Welcome To Skell – Black Industries

A while back, while they were previewing the themes, I did a sort of mini-write up on what was coming in the future following the three themes, and what I thought was going to happen with them. Now, months down the road with all the Theme’s set out, I wanted to take some time to go over them in a bit more detail, shedding light on what some of the standard archetypes, as I see them are, as well as strengths and weaknesses. This week. we look at the Black Industries.

 

Black industries is an amusing theme for me because I have this bizarre love-hate relationship with Cryxian Heavy Warjacks. Sometimes I love them but most of the time I hate them. At the start of the game, back years and years ago, I made sure every one of my games contained a heavy warjack of some sort, mostly Slayers, Reapers, and Leviathans. However, with the end of MKI and the start of MKII, I dropped heavies like a bad habit. The Cryxian warjack is fragile, fast, and doesn’t hit all that hard outside of some very specific circumstances. Little has changed since those times. I wrote an article a while back on my opinions of the Slayer chassis, and it hasn’t changed much, even with the advent of Black Industries. Its great that I can take any jack that I want, mostly, but its also pretty miserable that all the jacks are still fragile, precision models in a hammer-shaped mold.

Overview

If you want to run Cryxian Warjacks, Black Industries is the place where you belong. It’s a ‘Jack-centric theme with few troops, basic composition rules and enough flexibility to make it moderately enticing. The theme benefits tune up the warjacks enough that it feels good to run and corrects a number of deficiencies that prevent them from seeing play in the current game without some sort of crutch like they receive. It also allows a small selection of units as well as some excellent solos, bringing the appeal of the theme high enough that people can, will, and should consider building lists here. Let’s break it down. 

Black Industries can take the following models with the following restrictions. 

The restrictions are very tight, while the benefits are strong and focused. It has all the hallmarks of a good theme, in a vacuum, and I can’t fault the creators for thinking that it seems good enough. 

Allowed Units

Cryx Warcasters
Non-Character Warjacks
Deathjack
Malice
Iron Lich models/units
Warwitch models/units
Black Ogrun Ironmonger units
Cephalyx Units
Machine Wraith Solos
Necrotech Solos
Scrap Thrall Solos
Soul Trapper Solos
Solos with the Battlegroup Controller special Ability 

Man. That is the longest list that I have come across, but it may also be the most restrictive. We allow all warcasters and non-character warjacks, as is the standard on nearly every theme list. A few restrict the loadout to with or without guns, or some such. We add in the two Character warjacks that have no bonded caster, an unpleasantry that comes from themes disallowing character warjacks outside of when they are bonded. If they weren’t directly, and sometimes strangely, included as a theme option from time to time, they would never truly be used. 

Next, we get to the units, of which there are four lines to delineate 4 units. There is exactly one Iron Lich unit, no Warwitch units, the Ironmongers are specifically called out, and there are two Cephalyx units; Overlords and Mind Slaver + Drudges. Whats so inefficient about this is that the Ironmongers, Withershadow and Cephalyx Overlords are all three man support units. There are four lines here calling to make it so that we can take one 10 man infantry unit, one unit of mechanics, a ‘Caster attachment, and a small spray unit. 

Then we get into the list of solos, again which is strangely specific, and a line by line callout. Machine Wraiths, Necrotechs, Scrap Thralls, and Soul Trappers are all individual models. They are called out individually and it feels unwieldy to have to call them all out. Its yet another symptom of a game built without themes in mind and now forced into these stupid buckets. 

Lastly, we have another long and unwieldy line: Solos with the Battlegroup Controller ability. This is especially egregious because I feel they should just have the words “novice” in their tag, allowing them to simply say “Novice solos” and control it the same way. It radiates inelegance. 

So, now we have the set up here. All the Warcasters, all the Warjacks that don’t have bonds, three small units, one 10 man unit, 4 Solos. 

Benefits 

This is where the spice really starts to set. For those massive restrictions, essentially the loss of every good unit in the faction and almost all the good and great solos, we have the following benefits: 

Mercenaries I’ll mention, but only briefly. They are allowed in almost every theme in the game. However, think long and hard about your merc unit choice. With Cephalyx allowed, you can take the overlords without eating your merc slot. Steelhead Halberdiers are a great choice. When compared to Cephalyx Mind Slaver and Drudges, they have: +2 Def, +1.5″ Melee Range, +1 Speed (+2.5″ melee threat), -2 Arm, -2 Melee Damage, Brutal Charge, and Set Defense. They don’t have eyeless sight and Tough, for 1 point cheaper. It’s a pretty solid trade. 

The second benefit, as they all are, is the “free stuff” benefit. Here, for every 30 points of Jacks you take, you get a free light warjack of 7 points or less. There are two things of note here. First, is that even though its a 75 point game, casters range around 24-31 Warjack Points. This means that you’re first free model comes at 6 points or less spent on the army. Unlike infantry based lists, your free points gate regarding how many points you have to spend from the army points itself changes, resulting in a strange moving number of flex points based on each caster. 13 for 28 points, 12 for 27 points, etc. This makes nailing down a specific number and set of models pretty hard across casters, and often means that casters run vastly different lists for a point or two difference. Secondly, the free jacks you get are fairly limited: Nightwretch, Ripjaw, Deathripper, Scavenger, Shrike, and Helldiver. The Helldiver and Shrike are generally not taken except in specific, niche instances. The Scavenger is a serious contender when the caster needs no arc nodes, and the Nightwretch is the superior choice of arc nodes in almost every instance. This, basically, gives us 2 choices when it comes to free models, outside of some specific builds that are looking to capitalize on aspects of each neglected choice except the helldiver, who is terrible. If you are in need of an arc node, grab the Nightwretch. If you don’t, grab a Scavenger. you’ll rarely be disappointed with either. 

The Third benefit is all the money in the world. Heavy Warjacks gain Carapace. Carapace is a great ability for the jacks of the list to have. Prior to themes, they would take a boosted pow 12 from anything anywhere and have arms fall off, legs blow out, etc. It was bad for the Heavies that were priced as expensively as a 10 man unit to simply crumple to a solos’ attack. Carapace enables the whole fleet of jacks to get there, while under fire from numerous sources, and finally do the work they were always meant to do. Then they fold like the cardboard they are once they get there, what with P+S 18 and higher weapons crushing their poor, magical brains in. Note that this does not work on lights, and it does not grant colossals its benefit either. 

Lastly, There is the +2″ of deployment zone, which is a great benefit to have. Shoving your speed 6+ jacks down the opponent’s throat and making them suffer the consequences is a real blast, and getting those slower, plodding Crabjacks and infantry into the fray just a little bit earlier is nice as well. Its a very simple and basic benefit, but it’s a strong one none the less, and getting into the game just a bit farther on turn one cannot be understated. 

Theme Theory 

Because the Cryx jacks are pretty poor overall, there seems to be little innovation and variety in the lists that are built with this theme. However, when building the theme, you’d want to keep a couple things in mind. Some casters are simply going to be right out of this theme, as they don’t do enough to support their jacks, or need infantry to run

First, you’ll want to know your flex points for the caster, and that the caster is going to drive most of how you’re going to look at the list. 

Flex points: 

16 – Sturgis 2
14 – Agathia 1, Aiakos 2
13 – Goreshade 2, Lich 1, Lich 2, Skarre 1, Denny 2
12 – Denny 3, Goreshade 1, Goreshade 2, Terminus, Scaverous, Mortenenbra 2, Skarre 3
11 – Venethrax, Skarre 2, Denny 1, Coven
9 – Asphyxious 3, Mortenebra 1

After determining your flex points, you then want to see if the caster wants Arc nodes or not as that is going to determine your free models.

Once you know your caster fits the list, how many flex points you’ll have, and what type of Free models you’ll need, then you can start building your lists. Deathjack and Malice should take a primary thought in your lists, and you should almost always consider them, even if you end up dumping one or both. Deathjack hits the hardest, baseline, of any of our jacks, and has the best armor. Malice has a ranged drag and can get his armor up there with a bit of help. Both of these are worth a look. 

Next, you want to look and see what type of jack support you bring. Damage is most welcome because the majority of our jacks are rightly pillow-fisted, requiring at least a +2 damage buff/armor debuff to get real work done in a sustained manner. Hitting isn’t really needed, except if you’re bringing a swarm of Crabjacks. Speed and Armor, though, are top notch and should be looked at for this theme, as well as battlegroup based spells and abilities. Two of the biggest examples right now are Denny 2’s feat and Gaspy 3’s field marshal. Both of these bring added durability to a list that, granted, now has carapace against ranged attacks, but still melts very quickly to melee. 

Other jacks to consider, depending on needs, are the Slayer, Reaper, and Desecrator. Most of the other Jacks that are in the army are fairly niche and moderately expensive. Its a tax from our infantry and I pay it gladly. Leviathans and Corruptors have specific slots, Seethers defense of 12 doesn’t make up for the Slayer being 3 fewer points, and Harrowers are generally just not worth it. Inflictors have their role and reach the highest armor, but their output is extremely low, leaving them overshadowed. 

More than anything, figuring out where the flex points are going to go, and if you can deal with only 2 free models or if you need three is the biggest decision points. Ironmongers are great at 6 points, Overlords are amazing for 8, and if you have 14+ flex points, it’s worth looking at them. Necrotechs, sadly, are pretty much overshadowed by their ironmonger brethren. Making sure you have the right mix of support and heavies is the key to the list constructions.

Popular casters are: 

Lich 3 – Asphyxious the Hellbringer is the current poster child for the Black Industries list. He brings a list composing of 9 slayers, ironmongers, and a machine wraith, flooding the field with a pile of hard to kill slayers with Def 13, Arm 19+ and MAT 7. They are accurate, fairly self-sufficient and plentiful. He brings Mobility and Unyielding to the jacks, along with curse from the ironmongers, making them fast, mobile, durable and accurate. With Calamity on a target, he even brings a decent amount of damage fixing. He does it all. 

Denny 2 – The new Denny 2 brings a massive kit and a powerful set of rules that are strong on both warjacks and troopers. While her Damnation spell is pretty solid, it is not the reason that people play and use her, instead, it’s her feat. Incorporeal is a big problem to many lists, and putting it on DEF 13+ models with 28 or more wounds is a serious test of a lists abilities. She likes bringing Deathjack for that sweet double Hellmouth, and 4-5 slayers and likely malice to push her list over the edge in terms of boxes. adding in the three arc nodes that she so desperately needs for free is just icing on the cake. 

Playing the List 

A Black Industries list plays differently than any other cryx list out there. With the two casters who lead the charge providing greater defenses and stronger plays that even the theme provides. While +4 ARM v. free strikes and ranged attacks are good, unyielding or Incorporeal for a turn, in addition, is extremely strong. The key to playing Black Industries, it feels, is knowing how many, and when, to give up your jacks for their pieces. Knowing that you’re going to be able to tank some attacks with defense and a higher armor, gives you the ability to pick where the engagements are forces, whereas your opponent is left taking what you give them if you’re playing smart. 

You’re going to want to make sure, as you will almost always be outnumbered, that you choose the right targets to take out at the right time. Ranged threats that can easily punch through your armor should be a priority target, as well as models that debuff, knockdown, or otherwise get around your innate defense. Keep the mechanics nearby, ready to patch up the most likely to be damaged jacks, and drop a curse on the dodgiest of targets. 

Pair up your jacks, if possible, and give away less than half in the first interaction. Committing too many to the strike can easily lose you the game, as you’re often looking for the slow, grind out scenario win, and aren’t going to often win with an assassination. 

Vulnerabilities

The largest and clearest vulnerability of a jack based army is a horde of powerful troopers, and this list is no different, as it fears hordes of weaponmasters with even moderate accuracy. The Slayer-chassis defense of 13 will often save them against rival heavies, but it doesn’t have the same effect on an opponents horde of infantry because there is always more to come.

Additionally, armies based off of a few models with solid stats will often crumble when their stats are easily overcome. Making sure to be wary of knockdown, precision strike, and other means of bypassing the chassis natural defense. when you’re using the crab jacks, be wary of their slow speed and relatively lackluster threat to make sure that you’re not overrun and outflanked. Finally, when you focus on jacks, you’re often short in the Unit and Solo department, making it hard to score those critical zones on those critical turns. Pay attention and make sure you’re contesting in the right spots. 

That’s my take on Black Industries, a theme I don’t care for except for a single list. Cryx jacks have never been my thing, and I don’t think they will be anytime soon. 

Until next time!