Cryx – Bane Thralls with Officer, Standard Bearer, and Bane Lord Tartarus
Bane Thralls are rightfully some of the most feared infantry in the game. The combination of a decent ARM stat that offers good protection to indiscriminate AOEs and Stealth means that they can pretty much advance up-field without worrying about most shooting attacks. Stack this with their innate armor debuff (Dark Shroud), Weapon Master, and a faction that is rife with spell-based armor debuffs, you have a unit that is capable of tearing down even the toughest models in the game. Their only real weakness is their relatively average MAT value of 6 and low melee threat range of 8.5″ on the charge, which, unfortunately for the rest of us, is mitigated by Bane Lord Tartarus’s Curse ability. Curse, which doesn’t require any type of attack roll or action on Tartarus’s part, increases their charge range and effective MAT by 2 against a targeted model/unit.
Then there’s the Officer and Standard Bearer, which takes an already-difficult-to-kill unit and makes them even worse, granting them Tough via the Standard Bearer, and Dead Rise via the Officer, meaning that they’ll take an average of 33% more successful attacks to kill while always putting them on their feet at the beginning of their turn without having to sacrifice movement or action. Since the Standard Bearer is providing Tough, most smart players will keep him towards the rear of the unit or even 9″ back to keep the benefit active.
Dealing with this unit is a challenge for a lot of armies and builds. Things that ignore Stealth are often a good place to have a look. Arcane Tempest Gun Mages with Officer or the Black 13th Gun Mage Strike Team are a good options for Cygnar players. Haley 1’s Temporal Barrier will punish them to high hell as well. The Protectorate of Menoth has some nice sprays that ignore Stealth (Repenters, Cleansers) or AOEs that cause fire (Vanquishers). Khador has Kayazi Assassins with Iron Flesh, Greylord Ternions or Winter Guard Infantry for their spray attacks, buffed Mortar Crews via things like Signs and Portents or Fire for Effect, and also the Flares from the Spriggan which allow your other ranged forces to ignore them Stealth. Cryx itself has a variety of fantastic options, be it purging Bile Thralls, sprays from Sirens or Defilers, cheap Mechanithralls to hold them up while you deal with the rest of the army. Retribution has a bit of trouble here, but aren’t without options. Things like Vengeance-moving Sentinels or charging Halberdiers will out-threat Bane Thralls even with Tartarus’s Curse ability. They have access to a few abilities that deny enemy charges (Polarity Field, The Vanishing), as well as Discordia’s excellent spray attack.
Aside from suitable abilities that act as counters, you can use your own model placement to reduce their effectiveness. Keep your heavy warjacks or multi-wound infantry like Man-O-War, Bastions, or cavalry away from Bane Thralls. Don’t line up your models so that they can be charged by the entire unit in great number; put a few out there to slow them down for a turn.
Retribution of Scyrah – Mage Hunter Strike Force with Commander
I’ll start by saying that I agonized over which unit to discuss here due in no small part to the Retribution’s excellent selection of fantastic infantry, but I eventually settled on the above. The Mage Hunter Strike Force with their Commander Unit Attachment is a ranged unit that ignores a lot of rules while having some fantastic ones of their own. They’re speedy, have Stealth and Pathfinder, get an extra damage die against warjacks, and ignore DEF/ARM buffs in addition to camped focus on warcasters. The Officer grants them Advance Deployment for optimal placement in addition to the Phantom Hunter rule, which allows them to ignore line of sight for targeting purposes, meaning that DEF buffs from cover or concealment won’t help you, nor will hiding behind obstructions or other models. The only rules that they don’t really ignore are ones pertaining to magical weapons (Safe Passage, Incorporeal), Stealth, or Elevation.
This means that a lot of defensive abilities won’t matter against this unit. Since the unit ignores both spell buffs as well as line of sight, it’s hard to defend against this unit, particularly considering their long threat range. It’s a unit that eats warjacks or low-ARM warcasters for breakfast.
The first step to dealing with this unit is to keep vulnerable targets away from them as much as possible. Warcasters with low, natural ARM stats should give them a wide birth, as should warjacks with ARM values below natural 20. The second step is to pound them from range with AOEs or bounced effects that will bypass Stealth like Electro-Leap, Chain Lightning, Ashes to Ashes, or Eruption of Spines. Unfortunately, the former example isn’t always an option here thanks to two models that allow Mage Hunters to ignore AOEs, namely the House Shyeel Artificer and Discordia.
The third thing you can do against this unit is go after them with something that they’ll struggle with. Infantry with high natural-ARM like Man-O-War, Bastions, Boomhowler & Co. or units with Shield Wall will give Mage Hunters some trouble, as will units with high natural-DEF, like Nyss Hunters. When they’re forced to simply use their base stats to get the job done, MAT 6, POW 10 isn’t exactly scary. Protectorate players can run Zealots under Greater Destiny their way. Finally, since they don’t ignore Stealth, that’s usually a counter as well, making Kayazi, Bane Thralls, or Trencher Commandos a good place to look.
Mercenaries – Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters
Among the most common Mercenary unit taken in the game, Cylena and friends are something that any new player should be familiar with. As one might expect, they’re fast, have Pathfinder, and have great DEF values. This makes them difficult to deal with once they are engaged unless you have some easy method to reduce their DEF.
On the offensive side they’re armed with a P+S 9 Claymore with Weapon Master and POW 10 bows with Combined Ranged Attack (provided Cylena is still alive). This combination makes them potent threats in melee as well as at range. While P+S 9, Weapon Master attacks aren’t the most threatening thing in the world, there is a wealth of available damage buffs/ARM debuffs to help them here, be it Dark Shroud from Ragman or a lone Bane Thrall, Rust Bomb from Gorman di Wulfe, Kiss of Lylyss from Lady Aiyanna, or Fury, Battle Lust, or a variety of other warcaster-derived damage buffs. While many of the latter effects are dependent on in-faction status, access to Ranking Officers like Valachev make this a non-issue.
On the ranged side, POW 10 bows with Combined Ranged Attack and Hunter for ignoring Cover and Concealment make them capable in that department as well. A full unit of Nyss Hunters putting a big CRA into a heavy warjack or, Morrow forbid, a warcaster can mean Bad Things at the wrong time.
Dealing with this unit, fortunately, isn’t as hard some of the others that have been discussed here. They lack any kind of built-in immunity and have very low ARM, so showering them with blast damage or any type of bounced spell effect like Chain Lightning will do a lot for you. How exactly they perform will vary from faction to faction based on which army they’re in, but getting rid of them is usually done in similar form.
Since the Combined Ranged Attack rule is Granted by Cylena, if you can manage to take her out, the unit loses a lot of their ranged utility, so keep an eye out for opponents who leave her easily exposed.
Next time we’ll take a look at Hordes infantry, starting with Trollbloods and Circle Orboros!