The High Performance U-wing?

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.

Alternate cards:
— 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 NONSENSE
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!

  1. I was the one who won a Q1 tournament (4 swiss, no cut) using 2 pathfinders with collision detector and title (remaining at 23 points, but more importantly, just 11 points for half of the ship) and a Dash with Expertise + Rey (because I don’t trust Dash’s 2 dice defense on its own).

    1. That Cassian is an accurate ATT 3 gun that cannot be blocked to turn off the accuracy — 32pts for that is a bit questionable; that’s a lot to pay for such a poorly mobile gun. I think I’d compare it to a Red Squadron Veteran (T-70) with Predator and BB-8, which is is 31pts for 1 less health and very high mobility. It too is accurate with shots and resistant to blocking attempts. The burden of any Cassian build is that it must do something that the T-70 cannot do. Other than size, those ships naturally compare — both are AGI 2 with similar health (thanks to Integrated Astromech) and have an ATT 3 gun. The T-70 is extremely mobile, so U-wing builds must build in directions the T-70 cannot match (which means blocking and strong use of the crew/system slots; also Engine to outrun a T-70 by 1-2 lengths per turn can be strong).

      I think I’d add Chewbacca + Engine to that Cassian build. That lets him flank, tank, flee, or rush in a way that a T-70 cannot physically match. But I’m still not entirely sold on Rage + Inspiring Recruit as a good combo on a U-wing. That looks more like a turret ship combo, since staying on green moves most/all of the time is not something other ships (even ones with green turns) can sustain.

      That Pathfinder build has some interesting traits. But U-wing doesn’t quite have the health::cost ratio, the raw health, or the high PS (which allows for a parting shot on the turn you die) to be plowing over rocks. That means Dash crew is out of place here unless also running Chewbacca crew, and it’s still not super strong since cost is going up by 4 to add that card. I do like the idea of Hera to be able to remain stopped perpetually — Ezra becomes the logical crew there, to go along with FCS. Gunner might also be a decent option, since it turns on FCS vs new targets immediately.

      31 Pathfinder w/ FCS, Gunner, Hera

      You could add Engine to this, which is strong until you start using Hera to perpetually stop and then can’t perform actions anymore. Another option here, since you are PS 2, is Tactical Jammer to guard Biggs. This is a very similar ship to the 32pt Cassian build. But it has added plays you can make thanks to Hera (which doesn’t work on the Cassian build) and the lower PS of the Pathfinder (to block and/or run TJ), plus if you want Engine it fits well here and poorly on that version of Cassian.

      1. The pathfinder don’t run over rocks. You park behind one and use her a to stall constantly. Dash adds the extra dice to negate the enemies extra green from obstructed and FCS gives you mods while stressed.
        If it gets out manouvered then flip wings and rotate ship.

  2. I have had success with Cassian built like so:
    VI + FCS + Operation Spec + Gunner + Engine

    Flew him alongside Rey. He erases her stress, letting her kturn or sloop every round without Kanan. He fires first, misses, tosses a focus to Rey (or himself) then fires again. Did good in the RXT Season on vassal. Think Mu0n was really the only won to beat me with his Rey/Lothal. I played against a Jake/Poe/Ahsoka list and it was Cassian versus Jake 1v1 at end and Cassian held his own. 3bank, flip to landing, then boost out of range. Next round flip and have FCS/OpSpec/Gunner makes Jake not want anything to do with Cassian. Game went to time as we both were just dodging each other and taking pot shots from distance.

    I like Heff as well. Just put Zeb + Tactical Jammers on him and fly biggs behind him. I ran him at regionals in January with FCS+Jyn+Zeb+Jammers along with Biggs and 2x TLT HWKs. Went 3-2. Missed cut by 35-ish MOV. Heff demolished a fully built Kath. Got the block in arc, giving him TL + Focus. He got full mod range 1 shot on Kath, she had to shoot at Biggs. Next round, I used the hwks and biggs to block her 3 bank and 2 sharps. Kept her in front of Heff you who got another full mod shot (FCS + focus action for block). She was gone in 2 rounds.

    1. That Cassian looks very solid, but at so many points I think you should drop Operations Specialist for Chewbacca crew in any list that does not run Biggs. Otherwise Cassian could drop way too fast. VI on Cassian; how strong is that right now? He’s naturally PS 6 and goes to PS 8… I suppose it’s pretty decent if you have an initiative bid, since there are some dangerous PS 8 pilots like Miranda or Corran out there?

      Heff as vanguard for Biggs looks very solid to me. There are a number of system and crew options there that make sense — Enhanced Scopes, FCS (+Gunner), Jyn Erso, Jan Ors, Zeb, Engine, Tactical Jammer. I imagine there are lots of build there, with this one standing out to me:

      36 Heff w/ FCS + Gunner + Zeb + Engine
      26 Biggs w/ R4-D6, IA
      38 ???

      I like this version because after the first pass and after Biggs dies (which can be quickly), Heff needs a game to play. The FCS + Gunner + Engine build allows him to race around shooting and then get out of trouble when he can’t find a target, and Zeb remains useful to threaten aces that would otherwise still beat this overbuilt Heff in a dogfight.

      1. The VI on Cassian was mainly to be same PS as Rey, to toss her a focus token after missing so he gets full mods even if blocked.
        This was also peak of Paratanni meta (wanted to move after Asajj), and also Ketsu/Bossk was picking up steam and boosting passed PS7 bossk arc was essential. At the time, it was also pre x7 nerf, so shooting before Ryad and Vessery and moving after them was key. Now though, Dash/Miranda is popular here. He will chew up PS6 Cassian. Moving after Dash you either get in his range 1, or hopefully can boost out of range 3.