After quite a few games, dozens of lists and many hours discussing and dojoing I have begun approaching lists I really enjoy playing and that I have faith in. Let's talk about Sloan!
Initially I was looking to get the most out of her battlegroup abilities and it was all about the jacks and maxing out the battlegroup. While I was never in the camp of 9 hunters crazy-town, it got to the point where the army was basically nothing but jacks.
The Stormwall was an obvious candidate for the jack heavy lists in my opinion because it shored up the melee weakness our other jacks typically have. There's just something about PS20 that is very hard to deal with. Furthermore it allows the list to get a degree of control with Covering Fire and a decent solution for things that require magical shooting because Arlan essentially makes 4 guns magical with it.
The problem with the Stormwall is primarily the junior tax I believe. It could be that playing it without Arcane Shield is viable, I have not tried that yet, but assuming you need Arcane Shield you have to take junior, obviously. The Junior + Charger module is one that I very much enjoy in my Haley2 list where it adds a lot of value. With Sloan however I feel it's a points sink as they don't really effectively contribute to what I'm trying to do with the list. The Charger is neither long range nor hard hitting enough, nor is it effective at dealing with infantry. Its saving grace is its flexibility so it's not a complete waste of time. It should be noted that it's a pretty good piece for countering medium-to-high-armored infantry, something I believe Sloan otherwise struggles with: Defender/Hunter shots are too few and Firefly shots are too weak and short-ranged.
So to summarize: If we look at the Stormwall compared to 2 Defenders, it's just 7 points more. Adding Arlan (since it is less power-up effective and you want magical weapons on it + repair if something goes down) and Junior + Charger, we have locked down an additional 17 points. Not necessarily wasted points, but potentially 24 points then compared to the double Defender setup that aren't necessarily what you need. One important thing to remember though is the Stormwall's scenario presence (which is why I think the arcane shield is needed). Without it, Sloan has to have another answer for scenario questions. Where to begin?
Maxwell Finn and his Trencher friends were the first stop for me. Trenchers have become a lot more viable than in Mk. 2 and they are very hard to just push through and ignore. The idea was that a small unit of Trenchers could run ahead as a vanguard, backed by Finn and 2 Busters for counter-charge potential as well as solo pieces to contest/control flags and zones.
The problem was that there were not enough points to make the Trenchers numerous without compromising the battlegroup and/or the counter-punch solos. They are durable and hard to deal with, sure, but with just a handful they don't last particularly long. I also find that the module lacks punch unassisted, even with the Busters. It's a combination of lacking threat ranges/durability. Essentially the Busters are the only ones that really threaten the heavier things. With just 5 boxes and a threat range of 10" I found that I was forced to play them rather defensively in a reactionary role. While this is what Sloan usually does with the rest of the army, I found that this wasn't what I was looking for. I was being driven too far back despite this module as I simply couldn't put pressure on the vital parts of the table and respond to quick threats fast enough.
The idea came to me when I noticed that Storm Lances were perfectly costed: Regardless of whether you take a min- or max-sized unit you pay 4 points per model. This is actually really cool as you can take 3/5/8/10 depending on what you need without missing out on points efficiency. The idea then was to run 2 units of min Lances to help Sloan's threat projection. On paper they should add a solid counter-charge element that is great vs both big units of infantry due to e-leaps, medium-to-high-armor infantry due to high powered attacks and heavies due to PS15 charges. My main concern was how much I could expect them to contribute to Sloan's in my opinion biggest weakness: Scenario plays. Whereas Trenchers are made to just push forward and buy space and time, the Lances don't excel at this as they aren't very durable.
Let's cut to the chase: Despite only having a few games with the Lances, I love what they bring to the table. For a caster like Sloan, the difference between barely killing something and taking it down can be huge. Consider leaving an Angelius close to your lines on 4 boxes vs none. Could be the game with an armor-piercing attack on Sloan for example. The Lances help zone a lot better than the other choices I've tried. Despite the Stormwall being bigger and badder with its PS20 fists, it still is a huge based model with a 10" threat range. Compared to 6 models with a 13" threat range that is just too little. With pre-measuring it is very easy to capitalize on that difference.
I've been thinking a lot about why they work so well. I've tried to explain it above with threat projection, zoning the enemy out etc. Let's take a look at some specific games to visualize what I'm talking about.
In this game (link) vs Cephalyx my opponent was shoving models down my throat left, right and center. I had to deal with both the normal infantry (as they can be buffed so much), the solos and UAs -and- the monstrosities. It worked out in the end but it was very close and a bit lucky (as I rolled an 8+ to kill a UA that was kind of important) as my shooting was -just- enough. With Lances here I could've cleaned the front lines a lot easier and then repositioned back again to let the shooting deal with the back line models that were important.
In games against Retribution shooty lists, such as this one vs Ossyan (link), I find that Cygnar has to carve out a part of the map and establish dominance there. Imagine how much Lances would help out here with zoning out the Strike Force! While I did win this game eventually my opponent made 2 big mistakes: Forgetting about the forest (thus losing a handful of important shots) and not prioritizing the Stormwall on feat turn. Had he done that I would have lost, most likely.
Consider the situation above from a game vs Legion (link). Regardless of what I do, I can't really prevent Thagrosh2 from sending his beasts up and jam me down unless I stay way far down. With Lances here I could've created a crescent formation with Lances on either end to really hurt Angelii wanting to jam.
So 3 situations where I believe Lances would be superior. Let's take a look at a couple of games where I did play Lances.
Playing against Wurmwood is a little like playing vs Haley2: On his feat turn you can't really expect to do a whole lot. This game (link) was fairly typical of that and as my opponent could move to a 3-0 scenario lead I -had- to have a solid counter-attack. The 2 units of Lances spread out as shown above on either flank and really helped countering him hard enough to allow me to get back in the game and eventually win.
This last example from yesterday's game vs Kromac2 (link) more than anything shows a big mistake on my part: The central Trench is an excellent staging ground for his heavies and the Storm Lances could and should have been positioned to threaten it. Imagine how hard it would be for Circle here if I had say 4-5 Lances in a position to counter-charge Ghetorix. That could easily have been accomplished.
The more I play Sloan, the more I appreciate the fact that playing her skillfully is so much about positioning. Compared to Haley2 she has to anticipate the game a lot more and try and visualize your opponent's optimal moves and position your elements to punish those plays. The Storm Lances are in my opinion the perfect models to do this with. I really enjoy what they bring to the list and firmly believe they are the best support choice for Sloan's warjacks.