Monday, 24 March 2014

Torching and Blading - Sonnia Cridd

Holy crap. This is already more than 3000 words and I haven’t even finished. So let’s make this intro short, shall we? ;)
Hey look, it’s Sonnia Cridd! She finally got some cool models to go with her extra cool Witchling Stalkers, so with what is rapidly turning into me just playing all the Guild Masters one after the other, I thought I’d give her a whirl for the Rainbow Challenge. This game was against Kyle. Poor Kyle, who’s rapidly becoming my most regular opponent! Much like our Lady Justice game Kyle went for McMourning, this time as a Resurrectionist.

The Paint Job   
While I always loved the Witchling Stalker models, I never liked the metal sculpts for Sonnia and Samael. Sonnia’s hair just never seemed to work in both her incarnations, not to mention her proportions just seemed a little off. As for Samael, my feelings were well echoed by the nickname a friend of mine gave him – Captain High-Pants.

Some proper basing will come later...maybe even this year if I'm lucky. ;)

With the new plastic models I finally, finally had some sculpts for her crew I could get excited about! Of course I always feel a little wrong building a crew without a theme of some kind, and Sonnia was no exception. This time, it was fairy floss (aka. Cotton Candy or Candy Floss for anyone outside Australia). I have no specific reason why I went with fairy floss, only that it’s wackier than fire, and that’s all it needed to be! Anyway, the fairy floss itself was made with cotton wool glued to a paper clip and dyed with a magenta ink. The cotton wool actually became pretty solid once the ink dried so from there, it was just a matter of trimming it into shape with a scalpel blade and drybrushing it with pink and then white.

The Advice

So my impression before this game was that Sonnia has become a living artillery piece. Basically use Witchling Stalkers to put Burning onto enemy models, whom I then nuke with Sonnia and Samael. Sounds simple enough, right? ;) Along with knowing she was relatively fragile, that’s about all I knew about Sonnia before going into this game.

That said, there’s a lot of commentary out there on M2E Sonnia. A trawl of the Wyrd threads brought up quite a few discussions, and I even managed to find a blog too;

Today's terrain setup for the game. I deployed in the bottom left. 

The Game

45SS, Standard Deployment
Strategy: Reconnoiter
- Distract
- Protect Territory
- Murder Protege
- Take Prisoner
- Line in the Sand

Recon with Guild vs the traditionally summon-heavy Ressers. Needless to say, I’d need to take advantage of my crew’s killing power to keep the crew’s numbers in check and ensure I keep scoring points.

Mmm. Delicious Candy...

The List

Sonnia Cridd
- Reincarnation
- The Mask
Samael Hopkins
Purifying Flame
3x Witchling Stalkers
2x Guild Hounds

So short story – stick with the starter box plus Guild Hounds to help with Reconnoiter and the Austringer for the threat range and mobility tricks he offers. Despite Sonnia’s relative fragility there was no Assassinate scheme on the table, so I figured I was safe to take the other upgrade I really wanted to try – Reincarnation. I agonised over whether to take Disrupt Magic for some anti-magic, but in the end I went for The Mask, since it gave me the chance to counter some of the high attrition models Ressers tend to take with some consistent burning damage from turn to turn.

For schemes, I selected Take Prisoner (Izamu) and Distract. While I thought I could eventually bring down McMourning or Izamu, I didn’t like my chances of doing both. So Izamu became the guy I was going to either ignore or feed fodder for the rest of the game, while Distract has always been a good choice against any crew who’d want to get stuck into melee.

Opponent’s List

McMourning (Resurrectionist)
- Spare Parts
- Evidence Tampering
- Plastic Surgery
- Those are not ours!
- Transfusion
- Decaying Aura
Zombie Chihuahua
Canine Remains

Another match against Kyle’s McMourning crew and despite being Resser, it was actually fairly similar to his Guild crew I faced in our previous game (in which I was playing Lady Justice). Basically the Peacekeeper became Izamu, while the Witchling Stalker and Austringer became a Necropunk and Canine remains to better support the more mobile/summoning playstyle Kyle was going for.

For schemes, Kyle chose Distract and Murder Protégé on Samael (announced).


Turn 1 was the usual positioning adventures, with me advancing most of my crew (aside from Samael, who I needed to try and keep safe) while McMourning hung back, not wanting to expose his crew early. I activated Sonnia last and not wanting to make the same mistake I made last game, Sonnia went straight for the Nurse, damaging but not killing her with a Flame Burst. Kyle also summoned a Canine Remains with a corpse dug up by his own canine.

Turn 2 was the turning point for the game – Kyle advanced his Canines after using the Nurse to give Hallucinogens (Ml attacks only) to Sonnia. I put the Purifying Flame into melee with the Necropunk, finished off the Nurse with an Austringer and I failed to hit a Canine remains with a pistol shot from a Witchling. The rest of Kyle’s crew advanced cautiously behind cover and the canines, while Samael continued to hold back to avoid getting hunted down by McMourning. Once I’d run out of other activations I used dispel Magic from a Witchling to remove Hallucinogens from Sonnia (Kyle had forgotten I could do this!), who then proceeded to move into within 10” of the Necropunk, then take both the ‘Punk and the Canine Remains to 1 wound with Burning counters. At the end of the turn both models died, and I dropped two Soulstones to turn them into Witchling Stalkers, bringing my total from 3 to 5!
At the end of Turn 2 my numbers ensured that Kyle only claimed one table quarter while I claimed three. This pattern continued for the rest of the game, thanks in no small part to the Guild hounds camping out in Kyle’s deployment zone.

In Turn 3 we both started distracting each other’s models, with me targeting Izamu and McMourning while Kyle targeted Witchling Stalkers and Sonnia. Unfortunately between one of the Distracted Stalkers dieing and Sonnia getting pushed out of melee by an Austringer to (2) remove the distract, Kyle only managed 1 VP from the scheme. McMourning moved in to start putting damage onto Sonnia in melee and summon a Guild Autopsy, while the Purifying Flame responded by double-walking into melee with McMourning to prevent him using any Soulstones with Dampening Field. Sonnia herself cast Cheruffe’s Shackle onto McMourning and started swinging away with her Runed Blade, drawing 1-2 cards and healing 1-2 damage with each swing. I lost one Witchling to some Sebastian-powered poison, but not before killing a Zombie Chihuahua and damaging the dogs with his explosive demise.

 McMourning comes within 2 wds of killing Sonnia...

In turn 4 Kyle once again won initative (just as he did in every other turn this game!), and came within a hair’s breadth of killing Sonnia. Two Transfusions gave Sonnia Poison 8, but he failed to cast Expunge (flipping the black Joker) so after a Scapel Sling attack, Sonnia only barely survived! I quickly responded by dispelling the poison 8 with a Witchling Stalker, and then between Sonnia, 3 Witchlings and the Purifying Flame I dealt enough damage to kill McMourning in response. In fact to add insult to injury, I even summoned a third Witchling Stalker off McMourning’s corpse! After that it was mostly cleanup, with the Guild Autopsy and Sebastian finished off by my Witchlings. In turn 5 Izamu moved up through a forest and finally put a hit onto Samael, taking him below half wounds with one swing! Samael moved into his own melee range with Izamu and Defensive Stanced, at which point the game ended. With that, I scored the full 10 VP for Reconnoiter, Distract and Take Prisoner, while Kyle managed 1VP for Distract.

...only to fall to a pile of Shattered Rune Blade attacks and join their ranks as a Witchling Stalker!

Post-game Thoughts

After the game, Kyle admitted that despite having enough corpse counters, he never had the crows on hand to summon as many models as he was hoping to. Overall he managed to bring out two Canines and a Guild Autopsy, which actually matched my summoning of three Witchling Stalkers! I was pretty wary of the number of corpses nearby McMourning, but fortunately he never reached the required 4 within 6” to summon a Rogue Necromancy.

McMourning was also pretty unlucky to have not killed Sonnia in turn 4, having flipped a Black Joker on his Expunge. That said, by that point Sonnia had done her damage, and even without her I’d scored enough VPs to secure the win and had enough Witchling stalkers around to kill off McMourning (or at least tie him up).

A face for radio?

So as to the girl herself, how did Sonnia fare? Well for the first few turns she did exactly what I expected her to – her crew concentrated on placing burning counters on whoever they could while Sonnia used her Flame Burst and Reincarnation to kill, then summon Witchling Stalkers out of the burning models. In a sense, Sonnia’s blast-heavy playstyle (especially with Pyrokinesis) also added to the mind games. Not wanting to get burnt up by multiple blasts from Flameburst Kyle played very cautiously for the first few turns. He hugged cover, made liberal use of defensive stance and kept the more valuble elements of his crew (McMourning, Izamu, Sebastian) further back than he perhaps should have. So the incredible threat range from Flame Burst definitely had more of an effect that it might look like on the card. In fact the best way to get around it is to get Sonnia into melee, which brings us to the second half of the game…

Once Sonnia got into melee I was actually expecting her usefulness to more or less end. Maybe I could take someone with me with her Inferno spell but other than that, her abilities in melee seemed pretty limited. To an extent that was true – there’s no way she could have taken on McMourning herself and when it came down to it, it was three Witchlings and a Dampening Field from the Purifying Flame that killed McMourning. Her Runed Greatsword was the big surprise though – Ml 5 is nothing to write home about but her Absorb Magic trigger (ie. Draw a card and heal a wound for every Ram in the duel total) proved to be fantastic. With a few swings of her sword she kept herself alive longer than she should have and it helped bolster my hand when I needed it most. The option is there to push her out of melee altogether with a Deliver Orders action from the Austringer (which I did do, if only to remove her Distract condition), but the chance for some card draw and healing means that getting Sonnia out of melee isn’t the only viable option I had.

Confiscated Lore is one of Sonnia’s saving graces when it comes to improving her resilience, but it’s very reliant on winning the initiative flip on those critical turns. I would have loved to use the +2 Df when she was facing off against McMourning, but unfortunately Kyle won initiative every turn so when those critical moments came, McMourning was activating before Sonnia did anyway! Not only that, but I found myself preferring to activate Sonnia later in the turn, once the Witchlings had put out some burning counters. Not to mention that it also prevents you casting Inferno, which is definitely an option if you’re thinking she might die anyway. So while the defensive potential is there, I’m not sure I’d find myself using it all that often in practice. Instead, getting +2 Ca from Confiscated Lore is just obsene. Just. Obsene.

Speaking of Confiscated Lore, the fact that I wanted to use that almost every turn actually made me consider my control hand at the beginning of each turn in a different light. Normally if I have 2-3 low cards I’ll burn a soulstone to draw extras. But with Sonnia those low cards are just fodder for my Confiscated Lore. Add to that any 3+ Tomes for the Witchlings Stalker’s Dispel Magic, and I could wind up with half a hand of low cards and still want to keep them. If the rest of my hand isn’t that great either I’ll still burn a soulstone, but in this game I certainly felt less pressure to do that. It’s probably a very good thing, considering the soulstones I saved went toward summoning Witchling stalkers and keeping Sonnia alive!

Moving on to upgrades, Reincarnation was unsurprisingly a favourite. I really enjoyed being able to summon Witchling Stalkers and while there were a few hoops to jump through, I didn’t find it to be too difficult in this game and the return was well worth the investment. It’s also one of those upgrades that will work regardless of whether Sonnia’s in melee. At a distance she can throw her fire balls about and summon Witchlings herself, but in melee she’s still got the WItchling Stalkers to achieve that job, plus she’s drawing plenty of cards from her Absorb Magic Trigger to fuel the summoning. The only negative to Reincarnation is that it prevents Sonnia from taking Badge of Office. Not only is Sonnia one of the most fragile Masters in the Guild, but her threat range and damage output effectively puts a huge “kill me” target on her head. So more than anyone else, Sonnia really wants that Badge of Office. I don’t’ really have an answer to which is the better choice, even if Assassinate happens to be one of the schemes. Reincarnation felt so useful, it’s pretty hard to justify dropping it.

As it turns out, The Mask was not quite as amazing as I hoped it would be. In this game I only got it off on one model (McMourning), but he died to massed Witchlings before it really came into play. So while I still think it’s handy, it’s certainly not necessary for Sonnia. By contrast, I really missed having access to Sonnia’s various anti-magic tricks, specifically Disrupt Magic and Counterspell Aura. With it’s negative flip to Ca actions for everyone close to a Witchling Stalker (basically most of Sonnia’s crew), Disrupt Magic seems like the better deal. But Counterspell Aura can just shut down a lot of Ca-based attacks that have a suit on their TN. Lure especially becomes impossible on a non-soulstone user. The Grounded Magic half of Counterspell Aura seems a little flat though - why cast that when I could burn something with another Flame Burst? Still, as a 1SS upgrade I still think it’s worth throwing in. Disrupt Magic though – I do wish I’d found the points for a Disrupt Magic!

I passed on Cheruffe’s Imprint this game partly because I didn’t rate the usefulness of Flame Wall, and partly because I figured the Purifying Flame gave me a Dampening Aura if I really needed it. However after the game, I’m starting to see how it might be useful in letting Sonnia switch to a slightly more support and melee-oriented playstyle. I don’t mean melee in the sense that you’re going to charge her in like she was Lady Justice, but in that it makes her much trickier to take on in melee. The Soulstone prevention from Dampening is already a great debuff (as I discovered with the Purifying Flame, below), but the Flame Wall itself can help disrupt charge lanes and prevent enemy models from getting too close to Sonnia (or any objectives, of course!). It also means that Sonnia is going to ge useful whether she activates early or late. Activate early, and she places Flame Pillars for disruption and uses Confiscated Lore to boost her resilience. Activate late, and she boosts her Ca with Confiscated Lore and lets loose on any burning models with her Flameburst. So as an upgrade, Cheruffe’s Imprint actually makes her a lot more flexible than it might otherwise seem!

As the game closes, a wounded Samael takes Izamu prisoner...somehow.

As the announced target for Murder Protégé, Samael took a back seat during most of the game. He took one or two pot shots at a Burning Canine Remains and rapid-fired at a Guild Autopsy engaged with a Witchling. But through either defensive stance or poor luck, he failed to do much damage. His brief run-in with Izamu did emphasise just how fragile he is for a 9SS henchman and looking at his offensive stats, he definitely fits the role of a glass cannon. He’s got some great damage output with Rapid Fire and his Huntin’ Tools (especially if they’re Burning), but unlike Judge, you don’t want him on your front lines.
I’ll admit I did think about taking Samael’s upgrade, Witch Hunt, for some extra Burning, but to be honest I feel like he needs some extra resilience rather than more offensive power. So if I was to take anything for him, (aside from Disrupt Magic) I’d probably go with a Leadlined Coat.

The Purifying Flame was a model I almost forced myself to take, but I’m very glad I did! Being a Peon made it immune to Distract (an advantage I hadn’t seriously considered until now!) and the ability to hand out Burning +1, while small, synergised well with Sonnia. But the real gem was its Dampening Aura to prevent enemy soulstone use within 3”. This alone proved to be a massive pain for McMourning, and made him that much easier to take on with my crew. Sonnia can do the same with her Cherufe’s Imprint upgrade and if I was struggling for SS I might consider using that instead. But Dampening definitely seems to be what makes the Purifying Flame worth taking.

I don't really talk about Guild Hounds today but seriously, they're solid gold for Reconnoiter!

Honestly, haven't I talked about Witchling Stalkers enough?! ;) Once again, Dispel Magic was invaluble in keeping the Poison and Take Your Meds effects off Sonnia and once again, their punching power in melee proved to be the undoing for much of Kyle’s crew. The only difference is that in this game, I took three (well, six after I summoned three with Reincarnation) and with Sonnia's pro-burning playstyle they went from a second line support minion to my front line fighters. After all, if they die then they're just spreading more burning around, which is exactly what Sonnia wants!

From memory, I believe the Austringer used his raptor attack for just one activation, against the Nurse. Other than that he was using Deliver Orders every chance he got to push my models into better positions or simply force interacts to achieve Distract.  If I’m being honest I probably didn’t need the Austringer for his shooting. He doesn’t add any Burning to the crew and Sonnia’s potentially LoS and cover-ignoring fire balls might give you all the threat range you need. Deliver orders is just that good though, especially for getting Sonnia out of melee as I mentioned above. Mind you, if I’m mainly taking the Austringer for Deliver Orders, perhaps there’s another option that could replace him? Nothing comes to mind, but I’ll probably keep an eye out for alternatives.

If or when I pull out Sonnia again, there are definitely a few more models I’d like to try with her. The Witchling Handler is definitely one, for obvious reasons, but I think the Brutal Effigy has a lot of potential for complementing Sonnia with his (0) Fear not the Sword action, which both helps heal her in melee and potentially gives her more cards to draw. Fire Gamin and Iggy are the other ones. I have the models but without her Avatar, I’ve never given them much thought in a Sonnia crew. So that will eventually have to change! Finally, there’s the Freikorps Specialist. There’s been plenty of discussion on using him in a Sonnia crew already,

Sorry, she's a little upset I didn't use her in the game. 

Final Impressions – The Master who Dies.

Going into this game, I initially expected Sonnia Cridd to be a little flat in her playstyle: Basically put burning on stuff with Witchlings, Flame them to death with Sonnia, rinse and repeat. However much to my delight, there was some hidden depth to her playstyle that I hadn’t actually seen until I saw her in action on the table. She still has the potential to be the living artillery piece I expected her to be, but her fragility, combined with all the anti-magic and some neat melee-oriented tricks opens up a whole new aspect to her. She’s a fragile Master with a massive target on her head, so you have to play cautiously with her. But then again, she’s got some neat ways to punish opposing models for getting close to her, even if she dies in the process!

At this stage I’m kind of thinking of Sonnia as the “Master Who Will Die”. Sure, you might be able to play cautiously enough to keep her around for the game (which isn’t a bad thing). But against a good player, her threat level is high enough that I’d expect her to end up in melee, and then dead by the end of the game. So the question, then, is how much of your opponents crew can she take with her? This gets into a whole other level of metagame here, where your opponent is trying to avoid losing too much to Sonnia’s Inferno pulse while still having enough models engaged to kill her.

Anyway, it’s late and I’m dangerously close to just posting useless ramblings about Sonnia (well, MORE useless ramblings!). ;) Suffice to say, I REALLY enjoyed using Sonnia in this game. Her playstyle was a big surprise for me and I feel like I’ve only just started plumbing the depths of what she can do. For a Master I thought might be a little simplistic on the table top, I have to say I’m impressed. J

Till next time,


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