Okay, no preamble on this one, strap yourselves in because we have a lot of changes to go through!
Impactful changes to several long-suffering models
Bold improvements to Shyeel
Some very aggressive buffs to single wound options
Doesn’t provide an alternative to Trident.list
Falcir the Merciless is very much an NPE
Ryssovass with Aelyth are the bastard spawn of the timing chart
Overall, these feel very solid. In an era where the Trident casually outclasses most of the Heavies available in the Faction, it’s nice to see concrete steps being made to address the disparity. It’s important to see these as a starting point for CID – these changes are going to get two more weeks of very concentrated feedback, so while not everyone is going to be happy with all of the changes or lack thereof, you’ve got a fair bit of time to go and contribute your thoughts and justifications on the forums.
First up are the changes to Shyeel. DEF13 across the board bumps them from a pretty average statline to one that can be surprisingly survivable, especially in conjunction with the ability to heal a guaranteed 5 boxes for one point of Focus. Now, I understand that the latter ability is one that’s commonly called out as rarely used, but as someone who’s made pretty frequent use of it in its current form, I can’t help but disagree. It makes Myrmidons deceptively resilient if you can make sure they don’t take too much damage in one go – and while this is a little difficult in a meta that has a lot of options to crank up the damage, the combination of Shield Guard in Forges of War with the extra miss chance from being DEF 13 and simply playing carefully and conservatively with them is something that I feel is going to really make a difference on the table. On top of this, the Heavies also got universal MAT 7, which is a change that I can kind of take or leave. It’s not like the other two were prominent melee beaters outside of a pinch situation, where your gunline’s been engaged and you need to clear it off, so I can’t see this changing any decisions about when to take them; rather, it’ll just be something that’s nice to have if you’re taking them anyway. I would have liked to see RAT 6 instead, but that’s been saved for another interested party. The cost changes... enh? These aren’t the changes I would personally have preferred to these pieces, as the issue feels less like one that can be solved with cost and more a case where the power lever needs to be used. The Manticore is still outclassed by the Trident, the Hydra... exists, and while the Gorgon is conceptually a very interesting piece as a control-focused Light, right now it’s not doing anything compelling enough to justify its cost.
Vyre Heavies going to RAT 6 is both consistent with the Siren and Harpy, and also very helpful. Given that they have even fancier guns that have effects you may well be planning your turns around, you really don’t want the inconsistency that RAT 5 brings, so it’s hard not to welcome this change. Again, it’s worth looking at these changes as a starting point rather than a final state, as I’d very much like to see a little more done to all three of the Heavies we currently have in this document – less in terms of points adjustments and more in terms of making them worth the points they already are – as Shyeel seems to have got the lion’s share of the buffs, and we also have a very clear example of how to do Vyre right in the form of the Aeternae.
"Now watch me Whip Snap..."
Right now, I can’t see any reason not to just press the Aeternae button twice at the start of the list for any Warcasters who don’t have a specific Battlegroup in mind. The melee output is so-so, it’s got a big weapon and a little weapon as is tradition, but... dat gun doe. Not only is it a decent RAT, not only is it very long RNG, but it’s also POW 8? And PC 17? Fundamentally, this model is in a very strong position relative to the rest of the Warjack options in Faction almost purely due to this gun, because it’s almost guaranteed to have something it can do every turn until it gets into melee. I’m completely torn on whether I want the Aeternae to be toned down, or everything else to get on its level. Definitely one to watch for future updates.
Shadows of the Retribution
We saw some hefty updates to a Theme that has really had some ups and downs in recent years, and I don’t think it’s out of line to say that this feels like it represents a recognition that parts of Oblivion definitely screwed Retribution over and shouldn’t have happened. As such, it’s very gratifying to see these changes.
Strike Force Commanders handing out Reposition [3”] is honestly so good for their Unit. In a game where melee threat ranges are increasing, I can see it being really, really good to be able to shoot from 12” away, then scoot out of retaliatory threat ranges for the most part. It plays into the general feel of the list in a good way, and is definitely going to have a big impact on the tabletop. The resultant movement of Advance Deployment onto the base unit is gratifying, but I can’t really see many situations where I won’t want to take the CA to be honest, so it’s not a move I massively care about. On top of that, they’ve picked up Dispel, which I’m sort of in two minds about. Like, on one hand, great, my Battlegroup doesn’t need to care about defensive upkeep spells any more, and I can trivially remove stuff like Parasite if I absolutely have to get it off my own stuff. On the other hand, most of the Theme has Blessed anyway, so one has to ask whether this matters to enough models for it to be an impactful change – and there’s also a bit of good old fashioned Skornegy with Garryth1’s new spell, but we’ll get to him in more detail later.
Infiltrators and Eiryss3 pick up some serious and relevant buffs. I think we were all hoping for Ambush to come back as a Theme benefit, but for it to be printed on the card, plus a cost reduction, plus Reposition [5”], plus Eiryss3 handing out a really relevant bonus with Mark Target (and also Tough too, just for added annoyance value)? I think we have an early contender for most improved option right here. It’s going to be a very rare list that passes up the chance to take at least one unit of these, and Eiryss3 is now going to be a difficult option to pass up when choosing which of the four you want in your list.
Narn also exists. He gives out Sprint. He hits things with swords. Yes, much hit sword thing. Man have sword, hit good. Can you tell I’m not massively excited? It’s no slight against him, as he’s the only flashy Solo in the Theme so you’re probably taking him anyway, but he’s about as generic as a bread sandwich at the moment in my opinion. I really hope he gets some flavourful rules later down the line, but for now I can accept him as a filling, if bland, snack.
KnightsMachine, making shit jokes as long as we can get people to click on them
Defenders of Ios
Okay, it’s here that we get to the real meat of the CID. Not only do we get to talk about some really hefty changes, some of which are properly spicy, but we’re also looking at two entirely new options here, that are something Retribution hasn’t had access to for a long time. Normally I’d delay writing about these to a separate article, but this isn’t the Trollbloods Dynamic review, so I can’t just put it off by virtue of not giving a fuck because I actually really like so much of this. Let’s tuck in!
First up are the simple changes – the Houseguard Thane and Stormfall Archers. These were already decent pieces, now we’ve knocked a point off them, they’re better and will possibly see a bit more play as a plugin when you have a few points left over. Cylena Raefyll and Nyss Hunters got a discount that might have mattered a lot more 2 or 3 years ago but isn’t going to set the world aflame now, unless they also pick up more words on the back of their card. Unremarkable but decent. Moving on.
Ryssovass are one of those Units where they’ve seen play in the past not because they’re particularly inspiring, but instead because the remaining options are so passé. I’m calling it now; if things stay as are, those days are long gone. While the base package remains in that realm of “enh, that’ll do”, Aelyth takes them to a whole new level of annoying with the unprecedented addition of Last Word. Basically, this feels like you’re either going to be able to deal with them trivially or they’ll be a massive pain; the defensive stats are mopey enough that you can scythe them down with... well, Scythe, for example, but the consequences for actually getting to grips with them are deeply annoying – Steady and Tough are bad enough without adding Instant Vengeance to the mix. I’ll not be surprised if a different direction is chosen for this interaction after some feedback. If it stays, then it’s going to be annoying as fuck, but it’ll certainly get these models on the table consistently. If you play these models in a mirror against each other, you absolutely deserve what you both get.
Thybros have this weird thing going on where the base unit has improved so substantively that you don’t actually want or need to take the CA with them. Serpent's Strike and Overtake are... okay? But they’re not worth 5 points to me. On the other hand, the basic bois are actually really solid now. Gang is always a useful rule to have, and when applied to a unit that was already not hugely far off viability, I think that Retribution have now picked up a good, solid, self-delivering unit that can do work whoever you put them with. I’ll be honest, 9 times out of 10 I won’t take them over the above, but maybe – just maybe – there's an infantry-focused build that might make use of them. However, they're not really the Ellowuyr picks I want to talk about.
"I was pissing by the see eye dee, end could not elp but noteece that my shoe has been used to name these muddles"
Then we have the shiny new toys from this CID, in the form of the House Ellowuyr Wardens and the House Ellowuyr Warden Executioner. The former are a bit like bigger versions of their small-based friends, and not in a good way. It feels like they overlap a lot, and while they have some mildly nice back-of-card rules, such as a tapwater version of Rule-Of-The-Week Amputation, they just feel a bit... meh. Like, while medium-based infantry in a Faction that didn’t have access before is nice, are these models really compelling enough right now that we seriously want to give up a Trident-esque number of points to take them? Right now, I feel like the answer to that question is no. If I want hard-hitting infantry, I can reach elsewhere. If I want resiliency, I'm not taking 12/17 models for it. If I want speed, I have so, so many options that aren't this lot. I absolutely can’t apply those comments to the House Ellowuyr Warden Executioner, though. They’re nice little combat Solos that can go and bean some stuff upside the head, while also shooting a little bit, and with the resiliency to sit on a flag with a reasonable chance of survival. While this isn’t necessarily something that Retribution was really feeling the lack of, these are certainly a good option for a Requisition slot, which can’t really go amiss in today’s world. Insomuch as it can contribute slightly at range, as well as walking away from its flag to hit any contesting models in the face before using Reposition [3”] from the Theme benefits to return, it’s going to do well.
Garryth1 is an absolute assassination chad right now.
Credit to this article from 16000 years ago for the meme, though I've seen it around so many times that it's practically a community member at this point
Like, we have a threat extender on our murder machine, then another threat extender that’s a bit more niche on our murder machine, and also a randomly useful ARM buff... like, sure? This is here? And then on top of that we have what is one of the best debuffs in the game. Admittedly, the man is still a bit held back by FOC 6, but honestly that feels more like an acceptable leash on this stabby boomer than anything else. I look forward to seeing Garryth1 being yeeted at whatever he can get his little stabby hands on Drax-style.
Thyron is a fellow recipient of gigachad status, albeit not for the same reasons. While the quality of life changes on his card are very relevant, with Fury being one of the biggest damage swings available and his Field Marshal doing a surprising amount for his Battlegroup given their universal 2 initials, the real sticking point is the Feat. Killing Spree on every model with no proximity restriction bar activating in Control Area is just a recipe for every single wound infantry model on the table to start writing its will. Move over Madrak2, you absolute dinosaur, and shove off back to 2019 Makeda and the Exalted Court; this is Thyron’s world now and you’re just living in it. I’d really like to see this guy have a completely different Feat, focused around army delivery, because everything else about him is relevant and impactful – the play experience just feels very binary right now, because either you just get shot off the board, or you absolutely massacre everything that’s in there. It also enables a lot of very silly things, like possibly playing out of theme for combos between Tridents and Mage Hunter Assassins, and I consider it my sacred duty to prevent the three people still complaining about Theme Forces from having even the slightest iota of joy.
I wanted to riff on those players a little more but I got distracted by making surprised myrmidon shoulderpad; so distracted that I can't be arsed to fix the obvious errors in that image
I’ve been relatively succinct about the two above, and that’s because, as you probably all came here to read, I have THOUGHTS about Falcir the Merciless. While I think that the ‘best in the game’ calls I’ve seen from other outlets are overblown, it’s indisputable that she can absolutely shut down some matchups with her very powerful Bounty effects. While she has personal power to spare with her resilience and potentially sky-high melee output (seriously, cast Flashing Steel on her at the start of a game and just upkeep it with Sylys, the threat becomes impossible to ignore very quickly), it’s these tokens that are going to have her completely dunking on a fair few otherwise very good lists. The only thing that really holds her back is the Faction she’s in, and the CID is currently pushing that up quite a bit. Right now, it feels like you want to just take her with all the generic 'gud modl' that's come out of this so far, because as much as you can probably use her to prop up your favourite underutilised option into viability, just slapping all the counter-tech she brings into a list which is already comprised of the best the Faction has to offer is usually going to be more competitively rewarding.
Honestly, though, it feels like a bit of a perfect storm of uninteractivity. Unstoppable plus unremovable and partially unblockable Bounty effects plus an extremely long and hard-hitting personal threat range equals a Warcaster where if you’re not playing one of the better competitive lists, you’re going to get roflstomped. In a meta that I’ve praised before for allowing significantly more diversity at the mid-table level than almost any past era, Falcir the Merciless has a very Infernals-esque oppressive feeling. There are entire Factions that kind of just get dabbed on, as well - if you're building lists centered around one Gargantuan, or a few key shooting pieces, or something heavily reliant on its mleee threat range... basically just anything in Crucible Guard if I'm honest, you're going to get absolutely flannelled. The Discord discourse is saying everything that really needs to be said about her so I’m not going to go into massive detail, but suffice it to say that these tokens need to be either harder to apply or significantly less impactful. With only two weeks to get her to the point of being balanced without falling off a cliff into irrelevancy, she’s going to be a real challenge for the devs, and I don’t envy them one bit, so remember that if you want things to go well in this CID, you need to be getting that feedback in.
So I said at the start that I don’t think that this solves the problem of the Trident crowding out so many of the other options in the Faction. Unfortunately, while it remains the way it is – which I stress is probably reasonable in today’s format – it’s going to be a very high bar to meet for a lot of these models. I'm also worried about some of these models dominating the feedback cycle; here's hoping that a potential Monday update takes sharp and universally acclaimed action in order to refocus the community on some of the models that could really use the attention (which, in my opinion at least, are Narn, House Ellowuyr Wardens, and the Myrmidons). When that update comes, we'll be right there to comment on it!