Sunday, November 20, 2016

Considering Khador's Decimator

              Today we shall consider that double barreled thumper, that chainsaw wielding powerhouse, that much-maligned giant of the battle field, the Khadoran decimator.  As with all things, these are my opinions based on personal preference and experience.  Salt to taste.  Any errors are my own—please correct me if required.



              The decimator comes with the standard 34 boxes at arm 20, irrelevant defense, MAT 7, and RAT 4—seasoned with the usual lackluster Khadoran speed.  At 16 points, it features one melee component and a single ranged weapon.  The dozer features two shots that range 2 inches beyond the decimator’s run distance, 1 more strength than the destroyer’s bombards, and the beat back special rule.  The rip saw has 2 less strength than the juggernaut’s ax and the sustained attack rule. 



              The decimator’s high strength ranged weapon, low RAT, and moderately high strength melee capacity make it a swiss army jack with a preference toward hitting heavy targets with defense 11 or less.  Turn 1 it runs toward the center.  Turn 2 it gets allocated 1 or 2 focus and dents a heavy, smashes a light, or takes out a couple heavy infantry.  Turn three it jams, uses dozer to reduce targets for other models, or charges in to finish off targets of opportunity.  It spends most of the game blocking line of sight to mid field casters, setting up other models’ targets, and cleaning up after messy charges.  Occasionally it uses beat back to kick heavies out of scoring zones, clear out charge lanes, or open up lines of sight.



Let’s get the obvious out of the way.  The decimator is no juggernaut.  Its 4-point increase over that worthy coupled with 2 fewer P+S on its melee weapon leaves little D looking over priced by comparison.  Sustained attack is only useful on very high defense models which means you will probably be boosting to hit.  So, after you pay 1 to charge and 1 to boost to hit, you only have one auto-hitting attack worth of focus remaining.  Factoring in the decimator’s single initial attack Vs. the juggernaut’s 2 and little D starts looking like a genuinely bad list pick.

              In testing, however, I found several mitigating factors.  First, on turn 2 most games found the dozer cannon one of the only elements able to threaten enemy heavies.  If you add up both deployment zones (10 and 7 inches respectively), the likely first turn 8 inch run from friendly and opposing heavies (16 inches total), and the dozer’s threat range including a 4-inch walk, you get 47 inches.  This means the decimator is almost always in range of something starting on your second turn.  Further, since most players have already cast their upkeeps the first turn, and many melee jacks will be out of charge range in the second, the decimator ended up being the only jack capable of putting a full focus load to use.  So, on turn two I ended up firing off 2 mostly boosted shots at something—usually my enemies biggest baddest model.

              Second, I do not think it is fair to compare the decimator’s damage output to the juggernaut’s one round melee potential.  The juggernaut has to get all of its work done in one turn.  The decimator often got off 2 boosted power 15 shots in prior turns when the juggernaut was stuck twiddling its thumbs.  The juggernaut’s real world combined second and third turn damage output was about even with the decimator.  The decimator also usually took off enough damage that even if it did not follow up its shots with rip saw to the face, the juggernaut was guaranteed a clean kill on that target regardless of whether or not the dice went cold.  Past turn 3 the juggernaut took the lead but since most of my games did not get past the third turn, I found them equally useful.

              Third, while one decimator is kind of equal to a juggernaut early on, a juggernaut and a decimator working together gave me options.  Beat back let me kick pieces off zones, push them out of next-turn charge range, and cripple support pieces that were not worth the juggernaut’s time.  I could set up the juggernaut for a clean kill or go on the offensive and set up the decimator for its own kill in the following turn.  The ability to take two shots at separate targets at full non-blast damage strength gave the decimator a surprisingly versatile ranged output—especially compared to my experience with its battle box predecessor.

              Many players will find that lackluster profile, 4 point ranged jack tax, and clunky rules off-putting.  In a faction full of competitively priced melee heavies the decimator is a fair value.  Whether “fair” is good enough to get little D off the bench is probably going to depend on how big a game you are playing and whether big B is around.



              I feel as if PP looked at the decimator, taxed him for his ranged capacity, and balanced his output so as not to over-shadow the juggernaut.  This leaves him as a nice assistant heavy in a faction that has plenty of better priced heavies able to get work done.  Little D falls in that unfortunate zone of always having something to do but frequently leaving you wishing you picked something a tad more specialized.

In games between 0 and 25 points his deficiencies are less notable.  Beyond 25 points though you start running into economies of scale.  At 50 points, I started asking if I wanted 2 decimators or 3 juggernauts.  Put that way the decimator lost out every time.

              I also feel sustained attack is a trap.  Critical shred would have been more interesting and flavorful.  The truth is that If after boosting to hit and charging I have not killed a defense 16+ model, my follow up attack automatically hitting is such a rare circumstance as to render the ability largely pointless.

              While the sustained attack scornergy is annoying, beat back has a similar issue in that it is possible to push models out of range of your second shot if you are not paying attention.  This is a corner case issue but one that forced me to double check ranges—adding time to my turns.  It also made me acutely aware of the decimator’s anemic shooting threat range.  Even though I usually had range to something, I often found that 2 more inches would have opened up better opportunities.

              Finally, the decimator suffers from a lack of focus capacity.  On turn 2 most people want to boost to-hit and damage.  Unfortunately, a fully loaded dozer only has enough focus to boost 3 of the 4 rolls generated from its two shots.  I usually boosted to-hit on both rolls and hoped my second shot broke armor.  With powerful blast, I feel the decimator would be a reasonable buy.  Without that upgrade it often feels as if it is stretching to reach its full potential.


Notable strategies:

              The decimator takes the spotlight turn2.  This puts your opponent on a clock. they can exchange pot shots with your big stompy robot or move in to threaten the zone while risking alpha charges from your melee elements.  This strategy requires you to use premeasuring and movement shenanigans like tactical supremacy to keep just out of next turn charge range—often while retaining your aiming bonus.

              Vlad 1 and Sorscha 1 help the decimator like most models through signs and portents, freezing grip, tempest, and icy gaze.  Strakhov’s spell sentry lets a decimator get even more out of its gun.  Harkevich’s reposition and broadsides mean that 2 decimators can get 3 shots per round, benefit from the aiming bonus, and advance a little.  Up to 6 inches of beat back on tap would be a serious scoring hindrance in smaller games.  The Man-o-War Kovnik is a decent master for the decimator.  Take aim gives it an effective RAT 8 and assault gives it a little extra punch.  Anything with knockdown—field gun, gun carriage, marauder combo strike, basically anything that makes up for its piss poor RAT—sets up little D for some decent shooting.  I have not come up with an exclusively decimator centered strategy but the model does lend itself to a variety of plans.


Fury’s musings:

              I started out hating the decimator—especially when I compared it to the charger.  The lack of powerful blast really bothered me.  Then I played the model and it grew on me like a cancer.  I played it some more and we are friends…sort of.  Little D is the best value of all our non-character shooting jacks.  Granted, that is a low bar but I will stick by my assessment.

              My principal objection to models like the decimator is that they are pointed at a premium for doing something that the faction is not supposed to do well.  So, we pay through the nose for ranged jack capacity and still have to make do with RAT 4.  Beat back and sustained attack are useful in one-off situations but do not come into play enough to figure as significant benefits.  With range 12, powerful blast, critical knockdown, or a choice of ammunition types the dozer would be a great gun.  With strength 16 and shred I would love the rip saw.  As I have discussed, the decimator’s 2-turn damage output is about the same as the juggernaut’s—less in some cases since dozer cannot benefit from fury or redline and the juggernaut gets a to-hit stat of 7 on all its attacks while the decimator has to make do with a 4 for its turn 2 shooting.  So, I would happily pay 13 points for a decimator.  For 14 points, it would still be an attractive option.  At 15 points, it starts looking a little tarnished.  At 16 points, it shows up on my island of misfit models.

              I often look at my red-jack collection and shake my head at my two decimators.  In smaller engagements it is one of the best ranged heavies in the game.  That boils down to most factions having problems dealing with 2 Khador heavies.  In battle box games those 2 power 15 shots make a huge difference.  Tactical supremacy lets you shoot with an aiming bonus and end your turn moving out of your target’s charge range.  As the points increase though those shots become less and less dominant.  So, by the time I have the points to take 2 or more decimators I rarely have the desire to do so.  I could take 2 decimators or 2 juggernauts and a berserker.  I could take two decimators or one decimator and a juggernaut under Malakov 1.  The grass is always bloodier on the other side of that equation.



              The decimator is a solid jack for a slightly inflated price.  It stays relevant by tilting the attrition war in your favor and backing up the rest of your army in melee.  The model is solid—I love warjack sized chainsaws.  That being said, it is a second-tier choice. 

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