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Warmachine – Thunderstruck #9: The Ends Justify the Means

6 Minute Read
Nov 18 2011

Going into a recent tournament up in Fort Collins, the Rumble for the Rockies, I decided to bring my Cygnar out for their first actual competitive run.

I decided that I wanted to build based on assassination with armies that were designed to deliver my warcaster to a position where they could end the game themselves.  What resulted was an interesting style of game play, one that I was somewhat versed in, but not necessarily in the context I was working.

I played Cryx with a decent deal of success back during MkI.  During the Apotheosis era, Cryx lists were often designed around a simple concept: throw your army at your opponent until you can put a Deathripper or Nightwretch in position, then assassinate with spells.  Having spent the summer and fall with Cygnar, this style of play has emerged as a prevailing theme for the faction, not necessarily the only theme, but certainly an important one to understand. 

With that in mind, there are four specific warcasters that I’d like to examine in the context of an ends-justify-the-means-style execution: Epic Stryker, Siege, Epic Caine, and Kara Sloan.  Anytime I play with these warcasters, I feel that the general course of the game is fairly consistent; I fight a losing battle until my warcaster gets a line on the enemy warcaster or warlock and the game ends with an assassination.  Often when asked how a game with any of these warcasters went, I can usually respond with “Epic Caine/Siege/Sloan got line of sight on the enemy warcaster”, or “I was able to clear out a charge lane for Epic Stryker”.  What follows is implied and generally well-understood without further explanation.

Unfortunately not in Cygnar

For a faction built mostly around expensive, elite troops, this type of play style seems almost backwards.  For Cryx, giving up a five-point unit of ten Mechanithralls is a drop in the bucket for any size game.  Losing an entire unit of Bane Thralls isn’t that big of a deal when Epic Asphixious can use his feat and return a large portion of them for a turn to pay me back in kind for their destruction.  Throwing away three bone jacks isn’t a loss when it only takes one to end the game.  Cygnar, however, lacks this type of luxury.  They don’t benefit very much from the destruction of their models, nor do they have the cheap models to throw around to hold an opponent down while I line my end run up.

As I’ve been doing this, I’ve found myself relying more and more on Mercenaries to help me get done what I need.  Boomhowler and Co. and have become a big favorite for me in this style of play since they can play the attrition game so well.  Heightened Reflexes from Epic Caine makes them the little engine that will never die, and Epic Stryker’s Deflection (when run with Murdoch) puts them up to ARM 18 against ranged and magic attacks, helping to preserve them better as they get in my opponent’s grill.

One-point reload?  Yes, please!

I’ve also found myself looking to Mercenary models that are enablers, things that help my warcaster assassinate when the time comes.  Any warcaster who relies on a gun will want Reinholdt around for the extra attack that ignores a weapon’s rate of fire, so his presence in an Epic Caine, Siege, or Sloan list is a foregone conclusion.  Madelyn Corbeau is a strong example in pretty much every case.  Her Intrigue rule, which allows a friendly warrior model to move up to 3″ during the maintenance phase, can give you more threat range,  the ability to slightly reposition for a charge, or that little bit of movement you need to be able to move while still being able to benefit from the aiming bonus when it comes time to strike.  While I wouldn’t consider her mandatory, she’s certainly proved herself to be a valuable addition to my wheelhouse.  Gorman di Wulfe is another great model to have around, as he can seriously debuff the enemy warcaster, or put an otherwise worrisome target out of your mind by hitting it with Black Oil.

The last is Epic Eiryss, who either proves invaluable or worthless depending on the context.  If the opposing warcaster is camping focus or sitting on a powerful defensive buff like Defender’s Ward or Arcane Shield, a Disruptor Bolt from Epic Eiryss can swing things back in your favor.  If you’re playing against a warlock or the enemy warcaster isn’t sitting on focus or using an upkeep spell or animus, her Disruptor Bolt isn’t of much use, her 3-point price tag suddenly becoming an unnecessary expense in an otherwise already point-strapped list.  Her inclusion is often rather contentious for this very reason.  She most often won’t do much for you, but when you need her, you really need her.

Goes in the list.

For in-faction support, the Squire is a no-brainer.  Extra focus, increased control area, and a reroll on a magic attack are nothing to shake a stick at.  Arcane Tempest Gun Mages go a long way as well.  Their ability to push models around the table and knock them down on a critical hit are a great way to clear line of sight or a charge lane.  The Black 13th have also proven invaluable for their high accuracy and ability to choose between long range, shooting into melee, and rolling three dice on damage, allowing them to clear out an infantry screen with relative ease.  If you’re running a ranged assassination list, Rangers are great as well thanks to their accuracy, solid base DEF, and ability to increase the accuracy of other ranged models with Mark Target.  If you’re running Epic Stryker, having a Journeyman around to throw Arcane Shield on him so you can play your ‘caster forward with less risk is a good idea, as is having Lord Runewood to provide the man with Powerful Charge or Pathfinder if the need arises.

Here’s the eCaine list that I’ve been running with a decent amount of success in the fashio described above:

Captain Allister Caine (*5pts)
* Hunter (6pts)
* Squire (2pts)
Arcane Tempest Gun Mages (Leader and 5 Grunts) (6pts)
* Arcane Tempest Gun Mage Officer (2pts)
* * Cyclone (9pts)
Greygore Boomhowler & Co. (Boomhowler and 9 Grunts) (9pts)
Rangers (5pts)
Reinholdt, Gobber Speculator (1pts)

It’s pretty simple in application, really.  Boomhowler and Co. get Heightened Reflexes from eCaine and run straight at my opponent’s force while Rangers provide accuracy buffs to my Gun Mages, Cyclone, and my warcaster.  I try to keep eCaine as far forward as possible without risking a charge.  When the time comes, I’ll run a Ranger towards the enemy warcaster/warlock, clear line of sight via Thunderbolt shots from the Gun Mages and Cyclone, then move up eCaine, pop his feat, charge up his shots by shooting some low-DEF models, then take the last shots on the enemy warcaster/warlock, sometimes peaking as high as POW 21.  Another version of this list substituted Madelyn Corbeau and Epic Eiryss for the Rangers, but I found that the extra range from Corbeau wasn’t terribly necessary with Caine’s already-long threat range, and Epic Eiryss just wasn’t proving as useful to me. 


Playing this type of game is dangerous, but it really forces your opponent to be hyper-aware of placement and screening models, making them often second guess their tactics, waste valuable clock time going over their turn, play a cagier game than they would like, or burn a feat in a defensive rather than offensive manner.

Cygnar players speak up.  How does you assassination game fair?

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