Monday, 3 March 2014

Cake v Christmas – Mei Feng

So as of the last blog post, my Cancon tournament games were finished with. But that wasn’t actually the end of my adventures in Cancon. One of my fellow competitors and a past opponent challenged me to a game on the Monday morning before we made our way back to our respective home towns. Both Jose and I have an appreciation for oddball, themed crews, so we both decided to take the opportunity to play a match with two such crews of ours. Jose brought his Christmas-themed Rasputina crew while I took my Cake-themed Mei Feng crew. What followed was a highly entertaining game as two ideologies very out of place in Malifaux, Cake vs Christmas, fought it out for supremacy!

One other thing - most of the pictures from todays blog were taken by Jose who was kind enough to email them to me after the game. So a big thanks to Jose, without whom you'd be looking at much grainier pictures taken with my mobile. ;)

Might want to skip today's blog post if you're on a diet...

The Paint Job

The origin of my Mei Feng crew begins way back during the playtest for Malifaux Book 4 – Storm of Shadows. As beta testers we were occasionally leaked art for upcoming releases and one of these, of course, was Mei Feng. Looking at the art, with her jumping off/into a pile of railway sleepers, the first thing I thought was “gee, she looks like she should be jumping out of a cake!”. Odd, I know, but there you go. I left it at that for a few months. Being primarily a Neverborn player at the time I instead put my Gencon money toward Jakob Lynch and I figured that maybe, one day, my dreams of a Mei Feng Cake Crew would be realised. Then came Ramses’ Christmas Exchange – an awesome event where you exchange random gifts with people from across the world for a bit of Christmas cheer.

What's the point of a selfie, if you can't look ridiculous?

Yep – my giftee, John Mickleburgh of Malifools fame got me a whole Mei Feng crew! After that I had no choice – Mei Feng moved to the top of the paint list and I went about ordering some dollhouse cakes through ebay. They were not the right scale for 28mm, but the oversized baked goods worked nevertheless. ;) After the Viktorias, this was also the second crew I didn’t paint pink! I guess I just felt like a different challenge to just pink, and on the whole I feel it worked out quite nicely. Let’s be honest though, the paint job is incidental – it’s the cake that makes the crew. ;)

The Advice

Thanks to most of my tine having been focussed on preparing and researching my Cancon Tournament crews, I actually had almost no time to figure out how M2E Mei Feng worked. At the time of writing this there doesn't seem to be much discussion of her on the Pull My Finger wiki or on the Blogs. Still, here's a few decent threads I found;

The Table after turn 1. Big thanks to Aetherworks for lending us the terrain

The Game

50SS, Standard Deployment
Strategy: Reconnoiter                   
- Plant Explosives
- Distract
- Protect Territory
- Assassinate
- Line in the Sand

Feeling hungry yet?

The List

Mei Feng
- Vapormancy
- Seismic Claws
- Price of Progress
- Bleeding Edge Tech
3x Rail Workers
2x Metal Gamin
Rail Golem

With Reconnoiter as the strategy and Mei Feng’s ability to bounce between constructs with Railwalker, I decided to go with a good complement of cheap constructs, supported by Joss and the Rail Golem for some additional hitting power. Seismic Claws and Vapormancy were taken to give Mei Feng all her great triggers, while the card draw from Price of Progress seemed like a smart move. Joss got Bleeding Edge Tech because, well it’s just awesome when your crew is full of armoured, Hard to Kill constructs!

For schemes, I chose Distract and Protect Territory

Jose's Christmas Crew. My only criticism is that I hadn't thought of it first.

Opponent’s List

- Arcane Reservoir
- Cold Nights
- December’s Pawn
Blessed of December
- Imbued Energies
3x Ice Gamin
2x Silent Ones
Ice Golem

Jose hadn't played with Rasputina since M2E hit so he was in much the same boat as me. Also like me, he basically went with the models he had for his themed crew, plus Cold Nights so he could place his Christmas Tree Ice Pillars everywhere.  

Jose went with Distract and Plant Explosives.

The Golems eye each other off from behind the building. 


The Rail Golem, a Rail Worker and a Metal Gamin set up on one flank while the rest of my crew set up on the other flank. Jose’s crew was roughly spread across his deployment zone, with the Ice Golem and Ice Gamin facing off against the Rail Golem while the Blessed of December and Silent Ones sat across from Mei Feng and friends.

The first turn started as usual, with both crews advancing cautiously. Thanks to Railwalker, Mei was able to push up and charge the Blessed of December, though she didn’t finish it off until turn 2. The Rail Golem faced off against the Ice Golem and two Ice Gamin. A Red Joker damage flip by both ensured their mutual destruction as well as that of the two Ice Gamin, thanks to thanks to Explosive Demise. 

Hot Golem-on-Golem action.

On the other flank I fell hook, line and sinker for his Plant explosives as my crew converged on his Silent ones and within 3” of a scheme marker I’d foolishly assumed was for Line in the Sand. After dealing with the Blessed of December and retreating into cover in the previous turn, Mei Feng charged Rasputina to at least keep her from doing any damage to my own crew. Rasputina’s Sub Zero Trigger prevented Mei from getting more than one attack off each turn, but was killed nevertheless thanks to a few focused Jackhammer Kicks. The Rail Workers and particularly Joss finished off the Silent ones, while a Metal Gamin bested the last Ice Gamin, thanks in no small part to its Magnetism attack.

Mei prepares to kick Raspy in the face really hard...once per turn. 

Both Jose and I distracted enough models over the game to claim full VPs for our respective Distract schemes, and some scheme marker placement by a surviving Metal Gamin and a Railworker who’d hidden himself out on the Rail Golem’s flank ensured that I’d get full VPs for Protect Territory. With me claiming full VPs for Reconnoiter, the game ended 10-6 in my favour.

Joss finds his way blocked by a pile of god damn Christmas trees

Post-game Thoughts

When I talked about Perdita, one thing I mentioned was how mobile she could be with Relocate in a family-heavy crew. Well, Mei Feng seems able to do it even better with her Railwalker action. With a network of constructs or scrap counters for her to jump between, she should be quite capable of jumping from one part of the fight to another, dealing with threats as needed or potentially even just playing the hit & run game, spending her last AP to get out of melee with a Railwalk. It necessitates the use of a crew of cheap constructs, but with it she can quickly move up the field and engage anyone threatening her crew.
Aside from needing a bunch of moderate/high cards to reliably Railwalk along more than a few points, probably the biggest problem with Rail Walker is the risk of putting Mei Feng too far out for the crew to support her. Her Armour, Leap Aside trigger and high Df gives her some good resilience, but it’s definitely not enough to take on the enemy crew on her own. I saw it happen in a game against Mei Feng a few months back, where my opponent threw her into the middle of my Pandora crew… and promptly died to the multiple layers of Misery-inflicted wounds!

While there’s no doubt that Mei Feng is a melee-oriented Master, her attacks still don’t come close to the raw damage output of other Melee Masters like the Viktorias  or Lilith. Instead, Mei seems to focus a lot more on crew synergy, both in improving her own potential and buffing the rest of her crew. She needs a crew of friendly constructs to move around with Railwalker, while her Tiger’s Claw attacks get much more effective if you’ve put Burning on the target before she activates. In turn, Intimidating Pose (for Armour) and Vent Steam (for a better version of soft cover) both help boost her crew’s resilience.

On top of this, Mei’s upgrades grant further layers to her playstyle. Thunderous Smash and Seismic Claws are both “Crowd Control” upgrades, in terms of pushing or killing multiple enemy models. Both grant you some great push effects, with the former also stripping scheme markers (a favourite trick of mine) and the latter also granting additional attacks against other models. The extra attacks from Seismic Claws also helps ramp up her damage output, so I can see it being a regular inclusion in most games. I feel like the card draw/healing from Price of Progress and the Blast effects from Scalding Breath both mark her as a model that favours killing multiple small models over single expensive ones.

I’ve used M2E Rail Workers before, specifically in conjunction with Jakob Lynch as cheap objective grabbers. In this game they once again did not disappoint. For 5SS they proved to be excellent minions, surprisingly resilient, able to dish out some impressive damage in conjunction with their (0) Implacable action and cheap enough to send up a flank to claim objectives. The latter is exactly what I did with the one on the right flank. While the Rail Golem engaged in some mutually assured destruction, my Rail Worker snuck up the flank to put down two scheme markers and help achieve Protect Territory.

I hadn’t really looked at Metal Gamin before this game, and for the most part they performed as expected. They’re a cheap, tough construct – all handy traits for a Mei Feng crew. Metal Protection was good for buffing other models (it didn't occur to me to put it on themselves), but the 3” range made it tricky to use when the rest of the crew (or specifically, the Rail Golem) was trying to advance up the table. The real surprise however, was the (0) action Magnetism. How in the world did this end up with a Ca of 8? Against a construct-heavy crew (like Rasputina’s) it’s a very effective armour-ignoring 2 dg, and it’s what gave my metal gamin the edge against his opposing Ice Gamin. It feels a little off that a supposedly defensive construct happens to have such an effective attack action vs constructs, but there you go. Unless it gets errata’d it’s definitely a great reason to take a metal gamin.

Joss is… impressive. He didn’t feel particularly fast but he proved to be quite resilient and damn, he was just nasty in melee! The damage spread is decent, but being able to ignore Armour, Hard to Wound, Hard to Kill AND Df triggers make those attacks very effective. Rasputina’s crew (actually Arcanists in general) tend to use a lot of such defensive tricks, so being able to ignore almost all of them ensured that he was able to effectively deal with whatever models he got into melee with. It was great to get around the Silent One’s Frozen Statue trigger, although if it hadn’t been for the Frozen Pillar markers Rasputina put up everywhere, he would have ignored her Sub Zero trigger and made short work of Raspy.

Late to the party, Kang instead went out drinking with his also ignored buddies, Emberling and Willie. 

The alternative to taking Joss would have been Kang. To be honest I think they both compare pretty well. I like Kang’s push trigger on his shovel and he’s got some auras that synergise well with the rest of the crew. Thing is, Joss drops scrap when he kills models (handy for Railwalker) and he gives you access to the Bleeding Edge Tech upgrade (specifically the Regeneration +1 Aura), which is great when most of your crew happens to have Hard to Kill! That last part was the main factor in taking Joss over Kang, and I definitely didn’t regret the decision.

No, it's not a Khador Warjack with the smoke stacks replaced by a tray of baked goods. Honest.

While the mutually assured destruction of the Ice Golem and two Gamin was well worth the loss of the Rail Golem, he still felt a little underutilised in this game. Before the game I figured I should get as many burning counters on the Rail Golem as possible. That way I could take advantage of the Momentum trigger to recast Locomotion multiple times for extra movement and attacks. In this case I chose to hit it with a Rail Worker but both Kaeris and the Firestarter would work better, since they can add burning to it without dealing damage. After seeing it in action however, the limiting factor was not the Burning, but the tomes to trigger Momentum. Ignoring any high tomes (because they’re usually better used for something else), in each turn I was lucky to have more than one tome in hand to get the trigger, which translates to only needing two burning counters in any given turn, maybe three if I’m lucky enough to flip or cheat a second tome.  Given that its Redline trigger on the attack also adds Burning, building a crew around adding burning to the Rail Golem doesn’t seem that necessary. The only other advantage to having lots of burning would be the Vent Boiler action, but I’m not convinced that’s enough to design a crew specifically around supporting the Rail golem in that way.

Much like Kang and Joss, the alternative to the Rail Golem would have been Howard Langston. If it wasn’t for me wanting to put my Cake Golem model on the table, I actually would have chosen Howard instead. Locomotion gives the Rail Golem more potential for additional attacks/movement, but it inevitably costs a few decent cards to do so. By comparison, Howard’s Nimble and Flurry gives him a few additional AP much more reliably. That, and Ml 7 on his Executioner Claws feels more threatening than The Rail Golem’s Ml 5 with a positive to the attack flip. So I guess the value of taking the Rail Golem over Howard really comes to how many extra AP you can get out of Locomotion.

Just in case you didn't get enough Cake Golem action.

Final Impressions

It’s always nice to see two painted crews playing against each other, but it’s really something else when they also happen to have ridiculous themes as well! I have to hand it to Jose, he makes a great crew and I loved facing it from across the table. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to play him again some day, although I’ll need to bring something at least as fun as the Cake Crew to face him with. ;)

Overall, I definitely enjoyed using Mei's crew. Railwalker together with her various push effects adds some nice tactical depth to her, plus her preference for a crew of cheap construct minions appeals to me. The only other Arcanist Master I’ve played this year is Marcus and at this stage, I can’t say for sure which I prefer. Mei Feng has a well-defined niche with her crew synergy and crowd control, but Marcus is more like a blank slate – completely adaptable from turn to turn. That said, Marcus isn’t the underdog that initially drew me to him all those years ago and to be honest, I like seeing my Cake Crew on the table a lot more than the old beast models I have for my Marcus crew. So for now Mei Feng is winning but honestly, it may just take some freshly painted (and themed!) beasts to bring my attention back to Marcus. ;) The Wild Card, of course is that other Arcanist Melee Master – Toni Ironsides. But that’s for another blog…

Till next time,



  1. Finally! :D

    A great game as always Adrian, and definitely looking forward to the next one :) now what to bring to the party.... wind-up clockwork Ramos/Hoff? Could be made to work with the Christmas Crew if I make enough toy soldiers...

  2. This is fantastic! I just got my Mei Feng done... and wanted to check out some others. Top Notch Baked Goods! :)