Welcome to the Dice and Cardboard Briefing Room, pilot! In this series I'll write about a pilot or upgrade that I've been experimenting with or enjoying.
Even occasional readers of this blog will likely have picked up on the fact that L'ulo L'ampar is a top 10 Star Wars character to me. I think what makes L'ulo one of my favorites is that just about all of our main characters in Star Wars are human. Aside from Chewbacca, it's a relative rarity to get such an immediately likable nonhuman character playing an important part.
Strap yourself in for the Dice and Cardboard ode to Uncle L'ulo L'ampar, Luminous Mentor.
Also, spoiler alert for Star Wars, Shattered Empire, and Poe Dameron comics. Ye be warned...
Who is L'ulo L'ampar?
L'ulo was a great many things. Let's start with the obvious, though. He was a male Duros (like Cad Bane and Shriv from the Battlefront games) who flew starfighters for the Rebel Alliance, Yavin Defense Force, and Leia Organa's Resistance. He flew the RZ-1 A-Wing for the Rebel Alliance and was allowed to keep his older model fighter when flying with the Resistance, though he is shown in a few brief comic panels and his X-Wing card art flying the newer RZ-2.
Canonically, we first met L'ulo as a member of Starlight Squadron after the Battle of Hoth. Led by his close friend Shara Bey (link to article) and joined by other legends Wedge Antilles and Evaan Verlaine (link to article), L'ulo flew as Starlight Three in the effort to reunite the scattered divisions of the Rebel fleet. Duros live a long time so by this point L'ulo was already an accomplished fighter pilot. With Starlight Squadron he flew missions alongside the squadmates mentioned above as well as with Luke Skywalker. When Shara went missing in action and was trapped aboard an Imperial Star Destroyer, L'ulo collaborated with her husband, Kes Dameron, to rescue her along with Starlight and Kes' Pathfinder commandos.
L'ulo and Shara flew in the Battle of Endor as part of Arvel Crynyd's Green Squadron, with L'ulo becoming acting squadron leader and group commander upon Crynyd's death. We get to see a tender moment between L'ulo and Shara after the battle where, as acting group commander, he granted her permission to fly down to the moon to look for Kes and gently tried to explain that the couple needed to find a way to stop letting the war consume their lives and live together as a family with their son, Poe. After a few more missions they took his advice and retired to Yavin IV with Poe. L'ulo would often visit, eventually flying fighters for the Yavin system defense force. L'ulo would also help Shara teach young Poe to fly, a relationship that would prove important in the future.
Around the time of the rise of the First Order, when Poe joined Leia's Resistance L'ulo joined him and the two formed Black Squadron along with Temmin "Snap" Wexley, Kare Kun, and Jessika Pava. Hey, we know those guys! L'ulo's experience as a fighter pilot and close friendship with Poe made him a huge asset to Black Squadron and he was a mentor to all of the pilots as well as the one in the group most willing to get creative to get the job done. Tragically, during Black Squadron's final confrontation with Agent Terex (link to article) and Commander Malarus, L'ulo was shot down by a pilot from the Rancs gang and killed while trying to defend escape pods.
At L'ulo's memorial service, Poe Dameron said that L'ulo was, "about as luminous as they come," and spoke stirringly about their powerful relationship. This was the first and only time I've ever shed tears while reading a comic book (to clarify, I only read Star Wars comics so I don't want to hear any "but what about X Avengers thing?"). Actually, I'm tearing up even writing this. The legacy of L'ulo L'ampar as one of the galaxy's most influential starfighter pilots, just grinding away and being supportive while the Luke Skywalkers and Poe Damerons of the galaxy got all the credit, is so well-executed and meaningful.
L'ulo's role as a friend, mentor, occasional leader, and support system for the Bey-Dameron family is, to me, one of the most heartfelt and touching relationships in Star Wars media. Then there's the bonus that he is an amazing fighter pilot! Truly Star Wars at its best and it isn't even in a movie or show! The story and legacy of Shara, Kes, and L'ulo gives such amazing context to the onscreen character of Poe Dameron.
L'ulo in X-Wing
L'ulo L'ampar is available in the Resistance faction in the RZ-2 A-Wing. Sure, it may be more accurate to put him in the then-antique RZ-1 but, of course, it makes more sense for him to fly the Resistance version and you could argue that it is an objectively better ship.
L'ulo, being the only member of Black Squadron who doesn't fly an X-Wing, has the option to stress himself to effectively become an X-Wing! At least, in terms of attack and defense dice, that is. Seems pretty good! The neat thing about this ability being on an A-Wing is that the relative lack of red maneuvers and the Refined Gyrostabilizers ability means that you generally can control when you trigger the ability and the good blue maneuvers on the dial mean that it's easy to shed the stress and repeat it the next turn. The downside, of course, is that if you want to retain your three defense dice you're precluded from using the ship's ability to link to a boost or rotate. An interesting quandary! It's somewhat thematic as well because L'ulo had a tendency to overextend himself to get the job done and protect his friends.
The trick to using L'ulo effectively is choosing when to take the risk of reducing his defense dice and capitalize on the added attack die. An excellent example would be when you have an opportunity to boost to range 1 after focusing to roll 4 red dice. 4 red dice from an A-Wing! You just need to weigh the risk of potentially taking a return shot with your green dice reduced.
The Build: Evasive Pocket Ace
L'ulo does well with a lot of the standard RZ-2 upgrades. The tried and true combo of Advanced Optics and Heroic still works well, with the fact that Advanced Optics (allowing you to spend a focus token to change a blank to a hit) is less effective with 3 reds balanced by the fact that Heroic (generally more relevant on two-die rolls) can now be more helpful on defense. Current Loadout Value and slots leaves space for a second Talent and Starbird Slash is fun if you can manage to trigger it. Zoom through an enemy ship, Focus, then take a red Rotate to swing your guns around and gain a stress to blast 4 red dice into a strained target at range 1. If they let you do this then they deserve it. Even if you don't pull this off the threat of it may be enough to change your opponent's tactics which is worth a point or two in my book.
Personally, I like to use the "standard" RZ-2 loadout mentioned above and then add a Shield Upgrade to protect my investment. L'ulo will generally cost more points than other A-Wings and with his ability increasing the risk of losing him the extra room for error is nice to have. One slightly unconventional option that may be worth a try is adding Afterburners for those cases where you really need a Boost and a token but can't take the risk of triggering his ability with stress by boosting with the ship's ability.
The idea is to present enough of a threat that your opponent has to devote at least one ship to actively dealing with L'ulo to take the heat off of Poe or Rey or whoever. If that ship is about to get a good shot off then you stay unstressed and roll your 3 defense dice and if they make a mistake then you take that linked boost and punish them with the extra attack die.
L'ulo can be relatively independent when it comes to squadbuilding since he can flex so easily from flying defensively to pressing the attack. He appreciates help from friends who grant him more dice modifications to better utilize his extra attack die. A lock with M9-G8 from a friend can get him a reroll and Poe Dameron (Resistance Commander) can give L'ulo more options than Boost and Rotate for that second red action to gain the stress, perhaps Focus and Lock? Leia Organa (crew) can change a white maneuver to blue to allow L'ulo to shed that stress more effectively.
That's our look at Dice and Cardboard favorite, L'ulo L'ampar! How do you like to fly L'ulo?