Monday, 11 January 2016

The Devil Makes Work of Idle Hands

Gunsmiths. Amazing aren't they? Using 3ap to cut through armor, prevent soulstone use and dealing blast damage all the while having double positive attack flips.

Johan. Amazing right? Ending all conditions and swinging a giant hammer, what's not to love?

Howard. Amazing. Decapitate on flurry? World-Ender.

Rail Golem. Has tons of burning and can locomotion for days with it's 5/6/8 damage track.

Oh how times have changed.

Once upon a time I would have agreed with everything said above, it's on the card, they can do all these things. You'll always have the suits you need in your hand... Right?...

These days I never rely on the actions of models who require suits unless they are henchmen or masters and I REALLY need a trigger to go off in order to achieve my goals. In my more recent games I've found that taking too many of these models which use non-built in triggers rapidly depletes my options if I'm taking them for those triggers. I remember taking Pathfinder back in my Ten Thunders days, assuming that a 6+ Tomes would be in my hand EVERY turn for summoning Traps. Some turns they weren't, most turns it was a high card which I needed to use for his trigger or for general cheating purposes. 
In some games I've NEEDED Johan to get rid of conditions but for some reason I didn't have 4+ Rams, a card one reasonably expects to have in their hand every turn but no, sometimes you have no Rams, sometimes you have the 2 of Rams...
Gunsmiths. I can't tell you how many times my Gunsmiths WEREN'T Fast and cutting through armor and instead had to "just shoot" because, unless you're stacking the deck, having a low or high Rams plus a low or high Tomes for every activation isn't a guarantee. Even if you have these cards, are you willing to give up half your hand for one models activation? As if you are, that model needs to win you the game! I no longer rely on them to always have fast and always have that trigger for anti-armor, what I can rely on is them to have Sh6 Rng:12".

Thing is, even when you have these cards in hand, most of the time your opponent is putting enough pressure on you to force you to use those very same high cards to prevent that very same model from kicking the bucket. It's a dilemma and one you will face many times during games of Malifaux. Yes Hank's Decapitate trigger is great but if cheat in that 11 of Rams and your opponent dumps that 5 and 3 that were basically blank to them, you've pretty much discarded a way to keep Mr Langston alive for another turn. On the flip side if your opponent is low on cards, forcing a discard-or-die decision can lead them to make a difficult choice but are you willing to save that one card in order to it? Is Howard going to be alive long enough for your opponent to have little to no hand left? It's a tough one.

Trigger distribution is something you learn from experience playing Malifaux, no one tells you about it in the start but sooner or later you ease into your personal style and find out how your lists are sometimes harder to manage than they should be. Back to Gunsmiths, great ranged threat but this myth that they will always have fast and always get the trigger they need in either a low discard or having that high card in hand is folly at best. Discarding for a suit doesn't automatically mean they hit nor does assuming you'll have that soulstone prevention trigger on the next turn to end that henchman. They are great triggers in the right scenarios but don't think for a moment that you'll always have the right one in hand, probability or no.

Lets take another view, lets say you do have that 12trigger-suit in hand, at some point during the turn you want to ensure that trigger goes off right? But then the target inexplicably dies or your model gets pushed out of range or is hit by a de-buff. Do you hold onto the card you can "no longer use" for next turn or do you use it for defense this turn? Is that trigger going to help the game move along next turn and is worth waiting that turn to use? Or does it's effect not affect the big picture as a whole. Are you hurting Lazurus because he's wiping out your guys or are you killing those Molemen who are about to lay down too many markers to prevent?

Personally (for the time being) I've been taking the practice of saving cards face down for certain models effects that NEED to go off. A life saving condition wipe, a defense breaking trigger, to guarantee that slow trigger hits that model with flurry, that high card to leap or to make absolutely sure Railwalker goes off once. You have to choose your battles though, saving more than two cards like this means that when that inevitable duel rears it's ugly head, you're too busy saving for that slow trigger when another model is getting sacrificed because of it. I've had bad flips in duels which forced my hand and made me use the card I was saving to ensure I won an important duel but at least I made myself aware that had it not been for that 13 against my 4, I would have made that original play I was saving a card for and ensured it happened. It sucks when you start an activation and realized only too late that that minion last activation really didn't need to prevent 4 damage on it's 6wds by using the card you actually needed now for your henchman/master.

In one game my opponent decided (a choice he later wondered why he made) to put a bunch of poison on a Fire Garmin of mine to ensure Expunge killed him in one shot. I let it happen.
Now I could have prevented it, very easily in fact I was blessed with a hand of 8+ at the time but I saw that the Garmin wasn't defending anything, I still had a sizable force on my side and my scheme runners were steadily making their way up the flanks. This Garmin standing around and not defending, preventing or gaining Vp from it's presence wasn't worth ending my hand for, so I let the cards flip as they may. Later on in the turn I ensured my runners were defended and made sure Mei Feng had what she needed in order to hunt down bodyguard targets. Yes it was a shame I had to sacrifice a good shooter and provider of blast burning but I made the right choice and (unfortunately for my opponent) took advantage of his bloodlust.

How many different suits does your crew require? Three? Two? Just the one? Who needs them? Minions, Enforcers? Henchman, your Master? How many Soul stones will you need for stoning for cards, damage prevention flips, the rare yet sometimes crucial initiative flip? Are you using them every turn? What triggers are absolutely necessary each turn vs those that are kinda nice to randomly flip into?
The Captain has burning on his pushes but it's not something I would ever save a card for.
Shadow Effigy on the other hand has a really useful "Remember the Mission" ability which basically requires you to save a 10 for it to accurately happen.

Rasputina is my most stone hungry master. She wants Masks every attack for the ever present Overpower and because I love a bit of Shatter action I need either Masks or Rams to get the most out of my (0). Due to this dependency on specific suits, the rest of my crew has to do without the aid of Soulstones or sometimes even high cards if I require a particularly devastating activation. So when building a crew with Ms 'Tina I have to keep in mind that she will be using every stone available, so I have little in the way of henchmen which rely on prevention flips to stay upright or have suit dependent models in her games.

Yan Lo on the other hand has no such suit requirements or even high cards really, his upgrades and Chi do everything so saving cards for other models becomes a whole lot easier and makes for lists that *can* have a high density of models that rely on stones or saving of cards to do what it needs to.

Start with your master and their upgrades and take it from there, what abilities do you NEED and which ones can you blind flip and not worry too much about? Then it's all up to the luck of the draw that affects what each turn brings you in terms of options. Don't let attachment to non-key models ruin your game plan, and ensure you have a plan when that bad flip happens or if you need that key card to be used for survival instead of death dealing. Keep that poker face and have fun out there.

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