Friday, September 11, 2009

You Were Warned: Other Retribution Warcasters Part 1

Forces of Warmachine: Retribution of Scyrah released earlier this week, and now all is known about the Iosan army fighting to save their god. My next few articles are going to be detailing my own TheoryMachine on the faction. Right now I'll be covering the other 4 warcasters (as I already discussed Kaelyssa at length). I'll also cover the rest of the army at a later time.

I'm going to start with Kaelyssa again, but this'll just be a quick add-on to what I've already discussed. I mentioned that of all the models previewed in NQ#25, none of them were great targets for Arcane Reckoning. As I theorized, the Mage Hunter Strike Force is the perfect target. One thing that was discussed at a local store this week is that if she casts Arcane Reckoning on the Mage Hunters while they have a Soulless Escort tagging along, enemy spells suffer -5 range. Add on the fact that they have stealth and your opponent will either have to get their caster (or their arc node) within 5" (or less, depending on the spell's range), or they auto-miss (and get targeted by their own spell). Either way, it spells doom for enemy spellcasters.

Moving on, we'll begin our coverage with Garryth, the Blade of Retribution. You can't deny that he looks cool. After all, the hilts of his twin swords are GUNS. He's clearly more built towards melee than range though, as his MAT 8, Weapon Master, and ability to ignore DEF/ARM buffs, tough, and transfers clearly stand out. He also ignores free strikes, which is a plus. He'll also be hard to get to, since he can hide well with his high speed, Pathfinder, and Stealth.

His feat is all about denial. No spells (cast or channeled), no focus spending, and no placing. This feat isn't as devastating to Hordes as warlocks can still heal and force their beasts (though Circle can't appreciate losing all their place effects), but Warmachine opponents will have a difficult time weathering this feat. I proxied him for a couple of games, and in one game against Magnus he had a bit of trouble since his 'jacks couldn't get the focus that they quite possibly needed. (I probably would have won, but then the Renegade slammed the Chimera over Garryth and Magnus charged him.)

Garryth's spell list isn't terribly impressive. Psychic Vampire is useful in theory, but in practice so far it isn't that great. Because his control area is on the small side you have to get close for it to be useful, and a smart opponent will know when to take the risk. Plus it's not worth upkeeping on the feat turn. Mirage and Gallows are great for maneuverability. Mirage lets ranged units move while still maintaining the aiming bonus, while Gallows allows for some minor repositioning. It's certainly worth taking arc nodes with him to get the most out of these spells, as well as Death Sentence. This spell should always be on something until you kill it, then cast it again. It's not as powerful as the one MkI Severius has, but it's still a decent buff that could turn average rolls into slightly above average rolls.

Next on the list is Adeptis Rahn Shyeel. He is tied with Severius and epic Haley for second highest focus stat in the game (only to the Harbinger of Menoth), and while House Shyeel is known for bringing the myrmidons to war he isn't necessarily good or bad at using them. Magic is clearly his specialty; his MAT is only average and his P+S is low for a warcaster, so despite beat back and crit slam he shouldn't be seeing much melee. Instead, he should have his troops/'jacks do the fighting for him.

His feat, in my eyes, shows his main weakness: his only true support is for the Battle Mages. +2 RNG and boosty-boosty to magic will only affect these models, and maybe a second warcaster in 1,000+ (100+) point games. Nonetheless, it's still potent, as it means he can still cast a bit more. Very useful for assassination as well, as against low-ARM warcasters boosted hits and damage will leave a mark. Keep in mind that the range bonus doesn't apply if you send your spell through a Phoenix or Chimera.

His spell list is decent. Chain Blast is useful for making 2 AOE's, but unless you're facing soft infantry (such as Nyss Hunters or Kayazy Assassins) you're probably not going to do much. Force Blast can be useful for getting models away from you or your arc node. Force Hammer is expensive, but is pretty much Caine's Thunder Strike. These spells, however, won't be seeing as much play. The following three, however, are the best he's got. Telekinesis is just like the one possessed by epic Haley: move something, once per turn, 2". Reposition yourself or something else, or get an enemy model out of a charge lane (or prevent it from charging by changing its facing, which also gives you back strikes). Force Field should be cast on the first turn of the game and upkept thereafter, if only for the statement that Rahn won't be knocked down. Picking where an AOE goes is just gravy. Polarity Shield is meant for your front-line unit. They cannot be charged, which means that the enemy must either advance into melee if they can or let themselves be charged, which is great for ranged units as well as the less-than-survivable Battle Mages.

Join me next time when I go over someone I meant to have gone over already (Dawnlord Vyros) and my favorite of the Retribution casters, Ravyn, Eternal Light.

Monday, August 10, 2009

You Were Warned: First Look at the Retribution

With the release of No Quarter #25 last month came the first previews for the Retribution of Scyrah, the new faction releasing with Warmachine Mk II in January. (Several models will release this year starting next month.) The other day I decided to proxy a few games using my favorite of the two warcasters previewed under the current rule set, Kaelyssa, Night's Whisper.

Looking at what I had available, making an army wasn't too difficult. The first thing I did was look at her stat line. Her speed, strength, and MAT are all on the average end. A RAT of 7 is pretty good for a warcaster (as this is only seen on ranged specialists such as Caine, who is actually an 8). As is typical for female warcasters, her defense is high but her armor is somewhat lacking, implying that she wants to hang onto her focus at times. Speaking of focus, her 7 in that stat is a godsend, and is only made better by her own abilities.

True Sight and ROF 3 on her Runespear Cannon go along with her high RAT at pointing out that she's very good at ranged combat. The POW 10 is somewhat a downer until you consider Energy Siphon. On a hit, she steals a focus/fury from the target (and in the case of fury, turns it into focus). This can be used to boost a damage roll (which she will need) or to buy the second or third shot. Because she does this on a hit, it means that the damage roll against a warcaster will be slightly more effective because that focus she stole is no longer overboosting that warcaster's power field, and against a warlock it's one less transfer. This means that she's a great assassin at range, and if she can't finish the job then her army probably will, as she will have weakened the enemy significantly. Note that her melee weapon also has Energy Siphon, but she's not the 'caster I would want tangled up in melee.

Her spell list also adds to her theme as a mage hunter. Putting Arcane Reckoning on a model gives that model the whiplash ability that eEiryss has, causing a missed spell to hit the model that cast the spell. Of currently known Retribution units, this spell is best cast on herself, pEiryss, or Narn. It can be cast on units, but the Invictors and Sentinels have too low DEF for this to be effective. I suspect that the Mage Hunter Strike Force would be good targets as well. Banishing Ward is a good spell for the low DEF models/units such as the Dawnguard or any of the myrmidons, causing them to be untargetable. This is especially useful against warcasters like Major Haley, and putting this spell on your Chimera or Phoenix could prevent your up-front arc node from being dominated or backfired. Phantom Hunter is a great spell to have upkept on herself, as this way she can attempt her assassination run while under the cover of her infantry as she no longer needs LOS to target. It also means that 'casters hiding behind their infantry aren't necessarily safe. This spell can go on one of her 'jacks as well, but I don't see it being as effective.

Kaelyssa's feat, which gives her army stealth and the inability to be charged, is decent defensively. It's best used early before your army gets tangled up in melee. It forces your opponent to either walk into melee with you (and if you're careful, you won't be close enough to have done that) or walk within 5" to shoot you, after which their army gets charged. There are lots of ways around this feat, though. Besides what has already been mentioned, this feat doesn't get around models that ignore stealth. (The Gun Mage Captain Adept and Grim Angus come to mind.) It also doesn't prevent slams, making this somewhat less useful against Hordes, who can declare slams just to get in there without an investment from the 'caster. (Tactical tip from Forces of Warmachine: Retribution of Scyrah reminds you that anything that prevents charges also prevents slams.) The two times I've proxied her I found that I was using this feat too late; this can be a very effective first-turn feat depending on what your opponent is using.

I played a couple games last week proxying Kaelyssa. Both were against the same Circle opponent using Kromac. First we played a 350. I used Kaelyssa controlling a Hydra and Chimera with 8 Dawnguard Invictors against Kromac, a Warpwolf and two Argus, Lord of the Feast, and Alten Ashley. I left Kromac short on fury for the first couple of turns, but by taking Beast Form he was able to get most of it back without too much damage. My Dawnguard got a bit too close as well, biting a lot from Lord of the Feast with Brutality. Luckily for me, my opponent decided to take Kromac back to Human Form, and Kaelyssa took a free strike at full focus to charge him, luckily killing him (as she was the only model I had remaining).

The second game was at 500, where I added two more Invictors, a Griffon which I marshaled to them, and the two mage hunter solos Eiryss and Narn. My opponent took out Alten and added a Woldwatcher, Lanyssa Ryssyl, and a unit of Druids. This game went a bit better for me, and while Counter Magic was up and I could not kill the Lord of the Feast for the life of me (since Narn couldn't hit to save his life), Kaelyssa was able to see Kromac with Phantom Hunter, remove his last fury on the hit to prevent him from Beasting Out, and managed to kill him with the other two shots. Had that failed, I would have ran the Griffon to engage and walked the two Invictors that could reach him into melee with their flank bonuses to finish him off.

So far, though, I like the Mage Hunter angle. Maybe this week I'll get some time in with Vyros to see how the Dawnguard work out. I'll report more on him later, but I'll probably bring at least a Phoenix and Griffon with him to work with Flank.

Monday, June 29, 2009

M10 - What's In, What's Out - My Analysis

Magic 2010 releases in just a few short weeks. Now that I have weekends off I'm going to try to make it to a prerelease event, but in the meantime, I get to speculate on a few things. This will both be from a casual and competitive standpoint.

What's Missing
Now don't get me wrong. I like building a competitive deck once in a while. I don't know how competitive Unbender's Big Score will be (as I have yet to truly test it), but I think I'm going to wait until after M10 drops anyways, just because some parts of the deck are going to be obsolete. One key card that's missing from M10 (and for the first time in any core set) is Wrath of God. This will have a HUGE impact on Standard. Some people were worried that with the revelation of Damnation that Wrath might have left for 10th Edition. It didn't then, but it's gone now. It's replaced by Planar Cleansing. It's slightly more powerful, but the tradeoff is too much for Unbender. I'm going to have to find another effect. Austure Command and Hallowed Burial come to mind right now.

Wrath is obviously the biggest card missing from M10. Most other colors got their decent utility cards back, and with good reason. Another thing missing that we already knew was missing was the painlands. Instead, we get five allied-color duals that come into play (er... "enter the battlefield") tapped unless you control one of the appropriate basics. In a format where few play basic lands, these probably won't see as much play. We'll see what happens when Lorwyn rotates and we lose the tribal duals, filter lands, vivids, and most notably, Reflecting Pool.

What's New
The cool part about M10 containing brand new cards is the fact that, well, they're BRAND NEW CARDS. In addition, a lot of old cards are coming back that will impact the game a lot. I'm going to point out a few interesting ones.

Baneslayer Angel is going to be huge for white decks. She's basically a slightly weaker Akroma with a lot of similar abilities and not as many defenses. Still a 5/5 beater for 5 though, and a great top to any curve. Especially useful in Limited. Elite Vanguard is as good as Savannah Lions. That's because it is Savannah Lions. Honor of the Pure (AKA Crusade) gives white weenie decks a huge boost, and it's cheaper than Glorious Anthem as well. Lightwielder Paladin is expensive, but you get a 4/4 that can kill a lot of things, both with first strike and the ability to RFG (I mean exile) black and red creatures. Silence is no Orim's Chant and I don't think it'll be used as often, but I like the effect. And Solemn Offering will be used. It's Disenchant. With lifegain. I like it.

Some people say blue got nerfed. Sometimes, I think it needed it. I for one will be quite happy when Lorwyn rotates out and Cryptic Command is out of the format, because every deck needs to play around that card. That said, blue got some interesting cards. Djinn of Wishes is rather expensive to pull off, but comboed with a card such as Lilliana Vess could be quite effective. Ice Cage is an interesting Pacifism-like effect for blue. It must be used with care because targetting the creature removes the effect, but it's still a decent Limited card if played right. Polymorph is an interesting returning card and also shares some combos with Lilliana, as well as the Harbingers from Lorwyn. (Anything that puts a good creature on the top works.)

Black's reception of Black Knight couldn't help them better. Lots of decks these days are vulnerable to cards such as Oblivion Ring, Path to Exile, Bant Charm, and the like. Not this one. Suicide Black isn't really a huge archetype and it probably won't be, but aggressive black decks will use this nonetheless. Cemetary Reaper isn't as cheap as Imperious Perfect to pull off, but for the very similar effect you get a bigger creature, and coupled with black it isn't hard to pull off. Lots of the standard Fear effects are gone and replaced with ones that don't affect artifacts. We'll see how this affects the keyword. I don't think it will, but it's interesting to point out. Sanguine Blood spells combo in drain life decks. (It might make its way into my Esper Drain deck.)

Red is now more aggressive than ever. If you're up against red now, you're going to want to make sure things die fast. With Lightning Bolt and Ball Lightning both in Standard, damage is going to be coming in FAST, and it'll need to be dealt with. Bogardan Hellkite is returning too, and while it's not paired with Dragonstorm this time, he's still a surprise force to be reckoned with. Inferno Elemental is going to be a pain to get around in combat. I'm just waiting for Burrenten Forge Tender to leave with Lorwyn, because red is the new black. (Well, not MtG black, but yeah.)

For Green, it's all about Elvish Archdruid. Elfball is going to make yet another impact, this time in standard, and this time it's literal. For a few short months, you're going to have Imperious Perfect, hordes of elf token producers, and Fireball in the same format. Pyroclasm and Volcanic Fallout exist but Wrath does not, so it's going to be slightly more difficult to deal with. Fog returns to green with its namesake card. Hell, green has so many token producers that they're going to be swarming in droves. Without as much mass removal, green's going to be a major force to be reckoned with. And Protean Hydra? Let's just say that paired with my favorite card (Doubling Season) that thing's going to get REDONKULOUS.

Oh, and Darksteel Colossus and Platinum Angel FOR THE LOSE.

So yeah, there's a lot of interesting stuff. They definitely tried to make white more viable in the core set. Whether or not things have been "balanced" remains to be seen, but the play will have to decide that. Until next time.