After about a week of toying with U-wings (1-2 of them in every list), I have found some builds that I like and feel are worth playing. Below I’m going to go over each one, deconstruct what they are for, and explain why they can be worth the cost.
THE VANGUARD BUILD
39 Pathfinder w/ AdvS, Gunner, Chewbacca, Engine, Pivot-wing
This U-wing is built as a blocker. Use Advanced Sensors to Boost before you reveal your maneuver, allowing you to ram enemy ships and ensure maximum control over where you park your ship each turn. You can also Focus before ramming a blocked ship, allowing you to defend the U-wing while remaining in a blocking position. Chewbacca crew gives you a total of 10 health (at AGI 2) and high resistance to critical damage, making the U-wing difficult to bring down quickly despite being on the front line of the fight.
U-wing’s 180 turn on a Stop maneuver comes with a helpful trick in this build, thanks to the Advanced Sensors + Engine combo. Before revealing your Stop, you can choose to Boost. Effectively your dial gains the 1 s-loop and 1 k-turn maneuvers. When you don’t need to Boost, just being able to Focus on this turn as you regain AGI 2 can help you survive (or hit harder).
In some positions, you can combine these plays in sequence. You enter combat at AGI 2, but flip your title to AGI 1 as you block because your U-wing is safe. On the following turn you threaten to do a 180 and may Boost before doing so, so enemy ships don’t know whether to bump you or jump over you. You control to a high degree which enemy maneuvers are mistakes, and can plan the moves for the rest of your squad knowing what your U-wing actually intends.
Of note here; Advanced Sensors allows a nice obstacle hopping play. You can Boost to line up the maneuver or Focus before you reveal, then 3 bank or 4 forward over an obstacle to be right on top of the enemy. Chewbacca aboard to help absorb possible obstacle damage can be quite nice to maintain this play as a sound idea.
— FCS can be used over AdvS, since Gunner is aboard. (U-wing loses arc on TL’d targets easily.) You lose blocking prowess and the 180 is much weaker positionally, but you do better damage if you can still see targets despite your diminished mobility. Lists that demobilize targets via stress and/or ionization can make use of FCS more safely. The post-block play changes if you run FCS. You will want to flee with a 3 bank or 4 forward maneuver, flip to landing mode, and then Boost away even further. Turn around there on the following turn, then return to combat range — players used to running PTL aces like Soontir will actually recognize this attack pattern, the rush out of combat and then immediate return. I would almost call FCS a separate build, since there are definite changes to how the ship is strong (damage up; mobility down). But generally the threats and operation of the ship are similar, so I’m just listing the FCS option here instead. It’s still largely the same turn to turn, in terms of decisions.
— C3-P0 can be used over Chewbacca. Guess zero every time, even when you are AGI 2. When you get one natural Evade result on AGI 2, you are already ahead on the damage curve since you average only 0.75 Evades per defense roll. The extra health vs Chewbacca can actually be better here, if you can survive long enough to use C3-P0 3+ times. I liked the added burst-down and crit resistance better than the potentially higher durability, and I also found that having Chewbacca aboard the U-wing discourages opponents from shooting at it while C3-P0 does not (despite these cards being roughly the same at improving U-wing durability). If you want the U-wing to take enemy fire, C3-P0 here is useful. I think the change is also worth it if you want to save 1pt, unless you are wanting your U-wing ignored. Personally I liked my U-wing being left alone, since it is PS 2 and gets sniped off the board by everything else once its health is low.
— Gunner is a tough one to replace, but Rey crew makes some sense and in some cases can be better (since you can stack Focus + TL vs a difficult to hit target). Rey may actually be better here overall, but I like Gunner for a better chance to strip tokens and because sometimes I already have the 1 Focus I will need. Also I don’t like Rey on ships that don’t kite well, since it can be difficult to rebuild Focus onto her once it is gone. U-wings don’t want to run, because they can’t attack when running and don’t turn around to fight back very easily/safely. Not being able to both Boost and store up Focus on Rey makes this substitution a questionable one in my eyes. It does save 3pts and can generate offense, but if I want to do that I think I just run FCS + Gunner instead.
— Engine is not replaceable, in my opinion. Engine makes the U-wing much harder to deal with and avoid, and also helps it to reset quickly for another attack pass. The title and indeed the U-wing in general doesn’t operate well without it. My attempts to run U-wings without this card led me to games where my U-wing only shot once and never saw a target again, as well as games where I could not get or keep my U-wing in combat range. Because U-wing cannot hit hard with an occasional single shot, it needs a way to stay in the fight. Engine is the card that allows this to happen.
BOTH GUNSHIP AND BOMBER
34 Pathfinder w/ FCS, Sabine, Bombardier, Tactical Jammer, Pivot-wing, Ex M, Cluster Mines
The U-wing is not unique in this role; Other ships like the VCX or K-wing can operate similarly to provide both firepower and easily placed bombs. Here the U-wing is not trying to keep guns on charging enemy ships, but just wants to block and then bomb a target. Enemy ships that run away from the U-wing’s bombs are much easier for the U-wing to keep an arc on over several turns, solving the U-wing’s poor ability to turn around in a different way. FCS helps punish ships that flee the bomb drops.
There is one excellent reason to choose the U-wing over the VCX; cost. But the K-wing comparison is trickier. You can build a Warden up to fight well and drop bombs for 39pts, which while more expensive is comparable (especially if you opt for Chewbacca over Bombardier to ensure your U-wing doesn’t get burned down on approach, or Engine over TJ so that you can rush block). The advantages of the U-wing over the K-wing here are that the U-wing makes a strong blocker due to its size and can carry tools like the ones I have added above — FCS and Tactical Jammer. This gives the U-wing a harder punch than the K-wing vs targets that are easy to aim for, at least through the first attack pass. The K-wing can’t help you win a joust the way a U-wing can. The U-wing is marginally more durable than the K-wing. That can matter in some games.
Personally, I think I would build the Sabine U-wing this way:
42 Pathfinder w/ FCS, Sabine, Gunner, Engine, Pivot-wing, Ex M, Cluster Mines
I would guard with Biggs on approach, since this is a lot of points for just a low PS 8 health ship. Biggs and U-wing both are much better if they never have to turn around and can just cruise along chasing a target, which is the scenario that the threat of Sabine bombs tends to create. The third ship would be an R3-A2 carrier, probably Snap Shot Nien since he is another ship that scares opponents into trying to avoid a direct joust. Another possibility might be a Gold and then Captain Rex as a fourth ship, if I trim the Pathfinder down a bit.
Even to me, 42pts for such a squishy ship looks a little scary. Warden builds go that high (and higher), but that ship is extremely good at running away from heavy fire. But I think with Biggs and the mine damage to punish a joust, I could consistently win a joust and am well built to also punish opponents trying to avoid a joust. I can always switch from Gunner to Chewbacca if I find that the U-wing needs more durability. It feels like a manageable situation. I can get 42pts worth out of the 42p build.
Cassian comes with an ept (and a weak ability). If you are willing to pay for it, this give the U-wing access to cards other than Engine to help solve mobility issues. Daredevil lets Cassian stay at AGI 2, since he no longer needs to do stop maneuvers to turn around quickly. Expert Handling can augment or even replace Engine as a way to stay aimed at targets. But what works and what doesn’t, in practical terms?
45 Cassian w/ FCS, Daredevil, Chewbacca, Gunner, Engine, Pivot-wing
45 Cassian w/ AdvS, EH, Chewbacca, Gunner, Engine, Pivot-wing
This is where I’m at with Cassian, currently. The Daredevil build hits harder, and both builds can arc dodge. The Expert Handling build is very good at stalling out or running away from danger. It can be a bit hard to justify Cassian over a VCX or HLC Fringer at a similar cost, but he actually survives and fights well enough that I’d call him comparable. Cassian should actually live longer than a 45pt VCX, while putting in a similar amount of work offensively thanks to Gunner and better ability to stay at close range to targets.
THE EFFICIENT U-WING; A DEAD END?
Coming in at 23pts, the PS 2 Pathfinder is already 2pts behind the Omicron Group Pilot. For that 2pts, you gain a bit of mobility (white turn 2 and the 180 option on the title) but lose the very valuable cannon slot. It’s hard to be an efficiency ship that loses to other efficiency ships, while also struggling to aim at high performance ships.
A good comparison is U-wing vs B-wing. Both have 8 health, and their costs are similar. B-wing actually costs 1 less, but gets the far better dial and has Barrel Roll as well. It’s easy to think the U-wing can’t compete. But AGI 2 vs AGI 1 does make a difference. U-wing is definitely the more durable of the two ships. You can cheaply augment the already higher U-wing durability with a few cards that don’t quite work for the B-wing — Chewbacca crew, C3-P0, Rey crew, or perhaps Jyn Erso.
Where I personally have disliked the U-wing is that efficient builds struggle to keep their arc pointed at a target. The right place for an efficient U-wing would be in a squad with very strong positional control weapons, and you would probably run Tactical Jammer for sure to guard those weapons. Otherwise the U-wing gets ignored. This makes the efficiency build U-wing a Biggs substitute in lists, one that is tougher to kill and can hit a bit harder (due to being up front and having access to FCS).
26 Pathfinder w/ FCS, Chopper, Tactical Jammer
There are a lot of cheap upgrades that could go on this, if you had extra points. I don’t hate Leebo crew actually, just as a blocking threat for cheap. Zeb might work. You can upgrade to Bodhi pilot here and run the Pathfinder in to help get TLs for a payload strike. Bodhi has the advantage of providing some offensive value even when his gun is out of position, and maybe be the best U-wing pilot as a result. I also like his ability to get a TL from outside his own combat range, so that when he does get shots they count for more. But how safe is it to run a PS 4 blocker?
I don’t think the low cost builds are a dead end entirely. But I don’t think that’s what the U-wing is best at doing. For me it has been much more functional at ace range (30-40pt) costs, as a hybrid between strong blocker and durable gunship. I see how the U-wing could be used in the right list for lower cost, but it doesn’t feel as natural. Maybe it’s just me.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY SUCCESS?
I have heard of a select few people having some success. Someone ran 2 Pathfinders as support for a cheaper Dash build, as I understand it, and did reasonably well that way. Have you found any U-wing builds you like, that were able to hold their own in games or win them? Have you tried any higher performance U-wing builds yet?
Share your thoughts and experiences with the U-wing in the comments section!