-By: Timothy (SnarlyYow)

So you picked up Warmachine, maybe a battle box or just some odds and ends and you’ve started to have fun playing games. Maybe you’ve started to play scenarios (which you always should) and sometimes you use a clock. Now your local game store, the friendliness of which may or may not be in question, has an upcoming 75 point tournament. And maybe you’re debating going. What is a tournament? How’s it work? Your mind is racing. And your buddy, one of those guys that suckered you into buying the game to begin with, looks at you and says: “Just come, man. Play like you’ve got a pair.” And, as if you didn’t have enough worries, you don’t have a pair. No, not those, silly, but a pair of ‘casters. Oh sure, you’re great with Kreoss1 or Sorcha1, maybe Stryker or Tanith. And maybe you’ve tinkered around with some other casters in your faction. But a pair?! For a tournament?! How do you know what a good pair is? How do you know which two casters are good choices that will help you not lose every game?

Have no fear, I’m here to help. By the end of this you’ll have a pair, maybe two.

Most new players have a caster they’ve been playing for a while and are comfortable putting on the table. You have a list you think is good. Or at least it’s okay. Or maybe it’s simply not terrible. You’ve won some games with it, you know how to win games with it. Maybe you’re unsure what it’s bad against or what it’s great against, but at least you’re comfortable playing it. This is exactly where you should be when considering your first tournament. You got one list and you can play it and play it to win. If you have that, you’re ready. You’ll lose, there are better more experienced players, but you have a fighting chance.

Now, in order to make a pair let’s just concentrate on finding one list. After all, you have your first list, right? It’s that list we just talked about, the one you’re comfortable playing, the one you can win with? All we have to do is find a second list.

So let’s do a thought exercise, picture your first list and ask yourself these three questions:

1) How does this list win? What is its main win condition and secondary win conditions?
2) What does this list do? How’s it play?
3) What does this list not want to play against?

Write them down if it helps you or be a lazy bastard like me and don’t. Whatever.

The first two questions should be super easy to answer. If you cannot answer the first question I highly suggest you figure it out before the tournament!

Here’s an example using my Maddox list:

Maddox
-Stormclad
-Hammersmith
Devil Dogs

-Murdoch
-Freebooter

Stormlances
Katherine Laddermore
Lanyssa Rysyll
Lord Runewood
Ragman
Rhupert

Question 1:
“How does this list win? What is its primary win condition?”
Attrition with hard hitting infantry makes my opponent unable to fight back and I win via scenario.
“What is its secondary win condition?”

A Devil Dog with Snipe knocks down an opposing caster then I bring guns or jacks to kill that caster.

Question 2:
“What does this list do? How does it play?”
It brings a load of fast moving melee infantry, with a fast moving jack or two, to hit targets in melee before they can hit me.

Question 3:
“What does this list not want to play against?”
This list loves to see Warmachine lists with lots of warjacks but it hates playing against Hordes. It also doesn’t like lists with loads of anti-knockdown tech. It hits super-hard and cracks all kinds of armor like a pro.

 

There are other questions to ask as you get more and more experience playing in tournaments but these three are key to making an adequate pair. When answering them focus on some different aspects of each question:

A) How do you usually win?
B) Is the list fast or slow? Can it spread out?

C)Does it have a lot of guns and depend on guns to win?
D) What have you struggled to play against with this list?

Understanding your lists is kind of like writing a joke: You have to write the punchline first. How the list wins is unquestionably the one key ingredient you need to know. In Warmachine there are 3.5 win conditions

1: Assassination – This is undoubtedly the easiest to understand and, frequently, the easiest to build for. It’s also, probably, the easiest win condition for experienced opponents to avoid.
2: Control Points/ Scenario – A great scenario game isn’t always the easiest to build for but is, oddly, perhaps the easiest way to win if you know how to build a list to do it.
3: Clock – Your opponent runs out of time. Perhaps the hardest list to design is one that wins on the clock reliably.
.5 – Attrition – While not a win condition in and of itself, a great attrition list opens up possibilities for multiple other win conditions.

Looking back at my Maddox list I conclude
A) It handles armor
B) Is a decent attrition list
C) Is a fast moving melee force

So when I’m considering my pair let’s just focus on making the second list different enough. My second list can:
A) Not have to deal with armor
B) Can move slow (You’ll probably want to avoid two “slow” lists if you can help it)
C) Can be a gunline.
D) Assassination, Control, Clock are all valid primary win conditions

Now let’s make a list of the casters in my faction that meets these requirements:

Haley1, 2, 3
Darius
Siege
Sloan
Caine1, 2
Stryker1
Nemo1, Nemo3

If you know some of the people you’ll be facing, especially if it’s a smaller tournament, now is a good time to consider counter-teching them; making a list that you think they can’t handle. But, barring that, let’s take these casters and compare them to Maddox:

Haley1: Can build a gunline. Plays tanky, scenario games. Different enough from Maddox? Yes.
Haley2: Can build anything. Plays scenario like a boss. Different enough from Maddox? Yes.
Haley3: Brings loads of dudes and mostly melee infantry. Different enough from Maddox? No.

Darius: Plays super tanky and hits hard. Plays Attrition. Different enough from Maddox? No.
Siege: Brings a gunline, can handle swarms of dudes. Plays an Attrition game. Different enough from Maddox? Maybe.
Sloan: Brings a gunline with lots of jacks. Plays an assassination game. Different enough from Maddox? Yes.
Caine1: Handles swarms of infantry, is buff bot. Different enough from Maddox? Maybe.
Caine2: Has great ranged assassination run. Different enough from Maddox? Yes.
Stryker1: Is buff bot, has time-walk feat. Different enough from Maddox? Maybe.
Nemo1: Plays lots of jacks, Hits hard. Different enough from Maddox? Maybe.
Nemo3: Plays lots of jacks and a lightning gunline. Hits hard. Different enough from Maddox? Yes.

We didn’t consider some casters in this list, maybe because they are obviously so very much like Maddox. Like, Stryker3, he’s so similar in applying fast moving jacks that hit hard that we didn’t mention him. Let’s just scratch all the “Nos”, we won’t even consider playing them. And let’s consider the “Maybes”, but only if you have a lot of experience with them. Maybe you can build a list with, say, Stryker1 that plays differently from your Maddox list. But if you want to bring Stormlances and, say, Stormblades with Stryker, it’s going to be so similar to the Maddox list as to not even be worth consideration; if the lists start to look the same, play the same, scratch them. Let’s focus on the casters that we answered “Yes” to.

Now, Maddox has fast moving melee infantry. Can we play a gunline? Who does that? What casters that do it that you are comfortable playing and that you have had some success with? If there’s an answer there, say, in Sloan, then go ahead and play her. Look at the casters you’re most comfortable playing and pick one that makes a list as different from your list as possible, one that you feel is competitive.

So many players make the mistake early in their Warmahordes career of playing similar casters with similar units at tournaments. They say: “I know Errants and Bastions. Let me put them in every list.” They ignore that if your opponent has a list that can handle Errants and Bastions, it doesn’t matter which list you play into them. I made this mistake early in my career with a Caine2/Siege pairing. Both lists depended a lot on shooting. Both lists had Gun Mages marshalling a Hunter. Both lists had a low POW, inexpensive jam infantry. And I went to a tournament and my first opponent played Lucant into me, a caster that plays a lot of high arm infantry and is largely immune to guns. Neither of my lists could play into it. Second round I get another Convergence player, and once again I get Lucant. My lists were redundant, they didn’t answer different questions, nor did they ask different questions of my opponent. Needless to say, I had a very difficult day!

This doesn’t mean that Caine2 and Siege are uncompetitive casters and you shouldn’t take either of them to a tournament. It does mean you shouldn’t take them both!

In short, the goal of a good pair should be to avoid redundancy. Your second list should shore up problems your first list has.

I’ll leave you this form which you can fill out if you so choose. Make sure that your answers are different for each column. Having two melee forces might not be bad, but two gunlines almost certainly is:

My First Caster is:   My Second Caster is:  
Primary Win Condition:   Primary Win Condition:  
It plays Fast/Slow:   It plays Fast/Slow:  
It struggles against:   It struggles against:  
It has more guns/melee:   It has more guns/melee:  
It can deal with armor skew:   It can deal with armor skew:  
It can handle lots of models:   It can handle lots of models:  

 

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