The Machine Stops: Dealing with Convergence, Part III

autojack80Present and Accounted For: The Support Staff

Good Evening once again, fellow robot hunters! Let’s play Rick Deckard and administer the Voigt-Kampff test.

When last we met, we discussed the herds of mighty vectors a Convergence army could level at their opponents. Now, we enter into a stable with a lot more stalls than you might expect in this particular army–the support staff.

Now, any good army boasts a suite of support models of various kinds. Nothing surprising here. This is the bevy of small models that have little if any impressive stats, but instead operate conditioning, repairing and providing some aid to the front lines, whether it’s a journeyman warcaster pitching out the invaluable arcane shield spell, the ubiquitous choir of Menoth turning the Protectorate’s bargain basement jacks into monstrous fighting machines, or indeed the wily warwitch siren, dancing through for a savage venom spray, power boost or precise shadow bind.

Support staffers come in all shapes and sizes, and operate at all range bands from the enemy. Some range ahead like (indeed) rangers, who provide Cygnaran gunners with an on-demand +2 to hit, hang back like the choir, or sit midline like the new Cephalyx agitator will.

3-1Convergence, in fact, has support for all ranges of play. Unlike most other armies, their support elements will in fact make up for *all* of their deficiencies. Those big, meaty vectors we looked at previously have a few major drawbacks. The straightforward operators–the cypher, the inverter and the monitor, can mostly facilitate the delivery of piston-spike to face, but have a few noteworthy weaknesses.

One is speed, another is pathfinder, and a third is accuracy–a big one. Those are really the big three. Take speed, for instance. Because they are slow, they will have to fight from a position of counter-attacking. They can do this with their screening infantry, but they will also have to be able to pressure the opponent with ranged power to come in and engage them on their terms as well. This means accuracy is required. They also have to be able to take a charge, meaning durability comes into play as well, and keeping the vectors running is essential. Such slow speed also means a lack of pathfinder can really hurt. Considering the cypher’s impressive ability to lay out large (but deviating) rough terrain templates defensively, it would be very helpful if they could negotiate what the opponent could not. Likewise, a strong bottleneck will prevent a disproportionately large heavy-oriented battle line from fighting effectively. Pathfinder, in essence, is very important to hand out to the vectors. In other words, the weaknesses compound with one-another.

Negotiating such weaknesses is what good list-building is all about, and ensuring the right support for the right weaknesses is often the difference between a good list and a bad list.

Enter the Optifex Directive. This little crack pit crew are one of the essential pieces of the Convergence army, and also one of the most cost efficient solutions to the aforementioned difficulties. At two points, they are similar to other support units like the choir of Menoth and paingiver beast handlers, but are notably more expensive per model, with a maximum size of 3 models. Some of these costs are mitigated by their Iron Sentinel rule, which gives them some added durability when in base contact with the warjacks they look after. Compared to such illustrious company, their abilities may seem underwhelming, but negotiating terrain by providing pathfinder to warjacks, or magical attacks is, for Convergence, monstrous. Their warcasters do not possess a great deal of magic attacks, ranged or otherwise. Nor do their vectors or units. The use of this ability may appear corner-case at first glance, but keep in mind, it is not merely to handle the errant pistol wraith, unit of Blackbane’s or feralgeist. There are games that potentially hinge on this ability, such as warcasters like Borka1, Vlad2, Lylyth3 or the new Reznik2. The ability will also allow them to shoot Menoth warjacks under hymn of passage–a potentially game-altering advantage against an entire faction.

Terrain negotiation is not only something that requires negotiation based on game effects, like area terrain generating effects and weapons, but also to negotiate unforeseen obstacles, like an intrusive forest or a linear obstacle. This is particularly important given Convergence’s nature as a reactive faction. Their slow speed requires that their moves be as efficient as possible. Finally, the Optifex Directive combines the ability of both support unit and repair unit. They can each use their Repair Skill [8] to keep the vectors in fighting form–also a critical feature of a reactive faction that has to take a hit before returning at full force. Rather than being a central function as the mechaniks are in Khador or Cygnar, this unit adds their ability to a pool of similar models with the ability, so each vector has relatively easy access to it at all times. This is particularly important for an ability that requires the model be in base to base.

3-2Herein lies the biggest weakness of the directive–they must be in base-to-base contact in order to perform any of their augmentations. They have iron sentinel to keep them alive from blasts, but this restriction is a severe limitation for the vectors. Should an advantage of the opposing army hinge on the inability of the Convergence player to have magic attacks or negotiate difficult terrain, the directives represent a critical opening target. A canny Skorne player may boost blast damage from a cannoneer or a mammoth to take out several of these annoyances before using Xerxes to cast inhospitable ground and render the already slow Convergence quagmired and about to suffer a charge from beefed up titan warbeasts. This will stop most Convergence armies in their tracks. It is for reasons like this that the directive is so important to the army’s strategy. Target them with extreme prejudice!

Part of managing the faction’s deficiency in speed, again, involves the use of screening troops. A cost-effective unit that can blunt the enemy’s charge by taking it on behalf of the more powerful counter-attacking unit is the essence of a speed advantage. This is often built around a cost-effective trade. A 10-point stormclad charging into a line of obstructors will certainly inflict a good deal of casualties, particularly with judicious targeting and use of electro-leap, but even if the entire unit is removed, the jack will only have killed 6 points of infantry, where the following turn’s charge from an inverter wrecks it and leaves the Convergence player four points up on the Cygnar player.

This is the incremental advantage of reactive armies playing with screening infantry. Augmenting this ability is all the more powerful, both as a psychological deterrent and an inherent advantage. A Cryx player with mechanithralls is well aware that a full unit is not 5 points as their card suggests, but rather 7 points as they automatically take into account the two points spent on a necrosurgeon unit that sits behind gathering corpses and rebuilding the ‘thralls at a rate of three per turn. So too does the enigma foundry. For Convergence, they will trade the evasive survivability of the necrosurgeon for a larger single target, albeit with twice the hit points and a higher ARM stat. What this trade off provides is both flexibility, in that the foundry can re-build any kind of construct infantry, at the same rate as the surgeon for small-based infantry, or at a rate of one per turn for medium-based infantry.

3-3In addition, the foundry commands a considerable advantage in the much greater survivability of the models it restores to functionality. Curtailing this advantage is a drawback in that the foundry caps its soul collection ability at 3. Any casualties beyond this will have their souls lost to the void. This can limit its effectiveness when saturating their infantry screen with high-powered ranged attacks. On turns when the foundry has nothing to reconstruct, it also packs an incredibly effective repair [10] stat with which to keep the number of repair capable models in the army up and running. A pair of foundries can in fact repair each other as well! It is for this reason that, investment as it may be, a pair of the three-point marvels will not only improve their ability to restore by doubling their capacity, but also maintaining their survivability. If capable of removing an enigma foundry in a single, high-powered punch or in several relatively high-powered punches, remove it with extreme prejudice.

If there are two foundries operating in concert with a screening unit, and a counter-attacking vector or two behind, this now represents a substantial investment on the part of your opponent. Consider attempting to stop up the screen with your own durable tar-pit. The ensuing melee will run the course of the game and become a largely impassable barrier for the intended counter-attacking vectors. Their slow speed will stall them from obtaining a more effective position for several turns.

Of special note regarding the foundries: they do not add troops to units, but return them to play. Removing the offending troops from play will prevent their obnoxious return thanks to the foundries. Use RFP effects where possible!

So that wraps the first part of our discussion on Convergence support units! Next time, the EPIC CONCLUSION of the support staff section–same mech-time, same mech-channel.