I was almost going to reference the Jenfifer Lopez song. Almost, but instead I’ll use my old adversary fish cakes.
A while back just after Imperial Veterans dropped I compared Maarek in a Defender as similar to Fish Cakes, bland and uninspiring. In my time the best fish cakes I had ever eaten were at a pub in Camberwell in the summer of 2005, it was either the Castle or the one near it. They were Thai spice infused and are still my champions. As a general rule of thumb I avoid them like the plague and got burnt a year later when ignoring my rule of thumb. I got suckered in by the fantastic catering onsite at a studio and the chef gave a good pitch about them. They looked good too, but sadly my rule of thumb prevailed.
Maarek in a Tie Defender just seemed a bit meh, so did the X7 title until you flew a defender and realised that speed three or more manoeuvres would be your staple regardless of title, thus X7 for the win. Vessery and Ryad all looked great as well as Glaives but Maarek seemed to be asking to be built without either of the new titles to capitalise on his Crit mechanic with a mangler cannon. A year ago just after the tie advanced upgrade kit came out with that snazzy looking door wedge, I was trying to get Maarek Steele in a Tie Advanced work in a list with Vader and one other. The issues I was having with Maarek at the time were down to EPT choice and other bits that would then get bolted on.
Push the limits just constrained his movement too much whether with twin ion engine or engine upgrade and he was vulnerable due to having to put a target lock out there to gain his offensive bonus. In the end I just settled for a cheap 1 point EPT with the advanced targeting computer. I found his crit fishing was fantastic when it came off but it was not working in the squad so back in the folder he went.
Now whilst Vessery and Ryad have been all the rage some momentum has been building for Maarek Steele in the Tie defender with predator and X7 title, (publicised my the Mynock squadron podcast by taking Marek with X7 and predator to Worlds 2016). On one hand it is a meta call as the higher Pilot skill of seven puts him above the rest of his fellow Defender pilots and adding veteran instincts can put him in the same league as a majority of the main aces. On the other with the right upgrades he can get some leverage of his pilot ability.
I played against a Maarek Tie Defender in a Soontir, Inquisitor and Maarek list. Although third on my priority list of what to take out first, (I had Whisper, Ryad and a Gamma Squadron Bomber), I was nonetheless slightly wary of his ability having utilised it before. Initially I was thinking “well at least it is not Vessery or Ryad,” but the potential crit fishing put a chill down my back. After all, if a crit snuck through on Whisper’s hull it’s a good chance of saying thank you and goodnight to Whisper.
Is Maarek just a Meta call?
The short answer is yes. A direct meta call for other imperial players to try and get a jump on other Imperial lists utilising the more popular Ryad and Vessery.
The issue with Vessery is that to get the leverage out of his pilot ability, someone has to drop a target lock down on Vessery’s target. It is more likely to activate than Maarek’s, especially early to mid game, but having played with and seen more Maarek in action I’m getting won over by the need to not synergise with another ship. Maarek with X7 then either Juke or Predator as an EPT is strong offensively and does not rely on another ship to activate the pilot ability. If Vessery is your last ship standing then his pilot ability is worthless whilst with Maarek it is there and potent if you get a crit through.
Maarek with predator has a 40% chance of rolling a critical hit, (according to Mynock Squadron Maths which is not 200% reliable, although this sounds about right). I’m not a fan of percentages with dice, I prefer fractions, so for me it more or less translates as not quite a critical hit every other round of firing.
With Juke or non-re-rolling attacks it effectively works out to a critical hit every third round of shooting but Juke allows a greater chance of pushing the hit through.
Pilot skill and shields
The problem with Maarek in a Tie Defender is that unlike the guaranteed crit from the Tie Advanced you are banking on rolling it up when the target has no shields. Furthermore his pilot skill of seven means that unless he is accompanied by other high PS aces or Rear Admiral Chiraneau, he is likely to be shooting first to middle order which lessens the potential damage and applying his crit mechanic. That being said the Tie Defender with X7 title is a fantastic chassis and I really like it paired with Predator.
All of the ace Defenders are really tasty with Predator and X7 due to the action efficiency, except maybe Vessery. Vessery if partnered well almost does not need his EPT slot but with Swarm leader out there now he is a fantastic carrier for that.
Tie Defender Loadouts
Rexlar Brath: Predator X7. A bit pricey but if you have other ships shooting first his pilot ability could trigger and is a happy PS 8.
Maarek Steele: X7 title with either Predator, Juke or Veteran Instincts.
Colonel Vessery: either title although X7 will make him last longer. Depending on the list construction almost any EPT is a good choice but Veteran Instincts, juke and swarm leader are good front runners.
Countess Ryad: X7 title and either predator or push the limits and Twin Ion engines.
Glaive Squadron: X7 title with predator, juke or crack shot.
Onyx and Delta squadrons: with the generics the humble Delta with X7 title is the winner at 28 points.
Lone wolf is a good EPT on a defender if it’s in a two ship list or if you can make it work as a flanker. I like lone wolf but often find it works best in a two ship build, often with Rear Admiral Chiraneau or Captain Oicunn as the partner.
Why does the pilot skill matter?
Looking at the meta, pushing above pilot skill six is useful. Ventress is very popular so popping above her PS 6 is handy as for the most part she will be using PTL or mindlink as her EPT. Vessery is popular in Palp defender builds and if going Vessery, Countess Ryad is often the other choice. We haven’t yet seen a move to Rexlar as another counter to PS bidding defenders and he would more likely be seen with another defender plus budget ace. Rexlar and Mareek both with X7 and predator is 74 points, enough for either Duchess, Pure Sabaac or Omega leader.
If you have not given Maarek a whirl in a Tie Defender it’s worth going for a test drive. It’s not mind blowing but certainly very solid with X7 and either predator or Juke. In the current pilot skill environment he fits nicely and whilst not the most spectacular, if you do get a crit through, the fun begins.
And when not hating on Fish Cakes…