31 January 2014

Named Pilots: Carnor Jax

This post regarding Named Pilots is part of a larger article regarding Wave 3 listbuilding- the rest of the posts in this series will be available in the coming weeks. For more info, click the "List Building Resources" tab at the top of the page or simply click here.

Carnor Jax (26)
Card Text: Enemy ships at Range 1 cannot perform focus or evade actions and cannot spend focus or evade tokens.

Usage in game: Reminding you how much you didn't like the lite rules for X-Wing Miniatures.
Breakdown: Remember when you got your first X-Wing Miniatures box and you opened it up, drooled over the cool toys you just bought, then started reading the rulebook? Then you grabbed your closest pal, and by closest I mean like in a proximal sense, not like the friend you know best or whatever, wife, or kid and played around with the lite rules?

Remember how friggin' hard it was to hit anything with your guns without Actions?

Well, get ready for a trip down Nostalgia Boulevard, y'all- Carnor Jax is bringin' sexy back.

Anybody who has played or read about X-Wing for any length of time has undoubtedly run across the many Named Pilots who have area of effect type abilities. Howlrunner and Biggs were perhaps the two most famous candidates of this sort of thing in Wave 1, but there have been tons of others. Most of those guys affect their buddies, but a few like Carnor Jax, actually have an effect on the enemy.

Examining his card text, I'm feeling obligated to remind the newer players about the difference between Perform Action and spending a token before we look at the rule closely. Actions sometimes are confusing for new players, but to sum it up succinctly, in the Activation Phase, when you get to choose which Action you want to do, that's the Perform Action step. It's the part where you're dropping the token next to your ship on the table or whatever, dig? Later on in the turn, when you decide to use the token to modify a die roll or remove a hit result or whatever, that's when you spend your token. Two pretty different things, but sometimes folks kind of get them run together in their head. Don't do that. First you Perform your Action, second you spend your token. Simple, huh?

Ok, so enemies at Range 1 of Carnor can't pick Focus or Evade for their Action in the Perform Action step- that's what the first part of the card text is telling us. How big of a deal is that? Well, maybe not quite as bad as you think. As Jax is PS 8, he'll likely be one of the last ships to move in the round, so your lower PS ships can either fly a little less aggressively and stay out of Range 1 of him in which case they still get to Perform Action before he moves, or if they start their Activation Phase next to Jax, they (hopefully) have opted to move away from him.

Doesn't seem so bad, right? Well, here's the bad news: the second part of his card text states that any ship at Range 1 also can't spend Focus or Evade tokens. So even if you've managed to get a token tossed to you by Lando or Garven Dreis or somebody with Squad Leader or whatever, you can have it, but you can't spend it.

To sum up simply, enemy ships at Range 1 of Carnor Jax aren't going to be using Focus or Evade to help themselves out.

When we were talking about Kir Kanos the other day, +Jason Jones noted you could just pretty much leave him out at range and use him to bomb shots into the action. Thinking about that kind of role along with a ship like Carnor Jax flying at the tip of the arrowhead really makes me look at the Imperial Aces in kind of another light- the self contained squadron. Sure, you'll need to buy two copies of the box (like you weren't anyway, right?), but just flying a couple of the Named Aces Pilots together along with Royal Guardsmen or whatever is going to give you a pretty diversely capable little squadron.

Jax apparently being kind of a big deal amongst the red guys has access to Elite Pilot Skills. Being somebody who is likely to have a very big bullseye on his ship for the other side, you may want to pick something that helps him stay alive longer. That said, he has such awesome offensive upside, ostensibly getting to fire on ships without Focus or Evade available to modify their die rolls, you could just as easily, and probably just as effectively, up his offensive capabilities and come out ahead too. Long story short? I don't know if there's a bad direction to go in with this guy. As his ability isn't an Action and he doesn't have any references to Stress in his card text, you gotta put Push The Limit on this guy. Giving him two Actions while (hopefully) his target has limited Action options is going to work out for him a heckuva lot more than normal.

Admittedly, if you're playing Carnor Jax you still will need to mind Falcons with Gunners or long range specialists like B-Wings or Firesprays hanging back and lobbing in shots, and pilots with Marksmanship or Expose and stuff like that, the common pilots are going to in general, have much less success against you. And as a lot of folks like to fly common pilots, especially in swarmy type lists, Jax will likely have a great deal of success early. Well into conjecture here, but as Imperial Aces will almost certainly be added into the Tournament Rules before Regionals, I'd look pretty hard at some lists that feature Named Pilots with card text that helps die rolls in one way or another- Mithel, Backstabber, Dark Curse, Wedge, Luke, The Reverened Horton Salm, Solo, Ibtisam, Trelix, etc., etc. Those guys will still operate relatively normally against Carnor Jax, regardless of Range. Guys that kinda sorta live and die by the "common" Actions- Dreis, Night Beast, Fel, Lando, the common pilots, etc. will need to learn some new tricks to cope.

Jax can, of course utilize Modifications. Being a guy who likes to get in close, any of the survivability/ durability mods- Stealth Device, Shield Upgrade, or Hull Upgrade can help out here, but if you've ever flown against a veteran TIE Interceptor player, you know the closer you get to them, the harder they are to keep in your firing arc, so don't get lazy just because you took a Shield Upgrade- Barrel Rolling and Boosting are still likely to be your best and most often used defensive measures.

Last thing about Jax- don't sell yourself short with him. Everybody is going to remember his card text when it directly comes into play with Jax and an enemy ship. What I think some folks are going to forget is if Jax is within Range 1 of an enemy ship and somebody else fires on that enemy ship, the enemy ship still cannot use Focus or Evade tokens against that, or any other attack on them while Jax is within Range 1.

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