Monday, March 30, 2020

Skorne Faction Review Part 2: Warlocks

Buckle in folks, this'll be a long one.

The CID process, despite its faults, has given us a fairly good stable of Warlocks.  They're nearly all usable, and while most of theme have some weaknesses, they also have solid game plans and tools to make the opponent think.  I'm not going to try to sort them into tiers, because honestly, I'm not good enough to make that kind of call.  If you're new to the game, I have some recommendations, but try what seems cool, and figure out what works for you.  If you've got more experience, maybe something I mention here will get you to consider one of our warlocks in a new light.  Or maybe you'll think I'm totally wrong, in which case let me know.

Without further ado, Skorne Warlocks:

Archdomina Makeda (Makeda 1)

Makeda 1 is a versatile, all-comers Warlock.  She has good tools for a variety of situations, and gives your army two of the things that everyone wants: more accuracy and more speed.  Because of all these factors, she's quite forgiving, and I would recommend her to newer players.  She runs the vast majority of our models quite well.  The biggest exception is non-living models, which don't benefit from her Feat.  This just means that I'd still consider a single Supreme Guardian or 1-2 AG's viable with Makeda 1, but I probably wouldn't run her in The Exalted.

One thing Makeda 1 lacks is a damage buff, so take a few models that can really hit hard, or maybe a Void Archon for Dark Shroud.  The need for a heavy hitter combined with Jackhammer means that gargantuans a quite good with Mak 1.  Marketh or a way to channel The Lash and Jackhammer will also give you more options with movement and damage, which will make you less predictable, so something like an Immortal Vessel or Blind Walker might be a good idea.

You shouldn't build too much around Makeda 1's feat, especially the healing effect.  Grievous Wounds and Entropic Force from the Void Archon etc. make it unreliable.  If your opponent can't stop you from keeping your troops alive, so much the better, but anti-healing tech is on the rise, and you should make sure that your troops are mostly surviving on their own merits, not Makeda's Feat.  Otherwise, she's a solid warlock with few serious weaknesses and some nifty tricks in her kit if you can make them work.

Beast Master Xekaar (Xekaar 1)

Xekaar is one of our least forgiving warlocks, which is unfortunate, because he's also our battlebox caster.  His tools are all good individually, but getting them to gel on the tabletop is difficult to say the least.  Xekaar's biggest problem is survivability.  His defensive stats are bad for a caster, and he generally wants to be close to the action, so it's easy to set up assassinations against him.  His Feat, though very strong against melee, offers little protection against shooting.  He also has a low Fury score for a Warlock whose spell list is nearly all offensive.  That said, those offensive spells are very strong, and we now have a number of tools to help him land them.

Helping Xekaar cast offensively requires both Marketh and a way to channel.  Marketh will be an important source of Mortality and Deadweight as long as he remains alive.  You should also take either two Immortal Vessels (in any theme other than Disciples), and probably just one Blind Walker (in Disciples).  The ability to channel spells is a major boon for Xekaar, and is going to be the difference between life and death in a lot of situations.  Immortal Vessels get a special mention for Telemetry, though getting them within 5" of an enemy puts them in a lot of danger.

Xekaar also wants a fair amount of protection, and that means both shield guards and a durable screen.  I nearly always take a Brute with Xekaar for both the Shield Guard and the animus, and I also like taking Aradus Soldiers and Agonizers to stack Swarm and Gnawing Pain with his Feat.  A larger battlegroup also has the benefit of sticking around longer, especially if Xekaar is liberal with Psycho-Surgery.  That said, playing Xekaar is definitely hard mode, and I have yet to hear of someone unlocking him enough to make him a contender.

Dominar Morghoul and Escorts (Morghoul 3)

Morghoul 3 is an interesting warlock, focusing on speed, stealth, and strategic debuffs to deliver models, including himself, to their targets.  In particular, his game plan requires him to make good use of Blind on both Night's Reflection and his escorts' fans to operate at peak potential.  When he works, he's extremely powerful.  There are a lot of battle engines seeing use right now, and their inability to shake  Blind lets Morghoul shut them down virtually all game.  Against an army with wider immunity to blind, like beast heavy Legion, or even just a beast/jack heavy list that can shake Blind, Morghoul 3 suffers a lot, because the rest of his toolkit is less pretty unamazing.  All that means is, take a second list, and enjoy when you can drop Morghoul 3 into his better matchups.

Morghoul's Feat means you're going to want to take at least a few warrior models with multiple attacks.  Ferox are self-sufficient, very fast, and love the added mobility from Acrobatics and Overtake.  Nihilators absolutely shred infantry when they combine their 2" melee reach and Berserk with Overtake, and Acrobatics and Parry let them get past the first line of the enemy unit and right into the juicy part.  Occultation is great on either of these units, since Ferox can be shot down by serious firepower, and Nihilators get swept off the table without some kind of protection.  Mirage is a good threat extender on any unit, but when you can combine that with Pathfinder, you can leave your unit out of LoS in terrain, then have them Apparate into LoS before they charge.  The ability to channel spells and put out more Night's Reflection really puts Morghoul 3 on the next level, so you should consider Marketh or a channeler a high priority in any list.

If you find yourself up against one of Morghoul 3's bad matchups, you shouldn't despair; he always has the potential to assassinate.  He has acrobatics and parry all the time, and can hits both hard and accurately enough to kill most 'casters.  If you're able to get Blind on the enemy, he'll be swinging with an extra damage die, and virtually always hit.  Decapitation is sweet when it happens, but you usually shouldn't boost attack rolls to try to make it happen.  Just remember that in that case, the army is there to deliver Morghoul, and you shouldn't worry too much about keeping them alive.

Dominar Rasheth (Rasheth 1)

I said I wasn't going to split our warlocks up into tiers, but I will make a note of it when one of them is extremely powerful, and Rasheth is one of our best.  He's a strong, debuff-oriented Warlock with a large control range and the ability to channel through any Skorne warrior model.  He fixes both accuracy and damage with his spells, and doubles down on both with his Feat (which also helps protect your models).  He also has a solid control game with Breath of Corruption clouds and the ability to shut down channeling and animi with Castigate (and to a lesser extent, Sunder Spirit).

Like Makeda 1, Rasheth works well with just about anything in the faction.  It was very popular earlier in MkIII to run him in Winds of Death because shooting loves a debuff 'caster.  Since Oblivion, he also likes Disciples of Agony, since he's just as effective with Minions as he is with Skorne, and both Croak Hunters and Farrow Brigands are incredible with a -2 Def, -4 Arm swing like Rasheth can provide.  Do take a few Skorne Warriors too, for channeling purposes.  Agonizers can double down on that Feat defense with Gnawing Pain and make your list truly miserable to attack.

Rasheth's only real drawback is his statline.  He's Def 10 Arm 14 on a large base, something neither Impervious Flesh nor the ability to heal himself through his Feat and Carnivore completely counteracts.  Fortunately, he can generally stay far away from the action, and you can take a Krea or some Shield Guards to help him out.  He also has no weapons, meaning that you want to avoid an endgame situation where he would have to do work himself.  Otherwise, play Rasheth with anything.  He's both very strong and super fun.

Lord Arbiter Hexeris (Hexeris 2)

Hexeris 2 is a fairly versatile 'caster who specializes in offensive spellcasting.  He has a few defensive buffs for his army, but the reason you're taking him is to apply his offensive magic to enemy units, with the emphasis on units.  His strongest spells get the best mileage against single-wound models.  He brings a lot of his own support for this, since he can channel through any of his warbeasts, and his Feat lets him recharge his fury for a turn.

Like Makeda 1, Hexeris 2 lacks a way to improve damage, so take models that hit hard on their own.  Special mention again to our gargantuans, whose shooting can wipe out huge swathes of the table with Black Spot.  Their high hit points and immunity to Grievous Wounds also makes gargs excellent for Vampiric Harvest, since it's harder to take them off the table all at once or shut down their ability to heal.  The Siege Animantrax has extremely good synergy with Black Spot.  Its ability to make both melee and ranged attacks in the same activation means that you can kill Black Spot targets in melee to make more ranged attacks against units you'd like to damage.  Alternately, you can make ranged attacks against the black spot target, and turn them into extra tail attacks against something in melee.  You should probably take an Archidon as an arcing beast with Hexeris 2, since it's very fast, flies, and has Long Leash.  Hexeris likes a source of Guidance for landing his spells on stealth units.

Hexeris is probably at his best with a battlegroup-heavy force backed up by a unit or two and a battle engine.  He can run in any theme, and doesn't mind running minions as long as he has some models to take extra attacks from Black Spot.  Don't forget that his Feat can take Soul Tokens, something that might really help you out against certain opponents.

Lord Assassin Morghoul (Morghoul 2)

Morghoul 2 is the lord assassin, so it makes sense that he's good at assassination.  His main game plan from when I've played him though, has been attrition.  His personal threat range is good enough to bully 'casters and keep the back, but usually by the time he's assassinated, it's after he's used his presence to help clear out the enemy army.  His tools to that end are strong: a good debuff, a buff that makes one model hard to avoid, a couple situational tools, and an incredible debuff feat.

Morghoul 2 wants to be close enough to the action to either put some damage in himself or keep valuable models honest, so an Archidon is a must for the Lightning Strike animus.  Mortality is a terrific spell to channel, so a channeller and/or Marketh is also high priority.  Being able to channel means it's sometimes possible to get use out of Flesh Hooks, which is usually moot by the time Morghoul is in range otherwise.  Otherwise, Morghoul 2 works extremely well with shooting, both because Mortality is great for shooters and because Blind shuts down anything unable to shake it unless it's engaged.

Like Morghoul 3, Morghoul 2 can suffer against armies with widespread immunity or ability to shake Blind, and like Morghoul 3, he can focus on assassination when up against those types of lists.  He has a little more reliability against them, both because of Mortality, and because of his overall higher personal damage output.  Ordinarily, though, I play him as an attrition 'caster who's able to win by pressuring the opponent with an assassination threat rather than an all-out assassin.

Lord Tyrant Hexeris (Hexeris 1)

Hexeris 1, like Hexeris 2, does most of his dirty work through offensive magic.  He has a melee accuracy boost in Death March, and the ability to channel a little with Soul Slave, and an excellent armor debuff in Parasite.  Overall, he's pretty well rounded, but like a lot of spellslingers, can suffer against spell hate.  His Feat is extremely hit or miss.  It's only really good against armies with at least 1 unit of mid-low def infantry, the more powerful, the better.  If your opponent isn't running the kinds of units the Feat can use, then you're not going to get much, if anything, out of it.  Vampiric Reaving is a situational tool, but one which can be a huge nuisance for warlocks who like to be back from the front lines.

Hexeris 1 likes an Archidon for a Soul Slave target, and some shooting to help finish off Parasite targets.  He also likes an in-faction melee unit for Death March, and an Extoller (or Mist Speaker) for Eyeless Sight.  Otherwise, he's quite versatile, and can run in any theme.

His big problem, at least in my opinion, is that Rasheth does a lot of what he does, but has a bigger toolbox and a vastly more reliable Feat.  I can certainly see Hexeris builds which leverage Parasite and Vampiric Reaving to good effect, playing Hexeris forward into his better matchups and playing a Fury denial game.  But if you're looking for an all-comers debuff 'caster, Rasheth does it better.

Lord Tyrant Zaadesh (Zaadesh 2)

Zaadesh 2 brings a strong denial game with a couple of good defensive tools.  He has two main kinds of denial: LoS denial with Burning Ash, and the ability to punish opponents hard for attacking even when they can with a combination of Battle Charged and his Feat.  He has a very focused game plan that works well, and most of all, he's just a lot of fun to play.  I wouldn't put him in the same class as Rasheth or Makeda 3 right now, but he's on the powerful side of what we have, and he's forgiving enough to be a good pick for new players.

Zaadesh is extremely versatile; he can play in any theme, and uses an attrition-oriented army well.  He really likes to play battlegroup heavy to get a lot of denial out of Battle Charged, and I really enjoy Titan Sentries with him.  They can make Retaliatory Strikes as well as Defensive Strikes, and they're very tough, especially backed by an Agonizer.  He also really likes a Siege Animantrax or two if you're playing in Disciples or Winds.  They're good most turns, but spectacular on the Feat turn, when they can knock enemies down with defensive strikes.  The last thing I always take with Zaadesh is the Swamp Gobber Bellows Crew.  They're a key piece for extending his cloud wall to cover most of your army.

Zaadesh's big weakness is that he only fixes Mat and Def on his Feat turn, so good Feat timing is often necessary to cope with some of the things the enemy will be bringing.  You really want to be inflicting damage on your turn as well as setting yourself up to deal damage on your opponent's turn.  In Disciples, Zaadesh can bring minion beasts to help fix damage output, and that's my favorite theme for him right now.

Makeda and the Exalted Court (Makeda 3)

Makeda 3 plays very differently from the other two Makeda's.  She plays an aggressive, high-risk, high-reward game, but has tools to mitigate the risk and capitalize hard on any hesitation or mistakes on the opponent's part.  Makeda herself will be doing a lot of damage, which is what puts her at risk.  She can wipe out one or more units on her own on Feat turn, and can put a serious hurt on heavies.  She also has a solid toolbox including a Feat that lets her manipulate Fury very well and Incite, and incredible (but costly) support spell.  Naturally, she's a great assassin as well, with some very good tricks to come at 'casters from unpredictable angles.  Just the threat of her coming in at a 'caster can help you control the flow of the game.  Like Rasheth, she's considered very strong.

She has good synergy with Molik Karn, who's ability to Side-Step with Makeda makes him deadly under Incite, especially with her Feat.  She also really likes models that help her survive on the front lines where she likes to hang out.  Cyclops Brutes bring Safeguard, a must-have Animus for Makeda 3, as well as Shield Guard and a fantastic front line piece that get tons of mileage out of Bulwark.  The Basilisk Krea is another key defensive piece for her.  Otherwise, she works well with most of our models, since Incite gives a bonus to everything Skorne.

Though quite powerful, Makeda 3 is very unforgiving.  You need to be able to assess the risk to her at all times, and be extremely cagey, something that's not always easy for newer players.  That said, once you get the hang of her tricks, and learn how to keep her alive, she will be able to do great and terrible things to your enemies.

Master Ascetic Naaresh (Naaresh 1)

Naaresh is a fairly unconventional 'caster in that he wants to take damage.  In fact, taking damage makes him stronger, and beasts in his battlegroup will be able to charge and make power attacks without being forced if they have damage on them.  When fully whipped up, Naaresh is a dangerous melee 'caster and assassin, especially with the unpredictable movement granted by Cyclone.  Lamentation also gives him a decent denial game.  He wants to be in the thick of things, using his personal presence to threaten the opponent and support his own army, waiting for the chance to dive in for the finishing blow.  Because of this, I often put Blur on him rather than using it to support a unit.  The less he needs to worry about shooting, the more pressure he can exert.

Naaresh has a lot of fun synergies with our other models, but the most notable in my mind are Cyclops Brutes and Paingiver Beast Handlers.  Naaresh, like Makeda 3, must have access to Safeguard to stay alive, though from turn to turn he might prefer another animus.  You also want at least 2 min units of paingivers with Naaresh, because their ability to whip him is what makes him threatening and keeps him alive.  Naaresh also likes a way to fix Mat, like a Battle Boar in Disciples, and a Krea and/or Agonizer to further keep him from harm.  The War Hog and Road Hog, also in Disciples, can damage themselves to get free charges.  In general, Naaresh wants a big battlegroup, because hit Feat, when properly applied, is very strong.

It is, however, a combined offense/defense Feat, like Zaadesh 2's, and you need good timing if you want to get decent use out of both halves.  The other big thing to watch out for with Naaresh is not to overdo it with whipping him.  He does not need to be P+S 16 Arm 20 every turn.  Even with his various ways to heal, that damage will add up, and with Naaresh hanging out close to the action, it's likely to get him killed.

Master Tormentor Morghoul (Morghoul 1)

Morghoul 1 is very different from versions 2 and 3, and very fun to play.  He brings beast support Abuse to make them faster and hit harder, Admonition, which lets either a beast or him dodge an attacker, and his Feat which is great denial against enemy beasts and jacks.  He's easy to use but hard to master.  He's much easier to (and often more fun) to use than Xekaar, and he makes a good replacement battlegroup 'caster in a JML if you're feeling frustrated with Xekaar.

Morghoul 1 likes a battlegroup of tough heavies that can live through the opponent's initial attacks on the Feat turn.  He only really has any support for beasts, so any units you take should be self-sufficient.  Because of this, he does well in Disciples.  He always wants a source of Rush, so either a Gladiator or the Terrorizer is good with him.  Because he can buff both speed and damage, naturally fast beasts are great for getting a first strike in from long range.  Archidons in particular, don't need to worry about staying in his tiny CTRL.  In Disciples, Road Hogs go from slightly pillow-fisted to frightening.  Both have the Lightning Strike Animus, which let Morghoul get some use out of his Rippers without getting killed.

Morghoul 1's tools are powerful, but he's only Fury 5.  He has to be close to the front to manage his battlegroup, and he doesn't quite have the stats to be there.  If you're clever about Admonition and pay attention to positioning, Morghoul 1 is great, and lots of fun.

Primus Jalaam (Jalaam 1)

Jalaam is Skorne's Venator Warlock, but he's not really about shooting so much as he is about maneuvering.  Warpath is his best tool, and there are a lot of great things you can do with it.  Three inches of out-of-activation movement is a massive amount of flexibility most battlegroups don't have.  Artifice of Deviation and Scavenger's Blessing both help you maneuver in difficult terrain, while also protecting your units and hampering the opponent.

Jalaam likes a big battlegroup.  He really wants to have as many Warpath angles as he can manage with his Fury 6.  A source of Snipe - either a Cyclops raider or a Titan Cannoneer - is a must for him.  His shooting is amazing, and he really wants those extra 4" on it.  Cyclops Shamans are good backup for a Snipe Beast in general with Ghost Shot, but with Jalaam, they have the added bonus of bing Warpath triggers.  There are a number of good targets for Deadeye, but my absolute favorite is the Basilisk Krea.  Deadeye makes Krea's Paralysis gun much more reliable against 'casters, and once it hits, the assassination run is on.  Archidons are also great, since they can be much further away, and have access to Sprint.

Jalaam's biggest weakness is that with the exception of Deadeye, he has no way to buff accuracy or damage.  This means he must take accurate, hard-hitting models, or play in Disciples so he can have access to Primal.  Jalaam's lack of offensive buffs, combines with his pretty lackluster Feat, mean that he often bounces off opponents despite his other excellent tools.  I have yet to figure him out, though I do feel he has good potential.

Supreme Aptimus Zaal and Kovaas (Zaal 1)

Zaal 1 has some great support, especially for infantry, but will tend to burn up your army, so whenever you play him, be ready for massive casualties.  He can boost damage and accuracy to extreme levels with Last Stand and his Feat, but Last Stand kills your models, and the feat requires models to be killed.  The other thing Zaal focuses on is Ancestral Guardians and Soul Tokens.  He hands out souls, and of course, brings the Kovaas along to pop out of any AG's that die.  The Kovaas is very strong, and having it appear out of a model that should have just taken some effort to remove is an excellent bonus.

Zaal 1 plays well in The Exalted and Masters of War, though you can play him in Disciples with Nihilators as your main infantry.  I wouldn't recommend Winds for Zaal 1 just because it lacks melee infantry, which is something Zaal wants.  That said, Zaal can certainly use a ranged game, and he might be able to get enough melee out of just Ancestral and Supreme Guardians and his battlegroup.  Zaal really likes mobile units.  Ferox, with their super long threat range and ability to jump, are fantastic assassins with him.

My big worry with Zaal in the current meta is that anti-infantry tech is very efficient, so your infantry has a tendancy to die too fast to get much use out.  Ideally, you want a steady flow of souls from your infantry, and you want enough of them left alive to take advantage of all the rage tokens from your Feat.  At least one unit of sturdy infantry like Karax or Immortals is good for keeping a unit on the table for a few turns.  I haven't tried Zaal 1 with Keltarii yet, but the combination of Blade Shield and Parry seems like it has good potential.

Supreme Archdomina Makeda (Makeda 2)

Makeda 2 is a solid warlock whose viability has decreased somewhat with the emergence of the Void Archon.  She plays a very tenacious attrition game with Stay Death, and packs some good support for her infantry with her spells.  She wants to field mostly warrior models, and a lot of players take a minimum beast loadout with her.

Makeda 2 plays super well in Masters of War, and... can be played in our other themes I suppose.  She really likes tough units that are hard enough to kill that she won't need to Stay Death too much.  Praetorian Ferox are probably our top unit for this, and they combine that tenacity with great speed and maneuverability as well as respectable hitting power.  Other elite units, like Cetrati and the Legends, are also great with her.  Swordsmen, of course, gain Vengeance with her, and Vengeance will trigger even if she saves the damaged model with Stay Death.  She often likes to take a Basilisk Krea to stack with Deflection against ranged infantry.  Also consider a Supreme Guardian if you can afford it, since recursion on Swordsmen or Cetrati on top of Stay Death is just mean.

Makeda 2 has declined a bit with the release of the Void Archon, as I said before.  Entropic Force is extremely easy to apply, and models under its pall cannot be saved by Stay Death.  This isn't a death knell for her, since of course you'll have your other list, but it might mean that she wants more of a ranged presence in her battlegroup specifically to get rid of Void Archon.

Tyrant Xerxis (Xerxis 1)

Xerxis 1 blends powerful defensive tech with some great tools to increase the speed and maneuverability of what might otherwise be a slow and predictable force.  He runs a powerful attrition list that focuses on being hard to kill, and absolutely demolishing anything that gets in its way.  Xerxis also tends to brick up, since his feat rewards you for keeping models in base to base, and his Tactician [friendly warrior] means you're rarely blocking your own LoS or clogging your own charge lanes even if you stay in a clump.

Xerxis like Masters of War a lot, but he can play well in any theme because his spells and feat are good with anything.  That said, the battle plans are very strong, mostly on faction melee infantry, so you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't take at least one unit.  Beyond that, he's quite versatile, and if you have the Paingivers to manage fury, can run a beast brick surprisingly well.  If you're going for infantry, Cetrati are great for blocking LoS to Xerxis, and synergize very well with his spells and feat.  Ferox are great in general, but they're especially annoying with access to Defender's Ward and Xerxis' feat.  Xerxis also likes the Krea and Agonizer, since they both support his relatively tight formation.  He also really likes it when a Supreme Guardian returns his Cetrati to play.

Xerxis' big problems are low Fury, somewhat low speed, and no innate accuracy fixing.  Accurate units or some other way to fix accuracy is a high priority for Xerxis.  He can also be outmaneuvered what with much of his force wanting to stay in his small and relatively slow CTRL bubble.

Void Seer Mordikaar (Mordikaar 1)

Mordikaar is a strange one, but he's also pretty solid.  He brings a very decent recursion and def-based attrition game, as well as some dastardly tricks and the ability to do almost all of what he wants from well out of harm's way.  His list can be either troop or beast heavy, but he'll always want at least one big faction unit.  He's built around using Despoiler and Void Spirits, so these are so much a synergy with him as a requirement.

Like I said, Despoiler is a must.  However, bringing Despoiler is a lot like bringing Void Spirits, and the Void Spirits Despoiler pops out are going to get a lot more work done for you than the ones you bring in my experience, so putting Void Spirits in your starting army list is not really necessary.  Otherwise, Mordi wants a heavy hitter and at least a few accurate models.  Although Despoiler has Dark Shroud, he brings a lot else that I don't want to put up for trade just to get rid of an irksome heavy.  Mordi also does nothing for accuracy, so take models that can hit.  Praetorian Ferox are pretty much perfect for him: he can Revive them, the hit hard and accurately, and they can get into some very sneaky Essence Blast places.  Archidons are good with him too, both for ignoring free strikes with Host of Shadows, and for being Essence Blast targets.  Bloodrunners are a fun source of early fury from Hollow in Disciples.  If you're running small or medium units, a Supreme Guardian supplements Mordi's recursion game nicely, and can send him souls from clear across the table.

For all his tricks, Mordikaar is tricky to use.  Having no good source of accuracy or damage buffs does hurt, and he can sometimes get into a situation where he has a lot of fury, and nothing much to do with it.  Recursion is certainly not dead, including on Mordikaar, but Revive on its own can get overwhelmed fast, and recursion is very important to keeping Mordikaar in the game long term.

Xerxis, Fury of Halaak (Xerxis 2)

Rough Rino Xerxis brings some extra accuracy and hitting power, even more accuracy and hitting power with his feat, and speed.  How much speed?  All the speed.  Plus 2 SPD for every warbeast in his battlegroup.  With access to Rush and some of the quicker minion beasts, his list is very fast.  X2 himself is fast, hits hard, and brings knockdown and pitch with his mount.  Stranglehold is also the best direct damage spell at its cost in the game, but Fury 5 means you won't be casting it much; just remember you have it.

Xerxis is big, and blocking LoS and charge lanes to him is tricky, so he really needs protection.  His battle engine status makes him immune to stationary and knockdown, so there's no need for safeguard.  He does want a Rhinodon, Razorworm, or Bull Snapper for Spiny Growth.  He also wants to be next to a Krea, and an Agonizer, and be in range of a couple Shield Guards.  All this, plus his field marshall, is pointing toward Disciples for a theme, but he can run beast heavy in any theme.  Tiberion is great with him, and really benefits from being fast.

While Xerxis 2 is fast and hits hard, he can be assassinated, and that's your main worry.  His Fury stat is what limits the risk you can put him in.  He's tough, but he still wants transfers, and most armies can put attacks on him if they really want to.  His other weakness is that his toolbox isn't very deep.  He has a game plan, and he supports it well, but he's predictable, and doesn't have a lot of specific answers to things your opponents might try.  You need to be good at positioning with him, and leverage that extra speed for all it's worth.

Zaal, the Ancestral Advocate (Zaal 2)

Zaal 2 has a good attrition game, mainly with constructs.  He has the best Soul Taker rule available: Reclaim.  He's personally pretty tough, and he gives his models lots of accuracy and damage support from Aura of Power, and gives constructs a turn of +5 Arm with his feat.  He has a couple other tools to give his army some more flexibility, including a very credible melee or spell assassination if he happens to have a lot of soul tokens.

Although Zaal 2 can theoretically be played reasonably well in Masters of War, his real bread and butter is The Exalted.  Immortals have plenty of armor, but the Feat drives them up to levels that are actually quite difficult to handle with standard anti-infantry tech.  Aura of Power also fixes their accuracy problem really well.  I'd recommend at least a few ranged beasts for Zaal 2's battlegroup, since they give a very melee-oriented force a little flexibility.  It's also hard to hide from them thanks to Mage Sight.  All of our constructs are excellent with Zaal 2, and some defensive support for Zaal, who likes to be close to the front, goes a long way.

One of Zaal 2's weaknesses is that while he is tough, he's going to be easy for the enemy to hit if they want to assassinate, and even with transfers, that damage is going somewhere.  Another is that if the enemy does happen to have the tech to kill off your infantry, you'll lose them fast, and not have a real way to use their souls.

That's a wrap on our warlocks.  If anyone has any extra advice or tricks (or if you just disagree with me I'd love to hear about it.


  1. What a monster of an article! This is a great writeup.

    1. Also left me itching to go back to some old favorites and try some of the casters I haven't gotten to. One thing I'm finding is that Skorne runs a really good Hermit due to Reposition on from Taskmaster, and that means that all the casters with armor cracking problems have yet another good avenue for damage-fixing in Disciple.

  2. Only misses are maybe alphabetizing and that you didn't mention FM: Shield Guard on Makeda1. I feel like it's pretty integral to her matchup profile.

    1. Thanks! And yeah, FM: Shield Guard is a huge consideration that I completely blanked on. Doing all the warlocks in one article was maybe a mistake.

      I've been itching to give the Hermit a try in Disciples, maybe he's the missing link in me figuring out Jalaam.

    2. Hermit in Disciples is insane. 3" repo from Taskmaster means you get 13" threat on the Arm debuff, and Jalaam giving him Pathfinder and Prowl is just gross.