Monday, September 12, 2011
Avatar Sonnia, our girl on fire. I have been playing a number of games since Gencon, with all the Malifaux games using Sonnia and her Avatar. We have a move in our local community to play lower level games, which means I have been looking at crews for either 30ss or 35ss. I think I am getting the hang of her, and figured I would ramble a bit on what I have found and my perception from the games.
So, let me step back slightly from aSonnia and type a little about Guild as a whole. I find that I need to retrain my brain to playing guild, as I am switching from Neverborn. Neverborn has a lot of "trickiness", which I relate more as multiple complex combo's that players percieve as tricks. Many of these combo's focus on movement of one type or another. Guild does not work the same way. I am finding that Guild is fairly straight forward in how they play, and is more in line with a boxer than a martial-artist. Surprisingly, this makes them a challenge for me to make work.
Now, the above paragraph does not mean that Guild does not have tricks and combo's to string together. Its just retraining my brain to pick out those combo's that I am working toward. So, that brings us back on topic (well, on topic for rambling) of Sonnia and her Avatar. I first saw aSonnia during play-test and was completely blown away by her. During play-test she was acknowledged as the most powerful avatar available, and was fairly game changing when she manifested. Through the different tests of the manifest game mechanic, she gained or lost in overall ease to get her on the table, but maintained the appearance (stigma?) of power. That said, she is not overly powerful or game changing in her final form as released in Twisting Fates. The play-testers and developers did a fantastic job of balancing her to the overall game while still keeping the feel of power.
Looking deeper, I find a great deal of additional depth to playing Sonnia. First, there is the drawback that Sonnia required tomes in order to cast the majority of her spells. She does not have the tomes, and her casting targets are fairly high. To off-set this, Sonnia has the ability to use a (0) action, discard a soulstone, and gain +1 cast and a tome, making it much easier for her to get her spells off. This is nice, as it lets her big blast spell and her fire-walls (great for blocking out LOS and controlling charge lanes) actually work without requiring the perfect hand. While all of this is great, I really think Sonnia's strength comes from her other two spells. "Inferno" and "Violation of Magic" work in very different manners but both expand how Sonnia plays. Inferno does not need a book to cast making it easier to get off but will not likely be cast often, as it is a (0) spell. Being a (0) forces it to compete directly with her ability to gain a book on her cast. Violation, on the other hand, I find I use a great deal the more I play Sonnia. Violation typically inflicts only 1 WD on a target, unless that target has a cast stat higher than a 5. Keeping this in mind, it becomes an ideal spell to finish off a target. The final point of damage is not what makes Violation a great finishing spell, but its the other effects generated. I find I am constantly looking for models who are sitting at 1 wound that I can hit with Violation, both friendly and enemy models. When a model dies to Violation, they summon a Witchling stalker from the target before it is removed from the game.
Through the use of Violation, Sonnia turns into a summoning master who can expand or replenish her crew with fairly solid Witchling Stalkers. One of my normal opponents made the comment in a recent game that since I have begun using Violation of Magic, his games vs Sonnia have become much more challenging overall. I took this as a compliment, partly because I am new to using Sonnia and he had played another local player previously who primarily played Sonnia. As I spend more time playing with Sonnia as Master, and specifically as I look at Manifesting her Avatar, I look for additional tactics to make use of Violation in my games. One recent addition involves killing off the pitiful Desperate Mercenaries and turning them into Witchlings.
So, with that said, we have Sonnia Criid the Master who pushes out damage and does some summoning. We also need to look at the big sword she has strapped across her back. Sonnia is actually a fairly capable fighter when necessary. She can hit with her sword which has fairly decent damage of 2/3/5, nice for pumping out some close in damage when necessary. I, however, prefer one of the triggers on her sword. She has an automatic trigger that forces the opponent to discard 1 card per Ram, lets Sonnia draw a card, and heals Sonnia 1 wound. This works really well to deplete an opponents control hand, replace some cards in your hand, and slowly heal Sonia back up. I have a friend who claims this is the largest strength to Sonnia, although I see it more as a nice to have.
She picks up a spell that, while similar to her Fire Wall spell as a master, is just simply better. Now the Pyres that make up the wall stick around until the spell is cast again. In addition, she gains an ability to push these pyres around including pushing them onto other models. Ouch. The Pyres end up doing damage to the models in a way that is not easy to avoid. Add those pyres as one method to pass out burning tokens, along with hitting people with her big fiery snake breath (The Salamander Melee weapon), and a spell called "Light Em Up" that simply hands out burning counters and you arrive to aSonnia having 3 distinct methods to give out burning tokens prior to using her pulse. Not too bad. Her list is then left with one last spell that is very familiar, that being Violation of Magic.
So, how have I been using my little tyrant in recent games? First, I admit that I look at aSonnia as an early game manifest. The earlier I can manifest her the better, as I feel she needs table time to be truly useful. While her overall damage tends to drop (in my opinion), I do feel its more reliable. I really like one of her tweaks in that her counter-spell ability has become a burning counter-spell, which now does damage to the caster when she counters their cast. To date I have not used her Melee ability as much, but find myself looking for lots of opportunities to use "Light Em Up" to pass out some burning tokens then pulse Searing Wave to pass out some damage. I also like the increase in casting ability (she jumps to a CA 8) which gets stronger when combined with Adaptive Mind, letting aSonnia choose Rams or Tomes on her cast. This helps get off those pesky spells such as Violation.
Pyres is another great spell that should be watched for opportunities to use. I have had some luck in dropping a set of pyres onto a board and then pushing one of those pyres onto a model or two. Typically, the model takes 3 damage for the pyre being pushed on them (plus a burning token), then another 3 (and a burning token) for activating on top of the pyre. I have not seen an opponent not move away as quickly as possible, but in the off chance they choose not to leave they take 3 more damage for completing an action in base contact with a pyre.
Lastly, don't forget the humble burning tokens at the end of the turn. When a model has burning tokens at the end of the turn, that model must choose to be either slow or take a point of damage during the closing phase. This is nice for models who are already low on health, as it weakens them more. In my experience, most players take the point of damage vs slow, but the odd slow here and there will help things out.
So, lets close out with a quick look at my personal aSonnia... my little Tyrant. Not the best picture, as I need to get my light box set back up, but its something. Here she is, for those that do not play in my local area.
Comments are welcome. Also, The Wasted Warrior has a really nice writeup on both Witchling Stalkers and Sonnia on his blog. Check it out!!!