Tuesday, 8 December 2015

10-T Yan Lo: An Apology

So I owe Yan Lo an apology, and it's time to pay up...

Earlier this year I'd made no secret of my dislike for the dual faction 10-T/Resser Master. To me, he felt like an amalgamation of minion-level tricks. There was a bit of healing and buffing here, some model swapping there – handy in their own right, but hardly worthy of a Master, right? And he was a dirty Resurrectionist no less… a Faction I quit earlier this year thanks, in part, to having a playstyle I just didn’t enjoy. But nevertheless, and despite the communities overall ambivalence around him, there were still holdouts. A select group who somehow “got” Yan Lo, who understood what made him so great and knew the secrets to unlocking his potential. Despite my reservations, I couldn’t resist. With 10-Thunders being my new Faction of choice it was inevitable that I give Yan Lo at least one more try. So I listened to podcasts about Yan Lo (specifically Schemes and Stones and Before we Begin…several times), read about him on the forums and PullMyFinger, even got some advice from @BigBoyBucky on twitter. Eventually I managed to play a game with him. And then another, and another. Okay, so it turns out he’s actually pretty cool and at least for now, has earned a place with Misaki as one of my two go-to Masters for Ten Thunders. 

Thus, I'm so very sorry Yan Lo. I thought you sucked, but you really don't. Well, maybe you still suck as a Resser but I won't hold that against you - Ressers suck anyway. ;)

Lo Pan Yan Lo is not amused...

Like most Masters, the trick to using Yan Lo is to understand where his strengths lie. Unfortunately between his Ascendant upgrades and a set of actions that seem very tame at first glance, he’s definitely one of the harder masters to figure out. There’s nothing that screams “use me this way!” and in fact his Ascendent upgrades only add to the confusion – should he be focusing on crew support with Spirit Ascendent, Instil Youth and Transcendence? Or does he instead clear enemy models out with Bone Ascendant’s  Hunpo Assault and a Brutal  Khakkara?

"Get back here young lady, I wish to...Dance...with you!"

Yan Yes!

10-T Yan Lo basically excels at three things – supporting and healing his crew (Instil Youth), getting key enemy models out of position and into melee with something unpleasant (Lightning Jump) and most importantly, getting in your opponents face and just Refusing To Fucking Die. That’s not to say that Yan Lo’s unkillable, but between his Bone and Ash Ascendant upgrades, Misdirection, Fortify Spirit, and potentially some healing backup from the rest of his crew, he’s not going to go down easily.

These strengths, Lightning Jump and his resiliance, comprise the core of how you are supposed to play him (IMO of course!). Basically get him up the field whilst keeping his crew in good shape, then Lightning Jump into a chunk of the opponents crew, simultaneously tying them up and isolating a key model for the rest of your crew to deal with. Which model you choose will depend on any number of things (as per usual) but generally it’s a keystone model that the opponent is relying on (eg. Slop Hauler) or simply the biggest target that Yan Lo doesn’t think he can take on himself.

After that, Yan’s job is mostly to just stay alive while disrupting the opponents crew for as long as possible. Almost all his soulstones go toward damage prevention and Masks for Misdirection, and I’ll often go on Defensive Stance too, if he’s facing sufficiently meaty models. Other than that, he’ll regularly use his heal to keep friendly models alive and usually throw a few attacks out against anyone who’s squishy enough. I’ll admit I’ve only rarely used his Transcendance action to armour up friendly models. But that’s not because it’s bad, just that I don’t often find an instance where I’ve felt the need for it.

"Damnit woman, stop running!"

Yan No. :(

Yan Lo’s weakness is his crew’s lack of mobility. All the Ancestors have very average movement and while Yan Lo can Lightning Dance like a Champion, the nature of the spell means he’s the only one moving around, and only ever to where your opponents models are. What this means is that Yan needs to either stick to strategies and schemes that don’t require a lot of movement, or fill that gap with some mobile models of your own. Of course often you’ll want to balance that mobility with the need to actually kill parts of your opponents crew – something Yan Lo is merely okay at. So building a crew becomes a balancing act between having the models to move your guys up the field, but also to kill whatever needs killing. The strategy and schemes influence how badly you need those elements of course, but I’ve found that I rarely have much wiggle room in the crew. In other words, you need to be able to rationalise each and every model you add to Yan Lo’s crew. If a model doesn’t do something you don’t absolutely need, then it needs to go.

Of course to work at his best, Yan Lo also needs Chi. He needs it to attach his upgrades, but without it Yan’s spells are pretty poor – Lightning dance and Instil Youth are both very card hungry if you’re forced to cast them with his base Ca of 5. Short of killing his own models (something I’m reluctant to waste SS and AP on) Yan Lo can’t really accumulate much Chi until your crew has gotten stuck in with the opponent and models start dying. For what it’s worth, I don’t set out to build a crew with models I could afford to throw into the enemy and get them killed (although Clockwork Traps are admittedly very cheap…).

Most games, I’ve found myself making sure Yan Lo has Bone and/or Ash Ascendent by the time he’s Lightning Danced into the thick of things (usually applying one of them after he’s benefited from the increased Ca to cast Lightning Dance). After that I don’t go out of my way to get extra Chi. Between discarding for Focus Chi and models generally dieing around him, he tends to have enough for the rest of the game.

I spent way too long looking through memes to find this...

Yan Grow?

Yan’s choice of upgrades should definitely reflect his in-your-face playstyle. The way I’ve been playing him exposes him to a lot of angry crew models, so my upgrades have been focussed toward keeping him a thorn in the side of my opponent for as long as possible! To that end, my three standard upgrades for Yan have been Misdirection, Fortify Spirit and Brutal Khakkara.

Misdirection is invaluable if you want to put him in the middle of your opponents crew, and I’ll generally horde the masks in my hand to get the trigger as often as my opponent dares to hit him. Fortify Spirit is a more recent addition in my games with Yan. He seemed to do fine without it but I did keep finding situations where I really wished I could just avoid a certain attack altogether. I’m still not convinced that it’s needed for Yan, but it’s cheap enough that I’m willing to give it a try for now.

When you compared to Yan Lo’s Spirit Barrage (with its potential Ca 8), Ml 5 on the Brutal Khakkara just doesn’t seem appealing. That said, I’ve really liked having it available on Yan Lo. As per above, Yan Lo’s role is to get in the opponents face and tie up his key models. So the 2” melee range allows Yan to engage more models, while the threat of a 3/4/5 damage flip on disengaging discourages your opponent from attempting to get away. I also found that minimum 3 damage great if it’s going to finish off a given model with one attack (such as the Performer Yan Lo killed in the Wyrd Chronicles 19 battle report).

Reliquary certainly seems like a bargain at 1 Soulstone, but in reality I’ve almost never taken it. Summoning an Ancestor your opponent just killed might be great, but in reality it hasn’t come up often enough for me. Recently the only Ancestor I’ve been taking is Yin (more on why below), but with her negative flips she’s such a pain to kill that my opponent has usually concentrated on other models. Chiaki and Toshiro are squishier but they’re also not frontline models, meaning that they’re not that likely to be the focus of your opponent. All that leaves is Izamu and once I’ve got a proxy for him, the Shadow Emmissary. Both of those feel both dangerous and vulnerable enough for my opponent to want to kill so if I take either of those in my crew,  I’ll be making room for the Reliquary upgrade too.

As for his Ascendant upgrades, I find that Yan Lo definitely needs to get either Ash or Spirit Ascendant on himself as soon as possible, ideally turn 1. Both boost his resilience (which is essential of course), but as a (0) upgrade Ascendance competes with his healing from Instil Youth. That healing can become essential to keeping your crew alive as early as turn 2, so Turn 1 is the only time you can be sure that Yan Lo will have a chance to apply an upgrade. If I had to choose, I’d absolutely add Spirit Ascendant over Ash. The halved damage for Incorporeal is almost always going to help Yan Lo out more, although it’s obviously less effective against against Ca-heavy crews.

Of the other upgrades, the only one I’ve used on Yan Lo was Wings of Wind. However while he appreciates the mobility, between Instil Youth and Ascendance I found that Yan really doesn’t have space for another (0) action. Hence it’s long since been swapped out for Fortify Spirit.

Yan’s Bro’s!

What do I take with Yan Lo? Well here’s the list I went with in the battle report I published in the Wyrd Chronicles 19;

Yan Lo
- Brutal Khakkhara 1
- Misdirection 2
- Fortify Spirit 1
Soul Porter 3
Yin 8
- Smoke Grenades 1
Sensei Yu 9
- Low River Style 2
Katanaka Sniper 7
Ten Thunders Brother 5
2x Komainu 10
Total: 49SS (5SS cache)

I’ve already talked about Yan Lo and his upgrades, so let’s go through the rest of his crew…

As far as I’m concerned, the Soul Porter is essential for Yan Lo. For one, he provides the crew with some much needed mobility with Empower Ancestor to push models (well, Yan Lo and any Ancestors) around. Given Yan’s general slowness I’ll always use Empower Ancestor this in the first turn. In fact I’ll often even use it to push two ancestors, leaving the Soul Porter to catch up in Turn 2 to have some influence on the game in Turn 3. After that I might use it to push models around occasionally, but more often I’m focussing on his Bladed Spear attack and more specifically, its automatic Siphon Chi trigger. Giving Yan Lo some Chi can be handy in the early half of the game (before he ends up with more than he’ll ever need), but the real value is in giving it to non-Masters with Ca-based attacks. In this list it’s Sensei Yu (who’s Ca actions go from great to utterly insane), although Yin and any number of other 10-T models wouldn’t mind it either.
Other than that, the Soul Porter is just a cheap, body with a Ml 6, 3” range spear – great for tying up enemy models and occasionally dealing a few points of damage here and there.

So in a crew with an “unkillable” Master, is Yin redundant? After all, like Yan Lo she’s a tank, best suited to holding up enemy models herself. However in practice I’ve never regretted taking her. She’s a natural target for dumping models swapped out with Yan Lo’s Lightning Dance, and has generally been a great “Defensive” Anchor for holding objectives (eg Squatters Right/Turf War), while Yan takes the fight directly to the enemy. Mass of Viscera is incredibly useful for keeping Yin alive (like any ability that imposes negative flips), although you do need to watch out for models who can ignore or neutralise that. Fortunately, Yan Lo is pretty good at keeping such models at arms length from Yin. ;)

Yin also has the advantage of possessing both Df and Wp-based attacks (Entrails and The Fear Behind the Eyes), giving her the option to use one or the other depending on what stats and defensive triggers your opponent has. Entrails is obviously more damaging, but Fear behind the Eyes has a decent range of 8” and both have a solid set of triggers to damage or disrupt the target (no point repeating what’s on the card…just look for yourself!). Finally there’s Yin’s (0) action - Gnawing Fears. Nobody likes getting negatives on Wp and Ca actions, especially when it’s until Yin’s next activation (as opposed to the end of turn). The synergy with Yin’s Terrifying ability is obvious, but at some point I’d like to use it really mess up a Ca-based Master like Nicodem! In practice it’s always been an attack that my opponent attempts to win, but if I really want it to work (such as against Nicodem…), I’d be loading Yin up with Chi from the Soul Porter's Siphon Chi trigger beforehand!

As usual, the Sensei Yu/Yin tag team tell the Arcanists to engage in illicit relations with themselves...

Part of me hates taking Sensei Yu in almost every game I play. For some Masters I think his usefulness is questionable (McCabe, for instance) but for Yan Lo, well, he’s pretty close to an auto-include. For Yan Lo, Sensei Yu gives him another push-effect to get his crew up the board (Airburst) and Disciple lets him use Yan’s Instil Youth to heal something (and there’s always something that needs healing). After that his huge Wk 7 combined with Calm Air Thunderous Voice (to spend focus on an Interact) makes him an excellent scheme runner in the later parts of the game. Typically he’ll Airburst a target (gaining Focus from the Winded Trigger), then Wk 7” and spend his Focus to Interact. He’ll only be placing one scheme marker per turn, but so long as I’m doing that from Turn 4 it’s enough to achieve schemes like Breakthrough and Protect Territory.

While I’ve toyed with Wandering River Style on Sensei Yu, I feel that it’s really only effective if you have a way of giving him some free focus, either with a (0) action or before he activates (ie. in a Shenlong Crew). Otherwise I’m willing to sacrifice the chance to make my own models Fast to take Low River Style instead. Being able to gain the Defensive Condition on successful duels improves his resilience, and I’ve found the healing to be pretty damn handy, even when the crew already has some healing from both Yan Lo and Sensei Yu’s Disciple action.

Oh the Katanaka Sniper. I’ve killed more than enough enemy models from 28” away for my opponents to learn to hate this model! I kind of feel his damage output is average for his cost, but it’s the huge sniper-style reach and potential to one-shot 5-6 wound models that makes him a priority target for my opponents. My Sniper almost always dies in each game I take him, but it’s almost always resulted in my opponent dedicating something serious to kill it, from Kaeris to Joss and my favourite, a McCabe-enhanced Peacekeeper! The Sniper is great – there’s no doubt about that. He’s got a solid set of stats, can kill stuff at range and is even half-decent in melee. But to me, I feel like his main advantage is the hate he draws from my opponents!

Having only recently finished painting him, the Ten Thunders Brother has been a more recent inclusion in my games. He certainly does not disappoint though. The 10-T Brother makes up for a pretty average melee attack with some crazy-good defensive stats, a very flexible tactical action and perhaps most importantly, his Protect our Holdings ability to prevent friendly scheme markers being removed. All in all it makes him an excellent scheme runner – using the Eagle Style Trigger from Dance of the Heavens to move up and place the schemes he needs. He can then guard them with a frankly criminal Df of 7 (when on Defensive Stance), triggers on his Dance action to heal or gain armour and a Df trigger to further increase his Defensive stance condition. He’s very vulnerable to Wp-based attacks but aside from that, this guy is practically immovable for his cost!

Last on my list are the Komainu. To be honest there’s not much to say about them except that they’re very solid, low cost melee minions. Armour and Hard to Kill make it tough to take down and when it’s within 3” of an Ancestor (for the Guard ability), it can easily add either Slow or Burning +1 to its melee attack. Being a Spirit allows the Komainu to benefit from some of Yan Lo’s actions too, which is a nice bonus. Df 4 ensures it will go down to a sustained assault, but I’ve found that a little healing from Yan or Sensei Yu can go a long way in keeping it alive a turn longer. ;)
Basically, I feel like the Komainu are the go-to minions for Yan Lo. They’ve got a lot of natural synergies with his crew so it’s always felt worth throwing in one or two to make up numbers.

So that’s the crew, and on the whole I feel that it works pretty well. Yin and the Komainu provide a good centre to work around, while the Sniper plays the area denial game and the Ten Thunders Brother runs up on his own to achieve schemes. Sensei Yu does both support (healing/pushing) and scheme marker placement while Yan Lo, of course, does everything he can to both keep his crew alive and disrupt the opponent. :)

Naturally the crew makeup could vary depending on schemes and strategy, but if there’s one thing it’s low on it’s probably killing power. Swapping Sensei Yu and Yin for something more damaging, like a Shadow Emissary, Lone Swordsman and/or Izamu would go some way in helping that, but of course it would really depend on what the strategies and schemes are!

Yan’s Facebook Friends

Of the models I’ve not tried, I’m pretty excited about getting a chance to use Yan Lo’s Shadow Emissary. Being an Ancestor means he’ll be a great reason to take Reliquary and throw him into the fray, plus he improves Yan Lo’s Brutal Khakkara and gives him Fast whenever Yan attaches an upgrade. Between that and his Rite of Strength action (Fast and a 4” push for a non-leader with upgrade)I feel like the Shadow Emissary might have enough push-effects to make a decent replacement for Sensei Yu. Sure he won’t have the healing or the scheme running, but he’s tougher, a hell of a lot more damaging, can buff the crew with his actions and most importantly, is an Ancestor Yan Lo can summon! At least on paper he seems like a pretty great deal, so all I need to do now is paint up a Wyrd-legal proxy for him…

Of the Ancestors, I feel like the one model I wouldn’t use is Chiaki. She’s a great model in her own right, but unfortunately she feels like a support model in a crew with too much support already. Aside from being an Ancestor having a few disruptive tricks and offering the odd Chi to Yan Lo, there’s not really much that she offers. For now then, I’ve been glad to drop her in favour of a model with more hitting power, like the Komainu.

In the few games that I’ve used him, Izamu has proven to be a very capable killing machine with some great resilience, thanks to his Armour. His weaknesses are his tendency to die (because you know your opponent will focus on him!) and the lack of mobility. Fortunately Yan Lo can assist with both of those, using Instil Youth and Transcendence for healing and further armour, Reliquary to bring him back after the inevitable death and Lightning Dance to feed him models without putting Izamu himself in harms way. If I feel the need for more killing power in the crew then for now, my go-to beatstick is Izamu. He and the Shadow Emissary are also the only reason I’d take Yan’s Reliquary upgrade!

My original Yan Lo paint job. Very glad I pinked him up since then. ;)

I’ve shied away from Toshiro thus far, partly because he’s a dirty summoner and partly because I’m not a fan of the model. But he’s certainly someone I really need to try. There’s no doubt that he’s great, but between his incredible minion-specific synergies and the chance to summon Ashigaru and Komainu from corpse and scrap, he really feels like a model you need to build your crew around. If I take him, it’ll probably be with two Komainu, an Obsidian Oni and a Punk Zombie. As above, the Komainu are just solid minions but they also handout Burning for the Obsidian Oni to benefit from with his Flames from the Heavens attack. The Punk Zombie has no specific synergy aside from being a Minion, although it does make an excellent model to drop victims next to with Yan Lo’s Lightning Dance!

The Retainers available to Yan Lo, the Ashigaru and Onryo, both seem pretty decent. However I’m just not convinced they’re as useful as a Komainu. All three have broadly equivalent resilience, but the Komainu seems to edge the others out in damage potential thanks to handing out either Slow or Burning. I guess if I took the Ashigaru it would be for the anti-charge bubble from Brace, although it’s hard to predict whether you’ll be facing a crew where that’d be really useful.

The Onryo has a suite of nice attacks and abilities, and in particular has some good synergies with other Spirit models (in particular the Adversary Condition) In practice I haven’t found a lot of opportunities to take advantage of Yan Lo’s Spirit synergies but the potential is there. She’d certainly make the Komainu (who are Spirits) more threatening and she’d probably do horrible things with Izamu too! So perhaps if I start running Izamu, it wouldn’t hurt to team him up with some Komainu and an Onryo while I’m at it.

I’ll admit I’ve also toyed with Wastrels and Tengu, the former for their healing and all-round flexibility, and the latter for their healing and scheme running. Of course Sensei Yu, despite his cost, easily surpasses them in all of those roles! I still found them to be great minions for their cost though, so if I was to drop Sensei Yu (possibly for the Shadow Emissary) I’d seriously consider adding them in again.

From my first game with Yan this year, back when I was playing his sucky Resser version. ;)

Yan Pro!

So that’s my thoughts on Yan Lo for now. Now that I’ve figured him out, I’ve found him to be a very solid Master and in fact has become on e of my two go-to Ten Thunders Masters at this stage. In terms of Strategies I think he’s definitely a solid pick for Strategies where you’ll find both crews conversion on a single point like Turf War. He’s got potential for the likes of Reckoning and Squatters Rights, although for the latter you definitely want to invest in some mobility.

In a competitive sense, I think I’d be quite satisfied with taking Misaki and Yan Lo to a tournament and feeling as though I can comfortably achieve all the Strategies/Schemes in play. Misaki is great and Reckoning and Reconnoiter, but Yan Lo is far better equipped for Turf War! Either could feasibly do Squatters Rights, although I’d probably think about having a third Master (McCabe?) for that one.

Anyway that’s another mammoth post done! Between real life and writing for the Chronicles this actually took a few months to finish. If you got to the end of it, I will say that I’m going to try and post a little more regularly. Unfortunately when it comes to tactics articles like this one, I can’t help but make them anything but enormous!  So instead I’ll try and vary things up a little by talking about other things, mostly Malifaux related but possibly other stuff too. I guess we’ll see!



Thursday, 10 September 2015

10-T Misaki: Head Removalist

Damn, it’s been a while since my last post! I make no excuses (real life… whatcha gonna do?) so let’s dive straight into the update on my Ten-Thunders adventures…

As of writing this I’ve had games with Misaki, Jakob Lynch, Mei Feng and Yan Lo. Lynch has only seen one game thus far, in which I took a pretty standard Brilliance-heavy crew. It did okay but it wasn’t super-exciting for me – not quite mobile or flexible enough for how I like to play. I’ll need to try him outside of his core models at some point (specifically to pile in any model who discards for an effect! ;) ), but in the meantime I’ve got other Masters to play.

Mei Feng has also only seen one game thus far, in which I found out how horrible she can be with Misdirection! One game isn’t enough to truely appreciate her though, so she’s going to need to wait as well…

Yan Lo is a Master I’ve disliked for a long time, but after some intense study and a few more games, I’ve changed my tune. The tale of my Yan Lo adventures deserves a post of it’s own however, so for now I’m talking about the fourth Master I’ve been messing with – Misaki.

Out with the Rats, in with the Ninjas…
Having used her regularly as an Outcast last year, I have a pretty good handle on how Misaki works. As an Outcast I came to enjoy her playstyle, which basically seemed to involve burning her upgrades and soulstones fast to Assassinate a bunch of models, then playing more evasively while the rest of her crew gets the job done. But playing her as Ten Thunders means I lose some of the tools I was using almost every game with her, specifically Oathkeeper, Scout the Field and the Obedient Wretch w. Rats. I’ve been forced to rethink how I approach using her. Fortunately, the Ten Thunders Faction offers plenty of new tools to take advantage of.

My standard Misaki crew is currently something like this;

- Stalking Bisento 2
- Misdirection 2
- On Wings of Wind 2
Sensei Yu 9
- Low River Style 2
Shang 3
Shadow Effigy 4
Mr Tannen 6
- Smoke Grenades 1
Yin 8
Samurai 8
- Favor of Earth

At the moment the last three models (Tannen, Yin and the Samurai) are the ones being swapped out between games, depending on the strategy/schemes but also so I can just try new models.

Game 1: Turf War vs Colette
The only difference between the list above and what I took this game was swapping the Samurai for a Lone Swordsman. My opponent went for a pretty standard Colette crew, with Howard Langstone, a Coryphee Duet and Cassandra being the primary hitters.

With an Airburst and (0) push from Shenlong, Misaki was able to charge and kill significant chunks of my opponents crew from turn 1. Howard Langston was the first to go, followed by a Performer and in subsequent turns, Cassandra, a Mechanical Dove and I think one more performer. By that point the Lone Swordsman managed to finish off the Coryphee duet, leaving Colette on her own and sealing the game for me.

Game 2: Reconnoiter vs McCabe
In this game I swapped Yin from the above list for a Katanaka Sniper. My opponent Kyle went with a minon-heavy crew with various hounds, Wastrels a Witchling Stalker and a Peacekeeper to make things go dead.

In turn 1 I got a little too close with Misaki, giving McCabe a chance to Paralyse her and then push an upgraded Peacekeeper close enough for a Flurry. She fortunately survived and after winning Initative on Turn 2, managed to heal, remove Paralysed and push her back to safety with Sensei Yu. Not wanting to deal with her while in range of potential Misdirection targets, the Peacekeeper instead went for the more isolated Katanaka Sniper (killing him easily) and Misaki went straight for McCabe, managing to kill both him and his horse by Turn 3.

Pushes from both Misaki and Sensei Yu got the Samurai into a commanding position on a hill in turn 1, allowing him to let lose with his gatling cannon on most of my opponents minions. With no Black Jokers flipped he killed 5 minions over the course of the game, eventually finishing off Luna in melee and single-handedly securing a table quarter on his own.

Game 3: Reconnoiter vs the Viktorias
This was a 40SS game so I was forced to cut my list down. Basically this meant swapping Yin for the Katanaka Sniper (again) and dropping Misdirection, Mr Tannen and Shang for a pair of Tengu. My opponent took a standard Viks crew, with Ronin, Void Wretches, the Student and Vanessa.

Once again Misaki got way too close to my opponents crew, this time copping a charge from Blood Vik in turn 2. Once again Misaki just managed to survive, which sealed Blood Vik’s fate and enabled Misaki to start tearing up the cheaper minions trying to sneak up the flank. The Samurai and Katanaka Sniper helped take out the void wretches, eventually making it safe for the Tengu to leap-frog their way up the board and start taking table quarters. Eventually Ash Vik also fell and there was little left of my opponent’s crew to claim VPs.

Misaki eyes off an angry-looking Peacekeeper...

What I Learnt – Misaki loves her Crew

Back in my original post about Outcast Misaki, one of my main impressions of her is that she tends to run independently of her crew, and doesn’t really need their help to do her job.

I know now that I was wrong. So, so wrong.

Maybe it’s the new options available in the 10-Thunders, maybe it’s the wisdom of age, but I see now that her crew composition can make a HUGE difference to how she performs on the table. On her own Misaki is a decent, if fragile melee beater. She can play evasive with Disguised or use Stalking Bisento to sneak up and wallop one model at a time. But her biggest strength by far is her Assassinate trigger. Being  able to wipe out enemy models with a single swing is brutal, but to do that well she needs three things;
1. She needs to get into melee with her target with a minimum of fuss
2. She needs her opponent to have spent most of their cards
3. She needs to survive the potential counter-attack.

With Diving Charge and a good Wk and Cg value, Misaki’s pretty capable of getting into melee under her own steam. But unfortunately her threat range is also easy for your opponent to predict and ideally, you want to spend as much of your AP charging and attacking, rather than walking into range. This is where push effects from the rest of your crew (such as from Sensei Yu…) can really help, since they reduce the risk of her actually having to walk and make it much harder for your opponent to predict her potential threat range.

I could write a whole article on emptying your opponents hand (and probably will at some point…), but it goes without saying that Misaki’s Assassinate trigger becomes much more dangerous when your opponent has no cards to discard and prevent the insta-kill. This is the job of Misaki’s crew, and they can do it by either using discard effects (eg. Tannen’s Cooler) or making attacks as early and often as possible that your opponent will want to cheat.

I think one of the traps you can get into when using Misaki is treating her like the Viktorias – charge in, do as much damage as possible and hope her imminent death was worth the model/s she killed.  As an Outcast I used to use the Obedient Wretch and Rats to at least out-activate my opponent before sending Misaki in, but with 10-Thunders I rarely seem to have the luxury of out-activating my opponent. Misaki’s Wings of Wind upgrade (for the end of turn push) and Misdirection (just read it… it’s practically an auto-take ;) ) can help a lot with this, as can choosing your targets intelligently (ie. don’t throw he into the middle of your opponent’s crew). But otherwise it’s once again up to the crew to ensure she doesn’t die an early death. Once again push effects have their obvious uses here, as do models that can buff or heal Misaki directly, like the Shadow Effigy and Misaki’s totem - Shang.

Thanks to her upgrades and a certain friend, Misaki pracically lapped the board in this game. :)

Misaki’s Upgrades
Thus far I’ve been pretty consistent with my choice of upgrades for Misaki, generally going for Stalking Bisento, Wings of Wind and Misdirection. Stalking Bisento mainly just reduced her reliance on having a good hand and helps you get that moderate to damage flips when you don’t have the Assassinate trigger. Wings of Wind gives her some much needed mobility, not to mention Sensei Yu can copy the (0) action to push Misaki or other models around. Misdirection is, well, amazing. So long as you have another enemy model nearby it’s got the potential to empty your opponent’s hand, which your opponent is less likely to oblige with if you’re threatening them with that lovely Assassinate Trigger.

Of the other upgrades, I’d like to try out Recalled Training (for a turn of positive-flip insanity) or Disguised (to play super-evasive). Cutpurse might be another option – I’m not sure it will ever work but it does add yet another must-win duel to help empty your opponent’s hand.

Recently finished off this fellow, so no more proxy for me! :)
Misaki and Sensei Yu are BFFs
The problem with Sensei Yu packing Low River Style is that he’s 11SS of pure support, and as a support piece he doesn’t contribute much to emptying your opponents hand. The thing is, while Sensei Yu might not be a fighter, he’s one hell of a support piece. Between Airburst and using Disciple to access Misaki’s Wings of Wind upgrade, Yu offers some tremendous mobility for your crew. Then with Low River Style he’s tougher to kill (gaining Defensive +1 every time someone whiffs an attack on him) and can heal and remove conditions from either himself or the models around him (or both, with the trigger).

The other great thing about Sensei Yu is that if Misaki’s taken Stalking Bisento, he can use Disciple to give enemy model the Stalked condition, saving Misaki the trouble of doing it herself and essentially giving her an extra attack with her (0) action! I’ll admit I only realised this in my third game with her, but I definitely plan to abuse the crap out of it from now on.

Lately, I’ve been thinking I might move away from Low River Style and try Wandering River Style instead. Up until now it’s looked a bit redundant on Sensei Yu, but Mighty Gust can stack with Airburst to push Misaki twice (and give her Fast?!), not to mention that using the trigger to hand slow out to enemy models might encourage them to cheat some cards on those duels!

What?! You mean I can't outactivate my opponents crew with 10SS of models??

Misaki misses her Rats
As an Outcast player the Rats/Obedient Wretch Combo became a staple in my Misaki crews. The activation control it offered was great for Misaki and more or less guaranteed she got the jump on the opponents crew (especially when combined with Scout the Field to charge from outside LoS).

Unfortunately, 10 Thunders have no such super-cheap activation chewers. Even worse, I’m quickly finding that there’s a lot of amazing, yet costly 10-Thunders models I want to take with her, which means I’m regularly finding myself out-activated. This in itself has proven to be an interesting learning experience for me – if nothing else I’m seeing the value of thinning out my opponents models early with shooters like the Samurai and Katanaka Sniper, as well as playing to anticipate the inevitable counter-attack once my key models have done their thing. The mobility I’m giving Misaki (see above) helps a lot though – she can reach places my opponent might have trouble responding to and I can potentially get her out of tight spots if she ends the turn in danger.

Shang...oh and a Nurse I painted. 

Shang’s model is god damn awful. It’s way too large for a 30mm base and trying to fit it in my Malifaux bag is a challenge in itself. That’s why I use an Air Kami from the Bushido range instead. :)

I use to hear a lot of talk about how bad Shang is for Misaki, but I honestly don’t understand why. I’ve found Rush of Magic to be invaluable for a Master who relies more than others on having a decent hand (being so light on soulstones and all…), and his heal action has helped Misaki recover from imminent death at least once in my three games thus far (when she was beaten up by a Peacekeeper on turn 1). Still, I’m left wondering whether those 3SS are better spent elsewhere. At the very least, three damage prevention flips might be just as effective. Or I could upgrade him to a Tengu or Wastrel (both of whom can heal Misaki), or possibly just replace another minion with something beefier. I’m undecided right now, but it’s certainly something to think about.

There's been no official model until recently. Fortunately, Puppet Wars pulled through. ;)

The Shadow Effigy
So I’ve been taking the Shadow Effigy for three reasons – he’s a cheap resilient activation, he can help place scheme markers with Remember the Mission and he offers some protection to Misaki with his (0) action. Ironically however, the crews I’ve taken have been very light on minion models, leaving few useful targets for Remember the Mission! That said, even if his only valid “Mission” Target is himself I’m still happy taking him for his other strengths. If nothing else, Misaki really appreciates that (0) action when your opponent is trying to take her down!

No decent pic of my Katanaka Sniper, oddly, so here's some filler!

The Katanaka Sniper…
…is great. :) Given how much I’ve heard about him that’s not exactly a surprise either! With the immense range on his rifle and From the Shadows, the Katanaka Sniper has consistently been a major thorn in my opponent’s side. I love that he’s also very capable in melee, but his general amazingness has also meant that he’s been a priority target for my opponent in almost every game I’ve used him. He’s rarely made it past turn 3, but he also seems to get a disproportionate amount of attention. A lot of the time my opponent has sent their Master or something equally chunky like a Peacekeeper after him. The end result is not pleasant for the Sniper, but the distraction has been quite welcome while the rest of my crew does its business.

The closest Yin & Tannen actually got to the enemy vs Colette. :P

I’ve only taken Yin in one game with Misaki (my only game that wasn’t Reconnoiter), but at the moment I see her as my go-to anchor for the crew. Enemy models with positive flips to attack are her kryptonite but that’s not really been a problem for her as of yet. Depending on the mission I might not need her either, in which case I’ll replace her with someone a little more pro-active. Maybe a Samurai or Lone Swordsman, perhaps?

Mr Tannen
Okay, so on paper this guy seems like a really great choice for Misaki thanks to his Cooler ability. Misaki wants her opponent to empty their hand so if you can get Tannen up in their business, they’re faced with the tough choice of either not cheating their flips, or emptying their hand and risking an Assassination run.

In practice this hasn’t worked quite how I imagined. In my first game against Colette (Turf War) my opponent kept away from Tannen (who was hanging with Yin in the centre). It helped me score Turf War but, his contribution to emptying my opponents hand was mostly absent. In my next game I played Reconnoiter, which turned out to be not the best choice for Tannen. In that particular game Misaki retreated back to within Tannen’s Aura after being nearly beaten to death by a Peacekeeper (armed to the teeth with McCabe’s adventuring gear). Tannen’s Cooler aura then encouraged my opponent to chase after the Katanaka Sniper instead of Misaki with his Peacekeeper. So once again Tannen proved to be a deterent, but still without any actual discards.

After that I dropped Tannen from my list for the next (latest) game, which was another Reconnoiter. For that particular Strategy I don’t see myself taking Tannen again (there’s better and more mobile options at 6SS IMO). In more centralised Strategies however, I still want to see how he actually performs when he’s in a position to force discards!

Mr Samurai eyes off his many targets...

My first game using the Samurai was possibly the first time in years in which I put an unpainted mini on the table. Having recently assembled one I really wanted to try him out. However I didn’t want to paint him yet since I’m planning to use them for the next Tale of Malifaux Bloggers, along side Shenlong and a whole pile of other 10-T stuff I bought from Gencon.

Anyway as per my McCabe game with him, I didn’t regret including this guy at all. Killing 5 minions (even relatively fragile ones) is no mean feat and while I’ll admit this was probably an unsual game for him (lots of targets to shoot, plenty of rams for extra attacks and no black Jokers flipped), I think the potential is there for him to be a great inclusion.

Given I was using his Gatling Gun almost exclusively, Favor of Earth (+3 Wds) might seem an odd choice over Favor of Jigoku (immune to damage in own activation). The potential to take 4 wounds after missing with the attack is a definite concern, but I think the Risk works in the crew’s favour. As per above, part of the aim of this crew is to force my opponent to cheat as often as possible before Misaki activates. So if they think they can cause an easy 4 wounds to the Samurai by cheating their resist flip, let them try! With the Samurai’s many positives to attack I’ll usually be cheating second, and at worst he’ll take 4 damage (which is mostly counteracted by the +3 wds).

For now I’ll probably keep playing with the Samurai to see how he goes under more normal circumstances, and might even add a second one with Mark of Jigoku to help fliter out the Black Joker before the Earth one activates. I suppose there’s also the option of adding a Wastrel to heal him up if things get dicey. Wastrels are a model I’m really loving at the moment, so you can be sure they’ll feature more often in my games!

 Mr Samurai after a successful hunting expedition. :)

Okay, so what’s next for Misaki? Well for one I still think I can fine-tune the core list a little more to maximise its hand-emptying potential. I also want to mess around a little more with Misaki’s upgrades. Now that I have Shifting Loyalties on hand I’d also love to give the Shadow Emmisary a run with Misaki, as well as Lust and possibly a few more of the Crossroads Seven (there’s a lot of discard tricks in there…).

My only other thought with Misaki at the moment is how she seems to have become the focus of the crew. As I said above, I seem to have gone from treating Misaki as a separate entity to her crew, to designing the whole crew around what she does. So what happens when Misaki dies and the rest are left to fend for themselves? Does playing Misaki like this make her the lynchpin of the crew, or can the rest do their job even when Misaki has bitten the bullet? At least for now, this is definitely my most pressing question about her so at some point, I’m going to have to get her killed… ;)

Until next time,


Thursday, 2 July 2015

NEEDS MOAR THUNDER! (Rathnard's new Faction)

So after quitting the Ressers and asking for advice on the Wyrd forums (here), I finally decided to switch over to Ten Thunders for the foreseeable future! Now that I've thought about it I'm feeling pretty confident about this decision. Aesthetically some of my favorite crews are from the Ten Thunders, and I really like the variety in playstyles I'm starting to see within the Faction. Not quite as insanely varied as Outcasts, but I'm pretty sure it's enough to keep me interested for a while!

Anyway, over the next few months I'm aiming to post up my experiences with the Faction as I get in some games. But for now, I thought I'd start with some initial impressions of the Faction's Masters;


Lucas McCabe
While I've only used him as a Guild Master, My initial experience with Lucas last year was positive. I like how he works as a support/generalist type Master, and throwing upgrades around gives me the chance to do fun things like getting a Low River Monk to beat someone in the face with a Glowing Sabre!

My core McCabe crew is pretty much done. I even have most of the Guardsmen he could hire in fully painted and based, with the exception of a Warden and Pathfinder (and the Wave 3 models, but nobody's counting those!). The negative is that all those Guardsmen take up alot of space in my Malifaux Bag. So as I paint more of the generic Ten Thunder models I'll probably need to start rationalising just which Guardsmen I actually want to regularly use with McCabe. 

Yeah...still don't love them. :(

Yan Lo
Ugh, Yan? Well I guess I can't escape the Ressers completely. ;) To be honest I'm actually interested to give Yan Lo another try as a Ten Thunders Master. If nothing else I'd at least like to figure out how to make him feel like a Master, rather than a half-baked amalgamation of 2-3 support minions! 

I still don't like the models I have for his crew though, so at this point I'll almost definitely replace, repaint or at least rebase some or all of them. I have a few ideas in mind as to how to do that, so hopefully I'll have something to show later on... 


Mei Feng
Since my game with her last year I've paid very little attention to Mei Feng. Until, that is, last week when I started pulling out her cards and seeing what I could do with her. As a Ten Thunders Master she loses access to alot of good Arcanist constructs, but from reading her rules it shouldn't be a problem to have only a few such models in her crew. Still, I definitely feel like she'll need some experimenting to get a feel for what balance of models is going to work best with her!

Model-wise, my Mei Feng cake crew is easily one of my top two in the Faction (it's her or McCabe). I've got all the Foundry models she can take, but I'm still not exactly sure what to prioritise painting for her from the 10-T side. Well, except for Komainu of course! So that'll at least require a little more thought and plenty of experimenting. 

Jakob Lynch
Jakob Lynch intrigues me. On one hand (and like most Neverborn) he's got some pretty specific synergy with a certain subset of models (ie. Darkened/Brillianced models). But the potential is definitely there for him to mostly ignore that specific synergy and play with a more diverse crew. My game with him last year proved to me that the latter approach was at least viable. 

As of writing this I've already played one game with Jakob Lynch, just this week. I'm hoping to talk about it in more detail in a seperate post, although I'm already starting to see how I could better utilise him and his crew. For instance I probably need to take better advantage of models who can discard cards (like Aces...) for effects. 

Flying Ototo still ranks as one of my favorite conversions. ;)

I played Misaki as an Outcast for a while last year, and quite liked her too. Switching her over to 10-Thunders will be VERY interesting though. Two of my three standard upgrades for Misaki were Outcast only (Oathkeeper and Scout the Field), so I feel like I'll have to shift my playstyle with her a fair bit now that I'll be using her as 10-T. The plus is that her new Faction has quite a few great options to force my opponent to discard cards, with both Tannen and the Misdirection upgrade coming to mind. So I suspect Misaki's Assassination trigger will be getting a bit of a workout. 

Like most of the other Masters here, Misaki's core crew is ready to go. I even managed to repair the staff pieces that broke off Misaki and Yamaziko when I went to Gencon 2014, so they're all looking super-awesome again. :) 

No models, so here's a stock photo...

I've heard horrible, horrible things about Brewy's ability to pin down swathes of enemy models with his free booze. So naturally I'm keen to try it out for myself, partly to see how broken it can be and by extension, its limitations and weaknesses for when I'm facing it. To be honest Brewmaster is the 10-T Master I'm least interested in trying at the moment. There's alot of people out there saying it's not a fun playstyle, and that's not really something I want to inflict on my opponents. Still, he's probably still at least worth trying out for myself.

While I do have two Nightmare Whiskey Golems in their boxes (one regular, one translucent), I don't yet have a Brewmaster crew to play with. I'll pick one up this year of course, but I'm still secretly hoping they do a translucent Brewmaster crew to sell on Black Friday. If nothing else that'll make it much easier to get them up and ready for some games. ;)

My proxied Sensei Yu & Friends

I've always really liked the Monk archeotype. In a world dominated by magic, swords and guns, there's something seriously bad-ass about a guy who wanders around beating people up with his bare hands. So it's probably not surprising that I've been looking forward to Shenlong ever since I saw him in the beta. 

In terms of gameplay, all I really know about Shenlong is that he's decent with scheme markers and good at boosting his crew. He's got some chops in melee too, so I guess he's a little like McCabe in that he's a bit of an all-rounder (assuming I'm even right about McCabe!)?

While I don't currently have a Shenlong crew, I do have some proxies from the Bushido range for him. I did make a start on the crew a few months back, having assembled and partly painted a small Sensei Yu crew for a few campaign games (above). It shouldn't be hard to get the rest of the crew together, but the real challenge will be figuring out an interesting theme for them. Right now they're mostly black and white, which is pretty different to my other crews but not really that interesting. It needs...something, but I honestly don't know what that something should be...

The Problem with Ten Thunders...
I really like what I've done with most of my Ten Thunders crews thus far. Unfortunately and as you can see above, there are some wildly different styles between my Masters. This was something that's held me back from getting into the Faction until now. After all, how am I supposed to paint models to somehow fit into crews for Lynch or Mei in particular, without looking our of place in other crews?

If I think about it I can probably get most of the crews I have to match. If I stick with a scheme similar to McCabes for most of my new models (and assuming I replace Yan Lo) it's really just Mei and Lynch who will look out of place. The alternative, however, is to just embrace the diversity and paint the crews how I want. Sure, some models will continue to look odd when I take them outside their native crews. But it gives me the chance to continue painting the models how I want. And at least for the minions that come in 3's (Samurai, Archers etc), I could paint each in a different scheme to match multiple crews. I feel like that latter part is going to require some planning (eg. is it worth painting a Samurai for Mei Feng's crew?), so we'll see how that goes. 

But as I alluded above, my main concern at the moment is figuring out a theme for Shenlong's crew. Hopefully I'll sort that one out at some point!

Until next time,