Monday, March 26, 2018

The Power of KISS


The March Newsletter has come out, and it has a lot of interesting announcements. 

-First of all, it mentions the Obsidian Gate Through the Breach event, which is now in progress. 

-Additionally, it's time for the spring sale and the onslaught of alternate sculpts that come with it. This year, there's a Viktorias alternate with an Easter theme that are...interesting. Additionally, there's a slop hauler Bob Ross. So that's a thing. If you spend $100, you get an alt Lazarus. 

-During April, Wyrd is running a painting contest called Creature Feature, where you put together a clearly non-humanoid model and paint it. 


Pictured: Not the subject of this article.

              I don’t know about you, but my free time comes at a premium. I have a job. I’m looking for another one once this one finishes up. I have three kids, two of which are in middle school. The eldest is in track and plays the violin. My wife works and is going to school. And I also occasionally sit down and write this blog, as well as articles for Wyrd Chronicles. I’m lucky if I get one whole game of Malifaux in a week, and that usually requires playing over Vassal with Phiasco or my friend Rich, both of whom routinely pound me. If you wonder how somebody who writes a Malifaux blog could make all the mistakes I do when writing about the game, it’s because I just flat-out don’t get to play that often. Case in point: Show of Force has been a scheme since 2017 and is still in 2018. I somehow missed the fact that it only scores if you’re within 6” of the center of the board, not within 6” of the centerline. How has that not come up before now? I have no idea. But it’s kinda ridiculous that I’d never put it together (and I’m now mortified that I have likely cheated some opponents prior to this revelation.)
               Why do I bring this up? It’s not out of some weird need to debase myself. It’s to illustrate a point. When a new crew idea comes along, not everyone has the opportunity to play three or four test games a week to try and learn its intricacies. Malifaux is complex, and there are a lot of models with a lot of complicated interactions you have to learn to master it. Recently, I posted about summoning Pandora, a crew built around interactions between models. All of the models in it are WP based and somewhat suboptimal  on their own, but gain strength through the synergy of the crew. And, when I played it the first time, I played it very poorly. I haven’t gotten a chance to go back and try it again, and I certainly wouldn’t break it out for a tournament, despite the fact that I like Pandora and I think it’d be a cool crew to play. It’s just…honestly a little intimidating. When I only get one game a week, I don’t like spending it in a losing effort, though I should probably get over that. But still, the bottom line is that it’s very rare when I go up against an opponent and am as experienced with my crew as they are with theirs. More often than not, I’m having to learn on the fly, as there’s only so much theorycrafting you can do in your head before the game. And if it’s a really complicated crew with a lot of moving parts, that just makes it harder.
               I’m starting to feel that I should gravitate more towards simple crews. The fewer complex interactions I have to keep track of, the less chance there is that I’ll screw them up. And, to be honest, I think there is something to be said for just playing a crew full of good models that do what they do without a lot of support. The prototypical Lillith crew is one example of this, since it basically consists of the master, some hard hitting enforcers/henchmen, the Primordial Magic, and some other stuff like Iggy or the Mysterious Effigy that provide direct, simple benefits to help the rest of the crew. You can do something similar with Collodi, especially if you have a Bag of Props build that doesn’t revolve around handing out a bunch of buffs to the crew.
And, to risk propagating a stereotype, my other faction is the Guild, who tend to be a bit simpler in and of themselves. There are more complicated Guild crews (Nellie, some McCabe crews), but in general they tend to be a bit simpler to play. I like Perdita, but there isn’t a ton of subtlety in that crew if we’re being honest. One of her best upgrades is Fastest Draw in Malifaux, and all that does is give you a +2 to initiative and a card draw if you lose. The closest thing you have to “synergistic activations” is deciding when to have the Brutal Effigy activate and give her the (0) action buff, and when to have her totem shove somebody upfield. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of activating models, pointing them at the enemy, and pulling the trigger. Simple as that.
Don’t get me wrong, there are things to master with these crews that will separate a good player from a great one, but it isn’t like learning the interplays of a top-end Nicodem crew. And, if I’m being honest with myself, I probably need to stick to something more like that if I want to improve my win rate.
Also, I need to stop playing against Rich. Because he cheats. I don’t know how, but he does.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

How to Cheat at Malifaux


-A worldwide Through the Breach campaign starts on Monday. It’s titled The Obsidian Gate, and seems to be either set earthside or at least related to The Other Side, as the pregenerated characters are representatives of each ToS faction (including Kimon and the Three Kingdoms. Did we know those were factions? Is this news?). Participants play through a free four act adventure, reporting the results on Wyrd’s website. Additionally, the character that is played the most will become an adjunct for their faction in ToS. Sign up at this address and play in some Asian themed Through the Breach action.

- An FAQ was released for March with clarified some of the issues that have come up since Gaining Grounds 2018 released. Follow the link to read through them, including clarifications of the Supply Wagon, Inescapable Trap, and Surround Them questions.

Under Quarantine

The Lion King was really different in Malifaux...

I recently bought and read through the PDF version of Under Quarantine, the Through the Breach supplement detailing the Resurrectionists and other hazards of the quarantine zone in Malifaux. The background/fluff section goes through each section of the Zone and discusses their unique qualities, including the plague warrens, a section overgrown by Knotwood trees (and the Neverborn that come with them), and a mostly flooded/bayou like zone that would be a good homebase for down-on-their-luck Fated, as it serves as a literal and cultural estuary where humans, gremlins, stitched (undead characters), and even Neverborn can intermingle. Did you know Parker Barros’ brother is the de facto mayor of one section of the QZ, and ripping off his family to take over part this part of Malifaux city is what drove Parker to banditry in the first place? You can read about it here. Additionally, it provides information about the Necropolis beneath the city and tunnel environments in other parts of Malifaux. The Lampads, a current flavor du jour of many Resurrectionist crews, were first introduced in this book as creatures from a city in the Northern Hills that is perpetually on fire!
For rules content, the book introduces a new character generation tarot, the Lifeline Tarot, that includes a character having a brush with death (from which they may not have escaped), allowing you to play a character with a close tie to the energies of life and who may, in fact, be an undead creature. It also contains a number of new pursuits. The Alchemist is a pursuit that gives you some of Rafkin and/or Sebastian’s abilities to manipulate the Poison condition. The Ghost Eater lets you manipulate Chi ala Yan Lo or the forthcoming Manos. And, of course, you couldn’t do this book without a Necromancer pursuit, in this case one inspired by Nicodem that includes elements of magic using and commander style pursuits to let you summon and order around a horde of the Undead. For those who don’t necessarily want to go that dark with their character, the Bully lets you use intimidation magic to strike fear in opponents during combat and the Sawbones is a doctor that you’ll be seeing in action if you play in the Obsidian Gate campaign, being used by a character with a very familiar name.
Later, the book introduces some additional rules for Through the Breach. There are a handful of new Magia and Immuto for spellcasters, per usual for these books, as well as some new unique Grimoires (one of which is a zombie who follows your character around and tells you the spells, which amuses me greatly.) A section details alchemical compounds that can be made with the Alchemy skill. There are a lot of General Talents to try out, including one that lets you remove a card you don’t want from your Twist Deck (take that, Ace.) Fittingly for a book titled Under Quarantine, there are a number of new diseases introduced in this book. Some of them are relatively mundane (want to know what it’s like to catch tuberculosis or polio in Malifaux? There’re rules for it here!) Others are more exotic and iconic for the world. Specifically, rules for corruption and slow transformation into a Nephilim by Black Blood are introduced here, rules for Fated who are addicted to Brilliance (ending in the Hungering Darkness coming to find you and turn you into a Depleted, fun times!), and finally a condition called Haunted for characters that spend too much time around ghosts or other angry spirits. Finally, the book finishes off with a great big pile of Fatemaster characters from all the different thematic elements in the book, from the expected (undead, undead, and undead) to some of the less obvious (various rat-related things from Hamelin’s oeuvre, employees and clientele of the Honeypot casino, and some miscellaneous tunnel dwellers from the Northern Hills.)
This book is solid. The maps of the city from the core book or other Malifaux products show that here are multiple Quarantine Zones, but this is the first product I’m aware of that goes into each of them in detail. There are a lot of cool new character options for players and new threats for the Fatemasters to throw at them. If you’re into Through the Breach, I’d definitely recommend giving this one a look.

Cheating Bastard

Oh yeah. You knew the banner was coming out...

               I’ve always liked Lynch. That’s not a secret. Partially this is because I’m a fanboy of his, and partially because I like having better cards than the person I’m playing against. I’m a little more reckless than most with my hand, so it’s nice being able to do that with the knowledge that I have Woke Up With a Hand and Mulligan waiting at the end of the turn. Picking up the Aces. Getting the free henchman. They were all good stuff. I come from a CCG gaming background, so card manipulation appeals to me. But still, he’s not super fast. He deals a lot of damage, but that’s about all he does well. Huggy is good, but his defense of 3 is a real liability even with Incorporeal. You could get around it by using him as a disposable missile and bringing him back via Rising Sun, but the bottom line was there were probably better options in Neverborn that could do similar things.
               Enter Book 5, and along with it the upgrade Cheating Bastard. It gives Lynch two abilities. One is kinda cute, where you reveal one to three masks from your hand at the beginning of his activation. One mask lets you hand out Brilliance automatically to a model within 8” of Lynch. That is not insignificant, as much of his activations revolved around forcing a model to be hit by Play for Blood to set up the finishing blow Final Debt prior to this, which of course always leaves the possibilities of getting screwed by the deck. Two masks lets you drop a pair of scheme markers, one in base to base with Lynch and one with Huggy. The third lets you heal everybody in your crew. It’s not likely to that you’ll have the three (hell, two has been tough in some of the games I’ve played) but it’s useful for the auto-Brilliance if nothing else.
               The reason you would bring it (it is a limited upgrade, so it means no Rising Sun or Endless Hunger), is the other ability. This allows every friendly model within 6” of Lynch of HD to cheat second regardless of the initial flip. This is major. You haven’t lived until you flip a deuce on the initial flip of a Lure from one of your Beckoners, your opponent asks if you want to cheat, and you reply “I don’t know. Do you want to?” If you make a little smug smile while you do it, I think you get extra points. It throws opponents off base, breaking one of the fundamental rules of Malifaux. It is VERY strong. And, it’s a 6” radius aura. From BOTH OF THEM. That’s 24” of aura, plus an inch for Lynch’s base and 2” for Hungering Darkness. That’s a pretty good chunk of the board covered. I’ve always bumped up against bubble crews, because they tie your movement up too much and make it difficult to function. If, however, you have a pair of them, your crew is a lot more free to spread out and do what it needs to do. I like this upgrade quite a bit, and it’s made me want to get my Lynch models out.
               I’m still not sure that he’s better in the Neverborn than in Ten Thunders. Recalled Training is just so good, and the support models in 10T are better overall. The Neverborn tend to function more independently, and like I said, Lynch isn’t going to break any speed records anytime soon. However, Lure is an effective way to get around this problem, and it just so happens that Mr. Lynch has some pretty solid Luring options with his Beckoners. I’m not sure if Lilitu isn’t still a better option even after the reduction in cost to the Beckoners, but they can hand out Brilliance to support the Lynch/HD attacks while they’re at it. I’ve got some experimenting to do to find out which way I prefer it, but a crew that is designed to drag an enemy out of position across the board and kill them. It’ll work well for some games, but maybe won’t be great for games where you have to move rapidly across the board. Symbols of Authority is going to be a struggle for them, for sure. But still, I’m interested in it, and I thought I’d share with you guys. And also, it let me dust the banner off again.

Until next time!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Wanted: Sandeep

Wanted: Sandeep Desai

Crimes: Conspiracy with known Arcanist terrorists, unsanctioned magic use, being too good at everything

Known Associates: Oxfordian Mages, Wind Gamin, Kandara, Pretty Much Anything Else

Considering how popular the Nicodem article was, I wanted to keep this idea going. For those who are maybe new to the blog or didn’t see the previous Wanted Poster, the goal of these articles is to take a look at the archetypal “top tier” lists in the meta at any given moment. Malifaux’s a complex game with a lot of different models, and it’s impossible to know all of them in depth. So, the objective was to present the crews players should be looking out for if they’re attending tournaments at the top level. The articles will familiarize you with the crews and masters of the top lists, give you an idea of how they run, let you know what to watch out for, and give you an idea of how to beat them. And, since I’m just some shlub living in the Malifaux desert of Southwest Virginia, I would hunt up some top-level Malifaux players to contribute their knowledge with the community.

               When released in Wave 4, Sandeep Desai’s design/theme was pretty clear. He was intended to be an all-rounder: not the best at any particular thing, but pretty good at everything. I don’t know if this analogy still works, having not played any of the newer versions of the game, but he was supposed to be like Mario from Mario Kart. Not the fastest driver, not the heaviest hitter, but right in the middle. That’s what Sandeep was supposed to be. He could summon a little bit, but not to the extent that Nicodem or (at the time) Dreamer could do it. He had attacks that were ok, but nothing that set the world on fire. He had a little bit of mobility, and a bit of toughness. He would be a great starter master or a very solid choice for a single-master style tournament, but you would probably see others for the top-end games, simply because their ability to specialize would make it so a better choice would probably be available for most games.

               Then the first tournament he was legal (Gencon Masters), he won. That probably should have told us something.

Fast-forward to 2018, and a very different state of affairs is in place. If you play against an Arcanist crew in most competitive settings, you need to expect to play against Sandeep regardless of the scenario. The All-Rounder has turned out to simply be the best choice in most games. They’ve almost become a one-master faction, as he can do almost any job in the game as well or better than any of the other masters. It’s not that the other Arcanist masters are bad, it’s just that he’s at least as good if not better for…just about everything. Ramos is a great summoner and Rasputina’s a great damage dealer, but their crews are usually on the slow side and can’t reposition efficiently. Marcus is fast and can use resources to hit hard, but the damage isn’t as reliable, and he and his beasts can be a bit fragile. Ironsides doesn’t have the speed or ranged projection. And Kaeris…well, she’s Kaeris. And, even if you get a game with a pure enough scheme pool that you can specialize with one master so completely that it makes them a better choice than Sandeep, he’s still likely to be a close second, and there’s something to be said for focusing on one crew to the point of mastering it rather than switching between very different pools of models to use for different games.

So what makes Sandeep such a solid choice in most games? What is it about him that makes him such a solid choice in most games? Well, I don’t know. I’m an idiot. That’s why I contacted Ben Sime, host of Arcane Reservoir and long-time Sandeep player, and Erik Lodal, better known as Grrn, an American Sandeep expert and occasional guest on the Max Value podcast. We’ll start by taking a look at some characteristic elements of Sandeep’s crew, right after this word regarding our Patreon account.


Do you know that we’re supported by Patreon? You should, I mention it every week. But, in case you’re new, here’s the deal. I’m not rich. I’d like to be, but I’m not. I also don’t have an excess of free time, and what I do have I dedicate in large part to writing this blog. I’m not asking for sympathy…I’m just asking for a little bit of money. $1 a month, to be precise. For $1 a month (.25c a blog post, in most months) you can be a part of making Malifaux Musings into the world’s premiere Malifaux information source. We discuss tactics. We discuss model releases. We discuss fluff. And, if we get enough new donors, we’ll start to have our monthly raffles for Limited Edition Malifaux stuff again. You can’t beat that. So why not throw us a shekel or two? Just head over to and donate today!


 Rolling in the Deep

As stated, Sandeep doesn’t immediately jump out at you as a world-beater. His stats aren’t bad, but they’re not amazing for a master either. None really stands out other than his 12 wounds, and even that is starting to become par for the course (for context, he was smack in the middle for number of wounds in Book 4, where he was introduced.) Impossible to Wound and Arcane Shield gives him some survivability, and he has good mobility tricks to get him out of tough situations. As Grrn put it, most Sandeep deaths are due to player error, rather than the opponent doing something clever. However, he has a completely forgettable melee attack, a decent ranged cast with a 2/4/5 damage flip that can use a Ram to get a + to damage, and some utility actions to push things towards him, give him a (0) action Leap, and/or to interact as a (0). He’s very vanilla, so what makes him so great?

The first things are his Beacon and Student of All abilities. Beacon lets other friendly non-peon models within 12” and LoS use his cast actions. They can each only be used once per turn, but this effectively gives Sandeep a potential for 2 extra (1) actions, as well as spreading around the use of his (0)s as well. Better, the spells are cast by the other members of the crew, creating the potential for force projection. Cast 6 2/4/5 is an ok attack for a master, but for a 4 soulstone gamin it’s pretty solid, even at -1 Ca! Second, Sandeep can take a free (1) action after one of his crew uses his CA actions and ends with a tome in the final duel total (once per turn.) That’s like an out-of-turn Fast, in exchange for doing what you want to do anyways, borrow Sandeep’s spells. He has 4 Ca actions on his card, so chances are you would get the free AP every turn just from flips, even without Arcane Storm having a Tome built in!

Next, and possibly the thing for which he is most infamous, is Deep’s summoning. It isn’t built in, instead coming from his Limited Upgrades (other than the Book 5 one, but most don’t give that one much love.) Both allow him to summon gamin, including his totem Banasuva, while attaching one of three Rare 1 upgrades that give them a buff in exchange for a hindrance of some kind. Thus, he’s only ever able to have at most 3 summons in play at a time (a system some have advocated adapting for all of the summoning masters in the game, though that’s neither here nor there.) The two flavors of his Limited favor either scheme running/interacting (To Behold Another World) or combat (To Command Another Plane.) Opinions fluctuate on which of these are better, though both Ben and Grrn prefer Behold. Both have their merits. One of the upgrades from Commands hands out + to attacks for friendly models within 3, which you can summon wherever you need it. A mobile + to attack bubble is pretty handy, as most Nicodem players could tell you. On the other hand, Behold Another World has the utility of a model that can drop scheme markers on the turn it is summoned or another that comes in with a weak version of Chatty is often more important. Probably best to try both and see which you prefer. As for what they’re summoning, well, the answer is usually Wind Gamin. Their speed and the flurry of attacks they can unleash outclasses most of what the others can do. Of course, Banasuva is a Gamin, so you can summon him, but that can be pretty card intensive. Some of the others can be useful as well for certain situations, but he Wind Gamin are really what you need to look out for.

His other biggest strength is probably the difficulty in teching to beat him. When writing about Nicodem, there are models you expect to see and you have an idea what’s going to be coming for you. With Sandeep, it could be almost anything. When I asked Grrn what he considered a “typical” Sandeep build, he offered this:

Arcane Reservoir
One of the legit summon upgrades
Maybe another upgrade as you like it?
Some tanky model like Anna Lovelace or Joss or Carlos
The mages
Someone carrying Well Rehearsed (could be a mage, could be another enforcer)
Fill (common choices atm are the Medibot and the Steamfitter, but I think these have a veneer of newness to them that may go away)

With the follow-up:

Part of his major strength is you don't really need other models for him to do his thing and do it well.

Ben had some thoughts as well:

I think a typical Sandeep list is going to include mages, some smaller models such as wind gamin for schemes, a big hitter in Howard or the Valedictorian.
Then finishing off with something like either a Practiced Production user and/or these days Kandara.
How it plays is always dependent on build, scheme pool etc. but typically some nice synergy between the academics getting the most out of the Oxfordians.
Little things running objectives and taking advantage of borrowing Sandeep's (0) interact, while another probably uses the arcane storm.
If these models aren't in it'll typically be the summoned ones that can take advantage.
A Mage list will probably see "Commands" making a fully powered Oxfordian weapons battery whilst a "Visions" list is taking full advantage of the expendable nature of some of the gamin.
Other than that, expect little suprises, things like Sandeep getting his free AP via Student of All to summon out of activation and other nice little things.

Sandeep crews often bring the Oxfordian Mages, because their new discount upgrades and the old wards turn them into a 15 stone hard-hitting, furious casting, tough to kill unit. Usually you see something Tanky like Carlos Vasquez, maybe a hard hitter like Howard Langston. The new hotness is to spam Slate Ridge Maulers for their toughness and ability to spam Slow, though the jury is out on whether that build will have staying power or if it’s just a meme list.

Essentially, you can pick the best models from the faction, without concern for a theme, and get the tools to complete the schemes and strategies. Another one of his upgrades even allows you to hire academics from outside the faction, so you can bring in the Valedictorian if you want. More recently, Sandeep crews have splashed in the Medical Bot and Steamfitter for their added utility. And, of course, Kandara from Book 5 is a clutch addition, as she has offense, survivability, mobility, and can free you from the summoning cap by transferring the upgrades from Gamin to herself and then discarding them (probably not useful every game, but interesting nonetheless.)

Off the Deep End: How to take down Sandeep

               This is probably the hardest part of this article, and the thing that I’ve struggled with the most (outside of fighting off a bout of writer’s block) when putting this thing together. I really don’t want to write “play the schemes and strats, and do it better than your opponent,” but that’s really what it comes down to.  There are no glaring weaknesses in Sandeep’s game. He doesn’t have a hole in his swing. And, moreover, there’s no formula for what his crews bring to the table. If you tech to kill the Mages and play against Ben, that tech is worthless since he doesn’t use them. To beat him, you have to try and be as flexible as him and play the game to the bets of your ability. Let’s see if our contributors have any other tips.

Ben) The main anti-Sandeep thing I can think of is the same case for a fair few masters and that is to pressure them and their resources.
Sandeep is Impossible to Wound but he's easy enough to hit. Resource wise it's just the hand he needs but to take advantage of 'deep and his crew there's discards, 12's for Banasuva and 8's for other gamin.
On top of this there's Furious Casting in the mage list which can be aided with the Unalligned Sage upgrade but that's a cost in itself or even stuff in my own lists like Flurry from Howard and healing from Carlos.
A few cards down and it's a much harder time for him.
Also, it's maybe cliche but anti armour is decent vs Sandeep too, the little gamin all have armour and you're bound to see something else with it.
It isn't a major deal but if that's your decider for the last model in your list vs Sandeep lean towards it.

               So discard can be useful against him. That’s a good tip. What about Grrn?

Grrn) Sandeep has a lot of Ca actions.  Sue is pretty decent into him.  Things that ignore damage reduction and can smoke the Oxfordians are also worth considering.  I think another part of what makes Sandeep really good is that there's no "oh well you took the counter model, I guess I lose" thing going on.  In general you have to play Sandeep's game and beat him at it.
               So Sue to disrupt casting and anti-armor. Probably a good idea against Arcanists in general (he said, right before playing Ironsides). And a reiteration that there is no catch-all solution.

               After my interview with Jamie, I’ve started asking players what they would bring to a game if they were playing against their Doppleganger who was bringing their list to play against them. When I asked the fellas this question regarding their Sandeep crews, this was what they had to offer.

Ben) I think the strats and schemes will always matter, I think luck is still always a factor but overall it's the player not the crew usually.
Versus my kind of list if I have to answer though I guess it would be any of the top summoners, obviously Nicodem is up there, but even solid Som'er crews.Whilst Sandeep summons his crew can't get beyond a certain size, even with Kandara upgrade shenangians.
The others can press the numbers advantage and get activation control which is not only one of the most important things in the game full stop but vs my interact shenanigans it's even more of a pain.

Grrn) Hah, yea I've actually done this a few times.  Well that's complicated.  First, I think Sue is a good consideration.  Past that I have several branches of thought.  I would definitely not take models that rely on armor and/or are slow as mages are common.  I would also try to take more models rather than fewer as activation control is a big, big deal.  Cards are going to be fairly important in the matchup, so either looking at really efficient models or models that put pressure on cards would be another consideration.  I have run a December Acolyte/Silent One gunline out of Sandeep in the mirror that worked out meh I guess?  The biggest single factor in what crew I took would be the strat/schemes though, so it’s kind of hard to answer from just a general point of view.  There's no one model I'd always consider.

               So, it seems there are some tricks that might help you. Pressure his resources. Bring some anti-caster tech, and things to help you deal with Oxfordian Mages. Don’t get out-activated if you can, obviously. And play the objectives more effectively than he can. That might be the most important bit, looking at the game and trying to figure what the rest of the crew will look like, and moving to counter that. Sandeep is a known commodity, but But the main thing is to know what to expect and be ready for it. Probably the best thing you can do to learn to beat Sandeep is play against him, so you can see his tricks first hand and know what to expect. Summoning a gamin that can interact that turn during a different model’s activation is tough to prepare for, but you’ll have a better shot at seeing it coming if you’ve seen it before. Practice, practice, practice, and be ready to play your game.

               Until next time, Musers. Remain vigilant for Arcanist terrorism. Keep an eye out for Wind Gamin. And play your friggin' stats and schemes, already! 

For more from Ben, check out his work at and the Arcane Reservoir podcast. For more from Grrn, check out old episodes of Max Value.