Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thoughts on the Wraith Engine

I've seen the Wraith Engine get some less-than-positive press on the forums.  Then again, this is the internet: it's not hard to find someone saying something.

I painted mine up this month (along with a heap of other stuff) and ended up testing out the following 50pt list:

Wraith Engine
10 Nyss Hunters
6x Boomhowlers
Withershadow Combine
2 Bloat Thralls
Warwitch Siren

The Opposition
Old Witch
-Beast 09
-War Dog
Battle Carriage
10 Winterguard
-Officer & Standard
Kovnik Joe
Widowmaker Marksman & Widowmakers
2 Mortars
Field Gun

End Result
Cryxian victory via assassination; Reaper endures Old Witch's feat, hits her thanks to the Combine's Puppetmaster, then finishes her off with a great big ol' piston to the face.

On the Battle Carriage
It deployed in the middle, moved up, and spent two turns shooting before it got a case of the death.  Honestly, it didn't kill much.  HOWEVER, dropping a heap of templates that are rough terrain is horrifically inconvenient.  Between some terain towards the middle, Boomhowler's did not make it nearly far enough up the table.  Similarly, my arc nodes had to take less direct routes to avoid it.  Cankerworm didn't care, and the Nyss...well, were either dying when caught on the AoE or busy not caring about having to go through it.

On the Wraith Engine
I have a softer spot for Battle Engines with guns.  My main engine so far has been the Arcantrik Force Generator, and all it needs to do in order to contribute is wander up, aim, and then start shooting until something neat happens.

The Wraith Engine is a bit different.  The obvious part is that it can't really shoot.  I think the second part is that, yeah, you're GONNA lose the Wraith Engine.  In the best-case scenario, the Engine is in position to harvest souls, gets a couple of them, then moves up and trashes stuff.  After that?  The enemy has something that's ARM18, Reach, PS15 with Dark Shroud in their lines, and that is bound to be inconvenient.  It's also very corporeal, and in need of death.

So, it's probably a one-way trip for the Engine.  How do you get the most out of it?

Situations that the Engine Digs
Probably the most obvious thing: the Engine loves souls.  You want to get some of those in range prior to your rampage.  This is honestly one of the Engine's strengths: beat-stick that doesn't need focus.  Souls, yes.  Focus?  No, you can pull it off without the focus.  You just need something to kill the soul's fleshy containers in the range of Engine.

The second thing: targets.  With PS15, MAT7, reach and Dark Shroud, you're ideally going for lower-DEF, harder targets.  Anything you can do to up the damage output is great from there.

At that point, you're thinking of the Wraith Engine as a fire-and-forget missile.  Fuel it up, chuck it at the enemy.

The Not So Hot Situation
So, what if you don't have access to a lot of souls?  Maybe you're dealing with a lotta jacks.  Maybe there are a lotta undead across the table, or the other guy has a way of holding onto their souls.

What then?  Time to look at the other offerings of the Engine.

If it's Incorporeal, you aren't blocking LOS but you ARE taking up a lot of space.  It's a screen against melee, but not guns.  If you are corporeal, you get that AND you block LOS.

But wait.  All those other engines offer some kind of army support, and Incorporeal models are a bit rare in this army outside of Machine Wraiths and Blackbane's boys.  Your other buff is Dark Shroud + Reach + Base the Size of a CD.  Can you find some sprays in your army, or some AoEs?  Then you can use the Machine Wraith regardless.  Oh, more fun?  You can fire these THROUGH your Wraith if it's Incorporeal.

So, the Wraith can dig Venom (IE: Deneghra/Sirens with good angles), Bloat Thralls, AoE spells, and so on and so forth.

The Machine In This Round
Turn 1: Scything Touch, then Apparition + Incoporeal + Run = 14" up the board.  Old Witch double-taps him with Gallows, and Kell fires.  End result?  Down 9-10 boxes from hot damage rolls.
Turn 2: Nyss, Bloat Thralls fire off rounds.  Two Souls to the Engine.  it activates, charges the  Gun Carriage (which has been gifted with a Parasite).  Despite some abjectly terrible rolls, three swings later it's a bad memory.  Then again, with I was going at dice +2 for damage. (ARM20, -3 for Parasite, -2 for Dark Shroud, and then PS15+2 for Scything Touch...yeah).  This was also based on rolling up a whopping 7 damage on the charge attack.

Enemy turn 3?  Yeah, it totally died.  He'd had some good damage rolls, and frankly it had drawn a TON of fire (I consider 6 focus' worth of spells good fire).

So, Who Actually Likes This Thing?
Frankly, this Engine is in heavy competition for Souls.  You want models that can do one of several things:

1) Help Deliver This Thing
-eSkarre's feat
-eSkarre's Death Ward
-pSkarre's feat (used defensively)
-Scaverous' Death Ward
-Scaverous' Telekinesis
-eDeneghra's feat (sometimes)
-eGoreshade's Occultation
-Witch Coven's Occultation
-Darragh Wrathe's Beyond Death

2) Anyone with Debuffs
Not gonna lie; I've got no urge to list out who all has debuffs.  MAT7 does mean DEF debuffs are pretty nice, so you can focus on just beating the crap out of your target.

3) Sprays/AoEs
-p/eDenegrha's Venom
-p/eSkarre's Blood Rain
-Defiler's spray
-Nightwretch's AoE
-Harrower's AoE
-Bile Thrall Purges (assuming Incorporeal...)
-Cephalyx Overlords
-Revenant Cannon Crew
-Bloat Thralls
-Warwitch Siren's Venom
-new crabjack's AoE

Things Not To Take
Honestly, some folks just like souls too much to really consider taking alongside.  Short list:

He likes a big feat turn.  The Engine is a major competitor for souls, so unless it's already loaded up...yeah, just don't take him.  The self-sufficiency is a nice thought, but you're better off with something like Deathjack or a Seether.

He likes Soul Harvester, which means he's fighting the Engine for its food source.  Whoops.

epic Asphyxious
He can harvest souls at a distance, and do more damage.  Honestly, you're more likely to want to harvest the souls for focus than for the Engine.

Soul Hunters
They're swift, and similarly-costed.  They also want souls, and love mowing through living infantry at speed.  It's that 'souls' part that makes the Engine a bit sad.

I think the Wraith Engine gets some bad press because it takes a bit more thought to bring out the potential.  The second problem is that the enemy needs to have souls for you to feast on, which is not a given.  Still, I think taking it, and then grabbing for a couple of Bloat Thralls and sprays is a good start for using it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Moonlighting with Mercs: Merc 'Modules' and Units, the Cores You'll Build Around

This is, at the moment, the last article I plan on doing for mercs.  I've spent five posts explaining what mercs will work for which factions, and the compatibility of the respective warcasters.

This time out, I'm going to focus on the units (and their support) themselves, and discuss what you get from each of them.  I mean, you need to know who does what, right?

The Steelheads
Work For: Cryx, Cygnar, Menoth, Khador
The Steelheads have a little bit of everything: you want melee troops, you get Halberdiers.  You want guns?  Riflemen.  You want Cavalry?  You got Steelhead Cav, and a cav solo in Stannis Brocker.

The cheapest entry comes with the Halberdiers: They're a 4/6 cost unit for 6-10 guys.  They have low-to-average stats across the boad, with DEF/ARM13, and a piddly-looking MAT5.  Note that they do have Powerful Charge and Set Defense, so they can give and take some love to open an engagement.  Note also they have reach and are dirt cheap.  Combined Melee Attack lets you hit high-DEF targets, or tag-team larger stuff.  Importantly, they're cheap.  If you want just to hold another guy up, 1-2 units of Halberdiers flood the boad with bodies, and if you throw Alexia & the Risen behind it, you're basically dumping 11-17 points on a LOT of delaying tactics.

The Riflemen could use a range booster, but they're hideously accurate with Combined Ranged Attack and Combined Arms.  They are expensive at 6/9, but the accuracy is what saves them.  You are not likely to miss if you team up for your shots.  I would consider these guys behind a unit of Halberdiers, because these guys are pretty terrible in melee.

If you don't need in-faction buffs, the Cavalry can hit hard when combined with Halberdiers.  You get Reach and two swings out of each guy.  While the MAT5 and PS12 look piddly, factor in Flank with Halberdiers, and suddenly you've got MAT7 weaponmasters cranking out two attacks each.  Add in a sidearm and Assault, and you can do some serious damage on a charge to a number of targets.

Finally, there's Stannis Brocker.  IF you're going to take more than one Steelhead unit (and you're not just doubling up on Halberdiers as fodder) then consider him to help you with traffic issues.  He's no slouch in combat on his own, but Tactician (for ignoring each other for LOS and moving through each other) can be a big boon when it comes to getting your sell-swords into position.

Steelheads in Summary
These guys aren't what you're looking for if you MUST have access to faction buffs.  Why?  Either you're taking one unit of Halberdiers as fodder (and, well, come on.  At 6, they're cheap.  At 8, they're comparable to everyone else...) or you're looking at Halberiders + more expensive guys; Rifleman for a regular battle line or Cavalry for a nasty 1-2 hit.

An exception to the above is Reznik's tier in No Quarter, as you can get the Attendent Priests for free.

Also, these guys work for EVERYONE (other than Retribution).  From a money standpoint, these guys offer good bang for the buck.  You're looking at ~20ish points to take Halberdiers and either Rifleman or Cav + Stannis Brocker, which leaves you room for support/battlegroup in a 35pt list.  Not bad at all.

The Sea Dogs
Work For: Cryx, Cygnar, Menoth, Khador

Are pirates your thing, instead of organized mercs?  Then you can get some Sea Dogs.  While the Steelheads are pretty self-contained (self-contained accuracy via CMA/CRA, only Cav really wants other guys for suppot), the Sea Dogs just get nastier as you start adding in solos.

You start with an infantry unit, the Sea Dog Crew.  It's 5/8 for some guys with so-so stats.  They have SPD6 (nice), MAT5/RAT4 with a PS8 Melee weapon and PS10 pistol (laughable), DEF13 (average) and ARM12 (bad joke).  They can help each other out with Gang, for +2 to hit/damage, and they can use the pistol in melee.  Sound comical, right?

Well, you can get more guys with the Sea Dog Rifleman.  They're a point a piece, but instead of the pistol they have a RNG14 Rifle with CRA and Take Up.  You can get a few more bodies.  Not bad, right?  Still going 'So What?'

Now, let's go get Mr. Walls.  He's 2pts and attaches to a Sea Dog Crew unit.  He's got Gang, and slightly better survivability in melee due to Tough and an angry monkey. (No, really.)  He brings two wonderful things to the unit:
1) Tactics: Advance Deploy
2) No Quarter: mini-feat good fo Pathfinder, Terror, and Fearless.

So, Mr. Walls lets you start out further, and get there faster, AND respond to your enemy's deployment.  Now we're starting to see something...

Now let's go grab Lord Rockbottom.  He's got a neat Spray attack and Commander.  However, he also has a fun little ability called 'Paymaster' and he can use it to help a Sea Dog unit in his command range 5x per game.
1) Money Shot: +2 to ranged attack/damage rolls
2) Payday: BOOSTED MELEE ATTACK ROLLS and Overtake
3) Walk It Off: Tough for a round

For two points, Mr. Rockbottom is making our Sea Dogs a bit terrifying...he's solved their melee issue, and can even make them a little more frightening at range, OR he can make them stick around longer.  Too bad you can only use one Incentive per unit per turn.

Now, if you've decided to make your Sea Dogs Tough, you can pay 2pts for Bosun Grogspar, and make them immune to knockdown.  Also, you can take Doc Killingsworth for 4+ tough on your pirates.  First Mate Hawk is a guided-missile Solo that can give Sea Dogs fearless in her CMD9 range.  I suppose you could also take Bloody Bradigan for a weaponmaster with Fearless, Tough, and Critical Knockdown.

So, what's the module cost?
Sea Dog Crew [8]
-Doc Killingsworth [2]
Lord Rockbottom [2]

Minimally, 12pts.  I would probably add Hawk and as a minimum (14 points) and debate whether you wanted to add Grogspar and/or the Doc.  Alternatively, you can take a Press Gang which goes down to 4/6 and gets Tough in exchange for losing the pistols (but keeping AD by having it naturally) and being able to replace their losses.

Alternatively, you could grab the full suite of Solos (10), a full-up unit of Sea Dog Crew with Mr. Walls (10) and a full unit of Press Ganger (6), which is a fun 26pt chunk (though if you're going that far, I'd just consider playing Talion Charter or something...).  I think you're more likely to run about 16pts with a Sea Dog Crew and supporting solos.

Overall on Sea Dogs
These guys can pull off some sick layering of buffs.  This is really one of those situations where you can't evaluate the piddly Sea Dog Crew in a vacuum.  On the flip side, the instant you start losing your solos, you start watching capabilities go goodbye.  Still, it's a characterful module with some sick shenanigans when it all comes together AND you can use it with pretty much everyone.

As an added benefit, you can run a lone unit and make use of the Ranking Officers on the cheap, getting even more buffs out of the deal, unlike the Steelheads.  On the downside, you're looking at a lot of abilities to track, but they're all pretty sick.

The Nyss Hunters
Will Work For: Cryx, Cygnar, Khador, Retribution
If you're going to take just one unit as a core, these are by far some of the most versatile ones you can take.  They're expensive at 10pts for a full-up unit, but look at what you get: Pathfinder, Hunter, Combined Ranged Attack, Weaponmaster melee weapons, DEF15...bottom line?  You pay for what you get, and it's pretty nasty.

They can also use a variety of support, if you've got it.  If you can shield them from blasts (IE: Rahn's Force Field, Murdoch's Dig In) then you can make the enemy deal with DEF15, which isn't easy.  If you can extend their range, you'll get more mileage out of their bows.  The other big thing that comes to mind is a melee accuracy buff; MAT6 can miss at times and is more suited to hunting lumbering heavy warjacks than anything else.

As they're likely to be your main/only unit, you can also readily hand out that Ranking Officer attachment.

Nyss Hunters can do just about anything you ask them to out of the box.  They only get nastier with support, but real support is saving them from blast damage/auto-hitting stuff.

Ogrun Assault Corps
Work For: Cygnar, Menoth
Based on the 6/9 cost, these guys are competing for your 'only unit' slot.  On the bright side, they're pretty versatile: POW12 AoEs with CRA (so you can actually get some stupidly-nasty blast damage), and POW12 melee hits with CMA.  Add that on top of a DEF12 (average) and ARM15 (not bad) 8 wounds, and you've got a pretty middle-of-the-road multi-role trample roadblock.

Of course, this 'middle of the road' thing they've got makes them prime candidates for support.  On the bright side, they'll take almost anything.  An ARM buff is nice (and both employers can provide it).  Menoth can hit them with Ignite to drive them up to effective PS14 in melee, so you can do fire support and then do damage in hand-to-hand.  Cygnar can improve their ranged capability via Deadeye or Snipe.

Based on the cost, you can again hand them a ranking officer, as they're probably your main/only unit.  They may or may not need it, but the support from an Attendent Priest is pretty swell, and Murdoch's Assault and Dig In can give you more ranged fun AND keep you from blocking LOS.

These guys are versatile.  They'll make use of just about any buff you can hand them, though they honestly kind of want those buffs because they are VERY middle-of-the-road.

Boomhowler & Co
Works For: Cryx, Cygnar, Khador
Want a troll tarpit?  That's what these guys are.  They're famous for having a 4+ Tough roll, even though Boomhowler techincally has two other Fell Calls that most people forget. (Well, ok, Rage Howler probably gets the least love, but it still has a place if you can buff Boomie's ARM).

On the one hand, you can run these guys sans support just to clog up the enemy's lanes.  That's kind of the default use.  Cygnar can buff ARM (and DEF with Murdoch's Go To Ground), and Khador can buff DEF.

On the flip side, Cryx can readily help their damage output, as these guys top out at a POW12 hit unless you do Combined Melee Attacks.  Come on, it's the faction of Debuffs. 

These guys are a fine tarpit for their employer, though they'll pull double-duty if you can help their damage output.

Croe's Cutthroats
Work For: Cryx, Khador, Menoth
Like Poison?  That's what these guys do.  Their primary defense is Stealth and hitting first.  As their primary defense is Stealth, Ranking Officers are much easier to pick off (...since the Cutthroats don't block LOS unless you could shoot said Cutthroat) and are thus probably not desirable.

You could try to help their durability, but unless you're buffing DEF with something like Iron Flesh, it's probably not going to help.  It's a shame Defender's Ward requires a ranking officer, because they'd love DEF15, and ARM13 would be nice against blast damage.

The other issue the Cutthroat's have is accuracy.  They're already expensive at 7/10.  I can think of two gys that can help their accuracy issues without a ranking officer:
1) Harkevich has Fortune; re-rolls on RAT5 can threaten most infantry/heavies reasonably well.
2) Scaverous has Telekinesis.

Honestly, Scaverous is the big winner with Croe's.  Why?  Telekinesis can get you the rear arc bonus, which translates to +2 to hit AND +1d6 damage.  It's frankly disgusting.  I'm not saying that Scaverous is the ONLY guy I'd play Croe's with, but he can make them sick.

Of course, pKreoss' feat means that you're missing on snakeyes, so he could use these guys as an assassination vector.  It feels distinctly un-Menoth, but what the hell.

DEF buffs, blast damage mitigation, and accuracy are what Croe's want.  Of note are Harkevich, Scaverous, and pKreoss, as all of them can help Croe's hit, and the last two can make them serious assassination threats against living casters.

Sam McHorne & the Devil Dogs
Work For: Cygnar & Menoth
Like Jack Marshals that can gank the crap out of knocked-down models?  Hire Sam & Friends for 5/7.  Pronto is good for melee jacks and ranged jacks alike.  You can go cheap with just a Buccaneer (bring your own knockdown!) or you can get a Mule to move up AND get the all-important aiming bonus.

Sam & Friends have average stats, short range, and are just kinda sick if you can knock the target down.  That Slug Gun may only have RNG4, but it's POW14.  CRA is kind of a joke with RNG4, but you can always get an Assault off with Murdoch.

Frankly, these guys benefit most from Knockdown effects.  pKreoss and pStryker can deliver the goods here, and once the Avenger comes out you'll be able to get Knockdown for any Cygnar caster on-demand.

pKreoss is their buddy in Menoth, and if you really want to enjoy the Knockdown effect, you're probably adding a Buccaneer (KD on demand!) a Freebooter (KILL THE KD THING!) and a Priest (Pathfinder and Defender's Ward eligibility!)  In Cygnar, pStryker for Earthquake, or anyone with Avengers.  Or, you can add a Buccaneer to make them a self-contained 10pt trashin'-things module.  Note that they are a bit niche just because they love to kill stuff on the ground, and you can't always get that lovely Knockdown.

Horgenhold Forge Guard
Work For: Cygnar, Menoth
Want Reach Weaponmasters with solid ARM?  These are the guys.  Defensive Line means they'll laugh off most blast damage.  They need it, because they're a whopping SPD4 and DEF10.  MAT7 is pretty reasonable, and they're POW11 weaponmasters with Critical Smite, so their main concern is actually getting there.

Cygnar has ready access to Arcane Shield, and with that up (and Ranked Attacks and Murdoch) you have a nice front line that can beat the tar out of the enemy when they DO get there.  Cygnar and Menoth both have access to Crusader's Call, good for +2 movement on a charge.  Note you'd need a ranking officer, and you're stuck with either Blaze or the Harbinger for it.  Still, it's a solution their SPD4, right?

Honestly, I'm most at home using these guys with Ashlynn as she has Quicken, which really solves their SPD4 issue.  Murdoch lets you used their Ranked Attacks in a Cygnar shooting army to just sit back and hit the enemy when they come in, as you can probably convince the other guy to come to you.  Otherwise, you'll need to use judicious spacing of your troops to make sure anyone going after them can only get the first few.

Wrap-Up on Merc Units
The Steelheads and Sea Dogs are the most in-depth choices you've got for merc cores.  The Steelheads are relatively self-sufficient while being able to mesh well (largely with Stannis Brocker, but also the Halberdiers+Cav).  The Sea Dogs excel at layering a truly riduclous amount of buffs on the table.  Either way, these 'cores' are almost plug 'n' play into most faction armies.  I would say the tradeoff is the Sea Dogs require the most to remember, but since it focuses around making a unit into a sick receptable of buffs, it can readily benefit from Ranking Officers.

The Steelheads and Sea Dogs can also readily morph into a merc army, as they have access to all the contracts AND at least one specialist caster.  The Sea Dogs in particular have Phineas Shae's tier list, which is kinda sick.

Past that, there are a fair number of one-unit cores you could build around: the Nyss Hunters are expensive and have a bit of everything (outside of durability).  The Ogrun Assault Corps is sort of the inverse of the Nyss Hunters, as they've got durability in lieu of agility.  The rest of the merc choices get to be pretty niche.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Moonlighting with Mercs: Retribution of Scyrah

This will be the last article in the 'Moonlighting with Mercs' series.  It will also be the shortest, as elves with an urge to destroy all human mages are somewhat unlikely to employ a lot of humans.

In all honesty, you may be able to use mercs as the core of the army, but you'll be using more Retribution components in the army, just because of the paucity of the selections open to you.

A Note on 'Friendly Faction'
Currently, the Retribution has a handful of warcasters.  Most of them have some buffs, and these tend to be 'faction-specific' in nature.  Bottom line: Retribution isn't very merc-friendly.

Garryth, Blade of Retribution
Everyone loves a stealthy, psychotic assassin, right?  He's got a pretty light spell list.  He's got two major buffs: Death Sentence and Mirage. Both of them are faction-specific.  His feat is purely denial in nature, and probably involves him running up and flipping everyone the bird.

Kaelyssa, Night's Whisper
Everyone loves a crazy sniper, right?  She's one of the few Retribution models with the innate ability to ignore stealth, and her offensive spells mean you'll want arc nodes.  On the bright side, her Banishing Ward isn't picky about targets.  Arcane Reckoning is faction-specific, though, but it's also not one I see a lot of people using.

The biggest potential downside with Kaelyssa is her feat: it 's faction-specific, and denies the enemy the ability to charge you and hands out stealth.  That means your mercs are NOT protected, so they need their own innate ability to avoid getting singled out on the feat turn.

Adeptis Rahn
Honestly, this is about as merc-friendly as it gets for Retribution.  There are two buffs this guy brings for his troopers: Polarity Shield (no charging the affected unit) and Force Field (you dictate the direction of deviations in their blast area).  The only two things he wants past that are arc nodes and units with Magic Ability for his feat.

Ravyn, Eternal Light
On the bright side, Snipe and Vortex of Destruction help anyone.  On the down side, Veil of Mists and the Feat are faction-specific.  I honestly can't recommend her for merc-heavy play, because they lose out on the feat.

Dawnlord Vyros
Again, I can't really recommend him with mercs.  He's got battlegroup support, but his troop support and feat are all faction-specific.  Mercs miss out on the +2ARM, Hallowed Avenger's free counter-charge, and the feat.  I'm sure some folks will debate just how good his feat is, but the fact remains that mercs miss out on it.

Lord Arcanist Ossyan
The newest addition to the Retribution's roster is somewhat merc-friendly.  He's got two unit buffs, and at least Quicken isn't picky.  Shatterstorm is fairly sick, though, AND faction-picky.  The other big downside is that his feat's offensive perk only works for Faction models.  Honestly, I have a hard time recommending mercs with him, much as I would love to.

The Merc Roster
Like I said, there aren't a ton of options available.  I'm going to skip the Eiryss's and Wyshnyllar, as they're Retribution faction models and known quantities.

Cylena Raefyll & the Nyss Hunters
Hey, shock: elves will work for other elves.  These elves bring hard-hitting melee, and reasonably accurate ranged attacks.  They're competing with two Retribution units, in terms of cost: Mage Hunter Strike Teams (with UA) and Dawnguard Invictors. 

The MHSF has Stealth and slightly lower defense, making them harder to kill at range.  The MHSF loses out on ranged accuracy as they lack Combined Ranged Attacks, but they also ignore defensive buffs and concealement/cover.  Hunter from the Nyss Hunters means they're on par with everything but the defensive buffs, which they may or may not be able to overcome with CRAs.  The MHSF can be more accurate in melee with CMAs, but won't hit as hard unless engaging warjacks.

The Invictors have less range and mobility, but can probably ignore blasts between their DEF15 and Defensive Line.  They also have harder-hitting guns, and Combined Arms makes them hideously accurate when pairing off.  They have a one-turn minifeat with the UA that grants 'em 14" range.  in melee, they're more accurate due to higher MAT, but they need a warjack for Flank to make them hard hitters.  The invictors end up being more expensive, but can do some nasty things with that support.

I would say the best buddy for the Nyss Hunters would be Rahn.  He can let them play forward and avoid being charged with Polarity Field, and his Force Field can help mitigate blasts, which are arguably the main way of killing these guys outside of hideously accurate gunfire.

The runner-up would be Kaelyssa; her Banishing Ward can work on them, and their speed/mobility and Hunter can let them use forests as cover while the rest of the army is protected by her feat.

Lady Ayana & Master Holt
It's a damage buff that can deliver itself, via Ayana's Stealth spell.  Critically, it's about the only way Retribution has to boost damage output, outside of Ossyan's feat and Concentrated Power.

Madelyn Corbeau
She's in intel; she loves to hang out with anything that looks vaguely human.  If you're going to work with warrior models that love to move, or love clear lanes, then you'll find a use for her.  The downside of Intrigue is that the enemy has to help you trigger it by putting a model within 9" of her.  She'll probably be within command range of a friendly, because of that whole 'Sucker!' thing where she pawns off gunfire. 

Her other, less-publicized ability, Seduction, is fun as it lets you move an enemy living warrior model and even make an attack with it.  It's fun to use on people like Vilmon, but you have plenty of utility in there just by being able to move someone out of the way.

Garryth is the one most likely to use her, I think.  Mage Hunter Assassins are the obvious choices for Intrigue, but you have to keep 'em within Madelyn's command range to get the mileage out of it.

Dahlia & Skarath
Do you want a heavy hitter, but don't want to feed it focus?  This is your duo.  It's also one of the two large sprays available to the Retribution.  Dahlia's a mini-denial caster, as she can hand out pathfinder/prowl to herself and her big snake buddy.  Once they get close to the action, she can chuck out Haunting Melody to keep herself safe and keep the enemy from giving/taking orders within 8" of her.

Skarath is a glass cannon (which should be nothing new for the Retribution, right?).  He can't be knocked down, and if he crits against a small-based non'lock, it gets a case of Removed From Play.  As he's PS16, that might not come into play too often, but what the hell.  It's RFP in Retribution, which is rare.  The other selling point is the RAT5, SP10 POW12 Continuous Corrosion spray.  If this guy can get an Aim off, it's even sicke.  DEF14 is kinda light, as is ARM16.  The Animus compliments the DEF a bit, as anyone that misses him gets swung at in return.  This would be cooler if we had higher-DEF jacks, but anyone can benefit from his animus.

Lanyssa Ryssyl, Nyss Sorceress.
First, she's proof that elves have vowels outside of 'y'.  She's got defensive stats on par with the Nyss Hunters, and picks up Prowl as a wondeful aside.  Her major money-maker is Hunter's Mark; if she can hit a target with her Magic Ability of 7, anyone going after it can charge without spending focus AND get another 2" on the charge move.

Considering that the Retribution doesn't have much to make jacks focus-efficient, and likes hitting first, this ability is pretty nice.  It's probably not reliable enough for doing much aside from extending jack threat ranges, but the jacks get the full benefit of the spell as well.

She has a token melee attack (MAT6, PS11 is hardly intimidating) and a nice critical on her Ice Bolt (MA:7 and POW12 Cold damage is nicer if she crits) but she's not an offensive powerhouse.  her Winter Storm can be some fun denial (as it shuts down Pathfinder, Flight, and Eyeless Sight), but the enemy has to start within 8" of her.  It's more like a 'be careful about your activation order' than a 'SCREW YOU!'

Sadly, merc-heavy with the Retribution is pretty limited.  You can fill 19 points with the Nyss Hunters and Dahlia/Skarath.  I would say that your best bet for this is Kaelyssa, as she can bring a Phoenix (for the node) and, say, an Arcanist.  At that point, you're looking at 24 points; room for expansion?  Yes please.

Second place for merc-heavy would go to Rahn.  He can support the Nyss Hunters just fine, and would be happy to Lanyssa in there as well, to give him even more focus efficiency.  Rahn, a unit of Battle Mages, Phoenix, Nyss Hunters, Arcanist and Lanyssa would run 22 points; not a bad start.

Past that, frankly, I think you're not going to get a lot of mileage out of merc-heavy.  Ayana & Holt are ALWAYS solid choices for support, and D&S are great if you're not looking into a second arc node (As you'll be spending your jack points on either a Phoenix or Chimera, frankly...).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Moonlight with Mercs: Cygnar

After a brief diversion, we're back to discussing merc builds with a side of faction.  Cygnar's one of the merc-friendlier factions, when you get down to it.  Note that there's some overlap between Cygnar and the Highborne Covenant, and it means you might own some Cygnarian units for an otherwise merc army.

Unit of Note: Arcane Tempest Gun Mages & UA
These guys get a special mention for two reasons: 1) They're available to the Highborne Covenant (albeit only one unit) and 2) they're nasty jack marshals for shooty jacks.  Frankly, someone like Ashlynn d'Elyse loves these guys, because they're good for hunting criticals with her feat, and they can run a Mule with Snipe and a pseudo-focus, which is really all the Mule seems to want/need.  RAT7 and a 16" range with Aim is pretty nasty.  As Cygnar has plenty of ranged jacks and some selfish casters, they'll pull fine double-duty in their parent faction.

Ranking Officer: Captain Jonas Murdoch
Drop two points, and one merc unit becomes a faction unit.  Honestly, being a Faction unit for Cygnar isn't always a huge buff; lots of casters aren't picky about who they buff.  On the flip side, you get a few fun things out of him: Assault and Go to Ground.  Assault is an orde that lets your guys take shots on the way in, and Go to Ground is a once-a-game "Look, Ma, a Trench!"  Your guys learn to hit the dirt, gain cover, and not block LOS.  Also, Murdoch's Tough, so if he's hanging with Boomhowler, you can get a lovely 4+ tough going.

The Casters
Major Markus 'Siege' Brisbane - This guy is 100% compatible with mercs.  His spells are either 'to whom it may concern' or battlegroup-only.  Explosivo lets anyone have some AoE fun, and magical weapon.  Force hammer...probably won't get a lot of use, since it's so bloody expensive.  Foxhole and Mage Sight are the real money-makers for most, along with his feat.  You really can't hide from this guy, since he can see stealth AND drop units out of LOS.  His feat, too, triggers when anyone damages something in his control area, so you're good.

Lietenant Allister Caine - Cain's army support and infantry removal.  His buffs aren't picky about faction, and favor a ranged game.  He has the standard-issue Snipe, and Deadeye is nasty on units.  Blur helps shelter you from direct fire, and Teleport is his 'get out of jail free' card.  Given a pair of upkeeps and his buffs (and guns), you can probably get away with one or two jacks in the battlegroup, provided they aren't too focus hungry.

Captain Allister Caine - Like his prime version, eCaine is fine with a minimal faction army.  The only thing that wants a faction model is his Magic Bullet spell, and frankly, bringing a long-ranged jack or two means you get all you want out of this spell: free POW12s on annoying solos sitting behind stuff.  He's also a one-man assassination run, so you really want self-sufficient stuff in his army.  The only buff he has for a faction unit is Elite Cadre[Gun mages] which is sick, since it lets them shoot in melee.

Captain E. Dominic Darius & Halfjacks - He's all about the battlegroup.  There's zero support for the army, and he wants heavy jacks to take advantage of his feat.  Honestly, this guy's not what you're looking for in the context of this post.

Captain Victoria Haley - While Haley's buffs suggest she's merc-friendly, the feat suggests otherwise.  She's a ranged game by and large, but the feat, Blitz, requires models to be Faction models in order to get the extra attack.  Basically, if you go merc-heavy you're losing out on her feat.

Major Victoria Haley - Apparently getting an arm hacked off makes you merc-friendly.  She is 100% merc compatible.  Her buffs are indiscriminate, and her feat is all about making the person across from you offer vocabulary lessons.

Captain Jeremiah Kraye - Remember Captain Darius?  The same more or less applies.  No support for infantry, lots for the battlegroup...the only difference is that Kraye plays a more mobile game.  Leave him at home for this exercise.

Commander Adept Nemo - This guy only has one Faction-specific spell, Deflection: sadly, that's a pretty nice spell, good for +2ARM versus ranged/magic attacks.  Also, Chain Lightning is best used at range, since electro leap + merc = smaller paychecks to hand out at the end.  On the bright side, this guy's fine with a smaller battlegroup.  Overall, a so-so choice for merc-heavy; maybe add Murdoch to Boomhowler's and call it a nice, nasty, ARM18/4+ Tough screen that doesn't get trampled through.

General Adept Nemo - This guy's also about warjacks, but he likes a couple or three heavies.  He wouldn't mind a merc unit as a screen, though, with Polarity Shield: nothing like denying the charge.  He can also help out with Force Field, and say 'screw you' to blasts.  Otherwise, its all about the jack-buffing upkeeps.  On the downside, he pretty much requires an investment in a battlegroup to be worth it.

Captain Kara Sloan - Everyone loves a RAT8, POW12 weaponmaster sniper rifle, right?  Sure.  She's a bit faction-picky, though.  Fire Group is nice, but battlegroup-only.  Refuge and Return Fire are nice for some ranged superiority, but again, they require Faction models.  The feat is sick, but AGAIN, it's faction-specific for shooters.  If you bring mercs, I'd consider Boomhowler's at best, and maybe Murdoch: you have a screen that's durable, and you can use Go To Ground to unblock your LOS for a nasty feat turn.  All in all, though, she's not that ideal for this exercise.

Commander Coleman Stryker - He's a buff-bot that doesn't care if you're a faction model for his spell list.  He's got armor, range, and DEF buffs.  However, the feat is good for +5ARM...IF you are a faction model.  If you're a merc, friggin' hide, because the feat turn is when someone else picks you out and tries to make you dead, because you're going to be the easy target.

Lord Commander Coleman Stryker - I want to run this guy, I really do.  I just don't want to own the army it requies.  eStryker loves him some melee infantry.  He's got widespread buffs for their ARM and accuracy/damage, and his feat lets them either get into melee half a board away, or hit, then hit again.  This is NOT the guy you're looking for if you want to run merc-heavy.

The Labor Pool
Steelheads - They're self-sufficient, and can cover all your bases.  They may not be optimal, but you can get a fair amount of bodies for cheap, and getting Tactician is always a bonus.

Alexia & the Risen - not bad if you're running infantry-heavy (IE: Steelheads).  "That which does not kill us, knocks us down.  That which kills us makes us work for Alexia."

Blythe & Bull - If you need RFP in melee, this is where you get it.  Cygnar doesn't really have access to much RFP, Kara Sloan's Dust To Dust notwithstanding.  Not worth adding Murdoch here, honestly.

Boomhowler & Co - Call of Defiance meshes nicely with Murdoch's tough.  Honestly, if you want a nasty screen that will hold off melee and tramples, but still let you shoot through it when you need to, look no further than these guys and Murdoch.  Hell, if you buff their accuracy, Assault, and add Deadeye in, things might even die on the run up and shoot part of their turn.

Sam MacHorne & the Devil Dogs - They love knockdown, but outside of the upcoming Avenger, you don't have a lot of knockdown.  They are a jack-marshall unit, and you can always add a Buccaneer to the mix.  Or, you can run them as your merc unit + Murdoch with pStryker, and have some fun with Earthquake, +5ARM, and the 'Trash' ability on your guys.

Cylena & the Nyss Hunters - There are only a couple of downsides to this unit: 1) Murdoch could slow them down without pathfinder, 2) they're allergic to blast damage, but Murdoch can fix that, and 3) they're expensive.  Otherwise, they're nasty and versatile, and Murdoch can up their price and fix their allergy to blast damage.  Snipe or Deadeye make them that much nastier at range, too.

Anastasia di Bray - She would probably be workable if you're trying to melee the other guy.  On the flip side, your battlegroup probably wants to shoot the enemy, so make sure you activate accordingly.  If nothing else, she might funnel the enemy warcaster a bit...though you have a 15" range with Espionage right off the bat.

Madelyn Corbeau - She would probably be more useful if you were going with more melee stuff.  As it is, most of the merc-friendly casters are ranged types, and you don't have as many 'OH GOD KEEP THAT THING AWAY FROM ME!' melee solos as others might.

Rhupert Carvolo - Ok, who doesn't love fearless/tough, pathfinder, or +1DEF/Terror?  Your opponent, that's who.  Rhupert is, of course, solid support for the army.

The Eyriss' - Since you probably won't have a huge battlegroup, their disadvantages aren't going to be as pronounced.  Also, hey.  they're solid support.  We all knew this already, and people can't afford to let her live.

Reinholdt - This guy gets honorable mention, because most of the merc-friendly casters have guns they wouldn't mind firing one more time for one more point.

Taryn di la Rovissi - Frankly, you have a unit of gun mages, and unless you brought merc shooters, she's not going to do much for you.  However, Steelhead Riflemen + Deadeye + Snipe + Shadow Fire could very well be a surprise assassination vector.

Rutger Shaw - Melee jack marshal.  If you really want a merc jack and you don't want to bring Sam and friends, maybe.  Maybe.  I'm still not fond of this guy as a marshal, and while he helps out Taryn a bit, I've not yet had the urge to acquire him.

Harlan Versh - He's a bit of upkeep hate in a faction that doesn't erally have much.  His form of 'hate' comes in a four-pack of fully boosted POW10s, though.

Gorman di Wulfe - Known quantity.  Solid support.

The Privateer Module - Potentially cheaper than the Steelhead one, it is a bit more focused on melee, whereas the steelheads can bring some ranged game (especially with Snipe).  If you have it, Cygnar can use it.

Ayana & Holt - It's pretty much the only damage buff Cygnar has access to.  Also, if you don't have gun mages, the 'magic weapon' spell could be useful in some situations.

Hammerfall High Shield Gun Corps - You'd lose Shield Wall with Murdoch, and that's kind of their standout quality.  Similarly, you'd lose double-time with the UA, so these guys really don't want Murdoch around.  They're also slow and short-ranged, but you can fix the range with Snipe.  Ranked attacks would be cooler if you had more shooting mercs behind them, but you probably don't.  Overall, they're so-so for anything other than a screen with Cygnar.

Horgenhold Forge Guard - Hey, you get a weaponmaster counter-charge!  You lose on ranked attacks, and Cygnar doesn't really have melee buffs.  On the other hand, Cygnar does have Arcane Shield, and ARM19 (21 in Defensive Line) shrugs off gunfire less than defender-sized.  The SPD4 might not be as much of an issue, given that you are hopefully bringing guns to this match.

Herne & Jonne - probably not worth buffing just two models.  However, Cygnar's a bit low on AoEs, so you might actually get some use out of these guys if you want to fill in that gap.

Ogrun Assault Corps - They certainly won't mind Snipe or an ARM buff.  I'd suggest a melee buff, but you probably won't get that if you can get Snipe from a caster.

Ogrun Bokur - No one likes getting shot.  However, he's got competition: the Sentinel is one more point for something that's got a lot more boxes, and it's not that focus-hungry.  At best, it'll eat one focus for trying to keep up with Caine as he flits around the field.

Thor Steinhammer - If you want to bring Rhulic jacks, this is the guy.  Honestly, between his relative frailty and your access to Gun Mages as marshals, I'm not sure about him.  However, he's still an option, and a Basher with Pronto is a wonderful slam-bot.

The Ragman - This is pretty much the only damage buff Cygnar gets in melee.  Honestly, I could see this guy alongside the Ogrun Assault Corps; add Snipe for ranged shenanigans, and when the enemy closes, you're MAT6, effective PS14.  The OAC can hide the Ragman and/or absorb bullets for him.  What's not to love about this guy?

Cygnar has several shoe-ins for merc-heavy armies: Siege, eHaley, and both of the Caines.  pNemo and pStryker could make it work with Murdoch.  Sloan is highly situational; maybe Murdoch + OAC or Boomhowler's, but that's about it.  The others either lose a lot by going merc-heavy, or are battlegroup buddies.

All things considered, I think you can make merc-heavy work with Cygnar, and you've got a wealth of options.  Also, Reinholdt, for when you need one more bullet.