Wednesday, May 30, 2012

List Building: Zerkova 35 points

I only just realized today that I don't actually have any list building articles posted for Khador.  I knew that I wrote one up for 3++ but I never actually posted it here.  So, I apologize, but today I will be officially posting the article I wrote on building a 35 point list with Zerkova.  Zerkova has a special place in my heart and I think she's pretty fantastic and cool, offering a unique playstyle to Khador.  Unfortunately, she struggles to come up with easy answers to some common problems, so she's often left behind in favor of the flashier warcasters like Sorscha or Butcher.  That said, I think that she will be a satisfying warcaster in the hands of a dedicated general.  Let's start - as usual - with looking at her feat.

Ignore the model's case of "horse face" - the actual
model doesn't look that bad in person
Zerkova's feat is very interesting for such a straight-forward and aggressive faction like Khador, and is the definition of denial.  It basically reads like this: enemy models beginning inside her control area can only make a normal advance and make their initial melee attacks (and buy any attacks as normal).  As denial feats go, this one is one of the better ones out there, as you can prevent a lot of the ridiculous threat ranges that other factions can pump up with charging, special actions (from various solos), and also prevents power attacks like throwing or trampling which can be very helpful.  This basically means that Zerkova can be a little more certain of the survivability of her warjacks since she knows that she will either be able to deliver them to the opponent's face quickly, or insure that whatever damage they take will be less likely to cripple them (especially against infantry who rely heavily on charging to deal damage to warjacks).  This is a feat that you'll likely either want to pop at the bottom of first turn or the top of second turn if your opponent is particularly aggressive with his movement.

Looking at her other abilities, it's important to note that she has Pathfinder (often overlooked, but pretty important for a warcaster to have!) and immunity to cold (common for Khador, but it's important against spellslingers like Vayl or if facing another Khador player).  Also, Zerkova is a great counter to a spellslinger warcaster/warlock because if she's ever targeted by a spell, that spell suffers -3 RNG and the attacking model takes d6 damage after the spell is resolved!  A bit situational, but it's worth considering Zerkova as a 2nd-list caster in case you face someone like Bethayne, Vayl (either version), or some of the Cryx warcasters like Denny or Scaverous.

What makes Zerkova the most interesting, however, are her Arcane Artifacts which let her modify her spells - making her an even more versatile spellslinger.  She has 3 effects to choose from, and can only use each one once during her activation.  She can reduce the cost of one of her spells by 1, give herself 360 LOS, ignore LOS and Stealth when targeting a model with a spell, or she can give the spell +3 RNG.  It's important to note that each ability can only apply to one spell at a time and you can't stack all three abilities on one spell.  Even still, these abilities give her loads of flexibility that will make most spellslingers jealous.

Well what spells does she have available?  For such a spellslinger, you'd hope to see some "better" spells, but she does have a range of spells to make her an effective toolbox.  Banishing Ward is great to keep infantry protected against spells (sense a theme here?) and Watcher is also a great defensive spell that is essentially like pVayl's Dark Sentinel.  Naturally, we'll want a beefy warjack to take advantage of this spell, as it's key to Zerkova's survivability.  Lastly, we'll see a collection of offensive spells from the simple Razor Wind, to the control spell Influence (fun to cast when it's free!), to the utility spell Twister, and lastly Icy Grip for taking down annoying infantry units with higher-than-average DEF.  The last spell on the list is Force Blast and this is a great spell that can also be found on Adeptus Rahn.  Force Blast lets us know that we want to have a warjack in someone's face so that we can blast nearby models away.  This can be great for clearing charge lanes or even moving behind a target and blasting it towards the rest of the army.

This guy is great for Watcher
So what we're left with is a warcaster without a specific purpose - part of the reason why I think Zerkova isn't very popular.  Does she win with infantry?  She can keep them protected with Banishing Ward and she can clear charge lanes to deliver them.  Does she win with warjacks?  She can use Watcher offensively if she plays aggressively and she'll want them for Force Blast targets.  In the end, I think that she needs to truly embrace the Combined Arms approach that Khador embodies.  While a default list is all well and good, you will want to avoid taking some of the staples of other Khador lists - thanks to character restrictions in SR2012.  Like I said, she'll make a good 2nd-list warcaster that can be great against Hordes, but you'll want to save Kovnik Joe and the WGDS for someone else.  This is where I think the recent new tier list presented for her in No Quarter 34 is great as it allows her access to not only Gorman di Wulfe (very helpful for plugging-in holes in the clouds) but also the Vanguard mercenary warjack, so I will build a 35 point list with that in mind:

Any tier list that includes darkwing duck- I
mean Gorman di Wulfe - is worth considering!
Hunting Wolves Theme Force (Tier 4) - 35 points
Zerkova (+6)
- Spriggan (9*)
- Marauder (6*)
- Marauder (6*)
- Vanguard (4*)
Greylord Ternion (4)
Gorman di Wulfe (2)
Kayazy Assassins (full, 8)
- Underboss (2)
Other Benefits:
For each Greylord unit, place one 3" AOE cloud
Add 2" to deployment zone

Some might think that Zerkova is not well-equipped to manage so many warjacks, but I actually think that she will do better than one might think.  First, the Spriggan is such a utility warjack and will be ideal for sitting near Zerkova to take advantage of Watcher (which should be cast first turn and upkept until it expires!) while the Vanguard protects her with shield guard and both can pop shots from behind your line.  Kayazy are obnoxious enough normally, but with Banishing Ward, Twister, and the Greylords all tossing clouds everywhere, they will be very difficult to get rid of and your opponent will be unable to ignore them.  Gorman will also benefit from hiding behind Kayazy and waiting until his moment to throw a black oil bomb to shut down something particularly obnoxious.

This leaves us with two Marauders which are often overlooked, but I think they'll be really effective warjacks for Zerkova.  Why?  Combo Smite is horribly efficient and effective, striking with a POW 20 (!) and slamming a model back will allow for even more movement shenanigans for Zerkova - especially when combined with Force Blast.  While Zerkova is pretty selfish when it comes to focus, Marauders don't need much and can be really annoying to enemy heavies while providing a forward wall of armor.  If you're not too keen on two of them or you expect to be seeing more infantry, you can feel free to swap one out for another Greylord Ternion and a Koldun Lord (providing more clouds and some extra sprays), or Windowmakers + Marksman for some ranged plinking.

What we're left with is a solid wall of steel surrounding Zerkova, infantry that are really difficult to kill from range, magic, or melee, and more clouds than a Dave Matthews Band concert.  Again, I think this list will do best against Hordes opponents (except for Legion) and Cryx, as Zerkova has answers for a variety of threats, you just have to take advantage of the clouds, movement shenanigans, and denying your opponent the charge or target that they want.
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