We’ve recently started thinking about WTC 2021, in light of the possible end to the hellish dystopia we currently inhabit, and as such are starting to consider Factions. That’s a separate and very interesting topic in of itself that I hope to cover in future articles – seriously, the amount of thought that goes into it can be staggering, and I know it’ll make for good reading – but for now we'll skim briefly over the reasons why I’m looking at Crucible Guard. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, from experience, it’s an absolute slog playing for WTC. If you and your team want to win it, you have to take responsibility for putting the effort in, and if you’re trying to do that with a Faction that you dislike, you’re going to be absolutely miserable by the end of it; it’s a sure-fire recipe for burnout. As such, I wanted to go with a Faction that appeals to me. I’ve been thinking a lot about what works for me over lockdown as I got really burnt out playing Infernals, and came to the conclusion that what I enjoy in terms of play is low model count lists, usually with shooting, that focus on maneuverability. On top of that, I now know that I like ‘techie’ Factions with fancy tools, rather than stuff that’s just Burly Men (not looking at any Faction in particular here).
Leaving my.... biases... aside, that presented me with a few options, realistically speaking. I could go Cygnar, but they just don’t interest me visually at all; the knightly aspect puts me off, and while they shoot well, you generally want a melee list in their pair, or at least something combined arms-ey, and that puts me off. I could look at Retribution, and in fact intend to – look for a future series where I talk about that – but I’d rather not be looking at them through a competitive lens, because I’ve seen that done in the form of the Retribution Facebook group, and from what I can tell it drove them all mad. Plus, been there, done that. (#firstretmasterswinnerinmk3justdontasktheplayercount). That leaves me with Crucible Guard.
I’d be dishonest not to suggest that the fact that there’s an upcoming CID isn’t relevant to my choice. It actually matters in a couple of ways. A game mechanic that I absolutely adore is deliberately taking damage in exchange for bonuses, and I expect that to form part of the ‘Drugs Are Bad’ release that we’ve been promised. It’s also not particularly controversial to say that CID tends to address power-based shortcomings in models that fall under review, and that being at the forefront of the release waves can get you an advantage in tournament games; however you might feel about power creep in WMH, having models that people haven’t had a chance to hammer practice games against can be of immense value in tight situations, as it increases the likelihood of slipups that you can exploit.
Besides that, I really like the visuals of Crucible Guard. All the cool science-y stuff really works for me, making for a solid theme that I think meshes really well with the aesthetics of the game. Call me old-school, but they’re certainly the limited Faction that fits best with the ‘classic’ Warmachine look. With WTC being a fully painted event, I’d really like to conquer the motivation drops that have forced my teammates to finish my armies last-minute with me two years running, and I’m hoping that the fact that there’s plenty of opportunities to take when painting Crucible Guard will help with that.
However, there is a rather large problem. You might say it somewhat derails things.
So... yeah. I really, really, REALLY (OK ENOUGH WE GET IT –Ed.) dislike the model for the Railless Interceptor. Ya girl spent too much time looking at actual trains growing up to let that travesty go undisparaged. I also dislike the aesthetic for a lot of the rest of the range, though without the same level of unadulterated venom. Sorry, person who sculpted Crucible Guard, it’s not your fault, but you just can’t please everyone. Fortunately, with WTC being an incredibly conversion-friendly event, and UK/EU events leaning that way in general, it’s not going to be too much trouble for me to convert stuff.
However, that’s a discussion for later. Right now, I need to pick a couple of lists that I actually like. Those of you who know me will know that I’m a huge Mackay fan, despite her model. I have a lot of time for her huge-base-centric lists and alpha strike playstyle, and have had a lot of success with her in recent times. While I’m unsure of how exactly I’m going to make her look, I do know that I would dearly like to make a generalist list with her that I can play quite heavily. As such, the latter half of this article is just going to be me talking about a few lists that I actually like with her, to see where I’m going to start exploring the Faction full time instead of just dabbling in it.
The first thing I want to do in all of her lists, realistically, is windmill slam Prospero and a Vulcan in there. Seasoned Crucible Guard players will be rolling their eyes at how obvious this is, but if you’re not familiar with the Faction, basically it’s a very efficient module with a lot of tools, including the prized anti-healing tech that (while not as mandatory as it used to be) is very convenient to have in the competitive metagame, as well as a debuff, and very strong Spray attacks. Spoiler alert, unless something changes massively in future, this is going to be in all of my lists – there's no reason that I’ve found not to. While in Mackay’s case, it sucks to lose out on Mobility, I would much rather have Guided Fire to benefit from a ton of ‘free’ boosts.
Then, we come to the rest of the list. There are a few more easy picks – Alyce is practically mandatory, especially with a FOC 6 Warcaster, as is a pair of Trancers, who are just generically good Solos. There’s an argument these days for Rocketman Aces, which I understand in the context of a Flight-heavy format, but Mackay isn’t doing anything for them in any significant capacity so I’m not going to bother here. We also slap in a couple of Toros, because for a utility beater that generally just doesn’t have anything wrong with it, accept no substitutes.
The problem that I currently have with building Mackay lists is where on earth to go from here. I’m usually in Magnum Opus because of the extra chance on the starting roll and Reposition (3”) on all of my Solos being such an obviously good pair of benefits, but it does leave one at something of a crossroads simply because of the drought of truly competitive options available from there. You could cram some Steelhead Halberdiers in, but you’re not really supporting them in any meaningful way, and are basically relying on them to just be a generically good unit in a world that preys upon unbuffed models quite fiercely. You could go with a couple of Railless Interceptors, which, despite my hangups about the model, are a piece that I just generally like because of the amount of dice it rolls, its convenient Scather template, and its very respectable Feat-turn firepower. I’ve tried it, and it’s not bad... it’s just not massively powerful, and the meta is simply too good at dumpstering them (get used to me saying ‘meta kills this’ without a great deal of elaboration, at least until I have time to talk about the competitive environment at length). Maybe there’s an argument for a single one to back up Mackay, but for now we’re going to go without. Instead, because I have to start somewhere, I’m going to discard my prior Mackay list (which did feature 2 Railless Interceptors in addition to the models above), and instead try the below. I’ve put my old list there for comparison as well.
So, obvious first thing here, we’re in Prima Materia now. Why? Well, I’m basically (partially) ripping off Pat Dunford’s old list and seeing what happens. Vanguards are sort of one of those generically good models that everyone tells you to take and then you never actually take because there’s something more meta-relevant, but if we don’t have any of that, what stops us taking them? It makes our rather fragile and undefended army somewhat more resilient against shooting, and gives us some throwaway pieces that benefit reasonably from the Feat due to their high volume of initial attacks. Secondly, we have a Suppressor. This is kind of the opposite of the Railless Interceptor in that while I don’t mind the model aesthetically speaking, I have a substantial issue with the rules. However, one thing that I try to do when I pick up something competitively is use the guidance of others as much as I can. While Crucible Guard lacks the volume of modern-era competitive discourse that other Factions get because of its limited size and lack of recent releases as much as its general viability issues, one of the stalwarts of the Faction is a certain Elliot Guest (@Redline on Discord servers in your area), who I’m proud to count as a friend to the Knights and whose online presence involves a lot of talking about Crucible Guard. While his Lukas love is abhorrent to say the least, we’re willing to forgive him while we wait for CID to improve that mess of a Warcaster and listen to what he says about Crucible Guard. One thing I recall from our previous discussions is that he rates Suppressors at the same level as the Toro in the context of the Faction, and while a discussion about that could go very long indeed, it’s enough to say at this point that I’m going to take his word and give it a go.
Those of you accustomed to Steamroller play will be wondering where my second list is at this point. The crueller among you might suggest that the lack of such a list is because I don’t want to publicly admit that it’s Syvestro. Sadly, as stands, you’d be accurate in such a statement, but for now we’re going to gloss past that and look at the next steps in this series. While a promise from me of future content carries about as much weight as a melee attack from a Grundback Blaster, I do have a lot of stuff planned for Crucible Guard, including talking about conversions, painting, lists, and battle reports. If there’s anything in particular you want to see, let me know, but for now, I’m off to drive my train over some unsuspecting faces. Choo-choo for noo! [seriously? -Ed].