The best Offen(der) is a good Defen(der)

Just a couple of months ago, I had my first opportunity to serve as TO for an X-Wing Miniatures tournament. I may discuss the overall experience in another post, but what matters for the purposes of this discussion is that we ended up with an odd number of players attending, and not so many players that I was overwhelmed with questions or anything like that. I wanted to make sure that everyone got in their share of games, having paid to be playing, so while for results purposes the player with a bye received a full win, I played a casual game against each of them; their tournament list vs a list I had cooked up for experimentation purposes. I didn’t even bother to write the list on paper, because I didn’t think it would be worth keeping.

Since my actual win/loss record didn’t matter here, the focus of my list was trying to find a way to make use of both of my TIE Defenders. There seem to be two schools of thought regarding this ship. One group looks at it and sees a slightly overpriced ship (30 points for the PS 1 generic pilot) combining good stats with a weird maneuver dial and the distinction of having X-Wing’s only stress free K-turn. The other group played the original TIE Fighter computer game and sees game balance stomping all over a ship that “should” be better than any other ship in the game at everything, and might be deserving of the 6-straight maneuver from Attack Wing.

Falling into the latter category myself, I bought two before knowing the slightest thing about how they were implemented in X-Wing miniatures, and then cried inside as I searched in vain for redeeming qualities about them. Both named pilots seem to be sub-par in my book, as Colonel Vessery works off of target locks from other ships, a rarity in most Imperial lists, and Rexler Brath’s unique ability requires you to deal damage without spending your focus token on a ship that is not conducive to using abilities like Push the Limit to take Focus and a Target Lock actions in the same turn (having only straight green maneuvers). Rexler would certainly find use in Predator or Outmaneuver, two attack enhancing abilities that do not cause stress or require actions, and will be enhanced further with Fleet Officer’s focus granting ability in the next wave release, but I couldn’t justify taking him and a second Defender, as I would be cutting corners to fit anything more than an Academy Pilot in as a third ship once both Defenders were equipped well enough to justify their usage. Bringing either named pilot in standard games doesn’t leave enough points once they’re properly equipped (40 to 50 points for the one ship) to give them decent support.

So instead, I went in the opposite direction, and committed to bringing two Defenders on the cheap, and hoped to have enough points left over for another ship or two that would work well with them. Howlrunner seemed a decent choice, but would be even more of an obvious target than ever with so few other ships. I had heard others mention Captain Jonus along with two Defenders carrying Heavy Laser Cannons, and that may be a feasible list, but I don’t care to bring bombers in 100 point matches, especially with minimal points to equip them.

Still, my Defenders needed all the help they could get, so I had to find something that could both support them and give my opponents something to worry about, yet could survive on its’ own if the Defenders were ignored as being too tough for a first target. I ended up bringing a TIE Interceptor for my third ship, Carnor Jax to be precise, from the Imperial Aces expansion. Jax has a neat ability that strikes fear into a lot of opponents and causes them to second guess themselves a lot, he denies enemy ships within range 1 of his ship the ability to take focus or evade actions, or spend the matching tokens if they have them. Giving him Push the Limit allows for a Focus + Evade combo, and slapping on a Stealth Device modification on top of that makes him a truly tricky target, especially when he ensures that the enemy loses lots of Focus with his pilot ability. With a high pilot skill, he can dodge firing arcs and move his range 1 bubble as needed with a Boost + Barrel Roll combination if the situation requires it. And the points worked out perfectly to throw the Royal Guard TIE title on him and bring a Targeting Computer modification, which allowed for the deadly Focus + Target Lock combo if he was ignored for the turn.

DDI Jax [better name in progress]

Delta Squadron Pilot
Ion Cannon

Delta Squadron Pilot
Ion Cannon

Carnor Jax
Push the Limit
Targeting Computer
Royal Guard TIE
Stealth Device

My usual opening for this list is having the Defenders hold back for the first turn or two, using 1-bank maneuvers in alternating directions along with Barrel Roll actions into the turn and backwards in order to move much slower than it appears they would be able to. Meanwhile, Jax has an advantage of setting up long after the opponent has reacted to the PS 1 Delta pilots, and can easily maneuver for a flank with big movements and Barrel Roll / Boost actions. If the opponent commits to targeting Jax, I have him go fully evasive and only take shots on targets of opportunity, meanwhile the Defenders close in quickly, not being afraid to take range 3 shots with their Ion Cannons and then closing the gap on the next turn to deal the real damage. If the opponent goes after the Defenders instead, Jax goes on the offensive from a flank and closes in tight to deny focus/evade actions, and the Defenders can skirmish reasonably well once given that support. Against vulnerable targets, the Delta Squadron pilots would make use of primary weapons, but my Rebel lists have taught me to love disrupting my opponent’s formations and movement plans by handing out Ion tokens, especially to targets who would likely evade most incoming damage anyway such as stressed interceptors or support ships playing defensively (an evading Howlrunner or Biggs hiding behind an asteroid).

I also found that Defenders seem to benefit from approaching the enemy at an angle instead of going straight in. If your ship is turned 45 degrees away from a head-to-head course, following up with straight-5 maneuvers will carry you past the opponent, and at worst led me into a chase situation that the Defenders can later gain advantage in with the white K-turns. Taking a speed 3 banking turn back towards the opponent followed by a Barrel Roll into the turn takes you past them to set up for another run, and potentially out of firing arc even if the opponent turns to follow. At the same time, a speed 1 bank into the opponent can be just as effective as a speed 4 K-Turn in lining up on a ship ionized in the first round of fire, so there are plenty of options to keep your opponent guessing.

It’s a limited sample set, but in the three games I played in this tournament, this list managed to completely wipe out all three opponents, losing a single Defender in the third game.

Regardless of how you’re flying them, I feel that one of the keys to a successful Defender build is to make use of their unique dials. They don’t fly like any other ship in the game. K-Turns are not a desperation move, but a go-to that can become predictable. Try to keep your opponent guessing. Greens are rare on their dial, but reds are rarely needed; don’t be afraid to sprinkle them in anyway, a stressful hard turn to avoid a bad situation can be followed up with a 5 forward to clear stress and a 4 K-Turn to re-enter the fight. Your opponent will be hard pressed to follow such maneuvers, especially if they don’t see it coming. but make sure that you give yourself room to complete those movements before reaching the edge of the table, because hard turns are not your friend once you’re being pursued.

What are your thoughts on the TIE Defender? How do you use this ship? As always, your feedback is appreciated.

— The Tabletop General

6 thoughts on “The best Offen(der) is a good Defen(der)”

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