How do the new Warmachine and Hordes Battlegroup Casters rank for Mark III?
Chalkboard here from Chalkboard War, with a “pre-season” Power Rankings report of the Warmachine and Hordes Battlegroup Boxes and how they are likely to fare in Journeyman leagues. First I sorted them all by strength of Feat, and last week they were adjusted by the Warjacks and Warbeasts included in each box. This week we’re adding in the effect(s) of the Warcasters and Warlocks themselves. Do their spells, weapons, and abilities tip the scales at all? Next week will be the final adjustment, looking at the Journeyman league effect (which Warmachine or Hordes boxes improve most dramatically when they can add in more elements from the rest of the faction). By the end, I hope we can generate a tentative ranking of how the boxes might fare in a Journeyman League. Sure it’s pr-season forecasting, as we don’t know all the specifics of Mark III, but banking on the “it will be much like Mark II” comments from the Privateer Press staff, it’s a start.
Malekus has been lingering in the top for a while, and his personal abilities and spells seem to keep him here. Having persistent concealment and a melee defense boost against living models makes him fairly defensive. Where he’s really going to shine is Open Fire: an extra melee or ranged attack from a warjack. Hello second line of flames from the Repenter. With Banishing Ward to remove debuffs and prevent them from being placed the next turn, a lot of these battlegroup boxes’ methods of winning piece trades gets removed. Finally, Ignite is a solid damage buff that lets the Revenger join in the fire-starting action with the rest of the box. And don’t forget he’s got a 10″ continuous fire spray himself. It seems like it’ll be a challenge to take down this box.
My first reaction to Helynna’s rules was that they seemed to be repetitive with her feat: she has a repair ability that removes d3+3 damage from friendly faction constructs, and a spell that increases armor against ranged and magic. I thought “will she ever get to the point of needing her Feat?” And then I realized, that with a repair feat, that’s a very good thing. This battlebox is going to be a slog to face, and that means more chances for it to slip in and finish an enemy Warcaster or Warlock. With a 3″ Push effect on her own ranged and melee attacks, the Magister can open the door herself. On the spell side, Hand of Destruction is an interesting debuff that gives better odds for taking down one chosen target. I think she brings personal tools to the table that are going to keep this battlegroup box very strong.
Jaws of the Earth, her ranged attack, is going to be interesting in larger games due to a large AOE Shadow Bind. That means a potential to lower defense and prevent movement of models in a big area. While it can be shaken, that’s coming at a large resource cost in Focus or Fury if the opponent is grouped up. But what really shines here is a great list of spells, which will be all the nastier on her Feat turn. Pumping out six ranged nukes in a single turn through any of her warbeasts? Ouch. Just knock a foe down with a beast, and end their day with this. Admonition still looks to be a great spell in Mark III (a bit less movement as it’s 3″ rather than full advance), she’s got some some great utility spells for dealing with targets. Affliction especially will be an infantry-killer: reduce defense, and should an attack fail to damage the targets still take a single point of damage. I think her personal abilities bring damage threat and high resource cost burden to the foe, which is a path to wining Journeyman games.
Ultimately, I am underwhelmed by her abilities. While her spear hits harder than many Warcasters and Warlocks in these battlegroup boxes, it’s nothing special. Quickness is a neat spell, but an easy Fury sink, and it doesn’t let her avoid free strikes. It’s honestly more a Fury tax for keeping up with fast warbeasts, as she doesn’t have a ton of abilities that would justify some deep alpha strike. Howling Flames, a 10″ spray with continuous fire, looks good at first, but on her feat turn it’s somewhat wasted (you cannot be on fire more than once, and I doubt that will change to Mark III). Furthermore, it’s an expensive spell and her only ranged threat. Given that so many other casters on the list can get the job done themselves with their abilities, I think she’s much weaker in a prolonged game where her box starts taking casualties compared to others.
Ouch. He looks to be the single hardest hitter among the new Warcasters and Warlocks. With Sidestep and Weapon Master alone, he would be nasty. But choosing the column on warjacks and the branch on warbeasts when dealing damage? Rough indeed. With knockdown immunity and pathfinder from Chosen Ground, as long as Mark III counts the caster themselves as part of the Battlegroup he’s going to be a happy camper. He’s also got Fury to sending his Jacks’ damage into the stratosphere or his own damage into serious hitter range. Oh, and he’s Tough. No knockdown Tough if he benefits from his own Chosen Ground. In an edition where knockdown will negate Tough. Look out for this one.
I’ll start with the positives, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that the spell list is where the Cryx caster has some interesting options. Hellwrought is a spell that boosts a Warjack’s armor and gives it an ability like Mark II Vengeance if damaged (advance and take a melee attack in the Maintenance phase). The armor boost may not save the Warjack, but it may be enough to deter some opponents from even trying to damage the piece. As for other spells, Parasite as a heavy armor debuff is always wonderful in Journeyman games, and a ranged nuke that negates Tough and removes from play will grow in value when units and solos start being added into the mix. And Vanish is likely to be fun, as a micro-teleport never hurts. On the downside, the Cryx-Caster-ubiquitous Cull Soul ability becomes extra-rare to see in Journeyman matches. Dark Shroud is okay, but requires getting right up into the mix–always a dangerous prospect. I think her personal abilities are average at best, so being jumped by personal-destruction stars like Kozlov and Tanith makes sense.
Two abilities that only trigger against Warjacks (and thus Warmachine foes only) are one too many in my book. Especially in Journeyman leagues. It means that about half the time this Warcaster brings some extra upside to matches. Karma will no doubt ensure that all Major Maddox players see nothing but Hordes foes accordingly. She’s got a heck of a buff spell in Dauntless Resolve, which will be nifty on some units (+3 armor and Tough), but for a 1/3 of a Journeyman league it’s likely to be unused thanks to being a unit buff. Her other abilities are effective, and she hits hard at ranged and melee herself, but the complete package just seems pale compared to the other Warlocks and Warcasters in these battlegroup boxes. Also, look for the extremes of futility should Cygnar players face a mirror match with this one: everything tricky and interesting the box can do goes out the window due to so much electrical immunity and high armor.
I talked about no-knockdown and Tough above with Kozlov, and Ragnor for sure brings that combo to the table. His spells are also really intriguing. Granting the Dug In condition with a cheap spell is very curious, and he can cover his entire battlegroup on the advance. Though don’t forget the “doesn’t block line of sight” element and leave an opening for assassination thanks to your own buffs. He also has Hex Blast, which can be good for getting rid of troublesome opponent buffs, a large-ish area spell that can knockdown models, and a damage booster buff with the Beat Back ability. That’s good utility, but other than the knockdown AOE it will be larger games where these will come into play. His melee weapon hits hard, and Warhead is a funny infantry-clearing ability that causes an explosion around the models hit, with only Ragnor not taking the damage from the blast. While I like it, it will lead to activation order concerns in larger games: to avoid blowing up your own stuff as well. Less useful in a Journeyman setting, at least for a while, so it’s not a huge jump forward for him.
I’m probably not as enthused with the Witch Mark on the whips as others might be–an ability that means he can target and automatically hit with his spells if he hits first with his whips, ignoring range and line of sight. Far better on ranged attacks than melee weapons, but still not terrible. The problem I find is that his MAT isn’t all that great to begin with. If his MAT was far higher than his Fury, sure it would be cool. As it is, it really means spending an extra Fury to be sure you hit, then dropping Mortality on the target hitting automatically with the spell (as that seems like the primary choice for this). That means Xekaar is now down to two or three Fury, and standing right in the face of the foe. Sure, he’s a weapon master, but that’s going to be a tough sell even with the debuff due to low P+S. Given that pretty much every other Warmachine Warcaster and Hordes Warlock in these boxes hovers in the Defense 15 range depending on buffs, Xekaar’s still at that ugly need for a 7 to hit with Mortality on them. Which means either counting on average rolls or spending more Fury to boost attacks (and many players will go for the “for sure” rather than place their face in “slightly above average chances”). I’m sure he’ll get melee kills on opposing Warcasters and Warlocks, but I’m not sure he’s quite the damage bullet that he seems. Xekaar’s other spells are good, but not necessarily glorious. And Maltreatment is always a handy tool, but as always it’s a little inflexible because it’s “remove”.
Anyhow, that’s the penultimate pre-season ranking of the Warmachine and Hordes Battlegroup Boxes, this time considering the impact of the Warcasters and Warlocks themselves. Tune in next week to see where things finally shake out as we look at the other pieces in the various factions that can add into the list. Who will go up? Who will move down? Check it out to see.
~ If you’ve got comments on the rankings, go ahead an share them below! Did we order important qualities correctly? Think we undercut a particular model’s impact? Does Lord Kozlov hit so hard he should have catapulted even higher in the rankings? Let us know in the comments section below!
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