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,