In Mk2 there where some awful faction matchups, for example we watched Legion toil against us Trolls. You probably have a fond memory of a win over a much better Legion player. Legion saw the same thing however they preyed up helpless Cygnar players who got shot off the table no matter what they tried. Don’t feel too bad for the helpless Mk2 Cygnar players though, they had the most plentiful pray of all. They got to feast on Cryx players who were by far the most played faction. Cryx though, they preyed on Trolls. Oh it was a horrible matchup, it usually felt like they could drop either list in their pairing and phone it in, all the while you were desperately looking for a mistake to punish or some way out of the matchup, a matchup you know you would face almost every tournament.
The reason for their dominance? Banes! Whether they be Knights or Thralls (Now Warriors) Single wound banes made a mess of Trolls. It wasn’t as if PP didn’t try and help us, we got tool after tool throughout MK2, they gave us the Bomber, Grim2, Storm Trolls, Scattergunner UA and nothing really worked. That is, until Elemental Evolution came along. Suddenly we had a theme that gave us an even game into Cryx bane spam and the world was wonderful. As we all know though, all good things, must come to and end and EE suffered the nerf mallet, before it really got a chance to establish Trolls on top. The change to MK3, however saw a different change. Suddenly Cryx weren’t the hard counter to Trolls anymore. The reason for their loss of advantaged status in the matchup? Banes. Cryx weren’t playing them and Trolls couldn’t be happier about it.
Fast forward six months to January and Cryx get a new toy in Ghost Fleet. Everyone is complaining about this unbeatable list, apart from Trolls. It seems the Band of Heroes theme, released to little fanfair and collective Meh’s by the Troll community suddenly had a purpose. It was the right place at the right time and Trolls had game into the main Cryx lists.
Fast forward a few months again and the Cryx CID happened. Cryx players lamented Banes and their inability to cross the table. They wanted a block of troops that could stand a chance of crossing the table vs Cygnar or Ret. They needed defensive tech and they got buffed. They had a new theme that meant they could be delivered. Suddenly Trolls where staring across the table at banes again and it felt just as bad as it ever did.
That’s right Dark Host, is a thing and this spells nothing but trouble for us Troll players. You might be safe for a while, Warmachine players are notoriously slow at picking up on trends. Many Cryx players will spam Ghost Fleet until the first tournament wins start rolling in for Dark Host and believe me, they will start rolling in. Cryx was winning tournaments even before Ghost Fleet, Once it came out it came out they firmly re-established themselves in the top four factions where they had spent most of Mk2. Now they have access to a second power list and many Cryx players are whispering it’s actually more powerful than Ghost Fleet!
Sorry, that’s enough hyperbole. Cryx are here and PP have told us to figure this out for ourselves. They haven’t significantly nerfed Haley2 after a year of dominance so you better not be counting on them fixing this problem for you. You need a list that can in theory play into Ghost Fleet and Dark Host. The good news is that if your list can play into Dark host it can basically play into any of those awful Khador lists like Strakhov2 Legion of Steel, which I currently just hoped to dodge.
So what’s good into Ghost Fleet? We’ve been over this a few times, but basically you need RFP and a decent ranged assassination threat. The two in faction RFP options are the Band of Heroes theme and Gunnbjorn who has ranged RFP on the spell Explosivo.
If you want to play into Ghost Fleet it’s also very useful to have some anti knockdown tech. Denny1#s main win condition is through the Knockdown assassination after a scourge and then shooting you to death with ghost shots.
As a quick heads-up it’s possible to beat ghost fleet through shear weight of fire. This is an option for factions with amazing range game like Cygnar and Ret. Sadly this isn’t an option for Trolls, we don’t have cheap, accurate guns with long enough range to do this, in my humble opinion.
So, what tools do we need to play into Dark Host? As a list it brings lots of medium armour tough models with prowl who often kill whatever they get to. They also usually bring something to help them close the distance, whether it’s Coven’s feat or Gaspy2’s cloud wall. For an example, watch Aaron Wale play a 3 foot cloud wall in the final of Iron Gauntlet this year.
I see Troll players currently in the mind-set or working out a drop that plays into Ghost Fleet, while this does makes sense, the truth is that Ghost Fleet is an expensive list. It requires a lot of very expensive models and while it’s something you have to plan for it’s also something that most people won’t face at the average tournament. That fact can not be said for Dark Host. The Bane models have been sitting on the shelves of Cryx players for a year and the second hand market is full of them. There will not be a period where people have to buy the models. This means the moment the Cryx players figure out how good the theme is you’re going to see it on the table. This is going to be everywhere very quickly, particularly as the list doesn’t hold the same stigma that Ghost Fleet does. There is a certain kind of player that thinks Ghost Fleet is power gaming BS. They think it just doesn’t look fun or it’s not the reason they got into Cryx. You won’t see that same attitude towards running lots of banes, that’s what MK2 Cryx was and they won’t hesitate to return to form.
So what are our options?
There’s a few different ways you can go to try and solve this. The main issue is that none of them are ideal for various reasons. Let’s have a look at them:
The War Wagon is the single best piece of tech available for fighting mass single wound infantry. It hits hard and can kill lots of dudes in a turn. It also ignores all the clever tricks like stealth, prowl etc. basically it’s perfect for the job we need. You’ll remember I said there was a problem with all of the tech option? Sadly the WW is only available in the Kriel Company theme. I can not stress enough how many issues would be solved if we could take this in Band of Heroes with a bunch of RFP infantry. The WW in Kriel Company will play into Dark Host pretty well, but it’s when we want to play it into Ghost Fleet we will start having issues, because we need Remove From Play (RFP) and anti Knockdown tech.
The only RFP in faction outside of Band of Heroes is Gunnbjorn, so he seems like an obvious choice in the Kriel Company theme with a War Wagon or two. The two main issues I see with this tactic are that he doesn’t get access to Earth’s Blessing as you can’t take the Earthborn or the Bouncer in Kriel Company. This means that you are safe from assassination on your feat turn, but any other turn could be real trouble. The second issue is the feat. While it’s strong vs Ghost Fleet it does almost nothing into Dark Host. I’m not sure the War Wagon is good enough to make up for a lack of feat, especially when Trolls struggle so much with Banes anyway.
What is the main drawback of Fire Eaters? They are so scary; they often get shot straight off the table. Try running them into Cygnar and consider they are essentially worthless. That said, what they are amazing against is mass infantry forces without guns, so as a bane answer they are great. Send them in and get work done and more importantly jam the enemy so the rest of your force can advance up the board and maybe get an alpha strike. That is, after all, what Fire Eaters are really good at. They act as a vanguard that allows the rest of your force to close the distance. Interestingly they could be quite strong into ghost fleet with Gunnbjorn as you can feat to let them close the distance and negate a turn of shooting.
If you’re going to play Kriel Company, you should be aware that your opponent will try and jam you. Running to engage is absolutely the right strategy against a gunline and you will see this all the time. Whether it’s bane’s or pikemen expect your opponent to get in your face and try and deny your ability to shoot them from range. That is where we turn back to a MK2 staple that was absolutely made for this. Min Scattergunners + UA is phenomenal at what it does. What it does is unjam you lines with sprays that are often aimed, the beauty of these sprays is that they completely ignore your own models thanks to the Clear! ability, which is especially useful for unjamming models like Fire Eaters or a Mountain king, who really want to assault to do their job properly.
Usually people will tell you that a Mountain king is a liability vs. mass hard hitting single wound infantry, but I feel it’s worth a shot, here. Remember you have the potential for double sprays and with a War Wagon and Fire Eaters in a list, hopefully you provide an aggressive enough vanguard that the MK can survive the usual issues. With all that said, I still think it would be a problem vs Asphyxias2 who will just feat the thing off the table.
This first list is Grim2. I think he runs it better vs. Dark Host, but I’m not convinced that we could afford to run a list without ranged RFP.
Grim2 (Kriel Company)
– Mountain King
– Pyre Troll
Min Stone + UA
Min Scattergunners + UA
Fell Caller Hero
The list seems really good verses Dark Host or Legion of Steel. I’ve taken Braylen purely for her flag scoring ability in SR2017. You can get some serious damage done on feat turn with the War Wagon which will get +4 to hit on models within 5 inches.
The issues are mostly that it lacks any form of RFP. It also lacks any kind of anti knockdown tech. It feels like it has very little game into any competent Ghost Fleet player. Maybe that will be ok, like we discussed Ghost Fleet will be way less popular than Dark Host. Not ideal though.
Gunnbjorn (no Theme)
Min Krielstone + UA
Min Scattergunners + UA
So it’s not in theme, which is an immediate red flag. We really like the +1 to go first from kriel company. I’m not 100% convinced on the battlegroup. I would obviously prefer access to rage, especially if this has to play into Khador.
It does however feature all the tools to handle dark host and ghost fleet. You just have to deal with the lack of theme and the fact you have no feat versus Dark Host, which is what you’ll end up seeing the moment they see you have ranged RFP.
Kolgrima is on the horizon. She feels good vs banes with her auto point of damage spell. She also brings immunity to knockdown by casting her Owl’s wisdom on herself to stop her getting scourged. You could build her in Band of Heroes for the RFP and she can buy a turn with her Feat vs Ghost Fleet or her cloud wall vs Dark Host.
It seems like it might have some game, but either way we won’t know until it comes out and we get it on the table. Dark Host is coming and that’s bad news for Troll players, but you do have solutions!