The Machine Stops: Dealing with Convergence, Part IX – Axis (The First Part)

autojack80Good Evening once again, my fellow Losties! Let’s make like neanderthals and take on the paleo diet.

It’s been some time since we strapped on our gear-kicking boots, but I found myself in an interesting position the other night. At the ol’ FLGS, we’ve been running another long double elimination tournament for months on end, and one intrepid gamer brought a really interesting list to the fray. He was playing Axis, the Harmonic Enforcer, and running his theme force. It’s a very interesting list, and I think it’s illuminated a lot of our local players with regards to the advantages the big guy brings to the table. Now last night, I was actually booted from the brackets for this “Domination League” as it is called, and I felt actually pretty good about that. I’d learned a lot, and was ready to hang up my hat. My first game out of the league was against a regular Convergence player who decided to drop that very Axis theme force against me. I’d seen it often enough, but playing him reminded me of the few times I’d actually gone up against Axis, and that he actually is ranked second from the bottom in terms of my personal list of Convergence casters–due for a write-up. Now, I actually did fairly well in that game, but I don’t want to let it influence my analysis of the caster too much. I’ve seen him do horrendous things, and he ought to be respected! So, without further adieu, let’s dive in, shall we?

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Vital Statistics

So! What does Axis, the Harmonic Enforcer have for body work? Well, let’s take a look. He’s a medium-based caster, which one should be prepared for when going up against Convergence. Only one out of the currently available five is on a small base, the rest are all larger. Unlike Aurora, the man is built to take a hit rather than avoid one, and has the stats to prove it. He stacks a respectably hard 18 boxes on a heavy-warcaster-oriented DEF 14 and a hard ARM 17. Now, compare this to the premier tank casters like Xerxes and the Butcher, and you tend to fall a bit shy of the really heavy mark, so expect Axis will play forward, but based on this alone, not *too* far forward. Unlike many such tanky casters, however, Axis is not a focus hog. In fact, he packs an excellent spell list that will warrant his spending focus, so he may not be camping as much focus as one might often expect for front-line fighters. Mind you, that’s offset by being in Convergence, and not having to allocate very much! What this means is, Axis is hard to kill, but not impossible. Keep it in mind!

What about his operational range? This is a broader subject for Convergence casters! He packs a fairly average focus 6, which is a good stat for his weight class. It means he’ll have what he needs to throw around,  and upkeep a few spells to boot, but he has to make choices that casters with the luxury of hanging back don’t! His control area is just small enough that you’ll find yourself worrying whether or not models are in range. Having been weaned on 14″ control areas in Cryx back in Mk. I, I find this constraining. I have, however, gotten used to it playing more Skorne! Axis’ control area plays heavily into his feat, however, as it does with many casters, but Axis’ is among one of the most terrifying feats in the game to me. All the more reason to field the ubiquitous floating Astromech droid, the Corollary for the benefit of its Arcane Repeater rule. Remember: it has to be within 5″ of the caster to extend his control area! Notice when it’s out, particularly when Axis comes forward to feat!

I think one of the main reasons Convergence players have shied from Axis is his combat stat block. Axis packs a MAT of 7 and a RAT of 2. I think many convergence players have enjoyed the combined-arms feel of the army for some time, and have relished the Cypher’s servipod mortar and the Monitor’s ellipsaw flinger (Not to mention the Axiom’s tow cables and accelespiker) to such a degree that they feel Axis’ wet-noodle RAT makes them utterly unviable. To their credit, it’s largely true! He really doesn’t let his vectors shoot well. Convergence players will often think, it seems to me, that he should be played with two Inverters and nothing more. I think there is a lot to that. No vector loves MAT 7 more than an Inverter, but having done the research I have, I feel that *no* Convergence vector should feel like it simply can’t shoot. If I have, for example, a Diffuser in my Axis list that has operated ahead of my other vectors, but behind the front-line infantry screen (that Axis tends to prefer), that means that my respectable 11″ RNG will allow me to aim. Now I’m RAT 4. I also have brought a few trusty attunement servitors, so I lob a template over my target as well, bringing the Diffuser’s effective RAT to 6. In Convergence, it is silly easy to boost ranged shots because of the Induction rule meaning all the guns can share the same focus point to boost, if played correctly. So the Diffuser boosts, and hits DEF 16 on average rolls. Throw in the Diffuser’s Luck rule, allowing it to re-roll misses, and it becomes hard to remember this little guy started at a measley RAT 2. Aiming in Convergence is much more viable than it is in other factions because of the ease of repair, the armoured screening troops coming back to life so frequently in front, and the responsive nature of the army as a whole. This army loves to shoot, and no matter their base RAT, they can always do it. Now, that doesn’t mean Axis should pack a gun line. He’s still the least able to support this faction’s gunnery greatness, but should think about complimenting his Inverter duo with a Diffuser, Cypher, Monitor, Assimilator or something else to help with removal of fast solos, offending contesting models, or critical support pieces. As for the intrepid Luddites among us, remember that Axis lists will have to work to get their ranged game in order. If you have some of the above mentioned units or can shoot yourself with power enough to make ARM 18 think twice, leverage them! There’s little shield-walled infantry hate more than snipers, and they’ll be often quite safe from retaliation!

There is much less to be said about Axis’ formidable MAT, as it tends to speak for itself–loudly and painfully. When it catches you off guard is when you have to take a bash free strike from a Mitigator and it’s at effective MAT 9. That’s unexpected. Keep in mind that the things you usually have to worry about slugging you pretty hard are only going to hit you harder because they will be doing so more often. It changes the cusp numbers, where your Angelius felt safe because they needed 8s to hit now only needs 7s. That’s life and death for an Angelius.

Among other things to keep in mind with the Enforcer is his SPD. He is a little on the slow side, which plays into one of the early techniques I’ve seen him employ–the beat back assassination play. He is remarkably efficient when it comes to slugging in melee, but his biggest weakness is his threat range. He is slow, and he does not have reach on his matched pair of melee weapons: two P+S 14 *non-magical* hammers called Action and Reaction (great name, amiright!?). With MAT 7, he’s swinging for the fences, and they hit hard enough to make any warcaster blink. Again, it’s not hitting the lofty peaks of heftier tank casters, but he will make *A LOT* of attacks, as we will see very shortly! That non-magical part, though, stands out. Remember, if you have some way of avoiding non-magical melee attacks (which, I grant you, does not happen terribly often), this guy is going to fall flat! It’s a weakness of Convergence as a whole that they rely on the Optifex Directive to get magical attacks, and they have to be in B2B to provide it! Cryx players, take heed!

Before we go on, though! One very special note–Axis, like Aurora, is *not* a construct. He is living, though you wouldn’t know it to look at him. This means poison hurts him, it means man eater applies, the Carnivore spell applies, and many many other effects that make him easier to charge, easier to hit, and easier to hurt. (See what I did there?) Take note. This will often mean very little, but if you’re rocking the Master Necrotech Mortenebra’s jack-sassination, her abilities are all keyed to living targets! In that game, his lack of a little hammer icon means the difference between life and death.

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Special Rules

So we’ve looked at the body work, now how’s the interior? He’s honestly pretty spartan on the back of his card! Well, for a Convergence caster, anyway. Let’s start with his signature Field Marshal ability that all Convergence casters come with, and his is Counter Charge. While many players consider Counter Charge to be something of a bonus ability that carries with it the risk of bringing your models into the threat range of other models, there is a great deal of utility in it. The ability requires some practice and skill to use effectively. In broad strokes, there is an effectiveness curve. It is an out-of-activation move and attack, meaning the Convergence player cannot boost the attack roll. Second, when it occurs dictates how much risk it carries. If it is towards the beginning of a turn, there is a greater chance that the active player can alter their plans to take advantage of the shifted landscape of the board, including an increased likelihood that the Counter Charging model is now in threat range of unactivated models further back. On the other hand, if the Counter Charged model is unsupported, the Convergence player may get away with it. If the Counter Charged model is a critical jamming piece, it becomes a net loss for the active player. I leave it to the able minds that have already broken down the numerous strategies of how to implement this highly versatile and incredibly complex rule effectively. For our purposes here, we’re all about stopping it.

The trouble with Counter Charge is that when it is as widespread as it is with Axis, the whole battle line can change in an instant, and very unexpectedly. Furthermore, Axis’ favourite vector, the Inverter, has an incredibly powerful P+S 20 weapon that automatically knocks down the model it hits. Not to mention, vectors with Axis have a very effective MAT 7. So not only is it painful, but it stands a reasonable chance of hitting the kinds of targets it wants to, and can disable the offending model completely. So how to avoid it? Well, keep in mind, Convergence vectors are usually slow, and their heavy hitters do not frequently have reach. The Inverter does, but on its decidedly much less impressive meteor hammer–P+S 17, and Chain Weapon, but no knockdown. Counter Charge, however, can only trigger within 6″. This means only difficult terrain will make this distinction a factor, and the Inverter will not always have Pathfinder on your turn. If you have access to the Inhospitable Ground spell, a spare Rift spell, or some other way of producing difficult terrain, like from the Khador Gun Carriage’s heavy guns, these on top of the slow vectors will stall their ability to Counter Charge quite effectively. The most pertinent way you will find to stop a Counter Charge is by engaging the Counter Charging model in some way, of course. This will prevent them from using the rule. The 6″ limitation is also helpful to remember, as if it is possible to accomplish your aims without closing to a distance that will allow them to make the Counter Charge, so much the better. It is difficult to remember and gauge effectively with so many models capable of doing it, however, and so the best tactic will usually be to engage the potential Counter Chargers in some way. One other way in which you will find it used is when you engage Axis’ screening troops, and end your move within 6″ of the vectors behind. The Convergence player will then use Counter Charge, fail their charge, but will have gained ground as a result. This is difficult to counter, but it can be a double-edged sword for the Convergence player.

While it is difficult to anticipate the many ways in which this rule may be used, I think we’ve covered most of them. One last point about Counter Charge, however, is that in your enthusiasm to clear control zones and flags of enemy models, you may unwittingly find yourself moving into range, and triggering Counter Charge, undoing your best laid plans. Just one of the many ways in which Axis can play foil to some of the best scenario plans in the game. Be wary of this! Keep his vectors occupied so they cannot go about changing the boardscape at will. Be careful about your arc nodes and channelers as well! They stand to find themselves unexpectedly engaged and unable to channel spells. This rule seems like a minor issue, but it is scary when your attempt to assault something with your buffed combat heavy meets an unexpected and untimely end, having been Counter Charged and knocked down by an Inverter. That does not bode well for the piece trade..

The other rules on the back of Axis’ card are a pair of matched rules on each of his weapons. Both Action and Reaction come equipped with Beat Back and Double Strike. Now, this is why Axis will, when he is on the attack, be delivering a great deal of attacks. Each time he spends focus to buy an attack, he’ll be making one with both weapons. Now this is scary when coupled with Beat Back. His practical threat range will not frequently be very far, but provided he has models he can move through, he will usually have attacks enough to sink deep into the enemy lines, and make contact with the enemy caster, and kill them! This is a fearsome proposition. Axis can chain his way through a great deal of enemy models. He cannot, however, do very much to boost his MAT, though his feat will both extend his initial threat range and his power. Rest assured, if he can get to the enemy caster, his focus efficiency and ability to sink into enemy lines can be a devastating combination. Like Aurora, he is one of the Convergence casters most likely to see combat. Be wary of his threat range, and make sure that if your caster is anywhere near the front lines, Axis cannot chain his way through to her, lest they fall ‘neath his fearsome hammers! This is not an easy proposition for Axis, however. It is a highly risky play, and if you can tempt him in before the Convergence player has done the math properly, he may find himself all the way to your caster, but without the remaining focus to seal the deal, and the game is yours. Canny players will catch you unaware, however, so keep in mind his threat range and keep your caster safe! That goes for all games, naturally, but you will be caught off guard if you’re not careful. I once had Axis make it to my caster, Captain Allister Caine, after having slugged his way through 8″ of my troops to the back of a central building on the board. Luckily he missed enough of his remaining attacks for Caine to pop his feat and finish him handily, but it was a lesson I won’t soon forget!

That’s all for now, fellow Luddites! Tune in next time as we strive to conclude our discussion about the Harmonic Enforcer!

Keep your monkey wrenches tuned and ready. 😉


One Response to The Machine Stops: Dealing with Convergence, Part IX – Axis (The First Part)

  1. Avatar Tony Crawford
    Tony Crawford says:

    Great read! I am a huge fan of Axis so it is nice to read up on other points of view on him. Very good!