Thursday, August 7, 2014

Returning to Supreme Kommandant Irusk

Now that I've finally decided to move on from Harkevich for awhile, it's time to pick a new direction for list building and dojo. The upside is that a number of new and interesting options have come along in the span of time I spent playing Harkevich near-compulsively. The downside is that I need to pick a direction before I can go anywhere in the dojo, which has been a little tricky. First world 'caster choice problems, right?

After debating lots of options, I decided that I wanted to return to a 'caster I was just getting into when Harkevich came along and distracted me: Supreme Kommandant Irusk (i.e. epic Irusk, Irusk2.) Irusk2 is one of the Khador 'casters that you don't hear about a lot, which makes him a little more interesting to work with than the tried-and-true 'casters. At the same time, he doesn't necessarily suffer from the jank factor that makes some of the less played Khador 'casters stay that way.

Join me as I take another look at the Irusk that time forgot. Or, more accurately: the Irusk that players kind of gloss over.
The Best Irusk2 Art

When 'casters go epic, there are two rough forms they take: complete rework, or a new take on the same plan. Irusk2 is very much a new take on the same plan, though he brings some very interesting new tools to the table that set him apart from his original incarnation.

As a credit to PP: the different versions of Irusk decently represent their fluff characterizations. Irusk1 is much more bold and prone to big moves; you're likely to bring a sea of models and throw them at your opponent until they can't take it anymore.

Irusk2 is much more conservative and consistent. His two best infantry support abilities (Martial Discipline and Total Obedience) are both passive auras, and his boldest move (his feat) is equal parts denial and army enabling (more the former than the latter.) Irusk2's spell list has also morphed to become possibly even more focused on army support, if that is even possible.

The takeaway is that while Irusk2 runs a similar style of list as his previous version, the actual make up of that list is likely to be different. Each Irusk has spells and abilities that play better with certain unit types, so the key is to find the right combination of models that play into his new style of play.

Key Abilities:
At least in my opinion, the two of the most important abilities Irusk2 brings to the table are Martial Discipline and Total Obedience. Those abilities define how he plays (rolling brick) and it's probably the reason you'd pick to play him over any other 'caster. They are also two of the bigger factors influencing list selection choices.

Irusk2 is one of two Khador Epic Warcasters that come with a Warjack Bond. The benefits aren't anything too fancy - +2 DEF and immune to knockdown - but they're plenty solid and just being able to allocate a warjack 4 focus can be a big boon.

Irusk2's feat, Desperate Ground, is also rather remarkable. It's one of the few denial based feats in Khador, and the denial effect it kicks out is actually very potent. The buffing aspect of the feat is also nice (if a little mild,) though it does open up one shenanigan that harkens back to a common tactic in Mk. 1.

Of his spells, the most noteworthy is probably the fact that he kept Battle Lust. It's one of the most potent infantry buffs in the game, and Khador has some very, very nice models that can make use of it. The rest of his spell list is good (more on it later) but that spell is what is going to influence your list choices more than most.

Stats and Weapons:
Irusk2 is the most average average that ever dared not to dream. When you think "warcaster stat line," his is probably what comes to mind, though CMD 10 is higher than most (and important considering he has two abilities that are based on his CMD range.)

Likewise, his weapon choices aren't anything remarkable: a P+S 13 magical melee weapon and ye olde Handcannon. Both perfectly average and useful, but he's not going to be blowing the doors off in terms of personal damage output.

One thing worth noting is that Irusk2's Handcannon can get a lot of use - thanks to Martial Discipline you'll often be able to draw LOS to enemy models and it's not unreasonable for him to be aiming or dropping a focus on boosting the attack roll. It may not be that remarkable, but it's also something to keep in mind turn-by-turn.

Spell List:
The good news about Irusk2 is that he doesn't have a "dead" spell on his list; every spell has an application and is useful. The tricky part is that his spell list can pull you in different directions, so you need to be mindful of that and not build too broadly.

A quick rundown of each spell and it's utility:

 - Airburst: One of the more useful offensive spells out there thanks to it's range (CTRL) and it's targeting flexibility (ignores LOS, cover, concealment, elevation, and Stealth.) The damage is low, but it can be boosted to pick off squishy-yet-annoying solos, and it becomes that much more potent if you have Sylys around for Arcane Secrets.

 - Artifice of Deviation (AoD): A very flexible spell that can be used to free up your own movements (large bases, movement outside of CMD range,) spot weld Pathfinder onto the table, or deny enemy models movement (most relevant for non-Pathfinder heavies.) Not something you'll be casting all the time, but a good tool to have in the kit.

 - Battle Lust: As mentioned previously, this is a fantastic buff. Potentially big damage swings and Fearless on tap. Likely something you'll be casting every game.

 - Energizer: This is where his spell list gets a little weird. Energizer is a great battlegroup movement spell, yet it's not so great on Irusk2 for two reasons: 1) when used to close the melee gap, its a big focus sink (3 for Energizer, 3 to fuel the warjack,) and 2) it'd be great on a shooting warjack, but Khador's ranged battlegroup options kind of suck at RAT 4. Still, it's a spell you can and probably will be casting often (if nothing else it helps you move Irusk2 around more,) and it at least gives him a decent warjack game.

 - Fire For Effect (FFE): This upkeep is one that throws me the most when trying to build a list with Irusk2. There are generally two approaches with this spell, and in my experience its best to pick one and stick with it when building a list. Either a) try to maximize the benefits of the spell (typically via a large AOE attack,) or b) don't sweat it too much and just use it to get some extra boosts somewhere. There are some interesting applications for this spell that I'll touch on a bit later.

 - Tactical Supremacy: A very nice buff. Not as high profile or directly impacting like Battle Lust, but a post-activation move is very useful in a lot of situations. Flexible enough to go on a variety of targets, and often something you don't need to plan a specific target for; if nothing else Irusk himself is a fair target for it.

Desperate Ground and The Shenanigan:
Irusk2's feat doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles or outright power, but it does do a lot of very nice things all at once.

The debuff effect of the feat is straightforward and surprisingly potent. One of the most important things to note about the feat is that it affects enemy models/units in Irusk2's CTRL area, so it can end up affecting a lot of the table. Units caught by this feat are going to be hurting to do much next turn if they don't have guns; -2 SPD makes it easy to zone them that turn, and denying orders means that most units can only advance that turn.

This can also be a big tempo swing against your opponent if they're relying on a key offensive turn. Desperate Ground robs most melee models of the ability to engage on their terms, and that can buy you the extra turn you need to wear their army down, alpha them, or cripple key models. All that said, beware: Warmachine is a game of shenanigans, so there are still lists that can get to you in force even with the debuff!

Desperate Ground is a feat that may be popped at different times depending on the force you're fighting. You need to understand the threats your opponent is presenting you in order to know when the best time will be to use the feat. Ideally, you'll also want to have an idea of the tempo they're looking to set and maintain, as Desperate Ground is a fantastic way to disrupt that tempo and force them to play the game at your tempo instead.

On the beneficial side: CTRL area wide Pathfinder is nice, and ignoring clouds and forests for LOS can open up attack vectors your opponent may not have noticed (or been able to avoid.) Some lists are particularly reliant on using things like clouds to block LOS, and some armies try to make heavy use of forests to skirmish, so being able to ignore those when going on the offensive is a big help.

Friendly Faction models affected by the feat also immediately stand up. This has a few applications, one of which is a straight-up shenanigan:

   - Most obviously, this effect offsets the downside to any Tough rolls successfully made the previous turn, allowing you to keep up the offensive. While this effect is nice, it's also probably not going to be the main reason you'll be popping the feat; just a nice collateral bonus.

   - It negates the denial aspect of any knockdown effects - spells, feats, debuffs. Assuming you live through being knocked down on the enemy turn, at least on your turn you'll be able to scrape your army off the ground and put forth a legit offense.

   - Here's the shenanigan: unless it's been errata'd (based on reading the card in War Room as of this writing, it doesn't look like it's changed) it is possible to throw a model, then pop Irusk2's feat to stand it up and still get a full activation out of it.

Most often this is done with a warjack, since most other models are likely to die from the 12+2d6 damage roll from a warjack throw and you can probably only afford to pull this off on one model. Models that are immune to knockdown, such as a Drakun or Irusk2's bonded warjack cannot be used for this shenanigan (since models immune to knockdown have a whole different thing happen when they would normally be knocked down during the active player's turn.)

The basic gameplan is: move warjack A over, have it double handed throw warjack B (one handed throws are very dicey; even double handed throws can go pear shaped some of the time) in the direction you want. After that's resolved, activate Irusk2 and pop feat. Warjack B now stands up and goes to town.

An alternate plan that increases landing accuracy at the potential cost of screwing up charges/movement is to put a warrior model where you want warjack B to land. That allows warjack A to throw B directly at that model and stick it at a specific location (versus relying on scatter not screwing with you when throwing at a spot on the board.) The danger with this is that the warrior model may somehow live if you don't engineer it carefully (pick something low ARM, stay out of Total Obedience,) and that may in turn screw up your movement/charge lane with warjack B.

This tactic is one that used to be very popular in Mk. 1 due to how the rules were written - immune to knockdown was straight up just "immune to knockdown," so throwing shenanigans abound - and to my knowledge Irusk2 is one of only two models in the game that can still do it (Kraye is the other one, also reliant on his feat for the shenanigan.)

I do not think this trick is worth building a whole list around. Its janky, prone to failure at a few points (two attack rolls, a STR face off, and potentially a scatter roll,) and requires a pretty heavy commitment of resources (which leaves you in an even worse position if things go badly.)

All that said, this trick is worth bearing in mind, and a couple of new releases have made this trick more palatable, possibly even legit dangerous: Malakov and the Grolar.

Malakov enhances the shenanigan by bringing an independent source of Focus, which makes it easier to have enough focus around to make the trick more likely to succeed (3 focus on warjack A allows for boosting both attack rolls on the throw.) Redline enhances the output of whatever warjack you toss: free charge for increased focus efficiency, +2 STR for more damage when you get there, +2 SPD for even more threat.

The Grolar adds another layer to this shenanigan with the abilities it brings to the table. Fleet is one possible enhancer, though if you're using this shenanigan to try to kill a decently tough model (such as the opponent's 'caster) you probably can't afford to free up that focus.

The biggest boon that the Grolar brings to the table is the Piston Hammer. What makes this shenanigan particularly shaky as a game winning tactic is that Khador warjacks have mediocre MAT, Irusk2 doesn't fix that, and you're unlikely to get any "fixers" in place to help you if you're going for the warjack toss on a target. Knockdown on hit is a game changer; now after the first attack connects you can just keep dumping attacks into the target. It could also set up a follow-up shot from something with FFE on it, as another way to get a boosted damage hit on the target.

If you combine the two - Malakov and a Grolar - this shenanigan reaches a decently scary level of efficacy: the Grolar will stand up from where ever it lands with SPD 6, 3 Focus, a free charge/power attack, possible Fleet, and a P+S 20 auto-knockdown attack. Unlike previous possible iterations of this shenanigan, that combination is very capable of closing games against a variety of 'caster stat lines.

Even with all those factors in it's favor, I still don't think it's worth building your whole game plan around this shenanigan - the set up for it is very static, so it's easy to see coming. But Malakov + Grolar is a great pairing in and of itself, and Malakov wouldn't mind a spot in Irusk2's bunker, so it may be something you can work into a list naturally and capitalize on if the situation presents itself.

General Approach and Composition:
The core of Irusk2's approach is pretty straightforward: brick up under the cover of Total Obedience and use Martial Discipline to allow you freedom of movement. Battle Lust and FFE give you higher damage output, while the feat, Artifice of Deviation, and Tactical Supremacy allow you to limit/respond to enemy movement.

What you may have noticed is what makes Irusk2 kind of tricky to build for: all of that is very broad. You can throw just about anything into Irusk2's list and it fits that criteria; the difficult part is finding models that make use of Irusk2's abilities especially well.

Likewise, deciding on composition proportions can be tricky. You want a decent portion of infantry to benefit from Total Obedience and Battle Lust, but at the same time there are only so many models you're going to be able to fit into Irusk's CMD bubble. Anything that isn't going to fit into the CMD bubble needs to be able to survive on it's own since all of Irusk2's defensive tech comes from Total Obedience.

You'll also be wanting at least one warjack to take advantage of the bond (and probably Energizer,) and two isn't unreasonable (since they can safely wander outside the bubble.) As with most Khador 'casters anything past two warjacks is probably too many to realistically fuel, but two is doable, especially if one of those isn't particularly focus hungry.

Noteworthy List Choices:
   - Behemoth: Character warjacks are a funky choice with Irusk2 since they can't be chosen for his Warjack Bond. The Behemoth is one of the better choices in that regard, thanks to what it brings to the table. Two solid guns give you something to do with Irusk2's focus, and since they're AOEs you can always toss Fire For Effect on him to fully boost one of them and feel good about it.

The Behemoth also benefits from Energizer and/or Tactical Supremacy to be pretty slippery while making those shots, or lining up a charge. And of course the Behemoth is just fine in melee on it's own (assuming you can hit) so Irusk2's lack of other warjack buffs isn't really an issue.

   - Beast-09: Unsurprisingly, Beast-09 is another good character warjack to bring, for all of the usual reasons. You lose the Bond, but you gain an excellent threat melee threat range, Thresher, free running, and potential shenanigans with Energizer/Tactical Supremacy. Combine those last two with Irusk2's feat and it's very feasible to commit Beast-09 without having to necessarily trade him away next turn.

   - Demolisher/Devastator: Irusk2 can naturally skew towards a higher ARM list, and both clamjacks play well into that. They're also decent Warjack Bond targets as +2 DEF and knockdown immunity helps them stay relevant and keep on bullying zones. A Demolisher in particular can be nice with Irusk2 - FFE makes it's first cannon shot one helluva shot, Energizer may allow you to keep it safe if it has to open up to shoot (heavy emphasis on "may",) and Girded can be very nice to have around when running a list that likes to brick up.

   - Spriggan: Oldie but a goodie. A Spriggan gives you a solid melee model with a long threat range using Energizer (12" threat.) It also brings Bulldoze, Flares, and it's grenades to the table, which are solid extra bits of utility. If you're only going to take one warjack with Irusk2, this is a good non-character choice.

   - Grolar: Khador's newest warjack seems like a solid fit with Irusk2. It's a fine choice for the Warjack Bond, it brings Pathfinder to the table independent of his feat or AoD, and it can make good use out of a potential 4 focus allocation. Fleet gives it a long threat range along with Energizer (12.5" threat, just barely edging out the Spriggan at the cost of one focus off the top,) and Ram gets around normal Khador warjack melee woes (plus it combos well with follow up shots that are likely present in an Irusk2 list.)

Energizer and/or Tactical Supremacy also make it possible to aim and shoot it's ROF 5 gun, then get retreat out of threat ranges, though that's a heavy investment for the output. Also note the feat-shenanigan potential previously mentioned.

   - Conquest: Kind of a funky choice, but it still has merits. The downsides to Conquest are that it can't benefit from out of activation movement, so Energizer and Tactical Supremacy are right out (Energizer is the bigger deal.) Without help from either of those you're relying on Conquest's not-terribly-impressive 9" threat range to get into melee, and it's guns aren't going to be enough to carry the day on it's own. Also, while it gives you something big and tough to hide Irusk2 behind, that also limits how far you can project his CMD bubble, so it can be a bit of a wash on the tabletop.

There are upsides, however. Conquest's Main Gun is one of the best FFE targets in Khador - great range, good AOE, critical effect - and Conquest can make decent use of the 4 focus from the Warjack Bond (either boosting Secondary Batterys, or laying in melee attacks.) Creeping Barrage is best against light infantry, which is something that you may want additional protection against when running a brick like Irusk2 can. Irusk2's feat can also be used to either keep enemies off of Conquest, or set up a favorable situation for Conquest to go on the offensive.

   - Kodiak: The Kodiak gets a nod for two reasons: 1) it runs for free, which is always helpful during that first turn focus crunch, and 2) it's the cheapest way you're getting a model with two Open Fists onto the table. Other than that I don't especially love it with Irusk2, but those points do bump it up a notch on the consideration ladder.

   - Decimator: One of the few 'casters that I kind of like this warjack with. Irusk2's Bond allows you to dump 4 focus into it, which it can make use of at range or in melee. It's an okay FFE target if you don't have another one, and most importantly it's gun lets you do some work with it without having to commit the warjack to melee. Energizer and Beat Back also make it more reasonable to take shots then potentially back up, somewhat off setting the mediocre RNG on the Dozer. The Ripsaw is very nice because Irusk2 has zero ways to assist with warjack accuracy and P+S 18 allows for decent melee output.

   - Iron Fang Pikemen: IFP have always been an excellent choice with either Irusk due to how well they multiply Battle Lust, and now they're even better choices with access to models like the Black Dragon UA and the Iron Fang Kovnik. The BD UA in particular is nice with Irusk2 because it caters toward his natural "durability" skew and he can provide enough Pathfinder that you don't immediately need to reach for Saxon Orrick to ensure that the BD IFP can stay on the offensive.

The Iron Fang Kovnik is getting it's own section a bit later, but the short version is that immunity to knockdown is precisely what you want when you're handing out Tough to your infantry models. Shield March also allows for an interesting alternative to charging: if you're relying on Shield Wall for survival (i.e. enemy is tossing around lots of POW 10s and/or blast damage,) it's possible to get a faux-charge via Shield March'ing up (8" advance) and using Battle Lust for the additional damage die. Not something to do all the time, but it's a good move to keep in mind.

   - Man-o-War Shocktroopers: No, that isn't a typo; Shocktroopers are actually a decent choice with Irusk2. With the advent of Shield March, they may even hop all the way on up to "good" with him! Tactical Supremacy is a big help in getting Shocktroopers up the table faster, Battle Lust lets them hit like absolute trucks, and Tough may help you wring just a little more durability out of the unit.

Shocktroopers can also be nice because they present a different type of problem than just more single wound infantry. They have their own issues - Force Bolt is their bane - but it diversifies what your opponent needs to be able to deal with in order to handle the infantry in your list, and Irusk2 gives them enough of a boost that they feel like they can actually be relevant (maybe even, gasp!, active) in scenario play.

   - Kayazy, Eliminators and Assassins: Both Kayazy units are good candidates for models that can hang around outside Irusk2's CMD bubble. Kayazy have alternative defenses (DEF 14, Stealth, Duelist) and have ways to move through friendlies already (Kill Stroke, Acrobatics.) It can be very beneficial to have units that can range around the edges of your formation and both Kayazy units can do it well. Eliminators in particular can be fantastic for that role due to speed, low cost, and relative hitting power.

   - Winter Guard Infantry: Always an excellent anti-infantry tool, which frees up other resources to deal with heavy targets. Total Obedience also allows you to potentially make use of For The Motherland while still being backed up by Tough. Sprays allow you to potentially clear off models blocking your brick's advance and Martial Discipline makes it easier to position the WGI for maximum impact (or ignore LOS to line up CRAs.) Tactical Supremacy allows you to hit and run with them a bit, which makes it possible to leverage their ranged presence longer and with more volume than may have otherwise been possible.

WGI are the first of two CRA units that I'm going to mention, so this is a good spot to point out that a big unit with CRA can be a good target for FFE. Although it's commonly used to maximize an AOE, it can also be used to add extra bite to a CRA attack (assuming you get FFE on the model that will lead the CRA.) For a 10 model CRA you're looking at an attack coming in at effectively RAT 14 (15 with Officer) + 3d6 to hit and POW 21 + 3d6 for damage. That'll take a bite out of something or someone.

   - Greylord Ternion: Ternion are a good unit to include if you're looking to supplement Irusk2's brick. Blizzard clouds give you some protection on the approach, Ice Cage is a nice DEF debuff to have on tap, and Frost Bite sprays can be a great way to clear a path for your troops. They're expensive and squishy, but Ternion are also easier to move around in your formation thanks to Martial Discipline and you have Tough as at least a tiny durability buff.

   - Winter Guard Mortar Crew: One of the best FFE targets in the traditional sense. It's a cheap, long range, good size AOE ranged attack with Arcing Fire and a great POW. FFE pushes the Mortar up from being a decent anti-infantry gun to being a fantastic anti-infantry gun (blast damage starts killing ARM 18 models with fair odds) that is also great against heavies (16 + 3d6 does not tickle.) With the boosted attack roll the Mortar may even directly hit it's target - 3 + 3d6 average out to around 12-14, which are common DEF values. If you don't have any other FFE targets, the Mortar is a fine way to get good use out of that spell and is worth including for that alone.

   - Battle Mechaniks: Mechaniks are a nice inclusion in any list that has a warjack or two, which Irusk2's list probably will have. However, Mechaniks get a special mention because of their UA and the possibility that Irusk2 will want to bring something like Shocktroopers. This is one of the few lists where I've ever had the Officer work well at repairing Shocktroopers; usually the positioning required to make it work is too much of a hassle, but Martial Discipline makes it much easier. Plus with Lash on the Officer you can potentially have a wall of IFP and Shocktroopers, many of which are immune to knockdown.

   - Widowmakers: Always an excellent shooting choice, Widowmakers gain another layer with Irusk2 because you can plant them in your infantry bunker for protection. With Martial Discipline they can shoot past your own models or move through them as necessary, and you have Tough as a backup if anything happens to get to them.

Solos/Battle Engines:
   - Iron Fang Kovnik: The Iron Fang Kovnik has been a big boon to the infantry that Irusk2 commonly brings. IFP benefit from the knockdown immunity twice over (prevents enemy originated knockdown, offsets the downside of Tough,) while any unit with Shield Wall benefit from the increased mobility offered from Shield March. Plus the IFK himself is a very solid combat solo, so he can contribute as the game winds down. I think most Irusk2 lists will include at least one, if not two of these guys.

   - Koldun Lord: Power Booster is a nice bit of extra Focus for any warjacks you're bringing along, especially during that crucial first turn when you're trying to get out all of your upkeeps while also running everything forward. Frost Bite and Ice Cage are also always useful, and he's at least slightly more survivable than Ternion for half of the cost.

   - Malakov: A great way to run a second warjack, and a strong facilitator of feat shenanigans. He's also probably a little easier to keep alive in an Irusk2 army as it's easier to bunker him up, and you always have Tough to bail you out (though I wouldn't rely on it.) You lose out on possible Energizer interactions, but other than that Malakov adds some serious warjack output to the list.

   - Kovnik Joseph Grigorovich: If you're bringing a WG unit, you're very likely bringing him. As previously mentioned, with Irusk2 you may be able to lean even harder on Joe's offensive speeches since Irusk2 can provide Tough and CMD 10 or Fearless via Battle Lust.

   - Man-o-War Drakun: Large based models don't benefit from Martial Discipline so you aren't going to want to have the Drakun hanging out in the bunker. However, it's a fantastic model to send roving outside of the bunker: fast, hard hitting, accurate, relatively durable, and slightly obnoxious with knockdown immunity and Counter Charge. A great way to add a mobile element to support your brick.

   - Widowmaker Marksman: A solid, no frills shooting solo. Nice to bring along with Widowmakers, and he can also afford to roam outside of the bunker against some lists thanks to Stealth. There is also a bit of jank-tech with FFE: if you can get it on the Marksman early it gives him a RAT 8 + 3d6, POW 12 + 3d6 shot. Combine that with AD, Pathfinder, and a RNG 14 gun and you have a model that can pick off a large percentage of the solos in the game if they wander up too far turn 1.

   - Gun Carriage: The Gun Carriage is another great FFE target, with it's ability to Trample around the table and fire off 4" AOEs or Ride-By Attack the shots. It also plays into the natural ARM skew/control-ish game that Irusk2 kind of likes to play. While the Gun Carriage doesn't want to be lined up against powerful boostable guns, it is much sturdier than a lot of comparable shooting options (most of which are susceptible to POW 10s/blast damage,) and it leaves Crater templates all over the table that your opponents have to deal with.

Mercenary Models:
   - Koldun Kapitan Valachev: Valachev's Ranking Officer ability comes in pretty handy with Irusk2 since it opens up Martial Discipline, Total Obedience, Desperate Ground, Battle Lust, and Fire For Effect. Of those, Martial Discipline, Total Obedience, and Battle Lust are what you're probably going to try to leverage often. These benefits are very nice, but they're also relatively low impact (less so with Battle Lust) so the biggest issue with Valachev is that he may be wanted elsewhere when considering list sets.

   - Tactical Arcanist Corps: These guys have been a godsend for many Khador 'casters, and Irusk2 fits all of their criteria: he wants to be positioned aggressively up the table due to his abilities (feat, CMD bubble, buffs,) his stat line is unimpressive defensively, he doesn't have any gimmicks to keep him safe (Wind Wall, Sac Pawn, Stealth/Prowl, etc,) and he loves to spend his Focus. TAC allow Irusk2 to play further forward more safely, while also allowing his infantry more freedom with positioning (since he can be placed more aggressively and they don't need to hang around to try and block LOS to him.)

Valachev gives the TAC some nice bonuses, and frees up any concerns that they'll jam up your army. However, this isn't a particularly powerful use of Valachev (who is often in hot demand to hang out with Nyss,) so the TAC may need to do without. I think they can still be very effective and helpful without Valachev, but I am curious to see how well they'll work in an Irusk2 list without him. Regardless, this is definitely a unit to strongly consider if you're not bringing something big and sturdy like Conquest to hide behind.

   - Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters: Speak of the devil. Nyss are one of the best skirmishing units in the game, and Irusk2 can make them even better at that job with Tactical Supremacy, which is also just "Friendly" not "Friendly Faction" so it doesn't even necessitate Valachev.

That said, Valachev is still highly, highly worth considering. Zephyr is already a tremendous enhancer for the Nyss and combining that with Tactical Supremacy yields a super mobile shooting unit. Martial Discipline frees up the unit from possible LOS and movement issues, and Total Obedience may save you a Nyss here or there. Battle Lust adds additional melee capability to the unit and gives you some crucial spot CMD fixing.

All of those reasons are compelling arguments for adding Valachev to the unit, and indeed it's hard to find a reason not to in most lists; Zephyr is worth Valachev's cost alone, nevermind any faction status benefits. One thing to bear in mind is that adding Valachev to the Nyss gives your opponent that much more reason to throw attention at them, so be aware of that and do what you can to keep Valachev safe. Irusk2 has some tools that may help with Martial Discipline and Total Obedience, though those also may not factor in if you use the Nyss as flankers/skirmishers.

   - Herne and Jonne: Most noteworthy for their interaction with FFE if you give them Valachev - all of the templates are fully boosted. The secondary templates can be prone to scattering wide, but for 5 points you get quite a bit of rolling thunder. I haven't tried this one myself but others have in the past and had fun/success with it.

   - Eiryss, Angel of Retribution, Lady Aiyanna and Master Holt, and Gorman di Wulfe, Rogue Alchemist: They're good with literally everyone, and that doesn't change here. If you can find the points and don't have them in your other list, Irusk2 will enjoy having them around for their talents.

   - Sylys Wyshnalyrr, The Seeker: Irusk2 is one of the Khador warcasters that likes having Sylys around, but also can afford to give him up if necessary. The free upkeep is nice and Airburst is a fine spell for Arcane Secrets, but Irusk2 doesn't necessarily do a lot of upkeep juggling due to the nature and cost of his upkeeps and you can afford to drop something like Tactical Supremacy if you really need to double cast Battle Lust/allocate lots of focus. As with Eiryss2, A&H, and Gorman, if your other list doesn't need him and you have the points, he's a great inclusion. But I wouldn't take him away from some of the 'casters that need him more.

   - Ragman: A potentially interesting source of extra damage. Ragman can be tricky to leverage due to how Khador projects threat; most often you'll either be shooting at things far removed from Ragman, or charging out past where he can get his Dark Shroud aura. Irusk2's army is somewhat more receptive since it operates as a brick, it isn't usually able to charge out long distances, and the army often has plenty of bodies available for Sacrificial Pawn targets to help keep Ragman alive. This is another one that I haven't tried myself, but I can see the merit of it, though since Irusk2 has Battle Lust it may be overkill.

   - Madelyn Corbeau, Ordic Courtesan: Irusk2 isn't much of a combat model himself, nor does he often bring especially strong targets for Intrigue. However, it is a nice way to extend a charge or move something unexpectedly. The main reason to bring along Madelyn is to bump Irusk2's impressive CMD 10 up to a silly CMD 11, making it that much less likely that anyone in range will be fleeing, and giving you another 1" of aura to work with for Martial Discipline and Total Obedience. I'm not sure if that is worth 2 points, but Irusk2 probably gains the most from the CMD increasing part of Madelyn's abilities of any Khador 'caster (maybe any in the game currently,) so it's worth considering.

Theme Lists:
Irusk2 is one of the lucky few 'casters to have two theme lists: one from the Forces of Khador book, and one from No Quarter (#39.)

His first theme list, The Art of War, suffers from what hurts many Forces of theme lists: the requirements are relatively strict, the bonuses are mediocre, and the net effect isn't particularly impressive or compelling. The two best traits of this theme list are that it allows you to field two units of WGI with UAs, and it allows you to field more than the usual FA of Mortars. Both of those benefits are cute, but don't offer anything especially new relative to how Khador lists are usually constructed, and frankly I feel like you can do those things (infantry spam, boosted blast damage spam) better with other 'casters.

Irusk2's other theme list, Heavy Armor Battalion, is better. The requirements are a little goofy - I don't love having to bring two units of Mechaniks, though it's clearly encouraging you to bring the UA to fix MoW - but overall it doesn't force you to take anything wildly outside of what you may want to take with Irusk2 in the first place. The benefits are decent (the trenches in particular give Irusk2 a good place to hide,) it defaults to giving you a good FFE target, and +2" of deployment is nice for scenario. This is also a good theme list to bring if you want to try and drown your opponent in MoW.

The biggest knock against Heavy Armor Battalion is that the benefits it provides aren't necessarily worth giving up access to the full suite of models you'd normally have access to. You're giving up access to WGI, Kayazy, and all Mercs for some relatively minor bonuses. It doesn't make it a terrible list - I actually think its on the upper end of the "theme list" curve due to it not requiring you to take a bunch of crap for silly bonuses - but you should carefully weigh just how much you're getting out of the theme against what you're giving up.

Closing Thoughts:
Irusk2 is, much like his previous form, an "infantry first" 'caster. You're still going to be looking at taking at least two units with him, and running more than that is certainly feasible. Irusk2 trades out having an aggressive feat and a DEF buff for more of a grind-y style, which gives him a different feel than his previous incarnation.

Probably the hardest thing to resolve regarding Irusk2 is that he doesn't really push you in any direction beyond "take some infantry." He has a little bit of everything - melee support, ranged support, infantry support, warjack support - and as a result it can be tricky to pin down a direction to take with him.

If you take too narrow of an approach you risk negating part of his kit, which is a waste with his "toolkit" set of abilities. If you build too broad your list ends up lacking sufficient identity, which can make it hard to figure out what match ups are favorable. It can even wash out your effectiveness in match ups that you otherwise may have had a leg up had you chosen a more specific build.

That's been the net of my experience with Irusk2 so far: he's a 'caster that can do a lot, but you also don't want to spread yourself too thin. Decide at list creation what aspects of his kit you want to focus on and stick with it - I prefer a high ARM approach, but that is by no means the only or "best" way. And once you come up with a list with him try to actually test it out once or twice before fiddling with it; it's very easy to constantly make changes to your list that end up undermining it's original idea, and I feel like Irusk2's openness makes that even easier to slip into.

Hell, that's a problem I've been having with myself recently. I haven't been able to decide on trying out Conquest with Irusk2, or going with something closer to my original list. In order to lock that in I'm making it record here:

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)

I'm going to try out Conquest with Irusk2, but I'm also a big scaredy cat so I'm keeping the TAC in for a cloud bunker. This list is also going to be my first time deploying both IFKs, which should work out well with both Shield Wall units. I should be putting this list on the table tonight, so hopefully I'll be able to report on the game and my thoughts about it tomorrow. 

I hope this has been helpful to anyone interested in Irusk2. He's a very interesting, decently well equipped warcaster. He doesn't have quite the "pop" of a Butcher3, but he also doesn't have any glaring weaknesses or dead rules, so I feel like he has a decent amount of potential. The tricky part is figuring out a list with him (and then a buddy for that list,) and that's something I'm excited to do over the coming weeks (maybe months?)

Once again, thanks very much for reading!


  1. Nice write up! I'm not sure that the Conquest is necessarily the best 'jack for the Supreme Kommandant (love dat Energizer, plus takes away points from more troops) but the rest of the list looks pretty good.

    Another reason I've found that he works really well with MoW is his feat. The range is short enough that you'd be able to get a charge off with IFP or other faster units, but with MoW it gives them essentially a free turn to advance, let the enemy advance, then get the charge off. At the very least it removes the enemy's charge bonus from the equation, letting them actually put that high ARM to good use.

  2. Thanks!

    Write up for it incoming, but after playing a game I still have mixed feelings about Conquest. It brings some interesting things to the table, but I kind of hate that Irusk2 has no way to speed it up, and it's another thing you can trip over with your brick. Much to my surprise I think that something like TAC are just as important when running Conquest - you can't really afford to hide behind it and still project Irusk2's auras, so you want something to still block LOS as you move up.

    I did kind of like how, with Conquest as an anchor/gun platform, I felt like I could run two fronts of offense pretty well. I'm going to give it a few more games to see how it goes, but Behemoth will probably always be my favorite battlegroup choice with Irusk2.

    Very good point about Irusk2's feat and MoW!

    Related: Another thing I noticed during my game yesterday is that with Shield March MoW are more often able to advance and make attacks (either melee or ranged.) Against almost all single wound infantry you don't need to charge to kill them, so you're able to maintain Shield Wall as long as possible while still removing enemy models. With Tactical Supremacy you can even potentially jam Shield Wall'd Shocktroopers into the enemy if they don't/can't space sufficiently.

    1. Yep, Shield Marching Tac Supremacy'ed Shocktroopers are deceptively fast, part of the reason I love 'em with Irusk. It's actually with this that (at least in my lists) I'm able to run two lanes of offense, one with Pikemen and Great Bears inside of Irusk's Tough aura and one with Shocktroopers and Demo Corps that don't necessarily need the extra Tough to make it through. So long as Irusk can get into position to give the STs Tactical Supremacy and potentially Battle Lust later on.

      The second front with a Conquest, though, sounds like a reasonable plan. I might try it if I ever pick one of the big boys up.

    2. The second front of MoW does sound super legit. You bring up an excellent point that the Shocktroopers don't necessarily need to be in the Tough bubble, which lets spread out a bit and lean more on their high ARM and wounds. When you need models to move through each other you can always shuffle Irusk2 over for Martial Discipline, or spot weld the problem with AoD.

      Conquest keeps making it back into my lists because it can be a damn fun model. :) Every time you get a critical with the Main Guns, an angel gets it's wings, and FFE takes basically all the allocation thought out of that shot which is great. I do also like it in scenarios where you have to destroy an objective: Conquest can very comfortably do it by himself with some boosted Secondary Battery shots (which you probably didn't need elsewhere,) and it's one of the only times you'll probably get all 4 shots out of them *and* it can do work for you.

      With Irusk2, you can positively vomit Focus through it: 4 focus for the Bond, upkeep FFE. Fully boosted Main Guns shot, then dump 4 Focus into boosts on the Secondary Batterys. That is tempered heavily by the low POW of the Secondary Batterys and RAT 4, but it has it's moments. And with FFE there will be plenty of turns where that's all the big guy needs. :)