Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Irusk2 vs. Damiano - Conquest, Meet Conquest

As previously mentioned I'm moving into testing Irusk2 lists, which is a fun change of pace after so many games with Harkevich. My most recent game was squaring off against a friend of mine using Damiano, a Merc warcaster with a similar toolkit/support approach.

Who will emerge victorious in the battle between Conquest (the feat) and Conquest (the colossal)? Find out after the break!

My List:
Supreme Kommandant Irusk (*5pts)
   * Conquest (19pts)
Battle Mechaniks (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Iron Fang Pikemen (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
   * Black Dragon Officer & Standard (2pts)
Kayazy Eliminators (Leader and Grunt) (3pts)
Man-o-war Shocktroopers (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Tactical Arcanist Corps (4pts)
Widowmakers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (4pts)
Iron Fang Kovnik (2pts)
Iron Fang Kovnik (2pts)

This list is a rebuild of the core Irusk2 list I ran back before the Iron Fang Kovnik was released. The biggest difference is that this list is attempting to make use of Conquest as a gun platform/anchor model, versus something more mobile like a Decimator/Demolisher/Behemoth. This was also the maiden pairing of TAC with Irusk2, with the hope that their smoke clouds would allow me to finally play him as "aggressively" as I've wanted to in the past.

My Friend's List:
Captain Damiano (*6pts)
   * Nomad (6pts)
   * Rocinante (9pts)
   * Rover (8pts)
   * Sylys Wyshnalyrr, the Seeker (2pts)
Croe's Cutthroats (Croe and 9 Grunts) (10pts)
Greygore Boomhowler & Co. (Boomhowler and 9 Grunts) (9pts)
Steelhead Halberdiers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Tactical Arcanist Corps (4pts)
Saxon Orrik (2pts)

My friend is likewise iterating on Damiano after some time away from him, and this list is very similar to an older list. Two of the most noteworthy additions are Boomhowlers (durability, especially with Sure Foot,) TAC (shielding for Damiano,) and Sylys (precious, precious free upkeep.)

Scenario: SR 2014 Into The Breach

Irusk wins the roll off for deployment and opts to deploy second.

Aside: as you can tell by this picture, all players involved had a serving of bourbon in their system during the game. That makes for the best Warmachine, but it also I'm sure colored some of our decision making. So if something we did seemed particularly silly, it probably seemed like a much better idea at the time.

Round 1:
Standard first round of trucking up the table. Damiano gets Death March out on the Halberdiers, then everything else runs up, with Boomhowler + Co. getting Call of Defiance (as they will all game.)

During Irusk's turn, the Widowmakers advance and shoot 4 Boomhowlers, two of which survive via Tough. The IFP advance in Shield Wall (with Shield March) onto the hill. Everything else runs forward. Irusk get's Fire For Effect out on Conquest and Tactical Supremacy on the Shocktroopers.

Round 2:
Start of Round 2
Damiano Turn 2:
Damiano upkeeps Death March for free, allocates one to each warjack, then camps the rest. The TAC move up and put clouds out, while the Rover and Nomad run forward.

Saxon gives Boomhowler + Co. Pathfinder, then they hoof it into the zone. The Steelheads and Croe's run to flanking positions on each flank. Rocinante advances and tries to skip a shell into the Widowmakers, but it scatters wide.

Irusk Turn 2:
Irusk upkeeps both spells, allocates two focus to Conquest. Conquest starts off by advancing up to the wall in front of him and shooting the Nomad with it's Main Guns. The shot hits (no critical,) doing 1 damage to the Nomad and 4 to the TAC behind him. The Left Secondary Battery place Creeping Barrage templates in front of Croe's, while the Right Secondary Battery shoots at the enemy objective. Both attacks hit and boosted damage rolls do 12 damage total.

The rightmost IFK advances and gives Shield March to the Shocktroopers, who then advance into the zone and kill some Boomhowlers. The Eliminators charge into the Boomhowlers, killing one grunt and Boomhowler himself, and knocking down another. The Widowmakers continue to pump shots into Boomhowlers, whittling the unit down to two members.

The TAC advance and put down cloud templates while the Mechaniks get into repair position. Irusk advances and puts an Artifice of Deviation template down in between the Rover, Nomad, and Conquest to limit charges. The leftmost IFK advances and gives Shield March to the IFP, who then advance in Shield Wall, with Iron Zeal.

End of turn, the Shocktroopers use Tactical Supremacy to reform into a staggered wall formation.

Round 3:
Start of Round 3
Damiano Turn 3:
Damiano upkeeps Death March for free, allocates 2 to the Nomad and one each to the Rover and Rocinante. Damiano starts off the turn by casting Deadeye on Croe's, shuffles back towards the center of the board, and pops his feat.

Croe's advance around the Creeping Barrage templates and shoots into the IFP, killing two after all the attacks and Tough checks. The Nomad charges in and attacks Conquest over the wall, doing around 12 damage. The Rover doesn't have an angle in on Conquest, so it charges across the side of the AoD template and kills an IFP.

Rocinante moves back towards Damiano and shoots the enemy objective, doing 2 damage to it and killing a nearby TAC with boosted blast damage. The remaining Boomhowlers stand up and attack the Eliminator in melee and shoot at a Widowmaker (both attacks miss.)

The Steelheads charge the Eliminators and run into a clouding formation, but the models that make distance miss their attacks.

Irusk Turn 3:
Irusk upkeeps both spells, keeps all his focus. Conquest turns and punches the Nomad twice for decent damage but no broken systems. The rightmost IFK charges the Nomad for a few points of damage.

The Shocktroopers advance and split their attacks between melee against Steelheads and shooting the objective (scoring 1 CP.) The objective is destroyed while one Boomhowler and one Steelheads is killed. The Eliminators walk into the Steelheads, killing three as they Sidestep through the unit. The Widowmakers that aren't in melee move back and shoot at the remaining models in the zone, clearing it.

The TAC advance and put down clouds. Irusk moves up, casts Battle Lust on the IFP, pops his feat, then uses the remaining 2 focus to Energizer over into the zone (and behind the clouds.) Mechaniks fully repair Conquest.

The IFP charge into the opposing three warjacks. Rocinante kills one with a Defensive Strike, but the other two that make it to him do enough damage to pop Cortex. One IFP charges a TAC and connects, but fails to kill it. The other IFP do chip damage to the other two warjacks. The IFK runs to engage some of Croe's.

End of turn, the Shocktroopers use Tactical Supremacy to move back into base with each other and block off LOS to Irusk. Irusk dominates the zone, scoring 2 CP.

CPs: Irusk 3 - Damiano 0

Round 4:
Start of Round 4
Damiano Turn 4:
In the Maintenance Phase, the Steelheads take their Vengeance action. Three CMA one of the Eliminators, killing her and causing a command check which the remaining Eliminator fails. Another Steelhead attacks a Widowmaker, killing it.

During the Control Phase, Damiano upkeeps Death March and allocates 3 to both warjacks. The Rover advances and kills the IFP in front of it. The Nomad tries to move over in order to get attacks on the TAC and possibly Irusk, but prompts a freestrike from Conquest that knocks off it's right arm. It manages to kill a TAC and an IFP between initials and purchased attacks.

The TAC clear out the IFP in front of Rocinante who advances and shots the enemy objective, doing 4 points of damage. Croe's pile into the IFK and start to circle around to try and get at Mechaniks.

Damiano advances towards the flag. On the right flank, the Steelheads push as far as they can into the zone (no orders, -2 SPD) as does the Boomhowler. They make attacks at what they can, but nothing is killed or damaged. Saxon moves to toe into the zone.

CPs: Irusk 3 - Damiano 0

Irusk Turn 4:
Irusk upkeeps both spells, keeps all the remaining focus. During this turn the models in the zone are able to clear it out thanks to a combination of Shield March, Shocktrooper attacks, and Widowmaker shots. At the end of the turn, Irusk scores by dominating the zone.

CPs: Irusk 5 - Damiano 0

Result: Irusk wins via scenario!

Post-Game Thoughts:
This was a weird game in places. There were a lot of things that played into that but I think the two biggest were: 1) delicious, delicious bourbon, and 2) this scenario. More on the scenario later.

This was an interesting match up for both of our lists. My current Irusk2 list is more compact, so I was curious as to how it would do against a more voluminous army. His Damiano list has a few different threat vectors going on, but he was concerned about how his list would do against concentrated armor.

In the end, I think this match up is more even than either of us initially thought. My list has some ways to deal with and mitigate his numbers, but I need to be able to keep his stuff at arms length long enough and chop it down fast enough before I get overrun. His list has the hitting power and durability it needs in the feat, but it's a hard act timing that for maximum benefit, and I feel like Damiano's other upkeeps need to play a big part in the game too (neither of the other two ever got out due to allocation and Deadeye, which made my game easier.)

Regarding the scenario: this was at least my first time playing this one (I think my friend has played it relatively recently) and man this is a scenario that it pays to have experience with. It has two scoring areas, but one is clearly better than the other (zone due to ability to control or dominate,) and the other only really requires a token effort to stymie (flag, since it can only be dominated.) Combine that with an objective and you can get some fast point swings like in this game, though at least you need to clear a large zone in order to do so.

I'm not sure how I feel about this scenario, to be honest. It's kind of neat in that it pulls you in a couple of different directions, but I feel like the flag is potentially undervalued for how dangerous it would be to dominate. Looking at the pictures at the end of the game, Damiano could have potentially dominated on his turn (not sure if the IFP on the corner was in contesting range,) but that then puts him right in front of Conquest and the IFP that are over there. I'd imagine most games end up in a similar situation, which is very dangerous for 1 CP.

I ended up having a solid deployment for this scenario by pure accident. You want to push super hard into the zone, since it's your best chance to score, and have things to throw at the flag to stymie domination. It feels odd, but it's at least a better scenario than Balance of Power.

Overall, this game ended up going well for me, but my opponent could have made things a lot harder. He ended up going for hard flanks to try and get around my brick, which isolated Croe's and the Halberdiers. The Croe's were fine on the flank (though it did slightly pull Damiano that direction to buff them,) but the Halberdiers feel like they would have been more dangerous towards the middle of the table, where they might have been able to benefit from more buffs.

Then again, maybe my opponent was worried about crowding up too much and giving me really juicy FFE Main Guns targets; he did a great job of never giving me a good shot with that gun all game.

I think the key turn was on turn 3. If Rocinante and the Steelheads are in the zone under Damiano's feat, I'm not clearing them out to score that turn, and then we set into "grinder" mode. I think I still have a good position from there, but it would be much slower going and I'd be way more banged up by the time the game resolved.

Things That Went Well:
The Widowmakers, Eliminators, and Shocktroopers did a fantastic job of holding the zone. Martial Discipline and Acrobatics made that way easier than it would have been, as it allowed the Eliminators to consistently get to targets I wanted to, and it allowed me to hide the Widowmakers but still have them contribute. The Shocktroopers were an excellent wall of metal and meat that wasn't going to go down easy after Damiano's feat was off the table.

The IFP did a fine job of absorbing attention and gumming up the works. They sort of dice failed on their big charge turn, but Damiano's feat will do that to you and at least they were able to dig out Rocinante's cortex. Precision Strike and a damage buff is so good.

Conquest did about what I expected it to: absorb hits and shoot things. It was pretty key in taking out the enemy objective, which is definitely one of it's strengths in general (assuming you afford to feed it focus, which Irusk probably can on turn 2 or so.) And once the warjacks got stuck in Conquest was going to be my easiest bid at taking them out in a timely fashion.

Things That Did Not Go Well:
Irusk2 lists are all about positioning and I football screwed that a few times. Conquest ended up stuck behind a wall, boxed in by models on one side and an objective on the right. After he moved up on turn 2 he didn't move again, and he was probably another turn or so from breaking free (SPD 4 Huge bases are a problem.)

Likewise, I really jammed myself up on turn 2. I needed Irusk to buff the IFP before they'd charge out, but I couldn't see them past Conquest's big butt, and I almost didn't have the spacing required to buff then sneak Irusk into the zone. I need to be more mindful of having the standard bearer float back a bit (while still in command range) and give me an easy buff target. At least when I'm running Conquest; in a normal list it probably wouldn't matter as much.

Key Mistakes/Things To Do Differently:
A note/reminder/creed: when you get the chance to pick table sides, actually exercise that right! In the pictures above, the red square thingie is my cheap-o building terrain, which we usually just play as a big obstruction. Combine that with the wall to it's left and the objective in the middle and that was a damn terrible side to be on when you're try to waddle a Conquest up the table. If I had chosen the other side it would have been easier to wheel Conquest around, which would have made me feel a lot better about it's ability to stay relevant in the scenario.

I am very rusty running massed infantry, even with sprinkling some Vlad2 in between Harkevich games (though I don't run him especially infantry heavy anyways.) I need to get back into the Khador groove of positioning things relative to one another and in smart, relevant spots. Martial Discipline is a powerful ability, but it's most potent when you're using it to allow for infantry movements and positioning normally impossible to perform; right now I feel like I'm using it just as much to cover up my mistakes.

Irusk2's feat can be tricky to time correctly. There is a great urge to pop it preemptively to prevent your opponent from charging in, and against some lists that is absolutely going to be the right idea. There are also going to be situations where you want your opponent to partially commit, then use the feat to effectively isolate what they committed so you can pick it up for little-to-no reprisal. But you need to recognize that possibility and engineer it a turn or so before, which means you're electing to pass on denying the initial alpha. If you're wrong in evaluating your opponent's potential output, it's gonna hurt. Practical experience will be key with Irusk2's feat.

Noteworthy Model Thoughts:
The TAC were exactly as useful as I'd hoped they be. Irusk really wants something to be able to hide behind while he moves up, and Conquest is kind of sucky for that (even when he's not stuck behind a wall) because his big base ends up eating into Irusk2's CMD aura hardcore. The TAC give you a lot more flexibility where you can go with him and still feel relatively safe, which then allows your infantry to range out further.

Due to Harkevichapaloosa I haven't had much of a chance to work with the IFK since it has been released, aside from a brief stint with it in my Vlad2 lists. To echo what everyone has been saying: damn what a nice solo! It's a solid little model in it's own right (good stats, great melee output, CMD 10 commander) and the synergy it has with IFP in Irusk2's list is fantastic.

Shield March is a very, very nice movement boost. It's nowhere near the same mobility as running, but often when you're Shield Walling you're not concerned about getting somewhere super fast to begin with. That extra +2 MOV is very useful for IFP, and it's an absolute godsend for the Shocktroopers. I remember when I used this list previously they felt much more like dead weight because they rarely got to make attacks; with Shield March they were able to consistently walk and hack at targets, which makes me feel a lot better about their melee output (MAT 7, P+S 14 is enough to cut down a wide range of infantry models.) And the longer you keep Shocktroopers in Shield Wall, the better off they'll be.

I didn't get a chance to really do a lot with the big guy, but Conquest feels interesting with Irusk2. You lose out on some key things - Energizer, functionally 2/3 of the Bond - but it is a helluva gun platform, even at RAT 4. The Main Guns feel like a very nice gun for FFE; its a decent sized template with great range and a powerful crit, and when it's fully boosted it's much more likely to chew up infantry. And as I've mentioned before the Secondary Batterys are legit useful in blasting enemy objectives (as happened this game.) If nothing else because what else were you really going to do with them?

One last thing, about Irusk2's feat: the debuff nature of the feat is an aura, so be careful what enemy models you try to catch with it. If you're absolutely relying on it to stop/slow down an enemy model/unit, make sure that they don't have a way to get outside of your CTRL before activating. This isn't terribly common, but there are enough abilities - most notably Vengeance, which was a factor in this game - that can allow your opponent to potentially back up then charge right back into your feat bubble.

Because of that, you need to plan out which enemy models you want to kill on your feat turn, and which ones you can afford to leave as additional models that will get caught in the feat (thus debuffing their unit.) Your opponent can also activate other models and kill models in units affected by the feat prior to their activation, so be aware of that when trying to make sure your feat is debuffing everything you need debuffed!

List Changes/Tweaks:
The TAC were workable without Valachev, but in a perfect world I'd want to have him in there. Martial Discipline would make it much easier to shuffle the little buggers around, Zephyr would be a big help for repositioning, and Total Obedience gives you a slight chance to keep that smoke wall around a little longer. If I can find the points and the slot for him, Valachev is likely to find his way into the list.

I also really like the Mechanik UA with the Shocktroopers with Irusk2, but I don't think it'd work out well in this list. Putting the UA on the Mechaniks may create some conflicts of interest in where I want them (although it's not like the UA can't repair Conquest,) and any game that I'm not using them to repair the Shocktroopers makes the points feel kind of wasted. In a perfect world I'd love to get the UA in the list to be able to grant KD immunity to the Shocktroopers as well, but Conquest is eating a lot of those "nice to have" points.

With all of that in mind, there aren't many changes I'd make to this list. The best source of floating points are the Eliminators, but they're useful and fun enough that I really don't want to drop them unless I start seeing a big hole in the list. And if that's the case I'm just as likely to swap Conquest out for Behemoth to free up general points, which is a bigger change that I want to make right now. It's also something I've played in the past (and liked a lot) so I'm less eager to do that anytime terribly soon.

Closing Thoughts:
Irusk2 is very fun. More fun than he looks like on paper. The sum total of his abilities come together into something special, and I always forget that after I've stepped away from using him for awhile.

His suite of abilities gives you something to do with him every turn. He may only do one thing (between upkeeps and allocation eating in to his focus) but at the very least he can do that one thing and it will probably be cool/useful. His passive auras are excellent and surprisingly effective, and his feat is fantastic.

I'm very much looking forward to getting in a bunch more games with Irusk2 in the future. I'm going to continue using Conquest for awhile to try to really get a feel for how to move it around the army (and vice versa,) and I'm sure I'll cycle back to Behemoth at some point for the extra points and shenanigans. And if the Grolar ever comes out I'll be putting that in the list too; on Andrei if nothing else.

Until next time, thanks very much for reading!

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