Written by David Holland
Ships and space battles are an iconic part of Star Wars lore, to the point that we often associate specific ships with their own pilots – be it Luke Skywalker and his X-wing, Darth Vader’s iconic TIE Advanced, or Hera in the cockpit of the Ghost, once the connection between a pilot and their ship is formed, it almost feels strange seeing someone different at the controls.
With that in mind, it’s cool to see Star Wars: Destiny experimenting with the “Piloting” mechanic in the Covert Missions set, and I’d like to take a moment to explore how Piloting has the potential to change how we play the game.
As a side note, I was hoping to write about how new Balance of the Force and errata would change the meta, but it looks like we are still a few weeks out from a holocron update and I would like to spend this time looking ahead. Until the update comes, I’ll give you a hot tip: try putting Delve in the same deck as Vader’s Fist. I have a good feeling about this combination.
Ok, let’s talk about Piloting:
1) Action Efficiency
I started playing Destiny around the time of the Two-Player Starter. As I said above, ships and vehicles are an iconic part of the Star Wars universe, and it was always fun to include them in decks but I struggled to make a vehicle-focused deck competitive. For one thing, having lots of supports on the board slows you way down. Taking an action to activate each individual support and character gives your opponent lots of time to mitigate and if you’re playing against a particularly fast deck you can really find yourself behind. One solution to this was mods, giving vehicles the opportunity to roll out extra dice the way characters do with upgrades. Then Desperate Measures happened and no one wants an expensive vehicle with a bunch of mods suddenly relegated to the discard pile.
Piloting gives us a more risk-free way to help vehicle decks keep up in terms of actions. In fact, this is one of the reasons FFG gave for adding the mechanic to the game. we’ve seen characters interact with their weapons (Darth Vader’s Lightsaber) and even their battlefields (General Grievous’ Lair) but now characters have an added way to interact with vehicle supports. This saves you from having to include cards like Deployment and Attack Run in your deck just to keep pace.
We already know from the Covert Missions cards that have been spoiled that a few card combinations will be specifically designed to take this action efficiency one step further. For example, when you play Ghost you will be able to activate one of your Spectres and if that Spectre happens to be Sabine Wren with Piloting, you can activate Sabine and Ghost in a single action with Ghost’s Ambush action leftover. Until it rotates out I expect that the Legacies Millenium Falcon will see a resurgence with the advent of Piloting, given that its “After you activate” effect. Since the new Darth Vader has the Piloting subtype, it will be interesting to see if his TIE Advanced makes an appearance, and how those two cards will interact with each other.
2) Destroy the Death Star
One of the other fancy new mechanics in Covert Missions is the new win condition – either the Construct the Death Star plot (villains) or Destroy the Death Star plot (heroes). While the villains are busy removing their precious resource dice to build their technological terror, heroes need both pilots and vehicles in order to fulfill their Death Star plot. While it is not essential that your pilot have the “Piloting” feature to accomplish this, it will certainly help.
If you’re piloting a hero deck (see what I did there?) and you’re attempting to complete the Destroy the Death Star plot, your pilots are your most precious characters. Any character with the pilot subtype immediately becomes a target for your opponent since you can’t complete the plot’s action without them. The action efficiency brought on by the Piloting feature should help your Death Star deck keep pace with more aggressive decks that will seek to spike your pilots early. It also looks like Piloting will be limited to new characters only, which means even previously printed characters with the Pilot subtype will not retroactively gain the Piloting keyword. That’s a little confusing, but basically it means Poe Dameron (More Than a Pilot) is still a Pilot but isn’t Piloting. Got it?
At the end of the day it means that we will probably see heroes with Piloting such as Luke Skywalker used in conjunction with the Destroy the Death Star Plot, since the Piloting feature adds such great efficiency to a vehicle deck.
3) Support Focus
When I started playing Destiny most of the decks I built and played against amounted to “play upgrades, roll dice, deal damage”. Two-character teams were most common, such as eQui-Gon/eYoda or my first deck, eSabine/eEzra. Yes, I was a Sabine player.
Over the past few sets, Destiny has moved away from the classic middle/middle, upgrade focused decks toward more vehicle and support focused decks. This bothers some players, who miss “classic” decks, but like it or not this trend does not seem to be reversing. Over the past few sets we have seen powerful vehicles such as the Shadow Caster supplemented by mods, devastating villain supports like Megablaster Troopers and Vader’s Fist, and vehicle-focused characters like Amilyn Holdo. Now we have a new mechanic that is focused on making vehicles even more competitive by improving their efficiency. Zooming out from the tactics of the game itself, Piloting seems to be a signal from FFG that supports and vehicles are here to stay.