Monday, 29 February 2016

A Rose by any Other Name

So far my stable of Arcanist masters are performing admirably well although a distinctive podium has occurred where Rasputina is tippidy top, Toni is taking silver and Mei is hanging onto third place by default. This is most likely due to the Ice Witch being my favorite master in Malifaux to play and her weaknesses not being so blatant as the other two. Having a master who straight up kills fools as well is pretty handy as a strength and one I have missed, playing a lot of Yan Lo and Mei Feng; Yes, Feng's total damage is up equal or dare I say higher than Rasputina's but December's Chosen is a lot more consistent with it.

Bad habits have formed mind you, the inclusion of Wyrd actually releasing Wave 2 tech in plastic for all our consumer needs, particularly in the advent of the Effigys, has not helped me in terms of good decisions in list making. Brutal Effigy is almost in every Guild list I face now and my own use of Arcane Effigy is absurd. Shadow Effigy being in "Mei Feng" place for most useful out of the seven. My game has suffered and not due to age old rantings of "this master is fun but struggles against Blank". No, my Win/Loss total in January sitting at an eerie 1-6 loss with 'Tina has shown me that despite the AWESOME POWER of a Winter Goddess at my disposal, I need to step back and rethink my strategy. Let me explain:

Lately, I've been running Rasputina as the core of my crew, to a degree it works and why Vp gets awarded to me but the problem now is I narrowed the focus too much and use more than half of my crew to simply buff up the Lady of the Tundra. Essence of Power gets pushed alongside Raspy by The Captain in order to use it's Amplify buff, then an Ice Garmin wanders up and with Bite of Winter buffing her damage followed next activation by the Arcane Effigy giving out Arcane Radiance.
Theoryfaux smiles greatly at this as now Avalanche Alice is Ca8, getting double duty out of her soulstones, a 3/5/6 damage track and has discard-or-burn attached to her already fairly aggressive attack options without relying on fragile ice mirrors being pushed so far up the board.

Theoryfaux can taking a running leap!

If you read back to my Mei Feng rundown here, you might notice why your humble writer putting all his hopes and dreams into a single model is a bad idea no matter how magic or kung-fu that model is. Cassie Cold spending 4ss on upgrades, 4ss on cache and then another 24ss just to spend a turn buffing her up is sheer lunacy in retrospective, especially considering that the opponent can see it coming 3 activations beforehand!

I try to be good at this game guys...

All these buffs are all well and good but thinking back, does Rasputina really need them? More damage is great. More out of my soulstones, neat. Sacrificing half my list to do it is insanity though and being an Icy death incarnate anyway, being death incarnate +1 seems overkill if it wasn't telegraphing every activation being so. Surely I have better things to spend points on than a dude who does nothing, a dude who does nothing and can explode, a dude who has nothing to do if no one has a condition and an old feller who helps all the useless dudes out before taking to midfield and effecting the actual game.
One game had Levi destroy Winter Wanda after I threw caution to the wind and nuked two Waifs that were in range. I felt at the time it was a good play, it put Levi on the backburner and stopped him from bamfing around the board wherever he wanted, then I sat back looking at Essence of Power posting C.Vs looking for a new job, Arcane Effigy lost in the woods with nothing to do and The Captain, bless his heart, pushing them both to tar-pit enemies. It was shameful to say the least and didn't give a great reason for Snowy Sandra (I'm running out of nicknames...) to stick her neck out. Even if it did hurt Levi's effectiveness in the long run, without that support to back up her noble sacrifice, all it did was rend an already tentative synergy with her models asunder. Without casters nearby, EoP literally does nothing, without a leader, the effigy is left as a defenseless medic all the while the shambles of the rest of my list were left with toothpicks to fight sharks with.

So, I put a new plan into action, no more "Team Mega Buff", no more un-cooked omelette sloshing around a basket, I set aside what December Diana could potentially do and started asking what she could do alongside her crew.
What is Rasputina good at? Blast damage, paralyzation and board control in the form of her Ice Pillars. Against crews that struggle against armor, she can boost the longevity of the models around her. So a good all-rounder. Who helps alongside that?
My totem of choice for so long: Essence of Power has been my go-to because of it's Ca and soulstone boosting. It has made recent games of "Malifaux Bowling" a treat, yet even with it's toted ability to increase Rasputina's soulstone use, most of the time it's hoping that Icy Alison doesn't move so it can give out it's Ca boost. My Rasputina moves basically the whole game, getting into range, getting around corners, moving in and out of cover, getting out of melee.  A 3" push is a snails pace I agree but it's all Snow Mountain Maggie needs to be where she's required. 

Sadly this puts E-O-Pow in the position of doing little else but double Tundra Tina's soulstone use, which is fine if not for her other totem: Wendigo doing a lot more for her as a whole.
Wendigo I never really got on with at first, he's frozen heart, a fast significant bugger yes but he's also Def4 with 6Wds. Very easy to kill and just the right amount of Wk6 non-peon that trigger fingers everywhere start getting itchy because of. The Essence is a insignificant peon, apart from adding to activations (something it doesn't even really use) it's pretty much a non-scoring, non-threat to all non-blast players.
So what does 'Digo give me? Is it even worth taking? Well lets take for example, Essence moves towards the Rasmus then she does her thing. Now lets do the same with Wendigo, instead, Frosty Florence (I guess I wasn't running out of nicknames) does her thing then passes the torch to Wendigo as a chain who then moves to a better location and copies a spell at Ca4. Ca4 doesn't set galaxies on fire but it's still extra pressure on the opponent or an additional buff, plus in a pitch he can at least charge and throw some fists on a near-dead dude. Devour is a powerful threat in a crew that can so easily paralyze.

Next on the agenda was greatly lowering the amount of buffs unless they effected more than just Rasimir Putina (the nicknames just keep on rollin') Ice Garmin has a very good 12" diameter buff that effects Frozen hearts so it's an option for more Frozen heart heavy lists but if Garmina del Ice isn't out buffing at least 2 models a turn, it's not worth using outside of thematic lists, or explosion spam which I enjoy sometimes.
When these lists aren't so chock full of Slush Puppy Valentines, or I'm potentially facing a lot of conditions, the Arcane Effigy is grand. More focus on it's (1) action is required as the Discard-or-Burn is nice but leaves the Effigy twiddling it's thumbs otherwise. The slow condition being used against DJ Ra-Ra-T's already plodding team is a nightmare and something the effigy is great at removing.

After that, it's really just a case of playing more to Sub-Zero Sally's strengths rather than avoiding her weaknesses. For a while now, I've been playing general Arcanist crews and placing Raspy (or Feng) in the center without any clear synergy or thought. Joss is great, Mole Men are great, Coryphee are glass cannon all-rounders yeah but when it came down to master activation, it could have been anyone. So I decided to populate lists with more frozen heart choices dedicating pieces not to Ice Mirror fonts of power but rather making every model be aware that 16" paralyze ray is a thing. Allowing in-crew synergies that didn't rely on Rasputina to use a (1) action to create as well was a boon. Snowstorm can push or can fire freely into F-H melees, Silent Ones heal F-Hs as well as using Ice Mirror herself and Ice Garmin being able to buff more than a single model making December Acolytes even more annoying and giving Snowstorms damage track some actual bite. Nice little things that I had left behind because of this narrowed down focus on making Rasputina the greatest thing ever. 
The closer you look, the less you see.

With these old tricks re-implemented Freeze Over becomes a real pain for my opponents, engaging Frozen Hearts to stop the Ice Mirror is a well-known tactic but when that same frozen heart steps into base to base, slaps your model in the face and watches Gloria Glaicia paralyze you without even a chance to defend against it it's a work of art. With help from Snowstorms base size, even if she's engaged, she can pull other friendlies base to base just outside of melee engagement and have Ice Stalactite Stacy use Ice Mirror no problem. Wendigo being on protection duty by setting up really annoying walls messes with opponents movement plans and Ice Golem spreads slow as well as being a primary target, allowing the weaker parts of my crew to get where they needed to be.
as for non-Frozen Hearts, I've found great success in Hoarcat Pride, being another font for Devour allows Rar-Rar-Rasputina to do her paralyze thing and rely on more than Wendigo to finish the job.

And Joss, because Joss.

Every activation, Rasputina uses her "full" Ap, no more does she Push 3", make someone Frozen Heart and deal two damage. I still use Joss when Armor is prevalent but with more sense of synergy now, my games have gotten a lot more tighter and closer than if I were to rely on these general lists.

Never forget your master isn't the only model in your crew and have fun out there.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Joden is in a Stable Relationship

After fixed master events, you tend to run into the problem that the master you chose kinda sorta gets killed on certain tables. It's nothing new but in these situations the Perdita's, the Levi's, the Lilith's and others get called OP or "Beginner mode" masters simply because their presence on a board requires an action that they are (mostly) very well defended against regardless of the scheme or strategy. Lilith and her crew doesn't NEED to be killed in Squatters Rights but when the Waldgeists have severe soft cover near Lili's dense severe soft cover on top of Squat markers, that whenever you get near or in, Nephilim keep pushing you out of, you sort of have to answer the question which that master is proposing:

Misaki in Growfaux did remarkably well as a whole. Having a master so dedicated to two things: Movement and Death, means that the only weakness she has is bad positioning, which to be fair, I'm quite proficient at. At the same time though, she was very basic. 

Her main theme seems to be having a lack of soulstones and more crew options because of it. Sadly, my Ten Thunders collection is lacking in any sort of defenses or ability to deal that mad damage yo. So when Misaki or Mei Feng take the wheel, they are wholesomely the center of my crew's damage potential, which means even when the heavy hitters: Izamu, Rail Workers, Torakage etc etc get to where they need to be, they are taken out with relative ease and then the master has to charge in anyway. At some point, buying the Dark Debts box for Illuminated, buying the tag-team of Mr Tannen and Mr Graves, then buying the Temple of Dawn box for Sensei Yu and hoping and praying for Ten Thunder's Brothers to come out in plastic means to extend my options in Ten Thunders would take a fairly large chunk out of my wage packet to play Master's that are fun but I have tremendous trouble winning even games with.

Really though, what this event has shown me is that I am so very tired of bad match ups that I bring onto myself. I've tried the single master ideology and it sort of worked with Yan Lo.
Forcing myself to take on every challenge as the underdog; it was with the goal in mind to find a way to make Yan Lo work and in essence I achieved that and gave a more narrowed focus on what his strengths and weaknesses are. With Mei on the other hand, I already know what she does well and what she doesn't so I'm not learning her so much more that I'm re-defining my own tactics that I bring to the table with any master. Simply having one master to bring to a game means I need to have a master who is a good all-rounder to avoid that bad match up occurrence, staying with a single crew leader is normally to my disadvantage and this fact is cemented even more so with the advent of Gaining Grounds 2016's scheme pool.

Mei Feng is primarily good at two things, defending her crew from ranged threats and chip damage in melee. Her secondary role being mobility and displacing enemy models yet so far, with a well distributed terrain layout, most of the time she's forcefully planting her limbs across a targets vital organs whilst they lean against a wall. With Vent Steam, whilst it's a great deterrent, the moment a model comes within charge range, it's up to those models to either deal with the threat or have Mei Feng rush into melee thus moving her away from the ideal location to put up the steam and many players know this to be the case. Sure they'll take a whole bunch of damage but they've traded one model to put the crosshairs on the rest of my crew. Ten Thunders Mei has Yamaziko to lead a hand for this, Feng Venting and Yama bracing, protecting each other's weaknesses but outside of Captain pushes, Arcanist lack a way to deter charges other than with the reply of the 5 point palm exploding heart technique.
It's a balancing act.

Reading back on past posts, you know who gets mentioned the most? Ironsides and Rasputina, more than likely due to those being the masters I played a lot with before Yan Lo but all the more because the high points of my time in Malifaux have these two masters kicking bottom and taking no notice of names (whilst being out of gum...). I had loads of fun with them and really wish I could have them back in the limelight.

Now I could start playing purely Ironsides or purely Rasputina but quite frankly, I've grown tired of the aforementioned bad match-ups. Those games where I've chosen my master beforehand and then you flip those strategies and those schemes and voila! Before the game has began I've already lost 4Vp. Negativity aside, having a well-rounded stable of Masters, in this case The Defensive Mei Feng, the Offensive Rasputina and the Stasis Ironsides, stops poor match-ups from happening as frequently. It means I only have my own skill to comment on when it comes to victories or defeats as I'm wiry of saying "Welp <Master> is no good in this game". 
If I get my face kicked in, I don't wanna be the guy who laments on what could of been if I had only brought <list of models> instead. 
Being able instead to say "I'm bringing this master and these models because they have the greatest chance of winning" is more logical to me than "Well I've made my choice, I'd better place my head on this grindstone". If I were to face Molly again, would I bring a master who struggles against one wound models or do I bring a master who is immune to black blood and can handle a crowd. If I were playing Turf War with Deliver the Message and Distract on the table would I bring a Melee threat or keep everyone dead at range? If I'm playing Squatters against a superior ranged opponent am I going to use models that have a hard time against that or bring a master who can protect them from it? Logically speaking, why would I gimp myself just to remind myself that in bad match-ups, a particular master is bad? I already knew they were! A player gains no further knowledge by repeating the exact same action again and again and expecting a different outcome. 
Have I ever told you the definition of using only one master?

Toni and Rasputina have their fair share of weaknesses like Mei Feng as well to be sure.
Ironsides hates schemes where the opponent benefits from the master staying in one place and any amount of pushes are her bane as it means her well crafted Death Metal Mosh Pit turns into a quiet sunday Pub Lunch. If Toni can't tarpit, she can't get Adrenaline and then she's "simply" a taunt/luring master. This does mean the opponent has to deal with Toni in order to effectively do anything within a 24" inch diameter bubble that isn't attacking Toni but she's happiest when she has 3 models in the thick of combat and kicking absolute royal behind.

Rasputina is harder to talk about when it comes to weaknesses as I've played her enough to circumvent her most well known ones. Melee is nothing to be feared when Snowstorm or Armor of December can be used to righteously punish a would-be attacker after sub-zero shuts them down. Engaging her Ice Mirrors is also well known but I personally don't rely on mirrors for this very reason, I keep my plans to 12" range and expect the added 10" only as a bonus. Range attacks and de-buff auras are a problem but that's where the Ice Pillars come in or keep in mind that the typical range of these threats are also 12" so the Raspmas can still attack back.

This is hard. Back in the day all the above really bothered me but, as above, I "fixed" them so they were more manageable. Okay, try-over, lets start again:
Summoning that aren't cluster summons can really drain Rasputina's killing potential, as at least 3/4's of the time, it's a toolbox summon and spending even 2Ap dealing with them is beneficial to my opponent's single Ap to summon it. If my opponent is able to summon an "effect when model dies" or 3" de-buff aura next to Rasputina, that pretty much end's her as they're no longer attempting to tar-pit 'Tina or using melee attacks against her. Willpower spam she also has a hard time with as if Counterspell isn't helping, it takes it toll.
Summoning and auras there we go, they're weaknesses. Moving on.

So far as Mei Feng goes, I see her more as a defensive master so if I'm facing guild for instance, Feng will likely appear if I feel Rapsy and Toni can't deal with the damage output. Vent Steam x2 is tricky to get through for anybody at range and so long as I don't stand in one place all game in the cage of hands I've created myself, I would at least have a chance. Mei Feng can and has dealt with a whole range of non-armored foes but if she can deal with them, Rasputina and Ironsides can do so better.

It's easy to see Rasputina as an all-rounder but Ironsides is better at pure shut down and out of the three it's clear to see that Feng has the best crew shield. If 'Tina kills a Crooligan after it's dropped it's breakthrough markers, it will take a whole lot of Ap to pick that one marker up. If on the other hand Toni has charged it head-on or taunt/lured it before that time, she has successfully shut that model down from doing it's job. Facing a marker-summoner? The summoner in question will love it if you killed that 4ss model so they can summon that 8ss model from it. Toni will hold them in place without necessarily killing them having the summoner provide their own rather than saying "Thanks for the easy summon mate". If I'm facing that wall of gunfire and casting though, Feng steps in and makes card flipping that much harder, as well as being able to scout the board once the pieces are in place. In essence all masters covering for the other's weaknesses, like a good stable should.

Time will tell how successful I am. Keep those tactics sharp and have fun out there.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Fast Dragon, Slow Grow Week the Final - Betrayal at the Summit

The final week of GrowFaux. Can Misaki find victory against this last opponent after her defeat at the hands of the Star Theater production? Game four is against the traitorous McCabe who finds himself between a Rock and a Dragon Place.

This game unfortunately gives full on example of why the base rule book schemes and strategies needed improving. This being a standard 50ss scheme pool meant that the easy options are revealed Breakthrough and revealed Protect Territory. You could attempt the all-or-nothing Take Prisoner, you could lay down 3 scheme markers and attempt to lure out the master into them; but lets face it, having one or two scheme runners run back field and lay down 4 markers during a game is so much easier in the long run.

Flank Deployment
A Line in the Sand
Spring the Trap
Protect Territory
Take Prisoner

I'm facing a master who simply speaking, makes his whole crew better. Being able to hand off armor,  nimble, regen +2 and a sword which ignores most common defenses; all of that on top of nasty reactivates and 4" pushes with a master who can slow and paralyze pretty much at will. Facing down a master like this will be hard work, facing down McCabe who gets what is practically an extra life when you "kill" him is just work. Like most masters out there, unless you spend all game doing so, McCabe isn't worth taking down unless you have some heavy firepower, which I do not unfortunately.
Being that I'm playing Flank Deployment with Reconnoiter and going with game standards Breakthough + Protect Territory revealed, I can play a more cagey game and select targets who have strayed too far. My opponent though can do exactly the same, this is a game that planning can only do so much in.

Misaki this time has Disguised. Stalking Bisento is great for more aggressive games but after last week, running up to the middle of the board without a plan made for a tasty Misaki Paste. I didn't need to use Disguised but being able to prevent charges on a master does limit sacrificial tar-pitting minion's threat ranges. With that I ran Untouchable as to not feel forced to down all of her soulstones in one go. To that I've added Hidden Agenda to get some extended use out of my Oiran. Loyal retainer Shang returns giving a nod of approval to the sheer amount of Last Blossoms in play but giving nothing else but an extra card in the draw step and a friendly smile. 
Misaki is joined by Old Lady Yamaziko holding the Last Blossom's Smoke and Shadows, two Torakages, two Oiran, two Komainu and a Shadow Effigy for luck. That's a count of 10 activations in a Reconnoiter game, even if it ends up being an awful idea having so many minions it'll be a great send off to have Misaki run with her thematic crew.

My opponent played a strong list of McCabe with Glowing SaberBadge of SpeedPromises. Theme standards Luna and two Wastrels joined Chiaki, a Dawn Serpent and Ototo with Recalled Training and Hidden Agenda (For the sole purpose of always having an upgrade on him for Promises Buff). So a four person team for scheme running and two heavy hitters to sweep up my 10 model advantage.

First turn I got initiative and gave the first turn to my opponent who activated McCabe, gave Dawn Serpent Reactivate, the Badge of Speed and Glowing Saber pushing him towards Yamaziko, and an Oiran. For some reason unknown to even me, I activated Shang and passed the turn...
My opponent seeing Yamaziko without Brace decided to charge in and killed her with two swings evening up the activation order. The Oiran responding by hitting the Dawn Serpent for 1 damage and a single poison setting up Unbeknownst effectively tar-pitting the Serpent. The Serpent activates again and with little else to do takes 2Ap walking out of combat and sets fire to a Komainu and dealing 1 damage to the nearby Shadow Effigy with Breathe Fire.
The Effigy used to under-utilized ability all models possess to take away the one burning from the Komainu then failed to make the stone dog Remember the Mission. The Komainu charged the Dawn Serpent dealing two lots of weak damage and Slow. Everybody else in the turn walked up to their future destinations whilst Misaki triple walked up the board ready for a 2nd turn kill.

Yeah, a lot happened turn one. Two fast masters will do this in Flank Deployment.

Second turn and my opponent gets the inititive ordering McCabe to give the Badge of Speed to Ototo and charging the Torakage placing him on 1 wound. The Torakage responding by running 12" the hell out of dodge via Agile. He then activated the slowed Dawn Serpent doing absolutely nothing to the Komainu who responded by dealing Severe damage and weak to kill the Dragon before it got the chance to reactivated. 
A Wastrel seeing his opportunity for glory focus fired his Pocket Handgun at the Torakage missing completely. Misaki activates and takes down the very same Wastrel making sure not to be within Ototo's walk and melee range. Ototo activates, discards Recalled TrainingNimbles (!) towards Misaki and discards a card for Flurry... 

Misaki dies... Like closed casket funeral dies... Like forensic scientists would have trouble identifying the corpse dies... It's a sad day for Misaki. I messed up.
Misaki's off the twig! She's kicked the bucket, she's shuffled off 'er mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!!

At this point I maneuvered the rest of my crew in such a way as to at least achieve Reconnoiter whilst denying my opponent his. I also made sure to have the 1st Fast Oiran place down a scheme marker along the 2nd Komainu's marker whilst the second Oiran strode up and snatched the marker my opponent's Shadow Effigy laid down from under his nose. 

Turn three and the last turn bell rang (playing tournament standard time with 18+1 activations with Flank Deployment leads to slower turns, the more you know) The Oiran-Komainu tag team set up Protect Territory and Breakthrough whilst the remaining Torakage laid down the second Breakthrough marker guaranteeing my 7 points. My opponent re-maneuvers and kills the wounded Komainu and the center Oiran and puts down enough markers to score full Breakthrough and Protect Territory, leaving me with 4 models to his 6. Alas, the game was called and we ended a tie game 7-7.

What a fantastic way to end the Slow Grow, with such a tactical game being played out with quick murder and game turnarounds happening almost each activation it was hard to keep track of something as trivial as Reconnoiter. It was a rough game for Misaki proving that once again, when a real melee threat enters her zone, she falls down like a house of cards in a hurricane next to 10 excitable puppies.
Using Oiran for the first time and I'm really impressed by their scheme running abilities. Being able to tar-pit enemies by frankly telling them "Go somewhere else" on top of their upgrade giving them easy access to Fast (So long as the holder doesn't die second turn), being hard to hunt down with Defensive Stance and Disguised. They make fantastic scheme runners in the same vein as Firestarter. I really enjoyed using them this game.
The Komainu once again proving that they can dish out some real hurt with Wp attacking slow and burning triggers on their attacks. They sometimes wiff their defense rolls, Df4 being the worst thing about them but when they do a job right, they go above and beyond.

My opponent showed me why McCabe is just so fun to play with and against. Being able to selectively give benefits to pushed targets and Reactivating your favorite minion is hard but fair to face across the table and really gave the Dawn Serpent an extra reason to be a real threat on the table. It was great fun and a master I look forward to facing again.

So we close the book on the Slow Growth of Misaki. Quite frankly she is a ton of fun and really very deadly when she's given the opportunity to be. Alas my problem with her and Ten Thunders Masters in general is that my current collection of models within the Thunder's faction is lacking in ways to deal with some threats out there outside of avoiding it or having only the master being able to take care of priority targets. If I'm facing armor or pushers then I only have Kang (if they are Constructs) and the Guild Pathfinder to deal with them (If I get the trigger), whilst my options in Arcanist are a lot more pronounced.

The only downside to "Growfaux" was my first two games being landslide victories, not to fault my opponents of course but I never really got to see Misaki in a even game because everything was so much in Misaki's favor. Then my third week's game being a testament to my own illusion of Misaki's toughness had her mashed into paste. The final week was where I saw Misaki's true potential being a hunter of minion/enforcer models but even then my complete lack of positioning skill lead once again to her quick demise. I'm simply not used to fragile masters, Ironsides takes a whole crew to take down, Rasputina doesn't get into combat or murders those that do, Yan Lo is nigh un-killable in 5 turns and even Mei Feng takes a lot longer to take down if only due to her Leap Aside trigger. Misaki being basically dead in 3-5 decent attacks is a 180 of what I expect in a masters survivablity. And when I fear for my master's life to a 2/4/6 damage track on any given turn, I end up making either bad plays or ballsy plays hoping a defensive stance will be enough (It isn't).

I think for the time being, my Ten Thunders experience will have to be postponed until I find myself in the Ten Thunders mindset. That is, having models who won't last to a round of good ol' fashioned beating. TT have models that can do almost every role except stand still and tank hits and unfortunately, I'm currently in the mind set of assuming a model will be around for a turn and a half of non-master attacks. We all have a playstyle. Mine is having models that stay on the table unless I kill them myself.

Have a great game and have fun out there.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Fast Dragon, Slow Grow Week Three - Cabaret Beatdown

Game the third for First Lieutenant of the Oyabun, this week she faces down the glamorous, seductive and deadly Collette Du Bois and her showgirls.

The femme fatales faced off against each other in the following:
Standard Deployment
A Line in the Sand
Murder Protege
Protect Territory
Power Ritual

Knowing that Colette, outside of a board wipe, is pretty much untouchable, Assassinate was out of the question. Misaki can kill masters more than some masters can but it would be an uphill struggle for little to no gain. I decided to go with the more suitable Murder Protege and near-auto take Protect Territory. Knowing that the showgirls will no doubt take the scheme marker schemes and win them with or without my interference meant I had one job this game: Score full on Reckoning without letting my opponent. List time, baby!

Misaki alongside mainstay Stalking Bisento now has Servant of the 5 Dragons to ensure I have the best chance of not being lured to my paralyzed/poisoned doom. Wp8 is a tough hurdle even for a Rotten Belle so the Performer's Ca6 lure shouldn't be a problem. Shang tags along because I really like choosing 6 cards out of seven at the start of my turns.

Yamaziko enters also with Servant of the 5 Dragons ensuring she never ever loses a willpower duel, she is also carrying the sole Torakage's Bamf bombs.

Dawn Serpent re-enters the fray as the aforementioned Regen Ca (Name changed due to Foreshadowing) it has against the high number of Ca means it should take a lot more Ap to take out. Equal Wp to lure Ca means I have to play my control hand tight in order to have the dragon be where he wants rather than what the opponents want.

Joining the crew are a pair of Katanaka Snipers to take long range soft cover ignoring pot shots at whomever is in range, with showgirls not known for their high amount of wounds, not needing to travel any further than the center line means a ranged threat that can shoot outside of Colette's influence is helpful to say the least.

My opponent played Colette with Cabaret Choreography and Nothing up my Sleeve. Alongside her was the ever faithful Cassandra, two Coryphee and a Performer. Joss was also there as he was in the Star Theater at the time and tagged himself along for the fun.

Geez.... My whole battle plan was so narrowly focused on being slapped around by Performers that I had wholesomely discounted that Arcanists have any heavy hitters whatsoever. Willpower 8 didn't help me in the slightest this game. With so much Armor +2 on Joss and the future Coryphee Duet, my min damage 2 hitters weren't doing anything.

Theoryfaux can once again take a running leap.

Turn one started out well with a Sniper taking out a Performer with a severe critical headshot. Torakage failed to bamf and everyone else moved up, including Misaki...

I must point out at this juncture that, at this point in time, I thought Misaki was untouchable (Not the upgrade) and that Stalking and then running 15" into Joss and Cassandra at the time felt like a good move. Tank some damage and then Assassinate the pair of them next turn, job jobbed. Turns out...

Turn 2 my opponent gains the initiative and Joss clocks Misaki in the chin with a Pneumatic Fist dealing moderate damage and Choke Slamming Misaki paralyzing her. Shang bounded up and healed Misaki for 2 wounds which then Cassandra knocked down to a single digit off an auto-Defensive but lacking in life saving soulstones Lady Dragon.
Dawn Serpent activated and not wanting to give away Reckoning Points, killed it's master... Handing Colette an easy Assassinate. Well this game is going well. A Coryphee Duet tangled with Yamaziko and a Sniper with the Torakage who couldn't find his Tele-bamf cards, wading in. Surely three models can deal with a duet?

Turn 3 and Dawn Serpent thinks he can tangle with Joss, assuming Regen Ca can tank the hits; turns out a single heal flip doesn't help against 4ap + 3 Prompts of attacks, thus dropping the Serpent. The duet finishes off Yamaziko with ease and puts the Sniper to his final wound from Hard to Kill scoring Reckoning, leaving me with a poultry Sniper, a soon-dead Torakage and Shang. I called the game the turn after with no way to murder Joss or to safely drop scheme markers.

I hoped for a beating and got my monkey paw wish from the Star Theater's number one act. I had a feeling it would come at my most cocksure and sure enough, this
Reckoning game proved just how paper-in-the-wind Misaki is against another melee combatant. Had Joss not paralyzed Misaki, having a 12 wound model knocked down to 4 in one attack is hard to survive for much longer on anyway. With so much to lose being that darn close to Joss and Cass, I didn't allow myself the time to get my opponent to use up his control hand in order for Assassinate to be an actual threat. It's the same mistake I made a hellova lot of the time with Yan Lo's Misdirection. Discarding 2 cards is only a tough choice when the opponent has 2 cards left, otherwise it's a high cost to otherwise severely damage a master who has it as their only defense. Assassinate is a killer, and has been, only if the opponent is out of cards, otherwise , it's an almost non-trigger.
A first turn activation Misaki might be necessary for Stalk but she is best left to an opponent with a depleted hand (obviously) on all turns subsequent. Otherwise Misaki is a Ml7 auto-focus Melee expert with an above average damage track. Still deadly but with no soulstones and only auto-defensive to save her from wound taking I need to ensure the target is already bloodied before Misaki wades in, finishes them off and then pushes to the next target or to the safety of cover.
Torakage I need to position better, they are superb when they first charge or bamf into an enemies face and auto-focus attack but in this game I found that another model was always in the way or needed assisting and turned a potentially threatening model into "Weak for 1 damage" fodder. 6Def 6Wds is respectable but they need to get in, kill, get out. I learned how to pilot Rasputina with a fundamentally weak crew and I need to do the same with Ten Thunders models.

Another day and another defeat. Lessons are learned, now it's time to ready myself for the final event: 50ss.
Discard ya hand so I can Misdirect and Assassinate ya and have fun out there. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Fast Dragon, Slow Grow Week Two - Zodiac Calender Brawl

Game two for Misaki and now she's facing down the Tyrant of Plague: Hamelin.

This game allowed another style vs style game, being able to choose between a killy list and a more defensive list and both being valid strategies.
Flank Deployment
Squatter's Rights
A Line in the Sand
Make Them Suffer
Protect Territory

Facing down a master that is known for flooding the board with peons, Make them Suffer was an obvious choice; with the sole way of shutting me down being running a Malifaux Rat FAR away from Misaki and then never using Blighted or accidentally summoning off of his own models. Which lets face it, shuts Hamelin down. 3Vp in the bag easy. My next choice was either between the ever present Protect Territory or risking Bodyguard, I decided on the latter due to Rat King being well known for eating all of the scheme markers.

Onto the list:

Misaki retained her pet Shang and Stalking Bisento, adding Smoke & Shadows for the (future) two main-stays: Torakage. Being able to relocate a model who's safely buried until end of turn means, if I have the suit available that is, having no wasted turns trying to get up the board to assist. In this game and the couple of 50ss I've had playing it, it's always helped being able to Bamf a ninja to either far outside of combat or to wade in getting that sweet sweet Works Best Alone.

As I was deeply afraid of my models becoming slightly more English (Blighted), I added in Chiaki, the Neice in order to save the team from being wiped out by the black death. Being able to remove any possible Blighted, alongside Paralyze or the dreaded Sick in Bed condition.
Also being out of the way and never really stepping up to front lines means I can bluff Protect Territory whilst safely being away from deployment scoring fairly easily for Bodyguard.

Taelor I hired because Welcome to Malifaux scares summoners. Sometimes it doesn't matter, sometimes it creates bad plays and sometimes it gets Taelor dead. In this game she had the added benefit that she could be within 7" of Hamelin and garner the "Oh yay, Relic hammer" response (Walk + Hammer) forcing a move or getting anything in the way of her if the Stolen are taken care of. I didn't mind what happened so long as Taelor was able to get into combat and be the biggest target to deal with, allowing the Torakage a bit more wiggle room and keeping Chiaki safe from attention.

My opponent played a defensive list of Hamelin with his Anti-Charge aura (safe bet against Misaki), The Stolen, 2 Malifaux Rats, Freikcorps Trapper, Freikorps Librarian, and Ama No Zako, he revealed Outflank and Protect Territory.

First turn I got initiative and made Misaki lay waste to a From the Shadows Trapper to stop him taking pot shots at my fast-yet-weak crew. Stalked feels wasted when the upgrade gives you a (0) attack but auto-focus on Misaki's Bisento attacks is brutal no matter how many there are. I don't know weather my opponent planned for this to happen to get Misaki far away from the action but regardless the Trapper was a threat that needed dealing with.
My opponent spent the first turn making Ama No Zako walk and place a scheme marker, sacrificing the Stolen to summon 2 rats next to the two hired ones to create a Rat King to then Gnaw the placed scheme marker and move toward the second closest Squat marker to ready a claim next turn. My crew moved into positions that allowed them to next turn Walk-Interact second closest marker on my side and head up to the center. I normally hate Flank Deployment but having to play it so much recently I've come to respect it despite how it messes with my standard deployment ranges game.

Second turn was the marker claim turn. Misaki claimed the marker she wiped the Trapper's blood from and Stalked Ama No Zako. Ama No Zako claimed a marker and then walked to the furthest marker on his side. The Rat King was placed just outside of Hamelin's bubble allowing Taelor to take it down in one activation. Hamelin responded by Summoning two Stolen and then Obey'd Ama No Zako twice to walk up to and then take the Squat Marker. One Torakage took the second marker and walked towards the incoming melee whilst the second killed a Stolen that for some reason walked up to him, scoring the first Make them Suffer Vp.
This was a sticking point for me as it happened all game, The Stolen running into my models. I asked my opponent about it afterwards and he said that the Stolen are good at three things: making Rats, giving Blighted and handing out paralyze checks. But if he was giving out Make Them Suffer, why not flood the table with Rats? If he was avoiding giving Vp away, why run Stolen in to be murdered? I don't know if the easy Blighted and Paralyze check was worth it personally.

Turn three was the turning point, with Squatter's Rights safely in the bag for both players, it was time for murder, or at least attempted murder. Ama No Zako waded into the center of a Torakage, Taelor and the second Torakage and threw up some Miasma of Boils and Flies. Taelor killed a Rat that appeared scoring Make them Suffer and hit A.N.Z for weak. Torakage hit twice for weak one damages but the second Bamf'd out burying for the turn. The Librarian then healed Ama a decent amount resetting the clock.
Hamelin then Obey'd 'No Zaka to Focus then Obey'd her to attack Taelor... hitting a black joker. Man for a 1-in-54 chance, that black joker shows up at the worst moments. At the end of Turn 3, Torakage Bamf'd into the Librarian's face ready for face smashing.

Turn 4 the Torakage smashed academic face as promised. Misaki finally got into combat and Red Joker'd an Assassinate trigger into Ama No Zako (who once again Black Joker'd her focus attack, poor Oni) leaving Hamelin in the incredibly rare position of being out-activated. Another Stolen was killed and a marker was taken forcing a submission from my opponent. Chiaki being in place for full Bodyguard and full Make Them Suffer Vp to his 2vp from Squatters with no way to climb back, it would have been folly to continue other than seeing a board wipe.

It was a rough game. Facing Misaki with Make Them Suffer in the pool is hard enough for a summoner but trying to play a master like Hamelin without the Rat engine put the final nail in the coffin. The post game chat revealed that if he had played the game 3vp down knowing I'll be gunning for the Rats and the Stolen before other targets, the Rat engine would have overrun my non-blast list and tar-pitted the crud out me whilst he scored Outflank and Protect Terri.

This is what Slow Grows are for though, to be put into difficult situations and learn from them. What do you do when your master is blatantly giving away points? What happens when you can't do the one thing your master is known for and forced to do their secondary role?
My opponent realized in this game just how powerful Ama No Zako can be looking back at her presence in the game. 
If Ama didn't run into the black joker (twice) Hazardous Terrain with two lots of Min-damage 3 attacks and a zero obey to use other models to hit their allies would have ENDED my crew. Ama tied up two Torakage and Taelor, if she was able to hit already damaged Taelor twice it wouldn't be a long shot to expect Hazardous Terrain to finish off all three the next time they activated. Next turn, tank the damage take out all three with an Obey action on top of two attacks, heal up, job done.

Alas, I didn't learn much of anything with Misaki this game, due to the landslide nature of the game seeing Misaki kill stuff could have been safely assumed. Had the Rat swarm happened and branched out, Misaki and Taelor might have been able to dash around the table but until I get a re-match against The Pied Piper it will all be theoryfaux.

Onto my next game on week three, where I'll be playing <Sigh> Reckoning... Well all I can do is hope for a bad match up in order to really get the feel for Misaki's weak points. Until then, avoid that black joker at all costs and have fun out there.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Fast Dragon, Slow Grow Week One - New vs Cold

My local game shop earlier last week started a casual tournament Slow Grow: "GrowFaux", rules being that you could only enter with a master you've played less than 3 times beforehand.
This gave me a choice, as your humble writer loves a Slow Grow. I could either assemble a scissor welding spirit herder as now Kirai's summons are actually trickling out, stay with Arcanists and try out herding beasts instead with Marcus or go plain budget and stick with the, until now, un-assembled Misaki. As Xmas kicks the butt of all people great and small, I decided to stick with what I had and ran the Lady of the Thunder.

My experience with Misaki has been mostly watching my girlfriend play her and having a couple of matches between ourselves. She always seemed to be either safely scheme running in the background or bouncing off models to get to where she needed to be so I wrote her off as "Fast melee scheme runner". I then once got ruined by Misaki in a Squatter's Rights game where the guy I was facing was being a whole hellova lot more aggressive and planted Mei Feng into the ground whilst a Dawn Serpent went around snacking on Metal Garmin and healing to full each turn. Both styles work but that game always stuck with me.

The first game appeared tailored to show just how many options Malifaux has in terms of winning Vp:

Standard Deployment
Turf War
A Line in the Sand
Deliver a Message

A bit of killy, a bit of interact and the standard getting to a place a slapping down a marker.
Luckily for me, my first game was against a first time Rasputina player. My opponent has been playing since 1st edition and has basically every master, he had great trouble actually finding a master he hadn't played less than 3 games of but Rasputina fit the bill. With prior knowledge of the Snow Queen being opposite me I built a list that contained some anti-casting tech:

Komainu I have already stated how useful they are, having them as a summon and general pest in Yan Lo worked out great and their Wp attacking slow triggering is plain nice. What I took them for this game was for their "Guard the Soul" action allowing them to make free Melee attacks to anyone casting within 6" of the dog. With most Frozen Hearts and Arcanists in general having Ca actions, I thought it was a good pick for some board control.

Next up, Dawn Serpent who I borrowed and wow, Wk6 Flight, Ml7 in Melee and range, decent damage spread. I took him for Counterspell but the Serpent is so much more. What I found out later as well was with half of my own list having Ca actions, Dawn Serpent had what I affectionately call Regen All. Having that many casters surround him ensured that even if it took damage, it was back up to full health next activation. Sweet.

With the limited soulstone pool I decided to play it safe and chose a Torakage, Shang for hand filtering and Misaki with Stalking Bisento has her sole upgrade. 5 activations and 2 soulstone cache I felt was best for such a low stone game and knowing what Rasputina can throw out, I was prepared for a showdown. A Snow-down if you will...


My opponent played a strange list but I could see where he was coming from. Rasputina had Armor of December (because it's the law) Child of December and Sub Zero, a Coryphee, Ice Garmin, Performer and Willie. I forgot to ask him the reason for his choices but in my own mind, Coryphee was for speed, Garmin for damage buffs and slow, Performer to drag Raspy along and lure someone for message delivering and Willie because... Willie.

I chose Breakthrough revealed because why not and Deliver a message. Why I chose Deliver a message is beyond me but obviously I thought Komainu was going to be near 'Tina at some point and use his teleporting zero. My opponent revealed Deliver a message and nothing else so I assumed Assassinate as Coryphee was the only combat model that could score full on Vendetta.

I started the game stalking Willie and through a combined effort of double walks and lures from both parties, I ended the first turn nose to nose with Performer and the demo man. Somehow I got initiative and went Assassinate trigger crazy throwing out a bunch of damage and absolutely ruining his hand and soulstone pool. Willie dropped but I gambled the assassinate trigger over pushing away with the Performer and my opponent discarded his last two cards to prevent death. Next activation: Deliver a Message. Luckily, a combined effort of Komainu and Dawn Serpent took care of Coryphee and left my opponent with very little on the field for Turf War. I piled into the center with my remaining models and due to a Torakage being a pest and Dawn Serpent stopping easy Overwhelms going off it led the game into a 7-4 win to me.

A very unfair game as I had built my list tailored to beating Rasputina, I believe my opponent was unaware of the sheer speed of Misaki and the amount of auto-focus attacks she can throw out on stalked models. With Shang on hand for emergency healing and having a god-darn DRAGON attacking his ranks in the mean time it meant his force of control pieces couldn't stand up to her in a fair fight. My hand was amazing which helped, cards not being used as I was Ml7 against Def5 or less combined with Rush of Magic allowing me to filter my hand meant despite the wholesome lack of stones, I was fairly confident that I had the defense available to be so aggressive.

It's hard to say in such a small game but I'm really enjoying Misaki's play style. Auto-focus on stalked targets is wonderful when you can throw out 4 attacks with threat of Assassinate to then leave combat last attack to bother someone else. Killing a performer with a (0) action Bisento to then charge over my own models in order to finish off a Coryphee is what lead to preventing my opponent from scoring Turf War, something none of my other masters could do so easily.

I don't know what my next game will bring but hopefully Misaki gets to shine again. Remember, when in doubt, use a dragon and have fun out there.