Monday, 28 March 2016

The Immitation of the Sow

The first official tournament I attended this year was Boarfaux, hosted by Warboar's Paradise Bar. A fantastic venue and only really cramp because of the 30+ people that attended thus contributing to their biggest Malifaux event to date. Terrain was set up wonderfully and the T.O was clear, concise and kept players up to date with amount of time remaining. Everything you want in a tournament, casual or official.

I finished in the top ten, which is rather strange because I lost 3 games out of four... oh oh wait, had the results upside-down... I actually placed 26th. A result I'm pleased with as the talent and sportsmanship of players that attended was magnificent to say the least. It also highlighted that I need more games against the Viks and to actually study their threat range but more on that later.

I opted for Arcanists and brought with me Mei Feng and Rasputina. As usual Absolute Zero Sabrina took most of the limelight but Rail Walk Rihanna got a closing game in and played very well despite the disadvantages. Only knowing the opponent's faction means that I had to take into account that almost anything could be on the opposite side of the table, so I took the all-rounder in my stable unless Arcanist or Guild were sitting across from me.

Game 1 - Rasputina Vs Dreamer - 4-2 Loss

Standard Deployment - Guard the Stash
Convict Labour, Show of Force (Mine), Leave your Mark (Opp), Search the Ruins (Mine), A Quick Murder (Opp)

Announcing Neverborn in my meta normally means Pandy, Lily or Collodi. Lynch being mainly played Thunders together with Zoraida and Lucius being panned for being sub-par or plain boring. Imagine my surprise when Dreamer hit the table.
I've played against Dreamer exactly zero times but I know his card well enough and about his particular summoning/healing mechanic. It didn't really help in the long run but at least I wasn't clueless. As it was my first game I took: 

Rasputina w/ Armor of December, Child of December and Cold Nights (6 cache)
Joss w/ Imbued Energies
Snowstorm w/ Imbued Energies
Wendigo, Arcane Effigy, 2x Hoarcat Pride, Ice Garmin.

With a flying  summoning Dreamer and armor ignoring Teddy across from me, I knew I had a tough match ahead of me. My general plan was to have Wendigo and Raspy throw out walls to slow the advance of models drawing closer to the stash markers, if I obtain 1Vp over my opponent then all I needed was full points on schemes and I was set. Rasputina easily took Teddy down but failed to do anything of consequence for the rest of the match whilst Joss tanked hits admirably. Attempting to do the same with a Hoarcat Pride and Wendigo on the other stash marker simply wasn't working. The late game saw two damaged, reactivating Stitched Togethers Gambling for life 8 times total absolutely ruining the rest of my forces and closing the game. I scored nothing for Stash and 2Vp for Show of Force to my opponent's 2 Stash Vp and 2 Quick Murder Vp. It was brutal but at least it was a close game.

Game 2 - Rasputina vs Viks - 7-3 Loss

Flank Deployment - Squatters Rights
Convict Labour (Mine), Hunting Party (Both), Exhaust their Forces, Set Up, Undercover Entourage (Opp)

*NOTE: Not my game
If Outcasts are named, it's normally Viks, Levi or Daw. Knowing what Viks are like in competitive play, I assumed the Sisters were coming to play but for whatever reason this didn't click in my head and I failed to give the Sub Zero upgrade to anyone. Taking five damage to the face is slightly more tolerable when it ends the activation, prevents  Whirlwind and leaves a master that spent the turn buffed to the teeth in the clutches of frosty death. Sadly, as I don't use the upgrade nearly as much as I realistically should, I opted instead for:

Rasputina w/ Armor of December, Child of December, December's Pawn, Decoy (6 Cache)
Snowstorm w/ Imbued Protection, Decoy
Blessed of December w/ Killswitch
Wendigo, 2x Hoarcat Pride, Ronin

In hindsight, ditching the cats and Imbued Protection for a pair of Silent One and Sub Zero would have proven better in the long run but I have a weakness for the felines, something I need to plan a use for rather than starting every ARC list with "Two Hoarcat Prides with...".
The game started well enough, the Viks were being cagey for the early game which didn't help me out as my models were behind blocking terrain on brown alert waiting for the
impending beatdown. Wendigo and Hoarcat Pride took early Squat markers but then I just couldn't catch a break. Turn two my opponent brazenly puts the Viks out into the open on the last activation so turn 3 came down to Rasputina destoying her or the Viks killing Snowstorm and Ronin then tying up Rasputina. Initiative comes and he flips a face card....Kay.
I struggled for the rest of the game, the Blessed, bless her heart, failed to place enough markers for Convict Labour so tried to zero in on the Malifaux Child, needing only one hit to kill him scoring at least one point for Hunting Party, first attack wiffs and the second misses the trigger leaving the Child with wounds to spare. My opponent takes this time to walk Vik of Ashes over to my deployment and then uses the Malifaux Child to heal up to full with a top-decked 7 of Rams into a Red Joker heal. Blessed gets killed revealing Killswitch finishing off the child and at least scoring something. Final results, I only got 2 Squatter's Vp due to my crew being murderized, 1Vp for Hunting Party to my opponent's 3Vp in Squatters, 1Vp in Hunting Party (surprisingly) and full points for Entourage.

Game 3 - Rasputina vs Viks - 7-4 Win

Standard Deployment - Headhunter
Convict Labour, Take Prisoner (Opp, Silent One), Leave your Mark (Mine), Neutralize the Leader (Both), Public Demonstration

Outcasts again and again suspected the Viks and AGAIN didn't think Sub Zero was a good idea. With how much fun I found Blessed in the new Gaining Grounds schemes, I thought she would have the task of either backfield shenanigans or at least pick up some discarded heads. My list was as follows:

Rasputina w/ Arcane Reservoir, Armor of December, Child of December
Blessed of December w/ Imbued Energies
The Firestarter, Snowstorm, Silent One, Hoarcat Pride, Wendigo

With how often the Viks fail to kill important targets in one swing (which I say is outright strange) some healing was in order and after the beating I took last game, I thought it prudent to at least give the Viks a means to get distracted by some terrain hopping firethrower guy alongside a spattering of Silent One healing. In that beloved hindsight, I could have taken almost ANYONE ELSE instead of a Hoarcat Pride and Wendigo as they did nothing this game. The game once again started cagey as I was hiding and my opponent was hiding whilst getting into range. Blessed leapt up the board to start leaving marks everywhere whilst I was hoping and failing to bait out one of the sisters with a tasty hoarcat. The reckless Firestarter jumped out, gave the Vik of Blood Burning +4 then dived back behind cover only to be reminded that Viks have like 60" threat range and was beaten to a pulp by Ashes. Next turn Blood wisely flanked the Hoarcats and went straight into Snowstorm who was hanging out playing cards with Silent One. With Arcane Reservoir  and some dead lucky top decking and soulstoning, Snowstorm survived only taking 4 wounds. Silent one attacked the Vik for weak damage and got off her healing trigger then healed SS 2 wounds bringing him back to full.

Rasputina then unloaded Frozen Hell into the melee and finished off Blood leaving S'torm and 'One on a single wound each; something my opponent said afterwards that he never expected me to do, which is why he was so brazen. Ashes seeing her chance, rushes in and kills Snowstorm forgetting that Storm explodes after death, damaging Ashes and killing off Silent One, heads falling everywhere like a pinata victory. Rasputina finishes the job and pushes to pick a head up. Thus after the upkeep of final turn head collection I scored 2vp for Headhunter, 2Vp for Leave your Mark, and full Vp for Newt Leader. My opponent scored 3Vp for Headhunter but only managing to score 1Vp for Neutralize.

Game 4 - Mei Feng vs Seamus - 9-6 Loss

Flank Deployment - Reconnoiter
Convict Labour, Hunting Party (Opp), Exhaust their Forces (Mine), Covert Breakthrough (Both), Occupy their Turf

Haven't had much experience vs Seamus either, but again his gun, teleporting and belle summoning are well known. I decided on Mei Feng if only because I wanted a game with her rather than choosing the right master. Mei Feng is well documented in being bad at summoning Recon but with Breakthrough and Exhaust on the table, I presumed I could at least get 6 points. The list:

Mei Feng w/ Seismic Claws, Imbued Energies, Imbued Protection (5 cache)
Blessed of December w/ Imbued Energies
Howard Langston w/ Imbued Energies
2x Fire Garmin, 2x Hoarcat Pride

I really need to find an alternative to the cats. Either way, the game was a great back-and-forth with every turn after the first being a chess game of activation control and Reconnoiter denial. I managed to deny my opponent the first recon point but failed to grab any myself and the rest of the game his models were either exactly where they needed to be or Slow Belles were summoned to walk over the thresholds. Whilst I did a great job at Exhausting and laying scheme markers down, so was my opponent in killing my Cats and Garmin and laying his own markers. I wouldn't ever call it a close game but it was a great end to a day of Malifaux goodness.

The day as a whole was incredibly enjoyable and facing new opponents and new masters is always welcome in my casual eyes. Dreamer is an absolute blast to play against and Seamus is such a tricky bugger that you never know where a game is going to take you when he's across the table from you. Facing the Viks twice in a row was harsh but it was a arse-kicking reminder that I should learn their threat ranges and (If playing the Rasmus) bring along Sub Zero when I'm facing Outcasts. I spent the majority of the early game activating and passing the turn because of the Viks reputation rather than what was actually on the board and that obviously doesn't help me win games.

Rasputina played a healthy game of Malifaux and I was glad to bring her along to her first tournament. I feel had I not been on brown alert all game against good Vik players, she would have easily brought me more victory points. Mei Feng, despite me dropping her AGAIN into a Recon game vs Summoning, completely smashed the scheme pool and if I had more knowledge of threat ranges, could have easily gone toe-to-toe with the Viks or at least Soulstone Prevention-Leapt Aside to score more Vp than I did.

More knowledge to bring to the next event. Keep aiming for the stars and have fun out there.

Monday, 21 March 2016

The Value of Sacrifice

Other titles in I had in mind were 
"Frame for FUN" 
"Just, Just Go Sit in a Corner" 
& "Guys? Control Hand? Guys!?". 

The more you know.

What I've found out and touched upon late last year was, sometimes in a game of Malifaux, some models just plain don't matter anymore. A recent game had Snowstorm face down the fury of a very angry Mei Feng but with activations remaining and the necessity of getting past opponent's high cards and the rather likely Vent Steam, I felt it best to leave it to fate. 

A very sad, possibly in slow-motion, Snow and Storm, with a single tear running down both of their faces to the sound of a resonantly somber song, stand defeated. They both stare at Rasputina, no hatred in their eyes but rather tearful regrets.

Time stops. If only for a moment.

They smile as a suitably aggressive heavy metal music slowly fades in followed swiftly  by Mei Feng's Tiger Claws destroying their very essence rending them asunder...

I want the thank the academy....

What actually happened far, far away from imagination land is Mei Feng flipping higher numbers than Snowstorm's numbers, my decision not to cheat higher, then removing the model depiction of a fictional character from the table.
The above prose sounds better in the grander scheme of things mind you.

It's a skill that beginner players learn to adapt into their games and it took me quite a long time to consider that with only a finite resource of control hand available for semi-assured actions, using them wisely and knowing when to "not bother" for certain models is not only reserved for just for when my control hand is empty but I don't want to repeat what I previously said in "The Devil Makes Work of Idle Hands" for hand management. I want to talk about those times when your one of the remaining 7 or 8 models is just not worth keeping around. They've lost that glow, they aren't the same model you've hired anymore and you want to move on and concentrate on your work. You're in different places and you feel a  Oh good they're dead, man it was getting to be a drag being with that model dude.

I've had it happen in many games, turn four rolls up and I'm either winning or drawing with a chance at a comeback and my opponent activates and concentrates their fire on some dude who is out of position who's not ever going to score this game and who can only really attack for no gain. The rest of my models are protecting schemes, scoring for strategy or in a position where they can end the game where they need to be. 
This guy This Guy though, he's getting nowhere in life, riding the coat-tails of my more successful models and not keeping up paying his half of the rent. If my opponent is courteous enough to, lets say, Evict this particular individual from my life; well I suppose I'll look the other way during this, shall we say, Intervention.

Sometimes you have to take advantage of your opponent's blood lust by being Zen and accept losing a model in this instance is a natural part of tabletop life. If they cheat cards in order to hit the poor individual then all the more better. When I'm on a speculative 7-6 victory and only really need those 4 models around to ensure that assumed point total, models 5 and 6 better be stopping the opponent's Vp or else they get no control hand to assist them with breathing. It's late game and the loss of a Key model is brutal so if my opponent wants to throw their fate at a small fry, so be it.

This is of course assuming I'm winning. When it's likely that loss is on the cards (and with a year's total win/draw/loss standing at 5/1/10, for me its certainly likely) getting to even decide what models live and die is sadly out of my hands. Most of my models by game end are either engaged or 12ft under, so I have absolutely no choice in letting a model die, most likely I'll need all of them to have a chance at a draw. In these situations who do you save cards for and who do you give the face cards to? They're all required to score!
Quite honestly, without the game in front of me, I can't give a general answer. If the strategy is low, focus on your guys who can score it and if a scheme is score-able, let your guys who have a chance take a shot I guess....
If both are low (as what most happens to yours truly, look I don't follow my own advice all the time, okay) then the fate deck will have to unfortunately cover you. I've had scoring models who have taken a LOT of heat and lived much longer than they had any right to by top-decking fate. When a Sister at the chapel of Viktoria takes more than 4 swings to take down Joss with all her relevant buffs and all I had were those lucky top decks, I call that a win even if it resulted in Vp, model and game loss.

Then there's the time the deck screws you and the models you'd expect to be able to take a series of hits and stay standing, are left as little more than dust in the wind. It happens. How many of you have suffered a face card vs Black Joker only to see a Red Joker in the damage flip? Devastating.

I've learned in my recent games to plan for eventualities. It's not always clear but by the middle of turn 3, I can roughly imagine how things are going to go down and what the score is likely to be by game end. What me and my opponent can do to change that can be at least assumed at this point also. By the end of turn 4, I have a detailed idea of what points are left to be scored so I attempt to make key models in advantageous positions long beforehand, which in turn (presuming my opponent is doing much the same) creates closer games than if I were to attempt purely last turn Vp gains. Gaining Grounds 2016's new schemes has leveled this out somewhat by allowing players to score throughout the game rather than the all or nothing at game's end that was the base rule book schemes but even so, with enough Malifaux experience, you get a gut-feeling how scores will go down by mid-game. It's shown me greater depth of forward planning and knowing what models are most likely to achieve that objective. And also what models are best left as bullet sponge punching bags.

Keep calm, remain Zen and have fun out there.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Me? Deny your Vp by Support? No Mr Bond, I Expect You to Die!

I once had a very short and prompt discussion on the topic of Support masters versus Killy masters, with both of us agreeing at the time that Killy masters on the surface appear to have the advantage in terms of gaining and denying Vp; whereas a support master can easily score 10Vp but maybe have trouble against preventing the opposing players.

In my relatively limited and casual experience, this seemed to be the case. Yan Lo can and will score 10vp unless his crew is taken out to the point where it's no longer possible. Any common model (read non-peon) can score marker based schemes and every faction has a tanky model to stand and take hits whilst accomplishing interact actions or protecting future Vp investments but after that? How are you going to deal with your opponent scoring just as well with their models? It's something which killy crews can take advantage of easier than support masters

Most players I've pitched this question to have stated that masters being denoted as simple Death-dealing or Support is much too black and white which I stand to agree with. Rasputina is very killy but with Ice Pillars and handing out Armor +1 with Silent Ones healing alongside the fine Freeze Over, one could easily argue that hand-in-hand with sheer unadulterated death, that she's also great at supporting her crew allowing them to win games.
Nicodem is very supportive but with all his summons being buffed to the teeth and a general disregard for them un-living for too long, his crew can also be described as killy. Ramos creates spiders and does a bunch of Ap-oh-who-cares (I'm not a fan) but when his spiders are positioned with care, taking down a Df3 or less henchman with constructs having every buff they need is a simple job. Thus it comes down to what scheme pool is on the table and taking it from there.

How often does a table wipe happen in your meta? Many out there might be in agreement that winning a strategy with no one left across from you turn 3 onwards is the easiest thing ever (in most of circumstances mind; Collect the Bounty with a bunch of schemes requiring interactions or keeping your opponent's models alive will more than likely result in a tie) but really how often does it happen? Every game? Every one in five? If it happens a lot then either there's no terrain whatsoever or your opponents are making a lot of mistakes often. It's hard to come back from massive out-activation yes, especially when the Viks have Whirlwind'ed any model that's vaguely threatening from the table early game but, even if it's the most flukeiest luckiest set of circumstances ever, you could still win with nothing more than Wk4 significant models. Without living in a dream world though, facing down perfectly positioned death squadrons is tough without knowing exact threat ranges and a small amount of card counting, thus why Perdita, Levi, Sonnia, Viktorias are normally met with an audible "ehh" from new to advanced players.

On further musing, in my meta at least, the same "oh jeez, really?" can also be said about Dreamer, Collodi, Colette and Jack Daw. Masters and core crews that don't strictly rely on murder but still absolutely mess with your models to the point of stasis. 
Jack Daw for instance isn't what you would call a damage dealing god, but being able to (effectively) shut down 3 models with basic ease, he doesn't need to be. He doesn't kill your models, more he gives your models the opportunity to kill themselves. With so much control on the board, your models don't have to be dead to stop doing what they need to do in a game.

Collette isn't killing any master but with enough experience playing Colette, she and her crew have free range of the table. Her showgirls and doves can pretty much be anywhere on the board and get out of trouble fairly well, interacting and placing scheme markers regardless of what's in their way. Hell, in emergency situations playing a purely thematic list, Prompt a Showgirl thrice, handing out 6 poison, then give the 8th posion and Siren Call them to A Sip of Wine. It's not perfect but it's an option (Or yaknow just Prompt Coryphee Duet a bunch and make me hate you).

It shows you just how much a mainly-support master can turn the tides when played well.

Thus I'm at an impasse, Killy masters can kill everything to win games, Support masters can tank that very same damage and win theirs. On the surface of things, Murder-makers have the upper-hand but looking deeper, I've found that it's simply not the case when looked at as a whole. Yes board wipes will win the game more often than not but getting to that point is a hard won battle if facing a support master with experience under their belt. Outside of not knowing the crew you're facing, a total party kill just doesn't happen that often.

From a new player perspective though, or even from the perspective of someone who has exclusively played killy masters until choosing to play a more control/support master, it may well seem to be that killing half the opposing crew seems the solution to all of life's problems. It's that clean-up duty that tweaks the details. A friend of mine has a fast support crew which typically runs up first turn to drop necessary markers, then second turn and beyond uses those models to tar-pit and drain Ap. They leave one or two models aside to gain Vp outside of combat with back-up summoning and the Slow condition being thrown everywhere. A Killy master still kills everything sure but can't always do that all important clean-up step to win the game when the dust settles.

So who wins out in the end? Both really. If you are pure kill-crazy, you lack ways to deal with Slow or Paralyze or an illusionary forest popping up. On the other hand, pure support only works for so long until you've gained board control but lack ways to do anything but deny some more. Solution? Have both. Joss in a Collete crew is synergistic well with her Prompt, whilst a Showgirl in a Ramos crew can get key models in very tough situations. Zen and Balance ladies and gentlemen.

Keep those cogs in your mind moving and have fun out there.

Monday, 7 March 2016

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Toni?

With Rasputina recently dominating my stable of Rasputina, Rasputina's BFF and Rasputina's close friend I decided that another master should take the limelight in playing Gaining Grounds games when the scheme stars line up for her (which honestly, I'm playing by default now). Ironsides having a part of my heart that enjoys Tar-pit masters who are consistently singing Tubthumping whilst cracking skulls.

Then I hit a wall, a wall I told myself that I wouldn't bother smashing my head against unless I had proverbial cause and reason to. The last game I played was Guard the Stash with Convict Labor, Take Prisoner, Exhaust Their Forces, Search The Ruins and Occupy Their Turf and I couldn't for the life of me find a reason to take Ironsides over Rasputina. Guard the Stash requires models to stand in two places and tank hits which to be fair any Arcanist master can do, it's the schemes that forced Ms Toni back into the box. 
Take Prisoner is awful for Ironsides as she's the prime target for it and giving away 3Vp when both Feng and 'Tina can simply railwalk/push out of combat is plain silly; Exhaust Their Forces is even worse as Toni welcomes enemy models into combat, even when she's not trying, so now I'm 6Vp down. Quite frankly, taking Rasputina and choosing Search the Ruins and Occupy Their Turf was the better call and despite losing against a very good Jack Daw player, he was clearly struggling and only scored 3vp more than me by luck of the draw and expertly hiding what schemes he was doing until the very last moment. 

We had a discussion after the game and I mentioned my wanting to play Toni Ironsides more but the scheme pool just wasn't great for her, he then asked me the sensible questions of: What scheme pool is Ironside's scheme pool? Like what would you put in a scheme pool that Ironsides would clean house with?

I honestly couldn't answer.

Not out of thinking she is terrible in all schemes but more so that I've never asked that question myself: What does Ironsides excel in? So I looked deeper.

Out of the strategies I would only take Toni in Extraction as the middle is exactly where she wants to be and enemies have to take part in the royal rumble in order to score. Feng would still do well, as would Rasputina but in terms of who I would prefer, Toni is better for it in my eyes.
Those of you with keen eyesight may well notice that Extraction is one out of four common strategies, thus my first complaint, I can't see myself wanting Ironsides over Raspy or Mei in the majority of games I play and that's a big problem.

Onto the schemes. Out of the suited/always available schemes that I would pick Toni over the other two for, I simply wouldn't. Toni can do Exhaust Their Forces but then my opponent can do exactly the same back causing Zero Sum. Convict Labor and Leave Your Mark I would prefer Mei Feng for as as much as I have wild fantasies about Toni being this vortex of aggression, for the most part a savvy player is going to stay the heck out of the way increasing the chance that my markers aren't going to be able to score. Show of Force any master can do but I would prefer Feng or 'Tina to lead an upgraded crew into battle and Hunting Party is much easier to do when you're not bogged down by two models and can pick and choose death targets.
Again, a massive problem as now I'm playing a master who can play one strategy and who won't be able to take half of the scheme pool made available. Need I go on?

My first thought was why I even liked Ironsides so much back in the day if with this improved scheme pool is so bad for her? Maybe it was beginners luck or playing against players who were unaware of how lethal Toni can be if you feed her models to ramp up her Adrenaline but maybe it was more due to her potential greatly outshining her actual presence on the table.

You see, when Toni was first revealed in Crossroads and even in beta testing, forums and players alike were saying how mad broken she was and what insanity she could perform when she got her adrenaline engine going. How she could break the game with Hand Picked Men and the combos that could outmatch Mei Feng.
The realization set in fairly quickly once the fog of giddy theoryfaux faded away. Hand Picked Men always seems to fall short no matter how one sets it up and Adrenaline?

There's never enough Adrenaline.

Make all your arguments, tell me how Mouse and the Captain are supposed to pull models into Ironside's melee range allowing her maximum Adrenaline when she activates; but even with maximum models in melee with her, everything you want to do becomes a detriment. Want to combo into Toni's Uppercut? Lose 2 Adrenaline, Want to combo again? Lose 2 more. Wanna move to another target? Lose 1 more. Heal? Lose all of it. Trying to save it for future turns? Lose one every turn to heal a single wound.
Even if you weren't to focus on Adrenaline, a 2/3/4 vanilla damage track even at Ml7 is lackluster and whilst I love Uppercut, trading a whole activation for a (2) action to do 4-5 damage and give out Slow simply isn't enough especially when it's Ml4 base before Adrenaline.

Let me be fair, what happens when the perfect set up happens? Allow me to share:
Toni is next to an enemy she charged last turn and is sitting on Adrenaline +2. The Captain then Airbursts a target into melee with Toni. The opponent activates and nimble + charges The Captain who takes damage allowing Toni to discard 2 low cards for Adrenaline. Other activations happen during which time the opponent activates the models in melee with Ironsides and activates Good Shot, My Turn thrice. Ironsides activates and with her defense trigger and Protective alongside the two enemy models within 2" she has Adrenaline +7. She opens with Brass Knuckles using the trigger to combo into Uppercut killing the first enemy model. She does the same with the second enemy and uses her final Ap to lure The Captain's opponent into her melee range and then uses her Stand Up, Stand Tall to heal 3 wounds in order to tank the next turns damage.

Again, perfect set up. To actually achieve this set of unfortunate events you needed to have Toni end a turn on Adrenaline +3 (Which requires you to discard cards, stone for the non-in-built trigger on her attack or pitching Tomes to her def trigger, a lot of resources that no one else can use). The next turn having the Captain be in range to grab a critter then conveniently take non-lethal damage twice within 6" of Ironsides (which she has to pitch more cards to) THEN having both enemies wound but-not-too-much Toni forcing more Tomes or Stones and then being on life totals that allow 6-7 damage to finish them off. Then, luring another model into the fray which may result in needing to cheat a card taking more damage then seeing Toni on little to no wounds after three models worth of attacks and forcing her to dump her Adrenaline so she stands a chance next turn. To those counting at home, 4 discards (two of which need to be Tomes), 2 high Rams/2 Soulstones then a medium to high card in order to ensure the lure. In other words, your whole hand and this is the perfect set up. You might ask "You don't need that much Adrenaline", you do if you want to actually hit with Uppercut.

"What about Hand Picked Men?" Okay, another way to play Ironsides is as a luring support piece. With models preventing her from taking the damage by standing in charge lanes and other friendlies getting in nice and close with auto-focus attacks. Great on paper but with proper terrain lay-out models are going to get stuck on corners or be out of LOS more often than not. If I wanted my whole crew to be focused all the time I would play Shen Long or Collodi. If I wanted to stay in Arcanist then Marcus or Collette can do exactly the same Focus/Lure tactic and have a LOT more options in a game in terms of mobility and winning Vp. Trying to make a master like Toni work by erasing 80% of her card is not going to win any hearts.

I won't go into what changes I would make as that's a slippery slope that leads to "Ml9 on every stat and every model in her crew gains Focus+2 when they activate" and quite frankly outside of an ENORMOUS errata, none of what I or anyone else says or suggests would make much of a difference. Toni is simply too much of hassle to play competitively with.

She is a great looking model and one of the few stories I really enjoyed reading in the books, alas, whilst I can rave all day about how she's this great threat in mosh-pit melee, when I look at cold hard facts and table experience, she just doesn't do enough. She wants to be in the middle of a brawl but lacks the capacity to survive within it. She wants to deal lots of damage to lots of models but once she hurts the first target, she suddenly becomes unable to do so to others. It's a sad sorry state of affairs to be in Toni's steel toe-capped boots.

As much as I really want Ironsides to be the great model that I once envisioned her to be, it's simply not meant to be. I could conjure up lists and ways to make her more manageable or find ways to make her "work", adding M&SU models haphazardly or adding models that I hope get ignored to score Vp but when I play a game and say to myself "I could be earning Victory Points so much easier if I had taken anyone else" that's a sign of a bad master.

It's a strange day when I would prefer to take Yan Lo of all models over Toni Ironsides. The old man's constant fidgety movement removing targets from areas they need to be is unfortunately more likely to score Victory Points more often than the brawlers rooted punching. Even Ramos with how dreadfully boring he is can at least fill the board with mobile scheme runners.
Fortunately, the remaining masters in my stable of champions I'm having a lot of fun playing and with Ironsides no longer being forced into games, it means at least Mei Feng is able to get the games that she deserves against more than just a gunline. Alas, Toni will have to join Ramos in the case of un-used masters for the foreseeable future until I find myself in the mood to playing inefficient or plain dull crew leaders.
Stay true to yourself and have fun out there.