The mighty and invincible Galactic Empire has been a bit of a red headed stepchild in the competitive community since the RRG update. There certainly are a handful of lists that are getting love (primarily those involving Iden) but generally Empire list building has been the subject of a lot of salt. We discussed this on both Scoundrels and After Dark this week; I promise we didn’t coordinate.
Contrary to what you might read in the #empire-chat, Empire does have some decent units, and some effective ways to use them. Let’s run down the list. We’re going to throw a numbers-based stat in each one of these, because every article needs a gimmick, and my gimmicks all involve numbers.
333 – The shorthand for the Empire’s darling of the competitive community (three Shores, three Mortars, three Imperial Special Forces, and Iden)
Iden has been a staple of Imperial list building since she was released, with good reason. Taking DIO gives her 7 health with a refreshable shield, making her the tankiest Empire hero besides Vader himself (arguably moreso, between Nimble and being able to gain cover from suppression). She can infiltrate, her attacks are solid and reliable, and her command cards are incredible. What’s not to like?
You can base a list concept almost entirely around Tactical Strike, which is essentially what the Iden 333 list aims to do (see what I did there?).
Suggested build: DIO, Offensive Push/Tenacity, Situational Awareness, Repeater/Sniper Rifle, Recon Intel/Ascension Cables
Imperial Special Forces
5 – The number of crits an ISF unit with a T-21 averages when using Tactical Strike and Offensive Push.
There is this keyword called Marksman, and this Marksman keyword lets you upgrade hits to crits (or blanks to hits, if you’re into that sort of thing) when you spend aim tokens. There’s also this command card called Tactical Strike, which gives you Tactical, which gives you free aim tokens when you move.
It’s not exactly hard-hitting, groundbreaking analysis to say that Iden and ISF are good together, but we still aren’t seeing them enough, so I’m still hitting it.
Suggested Build: T-21, Offensive Push, Recon Intel/Ascension Cables
20 – average number of total wounds Palpatine does to Red save units with And Now You Will Die
Okay, it’s not all about the nuke. Many Palpatine games will be won without the need for it. But what would a Palpatine game be without the mastermind of the Clone Wars going down in a blaze of lightning fueled glory?
Seriously though, Palpatine is still really good. He has some new tools, too, especially Barrier, which is great at keeping the expensive units you tend to run with him alive. Between medics, guardian, and Barrier, a Palpatine list can do a good impression of an Obi-Wan “I’m sorry you can’t kill anything” list.
Suggested build: Anger, Barrier, Aggressive Tactics
0 – The number of non-Empire players that were sad when the T-21B got a points increase
I’m sorry. Definitely not pouring salt in the wound.
Really though, these guys are still very good. The T-21B is still the best corps heavy weapon upgrade in the game. Target is still great. The mortar is still the most useful emplacement for its cost.
Here, let’s do a more useful stat: 6 – the average number of hits from a Shoretrooper unit with T-21B and two aim tokens. That’s very achievable, between Target proccing, an aim action, spotter, coordinated fire, or training upgrades. It’s not at all weird for Shores to have more than two aim tokens, either. Are you going to be able to stack 10+ on a single unit like a Phase II can in a Clone ball? No, probably not. But do you really need that many on one unit anyway? If you are slapping 2-4 aims on all of your Shores for a turn, they aren’t going to be backloading all of their damage to one activation like a Phase II can, but they are going to be doing more of it, over all.
Are you taking three of them in every single Empire list anymore? Maybe. Iden 333 certainly is. But it isn’t exactly mandatory anymore, either. You can easily run one, two, or even like, four, and have it be perfectly fine. That seems like a good thing.
Suggested Build: T-21B heavy
Other upgrades for consideration: Imperial Officer, Medical Droid, Offensive Push, Targeting Scopes, Recon Intel
6 – The average number of hits from a Stormtrooper unit with an extra body, RT-97C, and two aim tokens.
Wait, that number looks familiar. Isn’t that the same number of hits as the legendarily hard-hitting Shoretrooper unit with T-21B and two aim tokens?
Let’s look at one more stat:
5 – The number of points you save by taking a Stormtrooper unit with an RT-97C and a Specialist over a Shoretrooper unit with a T-21B. That’s right; 82 vs. 87.
And now you have a way to get that second aim token. You don’t even need to give them an order.
If you want some suppression ignoring flex, you could alternatively go with the Captain plus Offensive Push for 86, and they would still be cheaper than a Shore with T-21B.
Suggested Build: RT-97C heavy
Other upgrades for consideration: Captain (with Offensive Push), Specialist, Medical Droid
1 – The number of B1 units you delete each time you shoot with a flamethrower.
Alright, that’s kind of a lazy stat. How about the actual numbers?
On average, a Snow unit with flamer and frags does nearly 8 hits to a full B1 unit, which generally deletes them in one shot. Now you can do it for cheaper too, with the cut to Snows.
Should you be spamming them? Definitely not. But you could do a lot worse than 1-2 of these in a Palpatine or Vader list, where they can take advantage of Pull the Strings or New Ways to Motivate them.
Suggested Build: Flamethrower, Frag Grenades
Other upgrades for consideration: Ion Grenades, Impact Grenades, Recon Intel, Officer
2 – The number of units in the game with the High Velocity keyword that aren’t characters or heavy vehicles (hint: one of them is scout snipers)
In case you haven’t been paying attention, dodges are back in style. Between Vigilance and Situational Awareness hitting the scene over the last few months, there are entire lists that revolve around spamming dodges and cancelling crits (and anything else) with Situational Awareness.
High Velocity makes it so your target can’t spend dodges. Full stop. Period. End of story. No dodge for you. That stack of 8 dodge tokens you have floating around in your clone ball? Yup. Those are pretty. Can’t spend em.
Anyway, I think the demise of the OG sniper has been overrated. Do they still get absolutely shredded by ARC and BX Snipers? Definitely. But they’re still cheap, they’re still timing neutral, they still shoot stuff from long range, and now they’re also a counter-meta pick. Maybe bring a medic or two to deal with the Clone Wars snipers.
Suggested Build: Strike team with DLT-19x sniper. I would also just consider the full squad naked, if you need activation padding and know you will be facing CIS.
2 – The number of keywords that let you score extra victory points
Alright, so Bounty is no Secret Mission. That’s fair. But R2 doesn’t really kill things either. Bossk does. He doesn’t need bounty to be good. And sometimes, you will score that bounty, and it will just win you the game by itself. There’s this fancy new commander everyone is into for CIS, who has four wounds and a white save. He’s made of peanut brittle. You know who likes characters that are made of peanut brittle? Bounty hunters.
Bossk still has a long range with a suppressive crit gun, his command cards are still great, and Merciless Munitions works really well against those annoying Clone balls.
Suggested Build: Hunter, Offensive Push
Other upgrades for consideration: Recon Intel, Targeting Scopes
Okay, he’s not even out yet. But how do I not throw some hot takes in here? Not as hot as his sideburns.
Is ISB Investigation the best command card in the game? It’s certainly a conversation. There are very few abilities that just tell your opponent “you can’t do X, period.” This is one of them. It’s like Change of Plans, but in advance.
This is neat too. Not nearly as splashy, but observation tokens = rerolls, and Empire players love rerolls. The free recover is really nice too. This card wants you to hit the same unit over and over, which feels very on theme for Empire.
Putting it all together
Let’s take a gander at a few list ideas that incorporate these units.
These don’t incorporate Kallus because of how new he is, but he fits in all kinds of ways, particularly with Operative Vader, or even just by himself with a bunch of dudes.
Have to lead with this. The quintessential “competitive” Empire list these days. It’s hard not to see why; it hits like an absolute truck on the Tactical Strike and Coordinated Fire turns, and it’s jam packed with a bunch of units that are just solid, generally.
You could certainly quibble with the upgrades. I’ve seen folks throw ascension cables in there, or cut a mortar for some more beef, like uplinks (to deal with Sabotage Communications) or Iden’s gun. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t strictly need Iden’s gun. Sometimes just spamming piercing dice with Marksman is sufficient.
There are a couple of different ways to do this one; basically you are building it as a CIS counter. It’s not bad in other matchups, either. It is very durable, between the medics, guardian, and barrier.
If you can safely escort Palpatine and/or the Snows to deliver a knockout blow at the opportune moment, you are going to have a good time. Cackling is mandatory.
Veers/Bossk, now with more beef ™. You could certainly downgrade Veers to a generic officer to fit another activation in there, but then you lose out on Imperial Discipline to refresh the Captains and Offensive Pushes.
You might want to downgrade some of the Captain/OP combos to Specialists, for more bid. This list definitely does not want to be playing Bombing Run.
Well, there you have it. Hopefully this has inspired you to try some new things with Empire, as it has me. Go forth and secure peace for the galaxy!