Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dahlia & Skarath as Retribution Mercs

Dahlia and Skarath are one of the few and proud merc/minion choices available to the Retribution. The Iosans have the distinction of being the only Warmachine faction that she'll work for.

They're a well-defended, lower-armor duo that mixes denial (from the elf dame) and a nasty offensive (the big freakin' snake). As they are a Warbeast & Lesser Warlock, the big selling point is that it's a jack equivalent that does NOT tax your caster's focus and does NOT absolutely positively have to be in their control area. It's kind of like a Jack Marshal and warjack in one, except that if they kill the marshal you flat-out lose the jack.

It's 9 points for the pair. If you lose Dahlia first, you lose Skarath. If you lose Skarath, Dahlia runs out of Fury pretty fast and then either cuts herself or...stands there and takes up space.

SPD 6 is respectable enough. She has a hell of a defense with DEF 16, but ARM 12 is squishy even with 8 health boxes. Her other basic stats are pretty irrelevant as she has no weapons. I mean, her sculpt has a friggin' flute. You were expecting?

The important stuff for Dahlia: FURY 4. She has two spells, and both cost 2 fury. She's got enough to pop both, or double up on Mist Walker. Additionally, she's got Skarath's animus, which CAN impact friendly models and costs 1 fury.

Haunting Melody is a RNG Control spell. Enemy living models cannot give/take orders, and cannot make melee or ranged attacks at Dahlia. Apprently she's good with that flute. It's the close-range don't-kill-me spell. Not bad, as it means the enemy will have to devote long-ranged guns to kill her if she has this up. (and of course she can do transfers, so yeah...)

Mist Walker is RNG 6; but can only impact Dahlia or Skarath. The target gets Pathfinder and Prowl, so when in concealment/cover they get Stealth. It gives me this ridiculous image of a huge freakin' snake trying to hide behind an inch-high wall, and not really succeeding.

The special rule 'Charmer' means that when a firendly warbeast frenzies in her control area (read: Skarath for this post) that the beast can forfeit its activation instead. Important, because it means Skarath doesn't turn around and shank HER, because he'd almost certainly kill her.

Lesser Warlock is essentially the warlock-lite set of rules, and Limited Battlegroup means only Skarath can be with her. Frankly, with Fury 4 she has no business trying to run more than one beast anyway.

Skarath is a glass cannon. SPD 6 is nice (and Mist Walker helps out), and DEF 14 is reasonably solid for defense. ARM 16 is...not so solid on a heavy. Skarath has about 25 wounds on his spiral, though he's a little light on Mind.

Really, there's one big draw for Skarath: SP 10, POW 12 corrosion with continuous corrosion. With FURY 4, he can boost to hit the important stuff, though with RAT 5 you'll probably NEED the boosts. Since the only ranged Retribution option that ignores stealth so far is the Stormfall Archers (...and soon to be Discordia) this is something of a selling point.

Skarath's no slouch in melee, either. He's MAT 6 with a PS16 Reach attack. Critical Consume means that if you hit a small based non-warlock/caster model it's removed from play. Remember to make 'om-nom-nom' sounds when this happens. With PS16, there's a good chance you'd out-and-out nuke anything short of a Lesser Warbeast in one hit (and losing a Shredder to a crit consume would hurt, trust me...) it's also nice to have a Remove-From-Play option available, even if it's not the most reliable of things.

Being a snake, Skarath gets the Serpentine rule, which means he's immune to knockdown, but incapable of slams/tramples.

His Animus is a RNG 6 1-fury spell that grants a model Riposte. Riposte means that when the enemy misses the target model, that model gets to take a swing at them immediately, then the animus expires. Funny story, it's called Serpent Strike.

Skarath also has a neato warbeast bond, so he can CHOOSE his frenzy target. A fully boosted MAT 6 POW 16 hit is nothing to sneeze at. If the dice go south, this is nice. Otherwise, you're probably trying to avoid losing Dahlia's fury battery and the ability to really CHOOSE what you're doing with a heavy hitter in your army.

On the Field
The first turn or two will either see them both running (and Dahlia discarding a fury so she can leach the forced fury off of Skarath) or Dahlia casting Mist Walker 1-2 times and riling Skarath to refuel.

After that, it's probably time to look for a good spray shot. Even if POW 12 won't kill 'em reliably (IE: shield-walling guys or, oh, ARM19 Dawnguard for example...) the corrosion can still do the deed.

MAT 6 is passable, but it also means Skarath is capable of handling itself in melee. If you can find something that a couple POW 16s will cripple/kill (or do something prevent boosting to-hit rolls, like a Disruptor Bolt or eEiryss) then you've got yourself a melee target. Note, though, that Skarath's ARM 16 is NOT gonna stop heavy hitters from mincing him.

Fitting into your Army
As D&S are a 9pt unit, you're probably not taking them in 15 points. At 25, it's possible to include them, but they're still a chunk and you probably want at least one myrmidon as a heavy hitter (cough cough, phoenix, cough cough). Don't get me wrong; the flutist and snake are versatile and all, but you have warjack points to spend.

I'd probably consider them seriously starting at 35 points.

When it comes to capabilities, I think three things make them stick out and should be considered when deciding whether or not to take them.

1) Do you want a SP10, POW12 Continuous Corrosion shot that can get there without too much trouble?

2) For focus-greedy casters, it's a heavy that does not require focus to operate.

3) It's a heavy that does NOT have to stay in range of your warcaster, but still gets to boost more than once a turn. Helloo, flanker.

There are two major cons that come to mind with this pair: Durability and the inherent weakness of a lesser warlock.

Dahlia and Skarath both have solid defense values (16 and 14 respectively) but sub-par armor (12 and 16 respectively). They have a reasonable number of health boxes, but when your ARM is like that...there's room to worry. It's just something you have to keep in mind when it comes to AoEs and accurate heavy hitters.

As for lesser warbeasts? Losing one part of the pair is essentially losing both. If the enemy drops Dahlia, Skarath leaves. If the enemy drops Skarath, Dahlia loses her only Fury battery.

Interaction with Retribution Warcasters
Kaelyssa can use Banishing Ward with them. Since they can get Stealth without too much trouble, her feat is unlikely to leave them out to dry as the only non-stealthed targets.

Rahn can help them out with Force Field (...since boosted AOE hits are a worry with Dahlia's mighty ARM 12, which means it's transfer damage to Skarath...) and can always use Telekineses to help one or both of them out of a jam.

Epic Eiryss can rob a jack of its ability to boost, which works nicely with the solid natural DEF of our intrepid duo.

Anything past that? It's a matter of army composition and how much you want to save focus on your caster.

Dahlia and Skarath are, I think, viable options for the Retribution. They're one of two sources of sprays at this point in time. They can operate independently of the warcaster (though this also means most of the buffs don't work; see this discussion on Cylena & co for expansion on that) in terms of resources and control distance.

So long as you bear in mind their relative fragility and don't try to take them in smaller points levels, I think you can expect mileage out of them.

Additionally, I think they offer a couple of 'soft' benefits to the Retribution player:

1) It's a break from painting armor and myrmidons

2) If you haven't played Hordes, playing with the Fury mechanic will be a good learning experience.

Give 'em a shot. They're perfectly workable in a Retribution army, and if you have a Circle or Troll army, they can pull double-duty for you there.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Retribution Mercs: Cylena Raefyll & the Nyss Hunters

The Retribution is not exactly popular with mercenaries, for whatever reason. I guess when you're vaguely omnicidal against humans (or at least want to kill all their magic-users) these things are bound to happen.

As it is, Cylena & co are one of the few mercs that currently work for the Retribution. The next question is how can the Retribution use them? To answer that question, first ask what the unit can do on its own merits, and then ask how it can fit into the Retribution's current lineup.

Cylena & Company
Speed 7 pathfinders are going to get where they want to be. They all have an awesome DEF 15 and a piddly ARM 11. They're hard to hit, but you generally don't need to roll for damage against that armor. The basic grunt has MAT/RAT 6, and Cylena boasts one better on either side, and five hit boxes.

Everyone carries a Nyss Bow, with a foot of range and POW 10. Not bad on its own, but it's not going to do much other than ping infantry. If you really want to put damage on, you've got a POW 9 claymore with weaponmaster. If you can put the hit in, then it can do the damage, especially on a charge.

This is where they start shining. Pathfinder keeps them swift. They have Hunter, so they ignore forests, concealement, and cover when determiing LOS for shooting things. You'll get that 12" shot whenever and wherever you need it.

So long as you keep Cylena alive, the unit ALSO gets Combined Ranged Attack, which lets them double up to hit higher-DEF infantry with RAT 8/POW12.

Unit Summary
The Nyss Hunters are swift, and capable of laying down a nasty charge, especially against targets with average-to-low DEF. They can also ping high-DEF infantry reasonably well with doubled-up combined ranged attacks. So long as you keep them away from blasts, they'll do well. In a pinch, you can use them to try to tie up lower-MAT enemies, since DEF 15 is pretty high up there. You will pay for what you get, though, since they cost 7 for a min 6-elf unit, and 10 for a full set.

Working with the Retribution
Now, unlike some folks that Cylena will work for (IE: Cryx), the Retribution has access to some shooty infantry.

Dawnguard Invictors have a higher-powered shot and more armor (15 base, 17 with Defensive Line), and if there is a myrmidon around, they can take advantage of flank. They are slower, and generally are more suited as main-line infantry since they can take lighter hits and laugh off blast damage. They do have a max range of 10 base, or 14" with the UA's mini-feat. However, fully kitted out you're looking at 12 points, but it IS your main line.

Houseguard Riflemen are pure shooty. They're cheaper than the Nyss Hunters, but are pretty much incapable of melee duty. They have a 14" base range, and are 4/6, or 8 with the full unit and UA.

The Mage Hunter Strike force is multi-role, though they can only get that high damage output against warjacks. They have DEF 14, but Stealth means they can't be hit directly outside of 5". They share the Nyss Hunter allergy to blasts, and a full unit + UA is the same 10 points. However, at 10 points, you're trading weapon master on melee, one point of Defense, and a reliance on your Officer for combined ranged attacks for advance deployment, weaponmaster vs warjacks, and Phantom Seeker. Honestly, the MHSF is probably the closest analog to the Nyss Hunters in terms of a 1:1 unit tradeoff.

The next question is, what do the various warcasters offer the Hunters, and are there any other units they particularly like working with?

Death Sentence and Mirage are Faction Model Only. Honestly, he could probably use them, but he doesn't particularly offer them anything. They have the speed to keep up with him and his preference for a quicker force, but I don't see anything inherently outstanding here.

Banishing Ward works on friendly models/units, so if the Hunters get tagged by de-buffs or could be hit by magic AoEs, you can remove that vulnerability. Her feat doesn't affect them, which CAN leave them as the only targets for charges/shooting. Then again, DEF 15 is like as not a solid defense against direct shooting, so it's debatable whether they'll miss the Feat or not. Against warmachine, she can ensure they hit warjacks that she can stick with an Arcantrik Bolt.

Adeptis Rahn
Rahn can actually affect them with two things: first, he can target them with Polarity Shield. This stops charges, which is potentially useful. Rahn can also help them out with Force Field; if someone misses them with an AoE (which is pretty possible with DEF 15) then Rahn can nudge it in a beneficial direction.

Honestly, they lose out on the least with Rahn; he can potentially mitigate their sever AoE allergy, and you're limited on what you can take to benefit from the Feat anyway.

The Hunters can benefit from Snipe, but that's it. While Snipe looks good, I think her Feat (which only gives Faction models boosted ranged attack rolls and Swift Hunter) will nudge most players towards in-faction ranged options. The Hunters just eat a chunk of points, and I think most folks would rather spend that on stuff that benefits from the feat.

You need Faction models for Hallowed Avenger and Inviolable Resolve. You need Faction models for the Feat. Once again, I'm not sure that folks would put so many points into a non-faction unit.

Houseguard Units
Ranked Attacks mean only faction models can see through them. Then again, putting Nyss Hunters behind a wall of Halberdiers or Riflemen is wasting their speed.

epic Eiryss
Against warmachine, you can get some mileage out of Technological interference. DEF 15 is not gonna get hit reliably without boosts, so Eiryss and the Nyss Hunters can work together to lock down enemy warjacks. Watch out, though, as the enemy may just shoot AoEs at their own warjacks and scrape you off like that. Still, eEiryss is solid enough to take on her own merits, and she's also got the ability to pace the Nyss Hunters.

Thoughts on what to put Nyss Hunters alongside
I think if you're bringing Cylena and co., you're either going to use them as a swift flanking unit (in which case you don't CARE about all your stuff that requires friendly faction models...) or a swift army in general.

Given that the Retribution doesn't have a lot of long-ranged AoEs (other than Stormfall Archers) I think you can get some valuable mileage out of the Hunters as a means of killing high-DEF infantry, and of course who doesn't love weaponmasters with a 10.5" threat range, regardless of terrain?

If you're going to play against Hordes, then the minimum unit is the same price as a minimum size Mage Hunter Strike Force unit with UA, and it lets you hit high-DEF targets AND charge lower-def ones to gruesome death.

I would probably lean towards Kaelyssa and Rahn as your casters, since you lose the least in terms of feat/spells, and they can still help out your expensive mercs. Rahn in particular can shore up their fear of AoEs. Once I get around to assembling mine (...huh boy, that's gonna be some fun with pinning there...) I intend to do some testing with 'em.

The bottom line, though, is that at current Retribution doesn't have a lot of "OOH! OOH! TAKE ME WITH THEM!" options. They're largely self-sufficient (and can't impact a lot of feats/buffs) and versatile. If you can avoid AoEs with them, I think you can get mileage out of 'em.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Retribution: Testing with Kaelyssa

I've been trying to put my money where my mouth is with Kaelyssa, and I've tested out the following 35pt list:

Kaelyssa, Night's Whisper

10 Dawnguard Sentinels
-UA: Officer & Standard

6 Mage Hunter Strike Force
-UA: Officer

2 Arcanists
Eyriss, Mage Hunter of Ios

Logic in the List
The Hydra is intended to hunt solos/ping stuff with Kae's Phantom Hunter, and the Phoenix is its versatile self. Arcanists provide foucs/melee support, and Sentinels are...nasty. Reach weaponmasters with vengeance and MAT 7 tend to ruin anything they can hit. The MHSF is a reactive element for support-hunting and jack-softening.

Some of the Matchups
I ran up against my buddy Jon's Khador. Mmm, freaking ARM20+ jacks...and the Winterguard. I managed to pull off a win on a scenario, due to going first (and getting into the middle before he could) and blunting his advance long enough to grab the requisite 7 control points.

Against Kara Sloan, well...sure, SHE can get True Sight, but Kae's 'We're All Stealth Here' feat is pure yum. Add that on top of getting into position early in No Man's Land, and it being his first time playing Kara and it was...yeah. It was one part bad matchup for him (since my feat pretty much denies his ability to grab position) and one part inexperience with the caster.

Thoughts on the List's Components
Whenever I need to damage something disrupted with Arcantrik Bolt, I'll see...nothing. Still, being able to threaten to deny warjacks with this and Eyriss gets the enemy to pay careful attention to where the Elf Witch and my arc node(s) are.

I know that if/when I run up against someone with de-buffs, I'll love me some Banishing Ward.

Arcane Reckoning is...eh. I think it's the most situational, since the enemy has to MISS. It's best slapped on a high-DEF target that the enemy might try to cast spells on. Honestly, I can think of three uses for this:
1) My enemy will try to tag Eyriss with a spell, and it's not the Epic version
2) Mage Hunter Strike Force, for folks with magic AoEs
3) Someone might try to spell-assassinate Kaelyssa

Phantom Hunter means I'm really, REALLY going to think long and hard about bringing a Hydra with her almost automatically. In fairness, all myrmidons with guns can benefit from it.

Phantom hunter + her rifle lets her, in a pinch, pick off infantry from anywhere. This actually came in handy when I had to make sure an infantry unit wasn't in the No Man's Land.

I have to say, this is a warjack I'd initially kind of gone 'eh' in the general direction of, given the Phoenix and the Manticore. On the other hand, it's very focus-efficient. Turn one, it gets a full three focus and jogs. Turn two, you...hand it a focus, maybe. Then either it starts popping shots at solos, or starting to put POW 15s on jacks. In a pinch, it can also go into melee, though it really wants Arcanist support.

The big thing the Hydra does is STORE focus. Also, if the enemy scatters AoEs or lets you walk into covering fire templates...yeah. It's FUN, and it's a psychological weapon with Kae's Phantom Hunter: it will shoot you from 15" away, and if you ding it, you fuel it.

It's neat. It kills stuff. It has reach, combustion, an arc node...it's got a little of everything. The enemy ALSO likes it dead, and in my experience it gets focus-fired until it's dead, but it usually does something neat prior. Reach DOES give it a pretty solid threat range of 11", and it's a solid workhorse. But, you pay for what you get.

Mage Hunter Strike Force and UA
I think I'd almost always take the UA with them. Advance Deploy lets you deploy reactively, and Phantom Seeker is of course sweet for hunting support and the odd warjack.

That being said, I'm glad I haven't decided to go with the Tier lists where I have to own 20-30 of these guys. They're not bad for hunting support, and they've got a solid DEF 14. MAT/RAT 6 is respectable, but sometimes I worry about how hard they can hit. They just don't seem to be so graphically killy, but what they DO offer me is mobile anti-infantry support that fires through forests and the like. Give me Pathfinder and that, and I think they're a solid support element.

Dawnguard Sentinels and UA
Reach weaponmasters with solid armor and vengeance? Yes, please. Kaelyssa doesn't actually DO a lot for them other than keep stupid upkeeps/spells off them. ARM 17 in defensive line means that you start to need warjacks, weaponmasters, or nasty stuff like corrosion/anatomical precision to kill. The average infantry POW 10 bounces off this, at least.

And, of course, PS12 weaponmaster attacks break things they hit. Add in vengeance from the Officer, and when the enemy DOES break one, they get a handy-dandy 3" move. Considering the SPD 5, they need all the help they can get in that regard.

I think if points permit it, having one per heavy myrmidon is a great idea. Myrmodons don't have the largest of damage grids, and it's full of squishy stuff, like crucial systems. Since it doesn't take that much to bring systems online, you might be able to restore some crucial functions. If you can get focus, then a repair can also get you the ability to regenerate your field.

Other than that, they're focus efficiency on a stick, and +2 to melee damage rolls helps make sure that the stuff your myrmodons tag stay down.

I'm starting to like the way that Kae plays. Still, the bulk of her toolkit is matchup-dependent as to how you'll use it. Most of the time, though, you'll have something to do with her spells. All else fails, having a Hydra chuck POW 15s through solid walls is great fun, and a bunch of weaponmasters bearing down on the enemy is also good stuff.
Most of my wins seem to have come from scenario. I'm not sure Kae has a good way to pull off an assassination herself, so it's either bring something else that can kill the caster (perhaps Narn) or go for the scenario win.

I'm debating on testing something else out for the MHSF slot. Unit-wise, I'm entertaining two options:

1) Stormfall Archers
They throw out AoEs up to 12", and it's either more damage (extra dice on direct hits), fire on direct hits, or snipe. It's not a lot of models, but it IS good for contributing at range. They also provide me an easy counter to high-DEF, low-ARM infantry. In a pinch, they can also throw the equivalent of boosted POW12s at warjacks.

2) House Shyeel Battle Mages
Movement shenanigans for the win. The ability to push or pull things into/out of position is great. I think I could always find a use for that ability.

3) More Solos?
Seven points could get me Narn, and leave me four points for either Ghost Snipers or Mage Hunter Assassins. I suppose it could work, though my gut says that one unit-of-the-line and a pair of heavies is a bit light for 35 points. I could also drop Eyriess and add Dahlia/Skarath, perhaps.

I dunno. More experimenting will be in order.