SR 2017 represents a huge shift in the way Warmachine and Hordes will be played. Attrition is going to be the most important aspect of an army, shortly followed by Assassination.
Scenario is going to be a relatively minor consideration from now on, as you have to score max points on nearly every Scenario for two turns without losing more than one or two points in order to win quickly. Games are designed to last until turn 7, with a "mercy" rule allowing opponents who are seriously cleaning house to win earlier if they get ahead by six control points.
Also, certain Scenario elements are uncontrollable by various models. Circular Zones can only be controlled by Warrior models, Rectangular Zones only count for Warbeasts/Warjacks, and the Warcaster/Warlock models can control both, as well as flags, while still not contesting.
One of the things that I really miss about the middle years of mark II was the feeling of the game - yes, there were strong things, but instead of complaining about them the idea was to figure out how to beat them. In that spirit, I present my thoughts on how to play and win with Circle in SR 2017.
There are a couple more changes to the SR packet that greatly benefit Circle players.
The first of these - immobile models can control again - makes our Gallows Groves, Shifting Stones, and Sentry Stones viable scoring threats for low point values.
The second of these - that units no longer have to be at 50% or greater strength to control - means that we actually get a great deal of flexibility out of our units when we do clear zones.
A lone Shifting Stone can score on a Circular Zone if it is the last one in the unit. That's a big deal, since late game they tend to not do a whole lot, and when the game ends on turn limit, the person with the most points wins.
Most of our (non - warbeast) models have Pathfinder, which is going to be handier than ever with the new terrain rules.
(For those of you who haven't seen them, central terrain is now required, and there are recommended amounts of LOS blocking terrain etc).
This means we will have an easier time engaging certain armies by having better threat ranges (Menoth, Melee Cygnar, some Mercs) through rough terrain.
We will also have an easier time contesting with our terrain indifferent models.
If the premeasurement restrictions in the packet stay, and your TO/Meta actually enforces them, Circle can perhaps get back to our roots of really odd threat ranges in completely non-linear ways.
Shifting Stones combined with Hellmouth or Telekinesis sounds like a good place to start.
Ambushing Wolves or Orboros are great in the Wild Hunt theme, and I'm actually starting to look at Bradigus and Kromac 1 again, since a 5" and 3" threat extension are both really excellent.
We also have Loki, and this might be the most important thing Circle has gotten for SR 2017. This guy is an absolute monster for Attrition fights, as he can regularly pull in an enemy heavy, smack it a few times, and then have a Stalker charge in, kill it, and Sprint out. If you combine him with a unit of Shifting Stones, Telekinesis, or Hellmouth, Kaya 2's Feat, Kaya 1's Spirit Door, Warpath, Grayle's Feat, Baldur 1's Feat (or Wild Growth to block LOS to him), Admonition, etc. he can do this turn after turn after turn.
Alternatively, you can soften his target up for him with Circle's wyrdly strong gun options and have him finish the job by himself.
Expect to see Loki a lot more in SR 2017.
We have access to a couple of really excellent time-walk type feats in Circle. Kaya 2 lets you go in and really mess your opponent up multiple times in a row.
Baldur 1 can let you get 2-3 rounds of shooting off before the ranks close, as can Wurmwood.
Morvahna 2 might see some play again, as the ability to cycle through your army twice in one game is pretty good where attrition is concerned.
If the meta shifts to nothing but massive battlegroups, Mohsar's Pillars of Salt can control those kinds of armies fairly easily. (I know they're not a feat, but you get the idea).
Baldur 2, I'm looking at you right now. Woldwrath plus Fulcrum plus Woldwyrds is likely to be one of Circle's staple lists in the coming months as the Fulcrum CID becomes canon. It's a really nasty gunline that also happens to be pretty good in close combat thanks to Woldwrath Auto Knockdown fists, Steady Wyrds, and Gunfighter everywhere.
The theme forces coming down the pipe really encourage units to hit the table, and literally everything in Circle doubles as an infantry blender. Our heavies have great anti infantry tech, our units are all fantastic at killing dudes, most of our spell casters have good infantry killing spells.
If the meta shifts to more units, especially because units are better able to contest for long periods of time than heavies are, I can see Circle really getting potent. Anyone wanna see my 4 point Bloodweaver Night Witch with maybe Affliction or Curse of Shadows take out an entire Shield Wall unit? I know I do.
We die Horatio, we die:
Circle models cannot take a hit. Outside of a couple select models (Woldwrath, new Fulcrum, Megalith, etc.), our Beasts tend to be ARM 17 with 27-30 boxes. That's not holding up to boosted POW 12s nevermind punches from Heavy Jacks.
High Defense is great, but there are lots of Knockdown effects, DEF lowering spells, Stationary effects, and accurate guns/models out there. I've lost two Warpwolves in a round to a unit of Brigands before.
We die easily.
This is a problem because the game no longer ends very fast, and our models tend to not attrition well. I expect to see Circle really struggle to adapt for the first few months of SR 2017 as our stable of current powerhouses get taken down a peg.
Our most powerful option (currently), Wurmwood cannot hold an attrition fight for more than 4-5 rounds. Much of his attrition value comes from forcing opponents to come to him in a mad rush in order not to lose on Scenario.
Lists based on Warpwolves in general are going to have a rough time. I think Ferals are going to hardly see the table in favor of Stalkers with their built in "get away" trick and Purebloods with the ability to spray from a distance. Loki I think will be in most Circle lists because he does the best Attrition tricks against heavies that Circle has. Ghetorix might also see some play with Kaya 2 (pathfinder), Krueger 2 (highest base damage output), and the Kromacs.
Casters that I think can mitigate this problem:
Kaya 2 (double alpha = good for attrition)
Kromac 2 (His beasts tend to live through the retaliation)
Baldur 1/2 (Control Feat and ARM skew)
Morvahna 2 (Kill everything twice)
Tanith (Admonition and Affliction)
Casters that I think might be able to based on meta choices:
Krueger 2 (Control feat is great, Rebuke on a unit can keep it out of the game, assassination potential is high)
Krueger 1 (Good into some gunlines, kills infantry no problem)
Mohsar (Controls battlegroups very well, high Assassination potential between Sands of Fate and Doppler Bark plus guns)
Wurmwood (Good board control for a few rounds, might be enough)
Kromac 1 (Very high threat ranges)
Kaya 3 (Good DEF buff on her Feat, kills the world with Synergy)
Kaya 1 (Spirit Door might just be amazing)
Una 2 (trading 9 point Griffons for heavies is okay still)
Grayle (Good threat range extender, Stealth from feat is nice)
Casters that I think will not see much play:
Bradigus (I hope I am wrong about this. I'm painting mine up this week to see if he is viable)
Morvahna 1 (She is basically garbage folks)
Our Infantry is Bad:
Circle gets by playing with about 3 units right now. Reeves, Sentry Stones, and Wolves of Orboros in the Wild Hunt. We also occasionally see Bloodtrackers with Baldur 1.
These models are all good at killing other infantry, and can also put a dent in heavies. They're faster than average dudes (speed six is nice) and they all have pathfinder.
Most of the rest of our options hardly see play.
Here are a few that I think will get some attention with the SR 2017 changes.
Druids - these guys plus Krueger 2 = lots of assassination potential. Telekinesis plus Pulse of the Earth or whatever it's called means that if an enemy parks a heavy within about 5 inches of their caster, you have an easy KD on their caster, followed up by shots from Wyrds/Loki/Fulcrum/whatever.
Their ability to push enemy heavies out of zones might also allow Circle to play a Scenario game unlike most other factions AND simultaneously keep our heavies safe by moving enemy models out of striking distance. I suspect this unit will see more play in the coming months.
Tharn Ravagers - if (and this is a BIG if) the meta shifts to crazy infantry spam, these guys will be kings. The unit can single handedly chew through multiple other units, and they're fast reach models that see through forests.
Here are my picks for models that will see more play than they currently do, but will still be niche:
Mist Riders - the Fulcrum making them Magic 7 is a HUGE deal. The bump between MAT/RAT/Magic 6 and 7 is an extremely significant change in their likelihood of hitting. Between that and a potential shift to infantry heavy lists, these guys could see some play.
Warpborn Skinwalkers - Man I wish they still had two attacks. That being said, these guys are ARM 18 against melee attacks with 8 boxes, and with a few casters (Kromac 1 and Baldur 1 specifically), they go to ARM 20. This means that a charge from a pow 12 infantryman is going to do about 3 damage, and a charge from a pow 12 weaponmaster is going to do 6 ish. What does that mean? Well it means that it takes more than one guy to finish off one Skinwalker, and for attrition purposes, that can be big.
They also have Hyper-Regen, so if they don't get killed in one turn, they're probably not dying the next, and with Relentless Charge, they will not mind the prevalence of terrain that will become the new norm.
Death Wolves (in the Tharn Theme) - with a corpse token, these guys are actually fairly likely to get across the table, and when they do, the enemy units will melt.
Units that I doubt will see play still?
Woldstalkers - Take Reeves.
Blood Pack - Take Woldstalkers. Then when you are still lacking, take Reeves. This unit is seriously awful.
We struggle to kill 8-10 ARM 20 heavies:
Khador is going to likely be our worst matchup in SR 2017. We do not have the firepower to take them on headfirst, we do not outthreat them in melee with about half of their casters (Karchev with Road to War, Harkevich with Mobility and a Kodiak Kloud Wall, etc), and their jacks are mostly Mat 7, so our higher DEF value does very little.
This is a big part of the reason why I think Loki is going to be such a big deal in SR 2017. Contesting with random dudes and pulling in a heavy a turn to kill it with Loki plus guns or Loki plus a Stalker seems to me to be one of the few ways we can hope to win that attrition fight, and even THAT doesn't work if they bring the right Clamjacks.
This is one of the biggest reasons I am considering Mohsar as a serious contender for SR 2017 - Sunhammer chips away at their boxes every turn (Seven turns times 8 jacks times approximately 2 damage per jack is 112 damage, with a range of 56 to 168 depending on your dice - not insignificant), and his feat makes their caster very vulnerable without any focus camp if they want to fuel the heavies.
I personally do not have an answer to this question yet outside of praying for assassinations, but I think this is going to be a constant issue for a while.
Here are a couple of lists that I am personally thinking will be good starting points for SR 2017:
- Woldwyrd x2
Druids of Orboros
Shifting Stone x2
The list has awesome assassination potential, decent control, and can kill a heavy a turn consistently with Fulcrum shooting, Wyrds, and Loki hooks. Loki and the Fulcrum both have incredible threat ranges in this list thanks to Telekinesis, and can also be kept fairly safe with Druid pushes and KDs and Telekinesis on either enemy models or themselves.
The Druid CA and Gobber Chef are five points that I really haven't a clue what to do with, and the Stoneshaper might not be necessary either, for 8 points of....something else. Options include Gallows Grove and Hutchuk, Blackclad Wayfarers, Night Witches, or a Sentry Stone unit.
- Warpwolf Stalker
Swamp Gobber Chef
Sentry Stones x2
This is my basic beast brick, and I actually like it just fine with Kromac 1 as well. With Kaya, I've seen a couple of builds I really like in the Wild Hunt where the Wolves of Orboros tie things up between the Alpha Strikes.
I think the Gobber Chef is a pretty important piece here, as he allows you to go bananas with your fury on feat turn and then have a bunch of Mannikins for beasts to eat the next turn.
Baldur 2 Bones of Orboros
Stoneshaper x3 (free)
Sentry Stone x2
High powered gunline with an absurd amount of Tankiness? Yes please. I really think this list can be terribly potent, and I am even considering dropping the Sentry Stones for two units of Shifting Stones and a Blackclad simply to teleport and heal the Fulcrums.
I am sure there are many other builds out there, but this is my first iteration of several lists that seem potent and interesting.
I believe Circle is in for a rough couple of months here. We have some pretty cool tools, but a lot of our potency is going to stem directly from what other people decide to play, and that is not the most fun place to be.
That being said, we also have some really cool stuff to experiment with, and I think the last six months of 2017 are going to see some of the most interesting and innovative Circle lists to date surface.
Please feel free to throw your own thoughts on board here, this is just one players opinion and is almost certainly going to be proven wrong ^.^
Thanks for reading!