Monday, January 21, 2013

5 Simple Ways to Fix Calaban

Because we certainly don't want him breeding in his current state...

If you read my rage post on Calaban, I think it's pretty clear that I am frustrated by him. I like the model, the fluff behind it, the ideas behind the rules, but the rules as written don't work. They don't flow smoothly like hollow logs on a river, or like rhymes from the mouths of poor inner-city youths. So in an effort to fight off the constant urge to play him, here are some ideas about how to make his parts work properly:

What works

  • Spell List - His spell list is rock solid all around. He's got answers, and plenty of them.
  • Melee capability - Despite being primarily a spell slinger, when it comes down to the wire, Calaban can step up with his crap MAT and kill things in melee. You've got Sustained Attack on the bite for high DEF targets, and Life Trader on Carcass for high ARM. You still don't want to rely on him in melee, but it works.
  • Base stats - the coolest thing about Calaban for me has always been SPD 6. In almost every game I have won with him, my winning play would not have worked if he was SPD 5. It is a strange quirk, and very welcome.

What doesn't work

  • Feat - This feat seems awesome and can be good at killing infantry and bouncing spells around. It requires a lot of experience and planning to get right, and is quite satisfying when you actually pull it off. However, there is something missing:
    No real threat! -
    It's not scary for your opponent. It lacks explosion or risk. It needs to provide some direct threat to the enemy caster, rather than just to your sanity and ability to rationalize.
    Skornergy! - The feat triggers when a friendly model destroys an enemy model. 'Destroyed' is the 3rd step of the death process, following disabled and boxed. Calaban also has the following abilities that remove from play on 'boxed' - Carnivore, Bone Shaker, and to a lesser extent Grave Door (which destroys the model only at the very end of the turn, right before the feat expires).

Calaban's feat is the square, logic the hole.

  • Heart Stopper - this ability is crucial to getting Calaban to function smoothly and throw spells around instead of just moving up and dying because you wanted to cast Parasite and Hex Blast. It sounds really cool in concept. It is however janky as all hell. It's not optional so you can't use the gun to just clear a lane, the model becomes a very ineffective arc node due to LoS/engaging/living-only issues.


5 Simple Ways

1. Pretend he doesn't exist / wait for Mk3 / play Rask
Probably the most realistic approach, and certainly the most effective.

2.  Errata - Grave Door
Erratas happen once or twice a year. Usually to nerf models that are a bit on the OP side (eSkarre, Blood Witch UA, eLich, Molik Karn, or the mighty Khador Bulldoze jacks), but very rarely to buff crappy broken stuff. Still, one can dream:

'When a living enemy model is boxed by this attack, it may heal 1 damage point. If it does, for the rest of the turn, the enemy model gains Circular Vision and this model can channel spells......'

Essentially, this makes the ability optional and gives the arc node a 360 degree LoS. Having any living infantry model in your list in your caster's LoS then becomes a slightly scary proposition for your opponent on feat turn, should he get blasted by 3-4 boosted Bone Shakers. Of course, if you're Cryx you still don't care, but that maintains the essential underdog character of Gators and dominance of Cryx so the world can keep turning.

Would that be too powerful? Remember that you still have to kill an enemy target with a POW 10, and it has to be living, probably fail a tough check, and it can't arc while engaged, so your opponent can do something about it.

I can live with the Skornergy of the feat if the arc node ability worked properly. At least the feat works when you kill non-living models.

3. New models - Craft Talisman
Bone Grinders in the Tier list. I know, right? However it seems like BS and antagonistic to the list-building aspect of the game that you have to buy a unit for a single caster to work half-way effectively - a unit which you literally cannot use for any other caster in your half of the faction (which is 95% exclusive from the other half).  Maybe I'd like to have Craft Talisman on Rask as well for 8" Fury and Boundless Charge and Admonition so he can be a bit further back at times.

Hell, if PP give that to the Bokor in the Swamp Shamblers or some other new Gargantuans model then I'll even think they know exactly what they're doing with Gators. Assuming said Bokor doesn't have a giant bullseye painted on its head...

4. New models - Arc node solo
Yep, arc nodes helps spell casters. News at 11. It might even be fluffy to have models like Spell Martyrs, except they are just dead people impaled on voodoo spikes and strategically located around the battlefield by a good Samaritan. The only issue here is that our other casters don't really need arc nodes. It's just Calaban. I think Barnabas is the only other Blindwater warlock with a direct target spell above RNG 6! An arc node would also better thematically suit the Thornfall's 'mad scientist' vibe better, so while an arc node helps Calaban, I don't really want one in Blindwater. I'd rather the poor pigs get one. Don't say I never give you guys anything.

5. Add a rule/spell
PP has historically not added any new rules to models (after Escalation was released anyway), so this would be even less likely than Mk3.

Basically, here I would add a rule that adds additional range to Calaban's spells, so he can throw out his Warmachine RNG 8 spells without getting gibbed or being dependant on a tier list to work.

There are a bunch of rules in the game that add additional range to spells, or pseudo-channel abilities:
  • Dark Rituals (Rasheth) - killing/damaging/sacrificing your own guys is not really in Calaban's character. He has a kind heart under all that cold-blooded bastard exterior.
  • Soul Slave (Hexeris) - Neat spell. Probably too many upkeeps for Calaban though.
  • Beast bond (eHexeris/eKaya) -  Only happens on epic models. Need to grind that XP to buy the 'beast bond' node on your talent tree.
  • Range Amplifier (eLylyth/pCaine) - this would be amazing, but would undermine the voodoo magic nature. Personally, I'd much prefer 5" range on all my spells base over voodoo magic smoke and mirrors, but it would skew him hard in the tier list with Craft Talisman.
  • Witch Mark (pLylyth) - this has a 'during caster's activation only' clause at the end, which screws it.
  • Spellbound/Oraculus (Vayl) - this is like a version of Grave Door that works because you can use it on friendly models, so they can actually see what they are casting at. Replace Grave Door with Spellbound, and we're almost in business.
A giant rubber duck in Auckland's viaduct. Pretty cool.

Why should I care?

Why do we need Calaban at all? What can Calaban do that a Rask/Barnabas two-list combo can't also achieve?

To be honest, I don't know. Calaban's primary strength has always been that he has Parasite, and therefore allowed Gators to seriously hurt models over ARM 19. He also has Hex Blast, which is costly but still far more effective than a Thrullg in removing upkeeps, and a magic gun to deal with incorporeal douchebags that try to hold flags/zones.

Now we have Rask, who is more survivable than Calaban (Trog Sacrifice, similar defensive stats, small base, no reliance on offensive spells), can put out the same level of damage (Fury), can deal with nasty upkeeps (Arcane Interference),  and has an accurate magical gun.
The only advantages I can see on Calaban's side is that he is far better in melee, and thus better in the attrition game. He is also the only Fury 7 warlock, giving him a bigger control area and better ability to run beasts (which he does quite well), but isn't really a big deal when Posse are so good.

Calaban's only redeeming feature at this point from a design point of view is that he offers a different playstyle, a playstyle which relies on unpredictability through Grave Door, through Bone Shaker, and through his feat Death Harvest. That means there is the potential of spell assassination in there somewhere. Everything else he does is providing solutions and counters which Rask also provides. If those unpredictable abilities do not work effectively, then he doesn't work effectively. And in my opinion, they don't, so we don't need Calaban at all.

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