List Crafting, part 1: The right amount of Sun Tzu

No spoilers here: Warmachine is a game of tactics and knowledge. Once you’ve recovered from the shock of me stating the bleeding obvious I’ll go on to say that these principles should envelop not just your own army but that of your opponents and the battlefield (in the form of scenarios and terrain). When I went to write (or copy, see last post) the lists I planned on starting this year off with I considered each one of these points in order to create a two-list set up that would give me good coverage against any opponent.

Also what’s with the Art of War reference? Because it seems like any time anyone broaches this kind of subject the first thing they will do is quote Sun Tzu. Whilst I didn’t really want to do that, I didn’t want to come across as a completely uncultured barbarian either so there you go, this article now contains just the right amount of Sun Tzu.

 I’m not going to do another review of SR2014 as there are already plenty out there. I just want to touch on what I considered during the list writing process. There’s only a few changes to SR this time around nothing as drastic as what we’ve seen in previous years. There was a fair amount of tweaking done concerning CPs and dominating, notably you can no longer get 3 CPs from enemy objectives.

In the end though what worked last year still works now, but scoring is slower so you need to be able to hold out a bit longer. Tanky warnouns that can dominate objectives safely for multiple turns are very strong. Plus, being that far up the table allows you to react quickly if you need your warcaster to get his hands dirty. Having a healthy stock of solos and jacks is of course invaluable for controlling and contesting objectives as large units can have a hard time doing it, especially late game when they’ll normally have taken a bit of a beating. Conclusion: I’d ideally want two casters that can play safely up the table. They’d need an entourage that can bully or simply blow back enemy lines to allow them to do so without taking too many risks as well as being able to threaten multiple objectives.

There was never any questions as to whether I’d take Butcher3 or not. He’s a beast for so many reasons but most importantly for me: Butcher is the reason I started PLAYING Khador and to have a new incarnation that is not just an awesome model, but plays exactly how you envisage him is just a win-win situation. His style was exactly what I was looking for so with an easy pick done, I needed a good partner for him. Enter pVlad, originally a comfort pick over Harkevich (who I felt didn’t balance out my weaknesses with Butcher3) as he is my most played caster. In the end it seemed that a good hybrid gunline/melee list would complement the Butchers all-in axe based mutilation list well, especially vs Cryx.

Ok then ladies, off with the gloves, let’s get down to it

Kommander Zoktavir, The Butcher Unleashed
–    War Argus
–    War Dog
–    Juggernaut
–    Juggernaut

Iron Fang Kovnik
Iron Fang Kovnik
Madelyn Corbeau, Ordic Courtesan
Ogrun Bokur
Saxon Orrik

Iron Fang Pikemen
–    Black Dragon Officer & Standard
Iron Fang Pikemen
–    Black Dragon Officer & Standard
Greylord Ternion
Widowmakers

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The big man himself, his 3rd incarnation is 200lbs of rage, plate armour and axe-to-face. The bald murder machine is simply put: a beat stick. Possibly one of the most, if not the most, potent ones in the game. In the fluff his fury is held in check by the barest of threads and he can go from docile bear to whirlwind of suffering in the briefest of moments. This is reflected in the game as Butcher3 can trundle almost peacefully up the table but once in position he can put a fearsome dent into enemy forces.

So how does he do it? To put it simply: movement SHENANIGANS (god I love that word). Butcher3 can officially contest with pSorcha in threat ranges as he boasts an impressive threat range just from running under his own steam. With an 8’ charge, 3’ energizer you can get him 11’ up the table and he then has, to quote Tenacious D: ‘the power to move you’…5’ towards him with his new signature spell ‘Impending Doom’ giving him an effective zone of 16’ which is pretty damn fast for a fat man who’s weapon probably weighs as much as Sorcha (probably more). This can be extended up to 22’ through Madelyn’s Intrigue ability and Butcher3’s Vengeance. Now that is truly a number to be feared if you can orchestrate it.

When the dust settles and models have been placed however that’s where the comparison ends. While Sorcha is great at singling out 1 model in particular as long as their ARM isn’t too high, Butcher3 has the power to kill EVERYTHING. His basic stat line is unchanged, which is to say he still has the most absurd combat stats in the game: high MAT/P+S, reach and weapon master one could say he is harder than a coffin nail. As well as giving Butcher the mobility necessary to bring such strength to bear it he also has more tools to amplify this. Flashing Blade means you will never need to buy a normal attack again (unless under very specific circumstances) and synergizes perfectly with his movement abilities as it allows you to remove models between you and your target without starting your combat action, or relying on other models to do it for you. It’s also the reason that when I said you can kill everything I meant it.

Finally his feat, oh man this is a good one. Previous incarnations always supported their army with their feat but this time it’s all about the Butcher baby and it’s so simple yet so perfect for him: you just…get all your focus back. Run out of attacks but need to dish out more pain? Feat and buy more flashing blades. Killed something but worried about retaliation? Feat and get all that tasty ARM back. Want to send two fully loaded juggernauts screaming up the table? Allocate 3 to each, feat, energizer for 3 then sit back and watch the sparks fly. It’s as simple as that. I should say a few words about the secondary effect of his feat: any model in his melee range automatically fails its command tests and the Butcher causes terror so…you know… sucks to be them. Needless to say this can be incredibly potent if you can catch multiple key units with it on your way through to your intended targets.

Last but not least we should talk about the Butcher’s new pets: the War Argus. Being Khador’s first warcaster unit they are a new concept, so what do they bring to the table and most importantly to the big man himself? Well they are fairly solid multiwound models with 2 attacks or the option to combo strike for a decent bite, especially if they get their gang bonus. Their most interesting ability is their Granted: Relentless charge which is a huge thing for the Butcher who generally doesn’t have access to pathfinder. Butcher himself has Granted: Vengeance so if your opponent has the audacity to attack one of your pets butcher gets a free 3’ move and attack (which as anyone will tell you makes all the difference…giggedy) allowing him to boldly go where no Butcher has gone before. They are both medium based models so they can also be used to screen Butcher (and if they kill one trying to get to him then Vengeance procs. Touché). There are many ways to play them but most prefer to play one out front and one safe behind. It allows you to threaten your adversary with a decently powerful model who can single out important models yet if they kill him then Butcher can come screaming up the board which can’t be the most enticing of prospects for your adversary. The one behind ensures that butcher has access to pathfinder if he needs it or to get a second Vengeance move on another turn. Either way it’s a catch 22 situation for your opponent.

If you give me a second to calm down after writing so much about Butcher’s joyfully mindless killing I will tell you about the downside to all this. Whilst Butcher is to the Axe what MC Hammer was to the Running Man (and sweet Jesus if you don’t get that reference I don’t know how to help you), that is literally all he is. Silence of Death, the one spell he can cast on other models, is the only ‘real’ synergy you’ll get between him and his fellow Khadorans. This however is not a huge loss as the fact that the Butcher can kill mostly anything on a whim is enough for him to bring his own type of board control to the table, one that costs 0 focus and is permanent. This is what the Butcher does best for his army, menace, pure and simple. He is the king of piece trading as your opponent has to remember that whatever he puts into your army, butcher is capable of killing the turn after. Using high threat infantry and jacks that can work well on their own he can practically demand that your opponent bring his most valuable resources forward to deal with the first layer of threat. If they don’t, you gain ground and take the scenario advantage. If they do, you will lose some troops but then Butcher can finish the job, winning most trade-offs.

All these elements combined give Butcher a lot of game against the majority of casters.

But what can really counter him? Butcher is a combat caster which means the majority of his damage and mobility comes from his spells so anything that can deprive him of them will go a long way to effectively shutting him down: Kromac, pGrissel or the Covenant of Menoth are good examples. Anything that can take away his focus for a turn or prevent him from spending it is also a cause from concern.

So it’s been established that Butcher is a bonified badass, but no man is an Island and what you bring with him needs to be hard as nails itself whilst giving Butcher the opportunities to do what he does best, like an anvil to the Butcher’s hammer.

Juggernaut
A quick bit of backstory concerning me and Juggernauts. When I first started playing and bought my battle box I built the Juggernaut, played a few games with him and then quickly moved on to the Spriggan, Behemoth etc etc. The poor bugger languished in my model case for quite some time until the day I started playing him with Harkevich and was the start of a long love affair. I was so impressed I even bought him a friend to keep him company and these guys have been tearing up my battlefields ever since.

Now we all know that Juggernauts HURT, they bring a quantity of punishment that is well above their price tag. Their biggest problem is their measly SPD 4 and very basic MAT 6 (even though it’s generally sufficient for their intended targets). Energizer goes a way to fixing the speed problem and having multiple combat jacks also allows you to really abuse it in order to have a surprisingly mobile battlegroup. The point of the Juggernauts here however is not necessarily to DO damage but more to THREATEN your opponent. Butcher likes his room service, bringing models straight to him for him to kill means he can conserve more focus which serves to dissuade retaliation afterwards.

Simply put juggernauts a measly 7 points of pain and armour which make them perfect for piece trades. Nothing says ‘come at me bro’ like a P+F19 model lurking just inside of its charge range. Like the War Argii and Butcher’s vengeance; you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. You can either do nothing and take a juggernaut to the face or you can charge it, kill it, and then get dismantled by Butcher at which point another juggernaut takes its place and it all goes full circle. The best part is that with impending doom and flashing blade, Butcher can punish big singular models like jacks’ and beasts or even entire units.

War Dog
Butchers level of awesome is proportionate to the amount of dogs he has, therefore adding another canine companion can only make him better right? Right? Awesomeness aside War Dog is a classic addition to any Butcher who doesn’t need any introduction. His DEF bonus can be the difference between life and death a lot of the time which due to how the Butcher likes to play close to the front lines seems like a no-brainer on paper however due to Butcher being well…Butcher, it’s not advised to get close enough to him to set up a decent melee assassination run and a lot of feedback from people suggests that this isn’t his biggest contribution but rather the ability to make butcher immune to free strikes which can be a real deal breaker when you’re sprinting through units going for the big prize. Either way when you have a point to spare and a combat Warcaster then the dog is definitely your man…or canine, whatever.

Ogrun Bokur
I’m kind of still on the fence about this guy, he takes up 3 points that could otherwise be occupied by Eiryss however he’s a safety net for Butcher. Not to guard against simple ranged attacks as Butcher can more than handle that with his high ARM however its to intercept anything that is likely to rain on his parade. Black Oil, Crippling Grasp, anything that could effectively take Butcher out of the game without killing him. Of course you can’t forget he still has a P+F15 Reach attack which is even worse if he’s within his bonus range of Butcher so he can really put the hurt on something if you need him to.

Madelyn Corbeau
Nothing much to say about Maddy except, intrigue, intrigue, intrigue and …umm… intrigue. 3’ can be a huge deal for Butcher so for 2 points she can help him make some real plays.

Saxon Orrik
Pathfinder on tap. When you have a melee heavy army with little to no pathfinder this guy is worth is weight in gold. Even though his stats are pretty good everything else on him isn’t really worth mentioning, Reconnaissance is what he’s here for.

 

Black Dragon Iron Fang Pikemen
The choice of my main infantry units were what gave me the hardest time with this list, everything else was already decided upon apart from these 2 units. I was considering quite a few things at the time including 20 Press Gangers with solo support! It wasn’t until I saw what BDIFP could do with Butcher (see last post) that I decided that they were definitely the way to go, that and I already had enough IFP on hand to make it happen 😉

Iron Fangs have always been a very stable and simple unit. MAT6 is low but CMA compensates. P+F13 with crit KD is awesome for standard infantry and is one of their major selling points. DEF 13, ARM14 is sadly in the area where it will only protect you from under average rolls and blast damage. Shield wall was meant to counterbalance this however as anyone will tell you, until the arrival of the Iron Fang Kovnik (more on that later) Shield wall was a bit of a trap. So all in all average but with enough good points to make them a very safe choice as a mainstream unit.

The Black Dragon UA took it all up a notch. Fearless means they can be counted on to hold the line no matter how many abominations your opponent has, an ability that cannot be underestimated. Precision strike is their biggest point of synergy with Butcher. Being able to target specific spirals on beasts means you can remove their ability to buy more attacks and Silence of Death means that they will be unable to heal it back the turn after. The beast will then kill 2 or 3 IFP during its activation and then be finished off next turn.

Iron Zeal, the minifeat works in tandem with Shield Wall and the IFK’s Shield March. The idea is that your ARM never drops below 18. With Shield March you have a crazy 10’ threat whilst in shield wall so speed is not an issue and on a turn where you have to run and expect to take damage Iron Zeal will keep you covered. Combining them both does give you a godly ARM22 for a turn but in a lot of cases this will be overkill. ARM18 is more than enough to protect you from the majority of basic ranged attacks, non weapon master melee attacks and blasts, the usual sort of thing used for removing mass infantry. ARM22 is useful if you need to receive a charge or stave off weapon masters for a turn.

All this gives you a group of models that are fast, hard hitting and with good defensive stats…sound familiar? They can go exactly where you need them to, right up the board in your opponents face, pushing back the scrimmage line to put some scenario pressure on, taking the fight to your opponents doorstep whilst singling out heavies for destruction.

Iron Fang Kovnik
Single-handedly made IFP one of our best units whilst also shedding some light on some of khadors unsung heros. Shield march is what this guy is all about. Each one follows a unit of Black Dragons around applying the buff and sitting on objectives or zones that the Black Dragons have managed to push the enemy off of. He’s no slouch in melee either and if you need a nice cheap model to get some work done and don’t need the buff this turn he is an excellent choice.

Greylord Ternion
I chose these guys as a pseudo second UA for the Black Dragons. Blizzard lets you make them that bit more survivable to shooting and can also be used to pull some LoS shenanigans when needed. There is of course the infamous magic shotgun for clearing infantry and ethereal models alike however Ice Cage will be (I hope) the stay of the show here. As I said MAT6 on IFPs and Juggernauts is one of their major drawbacks. Hitting a heavy with Ice Cage is fairly easy thanks to Magic Ability 7 and the -2 def makes a huge difference to these two units.

Even if you were to consider the extreme cases of Warpwolves (DEF14) and Bonejacks (DEF15), the ternion hit them on 7+ & 8+ respectively. You have 3 tries and as long as you hit one of them your other units now only need to roll average or below average dice to hit and as they are all high strength as long as they have the hit bonus they can normally make short work of any of these.

Widowmakers
Ah good old Widowmakers, I can’t think of a single list I’ve written recently without them. Clearing infantry, sniping out solos and (for this army the most important) spot removal. Versatility really is the key word here but the be all and end all is simply that if there’s an infantry model I want dead, because it’s blocking LOS or a charge lane or I just simply want it dead, these are the guys I’m going to call on.

I’m sure you guys have cottoned on by now but I’ll say it again for the sake of completion, this list is all about having a strong, stand alone core that can help bring the herculean force of the Butcher to bear in order to close out the game.

I originally wanted to put both lists into this posts but by the time I’d finished writing about one I though it may be a tad long. So stay tuned, next time we’ll be talking about the pVlad list that will be running alongside it!

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