Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Choice of Agonies

The happiest agonizer you will ever see
Greetings Gentlereaders,

Today we're talking about one of the most hated and most variable models I've played with so far, the Agonizer.  Skorne generally focuses on buffing their own models rather than debuffing their enemies, but this model is one major exception.  At the cost of draining fury off your warlock, you can make your opponents' warbeasts unstable or pillow-fisted, or render your opponents' warjacks impotent.  One of the more interesting things is how the rules quietly reflect the lore of the Skorne empire.  So if you want the freedom to run your beasts a bit hotter than usual and frustrate your opponents, it's time to read more.  And I do mean more.  I'm sorry it took a while to get to you, but this article is packed with information.

The Agonizer's unique ability, Fury Bank, allows your warlock to drop its fury onto the little guy during the warlock's activation, up to a max of five.  If you're out of beasts and somehow still have your agonizer, you can leach back the fury, but you can't reave it, so keep it safe.

Keeping your agonizer safe is a bit of a mixed bag.  It's fearless, has the armor and defense of a light warbeast and as many boxes as a cataphract.  It's a decent statline that can stand up to blast damage, but anything boostable that hits it could reasonably kill it.  The biggest thing that makes the agonizer vulnerable is that its Agonies ability is an aura with a radius of 4" plus 1" for each point of fury on it at any time.  You have to get close to the enemy to make the aura effective, but you aren't scared are you?

pic is unrelated
I've been beating around the bush long enough, let's talk about the agonies. There are three exquisite varieties of screw you: gnawing pain, maddening, and spiritual affliction.  Gnawing pain makes enemy warbeasts take -2 to its damage rolls, including ranged damage rolls from beasts that are in the aura.  Maddening makes them take -2 to their threshold tests, making it more dangerous for enemy warlocks to max their beasts out on fury.  SA makes enemy warbeasts lose their animus and enemy warjacks can't be allocated focus and lose the Arc Node advantage.  This one is the most varied ability, so I'll talk about its applications in more depth last.

Harnessing Agonies
Gnawing pain is the simplest agony and generally the most applicable.  If your army has some beef for it to hide behind, the agony can reduce the damage from any warbeasts trying to piece trade.  Your beasts are generally slow, low defense and high armor, so the damage reduction effectively skews your list even harder toward high armor.  Light warbeasts, even the most aggressive ones, will probably think twice before trying to go in against your front line unless they can remove the agonizer first.  Against heavy beasts, gnawing pain could mean the difference between your beast dying and them being left on a few boxes and killing whatever tried to kill them.

Maddening, on its face, is the easiest of the agonies to play around, and one I've yet to use in a game.  Your opponent can nullify the agony by simply doing their fury math properly and only generating as much as they can leach in their next turn.  No extra fury, no frenzy tests to take, so threshold doesn't matter.  On it's own, Maddening is unlikely to do anything, but the Skorne are a people who know how to make the whole more powerful than the sum of the parts.  I'll get to exactly how later.

Spiritual Affliction, the agonizer's most explicitly denial ability.  By preventing focus allocation, the agonizer means most warjacks can't charge, make special or additional attacks.  That alone makes the jacks much less effective if your opponent didn't bring jacks that can generate their own focus (e.g. Deathjack) or ways to give a jack focus outside of allocation (e.g. Power Booster models).  Arguably as important is the removal of the arc node.  Most casters who want to bring an arc node are fragile.  Taking away their arc nodes can mean forcing them forward into assassination range if they want to cast spells on your models.  Be aware that telgish mark gives a model the arc node advantage, but spiritual affliction only removes it from warjacks.  While it's the jack being affected, the caster is the model being most punished by this agony.

Similarly, if you make a warbeast lose their animus, their controller also loses access to it.  This could force your opponent to keep the beasts whose animi they most value further back so they can retain access to the animi.

Working with the Agonizer
The first thing to remember when using the agonizer is that it needs to consume a fury point to use its agony and the radius of aura is measured whenever it could matter.  That means spending a fury point reduces the radius by an inch, but adding a fury point after it activates can increase the radius to 9" on a full load.  This means your agonizer should activate and use its agony before your warlock activates so they can top him off and get the maximum radius.

I said that maddening was pretty sad by itself, but Skorne knows a lot about warbeast anatomy.  Their paingiver models have a rule that allows them to either add or subtract a fury point from a warbeast when they hit it.  It's generally used to drain fury from the beast and force the enemy warlock to damage themselves to get back to maximum fury.  However in conjunction with maddening, adding fury to enemy warbeasts can force them to make threshold tests they are likely to fail, taking them out of the game for a round.

Arguably the most important part of playing an agonizer is keeping it alive as long as possible.  Thankfully, a beast heavy skorne list has very good ways to do that.  The range of the aura means you don't have to keep your agonizer hidden directly behind a warbeast and, as always, distance is the best defense.  It's true that AOEs can drift further onto it, but it's naturally high armor and/or the razorworm's animus can protect it from blast damage.  Heavy and defensive beasts like the titan sentry and cyclops brute can protect charge lanes with their reach weapons while being very hard to slam into the agonizer.  As long as the aura extends 2" beyond the base of these beasts, enemy warbeasts will have a hard time taking down either of them in one round.

My experience with the anonizer is that keeping him alive will be a chore, so don't feel bad about flubbing it initially.  Against one of the Advanced Manuevers guys at my shop, his first target was the agonizer and he took it out of the game.  Against the local pigs player, he eventually dove a few troopers into the agonizer who was too close to the brute shielding him to allow the brute to get a free strike.  It's going to die, but if you can protect it, you might get an effective round of debuffs out of it.

The Agonizer and the Lore
Oh God, they took his eyes
How does it have that good a statline and fury-based abilities?  Well, in the fluff the skorne raise captive four-armed elephants called titans to be their warbeasts of choice.  As with any animal, sometimes there are runts.  Smaller, weaker titans weren't of any use to the skorne until someone decided to torture one and started feeling its pain.  Yes, the agonizer is literally a baby elephant they're torturing more than usual.  It's fearless because, well that warpwolf over there might end its misery.  Most of its agonies affect warbeasts rather than warjacks because the skorne are masters of how to manipulate animals through pain, but only recently in the fluff did they find out the Iron Kingdoms (Warmachine factions) existed.

So that's the agonizer in a nutshell.  It's a model that can help your game plan in most any matchup and opens up tactical options for you.  It reflects the fluff gorgeously and is a cheap addition to your collection you won't regret.  Just watch out for those boostable guns.

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