This post regarding Named Pilots is part of a larger article regarding Wave 1 listbuilding- the rest of the posts n this series will be available in the coming weeks as I'm revealing a post or two per day on the various topics in that larger article. For more info, click the "Ship List Articles" tab at the top of the page or simply click here.
Card: Maarek Stele (27)
Card Text: When your attack deals a face up Damage card to the defender, instead draw 3 Damage cards, choose 1 to deal, and discard the others.
Ability is an Action?: No.
Excels at: Uh...
Quick Take: Stele is another one of those guys like Winged Gundark that looks better on paper than he seems to function in reality.
The first, and probably most significant knock against Stele is that he's only two points cheaper than Vader. Not to get completely sidetracked onto Vader, but briefly, for those two points, Vader has +2 Pilot Rank and a second Action every turn. That's a much better ROI any way you want to cut it. Whether Stele should be cheaper or Vader should be more expensive, my opinion is Stele should be cheaper, but whatever.
I want to love Maarek Stele. I want to be the guy who finally figures out the proper way to use Stele because dammit, I loved TIE Figther back in the day. After getting my first PC for Christmas in '96, I subsequently spent New Year's Eve playing TIE Fighter instead of partying on the streets of Austin, TX. While other twenty-somethings were out living it up on Sixth Street, I was getting Force Lighting tattoos, so don't misunderstand my intent here- I'm not just another internet Maarek hater. I just still can't figure him out.
All that said, if you can manage to trigger his card ability, it really can be pretty devastating to the victim.
Elite Skills/ Upgrades: Let's get this out of the way right off the bat- yes, I've tried Maarek + Cluster Missiles + Marksmanship. Yes, the combo works, but no, I didn't feel it was worth it's points as there's still quite a lot of variables in that equation when there are cheaper and more reliable combos out there for the Empire. Admittedly, that might be more the way I feel about Marksmanship in general than about Stele in particular, but it left me underwhelmed- especially so for a setup that's running a point over a full third of a standard tournament list. Your mileage may vary, but honestly, I'd be shocked if it did.
If you put a gun to my head and said, "Run Maarek in a Wave 1 list", after experimenting with some offensive builds (including the misisles + Marksmanship one above), I'd probably just strap some Clusters to him and stick him front and center on the TIE swarm pile in front of Howlrunner with not other upgrades or skills. I think this role plays to his strengths- he has a decently high Pilot Rank (but not really enough to justify an application of Swarm Tactics, in my opinion) and he has shields on his ship. His special ability is kind of nasty when/ if you can get it to go off, so a Rebel player can't just ignore him, but if he's putting shots onto Maarek, then he's not focusing on Howlrunner, which of course is the whole point.
Would I take something like that to a tournament? You know, I just might. I like doing non-standard stuff like that just to put my opponent on his back foot for a moment. That moment where he's going, "Hey- what's this guy figured out with Maarek?", might just be the moment he makes a mistake. I like to make my opponent think and make as many decisions as possible in my games because there's a good chance if you make a guy deviate from his normal game plan either by fielding a weird list or executing strange maneuvers, he's going to underthink or overthink and make a mistake. Of course, I'd much rather just go into a tournament situation with a good combination tacked onto Maarek, but again- I don't think that exists right now in Wave 1.
I really hope that some exotic combination of Wave 2 and Wave 1 stuff unlocks Maarek's true potential. I want to like the dude. I really, really do. I just really, really can't justify him right now.