The Themepocalypse has come! In the last 24 hours, the game has changed, and Protectorate came out the other end like bandits. We went from a mediocre theme, an ok theme we were stuck using, a decent theme, and an incoming great theme to just having four really solid, viable, playable themes in an instant, and it feels pretty damn good.
While any Menite was hyped up for the release of Faithful Masses, it was actually Guardians of the Temple that most intrigued me. I don't think, initially, we were expecting much in the way of tweaks to existing themes beyond the mercenary unit and solo additions (which alone would have actually been pretty good for Guardians), but swapping the extremely situational Girded rule on 'jacks for one that gives Temple Flameguard Tough and Steady while base to base with each other opened up a list style we haven't really had before and gave the theme just a crazy amount of staying power. Given that Thyra is one of my favorite casters in the faction, I had to give it a go.
My list was based on one posted by Will Pagani from the PP Dev team mere minutes after the theme drop, but tweaked to allow for Choir.
Thyra, Flame of Sorrow [Guardians of the Temple]
-Blood of Martyrs
Temple Flameguard + Officer and Standard Bearer
Temple Flameguard + Officer and Standard Bearer
Daughters of the Flame
min Choir of Menoth
Nicia, Tear of Vengeance
Pyrrhus, Flameguard Hero
My opponent brought Jaga-Jaga, a warlock he has spent a lot of time with testing out different styles. He is playing the current version of Jaga, as we're playing with potential use for a tournament in a week or so in mind.
Jaga-Jaga, the Death Charmer [Will Work For Food]
Dahlia Hallyr + Skarath
Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters
Our scenario today was Outlast. My opponent won our starting roll and opted to go first.
The Gator army approaches! To my left he placed his two Scouts and the Sacral Vault. More centrally, from my left to my right, was Jaga-Jaga herself, the Swamp Horror, the Ironback Spitter, and Dahlia with her pet snake. More to the right was the Wrastler, Totem Hunter, and the Nyss.
My opponent has no advance deployment so I deployed my entire army in one go.
Terrain was a little rough on my side; I chose this side but I was trying to avoid his Efaarits having both a hill and a forest to choose from. In hindsight, maybe should have chosen differently but... well, it could be worse.
Starting on my left, I placed one unit of Flameguard, the Flame Bringers, Thyra and the Devout, Blood of Martyrs, Pyyrhus, the second unit of Flameguard, and my Sanctifier. Choir and Mechaniks brought up the rear, and the Daughters of course chose to Ambush. Nicia was placed more to the right, avoiding the Sacral Vault, and my Wracks were placed a bit forward and on either side to keep good coverage.
Totem Hunter chose Nicia as his prey.
Minions Turn 1:
My opponent decided to make full use of the WWFF speed benefit. His Efaarits moved up pretty aggressively, one getting behind the wall near the center of the table, and the Sacral Vault ran as far up as it could. Jaga-Jaga cast Battle Host and charged one of my Wracks, then the beasts all ran enormous distances forward. Dahlia ran to keep up, Totem Hunter stayed back a little bit, and the Nyss began flooding the back of the right side zone. He decided to crowd me out pretty effectively, and sadly there's not a lot I can do about it... time to put the staying power of double TFG with steady and tough to the test.
Protectorate Turn 1:
So there's two possible game plans this turn. One is that the TFG walk up in shield wall. I don't really like this since it's so slow. So... I go with option 2: run and hope that Tough/Steady keeps most of them alive. On the right my TFG run up a bit similar, some getting into the water because why not.
My TFG on the left run up and stick close in groups of 3, spreading the groups out to avoid Spitter fire as much as possible. The Flame Bringers actually get pretty aggressive, one running to engage the more forward Efaarit, two getting behind the wall, and the other two spreading out a bit wide.
Everything else kind of blobs together. Blood of Martyrs stays behind the forest and just far enough to be outside Skarath's walking threat, the Sanctifier runs to my left since if the Flame Bringers don't hold up, the Sacral Vault needs to be dealt with by something that isn't Temple Flameguard. Pyyrhus hangs back and kind of central; with Spellpiercer, he's not really safe just being base to base with a TFG model so I go for distance instead, ready to run to either unit depending on who needs Relentless Charge. Thyra puts Silence of Death on the Flame Bringers, Occultation on the right side unit of Flameguard, and Gates of Death on herself, moving up and staying fairly central. She pulls off a wrack to camp 1 in case of blast damage, and luckily it sticks around.
Nicia runs way off to the right. This is kind of a two-level play; one is that this puts her outside Totem Hunter's threat range so he won't get to jump on her. The other is that if the Nyss want to shoot her, they have to walk way over near the edge of the table... and Nicia's hit squad of Ambushing Daughters of the Flame are ready to come in.
Minions Turn 2:
Well, it's Jaga feat turn. Jaga Jaga moves up to the side of her flag closer to me and feats, casting Ghost Walk on the engaged Efaarit and Grave Wind on Skarath. Dahlia casts Haunting Melody and moves over to the left edge of the forest, catching the Flame Bringer unit leader in her control, as well as a couple TFG. Skarath scoots into the forest, just getting line of sight through it, and sprays through two TFG, my Devout, Thyra, and Pyrrhus (if you look at the image that seems weird, but he only had LOS at a very specific angle so couldn't actually see the Sanctifier and third TFG). In the end, one TFG toughed but was Corroded, another died, the Devout took a couple points of damage, he missed Thyra, and Pyrrhus unfortunately was killed (sadface). Jaga's feat kicks in and Pyrrhus more or less stays where he is, engaging Thyra, the Sanctifier, a Choir member, and a Mechanik. The TFG that died turns around to engage his buddies.
His two Efaarits go and utterly wiff their attacks, repositioning way back to try and avoid dying. The Spitter shoots at one of the TFG surrounded in Flame Bringers. One toughs and is Corroded, the other two TFG in that grouping die. He boosts blast damage on the two Flame Bringers touched, killing one at dice -8 (ouch) but failing to break armor on the other. The TFG he kills spread out a little and engage some stuff, the Flame Bringer steps over the wall and stands in the way of the one that survived the blast.
The Vault is forced to move forward as it doesn't have LOS to anything, and shoots at the Flame Bringer that had engaged the Efaarit, killing her and moving her over to be in the way of more of my army.
The Nyss move up and take the Nicia bait. Three walk over within stealth range of her, and the rest move pretty far forward to get within stealth range of the Occultated TFG. With Tough/NO KD helping me out, only a couple TFG actually die (that ability is so... so good.) Nicia unfortunately dies to the CRA, but is not in Jaga's feat so gets to die peacefully. The killed couple of TFG from the Nyss just move forward a little and turn around to block my charges into the Nyss. The Wrastler and Swamp Horror move in near the right zone to counter attack whatever I go in with. The Totem Hunter, having swapped his Prey to the TFG, jumps onto a couple of them and two TFG proceed to tough (SO GOOD), leaving the Hunter stuck standing where he is.
Protectorate Turn 2:
This is where Thyra's just... incredible toolbox of options comes into play. Played well, I have a way out of almost everything going on here... so lets make it happen. I drop Occultation but upkeep Silence of Death and Gates of Death. The Daughters Ambush on the right, ready to tear up some Nyss. Blood of Martyrs Apparitions into the forest in front of him. Unfortunately I don't have Hand of Vengeance, since Jaga's feat meant none of my guys were actually destroyed. The Corroded TFG in the center dies, though, giving the Sanctifier a soul which is nice. The other corroded TFG rolls a 1 and survives, and the corroded Flame Bringer takes a point of damage. Blood of Martyrs gets allocated 2 focus, my Devout gets 1, putting them on 3 and 2 focus respectively.
It's feat turn, so Thyra goes first. The ignores Pyrrhus and walks forward into one of my zombified TFG, pulling a focus from a Wrack to cast Carnage (it stuck around again!). She kills that TFG, overtakes to the other and kills him, using Overtake to move just a bit more to one side. She pops her feat, camping zero.
The right side TFG teleport around to get better positioning and get a Shield Wall order, as well as activating Iron Zeal. Six of them then CMA the Totem Hunter, killing him outright. The Choir teleport, getting an important one out of Pyrrhus' melee range, and get Battle onto all three of my 'jacks. Blood of Martyrs activates and ports 2" forward further into the forest, then advances 2.5 inches to wedge himself slightly between the Swamp Horror and Skarath to avoid Poltergeist. With Carnage, but not Hand of Vengeance, I need 7s to hit Skarath at Dice +1. A few attacks in he's at 1 wound, so I leave him alive and put two attacks into the Swamp Horror which does very little. Both beasts have Grievous Wounds applied now, which is nice.
The Devout teleports 2" out to the left, getting LOS on Dahlia. He charges and boosts to hit, connecting and easily doing enough damage to kill her (with Skarath on 1 wound, I didn't really need a great roll for transferring to be useless to her, which is why I left Skarath alive so low anyway.) One Mechanik ports out of Pyrrhus' melee and runs to my flag, which is now uncontested. Conveniently, the Devout is now also contesting the enemy flag that Jaga is standing on.
The Flame Bringers move from the feat, easily clearing my zombie flame bringers and charging the Sacral Vault, leaving it on about 5 wounds. Reposition lets me then engage both Efaarits. The Vault also gets Grievous Wounds which... doesn't really matter.
The TFG on the left in my control port, the others just walk, and they also get Shield Wall/Iron Zeal. They use a couple CMAs to clear the zombies out of the zone, giving me that zone at the end of the turn. The Daughters get absolutely beautiful charge angles on the Nyss, killing 7 of them easily, including Cylena. At the end of my turn, Thyra teleports back a little ways in order to not die to a trampling ghostly Wrastler or Swamp Horror. I end my turn, scoring my flag and the left zone to make the score 2-0.
Minions Turn 3:
My opponent is placed in a somewhat awkward position; things have to go well. That said, Blood of Martyrs is super dead so there's that. Jaga upkeeps Battle Host.
His Spitter moves a bit and fires at the cluster of TFG way out on the left of the left side zone, but the shot misses and it deviates max distance out into nowhere. The Sacral Vault shoots at the Flame Bringer closer to Jaga, boosting to hit with his one soul, but misses the shot, doing nothing. His Efaarits attempt melee attacks on the Flame Bringers, one connecting but failing to do damage, the other missing. The one nearer Jaga repositions away, taking a free strike and dying, giving the Vault a soul again.
Jaga casts Ghost Walk on the Horror and the Wrastler, and puts Rage on the Wrastler. She steps back to the back edge of her flag. The Wrastler walks up and obliterates Blood of Martyrs, then takes out the spear of the Devout. The Swamp Horror walks over to the tight clump of TFG and cuts down a handful of them, using Overtake to get pretty deep in there. I make no tough rolls, but he does miss twice (does need 7s, overall his dice were fine here.) Some Nyss walk over and flail ineffectually at Daughters, missing all of their attacks.
So... at this point, we decide to call the game. Partly, my opponent needs to head home but on top of that, I just have way too many avenues to victory. He wasn't able to contest the left zone, so I score to 3 and the game goes to 3-0, so all I have to do is kill the Wrastler, a feat pretty likely given that both the Devout and Sanctifier can get into him (my mechanik on the flag can repair the broken spear) and end my turn to go to 5 and win. Even if that were not the case, in an attrition game, my Flame Bringers will finish out the Vault, Sanctifier and Devout kill the Wrastler, and Thyra and the TFG are quite likely to finish off the Swamp Horror. The Daughters will kill the remaining Nyss easily. While victory is always a possibility, it would essentially take a miracle at this point.
We both have changes we'd make to this list; given that he means this as an infantry fighter, the Horror will likely get swapped out for a second Spitter at the very least. Another thing about the +2 SPD WWFF benefit is it's infinitely better when you do go first; if I had gone first, game likely would have been even rougher as I threat far enough that he can't really capitalize on that benefit.
As far as my end of the table... Guardians of the Temple in this style is *so* much better. Tough/NO KD on the TFG was *super* relevant; I didn't make a ton of tough rolls, probably pretty close to average if not a bit below average, but even with just Occultation as a defensive buff they're just a really great tarpit for their cost that can totally do work if you swap Silence of Death over to them, adding that tough/no kd effect just pushes them that little bit over the top. If I took this with a caster like Severius1 who can Defenders Ward one of the units, or even Vindictus whose Penitence spell stacks beautifully with tough/no kd as well as having Defenders Ward, this unit could be an absolute nightmare to remove in doubles. This gives the Flame Bringers a great shield to move around with, helping deliver the unit when it otherwise might have some trouble.
Possible changes include dropping the Devout down to a Dervish (is that really a downgrade?), dropping 1 wrack and two mechaniks, and running Eilish. The reason for that is I think this could have game (untested, but we'll see) as a Ghost Fleet drop. It's not a hard answer, but I think it could hold up, but Eilish being able to strip Crippling Grasp off of my TFG is sort of helpful. Stealth should keep Thyra alive from most of the assassination potential, barring the Stalkers which would have to be positioned around. A Devout is a wonderful safety blanket and an all around great 'jack, but I think with solid play Thyra can play without him.
Overall the Themepocalypse was amazing for Protectorate and I'm excited to keep playing with new ideas!