This post regarding Secondary Weapon Systems is part of a larger article regarding Wave 2 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 "Listbuilding Articles" tab at the top of the page or simply click here.
Attack Dice: 4
Card Text: Discard this card to perform this attack. The defender cannot spend evade tokens during this attack.
Usage in game: 4 hits for 5 points with nearly Colt .45 level of accuracy.
Breakdown: As I mentioned in the Assault Missiles article, Homing Missiles are the poster boy, gotta have it, Secondary Weapon System of Wave 2. Everyone be lovin' Homing Missiles like they name was Raymond. Even before somebody finally read the card closely, people were in love with Homing Missiles.
So what's the story? It's a pretty good offensive punch to start with as the starfighters that can stock missiles don't have the ability to reliably get 4 attack dice. Then tack on the "can't spend Evade Tokens" thing and you've got yourself a decent little missile for downing the same guys who can take them. Couple it up with Deadeye, and it shouldn't be too hard to launch on the low PR TIE Advanced or A-Wing that took Evade because he had no valid targets.
Then somebody finally noticed the fine print about this card, or more accurately, the lack thereof.
Every other missile (and yeah, even Proton Torpedoes), you have to have and spend a Target Lock token to fire the missile. Not Homing Missiles though- you only have to possess the Target Lock.
I know, I know. I missed it too. I've had an A-Wing since the KRT and I didn't notice it either. In my defense, I only used Homers once, the rest of the matches I played with my A-Wing, I ran it without missiles entirely. It's no excuse, I know, but yeah- I was one of those dummies who didn't read their cards closely, opting instead to hold it in my hand and imagine it zooming around crashing into the bridge of The Executor.
I'm sure other folks noticed it sooner, but I didn't hear anyone talking about the difference between Homing Missiles and every other missile weapon until the day Wave 2 came out, then suddenly everyone on the FFG X-Wing forums was talking about it. I dug into my X-Wing stuff, pulled out the card, and sure enough- every other missile card makes specific mention of needing to have a Target Lock to fire the missile, spending the Target Lock, and then discarding the missile card, but Homing Missiles just says "Attack: Target Lock" then the "discard this card" bit.
What's the big deal? Here's the big deal- if you don't have to spend the Target Lock to fire Homing Missiles, you can use the Target Lock to modify your Homing Missile roll. As in re-roll whatever dice you choose kind of modify? Yeah. Kind of makes a big difference, no? And God help whoever's in your sights if you had that TL from the round prior and managed to couple it up with a Focus token.
So what's the downside? Well, 5 points is kinda expensive, and of course it's only the one shot. You're going to want to make it count, so besides Target Locking and Focusing, is there anything else we can do to try and increase the odds of all four of those Attack dice hitting hard?
Looking at starfighters on the Rebel side, the only ship that can take Missiles is an A-Wing. Being a 2-3 ranged weapon, it doesn't mesh particularly well with Arvel Crynyd (not saying don't take it on him, just that it doesn't dovetail well with his ability). If you were running Green Squadron Pilot or Tycho Celchu with Push The Limit, you could tack on that extra Focus no problem, or go Deadeye instead, using the Focus to fire the missile and still modify the roll. Of course, flying near Garven Dreis or Dutch Vander yields Focuses and Target Locks respectively, but as I mentioned in their articles, be careful of the timing of the differing PRs involved.
A named pilot (grumble, bitch, grumble, only ship in the damn game that changes stats depending on the guy behind the wheel, bitch, bitch, grumble) YT-1300 can stock missiles, so you could throw a set of Homers on there and have a pretty robust firing platform, but then you're denying yourself a 3 Attack dice 360-degree turret attack, which isn't the best trade-off for 5 points, frankly. Once you've got that many points into one ship, 5 points does kind of add a lot and with the Gunner upgrade, you kind of don't need Homers anyway as you're getting a very similar end result with a better, as in more flexible, firing arc.
On the Imperial side, the TIE Advanced is the only starfighter who can stock missiles. I mentioned earlier today on the comments for Assault Missiles (I think) that I predict we'll start seeing more TIE Advanced pilots creep in to the game besides Vader. Why? Change in meta, Rebel meta, specifically, and a move away from swarms in general, at least in the short term. The people that are comfortable spending points on a one-shot weapon, given the possible if not probable outcomes, are going to want more missile boats in their lists, hence more TIE Advanced floating about the tables of X-Wing Miniatures players in numbers never seen up to this point before.
I'm also saying this is where and how I'd use Maarek Stele if I were going to try and shoehorn him in somewhere. Yes friends, this is finally the card that makes him more that just somewhat worthwhile. You're for sure going to re-roll any dice that don't miss due to the Target Lock you're required to have to even play the card. If ever there was a time you'd be more likely to apply a crit than average, I think this is it. Especially if you dish him Push The Limit or Marksmanship (remember though, Marksmanship requires an Action, so make sure you already have the Target Lock). Can you imagine if you happened to roll 2 crits with that guy? The feeling of hopelessness you'd instill in your opponent as you rifled through six cards, picked out the worst two, and stuck them on his (formerly) 8 hull YT-1300? The schadenfreude would be nearly overwhelming.
If you're not sold on Stele, this is a nice missile for Vader and his two Actions. Declaring a Target Lock and a Focus is great as outlined above, just be sure to burn the TL first- you may not even need the Focus, so hang onto it and use it on defense later in the round.
Wrapping up, are there ever instances in which you wouldn't take Homing Missles since they're just so doggone cool? Well, yeah. Although people argue with me about it, I still say against a target with only 1 Agility, Cluster Missiles can be more worthwhile than any other missile system, Concussion Missiles have their special rule turning a blank into a hit, and Assaults can hit stuff you didn't even actively target with the shot. Thing is though, those systems are all sort of contextual. You may not have an opponent who fields ships with only 1 Defend die, or roll a blank when you fire, or have ships within Range 1 of the guy you want to shoot. That's where Homing Missiles truly shine- they're never really ineffective. Are they the most effective option in some contextual situations? Nah, but they've never the out-and-out wrong choice either.
I used to tell people just starting out in 40k who would end up on a long losing streak the following advice- "Stop playing to win and start playing to not lose." May sound like an exercise in semantics, but to me there's a world of difference in playing to win and playing to not lose.
If you take Homing Missiles, you're playing to not lose. And that can be a very good, very successful strategy for you to employ in this game too.