Home / Eric / Advanced Courses in Rebel Jank #1: Flight-Assist Astromech and the X-Wing
The Alliance stalwart gets a new toy to play with, but it's trickier to use than it might appear.

Advanced Courses in Rebel Jank #1: Flight-Assist Astromech and the X-Wing

Dud or Stud?

The Phantom II Expansion’s Flight-Assist Astromech got a lot of people excited when it was spoiled, for good reason.  Today, I’m going to look at what this card might mean for the T-65 and T-70 X-wings specifically, and the short answer is “a lot… but not necessarily how you think.”  1 point to add barrel roll and boost to X-wings of both flavors (kind of) is a smoking deal, but it hasn’t really taken off competitively at all.  So what’s good about it, what’s bad, and what’s just plain ugly?

The Good

The inability of the X-wing to correct its final position after maneuvering has long been considered the most significant of its weak points, which is especially painful because the ship depends on catching a target in its forward arc.  For low-PS X-wings, this means you can fly them in a tight group (which you often want to be doing anyways due to the synergy-happy nature of the faction) and not have nearly as much trouble navigating around obstacles.  Given that it costs a single point, a Rookie Pilot might consider Flight-Assist Astromech to be a pretty good deal with Integrated Astromech for the backup health.  You could also use it to a limited degree to block with your generics, but this can be very awkward once you’ve gotten into the thick of combat (more on this in a bit).  Giving the higher-skilled pilots a way to respond to the movement of other ships that move earlier is also a boon, so paying a single point for that seems like a natural choice.  Wedge will arc dodge lower skill enemies and avoid taking hits to his precious few hull points (another longstanding complaint about the venerable Rebel workhorse)…

The Bad

…or will he?  Flight-Assist Astromech offers the illusion of a very high ceiling of possibility, but it’s limited in an important way.  It won’t function if you already have an enemy in your arc (whether you want to shoot that particular enemy or not), so you will get to use it most often right at the start of the game before any ships have engaged.  This card does not turn Wedge into Soontir.  It will give him the ability to weave through a rock formation to get a good engagement vector and speed around stuff early on, or help him escape if he needs to get the heck out of dodge.  Know what your cards do, and more importantly what they don’t do, because if you’re trying to boost and roll around in combat, Wedge is definitely still better off with BB-8.

In addition to having an unfortunately significant usability limitation, Flight-Assist Astromech also uses your Astromech slot, which is where some of the strongest upgrades in the entire faction are.  No more needs to be said about how good R2-D2 is and a handful of other Astromechs have seen the bigtime on occasion (R5-P9, BB-8, etc.)  While Flight-Assist Astromech’s ability is strong if it’s used wisely, it comes at the cost of not having access to something potentially stronger and easier to get value from.  This is a very real consideration when putting your squad together: Am I only putting upgrades on my ships that I will use to a worthwhile extent, or am I planning for situations that I won’t really take advantage of?  It’s easy to imagine yourself zooming all over the table and skillfully barrel rolling away from a bad situation with Flight-Assist Astromech; just make sure you’re not planning for that to happen too often, or you’ll find yourself in bad spots with no maneuvering correction again and wishing you had something better for the situation.

The Ugly

One of the most enduring rules of X-Wing’s design history is that if a card is good on a good ship, it’s usually better on a better ship.  I think this is just as true for Flight-Assist Astromech as for anything else, and that means the T-70 is probably going to put it to better use than the poor T-65.  While the T-65 doesn’t naturally have any maneuverability actions at all and the T-70 does, the ability to barrel roll into a naturally-functioning boost on the T-70 is a very big deal.  Having more health also means the astro will have more opportunities to trigger as you can stay alive longer, so its GTFO mode has a better chance of actually saving your bacon.

So is it Worth It?

Yes, but not for turning X-wings into Imperial aces.  It’s not the shining star fix for your old T-65s that will put Wedge back in the game as a shiny arc-dodger, but Flight-Assist Astromech has a few uses that shouldn’t be discounted.  It does make the X-wing very maneuverable at a low cost outside of combat, which means you have a fair bit of power to set up alternative lines of attack that aren’t really possible without it.  Two Rookies with this card and IA will only set you back 44 points, and they can speed along the side of the map while the remainder of your force crawls up the middle.  The only other small-base Rebel ships capable of hitting that kind of speed early in the game are the E-wing (with its one playable pilot that costs half your points more often than not), the T-70 (with a built-in boost), and the A-wing (eternally crippled by its underwhelming firepower).  I genuinely believe that Rookie Pilot with Flight-Assist Astromech is a worthwhile piece of 22-point filler to consider and experiment with, as it’s a pretty cheap flanker with a 3-die attack.  What’s more, a low-PS X-wing is much more likely to have certainty about what will be in its forward arc after maneuvering because it will activate early in the round, giving you more opportunities to trigger it reliably.  It’s probably dodgy to use this as a blocking tool, but corner cases can totally change the course of a game.  For more ace-type X-wings, I’m much iffier on this card.  Losing access to a better astromech that protects a bigger points investment is significant, even with the bargain price on this card, and it doesn’t fix all of your maneuvering problems.

Overall, I think players who view Flight-Assist Astromech as a tool that accrues the most value in the first three turns of the game will find the greatest success with it.  Its unreliable nature in the middle of a big fight means it’s not a crutch for arc-dodging, so you still have to plot your maneuvers well if you’re trying to be defensive.  More aggressive strategies can use the card as a way to compensate if your maneuvering is a bit off, which is especially tasty for pilots like Wes Janson who need to be shooting as often as possible.  Try not to think of Flight-Assist Astromech as a card that makes you more mobile, and instead think of it as a card that makes you more accurate (not in the dice sense) and you’ll see what it’s really for.

Lists With Assists

Because this would be a bad column about Rebel jank without some actual jank, let’s look at three example applications of the card with X-wings:

Don’t Lose Focus (100)

Wes Janson (31)

  • Veteran Instincts
  • Flight-Assist Astromech
  • Integrated Astromech

Jan Ors (37)

  • Adaptability
  • Operations Specialist
  • Twin-Laser Turret
  • Moldy Crow

Lowhhrick (32)

  • Adaptability
  • Rey
  • Tactician

There’s a lot going on here, so we’ll break it down piece-by-piece.  Lowhhrick’s Rey crew and Jan’s Moldy Crow title allow each ship to store a supply of focus tokens that give them what will essentially be an endless stream, freeing Lowhhrick up to Reinforce every turn and giving Jan the ability to defend herself with a focus while also boosting the accuracy of her TLT.  Janson can spend his focus on attack without fear of just whiffing pointlessly, since Jan’s OpSpec can restore his focus should he miss anyways.  In this list, Flight-Assist astro is there to give Janson the ability to chase down a priority target and harass it to death while Jan and Lowhhrick plunk away with their pile of focus on attacks.  Don’t be afraid to chase something down that just needs to die, that’s why Janson is here.  If your roll is bad enough and there’s a strong chance it gets evaded anyways, just allow Jan to give you a second focus and tank up.

Flank n’ Spank (100)

Rookie Pilot (22)

  • Flight-Assist Astromech
  • Integrated Astromech

Rookie Pilot (22)

  • Flight-Assist Astromech
  • Integrated Astromech

Gray Squadron Pilot (30)

  • Autoblaster Turret
  • Proton Torpedoes
  • Extra Munitions
  • R2-D6
  • Deadeye
  • Guidance Chips

Gold Squadron Pilot (26)

  • Twin-Laser Turret
  • BTL-A4 Y-Wing
  • R3-A2

This type of list showcases the flanking power of Flight-Assist Astromech.  Both Y-wings have very potent arcs that are important for the opponent to avoid, and can cruise along at medium or slow speed to keep their arcs wide.  The X-wings fly up one side of the board and box the opponent in, making the job of catching the enemy ships in the Y-wings’ arcs easier.

Ello’s Nasty Fasty Blasty (99)

Ello Asty (35)

  • Veteran Instincts
  • Flight-Assist Astromech
  • Black One
  • Autothrusters

“Blue Ace” (31)

  • Threat Tracker
  • Integrated Astromech
  • Flight-Assist Astromech

Nera Dantels (33)

  • Deadeye
  • Extra Munitions
  • Proton Torpedoes
  • Collision Detector
  • Guidance Chips

Some T-70 Flight-Assist Astromech action!  Blue Ace takes especially good advantage of it (and also Threat Tracker for another way to hang hard turns at clutch moments).  Ello does a great TIE Defender impression here, hanging T-rolls around the back of the enemy and boosting or rolling to correct his arc if necessary before taking his actual action for the turn.  Nera could really be anything here, as the X-wings are relatively self-sufficient.

Hopefully this little discussion of the card has helped to inspire some ideas of how you might play Flight-Assist Astromech in your own lists.  If you’ve got applications for it that aren’t covered here, feel free to share in the comments.

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3 comments

  1. Eric, thanks for taking the time to analyze the FAA. I think I erred too far on the side of “Stud” until I put the astromech on the mat. There were too many times I had AN enemy, but not the RIGHT enemy, in my arc. Having FAA not trigger in those situations significantly reduced the upgrade’s effectiveness for me. I felt like I had to fly around the limitations of the droid, rather than optimal maneuvers.

    • Thanks Mike, I enjoyed having a chance to share my thoughts on a fun card and brainstorm some squads for it with my favorite Rebel ships.

      The situation you describe where you’ve got a target in arc that you don’t especially want to be shooting at is one of the unfortunate scenarios that can be hard to play around, but in general I think the card is a good investment if you’re trying to play an aggressive game of X-Wing over a more traditionally defensive Rebel game. It’s also great fun outside of actual combat, which is an area of the game that I would like to see future pilot and upgrade cards explore some more.

  2. Hello, thank you for taking the time to write this article! I am a fan of the new Flight Assist Astromech, but I also agree that it is not an easy-button.
    Mostly it seems like a fantastic choice for generic pilots, I agree that most Aces will want better droids. But Rookie Pilots, Gold Squadron Pilots, etc. Blue Ace has a nice synergy with it!
    I do feel like it can still he used on Named Aces, but like you said, know what you’re getting. And you will not be turning into Soontir Fel! But dusting off old T-65’s is still fun if not tournament worthy.

    T-65 Ace Hunters:
    Wes Jansen: VI, Flechette Torpedoes, FAA, IA
    Wedge Antilles: Adaptability, Flechette Torpedoes, FAA, IA
    Luke Skywalker: VI, R2-D2, Vectored Thrusters

    Super simple, super fun.