Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Armada: Ackbar Control

Akbar's Whaling Fleet.

I don't care what you guys call it, but I'm going to call it Ackbar Control.  You will see what I mean soon enough.  Before I discuss the list in full detail, I just wanted to say that the meta is changing.  It's changing fast and it's changing hard compared to the last couple of months because Wave2 will bring several additions that will affect the game with meteoric impact.  Now, I want to introduce you to the fleet I have my eyes set on.

Author: HERO
Faction: Rebel Alliance 
Points: 395/400 
Commander: Admiral Ackbar

Assault Objective: Advanced Gunnery 
Defense Objective: Fire Lanes 
Navigation Objective: Dangerous Territory 

[ flagship ] MC80 Assault Cruiser (114 points)
-  Admiral Ackbar  ( 38  points) 
-  Home One  ( 7  points) 
-  Intel Officer  ( 7  points) 
-  Engine Techs  ( 8  points) 
-  Electronic Countermeasures  ( 7  points) 
-  Advanced Projectors  ( 6  points) 
-  XI7 Turbolasers  ( 6  points) 
-  Leading Shots  ( 4  points) 

Assault Frigate Mark II B (72 points)
-  Intel Officer  ( 7  points) 
-  Gunnery Team  ( 7  points) 
-  Electronic Countermeasures  ( 7  points) 
-  XI7 Turbolasers  ( 6  points) 

Assault Frigate Mark II B (72 points)
-  Intel Officer  ( 7  points) 
-  Gunnery Team  ( 7  points) 
-  Electronic Countermeasures  ( 7  points) 
-  XI7 Turbolasers  ( 6  points) 

This is what the fleet looks like, and it runs no squadrons.  The first thing I want to touch upon is the fact that this list sits at almost 400 points and have no squadrons whatsoever.  Keep in mind that some of the most popular lists in the existing meta have upwards of 4 starships; a Victory and 3 Gladiators at 300 points.  When this game expands to 400 points in the next couple of months, it's imperative we keep our eyes and minds open on exactly what kind of lists we'll be seeing.  Imagine the same list above with a few key upgrades like Engine Techs and a flock of TIE Fighters that wouldn't be possible in a 300 point game.

One of the biggest eye-openers with the coming of Wave2 is how the meta will be impacted by the Imperial Star Destroyer.  It is a fantastic ship in every sense of the word and worth every penny spent on it.  It's durable, well-shielded, have fantastic defenses, and have a blistering amount of firepower.  Best of all, it's fast and able to keep pace with a lot of Rebel spacecraft, which is something that only the Gladiator can do a few months ago.  Despite the speed of the Gladiator, one of the biggest issues with that ship is the lack of long-ranged firepower.  Throwing out black dice is cool and all, and getting awesome damage through with Screed and Assault Concussion Missiles is godsend, but getting within range to pull it off is something else.  That's why most intelligent admirals have their ships deployed in a manner where the Rebels have nowhere to run and you essentially trap the Rebel fleet aka forcing them to take damage.  With the ISD-II, you don't need to worry about that.  You just push the model forward at speed-3 and unleash 8 dice of 4 reds and 4 blues.  That's very worrisome for even the most cunning of Rebel admirals.

It's a trap.. for you!

Don't worry though, the Rebels did receive something to compensate for this absolute surge in battlefield presence from the Imperials, and that's Admiral Ackbar.  This is the beginning of something new, something dangerous for the Imperial fleet, and never before Wave2 did they they experience firepower of this magnitude.  With Admiral Ackbar manning the helm, Rebel fleets are able to increase their long-range firepower by an insane amount.  Couple this with the maneuverability of the ships themselves and you have something that can potentially cause immense damage and stay at max engagement range.  Once the enemy gets closer, you can also trade shot for shot, which is something unheard of until Ackbar reached the table.  This is when everything changed:  The introduction of the Imperial Star Destroyer and Admiral Ackbar decisively changed how this game is to be played.

Some nice little ship stats.

Now that that's been said, let's break down the list's individual components.  First, let's examine Ackbar's flagship, the MC80 "Home One".  While some players think that the MC80 is a paperweight and that spamming more space whales will be better, I'm looking at it from a completely different angle.  What the MC80 gives us over having more generic ships are two things:  The Home One title and a much more durable ship that can give and keep on giving.

The synergy of the list comes from a large number of things, so I'll try and cover them in the way my mind understands it the most.  This fleet is about control, plain and simple.  It forces your opponent to make some very difficult decisions when it comes to defense tokens, and strips away a lot of their ship's ability to defend themselves.  This is why every one of the ships come stock with XI7 Turbolasers.  Yes, I've looked at Enhanced Armaments, but for the price you're paying for 1 red dice compared to the ability to suppress one of the most used defensive abilities in the game every time you fire is not worth the cost.  XI7 Turbolasers allow you to drastically reduce the effectiveness of Redirect immensely.  Not only that, but it seriously hampers the 6-point upgrade Advanced Projectors because you will drastically limit their shield transfer options to just a measly one.  Essentially, I see this as the best possible offensive upgrade for 3 main reasons:  It works on a large number of enemy ships (almost every ship has Redirect), it bypasses or cuts the effectiveness of other paid defensive upgrades e.g. Advanced Projectors, ECM, and it allows you to put on a lot of damage into a specific area quickly.  All for the measly cost of 6 points.

Now, examine what these XI7s do in conjunction with the Intel Officer upgrade.  Intel Officer's primary job is to mark the Brace defensive token for death.  Brace is arguably the strongest of the defensive options allowed on any ship.  In a list like this, you want damage to plow through decisively because every shot and ship counts.  The only way to do this is if you present your opponent with a very sullen offering:  You can Brace this shot, but you will lose it forever.  More often than not, this will force/control the opponent to rely on his now neutered (thanks to the XI7s) Redirect option.  When your MKIIs are throwing out 5 reds, 6 with Concentrate Fire into a single hull point, and your opponent has to either lose his Brace or eat the damage, very few decisions are easy.

Lockdown in full effect.

That's when the Home One title comes in.  Something that will make squeeze what's left of your opponent's decisions and present him with nothing.  Home One allows me to essentially turn a blank into an Accuracy on any one of my ships every time they fire.  When you put this all together; the XI7s, Intel Officer, and Home One's bonus, I'm essentially bypassing your ships defenses and forcing you to just take it.  Not a lot of ships in the game can handle that much firepower when its concentrated in this manner.  When firing on a ISD for example, I can nominate Brace with Intel, lock down a transfer and make him spend his last Redirect to save some damage.  He can only do it once, but if I fire on it with another ship using the same method, I can lock down his Brace with Accuracy (depending on ECM, or if it was exhausted), and make him Intel his last Redirect.  Most likely he won't spend it, so he'll take it all to the hull.  If he does spend it, next turn will be even more painful because you'll be able to funnel a ship's defenses down to nothing because Home One's free Accuracy will lock one down every attack.  The number of control scenarios is staggering, but it's all possible thanks to Home One, Intel Officer and the XI7s.  I slap on a Gunnery Team and ECM on both of my whales and call it a day.

When we look at the MC80 itself, we see something that's more than a magnificent space fish buffbot, but we also see a threat.  This threat comes strictly from Ackbar's ability being able to boost the damage potential of his ship as well, even if it does not get the benefit of Home One's Accuracy bonus.  Keep in mind that even though he doesn't have the Home One bonus, the ship also has its own Intel Officer to lockdown potential defense tokens.  All in all, you have an extremely durable platform that can keep pace with the rest of your speed-3 fleet thanks to Engine Techs, packing 4 Engineering, ECM, Advanced Projectors, and shields up the wazoo.  Ackbar's flagship also hits remarkably hard, packing 6 red dice at long range, 7 with concentrate fire, and once you get within range of the good ol' blues, you can take advantage of Leading Shots to potentially re-roll a few flubs if you really need it.  When compared to the ISD, who's firepower is channeled primarily into its front arc, you benefit from the ability to cover both sides of the ship with equally damaging firepower; making flanking Gladiators think twice if they think they can get the drop on you.

So I told you what the strengths of this fleet is.  Just in case you missed it, I'll sum it up for you:  This fleet's designed to negate and control your opponent's defense options, and to cause massive damage through combined firepower.  Very few ships can withstand the sheer amount of firepower and defense negation that this list can throw out over time.  ISDs will find themselves in a serious pickle if it thinks it can just jump into the fight and tank it solo.  No no, Imperial players will need to think of better options.

The biggest weakness of this fleet is really quite obvious:  It has virtually no way to fight against squadrons aside from the Home One's 2 blue dice.  Sure, I can throw dice at squads that come to close, but I would rather play towards the strengths of this list rather than focus on the weaknesses.  Your primary directive when you pilot a fleet like this is the complete and utter destruction of the enemy's capital ships.  The sooner you integrate this into your overall strategy, the better.  You have to accept the fact that you've spent nothing on squadrons and all the points you could have spend there went into upgrading your ships to be as beastly as possible for anti-ship combat.  Play to these strengths and plan ahead.  Understand that you have Gunnery Team on both whales and your broadsides are equally powerful under Ackbar's command.  Home One benefits your every shot and the sooner you can bring all of your guns to bear on a single target, the faster you will burn through their defensive options and eventually, the ship itself.  Understand that at long-range, you have 16 red dice to throw out, 3 Intel Officers to call upon, and XI7 shots with each volley.

You can always change the list around to accommodate for the meta as well.  The key things for making this list work is Home One + Intel Officer + XI7.  If you're afraid of Rhymer balls or anything like that, you can always strip some of the defense and go for 2x YT-2400s or a single Dash to tie them up.  Now go kill the opposing fleet and stop worrying.

As always, let me know what you guys think.

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