Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Terminus as a Front Line Caster

When I decided to start collecting Cryx I knew right away that my caster of choice was going to be Terminus. The model is huge and imposing. The perfect centerpiece to lead the dragonfather's undead legions. One large order from Blue Table Painting later, and I was in business.

My troubles started when I hit the field. Terminus is great in combat. On my turn he can use his pile of focus to destroy anything that he can reach. This is only fitting for a model as large and imposing as him. The trouble starts on my opponent's turn.

Time and again Terminus would be on the front lines, destroying my opponent's jacks and warbeasts, and time and again he would be destroyed on my opponents turn to a counter charge, often from the opposing warcaster. Terminus was not living up to my expectations. His spell list is fairly weak in terms of offensive and defensive capabilities. I ended up adopting a strategy that had Terminus hanging in the back, passively making my undead warriors tough. While this still worked to a point, it was hardly the playstyle I had been dreaming of. There are a lot of other casters out there that work better when they hang out on the back lines.

So, after reading some articles at Game Over, specifically ones about learning new skills, I've decided to start over and learn how to run Terminus as a front line caster.

Taking a tip from 40K for the New Professional, we'll start by identifying the possible solutions for overcoming the problems I'm having.
  • Problem: I play Terminus from the back ranks, where his abilities are not put to good use. Putting him into melee makes him extremely vulnerable and often costs me the game through caster kill. Terminus' main capabilities (spray attack, good debuff spell, good melee weapon, his feat, the cull soul ability) are useful chiefly when he is in melee range. On top of that, my imagination has Terminus leading from the front lines, chopping his opponents to pieces and feeding on their souls. None of this is accomplished by keeping Terminus away from the action.
  • Goal: Devise a set of rules to discover and ingrain strategies for keeping Terminus alive and on the front lines.
In Warmachine there are three core vectors for damage: Melee, Ranged, Magic. To keep Terminus (or really any caster) alive you have to prevent all three vectors. Back-line casters do this by simply keeping a healthy distance between themselves and the enemy. If you are far enough away and keep your army between your caster and the opposing army, it's very difficult for your opponent to apply any damage vectors to your caster. Repeated losses led me to adopt this strategy. Distance isn't a valid option here. I want Terminus on the front lines.

Ranged damage is fairly easy for Terminus to avoid. With his Sacrifical Pawn ability he can just hand off any direct hits to a nearby undead model. Easy enough. He's still vulnerable to blasts though, and about the only thing we can do in that regard is increase our armor. Lacking any spell that does this I don't know of any way to boost his armor other than to camp focus. Getting into melee is another good way of preventing ranged damage. The target in melee penalty is a pretty good defense buff.

Magic attacks are more difficult. Luckily, magic attacks are costly for our opponent to make. They usually take at least two focus just to cast, and usually your opponent will want to boost the damage and possibly the attack. That means we're looking at one or two, maybe three, offensive spells per turn from an opponent. Terminus' only real option is to weather these like a man. Again, boosting his armor with focus is his best bet. Minor strategies would be to include Orin Midwinter to make it more difficult to cast spells, bring along Gorman Di Wulfe to create a cloud effect to block line of sight or boost defense, and use terrain and intervening models to do the same.

The final, and most important, is Melee damage. The only way to avoid this is to reduce, or eliminate entirely, the number of swings your opponent gets. Luckily Cryx has numerous tools for making this happen. First and foremost is troop models. With troops between your caster and the enemy you can avoid being charged. Small based troops are nice because you can use reach to attack over their heads. Medium based troops are nice because they can't be trampled over. By making our opponents give up their move or their action we can prevent getting attacked. Pistol Wraiths can death chill, Warwitch Sirens can shadow bind, jacks can lock systems. Darragh Wrathe also has a nice ability that debuffs enemy MAT, meaning your opponent misses more or wastes focus to ensure the hits.

Of course, keeping Terminus alive isn't the only thing to learn. Equally important is learning how to make Terminus effective in close combat. I think there are a number of things to keep in mind there, but we'll save those for lesson plan two. Here is lesson plan one.
  • Student will build lists and play games using Lich Lord Terminus. By the end of the lesson the student will have demonstrated an ability to keep his warcaster alive despite being on the front lines of battle.
The student will keep the following in mind when building lists:
  1. List will include troop options to block avenues of attack to the warcaster.
  2. List will include models with abilities that deny enemy models their ability to move or act.
  3. List will include models with abilities that promote focus efficiency. (See my article on Cryx and focus efficiency).
Sample List:
  • Lich Lord Terminus
  • Deathjack
  • Slayer
  • Bane Lord Tartarus
  • 6 Bane Thralls
  • Gorman Di Wulfe
  • Pistol Wraith
  • Warwitch Siren
  • Withershadow Combine.
The list has a good number of infantry models. It also has a good number of models with tools to stop the enemy from attacking and to improve focus efficiency.

The student will be mindful of the following skills and disciplines during his games:
  1. The student will keep their warcaster on the front lines. The warcaster will be moved into melee range and will make attacks on any turn where this is possible. If a melee attack is not possible, the warcaster should be moved to make use of a ranged attack.
  2. As much focus as possible should be left on the warcaster in order to prevent damage to the warcaster. The student should avoid boosting and buying extra attacks with his warcaster.
  3. The warcaster should be activated and moved before activating troops, and troops should be moved to block opponents avenues of attack and provide fodder for sacrificial pawn.
  4. When placed in a position to attack, the warcaster should take advantage of reach, staying between half an inch and two inches away from his targets.
  5. The player should use the abilities of other models to neutralize the movement and abilities of the opponent's forces. Using head/weaponlock power attacks is encouraged. These actions should be taken before activating the warcaster so that the danger to the warcaster target can be properly decided.
  6. The player should strive for a feat turn that generates three or more souls on the warcaster.
Tonight is my regular game night. I'm hoping to get a few games in with the above list and try for some front line carnage.

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