Continuing on in the series I started a couple of weeks ago, I’ll be covering the list pairing I built and how I think it will play into the meta. This week, continuing in PPI order, we’ll be looking at Retribution, Convergence and Mercenaries. Whilst not as meta dominating at the moment, these factions are still solid contenders and can be hard to play into if you don’t stop and consider what it is they’ll be bringing to the table. Lets take a look at our own lists first shall we:
Khador Army – 75 / 75 points
[Theme] Legion of Steel
(Strakhov 2) Assault Kommander Strakhov [+22]
– Rager 
– Torch 
Iron Fang Kovnik [0(4)]
Kaptain Sofya Skirova [0(5)]
Uhlan Kovnik Markov 
Great Bears of the Gallowswood 
Iron Fang Pikemen (max) 
– Iron Fang Pikemen Officer & Standard [0(4)]
Iron Fang Pikemen (max) 
– Iron Fang Pikemen Officer & Standard 
Iron Fang Pikemen (max) 
– Iron Fang Pikemen Officer & Standard 
Khador Army – 75 / 75 points
[Theme] Jaws of the Wolf
!!! Your army contains CID entries.
(Old Witch 2) Zevanna Agha, The Fate Keeper [+27]
– Juggernaut 
– Kodiak 
– Marauder 
– Spriggan 
Greylord Forge Seer [0(4)]
– Behemoth 
Greylord Forge Seer [0(4)]
– Rager 
Widowmaker Marksman [0(4)]
Battle Mechaniks (min) 
Kayazy Eliminators 
Kayazy Eliminators 
Retribution is a solid faction to play into. Really good infantry, good jacks, janky casters. Some of the lists they tend to play have been set for a while, with some others flying somewhat under the radar at the moment. Khador in general doesn’t tend to have massive issues with Ret, especially since Rahn seems to have fallen somewhat out of favour, but them elves is tricksy, so we should watch out. Retribution lists tend to be fast, reasonably hard hitting, but a little brittle. A lot of their jacks are deceptively tough, but don’t take attrition super well (most of the force field jacks have tiny grids to compensate for their force field) and Ret infantry tends to be on the upper scale of stats, with a lot of mat 7s or rat 6s, compensated for by being somewhat more expensive than most. So who do we normally see then?
Vyros 2 is the most common to be running their jack theme (Forges of War), being a synergy caster, as well as ludicrously hard to kill due to high stats and mobility. He’ll usually have Imperatus, a butt load of Griffons, as well as a bunch of support staff in the form of Arcanists, Sylas and Lynnsa Rysal. Between all this stuff, Synergy and Birds Eye, he’s going to bring a hard hitting, fast moving force that is going to threaten stuff way above it’s weight class. On top of this, Imperatus is going to be a constant assassination threat throughout the game, getting free charges with Vyros, as well as side steps. There are not many casters in the game that can survive 3 attacks from Imperatus with Concentrated Power at the top of the Synergy Chain. His battle group is going to ignore clouds and forests, so it is not easy to hide, especially combined with Easy Rider to give out Pathfinder if he needs it. All this means that Witch 2 is not the ideal drop here. It can be done, Griffons may threaten 13 without any help, but they need to spend 2 focus to do it, and are therefore only going to get 2 quality attacks off. Whilst every jack is going to have shield guard from the theme, the fact remains that Behemoths shooting is going to do significant damage to whatever it hits, and Witch can fling out a scourge every turn, as forcing the list to spend even more focus can help to blunt the alpha strike potential. That being said, Strakhov 2 is clearly the better drop, with Witch’s list being exactly the kind of list that Vyros wants to see, a brick of slow heavy warjacks that he can consistently trade up with. Strakhov on the other hand, is probably a bad enough match up for Vyros that this pairing will never see him. The pikes don’t require last stand to deal with anything here, and threaten as far as the Griffons do. Combine with Griffons struggling somewhat with the Feat turn(between high armour stopping the early synergy chain from doing much, as well as counter charges and tough), and overall Vyros does not want to see this list. Now, Vyros 2 is pretty common at the moment in Retribution pairings, so we must turn our attention to the possible pairs for him.
Defenders of Ios is going to be fairly common as well, and is an odd one. It will probably be run by Issyria or Elara, with Issyria being more defensive between Blinding light and Inviolable, whilst Elara is going to be much more offensive, using feat to alpha hard and quickly. The core of the list is going to be 3 units of Halberdiers, with 2 thanes for desperate pace. From their a bunch of combinations are possible. The Fane Knight will probably be a free model, as will Heavy Rifle Teams. Jack packages will vary somewhat, with the new Harpies and Sirens being popular at the moment for the shooting they bring to the list. With either caster, the Halbediers are going to threaten 15 inches on the charge, which is pretty monstrous, whilst Elara is going to make them hit like trucks, with POW 16s from each model. In addition, the Halberdiers having CMA means they will be able to deal with problem high def models if needed. At first glance, this looks like a terrible match up for both lists. The pikes are out threatened, and Witch’s jacks are pretty trivially dealt with by pow 16 infantry. However, having played the match a few times now, it’s actually much more even than it looks. The plain fact of the matter is that the list is somewhat fragile, not having much in the way of defensive tech. Witch’s list can generally control and kill enough Halberdiers at range to blunt an alpha (I had a game where between Behemoth shooting and the Blind cloud, my opponent could only charge with 1 model from the unit on 1 flank), and once the lines have engaged, the jacks can put out enough attacks to actually murder a lot of Halberdiers. Strakhovs list is a little more vulnerable to the starting dice roll, as being able to go first puts a lot of pressure either way. Ultimately, if you can feat at the right time and position your counter charges correctly, the Strakhov list can get through the long bomb charges and take a flank, attritioning from there, especially if you manage to keep your jacks alive into the late game. Ultimately, I think Strakhov is the better drop here, especially when considered in the context of the other pairing being Vyros 2.
Shadows of the Retribution is also being played fairly extensively at the moment, also with Elara and Issyria. The core here is going to be double strike force, with infiltrators and various mage hunter solos, with the main deviations being Narn or no Narn, double or single assassin, and which incarnation of Eyriss to take. This is going to be similar in style to Defenders, with a very fast list taking up a lot of table space. It’s going to perform better into Warmachine if only for Jack Hunter on the strike force, and will assassinate well. Trust me, Mage Hunter Assassins hurt when they hit under Issyrias feat, or with Scything Touch. That being said, this probably a better match for either list than Defenders, the plain fact being that Shadows just doesn’t hit as hard, even with Jack Hunter, nor does it threat quite as far, between losing out on desperate pace and 2 inch range on the guns. Either Witch or Strakhov could be played here (Strakhov threats far enough and is a hard brick to take apart, and Behemoth will murder a whole lot of Mage Hunters with blast damage), though Strakhov is probably the correct drop due to the likely presence of Vyros in the pairing.
There are a couple of other possibilities that bear a quick mention. Rahn is not great into either of these lists, as he will struggle to assassinate either caster between Inviolable on Strakhov and Witch being a huge base, whilst he probably won’t fair well in attrition with the usual lists he takes. Kaelyssa is a right bastard to deal with, but probably goes down to either list as well. Probably running Dawn guard, the Strakhov match up will be very dictated by Pikes being very good at murdering sentinels (and if Strak gets the first turn, it feels like Kaelyssa has to feat turn 1 to take board space), and the Witch match being not great due to the presence of the Spriggan, Eliminators and Witch being hard to assassinate even with focus draining potential. Overall, Retribution is less of a concern than some factions, bringing some hard games that are ultimately answerable to at least an even match up. I think just based on the ubiquity of Vyros 2 at the moment, Strakhov 2 is generally the right drop, but do be aware of mass ranged options that might take witch better.
As the shy girl said to the pushy frat boy, ‘ok, just the TEP’. Kidding aside, Convergence is interesting mainly for how similar alot of their lists end up being. There are only a couple of archetypes, mostly in Destruction Initiative. Your generally going to see a pairing with Axis or Lucant running a jack brick with 1-2 TEPs, paired in most situations with Iron Mother, or maybe Orion as a ranged brick, because Prime Axioms are rat bastards, as are TEPs. Let start with the Axis/Lucant brick.
Axis and Lucant are going to build slightly differently in most situations, with the core of the list being 1 or more TEPs, a big battle group and a bunch of balls floating around, mostly free (Free Balling anyone?). The damn balls are all going to have shield guard, and if it’s Lucant, all the Battlegroup models are going to have shield guard as well. So take all your dreams of shooting things and throw them out the window. Worst case, the COC player takes that shot, and shield guards it half way across the army by chaining shield guards, before exploding a random ball near a Conservator and giving it Righteous Fury. If you do that, then you’re likely to have a bad time. On top of all this, TEPs may have one of the most ludicrous damage outputs in the game, if they’re able to line up good sprays. And you can’t shoot them either, because of Sac Pawn…. Sigh. Melee it is then. For this reason, and reasons we’ll discuss in the other archetype, Strakhov is generally the preferred drop here. He out threats most COC stuff, can spread out across the board, and causes focus issues with all the Knockdown (there is nothing sadder than a COC warcaster having to allocate out their stack to shake on their battlegroup). The biggest problem here is going to be goddamn TEPs, and the abundance of auto point attacks available to the list (though most lists will end up taking more reflex and attunement servitors than extermination). The key to dealing with both of these problems is encirclement. Spread out! The pikes are faster, threat further, and have actually decent stats for this match up. Particularly in the Axis match up, this will lessen the impact of the Razor wall, as well as force Axis to pick a flank to feat on. In addition, anything you can do to skew the numbers, even slightly, is worth doing. TEPs firing at a Khador jack want to be able to go the full 5 dice of damage, but if your jack is stood on a hill, or has quicken on it, they need to either aim or hit it with goo to reliably hit. Equally with pikemen, the nightmare scenario is the TEP being able to aim and get off 4-5 sprays that murder a whole unit, so as counter productive as it may seem, keep up the shield wall. Between denying aiming, high armour and quicken, especially on the feat turn, most players will be forced into 2 high quality sprays, which if you’ve positioned right, should only get 2-4 pikes. Once the first TEP falls and the feat turn is over (with either caster), the rest of the army should start struggling on attrition. By comparison, Witch will struggle somewhat with Axis, due to him being able to pretty trivially catch everything in the feat, as well as controlling her jacks with Bulldoze. It’s not unplayable, but Strakhov does better here, despite the presence of some specific anti pike tech. It can be played around, so don’t get scared off.
Which brings me to the other Archetype you’re likely to see. Iron Mother. She’ll likely have an Axiom, some assimilators and, again, up to 2 TEPs (because goddamn TEPs). She’s going to set up her gunline and wait for you to come across the table, dragging in heavies with the Axioms and using Assimilators to wreck infantry. So this is primarily going to be a gunline, made worse by the presence of eliminator servitors and her own AOE spell, as it does auto points as well. The gut reaction then is that Witch is the right drop, but this is actually not a cut and dry match up. Whilst Witch has some anti shooting tech, the presence of Fire Group, back lash and Domination make playing Jacks into Mother difficult. It’s not a great thing if she back lashes a jack, walks it forward and then peppers it with puncture shots, doing large amounts of damage to Witch whilst also taking a Jack. It’s not a terrible match up though. Wind storm means that Mother has to play much further forward and rely on her spells more, and repair can keep witch running if the Mechanics are kept safe. Strakhov looks like a terrible drop at first glance. There are a lot of anti infantry shots in this list, between the Assimilators, TEPs and other things. It is a playable match though, it simply requires a shift in play style. By spending the first turn of the game moving to just outside the maximum threat range of the battle group (preserving as many pikes as possible), and then throwing an entire quickened unit of pikes in to jam along with feat, it is perfectly possible to jam the entire front line. Whilst the Mother list does have ways to un-jam itself, most of it’s un-jamming pieces are solos with poor RAT, or actually have to damage, meaning that most Mother lists will end up using quality attacks to clear off your jam unit. It then comes down to how much work the second wave can do. It’s probably a worse match up than for Witch, it relies on a lot of dice rolls for one, but it is playable. I would say overall, that what you drop here depends entirely on the other list.
Overall, Convergence isn’t a massively varied faction, which is the case with limited factions like Convergence or Grymkin. They are strong though, and not to be taken lightly. I would say that Strakhov is probably the correct drop in the majority of cases (he should do well into the various Clockwork Legions lists as well), being generally good into the battle group heavy lists that want to mix it up in melee. At the end of the day, it’s easier to threaten TEPs with threat 13 melee models than with threat 10, and a bunch of Witch’s usual tech doesn’t work here. She can’t blind most COC models, and a high percentage of them are steady as well. Pikes are probably the way to go.
This is going to be a long one, so I’ll try to stick to the most likely lists to be seen. Mercs is super varied, almost being a conglomerate of limited factions rather than a full faction in and of itself. A Magnus 2 jack brick is going to look completely different to a Thexus infantry horde, and that will be different to an Ossrum combined dorf arms list. Ugh, so much to cover. Mercs is broad enough that we have to talk about individual casters rather than themes. Lets start with the biggest bastard of the lot.
Magnus 2 is possibly one of the best jack casters in the game at the moment. He takes pretty reasonably fast jacks and makes them even faster, gives them an armour buff, is fairly survivable and has a pretty ridiculous control feat. He’s usually going to spam a bunch of jacks, likely Nomads, and then take some support pieces to help it hit hard and contest scenario. He’ll be using the combination of advance moving jacks and Escort to take up table space, before feating to either take control of scenario, or to prevent you getting into his lines. This is pretty much always going to be a hard match, any jack brick like this is going to be, but there are some things you can do to make it easier. A thing to remember here is that Mercs has no way to help with focus burden, so if you present multiple heavies to Magnus, the Nomads and Manglers he brings will usually require multiple rounds to deal with them. Another is to try to threaten him personally. Magnus is going to be sat at 13/19 usually, and can camp focus, but will be less threatening if he does. Threatening him personally can help to lessen the impact that his feat has. Match up wise, there is no disputing that Strakhov is the stronger drop here. Even with Escort and Unyielding, the Pikes both out threat and do enough damage to drop merc jacks, and the list is fast enough to spread out and avoid the feat doing enough damage. Witch by comparison has a game she can play here, but it’s not an easy one. Witch’s jacks are pretty slow, so it is hard to threat the feat out. This will allow the Magnus player to get multiple turns of work out of each jack (it’s frustrating having a nomad at full reach range and then being feated on so you can’t get close enough to it to hit it. The main mitigating factors here are going to be Behemoth and Witch’s various spells. Behemoth probably shoots well enough into merc jacks to cripple a jack a turn with reasonable dice (2 boosted 18s should do a ton of damage), as well as the counter punch being pretty devastating from the rest of the list. In the end though, Strakhov is clearly the better drop of the 2 and Witch should only be considered if the other list is a hard Strakhov counter.
Ossrum is never going to be an easy game, and comes in essentially 2 flavours. Usually played in Hammer Strike, he’ll either have double Siege Crawlers backed up by mortars, forge guard and a few jacks, or he’ll go full ham on the battle group and spam drillers and gun bunnies. Either are not fun. Between Snipe, FFE and all the guns in the list, he’s going to whittle down anything that comes near his list, before the melee models of the list mop up. Simple plan, but effective. Witch is the better drop here, though not tons better. Despite the Siege Crawlers being quite threatening to her (4 dice damage is scary), Wind storm shuts down a good portion of his plan. Combined with your unhindered shooting, as well as her control methods (Forge Guard are likely the best possible target for her gun) there is a definite game to play here, as long as you respect the threat ranges of the battle engines. You should eventually be able to grind down the list, so long as you don’t give stuff away for free (respect the Forge Guard, they hit hard), whilst also threatening Ossrum with assassination from Behemoth (Ossrum wants to be spending a fair amount of his focus every turn, between cycling FFE and snipe). Strakhov is by no means unwinnable though, being fast and fairly resistant to shooting. Getting first turn here is pretty huge, as the pikes can be a huge way up the board without losing too much to AOE scatters, as well as being pretty good at murdering Dwarf stuff. Main concerns to watch out for here is spacing, as Ossrums got a lot of AOEs, don’t let him get too much on the approach and you should be fine.
I’ve played opponents with Thexus in their pairing, but almost never actually played him. It’s a pretty terrifying sight though. Hordes of tough dudes, big scary Monstrosities, and Telekinesis (the scariest thing of all!). From a purely theoretical perspective, it’s pretty intimidating. Drudges will murderise most Khador jacks, there are a lot of sprays and auto hitting spells here and the feat combined with TK makes it hard to keep jacks safe. That being said, there is a game to be played generally with either list. Witch comes back to general control methods, as well as trying to mitigate the threat of the horde. Eat the elephant a bite at a time, and try to stay out of threat. The cloud becomes super important here, as does the supporting pieces in the list. Try not to throw your Eliminators away, as there are a lot of auto hitting POW 12s and MA 7 sprays to deal with them. Making maximum use out of every attack is also going to be key. For the Pikes, a lot of the game feels like it comes down to winning attrition, not letting Thexus get a lot on the feat turn with his feat, as well as taking down key pieces such as the Overlords and Mind Benders. Take all this with a pinch of salt of course, as I have very little in the way of experience with this match up. It feels overall like Witch is the right drop here, but honestly, you might not see him as he seems to have fallen out of favour recently.
There are other match ups I could talk about. Ashlynn in Resistance, Damiano in Kingmakers, etc, and they all come with their own tips and tricks. Generally, these are going to be infantry bricks, but Mercs come in all shapes and sizes and your going to end up having to make a judgement call at the table. Generally, Strakhov is going to be stronger into the battle group and infantry casters (magnus 2, Damiano, etc) , and Witch is going to do better into the gun lines, (caine 3, Ossrum, etc), but that’s not a hard and fast rule. Use your judgement.
Overall, after looking at these 3 factions, a theme emerged for me. None of these are ‘problem factions’. They don’t have massively one sided match ups for us, where you *must* take an answer list to deal with them. What they are, however, is solid. Most lists from these 3 factions are going to be a game, with not a great deal of advantage one way or another. This seems to be the way the game is going at the moment, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Assuming players prepare their list pairings well, and drop the correct lists, a lot of the time these match ups are going to be (for lack of a better word) fair. So polish up those skills and play the best game you can.
Next Week, having finished off the Warmachine factions, we’ll be diving straight into Hordes, with Trollbloods, Circle Orborous and Legion of Everblight. Same Avatar time, Same Avatar channel!
Thanks to Jon ‘If I were a Barryman’ Williams for proof reading.