ChahDresh takes a look at some of the ships that could use some help, except for one, big, ace-shaped problem…
Fix the X-Wing! It’s a refrain you hear from time to time. The game is called X-Wing! We love Star Wars ship battles because of the X-Wing! Wedge himself described it as having “a near-ideal combination of firepower, maneuverability, and durability”! Fix the X-Wing!
“Fix”, in this case, means “make it stronger”. It’s not as if the X-Wing hasn’t gotten serious attention over the years, from the Rebel Transport’s extra droids and aces, to Integrated Astromech, and even Vectored Thrusters. For some, that’s just not enough.
I understand. There are thematic reasons, outside-the-game reasons, to want the X-Wing and its pilots to be the strongest around. There is, however, a limit to how much stronger FFG could make the X-Wing. That limit’s name is Biggs Darklighter.
Like it or not, Biggs makes the X-Wing a top-tier ship. His pilot ability remains the most disruptive in the game. To some it feels wrong that the mighty X-Wing is most notable for how it dies, but, as has been noted, getting your enemy to kill what you want him to kill is a huge part of X-Wing’s strategy.
So Biggs, just by existing as he does, caps how much stronger FFG could make the X-Wing. If the X-Wing gets stronger, it makes Biggs get stronger, and due to his widespread presence the Rebel faction gets remarkably stronger. The X-Wing is stuck. This has led some to make a radical suggestion: nerf Biggs to allow for X-Wing buffs.
Biggs isn’t the only T-65 pilot you see around, though. Wedge shows up in competition from time to time (handcuffed to Biggs). Wes sees play as a tech pick when ordnance becomes too important. And M9-G8 has breathed new life into Tarn Mison. So it’s an exaggeration to say Biggs is the only X-Wing you can field.
There are other ships, though, that have exactly one viable pilot. That pilot makes it difficult to buff the ship, because then that pilot would be a wrecking ball. These are the One-Ace Wonders.
First let’s look at the opposite situation: the Rebel Y-Wing. It is extremely rare to see a Rebel Y-Wing that isn’t a Gold Squadron Pilot. That’s not a fault of the ship, though: with the TLT, title option, and droid slot, the Rebel Y-Wing is a solid ship. You don’t see its named options not because the ship is weak, but because those aces are weak, hamstrung by high points costs, lackluster pilot abilities, and an inexcusable absence of EPT. That problem could be fixed just by releasing new pilots. You don’t have to fix the ship.
The ships below have the reverse problem. In each case the ship has serious problems, but it has one pilot with an ability so profoundly strong that he carries it to competitive circles by himself. That is what we mean by a One-Ace Wonder.
It’s Dash. That’s the beginning and the end of it. I mean, compare the 2400 to the Jumpmaster for a moment. Just laugh at it. It’s funny! (The Jumpmaster is the opposite of a One-Ace Wonder: every single one of its pilots has seen abundant competitive use, in no small part because the hull is basically under-costed.)
A ship that costs 30 points has to bring serious firepower or impeccable support. A basic Fringer brings neither and demands additional upgrades to do its business. The cost of those upgrades means the ship then has to do *even more* to earn its keep. Ultimately, the upgrades available never allow the 2400 to get to that magical point where its cost and firepower balance… until you get to Dash.
As we’ve discussed, Dash’s ability, EPT, and high PS are what allow him to function. They’re what allow him to move quickly enough to kite well, and when he can kite, he is both more defensive and a great HLC caddy. The lower-PS ships, with none of those advantages, can’t use the title well, and without the title and with their high base cost, they just don’t bring enough.
This is another design lesson you can see incorporated into the Jumpmaster: the base cost was depressed and the ace’s cost shifted partially to the Punishing One title. A similar shift for the 2400– say, three points off the hull cost, and three more points added to the Outrider title– would make a world of difference. Any other buff to the ship, however, would make Dash’s ridiculousness too much to bear.
The Inquisitor– Inqi– is a solid ship: reliable offense, turns on a dime, can token up when he needs to… and, at PS8, his success was one of the first confirmations that the PS race was de-escalating.
The rest of the ships? Eh, not so much. Inqi’s pilot ability is what gives him punch. The rest of the ships are hamstrung by their two reds. Without a consistent way to add offense, the TAP just doesn’t add much more than a dirt-cheap Academy Pilot or a cheaper-but-arguably-stronger Crack Shot Omega Squadron Pilot. The single missile slot does not qualify as “a consistent way to add offense”, despite how the TAP was marketed by FFG.
(Interestingly, this is a bit of a repeat. The Z-95 was also marketed, not so much as a swarm ship, but as a missile caddy. We know how that turned out: missile Zs never caught on, but using Zs as filler or in mini-swarms worked very well. Of course, the Z is also four points cheaper than the TAP. At this part of the barrel, that’s a big difference.)
With one strong ace elevating a cruddy hull, the TAP is very much a One-Ace Wonder.
Agonizingly, the TIE/fo hasn’t caught on the way TIE Swarms did for so long. Compared to the TIE Fighter, the TIE/fo is marginally more maneuverable and much tougher for three points more. This isn’t as good a trade as we want it to be. Toughness wasn’t the real problem TIE Swarms had to solve, it was firepower. (As with the two ships above, the basic two-red-dice problem is a big one.) Losing even a single ship between the TIE/In and TIE/fo swarms made a very significant difference in output. Additionally, most of the named TIE/fo pilots don’t have pilot abilities anything like Mauler Mithel’s, Howlrunner’s, or Backstabber’s, abilities that add enough firepower to turn an ignorable nuisance into an un-ignorable threat. No TIE/fo is comparable.
Except for Omega Leader.
By combining Juke, Comms Relay, and his pilot ability, Omega Leader transforms from a humble TIE/fo to one of the game’s finest one-on-one duelists. He solves the firepower problem for himself and boasts a faux-regen ability from Comms Relay. Sure, he has a low ceiling and hot natural green dice can neutralize him, but when the biggest criticism of a ship is “you can ignore him if your dice are super-hot” and he’s doing that for 26 points, that is the very definition of “praising with faint damns”. His ability transcends the hull he flies. He is the One Ace for the TIE/fo’s One-Ace Wonder.
No ship is One-Ace Wonder-ier than the E-Wing, and it’s not particularly close. The base E-Wing is an agonizing package of green-dice dependence, upgrade reliance, and high cost. Unupgraded, the E-Wing is functionally similar to the much cheaper B-Wing; as with the 2400, above, if you want to justify the higher cost you have to start stacking upgrades, which spirals the cost. In short order the darn thing is out of control, and still is painfully vulnerable to having its arc dodged or getting alpha-struck.
Let’s put it this way: the E-Wing came out at the same time as its fellow super-deluxe ship, the TIE Defender. The TIE Defender couldn’t sniff the top tables for the longest time, and (with one rather important exception) the TIE Defender was regarded as the superior ship.
About that exception: its name is Corran Horn, and he’s been at or near the top of every Worlds since his introduction.
The undisputed master of the hit-and-run is worth every one of his 42+ points, and that’s a big problem. Corran excels because of the specific interaction of his pilot ability with the particular upgrade cards of R2-D2 and Fire Control System. It can’t be reproduced on Corran’s inferiors. But because that combination is so extraordinarily powerful– because Corran is such a monster– the E-Wing is un-buffable. Making Corran stronger isn’t what anybody needs. And is it really worth FFG’s time to make buffs or upgrades for the non-Corran pilots of the E-Wing? Probably not. Because of that, the E-Wing is the game’s ultimate One-Ace Wonder. And, because the E-Wing was a peripheral ship in the now-deceased Legends mythos and has no natural constituency advocating for it like the TIE Defender did, that’s likely to remain so forever.
~ Did I miss any?