We continue with our trip through the new title system taking a look at a couple of new nocturnal themed masters (who, again, were summoners who now don’t really summon).
And yes, I know titling my post about Dreamer with a line from Enter Sandman is hacky. You know what? I don’t need your negativity. It’s the 30 year anniversary of the Black Album this year, so shut up internal monologue critic.
Dreamer has been one of the masters who changed the most from original concept to final execution. Anybody else remember the 1e version that started with the whole crew buried and only Dreamer on the board? I do! In M2E he transitioned to being a summoner, and after M3E he added an element of clockwork orange street hooligan. Don’t judge him, if fish monsters suddenly fell out of the sky in your hometown and started eating your neighbors and your dad, you’d probably have some trauma to deal with as well. He’s gone from mythical figure to enforcer of the Neverborn after the coup that supplanted Lillith, and Nytmare (his Tyrant buddy) has also started branching out to invading and influencing the conflict on Earth (I see you, Sandmen.) So they’ve come a long way together, but Dreamer is now learning that sometimes that has a cost…
The OG Dreamer is a standard summoner in the early M3E tradition (IE cost 10M+ the value of the minion(s). It's worth keeping in mind that he is one of the few allowed to summon multiple models with his action, which isn’t nothing). His summoning upgrade gives the model Stunned and Buries it, but doesn’t impose any damage or other negative consequences on it. While buried, these summoned models are able to Unbury adjacent to an enemy model that fails a WP duel, a nice bit of flavor that also lets your summons appear theoretically anywhere an enemy model is sitting on the board. Beyond that, he can support his new nightmare friends by a free action to hand out Shielded and a small push to models in an aura around him and can apply Adversary to an enemy model and Focused to a friendly model at ranged, ensuring that a bad time is likely about to be had in that vicinity (also potentially triggering a model to Unbury, given that it attacks WP.) The front of his card consists primarily of defensive tech, as Dreamer is Incorporeal, blocks free actions, can pass attacks off on nearby nightmares, and also has Serene Countenance. His defensive stats are ok but not great, and he has only 7 wounds, so this makes sense, as he would be very brittle without all those abilities. His only other ability is Vivid Nightmares, which makes no sense if all you look at is his card. It forces you to select half of the cards you’ve removed from the game and put them into his discard pile during the Start phase. That wouldn’t make much sense unless you pair it with the Nightmare keyword ability, Lucid Dreams, as this allows any of the other Nightmare models to spend their Free action to reveal 3 cards from the top of the deck, pick one to remove from the game, and discard the other 2. In doing so, the crew gains the ability to stack their deck or set things up for Stitched Together shenanigans. Assuming you aren’t doing the latter, you’ll probably favor taking low cards out to stack the overall probability of having good flips.
New Dreamer is having some trouble getting restful sleep (getting older is tough, kiddo, let me tell you) and is titled “Insomniac”. His new rules for this iteration are…odd. He’s actually slightly more vulnerable despite going up to 10 wounds, as he isn’t incorporeal anymore and isn’t Protected. On the other hand, any time there’s 5 cards removed from the game you can bury him and swap his control hand with those buried cards (meaning you now want to remove high cards with Lucid Dreaming instead). You then start discarding 2 cards that have been removed from the game at the start of every friendly activation until there are no more cards removed, at which point he unburies within 2” of any nightmare. This potentially gives him some significant mobility, since I think the optimum way to play him will be similar to how one runs Zoraida, ie cheating far more aggressively than you would in other crews until your hand is empty, then swapping the dreck you have left for the (presumably) good cards you’ve been removing via Lucid Dreams. I assume you can pull off the bury every turn in this manner and swap your hand out while doing it, which is pretty solid. The back of his card doesn’t immediately inspire me, however. A 10” Slow and Adversary is pretty good, but it only does damage on a trigger and even then, it isn’t very much. Peer Into Dreams is an attack Wyrd highlighted in the reveal, and it is very unique in that there aren’t mechanisms to remove cards out of your opponent’s deck from the game elsewhere in Malifaux. I’m suspicious, however, that this is going to be more a “feels bad” for the opponent than something that causes actual damage in the game. It’s stat 5 versus WP, which is mediocre. A 10” range is decent, but still probably leaves Dreamer vulnerable to counterattack unless you can get him buried. And it doesn’t do anything that can score you VPs directly. The trigger abilities are potentially stronger, letting you remove the card from the opponent’s hand or allowing you to summon Lord Chompy Bits next to the target. The summon requires you to target a non-minion, though, which increases the likelihood the action will fail. I think it’s one of those abilities that jumps out at you when you see it, but will hose you if you try to build your gameplan around it. Lead Nightmares lets you push a model 3” and has an odd sort of trigger to let you Bury-Hop your model onto an enemy within 2” at the end of the move. It is potentially disruptive and could help you hide a model, but you’re letting your opponent control when your model unburies, which always makes me unhappy. And Waking Nightmare is a 4” scheme marker drop as a bonus action. Good, but not a reason to play this model.
I’m gonna be honest, I don’t get Insomniac Dreamer. It’s going to be hard for the opponent to pin his crew down, and the potential to blink in and out will help to offset how fragile the rest of his Keyword can be. I don’t feel like Peer Into Dreams is going to work as well as people want it to work, or at least not as consistently, and outside of that he’s a good support master but not great. Put that up against the previous Summoning iteration and, well, let’s just say I have a strong feeling which will be on tables more frequently. I could be wrong, and likely am. But if you’ll pardon the pun, I think it’s safe to sleep on this master.
Von Schtook is another master who has felt the nerf bat’s sting, particularly recently. Well, his Undergraduates may have gotten it worse than him, but what’re you gonna do? The life of an academic certainly has its challenges. Apparently Anna Lovelace’s influence has inspired the good Professor to come up out of the sewer from time to time and indulge his hobby…which is astronomy? Weird, but I guess it takes all kinds to run the world. Or reanimate it. Whatever, let’s just get on to the reviews.
Trying to compete with original Von Schtook is gonna be an uphill fight, as I think he’s one of the better all-around masters in the game even after the last Errata. Plus he looks like he’d be played by current day Mark Hamill, which is worth a lot of points in my book. Front of card he has an ability to shut off upgrades on enemy models within 6” of him, which is already pretty good. He has a built in trigger to reduce damage he takes on attacks when the opponent doesn’t declare a trigger. He can scheme off of his crew killing enemy models with 10” of him. He can’t be stunned. All pretty solid. His Gruesome Lecture attack does “ok” damage, but more importantly gives you the potential to hand out Injured with a Blast (though at least they took the blast off of his weak damage to reduce the abuse somewhat.) Administrative Review gives him some offensive and/or defensive condition removal. His Peer Review is a unique summoning mechanic wherein he attaches an upgrade to a friendly model which allows them to summon a new minion of equal or lesser cost when they kill an enemy. It's funky in practice and can feel at times like a "win more" ability, but he can spread the upgrades out over the course of the game and potentially get a nice bonus to doing what the crew wants to do anyways, kill enemy models. He can do some more scheming with Grade Assignment. Really, other than not being terribly mobile, he’s good at most things you want a master to do in Malifaux.
Stargazer Von Schtook still has a lot of crew enhancement paired with some damage and negative conditions, but in a somewhat different toolbox. He picked up Hard to Wound somewhere along the line (I guess you spend enough time around dead folks and it’s bound to happen eventually.) Head in the Clouds is a deceptively important ability, as the Resurrectionist faction tends to have pretty low willpower across the board, so imposing a – on attacks that target WP in an aura around him could be huge in certain match-ups. His Lessons Learned ability is interesting and unique as well, as it grants a + to all duels in a model’s activation after it fails a duel. This suggests to me intentionally cheating down some kind of throw-away free action with a TN to give yourself a + to all your attacks in a turn, which is interesting. He’s still got the keyword ability so crazy card drawing is possible, though his attacks don’t have the multiple built-in suits anymore to truly enable it. Speaking of attacks, one of them involves a zombie with a telescope in place of its head. So, that’s a thing. I've got to question whether that’s really an effective mount for a telescope. Sure, it has mobility advantages, but you need them to be steady to bring things into proper focus…you know what? I’m off topic. The 1/3/4 damage spread + stunned is fairly meh, but if you target someone who is already stunned it ratchets up to 3/5/6. That’s pretty nasty. There’s also a fairly amusing trigger called Protect Me that summons a Mindless Zombie into b2b with the target of the attack and makes it so no enemy attack actions can target Von Schtook until the MZ is killed. He can make enemy models insignificant as a Free Action, which is potentially quite strong. And then there’s the actual Astronomy bits. His Study of Anatomy attack lets him resolve a number of different effects on targets based on their creature type, ranging from condition removal to damage to healing. It’s very situational, which would normally be a problem except for the ability I skipped on the front of his card, Shade of Delios, which allows friendly Transmortis models to treat enemies within 3” of a scheme marker as having any traits they want. How do we get the scheme markers into place you say? Why, by using his Light of Illios attack action, that lets him drop a scheme marker within 6” of him that triggers a Shockwave which can potentially hurt enemies (though it only requires a TN 11 WP duel, so don’t count on it) and heal friendly models. The combination of these two abilities (named for Malifaux’s 2 moons btw #loreflex) mean that Von Schtook’s Study of Anatomy ability can actually do any of the options listed, which gives a lot of flexibility and is generally cool and good. Plus Delios lets the Students to pretend that they killed the right type of model to trigger their specific abilities, which is gravy. Not necessary per say, but who doesn’t like a little gravy from time to time?
I like Stargazer Von Schtook, and I like the OG version too. I honestly don’t know which is better in what situations, though, as they’re both kind of generalists. OG is better at range, where Stargazer can potentially do some damage up close, I guess. The Injured blasts were pretty sweet, but now that he doesn’t blast on weak not quite as devastating as they used to be. I don’t know. This may come down to personal preference/playstyle. Stargazer feels pretty viable, though, so I’ll expect to see him get some run, as the whole Transmortis keyword is just so good that it may not really matter who is leading them.