Just like many other gaming nerds of my generation, I went through multiple joysticks playing the Star Wars computer games, especially “TIE Fighter”. There was just something about the fact that you were playing as an Imperial, traditionally portrayed as the evil faction in Star Wars. And it certainly didn’t hurt that I loved to fly the TIE Interceptor. A perfect combination of speed, firepower, and maneuverability, there were very few times where I’d rather be in anything other than an Interceptor (“X-Wing vs TIE Fighter” deathmatches were a notable exception where the Y-Wing was king of the scoreboard, but that’s another story). Matching the firepower of an X-Wing, with maneuverability on par with an A-Wing, the “Squint” could handle just about anything the Rebellion could throw at it.
So it’s little surprise that when I started playing Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures, the TIE Interceptor was my ship of choice. This worked out great for casual matches, but my relative inexperience with the game, combined the prevalence of omnidirectional turrets on the Millennium Falcon and Y-Wing, meant that the Interceptor represent itself well in my first forays into competitive events. The subsequent release of Imperial Aces brought the Interceptor back into the spotlight for a while, and introduced a few new tricks and pilots, but didn’t add much to make the ships more survivable (my whole problem with them to begin with: joystick > green dice). The Interceptor was fun, but it was missing something still.
Recently, I’ve had mixed success with my Cloaks and Dagger list, which pairs two TIE Phantoms with Carnor Jax in a TIE Interceptor. Carnor is a key piece to the list, but his survival isn’t linked to the success of the list. In fact, he tends to be the first to be taken out, as while I don’t depend on him for much damage, taking positional and defensive actions for the most part, his role in denying actions requires getting up close and personal with the enemy, and it tends to draw a lot of attention his way. The list performs fairly well, and I consider myself on-point with how I fly it, but it struggles against some of the top tier tournament lists in my area, so I keep falling short in competitions. An immediate upgrade after the release of Scum & Villainy was to swap out Carnor Jax’s Targeting Computer with a set of Autothrusters from the Starviper, but this still left the Phantoms relatively vulnerable, and they got slapped around pretty hard by the first scum lists they faced.
So I’ve gone back to plan A, and I’m pretty happy about it thus far.
Can’t Touch This
I chose to take a 1 point initiative bid over upgrading the RGP to Turr Phenirr (without Autothrusters), seeing it more important to choose initiative than upgrade from a PS6 to a PS7 with my tertiary pilot, and the odds of Turr’s ability being needed are slim to none. This is a “simple” build layout, in which all 3 Interceptors are equipped identically, and have a relatively high rate of survivability thanks to the combination of Autothrusters and Stealth Device, augmented just about every turn by Focus & Evade.
Jousting ships don’t worry me all that much with Interceptors, although fighting a swarm would be a little on the difficult side. But the big weakness of the Interceptors was that the arc dodging was ineffective against turrets – and now the Autothrusters make all the difference in the world in that regard.
As I see it, the key to running Autothruster Interceptors is to avoid the No-Fly-Zone that is Range 2. At Range 2, you might not be able to dodge out of firing arcs, and you’re only getting help from your Autothrusters against turrets facing away from you. But at Range 1, you should be able to Boost & Barrel Roll out of the way of anything that would be firing at you, and at range 3, you’re getting both the Autothrusters, and the bonus die against primary attacks. So if you find yourself there, recognize, respect, and get out of the No-Fly-Zone (Range 2, in enemy arc) as soon as possible.
So far this list is 5-0, having taken down a Focus-based Scum list (never fair with Carnor), an IG-2000 and Boba Fett tag team, an Oicunn / TIE list (hug that board edge against Oicunn!!!!), a Scum menagerie list, and a TIE Bomber (Concussion Missile & Proximity Mine) / Shuttle squad.
Even with the Autothruster / Stealth Device combo, dice go cold at the most inconvenient times, but it’s better than it was before. I’ve noticed that I have a tendency for my demeanor to cool off a bit once a few hits have been landed, and my piloting becomes much more deliberate and lethal, which pulled me back from the brink of defeat at least once last night. I’m interested to see how well this will perform at a higher level of competition. The big thing that worries me is a mechanic that deals automatic damage, like Feedback Array swarms (saw one of those this weekend in a Store Championship), or a Doomshuttle (Omicron Group Pilot + Vader, optional Gunner).
On the other hand, I’m considering adding that kind of a mechanic into my own list, as the Royal Guard Pilot swaps out for a Shuttle fairly easily.
I’m on the Leader
The list now clocks in at 100 points exactly. Soontir and Carnor are untouched. The Omicron Group Pilot only exists as a platform for Vader, I’m not at all worried about not being able to turn around and make a second pass easily. Ideally, the shuttle will deal 5-6 damage to crucial targets on the first couple of turns, and then limp away with a couple of health remaining while the Interceptors mop up. The idea is that the shuttle will slowly move into range, and take focus. On the first attack, if it would mean at least two damage goes through, spend the focus and then trigger Vader. Otherwise, let the attack miss, trigger Vader, get your Target Lock from Fire Control Systems, and use gunner for a second attack that is fully modified: Target Lock + Focus, and follow up with a second activation of Vader if necessary. The important thing here is that you hit something hard that would potentially cause issues for the Interceptors, like putting a couple of crits onto the hull of a Decimator, or finishing off TIE Whisper, something like that. Survival of the shuttle is near negligible, it’s a disposable tool to with which to punch the enemy’s champion in the mouth.
Time will tell which of the two lists will work better, but I’m comfortable rolling out either and trusting my piloting skills to keep myself in the match. As one of my opponents said at the start of the game yesterday, “Normally I would try to drag you through the asteroids but… you can fly.” I take that as the highest form of compliment.
– The Tabletop General