Today I want to write about a comment that I friend made on my article, In Defense of the Mountain King. Warmachine/Hordes is a complex game because there are 11 factions, over 100 warcasters/warlocks, and an even wider selection of warjacks, warbeasts, units, and solos. There are a LOT of moving parts to this game we play and while there are some consistencies like spells between multiple warcasters/warlocks, every faction (let alone warcaster/warlock) has a different playstyle and to look at any one model and say "wow, that's broken" is so silly to say that it borders on bigotry. To look at something and make assumptions on it based on your initial impressions is a common practice in humanity but it's our responsibility to try to be open-minded and consider more than just our first impressions. I liked the way my friend put it: "You can't consider the model in a vacuum." So today I'm going to take a practical approach and briefly look at each warmachine faction (Hordes will be on Monday) and some common models/abilities/spells that need to be considered whenever you're looking at something new and different before you pass judgement. While this list is no where near comprehensive, I hope it will help people keep an open mind and consider all the possibilities before they decide something is "stupid" or "broken."
Arcane Shield - This spell is not only common among Cygnarian warcasters but they also have access to it if they take a Journeyman Warcaster solo. This spell gives +3 ARM to a model/unit and can make high-ARM models (like the Centurion) really difficult to deal with, or increase the survivability of troops with uninspiring defensive stats (like Stormguard).
The Squire - This is probably the best warcaster attachement in the game. The squire has several important benefits, including +2" control area, can let a warcaster reroll attack and damage for a spell, and can give +1 focus point for 3 turns of your choice. This means that Cygnarian warcasters effectively have more focus than they first appear to have.
Damage Type/Immunity: Lightning - Cygnar is already well-known for having lots of weapons, spells, and effects that cause lightning damage or generate effects that deal lightning damage. Lightning is a great solution for dealing with high-DEF models because it's either caused by skill checks (Stormcalls) or it just bounces off of other targets which might be easier to hit. While these effects seem powerful, remember that anything that has immunity to lightning can effectively be immune to many Cygnar attacks - including other Cygnar players. I like to take pKrueger in my tournament lists because having a warlock that's completely immune to these types of attacks can be a huge advantage when you have a high DEF.
KhadorIron Flesh - Everyone is aware of the popular Khador spell that grants +3 DEF to a unit but with a SPD penalty. This spell is commonly thrown onto Winter Guard because they are cheap and effective with the right support, but this is not a requirement. Other units like Kayazy or Assault Kommandos could just as easily benefit from this great spell and make them much more difficult to remove. Also note, however, that this is an upkeep spell and can be removed by a number of effects (Purification) or completely ignored (Blessed).
ARM 20+/High P+S - Khador is well-known for their warjacks which are all ARM 20+ and are fairly inexpensive. Whenever you play against Khador you need to have a plan for dealing with warjacks that are going to be difficult to kill. While Khador doesn't have any ARM buffs for their warjacks, the fact that they are all natively difficult to kill means they can focus their energy elsewhere and still know that you'll have a hard time killing their warjacks (although they're still not impossible to kill). Similarly, Khador models typically sport very high P+S attacks coming from their warcasters (Butcher), warjacks, or even infantry (Doom Reavers). You need to be ready to be on the receiving end of some pain with Khador.
The War Dog - The War Dog is in the running for being the best warcaster attachment with the Squire. The War Dog is super useful for keeping a Khador warcaster alive and allows them to operate closer to the front lines and stay relatively safe. The War Dog is a cheap and effective attachment and it'll make killing Khador warcasters very diffcult.
MenothThe Choir - You might hear Menoth players mention the "choir tax" when referring to their warjacks. What this refers to is the fact that while many Menoth warjacks seem fairly inexpensive (the Crusader is only 6 points, for example), that is because you're almost required to take a choir to make them effective, and the choir costs two points. This "tax" is of course mitigated if you take multiple warjacks, since they can all benefit from the effects of the choir, but the faction also suffers from...
Poor Defensive Stats - As a faction, the protectorate of Menoth rarely sports a DEF higher than 12 and while their infantry might be able to get high ARM, it's usually on a solo or because you're losing models (Knights Exemplar). Their warjacks typically sport some decent armor, but again, low DEF means that they are hit by really powerful attacks without a way to really mitigate it. This is also true for Menoth warcasters, who typically are uninspiring in their defensive statlines. Sure, some of them can be more impressive when they hold onto their focus (Amon, Harbinger, Kreoss), but then that means less focus spent on spells or powering their warjacks. In Menoth you sacrifice survivability for raw hitting power.
Damage Type:/Continuous Effect: Fire - Unlike Lightning, there aren't many models with Immunity: Fire, and that's a boon for Menoth since so many of their models either deal fire damage (Reckoner, Vanquisher) or cause Continuous Fire (Castigator, Feora). Fire is one of those effects that can potentially win you the game if it doesn't go out - especially against warcasters since fire damage is resolved before replenishing focus! Even those models who are immune to fire can still suffer the effect of Continuous Fire, and that can be huge against models like Druids who rely on a spell from their Overseer to gain immunity from the effect.
CryxSlow Models - One of the things that people forget about when looking at Cryx is that they only consider the raw damage output of the faction (which is admittedly high). Cryx however has the weakness of having fairly slow models and virtually no way of speeding them up. Sure, some warcasters have spells that increase the speed of their warjacks, but the infantry remains slow. While those Bane Thralls are scary in melee, they're slow as hell and get slowed down by rough terrain. When playing against Cryx, make sure to check your distances carefully and you'll be sure to get the alpha strike.
Undead/Incorporeal/Ghostly - Cryx has access to these three abilities which can completely change match-ups. Any spells or abilities that affect "living" models will be mostly useless against Cryx and any Incorporeal models ignore terrain and can only be damaged by magical weapons or spells if the model hasn't attacked. Additionally, any Ghostly models can ignore terrain and don't suffer free strikes so they can get into positions to kill your valuable models. These effects increase the survivability of Cryx and compensate them for their relatively slow models.
The Skarlock - Cryx has a fantastic warcaster attachment (sense a theme here?) in the Skarlock. The Skarlock can cast a spell of the attached warcaster for free using the warcaster's Focus stat. This means that he saves the warcaster some valuable focus casting spells like upkeeps (and consequently 'cycling' them to new targets). This means that Cryx will effectively be slinging more offensive spells at you than you would see in other factions. Much like Menoth, if they spend their focus, the Cryxian warcasters will be easier to kill and so the Skarlock is important to the survivability of their warcasters.
Retribution of ScyrahAnti-Magic Abilities - This is a fairly broad theme throughout the faction but Retribution models tend to hate on you if you like to use magic. It's also worth mentioning that Eiryss is considered a faction model in Retribution and so she can benefit from some of the faction buffs that Retribution has. Needless to say, if you rely on magic for a lot of your abilities or tricks, Retribution will have ways of shutting you down or making your job more difficult.
The Arcanist - The one-point solo is incredibly useful in Retribution. He can Power Boost to remove Disruption or allocate 1 focus point to an empty warjack, he can give +2 to the damage rolls of a warjack (making a Phoenix P+S 20!), or he can simply repair a warjack! This one point solo is a hero and is incredibly useful for many reasons, but one of them is that repairing warjacks is huge in a faction which also has...
Energy Fields - Some Retribution warjacks sport energy fields which take damage before the hull does. What this means is that their warjacks are actually more difficult to kill than most warjacks. These fields be regenerated with some focus (or automatically if you have a Phoenix field) but Retribution Myrmidons compensate for this by having fewer hull boxes, meaning it's easier to lose systems when your fields go down. That makes the Arcanist even more important for restoring full function to these warjacks, making them extremely survivable against a variety of foes.
So those are some things that need to be considered when looking at each faction so you're not looking at them "in a vacuum." I decided not to touch on Mercenaries since there is so much more that you need to consider with them. Perhaps they'll be a topic of an entire article by themselves! On Monday, I'll look at the Hordes factions in the same way so that we can all consider the factions of this game in their true complexities, without prejudice.