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.
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 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 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?