State of the Faction (1/5): Circle Warlocks


My obligatory Storm Raptor intro photo :)


Prologue:


I've been meaning to look through all of Circle's myriad model options and assign rankings for quite some time, both as a way to organize my ideas about the faction, and also as a way to discuss the models with others.

Over the next week, I will hopefully be posting a review a day, starting with Warlocks, moving to Warbeasts, Units, Solos, and then Minion options.

I will do my best to keep my own bias out of the analysis, and please bear in mind that these rankings will change over time as the meta changes and new releases come out.

This particular State of the Faction review is coming to you from May of 2017.

Ratings Scale:

5.0: S-Tier BS, meta bending model or unit, a crutch of the faction. 

4.0: Extremely useful model or unit, high game impact, strong into many other factions and lists

3.0: Excellent meta choice, very strong into the correct matchups but not consistently good. 

2.0: Super niche, ADR model that will occasionally do something cool but is more often not. 

1.0: Nigh unto unplayable garbage, will not see the table in day two of a competitive event. 


I will always give a bit more context than just the rating, a quick paragraph or two describing how I think a warlock will be played or how they will pair, as well as their weaknesses and strengths in regards to Scenario, Attrition, and Assassination, on a scale of Great, Good, Meh, and Bad. 


Okay, let's go!



Baldur the Stonecleaver (Baldur 1):

Overall rank: 3.0

Baldur 1 has some incredibly good matchups and some incredibly bad matchups. Anything that flies (Fyanna 2 anyone?) has good upkeep removal (Harbinger and Kreoss 1) will give him serious problems as his entire game plan revolves around his upkeep spells. 

Currently, I'm seeing him played mostly in Bones of Orboros for the sweet extra 2 inches of deployment and the free Stoneshapers, but there are also builds with Druids and Bloodtrackers or Wolf Riders that I do not mind at all. 

He tends to play a gunline with Geomancied Earth Spikes from Megalith and possibly a Warden, with Woldwyrds and a Woldwrath to boot. I think the CID Celestial Fulcrum will help him a lot. 

Scenario Ranking: Good - his feat can really prevent an enemy force from contesting a flag or zone if the positioning is correct. 

Attrition Ranking: Good - he has a durable army backed up by a very good control feat and a LOS blocking spell in Wild Growth, his models tend to get 2-3 turns of work done before engagement. 

Assassination Ranking: Meh+ - if your opponent lets you geomancy a bunch of Earth Spikes onto their caster and get the crit KD, you've got some serious pain coming for them. Canny opponents will do their best to prevent that from happening, but it's hard when the spell is an AOE. 

Also, Forest Walk can occasionally win the game. 



Baldur the Stonesould (Baldur 2):

Overall rank: 3.5

Baldur 2, like Baldur 1, has some seriously good matchups and some seriously bad matchups, and it all depends on whether your opponent has a way to get blessed weapons on beasts or on heavy hitting infantry. 

I think he is nearly unplayable into most Menoth pairings (especially as Exemplar Interdiction comes out), and he also struggles into Legion and Circle since both of those factions have easy access to Wraithbane. 

Typical Baldur 2 lists are also in Bones of Orboros, and they're much more focused on taking the Alpha and then retaliating. These builds tend to have 1-2 Woldwraths and some support. 

The other option is to take him with a bunch of Warpwolves and Wrong Eye/Snapjaw, using High DEF with no KD from Roots of the Earth on the Warpwolves in combination with Star-Crossed and Rock Wall to keep his army alive. 

Both of these builds encourage bricking up like no other Circle list, and give it some fairly difficult times on some Scenarios. 

Scenario Ranking: Meh - he just has such a hard time contesting and controlling everything on spread out boards. 

Attrition Ranking: Good - difficult to kill army + good damage output = good attrition. Crevasse through Megalith can also do more work than expected.

Assassination Ranking: Bad - he has nothing in his army to increase assassination threat, and doesn't have that much of his own. 

Image result for Bradigus art

Bradigus Thorle, the Rune Carver:

Overall rank: 1.0

Bradigus...just doesn't have any tools or tricks right now. Wolds are bad outside of Megs, Wyrds, and Wrath, and his Feat doesn't give the Wrath any benefit. 

His spell list doesn't do hardly anything, he himself is super vulnerable to shooting now that Woldwatchers no longer have shield guard, and while he can put Synergy up, Wolds top out at PS 19 with the Woldwrath and PS 17 with everything else. Add to that that the Guardian is fury 3, and you have a caster who is incapable of killing Khador heavies on the top of a Synergy chain. 

Scenario Ranking: Bad

Attrition Ranking: Bad

Assassination Ranking: Bad



Grayle, the Farstrider:

Overall rank: 2.0

Grayle has some seriously oddball builds, and his feat is basically Warpath with shooting protection, but the dude is just incredibly hard to kill between naturally high DEF and ARM, Stealth, and Storm Rager. 

I've had pretty good success with him and a billion wolfsworn models, and I actually think that it's a somewhat legitimate answer to Fyanna 2. The list comes in with the lowest MAT being 8 or 9 on the charge, and most of those models have CMA, meaning that even DEF 17 Seraph/Neraph/Angelius models have to be worried. 

The Wild Hunt theme list seems a natural fit for him, as tracker on his warbeasts is very good in combination with his armies natural mobility. All I want for him to be great is to have Field Marshal [Wolfsworn] and make all of his living beasts into Wolfsworn models. Moving Stalkers back through screening Wolves of Orboros sounds pretty great to me. 

Scenario Ranking: Good - he plays a ton of dudes, and tons of dudes tend to be good at contesting things. 

Attrition Ranking: Good - his army is excellent at whittling down the enemy, and he himself can do some serious work every turn thanks to Sprint and Side Step. 

Assassination Ranking: Meh - basically your threat ranges are very static. The only really tricky thing is War Wolves - those guys can literally kill a caster from half the table away if they leave charge lanes open for Sic 'Em. 


Kaya, the Wildborne (Kaya 1): 

Overall rank: 1.0

Kaya does almost nothing interesting other than making your beasts hit really accurately and pulling them back after they have done so. 

Her main schtick is to take either Shadowhorns or Loki and pull/throw enemy models back into your lines, murdering them, and then using Spirit Door to pull back said Shadowhorn/Loki to safety. 

She also has the Doppler Bark assassination that so many Circle Warlocks have access to in that she can have a beast run up, cast Spirit Door on herself, Doppler Bark the enemy caster, Feat to get fury back, and then port out, at which point your Wyrds/Purebloods shoot the hapless enemy Warcaster/Warlock off the table. 

Unfortunately, Mohsar does this way better, and Kaya doesn't do anything else worth mentioning. When your entire game plan can be shut down by a shield guard or an immovable heavy like Tiberion, you need a new game plan. 

Scenario Ranking: Meh

Attrition Ranking: Depends - if your opponent has shield guards, it's bad. If they don't? It can be pretty darn good. 

Assassination Ranking: Good - technically she has the tools to pull off Assassinations from nowhere, but man, just play Mohsar if you want to do that. 

Image result for Kaya the moonhunter art

Kaya the Moonhunter and Laris (Kaya 2):

Overall Rank: 3.0

Kaya 2 is an entirely different animal from Kaya 1. She actually has a Feat, her spell list is pretty decent, and she has the ONLY way in Circle to give pathfinder out. 

That being said, she also has some major problems. If she wants to cast Shadowpack, that means she's got three Fury left. If she wants to cast Dog Pile, she also probably needs to boost, meaning she's sitting on nothing, and most turns, she won't even have enough to boost after upkeeping Forced Evolution on Loki or Ghetorix.

At Fury 6, she can't even come close to doing enough stuff every turn, and that's a big weakness. 

She also has an entire game plan that can be denied by Polarity Field, Stranglehold, Feats that prevent you from charging, spells that prevent you from charging, etc. 

Scenario Ranking: Meh - her definition of win on scenario is "I killed everything, so I'm going to go sit on this flag for points". 

Attrition Ranking: Good - getting two alphas is amazing, enough said. 

Assassination Ranking: Good - she can teleport to Laris and go to town at MAT 8 PS 11 Weaponmaster, and the double alpha means that your opponent won't often have enough models to screen their caster effectively after the first, and will also be forced into risky plays to stay even. 

Image result for Kaya the Wildheart

Kaya the Wildheart (Kaya 3):

Overall rank: 3.0

Kaya 3 is, strangely, best as a gunline caster with some Wyrds and Purebloods. Reposition 3 on everything means that you can move up, shoot ten, and then back up 3 and be safe from the retaliation of most heavies. 

Once the lines close, you still have a Synergy caster, and that means your Purebloods, with Primal top out at PS 21 - not bad for a PS 14 base heavy!

Other options include going for raw ARM breaking with the heavier hitters like a Pureblood, Stalker, or Ghetorix, but her inability to give out pathfinder means that I have pretty much resigned myself to Loki and a Stalker in every non-gunline battlegroup I build with her. 

She's very good in the Wild Hunt, as tracker on an all battlegroup build like hers is phenomenal. 

Scenario Ranking: Meh - just like Kaya 2, basically her definition of winning on Scenario is killing everything. 

Attrition Ranking: Good - if you build the gunline version, you should be tearing a heavy down every turn from range and then killing a couple a turn once the lines close with little retaliation with good feat timing. 

Assassination Ranking: Meh - if you can charge their caster with a beast, then, as usual, that caster probably dies, but outside of that she doesn't do anything particularly interesting on the Assassination front. 

Image result for kromac the ravenous art

Kromac the Ravenous (Kromac 1):

Overall rank: 2.5

Kromac 1 does some REALLY cool things. Bestial is one of the most gamebreaking spells I can think of, and he also has a few other excellent spells like Inviolable Resolve, Wild Aggression, and Warpath. 

He gives his beasts crazy threat ranges, and he himself is capable of killing every single caster in the game bar Karchev between his feat and Doppler Bark. 

But...the dude just dies to gunlines, and there are so, so, so many of them out there. He also doesn't have any damage buffs, so he has a really hard time with jack spam.

Loki, and the ability to take Ogrun Bokurs, really helps this, but that means that you're never playing him in theme, and the lack of free points makes it really unappealing.

I wish I could give him a higher rating, since he really does do some truly unique things. Stalkers threatening 14 inches without any outside help is amazing, Loki being able to move up, hook something, have a Stalker kill it and then Warpath Loki back is also very cool.

If you know you're not playing into a gunline or Khador jack brick, Kromac 1 really gets a chance to shine. He's probably some of the most fun you can have playing Circle, and the 2017 rule set encouraging infantry makes me hope he can make a come back.

Scenario: Meh - too squishy, Kromac relies on killing everything before he gets killed.

Attrition: Good - extreme threat ranges, high accuracy, extremely flexible list, these are all elements of a fantastic attrition game.

Assassination: Great - Kromac has one of the best assassination runs in the game, as he himself threats 13" and can then put 14 PS 14 attacks into a target after Doppler Bark, killing any Warcaster or Warlock in the game outside of Karchev.


Kromac, Champion of the Wurm (Kromac 2):

Overall rank: 3.5

Kromac 2 is very difficult to rank, since he isn't like anything else in Circle. He has a consistent MAT buff in Carnage, and has an extremely good damage buff with his Feat. He also has some interesting ranged options thanks to Primal Shock, and he's one of the few places that I think playing a Storm Raptor is a legitimate option (and boy do I love me some Stormy).

His main problem is that he just doesn't do anything tricky, which can be a hard space to inhabit when your game plan is to try and beat swarms of 10-16 point heavies with your 17-20 point heavies.

This is a big part of the reason that I like playing him with the Storm Raptor so much, you can trade off the Storm Raptor for two heavies with Primal and Feat, and with Vengeful giving the Raptor retaliatory strike, it can then disrupt a heavy that comes into if afterwards, meaning that you need two or more heavies to kill it properly. Kromac and his wolves hang out behind the Raptor and clean up afterwards.

Scenario: Good - Solid threat ranges, reasonably surviveable army, and a Warlock that can kill a heavy on his own and Sprint out.

Attrition: Good - see above.

Assassination: Meh - nothing special here, unless you build the Woldwrath version with Primal Shock under Druid's Wrath. 


Image result for krueger the stormwrath art

Krueger the Stormwrath (Krueger 1):

Overall rank: 1.5

Krueger 1 answers two problems.

1) Infantry Spam.

2) Shooting.

In regards to point number 1, the ENTIRE FACTION answers infantry spam. Circle has more infantry clearing tricks than any other faction in the game, and Krueger 1 just happens to be really good at it, making him less interesting as a Warlock.

In regards to point number 2, he actually doesn't save his models from the gunlines that exist, and that is a scary thought. When DEF 17 against shooting isn't good enough, it might be that the guns out there are too good.

Outside of that, he has no damage buff, one pseudo threat extender, and that's really it. I don't think about this guy very much, I don't think he's playable right now.

Scenario: Meh (unless you're playing into a billion dudes)

Attrition: Great (into infantry) and Meh (into ARM).

Assassination: Meh - he doesn't do a whole lot to encourage it with his own models.


Krueger the Stormlord (Krueger 2):

Overall rank: 4.0

Ah, our first 4 ranked caster. Krueger has everything you could possibly want EXCEPT a damage buff. He has threat extenders, he has denial, he has crazy assassination angles, and he also has a sweet model.

Telekinesis is my favorite spell in the game, hands down, and the fact that Megalith can cast it in addition to Krueger is just phenomenal.

Between TK, Druid's casting Pulse of the Earth, and guns in the form of Wyrds/Fulcrum/Pureblood, Krueger plays arguably the best assassination game in Circle (it's either him or Wurmwood), uses Rebuke and a strong denial feat to control the table, and can attrition quite well with Loki for heavies and lots of infantry clearing spells and models for everything else.

Scenario: Good - he used to be great, but his feat took a serious hit when it no longer prevented charges.

Attrition: Good - it's tricky and placement dependent, and many newer players will not see the openings until they've played quite a few games with him.

Assassination: Great - spend more time on the models around your caster and your casters placement than you do on the rest of your army when playing against Krueger 2, he's constantly looking to kill you.



Mohsar, the Desertwalker:
Overall rank: 3.0

Mohsar has gotten a fair bit of attention of late with Dan piloting him all the way to win Kingdom Con a month or so ago.

His entire list is built to be a gunline, with Mohsar flickering in and out and putting down Curse of Shadows and Doppler Bark wherever needed, and I think that is probably the best way to play him.

The constant threat of a Doppler Bark from anywhere within 14 inches of any Wolf of Orboros or 16 inches from any Bloodweaver is pretty darn strong, and combining that with Woldwyrds and Purebloods means that you get lots of shooting over several turns.

His Feat actually works on Hordes in this edition, and is arguably better into Hordes than it is into Warmachine. Meanwhile, Sunhammer chips away at Jack Spam lists, making everything just a touch easier to kill as they spend several turns moving around in Mohsar's 16 inch control range.

Unfortunately, the dude dies to a stiff breeze, with the worst statline out of any Circle warlock - 14/14 with 15 boxes, and that can be a major problem. 

Scenario: Good - Doppler Bark and Pillars of Salt can really control the enemy army and let you get some excellent Scenario presence.

Attrition: Good - guns!

Assassination: Great - this guy has the easiest time applying Doppler Bark on an enemy caster out of any of the Circle Warlocks in faction, turning every infantry model on the table into a potential death threat.

Morvahna the Autumnblade (Morvahna 1):

Overall rank: 1.0

I don't like this caster. She essentially has an ARM buff and a way to keep her upkeeps in play through Purification effects. She has strong recursion, but those recurred models don't ever get to kill anything before they die again.

Scenario: Good - she just always has a ton of dudes, hard to lose on Scenario when you're always contesting.

Attrition: Meh  - those dudes don't kill enough.

Assassination: Bad



Morvahna the Dawnshadow (Morvahna 2):

Overall rank: 1.0

Another caster that basically had everything good about her taken away from Mark 2 to Mark 3. Scales of Fate only affecting models within 9 of her means she has to play way too vulnerable. Reposition and Sprint being exclusive means she can't play as aggressively as before.

Her feat got nerfed, and she lost Purification on favor of something straight up worse. Her infantry all got significantly worse, and infantry hate got much better. She's been on the receiving end of essentially 5 or 6 nerfs.

Scenario: Good - tons of dudes, all the time.

Attrition: See above.

Assassination: Bad


Tanith, the Feral Song:

Overall rank: 4.0

Tanith has it all. She debuffs DEF, ARM, and Speed. She has a great spell list, and can always run Loki in theme.

You can literally build her in a thousand ways, and that is another of her strengths. As usual, keeping her alive is a bit tricky, but with Prowl, Admonition, and the almost constant presence of Loki's shield guard, she is less difficult to keep alive than many other Circle warlocks are.

With some foresight, she can be built to face nearly any faction.

Scenario: Good

Attrition: Great

Assassination: Good


Una the Skyhunter (Una 2):

Overall rank: 3.0

This one is probably a bit more controversial, but I don't think Una 2 is as good or as bad as most people seem to think she is. I believe she has some really cool tools (Hand of Fate being chief among them), but I also think that she has lost too much between the Scarsfell losing Long Leash and her Feat no longer mattering past a turn.

I think she can definitely Silver Bullet some matchups, especially against Menoth, but in general I just don't think she's going to be showing up in high places for competitive events.

Scenario: Not sure honestly, probably Good

Attrition: Good

Assassination: Meh




Wurmwood, Tree of Fate:

Overall rank: 4.0

Wurmwood is another of those casters that has a bit of everything. He can control with Stranglehold, attrition with Hellmouth, and use the aforementioned spell to set up some truly ludicrous assassination runs. He has an ARM debuff (Curse of Shadows), and is personally very, very hard to kill.

Although the nerf to his Feat and the Sentry Stones really hurt him, he still retains most of his power. I like building him with a very, very shooty Battlegroup (read: 3 wyrds, Pureblood, and Loki) and plopping in a Moonhound Argus to make them all more accurate and ignore stealth.

While he's not the overbearing, meta-bending presence he once was, Wurmwood is still probably Circle's best caster.

Scenario: Great

Attrition: Good

Assassination: Great


Conclusion:


Circle has a lot of really excellent Silver Bullet casters, but our stable of potent, consistent Warlocks is very small. This really hurts, as we no longer have the ability to ask significant questions while still answering all of the ones posed to us. 

Too many things we rely on are situational at best and downright chancy at worst, and I believe that's why Circle is starting to feel stagnant once again. 

The biggest problem is this: in order to give Circle back the faction identity and tools of a guerilla warfare faction, PP would have to be okay with it being a severely negative play experience for many people. As it is, I don't think they really have a solid handle on where they want the faction to go, which means that we are going to see quite a few months here of uncertain Circle pairings until they (hopefully) figure that out.