Friday, December 11, 2020

Rebel Specific Upgrades

With the arrival of wave 8, Eric and I split the Rebel and Imperial specific upgrades into their own posts.  As things continue to expand, we figured it was better to do this sooner rather than later.  Hit the jump for all my takes on these cards!

Several of these upgrades were written by Eric first, so anything of his that I agreed with I left in his trademark red, as per usual.  Otherwise, my additional thoughts are below (alphabetically as per usual).

"Seriously, Caitken, clear your browser history before sharing this thing. I've seen things that can't be unseen."

Caitken and Shollan, also known as "the twins" or as I prefer to call them, "the Mon Calbinos," or as John prefers to call them, "Statler and Waldorf"...

Oh come on, if John's involved, you know Muppets aren't far behind!

C&S are great for fixing ONE attack, as they exhaust after use.  Given that Gunnery Team now costs a concentrate fire command to use, and Ordnance Experts maxes at 2 black dice, I can see the benefits of the twins much more easily.  Caitken and Shollan should be considered on ships designed to funnel a single strong attack into an enemy ship with extreme prejudice, often from range and featuring a decent number of red dice. The reason for that is blue dice are not as frequently in need of rerolls (as all faces have something on them and any ship with a decent number of blue dice can usually use Leading Shots if it wants the reroll option) and black dice can get rerolled by Caitken and Shollan's competition, Ordnance Experts. Red dice, however, are the most fickle color of dice in Armada and greatly benefit from rerolls, and rerolls on red dice are not something Rebels normally have easy access to.

Okay, let's get back to the "single strong attack" qualifier to explain that, too: if you're taking Caitken and Shollan, they work once per activation due to exhausting to use. Their primary competition on combat ships, as mentioned earlier, is generally Gunnery Team (which wants to make two attacks out of the best arc usually) and Ordnance Experts (which wants to make two attacks from different hull zones on the same target), and Caitken and Shollan will generally come out poorly when used as straight-up substitutes for those two weapon team upgrades because they can only work the once. The solution is simple: use them as a critical component of a ship that is designed to get one serious wallop in against heavier targets.

For example, let's take an Ackbar Assault Frigate. It's common to give these Gunnery Team so they can spray-and-pray with 5 red dice at two targets out the side arc. With Caitken and Shollan, you can configure one differently with Slaved Turrets (one of the few times I'd recommend their use) and an Intel Officer for a rerollable 6 red dice broadside (7 with a concentrate fire dial, potentially more if the unfortunate victim is the Most Wanted target) with the Intel Officer giving the stink eye to the heavy target's brace. That will add up quickly. You can do something similar with an LMC80 Battle Cruiser using Spinal Armament and XI7 Turbolasers with an Intel Officer too. Ships outfitted in this fashion will get serious damage to stick to heavier targets even at range and can gobble up small ships quickly and should almost never fail to one-shot corvettes and the like at medium range, similar to full-on premium large ships like ISDs but at a lower cost (and admittedly a narrower focus).

The other thing I'll mention is that you can sub out Ordnance Experts on an MC30 if you're maximizing your Ackbar side arc shots, but this basically all but confirms you're planning on hard Ackbarring all game.  Not necessarily a dealbreaker, but when you get into close range and dump External Racks and Ackbar out the side, you've got 5 black dice and 4 red ones.  Hope you don't roll a bunch of blanks!

You'll have the same look on your face when Cham goes after your SSD or Starhawk.
Cham (Hera's Dad) is oddly the most straightforward of the boarding teams so far despite being unique - he acts like a super Slicer Tools against whatever ship he boards, resetting all of its command dials to whatever commands he'd like them to be and giving the opposing ship back a command dial stack set to sadness. Note that per the FAQ, you get to see what the dials were set to before changing them, so try to use that knowledge to your advantage to mess with your opponent's plans as much as possible when you change the dials.

Cham is really hard to evaluate in a vacuum. In a meta where a lot of Command 3+ ships are ripe targets for his shenanigans, his usage can be decisive - Command 3+ ships are both a large portion of the enemy fleet and very difficult to quickly assign new command dials to, leaving a big investment command-screwed for up to half the game. Conversely, against a fleet with smaller ships at Command 1 and Command 2, his effect is less powerful and invites the obvious question of "why didn't I just use a Slicer Tools flotilla for this, which is easier to use, can be used over multiple rounds, and less expensive?" 
The corollary here is that a lot of Rebel fleets include a Leia Comms Net flotilla, resulting in a way around your shenanigans (though it does constrain their activation order, of course).

Therefore, Cham's usefulness will vary tremendously depending on what fleet builds are popular in your community. He also prefers being in fleets that usually go first. This is for two reasons - it increases the odds of the ship he's equipped to being able to confidently last+first Cham's bigger ship target without getting destroyed first (as Cham loves taking on big ships but the Hammerhead he's likely equipped to won't live long at close range of most larger ships) and it also means that Cham can hit his target while it still has all of its command dials, maximizing his chances of messing with the entire dial stack.

I will say this in defense of Cham: unlike the Boarding Troopers or Boarding Engineers, his effect does not care about the Squadrons or Engineering value of the ship he's on, so he can go just about anywhere, usually on a Hammerhead.

I have gotten good mileage out of Cham and External Racks on a Hammerhead as a 45 point threat that has to be answered before I change the flagship's dials to wreck my opponent's day.  It may or may not die before it can do the job it wants to, but if used well, those 45 points require much more of an effort to kill than it appears.  This results in either getting to deliver Cham to the target (which helps you by altering your opponent's dials), or forcing your opponent to devote an attack they would have rather had elsewhere (allowing the rest of your fleet to survive and finish off their large ship).

Cham presents himself as a target, so if you're planning on putting him on a large, make sure that it's not just going to draw even more fire.  Does putting Cham on that large make it do its job better or kill faster, or just really hurt your opponent when you close with that large base? (This is me saying don't put Cham on a Starhawk).
Hey whatever happened to her, anyways?
Jyn Erso can be useful in two ways: she can hit a ship to give it 2 raid tokens and she can gain you a victory token when boarding an objective ship. Let's talk about the raid tokens first. In short, when used this way Jyn Erso is a worse Cham Syndulla because raid tokens are usually easier to deal with than changed dials. Jyn at the very least is likely superior against Command 1 ships, but they have the weakest command resolutions overall, so that's not really a lot to brag about. When used with other Rebel raid tech (like Kanan and/or Rex, for example), the raid tokens do get a lot "stickier" and more annoying, though.

Where Jyn gets particularly interesting is her victory-token use. There are plenty of objectives with ships that have objective tokens, but what she needs is an objective like that that also has meaningful victory tokens. At the moment, that list is: Blockade Run (when you are first player only), Intel SweepCapture the VIPIon Storm, Marked for Destruction, Rift AssaultFleet in Being, and Hyperspace Migration. Most of these objectives give you an extra 10-15 points from Jyn, which isn't a lot but is still a good return on investment for a 4-point upgrade card.

Intel Sweep in particular can be an interesting objective to include with Jyn because she allows you to harvest 2 victory tokens in one round - one from her boarding the enemy objective ship and one from your own objective ship grabbing a token. That can create an almost-insurmountable lead in an objective that normally tops out at 5 possible victory tokens where each side can only grab one per round. It also means that Jyn's ship might be able to destroy the enemy objective ship after boarding it, which should have Intel Sweep wrapped up nicely for you. Capture the VIP is a bit weirder - you need to board whichever ship currently has the VIP, at which point you'll get a victory token worth 50 points. If your enemy keeps the VIP, it's a wash. If you take the VIP back, you'll end up with a 100 point gain. This is another circumstance where if you can not only board the objective ship but then destroy it, you're nearly certain to get a big windfall of points.
Every attempt I make with Jyn usually results in these 2 objectives being chosen, so, start practicing with them.

To summarize, Jyn's got value but needs to be in the right kind of fleet. Typically one with the right objectives and preferably Rebel raid tech to compliment both of her effects.

We were merchants!

The Mon Cal Exodus Fleet (AKA MCEF) titles are "generic" titles first released in wave seven that work very similarly to the Hammerhead generic titles from wave 6, only they are restricted not to a specific chassis of ship but rather specific groups of ships that all have certain letters in their name. Before we get into the details, I want to cover a few rules:
  • Much like the Hammerhead titles, the name titles require a friendly ship with an identical title to be in range (in this case, at distance 1-4) and to exhaust the other ship's title to work (leaving the benefited ship's copy of the title alone).
    • A reminder that "at" distance 1-4 means "any part of your base," so it's a pretty decent-sized bubble.
    • Just like the Hammerhead titles, each name title can only be used once per triggering event. You can't exhaust multiple versions of the same title to stack the benefits.
  • Each name title has an "X" only restriction, meaning the X needs to be part of the ship's name to consider taking that title. 
  • Generic titles are still titles, so you can't equip both a unique title and a generic title to the same ship.
  • MCEF only triggers on a repair command, but you can trigger that command with any mixture of dial and/or token, so you can get a lot of use out of it from just having a steady supply of repair tokens if you don't want to queue up too many repair dials.
    • Similarly, it adds 2 engineering points to the total for the command. So it's +2 whether it's a token, dial, or dial and token.
  • This effect stacks with other effects that provide additional engineering points when resolving a repair command, such as Engineering Team or the Redemption title.
    • MCEF can also be used with other effects that spend engineering points during repair commands for non-standard effects, like Projection Experts.
Again similarly to the Hammerhead generic titles, name titles generally want to be run in groups of 3 or more. Obviously, they're completely worthless on a single ship, but on a pair of ships they present a few problems. The most obvious is that all it takes is one of the ships being destroyed or getting too far away to make the entire expense on the titles wasted. Both name titles are defensive, so you also run into issues where if your opponent is focusing their fire on a single ship, you'll only really get benefit from the one title and not both. If you're using 3+ name titles, you've got more insurance spread across your entire fleet, making them easier to use and diminishing the chances that an opponent completely ignores all but one ship (as it would be much harder to profitably do), increasing the usefulness of the titles as a group.

The MCEF allows for some of the most expensive Rebel ships to become even tankier. Currently eligible for the MCEF title are the MC30, MC75, LMC80 and HMC80. One thing you'll note immediately is that none of those ships are very cheap and the cheapest one, the MC30, already has two good (ForesightAdmonition) titles competing for that slot. If you're trying to get to 3+ copies of MCEF in your fleet, it will usually involve at least one MC30 pouting over the fact that it's taking one for the team (that or a fleet of "only" 3 large Rebel ships, all fairly tight on their upgrades to make everything fit). Only 2 copies can work but you can struggle with focused fire, as I mentioned earlier. You can get around this somewhat by using an HMC80 with Projection Experts (ignore me, huh? Well I'm funneling free shields to the other guy!), but giving up Engine Techs on an HMC80 can be tough.

All that said, there are a few other considerations to mull over while creating an MCEF fleet. You'll generally want:
  • A steady supply of repair tokens. Garm is a great commander for MCEF fleets for this reason, especially when he's paired with Ahsoka, who can on-demand convert other tokens into repair tokens if necessary to keep the healing going all game. Comms Net GR-75s do fine here too but are a bit clunkier to get the process working as quickly as you may need it to. The new Parts Resupply looks tailor-made for this type of fleet, in my opinion.
    • Basically, you want to trigger MCEF as much as possible, but needing to mainline repair commands is going to be tough on most fleets. 4-engineering-point repair tokens, though, are pretty great, and not too difficult to supply with the right setup. This can be boosted by the occasional repair dial for a 7 or 8 engineering point super-repair when needed.
      • Speaking of which, Leia Organa is a great officer if you're using that Comms Net or Parts Resupply GR-75 if it turns out one of your ships really needs to repair an awful lot.
  • A fleet that makes sure your MCEF ships are all generally happy hanging out reasonably close to one another. If you have an artillery Assault HMC80 and a knife-fighter Torpedo MC30, sooner or later one of them is going to feel like they're in a relationship where they're giving more than they're getting back. This generally means you want to not allow your long-ranged ships like HMC80s and Battlecruiser LMC80s to mingle with your short-ranged ships like Ordnance MC75s and Torpedo MC30s, but you should be able to happily include more flexible of medium-ranged ships like Star Cruiser LMC80s, Armored MC75s, and Scout MC30s with either type of group.
  • You can try for only 2 MCEF ships, but it's important to try to either keep them on the table for as long as possible and/or to use Projection Experts (on the HMC80[s]) to make the  repair buff on a ship being temporarily ignored more useful.
  • Repairing all by itself is useful, but it's not often enough to keep up with the pace of damage hitting your ships. That said, repairing combines great with other sources of damage reduction and/or dice screwage, so make it a point to include officers like Lando or maybe even Derlin as well as fill those defensive retrofit slots.
  • Bad idea John back again; I ran 2 of them in a RitR campaign and they did pretty well there? With the Evade change now in effect, Admonition and Foresight are still great but the MCEF titles aren't as distant of a third place as you'd think. It's a very different fleet, but I can see its merits.
Shriv Suurgav is, to cut to the chase, a worse Rebel Darth Vader boarding team. He costs 3 more points and his target selection is limited to "basic" weapon upgrades, retrofits, and crew.  So no titles, officers, fleet commands, or special weapons/upgrades on InterdictorsOnagers, or opposing Starhawks. That said, he's still pretty good in the right fleets and he can be delivered to the target less expensively overall due to how cheap Hammerheads are and fairly accurately given those Hammerheads can always pop out of the Profundity if necessary (Raddus optional).

Shriv can still get a lot of work done with the options available to him. Just like his evil asthmatic cyborg wizard counterpart, he's worth considering on smaller ships (obviously Hammerheads) for some drive-by harassment but also on MC75s and the like that want to get in close for some double-arcing nastiness and would prefer to remove defensive retrofits and the like before opening up on their target.  
He also goes well on a Starhawk to pull off the opposing defensive retrofit before you open up with a double arc on their ship.

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