First Impressions After Some Infernal Games

Lock and Load 2019 has come and gone, and with it came the heralds of the end times, the bringers of a small apocalypse… the Infernals. Many of us were excited about the pre-release, and finally having a chance to see the full rules, and boy were those rules juicy.

There are a couple caveats here; as of writing this, we have not seen the final PDF of the Infernal core rules, specifically regarding Essence and Summoning. At Lock and Load, we were told to just use the Week 3 version of the CID rules in events, which typically means the rules are either identical or pretty close to what they were coming out of CID. Therefore, I’m going to be running with the idea that those rules didn’t change from what we initially saw.

Also, this entire article is going to basically be my opinions based on the time I spent with Infernals at Lock and Load, specifically looking into interactions I found interesting or things that changed from what I expected due to a bit more experience. I’m going to talk about each model that pre-released at Lock and Load, as I used everything at least once across my games, and where I think the faction is at at least for now. I have actually spent very little time gathering information as to the opinions of others on these pieces, so everything is fairly raw and is based almost entirely on a combination of my experiences, and my conversations about those experiences. Let’s do this thing!

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Zaateroth

So, Zaateroth was in a lot of respects the Master I spent the least time thinking about around the time of the CID, but was aware she ended up in a very strong position. She also, I think, works best between the two pre-released Masters with the options that are currently available, given their extreme limitations. This made her the first Master I actually put on the table with physical models, and the one I ended up playing the most overall.

My original, gut instinct was to play double Griever Swarms, double Cultist Band, but at the store I impulse grabbed an extra Cultist Band unit to get me to FA. I knew there was a bit of a thing going around that Cultist Bands just couldn’t be used as a combat unit, so I opted to lean into that a bit and try out a spammed Cultist list.

Zaateroth, The Weaver of Shadows
-Lamenter x2
-Foreboder
-Tormentor
Valin Hauke, the Fallen Knight
The Wretch x2
Eilish Garrity, the Occultist
Umbral Guardian x2
Griever Swarm
Cultist Band x3, w/WA x3, one unit with Orin Midwinter.

This is within a few points of the list I played all weekend, I was making tweaks all throughout and ended up here.

I’ll talk about things like the cultists specifically later, but let’s talk Zaateroth. Firstly, I think she’s going to be the most well-rounded of the 3 Masters, fixing a ton of issues Infernals have on her own and making her invaluable to almost any pairing. I almost can’t imagine having a pairing that doesn’t have Zaateroth in it right now, but we’ll see how that goes over time.

Zaat’s statline is reasonable, with her RAT 7 being really nice and 15/16 being just fine, although being on a large base does make her more vulnerable. Her gun is a powerhouse, with a decent range of 12, the AOE helps with its passive effects a bit, and the POW 14 being extremely respectable. Add on Reload [1] and being able to collect the souls of anything the kills, this gun is something to fall in love with. Long Shadows acting as a Desert Hydra animus in a 12” radius around her is extremely strong, helping the faction against a major issue they have, which is guns, especially since Regna isn’t available yet. I never had Veneficium come up.

Her spell list is a power house, but also… not exactly necessary. Rites of Torment was the star of the show for me, and among other experiences proved to me that threat extension on the Horrors is one of the most important things you could possibly ask for. The reason I say it isn’t exactly necessary outside Rites of Torment, though, is I did play a game against Kromac1 in which I was unable to cast spells after my initial upkeeps and still found her extremely playable with only her feat, summoning, and her gun. Even in other games, my most common move as far as spell casting was to just move Scything Touch around. One game I had a Foreboder run to arc a Stygian Abyss into a lesser warlock, which was great since it made his Wrastler go wild that round, but otherwise I never cast her spells. I primarily fought battlegroup heavy lists, or lists that stopped me arcing somehow, so I couldn’t ever use Rebuke. Ghost Walk is great to have but I mostly worked around needing it; I think that spell hits the table a lot more when we have d’Vyaros to cast it for us. Black Spot, similar issue to Rebuke; I just never fought anything it would be good against.

The real power, though, is in her feat. Boy is this a monster. DEF 15 on the cultists isn’t exactly the hardest thing to kill in the world, but there’s so damned many of them that you need an absurdly accurate list to kill enough to matter. Stack Lamenters on top of that and the army gets genuinely tough to deal with. The opponent has to either just not attack, giving you an insane alpha if you just run your army right into his, or has to risk allowing 3” teleports. With these I was able to do things like teleport into the back arcs of Bloodweavers to make them easier to remove, teleport away from enemy heavies causing their activations to be nearly useless, and even port into terrain features to give myself line of sight and melee range to heavies that had already activated that turn. Infernals models have really, really bad defensive stats and her feat gives you a round where you can just get into the fight, and it’s exactly what the faction needs to function well. Overall, Zaateroth was a blast and honestly playing her most of the weekend made it REALLY hard to make myself play Omodamos because I was having such a good time with her. So… speaking of which, lets talk about the big guy.

omodamos.jpg

Omodamos, The Black Gate

Omodamos, the Black Gate
-Tormentor x2
-Lamenter x2
Umbral Guardian x3
Valin Hauke, the Fallen Knight
The Wretch x3
Eilish Garrity, the Occultist
Cultist Band w/WA x3 w/Orin2
Cultist Band w/WA x3
Cultist Band w/WA x2

Obviously lists can’t change a ton since we’re limited on options, and I came up with this pretty late in the weekend when I finally decided to give him a go, and it leaned on a lot of lessons I had learned from a number of prior games.

Omodamos is certainly the blunt instrument of the Infernals, and it’s great to have access to one. Overall, I think he’s missing a lot of pieces you really want to make him shine; Runewood2 giving him out of activation movements can either make him much more safe or much more aggressive, Regna obviously keeps him alive against guns while he helps the army against melee, and with his very tight Essence stack he really wants that Harmonious Exaltation and one free summon out of d’Vyaros, as well as the cheaper summons with the Gate (also the threat extension!). He also really wants a tanky unit like Howlers that can actually make some use of Locked Horns. So… I learned more on battlegroup here, stacking the list with every Marked Soul I could to just summon as much as possible. Overall, I was fairly impressed; not having Rites of Torment was a little sad, but you at least get one good turn out of his feat where you’re faster. Soul Stalkers I think perform well with him, since Synergy helps their issue of not hitting terribly accurately or hard and their innate speed 7 makes them VERY quick on his feat turn. That said, his Tormentors, with Unyielding due to Locked Horns, are very tanky. However, you can’t upkeep Synergy, cast Locked Horns, and still summon a heavy with the current essence economy unless you can get him souls. This is pretty tough on him; he feels really clunky with the current releases. That said, feeling clunky and feeling weak are two different things. Especially if you CAN get some souls on him, Omodamos is an absolute powerhouse. Hellhounds makes this fairly easy to do, especially combined with Soul Stalkers to give yourself soul-collection auras. I had a game in which he had 11 Essence two rounds in a row; being able to feat, kill a heavy, summon a heavy, and camp a few felt pretty alright.

Breath of Corruption is fun to have but without a foreboder I obviously haven’t really built with it in mind. That said, it’s one of the best AOE nukes you can have. Overall, he’s a bit simpler than Zaateroth, and I think doesn’t feel quite like he should given the missing pieces, but is strong overall.

Now let’s break down some smaller pieces, which should be shorter… individually…

The Heavies (Tormentor, Desolator, Soul Stalker)

When I first got the models and started playing around, my expectation was that Desolators were the winners. They’re just so versatile between their sprays, the ARM debuff for your other things, and only hitting marginally weaker than a Tormentor as long as your spray hits. After a handful of games, though I found that the Tormentor was the real god here. Tormentors are just absurdly good; obviously they’re painfully squishy, and need a little help to hit as hard as you would like, but at MAT 7, chain attack grab and smash, and the potential to get to great damage output numbers, the ability to summon these is just a phenomenal thing. I switched my lists over to starting with 1-2 Tormentors instead of 1-2 Desolators, saved some points everywhere, and then if I’m worried at all about enemy ARM values I summon a single Desolator early, then just Tormentors for days unless I have a reason not to. This also saves you points in list building, and Desolators actually get a special effect on being summoned while a Tormentor does not, meaning you can get that cloud into good spots to protect your army mid-game.

The Soul Stalker is considerably more niche (I expected this, and bought less of them than I did the other heavies.) That said, with its soul collection aura I think it is invaluable to Omodamos and Agathon. I don’t think I would ever start the game with one, as they’re a bit situational and won’t be of use in certain matchups, but when you’re seeing a lot of enemy troops on the table with either of those Masters and feel confident you can kill them without needing sprays from Desolators or lots of Shrieker shots, a Soul Stalker is a great choice. Also innate stealth, pathfinder, and their speed are absolutely noteworthy, as this gives them a unique spot in the heavy arsenal.

The Lights (Lamenter, Shrieker)

The lights are hard to talk about without Regna, since I think most light summoning will come from her. As it is, summoning a light feels a little difficult with your Master unless you have an extremely specific purpose for one. That said, two Lamenters have started every battlegroup I’ve made so far; they’re just nice lights to have around, they do good work, the -2 to hit aura is useful even if you aren’t stacking DEF particularly high… I’ve had trouble finding a reason to summon one but overall they’re great. Shriekers I haven’t started with in any lists, since they’re also a bit situational (if you’re fighting only armor, you just really don’t need one), but the couple of times I have summoned one, they’ve been hilarious. One instance involved me dropping one into the middle of a unit of Ryssovass to make it so they couldn’t charge my heavies, and another was dropping one next to Jaga-Jaga and her Wrastler to keep Rage and Signs and Portents off the table, forcing him to spend an entire Wrastler activation killing it, and leaving it in range of my other heavies, just to not lose his caster. I’ve only summoned a Shrieker to do shooting once, and overall I regretted it; I think Shriekers will be an extremely common Regna choice, but without her they’re hard to work in unless you have something really specific you need.

Cultist Bands

This is a weird unit, there’s not really any getting around that. However, I found them ridiculously good overall, once you get used to how they play. Firstly, they’re almost good enough on their own if they only thing they’re doing is putting Essence on your heavies. I loved having three units of them, as I could dedicate almost two entire units to just stack up heavies every turn while the third, usually Orin’s unit, was ambushing in and getting work done. With Zaateroth you can lead the charge with them, jamming up the enemy army and feating with a line of Lamenter’s behind to make a seriously obnoxious wall of cheap, high DEF, steady models. With Omodamos I switched to much more leading with the heavies, keeping the Cultist Band units behind to just constantly fill them up and heal them. With something like Zaateroth’s Scything Touch and/or a Desolator Spray, the Dark Sentinels hit seriously hard for their point value, and it was fairly regular I’d have a few of them get into a heavy with a couple other Cultists and either seriously damage or kill it. You have to have a plan for them, as 12/12 is a stat line so bad it’s kind of unreal, but if you can force a wide enough net of threats and make them hard to devote attacks to, they feel fantastic. That said, lists lean on them heavily. When I started running out, I definitely felt the pain; it was common for the Master to start cutting for Essence late in the game when I didn’t want to or couldn’t keep killing Cultists.

I’ve enjoyed having Orin’s unit ambush. They can be obnoxious to get rid of due to Self Sacrifice and their positioning, and Ambush is just very strong right now (and about to get stronger with the new SR.) Sometimes, especially with Zaateroth, it can be nice to have his unit be the one in front with the feat, especially with his souls allowing you to force rerolls, and ambush a different unit instead, or no units depending on scenario/matchup.

Most likely one Cultist Band gets pulled for a Gate when we get access to that, but overall I loved this unit.

Griever Swarm

Honestly the most disappointing thing so far, but I won’t exactly say they’re bad. Largely I just didn’t see the kind of things they wanted to fight, at least not with a Black Spot caster (infantry!). The role they mostly performed for me was solo hunting, and they did that pretty effectively. They’re difficult to avoid with Eyeless Sight, good speed, and Flight, and with Zaateroth’s feat they could stand pretty aggressively and feel ok. I don’t see much use for them with Omodamos, and frankly I think their best home is either with Agathon or a Hearts of Darkness caster like Feora3, so my opinion on them right now is a little up in the air.

The Solos

Ah, the solos. Right now we’re missing a ton of necessary ones, but here’s where we’re at.

Valin Hauke is invaluable. Bring him, always. Brothers Keeper is such a ridiculously strong ability, and Tactician for every model in your army is actual madness. He’s also great for finishing off lights or heavies that you didn’t quite kill with Cultists or your own models, is easy enough to keep safe, and very late game where his effects aren’t as good, you can pop him for a Horror, although I wouldn’t do that until VERY late.

Wretches actually surprised me. I only used Ancillary Attack once, but overall they’re just a ridiculously nice utility solo that also feels perfectly fine to kill to summon with. Entropic Aura came up in almost every game I played, be it dealing with tough, rapid healing, hyper regeneration, etc etc. Then once he’s done applying the aura, you just turn him into a Tormentor or something and walk away. Having Stealth for key pieces is also just money. Absolutely loved this guy.

Umbral Guardians are necessary but had a rough run over the course of the weekend. It was pretty common for them to just instantly die to whatever initial shot they took, but that was largely due to strong dice from my opponent. That said, I don’t think I always used them optimally. If you can get them to shield guard twice, then charge something, you’ve made some serious gains. That said, even just 1 shield guard wherever you want almost feels worth the 6 points sometimes. Really great solo, just have to kind of learn when to bring them in.

Summoning/Essence Economy

This probably needs an article to itself, because it was some of the biggest things to learn and revelations I had over the weekend. That said, I don’t intend to write that article until I feel like I understand it properly. I’ll do my best to detail the lessons I picked up on and the thoughts I have at the moment.

-Never spend the last Essence. In my first couple of games, I was willing to lose a heavy to just buy that last attack and try and make sure it died. Thing I discovered, though, is that this isn’t worth it even if you succeed, unless it is genuinely a game ending move. There is so much value in just having your heavy still be there after failing to kill theirs; you draw a ton of attacks off of your army by just keeping that model in its place. Every time I allowed a heavy to disappear to Tithe, even if I was ahead, attrition seemed to instantly swing out of my favor, almost no matter what that heavy did. If you do spend that last essence, make sure you have a cultist nearby to put at least one back on because it will be ridiculously worth it.

-The attrition gain and the nature of cultists means, squishy as they are, you can lead with your heavies. This is a bit more situational, obviously you don’t want to just lose all your models immediately because you made a wall of them up front, but especially in situations where you have to take an alpha, you need to lean on the attrition advantage you’re gaining by summoning. You can give up heavies for remarkably silly things and still feel good about the trade. In one game, I summoned a Soul Stalker, just to have it charge in and kill 2 Brigands the next turn, allow Omodamos to collect 5 souls, then stood there and died to a Swamp Horror. I was able to then kill the Swamp Horror, but the Soul Stalker himself did very, very little… and still felt absolutely worth it. Don’t feel too precious with your battlegroup models, the heavy-trading economy of Infernals absolutely does not work the same way as any other faction in the game, and for players who have been playing a long time like myself, it is taking some serious adjustment. When I adjusted, I found the lists performed WAY better.

-Your own HP is an Essence battery. This is especially true if you have the objective to heal yourself every turn, but one thing to think about with Essence is that it’s a much more… permanent… resource than focus or fury. Every point you still have at the end of your turn matters. If you’re on a camp of 0-2 when your turn starts, you want to kill a Cultist or something for your Essence. However… if you only need 3, maybe 4 essence to get to your full stack this turn… think really hard about just cutting for it. You don’t want to do this too much, obviously, especially if you think there’s any chance of being assassinated, but it’s something to keep in mind turn by turn. This was especially true very late game, when attrition was seriously winding down and assassination threats were mostly removed, even if I was winning, I would often cut for a few instead of popping my cultists. This is basically me saying hey, I’m already winning or this game is very close, I’m going to use my alternate resource to press every advantage I have. It’s a choice to make, but it’s definitely worth at least thinking about each turn.

Overall I have been having a great time with Infernals. They force you to re-learn a lot of things you thought you knew about the game, as their mechanics are so off the norm and completely change the attrition economy. I think this may be the highest skill cap faction WarmaHordes has seen so far, and I’m definitely looking forward to spending a ton of time with them.

In the meantime, you all have a great time, be good to each other, and see you next time!