Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Playing Against Gatormen, Part 2: Solos and Warlocks

This is a continuation of the whole 'how do I deal with Gatormen?' line of thinking I'd started a post ago.

That one got slashed midway due to a mixture of time of night, and the fact it was getting huge and I'd rather not crit-braindead someone with a wall of text.

I'm going to start out with the few solos available to the Gators, and then move along to the warlocks, which won't take long.

What Does It Do?
Fill That Last Point If They Don't Already Have Swamp Gobbers, Make Beasts Annoying
No attack, no real ability to hold territory...why do you bring this guy?  He basically keeps beasts alive a little longer.  'Spiritbind' is a huge wall of text that boils down to 'kill that beast again' and lets you use it without being able to force the thing.

It's kind of a novelty.  Unless, of course, you can make use of the spiritbind thingy to keep something in a scenario zone.  Then again, they need to do a whopping 3 more damage to the beast, so unless they burned their last attack killing the beast, it's not THAT impressive.

What Can't It Do?
Generally, it can't take up space.  Or attack.  Spiritbind is the ONE trick.

I don't see these very often.  Some armies have issues mustering up magical attacks outside of their lock/caster, but this guy alone isn't worth several fury/focus to kill, most of the time.  It can be highly annoying in a corner case, especially if 'borrows' an enemy's beast instead of reviving one of your own.  Then they'll make a point of trying to kill their own beast again, which diverts assets. AND THE FERALGEIST GETS TO DO IT AGAIN.

What Does It Do?
Upkeep Removal (Sometimes), Disruption, Annoy Spellcasting Models, Beat Up Infantry
The Thrullg is a utility solo for gators.  One smack from it drops upkeeps, animi, and causes Disruption.  While you can struggle knocking off DEF buffs, you can get up to three swings from a Thrullg, assuming you can get into non-Reach melee range.  Additionally, those three swings on a MAT7 let it regularly tag infantry, and disrupting warjacks is not hard at all with that MAT.

As an added bonus, Arcane Consumption can screw with enemy infantry that like to cast spells.  However, it's RNG:CMD and you have CMD7, so you might just force an order-of-activiation issue on them.  At least they can't offensively spell this guy to death, right?

What Doesn't It Do?
Drop High-DEF buffs, Mesh Well With The Army (sometimes), Take Buffs
MAT7 is reasonable, but since it doesn't ignore DEF buffs to begin with, it won't always be able to drop those buffs.  It's something to keep in mind, but with Gators I'm more concerned about this thing dropping my ARM buffs, if any. 

As for 'meshing', it's an 'it depends' scenario.  This thing isn't amphibious and doesn't have Pathfinder, so it's got to take the long way around and can't benefit from things like Swamp Pit.  DEF13/ARM16 and 8 wounds isn't BAD for defensive stats, but it might not keep him alive; this guy is DEFINITELTY a second-line model and wants a Posse to hide behind.

Finally, while Spell Ward keeps offensive spells off, it also keeps buffs off and 'lock-cast animi off.

When I see this guy, I go through a list:

1) Do I have melee warjacks?
If yes, I'll see about killing him before he can disrupt my jacks.  I need armor-cracking power, melee heavies have it, this guy annoys melee heavies.

2) Do I have ARM buffs?
If yes, I should probably kill this guy, because gators hate high ARM and he can help mitigate that.

3) Do I have spellcasting infantry?
If yes, I want to make sure I stay out of this thing's command range.

The downside of the 'avoid' strategy with respect to the Thrullg is that it has Advance Deployment, and thus gets to react to my initial deployment and try to ensure favorable matchups.

The Totem Hunter
I have an exhaustive breakdown on this guy available here.

What Does the Totem Hunter Do?
Move Fast, Kill Support Solos, Thin Units
The biggest thing the Totem Hunter brings to Blindwater is speed on the flanks.  He has a solid SPD, solid MAT, reasonable attacks, an annoying ability to jump, and thanks to Sprint and Stealth + high ARM/8 wounds, he's hard to gun down at range.

Frankly, he's one of Blindwater's best ways to go after support models in the back.  Late game, he can transition Prey over to beasts/the warlock/caster and bring some hideously accurate attacks to bear. 

What Doesn't He Do?
Take Down Durable Targets/Multi-Wound Infantry
The Totem Hunter is pretty reliant on Sprint to survive; if he can't kill something he can't get away.  Bad dice are a major bane for him, but moreso is the lack of anything to kill to trigger sprint.  Without Sprint, you're looking at a one-way trip, or he's relegated to making an end-run and gunning for the caster.  Not bad, but if he needs a charge to kill something, you're actually losing threat range and placement because you're forgoing Leap.

This guy's presence annoys me, as his natural speed + leap + sprint can make him a slippery thing to pin down.  Unless you've got stealth-ignoring shooting, he's probably going to get into your lines and try to disrupt your plan.  I ENJOYED running this guy in virtually every game for several months back in a league.

Croak Hunters
What Do They Do?
Hit Living Targets Hard, Provide a Flanker, Bring a Little Bit of Ranged To The Army
Who doesn't like advance deploy stealth models with pathfinder and hunter?  Your opponent, that's who.  This guy's reasonably swift with SPD6, and while RNG8 is on the short side you still have a threat range of 14" on a RAT6 shot that's 10+3d6 versus living targets. 

In melee, you can get up to MAT8/PS12 with Gang Fighter.  They can dump a nasty, accurate charge onto a living target with Reach and Gang Fighter and Poison from a good 11" away, too.  Warbeasts that are alive have to respect these little boggarts.

What Don't They Do?
Crack High DEF at range, Deal With High ARM on Non-Living Targets, Last Long In a Fistfight
RAT6 doesn't hit high DEF at range.  Aside from that, if you take Poison away from this guy he's not that damaging.  Finally, DEF13/ARM14 and five boxes make blasts unlikely to kill him, but he's not really going to last long in a fight unless he's tying up low-POW infantry that would rather be shooting him.

These guys bring a much-needed ranged element to the Blindwater Congregation.  If I see these guys, I have to worry about devastating charges against living targets, and something on the flanks harassing me with pointy throwin' sticks unless I have the DEF to shrug it off.  Unless I can ignore stealth in shooting, I'm probably going to take a lump or two from these guys.

Gatorman Witch Doctor
What Can This Guy Do?
Annoy The Undead, Hand Out Tough, Bypass High DEF For a Price, And It's A Beast Master
Annoy the undead comes from dominate undead.  No one likes a Bane getting an attitude and beating something, or moving out of the way.  This gets funnier when you realize it can hit undead warbeasts, but there aren't a lot of those.

Handing out tough via zombify also counts as annoying the undead, as I'm pretty sure that being Undead is more of an advantage as it denies 'living model' caveats (IE: most gator special rules...) and souls.  Also, 'tough' is obnoxious, and this basically MAKES Maelok's feat.

Bypassing high DEF comes at a price: sacrificial strike!  Free POW15-16, depending on whether you threw a Bog Trog or mostly-dead Gator at a target.  IT's a good way to polish off the wounded.

Beast Master is probably more incidental than useful, as it lets you force anything in its CMD8 that's outside of your warlock's control range.  This is a neat extra, but probably won't come into play that often.

What Can't This Model Do?
Fight In Melee
MAT6, a PS11, and PS12?  This guy belongs behind a posse.  If he's out in the open, he's going to draw fire because his support abilities are annoying.

...because Gatormen really needed 'tough', no?  I worry about this guy all game: Tough is an annoying extra, but a late-game Sacrificial Strike can be a game-winner by putting the last few points on a warcaster that relies on its DEF.  For that reason, this guy's a priority.

Bloody Barnabas
What Does He Do?
Screw Your Shooting Game, Screw Your Non-Pathfinder Game, Knock You Down, Make a Posse Stupid-Hard To Hit, and Bring Movement Shenanigans For Beasts, And Absorb Abuse
So these first two things are due to Swamp Pits.  He's got the FURY to realistically drop a pair in a turn, as he's got 1-2 upkeeps out.  These deny non-magical shooting, and are rough terrain against melee forces.  The only thing in my favor is that they make order-of-activation and formation a bit less forgiving for gator players, but practice gets around this.

The 'knock you down' comes from his feat, unless you're amphibous.  This has applications for assassination (moreso if you brought guns like a Spitter and some Croaks, yay pop 'n' drop!), screwing up the enemy's next turn, or just knocking a chunk out of the opposing army.

The 'make a posse stupid hard to hit' comes with Iron Flesh.  It's another order-of-activation thing (And has to be dropped on turns to charge, but he can get a free casting of it with Bone Cleaver), but with this and Dirge a Posse can hit DEF16, which is...obnoxious...on top of their innate durability.

'Movement Shenanigans For Beasts' comes from Warpath.  Kill something in his control zone, one-time 3" move for a beast in your control area.  This lets your melee beasts get another 3" of threat range and/or grab a better angle, or lets your Snapper move into range while keeping his aiming bonus.  That SPD5 snapper/wrastler is not as slow as he first appeared...also, with Counter Charge, Barney himself has some movement tricks, but once per turn and only without Iron Flesh up.

Finally, Barnabus himself can be fairly obnoxious to kill.  Shooting him down?  Swamp Pit, nice try. His DEF13 is so-so, but he can Iron Flesh himself (and for free if you beat something down with Bone Cleaver).   ARM17 is pretty solid for a 'lock, and it goes up to 19 if he's engaged due to Unyielding, AND can hit 21 with Spiny Growth.  Add that on top of 16 boxes, and this guy can get pretty obnoxious to punch out in melee.  That being said, he's not immortal, and is probably camping ~2 fury tops.

What Can't Barney Do?
Crack Armor, Support A Lot Of Beasts, Hide Everyone In Large Games
You have no damage buffs with Barnabus.  You top out at PS17 on the 1-2 Wrastlers you have.  With FURY6 and no fury support at this point in time, you're not going to carry a lot of beasts.  (Thankfully, Wrongeye/Snapjaw don't draw from the pool AND can cover themselves via Submerge). 

In larger games, you may struggle to fit all your army into two Swamp Pits.  This probably means those Iron Fleshed gators are up front and the only thing for the enemy to focus on; hopefully Dirge of Mists or concealment (because you used the Pathfinder prayer to move through terrain) will keep you alive.  It's a scaling issue; not everyone scales as well.

This guy can do attrition pretty well, mostly by denying my ability to hit him and his army.  If I have high-ARM models I'll be a bit happy, because high ARM is what Barnabus struggles with.  I'm going to have to deal with a stupidly nasty Posse, and assassinating Barney in melee all but requires a heavy beast/jack.  If I can survive a feat turn and/or have plenty of armor, I'm pretty comfortable.

I'm also swearing up a storm if I didn't bring pathfinder and I thought I had guns to take care of the problem.

Calaban The Grave Walker
What Can This Guy Do?
Crack Armor, Crack High DEF, Drop Upkeeps, Dish Out A Surprising Amount of Pain In Melee, Arc Spells (very occasionally), Confuse You With His Feat
The first thing you probably homed in on is the magical phrase 'crack armor' when there's not a 'can't' in front of it.  Parasite goes a ways towards helping you deal with high ARM; gatormen at an effective PS16 and a Wrastler that hits harder than a Carnivean tip the scales back in your favor.  If the enemy isn't high-ARM, then, well, you got a bit more help in not relying on dice.

Cracking high DEF comes from Carnivore, which is good for +2MAT against the living.  Since most of the undead top out at ARM12 outside of casters, this is nice.  MAT9 gatormen, MAT8 vs beasts Wrastler...yeah, it's a nice thing, especially as MAT9 + rerolls = I think I hit versus most enemy infantry.

Hex Blast, provided you can hit with it (and FURY7 makes that a reasonable assumption) gives you a way to drop upkeeps, even high DEF ones.

Now, if you look at Calaban's melee stats, then at Barney's, you might wonder what I'm talking about.  MAT5, two PS11 attacks versus Barney's paired PS14s and a 12?  Well, both of Calaban's melee attacks are a bit special.  The bite has Sustained Attack, so if you NEED to gun down a high DEF target, you can do it IF you can hit it once.  Carcass is your Reach Stick and token magic melee weapon, but with Life Trader and boosting you can be throwing 11+4d6 in one swing.  Expensive?  Sure, but it's a hell of a hit if you can land it.

The arc node thing is pretty situational; a RAT6 RNG10 POW10 shot can turn a living model into an arc node.  Thing is, you'd be arcing Parasite or Hex Blast, possibly Bone Shaker.  You're reliant on being in a position to tag an enemy model that you want to arc through without leaving yourself high and dry in the process.

The feat is...interesting.  First, Calaban's going to be the first or second thing to activate, to maximize it.  It relies in killing enemy models, and generating fury and casting at any time.  I've found the nastiest use for this is cycling Parasite and firing off the odd extra Hex Blast or Bone Shaker, depending on how much fury I have and need.

What Can't This Guy Do?
Deal With Upkeep Hate, Take Much Abuse
While you can crack high DEF and ARM, you need upkeeps to do it.  If someone can deny you those or drop them, you'll be burning a fair amount of Fury to put your spells back up.

Occultation ties into my 'take much abuse' part of the story.  If you have only one posse, this is probably NOT where it goes, as that posse is Calaban's screen.  DEF14/ARM16 isn't that hard to gun down when it's on top of 15 boxes, and your only defensive measure is Occultation.  The downside?  Calaban has to personally cast Parasite, and it's got RNG8.  That's his biggest drawback.  You pretty much HAVE to kill whatever you hit with Parasite, or gum up the works and re-screen calaban.

This is another reason you often see Calaban in a tier; as it allows Bone Grinders (who can extend a spell's RNG by 2 inches, which gives you RNG10 parasite and RNG12 Hex Blast) and who doesn't like Wrong Eye/Snapjaw with advance deploy?

Finally, the feat can often leave Calaban with an odd amount of fury.  He's got no way of dropping single points of fury with it up after his activation; he can dump 2, 3, and 4 (or more, with boosted damage rolls on the blast) at a time depending on which spell and how much boosting he does.

Calaban's the problem-solver to Barnabus' brute force/denial.  He's much more toolboxy, and frankly, I have to respect him for that when I see him across the table.  If the enemy doesn't screen him adequately, I'm going to try to put damage on him with a gun, as DEF14/ARM16 and 15 boxes on a medium base is not exactly the high end of defensive stats, and getting up to ARM20 requires both Parasite and Spiny Growth, which is a good 3 fury.

Maelok The Dreadbound
What Can This Guy Do?
Make a Posse Stupidly Durable, Act Like a Walking Debuff, Absorb a Fair Amount of Abuse, Do Reasonable Damage in Melee, Walk His Army Through Your Lines
Death Pact is good for +2ARM, Undead, and making a Posse one of the most obnoxiously durable units in the game.  Base ARM16 goes up to base 18, 20 in melee, and on the feat turn, 22.  Oh, and you can have access to Spiny Growth, too.  Lovely.  Oh, and you can Revive the dead gators, and possibly grab stupidly obnoxious threat angles? Lovely.

The 'walking debuff' comes from Malediction, previously found on Terminus.  This puts his own melee stats up to a reasonable MAT8 with 3x PS14s, but you need to get within 2" of a target to hand out that -2DEF/-2ARM.  On the bright side, a Wrastler can probably trash the target at this point.  On the downside, you just put your warlock in base-to-base with something that can probably threaten it.  This is a risky spell to fully utilize, but it IS part of the arsenal.

DEF14, ARM17, 17 boxes?  You have access to Spiny Growth and another +2ARM from Death Pact if need be.  Downside is that Death Pact and Malediction aren't compatible (which is sad because you would want that extra +2ARM).  You're at the edge of needing boosts to hit him, and he needs heavy hitters to put damage on him.

With Malediction up, you're at MAT8 with a trio of non-reach PS14s.  This is cool if you can kill a loaded enemy Heavy with the bite because of Spirit Eater, as you get to Reave from it and deny the enemy the chance to Reave.  This is mostly corner-case, as you have GOT to ice that heavy with the bite to make it worthwhile.

His feat is...hilariously obnoxious for killing the enemy caster.  Unless you've got a lot of magical weapons, the gators are walking/charging through your lines and surrounding your caster.  If you DO have magical weapons, you're still dealing with ARM20+ gators against free strikes.  Note that the Witch Doctors MAKE this feat, as the only other way of making your own dudes undead is via Grave Pact.

What Can't This Guy Do?
Crack Armor (without Great Risk), Manage Fury, Do His Feat To Full Effectiveness Without A Solo Or Two, Effectively Handle Incorporeal Threats
We're back to that 'cracking armor' thing.  Malediction is a hell of a debuff, but it's also a high risk/high reward debuff.  The reward comes from the fact you're probably in the 'just buy attacks' phase instead of needing to boost them.  The downside is, like I said, Maelok has to put himself within 2" of the target to use it.  With SPD5, this maxes you out at 10" if you want to do anything else, or 12" if you're willing to just run and hope to god you're alright with that as your only action.

He's also got the FURY6 + no fury support solos issue of all Gatormen.  It is what it is.  With 1-2 upkeeps, you get an animus or two a turn and that's it.  Not bad, but not great.

His feat deserves special mention because you really, REALLY need Witch Doctors to maximize the effectiveness.  Otherwise, you get the Grave Pact unit, himself, and maybe a Boneswarm that benefits from the ARM bonus.  On the flip side, you're hoping to jog through the enemy lines and either assassinate or deal a crippling blow, so there you go.  Just be advised any living model on feat turn are kinda asking for the hits.

This guy has two types of magical attacks: melee, and SP8.  Venom isn't BAD, but again requires getting up close and personal to use it.

I worry about this guy laughing off my initial attempts to thin down his army, then ramming it through my lines thanks to his feat, and eating my caster.  I have to counter it by leaving him no landing zone for his models, which isn't necessarily as easy as it sounds.

Honestly, I'm a bit worried this hit the 'OMG TOO MUCH TEXT!' level, and if so would someone kindly tell me.

That aside, this is meant more as a 'oh, crap, what am I facing again?' type of guide, and it's not an in-depth tactica on each and every last model in here (...other than the link to the Totem Hunter salute.  That IS a tactica).  Hopefully after slogging through these two articles, you have some idea of what you're up against when you see these models across from you.

Blindwater isn't the most diverse army, but they have some solid models that will absorb abuse, and can do a hell of a number when it comes to weathering your attacks and then either beating you down, or pulling out some crazy shenanigans.

I'm also gonna wish I had more undead-hating tech, and that I'm not reliant on souls, because they're in short supply thanks to Grave Pact and the army's natural resilience.

I'm also likely to try to snipe out any Witch Doctors.  Not only are they there to help maximize his feat turn, but a couple of them can throw out Sacrificial Strikes that might finish whatever job the rest of the army started.

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