Welcome to my new article series: The Grubb’s Grenade. That’s right people, I’m coming back from a self-imposed hiatus with new articles, ready to explode with opinions about Warmachine & Hordes. I am here to usher this new segment in with a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Well, maybe not so near. Or dear. To be honest, I’ve been incredibly frustrated with Retribution. After Vengeance came out, I was expecting for Retribution to take its rightful place with the other core Warmachine factions. Yet, time and again I have found myself defeated. After running into the proverbial brick wall, I realized that there is a problem with Retribution in the current meta. They just cannot compete in SR 2014.
Now before we get into another doom and gloom article for Retribution, let me put this to rest: I know that Retribution can win in SR 2014. Pagani won Templecon with Retribution and many other players have shown that they are not complete garbage. When I say they cannot compete what I mean is that they cannot compete easily or I should say without a level of expertise that is beyond any but the top tier players. Pagani won with Retribution but I am pretty sure Pagani could win with a wet sock and half a unit of Kossite Woodsmen. Don’t tell me wet socks are not a part of this game. He’d figure it out, trust me.
So with that out of the way, let’s talk about why Retribution is hindered by SR 2014. My realization came after Vengeance was released. I was pretty frustrated with Ret before then but I held out because I just knew that the new releases would help us achieve victory. And, boy, are they good. The Houseguard Thane, Issyria, and Imperatus especially though I honestly don’t think we got a stinker. These guys (and gals) help solve a lot of problems that Ret had, mainly anti-Stealth and a solid heavy. Bane Thralls got you down? BAM! Hit them with some Houseguard Riflemen or anything else under Issyria. Needing a heavy that doesn’t just die to Ravagores? BLAMO! Imperatus can take a hit and then beat face…and do it all over again next turn. Retribution got some serious fixing for problems they had. So at this point you’re asking, what’s the big issue Sam?!
The issue is that none of the problems fixed by Vengence are being presented anymore. Retribution got releases that created the perfect gun line with a major alpha strike…just in time to see the meta swing toward heavy ARM that is all but immune to shooting. With the advent of lists such as Meat Mountain and the emergence of Monster Cryx (thanks to Skarre 1), the tactic of hitting hard first and from range doesn’t cut it any more. A lot of lists can just take what you dish out on the chin, whether they are presenting bodies to recycle or stuff that just…won’t…die. Issyria made our stuff incredibly fast. It will reach out and touch you, hitting fairly hard, before you have a chance to hit it first. I mean, Houseguard Halberdiers threat 15” for Pete’s sake! Hitting at MAT 8, P&S 14 (with Gang)! That’s ridiculous! But all that speed amounts to nothing against a unit of Warders under the Krielstone. As I played our new stuff, I found that I kept bouncing off higher ARM lists. Meat Mountain isn’t the only problem. The Meta is shifting to high ARM or body recycling as a way to combat gun line. Retribution got all the toys it needed to optimize its shooting…just in time to miss the gun line train.
This issue alone is not enough to bring Retribution to its knees. Gun lines are not completely unviable and neither is the alpha strike necessarily. Sure there are issues, like those stated above, but it’s nothing the faction can’t deal with. I mean, who plays Meat Mountain anyways? No, it’s not the increase of armor that brought Ret low. It was the change in how scenario worked in SR 2014 that was the true death knell. SR 2014 saw a move toward harder fought scenarios that could not be easily (or even at all) won in a few turns. This was a good move. Stopping the Denny2 and Haley2 scenario auto-wins only benefits the game. The consequence is that Retribution’s alpha strike becomes useless because they can no longer get an early lead in points in a lot of scenarios that allow them to hold out a win.
Retribution has no staying power. Once that alpha strike hits, they better have killed what they were hitting because if not, they are going to die. Time and time again I have seen Ret hit hard on the alpha, kill a decent amount, and get decimated by whatever was left in the player’s army. Now, in years past, this would not be such a huge problem because that alpha strike would net them enough scenario points to be able to clear out a zone and win. With the changes to SR 2014, compounded by the shift in the meta to high arm, Retribution is no longer able to even clear the zone or objective to score, much less get a lead in points that allows them to win. In return, they are massacred, leaving not enough left after the first strike to carry the day. Issyria is a great example of this. Everything she does screams hard alpha strike: crusaders call, her feat, and even blinding light, which allows you to take out a shooting unit so you can concentrate elsewhere. But unless you kill a significant amount on her feat turn, you are going to have a hell of a time closing the match. Even stuff like Imperatus shows its age: having one large ARMed up heavy (*cough* colossal *cough* ) is not a problem for a lot of armies to remove. Taking all these problems together and one can see that Retribution has serious problems winning in the current state of the meta.
Fear not my elf friends, it’s not all doom. Well, ok it’s a little doom. DOOM! Retribution does have hope. Vyros 2 with Griffons is a great list that can hold out better then anything else in Retribution. But it is still has problems and can be countered. So what should we do then? There are three options. First, you can ride it out. The meta shifts and moves around. This is inevitable with any game. However, after looking at the releases in Exigence, I don’t think waiting is much of an option. The other thing is to change the way we play, which is what a lot of factions do and what leads to the shift in meta in the first place. The issue, at least to me, is that Ret does not have the tools to shift to anything reasonable without radically diverging from some of their current builds. Which comes to option three: play harder. I am sure that if you play great you can win with Ret. I am sure if you put your mind to it, you can come up with new lists that completely smash what I am saying. I am not seeing it, which is why I am taking a step back from Retribution and switching to a different faction (more on that later). So, with a heavy heart, I must put my elves on the shelf where they can watch children…I mean, take a much needed rest. That is, until they come out with some multi-boxed heavy infantry.