X-Wing: TIE Math-gressors, Studying the New Aces

ChahDresh dives into the math of the new TIE Aggressor’s aces, they are tricksy.The TIE Aggressor’s new ace features an interesting new pilot ability, one that gets proportionately more effective the more nimble his targets:

This is an alternative to using his focus token for more conventional purposes like, you know, turning eyeballs to hits. But how good is it?

There’s not a concise way for me to go through this mathematically. Trust me, I tried. It was super-clunky to present, and wouldn’t be interesting except to people like me who get off on the math. So, instead, here’s a flowchart to show you how to optimally use Kestal’s focus token:

A couple of things to keep in mind with this guy:

  • You might be saying, “Hey, the only clear-cut time to use his ability is when I roll zero eyeballs? That’s bad!” Well… actually, it’s not bad. 42% of the time, you’ll get zero eyeballs on your roll for a standard three-dice toss, at which point Kestal’s ability is pure profit. (Incidentally, this is one reason why R3 Astromech is such garbage.)
  • The ultimate reason why the chart looks like this is because you choose whether or not to spend your focus on yourself after you roll your attack. That means you’re comparing your certain results to your opponent’s probable results. This strongly biases the math in favor of standard usage.
  • Kestal, interestingly, is at his best countering highly evasive aces– not necessarily those who take evade tokens, since he can’t affect those, but those who rely on Autothrusters and focus tokens. I can name a few pilots like that… however, running Kestal with, say, an Ion Cannon Turret takes you to 27 points, which is a fair chunk of change, and he’s of limited utility against plenty of other targets in the game.

All of this, of course, assumes you’re trying to best allocate a single focus token. The true moral of Kestal’s story is that he’s at his best when he has outside sources of actions or dice mods. Obviously extra focus tokens are tasty, but target locks work just fine, too. So, if you’ve got Systems Officers or Fleet Officers with nothing better to do, helping this joker out is a good investment of their time. Failing that, Predator or Expertise probably do the job, too– not unlike a cheaper Rexler Brath with less upside.

Note all of this also applies to the Aggressor’s other unique pilot:

Much like Kestal, Double Edge screams for bonus action economy and/or Predator/Expertise. Most ships use bonus actions to make their one attack extra destructive; Double Edge prefers to split his actions across multiple attacks so that each one gets modified (assuming they’re of roughly equal quality). Of course, this also allows your opponents to play the old Gunner game of “spend just enough tokens to take one damage and no more”, thus potentially wasting your investment in bonus actions. Still, if you can keep Double Edge cheap, you might come out ahead in that bargain.

One big difference, however, is that Double Edge loves him some Operations Specialist, while Kestal might not benefit from the guy. If you have Operations Specialist, you also need someone shooting before Kestal so he can get the bonus focus token (and now you’re starting to distort your list even further); Double Edge can take maximum advantage of Operations Specialist without help.

This question of action economy leads to the natural follow-up question: is the dial good enough to support Push the Limit? We don’t know yet! FFG has linked literally everything in the expansion except for that critical piece of info, other than to cheekily hint that the dial’s “relatively open”… which could mean anything. The X-Wing’s dial is “relatively open”, since it has almost all the standard maneuvers white or better, and the X-Wing is hardly a preferred PtL caddie. We shall see.


~What do you think about Lieutenant Kestal?

ChahDresh is an amateur writer and an even more amateurish X-Wing player. Feel free to demand the full gory math details in the comments below.

  • Jon Bushman

    Details please!

    • ChahDresh

      Extremely abridged version: I compared the change in damage results from turning 1 or 2 focus results to eyeballs against the change from taking away your target’s eyeballs and blanks. I did this using averages first to get a sense of things, and then evaluated select cases with a binomial distribution to confirm. (I have a spreadsheet that calculates binomial distributions for the specific purpose of wargaming probabilities. Don’t look at me like that!)

      Here’s a simplified example. Let’s say your average damage = average attack result – average defense result. If spending your focus adds a full hit to your average attack, which it would if you turn exactly one eyeball, Kestal’s ability would need to have an equally drastic result against the defender to break even. The trouble is that each die the defender throws only has a 1/4 chance of coming up an eyeball– meaning you’d need to be able to affect four dice to average an equivalent effect. (Binomial distribution tells essentially the same story; there are more numbers, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.)

      Even against Autothrusters, you need your opponent to also have a focus token before you’re better off using Kestal. That’s because even Autothrusters don’t activate automatically– your opponent still has to roll a blank, and he might not. The difference between the probability of Autothrusters activating (turning one blank to an Evade) and the *certainty* of the eyeball turning to a hit is what gives the edge to the conventional usage.

      Anyway, that should give you a sense for how I derived the flowchart. You’re starting to see how cumbersome that would be laid out in an article, neh?