One of my all time favourite ships for X-Wing, the TIE Punisher has been a massive favourite since its first wave release. Although it wasn't always a squad potential for consideration, second edition pulls no punches in making the TIE Punisher a solid choice to form the backbone for any Galactic Empire squadron.
I've spoken about Deathrain in detail in the past on this blog however rather poorly I don't feel like I've done the pilot much justice. Lately I've been stuck using high pilot skill builds to ensure I'm moving last and rather relying on being a superior player I more rely on this safety net of using actions last to ensure I can get into a solid position and hammer opponents which I'm fast discovering doesn't suit my play style. By no means am I discounting this play style or saying it's inferior because clearly it wins games and I don't dispute that.
There are a few select Imperial named pilots that get me excited. That is I sincerely enjoy flying them and having them in my list regardless of how they perform. For a split second (generally before the initial joust) I'm convinced the pilots I've selected are invincible and will carry the game single handed. Of course the reality is a stark contrast to my fantasy and generally around turn 3 I'm telling myself I'll never take <insert pilot here> again but alas like a solid night of drinking and the obvious hangover to follow I always find myself with said pilot in my squad construction.
After the initial frustrations however I just want to genuinely make a pilot work regardless of how futile the situation is. I really enjoy the TIE Punishers, well correction, I think Deathrain and Redline are great however Deathrain I think is trickier to use and requires a bit more skill so naturally that's where my current focus will be when it comes to writing on this blog.
Let's take a look in detail:
So from the top. Pilot skill 6. When it comes to bombs there is two options:
Bombs - Placed before manoeuvre dial is revealed
Mines - Placed as an action
For me the basic idea behind bombs is to see where everyone has moved and decide if you can catch the maximum amount of enemy ships within range of the dropped bomb. This heavily favours a higher pilot skill ship and I've experimented with this in the past with Boba Fett for example and its a great platform and strategy to catch pesky arc dodgers. With pilot skill 6 this essentially means that generally speaking you'll only catch lower pilot skill ships with bombs. That's certainly not to say that's all you'll ever catch however you'd need to be rather cunning and/or your opponent perhaps made an error with a higher pilot to catch them. For this reason I don't feel perhaps bombs are the premium choice for Deathrain in my very humble and perhaps limited opinion of X-wing however I'm the first to admit that I do need to do more play testing with both options available.
Mines are a different story however and require the use of an action to occur allowing you to move towards the target and place down a mine into an oncoming ship, a high traffic zone or even onto a ships base. This option certainly favours being paired up with Enhanced Scope to ensure you get the drop on everyone and have the picking of who shall receive the mine.
Deathrain's unique pilot ability brings more flexibility when it comes to dropping ordnance and not only allows a player to use the front or rear guides but for added manoeuvrability you may perform a free barrel roll action to ensure you can re-position. This opens up a number of options when combined with other upgrades which I will cover in-depth later however if you're dropping bombs this allows you to barrel roll and then zoom away out of the range 1 blast zone or even K-turn to face the damaged threat.
Essentially Deathrain provides one if not the most flexible bomb/mine delivery system next to Emon Azzameen and at times it even has merit to drop a bomb/mine purely in order to use the barrel roll action to move to a better position.
2 red dice is what Deathrain and any TIE Punisher are throwing for combat and it's pretty typical of most TIE builds so no surprise there. The TIE Punisher however due to it's massive bulk and ordnance carrying capability has an agility value of 1. It goes down rather quickly once the opponent begins to focus onto it which when you've spent around 40 points tooling it up for bombing runs you can be sure it will attract attention rather quickly. It does have a combined amount of 9 hit points with 3 in the way of shields and 6 hull so it can stay in the fight for a bit but with that single green dice you can see that when it starts to hurt it goes down fairly effortlessly. So in saying that particular care needs to be taken when not only flying Deathrain but also working out what will be flying left and right of him.
Now scroll back up and check out the amount of upgrades that Deathrain (or any TIE Punisher) can take. It's a massive 7 cards in total or 8 including a modification and I doubt there would ever be a time it would be fully loaded out but there is something that leaves a warm and fuzzy feeling just thinking about a ship loaded up with tonnes of ordnance blowing up targets left and right. Sadly my reality plays this down considerably.
Firstly I want to talk about the System Upgrade slots and optimal choices for Deathrain.
Firstly Enhanced Scope allows Deathrain to move first during the activation phase. Loaded up with the appropriate mines this means you've got the comfort of seeing every ships position from the last turn allowing you to dictate exactly where your Proximity Mine/Conner Net (I don't mention Cluster Mine well because they're crap....) will go or what pilot you will drop it on. It's a great choice when Deathrain is loaded up with Proximity Mines and has served me well in the past.
Admittedly I haven't used Advanced Sensors a great deal however I can see a lot of utility from it.
Allowing you to perform an action before you move essentially turning your delivery system of mines to that of bombs allowing you to drop first (forward or backwards), take a free barrel roll action, and then reveal Deathrain's manoeuvre. This is handy over Enhanced Scope firstly because it allows you to react better to the oppositions movements. It does however still suffer from being on a pilot skill 6 card putting in right in the middle of the pack in terms of reaction though.
If you're using bombs (not mines) however this would allow Deathrain to do a sequence of actions something like this:
1. Drop bomb, barrel roll, boost/target lock/focus
2. Boost/target lock/focus, drop bomb, barrel roll
This means if there is a tempting target just outside of range 1 of an anticipated bomb area you can boost towards, deliver the bomb out the front, barrel roll away and then reveal your manoeuvre to watch the fireworks from a safer distance or K-turn and get shots onto the target.
Other notable mentions:
These are perhaps very uncommon but I feel they deserve a mention depending on how Deathrain is built. In the past I've often slapped a missile just to increase his flexibility and give him something to do other than just drop bombs or when I need a points filler. Sure it's more points spent in ordnance which is often disputed as not worth it currently in the X-wing game but here is some justification.
Imagine you've hit the initial joust and Deathrain has shot gaining a free target lock via Fire Control System onto some poor pilot about to witness Imperial power. The enemy pilot either performs a high speed manoeuvre past Deathrain or closes with the Punisher to stay within range 1. Depending on load you can drop a bomb and barrel roll with a K-turn hopefully having the target within striking distance of the loaded missile. Is it optimal? Far from it but it's worth considering all options in a game with tonnes of them. This is much better to consider on Redline and having a bomb to drop with him as it doesn't take an action and he's far more optimal to spew out missiles as opposed to Deathrain.
The next system upgrade I want to touch on is Accuracy Corrector. Sheer frustration fills me when I shoot with anything and roll up blanks. This alleviates that but also makes Deathrain's shots at least account for something. Granted it means you don't have Enhanced Scope or Advanced Sensors to play with however I did specifically mention that I explore lots of options and it means in the shooting department you're dealing consistent damage the whole game which if you've ever seen me roll dice you can probably see why I've included it but a note that I've never used it on Deathrain as yet.
Next up we shall discuss ordnance upgrades and naturally being Deathrain we shall start with bombs.
Seismic charges are a wonderful cheap tool to chip 1 damage onto enemy ships but often you'll want to look at other options to ensure you are getting the most from your points but it certainly fits into budget friendly.
Proton bombs on the other hand are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Not only are they expensive at 5 points but they bypass shields and do 1 face up damage. When you are able to deal critical hits to enemy ships without touching their shields it's pretty special. You have the potential to do direct hits and kill some ships outright (A-wings, Tie Advanced prototypes, Tie Phantoms) but also the capability to really foil some plans if you blind a pilot or dish out a stress token. Nothing bad can come from hitting an enemy with a proton bomb aside from the squad cost points.
Ion bombs are another 2 point upgrade that simply deal 2 ion tokens allowing you a degree of control to setup attack runs with other ships in the squad or K-turn with Deathrain for another attack with perhaps a target lock from fire control system.
The conner net is a mine that I have never touched personally and this will change very shortly. At four points it's a pretty decent upgrade similar to an ion bomb however the enemy receives no action so once again depending on the rest of your squad build you can set up the attack runs and plan ahead. It's also worth noting that the conner nets profile is very different from the proximity mine so familiarising yourself with that is sure to prevent any situations where you just miss the target. To summarise, great if you have other ships to engage the effected vessel so plan and build accordingly.
Proximity mines are perhaps one of my favourite mines to use in the game and at three points create quite a bit of utility. Normally combined with enhanced scope this allows you to reveal a manoeuvre first and literally go and dump a mine on an enemy ship before barrel rolling away but can also be used to create another asteroid which detonates upon contact that the enemy will surely try and avoid. This allows you to create 'no-go' areas of a map which can prevent larger ships from entering unless crossing the mine.
For the sake of completion cluster miners will be mentioned however they are not an optimal choice and due to the fact each mine only does two damage and critical results are ignored so that's literally where I will stop talking about them.
Regardless of what bomb load out you choose to take a very important upgrade for Deathrain is extra munitions which takes up a torpedo slot. For two extra squad points this essentially doubles your ordnance load out of not only bombs but also any equipped torpedoes and missiles so the more you take the more it becomes a real bargain however the flip side to that coin is then you paint this ship with a very large target on it and leave less room for squad mates.
For missiles and torpedoes if you are considering them I find worthy mentions are concussion missiles as they're range 2-3 and turn a blank result into a hit. Homing missiles fall into the category of not spending a target lock allowing you to use it to re-roll any results however they are the most expensive missile option available.
I will mention advanced homing missiles because they marry up with proton bombs so well on paper although I haven't been able to execute the build very well and it's extremely specialised. Loading up Deathrain and someone else for a wingman with proton bombs and these just attempting to kill ships without touching their shields sounds cool and fun if anything but it can be tricky to get into range 2 to consistently perform.
For torpedoes it's perhaps only worth mentioning plasma torpedoes simply because of the extra shield they can eat away.
Once again I must mentioned that these are merely ramblings of someone who so desperately wants Deathrain to performed and I can certainly see the merit in keeping the pilot cheap with just a bomb or two and extra munitions and leaving out all the trimmings.
Finally I will touch on modifications for Deathrain of which there is only two worth considering.
Firstly and understandably the Twin Ion Engine MK.II upgrade serves as a great modification to give Deathrain (and any TIE Punisher) a few more green manoeuvres (four to be exact) to rid itself of stress and opens up some new move options. For a single point it's a bargain and normally when I don't take it is the exact game I could have benefited from it the most.
Experimental Interface is another one that I simply haven't had the time to try but have played around with it a lot in my head however the major downside for me is that you gain a stress token and without the above engine to help shed this stress the ship becomes rather predictable. Anyway it would work something like this:
1. Manoeuvre, focus/boost/target lock, drop mine (front or back), barrel roll, receive stress token
Combined further still with Advanced Sensors and it turns into this:
1. Focus/boost/target lock, drop mine (front or back), barrel roll, receive stress token
I don't have a map on me right now but they certainly setup some really interesting angles and combinations to attack a player.
I'm going to wrap this article up now guys, if you've got this far I commend you and welcome any comments so I can add to the article or please correct me if I've got anything wrong. I will publish a part two at some stage covering in more details the manoeuvres and catching various ships out but for now please get Deathrain out on the table and let me know about the victories, your favourite build and lastly your favourite wingmen to run next to Deathrain!
Hardcore war gamer at heart and a huge fan of tabletop games. I use any excuse to get my family involved. Join me as I play and review games while trying not to epically fail.