Faction Overview: Warjacks of the Protectorate, Pt 1

On to the hulking masses of metal that brought many players to Warmachine in the first place, Warjacks have been an important part of the Protectorate stable for a long time. In Mk. 2 we ran warjack-centric lists heavily in a world where that was almost never done, and although the ability to do that has opened up across nearly all factions, the Protectorate still boasts a very solid stable of both Warjacks and Warjack support options. Blessed machines level all that lay before them on the battlefield, enemy's shots always firing wide, spells fizzling when they touch the sacred metal... Protectorate delivers our warjacks even against terrible odds.

Menoth Brings the Metal

My grading rubric as before:

is a serious powerhouse of the faction. These are the pieces that will appear in most, if not all, lists, and whose effect on the games in which they're played will be massive.

is made up of very strong, very solid options. These are the core workhorses of the Protectorate, but aren't going to shock anyone with their extreme power.

is average (this isn't necessarily a bad thing.) These pieces pretty much do what you'd expect at their point cost, maybe fulfill too niche a role but still perform it well, or are more likely to be a choice for a very particular kind of build designed around them.

is a bit under average. These pieces are a hard sell, but not beyond saving. They may have a place if you really dig for it, but really seeing these pieces is likely to cause an eyebrow raise more than anything.

is bad. There are few truly terrible pieces in the Protectorate but... they exist, and there's really just nothing reasonable that can be done to get them into lists without reworking them in some way.

Plus or minus grades represent a half step in either direction just to give it some granularity. Let's get this started!

Avatar of Menoth - C-

Oh boy, we get to start off with a controversial one in the Warjack department. The Avatar has been a point of contention for some time, and his issues are mired in a lot of subtleties about how the Protectorate as a faction works. At his core, you have a pretty ridiculous 'jack statline and rules, with his sword Burning Wrath sitting at one of the highest base PS values available to a non-colossal warjack. He has a shield, he has sacred ward, and he has Menoth's Gaze, which is one of the very few true "control" elements available to the faction. All in all, the Avatar is an absolute beast... but pays for it on his 20 point chassis.

The real problem with the Avatar is being separated from your casters battlegroup. We are absolutely loaded with battlegroup centric abilities on our casters, with, at a quick count, 10 of our 19 'casters using battlegroup-only effects, many of which are quite core to their function. Many of those that do not have battlegroup-only effects are infantry-centric, and gain more from having more infantry models than they do the Avatar. The Avatar's issue is not one of an inability to do enough... it just has an inability to functionally fit into lists in a way that makes much sense vs. other options at his rather extreme point cost. Honestly, and this will probably happen here eventually, a massive article could be written solely based on exactly why the Avatar is just so difficult to actually work into lists.

That said, I have made quite a bit of use of him in my 

Grand Scrutator Severius list

 just for the extremely tough, powerful body he represents paired alongside Eye of Truth. However he fits or doesn't fit into lists, he's still a very potent piece on the table which requires serious thought and investment to handle. Without some kind of help he's not going to toe to toe with two warjacks, and needs to typically kill at least that to get his points worth. When properly supported, he can handle a flank of the table nearly on his own if he picks his targets right. Another advantage he has is being very independent of the Choir, which can often be very helpful in the late game, as he has the numbers to kill other heavies without their help, has Sacred Ward built in, so really only loses out on Passage when they die.

The fact is, his grade could go a lot of different directions based on exactly how you want to look at him, so this is a difficult grade to give and feel terribly good about. His place in the faction is very complex, and something I'll look at more in the future I'm sure.

Blessing of Vengeance - B+

Great, another really weird one to grade!

Blessing of Vengeance is great. There's no getting around that. However, he's expensive, and gains so much from his bond with Severius that it is very difficult to slot him in with any caster besides Sevvy himself. As an arc node, shield guard, zone holder, and combat piece, he's just very solid, but its at a cost that's more than some of our heavies. Tons of utility and a very solid body at the cost of a bit of damage output.

With most casters Blessing of Vengeance will perform reasonably well but possibly not be the "optimal" choice vs. a devout, revenger, guardian, or just... something else for the 13 points. With Severius, though, he's a powerhouse and a huge part of why Sevvy's spellcasting is so potent. I'd probably put him as like an A with Sevvy and a C+ with most casters so it's kind of a weird grade.

Blessing does not have a single dead rule on his card, with solid defensive stats, decent damage output, an arc node, defensive strike which has straight up won me games, shield guard which is a great rule, repel which further pushes how hard he can be to kill as well as help unjam himself to be an arc node if he's engaged, and powerful charge which makes him extremely accurate on the charge. BoV is a great light warjack, but at a premium cost.

Blood of Martyrs - B-

*stab stab*

Such characters! Blood of Martyrs is a serious powerhouse. His bond with Thyra is, of course, phenomenal, combining with her feat to give Blood a massive threat range, but even without that, he's still MAT 9 PS 18 when Hand of Vengeance is active, and innate Grievous Wounds on a melee weapon has a ton of power in the battlegroup/repairs heavy world of today. Often Blood can fail to kill something like a Warbeast and still come out on top, just because the beast has broken aspects and can't do enough work in return. Also being able to cut through Tough enemies or get around any number of special healing-oriented defensive abilities gives him a ton of utility.

For his points, Blood is probably the most up-front effective melee heavy in a wide range of situations that we have, possibly fighting with Scourge of Heresy for the honor. The difference of power between the two up close is largely one of exactly that you're fighting, but Blood definitely brings a lot to the table, being able to reach extremely good offensive numbers at unparalleled accuracy. His downfall, really, is a lack of a gun which is a priceless commodity on Protectorate warjacks, but for a dedicated melee heavy, Blood is a great option.

Castigator - D+

The Castigator is my favorite non-character warjack... from an aesthetic standpoint. It's very different looking, I've always loved all the tubes coming off of it. Unfortunately, he doesn't see the table much, for a myriad of reasons.

Castigator's are rough in that they don't hit particularly hard without a fair bit of help, don't match up to the SPD 5 w/2" melee threat we tend to go for, and have an anti-infantry rule that, while effective when it works, is painfully short range. That said, the Castigator does bring some game to the table. He has two open fists, which is actually quite rare among Warjacks. As a mid-line piece that moves forward after enemy infantry slams into your main force, Combustion can actually be quite effective and be a very efficient way to kill infantry. The nice thing about Combustion is its lack of connection to any particular weapon or system, which means as long as the Castigator has an action to use, he can still combust, which means he's still useful to some degree even on a single box.

This is a world of trading heavies, and the Castigator doesn't fill that role well. As infantry (possibly) is on the rise again, he may see a bit more play as a battlegroup anti-infantry option. I've featured him in a couple of Anson Durst builds, in fact, as a way to help clear my stuff off after jamming infantry moves in. Further, Hymn of Battle helps Combustion and actually makes it pretty painful, and remember it is boostable. Autohitting boostable POW 14s aren't to be scoffed at. Sadly, the Castigator is in the wrong meta right now, and not necessarily *amazing* at his job even in the right meta, but with a bit of care you can find a spot for him. Occasionally. Shout out to Amon who I quite like him with, he helps basically every issue the Castigator has and is a great heavy option for helping clear infantry.

Crusader - B

This is a bit of a weird grade too... a lot of the warjacks are, I find. Say one thing about the Crusader, say that it is simple. SPD 4, PS 18 weapon, 1" melee, MAT 6, cheap as dirt. For equal to or less than the points for many light warjacks, you get an extremely basic heavy warjack with no bells and whistles that you can use as a hyper cheap template to throw on your buffs and smash stuff above its weight class. Mathematically speaking, there's no better heavy for piece trades than a Crusader, so if you can fix up his shortcomings, he can be a serious terror. Amon is a common place for this, as you can spam out a lot of them for just the boxes and armor and get them to fairly absurd damage potential and solid speed.

The reason they're a B, in my eyes, is that you're sacrificing guns and utility by taking one in favor of... basically math. They're damn good at the job they do, which is trade up into other heavies, but as soon as you need more options or more guns, the Crusader is the wrong piece. He's cheap for a reason, but... he's very cheap. Take them in twos and threes, more if you're feeling a bit wild, and they'll just plod across the table smashing anything in front of them for you.

Dervish - B+

Stabbajack... wabbajack?

What a great little light. Extremely cheap, MAT 7 base, decent base threat range, weapons at a good value to buff with Battle, DEF 13 which is randomly nice, although it loses a point of armor for it, and of course side step and the option to combo strike, which is a PS 19 attack under Battle.

These are just great combat pieces. In many ways, taking three of them for 21 points can be done in lieu of infantry options for adding to your attack volume, as they'll do roughly the same in melee output as a 10 man unit but with the addition of focus for more options, more hit points, and access to battlegroup buffs. Anyone who can push them up just a little bit makes them seriously shine, and a group of Dervishes can act as the core combat force of an army pretty easily. Amon is the obvious choice, Tristan Durant is another one who can do quite well with them. Severius1 of course, but he's great with everything. You really just need to give them a slight push for them to be amazing... but one or two can act as great little combat pieces even if you can't do much to help them out, given that they're MAT 7 base which is phenomenal.

Devout - A

I have a serious love affair with the Devout. He was a piece I passed off as not that important for a long time, but if I'm not running Blessing of Vengeance with Sevvy, I'm running a Devout, almost 100% of the time. For 9 points you get a premier defensive warjack, with MAT 7, 2" melee, defensive strike, shield guard, and the ability to essentially give your warcaster Sacred Ward by staying base to base. He'll sit there keeping your caster safe all game and do a great job at it, and in the late game, especially if there's even one Choir member left alive, he can come in to finish out heavies or mop up scraps and win late game attrition grinds. DEF 13 means he takes a super late game Defenders Ward extremely well, once many games have ground down to the wire, 15/20 with light warjack hit boxes can feel insurmountable.

Honestly I can barely think of anything in the way of a weakness on the devout. It's tough, it has a job that it does beautifully, and can absolutely anchor the late game if it's necessary. It takes most buffs beautifully, and it just can't be stated enough: it keeps your caster alive. Devouts will just keep your caster from dying, in some cases they will straight up halt some list's entire game plan for winning the game by being there keeping your caster safe. Shield Guards are very potent, and Sacred Ward for any warcaster is enormous. Take Devouts, you won't regret it.

I've thought about armies of Devouts, as well, but haven't gone in on buying more of them... sure sounds fun with Durst though.

Eye of Truth - A+

Eye of Truth. Talk about a true terror on a battlefield. The Avatar is a rough sell at 20 points, but Eye of Truth makes that point cost look almost paltry. If you want to take the biggest, nastiest single piece shy of a colossal, you take Eye of Truth. I could go on for days about how incredible this piece is and how much it can do for Protectorate but... let's go with the short version.

Eye of Truth is a SPD 5 'jack with a shield and ashen veil. This alone makes him very frightening, as no 'jack with any combination of those has existed for us up to this point. By just those rules, he has the highest base threat range available to Protectorate 'jacks and can stack up to DEF 14, ARM 23 against Warbeasts or other living models. Next, he has a gun. It's a short range gun, to be sure, but once in range it's comparable to a Reckoner's with a couple more bells and whistles (auto continuous fire, magic weapon.) His 2" melee weapon is magical and causes fire. The weapon also has Flame Burst, which I've actually made a lot of use of these days.

His Bonded warcaster is Malekus, and when taken with him becomes a Channeler, which is pretty much everything Malekus could want. Pre-Eye of Truth, his lists often felt a bit hamstrung by having to take our other arc nodes, none of which synergize particularly well with him outside just being arc nodes and none of which are terribly cheap. This opened up his list building quite a bit by giving him a heavy he'd probably want to take anyway that also gives him that Channeler option.

Alright, let's hit the rules that we brought this guy for (not that everything else isn't great.) Firstly, he has Oracular Vision, allowing him to spend a focus once per turn to ignore a damage roll from an attack. On a shield 'jack with ashen veil... any defensive buff to Eye pushes him over the top and in some cases makes him nearly unkillable. He does require just a little more focus than a typical warjack just running every turn, since he wants to have that extra one every round, but it's a small price to pay for his insane survivability. This rule makes him nearly immune to Drag effects (that roll a damage roll anyway... screw you, Prime Axiom!), spells like Stranglehold that require damage to trigger, and any number of random effects. Obviously he can only do it once per turn though, so don't let your opponent bait you into using it early so he can snag you with something else.

Lastly, he has Holy Light. This ability is madness. Giving an even more potent version of Blessed to all models within 5" is a step towards the true Protectorate gunline, giving us the ability to ignore defensive spells outside Reznik2 or Purification casters. This works on spells, so offensive casters like Sevvy just love it. This works on feats, so an offensive damage feat like Sevvy2 can use it.

Eye of Truth is in the top tier of warjacks, able to toe to toe with multiple enemies heavies and come out on top. Once a single defensive ability is stacked on his already super tough body, he enters nearly impossible to kill territory in some situations. It is rare I've lost him in games, he's typically held down an entire half of a table on his own and come out on top.

Fire of Salvation - C+

Hide your 'casters, hide your spells

Fire is a pretty solid piece for what he is, his main issue is really just being compared to a Crusader in a lot of ways for 160% of the price. He's one higher MAT, has Righteous Vengeance, an Imprint to gain a better version of Berserk and boosted attack rolls, and a bond with Kreoss to give him Dispel.

His Bond is strong, but all of the three Kreoss' have the ability to remove upkeeps from opponents, it loses a little value by overlap. That said, Kreoss3 needs his feat to do it, Kreoss2 has to damage with an offensive spell, and Kreoss1 likes to not have to spend his focus on Purification, so they're decent options. I think between the three, the one I like him with the most is Kreoss3, since Righteous Vengeance stacked with Assail makes him pretty vicious to deal with and gives him the extra focus to work with when he charges to Imprint if necessary.

His Imprint is good, although not nearly what it could be if he had 2" melee. He has the choice to make another attack every time he kills an enemy model, and gains boosted attack rolls. He'll kill casters pretty easily if he gets to them, especially with any kind of accuracy buff on top of that imprint. The "berserk" is decent, and if a warrior model is near an enemy heavy you're attacking you can smack it with the fist to gain an extra mace attack, but not really the primary part of the ability.

Righteous Vengeance is the real money maker here, giving a 3" advance and an attack if one of your warrior models was killed within 5" of him last turn. This gives him a really surprising threat, especially when stacked onto another movement buff.

Fire of Salvation is a solid warjack, just struggles to find a place very often vs other, flashier options for a similar price point.

Guardian - C+

Don't let the C-range grade fool you, Guardians are quite good warjacks. For the price, they just tend to need a little consideration to bring, but where they shine they do shine. Our only non-character PS 18 'jack with 2" melee, the Guardian also comes stock at MAT 7 and has Powerful Charge, which has a ton of value on casters like Durst who has no MAT or damage buff, but can help out its slow speed and moderate survivability. Further, it has an arc node. This 'jack is seriously at home with guys like the Rezniks, who love arc nodes and have speed buffs for their 'jacks. If you want a heavy, want an arc node, and could use the MAT 7, he's just great.

Critical Pitch is randomly neat if you remember it, and if you've got Defenders Ward on it and/or an Ashen Veil model nearby (or give it Ashen Veil with a Reclaimer, if you like), Set Defense actually can actually make a Guardian quite difficult to hit on a charge.

Hand of Judgement - B

Alright, I'll admit, I like this 'jack more than a lot of people do. Hand features a SP10 that hits just weaker than a Reckoner shot, has MAT 7 and a PS 18 weapon with 2" melee, and has some really fun rules to play with.

Firstly, he charges enemy models that are on fire for free. Can be nice to set up if you need the extra damage, we're pretty good at setting stuff on fire.

His bond with Feora is actually pretty nuts, giving him boosted ranged attack rolls. On a spray this size, that's pretty ridiculous, and every time I've used him or fought against him with a Feora he's been a serious terror. Most turns he's just ridiculously focus efficient, needing no focus to spray down a group of infantry, and just the one from Power Up to boost damage into a hard target. Only really needs focus from your caster at that point when he's hitting multiple hard targets with the spray, or when he's headed into melee.

His weapon has Flame Burst, which shows up on a few of our jacks and is actually pretty alright. I've been able to use multiple Flame Burst models to get low model count forces to fight fairly swarmy infantry builds, it just takes a few more bodies off the table every turn which can be quite valuable.

Lastly he has Fuel for the Flames, a rule I really hope makes a return in Protectorate elsewhere. Fire damage rolls within 5" of Hand of Judgement gain +2 damage. This works on your friendlies, which is good to keep an eye out for but... you'll utilize it more than the enemy will. This often comes up for me in very "shotgun" style builds, utilizing things like Repenters when the melee has already started rather than being any kind of long range gunline help, since it has quite short range. To get the most out of it you have to play with it in mind a little, but when Feora3 casts Incite and your Reckoner slams someone with a POW 20 gunshot to the face, peoples eyes will open up a little.

I really enjoy Hand of Judgement. He's a hard sell sometimes in a world of theme forces, but he's found places in many of my lists. Theme or non-theme is a hard choice with casters like Malekus, where this guy really feels at home.

Indictor - C+

The general consensus around the Indictor was pretty back and forth for a while, but in the end I think what we have a is a good warjack who fits into certain builds, but won't necessarily see widespread use. That said, he's quite nasty in the right places. Durst in particular has a love for this model, giving him an anti-spell denial effect that is atypical of many Durst builds and, of course, being a 'jack with a shield that enjoys Durst's speed buffs. MAT 7 base is huge, and honestly is a big part of why this guy is quite playable. Further, his weapon is blessed and magical, which can be very useful with casters that don't have a great way around enemy spells.

In my eyes, Indictors belong in pairs, which is a big investment but makes quite a strong, hard core to a list. This lets them spread the net on Consecration a bit and just lets them move around as a solid brick that is quite hard to deal with.

Judicator - D

Field example of the Judicator hitting literally nothing he intends to with rockets.

Judicator... you poor thing.

I've spent a lot of time with the Judicator in Mk. 3. I love colossals, and I played the Judi consistently in Mk. 2 when I busted out Protectorate. Unfortunately, many of his rules are relics of a time that doesn't exist anymore.

Firstly, Colossals are a bit of a harder sell anyway, since more warjacks give more free focus per 'jack taken. You can take a colossal and get a single free focus from power up, or two reckoners for a bit cheaper and get an extra focus between the two to work with. They take more to fully fuel, but on a turn by turn basis they save you focus.

Second... the Judicator's main guns being inaccurate are a problem. It's a problem that feels as though it were based on a time when Hymn of Battle gave +2 to attack rolls, making the Judicator grossly accurate without the rule but... now he doesn't have that. Nor do we have Ancillary Attack any further. The Judicator was designed (and quite well designed) with Mk. 2 Protectorate in mind, but most of the tools that required it to be kept in check are gone. While I think infantry are regaining some relevance, it's rare we're seeing levels from that edition, so inaccurate AOE shooting just isn't what we need anymore, and is frankly done way better by Redeemers.

Still, he's still a Protectorate colossal. We still have some of the best 'jack support there is, and throwing Protectorate denial onto a piece like this can make it quite difficult to deal with. It just needs to be a proper gun platform if it's going to be able to make up its points and be a consistent model for us to use, and inaccurate desperately needs to be removed. Until something like this happens, the Judicator will forever live in the shadow of its younger brother.

Conclusion

Well, it's not a conclusion yet, we're still just over halfway done!

Overall the Protectorate has good 'jacks, and the faction is known for its solid use of them. Some factions have caught up in many ways, and some of the more powerful 'jacks were toned down, but our characters seriously have some great spots in lists and overall we're spoiled for choice. We'll touch on the rest of the 'jacks in the second part!

See you all tomorrow!