In this article I am going to be using "Whales" to refer to any Large ship. Not to be confused with the standard Armada slang use to refer to MC80s only. Also note that these strategies can be combined for more effective hunting.
Well, there are several ways, and each approaches the problem in a different manner. Let's have a look at each one, and see how this can tie into our overall strategies:
Option #1: What Brace Token?
The Brace token works "better" the more damage that is being absorbed. Being able to shrug off some 8 damage monster hit down to a more reasonable 4 keeps MC80s hull intact, AFIIs flying, and Motti ISDs barely batting an eye. So what happens if you instead spread that 8 damage around between multiple, weaker shots? Two shots at 3 damage each, for example, do more damage than that single 8 damage shot, assuming Brace was only used once. Even if it was used twice, it is now gone, forever, and the same amount of damage is through. Now imagine 8 attacks, all for a single damage - the brace doesn't work at all!
There are multiple ways to get these smaller attacks. Smaller ships for example cost less than their bigger, dice heavier counterparts. Squadrons can swarm a target, and pour essentially un-braceable dice on the target.
Pros: Lots of attacks make Brace nearly worthless.
Cons: Small ships are much easier for the enemy to pop themselves. Squadrons are easy to lock down, even with an Intel escort.
Option #2: Intel Officer
"Just don't make a single big attack" isn't much of an answer, especially since most of us want to bring a Whale of our own. The first option for hunting a big enemy from your own is to have Intel Officer make him leave his ship open for more big attacks if he Braces yours.
Because Intel Officer makes your opponent discard the token, you know he cannot have it for future rounds, meaning the next round you'll be able to put maximum damage onto him from your big attack.
Pros: Gets rid of the Brace, or at the worst makes him not use it against that attack.
Cons: A bit pricey at 7 points. Not terribly useful for targets with redundant tokens, low hull, or even no Brace. Walex just doesn't care about Intel, at least not the first time anyways.
Option #3: Heavy Turbolaser Turrets
Once you start putting out a considerable amount of damage on larger targets, Heavy Turbolasers become much better than XI7s. The magic number seems to be around 6 points of damage or so. Why are they better for Whale hunting? XI7s work by putting damage directly on the hull - they don't do anything with any other token besides redirect, and want to just burn down the redirecting ship while it still has shields. A whale still has contain to keep critical effects from going through, can still redirect at least 1 point of damage, and XI7s don't actually help with the Brace.
HTTs meanwhile give your opponent a choice. Only drop 1 point of damage from the Brace, or don't use any of their other defensive tokens. No evading an incoming die with Needa, no Redirecting at all (so better than XI7s) and no containing any critical hit that strikes hull.
Pros: Puts the hurt on the Whale that would be ECMing to use Brace anyway. Gets that critical damage across.
Con: Next to worthless against small Imperial ships. Actually worthless against small Rebel ships, who XI7 is a better option. Takes up a valuable Turbolaser slot.
Option #4: Overload Pulse
It's like Intel Officer, but for ALL tokens! Overload Pulse makes sure your opponent can't use his tokens without throwing them away, by exhausting any that haven't already been spent this round. The Raider II is the least expensive platform for the Imperials, while the Rebels get the CR90B. The VSDII, ISD and MC80 also can equip this card, but don't get to take advantage of its effect, so it's better to leave the setup shot to the small fry.
For additional fun, pair with Avenger (you can't use those tokens, even if you wanted to) or SW-7 Ions (blue accuracy results count as damage if not used).
Pros: Devastating in a way that Intel Officer wishes it could be. Can be made automatic by using Screed for the Imperials.
Cons: Delivery vehicle is a small, easily destroyed corvette that needs to get into medium range, and activate first. If you don't have Screed, delivery of Overload Pulse is not exactly guaranteed, and critical results can be rerolled at medium range by evades. Again, Walex is a card that someone may actually use at some point.
Option #5: Assault Concussion Missile Runs
Odd that fluff-wise it feels like these should be reversed. ACM works best against high combined hull / shield targets, to strip those shields away in preparation for future shots on the hull. Plus Brace does nothing for ACM damage.
Pro: Lot of unpreventable damage that adds up in a hurry. Can do hull damage if the shields are already stripped.
Con: More expensive than comparable munitions. No critical effects. Requires you to get a ship into black dice range of your opponent's whale.
Options That Are Not as Effective:
NK-7 Ions: Opponent chooses which token to discard. Goodbye redundant redirect. Also not guaranteed if Screed isn't around.
Nym: Edit: Not like NK-7 Ions - it is your choice what is discarded - thanks Rythbryt! Also you can't reroll his 1 Blue die. Sure you can bring Talon and have him roll twice, or (double tap with Yavaris - thanks again Rythbryt!) but that starts to get pricey.
XI7 Turbolasers: Not actually that effective against large ship with 8+ hull, relying on multiple hits on the same hull zone without the opponent using a repair to manually redirect. Still not useless, and very good against smaller hull ships.
APT Runs: (See XI7 Turbos) - with the added proviso that you can get lucky with your crit and have a Misaligned Projector, which is always hilarious fun. Not something to count on though.
So what do you think? Any upgrades or setup that you use to go hunting Whales in your local games? Anything that you do to mitigate your opponent hunting your own? Leave a comment below!