Wanted: Sandeep Desai
with known Arcanist terrorists, unsanctioned magic use, being too good at
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.
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
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
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.
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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:
One of the legit summon upgrades
Maybe another upgrade as you like
Some tanky model like Anna Lovelace
or Joss or Carlos
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)
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
Off the Deep End: How to take down Sandeep
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
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 isn't a major deal but if that's your decider for the
last model in your list vs Sandeep lean towards it.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
For more from Ben, check out his work at ArcaneReservoir.com and the Arcane Reservoir podcast. For more from Grrn, check out old episodes of Max Value.
next time, Musers. Remain vigilant for Arcanist terrorism. Keep an eye out for Wind Gamin. And play your friggin' stats and schemes, already!