This series describes the strengths and weaknesses of the factions in X-Wing, with this article covering the Rebel 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:
Rebels have the best ways of recovering shields in the game. Regeneration effectively mitigates 1 damage every round. It's better than an evade action since it can recover damage taken on previous rounds. Combined with other defensive abilities, these ships can be extremely hard to kill, especially in the end-game. If focused early, a common strategy is to run the damaged ship away and bring it back into the fight at full shields.
- R2-D2 (astromech; Red Core Set) . One of the best cards in the game. It single-handedly makes some of the more expensive Rebel ships viable. R2-D2 is the most reliable regeneration card since it'll always work after doing a green maneuver.
- Miranda Doni (pilot; K-Wing) . Twin Laser Turret has special synergy with her pilot ability, since she can recover a shield on the first shot and take the second shot with the full 3 dice. Unfortunately, running away to regenerate with Miranda is more difficult since she needs to shoot to regenerate. Twin Laser Turret doesn't work at range 1, but she can spend a shield to make a 4-dice primary attack instead.
- R5-P9 (astromech; Rebel Transport epic) . This isn't seen nearly as often as R2-D2 since the focus token is a large cost, but it works with some ships. The main selling point is the ability to use both R5-P9 and R2-D2 in the same squad. It has special synergy with Poe Dameron since he usually won't have to spend his focus token. It lets him regenerate while doing white maneuvers and is a point cheaper than R2-D2, but it does make him more vulnerable to bumping and stress.
2. Anti-Focus Fire
Rebels have many ships which are vulnerable to focus fire. Fortunately, they have several mechanics which keeps your opponent's damage away from your crucial ships, and those extra turns can make all the difference.
- Biggs Darklighter (X-Wing; Red Core Set) . Despite flying a weaker ship, Biggs Darklighter is one of the most powerful pilots in the game. I like to keep Biggs cheap since he will die quickly, but sometimes you can get value out of R2-D2. Biggs is sometimes seen with a different astromech like R3-A2 or M9-G8 to provide utility.
- Lowhhrick (pilot; Auzituck Gunship) . Lowhhrick's ability helps keep friendly ships alive. Equip him with either Draw Their Fire or Selflessness to make him better at this job, and Wookiee Commandos or Rey keeps his offense acceptable while he takes Reinforce actions.
- Captain Rex (pilot; Sabine's TIE Fighter) . Captain Rex's ability is annoying enough to encourage enemy ships to kill him first. He's best with Biggs to force enemy ships to lose the attack die. Captain Rex doesn't need upgrades, but can take some utility upgrades like Tactician, Jyn Erso, Jan Ors, or Black Market Slicer Tools.
- Selflessness (elite pilot talent; Auzituck Gunship) . Despite its single-use nature, this is more reliable than Draw Their Fire. It can go on many pilots, but the best candidates are include Jess (who opponents usually don't want to shoot first) and ships which regenerate who don't need their elite pilot talent slot for something else.
3. Stress control
Stress is a strong counter to ships which rely on their actions. Not only do Rebels have the cheapest options for stressing enemy ships, they have the best ways of giving enemy ships two stress in one turn. A ship with one stress can do a green maneuver and still take an action next turn, but a ship with two stress will almost never get an action next turn.
- R3-A2 (astromech; Rebel Transport epic) . Both of these example ships can shoot twice in one turn and stress the target with each shot. Note the Stresshog only stresses their opponent with the primary attack and the first shot of the Twin Laser Turret, and doesn't stress a third time on the second Twin Laser Turret shot. Braylen wants to miss with the first attack, and you can make it easier by not to adding the extra attack dice from the title for that attack.
The C-3PO crew greatly improves the tankiness of ships with 1-agility. By guessing 0 evades, it guarantees a ship with 1 agility will get at least one evade result every round. It's strongest when combined with other defensive measures like the evade action and/or regeneration. Ships with C-3PO and another source of damage mitigation are very hard to take down in a 1v1 endgame.
- C-3PO (crew; Tantive IV epic and promo) . Han mitigates two damage per round by taking the evade action, and Norra can mitigate three damage a round thanks to her ability and regeneration.
Bombs are interesting because they let you deal damage without having to get through defense dice. Rebels get the best use out of bombs thanks to Sabine Wren (crew; Ghost) and K-Wings with the Advanced SLAM modification. Sabine deals one damage to a nearby ship when a friendly bomb detonates, even if the bomb was dropped by another friendly ship. This often doubles the damage of a bomb and is especially deadly against evasive ships with low health. Furthermore, K-Wings with Advanced SLAM have unparalleled flexibility in where they drop their "action" bombs (see below).
There are two types of bombs: ones dropped upon revealing your dial ("reveal bombs") and ones dropped as an action ("action bombs"). You'll probably want at least one of each. Reveal bombs are better if you move after your opponent, and action bombs are better if you move before your opponent. You want to drop these bombs directly on enemy ships or when you otherwise know they'll hit. The most popular reveal bombs are Seismic Charges, Ion Bombs, and Thermal Detonators. The most popular action bombs are Cluster Mines, Conner Net, and Proximity Mines. Note a ship can only drop one bomb per turn, no matter what type, and using the SLAM action doesn't let you to drop a reveal bomb since no dial was revealed.
- Miranda Doni (pilot; K-Wing) . Miranda is used when you want a closer with bombs. Her Twin Laser Turret gives her consistent offense after her bombs are expended, and her pilot ability keeps her healthy. Choose the bombs according to your preference.
- Captain Nym (pilot; Scurrg H-6 Bomber) . Captain Nym's ability combined with Bomblet Generator gives you unparalleled zone control. The first build is a kiting build. This Nym gives opponents the unenviable choice between chasing and eating a bunch of bomblets or slowly being whittled away by the Twin Laser Turret. The second build is a close-range brawler. Advanced Sensors gives you more options to drop bomblets and to arc-dodge or bump to avoid shots. The main downside of Captain Nym is he wants another ship to carry Sabine Wren crew.
- Warden Squadron Pilot (pilot; K-Wing) . The generic K-Wing pilot lets you run multiple bombers at the cost of a weak attack. You can have up to three if you use cheaper bombs. If you already have Sabine (crew) in your list, they can take Intelligence Agent to make bombing runs easier.
- Ahsoka Tano (pilot; Sabine's TIE Fighter) . Most lists can't attack Ahsoka until she's your only ship left thanks to the Captured TIE modification. A common strategy against bombing lists is to kill the ship with Sabine first, and the Captured TIE ability makes that strategy impossible for lists who don't have a pilot skill 9+ ship. It also lets her freely run into the enemy formation and generally be a nuisance. Her weakness is requiring a ship to die in close range before she can drop a second bomb.
Rebels don't have great cheap arc-dodgers, but they've got several options in the 40- to 60-point range. They tend to be weak to turrets since they don't have enough dice to avoid damage and can't regenerate. On the other hand, they tend to punch harder than most of the cheaper arc-dodgers.
- Dash Rendar (pilot; YT-2400) . Dash Rendar's ability makes him incredibly hard to pin down by ships with lower pilot skill. Combined with Push the Limit and Engine Upgrade, he's one of the best arc-dodgers in the game. Dash has a weakness against ships with higher pilot skill, and he only has a pilot skill of 7. Because of his cost and inability to use Gunner, he often uses the Heavy Laser Cannon. Ships with higher pilot skill can exploit the "donut hole" by closing in after Dash commits to his position. The first build has the best arc-dodging capabilities, and basically has his whole dial available every turn. The second build trades maneuverability for more tokens, but keeps Engine Upgrade.
- BB-8 (astromech; Blue Core Set) . The ability to barrel roll before your movement is decent for arc-dodging, but being able to use it for extra bonuses pushes it over the hump power-wise. The first uses it to power Intensity, which lets Poe boost or target lock with his normal action while keeping his focus. The second and third builds can use BB-8 to trigger Push the Limit. Combined with boost, it gives these ships a great deal of flexibility.
- Captain Nym (pilot; Scurrg H-6 Bomber) . Captain Nym can't barrel roll and boost in the same round, but his high pilot skill and zone control with bomblets makes him hard to pin down. Both of these builds mentioned earlier works great as arc-dodgers.
- Hera Syndulla (pilot; Ghost) . "Heragator" wants to stay at range 3 of one enemy ship at a time and chip away at them with Accuracy Corrector Twin Laser Turret shots while staying safe with C-3PO and evade actions. She can turn a 5-K into any hard turn, and a 2-straight into any straight or bank maneuver. Combined with Ahsoka Tano (see below), she can boost after all ships have moved.
- Jake Farrell (pilot; Rebel Aces) . Jake is the only Rebel arc-dodger in the low 30-point range. Unfortunately, his 2 attack dice means he contributes very little offense outside of the one Proton Rockets attack. Other builds substitute Intensity or Juke for Veteran Instincts, but these significantly limit his ability to set up the Proton Rockets attack against ships with pilot skill 8 or 9.
- Ahsoka Tano (pilot; Sabine's TIE Fighter) . Ahsoka isn't an arc-dodger herself, but she lets arc-dodgers reposition after everyone's moved. She can also give actions to a ship which bumped. You can run her light or with bombs.
7. Heavy-hitting ships
All faction have heavy-hitting ships, but Rebels have the most access to ships that can throw out 4 or 5 attack dice with consistent dice modification.
- VCX-100 (ship; Ghost) . The first build is a relatively cheap support ship with a scary offense and the ability to K-Turn to its heart's content. While expensive, the second and third builds get an extra turret shot at the end of combat and are effectively two ships in one. The second build also gets an extra attack die from Finn, although it's only effective when rerolled with target lock.
- Dash Rendar (pilot; YT-2400) . Dash is one of the heaviest-hitting ships with a 360-degree turret. Besides the arc-dodging builds with Push the Limit and Engine Upgrade, you can run a cheaper Dash with Lone Wolf just for his firepower.
- Rey (YT-1300 pilot; Heroes of the Resistance) . Finn synergizes nicely with Rey's ability to give her a consistent 4-dice attack against targets in arc. Expertise helps with Rey's action economy since she craves focus tokens for both offense and defense. The new Millennium Falcon title with Kanan lets Rey turn around without stress so she can keep targets in arc and still get use out of Expertise and focus.
- Norra Wexley (pilot; ARC-170) . Norra's ability adds an extra hit when you have target lock and focus. The first build is the standard tanky build, while the second has some fun repositioning options.
- Miranda Doni (pilot; K-Wing) . Miranda's back, and this time she uses her ability to make a 5-dice Homing Missile attack with focus and target lock on the first round of combat. If you have extra points, you can add Extra Munitions, bombs, and Sabine Wren, or instead give her C-3PO for more durability.
- Corran Horn (pilot; E-Wing) . Corran doesn't have a 4- or 5-dice attack in the traditional sense, but his double tap ability lets him do incredible burst damage. You usually don't want to use it at Range 3 against an opponent that still has defensive tokens. Instead, you want to use it when you wouldn't have a shot next round anyway, ideally against a target at Range 1 who doesn't have tokens. He's extremely strong in a 1v1 endgame. However, Corran has some weaknesses. He has trouble turning around, he's reliant on green dice, and he's especially vulnerable to effects that deal damage cards through shields.
- Jan Ors (pilot; HWK-290) . Jan Ors doesn't hit hard by herself, but she pairs well with a hard-hitting ship to give them a 5th or 6th attack die. She dies quickly when built cheap, but Chewbacca and a stack of focus tokens significantly improve her durability.
8. Cheap damage-dealers
Rebels have several options for ships with 3 attack and enough health to survive a turn of being shot at an affordable cost.
- Gold Squadron Pilot (pilot; Y-Wing) . The Twin Laser Turret is the most efficient turret in the game, and putting it on a Y-Wing makes for a cheap and efficient damage dealer.
- Blue Squadron Pilot (pilot; B-Wing and Rebel Aces) . The Blue Squadron Pilot is cheap and efficient by itself. Adding Fire-Control System is a strong option that greatly improves its offense assuming it can keep shooting the same target.
- Blue Squadron Pathfinder (pilot; U-Wing) . The U-Wing costs 1 point more than the B-Wing and trades a more awkward flight pattern for 1 more agility die. Like the B-Wing, it can be run with or without Fire-Control System. You should strongly consider adding Hera Syndulla (crew) to this ship so it can stay in place forever.
There are two things Rebels don't do well. First, its closers tend to be more expensive, starting at 37 points with strong reasons to go even higher. The other two factions have closers under 35 points. These extra points make a big difference when building lists.
Second, Rebels don't have a full-featured small-base arc-dodging ace. The A-Wing almost fits this profile, but its 2-dice attack means it can't reliably provide enough offense to justify spending ~30 points on it. Some small-base Rebel arc-dodging ships exist, but they tend to be too fragile for their cost. Imperials have many options, and Scum have the Protectorate Starfighter. That means most small-base Rebel ships want to fly at the enemy ships, and have limited options if they are outgunned.