søndag 3. april 2016

Battle at Lund & Crusade: Post-Tournament Analysis

In this analysis I'll take a look at my games during the Battle at Lund and 2d6 Crusade (including the practice games). In total that is 22 games played in little over a week. Needless to say, that's intense. 8 games were played with Haley3 while Haley2 played the remaining 14.

Haley2 drops Temporal Shift in a classic manner to claim control of the table.

The Haley2 list started out as an experiment. I've previously had success with a Haley's Heroes variant, including a small tournament win in December 2015, where I paired it with Stryker1 double Stormwall. My problem with that pairing was that I felt Stryker1 didn't have enough game into the hard matchups and often ended up in list chicken situations. I moved on to Haley2 double Stormwall which meant she moved from the role of a generalist to a specialist. Caine2 made up the second half of the pair. The idea behind that pairing was that although Haley's Heroes is a strong list, I couldn't find a pair that didn't let me down in a number of matchups. As such I felt the pairing overall was stronger by giving Haley a niche list. I took that pair to Norwegian Masters where I finished 5-1 (I lost an extremely close game in the semi-finals. If you haven't read the report I can highly recommend it: Caine2 vs Rahn). I ended up taking 5th place (out of 60 players). The pair performed well.

Stryker2 vs Grim. One of many frustrating situations with him. What to do?
Having been through Stryker1, Haley2 and Caine2 it was time to expand my horizon. I juggled around with Kraye a little bit, as well as Haley1 and even Nemo2. Eventually though I started focusing on Stryker2 and Haley3. The former of these I could not make work for the life of me, his play style works in ways that in my opinion rely too much on dice and opponent mistakes for a comfortable game. While I did perform ok with him, eventually I decided to stop playing him because I simply don't believe he's strong enough. Haley3 on the other hand had surprising qualities and although I had a lot of trouble initially (solving the traffic jam issues behind her cloudwall takes a lot of experience I find) I could tell that she had way more potential than I managed to get out of her.

Haley2 keeping her elements far away from Kreoss1 to avoid his feat devastating me. 
Leaving Stryker2 behind though meant it was time to go back to Haley2 for the pair. To do something new and exciting I started building an all-shooty list. The basic premise the list asks is this: How much shooting can you take before it's simply too much and you really need to swap out some of it in favor or support? Comparing it to the Heroes variant, the TAC and Alexia leave to make room for 8 points worth of additional shooting. The idea behind the list was to play to an attrition style of game
and use Haley's various scenario tools primarily to counter opposing scenario plays rather than go for the early 5 CP myself.

The initial games were interesting. I managed to blow away a lot of lists with relative ease. In particular I remember a game against Butcher1 Tier where I faced 3 full units of IFP with ARM-bonuses, Shield Wall etc. Read the report here: link The first draft however had Lynus + Edrea, Dougal and TAC over ATGM and I realized over the course of a couple of games that TAC weren't as needed as they used to be when I played more of a scenario oriented builds. I also missed ATGM (for those of you who don't know: I'm a big fan of these guys. Read an in-depth article here: link). The choice was made to go full out shooting and a couple more practice games later, I was ready for Lund.

Axis in big trouble as the shooting tears his army apart and I move to 2-0 on scenario under Shift.

What happened at Lund completely blew my mind. The list performed above and beyond what I had expected it to. I am used to Haley2 being comfortable against a lot of lists, but with this all-shooting approach certain matchups were downright unfair. I also experienced that the vast majority actually (!) of my opponents severely underestimated how much punishment the list dishes out at a distance. Including practice games and Crusade, I've lost 2 games out of ~20 and they were both close calls. It is definitely true that the dice pulled me through in a couple of close calls as well so it's not like the rest have been autowins, but I still think this is the most powerful Haley2-list I've played to date. I find that relying on attrition as the primary means to win a match is the most stable (but also hardest to play), and Haley has the perfect tools to counter an opponent pushing for scenario early/mid-game.

My very first game with Haley3. I didn't know what I was doing but the overall situation isn't half bad.

The evolution for Haley3 is significantly more chaotic and evidences my lack of experience with her and understanding of what she does well. I started out by copying "internet wisdom" elements and took Blazers, Lances and Storm Blades with the ubiquitous trencher cloudwall. I soon found, as I have so many times before with other casters, that Blazers simply weren't worth their points. I think 10 points for a full unit of these requires a lot of synergy to be worthwhile. I moved to Forge Guard following a discussion on the Cygnar forums with Pat Dunford, the winner of SmogCon (he had a Haley2/Haley3 pairing which you can see here: link) and haven't looked back since. Ranked Attacks, Reach, Go to Ground and bigger threat ranges are all elements I've come to appreciate.

The initial games with Haley3 was against a wide variety of my opponents and this partly influenced me to ditch the Lancer in favor of a Charger. I didn't realize until after the Battle at Lund that given the matchups I want Haley3 to play, the Lancer is likely the superior choice. There aren't a lot of factions that Haley2 can't at least play into and have some kind of game, but the rest largely boil down to certain variants of Legion, Retribution and possibly Circle and Skorne. In these matchups the ability to arc Repudiate, Force Hammer and Chain Blast is amazing. See this report for example: link The threat projection and thus inherently Haley3's board control would be no-where near the same without the arc node.

In a setup against Fist of Halaak which begs the question: What will you do now, I realize how different and powerful this caster really is.

Many of my games with Haley3 have been frustrating. I have had trouble seeing her as the new power-caster. When comparing anything to Haley2 and Caine2, the bar is high. What I have found however, is that Haley3 often does things that are otherwise problematic for Cygnar -very- well. I have 4 games against Lylyth2 in the past couple of weeks and I have won them all. While some of these have been due to close calls, opponent mistakes etc, Haley2 vs Lylyth2 is -extremely- uphill if the Legion player knows what he's doing. I also remember a game vs Fist of Halaak where I found that Haley3 was close to autowin. See the report here: link

Lylyth2 in huge trouble vs Haley3. Can you see the angle?

I've said for some time now that I believe Haley2/Caine2 is our strongest pair. In the very last week however I feel like I've finally started to figure out Haley3 and now, I'm not so sure. She is very demanding to play and very different to everything else I've tried in Cygnar. As such, she presents unique problems to overcome, but also unique options, angles and strengths. Compared to Caine2 for example, one of her primary strengths is that she doesn't really want, or at least need, the same kind of characters which Haley2 wants (e.g. Aiyana + Holt). Compared to anything else we have, she also presents an unpredictable force projection because of the nature of revive + force hammer. To conclude, I think the pairing I brought to Crusade yesterday is the strongest we can field as of now, simply because Caine2 and Haley2 largely fulfil the same role, by and large have the same weaknesses and want the same character choices. While Haley2 can get away with double Stormwalls, she loses a lot of her potential without an arc node. The Hurricane will possibly be a game changer again but seeing as it's not out yet, we can't really say.

Kraye (Cygnar's Dark Horse?) in action vs Mohsar. 

Looking ahead, I am going to spend some time looking into our less popular casters again, as I did after Norwegian Masters. I still want to try out Kraye some more as I believe he has potential, and I'm also hoping to field Stryker3 and Siege for at least a couple of games. All of these 3 boys are casters I really believe -can- work, it's just a matter of figuring out how.

Looking at the Cygnar casters as a whole, I see the following tiers:

Tier1: Haley2. In my opinion the best caster in the game. No other caster in Cygnar even comes close. I believe she needs more nerfs to be brought in line, the feat nerf is hardly relevant in many of the matchups she plays.

Tier2: Haley3, Caine2. Both very strong casters, the only thing keeping them away from Tier1 status is their lack of flexibility compared to Haley2.

Tier3: Stryker1, Stryker2. Both decent casters but in my experience they fall through once your opponent learns their tricks and limitations.

The rest I haven't made up my mind about yet. Most of them I guess are in the 4th tier, a.k.a close to unplayable in a competitive setting. Whatever the future holds I am now confident I have multiple powerful configurations to fall back on for important tournaments. I also have the confidence to take one game at a time and feel no pressure on performing. It is important to note that although I have had a crazy string of games now, only a single game lost in 4 tournaments in a row (resulting in 3 tournament wins and 1 runner-up finish), I have had -many- games that could easily have gone the other way. I have met several opponents that are perfectly capable of besting me, but due to matchups and/or simply dice, I have pulled ahead.

Snapshot from Crusade. This is the 2d6 club room and we have 24x7 access with space to leave our miniatures. Possibly the best club in the world if you ask me.

I'd like to thank my club, 2d6, for the support, dedication, opportunity and interest in competitive Warmachine & Hordes gaming. Without the continuous flow of high-quality games I would be no-where near where I am now. I've become so accustomed to it that I take it for granted. However, facing a Haley2 list that is tuned to its full potential yet again when you've lost the previous 6 encounters isn't something I, or anyone else for that matter, should ever take for granted. It requires a dedication to the game and mental fortitude. I am humbled and grateful for all the valuable games we play and I hope we will continue along the same path going forward. We make each other better and my results at Lund and Crusade are as much your work as it is mine.

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