Mittwoch, 29. Mai 2013

Khador 2013 - Part 12 "Oleg Strakhov"

Alrighty then... this time for Khador 2013, we'll be entering completely new areas. That may be kind of a shock for some of you, as we're going to talk about Strakhov, and he's been out... like forever? Ok, it's just FoW: Khador, but I must admit that I have never played him. I don't even own him.

That's seriously tops the last articles craziness! So why am I doing this? Well, in the team tournament end of June, Chronos, our third member, will be featuring both Irusk and Strakhov. And I want something for him that he can read, so I don't have talk all the time. With Irusk, I could bring in my own play experience - with Strakhov, I have none. So I am also doing this to broaden my understanding of the caster, and then extrapolate (or theorymachine) from there. I already have an idea about Eliminators...

So we're going to look at Strakhov's card, closely. Closely enough to discover strengths and weaknesses. And then, we'll once again look at the Khadoran line-up and see whom he jives well with, and who should stay at home. And then we'll try to build an 50 pt list or two. Enjoy!
It might be appropriate to say beforehand that I will likely link to other articles I wrote, because some of the "tech" I'll mention here was discovered elsewhere. But I guess, since I want this article to end on an innovative note, why not start this off with the infamous Strakhov Flowchart, which seems to be the state of mind people are stuck in:

   So, Strakhov's card. Looking at the statline, the first thing sticking out is his DEF 15/ARM 16/17 HP. He has as many boxes as Irusk and Sorscha both have, but one point more for ARM. Which generally means: You have to be fucking careful when he's around the frontline, and he will be (we'll get to that), so he's in a constant state of "Potus 000" (imminent danger to the president). You might just have to embrace that. His defence is augmented by immunity to Fire and Corrosion - on Assault Kommandos (AKs), that is "situational, but worth remembering", on a Warcaster, it's a life-saver, for it cuts out quite a number of range and spell assassination options.

   His attack scores are average for a Khadoran 'Caster that can boost. On the charge (which might happen), his Trench Knife hits at P&S 15 - that's strong, compared to his contemporaries. This ties in nicely with his "Sprint" ability, which in such cases will do a lot to take him to safety.
But his guns are worth being noted. The Riot Gun has Rapid Fire[d3], which is some destructive potential on a boostable med-range POW 12. And the Cinder bomb... at Rng 6", I guess it's for those cases when he needs to take care of a pesky high-DEF solo himself, by moving up so close it can't deviate away. His offense is enhanced by another AK staple: the alchemical mask. He ignores gas effects (the only one currently being the AK's gas canisters), and cloud effects. That is a kick to the groin of a small number of 'Casters (High Reclaimer & Lich Lord Venethrax, most prominently), a few units (Greylord Ternion, Tactical Arsonist Corps, Trencher Infantry), and anybody trying to keep himself safe with a Cloud from Gorman di Wulfe, or similar.

   I'll go into his feat a little later, because it provides a better segway into following segments. Strakhov has two offensive spells, which I'll mention first because they're not what he's reknown for.
 • Battering Ram. A Rng 6, POW 12 with an optional 3" PUSH? Come on, seriously? That's a water gun... Extremely cornercase - AKA Opponent put something barely into a zone/close to a flag/objective, that is not huge base, and Strakhov already happens to be around. Then, yeah, very useful for a cost of 2 focus. But on a 6 FOC 'Caster? A dud, currently. I mean, Strakhov is strapped for focus all the time, so he wouldn't cast it even if it was sth like Force Hammer, but that is'nt exactly helping.
 • Rift. I've talked about this spell a long time ago (in an article called Spelling Difficulties). With Strakhov not having a Arc Node, I don't see him casting this, because even with it doing blast damage at POW 7, he won't be removing clusters of troops that close to him reliably. There may be the odd situation to cast it at a jack to stop it from reaching Strakhov, but then you'll have to absolutely make sure no pathfinder provider is around.

   Now, onto what is considered his meat & potatoes.
Occultation. Unit stealth on a stick! Keep Pikemen safe(r) on the advance! Actually... I'd prefer to put it onto MoW, because any MoW that run tend to draw fire, and they tend to run quite often.
Overrun. This does not only work as a range extension, it can be used to work some lateral movement. It'll be hard for the opponent to cover all possible vectors of Overrun attacks without over-focusing. Combining Overrun with Sprint on Strakhov himself... he can reposition across the board really fast, using Rift to trigger it, move, and then charge/kill and sprint. The "best" (or: most obvious) option, though, is to use it to (re)position your jacks before they activate and charge.
Sentry. I'll put up the whole text because, in all honesty: I want more of our casters to have this one.
When an enemy model advances and ends its movement in the LoS of target friendly faction model, the affected model can immediately make one normal ranged attack, then Sentry expires.
An out of turn shot. With all the bells and whistles attached. This is great on the Gun Carriage, and if you crit on that shot with the conquest, mind-blowingly strong. Mind the wording here: "advances and ends" means that a model turning triggers it. Also, any enemy model can trigger it, but you're not limited to shooting the model that triggered it. That is gold right there. I'm not certain whether Sentry expires when it triggers, or when the attack is made - but I'd err on the safe side.
Superiority. Not much needs to be said. Increases SPD and MAT (Strakhov's only direct increase of hit rolls, see also below), and emphasizes his 'Jack bullet strategy.

And then, his feat (slightly reworded for shortness):
Iron Fist: When charging/slamming enemy models within Strakhov's CTRL, friendly faction models gain +4" MOV and "Pathfinder". Warjacks can charge/slam such enemy models without spending focus.
Yes, charging/slamming movements become SPD+7", so from 11" ('Jacks) to 13" (infantry). The "Pathfinder" element is also very relevant, because there are not a lot of Pathfinder troops in Khador. In brief, with this feat, you should get the alpha. Seriously. You just need to make sure you profit from it. Which takes us to the next section.

   Now what are Strakhov's Strengths and Weaknesses?
+ Superiority, Overrun, Sprint and the feat make it quite obvious that Stakhov main strength is overall speed. That is a novum for Khador casters - Vlad only did that for his 'Jacks, and then some 'Casters have Boundless Charge. Now Strakhov gives out super Boundless Charge to everybody - with one explicit drawback: the charge target has to be within his CTRL.
- His prime weakness is having to be so far forward. Remember, if you want a number of enemy models to be chargeable with the feat, Strakhov has to be way less than 12" from the enemies frontline, and you have to build your list around that, methinks. Otherwise, if that turn did not turn out well enough - you might lose Strakhov.
- His other weakness is the inability to personally increase his troops to-hit-rolls (outside Superiority), with painfully comes around to bite him when you're playing against high DEF frontline troops. Like you find in Khador, Circle, Legion, Cryx. If you don't want to make him your low-DEF matchup 'Caster (because the high DEF guys do not like getting alpha'ed), you'll have to work around it.
- He also does not increase his models damage output, which can get really bad when you're up against any of the infamous colossal 'Jacks. So if you're even a little bit into attrition, you need some model-based armour-cracking potential.

Which nicely takes us into model selections. Thankfully, at regular point games, you'll be having enough room to both care about his weaknesses, and still play to his strengths.
+ Spriggan. Flares that remove Stealth help his support guns, Bulldoze makes even more angles threatening, and powerful charge+Superiority should hit all but the dodgiest targets w/o boosting. At larger points, I'd even advise to take two of those.
+ Beast 09. The other prime choice for Strakhov. With his imprint (and boosting), Beast can circumvent high defense like a boss, and if he crits, the target will be rendered stationary for the rest of the army.
+ Marauder. Another option to take to work around high DEF with the Combo-Smite, which, with Strakhov's tech, can strike at really unexpected angles.
+ Conquest. May seem counter-intuitive at first, but it brings raw hitting power, the colossal rules, and a perfect target for Sentry. As noted, if you crit on that Sentry shot, you put your opponent in a very bad spot. Just make sure you target models that haven't activated yet - because, being thrown on their own turn, they really won't.

Kayazy Assassins w/Underboss. These "gentlemen" (in a "I think you are bleeding, Sir. It appears you fell onto my blade"-way) gladly take the benefits from Iron Fist (especially the Pathfinder portion), and return MAT 9/10 attacks, as well as the ability to simply bypass the opponent's frontline unit.
+ Kayazy Eliminators. I'm really liking Eliminators with Strakhov - they're both accelerators for Strakhov (he can charge them and needs 10s to hit them), and if he does - due to acrobatics, and 14" charges on the feat, they can(and will) reach any model affected by his feat, and start stabbing things.
+ Kossites. These are a real surprise, but simply put: If Strakhov's feat touches a support model, there is only about a 4" corridor in the centre of the board where it is safe. So I'd definitely include, say, a min unit. It also synergises with other choices below.
Doom Reavers. These guys can seriously fix his anti-ARM problem and at MAT 7, (and spell ward) they don't really need help hitting against their preferred targets. With Strakhov, I think they'd be best in the role of flankers, swooping in on the centre on the feat turn.
Iron Fangs. All of them, actually. Uhlans like being stealthed, and they can flank hard on single, hard targets. Pikemen like being stealthed, too. Black Dragons love the Pathfinder provided by the feat, while regular IFP can do the charge, and then defensive formation to push deeper into the enemy/consolidate their position, which can prove vital to Strakhov's survival post-feat turn (unless it ended with a 'Caster kill anyway).
Greylord Ternion. Ice Cage to offset hitting problems, clouds for stealthed troops (which Strakhov ignores), magical shotguns. Great!
Man-o-War. All flavours, but for different reasons. DemoCorps love Occultation, it allows them to survive until they can get the charge via the feat. Same goes, I think, for Bombardiers - they like not getting shot, they can spout high-POW templates on they way up, and then they can tear stuff up in melee. I'd seriously consider those guys.
Tactical Arsonist Corps w/Valachev. Since "Merciless Ming" makes them friendly faction (and since Nyss aren't all there is), these dwarves could crank out some serious punching and troop clearing potential with the added charge range, Flame Burst on their Thermo Maces and battle wizard. Also, their good AoEs help making people spread out, which in turn benefits Kossites and Bulldoze. Not to mention that they're fire damage.
Winter Guard Mortar Crew. Nothing herds better than one or two of these. But if they spread out, they're opening themselves to Kossites, Bulldoze, and cavalry charges. It can also hit low DEF targets quite hard, and makes for a good Sentry target.

+ Koldun Lord. To my reckoning, with Strakhov's focus issues, this man becomes very important when you field that second jack. Battle Wizard for Ternions is mostly MEH, but hey, with +4" of movement, you never know.
+ Iron Fang Kovnik. If you're sporting IFP, and especially with MoW Shocktroopers, this guy should seriously be considered because of the SPD bonus.
Wardog. One of two hugely important models. For one point, you greatly improve Strakhov's survivability.
Gorman di Wulfe. The other hugely important model, because he helps with hitting (Blind Bomb) and ARM cracking (Rust Bomb).
Man-o-War Drakhun. Also a very good choice. 14" Cavalry charges? Yes, please, especially if if lets him end in a position where he can contribute to Strakhov's safety with Countercharge.
Fenris. If there ever was a terrificly good shock trooper, Fenris is it. And he supports your Doom Reavers to boot.
Eiryss Xp. No auto-include, but you'll dislike Polarity Shield or similar stuff stop your charge.

Gun Carriage. Mostly for Sentry - but who could deny a SPD 7 weapons platform on Strakhov's feat (which could also be stealthed) with KD attacks? Not many, I guess.

Things that I dislike with especially is the Winterguard - except for the Rifle Corps, those guys can pull their weight easily, even without Jozef. I also dislike the Assault Kommandos outside his theme force, because Strakhov is good at delivering models, but nothing beyond that, and AK's need the support. In theme, you can use them for pinning (as I discovered in Khador 2013 - Part 09), but otherwise, they're in all likelihood better off with other 'Casters.

Okay, with that done - let's try to build a list, based on the theory alone. You'll likely have noticed that I was talking a lot about things like "Strakhov's safety" or "keeping him safe post feat-turn". And that is sth that is not on the flow-chart at the beginning, so obviously, I've deviated from the thinking surrounding him (can be seen by statements such as "walking feat", "one-trick pony"), and I'm feeling good about it. Because - from a psychological point of view - your opponent presuming you're aiming for the quick caster kill, and you actually planning sth completely different? That's a good starting position for you.

Let's start off with Chronos' current 35 pt Strakhov list. I'm not going to diss' his list, but I gotta start somewhere, and I might as well rip it apart as an exercise.

Strakhov        (*6)
 + Behemoth     (13)
IFP (max) w/ UA (10)
Widowmaker       (4)
MoW Drakhun      (4)
Fenris           (5)
Marksman         (2)
Manhunter        (2)
War Dog          (1)

I'm not a fan of the Behemoth here - he won't really be hitting anything, and he's not an exact assassination threat. All in all, the list is heavily geared into attrition, which is not bad, but the lack of an immediate assassination can keep your opponents on the back foot. I can see the reasoning behind Widowmakers + Marksman, but the Manhunter... ...I'm not really feeling him without Yuri (then we're talking). Which leaves:

Strakhov        (*6)
 + ???
IFP (max) w/ UA (10)
Widowmaker       (4)
MoW Drakhun      (4)
Fenris           (5)
Marksman         (2)
War Dog          (1)

These are 26 points, which leaves us with 30 points to build it up to the 50 pt level of the Team Tournament. Adding my personal favourites (i.e. building it how I'd start out running it), I'm ending with this:

Strakhov                      (*6)
 + Spriggan                   (10)
Doom Reavers                   (6)
Iron Fang Pikemen (max) w/ UA (10)
Kayazy Eliminators             (3)
Kayazy Eliminators             (3)
Kossite Woodsmen (min)         (4)
Widowmaker                     (4)
Winterguard Mortar Crew        (3)
Winterguard Mortar Crew        (3)
Man-o-War Drakhun w/ dismount  (5)
Widowmaker Marksman            (2)
War Dog                        (1)
Gorman di Wulfe                (2)

Whacky, I know. But it certainly does have merit, I feel. I'd love to run it, I just lack (besides Strakhov) a second Mortar. As for options, those three points could get another solo, or, dropping something else, another 'Jack. I think it deserves a try or two, and more, and I'd pair it with a list built to crack heavy targets.

And... that concludes my take on Strakhov. I especially hope it helps my teammate (his list building, at least), and if it wins a game at the tourney, that'd be great. Anyway, leave comments if you like!