So you just got finished tearing through the competition at the Southern Ontario Masters and you’re bored with your easily victorious lists. No? Well maybe you’ve just been ROFL-stomped by some serious pros and you’re fresh from smashing some out of favour models with a six pound sledge hammer? Either way it sounds like you need some hot, fresh new tech’ for the summer and that’s exactly what uncle Face_Doom is here to provide for you today!
Last week we took an in-depth look at both Initiate Tristan Durant, new Journeyman warcaster from the Protectorate of Menoth, and Fyanna the Lash, a very unique Legion of Everblight solo. Both of these models bring a lot of exciting options and depth to their factions, albeit in very different ways, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing more of them in my local meta’s. Today I’ll move on to Kovnik Andrei Malakov of Khador and Tyrant Zaadesh of my own beloved, xenophobic, death-obsessed samurai half-elves – The Skorne Empire! If you haven’t read part one then it behooves you to do so immediately, and if you have then hopefully you have had sufficient time to recover from the resultant mind explosion so that you can follow along with: ...Part Two: The Samurai and the Socialite
I would like to begin with the well postured, elegantly attired and immaculately armed Kovnik Andrei Malakov, a man who most agree is destined for great things (like a full fledged warcaster incarnation!? [shhhh inner monologue, one can only hope…]). It is worth mentioning that all of the kickstarter journeymen and the lesser warlocks from Adepticon are beautiful models but some really stand out, and I think Malakov is one of them. His pose is dynamic but relaxed and confident at the same time; directing his men and warjacks forward with his masterpiece of a mechanika blade while his other hand rests idle but ready on the butt of his handcannon. This exemplifies the spirit of Khador’s high command to me, calling to mind wars fought by the British Empire in the Napoleonic era. I can almost see Malakov and Irusk drinking brandy together in a grand tent, picking at caviar and other delicacies while reminiscing on how ‘grand’ war really is. This is the kind of man who polishes his medals – daily. To me the model says all that as well as the backstory ever could, so my hat is off to Privateer for this one.
I still can’t get over this model, I’m literally being distracted from writing by staring at it, but I will try to pry my eyes away in order to take a look at his card. His basic stats are nothing crazy and just about average for all the new juniors; speed 6,mat 6 rat 4, focus 4. Malakov, or Andrei 3000 as he is fast becoming affectionately known, carries a standard handcannon and a pow 11 mechanika blade so before you consider any other rules he is a very desirable 3 point solo. With just the front of his card visible he already offers the potential for two mat 6, pow 11 attacks boosted both to hit and damage (if he charges), or one double boosted handcannon shot (and we all know those are a thing). His defensive stats are a little lacklustre at first glance (defence 14, armour 13) which sounds very vulnerable to ranged attacks but as you’ll see when we get further into his rules this guy has an out for that. So he’s already a great model with pretty good solo stats at 3 points, now let’s get into the real meat of the Malakov.
He has two spells like most juniors, a magic missile and an upkeep. His damage option is Razorwind, an old Khador favourite that is pretty decent at range 10, pow 12 but with his low focus stat of 4 you’re going to need to boost, which makes his handcannon the better option against anything but an incorporeal target. Having said that there are a good deal of incorporeal targets these days and Khador does not always bring a great number of magic weapons so having an extra magical ranged attack could be quite handy in the right situation. His upkeep is Redline, that Rhulic classic which gives a warjack +2 to their speed and strength and allows them to charge, slam, or trample for free but deals d3 damage points at the end of the target model’s activation.
This is a big deal. A really big deal.
Khador ‘jacks are speed 4 for a reason. That reason is big, hurty axes (yes sometimes it’s a lance or even a hammer but mostly it’s big, hurty axes). You usually don’t have to worry too much about them though, due to their terribly slow speed, as you’re going to have a few turns to soften them up with shooting and position yourself to handle them when they arrive. Andrei 3000’s ‘jacks will not be giving you that luxury. A warjack that moves 4″ takes two turns to get to the middle of the table – and that’s if it runs both turns! Now give that ‘jack plus 2 speed and it can get to the same place on turn two, but it can charge in and wreck something instead of running, and doesn’t have to spend focus to do so. That radically changes the tempo Khador can create early game, and it’s all because of Andrei. It means that Conquest can be halfway up the table on turn two, with focus that doesn’t tax your opponents primary warcaster – punching things. Yup.
Now if you invest in a conquest for little Andrei you better not let him get shot in the face or killed by a random venom from a sneaky little bone chicken arc node. One handy solution is the final rule on his card: sucker! which allows him to hand off any amount of ranged hits made against him to a friendly living warrior model within 2″ of him. So… bullets likely won’t be taking this guy down. Khador has a lot of great options for this ability as well, like Man’o’war shock troopers who likely won’t die to whatever was being fired at Malakov, or prime Alexia who can hand the wounds off to her free zombie grunts and make more next turn! This really means you’ll only have to keep him safe from spells (easier said than done in some matchups) so you may want to invest in some cheap infantry to screen him and take hits if your opponent gets shooty with you.
So it must be admitted that this guy is not as versatile or useful as Tristan Durant, but that certainly doesn’t mean you won’t see him. There are a couple of good options for Malakov in my opinion. The obvious one is Conquest, and you will see this pair on the table. It’s just too appealing to be able to run that colossal 12″ on the first turn. Either your opponent is fast and has put things in it’s charge range next turn or they are slow and Conquest can advance 6″ and blast away with that big gun. Having focus to boost the attack roll means more crits, and with a healthy p+s of 24 and a free charge this guy might even be able to one round an arcane shielded Stormwall (with a few spikes :p). The huge base helps keep Andrei alive in addition to it’s offensive options, and with a few focus per turn the linked guns might even be a good medium infantry killer. I think that Devastator is a good option for Malakov as well. It’s Rain of Death star attack has always been scary with it’s auto-hitting pow 18 blast, but it’s threat range of 7″ has usually calmed those nerves. The extra 2″ from Redline might not seem all that important on the turn it charges in, but when it runs 12″ instead of 8″ in previous turns that will add up and this heavy armoured shell will cross the table much faster. The focus that Malakov can afford to allocate, combined with the free charge will allow several boosts and potentially clear most of a zone with one big explosion. Having +2 strength also remedies how pillow-fisted a Devastator is when his shell is open, should you ever wish to make some melee attacks with him for some reason. Personally I would just be excited about the 9″ slams that don’t open his shell thanks to the new errata!
Khador has a few focus hungry ‘jacks (the perfect kind for any junior warcaster!) but the two that stand out in my mind are the Decimator and it’s character version, Torch. Both see very little love due to their desire to suck up focus that Khador warcasters would prefer to use to cast spells and/or camp with. This is too bad because in addition to being very cool models they can both be very useful ‘jacks, if only given enough focus to do so…enter Kovnik Andrei Malakov! The basic Decimator has a range 10 pow 15 gun with beatback and a pow 18 rip saw with sustained attack. So the ranged option is situationally useful for moving heavies out of zones that they are toed into, but the real exciting feature is the rip saw. This is the reason Decimator always wanted three focus; one to charge, one to boost the attack roll, and one to buy an auto hitting pow 18. Under Malakov the ‘jack charges for free and gets either 3 or 4 pow 20s (depending if it needs to boost it’s first attack or not). This will destroy most heavies, and under Vlad’s Signs and Portents would be a truly frightening spectacle. Let’s keep in mind too that we’re still talking about a Khador ‘jack so it’s still armour 20 with 34 damage boxes. For one point more you could take the option I think get’s the most value outside of Conquest, get ready for the boos, Torch! The most hated warjack in Khador (unfairly) could actually get some great results under the junior Kovnik and if you are a Khador player I would highly recommend you try this combo at least once (if your opponent will let you proxy Torch :p). The 10 point ‘jack brings 3 initial attacks with gunfighter, virtuoso, relentless charge and character mat 7 and rat 5. He is immune to fire and corrosion because he wears a gas mask, and he keeps the Ripsaw with sustained attack but adds a pow 16 punching spike to the mix. So Torch with 3 focus under Redline can charge for free with pathfinder and probably hits his target without boosting at mat 7 for his pow 20 charge attack. He then gets a spray 6 with continuous fire, and an effective pow 18 punching spike, then 3 more auto hitting pow 20s – and he is still armour 20 with 34 damage boxes! As an added bonus Torch can drop a 3″ smoke cloud each turn to hide Malakov from LOS. He doesn’t see play so I’m not sure people will trust this advice but I’m confident that you could put a serious hurt on someone with this combo.
So all told I would say Malakov is a solid 6/10. He gives some free focus to Khador and really makes Conquest and a few other ‘jacks shine but isn’t really needed enough in faction to merit a better rating. He can be killed with concentrated effort but likely won’t be and will probably help your hard hitting warjacks hit a little harder. It might be hard to find room for him though, as Khador infantry is just so appealing for it’s point cost. On the fun hand I think Andrei 3000 is a little lacking. His handcannon will be fun and it is a truly inspiring model, but this guy is not bringing many fun tricks with him (unless you have the balls to play Torch!). The fun you’ll have is more with his warjacks, and there is still no ‘choir of Khador’ as of yet so they are just not as bonkers as the Protectorate ‘jacks under Durant. That said I’ll give him 3 bananas out of 5 because the potential is there, and speed 6 in Khador will be such a welcome relief!
And now the time has finally come to discuss the newest Tyrant on the block in the Skorne Empire: Tyrant Zaadesh, and boy am I excited about him. I have always liked the idea of the minion lesser warlocks and their respective character beasts but I am a true Skorne loyalist and held out hope for years that we would get our own…and now my long awaited reward is finally upon my doorstep! But before I get too carried away it’s time to address the Titan (tip of the hat) in the room. Lesser warlocks are a very exciting idea and I know many people are looking forward to them as much as I am, but they are not Journeyman warcasters.
What I mean by that is they do not accomplish the same thing for your army or your primary caster. A journeyman warcaster is a low-risk, high reward choice for 3 points who often takes one ‘jack or less to battle. Journeymen replenish focus each turn just like grown up casters, and don’t need a warjack in order to do so. This means that they function perfectly well as solos without the need to spend more than their 3 point cost. Lesser warlocks are a different story; they need beasts to leech fury from each turn in order to function well and that means you’re not just spending 3 points any more. You now have to invest in a beast or beasts who cannot benefit from your primary caster’s battlegroup spells or soak damage for them through transfers. This means they are a lot less likely to be fielded in low points games, and riskier because losing them means losing a bigger chunk of points as well (at least temporarily). So lesser warlocks are a very different equation from journeyman, and most of the reason for this is the difference between the Focus and Fury mechanics. A Warmachine player always wants to add focus to the table by any means available, because at the end of the turn it all resets (usually) and their caster replenishes and starts over again. A Hordes player is typically trying to subtract fury from the table so that they do not have too much out when it comes time for frenzy checks. A journeyman is adding focus to the table, just like you want, but a lesser warlock is also adding fury, and that can be difficult to manage.
It’s also important to mention that a Focus stat of 4 is not the same as a Fury stat of 4. A ‘jack can only take 3 focus in most cases, while 4 is the minimum for heavy warbeasts and gargantuans and many can have up to 5. This means a warjack can always hit it’s full potential with a journeyman but a warbeast might have to risk going crazy under a lesser warlock to do the same. For factions with good fury management like Skorne and Legion this won’t be a problem but it’s still limiting. It’s also frightening that with an 8″ control area that lesser is going to have to get right into the thick of it, while a junior can typically just hide away in the backfield.
It’s not all bad news though. A lesser warlock expands the potential use area for your warbeasts by literally giving you a second control area. In some factions like Trollblooods and Skorne a small control area on your primary caster can be a real challenge. Your beasts are one of your strongest assets, but you can only use them in a 10-12″ bubble around your warlock and many steamroller scenarios require you to cover more ground than that. A lesser warlock allows you to field beasts outside of your primary caster’s control area, thus allowing them to stick to one side or one zone without sacrificing the use of warbeasts in the other. Many spells that effect warbeasts are tagged ‘Friendly Faction Warbeast’ rather than ‘in this model’s Battlegroup’ so it’s possible that some of your best spells can still be used on beasts attached to your lesser warlock anyway. If they are killed their beasts still run every turn and though they cannot make attacks (including free strikes) or contest zones they can still get in your opponent’s way. You can also run them within walk range of your primary warlock then base them and forfeit your action to regain control of the beast. Lesser warlocks are still warlocks and therefore can still transfer damage to their beasts, so if you are upkeeping a spell and camping two or three fury they will be difficult to kill without your opponent committing a lot of resources. It’s worth saying as well that with some offering points discounts to certain beasts or bringing strong battlegroup wide abilities to the table the new lessers all make taking some beasts with them worthwhile. It’s a risky proposition but if executed carefully could yield very high rewards, and after all we are playing a dice game. If we didn’t like to test the odds we would be playing chess, where you don’t have to roll dice to kill things 😉
So without any further warnings or negativity, on to Tyrant Zaadesh! This guy looks fun. The basic stats are certainly there, with his speed and mat of 6 and his pow 12 reach weapon. Defence 13 armour 15 is pretty standard if not better for a Skorne solo and with transfers it’s really pretty survivable against all but the heaviest hitters at range. Having a solo in Skorne with a boostable mat 6, pow 12 reach weapon for 3 points would be enticing already, but then you let him have 4 fury per turn to buy attacks and boost!? Hello! AND he has a gorgeous model coming out in June that really captures the spirit of the aspiring Tyrant. It is posed dynamically in full stride with his weapon, Deathsong, raised to strike at some unseen opponent, and I can’t wait to complete that diorama in the near future. I would field Zaadesh for sure on those reasons alone, but it gets better.
His beasts have Gang.
So that’s a thing. In addition to whatever else you take this means his effective melee stats increase to mat 8 and pow 14 with reach! My epic Morghoul list wants this guy desperately so he can have Silence of Death cast on him and charge in with his boostable mat 8 to get grievous wounds on some warlocks! The spell is called Tag Team and it grants models in his battlegroup and control area +2 on their melee attack and damage rolls against models engaged by another member of his battlegroup. So gang. He also has Perdition which allows one of his beasts to make a full advance if it damages an enemy, but only towards the closest enemy model, so it’s hard to find the right use for and expensive as he’ll need to boost to hit. I think Zaadesh wants to upkeep Tag Team (oh yeah, it’s an upkeep!) and then use some fury hurting things with his gang bonus, maybe even saving one or two for transfers.
Zaadesh also has a passive ability called Protective Battlegroup that lets one of his beasts shield guard a ranged attack or spell once per turn while within 2″ of him. This really adds to his survivability or at the very least makes it cost your opponent dearly to kill him , hopefully overexposing them. That sums up his card so it just remains to talk battlegroup and tactics. Now lesser warlocks won’t have as many options because of their fury stat but there are still some fun combos and tech I am going to try out and I would encourage you to do the same.
So the option I am hearing most about from fellow Skorne players is Reptile Hounds. Now I own four of these guys and have already had success in some lists but have had trouble finding a permanent place for them. You always seem to be taking one more than you want so it can run and set up flank for the others. They are great speed bumps and excel at hunting solos with tough but this is the first time I have been really eager to try them out. With gang and flank and an enrage from a Beast Handler these puppies get up to mat 9 pow 12 weapon master which is nothing to shake a stick at. Their animus would give Zaadesh the ability to clear tough infantry with ease, and in a perfect world Perdition might even get one into melee without wasting it’s activation so everyone gets flank! It’s an expensive little brick but it would be very fun to field and that’s enough for me right there. I also love the imagery of the ugly little buggers just tearing into jacks and beasts at the knees. Because Skorne. There are, of course, the upcoming beast packs from Exigence to look forward too as well. Being in his battlegroup, the entire pack could benefit from gang and that is just downright Cryxian.
Cyclops Savages and Brutes have been given a strong new friend as well. This would be a hefty points cost at 13 points for the trio but I think they will do a lot of work. The Savage becomes mat 8 pow 17 if enraged with foresight allowing him to boost attack and damage rolls after the fact, and has reach. The Brute has shield guard already, giving Zaadesh 2 per turn, and becomes mat 7 pow 16 enraged, also with reach. These three can put out a lot of boostable reach attacks with a fairly legitimate charge range and double shield guard for survivability. I like it. You could even go with two Brutes for 3 shield guards! You would be losing a point of strength and the Prescience animus though. An interesting point: in researching wild warbeast rules I never found anything that says they lose their printed abilities. They cannot take actions or make attacks of any kind, cannot frenzy and must run every turn, but should maintain any other abilities in theory…like shield guard? I may be mistaken but from what I can find so far a wild beast with shield guard may still use it once per turn following normal restrictions (and can even run to get into position for it!). If that is the case it reduces the risk in running those beasts with Zaadesh because even if he falls they are still somewhat useful.
The last fun little idea I have right now is a custom colossal wrecking crew, featuring Tyrant Zaadesh, his pet reptile hound Mugsy and a Bronzeback called Smasher. If Mugsy can run into melee with that Stormwall, Galleon or Earthbreaker then Smasher can follow up with up to 7 mat 9 pow 21 attacks and an additional 2 pow 20s, putting most colossals into the dirt without much difficulty. Zaadesh can’t manage 5 fury but the Bronzeback might not even Frenzy and even if it does, it’s job is done already! I like the idea of this little crew thematically and might even paint up some special models to fill the roles once I have my Tyrant Zaadesh. It’s sort of a Hail Mary plan but in fun games with friends will be a blast and who knows? If it does well enough I might even take it to a tournament one day. There are a multitude of other options for this lesser warlock as long as you’re careful to protect him and take the risk of losing control over his battlegroup (mostly). Just about any beast in Skorne would love to benefit from the +2 to hit and damage rolls so I’ll be trying all kinds of combinations and I’ll be excited to see how it goes.
I’m going to give Tyrant Zaadesh a 7.5/10 for two reasons. The first is that I’m obviously biased, and the second is that I believe he will see a lot of use and actually brings competitive options to Skorne as a whole. Reptile hounds are pretty legitimate under this guy and I’m excited to try a Cyclops pack as well because Gang is worth the points and the risk. With his Protective Battlegroup ability he is maybe one of the more survivable of the lessers and I foresee him having an extra shield guard very often as well. As for fun factor I’m cranking it up to 4 bananas out of 5 because of how well he fits the Skorne play style. He wants to get in and mix it up and this is something we support as a faction so I’m looking forward to putting him on the table.
That’s all the hysterics for now my friends but I’ll see you out there, and good luck with your new lesser warlocks and journeymen warcasters. I hope you can take some ideas from this, or at least some laughs! Until next time, keep smiling.