Part of choosing to run with Skorne next year is due to the excitement generated about Epic Xerxis getting released. The Skorne boards and miscellaneous podcasters, noted community celebs and whatnot, all added to my eagerness to run with what some were claiming as PP's first "legitimate battle-engine" caster/lock. Once my pre-order arrived I was all shits and giggles, a veritable kid in the candy shop, posting all sorts of garbled bullshit on facebook.
Did Xerxis2 deliver?
Not really. It seems I get to caught up in the hype train, or (more likely) I've focused only on the obvious play X2 brings, which has eclipsed all other potential tricks he may have.
So what lists have I used him and how have my four games with him panned out so far? Well, keeping in with my dedication to the Valleycon tier-list demands, I tried out X2's tier list. Initial thoughts were that I'd want to run the guy beast heavy, due to my lack of and utter disdain for Ferox. While the tier restricts me from using some of the big names of Skorne, ala Molik Karn, Tibbers is still in with a grin for that tier 3 benefit, and the rest of the beast stable is there for use.
To get things to tier 3 my first list looked like this:
Xerxis, Fury of Halaak
- Archidon (bonded)
- Basilisk Drake
- Bronzeback Titan
- Titan Gladiator
- Basilisk Krea
Max Paingiver Beast Handlers
Not too much of a plan for the army, just use threat ranges to try get the alpha and remove threats to X and his contingent. Zaadesh will act as a Rush and Paralytic Aura battery, and Rhadeim flanks hard. Further thoughts include me seeing that there's tricks to be made with Zaadesh under Xerxis' feat; with the pseudo signs-and-portents Zaadesh should more reliably get off a perdition creating interesting threat vectors for the Gladiator or the Krea (hopefully flanking with the drake), particularly if I've put rush out before hand.
First outing saw me pitch this against Matt Bissel the Grissel Nissel's Bearka tier force. I have to scrape the memory banks a little, but I recall facing 2 Earthborns, a Mauler, typical kriel stone bullshit, Fellcaller and max Kriels with cabers and a sorcerer attached.
Long story short, I was way too cagey with my beasts. The screen of fast moving Kriels meant I was hesitant to get my titans into the mix (essentially trading a titan for 2 or 3 kriels? Ugh.....). Bearka's feat further exacerbated this stopping me from getting the drop on any of Matt's heavies, or his kriels. A few other things happened but it was rather inconsequential once Bearka got into X2 at something like P+S 19 and schwacked the crap out of him.
Post game thoughts; I was pretty sour that a screening unit so effectively stopped me from setting up a favourable beast-trade. The Drake was a great piece here, and I'm now nurturing the option of buying two more. However I felt I needed more infantry clearing, otherwise I wouldn't be able to take advantage of the great threat ranges and hitting power of Skorne beasts. Also the one max unit of paingivers were stretched pretty far. I'd much prefer two min units to flank on either side of X's dumb huge base. Rhadeim was awesome though, put a scary hit into Matt's war wagon and after getting dismounted by the Mauler, did a lazy charge into Bearka's back for a few token boxes of damage.
After lifting the hood on this and tinkering around, I came to this list:
Xerxis, Fury of Halaak
- Archidon (bonded)
- Titan Gladiator
Min Paingiver Beast Handlers
Got the mammoth to throw out scattering blasts to soften up infantry on the advance. I got three games in with this list over a session of Beermachine in my garage, site of The Shed, my own hub of WarmaHordes gaming in the vapid suburban wastelands of Auckland.
The site of wargaming greatness
First game was against Chas' pHaley list. There was infantry aplenty, and the Mammoth did a good showing of killing a couple of gun-mages and Holt before getting gatt'ed by Tempest Blazers under feat (what th-@!%#!#$%#). But then Tiberion just sauntered over after being buffed with Rush and Mobility and whacka-moled Haley. Sweet.
Second game was hardly anything to write home about after Peter the MILF Hunter's pSkarre sling-shotted a couple of Soulhunters and a Satyxis Raider in X2. RIP in peace the Fury of Halaak. Extra twist to the knife Pete shanked me with; the Skarre he used was gifted to him by me, and he was borrowing my Soulhunter models. Et tu Pirate Queen?
This was a tricky game for me to figure out, I knew he would get the alpha and it was going to hurt most definitely. Even if X2 didn't go down, the Mammoth wasn't long for this world. Though I guess so long as X and Tiberion stayed alive the loss of the Mammoth for the feat wouldn't be too much of a problem. I may have to play that match up again, particularly because I also play Cryx and should be more aware of what pSkarre can do. "Should" being the operant word here as I've had some games with pSkarre, but she's just never clicked with me. Peter's built a great package for her with the Kraken, full Satyxis boat and Soulhunters, and the whole thing makes sense to me.
Third game saw me draw against Nikola Jizzmaster Jaksic with an Ocean's list with pReznik. The whole thing was a rambling mess of names, Nicia, Vilmon, Gorman, Action Saxon, Kell Bailoch, Gastonne, the list just goes on. He seemed to be the only person who took my initial ideas for this Beermachine of bringing along an 'interesting' list. In any case, I just jammed my beasts into his army, and Reznik eventually ate a 14" Archidon charge under feat, and was finished from Rhadeim hopping about the place to pig-stick him. There wasn't a heck of a lot Nikola could really do in this match up though, particularly with being able to buy rerolls with drinks.
After this I don't know if I like the second iteration of list. I definitely am missing the presence of the support package you typically see the Mammoth, particularly the Willbreakers, to get those valuable rerolls for those few crucial rolls, that Xerxis seems to want.So how do I feel about Xerxis, the Fury of Halaak after all this? Refer to the above 'meh'. The games I won resulted in me just jamming as much muscle as close as I could, whether the storm and take whatever survived to deliver an assassination under feat. The games I lost were cases of me moving shit up, slapping a couple of things, and shrugging as everything of mine just caved.
However, the process of writing this post has allowed me to consider things a bit more; with a small powerful force, I should never let myself be exposed to the full force of my opponent's army. I'm reminded of when playing Space Marines suddenly clicked for me when playing 2nd edition 40K: use your small numbers to work one half of your opponent's army, while the other half is trying to slog its way over to you. Once I figured that out (after reading a note written by Andy Chambers in a White Dwarf no less), everything fell into place.
X2 has the speed and tricks to be able to make this work on the board and during deployment. Getting the +1 bonus to the starting roll will help with my set up, particularly where having the second turn will allow me to counter deploy where necessary. I've been automatically going for the first turn way too often, without thinking about it, where going second may actually be of better benefit. The redeployment benefit will also allow for more shenanigans, feinting with Rhadeim and maybe the Bronzeback to then shift them back with the rest of the army. With this in mind, I feel it apt to go back to my first list and have another go at making it work.
There's an added benefit to this list: less models to paint for Valleycon. My laziness contributes to my determination.
Phil Anselmo levels of determined ಠ_ಠ