Friday, May 17, 2013

Makeda 3 and the Exalted Court

This is a write-up on Makeda3 that I did for Bell of Lost Souls. I've been writing a lot of articles for BoLS lately for all of the new models that came out with Gargantuans and haven't been writing much for my own blog. I'm going to cross-post a few of the articles from BoLS  over the next few weeks.

By the way, if you haven't checked out BoLS lately, you should give them a try. It has traditionally been a 40k-centric site, but we are trying to change that. we have a lot of good Warmachine/Hordes players posting regular articles, along with some spoilers that get sent directly to Bell of Lost Souls.

It's no secret that Skorne got a lot of neat things in Gargantuans. Obviously the Mammoth was a huge success, but in most releases the biggest changes for a faction come with their Warcaster/Warlock releases. Obviously this was true in Domination when we got Epic Hexeris who started a big shift in Skorne, filling in holes and allowing us to deal with some threats that we didn't have many answers for.

I don't believe that Makeda will make quite as big of an impact as eHexeris did, but I do think she will be a lot better than I gave her credit for at first glance. In fact I got a lot of flak in my Gargantuans summary article when I said that Makeda looked to be the worst Warlock released in Gargantuans. After getting some actual table time with her, I do think she moves up a few slots. She's not as good as Rask, and certainly not even close to eMorvhanna, but she is on par with the other solid Warlocks. Honestly there aren't any "bad" warlocks in this release cycle, which should make a lot of people pretty happy.

In this article, I want to take a look at Makeda's abilities, some tactics I've been using with her, and then talk lists. Obviously, she is still a very new caster, so I expect some of my ideas to be proven wrong at some point. I can at least say that I know more about her than I did when I wrote the Gargantuans intro article, and hope to do her justice this time around.

Stats and Abilities

Makeda's stats all point to her being an in-your-face kind of caster, fitting for am expert swordswoman who prefers to lead from the front of her army. Makeda has always had respectable stats, and those base stats are almost unchanged in her third form except for one additional point of MAT, making her very good at hitting things in melee. her defensive stats are very solid, at 15/17 which is high for a Warlock.

Her weapon has changed from the traditional double katanas she used to carry to a large 2-handed reach sword that has the highest base power + strength of any Skorne Warlock (not counting combo-strikes from Xerxis of course). Her fancy new sword also comes with a nice little ability, Blood Boon, letting her cast one of her spells (or an animus!) for free if she kills a living enemy model with her weapon.

Looking at the back of her stat card, we see that she retained Inspiration[Skorne] from both of her previous versions. She still has the very high command stat of 10, making it relatively easy to keep your units in her inspirational bubble. Command 10 is also really helpful for her unit

Exalted Court

Yup, if you hadn't figured it out already, Makeda is now a Warlock unit! There's really nothing terribly special about how the new warlock units work. All of their interactions are pretty intuitive. Makeda is the officer, and she comes with 2 Guardians who are members of her unit. They activate together, and Makeda can do all of her anytime abilities (like casting spells and feating) at any point during the unit's activation as long as it doesn't interrupt an attack or movement. They also count as part of her battlegroup, which will be important later.

The Guardians themselves are decent little models. They have the same speed and Mat as Makeda, worse defense and slightly better armor. They have 5 boxes each and two P+S 12 swords each. They're constructs, so no souls, corpses, terror checks etc. They have 2 very neat abilities that make them worth the dip in warbeast points that supposedly are paying for them. First off they each have shield guard, letting them take a ranged hit for a friendly model near them once per turn. With a high starting ARM value, they're better at taking a hit than your more important solos nearby (say a willbreaker).

It also helps them trigger their other ability, Battle-Driven. Makeda also has this ability, but I thought it made more sense to talk about when talking about the Guardians. If any of the three models in the unit takes damage from an enemy, the entire unit gets +2 Str and Arm, as well as pathfinder for a round. So if a Guardian shield guards a shot intended for one of your support models and takes a point or two of damage, Makeda bumps up to Arm 19 and starts swinging her big sword at P+S 17! Her guardians go up to Arm 20 and P+S 14, which is very solid. Something to note here, if a warlock transfers damage, they are still considered to have taken damage. So if Makeda gets hit, she can transfer the first hit that damaged her at Arm 17, and will immediately bump up to Arm 19 for any successive hits.


If her abilities make her look like an up-front caster, her spells will only make it more apparent. Remember when Makeda was a mid-line caster who basically hid behind Karn and some swordsmen casting a 3-cost, army-wide buff spell every turn? When she kept her infantry alive or let everything hit better? Well apparently those days are over for Makeda. Now she's all about making herself even better at killing things all by herself. Don't mess with Makeda in close combat, or you'll figure out exactly how she single-handedly kicked Vinter out of her Empire...

Her first spell is Eliminator. It's an average pow AOE nuke spell with a nice secondary effect. For every model killed with an Eliminator, Makeda gets to advance 2". Makeda still gets the movement if the spell is cast by Marketh, which is really all he's able to do for her (though that extra threat range can totally be worth bringing him). Normally you'll probably only kill one or two models a shot with this spell. Don't expect it to do anything too crazy, but be sure to punish your opponent if they clump up too much.

Next on the list is a fun damaging spell. Ground Zero places a large AOE over Makeda and does a pow 13 to every other model touched. Enemy models then get pushed away from Makeda. The push effect makes this spell fairly effective if Makeda is trying to dominate a zone or flag in a steamroller game, and the pow 13 damage rolls don't need a to-hit roll which makes it good against a clump of high def models. It's a good tool to have, but I usually end up casting Eliminator for the extra movement instead.

Speaking of spells I don't cast much, we have Sunhammer. This is her throw-away spell. I see no reason to ever cast this one, and I doubt you'll be able to convince me otherwise. Even in my test game against a swarm of Legion lesser warbeasts (eThagrosh, Beast Mistress and a spawning vessel), it was better not to cast this spell.

The main reason not to cast sunhammer is that it replaces her good upkeep spell, Vortex of Destruction. The text is simple, but it's a deceptively powerful ability in practice. Damage rolls against enemy models in Makeda's reach range are boosted. This is actually a big deal. It turns Makeda herself into a wrecking ball, especially with Battle Driven. It boosts damage on those Ground Zero and Eliminator shots. It lets you roll 4D6 damage on an engaged Colossal with Slingers. It lets Molik Karn get 7 pow 15 attacks with 4 damage dice on each attack against something Makeda is engaging. It's way better on Makeda than it ever was on Ravyn.


Makeda's feat is very powerful. It was the first thing spoiled about her, and had the forums going nuts for a few days when it was spoiled here on BoLS. When the feat is active, every time a member of Makeda's battlegroup destroys at least one enemy model with an attack, Makeda can gain a fury or a beast can drop a fury. The possibilities for this feat are amazing. There are three main ways this feat can be used (and the cool part is you can do all three in a turn fairly easily)

First, it makes Makeda's beasts into blenders. If you put beat-back on a beast, it can just keep on going through models, buying an attack and dropping that fury if that attack kills something. In theory, you could have Molik beat back through a huge swath of enemy infantry, side-stepping and beat-backing his way all the way to an enemy caster with Fury to spare. In practice this doesn't happen very often, but you will get some additional attacks.

Second, it makes Makeda into a real terror. A perfect activation from her unit could potentially see her hit 12 fury before she has to spend any. Again, this is in a perfect situation which is rare. Usually she'll get some but not all of this. Here's how a good feat activation looks. Makeda gives a run/charge order and feats. Each Guardian gets into melee with 2 infantry models and kills them both (giving 4 fury to Makeda). Makeda kills her charge target, getting another fury. She then blood boons an eliminator at more infantry, killing at least 1 and gaining a fury. She then gets to move via that eliminator and starts buying attacks with 12 fury, gaining another fury every time she kills. if she has battle driven up, she could cut through multiple heavies all on her own during her activation. a perfect Dance of Death is really a wonderful thing to see.

And finally, it makes it really really hard to kill Makeda next turn. She can spend her whole stack and let her beasts fill her back up. Each one of them can give her a fury for each initial attack they make, and it won't affect their part of the feat at all. Generally after a feat turn I have Makeda camping 4 or 5 fury and then have the Paingivers clean up anything left over (if there is anything left to clean up). An arm 19 caster with 5 transfers is very hard to take down.


I already talked about some of her tactics in the abilities discussion above, but I wanted to tie it all together here. First off, I do want to say I have been having a blast with her. She is way stronger than she looked at first glance, and my first impression of her was way off. She's also just fun to play with, crashing through an enemy army and tanking like a champ.

What makes her so strong? In my opinion, it comes down to flexibility. When making a list, the generally accepted wisdom is to make sure your list can do two of three things: Assassination, Attrition or Scenario. In my games so far with Makeda, she's proven her ability to do all three!

Assassination. With her high Mat, high pow and auto-boosted damage rolls, Makeda can take down a lot of casters by herself. Add in her long and unpredictable threat ranges, and she can be on top of your caster in no time. Throw in puppet master from a Willbreaker and some extra movement from a free Eliminator via Marketh, and she is a better assassin than any other Warlock in Skorne (sorry eMorghoul...). An assassination attempt with your caster is always risky, but if you try it on your feat turn you can end the turn camping enough to hopefully survive for a second attempt.

Attrition. This is probably her strongest game. Her free shield guards can help you protect some of your important stuff, and Makeda projects so much force that you can take some of the load off your army. Did your opponent bring infantry? A couple castings of Eliminator a turn and a beat-backing Molik Karn can really put a dent in them. Did they bring heavies? Makeda can remove heavies all on her own, starting the piece trade without losing your own heavies. Did they bring a Collosal? Move in Makeda with vortex and watch the Collosal crumble to 8 boosted damage attacks from a Bronzeback. Even a Stormwall with Arcane Shield can't survive that. Whichever option you face, make sure you spend 2 each turn for Fate Walker from Molik, letting you keep your caster safe behind her Guardians. It's not as far-ranging as Makeda1's yo-yo attrition, but it's much harder-hitting.

Scenario. Lucky for us, Steamroller 2013 seems to really favor casters who are able to get up into the middle of the table. Dominating objectives and zones is a very good way to win a game, and Makeda happens to be really good at this. She is very hard to kill sitting at 15/19 after the first hit (more vs shooting), 2 shield guards and the ability to stay safe after a big feat turn. She's good at clearing zones, especially on feat turn where she can let her beasts kill a lot of models in a tight area (like a 12" diameter circle...). Fate Walker has a huge role in this style of play, letting Makeda move up and kill things contesting her flag/zone/objective and then use Fate Walker to move back into a safer position or back into B2B contact with a flag. In one of my early games with her on Destruction, she killed both enemy objectives all by herself and then used fate walker to hide in the back of the zone where she was perfectly safe.

Let's Build a List

Obviously with a new caster there are a lot of things left to test. That said, the Skorne forums have been playing a lot of Makeda since her rules came out, and have started to find lists that work for her. Kind of like the Morvhanna2 lists going around, there is a strong core that seems almost required with Makeda and then some points to play with. Let's start at the top with beast selection and then fill in the rest of the army.

Makeda3 is going to want to run fairly beast-heavy. She offers nothing at all to infantry, which is weird for a Makeda. She does do something for her battlegroup, and you need enough beasts to really take advantage of the feat. Luckily this is Skorne, so bringing extra beasts doesn't mean you're falling into the trap of "building for a feat" which tends to be a problem. You want to keep the feat in mind, but bring beasts that will do well in other turns of the game as well.

We start our list with the standard Duo: a Bronzeback and Titan Gladiator. Bronzebacks are always a good idea in a beast-heavy list, and end up in most Skorne lists. why wouldn't you take the best non-character beast in the game? Under Makeda3, he also brings a little more power with his animus. Beat Back on a beast in addition to Makeda's feat let's a beast push their way through a lot more models than they could normally get to. Sadly, you can't put beat back on Makeda with the train wreck animus, but it's still very good. The Gladiator is a no-brainer that you really have to bring if you're goign to use melee beasts. Our low speed makes rush mandatory. Of course, a Gladiator is also a pretty good beatstick if you need him to be.

Next we add in Makeda's favorite beast, Molik Karn. With Makeda3, Molik is no longer a long-range heat seeking missile to kill a caster, but a beat-backing, side-stepping wrecking ball to smash his way through swarms of infantry. A large base with reach and beat-back can get to a lot of models on feat turn when every bought attack that kills a model is free. With high Mat and the ability to boost after rolling the hit dice, Molik is really good at making the most out of the feat. And of course he brings the single most important piece to a Makeda3 list, Fate Walker. This animus is what will let Makeda play up on the field to kill things or put heavy targets in the vortex of destruction but still end the turn far enough away that she doesn't get hit by an entire army. Makeda and Molik can make a nice pair with Makeda charging something and putting it in the vortex, then casting fate walker. Molik charges the same target and demolishes it with 5 pow 15 attacks with 4 damage dice. Then they both use fate walker to move away from the front lines, with Molik standing in front of Makeda to shield her.

To round out the standard beast layout, we need to bring a Krea. I've been using a ton of this little beast in my lists lately. Her animus is really good on Makeda in early rounds to keep her and her unit safe from shooting. Starting Makeda off at 17/19 vs shooting keeps her nice and safe, and her armor bumps up to 21 if hurt. If her shield guards are in range to block a shot, they're also in range to get +2 arm vs that shooting attack they absorbed. The krea can also be a game-winner if she's able to get a paralyzing shot off on a caster. Now that we have Puppet Master, that's a very real possibility. Or you can use her animus on Makeda during an assassination run to give her an effective +2 MAT. All in all a very nice addition for a tiny point investment.

Some players are running more beasts than this, but there is the beast core for a list. A common addition from here is a Shaman to protect Makeda from debuff upkeeps (which are easy to stick by just shooting one of her bodyguards with the spell). Other lists have used a Savage for another beat back reach beast for feat turn, or a brute for a third high armor shield guard.

In every Skorne list from here on out

After your beasts, the rest of the army should be pretty self-sufficient. An agonizer is good to have, further helping protect against beasts and jacks. Makeda has plenty of fury on early turns to fill the little guy up. A Willbreaker is always good to have, and has been in most of my lists. After that, bring whatever solos you have room for and like taking. We have a ton of options in the solo department.

For units, some people only take Paingivers to leave room for beasts. I like taking at least one unit to help protect your beasts from getting hit first since Makeda does nothing to help threat ranges. Nihilators are a great speed bump with tough and reach to help keep things away from your main army. Normally I like swordsmen, but they don't have a good role in a Makeda3 list. I have also tried Makeda with Incindiarii, which have done great with her. They do well as a speed bump with 8 boxes each, and block Makeda nicely. Their fire AOEs help clean out infantry which is sometimes needed. keep in mind, if something is on fire and in melee with Makeda (maybe a caster that you barely failed to kill last turn), the fire damage roll will be boosted by vortex of destruction!

Enough talk, here's my current Makeda3 list:

Makeda and the Exalted Court
* Basilisk Krea
* Bronzeback Titan
* Molik Karn
* Titan Gladiator

Mortitheurge Willbreaker
Orin Midwinter, Rogue Inquisitor
Min Paingivers
Min Incindiarii
Min Nihilators

I really like these guys...

The min Nihilators + min Incindiarii are a bit different, but I like how they have worked together so far. The other list I've been running with her drops the Incindiarii and fills out the unit of Nihilators, leaving 3 points for Marketh. I haven't decided which one I like better, but I wanted to post the slightly different one to give people something different to think about.

That's all I have for Makeda so far. Once I get more table time with her my lists and tactics will evolve. I plan on using Makeda in some upcoming tournaments, and will definitely be using her in at least one event at Wargamescon in a few months.

How has your experience been with or against the newest Skorne warlock? what lists have you used? what challenges have you had trouble with? Is she tournament worthy, or another mid-tier "casual" caster?

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