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Morghoul3: Tall Enough to Ride the Pain Train

Sardonic Artery explores Skorne’s upcoming warlock unit, Dominar Morghoul & Escorts (Morghoul3).  

He’s a master of pain. He’s a brutal assassin. He’s… kinda short actually.

Maybe it’s because his other incarnations aren’t standing upright—Morghoul1 is hunched over, stalking (maybe hug-stabbing?) his prey; Morghoul2 is doing pain yoga atop a pillar—but now that he’s a calm and upstanding Dominar, it’s clear Morghoul3 is Prince-sized. Except what Prince was to sex, Morghoul is to suffering.

So what does Skorne’s latest variation of the pintsize psychopath have to offer?

Key Stats

Even if you don’t have War Room, I’ll boldly assume you have access to the warlock unit’s complete stats. Of note:

  • Warlock units activate together: This means that if Morghoul3 charges, they all have to run/charge. They can be shut down by rebuke—rare as that spell is to see currently—but with all of them having stealth, you shouldn’t get tagged by it too often. They can be affected by +2" SPD from the Tyrant Commander on a full advance (and a 9” retreat for Morghoul if you get to sprint back with the archidon animus -- note: does not stack with reposition). DEF 16 + steady + stealth makes him survivable, but at ARM 14, you better have transfers ready.   
  • The escorts are missing pieces: All three models have stealth, DEF 16, SPD 7, pathfinder, magical weapons, and reposition 3”. However, only Morghoul has steady, parry, and acrobatics. This means that unless it’s feat turn, only he will be going through the opponent’s models for a charge. Every other turn, if the escorts run to keep up, they will take free strikes and won’t get to take advantage of reposition 3”. They do, however, have anatomical precision and blind (which Morghoul3 does not). As Morghoul3 gets an additional damage dice against blinded models—not boosted, so you can add that dice, too—you will want one of these escorts to hit that blind attack. However, at MAT 7 with no boosting, one of them will have to roll above average to hit the DEF of most warcasters. A willbreaker can help get you there, but once people know what these ladies do, I doubt anyone will let you get both of them and Morghoul3 on their caster. Anything eyeless sight (read: most of Legion) will shrug off your blind benefits, too.
  • Morghoul3 will kill most warcasters if he gets there: If a model is blinded when Morghoul3 attacks, he’s effectively MAT 12, blessed P+S 13, rolling 3D6 all the time (4D6 with charge or boost). Add in critical decapitation and it’s almost a lock that you want to boost his charge attack roll. Crit decap is stronger against Warmachine, but it’s still fun to blow up a heavy beast from one transfer.     
  • He brings new spells to Skorne:
    • Occultation makes a model/unit stealth: As Morghoul3 and co. already have stealth, you’re not paying an upkeep fury to do what his prior versions had for free. You can slap it on a warbeast or a fast unit like ferox, because it should be hard to see pouncing kitties until they’re clawing out your eyeballs… then you still won’t see them… because they clawed out your eyeballs... (I know they’re not cats, but shut up, they’re cats.)
    • Mirage for a 2” placement during the maintenance phase: Cheaper than it was in MKII, but you still have to upkeep it before the apparition placement happens. Like occultation, you can put this on a beast, solo, or units (like immortals for more threat after vengeance moves). While it’s good for getting models out of a jam, most of the time, you’ll use this as a threat extender.
    • Night’s Reflection is new to the game, period: It likely won’t remain a Morghoul3 exclusive as time goes by, but it is for now (sure, give it to Cygnar—it’s hard being top faction forever). Given that it makes a model or unit blind (warcasters included), you can see why this spell should be rare. However, it costs 3 to cast and Morghoul is FURY 6. Boosting it while maintaining those sweet upkeeps listed above may get this teeny fella squished in a hurry if things don’t go according to plan, but since units can’t shake, you can take an expensive 10+ model unit out of the game for a turn every turn.     
  • His feat is warrior models only: I know you thought of shoving a heavy warbeast straight through their lines into the caster, but no, not with this Morghoul (pssst, you can do it every turn with Morghoul2 thanks to Shadow Play). However, with overtake, you can send a unit of nihilators through their infantry. While Morghoul himself can charge through enemy lines into their caster, the feat allows the rest of the army to come with him. If Rhadeim gets there with an armor piercing attack, that’s especially painful, potentially from 17” away with pounce + TyComm. Oh yeah, his feat is also called “Death Wind.” This comes right after Skorne’s first theme force, “Winds of Death.” Both sound A) like fart jokes; and B) like Privateer Press needs to get more creative with names.

List

I debated many variants and beast load outs—double swordsmen, gunz gunz gunz—but this was the first list to make it to the table:

Morghoul3   
-Escorts
-Aptimus Prime Marketh
-Despoiler
-Archidon
Praetorian Swordsmen (max) + UA
Nihilators (max)
Gatorman Bokur & Bog Trog Swamp Shamblers
Legends of Halaak
Beast handlers (minimum)
Mortitheurge Willbreaker
Extoller Soulward
Paingiver Task Master

Of note:

  • No gladiator: I know, I know; you’re supposed to begin every Skorne list with beast handlers + gladiator, but the beasts aren’t the main show here, and they have double-digit charge ranges without rush. Despoiler is in for the free upkeep and dark shroud; the archidon is in for the animus so that Morghoul can kill and run (sadly, the escort that probably came in with him gets left behind).
  • No shaman/bone grinders: For this version, I decided that I did not want Morghoul spending his stack on Night’s Reflection most of the time. Thus, that support isn’t needed, but Marketh gets a willbreaker and an extoller to make sure he’s landing it on most models in the game.
  • No gun outside of the extoller: It hurts to not have a spot cleaner (no damaging offensive spell on Morghoul3’s card either), but the goal is to make sure Morghoul always has a place to land. With crit pitch and sprint on the archidon, and sidestep on the Legends and swordsmen, someone should be making way for the assassin.
  • Swamp Shamblers?: Not a variant I saw anyone else discuss. With natural tough on the nihilators and granted tough on the swordsmen, Legends, and the undead fishy recursion regime, that’s a lot of bodies coming your opponent’s way. Having a boostable stationary attack (that you can reroll with a willbreaker) seems valuable, too, and not just for landing blind. Making shamblers steady with access to +2 strength from Lady Thinspiration (the paingiver task master) is just gravy—delicious, bloody Skorne gravy. I suppose you also have the option to dig in or reposition if playing cowardly and defensively ever sounds appealing.
                                                 That emaciated look... so hot right now

                                                 That emaciated look... so hot right now

Overall, the wave of bodies is to deliver Morghoul to critically decapitate a warcaster.  

Game Experience and Aftermath

So remember two seconds ago when I said my goal was to get Morghoul3 in to critically decapitate a warcaster? Well, I got Morghoul in to critically decapitate a warcaster. Turns out it doesn’t matter how much focus a warcaster is camping if you spike out 26 damage in one go (this was without blind and boosting the damage after I got a critical attack roll). Unless your name is Karchev and you are terrible, reducing that much damage by five boxes still means your head went whooshing off into the sky.

                                          Pretty much

                                          Pretty much

I am convinced that, while you can put mirage elsewhere early on, as the game goes on, you will want that 13” threat for Morghoul. Occultation goes out as needed. If they have a key unit or a high DEF warjack/warbeast, Night’s Reflection is a threat all game.

The feat isn’t that strong. You can save it for the late game if you can somehow keep an escort alive, but most of the time it’ll come out early to take out a unit or key model. Note that the feat benefits are for warrior models beginning their activation in Morghoul’s 12” control range. This means that (without sprint to retreat to the right spot) if you get Morghoul too far forward with his 10” charge, there are models that won’t gain the benefits from his feat even if he popped it further back in your army.

I don’t think he’s your main tournament drop, but he can work as a secondary. This is because he will get ripped apart by gunlines or stumped by multiple cheap high-ARM jacks (unless you pop that gooey warcaster linchpin). Occultation and mirage don’t change those factors and blind is shakeable. As he sees more play, you’ll get less chances at assassination runs. Given that I intend to play him as a secondary to my beast brick lead list, I'll look at switching to a shooting build.

Unfortunately, I still think the biggest argument against taking Morghoul3 is Morghoul2, purely because he has just as much caster kill threat with a spell (for any model), more offense-related spells, a better feat, a sweet bloodrunner master tormentor elite cadre, base weaponmaster, and grievous wounds. Regardless, I am going to play Morghoul3 more in the coming months and look forward to shaping my opinion off tournament experience rather than hyperbolic internet ramblings and the variations of casual learning games. I’ve considered pieces like Orin Midwinter, efaarit scouts, and Hutchuck… maybe even dropping beast handlers (wut), but I’ll reel in this madness for now.

Until next time, Team Skorne, keep adding fury to your opponents’ loss records.

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You can find Colin McKay Miller (AKA Sardonic Artery) on his Twitter or at Colorado Warmachine events in his tiniest of short shorts.