Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Application of the Plasma Torpedo - A Poor Grey Pilot Strategy Update

                We are part of a game and universe that is alive so we always need to keep learning or else we will get lost and outdated. Even in the last few months I have had to grow and change, myself. I had just barely learned and mastered the 4-ship Joust when I was broadsided by 2-ship Arc Dodging builds. But even though I am aware of them now, I know that there are other things out there that I am completely unaware of. If we plan to not get taken by surprise with every new thing that comes our way, we need to make sure that we are rising beyond normal gameplay and learning the trends.
                When FFG announced the details of the new K-wing I made a few predictions about how this next wave would affect the meta game. However, what I didn't cover in that article was what I planned to doing about said predictions. If we see a new Wave of X-wing come in and don't act on it then we are going to float aimlessly just as much as if they were waves of the ocean. However, applying new chances doesn't mean we toss the old stuff out the window. Instead it means that we take what we have and build upon it, thus create something both new and improved. So, without further ado, I will roll up my sleeves and start applying patches to the tactics I've discussed on this blog, starting with the application of the Plasma Torpedo. Here is the first Poor Grey Pilot Strategy Update.

                The first thing that we need to note about the Plasma Torpedo is that it is still a torpedo card. And as such it still has the main weakness of ordnance: lack of dice modification. So if we want to use these effectively we still need to follow the same rules of fixing ordnance. Let's take a look again at Horton Salm's ability. His rerolling of blanks works great with any torpedo but he has to take a target lock and so doesn't have access to a focus. The Proton Torpedo's critical focus overcomes that deficiency and allowes Horton to give 4 hits almost every time. Because of this Pilot-Torpedo-Dice synergy I've had a really hard time justifying putting any other missile on his Y-wing.
                But now consider the possibility of the Plasma Torpedo. Recall that a 4 dice roll averages the result of 2 hits/crits, 1 focus, and 1 blank. So when Horton shoots a Plasma Torpedo, he is going to be frustrated by the focus result and only get an average of 3 hits. This would be enough to dissuade me except for the fact that the Plasma Torpedo brings a new ability to the table. If the torpedo hits, you get an extra free shield damage. With this added ability Horton again gets an average of 4 hits on his torpedo and, moreover, has the possibility of doing 5 shield damage. There is only one hitch to this plan: your potential target must be both low agility and heavily shielded. This means that instead of hunting Ties with Proton Torpedoes, Horton will now excel at targeting large ships and turrets.
                I am more than ok with this change. Honestly, if I'd had Plasmas during my last tournament, I would have had a better chance fighting the 2-ship builds I faced. And in general you will have a better statistical chance of facing shielded targets because Ties are currently the minority in ship diversity. This makes Plasma Torpedoes a safer, and yet still-reliable, pick when composing your squad. So have fun trying it out.

Y-wing w/ Horton - 30 points
                Plasma Torpedoes
                Extra Munitions

                Moving right along we return to our Damsel Nera. She has a wonderful pilot ability and becomes efficient with ordnance when paired with Deadeye and Recon Specialist. However, she has the exact opposite problem as Horton; while he has no focus, she has too much. This means that Proton Torpedoes waste some of her focus modification and that is especially bad since Nera can't correct blank rolls. This leaves Flechettes or APTs and while both are good choices they have their downsides. The former doesn't pack a very hard hit while the latter is severally limited in range.
                You know where I am going with this: the Plasma Torpedo fits right into this missing niche for Nera. It doesn't waste any of her focus modification, it has a much better range to work with, and it hits hard enough that it can potentially be as powerful as an Advanced Proton Torpedo. And since it is the second cheapest torpedo to get, you will actually save some squad points.
                The one downside is that Nera has a range 1 blind spot and her lower PS means many ships will move after her. One way to overcome this is to exchange the Recon Specialist with an Intelligence Agent. (but it's ok, she's a girl too!) Then give Nera the Push the Limit upgrade instead of Deadeye and now you have a ship that can see where a higher ace is going, barrel roll out of the way, take a target lock, and then shoot a torpedo in a 360 degree arc. You do lose your modification on your shot but the extra maneuverability might just be the key to her survival. And more than that, it means that Nera will be strong against arc-dodgers as well as jousters and heavily shielded turrets.

B-wing w/ Nera - 36 points
                Push the Limit
                Plasma Torpedoes
                Extra Munitions
                E2 Mod w/ Intelligence Agent

Reevaluating the B-wing
                In my article discussing the X-wing versus the B-wing I talked about how a player shouldn't just believe the masses and fly what everyone says is good. It is much wiser to know the strengths and risks of all ships and to take the ones that fit the roles you need for your squad. With the game being on the event horizon of Wave 7, I reiterate that one should not just blindly take a B-wing. The introduction of the Plasma Torpedo will become the bane of the B. The ship currently holds the title for #1 Jouster but all of that changes when the opposing side has plasma shots. A fully modified Plasma Torpedo will give 4 hits plus 1 shield damage. And good luck dodging that, Mr. 1 Agility. Oh and be sure to kiss your shields goodbye.
                In this situation, the X-wing is actually a better jouster. Having 2 agility dice and only 2 shields, the X has a high chance of taking only 2 damage instead of 5 from an early plasma hit. And after the shields are gone, Bs don't last nearly as long as Xs . However, switching to X-wings is only one option. You can also consider other alternatives including putting Jan Ors as a crew so your B-wings have evade actions. Or you can fly more Ace B-wings and fewer generics. Not only will the Aces give you a better chance to barrel roll away from potential attackers, it gives you access to the Expert Handling upgrade which allows you to shed enemy target locks. A missile that can't be fired is a missile that won't be bothering you. And these are just a few of the options for the change in B-wing meta. Let me know in the comments how you plan on flying your B-wings differently.

B-wing w/ Keyan - 34 points
                Expert Handling
                Experimental Interface

HLC vs 2 Plasmas
                I mentioned it in passing before but I was serious about it. Double Plasma Torpedoes can potentially be more powerful than a Heavy Laser Cannon. Yes, you do give up your action to shoot torpedoes but that disadvantage is mitigated in several ways. First off, double plasmas costs 2 points less than a HLC and, honestly, a small ship with a HLC isn't going to get more than 2 shots before being focused down. This cost is further reduced because there are ships with double torpedo tubes that are cheaper than ships with cannon slots. The second mitigation is the fact that a Plasma Torpedo can do up to 5 damage to shields and also give criticals to low shielded targets, neither of which the HLC is capable of. I'm not saying that there is no more need for this cannon, there are still plenty of applications. But now there is an alternative build involving torpedoes that is just as viable. I know I can't wait to get it and try it out.

Bomber w/ Scimitar - 23 Points
                Plasma Torpedoes
                Extra Munitions
                Seismic Charges

Y-wing w/ Grey - 27 Points
                Plasma Torpedoes
                Extra Munitions
                Autoblaster Turret

B-wing w/ Blue - 29 Points
                Heavy Laser Cannon

Hull Upgrade with Determination
                Last thing I want to discuss. When it comes to strengthening your defense there has always been 3 options for modification: Stealth Device, Hull Upgrade, and Shield Upgrade. I know that there are good applications for the Stealth Device but I have never liked relying on it. I have always been a fan of attaching more shields to things. Got an extra 4 points? Stick a shield on a Bomber or Tie Fighter, it can be a really game changer. Or add a shield upgrade to an X-wing or A-wing to make them both beefy and evasive. But that has changed now that Plasma torpedoes are a risk. It now can be a danger to add more shields because they can just be mopped away with a plasma hit. That's more wasted points than getting all blanks and losing your Stealth Device.
                But here is a fun little trick I have learned. If you've got a ship with an Elite Pilot Talent that you aren't using, consider giving it a Hull Upgrade and Determination. It costs the same as a Shield upgrade and it does the same thing, but in a different way. Take Howlrunner for example. Give her a Shield Upgrade and she can block an early critical. On the other hand if we give her a Hull Upgrade and Determination then she has a 25% chance of absorbing a critical across each of her hull points. Since Howlrunner will have 4 hull, she has a good chance of absorbing one critical and if she does, she still has that hull left. It is a bit of risk but it has a good chance for payout, similar to setting your shields on double front and hoping you don't get hit from behind. And this combo is even more powerful than before because it isn't hurt by plasma hits. Kavil with a Shield upgrade will just get it stripped off when hit by a torpedo. But if he has a Hull Upgrade and Determination he doesn't have that risk, plus each of his 6 hull points has a 1/4 chance of absorbing a critical for a total of 1.5 average. Now that is a bargain in defensive cost.
Tie Fighter w/ Howlrunner - 22 Points
                Hull Upgrade

Y-wing w/ Kavil - 34 points
                Blaster Turret
                R4 Agromech
                Hull Upgrade

                These are the applications I plan on making with the coming of the Plasma Torpedo. Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy this blog and feel free to leave any comments or questions. Stay tuned for my next update where I will apply the Twin Laser Turret, especially to the Rebel Hawk Pilots. See you then.

Note that a Plasma Y-wing is so much cheaper than a HLC B-wing that I was able to give it an Autoturret, upgrade its PS, and still have points to spare. The higher PS will allow the ship more opportunities to get its target lock.

The Keyan build was provided by Kevin Wadsworth.

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