Freakshow Part 7: Welcome to the Main Event!
(After action analysis of the Freakshow in a tournament setting)
Welcome back to the Freakshow. It's been a long hiatus between installments, but I haven't had a great deal to say. I'm still working on notes for the 'Freakuently Asked Questions' article, for if and when Games Workshop finalizes the FAQ.
However, in the meantime, I finally got enough data to talk about Freakshows in tournament settings.Why didn't you do this before now?
Well, truth is that I'm not good enough for great tournament play. If I went to the BAO or what have you, I'd get trounced. Now, I've long since held the opinion that experience and skill are more important than army selection (skill with one's own army and experience against other armies), but the truth is that while I have a great deal of skill with Dark Eldar, I don't have enough with Craftworlders, or enough experience against the armies not common to my local meta, to present a credible threat at large competitive events.
However, when my spouse suggested going to Gen Con, I realized it would be an opportunity to test the Freakshow in a larger environment than I normally get around here. With a local event scheduled immediately thereafter, I decided to bring similar lists to both events, to test the efficacy of the Freakshow in a competitive setting. I figure if I could at least pull out more victories than losses, I could at least get an idea how the army could function in the hands of a better player.
For those interested, here's the list:
Battle Report 1 (5 round event at Gen Con)Battle Report 2 (3 round local Rogue Trader)Unit Performance AnalysisCorsair Prince
Princess Isbeil's intended function was as a tank: 2+ invulnerable save out front to tank wounds until the Shadowfield popped. Unfortunately, I rolled Fortune less often than you'd think, and Protect more often. (Meaning for most saves, Farseers were in a better position to tank incoming fire.)
Her psychic powers (rolled on Sanctic Daemonology) were fairly underwhelming. Although Sanctuary helped on the occasions I rolled it, and Hammerhand was a huge help during the game against the Necrons, for the most part the powers were icing, and her psyker upgrade amounted to just an extra Warp Charge.
Her Void Sabre was probably less useful, and if I had to do this over again I might cut it from the list. Although she was my pick for taking challenges, her damage output just wasn't enough to justify the expense, I think. The Shadowfield, coupled with Fortune, provided a huge benefit, however. At the end of the day, where her wargear was concerned, the Mask of Secrets was the big winner. (No real surprise there.) The -2 penalty was a great benefit to the Freakshow shenanigans, and the addition of Fearless came in handy in a number of situations as well.Void Dreamer
Butterfly's Warp Blink proved critical to my successes in most of the battles I won. Warp Rift (witchfire blast) and Webway Maze (throw an enemy into reserve) were both situationally useful, but rarely came into play. (Webway Maze did a lot for me in the first game, but wasn't successfully cast after that.) The ability to generate a first turn charge was nothing short of cataclysmic for some of my opponents; even when warned ahead of time, more than one player did not correctly gauge the safety zone needed to avoid the charge.
Regarding her wargear, Butterfly's Shimmershield was the best fifteen points I spent in the whole damn army. Giving the large unit of Grotesques a 5+ Invulnerable save increased their damage mitigation by a massive magnitude. The utility of her Witchstaff was a shock to me, however. Especially against high toughness opponents, her ability to wound on a 2+ from behind a meat wall of T5, FNP, and 24+ wounds, put out a shocking amount of offensive power. From Dreadknights to Wraithknights, I was consistently glad she had it. Corsair Scatterbikes
Very little surprises with the Scatterbikes. Their ability to score me an extra VP was pretty tasty, and in the second tournament where I could switch my specialization between games, the Tank Hunters ability was extremely useful as well. The turbo-boost capacity coupled with ObSec made Maelstrom much easier.
Once I realized how to use the Corsair shoot and scoot ability, they got much more useful. (If Corsair bikers are trying to avoid a charge, they can move further by moving to the edge of their Reckless Abandon range, getting the scoot and the assault move than they can just running and taking the assault move.)
Although I predicted it, I was still unprepared for the brutality of bike-on-bike violence. When facing other jetbike forces of similar size, the bikes that shoot first generally shoot last. Grotesquerie Haemonculus
No surprises here. The Haemonculus makes one unit of grots Fearless from T1 (helpful to the Void Dreamer since 2/3 of her Perils table is mitigated by being Fearless). He also brought a little bit of Rending to the mix, although his low strength made the Poison weapon less useful. I took a Vexator Mask in the second event, but it didn't really make a difference. The Webway Portal served as a nice emergency mobility device for the first event, where I was forced to roll the Corsair powers rather than select them, but wasn't necessary when the rules were being played as written.Grotesques
In the practice games I played, the grotesques lacked killing power. Although they can sustain a truly punishing amount of damage, my most frequent opponents have learned to avoid them or bog them down with units that are harder for them to deal with (IE walkers), reserving most of their firepower for other threats. Fortunately, all but one of my opponents in the events treated them as a primary danger, throwing a great deal of shooting their way.
The larger unit, once equipped with an invulnerable save, became a truly terrifying tanking unit, capable of combatting even GMCs for a limited period of time. In the latter two games against Wraithknights (the two I won), the grotesques were able to pin the GMC in place, allowing the Void Dreamer to pick away at its wounds and doing a few themselves before succumbing to Stomps. Seer Council
Talk about a formation where the whole is better than the sum of its parts! I'd always used Farseers since starting the Freakshow, but never until practicing this list had I used a Seer Council. Talk about a workhorse! In more than one game they annihilated 3+ units in a single turn.
Putting the Spirit Stone on the Farseer who rolled Runes of Fate was a great idea, and I think did a lot to make my warp charges go further. Dividing my mastery levels between Fate, Telepathy, and Battle (for the warlocks) still seems like the best option, and I've come to be far more impressed by Runes of Battle than I was when I first read the discipline.
The strategy I've seen most people use is to divvy their Warp Charges up to ensure a high probability of success with each power, using the Runes to reroll a statistically unlikely failure. I've found more success in instead casting the least important powers first, with the minimum number of dice, rerolling the first failure for each Farseer each turn, and then using the extra dice I'd saved to manifest more powers or ensure success on more critical ones. This strategy helped me manifest more powers per turn than the other Seer Councils I was seeing.Competitive Analysis
In the two games I lost, I made a couple of grievous errors. If I could have it all to do over again, I think I have enough of a grasp on my errors that I could have beaten the straight Eldar list. I confess that I can't think of how I could have defeated the Eldar trinity list (DE/Eldar/Corsairs) that I faced.
However, as I've said before, I lack a great deal of experience against certain armies. I virtually never play against Necrons or Wraithknights, and I've still never played against an Imperial Knight or a Wolfstar. I'd never be able to contend with the big boys at a GT.
However, a top tables finish at one event and a first place finish at another have me convinced that the Freakshow is a build that can work in a competitive environment. Put in the hands of a player with a skill level of a Matt Root or a James Carmona, I have no doubt the list could succeed in a competitive setting.