Well here we are! A bit of time has passed since we got the rules for Exemplar Interdiction and, while we haven't seen its subsequent model releases or really any teaser about them yet, it seems this theme is a part of how we do things now.
Let's talk a bit about Interdiction, its problems, its strengths, and why it's kind of great and not all at once. Whatever it is, it has still opened up some really fun list builds for Protectorate!
Interdiction brings some great extra rules to the table which we can make some really great use of. Firstly, an additional 2" of deployment. Protectorate isn't the fastest faction (I wouldn't say we're the slowest but... certainly not speedy typically) and having that additional presence on the table is quite strong, especially for our rather slow Exemplar models. Typically sitting around SPD 5, Exemplar can definitely use that extra bit of distance.
Secondly, our Warjacks all gain Blessed on all of their weapons. This is pretty nuts, really, and outright shuts down some list designs. Exemplar by their nature bring a decent amount of blessed, so an Exemplar Interdiction force is often loaded with weapons ignoring spell bonuses to ARM and DEF. Casters like Bart or Carver who rely heavily on Batten Down the Hatches, or Baldur2 whose feat itself is considered a spell effect and ignored by Blessed, just melt to these list builds. Other common offenders like Arcane Shield are nearly meaningless. That said, we bring a lot of ways around spells like that in the first place so, while it's quite good, it's not all that unique a tool to our armies.
Exemplar Interdiction is a hard hitting force. Between many models having Blessed and also bringing our hardest hitting troops to the table, this is about as high damage a force as you can bring in the Protectorate. With a buff, models like Vengers and Gravus have solid hitting power as it is, and of course most Interdiction builds are going to feature the extremely hard hitting Knights Exemplar, which are (especially with buffs and their minifeat) one of the hardest hitting units in the game. It is also an accurate force, with MAT 7-8 being very common, and inherent hit buffs on top of that also showing up regularly (Knight Exemplar minifeat, cavalry charges).
As any well written theme force should, Interdiction brings weaknesses to the table. Exemplar models are typically hard to deliver (outside possibly Vengers.) Typically being SPD 4 or 5, they aren't quick troops, and many are quite clearly designed with our defensive buffs in mind for survivability. DEF 12 is the norm, with 11 on heavy infantry, and ARM values are... decent, but generally not enough. Aside from a fairly fast Venger-based force, Interdiction needs help getting to the fight even beyond the 2" additional deployment. Units like Errants can help this a little bit, with more of a forward presence and being reasonably obnoxious to remove, buying your army time to get there. More often, we're just bringing casters that can deliver the force.
That brings us a bit into the second weakness I've found, is the number of casters that can effectively run an Interdiction force. You almost have to be using a troop delivery caster, or be running a Venger-centric force. Even guys like High Reclaimer I think don't deliver enough, and just lose too much by not taking powerhouse pieces like Idrian Skirmishers. We'll get more into which casters run the list well shortly.
The next weakness is a little subjective but... at the end of the day, there's just kind of a narrow subset of Exemplar models that are actually all that good. The heavy infantry in particular are known for being a bit rough, sitting at only marginally more survivability than our single wound infantry while doing largely the same type of stuff less efficiently. This in turn makes some options like the Bastion Seneschal less of an interesting choice since his synergy is mainly with a heavy infantry unit that can be a hard pill to swallow. Further there are Knight Errants, which are a rough choice in many situations but... I don't think are terrible in Interdiction, truthfully. That said, I do think the Knight Errant Seneschal is a really hard take to justify... in the end, it's mainly about Vengers, Knights Exemplar, and Knight Exemplar Seneschals mixed with support and 'jack support. Not a ton of options, but even with just those we can make some good builds.
The last weakness really is just the opportunity cost, but ideally that's a weakness theme forces are meant to have. Truthfully you don't lose a ton, Exemplar builds have existed in the past, but a few key things like Idrians and Flame Bringers are definitely a loss to almost any build. Further, you can't take a Hierophant in Interdiction, which makes some casters really starved on focus.
So who do you bring Interdiction with? Well, truth be told it's a somewhat narrow pool.
One idea with the theme some people have touched on is bringing it 'jack heavy rather than taking any Exemplar just to get Blessed weapons and 2" of deployment, at the cost of the Creator's Might theme benefits, essentially, and the loss of a Hierophant. This has a lot of ups and downs, I'm not really sold that it's worth it yet but... almost any caster could build that way, since most of our casters can run a 'jack heavy build reasonably well.
Kreoss2 and 3 definitely come to mind for Interdiction builds. Kreoss2 of course has Tactician for Exemplar, and his feat can turn Knights Exemplar into outright infantry blenders. Kreoss3 is typically running really heavy on Vengers, who he turns up to 11 in a big way and can build some seriously frightening cavalry-centric armies.
The High Reclaimer can certainly run an Interdiction force with good power behind it, bringing a handful back on feat turn can be devastating and Hand of Fate is obviously great, he just takes some opportunity cost not being able to take a Hierophant and Idrians.
The Harbinger and Tristan Durant can both run an Interdiction force, but doing so is likely to be heavy infantry centric. Non-HI Harbinger Interdiction builds are, frankly, going to be just a worse Vindictus list most of the time. These both allow a ton of survivability and healing for a slower, more plodding force and the Vessel of Judgement stacks up on that pretty well.
The top winner, as far as I'm concerned, is Vindictus. This force opened him up in a huge way. The free models and 2" extra deployment is amazing for him. He feels the pain a little bit from not having a Hierophant, but otherwise, Vindictus delivers infantry like nobody else in the Protectorate. With the extra deployment and True Path, your army is lightning fast, has an out for pathfinder, and his feat makes you nearly impossible to alpha strike. Against many forces you can just run to right outside enemy walk and attack range, feat, and they'll be shoved out of the game.
A fairly good foundational Vindictus list we've been working with here at LoS looks a bit like this:
Vice Scrutator Vindictus
min Choir of Menoth
High Exemplar Gravus
Vassal of Menoth
Exemplar Vengers x2
Knights Exemplar w/Officer x2
Alternatively the Officers can be Knights Exemplar Seneschals, a piece I'm going to do a write up about later because they've seriously been a surprise.
With a Vindictus build like this, many enemy armies will be shut out of the game and unable to move up on scenario without taking massive casualties at almost any point. Going first, you can run absurdly far up the table to threaten the enemy army and it's a serious puzzle to get out of if the right tools aren't available.
These are, of course, not the only casters that can run Interdiction, but they're the ones that stand out to me as synergizing with it particularly well in some way. Some obvious ones are like Severius1 who makes anything pretty great, or Feora2 whose Incite will make anything hit like a ton of bricks, and there's plenty of other great ideas out there.
Interdiction has been an interesting theme force for us to say the least. On one hand, it doesn't help out the Exemplar that much by its nature, giving no Exemplar-specific buffs outside some free models. On the other, it takes some casters that liked the Exemplar anyway and really makes them shine in a way they couldn't before. Hopefully the "Theme Book" releases and CID in the future will help open the whole thing up a bit more to more caster options.
Keep an eye out in the future as I'll be talking a bit about some stranger but very interesting things to come from the theme force like the power of the Knight Exemplar Seneschal and the Bastion Seneschal and his Sanctifier buddy. See you all around!