The new Retribution warcaster is, not to put too fine a point on it, weird. In a realm of giant shoulderpads, action poses and chuffing great chimblies on everything, Issyria is… well, serene. Peaceful. Isolated. If the model’s anything to go by, you’d expect a very subtle backfield caster, possibly something like the Harbinger but without the floaty exploding messiah’s sense of the spectacular or crippling vulnerability to a stray Disruptor Bolt.
(If you’re me, you’d also think “damn me, that’s a blood elf Monk using Zen Flight, I have to own that just for the theme points!” I already know which guildmate’s going to inspire the colour-scheme on that one, even if it does mean painting a model three-quarters black.)
Question is, do her rules measure up to the elegance of the figure? This is what I’m going to try and work out. Obviously, the usual provisos apply; I am very much a kitchen-table Warmachinist, not a top tier player at all, and someone who appreciates the game for its crystal clarity not because it afford THE ULTIMATE TEST OF SKILLZ but because my hobby time is precious and negotiating with arbitrary randomness and blue-screen-of-death loopholes is not always desirable. Tight rules do nothing to harm casual or narrative play and in fact enable it by getting awkwardness out of the way so we can focus on fun and storytelling – if you see tight rules as mutually inclusive with cutthroat competition that says more about you than it does about the system. MOVING ON (shh, I can pretend I’m cool enough to be on Elite Cadre if I want.)
The front of the card reveals average SPD; high DEF; crap ARM; decent CMD; low-ish wound count; high FOC and average warjack points. MAT, RAT and STR are frankly embarrassing, but also irrelevant, since she has no weapon. That’s unusual. That means no sneaky charging for extra movement and no capacity to engage enemy pieces and go “look at me I’m camping on ARM 21”. However, it could be something of a godsend for someone like me who struggles to get their caster’s stats and aggressive potential into play. That said, that low ARM makes me gip – I’m not always great at keeping the fragile ones alive…
Instead of attacking, Issyria’s likely to spend her actions making a myrmidon swing or shoot twice. Obvious pairings: Hydra (two RNG 15 POW 15 shots per turn make loading the beast up much more appealing); Banshee (two slam-gun shots per turn); potentially Sphinx in a build with lots of Battle Mages; Discordia or Hyperion because their guns are pretty much unique for the Retribution, and two shots for either of them would be, as the saying goes, well fit. Outlier: the Manticore could fire four shots, or one Ancillary Attack and still drop Covering Fire. She will generally be tethered to whichever ‘jack you want to shoot with that turn, but as we’ll see, that might not be a huge deal.
Arcane Vortex. Arcane Vortex? FOC 8, Arcane Vortex, backfield-oriented? Is she Haley? It’s possible that she should cleave even more closely to a heavy or Hyperion, since one Crippling Grasp or Parasite on those could really spoil one’s day. Pre-measuring her control area to check the spell’s RNG before you choose to spend the focus seems legit, although giving away a key threat range will probably be less then clever. Worth noting that this protects models, not models/units, so no sneaky hiding one member of a unit within 3″ of her and Vortexing off those tricky debuffs.
Flight. OK, so she drifts six inches per turn but she’s going to drift where the hell she likes. She does not have Parry, so she’s not going to fly away from anything that does reach her.
True Sight. TRUE SIGHT on a Retribution ‘caster. With no weapons. I weep. I hope she has a super-sexy offensive spell of some ilk…
Admonition. We know Admonition of old on this blog, we played Epic Skarre for many moons and Ossyran is our favourite Retribution ‘caster. As usual, Admonition is one of those spells that you might want on a heavy myrmidon for “pull back 3″ to shoot/arc freely or charge back in” shenanigans or that you might want to upkeep on Issyria all game for safety’s sake. Since she radiates a profound “if she’s in melee ur doin it rong” vibe, I’m leaning toward smacking it on a myrmidon. I generally don’t field lights but the thought of Chimeras skipping five inches before they even activate make me feel all glowy inside.
Blinding Light. OK, this is a new one for me, and something I haven’t really seen in Retribution yet; a direct, conventional debuff which prevents attacks and reduces DEF and, crucially, is not either an Effect which can be Shaken with focus/fury, or something to which Colossals/Gargantuans are inherently immune. Permit me to stop, laugh like an absolute fucking lunatic, and contemplate the prospect of spending three focus per turn to shut down a Colossal’s shooting, reducing it to a ponderous melee piece which will generally be a lot easier to handle. The model/unit thing is what I look for in a spell too, since smacking those Winter Guard over the chops and saying NO SPRAYS FOR YOU makes me feel warm and glowy inside.
Crusader’s Call. Well, anything that picks up the pace of the Dawnguard units is welcome, and it’s another of those things that’ll have Houseguard Halberdiers motoring contentedly up the table. Smack a Houseguard Thane atop them and that’s a 15″ threat range on their charge. Sexy.
Inviolable Resolve? OK, so that’s ARM20 on Shield Walled Halberdiers or 19 on Defensive Lined Invictors, which edges them juuust off the top of ‘victim stats’ (the ARM stats that die to POW12s over half the time). Model/unit buffs on single models often feel like a waste of time but if you need to Trample something forward it might be worth casting, upkeeping and then hot-swapping onto something else once the ‘jack’s activation is done. Might also be worth it on Hyperion since that huuuge grid will be taking a lot of hits.
And finally, Velocity, which makes up semi-nicely for the lack of sneaky charges for extra movement. I say semi-nicely because she does have a couple of upkeeps and a couple of excellent 3-focus spells and is probably going to be handing out a couple to ‘jacks to get the most out of Ancillary Attack (with a couple of shots available, handing out one focus via the Arcanist isn’t always going to work).
I don’t have an image of the feat card, but it’s fucking brilliant. No, you may not pardon my French. It’s just that good. Friendly Faction models gain True Sight and Signs and Portents, basically. Roll an extra die on attack and damage rolls, discard one of your choosing. There is absolutely nothing in the Retribution that doesn’t gain something from this, although (as usual) I lean toward stuff that can shoot just because Retribution shooting is ace and True Sight is a bit of a waste on melee pieces.
In my usual (only) list, then, what does Issyria bring to the board?
- A turn of superhuman accuracy for the Dawnguard Invictors; they will shoot what they want to, they had better bloody well hit it with three dice and a re-roll on their CRAs, and they are very likely to take it down.
- A turn in which Stormfall Archers that are less likely to drift off-target, making the carpet-bombing with Star Fall or the nuking something with Brutal Damage that bit more viable than RAT5 normally manages.
- Obscene charge ranges for the Houseguard Halberdiers and, if I’m going for a Flank turn, decent range on the Invictors.
- Admonition on the Phoenix, cheerfully skipping out of combat to fling Blinding Light about.
- Either two shots on the Banshee’s gun, or an extra swing with its melee weapons if it’s pinned down. I’m not thinking Ancillary Attack will see much use on the Phoenix simply because I generally run my arc nodes more than 5″ from the caster, extending their influence across the field.
On a broader note, she should also help me with list building. She may benefit from Sylys (free upkeep, helping Blinding Light hit) but his buff to damage rolls is wasted on her, and she has FOC 8 and can roll with an Ancillary-Attacking Sphinx to debuff the target. She doesn’t need Sylys in the same way that Kaelyssa (one expensive damage spell and one that needs to damage hard targets to do its thing) does, in the way that Ossyran (lots of upkeeps and again, at least one spell that urgently needs to deal damage) does, or in the same way that Rahn (Chain Blast and go home) wins more with him. That frees me up from some analysis paralysis and angst, and lets me build a decent list with one of those three casters, and maybe focusing the non-Faction pieces into, say, a Rahn list. She also, of course, has the option to spend 3 focus and tell a Colossal that it’s not shooting me for a turn; again, taking the pressure off the list poker stage. If there’s the threat of a Colossal, play Issyria. Otherwise, Rahn/Ossyran.
What am I worried about? Welp. She may have high FOC but she also has a lot that she wants to do with it. Camping is unlikely. ARM21 is unlikely to happen often. DEF16 ARM 14 or so with 15 boxes is, like, Cryx-fragile, and she lacks the “you can’t touch me!” of an Epic Skarre. Despite her Velocity and Flight, she is in real terms going to be sticking close to a heavy and its Arcanist and being a bit more upfield than I’d necessarily like. What worries me isn’t “is she good” but more “am I good enough to keep her safe?” and possibly “will I end up needing her to do too much in a generalist list”?
Still, it’s not like she doesn’t slot neatly into the usual Ossyran lists with no fuss. I might, however, be tempted to essay forth a small change at 35 points:
Issyria, Sibyl of Dawn
10 Houseguard Halberdiers
– Officer and Standard
10 Dawnguard Invictors
– Officer and Standard
At 50, I would be tempted by two units of Stormfall Archers, the Mage Hunter Strike Force with Commander, or maybe a Chimera and a Stormfall unit, paid for by downgrading the Phoenix to a Hydra. That’s two ‘jacks that like Ancillary Attack, one of which synchs up well with Blinding Light, and an absurdly mobile arc node. I’ve been tempted by a Retribution starter box anyway: the light myrmidons would fit well with my current army, I’ve lost the bits for my magnetised Manticore and wouldn’t mind building new arms for the Phoenix – the magnets look ugly and I tend to field the Phoenix a lot anyway, so having those arms glued together wouldn’t hurt. It could also form the basis for a Discordia model if I went completely mad and spent £10 on a stat card and some spare parts. Guess I could trade a Kaelyssa clone for it.