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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Making Fiona Work

Greetings ladies and gentleman, it's Whitestar333 again fr- okay you get the idea.  In continuing with my trend of taking the less popular warcasters and warlocks and making them competitive, today I bring you a mercenary privateer warcaster that you probably rarely see on the table (competitively or otherwise): Fiona the Black.  I really like Fiona's artwork, fluff, and design as a pirate.  She blurs the line a bit between the mercenary privateers and the undead Cryxian pirates as she worships Thamar - the goddess of ambition.  She has a lot of tools at her disposal but it's challenging to figure out what her "win condition" is, and her theme list is honestly pretty bad, so it's difficult to find an appropriate niche for this fine lady.  So, I figure that she's a great warcaster to look at in-depth to see if we can figure her out and make her work.  Let's take a look at what Fiona the Black has at her disposal for spells and then we'll take a look at her feat and abilities.

Let's start with Fiona's feat, as it's really simple and very effective at what it does: denial.  Very simply, for one round, enemy models roll one less attack and damage die while within Fiona's control area (14").  This is a pretty useful feat but mostly to protect your own models from melee attacks.  Since the current meta favors melee much more heavily over ranged, this shouldn't be too much of a problem.  Also note that this can be used offensively to potentially allow your models to move out of melee without suffering too much from a free strike (depending on the models, of course).  Overall it's straight-forward and equally effective against Warmachine and Hordes factions - really helpful in a tournament setting.

Her spell list is also pretty utilitarian with a combination of support/denial and offensive.  For her support suite of spells she has the upkeep spell Roth's Mercy which is like self-sacrifice but better since you can just straight-up choose the model that is destroyed.  Since this triggers off of a model being 'disabled', it means that tough models can make their roll before you choose the casualty - VERY handy!  It doesn't seem like a great spell at first, but if you've played against Menoth Exemplar Errants, you'll know how annoying this spell can be!  Telgesh Mark is another solid support spell, simply turning a model into an arc node.  Simple, cheap, and upkeepable.  You'll probably want to cast this on a heavy warjack but something quick and zippy can always work too.  This is a great spell because you can choose the arc node and your opponent can't just focus on taking them out.

Her best support spell, in my opinion, is Nonokrion Brand, however.  This upkeep allows the affected model/unit to ignore intervening models when making attacks (whoa!) and they gain magical weapons.  This spell is pretty amazing and the fact that it only costs 2 focus is laughable.  We'll focus on why this spell is so great when we look at a list but the fact that it grants magical weapons is pretty solid against incorporeal solos or models.

For her straight offensive spells she has Soulfire and Influence - both of which are very useful against lots of infantry models.  She finally has Affliction which is an offensive upkeep debuff.  It's a bit expensive and situational but useful against high-ARM models or models that are under a defensive feat (pStryker, eBaldur, pSkarre, Ossyan, Ashlynn, etc.) that makes it difficult to get through their ARM.

Fiona, as you can see, is pretty heavy on the spell-slinging so we'll need to be careful which spells we use so that we can make sure that everything gets thrown out there.  She has a couple abilities that are worth mentioning out side of those spells, however.  First, she can make any Sea Dog unit (note: not just Sea Dog Crew) into cultists - they become fearless and she can gain an extra focus if within 1" of one of them during her control phase.  The other significant ability she has is Whiplash, which means that if a magic attack misses against her, it becomes centered on the model that attacked her and automatically hits them instead.  This is pretty great on a DEF 16 model but note that this affects magic attacks, so that means spells and attacks with magical weapons - pretty significant to remember against factions like Menoth or Circle which tend to have lots of magical weapons.  She also has some offensive benefits on her weapon, but at only MAT 6 and P+S 11, she's not one that you want in melee unless you have no choice.

The Highborn Covenant will allow her to take these guys!
Like I said, her theme list is generally regarded as being pretty bad, although I must admit, being an upkeep-heavy warcaster, having all of them out on first turn is pretty solid.  It severely limits her options though, and since she's more of a support/denial/toolbox warcaster, she needs her army to do the heavy lifting for her, and the theme list is far too limiting.  For those of you who haven't used a mercenary warcaster before, what you need to know that is different about these lists is that you need to choose to play either a theme force list or choose from one of the Mercenary Contracts, of which there are four: Four Star Syndicate, Highborn Covenant, Talion Charter, and Searforge Commission.  Since Fiona is neither Pinnheas Shae nor a rhulic warcaster, she has to choose from her theme force, Four Star Syndicate, or Highborn Covenant.  The Four Star is the least limiting as it allows one to take any mercenary models that will work for Cryx and Khador (including allies like the Kayazy), plus Rhupert and Sam and the Devil Dogs.  The Highborn Covenant allows you to take models that will work for Cygnar (including allies like morrowan models, but they can't work with Fiona due to her animosity).  Taking a Highborn Covenant list also provides some extra advantages: 1) all solos gain advance deployment and 2) you can include one Gun Mage or Long Gunner unit (including attachments!) and they count as friendly Mercenary models.

In Fiona's case, I think she's better off with Highborn Covenant for a couple of reasons.  1) While Kayazy assassins under her feat are hilarious, they still can suffer greatly against blast damage weapons or many opponents are prepared to deal with high-DEF models in other ways (Stormsmiths, covering fire, continuous effects, knock-down, etc.).  Instead I think that having a large unit of Long Gunners can be quite the boon for Fiona with Nonokrion Brand allowing them to be able to shoot past intervening models and shoot directly at support solos or the opposing warcaster/warlock.  Alternatively, you could also try using a unit of Gun Mages with a marshalled warjack for some fun.  So what did I finally decide upon?

Highborn Covenant (35 points)
Fiona the Black (+6)
- Freebooter (6)
- Mariner (8)
- Sylys Wyshnalyrr (2)
Long Gunners (full, 10)
- Officer and Standard (2)
Press Gangers (full, 6)
Doc Killingsworth (2)
Dirty Meg (2)
- Buccaneer (3)

There are many ways to change up this list and try some different options, but let's look at what this particular list that I made does well.  First, you should note that the Press Gangers have advance deploy, so they will be starting pretty far upfield, and thanks to the Highborn Covenant contract, Doc Killingsworth, Sylys, and Dirty Meg all get to advance deploy and get into better positions to support your force.

These guys will be a solid tarpit for Fiona
So what's our "win condition" with this list?  Well remember that Fiona's feat will effectively buy us some extra time to clear out some infantry and Press Gangers will be the perfect tarpit with 4+ tough when near Doc, they'll be annoyingly difficult to displace with Roth's Mercy on them, and they're fearless because they'll be Fiona's cultists (Note that you'll want to keep one model back enough so that Fiona can get that extra focus every turn!).  Doc will be very handy too for healing any damage that Fiona will likely take from blast damage.  Why would she be taking blast damage?

Fiona has a Mariner instead of a Mule for a couple of reasons.  The first is that a Mariner has a consistently long range and will be a great target for Nonokrion Brand, capable of firing some high-powered shots at a much longer range into your opponent's backfield.  The second reason is that the Mariner has lash - an amazing ability that keeps models in B2B from being knocked down - insanely important for a DEF 16 warcaster like Fiona.  She will love being in B2B with the mariner for lash and also for loading his gun.  Unfortunately, this will also mean that your enemy will probably just shoot the Mariner with an AOE or two to tag her with blast damage, hence Doc being quite useful in healing her.

It looks like he's using his staff as an
air guitar...
The relatively new release of Sylys Wyshnalyrr is a boon for Fiona as well - allowing her to upkeep one of her numerous upkeeps for free to save her some focus, as well as increasing her accuracy and damage of Soulfire, should she want to use it to use it to kill a solo or hit a warcaster/warlock.  Dirty Meg is also a great addition because she has the best drive ability in the game, especially when paired with a buccaneer who can also make his assault attack with his net when he gets the free charge from her, knocking down a target.  With Fiona's Freebooter and the Meg+Buccaneer combo, you can wreck most heavies in one turn!  Meg can also repair warjacks (very important) and either the Freebooter or Buccaneer can serve as a great arc node for Fiona too.

Lastly, you'll notice a very large unit of Long Gunners - a benefit from taking the Highborn Covenant contract.  These guys will be instrumental to your victory with Fiona and you will need to cycle Nonokrion Brand between the Long Gunner Officer and the Mariner to be most effective.  Since the entire unit has combined ranged attack and the spell lets him ignore intervening models, with the aiming bonus the officer can make two ranged attacks at RAT of irrelevant and a POW of OMGWTFBBQ (I mean 21).  Yikes!  In case you're worried about your enemy coming too close too soon, you still can throw down covering fire to protect a flank and buy yourself some time, but Fiona's feat also can help you with that by keeping those annoying Press Gangers alive while you shoot the enemy in the face repeatedly.

Like I said at the beginning, Fiona supports her army and denies her enemy the satisfaction of doing what they want to do, but the difficulty lies in the fact that there are so many options for her to consider.  For example, she could also do well with a unit of Gun Mages with their UA to 'jack marshal the mariner, or she could replace long gunners for steelhead riflemen and take the Four Star contract to take Kayazy (especially annoying during her feat turn).  Similarly, she would do well with Aiyanna and Holt, Ragman, and Gorman di Wulfe.  The trick with Fiona is considering what models you have in your collection (or want to have) and considering what models you need in another list (in the case of a multi-list tournament).  I think Fiona can be quite potent but she requires more work to wrap your head around but can be more satisfying since she can work with your particular playstyle/collection and can be quite flexible in the hands of an experienced player.  More importantly, she's fun, deep, rarely-seen, and is a great 'take-all-comers' warcaster that everyone should consider instead of just writing her off.

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