Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Harkevich: Quad Clam Cracked

Yet another Harkevich post. This week I maintained my dedication to play the Quad Clam list against anything and everything by tossing it up against a Siege list my friend put together. He was debuting his newly (and excellently) painted Stormwall, so between that and Siege's ability to punch through armor I was going to get a chance to try out a few new challenges.

The game itself wasn't super long, and there were some silly individual moments (bourbon was the drink of choice during the game and I think it got to us both at different points,) but I think the best way to cover the game is in a general overview. Lets get to it!

Harkevich's List: (for reference)
Kommander Harkevich, the Iron Wolf (*5pts)
   * Black Ivan (9pts)
   * Demolisher (8pts)
   * Demolisher (8pts)
   * Demolisher (8pts)
   * Demolisher (8pts)
Winter Guard Field Gun Crew (Leader and 2 Grunts) (2pts)
Winter Guard Field Gun Crew (Leader and 2 Grunts) (2pts)
Winter Guard Infantry (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
   * Winter Guard Infantry Officer & Standard (2pts)
Kovnik Jozef Grigorovich (2pts)

+Full Tier 4 Theme List+

Siege's List:
Major Markus 'Siege' Brisbane (*5pts)
   * Stormwall (19pts)
Arcane Tempest Gun Mages (Leader and 5 Grunts) (6pts)
   * Arcane Tempest Gun Mage Officer (2pts)
   * * Hunter (6pts)
Precursor Knights (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
   * Precursor Knight Officer & Standard (2pts)
Rangers (5pts)
Captain Arlan Strangewayes (2pts)
Journeyman Warcaster (3pts)
Reinholdt, Gobber Speculator (1pts)
Stormsmith Stormcaller (1pts)

SR 2014 Scenario: Destruction

A fairly balanced set up with a couple of forests around the scoring zone, some cover outside of either side of the scoring zone, and some assorted walls scattered around. Harkevich also added to this by plunking down a line of Heavy Wreck Markers as per his theme list.

Early Game:
Harkevich gets first turn. Everything in both battlegroups run towards the center to get in the scoring zone. The marshaled Hunter lays into Black Ivan for 8 damage, Ivan returns by dropping a shot into the Gun Mages who have clustered up re-deploying to the right flank (my friend made a bourbon-induced error here and put Fox Hole in a different spot, forgetting about the range on Ivan's gun,) killing 5 Gun Mages.

Harkevich pops his feat on turn 2 to get everything stuck in and keep ARM values high. Siege responds by killing some Winter Guard and stalling, but Stormwall is in the zone so he's in no danger of suddenly losing to scenario.

Mid Game:
Black Ivan starts shooting back at the Hunter, blowing off it's gun arm and forcing it to retreat to Arlan for repairs. A few Cygnar troopers get picked off, but the Stormwall is the vanguard and he's sitting pretty safe at ARM 22 against a sea of P+S 16.

Siege's retaliation is brutal, as befitting the fortress buster: under the feat Stormwall is able to punch two of the Demolishers and do around 18 damage to each (thanks to the faux Armor Piercing on the initial hits,) knocking out arms and Cortex systems left and right. Ivan manages to dodge Siege's Reloaded rocket thanks to being in a Wreck Marker, but several WGI aren't so lucky and get caught in his initial Ground Pounder attack. The Precursor Knights add to the damage pile by charging two more of the Demolishers under their mini-feat, doing comparable damage to the Stormwall thanks to Breach, an additional damage die, and some lost arms. When the dust settles, Harkevich's battlegroup is still standing but it's badly maimed.

Harkevich tries to retaliate but options are limited. The Cygnar objective is destroyed through a combination of Demolisher shots, a Field Gun shot, and Harkevich's Hand Cannon, earning Harkevich 1 CP. The Precursor Knights have unfortunately clumped up a lot charging into melee, and the resulting WGI sprays cut through the unit, leaving only two models alive (Officer and one other grunt.) Some Rangers that ran into range to give out attack bonuses are picked off, and Ivan continues to work on getting rid of the Hunter, knocking it down to 6 remaining boxes. One of the Demolishers moves around to get shots behind the Stormwall and kills Reinholdt with the first shot, while the second shot wounds the Gun Mage Officer.

Late Game:
Siege begins to mop up the heavily damaged Demolishers. The Demolisher that opened up to destroy the Cygnar objective is easily taken out by the Stormwall, and another Demolisher is also reduced to a wreck. Various attacks continue to thin out the WGI while Siege moves over to finish off the Demolisher that killed his little gobber buddy.

Harkevich is left in "desperate gamble" mode. Black Ivan aims and shoots at Siege, connecting even in Cover thanks to a re-roll from Fortune. The boosted damage roll puts 6 damage onto Siege (he's a tough guy to begin with, and he was camping 3.) A Broadsides shot towards Siege goes wide, missing everything. The WGI continue to pick off what they can, but they're almost depleted at this point.

Siege keeps up the pressure. Stormwall finishes off the Demolisher in front of it, and Black Ivan is Disrupted by the Stormsmith. Harkevich knows that it's all over but for the crying and opts to at least go out big: he charges the Stormwall, doing a resounding 5 damage to it before getting punched to Valhalla.

Result: Siege win by assassination!
Final CPs: Siege 0 - Harkevich 1

Post Game Thoughts:
This game was a bloodbath. When the dust settled we were both down to less than a dozen models each, and the deciding factor was that my friend had a much larger warjack remaining than I did at that point. Black Ivan vs. Arcane Shielded Stormwall is not a winning battle for Ivan, even if the gods see fit to bless him with an infinite string of crits and hot dice.

In the end, Siege did what he does well: bust through armor and be a tough nut to crack. My friend made the right moves to keep himself safe from a scenario loss, mitigate threat to his 'caster, and keep the attrition rolling. Siege is a very solid warcaster with a lot of tricks up his sleeve (if you haven't fought Siege before, do some research before you do!) and my friend used him well this game aside from the early Foxhole brain-slip. A very well deserved win on his part.

This game provided me with a lot of learning opportunities, so I'll try to list them out (for others to learn from, as well as the hope that I remember them in the future):

 - Last game I learned the value of rushing your scenario zone with the Demolishers in order to be able to box out enemy models, especially Huge based models. This game, I learned the value of not rushing the zone: in this game the scoring zone was a central, common zone, which made it much harder for me to blockade. In trying to blockade the zone from the Stormwall, all I really ended up doing was tying up another Demolisher in combat which ultimately limited my options later in the game and made it easier for Siege to have a super juicy feat turn. Point of fact, it may have been a little better to have the Stormwall a little further into my zone because that may have pulled Siege a little farther forward (to continue to hide behind Stormwall) and opened up options. By trying to block Stormwall out of the zone, I forced a fight in an unfavorable position for little benefit.

 - One alternate approach: in a central, common scenario zone like this one, it may be better to just cede that the opponent is going to get their colossal into the zone. This list, even running full speed, isn't fast enough to block them out without some super-specific movement (which is impossible in Destruction) or anything with a central circle zone (like Supply and Demand) and your opponent can probably circumvent your positioning with a random slam/push effect they have in their list. Instead focus on establishing a strong presence in the scenario zone. This list still forces your opponent to commit their colossal to avoid you scoring easily, so you can either focus on wearing down the rest of their army, or it will allow you to engage the colossal on your terms (instead of running into the teeth of the army and fighting them more on their terms.)

 - Another approach: in this type of scenario (central, common zone) it may be better to go second. Going first won't get you into the zone fast enough to block a colossal out, but going second gives you the first opportunity to score on objectives to start scenario pressure (something this list is also good at, with the two weapon crews that often don't have a lot else worth shooting at.) However, going first puts your opponent in an interesting position depending on the scenario and the SPD of the colossal: based on some quick math and comparison of the "central common zone" scenarios, a colossal needs to run first turn to get close enough to walk into the scoring zone next turn. I would imagine most players run their colossal first turn to get board position, and it's not like shooting at a wall of ARM 25 is going to do a lot turn 1, but it does dictate what your opponent has to do with their colossal if you go first and book it into the zone. They have to run first turn and at least advance the second turn, or risk getting blocked.

 - The more I play this list, the more I realize the funny little synergies it has. One Demolisher is kind of cute for bringing Girded to the table, but harder to use. But when you have 4 of the things waddling up the table, suddenly it gives the WGI a really nice spot to hang out if you're worried about them dying from blast damage. That didn't come up this game but I did think of it when I realized Explosivo (properly pronounced EXPLOSIVO) was an option. Also nice if you're concerned about Harkevich taking boosted blast damage; he's usually fairly safe at ARM 18+ with Escort and camp, but you can eliminate the option entirely by putting him in B2B with a Demolisher.

 - Arcing Fire can be used defensively. Black Ivan can hang out behind a Demolisher or two and still keep laying fire into whatever you want. This is useful in protecting Black Ivan since he has a good "work" gun in the list (I could have kept him safe from the Hunter and possible Stormwall shots while I tried to work on the Hunter,) and that formation allows you to backstop your Demolishers so that they're much less vulnerable to pushes or slams. A slam would still knock the formation down, but it's unlikely to damage any of the models much, and Harkevich can stand them all up for 1 Focus with Jump Start. Just make sure you're not hiding Harkevich behind that wall of warjacks if your opponent can try to knock them down! This formation is less useful in scenarios where you want to move your battlegroup very aggressively (since in order for it to work Black Ivan would need to be deployed behind the Demolishers he'll be using for cover,) but in scenarios where you aren't going to be able to establish early dominance of a scenario zone (such as in the game I played) it may be worth adopting this formation to give you a strong kernal to send into the zone (a run and advance should still get the Demolishers into the zone which is all you need.)

 - Running the math on the Stormwall made me realize (by contrast) that I don't hate this list against an ARM 19/20 colossal. The math isn't great, but with 3 focus you can stick two boosted 16s and a boosted 14 into an enemy colossal without too much trouble, which will break down a Conquest in 4 turns (assuming no Repair, which is the trickier part.) It's not great or efficient, but most lists will probably be hard pressed to deal with your warjacks or, more importantly, stay in the scenario after you take down their colossal. Against anything higher than ARM 20 the math starts to get so depressing that I don't feel like it's even worth it to make the attacks; better to stay closed up and force them to spend more focus trying to kill/move your warjacks than make it easier for them. The more focus they're spending on their colossal is less focus they're camping, and that opens up your secondary win condition. Killing an enemy colossal isn't the best route with this list even when you're looking at something like an unbuffed ARM 19 colossal, so it should never be "Plan A", but if it comes down to brass tacks you can make a good go at trying to chew through all those damage boxes.

 - Against a colossal, envelopment is very important. Demolishers aren't the most accurate models in the world, but anything with the ability to boost needs to be treated with care lest it connect with shots against targets you don't want it to. One of the biggest issues I ran into during this game was that, because I ran three Demolishers up to try and block Stormwall off, I didn't have a Demolisher available to move around the right flank which is where Siege was bunkered up for a few turns. Having a Demolisher on that flank is no guarantee of killing Siege (he just as easily could have moved back to the center,) but it keeps the pressure on him and there was absolutely nothing on that flank that could have threatened the Demolisher even if it opened (so I could have tried to kill some ATGM, Rangers, or the Stormsmith) en route. Short version of the lesson: don't commit more than two Demolishers to colossal lock down duty. With Harkevich's feat turn as a buffer, any more than that is likely overkill and just ties up your resources.

 - This game highlighted how difficult it can be to stay cool in the face of uphill odds in Warmachine, even if those odds are only uphill in one aspect of the game. I was frustrated partway through the game when I realized I had very low odds of taking out the Stormwall that had toed into the scoring zone. That frustration continued when Siege's feat let the Stormwall and the Precursor Knights can-opener most of my battlegroup and left me in a very poor position to retort/make a hail-mary play. I feel like this is something that I need to work on if they're going to really master this list, because there are just going to be times that you need to take it on the chin and hope for the best. I knew this match up was going to be kind of rough going in; getting tilted mid-game just put in a frame of mind that blinded me to smart play (the Demolisher that got shots on Reinholdt still had his Cortex up, so he could have had some boosted shots to toss around if I was thinking straight.)

 - Related to the above: bourbon is delicious and Warmachine is fun, but Bourbonmachine makes for some silly moves. If you're going to drink while you play Warmachine go ahead and write off that you'll do at least a few categorically stupid things and just enjoy your buzz. It's way more fun that way!

 - As expected, this list didn't do great against a 'caster that had a strong anti-armor solution. The damage inflicted on Siege's feat turn took a big bite out of my ability to keep the game going via attrition, and it put me on a short clock that I wasn't able to capitalize on. That said, this list is the only Harkevich list I've put on the table that could have survive that feat turn, and it did. Although my warjacks were mangled, they all made it through the feat turn with some offensive capability (helped in great part by the fact that the Demolishers guns can't break.) That's no mean feat, no pun intended. Most other Harkevich configurations that I've put on the table would have been eaten alive between the combination of early game gunfire and Siege's feat turn. Siege's feat is interesting because it's a "burst" armor solution, versus something sustained like Cryx, but I think the fact that this list held up against it speaks well about the viability of the list (especially considered against other warjack heavy Khador list options, all few of them.)

 - That said, I don't think I like this list against Cygnar that much. Stormwall is one of the hardest colossals to take down if you don't have upkeep removal or damage buffs (since it will always be at least ARM 22 in any list,) and this list can't come close to doing it without making that essentially the entire focus of the army (and I think it may come up short even then.) Cygnar also has access to Disruption, which is a bit of a pain, and ATGM pushes make it harder to keep your warjacks where you want them. The upside of this configuration is that there are no Mechaniks for your opponent to hunt, and the WGI are largely disposable so long as they clear out a chunk of enemy infantry before they go (which they'll usually do so long as something doesn't go horribly wrong,) so you're mostly focusing on getting your warjacks where they need to be and protecting Harkevich.

 - I also don't like this list as much in scenarios that use a common, central scoring zone. A big aspect of what makes the list work is being able to bully your opponent out of a zone, so if there are multiple zones its harder for your opponent to commit enough to hold it on your turn. Harkevich can also fairly easily Dominate in a lot of situations; the Wreck Markers usually give him someplace decently safe to hide from shooting and with Escort, camp, or both, he's relatively tough if he's at the back of a zone. A central zone makes it harder to maintain control of the zone turn by turn, and allows a colossal to lock you out of scoring entirely. I don't think it's an unwinnable fight, but you need to be able to identify early in a game if you'll be able to win via scenario or if you'll need to angle more towards attrition-induced-assassination. Out of all the scenarios the only one I'd actively dread playing with this Harkevich list is Balance of Power, and even then it may be okay if you can park a Demolisher near the enemy flag to keep them from eating your CPs.

Addendum points (things I forgot when I originally posted this, or thought of later):

 - Feat timing with this list is interesting. Normally the timing of Harkevich's feat is semi-obvious. If there's a turn where you're going to be charging in, feat for the free charges and to mitigate counter-charges. Otherwise, feat the turn you'll need to take it on the chin.

With a set of ARM 25 warjacks, the decision tree changes a bit. Feating defensively is much less necessary; ARM 25 is usually enough to dissuade or mitigate what your opponent can throw at you. There are a few lists that can hit hard enough that ARM 28 may make the difference, but I think that's the exception.

Another benefit of this list may be that it allows you to use Harkevich's feat offensively more often, which is good because using it defensively feels like it's largely a waste. I think the "ideal" feat turn would be to use a Demolisher or two offensively on the feat turn, leaving the rest closed. This would give you a turn where you can get some work out of your Demolishers, they're better off than they'd normally be (ARM 20 isn't great but it's a damn sight better than ARM 17,) and you still have an incredibly durable core with your closed Demolishers at ARM 28 and Black Ivan at ARM 23. If things go your way, you may end up with a situation (like I did in my previous game) where your opponent can't really get to your opened Demolishers so they can survive the feat turn in decent working condition.

Having your Demolishers stay closed all game isn't really feasible; they need to do work at some point. The errata that allows them to Trample and Slam without opening up is a big help (I've used this a number of times already in my few games with this list,) but at some point you're going to need to shoot those guns. Trying to line those moments up with the feat turn will be one of the things to aim for, and the games where it works out will probably be the more successful ones with this list.

 - Regarding feat timing in this specific fight: I would have been very interested in seeing what would have happened if I had held off on feating for one turn. I'm sure my opponent was waiting for my non-feat turn to use his feat, which is the right thing to do. I'm wondering if it would have been better to have it as a buffer/offensive enabler after Siege's feat turn, instead of basically using my feat to stall his feat for a turn, but not gaining much from it (since I wasn't in a position to force him to commit to action, he could just wait the feat out.) It's all academic at this point, but looking back it's one of the bigger things I'd try differently in this match.


Overall, I still like this Harkevich list a lot. This is one of the uglier matches I've had with it (Stormwall, armor busting feat, tough warcaster, common central scoring zone) and even then I feel like I had a fair chance at winning if I had played things differently. If nothing else I can make a game of it, which is more than I could say about any other Harkevich list I've tried in the past.

There is one change I'm debating: dropping a Demolisher and using the points to upgrade the Field Guns to Mortars, pick up a Drakun (no dismount), and add a Widowmaker Marksman to the list. The Drakun and WMM give me more solos for scenario shenanigans and some extra attacks to throw around, but the thing I'm most interested in is upgrading the Field Guns to Mortars. The Field Guns have had their moments of fun, but I feel like the Mortars are better overall; more range, higher POW on hit (relevant against colossals, KD'd models, objectives,) and blast damage to add even more anti-infantry hate to the list.

The problem I have with that exchange is that I feel like I lose out on a significant chunk of durability, scenario presence, and ability to split the battlegroup, "just" to pick up the two Mortars (the solos are nice, but they're not what I'm most interested in, nor are they going to really replace a lost Demolisher.) I've also considered other ways to scare up those two points - dropping Demolishers to Juggernauts, min the WGI - but I like those options even less.

For now, I'm going to keep the list as-is and just keep on playing it, but if anyone has any thoughts about the virtue (or folly) of trying any of the above swaps for getting the two Mortars in the list, I'd love to hear them in the comments.

I'm not sure when I'll be playing the Quad Clam list next, but I'm damn sure going to keep testing the list. It continues to surprise me every time I put it on the table, and it's a ton of fun. Until the next report, thanks for reading!


  1. I'd be really interested in seeing what type of list you'd pair with this "Quad Clam" list for a tournament. I'd assume it would be something like the butcher that could take and terrify the center of the board for just these sorts of scenarios. Sometimes, I forget that Seige exists and is such a terror for armor. I also forget that he was Supreme Caster S for a good portion of the start of MK II. I've got him out and ready to paint for my Cygnar.

    1. Coming up with a pairing for this list is kind of a pain, and it highlights one of the reasons Khador's "low tier" warcasters are considered as such: damn guys/gals are character poachers, so pairing is a pain.

      Ideally, I'd love to pair this list with Sorscha2. She can handle the more dense Skorne lists I'm worried about, she can handle a Stormwall in most situations, she can probably handle Convergence decently well, and she can do a number on Cryx.

      The problem is: this Harkevich list poaches Joe, so I'm not really sure I like the way a Sorscha2 list builds at that point.

      Butcher3 is definitely compelling. He can absolutely handle the lists I'm worried would beat this one to death. But I don't know that I like him as a Cryx drop, and Cryx is prevalent enough in a general sense that I think it's folly to hope to dodge all the Cryx if you're looking to play competitively. :)

      I have come up with a Vlad2 list that I like, but I haven't tested it yet. I built it mostly to solve the specific problems of Cryx and Stormwall, with the hope that it also happens to deal with something like Skorne or Convergence well enough if I need an out for the Quad Clam list. But I haven't had the chance to test it out yet, so I can't say for sure.

      Another possibility is Vlad1 with Malakov handling the brunt of the warjack loadout. Its possible to make a list with that set up that is capable of handling a decently tough enemy battlegroup, and S&P is so silly that you can still build the rest of your list with strong anti-infantry tools so it may work as a fair Cryx drop.

      Siege is definitely super legit. On the whole, he didn't really lose that much in the Mk. 2 transition, so he's still nicely flexible, while also being one of Cygnar's tougher warcasters (which matters a lot with all the boostable shooting in the world nowadays combined with Killbox.)

      He's definitely one of the better 'casters that you never hear about, because Haley2 and Caine2 have a stranglehold on the top spots in Cygnar (understandably so; both are very, very strong.) I think that bullies Siege out of a lot of people's consideration when making a two list pairing, but I definitely think Siege still has plenty of game in this modern meta.