Sunday, 13 October 2013

Rathnard Does Neverborn – Jakob Lynch

One of my problems in Malifaux is that I just have too many crews (21/39, at last count!), and as much as I’d like to play them all I just don’t have the time. So when M2E came out, I decided that I needed to pick a single Faction and just concentrate on mastering all the crews and intricacies of that one set of models. 

Actually picking a faction was tough for me. There are aspects of each faction in M2E that I really love, whether it’s Marcus and his Beasts form the Arcanists, the utter chaos that exemplify the Gremlins or the great scheme marker synergies that the Guild tend to offer.

Eventually though (perhaps inevitably) I settled on the Neverborn. They were my first faction when I started Malifaux and I’ve since expanded them out to include all 7 Masters and almost all of the Faction’s models. So what do you do when you set out to “re-master” a faction? Why, you blog about it of course!
So for the time being, I thought I’d post up my thoughts on the Neverborn Masters/crews as I play them, hopefully learning something in the process. And to start with, I thought I’d talk about everyone’s favourite Gambler, Business Owner and Drug Peddler – Jakob Lynch.

The Little Tournament that Could…

My experience with Jakob Lynch in Malifaux 1.5 was actually limited to maybe 3-4 games, all of which involved his pre-Storm of Shadows playtest version. He seemed okay, but by the time I actually got a crew together I was still pretty keen on Marcus and subsequently Mei Feng (who was a gift from JD Mickelborough via Ramses’ Christmas Exchange Initative, so she HAD to get played!). So Lynch fell by the wayside up until a few weeks ago, when I pulled him out for a small tournament here in Perth.

The turnout wasn’t great, 4 people playing including myself. That’s probably expected given the absence of the rulebook and arsenal decks in stores at the time, so it should hopefully pick up in subsequent months. Anyway, I ended up randomly picking Jakob Lynch for my crew, but as a 10-Thunders Master! Not exactly the start to my Neverborn Faction focus I was expecting, but his crew selection wasn’t that different after all so there was still plenty to gleam.

The crew I took for this event generally came down to the following;

Jakob Lynch
Hungering Darkness
2x Illuminated 14
Beckoner 7
2x Rail Workers 10 (31SS)

…With upgrades to taste to 35SS. The only other major change was swapping out the Rail workers for a third Illuminated and more upgrades/soulstones in a kill-heavy scenario (Reckoning with all kinds of kill-schemes), but otherwise it remained roughly the same.

I’ll spare you the details of each game (in short – I won all 4 matches against some great guys, facing Nicodem, the Viks and Lilith twice) and instead go straight to my thoughts on the crew itself

Jakob Lynch

In 1.5, Jakob was effectively a coward. Aside from throwing Dead Man’s Hand around for extra cards, his job usually boiled down to staying alive long enough to ensure his Hungering Darkness totem wouldn’t be auto-sacrificed if Jakob dies. In M2E however, he no longer plays second fiddle to the Hungering Darkness. Not only does he offer one of the most reliable ways in the crew of handing out Brilliance with Play for Blood, but he offers some great hand manipulation with Mulligan, Ace in the Hole and Pay Up. He still not the most resilient of Masters, but his back-field playstyle combined with having a crew of very threatening targets made him a relatively low priority for my opponent to kill. He’s certainly survived my games with him thus far.

The small game sizes (35SS), high cost of his minions and Jakob’s very low starting cache made it a tough proposition to take all of the upgrades I might want to for Jakob. In fact in most games I had just 4SS left after selecting my crew (as per above), of which 3-4SS went toward upgrades. During the tournament I tried almost all of the Lynch-specific upgrades, with the exception of Wanna See a Trick and The Rising Sun (which I’ll talk about when I get to the Hungering Darkness).

Woke Up With a Hand was definitely strong – an extra two cards is always handy and I actually managed 6 damage on a model with Final Debt in one of the games. However I did find that the upgrade quite obviously encouraged you to activate Jakob last, which ran counter to how I’d normally want to use him. As above, Jakob has one of the most reliable ways of putting Brilliance on the enemy, so it seems logical to activate him early to pass out Brilliance for the rest of your crew to abuse. So at this stage I feel like Woke Up With a Hand is a take-it-or-leave-it kind of upgrade. I’m sure I’ll use it again in later games, but it’s not so good that I’ll have trouble swapping it out.

As hilarious and useful as the Squeel Trigger is, I took Expert Cheater mainly for the ability to cheat face down. I love the mind games you can play on your opponent with it and in a more practical sense it allows you to force your opponent to cheat his high cards by cheating your low to moderate cards face down. The negative is that it seems to run counter to Woke up with a Hand (which prefers if you keep as many cards on hand as possible before Lynch activates). You probably don’t lose too much by taking both, but I still think I’ll normally take only one of these two upgrades in games.

Addict was an upgrade I took in my first game, but I felt its loss in games 2 and 3 so back it went for game 4. For 1SS, a positive flip to attack and damage against brilliance models is very good and helps reduce your crew’s reliance on you having to cheat. I always took it on the Hungering Darkness over Jakob, but that was mostly because I never had the soulstones available for Addict to have to compete with other upgrade slots on Jakob. Either way, and whoever I give it to, I see myself taking Addict quite a lot.

So that leaves Wanna See a Trick – the upgrade I never took. To be honest, I’m still in two minds about this one. I was never quite convinced that I could get enough Aces in hand to make it worth using over another upgrade (like Addict). That said, the benefits don’t seem that bad for a 1SS upgrade - the damage is irresistible, you’re dropping cards that you wouldn’t use for much else and it doesn’t take up any of Jakob’s AP to use. The other benefit I didn’t notice at the time was the fact that you also shuffle the Aces and your discard pile into your fate deck afterwards. If you’ve already flipped the Red Joker and/or your other high cards then this is a neat way to recycle them back into your deck for the chance to flip them again. So does this make it worth the upgrade slot? I’m still undecided, but I’ll certainly at least give it a try down the track.

Hungering Darkness

Wow, talk about Nasty! One way or another, the Hungering Darkness definitely became the focus of both me and my opponent during games. It’s big, it hits hard and at least at 35SS it proved very difficult for my opponent to kill! The triggers for it’s Tendrils attack gave the HD a lot of flexibility. Low on wounds? Just auto-trigger Drain to heal for 2. Need to kill something dead? Flip or cheat a rams for Envelop to deal minimum 4 damage. The fact that it’s a Ca attack also got around Incorporeal (in my case, a lowly Grave spirit but still…), which was a nice bonus.

The ability to give out Brilliance with the Hungering Darkness (though the auto-trigger in melee or via the Mask-trigger on Heed My Voice) was unsurprisingly useful, especially when he was normally working with the support of my Illuminated. Still, I feel like I’d rather be handing out Brilliance with the AP from a Beckoner and Jakob. If nothing else, it means the Hungering Darkness can be far more effective against his target/s from the first AP, rather than having to do it himself.

Heed my Voice was great for disrupting/hurting enemy models from a distance but at least for me, most of the time I preferred to get all up in their business and hit them in melee.

One of the dilemmas with the Hungering Darkness is deciding which upgrade to take on Jakob for him – The Rising Sun to bring him back after he dies, or Endless Hunger to make him more dangerous when he’s alive. Because the games I played were small I ended up going with Endless Hunger, since I didn’t expect to have many chances to bring him back in time should my opponent kill him. It turned out to be a good choice. He proved more than capable of surviving the enemy, and that extra AP made all the difference in both killing key models and healing himself up with Drain. In larger games this might be a different story, but at this stage I’m happy to stick with Endless Hunger over The Rising Sun.

Since I ran the crew as 10-Thunders I never got the opportunity to try the infamous Nexus of Power. There’s no doubt that the upgrade makes him all but unkillable for as long as you have soulstones available, but even so I’m not sure it’s worth it when the Hungering Darkness himself isn’t leading the crew. Jakob already starts with a low soulstone cache, so you’re looking at spending 6-7SS just to have the upgrade and enough soulstones to make it worth while. That’s a whole extra Illuminated (or Silurid) so considering the existing resilience of the Hungering Darkness (not to mention the ability to bring it back!), I don’t think Nexus of power is worth it in a Jakob Lynch crew. The only exception I can think of is if you’re planning to use the Hungering Darkness a for your Bodyguard scheme.


While the Hungering Darkness is undoubtedly a powerhouse in the crew, the Illuminated have proven to be the backbone. For 7SS, Illuminated are arguably one of the most solid minions available to the Neverborn. Armour and Regenerate make them tough to put down and while their Hardened Brilliance attack is good on it’s own, it becomes absurd when you start hitting models with Brilliance. I’m actually not sure what else I can say about them at this stage. In my games with them they kicked arse and took names, and I honestly don’t see myself taking less than two in any Jakob Lynch crew.


I’ve always been a big fan of models with movement effects. In a game that puts a lot of value on positioning and claiming objectives, the ability to move your or your opponent’s models around offers a lot of utility. Needless to say then, I was looking forward to seeing my Beckoner on the table. On the whole, she did pretty much what I expected her to. She Lured friendly models up, Lured enemy models out of safety and gave out Brilliance with her Sales Pitch Trigger from Despicable Promises.  On the other hand, Lure and Despicable Promises were the only Actions or Abilities I ever used on her. I never found an opportunity to use Pleasant Distraction and I never got close enough to the action to benefit from any of her Brilliance-specific abilities. On the plus side, she was never in a position to be targeted by my opponent either. Like Jakob, she survived every game I played with her. With that in mind, in the future I might try to be a little more aggressive with her, if only to see whether these abilities make that approach worthwhile.

Overall then, she was a great piece that I’d almost always want to include with Jakob. But as good as she was, I’m not yet convinced I need more than one Beckoner in larger games, especially when I start getting into Jakob’s Wave 2 crew members.

Rail Workers

Okay, so these are 10-Thunders rather than Neverborn, but I used them in 3 games so I might as well give my thoughts. :P

My reason for taking Rail Workers was because I needed something cheap to grab objectives, and those were the best choice in my bag at the time! Rail Workers also have at least some synergy with Jakob, being able to pick up any Ace you discarded to use Implacable Assault for positives to attack and damage, itself a pretty potent combination given the Rail Workers melee stats.

In my games, the Rail workers performed adequately for dropping scheme markers, mainly because my opponent was too busy dealing with the offensive power from the rest of my crew to worry about my flanking Rail Workers. Coming from a Neverborn background I definitely missed having something faster than a Wk4 minion for such a role but hey, they did the job I asked of them so there’s no complaints there!
That said, the Rail Workers more than made up for their slowness in sheer resilience and killing power. While they’re hardly going to replace the Illuminated as front-line heavy hitters, they still packed quite a punch for their 5SS cost. One fun moment was when I discovered that a Rail Worker could hold a Silurid in place with his Pin trigger, preventing it from moving or pushing out of combat. A Silurid is usually my go-to model for objective-based schemes like Breakthough and Power Ritual, so seeing one get held up and killed by a cheap Rail Worker has given me a lot of respect for the little guy.

Had I been using Jakob as a Neverborn Master there’s no doubt I would have replaced the Rail Workers with Terror Tots or a Silurid. In 10-Thunders, if I had access to more models I probably would have replaced the Rail Workers with Torakage. However in retrospect the additional combat capabilities the Rail Worker offered really benefited my crew, especially when it came to killing enemy flankers to deny my opponent’s objectives. This experience has forced me to rethink how much value I place on super-fast objective grabbers like my beloved Silurid. There’s no doubt they have their place, but so long as I’m avoiding the particularly “long distance” scheme marker schemes like Power Ritual and breakthrough, I might actually be better off going with a cheaper, less specialised model like the Rail Worker. In other words, there’s something to be said for a minion who’s able to offer a lot more than just a tool for making interact actions.

2000+ Words isn’t too much…right?

Well that’s it for now. Needless to say, I’m aiming for this to be the first in a series of posts, with at least one other post for each Neverborn Master and hopefully a few follow ups for each as I figure each master out a little better. In the mean time, feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section, especially in terms of things I might have missed!



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