Monday, January 19, 2015

Corran Horn Doubletap - When To Use It, How To Maximize It.

Corran Horn may be the biggest Marty Stu of the entire Star Wars universe.  He joins Rogue Squadron, winds up as one of the best pilots, rivaling Wedge and Tycho for the role.  Oops, and he's a secret grandson of a Jedi Master, and able to withstand torture and dark side temptation and blah, blah, blah.

Well, in X-Wing Miniatures, Corran Horn is no different in as much as he is all about doing things that no one else can even hope to try, and showing up the folks that have been doing his job (high offensive fighter) longer than he has (Wedge).  But how are you supposed to get the most out of him and his ability, and when should you activate it?  That is what we will be talking about today.

Let's talk about his ship first.  Corran is piloting an E-Wing which functions as more of a supped up defensive X-Wing/B-Wing/A-Wing hybrid.  It has the X-Wing and B-Wing's offense (3 attack), the A-Wing's Defense (3 defense), an X-Wing Hull/Shields (5 total), and interestingly enough both the X-Wing's Upgrade (Astromech) and the B-Wings (System Upgrade), as well as the B-Wing's barrel roll, and basically the X-Wing's dial.  Nothing new for the rebels with the E-Wing, just the best of the rebel's ships, for a hefty price-tag (27 for the naked generic low-pilot version) putting it squarely in 3 ship territory.

But the named pilots, Corran and Etahn, are what makes the E-Wing actually a viable ship.  Corran's ability allows you just straight up break one of the basic rules of X-Wing - and that is take another attack in a single turn and not even in the combat phase.  This is, to put it mildly, amazing.  As such, it comes with a drawback - if you shoot with him this way, you can't take another shot the next turn.  So when should you use the ability (which I will from here on out refer to as the doubletap), and when should you sit on it?

The best idea for this is to use the doubletap when it would be more advantageous to shoot this turn, than on Corran's next round.  This means also NOT using the doubletap when it gives you no advantage over saving it for a future shot.  I hesitate to give any hard and fast rules, but the basics should look something like this:

1.  Am I likely to be in a better position against a better target next turn?  Hold Fire.
2.  Am I at range 3 of the enemy ship?  Hold fire.
3.  Am I in range 1 of the enemy ship?  Fire Away!
4.  Do I have modifications to my dice?  Fire Away!
5.  If I doubletap now, can I possibly kill this ship before it gets a chance to fire next round?  FIRE FIRE FIRE FIRE KILL THAT THING!

You get the point.  Don't shoot that second shot if it isn't in your best interest to do so.  There is one further consideration of course, which is if you can be in a better position two turns down the road, by having no shot this turn.  Then it is again a no-brainer - if you aren't going to get a shot anyways, might as well take it now no matter how much of a terrible shot it is.

Well, with that in mind, let's look at how we can best maximize Corran's role on your list.  Corran and his ship definitely fills the role of a closer - a good relatively high PS ship for end game mop-up.  R2-D2 is frequently seen on him in the hopes of getting him into the end game with relatively full shields and staying power, and works well with shield upgrade.  Veteran Instincts boosts him to a PS10, firing before phantoms and more or less before anything else.  Advanced Sensors boosts his maneuverability, letting him barrel roll before his maneuver, and works great paired with engine upgrade.

Now as to maximizing his special ability, pairing him with fire control systems gives him a free target lock for his second attack, assuming it is the same target as the first shot.  Predator gives him a light target lock on whatever he wants to shoot at, and marksmanship gives him a better focus attack on his target through both attacks as well.  R7-T1 is an interesting choice for an astromech, letting you boost into range 1 (or just out of arc) to doubletap more effectively, and with a free target lock to boot!  R3-A2 lets him double stress a target (and stress himself as well, admittedly) which is wonderful for phantom fights.

My favorite way to set him up is to run him very aggressively, with Biggs as one of his supports.  R2-D2 or R7-T1, Veteran Instinct (for phantom hunting) and Fire Control Systems.  Get him into range 1, and Biggs just barely in range 1 of him, and turn him loose.  You don't need to focus on defense until Biggs drops, and by then you hopefully have doubletapped your way into a fair exchange for poor Biggs.  With R2-D2, he also makes a good alternative target for Biggs, if you can split the fire between the two by getting Biggs just out of arc for some of the enemy ships.

Again, feel free to comment below on your favorite way of using Corran in your list, and argue why I am an idiot letting Biggs tank for a agility 3 ship.

The Biggs Gambit - How to Utilize Biggs Darklighter in a Rebel List

                There seem to be two general schools of thought involving Biggs as a pilot.  The first thought is “This guy is going to take every shot they throw at him; how can we keep him alive?”  This has led to Biggs being run with all manner of upgrades, designed to keep him in the air – R2-F2 / Stealth Device to give him more evasion, various means of giving him additional focus or evade tokens, and means of regenerating shields once he has been hit.  The second concept has Biggs as an opening gambit – sacrificing ¼ of your points to be able to bring every gun to bear on the fight.  With this idea, Biggs shows up with no upgrades, receives no support, and dies so that you hopefully take more points in the initial exchange.

                I’m personally an advocate for the latter school of thought regarding Biggs, with some caveats.  Biggs is definitely an opening gambit – by taking him you have to be willing to lose him in the opening salvo and have a plan to make his sacrifice count.  That being said, you don’t WANT to lose him, and if you can keep him alive in some fashion, you should endeavor to do so, just so long as it does not impact your offense.  With this in mind, let’s talk about Biggs, what he does, and how to maximize his impact on the game.

                Consider Biggs ship, the X-Wing.  An excellent article on X-Wing as a base ship was made by “Tie Pilot” over on the official fantasy flight forums - definitely give it a read if you haven’t done so already.  The gist of the article boils down to that the X-Wing doesn’t really fit into one of the 3 roles you see from most ships – Maneuverable (Boost / Barrel Roll), Turret, and “Filler” – and as such are being outclassed in the meta by B-Wings (Maneuverable), Y-Wings (Turret), and Z-95s (Filler) for their price point, and what makes X-Wings viable is not the generics but the huge list of named pilots with excellent abilities.  None of this is entirely untrue.

                The X-Wing has a more than a few things going for it.  It has 5 points of combined hull / shield that you have to chew through to get it off the board (and is Biggs main selling point).  2 evasion, putting it right in the middle of the pack (and averaging about 1 evade per attack).  It has a pretty decent dial for offense, only missing a 1 turn for close quarters brawling.  It has an excellent dial for defense, missing only a 5 straight.  Furthermore, cementing its role as an offensive ship, it has 3 attack and target lock action.  And all for 21 points for a generic.  The downsides of the X-Wing is that it really doesn’t do offense particularly better than another generic ship.  B-Wings are a better pure offensive ship; with systems upgrades, better pure dials with the Red 1 Turns, and the ability to barrel roll to get ships into its arc – the only “downside” being that it is a better defensive ship when it just eats shots and ignores defense, thanks to a combined 8 hull/shield.

                Now the implications of what Biggs does – he makes other ships around him able to be like the B-Wing – they can ignore defense entirely for offense because they just aren’t going to get shot.  When he flies with other high Pilot Skill ships, they don’t have to worry about saving the focus for defense – just maximize the damage output!  Biggs is the only one eating those shots anyways.  Hell, don’t take a focus – Target Lock is better by the numbers for pure damage output.  It lets you play aggressive with ships, since they can get into range one of the enemy, offload, and the opponent simply can’t shoot back.

                What this means is that around Biggs, the name of the game must be offensive focus.  Paul Heaver did this most famously with his “Biggs Walks the Dogs” list in 2013 worlds, with Biggs trailing behind a pair of Dagger B-Wings and a Rookie X-Wing – all offensively oriented ships that do not want to spend much, if any, time contemplating defense.  I have been lately running Biggs as a wingman to Corran “I really want to shoot you twice from range 1” Horn, to keep him from being shot back at from range 1.  Consider that when you take your action, you are thinking ahead – will I be better taking an offensive action, or a defensive one?  With Biggs, you know you need that defensive action, and with everyone else on your team, you know that a defensive action would not be necessary.

                An interesting conundrum that was discovered when jousting values were calculated, were that low PS TIE Fighters were performing better than higher PS TIE Fighters in a straight up joust.  Offensive and Defensive actions were the answer – Higher PS ships spent their focus tokens on attack, which sometimes gave a benefit and sometimes did not, while the low PS ships always could spend their tokens on defense, and thus receive the defensive benefit, and always know that if the token was still left, they could spend it on attack.  Biggs simulates this by always using his focus for defense – and letting your other ships focus on the offensive aspect of the game.

                Obviously you want to fly him in the back of your formation, to try and get as much of a range advantage for him compared to your damage dealers up front.  “Biggs takes a focus” should be the first words out of your mouth after he moves. 

Here’s the big caveat.  If you can manage it, what Biggs likes most of all is a few ships just out of range 3 of him on the first exchange.  Biggs is a Gambit.  You are betting that you will be able to destroy 25 points of enemy ships or more in exchange for offering him as a sacrificial lamb.  With that said, what if your opponent doesn’t go for the sacrifice?  What if they try to spread their damage between Biggs and some high profile target ship?  Or maybe your opponent did accept the gambit and you got lucky, and Biggs is limping away with very little hull left.  This is the perfect possible situation.  Biggs survives with a small amount of damage and (likely) your other ship survives as well.  You’ve made your exchange, and (hopefully) still have 100 points to work with, while your opponent has… less. 

This brings into play the “Biggs Maneuver” – a “get me out of here” maneuver that points Biggs away from the scrum, usually a bank 3 or turn 3, occasionally a straight 4.  The key with this is to set Biggs up to K-Turn the next round.  Now Biggs flies on his own, and your other ships fly on their own.  Break your formation and dog fight it for all that its worth.

Hopefully this helps the newer folks out there get an idea of just how Biggs is best utilized in their lists.  Feel free to comment below with any questions, comments, or to debate the merits of a Fat Biggs in your list.