-By: Elliott (PG_E2lio2tR)
Warcasters and Warlocks have a way of defining how the rest of the army is put together. Their spells, abilities, and feats promote taking certain models with them to amplify how they all work together. Some want more Troops, others more Beasts or Warjacks, and
some just like a nice balance of everything. Today, we will look at those that are commonly called Beast/Jack Casters. These are the Casters that like to run larger than normal Battlegroups. While most Casters like to run two or three models in their Battlegroup, these ones will usually run four or more. It is not an easy style to play, as you need to develop your plan and execute it correctly since you will have a very small model count. There is not really one thing that you can point to and say “This Caster is a Jack/Beast Caster”. It is a combination of things that will make this style a clear choice for a Caster. We are going to start by breaking down each of these elements. After this, we will tie it all together to show the big picture.
The first thing we need to understand are the two new rules that were introduced in Mk3 that help these types of Casters. The first is the rule Power Up for Warmachine. This rule allows you to allocate one Focus point to a Warjack that starts the Control phase in their controlling Warcaster’s Control Range. This rule helps Jack Casters by allowing them to still run their Jacks up the field without having to sacrifice the resources to get the spells they need out early. The second of the new rules is called Spirit Bond, found in Hordes. This ability has more of an impact towards the end of the game. Since Warlocks need to pull Fury off of their Warbeasts in order to cast spells, the deaths of their Beasts causes this resource to dry up. This rule allows a Warlock to gain one Fury point for every Warbeast in their Battlegroup that was destroyed during the game. The only exception is for Lesser Warbeasts. This classification of model does not provide Fury when destroyed. What this does is allow the Warlock to continue to have some Fury to get spells out, or anything else that they can normally do with it, without having to damage themselves for Fury points, known as cut themselves, for it.
A common theme among these Casters is a low Focus/Fury stat. This usually ranges from five to six points. While this may seem very low, to the point that you could not fuel all the Jacks, or remove all the Fury from your Beasts, it is the combination of the spells on their spell list and the abilities on their cards that make it doable. They also need to have support from the rest of their army in order to make it work. You will have to make choices with the resources you have, and make sure that you plan your turn before starting any activations. A big part of what makes the low Focus/Fury workable can be seen, as mentioned, in the Caster’s Spell List. The list will usually have a way to help with the lack of resources to fully fuel a large Battlegroup. These can range from spells that allow free charges, to improving attack rolls. The key part is that most of the spells will increase the functionality of at least one model in the Battlegroup. This will result in the use of Focus/Fury on a spell being more resource-efficient than giving it directly to the Jack, or requiring the Beast to produce it itself. An example of this is Guided Fire, found on Gunnbjorn’s spell list. This spell gives all models in his Battlegroup boosted attack rolls. If he has three Beasts, with one ranged attack each, this would effectively be a 4 Fury ability for one less point. It only gets better with the more attacks it can boost. My current list has access to six ranged shots, making this spell that much more Fury efficient. That is 6 Fury that can be used for boosting Damage, or not being used & helping keep Threshold checks from being needed.
Animi that are provided by Beasts should be kept in mind when making choices as well. The right combination of animi with spells on the Caster’s list can provide a buff where needed. To return to the Gunnbjorn example: both the Bomber & the Impaler have the animus Far Strike. While Gunnbjorn has Snipe on his card, access to this animi will allow him to apply Snipe to another model or unit that could use the help with range, while applying Far Strike to himself. This effectively helps add more tactical options to what he can do each turn. So, while picking out the Warbeasts for the Battlegroup, it is a good idea to take a look at the animi they provide and see what would help with your battle plan, as well as what the model itself can provide.
Abilities that are located on the back of a Caster’s card will also help indicate the style it can be played. It is common for Jack/Beast Casters to have an ability or two that help increase the functionality of models in its Battlegroup. One such ability is called Resourceful. This ability allows a Caster to Upkeep a spell on models in its Battlegroup for free. It helps the Caster save Focus to allocate to the Jacks, or juggle spells to other Jacks so that you can maximize the effect across multiple models. One of the most common abilities found on Casters is called Field Marshal [Ability]. This causes your Jacks and Beasts to gain an additional ability just for being part of the Battlegroup. This additional ability will help determine what goes into the Battlegroup. One example of this is Cygnaran Warcaster Nemo1’s Field Marshal [Supercharged]. This allows Warjacks in his Battlegroup to have up to four Focus allocated instead of the standard three. This ability changes the interactions of Nemo and his Jacks and their impact on the board. When you are sending a Jack in to remove something, you now have either one more swing or one more boosted roll then a normal Jack would. It changes a lot about how the army as a whole functions and gives you more tactical options as well.
Feats can also do a lot to define a Caster and their play style. A good number of Beast/Jack Casters have Feats that do just this. Their Feats will help amplify the abilities of the Battlegroup as a whole. Usually, these Feats help turn up the damage output of the Battlegroup or extend its threat range. No matter what it does, the Feat will help swing the momentum of battle in their favor.
Ok so I know that was a ton of information and that it did not seem to relate directly to one another. The problem, like mentioned before, is that you cannot point to just one thing on a Caster and say this is what makes them a Jack/Beast Caster. It is how everything comes together that makes them such. So, let’s tie it all together. A Caster will have a collection of these elements that will help amplify the play style more so than having one or two spells that can help the Battlegroup, or a Field Marshal ability would on its own. When mixed together, the few models in the Battlegroup will be able to do the amount of work that another Caster would need to get out of a few units or solos. Think about it as the different powers being mixed together to create Capt. Planet (Kids, ask your parents). With their powers combined, you get a really strong Beast/Jack Caster. The Caster will not need to fill each of these criteria to be able to be called a Beast/Jack Caster. He will just need to have a few of them put together in the right way to earn this title.
Any General worth his salt has an army that will back him up and help execute his battle plan. The same can be said about Beast/Jack Casters. An army led by these types of Casters will need to bring non-Beast/Jack models to help support the Battlegroup. This can come in the form of direct support, like Beast Handlers in Skorne, or Arcanist Mechaniks in Ret, or indirectly, like Kriel Warriors (more on this in a moment). When approaching an army list led by this type of Caster, you have to understand why each model is in the Battlegroup and why each unit or solo is in the army. Each part of the list must help the Battlegroup and the Caster achieve their goal.
So, this has been a rather long post that may have raised more questions than answers on what it is to be a Beast/Jack Caster. Let me use the Gunnbjorn list I wrote about a few weeks back as an example to help shine a bit more light on all of this. If you have not read it yet, it can be located HERE.
I run Gunnbjorn as a Beast Caster. The whole army list is geared to help the Battlegroup do the brunt of the damage. His spell list includes Explosivo, Guided Fire, and Snipe. One of these spells targets all Battlegroup models only, one can only affect one model, and the last can affect either a single mode or a whole unit. I choose to focus these spells all on my Battlegroup to help amplify the ranged threat that they can provide. When you let loose with multiple AOE4 ranged attacks, from a good distance away, that all have boosted attack rolls (without having to force for the boost,) it puts pressure on your opponent early. He also has access to two strong ranged animi in Far Strike and Lucky Shot. These spells help extend the ranged threat and help increase the chances of the damage landing where you want. The access to Rage allows him to amp his Beasts up for melee so what they can still get stuck in when they need to. Gunnbjorn also has a handy Field Marshal ability where he gives his Battlegroup Kill Shot. This ability allows your Dire Trolls to make a ranged attack after killing something in melee, and let’s be honest here, Dire Trolls like being in combat. It allows you to generate more attacks than the Beasts would normally be able to make on their own.
His feat really helps the whole army. Keeping them safe from ranged attacks and giving the army cover is a big boost. Your Beasts really like it when they can sit just outside of charge range and throw bombs and cannon shots at the other army with little chance of return fire. Bringing their Def up from 12 to 14 also helps swing that dice math in their favor if the enemy spell Casters really want to attack with their spells that turn as well. The army is there to allow the Battlegroup do the work. The Knot and the Whelps are there to directly help the Battlegroup through Fury management, and giving rerolls, so that the few attacks they get have a better chance to do their job. The Warriors are there to help indirectly. They are there to hold a zone, an objective or flag. They are also there to act like a tar pit (hold up) the other side. They hold up elite units and make them work their way through the chaff before they can get into the meat of the army (the Battlegroup) while the Beasts are laying waste to the rest of their army.
So to look at the check list:
- Spell list that amplifies his Battlegroup: Check
- Abilities that help Battlegroup: Check
- Feat that helps Battlegroup: Indirectly
- Army can support this play style: Check
Three out of four. Not too bad. Is this the only way to build around this Caster? No. Does it help show that he can be a strong Beast Caster? Yes. When I sat down to start writing this post, I expected it to be a few quick blurbs to help explain the ways to identify a Jack or Beast Caster. What happened is that it turned into an Ogre, and as we have all learned from Shrek (Kids, ask your parents again), Ogres are like onions. As I peeled away at it, new layers were found. When I started on each section, it seemed to balloon out and refer back to other parts to reveal the bigger picture of what it means to be a Jack or Beast Caster. It really enforced in my mind that Warcasters or Warlocks are a sum of all their parts and not just one or two specific things. The Battlegroup is an extension of this type of Caster, and the Caster is there to bring the best out of the Battlegroup.