Welcome to the Journeyman's Guide! This article is intended for new players or for old players who are just picking up a new faction. Instead of focusing on optimizing your Journeyman tournament lists for the best potential to win, we are going to focus on picking up models that work well as extensions to the base battlebox, but also give you a breadth of options for the faction. Instead of duplicates or model spam, we will focus on giving you a good taste of what the faction has to offer. The final list is not likely to appear at the final's table of a major convention, and that's okay.
For this format, we are going to be following the rules for a standard journeyman league. Specifically, you play for six weeks, expanding to preset point levels each week that build off the previous weeks. You start at 0 points with a starter battlebox, then go to 10 (but still only warcaster with warjacks or warlock with warbeasts), then adding units and solos for 25 points, 50, 65, and finally ending at 75 points. There is an optional caster swap half way through, but we won't cover that. Also, if your league organizer changes some of the rules, like allowing solos at the 10 point level, adjust your plan accordingly.
As you play, take note of weaknesses in your army and bad matchups, then start theorizing how you can improve your lists to beat them in the future. Talk with your opponents and always ask for feedback on what they think of how you played or on your list. The Warmachine community thrives on open communication on strategy and tactics. Once your Journeyman League is over, play with your group at the regular game nights. Practice, try new things, and have fun! And when you show up at tournaments, give as good as you get. Win or lose, have a blast playing the game.
And now, let's get to the battlebox!
0 POINTS - THE BEGINNING BATTLEBOX
Helynna is a solid caster. She's got a set of very unique abilities that really do play well into demonstrating a large number of options typical in Retribution, and her standard playstyle is going to be familiar as you switch to other warcasters.
Generally, Retribution warcasters like to stay well behind the rest of their army, and Helynna is no exception. Her personal threat is fairly low with a MAT 6 POW 11 melee weapon, but she can get a little work done in a pinch. Her gun, however, is very interesting. A boostable POW 11 ranged attack can put a few points of damage on an average warjacks, but she has the option to push a model 3" in any direction instead of doing damage. One thing you'll learn in Warmachine is that positioning is paramount, and pushing a model 3" is a huge deal. However, at DEF 15 ARM 15, Helynna is vulnerable to assassination - neither stat is really high enough to protect her against focused attacks, so don't use her ranged attack if it puts her in harm's way.
Instead of doing a lot of work herself, Helynna is a supportive caster. While casting Obliteration to deal bigger damage may be tempting, it will be her least used spell. Don't forget that she has it, but it's rare that using Obliteration is the right choice. Even through the Chimera as her arc node, casting Hand of Destruction to help your jacks hit harder is typically a much better choice. Retribution has only a few non-feat abilities to increase the accuracy and power of our jacks, and this is a solid one. Put it on a hard target and let the heavy jacks go to work. Boosting a Force Strike to try to get a crit knockdown is also not a bad use of focus if you've got it. While the chance of getting a crit is somewhere around 40%, when you do get it, it helps a lot. If you get it against a warcaster or warlock, that often can seal their doom.
But even with those spells, Helynna's real strengths are in Deceleration, Rhythm of War, and her feat, Arcantrik Aptitude. Deceleration against an army with ranged or magic attacks means you don't take much damage on the approach. Your Manticore gets the same armor as a standard Khador warjack, but with the force field and higher def. While useless against melee armies, this is an invaluable spell in some matchups. Combined with her feat, your Manticore and Griffon get up to ARM 23 against shooting!
Don't be afraid to use the feat only for the ARM bonus, either. The other parts of it (healing shields and ignoring crippled systems) are situationally amazing, but are generally just bonuses. Use the feat when you're going to take the heaviest damage to your important pieces. A canny opponent will try to focus down one target at a time so you won't get to use the other effects at all, so try to use it to block all the damage you can and set up for a brutal counter punch.
Finally, Rhythm of War. As I said earlier, positioning 3" is a huge deal in Warmachine. You might be tempted to think this is just Reposition [3"] for your army, but it's a little bit better. When you run, you can't Reposition afterwards since your activation ends immediately after you finish your run. But with Rhythm of War, you can run and then move the extra 3" at the end of your turn. It can cause problems with blocking charge lanes or line of sight since the movement isn't immediate, but this extra move gets you up the board fast. When you're in shooting range, it also means you get to shoot and scoot to put some damage on your opponent without getting hit back. Free damage is a big deal. And when you do get into melee, moving your jacks around at the end of the turn often can help you protect your most valuable models.
Speaking of valuable models, lets talk about the jacks.
The Manticore's gun is not very strong at POW 12, nor is it very reliable with D3 shots. It's hard to plan for, but while you're playing battlebox games, giving your Manticore 2 extra focus to cap it off in case he gets 2 or 3 shots isn't hard to do. If you get 3 shots and you need a 7 or lower to hit, you'll generally want to try and roll an unboosted hit then boost damage for the first and second shots. If one or both miss, boost to hit on the third shot. If you need to roll an 8 or higher to hit, boost to hit on the second shot.
Covering Fire is a useful ability and particularly powerful when paired with favorable terrain around scenarios, but unlikely to be valuable in early Journeyman games. POW 12 without a boost just isn't enough to really scare most enemy models you'll see. Once you get into higher point values it becomes more potent. You can also put it at max range, then use Rhythm of War to move the Manticore back, effectively dropping the Covering Fire template within 15" of its final position.
In melee, the Manticore will usually want to spend a focus for the +3 STR. On 4 attacks, that gets it an extra 12 damage, more than you could usually get with an extra attack. Also, read up on Power Attacks! With two open fists, the Manticore is able to take advantage of all the power attacks. Power Attacks like Throws can completely turn a game around.
Early on, the Manticore is your most important model. As the only model really capable of hitting really hard, many of your games will be decided on how well you can keep it going. When you know your Manticore is going to get attacked, try to keep Helynna within 6" of it so him can walk up and repair a broken arm or other system.
Cheap arc nodes are incredibly valuable to certain casters, and Helynna is one of those casters. She has 3 offensive spells she really wants to use, and the Chimera helps her use them safely. It may be tempting to dismiss the Chimera as just an arc node, but that would be a mistake. Apparition makes the Chimera surprisingly mobile, increasing its overall threat range to a respectable charging threat of 11.5". POW 12 is fairly low, but boosting to hit and damage with a Combo Strike gets you a strong POW 16 that can knock out a system. The Chimera can also Apparition behind a model, then attack with an easy +2 to hit or go for a slam to make the Manticore's job easier. Its a solid little jack well worth the 8 points in many lists. Don't underestimate the Chimera.
This jack's ideal turn is fairly straightforward - Charge. With a +2 to hit on charge attacks, the Griffon often only needs its single focus from Power Up to do its job. Pick a target, charge (which boosts the damage roll), then soak up damage at ARM 18. The Griffon should be the jack you're most willing to give up first to initiate a piece trade, but also look for opportunities to have him run around a flank and threaten a warcaster or warlock. With an extra focus for Fleet, the Griffon can threaten 13" on a charge, much further than almost anything else you'll see in the first few weeks of a journeyman league. The Griffon's Pathfinder means it can use terrain to further improve its threat as it hangs out in rough terrain that prevents your opponent from reaching it.
Okay, so this is a weird point increment. We've got a few lights worth considering here, but frankly, you don't want any more lights for Helynna. What you want are Arcanists to really turn your jacks on, more than anything else. So we want to spend as few points as possible here so we can save up for Arcanists and bigger stuff. That being said, an Aspis is a solid little jack. He's a fantastic Shield Guard, so you can protect your other jacks and caster from the scariest guns that would knock down, disrupt, or otherwise harm your important models. With a regenerating Force Field, the Aspis is also likely to stay around for a long time in a game.
- Arcanist Mechanic
- Arcanist Mechanic
- Arcanist Mechanic
- Dawnguard Sentinel Minimum Unit
- Soulless Void Tracer
Yes! Arcanists! These little guys are amazing solos that really power up your warjacks substantially. First, they add a straight up +2 to all melee damage rolls to a jack with the Concentrate Power action. This is a pretty obvious bonus, as more damage means you kill targets better. If your Manticore gets fully fueled and hits 4 total attacks on an enemy, that's 8 additional damage you got for free. If you hit 5 attacks from a Manticore or Chimera, that's 10 extra damage. That's a third of a heavy warjack, all because of the humble Arcanist.
Second, the Empower action helps your jacks run more efficiently. With 3 Arcanists (the most you can take) you can give a Manticore 2 additional Focus and +2 to damage rolls without any input from your warcaster. That's a huge deal that most factions can't match. It also lets you put some Focus into the Manticore's d3 shots, so even if you end up with some extra focus on him from rolling only 1 shot, it isn't lost to your caster.
Finally, the ability to repair is clutch. While used less often than the other two abilities, this is a rare source of healing for a warjack. With Helynna that may not seem like a big deal since she has a better repair skill, but trust me on this one - if you expect your warjack will be attacked, keep an Arcanist within 6" to repair him, just in case. Helynna is the only warcaster we have to can repair a warjack herself, and losing a key system (like an arm or gun) can be the difference between winning and losing. Use the Aspis to keep them safe while they hang in the back.
Okay, so the Arcanists are incredible. Grab 3 of them and don't look back. But why the Sentinels for 11 points? Doesn't Helynna want more jacks? It's true that Helynna's abilities primarily focus on making her warjacks better, but reread her feat. Notice that the +3 ARM isn't limited to warjacks or even her battlegroup. It's for all friendly Faction models, including Sentinels. They can be a little tricky to use since Vengeance is easy to forget at first, but their hitting power is phenomenal. This is a truly terrifying unit you will use often in lists. Keep them at a minimum unit for now to fit the point limits, and round it all out with a Soulless Void Tracer. To be honest, the Void Tracer is in this list as a point filler since you've got 2 points left over, but don't disregard her in your list building. Void Tracers are neat little solos that will make your opponent think twice about casting offensive spells on your army, since every time they target a model within 5" of a Void Tracer, the spell caster takes d3 damage. She's not bad at fighting, either!
- Sentinels Maximum Unit
Now we are back to warjacks! Discordia is Rahn's character jack, but any warcaster can still run Discordia. You just lose on the extra benefit Discordia gets with Rahn. But even without that, Disco is one of the best jacks in Retribution. First, you have the Imprint: Kinetic Field. Using that with Deflection, your Manticore, Griffon, and Discordia herself get to armor 22 against ranged attacks! Stack on the feat for a nigh impenetrable ARM 25! And while you may run into Blessed guns that ignore Deflection, nothing ignores Kinetic Field since it isn't a spell. That's an important distinction that comes up occasionally.
Discordia also has a really powerful spray. Spray attacks can't be blocked by a Shield Guard, and they ignore intervening models. Even if you can't draw line of sight to a warcaster behind a pair of heavy warjacks, you can still target one of the warjacks and hit the warcaster behind as long as the spray template goes over their base. You can use this spray to hit several models in one attack, potentially wiping out most of a unit with one activation. Even better, any model damaged by the spray cannot cast spells for a full round. No spells from a warcaster, no animi from a warbeast! And when you get into melee, Disco's MAT 7 POW 16 (18 after Arcanists) is strong enough to take down a warjack. The Chain Attack: Smite also means you can easily rough up a heavy target, then slam it into something else. Slam it into another heavy jack or beast to knock both down, damage both of them, and get an additional die on the model you slammed!
For the last 7 points, upgrade your Sentinels from a minimum unit to a full unit. With the full unit, you'll start getting a better feel for how much damage they can do. Just wait for the next tier, where we'll finally get to see them at their full strength...
- Dawnguard Sentinel Command Attachment
- Soulless Escort (on Sentinels)
- Dawnguard Invictors Minimum Unit
Now we get the full power of the Sentinels! I'm sure by this point you've seen that a few Sentinels can do serious damage. At a high MAT 7 and a powerful POW 12 Weapon Master, they are a serious threat your opponent has to manage. With Vengeance, they can't easily be killed one at a time. And now with the Officer and Standard, they get even scarier.
The first benefit the Officer brings is Pathfinder on charges. No longer will forests, walls, water, or other difficult terrain slow them down. This gives them a huge strength since you can use terrain to your advantage. And now with the Commander's Iron Zeal mini feat, they get +3 armor to stack on all your other armor buffs. With Iron Zeal, Wall of Steel, Helynna's feat, Deflection, and Discordia's Imprint, they reach an insane ARM 27! You still have to be wary of stuff like Continuous Corrosion and Widowmakers, but even boostable jack guns will struggle to kill a single Sentinel with all those buffs. Finally, the Commander himself is a full Sentinel, but more accurate at MAT 8 and more durable with 5 hit boxes instead of 1. While the Standard Bearer does not have a weapon, he's excellent Vengeance bait, and he helps your Sentinels spread out to deal damage everywhere they are needed.
You've got a couple other options here since this is the last time you could take more jacks. A second Manticore can bring a second wall of Covering Fire if you're getting swarmed, a second unit of Sentinels can bring an opponent to tears as he stares down their blades, or a Banshee's Momentum gun and POW 18 RNG 2 sword could be what you want most. But for this list, I'm recommending a minimum unit of Invictors.
With similar stat lines to the Sentinels, it's clear these guys come from the same background. However, Invictors want to shoot before stabbing. Their good RAT 6 and solid POW 12 guns scare most infantry, and the ability to Combine Ranged Attack (CRA) a big target means they hit at RAT 12 POW 18 for a single shot, enough to cripple a system. You can also break up their attacks into different groupings of CRAs - with the minimum unit, 4 can CRA one place, and 2 can attack another. Or you can have 3 RAT 8 POW 14 shots. Or 5 shoot together and 1 takes a pot shot somewhere else. It's very flexible to suit the situation you're in. If you don't need to CRA, they can also Assault for extra threat range on their guns. If they do make it to melee, they are actually solid, though not as terrifying in close quarter as the Sentinels.
- Invictors Maximum Unit
- Invictors Command Attachment
This is a pretty straight forward expansion to the previous list. The increased number of Invictors means more guns to soften up your opponent on the approach, and the Commander brings two interesting abilities. First, he grants every model in the unit the ability to reroll misses on a CRA. If you're facing Circle warbeasts, for example, you can now do 4 RAT 8 (with rerolls!) POW 14 shots with one RAT 10 (with rerolls!) POW 15 shot from the Commander himself. That averages 21 damage to a 14/17 warpwolf, enough to cripple an aspect. Even with high defense, being able to reroll a miss means this unit just went from pretty accurate to incredibly accurate. And the Commander's mini feat lets you do it from further away! With a total range of 14" on the mini feat turn, now you can soften up or eliminate your opponent's models before they have a chance to retaliate. Or you can hold onto it to keep a constant threat of assassination. Either way, these guys are solid.
THE FINAL LIST
- Arcanist x3
- Void Tracer
- Sentinels + CA + Soulless Escort
- Invictors + CA
The list you end up with is filled with solid guns, flexible options, and incredible hitting power. You can play this list into a wide spectrum of the game and have a solid game, and you'll learn a lot about how Retribution plays. Don't expect to keep this list exactly the same, though - our goal here was to get you started in Retribution with a wide variety of models that present a lot of flexibility, and that's what you've got. Double Sentinels, triple Manticores, Banshees flanking Imperatus are all variants you will see that are more focused. But after playing through the Journeyman League with this list and rolling through a final Journeyman tournament, you should now have a good idea of what you like most from your army. Are you in love with the Sentinels? Run them with Vyros2 or Issyria. Invictors and hard hitting guns are what you like? Pick up Ossyan, Hypnos, and two units of Stormfall Archers. Or maybe you just like running hit-and-run jacks. Grab Imperatus with Kaelyssa and play with Refuge on Discordia. But no matter where you go from here, this is a place you should be happy to start from.
Good luck in your adventures, and please let me know if you actually use this guide! I want to make sure I keep this updated for new players, so any feedback you've got will help me refine it for future Journeymen starting Retribution. Hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or leave a comment below.
And always remember - the secret to being a better Ret player is to roll better dice.