Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fury Management in Minions

So the holiday period is over and I am back, about as neutral about the game of Warmachine as one can be. I think I managed to get in one game over the holidays, Barnabas vs an Arkadius list that resulted in a reasonably close game in which I manage to come out the victor thanks to favourable dice and no thanks to a Slaughterhouser making 5 tough saves in a row to deny me control points and making things hard for me (I never did manage to kill him and he lived to the end).

 This game, specifically effective use of Arkadius' feat, brought to mind a frequent "request" I hear on behalf of Minion players to fill a serious design gap in the Pacts: fury management. I don't really agree that this is a design gap. I argue that this would make little difference to our competitive power, because our warbeasts are pretty crappy so being able to manage fury better wouldn't really change things all that much - Gators would take the same amount


Fury management is a term used to refer to models, abilities or spells that can directly or indirectly add or remove fury from friendly warbeasts.
Examples of this include Paingiver Beast Handlers' Condition ability, Kaya1's Soothing Song spell, or the Comfort Food ability on Troll Whelps.

All Hordes armies have fury management built into their warlock's fury leeching ability and fury stat. Warlocks with a low fury stat of 5 can "manage" fury on warbeasts less effectively than warlocks with a higher fury stat of 7 or 8. Looking at that stat alone, one can conclude that warlocks with a higher fury stat can run more warbeasts safely (where safely means less chance of frenzy) because they can leech off more fury than those with a lower stat, thereby leaving less fury on your warbeasts.

Nasum fits everywhere.


What fury management does is allow you to run more warbeasts safely, where "safely" is used to mean "lower chance of frenzy".
That's about it. If you have good fury management, you can run more beasts, and beasts can run hotter than they would otherwise, either by generating more attacks, running more models first turn, casting support animi, etc. It provides a higher artificial fury cap for your list.

It's a bit like a reverse of 'focus multiplication', a term used for spells in Warmachine like Terminal Velocity, Guided Fire or Full Throttle where the effect is relatively greater the more models make use of them. For example, spending 3 focus to cast Full Throttle in Khador is efficient if you intend to charge with a jack and make at least 3 attacks with either jacks or warcaster. However, if you have 3 Juggernauts in your list with one focus each for additional attacks, then you are getting 3 charges and 9 to-hit boosts (effectively 9 focus), making that 3 focus expenditure very efficient.

Fury management is like focus multiplication in the sense that it allows you to get more out of your points investment in warnouns by making better use of the resource, in the Hordes case that means being able to do more things with more beasts (go to your fury cap) without the downside (frenzy risk).


The short answer is beasts in Blindwater are only taken to generate fury, provide animi, and provide high P+S numbers. If Gatorman Posse could do those things, then you probably wouldn't see beasts at all, because Gatormans are freaking sweet. So unless the meta changes to a ridiculous number of 20+ ARM targets in each list, you will only want a moderate number of Gator warbeasts in any given list.

The long answer is that our beasts aren't really that good. We don't have beasts that we actually want to take many of, except perhaps the Bull Snapper - which, while quite capable for a 3pt beast, doesn't really deliver the volume or quality of attacks required to kill things and doesn't have a lot of health. Coincidentally, this is also the only Minion warbeast with any fury management via the Torpor rule that removes a fury from it and ends its activation immediately after destroying a living model, a.k.a. "free boost". Bull Snapper - one of the best designed models in the game.

Spitters are the only heavy of which you might want three in a specific type of list, but even then you're probably only boosting hit rolls and a few direct damage hits. Since the AoE causes Corrosion, you don't usually end up boosting the blast damage rolls when fury is a concern. Fury management would basically allow you to boost all the blast damage rolls in exchange for a couple of points. Worth it? I wouldn't say so in the majority of situations.

Wrastlers can have a good and unpredictable threat with their animus but don't hit hard enough to be a super serious threat in themselves, and also lack reach or movement shtick (you can give them reach with Elasticity, but then you lose a lot of flexibility in making a Rise Missile happen). Dual Wrastler lists can do some cool stuff, but again I think this is something that gets taken due to lack of options, not because it's really THAT sweet.

Swamp Horrors could also be taken in multiples as they hit hard-ish and have lots of reach initials so can deal with multiple targets and heavy targets. Unfortunately they are squishy as shit in melee and die to charging mechaniks.

Boneswarms are just crap at everything.

In terms of specific battlegroup-wide buffs, we have Warpath. And Admonition and Flesh Eater at a stretch, I guess. Everything else probably gets more out of it when used in conjunction with Gatorman Posse. That isn't much of an incentive to bring warbeasts, let me tell you.

Let's have a look at other factions for comparison's sake:

Legion and Skorne have the best fury management in the game in Paingivers, Sheperds and Forsaken. This allows them to run lots of beasts, specifically heavies. This is fine by them because they have access to amazing heavies that they want to take a lot of by choice, rather than by necessity.

On the Legion side of things, you have Archangels, Ravagores, Scytheans, and Typhon. These beasts are quite versatile in that they can not only do sizable melee damage, but are also versatile enough to handle infantry well with abilities like Overtake, Bloodbath, Slaughterhouse (takedown), Scather/AoEs and sprays. Sweet animi, sweet stats, sweet abilities, sweet weapons.
Skorne has the likes of Gladiators, Bronzebacks, Tiberion and Molik Karn, along with excellent lights like Brutes, Drakes and Kreas. Similar to Legion, these beasts have great secondary use and sweet animi (or are just really tanky as shit). The Holy Skorne Trinity of Molik, Gladiator and Bronzeback can deal with almost anything, from troop masses to high ARM to rough terrain to Crippling Grasp (ok, maybe not that last one).

Not only are the beasts really sweet, but a good number of their casters support the beast heavy playstyle through feats, abilities and spells, making beasts even more attractive. Have a look at Vayls, Makedas, Saeryn, Lylyth2, Hexeris2, Morghoul1, Rasheth, Naaresh, Xerxis, etc..
Lylyth2 is a great example - Fury 5, no real fury management to speak of and all about increasing attacks. With a few Shepards and Forsaken however, those 3 Ravagore/2 Angel lists are destroying everything on feat turn and then acting totally cool the next rather than flipping out and killing each other. Morghoul1 is in the same boat - with 5 fury and a tendency to die, without Paingivers he would really really suck.

Circle and Trolls don't have as much in terms of general fury management. Shifting Stones can remove fury from friendly warbeasts within 1" during your control phase (an ability that was not present in Mk1 but was thrown in last minute in the field test to appease Circle players who felt heavily crippled by the lack of fury management - lolz). This fury management is not that great for Circle because of its highly limited range, and as we all know Circle likes mobility, especially on their Warpwolf Stalkers which you see in every list. Besides, these Stalkers are usually going to be Primaled so will frenzy next turn anyway, resulting in effective fury management. They do however have a few warlocks that do very well running warbeast heavy (Kromac, Kaya, Baldur2 tier) due to great support buffs, built-in fury control, construct warbeasts that don't frenzy and models like the Druid Wilder that get animi out.

Trolls have Whelps, who I don't usually see on the table very often despite what I consider to be pretty strong rules (2pts for 5 solos, who can either be a MAT/RAT debuff, alternate source of beast healing or fury management - seems good). I attribute this to Troll beasts being a heavily synergistic faction, and as a result their beasts are bad to average for their high costs (outside of Mulg), so they always try to max on troops and the beasts are primarily taken for animi/support and to be a "cog in the fleshy blue machine", besides Bombers and maybe Earthborns.
They also have a couple of fury and frenzy management abilities on some casters, like Calandra and Hoarluks.

The main point is that fury management is only a really useful tool IF you have really good warbeasts of which you want to take more than your warlock can handle by itself. Minions do not have this issue because our warbeasts are good at best and mediocre at other times.


On the flipside of BG buffs, you have Farrow, whose casters are shitting out amazing battlegroup buffs with alarming consistency:
  • Carver: Mobility, Batten Down the Hatches, [Hog Heaven feat is arguably just as useful for melee heavies as it is for troops]
  • Arkadius: Aggravator, Forced Evolution, Primal Shock, Psycho Surgery, Maltreatment, Monster Mayhem feat
  • S&D: Watcher, Killing Ground, Goad, Pack Hunters, [Vision is also best for battlegroup]
  • Midas: Butchery, Pet Cemetary feat
To make up for these super sweet buffs however, they have some terrible beasts. Like, really bad beasts that only manage to do anything sweet because their casters are so baller.

War Hogs, Road Hogs and Gun Boars all share pretty crappy stats (the Gun Boar is quite tanky for a light though) and relatively high points costs, and only become respectable in any degree when they combine their "pain activated" abilities with their warlocks' super sweet BG buffs.

The only beast that is actually pretty sweet for its cost is the 2pt Razor Boar, perspectives of which will forever be cursed by its unexplainedly 100% overcosted Friendly Faction animus*. However a respectable tanky 2pt solo with boosts that you can spam and benefits from your sweet BG buffs is hard to overlook.

Pigs have access to 4 infantry units (all FA:2, 3 in Thornfall):
  • Brigands - good with Carver due to fearless + CRA (a big deal), not good with anyone else.
  • Slaughterhousers - all around excellent melee unit. Their special rules (Take Down, Finisher, Reach, Powerful Charge, Fearless, Tough) make up for their mediocre victim stats in spades. If Minions were one faction rather than two, I would definitely take a unit of these in many lists.
  • Bone Grinders - good support unit and very cheap. Craptacular damage output though, despite having a nice RNG 12 POW 11 nuke.
  • Razorback Crew - one of the better light artillery pieces in the game, but still light artillery.
The average 50pts Pig list will contain 1 unit of Bone Grinders and 1-2 units of Slaughterhousers. The rest will be filled with beasts, usually 2-3 War Hogs, 0-2 Road Hogs, 4-6 Razorboars and 0-2 Gun Boars, along with Saxon Orrik and other solos not as good as Saxon Orrik.
This is partially out of necessity (not too many options available), and partially because of the aforementioned amazing battlegroup buffs. War Hogs tend to be the most common in my experience (I almost always see 2 at 50pts) and it is pretty bad as far as melee heavies go.

With that in mind, would fury management make a big difference to Pigs? I sure as hell don't know. Probably. They are taking list made up primarily of beasts anyway, so I can't see how being able to manage fury better would be a negative. It would make spamming the Razor Boar animus easier for one, which could be neat.

I'm not convinced the lack of fury management in Pigs is a design gap though. I always thought the best approach to fury management in Pigs should be frenzy. Give Pig players every incentive to just go crazy all the time. It would be both fun and unique, require pretty good decision making skills and familiarity with the frenzy rules to maximize efficiency and not get stuck in the regimented "order of activation uber alles" playstyle of Skorne and PoM.


One of the nice things, in my opinion, about Gators is the lack of fury management forces you to get good at the fundamentals of the game. You can't go balls out with fury on any given turn, and then cover your ass by spending points on fury control models. I also feel in building lists that the balance between infantry and warnouns is exactly where I would like it to be for Warmachine and other Hordes factions - I need to take a certain number of warbeasts in order to generate fury for my warlock AND also provide a decent number of transfer for safety. That usually ends up being 2 heavies and a light at all points levels, a proposition that makes Khador soil itself with envy.

If I take less, I make my caster more vulnerable by having lower fury generation (meaning I might have to cut for fury regularly) and by reducing the number of potential transfer targets (not only will there be less on the table, but the ones that are there are more likely to be fill up on fury).
If I take more, I use my points less efficiently than I could otherwise (on infantry or solos) and will probably have more fury than I can handle if I want my beasts to function effectively.

Here are some pro-tips (or at least, "tips"):

  • The fundamentals of fury management are planning and estimating.
  • The most important factor in planning is to know what your caster will be doing that turn, specifically how much fury you want to spend and how much you want to hold onto. The difference between there two is ideally how much you want to have on the table at the end of your opponent's next turn.
  • If you expect a beast do die next turn, such as a beast used in a Rask Missile or Rise Missile, then max it out on fury and don't reave it if it'll bring you over cap. Better to cut for 1 or 2 damage to get the missing fury (if needed) than have a warbeast frenzy and do nothing on top of killing your own stuff. If it somehow lives, then you're likely to get a free fully boosted attack out of it when it frenzies.
  • Very rarely will I aim to have more fury on that table than what my caster can handle. However, if I am able to go completely overboard and put your opponent in a really really bad position by maxing out your beasts, then it's probably worth the risk. Better to risk frenzy to kill an enemy heavy than to have it kill you next turn.
  • Fury management also takes place during your turn, since that's when transfers are likely to take place. You can think of a transfer as costing you one point of life, since that's what it cost to make up a lost fury. If you reasonably expect your caster to take a few hits, having an extra fury or two on your beasts can save you cutting yourself next turn. In my experience however, if you do a good job at protecting your caster, most experienced players won't even try to kill it without some top-level assassination tech.
The wonders of nature


Fury management is a non-issue in my opinion. I think the actual design gaps for Gators are:
  • Lack of anti-tough - the increasing prominence of tough (no thanks to the Witch Doctor!) is one of the bigger contemporary design issues in the game in my opinion. There has also been quite a bit of discussion about it on the forums in the last few months, with a lot of arguments thrown both ways.
    My stance on the matter is that Tough as a rule, namely a single 5+ unmodifiable dice roll to survive (almost) any attack, is fine in itself. It adds a lot of character and a bit of depth into the game strategy. The issue I have with it is that it is everywhere, with the Piper, Kovnik Joe, huge FU caster auras like Terminus and Irusk and Tough is no longer a special unique rule with character but is turning things into 40k Roll to Hit -> Roll to Damage -> Roll to Save.

    And the worse part of it is that Gators cannot do ANYTHING about it at all, except getting that crit consume on Barnabas' bite (I will almost always roll to hit on KD tough models to get that crit).
    So either fix the game (lots of work), or give me easily accessible anti-tough tech. Shit, I'd take Slaughterhousers. Thanks.
  • Lack of magical attacks - outside caster melee and ranged weapons, and some magical nukes we have the following things: Thrullg's 3 melee weapons, Pendrake's sword, Croctor's Sacral Blade and Sacrificial Strike. Not to best to deal with those rogue incorporeal zone contest solos, or Cryx ghost infantry BS.
  • Low number of ranged attacks - less of an issue for me than in the past, but I've fortunately managed to avoid hard control casters like Haley, Denny, Old Witch, etc. If I played those more often I would most likely rage about not being able to play a lot of the time. Obviously Gators, like Cryx or Skorne, are supposed to be heavily melee oriented, but even Cryx has some of the offensive spell toolboxes in the game, and Skorne has a decent number of ranged options and/or magical attacks for those bad matchups too so they aren't 100% boned (just 85%).
  • Dealing with armor without Rask - not a huge deal, but having +1 POW on Barnabas' cleaver and Maelok's Bite would be a big help. Having to cup my balls and hold my breath when I charge into a slightly damaged heavy might be exciting if I succeed, but it'd be nice to push the odds a little bit in my favour and maybe leave me with 1 fury at the end of my attacks.
The middle two issues could be fixed by making Specialists more baseline. If I see a shitload of magic users and Blackbanes on the other side, I can sub in a Thrullg. If I come up against some hardcore control BS, I can put in 2 Croak Hunters and some Bog Trogs to have something to do on enemy feat turns. It's probably still not enough to patch up those weaknesses, but at least we have something there.
On the flipside, I can't do anything about tough, and will always have to play Rask against heavy armor unless there is an errata on Barnabas/Maelok/Calaban, or some stuff gets released that specifically does not work for Rask (like a warbeast affinity).

Well, that was ranty. Maybe I'll have another equally ranty post in the near future, probably also about how tough spam is retarded. Or whatever the flavour of the month is. Until then, relish being the underdog!

* Seriously, wtf. It can ONLY work on Pig warbeasts and it's not that strong an ability in itself. I'd understand if it could work on things that weren't warbeasts since Rorsch could cast it on almost anything in the game. The only explanations I can come up with are 'DC hates Pigs' or 'future fury management incoming'.

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