The Machine Stops: Dealing With Convergence, Part IX — The Warcasters: Aurora (The First Part)

autojack80Good Evening, fellow Losties! In this latest instalment of our ongoing series on breaking the synergies of the great machine that is the Convergence of Cyriss, we commence tackling the mighty warcasters.

Seeing as the casters are the hub of the great wheel, we must do what we can to tackle the individual strengths and weaknesses that usually apply to warcasters and the effect they have on the army they have brought to bear (which is substantial, of course), but also the augmented capacity to influence the functions of the army that Convergence casters bring to the table. When Convergence was first announced, some of the concepts revealed were that one, the Convergence warcasters would each have a field marshal ability that would apply to battlegroups already anticipated to be very large, thus substantially altering the playing field from one caster to the next. The second rule regarding warcasters to be announced was that they would each contribute their MAT and RAT values to their battlegroup. This meant two things: first, that Convergence vectors would not have a consistent profile to aid players in predicting their ability to accomplish things, and second that they would have a unique aspect of their use from caster to caster. For the wielders of the monkey wrenches, this means it will be easier to underestimate their threat ranges, and, in my experience, more often *overestimate* their combat capability. Regardless, the caster will dictate more than opponents may appreciate. It’s one thing to see it on paper, it’s quite another to observe it in action in front of you.

We will be discussing these features in greater detail as we tackle each warcaster. I will be dedicating an article or two to each of the five currently available, and in ascending order of least to greatest! Now that part will be my opinion only, of course, and according to my criteria of what makes a competitive caster, but bear in mind that with dedication, any one of these casters can become a fearsome weapon to be wielded by a trained specialist. (If from no one else, take it from Gdaybloke, who has brought many a tear to the eye of a would-be conqueror with some of the least favoured casters and units in the game. I have much faith in him, and you will be blindsided by his unconventional choices and tactics. Be afraid.) [KICKY  MONKS AND KOSSITES!!! – Gday]

aurora1Now then! The first in these hallowed halls is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful caster models in the game, and a paragon of the aesthetic joining of cold functionality and religious fervor that Convergence represents. I am speaking of the clockwork angel of clockwork angels herself, Aurora, Numen of Aerogenesis. (Numen!) So let’s give her a quick rundown.

Vital Statistics

Besides being kickin’ in a bathing suit, Aurora is one of the two fleshier warcasters in the pantheon. She is therefore living, and is not a clockwork vessel construct like most Convergence casters. She can fly, naturally, and is fast to boot. She clocks in at SPD 7, MAT 6 and RAT 4, making her one of the more balanced casters in terms of statistics. Remember that this will make her vectors roughly equivalent to Khador jacks in terms of their fighting capacity! More on that in a moment. Defensively, she has a respectably dodgy DEF 16 with ARM slightly higher than the usual accompaniment, at 15. She also sports a CMD stat of 9, though it won’t come up all that often, with a great deal of fearless automatons in the faction. She sports a pair of weapons, both of which are magical–something a touch rarer in Convergence. Her Polynomial Staff is a reach weapon, with a P+S of 12. The same staff can presumably project a beam of energy not unlike the clockwork angels with which she is affiliated, with RNG 12 and POW to match. She also has 16 hit boxes and +6 warjack points. With a profile like this, one can be forgiven for finding it difficult to determine if she is built like a support caster or a combat caster. While most combat casters fall somewhere between the tanky (your Butchers, your Thagroshes, your Xerxeses) and speedy assassins (your Caines, your Rhyases, your Morghouls). She’s built like the assassin type, but doesn’t sport the same offensive statistics to match. Instead, she has much higher focus stat than is typical for such casters, at 7. She commands a formidable range of influence, and serves in largely a support capacity for much of the game. That is, unless she can kill the enemy caster. In which case, she will do so, and with gusto.

Special Rules

On the back of her card, she has a few rules to keep in mind. Firstly, the Field Marshal ability applies to her entire battlegroup, including her. Hers is Apparition. This means that during the Convergence player’s control phase, each member of her battlegroup will spontaneously be placed completely within 2″. Considering that for many of the vectors, this is the equivalent of changing their speed from that of a Khador jack to a Cryx jack, it is a dramatic buff for vectors easily underestimated on that level. It can also be used in a number of tactical ways as well. If not in base contact with an aggressor with reach (or any aggressor without), for example, a ranged vector can be placed 2″ away, and thus disengage from melee, free to forfeit their movement to aim and bring their slightly less impressive RAT 4 to a formidable 6, taking no free strikes in the process. It can be used to open lanes so that LOS, formerly closed off, is now clear. It can be used to open charge lanes thought impassible by their opponents. It can also be used to circumvent effects like Force Lock, Quagmire, Locker, or Gaze of Menoth. It can be used also to produce a charge where the vector was formerly locked in place. There are any number of uses for Apparition, but what is important to be remembered is that the battlegroup will be faster, and prone to unexpected shifts in the battle line that makes locking down the vectors difficult. In order to lock down Aurora’s battlegroup, more force than would usually be sufficient is required. Surround them to keep them from placing their bases anywhere, or herd them by placing models strategically in the places that would benefit them or take them out of harm’s way. In practice, however, the main function of Apparation is simply to shore up the battlegroup’s lacklustre natural mobility by improving it. They will be faster and more manoeverable than usual. One of the rule’s primary functions is to extend the already dramatic threat range that Aurora herself commands.

The second rule to grace the back of her card is Flank with Clockwork Angels. This is how her less than superior stats become something truly formidable. When she is in melee with a target also engaged by a Clockwork Angel, she will get +2 on her melee attack rolls and an additional die on damage rolls. Effectively a MAT 8 weapon master is nothing to sneer at, particularly with her threat range. Clearly she already has SPD 7, Reach, and Apparition, but how fast can she get? Well, we’ll get there. As stated, she has the Fly special rule, meaning she can ignore intervening models when declaring charge targets and ignore intervening models and terrain when she wants to charge. This is a big deal! Terrain negotiation is huge for those factions without easily available answers to it, and the ability to ignore intervening models is even bigger.

As leader and creator of the Clockwork Angels, it would be something of an oversight if she didn’t have Elite Cadre as well. Units of Angels in her army gain Combined Melee Attack, meaning they will be able to hit and run with more versatile melee options as well to target those hard to hit models. For opponents of the Convergence army, this is less of an added potential, and more of a contingency to help them avoid being locked down in melee by dodgy solos like Fyanna the Lash, Mage Hunter Assassins or The Totem Hunter.

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The final rule on the back of her card is her staff’s special rule, Mechanical Seizure, which makes warjacks she hits with it stationary for one round. In practice, this doesn’t truly stall the warjack, but instead caps its usual focus capacity to two, after it has spent the first to shake the stationary effect. Considering warjacks are not generally difficult to hit in the first place, this advantage will rarely come up, except where perhaps it may be shot in melee, in cloud effects, behind cover, and so forth. While each of these circumstances may be beneficial, if it requires the commitment of Aurora, a relatively fragile warcaster, and this is hardly an optimal choice. There is one circumstance where it could happen with reasonable attrition returns though, which is under her feat. If, that is, she is not using it to assassinate you.

Her Feat: Eleventh Hour

I will stop teasing you now. This is the main way she is able to assassinate enemy casters. Her feat is very simply worded, but complex in execution, like so much of Warmachine and Hordes. Friendly Faction models currently in Aurora’s control area gain Refuge for one round. This is a dramatic advantage. It means that everything in her control area will be able to shoot or charge in, make attacks, then if it connects with any of them (any attack), regardless of whether or not they damaged, the model will be able to make a full advance, ignoring free strikes. While there are a number of uses for this ability, considering the relatively low base speed of her vectors, Aurora will not gain the kind of advantages often possessed by other, faster factions (like Refuging Angelii under Vayl2 in Legion), Should they kill an enemy and retreat to safety, the added distance can give Aurora’s army effectively a double alpha strike. Even if, on the turn following a mass Refuge, they are subsequently locked in melee by enemy troops, they can apparation away, within range of convenient repair troops, be fixed, whereupon they charge into melee once more, striking down the enemy a second time. The feat can also be used to dig deeper into the enemy lines, advancing and locking down enemy troops after clearing their front lines–an effective move for scenario play.. The fearsome cocktail of her assassination run is made so powerful by the addition of Refuge to Flight, however. Aurora’s Clockwork Angels will range far forward on her initial turns, then run into position engaging the enemy warcaster on the feat turn. Then, after Aurora apparitions herself forward 2″, she activates on a full 7 focus, feats, charges a model at her maximum threat range of 12″, reaches her target, hits it, then refuges *over* the intervening models a further 7″ to engage the enemy warcaster, without taking free strikes. “But wait!” I hear you say. “Refuge triggers *after* you’ve compeleted your combat action! How can she attack after that?” Good question, voices in my head. Her action may be over, Refuge may have triggered, but her *activation* has not ended. Which means she can continue to cast spells after she has refuged. This includes one spell she has–Flashing Blade. Focus cost 1, the target SELF spell allows her to make melee attacks against each model in her LOS and melee range. Meaning she continues to buy weapon master attacks from her flanking position, boosting as required, and killing her target from a mind-boggling 23″ out! This is an enormously threatening feat, and contends for the longest range in assassination plays in the game. I think I can still boast a few more inches with Caine2 or Stryker2.. 23-27″ depending on Gate Crashing with the former and.. 22″ with the latter. And each requires the use of two character solos. Aurora does not–that’s a big deal.

So while we’re on the subject, how to stop her assassination run? Good question. Like all super-assassination moves, they’re dependent on a few good measures not being there. Neither Siege nor Caine enjoy it when their target is camping a ton of focus, for example. Stryker doesn’t care, but he needs a clear lane, and it’s often easy enough to lay down a few speed bumps or a force lock here and there. Aurora doesn’t need much, but there is one critical weak point anyone trying to break her force should concentrate on–her angels. Depending on your warcaster or warlock, generally speaking she *absolutely requires* an angel to help her flank, or her accuracy and power tank–they cannot reliably assassinate without handing her to you on a silver platter. It should be noted as well that conventional defenses can be layered as this will stop a lot of assassination runs, though I often find planning for them tends to hamstring available points and tax resources. I prefer a proactive approach, like picking off the angels. The use of fast flanking forces, preferably with *highly accurate* shooting to remove the angels is critical. Blade shield must be overcome, and they will be often out of range, so something mobile is great. Alternatively, blast damage can do serious harm to the single wound angels. A Destroyer or Demolisher, a *hurk* light artillery piece with a template, perhaps a Titan Cannoneer, or a Mammoth.. Let me be clear: it will be highly recommended that you overcommit resources to killing the angels, even if you lose more than their points with in return, seeing as if you do not, her assassination run will end the whole game in short order. The ideal solution in many cases is light cavalry with an accuracy buff. Tempest Blazers with Deadeye or Temporal Barrier, or Raptors with Anyssa Ryvall’s Veteran Leader accuracy buff will do terrible things to them. If you are not proactive about this vulnerability they *will* reach you. One of Aurora’s principal spells (while we will discuss her list in a moment) is True Path, and it will amp the speed of her already fast angels with reform, and the ability to run. They will wind around your screening models comfortably (depending on how well you bunker), and get where they need to be. They run 16″ and reform a further 3″, and they will be on both flanks. Get them dead, and all you have left to face is a respectable support caster, but nothing to write home to mom about.

While I would simply love to give you more on this exciting caster, the torrent of verbiage that spills forth from my digital pen must be kept in check, lest it sweep the Internets clean of life! Next week, we will look at her spell list, and following that, her theme force, and final thoughts, all on Aurora!

Good luck, all—keep your appliances on lockdown. 😉