X-Wing: Meet the Mighty Mite

For an underpowered ship, the Sheathipede Shuttle sure brings shenanigans. Let’s look at a couple.There’s no question that the Imperials had most eagerly-awaited ships of Wave XII. Between TIE Interceptor 2.0 and the Assault Gunboat and all of its history, there was never any question that the Imperials’ ships would fly off the shelves. And, by and large, the waiting has been worth it! The Silencer has proved to be as fun and menacing as we’d expected, while generic Gunboats are ordnance-swarming tables all over the place.

By contrast, there’s the ship no one asked for– the Sheathipede. Be honest: if someone had asked you “what if we gave Rebel players a Z-95 with more upgrade slots?”, would your reaction have been closer to “I’ve gotta have that!” or “I’ll see what the packaged upgrades are first”?

Unimpressive as its raw stats are, you don’t buy the Sheathipede for its jousting potential. You buy it because it’s a cheap source of support and utility. Now that we’ve had some playtime with the Sheathipede, we’re starting to realize the value of its virtues.

-The rear firing arc is more useful than most expected. Most of the Sheathipede’s pilots stress it (or beg for card combos that stress it); besides which the ship’s dial is, well, basically the Z-95 dial. This means the rear firing arc has proven essential to keeping the ship in the fight.

Almost as importantly, it greatly expands the sorts of lists a Sheathipede can support. Typically, big turret ships are commonly paired with top-ace arc dodgers. Why? Because those ships can operate independently from each other. They don’t have to fly together for mutual support. This is good because the contrasting styles of flying between turret ships and arc-bound ships naturally break up your formation. The rear arc of the Sheatipede means it can maintain position with a big ship and fly in a similar fashion, kiting the enemy along behind. The result has been the emergence of the Kanan-Fenn archetype.

-A PS11 coordinate action hit the meta at just the right time. With the recent re-escalation of the pilot skill race, being able to max out PS has value. The Sheathipede, due to its points profile and stats, just doesn’t get as much out of most go-to Elite Pilot Talents as other ships might. That means it loses relatively little by grabbing VI.

That high PS doesn’t exactly make Fenn Rau an arc-dodger or an alpha strike threat, but it does help him in other ways. Coordinating at that high PS lets you help lower-PS allies catch arc dodgers, get target locks after enemies move into range and after Black One’s opportunity is past, slip off of blocks after you land them, take advantage of other upgrades… the list goes on.

  • Example: Fenn Rau, Veteran Instincts, Hotshot Copilot, Flight-Assist Astromech, 26 points

For a reasonable cost, this guy is a real pain. The PS11 coordinate action is here, and we get double value out of the high PS with Hotshot. Fenn Rau’s attack has little chance of doing damage on its own, but by forcing token expenditures, it’s almost as effective. It also makes Deadeye-reliant pilots and Poe Dameron cry. If the PS race ever deescalates, swapping to Wired is a great idea at the same cost.

Flight-Assist gives us repositioning options, but it requires flying differently than you otherwise might. The goal with your maneuvers is to end up with your enemy out of arc so you can boost or barrel roll to get them back in. This is where you get lots of mileage out of that rear arc!

And that’s not even counting the pilot ability…

-Yeah, those are some good pilot abilities. Coordinating at low PS is useful in different ways than at high PS, but still quite useful– meaning AR-15 and Ezra can get some burn even at their respective pilot skills. And that means, in turn, that their pilot abilities come into play.

Fenn has the best, of course. It doesn’t matter how many tokens you stack; Fenn Rau says “no”. If you’re going to hurt his squadmates, you’re going to do it with naked dice. Which might happen! But any amount of defense-stacking can make those naked dice a very sketchy proposition.

Sure, you can still launch those Harpoons, but without the ability to spend the lock to augment their accuracy they’re not nearly as dangerous. Combine with HotCop and you can debuff multiple ships a turn.

Ezra has the same pilot ability he did on the Attack Shuttle, but the different upgrade slots available change its value. Specifically, the droid slot means Ezra can take R3-A2, the god of stress… and now he’s deriving more value from being stressed. You can even do the old Ibtisam/Keyan Farlander trick of doing a red maneuver to pre-stress yourself.

AR-15 allows you to support pilots who depend on Push the Limit or other stress effects, or act as a counter against enemy stressors. The double-stress on yourself means that Inspiring Recruit is a no-brainer choice, and you’re still at a dirt-cheap points cost before looking at droid options.

(Okay, Zeb’s ability is pretty lame. But the others are sweet.)

-The droid-crew combo is very tasty. We knew that, to some extent, already, thanks to the ARC-170 introducing this combo. Still, the combos the two pursue are quite different– my old ARC standby, R2-D2/Tail Gunner, isn’t of the same value on the Sheathipede. But, to look at it in a different light, this means you can do things on the Sheathipede that you wouldn’t on an ARC. For example, Weapons Engineer + M9-G8 was a talked-about combo for the ARC, but it never caught on. Part of the problem was that the cost for this combo on the cheapest ARC chassis runs you 31 points, which is about the point you’re pinching your wingmen. (The eternal dilemma of support units: spend too much on supporting units and the supported units suck.) A Sheathipede can field that same duo in the 21-26 point range, meaning that the allies you buff with M9-G8 are potent enough to take good advantage.

One thing you won’t get with the Sheathipede: much in the way of offense. And that’s fine. The lethality of the game’s ships has been increasing for a while, and the only counter we were seeing was HP inflation. (Hey, that’s an idea for the next set of graphs.) The Sheathipede plays to the Rebels’ core identity of teamwork and defense in some pretty interesting ways both fun and competitive.

~What’s not to like?

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