|Separatist requisitions department: "Yes, I want that Speak-and-Spell Ninja Turtles garbage can wearing a trucker hat that points at stuff."|
I'm glad to say that TF-1726 doesn't need a lot of clarification. I merely want to mention three things:
- Remember that he works once per activation, not once per attack.
- While a salvo attack is an attack made in an activation (your opponent's), so effects like Screed can work on salvo, you can't add dice to a salvo attack so it doesn't actually matter for TF-1726.
- Unless otherwise stated, add effects happen during the Resolve Attack Effects step of the attack sequence, which is when the bonus black dice kick in from TF-1726.
TF-1726 is also pretty straightforward here, and we're veering into the fleetbuilding portion already to say so, but he wants as many sources of raid tokens as he can get or else he does literally nothing. That's your first step. Typically, this means using Jedi Hostage on a Providence Carrier or on a flagship using Flag Bridge. Then slap your BORT droids on most/all of your ships that can take them. It means your TF-1726 fleet design decisions are to some degree pretty prescribed, but that's how it goes (at least for now). This also means you need a really good reason to not use Surprise Attack as your red/assault objective.
Because the BORT droids and TF-1726 have the same timing window, make sure to use the BORT droids first to add a raid token and then resolve TF-1726 to add the extra black dice.
That's it, really: put raid tokens on things, add black dice, profit. You get more dice, your opponent has annoying raid tokens. The big decisions largely come in fleetbuilding but the core idea is simple.
Ships and Fleetbuilding
I'm combining these two sections together because the whole fleet is trying to get raid tokens where needed and get maximum value from the extra black dice, so simply typing out "every ship likes more free black dice" is true, but kind of misses the forest for the trees. The need to get raid tokens out there and the ability to get extra black dice changes a lot of decisions and builds for Separatist ships in general.
Your first question is "am I using Jedi Hostage, and if so, on which ship?" You'll ideally want it on a difficult-to-ignore target, so a large ship. With Flag Bridge, you can put it on your flagship, but it does chew up an offensive retrofit slot you should be using for BORT Droids, which isn't great. The Support Recusant has two offensive retrofit slots, but no ordnance upgrade, so that's not great. In general, my recommendation would be to go for a Providence Carrier if you want to use Jedi Hostage - you don't need to use Flag Bridge, you'll still have a spare offensive retrofit slot for BORT Droids, you have an ordnance slot, and you have a defensive retrofit slot to help manage the firepower coming your way. Jedi Hostage isn't mandatory with TF-1726, but it can definitely get some work done by getting more tokens on the board than a single BORT Droids would, at the cost of you needing to use your biggest investment fairly aggressively to draw fire. So be careful.
The second question is "how am I getting my BORT Droids to the table and how many?" Note you are using them. It's mostly how many, and what ships. For this you mostly want ships that have a spare offensive retrofit slot and don't mind getting into medium to close range. You'll note that nearly every Separatist ship has an offensive retrofit slot, so that doesn't really narrow it down much, but Munificents aren't very well-suited to this task due to being maximum speed 2 and focused on longer-ranged sniping. Battle Hardcells are also built for long-ranged fire support but they are cheap, pretty tanky for their cost, and get the most cost-effective benefit of extra black dice from TF-1726 once you get the raid party going, so they're not as bad an option as you'd first think. Plus concentrate fire dial + full TF-1726 resulting in 3 red dice and 3 black dice from a 59-point ship is excellent. Light Destroyer Recusants and Providences are perfect for heavier-hitting roles as they both have ordnance slots and don't mind getting into medium-close range (if only for a little while, like the Recusants). Make no mistake, though, my recommendation is fill every offensive retrofit slot you can with BORT Droids unless you've got a good reason not to. You live or die by those raid tokens.
Assuming you want to get at least 2 raid tokens on important targets and ideally more than 2 raid tokens spread across an enemy fleet even round, you should be considering Jedi Hostage to be worth around 2 raid tokens (sometimes less, sometimes more) and BORT Droids to be worth just about 1 each. You'll want 4 or more total raid token production for smooth sailing. The end fleet can look very large-heavy (I've seen some folks rolling with Jedi Hostage Providence + 2 Recusants, which has its issues but is a lot of beef). The end fleet can be very MSU-style (a Recusant, maybe two, and a lot of little Hardcells trying their best). It really depends how you lean into it.
Again, the Hardcells are just cheap ships. They don't get any specific synergy for black dice but they're the cheapest way to bring more copies of BORT Droids to the table and the cheapest way to get more triggers of "and then add 1-2 more black dice." Your heavier ships produce less TF-1726 triggers for their cost and less copies of BORT Droids but they can bring ordnance upgrades with black crit abilities that can now trigger at longer ranges without having to resort to Swivels shenanigans and/or get a lot more total black dice at closer ranges to more reliably trigger. Plus you've got a weapon team slot on both Recusants and the Dreadnought Providence for Ordnance Experts too. It's quantity vs. quality but both have their selling points and you can always compromise somewhere in-between if you like, too.
Two other things to discuss before I wrap up this article:
First of all, don't forget that raid tokens do more than just set up TF-1726's shenanigans. They're persistent and annoying command denial that can really help shut down what your opponent was hoping to do. By piling 2+ of them on an enemy ship, it's pretty likely that your opponent is going to need to discard a dial to clear them all away to start getting to things they want to do and to deny you the bonus black dice. This is both an upside and a downside: consistently tossing anti-squad raid tokens on enemy carriers significantly hampers a squad-heavy fleet but the more they clear those tokens away, the less your extra black dice will actually happen. You need to watch your tempo, see which ships have activated yet versus those that haven't, and decide when you want to add raid tokens to ships to best get your extra black dice in versus getting them in early to mess with important commands, even at the cost of black dice. Your opponent is going to expect a fire hose of raid tokens and take precautions, so expect it will take some persistent pressure to finally shut down full dial-strength commands (as they'll take a token as a precautionary measure to specifically remove that raid token).
Secondly, I didn't mention squadrons yet and that's because you probably shouldn't bring any. At all. Now I'm normally not one to advocate for leaving even a light screen at home (as of 1.5, anyways) but with TF-1726 it doesn't make much sense. You want all the ships you can bring and each of those ships wants a 7 point upgrade (BORT Droids) in addition to the upgrades it normally takes. You won't have (m)any open offensive retrofit slots for basic squadron-assistance upgrades like Reserve Hangar Decks, which are a staple for getting extra mileage from generic Swarm fighters, and thus a common feature in small- to medium-sized Separatist squadron groups. Plus, as a reminder, you will be producing a good number of raid tokens. Persistent raid tokens are very annoying for enemy carriers. Will that stop enemy squadrons altogether? No. Will it be annoying enough to slow them down a bit? Yes. Would the small number of unsupported fighters you would be able to fit in do much anyways? Signs unclear, ask again later. But the point is you are both less able to afford and support any squadrons you would bring and you are already producing raid tokens that mess with enemy squadron commands so you should probably just ride it out, drop squadrons altogether and bring another ship.