The TIE/ph Phantoms offer in many ways an extreme experience compared to most other small ships in the current fleets. It fields a decent primary armament, the unique cloaking ability, the mobility of decloaking, some interesting upgrade options and the possibility to roll a lot of red and green dices. Bringing these to the table will always be a concern for the opposition.
But it all comes with a cost. It is one of the most expensive ship in the game per hull/shield point, no ability to shoot while cloaked, it display a quite average move dial, no really high skilled pilots and is quite fragile if caught off guard.
Besides all these shortcomings and maybe even because of them, flying the Phantom is always exciting and intense — except for when it is not and just plain frustrating. The Phantom flys by the rule, rather to loose beautifully than to win ugly.
The first many chapters in the huge tome that is the phantom pilots flight manual, is about being one with the cloaking ability.
The Phantom is one of the few ships, who has a consistently meaningful choice of action for the first round of an engagement, namely cloaking, because it is not canceled at the end of the round and as described later is necessary for decloaking.
Strategically speaking cloaking has three main uses.
If you want to move to a favourable position, which could expose you to heavy enemy fire, it will often be wiser to forfeit your change to fire, for the extra agility you gain by being cloaked. You are relatively sure to survive unscratched or with only minor damage against low firepower swarms and even a couple of shots from top ace pilots, especially if you can keep them from range 1 or use asteroids as cover as described later. You can in these situations even take advantage of the build in Stygium Particle Array to uncloak to get an evade token, for then to cloak after your move. It will often discourage enemy ships from targeting the Phantom altogether and instead go for secondary objectives instead. At the end of the combat phase, where other ships could have been destroyed or severely damaged, the Phantom will have a good chance to still be in one piece and then be able to outmanoeuvre the attackers for a possible devastating counterattack in the following rounds.
A variant puts the Phantom in a outflank manoeuvre, where it tries to keep its distance, teasing the enemy ships to break formation to chase it down, accepting being under long range fire, for the benefit of watching the enemy getting into disarray, making them ripe for a well timed counterstrike.
The next main cloaking doctrine concerns the situations where the Phantom is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, staring down the wrong end of the powered up cannons of a fully prepared enemy squadron. In these cases the cloaking will not be used as much to give you a future positional advantage, but as a panic button. It will often be tempting to accept getting your phantom damaged, so you can bear down your lethal firepower on the opponents. It will take a lot of experience, plus some trial an error to know when to choose to return fire and when to slink into the shadows. If you are facing a single ship and posses the evade from decloaking plus a focus token, more often than not your probably equal powerful lasers will come out on top, but as mentioned earlier, the Phantom is a very expensive and fragile ship, and one you not should treat carelessly.
The Phantom also posses the ability to cloak after combat at the start of the End Phase. This possibility is undoubtedly very powerful, because it still allows the Phantom to shoot, while still gain the cloak token and the possible decloak option the next turn. But as with everything else with the Phantom, it comes with a cost. It will need an evade token and at the same time be more exposed to hostile fire. Luckily the decloak gives you an evade token – as long as you are not stressed during the System Phase – but again the Phantom will need to make some hard choices during the Engagement Phase, if to use the evade token to bolster defence or to save it for cloaking. The successfully Phantom pilot will need extraordinary situational awareness to know, when to lose an additionally shield or hull for keeping the cloaking and decloaking options open for further exploits, or when to keep the ship intact.
The fourth doctrine and arguably the most powerful advantage of cloaking, is the ability to stop being cloaked.
If you start your round cloaked, you can decloak during The System Phase, giving you a opportunity to alter you position before getting to the Activation Phase. Being able to decloak with a barrel-roll or boost using the [2straight] template, might turn even the most innocent looking later manoeuvre into an array of powerful offensive, evasive or repositional moves.
Few other ships offer this control over the movement after the mind game of the dial decisions in the Planning Phase, and is the main reason the Phantom excels in the role as a deep striker, that can penetrate the enemies lines and hit their most vital targets with its powerful laser cannons, before fading back into the vacuum.
The reposition of the decloaking is of course somehow countered if the confronted ships have higher initiative than the Phantom and therefor moves after you have moved. But they will still need to make some tough choices in guessing where you will be at the start of the Activation Phase, because the of the many possibilities you posses. If you for example are flying head to head with the enemy, you might make a 7 range koiogran turn – decloak two straight ahead plus you ship base and then the 4 koiogran – or you might outflank them, with a decloak to the side followed by a sharp 1 turn in the opposite direction.
When flying the Phantom, you should also reevaluate your relation to the obstacles on the field. Asteroids are your friends, and while being cloaked you should strive to keep these between you and the enemies who can target you, giving you five or maybe even six defence dices due to range between the enemy star fighters and your precious hull. You should not be worried about flying straight towards an asteroid – something highly discouraged for almost all other pilots – because a decloak barrel roll to either sides should steer you clear of the rock. Again in this case, the opponent needs to make a difficult choice, because she will most likely need to take the same asteroid into consideration, when she plans her next moves, which might expose her fragile flank, for a possible devastating shot if she makes the wrong turn.
When you cloak or move around cloaked, always try to keep as many decloak options open as possible. If the decloak barrel roll or boost is obstructed by ships or obstacles, you will severely hamper your options and become at lot more predictable. As long as an asteroid doesn’t serve any defensive role for your Phantom, try to avoid having it blocking a decloak exit point.
Also try to avoid being swarmed – which can pose a lot more difficult, due to the fact that an enemy swarm has a tendency to move towards you, a behaviour rarely seen in asteroids. The crafty swarm, who probably has a lower PS than you, might be able to deny you the ability to decloak altogether, by closing down the remaining decloak positions and therefore both controlling your movement and deny you the ability to attack.
Remember you are not forced to decloak, and it might sometimes be a better option to stay in the dark, and only move whatever your dial reveal. This will more often than not, bring you to a position the opponent did not at all anticipate.
When manoeuvring before getting into firing range, get used to move in a blink fashion. Decloak, move, cloak. You will be able to either keep your distance, by moving slower, with the use of a barrel roll that puts you half a base behind your current position, or speeding ahead with the boost decloaking, which bring you the equivalent of the straight 3 ahead of your initial placement.
Flying the Phantom–
Utilising the full potential of this beautiful craft, requires a lot of patience. Their strategically use closely resembles submarines. They stalk their targets to deliver a devastating punch at the most opportune moment before again vanishing into the darkness. The Phantoms functions admirably as lone wolves – coincidentally a great upgrade for the Phantom – operating independently from the rest of the fleet and often deep into enemy territory. Full Phantom squadrons will benefit from the same strategy by being far from each other, waiting for the enemy to engage one, giving the others a change to strike the flank or rear. This will require a spread out formation, and it will likely not be possible for the Phantoms to destroy a target in a single salvo. Often it will only be one Phantom who opens fire, while the rest are lurking. Even though it is common sense to finish the job, and continuing firing at a crippled enemy ship – after all a ship with one hull left, is often as good as a brand new one – you often have to make the tough decision not to stay on target but disengage, if it will otherwise expose you to too heavy retaliatory return fire.
Often you will experience the frustration of chipping away the shields and hulls on a lot of different ships, without sinking any, because of your constantly repositioning and dodging. When you feel confident that the enemies is crippled, ready for the final blow, you can decloak your entire squadron and deliver the coup de grâce face to face.
The more suicidal Phantoms, can choose to fly directly against the enemy while cloaked accepting some hits, to bring their formations in disarray before their wingmen moves in to punish any stragglers, that broke formation.
Always try to place your Phantoms, so no front arc firing ships can target all of them at the same time.
A stressed Phantom is in grave danger. You can still decloak while stressed, and for that sake cloak, utilising the Stygium Particle Array, if you got an evade from decloaking at the start of the turn. Luckily the skilful Phantom pilot will rarely need to perform a Koiogran turn – which then makes it even stronger when used. You should avoid being in a close quarter situation where it is needed to make a Koiogran and even then, it will often be more beneficial to just make a wide turn and cloak. It will often bring you in a situation, where your next decloak move, could bring you to a position the enemy won’t be able to get into her fire arch, if she chooses a green manoeuvre, to get rid of the possible stress just received from its own K-turn. It is not unheard of, that if the enemy gets stress while facing Phantoms, they could keep it for a while, being forced to choose white manoeuvres in an attempt to catch the Phantoms.
Considering your freedom of movement, you should be able to avoid overlapping any ships. Again as with stress, you are in a very tight spot if that happens and you for example ends up kissing the spearhead of a tight formation. A non cloaked Phantom at range 1, will need a lot of luck, to stay on the table. So again, be sure to have as many exit points for your decloaking as possible, and if it doesn’t look like you can decloak without overlapping, swallow your pride and stay cloaked.
As mentioned earlier, due to the fact that the Phantom being a highly advanced craft compared to the rest of the Empires fleet, it doesn’t boast any top ace pilots. But the ruthless “Whisper” and the enigmatic “Echo” is still able to strike fear in even the most stern hearted pilot, when they blast around the enemy flickering in and out of existence.
“Whisper” is the highest ranking Phantom pilot in the current fleet, and is because of that, the safest although most expensive pick between the four options. Boasting a initiative of 5 she is just shy of the most elite pilots. She possesses a pilot ability, which can give her an evade token, after she makes an attack that hits. The ability comes with some conditions, you have to attack, and even deliver at least one damage for the ability to work. The evade token can then be used defensively against attacks following “Whisper” or keep it for the End Phase cloak. You might even then end up with a redundant token, if you as your normal action selected a focus token and already got an evade from the Stygium Particle Array. But on the other hand, it is a completely free token, and the combination of a focus and an evade, makes if a lot more difficult for the enemy ship to hit her. Even though she only have an above average Pilot Skill, and a conditional pilot ability, she is still so dangerous that a most enemy pilots will whisper foul. She hits hard and is gone before the enemy register that they are already dead.
If it is possible to use the term orthodox about any Phantom pilot, then “Echo” is furthest away from that nomination. He flies like a feverish butterfly escaped from a mental asylum and stings like a bee. He is all about his manoeuvering. “Echo”’s Initiative at 4 puts him in some kind of no man lands, so he should expect to face opponents that moves after him, but shoots before. You have to gamble with “Echo” and take some chances, trying to call the chosen manoeuvres of the enemy. He will turn the game even more into a mind game, where double phycology gives way to double double psychology. “Echo” works well as a single Phantom in a build that features other Empire star-fighters, where “Whisper” excels as the squad leader in an all-Phantom Builds.
The Imdaar Test Pilot at the quite ok Initiative 3, and the still not revealed possible fourth pilot is still shrouded in so much uncertainty about price and upgrade options, that they for now will need more field tests before any judgements can be put upon them.
Assuming the Phantom keeps the upgrade options it had access to in the original version of X-Wing, it can be equipped with, system upgrades, crew members, modifications and in the case of the named pilots, elite talents. Considering the fact, that not every upgrade has been exposed, here is ours picks from the known field of options.
When it comes to Modifications the possibilities seems quite slim. You can fortify your craft with either a Shield or a Hull Upgrade, which may be a quite sensible choice. You will boost the damage you can receive with 25% before perishing and considering the cost for each hull/shield on the Phantom, this can be a considerable reinforcement for the ship. A few other modifications could open up for some interesting builds. If the role of your Phantom is to be a deep striker, a Stealth Device can be that last bit of survivability it needs to fulfil its mission. Uncloaked a Phantom with Stealth Device will still roll 3 green dices, and with the possibility of both an evade and a focus, that extra third die, will give the ship a chance to evade a normal 3 dice attack unscratched. Afterburners could be used by “Echo” to make him even more jittery, especially combined with Advanced Sensors.
It is also possible for the Phantom pilots to apply System Upgrades, which is normally one of the strongest and most versatile upgrade types, even though the choices are limited. No Phantom wants never to be stressed, so Advanced Sensors need a slightly different approach compared to other ships, that normally uses it to gain their action before a red manoeuvre. The Advanced sensor usefulness for the Phantom is when used in correlation with the decloak, widening its positioning options even more, through pre move barrel-rolls or even boost actions. Considering that the Phantom excells in the thick of the asteroid field, a Collision Detector seems like a very interesting choice, that will open up the playing field even more for the Phantom.
Being a two seater, the Phantom pilot can invite a crew member along for the ride. The first candidate that spring to mind is Perceptive Copilot. Focus will undeniably be the action, that the Phantom will perform most often. The evade action will already have been covered by the decloak, and the barrel-roll will be relatively situational, due to the already strong repositional capabilities of the Phantom. By receiving an extra focus with Perceptive Copilot, the Phantom can afford to use one of them on offence, which will often be necessary especially considering its lack of lock action. You can get the lock action if you allow Director Krennic to be your passenger you will actually get access to the lock action. Krennic will work best in a dual Phantom build, where the other Phantom will then be upgraded to the Optimized Prototype. Being one of the most advanced ship of the Galactic Empire it is not unheard of to allow the dark side of the force inside the Phantom, in the guise of Darth Vader. Besides the abilities of The Dark Lord, you will then have a recurring force token that can be used to bolster your offence or defence. Admiral Sloane will work well if the Phantom functions as the Squadleader of a swarm of cheap expendable TIE’s.
When it comes to Elite Talents, the top ace Phantom Pilots, especially “Whisper”, will often look towards Elite Talents that enhances the offensive capabilities of the ship, relying on manoeuvrability to keep it out of harms way.
When you take into account that the Phantom often will be evading and even be very conservative, about when to spend the evade token, Juke will be a quite interesting candidate as the Elite Talent. A talent that also indirectly might enforce its defensive capabilities.
The Phantom lacks access to Locks, and could therefor look towards talents, that gives it the option to reroll its red dices. Those that springs in mind is Predator or Lone Wolf, each with their limitations. Predator works best on a high initiative ship, where you move and reposition yourself after most potential targets, making it more likely to catch the prey in your bullseye arc, where Lone Wolf should be assigned to your solitary lurker. Outmaneuver on the other hand does also enforces the deep striking capabilities of a shady Phantom pilot.
Fade to black
This concludes the hopefully throughout and inspiring evaluation of the Phantoms. So good luck fielding these deamons, and fear not if the don’t succeed at first. The Phantoms require a lot of experience and pilots that dares to go, where no one would ever expect.