Friday, November 16, 2012

List Building Advice: Fiona

I recently received another request for some list building advice on the facebook page, this time regarding Fiona the Black.  I love Fiona and if she didn't require such specific synergies and characters, I would bring her to more tournaments.  I always have fun with her when I play her but she's missing something to make her more of a tournament-viable warcaster.  That said, I was eager to provide some advice on building a list with her since I've spent many hours playing her and building lists for her.  While I'm satisfied with the list that I play with her, it's nice to design a list for someone else.  In addition, this particular person wanted me to work within the models in their collection, which I'm always happy to do.  Here was the message:

I have been playing melee focused Circle lists for a while now, and have decided to take the plunge into Warmachine with Mercs. Specifically, I want to roll Fiona the Black in a shooting heavy list. Trouble is, there are a LOT of options. I was thinking two main build types, either 4 Star with Kayazy (for the Eliminator Arc Node) or Highborn with Long Gunners as the central element.
For more fun, I have a few constraints: I would like to use mostly models I own, though I can scratch build or convert most anything and can buy a little.
Here's what I have currently:

2x Merc Jack kits
Dirty Meg
Rupert the piper
Kayazy assassins
Kayazy Eliminators
Long Gunners/Steel Head Riflemen (conversions)
Madeline Corbeau
Alexia and Risen

I would like both 35 and 50 point lists.
My response:
Myyyy Fiona!
I really enjoy my Fiona shooting list so I'd love to help! The first thing I'd like to talk about is what Fiona is good at and what you need to have a successful shooting list with her. Fiona's feat is one of the best defensive feats around but requires that your opponent get into your face in order for you to make the most of it. What this means is that you need to bring elements that will be able to survive getting charged/engaged by your opponent so that the feat can be used to its fullest extent. Fortunately, since the feat is minus one die to attack AND damage rolls, this means that some models which are often overlooked due to their relatively uninspiring defensive stats (mid-range DEF and ARM) can become good tarpits under Fiona's feat.

That said, what Fiona wants most in a shooting list is to take full advantage of Nonokrion Brand. This spell is incredibly powerful in the land of Colossals/Gargantuans as many players will be bringing out their more fragile casters now since they can hide them better from getting shot at - except against Fiona. This means that you need a solid ranged element that can deal lots of damage but with decent range, since Fiona doesn't have much to offer in that department. I usually run with Gun Mages, but I think you'll LOVE Long Gunners for her since they can aim and fire twice as many shots at a really good range. If you take along Dougal then he will only help their range early in the game and so those Long Gunners can potentially nail a key target from 16" away, twice if they have to.

In order to make the Long Gunners worth it, however, you need something to get in the way to keep your opponent from simply engaging them. While their range is great, they still can't fire if they're engaged, so you need a good tarpit. I think that Alexia and her Risen will be up to the challenge considering how cheap and plentiful they are, and with Ragman and Rhupert around, they can hit surprisingly hard and Tough risen is hilarious - especially since Alexia can 'transfer' damage to them and they will still get their Tough rolls! Alexia is a solid force to be reckoned with and if your opponent becomes too aggressive she can make short work of a warcaster when she can buy lots of attacks (using her risen buddies). Throwing Roth's Mercy onto Alexia and the Risen is also an amazing benefit because it means that you can control which risen die and so you get some fantastic control over keeping your enemy at bay while the Long Gunners do their job.

After that, you need to consider which route you want to take with Fiona. You can either use her focus to cast spells or you can use it to fuel a powerful warjack - she often doesn't have enough focus to do both since she has such great upkeeps. Since Mercenaries don't have very powerful warjacks in the P+S department, you'll probably just want to stick with a Nomad as he'll pack the most punch for the pricetag. After that? You might want to consider a Rover. It has an awesome ARM value with its shield (especially with her feat!), can shoot both at short range and in melee (sticking with the theme), and he'll make a fine Telgesh Mark-node since you can stick it up front and not worry about it getting damaged. It's also a good candidate for a jack marshall since it's so flexible.

For 35 points I'd consider the following:
Fiona (+6)
- Nomad (6)
Alexia and Risen (5)
Long Gunners (full, 10)
- UA (2)
Deck Gun (2)
Dirty Meg (2)
- Rover (8)
Dougal MacNaile (2)
Ragman (2)
Rhupert (2)

Some things to consider about the list outside of your restrictions:
1) Fiona has a high DEF but is vulnerable to being knocked-down and so having a model around to keep her standing would be worth considering if you're worried about that (Grogspar, Freebooter).
2) If you push around some points, Press Gangers can be quite the effective tarpit with the right support and Grogspar will benefit both Fiona and the Press Gangers. Plus, you wouldn't have to take the deck gun to be your cultists and they're more capable in melee than the Risen (although less plentiful).
3) Aiyanna and Holt can be quite a powerful unit for Fiona if you can find the points for them. Fiona's feat keeps them quite safe and they, in turn, can provide a nasty buff for the rest of your army and would allow you to deal with high-ARM targets more easily.

Here's a 50 point list to consider:
Fiona (+6)
- Nomad (6)
- Sylys Wyshnalyrr (2)
Alexia and Risen (5)
Long Gunners (full, 10)
- UA (2)
Press Gangers (full, 6)
Doc Killingsworth (2)
Bosun Grogspar (2)
Aiyanna and Holt (4)
eEiryss (3)
Dirty Meg (2)
- Rover (8)
Dougal MacNaile (2)
Ragman (2)

This list gives you a bit more of a melee bubble with the Press Gangers being difficult to remove between being 4+ tough (with Doc Nearby), can't be knocked-down (Grogspar), Roth's Mercy to make sure you get to choose the casualties, and any that do die can just become Risen for Alexia!

Meanwhile, Aiyanna and Holt and Ragman will make sure that you can deal with heavies as the Nomad becomes effectively P+S 21 between their effects and you always have Affliction to help ping away boxes if you really need it (especially with so many Risen around). Sylys is around to help Fiona become more of a spell-slinger as she gets a free upkeep and the bonus to attack and damage rolls will be nice if you can draw a bead onto the enemy warcaster and hit them with Soulfire spam or, if you're lucky: Influence.

You do miss out on Rhupert but with the Press Gangers having Tough natively and being your new cultists, you don't need him as much. If you still want him for Pathfinder and/or making Alexia's unit Tough then you could drop Sylys, but I think he'll give you more options and an extra focus is always welcome.
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