The release of Constance Blaize brought about a new concept for Warmachine: a warcaster that can be played both as a Mercenary and in a faction-proper. Let’s dive right in.
Cygnar is already a faction known for their reliance on Mercenaries, so I thought it a smart idea to give her a hard look in terms of her viability as either a Cygnar warcaster or as one working under the Highborn Covenant Mercenary Contract.
Divine Intervention – I figure the best place to start is with her feat. Constance’s feat generates soul tokens for every friendly faction model killed in her control area. Additionally, for ever soul token she has, friendly faction models gain a +1 bonus to ARM. For this feat to work, you need a cheap unit that you can throw out there in a threatening position. While generating souls can be nice, you don’t want to do so by sacrificing an expensive unit of Trencher Infantry or Nyss Hunters; units costing 4/6 look like your best bet here. In this department, Cygnar has Sword Knights and Mercenaries have Steelhead Halberdiers. In terms of overall threat range, Steelheads will edge them out thanks to Reach and will be a little bit more survivable against melee attacks thanks to Set Defense. Sword Knights, on the other hand, have greater individual damage potential with Flank [Warjack] and can survive indirect damage a little bit better thanks to their higher natural ARM stat and Defensive Line.
In my opinion, Steelheads edge out Sword Knights here for their purpose as fuel for the her feat. Since the natural response to Constance’s feat is to simply back up and deny Constance a chance to gather souls, Halberdiers have a little more going through them thanks to their longer threat range and ability to engage a bit easier. For the purpose of ARM benefits, I think both benefit about equally. Cygnar tends to have some higher-ARM models than Mercenaries do, but unless you have multiple wounds, you’re not going to stand up to charges all that well unless you’re benefiting from a serious ARM buff.
For the purpose of hitting back with all those gathered souls newly converted to focus, I think Cygnar has a slight advantage here since they have access to arc nodes for Sunburst spamming if that’s your cup of tea. She also has the potential to use those souls stacked with Flank [Morrowan] and Flashing Blade to move up and do some serious damage regardless of faction affiliation. It does give her fuel for Transference, but I’ll talk specifically about that when I get into her spells a bit more.
Banishing Ward – Immunity to enemy spells is pretty solid, especially depending on what you’re playing against. This spell alone gives Constance great protection from a number of powerful builds (Rahn and Battle Mages, Bethayne and Hex Hunters). Since Precursors and Harlan Versh are also immune to enemy spells, you get a nice multiplying effect out of Banishing Ward that can all but completely shut down those lists that are built around magic. Fortunately, Precursors and Harlan Versh are Allied models as well, so you can gain full faction benefit regardless of whether or not you’re running Cygnar or Highborn Covenant.
Crusader’s Call – A bonus to SPD is a wonderful thing. Cygnar lacks for it in a big way where their infantry is concerned, so to them Crusader’s Call is a thing of beauty. Stormblades and Precursors suddenly boast a decent threat range, and Storm Lances and Stormguard will be able to reach out and attack from 15″ or 12″ respectively. You can get some nice stacking going to Maxwell Finn’s Desperate Pace on Trencher Commandos for an impressive 13.5″ charge threat with Anatomical Precision. Sword Knights with Reform from Runewood have some great mobility options as well here. Mercenaries love Crusader’s Call just as much. Additional threat range on Forge Guard goes a long way to helping them be effective, while Steelheads Halberdiers and Heavy Cavalry get a great boost as well. Devil Dogs and Nyss Hunters also become quite scary in terms of threat.
Flashing Blade – Since this ability isn’t reliant on faction, there’s not a whole lot to say about it, save that it’s a pretty solid ability on a warcaster with Reach and Flank.
Sunburst – As an offensive spell, I immediately leaned towards giving the advantage to Cygnar for their access to an Arc Node. If you can accumulate a high volume of souls during Constance’s feat turn, you can run a Lancer into line of sight of the enemy warcaster/warlock and spam Sunburst until the cows come home. That said, the volume of low-ARM, Mercenary melee infantry like Nyss Hunters, Halberdiers, or Devil Dogs makes Sunburst an attractive spell option in that context as well, as the AOE does not effect friendly models.
Transference – The ability to boost your attack and damage rolls on infantry without having to allocate is pretty big, especially when you’re playing with infantry at the lower end of the MAT spectrum. Devil Dogs love this spell, since they can charge in, boost the first attack roll with a Net to knock down a big target, then crush it with Pick Axes benefiting from Trash. Precursors can benefit from this as well as the game wears on and they commit to combat, allowing them to both Shield Wall and get boosted damage rolls as if they had charged. Stormguard will actually be able to reliably hit and take out those pesky Winterguard with Bob and Weave and Iron Flesh. It’s hard to say who benefits more here, as it will largely be reflected on what you’re playing against.
Supporting Constance – Looking at Constance from the angle of supporting her, things become a bit interesting. Cygnar definitely has some great options to bring to the table, like the dirt cheap Black 13th for ranged support, Cyclones for laying down covering fire, the Squire for the extra 2″ on Constance’s control area (important for Transference) and an extra focus over three turns, Lancers for channeling Sunburst, and a Journeyman for access to Arcane Shield on either Constance or Gallant. Most of the Mercenary models that function in support roles (Gorman, Sylys, Corbeau, Rhupert) don’t really need the benefit of faction status, so this does serve Constance’s role as a Cygnar caster fairly well. If you do have a Mercenary infantry unit that you just have to take (often Nyss Hunters), you always have the option of assigning Murdoch to it to give it faction status if you think it necessary.
If you are running her as a Mercenary warcaster, you gain the benefits of some very cheap and effective melee infantry (Steelhead Halberdiers, Devil Dogs) which will benefit quite well from her feat, Crusader’s Call, and Transference. In terms of warjacks, Rocinante helps to keep her alive when playing forward, while Nomads provide a solid, far-reaching beatstick for a bargain price. While you don’t have access to arc nodes, the additional 2″ of threat on spells that Sylys can provide is fairly nice for the random Sunburst or tossing out of Banishing Ward.
I have to admit that I’m on the fence here. Constance seems like she has some good things to look at on both sides of the fence. Where would you put her?