Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thinking Cap: The Underdogs Part 2

Yesterday we discussed the advantages of looking at the often underrated models/units in each faction.  While I often will look for these underdogs to a fault, playing with them can be a valuable exercise for keeping one fresh in their gaming skills.  Today I want to look at some examples of underdogs in each faction.  Naturally, they can find their way more easily into some lists than others, but are found less often than some of their counterparts in the same faction.  Also, consider that these are my observations based on the tournaments I've attended, the reports I've read from tournaments, as well as personal observations in the game clubs that I frequent, but your meta may vary (of course).

So what are some good examples of underdog units to look at and reconsider?  Well we should look for a unit that might have some special abilities which are under-appreciated that might encourage perhaps a different style of play than that particular faction may be used to.  I also tend to think that attrition is more viable than most, so you'll probably sense a theme of that here too.  Lastly, I will not be looking at Mercs or Minions, since there are lots of contracts to look at and I think the entire factions are underdogs.  No offense to either group of players!

Cygnar Precursor Knights: These guys are often overlooked for a number of reasons.  First, Cygnar is the most "shooty" faction and many of their melee elements are overlooked.  Secondly, these guys are a little more expensive (although still cheaper than trenchers) and have special abilities that are often underappreciated.  First, having blessed on melee weapons is surprisingly awesome, especially since many factions rely on defensive buffs to keep their infantry alive longer (Khador, Menoth, Skorne, etc.) and they also rock a MAT 7 and are one of the very few magical attacks that Cygnar has at their disposal.  Lastly, they have ranked attacks which means that they are great for shielding your various shooting units and also rock spell ward so that they can't be targeted by spells (although that includes friendly spells too).  While Constance Blaze has made these guys more popular, they're still often overlooked for Sword Knights or are taken more for Highborn Covenant Mercenary contracts, despite their great abilities.  Oh and their leader can heal - situational but helpful if you're on fire or a solo is near death.

Khador Assault Kommandos: Assault Kommandos suffer more hate than most of the other choices in the Khador arsenal because anything that you could use to make them better, makes Winter Guard better too.  They're good all-rounders, however, and since they are immune to cloud effects, corrosion, and fire, they are much better than I think they get credit for.  Throw in shield wall and two standard attacks and these guys make a good front line while able to clear out swarms of infantry - especially with their attachments which not only spew fire, but can explode without hurting their komrades.  These guys should be considered even more now that 'character restriction' is standard and you can't run a Winter Guard Deathstar in every list, but then again everyone is just turning to Kayazy or Iron Fang Pikemen instead.  I still think that the Assault Kommandos offer some great utility that Khador can use, especially against factions that rely on continuous effects or elemental AOEs for clearing out infantry (Cryx, Menoth, Legion).

Menoth Flameguard Cleansers: While the Cleansers got a bit of a hit from Mk I by not exploding anymore when they die, people often forget how much better sprays are in Mk II.  Having a full unit of sprays is pretty awesome, especially since they can also lay down a big template that not only is a combined ranged attack (for some potentially huge damage!) but also leaves an AOE that damages models that move through it!  Naturally these guys are also immune to fire, which is an often underrated ability, as there are many fire-based weapons in the game (especially in Legion) so immunity to it is fairly rare but potent.  Also, being able to put continous fire on a warcaster or warlock can be huge and potentially with you the game.

Cryx Cephalyx Drudge and Mind Slaves: Cryx hardly needs more tarpit units and so these guys are often overlooked for their mechanithrall cousins.  What these guys offer that's different, however, is tough, which is rare in Cryx outside of Terminus.  These guys offer a lot of cheap, tough bodies with a surprisingly powerful melee attack.  Also consider that they have eyeless sight - an ability which is often only considered for shooting, but it means that these guys can ignore clouds and forests for LOS, which can be quite significant in the right situation.

Retribution Houseguard Halberdiers: I must admit that I don't believe that Retribution has a very different meta wherever one goes, and I believe that their infantry are fairly well balanced against each other.  I rarely see Halberdiers on the table, however, even though they are probably one of the best defensive infantry units out there.  They're a little more expensive than some, but with their UA they can move up to 9" in one turn in shield wall formation and, while their initial P+S is fairly low, they have combined melee attack and naturally have reach so they can still threaten higher ARM targets if they need to.  Throw in ranked attacks and they become invaluable for a typically very shooty army, able to take the hits and engage the enemy while your ranged attacks continue to pummel your foes.

Trollbloods Scattergunners: Trolls don't pack a lot of firepower and prefer to "brick-up" with some powerful melee threats, take the charge, and then push back stronger.  Needless to say, most Trolls don't think they need any ranged units, especially since they won't have much support to offer them.  Scattergunners are a little odd for this list since they actually have no special rules to consider, but can be extremely effective with their new UA, allowing them to clear out some of the chaff so that your most effective units can be delivered to where they need to be.

Circle Stoneward and Woldstalkers: While these guys are typically only seen in a pBaldur list, these guys are quite the solid and effective unit for a mere 5 points.  They have a powerful magical shot that can get stronger with more of their buddies that hit, thanks to concentrate fire from the Stoneward.  It looks a bit like a combined ranged attack at first, but it can functionally be much better since you can get more shots off than you could with a CRA.  They can also disengage from melee if someone decides to just run up and engage them or they can shoot-and-scoot with zephyr, and they are immune to anything that affects living models!  These guys are always awesome whenever I use them but they are often ignored for Tharn Bloodtrackers (which are admittedly pretty awesome but vulnerable to blast damage).

Legion Legionnaires: Legion usually doesn't run with a lot of infantry but when they do, they're usually trying to pack more of a bunch or be more mobile, and these guys are often ignored for the more powerful Swordsmen.  What these guys offer, however, is defensive ability (especially with their new UA) and can take the punches and then strike back with vengeance and reach.  They will force you to play more defensively, but are worth considering if you can't land an effective alpha strike.  These guys will complement some warlocks more than others, but every Legion warlock could benefit from having a cheap and meaty unit as a front line to keep their beasts from getting hit too much!

Skorne Karax: I know that my buddy Jesse with rage when he sees this, but I see these guys as still having a place in the Skorne army over Swordsmen.  While the Swordsmen are clearly better at offense, these guys offer a lot of great defensive benefits for some more fragile models.  Shield Wall adds to their ARM so that they can withstand most enemy shooting and thanks to being girded, they are immune from blast damage (normally a problem if originating in their back arc) which is also great for packing models in next to them in B2B.  On top of that, reach with combined melee attack can still be fairly effective.  They're still worth considering, you just have to adjust your playstyle to suit them.  These guys will be great when paired up with the newly-released slingers, as you can have a great formation with these guys in front while the slingers throw their bombs over their heads.

Like I said before, your particular meta might see these units more often than I, and that's great if you do!  I think that one of the greatest strengths of the game is the options available to each faction for dealing with particular threats.
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