Two weeks ago, I attended the prestigious event known as Die Con. I was super excited for the weekend, as it was the first convention I attended this year. I decided months in advance to play in the two main events: the 35-point Steamroller and the 50-point Hardcore. I tuned my lists to pitch perfect and was ready to go. On Friday I got destroyed in the steamroller. I ended up going 2 and 3 before dropping out for the day. I was disappointed in my showing. But after a wonderful dinner at White Castle, I was resolved to do much better in the Hardcore.
My original plan for the Hardcore was to play E Vyros. I talked about that list in my previous article found here. However, at the last moment, I decided to change tactics. I was working on a pure mage hunter list that could capture those allusive zeros. I felt I had two options if I was going pure mage hunter: Rayvn and Kaelyssa. Having used Kaelyssa in the 35 steamroller, I had a lot of practice with her as a caster. I decided that getting a zero would be a lot easier with her since I could literally shoot the caster out of the opponents army without having to go through any other models first. I quickly set up the essentials for the list: Sylys, Mage Hunter Strike Force, and a Banshee. Looking over the models I had painted, I knew that I might be in trouble. I didn’t have my Nayl or my Narn model painted. I figured I would down without them in the list. After a lot of switching around and some good discussion with the rest of the MSG crew at the con, I came up with this list.
Mage Hunter Assassin
Mage Hunter Strike Force + UA
Lady Aiyana & Master Holt
The idea was simple: use the Banshee, Strike Force and Kaelyssa to kill the enemy caster. Kaelyssa, while only having a POW 10 gun, still has ROF 3 and the ability to steal focus or fury. Using Phantom Hunter too, I can shoot your caster with the Banshee to know you down, then go in for the kill with Kae or the Strike Force. This was the 1,2,3 combo that won me a good amount of games at my LGS. At first, I thought about running at unit of Halberdiers with UA to provide a solid jam I could just run up the board. I am still not sure if leaving them out was the best idea and I think if I tried to Mage Hunter again, I would include them over Discordia. The idea behind Discordia was to pop its 3” bubble to protect the MHSF from blast damage while also having a 10” spray that could reach ‘through’ other models to hit the caster. In the end though, I mostly just ran him into the enemy’s biggest block of dudes and let them beat on him for a couple turns. It worked extremely well and I think that having a full 12-man unit doing the same thing might have worked just as well if not better.
I threw in a lot of solos that I thought would have good utility in a Mage Hunter list. The Magister for his whip snap (which turned out to be a big whiff), Lady A & Master H for, well, everything they do, and the Artificer to keep Kae safe from counter assassination (something that turns out I did not have worry about much.) I added the Destor Thane and Stormfall Archers for some clutch firepower that I could use in a pinch to add some damage to finish off a caster. Finally, the Mage Hunter Assassin was added as standard fair but honestly did not do much during the tournament. She tried but people were pretty wise to her tricks these days.
I was able to get a two on my first match up mainly because my opponent did not fully understand the threat range on my army. He played a Vayl list and got to close on his turn two, which meant I slammed a model into Vayl then proceeded to gun him down with the MHSF and Kae. As it turns out, this is the only time during the day when my hunting went that smoothly. The next two matches were Menoth. I played against Harbinger and Keross on a horse. Between the Covenent of Menoth granting no knockdown and epic Eiryss being just shy of a cloud blocking line of the site to the Harbinger (not to mention her having a shield guard right next to her had I actually hit,) I lost pretty brutally. At that point, I knew that I was going to have trouble. I couldn’t just run up and start shooting away with Mage Hunter Strike Force. I was going to need more finesse if I was going to pull out the coveted Mage Hunter award. Unfortunately for me, my next round was against Keith Christensen. He was playing a Kara Sloan list. It was sniper (Kara) versus, uh, sort of sniper (Kaelyssa.) It did not go well for me. I ended up going first, which was probably a mistake when dealing with some one with such long range. I ended up trying to backlash his Stormwall and get a kill that way. It was not a good idea. I barely had enough dudes to cause enough damage and when I tried to move my remaining Strike Force over, most of them ended up out of range. I knew that match was over but I learned something from that game. If I was ever going to get Mage Hunter, I had to stop going for the smooth run through. I had to throw out the plan.
That is when I began playing a little more dynamically. My next opponent was playing Cygnar and I thought that he was bringing p Stryker, who I had heard was in the tournament. But when I flipped his list over, I saw that he was actually piloting an e Haley list. I knew that I was going to have trouble pulling off a zero at this point. Haley’s ability to control the board makes it nearly impossible to get assassination runs early and, without being able to kill models, I couldn’t hold out long against her. So I decided to go for broke and run straight at him. As Keith told me at the end of our match: “That’s how zeroes are made.”
I had a huge advantage in that there was a forest in the middle of the board. I ran straight up behind it, feeling pretty secure that I could hide from any assassination attempts on his part. Everything else in my list ran too. I even moved my Strike Force full throttle at my opponent’s forces hopping to make him cautious of their phantom hunter ability. It worked pretty well. My opponent moved up cautiously and threw Haley toward the side away from the Strike Force on the right side. The next turn I advanced Kaelyssa and popped feat. She took some shots at Haley but with Deceleration up I ended up missing my first shot. With not much chance of killing her after that, I decided to hold on to Kaelyssa’s remaining focus, which turned out to be a good move. The other good move I made, one that I didn’t even release at the time, was to jam everything else I could down my opponent’s throat. On his turn, he couldn’t move forward. He was running a non-standard Haley list with P Knights, Gun Mages, and a healthy amount of jacks, including Thorn. He advanced on my left flank but because I threw A & H in his way along with Eyriss, he didn’t go too far before having to kill them. He then moved his P Knights into Discordia while moving his jacks around to keep them out of reach of my Mage Hunter Strike Force and Banshee. When his turn finished though, I was dominating the zone, causing five points of damage to Haley. I hadn’t realized that I had jammed him out of the zone until after my next turn. I just knew that I had to put my army in his face to keep the pressure off Kaelyssa long enough to get a chance to kill Haley. My opponent didn’t realize I was going for Mage Hunter either. With ten points on Haley already, I was able to finish her off in my next turn. If I hadn’t killed Haley then, he was sure to pulverize me on the next turn. It was a well played game on both sides of the table.
I had my first zero of the day but knowing that my next best score was two meant that I needed one more to lock in the Mage Hunter award. I had seen a lot of different lists around the tournament that I did not want to fight including a few beast bricks, a Terminus list, and one with 50 some odd Bane Knights (shudder). However, when the pairings were laid down, I got a matchup that I knew I at least had a chance of killing with my list: Epic Goreshade. The list my opponent was running was no guarantee though. It had a Kraken in it along with Deathjack, Bane Thralls with the Sauce, Scrap thralls for Goreshade and the usual solos (pistol and wraith witch).
I sat down in front of the board we were assigned and sighed. It was one I had played on earlier that included a large chunk of rock, designed like a broken wall, in the middle of one side of the board. The thing was big enough that, in both matches, it was treated as both impassable and big enough to hide a large base behind. My luck held out though. I rolled higher and got to decide what board edge I wanted. My first instinct was to use the rock as I had previously to try to hide Kaelyssa. I had seen what a Kraken shot could do to Kaelyssa in a match at my local store. Even standing in a forest, my opponent had almost killed her with the free shot you get from killing a model. After a few moments thought though, I remembered how much of a pain it had been to keep her there when she really needed to be out and about trying to gun down the enemy warcaster. I opted to go second and take the other side.
This ended up being a very good idea. With the rock in the middle, he was forced to split his forces to either side. On the right was the Bane boat and the left, the Kraken with Death Jack in between the two. My opponent moved up full throttle. However, with his forces split, it was much easier to hold off his army while trying to kill Goreshade. I threw everything I had at them and this is wear all the solos came in handy. I started off throwing some strike force, my mage hunter assassin, and a Destor Thane at the block. As they tore through that, I threw everything else I had: Artificer, the Magister, A & H, even Sylys was expendable. Meanwhile, I had Kaeylssa hunting Goreshade. I was able to hold the Kraken in place with Discordia while the rest of my Strike Force, the Banshee and Kaelyssa took pot shots at Goreshade. He knew he had to kill the Strike Force to stay alive and thus spent most of his time thrashing them with his 4” reach range. He took shots at Kae and did some good damage. However, with time on my side thanks to the relentless jamming, I finally zeroed in on Goreshade and plinked him death with Kae, creating my second zero. My opponent played an excellent game. He too was confused at first why I didn’t attack his models, only to realize that I was going for Mage Hunter. The only thing that really hurt him was the fact that he could not get Death Jack into play. With the Kraken on one side and the Bane boat on the other, there was no room for Death Jack to get through the rock wall. Had he been able to get him into play, I don’t think that Kaelyssa would have had the time to finish off Goreshade.
I have to say that I was incredibly luck in both my matchups and my ability to dictate the battlefield. While I felt that I played extremely well, I am not sure I could have gotten two zeroes if I had run up against a Mulg Beast Brick. In fact, I am quite certain I would be writing about how terrible Kaelyssa is right now. My opponents, all of them, were incredibly skilled with their lists. Both times I felt that I was barely able to get the zero and had any of those matches gone one more turn, it would have been over for Kaelyssa. However, I did learn a lot from the games too.
First thing I learned: FORGET THE PLAN! This was so important to my zero scores. My two games against Menoth both focused on me playing Kaelyssa how I envisioned rather then how the match dictated. In both of those games, I got pretty rolled. I think if I would have played more dynamically and tried different tactics I might have gotten away with a win. When playing any format, but I think especially when going for something special like Mage Hunter, it is important to remember to keep the pace of the game in mind and not just try whatever tactic you came up with over and over again.
Second thing: ITS ALL ABOUT THE JAM! This is not true of every list but I feel that Kaelyssa needs a lot of time to get the kill and this is not something you can do unless you slow your opponent down. Throwing all your dudes at the enemy line allows her to get in multiple Pow 10 shots or set up the perfect run at the caster. Eventually, Kaelyssa is going to get you. Taking it slow and steady with her is the best route. When I missed shots with her, I would immediately stop trying to kill the caster. Even if I didn’t do any damage, the mere threat of Kae gun caused my opponent to feel the pressure. The guy that played Goreshade never got to activate his Scrap thralls because he had to spend too much time trying to figure out the best place to keep Goreshade so that he didn’t get killed.
Third: NEVER TELL ANYONE YOU ARE GOING FOR MAGE HUNTER! I know this sounds really harsh but if your opponent knows you can’t kill his models, then they might potentially take liberties with that (such as intentionally causing free strikes). Its better to play the good assassin and let them try to figure out your crazy strategy. Now, I am not advocating lying to them if they straight up ask you. Just don’t volunteer the information.
Finally: NEVER COUNT YOURSELF OUT! I was completely bummed after my match with Keith. I figured that it was over and I would get rolled two more times before heading home to Arkansas. However, after talking with my fellow MSG crew, I rallied and tried to pump myself up for the next matches. I played those as if they were the final table of the weekend and it really helped to have that mentally when trying to out fox some impressive opponents. Having a bad attitude when going into a game is pretty much giving your opponent an auto win. Besides, you’ll never win if you always think your going to lose.