Last week I talked a bit about cloud walls and what we as a faction can do about them on the table top. Today, I thought I’d write a bit about my own attitude to the other bug bear that crops up quite a bit – magic weapons. Khador, as a faction, doesn’t tend to have a huge amount of access to magical weapons for our list construction, and I see it cropping up time and time again in discussions of list building. The prevailing notion seems to be that we need to take magic weapon options to play viable lists, which most often manifests itself as taking Aiyana and Holt. Personally, I disagree with this view.
The fact of the matter, is that needing magic weapons (outside of the magic attacks we get as standard on every caster) is a pretty niche requirement. In a lot of cases, it makes matches easier or gives us a particular tool to counter something. I contend though that, in a lot of these cases, it is perfectly possible to play around the issue your faced with. Failing that, there are often some nice solutions you can take without devoting large swathes of your list to them, or just by changing up the list your already playing.
Magic weapons are generally only useful in 2 scenarios, when your opponent has incorporeal models (Wraith Engines, Gremlin Swarms, etc), or when your opponent has tech that can be bypassed by magic weapons (Wind Wall, Choir, Vindictus Feat, etc). Both of these scenarios vary in how severe they are. A few Gremlin Swarms are a pain, whereas 2 Wraith Engines, Black banes and pistol wraiths are even worse. For these reasons it can be useful to have more than the bare minimum of Magic Weapons about, but even in the worst case scenario, you don’t often need a huge amount of them.
Scenario wise, the need for magic weapons applies to 3 different needs:
- Soft Incorporeal Targets (I.e. Blackbanes, Gremlin Swarms, Void Spirits, etc)
- Hard Incorporeal Targets, (Wraith Engines, Heavies under Denny 2’s feat, Haley 3 echoes)
- Spells and effects (Wind Wall, Vindictus feat, etc)
I’m going to stick to incorporeal models today, as mitigating the Spells and effects is much more match up dependent (who cares if your opponent has Wind Wall if you don’t have any guns). Much like with the article I did on cloud walls, we have a few options on how to deal with situations that we need magic weapons for. We can build magic weapons into our existing list or we can try to play around the situations that require them. Lets go through each in question.
Wolves of Winter: This is pretty much our magic weapons theme, being primarily Greylords and Doom Reavers. Basically, if you are building a list in Wolves, chances are you don’t need to worry about Magic Weapons. ‘Nuff said!
Objective: The first choice I wanted to talk about is the one with the least impact on your list. If you are playing a scenario with Objectives, and your opponent has anything requiring Magic Weapons, you should be taking Armoury. It’s only 1 attack per turn, but it can really swing the game. In particular, if you have any ranged weapons (particularly with CRA), it can help massively to keep up a tempo of clearing incorporeal models. Examples of models that work really well with the objective include things like the Winter Guard Mortar (one big shot that can kill multiple models), Bombardiers (CRA to get that one important solo) and Pikemen (high mat, POW and CMA to ensure the hit).
Caster Choice: Khador casters are not generally great spell slingers. We have a couple of outliers (the Zerkovas and the Witches), but in general, all of our casters are focus 6-7, with no stealth or def mitigation and, generally, no access to arc nodes. Equally, unlike with the cloud wall issue, we have only 1 caster that gives access to magic weapons (Karchev through his feat) and that is limited to his battle-groups melee weapons. Despite this, some of our casters are clearly better than others in dealing with the various types of Magic Weapon scenarios that crop up. Any of the Butchers, for example, are going to be better at dealing with Hard Incorporeal targets then most(due to the presence of Ruin and their own melee potential), whereas the likes of the Irusks (airburst is a really good spell) and Zerkovas (Sprays and Arc nodes) are going to be better at dealing with Soft Incorporeal targets, as well as getting around some of the magic requiring effects in the game. Ultimately, none of our spell casters are particularly great at dealing with magic weapon issues, but some are better than others. If you must take something magical, and caster selection is your only option, the likes of the Butchers (Ruin and melee potential), either Zerkova (decent spell slingers with access to arc nodes), the Irusks (air burst again) or Sorschas (very mobile with ways to get away afterwards) are probably your best bets.
Jack Choice: Ruin is the obvious choice here, as mentioned before, but you’re not always going to be playing Butcher. Outside of this, there is really only one option. Jack Marshalling. In general, if you are looking at your jacks for your magic weapons solution, it’s because you are running a jack spam. If that’s the case, you are likely building in Jaws with one of our jack casters, meaning you already have jacks and Forge Seers in your list. This can be a great way to add some magic weapons into your list without spending extra points. Simply slide a jack onto a Forge Seer. This is more painful with the Battle-group focused casters like Harkevich or Karchev, but is still a viable idea. This can also be done in Wolves or in Armoured Korp, though it’s slightly more painful there, due to jacks not being the main thrust of the list. As for marshalling targets, there are a few good options. Behemoth is my favourite, due to him getting a lot out of the marshalling and him threatening any kind of target (He’ll one round anything in the game in melee with 2 focus and a free charge, and his guns threaten everything from Blackbanes to Gremlins to Haley Echoes). Destroyers are another reasonable option, as are Ragers. Pure melee jacks are fine as well, but will lack the kind of threat range you are looking for to deal with problem targets.
Infantry Choices: We don’t have a lot of options in most of our themes for Magic Weapons (outside of Wolves anyway). In faction it boils down to the forge seer most of the time, which is not the best option for a magic attack (it’s not terrible, but he’s slow and Hoarfrost is short range). So for our magical weapon wielding infantry, we end up looking at mercenaries. In most cases, they can generally provide a magic attack as secondary function alongside their primary attack. Ragman falls neatly into this category. There are other options as well, with Kell Bailoch, Harlan Versh and the Eyriss models all being good at dealing with soft incorporeal models. If you want a way to deal with the Hard Incorporeal models, and a way round spell effects as well, we have to talk Aiyana and Holt. Just flat out granting a model/unit magic weapons, as well as the option for harm and a high rat ranged attack is pretty decent and can swing a lot of match ups. My main problem with the Elf and her boytoy are that they are expensive. Usually 12 points (because if your taking the duo, you might as well spring for Valachev to get access to harm), A&H are as expensive as a heavy warjack but die to basically everything (electro leaps, blast damage, etc) and are going to be public enemy number 1 in the match ups they matter in (a Denny 1 ghost fleet list will quite happily swap an arc node for Aiyana). It might be a reasonable price to pay for some lists, but generally I feel like they aren’t worth the point investment, as quite often taking them can be the difference between taking another unit or jack as well as another free model. Taking them in a list should be a decision made if you have literally no other option available, and I don’t think that scenario actually crops up that much.
So we’ve discussed some of the choices you can make with Magic Weapons in your list. Sometimes though, you will be in a position where you have no magic weapons outside your caster, and you have to deal with a Wraith Engine or something. What do you do?
Play around it, that’s what!
The situations where Magic weapons are a tool you need tend to be ones of denial. You can’t attack that model, you auto miss with that ranged attack, etc. There are ways around these things though. Lets talk about them in particular, and then in general.
Wraith engines are right bastards to deal with at times. They are incorporeal, fast, hit hard and generate other incorporeal models. They are great for threatening pieces and for holding zones, as well as applying dark shroud at opportune models. The key then to playing around them, is to offer them targets tempting enough to attack, and otherwise ignore them. Remember, other than not being able to land on them, Incorporeal models for all intents and purposes don’t exist on the table, so you can move through and see through them. Jack spam lists in jaws are going to be the most vulnerable to Wraith Engines, but also have tools in theme to deal with them (magic Behemoth anyone), whilst Armoured korp has high value targets, but might have the WE bounce off. Wolves will shred them due to Doom Reavers. LOS and WGK both share having cheap throw away infantry, that aren’t massively hindered by WE due to either being fast enough to move past them are shoot through them.
Denny 2 is the main place I’d expect this. It’s a pretty good trick, with her ideal situation being to alpha with a bunch of her pieces, turn them all incorporeal and then alpha again the next turn. The big trick to playing around this then, is simply to not let her do that. Try to force her to feat defensively and early. If that’s not possible, try to give her a less impressive alpha. If you have a defensive feat, allow your opponent a partial alpha, and then feat to blunt the following turn (Strakhov 2 LOS does this exceptionally well). Obviously, this is easier with a faster list, so the likes of Legion of Steel in general (and Vlad 1 rockets in particular) are going to be better at this than most. Jaws is going to struggle somewhat, but again, Marshalled Behemoth is a great tool here. Armoured Korp is probably the most vulnerable to this as, while it’s not overly slow, it doesn’t put a huge amount of pressure up the board without some caster help.
Significantly more dangerous than Wraith Engines in a lot of ways, you’ll only ever see these guys in Ghost Fleet. There are a couple of principles to remember here. The unit grows with every kill as long as black bane is alive, so he is enemy number one. Thankfully, he’s not overly difficult to kill, it will just take your casters activation to do so (razor wind is perfect here). If you get him dead, it becomes the same game as for the WE, wait for them to become corporeal and kill them. If you can’t get him dead, things become more difficult, as the Cryx player will kill your models, add raiders and then let the corporeal models die, rendering any work you do moot. If you can’t get to Black Bane himself then, try to have your less vulnerable models hold that side of the table down (in most lists this is going to be your jacks). Whilst you can often ignore big single incorporeal models like Wraith Engines, Black Banes are fast enough and impactfull enough that you simply can’t. Theme specific, WGK and LOS are going to struggle the most as those are the model types that black bane preys upon, and are the least likely to have extra magic attacks (no forge seer). Armoured Korp tends to be tough enough that the Raiders struggle a bit, whilst Jaws only tends to care in so much as they threaten your caster.
You’re usually going to see these in the Grymkin match up, though you might see one or 2 with minions lists. These guys are a pain, having stealth as well as Incorporeal. On top of these, they are actually incapable of breaking their incorporeal, unlike most other models. The big danger here is mostly scenario pressure, as if you can’t deal with them, they will run amuk and never allow you to score anything. To this end, coping is mostly a matter of deployment and positioning. Have your caster in a position where they can clear out a flag or zone of Swarms. Objectives can help as well, as you only really need to be capable of killing 1 a turn to keep up with the tempo of the game (Dark Menagerie lists are really slow). Any spare magic attacks help here as well as specific tech (such as Spriggans stripping their stealth), but it is possible to do without, especially with casters that can kill them at range (Zerkova 1, 2, etc) or casters that can kill one in melee and then move after wards (either Strakhov, any of the Sorschas, Butcher 3, etc). List wise, Jaws is going to be the most vulnerable to them, being slow and affected by them, but has innate ways of killing them (Marshalled Behemoth kills Swarms dead, and Forge Seers are pretty alright at keeping them off your defensive scoring elements). WGK and LOS again are going to struggle with clearing them, making aggressively hunting them with the models that can kill them an important consideration. Armoured Korp is going to struggle a bit as well, but is generally run by casters who are pretty good at killing them (The Irusks have air burst, Zerkova speaks for herself, and the Butchers will be bringing Ruin). Just bear in mind what you have that can kill them and you should be able to keep up a tempo.
There are a few other Incorporeal solos other than the Gremlin Swarm, but mostly they are dealt with the same way. They tend to be high defence, low arm. There tends to be varying levels of urgency in dealing with them (the Hellslinger is more of a pain than a Feralgeist) but mostly you try to ignore and mitigate them. Try to position so that your caster can clear them out of contesting positions if need be. Remember, these ones won’t have stealth, so double boosting a nuke at them is an option. Otherwise, what goes for Gremlin Swarms goes here as well.
In general the key to dealing with Incorporeal models, when you don’t have a ton of magic weapons, is accepting a couple of truths about the match up. You are not going to alpha strike the Incorporeal models. You are going to be fighting an up hill scenario battle. You are going to have to be careful with the prey models in your army (the models the Incorporeal models are going to want to kill. Once you realise these truths, the way you deal with them becomes obvious. Plan for being attacked first, Plan for how your going to stop your opponent winning on scenario, Plan for where your models are going to be positioned. It’s a pain, but if you don’t have the answers to a particular ability (in general, not just Incorporeal) then you have to play around it. Focus on the moves you can make, as there is no list in the game that is 100% incorporeal, which means your models have something to focus on. In general, if you can force an advantage against the rest of the list (such as restricting the shooting the Revenant crew can accomplish into Ghost Fleet for example), then your opponent will have to start committing their incorporeal models. If you can play more aggressively with your caster, and not die, then you can start removing some of these contesting pieces. Focus on the things you can accomplish, and try to minimise the damage that these pieces do.
My point, if I have one, is not that you should never take pieces with magic attacks. It’s that you can get by without them, through the use of tactics and positioning. Aiyana and Holt are popular in lists at the moment for providing a silver bullet answer to this particular problem, which they do well and in addition to a couple other useful tricks (shooting, harm, etc). They are far from necessary though. 12 points is a hefty chunk of your army composition, and often their contribution could be mimicked by a change in tactics, or a shuffling of your list. Look for these options, because one of the biggest strengths of Khador is that we don’t usually have to worry about support models. Our faction is plenty strong on its own.
For the Motherland!
Cheers to Jon ‘A Barry for all Seasons’ Williams for proof reading. Check out his blog at http://tobarry.blogspot.co.uk/ and follow his experience as a Tournament organiser.