New warcasters are always exciting, especially when they bring something new to the faction which Zerkova2 certainly does. Lets go over her base stats to begin with: She is SPD 6, MAT 6, DEF 15, ARM 15, CMD 9, FOCUS 7 and has 16 boxes. She retains her Immunity: Cold, but somehow loose Pathfinder. In some of my testgames I have actually used that to my advantage, with her placed behind a wall she can cast Occult Whispers, and whatever else she wants and then issue a charge order and just charge straight into the wall, going nowhere, while her Reaver Guards get to charge stuff. This is highly situational though and generally to have pathfinder is better, but alas.
She has Inspiration [Greylord] which essentially makes Greylords in her CMD fearless which is of huge importance (especially since she brings two abominations herself). Also remember that any unit Valachev joins is considered a Greylord unit as long as he's alive which can very useful.
Her entire unit also comes with Sacred Ward on their cards, which is awesome. A lot of spell assassinations don't work on her.
She also has Self-sacrifice to her Reaver Guards, which basically gives her the ability to tank 2 extra attacks if someone is going for an assassination. Remember that the Reaver Guards need to be within 3" of her for this to work.
The Reaver Guards also has Counter-charge which can be useful.
Her only weapon, the Orgoth Blade will seldom be used, but it is P+S 12 and has Blessed, so it's not too shabby. Being a spellslinger though, means she will do most of her damage with her awesome spells:
Banishing Ward Retained from her old version, this spell removes upkeep spells on target friendly model/unit and they can't be targeted by spells or animi while the spell is active. This is very useful, especially in the B&S matchup, as you don't need Eiryss2 in your Cryx drop anymore (and Khador really wants Eiryss2 in other lists)
Dissolution Bolt RNG 8, POW 12 this is her cheap bolt. If you have nothing better to do you can always throw out a couple of these to do some work. It also comes with the added benefit of preventing channeling through a model hit, which can be really good in certain matchups.
Hoarfrost RNG 8, POW 14 and crit stationary. This spell is good on paper, but even better with Zerkova because of Occult Whispers. 4 dice attack rolls makes the crit so much more probable, and the potential of this spell skyrocket. Realistically you will only have a 4 dice Hoarfrost on her feat round though, as you are probably going to want to upkeep one spell at least (and I'm not a fan of Sylys with her, will go into that a bit later).
Occult Whispers What makes Outriders even better than Hand of Fate? This spell does. All Friendly Faction models that make magical attacks in Zerkovas control area gets an additional die on the attack roll. This is including Zerkova herself which makes her boosted Hoarfrost so good. Also, you get really accurate Frostbite sprays, Ice Cages, Harm or Flame Blasts(depending on where Valachev is). In my opinion this spell defines Zerkova2 and together with her feat practically forces you to play with Magic using models and also makes her want to use Valachev to maximise the use you get from this spell and the feat.
Sacrificial Lamb Probably the least exciting spell on her card. Together with the Koldun Lord it allows you to get a Disrupted warjack up to 2 focus at least, but that use is very situational. I don't really see her using it to fuel a multitude of Warjacks either, since we're Khador.
Telgesh Mark And now, the spell that makes Zerkova2 work. Finally PP are giving Khador access to another Arc Node, and Zerkova really needs it to function, otherwise Hoarfrost and Dissolution Bolt are pretty much dead spells. Khador have some really nice options when it comes to decide where you are going to put this spell:
Kayazy Eliminators tried and tested by Fiona the Black, the murder twins are a great target for the Mark. Hard to get rid of for most factions thanks to Stealth, 5 boxes and high def is fantastic and Acrobtics make them impossible to tie up and block. They also murder face for only 3 points.
War Dog (and/or Nyss Hunters) Yep. Another reason not to take Sylys is the fact that our trusty canine has Hunter, which means he (and by extension, Zerkova) can see through forests if he recieves the Mark. He is also SPD 7, 5 boxes, Tough and is only 1 meager point. Definatley worth it imo.
Gorman di Wulfe (or Assault Kommandos) The Gas Mask rule makes Gorman a great candidate for the Mark. To be able to see through clouds is a great abillity and it's not like he's a bad solo if the opponent doens't bring any clouds. I mostly recommend taking cheap solos/units as Mark targets that can fill other roles as well for you if their niche ability is not needed and therefore I don't really recommend AKs to fill this role.
Clamjacks Want a durable arcnode that the opponent will have trouble removing? Look no further than the Spriggan/Devastator/Demolisher chassis. Bulldoze make it very hard to tie them up and they can take a high number of heavy hits before going down. Personally I'm not really considering this option yet, because I want a colossal in her battlegroup for added punch and a mobile bunker, however this is a solid choice and I can see it working well.
Feat: Arcane Convergence makes all Friendly Faction models in Zerkovas control area immediately cast one spell, without spending focus, performing a special action or a special attack. So, what this means all of your friendly faction spellcasters get to cast a spell for free, including Zerkova herself. This is huge for a number of reasons. First off, the threat range of our spells becomes ridiculous. Outriders can run for 18" and then spray for a total threatrange of 26". The threat of Ice Cage is 22" from a running Ternion. Aiyana + Valachev can run, then zephyr and then harm for a total of 25" threat. All of this, with an additional dice on the attack roll and a free Hoarfrost from Zerkova herself makes for a very real assassination threat that is hard to defend against, apart from putting so much meat between your caster and the Greylords that they can't physically get to them. It is also one hell of an alpha strike.
It also has great attrition potential. If the enemy has jammed you, you can Occult Whispers + Feat first and spray everything in front of you and then activate the units and attack again.
You can also activate the units first to do their thing (without Occult Whispers) and maybe do some damage, and then feat for even more. The Outriders Light cav move is excellent for this as they can move, spray, lightcav and then spray again.
Also note that the feat circumvents effects that prevents you from doing *Attacks or *Actions, like pDennys feat or Crippling Grasp, since you are in fact not doing a *Attack/Action.
I think you will primarily use the feat for attrition, but the assassination potential is great to have in your pocket.
To recap, Zerkova2 actually fixes some neat things for Khador. She is one hell of a Cryx drop and with Banishing Ward she opens up Eiryss2 for your other list. She can probably take on a multitude of matchups though, especially with a Colossal in her battlegroup as I intend to play her. I was very disappointed with Behemoth in my test games, since she does so little for him. Victor seems good with her and I will make sure to try her out with Conquest as well. Between Hoarforst crits and accurate Ice Cages you can actually make some plays on using Stationary as a great tool, especially if you are going for an assassination.
And most of all: SHE IS SO FUN TO PLAY! I was lucky enough to get my hands on her during Lock n Load and she really is a blast. I can potentially see her taking a place among our top tournament casters, but further playtesting is required. All in all though, a great caster.
Ah yes, Sylys! Here's the deal. Arcane Secrets don't work on Zerkova, because you should always put up Occult Whispers as the first spell, which uses up the Arcane Secrets S&P effect. She doesn't need the increased range on spells (even though it might be nice at times) becuase of Telgesh Mark and then you are pretty much just taking Sylys for the free upkeep. While that may be worth it at times, Sylys has some great uses elsewhere in our faction and Zerkova doesn't really need him to do her thing. Plus, the War Dog is amazing with her.
Ruin is a great warjack. I have pretty much nothing else to say, but lets look a little closer on him.
SPD 4, STR 12, MAT 8, DEF 10, ARM 20
Black Iron Mace - P+S 18
Dispel Removes upkeep spells on a model/unit hit immediately. Great for things like Arcane Shiled, Defenders Ward, Inviolable Resolve etc.
Affinity[Zoktavir] He gets Boundless Charge while in Butchers control area. A Huge boost to the otherwise slow Khadoran warjacks. Especially with Butcher3 where he reaches a whooping 14" threat range between this ability and Energizer. Only with the Butchers though.
Orgoth Seal If the enemy targets him with an offensive spell, the spell suffers -3 RNG, which can catch some opponents off guard. Also, if they hit him with an offensive spell whatever hit him takes d6 damage. 1/3 to kill Aiyana if she uses Kiss of Lyliss on you is not bad. The last part you will have to be aware of though, because it doesn't specify enemies. If your Greylord spray touches Ruin and you hit him, the unfortunate Greylord will take d6 damage.
Soul Taker Here is where the money is at. Combined with his affinity he can go and kill as many living models that gives up a soul as he can reach, without any focus. My record so far is 3 Vengers and 5 Errants. Having extra attacks from the souls are great when you're sending him in against a heavy as well and with buffs you can even make him capable of one-rounding colossals.
One of the best Warjacks in Khador right here, and with a quite cheap pricetag for what he does as well. This guy will do great with a number of our casters, not just the Butchers. Strakhov Overrun shenanigans will be epic. I also see alot of potential together with Vlad3. Infernal Machine (abomination and terror stacks btw) and the feat means he will kill alot of stuff. All thanks to Soul Taker. He also doesn't need Eiryss2 to shoot off any buffs that are upkeep spells from his target which is a really nice ability and further lessen Khadors reliance on her.
Conquest has some not-so-great abilities, so maybe this guy can do it better? Making him cheaper for the same melee power is of course a start!
SPD 4, STR 18, MAT 6, RAT 4, DEF 7, ARM 20
62 boxes (same as Conquest)
2x Fists P+S 22 Open fists
Siege Mortar - RNG 20 AOE 5 POW 15
Has Arcing fire, which us Khadorans are used to. It's also Inaccurate, so he will be shooting it at RAT 0 if he doesn't aim. Minimum Range I don't really see as a problem, becuase if your target is that close you might as well hit them with your P+S 22 fists instead. With some exceptions of course.
The revised big gun also comes with some pretty nice abilities. You can choose one each time you fire:
-Crater the AOE leaves an area of rough terrain where it lands. Can be very useful against things that lack pathfinder.
-Flare Models hit suffer -2 DEF. Also a great ability, but I don't see myself using it all that much. Most single wound infantry will die from this attack, and if you just want to kill some infantry the Incendiary round is much better. On heavy targets it's good, but if it's already low enough def for Victor to hit it you might not need it that bad. And if Victor can't hit it.. well you see the problem here. Sure, you always have a 1 in 3 chance to stay on the target, but that is a little too random for my taste.
-Incendiary Probably the type I will use the most. Setting stuff on fire is great, and with the great range of the gun together with arcing fire you can get it pretty much anywhere you want. Look for easy to hit models near your target, or alternatively just shoot it in the middle of a unit and you should be able to catch some of them at least. Might be fun to scatter this off your opponents caster as well if you have nothing better to do.
2x Auto cannon - RNG 10 POW 12
Auto Fire [D3] Makes Victors secondary armament superior to Conquests. The whole "if-I-kill-my-target-I-don't-get-my-second-shot" bullshit is gone, and instead we have these slightly random auto cannons. An improvement in my opinion, even with the RNG nerf and the fact that you can no longer scatter more pie plates into light infantry (we're Khador, we have other solutions for that). Which, apart from shooting a heavy, was the only thing the old secondaries were good for. They also have:
Flak Fire - Victor gets an additional attack dice when he shoots his Auto cannons on a model with Flight. Just an added bonus, but can be really nice in some situations.
All in all a good Colossal. I would say that he's better than Conquest, because he is cheaper and retains the same melee power. He also has some really nice abilities on his guns. However, I don't think he replaces Conquest. I know for sure some casters that rather take Victor without looking back, however I also see some casters wanting Conquest more for the accurate shooting. For some casters I can't even decide which one would be better and I can see myself playing either one with. Sorscha2 is a good example. She would really like a Victor for the price reduction, and the better secondary armament, but she might miss his big gun when you want to shoot a heavy off the table on your feat turn.
This guy is both great and unexpected. Khador finally gets it's in-faction Shield Guard!
SPD 4, STR 11, MAT 5, RAT 3, DEF 11, ARM 18/20
Shield Cannon - RNG 8 POW 15
Shield - P+S 12 Gives the Shield advantage for +2 ARM as long as it isn't crippled
Gladius - P+S 15
Aggressive - He can run or charge without spending focus
Shield Guard - If a friendly model within 2" is directly hit by a ranged attack Rager will take the hit instead. Once per round. Cannot use if Rager is knocked down, stationary or incorporeal.
Unstable - If he uses focus he might explode (same as Berzerker)
So, here he finally is! Khadors in-faction shield guard, and what a shield guard at that! ARM 20, 31 boxes doesn't go away easily. The fact that he runs for free (so you don't need to waste any resources on him) makes him even better, as this guy is primarily for casters that just want to fill their WJ points.
So who would I play this guy with? I have a couple of casters crossing my mind. Irusk2 being the first. Seriously, this guys is pretty much made for him. Irusk2 is a caster that just want to fill up his WJ points and then take loads and loads of infantry. He also wants to play a bit upfield with his Martial Discipline and Total Obedience abilities, which might make a target out of him. That combined with his ok-but-not-great defensive stats makes him perfect for Rager and if Rager is your only Jack he will get the benefit of Irusks bond, which is great for his purpose. +2 DEF makes him harder to remove, coupled with knockdown immunity it's perfect for a dedicated shield guard. Irusk2 also has Fire For Effect which Rager is a perfect target for. His gun is pretty powerful, but his pathetic RAT makes you want to boost it if it weren't for Unstable.. so here is a way to fully boost his shot without using any focus on Rager. Also, the bond lets you allocate 4 focus to him, for when you really want him to blow up in the midst of your foes.
I have thought about replacing my Raluk+Vanguard package in my Butcher3 list with this guy to also fit a War Dog, however I'm not sure about that trade. Both Raluk and the Vanguard do work in that list, and I am very doubtful Rager will even come close to that output. Not to mention Raluks ability to repair my Warjacks. I will probably try him out though and see how it feels.
I won't use him with every caster, but he's a great addition to the Khadoran arsenal and just having the option is a nice thing.
SPD 4, STR 11, MAT 5, RAT 3, DEF 11, ARM 18
2x Hammer spike P+S 14
Aggressive - He can run or charge without spending focus
Unstable - If he uses focus he might explode (same as Berzerker)
Crusher - He can Trample for free and gains an additional die on all Trample attack rolls
Jury-rigged[SPD] Mad Dog can spend 1 focus to gain +2 SPD for his activation and suffer 1 damage to his first available Movement system box. (and possibly blow up from Unstable)
Okay, so this guy is our cheapest Warjack to this point. However, that is pretty much all he is, because I can't really see myself using this guy alot at all. He might be a thing for casters that just want to fill up their WJ points, but Rager fills that role so much better since he is a shield guard. So casters that don't really want a shield guard, but only want to fill up their WJ points? That list is pretty short.
I have seen mentions of Mad Dog spam on the forums, but I don't really think that is going to work out great. One caster I would consider there though is pButcher. With Full Throttle you get hyper-accurate trample attacks and between Fury and the feat you actually get some real hitting power. Could be fun to try out I guess.
He is our worst release in this book for sure, but I don't really think he is BAD. At 5 points you can't really expect much more. I have a hard time seeing much table time for him though.
To sum it all up, a great book for Khador! I see Zerkova, Ruin, Victor and Rager getting alot of table time. Mad Dog is the odd one out here it seems, but just remember that he's a heavy that costs 5 points. Cheap and survivable for his cost might be his strong point.