Monday, 26 November 2012

List 3: Tiers of Joy

Somewhat strangely I have never used a tier list, whether playing Trolls or Cygnar.  I don't really know why; whenever I play against them I am always very impressed with the bonuses they receive and sometimes shocked by the power level of what I always assume to be the 'fluffy gamer's' option.  Recently Jamie P has given me a number of object lessons in the power of the EVayl Tier 4, I have played tournament games against the EKaya Tier and the crazy EButcher Doomreaver spam. I decided it was time that I too joined what seemed to me to be quite a unique corner of the warmahordes universe.

In an even weirder twist, I found myself in a position of wanting a fun list to play.  Sacrilegious as it sounds, (fun coming before power, what the hell is happening?) I had come off the back off my PHaley testing and was so so bored of the static gunline style she lends herself to.  As always when I am stuck for ideas I flail around myself for a while and then I ring Jamie.  He knew where I was up to and had been spending the last month joyfully kicking the crap out of my pretty poor performances with Seige and the Nemo's.  He suggested Kraye; a caster I had considered and discarded, but he pointed me in the direction of the Tier 4 variant, a list that had become a little more popular after it was used to win the Gencon Hardcore and he promised me that if nothing else it would make for a fun break.

A revelation then occurred.  I am now in love with this list, it is simply far too much fun.  Early iterations included such comedy options as 4 Hunters dancing around and my vain attempts to shoehorn in a Stormwall until I settled on what seems to be a pretty common Jack load out.  The list as it stands is;



Because it is tier 4 I get some seriously good bonuses.  I like being able to place forests and walls in anticipation of where I will be moving to in the first 2 turns.  What I really love though is that almost the entire list is AD.  All the Heavies, the Hunters and the Rangers will advance deploy, leaving just Kraye, the Sentinel and the B13 to be placed during normal deployment.

I was desperate for a list that offered me some tabletop comedy.  It doesn't get any more amusing than performing ride by double handed throws, or running a Stormclad 20 inches. The thing is, it's also pretty good...

It can deal with high def infantry through a combination of Guided Fire, the Cyclone, Sentinal, B13 and plenty of Rangers.  It can crack armour with two powerful 'reach' heavies.  It can assassinate with some serious movement shenanigans and a great melee feat.  It is good against knockdown casters, it can deal with stealth, it can compete in scenario play with a tough nut Centurion parking up in zones.

On the whole, it does most of the stuff I want a list to do and is quite seriously competitive. It's not what I expected that difficult 3rd list to be, but I am glad that I was shown the light.

List 2: It's the damage, stupid

So Colossals are out. In my mind this means that every player needs a reliable way to get rid of an opposing model that has double the boxes of a standard heavy.  What I am looking for was a way to ‘one round’ the opposing 20pt model and gain a clear advantage in the attrition game. 

Time for a bit of research

Conquest: Arm 20, 62 Boxes – not many defensive buffs, likely to have Mechanics

Stormwall: Arm 19, 56 Boxes – will always have Arcane Shield, access also to Failsafe, Fortify, Deceleration etc.  Usually have at least Arlan for repairs

Judicator: Arm 19, 60 Boxes – Will always have Choir singing, have some less common +2 Arm buffs, absolute ranged beast with a Vassel in tow.

Kraken: Arm 19, 58 Boxes – Few arm buffs, can increase speed and pow though, good melee threat range.

Hyperion: Arm 19, 12 + 50 Boxes, likely to be seen with Rahn for Polarity Shield

Galleon: Arm 19, 58 Boxes – Bart with Wrong Eye and Snapjaw makes for Arm 24.  Access also to Failsafe, Temper Metal etc with other popular casters (note Eyriss cannot remove Batten Down unless shooting Bart)

Mountain King: Arm 19, 48 Boxes – Will always be min Arm 21 because of obligatory Krielstone – can go to 23 with Earthborn.  Need to one round it or it will Whelp heal for the win. Not popular with Troll players

Woldwrath: Arm 20, 55 Boxes – Not much healing available.  EBaldur for Arm 23 though...

Archangel: Current spoilers say 11/18 with about 46 boxes.  Can bet its gonna have spiny growth/tenacity up all game though...

So, whoever ends up with the anti-colossal role will without fail need EEiryss and probably Aiyana and Holt to max out the damage.  In the past a charging Stormclad was a pretty popular big damage dealer in Cygnar.  Used with Kraye/Darius it could charge for free, EHaley granted a bond and an extra attack, EStryker offered a bond and Positive Charge.

If we assume that via a variety of methods (dependent on caster) your Stormclad was arriving at its target with an initial charge attack, a shield attack and around 2 or 3 ‘buys' from one source or another. These are Pow 19 for the sword  plus Pow 14 for the shield. On a standard Arm 19 Colossal we can assume it doesn’t miss so 10.5  for the charge, 2 for the shield and 7 more for each of the 3 buys.  About 33 Damage all told from one of our heaviest hitters.

Getting more specific if it were bonded with EHayley and Temporal Acceleration this becomes slightly more, around 40 dmg.  Bonded and Positive Charged with EStryker it becomes about 43.  Still not dead in one round. 

I am aware that Colossals are not supposed to die in one round. Equally I am also aware that without resorting to ridiculous buffs, many factions can quite easily lift one off (Mulg with Rage, Enraged Titan Bronzebacks etc).  So, the maths continues...

If we add in 'harm' from Aiyana then the numbers jump dramatically. An extra 2 damage per hit means that the damage with Haley jumps by 12, by 10 for Stryker and by 10 for Kraye.  This means with Aiyana both EHaley and Stryker are levelling out at around 52 - 54 dmg in one round with a single Stormclad and Aiyana.

Haley has a Stormwall nowadays (strapped to her on a permanent basis) so she is well equipped in the heavy lifting department.  A charge attack, a second fist, a Temp Acceleration attack and 3 buys at p+s 20 is about 52 damage without Aiyana.  With her feat to limit retaliation she is pretty well equipped as she stands.

With the imminent release of SR2013 (and the ‘dominate’ complication) EStryker may be about to get more interesting but for the time being lets run some numbers on ECaine and his very reliable feat.  With Aiyana proving to be a necessity we can assume he will be only opening up if the target is already 'Harmed'.  This means he starts at an effective p+s 14.  If you unload all 10 shots into a Colossal (avoiding any double 1's to hit) then you are looking at 65dmg on all currently released unbuffed Colossals, barring Conquest who takes 55.  That means that ECaine will, reliably (roll more dice = more reliable averages) one round all bar 1 of the Colossals in the game so far.  Suddenly I am very interested in ECaine.

The Dirty Dozen

I have played Caine for years, I love Caine in a rugged, manly, bromance kind of way.  There came a point though that I simply couldn't stop getting him killed.  I wanted to play him aggressively, get him up the table, threaten the assassination run.  My lists were all Caine delivery systems, designed simply to get range and line of sight as quickly as possible.

In revisiting one of my favourite casters I wanted to try and change my play style to make more use of his rather good (and sometimes a little underused) buffs.  I began with my tried and tested 'add a Stormwall to make it better' approach.  This was quite successful as it gave Caine a very large region of relative safety to operate in without worrying about getting things slammed over him etc.  He doesn't really offer the Stormwall much in the way of buffs though.  I wanted to use Boomhowlers for a tarpit but at this point Haley was hanging onto them for dear life so I tried running a small pirate module with Doc Killingsworth, some Pressgangers and the occasional solo.  This iteration felt very uncomfortable with the pirates being ineffective, the Gunmages lacking punch and the Stormwall left with little support. 

Next came the Steelheads; full cavalry and full Halberdiers swapping in for the Gunmages and pirates.  This was pretty tasty, the Steelhead cav are monstrous on the charge with a flank bonus, suddenly the supporting cast was pulling its weight.  Caine had his usual spread of mercenary and faction solos (Reinholt, Squire, Junior, Eryiss, Arlan, Aiyana and Holt, Pendrake, Stormcallers etc) and I was enjoying playing hide n seek behind the Stormwall.

Then Keith won Warmachine weekend and Jamie P returned home from the US with a very positive impression of the list he was running.  It was very similar to my 2011 Caine lists, Boomhowlers upfront, a full roster of the best solo's, Rowdy and pick your flavour on the Infantry.  What I liked about Keith's list was his use of the Risen and Forgeguard.  His was a list that ran in waves, it didn't have any real 'high value' targets and could 'jam' the board, letting Caine go to work in the backfield.  This was great, so with a couple of minor tweaks it was time to steal a list and get practising


Full Boomhowlers
Full Forgeguard
Alexia and the Risen

Epic Eryiss
Aiyana and Holt

I have added Gorman for the two Stormcallers that Keith was running as I really like having the ability to hide Caine behind a smoke cloud (also, Black Oil is a real threat to Colossals and this is the anti-colossal list..).  I have also swapped out Ragman for Pendrake, letting Caine murder all and any warbeasts on his feat turn.

I am still being quite tactically na├»ve with this caster and have been giving him a lot of thought recently.  Since I am not going to be pressing for the assassination run as ardently as I used to I must try using him on a flank.  Running with the standard central caster deployment simply seems to end up with him boxed in and under threat from all of the opposing army.  Moving up a flank and then across could cut down on the ranged threats he faces and let him play the attrition game more.  

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

List 1 - The NoBrainer

With honesty being clearly the best policy in all situations it must be recognized that EHaley is more bent than a 9 bob note, more busted than yer mum and more over powered than all the Legion of Everbroke warbeasts on steroids sniffing angel dust.  She has the most game breaking feat bar none, effectively giving you a free extra turn in the middle of the game and a wet dream of a spell list. So much has been written about why she is so totally abusive it seems trite to repeat it all here.  Suffice to say that I am well aware of her power level but if my opponents are content to bring either Denny, Epically Sexy Hexy, Saeryn or any of the other clearly top tier casters then there must be an appropriate response.  See, Cygnar can't field a titan herd, can’t apply moar banes and don’t have a stable of beasts that ignore 90% of the game rules; we have EHaley and The Stormwall.

This admission made, it is hard to get practice games with Haley.  Like many of the top tier casters, games can be very one sided if you have bought a knife to what is often a gunfight.  These games need pre arranging; inviting your opponent to bring their ‘A’ game list, and often playing a very tight, timed turns in a serious practice game.  Since this is not your average pickup game at the LGS club night I get less practice with Haley than I would like but she is the caster I have been using the longest.

List development with Haley has been an interesting process. Some time in Spring 2011 Team Octopii helped to develop what we felt was the perfect Haley list at that point, it went 5 – 0  at the ETC that year and helped to propel us to a second place finish;


Gunmages with Officer
Full Boomhowlers

This list dealt with most of the common list building requirements.  It could tarpit scenario zones; it had Jack bullet assassination; it had movement shenanigans, it could deal with stealth, it hit hard, it stacked buffs, it could deal with high def.  It’s only real weakness was a lack of upkeep removal (Jamie had claimed EEryiss). To be honest, I love this list and am extremely comfortable playing it but in a ‘Divide and Conquer’ 3 list environment sharing soon becomes caring.

Enter the Stormwall...

If anyone can find me a more deadly combo than a Stormwall bonded to EHaley then I will eat my own faeces.  It is simply wrong (read: glorious).  It was also so easy to fit; drop Rowdy and Stormclad and apply Stormwall to crack.  Leave to simmer for a few moments and serve when well and truly roasted.

The problem was the units; there is little point in having one good list if your other two are pony cos you weren't willing to share nicely.  The biggest moment of dispute was the love triangle involving Haley, Caine and Boomhowler.  Eventually it seemed that Boomie preferred Caine's sweet ass over the Poledancer's domination and he left to join Caine's dirty dozen leaving poor ol' Haley searching for a new date.

Dating Boomie had been successful but lacked excitement.  He's a nice guy, reliable, always around, to be honest, quite hard to get rid of.  Problem is, he lacks a bit in the bedroom, no 'punch' if you get my drift and struggles to hit the spot more often than not.  Don't get me wrong, with a bit of help he can get the job done but who wants troll spit roasts every day of the week. 

If you are going to get back in the game then you may as well seek out a bit of excitement, a rebound shag if you will.  Two potential suitors presented themselves, each with their own unique charms.  Date number one was with the Stormblades, plenty of power, if a little slow.  Could go twice at a time if the boss was around to shout orders and had some interesting 'weapons attachments' that could really let them reach out and touch someone. 

Date number two was with the dwarf forge guard.  Again not the quickest, (in fact a little lumbering if truth be told) very reliable though, plenty of reach for those hard to hit places and possessing the ability to really slam it home.

Abandoning the rather strained sex metaphor for the moment both of these units presented interesting options.  On the surface they are fairly similar, good damage output, slow as shit, can be buffed to a good armour level.  The dwarfs can get to Arm 23 with Arcane Shield, Defensive Line and Deceleration, the Stormblades to 20 (but a respectable Def 14 with Deceleration).  Purification, Eiryss and blessed weapons would be a problem, one that Boonies could ignore, but you can't have everything.

I am going to start with the much maligned Stormblades. They make a very viable 'deadeye' target for Haley, are a little quicker up the board, don't require me to maintain a defensive line formation and come with 3 pow 14' rng 12 guns.  They are however 11 points for the unit and mean I am sacrificing solos to fit them in.  Play test list for Haley will therefore be;


Gunmages + Officer
Marshalled Sentinal
Stormblades + Officer, Standard and 3 x Stormgunners
2 x Stormcallers.

Unbelievably it also ends up 'faction pure' (not that I really care...) but it does mean that Caine can have his pick of the tasty mercenaries...

Listbuilding for 2013

As with the previous Troll blog my aims have not dramatically changed.  I have always been very clear that the reasons I enjoy warmahordes is that it is a competitive game that has probably the clearest and best supported rules set I have ever found.  After 14 years of tournament gaming I make no apology for being a 'power gamer' and enjoy designing and playing lists that are extensively tested and designed to operated at the limits of the games system.

There is often a received wisdom in Cygnar discussions that a 'power 4' exists within our caster roster.  EHaley, Seige, ECaine and EStryker are commonly considered to be our 'top tier' casters.  One of the things I have come to realise, especially when following the exploits of players such as Jamie P, Kieth Christianson, Jake Van Meter and Jason Flanzer is that these guys are building lists based on what works for them.  'Teh interweb' did not rate The Old Witch, PDoomy's runeshaper tier, PCaine/longunners or EVayl yet these guys made them work, made them their own because their lists did what they wanted them to do.  For this new adventure, rule number one must be to build lists that work for me, do what I want them to do, not what the internet tells me they should do.

A little background...

It is now November. Over the past 2 months I have indulged in a whittling system, playing Cygnar casters I have never used before, experimenting with lists and trying to find 3 casters I am happy to persevere with.  This has involved some incredibly bad lists and some quite embarrassing losses....

The Siege Conundrum

Every 6 months or so I end up reading through the Cygnar casters and pause, staring longingly at Siege's entry (all double entendres fully intended).  On paper he seems great, great stats, great gun, great spell list, great feat.  Problem is, I just can't make him work.  He always ends up being too static, stuck in a limited region of the battlefield, clogged up behind Precursor Knights (who I really don't rate...) not doing enough damage.  It was a Canadian gentleman who really opened my eyes to Siege, pointing out that one way to look at his feat was that it was between 10 - 15 average damage on each of your opponents heavies and death to heavy infantry. I am not sniffing at this but it does pose some problems; most veteran players simply remove Siege's assassination run by staying more than 19" away from him, not that hard to achieve.  This then means that you are then left with a puzzle.  You know you will get one good round of shooting off and may remove one heavy with the feat but more often than not I end up spreading around the damage, taking hefty chunks out of, but not removing, opposing battlegroups.

I realise some of this is very much down to my inability to learn decent targeting priorities. However, if we run the numbers against a standard armour 20 heavy it would take a boosted Siege rocket with Breach (14.5 dmg) a second rocket with boosted damage (4.5 dmg) a boosted damage Defender shot (5 dmg) and a boosted damage Hunter shot (6 dmg) to get to the magic 29/30 boxes required to lift it off.  I know I am making some assumptions here but the current meta has shifted towards decent arm and it is rare to find a faction that cannot field armour 19/20 heavies.  The problem becomes worse as we start to see Colossals enter the fray in greater numbers, this feat has poor scalability and does not possess the raw power of a Menoth 'Reckoner' gunline that really can come close to one rounding a Colossal at range.
I think most importantly this comes down to that strange variable that is often termed 'play style'.  I struggle with Siege because I cannot find a way to build and operate a list that I feel 'comfortable' behind.  It is this more than anything that has made me discard him from my caster choices.

Finding Nemo and the difficult third list..

Jumping ahead slightly I was starting to lean toward a fairly predicable ECaine/EHaley pairing as my primary lists (more on this later) and so had hit the 'third list' problem.  All the stuff I wanted duplicates of was being gobbled up by my primary lists and I was really struggling to find something effective that would I could confidently wield at a Masters Level event.

PHaley was starting to make a run for this third slot but my god is she boring to play.  Three/four turns of casting temporal barrier and shooting, spiced up with a feat turn comprising of even more shooting and struggling to roll the buckets of dice in time.  I needed something more fun and it was Jamie P who stuck his oar in (read: I begged him for help) and suggested I looked at the Nemo's

Threemo looked exciting so I started here, Cygnar's latest caster flatters to deceive in my opinion.  At the outset his feat looks incredibly destructive, 'additional' is always the word I am looking for in any damage dealing ability.  The key problem is that (having had a very long trawl through the Cygnar book) all the electrical damage available is ranged and therefore lower pow than I wanted.  Only the Thunderhead and Stormclad offered a decent, boostable, electrical gun (anyone who mentions the Firefly here can officially fuck off) and of these only the Thunderhead had something a bit special.  There is no doubt he is the stand out tool for Threemo but one jack does not a list make.  The cavalry were a possibility but really Laddermore is essential if you want them to be able to hit anything.  Now I needed Junior to make sure the Cav lived past turn 2 without getting shot off the table and suddenly I had spent over 30 points of the list on one heavy, 5 Cav, a very squishy dragoon and a solo.  The Storm Strider seemed an excellent choice with two good pow electrical guns (rarely boostable though unless your opponent is very foolish) and suddenly there is 13 points left for some infantry to flavour.  It isn't a terrible list but I began to see the holes. 

Threemo really badly wants Reinholt, unfortunately he was off doing his proper job of reloading Caine's gun and had no time to moonlight with some Duracel powered OAP.  He has that age old Cygnar problem of terrible infantry options and more telling than all of these had a 'tricky' spell list.  You see, there was no points for the lancer that would turn Force Hammer into a useful tool.  At cost 4 though it more often than not can be a trap spell.  He could upkeep Failsafe for free but after allocating to the Thunderhead was left with 5 focus and no more jacks to feed (making poor use of Finch) and could only get off one Chain Lightning.  I could drop the Cavalry for more jacks/infantry but now the feat was dropping in power, I could indulge in some Stormblades/Stormguard but then I had to bend over backwards to find ways to mitigate their squishiness and low speed. 

Everywhere I turned the list lacked 'something'.  He couldn't speed anything up, he couldn't make best use of his feat, he couldn't protect his infantry, I tried the new band aid for every failing list - apply Stormwall and for a time was happy, Failsafe is beautiful on that beast and being able to boost the melee p+s to 22 was lots of fun but the central problems remained, solve one and the other two got worse, with a heavy heart I moved on.

ENemo - nothing here to see, move along

PNemo so nearly made the cut, he may still when I get bored of my current choices.  Much maligned on Cygnar forums, people are really missing out on how much fun it is to have 10/11 focus to throw around.

At this point I was still indulging in my new favourite pastime of how to abuse the Stormwall.  Supercharge has always been a wonderful ability and the chance to put 5 focus into to Stormwall was pretty irresistible.  Nemo is a sexy counter to most warmachine armies and thanks to the ability to spam out 2 - 3 Chain Lightnings per turn he can deal with infantry horde quite effectively.  The list I ran was:


Full Swordknights
2 x storm callers

Whilst it is a seriously low model count it doesn't have many problems dealing with infantry, between DJHead's pulses, covering fire, triangulating storm calls and a bit of Chain Lightning goodnes, being outnumbered wasn't a major problem.  It also hits like a tonne of bricks, PNemo can buff the strength of both heavy hitters making the THead less pillowfisted and turning the Stormwall into a killing machine.  He can speed up the Thunderhead, (negating its main weakness) and it has a serious assassination threat, with a locomotioned move and then advance and put 3 pow 14's into a caster at good range with most boosted.  Thorn can pull ridiculous movement shenanigans if you combine an arced locomotion with his reaction drive and yo-yoing in and out arcing voltaic snare really messes with enemy jacks.

I really like this list; it is only really Nemo's squishiness and lacklustre feat that bugs me.  I also found that I really suffered against hordes when it wasn't possible to abuse voltaic snare or use the feat to disrupt.  This is probably back up caster number one, simply because he is so much fun to play.

So, PHaley is just too dull, Threemo flattered to deceive, Siege just don't love me and PNemo lacks a certain edge, especially against hordes.  In the next episode the mystery third caster is revealed.  Predictably, EHaley and ECaine have stayed firmly in spot 1 and 2 respectively for me, especially in the new Gargossal meta.

Smogcon Aftermath and the road to 2013

Welcome; after an 8 month blogging hiatus it is time to revisit the musings of 2011/12 and begin a newer, bolder, more prone to failure adventure in the wonderful world of competitive warmahordes.

I never quite met my goals in the ‘Great Troll Smogcon Adventure’, an enforced tournament absence from February to Sept meant that I missed out on the Welsh Open, Masters and the ETC.  As all good gamers know, don’t get married, it really cuts into your playing time. 

Strange though how serendipitous this 6 month sabbatical was; I had really worked hard on the Trolls, I had a Grim Angus list I was extremely happy with and a Calandra list that was certainly nearly there.  At Smogcon myself and Max had met in the final game of the 50pt Steamroller Friday night qualifier (with him progressing to the final) and then again in the top 4 on the Saturday (this time with me progressing to make the Sunday final).  Unfortunately we both fell at the first hurdle on the Sunday, Max handing PVlad to Rich Jennings on a plate with a full lubricated back passage and open invitation to enter (despite being totally in control of both the game and the scenario). I suffered the same fate at the hands of an Austrian gentleman, my own dice and an interesting moment involving some accidentally disturbed models.  It was clearly not to be and we both headed home from Wales disappointed in our final performance.

What struck me though in early March was that over the months I had been practicing, taking notes, improving my game and applying a level of focus that was totally alien to my usual gaming habits, I had never felt that the Troll lists had put me totally in control of games.  This is probably because PP has done a very good job of balancing the Troll ‘locks and units and they are one of the rare ‘fair’ factions that few people ever complain about.  The problem was that at the top end of competitions I was playing against the stuff that was a little ‘beyond the curve’.  The Cryx all star caster line-up, Khador high def infantry spam o doom and the Legion of Everbroke (Saeryn, Lylyth I am looking at you).  I am not in any way complaining about this, anyone who reads this blog knows I am a competition player and I fully expect every opponent to bring their faction’s top tier casters and units.  I just wanted to be part of that club; I wanted to feel like I was operating at the same power level as my opponents and the trolls simply weren’t doing it for me.

So, there I am, planning a wedding, busy at work, bit disillusioned with the Trolls.  I needed a pick me up, a tonic to reignite my enthusiasm for the game.  It was like someone at PP had read my letter to Santa; giant stompy robots with ridiculous potential for destruction.  Colossals were released and in a quite discreet corner of my mind a guilty little voice crossed its fingers and wished, over and over again that the Cygnar one would be a little bit naughty, a little bit under costed, something, just something to get us back in the game.  Enter the Stormwall.

The Stormwall was everything my inner demon had been praying for. It was a Cyclone, 2 Defenders and a Stormclad rolled into one.  Oh, and it had storm pods and could put own covering fire and be bonded.  Now, I like to consider myself an honest man and there are many, many people I read arguing on internet forums that this model is fine, balanced and in no way totally OP.  They are wrong, the Stormwall is bent as fuck, it is hilariously powerful and outclasses all other Colossals and Gargantuans released so far by a country mile.  But hey, I have had to spend 2 years dealing with 'apply moar banes', 'iron flesh spam' and pretty much any legion model shitting all over the rule book the rest of us have to abide by so I am pretty comfortable with this.

Now, this is not to say that the Stormwall belongs in every list, but it has altered the way I build lists. More accurately, I find myself constantly asking the question 'am I sure this wouldn't be better with a Stormwall in it?'  This question has a common follow up which is, predictably, 'Am I sure this wouldn't be better with 2 Stormwalls?'

Thus transpired my return to warmahordes.  Wedding dealt with, happily married, new job for the wife, bit of bonus spare time and a ridiculously over powered model that might just put Cygnar back into the top tier.  Next instalment, casters and lists...where did I leave that EHaley model....