u/NinjahDuk eat your heart out.
I ranked the supports a few weeks ago and I put the rebels' 1.4 FD Laser Cannon Team at the very bottom. Then I saw a crazy list that ran three of them (and also had two landspeeders and three fleet troopers) that went 3-0 at a local tournament. I talked with the player who brought the list and he explained his rationale, which led me to take a closer look at the unit, and now I am relaying some of that information to you (I can't give away all of his secrets!).
- 5 black dice at range 1-5 (with surge:hit and impact 2!)
- Sentinel (woo hoo standbys!)
- 6 health (with surge:block)
- Stationary (who needs moving anyways?)
- 6 health (with white defense)
- Large silhouette (gotta get good reception)
65 Points - Losing five points from its original cost, this unit is functionally tied as cheapest Support unit that the rebels have (because who is bringing an AT-RT without a hardpoint?). There is a caveat here though, as the generator upgrades are basically stapled to the unit, making it 68 points minimum. You don't have to take these, but they're well worth having.
Normally I would look at upgrades later, but because of how the generators functionally change the unit I would be wrong to not include them in my analysis of the offense.
The Barrage Generator is a 3 point upgrade that allows for 2 white dice and Suppressive to be added to a Fixed attack at the cost of exhausting. Two months ago this is what I would've told you to take, but Suppressive attacks have taken a backseat these days. It is nice to have a couple of white dice in the attack, it is the highest potential damage the FD Cannon can get, but the keywords aren't crucial, and Impact and Suppressive rarely work together (looking at you Dewbacks).
The Overcharged Generator adds 1 black die and Impact 1 to be added a Fixed weapon attack for 3 points, which is a small price to pay for a decent damage upgrade and the potential to deal even more damage to a unit with Armor. I now think that this is the upgrade to choose when taking an FD. The prevalence of Armor in the past few metas has led people to need Impact in a list to deal with that threat, and this is a strong way of getting Impact 3 by stacking it on top of the native Impact 2.
Now to the offense! 5 to 6 black dice (give or take a couple white dice) is solid, but one major problem is terrain. Perhaps more than any other unit in the game, the FD cannon needs a good map. A map with very little line of sight blocking terrain lets the FD cannon thrive. A map with too much LOS blocking terrain makes them useless. In the best case scenario, there may be a few lanes or a single wide open space, perhaps with some scatter terrain in each.
This is not a bad attack at all, but it struggles to be what you hope it to be, mostly because of the Fixed and Stationary keywords. I am half looking a gift horse in the mouth because the dice per points at that range is solid, but the paper and the practice don't always line up.
You're a couple of rebel troopers, so you have rebel trooper defense. This isn't awful, but it often feels worse than it is. Funnily enough, if you were to take the attack you dish out (pun intended) then the average is that you take 3 hits, so a couple of 6 black dice shots with a single aim and you're toast. This is exacerbated by the lack of mobility the FD has. A set of Rebel Troopers is tankier not because their dice odds are better, but because they can move in and out of cover, taking one or two shots over the course of a couple of rounds while still contributing. The FD does not have that luxury, so it often falls short on defense.
We've already discussed the generator upgrades, but the Comms slot isn't useless. Oftentimes I find myself cutting Linked Targeting Array, which seems to be the best choice. I can see HQ Uplink if you are going all in on these, especially because of the synergy with recovering for the Generator, but oftentimes that isn't worth it either.
An update on the classic Wonder Twins archetype, this uses some long range gunline support to let Luke do his thing. This has some good close range coverage (Leia, Fleets, MKIIs) and some good long range coverage (FDs, Vets), all supported by Luke's melee attack. This list plays to your strengths and hopes to diminish weaknesses.
An alternative that may be better with Leia and Vigilance is Rebel Troopers with DLT-20As or Z-6s. The Vets are partially for the surge to hit and Critical 2, and partially for the Hoth theme of the list.
This list is a bit more game theory than it is practice, but there is merit to it. All but one attack in this list is at range 4+, and most are strong. 11 shots before your opponent can return fire is scary, and if caught unaware, your opponent can suffer. Drop the naked troopers and a sniper team to put K2 in there, and you'll still have 10 range 4+ attacks to boot!
Cassian's pistol is better in almost every way than his sniper, but early in the game, if not infiltrated, Cassian may want his sniper and then use his 3 pip command card to recover.
Another exercise in game theory, this is a 14 activation list that uses tons of generics and R2 to wait out your opponent and then hit them with big attacks. An interesting option would be to give the rebel troopers and the officer Electrobinoculars rather than having a Z-6, which would further the "big attack" mindset. The Fire Support from the Mark II can give you 10 black dice on an FD shot, and that is nothing to sneeze at.
Drop the Officer and Rebel Troopers for Han if you want to have a hero in the list!
This is not the exact list I saw at the tournament, but my own take on it. I did this partially because I didn't want to out the player who ran this in case he runs it at more tournaments, but mostly because I didn't write it down. This uses a landspeeder with Shriv to carry R2 into a near guaranteed Secret Mission and then the other to get some fleet troopers into the back lines, all while the FDs lay down supporting fire. Luke is there because Luke is good, so don't be afraid to toss him into a speeder either.
The Mark IIs on the speeders can become Scatterguns for the Fleets if you would rather bolster your corps.
I hope you enjoyed this deep dive into one of the Rebels' most underutilized pieces! I think in some ways this is unwarranted, but once I toss one on the table I realize where the sentiment towards these is not high. Having multiple of them is key though, as there is strength in numbers (especially when those numbers include 18 black dice).
Let me know what you think of the FD Cannon and of my secondary suggestions for lists in the comments below, and I'll see you next week for more Star Wars Legion content!