The World Championships (Worlds) is roughly one month away, so I thought it would be useful to recount the list-building process that I've undergone since I started playing Imperial Assault in January 2017. I wrote an article when I first started the blog, detailing the list I brought to the Minnesota Regional Championships (Regionals), and I'd like to do the same for the upcoming World Championships by reflecting on some of the things I've learned over the past few months.
For reference, I first got interested in Imperial Assault in November 2016. I had been playing the X-Wing Miniatures game for about a year prior to that, but I never got into the competitive scene. As such, I certainly didn't anticipate getting into Imperial Assault in a competitive way. However, occasionally life has a way of presenting an opportunity to you through circumstance - in a single month, a local player reached out to me and taught me the ropes and a group started playing on Thursday nights. Combined with my interest in writing this blog, I have spent a significant amount of time playing competitive skirmish Imperial Assault over the past few months. That doesn't make me an expert, but I certainly have some experience at this point.
Which brings me to the list I've decided to bring to Worlds this year:
2 Elite Jet Troopers - 14 Points
2 Elite Heavy Troopers - 16 Points
Captain Terro - 7 Points
Imperial Officer - 2 Points
Zillo Technique - 1 Point (read about Zillo in my other article)
Much like my last article, I want to address each deployment card, discussing its strengths and weaknesses. Let's begin!
Elite Jet Troopers
I believe that Jet Troopers are the best figure in the Imperial faction, and possibly the best deployment card in the game for its cost. For 7 Points, you get two figures, 14 health, and three-dice attacks (with a relatively easy to trigger condition). There are very few deployment cards in the game that provide that combination of health and attack for a 3.5 points per figure. Combine that with Mobile, Agile, and a surge for +2 damage, and these guys (or gals) are a menace on the board. The addition of Jabba's Palace in the map rotation has only further increased their strength.
However, they aren't without their weaknesses. Certainly, it is quite likely that a Weequay or Vinto with Assassinate could remove a full health Jet Trooper in a single shot. Moreover, the requirement that they be within 2 spaces to activate Fly-By can force you to choose between holding an objective or performing a three-dice attack. Finally, because they essentially only have a single surge ability when utilizing Fly-By, their three-dice attack can be extremely lackluster as every surge beyond the first is essentially a blank.
In this list, they essentially serve as a the primary method of removing enemy units. Unlike the Heavies or Terro, being able to reliably perform two, three-dice attacks on a single unit make it very likely that I'll be able to remove that unit that same turn - whether it's by the Jets themselves or with a follow up attack from a group of Heavy Troopers.
Although not part of my Regionals list, Captain Terro has been on my radar since the release of Jabba's Realm. Now, I have received a decent amount of pushback regarding Terro and whether he's more valuable than the Dewback Rider. I admit that for 2 points, the baseline stat increases are minimal - only 4 additional health and 1 additional speed. However, I believe Terro's true benefit comes from his access to Flamethrower - an area of effect action that deals 1 damage, 1 strain, and applies the Weaken condition.
This ability changes Terro from another three-dice figure into a distruptor on the board. If your opponent isn't careful, he can move into a group of enemy figures, deal a lot of damage, burn a lot of Command cards (or deal more damage) and Weaken those units through their next activation. And, in my experience, Imperial Assault players do not respect Weaken enough, especially when it's on three, four, or five figures. Vinto, for instance, almost does nothing when stuck with the Weaken condition, as two, 2-dice attacks don't provide much value without his surges. It's crippling to many lists, and if Terro lives to his next activation, another set of figures will be weakened again.
Now, the beauty is that you don't need to play him in that style at all. He's perfectly capable of moving and throwing a respectable three-dice attack to remove a problem figure from the board. He has great movement, so he can also threaten objectives across the map. For 7 points, I think he more than justifies his cost with the wide variety of utility he provides.
Elite Heavy Troopers
What do you pair with Jet Troopers in an Imperial list? A big problem with the Jets is that they are removed too easily if there's no other threat - which is an issue since the Jets represent a significant portion of my offense. For a while I tried Snowtroopers, as healing damage off of multiple units feels great for me and demoralizes an opponent. However, their low health and overall lack of offensive power (if they're healing, they aren't attacking), made them lackluster. My opponents basically had license to ignore them and I wasn't really getting much value from them. I also considered Elite Storm Troopers, but with Rancors and Jedi Luke popular choices in my local meta, I feared that a set of 5 health troopers may not be the best choice. So what's left?
I was a Heavy Trooper skeptic for my first months of playing Imperial Assault. Of course I recognized that their survivability was impressive when compared to many of their generic deployment group brethren, but I wasn't sold on one set of 3-Speed units, let alone two. I wouldn't get much value out of these survivable units if they lag behind the rest of my list.
That's still true - however, the more I've played, the more I've begun to examine the value of patience in Imperial Assault. When I started, I played against a lot of lists that ran Devious Scheme. And, like many players, I often found that in those games, I was falling behind at the beginning of turn two as my opponent would activate a set of units and promptly remove one of my units, reducing my offense. So after a while, I decided to significantly slow down my play against Devious players - if they want to activate first on turn two, they can be my guest, but I'm not going to make it easy to engage me. I'll sit back, let them come to me, and then we can start trading blows. Of course, objectives ensure that you can't sit back forever, but I've found you actually have more breathing room than you think against most opponents in this regard.
Which brings me why I find Heavy Troopers to be good companions to Jet Troopers. As I noted earlier, the Jet Troopers are the damage dealers of this list, so they need to be paired with something that is a credible threat in one way or another. The Heavy Troopers offer a lot on this front. Let's start with the obvious - with 8 health per figure and a two-dice attack that includes a red die, they can reliably receive and dish out damage. They don't hit with the same force as the Jets, but generally can push 2 or 3 damage against an average defense roll. In a similar vain, they can survive two or three average attack rolls by your opponent, which across four figures ends up being quite a bit of soaking power.
While their attack and health are impressive, their real ability is to force an opponent to attack them - which again is what I'm going for when it comes to protecting my Jet Troopers. This occurs in a few ways. First, Blast 2 is an amazing way to create a greater threat than actually exists. Players running low health Hunters or rangers are not looking to incur 2 damage on two or three units, so many feel compelled to intercept a Heavy before it gets a chance to surge for its Blast ability. Now, the likelihood of getting to activate a surge ability on a Heavy Trooper is quite low, but still sufficient to make an opponent think twice about ignoring them. Their other advantage is their ability to hold control points. Heavy Troopers are happy to stay put and not move. And, as discussed earlier, if they are on a control point (one or two of them), it is a pain to get them off. Often, I'm all too happy to let my opponent pour a couple activations into a few Heavy Troopers on a control point, especially if that allows me to remove a few of my opponent's power units with my Jet Troopers. It's all about staying power and the Heavy Troopers have it in spades.
If there's an Imperial support card, I've ran it - Vader's Finest, Targeting Computers, Cross Training - after trying these, I've come around to why most players utilize the Officer over these options. First, an extra activation is always a welcome addition to a squad. Taking a soft pass during turn one is extremely advantageous for any list. In addition to that, the Officer provides a good way to obtain extra Command Cards by sitting on a terminal. Lists that lack a cheap support unit generally have to commit an offensively valuable unit to holding a terminal for the extra Command Cards. While this can generally be played around, it's nice to know that I'll be getting that extra card without worrying about one of my valuable units having to sit on a terminal. And finally, providing free movement is always useful, especially during the first few turns where a few extra movement points can net you an objective or allow you to open a door.
I'd love to hear what people think of the list. I've been practicing this style of list for a while and I'm excited to continue to see how it does leading up to Worlds. Oh yeah, and the name of my list is supposed to be sung to the tune of Benny and the Jets.