List Building

The full info on Old Witch 2 was released lately and she has me frothing at the mouth to play her. Too bad I wasn’t at lock and load to pick up her pre-release. She’s had me thinking a lot about the way I design lists and what I design lists for, so I thought I’d come and pour those thoughts on the internet for all to see. That’s what we do these days right?

So list building? It’s a core process to the game and is where strategy is born, hunting down synergies to present on the table top. There are a lot of different ways that people build lists: focusing on particular modules, building for specific matchups, trying to amplify the strengths of a caster or a particular set of models, etc. I’ve always started with the caster, reading through War-room looking for something inspiring, and then trying to come up with an optimum list for said caster that takes as much advantage of their particular skill set as possible. Lets do an example of what I mean.

Strakhov 2. When I look at his cards a couple of things spring to mind.

1: Strakhov 2 is a buff caster that specialises in infantry. All of his upkeeps are focused on support, are best utilised on infantry (their being no battle-group specific spells or free charges to give to our jacks) and his feat specifically targets warrior models.

2: Strakhov 2 is a survivable caster. Khador has some of the best infantry support casters in the game (Irusk, Vlad, Butcher, etc), but they struggle sometimes with caster survival. Our base stats tend to be good, but most of our support casters want to be spending all their focus. Combine that with a tendency for these casters to put their opponents in a do or die situation and a lot of games are lost to assassination. Strakhov 2 on the other hand has access to a bevy of tech that can help keep him alive. Stealth, a cloud wall, good base stats, a spell list that allows him to camp, feat making him more survivable, etc.

3: Strakhov 2 prefers high armour melee troops. With a feat that gives bonus armour and tough, Inviolable resolve, a speed buff and a melee damage and accuracy buff, Strak is gonna get more mileage out of things that can already get to a high armour on their own. Combine this with quicken for threat range buffs and last stand to crack high defense or armour and natively high armour, hard hitting melee troops get cranked up to 11.

So these 3 points all point to Strakhov wanting high armour melee warrior models, preferably units, which means we can cut out a substantial number of models from a potential list (Jacks, Winterguard, Kayzy, etc) and also cuts 2 of the 3 themes from contention, leaving Legion of Steel and out of theme as options.

Considering the current environment, Legion of Steel is probably the first place to look, as playing in theme is a big advantage to playing out of theme. This gives us Ironfang pikemen, Black Dragons and Uhlans to look at. To decide what will constitute the majority of this list, I then look at Strakhovs drawbacks. He has 2 major ones. The first is a lack of access to pathfinder, he has it himself, but has no way to give it out. This eliminates Black Dragons for me. Though they could get to the highest armour with mini feat, and add a layer of abilities, the lack of native pathfinder makes them a 3rd place runner for me. Strakhovs other flaw is in Last Stand, with any model with that spell dying after making a melee attack. This disqualifies Uhlans for me, as they are too expensive to be throwing away like that. So we are left with vanilla Iron Fang Pikemen.

To me Iron Fang Pikemen meet all the criteria for Strakhov, getting to high armour natively, being reasonably fast on their own and gaining pathfinder on the charge. On top of that, the mini feat gives flexibility to the list, allowing the pikemen to run or charge something and still be in shield wall for the feat turn. They also have crit knockdown and CMA, which synergise well with last stand. The weaknesses that they have are then mitigated by the benefits from the theme, counter charge especially allowing the solos in the list to act as line guards.

From their the list builds itself, 3 units of pikemen, Markov, the great bears, a kovnik for no knock down, and you have a list that is fast, hits hard, is fairly resistant to small arms fire and trades well into battlegroup heavy lists. The only question that then remains is battlegroup. In this case, the list is lacking in guns and in cheap pieces to hold scenario, so my preference is Torch and a devastator. 2 destroyers is also an option, as well as just a juggernaut and a marauder to just fill jack points. Season to taste as it were.

So that’s my approach to list building, which I apply to most lists I make. Some casters are harder than others (Strakhov 2 is fairly obvious to me). But generally I can find some thread that each caster wants to follow. As a quick fire round of examples:

  • Irusk 2 gives a lot of soft defense (tough, no blast damage, cover, etc) and can make just about any of our troops trade up whilst providing pathfinder and other solutions, so wants lots of cheap troops.
  • Butcher 3 wants to be delivered, and has energiser, so runs quite well in a jack heavy list that can cloud wall/shield guard.
  • Vlad 1 makes pretty much anything better, but doesn’t have a lot of focus, so wants cheap jacks backed by quality ranged attacks.
  • Strakhov 1 makes everything fast, but has no damage buffs, so wants hard hitting things, also has a cap on resources, so wants a small elite battlegroup

Those are just some examples, with out much depth, but hopefully show some of what I’m rambling on about. With Steamroller 2017 out now, I thin Khador is in an even stronger postion than before, and hopefully, with the release of the likes of Witch 2 and the CID coming up soon, we’ll be seeing some interesting lists come out of the community.


I Learned It From…

I’ve been meditating on some of my lists recently and have been thinking about the various lessons that playing some of our casters has taught me over the years. Playing Warmachine has been a real learning experience for me and when I look back at the difference in play between now and even a year ago, the difference is pretty big. I think the element of my games that has taught me the most is my own casters. I’ve played pretty much all of Khador’s Warcasters at this point, and each of them has a different lesson on the tabletop. I wanted to spend a moment going through some of the more significant ones.

Strakhov 1:

Of all the Casters I have played in Mk 3, I think Strakhov has taught me the most. Strakhov is a caster that is all about threat range and mobility. Between feat, Overrun, Superiority and Sprint on Strakhov himself, any list that Strakhov pilots is going to be far faster and more slippery than any other list we can make in faction. The games that I played with him near the beginning of Mk 3 taught me that threat range in and of itself can be an advantage.

I played a number of games with him where my opponents would be trying desperately to keep their important pieces out of the 20 – 21 inch threat range that I could throw a jack up the board. This would often lead to them making bad decisions, or going on tilt as they tried to work around the obscene threat ranges that Strakhov could threaten. On top of this, the sheer mobility that was on offer often allowed me to pull off moves that my opponents often would not see coming, such as weakening a blocking model and then charging it with a jack and overrunning through the gap to get to a caster.

The other major thing I learned from Strakhov is the value and necessity of proper resource management. Strakhov is a focus 6 caster, who wants to runs jacks. Generally this meant that I had to make hard decisions about when, where and to who I would be casting spells and allocating focus. I often had to pare back my expectations about what I could get done, and take whatever I had available to me to swing dice math in my favour. I can recall a number of games where the decisive play was me using the feat just to get a free charge. All of this helped to teach me with other casters where I was wasting resources.

Butcher 3:

Butcher 3 taught me 2 things in particular. The first was the sheer value of having a threat on the board on Butchers level. Butcher 3 does not support his army, his feat doesn’t help anybody but him and he tends to use his force as an entourage to deliver him. The upside of this is the promise that Butcher makes you, that if you can get him into the enemy with feat intact, he will kill basically anything in the game. I cannot think of another model in the game that can flat out kill stuff better. I have had games where I was left with 1 jack and not much else, and Butcher has killed so much in 1 activation that the attrition is now on my side.

Due to this, and the reputation that Butcher as a caster has, often times you can force your opponent to make bad decisions simply through the fear that butcher can inspire. You can leverage this to make good trades with your force or to gain scenario advantages. I’ve taken this lesson into other match ups, and used that knowledge to play into other bug bears, such as Haley 2, or Denegrha 1, playing through the rough turns and emerging the other side to win games.

This leads into the second lesson that Butcher has taught me. That there is no such thing as too safe for your caster. I am an attrition player, especially with Butcher, and I often leave my opponent in a position where the only thing they can do is kill the Butcher. Inevitably, in some games they do. Butcher has a great stat line, can often camp 3 or 4 focus and be behind a wall of jacks, and he still dies to desperate plans. This was eye opening to me, as I realised in a lot of my other match ups, this was happening as well. It led to me developing better methods of keeping him safe, and through that of keeping my other casters safe.

Irusk 2:

Irusk 2 is a great caster, possibly the best troop caster in the game. Between his tough aura, Solid Ground and battle lust, he excels at taking cheap infantry and making them survive and kill things far outside their weight class. The main lesson that I have taken from him though is the value of flexibility.

One of the things that makes Irusk 2 so great is that he can take any of our infantry and make them kill high armour targets. Winter guard, Assault commandos, etc, all take down things they have no business taking down with battle lust on them. The advantage of this with Irusk is that you can take a variety of infantry to solve your other issues (clearing infantry, pathfinding, etc) and just have any of them deal with enemy heavies when the time comes. This forces your opponent into difficult straits. Ideally, any  player wants to kill the things that can deal with their key pieces, whether that’s a Colossal or a centre piece unit or a couple of heavies, and will prefer to keep those pieces away from the things that can deal with them. When your entire list can, at a moments notice, become a weapon master, where does your opponent put their heavy that they’re not trading down. This is a lesson I’ve used to even greater effect with Strakhov 2. That list can make any of the 3 units of Pikemen in it threaten further or hit harder or become harder to kill. This flexibility means that my opponents often have to respect my entire force when manoeuvring, and gives me options to deal with bad match-ups.

Those are the main 3 casters that I feel I have learned the most from. Have a think yourselves, what have you learned from the lists and casters you play?


Brief ETC round up

Haven’t posted in a while due to my hated enemy, real life. Have just come back from Cardiff and Firestorm games which were hosting the European Team Championships. My club fielded 2 teams and we ended up 10th and 9th, a great result up from last year’s 17th and 12th. Thought I’d post a quick round up of the rounds.

The team:

Me: khador myself with strakhov 2 legion of steel and butcher 3 Jaws of the wild

Jonathon Clarke: menoth, unthemed high reclaimed and guardians of the flame Thyra

Paul Jordan: Skorne with zaal 2 and Zaadesh 2

Jace Winter: Trollbloods with power of dhunia Doomie 2 and band of heroes Jarl

Christopher Clare: Retribution with Forces Vyros and Forges Rahn

Round 1:

Lost the round roll8 off and picked the tables. Ended up in the mirror playing into Khador. He dropped butcher3 winter guard kommand (battle engine and everything) and I dropped Strakhov 2. Game was grindy with me assassinating turn 4 between quickened great beard and last stand pikemen. Our team won that round 4-1

Round 2

Yay, team England lions. Because of course. I ended up in the mirror again, this time against Richard Beech. He dropped Vlad 1 with 5 jacks and all the rockets. I dropped butcher having played the Strakhov – vlad match before. What followed was one of the best games I’ve ever played. Neither of us really made any mistakes and what swung the game in the end was Ruin going in on a marauder  fully loaded and failing to even cripple a system. This forced me to position badly and things went down from there. Butcher ended up dead. We lost 4 – 1.

Round 3:

We end up playing playing team Wales. I got Legion in the end who surprised me by dropping vayl 2 in Oracle’s rather than fyanna. I drop strakhov. He has the Throne, but between tieing up the hellions helpings and some countercharges I score 3 in one turn (extraction is the scenario) and he has no way to contest one of the flags. My team wins this round overall.

Round 4:

We get team Scotland, who are difficult, and I get the mirror again. The match up is once again butcher 3 into vlad. This game goes much better, with me sniping all 9 rockets out early on. Between positioning and failing to kill ruin, I manage to get a fully loaded ruin into Vlad which kills him. The team loses this round 2 to 3 though and we end the tournament at 2-2.

We were all pleased to do better than last year. Next up, the Midlands open.