Warmachine: Underdog Story – Skorne
What’s the least-used model/unit in Skorne? Can a list highlight them?
As I mentioned before, the release of the new edition of Warmachine and Hordes has changed the focus of this series. The prior articles have covered Cryx, Circle, Cygnar, Trollbloods, Khador, Legion of Everblight, Convergence of Cyriss, Retribution of Scyrah, and Minions/Mercs. Each of those articles tried to make a list that could allow an underdog model to try and become a star if it were made the focus of the list. There was varying success, with some that seemed possible contenders (Khador and Convergence) and others that no matter what amount of support they got couldn’t get the job done (Trollbloods and Legion).
But with the Mark III announcement, the last two articles of the series (the Protectorate of Menoth two weeks ago and Skorne this week) changed their focus somewhat. Warmachine and Hordes Mark III is a time that many players are hoping will fix the kind of least-used models that are out there. So I adjusted the story a bit to ask what is the least played model/unit in the faction, and what possible rule changes would make that model effective. It’s a different sort of underdog story–one that fits the possibilities of a new edition much better.
Least Used Skorne
Winner: Scarab Pack
For lack of any better explanation, they simply stink at everything but one particular role: they’re a great transfer target (as they have a lot of hit boxes per point). But if you’re dropping 5 points simply to be a transfer target, why not a Cyclops Shaman or Cyclops Raider that can provide some sort of support while waiting to receive transfers? The animus, designed to protect them, is super-expensive in Fury cost. They have average MAT, but horrible P+S so they can have trouble even killing light infantry alone. Sure, they get a version of gang–but it only works with their own unit and any Aradus warbeasts. Letting them frenzy, which seems to increase their killing power the most (as all get boosted attacks and damages and don’t target each other), usually means they’re attacking different targets… Even boosted P+S 8’s have trouble getting the job done on many things. Most importantly, they simply are not survivable to anything in melee. Even feeble infantry can mulch them, with anything that hits even remotely hard or getting two attacks being able to get the job done easily thanks to their lackluster defense and poor armor.
Runner Up: Praetorian Ferox and Venator Catapult Crew were other mentions, but both at least have spots in strange theme lists: the Ferox in Xerxis2’s Footsteps of Giants list and the Catapult for making Fist of Halaak a little different than other Fist Lists or taking a shot at Rasheth’s Siege Column.
A Last Mark II Underdog Attempt
So this column is a bit more personal than others, as Skorne is one of the factions that I played a lot in Mark II, and the only faction that I have had reliable success at fielding. When I started this series, I was determined to put my money where my mouth was on at least one of the crazy underdog lists I was suggesting. So I’ve been painting and playing a Scarab Pack heavy list to try and give them a chance to shine.
So many Skorne players have seen the crazy tier 4 theorymachine list floating around that’s nothing but Mordikaar, 11 Scarab Packs, and 5 free Void Spirits. I used that as my starting point for a list to make Scarab Packs work, but didn’t think it could go that far successfully. So I designed a list to get some of the benefit out of Scarab Packs being both units and warbeasts (both help the tier 4 gel), but had other sorts of support. I ended up with this:
The List: “Intentional Disorder” (Legions of the Abyss Tier 4)
Void Seer Mordikaar
Void Spirit (free for 2 units)
Void Spirit (free for 2 more units)
Max Praetorian Swordsmen with Officer and Standard UA
The idea was that it would be an anti-infantry drop, with the Scarab Packs intentionally frenzying on the turns when it was time for me to take out the enemy infantry, and protected by Feat plus Dig In on the turn before. The Scarab Packs could do a lot of work and jam things up with their high health, allowing the four Void Spirits to leap through the lines and attack casters and support (and be great targets for Essence Blasts from Mordikaar, especially if he was sitting with lots of souls from running the Praetorian Swordsmen right into the enemy to die).
After playtesting the list and playing it in a competitive setting a number of times, I can say very simply: it stinks. Everything in the list besides the Scarab Packs works great and does exactly as I wanted and thought. But the Scarab Packs simply cannot take a punch and cannot hit back effectively, even when they’re frenzying or spending focus on hit/damage rolls. Even trying to use them en masse, they became more of a liability than an effective fighting force. Turns out when you take a bunch of bad units, the army doesn’t work better.
Fixing the Scarab Pack in Mark III
Okay, so admittedly I’m a bit partial in this story as I have a bit more of a horse in the race. Well, more like sixteen bugs in the race:
I think the critical thing that Mark III could change that would allow the Scarab Pack to work better is their defenses. I’m guessing that with the invention of the new Warbeast Packs being pretty recent, and only in two factions, the worry was initially that they would be too powerful. The good news is, they’re absolutely not too powerful. The hitting strength is manageable–with the right location, enough grouped together, and maybe a buff, they can make a decent impact and threaten heavier melee troops or light beasts. But their utterly poor defense is the problem, and Dig In as an animus simply doesn’t cut it. If they simply got the Dig In special action, they’d improve, as they could get their defense without taking up two Fury. Their low armor also would likely need some sorting out. A scarab dies instantly when something hits for 22 damage or more. That’s more common in the game than you think. Charging P+S 12 infantry hits that on average. And with lesser attacks, it just means that they need two. Cygnarian POW 10 spam just means that every two hits on average kills a Scarab Pack (clocking 5 damage after armor on each hit). With only 4 models in the pack, even charged by poor infantry means that they’re likely to get mopped up. A boost to their ARM would give them a definite leg up in consideration. Even ARM 14 would be a game-changer, as they wouldn’t simply evaporate if anything reached them. There may be other ways that Scarab Packs could be improved in Warmachine and Hordes Mark III–my hope is that something is done to get them to be at least a reasonable choice.
Thanks to the Skorne folk who chimed in: Fortnby, permanent, Wise Blood, Flindo, plunging forward, haze no ki, permanent, Cannotcope, gaminguy, and neonchameleon.
~ Would these changes fix the Scarab Pack? Would a different change transform them into superstars? What is Mark III likely to hold in store for this unit? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Interested in what underdogs the author is fielding? Check out Chalkboard’s blog at www.chalkboardwar.com