Monday, April 28, 2014

Feat of Service: Spell Draft Trial Run

A couple notes before I get into what I'm here to do.  First, there will (eventually) be a Journeyman league wrap-up post.  Second, this will be one of those posts where I assume whoever is reading it knows what I'm talking about.  Normally I try to make posts as accessible as possible, for gamers and people who somehow stumble down this particular alley unaware of what they're getting into, but that's not feasible here.  Finally, chances are good I'll be dropping links into this post later, so if you want more information...check back later?  Apologies in advance if you have to break out your gold miner kit to sift for new things.

Nope, not even close.
My local gaming group, the Nova Nomads, is marching from semi-organized rabble to Legitimate Grouping of Peoples.  Part of the reason for this is to help us do bigger and better things, the first of which is coming up soon and has a suitably imposing name: the First Annual Feat of Service to Benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, Presented by the Nova Nomads.  This is a book release style day of open gaming with wacky achievements for zany tabletop heroics, but with the twist of using a customized caster/lock.  Without going into a ton of detail, which can be found  here (to be updated soon), you pick a faction to play, select a caster/lock (independent of faction, so you can play a Circle warlock in Cryx) from a big list (this time around it's anything found in the free version of War Room), wipe out the spell list, build part of your list, pick a new list of spells via drafting, then finish your list off.  If you're thinking it sounds like a Who's the Boss/Spell Draft mashup then you've got the idea.

Since the fine details are still getting ironed out, we did a trial run last Wednesday.  This is how it went
down, plus my plans and thoughts going in.  I picked Khador as my faction for a couple reasons.  Foremost is my blog's name has Khador in the title, which is extra incentive to support the Motherland.  I feel bad about not playing Khador more, so when the chance arises I try to jump on it.  My Khador is mostly painted, and to a higher standard than my Legion.  One of the common knocks on Khador is they don't have a lot of synergies.  This is considered a Bad Thing, but in this case it's quite helpful.  If all, or most of, my pieces are effective by themselves then they have the potential to be even more effective if I can get the right spells to help them out.

Dat chassis.
Picking a caster "chassis" was the hardest part of the process by far.  My first move was towards a high Focus/Fury stat.  In particular I liked the idea of pVayl because of her Fury 8, ability to make arc nodes (which I covet as a Khador player), existing wintry theme, suite of abilities (see: Dark Sentinel), and broadly useful if unspectacular feat.  I wanted to really dig around for something good and not just settle on my first impulse, so I set pVayl aside and kept moving through the list.  All the possibilities soon became overwhelming even when I limited the list to Focus 7 and 8 casters.  I needed a different approach, which I found, but first some background.

Very nice, very not my work.
A large part of this event is converting a model for your caster.  My first purchase for Warmachine, even before the initial Khador bundle I got from EV, was a MoW Kovnik.  I'd found Battlecollege and done just enough reading to be dangerous to myself.  The idea of MoWs appealed to me, the Kovnik sounded like a neat piece, and my FLGS had one on the shelf.  When I got the Khador seed from EV it included a painted Kovnik.  I wasn't comfortable with pinning metal models at the time, despite years and years in the hobby, so the Kovnik I bought got stuffed away in a box where it sits to this day, waiting for some love.  What better time to love on the poor Kovnik than this event where I can polish it up real nice and use it as something else?

Armed with this new criteria (medium base caster) the list was more manageable.  Many of the options were appealing, especially pGaspy and pThags, but in the end I narrowed the field to two, pGrissel and Bloody Barnabas.  Baranabas drew my eye because of his innate abilities: three initials (with Crit: Consume and Blood Boon no less), Unyielding, Counter-Charge(!), and a lesser version of pKreoss' feat.  My idea for him was pretty simple and probably predictable.  I've always loved Doom Reavers, and Barnabas is a pretty bad man/gator, so the two fit together with ease

As I thought about it more I didn't think Barnabas would offer the sort of support I wanted to really make Khador infantry a nightmare, so I turned to pGrissel who had that support already baked in.  With her Fell Calls she could speed up the slow Demo Corps I wanted to use or let Doom Reavers make an extra attack.  Her feat is a couple other feats put together and looks to be brutal with Khadoran infantry.  Her personal ass-kicking ability isn't as impressive, but her basic defensive stats are respectable and since the idea was to run her as a support caster they're not as important.  Fury 6 is a little underwhelming but not a deal breaker.  I also had a couple ideas for conversion themes (opera/black metal singer) that would work with her abilities and avoid the Blender of Death With Skulls and Spikes and Nastiness that I expect to see lots of.

With a chassis selected I proceeded on to making part of my army list.  The event is a 35 pointer but you build your list in two steps, 25 points before the draft and 10 after.  I already had some pieces in mind, and 25 points doesn't go far, so it was pretty easy to come up with this:

Doom Reavers + UA
Max Demo Corps

Doom Reavers are the ultimate self-contained package.  Widowmakers also do their thing without support.  I wanted some MoWs to screen my caster and echo the Kovnik starting point.  Normally I'd pick Black Ivan for my jack since he's relatively versatile, but character jacks are banned so I went with the Spriggan as the all-rounder.

All this was preparation for Wednesday's spell draft.  The other draftees were Ron (volt_ron), Brendon (Plarzoid), and Chris (no blog, feel shame).  I would be passing my undrafted cards to Brendon, who was running pVlad with Legion, which meant I wanted to consider what I'd be giving him to pick from when making my own selection.  What I was looking for in particular were broad buffs that would work on the Doomies (S&P, Eye of Menoth, Fog of War), a melee-specific buff (Fury, Battle Lust), and a debuff (Parasite, Crippling Grasp).  Jack/battlegroup buffs weren't high on my list because Khador, and caster-only buffs were down on the list since I wanted to do the support thing.  Keeping these parameters in mind, I got my first batch of spells:
There will be a theme...

Sure Foot
Wind Rush

The number of orgasmic sounds I made while looking through the cards was probably a bit high, and in retrospect unwarranted, but it was hard to contain myself when confronted with all these signature spells.  I discounted Abuse, Malice, and Snipe quickly since they didn't do what I wanted.  Wind Rush is a familiar favorite that would boost Grissel's DEF to troublesome levels, and Skyborne would also do that with some different utility.  Sure Foot almost got picked, but I decided the footprint would be too small to be effective for lots of infantry.  In the end it came down to Parasite and War Path.  You're probably thinking Parasite is the obvious choice since I listed it as a primary target, but I went with War Path because I couldn't let Brendon take it while playing pVlad in Legion.  Thus my first choice wasn't even for me but instead against someone else.  The round ended, cards were passed, and my second group was this:

Many choices.
Banishing Ward
Flesh Eater
Ghost Walk
Psychic Vampire
Razor Wind
Ritual Sacrifice

Lots of good stuff to pick from.  I discounted Flesh Eater, Psychic Vampire, and Razor Wind quickly.  Deadeye is super sexy for someone but not for what I wanted to run, and since I had already picked against someone in the first round I wanted to get something I'd use in the second.  Banishing Ward would be nice but limited as the Doomies are already protected from spells.  Ghost Walk would also be nice, especially for the Demo Corps.  In the end I couldn't pass up Ritual Sacrifice.  It would help mitigate Grissel's low(ish) Fury 6 and meh melee stats while also allowing me to (potentially) run multiple jacks or sling any juicy spells I came across.  Round three brought:
HURRRRR, we're gonna go fast and turn left!


Quality had already started to decline, but at least that made it easier to trim the choices.  Backlash, Obliteration, and Tornado were out quick.  Energizer and Mobility both give some welcome speed buffs, but since I already had Warpath I didn't want to double down on battlegroup spells I was unlikely to get much use out of.  Mobility would have been nice for the Demo Corps, but the DEF boost would be mostly wasted as the bump from 11 to 13 isn't that significant.  It was around here that I lost track of what my concept was (support caster), either willfully because I hadn't seen what I wanted and didn't think I would or unwittingly as I kept drawing stuff that would have been great for Barnabas.  I ended up with Mutagenesis because it's fun and potentially very useful when combined with Ritual Sacrifice to load up on Focus before (hopefully) teleporting in for the kill.  Moving on to round four:

Your draft may vary.
Arcane Shield
Boundless Charge
Fail Safe

More easy choices.  Snipe was from the same mold as Deadeye, though it could have been dirty fun with Widowmakers.  Fail Safe didn't appeal because it's just for jacks.  Stoneskin was potentially neat but speed debuffs that you apply to your own troops are always a bitter pill.  Boundless Charge is nice, but I get enough of it when I play Khadoran casters.  Arcane Shield was the clear winner for me as I could put it on a jack, the Demo Corps, or my caster and get good use out of it.

Round five we got back our initial group of cards, albeit picked over.  Abuse and Malice were still there, along with Sure Foot and Skyborne.  I took Skyborne because I wanted it the first time around.
Round six brought Razor Wind, Flesh Eater, and Banishing Ward.  I didn't want the first two when I saw them earlier, so Banishing Ward it was.  Round seven was Backlash and Tornado, of which I took Backlash.  Round eight I got Stoneskin.  My final list, of which I would get to pick Focus/Fury-1 (which is five for the math challenged) was:

Arcane Shield *
I don't know either.  Needed filler.
Banishing Ward
Mutagenesis *
Ritual Sacrifice *
Skyborne *
Warpath *

The ones I picked have the asterisks.  I ended up with none of what I wanted going in (broad buff, melee buff, debuff), which was partially my own doing.  Intentionally or not, I ended up with a list that would have suited Barnabas pretty well.  The clear winners for me are Ritual Sacrifice and Arcane Shield.  I could take a cheap unit like Mechanics or WGI strictly for bodies to sacrifice.  Arcane Shield is a great buff that would work well on anything except maybe the Widowmakers.  Skyborne gives some extra DEF even if I never use the MAT boost or Flying.  Warpath could be useful at times, as could Mutagenesis.

Things didn't turn out like I hoped they would, so I haven't fleshed out the list yet.  One path I wanted to pursue before doing the draft was double Doomies, which is as viable now as it was then.  To that I could add some Greylords or min WGI, but I don't know that I like double Doomies as much as I thought I might.  I'd also look at WGI as an offensive unit, which means Joe, and Mechanics for sacrificing.  Or I could add a Kodiak and Mechanics to make better use of Warpath.  There's also the option of redrafting, either this coming Wednesday when the general draft happens or the morning of the event, June 7th at Huzzah Hobbies.

Looking back on the process now it's tempting to scrap Grissel and go with Barnabas instead.  Hoping for Eye of Menoth or S&P is a bad plan as I'd have to get them in the first round to come away with one.  I haven't dug deep into the list of available spells to see how likely getting a melee buff is, but I'm guessing it's not much better than S&P, though the chances of having it passed along to you are much higher.  It seems like there are a lot of things that would benefit a super solo caster, either as caster-only buffs or things that work well for anyone.  I'm trying to avoid over-"correcting" (unlike some hockey teams I could name following the 2010 playoffs...) based on what I got in this draft, so I'm skeptical of my own line of reasoning here.  That said, Barnabas has a lot going for him and would require less sculpting than trying to put a tuxedo around a MoW like I'd want to do for an opera singer. Counter-Charge on a warcaster seems like a thing that would be fun.  I could also take another, closer look at the small based casters, though that would mean far more work to figure out bits for a model.  I have until this Wednesday at the very least to decide.

Regardless of the outcome the draft was a good time.  Holding so many possibilities in your hand is dizzying, and trying to balance taking things for yourself against denying things to your future opponents makes for some tough choices.  I don't do a whole lot of conversion, especially in metal and outside of GW games, so that aspect of the event will be something different and a good chance to learn some new modelling techniques.  Best of all is the opportunity to support a good cause by gaming, which is a win for everyone involved.

Disclaimer: we are not this attractive.
Speaking for the group, we encourage everyone that can come to come.  There is a substantial time investment in getting a converted model together, so don't be fooled by the event still being over a month away.  I've scattered links to the event pages on the Nomads site, but I'll do so again here to keep them all together (caster rules, spell draft rules).  Please note that at the time of posting these are still in minor flux and likely to change, mostly in style and presentation but there could be minor tweaks in more substantial areas.  If you and/or your group are interested but think this isn't for you let me assure you that it is for you (and everyone).  You can bug me about details (I think I have contact info somewhere around here), or do the same to any of the people I've linked to, or on the Nomads site.


  1. Oh yeah, the dangers of drafting... "I want this... but I have to pick /that/ lest the others will use it against me..."