Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dark Guidance Meta Benders 1: Karchev Mad Dog spam

Such Boxes, Much Counter Charge, Very Jury Rig, Wow!

Welcome to this series of Dark Guidance battle reports specifically covering meta-benders: filthy, degenerate, problem lists prowling around the dark corners of convention halls, hungry for blood and are out to get You and Your Family. Today we will be covering Karchev and his Mad Dog(e) spam, a list dubbed by the Sweeds, one of the early adopting nations of the list, as machine that "feels like you're selling weapons designed to kill children". A pretty good endorsement.

The following is a video battle report between Josh running Caine 2 and Chris running Karchev. We provide snap shots of the game, then shit talk afterwards about why this list is a problem and general strategies to beat it. We used the following lists.

Cygnar Army - 74 / 75 points
(Caine 2) Captain Allister Caine [+27] - Firefly [8] - Dynamo [18] - Reinholdt, Gobber Speculator [4] Storm Lances (min) [12] Storm Lances (min) [12] Major Katherine Laddermore [8] Ragman [4] Captain Sam MacHorne & the Devil Dogs (max) [18] - Captain Jonas Murdoch [4] Gun Mage Captain Adept [5] Lanyssa Ryssyl, Nyss Sorceress [3] Rhupert Carvolo, Piper of Ord

And in the Scum corner.
Khador Army - 75 / 75 points (Karchev 1) Karchev the Terrible [+30] - Mad Dog [7] - Mad Dog [7] - Mad Dog [7] - Mad Dog [7] - Mad Dog [7] - Mad Dog [7] - Mad Dog [7] - Mad Dog [7] - Mad Dog [7] - Juggernaut [12] - Kodiak [13] - Kodiak [13] Gobber Tinker [2] Gobber Tinker [2]
In brief, since our analysis got cut a bit short due to Josh's size requiring too much space on his phone (he's very tall you see), Mad Doge spam is a type of list where you take Karchev with X number of Mad Doges where X is a big number. The commonly quoted number is 14 but in truth you can take as many as 15 and as few as 8, adding or dropping support as the Khador player sees fit. In addition to the Mad Doges you can also put in "real" warjacks, typically Juggernauts, Kodiaks or Ruin, so that you have models that do Work on turns that aren't Karchev's feat turn (and wreck some serious face on Feat turn as well). You don't want to dilute the mix too much, keeping a double digit total warjack count is generally recommended since by that point the amount of metal on the table goes from "tolerable" too "waaaaay too much" 

This particular list has 3 real jacks: 1 Juggernaut and 2 Kodiaks. The Juggernaut is pretty common, being a rock solid heavy destroyer and all-round power house. The Kodiaks are only POW 16 on their fists but exist to give the list some much-needed Pathfinder and to provide clouds for Karchev to hide behind, primarily from Eyriss 1 or 3. They can also very reliably proc' Chain Attack Grab & Smash on feat turn, since all their punches are boosted. Finally Vent Steam is a powerful ability now , providing some flexible infantry-clearing power that can dig deep into formations with a successful trigger of Road to War.

Delivering these three jacks, and Karchev, is a carpet of Mad Doges.

The key ability that makes the list actually work is Jury Rig. Mad Doges are some of the most pathetic models in the game in terms of damage output and reliability. However with Jury Rig they are an excellent vehicle for playing the board positioning game, since they can run 12 inches up the table every turn and screen the rest of the list, often forcing opponents to commit their anti-jack infantry or their heavies to fight them instead of the real threats in the list. This often allows Karchev to set up the trades he wants to remove the threats to his person whilst sneaking into a zone or onto a flag to start scoring, forcing more pressure onto the opponent. In addition, on Karchev's feat turn they can Jury Rig to gain extra threat range and can combo this with Road to War to deliver fully boosted attacks across the table with incredible efficiency.

Couple this with Battle Charged, which gives Karchev's entire battlegroup Counter Charge and you've got a positioning nightmare: even if you have the troops and jacks necessary to deal with this threat, you can run into problems caused by this ability. In this battle, even when countered well, Counter Charge was responsible for the death of at least 1 Devil Dog and 2 Storm Lances, all mid-charge. That's 3 attacks that didn't connect with their targets, plus some extra threat up the table acquired for a spectacular feat turn.

Finally, there is Karchev himself. This list can be run by many casters in Khador but there are two reasons why he runs this list most efficiently, even over those that could theoretically get more work out of the Mad Doges like Butcher 1 or Vlad 1. 

1: Karchev presents both movement tricks and positioning problems, meaning that even if you run into a straight counter you still have game into it. He brings flexibility that other casters lack while running this list.
2: Karchev can run the list and make it effective with almost no focus investment at all. Where as Butcher needs to cast Full Throttle and Vlad needs to cast Signs and Portents to make the Mad Doges do their job, Karchev just pops his feat, maybe throws some focus out and calls it a day. Effectively, he can be Super lazy while running Mad Doge spam, whilst still being incredibly difficult to kill.

Karchev kicks a lot of ass in the end game. He's harder to kill than most heavies and hits as hard as a Juggernaut by himself. His knockdown spray is also both a caster kill threat, a way to allow Mad Doges to kill models when it's not feat turn and a way to start an unexpected Road to War chain. You have to watch for games where he throws away his army to kill the models you possess that can threaten him, then romps around the table like an angry robotic God. 

All up, it's an intimidating list that can faceroll opponents, but actually requires some technical skill both to pilot and to play against.

Countering this list is tricky. Even if you bring weapon masters and cheap beater heavies for days, you need to play against the list once or twice to learn how to play the positioning game against it. Typically, you also have to set up situations where Karchev cannot feat to kill your entire army: undercommitting is often actually the correct play until Karchev feats, since it's unlikely that you committing your army will make up for the points that Karchev will pick up on his counter-attack feat turn.

Good counters are lists that can out grind him over a longer period of time, like most Synergy casters or control casters with damage buff spells and efficient models, lists that present models that are difficult for him to deal with efficiently such as Baldur 2 builds heavy on Warpwolves and assassination casters that can meaningfully kill him such as Rahn, Gorten or any list that can effectively deliver Eyriss 1. 

The best counters are lists that can repeatedly shoot or cripple heavies at range without sacrificing melee output or combine multiple of the above. Ossyian, Khador lists with Rocketeers and a strong shooting base like Irusk 2, Nemo 3, Haley 1 with a Hurricane and other such lists can do the trick. Just make sure you're also ready for list number 2, which if built well will cover at least some of these weaknesses.

Finally, the Karchev list has serious problems with Pathfinder, so abilities that create Rough terrain or Walls help immensely. Even just exploiting that naturally are placed on the table is super important.

It's an intimidating amount of Armour, but it requires skill to pilot, is vulnerable to control, has to time its feat turn extremely carefully and gets less intimidating the more you play into it. Practice into it if you expect to see it at a tournament, keep calm and prepare to roll a crap tonne of dice.

Nah just kidding, you guys are doomed.

See you next time when we cover yet another Broken as Fuck caster!

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