In my most recent post, I wrote about using my list Fel’s Defenders to great effect in a tournament. Defenders are ships that don’t get a lot of love, so I thought I’d do some writing about the experience of using them and why I think they’re valuable ships.
First off, let’s get the criticisms out in the open. The hard 1 and 2 turns are both red, so if you need to turn sharply, you’re collecting stress. Stress and these ships do not get along; their only green maneuvers are straight (but they are green from 2 right up to 5, so I got that going for me, which is nice). 30 points for a PS1 ship seems bonkers. Both the elite pilots have cool abilities, but they’re both super situational. Rexlar’s ability, though a lot of fun, would actually be better on a lower PS ship since you want to be shooting after the shields have already been stripped. Besides that, Rexlar needs something to give him a dice modifier, so that he can keep his focus for his ability, and this means putting more points into an already expensive ship. And really, the white 4-k is nice, but people can predict that pretty hard (I refer to it lovingly as “The Defender Special” because it’s so popular). Frankly, for 1 point more, you can turn your PS3 Defender into a PS3 Bounty hunter with 4 more total health and a rear firing arc, at the cost of one agility. The same argument could be made for the elite versions and flipping them into the elite Firesprays. The Defender seems to be a ship caught in point-limbo.
So all that being said, the Defender is a solid ship and I don’t think it should be in point-limbo. I’m personally a fan of the naked 32 point PS3 Onyx Squadron Pilot.
There are a couple things to remember about flying Defenders, and I do mean in terms of maneuvering: It is a jouster. It is a jouster, it is a jouster. You can NOT fly a Defender like you would an Interceptor, or even a TIE fighter. Standard TIEs are quite maneuverable and can do just fine in a furball, despite that we tend to think of them as jousters (which they are very well when massed). But frankly, that didn’t slow me down at the tournament. If you need to change angles, you need to stick to banking (soft turns), or go right up and do the hard 3. Actually, if you need to do a hard 1 or 2, chances are pretty good that you could accomplish the same thing with the 4-k, or a 1 bank and barrel roll. The 4-k is still your best friend when flying the Defender. Yes, everyone knows it’s coming, and yes they will try to block it. So, don’t do it when they can block you, but abuse the crap out of it when they can’t. I played a game at league a month ago with this same list, and I ended up just k-turning over B-wings over and over again. They only got shots on me every 2-3 rounds because they would need to flip and then do a green before they could flip again. It can also work as sort of a fencing maneuver. I don’t mean with swords. If you have two enemy ships right in close with you, doing the 4-k can cause your opponent to try to get one of those ships out of the furball (especially something like an Interceptor or Phantom), which gives you at least one round’s reprieve, if not two. In that time you can focus on knocking out the other ship.
The Firespray really is the natural comparison point for the Defender in terms of cost. One reason why I really like the Defender is that you can actually fit a pair of them in beside Super Fel, but you couldn’t do that with Firesprays. That 1 point cost difference is actually a big deal, and gave me a 99 point initiative bid to boot. That doesn’t mean the Defender is a great addition to any list, but it’s something to bear in mind. Additionally, I’ve come to appreciate the white 4-k OVER the firespray’s rear arc. The truth is, I don’t like using the rear arc on the firespray. It sounds like it should be fantastic, and it does come in handy sometimes, but most of the time it isn’t that hard for enemies to get into the flank where you can’t shoot him anyway. If I’m shooting out the rear arc, my ship is pointed the wrong way and I’m going to have to either do a k-turn anyway (where the Defender’s advantage becomes immediately apparent), or do a couple hard turns, where again I’ll be exposing my big juicy flank. The other thing that I’ve found, and this is maybe a little weird and specific to certain people playing, is that people are far more likely to focus fire on a Firespray than they are on a Defender. A Firespray has 10 health, which is huge any way you cut it, and there’s kind of this common knowledge that you have to focus fire on the big guys early, because if you wait till the later game you may not have enough firepower to bring it down. Also, the Defender has 3 agility against the Firespray’s 2 agility, and in my experience shooting at something with 3 agility is kind of like “ugh, do I have to?” whereas shooting at something with only 2 agility is kind of no big deal. The again, I’m usually using ships with 3 attack dice, so that may be the difference for me. At any rate, I’ve found that when I use a firespray, people tend to focus on it because it’s big and is kind of obvious about needing to be grouped up on. Defenders have a similar amount of effective health, but tend to be more ignored.
In terms of actions, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a ship so happy to take Focus. Having 3 attack and 3 defense means that you’re happy to have the token for either, unlike in say an X-wing or TIE fighter, where you really want it for one or the other. I found I used barrel-roll very little, because I really wanted to make my dice count. It’s still there if you really need to dodge an arc or rock, or drop into range 1, but I didn’t find myself using it nearly as often as I would with, say, TIE fighters. Target Locks are there stock too, so Defenders become very useful if your opponent is fielding Carnor Jax or Palob the Token Thief.
Anyway, those are my ramblings about the Defender. I hope some of this was useful to you. I suspect we’ll see something for the Defender in a future release, since it is a drastically under-represented ship in the meta, but I don’t think it’s too shabby.