Saturday, May 5, 2012

Skorne Tactics - Protecting Your Caster

One of the first lessons a new player learns when playing Warmachine is to protect your caster. it doesn't matter what the rest of your army does, if your caster is out of position for one round it can be a quick game over. Even if your opponent only has a few models left, sometimes your caster will still die. "Protect your caster" sounds basic, but every faction and even every caster has a different way of doing this.

In general, it is a little bit harder to protect a Hordes caster than a warmachine caster. generally our Warlocks have lower stats, and the way the Fury mechanic works (combined with the emphasis on beasts) makes Hordes casters fight further forward on the battlefield. This is especially true for Skorne, IMO, because of our aggressive nature. many of our warlocks (not all, but many) want to be up front hitting things. which of course puts them in danger.

Luckily, Skorne comes with a good number of defensive tricks. In this article, I am going to talk about a few of these little tricks and how they can work together to help protect your caster. I will then be looking at a slightly extreme case in the form of a fun list that I am going to be playing in the next few weeks. Note: this post is somewhat intended for newer skorne players. it could also be useful if you don't play against Skorne much and want to hear about some of their tricks. Veteran Skorne players probably know all of these tricks well, so they probably won't get a lot out of this article, except maybe for the army list at the end.

Before diving into specific models and examples, I want to mention that many casters will be using these buffs in different ways. we have a huge variety in our defensive stats on our casters. for example, Rasheth is our one caster who can play *way* back and not have to be anywhere near the battle. he generally doesn't need much help, other than maybe some swamp bellows to hide behind. Xerxis is a hefty 13/18 base with def ward to go on top when needed, making him pretty able to take care of himself. most of these models I will be talking about are best used with squishy casters.

1. Cyclops Brute

this guy is probably the best defensive model for new players to use. The brute works even better for new players since he can be easily swapped for one of the Savages in the battle box. He was one of my first beasts, and saved my caster in countless games early on. the brute is a nice easy to use beast. He has several defensive pieces that make him work well. he has set defense, letting him absorb a few charge attacks that would usually hit him. he has shield guard, which can be a huge lifesaver for your caster in a pinch. and he has safeguard as an animus, which prevents knockdown.

the biggest benefit of the Brute is safeguard. if you haven't learned yet, you will soon. a knocked-down caster is a dead caster. this applies even to really beefy casters (arm 20ish), though not to as high a degree. not only can you be hit automatically in combat, but you will be easily shot to death, especially since your model isn't engaged while knocked down. Morghoul is the best example here. if he gets knocked down, arm 13 just isn't going to cut it. every time my Morghoul has been knocked down or made stationary, I have lost the game.

Shield Guard is also a huge boon for the Brute. of course, Shield Guard is currently not very reliable because of the PP ruling that I have complained about before. but if you're playing a newer player, or someone who doesn't try to take advantage of that ruling, shield guard is still helpful. once you've played a bit more, you won't find yourself using shield guard as much. eventually you learn to stop putting your caster in a place where he/she needs shield guard, but it's nice to have anyways. also, the caster isn't the only one who can benefit from this. it's very handy to be able to shield guard for an important solo like Orin Midwinter or the Agonizer.

2. Basilisk Krea

The Krea is another favorite defensive beast. she comes in at a low cost of 4 points, making her a slightly cheaper option. with any caster other than Morghoul (who really needs Safeguard), I have started taking the krea over the Brute. she doesn't have as many abilities, but her animus is what you take her for. any enemies in 2" are at -2 def, and your models in 2" get +2def/arm vs shooting. +2 might not sound like much, but getting it on all models in the bubble is very handy.

This also stacks nicely with other buffs, reaching some silly levels. the best example of this is the Xerxis brick. a cetrati in shield wall with def ward and a krea behind it reaches 16/24 against shooting. Xerxis himself with def ward can reach 17/22 vs shooting. very tough to kill. morghoul likes the krea, bringing him up to a whopping def 19 vs shooting. eHexeris can combine ashen veil with the kreas animus for a +4 vs shooting for a unit. As a side note, the krea works very well with a shaman, letting you run with 2 bubbles of protection.

3. Razor Worm

the brute and krea are the most popular defensive beasts. We have one more good one, the razor worm. I have never seen him used for much more than an AD arc node for pHexeris, but he can help with defensive stats as well. on helpful benefit is that he cannot be knocked down. this helps with blocking LOS to your caster against things like a Pop and Drop. His animus is also very helpful in some cases, though. He has Bomb Shelter, which allows a target model and any BtB models to ignore blast damage. this isn't huge for many of our high arm casters (xerxis doesn't mind some splash damage here and there), but can save a squishy caster like Morghoul or Zaal. this is huge against armies that can boost blast damage, like Troll Bombers or Legion Ravagores. Still, not a very common choice.

4. Archidon

The archidon is a beast that isn't normally seen as defensive, but he works into the grand scheme of protecting your caster. for one, he is another Serpentine beast, meaning he can help block LOS to your caster against things that would normally just knock down your screening models (pKreoss kills Morghoul way too often). Once again, he is really there for his animus. Granting sprint to a front-line caster is very helpful. Makeda is very potent in combat, but you don't want her exposed. just pop Engine of Destruction, get the Archidon's Animus and go to town, running away when your done. any caster that likes to get their hands dirty can benefit from Sprint, keeping them out of harm's way.

5. titan Sentry

the sentry is a good melee defense for your caster. a big base with really high armor that you can sneak around? this will protect against a lot of things that give casters headaches. Acrobatics can't get past him, flight can't get past, and any charge that even clips his reach melee range can't get through to your caster. I don't actually have one yet, but I can see how big his animus can be. another mention goes to Tiberion, but since he won't be released until July, I haven't gotten to play him yet.

6. Orin Midwinter

so that brings us to the end of the beasts, and into other defensive models. Orin is a big favorite. unfortunately, character restrictions mean we can't always use him. Still, he is a huge defensive asset. any caster will be frustrated with a no casting bubble from Orin. but some lists really rely on the spell assassination, and will be totally shut down by this guy. Druids, Hex Hunters, Battle Mages, etc are all frustrated with Orin. he's squishy, but while he's alive he can easily make up his points in sheer frustration value.

7. Swamp Gobbers

this little 1 point filler is very handy for protecting your caster. portable cover is huge in a faction with limited defensive buffs, and a lack of pathfinder. you can still get your concealment without being in a rough terrain patch. it's very helpful for any caster. also, LOS blocking is pretty easy with a 5" cloud effect every turn. doesn't do much against Legion, but that's ok. it still helps.

8. Void Spirit.

this one is a little different. I saw something that opened my eyes big time at Adepticon. Jake, the Legion player who won the Hardcore (and masters? or just hardcore? I'm not sure) was using a tactic I had never seen before. he actually shot his own dudes with his ravagores. you see, a 3" AOE is just big enough that a non-reach model cannot get into melee with a large-based model that is centered in the aoe without entering said AOE. this effectively prevents ANY single wound, non-reach model from hitting whatever is in the cloud. This got me thinking about our options. the Kovass does something similar, but he is only there for one caster.

Then I thought about the void spirit. any time he boxes a living warrior model, he makes a 3"cloud that causes a pow 12 to any enemy model that enters. it only hurts enemy models, meaning a friendly (say, a caster) could hide in it and be perfectly safe. So, the tactic would be to activate the void spirit, and hit a friendly model (say a swordsman) in the back, exploding him into a cloud of ash. your caster than walks into the cloud, perfectly safe from charges from anything without reach or very high arm. all for the cost of a single sowrdsman. they have to pass a cmd check of course, but they are cmd 10 with a reroll as long as you're using the UA. Or they're fearless if you're using Zaal or eMakeda.

OK, I think that's everyone. there are other tactics and ways to protect yourself of course. but this is a decent rundown to get you thinking. each caster has their own bag of tricks and effective ranges, so you have to pick and choose what looks good for each army. here is one I wanted to toss out there. I am going to be running this list later in the week at the FLGS. I will have a discussion on the list and talk about how it does after my games with it on Wednesday. for now, take a look at the list and add in what I wrote above. see if you can see what this list might do if you lined up against it.

eMorghoul (50 points)
 * Archidon
 * Basilisk Krea
 * Brute
 * Molik Karn
 * Razor Worm
 * Titan Gladiator
Bloodrunner Master Tormentor
Orin Midwinter
6 paingivers
10 praetorian sowrdsmen + ua
Void Spirit

More to come later this week! maybe even a full bat-rep if you're lucky :-)

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