lørdag 9. april 2016

Let's Talk About Attrition

Unlike my previous articles, this will be a relatively short one. In this post I'll discuss the various playstyles, why I believe designing lists for attrition is the best approach and why you have to consider it whether you want to or not. I advice those of you who haven't read it already to check out The Ping Pong Theory before you read this article. Understanding the momentum flow in Warmahordes will greatly help you visualize the points I'm discussing in this post. 

A game of Warmahordes can be won in one of three distinct ways: Assassination, Scenario, Attrition. While attrition isn't strictly speaking a win condition, it is important to separate from the other 2 because it differs fundamentally in play style and approach. What do I mean by attrition? Attrition is  to simply eliminate so much of your opponent's army that he ends up being unable to threaten your caster or take the lead in control points. I'll provide two reports which illustrate the effects well: Stryker1 vs Father Lucant and Caine2 vs Rahn. In the first report, my alpha takes away so much of Lucant's heavy hitters that he has no real threat to my Stormwalls left on the table. In the latter game, I literally lose my entire army apart from Eiryss and Caine and am thus unable to contest my opponent on scenario. 

The Legion forces are reduced to insignificant numbers.
Why is attrition important and why do I want to talk about it? 3 reasons: 
1. Sometimes, regardless of what you do, you have to play a game of attrition.
2. Unlike assassination and scenario victories, you can successfully plan specifically for attrition at the list creation stage.
3. I believe attrition is the best and most solid playstyle in Warmahordes. 

Let's take an in-depth look at these claims.

1: Forced To Play Attrition

Some players view casters like Caine2 and Butcher3 as "assassination casters" to the extent where they want to build an entire army around delivering said assassination caster, other victory conditions and considerations be damned! While I don't play Khador I have most definitely forced Butcher3 to play a game of attrition on multiple occasions. The following report is a prime example: There is no scenario angle, Haley2 is out of theoretical threat range and I'm threatening to kill him and/or consolidate my position and win on scenario late-game. If he doesn't go into my Stormwall (and thus risk his life) the game is pretty much over. Haley2 vs Butcher3. Let's take a look at Caine2, then. While I believe the premise of building a list to deliver him as an assassination bullet is faulty, consider how I could possibly have done that in the first place in this following game. Without vision I have only the Gatecrash angle and with the insane defense on Haley3 coupled with ARM from Arcane Shield (if needed), that is a dicey proposition at best, which is unlikely to go in my favor. Furthermore scenario is a non-issue here, there's no way I can force my way to 5 points without killing a considerable amount of his forces. Caine2 vs Haley3. So, we have established that in certain conditions, assassination type lists -have- to play the attrition game. 

Slugging it out vs Fist of Halaak with no scenario or assassination angle, not the way I wanted this list to play.

What about scenario lists? I played a very "pure" scenario list with Haley2 at Norwegian Masters this year. This report is a textbook example of how I wanted it to perform. Move up hard, force your opponent out, capitalize on position and win with 5CP early. Haley2 vs Durst. Same list, different setting. How on Earth could I have gone for an early scenario win here? Even with a 3 point lead it's highly unlikely that I could've gotten the last 2 points without chewing through tons of Trolls, which essentially makes it an attrition win after all. Haley2 vs Grissel1. Scenario lists, like assassination lists, are sometimes forced to play the attrition game. 

2: Why Attrition Is The Only Playstyle You Can Plan For

This is sort of a given based on the premise we outlined above: If you can be forced to play attrition then, by extension, you can't always plan to win on scenario or assassination. However, let's discuss this in a little more detail. During the list creation stage, if you want to play an attrition list, you have to make sure you have your bases covered. Do you have elements to prevent a scenario win if your opponent plays a strong scenario caster/list such as Krueger2 or Harbinger? Is your caster sufficiently protected to be able to withstand the assassination runs you expect him/her to face in the matchups you intend to play said caster? Is your list strong enough to successfully win a war of attrition against other attrition lists? 

I find an opening vs Haley3 by running Alexia2 into clouds and Mage Storming her before sending magic bullets to open a huge gap. All elements accounted for at list creation!

Being aware of these questions and making a conscious effort to answering them will help you ensure you have the tools you need. It will also often help you determine how to spend X points. How well do the choices you have in mind help you answer weak areas in the questions above? The Haley2 list I took to Lund is one I've often described as an "experiment". That list was designed as an attrition list, and an extreme one at that where I put as many points as I possibly could into models who piece-trade effectively. There were 2 things I was afraid of: First: Could I hold my own in a scenario situation? The hypothesis was that Feat + placing an indestructible Stormwall somewhere/dropping a pod + moving Thorn into a zone with covering fire in front of him would be enough. This game highlights how I protect myself from an 0-3 start by having Thorn in a strategic location. Haley2 vs Skarre1. The second thing I was worried about was not losing Haley to assassination runs. What I found in practice was that often times it was enough to simply have her far back and protect her with position more than anything. This game highlights well how conservative I sometimes play her to ensure her safety: Haley2 vs Kreoss1. So at list creation stage, I had feeling this would be possible. I planned for these games to evolve more or less like they did. Playtesting showed this to be true and indeed the list performed extremely well in tournaments as well. 

3: Attrition Is The Most Solid Playstyle 

Scenario wins often hinge on making seriously unfavourable piece trades and transition those trades into scenario points, grabbing those 5 control points before your opponent can do enough about it. Consider this game for example and how I'm throwing away models left, right and center following my mistake of not TK-ing Aiyana to land Kiss on Prime Axiom, after which I immediately knew that my only victory condition was scenario: Haley2 vs Father Lucant. Likewise, assassination lists will often feed you models to get their angles, or at least try and do so. See for example how Caine is trying to reduce the complexity on the board and get an angle on Haley here and effectively ends up piece trading in my favor in this game: Haley2 vs Caine2

So, you can plan ahead to do this and validate the approach of doing so through practice games. On top of that you know that you can piece trade effectively against both the lists that are looking for scenario wins against you -and- the ones looking for assassination wins. If you can hold the 5 CP at bay and keep your caster safe then it should only be a matter of time before your accumulated advantage leads to a win. 

Don't get me wrong: There are plenty of good scenario openings and assassination openings. I won't shy away from taking them if they present themselves, regardless of whether my list is created for attrition or not. Take these 2 examples: I find an opening in Outflank for scenario even though my game plan was originally to win on attrition: Stryker1 vs Ravyn. In this second game I take a golden opportunity to assassinate my opponent's warlock although I went into the game anticipating a drawn-out war with little models left on either side: Haley3 vs Lylyth2

I love it when a plan comes together! The shooting wipes ouf the last of Skarre's 30 Bane Knights and it's looking bright for the Swans!

What I'm talking about when I say attrition is the most solid is what you -plan- for. Planning is a big part of the game and happens at multiple stages: List creation, game start, at the start of each of your turns and sometimes you even have to change plans during your turn because of dice. As far as plans go, I have now come to the conclusion that I prefer attrition lists the most and thus that is my primary goal at the list creation stage. Sometimes you know that cannot be done though once you place the models on the table. Often, this is a sign of trouble. This game details it well: I realize quickly that I can't piece trade effectively and I make a desperate play for scenario: Kraye vs Vayl2

Failing to plan is planning to fail. In practice games I often ask my opponent "what is your winning play here? Scenario, assassination, attrition?" I do this not to gain an advantage (I'll be open about my own thoughts as well), but to better understand the matchup and how my opponent sees the game. What are his strengths and concerns? I think one of the most important things to do in Warmahordes is to have a plan and preferably one you know can work. Changing plans mid-game is never what you want to have happen. Better yet: Make sure your plan can be executed before the game even begins. This can be done at the list creation stage, if you build a pairing that's powerful enough with the right tools to play for attrition. 

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