The following is an updated tactica for Sorscha 1 with the new edition in mind. Your mileage may vary. Feedback and heckling are welcome.
I have mixed feelings concerning Sorscha 1. On the one hand, she’s a hell of a threat. She’s fast, has a great feat, 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.
Back in the early days of MKI, a friend said he had a surprise for me. He pushed three models across my kitchen table. 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 feat and…” Sorscha wasn’t just defined by her feat; her feat 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 feat, freeze everything within her control range regardless of line of sight, and use tempest to knock things down. Then she, the destroyer, a hand cannon, or 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 feat in the game. Sorscha wasn’t just a faction defining model; she set the standard for bad ass. Khador dominated national tournaments with variants on that strategy over and over again…feat, 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. Never the less, playing Sorscha in MKIII feels like going back to your home town and finding out that the captain of the football team who gave you swirlies, took your lunch money, and stole your girlfriend is 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 feat—especially in larger games. There are a couple reasons for this. First, she brings very little qualitative enhancement for her forces. Fog of war is a great passive bonus in the early game but does not play to Khador’s strengths of high armor and devastating hitting power. PButcher and PVlad are fantastic casters because they throw the opposing warnoun into the hurt locker with authority and they 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 feats 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 feat, 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 with shatter, move-boosted freezing grip-wind rush to safety, 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. She doesn’t “share” well.” So, between her lack of support spells and a dearth of spare focus, her two defining characteristics are her feat and her speed.
If you accept these limitations, PSorscha is an excellent warcaster. She won’t be supporting a huge battle group but Khador has plenty of independent units and models to make up the difference. Some jacks, like the marauder, can happily run on the power up focus alone. I prefer taking focus efficient jacks anyway. Anything that can make do with single focus runs/charges 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 feat turn. Likewise, the devastator is a great choice for holding zones, threatening large units, and slamming/bulldozing stuff out of the way.
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 feat 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 Drakhun, Uhlans, eliminators, field guns, Hutchuck, and the elf to start. These models force your opponent to 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-feat movement and line of sight while maximizing counter charge lanes and fields of fire. You are better off building a combined arms list 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.
Do not underestimate the value of freezing grip. Beyond her feat, one of her best moves is move, boosted freezing grip key model/unit, wind rush away. This was not possible in previous editions but with FG’s reduced cost, S1 is hell on wheels against any kind of massed infantry.
So, let’s talk about icy gaze. I think of Sorscha’s feat 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 feat, 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 or you don’t use it at all. In most cases the feat 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 feat.
2. I measure 12 inches. Sorscha’s charge range is 6 movement+3 charge+2 reach. Put another way, any model completely within her control range is fair game.
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 or put Sorscha’s base between 9-11 inches, 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 13 inches, then I’ll need wind rush to put me in range. Note that the riskiest feat 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, I check her threat range again. Even if she has to use boundless charge, her maximum threat range is 1 inch beyond her current control range. I want to be absolutely sure that her charge target is within her grasp before going all-in.
5. Boundless charge if required. If not, charge.
6. Feat. 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 20 or greater. Most of the time you’ll be better off buying extra attacks. Keep this in mind when you are doing the math before charging.