[X-Wing] TIE Aggressor – Preview Thoughts

The first of the in depth Wave XI previews, we’re looking at a new TIE in the Play the Aggressor article.  We’ve had a couple of the upgrades from this pack already previewed in the Wave XI announcement, so this will be relatively short and sweet.  We’ve not had the dial revealed, so some judgements on how the ship will perform are going to have to be reserved until we’ve seen that.

(Note this was written shortly after the original article was released, but I’ve only just got around to putting it up.  It may well be that there’s more information out there by the time this goes live…)

The Pilots

We’ve had all four of the TIE Aggressor pilots revealed at this point.

Sienar Specialist and Onyx Squadron Escort

I’ve bundled the two generic pilots together, as I want to talk about them side by side.
The Sienar Specialist is pretty reasonably priced at 17 points for a PS 2 pilot.  It’ll make for a very affordable Twin Laser Turret platform that has the potential to be quite durable with Lightweight Frame (both of which upgrades are included in the Aggressor expansion), and generally gives the Imperials a cheap turret platform that opens up a range of new options for them.  The lack of a turret slot ship has been a notable gap in the Imperial fleet, and the Aggressor gives them something distinct from the Y-Wing thanks to its native barrel roll and higher agility.

The Onyx Squadron Escort clocks in at 19 points for a PS 5 ship.  And that’s it.  There’s no EPT slot, which makes paying those two extra points just be for the PS.  Given the costs of some of the named pilots (both of whom do have access to the EPT slot), I can’t see this getting much play.  This continues a slightly weird trend of generic ship costing from FFG, who seem to just miss the mark of making generic competitively viable time and time again.  You could theoretically get four Onyx Squadron Escorts with TLTs into a list, but it’s very debatable if the bump to PS 5 is in any way worth losing Lightweight Frame on them all.

All told, I’m expecting to see a decent amount of the Sienar Specialist as a cheap but durable-ish turret carrier, and basically nothing from the Onyx Squadron Escort. Throwing in an EPT on the Onyx would have made a big difference to that, but clearly FFG are wary of giving turret slot ships EPTs based on their past releases.

“Double Edge”

A PS 4 unique pilot, Double Edge comes in at 19 points (the same as the Onyx Squadron Escort) with an EPT slot and a decent pilot ability.

Once per round, after you perform a secondary weapon attack that does not hit, you may perform an attack with a different weapon.

So, you essentially get a marginally more restrictive Gunner ability, an EPT slot, and a two point PS boost over the Sienar Specialist for just 2 points.  Admittedly, you’re also going to have to pay for a secondary weapon to get any use out of the pilot ability, but that’s already pretty much a given for the TIE Aggressor in general.  You can get quite a punch ship for a relatively budget price.

“Double Edge” — TIE Aggressor 19
Trick Shot 0
Unguided Rockets 2
Lightweight Frame 2
Ship Total: 23

This gives you a four dice attack through obstructions, followed by a three dice primary attack (again, if obstructed), all for 23 points.  That’s cheap enough to slot into a lot of lists, but still be a meaningful presence on the board.

Want to go for something a bit more up close and personal?

“Double Edge” — TIE Aggressor 19
Deadeye 1
Synced Turret 4
Lightweight Frame 2
Ship Total: 26

At 26 points, this is a step up in price, but it gives you a high quality attack at Range 1-2, and a primary shot if that first punishing in-arc attack doesn’t find its mark.

Double Edge has some interesting stuff going on, and I’m confident we’ll see him getting play as a cheap but meaningful presence on the board.

Lieutenant Kestal

The ace Aggressor pilot, Lt. Kestal jumps up to a base 22 point, but she’s got a powerful pilot ability to go with that increase in cost.

When attacking, you may spend 1 focus token to cancel all of the defender’s blank and focus results.

So your turret can effectively ignore Autothrusters.  Not bad at all.  Kestal is going to hit ships like the TIE Interceptor or Protectorate Starfighter hard, stopping them from getting much benefit from their defensive tokens and upgrades.  In particular, the classic Autothruster/Stealth Device combo on the Interceptor is close to wasted points against her.

The big limiting factor will be her reliance on needing a focus token to use her ability, which limits both her defensive and offensive dice modification.  She’s going to need an EPT like Predator or Expertise to hit with any reliability, and ideally wants to be passed a focus token by another ship that’s packing a Fleet Officer or General Hux so she can withstand the fire she’ll doubtless draw once your opponent figures out what she can do.  She’s also of limited use against low agility, high health ships like the Ghost or Decimator, which are still very much a presence in the current competitive meta.  Lone Wolf might be the answer to some of these issues, giving her a reroll on both attack and defence while still letting her keep a focus for triggering her ability.

Lieutenant Kestal — TIE Aggressor 22
Lone Wolf 2
Twin Laser Turret 6
Lightweight Frame 2
Ship Total: 32

Overall, I’m a big fan of her ability, but it’s dangerously tempting to focus her down into being a piece of anti-ace tech that will have some very bad matchups.  My advice is don’t invest too many points into her, as otherwise she’ll get focused down fast.

Upgrades

We’ve seen most of them already from the Wave 11 announcement article, which showcased the Synced Turret and Unguided Rockets, but there’s one important new Elite Pilot Talent that comes with the Aggressor…

Intensity

Another upgrade that makes good use of the dual card mechanic, the Intensity Elite Pilot Talent offers some additional action efficiency to any ship with a re-positional action, but not every turn.

Side A: After you perform a boost or barrel roll action, you may assign 1 focus or evade token to your ship.  If you do, flip this card.

Side B: At the end of the Combat phase, you may spend 1 focus or evade token to flip this card.

At 2 points, you’re getting some interesting options.  For starters, this is a way of getting an evade token on ships that can’t otherwise take the evade action – I’ve not got any stand out cases where this would be hugely useful, but there’s bound to be something I’ve not thought of yet.  It can help to make arc dodging on ships that don’t have the green moves to support Push the Limit more viable, and mean that you don’t have to make the choice between re-positioning and dice mods on those clutch turns.

 

It also combos nicely with a lot of Tech upgrades.  Paired with Primed Thrusters, you can boost or barrel roll while stressed, and still get a focus or evade token.  With Comm Relay, you can bank an evade from Intensity for later use.  This makes it well worth considering on the TIE/fo, TIE/sf, and the T-70 X-wing, all of whom have native re-positional actions and a Tech slot that’s often going spare.

As an example build, Poe Dameron gets some new options:

Poe Dameron (PS 9) — T-70 X-Wing 33
Intensity 2
BB-8 2
Primed Thrusters 1
Autothrusters 2
Black One 1
Ship Total: 41

So Poe can barrel roll from a green move, assign himself a focus, and then boost, target lock, or take another focus in a pinch as his regular action.  Combined with Poe’s pilot ability, you’ve got a decent chance of still having a focus token at the end of the Combat phase, which means you can flip an exhausted Intensity back to its useful state, and do the whole thing again next turn.  With Primed Thrusters, you can even do this while stressed, and don’t forget the Black One title lets you get rid of enemy target locks as you go.  Not bad, even at a relatively hefty point cost.  Want to kick it up a notch?

Jake Farrell — A-Wing 24
Intensity 2
Chardaan Refit -2
Push the Limit 3
Autothrusters 2
A-Wing Test Pilot 0
Ship Total: 29

That’s right, Jake can get an effective five actions for the cost of 1 stress (take a focus action, boost from his pilot ability, assign a focus with Intensity, barrel roll with his pilot ability, and then Push the Limit into a target lock or evade), and potentially have three tokens stacked on himself to give a very real chance of making this an every turn trick as well.  Nice.

Intensity gives a real helping hand to a range of ships, and offers some Attanni Mindlink style action efficiency to aces who are poorly suited for Push the Limit.  This really opens up a range of new builds, and I’m confident this is an upgrade we’ll be seeing at a competitive level almost as soon as it’s released.

Final Thoughts

The TIE Aggressor opens up some new list building options for the Imperials, and comes with a range of upgrades that give new options to and breathe new life into several ships that could do with some assistance.  I’m pretty hyped about this first real taste of Wave XI, and I’m looking forwards to the next two ship reveals with bated breath.

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