For starters, let’s just look at her statline and abilities. Defensively, she’s not the worst, not the best, but somewhere in the middle. Def 15 puts her just ahead of the average units’ reach unbuffed, and Arm 16 is not quite enough to make her immune to small arms or continuous fire. Focus 8 will help, so she does have a considerable camp– however, this will be elaborated on later. At 18 boxes, she’s actually quite capable of taking a pot shot or two but I wouldn’t recommend making that a habit. It also lessens the likelihood of her demise due to long shot or desperation assassinations. The medium base can kind of count as a negative, but you can mitigate it via army list composition, so I won’t really get into that. One thing of important note, however, is her construct ruling along with repairable. She’s always going to pass command checks, never flees, and does not count as a living model (except for the fact that she gives up souls due to the Clockwork Vessel rule). With easy access to repair as well, she’ll be capable of receiving heals without expending focus and that is a significant strike in her favor. Being Spd 6 is also pleasant, in that she does have some ability to create a distance or close one as needed.
Then we come into the two abilities that arguably add the most to her power: Field Marshal [Arc Node] and Activate Exponent Servitor. The first and foremost thing I should mention is what I have said already a few times, that the servitors are not tightly leashed. Command 10 gives them considerable range for dotting targets, especially with Fire Group.
To elaborate further, they do count as being part of the battlegroup and effectively part of her, meaning that they do benefit from Field Marshal [Arc Node]. And to make it better, they aren’t just any arc nodes, they are arc nodes that you can make more of if they die, are Spd 6, and have both Pathfinder and Immune to Knockdown. They also don’t count as a living model, automatically pass command checks, and never flee.
You can also advance them outside of formation. This use is specifically to act as an arc node, provided you are willing to sacrifice them or their next activation as they will attempt to advance into formation after. It will totally suck being outside of formation, but it adds new threat vectors for arc nodes, and potential to muck up lanes.
*This leads to a post by Valander over in the rules forum:
“Casting spells is an at any time ability for warlocks, so it can be done between non-interruptible things, such as move one model and finish movement, cast, move all other models in unit, cast, attack with one and resolve damage, cast, etc. Likewise for using a feat, or really any other “at any time” ability. The main other caveat is that if a model ran or failed a charge, that model has ended its activation so cannot do anything further.”
Which brings up another point, Channelling and Charges. You can choose to cast a spell before a charge attack, but after the charge movement. Therefore, you can issue the order, have the Exponent Servitors run 9″, then Iron Mother activates, and can channel through them, meaning her effective channelling range with them is her full control area using the Exponent Servitors.
Keep in mind that Tactical Supremacy, since it activates at the end of your turn, effectively allows her to pull the servitors back into formation for the next turn, use the servitors to block charge lanes, and even escort herself out of a dangerous position. She can use it like a mini-Fatewalker in practice.
You can then get into the whole sacrifice shenanigans point. At times it will be wise to allow them to be killed, or even kill them yourself in order to place a new one into play closer to Iron Mother on your next control phase, which drastically changes how their position on the field is with a high degree of speed. Think of it as adaptively respawning.
This is all, of course, glancing over the fact that the Exponent Servitors possess a Rng 10 Harm. For free, every turn, respawning if they die. That being said, they are limited in that they are Rat 5. Speaking of weapons, we got the Iron Mother’s Aperture Blast as well. Between her and the Servitors, you’re packing two Harms and a Rng 11, Rof 1, Aoe 4, Pow 15. Pretty solid, and definitely capable of a ranged assassination all things considered, but more likely used for applying pressure or removing pieces as needed.
Which brings us to the next part: Spells. Iron Mother was given a kind of rag tag assortment of spells with a slightly Warmachine centric slant. Backlash and Domination represent two corner case spells, the former allowing you to ping someone’s caster, the latter allowing you to temporarily take control of an opposing warjack. Backlash is kinda interesting if you don’t rely on it but get to utilize it. By that, I mean its not scary for a caster kill, but does kinda force the hand in that a caster is gonna have to camp, or heal, unless they want to risk getting wiped by her spell slinging or taking some pot shots. Like I said, corner case. Cool when you can utilize them, but ultimately I don’t place them on high priority of her plan. As far as I am concerned, the actual spell list that you will use largely consists of her last three spells. Tactical Supremacy allows for an early game push towards objectives or control points. Later on, optionally, you can switch it onto Iron Mother to allow her to play more forward or aggressively, using it as previously mentioned like a mini-Fatewalker or lane blocker. Alternatively, if you really need to, switch it onto another unit for engagement/last minute pushes. Due to Iron Mother’s long range offence being relatively significant, tossing Tactical Supremacy on her for a little late game battle dance isn’t actually a bad decision. There are a lot of valid targets within this faction for Tactical Supremacy, including the Battle Engine. Shrapnel Swarm is another key point in her gameplay. Range isn’t the greatest in the world, but for a 4″ Puncture (which allows her to bypass Blast Immunity), if you hit, it is more than fine. The Pow 13 base also allows for some spell assassination potential if you need it, but largely your targets will be low to medium def single wound infantry. High def if you absolutely need to, but with access to Flare and things like the Cipher, your need should be diminished a bit. The final spell, Fire Group, represents a huge tool for her. Most Convergence weapons seem to range below average (7″) to slightly above (13″). In this case, it allows her to push the reach of her battlegroup to average and beyond. The change this presents is a lot bigger on the table than in theory. An 11″ shot of Aoe of -2 Def is significantly different than a 13″ rng before you even consider the 4″ template. At Rng 13″, the Diffuser can tag things whilst remaining much safer. Rng 12 Harms now allow you the opportunity to aim at times. This continues to augment an aggressive playstyle within her capabilities.
Speaking of the gun, it does help if you alter your view on the gun, and think of it more as a free Obliteration every turn with slightly longer range, because really, that’s what it is. Then you Tactical Supremacy another 3″ away for that 16″ spacing. Alternatively, between the gun and Shrapnel Swarm, she does have a legitimate ranged assassination threat as well, especially against a Warnoun that has been plinked a few times here and there throughout the game.
Moving on, we finally reach Iron Mother’s feat. I guess I can start off with quoting it straight: “Directrix’s MAT and RAT are equal to her FOCUS for one turn.” So before we even continue to talk about the application, it is important to note that this does NOT affect the Exponent Servitors. Now, moving on, her feat has 2 sides. First and foremost is defensive application. The feat stands alone as the only way to mitigate the effects of Disruption and Technological Interference. It eases the loss of Focus via p/eEiryss (assuming you survive that turn) and the loss of Corollary. It mitigates the loss of movement for Aiming bonus. Finally, it also mitigates any MAT or RAT debuff that your caster may encounter (such as pDeneghra’s feat although that usually means you’re done regardless). That being said, it’s not going to allow you to jump back and win the game. However, there is an offensive use for this.
In regards to offensive application, I’ve got a bit less to write. Iron Mother’s feat is effectively just a flat out +3 MAT/RAT buff. Pretty straightforward. The feat does scale up in its effect for multiple attacks in a row, so it does benefit from high focus allocation turns.
Another quick thing I should cover is expected threat ranges. Its actually kind of important to her gameplay to note these, in that they should be available at any given time:
No Fire Group, No movement
Rng 11″ Aperture Blast
Rng 8″-18″ Shrapnel Swarm
Rng 10″ Imperil
Fire Group, No movement
Rng 13″ Aperture Blast
Rng 12″ Imperil
No Fire Group, Movement
Rng 17″ Aperture Blast
Rng 14″-24″ Shrapnel Swarm
Rng 16″ Imperil
Fire Group, movement
Rng 19″ Aperture Blast
Rng 18″ Imperil
The bare minimum range she will generally have for Arcing Shrapnel Swarm will be 15″. If, for some reason, said Exponent Servitors cannot move, she still has a minimum 9″ Rng with it, but you can easily get them out of formation to have her Point of Origin pretty much anywhere within her control area at any time. This is including Corollary’s control area increase. Imperils should be touching anywhere from 10″ to 22″. This is before you even look at her battlegroup, and it’s pretty obvious that if she wants to touch something, she will, especially with Flare Servitors etc.
Before I continue, despite having Field Marshal [Arc Node], sometimes it is wise to take an Algorithmic Dispersion Optifex. It allows you to keep your jack a little further back, and at 1 pt., its not too bad of an investment for a turn of arguably safer positioning.
Now finally, I can sum up a number of things I left open, such as why I mention said ranges or defensive uses of her feat, and so forth. She’s pretty toolboxy; with the inclusion of the rest of the faction, she has answers to high arm/def single wound infantry, multiwound infantry and heavy jacks or beasts all quite readily available. What really gets me, however, is her ability to exert pressure. She’s very much like Ossyan (i.e., she makes use of aggressive attrition). Depending on how you take it, she can hang back and support her stuff, or she can get up there and start actively contributing surprisingly safely. Her toolkit allows her to set a tempo, and if she gets that opportunity, she can dictate the flow of the battle. Her feat really does capture that, in my opinion. You can play aggressively and utilize the feat to boost the effectiveness of your army on the turn of the clash, or pop it the turn after the clash to erase any hopes of a bounceback victory. Alternately, you can use it defensively as a sort of reduction of penalty. Her tools will allow her to keep the pressure constant, and provide threats from a variety of angles in order to really close in upon your opponent. These threat ranges are also long enough that you can provide an implied threat that can keep a number of casters at arm’s length, giving her a certain safety which only exasperates the opponent’s situation.
Well, there you have it, my take on Iron Mother Directrix. Might not be the be all end all handbook, but perhaps it can get a few minds thinking and give some insight to the possibilities she presents. I feel like there is even more to her than what is touched upon here. She’s a caster whose potential will probably take time to really fully be explored.
*I’d like to add a thanks to Ruan over at the ppForums for that bit. Being absent-minded as I am, I glance over Warcaster unit rules in this little write up, and forget to mention a ruling from the Infernals.