fredag 26 juni 2015

eVlad - The Dark Champion the Motherland deserves

Today I'm going to write an article about one of my favourite casters: Vlad2!

eeeh.. right. I couldn't find a decent pic, so this will do.

I rarely see this guy getting played, and apart from Jason Flanzer talking about him Here I don't hear all that much about him anymore, so I thought I'd put a change to that.

Vlad2 was the first caster that made me feel in full control of the game. He has so many great tools and options up his sleeve and the threat ranges are long enough for me to be able to dictate the pace of the engagement in most matchups. He truly is a joy to play simply because every game with him is uniqe and requires you to use your abilities as a player in different ways.

So what does he do for Khador in a tournament environment? A few really neat things actually:

 For starters he is the best drop we have into Gaspy2. Between Wind Blast to take away his clouds, Hand of Fate and Transference to make sure attacks on high value targets do what they have to and the excellent threat range our models get under his feat he really has all the tools to give the cursed Lich Lord a run for his money. He also doesn't die easily to Gaspys feat thanks to Might of Kings (unless you're knocked down. Look out for that Helldiver!) and actually can make short work of Gaspy himself if he gets to him thanks to Balefire on his sword.

He's also a really good drop into Vayl2, however he requires a slightly different army build for that (however you can compromise a build that can handle both Vayl2 and Gaspy2 ok). The big thing here is that everything in your army can potentially make huge holes in Legion beasts and be a pain in the ass to remove after having done so. The battle plan is to push the Legion army back because they want to minimize the effect of your alpha and then jamming them there and following up with more heavy hitters.

That said he can deal with a lot of opponents thanks to his fluent and adaptable playstyle.

The Legion drop

In contrast to some popular Khador casters it's what Vlad brought with him that sets the limit for what he can and can't do, moreso than for others. First off, let's look at the list I brought to last years WTC:

Vladimir Tzepesci, the Dark Champion (*5pts)
• Juggernaut (7pts)
Doom Reavers (Leader and 5 Grunts) (6pts)
Greylord Outriders (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Iron Fang Pikemen (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
• Iron Fang Pikemen Officer & Standard (2pts)
Iron Fang Uhlans (Leader and 4 Grunts) (11pts)
Eiryss, Angel of Retribution (3pts)
Gorman di Wulfe, Rogue Alchemist (2pts)
Iron Fang Kovnik (2pts)
Man-o-war Drakhun (with dismount) (5pts)

This is a dedicated anti-eVayl list. It has some game against Gaspy2 as well, but it's not the best list for that matchup.

To make it better in the Legion matchup I have taken out some othewise great things to have, like Eliminators or Nyss, but I'll go into how Vlad makes them awesome later.

As it turned out I played this list 3 times, 2 vs Gaspy2 and once vs Vayl2 and ended up 2-1 with it. Pretty solid.

First off, this list cannot at all handle Lylyth2, and Saeryn is a problem if she doesn't feat defensively. However, if your other list is a shooting heavy list Saeryn is unlikely to get dropped.

So, what makes this a great Legion drop? Doom Reavers, Pikemen and Uhlans all tear up Legion beasts like it's their job, if you can get them there in one piece. Your feat enables you to deliver them and puts their damage output up three notches. Eiryss2 needs to be in here to shoot off Admonition and Tenacity. She's important, so don't get her killed before you feat. Gorman is in there because he's a nucieance to the Legion player and can decide the outcome of a game with a well timed Black Oil. The Outriders doesn't do terribly much in this matchup, but are important none the less as they can clear any jams the Legion player tries to protect his beasts with. You can also use them to block LOS to your Uhlans and the Drakhun. The IFK also mainly clear jamming lessers, but he is also a great Feat target in this list, plus some added utility with his abilities. The Drakhun is just money with eVlad and one of the best Feat targets Khador has to offer. And becuase the feat is in effect for a round, his Counter-Charge hurts alot the turn after you feat. I chose to go with the regular UA for the Pikemen becuase:
a) Pathfinder is important
b) the minifeat synergizes oh so well with the feat. Feated IFP will walk 9" and Shield Wall after charging 12" and will now be DEF 16 ARM 21 jamming even further into the Legion lines, and are difficult even for boosting Legion heavies to remove reliably.

The plan

First turn is huge in this matchup, but you can never count on it because Vayl2 usually has +1 on the roll. If you get first turn you catch the Legion player on the back foot and he has some difficult decisions to make already, because you have the speed to position for a turn 2 feat. Let's do the math: 7" deploy + 16" run + 16" feat turn charge threat and you will have Uhlans in his deployment zone top of 2, tearing up his beasts. Most Legion players will stay defensive and not come at you, which is the right call. 
I'm always looking to feat on turn 2 in this matchup as you want the swing to happen early so he can't sandpaper you away. This means you will take some losses for one turn and then you will be on him. You want to make it hard for him to get your Uhlans and the Drakhun as they have the longest threat and are also hitting the hardest. I usually screen them with the Outriders since they aren't super important in the matchup. You don't want to screen your infantry, because you will just give him good targets to place Scathers off of. 
I usually aim to incapacitate 2 heavies on my feat turn, because that is realistically what you will get to. You might end up with less than that because of the random nature of the feat, but you will generally be able to tear up 2 beasts pretty good, if not kill them. You then want to position the models not charging into the enemy as a strong followup, which is key. The Legion beasts will struggle with the enhanced stats of your feated charging models, and then you get to charge them again with fresh troops. 
Let's take a moment to consider how awesome the Feat makes some models defensively:

Uhlans go to DEF 16 ARM 20, 22 if they have Defensive Line (which they should have) and 5 boxes. Armour Piercing Angels will still kill them, but other than that nothing is really guaranteed to oneshot them, and the Angels still have trouble hitting them. 

MoW Drakhun just goes nuts. DEF 14 ARM 22 10 boxes, and if you got the dismount (which you also should, seriously, it's hard to get more worth out of 1 point) 8 more boxes after that. DEF 14 forces them to boost to hit, so he will take less attacks than he otherwise would. It will cost the Legion player alot of resources to get rid of this guy altogether. 

IFP is similar to Uhlans at DEF 16 ARM 21 (because feat turn is likely to be your minifeat turn as well) being 1 box infantry they are easier to deal with though. 

Doom Reavers go to DEF 16 ARM 17 you mostly feat on these guys because they hit like trucks. 

Dealing with jams

Legion players will do almost anything to stop you getting to their heavies. Therefore you need to position to clear jams as well as threaten to tear his throat out. 

The ususal suspects are spawned Stingers or Shredders, Raeks or Hex Hunters/Legionnaires. Here is where the Outriders shine. They can both shield your valuable Uhlans and clear them a path should your enemy try to block it. Legion infantry is generally not a problem, because they will die to Outrider sprays not to mention impact attacks from feated Uhlans. Lessers are more troublesome, but the Outriders handles them pretty well, with the IFK as backup. Raeks is another story. Here you need some serious hitting power and the Outriders can't realiably deal with that many High-def boxes, so here I would consider the IFP. They are excellent, because you can feat on 1 or 2 and lead CMAs with the feated models, kill the Raek and then minifeat to get out of the way of the Uhlans. 

On turn 1 I always put Hand of Fate on the unit I think will be doing the unjamming, let them do their thing and then feat and swap it to most probably the Uhlans, or the IFP if they have better targets. 

The Long Game

So what does all this get you? It generally gets you an engagement on the Legion player's side of the board where he will struggle to get anything that will survive a round of beating into a zone. Therefore Scenario is very important in this matchup. Every CP counts. This is also why I have chosen to go with a Juggernaut for the battlegroup. That guy kills heavies dead, unlike the Berzerker and can clear a zone if he needs to. Drago on the other hand can be made an argument for, but he's 1 more point for less-to-similar hitting power and less durability. The increased MAT and Affinity is nice though.  

I ususally think of this list as a wave attack:

The first wave are generally your feat targets, plus any other models that were in range to charge. Usually Uhlans, the Drakhun and some Doom Reavers or IFP. The first wave sets the line of engagement and forces a reaction.

The second wave are the guys from those units that didn't get to charge. They should have positioned to attack whatever is now trying to deal with your first wave. I also count Gorman to the second wave, becuase a Black Oil is huge in the attrition game at this stage. The second wave's mission is to cripple the enemy's ability to hurt you in any significant way.

The third wave are comprised of your Jack, any remaining Outriders, the IFK and any guys that couldn't charge with the second wave. If they are needed, the third wave will insure total victory on all fronts.

While all this is going on you should be able to score some CPs. The Outriders usually have nothing better to do after your feat turn, so they and other models of the third wave are a great tool to remove contesting models. Vlad should stay reasonably safe, however camping 3-4 focus + Might of Kings ususally means Vayl can't kill you reliably herself. The Ravagores are therefore an important target for the second wave to ensure they never get to shoot Vlad. If you fail to take them out or tie them up significantly you will have to keep Vlad somewhere safe, preferably behind a wall or in a trench, but a forest or hill will make due in a pinch. I usually win my games against Legion on scenario with this list, so take all the CPs you can.

Lets talk army building!

Alright, let's move along into some army building discussion, as the above list is almost exclusively focused on taking down eVayl. So what do I like with the Dark Champion if I'm bulding him as an all comers list?

Man-O-War Drakhun: This guy deserves a place in every Vlad2 list. He's a good model to begin with, but Vlad2 makes him into a beast. Again, one of the absolutely best feat targets. You should always get the dismount for him as well, for only 1 point it's well worth it.

Kayazy Eliminators: Preferably 2 units! Seriously, these girls are insane under the feat. They are also a very  real assassination threat if the opposing caster is within 13,5" of them. With the feat and Gang they go up to MAT 12, P+S 14 and have 2 attacks each. Charging through models and ignoring free strikes. If you can get Hand of Fate in there as well it gets ridiculous and then there is always Transference so you can boost the non-charge attack damage roll, or the attack rolls for that matter (getting screwed by dice sucks). They also tear up heavies, as they are P+S 18 if they use their Combo-strike. Or you can clear 4 infantry models with them and stand on DEF 20 against melee attacks and ARM 14, 5 boxes. Do you think all this is worth 3 points of your army? Then go buy yourself some murder-twins, silly!

Iron Fang Uhlans: Ironically the best Uhlan caster is not Vlad3, in my opinion it's Vlad2. I usually take a min unit at least. Why I hear you say? Because they really like the feat. Think about it this way: During feat turn they are like a charging Juggernaut (and costs the same). That threats 16". At MAT 11. Getting all 3 attacks with boosted damage. That can impact attack through impeding models. For no Focus cost. Interested yet? These guys pretty much oneround a heavy, especially with Hand of Fate (might as well throw it in there to make sure).

Greylord Outriders: Vlad also synergize well with our Light cavalry. Hand of Fate is just what these guys ordered and I always take a max unit of Outriders. That's how great they are. There are also occations when you want to feat on these guys, especially in the Gaspy2 matchup. It won't help them hit or damage their targets, but their threat range go up to 20" which enables you to keep them back and safe, but still be relevant. 

Doom Reavers: These guys are good with Vlad for a couple of reasons. First off, his feat is one of only a few buffs that work on them thanks to Spell Ward. And what a buff it is. MAT 10 P+S 16 Berzerk Weaponmasters sound ridiculous to you? They are also good in the Gaspy2 matchup as a first wave, since they can't be excarnated they can do some nice early work, but make sure to keep your other vulnerable infantry out of Excarnate range as they can certainly still be eradicated by Purges. 

 Nyss + Valachev: A great all-round unit for a great all-round caster. These guys are awesome on their own with Valachev giving them Zephyr, but when you add the Feat and Hand of Fate into the mix it gets ridiculous fast and their adaptable nature of both strong shooting and melee power synergize very well with how Vlad2 wants to play. Have you ever tried Hand of Fated Nyss? If not, please do. It's a pleasure. You will have to look after Valachev though since he is the enabler of this awesomeness. 

Iron Fang Pikemen: First off, I always take the regular UA with Vlad2. The synergy you get from the minifeat is awesome and Relentless Charge is very useful. Hand of Fate is just what IFP needs to shine as well. You'll notice I bring up HoF alot. That's because it's awesome and you should cycle it each round to get maximum use out of it, it really makes all Khador models tick. These guys are always solid and Vlad2 does some really nice things for them. 

Then there is always the ususal support solos: Eiryss2, Gorman, Saxon Orrik (important if you are running Doom Reavers and/or Eliminators), Orin Midwinter, Widowmaker Marksman, Iron Fang Kovnik (very nice feat target) as well as nice-to-have things like Widowmakers (usually don't take these guys if I take Nyss) or, as an alternative to the Nyss, Winter Guard Rifle Corps + Joe. I would probably take Nyss over the WGRC module though, unless they are a must have for my other list. 

A sample army list might look like this:

Vladimir Tzepesci, the Dark Champion (*5pts)
• Drago (8pts)
Man-O-War Drakhun (with dismount) (5pts)

Eiryss, Angel of Retribution (3pts)
Saxon Orrik (2pts)
Doom Reavers (Leader and 5 Grunts) (6pts)
Greylord Outriders (Leader and 4 Grunts) (9pts)
Iron Fang Uhlans (Leader and 2 Grunts) (7pts)
Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters (Cylena & 9 Grunts) (10pts)
• Koldun Kapitan Valachev (2pts)
Kayazy Eliminators (Leader & Grunt) (3pts)

I would be quite comfortable taking this into a tournament and play into a variety of different matchups. You can easily re-distribute the points of the list. You could, for example, take the Doom Reavers out and put in another unit of Eliminators along with a couple of extra solos, or a unit of Widowmakers if you change Drago into a Juggernaut. You could also easily swap Nyss+Valachev for IFP+UA+Kovnik if you want it to play better into heavy armour (although the Nyss are almost as good with their Weaponmaster claymores) and it would still preform nicely. 

The Gaspy2 matchup

So let's discuss the Gaspy2 matchup.

First off I would like to highlight important units to have in your army for this matchup specifically:

Greylord Outriders:  Nothing clears Banes like Outriders with Hand of Fate. Absolutely must have in this matchup.

Doom Reavers: are great here simply because of Spell Ward. No excarnate = no insane purge threat, so these guys usually form the vanguard and do the early work on whatever they can get their Fellblades on. 

Nyss + Valachev: While they can't engage the Bane Thralls, Nyss under Valachev are excellent for killing Bane Knights. With Hand of Fate you are now killing them on average with single shots and Zephyr let's you escape retaliation from the rest of the unit. The threat of a large CRA onto Gaspy himself is also great to have.

Eiryss2: First off, she is vital in other Cryx matchups like B&S or pDenny, but she is important here too, because she is the only one that can enable a melée assassination on Gaspy, shooting off Hellbound. She's also a RAT 9 sniper and killing dudes is always good against Cryx.

Uhlans: Yep, I want them here as well, but a min unit is enough. They can take out any heavies, if they brought any, and are great for taking out Tartarus for example and can kill a fair few models between impact attacks and charges. They also kill Gaspy dead if Eiryss succeeds in shooting off Hellbound.

So how do you play the matchup? Cautiosly. I usually send in Doom Reavers first, preferably 2 units and hold back everything else excarnateable so they can do their work without getting Purged to oblivion which is tricky in and of itself. They will eventually die, but they can hopefully get some work done and get the ball rolling. You still want to threaten any scenario zones with your Uhlans, but 16" is a long way and you need to use that to your advantage. Uhlans are still very excarnateable, even though it gets dicey, but Puppet Strings makes it quite likely. It's only after this clash that you want your Outriders and Nyss to engage, which is why it can be important to feat on the Outriders in this matchup. If they hang back they might not have that much of an impact, which you must make sure they have as quickly as possible after the Doom Reavers have faded.

When the Doom Reavers are gone, you start wearing down the Banes for real, with the Nyss and the Outriders. Between them you should kill most of the Banes. Also keep a look out for taking out the Biles, as they are a strong tool against your list. Remember to use Wind Blast if he puts up clouds, the key to winning against Gaspy is to take away his options (and his Banes) while not loosing your caster to the feat.

The Helldiver is super important to keep track of, as a successful headbutt/slam into Vlad will loose you the game. You want to make it as hard as possible for him to even get there, so keeping your heavy just over 3" in front of Vlad will go a long way. He can still run one of his own models to slam into you, so that's why you need to kill alot of dudes quickly. Also remember that Vlad has Defensive Strike, should the Helldiver slam Vlad directly, or walk up to Headbutt him. It's not much, but at least you have a chance to cripple an important system. Best not let him get to there though.

I usually save the feat and the Uhlans for as long as I can, just to threaten an assassination, or if I can get hold of a bunch of important stuff like Tartarus, Darragh, an Arcnode etc. Eiryss2 is key, so keep her safe. She can sit at 12" from the frontmost bane and contribute to the attrition game with her shot until she can get a bead on Gaspy. Her threat is 19", so be careful when you position her and keep in mind what areas you want to threat. Ideally you want her to be out of excarnate-purge threat from the Biles. If Gaspy walks into it you can always pull the trigger and see if it works out. I prefer the Uhlans to go in on him if you successfully remove Hellbound, but Doom Reavers will do if he exposes himself eary, or even Nyss Hunters in the late game. You will usually have to clean up some crap in front of Gaspy to get to him, but nothing that Outriders and Nyss can't handle, however Though on the Bane Thralls might make it a dicey proposition.

If you haven't screwed up and gotten Vlad knocked down Gaspys feat will likely go into your heavy, or just trying to kill as much of your stuff as possible to even the field. Gaspy can be quite hard to deal with lategame, so make sure you got Eiryss2 around and put the Lich back in the ground. Transference works wonders if you can't shoot Hellbound off since you can still boost your damage rolls.

There is actually a way to kill Gaspy in melee even if you can't shoot Hellbound off. It requires Saxon Orrik, Doom Reavers and your feat.

1) Saxon grants Pathfinder to the chosen unit of Doom Reavers
2) Vlad feats on said unit of Doom Reavers and moves up to apply Transference
3) Doom Reaver 1 Runs close to Gaspy, preferably into B2B.
4) Doom Reaver 2 Charges Doom Reaver 1 and makes sure to keep Gaspy in his melée range and LOS
5) Doom Reaver 3 Charges Doom Reaver 1 or 2 and makes sure to keep Gaspy in his melée range and LOS and so on....
6) Doom Reaver 2 kills Doom Reaver 1 with his Charge attack and Berzerks into Gaspy, boosting with Transference
7) Doom Reaver 3 kills Doom Reaver 2 with his Charge attack and Berzerks into Gaspy(or, if he also charged Doom Reaver 1, redirects his attack to Gaspy). And so on.

Doom Reaver 1 can be from another unit activating before, so as to grant the Back Strike bonus.

I have never preformed this maneuver myself, but it looks hilarious on paper and I'll be sure to try it if I ever get the chance.

Enough of that piece of jank. In all seriousness the way you win this matchup is through attrition, since your army excels at it and also by keeping your caster safe. Sometimes you need a finisher, but if Gaspy is all he has left you will be able to win on Scenario pretty quickly.

Playing the Dark Champion

So why is Vlad2 good? I would say it's his adaptable playstyle that lets you analyze the situation and come up with the suitable response, and the potentially huge atrittion swing that should come with your feat. However it takes player skill to identify valuable targets in the enemy list, the best way to neutralyze those targets and really, creating good matchups for the variety of units you bring. Vlad2 was the first caster that I actually swapped sides with my units on turn one if I weren't happy with what they were going up against. Of course, the variety of high SPD units you bring with him makes this easier. You also need to know when to pop your feat and when you should hold on to it. Usually you want to feat early to create a snowball effect, but sometimes that's not the case. 

Another thing that is quite important is to be aware of your threat ranges, because they are so long. You need to be able to tell if your Uhlans are within 16" of that enemy heavy, or if your Doom Reavers are within 14" of that cluster of infantry. Another challange is to identify targets for the feat. This is not always as easy as it sounds, and it comes down to priorities. When you roll only 4 models for your feat you need to know what target is the most important and what target you can take the risk of not killing fully. 

When you got him down though, Vlad2 is an attrition machine that rarely runs out of gas. He has some bad matchups though:

Lylyth2: The only Legion Warlock I wouldn't consider dropping Vlad2 into. Her superior threat ranges forces you to feat defensively and try to run to engage her greatest assets, which really sucks and even through that she can kill alot of your stuff. This is a very bad matchup for Vlad2, possibly the worst.

Cygnar: Khador has a general problem with Cygnar, and so do Vlad2 although it's not as bad as the Lylyth2 matchup. You can certainly make a game out of it, but beware that he has trouble killing the Stormwall because of his reliance on single wound infantry. The Uhlans only go so far. 

Protectorate of Menoth: More specifically Harby. He has very little going for him in that matchup when Harby can prevent his units from charging. If you feat you can go in with Uhlans and the Drakhun on her feat, but Enliven is gonna suck because nothing else is likely to make it close to his Jacks and you have nothing to prevent Martyrdom apart from volume of attacks. 

Those are by far the worst, and you usually have a fighting chance in most other matchups.

So what would I pair him with? Butcher3 is indeed a good second list here, as he covers all the shortcomings of Vlad2 and currently is the only one to do so in the Khadoran stable of Casters in my opinion. While Reckoning doesn't really change anything for Vlad2, it might shake some things up for the other list and we might see someone else emerge that can handle these matchups, probably with a Rager at his/her side. Thinking about it, Irusk1 could be our man. 

General Tips & Tricks

With regular IFP and Outriders you have excellent jam-clearing as the Outriders can just Light-cav out of the way and the IFP can minifeat to make room.

Don't underestimate the Nyss' melée power. Under feat they are MAT 9, P+S 12 Weaponmasters that threat 13,5" with Pathfinder and can see through forests. That's like more accurate, faster Great Bears. 

You usually want to allocate nothing turn one and get all 3 of your upkeeps out (that is Hand of Fate, Assail on the Jack and Transference). It's almost always worth it to upkeep these spells throughout the game and it's ALWAYS worth it to cycle Hand of Fate. That shit cray.

Learn the Cavalry rules. You are going to be playing Cavalry alot with Vlad2 so you better know what they can do. Impact Attacks is a very important part to know, as well as Tall in the saddle and the fact that you get +2 MAT on the charge attack.

 The Drakhun get the Feat bonus on your opponents turn as well, so if he trigger Counter-Charge he will be sure to regret it.

If you feat on a unit Leader they get +3 CMD for CMD checks, which basically makes you pass them automatically. It also allows you to spread out further, but be aware that at the start of your next turn your CMD goes down to normal and anyone outside of formation will not get to attack.

Other than that I can only encourage you to learn how to weigh the flow of battle and getting a feel for what course of action is the strongest, but that can only come with practice. 

Vlad2 is the caster I have had the most fun with playing this game and would thoroughly recommend him as he is very rewarding to the player once you learn his if's and but's.

That's all for now! I'd be more than happy to recieve any feedback on this article, so please let me know how it was for you.

Over 'n out!

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