Maarek Stele – The Crit Commander

By Aris Kolehmainen

When we talk about flying Imperials, the conversation usually turns to Vader at some point in his Advanced X1, and there is a good reason for this! Vader is a powerhouse who becomes both an immediate target and an immediate threat the minute you put him into play. But I’d like to talk a bit about a lesser-known pilot with a rich history in the old Extended Universe, and a pilot often overlooked for Vader: Maarek Stele.

Credit: R-Valle, deviantart.com/r-valle/

In the old EU, Stele was an illegal swoop bike racer who was given the option to join the Empire’s military, an option he threw himself at fully. He’s flown for Thrawn, he’s flown in a Defender as a wingmate to Vader (AMG… HINT HINT), he rescued the Emperor himself and was made one of the Emperor’s Hands, and on top of all of this, he has mild force sensitivity which helps him predict enemy pilot’s maneuvers, or as wookipedia put it: “He handles a fighter the way a Jedi handles a lightsaber”.

Stele made his debut in the old PC game STAR WARS: TIE FIGHTER, where he was the player’s character. In this game, you start in a mere TIE/LN and work your way through the ranks, uncovering a secret plot to dispose of the Emperor himself. Along the way, the player learns to pilot every imperial fighter imaginable, (though notably, the TIE Advanced is replaced with the TIE Avenger).

So now that you know a bit of back story (look up the full-on Wookiepedia, it’s a good read), let’s talk about Maarek in X-Wing:

  • Maarek Stele “Servent of the Empire” is an I5 Advanced X1 pilot.
  • His upgrades are listed at time of writing (ATOW) as Talent, Sensor, Missile, and Modification
  • His action bar consists of: Focus to Barrel Roll (Red), Target Lock, and Barrel Roll (white)
  • He comes in at 44pts, and is currently not Hyperspace Legal (again, ATOW)
  • Maarek’s X1 has the standard “Advanced Targeting Computer” chassis ability: When you preform a primary attack against a defender you have locked, roll 1 additional attack die and change 1 [hit] to [crit]
  • Maarek’s pilot ability reads: While you preform an attack, if the defender would be delt a face up damage card, instead draw 3 damage cards, choose 1 and discard the rest

So why would you take Maarek over Vader? Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, and foremost: 22 points difference. This is not insignificant, that’s just a few points shy of adding a whole TIE/ln to your list.

Second, and probably most importantly is his ability.

Clearly, his ability pairs super nicely with his chassis. I5 is going to generally be pretty good at target locking with perfect knowledge. So your bread and butter turn looks like this:

  • Action: Lock onto Target you want to shoot
  • Engagement – Shoot target Base 2 (+1 for ability) (+1 if in Range 1)
  • Roll dice
  • IF bad roll, spend Lock for re-roll
  • Flip one [Hit] to [Crit]
  • Opponent: Rolls Evasion
  • Assuming Shot makes it to hull: Draw 3 damage cards
  • Choose the card that does the worst possible thing        
  • Discard the two junky ones.

Now that last part is EXTREMELY important, and kind of comes right from popular TCG games. Discarding the cards you don’t like, and NOT shuffling them into the deck. This means that not only are you giving your opponent a heck of a bad time, you’re ALSO draining their deck of cards that are less hampering, meaning future crits are more likely to be the real bad ones. To top it off his ability triggers for each crit that makes it to the enemy’s hull.

Every.

Single.

Crit.

Read that again.

So, get two crits though? That’s six cards drawn, two played, and four discarded. Three crits? Well, three and six out of the deck… and so on. It may be somewhat unlikely but that is a heck of a threat.

So how to leverage this: First, unlike Vader, we get a Talent slot. This gives us brutal toys like Marksmanship which flips a Hit to a Crit if they’re in your bullseye (giving you a guaranteed two crits so long as you make at least two hits), Trick Shot which will give you an additional attack dice when shooting through obstacles, and Outmaneuver which will reduce your opponent’s evasion when attacking from the flank or rear. For my two cents, I almost always go with Marksmanship, because It’s particularly easy to pull off two crits on med/large-based ships, and sometimes, big game hunting can REALLY stick it to your opponent’s game plans.

With your sensor slot, if you wanted to put anything in there, I would suggest Fire-Control system, which can allow you to reroll a dice but keep your lock so you’re not forced into that action every turn.

With your Missile slot, keep in mind that while Advanced Targeting Sensors works for your Primary attack, Stele’s ability is for ANY attack. This means Mag-Pulse warheads are particularly nasty, as are Proton Rockets and Cluster Missiles to a lesser degree. If you can’t guarantee a crit, then you just want to be throwing as many dice as possible to play the odds of rolling a crit.

And lastly that mod slot. I would suggest Afterburners to give you that fine-tuned positioning for Bullseye, or go for broke and give him a Stealth Device. SD doesn’t quite pair up as well with Stele’s special rules, but 4 evasion dice until he takes a hit isn’t a bad place to be.

So let’s say you want to go fully loaded:

Maarek Steel

  • Mag-Pulse Warheads
  • Afterburners
  • Fire-Control System
  • Marksmanship

Total (ATOW): 58pts

Still eight pts cheaper than Vader’s base value.  But if you want my personal take on a more “bare-bones” build, I would simply lose the FCS and MPW and keep to the Afterburners and Marksmanship. Keep your ability to double crit semi-consistently.

AS far as pairings, anything that can coordinate Maarek is a blessing. Being I5, he can arc dodge much of the time, but you’re sometimes going to be trading off a target lock for a barrel roll, and while Stele doesn’t need to double mod his shots to be effective, it never hurts either.

So that’s my case for Maarek, good luck, and good hunting!


A big thanks to Aris for putting this together! If you have something X-Wing-related you want to talk about, get in touch.

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