Whenever two cards are similar, its natural to compare the two. One very notable example of this is the rebel captive and Mara Jade upgrade cards, as both are three point imperial only crew members who have the ability to deal stress tokens to enemies under specific circumstances. While both cards are definitely useful in certain lists, and many players will globally choose one over the other, many wonder which is ‘better’.
So clearly each card brings some advantages to the table. To simplify, Mara brings an area of effect that can hit multiple enemies while rebel captive punishes a single enemy for shooting at you. Personally neither stands out to me as ‘better’, but the two do serve very different roles.
Also, before we see which is better when, we need to know which ships can take these two. Imperial ships with crew slots are the Firespray and Phantom, each with 1 slot, the Lambda with two slots, and the Decimator, with an astounding three slots.
The first thing that stands out with Mara is that you need to be close to an enemy for her to be at all helpful, meaning that she’s likely good on someone who’s supposed to plop down in the middle of a group of enemies. So, who benefits from being close to enemies?
Those are definitely a couple of pilots who Mara would enjoy riding with. Now, the rebel captive should likely be on a ship that would want to stay far away. Anybody come to mind as wielding a HLC in any of these ships?
You could also argue some of the Lambda pilots are like that as well, but they aren’t used very often from what I’ve seen. Rebel captive would also likely be better on someone who minimize shots per round, meaning that a higher percentage of shots put on the ship are punished with stress. Like these:
While I’ve tried Mara on a Phantom, it was underwhelming, as getting these things into range 1 has a bunch of risks, and allows opponents the chance to block you decloaking.
Another thing to consider is your opponent. Since you likely won’t know exactly what you’ll be facing, its best to know the meta game. When facing a swarm, pick Mara. When facing two or three ship lists, pick the captive. Other things to note are that the captive can force someone with a stress to take an extra stress. Also, having Mara on board makes a ship a target, while taking rebel captive makes a ship a less attractive target, generally. This is something to take into account when deciding which one to put on a ship, as valuable ships could use a captive to discourage an opponent from taking shots, while a ship that seldom draws fire may be more inclined to take Mara Jade. Another important thing to note that three out of these four ships have large bases, which increases their range 1 ‘area’, which Mara could find helpful. Rebel captive seems more consistent, while Mara can be high risk high reward. You should also keep in mind that the rebel prisoner works against all factions, and that there’s no way for your opponent to rescue the prisoner.
All things considered, both upgrades have their perks and downsides, and both seem viable when chosen with the right pilot.
May the force be with you, pilot.