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.