The TIE/D Defender is easily one of the coolest looking starfighters in Star Wars lore. It, unlike many of its TIE series counterparts, was equipped with hyperdrive and deflector shields. It was developed with the help of Grand Admiral Thrawn two years prior to the Battle of Yavin. The project was discontinued after Lothal's fuel depot was destroyed by Governor Pryce in the process of killing Kanan Jarrus.
Off the bat, this thing is pretty great. Speed 5 bomber is huge. 6 hull means it's not going to die very quickly. An Anti-squadron armament of 2 blue and 2 black is phenomenal. Bomber armament of 1 blue is pretty okay. 16 points is not too pricey for what this squad can provide, though kinda pricey compared to the other Imperial options. 11 point TIE interceptors do similar squad damage and 9 points TIE bombers do superior bomber damage. If you told me the stats before showing me the faction I'd guessed this was a rebel squad, a jack of all trades type. So yes, Defenders can be really mean, but why bring them. In my opinion, the only real reason to fly generic Defenders is to have a very fast but medium strength squad ball, maybe two of these and two Aces. If you've used them to success otherwise let me know!
On the flip side, the Defender chassis hosts one of, if not the best and most seen Ace pilots in the whole game.
MAAREK STELE! Maarek is an excellent squadron choice in just about any list. for an additional 5 points, you gain 2 braces, grit, a second blue die for bombing, and his personal ability. "While attacking, you may change 1 die to a face with a critical icon." This can be insanely useful in so many different scenarios. The lesser-used side of his ability allows you to set one of your black dice to a hit/crit side while attacking another squadron. This can obviously be really handy if you need one last damage to kill. The more popular usage is while bombing you may set one of your blue dice to a crit icon. This means, as a bomber, you're always guaranteed at least one damage (before evade rerolls of course.) This can really be a bother for your opponent. Personally, I hate using my ship's defense tokens against squads. It feels like a waste when you're about to take a massive ISD shot to the face but on the other hand, I don't really want that crit to go through.
Maarek is frequently seen flying alongside his buddy Colonel Jendon. I'll dive deeper into Jendon eventually but if you read the card you'll get a brief understanding of why they're stapled together. Jendon allows Maarek to attack twice. That means 8 dice (4 blue and 4 black) coming out of Maarek or 4 blue bomber dice into, usually, one ship. (two of which are guaranteed to be crits)
• Maarek Stele (21)
• Colonel Jendon (20)
= 41 Points
41 points is not too bad for this potent pair either.
So the generic Defender is good, but overlooked due to being okay at a lot of things, but not particularly great at any for its price. Maarek can be absolutely devastating in the right hands and, if alongside Jendon, can singlehandedly take down entire ships alone.