Unloved Swans: Constance Blaize

 

I’m not sure whether I should introduce myself or not, but if so, my name is Merlin and I want to write about models that don’t get enough love in Cygnar. I’m planning several more articles already, but I can tell you now that Triumph really is that bad and don’t expect me to say otherwise. My first tactica on unloved swans is dear to my heart, as I’ve been playing Constance Blaize (mainly in Cygnar) since she was released both in and out of tournaments, and I win a lot of games with her.

Constance Blaize is generally reviled by Cygnar players as a faction warcaster. “She’s better as a Merc,” “She needs cheap, reach infantry,” and “mercs got two warcasters in Wrath and Cygnar got none” are all common cries on the PP forums and elsewhere. I disagree. Further, WWF wrestling legend and warmachine paragon Hacksaw Jim Duggan recently claimed that Constance (admittedly in mercs) had a boring playstyle on The Road to War podcast. I don’t necessarily disagree there, but in Cygnar Constance has a lot more options than she does in mercs, which diversifies her playstyle and adds some depth to her game. I think she’s got some game in the bully-style of focus campers like the Butcher and Terminus, though to a lesser degree and with a few caveats.

Let’s get some general overview out of the way real quick.

The Warcaster

Stats

She’s not exemplary in any particular stat. Her stand-outs are an above-average defense split favoring the armor side and a decently powered reach blessed magical weapon.  She. . .doesn’t have a gun. Which is weird for me. Apparently she’s not as NRA as the rest of Cygnar. “Disruptor Pistols don’t disrupt warjacks; people disrupt warjacks.”

Rules

Flank is the standout, increasing her MAT to Butcher level and making her a weapon master with that blessed spear (she is not as butch as the Butcher; more on this below). She does inspire Morrowan models around her, so I can play a relatively fearless list, which is pretty sweet in Cygnar. Random command failures can ruin a good game.

Spells

Flashing blade with her weapon can be a money maker if she is able to get into the thick of things. Careful evaluation is required to keep her safe, but if she can keep some camp and Arcane Shield up she can do some damage, and sometimes to multiple models. The spell is best when spending one focus buys multiple attacks, or when Blaize needs to thresher models before charging in. She gets herself unjammed pretty easily with it at least.

Take care when considering sending in the clown. Constance seems like she can anchor a piece trade for heavies, but if the plan is to keep her safe with camp then it’s a risky proposition at best. Armor 18 heavies go down pretty easy. Armor 19 or 20 is a different matter. Dire trolls under the Krielstone are a problem. When she’s at dice -7 or 8 instead of dice-5 it’s going to take a lot of focus to kill a heavy unless it’s already pretty hurt. If it’s cherry and she’s only got her normal loadout then she might not kill it at all. And then she’s also exposed up in the mix. Be advised.

Also, remember when to FB and when not to; when trying to assassinate a warlock who also has beasts nearby to FB, remember not to kill them and give the primary target more transfers. Ideally you cripple those beasts if they are transfer targets so that if the primary target transfers they kill the beast and get blowback damage.

Crusader’s Call is awesome for extending the melee threat on her troops. It only works for faction models, however, so when playing in Cygnar she can only use it on Cygnar troops or one mercenary unit with Jonas Murdoch. Her personal threat is a respectable 13” with this spell.

Banishing Ward is a matchup dependent spell that doesn’t often see a lot of play. It’s pretty sweet against Circle or other magic-heavy matchups, but it’s not an every-game spell.

Sunburst is her attack spell. I’m not a huge fan, though it is sometimes the only tool I have left for a ranged attack. On the surface it looks good for clearing enemy troops off of her own (blast damage doesn’t affect friendly models), but with only a 3” aoe it’s not ideal. It also costs 3 and on a 6-focus warcaster that is too much. It does remove from play if it destroys an enemy model, so it has some tricksiness to it, such as RFPing a beast to deny the reaving of Fury. It’s difficult to time that sort of thing, however. Those situtations are largely cornercase.

Transference is. . .well, it’s a good spell that I don’t cast most games. I often evaluate a matchup and decide not to cast it turn one, and then unless an opportunity presents itself to deliver a missile like Runewood or Kat Laddermore I usually save that focus to camp. Transference is a great spell for spot removal, making sure a certain attack lands or does more damage. Cygnar is amazing at spot removal already. Sometimes I feel like this spell is like Chronomancer on Ossyan: it’s a spell that costs several focus over the course of several turns and *might* net a return. I’m not a huge fan of focus investments that “allow” me to make my warcaster more vulnerable every turn.

That said, in mercs it’s pretty amazing because of how many doodz she can put on the table and the lack of other upkeep options. In Cygnar I often replace the upkeep slot on Constance with Arcane Shield. She can win several other matchups by just being a bully with Arm 24+ camp. I often evaluate my matchup and see whether I want to grind and then opportunistically send in mooks who live to chip at the enemy warcaster or warlock (or whether you need the buff, such as against kayazy, Nyss Hunters, or Satyxis with Ashen Veil), or whether having your warcaster menace the midfield and potentially assassinate with Flank is better for your game. For me it’s about 30/70 (I do not cast it 70% of the time) if I’m not taking Stormwall. It’s even less with Stormwall, and I primarily play her in tier with Stormwall these days.

Feat

Divine Intervention plays into a few of her tricks. It protects a swarm of troops against dying in droves by giving a cumulative armor bonus for each faction warrior model that dies in her control, and each one also generates her additional focus the next turn. It uses the soul token mechanic, which means that other soul takers interfere with it, and that remove-from-play effects wreak havoc on it as well. Her feat can be pretty awesome in scenarios where an opponent wants to kill all Constance’s stuff in a zone to score and the armor just keeps climbing. Forcing an opponent into tough decisions is the best way to use it whenever possible.

The Package

The general consensus is that the best way to play Blaize is with as many troops as possible, preferably melee-oriented troops, so that she can spend a bunch of focus on Crusader’s Call and Transference, and then feat to protect the swarm. After the feat turn, excess focus can be used to level the playing field if she lost a bunch of doodz, or even to attrition out opponents. Any warrior model can be a threat to an enemy warcaster/warlock with Transference in play.

For that style of play, and with that as the sole plan of action, perhaps highborn is a better fit for Blaize. However, it turns out you don’t have to build your whole list around your feat. Getting 12 extra focus for losing 12 guys seems okay if you have a great plan for it (it better be sweet), but more often than not I’m holding my feat for a better moment. Against some control feats that last a round it’s best to hold feat to feat-trade. If Grim is going to debuff my speed and make my army terrible for a turn, maybe I lose 12 guys on his feat turn and 6-8 more the turn after (during my feat turn), but since Constance can use her focus much more meaningfully when her army isn’t debuffed it’s worth the wait. I feat-chicken with some of the harder control feats a lot and it’s worked out better than trying to save my army during a powerful control feat and not being able to counterstrike. Sometimes it’s best to take a hit on the chin.

Being a Bully

If the plan is instead to not cast Transference and camp like a champ at the center line, Constance has more tools for this ploy in Cygnar. She’s got access to the Journeyman for Arcane Shield, she gets the Squire for a bonus focus and an extended control area if the plan is to outflank an opponent (14” is like, way bigger than 12”), and she gets access to more guns than anyone knows what to do with. Most of my games that involve Transference now are late-game plays where I cast it to enable my troops to finish off an enemy at the edge of Blaize’s control area while keeping her way back (and therefore safer, if she’s going to be empty to support transference attacks). Let’s go over some list-building options that I like with Constance in Cygnar.

 

List Elements

Meaty Flankers

I usually start a Blaize list with at least two Morrowan options to enable flank attacks. Blaize’s character warjack, Gallant, is decent for what he brings to the table with her. He’s a reach heavy with Purgation and a magical weapon. He’s also got Shield Guard, which is sweet to have around when your plan is to camp like a villain at midfield. The fact that he generates a focus near other Morrowans can make him more efficient as well. I’ve ended many a game with Gallant running (on his free focus) to enable Constance to get flank charges on.

Precursor Knights and Harlan Versh also enable flanking for Blaize. Precursors are all kinds of good for her, being fearless in her command, being souls on her feat, having magical weapons, and the few who survive being high MAT blessed weapon masters for a turn. Harlan is an odd duck. He’s not as good as Eiryss, strictly, but since I run so much upkeep hate and blessed I often don’t want to rip upkeeps from enemy models, and Banishing Ward and Spell Ward protect my own from enemy upkeeps. Further, every once in a while Harlan fires four purgation shots at an enemy heavy with an upkeep and does 10+ damage over the course of his combat action. That’s okay.

Spot Removal, Or “Do You Know How to Get Bloodstains Out of Shag Carpet?”

Cygnar does spot removal maybe better than any other faction. The Black 13th Gun Mage Strike Team is widely considered one of the best units in the game for this reason. Arcane Tempest Gun Mages are a hunter-killer and board control unit that murders single-wound infantry or weak solos while ignoring quite a few defensive mechanics. Stormsmith Stormcallers call lightning down on annoying solos from 16” away.  The Storm Strider bounces lightning all over the field. Being able to remove key pieces and in short, fight dirty, is something Cygnar is good at, and I like to play Blaize with some of that tech.

Sportsjacks: Expensive, but Stylish!

Cygnaran warjacks tend to be pricey, but most of them come with some sweet options (Cruise control, power steering, etc) whether you use them or not.

The Minuteman fits into the spot removal category quite well, infiltrating enemy lines, blasting boosted slug guns shots into hard targets and flak fielding infantry. It’s another harassment piece. It’s also AD, which is something that I like a bit of in every list. The Charger straddles the line between a spot removal piece (double-boosted 12s are all kinds of good!) and a focused-fire ranged warjack. Constance might have trouble feeding these light harassment pieces focus over the course of the game, so they aren’t the first warjacks I add to my lists.

For melee heavies the Ironclad is a decent MAT7 club, but lack of reach is troubling. The Stormclad is a great ‘jack and kills all kinds of stuff. The Centurion deserves special mention because its main use is as an unkillable monster. I’ve played it a bunch with Constance and Sword Knights (who love the flank) and it’s good, but since I often don’t want to charge it forward speed is an issue. Ol’ Rowdy is awesome in any list. Constance is no exception. He charges for free, so he’s got an “extra” focus there, and his MAT is higher than any other jack in the faction. Rowdy is another great target for Arcane Shield.

I don’t advocate the use of arc nodes with Blaize. The privilege of spending 3-5 focus on a Sunburst for the low cost of 6-8 points seems really terrible. Cygnar has cheaper ways to do spot removal most of the time.

Ask Not What Your ‘Caster Can Do for the Stormwall, Ask What the Stormwall Can Do for Your ‘Caster!

The Stormwall is always good. It’s spot removal, board control, a ranged powerhouse and a melee heavy all at once. The thing brings a hard target that does a lot of work to the table. However, like the humble Charger it’s a focus hog. This means that focus-strapped warcasters might not like it as much (they still like it; thing is baller). However, as I hope I’ve made abundantly clear, I don’t use much of Blaize’s focus to do things. I either camp, or cast Crusader’s Call and camp, or after feat I feed my ‘jacks and cast Crusader’s Call and camp. . .not much really. Sometimes she casts Flashing Blade a few times? That means I nearly always have 3 focus to feed the ‘wall, and it does some work. I don’t always take a Stormwall because it changes my camp-to-win strategy significantly, but when I do it’s pretty sweet.

If I’m taking Stormwall things get complicated. Sometimes I cast Transference because Blaize tends to stay farther back with that ‘jack on the table (it takes Arcane Shield and several of her focus per turn, so she’s nowhere near as safe). Sometimes I don’t cast it at all because Stormwall is the bully; it gets 3 focus per turn and then maybe Constance casts Crusader’s Call, which means Transference is largely irrelevant or even eating at Stormwall’s allocation. Constance gets Arcane Shield in the late game, after Stormwall is either beat up, or after I’m no longer worried it will be.

Living the Dream: Hating My Cygnar Infantry to Death

One of the best things about playtesting units with Blaize is that when they inevitably die, I’m usually cool with it because of their delicious souls. Sure Trencher Commandoes are expensive, but they still did some work and now they’re fueling Ol’ Rowdy!

I still have some favorites. Sword Knights are the 4/6 cheap option in Cygnar, and I like them as fuel for the feat and speed bumps. Again, the few and the proud who live sometimes have glorious flank charges.

Storm Knights are an odd one. Their mediocre defensive stats allow enemy infantry to live the dream all the time, but under feat a lot of Stormblades or Stormguard will live, and those guys under Crusader’s Call do some work. Storm Lances are a huge threat under Crusader’s Call, but it’s difficult to protect them from boostable enemy guns (short of bringing trenchers for a smoke wall, and then. . .I’m going to stop myself right there) on the approach and they are expensive.

Trenchers. . .are trenchers. They’re situationally brilliant! But often not so good. Trencher Commandoes on the other hand are awesome. They are AD, have aoe attacks, the weapon attachment has a spray, and with stealth and decent defensive stats they are relatively self-reliant. That being said I still have trouble fitting them in a lot of Blaize lists. I’ve played them a few times and they’ve been generally good against infantry, though I’m not sure Blaize is super worried about enemy infantry.

Notably any unit with the Assault order gets a greater threat with Blaize, and since Cygnar’s units all tend to get the Assault order (Trenchers, Stormblades with UA, Storm Lances, any mercenary unit with Jonas Murdoch), it’s kind of a thing. It would be way better if those units had a better RAT than 5. . .but there are rangers for that. My favorite assault unit is probably the Nyss Hunters with Jonas Murdoch. They can shoot their bows 24” with Crusader’s Call and Assault, at RAT 8 with Ranger support, and be immune to blast damage from Murdoch’s minifeat with some tricksy charging. Also: weapon masters are good for random damage spikes on charges.

Random Synergy

Runewood: Giving Blaize Pathfinder is pretty big, and the guy buffs other units along the way, has a hand cannon and a weapon master sword, and sac pawns ranged attacks into warjacks. He’s pretty sweet, though expensive.

Piper: Giving Precursor Knights or Stormguard +1 defense is pretty amazing. However, too much support can be stifling.  I normally use either Piper or Runewood in any given list, but not both. Runewood often gets the nod so that if Blaize needs pathfinder to go for a Crusader’s Call last-ditch charge I have the option.

Corbeau: If your plan is to stick Blaize into the enemy warcaster, adding to her threat with Madelyn isn’t bad at all. If she’s near Runewood she can Sucker to him, and he can Sac Pawn it to a FF warjack. Legit. If she’s B2B with him he’s a CMD 11 commander. I hate failing command checks.

Anastasia di Bray: Going first is good for melee-centric jam lists, and making it difficult for your opponent to _not_ kill 5 of your infantry (in order to kill her, which might happen; she’s scary) is sometimes a good plan.

Don’t Say I Never Gave You Anything: Self-Sufficient Modules

I tend to run modules of self-sufficient troops with Constance so that I can camp her focus and stay around the midline. My warjacks tend to be on the second line so that the feat and troopswarm protect the heavies and I have somewhere to spend focus after feat. This means Rowdy can’t countercharge and that my Sword Knights don’t get flank before getting thrown into the meat grinder, but you can’t make a Divine Intervention without breaking some knights.

What I mean by modules is that I like to take groups of synergistic models that don’t need any assist from Blaize to do work. If I take something like the Black 13th and Gorman di Wulfe to run together, Gorman gives them stealth via Watt’s prowl and his smoke cloud until they can start doubling their points in enemy models. They’re a module that does great work on its own without any support from Blaize.

Other self-sufficient pods in Cygnar: ATGM+UA+(Warjack w/ gun)+Arlan Strangewayes, 2-3 Stormcallers with Stormwall, Storm Strider with 2-3 Stormcallers to act as lightning rods for arcs, Trencher commandoes in any configuration, Precursor Knights or Stormguard with Piper are decent with higher defense against charges, and so on. There are myriad combinations to work with (stormblades marshaling two stormclads with arlan in tow) at various point levels, but I normally focus on smaller modules so that I can devote them to specific areas of the battlefield.

Lists

Non-Theme Lists

One of my favorite Constance lists at 50 points is:

Constance

Squire

Gallant (Generates own focus to run until after feat turn; Blaize camps more until she needs to fill it)

Stormclad (Generates own focus to run; see above) or Ol ‘Rowdy (charges/runs for free; most focus efficient ‘jack in Cygnar).

Journeyman Warcaster

Full Precursor Knights and UA

Full Sword Knights

Stormblades

Black 13th

Gorman Di Wulfe

Runewood

Madelyn Corbeau

I tend to run the army’s infantry in a few waves, with the Sword Knights as front line feat-fodder. The PKs and Stormblades bat clean up, and the warjacks support them on the counterstrike. It’s a melee-centric list that plays to several of Blaize’s strengths at once. I usually cast Arcane Shield on Rowdy or the Stormclad and flank hard with it. Stormblades support but stay closer to center because of their speed. I flank on the other side with the Black 13th and Gorman making a terrible mess of things for my opponent. Constance tends to stay central (depending on the scenario; she plays control-the-center scenarios well with camp).MOAR NITES

Theme Lists

The Army of Light. Blaize’s tier is an interesting amalgam of her playstyles. I run it in two ways: with Stormwall and without Stormwall. They play differently. The Stormwall tends to take Arcane Shield and 3 focus off of Blaize every turn, so I can’t play her as aggressively. The main tier benefit is that her knights (PKS and SKS) are +2 SPD on the first turn. This is really what Blaize can bring to a Stormwall: her tier with Knights 16” up the table on the first turn. It’s a lot for an opponent to deal with, and both Sword Knights and all those Precursors can be effective weapon masters during a game, with Runewood to give them +2 MAT on charges or Transference to help with accuracy.

I still don’t cast Transference much, though.

Blaize

Stormwall

Gallant

Journeyman Warcaster

Archduck Runewood

Min Mechaniks

Harlan Versh (AD in tier)

Min PKs with UA

Min PKs with free UA

Max SKS

Alternately I sometimes drop Gallant for SK UA, the Sentinel, and maxing out a PK unit. I have two “bullying” options here: Stormwall threatening enemy warcasters, and Constance backing up the threat. I sometimes play the Constance rope-a-dope with this one, giving my opponent a 20% chance at killing her (send her up at armor 23 or 24, for instance), knowing that if she survives the game is essentially won. Other times I evaluate potential threats to Stormwall (with JR and mechaniks the thing is durable) and try to knock them out during initial conflicts. If I’m even close to succeeding I can bully the game with Stormwall and/or Campstance. It’s not a flashy or exciting way to win, but it wins games.

Afterthoughts

Matchups

Constance doesn’t like other soul-takers and RFP effects. So avoid Cryx and Shatterstorm. Try not to damage Dire Trolls unless they’re going to be all the way dead or Divine Intervention is over. Also: Don’t agonize about a potential bad matchup. It’s bound to come up. Try to identify the models or effects that ruin Constance’s feat and force the opponent into funneling those resources strategically to your advantage. And don’t think that her feat will net 10+ extra focus. It rarely gets me more than 5 or 6. But that is enough to fill up both of her ‘jacks, cast CruCall, and still stay relatively safe armor-wise.
Constance has a 2-turn feat. If you think you’ll be eating two turns of bullets from epic Haley’s guns then feat after she does so that for your extra-focus reprisal turn you can actually do things. It’s worth it to get less souls and protect less troops if you can more meaningfully contribute to the battle.
On the good side, magic-heavy matchups hate Precursor Knights and Spell Ward. Circle in particular isn’t happy about being denied their force bolts and such. Also, having a list chock-full of magical weapons can be randomly awesome against incorporeal types. I’ve had Gallant kill Soulhunters and the Kovass on free strikes. I’ve had PKs kill Gatormen trying some shenanigans on Maelok’s feat turn.

The Duckets Factor

Building a Constance list can be expensive. Gallant and Precursor Knights don’t see a lot of play with other (Cygnar) warcasters, certainly not the second unit and UA. I’m not a big fan of lists that ask me to buy a bunch of extra stuff for a single list, but on the bright side PKs can work for Mercs or Cygnar, so my two units are painted in different color schemes by faction. I’m also a Constance Blaize apologist, so I had to play her theme list a bunch.

Fellow Cygnarans, if you already have a bunch of these models give her another try. She’s not as flashy and doesn’t do nearly as much offensive work turn-to-turn as our powerhouse warcasters, but she’s steady as hell and wins some games just by not dying. I’ve won games with her camping a zone at dice down (haters gonna hate, but it wins games). Eliminate the threats to her and bully away.

-Merlin

Author: Merlin

I'm a dude who's got something to type. I play mostly Cygnar and I will kill you with Big Trouble in Little China lightning.

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