Jabba’s Realm introduced a power creep that completely dismantled the previous meta. Heart of the Empire introduces new playable options for all 3 factions, but don’t expect the units introduced in Jabba’s Realm to disappear anytime soon.
Elite Weequay Pirates are the new benchmark by which all units are judged. For something to be top tier in the meta, it either has to do something unique or have a similar value to the Pirates. This article will use these elite Weequays to assess the meta value of new units.
The current meta has 3 dominant archetypes: Luke/Rangers, Scum Hunters, and Ugnaught Swarm. Any new units should also be judged based on how they’d fare against these types of lists.
The empire has been on the losing end of all meta changes since Jabba’s realm dropped. Elite Stormtroopers used to be the backbone of any list in the imperial faction. Rule changes and power creep have made them irrelevant.
The elite Jet Troopers are the new workhorse of the empire. They are very hard to kill, they have a 3 die attack with Fly-By, and can utilize powerful command cards like Call the Vanguard and Overrun. Their Fly-By attack benefits greatly from adding Targeting Computer for a re-roll. Most lists in the Imperial faction use 2 sets of elite Jet troopers.
The Imperials have one of the strongest skirmish upgrades in the game with Zillo Technique. It’s even stronger now that there are two command cards that can be re-drawn in Shared Experience and Targeting Network. Maybe an Imperial droid list will emerge this meta.
The default support units are Imperial Officers, more because of their cost than their usefulness. They give you an extra activation, can sit on a terminal and push a unit 2 spaces, but they’re not in the same league as the rebel support units of Hera, Gideon, and 3P0. Imperial Officers are the only playable option for Imperials under 5 points right now.
Agent Blaise is a very good unit for command card control, but he needs to be paired with at least one other spy unit to be effective (preferably two). Cross Training is an easy option for accomplishing this.
Elite Heavy Stormtroopers are a good compliment to the eJets. They use the trooper trait and have good health, decent range, and good surges. Heart of the Empire introduces some good new command cards for Heavy Weapons like Collateral Damage. Their biggest weakness is their 3 speed. Bring some movement command cards to help them get in position.
The two main problems with the imperial faction are the lack of good long range units and the lack of cheap options. With Nal Hutta Swamps in the rotation, long ranged attackers are extremely valuable, but the imperials have no answer to elite Rebel Rangers or elite Weequay Pirates. Imperial officers are outdated, but are found in almost every imperial list just due to the lack of other choices.
Heart of the Empire Impressions
I don’t think anything in this set can automatically go in the top tier. Elite Sentries seem really similar to BT-1, who was overhyped. The Imperials need cheap options and snipers and they didn’t get either of those. The Vader upgrade is great, but he doesn’t fit in the current meta. The new deployment cards don’t provide anything unique, with the exception of Palpatine.
Vader now costs 5 less, which is exactly what he needed. The loss of Brutality hardly makes any difference. The end of round attack, +1 damage, and reroll are great additions. There are a couple reasons why I don’t put him in the top tier. His 4 speed and lack of reach are a weakness, he is terrible on Nal Hutta swamps, and he doesn’t match up against other popular meta lists. There are lots of figures with pierce 3 and elite Rebel Rangers will eat Vader for breakfast. I do think he’s worth the cost and I think he pairs well with elite Jet Troopers, but I don’t think he’s going to have a significant impact on the top tier meta.
The elite Sentry Droids are a playable addition to the faction. 10 points is pretty expensive considering their “Charged Shot” attack is virtually the same as a prowled elite Weequay attack against a black die.
I’m worried that Multi-Fire is going to be harder to pull off than it seems, especially considering the short range of green-green-yellow. BT-1 is very similar to these units and is not top tier. Trooper-Droid is a really good combination, especially in the Imperial Faction. Lists with Elite Sentry Droids are going to require Zillo Technique, Targeting Network (more for the Zillo Discard than the reroll), Shared Experience, and Call the Vanguard.
The Imperials can always use more support characters, but his 8 point cost and 3 speed are glaring weaknesses. He has an attack ability that doesn’t use an action, so he could move 6 spaces and still get an attack, but it does require an ally in position. Tempt is ok for pinging damage onto enemies that already have power tokens or don’t have an attack. Force Lightning is good, but is limited by Palpatine’s mobility. Palpatine’s actual attack probably won’t be used much at all. Force User isn’t a great trait to build your list around in the same way that Hunter, Spy, and Trooper are. Lure of the Dark Side and Force Lightning are both good command cards, but they’re expensive and they require an action. Neither Vader nor Palpatine have many extra actions to spare, so the value of these cards is reduced. I don’t know if Palpatine is top tier right now, but his abilities do make him an intriguing option.
3 speed is crippling on a massive figure so this is 9 points that won’t be contributing to objectives at all. This unit will probably be used as a ranged backup to the elite Jet troopers, especially since they share the vehicle trait. The Heavy Weapon trait has gotten some love this wave, but I’d have a hard time justifying bringing 2 AT-DPs or an AT-DP and a set of elite Heavy Stormtroopers due to their lack of speed. I think this unit can fit in some lists, but I wouldn’t put it in tier 1.
A 4 speed melee unit without reach is not exactly threatening to any of the top lists right now. Shield is not an amazing defensive ability because you’re usually going to be killed before you get more activations. It basically equates to 1 more health. These guys are not as good as elite Gamorrean Guards and I don’t expect to see much of them in the current meta.
5 health with a defense token might be enough to keep these figures alive for more than 1 attack, which is not bad for a 2 cost figure. The biggest weakness is that they’re 4 speed and melee without reach. A Blue/Red dice attack suffers without a re-roll. The 5 cost is pretty good though, 20 points for 8 figures with essentially 6 health each is really good value. Against a black die they’re going to be averaging 2-3 damage (and 1 strain!). I think on a smaller map a swarm of these could actually work.
They have the same figure cost and a similar attack to elite Stormtroopers. The addition of the droid trait is nice, but they don’t have the focus ability the Stormtroopers have. 5 health and a black die is their biggest weakness. Their Multi-fire ability is terrible; with very short range and very weak damage it’s going to be hard to set up and lackluster in execution.
But wait there’s more
The best Heart of the Empire unit for Imperials is not even an imperial unit, but the Clawdite Shapeshifter. I expect to see a lot of lists bringing over Clawdites for their Senator form, which can distribute power tokens. They also provide another spy unit, which pairs very well with Blaise for command card control. Imperials needed more cheap options and this is the closest they’ve gotten in a while. I did a more complete writeup of Clawdites here.
Riot Trooper Swarm
As individual deployment cards, both the Elite and Regular Riot troopers seem below average. 4 speed melee figures without reach are very easy to play around. However, as a swarm you get a lot of health for a reasonable cost. A swarm of melee figures is also harder to avoid than 2 sets of elites. The brawler/trooper combo is very strong. If you throw Vader in you have a very in-your face type of list. It does suffer from being one-dimensional though, and I don’t think there is a perfect unit in Imperials to provide ranged support. This list also will not work on Nal Hutta.
New Imperial Spy lists
New Imperial Spies will be based on Blaise + 2 Clawdite Shapeshifters. Comm Disruption, Intelligence Leak, and Negation are the core of the command card deck. This needs to be paired with another strong archetype, probably the tried and true elite Jet Troopers. This new archetype has the potential to break into the meta.
20 points for 2x elite Sentry droids is a huge commitment. The command cards are great for a trooper/droid deck though. Zillo Technique is an obvious requirement in any Imperial list but especially this one. General Sorin doesn’t work well with Sentry droids because his “Bombardment” ability doesn’t let them have their much needed +2 accuracy, not to mention he needs Advanced Com Systems and is way over-costed at 8 points. I don’t think all the pieces are there yet for a working Imperial droid list, but I guess the option is there.
Others are a lot more optimistic about Vader than I am. The Force User trait isn’t amazing, especially in Imperials where there are only 3 Force User choices. Palpatine seems interesting, but I’m not sure what I’d like to pair him with. Palpatine + Vader seems to be the obvious choice, but I’m imagining the amount of setup required to get Palpatine to use his Emperor ability on Vader. For 21 points, I don’t think you can make that list work in the current meta.
I’ve been down on the Imperials for a while now and I’m still down on them now. Jabba’s Realm focused very heavily on the Mercenary faction, while giving both the empire and rebels some unique options to play with. You would think a box titled “Heart of the Empire” would give some more unique options to the imperial faction, but what we got was mostly more of the same, 5-10 point deployment cards with average attacks and medium range. Vader will get played, and expect to see some imperial spy lists, but don’t expect the empire to rise back to the top of the meta.