Circle Minion Warlock Tech
There was a time when I thought that the Minion Warlocks were terrible, fragile solos attached to overpriced warbeasts. Some time later I conceded that maybe they might be decent, in a Warmachine army. They could function as a replacement heavy that didn’t require the warcaster’s focus. My Cryx lists, and 4 Star lists, from time to time, saw fit to employ Wrong Eye.
Time went by, and I became a Circle player. I never looked back at the minion locks, after all I now had the awesome beasts of the Circle at my command. Warpwolves and Wolds and what have you. What could I need from some crummy non faction beats? I’d just be depriving myself of transfer targets.
Eventually I wised up. (Bout the time I noticed Primal wasn’t faction) Nowadays about a third of my 50 point lists have a Minion Lock. This isn’t some sort of affirmative action for warbeasts, I genuinely believe that in certain circumstances they are better than the equivalent Circle beast. I thought I’d share my thoughts on each Minion lock with the wider community.
I’ll go worst to best:
Brun and Lug: Never take
Closest Circle equivalent: Wold Guardian
These guys are just a mess. Theirs so much potential here, but they persistently disappoint me. Looking at what they do, it isn’t clear why this should be so. Brun isn’t getting killed on the way in, between transfers, stonehold and Lug Guard Dogging him. The double flank gimmick is straightforward. Brun upkeeps Stonehold runs, Lug charges, GG for whatever. If you need the KD either of them can provide it.
The problem arrives in terms of how they want to work. Lug has a terrible (8.5) inch threat range, and Brun needs to be able to run there before hand for him to be anything impressive on the arrival. So you aren’t getting the alpha on the enemy beast. You really want to counterattack. They are awe inspiring counter-attackers. If the enemy fails to kill one of them the other walks up and flanks, then the one they failed to kill finishes off even the hardest target (hyperbole here, but its a strong beast/weapon master combo when they flank).
The problem is that there isn’t really any reason that the enemy would fail to kill Lug. It’s 12/18 with 27 boxes. Basically a gnarlhorn. I can’t recall the last time the enemy failed to kill a Gnarlhorn they wanted dead. So you want them to charge and fail to kill Brun, but he’s just a guy with effective def 15 and arm 18.5, with 2 transfers. A hard target, but whatever was going to kill his bear will certainly kill him. They can’t pull off the counter-attack unbuffed.
And Circle has the wrong buff. We can toss Primal on Lug and call it a day, but that just makes them wreck face even harder. That’s not what they want. They struggle with threat range, and Bounding doesn’t work on them. Hunter’s mark is hard to rely on, and even if it works, it doesn’t help out Brun’s run.
Ironically they’d be wonderful in the Congregation. Spiny Growth is exactly what they want, and the Swamp Horror makes the flank work by giving either of them reach, which also helps out immeasurably with Lug’s threat range. If you are doing multi-caster with a gator caster (or just using Wrong Eye), I’d give Brunlug a try as one your beasts.
Dahlia Hallyr/Skarath: Just one list
Circle Equivalent: Pureblood
This is an impressive pair, the first hint of what the Minion locks are capable of. They are also the combo most tilted towards the solo and away from the Beast. Skarath can replicate a Pureblood’s spray as long as the target is just infantry removal. If you are going for a spray assassination Skarath is not your guy. Its also a more defendable playform than a Pureblood, one less arm, but the ability to gain stealth or be protected by Dahlia’s haunting Melody makes up for it. No KD is also nice. It’s animus also deserves consideration.
One of my biggest gripes with Circle is that we don’t have a defensive animus. Every time I see Legion spamming Tenacity/Spiny growth I get angry. Our beasts are high def though, and Skarath can toss this animus on any of them. But beasts are the least of it. Give it to a lock. (Morvahna is hilarious with it, pKaya has crit KD, Grayle’s feat lasts a round, eBaldur hits like a truck). Give it to Wolf Lord Morraig. Its just a cool thing to have access to. My most common use is switching out Primal on something that has just moved up to get traded. Gheto/Stalker may be about to die, but if they miss he’ll get one last hit in. (Weird rule note here. Riposte doesn’t say ‘except while advancing…so i think you could counterattack against a free strike.)
Dahlia, though, is the moneymaker of this pair. I just like to run her into the enemy’s ranks with Haunting Melody. Get into melee with the unit I’m most determined to thwart. Taking her out before they activate verges on the impossible. (def 20 due to in melee bonus, and she has transfers) She may be the ultimate flag contester. A decent number of army’s literally cannot kill her unless they can get rid of the snake following her around, and without orders it can be tough to do that. Read over what happesn when a unit gets an order and some members can’t receive it. Fun stuff. I’ve run her into eButchers Doom Reaver horde before, and it basically wins the game automatically.
Charmer and her bond have some synergy with Primal (and Skarath will need Primal to get ANYTHING done in melee, its fairly hapless). We occasionally have a beast with Primal survive a turn, and not having it trash some friendly is nice.
Last point. If Skarath boosts hit on its bite, then buys and boosts hit again, you have like a 75% chance (overstated, but a crit on 3 is a coinflip, 2 coinflips gets 75%, right?) of killing the Book and the Harbitcher can’t stop it. Same goes for Seneschal’s and other things I hate.
Wrong Eye and Snapjaw (+ Bull Snapper?) : 2 lists, could be more
Circle Equivalent: Don’t really have one. Stalker I guess?
Wrong Eye and Snapjaw are probably the most popular Minion lock pair, and for good reason. They are hot stuff.
First off, Snapjaw is a respectable warbeast. Pow 17 is entirely legitimate for an attacking warbeast (hello feral), no Minion lock pity necessary here. +2 inches of charge range and spd 5 base puts him at the base level for an alpha strike beast (he’s .5 inches less than a Stalker if the target is alive and he needs to use his big weapon).
His bond is also really cool. He eats up infantry to heal like a Troll beast, but it RFP’s even if he’s unwounded. He can charge living warriors without forcing, not usually a huge deal, though it helps to keep the fury level even when he’s crossing the field at run speed. (He can submerge and charge some warrior to move his 10′, but also submerge, for only 2 fury.) He also deserves props for having a crit KD weapon which just happens to be his free strike attack.
Meanwhile Wrong Eye is an adequate lock. He’s got the 8″ control range, he can make certain he’ll be delivered in style via submerge, and he’s a decent fighter in his own right. Got reach, heal’s himself, good arm. Critically, he can bring along a Snapper if you want to go for it. (they are like horrifying carnivorous journeymen).
His money power, of course, is his Voodoo spell (though if Vilmon or whoever just stands in the wrong place (or is TK’d into it) and gives WE backstrike trying 4 influences can make an enemy weapon master mangle a jack/beast). The round after Snapjaw dies I like to take Wrong eye up there and try and curse some beast’s spirit. Ideally they are KD’d, and he doesn’t need to boost, so he can target two seperate beasts.
Bringing a Bull Snapper is possible, and certainly worth thinking about. If you only have Snapjaw to buff its an interesting question as to whether its worth it. It brings him up to arm 20 after he charges, so they’ll probably take 5 warjack hits to kill him, for 10 damage from the buff. Figure the Snapper itself will do another 5 or so, and he’s basically worth half of some enemy warbeast in terms of damage done. 3 points for a half a warbeast is a good idea if they are > 6 point beasts/jacks, but you have to balance that against the idea that he might be killed by some non-beast (charging banes), or the Snapper might get shot up on the way in. I think its an adequate expenditure, but an argument could be made either way.
If you have more minions, of course, the Snapper increases in value. Few things are funnier than making them overcome the SG on each beast they take down, but this isn’t usually practical. I think, overall, I’d leave it out of most of my circle lists.
So, Wrong Eye and Snapjaw can’t be shot as they cross the board (oversimplification, but more or less true). With Primal Snapjaw will destroy most anything that doesn’t have a defensive buff, and a few things that do. You have the option of Wrong Eye’s shenanigans thereafter. (If you brought the snapper you can even make the enemy pay for the trade again, and/or fail the kill due to 12/20 statline) I think this is something that legitimately may be better than a warpwolf, if you are already filled out to complement on beasts.
Rorsh and Brine: 4 lists
Circle Equivalent: Don’t really have one, reminds me of Molik Karn
Rorsh and Brine are pretty gross. They have tricks, but there’s pretty much just one that matters, and its a doozy. With Diversionary Tactics, Rorsh has a 13.5″ threat range. With Primal and a free charge because you scratched him, he’s strong enough to kill most heavies or casters. He has Crit KD on his most powerful weapon, so his frenzies and free strikes (and final revenge attack), all run the risk of KDing someone.
So that’s an alpha strike beast, almost guaranteed. He outthreats Gheto/stalker by 2.5 inches, without support, and he charges for free, again without meaningful support. He can go 10″ and use a power attack. He can RFP with his animus if its required (say on Thag’s carni). His final attack is nearly unstoppable. It goes off if he’s killed or RFP’d, or Rorsh is Killed or RFP’d. Basically only ways around it are to immobilize Brine before the kill (KD, stationary), or kill Rorsh with collateral/fire, or get Rorsh to kill Brine with transfers.
Primal, hilariously, lasts a round, so his final attack is Mat 8, pow 17, Crit KD. His animus is another way to go, if you can’t get Primal on him. You are losing 2 pow 15’s, but adding 3.5 to the damage on your 3 initials, 2 bought attacks and one retributive strike. Its usually worth it.
Rorsh, to add insult to injury, is no chump solo. He’s got a 2 shot gun and a bonus bomb. He can Dig In. His diversionary tactic has the bonus of killing kayazy’s and other low arm guys without rolling attacks, while letting him back up. He’s even Tough. Pigpen is incredibly situational, but every once in a while it pays off bigtime.
I am hugely enthusiastic about Rorsh and Brine. If it weren’t for needing transfers they’d probably be the first striker heavy I reached for. As it is they are a strong second. If I’m playing a Circle list that doesn’t do something amazing for Faction warbeasts the third heavy I take is usually Rorsh and Brine. They made it into one of my 35 point lists, for goodness sake.
Circle casters and what they like in terms of Minion Beasts.
pKaya: pKaya does so much for Circle warbeasts that I don’t even take Rorsh and Brine or Wrong Eye and Snapjaw with her. She’s all Circle as I run her. +2 to all attacks and the yo yo are just too big of a deal.
eKaya: I actually like Dahlia and Skarath with eKaya. Dahlia addresses the main weakness of the classic eKaya + giant battlegroup list by being willing to sit in the zone. She also adds virtual distance to the retreat by stopping the enemy from using their orders. Her beast can replicate most of what eKaya likes a Pureblood for with its spray, though this means that you’ll need to use Primal instead of Wraithbane to overcome def animus’d heavies. Bonus point in Dahlia’s favor is that it isn’t uncommon for eKaya to have one frenzy fest turn after her primal’d monsters jump back, and to be light on expendables to take the hits. Dahlia’s zone of sack your activation instead of frenzy typically reaches back to where they land.
pBaldur: pBaldur actually offers a lot to Minion beasts in Stoneskin and forests to hide them and his feat. EDIT TO REMOVE ME THINKING STONE SKIN WORKED ON MINIONS He also tends to KD things with his wolds, and Wrong Eye cursing them is good times. Now, this is all contingent on playing a nontraditional pBaldur list, but he’s an amazing lock. Pretty much whatever works fine with pBaldur. Megalith, Gorax, WE + SJ, R + B, Trackers + Nualla, solos to taste is a fine list.
eBaldur: Epic Baldur, by contrast, doesn’t give minions the time of day. His feat affects them, but his game plan is about round after round rooting his battlegroup. He doesn’t want to give the enemys that can’t hurt his arm 20+ wolds something to do.
pKreuger: His reach spell isn’t faction. I take Reach Brine every chance I get. It actually also works pretty well with his game plan. pKreuger likes to handle the infantry and try to win by outnumbering heavies. But he doesn’t have the fury to manage so many heavies. Minions can lighten his load. I’ve even used the Bear with him, from time to time, just because Reach makes it threat tolerable distances. Was usually disappointed though.
eKreuger: Stormlord is the best guy in the faction, he can use whatever. TK doesn’t care if he’s dragging Gheto or some Minion beast, and his anti-shooting spell protects everyone. I take Rorsh and Brine from time to time, but my Stormlord lists tend to use those points for an extra geomancy wold, so its tough.
Mohsar: The cranky old man doesn’t really have anything to do with Minion beasts. He doesn’t benefit them at all, except for Curse of Shadows. He can’t increase their threat range, or mistreat them, or do just about anything for them. I don’t use Minion locks with Mohsar, though R + B are never bad.
Kromac: Kromac is too good to his battlegroup to spend points on minions. Instead of a Minion lock + beast, get another Warpwolf. Warpath is simply awesome, and Wild Aggression is friendly faction.
Morvhna: Another member of the Mohsar camp. There’s nothing terribly interresting about her and Minions. She doesn’t loathe them, but what she’s about is Circle Infantry and regrowth. I take a pass on minions with Morvahna. It isn’t Kromac/pKaya levels. She isn’t opposed to them (much, her feat is faction), but once you’ve taken her transfer beasts and the volume of excellent infantry she wants there doesn’t tend to be points left over.
Grayle: Grayle’s feat is a fairly large part of his game, and it doesn’t work on minions. Moreover, they can’t trigger it. They can’t benefit from Storm Rager either. I don’t take minion casters with Grayle.
Cassius: Cassius doesn’t particularly care either way whether his warbeasts are Minions or not. He has hellmouth (for 3″ of movement), and he has Curse of Shadows, which helps with their pillowfistedness. He likes infantry though, hard to find the points for a Minion Lock. I’d put him in the either or category.
So there you have it. My thoughts on the minion locks. For anyone who doesn’t want to read through that enormous wall o’ text, the short form is “Primal makes the Minion Locks worthy of consideration. Rorsh or Wrong Eye are worthy substitutes for your second beatstick heavy.”