Zaal2 Exalted vs. Iona Devourer's Host, Spread the Net

Hello all!

The site has been slow as of late, and for this our sincerest apologies. It has been an odd handful of months, but with Lock and Load and the full force of the convention season about to hit us in the face, it seemed as good a time as any to get the gears turning again.

I figured I’d kick us off with a batrep from a game I did reasonably on a trip out of town. My original hometown, Springfield, Missouri, has a great Warmachine community and someone was nice enough to oblige me for a random game while I was in town outside their normal game night. It’s always hard to know what to expect walking into a store you’ve never really played at… all I had with me was my competitive pair I’m using at the moment, and it seems my opponent (luckily) was after a bit of competition as well. He already had his Iona Devourer’s Host list out, so I picked between my two lists: Xerxis2 Kaiju and a Zaal2 Exalted brew with a Mammoth. Zaal2 is pretty much seeing Circle 99% of the time so… being able to pick wasn’t a huge advantage here, since it’s the matchup we were getting anyway.

I rolled us up a scenario and got Spread the Net, an old favorite (I hate it less now that I’m not playing so much Protectorate…). I won the roll off and opted to go first, which is a pretty big deal in this particular matchup.

The lists! The Zaal2 concoction is a slight variation on a list sent to me by Jaden when I was torn between wanting to play Exalted, but also wanting to use the Mammoth that I am very proud to have painted up recently… basically boiled down to ‘why not both?’

Zaal2 - The Exalted
-Mammoth
Immortals w/Advocate x3
Ancestral Guardian
Hakaar the Destroyer
Supreme Guardian
Extoller Novitiate x3
Feralgeist

This is about as bare-bones as Exalted gets. Many of my lists lately have stripped down to a single Ancestral Guardian in a bid to fit just a bit more utility in, which has some ups and downs but hasn’t been too awful.

Iona - Devourer’s Host
-Warpwolf Stalker
-Feral Warpwolf
Bloodweaver Night Witch
Gallows Grove
Lord of the Feast
Tharn Ravager Shaman
Tharn Wolf Rider Champion
Boil Master & Spirit Cauldron
Tharn Bloodweavers w/Haruspex
Tharn Bloodweavers
Tharn Ravagers w/Chieftain x2

So as the Exalted player, I have a couple primary concerns here. Firstly, Lord of the Feast is a dick. We all know it. I’ve had a bit of practice on dealing with him without a shield guard, but at the end of the day… if he wants to ruin something’s day, he can do it. Secondly, the doubled up Bloodweavers with Night Witch. Now, if I can handle the Night Witch, a lot of this problem kind of handles itself, but depending how he positions her my best bet to do that is the Mammoth, which is a lot of points devoted to something that might not actually work out. So… I’ve gotta get creative in positioning.

I don’t have pictures for the first round or so, nor deployment, but I’ll describe what I can.

Skorne Deployment

Deploying this list is a little awkward but also fairly straightforward. There’s a building in the center, and I opt to deploy most of my Immortals more to my right, and let the Supreme Guardian take the left a bit, with the Mammoth sitting fairly central. The Ancestral Guardian has a particularly funky deployment in which he’s sort of behind my army, with individuals from various Immortal units kind of pushed over near him so I have the speed buff on all three units without having to move the AG first. Overall, nothing too fancy.

Circle Deployment

His deployment leans HEAVILY on the side that has his flag. This tells me a bit about his plan; essentially he’s wanting to rely on his access to Ambush and his fast, versatile solos to go contest and handle my flag, and jam me out of his flag until he can score ahead and either win on scenario or ride out a turn 7 victory. Thing is, even if I’m aware of it… it’s a pretty good plan. Both Ravager units sit on my right, as well as the non-ambushing Bloodweaver unit. His battlegroup hangs out more to the left, with Lord of the Feast and his Wolf Rider Champion also hanging out on that side.

Skorne Turn 1

There’s not much to do here really. Vision goes onto the Supreme Guardian (just a habit, really, sometimes I throw it on Hakaar) and Aura of Power of course goes on Zaal, who charges up as far as he can. Otherwise, stuff just runs, with a bit of care taken to keep out of Lord of the Feast’s shooting range. a

Circle Turn 1

His turn has a bit more going on. Lord of the Feast gets loaded up on corpses by his spirit cauldron, then runs to stand behind the building in the center. This being a building is particularly important, as a cloud or forest I could see through with Mage Sight… a building I can not. His Stalker runs into an acid cloud thing on the left, warping Prowl, and the Feral hangs back a bit. The Ravagers line up around the forest on my right, using it to block LOS to them but of course maintain LOS themselves. Bloodweavers, which are outthreat very slightly by my Immortals and very important to this matchup, spread out in a big arc behind everything. Sure Foot goes onto the Ravager unit in the back, and Phantasm goes on the one in front to stop the Mammoth from ruining their day.

Skorne Turn 2

Ok, I have some pictures now, I promise! So my first thought this turn, as it always should be, is can I kill Lord of the Feast. I have a REALLY janky angle in which I could possibly run an Immortal around the building a bit, just within range of a 3” AOE, and attempt the Mammoth’s Full Battery Fire special attack on it to throw Lord of the Feast, hopefully chucking him straight into his own Feral Warpwolf and, with a boosted damage roll and a little luck, hopefully killing him. However, I work out the angles and do some math and the odds seriously suck, and force my Mammoth into a really specific, awkward position. Instead, Zaal drops a Mage Sight to just be touching his Warpwolf Stalker and feats, and the Mammoth aims and shoots three boosted to hit shots into it, leaving it on about 9 boxes. The Immortals proceed to surge up the table hard, popping Grave Mist. So the main thing I have to worry about really is Lord of the Feast getting into the squishier back line parts of my Immortals, specifically the CAs and the Novitiates. Novitiates are key to this matchup, keeping me in the attrition game against his also Tough/Steady army, and Lord of the Feast is good at hunting them. While the traditional logic into such an infantry blender is to spread out, I go for the opposite; packing Immortals into such a tight ball and making a semicircle of sorts in front of Lord of the Feast to make it so drawing line of sight to anything except my three medium bases or two huge bases is impossible, which I can position away from my important stuff. I’m relying on the high ARM of my feat, which keeps his numbers kind of mediocre even under Iona’s feat, and the tough bubbles of the Novitiates to keep me in the game even though I’m giving him literally the hardest alpha I can. The only thing I’m very careful about is avoiding the Bloodweavers. Admittedly they won’t do a lot on my feat turn anyway, but I’m not giving them the chance.

Look at that juicy ball of immortals… just ready to get nommed… (I took this picture right after he ambushed his Bloodweavers)

Look at that juicy ball of immortals… just ready to get nommed… (I took this picture right after he ambushed his Bloodweavers)

Circle Turn 2

I didn’t get a picture after this because I’m the literal worst. Here’s a cool cinematic picture I took because painted armies are cool.

Yeeeeeah look how cinematic that shit is.

Yeeeeeah look how cinematic that shit is.

Anyway. I have made a very notable goof here; specifically, the Supreme Guardian should be contesting my flag. However, the only thing contesting my flag is literally a single feralgeist. Thankfully, since he opts to ambush on the right to REALLY dominate that side, the only magic weapon he really has over there is Lord of the Feast, meaning if he wants to make that really hard scenario play, that’s the direction he has to go. So… Lord of the Feast gets Puppet Master from the Cauldron and shoots my Supreme Guardian. He ends up in range of the Feralgeist and 4 Immortals. Mostly due to my feat and a couple kind of bad rolls, the Feralgeist and two Immortals die, but that’s it. Very lucky start.

His Wolf Rider Champion walks up and jumps, then shoots at my somewhat exposed Novitiate on the left. She hits, but rolls 2,1,1 on damage, leaving him alive. She repositions back onto my flag.

Iona opted to drop Phantasm. She feats, and his army… basically just starts getting to work. His Warpwolf Stalker charges into a group of Immortals but a combination of bad rolls and good tough checks means only a couple die and he’s left engaged by a couple of them, although he still stands in his rectangular zone. The Ravagers surge in, doing a bit of attrition work but… in the end I come out with a lot more Immortals alive than expected. His non-charge attacks have a hard time breaking armor, even under feat, and that combined with the steady/tough of my army, which I kept up pretty well due to the Novitiates being so crowded in. I do lose the red Advocate for that unit, which is very unfortunate. The Bloodweavers continue to position a bit timidly, although a few run into my backlines a bit to try and draw out Hakaar. His Feral backs way up to avoid a bunch of incorporeal Immortals charging him. His Shaman pops his steady bubble and stands on his flag.

So, for those of you who know what the table likely looks like at this point, my opponent scores 3 points on the bottom of 2. This can be a bit of a death sentence for Spread the Net, but thankfully I’ve got some options…

Skorne Turn 3

There’s not a lot to think about this turn, honestly. The main thing I do need to work out, though, is handling the Wolf Rider Champion in the most efficient way possible while still scoring the points I need to stay in the game. Between the Supreme Guardian and everything else over there, it’s obvious I can clear the flag… but I want to do it without the SG if possible, because the SG is within running range of the opponent’s rectangular zone. Lord of the Feast is kind enough to die to a spiked damage roll on my Vengeance attacks which definitely makes things easier. A couple Tharn Ravagers take damage from Vengeance as well, but I can’t boost the vengeance attacks with Aura of Power, and under Iona’s feat they’re pretty tough. I drop Vision because the way I foresee the left side playing out, the Supreme Guardian is unlikely to get attacked for a long time.

My Immortals on the left are just within range of my Ancestral Guardian, who is behind my SG. They activate Spirit Walker and charge, splitting the unit as wide as possible so two are charging his Wolf Rider, the rest into his Stalker (and a couple can reach his Feral). The Stalker goes down fast, but even with two boosted attack rolls (admittedly at MAT 6) I am unable to drop the Wolf Rider Champion. Thankfully I have an Ancestral Guardian hiding behind the SG who can try and handle it. The Supreme Guardian throws 3 immortals back into the fray, then runs into my opponents zone.

The Ancestral Guardian activates Spirit Driven with its starting soul and charges the Wolf Rider Champion, boosting with a soul off of Zaal and killing her, while also touching the flag. So that’s 2 points I’ve scored for myself.

The other thing is my opponent only left a few Ravagers in the circular zone in the center, committing as he did so hard to the forest and the flag. Deliberately avoiding attacking the unit with Sure Foot, Immortals clear out the Ravagers in the zone, as well as a couple others outside the zone, and use Spirit Walker to move through his jam and contest his flag. Zaal moves up pretty aggressively, hanging out behind the building, meaning he is now controlling the central zone for me. Hakaar walks over and pops 3 Bloodweavers, going full ‘come at me bro’ at the rest of them. Novitiates are placed as safely as I am able. The Mammoth has sort of a fun turn, aiming and firing a Full Battery Fire shot into melee, hitting a Ravager and throwing a few of them. He actually kills two, which felt pretty good, although all are left standing due to a combination of Sure Foot and the Shaman. I score 3 this turn and contest all scenario elements making it 3-3.

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Circle Turn 3

I SWEAR I thought I was taking a picture every round. I do have one from this turn, it just isn’t the whole table > . <

My opponent definitely didn’t think I was going to score that center zone. He explains that his plan was to just get 1 point ahead and ride out the 7 round clock, but the problem is he can no longer functionally contest my flag with anything, but I can contest his pretty hard.

He just digs in hard. Ravagers cut into a bunch of Immortals getting some work done. The Gallows Grove moves up and touches his flag while also applying Entropic Force to a handful of Immortals, which helps a lot. Then Iona herself digs in, killing a handful of Immortals, standing in the circular zone, and Blood Booning Sure Foot onto herself. Her Stalker is dead, which he knew going in; this was a gambit play.

This was a slight order of activations mistake, though, as I knew Hakaar was in danger and fed him every soul I could, making his armor much higher. A handful of Bloodweavers charge him, but the mad lad is left on 4 boxes when all is said and done.

Prepare for the slaughter, gals.

Prepare for the slaughter, gals.

The Spirit Cauldron and his buddy try to clear the two Immortals off the Feral, but fail to do so. This means the Feral just sort of chills and warps ARM. He scores one on his own flag, and contests the center with a couple ravagers, but I score two, one on my flag, one on his rectangular zone. This makes it 5-4.

Skorne Turn 4

I’m actually pretty low on clock at this point. I charge into the Feral with a bunch of Immortals and mostly kill it. I clear the center zone, and Hakaar kills 3 of the 5 Bloodweavers around him. I basically just jam things up, contest his flag, and switch the clock at this point. I score the center, his zone, and flag again, making it 8-4.

I only have about 50 seconds on my clock, but my opponent concedes at this point. While he possibly could have got me to clock myself, at the end of the day he just didn’t have a way back into this game.

Conclusions

This is a very weird matchup. I made some mistakes early on with positioning; I should have had the Mammoth closer to my zone to try and score it or at least force him to contest it, and having the Supreme Guardian just a bit over to contest the flag would have kept the big scenario swing off the table. However, I talked with my opponent a bit and I think he could have played his Bloodweavers a lot more aggressively early on, keeping them behind his Ravagers to force me to come in on those, then sweeping in with the murder afterwards. Also contesting his own rectangular zone a little better (possibly ambushing the Bloodweavers on the left instead?) and forcing me to work harder on that side to clear it would have certainly helped. Overall, though, was a really enjoyable game with a fun opponent. I always enjoy a good attritiony slogfest, and while this was certainly not the longest one I’ve ever done, it’s an interesting and technical game that lets me work on my positioning game pretty hard.

Thanks for reading all! In the coming week we should have batreps from Lock and Load as well as a TON of Infernals unboxing/assembling/dojo/painting content. Stay tuned, my friends, and see you all around!