Lock and Load is basically right around the corner (23 days at the time of this writing), and that means it is time to start finalizing what I am playing.
This is a bit of a process, and I thought I would share it with you today.
In order to bring the best pairing I can, there are a few questions I need to consider and answer properly. The answers to these questions will naturally funnel me into an ever smaller pool of attractive options, while discarding the ideas that don't quite convince me.
Question 1: What Warlocks/Warcasters/Lists am I the most comfortable playing?
This question is probably the most important one. You can give someone who has never played her an optimized Haley 2 list, and they will still probably lose into an equally skilled played using a list they know well.
Convention events are long, and they require a lot of stamina. Your brain uses up a ton of sugar and energy when it is engaged in a task as complicated as a game of Warmachine, and that takes a toll over four rounds in a day.
One of the best ways to cut down on the amount of effort invested is to know your lists and know them very well, inside out and backwards. When you don't have to invest time looking up your models' rules and abilities and can instead spend all of your time devoted to unraveling your opponent's game plan, you gain an important edge.
With that in mind, here are my top 5 Warlocks. These are the ones that I have played the most, know the best, and can play even when it's been 10 hours of Warmachine and my brain wants to give out.
This list probably contains my pairing, barring specific meta concerns. For example, if I think there will be a lot of Cygnar - and I do - then I will consider Krueger 2 even though I have only played four games with him since the edition change.
Question 2: What lists am I worried about?
This is going to vary from tournament to tournament. If you are prepping for a local event, chances are you already have a good idea of who will be there, who the strongest players are, and what they are likely to bring.
Use that information, and do not feel guilty about it. Just like you need to use all of the rules on your card to win games, one of the keys to success in preparing for a specific event is using your knowledge of the meta to try and prepare good counters to the hardest matchups.
For example, in my meta I know I need to answer at the very least a strong Menoth pairing, a Khador pairing that will include Harkevich, and likely a Cygnar pairing with Caine 3.
For Lock and Load, here are some matchups that concern me, listed by faction, and some warlocks and models that I think are reasonable counters in parenthesis. These counters will mostly be drawn from my list of comfortable Warlocks above.
Again, this is from the perspective of a Circle player, yours may differ depending on what faction you play.
Nemo 3 in Storm Division (Krueger 2)
Haley 2 in either Heavy Metal or Storm Division (Krueger 2 or Baldur 2)
Sloan (Baldur 2)
Caine 3 (??? Not sure about this one)
Menoth (Protectorate of):
Amon ad-Raza (Woldwyrds)
Severius 2 (Baldur 2? Kaya 3?)
Reznik 2 (Woldwyrds)
Vindictus in Exemplar theme (Woldwyrds)
Karchev (Wurmwood? Tanith)
Harkevich (Baldur 2, Tanith)
Vlad 1 (Wurmwood)
Butcher 3 (Wurmwood)
Ghost Fleet (Wurmwood)
Asphyxious 3 (Wurmwood)
Vyros 2 (Baldur 2? Maybe?)
Kaelyssa (Not sure)
Helynna (Not sure)
Lucant (Baldur 2 or Wurmwood)
Ossrum (Baldur 2)
Cephalyx (Baldur 2)
Rasheth (Baldur 2 or Wurmwood seem okay)
Makeda 1 (Wurmwood? Not sure)
Zaal 2 (Depends on battlegroup)
Fyanna 2 (Argus!)
Absylonia 2 (Depends on battlegroup, Wurmwood is not terrible here)
Thagrosh 1 (Woldwyrds)
Wurmwood (Baldur 2)
Baldur 2 (blech, I just don't want to play into this if I can help it, sounds sooooo boring. Probably Baldur 2, although Kaya 3 could potentially do it with Wraithbane)
Tanith (Wurmwood, unless they bring back the Scarsfell griffon builds)
Krueger 2 (Baldur 2)
Ragnor (This matchup sucks, probably Wurmwood for trading Time Walk feats)
Doomie 3 (Wurmwood)
Doomie 2 (Wurmwood)
Trolls just break armor like crazy, so I don't think there are many better options than Stranglehold.
I've got nothing here, no idea what to drop into them.
Calaban (Baldur 2)
Maelok (Baldur 2?)
Question 3: I can't cover everything, now what?
Unfortunately, there are very few factions that can cover every single matchup with just two lists right now. There will be things you cannot fight well if you are only bringing two lists, and that is the reality.
For me, it comes down to two really make-or-break matchups. Khador heavy spam, either with Karchev or Harkevich, and Nemo 3.
The core of my pairing is almost certainly Wurmwood. He's got a strong toolbox, plays well into many things and can at least try and make a game out of hard matchups. This is commonplace for most list pairings, a central, general list that asks a hard question and answers some hard matchups.
The question then becomes - what do I pair with him, and which matchup do I sacrifice?
I cannot think of a Circle list that fights Nemo 3 well without playing Krueger 2. Unfortunately, Krueger 2 has no chance at all into Harkevich and Karchev without just going full on assassination mode.
Now comes the really hard part - deciding which matchups will be more common at Lock and Load, and which caster to take.
Option 1: Baldur 2
Baldur is a caster that I have played a lot in the last few months, taking him to tournaments and generally having success with him.
He plays into Khador by doing one of three things - either presenting two Woldwraths that get to extraordinarily levels of "difficult to kill", showing up with a pile of Woldguardians and Wardens to make a difficult to kill, grindy list, or he takes a few Warpwolves and Wrong Eye and Snapjaw and punishes the low attack count by being really hard to hit and fairly resilient to damage.
He also bring a placeable wall, and into non-reach heavies, that is solid gold.
If I were to run him with the intention of dropping him into Khador, I then have to make another decision - do I try and handle Harkevich or Karchev? They require vastly different approaches.
One is an ARM and box skew with great maneuverability. The other hits like a train, but doesn't like terrain so well.
If I go this route, it will probably come down to Baldur 2 with two Wraths or Baldur 2 with a pile of Warpwolves.
Option 2: Krueger 2
Krueger 2 is one of the scariest assassination casters in the game, and he also plays a really solid control game.
If I were to build him for Lock and Load, I'd be looking at pieces like the Celestial Fulcrum, Purebloods, Wyrds, and Druids and just going for either assassination against Harkevich and Karchev or attrition against Nemo 3 and other Storm Division builds. Rebuke is incredibly potent into Stormlances, and Krueger's Sheltering Hand ability gives all models in his command range immunity to electricity.
This is a big deal, since Nemo 3 can quite handily kill an ARM 23 Woldwrath on his feat turn, and maybe kill Megalith as well.
He can't even touch Krueger's army, and it will probably force the Cygnar player to drop their other list into me based solely off the threat of Krueger.
Either way, you will have to choose specific matchups that you plan on dodging rather than playing, and that is going to be the case for nearly every faction out there. Winning a big event is a combination of skill and luck, and some of that luck has to do with which factions, lists, and opponents you have to play against - it isn't all down to dice.
Question 4: What can you do outside of list-building?
Preparing for a big event is a daunting task the first few times. Off the game table, here are some things you can do to improve your chances of success.
Get some exercise. This sounds a little counter-intuitive, but a Warmachine Masters at a Convention is a marathon, and your body will need to be able to stand for the better part of 10 hours. The more fit you are, the less this will drain you. It doesn't matter if you make day 2 if you can't play well day 2.
The better physical condition you are in, the better your brain tends to work, the better your brain works, the better you play.
It doesn't, nor should it be, require you to train for a real marathon (although if you are, good on you! and good luck!), but even just going on a walk for an hour every day or a quick jog every night will increase your endurance at the table and help you make less mistakes.
Eat (fairly) healthy. Unless you're 18 or younger, you can't expect to eat whatever you want and still feel great. Again, a Masters event is an endurance race, and you need constant supplies of energy going out to your body and brain.
Protein and fiber are your best friends here. I always notice a difference when I deliberately eat properly for an event.
I'm not saying you shouldn't go out and have a burger with your friends, but it's pretty easy to swap chips and soda for trail mix and water.
Speaking of water....bring a water bottle (or two) and try and take a few sips every turn. It'll help you stay away from headaches and keep you cool. This is probably the most important and most obvious of things you can do, so I won't belabor it, but stay hydrated.
Preparation has to meet luck for a big event win, but they cannot meet at all if you haven't done your due diligence and set yourself up to meet with the Lady Luck in the first place.
A quick recap:
Play lists and warlocks you are comfortable and competent with.
Target hard matchups.
Do your best to cover everything, but if you can't, choose the best option you think you have.
Be physically prepared to play for 10 hours in one shot.
If you've got any other ideas, rituals, tournament hacks etc, what are they? How do you prepare for an event? We would love to hear about it.