Guest Writer Neil Amswych Looks at an Ace TIE Phantom Pilot
|X-Wing | Published 19 June 2014|
Recently, we reviewed the contents of the TIE Phantom Expansion Pack, coming to X-Wing™ in the game’s fourth wave. This expansion introduces the new “cloak” action, which its two unique pilots will soon use to great advantage as they dart through battles in the most surprising of manners.
Today, guest writer Neil Amswych (“The Tusken Tactician”) takes a closer look at one of these pilots, “Echo,” and the ways that he may revolutionize how your games of X-Wing are fought and won.
Guest Writer Neil Amswych on “Echo”
Of all the pilots in X-Wing, few (if any) are more game-changing than “Echo.”
When any TIE phantom other than “Echo” decloaks, it does so to one of three possible locations. This means one of the phantom’s strengths is that, once it’s cloaked, it isn’t actually moving from the location where your opponent can see it on the table – it’s going to begin its maneuver from one of three different locations. Since the phantom has fifteen maneuvers on its dial, this means that when it decloaks and then moves, it can end up in any one of forty-five different locations. Impressive as that may be, “Echo” doubles that number. Because he uses the bank “2” template instead of the straight “2” template, he can decloak to any of six different locations, enabling him to end his maneuver at any of a dizzying array of ninety final possible locations.
Though variance exists in where his barrel roll starts and ends, “Echo” can fly from any of six relative positions when he decloaks before he reveals his maneuver dial.
X-Wing has never before seen a pilot capable of such maneuverability and probably never will again. In fact, “Echo” almost mandates an entirely different way of thinking when you plan to fly with or against him.
Flying with “Echo”
When he upgrades his phantom with an Advanced Cloaking Device, “Echo” can fire at an opponent and then take a free cloak action. Accordingly, he wants to avoid stress (because it would prevent him from recloaking), meaning that he usually wants to avoid his two Koiogran-turns. When “Echo” is stressed, he leaves himself vulnerable as a pilot with limited hull and shields and not fully enough agility to compensate.
However, the vast array of final positions available to “Echo” means that he doesn’t need to K-turn to rotate his ship.
So, if “Echo” wants so badly to avoid stress, how can he turn his ship?
For starters, if he carefully selects the start and end points of his barrel roll, he can combine his decloaking with a two-speed turn that results, effectively, in an angled K-turn that’s roughly half of the “1” speed template and incurs no stress, leaving him the ability to still take an action. It’s not a perfect K-turn, but the fact that “Echo” can choose which direction he faces actually offers him more flexibility than a basic K-turn.
“Echo” decloaks to position E and then turns left at speed “2,” shown with comparison with a fictional one-speed Koiogran-turn.
“Echo” isn’t just limited to smart turns, though. He can move laterally across the table without turning and with only a fractional forward movement, by decloaking backward and then banking forward at speed “1.” This shifts his ship the equivalent of a five-speed maneuver sideways – the equivalent of two range bands – from outside edge to outside edge. Such lateral movement, without any notable forward motion, can be extremely confusing for opposing pilots who are used to opposing ships coming toward them. So long as he has space at his flanks to perform this maneuver, “Echo” can move forward more slowly than any other ship.
“Echo” can move sideways across the table without the need for turning. Here, he follows a "2" bank maneuver with a barrel roll, and the total forward distance is far shorter than a straight “1.”
If you need “Echo” in another part of the battle, he can quickly disengage from his current dogfight and relocate by performing hard turns that complement the direction in which he decloaks. He can even end up behind his original position. Conversely, if you need “Echo” much further ahead of his current position, then he can decloak forward and fully engage his thrusters, traveling much farther forward than your opponent may have expected. Remarkably, the distance between the most diverse endpoints potentially available to “Echo” is essentially the equivalent of two entire range rulers.
Here, we see “Echo” with two of his potential decloak and maneuver options shown together.
The extreme range of decloak and maneuver options available to “Echo” is undoubtedly his greatest strength and enables his phantom to be the most unpredictable of all ships. It is this unpredictability that makes “Echo” so intimidating. Each round, when your opponent looks at “Echo,” he has to calculate up to ninety different possible end positions, and because the TIE phantom features such a potent primary weapon, he can’t just ignore “Echo” as he focuses on your other starfighters. The end result is that “Echo” messes with your opponent’s head in a way that no other pilot does.
Extreme maneuverability is not the only strength “Echo” brings to battle; he also offers extreme customizability. He can upgrade his ship with an elite pilot talent, a system upgrade, a crew member, and a modification. However, your modification should almost always be Advanced Cloaking Device, both in order to protect him from enemy fire and to ensure his decloak options continue to mystify your opponent. After that, how you choose to equip him should be driven by your decision whether to have him assume a more aggressive or defensive stance.
This setup removes one agility die from targets already trying to protect themselves from the four or five dice “Echo” gets with his shot (depending upon whether or not he ends up at Range “1” of his target). Then, it ensures an automatic target lock on his target, and if the original shot is made at Range “2,” his target will be stressed.
Such a setup boosts “Echo” from a pilot skill value of six to eight, allowing him to move after most other ships and ensuring that – with his Advanced Cloaking Device – he can cloak again before most ships fire back at him. He will also be able to convert one hit rolled against him to a focus result that can’t be rerolled, and he’ll be able to use one focus token in attack and another in defense.
Neither of these builds are cheap, though. Advanced Cloaking Device is as close to an auto-include on “Echo” as you’ll get with upgrades, so with it, the aggressive setup comes in at forty-one squad points while the defensive setup costs forty-two points. Adding eleven or twelve points of upgrades onto a ship that already costs thirty points may not be advisable, so you’re going to have to make some difficult choices. Because the phantom’s primary attack of four dice already makes it formidable in attack, one of the most likely builds for “Echo” leans toward a cheaper combination of natural offense and upgraded defense: Veteran Instincts, Recon Specialist, and Advanced Cloaking Device, costing a total of thirty-eight points.
Squad Designs with “Echo”
The release of Imperial Aces and the upcoming release of the TIE Phantom Expansion Pack go a long way toward ensuring that success is determined more by positioning than by build-strength alone. Three-ship builds with high pilot skills can pursue victory by moving last, darting out of firing arcs as much as possible, and firing early when it’s not possible to get out of opposing arcs.
Adrenaline Rush (1)
Recon Specialist (3)
Advanced Cloaking Device (4)
Royal Guard Pilot (22)
Push the Limit (3)
Royal Guard TIE (0)
Stealth Device (3)
Hull Upgrade (3)
Total Squad Points: 100
In this build, the Imperial player’s three pilot skill “6” ships are hyper-mobile and difficult to hit. “Echo” takes Adrenaline Rush to increase mobility by opening access to one Koiogran-turn without fear of stress.
Veteran Instincts (1)
Recon Specialist (3)
Advanced Cloaking Device (4)
Bounty Hunter (33)
Total Squad Points: 100
In this build, the use of Tactician on two ships allows for the possibility of damaging and double-stressing a target for “Echo” to then move in for a kill-shot the next turn.
Flying Against “Echo”
Even the most extraordinary pilots have weaknesses that others can exploit. In the case of “Echo,” the effectiveness of his maneuverability is significantly reduced by turret weapons. Forcing stress upon him with Tactician, Flechette Torpedoes, or Rebel Captive leaves him unable to cloak after firing and, therefore, extremely vulnerable to attack, as does the use of ships with higher pilot skills; they can fire on him before he can use his Advanced Cloaking Device.
Despite these vulnerabilities, though, as long as “Echo” has space to decloak with his curved barrel rolls, then he is unquestionably one of the most exciting pilots in the game. Flown well, “Echo” is truly terrifying, capable of destroying a host of lower pilot skill ships without taking any damage. Those who face this phantom should beware!
Much as the game’s second wave shook up the metagame with the introduction of its first large ships, the Millennium Falcon and Slave I, the game’s fourth wave is going to spur a wholesale reevaluation of tactics through the introduction of new ships, upgrades, and pilots (like “Echo”) that emphasize high pilot skill and tactical maneuvering. We’ve seen the beginning of this shift in the final matches of our Assault at Imdaar Alpha preview events, and we’ll see even more of it once Wave IV arrives at retailers everywhere late next week!
Will you make the transition to more ace pilots with high pilot skills? Will you tweak your squad and tactics to brace for the surprises your foes will launch against you? How will you adapt? Wave IV is coming!
X-Wing is a tactical ship-to-ship combat game in which players take control of powerful rebel X-wings and nimble Imperial TIE Fighters, facing them against each other in fast-paced space combat. Featuring stunningly detailed and painted miniatures, X-Wing recreates Star Wars’ exciting space battles. Select your crew, plan your maneuvers, and complete your mission!