Monday, July 21, 2014

Thoughts on PSorscha and a tactica

Note that the following are my opinions. Your mileage may vary. Feedback and heckling are welcome.

I have mixed feelings concerning PSorscha. On the one hand she’s a hell of an assassination threat. She’s fast, has a great feet, and definitely brings the noise. On the other hand, she’s a high defense squishy warcaster in a faction that favors beat stick melee powerhouses—and then there’s the matter of her older colder version. I can’t pick up her new model without remembering her younger days.

A decade ago a friend said he had a surprise for me. He pushed three models across my kitchen table…two red metal robots and an axe wielding ice queen. We spent the next few months slugging it out between my Khador and his Cygnar battle box. I fell in love with the Motherland when I took a sip of bourbon and said for the first time “Sorscha pops her feet and…” Sorscha wasn’t just defined by her feet; her feet made her the bar by which I measured all comers. She froze everything in her control area. Back then there was no way to shake stationary affects. She would walk up, pop feet, freeze everything within her control area regardless of line of sight, and use tempest to knock things down. Then she, the destroyer, a hand cannon, or possibly a raiser wind would drop on your caster. If you survived that, the next turn you stood there and did nothing. Then, with your pieces still knocked down, you’d watch while Sorscha’s entire army unloaded for a second turn—terminating your warcaster with extreme prejudice. It was the single most ball bustingly hard core feet in the game. Sorscha wasn’t just a faction defining model; she set the standard for bad ass. Khador dominated the Gencon national tournaments with variants on that strategy over and over again…feet, knock down, kill caster. She was so good that I felt bad playing her against all but my most competitive adversaries.

Now a days, freezing the enemy battle group is not as game breakingly harsh as it once was. The line of sight restriction and the ability to spend focus to unfreeze and stand up renders icy gaze powerful but tolerable—certainly you can’t expect 2+ rounds of uncontested action any more. Never the less, playing Sorscha in MKII feels like going back to your home town and finding out that the captain of the football team who used to give you swirlies, take your lunch money, and steal your girlfriend is now the guy manning the drive through window at McDonalds. You don’t want him back the way he was…but it steals the mythic proportions from your nostalgia.

Sorscha is still all about her feet—especially under 35 points. There are a couple reasons for this. First, she brings very little qualitative enhancement for her forces. Fog of war is nice, especially if you have camouflage, but it suffers from the double edged sword of affecting all models regardless of faction. PButcher and PVlad are fantastic casters because they can not only throw the opposing caster into the hurt locker with authority, they also offer excellent support spells—signs and portents, wind wall, full throttle, fury, and iron flesh. They make already good units amazing while simultaneously posing major threats on their own—and that’s not even taking their feets into account. Sorscha can set up attacks with freezing grip and tempest, but she doesn’t boost Khador’s specialties to epic levels or gloss over its weaknesses. Further, setting up those attacks requires her squishy 14 armor base to be dangerously forward. On average she’ll die to 2 attacks worth 45 boxes (essentially 2 unboosted P+S 15 hits.) The upshot is that there’s Sorscha and there’s her army. Outside her feet, the rest of your points are on their own.

Second, the ice queen is greedy. She wants to throw down wind rush, tempest, boosted hand cannon shots, multiple critical freeze generating reach attacks, and boundless charges at ridiculous distances. Every once in a while she’ll have a focus or two to throw at a jack or boundless charge a model; but those are the exceptions not the rule. She doesn’t “share” well.” So between her lack of support spells and a dearth of spare focus, her two defining characteristics are her feet and her speed—which is simply a vehicle for delivering the feet in the first place.

If you accept these limitations, PSorscha is actually a decent warcaster. She won’t be supporting a huge battle group; but then most of Khador’s warcasters prefer taking a single quality jack anyway. Khador has some excellent jack Martials—Sorscha likes delegating to them more than most is all. I prefer taking focus efficient jacks with her when not marshaling. Anything with free run/charge is helpful. The Kodiak is an excellent choice with free run, pathfinder, the ability to threaten massed infantry with vent steam, LOS blocking cloud affect, and a chain attack which auto triggers on her feet turn.

Sorscha operates best on the theory that the best defense is a strong offense. Her spells and mobility predispose her to a front line role. You can use wind rush to advance, act, and then retreat, but at some point you’re going to need to freeze/knock down something that will require her to extend into risky territory. Thus, she likes infantry that are independent, can make use of her feet turn, and that keep constant pressure on the enemy. The winter guard deathstar is an obvious candidate, but certainly not the only one. I like widow makers with marksman, gray lord outriders, gun carriage, MOW Kovnicks, man hunters, and the elf to start. These models force your opponent to either play defensively or take heavy casualties.

It’s tempting to build an all ranged, all melee, or similarly hyper focused force to maximize the benefit of icy gaze. This is a mistake—especially as point values increase. Skillful players will deploy in such a way as to limit Sorscha’s pre-feet movement and line of sight while maximizing counter charge lanes and fields of fire. You are better off building an army which does its own heavy lifting—using icy gaze to swing the tempo at key points, capitalize on an opponent’s error, or force your opponent into sub optimal model placement in order to minimize its impact. In this way the threat of icy gaze can be of more use than its execution—either your opponent deploys to minimize IG’s affect or they risk disproportionate losses.

So let’s talk about icy gaze. I think of Sorscha’s feet thusly. “Once per game, Sorscha can threaten up to 19 inches. At certain points in that movement she will make every enemy model within LOS and 12 inches easier to hit.” Some models are immune to cold. Models with focus/fury can shake off stationary. Some casters like Harkevich have spells that completely negate IG past your turn. Because of this I celebrate the games where Sorscha lets me run amok for two turns—but I don’t count on it. If Sorscha is popping her feet it’s because I’ve found an assassination lane or because doing so will let me permanently swing the correlation of forces in my favor. You use icy gaze to make sure victory is a foregone conclusion on your own turn or you don’t use it at all. In most cases the feet comes out to set up an assassination.

The process runs something like this:

1. I remind myself that I am in control of when the ice queen makes her move. Bating Sorscha is a time honored sport raised to an art form by experienced players. The longer you go without popping icy gaze, the more you want to. I start every turn asking myself, “can I win the game with Sorscha this turn?” If not, no feet.

2. I measure her control area. Sorscha’s charge range is 6 movement+3 charge+2 reach=1 inch less than her control radius. Any model completely within her control radius is within her reach.

3. I assess lines of sight, relative distances out to 19 inches, and difficult terrain. If completing an assassination charge is going to go through terrain then I’ll need to cast boundless charge. If I don’t start my turn with LOS to the opposing caster, then the rest of my army needs to make a road or I am going to need to use wind rush to reposition. If the target is outside my control radius, then I’ll need wind rush to put me in range. Note that the riskiest feet turn is one where you use wind rush and boundless charge. You’ll spend 2/3 of her focus getting to the target—seriously reducing her destructive output.

4. I use wind rush if necessary. If yes, then I check her control radius again. Even if she has to use boundless charge, her maximum range is 1 inch beyond her zone. Before committing to the charge I want to be absolutely sure that her target is in range.

5. Boundless charge if required. If not, charge.

6. Feet. Note that you always want to pop before the charge if it will catch more models in Sorscha’s LOS.

7. Attack. On average boosting damage is only worthwhile if your target is arm 17 or greater. Most of the time you’ll be better off buying extra attacks.

Sometimes you’ll need to set up another model, one of your jacks usually, because Sorscha doesn’t have the stromf to finish the job. It’s critically important that you figure out if you can get to the target on the assassination turn as well as if you can take them down once you get there. You need means and opportunity; because if you don’t finish the job on her feet turn, Sorscha is toast.

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