Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Steamroller - Evaluating Harkevich Match Ups

It's Harkevich Season again, and as that's coinciding with an increased chance of playing in local tournaments I've been re-examining Harkevich in the context of SR 2014. Last time I went over some list theory and I came up with a list that I feel gives me a good, fun, playable list that can hopefully shine if paired well.

This time, I'll be match ups for my Harkevich list. The base for that discussion will be to look at what the Harkevich list does and doesn't match up well against, factoring in the faction's strength's and gameplan as a whole, and considering specific 'casters and lists that may pose additional or different challenges.

Harkevich match up discussion will contain 100% less Third Strike, and 100% less color.
Match up breakdowns after the jump.

Evaluating Match Ups:
The first thing I do when trying to come up with a list pairing (assuming you're working with a larger collection of models) is to look at the list I have and try to discern what it matches up poorly against.

There are two reasons for this as my starting point:

1) It gives me a pretty good starting point for whatever I choose for a second list. This is the most obvious reason, but it's worth bearing in mind. As much fun as it can be to just play your two favorite lists, if they don't have match up synergy, you're starting off on a bad foot competitively.

2) It allows me to "red flag" the first list before I get too locked in during the list building/paring process. This one is less obvious, and I think it's a step that some players overlook when determining pairings. If you're finding that your first list has an unexpected number of bad match ups - or upon review isn't good against a specific sub-set of lists you planned to use it against - then it may be a sign that the list is in need of reworking.

With that in mind, lets take a look at the previously discussed Harkevich list in context of match ups. I'll be going faction by faction in a general sense, as well as considering popular competitive 'casters/lists for that faction. Match ups will be rated on the following (hopefully self evident) scale: 

Very Bad --- Bad --- Neutral --- Good --- Very Good

For reference, here's the list being evaluated:

Harkevich Theme - T4, Mixed Armor:
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 list is a full T4 theme list, so: +1 to starting roll, 5 Wreck Markers to place, start with upkeeps in play, reduced cost of heavies. Alternate configuration is to drop the WGI + UA for the WGRC, which is what I'll probably be testing in my first series of games with this list.

General: Bad. 

Cygnar tends to have a hard time dealing with massed heavies, and this list is something an average Cygnar list won't have an easy time handling. If I can neutralize ATGM early I can camp zones like a champ and force one helluva scenario game.

However, any list with a Stormwall in it immediately gets a lot worse (this list will have a very, very difficult time killing it and a hard time controlling it.) And Stormwall is damn popular for good reason. If Stormwall was less likely to show up, I could rate this one higher, but as is I think this is a faction that's a Bad drop.

Noteworthy 'Casters:
 - Haley2: Very Bad. Dominate + Feat + possible Bonded Stormwall = ineffectual attrition game.
 - Caine2: Neutral-to-Bad. Neutral if Caine doesn't have a Stormwall. Cover is one of the few things he can't ignore, and lots of blast damage so he might actually die. Worse if a Stormwall is around to confound me.
 - Siege: Very Bad. I've pretty much fought this one already. This is exactly the kind of list Siege is made to break.

General: Good

Protectorate lists are of similar make up, so it's a pretty even fight in terms of model count most times. Protectorate tends to rely on it's support, which this list can potentially take out as a swing. Cover and ARM 25 makes this list resistant to Protectorate gunline tactics. Not an easy fight, but certainly doable.

Noteworthy 'Casters:
 - Harbinger: Netural. The Demolishers alleviate a lot of her scenario jam potential, and she doesn't boost army hitting power at all, which help keep me in the attrition game longer. Martyrdom may be a big pain in the ass though (when isn't it?)
 - Kreoss1: Neutral-to-Bad. Nothing in this list is especially vulnerable to his assassination, but Harkevich also isn't that resistant to it, so it'd need to be a very careful game until the feat is popped. Defenders Ward on something like an Avatar would be a pain to deal with. Depends a lot on what is in the list.
 - Feora2: Good. Don't really care about fire, and though Judicator is a big bad monster (if it's in the list) it's only ARM 19 and I can deal with that. Both lists have a similar make up, with Feora2 getting more hitting power while Harkevich's has more armor. Not an easy game, but a fun one.

General: Good

Khador lists tend to lean on infantry, and this list is pretty good at taking them out. Khador can muster significant hitting power, but it's not as straightforward or hard to deal with as something like Banes. Against your average Khador list, I think this Harkevich list starts out in a good spot.

Noteworthy 'Casters:
 - Butcher3: Bad. No great way to kill Butcher3, though I can do it with Grolar + whatever else I can get there if I catch him on lower camp. Still, Harkevich has to play up the table so the whole game is going to be trying to keep him from getting axed. Playably Bad, but probably still Bad.
 - Sorscha2: Netural-to-Bad. Somewhat unsure about this one. I have tools to take her infantry off the table for the most part, but her feat is super nasty. Depends a lot on what warjacks her list brings.
 - Sorscha1: Good-to-Very Good. Sorscha1 lists are almost never anti-ARM, and even when they can deal with heavies I don't think they can deal with ARM 25 heavies. Sorscha1 dies to boosted blast damage, which this list has plenty of. Feat can be fixed with Jump Start, but Harkevich needs to be very careful to avoid assassination.

General: Bad

Debuffs and weaponmasters are a very painful reality. Cryx is the faction that deals best with warnouns, and that doesn't change a whole lot across all the factions. Against an "average" Cryx list it's actually probably Playably Bad, but against the nastier Cryx lists I feel like Harkevich will just get eaten. The Winter Guard help, and it's something I want to play out just to see how it goes, but I don't think they can bring enough to help handle the undead hordes.

Noteworthy 'Casters:
 - Gaspy2: Bad. No infantry for Excarnate, yay! Plenty of heavies to Parasite and kill with Banes + feated Banes. Boo.
 - Denny1: Neutral-to-Very Bad. Depends heavily on the list configuration. I think I'd actually do alright against some of the gunline configurations, but if it's a "face smashing" Denny1 list it's going to hurt very badly. Also no way to deal with enemy upkeeps in this list so Crippling Grasp is free to make me sad all game.
 - Skarre1: Bad. Similar to Denny1, depends on the list a bit. A McThrall herd might be manageable outside of the feat turn (oh boy that feat round,) but 30 Bane Knights would probably be totally awful.

General: Bad

Mercs in general don't worry me with this Harkevich list. Not that I'd bowl them over, but I don't see anything too bad. Then I remember the two colossals they have, and I my confidence drops tremendously. The Earthbreaker in particular is a big problem: Harkevich tends to survive ranged threats thanks to Cover, but Earthbreaker ignores that, to then knock him down, to then kill him.

Noteworthy 'Casters:
 - Bart: Bad. I think. I haven't actually fought against a Galleon yet with this list, so it's all theory, but I think it wouldn't be the most pleasant of fights. I can't kill it, and it can take its time picking apart my battlegroup. Kind of contingent on scenario and what else is in the list, but not a match I want to play.
 - Ossrum: Bad. His Earthbreaker is the best Earthbreaker at killing 'casters, so I'd need to somehow play the game without getting Harkevich killed. Seems very rough.
 - Gorten: Very Bad. Moar Earthbreaker, now with a drag feat and more hitting power, so it can can-open Demolishers easily. Plus the added bonuses of Solid Ground and Gorten being super durable (so no realistic hope of an assassination squeak win.)

General: Neutral-to-Good

Retribution is a faction that stands out based on it's ability to ignore stuff and be very self sufficient. They are not, however, a faction that deals particularly well with naturally high ARM, or ARM granted from a feat. They do have plenty of ways to marginalize Harkevich's battlegroup (Battle Mages shoving things around, Force Barrier bubbles/Discordia's imprint,) but they don't have a lot of damage buffs to toss around. In a general sense, I feel like Harkevich is neutral against Ret, and might even work well in some cases. That said...

Noteworthy 'Casters:
 - Rahn: Neutral-to-Bad. This one depends tremendously on what you've brought outside of Harkevich's battlegroup, and how many Battle Mages Rahn has. Khador warjacks are atrocious at dealing with Battle Mages before Rahn can do terrible things to you, but if you have WG + Joe you have a good shot at thinning them down before they can go ballistic. The biggest issue is that Rahn is an assassin king, and Hark has to play forward. You need to be careful, and probably lucky.
 - Ravyn: Neutral-to-Bad. You have one turn where the MHSF aren't going to be likely to kill Harkevich (which is more than a lot of 'casters have,) but it's still going to be hard to thin them out fast enough if they have Discordia's bubble to hide in.
 - Ossyan: Neutral-to-Bad. Once again, I think. Depends on how many clamjacks you have in the list, and also the reason you don't want Conquest. Distributed armor is probably harder for him to deal with, and shots with Ivan + Co can at least thin out non-MHSF models.

General: ???

I'll be honest here: I don't have enough practical experience against Covergence to give an opinion, nor have I even watched enough of how they're played to make a good guess. My gut feeling is "Bad." In a heavy v. heavy fight, it's kinda okay (Convergence warjacks aren't especially hard hitting on their own, nor are they super durable,) but as is the case with the faction it varies wildly by 'caster. And of course its one of the other factions where you're super likely to see a colossal (Prime Axiom is awesome,) which is even worse because his Tow Cables are perfectly engineered to disrupt formations like what Harkevich likes to run. These guys complete my trifecta of "really want an alternate list to deal with" factions. Or a Conquest, but I'm still having trouble finding a Conquest configuration that I like in an SR environment.

General: Neutral-to-Bad

Trollbloods are known for their durability, their excellent troops (that they can buff into hitting monsters,) and they don't really lean on the things that Harkevich counters. Clamjacks can hold up alright against a Trollblood offensive (relatively speaking, and until an arm comes off,) but a well built Trollblood list probably won't have much trouble taking Khador heavies off the table. And Harkevich's lists usually don't have a great way to get rid of Trollblood level durability in an expedient fashion.

Noteworthy 'Casters:
 - Doomshaper1: Bad. Assuming Runes of War theme list, of course. I don't think that Harkevich's list can chew through the Runeshapers effectively, and even if you manage to do that good luck cracking an ARM 21+ Mulg.
 - Madrak2: Bad. Weaponmaster on tap on top of fast infantry like Fennblades or Longriders is very scary. Madrak2 himself is nigh-impossible to kill if he doesn't want it to happen, which takes any sneaky assassination hopes off the table. May be able to play for scenario if you can somehow keep up in attrition.
 - Grissel2: Very Bad. Assuming "Miserable Meat Mountain" style of list. Just the kind of thing Harkevich's list doesn't want to see: loads of durable, Tough weaponmasters that can ramp up damage to kill heavies.

General: Good

Circle relies a lot on speed and terrain. Escort helps a tiny bit with speed (though never enough to alpha, more that it allows you to possibly charge them someday,) and Pathfinder helps with terrain. Circle also doesn't hit particularly hard, and though they can ramp up damage output it usually costs them (Primal.) Not at all an easy fight, but one that kind of lets Harkevich showcase his stronger points.

Noteworthy 'Casters:
 - Morvhana2: Neutral. It's a grind, and Harkevich doesn't have a great way around her feat. But with models like Black Ivan in the list, you can threaten her which can keep her honest. Depends on her list configuration, but Morvhana2 commonly doesn't hit super hard so the clamjacks can keep you in the scenario game. Harkevich also tends to hide in Cover which can help mitigate her sneaky assassination attempts.
 - Krueger2: Bad. Stormwall (the spell) cuts Harkevich's ranged game (limited as it already is) off at the knees. Krueger2's feat is a huge kick in the nuts no matter who you are, and it'll probably buy him time to pick off parts of the battlegroup at his leisure (plus, TK for funsies.)
 - Kromac: Neutral. Again, going a bit off the gut here. And most of that is because Kromac doesn't really counter anything Harkevich does. Bestial isn't a big deal (oh noes, no Broadsides!) and Harkevich doesn't bring the infantry that Kromac mulches. Also not a lot of targets to trigger Warpath or Sprint, so less yo-yo.  I don't think it's an easy fight, but I also don't think that it's specifically bad either.

General: Bad

Titans hit super hard, the Krea's animus does a lot to cut down on ranged damage, and they have one of the best "can't move me" models in the game (Tiberion) plus the only really good Gargantuan (not common at higher competitive levels, but I think it's still worth taking.) Skorne can also run some very nasty infantry armies, though the biggest problem is the promise that at some point it'll come down to battlegroup v. battlegroup and that fight is not in Harkevich's favor.

Noteworthy 'Casters:
 - Hexeris2: Neutral. Depends a lot on the build of the list, but Hexeris2 usually revolves around eating infantry. Still backed up by titans, which is bad, but nothing in Hexeris2's kit jumps out as super bad for Harkevich to deal with.
 - Xerxis: Bad-to-Very Bad. Depends on the list, but it's never good. Base Xerxis runs a durable, hard hitting army. If he's being run MSU style with his theme list, it gets even worse because the list loads up on medium based infantry and weaponmasters, which makes it that much harder to keep pace in the attrition game.
 - Rasheth: Bad-to-Very Bad. Depends on the list (sense a trend?) Rasheth usually runs in theme, so it depends on what he's bringing. If it's Gatormen, that's bad. If it's a herd of titans, that's even worse. Another combination of "tough to chew through" and "hits hard" that you don't want to be dealing with.

General: Neutral

This one is weird for me. I used to play Legion, so I know what it's like to be on both sides of this game and I don't think it's as obvious as it may seem. Legion runs battlegroup heavy, they tend to run plenty of boostable guns, and one of the "backbone" heavies (Angelius) is a right nightmare for Khador to deal with most times (DEF 14, immune to KD is bad business.) But at the same time, Legion doesn't hit especially hard, their warbeasts are relatively squishy, and their support is pretty easy for a Harkevich list to get at if you want to cut down on their throughput. I don't think it'd be an easy fight, but it doesn't seem especially bad in a general sense.

Noteworthy 'Casters:
 - Saeryn: Bad-to-Very Bad. I said "in a general sense." Saeryn is one 'caster you probably don't want to be fighting with Harkevich. Her feat is going to be a time walk on the worst turn for you possible and her typical list load out will have some serious hitters in it. Harkevich's list at least brings boostable shooting which may bump this from "Very Bad" to just "Bad."
 - Vayl2: Neutral-to-Bad. Harkevich doesn't lean too heavily on upkeeps, so Purification isn't a giant kick in the crotch (though it won't be fun to recover from the one turn it does happen.) Cover helps to buffer against double Obliteration assassinations. Biggest problem is dealing with Refuge'ing Angelii, and though Harkevich has some solutions - Ivan shots, Grolar charges - it's not going to be an easy fight.
 - Vayl1: Bad-to-Very Bad. Incite pushes Legion heavies over the top to be complete killing machines which makes winning the battlegroup v. battlegroup fight much more tenuous. Feat allows her battlegroup to hit and run on a key turn. Similar to Vayl2 but less slippery and more outright painful.

General: Neutral (tentative rating)

Like many players, I don't have a ton of experience against Minion lists and what experience I do have is against Gators (shocker.) In a general sense, this match up feels neutral. Gators are a right pain in the ass to deal with, but they also aren't that great at dealing with warjacks. Pigs are better at it, but they have other issues they run into (like fundamental design hiccups; poor piggies.) This evaluation is likely to shift a lot as I get more games in against Minions, and as they get more releases. Minions are also an interesting faction because the gulf between their "competitive" 'casters and the rest of their stable seems to be rather large, but again that's something I'd want to get more experience with before saying for sure.

Noteworthy 'Casters:
 - Rask: Very Bad. Gut feeling but I think it's accurate. Rask is best equipped to run armor cracking Gators, which is scary enough on it's own. His feat buys him the turn of set up he needs, and with Fury just about anything in his list can scrap a heavy. You're also probably staring at 2-3 units of Gators, so good luck with that.
 - Maelok: Bad. Less armor cracking than Rask, but more durability and recursion. Gators are hard enough to chew through on their own; tossing ARM buffs and Revives into the mix is another level of fun. Also has his assassination threat which I'm not sure Harkevich can do a ton to stop (other than the usual "distance and camp.")
 - Carver: Bad. Prior to Rask, Carver is what I would have expected out of a Minions anti-armor drop. He's still good at that job, and his list would be rough for Harkevich's to deal with (Batten + his feat.) Carver is actually a pretty solid warlock; the biggest issue is that the Pigs side of Minions is weak compared to the Gators. New releases may put Carver back on the map, and if that happens, beware.

The Takeaway:
Looking across all the factions, there are some common threads between the worst match ups for Harkevich:

High Durability - This can be a colossal, buffed heavies, or medium based infantry. Harkevich's list doesn't hit especially hard, so running into a list that is hard to chew through is a problem.

High Damage Output - Anything that can generate a lot of damage onto a single target is a problem. Lists that make great use of weaponmasters, ARM debuffs, beefy heavies, or damage buffs are an issue.

Strong Control Elements - Harkevich's list is low model count, so anything that allows your opponent to control the flow of the game can be a problem (think: Haley2 feat, Domination, Temporal Barrier, Polarity Shield.)

Not a particularly surprising list; these are elements that most "heavy" heavy lists have issues with (and Khador doesn't like dealing with control elements in general.) Whatever list I decide to pair with Harkevich needs to handle those problem areas to really be complimentary. Fortunately, several Khador 'casters fit that bill, so I have some options to choose from.

My original intent was to segue right into pairing options after going over match up thoughts, but after reviewing the size of the match up thoughts section I think it would be better to break the pairing discussion into another post. That post should be forthcoming relatively soon, and I'm hoping to get a game in with Harkevich's list this week (no luck last week) to put the theory on the table.

Until next time, thanks very much for reading!

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