Talking Tactics – Why Storm Lances Are Awesome

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What’s up folks, it’s Trevy the Great back once again from the lawless wilds of Way of the Swan!  I’ve been pretty busy lately dojo’ing terrible lists and second-guessing my ability to play Warmachine, so it’s been a while since I posted anything really crunchy and I’ve been ruthlessly peer-pressured by my gaming group into writing about Storm Lances and why they are totally rad.  So here we go!

The U.S. meta has been utterly confounded by the prevalence of Cygnaran heavy cavalry in many European Cygnar rosters.  I’ve been using Storm Lances very consistently for the past six months or so (Boost for a Cure was I think the only 2-list tourney that did not feature them in at least one of my lists… and I paid for it) so I’m going to go into why and how I use them personally.

 

So, what do these much-maligned Stormponies bring to the table for our beloved Swans?  A bunch of stuff.

First of all, they are extremely flexible.  Because of their high-MAT melee attacks combined with the insane number of damage rolls an Assaulting Storm Lance can generate, they can both sweep infantry reliably and help crack armor.  While, like many combined arms units they aren’t awesome at either role, Cygnar has enough access to single-purpose infantry that this unit can be used to shore up any potential poor matchups.  As a quick and dirty example; a list could include Forge Guard and a heavy for anti-ARM work, Gun Mages and Rangers to shoot infantry, and the Storm Lances can be added to strengthen the list against a skew in either direction.

Secondly, Storm Lances are FAST.  Let’s face it, most survivable Cygnar melee infantry feel like they’re on the receiving end of a Temporal Barrier most of the time and in scenarios where contesting zones on the opposing side of the board is crucial, SPD 4 and 5 just isn’t going to cut it.

Thirdly, Storm Lances aren’t single wound infantry.  While this isn’t a great benefit because of their high cost, it means several things for their offensive power; they aren’t worried about the prevalence of area denial effects such as Covering Fire, Creeping Barrage or Breath of Corruption and they can often survive low to mid POW free strikes (with Arc Shield a POW 14 free strike doesn’t kill them on average dice) in order to keep putting on the pressure.

Lastly, they’re Faction models.  Cygnar’s reliance on Mercs is generally enough to see us through, but several of our ‘casters require Faction models to realize their full potential; the Strykers and Blaize come to mind immediately, but Haley1, Sloan and Nemo1 do to a lesser extent as well.

 

Seems pretty good, right?  Unfortunately nothing is perfect, however, so I’d be remiss if I get some of their weaknesses out of the way early.  Obviously, Storm Lances are extremely expensive (2.33-2.2 points/model) and as such require a lot of finesse to get the full use out of the unit. Similar to other heavy Cygnar units, they require a lot of support; Arc Shield is almost a requirement in most matchups, at least for the early game, and some way to gain Pathfinder goes a long way to increasing the flexibility of their positioning.  Unfortunately they lack the inbuilt defensive mechanics sported by other heavy cav such as Uhlans or Vengers and even Arc Shields don’t save the poor ‘Lances from a concerted effort to remove them.  High POW or Weapon Master infantry will make short work of these guys and ‘jacks or ‘beasts generally don’t have to break a sweat to kill them.

 

So, with their fragility and dependence on support, how does one get use out of these brave knights of Cygnar?  I’ll start off as saying that, like a lot of this game, it takes some practice; you can’t just run these guys out in front of your army and plan to make a totally badass cavalry charge that utterly devastates your opponent’s troops.  While that is totally rad when it happens, canny opponents don’t generally let it end up in your favor, so use the Storm Lances tricksy abilities to make favorable trades and support the other elements in your army.

How do you do that?

 

First of all, there are some cardinal rules that I’ve determined must be followed when Storm Lances:

  • The first commandment: Thou shalt work as a team.  You only get 5 Storm Lances, and their worth increases exponentially when they work in tandem.  I’ve tried spreading them throughout my lines to clear off jammers and I’ve tried to split the unit up to deal with multiple enemies, and it never works as well as using the unit together as a cohesive whole.
  • The second commandment: Thou shalt use the Ride By Attack.  Let’s face it, telling your opponent that you’re ordering a unit to Assault sounds awesome and feels super badass (especially when you have a French Horn handy or simply play Ride of the Valkyries while moving your ponies) and sometimes generates enough damage rolls to break the back of an enemy unit or deal serious damage to a heavy, but Ride By Attack is where the moneymaker with these guys is.  The ability to clear jamming infantry off each other (or other units), shoot their awesome guns and generate clutch e-leaps before galloping away to safety lets these expensive models do work and survive until they can make that awe-inspiring cavalry charge.  Get good at judging 8″ and remember that you can use RBA to attack your own Storm Lances to generate sweet e-leaps into high-DEF enemies.
  • The third commandment: Thou shalt not mourn overly over dead Storm Lances.  A lot of times the need of the many overcomes the need of one or two Storm Lances and they oftenact as the ‘currency’ in infantry trades, and do so much more effectively than slower, small-based infantry models. I’ll go into details about the positioning of the unit later on in this article, but generally you should expect to get three Storm Lances into the enemy on a key turn; most of the time that’s enough.
  • The fourth commandment: Thou shalt combo like a boss.  Storm Lances are an interesting unit in that they can perform well in all phases of the game; shooting and jamming early on, RBA’ing later and Assaulting to close a game out towards the end.  Because of this, and their flexibility as a unit, they take almost every single buff that our Faction has to offer with great alacrity.  I’ll talk about some of the more awesome combos later, but there almost no buffs that our Faction offers that these guys aren’t awesome with.

 

Alrighty, so now that we have all that boring stuff out of the way, let’s get into the nitty gritty of these guys and talk about getting the most out of these models.

I find that most of the time, my Storm Lances are going to be facing off against enemy infantry; whether that’s because my opponent tries hard to jam them or because there simply aren’t that many heavy models on the board.  Regardless, that’s okay, because Storm Lances are much better at taking out infantry models than they are heavies.  Obviously, this due to their e-leaps and multiple attacks, so positioning for the maximum potential number of e-leaps is important for these guys

Generally, you’re going to get one round of Ride By Attacking with your Storm Lances before battle is truly joined; with Deadeye available (or Rangers, in a pinch), these guys should be able to clean up several infantry models with Ride Bys before retreating to safety; without these resources, however, their guns aren’t going to hit very reliably and hits with them are just a bonus.  Once skirmishing is over, the Storm Lances can get down and dirty against infantry and really start racking up kills.

I’ve found that the most effective formation for Storm Lances is to put two of them in the front with three hiding back around the edge of the leader’s CMD bubble. The reason for this is simple; it’s a two-turn plan to neutralize and slow down infantry.  In a vacuum;the Storm Lances will get the alpha strike against whatever enemy infantry unit they are faced off against.  The two ‘Lances in the front get the charge, Assaulting in and dealing a not-insignificant amount of damage (two assault shots+2 melee attacks generating a maximum of 4 e-leaps has the potential to kill 8 models, in reality it will be more like 4-6 when dice and Impacts are considered).  Unfortunately, unless your opponent is a total scrub these two sacrificial ‘Lances will now die.  Fortunately, that works out for you because not only have you killed several enemy models, you’ve jammed the opposing unit for a turn and probably clustered them together so that the remaining three Storm Lances can Assault in, generating another round of e-leaps and probably wiping out (or at least crippling) the remainder of the unit.  Obviously, this scenario represents a vacuum in which no other interactions are taking place, but is generally the situation that I’m looking to achieve with Storm Lances; allow this diagram to demonstrate:

 

It kind of looks like a smiley face when you're done...

 

This brings me to my first point about this unit; they bringan awesome jam to the Cygnaran arsenal. They fulfill this roll for several reasons; A. they’re on Large bases and have Reach, meaning that one or two Storm Lances generally covers enough ground to slow down an entire unit of models (one Storm Lance covers roughly 6″ of real estate, two can threaten free-strikes over a 13″ area against small based models). Combined with this large coverage, not many jam units threaten far enough to be able to kill models on the way in, and Storm Lances do so with P+S15 Voltaic Lances and e-leaps. Finally, after all that, they sport an impressive ARM 20 and 5 damage boxes, requiring opponents to either remove Arc Shield or commit hard-hitting models to clearing them off.  POW10s and 11s simply won’t cut it. Not to mention the fact that a jam consisting of two Storm Lances leaves 3 hanging back for the counter-attack.

 

That’s how Storm Lances are going to act in the vast majority of games, but fortunately their speed and variety of weapons and abilities gives them an incredible amount of flexibility that lets them adapt to almost any situation.  With Deadeye, they can play less aggressively and use RBA’s to clear infantry with their guns. Alternatively, with the proper buffs they can jam into heavier target sand use those three or four Storm Lances hanging back to finish off a ‘beast or ‘jack.  While generally they’ll require one or two damage buffs to deal serious damage, but they can certainly finish off heavies that have been damaged by shooting.  Remember, 5 or 6 boosted POW 15 hits generally finishes a medium ARM heavy (ARM 18 or 19 with 30ish boxes); so a round or two of shooting from a Stormwall or Defenders and a charge from Storm Lances can put it down.  Alternatively, they are fast enough that they can loop around a flank to hit units on the sides or dig into unprotected support; their enormous speed should not be underestimated.

 

As I said before, Storm Lances take to many of our buffs like little, lightning powered death fishes take to water.  The obvious one is Arc Shield, which should be on your Storm Lances from Turn 1 if your opponent is sporting any sort of meaningful shooting at all. Unfortunately, that means that you’ll probably need to take a Journeymanin every list you make with Storm Lances in it… fortunately you’re probably doing that anyway so it isn’t much of a sacrifice.  Knowing when to swap it off them important as well, because while it keeps them relatively safe from shooting, it doesn’t help once Weapon Masters or Warjacks get involved.

Some other sweet model specific synergies are:

Archduke Alain Runewood; Overcome and Reveille are big deals for these guys; Pathfinder lets them take cover behind terrain without fear of getting trapped behind it and standing up from being Knocked Down is a big deal so that the offensive output of the unit isn’t reduced unduly by KD effects.  Path to Victory is an interesting option, as it not only gives the Storm Lances Fearless but increases them to impressive MAT 11 TROOPS!  Yeah!  On the charge, anyway.  That means thatthey start hitting high DEF targets like Nyss and Kayazy without breaking a sweat, and can act as a decent counter to high-DEF infantry in a list that lacks tools such as Deadeye.

Ragman; while this guy functions the best with Colossals, Storm Lances work on a similar principle and can offer Ragman some additional protection by way of being ARM 20 models to Sac Pawn to.  Because of reach and a limited number of models in a unit, Ragman isn’t too worried about blocking off the ‘Lances charge lanes.  Additionally, the reach and large base size of the Storm Lances gives Ragman an impressive threat range to apply his Death Field; approximately 13″ from his starting position.

Rhupert Carvolo; as a unit, Storm Lances obviously benefit from Rhupert; Pathfinder and Fearless are good as I said before, but increasing the ‘Lances to DEF 13 greatly increases their survivability when jamming, and Terror with Reach and a large base is nice on the side.

Rangers; if your intention is to utilize the Storm Lances RBA’s to skirmish with infantry, Rangers are almost required if Deadeye isn’t available.  Making Storm Lances RAT 7 greatly increases their offensive output, and Rangers kill a bunch of stuff on their own.  I’ve found that ‘Lances and a Ranger unit or two is often more than enough infantry clearing for a balanced list.

 

Given Storm Lances’ afore mentioned flexibility, their role changes pretty drastically as they’re played with different ‘casters.  Some of the more impressive synergies are:

  • Haley2… obviously. They’re Reach troops with guns, meaning that they’re not only good at engaging under her Feat, but they can clear infantry with the best of them.  They go up to stupid defensive stats under Deceleration and her Feat often buys them a second turn of Assaulting, which can be devastating. As Cygnar’s premium turd polisher, is anyone really surprised that she’s good with these guys?  I played a very fast melee-centric Haley army (with two Stormclads) for a long time, and Storm Lances were the centerpiece of that list.  One of their greatest strengths withher is their similar threat range to her melee ‘jacks, meaning that they can charge in at the same time and her Feat protects both the ‘Lances and Stormclad.  It was pretty solid and generally they killed enough stuff that they could Assault in again, which severely crippled most armies. Alternatively, their jam can often allow her to move into a position for a more devastating Feat in later turns to protect her Stormclads, which can alpha most of the stuff that can kill the Storm Lances off the board in the first or second wave of attacks.
  • Haley1; again, pretty obvious.  Temporal Barrier dropping stuff’s defense makes ‘Lances guns even better (and they don’t even need Deadeye) and with Runewood they can hit the dizzying heights of effective MAT 13. Even Iron Flesh’d Kayazy get tagged on 6s’.  Haley1 is also a bit of a turd polisher, so again; surprised?
  • Stryker2 is my favorite ‘caster to play Storm Lances with, which is awesome because I have the excuse that “it’s super fluffy!”  Runewood upping the ‘Lances MAT can give Stryker the answer to some high DEF targets that some of his builds have trouble with, and their speed makes them a great first punch to allow his slower melee infantry to get into the fight.  I’ve played lists that make use of their offensive capabilities by putting a Lancer and Ragman to tag along with them, making them effective P+S 19 on the charge with a P+S 17 follow-up under Rolling Thunder.  That gives them the ability to take heavies off the board with ease, but is a little tricky to pull off.  Rebuke helps protect the ‘Lances from hard-hitting melee infantry once they get stuck in, Deflection protects them even more from shooting on the way in and the Feat lets them use their Reach and e-leaps to great effect when clearing infantry.  I seriously wish they were FA:2 when making lists for this ‘caster, but losing Junior and Runewood makes me scared of his Theme Force.
  • Stryker1: There is plenty of synergy behind making your sniper-immune jam ARM 25.  That; and Earthquake allowing their Assault shots to hit without a problem.  I love ‘Lances with him just for their survivability but their ability to randomly Assault squishy ‘casters off the board is good to.
  • Caine1: I’ve said it plenty of times before, but Snipe+Deadeye is the turd-polishing holy grail of ranged infantry.  With the ability to reliably threat with POW 12s and e-leaps from 16″ away (w/ RBA’s), Storm Lances go from a primarily melee unit to a ranged powerhouse.  Of course, they keep the melee punch to back it up, which Caine really needs.  Storm Lances are another super win with this guy.

 

These are the ‘casters with whom I’ve had the most experience playing Storm Lances, but there are other synergies out there.  Blaize seems great on paper (Crusader’s Call for an extended threat range, Transference for when they get stuck in and MAYBE some ARM from her Feat) but I haven’t played her much out of Tier so I don’t really know.  Sloan is also worth a mention because she has Deadeye and her Feat lets them hit almost anything with ranged attacks, even at RAT 5.  One of the greatest strengths of Storm Lances, however, is that they can fit into just about any well-rounded list and work very well; they are a multi-purpose unit that can shore up the weaknesses of almost any list under any ‘caster, and their synergies with specific ‘casters come into play less often than their strength as a self-contained module.  When played with finesse and an eye towards the long game, this unit can become a real powerhouse that acts a typically of standard Cygnar units.

Author: Trevy the Great

Mediocre Cygnar player, Press Ganger of convenience and annoying dude who writes a terrible blog about some random dudes wearing blue called Way of the Swan (www.wayoftheswan.com, check it out or whatever). Also one of the hosts of the smash 80s metal band and part time podcast; the Storm Chamber.

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