Imperial Resurgence

Two-Time World Champion Daniel Taylor on the Imperial Assault Metagame

"Vader wants us all dead."
     –Leia Organa, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Thanks to the recent introduction of the Legends of the Alliance companion app, you can make your Imperial Assault campaigns more team-based than ever. In fact, since the app can control the game's Imperial forces, your Imperial Assault campaigns can be fully cooperative, if you so choose. Everyone can be a Rebel. Everyone can be a hero.

But something entirely different has happened in the skirmish game. It has become more aggressive and confrontational than ever—fueled by the new units and skirmish upgrades from the Heart of the Empire expansion—along with the Ally and Villain Packs for Maul, Ahsoka, and the Emperor. Even as their battles have intensified, players have gained new ways to pursue their objectives… and they've gained access to a resurgent Empire.

The Imperial forces in Imperial Assault are stronger than ever, as are iconic characters such as Han Solo and Chewbacca , and that puts us in a very interesting place as we look forward to the 2018 Imperial Assault World Championships and the showcase it provides for the game.To offer some additional insight into what we can expect from the current metagame—and to advise us what we should look for on the stream—we turn to two-time World Champion Daniel Taylor.

Two-time World Champion Daniel Taylor with his 2017 World Champion trophy.

Two-Time World Champion Daniel Taylor on the State of Imperial Assault

The Imperial Assault World Championships will be particularly exciting this year—in my opinion, the game is the best it’s ever been!

With the recent releases of Heart of the Empire, the accompanying expansion packs, and skirmish upgrades like Driven by Hatred and Rogue Smuggler , we're seeing more of the iconic heroes and villains from Star Wars like Darth Vader and Han Solo. In fact, each faction has several viable options for its armies—with none clearly superior to the others. Let's take a look at what each faction has to offer.

Imperial Armies

The Galactic Empire will surely arrive to Worlds in full force, headed by the two Sith powerhouses, Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine . After the Imperials were completely shut out of the Top 16 in 2017, they can no longer be ignored. Darth Vader and the Emperor will be exerting their powers across the battlefield, and anyone who wants to achieve victory this year will need a solid plan to deal with these units as they are all but guaranteed to be present.

Darth Vader proves that the best way to balance your defense and offence is to take the best of both. His devastating lightsaber attack can bring a unit to its knees or outright remove it in one slice, and his double black defense dice—plus a built-in reroll—ensure that it will take multiple attacks to bring him down, if he can be taken down.

On the other hand, if your squad can’t threaten to remove Vader, you’ll need to focus on the objectives and keep him stunned or delayed as best as possible. When you see Darth Vader on the table, you know his opponents are going to have to commit hard to taking him down—or ignore him and burn down his support. In the World Championships, you'll find players running Darth Vader trying to get him into close combat quickly and completely dismantle the opposing team with his melee attacks and Force chokes.

This is not where IG-88 and Jabba the Hutt want to see Darth Vader.

Emperor Palpatine brings a different kind of threat to the table—one built around a host of insidious abilities that allow him to be a little bit of everything. His Emperor ability gets more attacks out of friendly units, which is particularly devastating with Darth Vader. Force Lightning can finish off those characters with pesky white defense dice without having to attack them, and Tempt cleans up any enemies with just one health remaining. Palpatine's versatility really helps the Imperial squad come together and finish the job. As such, the Emperor will have a huge target on his back, so look for players to try to eliminate the old Sith as quickly as possible to prevent their team from being whittled away by Force Lightning and the temptation of the dark side.

Along with the two most important Imperial leaders, expect to see an assortment of Jet Troopers , Riot Troopers , and Sentry Droids . Providing the Imperial faction with mobility, durability, and firepower respectively, these troops are a force to be reckoned with, and fielding a pair of elite Riot Troopers or Jet Troopers may make it hard for your opponent to finish them all off and hold the objectives. In fact, some players may even forgo bringing the leaders in order to fit more of these dependable units in their army.

Given the Empire's other strengths, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Agent Blaise or Captain Terro on the field as well. These units provide interesting abilities, and having your command cards knocked out of your hand or having your team blasted by a flamethrower can certainly ruin your day. Don’t count the AT-DP out either. The large vehicle provides good firepower and health for its cost. Combined with the Emperor, it can quickly blow away enemy troops, and Palpatine can clean up any survivors.

With his "Emperor" ability, Emperor Palpatine can even direct attacks against foes to whom he has no line of sight.

Finally, most squads will also have an Imperial Officer or two, plus some upgrades like Rule by Fear and Zillo Technique . Unshakable is also a solid option for those focusing on Darth Vader as the centerpiece of their armies.

All told, the Imperial faction has many options right now, so the key to victory will be finding out exactly what works best for you and honing it to perfection. When playing against the Imperials, you'll need to keep them from stealing all the objectives while you try to figure out which units you actually need to go after.

Mercenary Armies

The Mercenary faction conquered all in 2017, and it remains strong, driven by the revival of IG-88 with the Focused on the Kill upgrade from the Jawa Scavenger Villain Pack. I’m sure many players will be bringing IG-88 along with the reliable Weequay Pirates . Hunters have been strong since Jabba’s Realm, and the threat of seeing bursts of damage fuled by command cards like Blaze of Glory and Assassinate is sure to make many a player sweat during a match.

Even with the strength of IG-88, some players are seeing success building their armies around an assortment of other strong Mercenary units. Vinto Hreeda , Greedo , and Onar Koma all still see play, and the new Clawdite Shapeshifters provide Mercenary players with even more interesting options.

A Clawdite Shapeshifter in Streetrat form can move surprisingly fast and hits nearly as hard as a Sith Lord.

I also expect a few players to bring more wild Mercenary armies, including units like the Bantha Rider or Ugnaught Tinkerers .

What you can expect to find with any of these lists, though, is that Mercenary players will be looking to strike fast and hard to bring down key units in their opponents’ armies. To snatch victory, they’ll want to jump at the right moment and leave their enemy wondering what happened.

As a result, if you see a Mercenary player hanging back in the first round of a game, it might be because the player is waiting to draw some more powerful command cards. Few things in Imperial Assault can do more damage than IG-88 rolling out with Tools for the Job , Assassinate, and Heightened Reflexes to remove the opponent’s defense. Combining all of that damage may be enough to remove a Rebel hero like Han Solo in a single attack—before he even gets a chance to retaliate. Focused and hidden Weequay Pirates are also very threatening and will discourage their opponent from making any risky moves.

With Focused on the Kill, Assassinate, Tools for the Job, and Heightened Reflexes, IG-88 can take down Han Solo in a single shot.

To come out ahead in a battle against these Mercenaries, you’ll need to plan ahead for what their powerful units are going to do and find a way to get the jump on their softer targets. If you survive the initial volley with enough troops remaining, you should be able to find an opportunity to retaliate. Cards like Reinforcements , On the Lam , Brace for Impact , Stealth Tactics , and Run for Cover can help dampen the first strike and save your allies so you can strike back with force.

Rebel Armies

The Imperials and Mercenaries are definitely bringing tough competition this year, but you can never count the Rebellion out. This year's Rebel armies will see Han Solo leading the charge, backed up by a collection of other heroes and—most likely—some Alliance Rangers .

Rangers provide a powerful option for long-range damage that can force your opponent to stay out of sight. You'll have to be careful, though, as their health won’t keep them alive long when someone like Darth Vader closes in on them.

Rebel armies have long been home to some of the game's greatest support—with units like like Gideon Argus and C-3PO —and some newer units like Hera Syndulla and "Chopper" are likely to make an appearance and lend their support as well. Don’t forget R2-D2 either, as the card advantage he offers can lead to great benefits for some lists.

What's better than using R2-D2's Scomp Link to draw into Son of Skywalker ? Not much.

Rebel armies can also benefit from a wide variety of unique units and their special abilities. Bringing in a few spies like Mak Eshka'rey or Murne Rin opens up your command card options, and Ahsoka Tano can give you a good jump on your opponents. Be careful with Ahsoka, though, as she won’t survive long after jumping alone into the middle of enemy forces. The new heroes Drokkatta and Ko-Tun Feralo may also see play, as they provide good shots and fun abilities. And you can’t forget Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight . Although most Rebel armies are focusing on long-range damage these days, Luke is never afraid to jump into the fray and get things done.

As I mentioned, most Rebel armies will be looking to keep their opponents at bay with the threat of heavy long-range firepower. They’ll win by defeating units from afar and locking down the objectives with the threat of concentrated fire. For example, the idea of advancing against a focused Han Solo or Alliance Ranger unit is scary, so just having these units on the board helps the Rebel player keep their opponents off of objectives. If anyone pokes their head out, Han and the Rangers can blast away, and if they can keep these units safely within striking range, Rebel players can jump in at a moment's notice to eliminate the key units holding their opponent’s army together.

Also look for Rebel players to bring higher numbers of deployment groups than their opponents. A Rebel player with eight or even nine activations will guarantee Han Solo the ability to activate last at the end of the first round, allowing him to move to a spot where he can blast an opponent with a focused shot. His end-of-round attack can then be used to do even more damage, potentially removing a unit and limiting your opponent’s options for striking back against the Rebellion's generally fragile heroes.

After surprising IG-88 with his Urgency , Han can potentially fire three times before IG-88 can retaliate—if the droid is even in one piece after Han's attacks.

To defeat the Rebels, you’ll be looking to catch their key damage-dealers out of position and eliminate them before they can bring their firepower down on you. Moving your troops to a vulnerable—but hard to reach—location may coax the Rebels into an easier position for you to target. Many Rebel armies will also have a hard time contesting multiple objectives, so be sure to use that against them. The Rebels work best when they can focus all of their units in one spot where they can use their support to its fullest extent. By contesting objectives across the map, like on the huge Nal Hutta Swamps, you'll force the Rebel squad to bleed away valuable victory points or stretch themselves thin, leaving them in vulnerable positions.

The Fate of the Galaxy

Planning for Worlds this year is tough; there are just too many good options for all of the factions. Which faction will end up on top is anyone’s guess, but the battles are sure to be entertaining.

Last year, several of my games could have easily gone either way. One came down to a tie except for the final cards flipped by Black Market on both sides. Another involved the last couple minis in each army fighting to their last health after massive losses on both sides. At this level of competition, you can never count the other players out. In the finals against Paul Heaver last year, I was able to open with a devastating command card combo that removed his Bantha Rider before it got to do much of anything; however, through careful play, Paul fought back and was nearly able to secure the victory points to steal the game.

At this top level, you always have to think about the game on multiple levels, and it can slip away from you on objectives or as you lose units. It's part of what makes the game exciting, and if you can’t make it out to Worlds this year, be sure to tune in to the live streams to see how top players navigate these challenges in the heat of battle!

     —Daniel Taylor, Two-Time Imperial Assault World Champion

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