Monday, October 10, 2016

Minx the Maligned (Guild Ball)

The following article is a mix of opinion and tactics specifically centered on the Union player Minx. I was torn on which label I wanted to apply and decided it's best to go with both and leave it at that. It's not uncommon that outside my local guild ball group I hear disparaging comments about how Minx is not very useful. I specify outside my own play group as my local area has come to respect her through multiple games against my own teams where she is included. I particularly like her in my Captain Rage Union list, there she plays a key role "turning on" the team. I've also gotten good use from her in my Hunters teams, although she does not play as strong a role there as in Union. She's been available since the release of the Kickstarter but is not regularly used. I suspect that's going to change as more time passes and players realise the fantastic tech she brings to team. I'm going to do my part ahead of the curve and help explain where and how she plays best.

Minx - Looking at the Card

I think it's best to start out looking at her card and digging into the basic mechanics of what she does. Looking at the front of her card we are immediately struck my her exceptional movement stat of 7/9. Minx can swiftly move across the board and appears to threaten 10 inches for her attacks. We see a fairly basic TAC, Kick, and the "average" defence on her. Then we reach the second eye catching point on her stat line, which is the 2/2 influence. As a player when you see an influence stat that is equal such as 2/2, this should trigger a question and cause you to scan the card to see if there's a reason for the odd stat. In this case, we find on the back of her card that Minx is furious, charging for free. Overall this makes her a very efficient model, bringing 2 influence and able to charge a target 10 inches away for free without using that influence.

Moving to Minx's playbook and character plays we find she has evenly spread momentous damage on 1, 3, and 5 successes. This points toward her being a damage dealer with nicely placed momentous damage generation. It also means that on a charge, should she get enough results to wrap, she can easily take advantage of damage buffs such as commanding aura and tooled up. On her playbook, we find two interesting character plays, both of which can be triggered from her playbook non-momentously. Screeching Banshee applies a movement penalty to the target model along with delivering 2 points of damage. Marked Target is more interesting, being able to be triggered as well as paid for with 1 influence. This is an 8 inch ranged play which applies a movement bonus for models charging the target the play was applied to. This threat extender can be incredibly helpful to "known threat range" models who want to charge into combat.

Swapping over to the back of her card we catch sight of a couple more interesting tidbits. The first, Furious, I mentioned above and is part of the key nature for Minx in a team. Furious lets her charge a target without influence, getting at least one attack. The second eye-catching trait is Damaged Target. This ability increases Minx's charge range by 2 inches when she is targeting a damaged model for her charge. This increases her overall threat range to a very impressive 12 inches. The third trait is one that's often forgotten but can be useful in niche situations. Follow-Up allows Minx to utilize her 7-inch jog to stay engaged with a model that moves out of her melee range.

Reviewing all of the information and stats for Minx we find the ideal situation is one where she can charge someone 12 inches away, hit them for 3 - 4 momentous damage then bounce away using the double dodge at the top of her playbook. This makes her a finisher model, supporting the rest of the team with both 2 influence to be assigned elsewhere and the final 2 - 4 points of damage for a take out.  If looked at in those terms she is just ok, not an amazing model at all.

One wonders why I would be writing this if that were all?

The Union team led by Captain Rage

Minx can be played with multiple teams but I feel she truly shines in a Captain Rage led union team. She brings some incredible utility to that team which increases the overall effectiveness and threat of the team. My current favorite team roster for Capt. Rage includes Minx, Coin, Gutter, Avarisse & Greed, and Mist. This team brings a total of 12 influence to be allocated turn 1, plus the Bag of Coffers influence allocated during the turn. Often turn 2 will see a desire to allocate 4 influence to Rage, 4 to Gutter, and 3 or 4 to Mist, draining the base pool of allocatable influence. This means that the other models, in this case Minx and A&G, are left with no influence. This is not a problem for Minx as she can still charge for free, adding some additional damage to a select combat. Almost more important, Minx can charge from "seemingly nowhere" to set up a gang-up bonus for a targeted combat. This becomes very beneficial for Capt. Rage when using Bloody Coin.

The second, and somewhat more important, value Minx brings to the team is Marked Target. Minx is able to extend Capt. Rage and Gutter's threat range. Of these two models, Capt. Rage has the more important threat range to extend. Typical opponents will be accutely aware of Capt. Rage's 7 inch charge / 8 inch threat range and endeavor to stay outside of it. Savvy opponents will often consider "Quick time" on Rage, extending that threat to 10 inches and will stay out side that. Minx can often charge into that range, hitting to trigger marked target and adding an additional 2 inches to increase Capt. Rage's threat to 12 inches. Even when she cannot charge, such as during turn 1, giving her a single influence gives a 1 dice chance to land Marked Target on an opposing model within 15 inches of Minx's starting point. It's especially useful to use Coin to give Bag of Coffers to Minx, giving her the influence and a bonus time for the character play when activation is not an issue.

Lastly and least important is her actual damage. Minx being able to charge an engaged target, attacking in range of Capt. Rage's legendary play can deliver some reliably good damage. In this situation she should be rolling 11 dice, averaging 5 hits for a momentous 4 damage plus a 2 inch dodge. Often she will spike this roll to 6, 7, or 8 hits and escalate that to 7 damage, 2 momentum, and a 2 inch dodge. It's a fairly nice finisher to a turn where she was not allocated any influence.

Minx vs Gutter with Blackheart

I've been fairly vocal about my disapointment with Gutter after the April errata, specifically when played with Blackheart. On Guild Ball Tonight I commented that I have switched to using Minx in place of Gutter because I felt she was better. This is a good place to discuss this comparison and where my preference comes from.

Following the April 2016 errata Gutter moved from a reliable control player to a damage focused player, specifically utilizing Scything Blow for her damage. Many people point out that Gutter still have a 4 inch chain grab along with reliable momentous damage. I always hear the stories about Gutter getting multiple scything blows off on models that get grouped up, thus delivering amazing results and incredible take-out's to generate points.

I'll point out that this is not untrue, in specific situations. Gutter when is an amazingly dangerous player when used to focus on maximising damage via scything blow. I'll go further and say that in specific teams (Butchers and Capt. Rage) she is a top choice among players, almost critical for a Capt. Rage team in my opinion. That said, she's not as good with Blackheart.

Blackheart benefits Gutter in two ways, via crowding out her target and via Commanding Aura. Commanding aura will grant +1 damage to playbook damage results and +1 TAC while attacking a target within the aura. In these situations, where Gutter can position appropriately to not endanger Blackheart or another friendly model, Gutter generates moderate results. She will be attacking with TAC 7 (base 5, +1 for gang-up, +1 for commanding aura) which only reliably generates 4 successes. This means that Gutter can choose momentous 2 (becomes 3 damage) or momentous scything blow (3 damage to everyone in 2 inches). Not bad damage, especially if she positions to get multiple people in range. Maximising this attack to get 12 damage by using all 4 influence on attacking means Gutter had to start within 8 inches of the target model and be able to walk to a position where she is not within 2 inches of any friendly models. She'll aim to pick this position to also have 2 or more enemy models in range.

Let's lay that out as a list:
  1. Must be within 8 inches of 2 enemy models
  2. Cannot end within 2 inches of a friendly model
  3. Blackheart is already engaging the target model she'll be attacking
That's the "ideal" situation that can be reasonably expected to scything blow and put 12 damage on 2 models.

Looking at Minx in a similar situation we can start by making a couple assumptions. The basic one is we assume Commanding Aura and engagement, but that the target model has not taken any damage yet. In this case Minx can charge the model from 10 inches across the board and will be making her first attack with 11 dice (base 5, +4 charge, +1 gang-up, +1 for commanding aura) and reliably generating 5 successes on the hit. This will do 4 damage, followed up by 2 attacks at TAC 7 doing an additional 3 per attack. Let's compare with the following list:
  1. Must be within 10 inches of the target
  2. Blackheart is already engaging the target model she'll be attacking
The comparable damage is 12 damage to the single target (possibly 12 to 2 targets in an ideal situation) vs 10 damage to a single target. Gutter took 4 influence and had to be closer to the target. Minx was further away and only required 2 influence. Gutter generated 4 momentum while Minx generated 3 momentum.

I have found that the more often I play savvy opponents, both locally and at the top tiers of tournaments, those opponents know how to counter Gutter. They watch for her and since she's a threat they focus on removing her or mitigating her threat. Minx tends to slip under the radar more and is not considered as much of a threat, or considered out of range to get into combat. When I combine this with her Marked Target being useful for Decimate and Blackheart charging, extending both their threat ranges, she is far more useful to me. Gutter can still chain grab, but in a team that cannot boost her number of attacks or drastically increase her damage on character playes, every chain grab is less effective damage she delivers.

As such, Minx is better with Blackheart. Spelling it out here are my reasons:
  1. Greater threat range
  2. Similar damage range (10 - 12), same threat if her charge spikes to 1 additional success.
  3. Only 1 less momentum generation (which becomes same if Gutter has to chain grab)
  4. Better team enablement with Marked Target

Conclusion .... for now

This should give you a good handle on how to start including Minx into your lists. I think she works very well with both Union captains, as you can see above. Minx also plays for Masons, Butchers, Hunters, and Morticians. I will write a future article about how she works with the Hunters, suffice it to say I think she's very useful in that influence constrained team. I think she fits well with Butchers as well, enabling the build of a team that's almost completely furious. I don't think she brings as much use to Morticians nor Masons, not really filling a necessary niche in those teams.