So you’re a newer player and you’ve been drawn to the Protectorate of Menoth, eh? Whether it’s burning heretics with fire, leveraging walls of nasty warjacks, or a passion for saying “No, that doesn’t work” to your opponents, I’m glad you’re checking out the flaming faction of religious vengeance. With the new Steamroller 2017 rules just around the corner at the time of writing this, it seems like finding ways to deal with troops will be at the top of many player’s minds. If you’re starting out with Protectorate, and you want a Warcaster that can give answers to troops-heavy lists, then you’re likely to end with at least one eye (of Menoth… check out Severous one for the reference) toward the Harbinger of Menoth.
So what is Harbinger other than a woman who seems determined to float away like a distracted carnival-going child’s balloon? Well, she’s the embodiment of Menoth’s power, walking… well… floating and towed by a few dedicated zealots, around Immoren. At her core, she’s a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon full of nastiness and destruction. But, like those self-same balloons, she’s also a tad fragile. While she gives some powerful options for dealing with heavy troops lists, especially when it comes to scenario play, she’s perpetually in mortal danger unless you’re lucky enough to be facing a melee-only list. Let’s get into her abilities to see what makes her tick, and think about why beginning players may want to think (or not think) about putting her onto the table.
Stats and Abilities
At Speed 6, Harbinger can get to where she needs to be on the board. Other than that stat, and her Command of 10, every other stat this model has is abysmal. Now, of course, there are things that balance out those stats. For instance, she has a feeble STR of 4–but with a POW 8 weapon, she still ends up swinging her sword, Providence, for respectable damage. Her MAT stat is even worse, a meager 3. Don’t fret tho, as she has the Guided special rule on her sword: her melee attacks automatically hit. Her RAT is worse, an appalling 1, but then she has no reason to use her RAT anyhow. It’s the next two stats that should concern the interested player the most: DEF 14 and ARM 14. That’s the definition of squishy, though one of her abilities helps against some foes. And that’s important to keep in mind for players who decide to start with Harbinger: she is your weak point.
Now, what balances that weakness? Well, let’s start with her Focus stat, the highest in the game: 10. In addition to doing all sorts of things with it, that also means that if you want to she can remain way, way, WAY back. On games without a killbox, she can be particularly nasty. Second, she has an ability called Awe that gives living models a -2 to attack rolls within her Command range (10”). She also has the Divinity special rule, meaning she cannot be knocked down, doesn’t suffer Blind, and does not provide back strike bonus to models in her rear arc. That’s a good start to a defensive kit, but don’t be fooled. She’s still more fragile than you expect. Particularly because of her final rule: Martyrdom.
Martyrdom is one of the two things that makes Harbinger what she is (the other is her Feat). It’s simple: a friendly faction model in her Command range can be healed when disabled for a small damage tax (d3) on Harbinger. That means you can keep the critical models alive in key zones in some fantastic ways. It’s ½ of why she is such a good scenario Warcaster–with the right positioning, she can be a nightmare to score against. It’s a double-edged sword, however, as Harbinger only has 17 health boxes to work with. A few rolls of 3 damage can add up fast, and leave you with some tough choices. Do you take the damage to keep the model alive, then heal with your own plentiful Focus? Or are you going to need spells and/or camped focus? I find it to be a fun puzzle when I run Harbinger, but it’s something to keep in mind. For a Warcaster with 10 focus, you’ll spend a lot of time thinking about how little that spreads around.
Harbinger has more than a few good options on her spell list, giving a fair amount of flexibility. Just keep in mind what I said above–there are still easy ways to feel Focus-strapped despite her Focus stack of 10. I’ll run through them in some rough order of usefulness.
Rebuke: Others may say that Crusader’s Call is Harbinger’s signature spell, but I find that Rebuke is my clutch spell. If you’re not packing an Arc Node, then Crusader’s will be your primary spell you’re using. Rebuke lets you stop orders and power attacks, and is an upkeep. It’s great for stopping that unit of Weaponmasters or for keeping a Warjack with a neat power attack ability from getting the job done. It also effectively reduces threat ranges, as without access to Run moves on units (that’s from an order, remember) and additional distance on charges, you’ve got a solid bit of control with this one spell.
Crusader’s Call: Simple. +2” movement for any Faction models on her side that charge. Army-wide threat extension in a spell. Lets your infantry get the alpha strike on an opponent, and can enable some speedier play across the board. Integral to her approach, as starting trades favorably makes her Martyrdom ability all the more powerful.
Purification: Removes all upkeeps, continuous effects, and animi within her massive control range of 20”. The most important thing to keep in mind is that it affects your own stuff too, so don’t upkeep Rebuke on a turn when you’re going to use this. Makes the difference against some forces, against others it’s rarely used as it costs 4 Focus.
Guided Hand: Gives additional dice on model/unit’s first attack roll of each turn. Can be good situationally against high defense models, but I rarely find myself casting this one. Nice to have in the bag for moments when it’s critical that your unit hits.
Cataclysm: Just a funny nuke spell. It’s potential for huge damage is present, but rarely will you see that happen unless things have taken a poor turn. The trick is that it’s POW 20, but reduced in POW for each inch between the target and Harbinger. So toss it thru an Arc Node and see it be absolutely feeble. But if you are up close and personal, it can be a humorous way to destroy something. Ultimately though, you’ll find it too costly most of the time–and not to mention likely to guide you toward spots where your lowly-armored and defensed Warcaster is too close to a foe.
Watch the enemy struggle with this one. It’s one of my favorite Feats in Protectorate, despite it being limited to the 10” command range. The Feat is simple: enemy models within her command that end their advance closer to her than they were take a POW 14 fire damage roll. You’ll notice that while this won’t save you against Warjacks or Beasts, POW 14 is absolutely the right number to just vaporize infantry.
Given that power, that’s why I’m guessing that a slide toward a bit more infantry in the game will cause new Protectorate players to look at Harbinger. Keep in mind the critical thing when using the Feat. She’s going to be standing really, really close. Command 10” is only so far, so against forces with any modicum of ranged threat–or fast Warjack/Beast lists–the Feat can even get close to being a trap.
However, when it works it really works. Opponents can go into a long tank session thinking about how they’re going to proceed. That’s advantage alone. I tend to use it to get a scenario advantage–make it so I can dominate a zone or flag and keep it so my opponent cannot reasonably get a unit in range to contest. It’s a nuance Feat that might be contributing even if/when not a single enemy model dies to it. Don’t over-estimate its power, but also don’t under-estimate it either.
There are a lot of different Harbinger lists out there, and they all follow their own notion. Two things are critical to think about when constructing the list, so I’ll address those two first. First is what targets for Martyrdom are you including, and second is how are you keeping Harbinger safe?
Picking the right models for her Martyrdom isn’t as easy as it seems. While she can use it on any infantry model, some are clearly better than others. I personally plan on a few solos that are hard to remove with her–that way they become deeply frustrating to the opponent. I’ve been toying with the Allegiants of the Order of the Fist lately, as they’re quite difficult to kill to begin with due to high defense. However, the more I do that the more I think you need to entice your opponent. You want a good middle ground. Models that are not trivial to remove (so Harbinger doesn’t immediately spend all her life), but models that are still things the opponent wants to clear off the board. Knights Exemplar seem to be in a very good spot for this purpose.
As for keeping her alive, more than a few Protectorate players are doing what the Combo Smite podcast referred to as “Fortress Harbinger”. You recognize that to pull off her Feat turn effectively, you need to invest some serious points in defense. That means a Vigilant (for +4 DEF due to cover), a Devout (immunity to spells if base-to-base and defensive strike to clear things that reach Harbinger), and some Shield Guard models to eat up shots (Rhoven and his Honor Guard are the popular ones–a relatively cheap pair of Shield Guards plus some game utility with them). If you’re going to be playing Harbinger aggressively for scenario, then some plan for defense seems to be absolutely critical.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with this list:
- Harbinger of Menoth -24
- Heirophant 3
- Vigilant 9
- Revenger 10
- Crusader 10
- Reckoner 16
- Scourge of Heresy 16
- Allegiant of the Order of the Fist 3
- Allegiant of the Order of the Fist 3
- Vassal of Menoth 3
- Wrack 1
- Wrack 1
- Vassal Mechanik 1
- Choir (max) 6
- Flame Bringers (max) 17
It scrimps a little on keeping her absolutely perfectly safe, in exchange for a variety of threats. Keeping the Flame Bringers and Monks up front to be hard to remove but threatening models starts the exchange as Harbinger moves into position. It has solid troop removal between the Flame Bringers and the Scourge of Heresy if I need that, and ample heavy warjacks to try to get to a bully situation in attrition. The Revenger does a great job at getting Rebuke out for her and then blocking lanes–his repulsion shield can be very solid. With this build, I’m using Martyrdom sparingly, so it means lacking magic defense on Harbinger isn’t the end of the world. The goal is to get up, get an imbalance in scoring thanks to an aggressive Feat, and then seep nasty models to contest the foe while locking down threats to my own scoring progress.
For players who want a bit more of a general build, I might recommend something that uses two units of Knights Exemplar. They’re cheap but powerful weapon master infantry, and you can keep a few critical ones alive with Martyrdom. Also, I think that Holy Zealots can be a laugh with her, as she can keep the Monolith bearer alive to use its mini-feat. Add in the Hand of Judgement to her Warjack package along with Aiyana and Holt (and the Attendant Priest to make them Friendly Faction) and the Zealots can do some surprising damage but cannot be removed as long as Harbinger can pay life to keep the Monolith alive. He’s usually the weak point in their strategy in other lists–her making him hard to remove is critical. Both options would let newer Protectorate players explore other pathways too: High Reclaimer loves Knights Exemplar, while Vindictus, Malekus, and Feora3 can do some nasty things with Zealots in their own right.
New Player Suitability
I think Harbinger is a fantastic warcaster for new players to try out, but perhaps not for the reasons that many of you might want. She is not an easy Warcaster to master. Goodness knows I’m still floundering with her too. What Harbinger does for newer players is teach some critical lessons that are good for new players. In particular, she teaches two things: 1) how to stay safe, and 2) how scenario can be played.
It’s good to field a squishy warcaster or warlock early in your career as a Warmachine and Hordes player, as you don’t want to be overconfident. Harbinger needs to play up, at least until she uses her Feat, and thus you’ll learn the most valuable skill in the game: how to keep a fragile warcaster alive when they’re dangerously close to the enemy. It’ll vary by list, but you’ll soon start to get a sense for how much defense she needs against various types of foes. And once you sense that, future warcasters you field will be much safer thanks to the practice she gives.
Second, a critical mistake many new players make is not “going for it” with scenario. Harbinger might seem like an attrition warcaster because she keeps models alive, but that’s a losing race. She’s a scenario warcaster plain and simple. Use her strategically to keep the enemy from scoring and getting you rolling on scenario points. With the right scenario that has a Dominate for 2 points rule and good play, Harbinger can net a 4 point round (two on hers, two on the subsequent opponent’s turn) simply by herself. By running her, newer players will learn to commit fast and effectively to scenario. Better to do that and lose those early games with her than do the opposite: get beaten on scenario because you’re still focused on assassination and/or attrition.
The main thing that I would say to a newer player about Harbinger is that assembling her model is a huge pain. It’s not for the faint-of-heart in modeling. Once you get her together, she’s awesome. And she’s a great learning piece for certain lessons in Warmachine and Hordes. Worth checking out, as long as you know what you’re getting into.
Anyhow, enjoy trying out The Harbinger of Menoth if you dare. For more Harbinger action, you can check out my blog at www.chalkboardwar.com.