Thursday, January 19, 2017

AoS: Diving deep into Tz Daemons

I'm going to buy as many moonfaces as possible.

So now that I have the rules in my greedy little hands, I can really dive deeper into the Tzeentch Daemons army I'm trying to make to see if it's even viable.  This might seem like a lot of junk being spilled out of a frantic mind, but hear me out here.  I think just from looking at the book that Tz Daemons might be middle of the road in terms of power level but max awesome for fluffiness and versatility.  From what the book looks like so far, there's just a ton of cool things in there that I think players will be happy for a long time.  Now, this doesn't mean that every option is competitive, it's just me saying that the options to have fun is there.

Moving on, let's talk about this crazy Tz Daemons build I want to run:

Big birds & Co.
1960

Kairos Fateweaver = 340
+Tzeentch's Firestorm

Lord of Change = 300
+Bolt of Change
+General - Incorporeal Form (-1 to hit in CC)
+Phantasmal Weapons (+1 Rend to all weapons)

Ogroid Thaumaturge = 160
+Treacherous Bond

Chaos Sorcerer Lord = 140
+Glimpse the Future

Blue Scribes = 120
+Fold Reality

3x Burning Chariots of Tz = 480

10x Horrors = 140
+Arcane Transformation

10x Horrors = 140
+Unchecked Mutation

10x Horrors = 140
+Fold Reality

The first thing you'll notice right away is the fact that all my wizards can pick and choose another spell from either Lore of Change (daemons) or Lore of Fate (mortals).  After extensive study into the two trees, I decided to go with this for my current layout of magic diversity.  Before I go any further, let me first tell you what these spells do:
  • Tzeentch's Firestorm - 9+ to cast, pick a visible enemy unit within 18", roll 9 dice:  For each 6 that you roll the unit picked suffers d3 mortal wounds.
  • Bolt of Change - 8+ to cast, pick a visible enemy unit within 18", unit suffers d6 mortal wounds.
  • Treacherous Bond - 6+ to cast, pick a friendly unit within 18", until your next hero phase, as long as the bonded unit is within 9" of the caster, whenever the caster suffers an unsaved wound or mortal wound, on a 2+ the chosen unit suffers it instead.
  • Glimpse the Future - 7+ to cast, only wizard can attempt to cast this spell per turn, if successful, roll a dice and add it to your Destiny Dice pool.
  • Fold Reality - 7+ to cast, pick a visible friendly unit of Tz Daemons within 18" and roll a dice.  On a 2 or more, you can return that many slain models to the unit.  On a 1, the unit is wiped out!
  • Arcane Transformation - 7+ to cast, pick a friendly hero within 18" of the caster.  You can permanently increase that model's Move, Bravery or Attacks characteristics of one of its weapons by 1 once per battle.
  • Unchecked Mutation - 7+ to cast, pick a visible enemy unit within 18":  The unit suffers d3 mortal wounds, then roll a dice; on a roll of 5 or 6, the unit suffers another mortal wound and you roll another dice as above.

Some of these sound pretty tame, but most of these are actually pretty insane.  As you can see, I have Fold Reality twice in here because I think it has amazing synergy with Burning Chariots of Tz.  You probably noticed that I underlined models.  I did this because on a 2+, I can bring back 2 chariots from the dead, so I technically rez 12 wounds worth.  It gets slightly sillier:  I can put Treacherous Bond on someone like Kairos who knows all the spells from every wizard within 18", and I can basically have my chariots turn into 17 extra wounds for him just before Fold Reality brings more back.  In case I roll a 1, I always have Kairos there to bring turn the die if I'm really that unlucky.

Bolt of Change and Tz's Firestorm is just there for bigger mortal damage.  The same can be said about Unchecked Mutation, but the d3 + extra rolls are a little too inconsistent.  Regardless, it's still a better Arcane Bolt.  Glimpse the Future is a luxury spell, but one of the only ways in the book that I can choose to generate a free Destiny Dice.  I'm still debating this one as I also have Shield of Fate to test, but for now I think I'm alright with this.  Lastly, Arcane Transformation is also one of those luxury spells that I can cast just to buff up my bigger beaters like the Lord of Change, Kairos or the Ogroid.  I mean, if I'm just sitting back and I'm not in real range to do anything, why not you know?

The scary part of this list is not just the little cute tricks that it can do, but it's the crazy amount of magical offense that I can deliver within 18".  For example, in one single round of magical dominance:
  • Bolt of Change - D6 mortal wounds. (LoC)
  • Infernal Gateway - Roll 9 dice, on a 3+, deal a mortal wound. (LoC)
  • Gift of Change - D6 mortal wounds. (Kairos)
  • Tzeentch's Firestorm - Roll 9 dice, for each 6, deal D3 mortal wounds. (Kairos)
  • Fireblast - D6 mortal wounds. (Ogroid)
  • Arcane Bolt - D3 mortal wounds. (Horror)
  • Unchecked Mutation - D3 mortal wounds + possible more. (Horror)

What do I mean when I say magical dominance?  Well, if casting from the big birds, with Mastery of Magic, Beacon of Sorcery and Boon of Tzeentch up, I have a 99% chance to cast 7+ spells and 94% chance to cast 8/9+ spells.  Of course, dispels are a problem, but if my math is correct, you have a 52% chance to roll either a 5 or a 6 on 2 dice.  With Beacon of Sorcery from the Lord of Change, your opponent needs box cars to dispel you (so a 3% chance) if you have a 5, and if you roll a 6, you can't be stopped, period.  Even your little Pink Horrors can cast really reliably because of Locus of Conjuration giving them +1 to casting rolls on top of Beacon of Sorcery and Blue Scribes' re-rolls.  This army is literally the strongest magic force in the game right now in terms of reliability and arcane firepower.

There's a pretty big debate going on on the forums right now about whether or not Destiny Dice affects mortal wound results from spells like Bolt of Change.  Even though Destiny Dice says that it can directly affect both damage and wound rolls, this is still rather nebulous from a RAW perspective.  However, several sources have already stated that the designer of the rule himself have played with the DD changing mortal wounds on WarhammerTV, and that shows me that by RAI, this is how it's intended to be played.  This is definitely one of those things that I did not miss about GW games.  Regardless of the ruling, I'm fine with it either way as I always like to play with what's least troublesome for the purposes of gaming.

OK!  That pretty much sums it up for me.  We got some heroes, some chariots, and a lot of wizards and casting that can end up doing pretty nasty things or dying horribly.  Whatever it is, it's going to be fun building these models.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Age of Sigmar with Tz Daemons!

Honest to God, some of the best models I've ever seen!

I can't believe I'm doing this, really, but I think I'm going to get back into the Warhammer scene with Age of Sigmar.  For the longest time, I've stayed away from the hobby because I think the destruction of Warhammer Fantasy was the biggest slap in the face for long-time customers.  That hatred has died down since then and I think I'm going to revisit what's left of the Warhammer universe now that it's become more popular in my area; mainly because the General's Handbook has put points back into the game.

What better time is there to get back into the hobby now that they're releasing some brand new epic models for Daemons of Chaos?  This has been a serious long time coming, but I've wanted the big bird in plastic since I was little (yes, it's really been that long).  Now that most of the Tzeentch line will be available in plastic, I think I'm going to make the plunge and get an all-plastic, fluffy, yet semi-competitive list together for the new Disciples of Tzeentch.  It's only a matter of time now before they put out Slaanesh, but until then, Tz will have to do.  Gone are the days of Mat Ward's 7th Ed. interreptation of Daemons, here are the days of something more palatable instead of getting chewed out every time you put anything Daemons on the table.

Without further ado, here is my current list and buy order:

1960
Kairos Fateweaver = 340
Lord of Change = 300
Ogroid Thaumaturge = 160
Chaos Sorcerer Lord = 140
Blue Scribes = 120
3x Burning Chariots of Tz = 480
10x Horrors = 140
10x Horrors = 140
10x Horrors = 140

Despite not being in the hobby that long (2 days of exploratory investigation), I think I have a pretty good start here for a decently competitive list.  Having seen some tidbits online for what to expect in the new book, I think having two big birds is probably going to be the best solution in a lot of situations and what's better than having both Kairos and the Lord of Change in the same list.  Although it's a little expensive to have two of them, I think they're going to be staple pieces when it comes to doing solid magical damage, gaining supremacy during magic duels, and offer a solid piece beatstick should the need arise (and it will arise).  The combat abilities from the two Greater Daemons isn't the best in the world, but they're no slouches either.  When you take into consideration what is in the new book, you can cherry pick spells out of the Daemon and Mortal Lores of Tzneetch on top of the spells you already know.  There's no better time to take as many wizards as you can that can cast multiple spells on their turn, especially when destiny dice gets involved and both of your big guys have the Mastery of Magic special rule.

Moonface trolling is probably the best thing in the entire game.

Next up is the Ogoroid Thaumaturge, and he's just a really cost-effective beatstick that also comes with a d6 mortal wounds spell.  He doesn't have the best armor, but if your job is to get in there and smash some faces while doing some damage, I think he's a great buy for 160.  The Chaos Sorcerer Lord is probably the best since since sliced bread if you're to go with big units of something.  For me, the go-to right now is the Burning Chariots of Tz.  I think these things are one of the most cost-effective options to do damage in the entire book and here's why:  They're pretty fast at 14", they have 6 wounds a piece, you can take them in units which makes them a great target for spells, they have the same shooting as a Exalted Flamer, but they can stack their mortal wounds ability unlike the rest of the guys in the book because they're a per model basis.  This means that if you have 3 Burning Chariots that all do a damage to the target, the target takes 3d3 mortal wounds instead of just one test.  They can also be made Battleline from the Herald, but for now I'm going with this line up because the Chaos Sorcerer Lord has great buff abilities.  Re-rolling 1s all over the place is just.. very Tz-like!  He will be my buff bot for the most part.  Blue Scribes is also there to buff the magic prowess of the army with Boon of Tz and combined with the Lord of Change's Beacon of Sorcery Command, getting high-result spells off will be much easier.

Lastly, we have some Horrors which will be our mainstay core units.  Since they're daemon wizards and can learn other spells, they are able to cherry pick spells from the new lore.  This makes them one of the most effective units in the book, since they're core, is basically a 10-wound wizard that can cast things in the backline or drop big bombs, and can hop around and take objectives as needed.  The shooting is decent, but nothing to write home about.

That's all I have right now.  I'm both excited and nervous at the same time for getting back in the hobby, mainly because I don't know what I'm getting into.  On paper, I want to turn a new leaf and play something a little more laxed because I already have a competitive outlet in the form of SW Armada and X-Wing.  However, I don't want my list to under-perform and I know there's some crazy beardy stuff out there for AoS in tournament settings.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Armada: Ackbar's revenge

I actually have this as a shirt.

As we get closer to the SoCal Regionals here, I'm start to evaluate an oldie but goldie:  My MC80 Ackbar list.  I think in the current meta, the Home One is a very powerful additions that might be overlooked.  In fact, this iteration of my famous giant fishstick works really well for a number of reasons.

First, the list:

IT'S NOT A TRAP!
Author: HERO

Faction: Rebel Alliance
Points: 388/400
Commander: Admiral Ackbar
Assault Objective: Advanced Gunnery
Defense Objective: Contested Outpost
Navigation Objective: Solar Corona
Activations: 4
Deployments: 7

[ flagship ] MC80 Command Cruiser (106 points)
-  Admiral Ackbar ( 38 points)
-  Home One ( 7 points)
-  Intel Officer ( 7 points)
-  Engine Techs ( 8 points)
-  Electronic Countermeasures ( 7 points)
-  XI7 Turbolasers ( 6 points)
-  Leading Shots ( 4 points)
= 183 total ship cost

Assault Frigate Mark II B (72 points)
-  Skilled First Officer ( 1 points)
-  Gunnery Team ( 7 points)
-  Electronic Countermeasures ( 7 points)
-  XI7 Turbolasers ( 6 points)
= 93 total ship cost

GR-75 Medium Transports (18 points)
-  Comms Net ( 2 points)
= 20 total ship cost

GR-75 Medium Transports (18 points)
-  Comms Net ( 2 points)
= 20 total ship cost

1 Tycho Celchu ( 16 points)
1 Green Squadron ( 12 points)
4 A-Wing Squadrons ( 44 points)

I'll break them down here:

  • Home One allows you to spread accuracies throughout your list.  There's only one real target where this goes to, which is the MKII AF, but this is good enough if the MKII is equipped the right way.  Having Ackbar's additional reds, a free accuracy and XI7s guarantees that whatever damage you throw out will be accurate and hit hard.  The MKII is by far the best choice for a second ship here:  It benefits from Home One the most and its a very durable ship that has access to Gunnery Teams.  This allows you to throw more damage on a multiple of targets and you can possibly drop multiple floaters per turn.
  • The MC80C itself is also a pretty strong ship with a good amount of shields, solid defenses with ECMs, and 3 blues to throw out in addition to Ackbar's 5 reds.  This makes it on-par with the ISD-II in terms of damage, but with possibly larger swings in the damage compartment at the cost of fewer accuracy chances.  This is fine by me because with Intel Offier, Home One herself will hit extremely hard.  The other choice here was the MC80A, but it's a significantly more expensive ship if you also add Reinforced Blast Doors.  Sure, it gives you more a larger sample with 6 reds and 2 blues, but this also cuts down the chances you'll roll an accuracy against flotillas if you manage to slash multiple targets.  Having an entire volley from the MC80 going to waste because of Scatter is a huge letdown.
  • Multiple Comms Net floaters for me are used for various reasons.  The first one is being an extra deployment and ship activation, but the second reason is that they can be used to further increase the accuracy of my two big ships by throwing out Conc Fire tokens repeatedly.  Since their job is to strictly out-activate the opponent and drawing them ever closer to red range, having the token boats just flying around as additional blockers is never a bad thing.  For example, first round queue for CF or a single Squadron on Home One to throw 5 the next round, second round continue to CF or engineering.  Either way, the idea here is that you're working in conjunction with the activation order of your ships and what commands they'll be using.  If you're planning to Nav spam, you probably won't need Nav tokens, and instead will want damage or minor healing.  If you're planning to heal, queue up Engineering on both because 6 engineering is much better than 4.  Of course, Concentrate Fire + the token will give you much stronger results and more flexibility, especially with Leading Shots on the MC80 or Home One's accuracy modifier.
  • Lastly, my squadron selection.  I've tried a number of things here for the last couple of months, from A-Wings, to YTs, to a mix of the two, from smaller numbers (4), to larger numbers (8), and this is basically what that evolved to today:  Which is 6 A-Wings, one of which being Tycho.  The reason why Tycho stays is because of his disruption range of 5 and being able to catch any bombers straying away to make plays.  He doesn't even need to attack, all he needs to do is hold up the enemy while my bigger ships does work on the opposing fleet.  The speed-5 As really gives me that first strike advantage, although even with 5 of them being flung at the enemy from the MC80C, I'm still only throwing out 15 dice worth of blues.  It's good, but it's nowhere as good as an alpha from Imperial equivalents backed by Howl.  Either way, the thought process here is that against lower squadron counts I will win easier and my ships are already equipped for anti-ship action.  Against medium squadrons, I might do OK but I will look for a faster anti-ship solution in terms of Conc Fire or repair commands.  If fighting against a heavy bomber presence, I will go for the tie up and try to end their support ships ASAP.  Depending on the amount of bombers there are, I might need heavy repair commands while utilizing my heavier ships in ramming actions against the support floaters.

Anyways, this is my current Ackbar list that I'm fiddling around with and what I'll most likely bring to Regionals this year.  I was thinking about dropping an A-Wing for Intel Officer on the AF, but I don't think it's quite worth it.  I would rather have the additional support, but I am able to fit in both IO on the AF and bring Shara Bey instead of a generic.  My total squadron count will drop down to 5, and I'll lose a deployment because of it though.  What do you guys think?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Armada: The Empire Strikes Back

Chimaera was an ISD-II under the command of Grand Admiral Thrawn.

This is one of the Regionals lists that I've been pondering about over the last few weeks.  No joke, I'm very close to having a change of heart and possibly switching over to Imperials for the next couple of months.  The reason is actually quite simple for me:  There is a lot of people running squadrons in my area, a lot of people are running Rebels, and Imperials seem under-presented and thought of as weaker in most cases.

Having watched Rogue One a few times already and loving the hell out of it, I figure I'd bring back one of the most iconic ships of all time and use it as a mainstay in my list.  Yes, I'm talking about the Imperial Star Destroyer.  Although, I will be using the ISD-II in my list and not the I for reasons I'll mention later.

Without further ado, the list:

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Author: HERO

Faction: Galactic Empire
Points: 385/400
Commander: Admiral Motti
Activations: 3
Drops: 6

Assault Objective: Most Wanted
Defense Objective: Contested Outpost
Navigation Objective: Minefields

[ flagship ] Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer (120 points)
-  Admiral Motti ( 24 points) 
-  Avenger ( 5 points) 
-  Agent Kallus ( 3 points) 
-  Gunnery Team ( 7 points) 
-  Electronic Countermeasures ( 7 points) 
-  XI7 Turbolasers ( 6 points) 
-  Leading Shots ( 4 points) 
= 176 total ship cost

Gladiator I-Class Star Destroyer (56 points)
-  Demolisher ( 10 points) 
-  Skilled First Officer ( 1 points) 
-  Ordnance Experts ( 4 points) 
-  Engine Techs ( 8 points) 
-  Assault Proton Torpedoes ( 5 points) 
= 84 total ship cost

Gozanti-class Cruiser (23 points)
-  Suppressor ( 4 points) 
-  Comms Net ( 2 points) 
= 29 total ship cost

1 Darth Vader ( 21 points) 
1 Dengar ( 20 points) 
1 "Howlrunner" ( 16 points) 
1 "Mauler" Mithel ( 15 points) 
3 TIE Fighter Squadrons ( 24 points) 

I'm going to break this list down, piece by piece before we bring it back together for the bigger picture.

First, let's examine the ISD-II and why I think this is one of the strongest ships in the current meta:
  • For one, the weapon armament that it has stock is very good vs. the flotilla-saturated meta:  Having 4 innate blues gives you a very high chance to roll accuracies and stopping a Scatter from happening.  All you need is 4 damage to kill in most cases, 5 vs. Bright Hope and most of the time, the ISD-II will have no problem one-shotting the floaters.
  • Second, the ship has 2 blue anti-squadron dice that it can throw out in combination with Gunnery Teams.  This allows you to either engage either two different ships (possibly wiping out two flotillas), or allowing you to focus on one ship while bringing Imperial justice on all the squadrons in front of you.  There are not many ships in the game that can reliably throw out huge damage on ships and deliver two dice blues worth of AA from a large area.  This simply does not exist in the game and having this ability is a huge boon.
  • Third, Imperials have access to Agent Kallus, which is one of the most cost-effective Officer upgrades in the game.  The ability to throw out an extra dice of any color as soon as you're able to engage in AA as long as you're shooting a named pilot is amazing.  Just think about how many big names are in the meta:  Biggs, Ketsu, Jan, Tycho, Dengar, Rhymer, Norra, the list goes on and on.  Throwing out a black and 2 blues is no joke when you're shooting from blue range.  AA gets around the likes of Escort and being able to spray down an entire Biggsball will be huge in the upcoming meta.
  • Forth, the ship's upgrade slots gives you some of the best titles and upgrades in the game.  Look at Leading Shots for example:  If the only thing you see with Leading Shots is the ability to allow your ship to re-roll a bunch of ISD-II frontal firepower, you're not seeing the big picture here.  You can also Leading Shots your way with Kallus onto named fighters to re-roll a bunch of whiffs.  Let's say you roll 2 blues and a black on Biggs and whiff with all 3.  You Leading Shots a blue to re-roll 2 dice and you might turn that into raw damage.  The same can be said about fishing out killing blows on squadrons with scatter.  Throw out 3 blues and fish for that accuracy if all you need left is to push 1 damage.
  • Fifth, look at Avenger.  If the only thing you can think of when reading this is your ability to push after your Demolisher hits or when Suppressor triggers, then you're sorely mistaken.  Avenger's effect also works on shooting with AA onto squadrons that have exhausted their tokens.  You send in your squadrons, do big damage, force a few Braces and Scatters, and then you spray the lot with Kallus-driven AA.  Now you can't Brace or Scatter on those units and you're just taking straight damage while the ISD-II tears through ships and squadrons at will.
  • Sixth, you put all this above into one ship and you have one of the best ships in the game vs. the current meta.  The way I currently have it configured is big, mean, and heavily loaded to take on squadrons and ships via XI7s.  This is the biggest difference that the ISD-II has over the ISD-I, and that's the ability to take Gunnery Teams and Kallus with 4 blues vs. ships and 2 blues vs. squadrons.  In a meta like this one, you want blues and you want flak.  No other ship in the game can do that; which makes the ISD-II very unique and powerful in the meta.

Now that the mainstay ship of the list has been presented, let's add the rest.  The Demolisher shouldn't really need an introduction:  It's still one of the best ships in the game, being able to deal insane amounts of damage to any ship in the game, despite suffering a bit from being scattered to death by flotillas and man-handled by Slicer Tools.  Regardless, it's still a very credible threat and being able to out-run and threaten MC30cs from a good distance puts in up there overall.  The biggest play from Demolisher is being able to deliver the good ol' triple-tap, forcing a Brace and then Avenger will finish the rest.  I don't think there's a single ship in the game that can take firepower of that magnitude.

Next on the list is Suppressor.  This little guy is amazing in the current meta.  Again, it's the smaller things in Armada that really makes so enjoyable for me as a player.  Suppressor is incredibly strong right now because of its innate ability to hurr hurr, suppress infuriating defense tokens from everything around it; namely Scatter and Brace.  Even if it parks its ass behind the ISD-II and blows itself up after ramming into its ass, I'll be fine with it as long as it shuts down all the defense tokens that I care about and letting Avenger tear them a new asshole.  Not that it really matters because once Avenger enters kill range of flotillas (and it will, because most people forget the ISDs are actually fast), 4 blues on natural attack will most certainty do work.  Activation advantage is only temporary if you're able to reliably kill multiple ships a turn.  The Comms Net is only there to feed my ISD with setup tokens, but it's the title that really matters and the reason for bringing him.

Lastly, we take a brief look at the squadron selection since it's pretty straight forward.  You have Vader who does the best squadron damage in the game and has Escort.  Escort pulls the aggro off of Howl, which means the rest of the TIE Fighters keep hitting hard.  The reason why I need them to hit hard is because of the one-two punch with big squadron dice, followed by Avenger AA.  This combination is seriously deadly and it cannot be underappreciated.  Dengar is there to provide a little wiggle room and more Mithel play, since Mithel's job is to get around damage distributors like Biggs and Gallant Haven by doing indirect damage.  The Counter + Howl + Swarm also makes attacking into the TIEball a bad trade.  The weakness to taking TIEs however, is their serious vulnerability to enemy AA as well.  Thankfully, their damage potential is high enough that they cannot be ignored and must be dealt with.

The biggest weakness I see in this list is the drops and activations not being up to par with today's "standards".  I see a lot of 4 activation, 8 drop lists out there so deployment will be a bit trickier than most.  At 385, it's not the best initiative bid although it is pretty decent.  Activation wise, it's good at 3, but it can surely do better if I had more.  However, this means that MSU ships that do high damage with higher activation than me will give me the biggest problems.  The reason for that is because squadrons are built for anti-squadron, I'm flying around in a huge target, and getting DP'd by two shrimps from both sides is not the way I want to go.  This is a bad matchup I'm willing to take considering that the list will be really strong against the more squadron-heavy lists that rely on squadrons to do damage, and the faster initiative with two anti-ship capitals will give me the upper hand in exchanges where they only have 1 heavy hitter/flanker like the MC30c.  The only thing I'm worried about is the Admonition at this point.

Alright, well there you have it.  I'm working on another variation of this list that subs out a few squadrons for a Raider-I, but I will need a few more games with this list before I commit.  Besides, I have another Ackbar list in the works and it's going to be a difficult choice for which one I'm going to bring to Regionals.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Armada: Wave 5 Commander Sato

Commander Sato reporting for duty!

Wave 5 brought a lot of really strong game elements to the Rebels so what's better to celebrate than to make a list with the most notable commander from Star Wars Rebels?!  Let's bring in Commander Jun Sato himself and set him up with one of the meanest lists this side of the galaxy.  I'm going to fit in Sato ranged MC30c shenanigans, Gallant Haven, the new Biggsball.  If that wasn't enough, I'm going to throw in some Ketsu Onyo so everyone stays put while the Biggsball dismantles and frustrates enemy squadrons to no end.

Check it out:

SATO 
Author: HERO
Faction: Rebel Alliance
Points: 400/400
Activations/Drops: 4/8

Commander: Commander Sato
Assault Objective: Most Wanted
Defense Objective: Fighter Ambush
Navigation Objective: Superior Positions

[ flagship ] Assault Frigate Mark II B (72 points)
-  Commander Sato ( 32 points)
-  Gallant Haven ( 8 points)
-  Toryn Farr ( 7 points)
-  Electronic Countermeasures ( 7 points)
= 126 total ship cost

MC30c Scout Frigate (69 points)
-  Admonition ( 8 points)
-  Ordnance Experts ( 4 points)
-  XI7 Turbolasers ( 6 points)
-  Assault Proton Torpedoes ( 5 points)
= 92 total ship cost

GR-75 Medium Transports (18 points)
-  Bright Hope ( 2 points)
-  Bomber Command Center ( 8 points)
= 28 total ship cost

GR-75 Medium Transports (18 points)
-  Comms Net ( 2 points)
= 20 total ship cost

1 Ketsu Onyo ( 22 points)
1 Wedge Antilles ( 19 points)
1 Biggs Darklighter ( 19 points)
1 Jan Ors ( 19 points)
1 "Dutch" Vander ( 16 points)
3 X-Wing Squadrons ( 39 points)

Let me break this down first with my choice of flagship, which is the Gallant Haven.  The reason why I chose to put Sato in this with Toryn Farr is because I'm packing an asston of 4-dice blues on my squadrons so the re-rolls to blue are definitely appreciated.  The Biggsball moving with the Gallant Haven with Jan Ors in the mix is borderline obscene.  Let's just say your opponent rolls huge and scores 4 hits on one of your fighters that Biggs is on.  Jan braces this down to 2, Gallant reduces it to 1, and Biggs moves the last damage to a random X-Wing of your choice.  If this isn't top lols, I don't know what is.  A 2 hit attack is completely negated after a Brace because of Gallant Haven if within range.  The total damage potential from enemy squadrons reads as: 1-2 hits = 0 damage, and 3-4 hits = 1 damage which gets distributed among the X-Wings.

The only thing you really need to pull this off is a decent amount of Escorts to pass damage to, Biggs, Jan Ors and Gallant Haven.  The rest of the squads you see here is completely up to you!  I currently have the classic Dutch and Wedge in there, but you can easily sub out someone like Wedge for Norra Wexely for example if you want to increase the damage of your squadrons.  If you want, you can also throw Tycho in there if you want to activate Sato's ability with the MC30c quicker and make sure you can always stay on target (or switch as needed).  Either way, I'd like to keep Ketsu Onyo in there because I think she offers so much utility to the Rebel forces.  The best thing that stands out for her is her ability to softlock Dengar's movement and have Dutch/Wedge erase him from the board.

When it comes to how you use this list, you basically have the Biggsball follow Gallant Haven around so you  can get into combat and still be within range of Gallant Haven.  This is where your Biggsball is the most obscene.  In essence, you send your fighter wing into the enemy and have the MKII follow up.  At around the same time, you start blasting away with your MC30c on a flank or in a good position so you can start using your reds and replace them with blacks that you can re-roll with Ordnance Experts to trigger APTs.  The objective is to place a few long-distance crit effects on the intended target because once you get in close and replace all your reds with blacks with OE re-rolls, XI7s and APTs, the target should be really dead or dying.  Ideally by the time your shrimp can do its work in close combat, your fighter/bombers will have already man-handled the enemy squadrons and go full nerd with Bomber and BCC re-rolls on whatever you're trying to kill.  Even the MKII can put in some work because of all the black dice you're subbing in.  If you're fearing for Sato's life inside the MKII, you can also put Sato on the Comms Net GR-75 sitting in the back as needed.

The big weakness I see with a list like this is that like most squadron lists, a lot of the damage is reliant on the points that you spent on your squadrons.  In this example, I spent all 134 points on taking what I consider to be a really strong fighter/bomber mix.  However, if your opponent is playing a longer-ranged fleet that can drop some serious pew-pew from range e.g. Rebel MSU or Ackbar for example, then you might run into some serious trouble if your ships start blowing up before they can get into range.  This is one of the biggest issues about having a fleet that has range-restrictions, both in squadron movement and in synergy range ala Gallant Haven's meager range of 1.  Regardless, it's still a strong list with a lot of flavor and classic Rebel synergy.

How are you guys planning to run Sato?  Maybe taking some A-Wings will be nice.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Armada: Wave 5 squadrons

Exciting times ahead, get ready for some shenanigans!

One of the most exciting prospects about Wave 5 is all the awesome new squadrons that have been introduced to the game.  I'll tell you one thing right now:  The new squadrons will change the meta more so than the ships in Wave 5.  Not only will they have an affect on how players will utilize the squadrons themselves, but how players will adapt to them because some of them will change the meta single-handily i.e. Rhymer, Firespray..etc.

With that being said, let's analyze which squadrons I think are the biggest winners in Wave 5.  This includes all of the Corellian Conflict squadies as well.

Correllian Conflict
To begin, I think all of the "elite" variants of the base squadrons such as Tempest Squadron or Gamma Squadron are great.  They're great because for a measly few points, in most cases just one point, you're getting a squadron that's simply a better version of the regular version.  In some cases, you have drastic differences such as the sniping Saber Squadron vs the generic the TIE Interceptor, but for most part you simply have a better product depending on what keyword or alterations they made to the card.  Another great thing here is that for most of the altered squadrons, for an extra point here and there, you're paying for another version of the squadron that is a great in multi-role.  Green Squadron, for example, is a slightly weaker A-Wing but is a speed-5 black bomber, whereas Tempest Squadron keeps its intended role as Escort but gains Bomber with its black ship dice.  That's just really amazing.

As for all the unique pilots to come out of the CC expansion, there a lot of winners here.  In fact, this is probably the most important thing to come out of the CC campaign for competitive players out there.  Let's explore them by faction really quick:

Rebels:
  • Biggs Darklighter - Biggs is arguably the strongest pilot to come out of this set IMO.  His ability is absolutely insane because it gives Escort squadrons an amazing amount of longevity.  In a vacuum, the ability doesn't seem all that strong, but when combined with other defensive options such as Jan's bracing, Gallant Haven and the fact that the timing allows you to combine all the forementioned that it gives way to a whole new squadron strategy by itself:  That's right, Biggballs are now a thing.  Pun intended.
  • Norra Wexley - One of the more popular strategies I've seen is Y-Wing spam.  Now, this isn't even because of all the craziness you saw in the World Championship, but Y-Wings with Gallant Haven and Ruthless Strategist is a real force to be reckoned with.  When you sprinkle Norra Wexley into all of this with BCCs, you drastically increased the rate in which you can kill enemy ships with Y-Wings as long as Norra is active.  Her ability works best with black dice, so when you have black dice that you can fish, that's where she is most powerful.
  • Shara Bey - A strong A-Wing pilot that allows you to maul squadrons in return when you're attacked.  She doesn't work well with Escort elements and only truly shines when you use her to tie up squadrons without Intel or when you take a bunch of A-Wings by themselves.  While strong, she's still an A-Wing in an environment that demands a lot of HP due to how much damage that's coming in from all sources.
  • Ten Numb - A really powerful ability, but difficult to trigger because it requires a blue crit in order to activate.  While this isn't really a huge problem because you can always fish this out with Toryn Farr, this is still a specific trigger on a speed-2 B-Wing.  Once this does trigger though, this is huge damage that can't really be negated by a lot of sources in the game because it's not considered an attack.  Against more fragile Imperial squadrons like TIEs, the effects can be devastating.

Imperials:
  • Valen Rudor - Pure damage and an amazing ability for cheap.  Throwing out 3 blacks with Swarm for 13 points is good enough, add in the fact that he can't be attacked as long as you're engaged with another squadrons is godlike levels of good.  I think this might be my favorite buy for the Imperial side of things.
  • Zertik Strom - Not a fan personally, mainly because I think this would have been better as a Rebels ability.  Throwing out all those reds can result in big and unpredictable damage spikes, but you typically want to keep your Imperial squadrons alive instead of having to plink them for damage.
  • Ciena Rae - A more evasive Interceptor that does good damage while negating enemy attack dice in return (both squadron and ship), but I'm not so sure about the amount of points I'm spending for her.
  • Captain Jonus - Unlike Rhymer who likes to be further away from the action and plink damage from afar, Jonus likes to be closer to the action so it can activate its mini-Home One-ish beacon that can hand out free accuracies.  Of course we know this is not always possible because Intel sources can always be killed, or Jonus can be intercepted, but handing out accuracies in a meta filled with annoying little flotillas is always a boon.

To sum it up a bit, I think the big winners out of the CC set for squadrons is Biggs, Norra and in some ways, Captain Jonus.  These are the squadrons that will change up the meta the most because they allow the user to change the way the entire squadron force behaves.  Biggs drastically improves the durability of the squadrons, Norra drasitically improves their damage velocity to ships, and Captain Jonus paints enemy flotillas with middle-fingers of accuracy.  The rest of the bunch mainly benefit themselves in terms of doing more damage or have their little quirks, but its these three that truly stand out to me.

Wave 5
As if CC squadrons weren't enough goodness, here comes some more Wave 5 squadrons from the fighter packs!  For ease of viewing, I think I'm just going to combine the ships with their unique pilots since they're a bit more straightforward than the elite squadrons from CC.

Rebels:
  • E-Wing + Corran Horn - What can I say?  E-Wings are good for 15 points.  The thing that makes them a solid choice is that they have great threat range with their 4 speed and Snipe, but they can also do work in close range with 4 blues and Bomber.  Corran is just an upgraded E-Wing with better stats and Rogue.
  • Lancer-class + Ketsu Onyo - These squadies are basically the Rebel-equivalent to what a Firespray should be.  They move faster, have less health, doesn't throw as much dice in blues but throws out the single black bomber dice instead.  Having the Grit is just an extra bonus.  However, this is not what excites me.  What really gets me excited is that Ketsu Onyo is one of the strongest squadrons I've ever seen.  Her ability is just fantastic, as it offers Rebels some serious movement control and completely hampers the usefulness of Intel entities such as Dengar.  Even though you can move, you're still forced to obey the movement rules that not only limits the threat range of Rhymerballs, but also forces more fragile Imperial-equivalent fighters into a battle of attrition with sturdier Rebel craft.  Ketsu Onyo is a game-changer, there's no doubt about that:  She hampers the effectiveness of both Dengar and Rhymer while severely locking down Rebels as well since the majority of their squadrons only move 3.  Oh, and she has Scatter on top of Brace on 4 HP which basically makes her the Rebel equivalent of Dengar.  Amazing for 22 points.
  • VCX-100 + Hera Syndulla - I'm a fan of the VCX-100, but not that big of a fan of Hera unfortunatately.  She's just too expensive for what she does for 28 points, and she loses a lot of what makes the VCX-100 good in the first place.  The 3 movement on top of 8 HP gives this ship a fair amount of flexibility; especially when you factor in that it has both Strategic and Relay.  Strategic can be really good with a lot of the new missions and I really dislike the fact that Hera didn't get this on top of what she already had.  I don't think giving a few ships Rogue is that great when the majority of the Rebel forces like spamming squadron commands if given he opportunity.
  • Z-95 + Lieutenant Blount - Here comes to Rebel Bees!  Let the randomness begin with some fickle red dice, less oppourunity to deny enemy tokens but a chance that you'll do some insane double-hit damage shenningans.  Having natural Swarm helps out dramatically with their red dice and having Lieutenant Blount in the works here will definitely increase damage all-around.  A couple of things to note here:  These squadrons are actually meta-changers not in the fact that they gave Rebels a swarm-equivalent fighter for similar costs to the Imperial TIE Fighters, but they also gave Rebels a cheap deployment option as well.  This drastically increases the amount of deploys a MC80 strike group can have for example, while still retaining a sizeable and threatening fighter presence.

Imperials:
  • Lambda Shuttle + Colonel Jendon - The shuttle is great in many ways and having Relay 2 vs. the Rebels 1 and Strategic is just icing on the cake.  Having two black dice, 3 speed and 6 HP for the same amount of points is a very reliable way to play more to the objective for a very minimal investment.  Colonel Jendon also makes things quite exciting because for 20 points you are essentially paying for some Yavaris/Adar Tallon Rebel bullshit effect but with more flexibility since you have squadron movement and can Relay off a Gozanti.  However, like Hera, you are trading away Strategic to do something cool, but I like this ability slightly more.  Being able to double-tap with Vader, Bossk or IG-88 is no joke, but at the same time, you have to slightly rework your squadron line-up to include them in the first place.
  • TIE Phantom + Whisper - Not a fan, neither in the special ability, or the named pilot.  Throwing out 4 blues is fine and all, but you're basically a more expensive Interceptor that relies on some gimmicks to make things happen.  The best case scenario for Cloak is to activate pretty late after everyone else has attacked, attack, and then in the Squadron phase, you remove yourself from combat after.  While this is great in theory, squadron brawls normally turn into a giant mess and having this kind of precision on the table with flak and Rogue mixed with Intel everywhere is just messy.  Maybe it's because I don't like the mechanic that I dislike this squadron, but I'm waiting for someone to completely destroy me before I can pass true judgement.  For now, I think I'll pass.
  • TIE Defender + Maarek Steele - Now we're talking.  I think the TIE Defender is pretty well priced:  It's fast, it's durable, it throws out a good mix of blues and blacks to token blocking and damage consistency, and it has Bomber as well.  Maarek is basically a better version of the Defender because he can always turn a black dice into a hit/crit and the additional blue when attacking ships can always be turned to a crit as well.  The Grit and Brace tokens are just icing.
  • VT-49 Decimator + Morna Kee - Not a bad ship, but I'm not sure how often you're going to get away feeling too good that you've spent 22 points for one of these guys.  The 3 speed is not entirely too impressive, and the damage result is not that much different than a YV-666.  Sure, throwing out 3 blues vs. ships is a lot better and having Rogue with Counter 1 is always good, but I'm not sure if I'm willing to dish out 22 points for one of these suckas, especially when I'm immediately staring back at the 15 point YV-666s.  Morna Kee is just a better version of the Decimators, but accuracies are going to hurt her ability and she's just really too expensive for my tastes.

Honestly, I think Rebels really it take home this time with the squadron game.  First they gained Biggs and Norra, but with the Z-95s/Blount and Ketsu Onyo, I really think the Rebel squadrons are really going to change the face of the meta in the next couple of months.  Just having Z-95s on the field is going to give Rebels an entirely different playstyle that their opponent has to prepare for, which is in stark contrast that is the invincible ball that is Biggs and Gallant Haven.

Overall, while Imperials gained a few nice squadrons such as the Defender, Maarek or Jonus, they just don't carve the landscape as the Rebels.  However, this doesn't mean that the Imperials have suffered more and that the game is imbalanced.  It's very important to note that for the majority of this game's life, the meta has been shaped by Imperials.  From the Demolisher, to ISD, to Rhymer to Firesprays, this game has been in constant flux (which is a very good thing).  With Rebel squadrons becoming so strong from Wave 5, I think it's going to be a very exciting time to see players explore new (or old) ways to counter what they're going to be seeing very soon.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Armada: Wave 5 ships and upgrades

More options the better!

When it comes down to Wave 5 ships, I really don't think they're going to change the meta all that much.  The one thing that I enjoy about this game and each wave that FFG puts out is that regardless of power level, they're going to provide comfortable options for players to explore and experiment with.  For now though, I don't think they're too crazy to write home about.  It's going to the be the unique squadrons that do the most work, especially those on the Rebels side and I'll get to that later.

The Imperial CL is a pretty good ship,but it's one of those ships that are not really cheap enough where you can take a whole bunch of them and utilize them like the TRC90.  The best upgrade to take on the Arquintens IMO is to equip it very similar to a TRC90:  Give it the Captain Needa and replace the Contain so you can feel comfortable taking the TRC with it.  This will bring up the price a messily 9 points; putting the cheapest variant of this particular configuration to 63 points, but this is exactly what you want to do with this ship.  It's not durable enough that you can give it too many upgrades, and it's not powerful enough in stock weaponry like the Gladiator or MC30c where you need to give it upgrades to make it effective.  It fits comfortably in a section where all you need is Needa/TRCs on one of these ships for damage consistency, or you want to slap on Dual Turbolaser Turrets and just call it a day.  Another problem I see with the ship is that it can put out some reliable broadside-based red dice, but doesn't have enough Evades to consistently use TRCs (which is the best damage upgrade for these kind of ships).  Of course, if you really want reliability with this ship, you'll take Vader, but I'm not a Vader fan because I don't think he's cost-effective.

Now when we look at the Phoenix Home capital for the Rebels, I'm not so sure I see a ship that has a place in the current meta.  Hear me out for a sec here:  The ship itself is not bad, it's kitted out with some decent upgrade options and it has a solid defense token spread.  The main problem I see with the ship is not in its ability to deliver fleet-wide bonuses, it's the fact that it's a solid mainstay carrier in a faction that already has great carrier options.  Both the AF MKII and MC80C are very good in the current meta because of their durability and great title options.  Everyone has a giant hard-on right now for the Gallant Haven and for good reason, but more on this later.  What's important to note is that the Phoneix Home is a solid ship, it's just a cheaper alternative to other great carrier options in the Rebel fleet, but it lacks the noteworthy titles and durability.  Not having ECM is just really painful.  A really quick note about the fleet-wide abilities that the ship can muster, they're good, but not good enough to justify taking the ship specifically to benefit the rest of the fleet.  Maybe if we're playing larger point games like 500 or 600 points that having a ship that can buff the entire fleet is great, but neither the movement or shield options are exciting for me because commands can just do it better.  Most of the time, you don't want the entire fleet to move or heal, you only want one ship to do it.  The increased speed on all squadron activations is really nice for Rebels because most of their stuff floats around 3.  With all the FCTs floating around to keep pushing the slower fighters up, this is one of the best buffs in the game to get everything moving.

As for upgrades and commander options, I'm only really excited about a couple of cards here.  Minister Tua is great for enabling ECM on ships that otherwise wouldn't have the option, but she goes against a philosophy I have with fleet building which is to not take superfluous upgrades on something that doesn't really need it.  While this is a great upgrade option for the ISD-I or Interdictor, you still sacrifice an officer slot to take it so be careful not to go too overboard.  Reinforced Blast Doors is another one of those cards that look really great when you first look at it, but it's a defensive slot card that competes with ECM and ECM will almost certainly prevent more damage per game than RBD.  One thing to really keep in mind is that the ability to prevent damage will always be stronger than healing damage.  Besides, I think the only ship in the game that can really take advantage of this card right now is the MC80 Assault variant.  Since it's the only ship in the game currently that has double defensive slots and thus can dual-wield ECMs and blast doors, this is a great upgrade.  On the same note of defensive upgrades, we have Damage Control Officer.  This is a solid upgrade because it stops things like APT dead in its tracks and gets you more mileage from your Contain, but there's a pretty limited list of ships that can really utilize this card and it also takes up an officer slot.  Major Derlin is another one of those defensive upgrade options, but he's a limited use version of Bright Hope that is 7 points and takes up an Officer slot.  Yeah no, I'm going to pass on this one being too useful.  Last, I want to talk about Rapid Launch Bays.  What can I say?  It's a great card and it allows you to dump your B-Wings or other speed 2 crappers in front of people and just go to town.  AFAIK, there's a current debate right now going on the forums whether or not you can activate with squadron, deploy, and attack in the same activation using RLBs.  If this is the case, then this card is amazing, if not, then it's only OK because you'll be dumping your B-Wings out and then waiting a bit before you get to go to work.

Lastly, let's talk briefly about commanders:  I'm not feeling Moff Jerjerrod because honestly, Nav commands are king and you'll get more mileage out of someone like Motti because he's right there.  As for Commander Sato, a bit of mixed feelings on this dude.  He's pretty much a blank card if you can't get your fighters to connect with the enemy ship but once you do, the guy is pretty insane.  This gives you two real trains of mentality here and that's if you want to enable him early, and throw some Phoenix Squadron A-Wings in there (Tycho comes to mind here), or do a deathball with some Gallant Haven craziness and just have him roll in deep and then go to town.  Either way, he's not active for the first couple of turns in the game and that doesn't quite sit well with me.  Not to mention if all of your squadrons get dead, he's pretty much a blank card again.  Sato is definitely one of those polarizing commanders where there's multiple ways to disable him, but once he's active he's really good because he allows all kinds of ranged shennigans e.g. long-ranged black-swapping APTs with MC30cs.

Next stop: Wave 5 squadrons!