The Coven, as ones who have perused this column on more than a slight occasion will have noticed, are getting a lot of play from me. Its not a situation unique to me, or my meta. The Coven are getting the nod from players -those that are left of our now decimated population – across the country. I’ve opened dialogue with a few of them, and many are of the same mindset. The Coven is the answer to the gunline.
I disagree. Come, let me explain. This one is a little wordy and rambling, so be warned.
Good Guns are Good
The largest problem I’ve experienced with both theorizing up a list, and actually playing the Coven into guns is that the guns that are used are too good.
This is not a problem, again, unique to this edition. Last edition the good guns were sprays, magic, true sighted, hunter weapons with eyeless sight and a high RAT. Many of the guns brought would enable the wielder to negate the benefits most likely to be used against them. Stealth, In combat, Concealment, Cover and even forests were of almost no use against the guns that were brought to the table.
Now, in the third edition, we have come to a set of ranged weapons that are very good because of what they do. Nyss see much less play, I don’t see gun mages anymore, Eyeless Sight no longer ignores Forests, and many abilities don’t ignore concealment and cover anymore. Good Guns are now defined by their ability to hit, and to ignore stealth and clouds. Ossyan, Caine 2, Sorcha 1, Haley 1 and Kara Sloan are the ones I really worry about.
Deadeye. Kovnik Joe. True Sight. Shatterstorm. All of these abilities, and more, are what I really have problems with, and I don’t think that the coven really can make it through that mess alive.
Additionally, I want to stress that when I say gunlines, I’m taking all-out bullet hell gunlines. These aren’t mixed affairs that have some guns and some melee, they are the ones that are content to sit back and shoot the world off the board. Some of them may have a lot of movement, some of them may be static, but they all have one thing in common: Guns on the vast majority of their models.
The reason that I don’t think the coven can really hold up is that their suit of abilities are fairly negated by the models listed above, and three of them are ones I am going to see extremely often. More than even that, however, is those entire lists ability to still decimate you under your feat. While only a single one can ignore the feat completely – Hypnos with Ghost Shot – the rest, effectively, can still clear the whole board of what they can see. With up to a 6″ move, a 5″ LOS is a penalty, but not to great of one. the -2 RAT combined with the -2 from not aiming is significant, I get that. However, I do also note that, with few exceptions, most of the models that we can take in the extreme garbage bracket of defensive stats. 11, 12 and 13 are almost all within reach of even the moving ranged attacks. This leaves an 11″ deadzone in between the two armies on feat turn. If I hold my feat, I will be leveled. If I pop my feat and don’t leave the zone of death in there, I essentially lose the feat. Also, sprays ignore the feat LOS restriction, because is specifically calls out terrain in the spray rules, which I only learned a few weeks ago, having to check it for something else. Purging my brain of MK2 may not have been the best.
Deadeye is the largest culprit, as is Kovnik Joe as Khadors version. This simple, non-upkeep spell guts anything you leave in the deadzone. moving up enough to see the model, and even at -2, some of these models are needing 9s or 10’s on 3 dice to hit 13’s and I’m not really a fan of that. While it is technically better than needing 11’s or 12’s, dead models are dead models. The obvious solution is to stay out the of deadzone, but we have very little that can actually do that and still threaten opposing casters.
- Soulhunters : 14″
- Kraken :14″
- Satyxis Raiders: 12:
- Blackbanes Ghost Raiders: 11.5
- Vengeanced Bane Knights: 13″
This leads to a very set-type list that generally does not have the bodies to absorb the inevitable losses of a game against a gunline and prevail.
The rest of the models in our army generally are looking at 9-10″ threat ranges, with lower defenses.
I just cannot see protecting enough of our models on the way in while they get gunned down – regardless of feat – to actually pull out a win. But that is if the opponent is focused on killing random schmucks instead of the real problem – Taking down the Egregore.
Greg, the Fourth Wheel
The two problem lists, the ones that are the most troubling to me and exacerbate the problem, are Caine 2 and Kara Sloan. Ossyan and Sorcha have a generally different method, just as irritating. True sight is a monster against Coven. Their Defensive Tech is simple yet strong, consisting of Occultation, Veil of Mists, and Stealth in B2B with the Egregore. None of these methods provide even a modicum of defense against true sight. Caine even has trick shot to punish trying to get your Coven members stealth, if you try to use it to defend against the rest of the army.
Outside of Terrain, and hopefully not needing to be forced into killbox in order to not be assassinated, they have no way of protecting themselves from the inevitable onslaught from a number of very strong and powerful guns.
– after the feat turn, the Egregore can be shot, from 23″ out, by however many defenders are on the board. If Kara holds her own feat for the retaliation, a single Jack does dice -2 on boosted damage. This 9 damage gets spread to two witches, and removes 2 focus. 9 damage again, and two more focus out. One of four defenders down. I’m not counting the Kraken as LOS blocker as there is always a GMCA; or two. If I’m camping a full stack, I can tank two defenders, and only take 4 damage from the 5th shot. the third defender does 13 damage (4 from the first shot, 9 from the second as I’m out of focus) The fourth defender does another 18, and kills me. Sloan hasn’t activated. Hunters haven’t gone. Cyclones do 4 shots at dice -5 (6 damage per shot!) but at a much shorter range. Clearly Kara Sloan, the Gunline of Note, is bad.
with true sight and trick shot, he either shoots the egregore and bounces into the witches because they are base 2 base, or he simply shoots the witches, and there are too many bounces for him to handle.
I think you get the idea. I’m not going to go through each caster.
As I mentioned earlier, Kara and Caine’s true sight is a big problem, but there is a problem that looms just as large when those two aren’t on the field. Reinholdt and the Houseguard Thane. With both of these models being able to remove stealth, they really drop a huge pile on the Coven. It is fortunate that they do not see through clouds, but terrain is going to really cause an issue here in that I cannot rely on getting enough clouds out and will have to bank on having a piece of terrain to work off of. Possible, but not the most plausible.
removing stealth from the Egregore and then unloading a fusillade of small attacks will be the end of me, and a scrapped and broken wreck is not how I like my Warcasters.
The End in Near
It is not all doom and gloom, however.
I do think that the Coven is one of the better match-ups in the meta, still. They have a solid fight, even favored matchups, in a lot of situations. Melee armies are at a severe disadvantage, and combined forces armies, I think, are completely hosed.
Melee armies are on the back foot for two reasons, and I don’t think either one can be helped. The first is that they want to go first and dictate the line of engagement. Often, this is great for a melee army as it forces the opponent to eat the alpha strike and try to play to a method that denies the opponent overwhelming them. The coven, through the use of their feat, curse of shadows and Veil of Mists, will many times completely remove the alpha strike potential from an army. Using speedier melee troops, I can block charges at greater than 5″ from your models, while also having greater melee threat – an attribute that is often nullified when going second – and force many of the opponents models to either run to engage, which is a losing proposition with the Coven having ghost walk, or simply walk up and melee if the threat is far enough. Cavalry do pose a specific problem, but often the Kraken is the solution. The second reason it gets a leg up on melee armies is that it is able to steal the first turn tempo as well as the alpha strike, forcing the opponent to react to me. Alpha, Tempo and the first turn to score on scenario is extremely helpful when it comes to getting the upper hand in a matchup. Being in control of all three is a pretty steep hurdle to overcome.
Finally, to end on a strong note, this caster is complete hell on mixed asset, combined arms lists. Able to, in much the same manor as melee-centric armies, shut down much of an opponents offensive output on the turn of the feat, which should often be top of 2, bottom of 1, the massive problem that combined arms forces have against the coven is that I am able to address each problem in a specific and perfected manor. Light, accurate shooting get a Kraken going into it. Hard hitting, inaccurate shooting gets Satyxis, and Melee units get the 14″ threat Soulhunters. Veil of Mists block charges to vital pieces, while jamming and tar pits are ghost-walked and Curse of Shadows-ed their way through. Added to having the answer to each of a combined arms portions, the army does not also have the combined weight of focus that would be able to wear down one section or the other. While a strong skew to one of the many angles of the Warmachine Hard Counter system often has the aforementioned weight of focus behind it in order to get it out of a jam, a combined arms caster just won’t be able to dig out of the mess the coven delivers under feat fast enough.
I think the Coven is still the perfect caster for many of the match-ups and the direction of the Meta, but it puts a tear into my eye every time someone cites the coven as an answer to gun lines. Because, in all my experience, it’s not.