Tour De Cryx, The Aiakos Journey

 

With these next few casters, I’m going to be doing a semi-truncated form of the normal post. I’ll be doing this both to get current – I’m currently 5 casters behind – but also because I knocked through them in almost no time, doing catch-up on the tour during Lock and Load. First one of those up: Aiakos 2. Lets take a look at him, why don’t we!-

Initial Impressions

I figured that Aiakos 2 would be one of the first of the casters foisted on me by the retributive Cryxian community, but it actually took longer than it should have due to Mortenebra 2’s reveal and release. He’s clearly considered one of the bottom 5 in the faction, often fighting with Denny 2 and Sturgis 2 for the bottom of the pile. Now, having played each of them, I can say positively: Aiakos is better than both of the others by leaps and bounds. When he was first released, I was very down on him, there are a lot of deficiencies and not many bright spots.

First off, He’s got a terrible focus stat for the faction, sitting a a paltry 6. While I understand that is the average stat of most casters in the game, the Cryxian faction relies on its casters heavily to pull the weight of the faction. The company he keeps at the focus 6 level are few: Terminus, Skarre 1, Sturgis 2 and… that is it. Terminus and Skarre make up for it with a pretty badass set of personal prowess, strong feats and good spells. Sturgis is rubbish. That leaves Aiakos sitting somewhere where he could be brutal, but a single misstep in rules or development brings him pretty strongly to the bottom. Adding to his low focus is his generally unimpressive spell list. Well, If I am being honest, its not a really unimpressive spell list. It is overflowing with powerful spells, but they just don’t look like they’ll be really useful on a FOC 6 caster. Carnage is an excellent spell, and I cannot begin to praise it enough, but the small control area means that in order to cast it, Aiakos is often in extreme danger. Scything Touch is a decent spell, but I don’t see how it makes up for being a single target spell any longer. Stranglehold is a bonkers good spell, but requires both a boost to hit and a boost to damage, deeply consuming his stack of focus. White Squall is interesting, and I think I can make do with a Corruptor and him to toss things forward, but I don’t know that I like to be close enough to do that. Lastly, Assail is a powerful spell that speeds up warjacks and makes them significantly more dangerous, but its also being placed on Cryx jacks, so that makes the spell moderately less valuable. 

Next, his physical stats are pretty measly. Speed, MAT, RAT, DEF and ARM are all of the banally boring variety. I understand that not all casters can have stellar stats, but I like them to have something worth writing home about, and his stat line just doesn’t feel like that warm, snuggling feeling you get when you see those delicious high numbers. His abilities, those that co along with his stats, are also pretty uninspiring. Leap is solid, I’ll give it that, and gives an unprecedented level of mobility to the caster, and I say that having come off of playing Denny 2. Drag is powerful, but also requires that the target be small based and be damaged. Fortunately, casters are considered to have taken damage when they shunt, so I can still drag someone that transfers or reinforces. Grievous Wounds is an amazing rule, but it doesn’t have the luster and power that it used to, and for good reason, between warlocks being able to transfer and Colossal/Gargantuan being immune. 

Lastly, we come to his feat. Its something that I was really, really excited for for about 90 seconds, then the reality of how weird it is kicked in, and it felt a lot worse. Now, that isn’t to say that the feat is weak. It isn’t. Bonus speed is something that is extremely powerful, even without the Assault tag, and rare in Cryx as well because of our innately faster jacks.  This just gives them, with Assail to boot, a massive drop on the opponents army, often able to first strike into the lines. The problem is that Cryx jacks have to be worth taking in the first place. And they aren’t. 

First list

So, here we go. First list I took out with him. Nothing special, nothing amazing. 

Cryx Army – 75 / 75 points

Captain Aiakos [+29]
– Defiler [8]
– Defiler [8]
– Kharybdis [19]
– Stalker [8]
Bane Lord Tartarus [6]
General Gerlak Slaughterborn [7]
Hellslinger Phantom [7]
Saxon Orrik [4]
Soul Trapper [1]
Bane Warriors (max) [16]
– Bane Warrior Officer & Standard [5]
Bloodgorgers (max) [15]

There were a few ideas here that I was trying out.

I wanted to see if Kharybdis was worth it. He seemed to give her a bunch of needed tune ups in assault on the feat, Carnage to make her hit, assail for speed, Scything touch for Damage. Seemed like it could work out. 

I wanted to see if I could have the Bloodgorgers and Gerlak could carve through any amount of infantry. Mat 8 berserk seems to do a lot of work, in my head, when they have both overtake and two attacks. Scything Touch could be applied to a number of different solos to try and ramp up damage against single targets. 

I loved the Hellslinger in the last caster (Denny 2) wanted to make sure he was worth it. 

I’d enjoyed the Stalker in the tail end of Denny 2, so I figured I’d give it a try here. Who doesn’t like a threat of up to 18 on a stalker? no one! 

Part 2

First games impressions

The first two games I managed to snag in the same week, getting on on Monday and one on Friday. After the first game I decided I didn’t like the speed of the list. With mostly SPD 5, I was missing out on the best feature of Aiakos 2, his personal speed. The Bloodgorgers failed me, but I decided to keep them and and try them out a second time. Kharybdis failed me, as well, as I assumed the damned thing had pull and she does not! It’s a travesty. I’d keep it in for the second game, though, because I wanted to see what work I could get out of her if I didn’t fail completely at how to play the game. 

The second game, with a slightly modified list, fared similarly to the first. I managed to win, but only because I seem to have a horseshoe firmly lodged inside me when it comes to killing casters. The second list failed in different ways, though, so it was a strong learning experience. 

Aiakos is very fast, and needs help hitting hard. While Scything Touch is good, it needs a strong way to apply it, or he will end up struggling against even moderately armored targets. Carnage is almost never worth it. Two games in, and I don’t think I cast the spell even once. Maybe, but I doubt it, and that is often because of order of activation issues. Aiakos wants, and is very, very good at, getting into the thick of it and killing an opponent, as it turns out. Essentially an 11″ walk each turn means that he is one of the most nimble casters in the game, able to get nearly as far as running by simply striding over to his opponents. 

Kharybdis was a weakness that I was not taking kindly too. With a poor DEF and only a moderately good armor, she is easily picked off while being unable to keep herself safe, even with the increased speed of Assail. Maybe I’ll try her out next time I take Aiakos for a spin because I keep feeling like I didn’t give her enough of a chance, but its going to be very hard for me to see her worth. 

Bloodgorgers are simply not worth it, but its not their fault. They have to be played carefully and under specific circumstances to be good, and I think in those cases they will be complete gold. This meta, though, is not that day. Maybe in Black Fleet with Coven so  they are delivered into a melee army completely unmolested and can simply chainsaw their way into the bloody center of the army. 

On the other side of the experiment are some pleasant finds, as well. 

The Hellslinger is, and this is going to be Heresy, one of my favorite solos in the faction, if not the game. While he has had a series of bad performances lately, he’s made up for it with a stellar start. Aiakos does nothing for him, but simply having the option to eliminate 4 targets one turn and often be safe enough to fire out 2 boosted shots the next is pretty amazing. He can often hold a flank on his own. I won’t say he’s under-costed, but he is certainly aggressively costed. He does as much work as 2 pistol wraiths for only 70% of the cost. 

Aiakos is a damned monster from hell on his own, and I think he should always be fishing for the kill, keeping the feat in the pocket for the assassination. Stranglehold is amazing, and can, through a little luck, lock down a large target turn after turn, especially if there is an arc node in his list, and their should always be one, if not 2. 

The Defiler is a much better jack than I gave, and continue to give, it credit for. Fishing for 8’s might seem like a difficult prospect, but its not as aggravating as it initially seems. The spray attack, I’ve discovered, is very useful when you need models dead, but don’t need a specific model dead, which often feels like a waste of time and points, but is often more satisfying and useful than it would seem on paper. Often, I used them to free up or clear up order of activation issues. If I was puzzled at which model I should spend wasting their activation because they were going to need to kill an area of models, I’d often send in the Defiler to clear up my problem, spraying down a few of them, eliminating a few more, and making my choice that much easier. They do have a tendency to miss, but if you buffer that out by selecting the correct targets

Tweaks and twists

The second list was only slightly modified. I pulled the Banes and Saxon, and put in Satyxis and  Carrion thralls. If your anything like me, You’ll not see the problem until its way to late. The problem I then had was that my army just couldn’t crack armor, and instead of contributing to the second game, I was simply spamming Stranglehold and hoping I didn’t flub the dice and get slain. That didn’t sit well for me, so I built a new list, and started from Scratch. 

I felt pinned into building Infernal Machines list, and I wanted to expand my horizon with him and try to build something a bit more different. Mostly, though, that was because I was unable to acquire enough Brute and Mechanithralls to make the IM list worthwhile. 

I started building the list in a different way. Instead of sticking with grabbing the few models I knew he liked, I started building a list of models that had express purpose and reason to be in the game, models that synergize well with his play-style, his particular spell selection and his feat. This is what I came up with and brought to Lock and Load. 

Cryx Army – 75 / 75 points

 Captain Aiakos [+29]
– Corruptor [16]
– Defiler [8]
– Inflictor [13]
– Stalker [8]
Hellslinger Phantom [7]
Satyxis Raider Captain [4]
Warwitch Siren [4]
Warwitch Siren [4]
Blackbane’s Ghost Raiders (min) [11]
Carrion Thralls (max) [10]
Satyxis Raiders (max) [16]
– Satyxis Raider Sea Witch [3]

Every model here has a reason to be in the list” 

The Corruptor is a delivery system for White Squall. Having an arc node on the assassination run that I can use to toss the caster towards me means that I can often be further away than 6″ when I am ready to toss the spear. Will it work all the time? Probably not, but its worth a solid. The big boy has a gun, to boot, and its a powerful one at that, learned about that playing Denny 2

Defiler is there to move Scything Touch around and help out dropping Squalls and Strangleholds on key targets, and a spray-assault model at speed 10 can’t be terrible. 

Inflictor is here for Assail. He’s durable, fast, threats a significant distance and can eat a shot or two on the way in, hopefully enough to keep Aiakos safe from any ancillary damage. The feat puts this guy at ludicrous speed, and I like that. 

The Stalker is here for the pop up assassination with three focus and the feat. He’s also the secondary target for both Assail and Scything Touch as I should be able to get him farther than expected in almost every situation. 

The Hellslinger Phantom is there to clear lanes for Aiakos or other jacks to charge or assault into. He’s accurate and powerful and I love him in every list I put him in. 

The Satyxis Raider Captain is there because I really like the idea of a Knockdown attack attached to a model with Scything Touch. Followed up with a reposition 3, she could easily knock down one or even two targets and then get into a position to apply dark shroud to a vital target afterward. She’s also got No Sleeping on the Job for the Satyxis, in that rare instance where it is needed. 

The Warwitch Sirens take the Raider Captain Idea and turn it up to 11. With Stealth, Parry, Speed 7 and 2″ melee, their ability to drop Scything Touch where it needs to be is nearly unparalleled. Additionally, if they somehow manage to get the melee attack to connect, they enable a -3 defense and a -2 armor, which is even more delectable. Additionally, they provide the Corrupter and the defiler with additional focus to enable better shooting, as well as more sprays to hose down troops with corrosion. 

Blackbanes Ghost Raiders are models that I’ve had only one complaint with over the years. They simply do not hit often enough to justify their points. With the help of both Carnage and Scything touch, they can hit both hard and often, granting them a solid reason to be on the board and the capacity to do more damage than one expects from pow 10’s. To top it all off, they ignore terrain and move pretty speedily.

Carrion Thralls are there to capitalize on Carnage, much like the Blackbanes. They are also fast and ignore terrain, like the Blackbanes. Finisher also, theoretically, amps up the damage output and allows them to threaten the caster after a Satyxis charge gets some feedback in there, but overall, they are chaff to help buffer out the list and put bodies between the enemy and my caster. I also really, really like the Carrion thralls. Just a solid unit. 

The final unit is the Satyxis Raiders, which offer a whole host of benefits to the list. They are independently accurate, becoming extremely so under Carnage, and can work as an anti-warjack deterrent and chewing through infantry with ease. 

I was pretty confident that I had a pretty king list. 

Part 3

Things I learned

My list, it turns out, is not king. 

What I had, somehow, forgotten in the 20 minutes between realizing that the old list wasn’t good and what would be in the new list that the reason I was making a new list was a serious flaw in the original list. That flaw, the one that forced me to reconsider the list in the first place, was lack of armor cracking. Cryx lists need that -4 skew, and Aiakos on Scything touch alone just wasn’t going to do it. 

I remembered this in the middle of my second of the three games over the course of Lock and Load, but figured that I was already so far in, I might as well finish the list out. 

Aiakos is a fun caster, and one that I think has a lot of promise. His threat range is completely bonkers, he can easily end a game on his own, and with the right list, which I have yet to unlock, I think he can simply lurk through the game and make sure the opponent cries foul when they are stabbed in the face, to death. 

Final List

Sadly, at this juncture, I don’t like any of the lists I ran with him. He’s got a significant amount of personal threat, his stalkers are terrifying, and both White Squall and Stranglehold are excellent spells. What it does mean, though, is that there is plenty of reasons to try him out with all of the theme lists and some in between. 

Right now, What I want to try with him is something along the lines of this: 

75 points
[Theme] Dark Host

(Aiakos 2) Captain Aiakos [+29]
– Defiler [8]
– Defiler [8]
– Stalker [8]
– Stalker [8]
Bane Lord Tartarus [0(6)]
Darragh Wrathe [9]
Soul Trapper [1]
Bane Knights (min) [9]
Bane Warriors (max) [16]
– Bane Warrior Officer & Standard [0(5)]
Bane Warriors (max) [16]
– Bane Warrior Officer & Standard [0(5)]
Bane Warriors (max) [16]
– Bane Warrior Officer & Standard [5]

There isn’t a lot more that Banes like than MAT, and they get it in spades in this list. With 36 weaponmasters at speed 6 and MAT 9, I think there is something to be gained here. There is a slight recursion element, in that before the lines close I can easily pop 6-12 banes bane in, and likely keep it going over time if the opponent isn’t careful about how and what he kills. I’ve also got Tartarus to bring back banes and Darragh to keep a few more of them alive. I don’t really have a great scything touch Target or an Assail target, but it might have legs. I do love me some MAT buffs and some Weaponmasters. 

Overall Impressions

For all the crap I gave Aiakos prior to him being foisted on me, I actually think he’s a pretty solid caster. He has a plethora of cool tricks. strong synergies and fun interactions. His long threat range dares opponents to play defensive or, often, die, and his lists seem to be amazingly aggressive. I would describe him as a blast to play that takes a lot of getting used to, way beyond the 5 games I was able to sneak in with him. His ability to fix both MAT and Damage is something that really should be looked at strongly before dismissing him, strangehold cannot be counted out. 

On the other hand, I was unable, or didn’t see any chance, to cast White Squall, something known to be one of the best spells, if not the best, on his card. I know this is a result of the small sample size and doesn’t reflect on either the opportunities or the possibility of the spell. 

Strong Points

Aiakos is fast, and he is faster than most people really take the time to work out. Without the drag, he threatens, until the feat, a gentlemans 15″ If I manage to land a charge target nearby, I can stretch that out to 18, though you’d have to be in a direct line. If I include the toss of the spear, I go up to a pretty stellar 20″, though that puts me nuts-in-the-wind and can cause me to straight up lose the game. I only really want to go for an assassination like that If its down to the last man, so I very much want to try and grind out a game. Maybe he really has some play in IM with just a million recurring bodies. I’ll have to try that out some time. 

In addition to his speed, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, is his ability to fix both the To Hit and the Damage rolls, enabling a higher success rate for his whole army. This isn’t a commonplace thing, even in Cryx, though there are a number of casters who can. 

With Speed, Assassination Potential, and swinging To Hit and Damage rolls, he has a very strong package without the inclusion of his control area spells. Players have to think carefully around him when it comes to controlling or contesting zones, because toeing in isn’t going to be enough, and depending on threat ranges isn’t going to be enough either, with stranglehold in the mix. 

Problem Areas

For all his upside, the downsides of Aiakos are pretty strong. He’s fairly inept into shooting, though the volume of bodies he can field is tremendous, and could be an upside if the opponent has no AOE’s and no way to chew through the models in front of him to get to the juicy center. His stats are fine, though they are nothing to write home about, and are just low enough to get him killed by random things. Fire is a danger, as is blast damage. He has a hard time camping focus, as he has answers to everything, and though the strongest solution is often to do nothing, its rare that he manages to do that while in the middle of the army. 

While he is a support caster, he is also a caster that doesn’t provide a ton of support. He needs to be close enough to drop Carnage on key models, but also far away enough that some enemy models don’t just randomly turn his face into a crunchy bone pile. Knowing threat ranges and being a master of the opponents army really seem like keys, and that is simply not a task many are up to. I expect that master Aiakos players are going to be very, very solid, but those people who play him causally are going to be consistently disappointed. 

Final thoughts

As a theory, I love Aiakos. He’s got significant melee presence, a strange ranged presence, and a personal threat that simply goes on for days. He’s fairly fragile, so protecting him can be a bear, but when you do it will often end in glory, plain and simple. While he isn’t going to shake the structure of the game, the faction, or even our list pairing, he is a caster I would look out for at every turn, because he seems to be one or two simply pieces away from becoming a powerhouse of unstoppable, leaping, madness and victory. He is weak to guns, which are all the rage right now, but that could easily be solved in list building. 

I like him, and recommend that people take him for a spin, or even a few, before dismissing him. He really is fun to play. 

Overall Rating: 6.8