Tuesday, April 09, 2013

List Building: Ashlynn D'Elyse

As I have said before, I'm trying to make 2013 the year of Mercenaries for me and so the faction is receiving all of my attention. While I've loved playing with Fiona in the past, I'm afraid that with the meta changing she's not quite able to keep up with the tools at her disposal right now, and so I've been looking for a new tournament caster to replace her. I've had lots of success with Connie so she'll be my first list tournament caster, but I'm in the market for a second. Consequently, I've started looking at Ashlynn D'Elyse again because her feat is kinda similar in effect to Fiona's but with an offensive component to it too, so I feel like her playstyle might be a little similar but a little more aggressive like Connie since Ashlynn is both difficult to assassinate and offensively scary for an opponent to deal with. Ashlynn will also compliment my Connie list well, where Connie will be great at dealing with a lot of Hordes lists with her volume of attacks, I'm going to build Ashlynn to deal with lots of high-ARM as I believe her feat and her spells allow her to deal with these types fairly well. Let's start by looking at her feat: Roulette.

Roulette has to be one of the simplest yet powerful feats in the game. The way it works is simple: when models in her control area make an attack roll they roll 2 additional dice and you choose two to discard. This is both a great feat offensively and defensively. Offensively, not only do you improve your chances of landing hits or getting hit, but you also increase your chances of scoring a critical hit greatly. This means that I will be bringing along units that have critical effects that I'll want to trigger. Don't forget that you can choose to trigger these effects or not, so if it's not beneficial (like a critical slam, which might move a model out of melee range of other hitters), you don't have to use it. Her feat also works defensively as you can choose for your opponent to discard those 5s and 6s and can bring an otherwise stellar attack roll down to sadder levels, meaning your models will be harder to hit. Just like with the critical effects offensively, defensively you can choose your opponent to discard dice which might otherwise grant him/her a critical effect or you could leave them with snake-eyes resulting in an auto-miss for those models with naturally high MAT/RAT values. That brings me to my next point - Ashlynn's feat will be better with ranged units at your disposal, but not against ranged units. With only 6 focus, the feat bubble is kinda tiny so you'll not likely snag enemy ranged units in your bubble, so a keen opponent might take a ranged list against you to mitigate the effects of your feat. We'll discuss this later in one of our unit choices.

Coolest. Dice. EVER.
Before I continue, here's a handy table you can find on BattleCollege regarding how Ashlynn's feat affects dice rolls:

Without featMean
With featMean
Boosting with
These average values will be used again when discussing a list I made, but I want you to pay attention to one other feature: the Std (Standard Deviation). For those who are not mathematically inclined, it's basically a measure of the spread of values from the mean. In other words, not only does the average increase, but you're less likely to achieve lower (bad) results. That's significant in and of itself because if you're making an attack roll, an abnormally low value - no matter how unlikely - can be crippling and anything to mitigate that is significant.

Okay, let's look at her spell list. There are some great spells in here and there is also a trap spell. The two spells you should first notice are Quicken and Admonition - both upkeep spells. Ideally, warcasters/warlocks should really only have 1 or 2 upkeep spells anyway as it means an opponent with Purification will have a tough time deciding if it's worth it to spend the focus/fury. It will be worthwhile, however, to cast both of these spells with Ashlynn as they will help shape her force. Admonition is a perfect spell to cast onto Ashlynn and keep it on her throughout the game. It might be tempting to use it on a heavy but you'd rather have it on her to further discourage your opponent from assassinating her, allowing her to move further upfield and play more aggressively. She already sports a high DEF and Riposte which discourage models from even attempting to kill her, but Admonition is just icing on the cake. The only time I might not use this spell is if I were playing against a force which could place models, but even then I think it'd be worth it. 

A special note here is that one of the ways your opponent will try to kill Ashlynn is by trying to knock her down, and often times this will come in the form of a Throw or Slam. If they try to throw a model at her, there are good odds that the Throw will miss and deviate away from her so you can feel relatively safe from those, but Slams are a little harder to avoid. This is where Admonition kicks in. If you cast Admonition on Ashlynn you can feel confident keeping her in B2B or very near one of your heavies. A traditional tactic for an opponent would be to Slam the heavy in hopes of the heavy model moving back and knocking Ashlynn down. With Admonition, however, if the model attempting the slam moves to slam your heavy, they will be ending their movement within 6" of her and so then she can make an Admonition move out of the path of the slam before it takes effect, thus neutralizing the attempt to knock her down. Sneaky, yeah?

The other spell of note for Ashlynn is Quicken, a spell that is obviously awesome. The spell gives +2 SPD to a unit (nice for a unit which runs) and +2 DEF against ranged/magic attacks. Nice! This spell will be handy when we already discussed how her feat will be less likely to capture enemy ranged units in the bubble, so the +2 DEF can help mitigate that somewhat. I'll discuss what unit I'll love to put this spell on but I'll give you a hint - they're normally SPD 4.
Hint hint. Wink wink.

The other spells on her list are basically trap spells. Twister won't really be useful but just gives her an offensive spell. Flashing Blade is great, but since she doesn't have Reach it's only real use would be to cast to remove models in her melee range so she could charge another target. Distraction has potential but with only Focus 6 it's both expensive, and not likely to hit its target. Plus, without an arc node, casting the spell will mean advancing awfully close to the opponent's models. It's a trap! Gallows is the last spell on the list and, once again, this spell could be a trap. Once again, Ashlynn is only Focus 6 so to get the desired benefit of the spell (moving a model closer) you're relying an awful lot on a roll on a d6 and spending a lot of focus to do it. It's range is okay but again, if the spell misses or you roll low on your pull, you could be left with little focus left to do anything and could put yourself in harms way. To be fair, the feat can help make the spell more accurate, but I still don't like relying on a roll of a d6 to get my opponents model closer (presumably a warcaster/warlock). Unless I'm sure that I'm only 1" outside of my threat range, I'm not likely going to use this spell, lest I get completely burned on the attempt. Gallows (with Ashlynn) is a trap spell too, so don't rely on it!

Alright, so we've discussed her spells and her feat but Ashlynn also has some fantastic abilities on her card that need to be discussed, as well as her weapon loadout. Ashlynn sports a hand cannon, RAT 7, and Gunfighter. This means that not only can Ashlynn move upfield but she can provide a little ranged support for your army, plinking away at high DEF or high ARM infantry models to see if she can punch a hole. She also sports Virtuoso so if she finds herself swinging her sword at an engaged model and kills it, she can then shoot someone else. This is a great ability and gives her some great offensive flexibility. She also sports Parry which is invaluable when it comes to trying to assassinate an enemy warcaster or getting yourself out of a jam. She also has two great defensive abilities: Quick Draw and Riposte. Quick Draw is the same ability that Holt has and it means that she's even less likely to get shot at by enemy models, lest they completely lose their shot opportunity. Note that the shooter needs to be within 12" and LOS, so there are ways around it. Lastly, Riposte means that your opponent will have an even more difficult time trying to kill Ashlynn as she will swing at anything that misses her, and at DEF 17 base, your opponent is likely to miss, and at MAT 8, she's likely to hit back. Note that this is not a one-time ability and she will swing each time the opponent misses. This is a serious assassination deterrent. It's also worth noting here that normally a model with DEF 17 will have a crappier ARM, like around the 12-13 range (looking at you, Caine), but Ashlynn still sports ARM 15 - not much lower than most warlocks. She's going to be difficult to assassinate (but not impossible) so she can play a little more aggressively.

Time to look at the list that I've created:
This model is why I want to play with her
Ashlynn (+6)
- Rocinante (9)
- Sylys Wyshnalyrr (2)
Forge Guard (full, 8)
Aiyanna & Holt (4)
Gun Mages (6)
- Officer (2)
 - Mule (8)
Gorman di Wulfe (2)

If I plan on using this list I will need to make some changes to my Connie list (I'll share those in a future article), but I think there are elements here which will be more valuable. Let's run through the list quickly as it's already a long article.

For Ashlynn, focus will be at a premium so I decided that Sylys would be invaluable to let me upkeep a spell for free. He also has the convenient benefit of increasing the RNG of Ashlynn's spells, making Gallows potentially useful, especially when stacking Arcane Secrets on Ashlynn's feat turn. It still won't get around the randomness of the d6" pull, but it does make it a more viable option than it would be otherwise. Rociante also makes a good fit for Ashlynn as its a great defensive warjack that can also shoot, meaning it won't be wasted sitting on the back line with Ashlynn. Defensive Strike is great when coupled with his Reach and it makes him a viable target for Admonition. His most important ability, though, is Guard Dog which will make Ashlynn a hilarious DEF 19 in melee which stacks well with Riposte. Since she already has a pretty good ranged defense in Quick Draw, I think she'll be pretty safe against most shooting threats - especially with Gorman around to keep her concealed with his smoke bombs.

I love forge guard and I can't wait to field them with Ashlynn since she can make them SPD 6 with Quicken. Now, you might guffaw at a mediocre DEF 12 against ranged and magic attacks but what will actually protect the forge guard from a lot of ranged or magic attacks is their great ARM 18 when they're in their Defensive Line formation. With most volume-fire ranged attacks only being POW 10, those attacks not only need to hit DEF 12 (more difficult than DEF 10, at least) but they have to breach ARM 18 which is tougher to do. Even hand cannons and POW 12 ranged attacks need to roll a 7 and that's only 50% of the time. If Ashlynn can catch them in her feat it's even worse. I suspect I will lose some forge guard on the way in but at SPD 6, they'll be practically rocketing across the field compared to the other times I've used them.
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