Is there a 4th list archetype?

Featured in the last No Quarter was a write up about the 3 main archetypes of list building or play-style: Attrition, Assassination, and everyone’s favorite, Control. After going over the tenants of these types PP asked the reader if they thought there was a fourth type. Well that got me to thinking, is there a fourth way that I’ve seen people approach the game or even how I may have built lists in the past and I think tonight really solidified that the answer is yes. I’ll explain and let you be the judge. Continue reading

Solos: Are they worth it?

I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks delving into Mercenaries in Mark III and one benefit of that is their access to a huge bevy of wonderful solos. With the removal of pacts/contracts it has really opened up the options. Two that have really stood out to me is being able to play Kell Bailoch and Orin Midwinter after mostly sticking to highborn covenant in Mark II. I’ve found list building to be extremely exciting because combinations of solos are so varied and can lead to so many neat synergies.

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Warbeasts/jacks in Mark III

Mark III has been a whirlwind so far and I don’t know what other player’s experiences have been but I have seen a slew of lists featuring very heavy battle groups. I think everyone expected more jacks with the new power up rule but I’ve also come up against and played quite a few beast heavy lists. I don’t know how much of this is people still holding on to old mentalities, especially with Skorne or Legion, or if the new edition boosts them as well as it does jacks. It seems like Skorne and Legion took a huge hit to their ability to run lots of beasts with the changes to the condition rule and Trolls didn’t really gain anything new to help. There was a decrease in fury and threshold stats almost across the board. I would love to hear player’s theories on this phenomenon or if maybe what I’ve been seeing is an outlier to the true new meta. For now I’m going to focus on some of the jacks/beasts that have stood out to me for better or worse.

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New Errata: The Most Important Takeaway

There is a new errata out, and it brings a significant change.

While the errata has several modifications, as usual, one stands out among the rest:

P. 72. Spells and Effects
Add the following to the Spells and Effects text:
When a model’s special rule or spell allows its controller to
choose or target a friendly unit, all models in that unit must be
in formation.

While this might seem insignificant at first, this could lead to some very interesting game changes.  Essentially, a player cannot cast a spell or use an ability on a unit if any member of said unit isn’t currently information (assuming the spell/ability requires targeting or choosing).  Given that you cannot check formation until the unit’s activation, this could be huge.  Imagine a Khador player who wants to cast Battle Lust on a unit or Pikemen before having them charge a Colossal.  Now, that player must be sure that every member of the Pikemen is in formation before casting that spell, or the spell cannot target them.

Enemies however, can target/choose units without regards to their current formation.

There are all kinds of subtle ways a savvy player can affect an opponent’s formation:  telekenesis, drag, slam, etc.  What were previously position control elements could now open to the door to a new kind of denial. I think it is an interesting change, and I look forward to seeing how I can put it to use.  I just want to make sure everyone was aware of this change, and didn’t get surprised in a tournament.

Got any questions about this, or other changes in the errata?  Let me know in the comments!

Clocking Out – Forge Master Syntherion

I wanted to start collecting my thoughts on Convergence of Cyriss (CoC), and their different models.  I figured since I would be doing it anyway, I might as well turn it into a semi-irregular post of sorts.

I decided to start with Forge Master Syntherion for several reasons.  First, he is the Warcaster I have played the most in the faction, given the majority of my play before a few weeks ago was in a Journeyman league, and he strongly fits my play style.  Second, he is the battle box Warcaster, and so he is the first Warcaster most players will experience when starting a Convergence army.  Third, he is just so dang cool!

Abilities

Statistics

Syntherion’s stats are very reasonable, although there is nothing too earth-shattering about them.  He has a MAT of 6, RAT of 5 – the best combined of those stats in the faction’s warcasters (highest RAT, second highest MAT).  He has the highest ARM of 18, and second highest health of 20 boxes.

The MAT and RAT are of particular note, as all of the CoC Warjacks use their controller’s MAT and RAT.  While not amazing, the MAT 6 means, boosted, you are hitting 16s on average, and have a decent chance to hit 18s enough to get a kill.  The RAT of 5 is the highest RAT in the faction, and it is good enough for most of our purposes.  We will talk about more of that later, when we discuss battlegroup options.

Special Abilities

Syntherion’s special abilities are where he shines.  His Field Marshall ability means his whole battlegroup is healing every turn.  This is a HUGE deal when it comes to attrition.  It doesn’t seem like much – 1 to 3 damage, after all, isn’t a ton – but when it means that you can go from having an almost-wrecked Warjack to something that is fully functional, your opponents will HAVE to try and kill the Warjacks in one go, or risk being beaten to pieces the next turn.  Note that this healing is AFTER allocating focus (in the “other control phase actions” portion of the control phase), so if you need to allocate to a Warjack that has lost it’s induction node, you will have to heal it and induct focus to it afterward.

His other ability of note, Resourceful, is amazing on him.  Not having to pay to upkeep three spells (Three!) per turn means three extra focus floating around.  And he wants those upkeeps up, pretty much all the time.

Spells

Syntherion has a group of spells that are really good for his play style.  I want to go through each one, to talk about it and what it does for him specifically.

Convection

This spell is kind of meh on … well, anyone except Amon Ad’Raza (who, let’s be honest here, is pretty meh already).  In a pinch, it is a decent attack spell, and if you need to hit something with a spell, the fact that if you kill it (if it is living and enemy) you get to allocate a focus is nice, but there are so many better things for him to spend focus on.  Like allocating it to his warjacks in the first place.

Hot Shot

Hot Shot is the kind of spell that makes people swoon.  It is a major reason why, despite being a ‘jack ‘caster, Syntherion is considered to have a strong anti-infantry game as well.  When you put it on the Cipher, for instance, and do the Bombardment shot, ALL models under the AOE take boosted POW 6 damage.  The Cipher can do this twice per turn, as the gun is RoF 2.  Syntherion can then cycle this to another cipher (which also had the focus the first Cipher spent for the second shot inducted, naturally), after upkeeping it for free, and have it shoot two more.  So, for three focus, you get 4 4″ AOEs with boosted POW 6 damage rolls.  That will kill a LOT of infantry, as it is, on average, doing 16 damage to them.  In short, I love Hot Shot.  And, since it upkeeps for free, late game you can put it up on another ‘jack (or even Synth, if you don’t need Synergy anymore), and from that point on get free boosted damage rolls.

Magnetic Hold

This spell is Unique to Syntherion, I believe.  It lowers the DEF and SPD of target model/unit, and gives all constructs in your army +2″ when charging the affected models.  So, it slows down your enemy, AND makes them easier for you to close with?  Pretty amazing.  It is pricey, at 3 Focus, and is hard to get off unless you have a corollary (since you want all that sweet, sweet focus on your Warjacks most turns), but at the right time, it can stop your opponent’s plans, or give you that extra distance you need to scrap something important.

Remember, because it is a penalty to SPD, the affected models cannot charge, slam or trample.  Also, since it is not on your own battlegroup (unless you are doing something really wonky) you don’t get to upkeep it for free.

Reconstruct

It used to be that Saeryn was the only kid on the block with a similar ability.  Syntherion came along, went “I like that idea!” and ran with it.  If the warjack that this spell is on is disabled (all boxes are full), you remove 1 damage from each system, place it WITHIN 3″, and reconstruct expires.  Another way that Syntherion really forces the attrition game.  Now, much like against Saeryn, you have to expect to kill one of his warjacks twice, and have the models ready to do it.

Synergy

Synergy is one of those spells that is either great, or awful, depending on what else is being brought to the table.  In Syntherion’s case, it is great.  Amazing.  Spectacular even.  Because of the induction node rules, you can pass around focus like it is candy, and you can get early boosts on attacks to get the Synergy bonus up for the later, super important attacks.

This spell, along with the general Convergence focus on Warjacks, is why Syntherion loves large battlegroups.  It is why the Galvanizer is so amazing with him.  Hit 6 models before the Galvanizer, and now it is hitting at a Pow 18 – a 3 point light Warjack is hitting with MAT 12, POW 18.  Pretty amazing.

Some things to note about this spell that throws off a lot of newer players.  First is that it only is affected by, and only affects, melee attacks.  You cannot use the bonus for ranged attacks, nor does it help ranged attacks.  Second, is that it is a +1 to hit and damage per previous model that hit – this means that it isn’t +1 per attack that hit previously, but +1 per previous model.  Third is that the bonus ONLY happens while within Syntherion’s control area – both for generating the bonus (the model doing the hit must be in his control area) and for receiving the bonus (when attacking, it only gets the bonus while within his control area).

Feat

Syntherion’s feat is very good for what he has.  He allows his battlegroup to charge for free, and gives them Weapons Platform (lets them shoot as well as make melee attacks).  Since you are going to have a lot of Warjacks that can do both, it is very nice to be able to walk up, or charge up, hit something, and then shoot something else (or the thing you are engaged).  It means that ‘jacks that are normally ranged only, such as the Diffuser or Mitigator, are going to be able to get into melee to help build up the synergy bonus, without needing to give up their initial ranged attacks.

Just note that you have to finish ALL of your initial attacks before you buy extras.  If you don’t, you lose those initial attacks.  So you have to do all of your melee, and ranged, initials before buying more melee attacks (or, in the case of the Cipher, more ranged attacks).

All in all, not an overwhelming feat on it’s own, but very powerful when taken into account with his other abilities, and his usual battlegroup makeup.

Theme – The Great Machine

Syntherion’s theme list is one that is definitely worth building towards.  You will probably be running it anyway, whether you realize it or not, and it gives you some amazing benefits.  The only problem is, as of this writing, the Corollary has not been officially released, and it is required for Tier 2.  I have been playing with him in Tier 1 for now, since Tier 1 gives you a decent bonus (Algorithmic Dispersion Optifex solos get Advanced Deployment).  Once the corollary comes out, I cannot see running him out of tier, for that reason.

Warjacks

There isn’t a warjack in the faction that Syntherion doesn’t like.  He can handle ranged and melee ‘jacks equally well, and likes to have a good mix of both.  That said, some of them are well worth noting for their utility in his army specifically.

Assimilator

While I have not had a chance to play with this Vector yet, there has been discussion about using him with Syntherion because Hot Shot on Ground Pounder (boosted POW 12s on a 4″ AOE!) would be very, very useful.  Especially with a Cipher to hot-swap between, I think it would be very powerful.

Cipher

This is the sweet spot for Syntherion.  The Cipher has lots of flexibility, and it has a 4″ AOE that does POW 6 blast damage as one of it’s shots.  This means that, with Hot Shot and a RoF 2, you can get 2 4″ AOEs with boosted POW 6 damage rolls.

POW 6 doesn’t sound like a lot, I know.  Until you realize that, on average, you roll 10 on three dice.  Then it becomes a POW 16 damage roll.  Most things that you need AOEs against (Daughters of the Flame, Mage Hunter Strike Force, Kayazy, etc) will die to it, and even those that you normally wouldn’t use it against, like Bane Thralls, will die in enough numbers to make it a useful attack.

Syntherion’s play-style is a slow grind, leading up to a hard anvil strike.  The Cipher helps to support that, between throwing out rough terrain, easy access to flare, and the bombardment, it can really cause infantry-heavy lists problems, especially if they don’t have easy access to pathfinder.

Corollary

I almost considered leaving this out, since it is so obvious, but I thought that people might think me remiss otherwise.  The corollary is amazing.  Full stop.  Take it in every army.  Moving on…

Oh, you want reasons why?  For Syntherion, the first reason is that it helps his tier out – you HAVE to have it to get to tier 2, and as mentioned earlier, his tier list is amazing.  The second reason is it helps his focus efficiency.  The corollary is generating focus every turn, as long as it is near Syntherion.  It keeps focus from previous turns, and can dole that focus out to other vectors.  Note also that, when doling out the focus, because it is spending the focus as an action, it can induct one of those focus it spent to another Warjack as normal.  So, worst case, it is generating 2 focus a turn.  Best case?  If you can induct some back to it at the end of a turn, you can end up with 2 or 3 focus that it is passing out (fully loading a warjack, and then putting another one out there for kicks) every turn.

But wait – there’s more!  Beyond all of that, he also has Arcane Repeater.  This increases the Control Area of the warcaster – think like the Squire does for Cygnar.  Not a huge deal, but it can mean that something that would be out of control is now inside of control, for bonuses like Synergy, his feat effects, etc.

Diffuser

I love, LOVE this little ‘jack.  While not a melee powerhouse (in fact, it should only be doing melee to help a synergy chain, or as a last resort), it’s ranged attack is decently powerful, it has luck on the attack (allowing it to reroll missed attack rolls), and it applies beacon to targets hit, giving your friendly models an extra 2″ when charging a model with Beacon.  This means that, if you have Beacon AND Magnetic Hold up on a target, you will get +4 inches on the charge – which can mean actually getting to them, rather than falling short.

Galvanizer

For a 3 point Warjack, this can pack a heavy punch in Syntherion’s list.  Given the synergy stacking bonuses, I have killed enemy heavies with a fully loaded Galvanizer at the end of a synergy chain.  Also, it can repair, and it has critical grievous wounds.  Not something you want to depend upon, but very nice when it happens at the right time.

Monitor

I want to talk about the Monitor real quickly, because it can be a huge help in certain games.  While it doesn’t synergize as well as the Cipher, or even the Prime Axiom, it does lend True Sight to the army, and has a relatively strong gun with a strong range.  Add in the sustained attack on it’s spiked fist, and it can be a game finisher, especially on his feat turn.

Prime Axiom

Syntherion loves having a Prime Axiom in his lists.  He gives it the highest RAT we can see in the faction (sans during Iron Mother’s feat turn), and it gives Syntherion more board control.  That said – I don’t think I would run one below 50 points.  It is a large investment, and Synergy means he doesn’t want for high POW attacks as much as some of our other Warcasters do.

I will say – there is nothing like pegging Butcher, dragging him in, and hitting him with a MAT 11, POW 26 fist attack, when my opponent thought he was safe.  Add in the Auto Fire Accelespiker, and during Syntherion’s feat turn he gets 7 initial attacks (two Tow Cables, 3 Accelespikers, 2 fists), plus two more if he hits with both drag attacks, and THEN he can buy more.  Yeah, Syntherion does like him a LOT.

Solos

Syntherion doesn’t particularly need most of the solos – most don’t fit in his tier lists, or are superfluous, like the Enigma Foundry, but one deserves special mention.

Algorithmic Dispersion Optifex

This solo effectively gives him an arc node for 1 point, meaning it is WELL worth the cost.  It means he can stay back and cast his offensive spells, or use the arc node to get his battlegroup spells up while not being directly near them.  This can help with cycling it turn after turn, and getting his spell in the right spot at the right time.  Just remember that they cannot channel while engaged, and while they don’t necessarily die after channeling, in most cases your opponent will try to take them out afterwards, since they have to hang themselves out there to make the channel happen.

Units

Much like solos, Syntherion doesn’t really care much about units.  He loves the Optifex Directive, and it is required for his tier, but otherwise he doesn’t bring much to units, and they don’t give him much in return.  Outside of the Directive, I would avoid units with him.

Battle Engine

The CoC battle engine looks very, very cool, and seems good on paper.  Time will tell, as will playtesting, how well it plays out.  It does fit in Syntherion’s tier list, so it has that going for it.  However, he doesn’t do much to help it directly, and at 9 points, you could add another Cipher, or three Galvanizers, or a Monitor and an Algorithmic Dispersion Optifex, or… you get the idea.

In most other Warmachine factions, this battle engine would be an auto include, since they have a hard time running warjacks and it would nicely fill the role that many warjacks play.  In CoC, we WANT warjacks, much like Hordes armies want beasts.  The induction rule means that we don’t have to worry about focus as much, and Syntherion especially likes running large battlegroups.  If you must take it, feel free – it isn’t a bad choice, by any means.  I just think there are better choices for his lists, and he would prefer more warjacks before the battle engine.

Weaknesses

I have talked a lot about what Syntherion likes, what his strengths are, and the like.  What doesn’t he want to see across the table from him?  What will throw his battle plan away?

Purification

Seriously, given he is resourceful and LOVES upkeeps, purification is bad news for him.  While purification is on the rise in general (Morvahna 2, Vayl 2, Harbinger, etc) it is still not in EVERY list, and I think, especially in a 3 list format like the Masters, that he is very much still viable despite not wanting to see purification.

Lots of Heavy Infantry

While I don’t have a TON of experience with this across the table, I am still stumped as to how I would deal with a Xerxis Cataphract spam list, or a Thagrosh 1 Ogrun spam, or a Borka Family Reunion list, or the like.  (Kreoss 2 tier comes to mind too here).  Lots of infantry above ARM 15 will be difficult to deal with, especially if they are multi wound.  While he CAN deal with it, and synergy and lots of attacks from Warjacks helps that, I still think it would be quite the slog.  More testing will help to ferret this out.

Disruption

While this is a problem for most of the faction, Syntherion feels it harder because of his reliance on Synergy.  Nemo 1 is his worst nightmare (OK, maybe not worst – his worst nightmare is probably waking up to realize he is flesh and blood again).  Beware the Cygnar disruption chain!

While much of the other cortex shenanigans (cortex damage, Haley2, etc) don’t work, disruption does.  And some lists bring a lot of it to the table.  So he doesn’t want to see that if at all possible.

Strengths

What kinds of things does Syntherion like to see across the table then?  What things are his usual lists well suited for?

Warjack/Warbeast Spam

Surprise surprise – A few heavy targets?  Synth likes that, a lot.  He can easily out trade his opponent, even giving up the first trade, and can out threat most opponents in this category as well (Circle shenanigans being one of the few things that beat him on this).  Since he can repair every turn, his ‘jacks can repair every turn, and he generally has repair models in the list (Galvanizers, Optifex Directive), he can out weather and out attrition as well.

Light Infantry Spam

If you cringe when I say “Winterguard Deathstar,” then you will love to know that Syntherion with two Ciphers is very adept at handling that particular problem.  Boosted POW 6s will kill Winterguard with ease, and it will kill other lower-armor as well.  Terminus bane/mechanithrall spam?  Outside of Bane Knights, Syntherion will kill most of those things with AOEs.  Add in some mitigators to get some auto-point damage rolls, and you can take on anything Terminus will bring to the table.

Parting Shot

Syntherion is a strong Warcaster who brings a lot to the table.  Between his battle group help with Synergy, his relatively high MAT and RAT (seriously, Khador players are envious, I promise!) and his ability to keep his battlegroup going despite horrific injury, he is an attrition ‘caster with a strong end game.  Just avoid Vayl and Morvahna and you will be fine.

Until next time, continue the Great Work.

Dice Tools

One of the things that often come up in discussing models is the average capabilities to do damage.  In these conversations, people often discuss average rolls (3.5 per dice obviously).  So MAT 5 models hit a DEF 12 with an average roll, etc.  While this is a useful, and quick, measurement, it is often misleading.  The problem is further compounded by effects that don’t just add or remove dice, but target certain dice.  Signs & Portents, Roulette, and Star Crossed all carry this kind of effect, and it can be difficult to calculate the effect the will have on the game.

In an attempt to provide something that can shed some more light on this, I have put together a python script that simulates these attack situations and is capable of adjusting for these types of effects.  The repository with the script can be found here.  It is pretty simple to use if you have python installed.  You just provide a number of simulations to run, a base MAT or RAT, a target DEF, and a number of dice to roll.  The program will execute as many simulations as you want, and calculate your success percentage.  If you want to involve something like Signs & Portents,  you can use the –low and –high flags to tell the app how many low and/or high dice to discard.

For example:

python dice_rolls.py 25000 5 13 2
You would suceed 42.2% percent of the time.

python dice_rolls.py 25000 5 13 3 –low 1
You would suceed 68.2% percent of the time.

In this example, you can see that a MAT 5 model will hit a DEF 13 model 42.2% of the time.  If that same model is under the effects of Signs & Portents, it will suceed 68.2% of a time.  A big jump!

While there is currently just the one file, I am going to keep adding to this.  Having a simulation that can run numbers on the ability to destroy a model with certain stats is my next goal.

Please try it out and let me know what you think!

Jacking Up Cryx Part 2: Machine Minds

This is part 2 in the series, if you want to see part 1, head over here.

After I decided to attempt a jack-heavier take on Cryx, one of the first places I decided to look was the newish Witch Coven tier list, Machine Minds.  It actually makes Iron Lich Overseers decent, since all jacks they marshall are cheaper,  and it gets a good deal more focus on the table via a Soul Taker bonus.  Here is the list I ran:

  • Witch Coven of Garlghast
  • 2 Deathrippers
  • Malice
  • Skarlock Thrall
  • Iron Lich Overseer
  • Harrower (on overseer #1)
  • Slayer (on oversser #1)
  • Iron Lick Overseer
  • Harrower (on overseer #2)
  • Slayer (on oversser #2)
  • 2 Warwitch Sirens
  • 2 Machine Wraiths (with Ambush)

So, I had 5 heavy jacks and 2 light jacks.  I had 7 souls on the table at the start of the game (1 on each overseer, 1 on each Harrower, skarlock thrall, 2 on Malice).  I had 2 power boosters to get more focus into the game on top of that.  I was feeling good about the mission to generate a good deal of focus or focus-substitute.  The Wraiths were going to Ambush and try and attack juicy targets from behind (my Khador opponent was only running character jacks).  The Witch Coven was going to juice Malice, and pass out their awesome spells.  Also, when the time came, their own assassination threat, coupled with the jacks, was what my endgame was looking for.

One thing I didn’t anticpate was how much stealth can be in this list.  The Coven, Egregore, warwitches, Malice (via Occultation), overseers and their jacks were all stealthed in the first 2 rounds of this game).  All my opponent could hit at range were the deathrippers and the skarlock.  In a three list format (what I am preparing for) that could cause some opponents quite an issue.  It is another perk to the list.

I don’t want to go into a  turn by turn analysis of the list.  But it played much like I thought it would.  The Slayers and Malice were there to deal with enemy heavies.  The Harrowers used Ghost Shot to hit key hidden targets and could really scare units with thresher and Soul Taker.  The Warwitches used Power Booster to spread more focus around, and also sprayed to help thin units.  The Machine Wraiths ambushed and killed a Manhunter and Lady Aiyana.  In the end, it was a boosted ghost shot from a Harrower, along with a soul-boosed spell from an Overseer, that finished off the Old Witch.

I like the surprising versatility of the list.  Between the Coven, the Harrowers, and the Overseers, I can put 6 boosted ranged/magic attacks into an enemy warcaster.  The Harrowers can deal quite well with units, especially high armor ones.  The stealth can trip up shooty lists.  The amount of jacks and associated attacks can really trip up some unprepared lists.  A Infernal Machine Malice can advance 8 inches and pull an enemy warcaster 8 more inches into charge range of a Harrower with 3 souls, a focus from Power Booster, and a Jack Marshall boost.  That is no joke.

One thing I think the list will struggle with is a lot of high def troops.   I was lucky in this game, as the Old Witch brought Winterguard and Kayazy.  Had I not got the assassination when I did, those troops were going to mire me for the rest of the game.  I really think the list could use a min unit of bile thralls (protected with occultation) to help with that issue.  In this game, it would have scared the Winterguard and Kayazy silly.  Maybe I will drop an arc node and the skarlock for another machine wraith and the thralls?  Drop Malice for them and another arc node or a Scavenger?  I am not sure.

What do you think?  Anybody else running this tier list?  What are your thoughts?