Author: Nick Leland
Mark 3 is upon us, We’ve all got a ton of practice to go through, but here’s what I’ve learned so far to help out an enterprising Mercenary player. A few key concepts changed from MK2 to MK3 across the board, biggest of all is that everybody is going to be bringing a few heavies, or scores of lights, and Mercs has to figure out how to deal with that. Armor Crack is required in every merc list now, whereas we could usually count on not seeing too much heavy armor outside of some specific factions. Pre measuring also means that threat ranges will be well known before anything gets declared, and you’ll already know if you’ll fail that charge or succeed, hell, your opponent will know before the turn even starts. That means to us that speed is our almighty now. With exceptions, we’ll be winning the threat range game by being faster than the other guy. The last major meta shift I can see is that everybody is going to have a few more high POW ranged options with them, so having a strong plan for anti-ranged will be important.
Mercenaries have gone through some changes from mk2 to mk3, a few synergies are different, removed altogether, or added. We’ll run through a quick list of winners, losers, and weirdies. These are entirely subjective of course, but I’ll do my best to explain.
The Mangler, the Nomad, and the Rover. From humble beginnings come Merc warjacks. The mangler Warjack in MK2 was a forgettable upgrade to the Nomad, offering Thresher and Chain Weapon for a bunch more points. In MK3, He’s picked up more POW on both weapons, and Aggressive, making him one of the single most efficient heavies in the faction. The Nomad stayed cheap, and gained strength. Nothing at all wrong with him. And the Rover, Picking up Shield Guard, having great base POW, 3 initials, and now 1” reach all make him wonderful.
Idrians: Idrian Skirmishers make for an excellent combined arms force, and now that they can be played in any Mercenary force, rather than a just a few theme forces, they’ve got a place in many lists. At base RAT 7 POW 13 against their Prey target, they’ve got an excellent place to be, and they’ve totally replaced Nyss Hunters in all my list building.
Alten Ashley, Kell Bailoch, Eiryss1: These three form a wonderful triumvirate of sniping. Between the three of them, you can now place 12+d3 damage at specific points on a warbeast that can’t be healed, which is perfect for removing spirits, minds, what have you. Even against warjacks, the number just drops to 9 + a pow 12, and with the changes to grievous wounds on Alten’s gun, that warjack can’t be repaired, a great way to take out arms or movement on damaged jacks.
Wrong Eye & Snapjaw, Dahlia Hallyr & Skarath, Rorsh & Brine: These three lesser warlocks picked up great stock in MK3, WE+SJ picked up Star Crossed, of all things, massively increasing melee defense potential, and Snapjaw picked up power, all while Submerge dropped in cost. Dahlia and Skarath are models most people never saw in MK2, and they’ve reached a great point, With Skarath gaining an additional dice on attacks on models in his control, and Paralysis on his bite, he’s now a massive threat to lightly armored warbeasts, warlocks, and warcasters. Rorsh and Brine are even still special here, With Brine picking up Extended Control range, he can now range much further from Rorsh, and of special note, these two are some of the very few models that kept the ability to double move. Brun and Lug? Sorry fellas, got a little worse.
Alexia 1: Alexia used to be a mainstay of the faction, with great, cheap recursion, and the ability to take a heavy herself with any of a dozen buffs. Unfortunately, in mk3, Alexia1 picked up Spell Ward, and lost Arcane Interference. As much as I like Alexia, she can only work in a handful of lists now.
Morrowans: Nothing much changed about the Morrowans, and that’s kind of the problem. Precursor Knights still have Spell Ward, and still don’t have any additional reach. Constance Blaize got nerfed, of all things, and while Gallant got a little better, he gained Animosity: Thamarite. The Thamarite options available to Mercs are simply way too strong to ignore, and while Harlan Versh still has Blessed, a better Purgation, and d3+1 rof, he’s not strong enough to justify removing all the Thamarite support.
Steelhead Heavy Cavalry: Steelhead Cav, and even Steelheads in general, got a little worse. Losing Backswing for them, Losing full reach down to 1”, and losing Verendrye affecting their armor means that Steelhead Heavy Cavalry are now just another third rate cavalry unit. The Halberdiers didn’t change too much, but without the heavy cav to clean up hard targets, they have a tough time justifying their existence. Oddly, Steelhead Rifles seem to be the best out of the Steelhead package, now. They went down in cost, and didn’t lose anything.
The Expensive Rhulic Jacks: They didn’t pick up nearly enough to justify their tiny speed and 1” reach. The Rockram, and the Avalancher just don’t justify their expense, especially as compared to even other Dwarf options.
The Cheap Dwarf Heavies: Dwarves did gain some fantastically cheap options for heavies, the Basher and the Driller are both astoundingly cheap for being fully functional heavies, and their may be some use to them, though they’re still speed 4, and just as weird as they ever were.
Thor Steinhammer: Thor both gained and dropped. He lost his magnificent Pronto, that made Rhulic stuff actually get there, and traded Tune Up all damage or attack rolls for Tune Up both on the first attack. He’s not bad, but I don’t know if he’s necessary for Rhulic jacks anymore.
Cephalyx in general: Talk about the elephant-headed psychic abomination in the room. Thexus was, in my opinion, the best Merc caster in MK2, and while he didn’t change much, his faction changed massively around him. The average drudge lost about 3 effective power, Cephalyx unit leaders went from almost impossible to pull out with ranged to “Do you ignore Stealth at all?” While it gives them a little more game against magic, it’s still incredibly different. Bafflingly, the Warden and Subduer didn’t change at all, staying exactly as pointless as ever when compared to a Wrecker. Cephalyx are probably still a great asset to the faction, but with character restrictions gone, and Cephalyx being so different, it will likely be a while before they become a tournament mainstay again.
So those are our highlights of what’s significantly different. There’s tons more. Devil Dogs are still pointless, and Horgenhold Artillery Corps gained a ton of power, but there’s too much to rank individually. I think every Merc caster has a competitive place in MK3, and while I’m certain there are highs and lows, here’s three lists that I’ve been tooling around with that have performed exceptionally well.
Mags 2 Riches
- Magnus 2
- Idrian Skirmishers + Idrian Chieftain and Guide
- Wrong Eye and Snapjaw
- Kell Bailoch
- Alten Ashley
- The Ragman
- Rhupert Carvolo
- Gorman Di Wulfe
Magnus 2?! What is this madness. Magnus Picked up so much in MK3, even though the changes were all small, individually. Field Marshal: Unyielding, and picking it up himself, gives him an astonishing arm 19 to melee while standing, which is just incredible. He traded Mobility for Escort, which, though it lowers his personal threat, means he can actually camp a couple, cast Calamity, and still have his jacks moving at speed 7. What’s more, Escort brings his armor up to 19 in general, and a wonderful 21 to melee. Idrians benefitting from a Calamity’d Prey target are Rat 9 Pow 15, which is plenty enough to kill just about anything. Wrong Eye and Snapjaw are your melee defense, making the Def 13 Idrians effectively somewhere between DEF 15 and 16, while being all but unshootable themselves. Rhupert Carvolo hands out Pathfinder or Concealment to your list as needed, as he changed to model/unit. This list plays a tight game of melee and ranged control, giving you a ton of options to deal with your enemies, as long as you can protect your key models. It’s important to remember that Magnus himself is ludicrously powerful in the late game. If he can keep his Rover or even Renegade alive, he can bully his way across the field to any caster less threatening than a Thyron, and maybe just outright destroy them. If he can get Calamity onto a caster, and enable Backstab, it’s entirely possible that he can kill them regardless of spending focus to overboost.
- Durgen Madhammer
- Kayazy Assassins + Underboss
- Devil’s Shadow Mutineers
- Herne and Jonne
- Artillery Corps X 2
- Bloody Bradigan
- Lanyssa Ryssyl
This Durgen list cranks the guns up as hard as you can, backed with some very sneaky melee threats. Durgen himself is well capable of removing great masses of infantry with Carpet Bomb, especially on his feat. The Blasters with Powerful Attack and Continuous Fire mean nothing is really safe from them, as long as they can reach. Reinholdt turns off Stealth, or adds yet another explosive bomb to the field. The Kayazy still benefit wonderfully from Primed, and with the changes to them, minifeat Backstab with constant Parry means they have a great chance to end anything that gets near them. Herne and Jonne are an old staple for Durgen lists, and they didn’t change, with the exception of picking up Artillerist, enabling even better support of the earth breaker or Durgen. The two artillery Corps Units offer a long range 4 dice shot on the feat turn, again, with Artillerist, if needed, to wipe anything heavy off the map. Lanyssa Ryssyl is general infantry support here, Trying to get Hunter's Mark on things for the Kayazy Assassins, removing Pathfinder, what have you. The last module is interesting, Devil’s Shadow and Bloody Bradigan. Bradigan picked up a ton in MK3, keeping weapon master, and gaining Flank(Sea Dog). As a late game threat, Bradigan can be mat 11, pow 11 double weapon master with two attacks and Crit Knockdown. For reference, that’s about 13 points of damage on an arm 20 heavy. Even more fun is Stumbling Drunk with Primed, becoming kind of a hilarious game of “where will he explode?” While there are probably better options for the points that Devil’s Shadow and Bradigan take up, they’re tremendously fun.
Fionna the Back
- Wrong Eye and Snapjaw
- Devil’s Shadow Mutineers
- Idrian Skirmishers + Idrian Chieftain and Guide
- Commodore Cannon
- Lord Rockbottom
- Alexia 2
This list is a little weirder, a little tighter. Fiona the Black benefits a ton from character restrictions being blown open. This list has a few primary objectives: deliver Galleon to melee on the feat turn, and Commodore things you don’t like. Similar to the Magnus 2 List, this one uses Idrians and WE+SJ to march up the field in relative safety. Unlike that one, it’s backed by a ludicrous range cannon that sees through literally everything under Nonokrion Brand. Fiona picked up some fun jank, too. Her cultists rule now says she can spend models from a Privateer unit to upkeep spells. In this list, it’s the Devil’s Shadow, who spend dudes to upkeep one of her four spells, then Zira shoots them back into existence to do it again next turn. WAIT. DON'T DO THAT. Fiona's ability to upkeep spells removes a model from play, so Zira can't bring them back. So make someone else the Cultists, but Devil's Shadow are still pretty great generally. Rockbottom pulls double duty here, improving both the Shadow and the Cannon. Fiona has a spectacular synergy with the Idrian Skirmishers. Her Roth’s Mercy spell says basically “when a model in this unit is disabled, you can pick any other model in this unit to be disabled instead” which might as well read “The guide will be the last to die.” being unable to lose Prey for them, outside of tricky situations, can make their unit much much better. Alexia 2 provides some great spot removal, some great scenario presence, as well as offering three weapon masters, as long as you’re playing against people with souls for you. Finally, there’s something grimly satisfying about Fiona’s feat backed with Star Crossed. Allowing your opponent to roll two dice, drop the highest to hit, is some wonderful kind of mean.
So there’s three Mk3 lists that look great to me, and I’ll enjoy playing them, as well as making dozens more. Mercs stayed the jankiest faction in Warmachine. And while there’s a ton of silly spam that’s coming, Mercs can keep it weird in ways that other factions will always have to respect.