Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Response Article: Is the MC80 Still Terribad?

Is this a bad ship?

Yeah, it's kinda cheating to write a response article.  I guess I'm finally turning into a real blogger, first a clickbait article, then a response to something someone else wrote.  I hate myself.

Reinholt stated a thread (with a really in depth OP) in the FFG Forums that talked about the issues he had with making the MC80 into a viable ship, and needless to say, I disagreed with it.

So, without further ado, here's my response.

A hell of an effort for the OP, but I've got a few things to respond to this.  I'm just going to assume you want a brawler for an MC80 and aren't just using it as a carrier that CAN shoot things if they get too close.


1. It's slow

Speed 2 is not good for a ship. We've all learned this lesson once with the VSD, and in the case of the MC80, it's not any better. Yes, you get one more click at speed 2 in the first segment of the maneuver tool, but that's the sum total of the difference, which you trade back by having a base so large that even a blind admiral can reliably ram you. Yes, you can take engine techs (spending points and restricting your command space) to make it faster, but unlike a CR90 or Demolisher where you basically want to be navigating most of the time, here you give up significant amounts of engineering or squadron activation (which you paid for) in order to nav.

The overall result is that you have a ship that flies like soggy potato thrown by a three year old. This issue will crop up in the next two complaints as well, as the lack of speed + predictable arcs produces some very negative behavior for the ship.

While the ship isn't blistering fast by any means, it is exactly as maneuverable at speed 2 as an AFII, ISD, GSD or NebB, and no one is saying that they are a bad ships (NebB not withstanding).  It's twice as maneuverable as a VSD (the gold standard for slow ships) and with a nav command can do a 67.5 degree turn, or a 90 degree turn with Engine Techs (if you really want to get that speed 3 going).


2. For the amount you spend, the firepower just isn't there.

This might be the core objection I have, and I can break it into a few parts:
  • The inability to take gunnery teams on the ship means that you can never maximize the side arcs. If you are facing lots of ships, you would want to fly this like an assault frigate and circle strafe to roll out maximum firepower. However, if you are not facing a lot of ships, you are probably facing a lot of squadrons, which means they can all safely park in your side arc because now you have to choose to shoot them OR shoot at ships, not both (unlike an ISD with gun teams, which can leverage both the formidable anti-squadron firepower and attack ships out of the front arc).
  • The absolutely puny front arc means that double arcing things doesn't do much (in fact, you are literally only 2 dice better than an AF2A double arcing something for more than 20% of the points cost more), and the width of the ship and front arc means that fast ships can consistently park only in the front arc and take the same front arc dice as thrown by a CR90... without TRC.
  • The MC80 sports tons of blue dice, but unlike the CR90B or Raider II, it doesn't have the speed to consistently engage at medium range. Being a slow ship, this means that fast opponents are going to get up close and personal (in your front arc, if possible), so that you are now in a blue vs. black matchup that favors them. Fast ships will stay at long range, meaning your effective firepower is only your reds. The blues are often either underwhelming (in close) or underutilized (long range), and this again ties back to the maneuvering issue that the ship faces.
I will immediately counter-argue by saying that some of the upgrades you can take (Defiance, XI7, Ackbar, etc.) help, but then counter-counter argue by saying that other than MC80 titles (duh), you can take those same upgrades on an AF2, and get more bang for the buck in terms of points spent for overall firepower on a platform that is significantly more maneuverable.

I have thing or two to say about Gunnery Teams.  You don't want to circle strafe with the MC80 - that is a role for an Assault Frigate.  The MC80 is a ship with a different play-style - it wants to be a centerpiece of your fleet, with smaller ships / squadrons serving as a picket screen.  If you're wasting a shot on squadrons with a Large Base ship, either you didn't take enough squadrons to do the job themselves, or you have no better targets.

As for the front arc, while it is not amazing (2 Blue / 1 Red for Command or 2 Red / 1 Blue for Assault) it is, as you said, a CR90A's front arc essentially, as your follow up shot on a double arc'd target.  And that is what the MC80 is all about, it is a Large Base ship that excels at getting double arc shots thanks to it's very, very good arc placement.  Add Defiance / Leading Shots, and you're tossing better than CR90A / AFII side damage on already activated targets.  Get that double arc and it's murder.

Speaking of which, MC80s are one of the few ships that can take Ion Cannons, that means Leading Shots for Assault variants, and either Leading Shots or some crit effect for a Command variant.  Throw in Defiance for brawling if you want even better oomph from your arcs, or Home One to support the rest of your fleet.  Ackbar is ironically the wrong Commander for this ship, as AFIIs w/ Gunnery Team will actually be more able to abuse his ability.

You CANNOT take Leading Shots on AFIIs, and that is a huge increase in expected damage and consistency of damage from a MC80.


3. It's not as tough as it looks on paper

Again, this is one of those "looks good, but..." problems with the ship. When I fly against them, I routinely take them apart due to the design of the ship:
  • Hull > Shields in a meta where XI7s, bomber swarms, and ACMs/APTs are a thing. Yes, it has two redirects, but the reality is that MC80s often die with shields left against me. With bombers, you tend to exhaust the tokens by just plinking away with many small attacks. With XI7s, redirect doesn't work. With APTs to drill or ACMs to just much all the shields with splash damage (especially backed up with some tactical rams), you are passing damage straight through to the hull. The punch line ends up being that while one would expect the ship to be very durable, it's often vulnerable to coordinated alpha strikes because you drill through a single side with either many many small attacks to overwhelm the tokens or offensive upgrades that ignore the tokens, and then you have a 120+ point ship that isn't any tougher than a VSD1.
  • This is exacerbated again by the slowness. The MC80 rarely gets to pick its engagements, and I have consistently had success ramming them from the front to lock them in place. As a result, they are neither something like the Motti ISD2 (which, I mean, ram that in the front at your peril and it's tougher when stuck there) nor the Glad/MC30/CR90 that can escape from traps with speed. This means that while it looks tough on paper, you have to budget for it being engaged by enemy ships at their ideal engagement range. Demo will triple tap you, MC30s will get in close as well, and long-range dancers like the CR90 will never close.
Thus, while the MC80 can be extremely tough in favorable circumstances, I find it easy to engineer less than favorable circumstances when playing against it, and hard to engineer them when playing with it.

It's true that hull is better than shields if you can't bring all those shields to bear.  But shields are better than hull for repair (1 shield moved per point or 2 points to repair a shield verses 3 points to repair a single hull point).  Plus the Assault variant can double up on ECM (helping against the big boys with XI7) AND AdvProj (great against GSDs / CR90s / pretty much anything not Medium / Large).  Plus, like I said, you shouldn't be letting the MC80 be hit with an alpha strike, when you have support ships to screen it with.  

MC80s also really like deployment advantage - if you can put them down last, or near last, they actually do get to pick their engagement.  More so if there is an objective they are guarding, or the rest of your fleet (the pickets mentioned before) are hugging close to them.  Again, Defiance comes into play here if you are going with a brawler type MC80 - tossing an extra blue into the pot, then rerolling your reds lets you really increase your damage at long range against already activated ships.


A few things that I think are not answers:
  • The often suggested B-wing cloud (this doesn't help you against fleets that don't want to close)
  • Additional durability (the problem is that we have no way to add tokens or hull, which is what you would need to stop bombers or XI7s)
  • Ackbar (yes, he's quite good with it, but again, the "why not AF2" argument crops up here unless someone has some math I'm not seeing about how Ackbar on an MC80 for the points is better than Ackbar on one and a half AF2s for the points).

Fighter clouds of some sort keep enemy bombers away, and B-Wing clouds are discouragement from GSDs / MC30s.  Yeah, they don't stop anything that doesn't want to close, but that's why you have your pickets and Defiance Reds.

Durability comes from Defensive Retrofits.  Adv Proj to move damage around, and ECM to ensure the brace is available.  Too many Intel Agents?  Walex can tag along in the officer seat, but that's not usually necessary.

Ackbar is a trap (see what I did there?) for the MC80 - again, this is a ship that if you are using it as a brawler, you want the double arc.  An Ackbar shot verses a double arc is worse for you in every situation, he is only good if you can't get that shot.  AFIIs are better for him, because of Gunnery Team, if that's the kind of strategy you want to go with.

Final Thoughts:

I don't want this to be a big "git gud" post, but it sounds like you're flying the MC80 in a role it wasn't meant to be flown in, using the AFII as a baseline, which, while similar, has a different play-style and role within the Rebel fleet.  This isn't an AFII, it isn't an ISD either (which really wants to rush into the fight).  It's survivablility comes from being the centerpiece of a fleet, namely being the last ship to be shot at, with the other ships and squadrons acting as it's support, discouraging enemy ships from closing and screening bombers from attacking.

There's also something to be said for using the MC80 Command as just a big fat carrier that chips in firepower if something gets close enough, though this isn't really the discussion that the OP set out.

To answer the question asked in the title, it isn't still and it never was.  So, what do you think?  Don't respond here, head over to that thread on the FFG Forums to keep the discussion going!


  1. Nice breakdown. While I haven't played much against it, it does sound like he's venting frustration at the ship when it's more that the ship simply doesn't fit his play style.

  2. Biggs, I get a lot of your rationale here. In theory I think the MC80 is a great centrepiece of a Rebel fleet (and a cool model). But my experience flying it tends to favour the view of the OP. But maybe I am just flying it badly!

    To me it comes down to the principle of substitute goods. For the points you have to sink into those upgrades to make it work, you can do better things in a battleship role with the AF mk2 or MC30. And generally a Rebel fleet sitting still (predictable movement at speed 2 may as well be) is a doomed fleet. Speed is the Rebel's friend.

    The only real role I think where the MC80 stacks up is as a carrier. The command cruiser with expanded hanger bay and Raymus works out at 19.7 pts per squadron activation, on a tough platform. But since I don't love lots of squadrons in my fleet builds, this is not an option I tend to go with.

    Sorry, this just isn't a ship for me. But good luck to you if you take it to a Regional championship!

    1. It is an excellent carrier, no doubt about that.

      But the MC30 and AFII really aren't battleships. The MC30 requires a ton of gimmicks to ensure it doesn't pop, and it needs to get close. And the AFII really doesn't have that good of a broadside (unless Ackbar is in the mix).

      I suppose it would make more sense to say that the MC80 isn't an Ackbar or Mothma ship (AFII / MC30c respectively), but it shines as a flagship for Dodonna, Rieekan and Garm.

  3. If Ackbar is not a good commander for this ship then who would be better? Mothma doesn't work at all with this unless you are simply using it as a command ship to soak up hits so your smaller ships can do something. Rieekan is only good in a very few situation in my opinion and Doodanna doesn't seem worth it either unless you are going for point savings. Garm would be OK but once again if you say he is going to be a ship behind a screen of smaller ones then that makes no sense because the small ships can't benefit from Garm. I'm not trying to be that guy I really like the MC80 I just want to find a way to use it more and be better with it. It does become a very pricey ship after all upgrades as well typically engine techs, nav officer, defiance/home one, XI7, ECM (don't typically fill the second defense slot or the ion cannon).

  4. I have 3 store championships with the Ackbar MC80 leading the way. :>

  5. My only reason for fielding it is lack of an effective carrier/tank. I'm replacing it with something cheaper as soon as possible