Sunday, October 16, 2011

Spotlight: Lord Exhumator Scaverous

I'm not entirely sure I'm qualified to write this, but since nobody else seems to have done it I guess I'll give it a shot. I can always return and update it when I feel I've got it all figured out, but do take this into consideration when pondering the information in this spotlight.

Lord Exhumator Scaverous initially attracted my attention, because I refused to believe the rumors about him. I couldn't believe the people at Privateer Press would take the spell we could all agree Cryx should never have, and put it on a caster with access to Excarnate and Ghost Walk. When he finally arrived I damn near fainted, and I knew I had found my second caster.
A specialist in the acquisition of lore from the dead, Lord Exhumator Scaverous is one of the most potent and intelligent servants of the Nightmare Empire.
I lost my first game with the Exhumator, but then I got him figured out. The second and third game had my opponent surrendering after turn two, but then I ran into my first problem, as there are just: so many options. It literally gave me a headache to sort through his possible actions every turn, and I had to put him aside for the masters, since there was no way I would be able to field him in a timed tournament.
Scaverous: Abilities
Scaverous is a trinity-caster, and that's his only weakness. A trinity-caster is someone who has the ability to win by assassination, attrition, and scenario, while being equally strong in all aspects. This might not sound like a weakness, but it's horribly complicated, and mistakes will cost you games. This spotlight will contain more walkthroughs than usual, since Scaverous is so new at the moment.
  • Avernus
Scaverous swings a mean scythe, and with Thresher he can reap a fair amount of souls. Scaverous can move potential targets around with TK, then charge in and Thresher the lot of them, TK himself further up the field and swing at some more targets, but this is a trap. Scaverous is not Terminus, and no amount of souls will help him if he dies before he can turn them into Focus. Avernus is handy to have, but should be considered your last way out.
  • Black Gate (Feat)
The Black Gate is what makes Scaverous so dangerous, and while several other casters have feats that seem more powerful, the Black Gate is right up there with them. The obvious effect is to allow Scaverous to cast a storm of boosted spells, which allows him a fair spell assassination potential, as well as the potential to move entire units around on the table. This is such a powerful feat, that I would have thought it adequate, but there's more.

The Black Gate also provides every other friendly faction model in range with free boosts to their magic attacks, which makes Warwitch Sirens and Withershadow Combine hit defense seventeen on average dice. This is not worth constructing a list to abuse, but it's worth taking into consideration with the models/units you already include for different purposes.

There's more though, because the Black Gate also features a watered down version of Lamentation, increasing the cost of enemy spells and animi by one. There are quite a lot of casters which cannot pull their usual shenanigans with this added cost, and it will ruin the Fury economy of a lot of warlocks as well. It's not something to be relied on, but if your plans fail, it's nice to have a secondary effect reducing the consequences.

In summary, the Black Gate allows you to move a couple of models out of the way with boosted Telekinesis spells, at the cost of one Focus each. Then another Focus will buy you a boosted Icy grip, reducing the enemy casters defense by two. The another Focus will buy you a boosted Telekinesis, pulling him two inches forward and turning his back to your army, and the final three Focus will buy a boosted Feast of Worms. You now have an unprotected enemy caster, with his back turned, and -2 DEF/ARM, ready to be taken down at your leisure.
  • Spells
The spell list is an abomination and should never have existed. Scaverous is one spell away from the perfect spell list, and Icy Grip is the closest thing to Crippling Grasp they could find. I usually don't do walkthroughs, but in this case I think I should.
  1. Death Ward allows Scaverous to camp at ARM 26, setting a new record as far as i know.  It also allows him to run a few units such as Bane Knights or Bloodgorgers, that normally suffer badly from their lack of ARM.
  2. Feast of Worms brings a powerful AoE attack, that just happens to include an ARM debuff. While it's not as good as a model/unit based debuff, it brings the ability to clear out models shielding your target, while applying the debuff as well. Remember that the ARM debuff applies to the AoE attack, making it effectively POW eight.
  3. Excarnate allows for a slightly weaker version of the eGaspy Bile Thrall shenanigans. It's slightly weaker since Scaverous lacks the ability to redeploy after casting it, but I've never found it to be a serious problem. Excarnate also allows Scaverous a decent spell assassination, since three Focus buys you a fully boosted POW 13 on feat round.
  4. Ghost Walk is a staple spell in Cryx, and it works just as well for Scaverous. With his access to movement related spells, Ghost Walk simply ads icing to a delicious cake, and allows you to forget about the annoying terrain or free strikes.
  5. Icy Grip is there because they couldn't give him Crippling Grasp. A defense debuff to go with his ARM debuff, and the ability to stop a unit with scary *Attacks from doing harm. No running is a nice little bonus, but remember that ban on *Attacks, as it will make Winterguard Deathstars cry.
  6. Telekinesis is just wrong. This spell does everything, and will need more than a little snippet like this to explain. We'll get back to this later, but the first thing I thought to myself when this was confirmed was: Oh dear, how do I justify putting this guy on the table.
The only thing holding this spell list back is a lack of Focus, but you did read his feat just before. If you manage to gather three souls, you can cast every spell on that list, with boosted attack rolls, in a single round. I'm not saying it would be a good idea, but a powerful list of spells backed up by the ability to cast all of them in a round, is just plain old wrong.
Scaverous: Telekinesis
This spell has a ridiculous amount of applications. I'm just saying it so you won't be surprised, and there's no possible way I can describe the multitude of ways this spell can ruin an opponent. Let's begin with five completely obvious applications and work from there.
  • Additional threat: Casting a simple spell will increase the range of any model with two inches, allowing our speed six models a greater threat than a reach model with the same speed. This can be applied on the target as well, allowing a combined four inch increase in threat. Bile Thralls suddenly purge from thirteen inches away, and Admonia unbinds from fifteen inches away.
  • Rescue & Retrieval: Telekinesis requires no attack roll against friendly models, so if you need something pulled out of melee, just apply Telekinesis. This can also allow you to freely gun down a model that was hiding in melee with the model.
  • The Merry-Go-Round: Turning models around can really mess up an opponents plans. My personal favorite is simply turning heavies around, removing their options for a charge, removing their initial attacks, and making them pay for a Trample in order to reach anything. In addition it's a lot easier hitting someone who's looking the other way, and they don't benefit from shields either.
  • The unwilling assistant: A dastardly use, which involves moving enemy models into positions that benefit you. This could involve moving a living model near a Warjack (allowing Snapjaw a free charge and more range), or moving models that release dangerous effects upon death, to where they inflict damage on his models instead.
  • The Control area boogie: A little poke is all it takes, if your opponents Warjacks are loitering at the edge of his control area. It's a little less effective against hordes, but pushing your opponent two inches back, can occasionally prevent him from forcing his beasts if he doesn't run.
Those are just a few of the more obvious applications of the spell, and the list continues. The final thing to remember is, that if you attempt a Telekinesis against an engaged enemy model and miss, you instead get an opportunity to move your own model to a better position (and you won't even need to hit your own model since it's friendly). This probably wont come into play often, but keep it in mind anyway.
Scaverous: Complications
Knowing a bit about what he can do, we get to his one balancing fact: That he can't do it all at once. Scaverous can camp at almost unbreakable ARM, perform incredible feats of trickery, or simply fire a hail of spells, but he has to choose each round. This is actually some hard choices, because Scaverous is on a medium base, with no other defense mechanic, and he will go down if you choose the wrong round to go all in. This is a weakness we can remedy, but we have to do it through his list.
Scaverous: List construction
The first thing we have to look at, is survivability. Scaverous is on a medium base, and has a tendency to run himself dry on Focus with all his nifty spells, so getting shot in the face is a very real possibility. We've got several possible solutions for that particular problem, but I think two of them stand out.
  • Bloodgorgers: These guys are faction models, and with General Slaughterborn to back them up they can be a fantastic shield. Bloodgorgers also benefit a lot from Death Ward, making them almost immune to blast damage. They do require a lot of resources to run properly, but they're usually worth it. The major problem is the amount of space they take up on the table, and this is something you need to practice avoiding.
  • Ogrun Bokur: The cheap and easy option. This options means fighting with three points less in your army, since it will never actually do anything except keep Scaverous safe(ish). If you find yourself strapped for points, he will do.
The next thing we need to consider is assassination pieces.
  • Malice: This is the only Helljack I'd consider including, since Scaverous makes pulling of Dark Industries even easier. Malice lacks reach, but opens up a lot of assassination vectors with drag, and can produce an impressive number of attacks when loaded up with souls.
  • Lesser Warlocks: Looking at Scaverous it's clear, that he doesn't like to part with his Focus, so I'm always surprised when I see lists featuring multiple Helljacks. I do realize that we have access to some heavy hitters, and that several of them will be fine assassination pieces, but I feel the Focus drain limits his available options for assassination. Wrong Eye & Snapjaw will be the prime candidates for the job, but Rorsh & Brine shouldn't be underestimated.
Then we reach the really problematic part of the list, which is support. Scaverous is infamous for bringing an army of support pieces, but I don't think we need to go overboard.
  • Skarlock: Always an awesome piece, but with Scaverous it rises to legendary. The ability to use Telekinesis before activating Scaverous will win you games, and with Black Gate active it can even apply debuffs to enemies with a fairly good chance of success.
  • Withershadow Combine: If you don't already know why, then go read this
  • Warwitch Sirens: If you don't already know why, then go read this.
And that's the list. There's plenty of additional support available, but the cost would have to come out of your units that will do the real work, and that's going to be a problem. Scaverous needs protection, he needs an assassination piece, and he needs a ton of support, so that leaves very little room for units.
  • Bane Thralls: Scaverous really needs a way to apply a secondary ARM debuff, and Bane Thralls work well in that capacity. The Unit Attachment is a given, and you might as well bring Tartarus, but I usually settle for a minimum unit with Scaverous to keep the cost down. You can find their intervention article here.
  • Bile Thralls: Not only do they annihilate enemies, but they deter charges and work wonders with Excarnate. You can find their spotlight here.
  • Bloodgorgers: As stated earlier, they perform well as both protection and anti-infantry. With Dark Shroud support, and Feast of Worms up, they can even destroy heavies, which tends to surprise people writing them of as anti-infantry.
  • Croe's Cutthroats: This unit becomes something truly unique when used with Scaverous. The unit has Backstab and Poison, allowing them to function as ranged weapon masters with Scaverous. In addition to turning a model around, he will increase the units pathetic range when he moves the target forward, and with the right support a unit of Croe's can take down most heavy warbeasts in a round, and Bushwack to safety.
I'm sad to report this, but Croe's Cutthroats rarely makes my lists. They require heavy thinking every round, and an amazing amount of resources, but when you do put the effort into it they can perform some truly stupid feats of strength.
Scaverous: Summary
Scaverous is a true powerhouse, but keeping him alive is harder than his exceptional ability to camp would suggest. Scaverous has no passive abilities to buff his army like Terminus, nor the ability to drain souls like Venethrax or Lich Lord Asphyxious, so you're usually restricted to his basic allotment of Focus (remember that Avernus is a trap), and it just isn't enough to do it all.

If you can manage to keep him safe, his ability to manipulate the battlefield will win you every game. If you can stay alive until both armies are decimated, you can camp your way to victory, and if you have the mental resources to grasp the vast amount of options he presents (I don't) you will never loose.


    1. I would look at the Deathjack with him. While most would say the Deathjack is a no-brainer, I find that the Deathjack is very caster dependent in order to get the most use out of him -- And Scaverous is one of the best you can pair him with.

      A "free" Telekinesis that isn't caster dependent every turn is nice, or redeploying Death Ward, or casting spells like Ghost Walk or Excarnate with a discount.

      Avernus isn't a trap, you just have to gauge when to use it -- But if you're going to go in, make sure you're safe about it. When I use it, I have the Deathjack or Skarlock cast Icy Grip on the unit Scaverous is going after, the one who didn't cast Icy Grip should cast Death Ward on Scaverous. I then Puppet Strings Scaverous and charge. I'll reap more than a few souls depending on positioning, and I'll be camping ARM 24-26, a daunting prospect for most to face. This means that I'm almost unkillable, and I'll have souls that will turn into focus the next turn, letting me have a big feat turn if I need it.

      I shouldn't have to say this, but naturally, don't go in if your opponent has Eiryss or anything with Arcane Assassin/forsaken/ways of ignoring focus.

    2. No inclusion of Erebus? Besides the obvious Affinity with Scaverous, something I had fun thinking with was using the overtake move combined with TK to mess around with the 'jack before and after a trample and a wealth of souls. Though, I'm thinking about the Lord Exhumator, but I'm not sure if I should commit to him.

      Also, simply curious: How difficult would it be to additionally magnetize the Erebus/Malice upgrade kits without ruining the rest of the original Helljack kit?