Monday, May 30, 2011

Spotlight: Helldiver; part 2

Continuing this article, I'd like to talk a little bit more about the Helldiver. When I look at my statistics there's no caster I've lost more games with, than I have with Mortenebra, and in the words of Roosevelt "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face". This means I'll be trying for more games with Mortenebra, and that means more thinking.

In every game with Mortenebra, the Helldivers have been instrumental to my success, and when I've lost it's been by no fault of theirs. The Helldivers are three points worth of pure gold, with a mind-boggling amount of game applications. I talked a bit about this in the last article, but I'd like to expand a little on the possibilities that a Helldiver brings to the table, particularly slamming.

Slamming. In every game there are models you would just love to slam. This could be a model you need moved, knocked down, or slammed into another model in order to get that second model on the ground. The main problems associated with this move is the resource investment in Models, Actions, and Focus (M.A.F), as well as the problem of angles because the slam is limited to moving directly towards the target. A Terminal Velocity Helldiver solves every problem in that equation.
  • Resources: The Helldiver is only three points, and often requires no investment of Focus to perform. This means the Slam is incredibly cheap in M.A.F, and allows you to apply your M.A.F to a kill instead.
  • Emerge: When the Helldiver emerges, you may position it as you please in any legal position, which means that if there's room for it, you will get the perfect angle and range for the Slam. Slamming anyone at an angle you choose, makes for some very interesting possibilities.
  • Range: The Helldiver can hit a living target within fifteen inches of the burrow marker. This is a range just rivaled by the Ghordson Basher, does not require a Jack Marshall, and is extremely hard to prevent.
  • To hit: Will be boosted against living targets, but against DEF 11+ non-living targets it will probably require a Focus. This can be supplied by the Warwitch Sirens, if you really need Mortenebras Focus elsewhere, or if the Helldiver is outside Focus allocation range. If this is happening during Mortenebras feat turn, you can assume that anything without DEF 15+ is going down hard.
Since the Helldivers can strike where they like, and at any angle they like, you can keep an eye out for Warjacks on the edge of your opponents control area, and slam them out of it. This will probably hurt your Helldiver, but even heavies will have problems wrecking the Helldiver without Focus, and will have to spend an action getting up in the first place. In a kill-box scenario you also have the option of chain slamming a caster outside the box (as Rick has noted in a comment, chain slamming only works against casters immune to knockdown), in case you have issues taking him down with raw damage, which will probably result in heavy objects being thrown at your face in real life.

Slamming is such a versatile tool, that having multiple slams in a round with a very low M.A.F cost, becomes a massive force multiplier. Whether you need Mulg out of the equation, a caster on the ground, or room for your assassination piece by his caster, a Terminal Velocity Helldiver will solve your problem.

A special mention should go to Head-butting as well. This is much the same as slamming, but only works against medium bases with a Helldiver. This is a nice option if there's no room for picking up speed to slam, or free strikes would become a problem. Head-butt is fun, since it requires no movement at all, so if there's room for the Helldiver, that caster is going down.

Terror. It's not on the card, but Helldivers cause terror, though not as a game mechanic, but against players. These little homing missiles are coming at him, and there's not a damn thing he can do about it, so either he denies them a charge or he takes his chances on the dice. The most effective way seems to be building a castle, but this dictates how the entire game unfolds, and a predictable opponent is a dead opponent. At some point the Helldivers will get an opening anyway, or just slam multiple models on the caster, and you can send in something else to kill the pile of knocked down models.

Defense. Though I rarely get to use them like this, the Helldivers are excellent defensive models. Most opponents seem to forget that you get to choose the facing when the Helldiver emerges, so you can hit anything within 13-15" in any direction. The two Manhunters I took down for the price of one Focus (had to buy an extra attack) was probably the best hit I've made, but the owner of the Totem Hunter (in a forest, behind my army) made the most memorable face.

Objectives. There's no stopping the Helldiver, and we've already established the merits of slamming. Three Helldivers will clear an objective rather effectively, if your opponent relies on tough single models to contest it. Since most scenarios are simply disguised caster kills, a lot of opponents tend to forget that you can actually win on objectives, and if you keep that in mind it will happen (exactly why I lost a game this Saturday... sigh...). With the great slam angles, you can even use the larger models to clear out a few contesting infantry while you're at it, or just load up the Helldivers with a bit of Focus and have them end up in a position to chomp the last couple of guys.

Threat.  I was playing a game of Warhammer 40.000 a while back, and I had a couple of Grot Missiles. For those of you that are unfamiliar with these, they're cruise missiles with a suicide pilot. They have a massive blast, and are deadly to packed infantry. I'd brought six of them, and I'd launched five, doing a massive amount of damage to my opponent, but I never fired the last missile. A friend who watched the game asked me about the remaining missile, and why I didn't just fire it and kill of some more infantry. I explained to him that "as long as I have one left, I dictate how his army moves". He could never bunch up, he could never effectively charge a vehicle (that requires bunching up), and he always had to think about cover, which would slow him down.

Helldivers are like that, because as long as one of them lives, your opponent has to take that threat into account, and then you control his army. When your last Helldiver dies, that threat is gone for good, so before you throw the last one away to kill some random solo, you should think about how that will allow your opponent to play from there on. No, strike that... unless it's a game winning move, you should never throw away your last Helldiver.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A lot of excuses...

Well it wasn't that bad. I was having a lot of issues assembling the Leviathans, so it was around two in the morning before I finally fell asleep. About fifteen minutes later a drunken idiot on scooter just managed to avoid killing himself, when he played chicken with a parked car and lost... badly. After the whole mess with the emergency service, the guy seemed to be doing alright, but I was to wound up to sleep. In the end, I think I managed about four hours, and I arrived in Silkeborg with a minor headache. As it turns out, the shop has no coffee machine, and no painkillers, so I prepare for a long day (next time I'll bring my pharmacy and some instant coffee).

Round 1: Terminus Vs. pSkarre; Overrun.
Silkeborg seems to mean Cryx mirror matches, and of course the two Cryx players got to face each other in the first round. To my surprise he was fielding a very nice army of Satyxis (almost exactly like one I'd contemplated running myself, so I had done the math on this build), backed up by two Reapers and two units of Black Ogrun. I had to play very carefully with my Leviathans, to avoid having them pulled in and charged by hordes of Raiders (which would mean a dead Terminus). I was outgunned, outmaneuvered, and in pretty bad shape until he missed the Bile Thrall hiding behind Terminus (teeheee, wings are awesome for more than one reason) and lost half his squad of Raiders on that flank without pulling Terminus away as I think was his plan.

In the end, he had no way of getting to Terminus, no Arc Nodes (he had one, I had one Bane Thrall in range), and no real chance of winning, so he gave me a charge on Skarre. He could probably have played me to a tiebreaker, but he had so many models within range of my purge capability, that it would have been a waste of time. He did exactly what I would have done, and gave me a shot at Skarre, which was very likely to work, but might fail. I've won several games on "sure things" failing, but this one didn't.

Round 2: Terminus Vs. Vindictus; Outflank, Outfight, Outlast.
My headache was getting worse, and since I had to pee three or four times within ten minutes, I began thinking that maybe I should have stayed at home. I was getting a bit feverish as well, and the shop still had no painkillers, but that being said; I just wasn't thinking. I messed up an activation sequence badly, forgot to move a unit to contest a zone, cast the wrong spell with Darragh, and then I forgot about Madelyn Corbeau in the maintenance phase so Terminus was out of range for a gamble (which I do think he could have managed, as I got him to armor 30-something in a last ditch attempt to recover the game).

I was manhandled a bit by the dice as well, but mainly I just played a bad game and lost. I always tell people that blaming the dice is a poor excuse, and I'll stick to that and claim, that had I thought this game through and played my best, I could have won the game with the rolls I received. My opponent was really pleasant though, so I had no issues at all with congratulating her on being the first ever to best my Terminus list (never send a man to do a womans job and all that...).

Edit: I finally found a way I "could" have won this game. I had a Leviathan with a Focus in his back arc, that could have thrown Terminus in the Zone (only used them a couple of times, and never noticed the open fist on the claw today). It was by no means guaranteed to work, but at least I would have had a chance, and nothing could have killed Terminus that round, even prone.

Round 3: Mortenebra Vs. Grim Angus; Overrun.
I'd decided to bring Mortenebra as my secondary list, and as I was out of the race for medals (the good ones anyway) I decided to at least try to learn something, and salvage a bit of the day. I was still feeling poorly, but I just had lunch and a break, so it wasn't to bad. I was feeling pretty cheerful about the game though, because it was the same list I faced last time Mortenebra was up against Grim Angus, and it was the same player, so I knew what I had to look out for this time around.

Exactly as the last time we fought, he mashed most of my army to a pulp, and then took Helldivers & Scavengers to the face. I lost my Stalker to another lapse in concentration, as I forgot to slam Mulg with my Reaper before activating the Stalker, and Stalkers don't survive free strikes from Mulg. In the end a Terminal Velocity Scavenger made four hits of 8-11 damage, and Grim ran out of transfers. I must admit that I'm taking a liking to Mortenebra with the Errata to the Stalkers (though that made no difference here), but now I'm a sad puppy whenever I think about the four Stalkers I've given or traded away. Mortenebra is still to frail for my taste, but I kind of like having her as a secondary list, when Terminus fails me (well... I fail him actually... you know what I mean).

Round 4: Mortenebra Vs. Gorton; Revelation.
My headache was returning with interest, and I was sweating like racehorse. I was matched up against a guy with three losses, while I had a 2-1 score, which made no sense at all, but hey... GRUDGE MATCH! This was my friend I hadn't seen in years, so I decided to let weird matchups slide, and go kick Gorton in the face. In retrospect I should have drawn the game out a bit and given him a chance, because the poor guy just returned from a year long break from Warmachine. He sort of deserved a game where he could relearn some things, but my head was killing me and promptly vetoed that idea.

I'd never faced Gorton before, but heard all kinds of nasty things about him. I won the roll to go first, and crammed my army as far up the field as possible, while castling up to protect Mortenebra from shooting. I'd found in the game before, that having the Scavengers block LoS to Mortenebra worked well, when they were protected by four stealth heavies to stop any rushers, but the shooting here was out of range or failed to hit the high Def. He had to do something, because I would own the flags in round two if he didn't, but Gorton was still way behind, and he moved a couple of jacks just an inch to close. The Reaper pulled in his Wroughthammer Rockram, and dis-armed it. The Slayer was just in range of a Gun bunny, so after he had Spectral Steel applied by Deryliss, he rumbled up there and wrecked it, while getting in line for the punishment to come.

I'll admit that my friend could have used a new set of dice, or maybe a hammer, but due to deployment issues and failing a few critical rolls, he just never stood a chance. I had two Helldivers and a Scavenger ready to finish the job when the Slayer was destroyed, but when the smoke clears from my opponents turn, it's still fully functional. Overrun (Deryliss) on a Scavenger moves the Slayer forward, and Terminal Velocity, Feat, and three Focus on the Slayer means Gorton receives a steel enema.

Final score: 3-1; and I took 6th place (16 players) due to my really poor strength of schedule, but I got to play my friend so it's all good. I think I might have appreciated it more if I had been able to lay my hands on some painkillers to knock the fever down (I'm typing this a couple of hours after returning home, the fever is gone, and I'm feeling fine), but I'm happy I went anyway. I'll try for some analysis tomorrow if I can find the time, but in any case it was great to roll some dice again.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Having a hard time deciding

Tomorrow we hit Silkeborg again. It will be 50 point games, and I've committed enough hubris to guarantee a humiliating defeat in every game by now. I've got two potential grudge matches, and after last time I guess a few people will have tweaked a list to take on Terminus. Still, I'll be going in with the intention of fielding Terminus in every game.

Lich Lord Terminus
- Leviathan
- Leviathan
Bane Thralls (Leader and 9 Grunts)
- Bane Thrall Officer & Standard
Bane Thralls (Leader and 5 Grunts)
Bile Thralls (Leader and 5 Grunts)
The Withershadow Combine
Bane Lord Tartarus
Darragh Wrathe
Madelyn Corbeau

A standard Dark Swarm Gunslinger list. I would have liked to bring a Skarlock, but since I can't afford to loose anything in the list, I'll have to avoid sending in Terminus to clean up. This really irks me, but sending him forward with only ARM 22 is putting him in danger. I remember from my last tournament that this came into play twice in four games, but only once was this not on my feat turn.

I'll have to get back to you on this setup though, and see how much I miss the Skarlock tomorrow. I really hope it's not to much, since I really cant see a way of getting him in there (ideas are welcome!). Add to this, that I cant seem to settle on a secondary list as well, and that I need to do so today, and it becomes a wee bit frustrating. My second list is there to handle eIrusk, so it has to include Blood Witches with a Hag, but other than that... well I might as well get some Blackbane's in there, in order to tie up a WG Deathstar. Maybe I'll just stick to what I know.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

We live in interesting times!

A little dream of mine came a step closer to reality today, as Bell of Lost Souls announced the arrival of an Iron Lich solo. I've had this dream of running a full lich army since I discovered this game, but a solid core would do as a beginning. Now I have a non-cheese version of Lich Lord Asphyxious, the Withershadow Combine, and the new Iron Lich solo.

Iron Lich Overseer
Soul Matrix - While in this model's command range during their activation, warjacks controlled by this model can spend soul tokens on this model to gain additional attacks or to boost attack or damage rolls at one token per attack or boost.

So, that could be a Jack Marshall (which would suck), or a Journeyman Warcaster type (which would be fantastic) or something we've never seen before (I hope not). After the Wraith Engine I don't have a lot of faith in things we've never seen before, but a Journeyman Warcaster would fit very well into a lot of the builds I've been playing around with.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lich Lord Asphyxious takes a well deserved hit.

The new Errata is out, and Cryx had two changes worth mentioning.

We received a boost to the Stalker, and I can see a great future for the little guy now. Replace the text of Extended Control Range with: "When checking to see if this model is in its controller’s control area, double the area". Now instead of just assigning Focus within double the normal area, you get a select few feat effects, abilities, spells, and other great things. For most casters this changes exactly nothing, but there are some casters out there that will have to reconsider the Stalker.

  • Mortenebra; Overrun, Terminal Velocity, and Recalibration. At 28" inches from Mortenebra, the Stalker becomes a monster, which means that suddenly Mortenebra has the option of staying somewhat safe.
  • pSkarre; Blood Magic and Dark Guidance. ... ... you called, and the Errata answered. The Stalker was already fine with pSkarre, but with the capacity to operate at extreme range with zero loss of power, this becomes almost certain death to anything but mint condition heavies. Five PS17 attacks that ignore Spell effects, Focus, Transfers, Tough, and nearly always hits... just... ouch.
  • eSkarre; Fate Weaver & Seas of Fate. Run anywhere, and be nigh invulnerable, then apply Focus where needed and kill things. Not as game breaking as pSkarre, but worth considering.
Then Lich Lord Asphyxious was finally nerfed, and this was a long time coming. I quivered at the thought, because rarely does anything that receives so much hate, remain even remotely playable after a nerf. To everyone's great surprise, Privateer Press applied the one solution that "might" make everyone a little bit happier. Replace the text of Spectral Legion with the following: "Return up to ten friendly destroyed non-warcaster small- or medium-based Faction warrior models to play, placing them within 3˝ of Asphyxious. Returned models gain Undead and Ghostly, become solos, and cannot be attacked or damaged for one turn. Returned models must charge during their activations and leave play at the end of this turn. (A model with  Ghostly can advance through terrain and obstacles without penalty and can advance through obstructions if it has enough movement to move completely past them. A model with Ghostly cannot be targeted by free strikes.)"

It's a great solution. No more ignoring the enemy army and just smacking around their caster, as we now have to clear the lanes first. It's not a huge nerf, as the feat is still awesome and eGaspy is still a top tier caster, but now we have to work a bit for it. So far I've seen no complaints about this nerf, and almost everyone on the Cryx forums agree it is not only fair, but actually benefits us (because we feel less dirty when we run people over with him). It changes absolutely nothing about list building, eGaspy remains top-tier, but now people can mount a defense against him if they play well. Thumbs up again PP.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Saturday looms!

Another shot at qualifying for the DM this Saturday, and I haven't had a serious game in a month...

There's no doubt I'll be bringing Terminus, and I'll probably end up with eGaspy as backup again (I've noticed two people lining up eIrusk). This time it will be 50 point games, so I can bring the full Dark Swarm list (and I've got the models for it, juuuust needing a bit of assembly). I have two grudge matches lined up as well, though I'll probably end up facing 0/2 of those opponents, but one of them is an old friend I haven't seen in about five years, so here's for hoping!

Friday, May 20, 2011

To combo strike or not to combo strike?

A guy over at the forums asked about the combo strike, and I remembered I'd written something about that a few months back. The original thread is here. The question is about the sweet spot where you switch from initial attacks to the one big hit, so I did a lot of math (though I suck horribly at it) and came to the following conclusion: Armor eighteen is the breaking point. 
  • At armor 17 or lower; the initial attacks inflict more damage on average.
  • At armor 18; the average damage is equal, but only if every attack hits. The potential damage is also a bit higher for the initial attack option, and you don't risk loosing the entire damage pool on one bad roll.
  • At armor 19 or above; the combo strike option pulls ahead in terms of raw potential damage.
It doesn't really matter how much Focus you apply, as the results will be the same, as buying an extra attack will be the best option below 17 anyway.. I made a "not so simple" formula you can apply, in order to determine, if sending in the combo striking Slayer is a viable tactic:
  • Target must be ARM 19 or better. [Otherwise the Initial attack option is better]
  • Target must be at low health. [Health should equal 32, reduced by targets current armor score. Further modify the target number by current armor -23, for each available focus.]
  • Target must be hit on 3+ in order for this equation to be anywhere near valid.
Example: Combo striking on a charge. against an Khador Juggernaut, would require it to be at 32-20 health (12), and each available Focus would modify that number by 20-23 (-3). Attacking an closed Devastator would require it to be at 32-25 health (7), and each additional focus would reduce that by 25-23 = nothing. You can buy another attack and boost it instead, which would give you an average of 25-26, and equal one whole point of damage, which will rarely be worth spending two Focus on.

As you can see the combo strike option is really meant as a finisher, and only against Heavy Warjacks that are easily hit, and only if there are no debuffs available. There are rare heavy infantry models that require the same attention as a Khador Heavy, but generally it will be a poor trade to send in a Slayer against such a unit.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spotlight: Darragh Wrathe.

I was asked this over on the Privateer Press forum, but I might as well answer here. "What does Wrathe really give eGaspy?  Sure, he has the spell that gives everyone +1" movement.  Is that worth 4 points?  4 points is a lot, especially since he can't be brought back by eGaspy mounted.  -2 Str for living models is good, but eGaspy wants to play that tradeoff game."

Darragh Wrathe is an incredibly powerful addition to almost any list at, or above, 35 points... why... because he's a force multiplier with near limitless potential. So what can this man do for us, or as the question refers to... what can he do for a caster.
  • He's on a large base, and incredibly hard to kill. This means that if Eiryss got to your caster, or clouds/stealth won't work, you still have a place to hide. This might not seem like much, but it's a very nice backup plan when something hits the fan. Darragh can also shield other important models.
  • When combined with Tartarus, he increases the Bane Thrall threat range to 11.5", which is the critical inch where they suddenly have a longer threat range than the classic speed six model with reach. This is so incredibly powerful and has won me several games.
  • When you mess up positioning, Darragh Wrathe saves the day. Suddenly you realize that Tartarus is stuck behind the Bane Knights, out of range of the target, and if you activate the Knights to move out of the way, you can't charge with them once Tartarus has cursed... No worries, Darragh Wrathe will solve it: Death Ride the Knights out of the way, so Tartarus can go do his job and they can follow up with the charge at MAT8 and increased range.
  • Didn't kill the Target you charged? ... and now your own models are blocking access to it for you last couple of units/models... Darragh Wrathe will solve it, and shuffle a few guys around, allowing you to charge the target with another couple of models to finish the job.
  • Annoying solo giving you a hard time... Darragh has 18" threat on his Hellfire, and can move 5" away after the deed is done. He can also charge one if it got close, with 13" threat mind you, then Hellfire another one with Battle Wizard, then return to shield something. Incorporeal models or not, Darragh Wrathe will solve your issue with non-stealth solo annoyances.
  • Beyond Death... it's great with casters like Venethrax and Terminus, but it can actually save a lot of lives if used offensively, though that will cost Darragh his life. Park him up front, and opposing models will have to gun him down first.
  • Assassination: When eGaspy pops his feat, you can add an inch to their range as well, and spread them out a bit to gain some better vectors on the charges. This has caught a couple of players unaware.
I was interrupted in my post, but I think I got it all down now... Darragh Wrathe really is one of the most amazing models in the game, and incredibly durable at that. I've only ever used him once where I didn't feel I got my points worth, and that was because I boxed him in with Death Ride moves so he couldn't run away afterward (sigh).