick in for half points, rounded up, which can result in an SSD at an odd points value giving up one more point while wounded but alive than it would have if dead.

No Minister Tua ever. You can mess with its defense tokens, though, so Needa still works fine.

One additional rule is the back side arcs on the SSD are its "auxiliary" side arcs, so upgrades and effects that specify side arcs only refer to its front side arcs.

Titles
The SSD has 4 titles to choose from and it's mostly going to be Annihilator or Ravager in a normal 400 point game.

Annihilator is the most expensive SSD title, but the effect can add up extremely quickly if you set your SSD to flakking consistently: a one-die reroll against every squad you attack ever with no other preconditions can quickly become a big deal, helping you fish for extra damage in general and/or accuracy results against aces. Especially when combined with other anti-squadron upgrades, like Agent Kallus and/or Quad Laser Turrets, Annihilator can allow you to field a fleet with minimal fighter coverage, relying instead on the considerable flak of the SSD itself to handle squads.

Eclipse isn't a bad title, it's just not very impressive compared to other options and if you're already bringing a huge chonker of a ship you want its title to be great. It's inexpensive and it dissuades the enemy from ramming into you by giving them those faceup damage cards (bonus points if a cheeky rammer gets a really nasty crit like Projector Misaligned). If you don't have a plan for any of the other titles, Eclipse is the best default choice because you don't need to really build or play around it. You can try to use it proactively by getting in the way when the opportunity presents itself, just remember that it only triggers when an enemy ship rams into you, not when you ram into them.

Executor is neat, but you really need to have a plan for what you're going to do with all those tokens. Your SSD is Command 4, so it can already hold one token of each type - that's plenty for its own command uses and it even generates its own tokens when it reveals dials, giving it even more. It's not tough to give it a token officer or Comms Net Gozanti to give it command tokens on an as-needed basis, either. To cut to the chase: Executor is generally the right call for SSDs looking to make liberal use of fleet command upgrades, meaning it probably won't see much if any use on the Assault Prototype SSD. Being able to store up a ton of tokens to feed fleet commands effortlessly as well as for its own personal use is pretty appealing, allowing you to combine benefits that are typically "either use this token for yourself or use it to feed the fleet command next turn."

For example, Shields to Max is generally not great on an SSD if the SSD will be the main recipient of its effect - you're spending a repair token to get a shield back, which is exactly the same benefit you'd get spending the repair token on its own as a command. With Executor, your fleet can get the Shields to Max benefit by feeding it a spare repair token while the SSD is able to use a repair dial+token as well to bring back a total of 4 shields, making everyone happy.

A word of warning, though: using Executor in this way typically requires an extra source of token generation. Don't be shy about getting a token officer and/or Comms Net Gozanti(s) in your fleet to keep Executor topped off. If you're desperate, there's nothing stopping you from revealing a command dial, getting your free token, and then converting your dial into yet another token of the same type.

In conclusion, Executor is actually really fun on Command SSDs in larger games. It hasn't impressed me in standard 400 point games, though.

Ravager is the shooty SSD title and therefore likely to be seen more often on the Assault Prototype SSD. The strongest use is to buff your concentrate fire dial + free token resolutions into +2 dice. Don't neglect to use this on only concentrate fire tokens later on, however, as you'll likely need some repair commands in there to keep yourself comfortable. Make no mistake about it, +2 dice on an attack from the SSD is considerable - it brings the front arc up to a terrifying number of dice and it makes even "safe" side arcs considerably less safe. With Quad Battery Turrets and Ravager, an SSD can throw twelve dice out of its front arc, or eight dice at long range. It also works against squadrons, allowing you to choose one particular squadron to have a very bad day, combining with Linked Turbolaser Towers and Agent Kallus for a possible seven flak dice.That's nuts. The problem with this plan is that mainlining con fire on a ship that would like to be doing other commands (especially navigate, what with your zero clicks of yaw) as well is a hard sell.

That said, commanders that can supplement the SSD's access to command dials, like Piett or Thrawn, or can provide extra clicks, like Moff Jerjerrod, are great compliments to the Ravager title. Otherwise, I'd probably look elsewhere.

One quick rules note is when you spend your con fire dial and token together, they're typically resolved one at a time (usually for adding a die and then rerolling a die). The same is true here. Most of the time, people just throw both dice in together but you're entirely justified in rolling in one die of whatever color, seeing how that turns out, and then deciding what die to add after that.

For extra fun, combine Ravager with other effects that enjoy concentrate fire commands. Specifically, I'm thinking of Gunnery Team and Director Krennic: when used at medium to long range and combined with Ravager con fire dial + token, you get +2 dice and a reroll on all your red dice and a further 2-die reroll on red dice. And then you get to attack out of the same arc again against a new target. That's... pretty mean.

Pictured: Ravager's crew when you reveal a con fire dial.
Let's start looking at those giant angry triangles.

SSD all insecure about its size using perspective tricks to make it look less huge next to those ISDs.
The main distinguishing features of the Command SSD are:
  • 2 fleet command slots
  • Cheap (for an SSD) at 220 points
  • 2 blue flak
That doesn't seem like a lot, but being cheap and having 2 fleet command slots recommends the Command SSD for use in a fleet with some other combat element: whether that be squadrons or another combat ship (something moderate, like an Arquitens, Demolisher, or VSD likely). In effect, the Command SSD is the SSD for you if you want Big Chungus and Friends rather than having the SSD be the only serious source of damage.

Upgrades
I'm not going to be so bold as to tell you should fill every upgrade slot on the SSD, but your upgrades go further on an SSD than they do on any other ship in the game, so I'd strongly recommend filling the officer slots, weapon team slot, and ion cannon slot at the bare minimum.

Officers
You've got two big concerns with an SSD and I feel like in most cases you should consider assigning at least one officer to address each of these concerns.

Concern #1) Damage and/or crit mitigation
Your SSD is going to be the focus of every attack dice in the enemy fleet, so keeping it alive is important. Under concentrated fire and/or shenanigans, your shields and defense tokens overheat quickly.
  • Damage Control Officer. A lot of the easy SSD counters to quickly pile on the damage and/or subvert its defense tokens rely on critical effects: Heavy Ion Emplacements, Overload Pulse, Norra, Nym, Assault Consussion Missiles, Assault Proton Torpedoes.  With DCO, your 2 contain tokens make you pretty well-defended against those kinds of shenanigans. Normally Damage Control Officer is a bit of a hard sell on most ships, even those with two contain tokens, but on a ship with 3 officer seats, she's got a home.
  • Captain Brunson is great for all the reasons she's normally great plus she's got a gigantic ship to measure distance 1-2 of an obstacle from. She works consistently and in some cases can cancel a single critical effect if she removes the only crit die from the pool, but DCO is much more reliable for stopping the fancy crits. Brunson removes damage pretty much all the time, though, so it's largely your call.
  • Expert Shield Tech. I wouldn't recommend him before DCO or Brunson but he can work as a junior partner to one (or both?) of them for a tanky SSD. Being able to spend a redirect to remove one damage from an attack, even if you ran out of shields, is pretty dang great.
  • Reeva Demesne. If you're running your SSD super tanky and plan to regenerate shields a lot so it's tough to burn through enough to for sure turn off her ability, Reeva can allow you to get another use out of your braces, or more rarely your other tokens. She's fun to pair with Expert Shield Tech or Damage Control Officer to get extra uses from them as well.
Concern #2) Command screwage
The SSD is Command 4. You're locking in commands for the first 4 rounds at the start of round 1 and then make meaningful command dial decisions again on round 2 (for round 5) and round 3 (for round 6) and then you're done. Under these circumstances, it's not at all uncommon to wish you'd set a dial better earlier, but it's difficult to think 4 rounds out with a big slow ship. There's also the serious issues you can run into when somewhere around 75% of the points you spent on your fleet keeps getting its dials messed with by Slicer Tools or, even worse, Cham Syndulla (the nightmare scenario). A dial control officer is the solution to these problems and isn't useful just as a counter to a counter. There are a few good options to choose from:
  • Liaisons. Yes, Liaisons - those binder fodder officers that eat a command token to flip your dial to either nav/repair or con fire/squadrons. They're surprisingly good on the SSD given it will often have a surplus of tokens it doesn't mind discarding in a pinch. I tend to prefer the Defense Liaison, personally, but the Weapons Liaison may be preferable if you're using the SSD as a carrier and you want to keep the squad commands coming.
  • Support Officer. He doesn't have the laser focus of the Liaisons or dial officers but he very flexibly allows you to discard him to discard your entire stack of command dials and then reset them. He's not a long-term solution to Slicer Tools that manage to escape destruction, but he is a solution to Cham and he's not command-linked like the other officers are.
  • Dial officers. I'm not as keen on these as the Liaisons because they cost more points and they only work to set dials to one specific command. That said, they don't consume tokens to work, so if you think your particular build is going to be running light on tokens and don't want the Support Officer, they're all right.
You can ignore the requirement for a dial-fix officer if you're using a commander that assists you with cheating in extra commands. Specifically I'm thinking of Thrawn (with 3 full extra dials every game) and Piett (who can turn tokens supplied by another officer like Vanto or by a Comms Net Gozanti into a full-fledged whatever you need). Otherwise, I'm leery of encouraging anyone to leave this type of officer at home. It's got its inherent merits even if it's not countering an opponent's dial-screwage and if it's countering dial-screwage on such an expensive and impactful ship it's golden.

You can disregard my advice to consider the above officers but you're effectively leaving yourself vulnerable to some of the easier ways to screw over your SSD. If you're okay with that risk, please go ahead. Just don't say I didn't warn you...

When you hit dial-screwage and nasty crits and didn't bring anything to help you.
Otherwise, there are a lot of useful officers you can slot into open chairs, most of them Imperial, and they can help customize your SSD to whatever role(s) you want it to excel at. I'll be mentioning a few options further into the article but it's not an exhaustive list by any means, so play around with what looks neat to you!

Weapon Team
It's Gunnery Team. Sorry if that's anti-climactic, but this is the Gunnery Team slot. Your huge points sink gets up to three hull zones attacking per round and you really want it getting as many of those three possible attacks per round as possible, and Gunnery Team helps ensure that happens but letting one of your hull zones make two of those three attacks. Your main issue is going to be getting the con fire dials or tokens to trigger it when you need it, but that shouldn't be too tough with the right planning and list building.

You can make an argument for Ruthless Strategists in the right squad-heavy (TIE Bomber) builds and it lets you use Advanced Gunnery, which is death on a stick with an SSD (and will thus never get picked, sorry). I've played an SSD fleet like this and it's fun but giving up those attacks is painful and I can't say I'd generally recommend it.

Ion cannon
It's Leading Shots, just like it is almost all the time on every ship throwing enough dice, has blue dice in (most) its arcs, and has an ion cannon slot. Sorry, I know this is boring, but it's boring on lots of ships for the same reason - you want dice reliability and for 6 points it's a steal. Given the SSD has at least one blue die in every arc and in its flak, Leading Shots is an especially "no duh" choice.

Turbolaser
Here there's a bit more competition and this can have important ramifications for how you plan to use your SSD. My top choices would be:
  • Quad Battery Turrets are appealing because your SSD is slow (top speed of 2) and being able to add a blue die out of any arc against any ship going faster than you up to 3 times per round is pretty good (and there's always that long range Leading Shots option, which is great). Plus it's cheap. The main issue with QBTs is they don't help you get through defense tokens, but they're a decent enough call so long as you're confident you can gang up on targets with whatever friends the Command SSD brought with it. 
  • H9 Turbolasers are handy in metas without a lot of Electronic Countermeasures, plus they work against squadrons as well to help your flak against scatter aces.
  • XI7 Turbolasers are the gold standard for defense-token screwage turbolasers and they're worth considering here if your other sources of damage synergize with them. Generally I'm more keen on these with the Assault SSD where the SSD is the only meaningful source of anti-ship attacks.
  • Linked Turbolaser Towers are handy for a single red die reroll on every attack (which adds up with 3 hull zones attacking) and the option to use the "I hate this particular squadron" mode when flakking. That said, I also prefer these more on the Assault SSD as the red flak die there gives it additional synergy, but if you're looking for an all-purpose turbolaser and can't spare the Modification slot for QBT this would usually get my vote.
You're getting through the text wall, you can do it!
Offensive Retrofit
You've got a few notable options here, depending on what type of fleet you're running with the SSD:
  • Advanced Transponder Network or Boosted Comms if you're going squad-heavy. Pretty much comes down to if you're going Bomber-heavy (ATN) or more general-purpose (Boosted Comms). 
    • ATN is a Modification, though, which can cause some conflict with other upgrades.
  • Quad Laser Turrets are normally a terrible upgrade, but on a big durable target like an SSD they can actually make a difference, especially with flak-enablers like Agent Kallus and/or the Annihilator title.
  • Phylon Q7 Tractor Beams are kind of cute if you've got your Modification slot open - nothing is too big for the SSD to zap it with the Tractor Beams and getting rid of nav tokens or slowing ships down helps you pin them in place.
  • When in doubt, getting 2 Proximity Mines for 4 points isn't a bad deal if you're doing nothing else with your offensive retrofit slot.
Fleet Command
So first things first: you don't need to do anything with these slots. They're absolutely amazing upgrades if you're running a larger-than-normal game but otherwise you need a plan for them and how/if to feed them tokens. For example, some fleet commands like All Fighters Follow Me are potentially fine to use a as a discard-to-use effect for the alpha strike round. Would it be nice to use more than once? Maybe. But you're light on spare points already due to the SSD in your fleet, so including the infrastructure to feed it isn't worth it. If the main beneficiary is the SSD and the effect of the fleet command mimics that of using the token that fleet command consumes (for example, both Shields to Max and Entrapment Formation), then it's probably not worth the hassle.

That said, there are two fleet commands that stand out to be me as being worth feeding consistently:
  1. Intensify Firepower: the Command SSD buffs each of up to 3 anti-ship attacks it makes itself and those of any friends that came along for the ride. Even just using it on itself can make a considerable difference, but it can really add up when combined with any friends it brought along. The easy way to feed the SSD is a Comms Net Gozanti and that Gozanti itself benefits from IF as well. If possible, scrounging up the points for an Assault Gozanti (with the longer-ranged red dice) can be worth it to get maximum returns from Intensify Firepower.
  2. Take Evasive Action: After drinking some tasty TEA, the SSD suddenly realizes it does, in fact, have access to a click at its last joint. Take Evasive Action is amazing on SSDs for giving you access to that extra click of yaw without needing a nav dial (and adding another click with the dial is pretty great too). You don't even need a token-feeder for this one, necessarily: TEA turns any nav dial you reveal this round into a token that can be used to feed the fleet command next round or you can use it as a regular ol' nav token to change speed instead if you like. Of course, regular use of TEA may require a feeding mechanism, but it's still pretty swell even without one, and the rest of your fleet will enjoy it as well. Like all fleet commands, don't forget you can discard it to use it if it's getting late into the game and you won't need it again or if you're desperate.
Builds
There are innumerable builds for SSDs given their huge number of upgrade slots, so these are more like guidelines than hard examples. I'll be listing only the necessary components so go crazy with whatever other bells and whistles you'd like to add.

Super fleet command
Executor, Intensify Firepower, Take Evasive Action, a token officer (Wulff or Vanto, likely)
This is the most all-purpose "big mean helper" SSD combo you can generally get where the SSD also really enjoys the benefits of its own fleet commands. For extra fun in big games I like to run this type of SSD with Entrapment Formation and Take Evasive Action, pile up the nav tokens, and let my whole fleet enjoy practically a free nav dial every round from the combined benefits of the two.

Flak monster
Annihilator,  Agent Kallus, Quad Laser Turrets
Also known as the "AKQ," these three upgrades combine together to make this SSD's flak pretty considerable. 2 base flak plus Agent Kallus and then Counter 1 against squadrons plus again Agent Kallus and all of those with a 1 die-reroll results in some pretty dead squads pretty quickly. You can combine with other upgrades to increase the squadron hate, such as H9 Turbolasers for the guaranteed accuracy against scatter aces or Linked Turbolaser Turrets to tell one particular squadron it's time to get off the table, etc.

Carrier
Boosted Comms + other options, depending (see below)
If you're going for a serious squadron presence with an SSD, I strongly recommend the Command SSD over the Assault SSD. The Command SSD doesn't have a lot that recommends it over the Assault for this purpose (it has only 1 offensive retrofit for Boosted Comms compared to the Assault's 2, but the fleet commands can help) but it has the biggest element that counts in that it's 30 points cheaper. You're going to have a hard enough time getting over 100 points of squadrons into your SSD fleet even with the Command SSD, so considerations need to be made about exactly how much you should be spending on SSD upgrades and perhaps a companion Gozanti compared to investing those points into squadrons.

Upgrades worth considering would be:
  • Annihilator for that bit of extra flak help against other squadrons. Maybe Agent Kallus as well.
  • Take Evasive action helps decrease pressure on your command stack for navigate commands for extra yaw, freeing up some room for more squadron dials.
  • All Fighters Follow Me may be useful for getting the alpha strike, but it's not the kind of upgrade I'd worry about feeding consistently. Plan to use it once (and discard) or twice (token and then discard) a game, I'd say.
  • There's an argument to be made for substituting out Boosted Comms for Advanced Transponder Network and Gunnery Team for Ruthless Strategists and just going nuts with mostly TIE Bombers
    • I've done this. It's fun. I'm not sure it's good, but it's fun.
  • Chiraneau is actually worth considering here if you've got the open officer slot - 6 squadrons being able to move despite engagement is great.
Assault SSD with construction scaffolding making it look like some kind of space Dino Rider.
The features distinguishing the Assault SSD from the Command SSD are:
  • Red+blue flak. The red die is considerably longer-ranged but less reliable than the blue die.
  • Doubled-up offensive retrofit, ion cannon, and turbolaser slots.
    • At the expense of both fleet command slots, mind you.
  • An extra red die in the front arc and an extra blue die in all the side arcs.
  • Costs 30 more points (250 is a lot).
The added weapon upgrade slots, anti-ship dice, longer-ranged flak, and increased cost establish the Assault SSD as your choice for "I'm gonna do this all myself" SSD fleets with minimal additional support. You run out of points quickly with this monster - it's extremely easy (and thus common) for the Assault SSD to clock in above 320 points when factoring in your commander, leaving very few points for much else beyond perhaps a support Gozanti or two plus perhaps a light fighter screen.

Upgrades
For the most part, my recommendations on upgrades remain the same as before. We'll be focusing on what to do with the extra slots you're given beyond the Command SSD:

Turbolasers
I moved the turbolaser section up a bit because the choice you make here will have repercussions on the secondary ion cannon slot. You have a lot of good options here and I'd recommend always filling both turbolaser slots (I'm often finding myself greedily wishing I had three turbolaser slots). I'd still recommend the four turbolasers I mentioned earlier, and I'll be covering some of the combinations you can create involving them.
  • Quad Battery Turrets are still a good cheap option for the reasons given before. They're handy for combining with blue critical effects from a possible second ion cannon upgrade, especially if you are using adding a blue die from QBTs and then adding 2 more blue dice at long range with a Ravager super con fire command (with the option of a Leading Shots reroll) to trigger something nasty like Heavy Ion Emplacements.
  • H9 Turbolasers remain a solid choice for the Assault SSD and pair well with just about everything. Just remember they are a Modification now in 1.5, so be sure that's what you want to spend your Modification on.
  • XI7 Turbolasers are also quite happy to be paired with just about anything, but they particularly like builds that also pressure brace tokens, like with Intel Officer or H9 Turbolasers.
  • Linked Turbolaser Towers are great as well, giving you a red die reroll on every attack. This is especially great on your flak attacks, as that red die tends to be inconsistent, especially against squadrons. The option to focus fire on a squadron can also be extremely handy and give you a bit more teeth against squads.
  • Heavy Turbolaser Turrets are generally pretty awful, but when they're taking up a second turbolaser slot they can provide an indirect counter to ships that get to brace against you anyways (typically due to Electronic Countermeasures) as well as Damage Control Officer trying to stop your critical effects (as if you brace and contain, that brace's efficiency drops dramatically).
Ion Cannons
With Leading Shots already locked in, you've got the welcome option of another ion cannon without feeling like you're giving up your dice reliability:
  • High Capacity Ion Turbines are surprisingly legit on an Assault SSD, bringing your front side arcs up to 3 red 3 blue 1 black. It's pretty common for enemy ships to want to get out of your front arc and expose themselves to a medium (sometimes close) ranged shot from your side arc, where every dice can count. 
  • Blue critical upgrades are swell if you can trigger them when you need to. As I mentioned above, I find these are a bit more appealing with Quad Battery Turrets potentially adding in another blue die and Ravager can add 2 more blue dice when you really need to go for it. You've mostly got 2 serious options and a "for funsies" option:
    • Heavy Ion Emplacements gets my vote for an SSD not running XI7s (as they work at cross purposes). It only works once per round but can really help wear down tougher targets.
      • If you are crazy enough to run Heavy Turbolaser Turrets on your SSD, it has additional synergy with HIEs - Your opponent is going to want to only brace and do nothing else against more damaging attacks (most of your SSD attacks), so the HIEs will consistently gobble up lots of shields and Damage Control Officer doesn't work well as a counter either.
    • Ion Cannon Batteries is the option that's easier to just plug in wherever, as it can work on every attack, but its effect is either zapping tokens or (failing that) zapping a shield point. They don't have issues with XI7s like HIEs do, so they can work fine there. I like running these a bit more with Phylon Q7 Tractor Beams for a token-removal subtheme, which can make combining it with Surprise Attack as an objective very appealing as you can zap away command tokens intended to clear away your raid tokens. Token removal feels like an "aw man, I wanted to kill shields" kind of situation, but removing a navigate token can have serious repercussions, as can removing a repair token (which in most cases is effectively as good as dealing an additional shield damage). It's particularly fun to remove tokens needed to feed fleet command upgrades and other upgrades that require tokens to ready.
    • Overload Pulse is the "for the lols" option, but it can be fun when paired with Officer Palpatine to exhaust a bunch of defense tokens (up to 3 different ships) and then tell your opponent that they've got to spend a defense token, thus discarding it, to attack you back. This approach works best if you've also got a pretty decent bid for first to ensure you can pull off this silliness before enemy ships get to attack you back each round, and I'd also strongly recommend doing what you can to get a second attack ship (A Raider or, if you can spring for something more expensive, Arquitens or even minimally upgraded Demolisher) in your fleet to put pressure on the ships whose tokens you exhaust with Overload Pulse.
Unlike the turbolaser upgrades, I don't feel strongly that you need to fill both ion cannon slots, but there are definitely some compelling arguments to consider doing so.

Offensive Retrofits
It's basically "same stuff as before but now you can take two of them," for the most part. There are two combos that come to mind, though:
  • Quad Laser Turrets and Point-Defense Reroute. This is the "I hate squadrons" combination. Neither of these upgrades tends to be very good outside the SSD, but together they can get some work done with flak. Specifically, PDR increases the odds of your Counter 1 blue die doing damage from 50% to 62.5%. Not exactly amazing, but it should be noted that Point-Defense Reroute allows for a reroll of every crit icon once per squadron attack, so when you start getting to larger dice pools (on active flak, and also occasionally when Kallus boosts your QLT Counter) it can reroll multiple dice on occasion. Otherwise, QLT is a pretty standard SSD upgrade for low-to-no-squadrons builds and PDR just makes it do its thing a little better. It's a poor replacement for Annihilator, but sometimes you need the points and/or title slot for other things.
  • Boosted Comms and Expanded Hangar Bay. If you can squeeze 6+ cheap squadrons in alongside your SSD, this is an appealing combination. Especially with Piett, you can use a squadron dial to activate 6 squadrons in one go and then spend the token with Piett next round to do it all over again. If you're looking for a big activation with fighter coverage all in one go, this isn't a bad way to do it. That said, it's expensive and I imagine more appealing in higher-point games.
Builds
Two-Punch Man
Ravager, H9 Turbolasers, XI7 Turbolasers, Leading Shots, Director Krennic, Intel Officer
This SSD punches extremely hard. Use Intel Officer on your priority target's best defense token (usually brace) and let rip. Con fire for tons of dice and rerolls from Krennic (and further from Leading Shots if necessary, which is here mostly for when you're not using Krennic/con fire or if the enemy gets to close range). Chances are extremely good that if you can catch any large or smaller target with this combo twice they will not survive

Saitama does it with 50% less punches.
I Am Become Flak, Destroyer of Squads
Annihilator, Kallus, Quad Laser Turrets, Linked Turbolaser Turrets, H9 Turbolasers
Effectively cranks the earlier Flak Monster build up to 11. Reroll that red flak die with LTTs, reroll one flak die of your choice on every attack, and once per round choose one special squadron to get the "tons of dice" flak love. The H9s ensure at least one ace defense token (scatter, if present) is there in both your regular flak attacks and your QLT counter attacks.

Hey hey not so fast there buddy.
Let's talk a bit more about using these dang things
Normally this is where the article is over, but we're not done just yet. Normally with these ship articles you can only go so far with fleetbuilding and usage advice because who knows what else is in that fleet? The SSD is a very large portion of a normal fleet, so I do know what else is in that fleet: not a whole lot. Let's cover some other elements of getting your Big Chungus to work before we sign off on this article for good.

Public enemy #1: Electronic Countermeasures
Now generally I think ECMs are overhyped as the be-all end-all defensive retrofit (and let me tell you, that is not a popular opinion and that may be an article one day like my similarly contentious opinion that XI7s are not the world's most amazing turbolaser), but they absolutely shine when the ship they're on is expecting to take one big attack per round and that's it. You want to know what type of fleets tend to make one big attack on any given ship once per round? Oh, that's right: yours. The one with the Big Chungus SSD. Well, you can't count on dodging ECMs because they're everywhere, and "just throw dice until it dies anyways" isn't a great strategy against large durable ships with ECMs so what are you supposed to do about that?

Your fleet should have an answer to one of the game's most popular upgrades. You can do this either through including another source of damage (typically with the Command SSD, where you can get either a serious squadron presence or a moderate combat ship in there as well) to help overheat defense tokens despite ECMs or with upgrades on your ship (typically with the Assault SSD). If you're bound and determined to do both, good on you. A few options I would consider in terms of upgrades or helper ships:
  • Short-ranged helper ships aren't generally that helpful unless they're Demolisher. If you can't gang up on the problematic target well, it doesn't matter that you brought a little combat buddy along, and longer-ranged ships are easier to get that working with than shorter-ranged ships.
  • If you're bringing squads, make sure you've got enough oomph against ships or else you haven't really worked your way out of this problem. Squads generally won't help you overheat braces very well, but they do chew through shields and redirects pretty effectively, helping you hit hull with your attacks much earlier.
    • Upgrades that pressure or obsolete redirect tokens, like XI7 Turbolasers or Heavy Ion Emplacements definitely help your goal of "hitting hull faster" but aren't a direct counter to an ECM brace, so much as a soft somewhat-indirect counter.
  • Intel Officer is a fine officer on the SSD that fixes this very problem pretty much by his inclusion alone, it's just that there aren't a ton of free officer chairs despite there being 3 of them. That said, even if your opponent doesn't have ECMs (say you're facing another SSD), Intel Officer is still an amazing officer for getting damage to stick to other ships, either by scaring them away from spending a defense token or causing inordinate attrition on vital defense tokens.
    • Commander Palpatine can be something of a replacement for Intel Officer in this way, giving his benefit to your whole fleet.
Squadrons
Squadrons are best used against heavy slow ships that can't outrun them and will eventually die the death by 1000 cuts. The SSD is no exception. You need a plan against squadrons or you're going to get blowed up. SSDs canonically have problems with squadrons:
Side note: I love this gif because it slows down there at the end and you can clearly see where they accidentally didn't use the A-Wing model and left in the practical effects junkyard van they drove through a window with an explosion. I tell people about the van that took down the Executor and nobody believes me.

A flak monster SSD is a plan. A light to moderate fighter-focused squad group is a plan. Doing nothing about it is not a plan. You've got a lot of options on how to deal with squadrons and we've written a lot about them, so there's no need to go into great detail. Just have a plan for heavy squads or suffer the consequences.

Objectives
Real talk: your fleet won't have a lot of deployments and even though your SSD gets to cheat its nose out of your deployment zone it still isn't very fast. Some opposing fleets may not be very interested in flying into the worst nastiness your SSD can provide; they will instead try to sneak around to your rear or perhaps even avoid you all game. Your objectives can help force conflict around a set point, bringing enemy ships to you to stop you from winning (like Contested Outpost), or they can ameliorate your deployment disadvantage (like Solar Corona). Those types of objectives are ideal for an SSD fleet and you should be thinking at all times "how do I make points if the enemy doesn't come to me or how do I deal with deployment disadvantage?" when it comes to picking your objectives. It's easy to find blue and yellow objectives that help you with either of those goals.

It's harder finding red objectives. There's always Most Wanted if you've got a chump Gozanti around to be the whipping boy, but generally you'll have a harder time getting lots of extra dice from it as well as potential issues running down the enemy target with your slow SSD so I don't find it as compelling a choice as usual. Station Assault lets you camp the stations for 80 points unless your opponent can get through the game's meanest guard dog. For extra fun you can belly flop on both stations at once, healing two damage cards. Otherwise, Surprise Attack ensures you know where the enemy flagship is and you can get a head start on going after it plus extra fun from raid tokens.

One quick warning: some objectives are really bad choices for an SSD fleet and you should avoid including them in your trio. It's usually fairly obvious, but I wanted to make special note of Blockade Run. I hear a lot of folks making SSD plans with Blockade Run, but don't. The problem is even if you deploy your SSD as far up as possible, it can just barely crawl into the front of the enemy deployment zone (definitely not "within") by round 6. An opponent who doesn't want to play against your SSD fleet for fear of getting mauled can simply deploy at the back of their deployment zone, set everything to speed 0 on round one, and then take their 5-6 near-tie and then move on to the next game and there's nothing your SSD can do about that. Building an easy escape hatch for your opponent into your trio of objectives is unwise, to put it mildly.

Pictured: your SSD to the enemy fleet hiding in the back in your own Blockade Run.
Pictured: the enemy fleet's response.
A parting collection of various tips 
In no particular order:

It may be worth having a mild bid to give you an edge in choosing first or second, depending. There are some nasty objective suites out there for an SSD and you can ensure a more favorable battleground if you go second and force your opponent to choose your own objectives when you suspect your opponent is packing no easy outs for you but has little to no bid.

It takes some practice getting the hang of the back-middle point of rotation for turning the SSD when it moves. It's easy to mistime navigate commands for yaw so they're set up one round too early or one round too late because you're used to rotating from the front like every other ship in the game.

Combining a nav dial, Take Evasive Action, and Moff Jerry to make an SSD complete a speed-2 maneuver with maximum clicks on every joint is magical.

Be careful about overlapping squadrons, especially your own. The trip from the rear of the SSD to the front is a very long one.

Like most slower ships, deploying in a corner is a good way to make flanking you difficult, but you need to be sure there are enemy assets remotely close to that corner first or else you'll find the enemy fleet will deploy in the opposite corner and leave you slow and stranded. Deploying centrally isn't a death sentence but you need to be very careful about getting flanked and what your escape options are.

It's not uncommon to find one side of the SSD does basically nothing all game as the enemy fleet focuses on going around the other side. That's fine, but remember that there are still shields over there and if it's being ignored, you might as well use repair commands to move those shields over to hull zones that are actually being attacked (provided that's safe to do).

And with that the article is finally over.
Never forget the space van that saved the Rebellion and may the schwartz be with you.
"It's a Winnebago, sir."

8 comments:

  1. Hello! New(ish) player here, I'm looking into taking a SSD to tournaments.

    What is your opinion about running only a Ravager SSD and a handful of Gozanti? Is the risk of getting tabled worth it?

    For instance in the top 4 Gencon fleets there was a very mean SSD with Intel officer, Quad Cannons and H9, but the player was running a Raider as well, I imagine so he would not be as badly damaged if running into a fleet that can actually kill the SSD (like other SSD fleets typically).

    It's a very interesting take on it, so I'm wondering if it's too dangerous to not run that Raider and get a better bid so you can play on your objectives when you're at a disadvantage moving first.

    Which leads to the my next question: against what do you want to move first, generally? MSU fleets are problematic because they run around the best arcs, so moving second is guarantee that they have to play on my term (generally meaning the objective force them to engage), but as the same time getting a first activation may enable the SSD to one shot overexposed ships.

    As always, your blog is extremely insightful and I was looking forward to your SSD article :) Thanks a lot for your work

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    1. It's doable for sure as the Ravager is an absolute beast. With a pair of Gozanti you get better SSD support and points for some more/better upgrades, but by trading in the Raider you lose the ability to pressure backfield targets or run away and stop the tabling (that said, though, if you lose your SSD you're giving up a TON of points already), so it's your call. In some matches, 2 Gozantis are better, in others, Raider+Gozanti.

      Generally whether you choose to go first or second will depend on what the enemy fleet does, what you suspect their objectives are, and how many activations they have. Paul (the NOVA fleet with the Ravager SSD you mentioned, not Gencon) had a bid of 1 point and was fine with going second and did just fine. I've also been running a similar build off and on with no or nearly no bid and doing okay, so I don't think it's a huge issue, but it is something to consider.

      Unfortunately, you don't see a lot of MSU right now so I'm not too worried about that matchup with the SSD just yet, and even then, Ravager and Gunnery Teams can get some work done and those ships need to somehow survive to reach the rear. It sounds easy to do, but it's not. I took out a barely-scratched CR90 with a Ravager rear arc shot in one game. Those two extra dice can really add up, and being too close to it is dangerous.

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    2. For me the main reason to add a Raider to the list was to have a second threat that can't be ignored - as it allowed me to set up forks and to force opponents into tough choices. Raider died most of the time, however it drew away some of the enemy fire and as a result my SSD lost half points only in one game out of eight I played at NOVA. I totally agree with Eric about the fact that tabling protection shouldn't be your top concern/reason to add Raider to the list (if you lost SSD, you're already down 3-8 or worse and those extra 50 points won't matter much)

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  2. Thanks for this guide, the pictures of the ship cards and the base especially. I was going back and forth on whether to invest in it or not, as it seemed absolutely killer, but I couldn't find anywhere its die/hull zone armaments and upgrade cards to make sure I would want it. Now it has been bumped to "as soon as I can afford."

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  3. Thoughts on Local Fire Control in the Gunnery Teams seat? My initial instinct is visceral disgust and indescribable sadness, but on the off chance that a carrier SSD can’t reliably get its hands on a con-fire token, swapping a contain for a lukewarm salvo might be a consolation prize to missing out on one of its attacks. An awful consolation prize… but at least it’s only four points?

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    1. It's done okay here and there and I agree that if you're otherwise going to have trouble getting con fire reliably then it's better to have a weapon team that does something than an expensive weapon team that largely does nothing.

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  4. Can you cover the larger SSDs at some point?

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    1. Unfortunately I likely won't because I don't have any experience running then. Even when I do play the occasional large game, I prefer running a cheaper (usually command) SSD prototype to save points for more ships. Sorry :(.

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