In our meta we call any 50/50 game where you have to play it out to find a winner “playing Warmachine.” So when we are assessing matchups at a team tournament, we’ll say “well Rean how do you feel into the Cygnar player” and he’ll reply … “it’s a tough match but I’ll just play Warmachine.” It’s not a coded response, it’s just a thing we say. If a match isn’t a massive blowout in one players favor… you’ve gotta play some Warmachine!
While preparing for tournaments we talk about where a list fits in, what it beats and what beats it. We talk about Cygnar, we talk about Retribution, Cryx, Legion, Circle, and we even talk about CoC! But no one ever mentions Skorne. Maybe we’re fools, maybe we are lucky or maybe we just don’t have any Skorne in Florida. I don’t know the answer to that but I do know one thing; Skorne is the best faction in hordes. Skorne, is the best faction in the game.
Bold statement? Let’s take a look.
What defines each faction right now? Themes.
Themes are the defining list construction for almost every single faction, the factions with weaker or less inspiring themes are considered lower tier armies. Themes construct effective lists without a lot of player input and by that I mean Ghost Fleet builds itself. There are a few variations of it but all in all it does the same thing every time it’s on the table. Consistency is key and Ghost Fleet is “always the same” making it the fast food restaurant of Warmachine.
As an example I’ve made this very sophisticated graphic to depict which factions have higher attendance and you’ll notice that all of those have two things in common. They are considered strong: consistently you’ll find people asking how to beat lists from each faction in the green. Secondly they are defined by a theme. At this exact moment as I began typing this I’m aware of a large post on the Circle page asking how to beat Jaws of the Wolf and another on the Trollbloods page asking how to beat Ghost Fleet. There is plenty more where that came from. I also wrote it as “Factions by Attendance” which is a representation of what I’ve seen in the last month or so. CoC may still only represent 3-4 players in a 30 man but the percentage is up drastically from a time when we’d give them participation trophies just for showing up at an event.
So wait are you saying my Circle theme sucks and that Menoth themes aren’t good? I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying the general consensus is that the themes/factions in green are on top and the factions in red are not defined by their themes.
So what about Skorne? Oh thanks for getting me back on task. Skorne has the fewest themes in the game and as such it is hardly defined by its theme. The singular theme is fine and I would recommend considering it when building a pair but it is by no means a requirement.
What that means is Skorne is completely unpredictable! That brings us back to my opening statement where I mentioned that none of our players ever talk Skorne prep. It’s because there is no point. Skorne is a complete toss up as to what they will play and the armies differ drastically with certain casters. This leads to inexperienced players tripping over your rules in a game. What’s that? That’s not the honorable way to win?! I’ve made my Warmachine career off of confusing opponents with terribly underplayed Warcasters and I’m not here to apologize for it, I’m here to support it. It’s far easier to prepare and be aware of the meta when the meta is pigeonholing itself into themes. Skorne has every advantage you can possibly have before the game starts; opponents that are unaware, unpracticed and underestimating your army.
So despite the chaotic appearance of an entire faction with no guidance from themes. I’d argue that there is a clear direction to go with the faction in tournament play.
Zaal2: Is by far one of the best casters in the game. I am lucky enough to have played against him in high level play five times in the last three months. Zaal2 fields a very specific army of 20-30 immortals and that list becomes empowered as you kill it. The list functions very similar to Ghost Fleet in that it gives your enemy very few meaningful targets. You struggle to find targets for your expensive models as the enemy presents you a horde of junk. They don’t respawn but they do have vengeance. As far as generating attacks and projecting threat range this can be a very similar effect in the game for a limited amount of turns. Zaal2 comes equipped with mage sight and often begins his turn with 10+ souls plus a free 3’’ advance. Most battlegroups are built around cyclops shamans and a warbeast with snipe. The pieces come together as a potent assassination run against unsuspecting casters and that happens to be more common than you’d think. Playing against Zaal2 you feel an itch to make every turn as devastating to him as possible. The general strategy of fighting vengeance units is to kill them all or kill none. Triggering your enemies vengeance to kill one or two models is hardly a smart trade if it allows them to enter charge range or blender your infantry in melee. Zaal2’s entire army is like this, kill none or kill a lot. When a player decides to kill he tends to invest resources in that destruction. It all ends up with a defenseless caster that has very few places to hide thanks to mage sight. I’ve focused a lot on the assassination potential but the attrition game is where the army shines brightest. I don’t feel like I need to go into great detail but this list can have legs well into the late turns.
Makeda2: I have no real experience playing against her but I’ve piloted the list against other players. It’s a known commodity in the European meta and receives plenty of respect. It would fill a similar roll to Zaal2 in it’s army presentation, ability to prevent shooting and of course the tricky placement of models getting to weak points in the enemy army. Below I’ve posted two sample lists but in true Skorne fashion these can be changed extensively to suit a player’s needs and meta predictions.
What do we pair this with? Well both of these lists seem to lack armor crack on a large scale. I could see having issues with some jack / beast spams, enter another major Skorne strength: The Armor Crack List. Many casters can crack armor with Skorne but one caster is perfectly equipped to deal with our current landscape.
Rasheth: If you’re surprised by someone telling you to play Rasheth then maybe you haven’t read his card. Castigate is an incredible spell and a key tool for specific match-ups. EHaley has a much tougher time without thorn. Wurmwood isn’t a fan of losing Cassius and all of his animi. Cryx certainly misses their bone jacks and PDenny cries her eyes out when she can’t parasite. This spell is a silver bullet in some match-ups and useless in others. When not turning off arc-nodes Rasheth can be found lazily camping fury with his small shooting battle group while fixing defense and armor. List construction is a breeze with this warlock as nothing is off limits. Wanna play theme? Sure let’s shoot them off the board. The theme is looking for a spike of damage on the feat turn, unload on the enemy and ask them if they have enough models left to win. Or you can build away from theme; enter (effective) pow 18 farrow brigands. Prey, feat and blood mark add up for big bonuses on the gun shot while the task master prods them for +2 strength. Massive damage output is dug in waiting for your signal. The key to this caster is the massive feat turn while keeping some hard hitting models in reserve to clear out the late game. A great example would be the freshly buffed siege animantarax. I won’t go on a tangent about the battle turtle but that thing is a brick shit-house.
Wanna know what else is crazy?
Zadesh2: a caster with unparalleled battlefield control can effectively strip choices away from the enemy. He protect his army with clouds while forcing your enemy to account for counter charge, army wide defensive strike, and retaliatory strike is available on multiple models. His ability to control ground in a martial way is amazing and gives a good player lots of opportunity to out play an opponent. Truly there is a lot of game left to be exploited as this caster will inevitably grow in popularity.
Mordikaar, PMakeda and Morghoul2 show up as impressive choices as all of these casters offer unique army options with counters to the normy factions.
Wanna know WHAT ELSE is crazy? Soon Skorne will be swinging with the big boys, they will get some themes and you can bet your ass those themes will be great. Anything that gives EZaaal an advantage is going to be outrageous as his army only requires some VERY specific models. Assuming we will see an immortal theme is probably one of the safer bets you can make. A third theme is inevitable and it will supply more options, if we see a beast theme then light spam could become a reality with the right casters. But why wait to win? This faction is bristling with talent and players just need to exploit it. There is no guarantee your enemy will even drop his best list as a round 2 against Skorne is just what the doctor ordered for them to avoid being list locked in a later round. There isn’t even a guarantee that your enemy will understand your composition or see your assassination vectors.
I’m jealous, I really am. I’m jealous of you tyrants who get a chance to play this faction as is. It is unique in the meta and all alone on an island in a sea full of cookie-cutter themes. Skorne stands out as the one true faction that could dominate without themes and it possesses all of the tools to do it. Skorne is ready to be mastered by creative players and they will deliver results… if Skorne isn’t winning major tournaments by December I’ll turn in my Warmachine diploma.