Piloting for the Dark Side
You might be Vader choke bait, but being a Star Destroyer Commander is a critically important job.
Last week, we examined some nifty Light Side Starfighter Pilots. This week, the Dark Side gets to show off with some Pilots of its own. The A New Hope expansion gives Dark Side players two Starfighter Pilots, two Capital Ship Pilots and a Transport Pilot for their Space combat needs. As you learned last week, I like to focus my decks, so this week let's look at building a deck based around the Dark Side Capital Ship Pilots.
Capital Ships are slow. They need a speed boost above any other amenity. The Imperial Navy Helmsman gives a Capital Ship +20 speed. That can easily get a Capital Ship a 40 speed and even a 50 on a few of the ships.
The Imperial Star Destroyer is probably the best unit to put the Helmsman on. That would give it 50 speed, which is a hair faster than the average Light Side Starfighter! The improved speed isn't worth anything when the Capital Ship is on Bombard duty, so once Space has been cleared, the Helmsman should move back to Character. His 3 power and 4 health means he can actually do some good in Character… as long as he's not facing off against a Jedi.
Capital Ships roll a lot of dice, but none of them have the Critical Hit ability. The Star Destroyer Commander fills that void, granting Critical Hit 2 to the ship he commands. The average Capital Ship rolls seven attack dice, so the odds of rolling a natural six are quite favorable. This guy is like icing on a cake! His ability also applies to Bombard, so he pulls double duty aboard most Dark Side Capital Ships.
The best unit for the Commander to Pilot is also the Imperial Star Destroyer. The Critical Hit 2 will happen constantly when rolling seven dice and occasionally when Bombarding with three dice.
Dark Side Capital Ships have one big advantage over the Light Side Capital Ships: The frequency of ships with Bombard. While there are four Dark Side ships with Bombard, the Light Side only has one. Those goody-goody types must have an aversion to indiscriminate planetary bombing. Since this is a Dark Side Capital Ship Pilot themed deck, using Bombard is almost unavoidable. Who'd want to avoid it when it's so versatile and easy to use!
The trick with this deck will be to manage build costs. Capital Ships are expensive and their Pilots each cost four build. Spending all that for the conquest of Space could leave the deck very vulnerable in the other two arenas. Let's see what sort of deck we can put together with this in mind…
Characters: (12) 2 Imperial Navy Helmsman
3 Star Destroyer Commander
The Helmsman will work very well for dominating Space early through speed. The Commander will be useful in Space full time, so that's why I added more Commanders than Helmsmen. Since it's unlikely that the deck will ever field more than 2 Capital Ships at a time, there isn't any need for more Pilots. Besides, the Capital Ships can survive a long time, so Pilots will (hopefully) rarely be knocked out in Space. 2 Death Star Superlaser Gunner
These guys are inexpensive and can really help the Bombard campaign blast those Ground-pounders into oblivion. We don't need more than two as we don't need them early in the game. 1 Darth Vader (A)
1 Darth Vader (B)
2 Darth Vader (C)
The A and C versions have Intercept, which is key to keeping the Gunners and Pilots alive in Character. I included only one copy of Vader (A) as I need to keep costs down. 1 General Tagge (A)
When you know you'll be spending your Force for Intercepting, this guy can help the Capital Ships and watch Vader's back. The good General's ability will sometimes make your opponent think twice about attacking him!
Space: (15) 4 Imperial Star Destroyer
This is the flagship of the fleet and the best place to put a Pilot. Though it's expensive, you can count on it to be around turn after turn as a threat to the Light Side Space and Ground. 3 Victory-Class Star Destroyer
V is for Victory, but it's also for Value and Versatility. This is a good low cost Space superiority ship. Its good stats and low cost makes it ideal for a mid-game reinforcement when the build points are hard to come by. 2 Trade Federation Battleship
With four dice of Bombard, this is the workhorse of the Dark Side fleet. When the Light Side sees their chances in Space dwindling, they'll be gunning for this unit, so don't put a Star Destroyer Commander on it until Space has been cleared. 4 TIE Fighter DS-61-9
2 TIE Fighter DS-73-3
These inexpensive Interceptor units are here to run interference for the Capital Ships, hopefully long enough for the big guns to get to attack.
Ground: (14) 4 Stormtrooper Assault Team
4 Death Star Guard Squad
Here's where some of that build cost managing I mentioned rears its ugly head. These are some pretty wimpy, inexpensive units. But that's the point. Your opponent will think the same thing and stick around to battle them, only to be clobbered by Bombard. If the Light Side does retreat from Ground, then these little guys will hold the land just fine, so why spend more than you have to? 2 Jawa Sandcrawler
4 Super Battle Droid Squad
Of course, sometimes the Ground arena needs to hold out a turn or two before the Bombard campaign can commence. That's why these hard to kill units found their way into the deck. The Sandcrawler will be a big help if your hand gets choked with too many high cost Capital Ships mid-game.
Battle: (13)4 Pilot's Dodge
2 Trade Federation Offensive
2 Well-Aimed Shot
1 Blaster Barrage
This deck doesn't use that much Force as the Capital Ships can often hold their own even without the Interceptors, so the deck can use some of the more expensive, but versatile, Battle cards. A good combination of offensive and defensive cards will keep you prepared for any eventuality. Of special note is Well-Aimed Shot as it can be used for direct attack in Space or Bombard.
Mission: (6) 3 Starship Refit
A key card for keeping those Capital Ships in fighting shape. The Interceptors can keep the Capital ships alive long enough for this Mission to erase all the hard work and sacrifice of the Light Side Starfighters. 3 Departure Time
Once Space has been definitively taken, there isn't any need to keep the Interceptors around, so scrapping them for some extra build is always a good deal. Also useful for scrapping the Gunners if you don't have any Bombard units left. But let's hope that never happens!Strategy Advice
This deck must conquer Space early on to have a chance at victory. All of those Bombard units will gain the immediate attention of the Light Side player, so don't be afraid to overload Space with 'em. You can then drop a cheap Ground unit, a Pilot or two, then sit back and let the might of your Space fleet do the talking. The Helmsman and Commander will swing the balance in your favor when six Light Side Starfighters show up.
Since this deck hopes to win in Space and Ground, you will need to always make sure that you have adequate units in Ground to at least hold on. The Light Side may keep coming back into Space to divert the attention of the Bombard units, but don't be afraid to throw some dice Ground-wards if it'll help your units stay alive there.
A late game ace in the hole is the Death Star Superlaser Gunner. If everything has gone according to plan, your opponent will likely be out of Space, still fighting it out in Ground, and holding Character. Deploying a lonely Gunner against a stacked Mace Windu or Luke Skywalker is surely the move of a madman! However, since the Gunner taps for his ability during the Build step, he will give the Bombard units the +2 bonus even though he may never return from duty. Hopefully his sacrifice will be enough to clear the Ground and bring the victory home!
Next week: A deck based around the new Intercept ability…