When I jumped back into Cygnar after a long hiatus that began during the mid-Superiority era of MkI Warmachine, I spent a lot of time playing with Captain Coleman Stryker. He was the first warcaster I every played, and I have many a fond memory of the time. When I came back to the faction a year ago, then more than two years into MkII, I had found that Captain Stryker, aka pStryker or Stryker1, had fallen out of favor in the competitive metagame, which was somewhat odd to me. While I spent a good chunk out of the last year switching between warcasters and factions with an attention span in the neighborhood of an overstimulated preadolescent with a Jolt Cola IV, a metaphor most likely and amusingly lost to today’s preadolescents, a few months ago I decided to really sit down and give Capt. Stryker some much-needed attention.
After a good deal of time spent in the theory dojo crafting out lists that I felt best exploited his strengths in addition to some play-testing and adjustment, I think that I’ve developed a list that can stand up pretty well in competitive play. While not without its weaknesses, I feel its strengths leave it with only a few somewhat specific bad match-ups in tournament play, but I’ll get more into that later.
Building the list –
When I considered Stryker1 at length, his ability to play the attrition game really jumped out at me. Snipe (upkeep spell that grants +4 RNG to target model/unit) allows ranged troops to strike from absurd distances in order to maintain both first-strike capability and safety from reprisal. Arcane Shield (upkeep spell that grants +3 ARM to target model/unit) and his feat (friendly Faction models in his control area gain +5 ARM for one round) allow his army to take it on the chin when the time comes while also making a few specific things hardened to the point of being farcical.
Long Gunners: under-appreciated no more
It was primarily to these specific qualities that I looked to when building my list. To take advantage of Snipe, I looked at several options: Arcane Tempest Gun Mages, Long Gunners, Cylena Raefyll and Nyss Hunters, even Trencher Infantry. I am quite fond of Gun Mages, but I find that they don’t quite have the hitting power that I’d really want, especially if they don’t have access to Dead Eye, which Capt. Stryker unfortunately does not have. The Nyss Hunters are always solid, but if I’m looking to put Snipe on them, Long Gunners struck me as the better option since they have a longer natural RNG of 14 on their Long Rifles, and when they have Snipe (combined RNG stat of 18) they’ll typically have the ability to aim anyway, which allows them to fire twice thanks to their Dual Shot rule.
Lady Aiyanna, Master Holt, and Long Gunners: Best Friends!
Next came the task of trying to figure out what Long Gunners would struggle against and how I could address that. I play against a lot of Protectorate, so I immediately thought about the Choir of Menoth’s Safe Passage ability, which makes their warlocks immune to non-magical ranged attacks. The most obvious way to correct this was with Lady Aiyanna and Master Holt referencing Aiyanna’s spell, Lurynsar’s Touch, which can grant the entire unit Magical Weapons on their attacks, directly circumventing Safe Passage. Lady Aiyanna can alternatively be used to apply Kiss of Lyliss to an enemy model or unit, which grants a +2 bonus to damage rolls against the target, helping to increase the damage output for my entire army against a localized threat. Master Holt himself isn’t bad at range either thanks to his paired RNG 12, POW 12 Hand Cannons and his most impressive RAT 8.
Stormwall, of course
In pondering what else to put in the rest of my list, I thought a bit about “upkeep juggling” with Snipe, whereby one upkeeps Snipe on a model/unit, that model/unit activates, then Stryker casts Snipe onto another model/unit that then can take advantage of the spell. I also thought about the other inherent weakness that Long Gunners have, which is that things with Stealth will be pretty much immune to their attacks until its too late. Cygnar certainly has a lot of viable options here, but the Stormwall just kept jumping out at me, and I couldn’t resist. Snipe not only increases the RNG on its POW 15 Big Guns to 18, but it also helps increase the RNG on its POW 12 Metal Storm Cannons that additionally benefits Covering Fire, an ability that allows me to place a 3″ AOE anywhere within the weapon’s range instead of firing it. Models entering or ending their movement in the AOE suffer a POW 12 damage roll. Covering Fire really puts the brakes on pretty much all but the most hardened infantry, especially infantry with Stealth. Finally, an effective ARM stat of 27 on his feat turn is difficult to look past.
Like I did with the Long Gunners, I then looked to supporting the Stormwall. I started with a trio of Stormsmith Stormcallers for their interaction with the Stormwall’s Lightning Pods. Stormcallers can take a Special Action to make a simple skill check to deal a POW 10 damage roll to a target model that also causes Disruption. If other Stormcallers or Lightning Pods are within 20″, they can make up to two or three skill checks to hit that many more targets. Since this is not an attack, it gets around Stealth and a number of other interesting triggered abilities. It also provides a nice means of pealing enemy infantry off of my Long Gunners if they manage to close the distance with the potential of up to 9 POW 10s in a single round.
If I’m going to be juggling Snipe between multiple models/units, I want to be able to do so with the least focus strain possible, so instead of going with the standard Squire Warcaster Attachment, I’ll be taking the Mercenary Sylys Wyshnalyrr for his ability to upkeep a spell for free while also providing a increased accuracy once per turn to a magic attack roll and +2 RNG to Stryker’s spells. That last ability takes the pressure off of having to take a Lancer for channeling purposes, especially with his Earthquake spell, a RNG 10, AOE 5 attack that knocks down all models hit, effectively RNG 12 with Sylys around.
While the Stormwall’s RAT 6 is pretty solid, I really like the idea of adding in Rangers for the Mark Target ability, which grants a +2 bonus to ranged attack rolls against models within 5″ of any of the Rangers. Not only will this serve to make the Stormwall’s ranged attacks more accurate, it can really help Long Gunners as well. If they’re standing still and shooting a model within 5″ of a Ranger, those Long Gunners are firing at an effective RAT 9 with two shots. That’s incredibly accurate for something that can shoot up to 18″. It would be silly to not also point out that Rangers aren’t terrible ranged skirmishers either with their solid RNG 10/POW 11 Rifles, RAT 6, DEF 14, Advanced Deployment, Prowl, and Pathfinder.
Horgenhold Forge Guard
All that’s really missing from this list at this point is some extra melee threat. My early experiments with Stormblades and Stryker unfortunately didn’t go terribly well. I found that with their base DEF 12 and ARM 15, they simple died way too easily, even if benefiting from some kind of defensive upkeep since the current local competitive meta is inundated with ranged troops that ignore them (Exemplar Errants, Mage Hunter Strike Force, etc.). Instead, I looked to Horgenhold Forge Guard, which are incredibly hardy with their ARM 18 while benefiting from Defensive Line. While I think that Stormblades could work in this force thanks to the various available buffs (Snipe, Arcane Shield, Blur, Stryker’s feat), my experience thus far has continually lead back to the Forge Guard, who hit like a ton of bricks and can take most ranged attacks on the nose. Occasionally, like in the below battle report example, I think that I might be better served by Stormblades, but whenever I see an army with a strong ranged element, I worry for their survival.
Rhupert Carvolo: Unofficial Forge Guard Unit Attachment
The Forge Guards’ really big weakness comes from their low SPD of 4 and lack of Pathfinder, making rough terrain a liability. To correct this and provide other potential benefits, I added in Rhupert Carvolo for his March ability, which can grant Pathfinder to an entire unit. Rhupert can choose between March and two other abilities: Dirge of Mists (+1 DEF and Terror) and Heroic Call (Tough and Fearless). In several of my games, particularly on turns when AOEs come flying at my Long Gunners, Heroic Call has actually managed to keep some of the Gunners alive long enough to get a third or fourth round of shooting where they might not have otherwise.
This left me with three points left over that I used to grab a Journeyman Warcaster for an extra casting of Arcane Shield, which can be used for the Stormwall, Forge Guard, Stryker, or even the Long Gunners if appropriate.
While I did play this list several times and adjust things around a bit (exchanging Stormcallers for Jonas Murdoch, switching the Journeyman Warcaster to Eiryss, Angel of Retribution), I actually ended coming back to the list in its original form, believing it to be the most balanced in being able to deal with a wide variety of match-ups with a only a few truly horrifying match-ups.
While the Long Gunners might have some trouble with Stealth infantry, I think that between the Stormwall’s Covering Fire templates, its auto-hitting Lightning Pod, and the support of three Stormcallers, they won’t be much of a problem. Warbeasts with Stealth, however, particularly heavies with Lylyth2 or Kaya2, could be a much different story, so much so that I am considering making another change to the list, taking out the Rangers for the Black 13th for Lynch’s Fire Beacon and True Sight rules, which allow him to ignore Stealth and place a 5″ AOE that removes Stealth from his target, thereby allowing the rest of my army to focus-fire the target down. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that my list would still be able to win a firefight against a well-tuned Lylyth2 list, but Kaya2 would be given a run for her money. In thinking about it, this is part of why Steamroller events most often allow two lists.
This leads me to consider pairing options, specifically as they apply to those two bad match-ups. Siege immediately pops to mind thanks to Mage Sight, a spell that allows me to place a 5″ AOE that would allow Siege and models in his battlegroup to ignore Stealth and a variety of other defensive measures when targeting models in the AOE. This discussion could go on forever, but I hope that by starting it that I’ve given people an idea of what to look for with list pairings.
Also, a battle report! –
Overall, I continue to really like this list. The game above presented some difficult challenges for me. The combination of Paralytic Field (the Krea’s animus) and Defender’s Ward really put my ranged game up against the wall looking at those four hard-hitting, heavy warbeasts with pretty large damage grids. Consequently, playing the attrition game was going to prove difficult there. Once the Krea went down, taking down a heavy in a single turn isn’t going to be much of problem, but with four of them, I don’t think I’d be able to hold them back long enough, even with Stryker’s feat on the Stormwall. This is why I specifically went for the assassination when it was presented. I’d normal prefer to hold off and play attrition, but when your opponent will inevitably out-attrition you, you have to take drastic measures.
Missing that attack roll on Kiss of Lyliss on double-ones was the biggest failure there. Had that hit (98% odds), each of my attacks would be doing an additional two damage, which would have been more than enough to drop Makeda, but alas, these things happen. Luckily, I survived his counter-attempt with enough intact to put Makeda down.
Check in later for more list-building articles and video battle repots.