The Lion and the Dragon

autojack80Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Cygnar’s Flaws

Last Monday, my LGS finally finished its grueling Domination Double Elimination tournament–a league-play style of tournament that was played every other week since Sept. 30th, 2013. The tournament itself was an elimination series in which those that fell out of the first bracket were placed in the second to play against each other, and the finalists were those who had made it to the end of both brackets.

The last round was fought between Lostie Valrus wielding his trusty Lord Arbiter Hexeris and his opponent Greg’s particularly nasty Wraith Witch Deneghra. A great number of us had fought for so long in this league that as many as twelve of us couldn’t help but watch, spellbound, as the final rounds concluded.

What I found fascinating about my experience in this Domination League, was that the players who were most successful, like Valrus himself, just as he set up his models, said “After this, I will *never* play this list again”. Many of those players who had enjoyed a great deal of success found they were terribly bored with their lists and/or their ‘caster/’lock. I found it strange, personally, because it seems I couldn’t get enough of losing with mine!

Since TempleCon 2013, I have played virtually nothing but Cygnar. Mainly, I could not get enough of painting them.. The models had so much character, and I very much enjoyed the bright red they are emblazoned with in my paint scheme. At some point or another I also thought they should have an appropriate symbol and chose an “lion rampant or” for their sigil. They looked very noble and British, which was what I was going for. I have a thing for British stuff.

Cygnar is also just fantastically fun to play. I have found I can never stop finding crazy, bizarre angles through which to attack my opponents and seek victory. If I have learned nothing else from playing Cygnar, it’s that they can usually get at anything they want to. In terms of dealing with whatever it is, though, they will do it by the skin of their teeth, or not at all.

Of all the Cygnar models I could use to represent this, I would say the humble stormcaller stormsmith is the best. He is a one point solo, with almost no defensive ability whatsoever. He has cursory combat ability, and, other than having reach and immunity to electricity, is bereft of anything noteworthy beyond his signature ability. Stormcalling is a skill. It requires a skill check, with a respectable level 8, and a target he must see. Beyond that, he is going to deliver a pow 10 electrical damage roll to his target, no. matter. what. You’re in combat, under iron flesh, stealthed with camouflage and in a cloud? He doesn’t care. Can’t be targetted by melee, magic or ranged attacks either? He still doesn’t care. He passes his check and he will hit you. Of course, it is only a pow 10.

While there are many things in this game that will be hurt by it, a pow 10 is just south of effective against a great deal of targets. When I have found the stormcaller to be doing his job perfectly is when he *must* do it. Either I am one fatal bane thrall free strike away from a successful assassination, a few crucial hit points from finishing a weakly armoured warlock who has depleted their transfers, I must disrupt an enemy warjack, or it will overwhelm a flank on a vulnerable turn, or I must nail an annoying stealthy solo to the wall or they will do some serious harm.

In these cases, look at the odds: I have to pass a skill 8 roll. Easy enough, right? It translates to a 63% success rate. *Just enough* that it is dicey. Also, the damage is just weak enough that damaging a critical target enough to neutralize it is hard. Even Eyriss, who is merely arm 12, requires a 7 to kill her. In order to deal with her, I need a roll with a 63% success rate, followed by a roll with a 54% success rate. Succeeding in removing her could stop her from stripping my caster of their arcane shield and camped focus, making them a sitting duck. Same kind of odds in almost any noteworthy scenario you use them in.

This is the kind of position I find almost any Cygnar unit, warjack, warcaster or play in. They also quite frequently lack the kind of universal rules like Undead or Pathfinder with which they might ignore the occasional obstacle–Everything poses a challenge to overcome. Frequently, Cygnar armies do not have a lot in the way of troops one could call pawns. Their units are expensive, and often have to choose their targets wisely. They cannot afford to lose much. Though they are capable of nearly anything, they will often only succeed by the barest of margins, usually determined by dice. It can be frustrating, to be sure, but satisfying when it succeeds.

Once during the Domination League, Valrus had my army locked down. My Stormwall, clinging to life after having been battered to the edge of scrap by Hexeris’ Tiberion and Titan Sentry, lobbed a storm pod over his head and boosted the damage roll to deliver a punishing blow to the vulnerable warlock. Hexeris had been thrown to the ground by an Earthquake Stryker delivered through a Lancer that had forced its way through the free strikes of several remaining models to get into position. While all of the Stormwall’s gun systems were in disrepair, with single dice rolls, I managed to strip Hexeris of his remaining hit points and claim victory. Sadly, it was not one of the prescribed rounds, and so I could gain no credit for the victory, but it was pleasing to play, nevertheless. Successes like this were the norm in my victories with Stryker.

TheGreatGaspy, one of my most regular opponents, used to tell me that the biggest weakness of playing Legion of Everblight was that a player could get used to playing with them and all the rules they break. If a player were to get used to the native advantages of Everblight beasts–like eyeless sight and pathfinder–they would find themselves setting up scenarios where those advantages would be critical success, but with other armies that do not possess those advantages, thus shooting themselves in the foot. In all my weeks of playing in this Domination tournament, I can say this: I was never once bored. Commander Coleman Stryker, arguably the most vanilla of casters, with a very straightforward army–Long Gunners, Stormblades, a Stormclad, a Lancer, a Journeyman, things like that–was never boring. For one thing, it was always hard.

I could ignore nothing, and my victories were all too frequently because I got lucky. At least insofar as Cygnar must succeed by getting within 5″ of a knocked-down stealthy caster and delivering a boosted generator blade blast that does just enough damage to kill her. I started playing this game with Cryx, and picking up Everblight has been a breeze in recent months, but I took my licks playing Cygnar. I learned the hard way that some armies do not benefit from the general rule-breaking that armies like Cryx do. They pay for it in other ways, as does Legion! I feel, however, that if Legion or Cryx conditions players to ignore certain rules, playing an army like Cygnar conditions a player to ignore *nothing*.

I have not yet lost a game with Legion, and I am leading the Purist side of the Scars of Caen league by a strong margin. I do not thank, as many might, the rule-breaking nature of a lot of Legion beasts, but rather I thank the dearth of losses I endured with my noble Cygnar. They are the reason I appreciated the slim line of sight I had behind a cloud of fire left by Flameguard Cleansers to my Scythean’s Revenger charge target–before realizing with pleasure that I could ignore it entirely. They are the reason I have to think twice about whether my Angelius could manage the forest it landed in before remembering that flight ignores terrain. Or further that, whilst in the forest, I worried about seeing three inches out of it to fire my flame jet before remembering that eyeless sight allows me to ignore it. This is not a deficiency on my part as an Everblight player–this is a skill that Cygnar has taught me that makes me a better player globally, and I sincerely appreciate that. Cygnar players succeed by finding a way where everyone else cannot. I can now look for and frequently find the angles of victory that players too used to their conventional strategy may not.

This is why, at the end of the grueling months-long Domination League, I think I can say with a fair amount of certainty that, while I may have lost more than won, I have learned so much and derived so much pleasure from my games that I feel like a bigger victor than those who could no longer stand to play their armies any longer. I want to thank everyone who played in it, both for strengthening the sense of community our LGS fosters, and for helping me to become a better player.

For King and Country!