The new Tie Defender
Here's a preview of an article I was asked to write about the preview of the new Tie Defender. Expect to see this new ship coming to a galaxy near you soon.
Fantasy flight have released a preview of the new Tie Defender expansion for Xwing, and even at first glance it is obvious that this ship will be a game-changer. Not only does it feature a perfect balance of defence and offensive capabilities, it also has something entirely unique in the game: the ability to do a white K-Turn.
Since the dial is the most unique part of this ship, let’s start with a look at it. It is obviously heavily orientated towards speed – the ship shrugs off stress by powering ahead at any speed right up to 5, but has red stress arrows for slow hard turns.
As well as extremely fast, this does also mean the ship will be somewhat challenging to fly. Your opponent will soon learn that it is likely to frequently be moving fast, and that it will need to go in a straight line to shed stress. The actual speed is up to the player, but straight lines are always easier to predict and makes lining up target arcs easier.
Of course, first you have to actually have stress and since performing K Turns is the most common way pilots receive it, it’s quite possible Defenders can go entire games without ever becoming stressed and the value of the ability to leap over opponents, flip around 180’ and still perform actions before firing can’t be understated.
Nice and easy to remember. We’ve seen fighters with good amounts of hull and shields before, but chewing through 3 hull 3 shields on a ship with 3 evade dice is considerably harder than getting through 3 hull 5 shields on a B-Wing. For a quick comparison, this ship generally take one less shot to kill than the Firespray. Note that they don’t have Evade on their action bar, but even so this thing is going to take some serious dedicated firepower to bring down, which is just as well because of
Even the lowly Pilot Skill 1 Delta is 30 points, so no tournament list will have more than 3 defenders. Don’t expect to see a lot of Deltas though, because when a player stumps up this sort of points for ships it quickly becomes obvious that spending a few more on the named pilots is actually a good idea.
The Named Pilots
We have previews of two of them.
Colonel Vessery 35
His ability is like Fire Control Systems but in a way better because he can use it in the same turn that it is placed. The Target lock is gained immediately after rolling attack dice, which is before the reroll of attack dice that a target lock would allow.
However, this starts dictating a list to suit the pilot, since apart from the Defender itself only the Bomber Lambda and Firespray have target lock without paying for an upgrade.
The build this could be worth making such an effort for would be when Vessery is loaded with a missile. The pilot is required to spend Target Lock to fire, but in this case as soon as he has rolled his attack dice he acquires a new Target lock which he could use to twin link the shot he just fired. Expensive, but that would throw some serious damage down.
It’s a good ability, but in my opinion overshadowed by the great ability possessed by
Rexler Brath 37
The key to understanding the power of this ability is to realise that spending a focus token flips al the hit cards he has scored this turn face up. This means four things
 Firing at range 1, he could cause a maximum of 4 Critical hits on a target in a single turn.
 With a Heavy Laser Cannon, he could cause 4 hits at range 2-3, have the HLC rule change any crits into standard hits, and then use his ability to change all hits into crits. Yes that’s right up to 4 Crits at range 3 (it’s 44pts, but still worth considering).
 He can crit the wookie. Rexler is a counter to Chewies ability to ignore critical hits. Chewie “When you are dealt a faceup Damage card, immediately flip it facedown (without resolving its ability).” Rexler: “Flip those cards face up”.
 He can cause critical hits with Ion Cannons
The Defender’s ability to equip Icon Cannons (amongst a host of options) deserves special mention. Firstly, there is a pilot who can get all the benefits of ion drifting, and still cause crits. Secondly with the Defender’s white K-Turn it is child’s-play to k-turn behind an opponent, zap it with ion from a nice comfortable range, and just escort it off the board.
Previews of two new cards have also been released. Note that these are not restricted to the Defenders, and in fact there are a lot of ships that could benefit from them.
Outmanouvre is very similar to Wedge’s built in ability – it reduces the target’s agility and therefor the amount of dice it can roll in defence. It does require being out of the targets firing arc however, so isn’t simply point-and-click, and requires the target is inside your arc, so doesn’t necessarily suit ships with turrets.
You score bonus points for style if you equip Wedge with it to reduce Imperial Aces to rolling 1 defence dice.
In my opinion, in most cases the other card will be superior:
Predator is a really good ability which competes well with a lot of other similarly priced cards (especially for players who use things like Push the Limit to get the target lock to go with their evade that this card simulates -without causing stress).
For example, I sometimes take PTL on a YT-1300 in order to Focus and Target Lock, and then add Nien Numb to help shed that stress afterwards. This could be a good alternative – not quite as good as TL, but cheaper than that combo and with a similar effect without stress. Target Lock is better because it lets you reroll all the dice rather than just one or possibly two, but this creates a stronger combination with the Gunner crew card because you get to reroll one or two dice the first time you attack, and if the opponent dodges the hits you attack again and get your Predator rerolls again.
On the other hand, if you use PTL for actions like barrel rolls and boosts, Predator is less likely to be appealing.
Note that this card is also a conscious nudge towards higher PS pilots from FF, who are committed to balancing their games on an ongoing basis. Predator penalises swarms by working better against pilots with low skill –love it or hate it, it’s hard to say that doesn’t make perfect sense.
I’m looking forward to this expansion, both to play against the new ships and to use them.
Yes this might finally be the release that pulls me over to the Dark Side of the Force.