Tour de Cryx – The Flight of Venethrax – Complete Rundown

Venethrax. The hype for him was extremely strong at the start of the edition, and there were a lot of people playing him with some really cool and fun heavy ‘Jack lists. The fad seemed to fade, though, So I wanted to try something a bit different with his composition. 

Like the other Lock and Load Casters, I’m just going to do one big article on this guy, so lets get to it. I’d spent the first part of LnL playing Aiakos 2 and getting pretty beat. Mortenebra had started out pretty weak, and then just rushed through a set of wins. Now, it was onto Venethrax! 

Part 1

Initial Impressions

Venethrax is one of my favorite casters, at least conceptually, from MK II, and I am glad to see he received a bit of love coming into the 3rd edition change. What he does now feels much more like how a Lich Lord operates than his previous incarnation. 

Fist, lets take a look at his stat line, because its one of the better ones we have here in Cryx.

Offensively, SPD is a strong 6, which is neither fast nor slow and serves him well. With 2″ reach on his sword, Wyrmbane, he can personally take care of models within a pretty standard 11″.  The P+S of the bad boy is a powerful 15, with Dismember to aid him in eliminating those pesky warbeasts. Eruption of Ash can come in play from time to time, creating an ash cloud for him to hide behind when engaging in combat, and can also create a small wall of clouds if the enemy commits strongly. What really sticks out, here, though, is his very impressive MAT score of 8, the strongest numerical value in the faction. Provided he can get mortality on the target he is charging, either through Deathjack, his own casting or that of a Spell Slave, he can push his combat capacity pretty high up there. Effective MAT 10 and P+S 17 isn’t bad. Add in Dark Shroud from one of the sources that can grant it, and he can sling up to P+S 19, weaponmaster against beasts. 

Defensively, he has a solid stat line as well with 15 DEF and 17 ARM, and 18 hp to back all of it up. 7 focus allows him to toss out spells, upkeep and still often be sitting on one or two focus, allowing him to shrug off some of those more high power hits. 

Though his personal stats are impressive, he also brings a few abilities to assist the battlegroup. 26 Warjack points is fairly low, comparatively, but he makes up for it was a very powerful Field Marshal: Countercharge and Terminal Velocity, which brings us to his spell list. 

Venethrax, being a Lich Lord, should bring a strong presences via spells and combat, and he delivers. His spell list boasts a number of broad solutions and specific answers. He has an AOE in Blood Rain, a direct nuke with control aspects in Deadweight, a heavy control spell with Lamentation, a battlegroup enabler in Terminal Velocity and one of the best debuffs with Mortality

Terminal velocity allows his jacks to be efficient, making free charges no matter what, getting free boosts against living, and extra distance in certain circumstances. Mortality takes that same thought and applies it not only to his battlegroup, but also to the army as a whole, giving a needed armor debuff and a much appreciated accuracy buff. Healing and removing tough are great additions to his kit because he is often heading into matchups with beasts that like to regenerate, snack or otherwise heal themselves. Putting all of these abilities into a single package means that he has his job, and does it well, but not to the exclusion of the rest of the game. While he certainly can take out his fair share of warbeasts, living infantry and casters are in a lot of lists, and he is able to capitalize on those facets as well in lists that aren’t simply hordes lists. 

Finally, we get to his feat, which is simply in wording but tricky in execution. Vengeance of the Dragonfather prevents allocation to, or leaching from, models in his control range. This sounds more powerful than it is due to three strong exceptions that feel they should apply, but do not. First, Power up; Power up is not allocating and is not affected. Second, Empower; Empower is also not allocation and is not affected. Finally, Reaving; Reaving is not leeching and is unaffected. There is, however, a glorious little space for cutting, the colloquial term for gaining fury by leeching from the casters HP. Turns out, as it shows in the sentence prior, that this is a form of leeching and is prevented by the feat. 

This makes the feat very tricky to work with, honestly, for hordes. You need a situation where your opponents caster is in the feat and preferably low on fury, their beasts pretty loaded up on fury, and their beasts are in a position that they will be able to frenzy and not destroy important pieces and it is safe to not kill them for a round because you don’t want your opponent reaving the fury. When done right, however, it does feel that this gets you two bites at the apple for assassination. You can get a few attacks into them the round you pop the feat, hopefully to do some damage and burn down their fury stack, and then when they are unable to leech the next turn, you get to do it all over again and likely drop them because they have no or few transfers. Its tricky, but worth it. 

Lets move onto the lists. 

 

First list

The first time I looked at Venethrax, back in the old, blurry days of 3rd edition spoiler cards, I was called to a singular, stupid interaction: Terminal Velocity and Shrikes. I know how dumb it is, but the thought of a pile of shrikes simply overrunning the lines of the enemy, with 4 dice to hit on their MAT 7’s left me giggling inside. However, once I got over that little idea, I decided to take a bit more of a crack at a solid list with a pile of heavies. Originally, I grabbed at Seethers and Barathrum but after looking at the infernal machines list and knowing that I’d be wasting Countercharge on the seethers, I came up with this list. 

Cryx Army – 75 / 75 points
[Theme] Infernal Machines

Lich Lord Venethrax [+26]
– Deathjack [23]
– Desecrator [14]
– Desecrator [14]
– Inflictor [13]
– Inflictor [13]
Soul Trapper [1]
Soul Trapper [1]
Warwitch Siren [0(4)]
Warwitch Siren [4]
Mechanithralls (max) [9]
– Brute Thrall (3) [6]
– Skarlock Commander [3]

Its a simple concept, really. Toss out as many mortalities as I can, get Deathjack in there with terminal velocity, and ambush with a strong unit of Mechanithralls who would use mortality to actually connect with their targets. The Warwitch Sirens would allow me to allocate to my jacks less, saving Focus for Terminal Velocity, and the Soul Trappers could, if they found their way into position, let Venethrax just toss out a bunch of Mortalities. What really makes me happy about this list is that the four heavies have critical effects, and one of them is bonus damage into living models, which is the lists favored target. Inflictors having reach, +2″ of threat and bonus to hit from TV, and arm 19 makes them very attractive. They may hit a little lighter, but they should more than make up with it with 4 attacks with Crit Poison. 

But, honestly, I really couldn’t get away from my original idea with Venethrax. 

Cryx Army – 75 / 75 points
[Theme] Infernal Machines

 Lich Lord Venethrax [+26]
– Kraken [36]
– Scavenger [7]
– Scavenger [7]
– Shrike [6]
– Shrike [6]
– Shrike [6]
– Shrike [6]
– Shrike [6]
– Skarlock Thrall [0(4)]
Soul Trapper [1]
Carrion Thralls (max) [10]
Carrion Thralls (max) [10]

This is just a list that puts as many flying models as I can readily muster on the board, along with an anchor piece. It screams insanity, and its not wrong. 27 flying models, of which the warjacks have both Hyper Aggressive and Countercharge seems simply hilarious. There wasn’t really much more to it than that, honestly. I wanted 4 dice trampling Shrikes with Countercharge, and them adding Infernal Machines simply made it all that much better.

I hoped that when I put it down on the table I wasn’t simply erased, but that was why the other list was there. If this list wasn’t any fun to run, I wanted to be able to change it up and get a list that might actually work. I had to drop this list a few times though, right? For Science….  

Part 2

 

First Games Impressions

Holy hell. This is another one of those lists that simply sings on the table and feels like you got it right the first time.  I don’t know how or what I am supposed to do with it, but it was simply glorious. 

The first game I played was against a Troll list with Grissel and a pair of colossals. I was able to, through the use of my Carrion Thralls, to pin the whole army down while I whittled them away with stupid tramples. Eventually I had to commit the Kraken to killing one of the two Colossals, which put pressure on him and he trampled the second over to Venethrax, but my high defense kept me alive when the after-trample first attack was bought and missed. 

The Second game was against Ghost Fleet, and was completely insane. I had never played against the Fleet before, but had a passing familiarity. My first experience really gave me a lot to chew on, as he needed about an arc node, a scourge and a venom to kill me. I should have positioned a lot better, but I didn’t know the danger that lurked. Tons of countercharge and hyper aggressive and all sorts of shenanigans went on throughout the whole game. 

Both games were a blast, and the list was extremely irritating to both players, but also enjoyable. Having both abilities on hard to hit jacks that are able to ignore both my army and terrain to advance is very strong. Additionally, being able to trample for free being immune to free strikes gives a bizzare sort of Ghostly to the Shrikes, allowing them to position themselves in strange spots and  not generally worry about being outside of control range. It was a very interesting list. 

 

Tweaks and twists

Honestly, I didn’t want to change anything except maybe the Kraken. The sepulcher called me from Mortenebra’s games earlier in the day, but I really didn’t see the benefit of exchanging out the strong melee presence of the Kraken for the strong range of the Sepulcher. He does stay in the back much more often than he attacks with the vanguard, but his potential power for melee caps off the lists inability to hit particularly hard. 

One of the aspects I felt most missing was that of a second debuff for armor. It didn’t feel like quite enough with only mortality and a few light-hitting models. The Kraken does make up for it most of the time, but taking out other colossals was a really large ask that I don’t know I could do with a regular basis. Its just too damned hard, even with corpses. 

Part 3

Well, I think this is something, and I might be wrong, That I’d not done the whole Tour. At the very least, its not been done in a long while. I played the same list all 5 times, without change or adjustment in any way. It did great in a number of situations, and even though I lost 2 of the 5 games, I am pretty confident that if I was to play against those lists again, I would have a strong shot of winning, though the ghost fleet matchup looks particularly hard. 

The last three games I played were against Lord Carver, a Kara Sloan mixed forces list, and Hexeris 1 Ghost Fleet destroyer. 

The third game was against a Minions list with Lord Carver that I slowly picked apart, taking out his heavies first so that the Kraken was safe to run the board, and then using the Kraken to run the board. The Shrikes and Scavengers flitted about the battlefield with ease, getting closer when pot shots were taken and counter charging into beasts when appropriate. It turns out that finisher and mortality go well together, and getting a countercharge in and doing some damage on their turn enables a lot of little birds to descend on a target and remove it. 

Against the Cygnar list, I really enjoyed going second as knowing what parts of my list I could deploy against favorable matchups was a strong advantage on my part. I had to quickly figure out what models of mine were going to go where, and it made made deployment interesting and swift. I knew that I was never going to get Carrion Thralls into the gun mages, no matter how many I tossed over there, and I knew that the MAT on the Precursers was going to be high enough that they would be able to tag my lights pretty easily. Deploying so that I was tossing my Carrion Thralls into his Precursers and all 7 Light Jacks into his Gun Mages made for an extremely interesting game, and one that I was able to finally get to Kara Sloan with a trample. 

The last list, the Hexy 1, was just brutal. I do know that I drove the opposing player absolutely mad with all the charging and hyper aggressiveness and other garbage I was able to get away with. I tied up the arc node, blocked charge lanes and engaged models that were going to shoot me. While I ended up losing the game to an assassination run, it was not a planned move on the part of my opponent. He said, in a clear and unmitigated way, that he was going for the assassination so so that he could stop fighting this irritating list. He succeeded, and did with plenty of room to spare, but I see how I could have made that game nearly impossible to lose for myself simply by not being where I had no need to be. 

Things I learned

While playing a caster that has obviously strong points, it is sometimes hard to really find anything that you learned besides the obvious synergies that you played up to begin with, and in this list, it took me a little while to come to some conclusions. First, Venethrax is a tough bastard, but he isn’t immune to everything. I know its not really a valid lesson, but its one I failed to learn during both of my losses. Idiotically, I would simply wander venethrax up into the middle of the army with no focus because I was confident that I couldn’t die and then simply be ended. 

I was also really thrilled with how the Shrikes performed, but I am also worried about their ability to stay inside the control area during critical turns. Often, I would end up out of position and out of range for allocation turn after turn. With 5 shrikes, that didn’t seem to be that much of a problem, but it could be problematic if it was my only shrike in the list. 

The Scavengers seem to have done OK, but I couldn’t help but think they would have been better as stalkers. The one time I was able to capitalize on Finisher, I wasn’t able to destroy the model. That lead me with a pretty sour taste in my mouth, and I am still trying to find a home for them. 

Blood Rain came in handy against Ghost Fleet and Blackbanes, but other than that wasn’t really great. I don’t think I cast deadweight once, which is a pity since I had high hopes for the spell. Lamentation was a trap, twice, and got me killed. I did get good use out of it, but I have to be careful how its applied. I don’t know that I used my feat more than once, it just doesn’t serve a whole lot of good with both Empower and Power Up out there. 

Final List

Its easy for me to posit a final list, because its the same list I used to start off the Tour with Venethrax; simply look above. I do believe that this is not the best list out there, but it was so maniacally fun. The amount of time the opponent spent head-scratching was simply glorious. 

Overall Impressions

While I was immiately over Venethrax the day that I saw him spoiled, I will say that he is a fun and enjoyable caster. MAT 8 means that you can consider some risky moves that many of our other casters can’t, and when supported by the proper army, he can simply bring a crazy amount of movement puzzles for the opponent to figure out. While I am sure that a strong and clever opponent will be able to unravel most of it, there are always those points that you can simply deny due to countercharge. 

Sadly, I only played this strange list that doesn’t really showcase his ability to get jacks into the enemy, so I don’t really know if his hype was wrong or not. I can see the ability on lights as being frustrating, but I don’t know that the same applies to heavies. If they are damaged, and trigger hyper aggressive, then they are likely really banged up, and if they countercharge into an opponent, they will often simply turn and address the problem. Balancing those two are going to be the key parts to understanding and maximizing this character. 

Strong Points

Truthfully, Venethrax has a lot of strong points, and can be built in a variety of ways. His biggest plus, though, is clearly his personal survivability and his strong FOC stat, where he is able to often sit on multiple focus until a push turn. Keeping him alive after the push turn is key, and not always easy.

This guy is a lich lord with answers to all the questions, and performed exactly, and amazingly as expected. He was absolutely a blast to play with the Shrikes and Scavengers, but really think that any list he puts together with 5 or more jacks and some random guys to take advantage of unit-wide mortality is going to do well. 

Problem Areas

The largest problems I saw with him were in the way the list runs. It simply begs for him to come up into the middle to keep up with the Shrikes, and I’m not sure that he really wants to do that, because he will simply get killed by casting Terminal Velocity and Mortality. He needs to watch his focus, because he wants to keep 2 on him at all times because he is clearly the focus of the list and can finish the job alone, if need be. Worrying about where and how your lights are leaking out of your control range is a massive headache, and cause me no end of double guessing after the game had played out how I would have gotten out of the situation. 

He’s also got no protection from guns, which is a big problem in the current environment of riddling people with bullets to end games. Ghost Fleet and Cygnar both give him brown shorts, and I’m not really fond of that. If I don’t have a big ol’ piece of terrain to hide behind, I’m likely dead against cygnar, and if I don’t have shield guards I am likely dead against Ghost Fleet. Thankfully, those weren’t the lists I faced, and I think that I’d be able to rake a stab at them if they were. Ghost Fleet feels bad, no matter how strongly I won the game. 

Overall, he is a strong and durable caster with massive stats and a really enjoyable spell list.

Rating: 6.3

 

Final thoughts

I love playing him. Loved beyond reason honestly. It was almost all his list and almost nothing other than Countercharge. Having that ability on the flying lights was key, but as I said, the temptation to go out of my own control range was massive. I hope I get a chance to come back to him sometimes soon, as he was a lot of fun to play and a lot of fun to use, even if most of it was the list. 

Score: 6.3