With the reveal of the Tie striker and the Swarm Leader EPT card I have been playing around with a few ideas with Swarm leader but have pondered whether it is a bit of a trap card.
Now, being a fan of the Tie Phantom and chucking lots of red dice you have to wonder what is not to love about it. After all you just need to invest in having a couple of ships donate their evade tokens and you can be rocking a five or six dice attack. Even a possible seven dice at range one on a Phantom or Upsilon shuttle.
One of the draw backs to chucking lots of dice by having swarm leader is accuracy. When you consider that on four dice averagely you should roll two hits of any type, one eye ball and a blank, you ideally would require at least one reroll to hit and a focus token. The more dice you roll, in theory, the more the results should stay closer to the expected average. So if throwing eight dice, every time we should get one crit, three hits, two eyeballs and two blanks.
That happens every time right?
This is why Colonel Vessery has been popular as a carrier for Swarm Leader due to his pilot ability. If you can slap a target lock on the target with another ship, Vessery is getting potentially a five dice attack at range 2-3 with a target lock and focus token.
Operational draw backs
One of the main issues I have found with Swarm Leader is how many times are you actually getting the maxed out shots? So far it looks about twice per game and part of the issue is lining up the evade token carriers after the initial attack. This is why the triple defender version of swarm leader has been having some success as well as the Kylo Upsilon Shuttle and two Deltas. The ability to maintain the evade token generators pointing in the right direction is key to getting the spike damage.
This in turn provides another problem when devising the list. Do you have cheap evade token providers like a couple of academy tie fighters, prototype a-wings or Scyks which offer little offensively or go for a three ship build like the triple defender Vessery build?
I’m not a fan of overly synergistic lists as once a cog drops from it, it can unravel pretty quickly. Swarm Leader builds have this potential problem if one looks to overly synergise. This is why the simpler Defender list below has been about and performing well:
Colonel Vessery: Swarm leader, X7 title
Countess Ryad: Push the limits, Tie Mk2 ion engines, X7 title
Delta Squadron Pilot: tie X7 title
The combination of a white 4 K turn and X7 title makes it easier to maintain a target and donate an evade token. The other consideration is whether one wants to look at primary turret ships, which tend to be expensive or ships with auxiliary arcs. It is easier to maintain the enemy ship in arc but can your evade token carriers also do the same? Hence why the Kylo Ren Swarm leader plus two Delta Defenders has been working due to the X7 Deltas being able to keep the target in arc.
I could go through and list every single ship in the game that can have an evade token but I feel the first step is to look at which ships can make a good Swarm Leader. I would start with anything that can get a free modifier to its attack dice rolls due to pilot ability. For the rebels you have Old Young Han Solo, Rey and Jess Pava. Norra Wexley could be a choice but then you would need to add a way of modifying the attack and two evade token carriers which could get overly complicated too quickly for my liking.
One rebel list that has surfaced of late is the following:
Jess Pava: Swarm leader, R2-D6, Integrated astro mech
2x green Squadron A-wings: Chaarden refit, Test pilot title, Juke, Push the limits
Biggs dark Lighter: R4-D6, Integrated Astro mech
Effectively you start the game formation flying. The A-wings focus evade with PTL. In a perfect world the A-wings and Biggs token strip the target ship and hopefully push a bit of damage through while then contributing the evade tokens to Jess who has focused and will get three re-rolls from her friendly ships for a five or six dice attack.
I feel the issue with this is once the initial attack has been made, it then depends if Biggs can make it through to the second attack run and that the A-wings can contribute their evades to it. It is a good list though and offers some blocking options with the A-wings which would allow Jess to drop a range one attack on a tokenless target whilst the enemy has to shoot Biggs.
A bit more tricky in some respects as attanni mindlink is such a good squad upgrade. Then there is the problem of trying to build a squad that is not too gimmicky and reliant on just one ship dishing out the damage. Dengar with four Scyks could provide Dengar with two five dice attacks due to revenge shot. Kath Scarlet, Ventress, Ketsu or Bossk with Dengar crew could be viable but the rest of the squad could struggle to pick up the slack. A 24 point swarm leader tax on two light Syck evade carriers.
One option I thought of is this:
Zuckuss: Swarm leader, Dengar crew
2 x Gands Findsman with Attanni mindlink
Inaldra: Attanni Mindlink, Light Scyk title.
Whilst you joust with Zuckuss and the Findsmen, Inaldra flanks to provide focus tokens to the Findsmen then possibly an evade token for an attack after the initial engagement. Not perfect by any stretch, but Zuckuss can provide a focused six or seven shot attack with a couple of re-rolls in this age of Ace Wing due to Dengar crew, whilst the Findsmen give him their evades and have focused attacks themselves.
While the Imperials are spoilt for choice in selecting cheap or decent ships to provide evade tokens with the Swarm leader itself it is hard to look past Colonel Vessery, Kylo Ren or even Pure Saabac.
In terms of accurate modification Vessery is your man and with the X7 title quite survivable. Other options I have explored have been the inquisitor and Backdraft. The Inquisitor is quite interesting as he negates the benefits of the defender at range three. The obvious down side is the attack being only target locked unless you are taking time in setting it up. Backdraft is quite nice due to his rear arc being effectively a three dice attack which is more accurate than his front. Backdraft with Fire Control systems, Light weight frame and Swarm leader is 34 points. A bit more squishy but can put out a fair amount of work on a surprisingly good dial.
Talking about squishy I feel that Pure Saabacc is too squishy for swarm leader but is a good budget version of it with light weight frame. My only concern is only having focus as the attack modifier. Echo could be an option if slightly expensive. Echo has never been solely reliant on veteran instincts as his/her EPT like Whisper has been and Echo’s decloak mechanic helps maintain arc and dodge arcs.
Lists I have tried recently
First up was Inquisitor with Swarm Leader
All Four Arseholes
The Inquisitor: Swarm Leader, Title, Auto thrusters
Carnor jax: push the limits
Omega leader: Juke, Comms relay
This was okay but I found getting the second spike shot from the inquisitor tricky. In a game I did one shot the opposing inquisitor at range three whilst he had no modifiers at all. It then became tricky to line up more fun packed four or five dice attacks as the game splintered from formation flying.
Including an X7 Delta squadron by either switching out Carnor Jax or down grading Wampa to an academy and dropping Omega leader could be a way forward with this squad. Or fly better.
X7 still for the win!
Felt a Backdraft
Soontir fel: Push the limits, Title, Auto thrusters, targeting computer
Backdraft: Swarm leader, Firecontrol systems, Light weight frame, primed thruster, title
Scourge: a score to settle
Nothing focusses the mind than a misplaced obsession of trying to destroy Soontir first. Even still, Backdraft did not drop more than one or two Swarm leader attacks per game but did chuckout a lot of consistent damage.
Colonel Swarmy McSwarmleaderface
Colonel Vessery: Swarm leader, X7 title
Backdraft: Crack Shot, Fire control systems, Light weight frame, Title
Scourge: Crack Shot
Even with Vessery doing the 4K getting the big spike damage repeatedly was elusive due to not having the evade tokens pointing the right way.
As yet untitled but probably some obscure pop song
Edit: The Mother’s Day Special, (taking it to a tournament on Mother’s Day, and yes I am very popular at home right now).
Maarek Steele: Predator, X7 title
Backdraft: Swarm leader, Fire control systems, Light weight frame, title
Scourge: Crack Shot
What concerns me is that where the Mcswarmleaderface squad does not have a clear priority target other than maybe Vessery, this list does. Dropping Backdraft first is easier than the Defender and removes the possible spike damage threat. On the other hand Mcswarmleaderface has a number of synergies that make it effective where this list steers clear of that. Scourge benefits more in ‘The Mother’s Day Special’ as he can shoot after the two ‘big’ ships and potentially get his attack bonus.
It pains me to drop Wampa but Wampa does always die first. Looking at how the meta is starting to evolve having a PS1 blocker is quite useful. The golden block in a swarm leader list is to move, evade, get bumped head on in arc and then contribute your evade token to the attack on the bumping ship.
One of the bonuses of this build is having three sources of evade tokens, which makes it easier for Backdraft to dump out a buffed attack, even if it is by only one extra red die. From flying Phantoms, a four dice primary attack is always a happy attack, especially if modified.
The Backdraft God Shot
If, and it really is an if, you can get Backdraft alongside a large base ship to utilise both front and back arcs it is possible to dump two attacks on it. One being a six dice range one with two evades from the rear, and the other a paltry range four from the front at range one and one evade. Technically if you had four ‘support ships’ you could do a six and a five but that means the squad is essentially a Backdraft and mini swarm which is probably not that great a squad.
It is more likely to end up between two targets which you could utilise the title and Swarm Leader to front load one attack on an existing target, (target lock and focus), then for the second shot from the other arc use it to set up your target lock from Fire Control Systems for the next turn on presumption that the primary target has bitten the bullet.
Is it a trap?
Up until this point right here, I had not been keeping up with Theorist’s articles on Team Covenant. I was having a little look last night whilst sticking the small people to bed and he does a nice one about Swarm Leader and references it again at the end of his article on the new FAQ but his main conclusion is that Swarm Leader could be the new over powered card needing to be nerfed.
In a nutshell his argument centres on the fact that it is a three point upgrade to increase the attack value of a ship which if compared to Heavy laser cannon or Punishing One title is quite cheap. I don’t disagree with the point and he does point out the constrictions to its use as a drawback comparatively. On the other hand the more I’ve started to play and refine with swarm leader the more I am getting the plus one attack die shot every turn. The plus two ‘golden shot’ is harder once the initial engagement has been and gone, but the silver shot is more than achievable every turn.
If planning to use swarm leader I feel it is worth asking yourself can you mimic its effect by other easier parameters at your faction’s disposal such as ordnance? The benefit of firing a proton torpedo or homing missile with guidance chips over Swarm leader in an initial engagement is that you are not reliant on having other ships in arc to boost your attack and leave them vulnerable as a result. And both those two types of ordnance with guidance chips averagely give you four hits, (if you roll average or above and your dice like you).
The recent Episode 57 of Mynock Squadron podcast had a great three way interview which included Paul Heaver who felt that Swarm Leader was the current ‘great under explored card available.’ I agree with that too but at the same time I’m on the fence to whether it is the next ‘Attanni Mindlink,’ in terms of being a sleeper then all of a sudden Swarm Leader being everywhere. The constraints on building a squad to facilitate Swarm Leader are the one drawback. There are a myriad of possible carriers and combinations to provide tokens but only a few will turn out to be any good over a run of six to nine games at a tournament.
The trick is to get enough evade tokens pointing at the target consistently and being able to modify the attack dice to make the extra dice worth while. As well as that the Swarm Leader itself needs to be survivable one way or another to keep up the heavy barrage. This is the potential trap. You could build a list to deliver one super gun attack but then be left with precious little after that one shot to do damage.
“Continue with the operation; you may fire when ready.”
Swarm Leader is certainly worth playing around with, but expect to be burnt a few times before finding something that will click for you. There are certainly a few variants already out there but possibly much more to come. I’m not convinced it will potentially dominate squad building, but it is early days.
I’m going to find out this weekend with my latest Swarm Leader incarnation whether it can cut the mustard in the new evolving meta or whether its back to the drawing board and look for where the exhaust ports are.
Scum Swarm leader builds, (pre Zuckuss crew nerf).