My local game shop late last year had a player enter who did what any new player does and chose their favourite looking master. Then that player went on to have a fantastic winning streak and became infamous from new and veteran players alike. He played Perdita Ortega.
Perdita is what some would say is a "beginners" master, looking at her card, you can understand why. Def7, Wp7, a "free" 8" push each turn and a pretty decent def trigger in Quick Draw, a near sniper level range with Sh7, an obey action, a mulligan and if there's nothing better to do, a condition that punishes charges and shoot actions in a 24" bubble.... and this is not to mention her upgrades.
Having a crew who have similar sky high stats who can further boost those stats within each other and incredibly cunning movement tricks makes for a hard game if you haven't memorized every single number, threat range and done a far share of theoretical number crunching. How many high cards have you seen? How many have came from that players hand compared to their deck? How many cards remaining and who's activated? A very hard skill to practice without a hellova lot of games under your belt.
I think about numbers in most games but without spending every game being perfectly silent, forcing my opponent to reveal all cards flipped and allowing me to note them down to "read their deck" is too much work right now and sort of kills the social mood in casual tabletop gaming.
I'm in it for fun not for crushing my enemies, see them driven before me and hear the lamentations of their women.
When a Ml6 goes up against a Def6 the defender still needs to flip or cheat a card that's value is +1 higher than the attacker to at stop being hit. Perdita with her Sh7 against say a Def5 means to avoid a shot in the T-Zone the defender needs to flip or cheat a card 3+ what Ms Otega flips or cheats. With the average defense being 5 in Malifaux, it means Perdita has a high if not very likely chance of always hitting, or at the very least shrugging off misses as the low margin that it is. With El Mayor in place as well, it is very intimidating as a player trying to prevent damage from her as well as even hit her back for any significant effect. With such base stats in place, you can see why she's seen as such a threat (at least from a casual viewpoint).
Wille is a model I've always wanted to use but never had much success with, this despite his Def 6 with average Wp and Sh6 that ignores armor peppered with Blast.
It's a numbers game though. If an opponent wants Wille dead, they will punch through that defense and go through his 7 wounds dropping him. Someone with a single charge can put Wille on the ropes and face no fancy horror duel or armor or defense trigger guarding his life doing so. Then he drops like a sack of potatoes (which explode).
The explosion is good don't get me wrong, 3 damage in the right spot can hurt but with his limited survival rate out in the open he usually goes 6ft under and plants moderate damage on his exterminator or, more likely, a threatening patch of dirt. Not exactly world ending. My problem is this very weakness, his frail nature leads me to either jump out in the open and get ripped apart or stay in restrictive cover in fear and throw out Sh4 attacks. That said, if for instance I knew exactly what my opponent was using and their individual threat range and stats, Wille would stand a chance at laying down some real threat; 10" range is still outside of the average threat range of melee chargers after all. This will give my opponent a reason to send forces to rid them of annoyance rather than kill an easy target. Thus allowing me to either let him sleep with the worms in an advantageous position or plan to save cards over for his continued existence.
My most hated models and the ones that disrupt me the most right now are Rotten Belles/Performers. Why is this? It's purely because I haven't read their cards enough to know the number game. Off the top of my head I know they have a ranged Lure that targets Wp with a decent CA8... or is it CA6 for Performer? That's it. They could have Def3 or Def6; I don't know without looking and that gives me a massive disadvantage in planning a turn. If I'm facing down these Lurers, I don't know the ranges involved so I dread everytime they activate, they either pull my models to their deaths or transport team mates. Both options hindering my plans of Vp denial. If I knew these numbers, I would have at least a clue on how to proceed.
Other things hinder my game, such as the aforementioned Manipulative. I've been out-activating an opponent but it nearly cost me the game because instead of waiting for the Manipulative model to activate thus lowering it's shields, I've targeted it and had to cheat in order to do basic attacks. Other games where it's been more even, I have had no choice but to target a non-activated Manipulative model. Now again, if I knew the numbers, I would obviously choose the right model for the job rather than again, the closest or the strongest.
Can my lowly Fire Garmin get past Howard's Terrifying 12 to knock off that final wound or is it better to send in a higher Wp model just in case? What even is Howard's defense?!
If I knew the numbers, it would be an easy call.
On the flipside, I once faced a Mei Feng crew with Rasputina and used my full knowledge of my opponent's models to easily play at range and keep his killy models either dead or busy. It was also the first game I truly saw the power of the December Acolyte. Being able to read your opponent's models without having to ask for stat cards or be surprised by a particularly high stat can mean the difference between victory and defeat between players of similar skill.
Homework is required, if you want to be the very best like no one ever was then get to the books and remember every single thing every Malifaux model does. Why don't I do this? Well for one thing, again, I'm in it for the fun. It sometimes makes for better games if a model can surprise you.
That said, being a blind man dodging arrows only because my eyes are tightly shut is no way to improve my game. How will I ever deal with a summoned Hanged if I consistently ignore his page in the rule book? How many times has a lone upgrade been the reason why I couldn't grasp a draw game? Balance is needed obviously, I still want to have wonder and excitement when it comes to games but I also don't want to be slapped by a model I should have sent to the cleaners. That's Numberwang for ya. Have fun out there.