Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Moonlighting with Mercs: Cryx



One reason I've convinced myself to by mercs is that it theoretically lets me experiment with a variety of factions without having to commit too many resources. It's the magic of 'friendly' versus 'friendly faction', which can narrow down your choices.

EDIT: I've added a note on the Withershadow Combine, and added Lord Exhumator Scaverous, which I missed as I did not have Wrath when I wrote this.

A Note on the Withershadow Combine
Generally, the idea with this series is to focus on the mercs the factions can take.  Most other factions have ways of stripping upkeeps, either from themselves or others.  Cryx's character unit is the only in-house way Cryx has of removing enemy upkeeps, and they help your caster by providing one free upkeep.  It's worth a mention, as you don't have access to this via mercs, and at 5 points they're reasonable enough in a 35pt list.

The Casters

Cryx, as they tend to specialize in harming the enemy versus helping themselves, sounds good at first glance. However, Cryx has a somewhat more restricted selection of mercs at their disposal. I will start first by determining which Cryxian casters I would want to try with mercs, then worry about which merc units I'd take.

Iron Lich Asphyxious - His unit buff, scything touch, is good for +2 damage for any friendly units/models. Parasite, of course, matters only in terms of getting the hit off. His feat is purely selfish. As such, this guy is a solid start for mercs; as long as you can hit with them, you can do some damage either in range or melee. Just bring arc nodes and perhaps a helljack.

Lich Lord Asphyxious - He's not nearly as friendly as his prime version. Excarnate is undead-only, and the feat is faction-specific. Frankly, I would skip him for this exercise. At best, mercs would be supplimental, which is not quite the point of this exercise.

Warwitch Deneghra - Let's see. Her one buff is friendly model/unit. She can boost accuracy (via crippling grasp and the feat) or debuff armor (via parasite, crippling graps, or the feat). Bring her a battlegroup, and you can even do pop 'n' drop with some ranged units and Scourge (IE: Steelhead Riflemen, perhaps?) She's a solid candidate for a mostly-merc army. I guess she can buy some plausible deniability, right?

Wraith Witch Deneghra - She keeps Ghost Walk, and still has an ARM debuff and DEF debuff. Still solid, after you pack in some arc nodes.

Goreshade the Bastard - The one spell he's got that worries about troopers specifies friendly only, so you can still Soul Gate something back home. Past that, Goreshade offers nil suppot to troops, and can Stealth his battlegroup. Bring mercs that are self-supporting.

Goreshade the Cursed - You miss out on Sudden Death and the feat, as well as the Elite Cadre. Honestly, I feel like you're missing out on some of the epic 'Shade's abilities if you want to run a merc core.

Master Necrotech Mortenebra - Frankly, she's all about her battlegroup with her spells/abilities/feat. You could probably get mileage out of Boomhowler's or Steelhead Halberdiers as a screen, but I'm really not sure she's suited for the merc-heavy theme.

Pirate Queen Skarre - Between Dark Guidance and Blood Magic specifying Faction models, the pirate queen isn't too big on hired guns. She offers plenty of support to infantry, just not merc infantry.

Skarre, Queen of the Broken Coast - eSkarre is more about the battlegroup, though Black Spot works on mercs...partially. Mercs won't get the extra attack, but -2DEF still helps you with a hit. I'd have to say that eSkarre is in a similar boat as Morty: maybe a little as a screen, and I'd probably skip on merc shooting as I'd want faction models to take full advantage of Black Spot.

Lich Lord Terminus - Between Abomination and Sacrificial Pawn [Undead] I think it's safe to say Terminus is kind of a Cryx-only guy. Just sayin'.

Lich Lord Venethrax - He wants a friendly faction model/unit for Soul Harvester, but past that he's self-centered and offensive. Considering a psychotic Gerlak Slaughterborn could serve as a fine soul harvester, I think Venethrax is a fine candidate for self-supporting mercs.

Witch Coven of Garlghast - Ghost Walk and Occultation are perfectly fine with mercs, though Veil of Mists will only screen them. Add in an armor debuff, and as long as the mercs can hit on their own, you should have some options.

Lord Exhumator Scaverous - He's the new guy on the block, fresh from Wrath (and hence being added in via edit...).  He's reasonably friendly towards mercs, with a couple of debuffs (-2ARM from Feast of Worms, and -2 DEF and hamstringing from Icy Grip) and Ghost Walk.  Telekinesis is hideously versatile; you can drag something a little closer and give everyone a backstrike bonus, or move your own hitters up.  Death Ward would be wonderful on a unit, but you can always use it to help your own battlegroup, either by buffing a melee jack (Erebus reaches a stupid-nasty DEF14 ARM20 with it, which is sick for Cryx) or maing sure an arc node keeps its node functional after some damage.  Excarnate suggests you bring undead, and in fairness you are losing out on it.  The feat would be more of a loss if Cryx had any units with Magic Ability, but a Warwitch Siren or two and/or the Withershadow Combine would be a sufficient addition to help, plus the jerk can throw out a crap-ton of TK on feat turn.
I like him for mercs, even if you lose out a little.

The Mercs

As I mentioned, our favorite undead nation does not actually attract a lot of potential employees. I guess no one likes the retirement plan, but money's money, right? It's worth noting Cryx does not have access to any merc jack marshals, which is probably just as well, considering what a Mule could do on a target suffering from Parasite.

Steelheads - You can get cheap melee bodies, you can get some decent cav that goes with the cheap melee bodies, and you can get some actual ranged attacks for your Nightmare Empire. With combined attacks (or flank on the cav), these guys can be reasonably accurate, especially with some of the defensive debuffs open to Cryx. I started this exercise thinking about running a full unit of Halberdiers, a full unit of Riflemen, and Stannis Brocker.

Cryxian armor debuffs help Steelheads hit harder, which is one of the complaints I tend to hear about mercs. A Halberdier double-team is suddenly MAT7, PS16 under Parasite, and goes up to a silly MAT9, PS15 under Crippling Grasp. The Riflemen are similarly disgusting, with the added bonus of Combined Arms.

Boomhowler & Co also appreciate the debuffs. While they have combined melee attack, the base size makes it difficult to get more than two guys into any given attack, and they don't hit particularly hard. Still, I suppose you can get a tarpit and some lethality, as well as a trample shield, out of these guys.

Croe's Cutthroats LOVE a DEF debuff. With a base MAT6 and RAT5, the poison weapons might actually do some serious damage. Even parasite won't mitigate the otherwise-low POW, but in a larger game I can see them benefitting from a DEF debuff as long as you've got some heavy hitters in your list.

Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters - They'll be happy with Cryx, I think. If you're only looking to invest in one hefty unit, you can get both ranged and melee out of them. Get a DEF debuff to make sure that MAT6 can work in melee, and a DEF debuff will help them nail high-DEF infantry at range without having to do an excessive amount of teamwork. With Pathfinder, they're not as reliant on something like Ghost Walk for mobility.

Orin Midwinter - It's not like Cryx is low on magical attacks. Null Magic can work for you, but it poses an order-of-activation issue for you. I guess if you want to challenge yourself, or run a flanker with some anti-infantry capability, there's always this guy.

Gorman - He's good. Cryx can help him hit better, and/or just make a warjack CRY as it eats -5ARM in a turn.

Sea Dogs - The basic units and their buff solos will work for Cryx. You'll want to bring all their support just because it's a solid package. Compared to the 'Steelhead Package' it's not really got a ranged component (Not fond of artillery, and pistols aren't really that ranged), and it's a bit more solo-heavy to get the full effect. However, I don't believe Cryx has access to a psychotic acrobatic model like First Mate Hawk. If you take the unit-supporting solos and a full-up Sea Dog Crew, you're looking at 16 points, which is a fair chunk of a 35pt list.

Master Gunner Dougal MacNaile - Sadly, artillerist won't help Cryx, so this guy's mostly a wash unless you want to bring Sea Dog Deck Gun Crews.

Ogrun Bokur - Solid utility, and has the distinction of being one of two Rhulic solos that will actually work for the Nightmare Empire. As ever, you'd bring him to backstop bullets that would otherwise be addressed to more valuable targets. He's also got the distinction of being the only Shield Guard available to Cryx.

Overall

Frankly, I like the Deneghras and Iron Lich Asphyxious for merc-centric forces. Sadly, you're limited to merc units/solos, but given how focus-efficient you can get with Cryxian helljacks, I don't find that a major downside. Crippling Grasp is the standout, as you can get effectively +2 to hit and +2 damage against a target. Hell, even lowly Halberdiers going solo can rack up effective MAT9 PS15 swings on feat turn against CG'ed targets. It's just plain wrong.

I currently favor Steelheads for these two, as they're inherently self-supporting, and you can pick between volume of attacks or quality of attacks for the issue.

Just be aware that mercs tend not to be fearless, so the lovely Deathjack and its abomination might not be high on the list.

1 comment:

kaptainvon said...

Good stuff! I like the approach of building around a core of Mercs with faction battlegroups to bolt on; definitely a way to get maximum variety for your purchase price.