Warmachine Cryx Theme Review: Ghost Fleet
So to start I'll say this wasn't easy to write. The first draft of this was a behemoth of a read with WAY too much content. So this is a trimmed down version that focuses on the Theme itself. I'll be doing deeper dives on the pieces in this theme shortly though, I promise. A theme force is supposed to take generally sub optimal choices and somehow make them viable. This is normally done via point reduction/free models, or additional rules. The Revenant Crew of the Atramentous have long lived in the shadows of the more powerful Cryx infantry. However with a few tweaks here and there Privateer Press released a "dud" of a theme force, which ended up being a monster. When Privateer Press announced the first MKiii themes, Cryx collectively moaned. Don't listen to what anyone tells you, NO ONE was excited when first reading Ghost Fleet. NO ONE! That being said it's now widely considered one of the best themes in the game. People are heavily relying on it, and performing well on the National Scene. So what is Ghost Fleet? Why do I want to play it? And for some of you people, 'How do I beat it?' Well read on and I'll let you know.
It's a fairly restrictive theme. No character Jacks, only Revenants and Wraiths. Hmm, what that means is we have 3 unit choices;
BlackBane's Ghost Raiders: A character unit of incorporeal models.
Revenant Crew of the Atramentous: A unit with middling stats and built in recursion
Revenant Cannon Crew: A weapon crew unit that can add models to the afore mentioned Revenant Crew of the Atramentous.
For solos's we don't get a lot more;
Captain Rengrave: The leader of the Revenant Crew of the Atramentous can add models to the unit, has Veteran Leader and self sacrifice them when he's disabled.
Hellslinger Phantom: An upgraded Pistol Wraith who can shoot up to 4 times a turn.
Machine Wraith: An incorporeal utility piece that can "dominate" warjacks.
Pistol Wraith: An incorporeal gunslinger who stationaries anything they hit with both attacks.
Told you it was restrictive. For our troubles we get;
A free weapon crew or small based solo free for every 20points of Revenants.
A +1 to our Deathbound (recursion) roll for each Revenant Crew of the Atramentous.
And last, but not least +1 to the starting roll for the game.
I'll start with the easy one, +1 to a starting roll is kind of gigantic. It's one of the most random things about a game. Each player rolling a single d6 and comparing it to their opponent to determine the choice of side or going first. Adding a +1 modifier to such a limited roll already is gigantic, You have roughly a 17% higher chance to win that roll because of this bonus.
The next two bonuses go hand in hand. Most Ghost Fleet lists start with 3 min units of Revenant Crew of the Atramentous plus 3 weapons attachments on each(the max FA of these). The Revenant Crew of the Atramentous are Spd 6, Mat 5, Rat 4 Def 13 Arm 12 cmd 7. They have a pistol, rng 8 pow 10 and a Cutlas with .5 and PS 9. Gang combined with Point Blank means they do pretty well in melee, effective mat 7 PS11 and PS12 is nothing to sneeze at if we're following our Cryx Commandment #1 and stacking arm debuffs. Lastly they have Deathboud: If there are fewer models in the unit during your Maintenance Phase then when you started the game add d3 models completely within 3 inches of the unit leader. In Ghost Fleet this becomes d3+1, spread across 3 units means we can bring up to 12 models back a turn! AND THEY GET TO ACTIVATE!
The Revenant Crew Rifleman has the same stats but traded his pistol in for a Long Rifle. This is a range 14 pow 10 gun that has Combined Ranged Attack. In addition they went ahead and gave them Ghost Shot: This model ignores LOS, concealment, and cover when making attacks with this weapon (Long Rifle). They can be brought back with deathbound, and often will. For a min unit plus 3 rifles you're looking at 15 points. So the array of 3 min units plus max weapons cost us 45 points (2 free solos in them) and allows us to bring 27 models with 9 RNG 14 attacks that ignore LOS, or 54 melee attacks if everyone makes it into combat. Couple this with their built in recursion and you can start to see how they grind people down. Yes I said that correctly they can come back with Deathbound.
After those 45 points we're stuck thinking about Blackbane's Ghost raiders. They are an incorporeal character unit with Spd 6, Mat 6, Def 13, Arm 12. They only have one melee attack and it's a Cutlass, .5 PS 10 Magical and causes the Fire continuous effect on hit. While Blackbane is alive the unit is Granted Reanimation: When a living enemy warrior model is boxed with an attack, you may remove that model from play and place a grunt (ghost raider) within 3 inches. They also have apparition, which allows them to be placed completely with 2 inches during the control phase. At 11/17 they aren't cheap. But with a full unit plus the 3 sets of Revenant Crew of the Atramentous we get over 60 points for our max free solos of 3.
So far we've spent 62 points and we have 4 units to show for it and 37 models on the table. 3 of our units bring themselves back and the other is incorporeal and can add to its ranks. So how do we win with these? There are two schools of thought, Denny 1 or Terminus. Denny 1 has long been considered Cryx's ultimate turd polisher. Alone she can debuff DEF by 4 on a model/unit or Arm by 5. She helps the Revenant Riflemen hit, and that 5 armor swings turns the tickling ghost shots to threatening ones. Not to mention she can always Scourge (knockdown) their caster to ensure those 9 ghost shot range 14 shots hit. Couple that with ghost walk to help us ignore terrain it's easy to see why she's catapulted to the captain's chair for Ghost Fleet. Terminus brings a -2 def and arm debuff and provides tough to undead models within 10 inches of him. Where Denny can grind or assassinate Terminus is all about grinding your opponent down. Adding tough to the d3+1 recursion is a surefire way to make your opponents rage.
So to recap our list is
Deathripper X2 (see Cryx Commandment #2)
3X min Revenant Crew of the Atramentous with max rifles
Max Blackbane Ghost Radiers
This grants us 3 free solo's on small bases so the decisions are basically made for us.
We have 16 BG points to fill out and 13 Army points. But the core of the Army is there. A lot of GF lists have the Wraith Engine. Those of you who know me, know I adore this thing. However with it in CID I'd rather avoid talking about it for now. Some people prefer Nightmare for the heavy hitter and stealth heavy. Some prefer 2 stalkers for the non linear threat and melee Grievous Wounds. Some fill up on machine wraiths and another pistol wraith for maximum incorporeal annoyance. Some people swear by the Revenant Cannon. There are several variations, but the core of the list holds true. Sticking with my Army Building Tips my list concept is to grind my opponent down till they make a mistake, and exploit it with Denny's Debuffs and the ghost shots being able to target most of the board. So the plan is to;
A. Grind it out. With well placed Denny 1 Debuffs let the Ghost Fleet grind your opponent down. The Blackbanes run out to apply pressure to gunlines/support models. The Pirates run/advance taking pot shots when they can. Take a look at your opponents list. If he hits with all his ranged attacks how many pirates die? Can you weather that? This is a game by game decisions but without RFP few armies can deal with the amount of recursion the Ghost Fleet has
B. Assassination Run/s. The combination of Denny 1's feat (-2 to most stats) Crippling Grasp (-2 Spd, Str, Def, Arm)/Parasite (-3 Arm) and scourge (AOE3 knockdown) is enough to really allow the Ghost Shot Rifles to threaten casters. At spd 6 with 14 range there aren't many places casters can hide. A knocked down caster with -5 armor is easy pickings for the 9 Ghost Shot Rifles and the Hellslinger. Even if they do live the caster is knocked down, -2/4 speed and can't run/charge. I doubt they are going to be able to get away to survive the next barrage.
So why do you want to play Ghost Fleet? Well without a doubt it's Cryx's top list at the moment. It allows for a reasonable amount of decisions during the game and Denny 1's tool box is phenomenal. It can be easier to start the game with a theme too, a focused buying route to something that you know is going to end with a decent list.
Why would you consider not playing Ghost Fleet? Well it's not very fun to play against, it can be rage inducing for your opponent. With it doing as well as it's doing I'm sure someone somewhere is looking at nerfing it, which could ruin a fairly large financial investment. My ultimate piece of advice is is you miss MKii recursion then this is the place for you. If you miss MKii bane smash then wait for Dark Host!
So that's a high level overview of Ghost Fleet. Thanks TT but uhh...how do I beat it? Uhh well there are a few things that help to know:
- Denny's walk and feat is 21 inches. Avoid that to lessen the odds they go for the assassination.
- Scourge is an AOE 3, keep your caster far enough away from low def models to avoid being knocked down easily.
- Within 4.18 inches a scourge (AOE 3 knock down PS 13) can't miss a small based model. This means you shouldn't let your small based caster be within 18.18 of Denny's ArcNode.
- Focus fire on Revenant Crew units. Killing any fewer than 3 models in a unit is worthless.
- The Rifle Crew come back with deathbound completely within 3 inches of the unit leader. The activate normally so check threat as 23 inches from the unit leader for dead rifles (3 inch place, 6 inch walk, 14 inch shot).
- Remove from play is obviously strong. That being said if you RFP the unit leader he isn't replaced, instead a commander is assigned. This stops the unit's Deathbound. So a few well placed RFP's can shut down the entire recursion of the list.
- Remember Ghost Shot, don't fall into old habits of hiding casters behind buildings or walls and thinking they're safe. The Denny arcs still suffer the penalty but the shots don't.
- Blackbane's apparition. I know that sounds obvious but keep it in mind when dropping clouds to block LOS etc.
- Denny is the weakest link in the Denny 1 GF lists IMO. She's 16/14 with stealth and 16 boxes. Don't be afraid to go for "hail mary's" if you're losing the grind. It doesn't take many spikes to kill her.
- Focus the Arc Nodes. Often the Nodes live next to Denny in "safety' however if you can scalpel them out the assassination odds drop dramatically.
- Don't let the Pistol Wraith models get primed. What I mean is don't let them get any easy/safe souls early in the match.
- If you're going to grind with Ghost Fleet be ready for a long game, and manage your clock accordingly.
Well I hope this helped shed a little bit of light on Ghost Fleet. It's a fantastic theme with the right warcaster. Let me know who you guys are playing it with. Maybe I missed some hot tech that Ghost Fleet hates that you can share too!