Learning to play Hordes: Part 1

So, what better time to learn to play Hordes than when Warmachine MkII is released!? I’ve had my Legion army since Hordes was initially released, but it’s been more of a painting project than an army. I don’t need to learn the rules, I know them and am an accomplished Warmachine player, but I do need to learn how to effectively play my Legion army. I need to hone technique, master the Fury mechanic and learn how to use animi appropriately. Maybe a better title for this article would be “Learning to play the Legion of Everblight”.

I’ve had good success with Thagrosh on the battlefield, but 7 Fury (one of which is free) and the chance to resurrect a beast are powerful fail safe mechanisms. When I start to loose beasts Thagrosh can still get some Fury without cutting himself. If I make a mistake with the Carnivean (or another crucial beast), I can bring it back to life. I basically play Thagrosh like a Butcher with more precision instruments of destruction. It’s the more delicate warlocks that I want to master. People rate Saeryn as one of the best warlocks, not only in Legion, but a across all factions. I’ll start with her.

Saeryn, Omen of Everblight

I’m not expecting to win straight out of the box, but I do want to have a chance to win. That means constructing an army that has a chance of getting at the enemy ‘caster or warlock and dealing some pain. I want to use (painted) models currently in my collection, but I’m willing to add more as necessary.
Saeryn, Omen of Everblight
Okay, I’ve played a few games with Saeryn, but I need to do a bit of Theory Hordes before I get stuck into army composition. What can Saeryn do? What type of units can she support? What animi would benefit her? How do I deal with different types of enemy unit? In order to use any army effectively you need to know your warlock. The following discussion is based on the Hordes Field Test Model Update document released on the 29th January 2010.

SPELL LIST AND FEAT
Saeryn has a pretty good spell list, but they are somewhat beast centric. She also has a Fury stat of 7, so she should be able to fire out a few spells every turn. Respawn is like a mini version of Thagrosh’s feat. It allows you to get more mileage from your beasts by bringing one back to life. A Shepherd or two in the mix and you have the chance to heal that beast . That said you’d most commonly treat the respawn as a free round of combat with the ability to charge whatever just killed your beast!

Breath Stealer is another stand out spell. It’s 10″ range is decent, but it’s debuffing ability is superb. It makes enemy models/units easier to hit and it prevents them from charging. At a cost of 2 Fury she could have potentially cast it three times per turn, but in the last update to the rules it is now once a turn only. Another excellent spell is Blight Bringer. It’s costly at 4 Fury, but it has an offensive and defensive quality. It is a troop killer and it prevents enemy movement. Be careful what miniature you cast it on as the easiest way to remove it would be to kill the miniature with Blight Bringer. If Equilibrium and Respawn are beast focused, Breath Stealer and Blight Bringer have a stronger enemy unit focus.

Banishing Ward replaces the somewhat lackluster Mirror Magic from earlier in the Field Test. Mirror Magic’s value was very situational. Banishing Ward is excellent. It immediately removes enemy upkeep spells from the target model/unit. That’s pretty nice, but the next bit is awesome – the affected models cannot be targeted by spells or animi. It’s an upkeep spell to sweeten the deal. Casting this on herself is very powerful.

Her final spell is Sunder Spirit. It’s a range 10″ POW 12 spell that strips the animus (for one round) and allows Saeryn to cast the animus if she wishes. It has it’s uses, but the main benefit is giving Saeryn a better ranged threat.

It’s worth noting that none of these spells directly buff your own units. Saeryn is a beast centric warlock. Her feat is also focused on her beasts. It only effects beasts in her battlegroup, but boy is it still a great feat. Here’s the wording –

Foreboding: While within her control area, models in Saeryn!s battlegroup cannot be targeted by non-magical melee attacks for one round.

It gives your beasts immunity to melee attacks. This feat has been progressively nerfed from MkI and through the Field Test. There are a lot of magical attacks out there, so before popping her feat you’ll be asking your opponent who has magical weapons! This is primarily defensive, but it has the possibility to open up an aggressive play style. You can get up in you opponents face and prevent his (melee) retaliation.

BEASTS AND ANIMI
It’s pretty clear from her spell list and feat that Saeryn is a beast-centric warlock who specialises in messing up your opponents plans. Heavy beasts will get the best value Respawn. They will also make good targets for the Fury you remove from enemy beasts using Equilibrium. Given the range of these spells and the range of Breath Stealer and Blight Bringer Saeryn will need to be up close to her beasts. The thrown Deathspur can also prevent damage transfer, but it only has a 7″ range, again tending towards close up support. Tenacity seems to be a useful animus for Saeryn. Force Barrier already gives her +2 DEF and Tenacity would add another +1 (and +1 to ARM), leaving her DEF 19 and ARM 15. With these boosted stats, and the fact that she is immune to blast damage, she is very hard to kill at range. So, including a Shredder is pretty useful.

So, what about those heavy beasts? Depending on the size of game she could feasibly run 2-3 heavies. The Angelius seems like a good choice. Under Saeryn’s feat it can ignore free strikes and charge over intervening models. The animus is okay, but it’s very defensive. Being a big expensive beast the Angelius is a good target for Respawn. The other good target is a Carnivean. Again it’s animus isn’t specifically useful, as Saeryn will probably have Tenacity cast on her. Casting Blight Bringer on the Carnivean and trampling it into the centre of a bunch of infantry could be fun! I’m not considering the Seraph at the moment as I don’t own one.

I think the Harrier could be useful in there too. Like the Angelius it can ignore the free strikes on Saeryn’s feat turn. It’s pretty punny, but has an excellent animus. The possibility to guarantee a hit is great for enhancing the assassination threat of the Angelius.

I had discounted the Nephilim Soldier until the current model rules update. He now has Flight, so in a similar manner to the Harrier and Angelius can really excel on Saeryn’s feat turn.

UNITS AND SOLOS
At first glance Saeryn doesn’t directly buff her troops. She can effectively buff them by hitting an enemy with Breath Stealer to debuff their DEF. This benefits both ranged and melee troops. Given that she can cast it more than once per turn she has the chance to benefit several friendly units. Because it also drops their SPD it protects her troops by preventing a potential charge. Banishing Ward gives a chance to strip an enemy upkeep from a unit. Other than that Saeryn doesn’t really help out her troops. Either melee or ranged units should work reasonably well for her.

The solo that could work best is the Shepherd to assist in stretching the threat range of an Angelius, particularly during an assassination run. A MkI Feralgeist could have been very frustrating too, but since MkII it can only take over enemy beasts and has lost a lot of utility. That’s what I wrote before the latest update, but the Feralgeist is back in the game. He can take over your own slain beasts. I can just hear my opponents now, “Sh*t, how many times do I have to kill that beast!”. I think the Swamp Gobbers could be pretty handy to help further (on top of Tenacity and Force Barrier) protect Saeryn. Other than that nothing stands out.

CONCLUSION
Saeryn is a powerful warlock with a very good feat. Her spell list is excellent and she loves her beasts. She can increase their survivability massively. She can debuff the enemy with Breath Stealer and kill troops with Blight Bringer. More than any of that she can frustrate your opponent by messing with his Fury and scuppering his plans. Again, this is what I said before the loss of Equilibrium. It will be missed, but I still think she is a strong warlock. The addition of Banishing Ward and Sunder Spirit to her spell list is great. She can not protect herself very well from all ranged threats and still dish out a bit of ranged hurt.

Ok – I’m off to write an army list for a game on Tuesday. Saeryn and lots of beasts sound like the recipe. Swamp Gobbers and a Shepherd will be in there too, but I need to think about the troops a bit more. I think a Feralgeist might find its way into the mix too!

Owen

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