Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Skorne Tactics - Domination
Domination has been out for a few months now. even though most of the models haven't been released yet (and probably won't be out for a while), we have been playing with proxies for a number of the new models. In my opinion, domination was a very mixed bag. some new releases really stand out as soon-to-be powerhouses (I know my wife is very excited about the Gallows Grove dropping next month) along with some really "meh" choices.
Of all of the Hordes factions, however, I feel like Skorne really came out in the black. I will probably be collecting every one of the skorne releases. there's nothing in there that I look at and don't want to try out. I haven't put all of these models to the test just yet. but while domination is still relatively fresh, and with a few games under my belt with new models, I wanted to give my first impressions of Domination. Like some other blogs have done, I will look at the new casters first, and do a follow-up post with some thoughts on other models.
this is my favorite section. In any new release, the casters are what we're all really interested in. as any warmachine player knows (I use Warmachine to describe both games. they're really not two seperate games IMO), the caster is the backbone of your army. just swapping out the one model can completely change an army. And when Privateer releases the new casters before the book even drops, it gives us some extra time to drool over the new stuff. Skorne got two new casters in domination, Naaresh and epic Hexeris.
I took one look at this guy's rules and knew I needed to play with him. I got him two days before he was officially released, and had him built and painted within the week. I expected great things out of this caster, and he hasn't let me down. He has quickly risen the ranks of the Skorne caster block, and has already made it into 2 tournaments since his release. So what makes him so much fun?
Stats. nothing real crazy here. normal speed, normal fury, normal beast points, normal MAT, pretty average defensive stats, 2 pow 10 weapons. nothing real crazy in the stat department, but honestly most casters aren't real exciting in this area.
Feat. the feat is amazing. this is what makes Naaresh one of my favorite casters. the wording is a bit complex, but basically you can hurt your beasts a bit, heal Naaresh a bunch, and all your beasts will get +3 Strength and +3 ARM. really there is no reason at all that any beast should have any less than +3 on feat turn. this feat is huge. Naaresh can easily bring himself back from the brink of death to full health with a good feat turn. and if you've ever been hit by an enraged bronzeback, it should be pretty apparent why +3 Strength is a big deal. add in an armor boost to make most of our beasts (even light beasts!) as durable as a kahdor heavy and you have a solid feat to build a caster on.
Abilities. Naaresh has some interesting special abilities that all fit his theme of self-inflicted pain. he is always automatically hit by your own models. an odd rule, but it helps him. because every time he takes damage, he gains a blood token. each token gives him +1 S and Arm for a turn. he can have 5 of them, but they reset every turn. important to note, if he gets hit and transfers the damage, he still gets a blood token. so don't feel you have to take the hit just for an armor boost. Naaresh can also upkeep spells by taking damage, and heals d3 when he kills things. put all this together and you have a caster that will be taking a lot of damage, but will turn right around and heal that damage right off. it can be very annoying to take this guy down. Oh, he is also Tough. so if you do take him out, he may just stand back up and heal himself again.
Spells. Naaresh has a good mix of spells that have been previously unavailable to Skorne. his biggest spell is iron flesh. this one will be cast every single game. +3 defense is a pretty big deal, and can make our normally average swordsmen really difficult to take down.
His next spell is cyclone. a free advance, ignoring free strikes, and a free attack against every model that he ends his move in range of. it's expensive for Naaresh to cast, but can set up some very interesting charge lanes or escapes. much more powerful if Naaresh has been fueled up with 5 blood tokens for an assassination run. I don't recommend it, but some people have done it.
Naaresh also has access to lamentation. It's a fun spell, but is often overshadowed by Iron Flesh. against some casters it is mildly annoying (especially certain casters who never come up the field), but can really cripple other casters. if they have a devastating spell that takes up over half their focus/fury, lamentation prevents it from going off inside Naaresh's control area. great targets include Blood of Kings from vlad, Star Crossed from Calandra, obliteration from anyone, etc.
Naaresh also has a damage spell Bleed, but I have yet to cast it. you can use it to get rid of incoporeal models, I guess, but it's expensive and low powered. you do heal if you kill something, but you will almost always be better off just spending 2 points to heal if that's what you're going for.
Putting it all together. Naaresh gives us another beast-heavy caster. but unlike pMorghoul (our main beast caster), Naaresh is a heavy attrition caster. Morghoul tends to go for a quicker kill, as he is constantly hurting his own models to get some insane hitting power each turn. Naaresh can give out some crazy hitting power for a turn, but can also make his army more survivable. He is much more survivable himself than Morghoul, as well.
Timing is everything with Naaresh. timing the feat is important, as you want to get a good offensive round, and be in position to frustrate your opponent with a high armor round. I usually pop the feat on turn 3. First turn is the running turn, second turn you throw some Iron fleshed infantry in to gum up the works, and on turn 3 you send in a heavy beast wave. light beasts suddenly become beat sticks, and heavy beasts become nightmares. the other timing issue is when to put Iron flesh on naaresh. you want to have it on an infantry unit (whatever you like to take, I use swordsmen) for a while to protect your heavies, but eventually you want it on Naaresh. using it means no Lamentation though, and no iron flesh on your infantry. just make sure you get it on Naaresh before he draws too much attention.
What do you take with Naaresh? I run him pretty beast heavy with a few other support pieces. He's not as beast heavy as Morghoul, though. I do run him with a big unit of swordsmen for Iron Flesh. next I fill in the beasts. At 50 points, I am taking a bronzeback, gladiator, rhinodon, brute, shaman, and krea. you can mix and match with any beasts and do well, but I like this mix. the bronzeback and gladiator are just amazing with Naaresh. on feat turn, a bronzeback can put out a max of 9 P+S 22 hits at MAT 7. he then sits there with Arm 22 for a turn. He has taken out 2 full-health Khador heavies in a single activation with 2 fury to spare. nothing can really survive a feat turn fistfight with this guy. and the Gladiator isn't far behind.
The Rhinodon is a bit different. A lot of people don't use him. but he gives me some anti-infantry that I am lacking, and on feat turn his thresher can actually be quite nasty, especially with free boosts on all of his attack roles.
The Brute is an absolute necessity with Naaresh. Iron flesh brings him up to def 18, but that means nothing if he gets knocked down. if you're playing the attrition game, stick him behind a wall, with a brute nearby and the brute's animus up. it will be very hard to finish him. Also, tough + no knockdown is mean on a caster, especially when he heals so easily. this is even worse with a krea.
I run a krea with him to give me two turns of all but ignoring ranged fire. the shaman puts up the animus, the krea does it and naaresh does it. the swordsmen get iron flesh and get into one of those three bubbles. shooting at def 18 arm 16 swordsmen is very frustrating.
other support pieces to bring are paingivers (as always) and an agonizer. Paingivers are a good option for getting Naaresh some easy blood tokens if you need him to actually go fight something, and they are good for fury and enraging as always. the agonizer is there to make your feat turn more annoying vs Hordes (-2 Strength to warbeasts plus the armor boost to your own models), and to help lamentation vs warmachine. if they cast inside your control area, they pay double. the agonizer keeps them from standing further away and arching their magic in.
eHexeris is a very different caster than his prime form was. I enjoy playing pHexeris, but always felt like he was missing soemthing. He is a good spell-slinger and army buffer, but his feat was hit or miss and he had some very situational abilities. eHexeris gives us another spell-heavy caster (as expected from Hexy), but gives us more flexibility and a feat that is much more predictable.
stats. Like most skorne casters, his stats are about average. he has a high MAT and average Def and Arm. he's not a front-line caster, he will die if he gets too exposed. His weapon lost beat back, but now has a thresher * attack. it retains its decent hitting power, so he can actually take some bigger targets down if needed. especially with his feat
Feat. steals fury/focus/souls and uses it to refill eHexy's Fury. unfortunately, you can only steal 7 max, since you can't take any more once you fill up. Against warmachine armies, you will probably be pulling off of your own beasts which lets you run them very hot, using your paingivers to enrage instead of conditioning any of your beasts. allowing 14 fury in a turn from your beasts means a beatdown turn. against Hordes you can still do this, or you can pull their fury points from their beasts (or those very pesky forsaken). you can use this to starve their caster, forcing them to cut for any fury next turn.
On top of that, Hexeris gets those tokens as fury points, allowing him to shoot off even more spells than normal. you can throw around an extra ashes to ashes, some extra hellfires, get some extra animi, or use them to fuel a crazy melee turn for Hexeris. buying up to 14 extra attacks in one activation could take down some heavies or casters. all in all, quite a nice feat.
abilities. Hexeris doesn't have the buffet of special abilities that Naaresh does, but his abilities are very powerful. He can choose one beast in his battlegroup to bond to, allowing him to channel through it. this one is a bit disappointing, since pHexeris got to channel through a beast by using an upkeep spell, allowing more flexibility. If eHexy's bonded beast dies, no more channeling. also, the channeling range is only his Command range, not the normal Control range.
His other ability is much nicer, in my opinion. any time a living enemy model dies in 14" of Hexeris, one model in his battlegroup gets to heal for a point. this is huge. It's already hard to keep a Skorne beast down by crippling an aspect. usually either the caster or paingivers can get them back in the fight quickly. this ability means that your paingivers will almost never have to heal your beasts, and really opens up your order of activation. now instead of burning a fury point to heal a beast, Hexeris can use it to buy an attack and kill a model, with the same healing effect. even a badly damaged beast can quickly come back to almost full health under this ability. remember me saying Hexeris can buy up to 14 attacks in a turn? all of those could heal beasts. max swordsmen using their mini feat? up to 20 more damage healed (if you're playing some serious infantryMachine, but still. it's possible. you only really need a few points at any given time).
Spells. Hexeris has an amazing feat, a great special ability, and good stats. but his spell list is really where the money is at.
- arcane reckoning. gives a model/unit whiplash. this is situational, but could be awesome against certain lists (anything with mage hunters, druids, hex hunters, etc). if they miss you with a magic attack it hits them instead. this could be fun on a void spirit, since only magical things can hurt him in the first place. not always useful, but can be a life-saver when it works. don't forget to heal one of your beasts for a point when that mage nukes himself.
- ashen veil. your main friendly upkeep. this should always be on someone. concealment and -2 to attack rolls while in 2" of an affected model. This is great on swordsmen, putting them at def 15. you can then run them up close to enemy models, making all of their attack rolls less accurate. this includes magic and ranged attacks that don't target the swordsmen (or other affected unit).
- Ashes to Ashes. finally! a spell for clearing out those super high defense things like kayazy assassins. hit one of them (or a big low-def guy nearby) and automatically hit up to 6 enemy models. it's expensive, and soemtimes you only roll 1 extra hit, but in a faction that is hurting for ways to deal with high defense it is amazing. on a feat turn you can shoot more than one of these.
- Black spot. this is what puts eHexeris over the top. Black spot is possibly the biggest force multiplier in the game (in a spell. feats don't count). anytime you kill an affected model you can get a free attack. there is really nothing in a skorne army that doesn't like this. canonneers get 2 shots. reivers can get a bunch of extra cra attacks. swordsmen with side-step can go crazy on a tightly packed unit. but the real winners are the beasts (especially with Reach). give a Savage Beat Back and throw him at a black spot unit. with good rolls he could potentially munch through 8 infantry in a turn. it probably won't happen, but with prescience, you don't have to boost unless you miss which helps. imagine Molik Karn with beatback, sidestep and black spot. there is really no downside to this spell. it only costs 2 points, and should be cast at least once every turn.
- Hellfire. pretty standard offensive spell. a bit on the higher end on both pow and cost. this will be his main spell once your upkeeps are up. on feat turn he can pump out 4 of these, boosting 2 of them. will kill a knocked down caster in most cases.
What do you bring with eHexeris? the thing is, most of our stuff will work well with him. as I mentioned already, a beast with reach is a good option, and a bronzeback is almost required. Beat Back with black spot is too good to not try, and the bronzeback is already our best beast. he also makes a great bonding buddy for Hexeris. hard to kill, and beat back lets him take a step back out of combat so that he can be used to channel.
infantry is good with hexeris. a big unit of swordsmen is a great target for ashen veil. side step and multiple attacks is also very good with black spot. but reivers and slingers could also be very decent choices with hexeris.
finally, make sure you bring Marketh. he makes hexeris that much better. in a character restricted format, I would choose hexeris to get Marketh almost every time. upkeeping spells for free (almost free anyways) will keep ashen veil up without having to give up a magic attack for the turn. marketh can cast black spot, either to open up your order of activation or to put it on 2 or 3 units a turn, depending on what you need at the time.
Hexeris is amazing. he will quickly take his place as a top-tier tournament caster. Many players are already putting him at the top tier of our Skorne casters. People haven't played him enough yet for a final verdict, but I could see him replacing eMakeda as the generally accepted "best" Skorne caster. or at least being placed on the same tier.
I know that for me Hexeris will be filling at least one slot in every tournament. He is just too good to leave at home. it may mean people get really tired of seeing him on the table, but for now I plan on using him a lot.
That's all I have for today. next time we'll look at the other models that came out for Skorne in the domination expansion.
as always, question, comments, etc are welcome! leave a comment and let me know that people are really reading this blog :-)