Texas Masters Rumble at Clash for a Cure, 2016

Skip down to the next section to get directly to the battle report, because I have a little updating to do here first.

It has been a long time since I have updated this blog. There was about a month-long period of silence, and for anyone who has been a fan of this blog, you deserve an explanation for why I've been so absent.

The long and short of it is that I got a new job. When I started this blog, I had quit my last career in IT a month or two before and started getting my certifications to be a teacher. The blog picked up a ton while I was unemployed, and it was a great way for me to keep producing something while trying to find a job. I had to do something to avoid feelings of worthlessness that accompany unemployment. Being jobless sucks, but in late August, I finally got a job as an 8th grade math teacher (go Eagles!). I love it, it's a huge relief for so many reasons, but it has been an exhausting transition.

Now that my endurance to working has built up a bit and I'm getting into the flow of things, I'm hoping I'll have the energy and time to keep the blog going. Not going to lie, I was feeling a bit down on it and Warmachine in general before going down to Clash for a Cure, largely out of sheer tiredness. It hasn't been profitable and I had been feeling less excited about it in general. But getting to Clash and having several people approach me to say, "you're Ghost Dice, right? I love that series you did with lists for each faction!" completely made the trip for me. Taking second in Masters (spoilers!) and getting third in the painting competition were huge personal triumphs for me, and I had a blast, but having random people directly express in person that this blog was helpful was inspiring in a way I hadn't experienced before.

So thanks, guys! I'm hoping to revisit the faction breakdowns after WTC is over and I can analyze some of the results more and consult others. It's out of date now, but I want to wait until WTC is done before updating it. Also, House Shyeel Podcasters has had a bit of an unplanned hiatus, but I plan on bringing it back after WTC. Also once Daniel stops being so busy and Dylan stops being so... Australian.

And now, on to the battle reports!

Clash Day 1 - Iron Arena and Building a Second List

Okay, so Clash for a Cure is a great little con in Texas that raises money for cancer research and cancer patients. As a cancer survivor myself, I can definitely support that. The main event is the Texas Masters Rumble, with qualifiers throughout the year in cities all over Texas and about half the spots saved for qualifiers in SR tournaments at Clash itself. I qualified back in March

Coming into Clash, I had hardly played a single game in the past month. I wasn't very hopeful for my chances at winning, especially since I only had 1 list I knew I wanted to play in the Masters - Vyros1. My second list had been a double Sentinel Kaelyssa list, but I didn't have the second unit of Sentinels to make that work. Also, Kaelyssa is kind of frustrating because there are so many points of failure in her play, but that's a topic for another time. 

On day 1, I lazily got up, cleaned the kitchen for my wife, then drove down to Waco, arriving maybe half an hour after the second tournament pod had started. I played in the Iron Arena for kicks all day, mostly running Garryth with an AFG because I've never played the AFG in MK3. It was actually a lot of fun! I don't know that I'd ever take it to a tournament, as I still think Garryth doesn't do enough for his army and is predictable in his threat ranges, but it was a lot of fun.

Towards the end of the day, I still didn't have a second list. I decided to roll for it. 9 casters, roll a d3 to pick with triplet to go with, then another d3 to pick the specific caster. 2, then a 1. Rahn. My old flame from MK2 who I hadn't played since MK2. Oh baby.

I have no idea how to build a Rahn list anymore, so I decided to add more randomness to the mix. A group of my friends played 3 rounds of Ship Captain Crew, the winner getting to add anything to my list. I got... Hyperion, Skeryth, and NAYL. I filled out the rest of the list and went for it, expecting to lose round 1.

I didn't realize it was ADR until just before lists were due. The only ADR option I cared about at all was Lanyssa for Vyros1 instead of the Healer. Everything else in there was junk I never planned on using.

Round 1 - Rahn vs. Avery's Vlad1

So remember that Rahn list I let other people build? Avery gave me Skeryth and Nayl. This game was recorded, but the entire time Avery kept muttering, "please don't let me get Nayl'd on camera, PLEASE don't let me get Nayl'd...". I'm not sure which list was the right choice for me, but it was too tempting to play Rahn into the guy who helped me build the list.

I won the roll to go first, looked at the table, and knew I had to pick my side. I named the table Beggar's Canyon, because it looked like a freaking canyon. The side I got had a 7" obstruction and a 9" obstruction right at the deployment zone, leaving me 7" in the middle to fit most of my army through. The other side was worse, if you can believe it. I deployed a unit of Battle Mages on either flank to run around the far sides of the obstructions and everything else centrally, intending to have Hyperion get up quickly and not box everything in.

Round 1

Vlad and his army ran forward, but not close enough that Rahn could kill him. I ran my Phoenix forward, hoping to TK and pull Behemoth out of control range of Malakov, but miscalculated how far my Mages could reach. I ended up TKing the Phoenix, Chain Blasting a few Winterguard with good deviations, and putting Polarity Shield on Hyperion. Everything else runs, with Nayl getting into the edge of his zone. Come here, Vlad!

Round 2

Vlad walks up to cast Signs and Portents, then camps on 3. I'm already planning on killing him after he does this. Behemoth and the Winterguard kill my Phoenix after some low damage, then kill one Battle Mage on the left, angering Skeryth. He ends with a few Winterguard in front of Vlad, but one is less than an inch in front of him.

It's go time! Rahn keeps all his focus. Sylys walks up and whispers sweet nothings in Rahn's ears. Rahn walks around Hyperion, feats, casts a RNG 14" Force Hammer with 4 dice drop the lowest on the Winterguard, and slams him 1" into Vlad. He then TKs himself back and Skeryth forward. My Battle Mages cleverly form a conga line and drag Vlad between his buddies, taking him down to 2 HP. I let a Ghost Sniper have the honors of killing him. But if that didn't work, I had an angry Skeryth and a fully fueled Hype in walking distance ready to finish the job.

At least he didn't get Nayl'd on camera.

Round 2 - Vyros1 vs. Adam Lebo's Kaya2

The table next to me was Wurmwood vs. Skorne's something or other. I thought Skorne was going to win, but he didn't. At this point, I had already exceeded my expectations, so I jokingly said to my friends, "my goal now is to lose, unless I get the Wurmwood player. I have to beat him."

I got the Wurmwood player.

If there is a single matchup I know in Warmachine, it is Ret vs. Wurmwood and his pair. For months, I've worked with Bret Fogel to prep him for the WTC, and lost a ton. But in my trials, I have developed a deep understanding of how to play into Circle as Ret. That's where my Vyros1 list came from in the first place.

I drop Vyros1, and he correctly picks Kaya2 against me. It's not favored for him, but it's certainly better than Wurmwood would have been. I use ADR the only time here, swapping the Healer out for Lanyssa. He wins the roll to go first, and makes his first mistake of the game - he chooses table side, giving me first turn.

This is after my turn, top of 1. He hasn't activated yet, and I'm at the 23" line.

Round 1

"I should've gone first," Adam says when he sees how fast my army is. There's no killbox, but if anything moves up, I'm going to be able to charge it. He moves his Sentry Stones up and throw a few sprays my way, doing a little damage.

Round 2

I mostly spend some charges killing the Sentry Stones, and I think I charge his Ghetorix with 1 or 2 Griffons. Vyros channels a Stranglehold onto the Stalker and lands it. Lanyssa sits on the left flag, but I forget to move my last Griffon to get the other one. Oops.

Unfortunately, Adam miscounted his Fury, and leaves 1 on Ghetorix. He spikes the frenzy check, and loses Ghetorix for a turn. Ouch. He now only has 2 heavies who can do anything this turn. Kaya tries to move up, but avoids getting too close. He gets some solid attacks onto my Griffons, killing one and almost getting another. His Lanyssa approaches my right side while the Blackclad gets within 4" of my left flag to contest.

Round 3

It's feat time! But not without mistakes. I planned on Strangleholding the Stalker again, then killing all 3 of his other beasts, effectively ending the game right then and there just by how far up on attrition I'd be. However, I stupidly don't activate my 2 health Griffon to get him out of combat with the Stalker before casting Stranglehold. I get lucky, though, and it ends up hitting his other wolf as the secondary target, doing 9 damage. I also get in my own way at one point, saving his Feral, but I do manage to kill the Pureblood and Ghetorix. Sadly, my 4 Infiltrator attacks fail to kill his Blackclad, needing 6's to hit and dice - 2 on damage, so I get no control points on the left, but I get I think an Arcanist on the right. I end by throwing my Chimera way off to the right to kill Lanyssa.

With only 2 beasts, he ends up losing one to a frenzy. Still, he manages to do some significant damage to my Griffons, removing a few and using his Stalker to contest the right flag, though he did end up running them pretty hot out of necessity. 

Round 4

Chimera Apparitions back in a bit. I Stranglehold his Stalker again, and so a little damage to him. On the left, I take out the Blackclad, and get 3 Infiltrators on Kaya, all missing their attacks. I think this is where I take out his Feral and put some damage on his objective. I'm up to 2 points.

His Stalker frenzies, which means he breaks out of Stranglehold and charges... his own Shifting Stone, killing it. Yay! His remaining 2 Shifting Stones contest the left flag, and Kaya puts more damage into my stuff with Laris, but not enough.

Round 5

Griffons kill the objective, the Sphinx kills the Shifting Stones, and Vyros charges the Stalker with a Flank bonus from the Chimera to end him. Sylys claims my other flag, granting me 3 more CP and the game.

Game state at the end, sans Stalker in front of Vyros on the right because he just died.

I felt very in control of this game. My third turn should have gone better, but even with that, things went great for me. I got dice where I needed them and took advantage of going first. Even with my mistakes, I was very satisfied with this game.

Round 3 - Vyros1 vs. Karl Jones' Lylyth3

I've known Karl for quite a long time since he was originally a DFW Warboy. He liked Lylyth3 in MK2, and he's been championing her since. However, she was not the correct drop into my lists. She was the necessary one, because he had played his Rhyas list twice already and didn't want to get list locked in the finals. Divide and Conquer sucks. 

I win the roll to go first and go first. 

Round 1

I run everything forward. Surprising no one. Inviolable Resolve goes on Vyros instead of the Sphinx, and the Healer stays just within 5. I'm scared of Lylyth's assassination. 

Karl retaliates by attacking my Griffons, putting some significant damage on them if not killing them.

Round 2

I had moved my Chimera from the right flank to the left after seeing where he deployed, and was glad I did. I decided that the absolute best way to protect Vyros from assassination... was to Stranglehold Lylyth herself. I ran the Chimera within 10" of her and landed the Stranglehold. Vyros was safe for a turn! Probably! He still camped 2. I spent the rest of the turn killing the Hellmouth tentacles, but not the Hellmouth itself. I throw a Griffon into Lylyth, then another took a freestrike from the Hellmouth and lost its generator, losing the necessary Pathfinder to get to Lylyth. Oops. Vyros ends on his own flag to dominate on Karl's turn if he doesn't get in.

Karl played this very intelligently and used his Deathstalkers to go after my Arcanists. The first one missed, but the second killed 2 of the Arcanists. He pumped some shots into the Chimera  to kill it and got his Carnivean in the zone punching Griffons. Nothing contests my flag, so I go to 1 point.

Round 3

I feat, but don't get nearly enough out of it honestly. I only have some unsupported Griffons attacking the Carnivean, so he doesn't go down like I had wanted. I do manage to kill the Hellmouth, though, and Infiltrators kill both Deathstalkers. Without the Chimera, I decide I really need to get Stranglehold on something. I pick Typhon. My Sphinx walks up, lands the boosted 10 to hit with his gun, does no damage. Now with the +3 range from the Sphinx shot and +2 from Sylys, Vyros has a RNG 15" Stranglehold! He lands it on Typhon, camps 2 on the flag with IR up, and passes the turn. I go to 2 points.

Karl decides attrition is unwinnable at this point. I'm not certain I agree with him, but I'm definitely looking at scenario, and he's running out of stuff to get to contest my flag. He premeasures an assassination and realizes that if he goes for it, he will 100% have to killbox himself. He either kills Vyros, or I get 3 CP and win the game. Because Inviolable Resolve stops pushing, he can't even push Vyros off the flag with his Bolt Thrower. His Naga starts by putting Wraithbane on Lylyth. He moves Lylyth up and shoots my Healer with a Far Strike boosted 7, killing her easily on a 4. He feats, then lands Lylyth's second shot on Vyros. Now he's stationary, but hasn't taken much damage thanks to his focus and dice. His Seraph walks up and spins up his gun for... 1 shot. Ouch. It hits, but rolls low on damage. The Bolt Thrower hit, but also doesn't do much damage. Finally, his Carnivean takes some free strikes, losing an aspect, shoots, and doesn't do nearly enough to kill. He ends turn and I win.

DC1 and low dice definitely stacked this game against Karl. I got a really favorable matchup against him. I made up for a few mistakes with really good Strangleholds and some solid dice where I needed them with proper positioning of most of my stuff. I was scared of the assassination for the entire game, but Karl played it well and kept me on my toes.

Round 4 - Vyros1 vs. Julien's Doomy3

After expecting to lose first round, I'm in the finals! Yay! But it's against Julien, a very skilled opponent I've played against before, and he's playing a faction I have less experience against. Since he has Doomy3, I decide that Rahn is not an option at all. Implacability just has too much potential to screw up my Rahn plan without practice. 

I win the roll to go first, and choose first. Julien stays on his side of the table, we deploy, and begin.

Top of 1. Should look fairly familiar.

Round 1

Everything I've got runs forward with Inviolable Resolve on the Sphinx my daughter painted. I figure with the potential for slams, throws, and other shenanigans, keeping the Sphinx in one place with immunity to pushes and slam distance is a good idea. The armor probably won't save him against POW stupid trolls if they get to him, but that's okay. I hope.

Julien has his army run forward with the min Warders running in front of his Mauler and Axer on my right. The Gobber Chef in his list runs to the FAR right side, not even shown in the picture, clearly intending to have him contest the right zone. His Fire Eaters make a few spray attacks on one of the Griffons to do some superficial damage and plug the whole on the left zone, while everything else runs behind them. Most importantly, Doomy3 drops all 7 Fury on the Krielstone, then gets as close as he can.

round 2

Okay, a lot of things happen here. First, I notice that Doomy is close enough to get charged by 3 (!!!) Griffons, and he's on zero camp, though I couldn't get an Infiltrator on him to really seal the deal. Because of Bird's Eye, I can attack through the Mulg screening for him. I just need to kill the two Fire Eaters blocking the way first. I decide to go for it, but keep 3 on Vyros so he can Stranglehold something if it doesn't work out.

One Griffon charges a Fire Eater, and he toughs. I have another Griffon charge the other one, killing him, then use the Sphinx gun to shoot and kill the knocked down Fire Eater. I realize that with this, I don't have a good enough charge lane to get all 3 Griffons in there. 2, sure, but 3 would be tricky. I could have allocated attacks and positioned better to kill both Fire Eaters more effectively, and in retrospect I probably still could have pulled it off if I just cast Mobility. But I decide that it's too risky and I have a better path to victory, so I scrap the plan and try to minimize my losses. Vyros channels a Stranglehold onto the Mauler and lands it, everything else repositions to counterattack. Honestly, these were all probably the wrong decisions, more or less, but more on that later.

Mulg retaliates by getting Rage and outright killing my 2 Griffons. I think I lost a third that got too close to his Earthborn on the left. His Chef runs into the zone on the right, Warders charge, and Doomy feats.

Round 3

I had never played against Doomy3 in MK3. Starting out my turn, I wonder to myself if my feated Sphinx can kill his feated Mulg. I go for an experiment without doing the math behind it, and end up falling fairly far short of killing Mulg in the end, even with dice spikes. On the right, I keep the zone contested and make some attacks that honestly weren't very important, and keep Stranglehold on his Mauler, barely doing the single point of damage necessary to keep him out of the game.

Doomy's army strikes back again, killing my Sphinx, Chimera, and more Griffons. Doomy uses his scroll to make spells cost double, and passes turn very far on attrition.

Round 4

I measure the charge distance to Doomy from Vyros, and he's just barely outside of 10". I need to cast Mobility to get to him. He's 13/17 with 2 transfers, I can get 1 fully fueled Griffon on him from Arcanists alone, then Vyros can Mobility and charge him with the Flank bonus for Vyros. MAT 10 POW 14 Weapon Master should do it! The Griffon charges, hits twice, and does a solid amount of damage. I then activate Vyros, who casts Mobility. Julien reminds me that it costs double because of his scroll. Oops. He graciously offered to let me take it back, but I decline. I can't say the whole way that played out was controversial - Julien is a great guy, and after making sure that by the rules the 6 focus counted as spent, that's how we played it. Honestly at that point it didn't matter anymore. Vyros charges and tries to finish off Mulg with his single attack and fails, then I concede. Even if I had taken it back, the game was still lost. At best, Vyros would have tried to finish of Mulg and then kills his Earthborn, which would have been difficult. There was a Pyre that would have been behind him and Doomy himself in front of him, and the rest of my army was destroyed enough that it didn't matter. If I had remembered that scroll at the start, I would have used the Griffon and Vyros to finish off both his heavies on that side and hope to keep Vyros alive long enough to try something else next turn.

Matchup Analysis

My inexperience against Trolls showed pretty strongly in this game. Talking it over with Julien afterwards, he pointed out that if I had channeled a Stranglehold onto his Chef and moved my whole army to the right side (which I could easily do) I would have been in a very commanding position. He then would have had to feat, and I had plenty of room to back up and wait until next round when I could retaliate without his healing to block me off. I also could have made the top of 2 assassination work if I had played it right, and I should have forced his army to come to me instead of running right at him. Discussing it afterwards, Julient felt that Vyros was favored in the matchup, which honestly surprised me. But Vyros going first is a huge deal that swings the game heavily in his favor.

Wrap up Analysis and 3 Unpopular Opinions

I came into the tournament expecting nothing and did so much better. I'm really proud of how well I did, especially against such great opponents. Clash was a seriously good time, even if the terrain was ridiculous to play on. I still don't know what I want to pair with my Vyros list, but I am stunned at how good it is. Speaking of how good Vyros 1 is, let's move on to my Unpopular Opinions...

Opinion 1: Let me say this right up front - Vyros 1 is horribly underrated. He is incredibly strong, scary, and unique. He is a power caster that very few people seem to have recognized. I stumbled into this list because I needed something that could play against Wurmwood well, and I've discovered that it is astonishingly powerful. I might try a few variants by switching up the heavy or getting a second heavy out of the Griffons, but I have had a hard time finding bad matchups for it so far. It's insanely fast, can ignore forests and clouds with Pathfinder models (something very rare these days), hits really accurately at a possible boosted MAT 10, and hits above its weight class when it really needs to. Additionally, Vyros 1 himself in the late game has a very credible threat to kill heavies or casters with a crippled Griffon granting him Flank. Inviolable Resolve's ability to negate pushes and slam distance is situationally brilliant, but it always has the welcome armor. Lastly, Stranglehold gives you the ability to shut down your opponent's biggest, most important model turn after turn. You don't even have to win by attrition with Vyros, just go for scenario with the intense pressure, jamming, and control. Vyros 1 is a power caster Ret players should absolutely consider if you have some Griffons you feel like shooting across the board and Infiltrators you want to play.

Opinion 2: Vyros 1 is the better Vyros. This is probably the weakest of my opinions here, but not because it's less correct. Vyros 1 and Vyros 2 just do wildly different things, to the point where pairing them together isn't the worst idea in the world (still not a good idea, just not the worst). Vyros 1 wants to play so fast and aggressive (supplemented by the absurd Stranglehold) that your opponent can't push off the pressure he applies until after he's won on scenario or attrition. Vyros 2 wants to bring a more mixed army that isn't afraid of ranged attacks and filled with Sentinels or ponies while building Synergy with a few jacks. The playstyle for these two are very different, and I can totally understand why someone would pick Vyros 2 over 1 because they prefer that playstyle. But I absolutely believe that Vyros 1 is stronger overall.

Opinion 3: Infiltrators are underappreciated. When I saw their MK3 rules, I was disappointed. They still didn't have a real CA, lost a rule, and gained nothing. Not even AD! I just wanted them to be fast. Well, I was wrong. As a round 3 or 4 unit, Infiltrators are really good. MAT 8 with 2 attacks means they're great at removing difficult solos or even threatening casters. At POW 11 charges, they can put a few damage points onto lights or heavies. With Blessed, they get by the stuff that troubles the rest of your army. With Pathfinder, they get to path find. And at DEF 14, they are hard to deal with after your army has engaged all your opponents AOEs. Part of why they work so well with this list is that they are actually slower than the Griffons they support. If they had AD or were faster, they'd get mulched as a mediocre tarpit. But since the Griffons are the main threat, they have been the most pleasant surprise out of this list for me. If you can get them to late game, they become a real steal for 13 points. Oh, yeah, and they're 13 points! That's 1.3 points per dude! That's CHEAP! They aren't for every list, but for their niche, they're shockingly good.

Again, I had a lot of fun, and I'm really proud of how I did considering how out of practice and overall tired I felt going into the tournament. This was an especially gratifying few days that reminded me why I love doing this blog, why I love our Warmachine community, and why I love playing Ret. Agree, disagree, or just want to chat about Warmachine, always feel free to hit me up on Twitter or Facebook. Because I love you guys.