Monday, February 20, 2017

What To Do About Magnus The Red?

Magnus the Red deserves some special attention.  If you have not played against him yet, let me say this:  he is a world in-between.  As the Primarch that represents the Tzeentch he's a changer of games.

The model is enormous, taking up all of its base and then some.  It’s as big as the WraithKnight and much broader.  It flies around on wings and if you didn't read his unit entry you'd just assume he was a Gargantuan creature (though he is not).

I think the most important thing I could possibly tackle is the simple question:  how do you beat him?  To defeat ones enemy, one must know ones enemy.

Magnus relies on Blessings because he has only a 4 invulnerable save.  When you first see that on the page, you might not be so worried after all.  You should be.  The problem with Magnus is that his 4+ invulnerable save becomes a 3+ if he is benefiting from a Blessing which he inevitably will be and then there are psyker powers that can turn that to a 2+.  This on its own is reason to worry since it is also a Flying Monstrous Creature and therefore difficult to hit in the first place.  Magnus serves Tzeentch and as such re-rolls any 1’s on his saves.  Even worse.  He only really fails on an exact roll of a 2 (most of the time), because ones trigger re-rolls.  That is incredibly hard to get through seven times, and he does have seven wounds that are Toughness 7.  Impressed yet?

You must find weaknesses.  His primary weakness is that he can be stomped out of existence.  He is not immune to being removed by a Stomp.  They did not make the mistake of making him Gargantuan like they did with WraithKnights which he dwarfs in girth.  He almost immediately begs you to take a stomping model in your force,  if you know you could be seeing him and at tournaments.  You will be.

Deactivating his Blessings is one defense.  If he is forced to have a 4+ invul (re-rolling 1’s) he becomes a lot more susceptible to torrenting.  You can do this via the Culexus Assassin or Sisters of Silence, though you will of course have to probably go second to make that work the best that it can work (which means handing Magnus the initiative...).  Magnus is flying and is unlikely to stop flying, so he will have to move towards you to get in range and stay aloft.  This will shorten the distance the Culexus must travel before popping out and giving you your chance to strike and ground Magnus.  Once Magnus is no longer flying and is engaged, he loses a lot of his useful psyker powers (though not all and he should not be underestimated in melee).

The Sisters of Silence are kind of a new addition to 40K and I am not sure how far spread they are out there, but they certainly would be an excellent option for someone to use when dealing with Magnus.

One of the ways you will see Magnus used (and because many people seem to own a lot of winged Princes) is the Rehati Formation from the Traitor Legions book.  It allows Magnus to gather up a Flying Monstrous Creature circus of up to 9 Daemon Princes (though you won’t see more than 4 in all likelihood).  I have fought this particular variety of list a couple times now and can tell you it’s essentially four models absolutely blasting and summoning from the landscape with Psyker goodness, and often they will have at least one prince casting the Shrouding power which is a 12” bubble.  This allows the Daemon princes to Jink and act like batteries for Magnus at worst, which encourages them to keep fairly close together, lest they fall out of the bubble.  I mention this because Dark Eldar have a particularly useful tool here. 

The Crucible of Malediction is a terribly worded relic, but what it does is creates a 3D6 inch range nova like shot that auto-strikes any unit with a Psyker in it causing a STR 6 hit.  Hardly seems worth it BUT…  Think for a moment.  This means that the tightly packed Daemon Princes in the skies are all probably getting hit because they are flocking closely together!  The Crucible of Malediction is effectively  gives you skyfire, with no roll to hit, against all of them.  Impressive.  Already a very high percentage play.  STR 6 will wound Daemon Princes on a 3, Magnus on a 5.  Best part?  NO SAVE OF ANY KIND.  None of Magnus’s shenanigans work on it.  Fish for a 5 to ground him and maybe get a freebie wound on the way down!  This is probably the best chance you could ask for to take him down, so you can swamp him in a Beastmaster unit and let him rot there for the rest of the game with their babysitter HQ (one hopes made fearless by then using Power From Pain).  Assuming the worst and you “only” cause wounds to his group of Daemon Prince batteries, that’s fine.  3-4 more grounding opportunities all in one go, from one model.  You really couldn’t ask for a better deal.

Orks have the Traktor Kannons.  These babies are fun.  They can hit on 5’s, re-rolling and are Skyfire STR 8 AP 3.  Magnus may be tough but these wound him on 3’s and if they get through, it’s a grounding check at -3!  Talk about a good chance to drop a flying Monster and more importantly, it is their BEST chance.  Flyers and Flying Monstrous Creatures aren’t rare (especially the latter) so it makes more and more sense to consider ork artillery.  The fact that it is Toughness 7 does not hurt at all.  With enough tries, that artillery unit could be a hassle for Magnus and once on the ground, Magnus IS dangerous but not as bad as when he’s in the air.  A cheap Squabbling ork unit could keep him in one place for a while.  The Buzzgob Stompa will be unimpressed by his STR 7 Force Weapon methinks.  7th Edition really has made Gargantuan models “feature” models and as much an ANSWER to others as they are actually necessary for killing in general.  If it were not for the Magnus and WraithKnights of the world, many Gargantuan models would not be necessary but, here we are and here they are, to stay.

Other armies must deal with Magnus in a more circumspect way.  While Grey Knights might have enough dice to nerf the powers they really really need to (as most Grey Knight armies are easily cresting 14 dice a turn, they have at least a shot of turning one or two powers off) others do not have that luxury.

The Tau Empire for which I am most known, has no psyker defense outside the Talisman of Athas Molloch, and that's if you're willing to pay the Farsight Enclave tax (I am generally).  I recommend taking that.  There is a whole lot of Velocity Trackers they can utilize.  Overloading on this very expensive upgrade may not be advisable but look at some of the “power builds”:  Magnus is our chief concern today, but Tyranids are very strong when they are sporting five flyrants, Magnus and the Rihati formation of course, Heldrake spam in their new Formation are pretty nifty, Chaos Daemons with Be’lakor and Screamer Stars, and the list goes on.  Ravenguard won a huge tournament using some flyers that could pretty much come in turn one as well.  I think Velocity Trackers are definitely going to need to be present when Magnus is in your area.  Not having an answer for flyers is worse than the points you “waste” by doing so against armies that don’t necessitate it.  The old adage “better safe than sorry” is the operative concept.  The Stormsurge is an obvious platform to use it on.  So are the High Yield Missile Pods on your broadsides.  Given that the Tau Empire army can do little about the psyker problem directly, and given peoples propensity not to use Mysterious Objectives (which can grant Skyfire), I think it’s warranted.

My Militarum Tempestus with IG allies takes 3 Psykers in the Imperial Guardsman blob, and that Psyker defense of 5+ against things like Psychic Scream and flickering Fire is worth it.  If you weren’t a fan of boning up on Psykers before, reconsider should you play them.  Your blob-star can be a very effective weapon against a guy whose main coolness in close combat comes from swinging a Force Weapon.

Here’s a blast from the past:  Could Gloom Prisms actually be useful again to Necrons?  In a Canoptek Harvest list, especially, you will end up with a pretty fair number of Canoptek Spyders and the Gloom Prism has never been a fan favorite but Necrons may have reason to reconsider them as Magnus flies imperiously above them.

Those are just some ideas on how to handle this magnificent beast.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Fall of Cadia: Initial impressions on Celestine.

It is a dire time for the Imperium...

You cannot go 10,000 years without eradicating your nemesis, and then expect good things to happen.  Now in this Gathering Storm supplement, the crashing weight of the Imperiums failures and attempts to fight wars on all fronts both strategically as well as spiritually have brought about its inevitable consequence.

As a result of this dire need has come the Fall of Cadia book.  With it has come something entirely expected:  the ability to incorporate the various factions of the Imperium into a combined force.

This was first attempted in the WitchHunters and Daemonhunters codex's although not quite in so consolidated a fashion.  Multiple Detachments kind of allowed it in another way.  The Fall of Cadia book allows you to flat out incorporate the armies of the Imperium into one force without the need for multiple detachments.

Celestine (note the distinction from Codex: Adepta Sororitas where she is Saint Celestine and does not have the same stats and rules, nor cost), Inquisitor Greyfax and Belisarius Cawl all have a special exemption, found in Fall of Cadia, The exemption is tricky so I thought I would go over this because people FACING it will need to know as surely as those using it.

The exemption says that any of these three characters can be included as an HQ choice in a Detachment that has the same Faction as they do, even though they are listed separately in Fall of Cadia.  This is kind of a tricky one on its own, because what it's saying is that their first must BE a choice.  Formations in particular often specify they require a "Space Marine Captain" for example or they might require some other specific HQ.  In those cases now or in the future, these three Independent characters could not take their place.   On the other hand in the Vestal Formation (Codex: Imperial Agents), which actually allows HQ choices, Celestine from Fall of Cadia could be incorporated as one, even though St. Celestine from Codex:Adepta Sororitas could not because she does not have that exemption, and is not listed in Codex: Imperial Agents.

The second part of the exemption is that these three characters can be included in a Combined Arms Detachment or Allied Detachment (specifically) as an HQ choice if it is one for Armies of the Imperium.  That covers a lot of armies!!!  This is great news for some because Inquisitor Greyfax is an excellent choice for any army.  Infiltrators are more and more common now in Warhammer 40,000 and more armies can do it with dangerous consequences.  The Strategic Warlord Traits table can be a pretty severe problem for some armies.  I have been victimized by it on at least two notable occasions where the enemy both infiltrated and seized.  That did not end well for me.  I for one will be seriously interested in having Greyfax on board in certain armies I own.

Celestines considerably powerful aura can be used to benefit a lot of armies and it is somewhat ironic to me that this book may well make Celestine one of the more popular models in armies!  Good for the Adepta Sororitas profile in general.  Celestine has a 12" bubble within which she can use some powers once per game,  I have already come up with some fun little crazy combinations regarding Celestine.

Imagine her once per game ability to affect Heavy Support units by granting them the Relentless rule for a round, and who it might affect.  Three Purgation Squads hopping from Rhinos and hosing down the enemy with Psycannons at full range and ballistic skill?  Could be pretty encouraging, and it removes a major nerf to the Psycannons.  Salvo?  What were they thinking?  But now you can drop them into position with Celestine to guide them.

Another fun idea is if you're playing with Iron Hands.  Her aura that affects troops makes that 6+ Feel No Pain on your Troops Choices into 5+ for a round.  That is statistically significant.

When your fellow HQ is heading into a battle that looks daunting, make them a Zealot for a round. This allows you to stand your ground and re-roll all to hits in the first round of combat.  There are a lot of challenges that might have gone the other way had you just gotten one more roll your way.  The automatic passing of Morale tests is great, but those re-rolls can be golden.  You can do it to an entire Astra Militarum blob squad without needing a Priest or Commissar, in the round that counts by using it on the Psyker in the unit, for example.

Her Fast Attack aura?  Here's a REALLY fun idea for you:  Imagine Rough Riders that get Crusader!  That actually matters to them because their base initiative is so poor.  How great would that be?  Pretty great for those of us who love the whole idea of the polish defeating the German Tanks (one battle ever, but hey).  Plenty of Marine Assault Squads would find that very exciting as well, because Crusader makes it tough for other Marines to get out of combat after being charged, as they would love to do at times.

Celestine affects Elite Choices with Furious Charge and Counter Attack.  When striking at something like a WraithKnight that can make an enormous difference to a unit.  Purifiers charging with STR 7 Halberds (9 with Hammerhand)?  Yes please?  I myself use Sisters Repentia and giving them Furious Charge would be awesome against tough stuff like a WraithKnight.  Fishing for 5's is a lot easier than 6's, and when you can re-roll them (thanks to a Priest in the unit granting them):  all the better.

All of this ignores the simple fact that Celestine herself is ridiculous.  You ESSENTIALLY have to knock out sixteen or more 2+ save wounds to get rid of her.  I'm just saying, the odds are long on that. Why sixteen?  She starts with 5 base +2 for her Geminae, and she can resurrect a Geminae once per turn.  When you kill Celestine, as before, she can rise up once but she copmes back at full strength and can start resurrecting Geminae again.  Its WORK to kill her.  If you thought Magnus was kind of a bear because you can't put wounds on him easily, wait til you try to mill through all of hers.  At T3, you're going to get a lot more chances, but no matter what you're blasting her with, 2+/4+invul saves is no picnic basket.  She's fast enough to cause headaches, her influence on her fellow units is going to be impressive and "ignoring her" will end badly, methinks.  She and her Geminae cohorts will brutalize most things.  If you can tie them up with something really tough, and stick her in place to limit the damage, you've done some good.   If she joins a Repentia squad with their AP 2, it may well rampage across the entire enemy line with seeming impunity.

This lady is a very big gun and it's a shame in some ways that they made her available to all Armies of the Imperium because frankly, it will diminish the Codex: Adepta Sororitas not to require that force in order to play her.  That being said, clearly her abilities are meant to benefit the Adepta Sororitas units (with the odd exception of the It Will Not Die power for a round which can be used on Lords of War, of which there are none).  Taking Adepta Sororitas, as I like to do, will certainly make the ladies better, without changing the units themselves, which I suppose was the point of the exercise with these splat books.

I will say that Grey Knights seem to be surprisingly awesome recipients for her powers, and I am probably going to see what kind of impact she can have while playing them.  When you compare Castellan Crowe to this...  Is it even a question?  Crowe losing the ability to make Purifiers Troops Choices was unfortunate but it does mean Celestine can replace him with ease now, and likely will.  The only question is:  Do the Purifiers in my collection now become Purgation Squads?  Hmm...

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Partners Games Workshop Needed

The Independent Tournament Circuit’s (ITC) flagship event, the Las Vegas Open 2017 ended and the winner?  Brett Perkins and his Renegades and Heretics.  Brett has been rampaging through the opposition for a couple of years now and been very close at the major events like NOVA where he took second place and now the big one, the Las Vegas Open, which catapulted him in the standings of the ITC.

It is at the culmination of this, my first real ITC season of competition, that I am reflective of what I have seen happen in the 40K universes since I began attempting to compete.

The sheer volume of new material was frightening.  As we saw with the 3.X Dungeons and Dragons roll out (and later 4.0), this does not always have a good impact on the game.  The exit of the head cheese at Games Workshop in 2015, and the new regimes alteration of attitude towards the player base, brought more than enough sales to make stock holders forget the overwhelming flood of it.

As of January 2016, profit from the sale of miniatures and games, which was the company’s core business, fell 15%.  The new leader had been installed but his impact was yet to be felt.  Had it not been for the intellectual property side of the business, it would have been a very dour outlook indeed.  Since then, however, significant changes happened.  Kevin Rountree and company had begun something, foremost among them being reconnecting with the fan base.  In the last year the stock was finally able to return to glory, and the annihilation it suffered since October of 2013 seems to have passed, approaching the 2004 numbers, where it was when I first got into the hobby!

I feel that the recuperation of the stock is in part thanks to the end of the Recession but it is also in even larger part thanks to the far more responsive leadership we now see at Games Workshop and one hopes that can continue.  Most telling is the dividend for GAW stock.  Any time the board is giving them out and they are getting larger, the health of the company is clearly easier to trust with your money.

The Las Vegas Open, the Elvensword Ambassadorial Grand Tournament and many more beyond count like them that are now being seen, are the number one driver of sales for the company in my opinion.  Never was there a better sales force than the Tournament Organizers themselves, and it is to them that Games Workshop, its retail partners and the broader fan base owe so much.  While individual Tournament Organizers (TO’s) may not really detect how much they are influencing this, as they go about their labors of love, the reality is obvious.  There were 5575 Generals ranked in the ITC this year (which means many more that were not) and there were 2218 ranked in the previous year!  One year.  Wrap your mind around that.  If you are a statistics student, you understand the magnitude of that statement.  In that same time frame, the company’s stock has soared.  Only an idiot would consider that a coincidence.  Just the existence of a ladder program, such as the one the ITC has made popular, has made Games Workshop a lot of money and my anticipation is that with the advent of the software, peoples ability, worldwide, to participate will greatly increase, as will the ease with which such events can be created.

I was an extremely harsh critic of the way the ITC FAQ was built originally and I was not shy about telling people; but like Games Workshop, it seems that the good people who run the ITC were responsive to that too, and those of us who were critics have seen a lot of change in the way they go about their transparency and fan participation.  The result?  I am gratified to say that there is little to complain about now.  It has gone from a provincial “better way to play 40K” into a raging waterfall of fans.  The same transformation seesm to be starting at Games-Workshop.

Brett Perkins won the Las Vegas Open, but Games Workshop won by having passionate tournament organizers willing to even attempt such a thing.  Hundreds of events will happen this year, costing tens of thousands of hours of planning and effort showcasing their products.  It would be the wisest of courses for the company to look very seriously towards the future of those partnerships.  It will translate to money very quickly.