[Confessions of an English Zombie Fancier] The Agony of Choice

The words ‘escalation league’ generally make my ears perk up like nobody’s business, and so when a kind soul at Dark Sphere stepped up to the plate and said they were going to run one I sniffed about like an underfed kitten catching the faint, delicious scent of tuna on the breeze. It’s the classic deal: pick a faction and a caster, play them for four months, starting at fifteen points and working your way up through twenty-five, thirty-five, and finally fifty. Simple scenarios, changed up just enough to not get dull. Ours has the added bonus of a map to track faction progress, with overall victory going to the faction with the most wins and a playoff between factionistas to decide placings.

Last time, of course, I was building a Bad Seeds Theme Force and so my choice of caster was very straightforward indeed; the field was divided between epic Magnus and epic Magnus with a side order of epic Magnus or the prospect of epic Magnus.

“Hope you like castin’ Mobility every turn, lad…”

This time, things are… harder. I have a whole faction’s worth of casters to choose from, and I’m going to be stuck with one (at least for league games on Mondays) until November. Better pick a good ‘un. Here’s what I’ve been thinking.

  • Iron Lich Asphyxious – very much a possibility. He’s straightforward, he’s brutal, he doesn’t scale too badly and he has a Theme Force full of stuff I own. There’s also the small matter of his being one of my favourites, and of being damn flexible; sling spells, play support piece, or charge in and shank things with fifteen effective POW20 attacks.
  • Lich Lord Asphyxious – while there’s no actual ban list as such, we’ve been discouraged from taking the power casters – it’s supposed to be a nice break from the usual fifty point Steamroller scenario tourney prep games, so the old standby here should probably sit out.
  • Asphyxious the Hellbringer & Vociferon – very much a possibility. A toolbox warcaster and a half, who can run a battlegroup over a goodly range, buff up a couple of units, and increase the melee accuracy of an entire army, not to mention rack up heck of soul tokens on his feat turn… I’m just not sure what the endgame is. He gets all these souls, but I can’t sense the implicit use for them…
  • Goreshade the Bastard – opinion is divided on this one. People fixate on how good that feat is at low point levels. I fixate on how markedly inferior that feat is at higher point levels. It scales appallingly – feats that affect every model in an area only become more effective with more stuff on the board, but Goreshade always gets the same thing, and it means less and less the bigger the game is, to the point where you never see him in general play because he sucks so hard in fifty point games. I think I’d like to try him but people are too stressed about the fifteen point game problem.
  • Goreshade the Cursed – the opposite problem to the little one. Given that his feat trades some of your pieces for some of your other pieces, you need a certain amount of bodies on the board, which I just don’t think can be guaranteed below thirty-five points.
  • Goreshade, Lord of Ruin – so damn cool but cavalry warcasters demand screening from other large bases and I only have a couple.
  • Lord Exhumator Scaverous – fussy bastard in terms of what his feat likes, and the things his feat likes need other things to be good. Not going to work well in small games, I think.
  • Skarre, the Pirate Queen – I’m conflicted about Skarre. On the one hand, she’s straightforward, doesn’t fold against Hordes or Warmachine (although she doesn’t like a gunline), and I know where her win buttons are; on the other, some of my issues with Retribution have arisen because Retribution warcasters generally have to get up and in the mix to an extent that I’m not comfortable with executing. I either leave my caster out of the game through positioning them safely, or I position them to have an impact and then they get killed. I can play warlocks up in the mix because transfers, but I think I might be better off with a less… hands-on caster. And Skarre is pretty hands on. Her offensive spells ain’t that accurate – her reliable output is melee, and while she could be the enabling factor in a huge melee wave, that seems like asking to roll over and die to Cygnar, Legion, Convergence or anything else that can scoop infantry off by the handful. Plus she likes her support system (Skarlock and Necrosurgeon) plus enough infantry for Dark Guidance to shine… I don’t think she scales down well enough.
  • Skarre, Queen of the Broken Coast – While she can mix it up in melee (and I’ve had success with using her in that way), the higher FOC, the hand cannon and the emphasis on spellslinging mean she’s more compatible with the approach I like to take. I own the model, she’s nicely painted although man does she clash with my current aesthetic approach – she’d be a possibility if someone else weren’t already playing her and we weren’t trying to avoid duplicates.
  • Sturgis the Corrupted – another odd duck. Like the Hellbringer, the Corrupted is a toolbox caster, but I can’t quite work out what his tools should be clicking with. His feat suggests a battlegroup that will benefit from all that focus he can hand out on feat turn, but nothing else about him suggests that a big battlegroup will be viable. He doesn’t seem to have much… direction, to him. I can’t work out what he’s for. Given my experience with Kaelyssa, another character who has me going “but… how do you work?”, I suspect he might not be for me. Plus he’s not on general release yet. I do like the look of his Theme Force though.
  • Lich Lord Terminus – hideous, expensive model. Nope. Plus I think he’s trendy at the moment and so people will complain.
  • Lich Lord Venethrax – lacks tech against Warmachine. Not one to be stuck with for a single-list league.
  • The Witch Coven of Garlghast – ahh, the girls. Definitely a caster that fits my style – hang back in midfield, save the feat for defence, and cast from a spell list which a) has an obvious game-ender and b) applies very transparently to pieces I own and like. Also, buying them gives me that stash of spare Siren proxies I want for the Deneghra list. Definitely a contender.
Let’s look, then. That’s… the Coven, either the Iron Lich or Hellbringer variants of Asphyxious. At the moment, I’m thinking Iron Lich. What would you do if you were me?

(League starts on Monday. No pressure.)

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