So as promised, here's part two of my "Those Left Behind" article (Part 1 is here). Enjoy!
As it turns out, Jack Daw’s playstyle happens to be almost exactly how I like to play. In fact, I'm pretty sure he was instrumental in my decision to abandon the Rainbow Challenge and focus on Outcasts. He was just so interesting, so engaging for me that one game was just not enough! Needless to say, he's become my favorite Master in the Outcasts Faction, possibly even in the game (but that's for another blog post).
Instead of raw damage output, Jack is all about disrupting your opponent in ways that are difficult to neutralise. He prefers his curse upgrades over applying conditions and in fact almost none of his crews utilise conditions, effectively eliminating the usual counter to debuff-style crews (ie. condition removal from the likes of Johan, Chiaki etc). This preference for neutralisation over outright damage is something I’m really drawn to. In a lot of games I’ve found that simply holding up the enemy can be as good as killing them, so a crew like Jacks, who can achieve that well certainly appeals to me.
Of course the flip side of that is that Jack’s traditional crew doesn’t have a lot of raw damage output. Fortunately it’s not hard to throw in a few heavy hitters, so bringing the likes of Bishop or Taelor along is certainly handy. Even better, the Guilty’s ability to add the Tormented characteristic to other models (including your own) allows you to make them honorary Tormented, giving them all the synergies that the rest of Jacks crew benefits from!
Jacks crew is also loaded with effects to make your opponent discard cards and pass lots of duels. Discard effects are something I'm becoming more and more fond of. Individually they might not seem like much, but stack on enough of them and it puts alot of pressure on your opponents hand, forcing them to make hard decisions about whether to cheat/discard or deal with the consequence of not (eg. damage, becoming Tormented, push effects, paralyse, etc etc). It makes it harder for your opponent to keep cards for what they want to do, which reduces the effectiveness of their crew relative to yours. It's sort of the opposite of card-drawing abilities like Arcane Reservoir and Rush of magic, and is a great way to even the playing field against crews that utilise those abilities.
Finally, Jack and his Tormented have ALOT of movement effects which as I've said before, is an aspectof Malifaux that I've always enjoyed. The Writing Torment upgrade is my favorite, but Monty has both a pulse and trigger to push enemy models into base contact, the Guilty can push toward other Tormented and the Drowned with Jakunna have a great array of movement effects too. In fact, the array of options this can give you in-game can actually get overwhelming. I remember a game at Gencon where it was the top of the 5th turn vs Nicodem. It was a game I was likely to lose (only barely) but looking at the board I felt as though the potential was there for Jack to pull some really jammy shit, push a bunch of models around and snatch victory from the Jaws of defeat. Unfortunately I just didn’t know him well enough to pull it off, so instead I stared at the board, utterly overwhelmed with the options available to me!
The other challenge with Jack that’s not immediately obvious is the need to maintain line of sight between models. Jack and his crew have a lot of auras and pulses to utilise, all of which require clear lines of sight to work properly. And with Guilty on 40mm bases and Monty on a 50mm, maintiaining those lines is harder than one might think! So far I’ve done okay with it, but I certainly feel I could do better so I suppose it’s only something that would get better with experience.
Given my professed love for him it’s probably not surprising that I’ve played Jack Daw more than any other Master this year. He’s a solid Master with a lot of great tricks up his sleeve. His learning curve is steeper than it might initially look, but he’s well worth the effort.
There is nothing unusual or special about Misaki. At her core, she’s a mobile melee master with a nasty melee Trigger (Assassinate), a solid block of stats and no direct synergy with the rest of her crew. Much like Lilith, in practice Misaki is quite fragile, so while she can dish out some great damage, she has a hard time staying alive if the enemy can converge on her. By comparison her closest competition (the Viks) are both more fragile, more damaging and have a lot more complexity with their synergies and tricks. So why is it, then, that I enjoy using Misaki so much???
I think for me, what it comes down to is that Misaki is a challenge. You need the Soulstones and Crows to trigger Assassinate, you need to strip cards from your opponents hand so the Assassinate trigger will work, and perhaps most importantly, you need to ensure Misaki won’t get killed in the retaliation after she takes out whatever she charges. She needs a certain set of conditions to excel, and anything less will render her either dead, a waste of resources, or both.
The setup I settled on with Misaki was to give her Oathkeeper, Scout the Field and either Stalking Bisento (for killing models without the assassinate trigger) or Disguise (to help keep her alive), along with a 4-5 Soulstones. With the ability to discard Scout the Field and charge from outside line of sight, I was able to keep Misaki safe while projecting a considerable threat range around her to keep my opponent on their toes. When I did charge in, I’d usually burn through my soulstones to get the crow needed for Assassinate, taking out the model (assuming no cards on hand) and if needed, using the extra AP from Oathkeeper to retreat out of danger. It meant she’d burn out of upgrades and soulstones quickly, but if I could kill enough high value targets with her it was worth the effort.
The Assassinate trigger isn’t the only way she can play, although I do feel like it’s her greatest strength if you can get it to work. But at least with the Stalking Bisento upgrade she has a Plan B of sorts, being able to put out a lot of damage on a single model. Nevertheless, she still needs to play the hit & run game. In fact that fragility forces you to play smart, and it’s one of the things I’ve quite enjoyed about her.
My recently painted Shang proxy (on the left ;) ). Really disliked the standard model so I grabbed this guy from the Bushido range.
I’ve also developed a fondness for her Last Blossom models – as it turns out the Torakage and Yamaziko are both excellent models, with the former being perfect for flanking duties and the latter just being great. Ototo has gotten a bad rep and if I’m being honest, there are usually better choices out there for the Outcasts. But he’s a cool model, so he's nevertheless found his way into my lists. ;) Shang...I'll admit I've never tried. I initially thought he wasn't that great but having played Misaki a few times, I'm starting to see how card hungry she is. She really loves those crows and so the Ruch of Magic from Shang is potentially quite useful to her. In any case I now have an actual painted Shang model to use, So the next game I have with her will undoubtedly involve him!
After Jack Daw, Misaki has become my second favourite Outcast Master. As far as face-beating goes I prefer her to the Viks, if only because the Viks feel less "Hit and Run" and more "Tactical Nuke", preferring to destroy everything in reach and hoping the consequences will be worth while. While it's undoubtedly effective, the more evasive Misaki just feels like she's more my style.
Hamelin was the last Outcast Master I played, and it took me a few tries to get the hang of him. To be honest I had certain preconceived notions on how he works, due in no small part to his previous incarnation in Malifaux v1.5. The truth is that while his fundamentals are similar, he plays quite differently to how he used to. He still summons rats and applies Blighted to other models of course, but he’s now much more of a support Master than an outright denial machine.
In playing against him (once again vs Chris/Kadeton) I found that Hamelin’s crew was superb a scheme denial. Malifaux Rats could engage models to prevent scheme marker placement, Rat Kings could remove scheme markers, the Rat Catchers had the amazing Don’t Mind Me ability and just about everyone in Hamelin’s in-theme crew had some way of preventing your opponent from easily achieving Distract or Cursed Object. If nothing else, it tends to limit the selection of likely schemes for a Hamelin opponent which is either very annoying or really great, depending on what side you're on!
When playing him myself, it quickly became obvious that he has a serious lack of killing power. Blighted can prove fatal to enemy models over time but it takes time to put enough Blighted on the enemy, so it’s a late game ploy. So if you need to kill models early then you need to bring in some out-of-theme elements. Fortunately there’s not shortage of heavy hitters. As a Lost model Kade is pretty effective, but I also got some great use out of shooters like a Convict Gunslinger. As it turns out, Hamelin himself divides his time between summoining Rats and supporting his crew with spells like Obey, something that those high damage models really appreciate!
Random fact of the day - much like Mr Daw, my Hamelin crew started life as a gift from Ramses via the 2013 Malifaux Gift Exchange. Thanks Ramses!
Speaking of Rat summoning, I know people have expressed frustration at the tedium of summoning an endless cycle of Rats, Rat Kings and Rat Catchers, but I actually quite enjoyed it. The sheer number of activations is a great advantage in-game but the Rats themselves have little to do, so with some practice the numerous rat activations go pretty smoothly. Mind you, I’ve only played 2-3 games with Hamelin so perhaps with time, the repetition will get to me. For now though, it’s a thumbs up for Rats! :)
In the end, Hamelin has taken third place on my list of preferred Outcast Masters. Jack and Misaki remain my favorites, but Hamelin himself has proven to be really enjoyable in the games I’ve played with him. Perhaps his biggest problem is that I don’t like the standard Hamelin model with his oversized head. Even adding a top hat hasn’t improved things, so if I ever come back to him on a more regular basis I’ll probably replace the model!
Wretch plus Rats. One of my all time favorite combos. :)