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.
The subject of this week's briefing is the Rebel Alliance's Shara Bey.
Who is Shara Bey?
Shara is, in my opinion, one of the coolest characters to come out of the new canon expanded universe. Like Norra Wexley in the new novels, Shara plays a pivotal role in many of the Marvel Star Wars comics and like Norra hasn't shown up on screen aside from conceivably being in the background in many shots involving Rebel forces and the "reveal" that Norra followed the Falcon into the Second Death Star.
Shara and her Rebel Pathfinder husband, Kes Dameron, were the parents of Resistance hero and ace pilot Poe Dameron. In fact, Shara taught Poe how to fly!
Shara was already an accomplished fighter pilot by the time of the Battle of Hoth and traveled with the Rebel Fleet's Fourth Division following the evacuation. In the years between The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi she led Starlight Squadron which included such X-Wing celebrities as Wedge Antilles, L'ulo L'ampar, and Evaan Verlaine as part of a secret effort to reunify the Alliance fleet prior to the Battle of Endor.
During the attack on the second Death Star Shara flew as a member of Arvel Crynyd's Green Squadron, providing cover for the Millennium Falcon and nearly shooting down Luke Skywalker's Lambda Class shuttle as he escaped the Death Star's hangar. After Endor, Shara was involved in stopping Operation Cinder on Naboo with Leia Organa and even flew an undercover mission with Luke to recover Jedi artifacts from an Imperial remnant.
In her various appearances Shara has flown the RZ-1 A-Wing, ARC-170, Lambda Class T4A, N-1 Starfighter, some unidentified Rebel attack shuttle, and surely something else that I've missed. Shara's story is woven throughout the history of the Rebellion and Resistance and her commitment to duty, friends, and family make all of the comics that feature her well worth your time. Many thanks to Wookieepedia for the info and the below list of all of Shara's appearances in canon. Check them out!
Shara Bey in X-Wing
Shara flies for the Rebel Alliance in both the ARC-170 and the A-Wing, with the same pilot ability in both. The ability seems to come thematically from her combat flying style in the comics, where we see her consistently acquire target locks on enemy ships. We'll focus entirely on A-Wing Shara in this article since most people don't bother with her in the ARC in favor of Norra Wexley who is just a better choice for that ship. A quick look at Metawing shows that Shara in the ARC-170 has not been used lately in any competition lists, but don't let that stop you if you want to try it as the ARC's crew/gunner slots may help use her ability.
Notice that with Shara's pilot ability you are not changing a dice result to a Focus, you are adding a Focus to your results! Not many abilities let you just pull a die out of your pile and plop it on the table next to the ones you have rolled. Especially for her current points cost and in a faction whose party trick is passing tokens around, Shara can punch way above her A-Wing's weight with the right support.
The name of the game for Shara is double mods. You'll want to fly her with a squad that can easily pass her focus tokens or locks or coordinate her so that she can take multiple actions. Squadmates like Hera Syndulla, Ahsoka Tano, Jake Farrell, Dutch Vander, Kyle Katarn, Garven Dreis, Lando Calrissian, any Sheathipede or U-Wing, etc. will do quite nicely. The longer the range of the coordinating or token-passing ability the better as you want to let Shara zoom around quickly.
To begin with, practice good A-Wing fundamentals when flying Shara: take advantage of speed to attack from the flanks. Pay attention to how many shots you'll be taking because three green dice are nice but they will betray you at the worst possible moment; know when it is a better idea to bail on your shot and survive to make a better engagement later. Similarly, be careful about spending tokens on offense if it looks like you need them to modify defense dice. Don't forget that Shara's ability also works on defense if needed, however the lock must be on the attacker for you to spend it. When performing your action, go for either a Focus or Target Lock depending on what she already has or will be getting from a friend. The idea, assuming it's safe, is to attack with a lock and a focus. Of course, if you need to dodge out of arc or go fully defensive, Barrel Roll, Evade, Boost, and the extra Boost from Vectored Thrusters are all there. Be aware that, like all Rebels who depend on tokens, Shara is vulnerable to jamming, so be careful around enemy ships with the Jam action.
You've committed to an attack and have acquired your lock and focus token. Let's look at how Shara's ability allows you to maximize the damage from the A-Wing's relatively light guns by essentially guaranteeing a hit result. Using the Gate of Storms X-Wing Dice Probability Calculator on a standard range 2, 2 die attack:
- 25% chance of rolling 2 hits (hit or crit)- spend the lock to add a focus, convert it, get 3 hits.
- 50% chance of rolling at least 1 hit (hit or crit); 25% chance that the other result is a focus - if so, spend the lock to add a focus, convert both, 3 hits
- 50% chance of rolling at least 1 hit (hit or crit); 25% chance that the other result is a blank - instead of spending the lock to reroll the blank and hope for a hit, crit, or focus, just spend the lock to add a guaranteed focus and convert it for two hits. This is where a "soft mod" Talent like Predator or Lone Wolf comes in handy. You can reroll that blank without spending your lock and greatly increase your chances of ending up with 3 hit results after initially rolling only one.
- 25% chance of rolling no hits - depending on whether it's two blanks, two focuses, or a blank and a focus, use your Talents, lock, and focus to modify as you see fit and remember you can always just spend the lock and focus and guarantee a single hit result if that's all you need.
The calculator can conveniently be set up to predict a two-die attack from a focused and locked Shara, and here is the result:
That's a better than 50/50 chance of 3 hit results and an almost guaranteed 2! That's better than a focused X-Wing and, with Predator or another soft reroll ability, better than a focused and locked X-Wing. Additionally, consider that it is basically impossible for any other Rebel A-Wing (until we get Rebel L'ulo!) to roll 3 hits at range 2 without ordnance or outside help to add dice. While the extra die at range 1 is nice there will now be more chance for your results to include a blank that you can't use, but with the right upgrades and a bit of luck Shara can easily one-shot an enemy at range 1. In fact, if you try Shara with a focus, lock, and Predator at range 1 you still have almost a 75% chance of 4 hit results. When you set Shara Bey up for success she has X-Wing power with A-Wing speed and agility.
Going to add this section because I realized I tend to get excited about the positives in these articles and we need to address limitations.
- An ability that depends on support is going to suffer when that support piece is out of range or destroyed. Bring a backup that also helps other parts of your squad (Hera+Jake works great) and don't chase the ability but capitalize when you can use it. Be flexible.
- It speaks to the strength of Rebel A-Wings that Shara is so good but there are better choices, even at I4. Hera is basically faction-defining, Ahsoka has come into her own as a bona-fide ace with added support abilities, and Jake is a list-building staple. I'd personally rank Shara about even with li'l Wedge and just above Arvel and Sabine, but their abilities are more independent so your mileage may vary. Shara's struggle is that she cant be as "plug-and-play" as her peers.
- Similar to the above: initiative 4 is a bit crowded these days and you'll likely run into initiative overlaps. A-Wings with their double reposition will be in good shape when you need to bet on a certain player order, but plan carefully.
The Build: Cheap "Pocket Ace"
This is how I generally use Shara Bey (and most other non-Ahsoka A-Wings) in my Rebel squads. She can be a thorn in your opponent's side with the right Talent upgrades and a bit of support. With Shara starting at 3 points at time of writing, she is a great bargain "pocket ace" for the Rebel Alliance, especially with some of the more popular pilots being more costly. A-Wings generally don't have too many upgrade slots but the double Talent at time of writing opens up some neat possibilities.
I'd consider Predator mandatory on Shara. Getting that reroll without needing to spend your lock ensures you can deal with any pesky blank that comes up in your roll and still use her ability. Predator will also let you spend your lock and, if you didn't manage to pick up a focus token, reroll that added focus result. The second talent slot can be whatever you want if you have points available. I like Elusive as it's cheap and can get you out of a jam if you spent your tokens and had an unlucky roll on defense, and Marksmanship works nicely to deal extra damage. I'd be careful with Daredevil or any other Talents that stress as being stressed takes away her ability to be coordinated. Shara does not need a missile as her primary attack can be devastating on its own and her ability only works on primary attacks. In fact, I think that's another thing that sets Shara apart from many A-Wing colleagues: she doesn't need to bring a missile to deal serious damage. There could be an argument for Vectored Cannons on Shara to get the Systems Phase Boost or Rotate for cases where you haven't had to spend your lock and want to zoom past and keep shooting from your rear arc. I haven't had the chance to try that too much but, like with Daredevil, I don't really want to deal with the stress as the Systems Phase action will be red.
Shara Bey dishes out seriously consistent offense in a ship known more for its speed and survivability, but in my opinion is underrated and often overlooked in favor of better known aces. How do you fly Starlight Leader/Green Four?