The Skorne Chronicles; Vol 22

Makeada

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.

Zaal 2

Zaal, in his original incarnation, was the fulfillment of a promise that was given in the Primal; that of the Extoller Warlock. Now, years later, we get to have the culmination of a second promise, one of the Ancestral Guardian Warlock. His original incarnation was much beloved, and had a flavor, if not playstyle, all his own. As I’ve said for the last few weeks, he plays like an inverse cryx caster, burning his army for the final stroke. Zaal 2, feels similar in that he plays very much like an inverse Cryx ‘Caster. he gathers the souls of his own dead in order to fuel his army. See his Card, below!

Zaal 2 Card

 

Its ugly, its blocky, but that’s everything there in that one picture.

The Initial reaction was, lets say, less then impressed, but I’ve lived through more than one of these releases – actually its every release after MKI primal, and the general tenor has been the same. The first through the door are the people who don’t like the model. They bemoan the lack of Privateers insight, the uninspired playstyle, and bring up the areas that the model is found lacking. That state quickly subsides as the people who have had a strong negative experince air their grievances, as is their right. To fill the gap as a counter-culture to those who think negativly come those who wish to try it out and see what its all about. This urge to put models decried as bad on the tabletop can be generated for a number of different reasons. Some want to prove those who hold a negative view as wrong, some cannot see combos until they are worked out themselves, and some just want to try out new things because their new. While those with a negative opinion tend to be a burst at the start, those who need to try out the model or unit tend to stick around a little longer.

That is where we are with Zaal 2. He is at the portion of the cycle where those people who want to see the model succeeded are putting him on the table and trying to get some work done with him. The Jury is still out on Zaal, though with many detractors its unlikely he will rise high. He could turn out to be another Rasheth, or he spiral down to sit with Naaresh. Only time, testing and games will set him straight. I have hope for him, but my initial reaction is not very pretty.

The major problem that Skorne is having with Zaal right now is that he’s not anything different. Many players have been clamoring for a caster that does something different than simply smash face in, and Zaal was their latest hope. Sadly, that did not pan out, as Zaal is, as you may have guessed, simply a face beater. Now, I will have to say that he beats face very differently from any other caster in Skorne, and that he drives a different army, but it is the concept of sameness that drives many people away. It was the same with Khador for a very long time, with the exact same problem. Its hard to bend either faction into something its not.

Initial Thoughts 

Front of Card

There isn’t much here, really. extremely Slow, with low MAT and RAT, very low defense, and strong armor. He hits pretty hard with a P+S 14 Reach, Magic staff, though, and is durable enough with 17 HP and gives a solid +6 Beast Points. His arm makes him pretty immune to fire, which is awesome.

Back of Card

Here is where some of the best abilities lie. Reclaim is an amazing ability when combined with direct spirits, allowing souls to go exactly where they belong all the while denying them to the enemy. Silencer and Righteous Vengeance will be extremely good when they come into play, but Steady is simply there to prevent autohits. The low Def score doesn’t protect him too much.

Feat Card

This feat is really strange, but has three different portions to it that can all be useful, at different times.

  • +5 Armor to constructs is really good when the Caster is a construct that start at 18 armor. Being up 7 fury and ARM 23 can really give you an advantage that one turn while camping the center of the board.
  • Boosted Construct Attack rolls allow him to buy many more attacks than he’d normally get in melee, and it allows the Ancestral Guardians and Immortals alongside him to really make their attacks count.
  • Heal d3+6 damage to each construct will revive, 33% of the time, every Ancestral Guardian to full health, and repair some early damage that Zaal may have taken in the first turn.

Spell Card

The Spell list is a bit strange, but I feel it fits the theme of the character. That may not be what others are looking for in the model, and I understand that, it just works for me, even if it does seem random.

  • Annihilation allows Zaal to collect enemy souls, if he gets the opportunity to do it. it won’t always be the best play, but I’ve had my AOE 3’s tag 4+ models at once pretty regularly. I also believe that this is the first model that can easily, in MK II, grab both enemy and friendly souls.
  • Mage Sight allows Zaal to get friendly with ranged beasts, meaning he often does not have to expose himself in order to get warbeasts where he needs them. It also combines well with the Archidon, who can fly over, but not see through, trees.
  • Transference will be his bread and butter, if there is any thing here. The ability to change every killed model in your army into a boost to hit or damage is amazingly good, and should be taken advantage as often as possible. I remember having discussions with players that if Constance could have her feat turn every round, she’s be pretty awesome. Well, Zaal got half of it!
  • Vision is a strange spell that I’ve only started to even start to grasp. making models immune to free strikes, or even immune to Annihilation is pretty solid and can be used an an easy homing beacon.
  • Sunder Spirit is a basic nuke, with the upside of removing Animi from warbeasts. All in all an excellent spell for a nuke.

Combined up, what does this all mean?

Army composition

Zaal wants, no begs, for a huge swath of infantry with which to play with, and does very little for his battlegroup. He can easily support a small battlegroup, perhaps even a single beast, due to his reclaim ability. This allows him to load up on as many infantry units as he can, and to rely on the press of bodies making high quality attacks that they normally could not make. I have lamented more than a few times that my troopers cannot boost, and the ability to do that makes me very happy. I think that the AG’s are going to be the backbone of the army, and will shine due to transference and the feat, and I really hope that there is a list out there that can work for him. I am going to be putting the list below down a few times, soon, and hopefully get some awesome games in. I’m hopeful that he’s got an awesome table presence, but still cautious that he’s not going to be able to even step foot in the ring.

I have two lists I’ve managed to slap together in my head, and I’m pretty sure that this’ll be the core of my lists going forward. In one, I’ve given up on going against hard armor, and I’ll leave that to my second list. In the other I’ve given a little on the feat, but have the tried and true, backbreaking Skorne Infantry.

List 1. 

Zaal, The Ancestral Advocate
-Cyclops Shaman
-Cyclops Raider
Ancestral Guardian (x3)
Hakaar, The Destroyer
Pain Giver Beast Handlers (x6)
Nihilators x10
Venetor Slingers x10
Praetorian Swordsmen x10
-Praetorian Swordsman Officer and Standard
Immortals x10

List 2

Zaal, The Ancestral Advocate
-Bronzeback Titan
-Titan Gladiator
Ancestral Guardian (x3)
Hakaar, The Destroyer
Pain Giver Beast Handlers (x6)
Nihilators x10
Venetor Slingers x10
Praetorian Swordsmen x10
-Praetorian Swordsman Officer and Standard

I look forward to throwing down tonight!