There are many contenders but the owner of the most punchable Separatist face has officially entered the building: give it up for Mar Tuuk!
|Gotta add those nerdy little goggles and dumb hat to take that punchability up a few notches.
|"Just doing my scheming pose practice while robots walk around; you know, the usual."
Whenever a friendly ship attacks an enemy ship, Mar Tuuk will have one of three different effects:
- The hull zone has at least one shield: add one red die.
- The hull zone has no shields in that hull zone but has shields elsewhere: nothing happens.
- The hull zone has no shields in any hull zone: remove one attack die.
Adding a die happens in the Resolve Attack Effects step of the attack sequence, so after you roll your initial dice pool. Removing a die happens immediately after your initial attack roll, so technically just a smidge before you get to the Resolve Attack Effects step. That said, because it happens after that initial roll, it's not too tough to chose and remove the worst result - blank dice are the easy give-up.
Please recall that you can't add any dice to salvo attacks. But you can cancel dice in salvo attacks, so if you salvo back against a ship with no shields at all you will be dropping one die from that attack.
Mar Tuuk loves double-arcing just like Separatist ships love double-arcing. Does your opponent really want to eat an extra die on each attack? Ugh, that's awful. But is it more awful than taking the second attack on a shieldless hull zone? If your opponent does decide to drop their shields against attack #1, you then get to choose to either keep pouring it on for now or toss your second attack elsewhere: either against the same ship but a different, shielded, hull zone, or another shielded hull zone on some other target. So try to time your attacks with an eye towards giving the second attack the greater number of options so you can respond to what your opponent decides to do. In some cases it's best to see if you can sneak in some damage on a hull zone your opponent left open thinking it was the right idea but in other cases it's best to play the long game by burning out shields with bonus dice.
Speaking of burning out shields, in my experience it is relatively rare to see Mar Tuuk's downside kick in: so long as you are careful to focus on one or two hull zones and throw the occasional shot at a shielded neighboring hull zone (to preemptively take out shields that can be redirected to later) when it's safe to do so, most enemy ships will still die with a few shields lingering somewhere. The key concept there is "when it's safe to do so." If you throw attacks around without considering the opponent's defense tokens it won't be too tough to have the opposing ship not only get the benefit of every shield point it has but to cause Mar Tuuk's downside to kick in too early: it's not a big deal if the downside kicks in when the ship is on death's door: the canceled die likely won't make a difference anyways. It is a big deal if the downside kicks in too early as it can cost you one or more extra attacks to finally turn that ship to space debris (or cost you the enemy ship altogether as it gets away before you can finally kill it).
So when is it "safe" to attack neighboring hull zones to preemptively burn out shields that were going to be redirected to later while getting that Mar Tuuk extra die? It's tricky to say with absolute certainty, but it's going to depend on the trajectory of the two ships, what attacks are lined up on the same enemy target this round, and what the status is on redirect tokens. Some basic pointers on when it's safe to go after neighboring shielded hull zones are:
- When all redirect tokens are exhausted (red) unless the only place to redirect to is the final shielded hull zone, in which case it's not much of a choice.
- If other attackers are lined up to go after a shieldless hull zone later in the round, depending on the number of available redirects. The defender will tend to prioritize keeping damage from sticking to the hull over a longer-term plan to run themselves completely out of shields.
- If your ship is headed in that direction anyways. So if you've focused on the front hull zone and your opponent let it get depleted but you're sailing to the right of that ship, it's perfectly fine to target the left side (from that ship's perspective, it's still on the right side from your ship's perspective)as you'll be firing on the front or right hull zones as you pass by regardless. A canny opponent can anticipate this and redirect earlier attacks to the opposing side, however, so be careful.
Obviously if the enemy ship has no redirect, then it's pretty straightforward. Also be on the lookout for a repair command to move shields around to both prolong the life of the enemy ship as well as to get you to finally strip all the shields from the ship to trigger your drawback. This is another reason it's good to focus on double-arcing but keeping your options open for other attacks - it's hard to force you to remove the last remaining shields if you can draw a bead on other hull zones, or at the very least you can toss an attack at an unshielded hull zone first and then use your second attack to finally wipe shields and hopefully drill some more damage into the hull.
Does it have red dice, a reasonable chance at getting two attacks most rounds, and preferably a way to make red dice behave somewhere in all that? Then Mar Tuuk is down. This is pretty much all Separatist ships, period, when built right. Even though the Hardcell Transport variant isn't sporting red dice in its side arcs, it can still work provided it's supporting your other heavy hitters well enough.
Squadrons are for the weak if you're running Mar Tuuk and I wouldn't recommend anything above a small fighter coverage group to keep enemy squadrons honest. You want all the extra dice you can wring out of your fleet and that means more ships.
Your primary decision is going to come down to how much you're going to spam cheap ships to maximize Mar Tuuk's possible upside at the risk of hitting his downside. Specifically, Battle Hardcells offer the most opportunities to provide extra dice on attacks as they're the cheapest red-dice-all-over (except the rear) ship Separatists get. Going from a 3 red/1 red attack to a 4 red/2 red attack when triggering Mar Tuuk's ability is 50% more dice. That's great! If you hit his drawback, though, you're down to a 2 red/0 red attack, losing 50% of your base dice. That's terrible! Relying on a swarm of little battle chihuahuas to overwhelm targets could backfire pretty badly when you're left lobbing just 2 red dice to finish targets off and taking forever, or even worse if that target is obstructed and it's just 1 dice each. Oof.
For a better-rounded fleet, I'd still encourage at least one, preferably two, Hardcells. They get the most dice efficiency for their cost out of Mar Tuuk when attacking shielded hull zones and it's fine to run one of them as a Transport Hardcell for additional support duties. There's also something to be said for smaller attacks that are less likely to wipe all the shields in a single attack. The most annoying Mar Tuuk attack is the one that drops a hull zone to a single shield because it just barely triggers the bonus red die and means that ship's about to be in a heap of trouble. Smaller attacks can get you there more easily than large attacks (but large attacks are good afterwards for exploiting no-shields or one-shield situations).
After that, Munificents are a good all-around inclusion for some solid moderate-sized attacks with a reasonable price point. It's your call if you'd like to add a Providence or not: I recommend it as it gives you somewhere for Mar Tuuk to keep his very punchable face safe and with all the extra red dice, Intensify Firepower is an even more excellent fleet command upgrade than usual. This can save you points elsewhere if you want to run your ships lean and mean and drop your Linked Turbolaser Towers to get more ships on the board. I don't really recommend a Recusant much, which is weird given he comes packaged with it: I'd rather spend a few more points for the Providence to get a tougher ship on the board with Intensify Firepower and then stick to less expensive ships to maximize Mar Tuuk's effect. That's not to say you can't, but it can be tough to fit both a Providence and a Recusant in a 400-point fleet and I personally consider an Intensify Firepower Providence nearly mandatory.