Academy Pilot

David Yun David Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2017-08-29 00:34:34

Academy Pilot: 12 points, PS 1 (v1.0 W11)


The Academy Pilot is elegance incarnate. It costs a trifling 12 points, and does not require nor desire any upgrades. In the bygone days of X-Wing, when the the game was about dogfighting with 80 degree firing arcs, you simply could not find a better pound for pound value.

Prior to the litany of passive and unblockable effects we have today (Combombo-Wing), blocking mattered. The Academy Pilot's blocking prowess was unrivaled. Anytime you had an Imperial squad with 12 points to spare, the answer was invariably to top it off with an Academy Pilot. (The sole exception being the double TIE Phantom squad.) Today, you're better off finding 12 points of upgrades for your core vessels.

However, spamming the Academy Pilot can still be grin inducing fun.

The Ocho - Rank F(unsies)

8 Academy Pilots costs 96 points. It's nominally playable, and was valid in a bygone era when initiative mattered against other Pilot Skill 1 squads. (Note that this squad did indeed find sporadic success at high profile tournaments.) Or you could use those points to field 4 Academies and 4 Obsidian Squadron Pilots, which was valid in a bygone era when PS3 mattered against Pilot Skill 2 squads.

Nostalgic classicism reminds us that at 16 points, Backstabber or Dark Curse combines neatly with 7 Academies to ring up at 100 squad points. A Sienar Test Pilot (PS 2 TIE Advanced Prototype) is statistically a good value as well. But Wampa is an excellent neo-TIE Fighter that's even cheaper allowing for:

(14) Wampa
(14) Black Squadron Pilot: Trick Shot
(72) Academy Pilot x 6

Even more outrageously fun is:

(16) Youngster: Rage
(84) Academy Pilot x 7

Youngster gives The Ocho badly needed firepower, albeit at a severe penalty of double stresses. Pick your spots carefully, and it is capable of surprising opponents.

Texx Classic - Rank C

But let's get serious. TIE swarms require Howlrunner for offensive efficiency, neccesitating a drop down to 7 ships. Mynock's own Dallas Parker employed this squad to reach the final table at 2013 Worlds, resulting in the greatest game of X-Wing ever played (quality, stakes, recorded):

(22) Howlrunner: Determination, Stealth Device
(16) Dark Curse
(60) Academy Pilot x 5
(98)

Dallas has mentioned to me that Determination never procced during that Worlds tournament, which is fairly surprising. 24% of the Damage Deck are Pilot crits, and you'd expect that to occur at least a few times over the course of a long event. I've always liked Adrenaline Rush on Howlrunner, as you tend to K-turn at least once per game, and defensive actions on her are vital. Crack Shot is the offensive alternative.

Stealth Device vs. Hull Upgrade (which wasn't available to Dallas at the time) is an interesting debate. I prefer to embrace variance (i.e. gamble), so I'll take the Stealth Device. Hull gives you more defensive consistency, but the extra green die is capable of providing substantially increased defensive efficiency turn after turn. A common complaint from players is, "Stealth Device keeps failing." However, it's important to keep in mind that even when it gets knocked out in the first round of fire, if it provided an extra evade result, it was already just as effective as a Hull Upgrade. (I like to use a differentiated die any time I use Stealth Device, to check this effect.) Shield Upgrade is even better for its crit mitigation properties, but it's an extra point and Dallas went with the initiative bid for the mirror match.

Dark Curse split wide as a lure/flanker, but he failed Dallas spectacularly in this match, and Dallas benched him for ages afterward. Backstabber (or Sienar Test Pilot) are reasonable alternatives. I'd "update" it to:

(23) Howlrunner: Adrenaline Rush, Shield Upgrade
(17) Sienar Test Pilot: TIE/v1
(60) Academy Pilot x5
(100)

Texx 2.0 - Rank C

The following year, Dallas made Worlds cut yet again (Top 4), using this:

(22) Howlrunner: Veteran Instincts, Hull Upgrade
(30) Black Squadron Pilot: Draw Their Fire x 2
(48) Academy Pilot x 4

Veteran Instincts was for firing before Whisper, and double Draw Their Fire was a total commitment to keeping Howlrunner alive. He folded the flanker into the main column, resulting in some 10th dan jui-jitsu formation flying of 7 ships.

The main column pushes forward 4, with the offset one to the side doing a forward 3 and barrel rolling in. Howlrunner then executes a hard 3 into a 2-3-2 formation. I can't really help you beyond there, as it typically degenerates into headache inducing dial rolling madness. Dallas makes it look like meticulously intricate Swiss clockwork.

I'd just make this adjustment today:

(23) Howlrunner: Adrenaline Rush, Shield Upgrade
(14) Wampa
(15) Black Squadron Pilot: Draw Their Fire
(48) Academy Pilot x 4

These Academy Pilot based TIE swarms were definitive meta setters, and mirror matches abounded. Their players were rewarded for superior skill, and getting a feel for those tactical techniques is still worthwhile. Unfortunately, they no longer possess sufficient firepower for today's competitive game.

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