Time are about to change, Menites.
The Community Integrated Development process has been a force of change in every faction it has touched, starting with Grymkin, then for our existing factions going into Cygnar, Trollbloods, Minions, Cryx, Legion, and Khador, every one has come out the other end with new and interesting pieces as well as a mess of fixes and tweaks to existing models. It's no surprise, then, that many of the Faithful are excited that the Exemplar CID will be starting on May 2nd.
This makes it a fun time to look at Protectorate of Menoth as a faction, before the changes start getting looked at. So... where are we at?
Protectorate has four theme forces, each making up a major sub-faction within the ranks. I'll list them out and talk about them here in order of generally perceived power level, from best to worst.
The Faithful Masses: Our newest theme is also our strongest in most cases. Faithful Masses has probably the deepest roster of varied and different options, with very few pieces that are unusable and a lot of potential variation in design, even if there are a few 'core' builds that have become pretty popular. The theme gives access to Idrians at full FA (other themes can take one unit as their merc option), and as they are likely our best unit for cost, it's hard to say no to a unit or two of them. It also has one of the strongest 3 point options in the game in the form of the Allegiant of the Order of the Fist, an absolutely monstrous scenario piece and combat solo for his cost. Paladins in the theme both can be taken for free and count towards free points, which means it's one of only a handful of themes that can run extremely solo-heavy if it wishes to, and many of my personal favorite builds lean heavily on both Allegiants and the full suite of Paladin options, especially the absolutely amazing Champion of the Order of the Wall. Faithful Masses also provides amazing benefits in Hand of Vengeance for our heavies, which fixes a lot of the problems our 'jacks have, as well as giving a wall template to help our typically pretty squishy casters or models get up field. The downside to Masses, though, is in a couple areas. For one, it is the 'sub-faction' in Protectorate that is probably the least popular; Idrians in particular don't really have the Protectorate "feel" you get from Exemplar and Flameguard, and I've seen many who don't wish to play the theme because it just doesn't use models they like, which is entirely valid. Secondly, the Hand of Vengeance effect, while very strong, feels like a bit of a band-aid to deal with problems inherent to our Warjack line... but we'll talk about that more when we hit that theme.
Exemplar Interdiction: Ah, Exemplar. Exemplar are why many people started playing Protectorate in the first place. Especially in MK. 3, Exemplar make up a mass of somewhat slower infantry, but with a bit better than normal ARM values and absolutely TONS of weapon masters. Knights Exemplar are the pride and joy of Interdiction, sitting at a reasonable cost while hitting miles above their weight class, as long as you can deliver them. Errants, while generally a bit maligned, have found a home as a tarpit/delivery mechanism for the army, although their Command Attachment is a seriously rough choice to take due to his painfully bad mini feat and situationally useful Tactics: Assault. Solos like the Knight Exemplar Seneschal are monstrous combat solos with good scenario play, and the recently released Exemplar Warder Elias Gade makes Errants worth it almost on his own. Unfortunately, the good choices start to get a bit slim after that; Vengers are alright, but expensive and require a little help from your opponent to actually be worth their cost. Cinerators are so, so close to being a good unit, but as they are are a pretty terrible choice in almost all instances, at a cost worth nearly two units of Knights Exemplar, but with each model being only marginally tougher than two knights and horrendously low output in comparison. Bastions are laughable, being a "defensive" heavy infantry unit that dies almost trivially to basic infantry clearing, sitting at a premium cost for a five model unit, and just not hitting hard enough to justify the delivery. This in turn makes the Bastion Seneschal a tough choice to take, even though he's probably pretty ok. Errant Seneschals are better since the Unyielding change, but still an unlikely pick. Gravus, our Exemplar Dragoon, sees play with Kreoss3 where he seriously shines, but outside that just isn't worth the cost of an entire Knight Exemplar unit. Further, the theme benefits include one great one in the additional 2" deployment, and one good but... confusing... one in giving Warjacks blessed weapons. While this is thematic in its own right, you're punished by the loss of free pieces by taking a larger battlegroup which means it will be a narrow benefit unless you forgo the free model benefit in favor of a larger battlegroup, as well as just... not helping Exemplar all that much. Interdiction has popped out some of the strongest tournament lists in the faction, but is doing so with an extremely narrow pool of effective models. With the CID incoming, this theme has a ton of exciting possibilities and, as my personal favorite part of the Protectorate, I'm delighted we're about to get a chance to test changes.
Guardians of the Temple: Originally a seriously bad theme, Guardians changed during the 'themepocalypse' that gave us Faithful Masses. Rather than the extremely mediocre "girded for warjacks" benefit, it changed to give Temple Flameguard, a decent but hard to pick choice in Mk. 3, Tough and Steady while base to base with members of their unit. Suddenly we had one of the most vicious tarpits in the game in the form of TFG, and the theme also allows for an ambush unit with Daughters, which is very strong in the current Steamroller, and contains one of the only units I think may compete with Idrians for power level in the Protectorate, the Flame Bringers, commonly referred to as Daughter Cavalry. It has some other good tech choices like Flameguard Cleansers and some decent solo options in Pyyrhus and Nicia. Mostly the issue with Guardians is one of hitting power and lack of deep options; for the most part you're just building with some combination of Flame Bringers, Temple Flameguard, Cleansers, and Daughters, and that's pretty much all you've got. Really I expected Guardians to be our first CID since between the four themes it seems like the least fleshed out, but I guess we'll have to wait a bit longer on that one. All in all it's a decent theme, not amazing.
Creator's Might: The only theme I would genuinely say is pretty bad. This basically boils down to being the Amon ad-Raza theme; he loves the upkeeps starting in play and fixes the majority of problems the theme has going for it, mainly speed, pathfinder, and accuracy (as well as damage but... that's less unique to Amon as far as what he does for Creator's Might that nobody else does nearly as well.) Outside Amon, though, this theme is riddled with problems. For one, upkeeps starting in play is good for a tiny subset of our casters. We're one of the most focus efficient factions in the game as far as how much our casters can spend in a turn, and very few casters have any problems at all getting their necessary spells out, so it's basically a dead benefit for all but a couple of casters. For another, our 'jack options as a whole are full of inefficiencies and downsides that are very difficult to handle. While we have some very good 'jacks, they're a bit narrow in scope and the ones meant to be a bit more dynamic tend to do so at a pretty extreme cost. Fighting infantry in any kind of numbers in Creator's Might is near impossible without really bending over backwards to do it, and is part of why Dervishes have turned into a mainstay 'spam' piece, given that they can pretty easily kill 3-5 troops in a turn if the stats are right for only 7 points, but they're pretty killable and have to really be set up to do this efficiently (hence Amon being so popular.) Our only other 'infantry' killing 'jacks either do so at a painfully short range (Castigator) or are... at a slightly better range but cost an exorbitant amount to run (Vanquishers.) Even the ones that probably are worth their cost dig so deep into our pockets to do it, we lose a potentially massive amount of armor crack (Redeemers). While I don't believe every list should be able to fight every thing (see Nemo3), even a Creator's Might list designed to 100% slaughter infantry will often not do that terribly well given the extremely high cost on the infantry clearing pieces as well as their just general inefficiency. On top of that, the theme has innately poor access to scenario options, with pieces that can take a punch usually featuring crippling downsides towards scenario play, between some kind of combination of speed, cost, or output. Creator's Might is also one of the only 'battlegroup' themes unable to consistently reach four free solo options, given our reliance on the Choir which digs into the points that would be used towards 'jacks/battle engines for free pieces. The free options are also extremely cheap across that board, with very few 4 point options and no 5 point ones, meaning it is often playing with 9-10 free points vs. armies with upwards of 17-21, the cost of an entire heavy in some cases. The recently revealed Severius 0 will be of some help to the theme, but I still worry about its scenario play; with any luck, the Exemplar CID will look at some warjacks which will in turn help out Creator's Might a bit.
Protectorate features some good themes and one mediocre one, which can be rough competing with some of the extremely powerful themes like Grave Diggers or Black Industries, but gives us a solid fighting chance into most things, and we've got some extremely strong options to throw around when we want to. I don't expect Exemplar CID will aim to increase the power level of Interdiction by an extreme amount so much as just fill it out with utility options and increase the depth of choices by buffing the seriously underused pieces, given that Interdiction is already a pretty decent theme. The dream is that the changes to Warjacks done in general, which has happened in most CID's, will also help out Creator's Might some and even out some of the power level across the four themes.
Keep an eye out for Part 2, where I'll talk a bit about where Protectorate stands vs. other common power pieces and factions!