Recently I've been testing some new ideas about how to play in Steamroller 2017, which took me towards playing with a part of our roster I hadn't originally had much interest in: the Guardians of the Temple theme force. While I have another article in the works about my experimentation and thought experiments surrounding SR 2017 and how it really may change the way we build lists more than we realized, for now I'll just say I think Guardians of the Temple is a very poor theme for building for many of the more frightening matchups, but is a very good theme if you throw away the concern for matchups and focus more on playing the scenario.
Guardians has a couple of primary issues. One, it doesn't hit particularly hard with almost any pieces in the arsenal besides its jacks. Two, the theme has very few options above MAT 6/RAT 5, with the few pieces above that usually relying on things like CMA or just being low model count, sometimes vulnerable pieces (Flame Bringers a main example.) We have a few ways to get around this, Severius1 being a pretty easy fix for any of these issues, Feora3 or even the Harbinger can help out with this in some respects, but I decided to touch on a caster who has gone a bit overlooked: Thyra, Flame of Sorrow.
Thyra is a very unique caster, and one who I don't think gets enough attention for what her kit brings to the table. She has three pillars of making any army tick: a good damage fixer, a great hit fixer, and a great threat extension. Further, she ignores many common assassination attempt styles with her innate stealth, and can get a bit of work done in up close if she really needs to. She also has one of our *very* few control elements in the form of Stranglehold, although this is a hard spell for her to cast most of the time.
The list I brought to the field today is:
Thyra, Flame of Sorrow - Guardians of the Temple Theme Force
-Blood of Martyrs
Pyrrhus, Flameguard Hero
Nicia, Tear of Vengeance
Vassal of Menoth
min Choir of Menoth
Daughters of the Flame
Temple Flameguard + Officer and Standard
This is a very early test build, sort of a beta edition so it's up for plenty of tweaking in the future. But... let's see what we're facing.
Bloody Barnabas - The Blindwater Congregation Theme Force
Bog Trog Mist Speaker
Wrong Eye & Snapjaw
Swamp Gobber Bellows Crew
I dropped this list into him blind (we often do 2 list tournament pairing style matchup process in my shop, but I'm just throwing this list into everything to see if its generalist style and wide range of tools can hold up into.... whatever.) We rolled our scenario and got Scenario #5: Outlast.
I won the starting roll and opted to go first to take up table space and just threaten as much of the table as I could. He chose a side with water on it, like a typical gatorman.
I had a big ridiculous forest right in my face so the Flame Bringers were placed behind that, since they're my main pathfinder out. A Sanctifier went out to the left of them to go gather their souls (which... I'll bring up later), and a Vassal followed him around because I knew he'd have the least access to souls, not being near the Flameguard. The other Sanctifier went dead center, as I wanted him to be able to pick which side he'd approach, although the nature of the forest in my face and the one in the middle of the table was going to funnel him a really specific direction if he went for the left zone.
Next to that Sanctifier was Thyra, then Blood of Martyrs, then my TFG with Pyrrhus. The Choir spread out in the back field and my Wracks went just ahead of my army. Nice and easy.
From my left, we had Wrong Eye & Snapjaw, a unit of Posse, the Wrastler, Bellows Crew, a Spitter, then Barnabas. The Totem Hunter sat in a pile of rubble that was in his deployment (not usually great terrain placement but... whatever, it was inconsequential.) Next to him was the other Spitter, then the other unit of Posse. The Totem Hunter chose my TFG as his Prey; I think he felt that really anything he wanted to kill would die on his feat turn anyway, TFG were the only thing he'd really need to actually roll dice on (besides the heavies.)
Protectorate Turn 1:
Blood of Martyrs apparitions forward. Thyra drop Silence of Death on the Flame Bringers, Occultation on the Temple Flameguard, and Gates of Death on herself before advancing forward 7". None of the Spitters had any kind of a line to me but it occurred to me that Girded actually would be sort of nice to avoid boosted AOE's dropping on Thyra... still hate that benefit but hey, it has its uses. My central Sanctifier ran out ahead of her.
Besides that, really everything just ran. TFG spread out on the right, Flame Bringers threatened the whole zone on the left. Blood stuck with the TFG, one Sanctifier with the Flame Bringers. Choir just ran, no need for any hymns this turn.
Minions Turn 1:
For the most part, he just runs this turn. Barnabas puts Death March on the left side unit of Posse but didn't have much else to do. He goes ahead and gets most of his things into the zone, relying on the pretty reasonable resilience of Gatorman Posse to hold the line. The Spitters mostly leaned to my right, although one stayed a bit central so he could go either way. Totem Hunter ran up to his flag to threaten me. The forest in the middle is seriously ideal for that guy.
Protectorate Turn 2:
Well, it's time to hit things with the pointy end. I'm cycling Silence of Death this turn, so I let Occultation drop off the TFG. The 'jacks aren't doing anything but they get Hymn of Passage. The Flame Bringers charge in on the left, three targeting the Wrastler, the other two going into Posse members. I attempt to use side steps to get one of the ones that charged the Posse in to get a swing on the Wrastler, but unfortunately miss attacks at inopportune times and only three Flame Bringers get work done on him. With Silence of Death, though, they hit hard and leave the heavy on 1 box. They also applied Grievous Wounds so he's not getting much of anything done (I think he still had his spirit but body and mind were out). One Posse member dies to the charge, another takes some damage but stays standing. The Flame Bringers pull back with Side Steps and Reposition. It was at this point I remembered I meant to Ambush in the Daughters to go jam that unit up but... it turned out to be in my favor, in a way, that I didn't.
Thyra put Silence of Death onto the Temple Flameguard, then advanced forward aggressively and cast Carnage, pulling off one Wrack, which stuck around to Wrack another day. She feats to help get more of the TFG into the fight. The TFG minifeat since I figure Barnabas' feat is coming and charged into the Posse on the right, and I proceed to roll some *incredibly* bad dice. All 10 of the TFG grunts get in on the Posse and succeed only in killing a single one (I mostly missed needing 4's, about half my attacks failed to connect at all). The far right Posse member, at least, is on fire from their Critical Fire effect and is on a single box, so he may die. Pyrrhus runs around in front of the TFG Officer and Bearer, touching them to be safe for another turn to go kill things next turn. Blood and the Sanctifier move into the right side zone, ready to just... explode anything trying to go in there and hopefully collect some souls.
Nicia moves to hang out on my flag, shooting at the Wrastler to see if I can finish him off with her gun, but due to his Concealment by being in a pool of water, she fails to hit. Thyra gates back behind my Devout and I pass turn.
Minions Turn 2:
It's definitely feat turn. My Flame Bringers are flapping in the wind (I need to get better at that unit, but to be fair I figured they'd kill the Wrastler and getting that animus off the table would have been a plenty good trade to me). The Posse member on fire burns to death, which is nice. Barny walks up and feats, hitting everything in my army except my Vassal, who hung back to be ready to help out the Sanctifier, one Choir member, Blood of Martyrs, and Pyrrhus. Some TFG are hit but, of course, ignore the effect due to their minifeat, Iron Zeal.
Barny Flesh Eaters a Flame Bringer, leaving her on 1, but can't heal his Wrastler. He gets a cloud on and in front of him, but he's pretty safe anyway.
The Posse on the left Vengeanced forward at the start of the turn so are quite close (this is why jamming daughters would have actually not been that great), and they charge my Flame Bringers, killing every single one. This is where I realize, the damned Gators have Snacking. It's nearly impossible for me to get a single soul from my list, which means my Sanctifiers are running on 100% Thyra power this game, and that's a very rough place to be. She's good at making heavies pretty efficient with Carnage, but... fueling three combat heavies is a vicious thing on a 6 focus caster with so many upkeeps and a nearly cast-every-turn spell like Carnage.
Snapjaw and Wrong Eye move forward somewhat aggressively. The Spitters each pick a Sanctifier and put a shot into them, one cleanly shearing the fist off the left side Sanc, the other doing very little to the right side one. Blood of Martyrs is hit by the blast, so is corroded. The Wrastler doesn't move, he really can't do a whole lot. Totem Hunter debates going into my caster, but she has a focus (although she is knocked down), so he's unlikely to do enough damage to kill her. He opts to just kill Nicia and sit on my flag.
Posse cut down a good handful of TFG on the right, snacking to deny me souls and heal up a couple injured ones. He ends the turn scoring the left zone, making the score 1-0 in his favor.
Protectorate Turn 3:
My opponent is kind enough to remind me about the Daughters, because I very nearly forgot again. Usually I put one of their models somewhere kind of annoying so I keep having to move her so I remember, but I didn't this game.
I've played this list a couple times and I've found one of the big strengths of the Daughters with Ambush is being able to go save a flank long enough for me to shift fire to that side. I've not really had them kill much on Ambush, but they've been invaluable, and they're performing that same job again now.
The Daughters ambush in on the left, and my focus pool runs super thin. Blood gets a little, the Sanctifier on the left gets a focus, models that can use a focus to stand do so. Thyra yanks a focus off a Wrack, which sticks around yet again, and charges the Totem Hunter, casting Carnage and killing him with her initials, using the Overtake to get one more Posse member into Carnage range.
On the right, the TFG get a Shield Wall order and do not a damn thing with a huge CMA into a Posse member. Pyrrhus, luckily, Captain America's his way in there and saves the day, obliterating the gator. Blood of Martyrs and the Sanctifier team up to kill the remaining Posse and leave the Spitter on a couple of wounds, taking out both his Mind and Body and applying Grievous Wounds, so he'll just be cleanup for next turn.
Between the Daughters charging in and the Sanctifier on that side, with some Devout help, all but one Posse member on the left dies. Unfortunately I'm never able to get an attack into the Wrastler, so he's going to be back in action next turn, and I've got a Snapjaw and Wrastler to contend with.
Thyra Gates back to safety and I pass the turn.
Minions Turn 3:
Unfortunately this turn goes a bit off the rails due to a positioning mistake. He decides the Wrastler needs to go in on the Sanctifier, but has Snapjaw kill a Daughter and not move out of the way enough, which screws up the Wrastler's angle and he can't walk into range. The Spitter shoots the Sanc, doing some damage, and the Posse member remaining kills a Daughter with his vengeance and one on his activation (Death March was dropped.) Wrong Eye moves forward into the water and casts Star Crossed. Barnabas moves onto his flag, dropping Swamp Pits and clouds with the swamp gobbers to make sure he's pretty safe. My opponent scores a second point... but unfortunately that's not likely to happen again.
Protectorate Turn 4:
Thyra drops all upkeeps besides Gates of Death, and the Sanctifier on the left gets loaded up. Between my derpy TFG and the Sanctifier on the right, the Spitter is cleaned out of that zone, and Blood of Martyrs runs around my side of the forest to try and get to the fight in another round or two if it goes that long. Thyra moves up and casts Carnage, getting his entire army in the effect. She also casts Silence of Death onto the left side Sanctifier. The Daughters charge the Wrastler, the remaining three reaching him and, with Carnage, are able to strike him three times through Star Crossed, doing 1 each time and finishing the heavy off. Nothing like Daughters of the Flame poking a heavy to death!
The Sanctifier then decides it's time to hit Wrong Eye, as with Carnage he needs 4s and has Battle and Silence of Death putting him at dice+3 on the Journeyman. Star Crossed causes a missed attack, but in two swings (he had one transfer), the gator and his big gator pal are gone. Pyrrhus is able to run to my flag. The Devout kills the Mist Speaker and buys a couple attacks into the Spitter (I had extra focus.) Does alright damage with Battle!
With my Sanctifier on the right contesting his flag, the score goes 2-2, and all he has left is a Spitter, Barnabas, one Posse gator, and a pair of swamp gobbers. At this point It's a downward spiral of scoring, and my opponent opts to concede.
I've played this list twice now, and while the first time I derped and got assassinated nearly instantly, both games have given me a bit to think about. My opponent did have some mistakes in this game, but truthfully I don't think he could have stayed in it once the Wrastler went down, even if it or Snapjaw had killed the Sanctifier. Blood of Martyrs was bearing down on that side of the table at speed, and once he was there, very little could have stopped him really, and even a combo of Devout + Thyra herself will kill Snapjaw if given the opportunity.
Overall, though, the build did what I wanted it to do. Even through a feat that can be as nasty as Barnabas, it just has the staying power to dominate one side and then move over, using the Daughters to keep ahold of the weak side longer. One debate I'm having is whether to drop a Sanctifier in favor of a second unit of TFG, since I've found whichever side doesn't have the TFG has had a tendency to sort of fall apart. With access to Carnage and Silence of Death they hold pretty solid, doing decent enough damage (when I don't roll like crap anyway) and just sort of... not dying, which is really what TFG are good at. I'm going to stick with this exact build for a little bit, though, and see if that change seems prudent or if a playstyle change would be better.
I'm having a good time experimenting with this more scenario-focused style of play rather than matchup-focused, and I think it has some legs to it. Going to keep working at it to see if it continues to hold up!
Thanks for reading!