9 months ago we got our first taste of each of the Novice Warcasters that were going to be included the recently released Warmachine: Vengeance. Last week, my batch arrived. I got Allison Jakes and Commander Sturgis for my small Cygnar army and picked up Sturgis the Corrupted and Aiakos for my Cryx army. I’ve never really been one to really dwell on a model that’s not in my hands, and it takes painting a model to really get me to want to use it. Now that Aiakos is in my hands and painted, I’m really ready to get into trying to get him to work.

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Since the release of the Thralls of the Blackship Exhumation and the Umber Guard lists in Mark I theme lists have been an option in Warmachine. Personally, I don’t even think I tried one in MK I, and I in no way regret it. Those two were strange, bizarre abominations, and I’d finally gotten competent enough in Cryx to feel comfortable testing the waters right around when MK II hit the ground, so I was still struggling to get my Cryx feat under me.

MK II, coincidentally, brought some viable theme lists. Instead of being faction based, though, they were tailored to each caster, and for the whole of the MK II release cycle, people wondered what they were going to get in their theme lists, and how their favorite ‘Caster or ‘Lock was going to be represented.

Unfortunately, this lead to heaps of anticipation that could not ever be matched. With MK II just coming out and Privateer in its cautious release phase, many of the theme lists were doomed to underwhelm. Each book was greeted with less and less overall enthusiasm for the Theme lists printed within, though prior to each book the furor would build all over again.

There are some tier lists in each book that still see serious tabletime. Each of these does something so brutal, and fits so powerfully with both the caster and the theme of the army being portrayed that it just sticks. Most of them, to further compound the issue, are spam lists, enabling multitudes of powerful units that are normally restricted or allowing multiple restricted UA’s where you would only get one.
Noteable examples:
Goreshade II: Heresy of Shadows
Butcher II: Mad Dogs of War
Mortenebra: Infernal Machines
Epic Keoss: Crusaders of Sul
Zaal: Immortal Host

Each of these allows you to toss as many of some of the highest value models in the faction at your opponent as you can fit in a list. Who can resist more Bane Thralls, Doomreavers, Heavy Warjacks, Knights Exemplar and Immortals!

The problem with many of the other lists is that they suffer from one of two seriously problematic issues that cause the faction balance to snap. Either the list lacks a crucial model or unit that causes the faction to function correctly, or they suffer from lack of hitting power. Those that aren’t suffering from list composition issues suffer from the additional problem of limited bonuses for adhering to the lists. There are only four bonuses to give out, and they come with increasingly stringent restrictions. Sometimes its worth it, but most of the time, it is not. The reason spam lists work is because instead of limiting your options, it opens certain options up, and this can lead to some very powerful synergies.

Most theme lists, therefore, end up on the wayside. The age of the colossal has amplified that, as many people look for way to cope with these giant masters of the battlefield. Most theme lists don’t allow you the tools that you need to deal with these beasts.

which leads my to my decision to take another look at the theme lists of Cryx through different lens. Ones that I have specifically discarded due to lacking in ways to deal with heavy armor have a large, powerful friend: The Kraken.

Kraken

Sometimes, you have to fight fire with fire.

The Kraken is an interesting Cryx option in lists where the standard heavy hitters might not be available. We tend to rely on Bane Thralls, Deathjack, and layered spells to get the job done, with the odd mercenary here and there to make it go. The problem was that both the Bane Thralls and the Deathjack can, and do, easily get scooped out of theme lists. One is a character, and the other is many times not in theme. The Kraken is, with one exception, available to tier lists. It is a massive points investment, but its a seriously strong piece that I love in the Cryx arsenal. Its also self sufficient in many ways, fueling itself while killing infantry, and saving those tokens to kill heavies when needed. Its guns, though, are the cherry in the cheesecake. Just having that ranged presence in Cryx is phenomenal.

The list that really has me considering the Kraken in theme lists as a problem solver, albeit an expensive one, is the The Witch Coven of Garlghast: Auguries of War.

I originally played this list, with its FA:2 Soulhunters, before Wrath released. At that time, I found it to be a little light on the smash, if you will. With Bane Knights, Soul Hunters, and Blood Witches, it could really get around the army, but if they brought an army that was not possible to get around, it was kind of stalled out. The Kraken is the biggest can opener I have in the faction.

The list I have come up with is probably going to fail horribly, but I feel it brings a Trio of threats to the table that just have to be dealt with.

First, the list:

The Witch Coven of Garlghast

The Witch Coven of Garlghast +5
-Kraken19
-Nightwretch4
-Nightwretch4
-Scarlock Thrall2
Soulhunters (5)9
Soulhunters (5)9
Darragh Wrathe4
Warwitch Siren2
Warwitch Siren2
Total: 50

The first thing I notice about the list is that everything, baring 4 models, is speed 7 or faster, with the application of Infernal Machine on the Kraken. This gives me incredible speed advantage going first, and counter-deploy options and scenario presence on turn 2. This is also a list that will make a mockery of anything that specifically tries to deny its maneuverability. The Kraken has pathfinder, the Coven has Ghostwalk, and the Soulhunters are incorporeal during their activation. The Coven can also toss out Curse of Shadows, Occultation,  Veil of Mists, and Stygian Abyss to make sure I get into position with whatever resources I need to get the win.

Getting the win, it turns out, can come in a few simple packages. The first is what I will call “The Soulhunter Surprise.” Soulhunters, as mentioned, under Darragh Wrathe are incorporeal during their activation. Cavalry has Tall in the Saddle, allowing them to ignore small based models when declaring a charge. The Coven has Curse of Shadows, allowing models to move through units, but also nullifying anything that has magic weapons from making free strikes. Finally, the tier list benefit is a free soul token on each of the Soul Hunters at the start of the game. Given that Soulhunters have an 11″ charge range, with a 13″ threat from reach and an additional +1″ from Darragh, I can foreseeable get at a target (say, the Warcaster/Warlock) well behind the front lines, and not even worry about the front lines. The soulhunters, due to Cavalry rules and the soul bonus, will be at MAT 8 + 3d6 and doing 13+3d6 damage with the charge, and 11+2d6 if in 1/2″ melee, and another POW 10 from the mount.  If I can get an arc node back to the caster, I can drop Stygian Abyss on the target, Follow it up with Curse of Shadows, and bring that up to MAT 11 +3d6 and pow 15+3d6. I don’t think many casters will survive 3-4 of those. Back it up with a Stygian Abyss hit or two, and a shot or three from the Kraken, and your really looking at some serious assassination potential.

The second option for victory is control points. There are certain armies that will just not be fast enough to challenge this list, and with everything up 14″ or greater past my deployment zone, I can really push the scenario hard. Jamming with def 14, arm 15 large bases with 5 wounds might not always work, but with the Kraken and the spell slingers right behind, I’m betting its going to be seriously in contention. I can dominate with a single Coven Member, and control with Warwitch Sirens if that is the plan. The Kraken at MAT 8 with speed 7 as a second wave can be extremely scary to face off against.

The last opportunity for victory is the the traditional Stygian Abyss method. Get three boosted to hit/damage pow 12’s on the caster and either pin them in place, or kill them out right. Either one works and can allow the Kraken or the Soulhunters to finish the job.

As much as I like my newly painted Aiakos, this list is going to have to get at least a run through this weekend when I get to roll out and play some games!

 

Back when I began painting 10 years or more ago, I knew very little about color and shade. Instead, I made up for my skill with shear determination. I learned a number of things along the way, but I’d never really mastered the correct shading of colors, and highlighting eluded me as well. I the last year, I’ve learned a lot about shading and highlighting, and its really made a difference in my painting. I figured I’d share most of what I’d learned!

Part of the things I’d wished I’d known when I began painting was a touch of color theory. I’ wanted just enough to be dangerous with a paintbrush and to make good, solid color choices on models. I threw my hands up in both fear and terror anytime someone tried to teach me, though, because it seemed that it was some sort of esoteric wizardry. Now, having overcome that ridiculous fear, I can break miniature painting that I do into three major tips.

1- Mix your paints
2- Shade to Brown, not black.
3- Each color leans towards two other colors.

Sadly, I have neither the Photoshop or photographic skills needed for this task, so you’ll have to deal with pictures and small guidance. 

One of the first steps for me towards painting better was using mixed paints. It allowed me a relatively easy transition to a number of more difficult painting concepts, including two brush blending and washing, and its much easier than I thought it would be.

This is going to be a theme, by the way: each of the three here seem hard and they sound hard and and they read hard;  but aren’t, actually, hard.  Most times I was able to get the concept within minutes of putting brush to model.

Mixing paints allows you a smooth transition of colors, even if its not blended in any way, as it creates a gradient that pre-mixed paints just don’t provide, both in highlighting and shading a color or colors. Mixing is vital to create colors that are the foundation of the other two tips, which allow a greater flexibility while creating our models colors.

The first of those two techniques is shading towards brown. When you shade towards a dark, colorful brown, you’ll really make a model much more lively. There are very few truly black things in this world, and the use of black as a final shade will give your model a very different effect than when you shade towards brown. Most of the time, shading towards brown involves very little shading with the prebottled browns that companies provide.  Instead, it involves making a brown from the color you start with.

For example, purple. Its a hard color to shade no matter what your doing, and black simple gets the color darker. This may not be, in all cases, what you are going for. If you instead use a yellow, you will move the purple towards brown naturally, creating a pleasant gradient. Why yellow? Because good browns have all the primary colors represented, just to different degrees. Purple, made up of red and blue, lacks only yellow to turn it to a brown. adding increasing amounts of yellow will take that purple color towards a deeper and deeper brown, eventually hitting a nice, solid shade tone. For this shade, I would avoid a yellow that is too green or too orange, as that will add either more blue (for green) or more red (for orange) that will ultimately unbalance the brown.

See what I mean about reading hard? I am even trying to be simple! Really, don’t be afraid. Try it a few times.  How do you know what color to use, though, when your at your desk painting? Simple! The color wheel!

color-wheel-2

 

The color you want to use will always lie directly across from the color your using!

We are going to use a similar principal when we create highlights. This, though, involves seeing the color for its two part components. First, take a paint pot, any paint pot, and stare at it. You should be able to figure out what the main color is, and what its secondary color is. Most pots are not simply a single pure color, though there are some exceptions when it comes to blue and yellow. Red is especially hard to find in a simply red form, and will lean (bias) towards blueish or orangish.

What is this blueish red, you scream at the computer! And rightfully so! (I just imagined this in Patrick Stewarts voice, BTW). Its a red that, if were to naturally extrapolate its color, would end up purple. Its what some would call red-violet. The orangeish red follows a same though process, though it would end in an orange color. Try it a few times, and it’ll start to click.

Let me point out some neat colors
Greatcoat Grey is blue-based
Coal Black is green based
Sanguine Base is a blue-red
I’d do some of the GW paints, but I just don’t own enough.

Now that you’ve identified the two colors, you can start  a highlight based on those two colors.

Purple is one of the main colors of my Cryx army, and has been since the very beginning. In the beginning, it was extremely hard to paint, especially as I had chosen dark purple. You don’t want to get into the pastel section of the palette, but you need some way to highlight the lines and make them pop. Here is where the two color method worked its magic.

Purple

 

Purple is the combination of red and blue, and the compliment (opposite) of yellow.  I realized I needed to figure out which direction the purple I wanted to get to was biased. It turns out, it was extremely blue! From there, it was simply choosing a bright blue with which to mix the purple to get a gradient of purples that didn’t move towards pastel.

SONY DSC

Bane 4

 

Instead, I mixed a color that was just a brighter version of what I was already using, and ended with a pale blue-violet highlight. It looks strange on the paint palette, but it worked extremely well on both Asphyxious and my Bane Spartans, though in different ways

 

 

One thing to remember here is that a color can never get brighter than it is when it comes out of the pot. it will always become more pale with the addition of another color. Make sure the brightest part of your model is one that is straight out of the pot!

Now, to go use this to paint Aiakos, first of the Tactics rewards to get painted!

I’ve been on a tear recently, painting a number of models in quick succession. I started out trying to catch my Cryx army up this year to fully painted, and I’m well on my way.

The list started out this year like this

Asphyxious III
Vociferon
Deneghra I
Erebus
Scavenger
Plastic Slayer Omnijack
Plastic Crab Omnijack
Revenant Crew Riflemen x3
Iron Lich Overseer
Bane Thrall UA
Bane Knights x10

I’ve now managed to Burn it down a bit

Asphyxious III
Vociferon
Deneghra I
Erebus
Scavenger
Plastic Slayer Omnijack
Plastic Crab Omnijack
Revenant Crew Riflemen x3
Iron Lich Overseer
Bane Thrall UA
Bane Knights x10

and while I’ve been painting It got me thinking about a number of things regarding painting itself that I really wished I’d have known back when I started that really, really helped me be a better painter. Some of these are going to come out of left field, but some of them should be helpful.

Lets start at the beginning, shall we.

Brushes! Everyone uses them, and the many people know what brushes the highest level painters use.
Ghool reviews them Here.

raphael-8404

But why use a good brush to begin with? I didn’t use one until I painted the Kraken two years ago, and only then because I had a specific purpose. First, because almost every synthetic brush will curl. This creates a huge problem when trying to be accurate while painting. Its very hard to stick to raised edges, hit eyes, and put on accurate highlights with a curved brush. I used to think it was a moderately helpful defect, but once I grabbed a Natural Hair brush, I was sold.
Additionally, most synthetic brushes you can get cheaply are water repellent, which means that the paint goes on the brush instead of in the brush. This results in a synthetic brush drying up quicker, as the water is exposed to the air instead of encapsulated in the brush. It also results in almost no control over the paint itself, as the water tension will work to release all the paint at once as soon as the brush touches the model. This adds into the first aspect, as you’ll tend to use less paint in the brush each time you go back to the paint. This in turn will result in a less smooth model as you constantly have to run back to the palette to get more paint. Additionally, synthetics tend to fray insanely fast, busting out in every direction as soon as you look at them. In a year and a half of constant use, I’ve had three individual hairs fray on my two natural brushes.
Finally, and this one applies only if you’re trying it, they don’t wet blend. I tried almost every brush with every tactic I had in order to get the wet blend to work on my Kraken, until Meg Maples told me to get actual, real, brushes. Lo and behold, it solved the problem.

Now, I always thought that the brushes were expensive, and they are, but they also last a lot longer, and perform better than most synthetics. I recommend Dick Blick for all you’re brush needs. I ordered mine a few days back, and they arrived 4 days before the expected delivery date!

Connected to the paint, is the palette. regardless of whether you use wet or dry, its extremely important that you paint with watered down paint. When I was trying to figure it out, the term they were trying to use was “consistency of whole milk” whatever that meant.  I don’t know a really good way to say it, but the right watered down consistency feels correct on the brush, its not runny, and applies right where you want it, without needing pressure. If its too runny, add more paint. If its too hard to apply, add more water. Its not a science, yet, but you eventually get used to it.

wet palette

Along these lines lies the scrubby brush, which is something that Meg Maples told me about. Its simply an old brush purposed to fix mistakes while painting. I’ll let Meg’s article explain. In all seriousness, this thing has saved more projects and more time than I could have ever expected!

Once you’ve gotten a set of brushes, I usually go with a 1 and a 2, the palette and scrubby brush ready to go, Its time to get to actual model work. I am a firm believer that the right primer makes for the best model possible, and after trying a number of different ones, I’ve settled on the best. Dupli-Color Sandable Automotive Primer. Its amazing, is thin, and sticks like hell to the models. Without a clear coat, I’ve only had one chip on all the models I’ve painted with it so far, and that is on Gorman Di Sea Wulfe’s stiletto, a pointy and vulnerable part.

Lastly, before we even start painting, there are methods to holding your model so your oily, nasty skin doesn’t rub off the primer. I used to just try and hold the model, but that gets very nasty, very fast. Your hand can cramp right up, and your fingers tend to rub the primer off of places that you hold often: Head, weapons, etc. We’ve all seen pinning to a dowel, and that works for some, but what I really like it an old spray point lid. I’ll put double sided tape on the top, and just slap my model on it to paint. The hand has a lot more area to grip and I’ve painted models as large as Karchev this way, including tipping him upside-down to get some underparts. I will say that you can re-use the tape, but every part exposed to the air tends to get less and less sticky over time.

While this method is good, I can’t say that it works for large units or multiple models. What I have seen recently is an ingenious idea I have blatantly stolen. I saw a whole unit of Gunmages sticky-tacked to the top of the old GW paint bottles. The Hexagonal ones. just load up on the sticky tack and press them in. Voila, small based models ready to go!

The very last thing I’d like to point out is food and drink. Many people suffer from unstable or shaky hands, and this can partially be alleviated in some form by a few small steps. First, paint on a full stomach. Being hungry and low on sugar can cause your hands to shake, and it can be extremely distracting. Avoid high doses of caffeine while painting. I know its good for an up all nighter right before a con, but its a stimulant, and that can really exacerbate the shaking.  lastly, if your the type to partake in adult beverages, have a cocktail or beer while painting. Alcohol is a depressant, and it can really slow down the blood and quell the shaking. And, who doesn’t want to have a white Russian while painting Khador? I mean, really!

Next time out, probably next Thursday, I’ll be talking very basic color theory. Even just these little points have helped me immensely with difficult to shade and highlight colors.

Over the weekend, at Adepticon, Privateer pre-released the hordes equivalent of the journeyman warcasters for Hordes: Una the Falconer, Horgul Ironstrike, and Tyrant Zaadesh. Each of them brings different skills and abilities to their faction, some with more effect than others.

While I think Una and Ironstrike are neat, what I really want to talk about is Zaadesh. Skorne is my Primary Hordes faction, and I see a ton of really cool tactics with this guy.

So, who is he? Tyrant Zaadesh:

Zaadesh full

on the surface, he doesn’t look much like the other two Lesser Warlocks. He gives no discount on warbeasts, but he also has a battlegroup unlimited in selection. Both Una and Horgul have Their warbeast selection limited: Una to Warbeasts with flight (currently only the Rotterhorn Griffon, Scarsfell Griffon, and Razorwing Griffon) and Horgul to Pyre Trolls and Slag Trolls. Zaadesh’s greatest flexibility comes in his Warbeast selection.

Zaadesh is a fairly middle of the road fighter: MAT 6 and P+S 12 are nothing to get extremely giddy about. Magic Weapon is nice, of course, and reach is always welcome, especially with SPD 6.DEF 13 is good, but not great, and ARM 15 is durable enough, especially with 4 fury.

His card is nice and short: two spells and two rules. The first spell, perdition, is a pretty good one. Now, It’ll get a lot of hate from a lot of people. Its an offensive spell on a 4 fury caster, which means you’ve got an especially poor starting point for hitting your target. However, I will not be fooled. I originally though the same exact thing about Wrong Eyes Voodoo Doll, and I was proven horribly, terribly wrong repeatedly. Wrong eye doesn’t even shirk at going after high defense targets either. Boosting is an immensely powerful ability, turning the hit total of 11 into an average hit total of between 15 and 16. Choosing the right target helps of course, but you can reliably hit almost every infantry model in the game with Zaadesh’s Perdition. POW 10 isn’t anything to write home about either, but any infantry under arm 15 is most probably taking a dirt nap, and arm 16 is a good bet too. You can push the envelope by boosting to damage, but this would be extremely dangerous. Leaving him with no fury and only 5 wounds will likely end with a Zaadesh sized bloodstain. his range of targets for perdition, overall, is fairly good. You do have to know what your getting into when you cast it though. Pushing the Def 14 and/or arm 15 envelope is going to be a tricky proposition, and most times not worth it. The payoff, though, can be devastating. Moving a beast into position early is not to be underestimated.

Especially with his second spell, Tag Team. A new spell, as far as I am aware, and a really good one at that. Granting Gang: Battlegroup is a pretty impressive ability for an upkeep spell. This is doubly true when a number of Skorne warbeast have reach: Molik Karn, Cyclops Savage, Cyclops Brute, Cyclops Shaman, Tiberion, Titan Sentry, Despoiler, and the Rhinodon. Enabling the gang bonus here is pretty simple. The real bonus, here, is the universal MAT bonus, something that Skorne on its own isn’t very capable of. Only three casters have any way to boost MAT: Carnage, Carnivore, and Death March. Having the ability to bring a Warbeast MAT buff is incredibly powerfull, and the capacity for warbeasts to boost on the fly really takes it up to 11.

The first of his two rules is the basic lesser warlock setup, stating that he is not, for rules purposes, a warlock. He does, however, have the capacity to act as one, with the following rules: Battlgroup Commander, Control Area, Damage Transference, Forcing, Fury Manipulation, Healing and Spellcaster. This makes a difference for a few of our models, but overall, is just clarifications.

The second rule, though, much like his second spell, has me a bit giddy. Protective Battlegroup gives every warbeast in his battlegroup an Improved Shield Guard rule. He can only activate it once a turn, no matter how many beasts are nearby, but a free transfer for Ranged or Magic attacks is pretty good.

Tyrant Zaadesh, Lesser Warlock

Tyrant Zaadesh, Lesser Warlock

All of the Hordes warlocks, however, are in a strange place in the game. Unlike in warmachine, hordes really doesn’t need to promote the use of their heavies and lights: the rules of the game require them. Therefore, Lesser warlocks, unlike Journeymen Warcasters, will not be reducing the load on the leader of the force and making them more effective. What they will be doing is taking the place of a unit or slew of solos. This makes evaluating them moderately tough, and their value must be gauged with that in mind. Sometimes, however, you want a few extra warbeasts on the board for their animus or for a specific task, and your warlock doesn’t have the fury capacity to run all the beasts you like. In steps the new Lesser warlocks. With the ability to control warbeasts, especially specialist ones, and allow your Warlock to focus on bringing more big bruisers, it could be just what the doctor ordered.

There are a number of curious interactions, as well, with some of our support models. Because he’s not a warlock, you cannot attach Marketh, and he cannot use either spellslave or Soul tap for Zaadesh. The Mortitheurge Willbreaker’s Beastmaster works just fine, as it is the Willbreaker himself who is forcing the beast. Ancillary attack works too as its targets friendly faction warbeast, which is exactly what Zaadesh brought along. Zaadesh Cannot move fury to, or leach from, an Agnoizer, as the rule explicitly states Warlock. Craft Talisman, either from a Cyclops Shaman or Farrow Bonegrinders, cannot be applied to Zaadesh or any of the lesser warlocks because they are not warlocks, as the rule specifically calls out.

 

Zaadesh has a number of interesting setups that I want to try out. Some of them are less tenable than others, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t rattling around in my head. I have three, specifically, I am looking to grab.

1: Zaadesh, Titan Sentry, Cyclops Brute – This is just the Pain Nugget. With the ability to shrug off three ranged attacks a turn before transfers, he should have no problem getting into the mix. Those same three shield guards will allow him to drop a perdition an a vulnerable target in order to launch the Brute into a target, setting up the titan for a MAT 7 P+S 20 turn, and then getting the Brutes activation on top. That is not gonna make anyone happy.

2: Zaadesh. Reptile Hound x4 – This is a crazy, just for chuckles event. Tag Team will allow up to 8 MAT 9 P+S 10+3d6 (4d6 when charging) attacks against the same target. That can really shred something, given the right opportunity.

3: Zaadesh, Cyclops Raider, Cyclops Shaman. – This is the support package with Teeth. Taking the burden of these models off of the Warlock and onto Zaadesh will enable them to take more of the beasts they love. And, if the enemy does break through the lines, there will be a surprisingly effective MAT 7 P+S 13 Shaman and Raider sitting behind the lines with Zaadesh.

 

Zaadesh brings some interesting play to the faction. He’s not going to be in every list, and sure isn’t going to be the first pick on the list, but he will be around often enough that it’ll really be useful knowing what he does and his strengths and weaknesses.

Oh, and speaking of knowing what they do: Una and Horgul!

Una full Ironstrike full

 

I hope I can punch this out in a timely manner, Battle reports seem to take a lot longer than I’d like.

Over the past two weeks I’ve managed to play two separate games of Warmachine, One against Circle, and the other Against Protectorate. I used the same list both times, Run by my good friend Deneghra

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I’ve been playing D&D for nearly 18 years now, and I’ve enjoyed all but a few times I’ve sat down to a table with my friends. I enjoy getting together with friends, shooting the shit, and playing monsters and heroes. I’ve been DMing for almost that entire time, and I’ve run my fair share of adventures, from years long campaigns to 15 hour one shot adventures. I’ve found different ways to turn tropes on their heads and I’ve built a huge mythology in my mind and in the players games that have affected the world I created.

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Banned

As many people know, as of Wednesday, I have been Banned from the WWX forums. Forever. So, I probably won’t be giving any reviews, good or bad, of their product. I am also fairly certain I won’t be playing the game as they have cut me off from the tournament rules, announcements of the locations of tournaments, and anyone that could possibly want to play, with the exception of one. Sadly, I’ve left behind a few people that I have no other way of contacting. Fortunately, I get to leave behind the pompous prick that was Romeo, same guy from battlefoam and a hundred other incidents in internet infamy.

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This year at Lock and Load, I am mostly going to be playing in the Iron Arena, but there was a specific concept that really grabbed me from the get go, and I’ve really decided that tournament is something I’m actually going to be really trying to make work. It’ll be probably the only reason I bring Cryx along with my Motley Gators all the way to Seattle, so I want to make it worthwhile, and its going to eat most of Friday.

What is Spelldraft? Well, In a nutshell you get to pick a list and caster, but don’t get any of their spells, good or bad. You get broken up into groups of 8, in which each person is given a pack of 8 cards, and you draft them one at a time, passing the pack of spells to the next person in line once you’ve got yours.

This, to me, opens up all sorts of cool combinations. Some casters are held back by their sub-par spell list, and could be a monster with the right spells in their arsenal, while others are built around signature spells that make them hum, and may become duds.

There are a pair of questions that I’ve not yet had answered in any really good way about the format that have me both terrified and curious.

1) Are the packs randomized spells, or is there some structure to them. Looking over the rules, no one mentions anywhere anything about randomization. This is an enormous factor. If its random, you can get packs with both Temporal Barrier and Iron Flesh. Arcane Shield and Purification. That means that you’re making some serious decisions about what card you pull and what card you pass on to the next players. It also means, however, that the pack could contain 2 rifts, 3 Influences, Arcane Blast, Dust to Dust and Arcantrix Bolt. While Some people may get more or less use out of all those spells, many will not. If you end up with a dead slot, and someone else has all 8 useable spells, that can be a really tricky setup to overcome. This sets up nicely into number 2.

2) is every spell going to be represented, or will there be multiple of the same spells, or will only certain versions of an effect be used? This is the one that poses the most problems when trying to plan out a list. If I know all the “superpowered” spells, the Bombs, to steal a term from the MTG drafts, are going to be cut I’ve got a pretty solid thought process on what I want. If every pod of players is going to draft the same 64 spells. with some 370+ spells, I can imagine there is a great amount of wiggle room here, That gives us nearly 7 pods of 8 to work with, without any duplication.

There are a lot of really bonkers combinations out there: Harbinger + Temporal Barrier; Terminus + Train Wreck, Reznik, Wrath of Ages + Tow. I don’ think, however, with that many spells and combinations, you can really bank on getting one spell, or even one type of spell. Take the Coven or Scaverous for instance: they both have a method to reduce their spells cost by 1. There are plenty of 2 cost nukes in the game, but even if there are 30, if they use the whole 370, thats only 8% of the field. Divide that 8% over 6 pods, and you’ve got a very slim chance of seeing even one of them. People will, no doubt end up with their favored combinations through luck, chance and skill, but I’m pretty sure I am not going to bank on that.

The list building part is pretty simple, really. Take stuff that is self sufficient, that holds its own, and can do what it needs to do with no spell support from the caster. Thankfully, Cryx has a ton of unit and solo support that works very well together without spells from the caster.
Unfortunately, that leaves our jacks to be kinda shunted to the side. I don’t think Aiakos will be legal then either. My basic list, baring some tweaks after I look into things, is this:

Bane Thralls
-UA
Bile Thralls
Bane Lord Tartarus
Nightwretch
Nightwretch
Leviathan

I have three points left over to spend on something, but its my first pass.
Everything there is just good. Nothing is chaff and there to take up only space. The Leviathan is especially key, because if the draft goes south, I still have a plan. Everything works without spells, Nightwretches could be upgraded to Ripjaws, as well. No frills, but also none of the utility I am so used to. This part seems simple to me.

Finding Points for the Withershadow in 35 Is hard!

Finding Points for the Withershadow in 35 Is hard!

where I see a problem is a clash of strategies when it comes to the draft, and therefore the army building itself. Everyone is going to be fighting to get and hold those good spells, and they aren’t going to be passed unless they have something better in their pack. If you don’t get it in the first or second pull, expect it to be shitty, or something that is undervalued, and I think that a list built on cards that are typically undervalued except by the right casters could be a real winner. Bring a caster and a pile of cheap jacks, and the Withershadow combine. Full Throttle, Superiority and other spells become your friend, and other will probably not have build for them. Bring a caster that focus’ on direct damage spells and try to leverage them through.

Putting all your eggs in one basket is risky though. Betting on a better, all around plan seems to be another way to really get the gears going. Take a caster that is suitable in Melee, that doesn’t rely on any spells to get the job done. Have them have a gun. Make sure they have Battlegroup support build into their card. Have a good feat for 35 points, and build a self sufficient army. Make sure you have at least one arc node. Grab every spell that looks the smallest bit good. This seems a really good way to hedge your bets, but I think it’ll fall to the created skew lists that take advantage of undervalued cards.

I’ve lumped the Cryx casters into several broad categories, though I am willing to entertain dissension of these categories.

Looks Good:
Skarre II: Seems to have all the tools to fill the second, generalist option. Seas of fate, blood trade, her feat , lifetrader and a hand cannon make her a standout.
Asphyxious I: His feat refills his focus, and with some of the fantastic 2 point spells out there, he could really be killer. In addition, anything that boosts his initial threat range of 11″ to something more reasonable could see him with a significant melee threat.
Goreshade I: Free bane thralls as a feat? No rules on the back of the card to make him need specific spells, with no good spells of his own? The only way is up!
Goreshade II: His feat is great, and his weapon is good. Automnatc stationary is like sustained attack, above.
Deneghra: Her feat and stealth combine for some really good synergy without a spell list.
The Witch Coven: I really like that they can make spells cheaper every turn. With the Withershadow, Warwitches, Scarlock and Deathjack, I could turn it into a massive focus factory. They still suffer the same problems here, though, that they do everywhere else, and will die to any sort of attack. Thankfully, there is no killbox, and no reason for the girls to get close.

Looks Bad
Deneghra II: Feat is good on its own, and Dark Banishing is pretty great, but the rest of her oomph is in her spell list.
Mortenebra: Interface and Repair are good, but there is just something here that screams that she needs more from her spells than I would be able to make up.
Asphyxious II: He would be a literal Feat with legs. most of his greatness comes from Hellbound, Parasite, and Caustic Mist. No thanks.
Lich Lord Terminus: Him only being a MAT 17 Pow 16 without Malediction really hurts. Tough is good, as is the 10″ spray and Sac-pawn, but I’ll pass.

No Thanks
Lich Lord Venethrax: With a small feat to begin with, and all of his muscle tied up in some really great spells, he’s just got nothing going for him.
Scaverous: Wile his feat is an amazing spectacle, the Def 14, arm 17 caster on a medium base with no set spell list is a really dicey proposal.
Skarre I: Her feat is gangbusters, but without her Sacrificial Lamb factory and Dark Guidance, I don’t think she can cut it.

I’ve got a lot of choices to make here on out, and I’m not completely sure about any of them!