Saturday, June 20, 2015

Advanced Ion Strafing - A Hard Counter to Range 2 Turrets

Range 2 Turrets
For many waves, the X-wing meta game has included turrets. Even with the introduction of Autothrusters, turrets are still effective because of their small margin of flying error. That plus new upgrades, like the Mangler Cannon for the Outrider, make for safe and consistent, tactics that are easy to learn.
The Ion Turret was always a Rebel staple in many matches until the introduction of large ship turrets. Afterwards, the Ion Turret was only ever seen on support ships, not on a main ace like Horton. Most of the time Range 2 turrets are a problem since they have been around so long; we've learned how to fly against them.
But things have changed with the Most Wanted Scum pack and the Y-wing Title card. A BTL-A4 Y-wing, or "Warthog", has its turret is locked in the forward firing arc and can shoot directly after a primary attack. This modification takes the average Y-wing and makes it an efficient jouster. Moreover, it revitalizes the strategy of ion drifting an opponent ship.
That is why I want to talk about range 2 turrets. When facing an Ion Hawk, Y-wing, or Warthog you have to be cautious. If circumstances allow, your low agility ships can be ion drifted off the edge of the board.
So I started practicing counters enemy turret and came up with a whole list of versatile strategies. I wrote these in my Anti-Turret article. However, I wanted to take the idea further. Rather than a general strategy that is good against turrets, I wanted something to completely shut them down: a hard counter. After much trial, I have finally found it! I call it the Advanced Ion Strafe. Let me guide you through my thought process.

The Advanced Ion Strafe
The only way to absolutely guarantee you won't be hit by an ion turret is to staying out of range. This works well when you are behind the ship and can chase it. But even then, a well timed K-turn or sharp 2 turn from the enemy could catch you by surprise. Even though an ion turret doesn't punch hard, it can hit consistently, and one ionization easily leads to ion drifting.
My solution to avoiding getting ionized is to use ionization myself. Ion Missiles and Cannons outrange the turret, giving you an advantage. A B-wing, TIE Bomber, etc, with ion power can sneak behind a range 2 turret and ion drift it. However, you will lose if you attempt to joust from the front. Even if you ionize the enemy turret at range 3, it will drift forward next turn: straight at you. Next round, you will be at range 2, no matter where you turn. So you choose to move forard and both ships get ionized. Then the next round, you drift past each other and you won't get a shot but the turret will. And with that you are being ion drifted.
But what if you don't have to fly forward when you ion joust? What if you wanted to fly sideways?  After a lot of hilarious play-testing I found that I actually could fly sideways under very specific circumstances: you need a ship that has a system upgrade, a barrel roll, and has ion power.
270* Flanking Arc Vs Range 2 Turret
  Here's what you do: place an Advanced Sensors System on your ship and approach the enemy turret. You want to fly into combat at an extreme range 3, meaning you barely want the range rule to touch. You take a target lock and shoot an ion attack at the turret. Next round you use Advanced Sensors to barrel roll out and away from your target and then do a curved or straight one back towards the turret. If you set it up properly you'll be facing the enemy again at range 3. While this type of flying requires more practice and work than ion drifting, it isn't restricted by the need to chase an enemy from behind. In fact, you can approach the turret from the side and still stay at range 3 as long as you enter range 3 outside the enemy ship's forward firing arc. That is a 270 degree flanking arc on range 2 turrets!

AIS Details
  The Advanced Sensors are absolutely needed. Barrel rolling before moving is what flings your ship sideways, out of range. Move first and you won't get far enough away. Also, you must control the enemy ship's positioning, so if your ion shot didn't work, immediately break off. If unionized, the range 2 turret is going to do a sharp 2 turn towards you and your strafe will not work. Next, your first shot needs to be at extreme range 3. Successfully strafing in a circle requires no margin for error. Your first action should be a target lock. If you don't use it right then, you can use it in the coming rounds. However, if you need a barrel roll to initially get out of the firing arc then do it. You will still have a good chance of ionizing in the next rounds, especially against low agility Hawks and Y-wings. Finally, practice so you know when to use the forward or curved 1 maneuver.
And there you have it: the Advanced Ion Strafe. You won't use this strategy in every single game but it is a wonderful ace to have up your sleeve. An AIS ship off the side of your jousting swarm can be a hard shutdown to an enemy squad with a Warthog. It can be modified to fit many situations and isn't limited to range 2 turrets. You can use the AIS to ion drift any small ship with low agility.
So here is the question now: based off of the technique requirements, which ships can do the Advanced Ion Strafe? The answer is only 2 ships can do a full, consistent AIS: the B-wing and the Aggressor. In addition, there are several ships that can do a modified AIS: the Tie Advanced, E-wing, Phantom, and Viper. Details for each ship below.

The B-wing was really my brainchild in my thinking process and it turned out that it became the best ship in the whole line up to do the technique. It is the only ship that has a barrel roll, system, and cannon. The cannon is important because, unlike missiles, it stays the whole game rather than being a one shot. This allows for the B-wing to AIS any time and against different ships throughout a match. And to top it off, it is the cheapest AIS ship to build.

B-wing w/ Blue Squad Pilot - 28 Points
Advanced Sensors
             Ion Cannon

Although the Aggressor doesn't have a natural barrel roll this is easily made up for with the Expert Handling card. And you don't need to worry about the stress it gives to your ship because of the Aggressor's green maneuver dial. It also has a cannon slot and so has a consistent ion shot. The one drawback is that the bigger base means the already tiny window of error is even smaller for this ship so make sure to practice a lot before tying to pull it off in a match. But honestly, the Aggressor is already such an evasive ship that you don't really need to strafe to keep it safe. If you want to have some fun, or to surprise your opponent, then try it out.

Aggressor w/ IG-88 - 44 Points
Expert Handling
Ion Cannon
Advanced Sensors

E-wing, Tie Advanced, & Star Viper:
These three ships have barrel rolls and system slots but they don't have enough ion ability. They can take an ion torpedo/missile which is good for one shot but this is both expensive and short lived. But while the BR action and the AS upgrade are essential for this technique, constant ionization is not. Approach from the front, use the Advanced Strafe to get behind and then close in to finish the job. The three named pilots I list below excel at this, especially when parried with cards like Outmaneuver. Moreover this approach is a such a different tactic for these ships that your opponent won't suspect it
Another option is to fly one of these ships with ion support. Consider taking a couple cheap Z-95's or a Tie Bomber as missile boats. They can move in to give the ion damage and then veer off the next round. Though your support ships will enter range 2, at least you know that the ion turret can't hit all of you.

E-wing w/ Corran Horn - 42 Points
Push the Limit
Advanced Sensors
R2 Astromech

Tie Advanced w/ Darth Vader - 35 Points
              Ion Pulse Missiles
              X1 Title
Advanced Sensors

Viper w/ Guri - 37 Points
Virago Title
Advanced Sensors

Last but not least is the Phantom. Like the ex-planet Pluto, the Phantom has been going through a rather rough time of life. But here's some good news because it can do an Advanced Strafe! Unlike the other ships I've mentioned, the Phantom doesn't even have an option for ion attacks. And because of its decloak action there hasn't been much need to take the advanced sensors upgrade. But now there is: A Phantom can decloak to the side, away from the turret. Then with the Advanced Sensors upgrade it can barrel roll further away. This double barrel roll is enough to compensate for the fact that the Phantom's slowest bank or forward move is a speed 2. Now instead of flying your Phantom in a wide flanking vector, you can have it up and close in the action. And if your opponent tries to go for it you can strafe past and get in behind them. Pair this with ion supporting ships and this could make for a very intriguing alpha strike.

Phantom w/ Whisper - 40 Points
Veteran Instincts
Advanced Sensors
Advanced Cloaking Device

And there you have it. This is a really fun build to fly! Plus it can be invaluable when integrated into a squad and the need to use it arises. So try it out and let me know in the comments what kind of crazy things you were able to pull off! Happy flying.

Edit: Check out this battle report where I used the advanced ion strafe.

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