I’ve had a couple chanced to try out the Jam Theory with Coven, and I’m fairly happy with here its lead me. I’m getting comfortable enough with them that I could take them to a tournament, paired of course, with someone who covers the gaps that they have in their play style. They bring something unique to the table and have some very good matchups that they can force, but I don’t play them like a number of other people I’ve seen, either in lists or articles, play them.
To start, I build completely different lists. I’ve seen a number of people focus on their focus stat (9) and Infernal Machine. They combine them together to make a fairly efficient jack- delivery system. This has leveled up with the addition of the Kraken to the arsenal, as that large of a points investment seems to need some serious backup to make sure it works.
I just don’t see it. I understand the draw, as Infernal Machine is a fantastic spell for an offensive jack, but just because they have a focus of 9 and a good jack spell doesn’t mean I want to run jacks with them. instead, because they are vulnerable to just a few hits, I want to run an army as fast and far ahead of them as I can. That does mean that I am running a metric ton of infantry.
I’ve tried all three Jam units in the army: Blackbanes, Soulhunters, and Satyxis Raiders. I could probably drop Blood Witches in there as well, but I just don’t think I have the guts. 13/13 is really hard to defend, and one turn of incorporeal could be worth it.
-Satyxis Raiders – Champs, as expected. I’ve been unable to fit the Captain in, though, and I really think the army could benefit from having her in. What makes the difference, honestly, is that Occultation on turn 1. It allows you to swing up the field as fast as possible without having to worry about many of their natural counters. Picking off the Sea Witch becomes much harder, as well. You’ve still got to watch out for Gun Mages, but that is about it. With advance deploy, I tend to set them across from either a tempting ‘Jack to put a few points of feedback on a ‘Caster, or slot them to draw out some shooting. Nyss Hunters, Longgunners, ect. Anything that just does standard bullets. Typical targets. Turn 1 is definitely Occultation, possibly cast by the Scarlock. Turn two tends to be Ghost walk. Many times, I’ve been tied up in combat, and being able to re-position is fantastic, or I want to get as deep as I can into a shooting unit as is possible. They also natively work amazingly well with the feat. Going up to Def 16 v. Melee, and Def 18 v. anyone shooting them while in the feat is just spectacular. Veil of Mists is also completely bonkers, able to up their Defense to 18 v. Shooting and block LOS behind the cloud. Pairing them with Bile thralls will almost inevitably guarantee you a flank
-Blackbanes – I’ve run them a few times, and their speed 7 and Incorporeal tends to catch people off guard. I tend to run them as a minimum unit, with the goal of jamming on turn 2, and then going in and either forcing the enemy to turn around and deal with me, or going after support solos. Auto-fire is an amazing ability to threaten free strikes with, and even casters don’t really want to incur MAT 8 hits. Their ability to compound with the Def 16/Stealth Satyxis means that many enemy options (Gun Mages) that can deal with both can only deal with one. Many times they have to choose which unit they’ll let through, and neither of them is really worth it. One of the best combinations, though, is that you can drop Curse of Shadows on many of the units with Magic Weapons and wander through them freestrike free, only to drop effective POW 12 hits on them. As a Jam unit It does its job really, really well.
Soulhunters – Soulhunters are legitimately our fastest, jammiest, craziest jam unit. sadly, though, they pay for it in points costs. Though they are only a single point less expensive than Satyxis +UA, its a 6 man difference. The wounds they have are barely tolerable, as a single POW 20 attack takes them off the board, and even a simple POW 10 can do it, with a POW 12 able to punch though them fairly often. I ran one list, against Iron Mother, where I brought all three jam units. There wasn’t a lot of shooting in that army, sadly, but having Force Barrier, Stealth (on the Soulhunters), and Incorporeal Jam units was a really satisfying experience. I understand the MAT 6 of the Soulhunters, mechanically, but I am just not a fan. If there isn’t a defense debuff on the field, they are getting really, really chancy. You also have to bring Darragh Wrathe with them, in order to completely up the crazy factor. Though he is almost always worth it, I’ve just not found it worth the opportunity cost.
I’ve also considered Bane Riders and, as I’ve said, Satyxis Bloodwitches. They aren’t as fast as the Soulhunters and they don’t have the Advance Deploy of the Satyixs Raiders, so they’d have to be a replacement for the Blackbanes. Both units have their strengths, with the utility and minifeat that the Blood Witches brings, and the durability and power that the Riders bring. The Blood Witches are 3 points cheaper, and may net you an extra arcnode or solo while the Riders are a touch more expensive, meaning you’ll have to find a point to shave off here or there. Both benefit hugely from Stealth, but that means taking it off the Soulhunters or the Raiders. Curse of Shadows is the Bane Riders best friend, allowing them to plow into the back lines of an army. Their incredible durability here is a plus, making them a serious back line threat. Both of the units have a fairly static MAT 8, allowing them to take out higher defense targets consistently, which is something that the Blackbanes don’t have. I’ve got to get in some time with both to see about the efficiency
Beyond the jam, though, one of your main consideration is pinning the opponent in the jam. The thing about jamming infantry is that they aren’t generally sturdy or powerful. They tend to tie enemies in place and keep them busy. This tends to force the opponent to try and figure out ways around or through them. You have to give them serious qualms about doing so. You want then to be concerned not only about being jammed, but about once they break through. The models that are going to break through easiest are either high defense models that can ignore free strikes and/or models, or high durability models that can run over or through them. You need solutions to both. I’ve personally taken to two of the oldest infantry in the book: Bane Thralls and Bile Thralls. I don’t think I’ve ever needed more than a minimum unit of Biles, and I can’t conceive of taking less than the max Banes. They solve both problems that the jam units can’t handle, and do a fine job of it. Note worthy here is the saturation of Targets that can really only be dealt with by Gun Mages. I know I keep harping on them, but if you can figure out how to stymie the Arcane Tempest, you’ve got most of the rest of the shooting units on lock down as well. Biles, Banes, Satyxis and Blackbanes each are solvable with the Gunmages. Combined, however, they give the opposing player a significant problem to solve.
Tartarus deserves his own consideration here because I know he’s a very powerful piece. In a single list format I would definitely take him in the list (however, I probably wouldn’t take this list!). In a multi-list format, however, it becomes a lot harder to get him in due to character restrictions. Honestly, though, I don’t think he is needed in this list. The Bane Thralls are doing a very specific job, and that is keeping the heavies and Colossals honest, and keeping them from simply going for the coven. Tartarus fixes some very specific problems with the Bane Thralls – accuracy, and speed, and neither need fixing in this list. Speed is completely countered by the fact that the jam units are up in their front lines, boxing the opponent in, allowing you to position the banes where and how they need to be. In addition, anything that makes it over/through your lines is going to be pushing itself closer to the Bane Thralls. Tartarus’ Accuracy buffs won’t be needed on the targets that the Bile Thralls are not going to clear out first, making it largely unnecessary. I really think that if you’re building a list like this, keeping Tartarus for your Second list should be a real consideration.
I want to try and shorten my articles a little, make them more reader friendly, so I’ll be coming back with more thoughts next week!