In my short time playing Imperial Assault, I’ve noticed a trend where list diversity rises with the release of a new expansion/figure and falls over the following months. Then, a new expansion comes out and the cycle begins again. This is nothing new when it comes to games with list-building mechanics. The calcification of and subsequent breaking of a meta is part of any collectible game.
That said, I believe that there is a still a great deal of room for creativity in calcified metas, particularly if you’re willing to try some strategies that other players believe will lose games. This has been my project since Worlds. I’ve been running through a set of Rebel figures, and exploring the value of those figures in context of the current meta. While not all of these figures have been winners, I’ve found a few gems – one of which was Jyn Odan, a hero that has made me rethink how I view the control aspect of Imperial Assault.
It's All About Utility
With the advent of Jabba’s Realm and Hunter command cards, there’s been a lot of focus on damage efficiency; i.e., how much damage potential does a figure have considering its cost. For instance, Vinto is extremely popular right now because he has a good dice pool and excellent surge abilities. Given his 5-point cost, the damage he can put out is among the best in the game.
Yet, since I started playing Imperial Assault, I’ve been interested in some of the harder to measure aspects of strength. What is the value of Speed 5 over Speed 4? How does the Stun condition affect an opponent’s offense and positioning? How much survivability does a figure have with an ability like Cunning? Obviously, I’m referencing Jyn with these inquiries. With that, let’s examine some of Jyn’s strengths and weaknesses.
Any player familiar with Imperial Assault will be able to point to Jyn’s basic stats as one of her weaknesses. At 5 points, Jyn only has 6 health and rolls two green dice when attacking. Clearly, this isn’t in line with some of her contemporaries. For instance, Hera Syndulla costs 4 points, has 7 health, and has a three-dice attack. Similarly, Vinto Hreeda costs 5, has 8 health, and gets to attack twice per turn for a single action (gets to essentially roll four attack dice, but the defender rolls defense dice twice).
Now, arguably these differences are small, but remember that wins and losses in Imperial Assault are often dictated on very thin margins – e.g., 1 additional point of health may result in surviving an attack and then going on to remove a different figure, which in turn saves another one of your figures, and so on. At 6 health, not only is Jyn within range of being removed in a single attack from more expensive figures like Captain Terro and Shyla, but even Elite Weequay Pirates or Elite Jet Troopers may be able to remove her in a single activation.
Jyn's two-dice attack is also a bit lackluster, in that she often won't remove figures of a similar cost. Her best roll in terms of damage, which I would measure at a total of 5 (3 damage, 1 surge), won't remove Vinto, an Elite Jet Trooper, an Elite Weequay, or an Elite Gammorean Guard. All of these figures have a similar cost to Jyn, and all have the ability to remove Jyn in a single attack with their best rolls (6 damage or more). For her cost, she should be able to trade better with similarly costed figures.
Now, it's no surprise that Jyn doesn't quite hold up against the figures I've mentioned. The power level of Imperial Assault units has generally increased over time, and Jyn was included in the core set. Yet, despite her lackluster stats, Jyn Odan still has a lot to offer.
Before going into the aspects of Jyn that I love, I want to recognize that Hair Trigger and Cunning both alter Jyn's offense and defense to her benefit. Undoubtedly, these are powerful abilities, even if they are a bit unreliable.
Yet, for all the time I spend poring over damage potential and survivability, I often overlook some of the finer strategies in the game. And, given that Jyn's biggest strength is her ability to stun two units per round with correct positioning, she falls into the category of characters with a strength that is difficult to measure. On top of that, she requires practice, as the execution of this plan requires more finesse than simply spending an action to perform two attacks.
One can't deny the power of Jyn's surges. 2 accuracy and 2 damage is an incredible value - extending Jyn's range and damage at the cost of a single result, allowing her dice to go further than an opponent expects. However, the real star of the show is Jyn's ability to surge for pierce 1 and stun. Stun is an incredibly underrated ability in Imperial Assault, considering that when utilized correctly, it can negate an attack by a melee unit (and even a ranged unit if the positioning is correct). Thus, while Jyn may not trade evenly when comparing dice and health, she has the benefit of temporarily removing a threat from the board for an activation. Probably two threats if positioned correctly.
For instance, in one game, I was able to stun my opponent's Shyla from across the map. Even in the moment, it took me a full round of activations to realize the ramifications of action - 8 of my opponent's points were locked down for an entire round. Can you imagine if your opponent was only allowed to bring a 32-point army and you a 40-point army (I had to use Jyn to stun, so maybe the correct number is 35, but you get my point)? On top of that, imagine my joy when I realized that I would be able to do it again.
Or, in another game, I moved Jyn to stun one Gammorrean and then stunned the other using Hair Trigger. Typically, the problem with Gammoreans is that you need to try to kill them before they get to your forces, which is often difficult given how survivable they are. After being stunned, the Gammoreans were easy targets for Jedi Luke and Obi-Wan, and my opponent got essentially no value out of them. In both of these situations, my opponents had very little recourse against a tactic that they had little experience dealing with.
A little help from my friends
One problem with Jyn is that on her own, she is a bit underwhelming. This lead me to do a lot of thinking about what kind of list can accommodate her unique abilities. What I found, was that there's actually a really fun archetype that is rarely played - Rebel Smugglers. It looks like this:
Jedi Luke Skywalker - 12 points
Obi-Wan Kenobi - 7 points
Lando Calrissian - 6 points
Jyn Odan - 5 points
Hera Syndulla - 4 points
Gideon Argus - 3 points
C-3P0 - 2 points
On a Diplomatic Mission - 1 point
Heroic Effort - 0 points
I took this list to a Store Championship this past month and left with a 3-1 record. Originally put together as a fun Heroic Effort novelty list, I found it actually achieved a nice balance of damage and control. Obi-Wan and Luke served as the damage dealers, punishing any unit that ended up out of position. In the interim, Jyn and Lando were on control duty, stunning enemy units that dared get too close to an objective or one of my units. Hera provided a ton of value to this list because Obi-Wan, Jyn, and Lando all have excellent surge abilities. And of course, Gideon and C-3P0 handed out focus tokens (not to mention 3P0's synergy with Jyn's Cunning ability).
On top of the excellent synergy this list has, I want to at least briefly mention that Smugglers came out of Jabba's Realm with some excellent Command cards (maybe not as good as Hunters, but still good). Cards like On the Lam and Tools for the Job (not just for Hunters!) were excellent draws along with character specific cards like One in a Million and Son of Skywalker.
One of the reasons I love Imperial Assault is that I feel like I'm always learning. There's always room for experimentation. Jyn Odan has been a figure that has expanded how I view strategy in this game - in that there's a lot more to positioning and control than most list discussion threads would lead readers to believe. Try Jyn, have fun, feel free to comment! Thanks for reading!
Update - 6/21/2017
A few readers have asked for a Command deck for the list, so here it is:
Son of Skywalker - 3 points
On the Lam - 3 points
Tools for the Job - 2 points
Run for Cover - 2 points
One in a Million - 2 points
Brace for Impact - 1 point
Cheat to Win - 1 point
Stealth Tactics - 1 point
Element of Surprise - 0 points
Fleet Footed - 0 points
Force Rush - 0 points
I Can Feel It - 0 points
Positioning Advantage - 0 points
Take Initiative - 0 points
Urgency - 0 points