I suspect I am not unique amongst the Minions community in being a little surprised by how few new options we got in Domination. Each pact, which which must function as a faction on its own, has only now caught up to the same number of Warlocks that the rest of Hordes had in Primal. Still I guess I have to take a deep breath and remember that I knew it was going to be like this going in. And hey, if you look on the bright side, it just means that these new options will add that much more tactical depth to each pact.
Let’s begin with some thoughts on the pre-Domination status of Blindwater. I think most will agree that the swamp dwellers were clearly the stronger of the two pacts. To begin with they already had an extra beast and solo to choose from compared to Thornfall. They also had a great defensive animus on the highly affordable Bull Snapper, and more defensive spells in general. This means their Warlocks have always been able to take more risks, have more freedom, and of course just be less likely to die. Blindwater also has their infamous gator toss tactic which is both strong and effectively unique to the faction. Both these central aspects of Blindwater play-style were only strengthened in Domination.
I spelled out my thoughts on Maelok pretty thoroughly already in this article. Before moving on, I’ll expound a little by saying that this Warlock got even better with all the new Blindwater stuff in Domination. Since I’ll be going into that in more detail in just a bit, I’ll just say that the Witch Doctor, Swamp Horror, and Boneswarm will all want a place in a Maelok list.
While I may have already discussed the Warlock, its only with the release of Domination that we can examine his Theme Force. The first tier gives a Maelok force cheaper Gatorman Witch Doctors and also let’s you take an extra one of these solos for every unit you have. This gives you the potential for a ton of Sacrificial Strikes (more on these later) and of course the good doctors will be able to do all their other tricks. But the restrictions for this list will cost you access to the Totem Hunter, Croak Hunter, Swamp Gobbers, and Victor Pendrake. If you’re going to bother with the list at all, you might as well at least go all the way to tier 3. Tier 2 will give your army incorporeal for the first turn, and 3 will give Undead models/units advanced move. If you like Boneswarms, Tier 4 will let each of them start with a corpse token if you take at least 3. Because of how this Theme can mix up Maelok’s playstyle, I think it could be fun to try. But I still don’t think I’ll run off and buy 4 Witchdoctors when they eventually come out. One last thing – one of the units this tier will allow are those with the Undead ability. Since none of these exist yet I can only wonder what exactly Privateer has planned for Blindwater.
And about that Boneswarm… At 4 points this light beast is fairly easy to squeeze in. Its Animus, Swarm, is range: SELF, grants concealment, and inflicts a -2 penalty on the attack rolls of living enemy models within 2″ of it. This can turn Gatormen into a real nightmare once they get into melee since you can hide the Boneswarm amongst a unit and have its Swarm “aura” reach out and affect any nearby living models. That means if the Posse uses Dirge of Mists, it will bring them up to DEF 15 against anyone under the Swarm effect, or 18 if Iron Flesh is up. Just the kind of ridiculously un-killable levels Blindwater has come to be known for.
The Boneswarm‘s stats are fairly mediocre, but fair for a beast with such a low point cost. The good news is they can be increased to pretty decent levels with the Bone Picker ability. This allows the Boneswarm to gain a corpse token for each living or undead enemy model it destroys, each one adding a point to its DEF and STR. Since it can have up to 3, this can bring it up to ARM 18 and P+S 15. It can also heal itself for D3 damage by spending those tokens thanks to the new Gross Anatomy rule. Bring along a Swamp Horror since the Elasticity animus can give the Boneswarm reach, making gathering those corpse tokens a lot easier. And it will help the Boneswarm reach more models with the Terror ability. Terror – always an amazing thing to have at your disposal. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to take a unit of infantry out of the game for a round based on a single roll? Moving on, it’s no real surprise that this heap of bones has the Undead ability. So while it won’t have to worry about things like poison that are usually great at bringing down beasts, you will have to worry about Erosion or other effects that are harmful to Undead. Finally, like all Gatorman Warbeasts, the Boneswarm has Amphibious.
One big downside to this beast is that the Bull Snapper already fills a similar role but is a point cheaper. But the Boneswarm never has to worry about going torpid after it kills a living models. I think they are different enough that they both have merit. And since it’s possible to stack the bonuses of both beast’s animi, I’d say a Boneswarm is always worth taking over a second Snapper.
The Swamp Horror is the next new toy for Blindwater players. This heavy warbeast undoubtedly has one of the strangest profiles and rulesets of any in the game. But it all comes together to make a warbeast that’s definitely worth its 8 point cost. It is currently the only model in the game with 4 initial melee attacks. The strongest of these is the single beak attack. It’s a mere P+S 16 but the Critical Catastrophic Damage ability may net you some extra boxes or circles against warjacks or warbeasts. Meanwhile, its other attacks are only P+S 12 but fortunately they all have the Reach and Open Fist advantages, and the Pull ability. While this beast might be a bit pillow-fisted, don’t forget that Blindwater doesn’t necesarily need to hit like a ton of bricks to win games. The Swamp Horror can still do Double-Handed Throws. So as long as you have at least one Wrassler to grant Rise, this cephalopod can be a welcome addition to a gator toss party. He just won’t be able to throw as far. And of course you can always bring him with Calaban the Gravewalker to help him hit a little harder.
With DEF 10 and ARM 17 the Horror‘s defensive stats are lacking. But the Impervious Flesh ability means it will take one less die of damage from ranged attacks. It has Amphibious – a given. And almost as unsurprisingly given all those legs: Steady. Immunity to Knockdown is almost universally a good thing, but when it comes to Blindwater it is a double-edged sword. Models with immunity to Knockdown must forfeit Movement or Action if they are thrown during their own turn. So you can’t throw the Swamp Horror, then use Rise to get it going some extra distance. And it could really use it because the Horror‘s biggest weakness is that it’s only Spd 4.
But its Animus might be the Swamp Horror‘s biggest asset. Elasticity gives a target friendly faction model’s melee weapons the Reach advantage. Pretty much every warbeast Blindwater can bring will get some great mileage out of this. Not only is Reach a SPD boost by proxy, but it also increases the number of models you can kill with melee attacks in a turn. And Maelok absolutely shines when he has Reach on all of his melee attacks.
This Animus is so useful that I think it’s totally worth considering taking Wrong Eye and a Swamp Horror in a Four Star Syndicate army. Both Magnuses (Magni?), Broadside Bart, Gorten Grundback, Drillers, Mariners, Freebooters, First Mate Hawk, and more could all be fantastic with Reach to work with. You could even double up on your Minion Lessers and give Reach to Brine.
The final new Blindwater entry is the Gatorman Witch Doctor. While this guy is definitely useful for any Hordes army, he has the most to offer to Blindwater. It’s the Beast Master ability that makes this guy so good for Gators. It’s nice to know that if you accidentally end up tossing a warbeast out of your warlock’s control area that you can still force it when you have one of these guys around. And it’s extra helpful if you are running Calaban‘s tier list and putting some extra beasts in Wrong Eye‘s Battlegroup.
And since Beast Master is passive the Witch Doctor will still be able to use one of his 3 Magic Abilities. It’s these that are going to make him popular in any Hordes army. First up is Dominate Undead. I’m frankly still in shock that this ability was given to a Minion who costs only 3 points, and can work for 5 of the game’s 11 factions. Why? Well it turns out that the Wraith Engine, a 9 point Battle Engine, can be affected by this ability. I’m pretty confident that the Witch Doctor is going to end up being a pretty popular piece when he comes out. This means a lot of Cryx players may end up leaving their battle engine in the foam when it comes time for list building. It’s just not worth the risk of having such an important piece make an out of activation movement, then attack causing Incorporeal (its biggest defensive asset) to expire.
As another Magic Ability, the Witch Doctor can also make a Sacrificial Strike just like Pirate Queen Skarre. Sacrificing a Bog Trog for a Pow 14 automatic hit is a great way to finish off a warcaster or warlock that’s still standing after a botched assassination attempt. And hey, if you think it’ll win you the game you can even lose a gatorman for a Pow 16.
But the ability I think he’ll get the most mileage out of is the delightfully named Zombify. This will give a friendly non-warcaster/warlock model or unit Tough and Undead. I’m sure Legion, Circle and Skorne players will be happy to acquire this ability for their favorite units. Skorne in particular already have the best Gatormen in the game thanks to their Taskmaster. Now their gators can be P+S 15 and Tough.
~So that’s it Blindwater players… 4 new toys. But I think at least three of them are clear winners while the 4th (Boneswarm) at least has its uses. So what tactics have you guys figured out for these new models? Has anyone been proxying them? How have they been performing? Tell us about it in the comments!