Revisiting Assassins

One thing that I like to keep in the back of my mind when looking at new releases for Warmachine and Hordes, especially if I’m looking at them with a semi critical eye to determine if they’ll fit in with the way I like to play the game, is that Privateer Press don’t work on each book in a vacuum. Every shiny-laden tome they release unto the world has been in development on some level for years. This means that when I come across a model that has me raising an eyebrow and pondering the intent, I need to remember that it may well have been designed and tested to work amazingly well with a model that didn’t make it into the current book for whatever reason.

Along similar lines, and this is just generally good practice, when we have a new toy to goof around with it’s a good idea to not only see if we can slot it in with the models we like to use now, but also do they give us grounds to reexamine models or combos that we’d previously written off.

Case in point, Assassins.

It’s no surprise to anyone that I love theme forces, but one that I never did much exploring with was one of the first. Garryth, Blade of Retribution, was a warcaster that never gelled with me as well as his fellow pointy eared homicidal maniacs. Rahn, Kaelyssa and Vyros all swiftly found homes in my gaming heart, but Ravyn and Garryth just didn’t click with me, so as entertaining as the Assassins theme force seemed conceptually, it didn’t really hit the table for me until recently.


Non Character Retribution Warjacks, Mage Hunter Units, Mage Hunter Assassin Solos, Nayl.

  • T1: –
  • T1: MHSF becomeFA:U. MHA’s get FA:+1 for each MHSF unit
  • T2: 3+ MHA’s
  • T2: +1 to the starting roll
  • T3: Three MHSF each with a Soulless Escort
  • T3: Nayl for free
  • T4: Only light jacks
  • T4: The battlegroup gets Advanced Deploymen

This theme force has a number of points that I love – more Mage Hunter Assassins, and the idea of Advanced Deployment on a warcaster can wreak havoc with an opponent’s chances to react to your setup, but at the same time there’s some challenges.

For example, only one of the Mage Hunter Strike Force units can have a Strike Force Commander, so it’s not like you’re spamming out Phantom Hunter, and the dream of an entire army with Advanced Deployment is shot out of the gate. You could add Eiryss, Mage Hunter Commander, to a second unit to give it Advanced Deployment, but the third unit required for tier 3 would be stuck in the regular deployment zone.

But wait, Gday, who said you have to hit Tier 3? You always stopped at Tier 3 with Amon’s theme

True enough, but that’s in large part because I love Reckoners with Amon too much. In this case if we look at the earlier payoffs – extra Assassins and a buff to the starting roll – I think the real payoff’s at tier 4. While the theme does grant you a point reduction, something I’m always curious about in themes, it’s in the form of a free Nayl, another model that never really gelled with me, and at the cost not only of having to include three units of MHSF, but of *only* including three units of MHSF. The theme doesn’t specify “three or more” units at Tier 3, it expressly states three units. In a theme that strictly limits the type of units you have like this one does, putting a hard cap on one of them is particularly rough. We have the Mage Hunter Infiltrators now, also legal in the theme (though they don’t help you hit any tiers), but they’re in direct competition with the MHSF as a home for Eiryss3, so including them means you’re weighing up whether or not to put another of your MHSF into the regular deployment zone.

So at this point you either stop at Tier 1 and spam out Mage Hunter Assassins, or you go whole hog and gun for Tier 4 so you can have that battlegroup benefit.

This is where the reexamination comes in. The Mage Hunter Infiltrators did add to the theme, as did Eiryss3, but I think the real potential comes in the form of Garryth’s pet myrmidon, Moros. Note, Moros has Special Issue [Garryth] so can be used in the theme, even though he’s a character.

While the Retribution’s lack of anti-Stealth capacity has long been known as a weakness (and more recently countered with Issyria and the Houseguard Thane), I’ve long held that the lack of a MAT buff in the faction was one of the major things stopping Mage Hunter Assassins from being “potentially bananas” and letting them be “actually bananas”. They will kill things dead, but helping them hit has always been the issue, and why they worked for me with Rahn, who would TK the target so the Assassins could get a backstrike.

Now we have Moros’ Death Shadow doom zappity gun, boostable with RAT6 and a 16” threat range if Garryth’s used Mirage on him, that can drop a target’s DEF to 7, meaning your Assassins will only miss on a roll of Snake Eyes.

In a list that, if we’re pushing to Tier 4 for Advanced Deploy on the battlegroup, has up to five Mage Hunter Assassins for your opponent to try to neutralize since any one of the four could do the job… or Garryth himself, of course.

Assassins is still an incredibly focused skew list, and accordingly has some terrible matchups – anything that can carpet bomb will shred your infantry, Stealth will still mess with it since it’ll hamper Moros’ Death Shadow, and there’s always the issue of Hordes warlocks transferring damage away, but maybe – just maybe – watching your opponent’s eyes roll back in his head as he tries to figure out where your battlegroup’s going to deploy will be worth it…

Guess what I’m putting on the table for the next few weeks (and oddly enough, won by scenario last night against Deneghra2)?

Keep kicking tires.

4 Responses to Revisiting Assassins

  1. Avatar cyric036
    cyric036 says:

    Nice. Beat Denny2 by scenario? Do Tell!

    • Avatar gdaybloke
      gdaybloke says:

      In all fairness his dice were craptastic on damage rolls, but in the end it barreled down to his being too cautious about being in Garryth’s threat range. He kept backing Denny toward the other side of the board, and I was able to clear and dominate the right hand zone while still contesting the left.
      My MHSF’s were collapsing left, right and centre, but once I had the headstart on Dominating points, I was able to run with it, and next thing you know I had 6 CP’s to his 2.

  2. Avatar shadowsword751
    shadowsword751 says:

    I ran this list quite often back in the day and loved it. I have not had time to put it back on the table since Moros came out but I am excited to do so.