Friday, November 23, 2012

Battle of the Bro's (Black Steel Batrep)

The second round of the Black Steel Tourney was a slightly perculiar round; although the pairings were random, a number of us faced off against our closest friends during this round, and I wasn't exempt. As it turns out, I was paired against Alan Mok, a guy I've been friends with for well over a decade, whom I introduced the game to.

Understandably neither of us wanted to face each other during this tourney since we've played so many games against one another, but I believe to some extent both of us were also happy to face one another since it was a comfortable match. Mok also figured that he might as well take this opportunity to take photos of this match with his DSLR, which is why this is the only batrep I have :P

So we sat down, and rolled off, with me winning the roll and getting to go first.
Funny note: When Mok and I play, we almost always tie the first die roll, and this game was no exception. Its a rather strange and creepy trend we've noticed over the years.....

Army Lists
Joash Tan:
- Reckoner
- Vanquisher
- Redeemer
Max  Exemplar Errants + UA
Min Choir of Menoth
2x Vassals of Menoth
Gorman Di Wulfe

List Concept:
I jokingly refer to this list as my Cygnaran Menoth list, simply because it plays very much like my shooty Cygnar lists that I'm used to. In the months leading to this event, I was playing Cygnar almost religiously but decided just a month prior that I was going to take the Protectorate instead as I realized Cygnar sometimes really struggles with high-ARM lists, which I had a feeling I'd see a lot of due to the advent of Colossals, and the sheer number of Khador players attending.

I'd probably say the list isn't exactly original as it is quite close to the typical pKreoss Pop-and-Drop, except that I'm not an assassination player by nature. Its probably my 40k-based upbringing, but I'm more of an attrition player as often, a failed assassination simply leaves you flapping in the breeze, and I'm not too keen on letting one or two dice rolls decide the entire game unless I absolutely have to.

The core of the list is a blob of shooty models, all of which hit hard in close combat as well. It was somewhat of a toss-up between pKreoss and Harbinger, but I decided to go with pKreoss as he still brought a good toolbox, and I was more comfortable with him.

Why The List Was Chosen:
For the tourney we were required to bring two lists, but by the third game we must have played each list at least once. I had taken eFeora in my first game, so I figured I'd take pKreoss instead since its anti-infantry nature would work against both of Mok's lists, and Mok had played against my eFeora list several times, but not against this list.

Rather typical, with my Errants right in front of my line of jacks, with my Choir in between. pKreoss stood to the side ready to get into the forest (that flat piece of terrain in the picture).

Alan Mok:
- Spriggan
- Khador War Dog
Doom Reavers
Max Kayazy Assassins + UA
Man-O-War Drakhun + Dismount
Lady Aiyanna & Master Holt

List Concept:
As with any Strakov list, the list was designed around the concept of delivering the army, as fast as possible, to the face. The meat of the army would be the unit of Kayazy Assassins, hopefully biding enough time for the rest of the army to come in at full force. Typically, Strakov lists struggle with hitting power and he doesn't have enough focus to fuel multiple jacks effectively, but the list makes good use of several Weaponmasters to somewhat offset this problem, together with A&H for the potential additional -2 ARM debuff. Reach was also abundant, further increasing the threat ranges of the entire army.

Why The List Was Chosen:
His pButcher list lacked movement buffs, and might have had a rough time against both my lists that have comparatively longer threat ranges. The Strakov list was a more logical choice, as the high speed meant that he could silence my guns a lot faster. In addition, Mok had played his pButcher list in game one, so it was also chosen to prevent a lockout.

I was surprised that the Doomreavers were right in front - in an earlier practice game we had agreed that his Doomreavers do better when used more conservatively as they usually die when left in front. The rest of the deployment however was rather typical.

Scenario and Pre-Game
The scenario was a modified Supply and Demand, which involves the capture of either the objective (marked with the red marker) and/or controlling the zone (marked by the larger translucent circles) with 10" Killbox in effect, and no Interactive Objectives. Frankly it was a fairly troublesome scenario to win via scenario; both of us even joked about not caring about the scenario since we expected a bloodbath either way.

The game also had several other things to note: there was a penalty for anything being within 12" of our deployment zone, so both armies would have to move up further. Also, points were awarded if our caster was in the opposing player's half of the table.

Round 1
I started by allocating one focus to each of my jacks and casting Defender's Ward on my Errants. My army shuffled into position, being mindful to not allow him to run into me on turn 1. The Redeemer popped off a couple of shots, but failed to deviate in the correct direction, while my Choir sang Passage (no shooting). pKreoss hung behind the forest, with Gorman popping smoke to increase the hiding area.

Mok started by casting Superiority on his Spriggan and Occultation on his caster, then ran everything forward except for eEiryss, which held her position for for fear of being within the threat range of my Errants on the next turn.

Round 2
I maintained my upkeeps and allocated all my remaining focus to my jacks in hopes of a successful carpetbomb, as the charge was coming on this round if I didn't stop him. My Choir sang Battle (at this point we both jokingly realized his list didn't really have any guns, so Passage was kind of moot), and my fully-loaded Redeemer opened fire. When the dust settled (post-Ancillary Attack), seven Kayazy had fallen in a feat of monumentously lucky deviations. My Reckoner moved up into within 5" and shot a boosted gun at his Manhunter, killing him, and my Errants/Vanquisher opened fire on the Doomreavers, killing all six. The Vanquisher shot via Ancillary Attack at the Drakhun, dealing six damage and setting him on fire. pKreoss moved into the forest and Gorman continued sitting back popping smoke.

Although things were not looking too well at this point, both of us realized that my Reckoner was pretty much flapping in the breeze, and in my gambit to take out his Drakhun via an Ancillary Attack, I did not Enliven it instead. Capitalizing on my mistake, the fully-loaded Superiority'ed Spriggan and Drakhun charged, wrecking it with ease. The Kayazy ran to engage my Errants, while pEiryss disrupted by Vanquisher as she had no LOS to my caster that was further than 3" into the forest. Holt opened fire on my Errants, but the first shot missed and the second failed to penetrate.

Round 3
Things were a little wonky for me at the start of Round 3; my only remaining heavy was Disrupted, and most of his army was pretty much already in my face. I maintained my upkeeps, allocated three focus to my Redeemer, and started by singing Battle. My Redeemer then walked up behind my Errants and shot his Kayazy at nearly point-blank. The three grunts died and I boosted damage on the Underboss, but he made his Tough check. I then proceeded to shoot the Drakhun, dismounting him, and used Ancillary Attack on the Underboss in an attempt to clear a charge lane, but he made his Tough roll again. The Vanquisher then shot twice at the Spriggan (Ancillary Attack), dealing some minor damage.

I then activated my Errants, and declared a charge: two on pEiryss, one on Aiyanna, one on Holt, three on the Underboss, three on the dismounted Drakhun, and one on the Spriggan. Those on A&H failed, but pEiryss and the Drakhun were felled, and the Spriggan was nicked for some more damage. The Underboss however, made three more Tough rolls. Many "like a boss" jokes were made this round :P

Mok upkept Superiority, but didn't allocate focus to the Spriggan on this round. By the time we realized this it was a few minutes into the round, and Mok chose not to take back. In hindsight, this was probably the correct call, as had he allocated focus to kill a few Errants, he might have died in the following turn. Holt made his four Gunfighter/Virtuoso attacks but managed to fail on every one of them, either failing to hit their DEF 14 or failing to pierce their ARM 18. Strakov himself got down and dirty, charging and killing one Errant, and camped five focus. The Spriggan missed with both its initials.
(The Spriggan is turned around in the picture as his lance was getting in the way)

Round 4
At this stage there wasn't a whole lot to do as the lines had already met. pKreoss kept his upkeeps, allocated three focus to the Vanquisher and two to the Redeemer, and popped his feat, knocking down everything except the Spriggan which had Superiority. My Errants went in, three of them wailing on the Spriggan doing little, while A&H and the Underboss were dispatched by the remaining Errants, as was the War Dog via Quick Draw. My Errant Officer charged Strakov but only managed to squeeze out four damage against Strakov's ARM 21. The Vanquisher went in and took the Spriggan down to only its arms. Gorman continued to pop smoke since bombing anything would have been rather risky for me as well.

Superiority was again upkept, but the Spriggan's cortex was out. Strakov activated and killed my Officer twice-over after buying four additional attacks, which I shunted to the grunts. Spriggan then activated, dealing some damage to my Vanquisher via his lance, and killing an Errant with a shield attack.

Round 5
Due to the nature of the points system for the tourney, I figured I'd best bide time and try to get all the points possible, including scenario points and running my caster into his half of the table, as opposed to going for the kill on this round. I allocated three focus to my Vanquisher, sung Battle, and took the Spriggan down by the second swing. My Errants then moved around, getting three on Strakov but failed to hit with all three of them. Gorman ran into base-to-base with the objective, netting me one point while pKreoss moved forward.

At this stage it was pretty much just Strakov, so he dispatched the three Errants engaging him after buying four additional attacks, and camped two focus.

Round 6
I allocated three to the Vanquisher, ran pKreoss into his half of the table, sung Battle, and walked the Vanquisher into melee with Strakov. A single boosted attack roll later, the game ends and I manage to net all the points possible.

Post-Game Overview
I've always enjoyed every game against Mok, and this was no different. The game was great throughout, and Mok was always a great sport even when the game went sour rather early on.

Some thoughts and lessons learnt:
1) Always go with something you are comfortable with. Prior to the tourney, the idea of dropping pKreoss for Harbinger was suggested quite a few times, both through personal communications and via the forums. In theory, Harbinger probably is better than pKreoss in many ways, but I learnt the hard way that changing something at the last moment is a bad idea - back when I played CCGs, very often going into a tourney I'd do some heavy last minute modifications to my deck to make them more "acceptable" by conventional standards, and end up doing poorer with it than my usual deck.

2) Memorize your rules. I am actually comparatively inexperienced with the faction as a whole, having only picked them back up in the three weeks leading to the tourney. The only thing I could do other than getting in a couple of practice games in this short period was to memorize my cards. Thankfully there was some overlap between my two lists so there was less to remember, but I memorized all the stats and ran some scenarios in my head so that I'd know how to execute my plans properly.

In some ways my story appears to somewhat contradict point #1, but to be fair I've had some prior experience with the models I chose, and I had been thinking about this for quite some time before finalizing the decision a month in advance, giving me enough time to meditate on my lists and decisions.

3) Do not get greedy. I tell myself that Enliven is usually better, but I often still end up going Ancillary Attack because I just want to kill stuff. Trading my 8-point Reckoner for a 2-point Manhunter wasn't a good play at all.

4) Round 1 positioning matters. People often consider Round 1 of any Warmachine game as the "run forward" phase, but positioning is still crucial even when the lines aren't close to one another. Two examples come to mind in this game:
a) I intentionally held back my Errants, as had I run them forward willy-nilly, they might have been within charge (or at least run) range of his Doomreavers.
b) The Kayazy were a bit too tightly packed, which brings me to my next point...

5) Spacing. AoE's kill stuff thats clumped together, so don't clump them together if you can help it. Especially against a list with many AoEs, it is crucial to fan out the squad as much as possible, while being mindful of the position of the Officer and Leader, should the Officer die.

6) Don't always advance deploy with Advanced Deploy.  One thing is for sure; Doomreavers in front die. At the same time, he couldn't have held them behind his Kayazy, since his Kayazy and A&H would be at risk of breaking. Possibly a flanking maneuver would have served him best, or side-by-side with his Kayazy (with some space between them, of course). One of the strengths of Advanced Deploy is to be able to put down your models after seeing where your opponent places his - do not feel it to be necessary to get them in front of everything else just because it can.

Thoughts on the lists:
I'm quite happy with mine; it did what it was supposed to do, albeit in my twisted attrition-centric way as opposed to the more logical assassination route. Although it never came up in this game, one of the other reasons I took pKreoss in one of my two lists, was for Purification. It is a downright game-breaking spell against certain lists, although admittedly this wasn't one of them.

To be honest, I'm uncertain how I would have piloted Mok's list should the tables be turned. I personally feel Strakov is extremely dependent on the alpha-strike as his primary mode of operation, hence possibly why he's sometimes considered a one-trick pony. Again, I'd probably be a lot more conservative with the Doomreavers, and set up the second round Feat by charging one of my own models and popping the feat to get a good 21" on it.

Overall, it was a fantastic game, and I truly enjoyed the event as a whole. Mad props to Mok and my other two opponents (Adrian and John) all of which were great and very sporting opponents. Of course, not forgetting the tourney organizers (Dick and Alan) for how smooth the event went, and Legio for hosting us. Hopefully we will see a Black Steel 2013!

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