Today I would like to discuss one of the greatest challenges in tournament play. No, not painting all your models, as daunting as that can be for some of us. I would like to discuss the Hardcore format. With Die Con fast approaching, many of the Midsouth Gaming crew is refining both their Hardcore lists as well as their playing. After working through a couple of different lists, I thought I would take some time to break down how Retribution works in Hardcore and show a few lists that I think work well for the format. A note before I go on: since I am practicing for the 50 pt Die Con Hardcore tourney, this article is going on the assumption you are playing at that point level. Things are radically different for Retribution at the 35pt level with assassination being a better bet then attrition at that point.
As many of you know, Hardcore does not follow the standard Steamroller format. Instead, it focuses on quick play and caster assassination. This includes having a scenario that forces armies into the middle as well as shorter turns with no extensions. Because of this format, armies are generally tailored toward three distinct groups: Assassination, Brick, and Attrition. Retribution plays the assassination game very well. With the Mage Hunter Strike Force on the forefront of a slew of great assassination units, it is nearly impossible to keep a caster from feeling the Rets hatred of foreign magic. Several of our casters are also geared toward this sort of game play. Retribution can also play attrition well. Stormfall Archers, Sentinels, and a few of our Jacks, notably the Daemon and Phoenix, can really tear through enemy troops. The one thing that the Retribution cannot do is Brick. With no multi-wound infantry and only a few units that can gain a high enough Arm to be effective, Retribution just doesn’t have the staying power to keep themselves on the field till dice down.
With that in mind, I would like to discuss Assassination first. Most Retribution assassination lists are going to have one thing in common: a unit of Mage Hunter Strike Force. This is both good and bad. The good reflects mostly in the power of the unit which I won’t go into to much detail here. Safe to say they are a strong assassination tool, particularly because they can cut through a lot of things that block normal runs such as lack of LOS. They have the potential to kill a warcaster with only a few welled placed shots. The bad is that everyone and their mothers know what the Mage Hunter Strike Force can do. They can be countered a number of ways, none of which are too difficult to pull off. Concentrated blast fire or a fast jamming unit pretty much ends any shenanigans that you might get up too. Not only that but MHSF are also incredibly less effective against Warlocks. The ability to transfer and the fact that the Arcane Assassin rule does not ignore animi makes most assassination attempts a long shot. All that being said, if you are planning on getting the coveted assassination award, then they are a solid choice. You don’t need to win every single game you play to be the greatest Hardcore assassin. You just need to do a really good job once.
As far as list building goes, I would suggest trying out Kaelyssa or Ravyn. While Ravyn’s feat and Snipe spell allow you to get a good shot at killing the caster quick, Kaelyssa’s anti-magic, feat, and Phantom Hunter spell give you a good chance of hitting a caster with more then just the Strike Force. Casting Phantom Hunter on a Banshee gives her a chance to knock down the caster for easy picking from the Strike Force or a well placed Mage Hunter Assassin. Her feat gives a good chance at keeping your stuff unhurt and unengaged if you pop early. Adding in things like Halbs to screen or jam is a good way to keep your Strike Force safe as well though that is generally more conditional. This is a pure assassination list I worked up with her though you could honestly use it with Ravyn or even Garryth with a few minor tweaks:
Mage Hunter Strike Force + UA
Mage Hunter Assassin x2
Full Halberdiers + UA + Soulless
Lady Aiyana + Holt
I would usually put Rahn in the same list for assassination but he has some problems with the hardcore format. Mostly, it’s harder for him to get to caster without killing models in between because he has to open a LOS path for his spells. He is also a lot squishier then Ravyn and Kae, which makes him much more susceptible to counter assassination. For these reasons, I would leave Rahn in the bag if you were trying for straight assassination.
Assuming that you are not going for assassination though, Rahn is a solid choice for the other style of Retribution Hardcore play: Attrition. Particularly, his Fires on High tier list is pretty amazing. Take a look at this list I came up with:
Stormfall Archers x2
Full Halberdiers + UA + Soulless
I like this list in Hardcore for a number of reasons. First, the Stormfall Archers advance deployment perk gives you a perfect chance to alpha strike some blast damage on important elements of the enemy army. Second, the Hyperion with Polarity Shield gives a large, hard to remove target to take up the middle that can still dish out a lot of pain. The same goes for the Halberdiers. Third, you still have the ability to assassinate should the opportunity arise. While I don’t think you’re likely to win the assassination award with him, the name of the game is to kill the opponents caster. No matter how much you attrition, in the end you still want to kill the enemy warnoun if at all possible. Finally, the abundance of magical attacks also helps against factions like Menoth and Cyrx. However, the list remains versatile enough to handle a wide array of different opponents. The list does have issues. If anything really gets a hold of the Halbs or Hyperion, it can go down hard. Once that happens, you lose the main body of your army and everything tends to crumble up from that. It is also difficult to play quickly. Between the blast damage plates and large amount of model activations, it is a challenge to get through every unit in seven minutes. This list also has trouble breaking up any bricks you might run into since the Hyperion is the only thing with any huge hitting power.
While I like the Rahn list, I think there are better lists out there if you’re going for executioner or the overall award, vanquisher. Particularly, Epic Vyros is an amazing choice for Hardcore Caster. He has several things going for him when it comes to Hardcore tournaments. The dude is a beast in and of himself. With such a high stat line, he handles a lot of assassination attempts that might normally cause another caster to weep in despair. Vyros also has a good toolbox of spells, particularly with Synergy allowing him to break even the toughest of bricks. He can also get a lot of our strongest troops into combat safely, where they do a lot of good work clearing out the enemy. His feat is also good for lining up attack lanes or messing with an opponent assassination attempt (though if its a good run, they won’t kill any models to cause an activation.) This makes sure that you stay on top of the attrition game. Vyros is also pretty good at facilitating assassination runs especially with Synergy pumping up his jacks to ridiculously high Mats and Pows. Last but not least, his lists play incredibly quick. With a major focus on jacks, Vyros can run through all his activations with time to spare, something that is important when you need to take a second or two to figure out exactly how you’re going to crack your opponents army. This is the E Vyros list that is giving me good results:
Lady Aiyana + Holt
Full Sentinels + UA + Soulless
With so many options to choose from, it’s hard for me to decide which one I will play at Hardcore. Safe to say, do not count Retribution out when it comes to this format. Retributions tendency toward the extreme ends of the spectrum in list building really shines through when you don’t have to worry about things like winning every game you play. Be sure to look out for my, terribly, painted elves as well as all the other MSG crew in the Hardcore tournament at Die Con in June.
 You can find a nice write up on the Mage Hunter Strike Force here.
 A full write up on Epic Vyros is found here.