Hacking the Cortex: Iron sharpens Iron.

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I’d like to claim that my protracted absence from writing here was an elaborate bit of performance art leading up to my article about slowing down Tempo.

But I was mostly just disorganized and lazy and distracted. Sorry about that.

Rather than try and pick on a thread of thinking that’s weeks old, I’m going to talk a bit about the new Iron Gauntlet format, and approaching the Gauntlet Rounds with Cryx. The new format is certainly fascinating from a theorymachine perspective, and it’s been occupying a lot of my Warmachine related thoughts.

In brief, the new format is thus: The initial rounds are a 50pt 3 list, Divided and Conquer Steamroller event. When there are four undefeated players, the event cuts to The Gauntlet Rounds. In a Gauntlet round, players pick their casters, and then have 20 minutes to build a 75pt list using elements from their three 50pt lists.

The listbuilding game in the gauntlet rounds is incredibly interesting to me. The challenges, as I see it, are:

1) You have to build 3 lists good enough to get you into the Gauntlet Rounds.
2) Your 3 lists have to contain the elements to build a 75pt list for any of the three casters you brought.
3) You need to be able to analyze your opponents options with the selected caster, and build to defeat that, knowing that they’ll be doing the same. Some serious Yomi shit right there.

To truly excel at the format, you want to be able to build a variety of lists during the Gauntlet Round. The more options you have for different playstyles, then the harder it is for your opponent to predict your actions and build for them. And I think that Cryx have all of the tools necessary to do this well.

Firstly, you’ve got the excellent stable of Cryx casters. The most ideal casters for Iron Gauntlet are those that can support multiple different styles of play, so as to avoid being too predictable. You also need casters that “scale up” well to 75pts. Cryx has the best caster in the game at this is Deneghra1 – at no point does her suite of spells and her Feat stop being fantastic, and Deneghra is famed for her ability to polish anything into a diamond. If you pick Denny1 as your gauntlet round caster (and I expect to see lots of that), she’ll work with whatever strange thing you come up with. Choosing her certainly doesn’t telegraph that you’re going to listbuild in a particular way during the buildling phase, and that alone is highly valuable.

You’ve also got good old Asphyxious2. Sure, at 75 his feat and excarnate aren’t the game endingly swingy things they are at lower points values, but he’s still a highly flexible caster with many plays and (once you’ve got your obligatory Bane Knights and Bile Thralls) can build in a much wider variety of styles than he’s usually given credit for.

Aside from these two toolbox powerhouses, Cryx still have a very deep bench of flexible and powerful casters for big games. A lot of Cryx’s currently popular casters is that they push you towards and obvious “Cryx hard” strategy, but having one of your three casters threaten an 80 infantry list will certainly have your opponent thinking during his caster selection phase. (I think Goreshade2 might be particularly interesting, as you could potentially have the option of being in or out of theme, which offers two very different ways of building him). I’d also lean more towards Asphyxious1 or 3 than Skarre for 75pts, as those casters buff more consistently throughout the game – Skarre’s explosiveness is a lot less effective in a 75pt game.

The other thing that I think gives Cryx fantastic power in Iron Gauntlet is how easily modular the faction is, particularly when you don’t have to worry about character restrictions. I mean, across three lists, you’re probably including all the characters you want anyway, and now you can put them all in one list.

The Cryx army breaks cleanly down into the following modules, which I suspect most Cryx players will be trying to fit in across their 3 lists:


Well, we knew this was coming, so let’s start with the obvious. Tartarus + Banes is going to be in one of your three lists, and it’s hardly a chore to include some more in the other lists (Or pack a full boat into one). 30 Bane Knights is awesome and fun and fair, and it’s even more so in 75pts when you get to do a load of other stuff too.

2) The Recycling Engine

The other lynchpin of Cryxing Hard. Double Surgeons and a unit of Mechanithralls can anchor a mean recycling engine, while not strictly dictating the rest of your list, besides its being living. You can put Mercs with it (as is ever popular and effective with Deneghra1), or plug in a Satyxis Boat – both elements likely to be found somewhere else in your three lists.

The power of double surgeon + McThralls, combined with its flexibility in what it plugs into, makes them an A+ choice for one of your lists heading into an Iron Gauntlet.

It’s also worth noting that this combos well with other Cryx reanimation tech such as Blackbanes and Tartarus to create a potential nightmare list of endless bodies your enemy can never chew through.

3) Riders on the Storm

Not so much a complete module, as one you can seed in your lists to assemble in the 75pt rounds. Daragh Wrathe is a much contested solo in Cryx lists. But in recent times, I’ve warmed to him as a particularly excellent companion for Bane Riders. He’s also pretty sweet with Soulhunters. At 75, it seems much more feasible to include the full Cavalry package, since it won’t be basically your whole army. Setting the line of engagement is important at 75pts, because you’re going to be grinding away at that line for ages. Having the speed to set that up is going to be valuable, especially with Daragh’s Beyond Death backing it up. Seriously, that ability ruins peoples’ days like nothing else.

4) Arc Nodes

Okay, notsomuch a module, but something to think about – it’s probably worth mixing it up across your 3 lists with your choice of bonechickens. Always nice to have extra choices with your build.

5) Warjacks

Okay, so here’s where Cryx gets tricky. As we know, Cryx isn’t a huge fan of running a lot of jacks that aren’t arc nodes. While there’s more and more Cryx Different rearing its head, it takes dedicated effort and a list built for it, more often than not. And I can’t imagine that list scaling well to 75 without hobbling your initial 3 lists. The Kraken falls into this as well. Having access to one is great, but finding an excellent place to put it in your 3 lists is challenging. This coming from a guy who loves to run a Kraken or a few heavies in one of his lists – but I have a sense that it would create problems when you get to the gauntlet round. At the very least, the caster running that weird third list probably isn’t a contender to build around at 75 (the best results I’ve had at 50 come from Skarre and Terminus, and they do not scale to 75 well) and I don’t like the idea of removing options in the Gauntlet rounds.

But on the other hand, having access to helljacks and the Kraken in the Gauntlet round is also a powerful tool – it threatens the ability to Cryx Different, and throw down something strange and worrying for your opponent. If they veer to dealing with massed infantry and you throw down something else, you’re in a good spot. It’s really worth trying to find a way to do it. I’m not sure of the best way yet (I’m never sure. The testing cycle is endless), but the best Cryx setup (indeed the best setup for anyone) in IG is to have the ability to simultaneously Cryx Harder Than They’ve Ever Seen Before, or throw down a balanced list. That will keep your opponent on their toes, and many a Gauntlet round will be won in the listbuilding/psychology phase.

Maybe I need to work on my Mind Trick.


2 thoughts on “Hacking the Cortex: Iron sharpens Iron.

  1. I’ve also been thinking a lot around IG and 75pts and it’s very fun thought exercise. I came to a very similar conclusion in Denny1 being one of the best possible casters in the format as well as Haley2 and Haley1 (seriously scary with 75pts…).

    I’m currently thinking the main plan is to take 3 good lists without really considering the gauntlet beyond having a great caster for it at list building level. Then you see if there’s anything you really want in that list and swap a few things. I think if I ever play the format then I’ll pretty much consider having 1 super 75pts list already selected with awesome specialist options if that makes sense.

    On that note, I’m actually strongly considering entering some IG events this year so that could be fun :).


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