16 March 2015

Tournament Talk- The Art of the Interceptor by Jeremy Williams

I received an email awhile back from a guy asking me how I thought Autothrusters would change the meta in regard to how tournament players view the TIE Interceptor. Now, I'm no genius, but I know when I'm being asked a leading question. Long story short, I had an idea that this guy already had some pretty solid plans for Autothrusters on a TIE Interceptor, so I asked him if he wanted to write an article about the subject. As you've probably guessed by now, he said yes. 

I asked if he wanted me to plug anything for his trouble, he told me he runs a Facebook group called Pew Pew Pew! and that he goes by Kommander Keldoth on the FFG forums. Jeremy also took home the plaque at his local Store Championship running a couple of PTL Royal Guard Interceptors with Autothrusters and Trelix with Rebel Captive and a HLC. Solid, no? 

Scum and Villainy is upon us! While there are a ton of new toys and lists to be played with in the new third faction, many Imperial players like myself are salivating over one card in particular: a little modification called Autothrusters.

Which sounds like a sweet 80’s hair metal band

Autothrusters is a two point modification that allows you to convert a blank defense die result into an evade result if you are at range three of the attacker or if you are outside of the attacker’s firing arc (i.e. if he or she is shooting at you with a turret). You can only equip Autothrusters on a ship with the boost action though, which limits it to A-wings, the new Star Viper, the new Aggressor (IG-88’s ship) and of course the long neglected TIE Interceptor!

Ever since Wave 4 came out last year the poor TIE Interceptor was laid aside by many Imperial players in favor of the TIE Phantom, a ship that has more mobility options and that hits with an extra attack die. Over all it was a better flanker and shifted the tournament metagame towards high pilot skill turrets as a counter. Meanwhile the TIE Interceptor sat on the sidelines gathering dust… and biding its time.

Autothrusters will give this iconic ship a chance to shine again by making it a turret counter. With that in mind, it’s time to dust off those dials and go back to flight school to learn the art of the Interceptor! Here’s a few of the old rules for flying a squint:

1) Come in at an angle
The TIE Interceptor lives and dies by two things: Green Dice and arc dodging. As we all know those green dice are about as reliable as Darth Vader in a child support hearing. Hence my motto when flying an Interceptor is: If you’re getting shot at you’re doing it wrong.

The last thing you want to do with an Interceptor is go for a head to head jousting match. It is much easier to arc dodge if you approach the enemy from an oblique angle. Being at an angle allows your barrel roll action to carry you farther towards the edge of your opponent’s firing arc.

How Autothrusters Will Change This: Our number one rule will be even truer in the age of Autothrusters. Turreted ships will now have an incentive to get Interceptors in their primary firing arcs (don’t feel too bad for those turrets though, they are merely being thrust out into the same cruel world that all the other ships have had to operate in).

2) Get in close
This rule goes along with rule 1. It is a lot easier to get out of arc when you are within range 1 of an opponent. A ship’s firing arc is just a big triangle and when you are close to an opponent you are close to the narrow end of that triangle. A cunning opponent will hang back at range 2-3 for as long as possible when engaging Interceptors.

The other benefit to being in range 1 is of course the extra attack die that you will gain when shooting at your opponent. Ouch!

How Autothrusters Will Change This: In addition to granting you a blank-to-evade result when you are out of firing arc, Autothrusters also grant you the same benefit when you are at range 3 of any attacker. This has the potential to change things quite a bit. All of a sudden you may have an incentive to play the Interceptor as a range 3 sniper. This makes a certain pilot very happy. His name starts with a ‘K’ and rhymes with Fir Fanos.

Kir Kanos (TIE Interceptor) 24 points
When attacking at range 2-3 you may spend one evade token to add one <hit> to your attack roll.
Upgrades: None

I can see equipping Kir with Autothrusters, Royal Guard TIE title and Stealth Device to create a very hard to hit long range cannon. You can even have him escort a Shuttle or Decimator equipped with Fleet Officer to toss him a focus. Unfortunately the designers at FFG decided not to give him or Lieutenant Lorrir an Elite Pilot Talent upgrade slot. Hopefully Autothrusters can give us a reason to fly some of the more lack luster Imperial Aces Pilots.

3) Know when to bug out

He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.

-Sun Tzu

The last thing an Interceptor wants to do is bump another ship. It is important to remember that an Interceptor is just as fragile as a regular run of the mill TIE fighter, and TIE fighters are basically made of toothpicks, paper mache and the hope of a child. Interceptors depend on their focus and evade actions to survive, often gaining both in one turn with a handy little upgrade called Push the Limit

If an Interceptor bumps another ship, it gets no actions. Accidentally bumping is most common when engaging multiple ships at range 1 (see rule #2) in the fur ball that tends to develop after the initial jousting is over with. In those situations don’t be afraid to use that sweet, sweet 4 straight green maneuver to get the hell out of dodge. It is better to bug out and come around for another pass than to get blown up ignominiously like a lowly Academy Pilot.

4) If in doubt, Turtle up

Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack.

-Sun Tzu

As with any flanker the TIE Interceptor is most effective when flown by a pilot with a high pilot skill, which allows you to adjust your position with your boost and barrel roll at your leisure. Now, not everyone can be Soontir Fel, so it also pays to be able fly an Interceptor with medium to low pilot skill. If you are stuck in a situation where you don’t know what to do, just ‘turtle up’. Push the Limit and grab a focus and an evade token to protect yourself.

Royal Guard Pilot (TIE Interceptor) 22 points
Pilot Skill 6
Upgrades: Elite Pilot Talent

How Autothrusters Will Change This: Remember these guys? They had a brief moment in the meta at the tail end of Wave 3 as a very points efficient flanking ship with a respectable pilot skill of 6. We may be seeing more of them again equipped with Autothrusters. Even if they are outclassed in pilot skill and cannot dodge out of arc, they can hang back at range 3 and be very difficult to hit. The same holds true for Saber Squadron pilots (but hey, why not spend the extra point for a nice pilot skill bump?).

I expect Autothrusters will put a damper on the rampant super/fat turret lists that have been dominating the tournament scene. Not only does it provide a pretty hard counter to turrets, it gives Imperial players a chance to play a flanking ship that isn’t the TIE Phantom. At the end of the day, that’s what makes for good game design: giving the player many viable strategies for how they want to play the game.

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