Thursday, April 10, 2014

Using the Despoiler

It's been a long time in coming, but we're finally seeing the last few models from Gargantuans on the tables. Today we'll look at Skorne's latest model, the Despoiler.

The Despoiler was one of the big surprises in Gargantuans. For many releases, we pretty much know what all is in a book before the book hits the shelves, but for Gargantuans PP did a good job of keeping a few nice pieces hidden until the book made its way to stores. Adding to the surprise, Despoiler was the only non-warlock character in the entire book. The biggest surprise with Despoiler, in my opinion, is how much it got people talking about Mordikaar.

Note: I realize that due to my lack of writing much of anything lately I now have two despoiler articles almost in a row. this is the article I wrote for BoLS, and probably has some better (at least more tested) info than in my last article.

Mordikaar is one of the really different Skorne warlocks. His infantry focus is not what you usually see with Skorne, which tends to bring a bunch of heavy warbeasts. this isn't saying Mordikaar is bad of course, he's just a different style. for the last couple of years, though, he was getting almost no attention from the forums, and generally wasn't seen at tournaments. I played him a bit, just because I like void spirits and I thought having a horde of tough models sounded fun. Mordikaar was always fun, but was a few steps away from being really popular.

the first spoiled picture of the model itself

Despoiler looks like he was designed specifically to get Mordikaar back on the table. it's like a couple of PP designers sat down and asked "what would Mordikaar need to be really effective?" they looked through the forums and wrote out a list of everything mordikaar was missing, then slapped it all into one warbeast. OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but compared to Tiberion or Molik Karn, Despoiler is definitely focused on working well with his patron Warlock.


Let's break down what Despoiler actually does. His raw stats are not impressive for a heavy warbeast, with lower defensive stats than a standard titan, and swinging at p+s 14 on one attack and 13 on the other two. so you're obviously not taking him for his hitting power. the one nice stat on his block is a natural spd 6 which is nice to see in Skorne with our ways of buffing even speed 4 titans into speedy little beasties.

After looking at his somewhat sad stat block, we flip over the card and see a wall of text crammed on there.

First we have the animus. Despoiler shares an animus with the Woldwyrd, which doubles the cost to cast or upkeep spells within 10" of Despoiler. Just like Lamentation this ability has the downside of forcing your important model closer to the enemy caster. if the enemy caster is 10" away from Despoiler, he is likely in danger from the enemy army. However, there are plenty of use cases where this can be useful even if it means risking a 10 point model. it's situational, but can really hurt front-line casters like Butcher3, preventing him from using Impending Doom, or shutting down spells like teleport, preventing Lich2 from getting as active as he wants to be. Paingivers let you cast the animus just about any time you're not going to max out fury by attacking, so go ahead and use the animus and clear the fury, just to keep the enemy caster at bay.

Despoiler's main ability is to create free models. once per round when an enemy living warrior model is boxed near despoiler (doesn't have to be done by despoiler), they are RFP'd and replaced by a friendly Void Spirit model. this is a really nice ability, giving you 2 point solos for free. it's only once per round, so usually you're only going to get a few of them in a game. the most I've created in my test games has been 3. so for ten points I got Despoiler and 6 points of void spirits. the nice thing is that these spirits can fully activate the turn they come in.

My Despoiler, painted and ready to rock!

Next up, Despoiler lets your warlock upkeep one spell for free if he's in their control area. this is helpful in Skorne due to the number of warlocks with upkeep spells. this can help lessen certain warlocks' reliance on Marketh for spell upkeeping, but other than that it;s not a huge deal. Mordikaar does really like being able to keep all of hi fury for revive and still getting to keep hollow out there.

like the Afflictor, Despoiler has an ability that keeps it from being taken over by the enemy. this will not often come up, especially since Rampager already specifies non-character warbeasts. still, it's good to know that your opponent won't somehow grab Despoiler for a turn and make void spirits out of your own models.

And finally, Despoiler has an affinity with Mordikaar (one more reason to take them together!) while in Mordikaar's control area, Despoiler gets Dark Shroud (see bane thralls...). Dark Shroud helps fix the low natural pow on Despoiler's tail. if he's swinging at a heavy while enraged, he has a much more respectable POW of 18. dark shroud also helps any other models swinging at models engaged by Despoiler's reach weapon.

His melee ability is also slightly helped by the special rules on his tail weapon, 360 los and crit brutal. 360 LOS is not usually going to come up, since it's only while making attacks with the tail (so doesn't affect charging LOS), but it can be helpful in certain situations. crit brutal sounds really nice, but I hate relying on crits. Crit abilities are good in Cygnar (dead eye is cool) ut not so much in Skorne. it might come int play when swinging at high def heavies like an angelius or warpwolf, as getting a crit brutal against somethign with arm 17 will do some work. but really most of the time you shouldn't bank on getting crits.

Void Spirits

Since I don't see a lot of people using them I thought I should spend a minute talking about void spirits that Despoiler is going to be making. Often they are passed up for some of the other great 2 point options Skorne has access to, but i really like how effective they are as combat solos. you get a lot of nice stuff for only 2 points.

apparently this one died to a continuous effect

even without making attacks Void spirits are very useful. they are incorporeal, which can make them huge scenario pieces if your opponent happens to be lacking magical weapons or spell attacks (or if, for example, they were being used with a caster that happens to have Banishing Ward...). they also have abomination, which can be huge against non-fearless models. sure there are many many hings in Warmachine that are fearless, but failed command checks on those that aren't are a huge deal.

This is something Despoiler accents well. when he creates a void spirit by killing a unit member, that units will likely take a cmd check if not fearless. then that void spirit can run, forcing one or more cmd checks on nearby units. you can do the same with void spirits you started the game with, and repeat every time despoiler creates a spirit.

in combat,Void Spirits are pretty decent, with high mat and additional damage die against living models. Mordikaar further aids them by giving them boosted attack rolls.

Putting together a list

here is a list i have been running with Mordikaar lately that showcases Despoiler.

Void Seer Mordikaar
* Basilisk Drake
* Basilisk Krea
* Despoiler
6 Cataphract Incindiarii
10 Nihilators
10 Swordsmen + UA
4 paingiver beast handlers
Tyrant Commander and Standard
Swamp gobbers
Mortitheurge Willbreaker
2 Void Spirits

it's a pretty normal list for Modikaar with a hollow unit (swordsmen) and 2 units to revive. I like incindiarii, but you could also use Arcuarii which are a common choice with Mordikaar. Arcuarii are better at cracking armor, but i tend to run this list to handle infantry swarms, where those fire AOEs are always nice.

the beast load out is pretty minimal for a Skorne list, with the despoiler as the only heavy and then a drake/krea combo to fill it out. it's hard to get as much utility out of 8 points of beasts as you can get from the Basilisk pair, especially when you don't have slow beasts that make Rush a requirement. I have also run a version that drops the Drake and Tyrant Commander for an Archidon, because ghost walk on a flying beast is pretty good.

I include 2 void spirits to start the game, which has been questioned on the forums. i find one void spirit at a time is pretty trivial for most armies to remove from the table, 2 is irritating. once you get a third on the table, they are actually a problem for a lot of armies. with mordikaar, multiple void spirits actually pose a decent assassination threat (with some puppet master help of course!). In my Despoiler proxy games so far, void spirits have assassinated pDenny (on her feat turn), eKrueger, eVyros, and Harbinger.

Other Warlocks

I have not used Despoiler much with other casters yet. he works so well with Mordikaar that it's hard to use him with other warlocks. I can see him being useful with other warlocks, but he might not be worth a full 10 points elsewhere. some possible options if you're so inclined:

pHexeris - i tried him out in a RFP-spam army to try to hard counter eMorvhanna. you can upkeep one of his many upkeeps for free, RFP when killing one living model a turn and then again every time a void spirit kills a model.
pMorghoul/Xerxis - both have an upkeep or two, and can buff up the hitting power of Despoiler. void spirits with Xerxis can hit really hard on a heavy warbeast.
Naaresh - Lamentation + Despoiler is cute, making spells cost 4X their normal cost. but I wouldn't try it personally, as lamentation gets Naaresh killed.
Makeda3 - upkeep vortex for free, hit harder if vortex is on a heavy or something. void spirits are helpful with her. again, not likely to be real good, but might be worth a try.

Despoiler is one more cool toy Skorne pulled out of Gargantuans. he may only see use with one caster, but the way he turns that caster up to 11 makes him really fun tp play. what has you experience been with Despoiler? is he worth playing outside Mordikaar?

And finally I leave you with this image posted to facebook by so now we have Makeda and the backup dancers, Guitar Hero Hexeris and DJ Despoiler... 


  1. Hmm! This article is interesting food for thought. He's a caster that I have yet to pick up, but learning from your experience is helpful!

    I also like Incindiarii quite a bit. If I understand things correctly, Incindiarii that are revived can still aim. So if you are good at estimating distances, you can make them appear at the max distance and use them to be the lead in CRA's.

    1. yes, revived models get to activate normally, which can definitely include aiming. someone told me in a recent game that to get the aiming bonus all members of a CRA had to be aiming, but i don't see that in the rules now that i looked it up, so it seems that that does work.

      Also an interesting tidbit from a recent game, if a soulward gives magical weapons to one model in the incindiarii unit, as long as that model is the CRA leader the attack is magical.

  2. Whoa! I didn't realize that bit about the magical weapons. Awesome stuff.