Friday, November 16, 2018
Armada Meta Deep Dive: Sloane
Sloane made one hell of a statement when she came out. She took home Nordic Championships and the Aussie Nationals shortly after her release. That was back before the flotillas nerfs, though, when the preferred build was an ISD and a ton of flotillas. She's been fading in the meta, but she's still strong enough and popular enough that you should expect to see her at most Regionals. What exactly that looks like though...that's open for considerable debate.
The Flying Circus
Right now, just about every Sloane squadron wing looks pretty similar. I guarantee they have Maarek, Jendon, Mauler. Cienna, Valen, Howlrunner, and Dengar are pretty likely. Throw in Black or Saber Squadron and you've got yourself a maxed out squadron wing. You see some slightly variations on that, like Gink's European Nationals list that took a couple Phantoms, but by and large the Aces are pretty consistent. At the end of the day, most Sloane players are going for the hard squadron win. By that I mean they want to neutralize all squadron resistance by turn three so they can turn to using Sloane's ability against ships. I'm not saying this is the right way to play Sloane. Some of the best Sloane practitioners have argued for ignoring the squadron fight and utilizing her ability against ships as soon as possible. I'm not here to argue one way or the other. I'm just here to tell you how most Sloane players tend to play.
Yes, I really mean Pursuant this time. Gone are the days of an ISD and a swarm of Gozantis. These days, most Sloane builds opt for the cheap Quasar as their main carrier. There's a lot to like. Unlike the ISD, which really wants Gunnery Teams, the Quasar has no competition for Flight Controllers in the Weapons Team slot. Those two offensive retrofits give the Sloane player the lovely bonus of having both Expanded Hangars and Boosted Comms. A six-squadron alpha strike can, and should, be expected. Since there's no Thrawn to keep those command dials safe, the Pursuant title is nice cheap protection from Slicer Tools. Add in Brunson for the officer slot, and you've got yourself a pretty nice carrier for only 76 points. Sure, it's not killing anything with those guns, but there's a reason Rebs wish they had this ship: the Quasar has one job, it knows that, and it does it well.
That alpha strike. Oof. The build's squadron wing is already nasty enough. Sloane's bonus makes it even nastier. Your Aces are not long for this world, to the point that a medium or smaller wing is really just giving away from victory points. Hell, Sloane is the entire reason I ditched squadrons altogether in my ship heavy builds. I was tired of watching Shara and Tycho disappear within a turn with no return on investment. Outside of Imperial two ship, it's almost certainly going to get that alpha strike. The best Rebels can do is build to withstand the punch and hope they have enough left in the tank to punch back. If your meta is heavy with Rebel squadron builds, Sloane is a good antidote.
Sloane has been fading in the larger meta for good reason. It badly lacks ship to ship firepower. Some builds will have Demolisher (I thought about listing it as a key component, but its a bit of a struggle to fit in if you're going for five activations). Others will have Centicore to boost squadron command range for the flotillas. Regardless, there's usually only one or two ships that's packing significant firepower, and it's typically close ranged firepower. If you can eliminate that ship quickly, Sloane is going to struggle to put up enough damage against your ships. Some of the more radical builds have gone toward more of a two ship style with Pryce so they can continue to use an ISD. Without Thrawn, though, it becomes badly vulnerable to Slicer Tools.
Sloane is one of the harder commanders to pin down to a distinct archetype. While this article focuses on the typical way to play Sloane, there's some interesting theorizing going on in the bowels of the interwebz. A prevailing theory I've seen floated is that maybe Sloane doesn't really want to be all-in on the squadron fight. The idea is that she might be better utilized in a Sato-esque fashion where her squadrons focus on bringing their defense token spending ability to bear. I've yet to really see anyone dive in head first into this idea, but it wouldn't surprise me if someone did so in the near future. It would be a drastically different style of build. In theory, it would involve a medium sized squadron build, bring back the good ol' Avenger ISD, and address the overall glaring lack of ship to ship firepower. Could it work? I have no idea.