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,



  1. Great blog post. You have a way of explaining things neatly and logically without causing my eyes to glaze over with unnecessary information.
    You are also pushing me over the edge into buying Zoraida, which my wife will not appreciate. :)

  2. Zoraida is amazing, and like you, she was my first true love. Her box set it what sold me on taking the plunge into miniatures, before which, I'd never been interested. Do it Confused_Guy!

    On the voodoo doll: I like the doll for kill protege. Another trick I've tried once is summon the doll turn 1 during the advance. Zoraida walks 5" and summons the doll up the pitch. The doll is basically deploying in turn 1 up to 17" up the table with nothing better to do than try to hem itself to an enemy during it's activation. During that first turn advance I generally find that Zoraida can either push her crew forward and extra walk or two but I've stranded Juju out beyond the rest of my lines before when I'm not too careful. Other than that, Z doesn't really need to double or triple walk. The other idea I've played with (but haven't tried yet) is connected the doll to one of your own models, like Juju for the purpose of the (1) interact Dance Puppet ability to push him his walk regardless of range or LOS and then possibly to put positive conditions on him via the doll (though I haven't dug through the wave 1 models for good condition givers yet)...

  3. I tend to use the voodoo doll and the hex bag upgrade together to single turn kill models with medium wounds left.
    If Z starts with an enemy model nearby, I'll summon the doll within 1inch of Z, cast the hem, then attack the doll for 1damage +1 poison minimum, then I'll use Hex bag with a 4+ Tomes to give the doll 2 Burning.
    At the end if the turn the target will take 6 damage in addition to the min 1 from the pins attack. I particularly like this means if killing models because the only resistable element is the Doll casting Hem, and it requires almost no cheating except winning the Hem.