Friday, 14 March 2014

(Lady) Justice is Dead!

When I started this Rainbow Challenge to paint/play every Malifaux Crew, one of the things I wanted to do was to hopefully break the poor opinion I have of some Masters. Whether it’s a dislike of their playstyle, memories of their broken state in the previous edition or some other reason, there are a few Masters that I just haven’t been interested in. One of these is Lady Justice. In the previous edition she wasn’t particularly strong compared to other Masters but more importantly (in my mind at least), there just wasn’t much more to her than just throwing her at the enemy and watching her swing that Greatsword around.

In M2E Lady Justice has certainly improved in a lot of respects but I wasn’t yet convinced that she’d escaped her simplistic playstyle of old. So is there some depth to Lady Justice that I just haven’t seen? There’s only one way to find out. ;)

In this game I was facing Kyle with his Guild McMourning crew. McMourning is arguably the ‘other’ melee Master in the Guild crew and while I have no doubt that Lady Justice is better at dealing raw damage, I was also well aware of McMourning’s flexibility and the various tricks he could pull.

Dead Justice Starter - just add Witchlings. 

The Paint Job

So far (and IMO of course), the two “best” Gencons for getting limited Edition models have been 2010, which saw the release of a phenomenal Nightmare Lord Chompy Bits model, and 2011, where we were able to get our hands on Nightmare Teddy and a Nightmare “Undead” Lady Justice crew. Needless to say, this is what precipitated me owning my own Lady Justice crew despite never having an interest in playing her. She and her crew therefore started life as a painting project that helped me develop my “formula” for painting undead flesh (white undercoat, purple & brown washes, elf grey drybrush…really simple, which is just how I like it).

When I realised the plastic set would inevitably make the metals unavailable I added a Scales of Justice. I had plans to expand the crew out to include undead equivalents of the Executioner, Exorcist and Austringer, but it hasn’t eventuated. That said, I still felt the need for an Executioner (or more specifically, a Cheap Executioner) when I went to Cancon in January, so I made use of the Marcus Cunningham model from the Wild West Exodus Kickstarter. After removing the ridiculous horn on his forehead, assembling his arms (a job I completed with 2 hands, rather than the recommended 5) and painting him in my standard Guild “Badass Pink”, he scrubbed up pretty well.

So far, this is the only use I've gotten out of my WWX Kickstarter. Maybe one day I'll actually play a game. ;)

The Advice

Advice? Don’t you just throw Lady Justice at the enemy and watch her kill everything? ;) Seriously though, there’s actually quite a few threads about Lady Justice and in particular, what to take with her. The discussion on how she plays seems to confirm my suspicions about her focus on just killing stuff though – supposedly most of the support and depth comes from her crew.

Matt Spooner is also building Lady Justice for his Tale of Malifaux Bloggers, so I included a link to his blog too.

The Game

45SS, Close Deployment
Strategy: Turf War
- Distract
- Plant Evidence
- Vendetta
- Assassinate
- Line in the Sand

Close Deployment! This would be my first game using this deployment type, and with Lady Justice on the table it was bound to be a bloody affair!

The List

Dead Justice
- Badge of Office
- Thalarian Stone
2x Dead Marshalls
Witchling Stalker

So nothing too complicated – Lady J, the Judge and Executioner for killing power, the Death Marshalls for support/scheme markers, the Austringer for movement/shooting and the Witchling Stalker for condition removal. As much as I wanted to tear things to pieces with an Onslaught trigger from Vendetta, with assassinate on the table I felt that Badge of Office was going to be a smarter option. As for the Thalarian stone, I’d heard it works nicely for boosting her Df and getting her Riposte trigger off on enemy attackers, so I thought it might be worth a shot.
I initially wanted add a Scales of Justice for the +1 Wp for the Death Marshalls, making it easier to keep their Pine Boxed targets buried. Unfortunately I ran out of SS so I had to leave the scales at home.

For Schemes I chose Vendetta (Executioner vs Peacekeeper) and Assassinate. With my opponent’s crew being rather good at neutralising scheme markers, I figured I’d stick with what Lady J does best – making stuff dead!

Opponent’s List

McMourning (Guild)
- On the Clock
- Evidence Tampering
- Badge of Office
- Lead Lined Coat
- Plant Evidence
Zombie Chihuahua
Witchling Stalker

Aargh, Peacekeeper! I hadn’t faced one of these monstrosities before, but I’d heard stories. So needless to say, the Peacekeeper moved up to the top of my priority list, right next to “try not to receive too much Poison”. The Nurse/Witchling Stalker combo was there too, so that was another threat I needed to keep an eye on. The last thing I needed was for the Nurse to Paralyse Lady Justice, or heal up the Peacekeeper or McMourning before I got the chance to kill them.

For Schemes, Kyle chose Distract and Plant Evidence. The former in particular was a good choice for facing my melee-heavy Guild crew.

The table at the end of deployment. The entire battle was pretty much fought within a 12"x12" square in the middle!


Both Kyle and I deployed in the approximate centre and as close as possible to the Turf War Marker. Given we started the game about 12” apart, Turn 1 got very bloody, very quickly. The Peacekeeper opened turn by moving, then shooting Judge with his Harpoon, Slowing him and pulling him into melee. McMourning followed up (again, into Judge) but only dealt minimal damage to him. I responded by Charging Lady Justice into the Peacekeeper, which together with Judge’s single attack took off most of his wounds. An Asutringer-assisted charge from the Executioner finished the Peacekeeper, removing the biggest piece from Kyle’s crew and achieving my Vendetta scheme. Sebastian(?) and a Zombie Chihuahua piled the poison onto Lady Justice, but a Dispel Magic from my Witchling Stalker removed it before he could do any damage with Expunge.

In latter turns Sebastian was Pine Boxed by a Death Marshall before he could do any damage and McMourning Distracted Judge, Lady Justice and the Executioner, freeing all three to spend their turn beating him to a pulp but virtually guaranteeing he’ll score some points for Distract. A second activation from Lady Justice saw McMourning meet his maker, although it was only because Kyle forgot he could have healed McMourning with his Nurse. Sebastian did eventually make it out of the Pine Box, but only long enough to get killed by the Executioner. The Chihuahua was killed off early and the Nurse died, albeit later than I should have given how good she is. The Witchling Stalker also died, but took two severely poisoned Death Marshalls with him. Judge was killed too, but only by the Executioner to ensure Kyle didn’t get his third VP for Distract!

By the time the game ended, I’d scored 10VP for my strategy and schemes while Kyle managed 3 (?) – two for Distract and I think one for Turf War.

Post-game Thoughts

I was initially concerned that without her Onslaught trigger from Vendetta, Lady Justice might have lacked the melee power to do what she needed to do. In practice this wasn’t the case. After all, everyone in McMourning’s crew did eventually die! That said, in retrospect getting some extra attacks off against McMourning would have finished him off much faster, and with less risk of the Nurse having a chance to heal him up. I took Badge of Office over Vendetta because Assassinate was one of the schemes, and if we played again I would still be tempted to do the same. But there’s something to be said about the best defense being a good offense - if she’s well supported then the Onslaught Trigger might be enough to finish off any model that might threaten her in melee, effectively negating the need for the Badge. In practice I’m sure it’s not that simple, but I still think Vendetta is going to be the better choice in almost every game, unless Assassinate is on the table. In that case it actually becomes a tough choice.

Unfortunately, the Thalarian Stone turned out to be a bit of a dud. As I said above, I was hoping to use it to make it easier to get the Riposte trigger for LJ, but the soulstone investment just didn’t work out in its favour. If I didn’t have a high Mask in hand then I’d need to burn 2 soulstones (one for the +1-3 Df, one for the mask) to reliably get Riposte to work, and while 3/4/6 is a great damage spread, it’s just not worth the investment. That said, I can’t say I regreted taking the Thalarian Stone itself. It gave LJ a measure of protection against particularly nasty attacks - I’m thinking specifically of McMourning using Rancid Transplant, combined with Plastic Surgery for extra poison followed by Expunge. I also wound up eventually discarding it to (0) heal 2Dg later in the game, which in my mind is a even trade considering the same Soulstone for the upgrade could have instead been used for a damage prevention flip. Sure I could have gotten a similar effect with LJ’s (0) Juggernaught but it isn’t quite as reliable, since it needs a discard and you may need to cheat the healing flip to at least a moderate.

As for Lady Justice’s other upgrades (Implacable, Last Stand and Justice Unleashed), the best I can say is that they’re perfectly balanced. They’re just 1SS each, none of them feel like duds and they’re all situationally useful.

I must admit, I was pretty happy with the paint splatter on this guy. :)

Judge is growing on me, but very slowly. There’s no doubt that he’s a good model – he’s tough, with good melee output and a potentially very useful push effect in Stand for Judgement (the only let down being that it’s a projectile attack). The latter in particular makes him great for pushing Lady Justice further up the field, who in turn can then push Judge and other Guild Marshalls even further with her Last Stand Upgrade. All in all, he’s just a really solid guy. In fact the only reason Judge underperformed in this game was because he was given Slow by the Peacekeeper, then killed a few turns later by the Executioner to prevent Kyle scoring Distract! My dislike of him, though, is probably pure prejudice. He wasn't that interesting in the last edition and he's closely associated with Lady Justice, both of which work against him in ways that have nothing to do with his viability on the table!

While it does seem to be changing, people in the past have underestimated the value of Death Marshalls. It’s not surprising – for 6SS their offensive and defensive stats seem decent, but not exactly amazing. But I think their real value comes from two things – Finish the Job and Pine Box. Finish the Job is practically a guaranteed scheme marker, which makes them great for hunting enemy flankers, placing markers themselves and should they die, placing one last scheme marker wherever you conveniently left them. Pine box, I’ve decided, is Solid Gold. As a melee attack you can use it on a charge and if you win the duel, you bury the target for a turn. It’s also one of those attacks in the Guild faction that’s resisted against Wp, so your opponent is unlikely to have taken Wp benefits going into a game against your Guild crew.

So in light of all that, I think Death Marshalls work as both flanking minions and as a second-line minions. In the latter case they'd follow up right behind Lady Justice and the other heavy hitters, to make the interact actions and/or pine box whatever might be causing trouble. Front line is definitely not their forte though - they just seem to lack the resiliance to stand toe to toe with other dedicated damage dealers. 

While I do appreciate the new plastic Death Marshalls, you just can't beat the Nightmare version. ;)

This was my second game using an Executioner (the first being with Lucius during the beta), and he indeed did exactly what I expected him to do. His reduced mobility was evident at the beginning of the game, but between close deployment and an Austringer to push him into charge range of the Peacekeeper he was able to make his presence known from turn 1. So as far as melee beatsticks go, he’s pretty solid. But what pushed him over the edge for me was his ability to eat enemy scheme markers for extra movement or attacks! From memory the Guild don’t have a lot of those sorts of options, so I think in any game where you expect to see a lot of enemy scheme markers (especially if Spring the Trap or Plant Explosives are possible schemes), the Executioner should be a great choice.

While I’d disagree that Austringers should be taken in every Guild crew (Perdita doesn’t usually need them IMO), they’re still excellent. The shooting attack is good enough, but I’ve found myself using Deliver Orders more and more often. The 2” push plus interact action make it a really versatile Action. In this game (as per above) he pushed the Executioner into charge range of the Peacekeeper, a Death Marshall out of melee to remove an enemy scheme marker and the Executioner … somewhere. Probably into melee with Sebastian actually. In any case, the Austringer is definitely a VERY versatile minion.

(Insert obligatory Witchling pic)

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably keep saying it all year, but Witchling Stalkers should be in almost every Guild Crew. And yes, I know that may sound a bit hypocritical after what I just said about Austringers! ;) Dispel Magic alone is worth the 5SS, but getting a solid melee minion as well is icing on the cake. In this game they first played a support role, removing Poison as needed before moving to a more offensive role as it charged in to help kill the Nurse and Witchling Stalker. This sort of approach has worked very well for me so far, although I suspect that will change once I finally use them with their “native” Master, Sonnia.

I won't say too much about the Scales of Justice. I wanted to use him this game for his +1Wp, which synergises nicely with Pine-boxing Death Marshalls. Unfortunately I just didn't have the room, after taking everything else I wanted to use. I have heard he's gotten a bad rep from other LJ players though, presumably because his card draw and Wp buff are either too tricky to use or two situational to be worth the investment. If I was facing Neverborn or Ressers though, I feel like the Wp buff would be worth while. So Pine Boxing aside, perhaps it's one of those models that's more worth while against certain factions?

Nooo! Why won't you take me?!

Final Impressions

The more I play Guild, the more I’ve come to enjoy the playstyle they tend to offer. Joel Henry has talked about this at great length in his own blog but basically, their reduced mobility compared to some other factions is made up for by easy access to Finish the Job (practically a free AP, and a great ability in itself) and their impressive killing power that inevitably tilts the game in your favour as you remove key pieces in your opponent’s crew. But one of my favourite aspects is the amazing synergy that you find within each crew. Most crews in the game offer some degree of synergy – it’s a big part of what makes Malifaux such a great game. But while that synergy tends to be relatively specific in other Factions (eg. Pandora and Wp duels, Kirai and Spirits, etc.), with the Guild it’s much more prevalent and much less specific. For instance a Witchling Stalker can remove conditions from anyone in your crew, the Austringer’s Deliver Orders is an easy way to move your own models around and most of the Ortega Family models don’t need other Family models for their respective buffs and benefits to work.

Having said all that, Lady Justice seems to buck this trend. There’s no doubt that her killing power is very Guild-like and with 14 wounds plus an easy heal, she’s the very definition of a “Tank” model in Malifaux.  She has some nice tricks that aren’t damage-focused like With Me and Restore Natural Order but much like the Viktorias, killing is really all she does. So at least for me, when it comes down to it, Lady Justice lacks the strong mutual synergies that seem to define the other Guild Masters. There’s been talk about her depth coming from the rest of her crew but then again, can’t I get that same depth by taking the same models with a different Master?

As I said at the beginning of this post, Lady Justice is one of those Masters that didn’t excite me in Malifaux v1.5, and that I was sceptical about in M2E. There’s no doubt that she’s improved and her viability in the game is definitely not something I’d question. I’ll admit it was fun playing her, but only insofar as it was fun playing Malifaux. So when it comes down to it, Lady Justice just doesn’t offer the depth I like to see in my Masters and if I want a Guild melee beater, I’d much prefer McMourning.

Till next time,


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