Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Dropfleet Commander – Ifrit – the Scourge Stiletto

 I’m going to add a bit to the general level of speculation and jetwash about Dropfleet Commander tactics by taking a closer look at one of the Scourge Cruiser options – The Ifrit, and explain why I think this is a must have for Scourge Fleet Commanders, at all points levels.

 The Ifrit is one of the “recommended builds” in a Scourge starter fleet box, so most players probably have one. I’m also fairly sure it is one of the first to be “dropped” when the fleet expands  past Skirmish level, because on pure numbers other ships do it better – the Raiju in particular seems to do everything the Ifrit can, and much more. I think this is a mistake. Allow me to explain.

The Ifrit is something of an odd fish in the Scourge fleet. It falls squarely into the “Medium” cruiser bracket, a bit slower but more resilient that the Yokai and Strix Light Cruisers (which may be worthy of another post) and below the Raiju and ShenLong Heavy Cruisers which are the backbone of most Scourge Cruiser Battlegroups, with good reason as they both are serious bruisers with the added advantage of Stealth Tech. At 110 points it is not expensive, and has the bonus that it can be bought in singles, unlike the theoretically cheaper light Cruisers.

Looking at the basic stat line the Ifrit looks a little “meh”, quite fast and resilient as far as it goes, but under-armed. This is the first Scourge ship to mount a Furnace Cannon, but that takes up so much room there is only a single Oculus Beam, albeit with a good wide firing arc. The Close Action weapon suite is respectable, and the point defence is good, even if the armour is a little weak. Comparing the raw numbers to the other Scourge Cruisers at this point level the Ifrit seems something of a lightweight.


Oculus Beams
Furnace Cannons
Alt-1, Scald, Burnthrough(8)
Furnace Cannons
Alt-1, Scald, Burnthrough(4), Flash
Plasma Storm
Scald, Close Action

It is the Furnace Cannon that makes the Ifrit so useful, at least in its “Flash” mode. This is the Scourge “Burnthrough” weapon and unlike those of the other races it has two firing modes. The first is what at first looks like the main contender, a four attack dice and max 8 damage option. That makes it in theory the heaviest damage potential of any weapon mounted on a cruiser, enough to cripple a Battlecruiser. In reality however you are unlikely to make all eight of those hits count, and even if you do the limited chance of critical hits (which ignore armour) mean quite a lot of that damage will de deflected – particularly against hard targets like the PHR. In comparison the second mode looks less attractive, with only one attack and only four max damage, however on closer examination I think this is usually the better option. In this second mode it hits on 2+ and causes armour avoiding critical hits on 4+. Not enough to cripple a cruiser, but more than enough to cripple or kill a frigate sized target - like a Strike Carrier. Additionally, the Ifrit has sufficient thrust to time a run on turn 2 that can potentially catch Strike Carriers before they hit the safety of atmosphere, or even turn one if the Strike Carrier is rushing to get in drop range of a ground objective. Dropfleet is all about the Ground Objectives, so denying your opponent a Strike Carrier is worth a try, and few other ships can combine the speed and sufficient damage output to kill or cripple them in one attack.

And it is not just Strike Carriers that are vulnerable. Less immediately “game winning” but equally valuable targets are the point defence or sensor Frigates of the other factions. The UCM Lima and Jakarta Class Frigates are so damned useful they will soon be universal, but they are both easy kills for a well handled Ifrit.

Even against larger targets such as Troopships or Fleet Carriers the Ifrit has the power to cause significant damage, and the relatively high thrust rating allows some inventive tactics – such as driving through enemy formations to avoid the bulk of return fire and taking shots with your Oculus Beam or even rear shots with your Close Action Plasma Storm. Having only two main weapons systems makes you less reliant on “Weapons Free” orders to optimise damage output – a blessing as you need to manoeuvre to keep the narrow arc of the Furnace Cannon on target

All well and good in the skirmish game, but what about the higher points games? Here the Ifrit’s second string kicks in – as a designator for larger attackers. Pairing the Ifrit with a heavy hitter such as a Shenlong (or bigger) will allow you lead with the Ifrit and “Flash” targets(again in the second firing mode)  to make them more visible to the heavy hitters.

So that’s my thoughts on the Ifrit, one of the slightly unloved Scourge Cruisers. The game is constantly evolving and in a direction away from sheer firepower into much more specialist Battlegroup builds. As tactics evolve I can see an even greater role for this useful ship with a lot of potential.


  1. Cool
    Sounds like WWII Pacific War Naval Tactics

  2. The Ifrit's Oculus Beams are Front arc only, not F/S. That doesn't have a huge effect on its actual utility, since the ship will rarely be using the weapon anyway and when it does you're likely to be on Weapons Free (having lined up a worthy F(N) shot the turn before) anyway.

    More seriously, there's a real question as to whether the Furnace Cannon is actually an Alt-mode weapon or if one of the firing options is simply a trap (or a typo, or bad playtesting). The "narrow" shot reliably produces 3-4 damage plus at least a Minor Spike on the target, with an excellent chance of bypassing armor with most or all of that. The "wide" shot is only theoretically capable of inflicting more damage than that, and misses out of Flash altogether. Actually getting to 8 damage is going to happen so rarely as to be "go play the lottery" levels of noteworthy, and even then the odds of getting an early crit to bypass armor is low. And all that assumes no modifiers to Lock values. Add an orbital layer difference, some debris, a PHR ECM frigate, or any other accuracy debuff and the "wide" shot can't even score crits at all, and is now needing "banned from Vegas" levels of luck to get more than 4 hits.

    The only time I'd ever gamble on a "wide" shot would be in a circumstance where 4 critical damage absolutely won't do the job and no other target can be hit. Even then I'd consider the merits of using special orders to go someplace else on the battlefield to set up for the next turn.

    Pity the Scourge don't have a Furnace Cannon equipped light cruiser. But if they had a New Cairo cognate you'd never field an Ifrit, would you?

  3. Yup - not sure where I got the F\S from but edited to stop further red face :-)