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Siege Animantarax: (Not-)Jack of All Trades, Master of Derp

Sardonic Artery discusses Skorne’s Siege Animantarax battle engine changes (still in progress with CID testing).

EDIT: Week three CID (which dropped about five minutes after this article did) drops the point cost to 17 and gives RNG 2 on the tail like I wanted:

EDIT #2: And then they release the updated model and it's great. Yeah, we would've liked native SPD 8 / ARM 20 / auto knockdown on melee with 3D6 to hit on the charge. Save the latter, why didn't you say so? It's good for Skorne, but not sure what this means for the CID process if big changes can run in untested come release time. Maybe it was just a stop gap because Skorne is (at this time) low on theme forces.  

Odds are, if you own a Siege Animantarax, you picked one up at a bargain bin price during MK2 (and you still don’t know how to spell “Animantarax” without Googling it). Me, I received one when I jokingly told my meta that I’d play one competitively for three months straight if I was given a painted one. Being of sound mind and knowing when a jokes a joke, my meta followed through and it was painted by Dan over at Forged in Paint. From there, I worked through #7StagesOfSiegeAnimantaraxGrief

                                             You just got an awesome Siege Animantarax paint job... what do you think?

                                             You just got an awesome Siege Animantarax paint job... what do you think?

Thankfully, this was during those brief few months where the Siege Animantarax was decent, as you could boost both ranged and melee attacks (the former of which no longer applies in MK3). With beast handlers getting you early rage tokens and healing the damage, being able to boost both types of attack and damage rolls put the Animantarax in with the best battle engines—those that could reliably boost—but now it’s just the melee attacks that can be boosted off the cantankerous rule.

Like my last blog on Morghoul3 & Escorts, I will assume you have access to the derp turtle card. However, with CID testing, that’s currently in flux. Here’s what we know going in:

  • In the 4/26/17 Insider, Privateer Press noted that battle engines will fall into three main categories: tanks, gun platforms, and support. While the Animantarax feels like a combination of the first two (with more emphasis on melee), they did not define its role.
  • PP did note that, healthbox-wise, battle engines are intended to be the middle ground between a heavy jack and a colossal.
  • Specifically regarding the Siege Animantarax, PP staff have noted that they struggle with giving it more rules, as the back of that card is already fully loaded. Given my hatred of the feeble spears having independent attack, I‘m all for that being removed in favor of something better.
  • There is also some rumbling that PP wants half of their competitive lists to be theme forces and the other half the feature battle engines. Since Skorne is behind in the theme force department, let’s see if the Siege Animantarax can compete with the best battle engines (all hail Convergence’s TEP).

Week One: One more army point for 11 more health boxes

Okay, nothing flashy, just more meat to get through. For me, the derp turtle now goes in two lists: 1) Those that can make it live longer; and 2) those that can reliably improve its offensive output (often by debuffing). For option one, I’m reaching for our lone Defender’s Ward warlock, Xerxis1. The goal was to get it out there on feat turn (amongst smashface troops), then let my opponent choke on it, while Tiberion moves in to mop up what’s left:

(Xerxis 1) Tyrant Xerxis [+28]
 - Agonizer [6]
 - Tiberion [22]
 - Titan Gladiator [15]
The only one-point option available to Skorne: Swamp Gobber Chef [1]
Legends of Halaak [8]
Paingiver Beast Handlers (min) [5]
Praetorian Karax (max) [11]
Praetorian Swordsmen (max) [13]
 - Praetorian Swordsman Officer & Standard [4]
Siege Animantarax (CID) [18]

Played into Venethrax with a bunch of heavies. While Xerxis1 is not a Cryx drop, I figured I’d drop into everything and see what happens. The gun was fun here, as it made poor little Cryx jack arms fall off (good luck repeating that against most other faction warjacks). Thanks to Lamentation, I had Defender’s Ward on the Siege Animantarax early. Come feat turn, that big ol’ base was ARM 25 with an agonizer singing songs into his poopchute. Then again, I can have an Arm 27 Tiberion (who I will take with Xerxis1), so that’s not enough. Without that feat though, I hated its offensive output. With missed attacks and low P+S on the spears, I didn’t care what random thing I occasionally shot outside of melee. However, I am a huge fan of knocking something down and letting the Siege Animantarax unload onto it. Then again, what can’t Skorne kill when it’s staring at the stars?

Week Two: It can go in the Winds of Death theme force

Okay, slow changes means PP must think they’re on the right track with the derp turtle. However, I do like Hexeris2 in Winds of Death (thanks to his spell list—especially Banishing Ward when a spell hate list seems essential and Orin Midwinter isn’t allowed in theme). I also think he’s able to fix MAT/RAT (against the troops which the derp turtle struggles to hit) thanks to Black Spot. It also seems fun to charge a heavy, then take shots against Black Spotted troops, generating free tail attacks for each troop killed by the double reiver gun. But, you know what? I haven’t played Hexeris1 at all, so I want to see what he can do (slightly modified list of wolf9416's from Lormahordes):

(Hexeris 1) Lord Tyrant Hexeris [+28]
- Cyclops Raider [9]
- Cyclops Shaman [8]
- Razor Worm [7]
- Titan Cannoneer [17]
Extoller Soulward [3]
Mortitheurge Willbreaker [0(4)]
Venator Dakar [4]
Paingiver Beast Handlers (min) [5]
Venator Catapult Crew [0(5)]
Venator Reivers (max) [15]
 - Venator Reiver Officer & Standard [4]
Venator Slingers (max) [13]
Siege Animantarax (CID) [18]

Played this a couple of times and I like what I see, especially with Ghost Fleet gaining steam. If they don’t have any spell hate, find the biggest thing and turn it into Parasite City (where the debuff is mean and their ARM is…). If they have Orin, it’s typically time to mini-feat with CRAs from the reivers to take him out. Slingers do horrible things to jacks and the Dakar just makes the list sing all the more… but your derp turtle will have trouble hitting small bases with its gun. Only Rasheth can reliably debuff both DEF and ARM, but the DEF part is only on feat turn. Alas, without anything to buff its ARM, any cheap heavy will dice it dead once engaged. 

Thoughts Thus Far

Bluntly put: I won’t play the current Siege Animantarax competitively. Here’s why:

  • While I like the boxes increase, defense is not enough: It’s harder to kill, but as we saw with the Khador battle engine: If it doesn’t have enough offensive oomph, no one cares that it takes 1-2 more swings from a heavy to kill it. I do like that it can’t be jammed by small bases thanks to trampling, but then you have even less offense.
  • This is my big complaint: With losing both a transfer target and an animus, I believe Hordes battle engines need to be stronger than Warmachine battle engines (and currently, they’re just not). So let’s look at a comparable faction beast: I get an ARM 21 sentry for 15 points on the sentry. This means it’s about as survivable as the Siege Animantarax. While the derp turtle doesn’t need to heal up aspects, I don’t think the extra three points are worth weaker melee attacks, no shield guard, worse maneuverability, and a gun that often doesn’t hit or do enough damage. Comparisons to the soldier, bronzeback, or cannoneer don’t help either. Different roles, I know, but they’re all putting the Siege Animantarax out of any role.
  • I do like D3+1 / RAT 7 guns against low ARM large bases: Usually, you don’t want to aim with it (due to the melee threat), but it’s nice to be 50/50 against the higher DEF heavies of Legion and Circle. However, in capping out at POW 15 with no boosting, the high ARM heavies will shrug off the derp turtle averaging 4-6 damage at range. When it gets swarmed by little dudes, RAT 5 still misses a lot.
  • I hate the tail being RNG 1: I’ve already noted how worthless the spear guys are, but they’re RNG 2, This means that they not shape my melee threat with their crap P+S 11, but no one fears taking a free strike. If it was P+S 18 with a potential crit smite, they sure would. You could make the spears go away (or just grant anatomical precision); they wouldn’t be missed.  
  • Like trampling, critical smite on the tail seems like 50/50 option: Unless I’m knocking an enemy model down and they’ll stay in melee range, I won’t take this option. However, because the potential exists, I feel like the Siege Animantarax is capped at MAT 6.

Suggestions

I am not expecting all of these (but I’ll take ‘em):

  • Pick what type of battle engine it is and scale to that: No one likes paying for options they can’t really use (ask MK2 trencher players). Currently, it feels like Skorne paying too much for an unreliable gun, and it doesn’t work as just a tank in a faction full of tanks…. not unless it drops to 15-16 points. So with that (and avoiding rule bloat) in mind:  
  • Make it both a venetor and praetorian type: This adds very little to the rule bloat (as it’s in the title on the front of the card), but it does make it a viable option for theme forces in the future. I already like it in Winds of Death and it would like its accuracy getting buffed by a screaming dakar.
  • Increase the MAT to 7: We’re Skorne and critical smite isn’t something you want to use a lot anyway.
  • Make it an enrage target: There’s little to add to the beast rule. Alas, stupid independent spear attacks -- hate that rule -- remain P+S pool noodle.
  • Make the tail RNG 2: You could also make the spears RNG 1 and give it +1 SPD overall, but currently, the tail doesn’t get to smash enough.  
  • Let cantankerous boost ranged attacks, but lower its health: I know, these are all buffs thus far, but currently, I don’t think the gun is worth the points. In order to balance this out, take some health boxes off. How many that is, I’m not sure.
  • I have discussed allowing battle engines to score in both types of zones like a warcaster. I understand why this could be problematic, but it sure would give them a unique role. I’m not expecting this one though.

If there’s something amazing that comes up in week three of CID, I’ll revisit the topic. If it stays as is, my opinions will stay in my head and the Siege Animantarax will stay in its designated derp turtle spot on the shelf.  

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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.