I have been playing Ten Thunders as my faction since they were released at Gencon this year. As soon as I got home I started assembling and painting up my models and getting them on the table. Three months in and I have grabbed a solid number of games with each of the masters. My record so far looks a bit like this:
Before I dive into my rating and thoughts on each of the masters and their crews, I want to first provide some context. I am looking at these Masters completely in the context of playing as Ten Thunders. I will mention in Mei and Jakob's sections a little of what I think about them in their other faction, but the rating is purely as Ten Thunders. This is how I have been playing them and how I am looking at them.
Number 3 - Mei FengMei Feng is at the bottom of my list in rating the current Ten Thunders masters. I am expecting her to drop a bit further when the remaining two masters come out, although I am unsure where she will end up. Overall, Mei Feng is a fun master to play but does not hold up well as a Ten Thunders leader. Playing with only the models currently released, she is missing traps which will probably increase her overall capabilities in game, but she just does not have enough oomph to rate higher. Mei Feng is a combat master, with the ability to jump across the board and engage multiple enemy models with her melee attacks. She has some incredible defenses, and is very survivable. On comparision, however, she does not do as well in the combat game as either Huggy or Misaki. I cannot see clear situations where I would choose Mei over Misaki in a game. Add to this her limited crew selection. Its not so much limited in actual models, as she has similar advantages and access as the other Ten Thunders masters. Mei does not benefit as much from the key Ten Thunders models as other masters do.
As a basic crew, I find that I am grabbing Mei, Emberling, and the Metal Gamin. Mei benefits from a near-max size Soulstone pool, so this sets me at 10ss - 11ss spent at the start of the game. A decision then has to be made on the next direction to go. When Traps are released, that core will add in 2-3 traps to increaase her initial spend to between 14ss and 17ss. Looking at what she has access to, the decision comes in to add the Rail Golem for 9ss or go another direction. Personally, I have been adding the Rail Golem and then filling in with other models such as the Torekage.
A little bit on Rail Workers. I have grabbed Rail Workers in Mei's crew a couple times in my limited games. Despite the push on the Wyrd boards, I just do not find they deliver in a way I need them too. They are not bad models, but I just am not getting the use out of them that I need for a 5 point fill in my list. They are more viable in a Ten Thunders list than an Arcanist list because they can fill in as Rail Walking points. At the end of the day, Rail Walking is nice, but not critical. Due to this, often times I find myself grabbing a Torekage for 1 more ss, or grabbing a Ten Thunders Brother for the same cost and getting higher use from them.
So, how are the games going and why do I rate her at the bottom of my current list? Mei Feng is a ton of fun to play with all her combo's. I find that I am having trouble holding back until turn 3 to attack, typically holding back on turn 1 and then letting loose with a moderately crafted hand on turn 2. After that Mei tends to float around as a threat and attempt to survive, which she does well with high DF, WP, and armor. As a Ten Thunders, Mei is not great at one of the two Ten Thunders schemes, as she will not often have 2 dual faction models alive at the end of the game. Her own scheme is incredibly flavorful, but I cannot see it being effectivley doable as Ten Thunders. Her scheme becomes incredibly easy, by contract, when she switches over to Arcanists.
Overall I believe Mei is a better add as an Arcanist leader than she is as a Ten Thunders. As an Arcanist she gains access to a number of additional models that incredibly increase her viability in the game. Large Steampunk Arachnids replace Rail Workers while the Coryphee/Coryphee duet makes grabbing her Schemes infinitely easier. Even grabbing regular Steampunk Arachnids is a good add for her, as they are individually good Rail Walker points, then they can join together to create a beater model for melee.
Number 2 - MisakiMisaki comes in at my number 2 and I do not expect her to fall very far from that point with the addition of other masters. While games with Misaki are not as enjoyable as I expected them to be, they are still a lot of fun and are balanced by Misaki being so damn reliable. The Gamers Lounge reviews of the book labeled her as the 4ap Whore, and she lives up to that title admirably. Misaki does have 4ap and this is a pain to deal with by opponents and provides me as a player a lot of options. At the end of the day, this is not what I find to be her most frustrating ability. Misaki's ability to Diving Charge and then dole out a flurry of Decapitates with her high CB is her most dangerous trick. She is not going to be pushing out a ton of damage like other combat masters, but chances are that with a little planning she is going to catch you short on cards and remove your model.
Misaki excels at assassination, being able to fairly effectively kill any model in play. This shows more with minions as they cannot use soulstones, but can be just as effective vs Masters. Her 4 AP means she has some real range to engage what she wants, and there is a larger concern about leaving her unsupported than in being able to get to where she needs to be.
Misaki also has a very good basic crew selection. She has Ronin, Ten Thunders Brothers, and will have Wastrels for low-cost filler models. Both of these, at 4 and 5 points each, are incredibly effective as they are all significant. She will be able to add in one or two 4 point Oiran as well for some board control if its needed. At the middle of the road she has Torekage and Archers at 6 points, then follows up with a number of 8 point beaters to provide an alternate threat in the crew with Kang and Ototo. Overall, Misaki can operate similar to Pandora, where she is a solo-threat and then there is a complimentary crew that operates as a threat on its own and still compliments and supports Misaki.
Currently my core Misaki crew consists of one Torekage and Yamaziko. Past those two models, everything else gets swapped around a bit based on Strategy, Opponent, and the size and type of game I am playing. Even Shang is hit or miss on his necessity to the crew. He brings some nice bits but is not really a key piece for Misaki. I am sitting at a core crew of 14ss, as I only believe Misaki requires 6ss to operate. Where possibly I will always take her with 8, but I don't think that's necessary.
The question really comes down to, why is Misaki a number 2 to my rating on Jakob Lynch? If she can do so well in the game and achieve strategies well, what does Jakob bring that Misaki doesn't?
Number 1 - Jakob LynchJakob is just plain fun, and he can get the job done very well. Overall, Jakob Lynch has proven to me that I am a Neverborn player at heart, not because they are "over powered" but because I like their flavor and play style. I have only heard a very little bit of grumbling about Jakob so far, and I would honestly rate him lower than several of the Neverborn masters on a tournament/power level. Jakob would not be the first out of my case if I were playing Neverborn in a tournament, however he is the first I reach for on many strategies when playing Ten Thunders.
What makes Jakob so good? First, I find that Huggy can deliver on most of what Misaki brings to the table in my games. Huggy is a hitter and works really well for me. In addition, due to his rules he is a renewable resource which lets me play much more aggressively with him than I do with Misaki. That's saying something considering I am fairly aggressive with Misaki. Jakob is fairly versitile, being able to contribute as a low level minion with his pistol, or being able to build your hand with his card-draw spell Dead Mans Hand. Buiding up a decent hand can help out any crew by providing a decent number of high cards to support anything you want to do with your minions.
Add to that the schemes. While the "get a straight" scheme is incredibly tough for me to accomplish, I find that against specific crews, Huggy's "spread brilliance" scheme is actually fairly reliable. This adds nicely to the simplification of other schemes such as Grudge. Huggy works as a master for the purposes of Talents and spells in game, but still counts as a minion when it comes to strategies and schemes. Furthermore, he does not award any points for specific strategies and schemes such as Slaughter, giving him a further advantage. This provides a nice boost overall.
Add to that, Jakob's crew brings a fair amount of board control along with its melee punch. Huggy has an obey, the beckoners have a lure, and Jakob can increase his own crews movement. These things alone add a dynamic to the game that really fits in my head. Jakob and the Beckoners both have abilities that increase thier movement by tactically using combat to push away from. All of this is augmented by adding Kang to the list. Kang can provide additional movement by hitting things with his shovel, along with being survivable and an alternate hitter to Huggy.
All told, my core list with Jakob is pretty well established. In general for the strategies I take him for, I end up with a list of Jakob, Huggy, Yamaziko, Kang or Ototo, 2 Beckkoners, 8 stones. One of the Beckoners could be swapped and for games of a higher SS level (this is built for 30ss games), I have 5 points to add other models.
Overall, the mix of melee engagement combined with board control and "tricks" really places Jakob at the top of my list.