Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Thinking Cap: the Scarsfell Griffon

With yesterday's reveal of the Scarsfell Griffon by Privateer Press, I figured that today would be the perfect day to discuss this model in more depth.  The model looks great (a near perfect match for the concept art) and is definitely a unique take on the typical griffon trope seen in various fantasy settings.  I'm pleased that he looks far more humanoid (like the warpwolves) than animal, as it really fits Circle in both aesthetic and playstyle.  The Griffon will certainly be a welcome tool for particular warlocks and today I want to discuss both what he offers to Circle's warlocks and what you should be thinking when using him or thinking about using him in a list.

The first thing you'll notice about the Griffon will probably be his uninspiring stats.  While his DEF is quite good, it's really average for most of our warbeasts but he has a pretty terrible ARM value and he can killed easily by most heavies as long as they can hit him (which isn't that hard to do).  While he does rock Stealth to keep him safe from most shooting, it's still not a guarantee that this guy will be immune to what your opponent throws at him.  No, you'll need to really utilize his Hunter ability to keep him safe, hiding behind forests until he's ready to strike.  Fortunately, Long Leash will double his control distance from your warlock so he can run on the extreme flanks without concern about being too far away.  With Mohsar this means that he can literally be on the opposite board edge and he will probably still be in your control range!  This means that you can use him to apply some pressure to your opponent as they guard areas of their army that might be vulnerable, thus opening up other areas of attack for you to pounce.

Speaking of pouncing, what really makes the Griffon great is the fact that he has two open fists, giving him the entire range of power attacks at his disposal.  Between Flight and Hunter and his animus Shadow Strike, the Griffon can get into really tight spaces and then use a Two-Hand Throw to toss a key model (such as a warcaster/warlock) towards the rest of your army to beat-up on - effectively increasing the threat range of all of your models by at least 4" (remember that throwing a model moves them 1/2 the STR of the model).  Alternatively, you could have the Griffon just beat up on his target with 3 initial attacks, although with a P+S lower than most elite infantry, you'll find his melee attacks to be relatively ineffective.  The Gorax will be a nice addition to any list containing a Griffon, however, as MAT 8 and STR 10 will mean that the Griffon will both be able to hit his target more easily and throw it further (or hit it harder).  Since the Griffon is more of a kamikaze model anyway, diving into the enemy lines, it's not a big deal if he frenzies.  You only have to worry about getting to your target without needing Shadow Strike.

While his animus is great for himself, Shadow Strike will be limited in its effectiveness against certain warlocks.  Since Circle prefers to get the alpha strike, if you find your warlock needing to have parry to escape from the enemy, you're in a bad state already, and most of our warlocks can already place themselves natively (pBaldur, Mohsar, Kromac) or with the help of Shifting Stones, so getting into assassination position with Parry is rarely necessary.

Let's break down the usage of the Griffon with each Circle warlock:

Baldur the Stonecleaver - Baldur really likes his constructs.  You might think at first that the Griffon would be great with Stone Skin, but remember that it also drops SPD and DEF by 1, meaning that he won't be able to charge anything, leaving him with quite a mediocre threat range.  You could theoretically teleport him with stones, but then you could do the same thing with Megalith and do far more damage.  There is some slight synergy with Rapid Growth, but again I wouldn't bother with him when you have so many other ways to threaten your foe.

Baldur the Stonesoul - Baldur really likes his constructs... still.  While eBaldur can give him +3 ARM and prevent him from being moved, the Griffon still doesn't really offer eBaldur much at all.
Cassius the Oathkeeper & Wurmwood, Tree of Fate - Cassius really wants to sling spells and doesn't do terribly well at supporting his army directly.  Although, with Cassius' feat up he can provide an extra round of protection for a Griffon and with Curse of Shadows combined with a Primal, the Griffon can penetrate a line of infantry to get at the caster at MAT 8 without needing his animus at all.
Grayle the Farstrider - Grayle is only warlock who can really benefit from Shadow Strike since Grayle has Sprint.  While Awareness might seem redundant with the Griffon, being able to ignore intervening models means that warcasters/warlocks cannot hide behind models from a Griffon charge, and on his feat turn he can also give the Griffon an extra 3" to threaten the enemy.  While there will still be some problems with the Griffon hitting his prey, Grayle will be able to make good use of him.
Kaya the Wildborne - Both Kayas will be able to make good use of the Griffon for the same reason - efficiency.  pKaya makes the Griffon effectively MAT 8 natively and with Primal the Griffon will have no problem hitting high-DEF warcasters/warlocks without needing to boost.  On top of all of that, Kaya can keep the rest of her beasts very fury efficient and with Spirit Door she might even be able to use the Griffon to tag more minor targets like solos a couple of times before he dies.  Definitely a winner with pKaya!
Kaya the Moonhunter and Laris - eKaya supports the Griffon in a different but similar way.  Instead of making him hit more easily, eKaya will allow the Griffon to deal more damage.  The Griffon will be the perfect target for Forced Evolution and with Primal he doesn't even need to throw models but just dive-bomb them at MAT 8 with a P+S 16 and two P+S 15 swings - quite the cruise missile!  Even if you do just want to throw, you'll be sitting happy at STR 12 (the same as most heavies!) and will be able to toss your target 6" away for the rest of your beasts to Dog Pile onto!
Kromac the Ravenous - While you might think that Kromac would enjoy Shadow Strike, rarely does he really need it.  Since he can already leap, he often doesn't need to escape from melee and rarely will you have a hard time getting models out of the way.  He does offer two great things for the Griffon: Warpath and Wild Aggression.  The former obviously is great for the Griffon to get him into tight spaces and extend his threat range even more than it already is.  Wild Aggression however is fantastic for the Griffon as it auto-boosts his attack rolls!  This again lets the Griffon either dive-bomb it's target more effectively or it helps save his fury for his animus followed by a two-hand throw, without worrying about high-DEF targets as much.  The only problem is that Kromac tends to throw Wild Aggression on harder-hitting warbeasts like Stalkers, where the boost to hit goes a longer way.
Krueger the Stormwrath - The Stormwrath doesn't really offer much for the Griffon, especially since power attacks all have a melee range of 0.5", so Lightning Tendrils won't help at all.
Krueger the Stormlord - The Stormlord offers the Griffon a little more with board control, thanks to Telekinesis and Gallows, but you'll often want to use those spells to clear lanes for other, more powerful warbeasts.  Still, it might be nice to have another vector to threaten your opponent from.
Mohsar the Desertwalker
- Mohsar has so many tools in his toolbox that it's hard for him not to offer something to the Griffon.  Pillars of Salt are easily ignored by the Griffon so he can definitely utilize their protection, but so can everyone else.  Mirage is a great spell which could help extend the Griffon's threat range, but it's probably better suited to being on a unit.  Curse of Shadows can be used in the same way as with Cassius, but again it could be used by someone else.  I actually think that if Mohsar needs a model like the Griffon, he'd probably be better off using the Shadowhorn Satyr instead, as he's a little more durable.  The only advantage to taking the Griffon with Mohsar is to take advantage of the ridiculously Long Leash to get completely behind your opponent's forces.
Morvahna the Autumnblade - Morvahna offers nothing special to the Griffon.  At all.
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