Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Editorial: Making Arkadius Work

I have recently signed-on to write for 3++ is the new black to contribute to the expansion of Warmachine/Hordes content.  I decided that since the main audience for the site has been relative newcomers to the game, that I would write an informative set of articles on making Dr. Arkadius work (part 1 can be found here), since he is a challenging warlock to play and a new player might get easily discouraged.  Hell, I was easily discouraged when I played him, and I'm not really a new player anymore.  This got me thinking: why is Dr. Arkadius so "bad" by Warmachine/Hordes standards?  What is needed to make him "good"?  I apologize in advance for the wall of text incoming, but feel free to scroll to the end if you want to see my list of what I think Dr. Arkadius needs.

In order to appropriately understand how to make Dr. Arkadius better, we need to understand what he does well on the table, and what his weaknesses are that he might not have an answer for.  For this, I want to go back to my List Building 101: Playstyle to look at what playstyle fits Dr. Arkadius.

Killy, but slow
So which playstyle fits the good doctor?  One could argue that Dr. Arkadius could run a decent Alpha Strike force with his feat basically allowing a free charge towards enemy models, giving a large threat vector for his beasts.  However, the beasts available to him are either unbearably slow (War Hog) or really pillow-fisted (the new Road Hog - also without a model currently).  While Dr. Arkadius can use Forced Evolution to help, his alpha strike capabilities don't match other armies since the tools at his disposal are mis-matched for this to be successful.

Another argument could be made for Attrition, as the spell Psycho Surgery is the most efficient healing spell in the entire game.  With a large battlegroup, Dr. Arkadius can heal super-efficiently to keep his heavy warbeasts running after a pounding.  I think that this is the most reliable playstyle, as Forced Evolution can again help keep a beast from surviving an opposing assault, Aggravator will keep your 'beasts from getting shot at, and Dr. Arkadius' tier allows for really cheap War Hogs anyway.  Quantity is it's own quality, as they say.  So I say that Dr. Arkadius plays a Heavy Warbeast Attrition playstyle the best.  The tools he has can keep his warbeasts protected from some minor sources of damage and he can make sure that those beasts are running efficiently all of the time (healing the minimum 2 points of damage needed to keep all of those aspects intact).

Okay so why is Dr. Arkadius "bad" then?  More specifically, what tools are being under-utilized or are only situationally useful?  Crippling Grasp is an amazing debuff spell, as it really will shut down one opposing heavy from doing anything to you while you rip it's arms off.  Unfortunately, the spell is incredibly short-ranged and would require Arkadius to get way too close to his desired target for his own good.  Additionally, Primal Shock is a very limited offensive spell that requires him to have a warbeast near his target in order to use it.  While it's a pseudo-arc node, the POW isn't high enough to assassinate... well... anyone.  On a related note, Arkadius also has no answer to incorporeal models.  His syringe - although cool in concept - has a significant problem affecting anything non-living, especially a common appearance in the meta: undead.  This means that Arkadius literally has no answer to undead or construct models that simply engage him, while other warlocks/warcasters could at least swing their weapon at them or even free-strike them if they moved away.  Arkadius has no such luck, and with his only offensive spell being Primal Shock, it's even more difficult for him to deal with these models, where most warcasters/warlocks could at least sling a spell or two into their faces to stay alive.  There was at least one game where I ran out of beasts and had no way to kill the opposing warlock, even when I was full on fury.
No hate intended, but I wish it was a harder decision
choosing between this guy and Arkadius

So what will it take to make Dr. Arkadius "good"?  The next trick is that Lord Carver BMMD Esq. III is already a really good an highly-effective warlock with the same tools at his disposal as Dr. Arkadius.  One has to be careful when giving Dr. Arkadius tools that might also end up in the hands of Lord Carver.  For example, one might wish for a faster warbeast that hits harder than the Road Hog, but knowing that Lord Carver has Mobility means that a faster, harder-hitting warbeast will hit harder and faster with Lord Carver!  In order to make Dr. Arkadius "good", we need to make sure that those same tools that make him better, don't make Carver that much better either - let alone Sturm and Drang.  So what's the solution?  Here are 3 fixes that I think will work, from least likely to most likely:

1) A warlock attachment solo with spell slave or offers cheaper upkeeps - When I had heard that Targ was coming out, I got really excited for Dr. Arkadius!  I was hoping that Targ would do both of these things, and unfortunately he only provided another healing mechanism (something that Arkadius didn't need, and actually helps Carver more) and ancillary attack, which doesn't help Arkadius much at all.  Targ certainly helps the Gun Boar to be a little more viable, but does not offer Dr. Arkadius any edge over Carver or Sturm and Drang.  What he really needs is a solo who can move up and throw out a Crippling Grasp from a further range and offer Arkadius some extra fury from his two upkeeps.  Arkadius needs to hold onto his fury for transfers to stay alive, and even one free upkeep would be welcome to keep Forced Evolution running for free.

2) A warbeast with an offensive animus - This is something that is surprisingly absent from the game currently, despite rules being written to imply the possibility of it happening in the future (Spirit Tap on the Circle Druid Wilder).  While it wouldn't solve the problem of Arkadius needing a warbeast for some offensive capability, it would certainly offer him another way of getting out of sticky situations if the beast is alive and not nearby.  One has to be careful with a fix like this, however, making it as unassuming and situational as possible so as to not be better than Carver's Rift or give Sturm a spell to assassinate with in combination with Telekinesis.  It will be hard to compete with Drang's Obliteration as it is, so it might not need to be any more than POW 12.

You'd figure Arkadius might be more powerful if he made
these guys...

3) A character warbeast for Arkadius with an arc-node affinity - This is the most likely to happen, in my opinion, and is the most elegant solution to swing Dr. Arkadius upwards on the power curve.  Since the Minions don't have any character warbeasts anyway, this would be a great solution.  The key to this swing in power would need to be two-fold: a high STR beast (synergy with Primal Shock) and an affinity (so no other warlock can benefit) that allows Arkadius to channel through the warbeast.  This would allow Arkadius to reach out with Crippling Grasp while staying safe from retaliation, which might be enough to make him "good", while not giving a significant boost to Carver either - who honestly doesn't need help being competitive.

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