Saturday, March 12, 2011

Focusing In

Oh Cryx, how do I love thee. I'd count the ways but that would be much too long of a post. Instead I'll just count one of the ways. An excellent blog post I came across recently talked about identifying the core competencies in your army. The author touches on identifying the things that your army can do better than another army, and while his post is specifically about tyranids in Warhammer 40K, I think this is one of the most important aspects to list building.

The thing that first drew me to Cryx was the look and the models. This is always my first step when choosing an army, and usually my first purchases are simply things that I think look good together on the table. I think it's an important first step for anyone. If you don't think that pushing a few dozen power armored models around the table is interesting then you probably shouldn't be playing a space marine army. If you like the idea of an enormous lich commanding his undead forces while soul-powered metal behemoths stalk across the field collecting the souls of your enemies, then picking up Terminus, Deathjack and some bane units is probably a good place to go.

Unfortunately, as a game that is based around rules and synergies between units, just picking your favorite models isn't a way to guarantee competitiveness on the battlefield. Usually its just the opposite, and as we play with our favorite models we begin to wish that we could also win with our favorite models. This is where we have to start examining our chosen faction to see what really makes it tick.

One of the core rules of Warmachine is the focus mechanic, and a lot of attention is payed to skillfully managing your focus allocation. Focus is the mechanism by which we ensure that the things we need to get accomplished actually happen, and it's a finite resource. One of the things that Cryx does really well is giving you more focus to play with than your opponent, and it does this in a number of different ways.
  1. Soul Tokens. Probably the most obvious Cryx mechanic, and not something seen in too many places outside of the Dragonfather's forces. Collecting a pile of soul tokens can give you a huge boost in the subsequent turn. It's not just limited to the warcaster's of the faction either. There are a number of warjacks and units that can get in on the soul token action, too, saving them up and spending them just like they would focus.
  2. Focus Efficient Jacks. Focus efficiency on warjacks is something that's talked about a lot. It's a term that's applied when a jack is able to freely perform an action that would normally require focus or when it gets an added benefit to using focus. Jacks that can charge and make power attacks for free are focus efficient. The Cygnar Charge can be focus efficient since it only needs one focus to boost it's ranged attack and damage rolls. For Cryx, we have the Seether and it's big brother, Deathjack. Not only can Seether's run and charge for free, but they generate an additional point of focus to boost or buy more attacks. Deathjack doesn't get the free power attacks, but he generates two focus and can even turn that focus into casting spells for your warcaster.
  3. Skarlocks. Speaking of casting spells for your warcaster, the Skarlock can effectively generate three extra focus for your caster. His spell slave ability also allows casting of spells outside of your caster's activation, just like Deathjack. With the right finnagling you can have the same upkeep spell affect four different units during your turn.
  4. Warwitch Sirens. These little ladies help turn any jack into a focus efficient jack. They're great in the early game for getting a free run move out of your battlegroup. They're great with Harrowers since you generally only need the one focus point to boost your ranged attack roll or buy Thresher. A warwitch can shepherd a harrower around, allowing you to operate well outside of your caster's control range.
  5. Withershadow Combine. In addition to collecting souls, the lich trio gives your caster one free upkeep. Even better when you are running two caster since Admonia can upkeep a spell for each of them. The puppet master ability is also very useful, and could be considered a bonus point of focus itself. Oh, and they have a ranged attack that lets them collect souls.

So how do we put this all together? How about this 35 point list:

  • Witchcoven of Garlghast (+5)
  • Deathjack (12)
  • Reaper(7)
  • Skarlock Thrall (2)
  • 6 Bane Knights (6)
  • Darragh Wrathe(4)
  • Warwitch Siren(2)
  • Warwitch Siren(2)
  • Withershadow Combine(5)

Boasting one of the highest focus stats in the game, the witchcoven have the highest spellcasting potential anywere when they're in a perfect conjuction. With deathjack, the skarlock, warwitches and withershadow you're looking at up to 8 extra focus every turn for a whopping total of 17, not to mention any souls that Deathjack or the combine manage to generate for themselves. The two warwitches might seem like overkill, but the second one is there to add focus to any 'jacks the withershadows might create from victims the reaper drags in.

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