Saturday, January 2, 2021

Imperial commander review: Admiral Piett

Let's talk about Admiral Piett. Commander Palpatine will come in due time, but it may be a while longer as I put him through his paces.

Piett finally earned that promotion after his boss got asphyxiated over Facetime.
Looking pretty cocky for a dude that got killed by a space van.
Admiral Piett's rules aren't too tricky, so the usual early-article rules bullet points won't be too long:
  • It's any friendly ship, not "another" friendly ship, so it definitely works on the ship Piett is on.
  • Piett only works when a ship spends only a command token to resolve a command.
    • That command resolves as if the command was triggered using only a command dial.
      • Meaning you can't spend only a token, use Piett, and then sneak in another token of the same type to augment the dial (say, on an Executor title SSD).
    • When in doubt, double-check the article on commands and command resolution about this kind of thing.
  • Because Piett exhausts to use, he's normally limited to only one use per round. 
    • Furthermore, because he's an upgrade, he can be exhausted prematurely by something like MS-1 Ion Cannons, so be aware of that.
    • The other side of the coin about him being an upgrade is you can always use him twice if you refresh him with the Interdictor title (provided the Interdictor in question is your flagship).
Because Piett is usually limited to one use per round he's not a good choice for fleets with multiple combat ships, where a more conventional commander would provide a larger benefit across your whole fleet. He's much better in smaller games and/or games with one or two serious ships, which is typically the case in your usual 400 point games with a Super Star Destroyer (which he comes packaged with, no surprise). It's important to have an easy supply of command tokens to use his ability, which typically isn't tough with the SSD's inherent token generation, but you can also use token-generating officers (of which the Empire is spoiled for choice) and/or Comms Nets and the like to provide a lot more options whether or not you're using Piett with an SSD.

The big question when it comes to running Piett, especially if you're doing so outside of an SSD fleet, is "why aren't I running Thrawn instead?" Thrawn provides easy access to full command dials for every ship in your fleet for 3 rounds straight and doesn't require any token shenanigans to set up. Piett is 10 points cheaper than Brainy Smurf, but if you're including a Comms Net Gozanti or other infrastructure to set up Piett's token engine, it's not too tough to drop a lot of the extraneous token economy to free up points for Thrawn. This is especially true if you wanted to be cute by trying to use Piett twice a round on the Interdictor - it feels good for two of your ships to use tokens as dials, but when you look at how often that's meaningful and how much you're paying (in both points and opportunity costs) to get the tokens set up for those two ships, Thrawn is nearly always the better option for doing something very similar more conveniently. That's not even getting into other commanders with more diverse abilities that might suit that particular fleet build better.

A similar question arises when you're considering running Piett in an SSD fleet; specifically: "why aren't I running Jerry instead?" Moff Jerjerrod is stupid on Super Star Destroyers with the 2 extra yaw he can provide anytime he pleases and the best Piett can really do there is resolve a nav token as a nav dial for half the benefit. Given Jerry is only 1 point more expensive than Piett, the two are nearly identical in cost.

Normally this is where I provide a list, but we've basically already covered this: lots of ships like being able to resolve a command at dial strength using only a token, and it's more appealing when the comparative benefit is large (the difference between a dial and token resolution is more extreme and has more of a bearing on your whole fleet) and Piett's once-per-round (usually) restriction isn't a problem. This means Piett likes big expensive ships and fleets where there are only 1-2 meaningful recipients for his ability most of the time. So typically the Super Star Destroyer, Imperial-class Star Destroyer, and perhaps even an expensive medium ship (like an Interdictor or blinged-out VSD-II) would be the primary beneficiaries.

Fleet building
Given the pressure from Jerry as an alternative, where does Piett shine and what kind of fleets can you build for him?

For non-SSD fleets, I can see an argument for using Piett when you simply want a very cheap commander and you're only using 2 or 3 ships. You'll need to get access to tokens but not want to drop points on Comms Net Gozantis (or else you're probably better off with Thrawn), so that means token-generating officers, Hondo, or just turning dials into tokens the old-fashioned way with some regularity. Basically when used in this way, Piett is appealing when you need to scrounge up every last point and for whatever reason you didn't want to use other cheap commanders like Ozzel, Jerjerrod, or Motti. That's... not often, but it can happen in some rare cases. The Interdictor trick is cute and provided you build very carefully for it, can work out okay but I still caution you to consider exactly how much you're investing into the trick versus just using another commander. But if it will work for your fleet, it is a good occasion to consider running an Interdictor flagship.

For SSD fleets, I like to use Piett when I intend to have the SSD command squadrons regularly. For 400 point games, that means the Command Prototype SSD in most cases. There are a few benefits here over Jerjerrod. First and foremost is you get that inherent built-in resistance to command-screwage; so long as you've got a squadron token, you can fire off a dial-sized squadron command every single activation. At 5 squads base, that's pretty good. Secondly, but also importantly for a squad fleet, you get Piett's flexibility in potentially augmenting other tokens, especially repair or navigate tokens, while you use squad dials natively (in the non-Slicers matchup). Being able to full-strength repair when you need it while still commanding squads can help keep you on the table and remove troublesome faceup damage cards.

Final thoughts
I'm a little tough on poor Piett and I wish it wasn't so. He's a solid SSD commander for the most part, but so long as Jerjerrod works on SSDs, Jerry is just so much better in an SSD fleet with few to no squadrons where you're looking to get maximum combat utility out of your SSD through good maneuvering. You can use Piett in fleets without SSDs, but his niche there is even more corner-case. He has a good home in smaller games (200 to 300 points or so) where his cheap cost is welcome and the fact that he only works on one ship per round is less of a give-up compared to other commanders.


  1. Hey just discovered your blog.

    Do you have any up to date squadron lists for imperial and Rebel? New to the game just trying to understand it a bit.


    1. We've got a few different squadron builds in the squadron size articles John wrote (see the sidebar on the right) but the large fighter coverage needs an update (the groups still work but they're old). It's not an entire fleet, just a squadron component, though. Basically I don't want to put entire netlists out there (beyond the starter fleets we recommend) because the game changes regularly enough and I want to encourage people to get to a level where they start playing around with their own lists. Hopefully that helps.

  2. I found the extra activation that comes from combining a Gozanti with an Assault Prototype SSD is priceless. So for me, Piett's utility combined with the extra activation and flexibility of the command 1 value Gozanti makes him a great fit on my SSD. Then again, I built in enough bid to ensure I would have the choice of second player so I could control the objectives and wouldn't need to maneuver much!

    1. The Assault SSD fleet I run tends to have the SSD plus 2 other ships (usually both Gozantis) so I understand wanting the extra support and activation(s). Unless I'm bringing squadrons, though, Jerry has done a lot more for me than Piett in that fleet, unfortunately (for Piett).

      I tend to run Piett the most with Command SSD fleets where I've got the spare points for a decent-sized squad component. That's me, though. I've gotten a bit of pushback on my negative Piett opinion and I'd be happy to have my mind changed if/when we see Piett fleets doing well in the upcoming regionals/primes.

  3. I think the thing being missed from Piett vs Thrawn is that Piett is FLEXIBLE, whereas Thrawn you are locked in before the game begins. Enemy unexpectedly wipes out all your squads with above-average rolls? Well those two squad dials sitting on Thrawn are now junk... Enemy delivers an enormously successful broadside and you wish you had engineer commands? Eh, tough, Thrawn just sitting on nav commands. etc. With Piett, especially with Hondo, you have a chance to get an instant-dial of whatever you need at that moment. For ships with large command stacks, that can save the day.

    1. That's true, but it's still only one ship. In most cases with a fleet with numerous combat ships I'll happily take the quasi-inflexibility of Thrawn in return for more total dials. Furthermore, you can prepare for game events by not choosing all the same dial for thrawn. If you expect the other guy is going to be able to put a dent in your squadrons, you're not going to choose all squadron dials when it's time to choose your Thrawn dials.

  4. What do you think about Piett + Beck combo, on say a Raider, Glad or Kittens?

    1. I don't think it's strong enough to make up for your commander only affecting one ship, and a small one at that. There are some Piett Sovereign ISD builds I've seen (usually ISD + something else + flotilla) that seem... okay? I'm not sold, but I'm told it's fun getting to decide what dial-as-token command happens on which ship every round, even if it's not necessarily top tier.

    2. I took a Sovreign Piett list to day 2 of Worlds this year. Can confirm the flexibility of picking what you need every round is a lot of fun, although it typically ends up being a squad command.

      And imo you don't usually need more than one big squad command per round anyway. So if you're using Thrawn for squad pushing, those are points that could be put elsewhere thanks to Piett-Sovreign.

  5. So Piett on an Interdictor with Projection Experts and Yularen could get the full Repair complement each turn just using a token, sending 2 shields and using the other 4 to refresh its own. That could be handy for keeping itself and another ship alive while using its Command dial to do something else (after turn 1).

    1. You only get 5 repair points doing it that way, so you'd be able to send 2 shields over and then bring back 1 (and move another). You're spending 29 points on just commander and officer to make that work. If you really want repairing like crazy on crucial turns for your fleet, you might as well use Thrawn set to repair dials so your other ships get free repair dials as well.

    2. Darn that math. So to get the full 6, you'd have to spend the dial and token, which, as you said, doesn't require Piett.