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Zaal 2, Ancestral Advocate

Since a friend picked me up Zaal 2 at Gencon, I’ve been playing him exclusively, with strong results. Part of that is the inevitable surprise that new casters bring to the table, but a substantial portion of his success is due to the fact that he’s a solid ‘Caster. I know better than to believe that he will become one of the staple top 3 caster in the faction, but I do think he will get some solid play. His army list is constructed differently enough to engender a different play experience, but it is still the experience that is to be expected from the Skorne Faction. Skorne players have the same issue that Khadoran players have with their Warcasters, and I really don’t think that the issue is ever going to vanish. Both factions, at their core, leverage the melee potential in their army to finish the game. Zaal 2 does this with troopers, using the inevitable losses that an army sustains to guide and enable that which remainse remaining models to be more effective individually. Most Skorne casters rely heavily on their beasts. Zaal, in both incarnations, does not.

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No Bar to my Call

Whenever I see a new caster come out for my faction, I start poking and stabbing at them to see what makes them tick. Each new caster brings their own method of playing the game, and though each my not be terribly different from the others, almost every one of them requires you to think differently in order to bring the best models to bear with them. In some factions, like Skorne, there main difference is not what each caster brings, but how you apply what the faction does. Skorne beats face with almost every single caster, and each of them does it a bit differently. Zaal 2 brings a completely different tack than I am used to with Skorne – he feels like he was ripped out of the Cryx section.

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Don’t Fear the Reaper

Every once in a while, there is something about Warmachine and Hordes that strikes you strange, when you didn’t really know it was a strange thing to begin with. Recently, I’ve been working on learning matchups, evaluating army lists, and factoring in both overall and local meta into my own list composition. I’ve been using Skorne for just over 8 months now, with a slightly above average success rate using a number of different casters. I won’t say I’m a master of the Ways of Hoskune or anything, but I’ve been playing them on and off for 8 years, I like to think I know what I’m talking about.

Which leads me to the statement above. Something I was talking about with a friend struck me as strange, and something that I’d never considered before: Cryx, And Body and Soul in particular, are a difficult matchup for Skorne.

I’d never felt that before.

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Transfer of Power

I have yet to play enough games to really judge the power of Zaal, Ancestral Advocate, but I think I am starting to unlock him just a little bit. One of the most fun parts of both of Privateer Presses games, at least for me, is acclimating a new Warcaster or Warlock. I like putting each one on the table and seeing how they interact with the game what they do both for me mentally, and what they provide for the models on the board. I also enjoy the pains that they put my opponent through. Watching when and how an opponent reacts to how you’re playing the game and what your abilities are can in a general sense give you insight into how future opponents will react. All of those points, when added together, can give a really solid sense of how a ‘Caster is going to mesh with your style, your faction, and your temperament.

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Contents
  1. Advocation

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Advocation

With the Coming of Gencon and the release of new models, there is always the accompanying wailing and gnashing of teeth. Not, I didn’t say some. Entrenched in the very fabric of the Warmachine and Hordes community is the Doom Cycle, and endless repetition of bad feelings, gloom and resigned detachment. However, shortly thereafter, there is nearly always acceptance of the new models amidst the stable of the tried and true. This year’s Great Wail was heard over Zaal, Ancestral Advocate, the new Epic Skorne Warlock.

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In Spite of Myself 

I managed to sneak another game in on Tuesday, though at this point its no longer considered sneaking as I’ve been doing it for months. I brought out Zaal, again, but probably for the last time in a while, as my Skorne days are dwindling and I want to get a few more casters under my belt. This week, I took on a newer gamer from our meta playing a 50 pt. Rhan list.

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The Rage Ghosts

This week I was able to get in a game with an opponent I don’t get to see often. We used to get games in fairly regularly when I lived further south, but its been a while, and I was glad to see Protectorate on the other side of the Table. He brought Durst and Feora 2, While I brought Zaal and Makeda 2. I didn’t know what to take, to start off with, but as we talked and I learned a little more about what a protectorate player wants and doesn’t want to see on the other side of the board, I got a better idea of where I needed to go.

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In Zaal We Trust. 

So. Game 2.

This past week, I got to play a game against a friend of mine who, awesomely, also plays Skorne. Sadly, I don’t get a lot of practice against it, so its good to throw down against someone who I think has a solid grasp of the game and can beat the snot out of me if I mess up. Now, I’d prefer this match up with my Cryx, again, I don’t get to play against Skorne, but playing against it is playing against it, no matter the faction.Continue reading

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Battle Report: Zaal v. Asphyxious 2

I’d finally gotten my army back from Seattle, in pretty fantastic shape, if I do say so, and I’d been itching to throw down with some of my Skorne after getting pretty flustered with how Baranabus was treating me. I’d put the final coat of paint on Zaal just a few days before I left for Lock and Load, so he was on my mind. He’d not made the final cut into the foam for transport, either, so the whole time my army was in transit, he was sitting in front of my computer screen, mocking me. So hard did he mock me that I started thinking about how cool his list, Immortal Host, was and about how I have two units of Immortals, and how just flat out awesome it would be to put them on the board. The desire to do just that grew in me until it was bursting, and I knew I wanted to put him and his host of stone warriors on the board, and soon.

 

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Glory of a Dominar, Part 2

When I started writing last week, I was pretty sure that I was going to write down everything I had experienced and everything I knew about Dominar Rasheth. What I had not taken into account was the layered abilities of the list and how they create the depth of synergy that makes the whole list hum. As I was typing away I came to the realization that I wasn’t even going to fully describe the list and what it contains before I published, creating a very real chance that I was going to have to do a second post building on the first in order to fully expound on what Rasheth is capable of, how his list is run, and what to expect from running it. Even beyond that, however, there is the personal experiences I have had with him, casting him into the Fun Stratosphere.

Capabilities

With the complete rundown of the abilities present on every model last week, the broad picture was painted into how each piece performs, and sometimes its relationships to the others. However, the broad picture does not always present the picture in enough light to demonstrate to others how the list runs, and what to expect. This is especially true when it comes the Chain Gang list.

There are three, very broad, capabilities of any list, and they have been talked to death in many, many situations on both podcasts and the forums: Assassination, Attrition, and Control. Each of these is the foundation of a lists capabilities. Key to understanding and unlocking the capabilities of a given list, and extremely important when dealing with lists that others have written, is understanding which direction a list is going. Additionally, I am going to make two broader observations about the list definitions.

While Attrition, Assassination and Control are each appropriate titles for their respective rolls, I find that two levels of detail can be dug withing each. First, there is whether the list is oriented offensively or defensively, which helps determine the pacing you desire as your game unfolds. Second is whether the job is being done by elite troops of by disposable masses. This gives us the following Matrix.

  • Assassination
    • Offensive
      • Elite – Legion
      • Mass – Cryx
    • Defensive
      • Elite – Minions
      • Mass – Khador
  • Attrition
    • Offensive
      • Elite – Skorne
      • Mass – Mercs
    • Defensive
      • Elite – Tolls
      • Mass – Convergence
  • Control
    • Offensive
      • Elite – Circle
      • Mass – Retribution
    • Defensive
      • Elite – Cygnar
      • Mass – Protectorate

Obviously, this is my first pass, and it may change, but you’ll get the point. Generalizations abound, with plenty of exceptions. Looking to see where the list fits here, and then seeing if it is an outlier for your factions norms is very important. For this list, I would consider it an offensive, Elite Attrition army. You only have a half dozen models pulling weight, and everything else is supporting them. The models that you will be leaning on the heaviest will be unable to take a dedicated assault, and are vulnerable to defensive control tactics, as well as mass assassination.

Defensive Control has very few targets to work with, and will therefor be able to control each to a stronger degree. This will create strain on the army as each individual piece cannot be counted on to pull its weight, and the majority of the list needs to be doing work every turn in order for it to succeed.

Mass assassination will have a veritable mountain of holes that it can swing a model through to try and go for the assassination. Dominar Rasheth isn’t one that can take a sustained beating, and many times will die outright to even a halfhearted attempt to take him out.

Looking at its weaknesses allow you to plan your alternate lists fairly easily – in this case, I’d take specific care to build a list that can take out most Cygnar and Cryx.

That out of the way, I have found that the lists Offensive Elite Attrition style is extremely potent. The sheer amount of damage that can be doled out in a given round is nothing short of astounding. MAT 9 (v. Living) Bronzebacks with Enrage, Blood Mark, and the Feat can put out an astounding 64 damage onto any given target. At P+S 21, they will be flattening anything that has arm 21 and 8 Hit boxes with almost every attack. If you can catch warders unprepared, ie: not under Grissel 2’s feat, you can blow up almost an entire unit. Even under her feat, its only dice -2, and 10’s happen.  Sentries are sitting only one damage less on their reach weapon, and can easily take down 3. This makes the list extremely efficient at blowing apart Fist, Meat Mountain, Gators, and others that mimic that same style. It also makes Colossals shake in their boots, knowing that while they might get the alpha off onto one, or even two titans, that there will be 3-5 more waiting in the wings to blow it apart. Furthermore, any army that relies on such elite models will simply see them outclassed in many cases.

You would think that, given the low model count and limited attacks per turn that a high defense army may be able to whittle through the big boys, and while its probably right, many people forget that Rasheth has breath of corruption. This allows him to project his might weight into the enemy  when they bunch tightly together, but it also allows him to protect his point models from non-reach 1 wound infantry, giving him an element of control over engagements and target priority.

In addition to the list, each model has its own capabilities, and they are generally not the same type of categories that the army has, though they may overlap some.

Bronzeback – This is the workhorse of the list, in my experience. The higher MAT and P+S allows it to tackle a broader range of enemies. With Carnivore pushing its MAT right over the curve, and his P+S augmented by the paingivers Enrage ability, he can go after targets with defense as high as 20. Armor becomes a non-factor when it comes to a Bronzeback with Enrage, and with the help of Blood Mark he can, in every sense of the word, literally kill anything in the game in a single activation. Beatback allows him to make sure that he can work around obstacle models like Tiberion and Colossals while additionally providing a way to ensure that a horde of infantry models steers clear. While he may not be able to smash 8 infantry, due to inevitable misses, his last beat back can be used to place him in a position to have Caustic Mist dropped on him, which is a fairly useful ability for delousing him.

Gladiators – Thankfully, Gladiators are Heavy Warbeasts and can do much of the heavy lifting that the Bronzebacks do when they inevitably die. their P+S and MAT are both one lower, and they loose the chain attack, but they make up for that by directly increasing the threat range on each model. Most often, however, I’ve taken to using these models as Power-Attackers. Slamming for free, even without Enrage, is an amazing ability to have on a model that can self-buff to speed 6. 9.5″ out, followed by at least 3″ of follow up can be extremely aggravating for your opponents. Provided you have the focus to boost the hit, using it to clear out lanes for the Bronzeback to charge through, or even into becomes a very real threat.

*Special Note – Power attacks* – It is worth it to note here that both of the above models have two open fists and a large base, enabling them to perform a variety of special Power attacks. 2h throws, Slams, and Tramples are all extremely useful tools for getting out of jams, removing high defense and clearing zones. There have been many times that I am greateful for the prevalence of both the open fists and the usefulness of power attacks. Often, your opponent will be completely blindsided.

Sentry – This model is extremely effective at being a vanguard for the army. Armor 21 and 30 boxes is going to require some serious dedication in order to pull him off the board (5 or more attacks doing 28 damage each) . His low defense won’t do him any favors, however, and you will need to make sure that he is in a position so that the enemy needs to charge him to get distance: Set Defense pulling his DEF to 13 can be critical, and makes delivering those 28 damage attacks that much harder.  His animus, Locker, can either be a lifesaver or do nothing at all, depending on the opponents setup. Making good use of this ability to lock down and scare opponents jacks and beasts from the field can be the difference between loosing and winning a given match

Cannoneer – This is the piece I am most in love with in the list, and have considered trying to jostle about some points for a second one: Its not meant to be. The Cannoneer exerts pressure with a longer reach than every other model on your side of the board except for the Dominar Himself. This makes him, ostensibly, a back line piece, lobbing out cannon shells when and where he feels most effective. Honestly, however, I cannot see a worse place for him. In almost every game, I have dropped shots into the caster and either boosted blast damage (average 19) or connected and done significant damage (av. 26) to the leader. This leads to a generally defensive, reactionary mindset that plays directly into your hands. You want the game to be controlled by what your titans are doing, not dictating what they can do.

Support – Both Bonegrinders and Paingivers provide different forms of support, but for simplicity sake, I lumped them all together. The Capacity of support in this specific list is twofold – Provide the beasts and Casters with the right tools at the right time to do the right job, from Enrage to Craft Talisman, but also to provide for swift, brutal arcnodes in a pinch. Being able to threaten every angle on the board is something that can end up messing with many an opponents head when they start thinking of your possible Sunder Spirit or Breath of Corruption placement. Being able to swiftly and easily slip between the two will be extremely valuable.

The Man Himself – Most often, Rasheth is going to be playing second fiddle to the glorious and amazing beasts he has brought along in his list. However, aside from being the caster, he is the most vital piece of the puzzle. Enabling both a MAT and an ARM swing is typical, and sometimes he can edge in a P+S enabler if he is able to catch a few living models in his CTRL makes him turn as many Titans as are able to activate into heavy duty workers. But he can very often seal the deal on his own, either through a double boosted Sunder Spirit for the early initial transfer/damage or through a Breath of Corruption that deals massive damage to an enemy casters enabling a later kill. Many casters don’t like to be on the receiving end of POW 23 and 24 damage rolls and some will outright keel over.

Next time, I’ll go into what I do with him on the board. Expect anything and everything with what this list is capable of!