Monday, 7 April 2014

Let's Look for Treasure! Lucas McCabe

The alternative title for this blog post probably could have been “Adventure Time!”, but I figured that was just too cool and modern in geek culture. Better to go with an obscure South Park reference, don my hipster glasses and smugly say “you've probably never heard of it”. Even though, actually, you probably have if you're around 30+. :P

Anyway, in my continuing unofficial “lets play all the Guild” sub-chapter of the Rainbow Challenge, it’s time I pulled out Lucas McCabe! Lucas was one of those Masters I’d never paid much attention to until now. I knew he had some kind of support mechanic and the idea that he handed out his upgrades as a part of that seemed pretty cool. So is he good? Yeah probably, but it’d certainly be nice to see that for myself!

The Paint Job

When I first heard of the Guild in Malifaux, the first thing that came to my mind were the old Dungeons and Dragons Guilds that tended to pop up in cities – the Thieves Guild, Mages Guild and of course, the economically improbable Adventurers Guild. “Relic Hunter” is pretty much just a synonym for Adventurer so for me, it was clear that my McCabe needed to look like he was ready to explore dungeons, fight monsters and of course, carry all his Phat Lewt around!

And how does one emphasise this adventuring aspect? Why, you load them up with backpacks, weapons and especially non-descript pouches. You need a lot of those. Having a bits box from my Games Workshop days definitely helped in that regard. Most of my bits came from various Space Marine, Kroot and Bretonnian men at arms sets, and I supplemented that with some pewter backpacks from Secret Weapon Miniatures. The final element, the diamonds on each base, were acquired at a wedding where these things were spread over each table. Seeing an opportunity I “borrowed” some for my own ends, and they proved perfect for representing all that the treasure McCabe tended to chase after. Finally, Mounted McCabe got a hat to cover up his ridiculous haircut. Credit to the sculptor and all for designing an excellent set of models, but that one head is just terrible. ;)

There's a ridiculous number of "lets look at their backs!" pics today. It seemed like a good idea at the time...

In the end, I was really happy with how my McCabe crew turned out. All the extra gear adds a lot of character to the models, and I was excited enough about my chance to use those plastic diamonds that I got these guys based in very short order too!

The Game

45SS, Corner Deployment
Strategy: Reconnoiter
- Entourage
- Plant Explosives
- Bodyguard
- Breakthrough
- Line in the Sand

Lucas and his crew for the day. The crossover in basing styles within some of my crews is starting to get obvious... ;)

The List

Luca McCabe
- Badge of Speed
- Elixir of Life
- Promises
2x Wastrels
2x Guild Hounds
Witchling Stalker

Much like Sonnia, I pretty much went with just the starter box plus some Guild staples. The Guild Hounds were for Reconnoiter but work well with Luna regardless, and the Austringer and Witchling Stalker are just plain good. For upgrades I went with Badge of Speed and Elixir of Life. Reactivate from the Badge seemed too good not to take, and I decided on the Elixir to help boost the crew’s resilience. Also Promises seemed too good not to take. A positive flip to upgrade-holders for all Ml and Wp duels? How could anyone say no?!

The Schemes I chose were Breakthrough and Bodyguard (Sidir). I figured the Hounds and Luna could handle the scheme marker placement required for Breakthrough, while Bodyguard felt achievable considering McCabe’s Elixir of Life and Sidir’s own innate healing.

John's crew. Standing in for the Poltergiest is a Primordial Magic on a 50mm marker.  

Opponent’s List

- The Box Opens
- Cry For Me
- Fears Given Form
2x Sorrows
Insidious Madness

John’s been experimenting with what I initially thought was a very unusual list. After all, why use Barbaros when Bishop can do the same (push effects) and offer some Wp synergy too? As it turns out, Barbie’s Challenge action (being a Wp duel with a sizable Aura), is a fair bit more potent in a Pandy list than I’d assumed!
Other than that, John freely admitted that he took a list that wasn’t going to do well with the strategy. Pandora really isn’t a Reconnoiter kind of girl, and it wasn’t helped by John foregoing some cheap, mobile minions like Terror Tots in order to just use what he’d been experimenting with.

For Schemes, John chose Plant Explosives and Bodyguard (Doppelganger).

End of Turn 1 - John mostly beelines for the centre while I spread out a little.

In Turn 1 Luna and the Hounds advanced up the left flank, matched by the Insidious Madness and a Sorrow. The rest of our respective crews advanced toward the centre and within close support of each other. McCabe used his Badge of Speed to give the Austringer reactivate, who took a few wounds off the Insidious Madness. In turn 2 Barbaros advanced into the centre and put up his Challenge Aura. This would have made it very difficult to target anyone else in his crew but Barbie, if it wasn’t for the fact that the Wastrels and Sidir both ignored the Wp duel with Ruthless!

McCabe and Sidir finally get stuck in.

As the game continued, I was able to take out the Insidious Madness and Sorrow on the flank with the Hounds and Austringer, while the last Sorrow died from a charge by Sidir and a few attacks from McCabe. The Poltergiest’s Distraction was effectively negated by Sidir’s Promises upgrade and while Pandora managed to “kill” McCabe’s horse, not much else died over the course of the game. The Witchling Stalker removed the Pity Condition from my own models on one or two occasions and along with my Wastrels, Hounds and Austringer, claimed enough table quarters for full Reconnoiter VPs. The Hounds easily ran around the rear to achieve Breakthough and despite Barbaros’s best efforts, Sidir finished the game on enough wounds to claim 3VP for Bodyguard, for 10VP total. IIRC John scored 4VP total, 3 for Bodyguard on the Doppelganger and 1 for Plant explosives.

End of game - you can see the hounds happily spewing out scheme markers up the back. 

Post-game Thoughts
John’s decision to advance most of his crew into the centre of the board (and thus be unable to claim VPs for Reconnoiter) pretty much eliminated any chance of him winning the game. However it did allow us to get a good idea of how our respective crews worked so regardless of the end result, it was an interesting exercise. I don’t want to say too much about John’s crew, being a McCabe blog and all, but I was definitely impressed with the power of Barbie in a Pandora crew! Unfortunately it didn’t work out well for John, but I’ll get into that later…

It always feels wrong putting both McCabes in the same shot... they're supposed to be the same person!

So after playing him in this game, McCabe comes across as a guy that does a bit of everything. He’s tough (In the Thick of it, plus his mounted/dismounted aspects) has some damage potential (Sabre), crew support (“Take This!”), enemy debuffs (slow/paralysed from his Melee/shooting attacks) and mobility (He’s on a horse!). In fact, it seems that he’s a bit of a Jack of all Trades, the Guild version if Marcus, if you will.
Unsurprisingly, McCabe’s upgrades allow him to enhance certain facets of this playstyle. Glowing Sabre and Barbs both directly improve his damage output, Strangemetal Shirt gives him some armour and both the Elixir of Life and Badge of Speed gives him some tactical actions to help out his crew. At the moment I’m a particular fan of the Badge. After all, who doesn’t like reactivating a long as said minion is worth 1AP and a ram from McCabe, of course! 

But McCabe’s most prominent aspect of his playstyle is undoubtably his crew support or more specifically, his ability to lend out his upgrades to the rest of his crew with his “Take This!” (0) action. With the exception of Barbs, all his upgrades grant a different bonus to non-Masters and in most cases, it’s well worth handing them out once he’s done using them in his own activation. I won’t go too far into what they each do (you can all read, right? ;) ), but it was definitely a tough choice picking which ones to take.
I think the Badge of Speed is the least useful to hand out – Nimble is less useful thanks to the 4” push you already get from “Take This” (which I completely forgot about this game!), although being able to Reactivate minions makes this well worth the cost anyway.
The Elixir of Life and Strangemetal Shirt both grant resilience-type buffs so they seem to compete with each other for a slot. While an Armour +1 Aura from the shirt is almost always better than getting Regenerate on a single model, the Unimpeded Aura from the Elixir of Life does make it a little more flexible.

I didn’t use the Glowing Sabre this game and to be honest, I regretted not taking it. One of the things I noticed with McCabe’s crew (or at least the one I took) is that it really lacked some good killing power. Adding some more damage dealers would have been one way to fix that, but the Glowing Sabre is actually a really good way of doing the same for much cheaper. A lot of models won’t care much for the melee attack it grants but other models, especially the Wastrels (see below), will find it to be amazing. It also lets you do some cheeky stuff like adding melee power to models your opponent might not expect, like an Austringer or Thunder Archer stuck in melee. And it’s even better if you also reactivate them with the Badge of Speed!

Holy crap - WHY DIDN"T I PAINT MINE LIKE A ZEBRA?! This is ArdentBadger's work, so full credit goes to him! :)

As it turns out, and through no deliberate planning of my own, McCabe’s crew seems to be VERY well equipped to deal with the Wp-based attacks that tend to be so prevalent with Pandora! In fact, I’d even go so far as saying that he may be the go-to guy for facing Neverborn. McCabe’s Black Sheep (ie. Sidir and Wastrels) have Ruthless, which is excellent in itself against Wp-based defences like Terrifying. And then there’s Promises. Good god, this is an amazing upgrade! I’ll admit I forgot about the positive to Ml attacks a lot of the time but the positive to Wp flips for models carrying an upgrade (including the model carrying Promises) made this fantastic for protecting the rest of the crew against Pandora’s attacks, especially when the Poltergeist got into range!

Speaking of Promises, this is actually a very good reason to hand out at least a few of McCabe’s upgrades whenever he can. Even if the target model won’t gain any real benefit from the upgrade itself, the positive flips from Promises offers a really great boost to those models. Interestingly, Promises also gives you a reason to take upgrades on as many of your enforcers and Henchmen as you can afford. It kind of runs counter to McCabe’s fondness for minions though (or at least minions he can reactivate with the Badge of Speed). So as with all things, it’s a balancing act of deciding whether to go with an elite crew to benefit from Promises, a minion horde to take advantage of Badge of Speed, or a mix of both.

Finally, while we’re still on McCabe, I want to talk about his Mobility. At the beginning of this game I was actually tempted to go with Entourage as one of my schemes. With 3x 7” walks on his horse, a (0) Dismount action and two more 5” Walks as Dismounted McCabe he has a reach of 31”, assuming he doesn’t also use Desperate Gamble to Reactivate ad sacrifice himself at the end of turn! So while he’s pretty fast when he wants to be, I think his supportive tricks mean that he’s better off sticking close to his crew, where he’s better able to buff them and add some damage output of his own. Maybe in the late game he could run off and achieve some objectives, but generally I think he's better off hanging with his crew.

Yes, Luna's carrying a pigeon. ;)

I actually feel like Sidir’s main strength was the fact that he’s a Black Sheep and can thus carry the awesome Promises Upgrade. Other than that he seems to function as a resilient, bodyguard-type Henchman – a role that’s enhanced by his By Your Side upgrade (which I didn't try in this game). His ranged and melee attack actions were both okay, but they were never anything to write home about. His Machine gun in particular felt a little underwhelming, purely because it doesn't have a way of ignoring/negating cover. I definitely liked Laugh off though – Being able to ignore enemy push of movement effects was handy against Barbaros, and I think it's stronger in practice than a lot of people might assume.

In my game, the best I can say about Sidir is that he didn't die, and that he got good use out of Promises. I didn't use him as a Bodyguard-type model though so perhaps in the future I might try and play him more to that strength.

.Sidir got the coolest backpack, yet I have no idea where it came from. :P

Luna is a champion, no doubt about it! In this game I ran him with a pair of Guild hounds, making for a very fast flanking force that could take on other isolated elements and at least in this game, help fulfill Reconnoiter and place scheme markers for Breakthrough. Mind you, running him out with a pack of his own denied me the chance to take advantage of Hunting Dog (For McCabe to shoot models he’s engaged with) and Warning Bark (which could help a Guild Hound, sure, but would be better on a more costly crew member). If it wasn't Reconnoiter I think that “close support” aspect of Luna would have proved much more useful, but it’s nice to know that he can switch between the two styles of play. 

Like many others, I originally wanted to paint the Wastrels as droogs  from A Clockwork Orange... 

I’ve heard people speak poorly of Wastrels, and in a sense I can see where they are coming from.  They aren’t particularly tough and don’t have a high damage output. So despite being only 4SS, they look like the kind of model that won’t do much before eventually dying once something half decent gives them a dirty look. That said, I found that they have A LOT of hidden versatility, to the point that I’d argue they’re support models who add far more to a crew than their stat card might suggest.

I mentioned Ruthless, before and the “cheap” Defensive +1 from Swagger combines well with their low cost to make them half-decent objective grabbers. Bravado, however, is amazing. With an upgrade attached, Bravado effectively allows them to discard and draw a new card with every duel-related action they take, which makes them particularly good at bolstering your control hand while still shooting and stabbing your opponent. Cast-offs is a spell I didn't use, but I think in this game I underestimated it. So long as it’s carrying an upgrade, at worst it’s the equivalent of three actions for 2 AP. You get to cycle a low card (with Bravado), gain a boosted attack, heal or movement effect (depending on the trigger) and the chance to heal another model. I've yet to understand why moving upgrades around with Castoffs would be worth while - maybe to throw the upgrade back toward McCabe before triggering Petrified Feather for some objective-related movement? Still, at least it's an option.

In terms of damage potential, they seem better at range than in melee but with Bravado, it’s not so hard to discard a low mask and get their triggers off. They are, however, the perfect target for McCabe’s Glowing Sabre upgrade. With Bravado they can discard a Ram for +1Dg from critical strike, bringing the damage spread up to 3/5/6 before adding any suits that are flipped/cheated in the duel! The other upgrades also help them out in the resilience and mobility department and again, with Bravado they are good targets for such upgrades. This is especially true if you’re after the Aura effect from the Elixir of Life or Strangemetal shirt, since they’re cheap enough to waste AP getting in the ideal position to help your crew with such effects.
In this game I took two Wastrels, and I think that’s a good number. You only have so many upgrades to pass onto them and in any case, you still need soulstones for something that’s a little further up the damage-scale.

...but Gentlemen Adventurers just fit better with the theme. 

Guild Hounds currently feel like a near auto-include for the Reconnoiter Strategy. 3SS minions that are actually quite fast is tough to pass up, and they served me very well in this game. Between them and Luna I was able to take the table quarters I needed and easily fulfil breakthough while the rest of Pandy’s crew was otherwise occupied. Had John taken Terror Tots or Silurid, I’m pretty confident that between the Hounds, Luna and the Austringer, I would have been able to take care of them before they caused too much trouble.

Surely I’ve talked about the Witchling Stalker and Austringer enough, right?! ;) The fact that I’ve now taken at least one of each in almost every Guild crew I’ve played should be evidence enough of their incredible utility. While I wouldn’t say they’re overpowered, what they offer to your crew definitely makes them difficult not to use!

Witchlings. Just do it. 

Final Impressions
So after giving him a run, is McCabe the sort of Master I enjoy playing? Well let’s look at the facts;
  1. I really enjoyed building/painting his crew,
  2. I compared McCabe favourably with Marcus – a Master I loved in the previous edition,
  3. McCabe has access to a push effect to move his own models around,
  4. McCabe lets me use Witchling Stalkers, who are rapidly becoming my favourite minion in the game,
  5. … and perhaps most tellingly, I’ve written more than 3000 words on my experience with him!
Actually, about the only thing he doesn’t have is the ability to push enemy models around, but no matter. The fact is, McCabe was a great Master to play. His upgrade-support mechanic was a lot of fun to use and his flexible playstyle gave me plenty of options for McCabe himself.

That said, the one thing I felt was really missing from McCabe’s crew was some genuine killing power. The Wastrels and Sidir never seemed that damaging and while McCabe has the potential to put out some hurt, I think he needs his Barbs and/or Glowing Sabre upgrade if he’s going to play the damage game. In future games then, I think I’ll be making room for a few models who can reliably deal some good damage. That, and I’ll be taking that Glowing Sabre upgrade! ;)

I’ve barely said a word about using McCabe with the 10-Thunders, although I can’t imagine he’d be a bad option. Much like his fellow Guild Masters he has very little “specific” synergy (ie. abilities/actions that only work with certain models or model types, like Nightmares or Constructs), except for what he can do with Wastrels (who are 10-T anyway). So he should be just as happy working with the likes of Illuminated, Thunder Archers, Torakage and whatever else. As a side note, if the Samurai keep their 0SS cost upgrades in the current beta, then they’ll actually combine quite well with the Promises Upgrade too!

Till next time,



  1. Great post, and I think it says just about everything that can be said about McCabe so soon after the release of his rules. One of many things I love about Malifaux is the number of possibilities for each activation and McCabe really embodies that by his ability to pass on upgrades with new actions to his crew. I haven't really given him much of a go in M2E and I think that there would be a lot to learn no matter how you build him. You mentioned a balance between Minions and upgrade-bearing options, but simply leave the Badge of Speed at home (in exchange for Promises, perhaps) and an all-Henchman crew suddenly becomes quite appealing.

    I love the painting too. I didn't think that Wastrels would have suited a backpack, but apparently they do.

    1. Thanks! I'm never going to "Master" each crew from just one game, but it is giving me a good idea of how they work. ;)

      I've always tended more toward minion-heavy "horde" crews, hence my liking for the Badge of Speed. But a henchman/enforcer heavy crew definitely has potential when combined with Promises. As I said above I kind of like the idea of Samurai with the 0SS upgrades too - they get all of the benefits without the having to pay a small fortune for upgrades.

  2. Cool.

    Stumbled upon this because I was curious what it's like to play McCabe crew... I originally considered playing mcCabe as my first crew, but decided on Jakob Lynch instead.

    I ended up buying bought the box anyway mostly just so I could have Sidir Alchibal... as you mentioned in another post I saw, Lynch is a bit vulnerable -- Sidir seemed to be a great choice for bodyguard, especially combined with some Ten Thunders Archers to provide some ranged support to the melee/brilliance action of Hungering Darkness and the Illuminated (plus, Sidir and the archers have a synergistic combo regarding Slow)

    1. I've generally avoided Sidir since this game, but I actually quite like your idea! I'll try it out next time I play Lynch, especially since it gives me a chance to try my under-used Archers again too. :)