Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Spotlight: Lich Lord Terminus

I would like to introduce a friend of mine. He's an unholy abomination, the size of your average Helljack, with the ability to ignore just about anything on the table, and split a caster in two with a single blow. Terminus has an answer for everything in the game, and I'll tell you why: because he just won't die.

Terminus has been dubbed Lich Lord Freight Train, and the name is well deserved. He's fast, incredibly hard to put down, and will rampage straight through most almost anything on the table (and anything after an average feat round). He can reach armor values that nothing in the game can break, and take out two heavy warbeasts and the warlock they were guarding, in a single round. When the freight train comes at you, there's nothing to do but run.

You can read up on his abilities on Battlecollege here, but stay away from the section with thoughts on Terminus. It's not that they're wrong, but I believe the ideas presented there are unsuitable for Tournament Terminus, and tournaments are where Terminus really shines.
The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
- Sun Tzu
It may be an obvious truth, but the way to win, is to avoid losing longer than your opponent, and this is where Terminus shines. I never field Terminus in friendly games, but I've brought him to every tournament I've been in, and I've never lost by assassination (Edit: After 51 games a Saeryn list, tailored against that specific Terminus list managed to kill him).
Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.
- Sun Tzu
This is impossible, and we all know it, but we can come close, and they way to do that is simplicity. When your army is simple and your activations are instinctive, you have an abundance of mental resources available to avoid mistakes. If you avoid mistakes long enough, your opponent will make one, and you win. Terminus will punish any of your opponents mistakes with swift death, and has a fairly good chance at surviving your own.
Terminus list construction: Infantry
The Dark Swarm isn't a new concept, but I do think I've contributed to making it a staple tournament build. In short it does away with the concept of a bullet shield, and instead relies on the simple fact, that few opponents will ever actually shoot at Terminus. This might come as a surprise for some, but there are quite a lot of empirical "evidence" to back up the theory. This means I leave Mechanithralls at home, which makes my turns a whole lot simpler, and simplicity wins games.

Personally I don't feel there are any other units that come even remotely close to the potential of the Bane Thralls with Terminus. They're perfectly designed to take down the heavies that threaten him, while being very effective Sacrificial Pawn targets (they are very hard to remove due to stealth and the armor rating to withstand a lot of blasts), and the ability to shake knockdown and stationary is more than just icing on the cake: It will allow your brick to keep moving.

That being said, the Bane Thralls usually have backup in the form of Bile Thralls. These little guys really love being Tough, and they add another layer of defense to the brick. In front you've got Helljacks (or Lesser Warlocks), backed up by Bane Thralls, and protected by Bile Thralls. This makes for a fortress of pain, that requires exceptional measures to crack.
  • If a couple of Heavy Warjacks/Warbeasts come for your Helljacks: Bane Thralls respond and remove the threats. There are few casters that can take Terminus down without their heavies, so trading heavies will benefit you.
  • An Infantry horde comes for your Helljacks or Bane Thralls: Bile Thralls respond and wipe out the opposition (and probably a few Bane Thralls unless you're the king of positioning). If they were living infantry you now have an ARM 30+ Terminus parked within range of the enemy caster, and if they were undead you have to settle for being ahead in resources.
That's all the infantry you really need. In emergencies the Withershadow Combine and Bile Thralls can be Sac. Pawned, but I've never actually had to do that. There are plenty of other units that can work with Terminus, but in terms of raw power you can't currently do better than Bane & Bile Thralls.
Terminus list construction: Helljacks
This has quite a few people baffled, but I usually bring a couple of Helljacks. I was inspired to try this by a Terminus tactica by lastspartacus, in which he mentions the Gunslinger list: "The idea behind this list is giving ranged options to your Terminus list to have more options in dealing with what you can't manage to reach with your swords and fists". The list includes two Leviathans, and while I didn't have much success with inflicting damage with the Leviathans, I discovered that two Helljacks parked in front of Terminus makes him very close to immortal. There are few armies that can punch through two Helljacks, cross their wrecks, and still have the juice to take down Terminus.
  • Erebus: High defense and Poltergeist, makes this jack an ideal blocker for Terminus. Erebus also brings another assassination piece to the table, as an application of Ravager turns him into a non-reach Slaughterborn on steroids. I've never actually taken down a caster with him, but my personal best is sixteen kills in one round, which is double what I ever achieved with Slaughterborn.
  • Malice: The ability to pull in heavies is exceptional with Terminus, as it allows for easy kills with the Bane Thralls. Malice also works very well with the Withershadow Combine, which are always present in a Terminus list, which further enhances it's usefulness.
  • Desecrator: I've had no opportunity to try it out yet, but the Desecrator seems like a very nice Helljack. It's more survivable than Erebus & Malice, generates Focus from the Dark Swarm, and the AoE gun adds another layer of defense to the brick. I would be tempted to try a list with three of these sometime, because Terminus and accumulator can fill up all three.
  • Leviathan: It's not a bad Helljack with Terminus, and it does remove a few of his really bad match-ups against Cygnar, but I find it tends to underperform. It's great when you look at the defensive abilities, but the Desecrator should do better.
The thing that usually deter people from Helljacks with Terminus, is the idea that he needs to camp his Focus, when in fact Terminus is the cryxian caster with most available Focus per turn. Terminus has one spell worth spending Focus on, and it's only worth casting once: Malediction. Casting Ravager is why you bring a Skarlock, and upkeeping it is taken care of by Admonia anyway, so: the only use Terminus has for his Focus is staying alive.

If you can keep him alive without needing his ARM score, you've got six Focus available each turn, and that's where the clever part becomes apparent. Killing a caster that is almost immune to ranged attacks, when he has two Helljacks parked in front of him, is seriously hard, and it makes it even worse if those Helljacks are immune to knockdown. If you bring two Helljacks you become harder to destroy, and if your bring ranged Helljacks, your Focus can work on destroying your enemy while you're at it.

If you find yourself matched against a list with enough magic attacks to actually hurt Terminus without Focus, you should have chosen your other list. Assuming it happens anyway, you can live through it. The great thing about Terminus is, that he can win a game without his army actually doing anything, so while the game will be harder you can just camp it out. Your Helljacks don't need Focus to get in the way, and with the Desecrator they can still run or boost due to accumulator.
Terminus list construction: Support
We all know how important support is to Terminus, and there's nothing to be done about that. I do feel that it's a weakness, so knowing which models you cannot afford to lose is vital.
  • Admonia: Do not lose this woman! Admonia is the single most important model besides Terminus, and losing her is a disaster. Terminus needs his full compliment of Focus, and the free upkeep is essential for his Focus economy. In addition, a single upkeep spell can destroy Terminus, and you really want her alive to keep them of him.
  • Tremulus: While he's not as essential as Admonia, his Puppet Master ability enables Terminus to assassinate without needing additional Focus. This is important, because there will be games where there are no available souls to grab. If you lose him, your assassination potential diminishes, to the point where you need to think about charging, instead of simply winning.
  • Darragh Wrathe: The additional inch of movement is very nice, and his Beyond Death ability occasionally comes in handy (but since you're hidden behind a couple of Helljacks it usually doesn't). Darragh Wrathe is quite important, since twelve inch threat is a lot better than eleven inches, and allows you to out-threat most enemy casters.
  • Madelyn Corbeau: Another way of gaining additional threat, and she can contribute to Bile Thrall movement as well, increasing purge ranges to fifteen inches. Tartarus also likes getting an additional three inch threat, and can often catch opponents with their pants down from those same fifteen inches away.
  • Skarlock: Is actually quite important to Terminus, since he enables you to play Terminus offensively without putting yourself in danger. I began bringing him when I found myself missing out on souls, because grabbing them would weaken my ARM unless I used my feat. The Skarlock is there to pop Ravager, allowing Terminus to harvest two or three souls, while saving his feat for the slaughter to come.
These are the models you really don't want to lose, and they're worth around twelve points combined. Everything else just needs to take as long as possible dying for the cause, while causing your opponents as many headaches and difficult choices as possible. You really want to force him into making a mistake, and then send your two ton endgame at him and watch his caster go squish.
Terminus: Abilities
This is not an walk through, but an attempt at conveying what you can expect from the Freight Train. At the time I write this, only one caster has ever survived a charge from my Terminus: pSeverius. It happened because I allowed myself to be tricked away from my support, and faced a camping pSeverius with Defender's Ward up. That's defense sixteen and armor twenty three right there, while I had to spend a Focus on upkeeping Malediction, and had no re-roll available. pSeverius had four boxes left when the smoke cleared, and I lost on scenario.

Terminus with six Focus, Malediction, Ravager, and Puppet Master available, can put out an amount of damage that can only be described as ridiculous. He's effectively MAT 9 & PS 18, and can put seven or eight attacks on a caster (eight if he's within range of his claw, or there's an available sucker to punch, and proc another sword swing on the caster with ravager). Any normal caster taking that to the face will die, and even poor dice usually won't stop it from happening.

If I find myself up against something I think can survive that, I've got Bane Thralls or Tartarus available to lend a hand. Dark Shroud takes Terminus to PS 20, which will make even Karchev on full camp take notice (should take more than half his health on a charge, not including the additional damage from Puppet Master). The thing is, that these numbers don't include extra Focus from souls.
Terminus: Dragon's Call (Feat)
Dragon's Call requires an evaluation, and that's about the only hard part. The question you need to ask yourself is: How many guys can I kill within twelve inches of where he lands? In some games it's none, and in other games it's twenty. Let me just say, that if you get twenty souls on Terminus, your opponent might as well call it right there, since you've got the juice to wipe what remains of his army of the board, even if you can't get to him.

Most games I don't even bother using it, unless there are more than five guaranteed souls available. I always pop it when going for an assassination attempt though, so I've got a shot at some mad shenanigans if I fail. A really successful Dragon's Call allows for some really bad-ass maneuvers, and there's no shame in flaunting that ARM 35 when you have it.

I hope this cleared up a few questions about Terminus, but feel free to comment on it, and I'll work in the answers when I can.



  1. Decided to give Big T a test drive - With 2 Leviathans parked in front of him there was nothing the opponent could do to touch Terminus until it was too late! Even passing out 6 focus for 2 turns to the Leviathans shooting efforts, he was undamaged.

  2. It's a crazy build with very few problems. Sad that it becomes boring so fast :(