Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Sacral Vault - The Best Battle Engine in the Game?

Fox News style title - make a statement and put a question mark at the end to avoid all responsibility.

I had the entire article written, then it got deleted due to a Blogger glitch :( I rewrote it using as many bullet points as possible instead of putting bullets in my computer screen. Enjoy!


The Sacral Vault is arguably the best BE in the game - in competition with the PoM BE and the CoC BE. It has made Cryx players cry harder than ever (justifiably so, since it is designed to screw their BS at every level), and made Circle players laugh more evil laughs than ever before.

The Vault is a lot like Batman because it kills Banes, as long as it has souls. Without souls, then Banes break its back and it dies.

It is a lumbering, tanky, huge-based Construct with stats comparable to a Khador jack (except with superior shooting skills) and 20 damage boxes.

It is also a Battle Engine (as you may have gathered by now). This means:
  • Predeployment
  • Huge base that more or less ignores all non-obstructive terrain.
  • Doesn't get DEF bonuses from terrain or being engaged, clouds and forests don't block LoS to it.
  • Can't be KD/stationary/push/thrown/whatever
  • CAN be placed and move outside activation, unlike Gargossals
  • Repairable (yay, Raluk...)
It has has a really sweet gun called Spectral Fury, which has the following rules:
  • RNG 12 / POW 13
  • Eyeless Sight
  • Magical Weapon
  • Rapid Fire [d3]
  • Deathly Domination - after boxing a non-construct enemy warrior, you can spend a soul token to make an advance and attack with the boxed model, then RFP it.
Other rules of interest:
  • Gunfighter - because otherwise you couldn't take free strikes/engage/charge with it. That wouldn't be any fun, right?
  • Arcane Vortex - as seen on pHaley, you can spend a soul token to cancel a spell targetting this model or any model within 3" of it. Neato.
  • Crypt of Souls - it gets up to 5 soul tokens from living things that die within 10" of it. Oh, and if you don't have any at the start of your turn, it gets d3 for free. It can use these souls to boost attack and damage rolls made with its gun. Neatarrific.
  • Soul Sacrifice - Gatorman warlocks can take a single soul from it each turn during their activation, which is instantly converted to fury. Neatastic.
  • Soulstorm - if it has any souls on it, it gets a 2" bubble that insta-plinks enemy models. Yes, this makes it basically immune to all small-based infantry as long as it has a soul. Neatgasm.

Gators - where albinos do the dirty work.



So we have established that the Vault is pretty sweet. What sort of damage can it deal?

Spectral Fury is its only active damage dealing ability, and it is a very good one. A boostable RNG 12, POW 13 gun is always welcome. That's like a Reckoner without the Choir. What the Reckoner doesn't have however, is Eyeless Sight and Magical Weapon. This means the Vault is great at killing the following things:
  • Gorman, and other OP merc solos
  • Tartarus, Blood Hag and other OP Cryx solos
  • Vilmon and Paladin friends
  • Kayazy UA, Manhunters, and other hairy demons of the north
  • Skorne and Legion fury management
You get the idea. What's even better is that after killing the above cancerous models, you can then spend a soul to have them walk over and hit something else in the face. I remember my first game with the Sacral Vault, I shot Maximus, who then walked back towards Carver hiding behind an obstruction and hit him for half his health. The Vault finished Carver off next turn when he was forced to move up, because multiple boosted shots are cool.

I remember when the spoilers for this model came out MONTHS ahead of its release, people were a bit down on the d3 shots. My perspective is that the gun is excellent with only ONE shot - if you want to give me the opportunity to get an additional two shots for absolutely no cost, I am not going to decline your offer.


Like a Khador jack, this thing can take a few hits. ARM 20 + Spiny Growth and 20 boxes should be able to resist most shooting in the game, and it is pretty well protected from melee infantry thanks to Soulstorm. And by pretty well, I mean almost immune.

It will be vulnerable to hard-hitting multi-wound infantry like Bane Riders, Cataphracts, or Warders, but in Blindwater you should be able to protect it from these things with Shamblers or a Gator wall, leaving it free to shoot things and cancel spells. Wee!

For some reason, it also has Arcane Vortex to protect it and things near it from offensive spells. Cool, I guess. I haven't had it come it up in a game, but it's something that's bound to make your opponent go on tilt when you pull it off, which is the best feeling. Remember that you have to declare you are using Arcane Vortex BEFORE the range of the spell is measured (although 90% of the time, an opponent is not going to cast a spell they know is out of range).


I classify Soulstorm as a board control ability since it is much more likely to act as denial rather than damage dealing - nobody is going to willfully run their troops in the soulstorm, but they will avoid it like politicians avoid declarative statements. This gives you a ~9" AoE of board control that you totally own.

As mentioned above, the gun is also excellent at sniping out key solos or models blocking charge lanes and such. I often take Croak Hunters and Spitters just for this purpose, and the Vault will probably do a better job of it given the potential for multiple shots. One of Blindwater's biggest weaknesses is its lack of a ranged presence, and the Vault certainly helps in that department.

Arcane Vortex is also somewhat a utility ability, as mentioned in Survivability above. Like Soulstorm, it is more of a defensive denial ability in that it stops your opponent even doing something, rather than punishing them after they do it. It brings a little bit of anti-magic tech to the Gator game - not the kind we actually need to have game vs Butcher3 and the like, but situationally good nevertheless.

Finally, something that the Vault brings exclusively to Blindwater is the ability to transfer a soul from it to your warlock, which is actually a really big deal, especially if you are gorging with souls. Here are some highly-limited examples of what an extra fury can do to some warlocks:
  • Maelok: Revive 2 Gators and still be camping one, or just having 6 Fury to kill a heavy with Malediction up (yes, I am that kind of Maelok player).
  • Rask: Upkeep Fury at the start of your turn, activate that thing to deal some damage, and still be able to have a fully-loaded heavy (Boundless Charge + Fury + Elasticity + tap on the butt) missile.
  • Calaban: means nothing as he is swimming in fury on his feat turn anyway but he still makes you want to defenestrate yourself.
Basically, a free fury is just good. Really good, almost always (the instances where it isn't good are where you suck at fundamental fury management, which you shouldn't since you play Minions).


Essentially, with the Vault you want to focus on a couple of things every game:
  • Controlling the movement of your opponent's single-wound melee infantry with Soulstorm
  • Position it so that it gets lots of souls
  • Shoot all the time, and pick good targets.
This means you will almost always run turn 1, and probably turn 2 as well if you went first. This is because unbuffable SPD 4 is really damn slow, and predeployment means you have to catch up a little bit in positioning since your opponent will be one step ahead of you. Remember your inate pathfinder, which means you can deploy it directly behind that forest right in the middle of your zone, so your Posse and beasts don't have to. Also, watch out of linear obstacles. Hiding behind one is not the best idea since your base size is greater than your movement speed, so you cannot move straight across it. Don't hide behind them unless you opponent has only non-reach heavies, because then you are practically invincible.... BWAHAHAHAHA.

If your opponent doesn't have any single-wound infantry worth worrying about (which is increasingly the case), then the gun is pretty much everything. Play it behind all your other stuff, and focus on getting good shots and Death Dominions. Soulstorm and all the other abilities are cool, but Spectral Fury is the bread earner.

One interesting Soulstorm rules interaction to note is that with incorporeal models. Soulstorm triggers damage at one of two timing points per turn (but not both):
  •  Damage is dealt when you enter the 2" bubble,  OR
  • Damage is dealt when you end your activation within the bubble
Soulstorm is not magical damage, and therefore does not damage incorporeal models.  If a Blackbane's Raider charges the Vault, he will take the damage upon entering the 2" area - this effectively does nothing since he is immune to non-magical damage until he becomes corporeal. He will then make his attack, become corporeal, and no damage will be dealt from ending his activation in the bubble (since the first instance of Soulstorm damage already triggered that turn). If he stays in the bubble and makes another attack, he will however die as he is corporeal and the second instance of Soulstorm damage will trigger. He can avoid this by moving away from the Vault and dying to a Spectral Fury free strike instead!

Finally, one really cool interaction is getting "free boosts" against living models, by boosting your hit or damage roll, killing a thing, and getting that soul back instantly. Pretty sweet.

Weaknesses! The Vault has a few, despite having Cryx-level of rules and single handedly destroying the game:

  • Predeployment - your opponent will know exactly where it is when he deploys, and given its slow SPD, where it is very likely to be in 2 turns.
  • Slow - SPD 4 sucks, especially on a huge base that gets schooled by linear obstacles. Fortunately the gun is pretty long range.
  • Soul Hungry - sure, it has lots of sweet rules. But a lot of those rules require souls to pull off - if you can deny it souls in some way, it decreases its effectiveness significantly. Likewise, if it gets flooded with souls every turn, it is going to be the monster you expect it to be (almost).
  • Skornergy -  While not quite on master Calaban's level, the Vault does suffer from some Skornegy within Blindwater in terms of soul collection. For one, you don't get souls from Undead Gators, which kinda sucks for Maelok. Second, you don't get souls for enemy models you kill on Jaga's feat turn, which really sucks. Basically, not being able to suck souls sucks.
Some ideas/experiences I have for the Vault with different casters:

  • Rask - Rask doesn't do anything for it, but it does quite a bit for his shooty style (a really good boostable gun). May replace a Spitter in the multi-Spitter, 3 Posse Rask builds, mostly for versatility's sake. I have tried it with Rask a few times, and for many of the matchups in which I prefer Rask (CoC, PoM, Skorne, maybe Legion), he doesn't end up with too many souls anyway. I like the idea of sniping out those OP stealth solos, but I'm thinking a Totem Hunter might be a more points efficient way to do it.
    Overall, since I play Rask aggressively with 2-3 melee heavies, I don't think the Vault does much for me in his lists.
  • Barnabas - another gun for drop 'n' pop. Cannot be protected from guns (not amphibious), but dropping rough terrain in front of the Vault protects it quite a bit. Doesn't benefit from Warpath like a Spitter does either - but you're likely to be playing lots of living Posse with Barnabas so you get lots of souls. Also, no obvious Skornegy! Yay!
  • Maelok - a little Skornergy with the feat since you don't get souls from your undead guys, but otherwise a decent choice given the anti-Cryxian aspect of it, and the extra soul if you can spare it. Certainly a great support piece for his grindy playstyle as well. Also the only Gator caster with an ARM buff, and ARM 26 on feat turn is a little sickening (if albeit unecessary).
    Basically, I think if you take 2 Vaults with Maelok, you should not take Witch Doctors (blasphemy, I know). With just one, you should be ok with just enemy souls.
  • Jaga Jaga - the Vault fits in very well with her game plan of asserting Gatorman dominance over your enemies and the board. No especially amazing synergies (some annoying Skornegy w/ feat), other than guns with Blessed is pretty good (as eLylyth can attest).
  • Calaban - derpaderpaderp.  Actually some guys on the Minion boards got super excited because they thought of a possible interaction where the Sacral Vault can make mobile meat nodes for Calaban via Death Dominion. It doesn't work of course, due to the Universal Law of Calaban (if it looks like it'll make Calaban fun, it's not real).
    More seriously, I will probably try Calaban with multiple Vaults in one of my biannual Calaban games and report on how that goes... except update late 2015.


Basically, the only thing missing from the Sacral Vault is Entropic Aura for it to be the perfect Gatorman release. It brings amazing levels of control and douchiness that character Gators (pre-Rask, at least), and is a Cryxian model in the sense that it has extra rules on it for no real reason.

In my experience, the Vault can be summarized as such:
  1. If you get heaps of souls + gun shots every turn, this thing is monstrous.
  2. If you get a few souls, this thing is a walking Soulstorm with occasional sniper shots.
  3. If you only get only 1 soul and keep that for the rest of the game, it is worth it against any list with more than 10pts single-wound infantry.
Not a bad place to be, to be honest. It's not quite "the sky is falling, Cryx will never win another game ever" as it was made out to be upon release, but it is nevertheless a very good model that will be taken in many Blindwater lists. The thing that keeps it from being super powered IMO is:
  1. Its reliance on souls for almost all its abilities
  2. That it is a primarily defensive piece in play, on a huge base.

Level of Tears:

Conan | -------------[Baby]--------[Crocodile]------------------[Cryx]-X-------| Isaac