Dancing with Deathrain

Even though I’ve put my TIE Interceptors on the shelf for a little while, my favored playstyle in Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures is a game of re-positioning. In general, I like to attack the enemy from unexpected angles, adding in a touch of action denial and lots of burst damage to be able to quickly take down a key component of the enemy’s force.

I ran a tournament last night, and I only play in those to prevent a player from missing out on a match during a bye round (I select a player for the bye and grant it to them as normal for scoring, but they still get to play a game). Knowing my game results wouldn’t count for anything, I decided to field a ringer list that would attempt to match my normal play style in an untested way.

“Dancing with Deathrain”

Whisper – 32 (TIE Phantom)
Recon Specialist – 3 (HWK-290 / TIE Phantom)
Sensor Jammer – 4 (Lambda Shuttle)
Veteran Instincts -1 (Slave 1 /  Millennium Falcon)
Advanced Cloaking Device – 4 (TIE Phantom)

Deathrain – 26 (TIE Punisher)
Advanced Sensors – 3 (Lambda / E-Wing)
Proton Bombs – 5 (TIE Bomber / VT-49 Decimator)
Proximity Mines – 3 (Slave 1 / IG-2000)
Extra Munitions – 2 (K-Wing / TIE Punisher)

Dark Curse – 16 (Starter set)

Total: 99 points

A large part of this list was a personal challenge to myself to put the TIE Punisher on the table. Unlike the rest of Wave 7 (including the Kihraxz Fighter, Hound’s Tooth, and K-Wing), the sturdy big brother to the TIE Bomber had yet to find its’ way into any list I was willing to field. Despite the impressive total of nine hit points, with only one evade die the Punisher can’t take serious beating. Without firing ordnance, the Punisher is just a fat, poorly maneuvering TIE Fighter, thanks to its’ primary attack value of 2 and awkward dial (no speed 1 turn, speed 2 turn is red, speed 3 turn is white). But loading the ship up with munitions to improve damage output turns it into a real point sink – it’s possible to spend 66 points on Deathrain, as opposed to the 39 allocated to his ship in this list.

Dark Curse is always a pesky target to hit, and often ignored as a result. With under 20 points to spend in an Imperial list, he’s my usual pilot of choice.

Whisper, in the TIE Phantom, is fully loaded and ready for combat. I feel safe lately bringing the Phantom back to the table simply because it isn’t seen as often anymore, so less of the hard counters are seen. Don’t get me wrong, the prevalence of stress in the current game meta still hurts, and a pilot skill 10 Corran Horn in an E-Wing or a pilot skill 11 Darth Vader in a TIE Advanced will still be a major problem, but lately I’m seeing less and less of the Rebel Captive that prevents a TIE Phantom from re-cloaking with Advanced Cloaking Device before taking return fire.  Twin Laser Turrets are an issue, but hopefully one that is somewhat mitigated by the Sensor Jammer I have equipped, along with careful maneuvering of the Phantom.

What Deathrain brings to the table in this build is, ironically enough, a similar element of slipperiness to what the TIE Phantom once had prior to change in timing for decloaking maneuvers. I’ve recently come to love what Advanced Sensors and a Boost action can do for IG-2000, allowing you to adjust a planned maneuver before executing it. Advanced Sensors and Deathrain’s pilot ability allows you to drop a mine or bomb token and Barrel Roll before your maneuver, giving a similar adjustment ability.  Combining those together allowing you to string together some wicked combinations. Like what, you ask? (You did ask that, right? I’m just going to say you did…)

Let’s say Deathrain is matched up against BBBBZ, 4 B-Wings and a Z-95. Lots of firepower, low pilot skills, BBBBZ hunts down higher pilot skill aces by spreading firing arcs and by attempting to block their likely maneuvers to deny actions. On this particular turn, the enemy lays a trap that would normally do an excellent job of pinning in a TIE Punisher.

 

BBBBZ Trap
Victims 1-5 set our scene, having already moved this turn in an attempt to block Deathrain in.

A very effective trap is set in the photo above. Deathrain will collide with someone if he dialed in a 1 forward or bank right, either speed 2 turn, a 3 forward, or a speed 4 Koiogran turn, and every one of those leaves him in one or more firing arcs. The unblocked options are speed 3 bank and turn maneuvers,  a speed 2 straight, or a 1 bank to the left. Each of these allow the Punisher to complete the maneuver and possibly get off a shot, but no boost action will allow him to both escape all firing arcs and get a shot at the enemy this turn, and only the 3 turn to the left followed by a boost allows the full no-shot escape.

The bad news is that Deathrain selected a 4-K maneuver this turn, which we already said was blocked. So that would normally leave him stressed, taking a range 1 and a range 2 shot from the enemy this turn, and getting no shot of his own. So why did I label the ships as “Victim 1-5”, rather than labeling the B-Wings and the Z-95 Headhunter? Because Deathrain is going to hit every one of these Victims without taking any return fire this turn.

Deathrain Bomb Options
Deathrain can drop his bombs from the rear as normal, or from the front of his ship.

With options to drop his bomb out the front or the rear, Deathrain has a decision to make. Dropping his bomb from the rear will only hit Victim 1, as illustrated above. The front would catch 1, 2, 4, and 5, but could be a bad place to drop the bomb, as completing the TIE Punisher’s maneuver could potentially bring him within range of the bomb. This is mitigated somewhat by his ability to perform a free Barrel Roll maneuver after dropping a bomb, but it’s not guaranteed to be safe.

Deathrain 4K locations
Deathrain can choose to Barrel Roll to either side after dropping a bomb and before completing his maneuver, giving him 3 potential final locations (plus wiggle room on the roll).

Even without the imminent collision from this scenario, performing the 4K in place leaves Deathrain in range of his own bomb. Rolling to his left, dodging Victim 1 requires him to slide backwards, which results in still being in range. Sliding forward and to his right, however, Deathrain can escape the blast radius of the bomb, leaving him with only shots from Victim 2 and Victim 4 to deal with (Victim 3 might have a shot too, if the Barrel Roll wasn’t far enough forward). So that maximizes damage dealt, but still leaves us open to return fire.

Let’s look at another plan. Remember when I said the speed 1 bank to the left was still open? Well, Deathrain didn’t pick that maneuver, but he still has it available via an Advanced Sensors Boost action.

Deathrain Bomb After Boost
After Boosting with Advanced Sensors, Deathrain has new options for where to drop his bomb.

It’s important to note here that you can not drop a Bomb token first, then follow that with an Advanced Sensors action – Advanced Sensors are activated before a maneuver dial is revealed, and bombs are dropped when the dial is revealed. So after Boosting with Advanced Sensors, Deathrain has to pick a new spot for his bomb token, if he’s going to drop it. But as you can see, with a banked Boost, your bomb ends up slightly in front of your previous position, and it probably goes without saying that a straight boost would leave the bomb precisely where your ship started the turn.

Since the rear location will hit more ships, we’ll have Deathrain drop it there (conveniently, it still catches Victim 4, as seen above), and then Barrel Roll left to make sure he’s out of Victim 2’s firing arc. Completing the Koiogran turn, our protagonist is now out of any danger of being fired at, and has a range 1 shot at Victim 3.

So let’s review:
Victim 1 – Hit by Proton Bomb
Victim 2 – Hit by Proton Bomb
Victim 3 – Range 1 shot
Victim 4 – Hit by Proton Bomb
Victim 5 – Hit by Proton Bomb

Since I didn’t identify them, there’s an 80% chance that Victim 3 is a B-Wing with one evade die, 20% chance of a Z-95 with two. Three attack dice at range 1 results in 1.5 hits on average, and even with a Focus available, the more nimble Z-95 cancels 1.25 on average, so I’m calling that a hit too. 4 Critical Hits that ignore shields on top of a 3 die attack is nothing to scoff at!

As you probably guessed, I created this perfect storm scenario in reverse, finding a way to make it possible. But in just a handful of games, I certainly saw flashes of potential in the Punisher, and the tricks I outlined here were all used, just not in such a succinct manner. The TIE Punisher may not see competitive play often, but it’s surprisingly enjoyable when just playing for fun.

– The Tabletop General.