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

autojack80WOW have I made you wait for this one… [A month and a half, dude! The hell? – Gday]  But enemies of the machine must be patient! Killbots always have a preset kill limit..

Welcome back, fellow Losties, to The Machine Stops! Your one-stop shop for countermeasures to the Convergence of Cyriss. We continue our ongoing series with the second part of our discussion on Axis: The Harmonic Enforcer! Without further ado:

His Feat: Circumpotence

Now we’re getting to the performance specs. As I mentioned before, this guy has one heck of a feat. Circumpotence is a feat that delivers both a massive boon to his own forces and a crippling blow to his opponent’s. It is a pulse feat, meaning it affects those models currently in his control area. For one round, friendly models currently in his control area gain +2 SPD and +2 STR, and for one round, enemy models currently in his control area suffer -2 SPD and -2 STR. Wow. Now, quite obviously there are two components to this one, and each is a beast. The first is pretty straightforward, and seeing as he has a decided advantage in the MAT of his very focus efficient vectors, and a lot of easy ways to get to you, he’s going to be all of fast, accurate, and painful for one very brutal turn. Not to mention his personal threat range will go up and extend the threat of his assassination substantially. His force, as I’ve mentioned in many articles in this series, is not naturally fast, and is not naturally built to alpha strike the enemy. Furthermore, in order to get the most out of Axis’ feat, he’s going to want to catch as much of the enemy force as possible in his bubble. This means he’s going to use this feat to either augment his own force and largely underuse the effect on the enemy (unless the opposing player is simply not thinking and throws his entire force into the Convergence player’s feat threat range), throw himself forward to stall the enemy force for a turn so he can bring his own force to bear on his following turn, or use his army’s natural durability to absorb the initial impact, counter charge and disable where possible, endure the impact and repair, move to a central location on his turn, pop his feat and grind out the enemy, taking advantage of his bonus speed and strength to dig deep and hit the enemy hard, stalling their ability to come back at him from deeper in their lines. You can get the sense of how his army is supposed to *feel* from this last scenario–hammering at you repeatedly until you are dead.

I think the first two scenarios make Axis unappealing for many intermediate Convergence players. Without much in the way of natural threat range, they do not feel he can make an alpha strike on the enemy–they still threaten only as much as a Carnivean–and throwing himself forward to catch the enemy in his control area and stall them for a turn makes him terribly vulnerable. I think even advanced players shy from the third scenario because they hesitate to rely on natural durability of the force he brings to the table. A savvy opponent (this means you) will be able to take advantage of their more pronounced ability to seize the initiative and lock down his force, kill it outright with a powerful alpha strike, or simply do enough harm that the Counter Charges are ineffective and next turn’s counter-punch is not going to be hard enough, even with the feat. This means that Axis is either only going to get half of a massively powerful feat, or he is going to forfeit the initiative. Convergence armies frequently do forfeit the initiative, but usually do so with casters that better augment their natural defensive power, and it is for this reason that Axis falls so far from the top in Convergence casters on *my* list. This does not mean, however, that Axis is a caster for whom endurance is impossible, just that it demands precision. Careful placement of screening troops in front taking advantage of powerful recursion mechanics, difficult terrain templates distributed by Cyphers, models with Repair in position to ply their trade, careful stacking of vectors to take advantage of Counter Charges and use of Axis’ more tactical spells will choke the enemy’s ability to take the initiative ever further. A well-played Axis force will be patient, and have deep layers of combat lines with carefully positioned defensive mechanics that will force you to choose very carefully the offensive moves you want to make. By far and away, your ability to kill his army will demand threat range more than anything else. You will need to strike deep into his lines to remove powerful offensive models quickly and completely.

I will address the general weaknesses of Axis forces in my final thoughts, but since a caster’s feat so seriously dictates their overall strategy, it is best to address it here in the broader sense than talk about too many specifics. There are a few things to remember, though, and the biggest is that when under a SPD debuff, there will be no charging, trampling, slamming, etc. This means that for one turn, Axis can very seriously hamper your ability to advance, and can claim a lot of scenario ground in this way. The SPD buff he gains allows him to take that ground as well, so this really is a feat with advantages on all levels of play.

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His Spell List

Now: let’s look under the hood. Axis’ spell list really is impressive. It augments his force’s natural short-ranged offensive capabilities in a variety of ways. His magic missile spell is another one of his good scenario tools, but is really something of a last resort. Battering Ram costs 2 to cast, is a really meagre RNG 6, with a respectable POW 12. It will push the target hit 3″ directly away from the spell’s point of origin, however. Despite the range limitations, it is a guarenteed distance, and a long way to be pushed. It allows him to move even some of the more stubborn models out of zones and away from flags. This is very helpful, but it carries with it a tremendous amount of risk. Axis does not have a massive focus stat, and will not want to risk missing. Not to mention, he will be putting himself in a very vulnerable position to cast it. If he uses it, it will be at his own risk, and probably only in the event of a game-winning domination. Do not expect it to be cast often, if at all.

His remaining four, however, are all money-makers. He has Iron Aggression, which is really one of the most impressive jack buffs in the game. It is an upkeep spell, cost 3, RNG 6, on a single friendly vector that allows it to charge, trample or slam for free and gains boosted melee attack rolls. This is a very powerful spell for a combat vector like an Inverter and allows it to hit and kill very easily. Generally this means he will have little trouble killing an enemy heavy, as he can both ensure hits and gain an extra hit as well. Where it really shines in Axis’ force is during the Counter Charge, however. This means that an Inverter gets a boosted MAT 7 macropummler attack against an enemy model, ensuring it will be knocked down and preventing it from completing its attack run. This is the model to be feared on your active turn. If you can find a way to lock it down or dispel the upkeep, do it, or risk having a game-swinging deficit in the piece trade.

Next up is Onslaught. This is Axis’ signature spell as well, I believe. It is an upkeep spell as well, cost 2, RNG SELF, AOE CTRL spell, allowing all friendly models beginning a charge in his control area to gain Pathfinder. This means that while the ability to use difficult terrain to stall Counter Charges will *often* work, while Axis has this spell upkept on himself, it will not stall them completely. The use of this spell allows his army to negotiate all kinds of terrain, which is fairly self-explanatory! Usually we can take advantage of the Convergence player by removing the Optifex Directive and using their clumsy heavy chassis-vector’s inability to negotiate terrain against them, but in this case you must play the threat range game a little longer. Should the Convergence player use Axis’ feat to go on the offensive, however, they will threaten greater distances than they have previously, regardless of terrain so that is something to be wary of. Keep in mind, they can negotiate the terrain, but not see through terrain. Use that to your advantage!

His next spell is Razor Wall. This spell is also unique to Axis, and allows him to place a wall template completely in his control area that is not an obstruction, but does a single, automatic point of damage to a model moving through it. This means the majority of weapon master infantry are incapable of passing through, which are one of the main ways your army will have of killing Axis’ heavy armour. Certainly there are factions combat factions like Skorne and Legion that provide case-cracking killers in the form of fast-moving, hard-hitting heavies with a great deal of attacks, but for armies like Cryx and Khador, who often rely on hard-hitting light infantry to deliver powerful blows, this is certainly a show-stopper. It is also a spell that Axis is unlikely to upkeep, preferring to reposition it each round instead. This will be a drain on his resources, for one, and his stats and forward play mean he must be cautious about spending focus he might otherwise use to keep his ARM stat in the 20+ range. It will require careful positioning on the part of the Convergence player, however, as hard-hitting light infantry tend to come in droves, so expect it will only be used to protect key models he wants to keep alive (such as himself, or a critically positioned heavy). If you have a way of drawing out the target using Pull or Drag, for example, or place effects like Telekinesis, these can help to bypass Razor Wall’s effective range. Keep in mind also that models with reach can attack from the other size of the template without suffering obstruction penalties. Like many of Axis’ very useful spells, it comes with both weaknesses and trade-offs. Your ability to negotiate this spell will come down to flexibility in deployment. How much damage can you deliver to hard targets on each part of the board at any one time. What starts to take shape when dealing with Axis is an eye to the long game! How to deal with him is all about stopping him from gaining momentum–which is in fact his entire style of play! Axis’ army is a locomotive that has to get up to speed, because when it does, it’s hard to stop.

Appropriately enough, the last spell on his card is Unstoppable Force! (Hah.) This is another piece of the puzzle in Axis’ play style, and it’s a remarkably subtle aspect..! This is his impressive scenario game. Axis has all the hallmarks of a great scenario caster. Consider: all his vectors have Counter-Charge, which is a fantastic tool for unexpected contestation of zones and flags; he has a speed debuff built into his feat, which most great scenario casters have as well; he has the usual Convergence durability and recursion mechanics to continue contesting and placing models back into play where they can eliminate key enemy models; he has Razor Wall to block infantry from entering contestation range and to otherwise forestall their advance; he personally has Beat Back and a high volume of attacks to push models around; even Battering Ram can, in a pinch, push out a heavy model contesting a zone. Finally, he has Unstoppable Force. This is a Cost 2 spell cast on himself and affecting his control area that allows all models in his battle group to gain Bulldoze. For the uninitiated, a model with Bulldoze can, when it advances into B2B with an enemy model, push it 2″ directly away from it. A model can be affected by it only once, and it has no effect in a trample situation. Now, Unstoppable Force is one of two non-upkeep spells he has, and seeing as Axis is a caster that likes to upkeep two spells and re-cast Razor Wall, his focus will be taxed considerably when looking to cast it. Combined however with this long list of other abilities, suddenly having a large battlegroup able to shovel enemies away from zones is a very impressive ability indeed! It is, however, tricky. Bulldoze can be used to escalate his attrition game, that is, digging deeper into enemy lines on the turn it matters most and reaching otherwise untouchable models, but it can also be used when a vector runs, moving strategically and pushing models out of zones. It is tricky because a push effect can be stopped if the opposing player has planned effectively. If, for example, all models on the front lines have another model immediately behind it, the first can be pushed no farther, and cannot be affected by Bulldoze again. Nor can they be beaten back, nor can they be battering rammed. Careful planning on your part and placing things effectively means you can prevent a great deal of his scenario tools from working against you, just by stacking your models effectively–remember this when looking to deny Axis access (heh) to zones! Try not to offer up more models than you ought to by doing this as well. Use cheap models with a good recursion mechanic or great defenses, like Bobbing and Weaving Winter Guard Infantry under the Iron Flesh spell or Mechanithralls with nearby Necrosurgeon models to bring them back if they die, or Holy Zealots under the effects of their mini-feat. This will stall bulldozing vectors, and remember–if he’s cast this spell, Axis is likely sitting on very little focus–ripe for plunder!

That’s all for now, folks! I know we’re only on part 2 of the casters segment, but they really do form the hub of the great wheel around which Convergence rotates, so next is the thrilling conclusion of the somehow 7000 words I wrote on the Harmonic Enforcer, concluding with an involved discussion of his much-storied theme force!

Until next time!