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.

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