Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Harkevich - End of Season Review

After playing Harkevich for awhile, I feel like its a good time to sum up my thoughts and findings before I rotate in some new blood. I've been focusing more on him in the past year, and I've been playing him off and on since he came out, and I feel like I've learned some very valuable lessons worth cataloging.

Big 'ol wall of text to follow, after the break.

Good things about Harkevich
Harkevich gives you one of the most consistently, independently mobile Khador battlegroups you can field. Escort and Field Marshal [Pathfinder] give your warjacks excellent mobility, which allows you to make sure your warjacks get where you want them in a timely fashion. Both abilities are passive, which lessens order of activation issues, and one is free which makes it effectively a sweet bonus.

Harkevich's feat adds a crucial element of legitimate durability to his battlegroup. Unlike the majority of other ARM buffs in the game, there's no getting around it with Purification, Blessed, Arcane Assassin, etc. Your opponent is going to have to deal with ARM 23-ish warjacks that turn and lists that would normally do well against Khador warjacks will struggle to do much that crucial turn. The +3 ARM probably won't save you from hard anti-ARM skews (Cryx and Skorne jump to mind) but in most cases its a significant swing (and even against the hard anti-ARM skews it makes a notable difference in dying less fast.) Harkevich's feat also chips in some crucial focus efficiency: a free charge makes a big difference in the expected melee output of Khador warjacks, and free slams let you run disruption shenanigans (enemy formation disruption, not literal Disruption) for very low cost.

Fortune is a good accuracy buff spell. It gets better the more attacks you're making with it, so it's fantastic with Khador's various spray infantry. Fortune is also nice in that it isn't limited to what it buffs, so you can put it on whatever you want whenever you want to increase accuracy.

Harkevich is oddly durable, all things considered. His base stat line isn't anything too impressive, but he'll often have the Escort ARM bonus, he can pretty easily camp, and he benefits from his feat, so he's often more difficult to kill than his stats would suggest. This becomes even more pronounced if you're running his theme list, because its very easy to engineer a Heavy Wreck Marker near a key part of the board which means Harkevich can be sitting in Cover. 19/18 is a pretty beefy defensive stat line, and you can all but guarantee he'll be at that most turns if you're playing his theme list.

Speaking of that, Harkevich has one of the better theme lists in Khador. It gives you a number of excellent benefits, while not asking you to bring anything that outside of what you'd probably want to bring with him. I wouldn't say that Harkevich's theme is the only or best way to play him, but its absolutely a compelling option and well worth considering. The place-able Heavy Wreck Markers alone are huge; it gives Harkevich a great spot to hide while pursuing objectives, and it gives your battlegroup some much needed defense against shooting attacks on the way in.

Harkevich has a fair set of tools for closing out a game. With Razor Wind and his Handcannon Harkevich has fair tools for picking off squishier casters that don't protect themselves, and his melee output is just good enough that he has a fair chance at clubbing the opposing caster to death if it comes down to that. He's no Caine2, Butcher3, or even Blood of Kings Vlad1, but Harkevich's suite of tools is good enough to have a coin toss chance of killing the opposing 'caster if it comes down to it, which isn't too bad.

Finally, Harkevich typically ends up running lists that are very good in scenario play. Mobile warjacks are some of the best models that you can bring to take and hold objective zones, and many of the warjacks you'll want to bring with him have Bulldoze (Demolisher, Spriggan, Black Ivan) which is another great rule to have in scenario play. In the absence of Huge bases/models that can't be moved, Harkevich can score using a variety of shenanigans, many of which can be tricky to stop. Even if you can't score easily, the presence of multiple warjacks typically makes it difficult for your opponent to score scenario points, which allows you to set the tempo of the game and then try to maintain it.

Bad things about Harkevich
His spell list has one very useful spell that you'll have up all game (Escort), one useful buff that you'll probably toss around (Fortune) and then a bunch of situational stuff that may or may not come in handy (and in at least one case can actually lead to some poor play decisions): 

Razor Wind is the most likely "oddball" spell to come up: it's a ranged magic attack, so it lets you pick at Incorporeal models, and it can actually turn into a pretty nasty shot with Arcane Secrets (from Sylys.) Harkevich has a Handcannon and you're better off using that (fully boosted) most of the time instead of Razor Wind, but it is good to have that spell around as another ranged damage option.

Jump Start is one of those spells that is useless until you need it, then it's clutch. It allows you to "shake" your warjacks without spending any focus on them, which means that you can negate one of the more significant penalties to being knocked down/made stationary (eating up Focus to get back into the fight.) You also get to shake everything in your battlegroup for 1 Focus, so any mass-KD or Stationary has much less of an effect on Harkevich's battlegroup than it normally would. Finally, it allows you to change facing prior to activation which isn't going to come up often, but again is nice to be able to do the one time you really need it.

Broadsides is often referred to as a "trap" spell, and I understand that label: building a list to try and "abuse" Broadsides is a mistake when all of your warjacks with guns are 9 points and RAT 4, and it's an expensive enough spell that you need to carefully weigh when it's a good idea to cast it. All that said, Broadsides can be a legitimately useful spell. If you have the right models in Harkevich's list - Black Ivan, Conquest, Demolishers - Broadsides can get you a solid return on casting it, provided that the extra shots will do the proper amount of work. It is almost the dictionary definition of a situational spell: when those extra shots have good potential Broadsides lets you accomplish things you wouldn't have been able to otherwise, but any other time you probably would have been better off allocating those 3 focus or camping it. Judicious use of Broadsides is crucial with Harkevich, and unfortunately it's a lesson that's often hard learned.

For all that Harkevich does for his warjacks, he lacks two crucial things: a damage buff and a more unilateral accuracy buff. To elaborate on each:

 - Khador warjacks can hit hard to start (Juggernaut, Beast-09, Behemoth) but in a world with colossals and ARM buffs aplenty, P+S 19 or even P+S 12 Armor Piercing often isn't good enough on it's own. You really need to be able to put down your opponent's heavy models fast, and for that you want to be hitting as hard as you can each attack. Unfortunately, Harkevich doesn't do anything in this regard nor does anything in Khador, so you need to look towards outside means (Mercs) if you want help dealing with colossals/ARM stacking.

 - Khador warjacks are, outside of characters, MAT 6. That isn't a strictly terrible MAT value, but it quickly becomes shaky once you start to run up against DEF 12-14 heavies (most common in Hordes.) In a heavy v. heavy fight, the one that misses the most typically loses, so you want to make sure your attacks are as accurate as you can make them. Harkevich himself has an accuracy buff, but it's inefficient to juggle around and can only affect one warjack at a time, so it's not the biggest help. Thankfully, Khador in general has access to a general accuracy buff in Ice Cage, but it's still a concern that needs to be addressed during list construction.

Harkevich also does almost nothing to help out any infantry in his list; his aid begins and ends with Fortune. This is both good and bad. The good news is that means you can go nuts with whatever you want to bring with him. Love the idea of Mercenary units? Harkevich has the coin and barely cares about Faction status! The bad news is that his inability to help out units (aside from an accuracy buff) means that you need to take units that can take care of themselves with a minimum of assistance (again thankfully not a huge issue in Khador.)

Harkevich also runs into Focus issues, though I don't think he has it worse than a lot of warcasters. He has one upkeep that he absolutely wants out as long as possible, and another he'll probably have in play most of the time. That leaves you with 4 Focus on an average turn, which is enough to fuel one warjack and get yourself another boost somewhere. Not terrible, but not exactly what you want to have on tap when you're going for a big push turn. His feat helps (though that has it's own issues that I'll get to in a second) and Khador has access to a few Focus aids that can alleviate the pressure a bit in Sylys and a Koldun Lord. Even with those aids, you need to carefully consider where your Focus needs to go in a given turn because you don't have a ton of it to work with.

Lastly, while Harkevich's feat has some very good components, it can be difficult to time properly. In my experience, if you're just using the feat defensively, you're losing out on a lot of it's potential: the bonus shots are nice (though often circumstantial) but the free charge/slam makes a big difference in how much melee you're able to output in a turn. The ideal seems to be to use Harkevich's feat to charge into the fray, leverage the extra attacks granted by the feat (bonus shot and focus efficiency) to bang up your opponent's army, and then endure their counter attack with the +3 ARM swing (and possible Mechanik back up.)

It can be really easy to be lulled into building a list that relies on the +3 ARM to endure your opponent's initial strike (and sometimes you'll need to do that) but it is in your best interest to build your Harkevich list with the aim of forcing the engagement, then be able to pop your feat to maximize the benefits. If you feat defensively, there is always the chance your opponent may not commit heavily that turn and attempt to wait you out; if you pop your feat after you've gotten into their face and started causing damage, they don't really have a choice.

The takeaway from this is: don't lean too much on the feat's defensive bonus when you're putting your list together, and try to use it in a way that lets you leverage both halves of the feat. It's very easy to end up doing otherwise, and I've almost always regretted when I've popped the feat defensively.

Lastly, although Harkevich can build strong scenario lists they're usually contingent on your opponent not having a Huge base/models that can't be moved since the usual shenanigans (Bulldoze, slam, two handed throw) won't work on them. A colossal/gargantuan is the apex of that problem: they're hard to kill (doubly or triply so with any ARM buffs in the equation,) they hit hard enough to be able to chew through your warjacks pretty quickly, and you absolutely have to kill them to have any hope of scoring. This is the area where Harkevich's lack of built-in damage buffing really rears it's head.

Thankfully, there aren't any colossals that frequently feature in competitive lists.

My "net" view of Harkevich:
After playing him fairly consistently for a while, I still like Harkevich a lot. Hell, I probably like him even more now that I've started to really understand what makes a list work with him, and what he's good (and bad) at.

That said, Harkevich definitely has some issues. I hit on some of them in my overview above, but in general his biggest issue is that he doesn't quite do enough to really make his battlegroup sing, and Khador doesn't have the warjack support (as compared to someone like Protectorate) to really rely on your battlegroup to consistently perform. As a result, Harkevich's game starts to come apart at the seams when faced with things like debuffs or strong control (think Denny1, Haley2.) Harkevich can put enough armor on the table and keep it alive long enough to not get blasted off the table, but his battlegroup isn't really well equipped to handle those situations.

To put it bluntly: Harkevich isn't really capable of running an "A+" list. When faced with the more flexible, strong 'casters that the game has to offer, his skew doesn't do enough to push him through their versatile tool kits and once they start to unravel or control his battlegroup he can't really do a lot to turn the tide. I think with the right lists you can still make a game of it (some more so than others,) but there definitely is a point where you're fighting an uphill battle from the moment 'casters are selected.

That said, I don't think Harkevich is in a particularly bad spot in the Khador warcaster stable. While he does run into match up issues, Harkevich earns a lot of points by bringing an interesting, surprisingly viable skew list to the table. He can very easily run strong scenario lists, they're typically resistant to many of the anti-Khador tools out there, and with his feat to steal a turn of tempo they can even do decently well against some anti-armor lists.

All of that comes together to give Harkevich a decent shot at being a 3rd list, assuming you can finagle characters. You may even be able to run him as part of a 2 list pairing, though that's a little tighter considering your second list has to cover Harkevich's bad match ups - lots of Cryx, a fair bit of Skorne, often Cygnar, often Mercs.

Mercs and Cygnar make that list because Harkevich has one other problem, and it's a Huge one: it is difficult to build a list with him that deals well with colossals (most specifically: Stormwall, Galleon, Earthbreaker) without generally weakening the list. Harkevich's theme list is one of the best ways to run a large number of warjacks, but that cuts out your ability to bring strong anti-armor measures (read: Merc solos.) A non-theme list with Harkevich is capable of dealing with colossals decently well, but you give up the benefits of the theme list to do so (which are significant) and then you start running into character restriction issues (since Harkevich is going to want many of the premium Merc models to help him out with heavy lifting.)

I've been struggling with a solution to the colossal problem with Harkevich, and unfortunately I haven't come up with a truly satisfactory answer. You can try to out play your opponent with a theme list (or have enough heavies to throw at it, which will probably work okay with anything non-Stormwall,) or you can build a non-theme list with an aim at taking down a colossal. Both approaches have their pros and cons, both have lists they will and won't work against. The more I bang my head against it the more I lean towards just building a solid, irritating list that may or may not have game against a colossal, and just accept that I'd need another list to be able to deal with the damn things (thank god for Butcher3.)

I think you could play Harkevich competitively and I think he's definitely worth considering - he's one of the few Khador warcasters I feel handles multiple warjacks well, he does it in a pretty interesting way, and he can be surprisingly sturdy while doing it. I think you need to carefully consider what you'd pair/team him up with to cover his weaknesses, and it helps if you're good at list chicken. It would actually be more accurate to say that Harkevich would probably be your "off" list that would compliment your primary list with an ARM skew.

That said, Harkevich is not an easy warcaster to play and he has a sizable number of problem match ups (with some being worse than others) so I understand why a lot of players choose to stick with our more flexible, consistent warcasters when it comes to competitive play.

In a more casual environment, Harkevich is an easier choice to recommend, though with the same caveat: there are some fights that you just plain don't want him in, and you need to be able to identify those situations and reach for a list that will give you a better chance at having a good game.

Models I've found work well in Harkevich lists: (In no particular order)

 - Black Ivan: Not necessarily an auto-include, but a very compelling choice, and you're required to take him in the theme list so you have to bring him if you go that route. Ivan brings a lot to the table in Harkevich's list: Bulldoze, DEF 12 (16 in Cover) with Dodge, RAT 5 auto-boosted to-hit via his Affinity, and an Open Fist on a moderate (conditionally great) melee weapon.

Black Ivan is remarkable due to his autonomy: his Affinity removes one of the most consistent Focus drains that Harkevich runs into (the need for his warjacks to boost to-hit,) so Ivan can very often wander around Harekvich's control area, shooting things as necessary. He can also survive remarkably well on his own thanks to random misses and Dodge. Ivan makes Broadsides a little sweeter by giving you an shot that is boosted to-hit (thanks to the Affinity,) giving you a better ROI on any Broadsides castings (though it shouldn't be your primary motivator.)

 - Demolishers: Demolishers are the backbone of Harkevich's strong scenario play. ARM 25 is a tremendous ARM value for most armies to try and hack through so you can often put your Demolishers in very aggressive positions without worrying about them getting flattened in a turn. Moreover, due to the timing of how Armored Shell resolves, if you cast Broadsides before the Demolishers activate they'll be able to shoot then immediately close up again. It's an expensive way to get a shot out of them, but it can be very nice to maintain ARM 25 while still getting a POW 15 AOE 4 shot out there. They also bring more Bulldoze to the table as well as the option for two handed throws, which makes them good scenario models.

The errata that allows Demolishers and Devastators to slam or trample without having to drop their ARM value was a great buff. It allows you to do something like: Broadsides for a Demolisher shot, then activate it (closing back up) and slam another model. Depending on how many models you can contact with that slam, you can do some very respectable work with a Demolisher, all while maintaining ARM 25. Alternatively, you can go "all in" with a Demolisher on feat turn and Broadsides, then charge into combat (shooting beforehand) to make Gunfighter attacks, giving you a possible 4 shots on feat turn while staying at a fair ARM 20.

My greatest successes with Harkevich came when I started to leverage Demolishers in his list. They form the hard core of the list that let you take scenario ground early without having to rely on Harkevich's feat for safety, and they can still do a fair amount of work while maintaining a very respectable level of durability (even in the context of the modern anti-armor meta.) I think one Demolisher is an extremely good idea, two is still something I like a lot (and what I'd shoot for most of the time,) and you can go as high as four Demolishers in some lists with fair success (more on this later.)

 - Juggernaut: Standard melee beater, but it's all you need sometimes. A Juggernaut is the cheapest way you're getting a high starting P+S on the table in most Harkevich lists, and they can form up behind your Demolishers to keep them safe and ensure they get the drop on key elements in your opponent's list. The Ice Axe is also a nice melee weapon to have around in the context of Harkevich: a lucky early Critical Freeze alleviates accuracy issues in most cases and can let you leverage guns to finish off the Juggernaut's target with relative ease.

 - Spriggan: More expensive melee option, though discounted a bit in the theme force. A Spriggan gives you a very respectable melee threat range, some built in accuracy on the charge, a little extra durability (until the shield falls off,) Flares for some Stealth mitigation (which are a touch easier to use on a MOV 6 model,) and of course more Bulldoze. It's a little more expensive than a Juggernaut, and it won't hit the same damage output levels, but it's also much more likely to get the first strike on your opponent (or be in a good position to counter-charge) while also bringing some other nice tricks to the table. A fine choice for Harkevich.

 - Conquest*: Conquest brings a lot of very nice things to the table for Harkevich. It has Reach and a very high starting P+S so it can do excellent melee work. It has a very good main gun with a fun and useful Critical effect that makes it a decent ranged threat, and a nice model to get an extra shot from with Broadsides. It has multiple attacks so it makes good use of Fortune as an accuracy buff. It's Huge, so it gives you an immovable obstacle in scenario play. Last, but certainly not least, it has a large number of damage boxes which allows it to combo up nicely with Mechaniks and Harkevich's feat to make a model that can absorb a remarkable amount of punishment.

All of that can make Conquest seem like a no-brainer with Harkevich, but I a critical evaluation reveals some significant downsides. One of the more nuanced drawbacks is that Conquest is DEF 7 and can't ever hope to improve that (not that it could ever realistically improve that garbage DEF value enough for it to matter.) This makes a big difference because any attack coming it's way is very likely to hit. You can't hide him in terrain to push luck in your favor (even DEF 12 is a significant bump, and all of Harkevich's battlegroup can get that if you can find some trees,) and you don't have the luxury of being saved from ranged/magic attacks by close combat. So while Conquest may be able to absorb a lot more punishment, he also will be absorbing a lot more punishment; Harkevich vanguards with his warjacks, and unfortunately that's one of the things that Conquest kind of sucks at.

Another complication is the multiplicative effect of Harkevich's feat across multiple warjacks. Conquest is roughly as durable as two Khador heavies - one set of 62 boxes vs. two sets of 34 - but he's also one (big) target. +3 ARM is a significant boost to Khador warjack durability, but it makes less of a difference when your opponent can, and will, pile all of their offensive output onto one model to try and chew through it's damage boxes. In all of my games, I've found opponents typically have a harder time dealing with two different warjacks at ARM 23 than one big target at ARM 23, even if the "smaller" warjacks are more prone to having things broken off. You can usually force situations where your opponent has to choose between attacking multiple warjacks (with the probable outcome of doing low damage across the board) or pile everything onto one choice target (which leaves the rest of your battlegroup relatively unmolested.) Conquest removes that conundrum by being a big 'ol target that's easy to pile attacks on, and being a consolidated source of offense so it's worth committing resources to half kill it on your feat turn, so long as they can kill it the following turn.

For those reasons, Conquest gets an asterisk. Its a really fun model to use with Harkevich - if you ever get a turn where you're initial shot and Broadsides shot both crit, it's like Christmas - and it can be decently effective, but I think Conquest runs into enough issues that it ends up not being a great choice when trying to build really competitive Harkevich lists.

 - Behemoth: The hardest working warjack in show business is a superb choice with Harkevich non-theme (it may be an auto-include choice if you're breaking theme, to be honest.) Two solid guns, excellent melee output, high natural ARM, largest non-colossal grid possible, ability to make melee and ranged attacks in the same activation; they're all the reasons you love him, and they're all great features in a Harkevich list. Behemoth is one of the best warjack targets for Fortune due to the number of attacks he can generate (and will consistently generate,) the +3 feat ARM puts him to a fantastic durability level, and on the feat turn you can get 8 attacks out of him (sans Broadsides.) The Behemoth is very often a good choice in any Khador list, and with Harkevich he ends up being an excellent choice.

 - Grolar*: This one gets an asterisk due to being untested, but it definitely has potential. The Grolar brings something very important to Harkevich's battlegroup: volume of attacks. They may not be amazing attacks, but in Khador you take what you can get on your warjacks. One of the biggest issues I've encountered with Harkevich is that most of the time his battlegroup is only capable of outputting a low volume of attacks on their own. Due to how the warjacks are used in his they often end up having to deal with some infantry, and that's when Khador warjack's low attack volume really starts to hurt. Broadsides can help this a bit, but it's expensive and not often a good choice.

The Grolar brings that attack volume to the table. It has a ROF 5 gun, and even with it's crappy RAT and RNG, that's still 5 attacks. With Fortune, they can become 5 decently accurate attacks against the infantry you're most worried about (powerful melee infantry are frequently DEF 10-13; DEF 14+ models typically don't hit hard enough to be an immediate concern, or can be dealt with via blast damage.) With Gunfighter and Virtuoso, the Grolar can even wade into combat, make it's melee attacks, then unload it's gun into the rest of the unit. Having one warjack be able to kill 7 infantry would be a huge help in some games, and the Grolar is the only Khador heavy capable of doing that.

Another nice feature of the Grolar is it's Piston Hammer. It's a very respectable P+S 18, so it's capable of getting some legit work done in melee against other enemy heavies, but the most remarkable part of the weapon is it's Ram special rule. Ram is simultaneously an accuracy enabler - automatic Knockdown on hit is very potent - and a slight movement shenanigan. It doesn't have quite the same flexibility as Beat Back, but it still gives you a little extra movement which may allow you to get in extra attacks against enemy infantry in a close formation. It's a very good melee weapon, and it brings something very important to the table for Harkevich with it's auto-KD.

Overall, the Grolar seems like it has potential with Harkevich. I was initially dismissive of it, but after thinking about it the Grolar may make a fine addition to Harkevich's battlegroup. Especially in the context of the theme list, where it's a 1 point upgrade over a Juggernaut due to theme bonuses.

 - Mechaniks: This one is pretty obvious, but I figured I'd include it for completeness. Harkevich likes to run a fair number of warjacks, so the Mechaniks will have plenty to keep them busy. The additional durability they provide can do a lot to keep attrition going in your favor, especially with Harkevich's feat available to seriously throttle your opponent's offensive output for a turn. Some element of Repair is often a very good idea with Harkevich, and thankfully Khador's Mechaniks are one of the best options available in the game.

 - Winter Guard Infantry: One of Khador's best units, and often in heavy rotation elsewhere due to synergies with Iron Flesh. However, if you're running Harkevich's theme list (and/or if you don't have character restriction concerns,) the WGI are a fantastic supplement to Harkevich's battlegroup. The only thing you're really worried about with him are your opponent's infantry models (powerful melee infantry are the easiest counter to heavy warjacks out there,) and the WGI are one of the best anti-infantry units in the game.

Harkevich can't offer them any protective benefits, but they typically don't need it since they'll be beside or behind the warjack wall. What Harkevich can do is take their already high accuracy (with Joe) and dial it up to 11 with Fortune; RAT 5 sprays rolling 3d6 with a re-roll do not miss much.

 - Greylord Outriders: A decent non-character affiliated alternative to the Winter Guard Infantry in non-theme lists. The only real issue Outriders run into is their so-so accuracy, and it just so happens that Harkevich has a buff for that. They're also an interesting option since you can block LOS to battlegroup models thanks to their large bases. I don't think they're the absolute best anti-infantry you can bring, but they're probably the best anti-infantry you can bring that isn't character restricted, and they're a damn fun unit to use.

 - Nyss Hunters (+Valachev if possible): Nyss are another popular anti-infantry option, and with damn good reason. With Valachev you can threat out to 22", or pull all manner of shenanigans in between for maximum shooting flexibility. Once again, Harkevich can't do a ton for them but the one thing he can offer is very much appreciated: Fortune is a perfect buff for a MAT 6, RAT 6 unit, and it lets you get a lot more work out of individual Nyss shots in situations where you'd need a 6 or 7 to hit.

 - Boomhowler + Co.: A different approach with infantry is to use them to take some of the pressure of having to vanguard with your battlegroup. Boomhowler's crew are one of the best tarpits in the game, and they work just fine in the context of a Harkevich list if you want to try that alternate approach. Valachev is a "give or take" here; Zephyr is nice but not essential, and Fortune would be helpful but isn't strictly necessary.

 - Greylord Ternion: Ternion get a special shout-out because they bring two fantastic things to the table: a DEF debuff on a stick and accurate anti-infantry sprays. I've used Ternion a lot in the past, so one thing to bear in mind with Ice Cage is that very often you only need one in order to swing the math hugely in your favor. Stationary is nice, but it's way more resource intensive; getting your warjacks up to MAT 8/RAT 6 is often all you need, and you can potentially do that to three different targets (or spray/cloud other targets) instead of focusing on just one. Ternion maintain their status as being overly fragile, but they also can often be hiding behind your warjacks which may mitigate some of their risk.

 - Widowmakers: Harkevich is mainly concerned with how he's going to deal with enemy infantry, and the Widowmakers are a fine choice for that. Sniper lets you reliably threaten models that blast damage or POW 10/12 attacks might not otherwise work against, and they have sufficient range to attack what they need to, when they need to. Fortune gives you less of an ROI on a smaller unit, but since Widowmakers are often only concerned with hitting, it's about the only buff they'll ever need.

 - Lady Aiyana and Master Holt: Always a fantastic supplemental choice, A&H are a little extra valuable for Harkevich due to his unique set of needs. First: as mentioned many times, Harkevich really appreciates any damage bonuses he can get and Harm is one of the best damage buffs available. It's status as a "model/unit" debuff is especially useful; Khador blast damage is usually pretty mediocre but it's a lot scarier when it's effectively POW 9/10 thanks to Harm.

Second: magical weapons on tap is more useful than it may seem at first. Harkevich almost always wants to leverage some element of shooting in his battlegroup, and those shots are typically best against hard targets. There are several effects in the game that prevent targeting by non-magical ranged attacks, so being able to circumvent those gives your ranged attrition a little more credibility (particularly against Protectorate.)

And finally: Holt brings two quality ranged attacks to the list, which helps a lot in terms of stemming the tide of enemy infantry.

 - Eiryss2/Gorman/Ragman: Lumped together due to general purpose and utility. Similar to A&H, these are the solos you bring along as "armor fixers" either for their debuffs or for upkeep mitigation. Harkevich appreciates every single one of them just as much as you'd expect.

 - Kovnik Joseph Grigorovich: If you're bringing Winter Guard of either variety, you're very likely bringing Joe along. I've also read about people having success running Joe boosting the attacks on Field Guns and Mortars; I've tried this in the past and it does work pretty well, but I don't think it's feasible to allocate Joe to that role in a list if you're playing in a character restricted environment.

 - Koldun Lord: Focus is a premium resource when you're trying to run multiple warjacks and every way you can add more to a list is appreciated. If you have Black Ivan in the list, the Koldun Lord can allow him to run completely independently of Harkevich so long as he's in Harkevich's CTRL; the Affinity boost the attack roll, and the Koldun Lord can fuel boosting the damage. The Koldun Lord also brings along an Ice Cage and a Frost Bite, so you get some of the benefits of Ternion along with some additional Focus input (albeit all on the same model, which means you can't do all that in any given turn.)

 - Widowmaker Marksman/Kell Bailoch: More anti-infantry Sniper fire. The WMM is a good choice if you're bringing Widowmakers along to leverage Swift Hunter, plus he's more mobile than Kell is so he can be a better objective runner model. Kell brings along a magic gun and double the shots, so you're going to get a very respectable output from him so long as you can keep him protected.

 - Sylys Wyshnalyrr: Since Harkevich is going to have Escort up all game, might as well make it free right? Sylys also helps by giving you a little more range on Fortune, making it easier to swap around if necessary, and Arcane Secrets turns Razor Wind into a remarkably potent spell attack. He's usually in heavy rotation elsewhere, but if you can afford to fit him in, Harkevich and Sylys will bro up very effectively.

 - Man-o-War Drakun: Continuing the theme of "mobile armor", the Drakun gives you a model that is fast enough to engage your opponent's long range infantry or other cav models that is also tough enough to tie them up for a bit. The Drakun also brings some melee punch of his own - P+S 14 weaponmaster is no joke - and high accuracy melee attacks, so he can run some shenanigans while your opponent focuses on your battlegroup.

Favorite Lists:
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)

This is the "Quad Clam" list I wrote about here. It's a very fun list that is surprisingly effective. The battlegroup is absurdly high ARM so most lists have a hard time chewing through it with any speed and all the while you're running Demolishers around Bulldozing, slamming, two handed throwing, and blasting zones clear to score CP. All of that is backed up by WGI that can hose down any Demolishers that get bogged down.

This list abandons any hope of reliably killing enemy heavies/colossals. The plan is to push/slam/throw those models out of scenario zones and otherwise control them to minimize their impact on the game. If you can time your Demolisher openings correctly, it works out pretty well in practice. However, this list runs into serious issues against any "can't be moved" models, and unfortunately colossals can hit hard enough that even ARM 25 won't last too long. Its a very skewed list, but if you can drop it in the right match ups it can do quite well.

Kommander Harkevich, the Iron Wolf (*5pts)
* Black Ivan (10pts)
* Demolisher (9pts)
* Demolisher (9pts)
* Juggernaut (7pts)
* War dog (1pts)
Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters (Cylena and 9 Grunts) (10pts)
* Koldun Kapitan Valachev (2pts)
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution (3pts)
Gorman di Wulfe, Rogue Alchemist (2pts)
Ragman (2pts)

This list is what I came up with to try and actually burn down colossals, as tested here and here. It maintains the core of Demolishers to force scenario play, with the combination of Juggernaut melee and debuffs that give the list enough punch to actually threaten a colossal. The Nyss are in there to give the list a strong anti-infantry ranged alpha strike, along with a little extra melee punch (relatively lightweight, but better than nothing.)

Aside from possibly swapping A&H for Ragman and Gorman, I liked this list a lot. It is legitimately dangerous against enemy heavies while still being a beefy ARM skew that plays well in a variety of scenarios. Probably the biggest knock against it is that it's very character intensive, which limits your other list options in SR/Masters play (and the reason why I'm still very partial to working with Harkevich's theme list.)

Lists I want to try:
Kommander Harkevich, the Iron Wolf (*5pts)
* Black Ivan (9pts)
* Demolisher (8pts)
* Demolisher (8pts)
* Grolar (8pts)
* Grolar (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)

This is a minor change to the Quad Clam list, swapping out two Demolishers for two Grolars. This change is meant to make the list a little more proactive. One of the things I haven't liked about the Quad Clam list is that you need to be conservative with almost all of your battlegroup, so it feels like your opponent is better able to dictate the pace of the game by actually making attacks. Plus, as much fun as it is to bump, bounce, and toss enemy heavies around, sometimes you just need to hammer something to death.

This variant gives you three models that can make attacks each turn (Ivan and the two Grolars) which should help both against infantry (ROF 5 guns, AOEs, possible Broadsides,) and heavies (P+S 18 hammers on the Grolars are much better than the P+S 16 on Ivan and the Demolishers.) I still don't think it would do very well against most colossals, but I think I like it better against a wider cross section of lists than the Quad Clam list. Definitely something I want to test out.

Kommander Harkevich, the Iron Wolf (*5pts)
* Black Ivan (9pts)
* Grolar (8pts)
* Grolar (8pts)
* Demolisher (8pts)
* Demolisher (8pts)
Winter Guard Mortar Crew (Leader and Grunt) (3pts)
Winter Guard Mortar Crew (Leader and Grunt) (3pts)

Remaining 8 points can be: Juggernaut + War Dog, another Grolar/Demolisher, or Drakun + Mechaniks

This variant attempts to leave out the WGI + Joe to alleviate pairing/3 list character concerns, since you probably want a Cryx match up cover and they'll probably want WGI/WGRC + Joe. The hope is that the volume of attacks afforded by the Grolars, coupled with the Mortars and Black Ivan should allow you to deal with most of the infantry you're really worried about. Because the list is such an ARM skew, it can afford to ignore a large subsection of infantry, and Demolishers are durable enough that you don't need to risk your "work" models to maintain scenario presence.

I'm very, very tempted to run the list with 3 Demolishers, but there's a lot of merit in running the list with Juggernaut + War Dog as the last 8 points. That gives you another solid melee model to anchor or initiate heavy trades, and at that point you can almost decently deal with a colossal by weight of attacks (between the two Grolars and the Juggernaut.) I don't think you can take down an Arcane Shielded Stormwall before the list runs out of juice, but I think that module is a problem for Harkevich no matter what you do for him, so I'm trying not to let it color my list building choices (the dev gods gave us Butcher3 to deal with things like that.)

However, 3 Demolishers is also one helluva set up. You still have a crazy ARM skew going on, Broadsides is still a very live option with 3 Demolishers and Black Ivan to make attacks (Grolar Broadsides shots feel incidental, and with 3 Demolishers you can pretty easily run a wall up the table that protects the Grolars against any heavy gunfire, mitigating the need for Mechaniks.

Its a very exciting list to think about, and I think it'll be pretty fun to play as well. The next Harkevich list I put on the table will probably be a version of this one.

In closing:
If you've managed to stick with me this long, you have my deepest thanks. I've poured my brain out over all of the things I've learned with Harkevich playing him over the past year plus. Part of that is cataloging and organizing my thoughts for my own benefit, and part of that is hoping to share my lessons learned with anyone else out there interested in running Harkevich at least semi-competitively.

I titled this post "End of Season" because I'm trying to rotate Harkevich out of my "heavily played" warcaster slots. I'm almost done painting Butcher3 and I really need to experience the simple joy of having such a force of nature on the table, and I've really wanted to get back to Irusk2. I played him a fair bit before the IFK came out and had success with him then, and now I really want to revisit my list with a pair of IFK.

However, I know I'll never stray too far away from Harkevich. For all his problem match ups and list building concerns, the guy is really fun to play and when his lists work they work very well (and in a way that Khador so rarely gets to operate.) I'm sure I'll get a game or two in with him soon to try out the Grolar in different ways, and I'll be sure to share my impressions when I do. But also keep an eye out for Irusk2 and Butcher3 game reports coming in the near future, and probably more Vlad off and on because I think he's a pretty cool dude.

Thanks again for reading!

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