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Warmachine: Skills Development – Keep Back

4 Minute Read
Jan 30 2017

Bell of Lost Souls Warmachine Keep Away

Improve your Warmachine and Hordes play by learning to stay back.

Chalkboard here from Chalkboard War, with the start of a series on developing specific Warmachine and Hordes skills. I’ll be looking at core skills that are shared across all the factions. By mastering these simple techniques, you can improve your level of play. This week, I’ll start with a basic one: learn to stay back.

Assassination is a win condition that your opponent is always looking for. The very best way to keep from being assassinated is to not be in range of anything that can kill your caster. It’s that simple. Sometimes a few inches are the the difference that loses you the game. Newer players in particular are prone to try and do everything with their Warcaster or Warlock, which means getting up to the front lines. And that’s a way that can lead to jeopardy. The critical way to master the “stay back” skill is to simply keep your caster at the absolute distance you can while staying in control and in the scenario.

Now this doesn’t apply to every Warmachine or Hordes warcaster or warlock. There are some that actually want to be close to the foe. They might have abilities that make them survivable (Terminus) or you want to leverage their melee threat (Butcher3). Exempting those, most Warlocks and Warcasters want to stay at the maximum range they can while still contributing. That might mean at the max distance of their key spell or at the edge of their control range for an ability. Of course, there are tricks that expand those elements as well. Arc Nodes, Channeler models, and spell range extenders can help.

If you are struggling with staying back, you can also think about learning the skill with a Warmachine or Hordes caster that plays to that strength. There are three types of models that enable the “stay back” approach more than other choices: large control ranges, abilities that move a caster back at the end of their turn, and casters that simply buff their forces.

Huge Control Range


Bell of Lost Souls Keep Back Harbinger

It’s easy to stay back when your control range is extensive. Take Protectorate’s Harbinger, for example. With a Focus stat of 10, she can keep Warjacks fueled up to 20″ away. Sadly, her other abilities work in her Command range, but she’s a good example of how a large Focus or Fury stat can keep a caster safely on the back line. If you’re looking for a caster that enables this play style, start by looking at their Focus or Fury stat to see just how far back they can hang.


Get Out of Dodge Abilities


Bell of Lost Souls Keep Back Gaspy1

Sometimes you can find a caster who can stay up in the battle and still stay back thanks to a particular ability. Reposition, Refuge, Velocity, Sprint, and Teleport all get the job done to various degrees. Teleport being 6″ is one of the best, and Gaspy1 is a great example of a Warlock who can use it well. He can get into the mix if needed, then be certain that he can wind up well back on the lines–even after losing any Arc Nodes. Having that trick of being able to end up further back than where you acted is a great option. And it’s another way to exercise your “stay away” skills.

Buffs and Only Buffs

Bell of Lost Souls Keep Makeda2


Then there are the Warcasters and Warlocks in Warmachine and Hordes that don’t need to do much in order to be effective. They might have a lot of upkeeps, or want to cast a fair number of buffs and/or animi every round. They use much of their stack making their army better, so there’s no reason to have them wandering the front lines to get random kills on enemy models.

Makeda2 is a good example. On the lower side of Fury stat, she generally wants to be using it to help her force rather than buying attacks or boosting damage. Game after game can pass where she doesn’t make a single melee attack or throw her Prostration nuke at a foe. Because she’s invested in supporting her force, you have a 12″ cushion beyond your closest model to the enemy to keep her safe at all times.


This is the most common category, because almost every Warcaster or Warlock can be played this way. Instead of mixing it up with your army centerpiece, give a chance to just hanging back and letting your force do the work for once.

~ How do you work on this critical skill? How do you identify when you’ll be moving too close to your foes? Are there tricks you can use for all casters, or is it worth focusing on Warcasters and Warlocks in Warmachine and Hordes that prompt you to stay back naturally? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

For more Warcasters staying way back. take a look at Chalkboard’s Warmachine and Hordes blog at:


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