My favorite pilot of the set flew under the radar. My first love in X-Wing is 4-ship Rebels: a no-frills ace that won't break the bank, two efficient damage-dealers, and a cheap blocker. I'm especially fond of ~24-point ships with a better attack than 3 dice with focus, like B-Wings with Fire-Control System or Y-Wings with Twin Laser Turret. So, my favorite pilot of the set wasn't Rey. It wasn't PS9 Poe and it wasn't Nien Nunb. It wasn't Han Solo or Snap Wexley or the Resistance Sympathizer.
It was Jess Pava.
(I'm sorry, Chewbacca.)
Jess's ability is like target lock. She gets focus and target lock every turn while flying near her friends, and doesn't have to deal with not having target lock when switching targets or in the first round of combat. Even better, she gets to reroll dice on defense. At 25 points before upgrades, she can (barely) fit into a 4-ship Rebels squad as an efficient damage dealer.
But Jess has a big problem. Running her makes target selection for your opponent really easy. Leave Jess for last, and she loses her slick princess magic and turns into a scruffy Blue Squadron Novice with a pumpkin. She might never even get the chance to show off her fancy evasive maneuvers and reroll a green die.
To get the most out of Jess, you need a build and a list which convinces your opponent to shoot Jess first. Pairing Jess with a B-Wing or Y-Wing isn't ideal because your opponent will just kill them first. You especially don't want to run her with Biggs! (Bad, FFG preview! Bad!) You want Jess to be your Biggs.
So, I gave Jess R3-A2, the most threatening droid in the game. The stressbot single-handedly shuts down some pilots and greatly inconveniences others. It's not great for Jess since it stops her from turning around and forces her to do predictable greens, but it'll usually be just as annoying for your opponent. The stressbot paints a big target on Jess's back.
I needed a second ~25-point ship with a strong attack who opponents won't want to shoot. After seeing it on Reddit, I chose another new Heroes of the Resistance build: Tarn Mison with M9-G8. Tarn gets a free target lock on any ship which shoots him. If the opponent decides to go after Tarn first, he'll have to reroll an attack die on each ship, then Tarn gets to shoot back with the target lock. In the meantime, he'll have a target lock on a friendly ship to boost their attack.
These ships are more expensive than the usual 24- to 26-point Y-Wings and B-Wings that go in 4-ship Rebel builds. Unfortunately, there was only enough points left for a Z-95 and a 35-point Poe Dameron without Autothrusters. You can either go with Adaptability + R2-D2 or Veteran Instincts + R5-P9 on Poe. I like the higher pilot skill and the option to use white maneuvers, so I went with R5-P9. With the increasing popularity of Hotshot Co-Pilot, R2-D2 might be the better choice.
That gets us to the list:
- (35pts) T-70 X-Wing, Poe Dameron (PS 8): Veteran Instincts, R5-P9, Integrated Astromech
- (27pts) T-70 X-Wing, Jess Pava: R3-A2, Integrated Astromech
- (26pts) X-Wing, Tarn Mison: M9-G8, Integrated Astromech
- (12pts) Z-95, Bandit Squadron Pilot
I think this list is cool not just because it has 4 ships and has good action efficiency, but also because it makes it really hard for your opponent to choose the right target. You don't want to shoot Poe first because he'll just run away and regen. You don't want to shoot Jess first because she's tankier with rerolls on defense. You don't want to shoot Tarn first because he'll make you reroll your hits and you'll give him a free target lock to shoot you back with. You don't want to shoot the Z-95 first for obvious reasons. Meanwhile, Jess keeps shooting and stressing your ships, Tarn keeps buffing Poe, and the Z-95 blocks and adds the occasional damage. The M9-G8 Poe synergy is amazing, almost doubling the chances of 3 hits without spending focus.
I think this list is reasonably strong. I've beaten Dengaroo with it (kill Manaroo first). It has trouble with TIE Defenders and it doesn't like Hotshot Co-Pilot. If I had to take this to Regionals today, I'd swap Miranda with Twin Laser Turret for Poe. If you take this to a tournament, let me know how it goes!
Something I hope you take away from this is you don't have to invent everything to build creative lists. This is the most interesting list I've built so far; maybe it'll be the most interesting list I'll ever build. And yet, I only came up with one ship on my own. I saw the Tarn Mison build on Reddit, Poe's build is standard at its price point, and the generic Z-95 has been used a million times. I even took the structure of this list from an existing archetype. It's much easier to build cool and strong lists if you can draw on a library of ship builds and archetype templates which are known to be effective. (Want to build this library for yourself? Look up top lists at tournaments and see what ships/squads show up.) The magic can come from putting the ships together in just the right combination with just the right tweak in upgrades.