Sonntag, 26. Mai 2013

Khador 2013 - Part 11 "Gurvaldt Irusk"

A serious businessman!
Well, it's been some time since the last article in this series. I should mention that, at least from my current viewpoint, it doesn't look like I'll be going to a lot of tournaments this year, but we'll see. The next one coming up are Bonn's 3rd Cantina Games, where I'll be participating as part of a Team - but I won't be playing Khador.

"What?" You may ask, and wonder why I'm now starting to look at Khador again anyway. See, Arides is playing Cygnar. Chronos - who replaces Fiona - plays Khador and Trolls, but his selection of Trolls is not big enough for two 50 point lists. So I switched from Khador to Mercenaries.

In this - and the next - article for Khador 2013, I want to provide you with an in-depth look at the two Casters that Chronos chose for his line-up. First up is the man, the name, the legend - Kommandant Gurvaldt Irusk. Some may think the guy's been done to death, but who knows? We could run into sth.!

Being widely regarded as Khador's strongest 'Caster, I want to look at the why that was the case, also why it still is the case after the advent of colossals. We'll also keep an eye out on things he strongly dislikes. Even though it's probably worth a lifetime-achievement, I also want to indulge into which selections are good with him, and which aren't - or which are surprising, yet not obvious. Lastly, we'll also go into list construction options. Enjoy!

This could get lengthy! If you're not into reading that much, I'll link my "Base, Body, and Beyond" video on Irusk below. If you mind redundant information, then you should probably not watch it, because I might seriously repeat myself.

   So, onto the first question: Why is it that Irusk is widely considered Khador's best 'Caster? Is it just because he buffs infantry better than others?
Well, just may be a little to much, but personally, I'd not go below mostly, in all honesty. His infantry focus stems from almost everything - the feat, the spells, and even his squishiness. But we should deal with the trifecta of infantry-buffs one at a time:

First Element: The Feat
   I probably should've mentioned this beforehand, but the key to the trifecta is the warrior model specification.
While in Irusk's CTRL, friendly faction warrior models/units gain Fearless, Tough, and +2 to melee and ranged attack rolls and cannot be knocked down. Friendly faction warrior models tough on a 4+.
   That is his feat, slightly rephrased. It's just awesome. As a combo-feat (doing sth in your turn, and in your opponent's), you can just choose to use it defensively - run-to-engage, backed up with the feat, and then let's see whether the opponent can dislodge you before you put battlelust on stuff you jammed in and kill stuff. Of course, it's even better offensively. Dream turns are when you can charge stuff in, with the bonus provided, under battlelust at best, and then stick around through their retaliation.
   What's important to note - because, if you're playing against Irusk, you will see it happening - is that the Tough and Fearless parts extend past the CTRL due to the models/units wording. That is, due to Irusk's squishiness, very useful as he can really stay back. Applied correctly (which isn't hard to do, I admit), the feat plus Irusk's other stuff can polish even the biggest turds. Until they change how "Tough" works (assuming they do), this may be the ultimate infantry attrition feat.

Second Element: Iron Flesh
Target friendly warrior model/unit gains +3 DEF but suffers -1 SPD.
   Now, I don't know how reknown I'm for it, but I have a habit of calling this spell a trap. Because everybody knows what it does. Khador really set some standards - ARM 20 Juggernaut is used to measure damage output, and DEF 17 Kayazy with Duelist are used for hitting references. But it's not as stupidly strong as before, due to recent releases that feature either templates or other tricks that don't need to hit the normal way.
   I'd rather put on Iron Fang Pikemen, who prove a lot harder to dislodge when DEF 16/ARM 18, especially since your Kayazy will be DEF 16 most of the time anyway. While it also works nicely on the Winterguard Infantry when coupled with Bob & Weave, people see that one coming from the time they see your list. So - not casting it, or only casting it at key times (which comes with the added benefit of saving focus to upkeep it) is actually a good way to confuse your opponent, or save the focus to cast the next spell a second time, or one of the others.

Third Element: Battle Lust
Target friendly faction warrior model / unit gains Fearless and gains an additional on melee damage rolls for one round.
   Omnus - one host of the "Removed from Play" Podcast (out of two) - stipulated that this spell turns Battle Mechaniks into Bane Thralls. That is not quite correct (if you have Ragman to provide Death Shroud, you're closer), but on a 2-pt support unit, this spell certainly puts the emphasis on "Battle". The Fearless part is very handy, and often gets not really mentioned. But keeping a engaged unit from running due to losses is absolutely worth it. The additional damage die is obviously the limelight stealer here.
   This spell alone provides Irusk with the Power to crack armor. And, as with Iron Flesh, due to Model/unit, it gets exponentially better the more models are affected by it, even though this simple guideline has to be adapted when dealing with serious evasive abilities. Battle lusted Eliminators are fucking homing missiles. Battle lusted Uhlans are SCUD rockets.

   To this trifecta, you can add another thing: His spell's costs. Air Burst, Battle Lust, Grind, Inhospitable Ground, Superiority - all those cost 3 Focus. That doesn't leave a lot to play around with, especially since you WANT (seriously, you do) to keep Superiority running on your Jack of choice. I've found that NOT upkeeping Iron Flesh allows you to cast Battle Lust twice, which is all sorts of awesome.
   This, however, ends in a tendency for Irusk to spend his focus completely, and at that point, he's as squishy as Zerkova - without any defensive tech. Thankfully, having numerous infantry models (or, God protect us, Man-o-War) to hide behind, and staying back, can keep him quite safe.

With all (or most) of his praises sung, how can this man still compete in the current post-Gargantuans environment?
   I looked on the web, and since most people apparently think they've got Irusk down, a lot of the intel you find predates the release of Colossals and Gargantuans, which were books that brought some serious anti-infantry options. With the release of the Mammoth, even Skorne have no more reason to fear us, it seems. In a way, yes, but it's a good thing that Infantrymachine is less auto-awesome.
   How now should the Kommandant (and his players) adapt? Basically, it boils down to the choice of units. The uber-squishy high DEF stuff is getting stones thrown at them left, right, and centre, and thusly, Iron Fangs are seeing a renaissance. Especially Uhlans - since they have both high ARM and some boxes to boot. They do very bad against Infantry, but remember: Colossals and Gargantuans provide single, hard targets. Uhlans, especially when aided by battle lust, and also your average pikemen, eat such stuff for breakfast. Getting the charge is the tricky thing, but hasn't it always been?
   I also advocate to supply Irusk with shooting. See also model recommendations below.

What should you watch out for?
   AoE's coming his way, especially boostable ones. His infantry tends not to like them, too. 
Also, upkeep removal. Even though you might not miss Iron Flesh (not casting it at all), you won't recast Superiority. However, w/o Iron Flesh present, they might choose against investing into Purification too much. 
And then, massed infantry removal. Your feat only protects you for one turn - while that may be enough, it only does so 50% of the time, and "run up and hope to stick around" isn't a battle plan you want to be stuck with.
Models that will easily bypass your lines, especially when coupled with long threats, can also cause headaches for the Kommandant.

What model selection are good with him, which aren't, and which are underdog candidates?
   Well, since we already stated that the man can polish every turd, I'll cover the usual suspects only very briefly:
 + Behemoth. He'll be all over Irusk's focus like a band of unattended kids over a Toys'r'us, but he does bring more AoE's. And AP fists, therefor he loves Superiority.
 + Black Ivan. Brings only one AoE, less melee damage, but has DEF 12, which becomes 14 under Superiority - making Dodge a good shooting deterrent, actually.
 + Spriggan. If you're bringing shooty, you'll appreciate anti-stealth flares! Also, a SPD 6, MAT 10 (on the charge attack) ARM 21 Reach 'Jack is really good.
 + Kodiak. A surprise candidate - Beast has a heavy boiler, too, but the Kodiak is cheap. Since he runs for free, that saves Irusk a number of focus. And his Pathfinder complements Superiority's +2 SPD well. Makes for a good second 'Jack at higher points.

 + Kayazy. Assassins can jam the opponent's way really fierce, if he has no answer for Iron Flesh (they generally do) and/or no regular to-hit buffs. They also have a switchblade function with the Underboss - put battle lust on them, pop Killstroke, and kill your real target. Does work with Eliminators, too.
 + Iron Fangs. Whatever tough nut the opponent brings, these guys can crack it open, especially Uhlans and Black Dragons.
 + Winterguard. Infantry mostly gets in the way, which is useful. ;) Surprising candidates are the Rifle Corps and Weapon Crews, since they most certainly will benefit from the +2 to hit bonus, and, as I said, I think the Kommandant will appreciate the shooting.
 - Man-o-War. With the advent of the Iron Fang Kovnik (see below), you can make an exception for Shocktroopers, but beyond those... I still find it hard to justify their inclusion.
 + Assault Kommandos. All the weaknesses they have, Irusk can fix. That said, though: It takes effort to fix it, the resources for which he might only have at smaller points totals, where these guys then are a choice.
 + Greylords. They bring magical weapons, clouds, and debuffs. Sure, they don't benefit from the Kommander 90% of the time, but he benefits a LOT from them.
 + Doom Reavers. If you don't roll as crappy with them as I do, these guys can be serious headaches when sticking around longer than they should.
 + Battle Mechanics. Another surprise candidate - because Battle Lust turns them into quasi-Bane Thralls, at Mechanithrall prices. Three or four of these might be enough to take heavies of the table (I'm paraphrasing Omnus again, here). 

 + Sylys Wyshnallyr. If you're not taking the War Dog (and in 2013, as I wrote in an older article, you seriously want to consider it again), this guy (along with a Koldun Lord) really helps with your 'Jack game - and with spreading upkeeps, and bombing models via Airburst.
 + Eiryss. The experienced version helps with getting the charge (mostly by removing Hellbound/Polarity Shield) and cracking the target/s open through upkeep removal. Very important, I think. The prime version not so much, unless you land that disruptor bolt onto the opponent's caster. Then it's GO! time.
 + Iron Fang Kovnik. This guy - once he comes out - will be one hell of a support model. And beatstick. His special actions grants a shieldwalling unit +2" of SPD. That is downright awesome for Black Dragons (regular IFP can have Defensive Formation) and Shocktroopers (for whom it present a crucial bonus on turn 2, when they should not be running at all), and AKs... we'll have to see about them, but I'm positively stoked about this guy.
 + The Ragman. Turns stuff you have into Banes. Well, not exactly, but Dark Shroud on demand is good, and RFP spell is, too, and especially when you're building an infantry horde, Sac.Pawn should keep him around till the endgame, where he can seriously twist numbers in your favour.

And finally... what list construction options are there?
Not that many. I can basically see two-and-a-half:
 • Advance Assault Force - the main reason here is... the availability of the Iron Fang Kovnik. :D He'll make it very fast. Also, what's not to like about cheap Spriggans or Devastators? Two units of Man-o-War can be very intimidating (to build lists with), but again, the IFK should take care of the most pressing needs. This is the half one, because you could certainly build both kinds of the lists below with it.
 • A (near) perfect swarm - I've been reading a lot of Overload Online lately, and in one of the April articles, I_Avian talks about the new infantrymachine, which sports not 30 bodies at 50 points, but 50. Of course, his is a Cryx perspective, who get everything dirt cheap, but if anyone can pull it off, it's got to be our main man. I'd be thinking 2x Doom Reavers, 2x Pikemen (one regular, one BD), Kayazy w/ Boss, Winterguard Infantry (w/UA), Winter Guard Rifle Corps. With the leftover points, you should be able to grab a Juggy and the War Dog. It's not cryx level effective, yet... you could add recursion throug Alexia and the Risen... but Irusk has enough Force multipliers to make each model hit hard, and low. To not be totally neutered by defensive strategies, I advise the inclusion of guns.
I can haz 'Jack? - Surely, Superiority is NOT his main shtick, but I'm not certain that he should be relegated to only a single jack. Kodiaks in particular seem very good with him (mostly due to running for free, and pathfinder), even thought his Theme Force gives you cheaper Spriggans. If more than one jack is included, you should probably go with the Koldun Lord, and Sylys, to help with the focus business.

And... I guess that is all I have to say regarding Irusk. Next time, I'll be covering Strakhov. Until then, feel free to leave comments below.