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!