Beginners: Matchups to Watch For (Part 2)

This is the second in my brief series of two articles, aimed at those that are relatively new to the hobby and expecting to play in a tournament soon (or have played only in local tournaments).

A quick note: I make a LOT of use of footnotes (seppos). If you are interested in reading them, it’s been suggested that the easiest way is to open a second tab of the article and scroll that tab down to the bottom of page. Then you can just alternate between them. Please do so, I’ve now been told how to do the technical linking between them, but I’m not going to retroactively fix it, I’ll try to use it for the next article 🙂

The aim with these two articles was to identify some of the most common and talked about ‘problem’ lists that you’re likely to encounter in any given tournament. Lists that you really need to have some plan to deal with. These are taken from my own experience, in the hope that your first experience against each of these lists will feel less like a visit to the proctologist than mine did.

These are also (for the most part) lists that I expect most people lost to the first time they played against them, since each of them has a very distinctive style/capacity that will quite simply kill you dead if you don’t know it’s coming. The aim isn’t to give you the way to win every time against these lists. It’s purely to get you past the gimmick. If your caster doesn’t get killed by Molik Karn the first time you see him across the table played by a competent opponent, then that is a moral victory.

When putting this article together I realized exactly how little I’ve played against Hordes in a tournament environment, I’d be lucky to see hordes more than once per steamroller 4-5 round event.
As a result, this article is ended up going in a slightly different direction to the previous and may well outrage several other horde-faction players. I apologise if I’ve missed the gimmick that you feel is strongest in your faction.

Astute1 readers will notice that several entries in this list are not casters. This is an interesting difference that I discovered while writing these two articles. It’s something I may explore in a future article. It is also probably reflective of my personal viewpoint.

So….here we go:


Star Player: Lylyth, Shadow of Everblight

My helmet has no eye-slits, for better vision2

Most commonly seen with two ravagores and then a selection of other options. Nephilim bolt throwers are an almost certainty and striders are fairly common, raptors are another common inclusion. More recently she’s accompanied by a Naga for it’s animus

My recommendation: Bring a fire extinguisher.

What she’ll do:
-Make her entire battlegroup stealth (herself included) and laugh at your pitiful attempts to return fire.
-Either range attrition you to death (in which case I can’t help you much, this is not a game-play guide)
-Or assassinate your caster turn two with a burst of stupidly nasty shooting. I’ll attempt to outline it below:
-She has a spell called pincushion. It’s range (despite what it says on the card) is effectively 22”-30+” depending on how her personal shooting chain goes. If this spell lands on your caster, it is game over. Almost no caster can survive her feat turn with pincushion on them. Your caster is almost certainly not the exception to this rule.
-She personally (under her feat) has two initial ranged attacks and can buy a third at range 16″ and POW 12. Each time she destroys a model it will trigger swift hunter (so she can advance 2″) and Snap fire (so she shoots again). She can personally account for 6 models on her feat turn, moving her up to 12 additional inches (hence the range variation on Pin Cushion). She’s only Fury 5, so she cant really afford to boost too much (particularly if she wants to use spells or hand out animi) but she is RAT 8, so she quite often doesnt need to boost.
-Under her feat all of her beasts become assassination monsters for a turn.
-Ravagores become awesome fire throwing balls of doom, they go to range 18” (threat 24” with an advance), POW 15, AoE 3” boostable auto-fire attacks (or ignore spell buffs using wraithbane) and each ravagore will throw out two.
-Bolt throwers will attempt to crit knockdown your caster (or whatever you used to block LOS to your caster) from 22” (with advance) away with a surprisingly unpleasant POW 14 gun
-She and all of her beasts can see through stealth, concealment, forest, clouds and camouflage (if granted by concealment). They can see you and they will kill you if you give them a chance.
-The ravagore animus turns it’s weapons into auto-fire. They are an AoE. This will set your caster on fire. If you’ve never experienced it before, this will upset you a great deal. If you have experienced being set on fire before, it’s possible it will upset you even more than last time.
-Ravagore shot splash damage can still do sizeable damage to your caster even if you cunningly obstructed her ability to directly shoot said caster. If you have a caster that is hard to kill, this is not an issue. If you have a base armour of 15 or lower, this can be a problem. One boosted POW 8 is not an issue, four of them can become an issue quite quickly7. Particularly given that you are also on fire.
-The Naga animus (wraithbane) allows any and all of her beasts to ignore your defensive spells that directly boost DEF or ARM. It does not ignore things such as flesh of clay which indirectly boost your effective ARM.
-If you successfully follow all of the advice below and you stop her getting to your caster, she’ll instead attrition the bejesus out of half of your army, congratulations, you’ve made it to turn three! You’re on your own!

What you should do (to make it to turn three):
-Know what eyeless sight does: Ignore forests and clouds for LOS, ignore concealment (and camouflage if granted by concealment) and stealth.
-Know what it doesn’t do: It does not Ignore intervening models, intervening obstructions (buildings etc), cover or elevation. It also does not ignore camouflage IF it is granted by being in cover rather than from being in concealment.
-Stand your caster (ideally) behind a wall, on a hill and preferably also behind other models (that are also on the hill. Don’t forget if they aren’t at your elevation they don’t block LOS)
-If in doubt, bring a caster that is hard to kill. Anyone with armour 17+ base (since fire will ignore your camping attempts)
-If you have the option, bring someone/something that is immune to fire and/or corrosion since Ravagore ranged attacks are both fire and corrosion type damage.
-Animi that reduce ranged damage (such as flesh of clay) or grant fire/corrosion immunity (such as flaming fists) are of great benefit
-Be aware that a lot of effects which would normally protect you from enemy shooting (such as the spell stormwall) may not work when the thing shooting you is outside of your control area.
-If you are playing a ranged faction, ensure you have anti-stealth capability. Preferably a lot of it.
-If you don’t, don’t drop your ranged list against her.


Star Player: Molik Karn

I’ve got my eye on you11

Most commonly seen with Makeda (in either incarnation), though can be seen with almost any skorne caster to varying degrees of effect. Generally a Titan Gladiator will be in the list with him for the rush animus (+2″ movement and pathfinder) but aside from that he fits into almost any list.

My recommendation: Pray you arent playing who’s the boss with Kraye as his caster. Bad times.

What he’ll do:
-Since he’s not a caster, his options in different lists vary substantially. His base abilities of note include:
-Sidestep: an extra 2” move after each of his initial attacks, ignores free strikes
-Fate walker: a full advance at the end of the turn, this is an animus and costs two fury to use. This animus is one of the key reasons he works so well, allowing him to seek safety more reliably than the sprint animus and, crucially, allowing him to cast it after already gaining the benefit of another animus during the turn. This animus is also very useful to a lot of casters, giving them a way to extend the effect of aura spells (such as carnage) or aura feats, without leaving them flapping in the wind.
-Weapon master: Yes, he’s a warbeast, with weapon master.
-Dodge: So, his defence isn’t extremely high at 13. However if you do hit him, he can be forced at which point you have to reroll your attack roll. This is annoying. It can be extremely annoying when combined with a defensive spell such as defenders ward.
-Future sight: Like his kinsmen he apparently traded depth perception for the ability to see the future. As a result he can wait until after he has rolled the dice to choose whether or not to boost. This makes him far more fury efficient when hitting mid-high defence targets (things around the 12-14 defence mark, where he needs 5-7 to hit), has little effect on really low defence targets and little effect on really high defence targets. It makes warpwolves cry.
-Affinity Makeda: While in Makeda’s control area Molik Karn becomes 15% more terrifying (+1 FURY)
-If paired with pMakeda, he’ll walk up to you. From 13” away. Then he’ll hit you, sidestep, hit you again (a different model most likely) then sidestep again, then kill your caster. Since you figured that starting 19” away from Molik Karn was probably safe.
-If paired with eMakeda, he’ll be leashed forward 3”, charge a herculean 13” (with rush), hit something, sidestep another 2”, do it again, then kill your caster. Since you figured that 22” away from Molik Karn was probably safe.
-Don’t forget that he has 5 fury in both of those cases. Enough to put 5 attacks on your caster after his two initials. Under pMakeda it’s more likely that he’ll be performing the “yo-yo” and bailing out after killing a couple of important things. Under eMakeda it’s quite likely that, assuming he can do it and remain in eMakeda’s control range, he will simply commit and murder you.

What you should do:
-Kill Molik Karn. If you ever get the chance, take it. There may be a small number of situations where killing him is not the right choice, however for the purpose of a relatively new player, those situations can largely be ignored. While he is on the table it is very difficult to be sure your caster and/or other important models are safe. Once he is off the table you only have to worry about enraged bronzeback titans.15
-Set a trap for him – Counter-slam or counter-charge are handy for this, though a good opponent will probably not walk into them. The Locker animus or similar effects can work also.
-Most opponents will cast fatewalker after Molik Karn’s movement (he’ll walk/charge up, kill some stuff, they’ll consider whether they want to fully commit and kill some more stuff, or cast fate walker and get away with what they killed), so if you have any way to stop him from casting it once he has advanced, you can catch him there16. Mulg’s animus is the effect I’m thinking of here. Again, good opponents will probably see this coming, but if you put enough player skill checks in front of them they’re bound to roll mental snake-eyes eventually.
-Effects that allow your models to move in response to his actions such as Enliven, Watcher etc can be used to effectively block him in and stop the fate-walker extraction.

Star Player: Archdomina Makeda

Not the cutest kitten in the basket

Most commonly seen with Molik Karn.17In fact I’ve never seen her on a table without Molik Karn. I’m pretty sure they should come in a starter box together. They’d be the whole damn box and it would still have four swords in it and still be the best of the starter boxes.

My recommendation: Reread the Molik Karn section, then make him about 25%18 more terrifying.

What she’ll do:
-She has Carnage, a control aura spell that grants +2 MAT to all of her stuff (ie Molik Karn)
-She has savagery that increases the SPD of target model/unit31 by 5. That’s right, 5. The model/unit20 cannot charge, which means that it also can’t be enraged this turn. Oddly enough it increases speed not movement, so if, for example, you had another ability that allowed you to make a full advance at the end of the turn (outside of your activation)….then it would indeed grant you 11” of movement for said advance. This is called the Molik Karn yo-yo. He goes out 13”, he comes back 11”. He can side-step off his initial attacks for a couple more inches in either direction, refer above section.
-She has defenders ward. A spell custom built for a specific model21
-She’ll use her feat to jam infantry (I’ve most commonly seen it used with Nihilators, though it could work with/on anything really) into your face that will return if you kill them (unless you can RFP them)
-She’ll advance , cast fate walker on herself, cast carnage and then stand in a position that looks about 4-5” too far forward to be safe from your assassination. You’ll spend the rest of her turn saying things to yourself like “It’s ok that Molik Karn just killed two heavies, because I’m going to assassinate the crap out of Makeda next turn”
-Then her turn will end and she’ll walk back 6”. You will fall for this at least twice before you realise that, although you now know it’s coming, you no longer have enough things left to prevent it.

What you should do:
-All the advice in the earlier section is relevant here.
-Keep in mind that Makeda is FURY 6. Molik’s effective threat range is more often limited by her control area than it is limited by his actual ability to get to places.
-Keep threat on Makeda herself if you can. The further back she has to play, the less range Molik Karn has. She cant use the full set of her abilities (Fatewalker on herself, upkeep savagery on Molik, upkeep defenders ward on someone else and cast carnage) without running herself down to very few transfers, so if you can keep any credible threat in range it’s likely that she’ll play more conservatively and you’ll have dodged the Molik Karn Bullet.


Star Player:..Don’t make me laugh..9

I’m from Texas, we dont do trolls down here.10


Star Player: Bloody Barnabus

I’ve got this wierd feeling he should be purple13

Most commonly seen with Gators. It’s not a big faction, he’ll have two out of the three things they are allowed to have.22

My recommendation: Beware low-flying crocodiles.

What he’ll do:
-He’s going to throw stuff at you, either his caster or his beasts. They’ll be knocked down, then he’ll use the “rise” animus on his beast to enable the thing he threw to standup exactly as if it had never been thrown in the first place. Then that thing will proceed to murder your caster.
-His feat is the old favourite “knock ‘em all down” feat. Don’t depend on high defence to save your caster if it’s not immune to knockdown. If he cant throw something into it to knock it down, he can knock it down with the feat and throw something near it, then refer above.
-Use swamp pit to make it impossible to shoot his stuff
-Use iron flesh to make one unit of Gatormen defence 16. It wont feel fair. They will also be tough, undead and immune to shooting (due to swamp pit). While you are trying to work out how the heck to deal with them, a crocodile (larger most likely) will be thrown at your caster.

What you should do:
-Don’t get in range for thrown models
-If you have to get in range to be thrown at (it’s difficult to stay out) then see if you can screen the throw to your caster with large bases. Medium bases will stop his caster being thrown at you, which is good, but large bases will stop everything, which is better. If a heavy beast gets to you you’re pretty darn likely to die. If Barnabus himself gets to you, you are certain to die.
-If you don’t get caught by the assassination, then it’s a fairly straightforward game. Barnabus is a good caster, he has iron flesh and swamp pit and gatormen posse are a good unit. It wont necessarily be an easy game by any stretch, but it shouldn’t be particularly complicated.23


Star Player: Shifting Stones

The wolf is clearly the threat. Pay no attention to the stone14

Most commonly seen with every single caster that circle puts on the field. Occasionally you’ll only see one set. If you play in a twin terrors or similar event (with two casters) then you may well see four. If that ever happens, then rest assured that your opponent probably has only marginally more idea of what is actually possible than you do and he will clock himself during turn one.

My recommendation: Ask “So how do those work?”. It’s one of the only ways known to cause a joy-induced brain aneurysm and it’ll get you a bye for the round.

What they’ll do:
-In short: Teleport.
-In long: Go read the dozen tactica’s on the use of these models.!-) is the best of the ones I’ve looked at. It’s very hard for circle players to summarise what these do in a short series of sentences.
-In the hands of a good player the only true defence against these is to kill at least one from each set.

What you should do:
-In short: Kill one stone from each set. Even if you have to give away points to do it. In general I would say that if you get away with killing a single stone for a 2 point model, you are ahead on that trade. There are exceptions. Gorman for a stone is probably not a good trade.25
-Know how they work. Read up on it. I’m serious, read the tactica and dedicate a half hour of your life to thinking about it. Alternately you can simply lose a series of games to them and learn that way. From what I’ve seen the “learn through experience” method can be a VERY long process.
-Ask a local circle player to show you his favorite tricks with them.
-Some casters have specific spells/feats that stop models from placing or being placed. These are pretty rare, but can certainly upset circle players.


Star Player: Madrak Ironhide, World Ender33

See the guys behind him? That’s Jim and Mack, they are totally dead if you shoot him.

Most commonly seen with a bunch of unlucky sods that die in his name. Generally I’ve seen him with fennblades and pyg burrowers plus a handful of beasts and all the support in the world (as per the troll playbook)

My recommendation: I’ve heard that GOD HIMSELF COULD NOT KILL HIM..32

What he’ll do:
-Exploit “grim salvation” by standing adjacent a bunch of infantry that have other ancillary rules, like takeup. If you deal damage to Madrak, one of the guys next to him dies instead. I’m no fluff-bunny, but this guys disturbing willingness to cluster his own guys around him is, quite frankly, outrageous. By my estimates his special rule has accounted for the demise of roughly half of all trolls that have died on the competitive scene.26 Assassination runs on this guy are pretty much an attrition play.
-He will jam a bunch of fairly innocuous looking infantry up in your grill. They will then proceed to turn into world-ending, slavering monsters of doom that quite literally wipe half your army off the table on his feat turn.
-His feat makes everything in his control area have an extra attack…against every enemy model in their LOS and melee range. Think “Hi, all my guys have thresher right now as a bonus attack….but it only hits your guys. That’s cool right?”
-Pyg burrowers are particularly unpleasant. Bloodfury and a fell call makes them genuine threats in melee and that in combination with his feat and their ability to basically be wherever the hell he wants them….makes them obnoxious in the extreme.27
-Fennblades are also particularly unpleasant due to vengeance and reach in combination with his feat (plus bloodfury and fell call…..)
-He essentially buffs the heck out of his guys using bloodfury and support (fellcaller and the kriel stone), in some ways it’s similar to pIrusk only his guys are medium base a lot of the time, not quite as potent (except on feat turn), have no shooting at all and are tough all the time.28

What you should do:
-Stop the Pyg’s getting where he wants them by clogging their locations for emergence and by blocking their charge lanes. Read up on the burrowing rules, remember they cant do it two turns in a row.
-If you get the chance to kill some pygs early with scattered AoE’s or similar (Because he doesnt burrow first turn), or if you can manufacture a way to force a command check….do it.
-Kill the support if you can (And then tell me how, since kriel stones seem impossible to kill)
-Be aware that fennblades have vengeance. So dont kill one or two from mid distance. Either kill none, or lots. They also have a mini-feat that makes them faster, gives them pathfinder and makes them terrifying. Whatever you do, don’t let them use their mini-feat to close with you and then only kill one or two. They’ll vengeance (kill some stuff and move in), buff up, madrak will buff them and feat, they kill everything around them, then they activate, move and kill some more stuff. Alternately they vengeance and kill, get buffed (not by madrak), move as deep as they can into EVERYTHING you own (they have reach), THEN Madrak will go, buff them and feat. Your only hope at that point is that he clocks himself trying to roll the four thousand attack rolls.


So that brings me to the end of this, the second article.
I apologise for the extreme number of seppos.30 I hope you found something of interest/value in amongst it all.
I hope those who were angered by the troll poke recognised it for what it was before they gave up and left.
I didnt get to include every ‘gimmick’ and/or caster that I’d like to write about, mainly because it takes forever to do these things and…well…sometimes I have to get work done.
I’m hoping to write a few more articles in the coming months, one of which will be specifically about the Habringer and how to beat her with Circle. Although at the rate the ‘research’ is going, it’s more likely to be about Habringer and how to lose to her with Circle, repeatedly, in inventive and pointless ways, something I have a lot of experience with.
I’m hopeful that article, in combination with another I have planned might give newer players an idea of how to go about list construction when coming into the ‘competitive’ scene.
At the very least I feel confident it will foster lively debate about whether or not I’m stupid.

Hope you enjoyed it, I’ll start a thread on the forums to discuss “gimmick” lists and traps for new players, it’s a thread I’ve meant to start for a while. Seems like a good time.

See you on the boards.

1. Astute in this case meaning those that can read and can be bothered reading.
2. Have you ever noticed that having less eyes, no eyes, being permanently blinded in your existing eyes, or even (in a pinch) simply wearing a helmet that prevents your existing eyes from working…is unilaterally beneficial in this game?3
3. With the exception of being “blinded”….Gorman’s bomb should really INCREASE your mat and rat and provide an additional action, in order to be in line with the rest of the game rules.4
4. “Hey, ow, my eyes, the blind bomb, it burns…wait, I can see everything…this is AMAZING….do it again!”5
5. Gorman sidles away uncomfortably with a crowd of beasts running after him yelling “Pick me! Pick me!”6
6. As you read these I’d like you to think “seppo, double seppo, multi seppo!, Ultra Seppo!!….MMMMMMONNSSTERR SEPPO! Seppo! seppo!
7. Refer earlier statement regarding pincushion. Four dice drop the lowest on POW 8 blast damage is very effective. Against ARM 17 you can reasonably expect to still take at least 12-16 damage from four ravagore splashes.8
8. Did I mention that you’ll also be on fire? Because you will be.
9. I can feel your anger
10. I kid….I kid….no seriously.
11. Single eye right? So I guess his depth perception is shot…oh wait, looks like depth perception is ok and…he can see the future12
12. Which is apparently depressingly two dimensional, to hear him tell it.
13. Though the childrens show would be a LOT more interesting if he looked like this
14. People who lose to a circle assassination and circle players who win by assassination always say “Ghetorix to the face”. It should be “I got stoned” about 80% of the time.24
15. But that’s for “turn-three-you” to worry about, and seriously screw that guy.
16. At which point your opponent will be *forced* to use his last two fury to kill other stuff.
17. Didnt see that one coming did you? Should have worn a blindfold.
18. 15% due to his affinity. The other 10% is due to all of her damn spells in both incarnations working specifically on Molik Karn really well.19
19. Well, except muzzle/stranglehold I guess. Were your opponent to have Molik Karn though, those spells would also work pretty well on him. Thank god that Engine of Destruction does not work on Molik Karn.
20. Molik Karn
21. Wierdly enough, Tiberion….though it works pretty well on Molik Karn
22. This is a minor exaggeration. They have at least five choices. They are also getting a really good warlock very shortly. It’s possible that the new warlock (Rask) will be gimmicky in some way, if he is you’ll be learning it at the same time as me, so message me if you come up with any suggestions.
23. In this game sometimes losing in a straight-forward fashion is a refreshing change.
24. Or the man behind the curtain. Which is often how I feel playing circle against people who dont fully realise the threat of stones. It’s like “Ta-DA!”….only instead of cheering happy children you get a mopey, angry nerd.
25. Though….maybe. Shifting stones are, in my opinion, very close to being the most valuable two points in the game.
26. Statistic made up, though probably not as far from true as we’d all wish.
27. You haven’t lived until you’ve had 20 points worth of heavy beast taken off the table by a 6 point unit of walking snot-balls that someone gave guns and then yelled at.
28. Upon closer consideration I’d like to reconsider “It’s like pIrusk”.29
29. Upon closer inspection, these are loafers.
30. No, I dont. I regret nothing.
31. Molik Karn. Yes I came back and added this during the editing process. Yes I edit and it still came out like this.
32. If you havent listened to the Muse On Mini’s podcasts, you really should find the time.
33. Did you really think I’d do you like that, Troll players?

Author: bobliness

I'm an Australian living in Houston, Texas, I started playing Warmachine/Hordes in March 2012 and I consider myself to be on a continuous learning curve that I'm not sure will ever end. I play for strategy and combinations, I am in no way a qualified hobbyist or painter though I admire those that are. No, I dont know Chunky, but the other five people that live in Australia tell me he's really swell.

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