Hot Takes: Champions and Khador ADR

Privateer Press recently spoiled some of their changes to the champions format, including the Active Duty Roster. And, like any Privateer Press release, that means there will be a deluge of hot takes, questionable analyses, and not-fully-thought-through opinions. Remember how all the Cryx players thought Ghost Fleet was unplayable trash and their faction was uncompetitive about a year ago? Anyways, I couldn’t let this go by without offering my unsolicited and uninformed opinions on the new format and the new ADR roster for Khador.

Format changes

There are a few format changes for the Masters and Champions tournament formats. First, Divide and Conquer, the requirement that everyone must play all of their lists at least once, is no longer a thing. This is something that may have been necessary in the past when one could just rock something like old-school Haley2 to victory on the strength of one extremely overpowered list, however now that balance is a bit tighter, character restrictions on lists are gone, and outliers are typically addressed through errata rather than being allowed to linger for years, there really is no reason for it to continue to exist and I don’t think it will be missed.

Masters also no longer uses ADR, which means that Specialists are gone from the format. Specialists are basically a sideboard that you are allowed if you bring casters on the ADR list. I like the idea of a format with a sideboard, and feel that there are a lot of underplayed, niche units which are good sideboard choices (hello, Assault Kommandos and Kossites!), however the economy of free points in themes meant it never really worked out. Either you had to create various legal permutations and combinations of your lists with whatever specialists you were afforded, or you had to spend ten minutes futzing around on War Room to get your lists to work out before the game started because you changed out a model which in turn changed the number of free solos from your theme.

They also made a lot of changes to the Active Duty Roster, the most notable being that themes are now a part of it. In addition to being limited to certain casters, you must choose your theme force from a list, and you aren’t allowed to play the same theme force for both your lists. This is an interesting idea, because it makes the ADR a truly limited format by disallowing more than 10% of the models in a faction, and I kind of like it. Further, they are increasing the number of casters available to most factions from four to five, and decreasing the number available to CoC and Grymkin to three, because ADR restrictions didn’t really do much to already limited factions and that helps balance out the big advantage that the limited factions got in the format.

They also discussed in CID the removal of the 15 second minimum turn, which is something that I am agnostic on. I don’t think the 15 second turn is as necessary given the hard turn limit in the game, but I still am not sure it’s a good experience when you’re that low on time and people are just throwing down focus and slapping the clock as fast as they can. However, it’s not something that has affected me greatly; I don’t usually have a lot of clock management issues, and when I do, I’m usually already screwed in other ways and on the way to a loss anyways.

Finally, they didn’t come out and make it official yet, but it’s been said during the CID process that PP is going to remove the painting requirement from Champions. This is probably a controversial statement, but I think it is good for Privateer Press to have a painting requirement on at least one of their tournament formats. It not only encourages painting, but it also means that people who like fully painted armies but aren’t good enough players to qualify for (and/or aren’t willing or able to travel to) huge national conventions like the WTC or Adepticon are more likely to have a chance at having a fully painted experience at smaller, more local conventions. The painting requirement was one reason why I chose to do Champions instead of Masters at the SOO, because it’s refreshing to have a whole day of fully painted games. However, I also think that a painting requirement and a limited format aren’t a great combination, as you could end up in a situation where players aren’t allowed to play their painted models due to the restrictions of the format. I think it would be a good idea to flip the painting requirement from Champions to Masters, or introduce a new format, or something so that painting requirements in Warmachine don’t go the way of the dodo. Dallas and the team at PP do a lot of work to promote the hobby aspect, and it would be sad to undermine that effort by eliminating all painting requirements from every official format and signal to the player base that it’s not important to at least aspire to play it painted.

Our Roster

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Anyways, onto the Khador ADR roster. Our caster choices consist of Kozlov, Sorscha3, Irusk2, Butcher1, and Zerkova1, and we are limited to two themes: Armoured Corps, and Jaws of the Wolf. Of course, I only play one of these casters and Armoured Corps has a lot of new models that I haven’t fully examined yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t spew my uninformed opinions out onto the Warmachine internet.

Kozlov

Ironically, for a caster who is supposed to be an Iron Fang, Kozlov is probably best in Armoured Corps. Fury and Tactical Supremacy are both excellent support spells for Man-O-War, particularly Shocktroopers, and I’ve been running him in Armoured Corps already with my patented “just take two of all the good models in the theme” list. Double Shocktroopers, double Drakhun, double Kovnik, and double Forge Seer, then season your battlegroup to taste. Once our new releases come out, I think that will open up a lot of new tactics and list builds with models that have previously been not that great such as the Demolition Corps and Bombardiers. Also, Atanas is going to unlock a lot, because the ability to move through your own models allows for a lot of options on the battlefield.

Jaws could potentially be interesting. Kozlov has some battlegroup support spells and his feat affects all models, including warjacks. The problem is that after spending three focus on upkeeps, and without any free charges or other forms of focus efficiency on the feat, he doesn’t have the focus to support a large battlegroup. However, PP has proposed allowing journeyman warcasters in Jaws of the Wolf, so bringing Andy1 and Sorscha0 and throwing a jack on each of them, plus perhaps one on a Forge Seer could solve some of those focus inefficiency issues.

Sorscha3

Sorscha3 is the latest iteration of Sorscha to be released in June, and she is my most anticipated model in a long time because it’s Sorscha in a Man-O-War suit and that is awesome. She grants Flank [Man-O-War] to her battlegroup, has a cost 1 jack support spell, Iron Flesh, and a cloudwall feat with clouds that hurt. I think there are a lot of tools here that could potentially be unlocked, but it’s pretty clear here that she’s a Man-O-War caster, so for my money, it’s Armoured Corps for her.

Also, she can take Beast 09 and Forge Seers can now cast Winter’s Wind on Beast. You’re welcome.

Irusk2:

At first glance, Irusk2 seems like he doesn’t really synergize with the themes available. He’s an infantry support caster, but his tools don’t seem to support Man-O-War as good as some others — I mean, how many Man-O-War can you fit in an Artifice of Deviation anyways? And with almost none of his kit doing anything to support warjacks, Jaws seems like a bad choice.

That is, until you remember that there is more to Jaws than just spamming warjacks. Irusk2 is a great infantry caster, and there are some interesting infantry choices in the theme. If you stack Battle Lust on top of the Kayazy Assassins’ minifeat, they can do a lot of damage with those little knives. Between Stealth, Tough, and Artifice of Deviation, they’re going to be difficult to remove on the way in. And just to add on an additional level of obnoxiousness, throw on Alexia1 so when they do finally kill one of your dudes, they come back as a zombie.

Butcher1:

I also think Butcher1 could be interesting in a combined arms Jaws list, if only because stacking Gang, Fury, mini-feat and Butcher’s feat on a unit of Kayazy Assassins allows for some truly hilarious damage potential on those tiny daggers.

I’m probably the only Khador player who has never actually played any of the Butchers (because I’m on Team Sorscha), but over at Avatar of Slaughter, Robert McCormick has been making some noise about Butcher1 in Armoured Corps, so… I dunno, go over there and read something from someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.

Zerkova1:

I don’t know, she… has a cloudwall, I guess? To be honest, I’ve only played Zerkova1 a couple of times, and I haven’t done particularly well with her. She doesn’t really help warjacks or help infantry hit hard, and she seems to lean more towards either Legion of Steel or Wolves of Winter as she would want to use the cloudwall to deliver something that packs a bit more of a punch and has a higher volume of attacks than Man-O-Wars.

On the other hand, countercharging Drakhuns through a unit of Shocktroopers behind a cloudwall seems legit, Ghost Walk could be fun combined with Demo Corps or Drakhuns, Hex Blast can more or less risk free take an enemy upkeep off a unit of Man-O-Wars, and Frost Hammer can be used to spray down single wound infantry jamming your Man-O-Wars without being so powerful that it can actually hurt the guys in the big metal suits.

Okay, I take it back, try her out in Armoured Corps.

My Pairings:

So, what am I going to run? First off, I’m definitely running Sorscha3 in Armoured Corps when she comes out, just because Sorscha is an old favourite of mine and Sorscha in a Man-O-War suit is straight up awesome. For a second list, since I’m restricted to Jaws, the smart thing to do would probably be a combined arms Jaws with two units of Kayazy Assassins and either Butcher1 or Irusk2. However, I don’t own any Kayazy Assassins and probably won’t want to paint 20 of them, and I’m also not particularly smart. Which means I’m going to wait for Sorscha0 to release and then make some sort of weird Kozlov Superfriends list, taking Kozlov and both Juniors and relying on his feat and the ability to stack speed buffs to hit hard and fast and be ARM 22 against melee. Because screw it, Cygnar shouldn’t be the only ones who are allowed to have fun with their juniors.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I am intrigued by the new format as I think it will be nice to have a truly limited format, especially for people who can’t be bothered to remember what all 1,200 or so models in the game do or are sick of worrying about the OP boogeyman of the week. For Khador, I think there are going to be two challenges. First is going to be our usual Khador issues with incorporeal and recursion. Fortunately, however, Ghost Fleet isn’t on the ADR so we don’t have to worry about basically autolosing if we didn’t bring mass RFP and mass magic weapons or because our opponent brought a Wraith Engine, so this may be less of an issue than it is in unlimited formats.

Second is the fact that we are restricted to two themes which are generally comprised of heavily armoured, low defense, SPD 4 models. This means that it’s very easy to end up in a situation where you have two similar lists that share similar weaknesses, which is not a good position to be in in a two list pairing. Further, these bricks of slow models could struggle into some of the very live scenarios that exist in a post-SR2017 world.

While this looks like it could be a problem and the first reaction might be to complain about being dealt a bad ADR following on an underwhelming CID because PP doesn’t like us as much as they like Cryx and Cygnar, I think this ADR could be an opportunity to force some exploration and creativity in list building. We could see some more experimentation with combined arms Jaws lists, as well as the use of mercenaries to supplement the weaknesses of Armoured Corps. Already, the wheels are turning for me regarding things like combining Kayazy Assassins with Butcher1 or Irusk2, or finding some mercenaries that may be useful as flanking pieces for Armoured Corps lists.

Now, to sit and wait until my next big order of plasticrack comes in…

Paintlog: Supreme Kommandant Irusk

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Three down, one to go…

As of late, I’ve had a couple somewhat arbitrary painting goals.  First has been to paint the models that I have on the shelf which are assembled but unpainted, in an effort to clear out that shelf of shame before I start buying assembling too many other models.  Second, I’d like to paint all the warcasters on the Active Duty Roster.  One of the models that resides at the intersection of those two is Supreme Kommandant Irusk, also known as Irusk2, also known as that guy with the annoying heavy pewter flag that always tips over and breaks.

As mentioned above, I had assembled Irusk2 previously as I had tried him out for a brief stint back in Mk.II.  I liked him, but found that I was getting assassinated a lot, so I ended up shelving him in favour of some other casters.  In the meantime, he had shown himself to be quite the powerhouse in Mk.III, as one of our top-tier infantry support casters and one of the few really capable of bring a lot of melee infantry across the table and into your opponent’s face.

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As any owner of this model will attest, there are two serious challenges with it, both of which relate to the flag.  First, the flag itself is made of pewter, which makes the model very top-heavy and easy to accidentally knock over.  Second, the model comes in multiple pieces, and there is a joint between the upper portion of the flag and the hand which is not very large and kind of tricky to glue. These two issues combine to make the natural state of the model something like as shown on the left.

As a result, this model is just begging to be pinned, which I did, spending a lot of time carefully drilling to try to get as long of a pin as I could in between the two sections.  One of the other things I did when I assembled him the first time was that I had filled the base with lead fishing weights and PP’s brown stuff, in an effort to make him a little less top-heavy.  This was a good idea, but I had to clean it up a little, filing it down to get the bottom surface flatter so the model is a little more stable.  Had I known about them then, I probably should have just used one of PP’s metal bases, but as they say in my French classes, c’est la vie.

Fast forward about a year, and as with the previous Spriggan project, there were a few things that I had to do clean him up and bring him up to my new standard, as my hobby skills have greatly improved since then.  There was some mold line removal and re-priming that had to be done, so I pulled out some files and got to work, fixing up the worst of the results from my careless assembly.33053_SupremeKommandantIrusk_WEB.jpg

As you can see on the studio picture, Irusk2 is a relatively ornate model, with all the decorations and accoutrements befitting someone whose title is Supreme Kommandant.  This can make him an intimidating model to paint, as you sit down and try to figure out which colour everything should go, in order to end up with a model that has balanced colour choices and sufficient contrast between distinct elements of the model.

One of the themes with my army so far has been that I’ve been using purple as a base army colour, and relatively higher ranking models have had more and more pink on them.  As a result, I knew that Irusk here was going to have a lot of pink, but that I was going to keep the purple going on the flag and base rim, which meant I needed to leave a little purple on the model in order to keep it balanced.  I did so by painting his chest plate and his trench coat purple, and making all the rest of the armour plates pink, while leaving his sash and some of the exposed fabric of his uniform a neutral grey.

This model used a lot of standard techniques, and to be honest, there are a few flaws so it is solidly tabletop standard, but if there is one aspect that I would like to focus on, it is the flag.  Often times, what one will do to get a tabletop standard model banged out is to just use the standard basecoat, wash, highlight method.  There is nothing wrong with it, and I continue to use washes on most of my models, however the trick is that there are some places where washes just don’t work.  Large, fairly flat surfaces like capes and flags don’t tend to take washes too well.  Instead of going where they need to go to darken the shadows, they tend to pool in unnatural places, so that instead of a nicely shaded model, you end up with a model that just looks flat and dirty.

So, how do we approach this?  Instead of basecoating and washing, we’re going to have to take this section of the model and manually paint in the shadows and highlights. Here, working with my usual Reaper Royal Purples Triad, I started by base coating with Imperial Purple.  Then, the next step is to look at the model and figure out where the light is going to be hitting the object.  On a wavy flag like this one, it’s going to be darker inside the folds and on areas where the flag has draped over, while the highlights go on the ridges and on the places where the fabric is on such an angle that the surface is facing upwards at the sun.

From there, you can use your shadow colour (in this case, Nightshade Purple) to blend the shadows.  There are a variety of techniques that you can use here, with two-brush blending being popular, but my usual technique at the moment is to take a brush, apply paint to the model in the center of where you want that second colour, then quickly rinse the brush, apply a little saliva, and drag the edge outward.  Do the same with your highlight colour, and don’t be afraid to mix colours on your wet palette and highlight up or down in multiple steps if it becomes too difficult to get a nice smooth blend all the way from your darkest shadow to your brightest hightlight.  These blending techniques do take some practice to get a smooth blend, so if you’re having trouble, picking up a unit of men and women with capes and keeping at it is a great way to learn.

For the white logo on the flag, I used similar techniques, starting with Reaper’s HD Concrete Grey as a base colour, and blending up through Misty Grey and into a pure white on just the highest highlights.  However, I ran into a bit of an issue here.  One of the side benefits of a wash is that it can also give a blacklining effect, whereby a bit of nuln oil in a crack between two bright colours can help break it up, which helps the eye distinguish where one colour ends and the next starts, and really helps make the miniature pop.  Since I didn’t do a wash, I have to put those blacklines in manually, with some dark paint (it doesn’t have to be black — just something darker than your base colour is good enough).  You’ll need to use thin paints and a decent brush to get it done right, of course.  Personally, I have a 10/0 rigger brush that I use for this sort of thing.  It’s nothing too fancy, just something I picked up at Michael’s, but I find that this very long, thin brush allows me to load it up with a fair bit of paint, and it has the right amount of flex to get deep into these sort of tiny recesses, so it’s a handy addition to my brush collection.

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And there you have it.  Normally, I like to do a lot of custom basing on my warcaster models, but in this case, the base that came with him was pretty good, and I didn’t really want to go taking things apart on such a tricky model, so I simply used the standard base and added a tuft and a little snow, to match the ice forming on the rocks on the sculpted base that was included.  I added a little extra weathering on the beat up metal piece with the Cygnar logo on the base, and that was pretty much it.

Overall, I’m happy with this model as a tabletop piece, but not 100% satisfied.  I wouldn’t say it’s my best work, and there are some flaws in certain areas, but nothing that would stand out from more than a foot away.  At tabletop distances, the pink highlights and white edging on the armour does tend to pop, which is always good..  If I were to paint it again, I might like to do something so that his medals stand out more at tabletop distances, but that’s kind of tricky given the brightness of the pink.

As for what list to put him in?  Well, Irusk2 is a great infantry caster, and can run in any theme. His feat grants his army pathfinder for a turn, and the ability to ignore clouds and forest for the purposes of determining LOS, which means they can come out of nowhere. Additionally, enemy models suffer -3 SPD when they begin their activation within his 14″ control area.  He’s got a great list of support spells, with Artifice of Deviation, Battle Lust, Fire For Effect, and Solid Ground.  If I’m playing this season’s ADR, the other casters on the list are probably going to want to run in Legion of Steel (at least for now), so when it comes to theme, that leaves Winter Guard Kommand and Jaws of the Wolf if I don’t want to have two completely redundant lists.  As fun as it sounds to play him in Winter Guard Kommand and stack Bear’s Strength from Kovnik Joe and Battle Lust and apply axe to face, I’m going to try Jaws for my theorymachining.

Theme:  Jaws of the Wolf

Supreme Kommandant Irusk
– Behemoth

Greylord Forge Seer
– Destroyer
Widowmaker Marksman (free from theme)

Kayazy Assassins w/ Underboss
Kayazy Assassins w/ Underboss
Kayazy Eliminators
Kayazy Eliminators
Widowmaker Scouts

This list comes with a lot of stealth, because one thing more annoying than no-knockdown tough infantry with cover is no-knockdown tough infantry with cover and stealth.  If you can stack battle lust and backstab from the minifeat on the Kayazy Assassins, you’ll be throwing a lot of dice at your target.  With effective DEF 17 in melee, Eliminators tend to be a pain to remove, even moreso when they make a no-knockdown tough roll.

As for jacks, the combo of Behemoth in Irusk’s battlegroup and a Destroyer being marshalled by the Forge Seer is a good one.  Irusk can slap Fire For Effect on the Destroyer, giving it fully boosted magical attack rolls on the bombard, good for sniping out incorporeal models.  Behemoth only needs two focus to fire off two fully boosted shots, and since he gets one from power up, he can get the other from the Forge Seer. So, we’re talking three fully boosted bombard shots, one of which is magical, for the investment of just one focus per turn to upkeep Fire For Effect.  This leaves Irusk with plenty of focus remaining for his other support spells and camping.

That said, this list does have some glaring weaknesses.  First, there isn’t much to prevent Irusk2 from getting shot.  With so many stealth models, there isn’t much that can effectively screen him.  Second, sprays and mass eyeless sight could be a problem, so playing this list into Legion might be a bad idea.

Of course, I have a lot of painting to do before I can run a double Kayazy Assassin list, so…

(Note:  Apologies for not having more WIP photos; I wasn’t originally planning to do a paintlog on this model)