Friday, February 7, 2014

Wave 2 Beta Wrap-Up: The Neverborn

The Neverborn are probably “my” faction, in that I’ve played them the most since the change-over (though somehow the Ten Thunders have managed to sneak in there as well. I guess that’s sort of what they do.) As such, I followed the faction’s progress through the Beta process much closer than any of the others, and I had some pretty strong opinions going into this on what worked and what didn’t. It’s possible that’s a good thing, as I got probably the least amount of forum feedback on this topic than the other two I’d polled previously. It may be my imagination, but the Neverborn faction forum has always seemed a little slow compared to the others, so maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised at the apathy. But still, I was surprised to only have 3 responses as I wrote this. Is it because the Wave 2 Models were unremarkable? Most of the non-Collodi minions and enforcers didn’t see a ton of change after a certain point in the process, so have we been “done” for a while now, and that’s why there wasn’t a big rush of opinions?

Is it because we're too busy hiding under your beds?

Let’s take a look at the Neverborn models and then I’ll discuss this a bit more at the end. As with the previous articles, this is going to focus on the faction as a whole, looking for models with general utility rather than those with a specific focus towards certain crews.

Coppelius and Alps-I’m lumping them together, because I can’t really see hiring Alps on their own. They need someone to trigger slow, and Coppelius does that while also summoning more of them so they can work in groups. He makes more alps through a relatively easy summon spell requiring the Plucked Eyeball condition, which he gets from his melee attack. He’s lost mobility and a significant amount of complexity from his first edition form, which can make separating old bias somewhat tricky when gauging his strength. Ultimately, I think he’ll do well in Dreamer crews and can perhaps play a role in others, but I’m just not bowled over by what Coppelius brings to the table.

Lelu and Lillitu-These two also deserved to be spoken of together, although they are not required to be paired up the way they used to be. They are still interlinked, but importantly they don’t start taking wounds when their counterpart is off of the board. Their “Same oppressive force” trait allows healing and conditions to be passed between them. This is a double edged sword, albeit with one edge sharper than the other. The healing being passed is always strong, and just being able to pass Focus or Defensive to both for the cost of 1 AP is pretty good, to say nothing of the specific conditions they both can generate. However, you have to beware of negative conditions like Burning or Poison, which will also be shared unless you discard two cards. I could really see McMourning or Sonnia being tricky match-ups in this regard. Of the two, Lillitu is probably the best on her own, with Lelu needing some help to push enemies into his threat range so he can pounce. They are both a bit fragile, as many Neverborn models are, but their Regeneration (remember it passes between the two of them) and individual healing abilities helps to offset some of this. 14 points for the pair of them is pretty expensive, though, and any 7 soulstone model in the Neverborn is going to have to be compared to the Illuminated. I don’t think these two come out ahead in that comparison.

Insidious Madness-In the right crew, these guys could be seriously frightening. There’s a reason they had to be reduced to Rare 3, and that reason’s name is Pandora. Wk7 and incorporeal means they’re pretty speedy for objective running or getting into position to cause problems. They do this by spreading WP debuffs, both through their 4 inch aura requiring you to discard if you’re going to cheat fate on a WP duel and the “I Can Hear Them” condition they place on enemies with their attack. Considering how many Neverborn models attack WP, I see them being potentially quite useful in the future.

Black Blood Shaman-The shaman is essentially two of Lillith’s upgrades given legs and the ability to walk around and play the game on their own, letting you run Nephilim grow lists without her. This benefits Lillith by freeing up her Upgrade slots, but also greatly improves the ability to use Nephilim in non-Lillith crews. This is frankly a great choice on the part of the designers. Given the fact that Lynch is not particularly dependent on Brilliance anymore to function and Zoraida isn’t really anchored to any particular crew, the Shaman lets them get in on grow list action as well. It even gives you an additional means of letting your tots mature as well, using his “Blood Feast” spell that lets you sacrifice corpse counters to for the grow effect.The Shaman can even stab the non-Nephilim models you bring at the beginning of the game to give them Black Blood, keeping them safe from collateral damage.  It’s still a little “combo”-y for my tastes, but bravo to Justin for putting this into the faction.

Stitched Together-These guys were the poster children for how over-powered Book 2 was and frankly don’t get enough blame for the “Neverfilth” reputation the faction picked up from that point on. As such, you had to expect a dip in power for them. The M2E Stitched Together are no longer the no-brainer auto-includes they used to be. Their old “Does Not Die” ability is replaced by the Hard to Kill/Reactivate mechanism that has been used on some previous models, and I think is a good compromise. Gamble your life actually requires gambling now (probably fitting), as the flips are no longer cheatable and ignore all positive or negative twist on the duel. The Stitched have a CA of 6 for the attack which, considering it targets defense, is going to give you advantage most of the time, but it still will blow up in your face more often than previously. Possibly more interesting is their “Game of Chance” spell that lets the winner of a CA vs. WP duel draw two cards and pitch one. In certain crews (Lynch or Pandora come to mind) these may actually be more desirable than the gamble ability (especially if you have a high crow to trigger either “Heads I Win” or “Tails You Lose,” which are also my favorite trigger names ever.) Plus they retain their creepy fog ability and (thank god) no longer require a suit to cast it. I think the Stitched are a good example of the compromises necessary to bring an overpowered M1E model down to the level of a balanced M2E minion. And, on a personal note, they were probably the part of the Beta I campaigned the hardest for changes that actually ended up in the game. I was one voice among many, but it was still cool to be a part of bringing a model to their final shape.

Tuco-A model that brings reliable ranged to the Neverborn is always going to deserve attention. The thing about Tuco is, you’re going to want to deploy him via From the Shadows downfield, and you’re wrong to do so. Maybe M1E Tuco could pull this off, but M2E Tuco is going to die fast if used in this manner. This Tuco needs to be used for area control, deploying him to a vital spot on the board and letting him dig in with Defensive, shooting at people that come nearby and/or making them walk away with his (0) action. This leads him to feel underpowered, again, in large part because of how strong he was previously. I think, however, that once we learn how to not get him killed on the first turn of the game, Tuco’s going to be quite good at this role in Neverborn crews.

The Depleted-These models frankly felt a little lost at the beginning of the beta, and I was happy to see them shape up into their final form. The Depleted are a tarpit model. With Hard to Kill and Hard to Wound, it’s going to be tough to push the 8 damage onto them to kill them off. That combined with the fact that they explode when they die would seem to make them low priority targets and would suggest that the best course of action is to ignore them. This is tough to do once the Depleted get to grips with you, however, as they get a +twist to disengaging strikes, so they’re going to keep you nearby once you are engaged unless you find a way around them. For four stones, I think they can do a pretty good job of causing your opponent headaches. The only question is going to be whether or not it’s worth spending points on models that are insignificant and can’t score you VPs. I see a lot of them being “Frame for Murder” targets.

Iggy-Iggy’s always been a bit weird, in that he’s the only model in the Neverborn that interacts with burning. In a Woe heavy crew, his ability to depress the willpower of the models around him will come in handy, and adding another Incite to a Pandora/Candy crew adds some utility and makes it more likely to let you control one of your opponent’s models, but this is still kind of a corner case. In the meantime, the burning just sort of feels stuck on, or more accurately is a leftover from the fluff that doesn’t really help it synergize with the rest of the faction.

Hooded Rider-The hooded rider doesn’t feel particularly inspired compared to, say, the Mechanical, and doesn’t exactly reflect anything that particularly says “Neverborn” to me. His attack has a relatively standard critical-strike style trigger that uses his masks, but also can use a different trigger to discard counters from around itself. The second trigger might have the most potential to swing a game and makes him an attractive choice when your opponent declares Arcanist or Resurectionist. His Revel in Reclamation (0) action will add some good mobility to the crew, with a potential to move 18” in a turn and bring another model along for 6 of them. His big, last turn of the game ability, Judgement Day, doesn’t seem particularly interesting, letting him make an attack on everything in melee range (3”), but I’ve already said not to judge these models based on these abilities so it doesn’t really factor into my assessment. For 12 stones, I think the Rider is going to draw a lot of attention and get shot to death if you aren’t careful with him. There are probably more efficient ways to spend your points when building a crew.

Of all the articles so far, I think this is the one where I skipped the most models during the assessment. A lot of them may have strength in particular crews or under certain circumstances, but some others were just kind of blah. The Spawn Mother/Gupp combination is something I’ve never really cared for, as it takes too long to set up and doesn’t pay off with quality models in the end. Iggy came pretty close to not getting written up either, until someone finally responded with a comment regarding him on the forum thread.  Going back to proofread, I can see that a lot of my commentary comes off more negative than I really intended as well. While I think the Neverborn get some great models out of Wave 2, I have to wonder whether the relative “nerfing” that some things received kind of puts a damper on the enthusiasm of some readers when it came to this. Plus, the fact that Neverborn strength tends to be a bit less intuitive, since it relies on subterfuge and speed rather than direct strength, makes it all the more likely that there are things here we just haven't found yet. So buck up, Neverborn fans! The future is bright! Some of these minions and enforcers are really good!

Plus we get Nekima, so we'll still get complaints that we're totally broken!

Next up on the article list is the Outcasts, who I again did not get a lot of time to playtest during the beta. Any feedback from forumfolks or in the comments section here would be most appreciated.

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