X-Wing: Making New Favorite Pilots
The old world has gone. Time to meet some new (old) friends and find who our new favorite X-Wing pilots are. ChahDresh knows who he wants to try out.
Here we are! We did it! X-Wing 2.0 is out! Now we can stop talking about it as “X-Wing 2.0” and just call it “X-Wing”! I am stoked, lemme tell ya. So much less typing!
I’m especially stoked to fly some of the following ships. Some are more fun, some are more competitive, but I plan to have good times with all of them.
Note: as a personal matter, I fly basically no Scum. Don’t be mad that Scum are mostly off of this list, Scum players; it’s nothing personal. Don’t think your faction has been forgotten, either: your patron saint is more excited about Scum than I’ve ever been excited about anything.
I’m with this guy: Arvel’s ability always seemed like the sort of thing that should have been useful, only it never was. An ability that allows you to shoot something that can’t shoot you back is superficially super-appealing. Actually engineering that scenario that was another matter entirely.
Now his ability has been adjusted. Now he plays like you always wished he played: he can boost into range 0, and he can use the A-Wing ship ability to do so after taking some other action. Anyone his initiative or lower is now fair game for constant bump games and endless frustration (especially since you can focus or target lock, then use Primed Thrusters to red boost into contact). Granted his Initiative isn’t especially impressive; but if there were a high-Initiative source of external action economy, things look a lot different, don’t they? Hold this thought.
Bumping constantly also makes it super-easy to bullseye stuff. You know what that means?
- Arvel Crynyd, Crack Shot, Proton Rockets, 44 points
Gimme gimme. We could even go Intimidation for slightly more points but recurring value!
Since their release, TIE Strikers have fallen into the category of “wicked fun but not especially competitive”. Duchess is emblematic of the chassis as a whole: she could do things no other ship could do and land maneuvers no other ship could match, but even when she did, it usually didn’t matter. Ailerons-left into a one-turn-right into a barrel roll to slip into an enemy blind spot? Awesome! Four dice unmodified? Boo! Two blanks, eyeball, and one hit against three greens and an evade token? BOOOO! TLTs and bombs murdered her dead. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that her VI-boosted PS 10 was still somehow, frequently, inadequate.
These days… she still has several of the same issues! Initiative 5 is great, but Fenn Rau and Soontir and Supernatural Vader exist and are likely to be Big Deals (and all murder Duchess). She’s free from the tyranny of VI, but her now-liberated Talent slot is a lot less valuable than before, and barren of options to address her issues (Lone Wolf is about it).
Still… she’s likely to be even more fun than before. Now she gets to choose whether to Ailerons or not even while you’re stressed! Her maneuverability is crazy good. Even better: that Gunner slot is *very* interesting. I immediately gravitate to Fifth Brother: 12 points is a bunch, but that Force point sure is appealing (that the hit becomes a crit is just gravy). This is what I’m gunning for:
- Duchess, Fifth Brother, Lone Wolf… 58
I’m even contemplating Conner Nets for the lolz. The true aces still out-initiative her and Vader out-actions her, but she can do enough crazy things to at least make them work for the kill. Or maybe you just take her with nothing for a bargain-basement cost. That would minimize your exposure to those bad matchups while still bullying anything lower Initiative than you. I must test this all.
(Aside: in this role of pocket ace, Duchess is competing with naked Soontir—who for 52 points is splendid as-is!—and Whisper. I especially like the Whisper-Vader crew-Juke build. That’s 70 points of terrifying.)
Ah, Lando. Forgotten pilot of the old Falcon, due in large part to the restrictive nature of his old ability: it only worked on another friendly ship at range 1, meaning it required awkward formation flying from a ship not really built for that. Compared to the abilities of Han and Chewie—both of which were passive, easy to employ, and archetype-agnostic—Lando’s just couldn’t compete.
That’s not true anymore. Sure, Han is still awesome, and “this reroll is not a reroll” is sure to break many brains over the coming years. Sure, Chewie’s ability is perhaps more important than ever now that crits are more important than ever. But Lando’s ability is so much better now, and actions are much more precious now. Throw in a generous bump to Ini5 and we’re cooking with gas.
- Lando: Nien Nunb, Millennium Falcon, Trick Shot, Rigged Cargo Chute… 108
I realize we’re leaving a fair number of upgrade slots unfilled or cheaply filled, but it’s easy to spiral these ships’ cost completely out of control. Most of the Talents don’t really work for turret ships anyway— Trick Shot at least is cheap. Lone Wolf, maybe, but I don’t want to have Lone Wolf on every entry on this list. (That being said: expect to see a LOT of Lone Wolf. It’s one of the few ways in the game now to mitigate blanks, and it works on offense or defense. Yes, it’s hard to use and charge-limited—it’s also cheap and powerful.) Lando wants to do blues regardless, so he doesn’t really need Engine Upgrade (which is expensive without buying him too much). Far more useful is Nein Nunb, who gives us more blues to choose—the dial becomes almost Aggressor-like with Nein in tow.
The big problem with the ship is that it’s a huge investment of points but is suspiciously light on firepower. If you’re likely to get shot, your default move will be to either boost or evade (or even both); both of those choices leave you with no mods on your shot and no old-Gunner for a second chance. (Bistan helps a bit here… for 13 more points. Ouch.) That’s hard. Using your ability to help a friendly (like, say… Arvel!) makes the choices harder.
Even so, boosting big ships with turrets are a Known Good Thing. It’ll be hard to convince me otherwise until we get some games in.
Few ships saw price cuts as steep as the TIE Bomber and the TIE Punisher. FFG realized, somewhere between release and 2.0, that ships that rely on ordnance need that built into their price structure. Now, the Bomber and Punisher have very aggressive price points that suggest a range of good options. Your basic Scimitar with Barrage Rockets is 34 points—enough to emulate the modestly successful 1.0 LWF/Unguided Rockets lists, and with plenty of points left over for an ace, support ship, or Jonus for a suddenly-intimidating joust. Both the Bomber and the Punisher also realized other buffs, ranging in impact from “that might never matter” to “wow, good for them!”
One of those buffs is the white reload action on the Punisher—and that, along with Trajectory Simulator, opens up a new role for good ol’ Deathrain: swarm bully.
Take Trajectory Simulator and Proton Bombs. Lob a bomb during the Systems phase, use his ability to focus (or reposition), and dial in a slow-roll. At Ini4, Deathrain will be moving well after a swarm has tipped its hand as to where it’s headed. If they don’t move into range, great! Reload that sucker and try again next turn. Otherwise, you get to take an action more suited to engaging (or avoiding engagement). You can sustain this indefinitely and force a swarm to eat at least one Proton Bomb.
Okay, you might be saying: so the swarm eats one Proton Bomb. So what? That’s not going to kill anything, and they’ll shred you in the ensuing engagement. Ah, but the Proton Bomb is just Part One. You see, Concussion Missiles have changed, too: now they expose damage cards on ships within range 1 of the target. And if you’ve ensured all of your enemies, who are flying in tight formation, each has at least one damage card to expose…
- Deathrain: Proton Bombs, Trajectory Simulator, Concussion Missiles… 58
The potential here makes me giggle. Yes, Deathrain is unlikely to survive a straight-up joust with a swarm list, but if he can land and expose multiple crits on them before he goes down, he more than justifies the sacrifice.
There are plenty of other ships that want no part of this guy, either. His ability to both drop and launch bombs, reloading continuously, with just enough repositioning to be a problem, makes him a high skill-cap but potentially hilarious fiend.
Wedge is the best and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Much like his counterpart Soontir Fel, he’s not the most expensive high-PS ace in his faction, but he might be the best bargain. At a slim 52 points, you can drop him naked on the field and benefit from his exquisite firepower. With a few extra points we can do some really interesting things—I’m thinking Lone Wolf (again!), Afterburners, maybe Proton Torpedoes. As a longtime Nien Nunb fan, I can speak to the power of boosting after a Tallon Roll. This brings him up to 73, and he’s not particularly tanky for that cost—but maybe the best defense is to kill the other guy first, and Wedge can definitely do that.
(If not Lone Wolf: I’m not sure. The Quick Build uses Outmaneuver, but that’s strongly meta-dependent: with Wedge’s ability already in play, Outmaneuver only consistently helps against 2+ agility foes, and who knows if those will be prevalent enough to justify a suspiciously high cost. Moreover, Outmaneuver suggests using Wedge as a flanker—and if you’re doing that Lone Wolf is better and cheaper. I don’t know, maybe Composure as a fail-safe. You could talk me into Elusiveness for some durability. We’re firmly into “for flavor” territory now though.)
Rexler was the black sheep of named Defender pilots. Like Arvel, he had an ability that seemed like it had great potential, but getting it to fire off proved very difficult in practice. You had to focus for your one action, abstain from using the focus token to modify your attack (assuming you didn’t have to use it on defense), deal damage anyway but only to the enemy hull, and then spend the focus token for the effect. There were far too many demands on that focus token for it to be used like that. Almost as crucially: Rexler was really expensive, in part because of his high PS; but for a ship as predictable as a Defender, that extra PS wasn’t worth much, while the blatantly superior Vessery and Ryad were also noticeably cheaper.
Fast forward to today: Rexler’s ability is much easier to use, as you merely have to be evading during your attack… and you get an evade token passively from Full Throttle as long as you’re goin’ fast. Shooting at Ini5 helps ensure he still has the evade token when he shoots, which also means you can use Juke to goose your offense. The universal reduction of shields in favor of hull (except, ironically, for the Defender itself) gives more opportunities for his ability to kick in. And, somehow, he is now the cheapest of the named Defender pilots.
- Rexler Brath: Heavy Laser Cannon, Juke… 92
The Heavy Laser Cannon seems like an easy choice for a Defender: sure it’s bullseye-only, but Defenders are the most linear ship in the game, so maintaining bullseye (especially in a straight joust) should be easy-peasy. If you can spook a ship into repositioning to avoid your bullseye (thereby costing them an action and making them prey to your Juke), all the better!
Don’t get me wrong: in these action-constrained times, Vessery is part of a very short list of ships that can get all the tokens. Ryad can’t do green K-Turns at any speed, because she was nerfed all the way down to… white K-Turns at any speed. Rexler might still be the worst of the named Defenders.
Or maybe not. Defenders don’t have linked actions or any sort of Push replacement, so Ryad’s ability isn’t as extraordinary as it was. And Defenders are so expensive—in a world where getting locks is harder than before—that Vessery has fewer options for mooching locks. Maybe Rexler’s high Initiative, self-contained package, and more-consistent ability will make him the new hotness. I want to see it either way.
To this day I wear as a badge of honor that I went 4-2 at a major tournament with a Rebel HWK as a degree-of-difficulty modifier. I have some very fond memories of that tournament—and that list.
Now, Jan is back, and potentially less of a fun-but-still-an-anchor sort of ship. Flying her will be different, for sure: her ability now requires you to keep your friendly target in arc. Although the dial overall is much better, the blues are still pretty restrictive. The new actions are fun and all, but the shiny new “this improves the HWK” actions (jam and boost) are red, which means if you’re doing them you’re forfeiting the chance to use her ability.
There are ways to mitigate all of those, though. Moldy Crow gives the HWK a starfighter-grade forward battery, meaning you can have arcs covering 180 degrees; this gives you plenty of coverage for using her pilot ability. Nien Nunb and Engine Upgrade make her dial and boosting more practical, respectively; both together are even better, but more expensive still.
That is one of my big concerns: it’s still a relatively fragile ship, and it’s still easy to make far too pricey. The title, Nien, and EU bring us to 62, which is a lot for a ship that will spend most of the game running for its life. Even so, Jan grants an extra attack die, a scarce commodity in this day and age. That’s awfully alluring. And if Jan is nimble enough run and gun with her partner ships, then there are some pretty intriguing build options for her. (Conversely: if Iden Versio is as common as we fear her to be, she’ll strongly inhibit Jan from hitting tables.) Ultimately, though, the HWK may be in more trouble from its competition in the mid-price support ship market, the Sheathipede. AP-5, for 30 points, seems like an impeccable bargain. Who cares, Jan Ors in a HWK that actually flies, whoop-whoop!
NAMED LAMBDA PILOTS
The Lambda won the This Is Fine Award for taking the game’s worst dial unchanged from 1.0 into 2.0. The Lambda used to compensate solely by being the cheapest way to get Emperor Palpatine on the table; that’s cold comfort in this edition, as His Darkside-ness has taken a substantial hit to his utility.
And yet it would be a mistake to say the Lambda is destined to return to its unloved, unlovable pre-Palp self. While the dial is unchanged, that dial is made vastly more functional with the addition of a two-dice rear arc. No longer is the Lambda an “I shoot on the initial pass then spend the rest of the game turning around not shooting” sort of ship. Now, after it does its initial sweep, it can continue to take pot-shots at anyone who sidles in behind. (Don’t discount it just because it’s a two-dice attack—remember that this is 2.0, everything burns.)
Meanwhile, those Coordinate and Jam actions and fascinating pilot abilities look to add even more fun to the ship, at a price point not dissimilar to the HWK’s or the faster but much-weakened Reaper. This could be fun.