Okay, this update is hella spicy.
Some day, Haley, some day. The wrongs that were done to you will be righted.
I wanna be clear; this spice is good spice. We all saw this Fiona nerf coming; Befuddle as a spell was outright degenerate, and was matchup-defining even without the amount of silly bullshit that it enabled. On top of that, we all know Infernals needed a kick, and this is an interesting variation on the good old PP double-tap. Oh, and Doomshaper1 changed too. Yay.
Seriously though, these are big and impactful changes. As such, we’re going to talk about them, because sometimes you have some thoughts and you just have to put them on the Internet. I’ll start with what I know – Infernals. Tormentors going to MAT 6 is one of those things where it doesn’t seem massively relevant on paper, but is actually pretty impactful in terms of your turn-to-turn. No longer do you get such excellent consistency out of their activations; it’s not unrealistic for them to miss two attacks instead of maybe one. Maybe you need to keep Orin2 around for rerolls a bit more often now. Maybe your Countercharges get worse, and maybe you actually want to keep Runewood2 alive instead of his usefulness being pretty much tied to your first turn roll (and honestly, the fact that it’s normally the default to Summon with such a powerful Solo early on is evidence enough of how silly things have gotten in Infernals land, but that’s a separate topic). Essentially, this is a nerf that doesn’t change your army composition – Tormentors are still leagues better than the Soul Stalker, and by virtue of being generic beater heavies are likely to see the table much more often than multiple Desolators – but it does mean that at some point in your 4 round tournament, a Tormentor will fuck up once or twice more than it normally would, and I predict that that’s going to have a decent-sized impact.
Yes. Fine. Good. They shouldn’t have been MAT7 really. This is a small nerf but it’s welcome, and as part of a pair of Infernals nerfs it seems pretty good. It’s the sort of minor touch that I like to see, and I think this change is only good.
Going from MAT 7 to 6 is an excellent change. MAT 7 was just another privilege that Tormentors didn’t need, with them being such a cheap Heavy, the support available, and the fact it can be Summoned. I do wish that they lost Snacking, mainly so that the anti-Infernal rules on the Hermit and the Thamarite Advocate would actually work, but that’s a minor gripe.
The far more impactful nerf is the absolute sledgehammer to the face that poor old Valin took. Like, when I saw this nerf, I was initially like "good, Tactician: Faction is silly on a CMD 10 model, let’s just yeet it". Then, after some discussions (particularly with a rather displeased Tomasz Mucha), I realised just how much of an absolute kicking this was going to give to the Faction. The uniquely complicated nature of playing Infernals means that, while I’ll stand by my take that Tactician: Faction was a bad design choice, I can sort of understand why it was made, and there’s an argument for taking an approach that balances out the thing that was degenerate (i.e. the Tormentor Countercharge interaction, where daring to approach a Dark Legacy brick was an excuse for the Infernals player to do their best Jojos face), while not hitting the backline quite as hard. I do wonder whether CMD 6 and losing Tough might have been the right approach, as the change they went with means that the Infernal Gate (which is the only support Structure in the game so far that requires the stuff it’s supporting to be quite so close for full effectiveness) is going to be a real drag on positioning now.
Then... and now...
I want to address this further because after a fair bit of thinking I’m not ashamed to admit that I still don’t know exactly what effect this is actually going to have on the Faction. I’m not immediately sure that Valin actually gets cut out of the majority of lists – Brother's Keeper is a very potent ability, and for all the wailing and gnashing of claw-teeth over Tormentors, that interaction probably couldn’t stay if PP wanted Dark Legacy to not just dominate tournaments once the good Infernals players emerged from the lockdown time-chamber with massively swollen brains and the ability to shit all over almost every matchup in the game with trivial ease. Seriously, to go on a tangent for just a minute, once you reached a certain point with pre-dynamic Infernals it was a real struggle to find stuff you didn’t just dance all over, with the only matchups that were actually burdensome being the mirror (which was literal hell don’t @ me) and Vlad2 game. I know a bunch of people are probably going to be in the comments like “But Stephanie, I got rekt by something that scenario rushed me and I have no idea how I would beat it!”, but trust me my babies, I’ve been there too, and what happens is you play against it like 3 times and you end up forgetting how you would ever lose to it in the first place. Anyway, returning to Valin, he probably gets to stay because of a few reasons. Firstly, he’s the most survivable Solo regularly taken in the Faction in the majority of situations, being the only one able to look at a hand cannon and laugh, so he can actually sit on a flag if you insist on scoring CPs like some kind of foolish casual. (we’re going to get it in the comments for that one... -Ed). Secondly, preventing Stationary is an ability that I can see being quite relevant moving into the new meta, because it’s a great way of making Archons very killable. Thirdly, Infernals players are going to have to stay pathetically grateful for the Tactician that they still have, because clock remains the biggest barrier between being bad at playing them and being good enough to X-1, and anything that helps with that is going to be something that gets gleefully jumped on. Will he make it into both lists in a pairing? That’s a tougher question, and one I think will depend more on the skill level of the player asking and the development of the meta in the near future than anything I can contribute to the discussion right now.
Tactician: Faction was stupid. Tactician in general is a rule I hate. It removes a huge, core component from the game and makes it so you can’t make mistakes of a certain type. Combo that with a model that is spammed having Countercharge and you have frustration incarnate. I’m so, so happy to see it changed. I know some Infernal players will say that it’s needed for the Infernal Gate but honestly, I despise Infernals and have suffered so much tilt at their hands that I just can’t muster up any sympathy. To me, this is a bright day for Warmachine and with these nerfs the meta feels much less oppressive.
The global Tactician Countercharge was obviously too good, it was incredibly unfun to play against and just shouldn’t have existed to the scale that it did, and now it doesn’t. I do have some reservations, though. Infernals players will argue that this was too harsh and maybe they’re correct - it hits the Faction’s strongest archetype very hard, and although Infernals were clearly too strong this is more on the lines of nuking from orbit than a gentle touch. I’d maybe have liked to see this reined in a bit; a reduction in range for Tactician to, say, 6", and losing Tough to make him more vulnerable. Makes positioning harder, increases the risk needed. I am concerned about the Infernal Gate too - that model is intrinsic to the functionality of the Faction, needs to be positioned centrally, and was clearly designed with Tactician in mind. If it’s losing it then maybe it could gain a rule that’s equivalent to Flying High because as a former Dark Menagerie main, the idea of playing a slow brick without Tactician AND with an Immobile huge base that has to be central sounds just incredibly boring and frustrating. Don’t get me wrong, I think that this is a good way to hit Infernals without trying to address the Summoning mechanic which would be very hard to do, but I think that a softer touch might have been needed, especially as Privateer have yet to undo a nerf, even when it seems that it would be fine to do so (I think that, for instance, The Ghost Fleet could be unnerfed and wouldn’t be broken).
In non-Infernalist news, another walking personification of design gone wrong has taken a rightful clonk on the noggin. (British site, British slang, deal with it). I for one am glad that this took a hit. It was an incredibly silly spell that circumvented more rules than I can actually name from memory, gleefully defying most attempts to counter it and making lists that would normally laugh at control effects cower in the corner waiting for their key pieces to be Befuddled into some awful position and roflstomped. Now that it’s been made into something that you can actually counter with terrain, Dugout, or blocking models, one of the absolute terrors of the meta has been reined in at long last, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief that Calandra will no longer haunt our pairings with the OP as fuck Valka interaction.
Seriously, it is so fucking immeasurably funny to me that in the process of nerfing Fiona, Trollbloods became what I think might be the only Faction to get impactfully nerfed in their own Dynamic Update cycle. Like I guarantee I’m going to be wrong about that and I’ll have missed a nerf to some random piddling Faction that last saw a top table in 1937, but I cannot stress enough how little I care in the face of this absolutely glorious instance of collateral damage that puts a Critical Devastation to shame. I don’t think that anybody who has put serious thought into how to adjust Fiona will disagree that Befuddle was a thing that needed to change in some measurable way, and while it’s unfortunate that Calandra took a hit, it was absolutely necessary for an update like this to happen, and if we catch Trollbloods in the crossfire then so be it, honestly. Any nerf that wasn’t just changing the spell would be storing up trouble for later – we've seen how profusely silly it is in Mercenaries with just a few interactions, and having to balance Trollbloods around it in future is one of those things where eventually something would have slipped through the net and we’d be in exactly the same situation all over again. Something something design space. Anyway, the real question here is how this is going to affect Fiona lists. The Irregulars version is definitely going to see less play in its current state – I expect Croes Cutthroats to practically vanish, much like they seem to do in the presence of any kind of AOE or indeed a stiff breeze – but what interests me is whether this prompts a return to Flame in the Darkness for her. We already saw her having top-level success in that Theme at the VTC, in a field where Fiona in The Irregulars was the most popular list in the entire tournament, and I expect that with massive damage output being a sorely needed tool in a world where Bethayne2 exists in her current form, we might see players slowly going back to more classic builds. However, as an ex-Infernalist, my knowledge of Fiona extends exactly as far as ‘camp 3 Souls on Orin2 and cease the giving of a single shit’, so I’m going to hand over to the rest of the KM team to give us their takes on her.
Fiona was too good and this hits the most egregious part of her kit by giving it more counterplay - Dugout, models that are Sturdy, sitting in rough terrain, etc. It also hits Calandra which is an unfortunate side effect - maybe it would have been better to give Fiona a new spell, but so be it.
All I can really say is. FI-NA-LLY. Fiona has been terrorising the meta for too long and this is one of the many things about her that was oppressive. Echoing Ben's sentiment, it is a shame that Calandra had to be punished; overall though, it was necessary for the health of the game. Befuddle Countercharge was a ridiculous combo that should have been hotfixed a long time ago, but better late than never!
So that’s part 1 of the big long hot take. We’re splitting it into three because the Battlebox updates are a thing unto themselves, really, and deserve to be given more attention than they’d get if we merged them all into one. Also there’s a Trollbloods update and I guess people might care about that as well. Tune in tomorrow, where we’ll talk about said Battlebox updates, and probably some other stuff.