Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Skorne vs. Ghost Fleet: Initial Thoughts

Ghost Fleet is a Cryx theme list that debuted last year, was unlocked sometime over the winter, and has been tearing up the meta at a very high level this spring and summer.  It's strong into a lot of matchups, and plays a pretty different game from many lists, which means you have to have a specific plan for dealing with it.  That means both having a list that can handle Ghost Fleet, and a strategy for winning against Ghost Fleet with that list.

I realise that this post is a little behind the times, since Ghost Fleet has been a powerhouse for a while, but these kinds of thought experiments are fun for me, and maybe Skorne doesn't have a lot of information out there yet (I don't follow the FB group or LormaHordes very much).  Anyway, here's my take:

What is Ghost Fleet?

Ghost Fleet lets the Cryx player take pirates, ghosts, and Wraith Engines, along with any 'caster and non-character Warjacks.  In exchange, the Cryx player gets:

+1 Revenant Crew returned each turn with Deathbound
A free solo or weapon crew for every 20pts of Revenant models in the list
+1 to the starting roll

What this means is usually 12-ish points of free solos, a very strong recursion game, and you'll probably go second.  The list is naturally good at attrition because of the Revenant Crew, and naturally good at scenario, both because of the recursion and because it can field plenty of incorporeal models.  Many Cryx 'casters run Ghost Fleet well, but the one to watch out for the most is probably Deneghra 1.  A typical list looks something like:

Warwitch Deneghra (*28pts) - Ghost Fleet
*Stalker (8pts)
*Stalker (8pts)
*Deathripper (6pts)
*Deathripper (6pts)

Wraith Engine (15pts)

Hellslinger Phantom (0pts - Theme Benefit)
Pistol Wraith (0pts - Theme Benefit)
Captain Rengrave (0pts - Theme Benefit)

Revenant Crew of the Atramentous (Leader and 5 Grunts) (9pts)
*3 Revenant Crew Riflemen (6pts)
Revenant Crew of the Atramentous (Leader and 5 Grunts) (9pts)
*3 Revenant Crew Riflemen (6pts)
Revenant Crew of the Atramentous (Leader and 5 Grunts) (9pts)
*3 Revenant Crew Riflemen (6pts)

Whatever combination of Revenants gets you to that 3rd free card.  I built the list with min Blackbane's Ghost Raiders and a Revenant Cannon Crew, but other builds are probably valid.

Deneghra adds a lot of raw control and a hellish assassination game to Ghost Fleet's already strong attrition and scenario game.  Her typical endgame is: Feat on the enemy army, cast Scourge on the 'caster to knock them down, cast Parasite on the knocked down 'caster, and have a zillion Ghost Shot guns finish the job.  It's very hard to prevent without the right tools, since it's very hard to get rid of the Revenant riflemen and defend yourself from Deneghra's assassination.  Fortunately, Skorne has a few options that can do both.

What tools do we have?

Warlock-wise, I like Hexeris 2, Zaal 2, and Morghoul 2 best.  Other warlocks who look like they work include Rasheth 1, Hexeris 1, Morghoul 3, and if you know what you're doing, Makeda 1, Makeda 3, and Zaadesh 2.  What do these Warlocks bring to the table?

First, they have ways of making themselves hard to assassinate.  Hexeris 2 has Banishing Ward for spell immunity.  Zaal 2 has Vision, his Feat, and a naturally high armor stat.  Morghoul 2 has Steady, Stealth, and a Feat that inflicts Blind on the opponent's army.  Rasheth has Castigate and Impervious Flesh, Morghoul 3 has Steady and Stealth, and the Makedas and Zaadesh have ways of pawning hits off on other models.

Second, some of them have ways to remove enemy models from play.  Hexeris 2 has Hellfire, which can snipe out Revenant Crew unit leaders.  Zaal 2 has Annihilation, which is expensive, but worth it if it stops recursion.  Hexeris 1's Feat RFP's anything that dies in his CTRL on the Feat turn, which is a great tool against recursion.  I mention RFP effects specifically, because any Revenant removed from play cannot return, and if the leader model (the one who gives the unit the Deathbound rule) is removed from play, the unit will lose access to Deathbound.  The strategy for RFP against Ghost Fleet should always be to remove the unit leaders.  Once that's accomplished, the rest of the unit will stay dead if killed by conventional means.

Third, most of them have tools to deal with a large number of infantry fairly quickly.  Hexeris 2 has Black Spot, Hexeris 1's Feat can make the Cryx models kill each other, and Morghoul 3 and Makeda 3's Feats let them slaughter infantry very efficiently.

Finally, some of them have the means to put magic damage where it needs to go.  The Hexies and Rasheth can channel, Zaal prefers a construct-heavy army, and all our constructs have Magic Weapons.

You may have noticed that not every Warlock is in every category.  In fact, Hexeris 2 is the only one who's in all of them.  Most of these blind spots, however, can be covered by the right army list.

If you need more protection, a Basilisk Krea and/or a couple of Shield Guards do a good job.  The Cyclops Brute deserves a special mention for the Safeguard animus, which will protect you from Scourge.  If you need more anti-infantry, many of our options are good at it.  If you need more Magic Weapons, you can take Extoller Soulwards or the Cyclops Shaman or Basilisk Drake.  The Shaman can also snipe out the Hellslinger Phantom at long range if he's hiding behind something to stay safe.  For RFP, some Minion units have Takedown or other effects, but there's nothing in Faction.


Rule number one is: keep your Warlock safe.  Don't give Deneghra (or whoever is playing the list) an angle to assassinate you.  Ghost Fleet does a lot of things well, but assassination is probably its biggest win condition.  Practically, this means protecting yourself from Scourge and Parasite as best you can, and making sure you have enough Fury and/or Shield Guards to ride out the assassination run.  Ghost Fleet doesn't have a way to ignore Stealth, so that will buy you some safety from a lot of the guns in the list.  Otherwise, make sure you're as hidden as you can be from the arc nodes and Stalkers, and camping enoug to survive.

While you're doing that, try to remove the Revenant unit leaders from play. That will shut off their recursion, and let you take out the rest of the unit without having to take them all out at once.  Or, you could just kill them wholesale.  Makeda 3 and Morghoul 3 are pretty good at this approach. If you wipe out the whole unit, then none of them are coming back.

Threaten Deneghra.  Deneghra has to get pretty far forward to catch your Warlock in her Feat.  If you can make this very dangerous (usually by having a good shooting element that can ignore Stealth - another reason to take Extollers), then you'll make your opponent hesitate before trying to kill you.  If you do it and keep your caster safe enough, you can capitalize on that hesitation to get more work done against Deneghra's list, and maybe even assassinate her.

Those are my thoughts for now.  I have a Hexeris 2 list I'd like to try into Ghost Fleet, and I'm as excited for the Immortal Host theme as anyone for that matchup among others.  I haven't actually played against Ghost Fleet yet, although I'll definitely let you all know what I've learned when I do.

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