So I recently had a good run at the Irish Masters with everyone’s favorite genocidal elves, the Retribution of Scyrah. I managed to pull out a record of 5-1 after six very tough games which gives me the dubious honor of explaining how exactly I did this. Lucky me.
This week we will be looking at what the Retribution has to offer as a faction and where its shortcomings lie. I’m going to take you through what I think our cornerstone ‘jacks and units are and why they ended up in multiple lists. In the following weeks I’ll be going through the specifics of my lists and the decisions I made while building them, as well as the changes I’ll be making to them based on both my Masters experience and the spoilers we are starting to get from the next Warmachine book.
First off, Retribution heavy ‘jacks are generally a little unimpressive. Their basic stats are generally poor, with low-ish Mat and Rat and middle-of-the-road, worst-of-both-worlds Def and Arm. We also have access to pretty much no ‘jack buffs in faction excepting a +2 melee damage buff on our Arcanists, which even then only gets our commonly used heavy hitters up to Pow 19. On the plus side, we have Spd 6 heavies and our ‘jacks almost all have guns, and pretty good magical guns at that. In any case, the knock-on effect to this is that most Ret warcasters only have the focus to power and points to spend on one or two ‘jacks. Which is why I’m willing to say right now that you can get away with buying one Vyre heavy ‘jack kit, glueing it together, and putting that ‘jack in each of three 50-point lists and do fine. And the ‘jack you build is the Banshee.
The Banshee’s gun is its best feature. It has a long range, high power, is magic, and most importantly has Momentum. Momentum slams a small or medium based model hit and knocks down large based models, no critical hit or other check needed. Since we are only running one heavy most of the time as a Ret player, we cannot afford to trade our heavy for an enemy heavy, especially against Hordes. Instead, you remove opposing heavies by hitting them with the Banshee’s gun and then use either brutal damage shots from Stormfalls or a charge from Sentinels to mop up while keeping our Banshee safe. Even better, enemy casters love to hide behind larger bases and the Banshee turns this from a solid tactic to an actual liability as their knocked down model no longer blocks line of sight from the rest of our guns, and even worse, a slammed medium base will leave their caster knocked down. This Momentum gun was directly responsible for 2 of my 5 wins over the weekend.
What makes the Banshee stand out even more is that the rest of its abilities are also excellent. It has reach on its main melee weapon, both of its melee weapons are also magic and have Crit Grievous Wounds, and there is a lot of incorporeal and tough out there. It also hits Pow 19 while powered by an Arcanist, and so can beat up on opposing heavies once it is engaged. Finally, the Banshee Wails, making it impossible for nearby enemy models to give or receive orders, or to cast spells. Seriously, take a Banshee, it won’t disappoint.
Retribution light ‘jacks suffer from the same relatively poor to average base stats as our heavies, but in general make up for it with some good flexibility that makes them feel a bit more like tough solos than ‘jacks. While I did not play a lot of lights in my Masters lists, I think we have two excellent light ‘jacks, which is actually a lot more than can be said for the lights of many factions. Those ‘jacks are the Griffon and the Aspis.
The Griffon is an excellent piece for getting in to and holding zones, or engaging important enemy pieces and holding them up. It is a cheap and cheerful little ‘jack, only 4 points for a guy with reach, Spd 6, Pathfinder, and Arm 18. He also has a built in movement buff which, while a bit Focus intensive to use, gives you the ability to slingshot a Griffon more than a foot across the board to toe in that critical zone or contest a flag or objective. As a cheap medium base with reach, he is also very good at engaging enemy shooting units or setting up Flank for friendly units of Invictors. The Griffon also hits like a truck if you spam him out with eVyros, but that is a pretty specific niche.
The Aspis is our defensive utility light ‘jack. His most important feature is his Shield Guard and you’ll often see him sitting next to one of our casters and the Hyperion if it is on the board, mostly to deal with enemy ranged attacks that either knockdown our caster or debuff the Hyperion. The Aspis also has some good control elements to it in the late game once things may have gotten a bit messy. Both of his fists have beatback, so he is good at pushing his way in to zones, or pushing enemies out of them. He is, unfortunately, completely pillowfisted and can’t really damage enemy heavies, and may even struggle with high armor infantry.
Overall, Retribution’s infantry units are everything their ‘jacks are not. I am particularly fond of the Dawnguard, both Sentinels and Invictors, and find it difficult to find a place for the Houseguard at the moment that is not simply as cannon fodder. The Mage Hunter Strike Force, as long as they have their Commander, is quite rightly feared by many players as they ignore about as many rules of the game as Eyeless Sight does. The Strike Force also benefits from one of our few buffs, Snipe, enabling one of the most common but also effective of the Retribution’s assassination tactics: Ravyn’s infamous Snipe-Feat-Go. While Stormfall Archers deserve an honourable mention here, the by far stand-out unit for me in the Masters were the Dawnguard Invictors, and this is why:
Invictors are arguably the best stand alone shooting unit in the game. Actually, screw the arguably: they ARE the best stand alone shooters. Using Combined Ranged Attacks in pairs you get a Rng 10, Rat 8, Pow 14 that, when combined with the UA, re-roll misses on combined ranged attacks and get to go up to Rng 14 once per game. If ignored along a side flank they can just walk up, fire their mini-feat and straight CRA caster’s to death, no assistance needed. Their mini-feat for extra firing range also stacks with Snipe, so they can get up to Rng 18 shooting for one turn a game if you really need it. They are also extremely difficult for your opponents to jam up, since they are a shooting unit with Mat 7(!), solid Pow weapons that Flank with friendly warjacks! They melee’d their way through more than one unit of enemy infantry that had run to engage them over the weekend, often with a few men left unengaged after the melee to take some shots at other targets of opportunity.
Our Infantry solos are also excellent performers. The Arcanist is a very good ‘jack support model for only a point, and is more or less a mandatory take in any list that can fit him. We count both Eiryss’ as in-faction models, meaning they get full benefits from our feats. Our access to mercs is quite limited, but we get access to some of the really important ones; namely Sylys Wyshnyller and Aiyana & Holt. But all of these models are known quantities, we also have a model that, while technically a weapon attachment, is more of a solo who tags a long with units that I feel is often overlooked. That humble weapon attachment is the Soulless Escort.
Soulless Escorts are a one-point weapon attachment that you can stick on to any Retribution unit in order to accomplish two very important things. First, as long as they are alive, they give the entire unit a passive ability that reduces the Rng of enemy spells targeting it by 5. This is extremely important in match-ups against any heavy magic faction as it effectively gives you Stealth to spells with Rng 10, and super Stealth to spells with RNG 8. This hits some big, important offensive spells that really cripple your units: Chain Lightning, Crippling Grasp, Eruption of Spines, Excarnate, and Freezing Grip to name a few. Since the Mage Hunter units so far all have built in Stealth, this ability is mostly useful for the Dawnguard and Houseguard units. Second, they give the unit a grunt with a magical weapon who Flanks with the rest of his unit. The magic weapon is really important as it gives you a reliable, hard hitting weapon for clearing annoying incorporeal solos like Feralgeists, Machine Wraiths, and Void Spirits off of flags and zones. The high Command of Retribution units also means the escort can go deal with an incorporeal model on his own or with a single flanking buddy while the rest of the unit hits other targets ten or twelve inches away. I faced three different Cryx armies over
the weekend, and the Soulless Escorts caused each of the opposing players to be out of range for at
least one critical spell cast each game.
The Big, Bad Thing
Alas, I am not talking about the Hyperion here, but instead the Retribution’s biggest weakness: Stealth. The Retribution has access to only one model, and a caster at that, that sees through Stealth at the moment. Many other factions have similar problems with having difficulty seeing through Stealth, but they often have tough front liners and armor buffs to let them simply get in close and do the job in melee. Stealthed infantry are something we have a decent answer for, if not an extremely reliable one: the Stormfall Archers. Stormfalls can saturate an area with decent Pow AoEs, and assuming the scatter dice are kind can do a good job winnowing down Kayazy and similar Stealth but low-Arm infantry.
Unfortunately, Stealth heavies are a thing, with eKaya and eLylyth being the largest offenders due to their access to Shadow Pack. Right now, the Retribution’s best answer to enemy heavies is to shoot them out using a combination of Brutal Damage from Stormfalls, boosted damage from our heavy ‘jack guns, and mop up with charging Sentinels or Mage Hunter Assassins. Unfortunately, none of that works against a Shadow Pack caster.
Right now, my best advice is that if you see a Shadow Pack as one of the other guys lists, you take whatever you’ve got with the most melee hitting power and hope for the best. In all honesty, I’m not sure eLylyth is really a winnable match-up for Ret at the moment. She is as good at shooting as we are, but we just can’t shoot her back.
With that depressing little aside past us, next week we’ll take a look at my Rahn list and cover such topics as Force Hammers, why Rahn only needs one arc node, and Force Hammers.