Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Butcher3 - First Two Games

After what feels like months of painting, I finished painting Butcher3 and his puppies this past week (probably would have gone a lot faster without Dark Souls 2 distracting me.) Part of that was to get him finished and in the case - I try very hard to not use unpainted models so that I stay motivated to paint the things I want to use - and part of that was because I was having some friends over that weekend and I wanted to use him in a couple of games back to back.

Here's a quick rundown of how those games went:

Game 1 - vs. Reznik2

Game 2 - vs. Directrix

Thanks for reading!

(Actual game reports and Butcher3 thoughts after the break)

This is the Butcher3 list I used in both games:

Kommander Zoktavir, The Butcher Unleashed (*4pts)
* Juggernaut (7pts)
* War dog (1pts)
Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters (Cylena and 9 Grunts) (10pts)
* Koldun Kapitan Valachev (2pts)
Greylord Ternion (Leader and 2 Grunts) (4pts)
Iron Fang Pikemen (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
* Black Dragon Officer & Standard (2pts)
Widowmakers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (4pts)
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution (3pts)
Iron Fang Kovnik (2pts)
Koldun Lord (2pts)
Madelyn Corbeau, Ordic Courtesan (2pts)
Ogrun Bokur (3pts)
Ragman (2pts)
Saxon Orrik (2pts)

Nothing revolutionary here, mostly the same Butcher3 list that you see floating around. I opted to go with a "super cheap" battlegroup approach this first iteration to jam as much stuff in the list as possible, and then I can trim out things in order to make room for a beefier warjack.

I opted against dual BDIFP for a couple of reasons: 

1) Barring an unexpected twist of fate, I will never own a second unit of IFP. They are a pain to store and transport, and I'm really hesitant to double down on anything as big as a 12 model unit. A PP Staffer (Will Schick?) mentioned awhile back that we're probably going to see more Iron Fangs using axes (mentioned when people commented on the IFK's use of weapon,) so if I ever have two 10 model units of Iron Fangs, it will be because a second unit came out that happens to share that designation.

2) I like the diversity that the Nyss bring to the table. I understand the overwhelming press of melee that two units of BDIFP will put on the table (especially when backed up with Butcher3) and the quasi-ARM skew it creates, but I usually don't like running lists which are that strongly weighted in one direction. Nyss are still capable in melee, and their exemplary ranged models, which came in supremely handy a few times.

Onto the reports! These will be very abbreviated in an attempt to keep my natural long-windedness in check:

Game 1, vs. Reznik2
Reznik2's List:
Servath Reznik, Wrath of Ages (*4pts)
* Reckoner (8pts)
Avatar of Menoth (11pts)
Choir of Menoth (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Daughters of the Flame (Leader and 5 Grunts) (5pts)
Horgenhold Forge Guard (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution (3pts)
Initiate Tristan Durant (3pts)
* Devout (5pts)
* Redeemer (6pts)
Rhupert Carvolo, Piper of Ord (2pts)
Vassal Mechanik (1pts)

This is a list my friend has been iterating on (you can see it's evolution in our games of Harkevich vs. Reznik2,) and I really like this version. It breaks Judicator out into it's various components (melee and ranged) and while that may be collectively more expensive, it gives him additional flexibility in allocating force across the table. Moving the Devout onto Tristan ended up being a great move: Fortify makes the Devout a super-tough Shield Guard model, and it can anchor models you don't want getting moved around, which was a really big deal in this game.

Scenario: SR2014 Rally Point

Game Summary:
This was my first outing with Butcher3 and I felt it. My movement with him was clunky and without purpose, and I was overly cautious with him for the early part of the game. I was holding down my zone with IFP and the Juggernaut, while Butcher3 and the Nyss advanced up the right flank towards the opposing zone. This first game out I was fixated on living the dream and eating all the Protectorate warjacks with Butcher3, but Fortify on the Devout made that much more difficult; the Avatar was essentially glued to it all game.

I got a lucky break when the Choir fled after two of them were killed, and I tried to capitalize on that by using that turn to run into the zone. Unfortunately, I completely brain farted when I moved into the zone and left Butcher3 within charge range of the Avatar (I had enough movement to be in the zone but not within 10" of the big guy.)

Next turn, my friend has the dice gods spurn him and the Avatar only gets 2 Focus, but he decides to go all in anyways: Reznik2 pops his feat to lower Butcher3's DEF by 2 and the two remaining Forge Guard clear the one Argus out of the way. Eiryss2 tries to walk out of combat with two Nyss to get a shot on Butcher3 but she gets chopped for her efforts (and the War Dog could have counter-charged her, though that may have left Butcher3's DEF even lower.) 

The Reckoner and Avatar charge in (the Avatar has Iron Aggression upkept from earlier) and lay into Butcher3, leaving him with 1 health! Butcher3 retaliates by killing the Reckoner, Avatar, and Redeemer (Impending Doom + Ragman + some Argus softening damage on Avatar) then feating to get back to full camp and start Dominating the enemy scoring zone. My friend tries to throw a few attacks at Butcher3 to get the last health point off of him, but between Cover and full camp, there isn't much he can do before Butcher3 wins via Scenario.

Post-game Thoughts:
Reznik2 is, in some ways, a pretty good drop against Butcher3. His feat absolutely murders the infantry that Butcher3 is probably going to be loaded up on, Lamentation is a big problem for most of Butcher3's shenanigans, and the combination of Death March, his feat, Iron Aggression, and Choir make it hard for any defensive measures to really hold up against him.

All that said, you do still run into the issue that if Butcher3 can get to Reznik2 he can probably kill him, even at full camp. It's a lot harder to do with Reznik2's army in the way which is what makes the game so interesting. 

As for this game, both my friend and I made some boneheaded moves. I basically served up Butcher3 to him (as much as you can "serve up" Butcher3 at full camp in a Blizzard cloud,) that led to a "way too close for comfort" failed assassination run. The Choir fleeing made me overconfident in how boldly I could commit Butcher3, and I misplaced him as a result. Lesson learned.

My friend also made a mistake by under-allocating to his Reckoner. The turn he sent everything at Butcher3 was also the turn he was going to lay into my IFP in my zone, so he wanted Reznik at a high camp just in case he got counter-charged. As a result, he only gave the Reckoner 2 Focus instead of three, which meant that all he got out of the Reckoner was a boosted Flare shot (missed) and the charge attack. Considering Butcher3 lived with 1 health remaining, even a dice-7 hit from the Reckoner could have made the difference between winning and losing there. 

It was my first time using Butcher3 and his first time playing against him (along with the first time using this list) so some mistakes were bound to happen. Overall, a really fun, tense game.

Game 2, vs. Directrix
Directrix's List:
Iron Mother Directrix & Exponent Servitors (*4pts)
* Corollary (3pts)
* Diffuser (3pts)
* Assimilator (8pts)
* Prime Axiom (19pts)
Optifex Directive (Leader and 2 Grunts) (2pts)
Reciporactors (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Attunement Servitors (2pts)
Elimination Servitors (2pts)
Reflex Servitor (2pts)
Reflex Servitor (2pts)
Steelsoul Protector (2pts)

I'm 95% sure that's the make up of the list; he had a lot of Servitors floating around out there, so I may have mixed some up. Like many Convergence players, he's relatively new to the faction (though he's been playing Warmachine about as long as the rest of our gaming group,) and I think this was his first game with the Prime Axiom. It's a fantastic addition to an Iron Mother list and one that he (I think rightly) added to try and combat Butcher3 (which one of our group has been running against him often.)

Scenario: SR2014 Two Fronts

Game Summary:
This game was actually very quick. Both of us identified early that it was all going to come down to a Butcher3 vs. Prime Axiom showdown; whomever got the drop on the other was probably going to emerge victorious, and that would decide the game.

Unfortunately for Directrix, this time around Butcher3 got the drop on the Prime Axiom. Thanks to some hot dice Butcher3 was able to scrap Prime Axiom only using 7 attacks (the average is 8, I think) so he ended that turn with a pretty beefy camp, and nothing threatening him. From there it was a quick set of turns as Butcher3 cleared the zone to Dominate while the remaining elements either helped clear out the zone, or tried to jam up the Reciprocators and Assimilator from making it over to their zone to prevent Butcher3 from scoring. The game ends with Butcher3 winning via scenario after Directrix tries to kill him with shooting and spells but comes up short due to Cover and camp.

Post-game Thoughts:
This was definitely a "live the dream" moment. 99% of the reason I've been excited to play Butcher3 is because colossals are a big pain in the ass to deal with sometimes, so it's nice to have a model you can toss at them that is very likely to kill them. So it was very nice to be able to charge in and just hack one to death, even if failure meant I'd lose the game.

This match up is pretty interesting, because it's a pretty tight game of spacing and chicken. I feel like if Directrix can keep Prime Axiom back and get rid of the Argus, it then opens up some pretty dangerous Drag situations later on. Having the Argus in front of Butcher3 was the only thing keeping him from getting Drag'ed to his probable doom, though there are plenty of other ways to make it hard for him: the nearby Shield Guard helps a lot by giving you one "get out of Drag free" card, and with a Blizzard cloud Prime Axiom needs 11's to hit (8's on the feat turn.) You could also do something like wedge the War Dog in front of Butcher to give your opponent something else they need to get rid of for the Drag to work.

Running the math, I'm not sure if Prime Axiom on his own can pull it off. Assuming Shield Guard negates one Drag (which your opponent probably needed to boost in order to hit on) and the other Drag hits (again, needing a boost to-hit,) you're eating two attacks from Prime Axiom after the Drag needing 9's to-hit. So the only time Prime Axiom is really a credibly huge threat is under Directrix's feat, and if it can aim (which is feasible due to Fire Group and Butcher3's need to be aggressive.) Every attack that connects does around 3 damage on average, so even a fully loaded Prime Axiom probably won't kill Butcher3 in one go, let alone one that has to rely on Drag to initiate the combat (and it probably has to most of the time in this situation.)

It's certainly not a situation where I'd want Butcher3 facetanking the Prime Axiom, or anything, but it does show how nasty Butcher3 is defensively. In absolutely ideal conditions even a feated Prime Axiom would have trouble dealing with him (MAT/RAT 8 vs. DEF 16 against ranged and melee,) though at least Prime Axiom has Sustained Attack to help out on the melee side. Add in Harm, another Vector, etc, and things get bad fast, but it's interesting to see that at base it's not so bad.

Prime Axiom is damn scary with Directrix. MAT 8 RAT 8 is a helluva stat block to have for a turn and Fire Group gives it an excellent threat range with all of it's guns. Prime Axiom also feels damn near crucial for Directrix to give her a big threatening melee model that also plays well with her lean towards a ranged battlegroup. It's a very popular choice for Directrix, and I can absolutely see why. I think the trickier part is figuring out how to fill out the rest of her battlegroup; the Assimilator is a great compliment.

After a day of Butch3ring...
I understand the Butcher3 hype. Not that I ever really doubted it, but there's a big difference between the dojo and the table. In that gap exist the discussions about Butcher3 being possibly overrated, or "solved", "too one dimensional," etc. 

The reality is that Butcher3 is surprisingly dynamic. Yes, the most obvious approach is to build your list as a Butcher3 delivery system and have him carry the game, and I don't think that having some support for him is every going to go away. But I can also see the evolution of his list from the initial "BDIFP x2 dude rush" list to variants; I've already read about Butcher3 lists using multiple heavies doing surprisingly well. 

Three things come together to make Butcher3 more remarkable than he seems:

1) He is a self contained engine of destruction. With absolutely no support he has a fantastic threat range, hits very hard, is very accurate, can attack everything in his melee range, and can pull enemy models into his melee range. You can give him some support like Ragman to make him that much more likely to kill whatever he touches, but he doesn't necessarily need it. His kit is also strong and versatile enough that he can do pretty much whatever: eat units, eat heavies, eat colossals, assassinate warcasters/warlocks (the latter being usually much harder to do, but he has an easy out with Silence of Death.)

2) He's actually strongest as a scenario 'caster, with an easy swap to assassination if it happens to come up. His Argus allow him to contest scenario zones, he himself can Dominate for big CP swings, and he can pretty easily clear a zone all by himself. That instantly puts a scenario pressure on your opponent that they wouldn't necessarily have with any other 'caster, and you have the whole rest of your list to facilitate that approach. If the game turns into a meatgrinder, Butcher3 forces your opponent to play very cautiously, otherwise they could make one wrong move and get themselves killed.

Contrast that with Strakov, who has a fairly good bid at assassination, but mediocre scenario tools. Instead of putting your opponent on a CP clock and forcing them to make a move, Strakov kind of gently nudges the game along, waiting for the right time to make his move. I like Strakov (quite a lot, actually) but Butcher3 shows how to take a similar idea and make it very competitively viable.

3) Because of 1 and 2, you don't really need a particular list composition with Butcher3. There are some things that are very nice to have, and some things that naturally suit the way he wants to play, but there are very few things he "needs" to work (and you could argue that he could get by without even those elements.) That gives you a ton of flexibility in choosing what to bring with Butcher3 and how to run him, and it gives the player a lot to explore in terms of list construction. You know you already have a really solid assassination and scenario "core" just with your 'caster choice, so you have some free reign to play around with other ideas. And as counter-tech comes to prominence, Butcher3 has the chance to adapt his list to get around it.

Again, as a contrast, consider the Butcher2 Doom Reaver spam list. Its a very powerful list that was popular for awhile, but it eventually petered out because the meta was able to evolve to counteract it and (being a spam theme list approach) it isn't flexible enough to keep up. Butcher3's list aren't bound by those same restrictions so you have a lot more wiggle room in building a good list for him that also suits the play environment you're expecting.

I greatly enjoyed my games with Butcher3. He's a big change of pace from how I usually play the game and he's a huge change from Harkevich's super dense attrition based lists. It's a refreshing new way to play the game, and although I don't see Butcher3 surpassing my love of Harkevich (it's hard to topple something that irrational,) he's already up there in my list of favorite 'casters. PP did a fantastic job of giving Khador a powerful new warcaster that shakes up the meta of how people approach playing Khador, while also not introducing something absolutely meta bending.

I look forward to many more games with Butcher3 and his dog squad in the future.

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