Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Gator Rise Missile

I played a (very short) game in preparation for the Ides of March tournament coming up. It was not very good preparation for either participant.

Here were the lists:

Min Halberdiers + UA
Stormfall Archers
Arcanist x2
Lanyssa Ryssyll, Granter of +2" Charge Distance


Max Gatorman Posse x2
Wrong Eye + Snapjaw

I go second. We played the Fire Support scenario. He deploys Hyperion to my left, most of his troops to my right, and the support and other jacks in the middle.

Vyros Turn 1: Stuff runs really fast (Mobility = srs bzns).
Barnabas Turn 1: Stuff stands in Swamp Pits, Submerges. I anticipate using WE+Snapjaw and a Feralgeist to stop scoring on Hyperion's flag for a couple of turns.

Vyros Turn 2: Hyperion kills my Artillery Emplacement objective (actually illegal) and places himself b2b with the nearby flag, and the Banshee charges Snapjaw and takes out about 1/3 of his boxes + crit Grievous Wounds. Vyros ends his turn behind a building
Barnabas Turn 2: Spitter picks up Wrastler, 2-handed throws it forward (just winning the strength check). Barnabas charges the Banshee, leaves it on a few boxes, pops his feat which KDs Vyros, goes to cast Rise on the Wrastler but gets shut down by the Banshee. Wrastler rises himself, is unable to charge Vyros due to a small base and building in the way (is literally a bee's dick short of making it, had I been able to kill the small base I would have been fine), so instead Tramples up to naked Vyros (who is about 8.2" inches away), buys 2 additional attacks at dice for damage, rolls an 11 and a 7. Pure skill.

Vyros Turn 3: Goes to make coffee.

Basically I don't think that game was really winnable for me without an assassination, since there was too much ARM on the table between Vyros camping, Inviolable Resolve and Hyperion. Either I would have lost on scenario, or would have my beasts killed and Barnabas stomped to death.

The Gator Rise Missile

I have already written briefly about this tactic in my Blackhide Wrastler article, but will take the opportunity to expand on it here.

The Gator Rise Missile is (post-errata) a tactic unique to Gatormans (1). It makes me feel like a special snowflake to have access to something that is potentially really good. Other factions have had ways to pull similar things off in the past but most have been errata-ed or reworked in MkII to make it impossible. Examples of this include Kraye's feat, Irusk2's feat and the fabled Turn 1 assassination eVlad Flying Pegasus. Thus this broken trick remains unique to Gatormans and subjects Blindwater to design restraints for the forthcoming expansions.

The whole tactic revolves around the Wrastler's unique Rise animus, which allows a friendly Minion to immediately stand up. It costs 1 fury, and is RNG 6. This combos well with the Wrastler's Wrastler rule, which allows it to basically function as normal when KD with the exception that he does not block LoS, is DEF 5 and cannot advance.

Usually, the Gator Rise Missile looks like this:
  1. Activate heavy warbeasts with 2-open fists
  2. 2-Handed Throw Wrastler, boosting to hit to be safe.
  3. Throw Wrastler at a carefully positioned Feralgeist, a well-placed enemy model, or risk it with a random deviation.
  4. Activate Wrastler, cast Rise (or caste Rise on Wrastler with warlock before he activates).
  5. Charge enemy caster, win.
As mentioned in the Wrastler article, some people recommend doing the throwing with the Wrastler and the flying with your warlock instead. I think this is a bad idea.
Firstly, if you miss your throw target and deviate outside Rise's 6" range, you have just irreversibly knocked down your warlock in front of your entire army. This means you cannot activate your warlock this turn and against any semi-competent player, this means you have lost the game.
Secondly, using a warlock for an assassination run is a highly risky proposition. If you fail (and none of our warlock hit that hard - Calaban is potentially the hardest hitter), you are very likely to die and therefore lose the game. This should only be attempted in the most dire of circumstances.

When you should use it

The Gator Rise Missile is a risky tactic. Dice are the one element of the game truly outside the player's control. Good play relies on minimizing dice rolls and the consequences of dice rolls as much as possible. This means both trying to avoid rolling dice when possible by boosting stats so that the possibility of failure is nil or almost nil , or applying tactics which do not require dice rolls at all.

The Rise missile requires a lot of dice rolls - the 2-handed throw hit roll, the STR check, the throw melee attack roll/deviation roll, and the Wrastler's own attack and damage dice. Therefore it is not really a tactic upon which to build a list strategy. You cannot consistently win games using the Gator Rise missile because not only will your opponent adapt to avoid it, but the dice will just straight up screw you at one point. Therefore, you have to pick your opportunitie:

  • Use it when you can get a high percentage assassination. In the game above, we determined I could not have made the charge because of a small base so had to trample, but it was an extremely close call that certainly would have required a judge in a tournament setting. As a result, I had to get lucky with dice to get the kill - with the charge, I could have had 11 dice at straight damage and 2 attacks at dice -3. In short, 99%+ chance of success.
    Basically, try to stack the odds in your favour as much as you can with the usual buffs and debuffs available.
  • Use it when you're a little bit desperate. Had I not gone for it, in the long run my army would have been grinded down by an ARM 19+ wall of death that could have killed my Wrastler and then laughed at my puny P+S 13 attacks. Sometimes it is also a viable choice to Gator Rise Missile with your warlock late game, because you literally have no other chances to win.
  • Use it when the threat of retaliation is low. For example, if you can get the Wrastler out on a flank , at the edge of your control area, to destroy a valuable enemy model and contest a zone, with little chance for reasonable retaliation on your opponent's side of things (remember the Wrastler is ARM 19!), then that's usually a good risk to take.
  • Use it when explaining Page 5. Because it takes balls, and is pretty cool.


What you should use it on

The Wrastler and maybe your warlock. That is about it.

  • Swamp Horrors are not a valid target, because they have Steady, and thus when thrown cannot be Risen. Too bad.
  • Boneswarms are not valid targets, because they shouldn't be in your list.
  • Snappers are not good targets, because odds are that you'll take out an aspect with the POW 12 throw. Yay.
  • Ironhide Spitters are not good targets, because if you find yourself in that situation, the Spitter should probably be doing the throwing. Although if you want to get some ultra-sneaky assassination late game with that Spitter gun, it could work. And be hilarious.
  • Totem Hunters and Gatormans are probably the best candidates outside Wrastlers, since they will only die to the throw on a 12, and have heaps of threat range by themselves.
But really, just stick to throwing the Wrastler.

Things to watch out for

  • Rise will remove any animi currently on the target. Thus if you intend to do something like give the Wrastler reach, you will have to cast Rise on the Wrastler using your warlock, then cast Elasticity on the Wrastler with the warlock. The reverse order will result in nothing.
  • Deviations can be risky business. This is why it is highly preferable to throw at a target (boosting to hit) rather than risk a deviation - if you go backwards 2.5", it is just as good as a wasted activation.
  • The Wrastler has the highest STR in our faction. He will sometimes win the STR check when another beast is throwing him. This really sucks, but don't despair. In the greater scheme of the game, this is a minor setback. Complain profusely, then carry on with your turn.
  • Abilities and feats that stop special attacks will stop you doing the throw (ie. Zerkova's feat, Icy Grip), and abilities which deny spellcasting or increase the cost of animi (Druids, Mulg's animus, Scaverous' feat) can seriously mess with this tactic.
(1) And by extension Wrong Eye, if you want to spend 18 pts on that little package instead of a Gargossal.

Friday, February 22, 2013

What makes a great caster?

I was having a discussion yesterday with a fellow Warmachine player who is convinced that pStryker is srs bzns - as in a truly competitive casters that you might see at the top tables of a Masters event. I think pStryker is ok and has a strong feat, but is seriously lacking in several departments.

So it got me thinking - what makes a great caster? Let's say an A-grade, or 8+/10 type caster - the type of caster that you want your children to grow up to be, the type of caster than can move mountains and slay dragons and bed maidens.
Can we take a strictly analytical approach to this question, or are great casters a result of pure synergy detached from their individual components? I think there is a little mix of both, more the former than the latter, but for the most part great casters have most if not all of the following attributes:

1. Movement buff - being able to be unpredictable with positioning, flexibly increase threat ranges, move more aggressively to contest zones and control the board.
Examples: Boundless Charge, Leash, Road to War, Temporal Acceleration, Warpath

2. Damage buff - being able to increase damage potential -  debuff ARM, buff damage or accuracy.
Examples: Parasite, Flaming Fists, Fury, Battle Lust, Dark Shroud

3. Denial / Control - being able to shut down parts of the board, enemy movement or access to resources.
Examples: Disruption, Crippling Grasp, Temporal Barrier, Inhospitable Ground

4. Answers - Being able to deny your opponent his spell, terrain or raw stat advantages.
Examples: True Sight for stealth, Purification for upkeeps and animi, very high burst damage potential for high ARM ala Breach or Overkill, mass KD effects for high DEF

5. Survivability - having good survival stats and abilities, a large control area, get-out-of-jail-free card or the ability to mitigate or redistribute (types of) damage.
Examples: Borka (Unyielding + Drunk + Iron Flesh + Wind Wall), FOC 8 casters, Stealth, Call to Sacrifice, Admonition, Scroll of Grindar's Perseverance

6. Metaskew: the Unknown Factor - Providing a unique problem through a combination of abilities so that your potential opponents are forced to consider this specific caster when constructing tournament lists.
Examples: Shadow Pack on eLylyth (tough Stealthed models that can outshoot almost any list), eHaley + Stormwalls (not playing the game for a turn in the face of huge firepower and big threat ranges)

A great caster requires most of these, an overpowered caster will probably excel at them all in a faction that accentuates them.

Some All-Star Examples:

eLich - Arguably the best caster in the game, eLich has pretty much all of the above on his card or in his faction, leading him to shine in pretty much all six categories:
  1. Speed buff - Teleport, Excarnate
  2. Damage buff - Parasite, Banes
  3. Denial/Control - Hellbound, Caustic Mist, Satyxis jam
  4. Answers - Death Knell/Bile Thralls for high DEF jam, , Withershadow for upkeeps,
  5. Survivability - solid stat line, tons of focus through souls, Hellbound, FOC 7 control
  6. Metaskew - Spectral Legion feat can control entire game through its existence alone, Excarnate Bile Thralls combined with Teleport, Cryx

Irusk1 - Not on the same level as eLich, but a very solid caster in his own right and probably Khador's best. He only shines in half the categories, but is quite solid in the others.

  1. Speed buff - Superiority is a good boost for your one jack.
  2. Damage buff - Battle Lust, +2 to hit on feat, in Khador
  3. Denial/Control - Inhospitable Ground, 4+ no KD tough feat
  4. Answers - Airburst is actually one of Khador's two answers to Stealth (the Spriggan is the other)
  5. Survivability - FOC 7 control, Iron Flesh, far behind the usual Khador grind, decent stat line.
  6. Metaskew - Iron Flesh can be a really skewy spell, especially when combined with his feat and naturally high DEF infantry. If you can't deal with Iron Flesh infantry that are super tough no KD for a turn, you're in trouble.

The Case of Stryker1

This is why I think Stryker1 doesn't really cut it in the big leagues -
  1. No SPD buff - (Snipe, perhaps? It does increase threat range)
  2. No damage buff
  3. Denial / Control - Disruption gun, Earthquake
  4. Answers - No real answers apart from merc options, maybe Earthquake to deal with high DEF
  5. Survivability - He does very well here: monster ARM on the feat turn, Blur, potential 2 Arcane Shields in the list and a respectable stat line.
  6. Metaskew - Everything is stock standard, nothing really unexpected can happen beside Earthquake.
This says it all, really.

Stryker1 only shines in one of this six criteria (survivability), does ok in denial/control (only against WM though) and is little other than a support bot. He doesn't really have the answers to deal with some of the tougher problems, and he doesn't pose any tough questions himself. In short, he is not really competitive and is squarely average in most respects.

The Case of Gatormans

This being Rot 'n' Roll, I better write something about Gatormans. Faction wide our casters have access to Spiny Growth (survivability boost), Elasticity (effective speed buff) and the Gator Rise trick (speed buff). These 3 animi are all really good and define the faction's playstyle. On the flipside, we have no in-faction damage buffs, Thrullg is the only upkeep removal/disruption effect on hand and we are desperately lacking decent ranged options. Our metaskew capability is extremely low on account of lack of options.


Speed buff - Boundless Charge
Damage buff - Fury
Denial/Control - Inhospitable Ground, Paralysis
Answers - Bonkers amazing gun, Boundless Charge for Pathfinder, Fury for high ARM (hallelujah)
Survivability - Admonition, Call to Sacrifice
Metaskew - None.


Speed buff - Warpath
Damage buff - nil
Denial/Control - Swamp Pits make rough terrain, deny shooting.
Answers - Swamp Pits can answer shooting lists effectively, KD feat deals with high DEF
Survivability - Unyielding (combos well with Counter Charge), Iron Flesh, transfers. Good stats.
Metaskew - Low, Swamp Pits can skew the game heavily away from pure shooting lists, which are not very common in SR 2013.


Speed buff - Revive, Spirit World
Damage buff - Malediction
Denial/Control -Death Pact Gators can be very hard to remove
Answers - nil, mostly just problems.
Survivability - Undead + Spirit World,  Death Pact, souls for extra transfers. Good stat line.
Metaskew - None.


Speed buff- nil
Damage buff - Parasite, Carnivore
Denial/Control - nil. Grave Door could make your opponent reluctant to do things, but it doesn't.
Answers - Excellent spell list. Hex Blast, Parasite, Carnivore, Occultation
Survivability - decent stat line, Occultation
Metaskew - None.

And there you have it - Rask is sweet, Calaban is not. News at 11.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The path to the Ides of March

What will probably be New Zealand's largest Warmachine tournament ever will take place in less than two weeks (1). This will be my first "proper" tournament in a long time, so the best I hope to do is place in the top half of the field and meet some nice people who share my amusement at Searforge and the Mountain King.

Ides of March is a 42pt (2), 2 list, character restricted, 2x 1 hour deathclock, 7 round, 7 scenario, Killbox artifice, fully-painted tournament.

Since I am such a non-player playing a non-faction, I think I am at liberty to discuss my list choices without fear that someone will try to netdeck against them. Because that would just be stupid, and the best way to netdeck against Gators/Minions is to play something actually good.

List 1

* Blackhide Wrastler
* Swamp Horror
Bull Snapper

Bog Trog Ambushers (Leader and 5 Grunts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts)
Swamp Gobber Bellows Crew (Leader and 1 Grunt)

Totem Hunter 

One of the lists will of course be Rask. There are a few reasons for this:
- He is freaking awesome.
- He is by far our best matchup vs Gargossals, Protectorate and Skorne.
- He is a good all-rounder with a lot of answers (upkeep removal, Boundless Charge, Fury, Paralysis) and a lot of problems (Inhospitable Ground, Feat, Admonition, Call to Sac Trogs).
- Most people won't really be familiar with him as he has only been out for a few weeks.

I haven't tested this list as such, and I probably won't. It seems good, and is very similar to stuff I've been using with Rask at other point levels. The one actual decision I had to make was whether to bring a Snapper or a Witch Doctor. This wasn't a hard decision in the end, but I considered that tough Gators might give a little boost in this list's otherwise average attrition potential.

However, despite Rask's clear superiority on the power scale, he still has a good number of weaknesses. Some of these are faction-wide, while others are somewhat covered by other warlocks - it's a good thing we have the option to take two lists!

Terry Crews

List 2

Bloody Barnabas
* Bull Snapper
* Blackhide Wrastler
* Ironback Spitter

Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) 


Wrong Eye + Snapjaw

In my opinion, Barnabas is still a really solid all-round tournament caster and deserves the second list spot. However, he still does have Maelok to contend with, and Maelok is not to be trifled with.

What the Barnabas list has that the Rask list does not is more favourable matchups against high DEF infantry (on account of his feat), shooting armies (on account of Swamp Pits), and better attrition and scenario potential (on account of him being a tough cookie, Iron Flesh, and a list full of high ARM models). Furthermore, he brings a Spitter, which as Blindwater's only decent ranged attack, can be amazing at sniping out key UAs and support models.

I considered switching out Wrong Eye and Snapjaw for Bog Trogs, Gobbers and a Witch Doctor. The discussion (with myself) basically went like this:

JS: This is a tough predicament....
JS: Indeed... indeed. So, what does Wrong Eye actually bring to the table, compared to the Trogs and Doctor?
JS: Mmmmm... I should analyze this ... WITH SCIENCE:

Option 1: WE + Snapjaw

1x PS 17, 1x Crit KD Reach PS 14, with 4 fury, Bloodthirst, ManEater.
1x PS 13, 1x Reach PS 12, with 4 fury.
ARM 18 and a 27ish boxes 
ARM 17 and 8 boxes, transfers
2 scenario holding pieces
Influence, Voodoo Doll

Option 2: Trogs, Gobbers, Croctor

6x PS 11 attacks, with powerful charge, CMA
1x PS 12, 1x PS 11 (magical)
2x PS 5 weapons? (legit!)
6 dudes with victim stats, but Camouflage
2 dudes with ARM 11
ARM 16, 8 boxes
Effectively 1 scenario holder piece (the Trog unit, as the support stays back)
Crap out large clouds
Zombify, Sac Strike, Dominate Undead

Damage - WE + S by a large margin.
Survival - WE + S by a medium margin.
Utility - WE + S by a small margin.

WE+S win out bigtime on damage and survival, and probably come out a little ahead on utility when you consider the list as a whole: Barnabas doesn't need to hide in clouds when he can just swim in a Swamp Pit, and the Rask list is far stronger against lists that bring a lot of support pieces (PoM, Skorne, Trolls). On the whole, WE +S win by a sizable margin.

This analytical approach to building lists is of course back by solid play experience that has shown me that WE+S are pretty damn good with Barnabas and in scenario play. It is also backed by a postgraduate course on policy analysis and evaluation techniques that makes me think this way about any given problem with multiple finite alternatives.

List 3

Maelok, the Dreadbound
* Bull Snapper
* Blackhide Wrastler
* Swamp Horror 

Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts)
Gatormen Posse (Leader and 4 Grunts) 

Gatorman Witch Doctor
Gatorman Witch Doctor

This is the other list I am considering. It is a bit of a skew list, which asks "can you deal with 10 high-ARM, tough, undead Gators, which keep coming back and can pretty much charge anything they want for a turn?". If the answer is "yep, I have weapon masters/can rfp/have lots of ARM on my caster", then pretty much all you have left is a tough caster and unpredictable Revive assassinations against opposing squishy casters. Which is ok, all things considered.

At 50pts, you would probably be better off dropping the Feralgeist for a third Gatorman Posse to make the skew even more skewy.

Painting Prize

The painting prize for this tournament will be based on the best-looking large- or huge-based model. In short, I have no chance of winning this.
Gators have no huge-based model, and our four large-based heavy beasts are ugly, plain, uninpressive models lacking in outstanding detail. Sure, there are little pieces here and there like the Wrastler's shoulder pad and the Spitter's abdomen and face, but as showpiece models they don't stand a chance vs something like a Titan Bronzeback, a Judicator or a Nightmare. Ah well.

(1) Not on 15th of the month, and also not featuring George Clooney. But there are bound to be plenty of assassinations.
(2) Don't ask why, I don't really get it either. I guess 42pts is a 'thing' now.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Soles tokens

Another quick post. I made these a long ways back, but still find them very useful and entertaining. I like to give them out to people I play against as a souvenir.

At present, the only soul mechanic we have in Blindwater is Maelok's Cull Souls. But in due time, there will be more, and you can always use these tokens with other factions and casters.

Friday, February 15, 2013

On Colossals and Gargantuans

My experience against Colossals and Gargantuans has been somewhat limited. I think as a model design decision, they have proven to be quite interesting and surprisingly well balanced (with a couple of exceptions), but also have provided a hard meta-skew effect towards big anti-armor, thereby giving Cryx Bane spam more love and the middle finger to Gators. If Rask had not come out, Blindwater would truly have been in the hole in 2013 where they would have an extremely hard matchup against any Gargossal + repair lists, and I probably would have picked up Skorne (since Gatormans are Skorne's best infantry, and Skorne has some of the best beasts and support around).

The main thing with Gargossals is that they more or less force you to bring Rask to deal with them - Calaban sucks (1), Maelok's anti-ranged tech isn't reliable enough to play him far back and his anti-ARM tech (Malediction) is just too risky against a huge wall of damage boxes, and Barnabas doesn't offer enough punch. Having said that, each caster DOES have some game against Gargossals, which usually relies on ignoring it in some way or another. Playing smart, in other words.

What do Gargossals have in common?

  • ARM 19+ - remember that sweet spot of Gator douching? There it is.
  • Crapton of damage boxes - usually needs two jacked up heavies to one-round it. Or a Bronzeback.
  • Very high POW melee attacks
  • Focused high POW ranged attacks - usually a huge gun of some sort.
  • Spray/Large AoEs/High Volume of attacks - usually to kill infantry. Think 2d3.
  • Cannot be thrown, placed, moved, KDed, stuff into a turkey, etc. - basically, the old "throw jack into shallow water" trick doesn't work.
  • Pathfinder - can't be slowed by Swamp Pits, Inhospitable Ground, and so on.
  • Easy to target with ranged attacks
  • Can't be disrupted - Rask is sad.
  • Can be Black Oiled - Warmachine is happy.


Stormwall - This thing is monstrous. The reason it is so insanely good for Cygnar players is that it is literally a few Defenders, Cyclones and Stormclads voltron-ed together into this mass of steel, with some very potent electric infantry shred added in. Seems legit and balanced, right?
One good thing for Blindwater is that the covering fire templates are only POW 12, so are very unlikely to kill a Gatorman (our primary infantry), and are unlikely to be positioned as to hamper ambushing Bog Trogs.

Take in the despair.

Conquest - This jack is serious business, mostly because it has naturally high ARM and lots of boxes. Which means you need to throw a serious amount of damage into it, and with Gators low DEF values, if you don't kill it in one round, it will demolish anything in melee (see pro tips below).
Its ranged capability, in my opinion, is not of serious threat to Gators. The Secondary Battery is basically a funny joke, and we have enough anti-ranged tech to stop getting assassinated by the Main Guns at range, and it is unlikely to kill more than a single Gator a turn - just spread your Posse a bit and put Spiny Growths on your beasts. It could get nasty if it shoots into melee clumps, but at RAT 4 and needing to directly hit for the crit effect, not a huge deal.

Judicator - Similar to the Conquest, this thing is pretty tough, hits very hard and quite accurately in melee and has a negligible ranged capability.  Unlike the Conquest however, it has access to crazy jack support and ARM buffs, so having a fishman with a ranged dispel is pretty good.

Hyperion -Again, high POW melee is serious business, and it is reasonably tough. The gun also can seriously damage warbeasts or unprotected casters, so make sure those Spiny Growths/ Swamp Pits are up. Its 2d3 attacks at POW 12 aren't really a concern. If you can hit it hard enough in one round to take out its 'S' system, then it can just kill you with its fists rather than shoot you through the universe, which is probably a plus. One Fury-ed beast should be able to do that.
The crit effect on Starburst is mostly irrelevant, since our only small based models are Bog Trogs, Croaks and Gobbers who would die to the blast anyway.

Galleon - Bart with Galleon is serious business, and is probably not really beatable with Rask, which means the rest of your options are also screwed. Your best bet is to hope to soak Hot Shot AoEs, and get around the Galleon(s) to the squishier backfield, which isn't so hard to do with Maelok.
Galleon without Bart is still reasonably nasty, as several Merc casters can give him really good buffs, however it is not an invincible armor wall.

Kraken - I don't really expect to see this as long as Satyxis and Banes exist and Cryx players don't really have a good reason to try out new playstyles. Although it does seem pretty good, and is definitely not vegan. Same deal overall - tough cookie that is hits pretty hard and has negligible ranged capability in regards to dealing with Gators.


Mountain King - I've yet to play him, but I have seen it played a few times. Whelp Shedding could be an issue if used cleverly to block charges from a second heavy coming in (since our heavies only have reach on their weaker attacks), but if you play smart with attack allocations it shouldn't be a big deal. Not as terrible as he is made out to be (few things are), but still pretty bad. MAT 5 vs MAT 6 makes a big difference when faced with an Iron Flesh Gator pit, for example (10s to hit vs 11s). I remember a lot of my feedback during the Hordes Mk2 Playtest was on the significance of MAT 5 vs MAT 6 on melee warbeasts.

Take in the tragedy.
Woldwrath - I have not really been super impressed with this thing so far. Granted, the time I played against it, it never used its ranged attack (which seems pretty decent and could kill a Gator or two) and the list was not built around the animus (which seems to be its raison d'etre). Even if it were, Circle magic attacks usually aren't that damaging (just annoying). But it is still a big, hard hitting monster, with a decent gun and naturally high ARM.
Spell Ward kind of works both ways - it can't have its ARM buffed, but you can't put debuffs on it either (sorry, Parasite users). In the end, just skews some matchups a bit.

Mammoth - Looks pretty insane and easily the most potent of the four Gargs. Fortunately Gators can survive its blast damage quite handily, so all you need to worry about is its huge melee POW and ability to Bulldoze all your stuff away. Bulldoze, huge melee/speed buff potential and good survival is really the ballbreaker on this one for Blindwater - a good bulldoze move combined with an accuracy buff and a sweep means a lot of dead Gatormans.

Archangel - Wrastlers and Snapjaw remove from play, which nerfs the best thing about this guy (pThag's feat). You should have a Wrastler or Snapjaw in at least one of your tournament lists. He has the highest potential DEF of all the Gargossals, but fortunately he is living so Gatormans + heavies should mess him up good, even without Fury. Which is good, since Rask is not the best matchup vs Legion.

Pro Tips:

1 - Rask
Rask's gun has the solution to most things, and Fury is the solution to everything else. AND you've got Boundless Charge for that extra fury worth of attacks, and a feat to protect you from getting shot until you engage. Boom. He will be one of your lists, and is likely to be THE list if you're facing a Gargossal.

2 - Swamp Horror 
Critical Catastrophic Damage. This ability is ok vs Colossals but AMAZING vs Gargantuans since they still only have 6 huge branches. So you can do ~10 points of damage on the crit alone. All you need is a little luck, and on 5 attacks chances are you get one crit in there somewhere. Worth keeping in mind, or boosting hits in desperate circumstances. Fortune favors the bold!

3 - Ignore it
Just move around it. Kill everything else. Feed it some guys so it leaves you alone. Remember that Gargossals cost a crap load of points!

Of course, this is easier said than done since Gargossals usually end up squatting in a scenario zone, and have a very large footprint  on the table.If you can win on scenario or assassination by ignoring a huge chunk of your opponent's army however, that can be an unexpected but efficient way to win.

4 - Spirit World
In the spirit (pun intended) of pro-tip #3, use Maelok's feat and run/charge a big chunk of your army through it to mess with stuff in the backfield.  Risky since you're putting less things between your caster and the huge P+S 20ish tower of power, but if you can make your opponent crap itself at multiple Gatormans swarming his backfield and caster while keeping Maelok somewhat safe, or killing the opposing caster, then it's the right move!

5 - Spiny Growth
I've found after sending a heavy or two into a Gargossal, it sometimes survives with a few damage boxes. A colossal will usually kill a Gator heavy in 3-4 hits, which means another 4d3 damage on it. It's enough to make your opponent reconsider a few of those attacks or his order of activations, usually to your benefit. If you're going to die, bring the bastard down with you.

6 - Iron Flesh Gator Mosh Pit
When life gives you lemons, put 3-4 DEF16 Posse around a Colossal and force it to spend focus to kill you. Might buy a turn or two, and is a reasonably legit tactic with Barnabas.

7- Voodoo Doll
You know what really isn't that sweet? A Gargantuan without its Spirit, or Mind. Wrong Eye is a pretty excellent at making this happen. RNG 8 is a bit short, and may result in his death, but with either Submerge + a screen or two transfers, he is likely to live through possible return fire (no need to boost vs DEF below 10).

(1) Ok, Calaban has Parasite and would do pretty well against low model/high ARM lists, but I still see no reason to play him over Rask. Although I am still wishing for some Calaban love, hopelessly. Some day....


I just wanted to share this (hilarious) post by one of my regular opponents:


This is what happens to you after you face Rask one too many times.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Blindwater Painting tutorial - feat. Rask

I had a request a while back from one of my favourite readers for a painting article. I had to wait until I actually had something new to paint before making it, but here it is.

I must admit that I am far from the best technical painter around, and my Gators certainly do not demonstrate the peak of my technical painting abilities due to some aesthetic decisions I made when starting the faction, namely that I would go for a very dark, muddy and dirty look on every model. As such, detail doesn't really stand out under standard lighting and in no way looks crisp, but it looks good anyway.

One of the most valuable things I learned in secondary school was the importance of colour selection. I learned this in a computer art class, where the teacher took the time to tell me that my colour selection sucked, made me run to the art department to pick up colour theory books, and took 10 minutes to demonstrate that good colour choices can have a huge impact on a work of art. So a big thanks to my computer art teacher from Form 6/Year 12 (1) for giving me the knowledge needed to paint nice cohesive armies.

The army as a whole uses only earthy base colours - dark olive green, bone white and earthy brown. For shading, I primarily use Devlan Mud and Badab Black GW washes. Washes works great for that messy dirty gritty look, despite being a bit of a cop-out technique for a lot of people :)

I also have two 'theme' colours for my Gator army - bright red and turquoise blue. I use these two very sparingly on most models in the army to give some cohesion and spice up the models a bit. Red is easy to throw in since carnivorous Gatormans spill a lot of blood, and the turquoise blue colour is found mixed in the basing colours if nowhere else.

The Process

Essentially, my painting is pretty mechanical and follows a step-by-step process. This is probably why some have referred to it as 'soulless':

  1. Undercoat
  2. Base Coats
  3. Shade/Ink/Wash
  4. Highlights
  5. Details
That's about it. Here is an explanation with pictures (mistakes and all!):

Step 0 - Model Preparation

This is the stage where you take the model out of the box, check you have all the pieces, hypothesize about how they all fit together and then clean them. I use a really old toothbrush and some warm soapy water and scrub every piece. This is to clean off any metal dust or oils that have gathered on the model as a result of the molding or packaging or transport processes. I find that this step makes a big difference when you get to gluing the model together and it will stick together a lot better.

After scrubbing everything, I'll look over the model under a bright light with a hobby knife and a few different modelling files and remove any flash and mold lines. After that, I assemble it, sometimes leaving a piece or two off to be painted separately and attached later.

Step 1 - Undercoat

I currently undercoat everything by hand - lighter areas like skin or beige cloth would get a white undercoat, metallics and darker colours get a black base coat. This is one reason I don't really like plastic models - I just undercoat with standard paint, which works fine on metal models but ends up streaky on plastic/resin models which require a proper gritty primer undercoat to look best.

For Gators, I undercoat everything in black for the aforementioned dark look. This gives even the brighter colours (like Blood Red and Bone White) I use a darker tone.

Step 2 - Base Coats

I base coat the entire model - basically at this stage it is good enough to be played in a hardcore format and looks decent from across the table. This also allows me to review the overall colour scheme and make any changes before getting to detail work.

For Rask, I decided to paint him like an albino (2), which means he would be predominantly white. In my colour scheme, that means a lot of bone white. I chose to paint his fins bright red to make him stick out, and his bone armor a dark grey to contrast with his lighter skin. His bracelets and loin cloth were painted brown, and the gun and spears painted with dark metallics (silver and bronze).

Step 3 - Shade/Ink/Wash

After the base coats are done, I apply the shading.  In the past I've usually just mixed darker layers of the base coat and watered it down a bit for shading, which looks much cleaner than a wash (worked great on Skorne armor for example), but for Gators I took the easy route of GW washes.

On Rask, I took a bit of extra care with the Devlan Mud wash, making sure that it accumulated in places I wanted darker and was evenly applied otherwise, especially to the scales on his back. I used Badad Black for the brown and grey sections of the model. I also apply a mix of brown and black inks to the metallic pieces - unlike watered-down paint, inks won't fog up the sheen of metallic paints.

Step 4 -Highlights

Highlighting is pretty simple - mix the base coat with a lighter colour (usually some shade of beige or white), and apply to the raised sections and edges. The aim is to make the detail stand out and give some impression of lighting. This requires a fine detail brush, slightly watered-down paint, and a lot of patience.

For Rask, the important details where the scales on this back, his face and the muscular parts of his arms and legs. I used a half drybrush technique to pick these out while maintaining a messy look. The red of the fins were approached in the same way. The bone armor was highlighted in two stages, the second lighter than the first and only on the edges. The metallics were highlighted with a bright silver, giving them a scuffed look. The browns were highlighted with a mix of brown and bone white.

Step 5 - Final Details

This is where you give the model a once-over check, fix up any mistakes, paint eyes (which I don't usually do on models), finish the base, apply seal or gloss, and paint the front arcs.

And that's it. The entire painting process for a well-detailed model takes about 90-150 mins , 2 or 3 extreme metal albums worth of time.

(1) He also taught me that Macs are the best for computer design and art, and PCs are better are everything else.
(2) Fantasy fiction has shown me that albinos all have superpowers relative to their pigmented counterparts.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rask - Bastard of the Bog


Rask is the fourth caster available to the Blindwater Congregation, and unlike the other three, is not a Gatorman. Instead he is a Bog Trog, and an honourless bastard.

What a douche.


Largely unremarkable stats, besides his good RAT. Same SPD as the average Gatorman and Bog Trog is a little surprising, but I guess he struts more than walks. Defensively, both his DEF and ARM are squarely in the middle of the pack when it comes to warlocks. His most surprising stat is his CMD, which is as dismal as you would expect from such an untrustworthy slimy fishman.


His spell list has been described by one of my regular opponents as "Khador's dream spell list" - with the notable absence of Iron Flesh, of course.
  • Admonition - one of the best defensive spells in the game, an allows target battlegroup model to advance 3" in response to an enemy model ending its movement within 6" of it.
  • Boundless Charge - seen on several Khador casters, makes things charge further, for free, and through rough terrain.
  • Fury - another Khador staple, makes things hit hard. Really hard. The downside is -1 DEF, which is not really a problem for Gators.
  • Inhospitable Ground - usually assigned to tactical warmasters like Xerxis or Irusk, Rask likes to turn large areas into swampy bog.
Note the lack of magic nuke, which is made up for by his potent magical spear gun.


  • Call to Sacrifice [Bog Trog] - it's like the Errant Seneschal's ability, except in a much smaller area. And on a warlock.
  • Ammo Types:
    This is practically like having an entire spell list of really good magical nukes at your disposal, except they are free:
    - Paralysis: aka Krea/Argus gun, lowers a living targets DEF to 7, and stops them running/charging.
    - Energy Siphon: aka. Kaelyssa gun, steals a fury/focus from the target on hit.
    - Arcane Interference: aka. eEyriss gun, strips upkeeps, removes all focus and disrupts jacks.

Feat - Dark Waters

While in Rask's control, friendly faction models cannot be targeted by anything from further than 5" away. No shooting, no spells, no charges... a very potent defensive feat that fits in well with the Gator's "no shooting" shtick.



His personal damage is almost negligible. P+S 11 non-reach melee weapon with a low MAT is downright crap. Its good enough to kill a trooper or two, but beyond that you want to keep him out of melee and in a clear support role. His harpoon gun is hits as hard as a hand cannon, so not too bad there.

Fury, on the other hand, turns almost anything in Blindwater into a killing machine. P+S 19/16 Totem Hunter? P+S 16 Posse? P+S 20/17 Wrastler? Yes please. This is the caster you want to take when facing heavy armor, as Fury combined with his harpoon gun (see 'utility') gives you the tools you need to take those heavies down.

Coincidentally, 'poison' looks very similar to the French word for 'fish'.
The more you know.


He is a support caster, but a support caster that needs to be quite far up because of his short spell ranges (6" for most), and the dependence on his sweet gun (10" range). Fortunately, he has respectable (though not fantastic) defensive stats in a faction that does well at stacking defensive buffs. I usually take a unit of Swamp Gobbers with him to provide concealment or block LoS to him, and Spiny Growth is always useful. I prefer the Swamp Gobber cloud to a Boneswarm's animus here since:
  1. Rask usually isn't too scared of melee attacks on account of Admonition and his feat (which is usually followed by a wall of jamming Gatormans).
  2. Bog Trogs also benefit greatly from the cloud on account of Camouflage. 
  3. Boneswarms are bad. I'd rather have a Snapper/TH/Croctor + Gobbers 99% of the time.

The thing that really pushes him over the edge in this department is his Call to Sacrifice - [Bog Trogs] ability. It more or less means that he is extremely difficult to assassinate if your opponent does not kill everything else in the army first, and bring enough guns to snipe out the pathetic Trogs near him.


This is what Rask does best. He has the tools to get the job done. His spell list, as mentioned, is rock solid:
Need extra hitting power to crack hard targets? Fury on a heavy beast or a charging Posse will do it.
Need to protect yourself from melee alpha strikes? Admonition.
Fighting an opponent without much pathfinder? Inhospitable Ground to jam them up.
Need to charge over that Janyssa wall, get a few extra inches of threat or save some fury on your beasts? Boundless Charge!

It's like a wish list of Domination-era Blindwater. And then he has three different types of ammo on his gun (which is practically a second spell list of awesome spells) so as to make him at least very useful in any situation.

Playstyle + Tactica

Despite his annoying tricks, Rask seems less predisposed to play the attrition game than our other warlocks. Fortunately, he makes up the difference by being pretty decent at assassination. He can make stuff hit hard, make stuff charge further, and remove buffs/focus/fury. The Totem Hunter is almost an auto-include for a Rask list, as the threat of a MAT 10, P+S 19/16 getting to your caster or valuable pieces is very viable. It's a bit like having Fury-ed Eliminators in a Khador list, except he won't die to blast damage. There's also the Flying Gator trick, which just gets better with more damage, more range and more pathfinder.

His gun is also possibly the single most powerful weapon in the game (besides Lola, I would think). It's almost an entire spell list on its own, each of which provides assassination and control potential:

  • Paralysis can help get an assassination on high DEF casters like Shae, Ashlynn, Morghoul or Amon. With a RAT of 7, Rask shouldn't have too much trouble hitting them, reduce their DEF to pathetic, and win. It's also useful to lower the DEF on warbeasts so your gators don't have to use their re-roll on living prayers (where you'd rather use Pathfinder or Dirge).
    Paralysis is also a way to shut down slow living melee beasts like Bronzebacks for a turn (just be sure not to boost the damage roll and trigger Hyper Aggressive!).
  • Arcane Interference is also pretty damn sweet. Its most potent use is to remove focus from enemy warcasters. This is a huge deal for Gators, as a lot of warcasters could just camp a handful of focus and be nigh immune to anything we could throw out.
    This ammo type will also disrupt warjacks (very useful control) and remove upkeeps from both enemy and friendly models - great for dealing with pesky Crippling Grasps, Arcane Shields and Polarity Shields!
  • Energy Siphon is the least powerful of the three effects, which isn't really saying much. In terms of assassination, stealing a fury from an enemy warlock and using that same fury to boost a POW 12 against them is pretty douchy (aka. characterful). You can also use it to steal fury from non-living beasts and make their warlocks cut themselves to make up for it. It's better than nothing, and you have an extra fury at the end. Finally, I don't remember how many out-of-turn focus-powered effects remain in the game (eSevvy's jack bond?), but you could steal focus from jacks to stop those effects happening. Or steal focus off the Avatar for lolz.

The feat Dark Waters is usually used first or second turn - basically the turn where you would get charged, or shot up. It will allow you to get the alpha-strike a lot of the time, which for an attrition faction like Gators is very significant. Note however that there are a few ways around it for your opponent - they can trample in with a heavy and buy additional attacks, they can run a few models in a unit into your guys and charge their own guys to kill them then use non-charge attacks on your models (which usually isn't a problem for ARM 18 Posse or beasts).

One interesting aspect of the feat is that it also pretty kills arcing spells, because while the source of the attack is the arc node, the model making the attack is usually further than 5" from his target, making the attack illegal.

I find the feat to combo very well with Inhospitable Ground - you cannot be charged, and if the enemy doesn't have pathfinder, they usually won't even be able to walk into melee with you. This also shuts down mass pathfinder spells like Killing Ground. You will usually have plenty of fury to cast I.G. on the feat turn as well, since you won't be doing all that much else before lines engage. In general, I.G. is a very potent but very matchup dependent spell - if you're playing Circle for example, you will rarely cast it. If you're playing Protectorate, it's likely to be up all the time.

Fury is self-explanatory - apply to thing, then get thing to charge and kill enemy thing. I like to put it up on a Posse on the feat turn, so I can hotswap it to another target after that Posse has charged. Rask will usually be activating amongst the first few models most turns anyway, since he sucks in melee, will rarely need to move forward much, and almost everything he does focuses on support or denial.

Admonition is a trickier spell to use. Often it best serves being put on a heavy melee beast early on to serve as bait and cause headaches to your opponent. Later on in the game, you can switch it to Rask to make any potential assassination attempts even more difficult. Either way, make sure you use a visible token so you don't douche your opponent out of a good plan!

List Composition

One of the interesting things I found about Rask is that he does not demand a Bull Snapper like the other Blindwater warlocks do. He is so aggressive that you will usually end up getting the alpha charge with your heavies (which will die to the counterattack, Spiny Growth or not), and Fury allows the Posse to do such ridiculous amounts of damage on the counter attack that you'd be foolish not to use them. Most of my lists run with only a Wrastler and a Swamp Horror (who does amazing things with Fury, and brings reach on a stick) and I've been doing fine with that, never lacking for fury or transfer targets. Most people don't even consider assassinating Rask if he has a fury or two, and a few Trogs/Shamblers hanging around. Saying that, a Bull Snapper is still probably the best beast available to us, so why not take one?

Otherwise, he works quite well with everything in Blindwater. Just be sure to have a unit of Trogs around him to bring him from 'average survivability' to 'damn hard to assassinate'. Shamblers are especially good at this since they are cheap bodies and benefit nicely from Rask's toolset.


Rask's main weakness (besides being in a young faction) is that he himself is a wuss, and he doesn't make his stuff harder to kill. You have to make sure to hit hard and fast, while trying to protect your army using his control tricks. If you can get controlled and grinded down, then you're in trouble since Rask's wussiness means you lack endgame credit.
Secondly, he is also somewhat prone to assassination if you can deny him transfers and healing (ala Grievous Wounds, Entropic Aura, etc.). He needs to be a bit further up to have a meaninful impact on the game due to his short spell ranges, RNG 10 gun and Inhospitable Ground, so he can be sniped off quickly if your opponent has the pieces to deny him his defenses, or push him away from his Trog friends.
Third, unlike Barnabas with Warpath and Maelok with Revive, he does not provide unpredictable threat angles out of turn (except perhaps Admonition).
Fourth, he is vulnerable to FU auras of anti-spell. I discovered this recently when I played against Kromac and his Bestial spell. Having to be a bit further up the table and unable to cast spells really sucks bad for the little fishman. Other similar effects include Mage Blight, Lamentation, Circle Druids or the Book of Menoth.

His other big weakness is that he kind of forces you to bring Bog Trogs, who are good if and only if they ambush into the enemy's backfield. If they don't, then they are just overpriced crappy infantry. Furthermore, his CMD of 5 in no way helps the Trogs crappy CMD of 8.


Power Level:
Assault Kommandos|---------------------------------[9k]----[Rask]---| Rask's Gun

The best thing about Rask is that he more or less invalidates any reason to play Pigs at present, other than perhaps against a weapon master swarm matchup. No need to play Carver lists for tournaments just to deal with armor lists anymore. Gators are the complete Minions package until PP decides changes their approach to Farrow.

I hate to say it, but Rask pretty much replaces Calaban in every way (except maybe Carnivore), and then some. He is arguably the best caster available to Blindwater, giving Barnabas a serious run for his money and an excellent partner in a 2-list Steamroller format. He also works pretty well alongside Maelok, switching the grind for the punch. His gun is absolutely insane, and his spell list is all A-list spells, and he has something meaningful to do every single turn.

I think if I ever attended a Hardcore event with Gatormans, he would be my go-to caster without a doubt. While Barnabas has more good matchups, Rask does not initially appear to have any bad matchups not shared by other Gator casters.