TieAdv - Darth Vader
Swarm Tactics - Cluster Missile
TieF Mauler Mithel
It's 98 points, so you WILL start at first, even when the Rebels have 99 oder 98 Point, or against IMP with 100 or 99 points.
I edited the quote to remove the wall of text. Hopefully it turns out right.
Having initiative is generally bad. Being at 98 points is just wasting 2 points. Swarm Tactics x3 is 6 points. Cluster Missiles is 4 points. That's a total of 12 points which could be spent on another Academy Pilot.
but his entire squad bar one TIE gets to shoot first as all of them are psuedo 9 skill-points. maybe I'd upgrade the academy TIEs to Obsidian TIEs to get 100 just nice, and swap out darth vader's swarm tactics for squad leader, as 9 vs 8 doesnt have too much of a difference except against wedge. I'd change cluster missile to concussion missile too, but that really depends on how many Ywings i'm facing.
while more ships is always a good thing, I do not agree on exchanging x3 skill upgrades and a missile for an extra Academy TIE, especially if you are playing with obstacles, which will severely reduce the impact that the single 2 attack dice TIE has. Like in his case, 4 ships firing at 9sp compared to 9-8-7-1-1-1 is quite a big difference, if you are facing a 3 ship rebel build your academy TIEs will be taking the full brunt of their attacks and there's a very high likelihood that they'd die before even firing a single shot, or maybe even have 2 TIEs kick the bucket if you took some damage while navigating the obstacles. at least with the 3 swarm tactic option even if they do die they'd still get to shoot back, and if you manage to get rid of any ship before they get a chance to fire back at you, you will be saving a couple of hp as well, which makes up for the difference in hp that an additional ship grants to your squad.
Pilot Skill and Upgrades (including torpedoes) are vastly overvalued on these forums. Just the fact that a TIE absorbed 3 hits is huge; the possibility of shooting back is just a bonus at that point. Also, not getting to shoot back assumes the rebels focus fired on an academy pilot instead of one of the named ships.
This is all entirely abstract so lets take a real team as an example:
Total Squad Points: 100
Pilot: Biggs Darklighter
Pilot: Wedge Antillies
Pilot: Horton Salm
Ion Cannon Turret
This is probably the highest pilot skill 3 ship team that is still viable (Yes, I know it would have been possible to take Luke but then Wedge or Horton would get lit up even with R2-D2).
Against the 6 ship list, the rebels won't be attacking Vader because he has too much HP for a couple of torps and they wouldn't want to waste the highly probable crit on his shields. Even if they did and killed him, he'd still get his attack off because he has skill 9. That leaves howlrunner and mithel at skills 8 and 7. Howlrunner will still most likely get her attack off because 1 torp from Wedge probably won't kill her (especially if she has a focus) and she'd get to attack simultaneously with Horton if his torp knocks her out. That leaves Mithel and the 3 scrubs as possible targets where lower pilot skill will probably come into play.
Lets say the Rebels kill Mithel before he attacks; the Imps still have 5 attacks left in the first turn. If the formation is tight, they all get a pseudo target lock from howlrunner. If they went after howlrunner instead, then that is 6 attacks with no pseudo target lock apart from Vader's real lock. The only real shortfall of this list compared to the 5 ship list is that biggs will be hard to kill when taking all the hits with 3 or 4 defensive dice because of his droid. If the rebels can keep him mostly at range 3 with the droid on, the imperials will have serious problems without access to a missile to soften him up.
When starting with the 5 ship list you will end up with 9-9-9-8-8 after swarm tactics (Vader to Mithel to Academy, Howlrunner to Academy). Even if the rebels kill one, they will probably all get their attacks off. However, the best case scenario is 4 attacks with a pseudo target lock and a missile (this first turn missile is possibly really powerful because it is focused from Vader). If the rebels attack howlrunner first, the 1 other ship with 8 skill might not get the pseudo target lock. (Note: in this case, initiative is good because it allows the imperials an additional pseudo lock)
If howlrunner does die, the Imps will be at either 9-9-9-1 or 9-9-7-7 in the next round. Either way, there is a good chance one of them is dying before attacking, so all those Swarm Tactics become useless and the imperials will only get 3 attacks as opposed to 4 attacks from the 6 ship list. Their only hope at this point is that biggs died in the first round after being softened up by Vader's missile.
That's just the way I see it.