Target Priority; Why You Don't Need to Kill Everything to WIn



Prologue:

Target Prioritization is one of the hardest things to understand in Warmachine, and is one of the two remaining pinnacles of the three axioms I used to play by in Mark 2.

The reason target prioritization gives players so much difficulty is very simple - it changes based on every list, every scenario, and every board set up.

In some matchups, the one thing on your opponents side that gives his shooting model Eyeless Sight has to be a priority. In others, you need to focus down his colossal as quickly as possible. In a third, maybe the only thing that matters is killing your opponents' arc node.

It drastically differs depending on the tools available to you, the tools available to your opponent, and the table you are playing on.

Furthermore, there are going to be different parts of the board that you will need to target more strongly than others in every game. These might be places where

Rather than trying to generalize what is an extremely specific topic, I'm going to walk through several deployment and first turn pictures and go through my thought process in regards to what is important and what is not important given the matchup and the table.

Feel free to disagree with me; these are just opinions, and you might have a different take.


Table 1:




Me



Opponent


This is an interesting matchup because the lists are straight up identical, and so, theoretically, target priority should be identical. 

This is only partially true. 

Have a look at my opponent's deployment - he's skewed middle/right with only one Sentry Stone unit on the left side, and we are playing Incursion. 

Instantly, that unit becomes my priority. The first person to clear a flag and hold it in this Scenario is often the winner, and if all he contests with on that half of the table is one, moderately hardy unit, I will happily commit a heavy warbeast to kill it and then camp that flag with a solo. 

As long as I can apply pressure in the middle and right sides of the table (which I've deployed to do), I should force him into bad trades as he sends models to that side of the table in order to not lose on Scenario.

Here's what happened:


Sentry Stone goes into the left flag to contest


I kill off the left hand Sentry Stone and threaten Wrong Eye with my heavies if he decides to commit


Everything on the left half of the table dies and I build a massive wall of things to prevent my opponent from getting to Lanyssa, who is happily camping that flag.


Table 2:


Opponent


Me

Man this was a game. My opponent's list has basically three models in it - Raiders, Shamans, and Soulwards,

It's hard to target prioritize when your opponent spams - this is one of the inherent strengths of spamming.

Here, my opponent has four ways to ignore stealth, and so those things need to die as fast as possible.

Alternatively, I know my opponent isn't likely to come very far forward since that's how gunlines play, and since my list can run 14 inches, I can get into his shooting models very quickly.

Here, the priority is not a model, it is the Scenario. I don't need to kill anything unless it comes into the zone, I just need to jam it and engage it and annoy it until I score 5. To that effect, the objective is the first target, and anything else that comes into the zone becomes target number two.

If I try and get into a flat out attrition war with this list, I will probably lose it, so identifying my win condition very early is important.

Here's what happened:


The Cloud wall of doesn't matter against Shamans goes up.


He shoots a bunch of my stuff, but I run and engage as many things as possible.


I clear the zone and score three points, he still has a lot of models left.


He commits three models to the zone and I'm able to kill them all and dominate again. He still has plenty of dudes left over there though.



Table 3:



Opponent


Me

This is a very interesting table to look at. I'm playing Grayle, and have very few ways to crack armor reliably.

He's playing Reznik 1 and three heavy jacks, and right away I'm worried about killing them.

However, my opponent skewed his heavies very, very far right on Linebreaker with a forest separating half the map, which means that I really just need to clear his infantry on the left side of the table and run a Solo to hold down the left flag. If he abandons the right hand flag, I can take it over pretty easily since my list is capable of putting down one heavy no problem.

As a result, the most important target for me is the Flamebringers since they're the only targets mobile enough to contest turn after turn, and they are also the hardest to pin down (notice how my Reeves are on that side of the table).

Here's how that game progressed in a few snap shots.


Opponent commits his jacks right and I line up my Reeves to kill off his Flamebringers.


I take out the TFG and the majority of the Flamebringers. My Wolves of Orboros also roll like crazy and kill his Castigator (which I was not expecting to happen). 


I get a solo onto the far left flag and destroy the objective, and can now basically just run away from his armor the rest of the game. 

If I had tried to engage his army on his terms, I most certainly would have lost this game. Instead, I was able to prioritize the correct models and parts of the table to care about, and effectively played the game while ignoring his entire battlegroup.

Table 4:

Me

Him

This is an interesting game because I'm not really interested in killing his army here. All I really care about is blocking off his access to the friendly flag, and I know I'll win on Scenario eventually. I have lots and lots of models to contest with, and I can be very defensive with my beasts, as their job is basically to sit in the back of the zone and kill any enemy beasts that come into the zone looking to contest my flags.

I think it might even be possible to score on his turn 2 while preventing him from scoring with the threat of an assassination.

As such, I'm happy trading one for one in beasts, as that will eventually lead to a scenario win.


Check out how I've set up my models here - I have a wall of threats between the empty gap in the zone and my flag, and I also have a veritable flood of models to contest with on the right that I can send in one at a time. My opponent doesn't have a good way to get to my flag to contest, and as such I can sit back and wait for him to come to me, expending no resources in the process.

The game progresses and he's had to throw his army at me to not lose on Scenario, leaving both his caster exposed, and the vast majority of my resources intact.


I have plenty of attacks with which to kill everything left on the table, and at the end of this turn I score to 5 and kill Saeryn without even activating the Stalker or Wolf Riders.


Conclusion:

There are too many things to say on this subject, it literally changes between every game.

The overarching points I would like to emphasize are as follows:

1) Figure out what your win condition is at deployment - this will tell you which models to prioritize, which to keep safe, and which to ignore.

2) Pay attention to the terrain and your opponents' deployment. There are games where you will literally not have to deal with 1/3 to 1/2 of your opponents' models just by playing with the terrain well.

3) There are parts of the table that should be prioritized just like there are models that should be prioritized, and these will change from game to game as well. Not threatening or defending these parts of the table can lose you the game just as quickly as not destroying the right models will.

Thanks for reading!