Monday, January 2, 2012

Spotlight: Machine Wraith

I've been using the Machine Wraiths a bit during the last year or so, but it's a fairly complicated model to use, and I never really felt it was worth it. That all changed with the Terminus challenge, and the last couple of games I've brought three of them in my lists, and I've fallen head over heels in love with them.

Phantasmal Killer

It's not that I'm doing anything differently from what I used to, but like the Pistol Wraiths they become entirely different threats if you include more than one. I'm currently experimenting with just two of them, but the spotlight is written from experience with three.

The Machine Wraiths perform much the same function as Blackbane's Ghost Raiders, and like the Ghost Raiders their main assignment is to create total confusion, mess up activation sequences, and drain resources from an enemy.
Machine Wraith: Abilities
As always the Battlecollege article is a bit lacking, but it's accurate and features no false information. Little is known about the nightmarish apparitions called machine wraiths, though they are certainly some warped deviant of mechanikal artifice. Some speculate they are the bitter ghosts of arcane mechaniks or fallen priests of Cyriss; others maintain they are fallen warcasters. Whatever their origin, their howling, metallic call strikes a chill into the marrow of even the staunchest warrior.
Machine Wraith: Machine Meld
This ability is the main reason most people bring Machine Wraiths, but I feel you need more to justify bringing them in tournament armies. The main drawback of this ability is the short range, and while incorporeal really helps make them seem faster, you'll be struggling to hijack anything before the game is over or the Machine Wraith is dead. To solve that issue we have:
  • Darragh Wrathe: The Death Ride ability allows you to move the Machine Wraith an inch.
  • Madelyn Corbeau: The intrigue ability allows you to move the Machine Wraith three inches.
Instead of hijacking something within eight inches, you can hijack something within twelve inches, ignoring anything but free strikes with magical weapons on it's way to the target. That's going to catch some people unaware, and cause some ruckus when you do it. The second problem is the non-character Warjack limitation. There's really nothing we can do about that, and in a lot of match-ups the Machine Wraith will be unable to Machine Meld anything on the battlefield.
Machine Wraith: Melding for fun and profit!
The final problem is that most opponents go "oh no you didn't!" and kick you out. I've only ever kept one jack, and that was a three point gun-bunny he couldn't be bothered to kick me out of. That's not really a problem though, because we got what we came for anyway.
  • No allocation to the possessed Warjack.
  • We messed up his Focus economy.
  • We messed up his activation sequence.
Now how did we do all that from taking over a single Warjack, and getting booted thirty seconds later? The allocation issue is because we own his Warjack during allocation, so no big surprise there. The second is because one Focus is all it takes to throw half the casters out there out of balance, and he risks having to spend two, or even three Focus to do it (by the way, if you see a Warjack attached to a Jack Marshal, you're allowed to cackle like a maniac, but try not to, since it will alert him to the fact that he has to smack his own jack around to have any chance of getting you out of there).

You force your opponent to consider dropping upkeep spells, to formulate a rounds worth of actions every time he fails to boot the Wraith ("do I need the jack back this turn, what can I do with one Focus less, dear god I'm standing next to it so I have to boot that Wraith, etc. etc. etc."), and finally you mess up his activation sequence. Your opponent can only attempt to boot the Machine Wraith during his activation, which can cause all kinds of annoying choices in a round, and then our Wraiths come out incorporeal and can be placed where they're really annoying.
Machine Wraith: Theoretically you can keep it
Assuming something really stupid happens, and you're allowed to keep a Warjack for another round, then RUN FER IT LAD! There's no point in hitting things unless it's the enemy caster, if you can run it out of range instead. This forces him to walk in counter-productive directions, attempting to boot your Wraith, and if you manage to hijack something that can run without spending Focus it's just epic. A special thanks to Ulli for pointing out that you can actually power boost your stolen jack with a Warwitch Siren, since it's not allocation.
Machine Wraith: Master of Disaster
There's actually a masters degree in disaster management in Denmark, and if you have included three Machine Wraiths and you're looking at an army with no eligible possession targets, you might feel you need it, but the Machine Wraith is so much more than the ability to Machine Meld.

I mentioned Blackbane's Ghost Raiders before, and while the Machine Wraiths are a lot worse at causing confusion than they are, the concept remains the same. The Machine Wraiths are able to bypass most armies because of high speed and incorporeal, and the medium size base allows them to engage several models at once.

If you can get to his support models they will die to free strikes, or at least force the models to spend time killing the Wraith, instead of doing something important, but I've also killed Nyss Hunters, Exemplar Errants, Choir boys, and I very nearly took down a Trollblood Champion a while back (Tough saved him though).

Don't disregard a charging Machine Wraith either, because he can take down most one point models on a charge (actually I just took down a member of the Blackfrost Shard with a charge today), and several two point solos will go down to lucky dice. Gorman di Wulfe will go down if you can manage an 8+ to hit, and that's before we apply defense reducing effects. It can charge through lines, and I guarantee you that your opponent will not see it coming, when Gorman dies to a charging Machine Wraith.
Machine Wraith: Hogging the lane
The Machine Wraith can't block LoS while incorporeal, and enemy models can move through him if they want, but that doesn't mean we cant use him to block lanes, because while anyone can pass through him, there's no model in the game with the ability to end it's move on top of him.

That means that a Machine Wraith placed a little less than an inch in front of something will shield that something from melee, since there's no room to end up on the other side. It's always worth remembering models that can move around, or the ability to make room by killing the Machine Wraith, but occasionally a well placed Machine Wraith will mess up a lane.

The second thing to remember is, that free strikes make him corporeal. It's rarely a valid tactic, but once I managed to create a screen with an obvious door (Machine Wraith), and my opponent took the bait. After the first of his models had charged through, I closed the door by taking a free strike on the second model, thus becoming corporeal.

While I couldn't even scratch the beast that came through with my pathetic free strike, I had effectively split his forces in two, since he had no ranged threats left (as with most armies the shooting came first, and then the charges). Sure he killed the Wraith, and demolished my wall with the other models he had waiting, but in doing so he placed his own models in the doorway, ready for my counter-punch.
Machine Wraith: SCORE!
It's a lightning fast incorporeal model with the ability to score and contest. It's cheap enough that you can hide it behind obstacles and obstructions without losing out, and in cover it's an incorporeal defense eighteen model. It can hide behind forests and run out to claim an objective, or hijack an enemy jack guarding his objective for an easy point. Always remember the ability to win on scenario, and doubly so against Warmachine armies.(Edit: SR 2012 makes scoring with Hijacked Warjacks questionable. Make sure you check up on the current rules before you try this)
Machine Wraith: Summary
It's cheap, incorporeal, and very tricky. It rarely kills anything valuable, or hijacks an expensive Warjack, but it's hilarious and a great toolbox. It can win you games by removing contesting models without ever rolling a die, and threaten free strikes on models few others could get to. It can take out solo characters on surprise charges, though helping it hit would be a very good idea, and it can block access to your important models even while incorporeal.

I don't think the Machine Wraith is a fantastic model if you just include one, but three can cause some real confusion, and stealing three Warjacks at the same time is pretty much Game Over right there (though I must admit that my record is just two). I absolutely love them, and it almost broke my heart when I had to experiment with just two of them to squeeze in something else in my Terminus list.



  1. Thanks! I've been waiting for a machine wraith spot light. I had always been curious about them but then no one seemed to use them.

  2. I seems you use the Machine Wraith like I usually do. It can do a lot of things, and normally machine meld isn't going to happen. I sometimes place a Machine Wraith close to one of my heavies if I'm playing against a list containing one or more non char melee oriented jacks. That way you can be sure to machine meld a heavy if it charges your jack. You should always try to avoid your heavies being charged by another heavy ofc, but if you can't, it can sometimes make your opponent think twice before doing so.

  3. Damn you ! Now I need to buy another one. ;)