Sunday, June 29, 2014

X-Wing: Crying about the Phantom

Seems appropriate.

I don't usually browse the forums, but when I do its to look for one thing:  Discussions centralizing around game imbalance.  Call it a hobby of mine, but I really like reading what others have to say and the arguments they put forth when talking about specific game features.  I find it highly entertaining because most of the time; the arguments are poor, the assumptions are premature and the theorycrafting is astronomical.  For example, there's this article on the official FFG forums talking about the Phantom being the best ship.  You can find the ridiculous 9-pager right here.

One of the first things to keep in mind when reading stuff like this is that most of the time, it's coming from an inexperienced player.  Experienced, tournament-faring players with lots of games in a diversified meta do not outright claim game imbalance when they get beaten.  They first analyze their play, see what went wrong and try to adjust their plan of action for next time.  That's what I did when I played pro (in other games), that's what my colleagues did and that's what every competitive player I ever knew did.  They analyze their mistakes and rectify it first thing.  What do they do next?  Play it again, and again, and again until it's clearly in both players' minds that there's nothing more can be done.

Most of the time, competitive players have played the game a lot.  They played it enough that they know what's in their meta, but also in the national and global meta as well.  If a competitive player starts to present anecdotal evidence through several playtests against equally competitive players who are also pitching in their feedback, and no one agrees that the ship in question is answerable, then there might be an issue.  This is a natural form of check and balances to make sure there's no weak link, and that the argument for the eventual problem is clear, concise and accurate.

This is one of those times where people misunderstand the concepts of game imbalance and things that change the metagame.  Like I said in that thread, this is Wave 4, a major release that throws 4 different ships into the meta with all different kinds of upgrades and options.  Just before that, we got the Rebel Transport that had a good amount of Rogue Squadron upgrades.  Shortly before that, we got Imperial Aces and now in the next couple of weeks, we'll get Rebel Aces.  What this means to the game is that everything will change:  Not just a little, but a lot because of all the different player options coming into the mix together.

When you look at what has been released before this, you'll find a common thread of meta-changers out there.  The Falcon and Han Solo changed how the game was played because of 360 firing arcs, solid damage output as well as fire consistency.  Not to mention the Falcon has a crap ton of health.  Then you look at the Imperial equivalent in the form of the Slave, the release of the TIE Bomber, named Interceptors like Soontir Fel and Turr Phennir, turret-based Rebel ships like the Y-Wing, Ion Cannons, Heavy Laser Cannons, Carnor Jax.. the list goes on and on.  The point is:  Whenever something new is introduced into the fray that people are not comfortable with yet, the most common reaction on the internet is to panic and post shitty threads crying imbalance.  Most of the people who post this shit are inexperienced players who haven't seen enough game time.  Even fewer are players who think they know what they're talking, but end up talking out of their ass because they play in a meta where the competition is weak, thus destroying the check and balances anomaly I talked about earlier.  I think I read in that thread somewhere where some dude proclaims that the Phantom single-handily destroyed 100 points worth of enemy ships.  That just smells like scrub-bashing.

I personally can't wait to get my Phantom and fly it around in a few games.  While I think it's a powerful ship, it's the epitome of a glass cannon and there's a huge number of counters out there.  Specifically, I'll target "Echo" for the purposes of listing out some counters:
  • Higher PS pilots who shoots before him at his 2 defense dice before ACD triggers.
  • Ships who ignore his maneuverability e.g. 360 turrets, Falcons.
  • Player-induced stress tokens e.g. Flechette Torpedoes, R3A2.
  • Ion Cannons are seriously bad news if they hit the ship.
  • Bad luck, because it happens and I've lost Fel with full health off 5 evade dice before.

So the moral of the story is this:  Before you cry imbalance about a near 40 point ship with 4 hull points, at least have the common courtesy to know the difference between changing the meta and a balance concern.  Once you figure that out, at least try to defeat the problem instead of complaining about it on the forums like a giant bitch.  Maybe if you think about the issue long enough, it'll suddenly dawn upon you that there is no spoon [problem] in the first place.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

X-Wing: Echo, echo

Ooo, new toys!

Yes, I'm making a pun off that Disney movie that's about a cute little robot alien.  You know what game I haven't played in a long time because of overtime?  X-Wing.  You know what game I need to play immediately?  X-Wing.  It's a shame I wasn't able to find a game tonight, but then again I'm not too upset because I didn't get my TIE Phantom yet.

Just so you guys know, I plan on fielding a TIE Phantom in my next list just so I can do all the outrageous things with it that you think it can.  I'm planning to field "Echo" along side two of my favorite Saber Squadron pilots, Soontir Fel and Turr Phennir.  Combined with the new TIE Phantom, I plan on making quite an impact on the battlefield as all the ships I have are ridiculously maneuverable.

First, let's take a look at Echo:

Seems good.

The greatest thing about this guy (or girl?) is the ability to go anywhere I want on the battlefield with his ability.  As you can see from this article on the FFG website, Echo can fly anywhere he wants as long as there's enough room to move around.  While this is great and all, I'm quite worried about how the presence of asteroids will limit his ability.  When you think about competitive play, players have the opportunity to place asteroids one after another, in alternating fashion.  A lot of the better players know exactly how these asteroids can affect how the battle plays out:  Tightly clustered asteroids gives TIE Swarm players a fit while more sporadic placement of rocks gives Interceptors and flankers an edge.

Regardless, I think the sheer number of movement tricks will make Echo worth his points.  So what will the layout be do you ask?  Well, I'm thinking about taking Veteran Instincts, Recon Specialist and Advanced Cloaking Device.  This will bring his price up to a whopping 38 points, but hopefully the Recon Specialist and ADC will be worth it.  The reason I chose these abilities is pretty well-reasoned I feel:  Veteran Instincts gives me PS8 so I can move later and shoot quicker.  Recon Specialist gives him double Focus tokens so I can choose to Decloak, Focus x2, Attack and trigger Advanced Cloaking Device.  I will then either have a focus to make my attacks more powerful and keep a another with 4 dice on defense.  If I hit with everything and I'm satisfied with my result, I can hold back both focus for two rounds of enemy shooting.  This greatly prolongs the life of a relatively lightly-armored ship.

Again, just like the motto of the TIE Interceptors, the idea here is to not get dead.  It's a lot harder than it looks when you're playing against skilled opponents, and even harder when they're well-versed in fighting against Interceptors.  To make matters worse, what hurts Echo is the same thing that hurts Interceptors and that's good ol' Stress.  If you get stressed in a Phantom, you're going to feel it as soon as your opponents start opening up.  Since Cloak/Decloak itself is an action, and ADC is a free action, if you can't take actions you're not going to be well-off on defense.  In fact, you're probably going to lose your 38 point ship.  I guess it's also important to point out that ADC only triggers after you attack with Echo.  This means that PS9 pilots or anything that outspeeds you (including pilots shooting first) is going to have the advantage offensively vs. your ship.  Hence why I chose to go with a 99 point list.

This is the other 789 list I have.

As for the rest of my dudes, Soontir and Turr will be flying escort for Echo.  The list itself looks like this:

99 points

"Echo" — TIE Phantom
Veteran Instincts
Recon Specialist
Advanced Cloaking Device
Soontir Fel — TIE Interceptor
Push the Limit
Hull Upgrade
Turr Phennir — TIE Interceptor
Push the Limit

Let me know what you guys think about the list.  I'm pretty confident it'll do well.  I'm used to flying elite lists by now and this one is no different.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Skorne: pMakeda and Marketh

Chopping up dem plebs.

After deliberation, I've decided to change up my pMakeda list slightly.  I took out the Krea and included Aptimus Marketh with her.  Sure, I get less protection from shooting, but I get some major benefits from including Marketh.

The first benefit is the ability to recover from Purification being spammed on my army.  With Savagery and Defender's Ward both being upkeep spells, having Makeda casting them constantly is a bad for my Fury economy.  Instead, Marketh can pick up the additional spellcasting because Spell Slave allows him to cast it for free.

The second reason to include Marketh with pMakeda is the ability to cycle through spells.  You can cycle a super powerful spell like Savagery across multiple units by spacing out the activation.  Makeda can upkeep or cast Savagery on a unit of Cetrati, allowing them to advance 10" under Shield Wall.  She can use her activation to throw up Carnage, making everyone super accurate in combat.  Once they activate, Marketh can cast Savagery on another unit like Tiberion and having him walk 9" to punch someone in the face, or 11" if you want to play with the Nihilators.

Lastly, the third reason is for additional Fury-efficiency.  Since I have enough infantry models in my army that will die and give away souls, having Marketh spend souls to upkeep spells is a great way to keep Makeda healthy.  She doesn't need to camp everything of course, but it's straight up good fury management.

Oh, and I guess I also get a tortured baby elephant to go along side Marketh.  That's always cool.  New list looks like this:

Points: 50/50
Archdomina Makeda (*5pts)
* Bronzeback Titan (10pts)
* Tiberion (11pts)
* Titan Gladiator (8pts)
* Aptimus Marketh (3pts)
Cataphract Cetrati (Leader and 5 Grunts) (11pts)
Nihilators (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
Paingiver Beast Handlers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Agonizer (2pts)

Overall, this list seems much better than the previous.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Skorne: Matchup Analysis

Death awaits those who defy me.

Now that I have my two lists for dual-list SR2014, let's talk about matchups and what to expect.  Let's take a look here really quick and see what caster I plan on dropping vs. any given matchup.  The main thing to take away from this is that you'll know one thing and one thing only:  Which faction you're going to play against and that's it.  You have to use your knowledge of the faction, which casters are the most powerful, and which ones you'll be expecting in your meta.  Keep in mind that your local meta can be something very different when competing on a national-level.

With that being said, let's go straight into it.  Here are the casters that I plan on dropping without knowing what's in my local meta.  I've been out of the tournament scene for a while and there's a few more players around here, but I've done my research, I still remember a ton of stuff and this should be a pretty good place to start.

Cryx - eMakeda
Cygnar - pMakeda
Khador - eMakeda
Protectorate of Menoth - eMakeda
Retribution of Scryah - pMakeda
Covergence of Cyriss - pMakeda
Mercenaries - eMakeda
Circle Oroboros - pMakeda
Legion of Everblight - pMakeda
Skorne - eMakeda
Trollbloods - eMakeda
Minions - eMakeda

The total count for this comes out to: 7 for eMakeda and 5 for pMakeda out of the 12 factions presented in the game, including the Skorne mirror.

Now, let me go over my thought process of when and why I plan on playing specific versions of Makeda. The biggest difference between the two casters is that while they both offer me threat, mobility and accuracy, pMakeda plays a solid attrition game and eMakeda gives me the assassination.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Skorne: Dual Makeda

Let's do it, why not?

One of the biggest challenges for me when I build lists is coming up with two lists to run in SR2014.  I have one mainstay caster in the army and that's eMakeda.  There's something about her that I absolutely love and she's my favorite caster in the faction.  In a lot of ways, she's very similar to eCaine.  Her playstyle and army is high-reward, some risk, and most of the stuff in the list is pretty fragile (for how I take her anyway).  I just love the fluff behind her and the fact that I get to play with my favorite model in Warmahordes (Molik Karn) makes me very happy.

As most of you know by now, this is what I'm packing for eMakeda.  However, I'm also thinking about taking the Prime version of her for my dual list.  Before you guys start judging, here's the list.

Points: 50/50
Archdomina Makeda (*5pts)
* Basilisk Krea (4pts)
* Bronzeback Titan (10pts)
* Tiberion (11pts)
* Titan Gladiator (8pts)
Cataphract Cetrati (Leader and 5 Grunts) (11pts)
Nihilators (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
Paingiver Beast Handlers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Feralgeist (1pts)

The idea with this list is very simple.  I need something that can play attrition while giving me the speed and accuracy that I desire naturally.  It's all about playstyle at this point and I think pMakeda will give me the best of that over Xerxis (which was my other choice).  The fact that I can apply Savagery on any of my Titans and extend their threat range walking by +5" is absolutely ridiculous.  This is why I love having both Tiberion and a Bronzeback in my list despite other people trying out the Mammoth.  I can't for the life of me justify taking something that costs 20 when I can get both Tibbers and a BB for the same amount of points, I'm sorry.

This version of Makeda allows me to run hard on the first turn and stay there.  Next turn, I pop some Shield Walls, Krea goes to work with Paralytic Aura on the Cetrati, and Nihilators go jam up someone with Makeda's feat up.  If things die, I don't care.  If things don't die, they're going to hit a lot harder next round, and that's always a good thing.  More attacks equates to more enemy models dead.

Let's be pretty honest here.. this Makeda's spell list is absolutely fantastic:  Defender's Ward on Cetrati is borderline godly because it makes them 16/24 in Shield Wall vs. Shooting with the Krea.  Carnage allows everything in my control area to hit with insane accuracy, which boosts Cetrati/Nihilators/Bronzeback/Tiberion to an effective MAT9.  Muzzle isn't a bad spell when it goes off vs. warbeasts, but the main money-maker in this spell list is Savagery.  This gives me insane flexibility for a 2-cost Upkeep spell.  Having the ability to give any of my units +5 SPD when making a full advance is borderline obscene.  This allows my Nihilators to jam further into enemy lines, Cetrati to full advance 10" with Shield Wall, and gives Tiberion a walking threat of 13" with Rush.  Since it's not a charge or anything, this allows me to be very accurate in how I navigate around the battlefield and makes my threat vectors highly unpredictable.

The only thing that really sucks here is that I don't have Molik Karn in this list.  You know what?  That's OK.  I think eMakeda has better synergy with him as she threatens for longer distances, provides Free Strike immunity for Fate Walker on feat turn, and makes him even more accurate.  As long as one of my Makedas has MK, I can sleep easy at night.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's article, I'll talk about which casters will be dropped against which factions.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Skorne: Road to War

Lead my army to war!

This might come as a shock for some people, but a few years ago I owned 4 armies for Warmahordes.  My first army was Cygnar, followed by Retribution, Circle and Skorne.  I didn't really write all that much about Circle or Skorne because that was towards the tail days of my WH career.  Just recently, I decided to buy back the majority of my Skorne army.

So why did I choose to buy back Skorne and not Circle?  I think the biggest reason for me is the aesthetics and look of the army.  If you think about it, Skorne are basically Vampiric Dark Elves in Samurai armor.  They love to torture and extend their lives with cruel and sadistic practices, and they're highly disciplined and powerful.  I mainly look at armies for aesthetics and how much synergy they have in their units.  Thankfully, Skorne has a lot of interesting synergies in their army to a point where people refer to it as "Skornery".

For my SR2014 dual list, I'm currently thinking of running both Makedas.  pMakeda will be my attrition caster while eMakeda will be my aggressive caster.  I originally wanted to run with Xerxis, but I think his playstyle might be a little too linear for my tastes.  After looking at my other options like eHexeris, I actually think I like what pMakeda brings to the table more.

Points: 50/50
Supreme Archdomina Makeda (*5pts)
* Basilisk Krea (4pts)
* Bronzeback Titan (10pts)
* Molik Karn (11pts)
* Titan Gladiator (8pts)
Nihilators (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
Paingiver Beast Handlers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Praetorian Swordsmen (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
* Praetorian Swordsmen Officer & Standard (2pts)
Agonizer (2pts)
Mortitheurge Willbreaker (2pts)

Let's break this army down piece by piece:

  • eMakeda gives me two really useful spells and an extremely powerful Feat.  Road to War gives the entire army extra movement and Leash allows me to add 3" to a warbeast of my choice.  The feat allows my entire army to hit accurately and ignore Free Strikes.  When combined with Road to War, this allows me to move past enemy models and get in striking range of the models that I want.
  • The Krea in this list gives me two things:  Paralytic Aura and Paralyzing Gaze.  Eyeless Sight when combined with the Willbreaker's re-rolls gives me a solid ranged solution to reduce a target's defense down.  Paralytic Aura is also pretty huge because having a 2" aura of +2 DEF/+2 ARM is super useful vs. ranged attacks.
  • Both the Bronzeback and Gladiator are great beasts to have in any Skorne army.  Rush is a fantastic animus and a staple for any list that wants additional movement and Pathfinder.  One of the biggest flaws of Skorne is the lack of Pathfinder and thus, the Gladiator becomes a staple the majority of the time.  Not only that, but this allows you to combine Road to War and Rush to extend a beast's charge by 4".  As for the Bronzeback, he's nothing more than a solid beatstick that's capable of one-rounding any opposing beast/jack in the game.
  • Last but certainly not least, we have Molik Karn.  When you add on Leash, Road to War, and Rush, you extend Karn's natural 11" threat range to 18".  Add in two additional Side-Steps and you're threatening 22" of unconventional movement before you start tapping into Karn's 5 Fury with Makeda.  Enrage gives you POW15 on the attack and Feat turn gives you 3 attack dice per swing.  On average, you'll be hitting DEF17 with POW15 Weapon Master.  MK is your key assassination tool in this list.
  • The rest of this list is made out of infantry and key support solos:  Nihilators threaten an additional 2" under Road to War and Praetorian Swordsman are great at destroying single-wound infantry with their mini-feat.  This allows you to chew through Black Dragons, Boomhowlers, or other armor-stacking units that are meant to hold the line.  Vengeance move with Makeda gives you 3" of additional threat, which puts their threat range to 14" with RoW before Side-Step.  Even against enemy beasts/jacks, you're capable of putting out tremendous damage if your opponent isn't aware.
  • Beast Handlers are in every Skorne list ever made, Willbreaker gives beasts an extra attack and Puppet Master, and the Agonizer is there to shutdown enemy Colossals/Warjacks.

I'm not ready to reveal what my other list pairing will be just yet, but this has to be my favorite list to play in all of Hordes.  It's fast, aggressive, capable of assassination and has all the right tools for the job.