Thoughts on Disciples of Agony
Perspectives from one who has played far too much Xekaar....
Initial views:If you're reading this, I'm sure you've taken a look at the recent theme for Skorne entering CID, Disciples of Agony. This theme focuses on the extreme ends of the spectrum of pain as expressed by mortitheurgy, both internalized and externalized. The Disciples of Agony, if you will. What does that mean, though?
First off, the internalization: Naaresh and the Nihilators. Ascetics who subject themselves to the most extreme self-mutilation they can survive in order to enhance themselves. As much as I love this concept in the Skorne lore, we're incredibly limited in what we actually have from it. Really, just the one unit and caster. I had been really holding out hope that this theme would crop up as a sub-faction release, most likely alongside an expansion of mortitheurgy in general - think willbreaker units alongside nihilator solos and UA's (also, Genzoul plz).
Externalization, however, comes from the Paingivers - Morghoul, Xekaar, and the various units and solos. I had expected us to get a Paingiver/Minion/Beast theme, a la Hit Squad or Chain Gang. Unfortunately for those who loved Chain Gang, this theme does not allow Rasheth (I'll touch on this more in the next section). It does, however, permit access to Minion beasts - Yep, Rage and Primal in Skorne (as well as 5 point Spiny Growth, Elasticity, and a few other things of note). This seemed pretty absurdly good, at first glance, and really had potential to crack things wide open for some of our list options.
When I saw this theme drop my first thought was 'holy shit, Xekaar can take an arc node', solving what has been, most likely, his biggest flaw throughout his entire release. Further, sac pawn Minion models is huge for him - his god awful old-man stats made him trying to do anything but hide a death sentence. My lists for him that actually seemed to work were ones that built almost entirely around negating his absurd propensity for dying, and this theme seems to do that incredibly well. Access to the Blindwalker animus is also a huge boon for shaman stock, which are already incredibly valuable with him for Craft Talisman.
No Marketh. It is pretty damned rare that I actually cast Mortality from Xekaar (generally a turn or two after lines cross, to be fair, but he does it far less frequently than Marketh). Potentially the addition of arc'ing will be huge for him, allowing him to throw it out twice and survive - though most likely he'll only get to boost once but would prefer not boosting at all. Sac Pawn could potentially negate this, though, and at the least means I don't necessarily need to play with 3+ shield guards.
Probably road hogs? Battle boars? I'm not really sure how much he gains out of this theme. My initial thought was that he'd become a premier armor cracker, but honestly he already is. Flinging 3 enraged, abused, rushed soldiers down field has always been one of my favorite things to do, just now he can... do it with road hogs. Potentially primal on them will be huge, though (Primal, abuse, enrage) for a 13" threat and their sprays, as well as P+S 21. Compared to the Soldier at P+S 22 currently, but with a threat range of... 12". Okay, so even now I don't really see a huge boon for him here, but Archidons are probably the best bet, being able to switch between rush and primal depending on speed needs. Abuse + Enrage for P+S 19 at a 13" threat, expandable to either P+S 21 Mat 8 at 13" or P+S 19 at 15". Some good flexibility being built on, here, thanks to Flight, otherwise I feel like he does basically the same thing he always did, he can just now do it with a different stable of beasts.
His feat, meanwhile, has always been gold, and steady has been great for keeping him alive. Sac Pawn is fantastic, though, since unlike 2 and 3 he lacks stealth, but it doesn't help him much against AOE's, so he'll probably still want some additional defensive tech in a krea.
I guess he doesn't get the wall from Winds of Death, and sometimes I'd run Marketh for an extra abuse casting. Nothing super big lost here.
Arc node for mortality, same as with Xekaar. Unlike Xekaar, though, he didn't have much trouble throwing it out himself. Stealth is fantastic, and I love keeping him incorporeal so I can charge through him after he moves up to throw it out. It does expand on his range of where he can potentially throw it, which is nice, but I'm not entirely sure I'm in love with the infantry options for him here. Guns tend to rock with him, but I like to get as much done on his feat turn as possible and prefer reivers for this. I will probably try it with a meat thresher a few times, because honestly who doesn't want to run a meat thresher in every list.
As with Xekaar, Marketh tends to be great for flinging out Mortality. Unlike Xekaar, though, I feel Morghoul is way better at slinging it himself sans node. He gains quite a bit less from the Blindwalker, and loses more from the loss of free upkeeps and castings of Mortality.
Again, Blindwalker. Though unlike the previous three Morghoul3 lacks a strength buff, making him gain quite a bit more from Rage or Primal. Further, battleboars basically have his feat every single turn if you need them to. Nihilators on his feat turn mulch blind folks real good, while Battleboars can eat entire units under Night's Reflection any turn you get the chance.
Broken record~ No Marketh. Further, Morghoul3 is even better at safely throwing out his spells than Morghoul2, thanks to Reposition 3. Casting Night's Reflection at an enemy 10" out and repo'ing back to 13" keeps him pretty damned safe. Being unable to get two out a turn really hurts here, unless you're willing to trust in the FURY 6 to land two of them and then Sac Pawn to keep him alive (entirely viable, but I don't know that I'd trust it).
This theme is amazing for Naaresh in so many ways, and those ways are rage and primal. Elasticity keeps getting brought up, but honestly it just makes up for the loss of a TyComm, in my opinion. This theme takes what I want Naaresh to do on his feat, and lets him do it every single round and even better on his feat turn - crack open the world. I've been painting up my 3rd and 4th Archidon, with plans to run 4 with him, and now that list is basically the same except my TyComm is now a Battle Boar.
No pathfinder for Naaresh, no pathfinder or Reveille for Nihilators. Can't blur any of the minion units, but... so what I guess?
The main strength of this theme seems to be armor cracking thanks to Minion beasts. But, honestly, the casters we've been given are already armor crackers - except Morghoul3. We could try and spam just minion beasts, following the suggestion of those telling disgruntled minions players to pick up PGBH and a few warlocks, but honestly the biggest downside, I've always felt, of Minion lists is that their casters are limited by their beasts so heavily. E.g. Carver plays like a much better Xerxis1 and 2 combined. We do gain arc nodes for offensive spell slingers, but at the same time they're all fury 6 and we lose access to our boostable magic ability 7 Soul Slave attachment (who costs 5 points, vs 12 points for a mediocre heavy that can be used to arc spells).
It's been said that Rasheth has been left out due to his potential +9 swing against armor (Feat, enrage, Primal, Blood Mark). One turn, against one target, with a warbeast that hasn't been rushed, Rasheth can crack... well something that apparently he couldn't crack with a +6 swing I guess. I've shot a Hydra off the board through a krea animus during Rasheth's feat turn, he really doesn't need the extra +3 for just melee, he already has channeling, I think the only big issue I can see here is that he could ambush bloodrunners onto the table to use as arc nodes, which is fair. That sounds really damned awful.
Unit Selections:This theme is pretty damned limited overall, so I'll take a quick look at the infantry included and their uses...
-Amazing with Morghoul3, 2, and Xekaar. They make a mediocre blur target for Naaresh, for Def 16 (18 if you brought a krea for them). They really hurt for lack of Reveille, though, and really demand Saxon's attention. I really want these guys to gain a UA that gives... damn I dunno, apparently I'd pay 6 points for rise and pathfinder as needed? I even sometimes bring two TyComms, especially if there are Ferox in the list. So, they lose a bit in the list, but a lot of those are flaws of theirs I think...
-Ambush is interesting on them, since it keeps them from using Apparition that turn. They threaten a mediocre 12.5" from the edge. Still, though, they're a 9 point option that, when not ambushing, are actually really good thanks to their 11.5" threat. Anatomical precision, reposition, and good mat make these guys really fantastic, and the Solo coming potentially free is pretty great here.
-Brigands will probably be pretty common in this theme. Against their prey target they can swing at P+S 14 in melee or POW 14 at ranged. Add on Mortality for an even better swing. I don't really see them making much use of their dig in, unless you bring a min unit to hang out with Xekaar. Native tough means they'll stay tough on turns where you crank up their strength, and the task master can run alongside them instead of advancing, and they'll stay no KD + tough.
-Commandos, I assume, won't be used much if at all. I actually do like them in the Farrow theme, thanks to their ambush + CRA grenades, but without that they're sort of meh. They do have native pathfinder, though, making them one of the few options with pathfinder (apart from the Bloodrunners). Tack on prowl and native tough (ignoring Feign Death, because they'll probably be no KD if you're bringing them in this theme), and P+S 14 with a task master on the charge and they're okay.
-Slaughterhousers are this themes attempt at weapon masters thanks to Finisher. Take Down is also pretty fantastic here. P+S 13 weapon masters are great, but they are a 6 man unit for 11 points. If they came in a max unit I'd definitely take them out of this theme, as is I an see some use for them here as beaters (If only they worked with Morghoul3's feat).
-Bone Grinders are the poor mans shaman. I can see them being dedicate sac pawn targets for Xekaar, hanging out around him and eating bullets while occasionally giving him a friendship necklace.
-That gun thing with AD is also pretty cool. Their artillery. You know, the thing with brutal damage and reposition.
These still exist, and are probably good with some things. Road hogs!
Go back to Blindwater.
Keep getting attention as sac pawn targets for cheap. Which they are. They can also be cranked up quite a bit with a task master against targets under Mortality.
I don't own these. They seem lame?
So this theme is super limiting, and is heavily focused on beasts and debuffs. Unfortunately we lose a major boon to our debuff casters in Marketh in exchange for some added damage output and a situationally useful arc node. The two buff casters in here stand to lose the least, but in the case of Morghoul1 I feel like he gains the least. Another big issue I have is the free points available here. We can take free Skorne solos, one for every 20 points of units we bring. Odds are good you'll bring a task master if you have enough points for a free solo, so 3 points will likely be a frequent amount. Outside of the 3 point task master, this theme can only bring Master Tormentors and Willbreakers, so it is incredibly limited in what you can take. If you wind up going all-in on infantry - in a beast theme with beast warlocks - you can walk away with 12 points up.
Compared to other factions with much less restrictive themes that net them 15-20 points, this falls a little flat for me. Maybe if the units counted as friendly faction or the beasts were the source of solos... we'd still almost definitely not go above 12 free points (if we ever hit there). This theme seems to play by the rules of "out of theme should be competitive" in a world where Ghost Fleet and Heavy Metal exist.