What's up, Menites! I know, where have I been, right? Well, any of you on the facebook are of course as usual probably sick of me, but generally speaking I've had a hard time getting articles out. Between the baby, toddler, some mental health stuff to work out, illnesses, blah blah it has been a mess but god damnit, nothing gonna put me down!
So... what's been going on in the world of Menoth? Well... a lot, actually.
Recently we hit the Twelve Factions of Christmas Community Integrated Development cycle. Essentially, we got to beta test both the Champion of the Order of the Wall and the new theme army, The Faithful Masses. Now, I want to note, I'm going to be talking about these based on the last iteration we saw of them prior to CID's end, not about their final release so... things may change, and I'll post about that if anything seems considerably different from our expectations.
Let's talk about the two of those starting with the less impactful of the two, the Champion himself.
The Champion of the Order of the Wall had a hectic run through CID. Initially dropping with Retaliatory Strike and Leadership [Retaliatory Strike] for Paladins, this was rapidly found to be a really rough rule to go with his Lance, a rule I think most of us hoped beyond hope he wouldn't have but here we are, and low range on his weapons in general. This was also a problem with the Paladins themselves, and basically made the rule only usable with the Harbinger, and even then only sometimes. Unfortunately, cries for the removal of Lance were unheard and instead the ability on the model and the Leadership changed to Girded.
Now, this isn't a very... exciting... change, but it's not a bad one like I think many people believe. While I've been a vocal hater of Girded on Warjacks in our Guardians of the Temple theme (because it's an awful benefit, frankly), being able to deliberately build a decent number of sources of Girded into an army... actually isn't that bad. Combo that with Righteous Vengeance on the Paladins to let them sort of un-stick themselves from being boxed in by your own troops or solos avoiding blast damage, it works well with these guys. In particular, a Paladin walking around base to base with an Allegiant of the Fist has just got to be one of the most difficult to remove things you can get in the game for 7 points as far as just sitting in a zone and giving you the finger. Can also be alright with some casters that don't love high boosted blast damage like Thyra or Harbinger, who both work great in the theme the Paladins will be in. You can also use this with Durst, putting Paladins B2B with your 'jacks and then solos or whatever else you want B2B with both the Paladin and 'jack on his feat turn to be extremely hard to deal with (until you hit electro leaps, which of course don't actually interact with the game in any meaningful way and ignore basically everything.)
As far as his output... it's hardly the best in the world, with a PS 16 Lance charge and a PS 12 weapon master sword with Close Combat, in addition to a PS 12 Shield. Reasonable number of attacks, and the Shield didn't have Close Combat last we saw so it's a nice extra attack in addition to his impact attacks and his charge when he goes in. Overall... the thing about Paladins is I always envision them as having a melee attack that just hits a bit beyond their pay grade, it's kind of a defining feature of them for me, and this guy's stats don't really feel that way. When compared to something like a Drakhun.... it's not bad, necessarily, but it's hardly exciting.
He also came out the gate with Unyielding, stacking on more rules that just didn't work at all well with Lance and his otherwise short melee ranges. Thankfully, we were able to add a Shield weapon to the guy in exchange for Unyielding, so he's a bit more vulnerable to chain weapons or getting hit in the back... but at least now his weakness isn't just 'I have 2" melee.' At an actually pretty decent DEF of 13, if you wanted you could throw Defenders Ward on this guy and not feel too bad about it. 15/22 is a bit of a statline, it turns out.
Overall, this isn't the most exciting model in the world for 8 points, he compares kind of poorly to a Dervish when it comes to just straight up fighting but... let's be real, for 7 points, almost everything compares poorly to a Dervish. That said he's tough, fast, accurate, and packs a reasonable punch. Taking one I think won't be uncommon if you're taking Paladins in any kind of great number, but... until the possible future where we see Paladins get fleshed out a bit more, you won't really see two. If even then, frankly he's a hard sell at his point value if you're doubling up on his Leadership aura, which is a respectable 9" from him (it was lower initially, so... a good change).
Alright, that's the Champion. He's alright. Let's be real though, we're here for the theme force.
THE FAITHFUL MASSES
Alright, let's do this.
The Faithful Masses is a theme force surrounding the general converted 'horde' or 'natives' type units available to the Protectorate, in addition to the elite troops that protect them and deal closely with them (Paladins.) The theme has a huge number of options, including Idrians, Zealots, Deliverers, Paladins, Allegiants, Reclaimers, Vassals, Choir, Wracks, the Hierophant, the Book, Wracks, Tristan, and of course our non-character 'jacks and all warcasters. Further, it can take one Mercenary Unit and Solo. Due to Idrians already being a regular option for the list, Idrians do not count as your Merc choice due to having Partisan, so you get to choose something on top of them. Some popular choices I saw were Aiyana and Holt, Sam MacHorne and the Devil Dogs, and very rarely Thorn Gun Mages.
Next, you get free small or medium based solos, weapon crews, and attachments for every 20 points of Paladins and Protectorate units you take. Another note I want to make here, is even though he isn't expressly called out, the Attendant Priest is usable on Merc units you take. However, for the purposes of list construction, they are not Protectorate units yet and as such won't count for free points. I've seen some confusion about that so... clearing that up now.
You also get to place a wall template (3/4" x 4" linear obstacle) completely within 20" of your back board edge right before deployment. This has to be at least 3" away from hills, obstacles, or obstructions. This is a great little benefit, especially for casters that would love to sit right about at that point on the board but would prefer not to have to buy a bunch of defensive tech, such as the Harbinger. Not too much to talk about with this benefit, it's great, has a lot of good uses. Placing a wall like... basically touching a flag on some scenarios so you can have a solo sit on the flag while maintaining cover is pretty silly.
The last benefit is the big one, and where they really pushed the envelope for what our design as a faction is allowed to have: Protectorate warjacks in this army gain Hand of Vengeance. This rule is of course on Blood of Martyrs and gives the model it's on +2 to melee attack and melee damage rolls if a Friendly Faction model was destroyed or RFP'd by an enemy attack within 5" of the model for one round. This is a +2 MAT and damage swing on... any warjack in the faction. Besides the Avatar, since there's no way to get him into this force.
This theme force is... huge. Early impressions so far, and I believe this is largely correct, is that this sits among the strongest theme forces Privateer Press has designed. Many, in fact, have cried "overpowered" due to some of the extremes available. Specifically, Amon ad-Raza can push Dervishes up to PS 20 pretty easily between Hand of Vengeance, Battle, and Synergy. Protectorate warjacks are known for hitting hard, a result of our access to Hymn of Battle, but our 'jacks in this theme and with the support available to us push up to be basically the heaviest hitting pieces in the game, barring certain faction's feats (Butcher1, Sorscha2, shit hits hard in Khador on feat turn it turns out.) Even outside casters with any real 'jack support, this is MAT 9 PS 17 Dervishes for 7 points, a piece which will kill Warpwolves most times. Many of our casters feature +1 or +2 buffs on hit, damage, or both that is applicable to 'jacks, and of course Amon takes the win with a full +3 accuracy and damage swing.
Further, buffs in the CID put units we weren't seeing before on the map. This isn't just a 'jack theme in disguise again... part of that is of course that you have to take enough warriors to reliably get Hand of Vengeance through most of the game but also it has basically no dead models. Deliverer Skyhammers bumped up to POW 10 base and gained Rocket Volley, a slight variation on their old Mk. 2 rule which increases the size of their AOE depending on the number of models participating in a CRA. Skyhammers now represent two AOE 5's per unit at a POW 15 initial hit and POW 10 blast damage, which is phenomenal for just slaughtering infantry. Zealots saw an increase in RAT to 5 and a 1 point decrease, which is really all they needed to be in a great spot and make them a great unit if you just want something that's going to keep Hand of Vengeance active on your 'jacks for an entire game, even if they never make an attack... and if they do, those attacks actually aren't bad!
Additionally, and in many ways most importantly, this theme gives us access to Idrians in theme again. There's few people who will argue that Idrian's aren't the best unit in the faction. I'll have an article about that eventually; while they are the best unit in the faction in a general sense, they aren't the best at specific things which is an important distinction. Anyway, starting a Faithful Masses build with two units of Idrians is a very easy choice that's hard to go wrong with, especially with casters known to work well with them like Severius1 and 2, or... well, really anyone with halfway decent infantry buffs. Even just Ignite on a caster is enough to probably make them worth it. Admittedly Idrians can be very hard to get the most mileage out of without buffs to keep them alive and/or really push their damage output to 11 but... even unsupported, an experienced player can make this unit into a nightmare.
So... how did we come out?
Well, there's a couple things that we're waiting on that are sort of important. The Revelator is slated for release in November, which I think will appear in a lot of builds and is kind of a big deal. Another change that I'm crossing my fingers for is that we see the option of a Mercenary Unit (and solo, but that's less important to me) in Creator's Might. Even if that unit isn't allowed to be Idrians for some reason, the option of a forward moving combat unit for that theme would just be.... extremely helpful. Adding that option to Creator's Might would, I think, open it up for casters outside Amon and give us a bit more list build flexibility.
That said, this CID was very good to the Protectorate. The Faithful Masses, if it releases essentially as we saw it at the end of CID, is a terror. I don't believe it's overpowered, at least not given some of the themes that exist and the balance of free points for units and such vs. maximizing the benefit of Hand of Vengeance is a good one, but it puts the faction on the map. We've struggled competitively to a degree, and while I think there are a lot of factors that go into that that I think are largely meta based, Faithful Masses and the Zealot and Deliverer changes are a huge step in the right direction towards getting Protectorate to the place it needs to be.
Thanks for reading, Menites, and I'll see you next time!