For those who chose not to buy-in to the Warmachine: Tactics Kickstarter, Lieutenant Allison Jakes is finally a non-exclusive release, but was she worth the wait?
Combat Application –
There is a lot of ground to cover when discussing a model like Allison Jakes, so I will start off by simply digging into her combat ability. This is primarily one of the areas that separates Jakes from your normal, run-of-the-mill Arcane Shield battery that is the normal Journeyman Warcaster model for Cygnar, in that Jakes boasts higher combat prowess on every level. In melee, she has a pair of low P+S melee weapons at MAT 6 with Parry and Sprint. This can effectively allow her to charge in, boost to hit a few models with melee attacks, then Sprint away to safety.
She can increase her mobility a bit as well via Energizer which allows her to spend focus to allow Jakes and every warjack in her battle group to advance up to 3″ during her activation. This can be a nicely flexible tool with a variety of applications when using Jakes as a melee threat, such as using Energizer to gain additional threat range on the charge, to move forward past the initial point of engagement in order to continue making and/or buying more attacks, or to increase the effective distance that she moves away from the front line before triggering Sprint. While DEF 15 and the +2 DEF bonus from Sidekick can certainly help to keep her alive after she engages, she is only ARM 13 with five health boxes and consequently quite fragile, implying that using her as a melee tool should only be done when it is an absolute necessity, as boosted blast damage on a drifting AOE can and will erase her from the battlefield.
She also carries a standard RNG 12, POW 12 Handcannon with RAT 5 that, while not impressive on its own, can be boosted via the Focus Manipulation rule for average rolls hitting models in the DEF 15/16 range. While her melee suite may appear tempting to use simply for the spectacle it offers, it is my opinion that Jakes is better suited to picking off advancing models with that big gun of hers and saving her melee weapons for the super-late game or for those rare circumstances that you just absolutely have to kill something with Incorporeal since both of her melee weapons have the Magical Weapon quality.
Journeyman Warcasters and their Lesser Warlock cousins are complex creatures that wear a lot of hats. They can be distilled down to simply being a microcosm of fully-fledged warcasters and warlocks albeit working with decidedly limited kits, but there are some important distinctions that should be pointed out and accounted for. The first, and honestly most significant of these is that they are, at least to a certain extent, disposable. If Jakes dies, her ‘jacks go dark, but the game goes on. This means that assigning Jakes a warjack makes protecting her extremely important since her death can mean a dramatic point swing in your opponent’s favor, meaning that care must be taken when building her battlegroup and when positioning her on the battlefield, since the more expensive her battlegroup is, the bigger the target on her head will be.
The biggest advantage that Jakes has over a standard Journeyman Warcaster is that she is FOC 4 instead of 3. Not only does this give her a larger volume of Focus to work with, but it means that her control area is 8″ wide as well. That 2″ difference may not seem like a huge deal, but it should not be discounted when discussing the viability of a PC 3, DEF 13, ARM 15 model with five wounds that is overseeing an investment often twice her value if not triple. This effectively opens her up to some of the Focus-hogging warjacks that don’t often see play since, well, they are Focus hogs. Two prime examples here are the Charger and Minuteman. The Charger’s ROF 2 combined with Powerful Attack on its RNG 12, POW 12 gun make it an all-around useful tool for chipping away at heavies, picking off solos, or enabling a ranged assassinations. After all, as the adage goes, “POW 12’s kill ‘casters.” The Minuteman with its Bounding Leap ability and paired RNG 4, POW 14 Slug Guns is another ‘jack that often demands a full load of Focus in order get good value out of its PC 5. With its impressive DEF 14, the Minuteman are also prime targets for Sidekick as well.
|Minuteman Light Warjack|
However, the strain that these warjacks put on a warcaster’s Focus pool is often prohibitive. Sure, a normal Journeyman can run them at full steam since it has three Focus to throw around, but then it is neglecting that casting or upkeep of Arcane Shield, which is arguably the strongest reason for taking the Journeyman. Jakes, however, with her FOC 4 and Sidekick upkeep spell can both keep her defensive ability running and run a warjack with a full focus load. Sure, running Jakes with a Charger or Minuteman is effectively a 7-/8-point module respectively, but the punch that they pack allows them to easily earn their points back with proper positioning and target priority.
Jakes can perform well with Hunters as well. Thanks to Extended Control Range, her Hunters can range out as far as 16″ away from Jakes while still being in her control area for focus allocation. At 4 FOC, Jakes can afford to run two Hunters at a time while giving them the two Focus they need to boost both their attack and damage rolls on their Long Arms. While this would be an expensive investment at 15 points, Extended Control Range works wonders for keeping Jakes out of harms way, and the effectiveness of paired Hunters has rarely been questioned. That said, Hunters already have naturally-high RAT values, and so they won’t typically need to boost to hit those low-DEF, high-ARM targets, meaning that a pair of Hunters might pair just as well with a normal Journeyman for the availability of the ever-vaunted Arcane Shield spell.
An interesting module that I have been considering is Jakes, a Grenadier, a Trencher Master Gunner, and Trencher Chain Gun Crew. The idea is that the Master Gunner can use Artillerist to give the Grenadier +2 to its ranged attack rolls to make it RAT 8 as well as allowing for rerolls on deviations with some combination of the three Trencher models providing additional attacks via Manual Reload. Jakes would be in the equation to make the Grenadier nigh-unhittable from range with Dig In on the Grenadier boosted even farther by Sidekick while also giving the Grenadier three Focus to boost damage rolls with, either on direct hits or blast damage. I’ve tried something similar by marshaling a Grenadier to the Gun Mage Captain Unit Attachment, and had fair results, but I think that the metagame may have shifted away from low-ARM infantry, and that the Grenadier doesn’t have the damage necessary to make a difference, which is where Jakes comes in. This idea needs testing, but I think it could work.
Looking at heavies, Avenger and Defender heavy warjacks aren’t a terrible pairing with Jakes. As hybrid melee/ranged platforms, they will often need two Focus for ranged attacks and want as many as possible for mixing it up in melee. Defenders are a bit more of a safe option since they have higher RAT and monstrously-long range, but Avengers have a bit more utility with Quake on their Seismic Cannons and greater melee combat potential via their P+S 18 Stun Blades. I’d most likely go with a Journeyman if I was taking a Defender, but I think that Jakes pairs better with the Avenger thanks to her FOC 4 and Energizer.
Jakes also shares some interesting synergy with the expensive Thunderhead as well. Being able to advance it far into enemy lines via its SPD 5 and Energizer is a great way to deliver a powerful and potentially crippling Energy Pulse, and a fully-loaded Thunderhead with three Focus is a potent assassination threat, but at PC 12, you assume a lot of risk with this combination.
|Centurion Heavy Warjack|
Giving Jakes a dedicated melee heavy warjack makes me a little wary since many of them are so melee oriented and will consequently drag Jakes closer to the front line where she will be more vulnerable to ranged forces picking her off, but there are some interesting concepts to consider. Centurions work great with the Energizer spell, since it allows them to effectively advance 7″ and still use Polarity Shield, albeit without the benefit of a Journeyman’s Arcane Shield, so I might only suggest this pairing if you’re running Jakes with Captain Victoria Haley, Commander Coleman Stryker, or Commander Dalin Sturgis who can provide Arcane Shield in their place.
As mentioned earlier, Gallant pairs well as a jamming piece with Jakes, as effective DEF 15 with Sidekick makes Gallant quite difficult to hit, and Shield Guard can be crucial in keeping Jakes from being picked off at range if something can bypass her high DEF value.
Finally, there is the Stormwall to consider. The Stormwall is another Focus hog, and wants at least two Focus every turn for boosting attack or damage rolls on its Big Guns. Since the Stormwall is more of a mid-line piece, it isn’t an entirely unsafe pairing for Jakes. However, it is important to remember that it doesn’t particularly synergize with her spell list, since Energizer is wasted on a Stormwall, and Sidekick will only punch it up to DEF 12. The Stormwall is also a model that practically demands Arcane Shield, so warcaster pairing should be considered strongly when bringing Jakes and a Stormwall together. Yes, you can bring a Journeyman and Jakes in the same list, but doing so represents a pretty high investment in support.
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