Monday, December 31, 2012

My Experience with Misaki

Recently I received a question about how I use Misaki in game and my general experiences with making her work. I started writing a reply to the question and realized there was probably more in my reply to write up than I originally thought. Further, there might be other folk who were interested in what I have experienced and who would enjoy reading some of my thoughts. To that end, I transformed the original answer into this blog post.

Now, let me get it out of the way early that I am certainly not the ultimate expert in using Misaki. I think anyone who takes a quick look at my record can see that at best I am running around a 50% win rate with her. I am still in the phase of trying out a lot of different things and figuring out what works best. I have not taken the 10T to a competitive event yet and have not really settled on what works best in every scenario. I am currently sitting at 14 games played with Misaki leading my crew, and a W/L/D record of 6/6/2. The majority of my strategies have been Escape and Survive (3), Line in the Sand (3), and Turf War (3). On the Scheme side Kill Protege has dominated my scheme selection (6), with Assassinate (3), Exterminate (3), Hold Out (4), and Save Face (3) coming in as strong second choices.

So all of that has been background so far, but what was the question and what are my experiences? The question had a couple aspects, focusing on how a pure Ten Thunders crew worked competitively with some focus on Misaki led crews specifically. Following that was some additional question around my experience with Shang, as I have mentioned that I do not include him in the bulk of my recent crews. Aside from that, I was asked for any general advice I had on Ten Thunders with Misaki as the specific crew leader.

So, lets start and look at what is available for a Misaki led Ten Thunders crew. I am currently playing with only what has been released for Ten Thunders, without including what was released during the Wyrd birthday Sale. That means the Mei Feng box set, Misaki Box Set, Jakob Box Set, Yamaziko, Archers, Ten Thunders Brothers, Desperate Mercenaries, and Ronin. Specifically missing are Hans, Taelor, Oiran, and anything from the McCabe and Yan Lo sets. I do not have Taelor or Hans so those are off the table, and I am still painting up my Oiran so have not included them yet. I also have not found a time when the Desperate Mercenaries would make sense to include in my list. This leaves me with Misaki, Shang, Ototo, Yamaziko, Kang, Graves, Torekage, Archers, Ronin, 10T-Bro as my typical go-to list of models to pick out for a game with Misaki leading my crew.

Overall, I really like Misaki for "Kill" strategies, so thats when I pull her from the case in place of Jakob or Mei Feng. I feel like she excels in these types of strategies, where I prefer Jakob for non-kill strategies. As a quick list, the "Kill Strategies" in Malifaux are:
  • Contain Power
  • Distract
  • Escape and Survive
  • Reconnoiter
  • Slaughter
  • Turf War
I also think Misaki works well with Supply Wagon and could work well with Claim Jump. Further to how I plan my crew is the understanding that my local players tend to play 30ss games, which influences my hiring for a "typical" crew. Starting with these two factors in mind (size of game and strategies), I now start to look at what my "typical" crew will look like.

There are two models that I find critical in every "Typical" Misaki crew I assemble. These two are a Torekage and Yamaziko. I also prefer to start my crew hiring assuming an 8ss pool for Misaki, and then scale back if I find I need another stone or two to hire specific models. To this end, I have already begun the crew hiring for any game having spent 16ss on two models plus Misaki's pool.  I grab Yamaziko for a couple reasons with Misaki. First and foremost, converting Misaki's Reckless into Fast is very helpful overall. In the absence of other abilities I would probably not find this to be worth 6ss, but Yamaziko also brings two other things to the table that I think are well worth her price. First is a fairly reliable healing spell as a (0) action. Healing is very useful in any crew and Yamaziko can reliably get the spell off. Second is a very reliable 3 inch reach weapon. Her Yari is a great weapon that can also spin out a blast off her severe damage. These two abilities make Yamaziko a great add, and a must-take for my Misaki led crews.

For the Torekage, I find that they are just fantastic for a Misaki crew. While I have not included them in every Ten Thunders crew I take, I find that they make it into more lists than not. Torekage are somewhat the poster model for the Ten Thunders. They bring some movement trickery and some LOS blocking trickery along with them and just function very well for their price. Their Arachnid ability and their ability to bury themselves and pop back up at the end of the turn are great for providing mobility to the crew, along with end of turn/end of game positioning. I especially like them with Misaki based on the somewhat limited crew selection she has. They work especially well in combination with a 10T brother and also with the Archer, as I will discuss later.

So, what does that leave to hire for my other ~14 points? Misaki is a fantastic killer and with her plentiful AP she has a tremendous threat range. Being such a threat, I find that it can be very dangerous to leave Misaki as the primary threat in a crew. As the primary threat Misaki will be focused on my the entirety of the opposing crew. To that end, and considering the Strategies I prefer her with, I like to grab another major threat model for the crew. Looking at my selections, this leaves me with Ototo, Kang, and Graves as my big choices. I love the idea of Graves and I really like his model, but he just does not square up when compared to Ototo and Kang. Overall, Graves is missing the Melee Expert AP, and works (for me) as more of a control piece. That drops my choices down to Kang and Ototo. Both
have their places and I switch between them fairly liberally. I find that Kang is more survivable overall, but easier to take down when focused on. Ototo fairs better against other big hitters with his higher WD total, and is a tremendous threat when left low on wounds. The other consideration that I come to is how much positioning in game will matter. In those games where I want some additional board control, I grab Kang for his Knock-back trigger. Games where I want heavier hitters and am not as worried about my models living to the end I grab Ototo. Both Ototo and Kang come in at a price of 8ss, bringing my total to 24ss total on my hiring.

As you can see, my Misaki crews add up quickly with the models I tend to choose for my crews. As I look over the remaining 6ss to reach my 30ss limit I have to consider carefully what I am looking at doing. Everything in the crew so far is set for in-close melee combat. There are two additional choices I can go with to augment what I have so far. First is the Ten Thunders Archer, which I mentioned earlier has a nice combo with the Torekage. The Archer is a fantastic ranged model, potentially rivaling some of the better guild ranged models in my opinion. They have a variety of abilities through their Yajiri spell and can hit fairly hard with the ability to focus a shot for a single ap. Add to that the ability to ignore one intervening model when drawing line of sight for a shot and they are really good. Most opponents realize how threatening the Archer can be and they stay aware of the 12 inch range when moving thier own models. This is where the Torekage comes in. Being able to move the Torekage 5 inches with a walk, then swapping with the Archer using Mistaken Identity can quickly move your archer into ideal position to take a shot or two at key targets. It's then very easy to get the archer out of combat by reversing that maneuver on the next round, shooting with the archer first then having the Torekage activate and switch with the Archer to move him away from a melee threat. I really like the Archer in my crews for both the ranged threat and the fact that they fit nicely into the remaining SS hiring I have remaining, rounding out a 30ss crew nicely.

Ten Thunders Brothers are another choice I can make. These guys are great to start with, having the Run Through ability that allows them to move their charge distance and attack anywhere along that movement and having the Companion Ten Thunders ability. I will often hire these guys just for the Companion ability, as being able to string together an Alpha Strike during my turn can turn a game nicely to my favor.When combined with a Torekage, the 10T Brother brings a truly nasty combo to the table with the Torekage, 10T-Bro, and another model (Kang or Ototo or Misaki) being able to companion then the Torekage moving and switching with the primary attacking model, allowing the Attacking model to unleash a flurry of attacks before the opponent gets to respond. At a 5ss hiring cost these boys leave me 1ss shy of my 30ss limit for typical games.

At the same 5ss cost I could also look at Ronin in place of the Archer or Brother. Ronin excel at movement and at fighting against armored opponents. There is some discussion on the Wyrd forums that when facing armor the best choice for 10 Thunders crews is to grab the Rail Worker. I can see this argument making sense in situations where you do not have Misaki leading your crew. With Misaki leading the crew, Ronin count as 10T models and do not cost the mercenary extra cost. At the same cost (5ss) as a Rail Worker, I feel they outclass the rail worker at all comparative levels. I find that more often than not, when I am grabbing Ronin with Misaki I tend bring on two Ronin in place of my alternate hitter. That ends up being an overall cost of 10ss vs 8ss (for Kang or Ototo), and then I add in the 10T brother to balance out the 30ss. This leaves me with a crew as such:
Misaki +7 Stones, Yamaziko, Torekage, 10T Brother, 2x Ronin
That crew has a good model count for a 30ss Malifaux game, and a fair amount of maneuverability. It only has a single heavy hitting model in Misaki, but the back-up support models can dish out a fair amount of damage on their own.

So where does that leave poor Shang? Lets first look at what Shang brings to the crew and how he helps out. Shang has a couple very useful abilities for Misaki, which come at the 3ss cost. First, he gives her Rush of Magic, allowing Misaki to draw an extra card at the start of each turn and then discard a card from her hand. This is a great way to start out with grooming a hand, and certainly has some great uses as any Lilith player will tell you. Second, as long as Shang is within 12 inches of Misaki he can take a wound to allow Misaki to reflip one of her starting cards during a duel. That can be a really nice ability when you flip a low card and want to hold off cheating. Shang also has a great ranged weapon and can move fairly easily (having flight) so can provide some of his own threat to the board. Considering those great abilities, why don't I consider him a key part of my Misaki lists? To be honest, I have not found it to be worth the 3ss cost. Now, this does not mean that I do not think Shang isn't worth 3ss, in fact I think he is a really really cost effective Totem. To clarify my stance, with my play style and crew preference I do not find that Shang brings enough to the crew to spend the stones on. Rush of Magic is really good but its more of a nice to have than anything else. Lucky Charm (the reflip a card ability) is also a really good ability, but does not balance out against a 5ss or 6ss pool for my play style. With my crew choices I would nearly always prefer to keep the extra 2-3ss as they tend to be more useful for Misaki and Yamaziko than Shang is.

That answers what I tend to use in my crews, what I use the crew for, and why I don't use Shang much. The only remaining part of the question comes to additional advice I have about using Misaki or about Ten Thunders in general. I am going to hold off for now on Ten Thunders advice other than to make one recommendation. Overall, I am loving Ten Thunders and recommend that anyone enjoying even 2 of the Masters in the Ten Thunders pick them all up. Even though I think Mei Feng is possibly the weakest of the 10T Masters, I think she is a tremendous amount of fun.

On advice for playing Misaki, I have a couple thoughts I will share. First, I find that its best to not overestimate her assassination ability. Misaki can straight kill most models in the game, but I tend to be cautious when facing Masters and typically hard-to-take-down Melee centric models. Misaki does not take a hit well and does not always stand toe-to-toe against dedicated Melee models, especially dedicated melee masters. I find it takes a bit of planning to go toe-to-toe with these models. Second, I would recommend staying away from the hit-and-run tactics. Misaki has a great strength in her large amount of AP. Using 2-3 of those AP to move in and out of combat tends to be a waste of AP in my experience. Move in and kill your target with Misaki, thats what she is really good at.