Tour de Cryx – The Master Necrotechs Workshop

I was Knocking out games left and right at Lock and Load, and after I completed Aiakos 2, It was time to move on to a ‘Caster I had plans for since the start of 3rd: Master Necrotech Mortenebra. 

Part 1

Initial Impressions

When the leaks of the new edition spread across the internet early in 2016, there was a lot of speculation about how the meta would shake out, with a ton of emphasis being put onto jack-centered lists. In Cryx, this lead to a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth because our primary ‘Jack caster, Mortenebra 1, had her signature spell, Terminal Velocity,  taken from here and placed on Venethrax. Venethrax then became our primary ‘Jack caster, and many lists were made with him and joy abounded. Mortenbra was left behind, though, as her replacement spell, Sacrificial Lamb, just wasn’t seen to be as good as Terminal Velocity. Clearly, she had been eclipsed. 

Knowing that I have a desire to make the best list for the caster, not the best list for the faction or the best caster for that list, Mortenebra was a challenge. She actually has a strong spell list, even without Terminal Velocity, and has some pretty strong upsides. 

Her statline is pretty irrelevant when it comes to taking a look at her and figuring out what to build. 15/16 is about all you need to know, though her speed 6 and pathfinder come in handy from time to time. Her MAT 6 and 2x POW 12’s are nothing to write home about. With only 16 boxes on a large base with no defenses, she’s pretty vulnerable. 

Her personal abilities are strong, with plenty of options. Steady means that she is one of the few casters that will retain her defense in the face of many knockdown effects, and soul taker allows her, if the situation presents itself, to garner herself an extra focus or two, sometimes 3. Simply because of this I make sure that her lists have Soul Trappers. What really makes her sing are her other two abilities, Interface and Repair. Her repair ability is strong at a d3+3, making sure that every warjack she ever repairs is at full and peak efficiency, if only for a turn. 

Interface is an excellent ability that can be tricky to use, but has massive upside for a couple of jacks in the faction. Warjacks that are base to base are allowed to spend her focus as if it was their own. Sadly, this means that there are few opportunities for melee use, but the upside is that Mortenebra’s ranged game is very strong. 

Her spell list, as I mentioned, is good. It has a number of spells that cover limited situations, but that are pretty critical when they are needed. 

Doom Spiral and Void Gate are her two nukes. Void Gate is an AOE, which is always good to have around, and prevents casting or channeling spells. I don’t know that I’ve had a use for the second part of the spell in any game ever, and can’t think of one off the top of my head. The small AOE on the attack makes it so that even when movement is forced, its not particularly far.  Doom Spiral is a great little spell that can get a touch of damage onto the caster while nicking up the jack. I don’t see much use for it outside of taking some shots at Jr Warcasters or tagging the enemy ‘Caster with damage to allow Scavengers and Carrion Thralls to finish the job. It is not high enough pow to be worth the risk against warjacks, and looses its main benefit against troopers. 

Spectral Steel is one of the few armor buffs in the faction, though it applies only to warjacks and only within the battlegroup. That said, it is a great buff. +2 ARM is great on colossals, often saving them from a certain death and Ghostly is great on the flyers, particularly scavengers, allowing them to get into great positions, ignoring the other army while doing so. 

Her battlegroup support spells are Overrun, Sacrificial Lamb and Jumpstart. Jumpstart is pretty self explanatory, and allows for her army to slightly recover from stationary or knockdown. Sacrificial Lamb allows her to achieve some strong focus efficiency, and Overrun allows for better positioning and assassination vectors. 

Finally we get to her feat, Recalibration. Its an amazing feat with few words and a high impact. Friendly Faction models in her control area can reroll attack and damage rolls (once per roll). It is a glorious feat that seems so small yet the effect is large enough to bank around. 

What I really like about the feat is the it essentially limits the low-spikes and ensures near or above average, with a tendency to spike higher by simply getting more attempts to roll high, generally removing the lowest rolls in the batch. Its simple, its elegant, and its really fun. 

Finally, she comes with a pretty strong personal Skarloc, Deryliss. He has repair, Doom Spiral and, after one of the errata passes, Tune Up, allowing a fully boosted attack and all damage rolls on the first attack the tuned up model makes that turn. Its a great ability, and really needs to be built around in order to extract the best use and enable Mortenebra to justify his 4 less points. 

When starting to work on her, the first thing I latched onto was Sacrificial Lamb. It allows massive distribution of focus while losing only a single model. Multiplied over a pile of light jacks, I thought to myself, that could be really, really strong. I wanted to try a pair of every light, along with two slayers and maybe a colossal into the list. I fiddled and futzed with the list, and this is eventually what came out

Cryx Army – 75 / 75 points

Master Necrotech Mortenebra [+24]
– Deathripper [6]
– Deathripper [6]
– Scavenger [7]
– Scavenger [7]
– Shrike [6]
– Shrike [6]
– Slayer [10]
– Slayer [10]
– Stalker [8]
– Stalker [8]
– Stalker [8]
– Stalker [8]
Necrotech [2]
Necrotech [2]
Necrotech [2]
Scrap Thrall [2]
Soul Trapper [1]

This list looked like a ton of fun to play. I still think I should some day, what with Hyper-aggressive being something I could take advantage of with this quantity of lights. However, as the days drew closer and closer to me actually playing the list, I started to look at what each part of her did, and how to capitalize on each part of her kit, and I thought to myself, What if that wasn’t the best list. It didn’t doesn’t have a great interface target, It is a real gamble that you choose the right target for overrun, and there really wasn’t anywhere to hide the caster. 

First list

After some soul searching and some deep diving into what I wanted from the list, this list came out the other side, a fine and forged article of war. 

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

Master Necrotech Mortenebra [+24]
– Deathripper [6]
– Scavenger [7]
– Sepulcher [36]
– Stalker [8]
– Stalker [8]
Necrotech [2]
Necrotech [2]
Soul Trapper [1]
Soul Trapper [1]
Warwitch Siren [0(4)]
Mechanithralls (min) [6]
– Brute Thrall (3) [6]
Mechanithralls (min) [6]
– Brute Thrall (3) [6]
Necrosurgeon & Stitch Thralls [4]

This list had everything I thought I wanted. Perfect targets for Spectral Steel and Interface (Sepulcher) plenty of Overrun targets (stalkers and Scavenger) a bunch of ways to keep my models alive via necrotechs, Morty and Deryliss, and a set of both ambushing and bodyguard Thralls. The sepulcher was really my big revelation. With Crit paralyze and Deryliss’s tune up, he can easily fish for crits, and her feat made it even better. After an allocation of only a single focus and a key Sacrificial Lamb, he could have 3 focus on him and 5 focus on Mortenbra to use. With the Spiker Cannon rolling 2d3 shots, I could pretty regularly expect 3 more shots, often fully boosted. 

I really liked the concept, and wanted to see where it went. 

Part 2

First Games Impressions

Every once in a while, you just hit upon something you find so novel and enjoyable the first time out that there is almost nothing you’d change about it. For me, this was one of those lists. Except I changed it every game… 

The first game out, Against Vyros, was a slog of a game where I tried desperately to come back from the verge of self-inflicted destruction. Early on, due to greed, I misplayed and misplaced my sepulcher, getting it killed for nearly nothing. The rest of the game I was able to slowly fight back, including going up on scenario early and nearly closing the game out, but eventually losing to attrition after the stupid sweep from the Sepulcher. 

The next game I tweaked the list slightly, though, by pulling it out of Infernal Machines and putting in some Bane Goodness. Her lack of ARM debuff really shone in the last game, and I thought that Dark Shroud would really help. Turns out that oh boy, it does. Bane Thralls under Recalibration are simply brutal. Additionally, a nice matchup note here, Excessive Healing getting picked out by the Stalkers Grevious Wounds is pretty boss, not gonna lie. I was able to keep the sepulcher alive, and it did a glorious job, honestly. Under Feat I was able to take out two out of three heavies that Thagrosh brought, including the aforementioned Typhon. One of which, with gunshots to spare, was Zuriel. Those gunshots to spare, though, brought me to the end of the game, as I spent it on a wild shot and missed, pulling a focus off of Mortenebra through interface to do it. Unfortuneatly, Mortenebra died to fire the following turn after Azreal Double Tapped her with POW 17 spears to the face. Not my best moment. 

Tweaks and twists

As I said, I really liked the list as it was. The Sepulcher as a great anchor for the list, able to bring to bear either a ranged presence or a melee one, was almost immediately apparent. The Scavenger didn’t survive past a single game, though it could be because I ended up not using it wisely and getting it both out of position and out of control. Infernal Machines was abandoned because I wasn’t able to get the armor swing, though I could likely get a Wraith Engine in there, somehow, and keep IM, but likely at the cost of a ton of damage. Honestly, I should really reconsider putting them in due to their synergy with Doom Spiral via Finisher, but I don’t know. I love how awesome stalkers are. 

Additionally, Dark Host came out the next day, and I really saw a chance to capitalize on how awesome she made Banes by getting them in the list with free models. Additionally, two clouds to hide behind are amazingly awesome for her base size, and gives her a bit of safety against a few models here and there. I think there are so many permutations for that list, though, that choosing a best list for her is likely an exercise in futility. 

I did find the lack of ARM debuff severely limiting, and the lack of to-hit buff to be very disconcerting. Terminal Velocity was a bit accuracy swing for her, and loosing it kinda puts her in a really shitty place in terms of trying to figure out how to build lists. Cryx is known for its withering debuffs, and she just simply doesn’t have any to bring to the table. 

This means, for the most part, she simply has to bring things that are self sufficient to the table, and I don’t quantify much in Cryx as self sufficient. Recalibration goes a very long way towards making that a reality by being a magnificent buff to both accuracy and damage for a single turn, but it feels like a razors edge to walk. I would much rather bank on my army to be able to achieve on its own, and then for the feat to lean on the scales just enough to break the game my way. 

Part 3

Things I learned

After the first two games getting Mortenebra killed, which were immediately following getting Aiakos killed three times in a row, I went on a pretty solid tear, and Morty dropped her next three opponents, two with the Sepulchers guns and one with the sepulcher in melee. It was a pretty good ride. 

Mortenebra is an excellent shooting caster, and it is really weird to have one of those in the faction. She begs to have long ranged jacks, as interface and repair both have great synergy with them, but she doesn’t do anything to really amp up their general terribleness. There might be a list out there, somewhere, that she loves that can simply gun down opponents, but I cannot find it. 

Morty 1 Dark Host is a legitimately awesome list, and I am glad to have given it a spin or two. I don’t know that I need to take both units of banes, But I was pretty tired of getting shot up by that time, and needed something with an arm higher than 15. Maybe two leviathans can replace the sepulcher, but they are simply longer-ranged versions of the sepulchers mini-guns it has strapped to the sides for only 4 points less. The savings just don’t seem to be there when you think about the big bun and the melee potential it brings. it would be interesting to try out, some time, but I don’t really favor it. 

Final List

If I had to break down and pin a list in place for her, it would likely be this one: 

Cryx Army – 75 / 75 points
[Theme] Dark Host

 Master Necrotech Mortenebra [+24]
– Deathripper [6]
– Sepulcher [36]
– Stalker [8]
– Stalker [8]
Bane Lord Tartarus [0(6)]
Necrotech [2]
Scrap Thrall [2]
Soul Trapper [1]
Bane Knights (max) [15]
Bane Warriors (max) [16]
– Bane Warrior Officer & Standard [5]

It has everything to help her out, and little to bog her down in meaningless activations. The Bane Knights are really stellar hear, as their high base numbers combined with her feat let them do much more work than they have a right to do, especially against heavies. If they get a Dark Shroud in there it starts pushing the numbers over the precipice. 

Honestly, I would love to find a way to get a single unit in the list and grab a third Stalker, but I just cannot find the right places to go with the list. With the new minifeat, I could probably get the right amount of Bane Thralls to where I need it to go, but I’m not really convinced. Maybe with three stalkers it rightly doesn’t matter. 

Overall Impressions

Like almost every other caster I’ve played, Mortenebra was a blast. Its no lie that I have enjoyed, with but one exception, every caster I’ve taken for a spin in the Tour. Mortenebra has a different take on how she goes about Cryxing, so I enjoyed her take on the faction. I don’t know that I’ve ever gunned down so many important pieces of other peoples armies so easily. 

The Sepulcher, with Interface, Tune Up, Sac Lamb and Recalibration is just pure joy. With the Soul Trappers you can easily convert souls into straight damage with the Sepulcher. I do regret not being able to use his Necrofactory rule, but I think the rest of his package is solid enough to not really worry about that small portion of his rules being left behind. 

I have no doubt, unlike some of the other casters I’ve tried, that I have unlocked a best, or even optimal list. There is so much variance to what she can run that she likely has a ton of different lists she can run. One of the ones I wanted to try but never got around to it because the Sepuchura list was so fun, was a swarm of lights and necrotechs. The basic concept was to have the Stalkers and Scavengers as my front line. The opponent then gets in and kills them fairly quickly. The necrotechs, now full of scrap tokens, then flood the center of the board with scrap thralls while my opponent tries to figure out what to do to not get exploded all over, I then move the last pieces into place and got for assassination. Seems fun to me, but I never got to do it. Hopefully when I come around. 

Strong Points

I think that Mortenabra has two huge strengths, Focus efficiency and maneuverability. Overrun, which I’ve barely even talked about here, was a player in every game, moving my models around to more advantageous positions, getting distances the opponents weren’t prepared for and often simply getting me a little further up the board. This increase in maneuverability greatly affected my opponents ability to prepare for where and how I would strike because I could change up what went where and how on the fly. 

The same goes for focus efficiency. I can easily save a ton of focus shaking via jumpstart, or I can hand out a pile of focus from one poor, dead Scrap Thrall. With the Stalkers leap costing focus, I was able to get critical boosted attack or damage rolls with her at the helm. 

Problem Areas

Mortenbra, as much as she is fun, has a number of seemly insurmountable flaws that do cause me a lot of consternation during games. 

First, she is squishy. You’d not think that a 15/16 with 18 boxes would be considered squishy, but when you’re the easiest part of the army to kill, it is a valid statement. With her medium base and her desire to get up front in order to be able to use interface correctly, she is in positions you don’t want her to be in a fair portion of the games she plays. Additionally, she wants to use Interface and her feat in a single turn which necessitates somehow figuring out where she is going to be and the colossal where they are going to be all the while trying to make sure she doesn’t die. Often I don’t. 

Second she has no armor debuff. This means that she is often relying on bringing a number of different methods to push Dark Shroud into the army. Prior to Themes, this was Rag Man. Afterward, its been Iron Lich Overseers, Wraith Engines and Bane Thralls. None of these are bad options, but they all take away from the core of the army to add something that most Cryx ‘Casters already can do to the list. Its frustrating, but doable. 

She also has no hit buff, which is a large problem when trying to take her in a sepulcher-friendly environment (Infernal Machines) because many models are very, very inaccurate. Soul Hunters are accurate, yes, but are provided no protection on the way in. I like Tartarus with Vet Leader, as Rengrave has shown me its strengths, but that still does not make it up to the rest of the army. 

Finally, she has no terrain mitigation. This is often solved in list building, where you simply take Dark Host and fix the terrain with the models provided, but it is still a problem and forces her towards certain builds. 

Final thoughts

Mortenebra seems to be one of the odd casters out in Cryx, with strange strong points and weaknesses both. She was really fun to play, though, and I want to go back to her very soon. I don’t think she’ll win me any tournaments, but she is powerful enough at a basement and local level that I’d be willing to toss her into a tournament, but with some significant reservations. Overall, I’d probably benchmark her at a completely average caster with an above average swing turn and some very cool surprises. 

Overall Rating 7.0