TIE Striker – Preview Thoughts

The last of the Wave 10 previews came out last Monday, covering the second of the Rogue One ships, the TIE Striker. Designed for both atmospheric and space combat, the TIE Striker is a hard-hitting dogfighter with a unique flight pattern.

The Dial

At first glance, the dial seems quite slow for a TIE – green 1, 2, and 3 forward, green 1 banks, white 1 and 2 turns and 2 and 3 banks, and a 2 K-turn and pair of 2 S-loops. It’s nimble enough, can shed stress OK, and has some knife fighting turns and turn around options for close range dogfighting. Having the full range of 1 speed moves makes it able to control range well, or turn on a dime.

However, it’s impossible to get the full picture without looking at the Adaptive Ailerons title, which fundamentally changes how the TIE Striker flies when it’s equipped.

Upgrades

Adaptive Ailerons

The TIE Striker only title, Adaptive Ailerons gives this ship a real turn of speed. Immediately before you reveal your dial, if you’re not stressed you must perform a 1 forward or bank. Note the word “must” in there.

This is going to give the TIE Striker a fast and potentially unpredictable flight path, but also make it challenging to fly as you’ll need to essentially plan two maneuvers each turn for each Striker you have. That’s going to take some thought if you’ve got a swarm of them in play… Importantly, bumping with this pre-dial maneuver has been specifically clarified by one of the game designers to no cause you to lose your actions, so you can bump then fly past another ship without losing out.

Even going at its slowest speed, a TIE Striker with Adaptive Ailerons attached has an effective minimum speed of 3. This probably means it will pair well with TIE Defenders or Interceptors, both of which want to speed around the board in general. Alternatively, it’ll do well burning down a side of the board to act as a distracting flanking force. At higher Pilot Skills, this level of reactive movement could push the ship towards being a budget TIE Phantom, although without some of that ship’s tricks.

Interestingly, this is the first of the 0 point titles that we’ve seen a few of recently where there’s cases to be made for both equipping it or not. The Striker will fly very differently with or without it, and probably fulfill different roles as a result. It’s a very neat bit of design all told, and something I’m keen to try out.

Lightweight Frame

A TIE only modification, Lightweight Frame gives you a bonus defence dice if your opponent is rolling more attack dice than you. This is a big deal for all Agility 2 or lower TIEs, although there’s a couple of notably winners.

Both the TIE Striker and TIE/sf Fighter benefit from this a lot, with neither having a “must take” modification as part of their standard builds, and both of them being pushed up to three defence dice against most attacks. That’s a notable buff to survivability, and well worth the 2 point cost. I’ve tested it out of the TIE/sf already, and it really does fundamentally change the survivability of that ship – it’s not in /x7 Defender territory by any stretch of the imagination, but still really quite tanky.

The other low Agility TIEs are much more of a mixed bag. For the most part, the TIE Bomber and Punisher both want to take Guidance Chips or Long-Range Scanners to maximise their ordnance, and the named Phantoms want Advanced Cloaking Device or in a pinch Stygium Particle Accelerator. This is a real shame for the TIE Punisher in particular, which desperately needs something to improve it – as the only ship not taken at all at the last Worlds, it’s clearly in a bad state.

There’s a bit more potential on the TIE Bomber with the TIE Shuttle title however – it doesn’t care about Guidance Chips, and doesn’t usually need Long-Range Scanners, but the extra defence dice can help it live longer as a support or control crewed ship. 23 points gets you a Scimitar Squadron TIE Shuttle with Lightweight Frame, Tactician, and Rebel Captive, for a very annoying and surprisingly durable bit of stress control. Similarly, the Phantom can build a potentially potent blocker from a Sigma Squadron with Enhanced Scopes, Intelligence Agent and Lightweight Frame. At 29 points, it’s not cheap, but has effectively a 4/3/2/2 statline and a lot of unpredictability.

When it works well, Lightweight Frame is well worth the points. The TIE/sf, Striker, and TIE Shuttle Bombers will all get a lot out of this, and 2 points for what is essentially an extra point of Agility under a lot of circumstances is a good deal. It sadly doesn’t do anything to help Imperial ordnance carriers, but hopefully the Punisher will get something at some point in the future…

Swarm Leader

Rounding out the upgrades from this pack, the Swarm Leader Elite Pilot Talent is a fascinating bit of design, allowing you to turn defence across your squad into offence for one ship. When performing a primary weapon attack, choose up to 2 other friendly ships that have the defender inside their firing arcs at Range 1-3. Remove 1 evade token from each chosen ship to roll 1 additional attack die for each token removed.

So, if you can set everything up right, you can burn off two evade tokens from your ships to add in two red dice to your roll. This is limited to primary weapons only, but it still gives some strong alpha-strike potential. Extra attack dice are always good to have, and are something the game designers clearly value highly. (Judging by the points and opportunity costs of things like Expose and Jan Ors.) However, it’s a unique upgrade (so paints a target on the ship with it), it’s somewhat expensive at 3 points, and reliant on you having at least one other ship on the board that can afford to take an evade action at no direct benefit to itself. That’s quite a few caveats.

But my gut instinct is that it’ll be worth it for some specific builds. Swarm Leader /x7 Vessery fits neatly alongside Push the Limit Ryad and an /x7 Delta to give Vessery a hefty opening punch while still leaving your other ships with some defensive dice modification. Likewise, a similar Vessery Swarm Leader build can drop into a list alongside two Omega Squadron TIE/fos with Crackshot and Omega Leader with the usual trimmings with 2 points to spare. You’ll note that I’m mostly looking at Defenders here, as you really need something that can live through a couple of turns of shooting to get the most out of this upgrade. I’ve seen a few people suggesting running it on Omega Ace, for piles of crits, but that’s going to take a lot of setup and synergy on what’s fundamentally still quite a fragile ship.

I’m not sure I’ve got got a good Rebel build using it in mind as yet, but there’s at least one Scum possibility. Three Cartel Spacers with Heavy Laser Cannons fit exactly alongside Zuckuss with Swarm Leader. You’ll get a likely one shot off with Zuckuss before he’s focused down by your opponent, but it’ll be a heck of a lot of fun…

I’m tentatively interested to see what this can do upgrade can do, but I think it’s firmly in the category of things you need to build a list around. My instincts says this isn’t going to be top tier competitive, although I’m going to be keeping an eye on those /x7 Defender builds.

Pilots

Like several other Imperial ships (and the Fang), the TIE Striker comes with three generic pilots. We’ve only had one of those revealed so far, although we can make some reasonable assumptions about the others based on that.

Imperial Trainee

The baseline Pilot Skill 1 generic, for 17 points the Imperial Trainee brings 3 Attack, 2 Agility, 4 Hull, and 0 Shields. That’s a decent statline for the points cost (with that 3 Attack probably why it’s a point more than a Scimitar Squadron Bomber), and has some potential as a hard-hitting filler or mini-swarm ship for the Imperials.

The Adaptive Ailerons title and the barrel roll action also gives this ship a lot of blocking potential at PS 1. It can throw itself into some unexpected places, or just cover a lot of ground to set itself up for the following turn. There may also be an argument for flying it without Adaptive Ailerons as a cheap and cheerful gunship that doesn’t require quite so much mental energy to fly!

Overall, it’s a well costed entry point to this ship that can fulfill a couple of roles at that cheap price point. Two thumbs up.

To engage in a bit of speculation, there’s a good chance that the PS 3 will be 18 points, and the PS 4 19 points with an EPT slot, given the points cost of the first named Striker pilot on the list after that…

“Countdown”

In at PS 5 and 20 points, Countdown comes with a pilot ability that make him difficult to take down. When defending, if you are not stressed, during the “Compare Results” step you may suffer 1 damage to cancel all dice results. If you do, receive 1 stress token.

This means you can potentially weather a lot of firepower with Countdown, although only for a limited time. The stress requirement means that taking multiple shots in a turn will be bad for Countdown, as will massed low damage shots like TLTs or swarms. A defensive upgrade of some description seems sound, with both Lightweight Frame and Stealth Device making a lot of sense. Since you’re cancelling all dice results with Countdown’s pilot ability, you’re not being hit by any attack that he counters with it, so that Stealth Device could stick around for a while.

With no EPT and some limits on the pilot ability, I don’t think we’re doing to see much of Countdown in a competitive environment, although I think there’s enough tricks there for him to see a bit of play. If nothing else, alpha strike lists will not be at all keen on him!

“Pure Sabacc”

Like Countdown, Pure Sabacc is another Striker pilot with a “limited time” ability, although one with a very different focus. When attacking, if you have 1 or fewer Damage cards, roll 1 additional attack dice. In at PS 6 with an EPT slot, Pure Sabacc will set you back 22 points.

I’ve got some mixed feelings about this pilot. The extra attack dice is a strong thing to have access to, but as soon as you’ve taken two or more damage you lose it. With a middling PS of 6, there’s a decent chance that he’ll take quite a lot of fire before he gets to shoot, potentially stopping you from using the ability at all. So really you need to build Pure Sabacc to maximise your pilot skill and minimise damage taken.

Pure Sabacc with Veteran Instincts and Lightweight Frame is 25 points, and at PS 8 with an extra defence dice against most shots coming his way, he should be able to get at least one turn of firing in before losing his pilot ability. That’s not a lot of points to be paying for something with this kind of punch. Alternatively, put him in a list alongside something even more threatening like Quickdraw with Rage and Baffles, or Crack Shot Tomax Bren, and give your opponents some hard choices to make about target priority. Or, if you’re really committed to the alpha strike concept, why not both?

“Duchess”

Finally, Duchess rounds out the TIE Striker pilots. At PS 8 for 23 points, she’s a first for X-Wing – a pilot ability that allows you to ignore one of your own upgrades. While you have the “Adaptive Ailerons” Upgrade card equipped, you may choose to ignore its card ability.

This gives Duchess a huge amount of unpredictability for your opponent, and a massive amount of flexibility for you. When I suggested that the TIE Striker with Adaptive Ailerons was almost a budget TIE Phantom, this is what I meant – Duchess with Veteran Instincts and Lightweight Frame clocks in at 26 points for a ship that flies almost like a PS 10 pre-nerf Echo. That’s quite the bargain!

I think Duchess is very rapidly going to become the go-to Imperial “pocket ace”. Her pilot ability makes her incredibly slippery and difficult to block, and she can arc-dodge with the best of Imperial pilots. She’s more fragile than most true aces, but for the points you pay for her that only seems fair. Expect to see Duchess coming to a table near you soon, and a possible resurgence in stress control as a result…

Final Thoughts

The TIE Striker seemed rather underwhelming at first glace when it was originally announced, but the combination of point costs, upgrades, and pilot abilities makes it possibly the most exciting ship of the Wave – and Wave 10 has got a lot to be excited about. I think this is a real addition to the Imperial fleet in terms of competitive play, in terms of both opening up the swarm archetype and giving the Imperials some more budget aces. Looking at specific upgrades, Lightweight Frame has implications well beyond just the TIE Striker.

All told, this is a bit of a game changing expansion pack, and has me hyped for its release in a week or two’s time alongside the U-Wing.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s