As opposed to last time, I'm going to focus on why I choose him for the plunge, what his strong points are, the things he works well with, the stuff he needs to avoid - and, again, different lists. Shaking the order of questions up to prevent the boreout!
So, why did I choose Harkevich for tournaments in 2013 - especially when considering that I intend to field him alongside a Zerkova list? There are a number of reasons. One is - or rather was - that I considered Harkevich to be the stronger 'Caster of the two. I agree on the debatability of that fact - among the internet minds, Hark' at the bottom of the Khadoran caster ranks.
So why, seriously, did I choose him? For one, I like him, and the way (I think) he plays. For another, Zerkova's force tends to be more melee- and infantry-centric (I mean, it has light 'Jacks!), and I wanted an army that counterbalances that choice. With a lot of real 'Jacks and potentially a lot of shooting, Hark' could achieve exactly that. As a third reason: since it's the plunge, any of the strong casters I own are out of the question. Also, with Zerkova being so squishy, I wanted a caster that could tank - even if it's just for a turn. And last but not least, this selection of 'Casters for this year allows me to blame my losses on my model choices, and not my bad playing performance. ;-) No, in all fairness - I hope to gain more insight into Harkevich especially, and what he plays well with. I'm currently very set on my choices, moving almost in grooves, and that's... ...not the best of things.
Straying away from my foggy ideas about Harkevich (from hereon referenced as "Hark'"), what are his strong suits both on paper and from my experience?
1) He does run jacks really well, and is one of the two/three Khador warcasters I'd entrust up to three not-free-running jacks to. This is due to his key spell:
Escort: Warjacks in this model's battlegroup beginning their activations in this model's control area gain +2" MOV. This model gains +2 ARM while one or more warjacks from its battlegroup are within 3" of this model.Khadoran warjacks that, on turn one and two, move instead of running cover the same amount of ground they normally would by running first turn and walking second. Depending on the board situation (and scenario), that may be all you need or want. If you run first turn under escort, and then walk on your second turn, you're already outpacing any other khadoran caster (except a feating pVlad). The added ARM bonus to Hark' is also greatly appreciated - since his warjacks will in all likelihood do the heavy duty, and SR 2013 ushers you to play upfield, Hark' will end up close enough to them.
2) The other reason is runs them well is his Field Marshall ability which gives all his warjacks and himself "Pathfinder". I once flanked an opponent's Khador army by leaving my infantry in the open, and shoving my battlegroup through a large forest. Since then I've been always on the lookout for such terrain based opportunities.
3) The third reason he runs warjacks well is his feat, that gives out +3 ARM to the battlegroup and free shots before charging for free! The armour bonus (especially when the 'jacks are still very healthy), might be enough to tilt the attrition in your favour without even factoring in Battle Mechaniks. The feat shot does not even need to target the charge target, so it can be applied wherever needed, and it's during the respective 'Jack's activation (Hello, Mr. Decimator)
4) He doesn't die from a stiff breeze. Under Escort and his feat, he's ARM 21 before adding in focus, going up to ARM 26 (or 27 with Sylys upkeep Escort!). He's certainly "built Khador tough" - even if he spends all his focus on the feat turn, which is not too unlikely.
5) Fortune is great on most things Khador has to offer - for example the Ternion sprays - but it is probably best applied on anything that already has a high value to mitigate any fails when combating high DEF - ganging Kayazy, Black Ivan (, Great Bears, Manhunters!).
I guess it's time we spoke about what I observed to go well with him:
- Black Ivan is probably the most obvious choice - auto-boosted RAT 5 bombard do have their charm, especially since they're also boosted when firing via broadsides. Coupled with fortune, he can be applied to threaten those high DEF targets that hate nothing more than a bombard right on their nose. (I'm looking at you, Epic Haley!)
- Behemoth is another choice, what with his two bombards and all that shizzle. The feat also takes him to base ARM 24, which is the top for non-clam Khador 'Jacks.
- the Conquest also greatly appreciates the extra movement/armor - and the main guns love the extra shot from broadsides.
- the Demolisher has the nifty trick of simply firing via broadsides, and then activating afterwards to regain ARM 25. There is, certainly more potential to that 'Jack, though.
- the Greylord Ternion does a lot for him: They bring magical sprays, but Ice Cage is another greatly desired effect - lowering the DEF of a target by 2 often takes away the necessity to boost, and by making (mainly) the 'Jacks hit more accurate, you can avoid losing a lot of invested resources - and personal sanity.
- the Winterguard Mortar Crew also works well since it a) has a felt RNG of "the board", b) is still one of the few real crowd control measures Khador has, c) it approves of ice cage'd targets. In a "Imma shell-shock you" way of approval.
- Sylys Wyshnallyr is (at least to my currently acquired experience) almost even more of an auto-include than with Zerkova (since she does have a great tier that I can play, model-wise). He turns Hark' into a 7 focus, generally by upkeeping Escort in his stead. That extra point of focus can then go to warjack on the feat turn. The +2" of spell range aren't do be discounted, either, they're handy when it comes to applying upkeeps without getting too out of position.
- the Koldun Lord is self-explanatory in a list that sports many warjacks and a 6 FOC warcaster. If doing nothing else, he can give Ivan a point each round to run or boost the Bombard's damage.
- the War Dog. I'm kinda sold on Sylys as the be-all-and-end-all, but this little guy helps Hark' out when he's at the front - which is where I expect him to end up. It'd also free up a point, but is that enough to forsake the extra focus? I guess I'll have to research that empirically if I want to get any decent intel.
What kind of stuff, then, did I find very worthy of avoiding - or killing?
- High P&S Weaponmasters, warjacks hated them ever since. And now that you're playing an army with not a lot guys, that all sport a defense of "no", you don't want them in your face. Since those aren't the best hitters most of the time, it may be worth including Kayazy just to keep these off of you.
- Mass Stealth, since bombards aren't exactly crowd control. A direct hit from them is still way better than an auto-drift with the new formation rules (or my deviation luck). A Spriggan can circumvent the problem, but not if it's all over the place.
- Bane Thralls, the pinnacle combination of the problems described above. If you face Cryx where both lists have a lot of banes (not the rarest thing), go pick your other list.
- Mage Hunter Assassins, also a nasty combination of the top two problems, though this one can be solved by a good deviation and a boosted damage roll. Oh, and positioning Hark' correctly. In one game, half an inch to the left, and Hark' would've lived instead of getting killed on the spot.
- Huge ARM Debuffs/Damage Buffs, like Parasite, Blood Fury, Battle Lust, for all the reasons already mentioned.
- Baldur the Stonecleaver, because he makes you feel like an analog player in a digital world. His feat takes away your precious pathfinder and your direct shooting, Solid Ground takes away the blast damage - oh, and Druids of Orboros scoff at Greylords. When presented with a choice of Baldur or sth else, check the scenario (or rather, how much Baldur is going to rock you in it)... and pick your other list.
Now with all that in mind, time to get to list building:
The Wolf Pack (Tier list)
In my (biased) eyes, this Tier has outstanding benefits. You get +1 to the starting roll, upkeeps starting in play, wreck markers, and -1 point cost on ranged 'Jacks. The greatest benefit among these is probably the one where your upkeeps start in play, for this allows you a frightening opening move: allocate a focus to your bombard jacks each. Run them up the field 10" under Escort. Activate Hark', cast Broadsides. You will touch something, top of turn 1. The psychological effect should be tremendous if it causes losses.
Aside from that, wreck markers are great for Hark' to hide in, too, if you factor in all the proposed "I'm gonna be right up the board"-SR 2013 stuff. And the benefits are easy to gain - Black Ivan should be next to an auto-include, two weapon crews is laughably simple and three warjacks is, IMO, where Hark' rolls best.
Man-o-War models currently aren't exactly the things you'd want most (at this time), but the access to Winterguard units (and solos, i.e. Joe) gives you cheap and reliable bodies with guns. That being said, MoW can bring infantry melee prowess to your army, but with the 'Jacks covering key melee positions, I think the best it can do for infantry is: shoot the enemy stuff up / jam.
The only thing keeping me from playing the Tier is an astounding lack of Winterguard models. :-(
How I ran it (at ranged)
This is most likely my most often played build - 50 points:
Caster: Harkevich (-5)
Warjacks: Black Ivan (10), Spriggan (10), Destroyer (9)
Units: Greylord Ternion (4), Kayazy Assassins (max) w/ Underboss (10), Widowmakers (4)
Solos: Widowmaker Marksman (2), Koldun Lord (2), Harlan Versh (2), Sylys Wyshnallyr (2)
I do have a love/hate relationship with the Kayazy Assassins - on the one hand, they die to a warm fart. On the other hand, they jam melee troops reliably without needing Iron Flesh. While the list is fun and balanced (while giving your opponent a good game), I did not have absolute success with it. The best thing, I guess (besides the good games I've had) was one of my opponent's seeing this list, and my Irusk list, and saying: "Well, those are two lists I don't wanna fight," so I can't be too wrong.
What it lacks, funnily, is probably Winter Guard as cheap bodies (costing 4/6) to clog up the field with - I've recently added in a mortar, and that cut into the Kayazy's points.
How I'd run it (into melee)
This is hypothetical, but it triggers a certain itch that makes me want to test it - 35 points:
Caster: Harkevich (-5)
Warjacks: Black Ivan (10), Juggernaut (7), Juggernaut (7), Kodiak (8)
Units: Battle Mechaniks (min) (2), Winter Guard Field Gun (2)
Solos: Koldun Lord (2), Sylys Wyshnallyr (2)
The idea is spamming melee jacks, to which end BI could be subbed out for a Spriggan, but my experience says "You want guns, too". I guess if I took away Sylys and the Koldun Lord, this'd qualify for his Tier list. It'd also have points for a unit of WGI. I have, however, not done any testing at all with this (yet), so any ideas for improvement are as hypothetical as the list itself.
And that concludes this article of Khador 2013, thank you for reading this far - and if you have any intel you want to share, leave a comment.