The next wave is here and I'm in the credits! I'm talking insider perspective on wave 7 aka Wave Heaven today!
Thank you Crabbok for spoiling this wave! You may have noticed I stopped speculating on the upcoming ships just after the wave 6 preview. Well, with wave 7 officially here I can tell you why: I started playtesting these two wonderful expansions. I can't go I to details of previous versions, nor can I speak for the developers, but what I can do is give my final impressions I took away at the end of testing.
The blue man himself is the biggest thing of the wave. I loved this guy the moment JJ showed off the idea. It encompasses both aspects of Thrawn: it allows huge tactical flexibility, but also requires careful planning so that you don't end up with duplicate commands. That's about as Thrawn as you can get. He also works with just about any build. Want to be able to navigate and command squadrons? Piece of cake. Need to repair, but you want to keep that con fire dial? Thrawn's got you covered. Thrawn is here and he's sure to be enormously popular.
The best part is once you digest everything, you realize there's still plenty of room for other commanders. Jerjerrod is still the master of maneuver for a considerable discount. You'll never get me to give up Vader in certain lists. And Sloane remains the greatest dedicated squadron commander around. The difference is Thrawn is really the first Imperial commander that tucks neatly into pretty much any kind of archetype (I maintain Motti is best with at least 1 large ship). He's flexible both in fleet building and on the battlefield. In other words, he's Thrawn.
Next up, we go from a blue man to a blue fish:
I'll start with my least favorite of the ships. The MC75 Armored Cruiser is about as much of a generalist as possible. It's decently priced and has a healthy variety of upgrade slots. Still, there's such thing as too much flexibility, and that's my problem with the MC75 Armored. At squadron 3, it wants to be a carrier, but isn't any better at it than the AFIIB. With 3 reds and 2 blues out the side, it wants to long range broadsider, but it's worse than the MC80. With its front arc, it also wants to get up close. It's too much for one ship. You can't tool yourself out to take advantage of all those traits, which means you're wasting some aspect of that armament. They've aggressively priced it at 104, so I think some people will find success with it. It just won't be me.
The MC75 Ordnance Cruiser is my favorite of the wave. It's basically the MC30 Scout's big brother. Where as the Armored Cruiser wants to be everywhere doing everything, the Ordnance has a clear purpose: skirmish at long range and close in for the double arc. I'm completely in love with it as an Ackbar flagship. Ackbar makes that broadside nice and scary, but unlike traditional gunlines, the MC75 isn't afraid to go crashing in to wreck shop. The double Ordnance upgrades seal the deal. APTs and External Racks are absolutely horrifying together.
The ISD Kuat is basically the ISD I that everyone not-so-secretly wished they had...until Boarding Troopers came along. The ISD I will stay very relevant because of Avenger/Boarding Troopers. However, where that combo is all burst and can lack staying power, the Kuat is all about close range endurance. Unlike the ISD I, you can grab ECMs and Strategic Adviser at the same time. You lose the Turbolaser slot that many used for XI7s, but you gain an Ordnance slot. This might be one of the few remaining places where Expanded Launchers might be justified over External Racks. APTs are always a good choice too. Finally, you get the benefit of Leading Shots on the side arc as well. You might still want Ordnance Experts in the Weapons Team slot so you can go crit fishing, but the new Vader boarding party looks awfully good here too.
While the MC75 Ordnance is my favorite, I think the Cymoon is the most dangerous of the bunch. Double Turbolaser upgrades and 5 reds out the front make the Liberty Battle Cruiser look like an amateur. Throw on Spinal Armaments, Needa, and TRCs and go to town. And while it's pricey, there should be little doubt this is a better Fleet Command platform than the Pelta. Between Intensify Firepower and TRCs, you don't need any stinking re-rolls. You just tell the dice what to do.
The Big Upgrades
For the sake of sanity, I'm only going to talk about a few of the upgrades for the time being. That's hard to do since there are so damned many incredible upgrades in this wave. Still, there are a few stand outs. First up is Strategic Adviser. You wanted a pass upgrade? Here it is, in the most competitive slot in the game. It is the biggest element that I think will make big ships a staple of most lists in this wave. You get two activations out of a large ship while maintaining the quality of that massive activation. There's a reason it's a generic unique. This is an incredibly powerful card. Unfortunately it doesn't help alleviate the problems of people using a single large ship and spamming flotillas, but it does help limit some of the excesses of squadron MSU (which generally don't take a large ship). Before you think of it as an auto-include, though, think about what you're giving up. No more Skilled First Officer to keep your large ship safe from Slicer Tools. No Minister Tua/ECM to help that BT Avenger ISD I keep its brace in play. No Intel Officer to force tough choices. At what point would you rather have those things instead? It's a fine line.
Next up are Heavy Ion Emplacements. Remember when I said we should "keep an eye out for future Ion upgrades that increase blue die damage?" I wrote that knowing this was coming down the pipeline. This has the potential to be a massive damage increase for some struggling ships. The Raider II with DCaps and Heavy Ions is 60 points and puts out huge damage in the first salvos. Hell, this is first really good place for Veteran Gunners so you can go crit fishing. It similarly helps out the Interdictor. That VSD II artillery piece with Gunnery Teams, DCaps, and QBTs has a ludicrously high damage ceiling when you add Heavy Ions. This upgrade is part of my preferred Raddus Liberty loadout. Spinal Armaments, Caitken and Shollan, and Heavy Ions is a massive amount of pain coming from a flank.
Oh yeah, let's talk about Caitken and Shollan. I'm not sure what kind of reception they're going to get because they compete with Gunnery Teams, but they're already a staple for my large Rebel ships. As Biggs has talked about at length, having shots on multiple ships isn't always a good thing. Sometimes you want to focus your fire on a single ship. That's where C&S come in. I love them on a flanking Raddus Liberty because you're generally gunning for a single ship anyway. The same goes for an Ackbar MC75 Ordnance because you can use them for both long range red dice and that close in double arc with tons of black dice.
I'll finish up with Intensity Firepower. Man this upgrade is incredible. It's head and shoulders above other Fleet Command upgrades to me. While Rebels get good use out of it, I think Imperials get the most out of it. That's because I see it has mainly boosting red dice. For Rebels, that screams Ackbar, with whom the Pelta doesn't really synergize. Imperials don't have any such restrictions with the Cymoon and the Arquitens. I'm tempted to try a squadronless Cymoon/Trip Arq build that just vomits red dice everywhere.
The testers half jokingly referred to this wave as "Make Big Ships Great Again." This was tested mainly at the height of Rieekan Aces (we were testing under Errata conditions, though). MSU was everywhere and large ships were struggling. The funny part is the meta seems to have already started going back to big ships anyway. There won't be a seismic shift, which I expected during testing. ISDs and Defiance are already making very strong showings. This wave will help solidify that, but nothing more.
There's plenty more I could talk about. There's Pryce and Bail completely up ending the traditional activation paradigm. There's the awesomeness of Exodus Fleet and Aspiration. There's the whole new Raid mechanic which is possibly the biggest wild card of the wave. Of course there's the latest incarnation of Papa Vader ready to rip that Yavaris nameplate right off the side of your Neb-B. For now, though, let's just enjoy our little slice of heaven.