Monday, 30 December 2013

The Rainbow Challenge

I have a lot of Malifaux models. Close to 300 in fact! And one of the problems with having so much Malifaux goodness is that I just don’t have the time to give all of them some decent table time. Of the 23 crews I have, I’ve only played most of them once or twice, and some have yet to see any table time at all! In the past, this dilemma has led me in one of two directions;

1.       Focus on just a few Masters and get as good as I can at those.
In the past I’ve focused on Zoraida, followed by Marcus and then eventually Lucius. Then once M2E hit stores I decided to stick just with Neverborn, which is what spawned my first set of blog posts over the past few months.

Whether through design or necessity, I suspect this tends to be what most people do. Focussing on a single Master is certainly the best way to get good at that crew, but on the other hand I don’t get the chance to use most of the rest of my collection.

2.       Occasionally use Masters I’ve not played with before.
In most of the tournaments I’ve recently attended I’ve chosen to take Masters I’ve never used before. It started a year and a half back when I brought my Nightmare Dreamer crew to the Australian GT, then it was Mei Feng at Cancon 2013, Jakob Lynch at Skulls Malifaux a few months back and then most recently, So’mer Teeth Jones at another local tournament. I’ve actually enjoyed this approach immensely – it presents me with a bit of a personal challenge at the event, motivates me to paint up crews I would have otherwise left alone and effectively acts as a crash course on how to use that Master.

As it turns out I’ve had a lot of success with this approach too – most of those events I actually placed first in! So while I don’t get the chance to perfect that Master’s playstyle, it does give me a very good feel for how they work, certainly enough to compete well with.

For 2014, then, I’ve decided to take the second approach. Not only that, but to make it more of a challenge I thought I’d take the idea somewhat further…

Introducing: The Rainbow Challenge
Yeah, it’s a bit of a lame title but hey, it serves it’s purpose. ;) So for 2014, I have two primary aims;

 1. Have a painted crew for every Master in Malifaux.

 2. Play at least one game with every Master.

The idea behind this is two-fold. First of all it gives me an excuse to buy and paint even more Malifaux, as well as paint what I already have. ;) Secondly, it gives me the chance to get a good feel for every Master in the game. Not only would this help me understand how to deal with them as an opponent, but I’m hoping it will also help me understand their appeal. For various reasons I’m not a massive fan of some Masters, so this challenge may help me see them in a better light.

In total there are 39 Masters available in the game, including 10 dual faction Masters. If I can I’d like to get a game for each of latter in both of their factions, but that will depend on whether I have the time. Realistically though, the biggest challenge will be in acquiring and painting the crews I don’t own, so it might pay to see just how much work I have ahead of me…

The State of the Collection.

I think it’s time for a Table!

Rathnard’s Masters

Complete (19)
Incomplete (6)
Yet to Buy (8)
Unavailable (6)
Lady Justice
Yan Lo
Mah Tucket
Von Schill
Shen Long
Mei Feng







Jakob Lynch





Jack Daw



So the Complete Masters are those whose crews are fully painted and ready to play. In some cases I might want to add one or two models before I put them on the table (like finishing off the Young Lacroix for Ophelia), but otherwise they’re playable. I should probably note that Jack Daw is only on this list thanks to the efforts of Paul (abraxis04), who’s been generous enough to paint and send me a Jack Daw crew for the Christmas exchange!

The Incomplete Masters are those who I own but still need to be assembled/painted, or in the case of Von Schill, I still need to acquire a few more models to make the crew complete. These should be relatively easy to finish off.

The Yet to Buy Masters are self-explanatory – I simply still need to purchase them.

Finally, there are the Unavailable Masters – those Masters who don’t yet have an available crew box for sale. These are going to be the toughest – even if some of them are available at Gencon 2014 I’ll still need to find suitable proxies for some, if not all of these crews. I have some ideas on what I could use to proxy some of these (Brewmaster’s crew is practically sitting unassembled in a bag on my desk), but others are going to be tricky. Ultimately I’m waiting to see the art for these models before figuring out what I could possibly use as a proxy.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at. Wish me luck, and enjoy the New Year!


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Rathnard Does Neverborn – Pandora

Well, so much for posting an article every week! Despite my best intentions, life once again got in the way and it’s taken me freaking ages to finish this blog post off. In any case, I hope I can make it up with this blog entry because oh boy, it’s a big one, clocking in at almost 3500 words! So strap yourselves in, grab a cup of coffee (or your liquid beverage of choice..), and prepare for some serious verbal diarrhea, because I’m gonna talk about Pandora.

In the Beginning…

As I said before, Pandora was my first Master. When I picked her up Malifaux was only a few months old and players were still getting the hang of the game. Back then, community wisdom had decided the “Top Tier” Masters to be Lilith and Perdita (both were considerably nastier before their first errata). Pandora on the other hand, was initially considered a lower tier master. She wasn’t easy to kill, but nobody had truly appreciated the potential of her “nickel and dime” damage output. It didn’t take long for that to change, of course, and while her power level was toned down somewhat she remained one of the least fun Masters to play against in Maifaux 1.5.

Fast forward to M2E, is Pandora thankfully lost a lot of what made her unfun. The nickel and dime damage is still there in the form of her Misery ability, and in fact with enough Sorrows around (also with Misery) she’s capable of dealing massive amounts of damage each activation with her variety of Wp-based attacks. Her free pushes from movement from Fading Memory have also been toned down somewhat – short of any out-of activation Wp-duels (like if someone attacks her) she’s usually  only going to get two free pushes – one from winning an incite duel and the other if she makes the trigger to recast incite. Perhaps most importantly though, Pandora has become much less frustrating to kill. Models used to need to pass a straight Wp-duel with Pandy just for the privilege of targeting her, failure of which would result in them suffering a wound. But in M2E, she can now just uses her Wp instead of Df in opposed duels and the wording on Misery means that the attacker won’t take damage if they fail.

So overall, while she’s not nearly as horrible to face as she used to be, from the reactions of my opponents she’s still an intimidating Master to face.

The Magic of Misery

The most obvious aspect of Pandora’s playstyle is undoubtably her fixation on Wp duels, whether it’s for offense, defense and in the case of Fading Memory, mobility. My main approach with Pandora has been to put her into harms way, follow up with sorrows and use those overlapping Misery auras to deal 3-4 damage with each failed Wp duel from Pandora’s attacks (usually Incite to get within 3”, then Self Loathing). I’ve found that even a pair of sorrows is enough for Pandora’s attacks to wipe out 2-3 models each turn, provided they’re foolish enough to get within striking distance.

It’s her lethality within those Misery bubbles that has encouraged me to think of her as an area denial tool. Nobody really wants to go near her, so parking Pandora on a Turf War marker or something similar seems to be the best way to use her. Either your opponent sits back and allows you to claim those VPs unmolested, or they try and engage her and get pounded in the process.

Defensively, Pandora’s been a hard nut for my opponents to crack. She’s got an impressive Wp of 7 to defend against any opposed duels and any time she wins a Wp duel she can push 4” with Fading Memory. Her main weakness comes has come in the form of irresistible damage (such as from blast attacks directed at nearby sorrows)

Going it Alone

In my games thus far I’ve been able to bring both the Sorrows and Pandora to bear on her victims to quickly take them out, but to be honest I’ve yet to face someone who’s appreciated just how important it is to take down the Sorrows. I’m sure I will at some point so when that happens, there’s a good chance that Pandora will have to do her thing without any support from her Sorrows.

To be honest I’m not too concerned about such a scenario. Without the Sorrows she won’t be cutting a swathe through enemy models, but her Self Loathing attack plus Misery should still allow her to dish out some good damage. That will be especially true against glass cannon-type models (ie. high damage, low resilience), and anyone with a low wound count (ie. 4 or less).

Spreading the Pain

At first I thought Martyr was a bit of a dud ability. Situationally useful perhaps, but otherwise something I would normally ignore in my games. After all, why would I willingly hurt my own master in order to minimise damage on the less important members of my crew? In practice however, Martyr is actually very useful. Thanks to their Misery Aura, Sorrows tend to be a high priority target for my opponents. Incorporeal tends to mitigate some of the damage, but with Martyr most attacks against the Sorrows will be reduced to 1 or even 0 damage, greatly improving their lifespan. Even better, if you can reduce the damage to 0 on the Sorrow it also negates any “after damaging” effects or triggers. I found this especially valuable in a game against Mei Feng. Not only did it keep the sorrow alive long enough for Pandy to do her work on Mei, but it effectively negated her triggers, almost all of which are an “after damaging” effect.

Because being a little bit Miserable isn’t enough (Upgrades)

I’ve found that while Pandora is more than happy to fill out her upgrade slots, she tends to be limited not by the number of slots, but by her available soulstones. Most of the time I strive for the full three upgrades, but more often than not I find myself dropping one of the three to give myself at least one extra soulstone (I rarely like to start with less than 4 in my crew) or to fit in that third Sorrow.

Pandora’s two limited upgrades seem to offer you a choice between adding to her defense (The Box Opens) or offense (Voices). The main benefit from Voices is the getting the Mental Anguish trigger to paralyse enemy models. That in itself is amazing, but in every game I’ve taken Voices, I’ve wished I’d taken The Box Opens for additional protection that Terrifying 13 grants. If nothing else it tends to make me feel a little safer when I throw Pandy into danger, plus it both helps to drain my opponents hand and add some extra damage from the failed Wp duels.
As for the other ability/action that these upgrades grant (specifically, There is no Shelter Here and Those who Dwell Within), I’ve honestly never found myself using them. When I take these upgrades, it’s only ever been for the Paralyse trigger or Terrifying.

Cry for Me is my favourite upgrade for Pandora – I shouldn’t need to tell you how nasty a negative twist on your opponents Wp duels is! If I have the soulstones I definitely try and fit this upgrade in, especially if I can combine it with lots of terrifying effects (such as from The Box Opens) or Wp-based attacks from other models (such as with the Depression upgrade). That said, unlike The Box Opens I’ve yet to miss it in games where I leave the upgrade at home. So while I won’t deny that it’s a fantastic upgrade, it’s not absolutely necessary for Pandora to do her thing.

If you haven’t already guessed, Fugue State’s usefulness tends to be dependent on the scenario you’re playing. If you expect your opponent to be making lots of interact actions near Pandora (such as with Deliver a Message, Distract or Cursed object) then Monotony adds yet another Wp duel to punish your opponent for trying to complete their objectives. Using Nullify to make your opponent’s models insignificant appears to run counter to Monotony, but honestly I’ve found that it’s still worthwhile. Admittedly you could also get Nullify in your crew with a Primordial Magic, although the negative is that a Primordial Magic is much easier to kill than Pandy.
The catch is that if you take Fugue State in your Pandora crew, your opponent will almost definitely avoid those interact-heavy schemes. That in itself is actually pretty useful – you’ve effectively narrowed your opponents potential scheme pool and if they’ve taken a crew with the intent of using those interact schemes, they may have a lot of trouble achieving what’s left.

I initially didn’t give much thought to Depression – the Woe-only upgrade. Beyond giving Kade an easier way to get his desired crow for Sweetbreads it seemed kind of average – a take it or leave it upgrade. However after actually giving it a run it might now be an auto-include for future Pandy crews. What Depression does is it grants a 12” range, 1 AP, Wp-based attack to your Woes in the form of Melancholy. What it does is mostly irrelevant (well, unless you’ve got Candy), all it needs to do is allow you to trigger yet more damage with your Misery abilities. For most Woes it’s mostly just a neat trick to have, should they be out of position to do much else. But with no other 1AP Wp-based attack, Sorrows love having Melancholy since it basically grants them an easy way to stck on yet more damage through Misery. This was particularly evident in my last game with them, where some sorrows were able to deal use Melancoly to deal the last few wounds to Mei Feng, a Metal Gamin and a Rail Worker when Pandora just didn’t have the AP spare to finish them off.

Fears Given Form is a great upgrade, since it punishes your opponent even further for getting within Pandora’s 3” melee range. I’ve had fun with it in the past, but the fact that it also affects your own models makes it tricky to use well, especially when Pandy’s accompanied by a team of sorrows. I think it can work, but you either need to resign to using Pandy with minimal support from her crew, or be careful with your activation order, making sure to end Pandora’s activation more than 3” away from any friendly models who have yet to activate themselves.

The Totem that Grew

While the idea of a Ht 3, 50mm Totem is neat (hello Huggy!), I gave to admit it’s a bit of a pain that Wyrd increased the base size of the poltergeist. After all, now I need to replace my existing poltergiest model with something of a more suitable size. My lack of suitably based poltergeist is part the reason I’ve yet to try out the Poltergiest. The other is the fact that whenever I consider taking it, I’m faced with the duel arguments of “why not a sorrow for the same cost?” and “A Primordial Magic is both awesome and cheaper!”.

I do need to try the Poltergiest at some point. If nothing else it should be decent at taking objectives (yes – it’s a non-insignificant totem!) and the negative flip to Wp duels from Distraction is a powerful effect for a crew like Pandora’s. That said, once again, I’ll probably wait until I have a suitably based model to proxy it before I give the Poltergeist an honest run.

Pandora Lite

I have a tendency to think of Candy as a tiny, adorable henchman version of Pandora, but to be honest that’s doing a disservice to what she actually does. She has Pandora’s Self Loathing attack and her high Df plus Manipulative 12 makes her a bit tricky to target. Other than that, she functions more like a support/synergy piece with her heal action from Goody Basket and most importantly, her Sweets and Sours Abilities. Pandora’s crew can get a lot of ways to control the activation order of her opponent and these two abilities allow you to turn that from an annoying inconvenience to a way to severely punish key models.

It’s taken me a while to warm to this aspect of Candy but once I did, I think I’m going to have a hard time excluding her from future Pandora lists. Thanks to Candy, every Incite attack becomes a potential paralyse, and you can effectively stop your opponent activating his most important model first simply by sticking Candy next to it. That last part alone can give you a massive edge in critical turns – Regardless of whether you win initative you can almost guarantee that you’ll be able to activate before your opponent in a critical combat. Sours also allows for some irresistible damage if you can position Candy next to the last model your opponent activates. It’s not as powerful as Sweets but it does offer some nice synergy with Melancholy to force a certain model to activate last.  

Just like clay. Expensive, high maintainence clay.

There’s something about the doppelganger that just doesn’t appeal to me at all. I’ve used it in a few games now and while both Ill Omens (to cheat the initative flip) and Mimic (to copy a non-leader action) are both very good, they’re also somewhat card intensive. You’ll almost always be cheating a high card for Ill Omens and you may need to cheat a 7 to reach the TN for Mimic, with a tome if you want the extra action. I won’t deny that Ill Omens is amazing, especially if you are pairing it with Candy’s Sweets ability to control some key enemy activations. But right now, I feel like I’d prefer something that doesn’t need to burn good cards to do its thing.

Plan B

I’ve always felt that Pandy’s fixation on Wp-based attacks is also her biggest weakness. Models with an unnaturally high Wp (eg. Zoraida) or an ability like Stubborn tend to shut her down pretty hard, especially if the rest of her crew is centred around supporting Pandy or making Wp-based attacks themselves. Those sorts of models are thankfully less common in M2E, but it still hurts when Pandy’s facing a crew with a Stubborn model or two.
It’s for this reason that I always like to make sure I’ve included a “Plan B” – something that’s capable of killing or neutralising my opponent’s models without resorting to Wp-based attacks. The natural, in-theme choice for this role is Pandora’s original odd couple – Baby Kade and Teddy. While they both have some Wp-based abilities that fit well with Pandora’s usual game plan, their main, very damaging attacks are both resisted on Df.  

Baby Kade is almost the the epitomy of a Glass Cannon. With only 6 wounds and no damage mitigation he’s not hard to kill for a 7SS model, so he’s relying on his High Df and Manipulative to avoid danger. However his melee damage output is just off the chart! 1/2/4 damage on the carving knife is pretty tame to start with, but with +2Dg and Slow from the Sweetbreads Trigger and another +2Dg if he’s targeting a model that’s already engaged, his damage spread tops out at 5/6/8 with Slow! That alone is enough for me to horde my high crows for when Kade starts attacking things.
Other than that, Lure with Pounce is a handy trick to have although I must admit, I’ve yet to use it. As a (2) action Where’s Teddy has a steep cost attached, but I’ve used in the past to either get Kade out of danger or more rarely, push Teddy closer to a target that he’s well suited to dealing with. It may be a situational action, but Where’s Teddy is useful enough for me to usually take Kade and Teddy as a pair.

Teddy is almost the polar opposite of Kade, with his resliance coming not from his defense stat, but from a high wound count coupled with both regeneration and Impossible to Wound. His Hug attack is brutally simple, and has an auto-trigger that lets him push/follow his target around with each successful hit. I’ve found this to be great for getting around defensive triggers like the Gremlin’s Squeel, since Teddy will simply push back into base contact with the model that just tried to escape his grip. Gobble You Up may be easy to resist but the Push and positive flips make it a spell that your opponent will really want to throw a high card at. This is especially true when you consider Teddy has Flurry, which will potentially give him three attacks with positives to the attack and damage flips!
Teddy’s final trick comes in the shape of Smell Fear, which gives him a free, once per turn melee attack when a nearby model that fails a Wp duel. Teddy doesn’t have to hit the model that failed the Wp duel, so considering Pandy’s plethora of Wp-based attacs it should be easy to get that free attack.

Facebook Friends?
So beyond her Woes, what else works with Pandora? Well for me, there are a few that I’ve tried thus far and I feel can work really well with her.

I’ve mentioned the Primordial Magic before, and for 2SS I feel it’s a great totem for Pandy. Rush of Magic helps to improve your hand each turn and it becomes really useful for any scheme involving interact actions or scheme markers. Its ability to be a scheme marker once per game is very handy for the latter (especially for schemes like Spring the Trap), and turning models insignificant with Nullify can really hamper your opponent’s ability to achieve such schemes.

The Oiran is an amazing support piece for Pandora for one reason – Appealing, which gives a straight +1Wp to friendlies within 6”. This is good for boosting the otherwise average Wp of Pandora’s crew but most importantly, it increases Pandora’s Wp from 7 to a much more intimidating 8. This makes her harder to hit with an opposed duel and it also improves Incite, since that attack uses Pandora’s Wp for the attack.
I think Appealing makes the Oiran almost an auto-include for Pandora, but she also adds some nice defensive abilities and melee attacks as well as the always handy Lure. It may not be as reliable as the Beckoners (since it needs a suit), but I feel it’s enough to negate Pandora’s need for a Beckoner, the inclusion of which would otherwise overload her crew with support pieces.

Bishop has always been a favourite mercenary of mine, and I think he’s got a lot of potential in a Pandora Crew. Not only does he provide her with a powerful and flexible melee piece, but his ability to target Wp or Df with his Chain Wrapped fist attacks gives him both great synergy with Pandy’s Wp abilities, and allows you to use him as your “Plan B”, so to speak. He tends to compete with Teddy for a slot in Pandy’s crew but generally, I feel that he compares very well. As a general rule of thumb, if I’m taking Kade I’d prefer Teddy, but otherwise Bishop tends to be my choice for Plan B.

Finally, every crew needs access to some good objective grabbers and for Pandora, I’ve usually turned to the Terror Tot and Silurid. Neither have any synergy at all with Pandora but both independently fast, one is cheap and the other is VERY hard to catch. I’ve talked about them before in the respective Lilith/Zoraida blog posts so for now, suffice to say that they’re great choices when you need something to plant scheme markers and/or make Interact actions.

And so ends the Neverborn Challenge…
Well with Pandora done, that brings me to the end of the Wave 1 Neverborn Masters and thanks to my laziness, it also brings me to the end of the year! This whole exercise has been quite fun and if nothing else, writing my thoughts down has really helped solidify my understanding of these Masters.

But typically, I’m a man of many plans and with a new year about to dawn it’s time to move on to something else. There’s one particular challenge I’ve been hoping to set myself for some time now, so assuming I can get my act together and write it in time, I’ll be talking about that in my next blog post. ;)



Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Rathnard Does Neverborn – Lilith

Lilith and I have always had a difficult relationship. In Malifaux 1.5 I played all of the Neverborn Masters to at least some degree but of the 5 Masters (+Collodi) available, Lilith was my least favourite. Sure she was good – her and her Nephilim crew’s ability to smash face in melee was almost unrivalled. But ultimately (and in my opinion of course) it led to a fairly flat playstyle. It really wasn’t until later books, when she gained access to more supportive minions like Nekima, the Blood Shaman and Those Bastard Twins (Lilitu and Lelu) that her playstyle developed some more depth. Even then, it was never enough for me to tear myself away from the super-tricky, multi-dimensional playstyles of Marcus, Zoraida or Lucius.

Fast forward to M2E, and Lilith is a changed girl. She’s still a force to be reckoned with in melee, but her higher fragility and a new set of tricks has made her much more interesting and dynamic on the board. Thus far then, I’ve enjoyed using Lilith quite a lot.

Say Hello to Mummy

While Lilith is undoubtedly designed as a melee fighter, she’s not the sort of melee fighter you can just throw into your opponents force and watch her grind through them. Despite her high Df, I’d maintain that Lilith is not particularly tough. There are plenty of melee specialists with a melee stat to match her Df value, and any hit that does connect with her is going to hurt. Lilith is especially vulnerable to blasts or anything else that doesn’t need to force a Df resist, especially with her pitiful Wp of 5. That low Wp alone is going to be a serious weakness against the right crew, so any enemy model who can exploit that is a serious threat to Lilith.

I think the key to using Lilith well, then lies in her ability “Master of Malifaux”. If she doesn’t need line of sight to target enemy models (melee attacks aside), why should you expose her in the first place? So what I’ve tended to do is hide in cover or outside Line of Sight, then use her to take down isolated targets, by either charging them herself or using her positioning spells like Transposition to pull them out of safety. Beyond this general playstyle, there are a few extra facets to how Lilith goes about her business, depending on her crew and upgrade selection. For me though, I’ve almost entirely focused on her tricks associated with push effects.

Rotten Belles? We don’t need no Rotten Belles!

In terms of upgrades for Lilith, my usual setup has been Living Blade, Wicked Mistress and then either Beckon Malifaux or Summon the Blood. While upgrading Lilith’s greatsword attack is undoubtedly great, I take Living Blade for Thirsty Mandrake. As a pseudo-pounce ability, it allows Lilith to make free attacks on anyone who pushes to within 1” of her.  Combine that with Wicked Mistress to push enemy models their charge toward her and you have a Master who can easily suck enemy models out of safety and into the waiting arms of Lilith. The alternative to Wicked Mistress would be to use Tangle Shadows. It’s certainly more flexible in it uses than Wicked Mistress, but it won’t give Lilith that free attack and I’m not overly fond of the high casting requirements.

Of the other Lilith Upgrades, Beckon Malifaux has often been a favourite of mine (who doesn’t like mobile, line of sight blocking terrain?), but I’ve also dabbled in using Summon the Blood. While it does wound your own models, the ability to deal irresistible damage to enemy models is very handy when you’re facing something who’s otherwise very difficult for Lilith to kill conventionally (eg. a Nothing Beast with no cards in-hand).

The one action I’ve yet to really try with Lilith is Wicked Vines. In theory it should work really well with Wicked Mistress or other push effects, or even just holding a model in place to keep them from disrupting your own plans. In later games, once I’m over the awesomeness of luring in enemy models for dispatching by Lilith, I’ll probably give this more consideration.

Rapid growth deserves it’s own heading, so…

Growing Up

I’ve only taken Rapid growth in one game thus far, and when I had the chance to grow a Terror Tot onto a Young Nephilim, I actually didn’t bother since I wanted the higher mobility of the Tot at the time. Other than that, I’ve generally avoided taking Rapid Growth in my crews. While I can’t deny the value of upgrading one of your Tots mid-game, it’s always felt a bit like a “win more” upgrade. If I’m already slaying enemy models left right and centre, do I really need the additional killing power of a new Young Young Nephilim? In any case, most of the time my Terror Tots have been sent out to the flanks to achieve objectives or delay enemy models rather than bunch them up close to Lilith (or whoever’s been given Rapid Growth). So thus far my kind of playstyle hasn’t really worked well with getting the most out of Rapid Growth.
That said, I did once play a game against another Lilith player who used Rapid Growth to great effect. What he did was use Transposition to pull isolated minions into a waiting swarm of Terror Tots, who then pounced on the hapless victim and with the help of a swing or two from Lilith’s oversized butter knife, killed it off to grow one of those Tots into a Young Nephilim. The strategies and schemes themselves where very geared toward killing so with no flanking objectives to worry about, the bunched up, Rapid Growth-friendly style worked really well for him.

He’s a Barbie Girl, in a Barbie World

As Liliths very own Henchman I think Barbaros (or Barbie, as I’ve taken to calling him) deserves special mention. On his own I’ve found Barbie to be a decent little package – armour, high Df and Wp stats and his Knock Aside Trigger give him some good resilience (especially for a Nephilim), and the extra walk action from nimble makes him quite mobile. His damage output is merely “okay”, but what really draws me to him is how easily he pushes enemy models around. Pairing her with Lilith using the Living Blade upgrade makes it very easy to push enemy models to within 1” of Lilith and give her a free attack courtesy of Thirsty Mandrake. You can do the same with Terror Tots (who have Pounce) and that still doesn’t take into account all the other tricks you can pull when pushing enemy models around, whether it’s to get them out of melee or on/off objectives.

I generally haven’t prioritised giving upgrades to Barbie – he’ll usually only get 1 or 2 if I happen to be short a few spare soulstones in my crew. When I have though, it’s usually been Obsidian Talons for the Flay trigger – something that’s very useful for boosting the melee power of Terror Tots in particular (more on that later). Nephilim Gladiatus seems like the sort of upgrade I would enjoy. After all, it’s another easy push effect! But while I’ve taken it before, I’ve yet to remember to use the ability! Still, it’s a decent (0) action for 1SS so I’m sure I’ll be taking it again. I might even remember to use it in the future!

…and all the rest

So far, my standard Lilith crew has been very similar to what you get in the plastic starter box, with Barbie, a Cherub, Terror Tots and then whatever else I feel is going to help achieve the strategies and schemes.

Of all the models I’ve used with Lilith, her Cherub is the one that’s proven to be the surprise hit. Honestly, there’s very little that seems bad about the Cherub. He’s quick with a high Df for avoiding attacks, and his Our Land ability makes it so much easier for your crew to achieve any scheme requiring interact actions (especially when it’s a (2) interact that’s required). What really surprised me though, was Cupid’s arrows. It’s rarely going to kill a model for you, but granting slow AND pushing that model 5” is amazing for disrupting and tying down enemy models. I once did exactly that to Taelor, and successfully tied her up for the least 2-3 turns of a game.

Like I said above, I’ve mostly used Terror Tots for running up the flanks, placing scheme markers and generally spending AP on the things my heavy hitters are too busy smashing face to do. Once they’ve achieved their main task though, I’m quite happy to throw them into the fray, either by holding up enemy models, positioning them for a pounce attack or simply charging in for the kill. One thing I’ve found though, is that Obsidian Talons REALLY helps improve their damage output. With a damage spread of 1/3/4 you really want to be dealing at least moderate damage with each hit, so giving them a trigger that lets them cheat that damage flip helps them punch well above their weight.

I’ve only rarely used Young Nephilim and never used a Mature Nephilim in my games with Lilith thus far. The Youngs seem okay, but they’re a glass cannon, which is something the crew already tends to have in spades. Regarding the Mature Nephilim, it might provide me with another relaitively tough model but he’s usually competing for space with Barbie, and I’ve enjoyed Barbie’s push mechanics too much to consider dropping him from the crew.

Of the non-nephilim available to Lilith, Waldgeists have been an obvious choice. Their forest markers may not block line of sight like Lilith’s Illusionary forests, but they’re still good for some easy soft cover, slowing enemy models down and giving themselves an impressive 4” melee range when no other severe terrain is available. Most importantly though, they’ve been great as a resilient model for an otherwise fragile crew. They’ve also proven to be an excellent front-line model for the enemy crew to crash into, before the Nephilim follow up for a counter-attack – something they’re far more suited to their glass cannon playstyle.

I know a lot of people will automatically turn to Terror Tots for schemes requiring an interact, but I’ve still found a place for Silurid in that role. Sure, one is almost as costly as two terror tots, but they’re more reliably fast than a terror tot (needing only a 5 of any suit for their leap, rather than a mask) they’re harder to attack thanks to Perfect Camouflage and they can very easily escape melee thanks to Leap. They’re also able to place two scheme markers a turn (interact – leap – interact), and their impressive mobility allows them to make interacts and place scheme markers wherever they want. I still take Terror Tots for their cheapness and flexibility but with the right scheme (eg. Power Ritual, Breakthrough, Deliver a Message), I’ll consider a Silurid purely for achieving those.


Well that’s it for today.  Until next time,


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Rathnard Does Neverborn – Zoraida

Another Blog entry, and this time, I thought I’d talk about my experiences with Zoraida.

Ah, Zoraida. While she wasn’t my first Master in Malifaux (that title belongs to Pandora), she was definitely my first love. I’ve heard from some people (well, just one podcast, to be honest) that Zoraida is completely different to how she was in v1.5. To that, I say Hogwash! It’s true that Zoraida got a few revisions to her various spells and actions - Hex and Crystal Ball both became upgrades with very different functions, while Bewitch’s role also fundamentally changed. But she still plays pretty much the same way she did in her previous incarnation. Zoraida remains a control freak at her core, able to buff her own crew while disrupting her opponents. At least to me, she remains one of the most flexible Masters in the game, and has definitely reinforced her position as my favourite Master.

All Hail the Hag!

On paper Zoraida’s resilience didn’t change all that much, but with soulstones able to grant positive flips on the attack her main defense, Proper Manners, is now a lot easier to get around by Masters and Henchmen. Losing the infinite range, no LoS Obeys via her Voodoo doll also means she needs to play much more up close and personal, so not only is she easier to kill, she’s easier to catch too.  This isn’t too much of an issue – so long as your opponent is tackling more immediate threats (like a Killjoy to the face), I’ve found that Zoraida tends to remain relatively unmolested. Still, the last thing you want to do is put her within charge range of Lady Justice, for instance.

Obey is as good as it used to be. Losing the ability to make a (2) Charge was a pity, but it’s more than made up for by being able to cast it multiple times per activation. Most of the time I’ve found myself casting Obey on my own models, whether it’s to move them into better positions, activate a Tactical Action that might be handy or attacking other models. If nothing else, it means I don’t need to cheat down a high card to prevent my opponent resisting the obey. When I’ve used it on enemy models, it’s usually to either Walk them out of position, or to attack another enemy model without having to expose my own crew.

Bewitch went through a major change for Zoraida, going from imposing a no-cheating effect to letting you draw cards whenever your opponent’s model does something. To me, this has become Zoraida’s new secret weapon. When you Bewitch your opponent’s model, they’re faced with the choice of either using them as per normal and giving Zoraida 4-6 cards, or holding the model back to prevent the card draw. Either situation has been great for me. Having so many cards gives you some incredible cheating power in duels, but if they’re holding back then it frees my crew up to do what it wants without getting molested in the process.
This dilemma for the opponent was clear in my last game. In it, I took a Zoraida list with Killjoy against a Viks crew with Taelor and Johan. My opponent had paired up Taelor and Johan, and was looking to hunt down Killjoy when he emerged to achieve the Murder Protégé scheme. After Taelor charged out to crush a Terror Tot, Killjoy unburied to wipe Taelor out in short order. Johan however, was Bewitched so my opponent decided against giving me cards and left my Killjoy unmolested, presumably hoping to team up with the Viks to take the Beast down. 
Later in the game, (after Killjoy had killed Johan and positioned himself in preparation for the showdown with the Viks) Zoraida Bewitched both AshVik and BloodVik, after they’d activated. In that next turn my opponent had no choice but to activate the Viks as normal, but I gained a bucket-load of cards in the process, which allowed me to almost wipe out Ash Vik (Survivalist plus a black Joker kept Killjoy from his prize!) and keep the rest of my crew (Silurid, basically) able to do exactly what they wanted.

Big Mamma’s House (of Upgrades)

Zoraida’s one of those Masters who doesn’t have that need to fill out her upgrade slots. While none of her specific upgrades are bad, she’s quite effective on her own anyway so when it comes down to it, I’m usually picking just one of her Limited upgrades (Crystal Ball or Animal Shape), plus maybe one more if I have the soulstones spare.

In most games I’ve used Crystal Ball to draw an extra card, although it’s less useful if you have or will be drawing cards from Bewitch that turn. The other effects on Crystal Ball have definitely come in handy on occasion. If my opponent only has three or less cards in hand then seeing what they are gives me a much better idea of what they’re capable of. Forcing a random discard can be a bit hit and miss, depending on how high a card they lose, but it’s been well worth the misses I’ve forced them to lose a severe card or a joker.

Animal Shape has always been a favourite upgrade of mine. Effectively teleporting Zoraida 15” makes the girl very mobile, and is excellent for getting her out of danger should she find herself threatened by a sufficiently nasty Henchman or Master. The only negative is that if you’re using Raven Form during a turn, you’re more or less wasting most of Zoraida’s activation just on moving. Generally then, I’ve found that it’s best to use Raven Form to get her into a nice, commanding position on the first turn where she’ll have to move very little, and then use it in the 4th or 5th turns to position her for strategies and schemes.

In terms of when I select Animal Shape over Crystal ball, it’s usually been in games where I suspect my opponent will be hunting my Master (eg. Assasinate is on the Scheme List), or when I want to achieve a positioning scheme like Outflank or Entourage. Otherwise, Crystal Ball has thus far been my preferred upgrade.

I’ve previously considered Hex Bag to be a take-it-or-leave-it upgrade but actually, I’m really starting to like it. For 1SS it gives something for Zoraida to do with her (0) action, and it offers a way for her to easily deal damage to enemy models. The curse trigger though – nobody likes being denied their soulstones, so that trigger alone makes it worth throwing in. I guess the only negative is the short 6” range but with the way I play her, Zoraida tends to be pretty close to the action anyway.

Hexed Among You is neat, but I haven't really given it a good run in it’s current form. I don’t rate it for Silurid, who are fast enough and possibly wanting to interact on the first turn anyway (for Squatter’s Rights or Line in the Sand, if I’ve taken it). Waldgeists might get some use out of it, but I’d only really want it if I was taking at least two such minions.

Tarot Reading is the one Zoraida-specific upgrade that I so far haven't tried. I’ve yet to find a situation in which I’d want to use Fickle Winds of Fate to move scheme markers around and while I like Bayou Servants, I’ve yet to really feel the need for swamp fiends in a Gremlin list. I’d consider a Silurid (of course!), but it’s cheaper to pay the 1SS Mercenary tax on a single silurid than the 2SS for this upgrade. That leaves the Mend action to heal wounds on the Voodoo Doll, but there’s a very good reason why that’s never been useful to me…

Voodoo Who?

Since the start of the M2E playtest, I’ve actually only rarely summoned or otherwise used Zoraida’s Voodoo Doll. It’s not that the Voodoo doll is a bad option, quite the opposite actually. It’s a very effective way of neutering a key model in your opponent’s crew and unless your opponent has some condition removal, it’s difficult to counter.  In fact in one of the games I did use it, I targeted Taelor with Hem, got her to punch her own crew with that meaty hammer of hers and then paralysed her for two turns with the help of a Sorrow casting Doldrums on the Voodoo doll itself.

That said, I often seem to find more immediately useful things to spend Zoraida’s AP on. One way or another, summoning a Voodoo Doll is a big investment – Zoraida will often wind up doing little else in that turn. So most of the time, I’ve preferred spending those 2AP on doing something that provides a more immediate benefit to my crew.

I’ve considered actually hiring the Voodoo doll for 3SS (thus avoiding that whole 2AP issue), but I feel like it’s 3” Wk is going to mean it gets left behind in most games. Anyway, I’m still looking for excuses to summon a Voodoo Doll in my games, so hopefully I’ll report back with better news on him. In the meantime, the Malifaux Child has been a great alternative. Not only can he cast Zoraida’s Obey to help support the crew, but he’s got a nice healing spell and is tricky to take down if he hasn’t activated yet (yay for Disguised and Manipulative!)

Zoraida’s Facebook Friends

Much like her 1.5 incarnation, Zoraida seems to work well with whatever crew you throw her into. Aside from being a Swampfiend (which helps out Bad Juju, to an extent), none of her actions or abilities synergise with any model type or playstyle over another. One way or another, any model you take is going to love getting extra AP (Obey) and extra cards to cheat (Bewitch).

One thing I will say though – with Zoraida being so completely focused on playing the support game, her crew really does need some killing power to make up for it. A lot of the time I’ve been taking crews loaded with evasive minions (Bayou Gremlins, Silurid) and while they’re usually great for the task I set them (usually laying down scheme markers), having something that can actually eliminate threats is still necessary.

Rather than go through a few models I feel have worked well in a Zoraida crew, I thought I’d instead just put out a few crew lists I’ve previously used and go over why I took them. Most of this is from memory so while I probably remembered the most important elements, there may be the odd upgrade or model I forgot;

- Animal Shape
- Liquid Bravery
- Dirty Cheater
5x(?) Bayou Gremlins

One of my few games with Zoraida in the Gremlin Faction, back during the Wave 1 playtest. The Bayou Gremlins were mostly for Line in the Sand, while Francois and the Warpig were my heavy hitters. Dirty Cheater is a particularly handy upgrade when Zoraida lets you keep drawing cards, and the Warpig’s (1) charge action is a solid choice for Obey.  Liquid Bravery is always useful in a low Wp crew, but the comic value of having an inebriated Zoraida leading a crew of Gremlins is arguably worth it alone.

- Animal Shape
- Hex Bag
2x Silurid
2x Terror Tots

This was the above-mentioned game against the Viks. Zoraida’s Obey helped get Killjoy into position while Bewitch gave him the cards he needed to annihilate some of the opposing crews heavy hitters. The rest of the crew was taken to achieve the interact-heavy Stake a Claim and Power Ritual, but in retrospect the crew really would have valued another heavy hitter to help kill stuff. Animal Shape was chosen partly to help her escape the super-killy Viks, but mainly to ensure Zoraida finished the game in the opposing deployment zone to achieve Entourage.

- Crystal Ball
Malifaux Child
2x Insidious Madness
Lelu & Lilitu

Another Playtest game, this time vs Kaeris. The Malifaux Child would Heal and Obey Johan, who’s Rebel Yell proved great for clearing those burning effects. Zoraida could support Lelu and Lilitu with her Obey (especially their (1) actions that grant an effect to themselves) but again, Bewitch proved to be great for getting the cards I needed. 

- Crystal Ball
Convict Gunslinger
- Pact

This was for a Story encounter vs Lady Justice, where the aim was to move an informant into your deployment zone (so kind of like the old Treasure Hunt strategy). Zoraida used Obey to get the Convict Gunslinger into position for Rapid Fire, which enabled him to claim a few scalps during the game. The Silurid did his usual scheme marker shenanaigans and while the Sorrow was taken to paralyse voodoo dolls (and hence the Voodoo Doll’s Hem target), in reality he just clogged up some enemy models for a turn while Zoraida obeyed the model leading the informant to come towards my deployment zone.

Till next time,