Op-Ed: Melee Major Haley?

“I don’t try to intimidate people before a fight. That’s nonsense. I intimidate people by hitting them.” – M. Tyson.

The year is drawing to a close, Warmachine Weekend has come and gone, and our own redoubtable Keith Christiansen has crushed all opposition before him, heard the lamentations of their women, and piloted Cygnar to victory at the invitational. Those who followed the tourney will know what one of the lists he played was a ranged list led by Major Victoria Haley – so I figure that now is the ideal time to tell you all why I think eHaley is most powerful when run in a melee army.

A disclaimer in advance: this won’t be a full tactica article. I like writing tacticas, but there are plenty out there already that will tell you what eHaley can do. In fact, you can find some on this very site. Instead, I’m just going give you the opinions I’ve drawn from the sum total of my experiences. I’ll give some tactical tips throughout, though; where I do, they’ll be denoted with the tag ‘tactica sideboard’.

 

Learning from femme fatales: from Fiona to Haley

My opinion on eHaley actually has its roots in a different warcaster: mercenary pirate, Fiona the Black. I started playing Fiona at about the same time as rules for new models from Wrath began appearing. I found her to be enormously fun to play and, most importantly, discovered what was, at the time, an entirely new playstyle for me: rampant melee aggression.

Fiona plays an aggressive melee game based mostly on the strength of her feat, Dark Omen. Under Dark Omen, I found that I could jam into the opposing force with my melee elements and completely shut down their retaliation, hitting them over and over while robbing them of the ability to respond meaningfully. One of the most powerful things you can do in Warmachine is to find a way to play extremely aggressively without exposure to the associated risk. For me, being able to do so opened up victories via attrition, assassination and scenario that I could never have expected from a slower-paced, more conservative list. I loved it. It worked, and it worked well, and what’s more, it all worked around a warcaster that was otherwise broadly considered to be a somewhat unremarkable ranged-centric ‘caster that loitered in the lower echelons of the mercenary faction roster.

It was on the back of this discovery that I began to wonder if the same principles that had worked so well with me for Fiona could be applied to other warcasters. One of the first that I came around to was eHaley.

And so a monster was born.

 

State of play: analysis of a modern Haley list

Even before I began looking at her from a melee perspective, eHaley was a warcaster that I had seen played many times before, and had played myself. She has long been recognised as one of Cygnar’s most powerful warcasters, as well as one of the most powerful warcasters in the game as a whole.

Almost without exception, competitive eHaley lists are heavily focused on the ranged game. In fact, by way of example, let’s examine a list that just recently helped a Cygnar player bust through a major tourney:

Major Victoria Haley (*5pts)
* Stormwall (19pts)
* Squire (2pts)
Black 13th Gun Mage Strike Team (4pts)
Arcane Tempest Gun Mages (Leader and 5 Grunts) (6pts)
* Arcane Tempest Gun Mage Officer (2pts)
* Hunter (6pts)
* Sentinel (4pts)
Rangers (Leader and 5 Grunts) (5pts)
Stormsmith Stormcaller (1pts)
Stormsmith Stormcaller (1pts)
Journeyman Warcaster (3pts)
Arlan Strangewayes (2pts)

Many of you will recognise this, as it’s Keith’s list from the Warmachine Weekend Invitational (as designed by Phatasian). Although it varies from the norm in a few respects, it is still a solid example of what I would consider to be a ‘modern’ eHaley list. Of particular note is the stormwall, which brings a strong melee element that can be brought to bear if the enemy manages to close, or project offensive threat out to considerable a distance if required. Previously, that position might have been held by a stormclad, or perhaps a centurion or defender. Nevertheless, even with the stormwall’s PS20 fists, this is still primarily a gunline rather than a combined arms force.

A list like this combines powerful Cygnaran firepower from the gun mages, hunter, and stormwall, with Haley’s control and augmentation abilities, to hit an enemy at range, and keep hitting them. Spells like temporal acceleration, deadeye and deceleration tilt the ranged game in Haley’s favour, while she uses her feat to slow and disrupt the enemy to buy a further turn of shooting. Finally, telekinesis and gun mages give it a scenario presence that ranges from ‘respectable’ to ‘extremely strong’ depending on what it’s facing, in what scenario. 

It’s a strong list, especially in the hands of a strong player. But it’s not the only effective way to play Haley. So let’s get to talking about that.

 

Better, stronger, faster: Temporal Shift and you

The first thing I want to talk about with regards to different Haley playstyles is the effect of her feat, Temporal Shift. As I mentioned above, a standard, ranged-centric Haley list will use Temporal Shift to buy time for another round of shooting. By forcing the opposition to forfeit either their movement or action and so denying them the ability to run or charge, Haley cuts their forward momentum significantly. Forcing them to activate in an inconvenient sequence that sees units behind getting jammed up by units in front potentially slows the opposition even further.

Often, this delay results in a victory for the Cygnaran player. But I would argue that there is an even better way to use this feat.

Setting aside specific warcasters, consider how a game typically plays when a gunline matches up against a non-gunline army. Typically, the way to beat a gunline is to close with it, engage, and then win because gunlines by definition are not at their strongest in a close quarters brawl. This is not the case in all circumstances (gosh, hasn’t the rise of the protectorate ‘gunline’ been fun?), but is a good general rule of thumb: to beat a ranged army, close to the melee, where their ranged advantage is no longer relevant.

How this relates to Haley’s feat is that even though Temporal Shift slows an enemy advance, it does not actually stop it. They are not closing as fast as their player would like, but they are still closing, and are closer to victory at the end of their turn then they were at the start. Under some circumstances, such as an when the eHaley player is playing against a gunline army without strict orders of activation, they may barely even be disadvantaged at all, happy to forfeit their movement and fire as normally. In short, Temporal Shift when used as part of a ranged playstyle is very powerful, but does not present your opponent with a pervasive no-win situation.

This paradigm changes when Cygnaran list composition incorporates greater use of melee elements. When an eHaley list is designed to deliver sustained and effective hammer-blows in melee, advancing no longer grants an opponent the same measure of progress toward victory. With a melee eHaley list, the ideal time to use Temporal Shift is when you have already closed to melee and delivered your first blow (you should have the luxury of timing your feat accordingly in most games; more on this later). If you’ve positioned correctly to take advantage of reach and positioning, your opponent won’t have the option of striking back in melee or at range, and now also doesn’t have the option of securing themselves some advantage by advancing. Yes, they can advance, but so what if they do? You’re running a melee army; them advancing toward you makes it easier for you to hit them, not harder. What options do they have left? Retreat and abandon the scenario? Unlikely – it is probably impossible for them to successfully retreat outside your threat range, and trying to do so will likely invite free strikes regardless.

Thus, when used in conjunction with a melee list rather than a ranged list, Temporal Shift goes from offering your opponent limited options to progress their game plan, to offering them no options at all.

(Tactica sideboard: reach is an extremely powerful ability to use in conjunction with Temporal Shift, and favouring reach models with her where possible is a good idea. The trick is to engage non-reach models from more than 0.5” but less than 2” away. This means they can’t make ranged attacks, because they are in melee, but also can’t attack back without advancing – and if they want to advance, they need to forfeit their attack, so can’t attack anyway. If your opponent does have reach, you can simulate this effect by using telekinesis to flip them around so they’d have to turn to face you. Finally, against colossals, which have reach and can’t be placed with telekinesis, your best bet is to engage your opponent from fully within one front arc, and cripple the arm system in that arc. Your opponent will still be able to attack you, but only with a crippled arm system, which should inflict only limited damage at best. Against gargantuans, you don’t have this option, but it’s still good practice, since you’ll be stripping them of one of their initials at least.)

 

The Spell List, Part One: Temporal Acceleration, Telekinesis, and Deceleration

You’ll notice that when talking about Haley’s feat, I made a couple of assumptions. Foremost amongst these was that Temporal Shift would coincide with the turn her army closed to engage – and that once engaged, the opposition would not be given the option of forfeiting movement and attacking in melee normally.

Haley’s spell list is extremely powerful, and allows her make the first of these two assumptions safely. This is mostly a question of threat ranges; there are precious few models in the game that don’t have guns but can out-threat a bonded Stormclad empowered by temporal acceleration and telekinesis. At anything up to an 18” threat, it’s amongst the highest melee threat ranges in the game. When used on melee models, Telekinesis and Temporal Acceleration combine to ensure that when melee is joined, it is usually joined on Haley’s terms.

(Tactica sideboard: don’t underestimate the value of throwing out a few telekinesis spells on turn one if you’re going first. If you’ve got the FOC spare for it, and you often will, moving a few key models that little bit further up the field can pay big dividends later. Models like Anastasia di Bray, Ryan of the B13th, or your bonded heavy all benefit from being able to threaten as aggressively as possible, and every extra inch counts.)

 In terms of offensive output delivered, Telekinesis and Temporal Acceleration both become proportionally more powerful when used in conjunction with melee models. Take Temporal Acceleration; when used on a model intending to engage at range like a Defender or Stormwall, it buys 2” of threat and one extra RAT6 POW15 shot. Even assuming that the extra 2” made the difference between being in range and not, at most the spell has bought you two or three POW15 attacks that you could not otherwise have made.

Compare this to using Temporal Acceleration on a model intending to close to melee, most likely a Stormclad or perhaps a Stormwall intending to use its fists. Under these circumstances, not only is the additional attack the spell is buying you going to be POW19 or 20 as opposed to POW15, but if the spell makes the difference between closing to melee or failing the charge, what you have bought with your FOC investment is anything up to seven POW19 or 20 attacks – a vastly more powerful offensive than could be delivered at range. To put it in terms of damage done: Temporal Acceleration on a ranged model buys you some solid damage somewhere. Temporal Acceleration on a melee model straight up kills an enemy heavy.

(Tactica Sideboard: Dominate pretty much functions the same way as the above two spells. But you won’t find yourself being able to use it nearly as often; too many warjacks in the current meta are either Character models or Colossals, neither of which care at all about Dominate. If you do find a target for it, though, remember that it’s primary value isn’t in the free attack you get out of your target, it’s in the 4-6” of movement you force them to take toward your heavy hitters or out of scenario zones, and the attack bonus you get from flipping them around to face away from you at the end of their movement.)

Deceleration, Haley’s other signature spell, ranges from useful to incredibly valuable regardless of your list composition. As with Telekinesis and Temporal Acceleration, I would argue that it’s better for a melee force than a ranged one. To harken back to one of MoM’s podcasts, our charming hosts made the point that Deceleration ‘basically wins eHaley the ranged game’ when her gunline and another gunline meet. I’m not actually sure this is true. Now, don’t get be wrong: Deceleration is fantastic against a gunline, basically equivalent to granting Defender’s Ward to your entire army. But… if you’re playing a gunline of your own, is this going to be the deciding factor in a game? I don’t think it is. Cygnar packs amongst the best gunline potential in the game, between Defenders, Hunters, Stormwalls, Gun Mages, the B13th, and so on. If you weren’t already winning against an enemy gunline with access to options like these, is Deceleration going to shift the balance in your favour? Will it shift the balance of power against things like Prayer of Safe Passage and Shadowpack, which give the few gunlines that can out-shoot a Cygnar list their own decisive advantage?

Sometimes, they might. But mostly, they won’t. Thanks to Prayer of Passage, a full-on Protectorate gunline that was going to out-shoot eHaley before Deceleration is probably still going to out-shoot her after Deceleration. And thanks to Shadowpack, an eLylyth gunline that was going to out-shoot her before Deceleration is definitely still going to out-shoot her after. Now, Deceleration still helps in both these circumstances, mostly by forcing the opposition to expend additional resources – but that’s about it. It won’t change the fundamental dynamic of most gunline-on-gunline matchups. If you were going to win already, Deceleration won’t change that. If you were going to lose already, Deceleration probably won’t change that either.

In comparison, Deceleration with a melee army is all kinds of game-changing. The melee vs ranged game is broadly governed by whether the side with more guns can bring those guns to bear long enough to remove the advantage the melee-centric list has once melee is joined. In play, there are all sorts of complexities to account for, but in the abstract: ‘if my gunline can shoot your army enough to stop you from killing me in melee, I win. If I don’t, I lose.’

There are probably quite a few gunlines that could overwhelm an un-buffed Cygnar melee or combined arms list before it closes. Deceleration changes this. At minimum, it forces your opponent to expend more energy killing a smaller number of your models, meaning more of your models make it to melee intact. Ideally, it renders ineffective and effectively removes some ranged elements in your opponent’s list from the game entirely (for example, POW6 blast damage from Stormfall Archers just does not cut it against Steelhead Halberdiers when the Halberdiers get bumped up to ARM15).

 

The Spell List, Part Two: Deadeye, Time Bomb, Arcane Bolt

It feels very odd to admit this, but I have actually used Arcane Bolt at least twice to good effect in recent memory. Both times was on the first turn of the game when I was second player, where I used it to scalpel out over-extended opposing models before they could do much damage. If I’d had a gunline, it would have been more efficient to allocate focus toward buffing my guns, but hey, Arcane Bolt at least means you have something to do on the bottom of turn one. Sometimes.

Oh, come on, it’s Arcane Bolt. What else do you want me to say? I can’t wax lyrical about everything, dammit.

Deadeye and Time Bomb are more interesting, of course. And this is where we start to encounter tools of eHaley’s that do lend themselves more to ranged play than melee. Time Bomb, for example, is a spell that is really, really good, but comes with a really, really high FOC cost. One day, a warlock is going to get the spell, and all will tremble and despair. In the mean time, it takes about half of Haley’s FOC pool to make happen. This doesn’t work very well in conjunction with a melee-heavy list, where you could instead be pouring pretty much all your FOC into setting up a devastating run with a Stormclad, or even just fuelling up two heavies and having them beat on whatever is within their respective melee ranges.

For me, Time Bomb is as a stopgap measure if I can’t afford to engage in melee yet and want to hold off my feat for another turn. Against warcasters and warlocks with melee armies and momentum feats like Saeryn or eSkarre, having Haley cut loose with Time Bomb and Telekinesis can keep an opponent at bay while you wait for their feat to expire. Otherwise, it’s main use is later in the game, if you need to hold off an opponent’s heavy or colossal just that little bit longer, or as a clutch DEF debuff on a ‘caster you don’t think you could hit with telekinesis (or who isn’t subject to back strikes).

Deadeye, on the other hand, is much more cut and dried. It’s a ranged attack buff. It only works on ranged attacks. It does nothing for a pure melee unit, and there’s no cute trick you can wrangle out of it if you don’t have any guns in your force.

Fortunately, you’re playing Cygnar. Even our melee-centric lists can bring credible combined arms options into play. This is completely fine. You can absolutely have guns in your force without forsaking the aggressive forward momentum-based playstyle I’m advocating when I talk about being ‘melee-centric’ and, honestly, I encourage it – especially if your meta is going to punish you for not having at least some guns. There are plenty of options that will let you get valuable use out of Deadeye with an otherwise melee-centric list. With these units, I don’t think of Deadeye as a spell that gives Haley ranged dominance; I think of it as a spell that lets her punch above her weight in the ranged game even if she’s otherwise running hard toward melee. You won’t be casting this as much as if you were running a pure gunline army, but when you do, it’ll often have a proportionally larger impact on the game – being able to take a reliable chunk out of your enemy at range puts them in a tough position when you also have an advantage in melee.

(Tactica sideboard: Stormblades, Nyss, Boomhowler & Co and, to a lesser extent, Steelhead Heavy Cavalry and Storm Lances are all good models to put in a melee-centric Haley list if you still want to get mileage out of Deadeye. Nyss in particular can put out a brutal volume of firepower and be a very viable assassination threat when buffed by Deadeye, and Boomhowler & Co’s blunderbusses go from ‘not worth worrying about’ to ‘oh god you just killed two-thirds of my skirmish screen’.)

 

Force Composition: Assembling a melee eHaley list

Step one: add Anastasia di Bray. Yes, before you pick your battlegroup, before you think about infantry. Probably even before you add a squire. If you’re new to Haley or aren’t familiar with Anastasia, go and read her card now. Pay careful attention to espionage.

Done? Good.

In my experience, in a melee-centric list where you’re up in your opponent’s grill and able to benefit multiple models/units with it, espionage is the most powerful special action on any model in the game. It’s probably the most powerful effect on any non-warcaster/warlock model, period, rivalled only by Gorman di Wulfe’s black oil grenade. If you’ve ever seen Gorman black oil a colossal, or two heavies and a warcaster – a good espionage is sitting on the same level of oh-my-god powerful as that.

The catch (of course there is a catch) is that espionage is one of the hardest abilities in the game to execute successfully. Anastasia is a priority target for any opponent that knows what she does, and very few warcasters can successfully deliver her to within 5” of an enemy warcaster intact if the enemy is gunning for her. Very few, that is, apart from eHaley. Deceleration bumps her DEF and ARM up to what she needs to survive even a dedicated attack at range. Temporal shift lets her easily position to get within range and pretty much shuts down most things that might kill her. And telekinesis bumps her threat range with espionage up from 12” to 14-16”, and opens up angles to move past models or get LOS that she otherwise might not have.

Oh, and she gives you +1 to the roll for first turn, which can be really, really important for a melee-centric list. Seriously, take Anastasia.

(Tactica sideboard: I find that it is actually better to deploy Anastasia normally, rather than ambushing her. This is for two reasons; first, her approach vector if she’s deployed normally means she is moving up the field with the rest of your army. This means that she’s more likely to be able to catch multiple of your own models/units when she triggers Espionage, as opposed to if she was coming in off the side of the board. Secondly, if she ambushes, you’re unlikely to be able to telekinesis her the turn she comes in off the table edge, and will probably also have a harder time getting telekinesis in range of her on subsequent turns. Given how important those extra couple of inches of threat can be, it’s just usually better to have her in easy range.

The exception is against armies that can reliably take her out, at range, even through Deceleration and stealth. Legion can do this, as can some Protectorate lists. Under those circumstances, consider ambushing.)

Once you get to picking your battlegroup, things open up a fair bit. At this point you’ll be confronted by two big choices: whether or not to include an arc node, and whether or not to include a stormwall.

The arc node question is a bit easier to resolve for a melee-centric list. You will usually want one, and it will usually be Thorn. There’s an argument to be made for downgrading to a lancer, but I find the 3” reaction drive move and ability channel while engaged just a bit too useful to pass on. 8pts is a serious, serious bite out of most lists, but Thorn is the model that lets you go deep and land Telekinesis on an enemy warcaster hiding behind two heavies and a full unit of infantry. At 50pts and above, unless I really need that extra 2pts, he’s my go-to node.

(Tactica sideboard: remember how I mentioned casting telekinesis on the first turn for some extra movement? Thorn also benefits from this, since you can arc it through him to give him an extra 3” of movement from reaction drive.

Also, my endorsement of Thorn does really only apply to lists that are playing forward aggressively. For a gunline eHaley army, where most of the models she wants to buff won’t be moving out of range from her personally, any arc node at all is way less necessary.)

Secondly, you need to decide whether or not to take a stormwall. There’s an argument to be made either way here as well, but I am probably one of the few Cygnar players that doesn’t rate one with eHaley.

…hey, wait a sec! Don’t just close the page and walk away in disgust, let me explain!

For any Cygnar army that prioritising shooting first and engaging in melee later, the Stormwall is an amazing piece. It’s expensive, but it combines so much capability that the expense is more than justified. You have the utility of a cyclone, the ranged power of two defenders, and the hitting power of a stormclad, all in one model that costs half as much as those four things combined.

But, it can’t do all of those things at once. Without virtuoso, gun platform or some other rule, Stormwall must choose between attacking in melee and firing at range. And, as you’ve probably deduced by now, the playstyle I’m advocating for Haley is one that focuses primarily on melee.

This means that for our purposes, a Stormwall doesn’t actually combine the full range of capabilities I’ve outlined above. If you’re playing an aggressive melee list, you aren’t going to be shooting with it regularly, you’re going to be driving it forward into melee. So rather than being thirty-something points of variable capability in a nineteen-point package, it’s just a model with the same hitting power as a stormclad (well, very close to; -1 MAT, +1 POW, and a more powerful second initial attack), on a huge unwieldy base, with some extra damage boxes, that can’t benefit effectively from telekinesis or espionage, for almost twice the cost. For a melee-centric list, even one with a firm element of combined arms, it’s not quite worth the upgrade.

Ok, so, what do you take instead? Well, that depends. You do definitely want a bonded melee heavy. A stormclad has been the tried and tested choice for most of Mk2, and I pretty firmly advocate it. You could take a centurion instead, but in my experience the drop in accuracy and hitting power doesn’t quite make up for the increased survivability. However, your mileage may vary.

After this, things get pretty freeform, and you need to start making decisions about how balanced you want your list to be in terms of ranged/melee balance, emphasis on support, and robustness (i.e. ability to withstand attrition).

Here are a few lists that I’ve used or seen used in the past:

Major Victoria Haley (*5pts)
* Thorn (8pts)
* Stormclad (10pts)
* Squire (2pts)
Black 13th Gun Mage Strike Team (4pts)
Steelhead Halberdiers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Steelhead Heavy Cavalry (Leader and 2 Grunts) (6pts)
Stormblade Infantry (Leader and 5 Grunts) (5pts)
* Stormblade Infantry Officer & Standard (3pts)
* 1 Stormblade Infantry Storm Gunner (1pts)
Anastasia di Bray (2pts)
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution (3pts)
Journeyman Warcaster (3pts)
Rhupert Carvolo, Piper of Ord (2pts)

This was one of the first lists I used when trying out a melee eHaley force, and it still holds up pretty well. It has two strong infantry selections backed up by some of the better cavalry in the game, high threat ranges, and ability to use Deadeye to good effect.

In addition to the direct synergies with eHaley that I’ve outlined already, the aggressive playstyle of this list has a strong advantage in scenario play. Because it tends to go first, advance quickly and engage the enemy at short range, it moves the area of engagement (or ‘line of scrimmage’) through scenario zones and toward the enemy deployment zone. This makes it hard for the enemy to advance to contest scenario zones, since they would need to advance through or over your melee range to do so.

It has a few issues that have made me move away from it, though. Firstly, I have a hard time loving Stormblades. Even with eHaley backing them up with Deadeye, Temporal Shift and Deceleration, they’re still unwieldy to use and DEF12/ARM15 base

 (Tactica sideboard: …DEF12/ARM15 is bad.)

 Additionally, over the course of several games, I came to the conclusion that my list lacked what I now describe as ‘robustness’. It couldn’t handle attrition well; if my opponent managed to live through my assault and deal me a hammer-blow in return, I was going to lose something like the Stormclad and suddenly Haley would be left relying purely on her infantry to go toe-to-toe with high-ARM enemy heavies.

So, I made the decision to try to work a second heavy into my list. After some playtesting, this is what I ended up with:

Major Victoria Haley (*5pts)
* Thorn (8pts)
* Ol’ Rowdy (9pts)
* Stormclad (10pts)
* Squire (2pts)
Black 13th Gun Mage Strike Team (4pts)
Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters (Cylena and 9 Grunts) (10pts)
* Captain Jonas Murdoch (2pts)
Anastasia di Bray (2pts)
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution (3pts)
Gorman di Wulfe, Rogue Alchemist (2pts)
Journeyman Warcaster (3pts)

(Swap out Murdoch for Dougal MacNaile at your discretion; they’re almost identical in terms of value.)

This list is the most heavily skewed toward combined-arms (as compared to pure melee) that I’ve played eHaley with in a tourney environment, but it performs well and is presently my favourite list with her if I don’t have to worry much about character restrictions. The Nyss operate in a skirmish/close fire support role with their claymores as backup, and are among Cygnar’s best recipients available for both Deadeye and Espionage. The Black 13th do their usual thing, with Ryan in particular enjoying the opportunity to reliably drop a mage storm two or even three times in one game.

As noted, this iteration of the list also includes a second melee heavy. This is extremely important in any circumstance where the opposition can force you to endure some attrition either before you close (e.g. a A-level ranged list, such as one led by eLylyth) or survive through multiple turns of engagement and still have hitting power afterward (e.g. the strongest troll bricks lists, skorne lists packing serious numbers of warbeasts, or even opponents with momentum feats comparable to eHaley’s, like eDeneghra). By having a second heavy, even if the Stormclad dies, you still have a target to dump FOC into and load up with Temporal Acceleration, Telekinesis, etc.

Rowdy is my warjack of choice for the role of secondary heavy because with free runs and charges, he doesn’t need to make any impost on Haley’s FOC until it’s time for him to kick ass. Counter-charge is also easy to engineer in a risk-free manner in conjunction with Temporal Shift, and if you can line him up, MAT8 and a reliable knockdown ability make him one of our strongest melee assassins.

If you don’t want to use Rowdy, though, a Centurion makes a perfectly acceptable second warjack. You could also try something like an Avenger, or if you’ve stuck with them and not cut stormblades from your list, you could even add a second Stormclad.

Whatever you go with, the main thing is that you have the redundancy to weather some attrition if needed; the points spent this way mean you won’t win most of your games by quite as large a margin as you otherwise might have, but it does mean you’ll win games that you otherwise would have lost. That’s a big deal in a tourney environment.

Finally, the above iteration of the list gets Gorman into it. Gorman is kind of good everywhere, but holy freaking balls is he amazing when combined with Temporal Shift and Espionage. If you line up all three of those effects you put yourself in situations where you’re time walking your opponent and accelerating yourself so thoroughly that you might as well be taking four consecutive turns. It’s not even close to fair.

However, character restrictions are a thing, and Cygnar has to deal with them more so than pretty much anyone (other than mercs). Sometimes you won’t be able to fit in all the characters I’ve put in the list above. To accommodate that, this is the iteration I fielded at the last tourney I attended:

Major Victoria Haley (*5pts)
* Thorn (8pts)
* Ol’ Rowdy (9pts)
* Stormclad (10pts)
* Squire (2pts)
Steelhead Halberdiers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Steelhead Halberdiers (Leader and 5 Grunts) (4pts)
Steelhead Heavy Cavalry (Leader and 2 Grunts) (6pts)
Anastasia di Bray (2pts)
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution (3pts)
Journeyman Warcaster (3pts)
Rhupert Carvolo, Piper of Ord (2pts)

No Black 13th, no Nyss. Both were needed elsewhere, and so out they went. Rowdy could also be cut from this list, in favour of a Centurion. The Steelheads still function as efficiently as they did in the first iteration of the list, though, and having the extra 6-man squad let me cover a lot of ground on the flanks.

If I was to run this list differently, the biggest change I’d consider making is to drop Thorn down to a Lancer and add Gorman back in. I rated Rhupert as more important for this list, since the Halberdiers don’t have the option of avoiding melee, and are crap at passing CMD checks, but he’s still strong enough to warrant bringing into the list if there’s any way to do so.

 

Alternate List Options

Although the lists I’ve mentioned above are my favourites, there are a number of options not mentioned above that are well worth trying. Some of these include:

  • ALL the steelheads: massive steelhead spam (30 halberdiers, 5 cavalry, supporting models, plus other infantry) at the cost of running no heavies at all is a very viable way of running an aggressive melee list. You lose out on the strength of the Stormclad bullet, but allow Haley to start really flexing her arcane muscle with spells like Time Bomb. If you run with a list like this, particularly in a colossal-heavy meta, make sure to go with some extra solid force-multiplication models, like Aiyanna and Holt.
  • Thunderhead: Haley has some synergy with the Thunderhead; telekinesis gives it the freedom to pulse whenever it wants to, and temporal acceleration and deadeye line it up for a ranged assassination that most ‘casters need to fear. The biggest downside is that the Thunderhead takes up the points normally reserved for your second warjack (and then some), but can’t wreck an enemy heavy in melee with those somewhat dinky P+S16 fists.
  • Boomhowler & Co: always a valuable option, Boomhowler & Co are grateful recipients of Deadeye and Deceleration, and pretty much the pre-eminent tarpit unit in the game. If you want an even stronger scenario play than usual, these guys plus gun mages will give you that. A word of warning; MAT6 PS12 means they can’t carry themselves through a melee game the same way some other infantry can.
  • Gorten Grundback: ok, so we don’t play two-caster games particularly often, but Gorten is a ‘caster to consider alongside eHaley when you do. If there’s a stronger way to set up espionage, dominate a scenario and generally mess with your opponent than stacking temporal shift, telekinesis and landslide, I don’t know what it is. Also, arcane shield on Gorten is hilarious.

 

Models to avoid

There are also some models that bear mentioning as not being quite as good with eHaley as they first look. They shouldn’t necessarily be gainsaid automatically, but think carefully before including these models in an aggressive melee force:

  • Ragman: Ragman looks good on paper as a reliable buff for any large-based reach melee model. But in practice, he simply can’t keep up with a bonded heavy being accelerated to full speed. Even if you pull resources from it to try to speed up Ragman, he has trouble moving at the pace you need.
  • Alexia: as good as Alexia and the Risen are, they lack any meaningful synergy with Haley. Deceleration doesn’t buff the Risen enough to keep them resistant to normal ranged attacks, and Alexia herself can’t simultaneously advance at the speed Haley wants, and churn out Thrall Warriors in the way she wants. Plus, Alexia really kicks into high gear when she has a warcaster backing her that can let the risen do work, and Haley’s MAT buffs can’t cover enough ground for that. Unless you’re running a full infantry spam list, avoid Alexia.
  • Stormguard: they’re not as good as steelhead halberdiers, and Haley doesn’t have any faction-only buffs that would make the Stormguard an attractive alternative. That’s the long and the short of it.
  • Precursor Knights & Forge Guard: both of these models are good, hard-hitting infantry units. They’re also slow. For the same reason as with Ragman and Alexia, think carefully before adding these guys to your force, lest you hit the enemy piecemeal rather than in a concerted assault. Again, exceptions apply, particularly if you’re running a full infantry force with minimal warjack presence.
  • ALL the support models: it can be very tempting for any Cygnar list to load up 15+ points of support, but it’s important to suppress that urge. Remember what I said about robustness in a list? Haley already has a lot of points sunk into her arc node, a few key pieces, and (in a sense) her own inability to do work outside the force-multiplying effects of her spells and feat. In a 50pt list, if you stack more than about ten points of non-combat models on top of that (and even ten is a quite a lot), you leave yourself vulnerable to attrition. Take some proper meat in your list instead; it’s good for you.

 

Conclusion

…holy crap, this thing is six thousand words. How did you get through all that?

For those that made it this far, I hope this article has been of some use or at least interest to you. Haley is a ball-busting warcaster and a hell of a lot of fun to play once you get the hang of her.

If you’ve got any questions about tactics, matchups, or anything else that I haven’t covered in this long-ass article, put them in the comments below. I’m happy to answer as best I can.

Cheers,

– R.

P.S. Thanks to the Canberra crew, particularly Jason Wagoner, for the feedback and editing help that went into writing this article – and for putting up with the frustration of playing against me, when I go on multiple game eHaley playing streaks.

Author: RobertShepherd

A dapper Australian warmachine player, RobertShepherd spends most of his time swanning around with Cygnar and musing on Mercenaries. He likes long walks on the beach, writing tactics and strategy articles, and hates the Searforge mercenary contract.

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