“And that’s the last bile thrall?”
“Yes. No more purges.”
“Great! I’m through the worst of it, okay, I charge the Lich-”
“He has hellbound up.”
“What the f— is hellbound!?”
Warmachine and Hordes are an exceptionally well balanced pair of games, while maintaining a huge variety of viable options and choices. That said, there is a power curve. There has to be as long as options are different. It’s a very shallow power curve, but it exists.
The apex of the curve is Lich Lord Asphyxious, eGaspy, Lich2, F— Anto, etc. The name doesn’t matter, though I’ll be calling him Lich2 or ‘the Lich’ for this article. Anything else lessens the very real fear he evokes on the table.
I intend to do a series about how you deal with Lich2 in various factions; what you don’t want to take against him, and what you do. Always keep in mind that you can usually beat an opponent you are better than regardless of what they use or play. This is aimed at getting and keeping an edge against Lich2 in an environment where you play people of your calibre or higher. I will typically outline some lists, both ideal matchups, and compromised lists more suited to two list steamroller formats and being general lists.
We should begin with why Lich2 is so apparently powerful. Many people will have taken my word for it as it’s not a dramatic claim, but still I feel it prudent to prove my position before I belabour defeating him.
Overview of Lich Lord Asphyxious
People usually start with stats, but truth is, you always look at a ‘caster’s feat first. So let’s have a look-see. His feat is called ‘spectral legion’, and it allows him to return ten warrior models as ghostly solos which must charge and are immune to damage. They disappear at the end of his turn. They must be returned within 3” of Lich2 himself.
So the gist of it is: he can create a nearly unstoppable charge by Cryx models. You will usually see this being banes and Tartarus, so it’s a charge that can kill a heavy or two for free, and even a collosal. That’s a very powerful game altering ability. The ability to remove 9-20 points for free is amazing.
So what about his spells? The first one to jump out is teleport. This lets him be active in the game then return to a safe distance, this means he is not exposed to danger after feating, because he can place his feat targets then jump back away. Remember that they don’t activate in his activation, they are all individual solos. So now he can deliver his feat, and always redeploy while interacting with the game safely. So far we have a neatly effective package.
We are probably looking at an army with two units of banes, probably one of each. They are excellent at killing heavies, but poorer at killing infantry with passable defence efficiently. So bile thralls are a good option here. They really shred opposing infantry hordes. Bile thralls, while powerful, are slow. Lich2 has a spell called excarnate, a 3 cost nuke spell with the special rule that if it kills a living model they are RFP’d and he may place a new model into an undead unit in formation, and within 3” of him. Doing this with a bile thrall can easily extend the units reach by 5-6”, taking them from clipping some foes and some of your own, to annihilating units with no casualties. That’s an insanely powerful trick on its own, and because of teleport he doesn’t even have to expose himself to do it.
F—ing c—s, I f—ing *&% and ^$@ f—ing bile thralls.
This is the heart of his game plan; he can kill melee infantry and heavies with discerning ease. He even has parasite thrown in to guarantee that high value arm-reliant pieces are his bread and butter, and his feat will turn any tide back in his favour. That’s an attrition machine few can deal with let alone surpass.
So perhaps, you don’t want to deal with his attrition game as it’s a losing proposition. How about assassinating him? Well Lich2 can teleport to safety which is huge for personal defences. He can also make 3” AoE clouds that deal one point of damage to any who enter and cost 2 focus, so if he needs to he can turtle up and be completely shrouded by clouds, or protect his army on its approach before he hits you. Caustic mist is a very powerful defensive spell which lets him shepherd an army with the best. Still, if he excarnated and teleported, he probably can’t have clouds up, so once he exposes himself you can launch a fast heavy at him and bypass his game plan.
Right!? Surely he’s not able to counter even that with an upkeep that he may well maintain for free? Surely!?
Enter hellbound. He is unchargeable, and enemy models treat all open ground within 5” of him as rough terrain. So forget 90% of jacks, and many beasts, and because of teleport he can position himself not near anything you can charge.
The rounding out of his spell list is the random attack spell everyone gets – in Lich2’s case even that is very powerful. Death knell is a 4” AoE that starts at pow 10 with pow 5 blast, but gets +1 to the damage rolls for ever model under the AoE. So even his throw-away nuke is good.
Oh… You have a Lich2 list…
Excuse me for a moment…
How about his statistics? He is standard warrior SPD 6, with a good Str of 7 and a passable Mat of 6. Though he does wield a powerful weapon, at a P+S 15 (and with parasite available), he isn’t necessarily an assassin. His defensive stat line of Def 15 and Arm 16 totals up to a desirable 31. He also has a Cmd of 8. He has a focus stat of 7, which lets him do one trick fully and often camp 1-2 every turn.
In addition, as a special action he can place a 5” AoE anywhere in his control area, before he even teleports, which collects soul tokens for him. Combined with bile thralls, he can often start turns with 13 focus or more. His remaining rules are undead, terror, cull soul and magic and reach on his weapon. But as you can see, he is the whole package. There is very little he can’t do, he’s got a compelling suite of abilities for start, mid and end game, a great feat, and very few bad matchups. Lich2 is a worrying foe. You are always fighting uphill. Even if you are of much the same skill level as your opponent, he gives them an advantage in most cases.
Finally, I’ll use an example Lich2 list, harvested from the TempleCon finals in the US. This is the list of Keith Christianson, who is very well regarded player and an avid fan of Lich2.
Lich Lord Asphyxious, +5 warjack points
-Ripjaw, 5 points
-Nightwretch, 4 points
Bane knights, maximum unit, 10 points
Bane thralls, maximum unit, 8 points
-Bane thrall unit attachment, 3 points
Satyxis blood witches, maximum unit, 6 points
-Blood hag, blood witch unit attachment, 2 points
Bile thralls, minimum unit, 5 points
Bane lord Tartarus, 4 points
Darragh Wrathe, 4 points
Pistol wraith, 3 points
Saxon Orrik, 2 points
Next week I’ll describe why this list is amazing and really plays to his strengths, lots of Lich2 lists will have the same core as this army, so it’s a good sounding board. Then I’m going to begin going into my analysis of how I think various factions can counter him, starting with Khador because it lets me double up on sharing my favourite Khador list.