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:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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