Friday, April 7, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Factions: Imperials

This series describes the strengths and weaknesses of the factions in X-Wing, with this article covering the Imperial faction. Rather than general statements like "Rebels are more supportive and Imperials are more self-sufficient" (which isn't even true), I'll highlight the factions' strongest pilots and upgrades as well as some of its weaknesses. This can help you choose which factions you want to play and which expansions to prioritize.

For the other two factions, check out the links below:

1. Best arc-dodging aces

Imperials are best known for their arc-dodging aces. These pilots share five features. First, they have six or more green maneuvers, some of which are hard turns. This lets them use Push the Limit (elite pilot talent; A-Wing or Imperial Aces) to perform two actions each round at a minimal cost. Second, these pilots have high pilot skill and both the boost and barrel roll actions. Combined with Push the Limit, they can perform a boost and barrel roll in the same turn and have great flexibility in dodging enemy arcs. Third, they have access to the evade action. When they can't dodge arcs, they can focus and evade to become very difficult to hit. Fourth, they have a pilot ability which effectively gives them a third action or denies actions from the opponent. Finally, they can equip Autothrusters (modification; StarViper) to counter turrets. These pilots come in at an affordable 31-35 points, which makes it very easy to fit them into a list.

Thanks to their defenses, these ships are excellent in a 1v1 endgame. They can even win some unfair fights with luck and good flying. These ships depend on their actions, so bumps and stress can get them killed pretty quickly.

  • Soontir Fel (pilot; TIE Interceptor) [1]. Stealth Device is optional. Soontir Fel used to be the premier arc-dodging ace, but he's fallen in popularity thanks to the prevalence of stress and auto-damage effects like bombs.
  • Carnor Jax (pilot; Imperial Aces) [1]. Hull Upgrade is optional. Carnor Jax has seen more play recently since he can disrupt lists which depend on focus or evade tokens.
  • The Inquisitor (pilot; Inquisitor's TIE) [1]. Sometimes takes Proton Rockets. Very popular since he only costs 31 points and has more health than the TIE Interceptors.

2. Best selection of closers

Besides the arc-dodging aces, Imperials have a generous selection of evasive ships which are very strong in a 1v1 endgame. Some of these ships can even win when outnumbered. For the most part, these ships have great defenses along with consistent offense.

  • TIE/x7 (title; Imperial Veterans) [1][2][3]. TIE Defenders with the TIE/x7 title are extremely durable. It's great in the end-game since it can out-K-Turn its opponent while being very hard to hit. These are some of the easier Imperial ships to fly, and they're a good place to start for beginner Imperial players. The first two TIE Defender pilots are the most popular since they have consistent offense to go with their strong defense. The third is a cheap generic with the same defensive abilities, but doesn't have the consistent offense.
  • Omega Leader (pilot; TIE/fo Fighter) [1]. Omega Leader is the strongest 1v1 pilot in the game. He pushes consistent damage through with Juke, and being able to modify his dice when his enemy can't makes him fairly durable. He's very easy to fit into lists at just 26 points and forces opponents to deal with him early.
  • Whisper (pilot; TIE Phantom) [1]. Agent Kallus is optional; it's insurance against ships with higher pilot skill. Whisper is a dangerous but streaky ship. She can explode the first turn she's shot at, or she can destroy your opponent's list by herself. When Whisper gets to shoot first, she rolls 4 dice on attack and on defense with plenty of tokens to modify them. She has one of the best ways of staying on her target with the "candy cane" maneuver of decloaking to the side and doing a 1 hard turn towards where she came from. While strong, Whisper is expensive, and she's vulnerable to disruption (stress prevents her from cloaking), ships with higher pilot skill, and bad dice luck.
  • Quickdraw (pilot; TIE/sf) [1]. He takes more damage and is less maneuverable than most traditional closers, but Quickdraw has the high pilot skill, action economy, and offense to win a 1v1. His pilot ability puts opponents in a bind where they don't want to attack him early, but he's also a very strong late-game ship with shields. Quickdraw's other advantage is he's a bit more resilient to disruption than some of these other pilots thanks to his back arc, Fire-Control Systems, and not running Push the Limit.
  • Darth Vader (pilot; TIE Advanced) [1]. He's often regarded as an arc-dodging ace, but he's a tier below thanks to a less consistent offense, less action economy, and his vulnerability to turrets. Still, he's one of the few aces that can reach pilot skill 10. He's a great pick to counter other aces if you don't expect to face turrets.

3. Three-crew ship with a turret

The VT-49 Decimator is one of two ships in the game with 3 crew slots. The other is the YV-666, which doesn't have a turret and has a hard time turning around. You'll almost always want Gunner (Slave I or YT-2400 Freighter) in one slot. The other slots can be filled with Darth Vader (Lambda-Class Shuttle), Hotshot Co-Pilot (Heroes of the Resistance), Kylo Ren (Upsilon-Class Shuttle), Rebel Captive (Lambda-Class Shuttle), or Ysanne Isard (VT-49 Decimator). Unlike other large ships with low agility, the Decimator doesn't have access to defensive abilities like C-3PO or Kanan Jarrus's pilot ability. They die very quickly for their cost, which makes the Engine Upgrade modification and arc-dodging especially important.

  • Rear Admiral Chiraneau (pilot; VT-49 Decimator) [1][2]. The first build tries to miss with the first shot to strip enemy focus tokens, leaving the target vulnerable to the Gunner shot and the wingmate. The second uses Kylo Ren to put Blinded Pilot or Damaged Cockpit on enemy ships.
  • Captain Oicunn (pilot; VT-49 Decimator) [1]. Oicunn is a cheaper Decimator with a strong ability. He doesn't use Hotshot Co-Pilot or Kylo Ren as well as Chiraneau does, but Darth Vader and the defensive crew are still strong options. Engine Upgrade is still a strong upgrade for maneuvering, but the lower pilot skill limits Oicunn's ability to arc-dodge.

4. Swarms

The TIE Fighter is the best swarm ship in the game. Not only are its stats and dial superior to comparable cheap ships, it also has a cheap offensive support ship in Howlrunner and generics with the ability to equip Crack Shot. I list several TIE swarm variations in this post.

  • Howlrunner [1]. The force multiplier of your swarm, She often adds 2-3 hits across the rest of your swarm. Expect your opponents to focus her, so don't be afraid to spend actions defensively to keep her on the board.
  • Black Squadron Pilot [1]. This is the cheapest generic pilot with the ability to take Crack Shot. Extra points can be spent to upgrade these to named pilots, or to upgrade to the equivalent TIE/fo Fighter for the extra shield.
  • Pure Sabacc [1]. This isn't a TIE Fighter, but it's worth a look in a TIE swarm. It's the cheapest way to get a 4-dice attack. However, including this ship limits the swarm's maneuvering options. Without Adaptive Ailerons, it lacks a 3 hard turn and the 4 and 5 straight. With Adaptive Ailerons, it effectively loses its 1-speed and 2-speed maneuvers.

5. Support crew cards and platforms

Imperials have the best selection of support crew. Most support abilities costs one action to generate an action, or passes a token from one ship to another. Imperials have the best selection of crew which generate additional actions for allies, including Emperor Palpatine (Imperial Raider epic), Fleet Officer (VT-49 Decimator), and General Hux (Upsilon-Class Shuttle). Imperials also have the best ships to put support crew on, so they also take the most advantage of support crew like Operations Specialist (Upsilon-Class Shuttle), Systems Officer (Imperial Veterans), and Inspiring Recruits (U-Wing). Finally, Imperials have the best targets to support with these abilities. Most of their ships have high agility and can make good use of extra focus tokens, and their aces can make especially good use of extra actions and defensive abilities.

  • Omicron Group Pilot (pilot, Lambda-Class Shuttle) [1]. The Palpshuttle is the cheapest way of running Emperor Palpatine. Palpatine is best used with evasive ships where one less damage taken per round significantly increases their lifespan. His errata makes him less consistent, but he's still very strong when used correctly.
  • TIE Shuttle (title; Imperial Veterans) [1]. While a bit fragile, the TIE Bomber with the TIE Shuttle is the cheapest way to field support crew. They're also maneuverable enough to consider adding Tactician to disrupt enemies, although the range restriction severely limits its reliability.
  • Major Stridan (pilot; Upsilon-Class Shuttle) [1]. Major Stridan's ability is great with support crew and his Coordinate action.

6. Glass Cannons

Imperials have several ships with a high damage-to-survivability ratio. While they're not true glass cannons in that they probably won't explode right away, they're awfully reliant on luck of the green dice. These ships reward good flying. If they survive even a turn longer than they should thanks to good dice or good flying, their high damage output can win you the game. If you run these ships, you probably want at least two of them, and your third ship should either be another glass cannon or a high-damage closer. Otherwise, it'd be too easy for your opponent to kill this ship first, since it's both your most threatening ship and your easiest-to-kill ship.

  • Colonel Vessery (pilot; TIE Defender) with TIE/D (title; Imperial Veterans) [1]. Makes two 3-dice attacks every turn, both with target lock. While Expertise is a strong option for the elite pilot talent upgrade slot, you usually want Veteran Instincts to shoot before other PS8 ships in your list that use target lock. Tractor Beam is a cheaper option if you need the points. You'll generally see Vessery paired with The Inquisitor, Omega Leader, Darth Vader, Whisper with Fire-Control Systems, or a TIE/sf with Fire-Control Systems.
  • TIE/sf Fighter [1][2][3][4]. The TIE/sf deals consistent damage with Fire-Control System, but it does require them to survive a round of shooting to use it. A fully loaded Backdraft or Quickdraw can survive and close decently, but you can also build these on a budget. These builds depend mostly on dice luck and range control to survive. You can also consider Crack Shot for the elite pilot talent for these builds. The last build uses Rage with Electronic Baffle to trigger Quickdraw's ability in the activation phase for a powerful double-tap.
  • Pure Sabacc [1]. Pure Sabacc shows up again, this time with upgrades to try to keep him alive a bit longer.
  • Tomax Bren (pilot; Imperial Veterans) [1]. His ability lets him use Crack Shot on every attack. He gets two strong 4-dice attacks, and then deals consistent damage like a more fragile Omega Leader.
  • Deathfire (pilot; Imperial Veterans) [1][2]. I prefer the loaded version with a Homing Missile to make him more threatening. The cheap version offers some disruption which Imperials otherwise lack.

Imperial Weaknesses

Imperials have a couple weaknesses. First, their ships tend to have less health and rely on green dice to survive. While this can keep them alive longer in the end-game, it means they're vulnerable to bad luck. It encourages you to spend your focus on defense, which weakens your attacks. It also makes your ships vulnerable to disruption. Stress, tractor beams, and automatic damage (e.g. bombs) are all especially deadly for Imperial ships.

Second, Imperials don't have many great options for disruption. It has a few options including TIE/D Vessery with Tractor Beam or Ion Cannon, Rear Admiral Chiraneau with Hotshot Co-Pilot and/or Kylo Ren, Upsilon Shuttle with Kylo Ren's Shuttle, TIE Shuttle with Tactician, and Deathfire with Conner Net. However, these options tend to be fragile, unreliable, and/or expensive enough to limit their use.


  1. Great article. Simple and generally true. But like all rules of thumb, they are there to be broken.

  2. Very informative, just like your Rebel post. I can't wait for your Scum guide. That's generally what I fly, and I'll be very interested on your take on my favorite faction(Rau Rules!!!). I'm learning a lot from these posts and hope to be able to beat you some time, since the few times we played I was totally schooled.

    1. Thanks! I'm sure you'll get me one of these days :).

  3. I'm sure you have plans for your blog but i'd be very interested in your opinions on secondary weapons Torps, missiles an the rest. Best or under rated, over rated.

    1. I probably won't do an article entirely on rating secondary weapons, but you can see my general thoughts in the "Beginner's guide to your first 100-point list" article: