Monday, 21 December 2015

What's in the box!!? - Arcanist Mei Feng

Mills, you look a little different...
New master, new box contents. Arcanist Feng is a completely different beast to Yan Lo, swapping out sheer durability and a static web a models for a more spread out team of scheme runners, solo beat sticks and a heap of burning to take advantage of. Lets go to check out the Rail system.

Mei Feng - Mei Feng actually has a number of choices when it comes to upgrade selection, the only auto-include is Seismic Claws for that sweet sweet combo action, then a (not very) tough choice of whether or not to use Arcane Reservoir; after that it's up to my opponent. If I suspect they're playing with incorporeal or ranged game, Vapormancy is a must and with the Vent Steam trigger making Ca & Sh actions that much harder. Marker manipulation? Thunderous Smash can lead a hand, deleting with ease all common markers, if it's a more lower end defense crew I'm facing, Price of Progress or Recharge Soulstone to take advantage of the situation and of course, the ever-present Instill Energy if I need a even more Ap. Lots of options but it makes for crucial decisions during the list building step, I can't take upgrades for the fun of it then find out they aren't being used whatsoever.

Emberling - Unlike push totems, Emberling won't feature in every list but as a Wk5 significant Incorporeal 3ss model, it has merit to scheme run if necessary. Depending on my opponent's models and their damage output, I could charge into a model (10" threat range) lay 0-4 burning on it then have Feng join in and get her +damage flip against them without having to spend her own trigger, end of turn via Stoke the Flames the burning deals damage and doesn't fall off.
Amazing if this actually happened but it's nice to think about if the situation comes up.
His Cool Down ability is far too costly but it's worth a blind flip if there's nothing else to do.

Kang - A model with mixed reactions. He is a tank to take down and hit's like one too but damn is he slow with average threat range and head of the Wk4 club. His Rousing Speech and The Worker's Champion buffs are the main reason I would take him, against horror duels, undead or constructs he's turns the regular model into a real threat... if he could just get up the board, which is why I take...

The Captain - If there's one crutch I have in Arcanists, it's this guy. Being able to increase my deployment zone by 5" for up to three models and generally assisting models afterwards makes The Captain a hard cut. If I'm already filling my ranks with 10ss-12ss he can stay at home but if I require speed over brawn, The Captain w/ Patron's Blessing is at my side.

Joss - Playing Arcanists? Give me two good reasons why you aren't packing Joss. He's got decent defenses, one of which grants him reactivate, an Axe which ignores all common barriers and a (2) action God Punch with 5/8/10 damage  that can paralyze and can turn dead targets into Mei Feng bounce pads (as well as being one himself). Such a good model and a hard cut when he doesn't fit a list (for some strange reason).

Howard LangstonPsst, if Frame for Murder is in the pool and I've hired Howard, he's the guy you have to kill to give me 2 or 3 vp. Tell no one.
Hank is unfortunately the model that does a lot but never survives the game. In the past I've used him as a scheme runner, as who the heck is going to mess with him but that's 12ss/13ss for a job that could be done by a model who's a third less expensive. Not this time round.
Terrifying (Living) 12 and Armor +1 are not wonderful buffers against an average def/wp but Nimble with Flurry are evil and having an easy Decapitate trigger going off with those three attacks is a model killer right there. In the future I need to pick and choose my targets and avoid using a quarter of my list as one scheme runner.

December Acolyte - From the Shadows with the ability to slow models and force discards is the primary reason I love bringing these guys so much. Their Smell Weakness is situational as if the Acolyte is on the table they are a massive target but when it comes into play against a target already in combat it turns that difficult to end model into a plate of instant mash potato. Lacks any synergy with Feng out of weakness smelling but when it offers this much to a crew, it doesn't need any.
Psst also a Frame for Murder choice...

Metal Garmin - Ouch These guys took a beating with errata, nonetheless, against a crew that can't deal with armor these guys can hold the fort quite well and against constructs they provide a basically unbeatable 2 damage snipe attack through Magnetism (16" - 24" threat range)One of the most famous members of the Wk4 clubhouse, so again, it limits my choices when list-building. They've changed from an auto-include to a defensive model protector and that's fine, their job has changed drastically yes but they still have a place in my lists and for rail-walking purposes they're golden.
Take it away!

Moleman - What another non-construct!?
I like Molemen for their sheer fanatical dedication to solely one thing: The Mole Train! A pair of leap-frogging Molemen can cover a field in scheme markers and only long ranged armor busters can deal with it. Keep them out of the action and watch the markers hit the floor. Only really helpful for Breakthrough, Plant Explosive/Evidence and Protect Territory though, otherwise they do 8ss worth of nothing. 

The Firestarter
- His (most of the time) 3Ap and Flight makes him wonderfully mobile and if I really need an activated non-armored target to die at the end of the turn, pouring some tomes and soulstones on a model can almost always place a death mark on a model in question. Very fragile so I have to ensure he stays out of the way otherwise but for Vp gaining, this guy is a fantastic all-rounder for Arcanists.

Coryphee - The Coryphee's movement is ridiculous. As scheme runners and sometimes more importantly: Scheme hunters, you can't ask for a faster model, this speed with their native +flips to their def6 with Armor makes them hard to take down in one hit and so long as they aren't in the thick of things, they do their intended role perfectly. This is to say nothing about the complete absurdity that is the Coryphee Duet but sometimes a 14ss model is a lot to ask out of a list unless it's going to win this game all by itself.

Gunsmith - With all this burning going around, the Gunsmiths have a field day of triggers, random as they may be and also the heavily overlooked defense from those same burning models. Successfully ignite a model and the Gunsmiths are shooting better at it and have double +flips to any retaliation against them, which normally gives Smiths Fast or piles on more burning. Having some more anti-armor/HTK tech to go alongside Joss is icing on the cake.

Mechanical Rider - Sometimes you just want marker based schemes won. Pro-terri, Breakthrough, Power Ritual, both Plants, you just want to say "Yes I've won them" and Mech Rider has a high chance of doing just that. With the new errata on Metal Garmin you can even summon more than one thing now, giving it much more options. Just gotta keep it out of the limelight until turn 3, otherwise it goes down pretty darn easily.

Johan - Condition removal is big, being able to end ALL of them from a 10" range is even better. A 4+ of rams isn't guaranteed every turn but it's a least a decent probability so if my models are rooted, poisoned, etc etc the M&SU Merc has my back. A member of the Wk4 club so it does limit my options if I require Johan but with Finish the Job, a Relic hammer and flurry so long as he's where he needs to be, he hits hard. 

Blessed of December - When possible, I always bring a leaping model in the box purely for times when Stake a Claim rears it's head or my regular scheme runners are likely to have their armor ignored. The shields to her wounds are almost non-existent but if needed she has a pretty mean attack that can heal so for backfield purposes she performs well.

Fire Garmin - Cheap, ranged burning with a melee that gives burning and a def trigger that gives burning and upon death, gives burning...
Damage is sub-standard but the Garmin aren't here for damage, they are here to set up the rest of the crew for burning goodness.

- I have to be honest, I've never had luck with Wille the Demo man but that was due to who I was throwing him up against. Ideally I want him going against def5 or armored targets, as anyone else sort of chuckles at Wille's attempts at offense. His LOS ignoring attack Demo Charge is fine but going down to Sh4 kills it unless it's the very last activation or I just want to plink some cards out of the opponent's hand. Ranged attacks also drop him so he's going to be bunkered down at Sh4 anyway. sigh I want to try him out as the times I have seen across from me he's made an impact in the game so I think he just needs the right table.

Can't stay long, Mills says there's a club he wants to take me to, says he can't talk about it though. 

Have fun out there.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Derailed - Improvement Works may Delay this Journey

Out of all the base strategies, Reconnoiter is my absolute favorite to play.
Turf War is a rush to the 6" outskirts to then do the old west shoot-out, Reckoning is dull when killing dudes was what folks were planning on doing anyway, Stake a Claim comes up very rarely and when it does it turns into Insanity Breakthrough and Squatter's Rights? Actually I really enjoy Squatter's Rights as well, I'm just not very good at it.

Reconnoiter simply excels at giving me everything I want in a game. Model positioning, being aware of every model in the game and thinking about what actions to take based on the enemies own movements. Reckoning and Turf War? It's a clash in the middle whilst scheme runners are praying no one takes heed of them whilst Squatters, despite my enjoyment of it regardless, is much the same: Run the center line, split some wigs.
Recon on the other hand turns the game into a tense battle of wits as melee and ranged attack actions carry very real weight when it comes to turn end to tally up table quarters. It's a great kind of tension when you think you've got it all worked out then realized all too late you've got yourself a model standing on a quarter line or the dead zone with nothing to show for it. Rasputina is a straight-up cold-hearted killer in Recon and Ironsides is a Super Massive Black Hole of split lips and bruised bones that no-one can escape. If I had a choice, Recon Corner deployment every time.

Mei Feng, when it comes down to it, is pretty much a good all-rounder in either Ten Thunders or Arcanists when it comes to strategies. She has decent killing potential and given correct positioning can really lay on the death of a thousand fists when required. She's also mobile enough to be where you need her to be. In Quarters Control she can move to different zones with ease and ensure that each zone is taken care of.

That is until summoners start playing ball in her court.

In West Philadelphia, Undead I raised...

I've never gotten on with Summoners. Perhaps it just isn't my style of play but having a group of models hired solely to bring other models into play seems backwards when you can  hire those very same models at the start and avoid all the faff. That said I have seen first hand what well played summoners can do to a game state, be it weight of numbers or having the right tool for the job for the price of a card (and possibly a Stone). Being able to out-activate an opponent early or mid-game is something no-one should ever dismiss as an advantage, having that same advantage pop up where you really don't need a model popping up, blocking charge lanes and LOS, is the reason why I respect Summoners but also loathe to play against them or with them. I have enough experience using cards effectively in a normal crew but adding in the typically high cost of summoning and spending 2-3 model's activations to do it, I could see myself with 2 great models on board but with no control hand to keep them alive.

Having models bamf in where ever their master wants is obviously a hugely effective tool to have in Recon, in the past, the golden olden days, back in my time, back when I was your age in the yesteryear, before your time, this didn't pose as much as a problem as it does in my modern malifaux, ya gosh-darn young people. Playing blast masters or masters that can lure/change positions of other models means that so long as the death count remains high, I was staying level with each play without going on the backpedal too often. A summoner would summon and I would either kill them dead or place them in a zone that wouldn't score any additional points.

Arcanist Mei Feng cannot do this.

Oh she can get to neighboring zones and layth down the smackth-down, which is fine against non-summoners in Reconnoiter games but the moment the bodies that hit the floor rebound back up like Sir Edwardo Mole-De-Whack, she can't keep up the pace. This isn't so much a weakness in Mei Feng being able to drop models, she can, it's the way she goes about it. Yes I'm throwing out 3x the Ap but that's 3x the amount of chances to get a bad flip I need to cheat or begging the black joker to rear it's head. When Feng zeros in on a model that needs to fly heavenward, she does so by Kensiro's Hundred Crack Fist rather than One Punch Man's...err, Punch. When the dust settles and that beating is replied with "I summon in a new dude" Mei Feng is sent back to square one with less cards and less soulstones. At this juncture she's regulated to Enforcer status for all the good her combination attacks do for the game as a whole and her crew has to do what they were doing anyway, but without a master.

As I've repeated many times, focusing on a single master will result in these things happening, I wouldn't bring Yan Lo to a game against Armor or pushes, I wouldn't bring Mei Feng to a summoning Recon unless they are the only master in my box and I'm knuckling down and rolling with the wave.

I had a grudge match against Mollusq earlier this week. He too has been focusing on one master: Collodi; if you check out his youtube channel you will see a similar story of making mistakes, experimenting with models and upgrades and generally becoming better through those trials and errors. Right now, he is a BEAST with Collodi and if at any point you happen to have a match against him, he will give you an amazing game with the sportsmanship and laughs you expect from a tabletop gamer. He and I first met in a hardcore henchman event and have fought once before when I was playing Yan Lo. Our match this time was:

Reconnoiter w/
A Line in the Sand (Myself, declared)
Protect Territory (Both, declared)
Distract (Mollusq)
Murder Protege

Full report here

My list was:
Mei Feng w/ Seismic Claws, Arcane Reservoir and Imbued Energies
In retrospect, I should have taken Thunderous Smash over Imbued Energies but at the time there was only one main marker based scheme. Looking back, being able to delete those scrap markers Collodi was summoning from would have been a boon. I live and learn.

3ss incorporeal scheme runner, basically as a body who could run up to the center line and take more than one hit.

2x Coryphee
Speed and killing potential against a crew that doesn't have anti-armor was my idea here.

2x Fire Garmin
Wk5 and a good shooting action giving me some range and burning if needed

2X Metal Garmin
I knew I was facing constructs and against those same automatons, Metal Garmin are golden. They may have been nurfed but Magnetism cannot be ignored when your facing 4Wd puppets.

2x Mole Men
With my choice of schemes, I decided that littering the field with markers would help. Looking back now, the terrain wasn't on my side and the Mole Train is better suited for Plant Evidence and Breakthrough rather than Pro-Terri and LITS.

I was going for weight of numbers. In hindsight, with the speed of the Coryphee and long range magnetism of the Metal Garmin, I should have taken Murder Protege and taken out his own Coryphee with ease scoring full points by as early as turn 2 and as you see from Mollusq's bat rep, Distract would have been at the very least Zero sum had I taken it. At that point I could have focused on either a draw game or at least walking models into scoring zones and going defensive.
The thing is, my game plan in Recon (and one I now know is losing me more games than it's winning) is to be more defensive and force my opponent to over-extend to deal with my models, thus why I chose two schemes that didn't force me to interact with the enemy or go much past the center line. Which was a super massive mistake that leads to, at best draw games, or at worst, allowing my opponent to focus on a mere percentage of my crew rather than all of it.

Onto the game, I'll allow my opponents Bat rep to speak for the highlights but as for why I was doing what I was doing, well:

* The Coryphee were supposed to make a break for the center and drop a scheme marker then pair up and cause general mayhem, what actually happened was one getting too close to the Collodi fire and, not wanting to lose the capacity to obtain the duet, made me panic and pair them up earlier than intended. I then wasted all potential they had by hiding some more, getting distracted, removing it and then running to the hills. 3 turns of doing nothing with a 14ss model! It's lucky I'm not getting paid to be this dumb. Fear is the mind-killer ladies and gents. Had I had more faith in their survival due to high armor and auto-focus defensive I would have played them better, OR had them never pair up at all and do what they needed to individually. I've played the Coryphee about 5 times by this point and I seriously need to learn to use them properly.

*The Molemen ideally would have jumped from the spot they were shown to be stuck in and leap-frogged across the centerline. Even now, this was a terrible idea, the terrain sucked for this and doubly stupid of me since I was the one who set up the terrain prior to this game! Instead they were stuck in place and spent the game attacking (why?) then running away much too late to be of any use basically giving away distract points as they stood there removing it and getting re-distracted...

*Mei Feng herself, quite frankly did not have a plan for Mei Feng. With Mollusq placing models with keen-eyed perfection I couldn't get any decent combos off and pretty much spent the whole game with Feng trying in vain to swat away at high wound models that weren't interacting with my models. Had I taken Assassinate and more than two Metal Garmin, I could have at least focused on Collodi and stopped the summoning machine but even with getting him down to 2 Wds by end game, it was hard work. Had I been more conservative with Mei Feng I could have leaded a hand in removing the Effigies from the Molemen, freeing them up to do what I intended them to do or at the very least ignored Distract and entered each turn with full Ap.

Distract was the main Faux-Pas this game for me and a massive lesson in what it does. Mollusq played it was ease knowing that his numerous, hard to take out in one hit puppets (with Fast) would be in, or get into, combat to hand it out. It shut down two TWO 3Ap models because I was desperately trying to win both LITS and remain competitive in table quarters but alas the plate balancing fell to the ground with an audible shatter. Taking it myself would have lead to either himself doing what I did (spending 2ap taking it off) or ignoring it resulting in Zero Sum allowing me to focus on the other 7Vp.

Line in the Sand I've learned from now on to not be so hasty to take just because it's there. It's been a critical reason for defeat in both of my games with Mollusq and a massive drain on resources when I have won it. 2ap max if un-revealed with FOUR markers down in a very narrow space, 1ap if revealed and I happen to only have two markers. It takes a lot of work and unless I have Wk6 standard across 4 models and they are hardy enough to kill whatever comes near (essentially removing them from the game), it's all too easy end game for an opposing model to stroll over and pick ONE up to take away 2vp. Let's assume the Mole Train had delivered it's scheme marker cargo across the centerline for example. How hard would it have been for a Marionette to walk over and pick exactly one undefended scheme marker up? Not very hard at all really. Thus spending a whole game to earn 1Vp. I have to ban myself from ever choosing it again at this rate, Killing a master is easier!

I digress, it was a great game as so long as I learn from these silly mistakes and make my game better from it, I will benefit greatly from these crushing defeats and come back stronger so long as I remember these lessons. 

Time to get this train back on the tracks and repair those dud rails. Have fun out there. 

Monday, 7 December 2015

Getting back on Track

Whenever I started a master back in the early days of playing Malifaux, I had either the greatest beginner's luck or some sort of conspiracy was going on. My demo game with Ms Rasputina I ended up winning, my first game with Mei Feng I won and even "low tier" masters like Ironsides and Yan Lo I won my first games with. Ramos.... well I don't talk about my two games with Ramos. Safe to say, bringing a master I knew nothing about to a fixed faction tournament just because "Ramos is good at Reconnoiter and Squatters rights" was not one of my brightest moments.

Mei Feng I had early success with primarily due to my pendant for rushing into things and hitting the killswitch, a common affliction of Malifaux beginners. I was facing a lot of construct lists back then so with Metal Garmin magnetizing, Kang buffing and Rail workers discarding for 2 focus attacks it really put all of Feng's strengths into the spotlight. Then, shortly afterwards I faced a non-construct, non-undead list and got my face crushed. Turns out a slow crew with no range doesn't support Mei Feng as much as I would like and whilst Feng still rattled off her 5-9 combat Ap no problem, the moment her activation was over my opponent could rest easy and spend the rest of the turn earning Vp and making a joke out of my slow models feeble attempts at Vp denial. After 6 games of "not getting" Mei Feng I dropped her and moved on.

Looking back, I can see why I struggled, my list building was less to do with what schemes were on the board and more focused on the the Rail Network Boss getting off a 2-jump rail walk from constructs and pile into combat with Jackhammer Kick . Lists would include Metal Garmin, Kang, Rail Workers and Joss as default regardless of if I was playing Turf war or Reckoning then pure constructs afterward. Deployment was a central cluster of models and first turns consisted of double walking the faster models, single walking the slower ones and early turn 2 making sure this chain of models 6" apart was heading towards the nearest enemy model so Mei Feng could jump into combat and start doing her groove thang. Sadly this tactic means spending 45 soulstones to get Mei Feng into melee with hopes the opponent throws every model in their crew at her whilst simultaneously missing. This while her constructs stood around in awe literally chained up ready to be used as sonic the hedgehog bouncepads for Mei feng to escape or find another enemy model.

It was fun though I won't lie, combo master Mei Feng leads to commentary like: 
(1st Ap): Crack Imbued Energies - Railwalker - Railwalker - Jackhammer kick - Thunderous smash. 
(2nd & 3rd Ap): Charge - Tiger claws - Superheated - Tiger claws - Tremors - Tiger claws - Jackhammer kick - Vent steam. 
(4th Ap): Tiger claws - Jackhammer kick - Vent Steam.

And I'm spent

Three times the Ap? It's joyfully ridiculous and in that time Feng has practically moved over the whole board in an angry storm of asskicking but once that was over, I was down 5 cards and 4 soul stones leaving the rest of my crew to flail pathetically at whoever was missed during the Murder Train rampage. In focusing so much on creating as many combos as possible with Mei I was trading her whole crew just to rattle off a tremendous amount of AP. Killing one model dead or wounding 2 or 3 and using your whole hand to do it should result in Vp gain or stopping the opponents, it's simply a waste otherwise. Other models in Arcanist can do that sort of damage with 2Ap, so why use your master to do what a henchman or enforcer can do better?

The obvious question arises at this point, If a Henchman or Enforcer can kill models with less Ap, why use Mei Feng at all? Because killing models isn't Feng's only trick. Yes she has triggers for days but she can also defend the very same crew with Vent Steam, making sure those killy models or those scheme runners get to where they need to be A simple but hugely effective skill which allows her whole crew to score those Pointus Victorius. She also has wicked range to pull off attacks, a Railwalker into Jackhammer Kick alone can throw her 12" across the board for 1ap. It's impressive.

My recent games have taught me about waiting for a moment. It's all too tempting to rush in like the days of old but something clicked in my modern games, Mei Feng can hold back without wasting time and more than likely, is saving my crew by doing so. My first step back into the Rail Yard was against Resurrectionist McMourning who was utilizing Moonlighting and Spare Parts to fill up the board as well as Transfusion with Nurses and Mortimer to create poison bombs with Expunge. With how ultimately fragile Mei Feng is having only def6 and a decent defense trigger (if you have the high cards for it) it would have been lackluster to rush in and try to take down 'Mourning unless it would result in his death. So early turns were focused on scheme running and protecting those scheme runners with the help of Vent Steam. Turns 3 and 4 I turned my efforts in fishing out the Bodyguard targets and this is where Mei Feng really shined.

I lit up as many targets I could with Fire Garmin, targeting the lower of the defenses and then sent in Boss Lady Feng. 10" threat range gets you places and managing to find two henchman/enforcers near a wall meant I was able to string together far too many attacks with a positive flip to damage. By the middle of turn 4, there wasn't any Enforcers or Henchmen left on the table and forced my opponent to send in the doctor to eliminate the infection to his crew. This let my scheme running Mole Train and Coryphee Duet skip around backfield winning me Victory points whilst a 3ap Firestarter stayed well out the way and hid past centerline scoring my own bodyguard.

Without context this sounds like the rushing in of old, but yet this time it was for the benefit of the game rather than doing it "jus cos". Denying my opponent Bodyguard by surgically removing all possible/likely targets both stopped them from gaining their own Vp and Zero Sum wise put me 3 points above my opponent. If I had jumped in earlier, as well as not being able to take advantage of the targets new positions, it would have meant Vent steam wasn't in place that protected my crew from the mid-range poison threat my opponent had. Binding my time also made it possible to move Feng up slowly and get into that threat range without sending in a construct to Railwalk into. Less Railwalker, more damage-per-Ap. In this regard Mei Feng worked brilliantly.

On a side note, Firestarter has really surprised me. On paper he does nothing with 3Ap yet being able to throw out 2-5 burning on targets and generally stay out of the way for the cost of a wound was the reason I was so easily able to control the field, it helps to plan ahead but having the knowledge of "yes that model is dead by the end of turn" seriously helped my game plan out. Definitely a worthy consideration for future lists, although I lucked out these games as Firestarter as Bodyguard is very very risky to attempt to score full Vp with.

Out of the three games against the fine doctor, I won by 8-7 in both Reckoning and Turf and lost wholesale in the third losing 10-2.

The third game was Recon and against a summoner, I had no problem with the summons in the last two games because weight of models weren't scoring any more points than mine, this game, they were. My opponent by now had realized that Johan IS that damn good and poisoned the ever-loving hell out of him as soon as he could turning the merc into a Guild Hound. Mei Feng lasted until turn four attempting to quell the riot thinking Lady Ironsides made it look easy but ultimately ate 18 poison and turned into a Flesh Construct. With poison everywhere and Guild Hounds, Flesh Constructs and the odd Guild Autopsy running wild, my modest crew of remaining Fire Garmin and Gunsmiths were no match. 

Mei Feng got exactly where she wanted to go but with long-lasting conditions and dead models being brought back, she was not an optimal choice, alas, in my focus on EXACTLY WUN MASTER I will run into this weakness. Malifaux with it's crew creation after finding out schemes and strategies is designed around the fact that some masters will struggle with certain strategies or other masters. Good to know in the future when I branch out into stables of masters rather than intimate one-on-one's, that Mei Feng doesn't have the destructive capabilities to keep up with a summoner in Reconnoiter.

I've a lot more to learn with Mei Feng but having her crew do the VP gaining rather than have her sent off solo is just plain common sense that I never had at the start. Leaving Mei Feng mid-field and aiding her team is also a good habit I've found, double Vent Steam is a tough shield to crack for any long-range master. Also and most importantly, knowing when to end the combo. This is tough and will be a sticking point for me, having cards in hand or soulstones available to continue the pain is all very well and good but if this takes me miles away from a crew I could be protecting or taking cards away from other models, that extra 2 damage doesn't seem nearly as worth it. Mei Feng can be a beast but I've found that sharing out the model bashing with Joss or Howard provides so many more avenues of beatdown. I've seen new potential in a master I dropped for "not getting" and look forward to future games. Keep c-c-c-combo breaking and have fun out there.

Monday, 30 November 2015

A new challenger appears...

I've been playing Malifaux now for over 10 months now and if you play for this long, you start up a small (or very large) collection of masters. You won't necessarily play every master you buy but you'll get those crew boxes for the henchman and minions.
When I first started Malifaux I picked up "Children of December" with the December Acolyte box which is a fine start. Next was Molemen for scheme running but then I was running Rasputina (Death Incarnate), Ice Golem (Slow yet Smashy) and a whole handful of helpful-yet-easily-killed minions. So I did what I shouldn't of and bought the "Rail Crew" and played that instead for a few games, even got me some Metal & Fire Garmin with a Rail Golem. Then the bug set in, I bought "The M&SU" but found Ramos really hard to play and then bought "Master of the Paths" then "Troubleshooters" then "The Thunder"and at this point, I had to stand back and stop.


I will never badmouth others for the practice of multi-master buying, all the masters in Malifaux are fun and hell, who is it hurting? The general advice veterans give is that if you want to be competitive or simply increase your tactical sphere, stick to one master or if not that stick to one faction. If you're playing Seamus for example, maybe your next master or crew box purchase should be Molly or McMourning, at a stretch Resurrectionist Yan Lo. 


If you were to see Collodi  in action and want to start some puppet Pandemonium, who is going to say "Well, you're a Resser, you can't stop being a Resser!" go play with the puppets, buy Perdita if you like her, play Marcus, play everybody if you want to, If you're having fun, keep on having fun.

I personally though, prefer the single master strategy for myself now. In my early days of Malifaux I did start buying every master I liked the look of but this is a well designed game, every master is good and has massive potential and if I had let myself I would be swimming in Masters and playing with none of them. With rarely playing more than twice a week, I discovered I simply didn't have the time. 

Eventually though, you play a master for long enough and you want a change of pace, I've played Yan Lo now for 25+ games and after that much time you either never want to stop or start looking elsewhere. Variety is the spice of life after all. 

So, after much deliberation, I've decided to re-visit the Murder Train herself: Mei Feng.
I had a lot of fun with her at first, lots of mobility, can string together a lot of attacks and is immune to slow and paralyze which is amazing. Then I looked at her crew and noticed it was very very slow. Wk4 average. Now I'm used to slow crews in Rasputina but Raspy is long range so gets around it with 12" threat range with a supporting crew increasing that range. With Mei Feng bounding around her railwalk targets, she gets to where she needs to go but then the rest of the crew are just standing around or wasting Ap walking to where they need to be. For Mei Feng to work with me, I need to find a way to loosen the grip on the need for going solo and make the rest of the crew useful in Feng's wake. Railwalker is amazing, don't get me wrong but a crew shouldn't be just one model trying to do everything, it should work as a whole engine.

Time to go to work. Have fun out there.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Saying farewell to the Path Master

It's been a long rocky road with Yan Lo. At first he was shelved for being "useless" then forgotten about whilst Ironsides took center (mosh pit) stage until finally I decided that I needed to give him a chance. I liked everything that was on his cards and upgrades but at first couldn't put them to use in actually winning games (Or at the very least, making it frustrating for my opponent to overcome). At some point I stepped back and thought to myself "when am I going to stop chopping and changing masters and start putting some table time into making one great?" It worked with Rasputina & Ironsides but not so much with Ramos, Misaki or Mei Feng.

The Yan man was very tough to play as at first and that primarily came down to two things: The damn Chi and the "reliance" on the Ancestor tagline.

Chi is dead easy once I set it up. Yan Lo is slow guy so getting anywhere near where I wanted to be first turn was going to leave him out in the open (A mistake I made plenty at the start). I've had great success with Clockwork Trap killing first turn and it's set me up for the rest of the game with Ash Acendant and Ca7; Ca8 if I felt discarding for Chi was worthwhile the next turn. After that, bodies hit the floor or Soul Porter gives him more Chi if required. Really easy and after playing him for so long, Chi has never once been a problem using the Trap method. 

I've dismissed Yan's ancestral reliance in previous posts and it remains true to this day. Building a core list to "include at least 3 ancestors" left me with roughly 15-17ss left to build with, thus not making a core so much as making an all-comers list that has a pair of switch-outs, ergo struggling with anything that isn't Turf war with Breakthrough (which is in my mind the default strategy all-comers lists build to).
I've used Summoning Toshiro yes but outside of Soul Porter giving him a shove his Ancestor tag has never played a role in my games. I've also used Yin in some games but again, I used her for her absolutely bonkers defenses and ability to stop movement, not simply because she has a tag that's barely mentioned. Remember, Reliquary doesn't bring back upgrades.

Sooner or later though, even with all the success or all of the time spent honing skills, you want a change. I have met very few people who have been playing this game for more than 6 months who haven't changed masters or at least thinking about it very strongly. There's a lot of choice and using only your first master does become boring after a time. The time has come for Yan Lo and quite honestly I'm saddened that he didn't get a better send off. 

My last three games were simply speaking, bad match-ups with Pushes and Armor taking the main blame. Turning the average damage track of 2/3/4 in Lo's crew into 1/2/3 or even worse 1/1/2, creates poor Ap efficiency so if there is a tough melee brawler with armor who bosses up to my guys and I don't have a convenient Clockwork Trap to the side in order to save everyone, I'm stuck doing 3 damage a turn to a 10Wd+ model whilst they are busy spitting red-hot destruction. When I flurry with Punk Zombies, I want models dead, not viciously scratched. Ronin and Pathfinder are the only anti-armor tech I have but they are really easy to take out in two Ap so I was stuck. The masters that have this as a main tactic/defense are hard-fought when you're taking Yan Lo and quite honestly, I would suggest someone else if facing these threats but this is Malifaux, sometimes you will get into terrible match-ups and you have to take it on the chin and move on.

Even so, my time with Yan Lo has been a memorable one, it's been thought provoking to take a master that on the surface looks to be a dud and start surprising myself with just how effective he can be. Yes he has bad match-ups, 80% of all Malifaux masters do but in the games where he's not facing Armor and Blasts he does bloody well and is going to be a master I will miss playing. Alas all good things must come to an end, it's time to consider another master who hasn't had so much table time. With any luck, they will be just as fun to play as Yan Lo has been. Keep strong and have fun out there.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Zero Sum in Malifaux

I've mentioned it various times in previous articles but I wanted to take the time to discuss further what I mean about zero sum when it comes to Malifaux.
Firstly, a well researched definition:

"Zero Sum: A zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant's gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the utility of the other participant(s)."

We'll be using the gain-gain variant of Zero sum, so to break this down into Malifaux what does this mean?
Lets say for example that you and I are playing a game of Turf War, we have both revealed Protect Territory and Breakthrough because we're boring but we want to ensure we gain maximum victory points. As the game goes on, every turn after the first we are both gaining 1Vp for Turf War, and due to our scheme runners being too fast or too out of the way, they are absolutely able to put down 4 scheme markers and stand between 2 of them before game end. The game ends on a 10-10 draw. 

Why do I call this Zero Sum? Because neither side at any point in the game through action or inaction was ever above the opponent score wise. End of turn 2, yes I got a Turf War Vp but so did you, so in winning the game terms, it's cancelled out. I got full points for both my schemes but so did you, so it cancelled out. Tournament wise, a 10-10 draw is better than a 0-0 draw because of Vp Differential, in casual though, both players are being good sports whilst also trying to win over their opponents tactics with their own.

Another more complex scenario: Squatters Rights, you've chosen Assassinate and Deliver a Message because you a straight-up balling killer in kickass shades. I've gone more conservative and chosen Bodyguard and A Line in the Sand because I'm a Peaceful Zen Practicing dude (also in kickass shades). I mess up Squatters Rights turn two and three and you win 2Vp to my 0Vp. Right now you have the advantage because I have yet to cancel out your Victory points. Later on in the game, I've managed to gain Vp on Squatters rights every turn after but so have you, you've managed to Deliver a Message for another 3vp but due to lucking out on Soul Stone prevention flips, my master is still standing, my Bodyguard is standing in your deployment zone with less than half health and is going defensive x2 for good measure and I have 4 markers down for LITS.
Lets pause for turn 5. Right now you have 3vp for Squatters Rights, 3vp for Deliver a Message to my 1vp for Squatters but at the end of the game if nothing changes, I'll get 1vp more for Squatters, 3vp for LITS and 2vp for Bodyguard. Including your Squatters Vp, the game will end 7-7 draw as I have successfully kept up a zero sum, even if it wasn't in real time BUT you still have the advantage due to the earlier win in points and you have a greater many options: Keep hitting my master and my master might go down awarding you 2vp for assassinate, if you take even one of my LITS markers, I actually LOSE 2vp. What can I do to gain more Vp? Absolutely nothing at this point. I need my master to survive, my bodyguard to stay alive and for my LITS markers to stay put, all I can do at this point is lose points.

Resume: It's the end of the game, my master is still standing, my bodyguard is still alive looking a little worse for wear but in the final activation, you've taken one of my LITS markers. The game ends 7-5, functionally you've won the game 2-0 if you subtract my victory points from your own, an advantage you had since turn 2 & 3. 

Not everything goes according to plan in Malifaux, one black joker can ruin your whole game but if you've been playing your advantages well, you can ride it out. On the other hand, if you're on the backpedal, so long as you still have options, you can force that draw or win. Ask yourself, is it better for you to score 3VP or to make your opponent lose 2VP? without context the answer appears easy but sometimes it is better to win 5-4 than draw 6-6.

I learned at some point that in Malifaux that preventing Vp is even more important that gaining Vp, If both of you are aiming for 10vp, it's likely with practice and experience that you'll score 10vp but that then creates zero-sum games, neither of you are winning because by focusing on nothing else but scoring Vp you've let the opponent do the same. 
Ergo to gain the advantage in a game, you need to mess with your opponents Vp, Assassinate is worth 0VP if the master is left standing, LITS is worth 1Vp if there's only 3 markers down and doing this creates a landslide effect. Missed out scoring on Reconnoiter for one turn? You now need to prevent 2 turns of your opponents Recon to be above, that one turn of being too close to the center has almost cost you the game but do you attempt to prevent those two turns of recon OR do you make your opponent lose 2Vp from another source? Losing one Vp from the strategy is preferable if your opponent is losing 2vp from Breakthrough. It's an uphill climb sure but it's achievable.

Remember, Malifaux is a game where every model on the board can be dead but you could still win, I've had games where I've done the math and realized turn 3 that I was a deadman, but then I changed up what I was doing in game and forced that draw through Zero-sum or forced that cheeky win from focusing on removing my opponents Vp rather than scoring my own. There are games where you just win, you absolutely crush your opponent 10-0 but I assure you, it wasn't from scoring full points and leaving your opponent alone. It was a sharp focus on what you did to prevent those enemy Vp from being manageable for your opponent. 
On the flipside, don't call it quits turn 3 just because your opponent has Recon and Power Ritual apparently in the bag, it only takes one marker less or one movement to completely mess up your opponents plans and suddenly, they are looking at your one vp above theirs. You could luck out or it could go Mice and Men but at least you've better'd yourself by trying, by not giving up. As human beings we learn much more from our failures than our victories. 

Every game ask yourself, how could I have beat that Zero-sum? What could I have done differently? What am I relying on that isn't working? What models are simply not advantageous in this situation? Could I have won that game by removing Vp rather than gaining my own? Have a discussion with your opponent post-game, ask them what they would have done differently, what they saw as the turning point, most sporting players love this post-game chat because it's beneficial to both players in the end and creates a better meta within your local game shop. 

I hope this has given you an aspect of the way I think when I play games of Malifaux and given the newer players among us a new way to look at the game. Have fun out there.

Monday, 16 November 2015

The Assault on the Visibly Greying Lord

Oh boy, this was a challenging game.

I played a game of Malifaux earlier this week using the Crossroads encounter: The Assault on the Grey Lord as our strategy. To win, I, the defender, needed to keep as many serving girl markers on the board as I could whilst my opponent, the attacker, had to use (1) interact actions to push the markers 6" and eventually off the board and take down my master. The game was pretty much over by the first activation... but before that, the nitty gritty:

Special Terrain: Saloon
This gave the center of the table a Ht1 3x3 soft cover, severe terrain piece that allowed any model within 1" of it to use a (2) interact in order to heal 3/5/7. It removes all flight from models and also provides 4 Chair markers that can be discarded to be used as a makeshift Sh5 Rg:10 action dealing 2/3/7 damage.

A Line in the Sand
Cursed Object
Assassinate (really?)
Bodyguard (really really?)
Outflank (oh come on!)

My Crew:
Yan Lo w/ Fortify the Spirit, Misdirection & Reliquary (Full Cache)
Soul Porter
Clockwork Trap
Izamu, the Armor
Yin, The Penangalan w/ Smoke Grenades
Chiaki, the Niece w/ Pull of the Grave
2x Torakage
I chose A Line in the Sand as I'm already on the center line, and Cursed Object as it was the only other viable scheme. These schemes sucked quite honestly. Yan Lo isn't a killy master so Assassinate was out and Bodyguard needs a Henchman/enforcer who is either very quick or unimpeded, neither of which I had. In normal games Bodyguard is accomplished by having said Henchman/Enforcer move up but stay out of the way, in such close, disadvantageous deployment, it would never work.   

Opponent's Crew
Perdita Ortega (Leader) w/ Trick Shooting & Aura Ancestral (6ss Cache)
Sonnia Criid
Enslaved Nephilim
Brutal Effigy
Death Marshall
Francisco Ortega
2x Guild Austringer
Papa Loco
Witchling Stalker
My opponent on the other hand loved this scheme pool, Assassinate when 2Vp from the strategy is killing the master means 5Vp from the death of one master. Killing masters is normally very hard to do but with that same master being 12" away and in the presence of two masters turn one, it suddenly becomes a piece of delicious soft cake. He also took Bodyguard on Papa Loca as why not, he'll be in a pine box half the game anyway. 

As you can no doubt tell, I was at a disadvantage from the get-go, 10 activations to 7, he could deploy on any table edge he felt I had my weakest flank on and because of the 6" radius around the center and I was close enough for him to alpha strike with ease.
I decided that Izamu should stay dead center and protect best he can the serving girl markers, my theory being that the center is indeed the farthest point from the table edges and Izamu would do better in melee than Yin would. The Torakage hugged the house on the outskirts of the 6" deployment whilst Chiaki readied herself with a chair. Yin camped out in a forest giving her the protection of triple-negative flips to attacks against her from range due to Mass of Viscera, Soft Cover and Smoke Grenades with the hope that her fear behind the eyes and severe terrain would stop any would be chargers.

My opponent put his Austringers on the flanks but otherwise deployed in an off-central line formation, having two masters naturally allowing for a more bunched up formation. When I saw this I secretly cheered, two masters shoulder-to-shoulder, one of which is not so great in melee, the other I could Misdirect and models close enough to them in order for a successful Thunder dance to keep the mass of his crew busy for two or three turns. Yan Lo could tank the damage, kill off weakened models, gain chi and tar-pit for as long as possible using Terracotta Curse to stall the movements of everyone else. Life is good sometimes.

Turn one and my hand is dreadful, nothing above a 6 with a black joker, I stone for cards and get an 8 & a 9...wooo. Anyway, by some act of god I manage to get the initiative and take no chances, I don't have the turn 1 advantage of assuming I won't be targeted so leave the clockwork trap alone, discard for chi and walk 4" towards my enemies deployment, sadly only in range of Francisco, with his 8Wp stat from Perdita's upgrade.
I take a gamble and attempt a thunder dance, lose. I try again and once again lose... well good game, cya laters.

Yan Lo takes an absolute BEATING, I'm stoning left right and center and somehow he stays alive for the turn. Half way through the onslaught Sonnia rocks up and targets the Clockwork Trap, wonderful I'm thinking and he flips a black joker for attack (even better) but I only manage a tie, looking at my non-hand at this point, I think it better to save cards for additional defense and let the tie go.  I prefer to have the now useless trap dead than Yan Lo at this point.

Double negative flip. Weak damage easy.
My opponent flips the first card. Severe, Whatever.
Flips the second card, Severe... okay, next is weak, I can take it.
Flips the third, SEVERE!? SERIOUSLY!?

You serious?
Yeah, I've obviously angered the Card Gods because that was so damn improbable a parallel universe got created from it's occurrence and slapped me upside the head! Clockwork trap gets hit with 5 damage. Dead. Soul Porter gets the first blast marker and eats 3 damage. Dead. Yan Lo gets hit with the second, stones and prevents 2 damage. Half Dead. Yin takes the third which annoys her as it kind of gets past her invincibility shield I've lovingly gave her.

Sigh it's just one of those games.

At the end of turn one, Yan Lo is at Chi +2, 2Wds and in no way looking forward to the second turn.

Second turn starts and somehow, I get the initiative again. I have exactly two plans, try to walk out of engagement with Francisco with yet another average hand and take a healing flip from the open bar healing a guaranteed 5 Wds; or Thunder Dance over to the two masters by way of Effigy monorail and have them beat on Yan Lo with the risk of Misdirection. I decide with the more like to happen Thunder Dance option seeing as last turn, without much effort, they dropped 10wds off of Lo with ease, giving them target practice with 7Wds seemed fruitless. I get over to them and set off a Terracotta Curse, cursing the Effigy and nearby Death Marshall but getting nothing more than a bored stare from the ladys in red and their mustachio'd henchman. 
2Wds and a death wish? Yan's your man!
I use the last ap to attack Sonnia with no effect. Perdita activates and attacks Lo, I luck out and beat the first attack and on the next attack gain a mid-way mask to get the Misdirection trigger. "Discard two cards or Sonnia takes that attack" I say, my opponent responds by binning an ace and a 3 and lets me know that Yan Lo is taking "weak" 5 damage....

Yan Lo takes a seat next to the Trap and Soul Porter in the losers lounge. The rest of the turn kills off Izamu and one of the Torakage who up until now have been avoiding Sonnia's gaze and laying down scheme markers for Line in the Sand with his brother. I leave turn 2 with Yin, a Torakage and Chiaki (who has been less than useless this game).

Turn 3 begins as well I would have hoped, Yin is taken to the trash whilst Torakage and Chiaki follow closely after. I'm looking forward to these 15ss worth of models to save the day...
Fate hears my silent plea and a staff member at our local store informs us that we'll have to clear the table for a tournament that was happening soon.
Shallow non-victory time! Ending turn three with all 4 LITS markers and all 4 serving girl markers on the table gave me 7vp to my opponent's 5vp he won off killing Yan Lo (Assassinate + Strategy) and denying him Bodyguard as it was unrevealed at the time.
We later discussed that had the game continued, it was too late in the game to remove the Serving girl markers but LITS would have been removed and obviously Bodyguard would have scored full points ending the game with a much more conclusive 8-4 loss to me. Still, default victory. 

Oh man, Assault on the Grey Lord is a challenge but such an interesting game to get one's head around. Basically speaking, the defenders crew will get tabled, one way or another. Being that close to two masters turn one means you don't have that first turn buffer we all enjoy to set up synergies or combos. You have to survive and concentrate on nothing but survival because that is what this scenario asks of you, to be as much of a pain in the neck towards your attackers as possible and prevent those markers from moving. From the center you need at least 3 interact actions to move the serving girl markers off the table and the only way to do that is to set up conveyor belts of models (easily done by the attacker mind you) in order to efficiently remove them from the defenders scoring pool. This in essence means that so long as the defender has a model alive to get in the way of the bullets, blades and magic, those serving girl markers aren't going anywhere.
Even if the master is taken down, with enough resilience, you're still up two points as defender (so long as assassinate isn't in the pool). Get scheme running and focusing on scheme Vp and you have a chance.

I didn't get to the end of the third turn sadly so it's up in the air whether it would have changed up the game enough but seeing as I was tabled by then, having 3 strong 5ss models enter the fray just to ensure LITS kept scoring is a solid option, or maybe just more tough get-in-the-way models.

Final thoughts, this is definitely not a game for the faint of heart, every card in your control hand matters, every bad flip or below average hand can result in death. Every stone you use to improve that bad hand is another stone you could have used to keep your master alive, every soulstone damage prevention flip is another stone you could have used to get better cards or re-flip that close initiative. It's a challenge and makes you really think about every single action you take. Should you stand and attack? Or is it better to go double defensive and weather the storm? These are all questions that will ask yourself constantly during this encounter as defender and one I very much look forward to getting a full time re-match against my opponent.

Keep on improving and have fun out there.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Preparing for the Assault

For me, the story encounters from the base rule book and then the encounters seen in Crossroads have always been interesting for me. The thing is when you think about them in a practical sense, they are either heavily unbalanced, easily abused or just simply boring. 

Maybe it's for the role-playing crowd where these story encounters better encapsulate an uneven game where one player is struggling against another with pure advantage on their side but in my meta at least, we prefer a balanced game where one player's skill is tested against another on an even field rather than putting up story related barriers. Yes, not every battle is fought on an unknown battlefield where both sides agree to not scout ahead first but you have to sacrifice making sense for having fun when it comes to tabletop skirmishes.

The majority of Crossroads is more of the same (ambient without the redundant multiple choices for defender victory), the attacker has something they want to do, the defender is either stopping it or doing their own thing in tandem. Some are needlessly complex, some are all about the summoning and some are hopeless in their simplicity but for all their negative points, some do seem to be a welcome casual distraction to the base rule book or Gaining Grounds strategies. 
Everyone knows what to bring to Reckoning, everyone knows summoners in Interference are a pain but how do you construct a list for a relatively unknown strategy that as well as doing something completely different, takes you out of your comfort zone?  This week, I'll be trying out a needlessly complex encounter to challenge just that.

The Assault on the Grey Lord is unique in it's premise, Two masters vs One master in a escort the markers type event. For those of you who don't own the Crossroads book or don't have it to hand, here are the rules:
It includes the special terrain "Saloon". All models lose flight due to the ceiling and includes a 3x3 space in the center of the table: an "Open Bar", that is Ht1, severe and soft terrain (leaving out dense so you can still see through it is important). This bar allows a model to spend it's activation healing so long as it's not in combat and gives out some chairs to throw around for fun.

Onto the encounter itself, after flipping for schemes, the attacker hires two masters for free (but assigns only one as the leader) and otherwise creates a normal 50ss list. The defender creates the normal 50ss list but at the end of the third turn brings in 15ss of models they could have hired at the beginning of the game (As written I imagine it's worded in such a way as to not allow you to bring back a rare 1 model that died before turn 3) from a chosen table edge. The defender deploys first within 6" of the center of the table, the attacker then deploys at whatever 4 table edges they wish within 6" of that edge, then lastly the defender places 4 serving girl markers down.

Serving girl markers in base to base with a model can be (1) interacted to be pushed 6" in any direction, if they are to be moved off the table this way, they are removed from play.
At the end of the game, the defender is awarded 1Vp for each serving girl still in play, the attacker earns 1Vp up to a maximum of 2vp for each serving girl marker that is no longer in play and 2Vp if the defending master is no longer in play (either by death or bury).

As I said, needlessly complex.

This week I will be taking the role of Yan Lo, defending his strangely forested nightclub: "The Down Lo" from kidnappers who are up to no good, who are starting to make trouble in his neighborhood, they'll get in one little fight and Yan Lo's scared because he's fighting against two monkey-fighting masters in his monday-to-friday club!... Ahem...

This is a complex undertaking, as we all know outside of special circumstances, deploying second is advantageous because you have a rough idea of where your opponent wishes to aim his scheme runners and where best to place your utility guys vs wreaking balls.
So deploying second against an opponent who is already mostly past the center line is almost certainly providing heads on plates. I need the most defensive, awkward to alpha strike list I can think of and ensure I stay alive long enough to protect those markers.

Luckily for me, Yan Lo and a bunch of Ten Thunders models are exactly that, a right pain to put down in the right circumstance. Yin with smoke grenades in soft cover might as well be invisible to any ranged threats and can stop melee chargers with her "The Fear behind the Eyes" No Escape built-in trigger. Torakage with a buddy forces focus attacks from Sh actions and have auto-focus when in melee. Armor and Hard to Kill are handy but for most of Malifaux, they are almost blank abilities without a self heal.

Who has a self heal? Izamu does, so for the first time ever I see a real need to bring along Reliquary, having the option to bring back a difficult to hit or melee Rg3 model for another crack at dying seems like an idea that actually works in this scenario. With my needing to protect markers without necessarily losing points each turn by not being next to them, my opponent will either send in melee or shoot from afar and clean house afterwards, having tough models with an extra life being there purely to stand next to markers and tank damage will be more beneficial than lasting 3 turns then watching the serving girls scatter. Lastly Chiaki because of course Chiaki.

This is so far a full 50ss list but what about the 15ss backup turn 3? What will they need to do from a (hopefully) clear edge of the board? Scheme runners seem important but I might also need to think about if things are going breast-skywards. Snipers or Archers assist against damaged targets yes but will that alone stop a markers falling off the table? Ototo with a Komainu is a great tag-team to potentially stop that from happening but alas, the 15ss backup is the hardest to plan if only because of the great unknown but making the correct choice to gain the most Vp is paramount to simply adding more scheme runners or models that won't make an impact. As this is the sole "Balancing" mechanic I'm given to even the scales against two masters, I need to use it effectively.

To say I'm going to be defensive this game is a given, I have to defend my models in order to stay in the game, defend markers from their 6" push of doom and weather the storm of 2 masters. Even a full cache isn't going to help against that so I simply need to last. Yan Lo needs to heal, Chiaki needs to rid models of both beneficial and de-buffing conditions as well as slow the opposing crew in an attempt to even out the Ap disparity. 
Saying that though, rolling out 2 masters sounds amazing until you realize you only have one hand of cards, cheating fate or soul-stoning for suits for both will make for rather restrictive plays, so anything I can do to strip cards away from my opponent is going to be more important than ever; that said, a savvy opponent will simply circumvent this by playing one master who uses stones a lot and another that is soulstone lite. It's going to be an uphill battle in any case, but it's also going to be fun to fully test out the durability of what I have stated is very difficult to take down crew. I'm looking forward to it.

Keep challenging yourselves and have fun out there.