By: Seth (MenoThink)
Before we Begin:
I wrote this article for really new players. That means I often take the time to describe models or rules. It can get a little long winded. If you’re not new to the game, (like if you’re changing factions) I’d just skip to the TL;DR at the end. Then, if you see a choice you consider questionable, you can always go back up and read my reasoning. It won’t hurt my feelings. I promise.
Week 1: What’s my Battle Box?
With the new Journeyman league rules requiring that we keep the same models from week to week, it only makes sense to start at the beginning. There are plenty of reviews of the battle box and of Malekus himself online at this point, but here’s another one so you don’t have to go hunting.
I like Malekus. I usually build towards the spell list, (the spells being a big part of what keeps me in Protectorate) and Malekus has a nice tool
box. Banishing Ward is some protection from spells, Ignite is a damage buff, and scourge and immolation are good for the assassination threat or to eliminate a key piece. Open Fire can make an AOE or spray eat infantry at an alarming rate, turn a few Reckoner shots into real assassination threats, or help finish off that Heavy your ‘jacks didn’t quite kill.
Just because I am a spell-list kind of guy doesn’t mean I want to discount the rest of what he does. I absolutely don’t want to blow off his feat’s ability to get done a huge amount of work. A boosted POW 12 from a repenter is looking at an average of 26 damage under that feat. His own gun is nothing to sneeze at, either. 10” sprays are amazing and will only get better as infantry and support pieces enter the game. All-in-all, he’s good enough that I’m tempted to keep him through the entire league. More on that later, though.
I’m not sure how I feel about this model yet. P+S 16 really relies on Ignite from Malekus to be able to deal with other heavies, and its infantry clearing probably won’t come into play for a few weeks at least. The combustion may prove handy against high-defense enemy casters, but I’m not sold on giving up 2 initial attacks for just that. I will want to remember Ashen Veil, though. With living enemy models within 2” suffering -2 to attack, not only is my Castigator harder to hit than it looks, but it can help out my lights if they’re in base-to-base in melee. Effectively DEF 14 lights start to get really annoying.
With its spray 8 fire gun, this ‘jack is clearly here for Malekus’ feat. Don’t discount the P+S 13 chain weapon, though. With ignite it’s hitting at P+S 15 ( only one point below Malekus’ armor value). Later on, this is a pretty cheap ‘jack who can be surprisingly annoying to get rid of, so is great for sitting in zones and starting the piece trade.
My first instinct is to look at this guy and see the arc node alone. A spell assassination from Malekus on feat turn is entirely possible. Don’t discount this guy’s ability in combat, however, Powerful Charge can put it to MAT 8 on the charge, often sparing you the need to boost that hit roll. Like the Repenter’s flail, the halberd with ignite goes to P+S 15, which can do a number of other lights. Finally, the shield both makes this ‘jack hard to remove and can bump enemies back. This can either nudge them away from your own stuff, or tempt them to charge you at MAX reach and then let them only get in one hit.
Since I’ve heard they always survive the first engagement with the enemy, I like to make a plan for how my list should work before I put it on the table.
For the battle box, this plan is pretty simple: use the sprays in the list to hit an enemy caster on feat turn and set them on fire. Burn, baby, burn.
|Week 1 Summary|
|Get at least one angle on the enemy caster with fire, seeking to burn them on the feat turn. Use the other jacks to engage their pieces or clear the lane.||Looking for assassination opportunities and avoiding them on my own caster.|
Stage Two: Where am I going?
While I don’t necessarily feel like I have to know what my 75 point list will look like in week six, it would be nice to get some idea of where I’m going. The reasoning is simple: how will I know what to take if I don’t know what I’m building towards?
The hardest part of that, to my mind, is going to be selecting a caster. One of the best things about Protectorate in this edition is just how many of our casters are interesting, complex, and fun. You want an assassination caster? We’ve got that. A back-line buff caster? We’ve got you covered. Want to hit like a ton of bricks? Not a problem.
My goal in this league is to make a list which showcases a chunk of what Protectorate can do, plus provide opportunities to purchase models a new player can use in multiple lists and with a variety of casters later on. This will have the side-benefit of introducing other people in our small meta to what Protectorate is all about.
I eventually decided that Severius 1 has a lot to recommend him both in terms of play and in terms of learning/teaching the faction, so am going to go with him.
We’re Not Gonna Take It:
Malekus is pretty spiffy. However, his feat tends to pull attention to fire-typed models. It doesn’t have to, but I find myself falling into doing so again and again. Also, I know that there’s going to be a trollkin player in my league, and his kriel stone will help prevent continuous effects, which counters that part of my kit. Similarly, there may be another Protectorate player. The Malekus v. Malekus game is almost brutally boring. The casters can’t assassinate each other very effectively, so the ‘jacks wind up sort of humping up against each other like angrily mating turtles. No thank you.
Why So Severius, Son?
1) Not too Complicated –
From Reznik 2’s Battle Engine rules to Thyra’s teleports, Protectorate casters have a lot of cool rules which make them really interesting to play. Kreoss 3’s cavalry rules, Harbinger’s maryrdom, and various casters with field marshal abilities can all alter the battlefield in unique and intriguing ways. That said, they add additional elements to learning the game and the faction. If I want to highlight the strengths of Protectorate and help others in my meta learn the basics, I want someone who is, themselves, fairly straightforward. Severius fits the bill.
2) Eye of Menoth –
Foremost among Severius’ abilities is “Eye of Menoth.” All friendly Faction models in his sizable control range of 16” gain +1 to attack and damage rolls.
If you’re just starting out, +1 may not seem like a lot, especially if you come from a D&D background like me. I’m going to beg your indulgence, therefore, to go on a tangent on dice math.
Since we know we’re going to be using them for six weeks, let’s take the ‘Jacks which come in the battlebox. When the Castigator goes to hit, say, an Ironclad, it’s rolling its MAT 6 against a Def of 12. You need a 6 on two dice. You figure that’s fine, since you have about a 72% chance of hitting. The problem is that you’re missing, on average, nearly one swing in three.
Now give that Castigator to Severius. Oh, it’s only a +1. No big deal, right? Thing is, now you only need to hit on a 5+, so you have about an 83% chance of hitting. That +1 is the equivalent of about an 11% better chance to hit. It gets even sillier for the Repenter. Moving its RAT 5 to RAT 6 ups its chance of hitting a DEF 12 enemy by 14%.
See where this is going? A lot of Protectorate ‘jacks sit right in the center of the bell curve. That +1 has a huge impact there. Eye of Menoth becomes worth its weight in gold.
3) Piles of Focus.
Severius comes with a whopping 8 focus stat. Not only does this give him a ton to use to cast spells or fuel his ‘jacks, it also gives him a 16” control area. That lets you spread out, minimizing the chances of accidentally getting your ‘jacks outside your allocation range as you start.
It also helps new players learn to use the most valuable survival tool of all – distance. We’ll talk more about that when we get to his defensive stats.
4) Defensive Spells.
One of the things Menoth does best is denial. We cancel spells, don’t let people attack, or get stronger if they kill our dudes.
While the spell Defender’s Ward doesn’t stop people from attacking, it certainly can help our models survive. Whether on a tough ‘jack or unit in a zone, jamming models down your opponent’s throat, or just keeping Severius alive, this spell is some of the best of Protectorate survival tech out there.
Severius also has “Vision”. Vision is a spell which lets you ignore one attack roll completely. While this is much more situational than Defender’s Ward, it’s still nice to have available.
5) Ashes to Ashes.
It’s hard to tell how much infantry is going to show up in a journeyman league. People have to bring ‘jacks for the first two weeks, so at least 1/3 of their points are going to be sunk into them. Units are more expensive monetarily, too. For people just starting the game, it’s often more cost efficient to buy a ‘jack kit than it is to buy, assemble, and field an entire unit.
That said, Ashes to Ashes is great for clearing what infantry they do bring. It can also “bounce” back into their support staff. This will help your opponents learn to be careful with their model placement. Mechaniks, choir, Krielstone bearers, Paingivers, all of them need to be careful how close they come up in case a carefully arced Ashes to Ashes takes them out.
6) Terrible Defensive Stats.
In the story of the game, Severius is an octogenarian. He is DEF 14/AM 14 and doesn’t have a gun. He dies really, really easily.
For a new player, that’s a good thing.
Stay with me on this one.
The best ally ‘casters have in staying alive is distance. Sure, you can use intervening models, terrain, or focus camp. At the end of the day, though, if they can’t reach you, they can’t kill you. With his large focus stat and poor defensive stats, Severius forces this lesson on new players.
The temptation for all of us, new player and old, is to march our casters up the table. This appeals to us. It’s cinematic – the badass, conquering mage slinging spells and holding the center of the line. There’s a reason chess players don’t lead with their queen, (or king) though. If you’re out front, it’s way easier to kill you. With defensive stats like this, you’re going to have to learn to keep your caster alive much more quickly. Those lessons stay with you and are some of the most valuable in Warmachine.
You’ll note that I haven’t listed Severius’ feat up there. For one, I’m more of an ability/spell list player. That’s just a function of personal choice. More importantly, though, Severius’ feat is dangerous to use. Do you want to hobble your old man within 16 inches of an enemy warcaster if you’re going to leave that caster alive? I don’t. Maybe I’ll discover some different utility for it when I play. For now, though, it’s more of an afterthought for me than a reason to play him.
So there’s Severius for you. He has other spells and abilities, too, but you get the idea. He’s good, and will let us learn. Cool beans.
Week 2 – Crusader.
Week 2 is kind of annoying. We have to take another ‘jack, but only get 10 points. Just not taking anything and saving the points isn’t an option, though, since it’s only legal if the list is under the point level by five points or fewer. Bother.
The choices for 10 points or under are the Crusader, Dervish, Devout, Repenter, Revenger, or Vigilant. I eventually narrowed it down to two options, though.
I initially wanted to go with the Devout. It’s another light which is P+S 13 before buffs. It is a 13/16 with a shield, making it fairly resilient.
While those stats are nice, most people take the Devout for the Spell Barrier, which stops enemies from targeting casters in base to base with it from enemy spells, or for Shield Guard, which causes a ranged attack which directly hits another model within 3” of it to be redirected onto it instead. I really like these abilities, and I know I’ll use it with a large number of casters. It’s also cheaper than the crusader. If you’re skittish about the thought of playing a 14/14 caster without a shield guard, the Devout is a fine choice.
As I worked ahead, though, I realized it was going to be week four before adding another heavy. In a format with this many warjacks, that seemed problematic. So I came back and changed the choice to the Crusader.
The Crusader is a basic beat-stick. At speed 4, it’s slow. However, its inferno mace is P+S 18 before any buffs at all, and it has 32 boxes. That means it can operate without ignite on it if it has to. Also, Protectorate is one of the few factions which can take a heavy this week. That should give this list a leg-up in attrition. If we can eliminate anything on their side which can easily kill the last heavy on our side, we can run the table.
Looking to the future, the cheap point cost of the Crusader means it can make it into other lists as well.
With two heavies on the table, and one of our lights having 12/19 defensive stats, a plan begins to emerge. Protectorate heavies lack a long threat range, but I can threaten the enemy models with one of the lights to bait out an attack, then begin the piece trade. That is to say, they’ll kill my light, but leave one of their pieces within charge range of one of mine to do it, so then I can go in and kill them, they’ll kill my piece in retaliation, and so on.
Normally losing the first piece in a piece trade is a bad plan. In this case, though, I need to focus on their pieces which can kill my last heavy. If I can end with a heavy to their light, they won’t be able to take my last piece. The Revenger, with its ARM 19, is perfect for this, since they’ll need to commit heavily to kill it.
While I do this, I can still keep my eyes open for the assassination. It never hurts to have a plan B.
|Week 2 Summary|
|Piece trade until I have a heavy left and they don’t.||Successful piece trading.|
Week 3 – Min choir, Max Temple Flameguard.
This is the week which really opens things up. With solos and units available, I suddenly feel overwhelmed with choices. I need to look for units which fulfill specific roles for me which I need covered.
Singing the Praises of The Choir:
The choir have long been considered a staple in Protectorate. There’s a good reason for it. First, these guys are dirt cheap. They also do amazing things for you.
The choir sing hymns. They get to pick one a turn, and they all sing it. Each member of the choir, however, can sing it at a different ‘jack. Four members, four ‘jacks covered. Six members, six jacks covered. Get the idea?
Their first song is the most basic. It’s called “hymn of battle”. Warjacks with battle get +2 to damage rolls for a turn. So that P+S 16 castigator? Now it’s hitting at the equivalent of P+S 18. This stacks with ignite, by the way, so with Malekus it’s hitting at P+S 20.
My experience, however, is that battle is often the wrong hymn to sing. That’s because the denial from the other songs is so strong.
Protectorate is known for its denial abilities, and these next two hymns are a big part of why.
The “hymn of passage” makes it so that your warjacks cannot be targeted by non-magical ranged attacks. Please note, this isn’t like stealth, where they can target but automatically miss. They can’t even declare the ‘jack as a legal target. In the battle boxes, that’s at least one model in every box not making its ranged attack at your ‘jacks.
Similarly, the “hymn of shielding” makes it so your ‘jacks can’t be targeted by enemy spells. All those annoying debuff or knockdown spells your enemy has? Not so much. This can really mess with your opponents’ game plans.
Getting choir in early is important. You’re going to include them in the vast majority of lists. Learning where to place them, how to keep them in command, how to get them near your ‘jacks so the hymns take effect, and how to keep them alive are all difficult and vital skills. Start practicing as soon as you can.
A Speed Bump
My other choice for week three is somewhat more debatable. I went with the Temple Flameguard (or TFG for short).
I like these guys. They are cheap bodies to help screen my warjacks and caster as you come up the field. When I say “screen” what I mean is that they will go out in front and get killed, but in so doing your opponent will have presented me with pieces I can then attack with my own, more valuable models. It’s what I was doing with my lights in week two, but much more points-efficient.
At Def 13 with set defense (which grants another +2, pushing them to Def 15), they can make my opponent think twice about charging them. Shield Wall isn’t amazing, getting them to ARM 17, but clumping them up and making it so they can’t run before using it. I can imagine circumstances where I might use it, but I’m not going to automatically do it just because it’s there.
In terms of offense, don’t underestimate SPD 6 guys with two-inch melee weapons. They can threaten 11” on the charge. That’s not amazing, but it can keep pace with many other similar units or out-threaten enemy ‘jacks. There are worse places to be.
TFG also have combined melee attacks, or CMA for short. They can combine their attacks, giving up initial attacks to add accuracy and damage to others. This means those dinky P+S 10 attacks can combine up to P+S 12 if just two people attack the same thing, P+S 13 is three get in on it, and so on. It’s not going to wreck a heavy or anything, but it means they aren’t going to be totally useless against them either.
Finally, they take buffs very well. When I say they take buffs well, what I mean is that their stats are at a place in the dice curve where bonuses can make a big difference (see the explanation of Eye of Menoth above). Ignite pushes them to as respectable P+S 12 before CMA, or P+S 14 with a 2-man CMA. On a charge, that can get some work done on a light ‘jack. With Severius, Defender’s Ward pushes them to DEF 15 (DEF 17 against charges). That’s the range where even MAT 7 ‘jacks want to boost to hit, making them spend valuable resources to kill cheap models.
It’s worth noting that there are a lot of other units in Protectorate which can fulfill this “speed bump” role. That said, to fit in the choir you only have so many points left. A max unit of Bastions, Cinerators, or Exempar Errants are all far too expensive, as are zealots. For cheap bodies, it’s hard to beat the TFG. At such a cheap cost, they’re also sure to surface in other lists down the road.
The scenario changes in week three, so my plan has to change with it. Now there’s a circular zone in the middle of the field. Players score a control point if they have a warjack, warbeast, warlock, or warcaster in the zone but their opponent doesn’t.
My plan, then, has to include getting my ‘jacks into the zone. I’ll send the TFG up ahead to act like a speed bump for my warjacks. I’ll need to watch out for my opponent trampling over them to get to my back line. That said, it means that they will have to come to me, or get forced out of the game. I’ll use the scenario to make them come to me, then use my ‘jacks to kill theirs just like last week. If they bring infantry, sprays from my repents or a good clap from my castigator should help out.
|Week 3 Summary|
Max Temple Flameguard
|Use the scenario to make them initiate attrition. Kill until they can’t hurt my heavies. Profit.||Using a screening unit.
The conclusion to this article will come out next time. So stay tuned.