By Theorist– March 7, 2014
This article is long overdue. At least eight people have specifically requested it from me, but I’ve put writing it off multiple times because the Interceptor is a complicated ship to explain. Imperial Aces is coming, and it’s high time we -ALL- knew how to fly these bastards well. Let’s understand our ship….
HOW THE PTL INTERCEPTOR HOLDS UP UNDER FIRE
A common misnomer of the Interceptor is that it’s a squishy ship, but it’s not entirely true. A “turtled” Interceptor, meaning one stacking Evade + Focus, is reasonably durable. AGI 3 provides ~1 Evade per attack your way. Each token also provides you with an Evade, although your Focus token is not reliable when facing just a single shot.
Against a single gun, the turtled Interceptor will almost never take damage. If it does, it usually takes just 1 damage. The Interceptor can weather an absurdly high number of single shots before taking lethal damage, making it one of the most dangerous endgame ships despite its moderate cost (25 for the new PTL Royal). If you buy extra health for Interceptor, you greatly compound this capability and create a ship that almost cannot be beaten by a single enemy dogfighter. I recommend buying Shield Upgrade for the Interceptor before buying Hull Upgrade, since that first 1 damage that gets through can be a nasty crit. There are several crits that the Interceptor really dislikes.
Against two guns, the turtled Interceptor’s “action shell” can hold. It’s just enough defensively, and this is the key to the Interceptor’s success in my view. You don’t have to work for an absolutely isolated 1vs1 dogfight. Especially early in the game, this is sometimes the best you can get for your Interceptor and should be acceptable to you. You are safe enough, though not safe.
Against three guns, you are in some trouble. You could be killed here, and are at least likely to take some damage. If you must engage under these conditions, engaging at Range 3 or using a nearby rock for cover (or both) is a huge help. It can actually be worth stacking Evade+Roll or Focus+Roll in order get the extra defense die here, since so many shots will be coming your way. I would advise never choosing to engage the enemy like this unless forced by good opponent maneuvering to do so.
Under heavy fire from 4+ ships, all ships suck. That’s actually X-wing 101, I think. You don’t ever want to park any ship where all enemy ships can shoot it unless you have no choice — that gets you dead in a hurry, and dead means less firepower which means losing the game. How many shots it takes to melt the PTL Interceptor does matter here though. I tend to think in terms of 3-dice attacks, as those are the most commonly seen. The TIE Fighter typically takes 2-3 shots to kill. The turtled PTL Interceptor, which costs twice as much, typically takes 3-4 to kill because of that extra action — and if you spend your Focus to attack, you are basically a TIE Fighter out there defensively. It’s not great, especially since x2 AP can equal an Interceptor’s offensive output. This is where the Interceptor is squishy. It can’t match the swarm when under heavy fire.
Those last scenarios, under heavier fire, is where the PTL Interceptor -SUCKS-. Out of actions means out of luck for the Interceptor. You fly this ship defensively, to avoid that situation at all costs. If you can do that consistently, this ship will win games for you that are otherwise impossible comebacks. If you coast it into heavy fire and get it killed, you should have brought x2 AP instead.
So let’s learn to fly the bastard.
FLANKING IS THE INTERCEPTOR’S NATURAL ROLE
Some players will not entirely understand what I mean by flanking. A flank ship is one that engages the enemy from their side, where they cannot shoot back. There are several types of flanking, all of them to do with timing.
If you split a single ship away and engage with it this way one turn ahead of your main squad, that’s an advance flank. The opponent cannot turn to engage your flank, because they will then be horribly out of position to fight the rest of your squad. This is by far the best way to flank, since it gives you a damage lead before the fighting really starts. However, it comes with a danger. You must execute this carefully — some squads can turn into your flank ship, kill it off, then recover well. Ships like the YT-1300 Falcon and Firespray are built to deny an advance flank well. Odd squads like x4 Rookie w/ Engine (one of my favorites) can take out the advance flank then race away from your main group’s combat range to reorganize. Always be careful that your opponent will actually -BE- out of position if they attack your advance flank ship. If they can easily turn back and fight, it’s no good. If they can k-turn their squad and get organized fire on your main group, it’s no good.
You can also time your flank ship to hit at the same time your main group does. This doesn’t give you a damage head-start, but it does protect the flank ship better. The opponent doesn’t get a turn to recover, so they have no choice but to address the larger threat (your main group). Going after your flank ship becomes a mistake, one that can easily lose them the game. This can be good for the Interceptor as a way to survive early on, when there are lots of enemy guns still alive.
Consider the following squad:
52 (x2) Saber w/ PTL + Targeting Computer
48 (x4) AP
This squad can flank with each Saber, so long as those Sabers don’t flank together from the same side. The group of x4 AP is the most dangerous offensively, and if not engaged will do quite a lot of damage compared to what one Saber can do. Flanking from two separate directions guarantees that at least one Saber will be very safe.
I do however generally recommend you only use one flank ship. It’s easier to fly, and it is easier to time your attack. If you are capable of running two (or more) flank ships skillfully, this article is not for you.
Lastly, you can delay a flank ship. This is VERY dangerous to do, because it is lowering your offense in the all-important opening exchange. There can be good reasons for it though. Delaying your flank ensures the opponent cannot choose to go after it first without taking tremendous damage ignoring your main group. You can use this in squads that take a long time to kill, like a swarm:
28 Turr w/ PTL
72 (x6) AP
Here you might choose to keep Turr safe until you’ve done some harm to the enemy. Then Turr comes in at an angle that is difficult for the opponent to address, and begins taking free shots. He’s well built as a clean-up ship, killing one then arc-dodging another. Losing him early is very bad since he’s your only strong endgame ship, so delaying him can be a good tactic.
THE ALL-INTERCEPTOR SQUAD
We all know what’s coming… (100 (x4) Royal w/ PTL) …and x4 Saber is nothing new. But most people can’t fly this squad, because they haven’t clicked with the Interceptor well enough to operate a squad of all flank ships. How do you flank with ALL your ships? The opponent isn’t blind. They are going to fly at somebody!
Typically the tactic for x4 Interceptor is dependent on whether is can out-joust the enemy.
If you can, you converge and kill the enemy’s best (or highest PS) gun quickly. I have mowed down a x2 BH squad (some with a TIE Fighter helping) in less than six rounds, several times. High PS and this many 3-dice guns will kill whatever you point at, over two turns if not in one. Once you thin firepower, it doesn’t matter what you lost doing so. You will rule the endgame. But important priority here is an enemy YT. Hit that first if there’s no Biggs. It will slowly murder you in endgame if you do not.
If you cannot out-joust (and you usually cannot because most squads are jousters), split 2 and 2. Flank with BOTH pairs. Whichever pair is ignored, race that pair in and shoot. Whichever pair is not ignored… avoid combat. That’s right, avoid combat. Delay it however many turns you can, while the other two ships take free shots. Then start the firefight with your opponent somewhat hurt and disorganized. You can also fan out to do this, but I find it harder to guess where the opponent is headed when you don’t pair 2 and 2.
A single advance flank is also good. Since you are higher PS, you can boost to turn the advance flank into a simultaneous flank if the opponent turns to pick off your flank ship. Typically you will not seek combat with your flank ship on this turn, but seek to move it to the safest possible location.
USING BOOST AND BARREL ROLL (AND IN THE RIGHT ORDER) MATTERS A LOT
First, some rules of thumb and some basics:
-RULES OF THUMB-
1. Never Boost and/or Barrel Roll into an enemy arc to get/improve your shot. That will get you killed fast.
2. Never forget rule 1, because that will get you killed fast. By me. I will strangle you for doing it.
3. When fleeing past Range 3, boost first. This gets more distance away from the attacker.
4. When slipping to the outside of an enemy arc, boost first. This gets further to the outside.
5. When cutting inside past an enemy arc, roll first. This cuts further to the inside.
-THE FULL POWER OF BARREL ROLL-
Let’s start with Barrel Roll, to which every ship except the Lambda shuttle has some access. (I choose you, R2-D6!) Using it to arc-dodge or get a shot is something that is easy to see, but if all you use it for is that then you aren’t doing all that your ship can do. Here are a few other uses to consider, and I suggest you ponder on each:
1. You can Barrel Roll away from enemy ships, moving out a range band and possibly denying some shots.
2. You can Barrel Roll to impose a rock between you and some enemy ships, including/excepting your own target.
3. You can Barrel Roll so that a higher PS ship will collide with you, which guards your ship from a Range 1 shot.
4. You can fine tune your position to turn/bank into a narrow asteroid gap next turn, or open moves for next turn.
5. You can move toward/away from enemy ships without pointing away from them. 45 or 90 degrees allows this.
I want to discuss that last one, because it’s tremendously underused on pretty much every Barrel Rolling ship. Adjusting your closing distance while not pointed at the opposing squad is extremely good to help time when, where, and how the fighting starts. It’s an excellent option to have on any flank ship (such as the Interceptor). You can avoid an enemy that has turned to try and pick you off, or you can close with an enemy that is trying to rush your main group before your flank ship can get into position to help.
-THE FULL POWER OF BOOST-
Literally every ship can boost, thanks to the Engine Upgrade. But players often don’t use what it’s really capable of, and that’s why they don’t use Engine as much as it deserves. Thankfully I don’t have to convince people to try Engine on the Interceptor, as it comes with Boost already. Consider what Boost can really do for you:
1. It does let you make that 135 degree turn, but there are a lot of reasons you might want to execute that move:
— You might be looking to get back into combat fast, rather than k-turning and losing so much ground to the target.
— You might be looking to pursue a target that has run off; such as fast Lambda, HLC Krassis, or a hurt ship.
— You might be looking to arc-dodge off to the side vs a k-turning enemy ship. Consider the “Biggs Maneuver”:
Biggs absorbs some early hits, and now needs to live so that you don’t lose firepower. Rather than k-turning or moving 4 forward and Focusing, Biggs veers sideways with a 3 turn and chooses Focus (or Boost to 135 degrees if you have Engine). This puts him out of arc for some enemy ships, possibly all of them. On the next turn, Biggs kturns vs ships that can only see him if they do a hard turn after their kturn — which would make most ships actionless at Range 1 vs the rest of Biggs squad, and not facing anything but Biggs. It becomes impossible for the opponent to justify pursuing Biggs to finish him, so he lives to get a few more shots in.
2. It lets you close quickly, even vs a ship moving away from you. This make it a key flank option.
3. It lets you adjust your angle, in case enemy ships didn’t go where you had expected.
4. Like Barrel Roll, you can adjust your distance from the enemy squad even when at 45 or 90 degrees.
-COMBINING THE TWO VIA PTL-
Typically you will always want to boost first, though there are exceptions. Important to say, very handy.
Moves that are good (enemy on your left):
1. Bank left 2-3, boost left, roll right — This accelerates in toward enemies while moving behind them.
2. Bank left 2-3, roll right (and backward), boost right — This is move 1′s abort, enemy has turned your way.
3. Forward 2, roll right, boost forward — This is hanging back, seeing where the enemy is going.
4. Forward 2, roll left, boost left — This is hanging back aborted, enemy is moving away.
5. Bank right 2-3, boost left, roll right — This is an overshoot method, keeping safe distance.
6. Straight 4-5, boost left, roll right (and forward) — This is also an overshoot method.
Note that you adjust what you do as a reaction to enemy behavior. It’s all about controlling the distance and in some cases your angle depending on what the opponent chose to do. When you are careful enough with a PTL Interceptor, it can sometimes not matter what they choose. Now matter what they do, you’ll have a positional answer depending on how you use your Boost+Roll.
Moves 5 and 6, overshoots, are moves to get past the enemy. Even if the turn, they won’t have you in arc. This lets you get a very clear read on whether they intend to try and pick you off, so that you can concentrate on avoiding their approach or racing after them to engage from behind. Often I find that these super-fast moves are so disorienting to the opponent that they will make the mistake of breaking 1 ship off to engage you in a vain effort to stall your attack. This is perfect for Interceptor.
I will say this because it’s important as well. When you are in doubt, go slow and don’t commit to coming in to attack. It’s better to get there late than to walk into a 4 gun ambush. When you do engage, be at Range 3 if the enemy turns to meet you. That way you can turtle or Barrel Roll out of combat range. If they do not turn, you can safely boost into Range 3 to get your shot.
THE INTERCEPTOR CAN JOUST A SINGLE SHIP
This last bit relates to the first, but is easy to forget or overlook. You do not have to arc dodge everything. When you are against a lone enemy ship, turtling up and trading shots also favors you (unless you are vs an HLC). Feel free to take that trade sometimes, unless you are 100% that you will be able to get out of the arc. This is also handy if you get stuck vs a higher PS ship than yourself, where you’d have to guess your arc dodges. Turtling can win for you here. Come in, trade, race out, turn around from far away, and come back to joust some more. You will win that far more often that you lose it.
THE RHYTHM OF THE INTERCEPTOR
Maybe this will be hard to explain, but a minimum speed of 2 makes it hard to get 2 shots in a single pass vs a a ship headed your way unless it also wants 2 shots on you. With the Interceptor, you are in that situation interested in just 1 shot per pass and then avoiding the range 1 exchange unless you are feeling pressed for time (or need to kill of some guns before the opponent can reorganize). Plus I’m a fan of never giving the opponent what they want. If they are crawling on forward/bank 1 to get a Range 1 shot on me, I’m a ghost and I’ll be back in a few turns. Often this is the behavior of a ship that struggles to get any shots on the Interceptor, and I’m not going to help the opponent. The only time I really slow play it is if I’m trying to bring down a big ship or if I’m vs something not coming my way where I’m raining free shots.
The other thing is patience. I see a lot of players turn as the opponent k-turns, eat a free shot, then turn again and be in a Range 1 exchange. Particularly vs AdvS B-wings (but vs any ship), this is a mistake. As the opponent k-turns, race away out of arc. A long 4 forward then Boost+Roll will get you out of arc even vs B-wing’s short 2k turn. You can also look for 2 bank then Boost+Roll, which also gets you out of arc well. You can add an extra turn “running away” here, after that if you like. Use the following round to begin your turn while still moving away (with Barrel Roll). Then come back, and you’ll get a Range 2 or Range 3 exchange instead. It’s much better for you and gives you much better action options. Plus you will definitely not be blocked this way.
AVOID THE BLOCK!
The final thing I have to say is that this is how good players kill Interceptors, and this is why you never line up against enemy ships. Shoot at the corners of your arcs if possible or take a Range 3 shot, then race off somewhere. Don’t fully turn in on an enemy squad, or you’ll have nowhere to go and get picked off easily. Often I have chosen 4 forward and flown past an enemy squad that was trying to set up the easy kill. If you don’t make it, you tend to collide with a back ship and nothing can shoot you. Another good move is right turn 2, roll forward left, boost left — that shoots off to the side, and is impossible to block because if you aren’t on right turn 2 (maybe you are on left turn 2!) the opponent’s moves become a disaster for them.
LOOK FOR ME ON VASSAL!
I play Interceptors less than I used to, because there’s so much to try. But they are my favorite Imperial ship (my 2nd favorite ship after the Y-wing), and I’m glad to demo visually anything I’ve talked about here or just play a game with you. PM me here at TC if you are ever interested, or post in the replies section below. There’s a lot I would have added graphics for, but a live demo where I can discuss is much better and I’d prefer that.
Good hunting, fellow Interceptors. The Rebel scum won’t know what hit them.