Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The New Pecking Order - Mk3 Cygnar 'Caster Review

With the many changes between Mk2 and the new edition, there are some new kids on the block of super good Cygnar Warcasters; and some old standbys got kicked to the hot garbage curb that’s been baking in the sun all day.  A couple folks asked me what I think our new hierarchy of ‘casters is going to look like, so today I’ll go over my opinions of where Cygnar ‘casters sit in the new order of things.

Obviously there needs to be some caveats here to keep the trolls off my back; A. it’s all my opinion and your meta/experience/brainwave patterns/government brainwashing regimes are undoubtedly different, B. it’s early days yet and everyone’s role in the new meta hasn’t really been ironed out yet… in fact the new meta itself hasn’t even been ironed out so we’re in hyper-speculation mode right now.  C.  I haven’t played all the ‘casters (not even close) so I’m sure a lot of you will have more experience with some ‘casters than I.

It’s SUPER hard to rank Warcasters by a strict hierarchy; differences in meta trends, comparative power level, model releases, internal synergies and the simple gray-area of differentiating ‘casters with almost identical effectiveness but subtly different roles makes it nearly impossible.  Since I’m allergic to difficult things, I’ll be assigning ‘casters to one of 4 ranks; Awesome, Sweet, Meh and Lame.  One of the most interesting effects is the Mk2-3 rebalancing is a homogenization of power levels across the faction.  There’s no longer an obvious standout or runt of the litter; instead there is a wide selection of strong and specialized ‘casters so we can pick and choose our faves or solve specific meta problems.

So let’s talk about this stupid ranking system I just made up for a bit:
Awesome: what most Steamroller pairings will be made of; they’re generally powerful and well-rounded and you will often choose a 2nd list to complement them.
Sweet: specialists who aren’t necessarily as well-rounded as Mainstay ‘casters, but bring a SUPER strong meta answer to the table.
Meh: tend to focus on one strategy or gimmick; it can be strong and useful in the meta, but they often have some pretty bad matchups
Lame: what do you even do?


I'm here to kick ass and incarcerate Menites... and I'm all outta Menites.

Haley2 – Oh, how far the mighty have fallen… is not very far, as it turns out.  Lower model counts on the table=TK is now 100% the best spell in the game.  Haley can still isolate opposing heavies, alpha them and protect her army from retaliation better than anyone, she is just slightly less confident into spammed infantry (no Deadeye :( ) and shooting (no Decel  :( ), but she can still be built to fight almost anything.

Haley3 – I have less experience with this one than other folks, but people have been having massive success with her at the moment.  The DEF skew she can create makes it difficult for opposing heavies to trade favorably, even if they make it through the Trencher cloudwall.  She can hide lots of heavy hitters and powerful guns behind those clouds too, or take advantage of the more limited answers to Concealment now in the game to protect against stuff that can shoot through the clouds.

Stryker2 – I’m super duper biased cuz Stryker2 is mah boi but it looks to me like he’s still on top.  His suite of abilities lets him cover a variety of matchups; Rebuke and infantry lawnmowers light Storm Lances let him kill lots of dudeguys, while Positive Charge and Rolling Thunder let him pull double-duty killing heavier armor.  Icing on the cake; Deceleration lets him tank gunlines to an extent as well!


Time for a slow motion contest!  You win.
Darius – Buffs to ‘jacks only help this guy, and newly reinvented ‘jacks such as the Centurion help even more.  In a straight-up melee attrition grind, Darius can wear down almost any opponent with massive amounts of repair and a huge volume of attacks.  Unfortunately, anti-repair tech, tough control effects and his own low model count really hurt him and generate some potentially bad matchups.

Haley1 – Went from being one of the most powerful control ‘casters in the game to a sneaky ninja… because she received one of the biggest stealth buffs in the change between editions.  Even though Temporal Barrier arguably got worse with its new wording... its effect on the table is much greater.  When you consider it, the change is not that great; the difference between -2 SPD and charging vs. not being able to charge is 1” of threat range (and some extra damage from infantry), but not only does it affect models that aren’t even trying to run or charge (e.g. ranged models etc.) but it compounds with effects like Polarity Field and Covering Fire that prevent or disrupt charges.  With Power Up buffing her battlegroup, Haley can usually camp a significant number of focus while casting or upkeeping her spells, making her more survivable than ever.  Depending on her list build, Haley1 can be constructed to fight a vast variety of opposing lists; from infantry swarms and DEF skews to even heavily armored bricks.

Kara – I was going to put Kara up top as an “Awesome” ‘caster until the recent errata; right now she’s only in the time-out corner temporarily until she gets some more table time.  She brings one of the strongest gunlines in the game and hard-counters Stealth skew and cloudwalls.  She now has some trouble fueling a big battlegroup and, like most gunlines she has lots of very difficult matchups and can be countered relatively easily.

Nemo3 – Another ‘caster that lots of other people have had luck with but I haven’t gotten around to playing concertedly.  Sporting a great spell list on top of solid personal contribution and a feat that lets his lightning weapons pull double-duty annihilating armored targets as well as lighter infantry, Nemo can bring a well-rounded complement to other targeting lists in a pairing.  Unfortunately, he has two problems that prevent him from rising higher in the Faction and for which I’m still seriously considering him as a candidate for the category below; no threat range extenders for his ‘jacks and reliance on lightning damage.  The lack of speed buffs forces Nemo to rely on his guns to force engagement but will often be alpha-struck by opposing battlegroup models and the complete reliance on ranged electrical attacks opens him up to cripplingly bad matchups based on the opposing army composition that his paired list will have to cover.

Stryker1 – One of the most underrated Warcasters in Mk2, Stryker1 thrives in a meta skewing towards lower model counts and higher ARM values.  Combining a lethal ranged assassination with the stronged defensive buff in the game, Stryker can play a game similar to that of Haley2; using Invincibility to ram hard-hitting models down his opponent’s throat or buy two consecutive turns of attacking.  Unfortunately, powerful control effects that can slow him down enough negate the efficacy of his feat or very long threat ranges that can wait it out give him trouble in some matchups.

Stryker3 – Bringing the holy combination of a speed buff and reliable damage buff makes Stryker3 very valuable in a meta filled with battlegroup heavy opponents.  He retains his vulnerability to heavy gunlines and requires the ability to charge to bring most of his damage to bear but these can be mitigated in his list composition by bringing more heavily armored pieces to the table (I’m looking at you, Centurions).


Y U NO DIE TO POW 12s!!!???
Caine1 – I really wanted to rank this guy higher as he was my favorite Caine in Mk2 but his targeted anti-infantry tech is somewhat lost in a world where 20-30 troops will mostly be the upper limit.  Combined with the loss of his ability to charge and Maelstrom to remove support and nerf to Teleport, Caine1 has been left in the dust in Mk3.

Caine2 – Along the same vein as Caine1, Caine2 has been left by the wayside by the Mk3 metagame.  Without the same breadth of infantry on the table, Caine2 doesn’t have the same target rich environment as he did in Mk2.  Beyond that, the loss of Magic Bullet for the arguably inferior Trick Shot (it’s free but only works on Caine himself and at POW 10 often has trouble killing solos) and the ability to charge and extend his threat range coupled with the drop in the quality and accessibility of ARM debuffs in the faction and nerfs to a lot of the Mercenaries he previously relied on, Caine has taken a lot of hits in the transition between editions.  Without Overkill active, Caine relies almost entirely on a couple POW 12s to fight opposing battlegroups; battlegroups that will almost assuredly be more effective than his own.  He can still play a threatening game, bullying opposing ‘casters with his Feat and coupled with Lynus and Edrea he can try to knock systems and aspects off Warjacks or Warbeasts and apply Grevious Wounds with his attacks, but whether this strategy is going to be particularly effective is still a question.

Kraye – A lot of folks looked at this guy and wondered why he was nerfed so heavily, missing the parts of his rules that got significantly buffed.  No longer does Kraye bring an almost strictly inferior version of Haley2’s plan to the table; he’s replaced his long threat ranges and accuracy with what is potentially the strongest Field Marshal ability in the game.  Iron Horse offers Kraye unparalleled flexibility on the tabletop and he now plays a nearly unstoppable hit-and-run game which he supplements with one of the strongest control elements in the game in Pursuit.  Were it not for his inexplicable drop in defensive stats and how difficult it is for him to fuel a large battlegroup safely, these benefits combined with Kraye’s not insignificant personal contribution would make him one of Cygnar’s top ‘casters.

Nemo1 – I’ve always been a big fan of Nemo1 and the power of Warjacks in the new edition helps him a lot.  While he’s not as straightforward as some of the stronger ‘casters, Nemo brings a well-rounded kit that contains answers for almost every question.  Between infantry-slaying Chain Lightning, a damage buff, threat range extender, powerful control effect and ARM buff, Nemo can be built as a strong pair with a more specific list, especially when trying to deal with a ‘jack heavy meta.

Siege – The hits kept coming for this poor guy; I was already not a great fan of Siege in Mk2 but the loss of Foxhole as an LoS remover and the ability to take both Reinholdt and a Squire are both crippling.  Beyond that; the prevalence of SUPER high ARM skew hurts him as well as Siege always relied on crippling his opponent with a few strong attacks.  Really the only reasons he’s in this category and not the one below is that he might bring necessary answers to high ARM infantry skew and forest cover.

Sturgis1 – I was a fan of Sturgis in Mk2; he brought an excessively well-rounded game that really only fell down to ARM skews and infantry that refused to die to Dead on Arrival.  If Sturgis could clear the majority of screening infantry with Covering Fire and his feat, all that was left to do was for his force to mop up.  With a greater emphasis on large battlegroups supported by small infantry contingents and and the slightly larger size of Covering Fire, Sturgis may be poised for a come back as an answer to such well-rounded opponents.


Blaize – With the slight uptick in the quality of Cygnar’s Faction infantry, Blaize isn’t quite as hamstrung as she was playing out of tier in Mk2 which is good since her theme force is gone in Mk3 anyway.  That said, she doesn’t have the chance to take the same mess of infantry she really wants to with the emphasis on battlegroup points in the new edition, which hurts her game plan quite a bit.  Being Morrowan doesn’t help either; as always she can’t bring some of the important pieces that Cygnar is going to rely on in Mk3 (I’m looking at you, Ragman).  She does have one strong play going for her, and that’s the Radiance of Morrow-buffed Gallant, who can bring some of the highest damage output in the faction against a buffed model.  If you want to forgo Shield Guard on the big guy, you could even take him with Jakes for DEF 15 and a 14” threat range.  Cute. 

Maddox – Another ‘caster I’ve never played, so take this with a grain of salt.  Maddox seems entirely uninteresting – she brings a mildly flexible toolbox still missing some key pieces and with honestly disappointing versions of powerful effects.  +2” threat on a single model isn’t particularly impressive, an ARM buff limited to only Warrior models and only a single turn of damage buff makes it feel like she was stuck with downplayed versions of stronger effects.  Her feat seems strong, but in my experience Feat-level damage buffs are never particularly reliable without extreme threat ranges that she doesn’t bring.  Overall on paper she looks like she’s going to be annihilated by a lot of common tropes in the metagame.

Nemo2 – While I haven’t played Nemo2 in Mk3 yet and I’m not entirely sure ranking him on the bottom-tier of Cygnar ‘casters, Nemo2 took enough hits in the transition that there is little doubt he dropped from a severely underpowered ‘caster in Mk2 to be even worse in the new edition.  Power Up and the efficiency of ‘jacks may help him a little, but outside his feat turn Nemo has always had trouble fueling a large battlegroup to get work done in place of his own ability to contribute.  On top of that, Cygnar ‘jacks have never quite been powerful enough to rely on solely without serious support that Nemo doesn’t quite bring.

Anyhoo, that’s it; the whole list of Cygnar’s finest.  I’m sure my opinions will change as the meta becomes more defined and as I actually play more games with some of these ‘casters.  What do you think of my rankings; do you agree?  Have other opinions?  Let me know in the comments!


  1. I can't agree enough with your listings. Sadly my favorite casters (siege + caine 2) have been caught up in the whirlwind that is Mk3.

    I keep listening to pod casts about how good Cygnar is in Mk3 and I'm scratching my head because I don't see it. Most of our Casters have had reductions in power yet I haven't seen a commensurate increase in power in our solos, jacks, or units. In fact I'd say that our units and jacks have had reductions in power when compared to other factions increases.

    Thanks for the write up.

    1. I think a lot of folks got caught up in how cool the stuff Cygnar *got* was without paying attention to what the faction lost or its place in the metagame (I was guilty of this too, believe me). IMO Cygnar's not quite in the happy and all-powerful place everyone thought it would be.

  2. Hey Trevy, I've been watching your BatReps and I really enjoy them. I know this is an old article, but im not really sure where else to ask: now that we've had a few months to play the new edition, do you feel the same about these ratings?

  3. Hey Trevy, I've been watching your BatReps and I really enjoy them. I know this is an old article, but im not really sure where else to ask: now that we've had a few months to play the new edition, do you feel the same about these ratings?