Welcome back everyone, I hope your flesh hooks are hanging well today and everything else is dangling just fine too! As you can see I was forced by life-changing events (mainly overwhelming lazyness) to move to a bi-weekly schedule. Since I’ll take part in the upcoming ETC next week, this schedule will last at least for one more week.
This week my second favourite caster gets the spotlight together with his trusty sidekick as well as some statues and my favourite beast of them all. I will follow the structure laid down in last week’s article so take a comfortable seat and focus your eye lazorzz on the article.
Supreme Aptimus Zaal & Kovaas
Stats & Abilities
Again, I present you a disgrace to the Skorne martial code – an old man with a missing eye. Although his MAT, RAT and even DEF are decent, his armour is not, but what can you expect from someone going to battle in pyjamas. It is obvious then that Zaal is the brain of this superhero tag team, with Kovaas bringing the muscle. The spirit’s stats are all kinds of awesome with fantastic MAT and probably the biggest POW in the entire game and every Earthborn’s wet dream. His defensive stats are mediocre, but that’s ok since you want him to die so another one can be spawned.
Zaal does have several special abilities on his card with most of them being fairly obvious and only Unity had some rules clarification. It allows you to transfer damage to friendly Ancestral Guardians as well. It still costs a fury to transfer, but if enough damage is transfered the resulting death of the Guardian will spawn a Kovaas, which could occasionaly come in handy.
Opposed to all other models in the army, the Kovaas takes ENEMY souls, which usually means he will clear his melee range if there are living models in it.
The World’s Worst Archeologist!
Top notch again! Armour buff, upkeep removal and Last Stand. As if this wasn’t enough you get a decent nuke with Sunder Spirit and an interesting utility spell in Awakened Spirit. The spells are also of the straightforward variety. No tricks here á la Breath of Corruption positioning, just good spells and Last Stand. The great thing about Zaal’s spell list is that Marketh can cast every single spell and he has the soul tokens to boost the rolls when needed. This is particularly usefull with Hex Blast, having a second chance against a crucial Iron Flesh or Admonition as well as the “extra range” it provides since Marketh can be far more forward than would be healthy for Zaal. The range might come more into play if you need to sunder a Gorax’ spirit or some other important support animus which the opponent keeps further back. Oh, and he has LAST f…. STAND!
Now here we have a feat people will look at in desperation quite often. What you reach with your models, your opponent takes off the table. Combined with Last Stand it makes our models allways-charging weaponmasters on all their attacks. The feat requires a bit of timing probably, since if you use it early you might have not enough tokens, but later on you might not have enough models left to use all the tokens. It certainly is no rocket science and the table situation will usually call for the feat. If absolutely necessary, run some of your disposable infantry into some damaging clouds, covering fire or let them take free strikes, even let them kill each other so you have tokens for a crucial melee attack by one of your heavy hitters. Remember, each time the Kovaas dies, he gives a token as well.
Some people play Immortals with Zaal and even go as far as playing his Tier list. Although I love the Immortals’ models and they were among my first purchases in Mk1, they simply don’t measure up to either the Swordsmen or the Nihilators in my opinion. That being said, they are probably most playable with Zaal, because he brings so many Guardians. Since their SPD bonus is gained on a model per model basis it is best when there are several of them around.
The tier list doesn’t allow Paingivers, which is a big downer for me as well. Usually people just play a few lights in the tier list as a result and the composition of the army favours a Hordes match up so the Extollers can zap a beast to death. As you will see I prefer a more balanced force as I have a hard time giving up our formidable titans, especially if you have an armour buff for them.
To avoid bodily harm or mortal injury, please refrain from touching or breaking the exhibits.
Supreme Aptimus Zaal & Kovaas (*5pts)
* Basilisk Krea (4pts)
* Tiberion (11pts)
* Titan Gladiator (8pts)
* Aptimus Marketh (3pts)
Paingiver Beast Handlers (Leader and 3 Grunts) (2pts)
Praetorian Swordsmen (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
* Praetorian Swordsmen Officer & Standard (2pts)
Tyrant Commander & Standard Bearer (3pts)
Venators Slingers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Ancestral Guardian (3pts)
Ancestral Guardian (3pts)
Hakaar the Destroyer (4pts)
The Krea and Gladiator need no explanation, both can benefit nicely from Awakened Spirit. Tiberion, the ultimate beast for me, is my favourite big buddy. 🙂 Immovable Object is incredibly good, he brings shield guard for the Guardians, which can often be the difference between life and death when they are shot at. I think he gives an entirely new dimension to the army, since your opponent has to worry about several threat vectors from the Guardians or a Kovaas, the infantry is jamming him and providing feat tokens, while still capable of inflicting considerable damage with Last Stand or even shooting as I discussed in the previous article. And after all this there are still 2 Titans to deal with and one of them is a really tough nut to crack.
I will quickly tackle the eternal debate of Swordsmen vs Nihilators. First, I played both units, then the Slingers were released and they fit in perfectly, being a ranged unit they don’t get in the way of the other melee elements and serve just fine for feat and soul token purposes. Now the choice between the melee units. I simply love sidestep, but the main reasons why the Swordsmen are in this particular list is that there is more of them for the tokens and that with Inviolable Resolve they can survive even a few POW 10 shots. As I said, there are various pros and cons for either unit, depending also on matchups, so it often comes down to personal preference. I’d just advise to try both units and see what you like better.
My specialists for this list include an Agonizer, Extoller, Cyclops Raider and Gobbers. With the Raider and Extoller the list gets a considerable shooting boost against Hordes, with the Agonizer Tiberion gets beyond ridiculous. Another change to the list that I might consider is switching Molik in for Tiberion, since Awakened Spirit makes him even more fury efficient than with Makeda. He can be a real bad ass with Zaal, but his main strength lies in his speed and Side Step and that is why the first two Makedas make him so deadly. Unless I would want/need Tiberion for another list I would probably keep him, since his defensive presence is so huge.
I actually don’t have any preferred match ups for Zaal he simply has never really let me down so far. I do like to take him against Khador because of Hex Blast, damage output and high MAT on several models with the ability to boost. He can play in some Cryx matchups, obviously against Terminus. He has some good stuff against PoM as well. With so many Steady models, Zaal can hide from pKreoss‘ assassination, Guardians don’t suffer from Awe and you have enough dmg output to crack an eFeora jack spam, with the important models don’t fearing fire too much. Most importantly, you don’t worry too much about Purification and Tiberion shouldn’t get shot to death in one turn, especially with the Guardians providing further not-one-shotable threats.
Guardians with Last Stand and 3 souls can one round Warpwolves and Angeliuses and Tiberion won’t be Rampager’d, Telekinesis’d or Gallows’d so practically all Hordes matchups are playable. He is a good choice for a Skorne mirror too.
I might not have played Zaal in some matchups as much or at all, since they scream Rasheth to me (eHaley, Harby) but again I don’t think there are very many casters he would really want to avoid. Who comes to mind is the Testament who denies souls, Bile thrall excarnate casters and then some heavy RFP, which prevents Kovaas from spawning and denies feat and soul tokens.
Pyjamas and talking heads are the next level in tactical battle gear.
To sum it up, Zaal might not be the most original caster, since his battle plan consists of delivering sword/halberd/Tetsubo to face but he has his nifty Kovaas buddy, our only upkeep removal tool and buffs the cool Guardians while not being upkeep reliant. He also doesn’t have any frustrating denial mechanics apart from the souls for your opponent to hate playing against, it’s all just about the freight train carrying trucks loaded with bricks hitting you at full speed.
So this is the pretty image I will leave you with and a promise of a battle report from the European Team Championship.