Friday, August 29, 2014

Know Your Foe: Exigence Warlock "Lightning" Round

We are fast approaching the release of the next Hordes book - Exigence - and as part of the wonderful model release schedule PP ascribes to we now have full stats for all of the warlocks in that book. With that information at hand (the cards are in War Room for anyone using that app, and they may show up in a forthcoming No Quarter,) it's probably a good idea to do a quick review of what each new warlock is capable of, what to expect, and how likely you may be to see them.

One warlock (Epic Borka/Borka2) has been out long enough to see some legitimate table experience, but most of the rest are only a few weeks old at this point. As such, these evaluations are based on early impressions and gut reactions. Things may change as players become more experienced with these 'locks and unlock (har har) more of their potential, and there are the additional x-factors of theme list and other Exigence releases that may shake them up as well.

With those caveats in mind, lets take a look at 2014's contributions to the Hordes warlock lineup.

Borka, Vengeance of the Rimeshaws:
Borka and his Ragebear

Borka2 maintains his relative combat prowess and durability (though he's much less of a facetanker than his previous incarnation,) and he's picked up a bear that gives him additional mobility and attacks. He also kept his Fury stat of 5, which means that he's not much of a 'caster, though that's never been his game plan. Borka also got himself a Field Marshal ability that grants his battlegroup Immunity: Cold. This is a nice defense against some abilities (though not a ton of them) but it's mostly there to facilitate his feat being a big pain in the ass.

Borka2's feat is deceptively potent. Stealth to everything in his Control Area provides his army with some much needed protection from ranged and magic attacks, which encourages your opponent to engage in melee. However, they'll probably be sad when they do so because the other aspect of his feat freezes enemy models that hit but do not destroy friendly models with Immunity: Cold. Given how durable Trollblood models can be, that is a problem. It's a nightmare scenario for some lists trying to deal with Borka2's battlegroup - you're not going to one-shot Trollblood heavies with your heavies, so if you commit anything that turn it's going to become frozen and then probably promptly killed.

His spell list is still a scant three spells, but like his previous incarnation those three spells tie into his game plan pretty strongly. Battle Charged provides his entire battle group with the Counter Charge rule, and since Borka2 seems to want a decent sized battlegroup to take advantage of his feat it gives him a decent bit of area denial. Snow Shroud gives one of his unit's mild protection but more crucially allows it to benefit from Borka2's feat. Frost Hammer is somewhat mopey with Fury 5, but with so much of his force being Cold immune Borka2 can use it to free up key models if necessary (and it's not like he is going to use his Fury for a lot past that if he can't make it to melee anyways.)

List Builds:
Borka2 is the Exigence warlock that has seen the most table time, and even with that in mind it is still hard to pin down what a "typical" Borka2 list looks like. There are a few common themes:

 - Larger battlegroup. Borka2 likes to get as much mileage out of his feat as possible, so having a bigger battlegroup is helpful. Rok (Borka's character beast) has also made several appearances to lend Primal to the battlegroup, and be a beater. Axers are popular due to the sweet spot they hit between offense, durability, and cost.

 - One "big" unit to take advantage of Snow Shroud. A popular choice are Kriel Warriors due to their low cost and ability to have a massive footprint (15 models,) and the usual Fennblades or Long Riders are also excellent choices.

 - Krielstone, because duh. This army thrives on outlasting you, and the ARM buff from the Krielstone goes a long way on Trollblood warbeasts. Size may vary based on available points and Borka2's difficulty in feeding it (which gives diminishing returns on investing in a larger unit.)

 - Runebearer for help getting spells out early game. Nominal effect late game so it's kind of moot from a "going against" perspective, but it's worth noting that Trollses is probably where Snow Shroud is going to come from.

Things To Keep In Mind:
The good news: Borka2 does not have any threat extenders or direct DEF buffs like his previous form did. As a result, you're pretty likely to line up against his army and just duke it out until only one of you is left standing.

The bad news: Borka2's feat is custom engineered to make that as unpleasant as possible. It's going to reach out and strangle your tempo, and I think a big part of doing well against Borka2 is being able to accept that you're going to get time-walked and then deal with it. Trying to struggle too hard against it is just going to dig you into a deep, painful hole.

Borka2's feat feels like it wants to drag you into an attrition game - Stealth mitigates how much damage you can do at range and the freeze effect can hamstring your melee output. The lists that will do best against him are ones that can manage his feat and still maintain some form of tempo control.

One way that you may be able to do this is via some control of your own. Borka2 has no movement shenanigans or range extensions; any control you can impart upon his army may give you a chance to trade favorably.

Upkeep removal may be nice if you can leverage it on the feat turn to make it less of a gamble to go after his one unit. However, the traditional Eiryss2 solution may not be enough with Stealth as a factor.

Melee infantry are still alright to send in on Borka2's feat, provided you can hit hard enough to make their likely sacrifice worthwhile. Infantry typically only get one attack so the freeze effect doesn't cut down on your output. It does make it easier for him to kill your models in reprisal, but that can be worthwhile if you can get enough out of the infantry you send in.

Since this list is likely reliant on battlegroup models and staying power, if you can whittle down the Krielstone (or remove it entirely,) that will be a big help. That will be easier said than done a lot of the time though, as the Krielstone will probably be safely tucked behind the battlegroup most of the game, and the one turn it may be exposed it will probably have Stealth from Borka2's feat.

Do not underestimate Borka2's ability to personally contribute. He's mobile enough to get at targets, accurate enough to hit often (and can become more accurate with a Fell Caller around,) and he can receive any of the numerous Trollblood damage buffs to turn him into a very effective beater. Borka2 won't be soloing any colossals anytime soon, but he can beat down some heavies and he can absolutely kill a lot of 'casters/'locks if you aren't careful.

How Likely Am I To See Him?:
Hard to say right now. All of the Exigence warlocks have the "new and shiny" factor that will get them on the table fairly often for a lot of players.

That said, Borka2 does bring a fairly interesting playstyle to Trollbloods with his aggressive, battlegroup based attrition force. It's different than the traditional battlegroup brick (most notably because it doesn't need Earthborn animus + wall for durability) and it's different from a Meat Mountain configuration. I'm not sure how he'll shake out in two list formats, but I can totally see Borka2 making his way into three list sets.

Bradigus Thorle the Runecarver
Rocks, in the heart, rocks
Bradigus is the most explicit push from PP for players to use a type of model that I've seen in awhile. He is only allowed to bring Construct warbeasts, which cuts off a lot of the beasts that Circle players have grown accustomed to.

There are a few upsides to try and counter balance this limitation:

 - Cheaper animi. Most of the wolds have neat-but-not-critical animi, so a discount on using them makes them a little more palatable. It also serves as a faux-Fury boost which helps to offset the lower Fury count on all the wolds (in comparison to a similar living warbeast.)

 - Bradigus can heal them himself. Not in the same way as Baldur, mind. Bradigus has what is essentially a reworked Repair action. It's not as convenient as normal battlegroup healing, but it also doesn't cost Fury and it has the potential to remove a fair chunk of damage (of course, you can also flub the roll and remove less than you wanted to.)

 - Synergy. This is a spell that gets much better when you don't have to allocate Focus to try and make the best use out of it. A "wold only" battlegroup is probably the only way Synergy was ever going to find it's way into Hordes, and it's at least a nod towards helping the wolds overcome the tendency of their melee attacks to be a gentle caress.

 - Two fantastic Geomancy spells. Battering Ram is a nice push spell that's even nicer when your 'caster/'lock isn't the one casting it, and Rift ends up being a pretty great gun when it's used via Geomancy. If nothing else, a set of Woldwardens kicking out Rifts is going to create one helluva set of difficult terrain.

Bradigus' feat is also very interesting. It most obviously allows for a very effective and probably pretty safe alpha strike. However, what makes Bradigus' feat fun to think about is that it doesn't just need to be used for that purpose. If your opponent is denying you the alpha strike, or if you don't necessarily need to charge in, the feat can be used for a variety of movement shenanigans which may in turn open up interesting possibilities (spell attacks at support models, surprise assassinations, scenario plays, etc.

List Builds:
Warpwolves (very likely Stalkers) and Circle infantry. No, wait. Finally not that.

As one would expect, most of the early list builds for Bradigus focus heavily on the battlegroup with lots of Woldwatchers, Woldwardens, and Woldguardians. Bradigus does precious little for any infantry he may bring along, so almost all of it is usually self-sufficient and support oriented - Shifting Stones (the usual "two sets + one UA") and Blackclad Wayfarers are the most common non-battlegroup inclusions currently.

Some early attempts at Bradigus lists have attempted to replicate the Vyros2 Griffonspam list with Woldwatchers, while others have mixed it up by including a few Woldwardens. Personally, I feel like that kind of a mix is much more effective in the long run, especially considering that Bradigus gives Woldwardens two solid spells to Geomancy and he makes their animus cheap enough to potentially make use out of.

One Woldguardian is also decently likely; it's a solid beater on it's own (that will only get better with Synergy) and it's animus is going to be a crucial defensive tool for Bradigus (who otherwise lacks much in the way of defensive abilities.)

A Woldwrath is feasible, but I'm not sure how likely it is. It brings a gun to the table, which is nice, it's animus could be useful, and it is less reliant on Synergy since it hits fairly hard straight away. But it's also a big chunk of your battlegroup tied up in one model and it doesn't benefit at all from Bradigus' feat, which is rough. I've heard of players experimenting with it, though I'm not sure how likely it is that you'll see one consistently (or competitively.)

Bradigus also gets a bit of a nod for being one of the two warlocks I feel could be most impacted by what is in his theme list. He already runs a pretty limited list in the first place, so if his theme list provides decent bonuses and doesn't have crappy requirements, it could be a big net gain for him.

Things To Keep In Mind:
Bradigus and the Shifting Stones are, currently, the only way his Wolds are going to have any damage removed from them. As a result, the positioning of those models is probably going to be dictated by what models have already taken significant damage or what models are in position to take significant damage. This may give you a chance to attack Bradigus or the Stones, if you can prepare and capitalize.

Wolds are much, much tougher than the Circle warbeasts you're used to. They generally have a little more ARM (or a lot more ARM in the case of Stoneform Woldwatchers) and a good number more damage boxes. Wolds cannot be healed like other warbeasts can, so you can force some tough situations if you start taking out aspects, but fully killing a Wold is probably going to take more effort than you're used to putting into a warbeast (depending on what you're used to fighting.) And every non-destroyed Wold is a model that can still contribute to Synergy.

Speaking of Synergy: don't underestimate how dramatic an effect it can have once it starts stacking up. With just a few ticks of it all the Wolds will be MAT 8+, and if enough of them can trigger Synergy you can reach some very scary damage numbers off of even a Woldwatcher. In general, a higher ARM is probably better than a higher DEF on the models you want to have survive (since accuracy ramps up pretty quickly but it can take a bunch of stacking to do solid damage against higher ARM values,) but it's also good to have some high DEF models as your vanguard to try and make it harder to get the Synergy chain started.

You will be dealing with rough terrain/forests. Woldwatchers create forests when they kill living or undead models with melee or ranged attacks, so they'll be popping forests in the middle of your lines of infantry. Woldwardens can drop forest templates as their animus, which can be a big pain on the feat turn (feat to alpha, drop off forests then retreat behind them.) Megalith has his animus. Rifts are probably going to be coming your way. And there's whatever difficult terrain is on the table. Pathfinder seems crucial to avoid having your army totally jammed up by weeds and rocks.

Similar to Borka2, don't underestimate Bradigus' ability to personally contribute. He has a ROF 3 ranged attack with Beat Back and a decent POW, and he can benefit from Synergy with his Reach melee weapon. If he can get a few stacks of Synergy he can hit very dangerous melee stats when going against a lot of 'casters, so keep that in mind.

How Likely Am I To See Him?:
Right now, fairly likely. Shiny and new, plus he runs a very unusual list for Circle.

Shortly after that veneer wears off? Probably not too often. Although I think Bradigus is a solid warlock, he's very, very different from how Circle has grown to play competitively in the past few years, and (efficacy either way aside) most players are probably going to be more likely to stick with what works. A theme list may change that, but I don't think dramatically.

As with Borka2, I can see Bradigus being a strong skew choice in a three list format. Building for him in a two list format may be difficult. He feels Harkevich-like in that his lists are going to be built a certain way, and because of that there are match ups that are probably always going to be ugly for him. Trying to cover that in a two list format can be very difficult.

Xerxis, Fury of Halaak
All hail the flailchuck
Xerxis2 is one of those epics that tossed his entire kit out the window. Gone is the brick-based 'lock that hit like a truck; now he's a very aggressive, active 'caster (that still causes his army to hit like a truck because it's Skorne.)

Xerxis2's spell list is short and sweet: Mobility, Ignite, and Stranglehold. That last one is probably low on the casting totem pole (but it's much better to have than not) while the other two spells will be cast constantly. Mobility gives Skorne warbeasts consistent extra speed and Pathfinder (which stacks with Rush to give even their SPD 4, no Reach heavies excellent threat ranges,) while Ignite is a solid, widely applicable melee damage buff.

Xerxis2's feat is likewise simple, but effective. All models on the table are considered to be in his control area for the duration of the feat. This has three key effects: 1) it allows models to range outside of his 10" control area and still get buffing aspect of the feat, 2) it allows warbeasts to range outside of his control area during the feat (though that is not something to be done lightly,) and 3) it allows Xerxis to measure the distance between himself and any model on the table (since they're all considered in his control area, ruling here.) Though for that last one note that you can still only measure to points on the table in Xerxis' 10" control area if you're not measuring specifically to a model.

The other aspect of the feat is one that is familar: add a die to all attack and damage rolls, discard one from each result. Issyria's feat redux, but this time in Skorne which may prove to be terribly painful.

As is evidenced from his descriptor and the giant rhino he's riding on, Xerxis2 is a Battle Engine, which means he picks up all of the benefits (immune to knockdown and stationary, can't be pushed, can be repaired, native Pathfinder,) and drawbacks (can't gain any DEF bonuses from terrain, can't have LOS blocked to him except by Huge bases, can be shot at/CRA'd in melee without penalties, big 'ol base to move around,) that come with it. 

Xerxis2 also has two solid melee weapons and is a cavalry model, so he can get quite a bit of work done between his melee and impact attacks. He can also be relatively mobile on his own with Ride-by Attacks, or super mobile with the Lightning Strike animus, which allows him to contribute more often (and probably more safely) than many other 'casters/'locks, regardless of base size. Also bear in mind that he has Combat Rider, so he can make a melee attack with his mount on turns he doesn't charge, and his mount has the special attack Pitch (though no Reach) so Xerxis2 can pull some melee shenanigans.

Finally, Xerxis2 picked up a Warbeast bond when he went epic, and it's probably one of the most important parts of his rule set. Xerxis2 is allowed to cast the bonded warbeast's animus once per turn as a spell without spending Fury. This goes a long way to keeping his Fury stat functional, as otherwise he'd possibly be looking at casting Mobility, upkeeping/cycling Ignite, and still wanting to cast an animus on top of all of that in an average turn. The free animus from his bond makes it much easier to cast/cycle his key spells, or cast just one and get into melee to do some work.

List Builds:
Expect the usual Skorne suspects: Gladiator, Beast Handlers, Krea. Although Mobility allows Xerxis2 to potentially run a battlegroup without Rush, it seems like a mistake to pass on the extra threat afforded by that animus, and it's not like the Gladiator isn't a solid heavy in it's own right.

A Krea feels mandatory for Xerxis2 to ward off boostable guns. Alternatively (or supplementally) some Shield Guards may dissuade shooting (hey look, Tiberion!) A Krea is still a likely addition, however, because it's animus can also be a significant melee accuracy buff for Xerxis, along with the defensive benefits it offers.

An Archidon is also a possible inclusion since it's animus is a great one to use for Xerxi2's warbeast bond ability. Sprint allows Xerxis2 to be very actively involved in the game with his solid set of melee attacks while also maintaining some safe distance after all the attacking is done. At least, that's the idea; Xerxis2 is still pretty new so we haven't had a chance to see how that approach play out long term.

One warbeast you're almost guaranteed to see with him is Molik Karn. Many are championing Xerxis2 as the best producer of the "Karn Bullet", and they're probably right. Xerxis2 gives Molik Karn consistent, impressive threat, potentially extreme hitting power (P+S 17 Weaponmaster [Ignite, Enrage] plus feat dice manipulation,) and the freedom to go out as far and wide as he needs to on the feat turn. Expect to see Molik Karn alongside Xerxis2, and be prepared for it to do some serious work if you don't have things available to mitigate him.

Xerxis2 is another Skorne warlock that really wants Aptimus Marketh around. Marketh pulls double duty by giving him a free upkeep (yay!) and allowing for either easier cycling of Ignite (double yay!) or possible triple cycling of Ignite (overkill yay!) Between what he wants to do each turn and how low his Fury stat is, Xerxis2 may actually be the most reliant on Marketh of all Skorne warlocks (or at least the one that wants him around the most.)

There is also some talk of running Xerxis2 and using his feat to bump up the ranged portion of the Skorne army. I feel like some sort of combined arms is necessary (that's probably personal preference) but I'm not seeing Xerxis2 doing enough for ranged elements to make them a significant component of his army. His feat is a big boost to all friendly models, but I also feel like in most cases those points will be better spent on models that aren't hoping for a good feat turn to be effective. I'd fully expect one ranged unit - Slingers, Incindiarii, Reivers - but not much more than that.

Otherwise, expect a fairly standard Skorne list. Just faster and harder hitting.

Things To Keep In Mind:
Molik Karn has a 13" charge range with Mobility and Rush. With Side Steps he can get to a target 17" away, with those last 4" of movement being non-linear. Reach gives him a lot of flexibility in target acquisition during those attacks, and it of course extends how far he could theoretically reach out and touch something. Karn can also charge in, chop things up, then Fate Walker himself and retreat 8" (Mobility lasts for one turn.) Karn is very mobile under Xerxis2, and a big part of being able to deal with him will be understanding those threat ranges.

Xerxis2 is very likely to be highly resistant to ranged attacks. While a Paralytic Aura animus is relatively easy to remove from him, it's going to be much harder to remove from the Krea standing 2" behind Xeris2. It's not impossible to remove it, but doing so can (and probably will) over extend whatever you use to do so, so you better make damn sure it was worth it.

Marketh brings a lot of flexibility to Xerxis2's fury pool, so if you can somehow pick him off, that may make your life easier by making his harder. Due to the nature of his abilities, Marketh is probably not going to be very exposed, so this is an "if circumstances permit" thing to keep an eye out for.

Xerxis2 can and probably will get personally involved in the game at some point and he can have enough shenanigans backing him up that it isn't the death sentence that usually follows whenever a 'caster/'lock goes in to do work. Bear that in mind when trying to factor in how attrition is likely to play out. Against a particularly aggressive player, you may be able to use that impulse to get them to make a mistake, but that will vary widely based on who you're playing.

For as good as Xerxis2 is as a Huge based warlock, he still will suffer the same problem that any Huge based model does: it is sometimes very difficult to maneuver that big butt around the table. Xerxis2 at least has a higher SPD than Huge bases usually do, which will help, but he still needs to find landing spots. Model placement (friendly and enemy) can make that difficult, and few things are as dreadful to a Huge base as a wall in an inopportune location. If you have experience using Huge bases (and the trials they sometimes encounter) then look for ways to manufacture those situations for your opponent here. Even if it doesn't prevent him from going somewhere completely, it will probably make it a lot harder than the Xerxis2 player wanted it to be.

How Likely Am I To See Him?:
Based on early impressions, I'd say "very likely" trending down to "decently likely" as the new factor wears off. Xerxis2 has a very cool model and a pretty excellent set of rules, so even after the initial shine wears off and players get frustrated with his Huge base, he's still a very compelling Skorne warlock choice. I could absolutely see him becoming common in three list sets, and he's solid enough (and follows Skorne's traditional game plan closely enough) to make his way into two list sets without too much of an adjustment.

Absylonia, Daughter of Everblight
Not to be outdone by her beasts, Abby grew wings to make herself harder to transport
Abby2 is mostly defined by her passive abilities and her feat, so lets get right to those.

Abby had apparently been watching Butcher before he went double-epic and she picked up his Conferred Rage ability. Even in the context of Khador with it's mopey warjacks, Conferred Rage is an excellent ability, so it should be an absolute killer when you combine that with Legion warbeasts.

The best way to understand Conferred Rage is to think of it in two parts. Warbeasts will be able to charge for free if they start their activation in her control area, which is, uh, very likely to be the case. Free charges have a big impact on damage output, so that can be a big boost right there.

The other aspect requires that Abby2 get involved and actually destroy an enemy model, but if she does her warbeasts gain +2 SPD and MAT for one turn. Those are two huge buffs for any warnoun and they layer especially well onto Legion's warbeasts (which are already fast with mediocre MAT.) The downside is that Abby needs to kill something herself to trigger that benefit, and she doesn't have a gun or offensive spell (like Butcher2 does) to help her do it.

She does have a few things going for her in the melee game however. First: she has a very solid stat line. She's fast, decently accurate in melee, and she has a good set of defensive stats (that will doubtless be bolstered by Tenacity.) She also has three initial melee attacks, so she can swing quite a bit before she needs to spend any Fury, and her Stinger melee weapon allows her to steal Focus or Fury from a model that has it, so she can get more attacks than normal against 'casters, 'locks, and warbeasts.

Second: her feat gives her entire battlegroup some very nice bonuses. Flight is an excellent mobility boost (though it's redundant on her and select Legion heavies,) +2 STR is a great damage boost, and Reach on all melee weapons adds that much more threat. Abby herself has a 12" threat on her feat turn (sans Slipstream or any other shenanigans) and will arrive with two P+S 16 attacks and one P+S 14 attack before she needs to spend any Fury. Not too shabby.

Finally: she has the coveted life-preserver spell, Teleport. It will be harder to leverage than with Caine1 or Gaspy1/2, but it's way better than just sitting there after killing something in melee. Being able to skip back 8" will probably often make all the difference.

Teleport is also probably the most interesting and/or important spell on her card. Her other spells - Fortify, Psycho Surgery, and Return Fire - all have varying levels of utility, but they're also odd spells in the context of her other abilities (minus Psycho Surgery; that one makes plenty of sense.) Fortify is a very odd defensive buff for her to have, and Return Fire is just an odd spell in general, though at least a Ravagore is one helluva warbeast to put it on.

List Builds:
Abby2's lists are probably going to look a lot like your usual Legion lists: plenty of heavies, at least one Shredder for Tenacity, support models to heal and clean up Fury, and some supplementary infantry (probably Deathstalkers, Spawning Vessel, and/or Legionnaires for jam/Vessel fuel.)

What is likely to set her apart are the specifics. Abby2's feat and Conferred Rage make it more interesting to run some of the less prominently featured Legion warbeasts (though the staples are of course still very good with her.)

Carniveans become very scary when all of their melee attacks gain Reach and they gain +2 STR, SPD, and MAT as well as a free charge! Their animus also stacks up nicely with Fortify, creating a sort of pocket ARM skew.

Seraphs also likewise transform into very scary melee warbeasts when Abby2's bonuses kick in, and they bring an extra threat vector with Slipstream. Neraphs are brand new but they seem custom-made for Abby2 - they have a built-in accuracy fixer, they hit about as hard as most Legion heavies do, and they're pretty cheap for all that. They're pretty solid on their own and they'll probably be pretty excellent with Abby2's bonuses in play.

Shredders also become kind of monstrous under Abby2. Some of the issues that Shredders usually run into is that they don't hit particularly hard and the need to charge most of the time limits their ability to really multiply Rabid. With a free charge from Abby2 a Shredder can arrive in combat with a Fury to spare, letting it buy two attacks. If its on her feat turn, those attacks will be P+S 12 with Reach, fully boosted thanks to Rabid. A pack of Shredders under Abby2 stands a pretty good chance at eating any other "unit" (and they'll do a number on some heavies) especially if Conferred Rage gets triggered that turn for 13" charges and MAT 7 attacks.

There's talk of a "transitory gunline" approach one could take with Abby2. The idea is to bring a cadre of Ravagores (spoiling secret Legion tech right here) and use Abby2's bonuses to allow them to shoot the hell out of everything, then switch into melee monsters when the enemy is about to close with them (via feat and Conferred Rage.) This feels like more of a gimmick than a legit scary list approach, but at the same time Ravagores are already decent in melee and their guns are beastly (har har) so it may end up having merit. A build archetype to keep in mind, just in case it starts to become popular.

Finally, it's worth noting that Abby2 is the other Exigence warlock that (IMO) could get a huge boost to her competitive popularity depending on how her theme list turns out. If her theme list gives her some decent bonuses and doesn't require taking anything goofy to ascend the theme, it could end up being a boon to her.

Things To Keep In Mind:
Conferred Rage is a very powerful ability, but it is very finicky to work with. At base it gives you free charges, which is excellent. However, it is always taunting you with amazing bonuses if you would just please expose your 'caster/'lock and try to kill something. Many lists do not present easy targets to trigger Conferred Rage, and some do not even have realistic trigger options available. You'll know when you line up against Abby2 how likely it is she'll be able to trigger Conferred Rage (at least in a general sense,) so keep that in mind when trying to judge how to handle her warbeasts.

All of Abby2's extra hitting power comes from her feat. If your army is semi-durable, that may be enough to break through it (that +2 STR is going to get multiplied over a lot of attacks.) However, if you can make it through her feat turn decently intact she doesn't really have a way to kick her damage up again so you may be able to grind it out (especially since you're still dealing with squishy Legion beasts.)

Fortify is the only defensive buff Abby2 brings to the table. It's a decent ARM buff with some nice side benefits, but it's also not too difficult to remove via the usual means - Eiryss2, Purification, Hex Blast, etc. It's not something to take lightly (it can stack up effectively with Legion's defensive animi to make for solid swings in stats) but it's also not likely to be a big hurdle. Abby2's beasts are going to be about as squishy as Legion beasts come. One will be tougher and she can heal all of them with one spell, but that's about it.

Abby2 is going to want to trigger Conferred Rage's stat buffs at some point. Her battlegroup can get by without it, but it's a big part of the benefit of bringing her instead of another warlock. Abby2 can only retreat 8" after getting into melee, so her placement is relatively predictable. If you have a list that is going to have to let her get into melee at some point (it's hard to stop her if she really wants to get in due to Flight and animi) try to put pressure on where she's likely to end up afterwards. In order to make full use of Conferred Rage Abby2 needs to come forward, and that's when you can start to make her pay for it.

Abby2 probably does not care for strong ranged attacks or control elements. Return Fire can make shooting her battlegroup a little dicey, but that's limited to Ravagores in terms of being a credible threat, and the trade off is probably worth it if you can really lay damage into them (it's very feasible to kill Legion beasts at range with strong boosted guns.) Abby2's list feels like it wants to play aggressively, alpha'ing hard and riding that wave through to victory. Any denial effects that stop her from doing that will likely be a big problem.

Be very aware of the threat that Flight and Reach give her battlegroup on the feat turn. Flight and Eyeless Sight give her beasts basically an open table to charge whatever they want, and Reach makes it that much easier to get at key targets. Low impact freestrikes may not be enough to dissuade her battlegroup from hopping over your front line to get at the critical bits, and Abby2 herself can transfer a hit or two if it'll give her a chance to swing at your 'caster/'lock. Be careful where you position while her feat is still live!

How Likely Am I To See Her?:
It's hard to say.

On one hand, Abby2 can run a very aggressive battlegroup rather effectively, and her suite of "passive" buffs are very impressive. When she works, I'm sure it will be devastating. And she brings a melee focused force to the table that may be able to put a dent in lists that Legion typically doesn't love fighting against (Lucant, Meat Mountain, Runes of War.)

On the other hand, Abby2 seems like she'll have a tricky time triggering Conferred Rage, especially in the fights where she's going to want it the most. It's nice that she can spike her offense on her feat turn, but her general army support feels lacking so you may end up with one big turn that dictates if you're going to win or lose the game.

The general feeling I get from the community regarding Abby2 is "neat, but not amazing." If that stays the same then you're probably not likely to see her often. If someone can champion her and show everyone the light (such as what JVM did with Vayl2) and/or if her theme list gives her a little extra kick, then I could see her becoming fairly popular. Abby2 feels a little janky (mostly in her spell list,) but she's at least a decent attempt to give Legion a strong offensive list option that isn't more of: Ravagores, Angels, and Scytheans in some combination forever and ever.

Helga The Conqueror
No one told her Farrow are the joke sub-faction
The short version: Helga is nuts. Others have said it, and I agree: in any other faction Helga would be their #1 'caster/'lock, or at least in the running. She seems to follow the design that Farrow get some amazing warlocks, floating on a sea of mediocre models (and mediocre is being very kind in some cases.)

Helga has a solid stat profile, which means she's actually kind of beefy for a warlock. She's rocking a decent POW ranged attack (13) with a good range (10) and she has a Reach melee weapon with Set Defense (which will be more important in a minute.) Helga also gives her battlegroup Gang Fighter, which gives them +2 to attack and damage rolls if they're targeting an enemy that is also in melee with a Friendly Faction warrior model. Since this is a passive benefit it's pretty easy to just run a warrior model over to where a warbeast will be to give it a significant bonus to accuracy and damage.

Helga has a great spell list. Dash and Defender's Ward are excellent buffs for her army (for what that ends up being worth,) Cyclone is a great mobility/melee attack spell that combos with her feat, Distraction is a very potent debuff, and Muzzle is a great warbeast mitigation tool. Helga's biggest problem is that she's probably not going to have enough Fury to do all the things she wants to do in a turn, but she certainly isn't going to be lacking in options.

Helga's feat is likewise great. All friendly Faction models in her army can choose to slam enemy models they hit with melee attacks, doing P+S for the slam damage and STR for the collateral. For most models this will be a flat out buff to their offensive potential - most warriors only get one attack so being able to slam only increases their potential for generating kills, and it generates knockdown - and since it's a "can/may" you don't need to do it with your heavies if you think you can just kill the target. And since its on any melee attack, you can always just charge in, make most of your attacks, then slam with the last one if it looks like you may come up short on killing the target. Helga can also pull off one helluva bowling turn if she can Cyclone into enemy models on her feat turn (though that also may leave her very exposed.)

List Builds:
For whatever it means, Helga is probably going to run an "average" Farrow army. She wants warbeasts for Fury generation, relative durability, and hitting power, and she also wants a smattering of infantry for Gang Fighter, her feat, and to benefit from Dash.

Slaughterhousers are a given, and you can probably count on multiple units. They're the "best" Farrow infantry available, they appreciate the extra threat range from Dash, and Reach makes it a little more likely that they'll be able to charge in on her feat turn and knock some people around. Plus it makes them good models to use to trigger Gang Fighter.

Razor Boars seem like they could be a decent option with Helga. They're not amazing, but with Gang Fighter you could get fully boosted MAT 7, P+S 14 attacks out of them on the charge, which isn't too shabby. Plus your opponent then has to deal with the wild piggie in their way.

A Road Hog seems likely to give Helga Sprint so she can get in, do a little work, then get out safely. A War Hog also may be likely just to give her something decently tough that hits hard, but both of those are relative to Farrow. She also doesn't do anything to help the War Hog's biggest issue - speed - which probably limits how useful it is with her.

One thing worth bearing in mind is that both Minions sub-factions are getting Battle Engines in Exigence, and based on the early rumors it sounds like both of those Battle Engines could be game changers. If the Farrow Battle Engine ends up being as good as it was rumored to be (or even close to that) it'll give Helga at least one excellent model to work with, and you can bet she'll be bringing one along (if not two.) Time will tell with that one though.

Things To Keep In Mind:
You're fighting Farrow.

That's partially a joke, but it is an important point: Farrow are, unfortunately, not blessed with many powerful models. Their infantry is kind of bad (or fixed in size) and their warbeasts are janky. They have very little built-in army support that can help them out, so what you see is what you get.

Helga is trying her absolute best to pull her sub-faction kicking and screaming into relevancy. She comes loaded with some of the better army buffs in the game, the ability to do respectable work herself, two solid denial spells, and a feat that is bound to be both very fun and very disruptive for your opponent.

However, she's just one pig. She can't be everywhere at once, she can't do everything her army needs her to do every turn. Each turn is going to be a careful game of weighing what to spend her Fury pool on, how much risk she can take on herself, and where she needs to allocate her limited resources.

In many ways, Helga is designed very similarly to a warcaster: she has very powerful abilities that allow her to accomplish great things, with less of an emphasis on her battlegroup. Unfortunately, unlike a lot of Warmachine armies Helga does not have strong infantry or battlgroup support to fall back on. Right now it's all on her shoulders.

That's the biggest thing to keep in mind when fighting Helga: you are almost literally fighting Helga. She will have an army, and you absolutely have to respect it (her feat can destroy you if you don't,) but it's also going to run smack into the limitations that Farrow usually do.

Helga will do what she can to help, but she can't be everywhere and do everything, and at some point she's going to have to get personally involved to keep the fight on track. The more damage you can do to her army early game, the faster you force her into the fight, and the earlier you'll be able to capitalize on that either via assassination (in fairness, she'll be relatively tough to kill with Defender's Ward, Set Defense, and Tough,) or by pushing for scenario where she can't afford to contribute (or can't contest herself, due to the warcaster/warlock rules in SR.)

How Likely Am I To See Her?:
About as likely as a unicorn. Or, more accurately, as likely as you are to see any Farrow 'caster at all.

Helga is a fantastic 'lock in a competitively weak sub-faction. If someone is playing Farrow, I'd wager they're very likely to be playing her. But the Farrow don't do much to draw people to play them, aside from love of the models/concept. If Farrow get some revitalizing options in Exigence or another book, then you may see their contract more often. And if that happens, you can be damn sure Helga will be leading that charge.

Jaga-Jaga, The Death Charmer
i heard u like snakes
Jaga-Jaga has a pretty average statline, though it's on the better side of average. One especially nice feature is her Fury stat of 7, which helps a lot with her spell list and projecting her feat. Jaga has the usual stable of Gatorman rules, and her snake is a Poison Chain Weapon with Reach, because how else are you going to represent a snake as a melee weapon?

Jaga's spell list is pretty stacked, though unlike Helga Jaga opts for utility over workhorse spells. She has two upkeep spells: one is the familiar (and excellent) Escort, while the other is a brand new spell, Grave Wind, that gives a single model +2 DEF and Poltergeist (solid way to keep a heavy a little safer.) Jaga also has an excellent mobility enabler with the Ghost Walk spell, and she has a solid combination nuke/debuff with Deadweight (a spell previously only featured on Bart, who almost always had something else he wanted to be doing with his Focus.)

One of Jaga's spells is significant enough to get it's own paragraph: Spellpiercer. The effects of this spell are simple, but extremely effective. While within her control area, friendly Faction model/units weapons gain Blessed and Magical Weapon. Though this buff is somewhat match up dependent, it's nevertheless a fantastic spell. It's cheap enough that it's worth casting even if you only need it against one target, it affects a large portion of her army thanks to "model/unit" and her good sized control area, and it absolutely thwarts any spell defenses your opponent tries to put into play.

The other very strong component of Jaga-Jaga's kit (that is also somewhat match up dependent) is her feat. To sum up the wall of text: whenever an enemy living or undead non-'caster/'lock warrior model is boxed in her control area, it turns into an undead solo. That solo immediately heals 1 damage box, gains Dark Shroud, and can make a full advance ignoring free strikes. Models created by this feat cannot activate and are removed after one round.

At the very least, Jaga-Jaga's feat can jam you up right good. Every warrior model your opponent kills ends up being a friendly solo for them, which means it's in the way of your models and threatening free strikes (backed up by Dark Shroud no less.) This is going to be a big problem for some armies, and the only way to mitigate it is going to be knowing that it's coming and adjusting your formations appropriately.

Jaga's feat also gives her a bit of a buffer in scenario play. Because the models created are solos, they can contest (and possibly control) flags or zones, so it puts into play another handful or two of models you'll need to clear in order to be able to score on your turn.

Her feat also screws over anyone looking to profit from the death of their own models, or bring those models back into play. The feat triggers on "boxed", so anything that happens at "destroyed" will not trigger (corpse/soul generation most importantly.) Additionally, the models are removed from play when the feat expires, so anything affected by her feat is gone from the game for good.

And that's to say nothing for how helpful it is to have Dark Shroud bubbles wandering around (especially if the zombies have Reach,) nor any other possible shenanigans that can happen when you're creating solos that you get to move around (engineering odd charge targets, template targets, throw targets, etc.)

Jaga-Jaga's feat is one of, if not the best features of her rule set, so be sure to understand what it does and try to plan accordingly. Failure to do so will likely result in a zombie infestation followed by a quick loss.

List Builds:
Due to the limited number of Gator options (both Minion sub-factions kinda suffer in that regard,) Jaga-Jaga's list is probably going to be similar to other Gator builds. The core of it will doubtless be 2+ units of Posse, though I'm not sure if Jaga wants to go with the full three units of Posse or not.

One thing that Jaga is probably likely to invest in are some ranged attacks. Spellpiercer allows those guns to ignore magical defenses (which are a common way to mitigate ranged attrition) and her feat benefits tremendously from having some engagement flexibility (i.e. not having to rely on melee attacks to get all of your kills.) There is also the fact that Jaga doesn't do much defensively for her force so being able to chip in attrition at range is helpful in the long game.

You may also see more of the oddball solos that Blindwater can take such as Croak Hunters and the Totem Hunter. These models give Jaga flexible tools and low footprint activations to work with which can be very helpful. They're also not terrible models for something like Grave Wind; the Totem Hunter in particular seems like he could be a big pain with that spell on him when he's running ops on your lines.

Regarding her battlegroup, you're probably very likely to see a Snapper because Spiny Growth is just the best. At least one Spitter is also probably very likely; the gun is great for her to have and Escort helps to offset its low natural SPD. Other battlegroup choices are more up in the air due to her lack of damage buffs, but the possibility of Dark Shroud combined with the movement buff from Escort means that she can make decent use out of any of the Gator heavies.

Similar to Helga, Jaga-Jaga is waiting with baited gator-breath for the final rules for the Sacral Vault (the Gator Battle Engine.) Since Jaga values things differently than the other Gator warlocks, she stands to potentially benefit tremendously from what the Sacral Vault can bring to the table. Especially if it has some kind of decent gun on it. So Jaga-Jaga's lists may really come into their own once we have the full rules for everything in Exigence.

Things To Keep In Mind:
Read her feat. Read it a hundred times, then read it again. It is a big 'ol block of text, and it is going to be the number one way that she is going to screw with you. It's efficacy varies based on how many warrior models you have and if those models are living and undead (so Convergence and Immortals are in the clear,) but most lists are going to have to keep this feat seriously in mind to avoid having some very bad things happen to them.

Escort is going to give all of the her warbeasts 2" more threat, and that can get very interesting when you combine it with some of their animi. Elasticity can give their beasts Reach on tap, and Rise can give models some very interesting angles. Thankfully Jaga-Jaga doesn't have access to any damage buffs (yet) but she can ignore defensive buffs with Spellpiercer, and a heavy getting the drop on you is never a good thing.

Ghost Walk can let models in Jaga-Jaga's army dig deep, provided they can get there. Don't get too comfortable relying on free strikes or terrain to keep you safe (though Posse can get around the terrain anyways.)

All of Jaga-Jaga's defensive tech is wrapped up in Grave Wind (one model), Escort (ARM buff for herself), and whatever animi she brings along (Swarm and Spiny Growth being the two current options.) She is the only Gator warlock that does not bring a way to protect and deliver her Posse to melee, so capitalize on that as much as you can. Whatever damage you can get into them at range will make them that much easier to deal with when they get into melee, and when they do get into melee you "only" have to worry about them being Unyielding (give or take some errant Spiny Growths.)

Spellpiercer gets around a lot of common defensive measures. If you're used to feeling safe in a situation, re-think it. If you're playing a Hordes army, use your warbeasts to put out any defensive animi you have (since Blessed only ignores DEF and ARM bonuses provided by spells.) Any natural defensive bonuses you have or can get will be very helpful. Also remember that even if a model ignores DEF provided by a spell, it does not ignore DEF provided by a feature provided by a spell (i.e. it does not allow them to ignore Concealment from Fog of War, or Cover from a Rock Wall.)

Jaga-jaga's feat is the primary source of any kind of damage swing for her army. If you're running a particularly dense, tough army (Titan Herd, Meat Mountain, maybe Fist of Halaak, Convergence in general,) she may have some issues winning the attrition war. This is even more pronounced if your army doesn't give her many feat targets to convert into Dark Shroud debuffers (or in the case of Convergence, none at all.)

How Likely Am I To See Her?:
Probably pretty likely. One of the things that Minions/Gators have had trouble dealing with in the past are things that require Magical Weapons to attack (Incorporeal, Impervious Wall, Passage,) and they've traditionally had to deal with defensive buffs by just powering through them (or stripping them with Rask then powering through the normal model.)

Jaga-jaga gives Gators a very strong solution to those issues, and she also has some other nice aspects to her kit. She's likely to be pretty live in scenario play due to the models her feat will put in play, and she's probably going to be a nightmare for your average infantry heavy list to deal with.

Rask is almost a given in any set of Gator 'casters. I can see Jaga-Jaga absolutely being part of three list sets, and I'm sure she'll pair up well with Rask to give Gators a solid one-two 'caster pair. Especially if Gators get any releases in what's left of Exigence that juice her up at all (Sacral Vault.)


Man, six new warlocks didn't seem like that much when I sat down to write this, but there was still a lot to cover! Hopefully you find this useful; many of these warlocks are still in the "very new" phase, so there aren't a lot of game reports or proven strategies to go off of.

If you've played as or against any of these warlocks and want to share your thoughts, please feel free to do so in the comments. I'd love to hear some hand-on reports. I will probably end up fighting at least Jaga-Jaga, Borka2, and Xerxis2 sometime in the near-ish future, so I'll give my updated impressions when I report those games.

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