Monday, July 2, 2018

IP Class Deck Review: Imperial Black Ops

We’ve looked at all three of the Imperial Class decks from the Core Set (Tech Superiority, Military Might, and Subversive Tactics), as well as one Class deck from each of the expansion boxes EXCEPT the Bespin Gambit (Inspiring Leadership, Armored Onslaught, Nemeses, Power of the Dark Side). Today, we finish off the list by reviewing the Class deck provided in the Bespin Gambit: Imperial Black Ops. I’ll say from the get-go that of all the class decks released thus far, this one ranks near the bottom of the list (down there with Power of the Dark Side, if you read our last post in this series).

Imperial Black Ops: Hiding In The Shadows
Like we talked about with Power of the Dark Side, Imperial Black Ops focuses on a new element of the game and seeks to maximize benefits from it: the Hidden condition. If you can’t tell, I’m not a big fan of these kinds of decks – this is not only because few units innately benefit from these kinds of abilities (generating Damage Power Tokens or making themselves Hidden), but also because these game mechanics are only part of the game (and if you’re not playing the campaign from the expansion that they were released in, you’re hard-pressed to see the units that use these abilities in your starting/reserved units).

It’s hard – and I don’t think it’s worth it.

That being said, today I’m going to try to do due-diligence to what is good about this deck – and make no mistake, it isn’t a bad deck (I just think there are better ones). To get us started, we’ll be looking at what is involved in the Hidden condition and what kinds of units we’re looking for to make it useful.
As a condition, Hidden is not complicated: while you’re Hidden, you apply a -2 Accuracy penalty to any attack results that target you. If you attack while Hidden, you discard the token and add a static Surge result to the attack results. This incentivizes two kinds of units to become Hidden: those that need protection and those that have good surge abilities (or have an attack pool that doesn’t surge well). Most of the upgrades in this Class deck rely on doing something with Hidden – giving the Hidden condition to people, making it harder to hurt you whilst Hidden, or being able to turn that Hidden ability into a Focus condition. With that in mind, units that can become Hidden on their own will increase the effectiveness of your list, as you can ensure everyone becomes Hidden and benefit from all of the universal bonuses available in the upgrades.
Another distinctive quality of the Imperial Black Ops Class deck is that it has the second largest number of ATTACHMENTS out of any Imperial Class deck (second only to Technological Superiority). While the universal benefits to your team might be appealing, some of the upgrades in this deck (very powerful upgrades indeed) are limited to a single group. While you can put multiple ATTACHMENTS on a single deployment card, make sure any attachments you choose will be triggered often enough by the group you wish to enhance – upgrades like Execution Squad (which we’ll view in a bit) are phenomenal, but you need to be able to generate enough Surge each time you attack to make it worth it!

End-Game Build #1 – Upgraded Units: In The Shadows, Stealth, Execution Squad, True Shadow
In all of the Imperial Black Ops builds, you have access to In the Shadows, which is good because it ensure that you can give the Hidden condition to units that came before the release of the Bespin Gambit (to say nothing of many units that were released with/after the Bespin Gambit).
To supplement this upgrade, we're taking three attachments which help your units do more while hidden. Our first is Execution Squad, which allows the deployment group to trigger their surge abilities twice. While this has obvious benefits for units who generate a lot of surge, but it also allows hidden units to get a free copy of a surge ability they're already triggering.
The other two upgrades are defensive: Stealth and True Shadow. Stealth is a cheap, niche upgrade that requires melee units who attack the deployment card to have at least 1 Accuracy (which becomes 3 Accuracy if the target of the attack is hidden). While this won't matter against range units or melee weapons with a Blue die or Green-Green attack pools, it's great against most Red die weapons. You can also exhaust the upgrade at the end of your activation to become Hidden - perfect for getting maximum damage out of Hidden as well as protection.
The other upgrade is True Shadow, which requires you to keep the Hidden condition all the time and allows you to deplete the upgrade to add a Dodge result to your defense results. While keeping Hidden is great (and you still get that free surge result), the general lack of White dice available to Imperial figures makes the chance at having a free Dodge very tempting. While this is great on Villains, it's also great on units who don't surge well, since you keep getting that free surge every turn.

Best IP Units:
·         Nexu (Core) – Nexu benefit a lot from being Hidden (Red-Green doesn't get a lot of Surge) and in my opinion, he's best equipped with Stealth (though Execution Squad can generate a lot of Pierce). Unlike most of the other options provided here, he don’t need True Shadow (since you already roll a White die).
·         ISB Infiltrators (ISB Infiltrator Villain Pack) – while these guys can benefit from Stealth (their health is low), they really just need to be Hidden, since they can use the Hidden surge to re-Hide (though the Elite ISB Infiltrators get a lot more out of the bargain than the regular squad does). Like the Next, they don’t need True Shadow.
·         AT-ST (Core) – I don't normally recommend expensive units, but this guy is probably the best candidate for receiving all three attachments: thanks to Awkward, melee attacks are brutal, but with Stealth, your opponents need Accuracy (but you kinda need Red dice to crack through the Black-Black defense pool). With both True Shadow and Execution Squad, you get a static surge (which is great, since your attack pool doesn't surge well) to trigger Blast 2 twice OR Pierce 2 twice. Execution Squad might be overkill, but still...
·         Wing Guard (Bespin Gambit) – Wing Guard gain huge benefits from Execution Squad (either for damage OR healing, depending on what you need), so the important thing is to get them Hidden as fast as possible. Besides that, they can benefit from other attachments, but it isn't necessary.
·         Elite E-Web Engineer (Core) – E-Webs, like AT-STs, benefit from all three attachments (though we'll just be focusing on Execution Squad and True Shadow): a static surge guarantees Damage 2 or Recover 2, while your Yellow die can trigger the surge ability a second time, making health recovery incredible or your damage output ridiculous. True Shadow makes you incredibly hard to kill and guarantees the Hidden condition remains.

End-Game Build #2 – Augmenting Offense: In The Shadows, Shadow Corps, Surprise Attack, Execution Squad, Versatility
With our focus turning to offense, a few of our upgrades we've already seen: In The Shadows and Execution Squad. We're adding three more upgrades to make our units even more lethal. The first is Shadow Corps, which allows each Hidden figure to make an adjacent figure Hidden. Unlike most upgrades, this upgrade can be used more than once each round and since this upgrade isn't an attachment, every deployment card can use it.
We're also taking Surprise Attack, which allows you to add an extra 2 Accuracy and 1 Damage to one attack each round so long as the target wasn't in your line of sight at the start of the activation. This not only adds the equivalent of a low-scoring Blue die, but combined with the Hidden condition, you can get even more free damage.
The final upgrade is Versatility, which not only allows one figure to surge for Hide, but also allows you to swap beneficial conditions. This not only allows units who are Focused to become Hidden (for defensive benefits), but also allows units who don't surge for good things to turn their Hidden to Focused.

Best IP Units:
·         Trandoshan Hunters (Core) – You cancgan a crazy amount of damage from Surprise Attack, but I highly recommend that you turn Hidden into Focus for additional damage. Unlike most other units, these guys don't benefit from Execution Squad.
·         Greedo (Greedo Villain Pack) – Greedo can be deployed via an Agenda card and benefits greatly from Surprise Attack. You have a free surge (or convert to a Focus) to get good damage for your attacks.
·         Grand Inquisitor (Grand Inquisitor Villain Pack) – like Greedo, the Grand Inquisitor can also be deployed via an Agenda card. He benefits greatly from Surprise Attack (especially if he's using Saber Throw) and gets wicked good out of surging for Cleave 3 twice via Execution Squad.
·         Tusken Raider (Twin Shadows) – because you can’t surge for Accuracy with your Tusken Cycler, it helps to be able to add some extra Accuracy if you can’t get adjacent to the target via Surprise Attack (and naturally you’ll get more power out of the Elite Tusken Raider). You'll also want to swap Hidden for Focus with these guys.
·         Heavy Stormtrooper (Twin Shadows) – these guys have great offense, but won’t often benefit from Execution Squad (though when they do, they’ll Blast really well). Instead, making sure they're Hidden not only helps on offense (since you surge so infrequently), but also helps against range attacks.

End-Game Build #3 – Overlord’s Control: In The Shadows, Stealth, Shadow Armor, Strategic Redeployment, True Shadow
Our final build focuses on the control aspect of the deck. Besides In The Shadows, we've included four upgrades, two of which we've already discussed. Stealth and True Shadow are defensive attachments that make one or two of your deployment cards much harder to kill. 
In addition to these upgrades, we're adding Shadow Armor and Strategic Redeployment. Unlike the previous two upgrades, Shadow Armor isn't an attachment, so you can reduce the Damage, Surge, or Accuracy results against one of your figures. While Shadow Armor is dependent on the Rebels attacking, Strategic Redeployment allows you to deploy/reinforce units once per round by spending surge (instead of Threat). Your hope is that by using units with a lot of Surge potential (or having Hidden figures who can reinforce cheap units), you can maintain an advantage over the Rebels with raw numbers (and not with your surge abilities).

Best IP Units:
·         Agent Blaise (Bespin Gambit) – No one generates as much Surge as Agent Blaise, and while there is no easy way to field him in this deck, you want him (he is included in this expansion after all). Blaise allows you to reinforce/deploy a cheap unit when he attacks with Strategic Redeployment and then deploy a different group as his second action. This can be a game changer late in the campaign.
·         Elite Probe Droid (Core) – Probe Droids surge better than anyone except Blaise, but you will be torn between deploying new units vs. recovering/dealing damage. On the positive side, the Targeting Computer makes it more likely that you get the surge you need for whatever you want.
·         Jawa Scavenger (Jawa Scavenger Villain Pack) – Jawas are blissfully cheap and generate almost as much Surge as Blaise/Probes. It's best to use the regular version instead of Elite version (as the Elite Jawa Scavenger surges for better things), though you can use both...
·         Hired Gun (Hired Gun Villain Pack) – these guys reliably surge, their surge abilities aren’t that good, and you should be able to get 2 surge results (which can reinforce his own group OR reinforce a Stormtrooper/Wing Guard squad). Besides the ability to deploy/reinforce new units, these guys benefit greatly from all of the upgrades.
·         Elite Clawdite Shapeshifter with Scout Form or Streetrat Form (Heart of the Empire) – because figures don’t block LOS to Scout Form, you can hit targets that don’t have LOS to you (making it hard to kill you). True Shadow is really good for this unit as it keeps you from being shot at, though Stealth might be better (True Shadow isn’t going to help against melee attacks). The Streetrat is an alternative for melee attacks – recommend it only because the surge abilities for that Form are bad (excluding the Red die worth of damage you can do to an adjacent figure).

        In our next post, we’ll be examining Hutt Mercenaries. While many of the recommended units in this post turned out to be Mercenary figures, there be no Imperial Class deck that rewards you for running Mercenary figures as the Hutt Mercenaries deck. Until next time, happy gaming!

Monday, June 18, 2018

IP Class Deck Review: Power of the Dark Side

When the Nemeses class deck was released with the Jabba’s Realm expansion, we thought we were getting the Sith deck we always wanted. Then, with Heart of the Empire (and the release of Emperor Palpatine and Maul), we were told that we had received the actual Sith deck we always wanted with Power of the Dark Side. When I first saw it, my thoughts went something like this. . . .


So, it’s taken me some time to look at the deck and determine what I think of it. My thoughts over the last six months shall be shown below. Rest assured, my views have gotten better, but given the choice, I think (for the record) I’d still choose Nemeses (you can read my thoughts on that deck here).

Power of the Dark Side: Give A Little To Get A Little
Every now and again, you’ll find a class deck that focuses on something new that was released in that expansion. This is seen most obviously in two Imperial class decks to date: Power of the Dark Side (with Damage Power tokens) and Imperial Black Ops (with the Hidden condition). When you’re playing with these kinds of decks, you’ll be given many opportunities to use whatever new mechanic is introduced – and often times if you focus full-bore into it, you’ll do alright. Power of the Dark Side does have a variety of ways to get Damage Power tokens (DPTs hereafter), but I’m going to submit that focusing fully on it isn’t that necessary. While we will discuss how you can use this “damage in your pocket” to the max, we’ll be looking also at the non-Damage-Power-Token routes that you can take.
What makes the Power of the Dark Side Imperial Class deck unique from the other decks is not only its use of a new game mechanic, but also the penalties it requires in order to gain benefits. While other decks might provide static offensive or defensive benefits for being near a certain unit, Power of the Dark Side rarely requires proximity to something but instead provides either a one-time boost to someone, a temporary boost to someone, or it requires taking damage in order to become stronger. This allows your units to act more autonomously, but requires that you take healthier units (or field cheap units that you can regrow as you require).
Perhaps the best thing about this deck is that unlike all other decks we’ve seen thus far, it doesn’t rely on an Imperial Player using a particular kind of unit (only one upgrade has any kind of exclusion at all). While other decks might require you to have Troopers, Guardians, or Leaders in your deck, this one helps everyone equally. With that said, let’s get into it. . . .

End-Game Build #1 – That Thing Yoda Says: Manifest Aggression, Embrace Fear, Embrace Anger, Embrace Hate, Embrace Suffering
Okay, I’ll be honest: when I first saw the deck, I said “Huh, it follows that quote Yoda says in Episode I: I wonder if that’s worth doing.” After some debate, I think it MIGHT be worth doing, but I couldn’t hesitate in the end from presenting it. J
The automatic upgrade available to the IP is Manifest Aggression – this is a great way to give 2 Imperial figures each a DPT. This is the most reliable way to get DPTs spread across your army (and the good thing is that it doesn’t require you to do anything bad to the guy receiving the token). The cost paid is this: you either a) get 2 tokens but tell the heroes where they’re going to be, or b) you get 1 token and the heroes can’t preemptively strike whoever gets it. I highly recommend that you NOT give out Damage tokens at the start of the first round and instead assign DPTs at the end of the first round AND the start of the second round – this gives you 4 DPTs to use during the second round (and you could have 2 DPTs on 2 figures if they can attack multiple times). The only cost of doing this is not being able to up your damage during the first round (which you’ll be hard-pressed to see that realized into anything meaningful because most of your units will likely be out of position to attack properly).
Supporting this upgrade are two upgrades that deal Strain to Rebel heroes: Embrace Fear and Embrace Hate. Embrace Fear can only be relied on to give 1 movement point to an Imperial figure when he activates (which isn’t that great, but is on-par for what we expect from a 1 XP upgrade). The value in this upgrade is that it dictates which Rebel figure goes first – the Rebels can appear to be defeating this upgrade by activating someone with a good Insight check pool (but this might not be figure who is in the most danger). If the chosen first figure fails the check, they’ll suffer 1 Strain (which turns into Damage if the hero is already fully strained OR makes it less likely that they’ll be able to use their special abilities). While only a niggling hurt, every Strain suffered pushes the Rebel hero closer and closer to having to spend an action resting (which is often good for the IP, since many missions require the heroes getting somewhere or killing things).
Embrace Hate allows you to choose a Rebel figure in the status phase to suffer 1 Strain. This not only happens right before Embrace Fear (which means a Rebel hero with only 2 Strain left could go from able-to-strain to not-able-to-strain-without-resting), but it’s not dependent on having line of sight to the figure. If you do have line of sight to the figure, your figure suffers 1 Damage and gains a DPT. Pairing these two upgrades together is powerful not only because you can slap 2 Strain on someone if they don’t have a good Insight pool and they NEED to go first (like if they’re about to be wounded). This, added to the DPTs that are handed out, makes it very likely that you can wound that character so long as you have units healthy enough to endure the first Rebel activation.
The other two upgrades we have are different: one is offensive, the other tactical. Embrace Anger is perhaps one of the best upgrades available in this class deck (if you have healthy characters): an Imperial figure can exhaust the card when he declares an attack to suffer 1 Damage and add 1 Damage to his attack results. Since this card readies at the start of each Imperial activation, you can use healthy units to rail against a single hero, driving him to rest (see the Hate-Fear combo we just talked about for how to finish this guy). Embrace Suffering is far more situational: you can either choose to exhaust the upgrade without paying Threat to push someone (useful if they’re trying to get somewhere or be next to something/someone) OR you can pay Threat to take control of a Rebel figure and perform an attack (like using that amazing Polearm with Vibrogenerator and whack another Rebel figure with it). It’s painful AND it happens at the end of the round, so you can rack up a little extra damage on someone before the first activation of the round is decided.
This build is eclectic, but it works. Your emphasis is on doing as much damage as you can during the round and then as one round turns into another, you add a little Strain, do some unexpected damage, gain a few DPTs – BAM! You’re all set up for another round of punishment.

Best IP Units:
·         Royal Guard (Core) – If you’re going to be taking damage in order to gain bonuses, you might as well get a static Block 1 each time you defend yourself. While Royal Guards don’t give themselves static Block results, they do give friendly figures this bonus. They themselves not only have a great attack profile (Red-Yellow with Reach), but they also have a great health-for-cost ratio (great for keeping them alive).
·         Elite Gamorrean Guard (Jabba’s Realm) – While these guys can’t benefit from the free Block provided by the Royal Guards mentioned above, they do receive a static Block 1 against blaster attacks. With the same cost and health as Royal Guards (plus a punchier attack pool and a reroll whenever they attack), these guys are less team-oriented and more self-oriented – the perfect candidates for the two DPTs provided by Manifest Aggression.
·         Riot Trooper (Heart of the Empire) – With an equally good health-to-cost ratio as Royal Guards and Gamorrean Guards, Riot Troopers are very inexpensive and their free Block Power Token allows them to supplement their defense results quite nicely. As Guardian units, they also can’t benefit from the static Block 1 of the Royal Guards, but they’re still great to have (and can be easily fielded in the first half of any campaign. On offense, they lack the Reach of the previous two candidates, but they can turn any surge they get into Damage, which is pretty nice (and can convert Damage into Strain if required).
·         Heavy Stormtrooper (Twin Shadows) – Like the previous three candidates, Heavy Stormtroopers also have a great health-for-cost ratio and are the first non-Guardian units we’ve considered (so they can benefit from the static Block 1 bonus from the Royal Guards). They can add to this an additional static Block 1 against attacks from 4+ spaces away – perfect for not being sniped (though in practice, the Rebels tend to just run up closer, so it’s not a big thing). As one of a handful of Imperial units who can surge for Blast, getting a DPT is critical to getting the damage you need to breach an opponent’s defenses and blast into his friends.
·         Elite Probe Droid (Core) – While getting free defense is a way to offset taking damage, healing is far more reliable. Elite Probes not only have a good health stat, Probe Droids have always been an inexpensive three-dice-attack-pool unit – and the ability to Recover Damage is huge.

Four of the nine upgrades in this Class deck allow the Imperial Player to hand out one or more DPTs. While we’ve already talked about Manifest Aggression (use back-to-back at the end of a round and the start of the next every other round) and Embrace Hate (which comes at the cost of a damage to whoever gets the DPT), there are two other upgrades that provide DPTs: Unnatural Abilities and The Power of Passion.
Unnatural Abilities rewards you for having single-figure, non-Creature deployment cards in your list. With a static Block 1 + Evade 1, your single-figure deployment card is MUCH harder to kill (though multi-model deployment cards still get the static Evade 1), and at the end of the deployment group’s activation, one figure in the group receives a DPT to use during his next activation (regardless of how many figures are in the group). The Power of Passion makes anyone who uses a DPT more powerful by adding a static Surge 1 to the Damage 1 of the DPT. This static benefit is supplemented by the ability to exhaust the upgrade in order to reroll any number of attack dice. This is similar to upgrades in other Imperial Class decks (Precision Training, Nemeses) while other decks allow a reroll of a single die (Inspiring Leadership, Precision Training, Hutt Mercenaries). While the ability to reroll attack dice is nice, the real benefit comes from the static offensive benefits – don’t get too caught up in which unit gets the reroll.

Best IP Units:
·         AT-DP (Heart of the Empire) – If equipped with Unnatural Abilities, this guy gets a static Block 2 + Evade 1 (in addition to whatever he gets on the Black die – likely an additional Block 2). The Evade 1 is the real boon, since you want to keep those nasty Pierce 3 guys from getting through all that armor – and because you lose the ability to perform multiple attacks each turn if you fall below half health. With very few surge abilities (and a Yellow die already in your attack pool), it’s not that necessary to use DPTs with this guy (unless you’re just trying to maximize damage).
·         Elite Clawdite Shapeshifter with Streetrat Form (Heart of the Empire) – I love this build – the surge abilities on the Streetrat are phenomenal (free Red die worth of damage against an adjacent figure, Damage 1, or DPT) and with the Elite, you have a good chance of getting 2 surge (which you should use to deal the Red die worth of damage and regain your DPT). As a single figure deployment card, you also get the full benefits of Unnatural Abilities (which can give you a DPT at the end of the round if you didn’t surge to get a DPT during your attack).
·         Elite Probe Droid (Core) – If you’re going to get a free surge result from your DPT, you might as well have some great surge abilities to use – with choices of Damage 2 / Pierce 2 / Recover 2, it’s hard to go wrong with this guy. He also will get the full weight of Unnatural Abilities to assist him in defense, including a free DPT each turn, allowing you to use Manifest Aggression on other figures.
·         Clawdite Shapeshifter with Senator Form (Heart of the Empire) – Thanks to the Conspire skill on the Senator Form (and the ability to surge for a Wild Power Token), you can make sure all of your teammates get DPTs. This is a cheaper, less-powerful version of the Elite Clawdite Shapeshifter we discussed previously, but if you’re planning on playing the support role and passing out tokens, I recommend taking the cheaper version.
·         Wing Guard (Bespin Gambit) – These guys don’t benefit from the static Block 1 from Unnatural Abilities, but they do benefit greatly from the static Surge from DPTs (as a Green-Blue doesn’t reliably surge and they can Recover Damage whenever they surge). The DPT gained from Embrace Hate can be an excellent counter to the Damage 1 suffered in order to gain the DPT (since you can then surge to Recover 1). Be watchful of the damage these guys are taking though – they’re not hard to reinforce, but redeploying a new batch costs 6 points (which is very hard to come by in most missions).

It was a little surprising to me that a Sith-oriented deck could play defense – none of the Sith characters have any kind of defensive abilities. Some of these upgrades, however, are quite good. We’ve already seen the defensive (and offensive) benefits of Unnatural Abilities, but there are two other upgrades we’ll look at: Dark Resurgence and Supernatural Vigor.
Dark Resurgence is simple: pick someone who was just defeated to recover 3 Damage instead. While this is an obvious boon to an Imperial figure who needs to be defeated in order for the mission to end, it’s not as powerful as the Failsafe upgrade in Technological Superiority. That said, it’s a 1 XP upgrade – how much can you really complain (and unlike Failsafe, it doesn’t cost Threat)? Supernatural Vigor is a tricky upgrade to use: whoever receives it has a slight health boost (or a dramatic health boost if it’s a low-health figure), but that figure needs to be able to recover any damage that spills over onto the upgrade in order for it to move to someone else (assuming it follows the general understanding of the Adrenaline Command card – see discussions here and here). In my opinion, it’s best put on a low-health figure who will begin at the front of the fighting, keeping him alive for an additional attack action – though it obviously has benefits on a villain that you’re trying to keep alive for mission objective reasons.
Perhaps the best thing about this build, is that it only costs you 6 XP in order to field – giving you plenty of opportunities to get other upgrades to supplement your offensive needs (I like Embrace Anger, though borrowing a Rebel figure to perform an attack with Embrace Suffering is also great).

Best IP Units:
·         Stormtrooper (Core) – When it comes to thinking about a defensive build for an IP team, cheap units are one way to do it. If you can keep one of your guys alive (let’s say with Supernatural Vigor), then redeploying your men comes easily. When I mentioned above that you want to give Supernatural Vigor to someone who might get one-action-KO’d by your opponent, I had Stormtroopers in mind.
·         Elite E-Web Engineer (Core) – E-Webs are great at using both Unnatural Abilities and Supernatural Vigor: not only can they Recover up to 4 Damage in a single turn (if they shoot twice and surge to Recover 2 Damage each time), but they will have a static Block 2 + Evade 1. Since E-Webs play defense (our mantra on this site), I kinda felt like I needed to put them in the list.
·         Elite Probe Droid (Core) – what can I say – we’re looking for units who can Recover Damage? These guys are just going to naturally benefit from upgrades like Unnatural Abilities and Supernatural Vigor (with the healing bringing them under the +3 bonus health they receive), but don’t underestimate the benefits they get from free damage provided by Manifest Aggression or Embrace Anger.
·         Clawdite Shapeshifter with Senator Form (Heart of the Empire) – The Senator Form allows a Clawdite Shapeshifter to Recover Damage and since Clawdites have low Health as it is, this makes them difficult targets to remove if they have Supernatural Vigor and Unnatural Abilities. I’ll note that you can run a Elite Clawdite Shapeshifter as well, passing the Senator Form along with the Supernatural Vigor upgrades between them – boosting the health of whichever one needs to recover the most.
·         Wing Guard (Bespin Gambit) – As the final unit that can recover damage, it shouldn’t be a surprise that these guys made it here: like their Stormtrooper counterparts, they don’t benefit particularly well from getting Unnatural Abilities, but Supernatural Vigor can keep one of them from dying.

In our next post, we’ll be looking at the Imperial Black Ops Class deck – another deck that focuses on maximizing a new game mechanic introduced in its expansion. Until next time, happy gaming!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Character Review: Jarrod Kelvin

In this our last post of our character review series (at least until they decide whether or not to release any more expansion sets), we’re looking at the great droid maker and all-around great tank, Jarrod Kelvin. Released alongside Ko-Tun Feralo (who can play a great tank) and Drokkatta (who can also play a good tank), it’s easy for Jarrod to feel dwarfed by his friends, but let’s make this clear from the get-go: 

Jarrod is THE BEST TANK you can get

As tough as Biv and Onar are (read our posts on each of them for more info), no one gets to pile on defensive bonuses like Jarrod (though he’s no slouch on offense, either).

Jarrod Kelvin: Just Give Me Another Melee Weapon (and Where’s My Droid?)
When it comes to Jarrod, all you really want is an additional melee weapon – you can’t get rid of your Vibro-Claws and for both the Parry rule and Leaping Slash (if you choose to purchase it), you want another melee weapon. Here are your options (I’ve omitted both the Ancient Lightsaber and the Ryyk Blades, since the Ryyk Blades become a glorified Vibroblade and the Ancient Lightsaber becomes a glorified Vibrosword in the hands of Jarrod Kelvin – doesn’t make sense to me to spend 3x the cash and wait until Tier 3 when you can just get the alternatives at Tier 1 OR a different weapon altogether):

Weapon Name (Set Required)
Tier - Cost
Attack Pool (Mods)
Avg. Exp. Damage (Cleave)
Armored Gauntlets (Core)
1 – 300
Green-Yellow (0)
2.13 (0.31)
Vibroblade (Core)
1 – 300
Green-Green (1)
1.44 (0.85)
BD-1 Vibro-Ax (Core)
2 – 600
Red-Green (2)
2.11 (0.78)
Vibro Knucklers (Core)
2 – 400
Green-Yellow (0)
2.60 (0.14)
Force Pike (Core)
3 – 1100
Red-Yellow-Yellow (1)
3.53 (0.00)
Gaffi Stick (Twin Shadows)
1 – 200
Red-Yellow (1)
2.18 (0.00)
Vibroknife (Return to Hoth)
1 – 150
Green-Green (0)
2.38 (0.00)
Stun Baton (Return to Hoth)
2 – 500
Red-Blue (1)
2.60 (0.00) *
Vibrosword (Bespin Gambit)
1 – 350
Blue-Green (2)
3.00 (0.00) **
Double Vibrosword (Jabba’s Realm)
2 – 650
Red-Green (1)
2.11 (0.78) *
Polearm (Heart of the Empire)
2 - 600
Red-Red (1)
2.86 (0.50)
Electrostaff (Grand Inquisitor VP)
3 - 1250
Red-Green-Blue (1)
4.61 (1.99) ***
*Does not include weapon special rule                 **1 Strain to apply Pierce 1              ***Apply Cleave 2

Obviously, the average expected damage of these weapons changes if you put different modifications on them, but this baseline gives a rough idea of which weapons are good at doing direct damage or cleave damage (and whether their damage is worth the cost you pay for them). A few weapons play greatly to Jarrod’s strengths (since Jarrod doesn’t need to strain very often to activate his abilities, the Stun Baton and Vibrosword are well worth the purchase), but we’re not going to talk about these weapons today. Instead, we’re going to look at how we can maximize cleave damage, maximize our choice of targets with Reach, and getting the most out of Jarrod’s companion, J4X-7 (“Jax” hereafter).

End-Game Weapon #1 – Maximize Cleave: Vibro-Claws and Electrostaff with Focusing Beam
Jarrod has REALLY GOOD 3XP and 4XP upgrades – in this build, we’re taking two of them. With Leaping Slash, we get a few spaces of movement with two attacks as a single action. The first attack has to be made with the Vibro-Claws and the second attack has to be made with a different weapon (in our case, an Electrostaff). The first attack is intended to do two things: first, gaining a Damage Power token, and second, recovering 1 Strain. The second attack then becomes even stronger with the Damage Power token. With Explosive Reflexes, we not only increase our Endurance (useful for moving a bit further, healing more, triggering Leaping Slash, or removing Dodge results via the Focusing Beam), but we can also change a die we’re using to a better one. Since we’ve chosen to use an Electrostaff, you want to get that Red-Red-Green combo instead of the standard Red-Green-Blue. Thanks to the Focusing Beam, we can be assured in the second attack that our attack won’t be Dodged OR the defense will be -1 Block.
The pairing between Explosive Reflexes and Leaping Slash are not useful for making Jarrod play the tank role (the other 3 XP and 4 XP skills are much better), but it makes him incredibly strong on offense. We’ve paired this with Scout’s Loadout (great for removing Evade results from your targets) as well as Balanced Approach, which is one of the best all-around 1 XP skills you can get (granting healing, movement, or a Damage Power token based on what you didn’t do during your activation).
So . . . how does this maximize Cleave? Between Leaping Slash and strain, you can avoid using your actions to move and instead you can focus on performing attacks. With a free Cleave 2 (or Reach) to your attacks, the Electrostaff is not only a flexible weapon, but all-but-guarantees that you’ll be able to do damage to your foes thanks to the high damage output you’ll be generating. While we’ve chosen the Focusing Beam, you can also get good mileage out of the Balanced Hilt (which will make it more likely that you trigger that Surge for Damage 2 ability on the Electrostaff) or the Energized Hilt (which will get you to that envied Red-Red-Red).

Upgrades to purchase - 10 XP: Balanced Approach (1), Scout’s Loadout (2), Explosive Reflexes (3), Leaping Slash (4)

End-Game Weapon #2 – Maximize Reach: Vibro-Claws and Polearm with Vibrogenerator
Reach is one of the most useful abilities in the game – warriors who don’t want to have to spend an action moving can Strain to push themselves just a wee bit further and stretch out and touch their targets. With Jarrod, the use of a Reach weapon gets even better when paired with Leaping Slash, since you’re not required to attack with the Vibro-Claws (which unfortunately don’t get Reach). Since we’re looking at having a weapon that allows us to get more possible targets for our attacks, we’ve designed this build towards one of Jarrod’s best strengths: mobility.
By taking Leaping Slash and Mutual Progression, Jarrod can spend 1 action moving (5 movement points thanks to Mutual Progression) and move an additional 2 spaces with Leaping Slash (spaces, not movement points). We’re also going to pick up both of Jarrod’s 1 XP skills, Balanced Approach and Forward Momentum. We’re not going to be using the Vibro-Claws in this build for Leaping Slash, saving it instead to Parry (giving us a free movement point whenever we Parry thanks to Forward Momentum). Forward Momentum also gives us free movement points at the start of our turn. Sometimes, you won’t need to perform a move (Mutual Progression is still good for the defensive buff it gives) – when that happens, you can gain a free movement point from Balanced Approach – which allows you to basically perform a free move if you take into account the bonuses from the other skills.
On offense, we’ve chosen the Polearm with the Vibrogenerator – we’ve already talked about this weapon build as one of the best melee weapons you can use. If you’re looking for maximum damage, you’re basically agreeing to spend 2 Surge for 2 Damage, but because you’re rolling a Red-Red, you hardly ever get a single Surge, so most of the time, you’re getting a free Damage 2 bonus (which is like having a Red-Red-Green pool). You’re not going to be able to surge for Cleave 2 or Pierce 1, but worse things have happened. J Prior to getting to Tier 2, I’d recommend picking up the Vibroblade with the Extended Haft (it’s got basically the same surge abilities as the Polearm) and keeping the Extended Haft on the Polearm until you get to Tier 3.

Upgrades to purchase9 XP: Balanced Approach (1), Forward Momentum (1), Mutual Progression (3), Leaping Slash (4)

End-Game Weapon #3 – Combat Companions: Vibro-Claws and Gaffi Stick with High Impact Guard
Huh, we also already talked about the Gaffi Stick with High Impact Guard as one of the best melee weapons you can take. J The idea with this build is that you want to acquire a weapon early and stick with it (see what I did there - "stick with the Gaffi Stick?"), focusing your upgrades on things that will help you and Jax – who is really the center of this build. The Gaffi Stick is a great weapon – static Pierce 1 with a Red die is awesome, but all of the surge that’s generated doesn’t translate into Damage until you get the High Impact Guard. If you never see the High Impact Guard (or if one of your buddies wants it), you can take the Energized Hilt instead and once per turn you can attack with a Red-Red and static Pierce 1 (using any Surge you get to recover 1 Strain or apply Weaken).
The goal of this build is to get the most out of Jax: with Scout’s Loadout, you can not only apply Pierce 1 to a friendly attack each activation, but you can also apply -1 Evade (which will KILL a White die). Thanks to Mutual Progression and Mechanical Master, not only are Jarrod and Jax much more resilient and faster, but Jax can activate during Jarrod’s activation AND during another Rebel figure’s activation. When Jax shoots, he’ll roll a Blue-Green with a static Pierce 1 (not bad) and if you want to, Jax can also gain a free movement point at the start of his activation with Forward Momentum. This makes Jax more like an ally – very helpful on offense – but VERY VULNERABLE to attacks. Jarrod for this build is an actual tank – able to gain a free Block with his Black die, 12 Health, and two weapons to use with Parry (since you don’t have Leaping Slash - and benefiting from free movement whenever we Parry).
Now for those keeping tally at home, you'll notice that this build (and all the other ones) have left out one of Jarrod's upgrades: Slicer's Upgrades. I bring it up here because you could add it to your build (or even remove Forward Momentum if you only have 11 XP). In my mind, the benefits of this upgrade are too niche to plan on purchasing as part of a build - the other skills are far more helpful in the long-run and help both Jax AND Jarrod. 

Upgrades to purchase - 10 XP: Forward Momentum (1), Scout’s Loadout (2), Mutual Progression (3), Mechanical Master (4)

Jarrod in the Skirmish Game
Jarrod Kelvin in the skirmish game retains a few benefits from the campaign game: first, he gets a basic version of Leaping Slash, getting a few more spaces of movement. With an automatic Damage 1 on offense (to be supplemented by Jax’s static Pierce 1 if he’s adjacent to the target), the Yellow-Yellow attack pool with the ability to surge for Damage 2, Pierce 2, and a Damage Power token is made all the stronger. Finally, Jarrod has a free Evade (which is different from his Mutual Progression bonus of a static Block) to supplement his Black die. For only 5 points, Jarrod has a decent amount of health and is hard to crack through by basic troops. Able to synergize with Leaders, Brawlers, and Spies, Jarrod can be included in any Rebel list (even Smuggler and Trooper lists will benefit from Jax’s static Pierce 1 benefit, as well as the support cards provided by Spies/Leaders). We’ve used Jarrod in one of our previous posts – you can see how to integrate him there.
This concludes our series on Rebel heroes for now – I may do a series of posts on different team builds you can do, but that’s probably a long way off. We still have an active series on Imperial Class decks, but other content will probably be put up ad-hoc for the various series we’ve already done on the blog. Until next time, happy hobbying!