During Lock and Load Whitemoon Dreams had a number of computers set up for people to demo up the versus mode of Warmachine: Tactics. The tables were packed until about 8 pm every night, but I was lucky enough to play the game twice, but I also got to spend a ton of time talking to Jay Koottarappallil, the CEO of the Whitemoon Dreams. He was a fantastic guy, taking feedback and suggestions all weekend, jotting them down and paying attention to what people said. It was really and amazing sight to see the top end of the company interacting with the exact target demographic like that. I work for a 20,000 employee global corporation, and I’ve never heard of the CEO talking to the professionals who use our products.

I enjoyed both experiences with the game,, but I know I am a least common denominator type of player. I like things to act reasonably well, I like the game to flow logically, and I don’t ask it to be 100% perfect. Tactics hit all those spots dead on. The effects have some small concerns, but Jay was already aware of them and is working on getting them cleaned up by launch.

Warmachine Tactic

The Demo is Cygnar v. Khador, and its a pretty fair fight. Khador is Lead by Sorcha with a Juggernaut and a Destroyer along with some 6 or so Winter Guard Infantry. Cygnar is lead by Stryker with a Lancer, Charger and Ironclad, along with an amount of Trenchers equal to the Winterguard. Deployment was minimal, but thats slated to be tweaked as well. Each turn starts with a Control Phase, fairly similar to Warmachine. You can allocate up to 3 focus to each ‘Jack, Upkeep Spells, and Shake Effects on Jacks and Casters. Your activation phase is just like you would expect if your familiar with the table top, with each model completing its action before moving onto the next. There is a small difference, though, in definition of a model. Each Winter Guard or Trencher is activated individually, and it not connected to any of the others. More importantly, spells (like Stryker’s Arcane Shield) do not flow over to all the models. I actually really like this. Especially in a video game like Tactics, putting the focus onto Warjacks will be paramount, and this one change will really make a difference. The return on investment that you normally get from unit buffs just won’t exist. Along with the change to solos, your Winter Guard and Trencher Infantry are extremely durable, potentially too much so. If I remember correctly, the Trenchers had 17 HP and the Winter Guard 16. This made the infantry survive attacks I’d not thought possible, including both attacks from assaulting Trencher Infantry, A Destroyer and a Juggernauts axe, and being shot in the face by a hand Cannon. Warjacks, too, are more Durable, with pounds of HP and, listen to this, no systems. I don’t know that I’m a fan of them not having systems, but it works well int he context of the games that I played. Effects like Disruption, Amputation, and the Shock Shield won’t be in the game in the way we remember from the tabletop. Disruption, for instance, simply prevents you from being able to allocate a single focus per instance to an affected Warjack, and can stack! Critical Amputation does a temporary (from what I remember) armor debuff, and the Shock Shield simply has the Disruption effect. I’m slightly concerned about the balance of the Cryx Bonejacks, because their DEF 15 is something that crippling the movement really helps alleviate. reducing a jacks movement to scrap, and therefore making it easier to hit, isn’t possible. This could have dire consequences.

Speaking of Stats: The game has been broken down into a star Rating for each stat, in the range of 1-5 stars. Fpr armor this roughly represents 4 points per star.  Other stats have each star vaguely representing 2 points each. When rolling dice, though,  this is translated directly, using a 2d6 system.  This can be disconcerting at first, like seeing that Sorcha under Wind Rush only has a 12 defense, but it all equals out, with winterguard only have a 2 or 3 for Melee attack.

The Warcaster plays exactly like you’d expect them too, with their entire spell list, weapons and feat available. You have your control area visible at all times on the field, and there is realistically nothing you can’t do that you’d expect to be able to do normally. Its a really interesting that they decided to translate so directly, because Warcasters are so vital to the tabletop experience, you’ve got to make them work. It feels, and I think this is the proper move from Whitemoon Dreams: Don’t fix whats not broke.

When I first sat down to play Tactics, Jay was there to walk me through the interface. I seem to remember him saying that it was a down and dirty, very simplified beta interface, which is fine because there are plenty of refinements to make to it, and I have every confidence that they will, based simply on feedback I gave then and there.

The game plays sleek and swift, and I didn’t notice any slowdown – now, its a dedicated box, so I expect that, but it still needs saying. The models looked great, but I’m not a judge of art, They looked true to their models on the tabletop, and that was fantastic. They even acted like it, with Trenchers having Bayonet Charge, the destroyers gun was horribly inaccurate, and the Charger even had Powerful Attack.

Models have indicators for where they can move, where they can run, and you even get LOS + range indicators from the spot you’d want to stop in.

Example – Your considering moving your Winter Guard, but you don’t know whether he should run or walk and attack, because you don’t know if he’d be in range. You move your mouse to the area indicated at the farthest he can move up, and thin yellow two lines appear – one to the Charger and one to a Trencher Infantry. You know that from that position, you’d be able to make an attack on either target. You move the cursor a single box to the left, and the Charger vanishes from LOS behind a ruin – and your yellow line is gone with it.

There are  differences with boosting that come off wrong at first, especially to one so used to playing the game, that just flow eventually into the game. First off, you choose your boosts before you make your attack – both to hit and to damage. Second, all damage is boosted from an attack, and that is VERY cool on the destroyer.

Each game ended exactly as I’d expect a standard Warmachine game to end, and the stories told about them will sound familiar. Game 1, Sorcha Wind Rushed and froze both Warjacks, but a shake and two lucky 10’s later, the Ironclad had pasted Sorcha. Game 2 I used my Quake Hammer to knock down both jacks shielding Sorcha, moved the now disengaged Lancer over and to her and headbutt her to the ground, and took Shots at her with two Trencher Infantry, Strykers Pistol, and an Arcane Bolt, all of which she survived. She then took a free strike after shaking the headbutt and died to the Lancers spear.

The stories are the same, but the game is different, and in the right ways given the medium that the IP is being expressed in. I don’t expect, and don’t really even want, a tabletop clone. What I want, and what they are giving me, is a new way to explore the same game.

I am not looking forward to this man.

I am not looking forward to this man.

Talking to Jay about the vision of how they want to explore the game was really inspiring as well. They have 3 casters for each of the four factions ready to go, along with a pile of characters and a release schedule that will continually add unit choices to the game. Again, he was super-receptive to feedback, jotting down things I said in passing as good ideas and further tweaks.

Closed beta starts here in just a few weeks, with open beta shortly thereafter and an on-time release of the game in August. I honestly won’t be playing a ton of Multiplayer, as I enjoy the tabletop so much, but I will definitely be playing through the campaign mode, and you can bet you’ll hear about it!

 

When I took off from Baltimore on Wednesday, I was more excited for Lock and Load than I’d been last two years. That doesn’t mean a whole lot because I’m not one to get terribly excited in general. The excitement came from a number of related factors:  I was going to see my friends Sarah and Jonathan who I’d not seen in almost a year, I was going to attend the invitational and then Lock and Load itself,  I was going to hang with John DeMaris, a stellar fellow I met three years ago, I was going to  get games in with Aeryn Rudel, Lyle Lowrey, and Doug Hamilton, and, I discovered at the last minute, meet another set of friends I’d not seen in quite some time. I was also rooming with a bunch of Canadians, only one of which I’d ever met.

Not everything turned out as I expected, both for good and Ill, but it was a splendid time all around. What did I do you say?

Flying in Wednesday, I managed to have dinner with my friends from Maryland, now Seattle, and it was awesome just seeing them again. They gave me a room to crash in – The only bed I’d sleep in all weekend, good food and good company. Sadly, it was cut short by my stupid east coast brain. I took the train in super-early to get over to the Seattle Westin on Thursday to check in before the Invitational, and from there, met John for breakfast with the Canadians. Check in for the Invitational was super swift, and we got Lock and Load dice, too! Well, the ones I got were “miss printed” with a dark purple on black, but I love ’em, with the color scheme of the Ravens and my Cryx being the same. They are Q workshop dice, but I think they are much easier to read than the standard ones. I’m pleased.

Zaal's Immortal Host v. Barnabus

Zaal’s Immortal Host v. Barnabus

My first opponent of the day is Aeryn, who I’d played last year, but he’d been given the wrong warlock by Will Schick, so it wasn’t really a fair game. This year, however, he brought a tier 4 Immortal Host list painted by Charles Foster III, and it was a beautiful army. I was Playing my Exchange Gators, and had finally gotten my Swamptopus from Devilsquid and my Wrong Eye from Endgame. I put down my typical Barnabus list, and we set off on a caster kill. I don’t remember much from this game, other than realizing that the Witch Doc Croc can control the Kovass, and never making the roll. I’m sure the game ended with Zaal in the dirt, and I’m fairly sure it was my Maryland Terrapin that did him in, but hell if I could validate any of that. 1-0 on the weekend so far!

Barnabus V. Kreoss 3

Barnabus V. Kreoss 3

The next game was against Kreoss III, who brought along an Indictor, which I’d not seen proxied before. He used the avatar, and that made me very pleased, because who doesn’t want the Avatar to not be the Avatar! I ended up changing the list up (and for the rest of the con, really) by swapping out the Ironback for the Swamptopus. It was a fantastic move that made for some really cool games later on. This one, specifically, I managed to drag Fires of Salvation from engaging two Gators, allowing them to break out and take down some Exemplar Vengers. The Swamptopus, though, Nearly cleaned out fires all by himself, which was pretty epic, getting a 4 point Critical Catastrophic Damage off, making the total 15 points of damage! in the end, Kreoss took three turns of beatings by a Blackhide Wrastler before being put in the ground, but it was finished! 2-0 baby!

During the invitational, there was a raffle of sorts, and I was lucky enough to win all the Standard Sculpt Juniors and Lessers, which is a pretty big deal to me. I Have Cygnar, Mercs, Skorne and Cryx, which is just shy of half of them. But now I have to find out reasons to make a Trollblood, Ret, Khador, Protectorate and Circle lists that have them in it. Like I needed more factions.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to get in any more games during the invitational, but it was a blast playing Aeryn, which I am going to make a tradition, and my Kreoss Opponent was a great guy. I passed out early, knowing that I had Spelldraft the next day.

Well, I Spelldrafted Friday, Which I’ve already wrote about, so I won’t go over it again, but suffice it to say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I also got to see the keynote/Staff Panel, which was pretty OK. I like the information on Level 7 and Warmachine: Tactics, and the Monsternomicon stuff was just off the hook, I just couldn’t help but be disappointed in the lack of Warmachine and Tactics stuff. There were four slides:

starting off with a non-character Beserker Chassis Jack called the Mad Dog, ripped straight from High Command:

Khadoran Mad Dog

Then, a picture of some unknown Protectorate jack, with a mace, flamethrower, and what seems to be an arc node.

Protectorate Jack

Next, Concept art for a Ret Character Warjack. They mentioned if you want to see who’s character jack it is, pay attention to the weapons – looks like Garryth to me.

Garreth JackAnd finally, they showed this still, which could be either Pirates or Cryx.

Pirate Unit

While this slide was up, they mentioned that they were doing characters in Reckoning like they had done before in Apotheosis, supposedly to that type of power level. Its only fair, seeing as Imperatus just released, to keep Ret one step behind! They’d also mentioned that we were going to see some character units, if I remember correctly, and that’s something I’d really love to see. While the Withershadow Combine are freaking amazing, I think Cryx needs another bite at the Black 13th apple!

I was exhausted Friday, but I wanted to get my Cephalyx assembled, so I got up fairly early and started on them after a brief breakfast. I took some shots as I was assembling them:

monstrosity bits

monstrosity bits

Pre-Magnetized Monstrosities

Pre-Magnetized Monstrosities

Dominator

Cephalyx Dominator

Cephalyx Agitators

Cephalyx Agitators

Mind bender

Mind Bender and Drudges Unit


Sadly, the only model I didn’t get a picture of as I was doing all this was the enormous Thexus himself.

But lets get to that now!

Thexus v. Borka 2

Thexus v. Borka 2

The first game of the day was against Borka II, who had been assembled at the same table while I was assembling my Cephalyx. He is not a nice man. We were both, however, playing the caster for the first time, and neither of us really knew what to expect. I managed to win on scenario, but mostly because I could spray everything of his off the board. Overlords, Agitators, Mind Benders and Mind Slavers all have spray attacks that are extremely good. What I couldn’t spray, I could TK, and the feat was just Icing on top. I will say, someones going to figure out something insane with Borka II, and I’m just not gonna like it. 8-1 (yes, I am counting Spelldraft games!)

Thexus v. Goreshade III

Thexus v. Goreshade III

The second game was against Goreshade III, playing a massive, very cool, Tier list. He’d also decided to go for Cephalyx, and wanted to see how they play out on the tabletop. He’d played his Goreshade III list some 60+ times, and man, did it show. While I gave him a run for his money, I just didn’t know my list as well as he did his. The Wrecker, though, did his job and walked through 6 or 7 bane riders in a single activation, momentarily swinging the game. He had, however, picked off both my Dominator and my Mind Bender with magic attacks, and Croe’s never rallied. Playing 11 points down just wasn’t going to help my cause. I could have tied up or even killed the arc node had they been around, but it just wasn’t in the cards. It takes a total of two Siphon bolts onto Thexus and the game ends. 8-2

Me and Doug v. Martin and Max

Me and Doug v. Martin and Max

The third game I played was a team game with Doug Hamilton against Team France. They brought Skorne and Cryx, with Doug and I bringing Cephalyx and Convergence. It was a brutal game, and I rolled my fair share of hard 8’s to bring down most of the Satyxis with the Mind benders. The Drudge unit didn’t last long to the reprisal, and the Warden, when given a chance on Skarre failed to complete the job. Thankfully, He did it on a free strike that saved Thexus’ bacon, allowing us to call the game there up one caster to 0. I even got to use Doug’s Hulk Monstrosities because mine were.. well.. criticized for not being recognizable. I will say, though, that using the feat to clump up all the Venetor Slingers into a nice 5″ aoe bubble and then having the stupid Bloat Thrall miss his shot and sail 6″ right was a real bummer. 9-2!

Thexus 4

Cygnar and Cephlyx v. Cryx and Trolls

The last game of the day was again a team game against a couple of friends who were standing behind me in line reporting games. It was starting to get late, and I was getting loopy, and the scenario table didn’t help. We played Hold the Gates, with 25 points each of Thexus  and Cygnar v. 50 points each of Cryx and Trolls. It was BRUTAL. We held the gates, with Stormwall taking down Deathjack, and a million tough rolls on both Boomhowler and the Mind Bender Drudges holding down the fort long enough to eek out a win. 10-2

Barnabus v. Grissel 2

Barnabus v. Grissel 2

Sunday was not so kind to me. I got up early, and grabbed my first opponent about 7am after just about 4 hours of sleep. He slapped down the Mini Meat Mountain – 35 points of Pure Pain. I was playing gators, so I had no idea were this was going. Turns out, It went about as good as it could. Toward the end of the game, the Swamptopus got over to Grissel II and flailed about at her right good, but even with 8 attacks he couldn’t put the finishing touch on her. One of my Gatormen, eager to finish the fight, took a free strike from a warder, survived, and smacked the knocked down Warlock in the face. I needed High rolls, at ARM 19, but dice -3 isn’t terrible. But, as they always do, my dice pulled the law of averages on my face and rolled snake eyes, sealing the game, as Barnabas was beat to a pulp, just barely, by Mulg. 10-3

Barnabus v. Harbinger

Barnabus v. Harbinger

My next game was not something I was thrilled about once I saw what Frka had dropped on the table. Harbinger. I wasn’t sure what I’d do about it, but it wasn’t going to be OK. I lost my feat due to the book, and was really struggling from then on out. I made a decent play for it, with Barnabus forcing Harbinger to Martyr down to 4 hp, but in the end, I couldn’t clear the flag, and ended up loosing on control points. I probably sacrificed my Two big beasts a touch early, but I didn’t think it could be helped. Submerge being purified off is just rotten. 10-4

Sadly, my last game of the day I didn’t get a picture of, though it would have been epic. A friend I’ve known for a while but never got a game in against was also at Lock and Load, so we threw down. In the vein of all my Sunday Matchups, he tosses out a legit caster – Saeryn, with a pretty brutal list including a Scythian and two Angels. Standard fare, I’ve been told. Barnabus is good, But I don’t think he’s good enough to tangle with the big boys. Thankfully, I’m able to weather the storm, and make it through the feat turn by blocking LOS to Barnabus with big models in a swamp pit. I’m finally able to pop my feat, use Croak Hunter thrown spears to trigger Warpath, and get the Swamptopus on Searyn. Turns out, no girl likes being stuffed into the mouth of Pink Octopus. 11-4!

I really enjoyed getting a ton of games in. I couldn’t think of a better way to do it. The food was good, the people were awesome, and the staff was a blast to play against.

But there’s more!

In addition to the games, there was also a Privateer hobby area where the Concept artist, Digital and Traditional Sculptors, Painters and Terrain builders were all hanging out. They had concept art of the Sacral Vault and the actual model for Helga, which I tragically didn’t get pictures for. But they did also have Trollkin bandits

Painting Bandits Trollkin Bandits

and also the model, albeit primed, for Jaga Jaga.

Jaga Jaga

Finally, they also had someone sculpting the Swamp Gobber River pirates, with concept art there as well:

River Pirates

 

I had a blast at Lock and Load, and look forward to making the trip out next year. Maybe this time, I can somehow magic my way into an Iron Gauntlet and get beat by the best int he business!

 

Man, what a format! Spelldraft lived up to my lofty expectations, and I really enjoyed the whole 63 man tournament. I will say that I liked the format better than Who’s the Boss, specifically because I don’t have to be terrified of breaking someone else’s models.

Every opponent I had was a top-notch guy, and I’d play any of them again in a standard tournament, though I’d likely not do as well.

I ended up playing against,  in order:

Rhan with Ashes to ashes
Kromack with Rage, Fury, and Defenders Ward
Epic Skarre with Savagery and Iron Flesh
Epic Haley with Signs and Portents
Epic Morvanna with Arcane Bolt
Epic Skarre with Ashes to Ashes

The format is not balanced against the rest of Warmachine, but it is internally balanced with itself. It has a pre-selected set of 64 cards, organized into  8 pre-sorted card pools that are all crafted to create choice within the packs. In the pack I opened there were both Signs and Portents and Boneshaker. It was a tough choice to make, but I went with Bone Shaker.  I didn’t think that the capacity to remove up to 18 models in a turn was going to come around again, and I could spam it more than Signs and Portents. I also  didn’t know what was in the rest of the packs, and was hoping for another global buff. In the end, I don’t think I did so bad, though I didn’t end up with a single CTRL buff.

Spell draft Cards

I had focused on making the most out of the random spells, but some players went with straight up high focus casters, some had no-frills casters who worked without spells, and other still focused on the feat with spells to enable it. While there was a huge variety, I was legitimately surprised at the lack of Harbingers and Kreoss 3’s, maybe that is just me. My biggest fear, though, was assuaged when they defaulted to Deathclock. I was a very happy camper seeing the chess clocks on the tables instead of timers. I was convinced that if we used timed turns, they would be the death of me.

Every games, as I mentioned, was a blast, so let me run down the highlights, for those of you who weren’t on my twitter.

Game 1: Austin brings a fairly standard Rhan list, with two units of Battle Mages, Sentinels, and a Phoenix. Thankfully, I got lucky Chain lighting rolls and erased his Battle Mages on the top of turn 2 before I could get engaged. Rhan ends up Spirit Fanged to death Turn 3.

Game 2: James Brings a brutal list of Kromack, twin stalkers, Ghetorix, and double shifting stones. Thankfully, last Masters I saw this terrible thing, and ended up nullifying one set of stones early on. I’d also dropped a ton of damage, but not enough to kill, into Kromack on turn 2, forcing him to play cautious. Though I hate to win this way, he ran out of time while making attacks on the Egregore with Ghetorix. He’d have won, no doubt, given infinite time.

Game 3: A very exuberant cryx player, who I forget the poor dudes name, brings an Epic Skarre list, with Satyxis, Bane Knights, Deathjack and Tartarus. He starts out debasing himself and how terrible he is, but I jovially call him out on his tactic, and we get along for the rest of the game. He forgets to feat at the only time he needed it, and I Spirit Fang Skarre off the board, again getting me out of the game on luck.

Not all those Banes make it.

Not all those Banes make it.

Game 4 was against a terrifying Epic Haley list run by Adam with a Stormwall and Blazers. Thanks to Quagmire, the Satyxis were able to tie up the Blazers for the majority of the game, making them less relevant, but still potent. What really swung the game, though, was my 5 Primed Bane Thralls miraculously dropping the Stormwall, freeing me to go for scenario.

Game 5 was an epic debacle against Colin Hill, and his Epic Morvanna list. He ended up killing his own Gallows Grove, Feating for it, and dropping it next to the Coven. Two shots and a re-roll later, he’s killed two of the coven and a focus 3 caster just can’t get it done.If I’d have been better prepared for it, I had crevasse, and could have forced a longer game, though I did get to see the Staff Panel, so it wasn’t all bad.

Game 6 was against Craig, another Epic Skarre player who had full units of Thralls and Knights, along with Tartarus and Deathjack. I took Tartarus off the board with Bone Shakered Bane Knights, and then I was able to get the terrible Bone Shaker train to go off. I took almost the entire Bane Knight unit off at once. . At the end of the day, Spirit Fang shots into Skarre ended the match, after I survived her feat.

Ultimately, I think it was both spell selection and the list that made the Army hum. I was familiar with the Scenario, I had practiced using the caster, and though I had fiddled with the list a bit, I kept the basic parts strong and enabled my arcnodes to get into place to deliver the tons of POW 12’s to the casters face.

Arm 14 – 45 damage.
Arm 15 – 36 damage
Arm 16 – 27 damage
Arm 17 – 18 damage
Arm 18 – 9 Damage ( 17  if boosting damage)

The three arc nodes, though I’d been cautioned against it,  meant I could easily sacrifice one to take out all his troops, one to drop damage into the caster, and have a third ready to finish the game.  Biles kept troops and casters out of zones, with MAT 8/pow 13 Bane Thralls keeping heavies in check.

It was an amazing, insane tournament that lasted for almost 12 hours, and I look forward to the PDF and rules coming out post-gencon. While the Static set of 64 spells could possibly get old, I spoke with both D.C. and Hungerford, who both mentioned that there are plans to change up the lists every year. I think that’ll do wonders to keeping the format fresh, though I can’t see the staples being replaced anytime soon, but thats the same with every format, Masters and Iron Gauntlet Included. There has also been talk of limiting or banning casters, and I can see why. The top four were: Witch Coven, Witch Coven, Epic Skarre, and Morvanna 2. Seems like there might be a bit of an unbalance there, With the Witch Coven represented well, Cryx represented well, and only the eventual winner with Epic Morvanna to break up the monotony. I look forward to it next year!

I’m writing this before even heading out to lock and load, but I am scheduling this to show up on Thursday, at noon, right about the time I’ll be getting breakfast with a friend from Muse on Minis on the other coast, gearing up for a day of PG gaming. I’ll also be looking to get a first bite at a Cephalyx army. I’ve been chomping at the bit to get these guys and put them on the table as often as possible between then and August as I can. I’ll probably even be playing them at NOVA, so if your coming down, find me and see if we can get a game in!

The list I’ve put together to put together is a simple tasters choice affair, in order to let me get a feel for all the models in the range

Exulon Thexus+5
-Subduer7
-Warden6
-Wrecker7
Mind Slaver and Drudges (10)6
Mind Bender and Drudges (10)6
Cephalyx Agitator2
Cephalyx Agitator2
Cephalyx Agitator2
Croes Cutthroats (10)10
-Cephalyx Dominator1
Bloat Thrall2
Cephalyx Overlords4
55

mind bender

I’m considering cutting the Croes down to 7 and adding a Pistol Wraith, or even cutting them down to the Tactical Arcansit Corps, and adding two of em. Either way, I feel I’ve done right by the army.

I’m worried that the amount of Officers, the vulnerability of them, and the reliance the army has on them will end up making it completely worthless, but Deceleration makes them just hardy enough I’m not clenching my buttcheeks in terror, just worry. I really wish I had more to go off of, though, but having no play time fills me with trepidation about making any sort of predictions.

I’m also negotiating a trade with a friend of mine, so I’ll be able to repaint my Cephalyx models in a deep red color, one I think goes with my Cryx army, but apart from it.

I know its short as hell, but its a Convention update, and I expect to be tweeting and facebooking updates starting at 11:00 PST, so stay tuned anyway!! I’ll also be doing a wrap up on Tuesday, writing it on my flight on my tablet, so we will see how that goes!

 

Recently, if it has not been clear, I’ve been playing the Witch Coven, trying to get a handle on them as I intend to play them at the Spell Draft event at lock and load. There isn’t much practice on can really do to prepare, other than make sure that you know the caster inside and out, allowing you to make do with a new spell list.

I managed to get 8 games in before the trip out to Seattle, Going 6-2 in that time. Granted, its 50 point games instead of 35, but the core of the list is staying very much the same.

Coven v. Kaelyssa – Loss: Assassination – List v. 1
Coven v. Butcher – Loss: Assassination  – List v. 2
Coven v. Iron Mother – Win: Scenario – List v. 3
Coven v. Reznik 2 – Win: Assassination – List v. 4
Coven v. Sturgis – Win: Scenario – List v. 3.1
Coven v. Morvanna 2 – Win: Scenario – List v. 3.2
Coven v. Kreoss 3 – Win: Scenario – List v. 3.3
Coven v. Rhan – Win: Assassination – List v. 3.3

The list that I’ve settled on looks like this:

The Witch Coven of Gharlghast+5
-Egregore-
-Deathripper4
-Nightwretch4
-Nightwretch4
Bane Thralls (10)8
-Bane Thrall Officer3
Satyxis Raiders (10)8
-Satyxis Sea Witch2
Bile Thralls (6)5
Warwitch Siren2
35

That is the core of list 3. I’ve messed around with some of the support staff, and at 50 I add a second Warwitch Siren, A Scarlock, and a full unit of Bane Riders. I really like this list. It can handle massed infantry, heavy armor and High Defense. Its durable against shooting and has some peculiar scalpel elements. I think its as close to a take on all comers list that I can write.

Now, with my list down, I’ve started to look at all the casters and see what spells they have and what would be nice to see get passed to me. There are some very nice ones out there, and while I still have some questions as to what spells are in the packs, I have some really cool plans. They did, however, say that they’ve removes spells that would “break the game. ” That is a bit of an opinion statement though, as I know plenty of people that feel that Purification breaks the game even now. That said there are some particular spell categories that I will be looking to grab:
Army Support – ex: Carnage,Signs and Portents,Transference, Mockery of Life. Arcane Shield
These are spells that will allow my normally average stat troopers to step up a notch. An 18″ control area really pushes spells like Signs and Portents and Carnage through the roof, while the Focus 9 will really give transference a boost.

Speed Buff – ex: Road to War,Dash,Superiority,Killing Ground, Crusaders Call, Coup de Main, True Path, Tactical Supremacy, Unstoppable Force, Quickening
These spells either give a single unit or my whole army a speed boost. Superiority is a specifically desired spell, as having a def 17, speed 9 Arc node would be magnificent. I really think that the scenario is ripe for Jamming, and I want to exploit that if at all possible. Besides, Satyxis with a +4 movement would be glorious, right?

Defense- ex:Fog of War, Temporal Barrier, Storm Wall, Star Crossed, Solid Ground, Caustic Mist, Rapid Growth, Pillars of Salt, Ashen Cloud, Deflection, Deceleration, Castigate, Lamentation, Bestial
These allow the Coven to capitalize on their main game: Army delivery. I’m fairly sure that this is going to be critical to getting a good Spell list. Fortunately, there are a ton to choose from. My personal favorite would be the 9 1cost Caustic Mists, but I’ll take pretty much everything on this list, and I could even double up. Star crossed + Ashen Cloud? Fog of War + Pillars of Salt?

Chain Lighting

Nuke- ex: Soulfire, Siphon Bolt, Razor Wind, Bone Shaker (probably the best 2 cost Nuke I could grab, netting me up to 18 dead models a turn), Chain Lighting, Sunder Spirit, Convection, Excarnate
This is the bread and butter of my concept. If I can grab just one 2 point nuke, I can eliminate units a a time. I’d need only 8’s to hit DEF 17, and at cost 1, boosting is easy. Most of them are POW 12 allowing great flexibility in the targets that it can kill.

Defense or Speed Debuffs – ex: Crippling Grasp, Quagmire (Imagine, if you will, Satyxis), Inhospitable Ground, Freezing Grasp, Black Spot.
With a pile of Banes and Satyxis, I could use a bit of help against some of the higher defense models. Yes, I have Biles, but I landing an extra shot or two on some of the Iron Fleshed Gunmages, Daughters of the Flame or other problematic models would be pretty useful.

Other- ex: Telekinesis, Ritual Sacrifice
There isn’t a ton to say here, really. I want both of these spells.

While looking through the spells, there were many that I really wouldn’t want, and while that will make the first few picks a lot of fun, it can make some of the later spells that no one else wants very damning. I’ve drafted a lot of M:TG, and the last few picks are whatever everyone rejected from the pool. I know I can end up with a pretty dead slot of I have Unearthly Rage or Positive Charge, but I can make do. There are very few spells I don’t want at all, or couldn’t use, especially at -1 cost. I’d really like to get as close as I can to keeping the Delivery Caster mentality, with some extra “pop” that would make the Coven really hum.

What I am really excited about is that I can use multiple Self-Upkeep spells in a round, due to the multiple activations that the coven has. The thought of starting the turn off with Signs and Portents, pushing the middle of the pack up with Road to War and then ending with Both Deflection and Fog of War really makes me giddy.

evayl

While I have all these grand plans, I expect there to be a ton of Vayle 2, Kreoss 3, Harbinger, Haley 2 and Coven. Each of them has a ton of focus and a back breaking feat. I even expect there to be a few Rogue casters looking to get one in – Casters that run Jacks well and will pick all the jack spells to make themselves super-powered: Absylonia, Darius and Magnus come to mind right away. While each of these casters can cause a massive amount of damage on their own, what I am really worries about is Timed Turns. I’m not particularly good at them, and prefer the deathclock variant overall, so I am worries that I’ll end up busting my turns by waiting to get that last move in.

No matter what happens, I expect Friday to be a ton of fun. Its an exceptionally long tournament with 6 rounds and the draft itself taking us all the way to the Staff Panel. I will have almost no time to play Iron Arena games that day, but I’m OK giving that up to play in the first Sanctioned Spell Draft Event.

I’ll be trying to update via facebook and twitter the coolest things I see at Lock and Load, so find me and follow!

Coven Art By Dan Roman

I have previously discussed the basics of Jam Theory, and then proceeded to talk about my  Infantry options just a few days ago. In keeping with that, I’m going to examine the remaining portions of a Warmachine list, breaking down why I take both the Solos and the Warjacks that I do. Its not a typical list, and its not going to appeal to everyone, I know.

First things first, as I mentioned in the original article, I don’t go the ‘Jack heavy route that others have gone.That rode is paved and well worn and its just something I don’t have the desire or capacity to buy, build, and paint. While lights are better in pairs, especially our combat versions, I’ve already got two magnetized Slayer chassis and I don’t use either. The list I run focuses purely on jamming the opponent and doesn’t run a single heavy, and I’ve never missed it. There was a brief time, after the first outing, when I realized that I had too much jam in the list and didn’t bring enough options, any really, to solve armor, that I considered a heavy of two. In the end it was ust more economical to add 12 Bane Thralls and Tartarus. I’ve even recently dropped Tartarus as well, not needing either his speed or his bonus to hit.

On the other edge of that sword, though, I’ve really been hedging my bets on the arcnodes. A friend of mine keeps telling me I take to many, and that 2 is going to be more than enough. What I’ve been running is a cheap trio of a ‘Nodes, featuring a pair of Nightwretches and a Deathripper. Again, I’ve been told that three is to many, but I feel that in this specific build you can never be to careful. Having the right spell in the right spot during the right witch activation in order to hand out Ghost Walk, Occultation, and Curse of Shadows wherever called for is a strong enough reason to have enough nodes to accomplish the task.

Nightwretch

The Nightwretch, specifically, is my go to in this list. Focusing on Jam and scenario, there will be many, many times that you’re going to need to remove but a single model from the Zone to win, or your going to need a charge lane cleared or a spot for an arc node freed. The humble nightwretch does all of that and more in a single package. With a Rat 5 it can hit jacks reliably, boosting to damage with its pow 14 cannon. Conversely, that same Pow 14 will decimate nearly any infantry model it hits, needing only to boost.  The sirens, vital to the list, tag along beside him making sure he can run or kill his target, whatever is needed.

Second here is the Deathripper. With the same 4 pc as the Nightwretch, they bring a completely different threat to the board. Amped up with Infernal Machine, this little jack can do tons of work. P+S 15 v. Curse of Shadowed targets, MAT 8 and Speed 9 with a 12.5″ charge just gives it insane threat range. I cannot say enough good things about this little demon in this specific list. The debate over whether ranged or melee is better is endless, but I am firmly on the side of ranged. My arc nodes are never in combat, being that they can’t channel then, or they are dead and can’t channel anyway. Though they are slightly more survivable with her feat denying LOS and giving an essentially +2 def buff, its very rare that any node I get into combat lives.

The other two Arc nodes make honorable mention here as well, generally accomplishing the same task at a slightly higher price point.both have upside and I’ve considered the Ripjaw for its AP attack and its vice lock, one of which can apply significant damage, the other pinning a model in place for scenario pressure. I’ve also considered the Defiler for its spray attack that ignores many defenses, at a slightly higher range, but lower power. Upgrading them, however, will result in the loss of either a Scarlock or a Warwitch siren, neither of which I am ready to give up quite yet.

Infernal Machine, many will say, is a direct call for a heavy ‘Jack with them, and I can’t really disagree. Our ‘Jacks with speed 8, Mat 9+ and terror are literal nightmares, but with all the focus that I toss around casting spells and delivering units I can’t spare the resources that would be needed to take care even a single heavy ‘Jack. Instead, I give Infernal Machine to my Deathripper and set him loose. Speed 9 on an arcnode is bonkers-good, and mat 8 with sustained attack is extremely legit. The 40mm base size has gives him a bit of added mobility that I’d have not expected, allowing him to get in to places I would not have been able to fit a heavy. The arc nodes are also fast enough to keep up with the jam, and can either run flanks, or lope down the middle behind the army.

Though three arcnodes may be a touch to many for some, I find that the utility of having one of them a combat ‘Jack and other two having powerful ranged weapons makes it so that the points are not wasted if I am not arcing spells through them. With Sirens giving power booster out and the Scarlock delivering ghostly where needed all three can be extremely potent threats and powerful scenario pieces.

For the sake of argument, though, lets take a look at some of the better  ‘jacks for the Coven to take, keeping the Jam in mind. I don’t expect everyone anyone to be net decking my list, but anyone who happens across this may want to tweak things a bit.

-Harrower: Oh man, the good things about this jack are endless. Reach and Thresher on its P+S 16 melee weapon, a P+S 14 Ghost Shot AOE 3 gun, Soul Collector, Pathfinder, Steady, it just goes on. There are, however, a pair of bad things: Speed 5, and PC 10. In a Jam list, the Speed 5 is an extreme handicap, especially for the 10 points. However, with an investment of Infernal Machine, it becomes a speed 7, mat 7 reach thresher monster. If you’re not taking the Machine Minds list, I think its a very strong option. It also can make a hell of a self fueling powerhouse after the initial three focus investment, possibly killing every model it can get in its 2″ reach

Deathjack

-Deathjack: Really? Really, I’m going here. Yes, Deathjack is good with almost everyone, but its also exceedingly amazing with the Coven. With the ability to charge in, Curse of Shadows, and then take its attacks, or to give itself Ghost Walk, Infernal Machine or Occultation, its a nearly self sufficient death machine. While Deathjack begs for Occultation, there are just better targets in the list I have than good ol’ DJ. The threat of a MAT 10 speed 8 Deathjack is enough to make many soil their shorts right out, thought he terror is redundant. Finally, an extra boosted Stygian Abyss could be stellar. Personally,  I’d just rather use the 12 points on the backup Bane Thralls, who are both more durable by quantity and can hit more often while granting a debuff.

-Slayer: Its a simple, brutal instrument of death that can really push the boundaries of awesome when Infernal Machine is applied. MAT 9, Speed 8 and Terror are simply above and beyond what most heavies can reasonably accomplish. With the Coven able to feed him up to three focus easily, its a no brainier for its 6 point investment.

The light of note here is a Stalker. Sometimes its the simple things that win games, and an Arcane Assassin POW 12 Jack with Mat 7 and speed 7 can cause ample amount of terror without Infernal Machine. With Infernal Machine it goes up to SPD and MAT 9, causing terror and all the while being def 16 w/ stealth. Its one thing I feel might take the spot of the Deathripper, but I’m not yet convinced.

Next time, I’ll talk a bit about my Solo choices and a bit about how I’ve learned to play the game. I’m so very happy that I picked the coven back up again.

Oh, and Next week I’ll be at lock and load! I’ll probably be tweeting my journey through Spelldraft, my Iron Arena adventures, and any spoilers I get along the way. Follow me @Seethingginger for the dumb tweets! Don’t worry though, I’ll do a Lock and Load wrap up the Thursday after I get back.

Just a few days ago, Wizards released the primer and dates for the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and it turns out they are doing a few things different this time around.

The schedule is below.

Dungeons & Dragons Starter set: July 15th
Players Handbook: August 19th
Adventure: Hoard of the Dragon Queen (Forgotten Realms): August 19th
Monster Manual: September 30th
Adventure: Rise of Tiamat: October 21st
Dungeon Master’s Guide: November 18th

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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!

Bonus MTG Announcement post!

On Saturday, Wizards top Nerd Mark Rosewater (@maro254) unveiled the barest of information about the fall set for MTG and the block that will follow – Likely Warlords of Tarkir and Dragons of Tarkir. Unlike RTR (Large set, Large set, Small Set) or the Current Theros Block (Large, Small, Small), it will repeat the Innistrad block set mode (Large, Small, Large). In Innistrad this meant that drafting was shaken up when the third set drops, and I think that could be very exciting.

Khans of Tarkir is an all new setting based on the homeworld of Sarkhan Vol, one of the Planeswalkers from the Shards of Alara Block. Though nothing specific was spoiled,  though this pretty badass art by Jason Chan is the cover for all of the adverts as of right now.

Khans Poster

We do know, from the background of Sarkhan, that all the dragons are dead on this plane and were hunted to extinction. Its why Sarkhan has a love for dragons and worships them as semi-gods (from what I’ve managed to glean of his character), leading to all the dragon based abilities on his cards.

Its name gives the set an automatic Arabian/Mongol flavor and I think that’s really, really cool. There have been many original worlds that Wizards and MTG have conceptualized, but I’ve always enjoyed ones that tap into history and myth.  Arabian Knights, Legends, Theros, and even Innistrad, even though I am not a horror fan, had some really great homages to history and literature that made me smile. Khans has, potentially, a vast and untapped tapestry of lore and flavor. I don’t know where they are going, personally, but Mark mentioned in the video interview that they are bringing back something that the fans have been clamoring for, and also that they are doing something never done before that the fans have been clamoring for. 

I’ve been sifting through the rumors, but I can’t really make heads or tails of what mechanics or even broader genre of MTG function this could be: I’m not as in touch with this as I am many other nerd aspects of life, and I apologize. However, the popular Fetchland reprint is getting the most buzz, being something that bars the way into the newly-pushed Modern format. Enemy Color “wedges,” like the Shards world,  is also getting a lot of hype, and I can’t blame them. Just look at the colors of the art above, does that not evoke a Black-Red-White Wedge? Each banner going down the side is all three colors.

Then, We would have:




Thinking about it, all of them seem pretty cool to me, with Red-Blue-White being the strangest combination I’d like to see in play. Each of these would also give me some very cool Generals to play around in with EDH, and I am excited I could get a really fantastic general for my Stax deck.

Looks like I’m hooked for another go round of drafting!

 

– Spoilers ahead! I’ll try my best, but I can’t Guarantee anything. –

Dark Souls II could not have come at a worse time. My daughter was going to be 5 months old at release, and a game that does not pause is especially difficult to play with a 5 month old. I did get a chance to play a few hours over the weekend, and got a good feel of how brutal the game is.

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