Guide: X-wing- Elite Pilot Talents

You’re deciding on what ship’s to fly at the next X-wing tournament. You consider a swarm of lower PS ships. Numbers are always good.  But aside from moving first and shooting last, low PS also miss out on the wonder that is the Elite Pilot Talent. These cards can drastically alter how you play.

But which one do you pick? The game has expanded so drastically and with Wave 6 there are now 23 to choose from. We’re going to take a quick look at each of them by breaking them up into four categories: Top Contenders, Situational, and Very Situational (to Meh).

Top Contenders

For this category I looked at talents which are useful for any pilot who took them.  The selection criteria had to mean they 1. didn’t require many special circumstances to make use of, 2. were worth their point cost and 3. didn’t have to many to any draw backs (excluding Opportunity Cost).

  • Adrenaline Rush (1pt)Though I rarely use this card it qualified for this category because it’s cheap, can be used by everyone as every ship (except the Decimator) has some red maneuver and the only drawback is that it can only be used once. That drawback is mitigated by its cheapness however. Sadly, opportunity cost is normally what causes this card to see little use. 
  • Determination (1pt) Another cheap card this one is also of universal use as anyone could be hit by a Pilot critical card. The ability to just discard the card (instead of replace it) is excellent. The only drawback is that crits, hopefully, are rare and Pilot crits are only 1/3 of the pile. 
  • Predator (3pts)– This card is not particularly cheap but that is it’s only drawback. The ability to have a reroll on every attack is incredibly useful. And to get two rerolls against low PS ships even more so, since if you are firing on low PS you are often facing a swarm, and need every hit you can get. 
  • Push the Limits (3pts)– I almost put this card in the Situational category. It’s drawback of a Stress can be devastating to many ships which lack a lot of green maneuvers. However, the ability to take two actions in a round is universally useful. 
  • Veteran Instincts (1pt) The standard card for what to use if you have an extra point. Gaining two PS is useful for any pilot, it’s cheap and has no drawbacks beyond opportunity cost. Throw it on a PS3 Green Squadron and now it’s  PS5 and has a better chance of boosting out of arc. Throw it on a PS9 and he’ll shoot before everything else.

Situational

The hallmark of this category are cards that are very useful and quite good cards but have some drawback that limits their use. Often this is sheer cost, as you’ll see most cost 2 points or more. But more often they have some secondary requirement that must be met in order for them to be used. This drops them down from universal usefulness to just situational times.

  • Deadeye (1pt) One of the cheapest card in this category Deadeye is a very nice addition for anyone flying with ordinance. Being able to spend a Focus instead of a Target Lock is great as you can fire on anyone instead of announcing who you’re going to shoot at first. However, its situational in that you need to be carrying ordinance and its most useful on a low PS ship, which usually don’t have elite pilot talent slots. This on a PS 2 Scimitar Squadron TIE Bomber would be great as you are often out of TL range when you maneuver, but they can’t use it. 
  • Decoy (2pts)- This one isn’t so bad but it almost made the cut for the bottom category.  It allows you to change the firing order which could potentially allow a low PS that might die or has a great shot the chance to fire early. The increased range of 1-2 over Swarm Tactics makes it far more feasible to use. I just can’t come up with a squad where I’d want to use it. 
  • Draw Their Fire (1pt)- This one also almost made the cut to Very Situational because I could think of only one way to use it; an escort to Biggs. Particularly another X-wing with R2-D2. Then the ship can help keep Biggs alive longer and regenerate what damage it takes. Sadly, beyond that taking damage to save another ship is iffy. It’s still damage done to the squad and you need shields to really make use of it. The biggest saving grace is the cheapness.
  • Expert Handling (2pts)- Gaining a barrel roll on a ship without it can be excellent. Also being able to shed a target lock is nice. But taking a stress to use it (if you don’t have barrel roll) seems to high a trade off. Shedding a target lock sounds nice. You could argue it could even get bumped up to Top Contender status and I wouldn’t fight you very hard. Aside from Tycho, I’ve just never found a time where I’ve felt justified using it. 
  • Lone Wolf (2pts) This is a great card. Gaining rerolls on blanks for attack AND defense is unheard of. And at only two points it’s cheaper than Predator which is another reroll card. However, its drawback of needing to be far away from any ally means its only situationally useful. Flying more than three ships, you’ll almost never get to use it. Two ship fat lists are the most useful.
  • Marksmanship (3pts)- This card is a good one for offense as its one of a few ways to force a critical into an attack roll. For a long time it was the only way to create one. And if you get multiple attacks in a round (Corran, Gunner, BTL Y-wing) it can be used on both. However, I almost downgraded it because its so expensive and costs you the chance to use a Focus token on defense. 
  • Outmaneuver (3pts) This card almost made the cut for Top Contender. Being able to reduce a targets agility is amazing. It’s requirement of out of arc is difficult but could be used by anyone. However, for three points you need to get a lot of use out of it and only a few maneuverable ships will be able to do that. You need a boost or a barrel roll and high PS to ensure you are out of arc.
  • Ruthlessness (3pts) This card is unique in that it’s the only talent that causes direct damage to an opponent. The ability to just do free damage is excellent. Aside from cost, it’s main downside is that you have to do damage to another ship, meaning if the only other ship near your target is one of yours, you have to damage it, potentially forcing you to kill one of your own ships. The Imperial only limitation also naturally hinders it. 
  • Stay on Target (2pts)– This card almost made a top contender as well. Being able to change your maneuver after the ships have already moved is potentially very useful. Causing the maneuver to be red is a reasonable drawback. This makes it most useful on a ship with Advanced Sensors, pretty high pilot skill and a lot of maneuvers of the same speed. You’ll get a lot of use out of it on Keyan Farlander for instance.
  • Swarm Tactics (2pts)- Another one that could be useful to a lot of pilots as most pilots with a talent slot are reasonably high PS. It costs nothing to use and is fairly cheap at only 2pts. However, it’s range 1 requirement is limiting and it’s best used on the really high PS ships, which often would be better served with a talent to help themselves out. Squad support is good but the meta for Xwing really encourages each ship to be able to stand on its own. 
  • Wingman (2pts)– This card suffers the same drawback as Swarm Tactics, range 1. This requires your ships flying in formation. Often ships that could use a stress pulled off at the start of the Combat phase used Push the Limits that round and those often are best used flying solo to arc dodge; meaning your Wingman is not close enough. It’s great in pairs however, get a swarm of Black Squadron all with this and they are clearing the stress off each other after a K-turn. But what really kills it is the timing; At the start of the Combat Round. So it’s useless for combating abilities that give your stress during combat (Jan Ors, Mara Jade, Tactician, R3-A2, Flechette, Opportunist) and useless for allowing you to get a stress during maneuvering (Red maneuver, flying through debris field) and still take an action. 

Very Situational (to Meh)

The cards in this category are ones that are really only good in one specific case or almost not at all. They are often to expensive or have too many requirements to use.

  • Bodyguard (2pts)- This one has not come into play yet as S&V isn’t out yet so I reserve some judgement until I see how people use it. But right now it seems pretty useless. You have to spend a focus to give another ship extra agility.  But then you’re out a focus token, which makes you an even more tempting target. Now, that’s probably the point. Have a relatively minor ship make themselves the target instead of a high value ship. But since its an elite talent, anything using it is going to be a high value ship. If this wasn’t S&V only it could make Biggs nigh unkillable (probably why the limitation). If Laetin (the super defensive M3-A Scyk) had an elite talent I could see him using it. But as is…
  • Daredevil (3pts)– I want to like this card. A sharp one is an amazing maneuver. But it has so many drawbacks. If you don’t have boost you might take damage. You’re going to take stress. And it’s three points. The best use is Tycho now that he can have two talents and doesn’t care about the stress. Or the ramming Decimator. As it’s a maneuver you can take the action even if it results in a bump, potentially allowing him to bump and damage someone twice. But that’s so expensive to be not worth it. 
  • Elusiveness (2pt)- This one almost made me have another category called Worthless. It’s just so useless. You can force a reroll of one die (which since it’s an attack die has a 5/8 chance of still hitting you) at the cost of a stress. And because you can’t use it when stressed you only get to use it once and then only if you didn’t K-turn or get stressed any of the other dozen ways to get stressed. If it turned a hit into a miss it would be useful. 
  • Expose (4pts)- This one also would have gone in the Worthless pile. Except it’s found a use now with the Decimator and Experimental Interface. It doesn’t have an agility to lose and with EI it can take two actions so it will still get a focus or target lock to boost that attack.  But that’s only case where it’s useful. 
  • Intimidation (2pts)- I want to like this card. In fact I want to use this card with Arvel Crynyd. He sounds awesome with it. But beyond him using it, it really is a card that needs to go with a swarm. And it’s really hard to force a bump with one particular ship, especially a non low PS ship. Maybe it’s just the current meta with a lot of two ship lists meaning there are less cluster-F’s of ships just ramming into each other. 
  • Opportunist (4pts)- This is also one I want to like. Gaining an extra attack at the cost of a stress, during combat, so you got to take your action? Very nice. But it requires your target to have no focus or evade tokens. How often does a ship not have one of those? Particularly if you’re firing early as a higher PS ship? Wes Janson works great to help someone pull this off. But you almost have to use him. What really kills it is the cost. Four points for an ability you can only use sometimes is just to much. 
  • Squad Leader (2pts)- Due to the nature of this game, squads that rely on support end up dooming a squad. There are lots of great ways to build synergy into a squad (Hobbie and Dutch, Garven and someone with R5-P9) but they just fall apart when the linchpin is destroyed. Squad leader has situational use, a ship can always benefit from two actions. But a ship losing their action often doesn’t make up for it. It’s designed for Vader who has two but beyond him…