Earlier this year I had the opportunity to qualify for the Masters at the Las Vegas Open. While, admittedly, my time in the Masters was quite short lived (premeasuring like a derp will do that), I get asked about this list, which was my primary for that entire weekend, fairly often. It was the result of a lot of play time and conversations with my locals, slowly morphing from something fairly unrecognizable into possibly my most played list for Protectorate in Mk. 3.
He just looks sad none of his old friends want to play with him anymore.
The center of this list is, of course, Eye of Truth. He is the reason it works, and it forces a skew that I've found many people are just unable to handle. On top of Severius' extremely powerful defensive tech and the power of Eye of Menoth, you end up with a very low model count, very hard to pilot list with a deceptive amount of options and power.
Grand Scrutator Severius
-Eye of Truth
-Hand of Judgement
-Blessing of Vengeance
The Avatar of Menoth
Allegiant of the Order of the Fist x2
Vassal Mechanik x2
Vassal of Menoth x2
min Choir of Menoth
Visgoth Juviah Rhoven and Honor Guard
Why yes, I do have 58 points stacked into three heavy warjacks.
So, what are we doing with this build?
This is, essentially, an armor skew. However, it's a bit unique in that 'more damage' isn't exactly the right way to handle it. It helps, certainly, but even typical armor crackers will often times not have the correct sort of output to handle it. Do the math for a Conquest with Fury on it charging Eye of Truth with Vision on him... absurd as it sounds, Eye of Truth survives. Barely, but on average he does, and that's about as much pain as one model can put into another. The trick is that this armor skew can only be cracked by a very particular blend of damage output and volume of attacks, and you can shift the defensive spells around quite a bit to force the engagements to go how you want. Typically against Hordes, for example, Eye of Truth with Defenders Ward becomes an absolute monster. Against Warmachine, though, where Warjacks typically have a lower volume of attacks, Vision is actually a bit better. The Avatar typically receives whichever buff Eye of Truth doesn't.
So let's break this down model by model and talk about why it's there. Some are obvious, some are not.
These are pretty obvious so I'm balling them up into one. Most of this is fairly obvious focus support, helps to get everything fueled appropriately. The list is all packed into a small number of Warjacks, and the Avatar can be a bit random, so the Vassals can help clear off Disruption and top off the Avatar if he rolls poorly on an important turn. Even with Severius' 8 focus, your 'jacks have to get a lot done so are often loaded up quite a bit.
I want to mention the Choir specifically though, because this list is a bit unique in this respect. The reason I only bring one Choir member per 'jack (typically you want a couple extras) is that this list just doesn't really rely on them very much. Shielding and Passage are useful on the approach to keep the 'jacks in good shape, but going into the mid game I find it's not a huge deal if they start dying and only a couple 'jacks are really getting buffs of any kind. With the high stats of our four 'jacks and Eye of Menoth on the field, Battle just isn't super integral unless you really want to overkill something. I almost find myself smiling when my opponent starts putting valuable attacks into trying to clean up the Choir, which is a very common instinct for people into Protectorate, as usually that just means my more important pieces aren't taking hits.
Blessing of Vengeance
You want me to explain why I brought Blessing in a Severius list?
He's just really good. You're on a low volume of attacks so Ashes to Ashes is pretty clutch when you can use it. He's also a shield guard, which is great. Additionally, he's just got great stats and can go smash stuff or tank quite a bit if you really need him to. Blessing with Severius is just about as close to an auto include as I get, so... he definitely has a presence here.
Rhoven & Co.
These guys are also into the realm of auto include for me. I have a philosophy in Protectorate lists that keeps proving to be completely justified: three shield guards, always. If I want three shield guards, there's not a better way to start it than Rhoven and his boys. On top of that, Eye of Menoth makes a lot of what they do pretty nasty in the late game where a couple weapon masters are definitely nice to have around, and with Hand of Judgement on the table Rhoven can seriously take a chunk out of a hard target with his spells if he really wants. Rhoven's battle wizard and AOE means he can help out with the low volume of attacks the list brings.
Allegiants of the Order of the Fist
This list is scared of scenario, at least in the early game. Control casters that can clean up a scenario super quickly are a concern, and even with Steamroller 2017 being a bit slower in that regard, Allegiants are just necessary for any kind of slow, super low model count build in my eyes. Plus they'll just randomly win you games, which is about as much as you can hope for for three points. These are great solos that just give people conniptions.
My opponent, after fighting a pair of Allegiants.
Allegiants are a core part of non-theme Protectorate scenario play, in my eyes. Get a couple if you don't have them, they make some lists work just by existing.
The Avatar of Menoth
One of the more controversial parts of this build for many people, but... I'd argue that it doesn't work without him, not exactly anyway. Severius wants to spell sling a little bit to help with the volume of attacks, and the Avatar helps take a bit of the focus load off the caster. Further, he's a pretty tough piece, being a shield 'jack with sacred ward. He introduces a control element with Gaze that I've actually had come up against weapon master spams, where I've been able to split up the weapon masters enough to keep them from concentrating one heavy down properly. Throw Defenders Ward or Vision on this guy and he's going to be pretty tough to handle, and Flame Burst on his weapon is yet another rule to help with our low volume of attacks... you'd actually be amazed how much infantry you can chew through with this build.
But why is he necessary? Well, it's because of Eye of Truth for me. It's how the two 'jacks combine when a list is forced to face both of them at the same time. The Avatar, as a huge 20 point sink on his own, is probably not worth it most of the time... but I think standing next to Eye of Truth, you get a serious powerhouse pair of 'jacks that can be extremely hard to do anything about.
Hand of Judgement
This is probably the choice I get asked about the most. It's definitely the most malleable part of the list, and can be a few different options for similar point values. There's a few reasons I take HoJ here:
1) RAT 6 SP 10 is really good. This gives you some options for killing solos, killing a few infantry models, clearing off Eye of Truth, whatever you want him to do.
2) Fuel For the Flames comes up a ton. There's a lot of Flame Burst in this list, it's pretty common for enemies around you to be on fire. Additionally, Ashes to Ashes jumps are fire based, Rhoven shoots a fire AOE, and Severius has a very cheap nuke that, when arced through Blessing and shot at a target near Hand, does absurd amounts of damage for its cost. Hand of Judgement's own spray can be effected, if you're close enough. Eye of Truth also has his gun. It comes up really often and has been very effective.
3) He also has Flame Burst, which gives a bit of symmetry to the list... I have a thing for that.
4) He just looks great. Why wouldn't you want to play him?
Some suggestions or ideas I've seen/had about these 18 points are Durant running an Indictor, which adds to the tankiness of the list but... gives one of the heavies a ridiculous weak point that makes me nervous, and swapping Hand for the new version of the Vessel of Judgement... but I think Fuel For the Flames is the deal breaker there, the extra damage has just proven too valuable far too often.
Get thee rekt, heretics!
Eye of Truth
The big guy at the center of it all. This guy is why the list works, how you're able to skew it to such a difficult to handle level. Malekus thinks he owns this 'jack but its true home is Severius. The synergy there is pretty insane, with Severius able to push his tankiness up to almost unprecedented levels (deal with it, Imperatus), helping his output just enough that he's hyper consistent, and he gives Severius an out for defensive spells that he never had before.
Vision stacks with Oracular Vision to give the ability to ignore two damage rolls in a turn. Against high damage, low volume of attack enemies, this makes Eye almost impossible to kill.
Defenders Ward stacks up with Ashen Veil to make him 14/23 against many targets, and of course maintains the ability to ignore a damage roll. Killing that is outside the realm of likelihood for all but the most ridiculously buffed up warbeasts.
Holy Light lets Severius ignore defensive spells when he spellcasts, in addition to the army as a whole just chomping right through Arcane Shield without a care in the world.
And, of course, he has Flame Burst like the rest of the heavies in this list, helping a bit with the infantry clearing.
Eye of Truth is a serious monster of a heavy and will handle entire halves of the table on his own in some situations. I've had him hold down a zone against multiple enemy heavies and win, fight through a unit of weapon masters, drive up the center of the table with the other heavies and just crush the core of enemy armies, this guy is a serious power house who absolutely can not be ignored.... but when he isn't ignored, he often can not be stopped.
So, where do the weaknesses lie?
This list is slow, and lacks pathfinder. You have no threat increase beyond some guns, no ability to charge over walls or handle rough terrain. Overall, you're forced to fight very much on your opponents terms most of the time, so you have to count on immaculate positioning and a use of every single tool in your arsenal to make sure they can't abuse it. The Avatar's Menoth's Gaze is actually pretty important to forcing the fight you want, making models unable to escape in most situations. You're going to take a hit, the goal is to dull that hit as much as possible.
Scenario is also a concern. You're on very few models here, so the Allegiants have to seriously keep you in the game on scenario. Luckily, they're pretty good at that but... a random boostable AOE often just finishes them out.
The third concern is a bit more abstract... this list is hard to play. I enjoy it but I have never had a list more rely on absolutely immaculate positioning and understanding of my opponent. Some games I've been able to just brick up and cruise up the center, but it's only because I knew exactly what my opponent and my own models were capable of. Others you have to play very cagey and it becomes an intense positioning game.
This list more than almost any other I've ever played will win or lose on inches, and being even slightly out of place or attacking the wrong enemies at the wrong time will just end the game. However, when played intelligently, it has an insane amount of power and options far beyond what its low model count and slow pieces would indicate. I've ground through 6+ heavies, and 50+ infantry models, but each game is extremely different and requires a lot of understanding as to how things will play out.
Pantene Pro-V... get your hair will feel... Enlivened...
In the end, just play meticulously, play carefully, don't waste attacks, and think about your positioning and I think you'll have some success trying out a build like this one. Plus... you get to bring all the big scary characters, who doesn't want that?