“As the size of the explosion increases, the number of social situations it is incapable of solving approaches zero.” – Vaarsuvius.
Some of you may remember me doing a couple of these articles a while back, talking about mercenary warcasters (and how they handled in a post-Wrath meta). Time and work pressures kept me from contributing much more than that, but as it happens, I’ve got some spare time today and an itch to talk about one of the Mercenaries’ most unique (and arguably, most powerful) warcasters: Durgen Madhammer.
Unlike my previous articles, I’m not going to direct you to Battle College for this one. This is going to be a full-blown tactica, running through an analysis of Durgen’s stats and abilities, and talking about a specific playstyle I find most effective with Durgen.
So without further ado, I present: Durgen, and why he is awesome.
Durgen’s Stats & Special Rules: All the Least Interesting Stuff Crammed into Four Paragraphs
Stat-wise, Durgen is pretty much average across the board – just about every one of his attributes can be described as ‘good enough’. SPD5, RAT6, DEF14, ARM17, FOC6, nothing outstanding, but no deal-breakers either. It all gets the job done.
In terms of survivability, Durgen does reasonably well. DEF14 ARM17 isn’t stellar, and on any other midfield ‘caster I’d be very wary of trusting in it, but Durgen is on a small base and his spell list and weaponry means that he virtually never needs to be in line of sight to the enemy to be operating at full effectiveness – so even if he’s playing aggressively, he doesn’t have to come out from behind his ambulatory bullet sponges.
Blast Armour is a nifty ability that you can wrangle some mileage out of every now and then. Sometimes you really, really need that extra 1 FOC and it’s worth having Dougal throw a grenade at a model in B2B with Durgen, and sometimes a Basher will be able to durdle around using Flak Field to act like an oversized Squire for the first couple of turns, but unless we get a very cheap way of producing lots of accurate blast damage (hint: Ogrun Assault corps do not count), this ability is going to stay mostly just a fun thematic one that doesn’t see too much actual play.
Finally, Durgen is a Rhulic warcaster, which means he can only take Rhulic warjacks. This is more an advantage than anything else, because Rhulic warjacks are some of the best that mercenaries have access to. Except the Avalancher, who is far less awesome with Durgen than you may have been led to believe. But more on that particular issue later.
Nothing much else to see here, so let’s move along.
The Gun, ‘Buster’; an Explosion of Flavour! (But Also the Regular Kind)
Ok, so I’m not going to beat around the bush here: this is probably the best gun on any warcaster or warlock in the game. It’s better than Brisbane’s rocket launcher, it’s better than Caine’s spellstorm pistols on four turns out of five, it’s usually going to be better than any of Nemo’s various lightning sticks, and it’s probably better than Kara Sloan’s rifle (although that’s up for debate, and really they’re two sides of the same coin; she is to enemy hard targets as Durgen is to enemy everything else).
There’s a caveat here, though: you need to take Reinholdt and Dougal MacNaile. Reload, Artillerist and Double Powder Ration are all pretty much non-optional. I’m not even kidding. After Durgen, they’re the first models in any list with him that you build. This means, don’t play Searforge or his theme force. No. No! Don’t. Bad mercenary player.
*brandishes rolled-up newspaper*
With the solos in support, though, Buster brings a maelstrom of explosions to the table. And it has three fire modes.
Carpet Bomb: this should be your first choice of attack with Durgen more often than not. Thanks to Dougal, you’re shooting at effective RAT8, and with deviation re-rolls, the amount of ground you can cover with this gun is unparalleled. Three 4” AOEs blow big holes in enemy infantry formations, and the POW 14 on the direct hit means you can put be putting damage on enemy heavies if you want at the same time.
Artillerist is really where the magic happens here. Being able to more reliably put those templates where they’re going to do damage is what turns Durgen’s gun all the way on. It lets you maximise coverage, reliably target otherwise hard-to-reach key models, and helps the gun reach its surprisingly high true effective range. Don’t let that RNG12 fool you; you’ll be scattering big-ass templates well beyond that.
To give you some kind of an idea as to the reach on this attack, it’s hypothetically possible to land shots that hit targets up to 26” from Durgen himself (so, a 31” threat, or 33” with Double Powder Ration). Now, obviously the odds against this are very long, but it should give you some idea as to precisely what this gun is capable of even on a more normal turn.
Armour Piercing: you really probably shouldn’t be using this most of the time. Not to say that it’s bad (hell, on any other ‘caster it would probably be amazing), but you don’t get the Artillerist RAT bonus if you use it, and your opponent needs to be ARM 16 or higher before you start seeing even a small increase in damage over Carpet Bomb.
There will be turns where this is useful, but my general advice would be to look for the armour-piercing shot only when Carpet Bomb would be useless (e.g. against an opposing army immune to blast damage), or when you absolutely positively need a few extra points of damage on an enemy heavy.
Normal Shot: This bears mentioning just because Reinholdt’s reload means you’re going to be firing it off every turn. Even without the above special attacks, RAT8 RNG12 POW 14 AOE4 has a hell of a kick.
Using Durgen’s gun properly is the first step in learning to use Durgen. Your fire rotation will usually be to Carpet Bomb something in range, take a chunk out of an infantry unit and/or nail a key solo with boosted blast damage, and then lob a secondary shot at wherever the biggest remaining concentration of enemy infantry is. If you can hit a tough enemy target with the direct POW14 and catch infantry in the AOEs, that’s ideal. If not, just put those templates whoever they hurt most. In addition to clearing out big swathes of infantry, look for opportunities to try and walk AOEs over things like the Choir, Paingivers, or support solos like Kovnik Joe.
Also worth noting is that the gun has Arcing Fire. This is a big contributor to Durgen’s survivability, as mentioned above, because it means that he can peaceably sit behind his battlegroup or some other ambulatory LOS-blocker and continue to lob shells without any concern. Occasionally, it will also let you land a direct hit on a target that your opponent thought was safe, but this is more of a secondary benefit given the gun’s existing ability to drift templates wherever the hell you want already.
Bombs Away!: the Feat That Needs No Flavour Text
Bombs Away! The most flavourfully named of feats. But, unfortunately, also both kind of mediocre, and a huge trap for the unwary list-builder. More on this in a bit.
Durgen’s feat boosts the accuracy of AOE attacks and the damage of blast damage from models in his control area. This is really not much to write home about, but hey, it’s free. It has basically two possible uses.
Early-game infantry clearing: if your opponent gives you a good Carpet Bomb turn early in the game, and especially if they have just a bit too much armour to get lots of mileage out of POW7 blast damage (trolls clustering around a Krielstone are a good example of this), you can pop the feat and clear out a whole lot of stuff. Look for this option to get a points advantage early while both armies are still running up the table at each other; Durgen has a long threat range with his gun, and can land this kind of big bang early. If you can take most of an expensive enemy infantry squad and a key solo or so off the table with Carpet Bomb + Reload + Bomb’s Away, you’ve made good use of the feat and set yourself up well for winning the attrition game.
Mid- to late-game assassination: If you can’t get a good early game Bombs Away + Carpet Bomb, or you find you just don’t need it, the feat transitions to a mid- to late-game assassination assist. Usually, this means Durgen himself putting a boosted Carpet Bomb + Reload Shot into the enemy, and then casting Explosivo once or twice to boost the accuracy of anything else that’s participating in the kill run.
This isn’t an eCaine-level assassination, but it is very accurate (RAT8 + 4d6 to hit is no sodding joke) and if you can scatter one of the Carpet Bomb secondary templates so that they still hit the enemy ‘caster (usually, this means scattering 2” or less; you have about a 50% chance of doing this for each additional template with the Artillerist re-roll), which, while only being POW7 on the blast, do get the feat’s additional damage dice and can be further boosted with focus. Basically, it means Durgen can close a game out himself if he has to; remember to look for it if you need it.
So, the feat has a little versatility, but it’s just probably not going to be an impact on the course of the game in the same way that some are. And this, unfortunately, is where the feat becomes a trap. People used to seeing feats like Lylyth2’s just busting up a game will have the urge to build their army list around Durgen’s feat in the same kind of way. I want to be very clear about this: resist this urge. No matter what that charming, enthusiastic stranger on the Mercenary forums told you, going AOE-mad when building Durgen’s army is a terrible idea.
There are a few reasons for this. If you want to get a good idea as to the first one, just spend a few games closely watching the effect AOEs have on squad formations. In addition to forcing opponents to spread out (to limit the effect of the templates), AOE attacks offer serious diminishing returns after a certain point even against relatively clustered targets. Every AOE that lands in the middle of an enemy unit and kills some models leaves that unit more scattered and with less convenient model concentration for you to continue dropping templates on. By the time you’re trying to place your second, third or fourth template over a squad, the difference between an AOE3 attack and just a straight direct fire weapon has probably become negligible; it usually doesn’t take long for further AOEs to become indistinguishable from cheaper or more effective direct fire weapons in terms of target coverage.
In combination with this is the fact that Durgen is basically packing all the AOE you need by himself for just about any list shy of 75pts. Carpet Bomb + Artillerist + Reload covers a huge amount of ground, and if you should ever actually need any more AOEs than that, you can cast Explosivo on whatever the heck you want to get some more templates out there. If after all this your opponents are still regularly leaving you with really good targets for other AOE models, I don’t know what to tell you. Either your dice are terrible, or your meta is seriously weird.
Finally, spamming AOE attacks leaves you dangerously vulnerable to certain hard counters. Durgen is already dependent enough on blast damage that he ends up in some matchups that he struggles with; things like Solid Ground and blast-immune infantry are problems, no two ways about it. They’re certainly not insurmountable, but filling your list up with even more blast damage just makes you all the more vulnerable to these models/units should you encounter them.
Long story short, you’re much better off diversifying your offensive options to be good every turn, with the feat as the cherry on top, than building entirely for the feat turn and ending up with a list that’s has a monoculture’s vulnerability to specific matchups. Things like Ogrun Assault Corps, Horgenhold Artillery Corps and the Avalancher are all weak, overcosted models, and Durgen’s feat doesn’t change that. Please, no matter else you read on the internet, just leave them at home.
That said, if you’re playing a particularly large game (75pts or more) or still really, really want more blast damage despite everything I’ve said – start off with Herne and Jonne. They’re only three points and, apart from competing with Durgen for Artillerist, aren’t a bad addition to a list. And if you’re playing a 100pt game and want even more blast damage, you still don’t take any other Rhulic AOE models because at that point you can tag-team with Magnus, Obliterators and Galleon.
The Spell List: Wherein We Talk About Everything Except Primed
So, five-sixths of Durgen’s spell list is pretty nifty. And one-sixth of Durgen’s spell list is so game-changingly amazing that I’m going to devote an entire section to it. But first, here’s the nifty five-sixths, in approximate order of usefulness.
Powder Keg: You will never cast Powder Keg. Well, ok, maybe one game in every hundred, because it’s the only way to clear out those Greater Destiny Zealots, or something. Or maybe in some bizarre, Wishnailer-augmented list.
Ground Zero: You will pretty much never cast Ground Zero. Hypothetically, you could use it in some sort of strange scenario play, or something. But generally, Durgen should be far enough back, behind enough meat and metal, for it to be a non-spell.
Explosivo: This is where we start hitting pay dirt. First up, Explosivo grants magic weapon (although the way the rules work means that it only grants it on the direct hit). This gives you some anti-eDeneghra tech, and lets you pick off other annoying incorporeal models. On the feat turn, it’s also basically a COST1 Deadeye and the blast damage kicks like a mule, so that’s pretty nifty too. It’s generally a good rule to have at least a couple of useful targets for this spell sprinkled about your list. Remember this spell; you’ll more than likely cast it at least once in most games.
Inhospitable Ground: This spell vacillates between being completely useless, and game-winning. Some armies will just not care about it; most of the game at this point has semi-reliable access to pathfinder, and for some factions it comes standard on just about everything. But when you’re not up against one of those factions, you can virtually ride Inhospitable Ground to victory. Like Menoth, for example. Menoth hates Inhospitable Ground. Unless you’re playing against Amon, you can confidently get the melee jump on every one of their warjacks, every game, even with Rhulic heavies. At the start of every game you should look over your opponent’s list and ask yourself whether or not they get completely screwed by Inhospitable Ground. If the answer is yes, cackle maniacally. If not, at least consider what it costs them to get pathfinder up and running.
Redline: Niiiiiice. This spells is really damn good. +SPD, +STR, free charges/slams/tramples, this is all money. Sure, there’s a downside, where you plink your warjack after it finishes moving, but the damage is pretty much negligible and what this does for Rhulic heavies is amazing. The jump from SPD4 to SPD6 changes everything, and the bonus strength + Thor’s obligatory tune up puts Drillers and Rockrams in a hitting category all of their own.
Any given Durgen list will benefit from having at least one, but preferably multiple, valid targets for this spell. My personal preference is to put this on a Basher initially if I have one in the list (because 10.5” threat range is nice, and four boosted POW 17s still tend to do the job against most enemy heavies) and then swap it out to a Driller once the Basher dies (because 10.5” threat range + grand slam + follow up usually rockets you off into the middle of the enemy army). Drillers make good secondary targets because they’re just straight up good warjacks in their own right, and they’re cheap enough to Redline and throw into the enemy in the confidence that they’re so cheap that you’ll come out ahead on the piece trade one way or another.
Did we get all that? Good. Because now I’m going to talk about Durgen’s sixth spell, Primed, and how it changes everything.
Primed: So God Damn Good It Deserves Its Own Section
Primed is a 2 COST upkeep spell unique to Durgen, that has four distinct effects;
1) Gives the model/unit +2 to melee attack and damage rolls. This is really good! Every melee unit likes this. This is pretty much the most powerful upkeep melee buff available to infantry in the game after Last Stand. It’s marginally better even than Hand of Fate, and that’s saying something.
2) Gives the model/unit -2 ARM. This is bad. But it also doesn’t matter most of the time, unless you do something stupid like Prime rhulic infantry. Most attacks are high-enough POW to one-shot anything you were going to Prime anyway. Watch out for enemy AOEs, and don’t clump your models, but you weren’t going to clump your models anyway because of the whole ‘explode when they die’ thing, right?
3) Makes the model/unit explode if the enemy kills them. This is a 3” AOE, and the blast damage is both magical (because it comes from a spell) and POW 14. For now, let me just say that I probably rate this as the most powerful of the spell’s effects. But, it’s also the trickiest part of the spell to use properly. I’m going to go into loads more detail about this in just a moment.
4) Removes the model from play when they explode. This is a sneaky benefit that catches a lot of opponents off guard, but is seriously amazing in some matchups. It stops everything from Death Toll to Sprint to token-gathering. Circle hates it, Cryx hates it, and anything that those two factions hate is great to have on your side.
So basically this is the best spell. More or less. I mean, sure, Eye of Menoth is probably better, but only for people who value broad, boring consistency rather then exciting explosive mayhem.
Primed, used properly, is a game-changer. Even before you start accounting for the hitting power it bestows on our infantry, the combination of the explosions and the remove from play effect skews whole matchups in our favour. Do you want to know who wins in a fight between fifteen points worth of Bane Thralls + Tartarus, and six points worth of Primed Steelhead Halberdiers? Hint: not the guys with .5” melee range or the replication ability that stops working when your targets are removed from play.
It’s difficult to envisage until you actually play with it, but the effect the explosions have in a melee engagement cannot be understated. It changes the entire dynamic; where previously one unit or another would get the charge in, score some kills, be charged back, etc, now suddenly your opponent will be faced with casualties both from your models attacking him, and the likelihood that he’ll lose models every time he tries to hit back. Even in situations where it’s two units of reach infantry engaging one another at 2” distance (so outside the reach of the 3” AOE), it still prevents an opponent from committing fully against you, while you have no compunction against slamming back into him with full force.
In addition to the obvious “if you activate that unit and hit me I’m taking your models down too” effect, the explosions also mean you have the ability to force your opponents to think very carefully about whether or not they want to take free strikes against you. This lets Primed models go much deeper into enemy lines than you’d first think. If you angle your charge lanes properly, you can position your models to provoke free strikes in such a way as to hit multiple enemy models with the AOE if they are hit and explode, which can be far more damaging than the single charge attack would have been.
(Anecdote time: I once killed two Forge Guard, Ryan and Lynch with the explosion from a single free struck Halberdier. My opponent stopped taking free strikes against them after that.)
Not only is this solid in terms of the freedom of movement it affords you, but it actually sets you up to make the explosions even more dangerous on subsequent turns. A unit of Primed infantry engaging the opposition’s front and back racks is very difficult to disengage from or otherwise limit casualties against. Engaging in depth like this also helps overcome the problem with sending Primed infantry with reach against enemy infantry with reach; it prevents them from disengaging effectively, so they’ll still suffer casualties if they kill your models.
How you want to use Primed is going to dictate a lot of both how you build your lists with Durgen, and how well they perform. It’s no exaggeration to say that how well an infantry unit interacts with Primed could be the first valid qualifier for how likely you are to include them in your list. My personal preference is to make sure that every infantry unit I take can benefit from it one way or another, because I want to be able to apply it wherever it will do the most damage to the enemy. Being able to drop one upkeep spell and just say “yep, I’m going to win the fight on that flank” is enormous, and a big part of what makes Durgen tick.
What you actually take with Durgen to Prime, though, is something there are various schools of thought on. Here is my take on what’s good and what’s not, but I encourage you to experiment and form your own conclusions, because if you can’t use this spell confidently then you can’t play Durgen to his full effectiveness;
The best choices for Primed are models that both benefit from the melee damage bonus, and will be able to punish the enemy with the explosions. For me, Nyss Hunters and Steelhead Halberdiers are the two best choices. Nyss jumping to MAT8 PS11 weaponmasters are extremely powerful, and Steelheads jumping to MAT7 PS13 plus powerful charge moves their melee power up to being a serious threat to pretty much any target.
The Steelheads edge out the Nyss slightly because they’re a 4/6 unit, which means that I can bring loads and loads of bodies to shove down the enemy’s throat and wreak havoc with explosions, while their reach means they can engage the enemy in bulk but still be spread out enough themselves to limit friendly fire casualties when one of them blows up. Lovely.
Extremely honourable mention here also goes to the pirates. Primed puts the sea dog crew’s offensive output through the roof, you can take them in a huge unit to get maximum benefit of the spell, and they’re fast enough to engage the enemy in such a way as to make explosions extremely uncomfortable. The only downsides are that they’re very expensive; a dozen sea dogs cost nearly as much as twenty halberdiers and that’s before you start adding in all the support solos. The two attacks per model does a lot to make up for it, but the poor ratio of points cost : number of exploding meat-sacks is still a minor mark against these guys.
The average choices are Kayazy, and Alexia and her Risen. The Kayazy only earn an average rating because they’re good enough in their existing niche that the offensive bonus from Primed doesn’t benefit them in the same way that other models do (MAT11! Now I can hit DEF13 infantry on 3s, instead of hitting on 4s!), and because Gang means they want to cluster up around their targets which sharply increases the chances of losing several of them to a single enemy attack. Of course, you always have the option of abandoning the Gang bonus and spreading the Kayazy out, but at that point, why are you even playing Kayazy anyway?
Alexia, on the other hand, is an amazing target for Primed that still gets relegated to average because of how putting Primed on any other unit when she’s in the list cuts her corpse-gathering ability out from under her. I prefer to use Alexia as a second-wave unit to go in once she’s gathered corpses from all my dead first-wave infantry, but for that to happen in a Durgen list I’d have to not Prime my first wave, which is terrible.
Still, if they’re what you want to bring, Primed Kayazy will absolutely murder the frack out of whatever, and Primed Risen are equal parts hilarious and deadly. Plus, Alexia herself at +2 to hit and damage and a dozen risen to buy attacks with will take just about anything short of a colossal off the board with ease. For Kayazy, your best bet will be to use Primed to dissuade your opponents from killing them, allowing them to then go over the top and start murdering the backfield. For Alexia, Primed will shift her battlefield role to be more pro-active, trying to gather her corpses from enemy models that die when the risen explode.
The worst choices are anything Rhulic. I know, as if you needed more incentive to not play Searforge, right? Rhulic infantry rely on clustering together for ARM bonuses to survive. Primed puts their survivability right down the crapper while not offering anything in return, since their low SPD prevents them from engaging the enemy with enough flexibility to truly take advantage of the explosions.
There are only a few things you need to worry about when building lists around Primed, but it does pay to bear them in mind when considering matchups. First, any effect that dispels upkeep spells (e.g. Eiryss2, Purification) brings Primed back down to the level of only giving a whopping +2 to hit and damage to melee attacks. Against an opponent that can dispel it, you’ll need to play more conventionally and look at removing the model doing the dispelling if possible (if it’s Eiryss, hint: she doesn’t like boosted blast damage).
Otherwise worth bearing in mind are blast-immune models, which are a bit of a trial for Durgen generally if you don’t have the ability to scalpel them out, and models that really take a lot of advantage from that -2 ARM the spell saddles you with. This aren’t actually a lot of these; most enemy AOE attacks come in at a high enough POW to threaten regular mercenary infantry anyway. But if you’re up against, say, pAsphxious, remember that his feat smacks all your models in his control area with a POW5 hit. Against that, dropping your Steelheads down to ARM11 is maybe worth thinking twice about. I’ve had that game at least once, and if he gets Parasite in there as well you’re going to be lucky if you only lose twenty plus models in one fell swoop.
Other than that, though, Primed is awesome. How awesome? So awesome.
Tying it All Together: the Brutal Attrition List
So taking into account all of the above, let’s talk about how I like to play Durgen. Let’s start with my current favourite list;
Durgen Madhammer (+6)
– Basher (7)
– Driller (6)
– Driller (6)
10 Nyss Hunters (10)
10 Steelhead Halberdiers (6)
10 Steelhead Halberdiers (6)
Thor Steinhammer (2)
– Gunner (3)
– Gunner (3)
Reinholdt, Gobber Speculator (1)
Master Gunner Dougal MacNaile (2)
Rhupert Carvolo, Piper of Ord (2)
Gorman di Wulfe, Rogue Alchemist (2)
So how does it work? Well, the first thing you may notice is that the list contains three powerful heavy warjacks, and thirty capable infantry, and light warjack fire support, and support and utility solos. Why yes, it is awesome playing mercenaries.
The primary principle of the list is what I call ‘brutal attrition’. You aren’t just grinding the enemy down with your own attacks, you’re doing your best to damage them every time they strike out against you too. The sheer volume of high-efficiency models, both infantry and warjacks, and the devastating impact of Primed, means that only a rare few lists have the ability to go toe to toe with Durgen and come out the bottom of turn four with much of anything left.
The list will usually deploy with Durgen and his battlegroup centrally, the Nyss on whichever flank offers them the most ability to take advantage of pathfinder and hunter to make the enemy miserable (which also means they’re occupying ground the rest of my force would have trouble moving through, meaning that I have more space to spread out my halberdiers and other models – this is important), one unit of halberdiers on the other flank, and one unit of halberdiers behind the battlegroup as a reserve. This will usually only change if I’m going second and can arrange some obviously strong matchups, e.g. putting Durgen directly opposite those infantry that he wants to shoot, or having both halberdier units arrayed to face off against specific opposing models/units.
On turn one, the Basher will usually get Redline and go rocketing off at SPD7. With a 10.5” threat, this is what passes for an alpha strike model, but it also makes a good first wave warjack because it poses a threat to both enemy infantry (with flak field) and enemy warjacks/beasts (with Redline and tune up for a free slam/charge, and then four PS17 boosted damage rolls).
Primed, as mentioned above, goes wherever it will cause the enemy the most damage. If I can engineer a fight between a unit of primed halberdiers and a unit of enemy infantry without reach, that’s ideal. Against something like Circle, it goes wherever it will stop tokens being gathered and warpwolf stalkers from killing things and sprinting away. Against Cryx, it goes to win me the infantry on infantry fight, or to stop corpse- and soul-gathering, or both. This is lets me hold down the battle in a fairly large area of the board with a relatively small number of resources, allowing the rest of my force to be focused elsewhere. Once the first Primed unit has exploded sufficiently, the spell will be cycled over to a fresh unit, and the process continues.
Early engagements will usually see me throw out enough shooting to force hard choices from my opponent. As mentioned above, Durgen’s ranged threat reaches out a long way, and Double Powder Ration on the two Gunners and the Nyss gives me the ability to project ranged threat a long way with the rest of my force as well. Carpet Bomb will thin out enemy infantry, and it’s important to focus on any credible ranged threats that might kill Primed models without needing to worry about explosions (gun mages, long gunners, and winter guard of various types are all priority targets for Durgen) while the Nyss skirmish as needed and the Gunners focus fire on middleweight priority targets like enemy solos, cavalry models and unit attachments. The latter of those three is particularly important against Cryx; the Gunners are your anti-Satyxis Sea Witch tech, and you do not want to let her live through to the mid-game if you can help it. Many opponents will be surprised by the amount of shooting you can dish out; Cygnar in particular really hates it when you can wipe big chunks of their ranged units off the board from just as far away as they’re trying to shoot you.
By the mid-game, the attrition grind should be in full swing. With three heavies on the board, I can comfortably trade away my 6- and 7-point heavies for much more expensive enemy models and come out ahead or at least even, even if my opponent gets the jump on me in the piece trade (giving the Deathjack or Avatar a Driller to kill then charging your second Driller over the wreck is a trade you came out of 5 or 6pts ahead). Meanwhile, Primed plus sheer weight of bodies means the infantry battle takes care of itself. Point for point, there are very few things that outfight twenty Primed Halberdiers.
By end-game, there will usually either be an opening for an assassination play because my opponent just doesn’t have anything left after grinding their face into the wave after wave of exploding models, or I’ll have just rolled over the scenario zone and begun scoring points. If it does come down to assassination, the list can do it at ranged with Durgen + Nyss CRA + the Gunners, or in melee with a Redlined, tuned up Driller or a Primed anything.
While all this is happening, Durgen’s primary method of survival is to simultaneously hide behind whatever models in his or Thor’s battlegroup haven’t committed to the fight yet, while simultaneously jamming the enemy up with enough infantry that they can’t push through to threaten him. He still shouldn’t be any closer to the fight than he needs to be to fire off his gun, though, which usually means keeping the opposing front at about the edge of his control area unless it’s one of those matchups that you tilt heavily with Inhospitable Ground.
Your two biggest obstacles when playing this kind of list are going to be widespread blast immunity, and the clock. An opposing warcaster with Solid Ground presents a problem, although you’re still going to be far better off than if you were playing a list that spammed templates. Focus on the offensive punch afforded to you by your warjacks and MAT7/PS13 Steelheads, and you can at least make a fight of it. Baldur is the worst-case scenario; Gorten is marginally more manageable due to how small his control area is, which you can take advantage of with Inhospitable Ground, and by spreading out and forcing him to over-extend on one flank or the other.
When it comes to playing the clock – practice, practice, practice. I won’t lie; SR2012 standard timings make this list tough to play, because moving all those models and resolving all those AOEs takes time. Deathclock makes this more manageable, but you still need to play quickly and efficiently in the early game to keep yourself from clocking out later. Memorise what roll on the dice coincides with what direction on the AOE template, and get used to rolling direction and distance simultaneously (but clearly and consistently!) to speed up your play.
So, that’s my take on Durgen. I hope you found this useful; if you’ve got any questions, leave them in the comments section or, preferably, drop me a PM on either the Muse on Minis or Focus and Fury forums.
My next article will probably be a little while coming, but expect to hear me whooping enthusiastically about a variety of other mercenary warcasters shortly after Galleon’s model finally arrived. 2013 is going to be a good year to be a mercenary, no doubt about it.