Friday, August 25, 2017

Broken Promises Upgrade Reviews: Arcanists

Took a little break (silly jobs that insist on my doing things besides writing about Malifaux) but we’re back to talk about the Arcanists.

               First, however, let me remind you about our Patreon page. For those who are unfamiliar, Patreon is a way by which fans like you can help content creators like me turn our ideas into reality. It cuts out the middleman of having to put ads up on my blog and lets you lend support to me directly. But what am I going to do with this money, you might ask? Well, one of the things I had in mind was to do product reviews of each of the Malifaux, The Other Side, and Through the Breach books when they come out. I would put the money you use towards it directly. Another idea was to acquire prize support to run a Vassal Malifaux league. I have some more thoughts as well, but you get the idea. The more successful the Patreon is, the more I can build. Additionally, I've thought about having Through the Breach adventures written exclusively for my patrons. And I just like interacting with the patrons directly. Today’s article topic, the Arcanists, was picked by Rich, who was our first patron. The next article will be Neverborn because of our second patron’s preference. Anyways, enough with the pitch, but if you’ve got a dollar to spare per month, I’d love to have it.


               It may surprise you that the words “Spider” “Arachnid” or “Construct” do not appear anywhere on Dr. Ramos’ upgrades for this book. Instead, it appears that his new options are designed to improve his ability to do things other than summon the four-legged spiders onto the board. Given the deemphasis of the role of Summoning in the new GG2018 (which Phiasco wrote about in this post) that may be a good thing. The first, Leviathan Power Core, gives Ramos a buff based on how many Soulstones have been used by models during the game. Every time this happens, he gains the “Powering Up +1” condition that extends the range of his electrical fire an inch per point of the condition. Additionally, when he activates he can lower his powering up by an amount he chooses and gain buffs based on the amount it is reduced. These range from giving him a + modifier to the first duel of the turn for 1 point to giving him Fast for 4 points. You can’t control how your opponent is going to use their soulstones, so you only really know what you’re going to do during the game. It may be interesting to try it from the perspective of using Ramos to summon on the first couple turns of the game, discarding stones to increase the condition, and then transitioning him to a ranged combat master for the late game. I’d have to see it in practice to gauge for sure.
               The other upgrade represents his position as (former) leader of the Union, Vox Populi. It gives Ramos a 0 action attack against WP that can make a model count as a Peon for encounter purposes and block it from taking Interact actions until its next activation. Additionally, his Strike! Action lets him throw out a pair of 50mm markers not touching any models or each other. Enemy models treat these as 3/4/4 damage Sever Hazardous terrain. They only last for a turn and don’t provide any cover, but they could be useful to block a choke point. Turning a model into a Peon is useful, but only being able to do it once a turn limits this. Overall I’m kind of “Meh” on Ramos’ upgrades. They’re not bad, but they don’t leap out at me either.


               Apparently Marcus and McMourning have been collaborating, given that now the good Doctor can bring beasts into his fights and Marcus has learned some of his former pupils’ poison tricks. Venomancy gives him the standard Infect trigger to his Shillelagh attacks. It lets him use a 0 to pulse poison off of one of his beasts to put a point of Poison on any model within 3” of it, or 2 points of Poison if the beast has the Infect trigger on one of its attacks. And, finally, it grants Marcus and any of his Henchmen with Beast the Virulent ability to make models take 2 points of damage per tick of poison rather than one. The big thing that’s missing, of course, is McMourning’s ability to force models’ poison conditions to tick at the beginning of their activation, which improves the conditions’ ability to actually kill something in a timely fashion, so it remains to be seen if this will be enough to make Poison Marcus a thing. But they’re sure trying to get there, aren’t they?
               The other upgrade for the Beastmaster is a new Limited, The Gods Path. This version seems to lean him towards a defensive tanking and support role, as it automatically gives him Wicked on his attacks and allows you to discard tomes (as per the other Limiteds) to gain Armor +2, +1 Ca, and/or an ability that forces models to take 2 damage if they end their activation within his engagement range. The Trail of the Gods upgrade is really good, and the silliness it lets Marcus get up to on the board is one of the reasons people like him so much. This upgrade lends itself to a much different role which may turn some players off, but I think could be effective in boards that are particularly dense with terrain or otherwise won’t require the big movement buffs. Armor +2 will help improve his survivability, but he's still Df 5 without other significant defensive abilities. I don't know if it will be enough, but I'm curious to see. 


               Obviously, one of the advantages of these new upgrades is the ability to introduce a new playstyle to old masters. One of the biggest examples of this would be Enveloped in Ice for Raspy, which increases her Walk, gives her a point of armor, and allows her to perform a 1 melee action once per turn on a model that ends its turn in her engagement range. “But wait!” you say, “Raspy doesn’t have a melee attack.” Oh ho, my friend, do I have news for you…she does now from this card. Ok, I guess that wasn't as dramatic as I built it up to be. I mean, it’s Ml6 2/3/5. That’s not amazing, but it can’t be reduced by models with the Slow or Paralyzed condition and has a Tome trigger to give that condition out. She still has no charge and this only makes her Walk 4, so it would more likely be useful as a counter-attack action for when opponents try to engage her to cut off her ranged attacks. Still, Melee Raspy…that’s just hard to picture…
               Maybe more interesting is Frozen Servants, that gives her a limited ability to start pretending to be a summoner. For the cost of a 7 of tomes she can summon an Ice Gamin out of a scrap marker and, upping the cost to an 11 and two tomes (meaning you need an 11+ of tomes and a stone) you can summon an ice golem. They both take about half their Wounds in damage when they come in, but considering they explode when they die this might be more of a feature than a flaw. Finally, any Living models with Frozen Heart gain a 0 action to eat corpse markers to gain a healing flip with the unusual requirement of making a WP duel to do it. Cut to a shot of the newly summoned ice constructs giving you a “Hey, what about us?” look. Because, apparently, I don’t hate playing against her enough, so now she can be a summoner too. I guess if she’s doing that, she’s not blasting my crew to ribbons…


               The M&SU’s new president (no word on whether she’s vowed to make the M&SU great again) gained the ability to manipulate her Adrenaline condition a bit more by electing not to reduce it and heal at the end of the turn. Additionally, a (0) Tactical Action gives her a Challenge ala Barbaros which fits well with her “get into the middle of things and mess stuff up" ethos. From my times playing Titania I can tell you that these Challenges are more disruptive than you think (the look on an opponent’s face when they realize they have to pass the test to target their own friendly models is usually worth the price of admission all by itself.) Complementing it, her other upgrade lets her increase Adrenaline at the beginning of her turn by 1 and gives her a ram trigger on her Brass Knuckles to heal an amount of damage equal to the damage she causes. These two are pretty complementary, so I’d imagine you’d take them both in tandem, step to the middle of the opponent’s crew and dare them to move you.


               Audience Participation, her first upgrade, has some fun concepts on it. The first, “Add an Extra Flourish,” gives her an 8” aura wherein any Showgirl Minion models that activate gain Focused+1. This would be cooler if there were more minion showgirls to choose from (and I’m certainly not wearing my Seamus hat while typing this) but as it stands, will mostly help her Performers and Coryphee more than anything I’m thinking. She also gains a 0 action, “I Need a Volunteer” that allows her to do a version of Collodi’s hated “I use your first AP for you” trigger after winning a Willpower duel. You need a 7 of tomes at least to cast it, but it could be quite irritating.
               Her other upgrade alters The Dancing Blade, her 0 AP melee attack. The upgrade allows her to discard one of her scheme markers within 8” to perform the attack as a (1) action. If it hits and does damage, it also Slows the model. To offset the cost, she has a Mask trigger on the attack to also discard an enemy scheme marker. I don’t know about this one. Maybe if the trigger had allowed you to place one of your own scheme markers instead I’d like it more.


               The Guild’s #1 most wanted terrorist (arsonist? I guess they’re not mutually exclusive…) picked up a number of things related to heat, fire, burning…you get the idea. Heat Wave (and yes, if you play this upgrade you’re required to sing the Martha and the Vandellas song) puts Burning +1 on a model when it activates and/or when it ends an activation within 3” of her. Yes, that means you get Burning +2 if you start and end next to her, so you probably don’t want to do that. Interestingly, she also gains a 0 action to apply the condition Heatstroke to enemy models within pulse 6 of her. Heatstroke starts out at 0 but can be increased by reducing the Burning from any models within the pulse 1-for-1. Why would you want to reduce burning? Because Heatstroke reduces final duel totals by an amount equal to the value of the condition, to a max of 3. That’s actually pretty significant. Imagine if you were DF 5 and then effectively changed to DF 2. You won’t want to do it all the time (as a model that dies from burning has its duel totals much more significantly reduced, you might say) but it could be pretty decent, I think.
               The other upgrade, Flaming Angel, is a bit more intuitive. It gives her a 1 AP action to push up to 8” in any direction, ignoring intervening models. At the end of this, any model she moves through during the push gains Burning +1. This has some utility for movement as well as offense, as her walk is normally only 6. Additionally, a second tome on her Immolate action lets her spread Burning to other models within pulse 3 of the original target. More movement plus giving her a pseudo AoE that fuels her other abilities=good times.


               So, the undisputed king of the Arcanist tournament scene. What can we give him that won’t make a tilted faction become even more tilted? Well, how about letting him borrow spells from other Academics the way they borrow them from him? Oh, your favorite Ca action is on a model that isn’t an Academic? No worries, he has a Rg6 (0) to give them a + to Ca actions and makes them count as an Academic until the end of the turn. Admittedly, he has to discard a card to use the cast from these pseudo-Academics, but still, there are opportunities here. I’m not sure there’s anything in particular Sandeep was missing that this fixes, but versatility is Sandeep's strength. Giving him more options isn't a bad thing.
               His other upgrade is a new Limited (thank god) that tries to turn him into a melee master. His melee attacks gain Burning +1 or Burning +2 if Banasuva isn’t on the board. It also allows models with the Toss ability to treat him as being Ht. 1, which is at least an amusing mental image. He also gains a Tome trigger to summon Banasuva into base to base with a model he damages with said melee attacks, ignoring its Jealous Firelord ability. If big B is already out on the board, the same suit can activate a different trigger to push him 4” towards the enemy model and give them Burning +2 if he engages them. This would be a very different version of Sandeep than what we already see, obviously. Again, GG2018 deemphasizes summoning, which may make up for the loss of his other Limited upgrades. And, honestly of the summoning masters, he's probably the one that is least reliant on his summons. But still, my knee-jerk reaction is “He was good the way he was. Why would I change to something completely different?”

               His Conflux upgrade turns the Emmisary into a Gamin and gives it the ability Teaching Assistant which allows other friendly models within 6” of him to use his casting actions at -1 Ca once per turn, much like Sandeep. For those of you who (like me) forgot what its Ca action looks like, it’s a Ca6 (so they’ll have Ca5) Rg 6 or Melee 2 that does 2/3/5 and has a trigger for each suit. As with the initial examination of Sandeep himself, this ability is kind of average on its own, but spread out to other cheap minions could be pretty cool. The thing is, the Arcane Emissary has this Ca action and doesn’t see a ton of play as is. Will this be enough to change that? I’m not sure.