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.
Before we get to far, I want to let it be known, too, that I play Skorne as my secondary army, but that my first and greatest love for this game is with the Dragonfather himself, the Undead Legions of Cryx and his Lich Lord servants. I’ve been playing them heavily for the majority of the time, with breaks to play other factions from time to time. I feel very, very comfortable in my Cryx knowledge, and I can see how the Skorne players feel. I haven’t felt any really strong trepidation generated when playing as Cryx against Skorne. Instead, I look at the beasts they have and the reliance on those heavies to do work, and try to single them out for destruction as soon as possible. That reliance on heavies, as well, creates tension on the other side of the board, where the Skorne player has to work out how not to get them killed while doing work. There are other factors as well, but I feel that Cryx has a pretty solid gameplan against slow, mid-to-Low defense Heavies.
A different Angle
All of that said, I don’t feel any pressure on the other side of the board either. Skorne, I feel, has some of the best answers to the problems that Cryx presents.
First, there is Mordikaar. He’s the typical Cryx drop for a reason. Banishing Ward on a heavy will prevent it being burned down when combined with a debuff, and on himself it will prevent the Spell assassinations that are so common. Ghost Walk allows models to disengage from Satyxis or other jam models to get around or past them in order to better position. Revive allows him to keep up in attrition, and Hollow allows him to have tough, soul denying models out front being revived to keep up pressure. Finally, Essence Blast allows him to make magic attacks against infantry hordes with excellent attrition advantage as well.
His feat can be extremely hard to deal with, requiring a targeted debuff or counter-feat. Spellward makes the first hard, and the Typical Vorkesh loadout makes it doubly so. Poltergiest should make it at least bothersome to set up a spell assassination even if he’s not camping Spellward. Death Blast, as well, is nothing to shrug off. A Rng 10 AOE 3 pow 13 magic gun can change the game from time to time.
Secondly, there is the beast loadout I take. Most lists I’ve actually started to lean extremely heavily on the light beasts, Using a Raider-Shaman Pair to do a ton of pre-game work. I’ve found this to be crucial in the Cryx matchup as they tend to rely on some very good backfield pieces to get work done. Combined with a pair of Extoller soulwards, and I’ve been pleased as I can possibly be. The Shaman is shooting 14″ with a magical gun that sees through stealth, Ignores LOS, concealment and Cover. The Raider only has to worry about models and cover, and can move, if needed, getting eyeless sight and Magic Weapon from the Extoller. this 14 point package has also lent me towards taking Hakaar the Destroyer more often (to be fueled by the soulwards), which is extremely useful when it comes to taking down some of the higher defense casters that Cryx can field.
I’ve been able to reliably pick of solos and key models. Admonia 20″ from a Shaman is pretty much dead. Blood Hag, Warwitch Sirens, Gorman, Saxon, Bane Thrall Standard. Even Tartarus, if he’s the biggest threat, can be felled easily enough I don’t worry about him. I even feel it is especially strong against Body and Soul. RNG 14 Shamans mean that if she catches the shaman in her feat, they can tag her with their Evil Eye, and she can’t really take a pair, or more, of POW 12’s to the face. Between the Shaman, or even plural, I’ve started carying, and the raider, she’s going to be in dire straights. Now, even more, as the Seige Animantrax can now get Eyeless sight and Magic Weapon with three bosted to hit rat 7’s. POW 13’s are not her friend.
The Shaman comes with another piece of useful tech, and that’s Spirit Blade. In the Body and Soul Mirror, especially, you can blow out the opponents spells turn 1. Combine that with Morghul2’s Hit Squad list, and I can finally see why my friend has been talking about it. You’ve given the Denny 2 player a very bad feeling about playing a lot of shoehorned models for little reason.
I’ve come to like the package of one Cyclops Raider and Two Shaman a lot more than I should, and its very hard for me to build a list without them. Its 15 points of Beasts and 4 points of support, which is generally less points than two heavies, and can pick apart much more at ranged and with a stronger duration. Yes, they are boosted POW 12’s but thats all you need against Cryx, and likely Ret. Sometimes even Khador falls into that bracket. If this beast loadout is in one of your lists, and its not one with a heavy damage swing (Xerxis 1/2, Morghul 2, Zaal1/2, Rasheth) then you know your not dropping it into a matchup with multiple heavies or a Colossal, so just build your matchup to suit.
I am not Without Reason
That isn’t to say, though, that I don’t understand the problem. Skorne looks across the table and sees an army extremely capable of out -attrition it, out damaging it, and pulling its heaviest and most effective pieces off the board. Its a frightening concept that allows for little to now errors in gameplay. However, if you offer them nothing, they can take nothing. Seeing as Cryx is an extremely hard matchup, build your list for it, but make sure you have a plan for other lists, as well. It is easy to get bogged down in a Cryx Counter only mentality, but its always better to take a generally solid list (Mordikaar) and add further tech to favor the matchup more than it is to completely tilt in a single matchup direction. Out of 13 factions, your likely to only see 4-5 in a given tournament.