I have recently decided to move back to Cygnar for a while after playing Legion exclusively for the last 5 months. The main reason for that is the newest Warcaster for Cygnar, published in the new Reckoning expansion, Major Prime Victoria Haley or Haley3. As a matter of fact, not only is she the third version of Victoria Haley, but she is actually a unit consisting of 3 Haleys. So, how does this work on the table?
Well, Major Victoria Haley has now mastered time travel to the point that she has been named Prime, an arcane rank only awarded by unanimous decision by all other high-ranking Cygnaran mages. As a result, she can now summon echoes of herself to fight alongside her on the battlefield. She is therefore joined by her past version, also known as Young Haley, Haley Past, DILF or similar, and her future version, Granny Haley or Haley Future. The echoes do not count as Warcaster, but are part of her unit, have their own focus pool and can channel spells through her warjacks. In addition, the echoes are Incorporeal, meaning they can’t be harmed by non-magical weapons as long as they have not used their melee or ranged attacks in last round. This gives them another layer of protection. Should an echo die, Haley can summon it again for 2 Focus Points, but the echo cannot activate on that turn, making losing one really annoying. Furthermore, each Haley has her own spell list, though Prime Haley can copy any spell another version has cast on the same term, which means that she cannot use the spells of a freshly summoned Haley.
Regarding their physical stats, they each have the same stat line the previous version had, good SPD, high DEF, but low ARM with OK attack stats. Haley Prime has the usual amount of hit boxes and the echoes have the typical 5 boxes for a solo. Prime has 8 FOC, however, she has to spend two Focus Points for each echo she wants to upkeep at the beginning of the turn, meaning that she usually only has 4 to spend or 5 with the Squire. Her echoes have 4 FOC each, which makes Past Haley’s attack spells a bit difficult to use, as she uses her FOC stat to aim. Finally, her feat is called Arcane Singularity and it gives each Haley in the unit +2 FOC and 2 Focus Points for the turn. This makes Haley Past more accurate and lets them each cast more than one spell per round.
Speaking of spells, what can they cast? Haley Past is all about the offensive, with Chain Blast throwing out 2 templates and Force Hammer, which is great as it slams the target, which damages the target before knocking it down, potentially also dealing damage and knocking down the model behind it. This makes her a good assassination starter, as she can use a low DEF model standing in front of a warcaster to slam it into the warcaster and then knock the warcaster down to make them easier to hit. She also has a unique ability, Raw Talent, which gives her an additional damage dice on her spells and her Telekinetic strike melee attack, with Reach. In fact, she has an alternative mode where she can engage a target and then whale on them with 7 Weaponmaster attacks thanks to Raw Talent.
Haley Future, on the other hand, has no offensive spell, instead relying on her POW13 ROF3 ranged attack. However, she has two amazing support spells that no other Cygnar caster has and that some people already claim Cygnar has no business having. Revive, which lets you return a friendly faction model to play with one unmarked damage box, and Ghost Walk, which gives a unit Ghostly. Ghost Walk is great as it makes you immune to free strikes, letting your ranged units disengage from melee and then shoot the offender in the head. It also makes Cygnar less dependent on Rhupert Carvolo and Archduke Alain Runewood as it effectively gives you Pathfinder. The real kicker though is Revive, as it can let you return models that died previously and more importantly letting you place them further ahead, provided that deploy in formation and in the caster’s control area. This lets you create really long assassination runs because Haley Prime on her feat turn has a 20-inch control are, 22 with Squire, and she can add models to a unit after Future Haley has cast the spell first. That way, you can chain models really far ahead, letting you deploy them in the opponent’s back arc or just much further ahead than they expected. As such, it is an amazing spell and has also boosted the sales of Storm Lances and Tempest Blazers, as those fast cavalry models can make the most of this spell.
Finally, Haley Prime has 4 spells, in addition to being able to replicate her echoes’ spells. She has the brand-new Repudiate, dispelling all enemy upkeeps on a target and dealing damage to the caster of those upkeeps, which is great as Cygnar had no in-faction upkeep removal before this. Her one ‘stinker’ spell is Dominate, which is only rarely useful, but with the amount of spells she has available, it is hardly an issue. Her real winner spells are Tactical Supremacy and Temporal Flux. Tactical Supremacy is another one of those spells Cygnar should never have. In itself, it looks quite harmless, only letting you move a unit 3 inches after activating your whole army. It becomes amazing with Cygnar’s black sheep unit, the much-maligned Trencher Infantry. Trenchers can drop cloud effects to shield the rest of the army, but they themselves have to be in the area of the cloud when dropping it. Units inside of clouds only gain the concealment DEF bonus, whereas units behind clouds cannot be targeted at all by models that don’t ignore clouds (which only Legion does on more than a few units). This meant that Trenchers would put up a cloud wall to shield the rest of the army, then die as the enemy army could only target them. With Tactical Supremacy, those days are over as they can drop their clouds, then step behind them at the end of the turn and become invisible too. The real game winner is Temporal Flux, which adds +2 DEF to her unit and every friendly model in 5” of one of them, whilst also reducing enemy DEF in that area by 2. This is such a kick in the teeth for some armies, as Gun Mages all of a sudden have a DEF of 17, Haley herself goes to 18 and even more with Rhupert Carvolo or against charging opponent, meaning that even elite units need 10s or more to hit. By the same token, the -2 DEF penalty skews dice math in your favour, as units that you would normally hit on an 8 are hit on a 6 now, which drastically changes your odds of hitting (you roll 8s 5 times out of 12 and 6s 8 times out of 12 or so).
In conclusion, you can see that she has an enormously flexible and extensive spell list, with no less than 8 spells and being able to use an unprecedented 12 Focus Points per turn, able to go to 18 (19 with Squire) on feat turn. In terms of roles, she is not really committed like the previous Haleys are. Haley 1 and 2 are both control casters with spells and feats that slow down the opponent long enough to win on scenario or eliminate enough key models to make victory impossible for the opponent. Haley3 still has a control element, especially with the Trencher Cloud Wall being able to prevent charges and shots to anything behind it. Unlike the previous incarnations of Haley, she also has a strong attrition element by being able to Revive key models when necessary. This lets her play more aggressively as she can send Storm Lances and Tempest Blazers off to their death to trade for solos or small units, then Revive them and have them available for the mid- or endgame. Finally, she has an amazing assassination potential because of Force Hammer, Revive and Ghost Walk. So Young Haley can cast a fully boosted Force Hammer at FOC6 on feat turn, hopefully slam the enemy caster into a wall for 5d6+12 damage or ‘just’ slam someone into them to knock them down, then Old Haley can Revive a Tempest Blazer or Storm Lance before giving that unit Ghost Walk to make them immune to Free Strikes if necessary, otherwise dropping a second Revive. Then Prime Haley can drop Temporal Flux (or probably has done so already before moving) to give the enemy Warcaster -2 DEF if they are still standing, following it up with another Revive or Force Hammer. With potentially 3 models Revived, the unit can be extended quite far forward, as the Revived model has to be placed within 3” of an existing model and in command, letting you chain them by placing each one within 3” of the previously placed model to extend up to 9” from the leader model (as they have to be in command), but adding another two inches by virtue of being on a two-inch base as only the rear part of the base has to be in command. As the Revived models can then activate with the rest of the unit, they can charge a full 11 inches further ahead than the unit could otherwise. Getting two Stormlances on a Knocked Down Warcaster is usually enough to end the game even if they have not taken any damage beforehand. This means that she is a triple threat caster who can easily switch her victory condition on the field and thus adapt to multiple situations. She might suffer a bit from being too flexible, as her spell list is not really focused on one aspect or playstyle, but the fact that she has 8 spells makes her able to have the necessary tools to assume each role without being out of her depth.
Having talked about Haley3 so far, I now want to talk about the units that go well with her. First of all, she is a Cygnaran Warcaster, so it is a given that she wants a Squire and a Journeyman Warcaster, especially as she is the Warcaster who benefits the most from him as he can cast Arcane Shield on all three of them instead of just one model as is the case with all other Cygnaran Warcasters. The Squire only lets Prime Haley take a Focus Point off her or get the re-roll, but it is still an extremely useful model for her.
As I have talked so often about the Trencher Cloud Wall, it is clear that a unit of Trencher Infantry is almost a given in her list. Cloud Wall is a strong strategy as it lets your units advance without fear of being shot or charged, which increases the survivability of your main units and lets them attack at full strength. Moreover, opponents often have to sacrifice units, especially arc nodes, to run into the clouds to cast spells behind it or have targets inside the cloud wall to charge or shoot at (so a model with multiple attacks, especially with Overtake or Sidestep, can charge their own model that has moved into the clouds, then move on to attack enemy models behind the clouds). Like most people, I will stick to a minimum size unit as it can become difficult to extend the Cloud Wall much further due to the unit leader’s command limit. As the maximum unit is 10, whereas the minimum size is 6, those extra models would not do much to extend the Cloud Wall. One alternative is to get some Grenade Porter weapon attachments, as they are simply one model for a point, so it would be possible to add two models to extend the Cloud Wall to its maximum size without spending on unnecessary models.
Another essential for her is Rhupert Carvolo, Piper of Ord. The first turn, he can give Pathfinder to a unit to let it advance through rough terrain without being slowed down. From the second turn onwards, he will spend most of his time playing Dirge of Mists to the Haleys, as this will make them DEF19 and cause Terror. Admittedly, Terror is rarely useful for a Warcaster as the things attacking them will rarely not be Warcasters, Warjacks or Warbeasts, all of which are Fearless, but DEF19 forces most units and Warjacks/Warbeasts to only hit them on 13s (so only on boosted attacks and even then it is very shaky) or by rolling boxcars, neither of which is really reliable as a tactic. Even the most elite Warcasters like eCaine and Butcher3 will only hit them on 10s, though that is feasible on boosted attack rolls. All in all, Rhupert adds another layer to the sum of their survivability, combining his DEF bonus with that from Temporal Flux, the echoes’ Incorporeal ability, Arcane Shield and the Cloud Wall. This means that Haley3 is able to take a lot more risks than her previous incarnations and move much further forward to help support the main line with Temporal Flux, making them both more accurate and more difficult to hit, which is amazing value.
This means that we have spent 13 points so far, leaving us with 40 as she only has 3 Warjack Points to start with. Speaking of Warjack Points, we should also add a Warjack now. And here opinions vary. One option is Thorn or a simple Lancer to give her an Arc Node. As all Haleys can use the Arc Node, provided it is in their own control area, it is useful to have one. However, neither Thorn nor the Lancer are very good damage dealers themselves and this means you spend points on models without adding to your damage output. As none of the models added so far are really good at dealing damage, we need to carefully consider if we should spend more points on a model that costs a lot for little offensive output. The next option would be a Sentinel. At 4 points, it is significantly cheaper than a Lancer or Thorn. It also does not really need any focus as it will spend most of the game walking next to Haley, spraying fire with its chain gun, but mostly just being there for its Shield Guard rule to take shots going on Haley or a member of her support staff, such as the Squire, Junior or Rhupert. Again, its offensive output is limited to a single chain gun, but it is cheap. Finally, there is the Charger at 4 points. It has a decent melee weapon and, more importantly, its Dual Cannon has the stats of a handcannon with ROF2 and Powerful Attack, so if it is allocated 3 Focus Points, it can pump out two fully boosted handcannon shots, which can kill two solos or really hurt a light Warjack or Warcaster. However, three Focus Points is a lot as Haley is often focus-starved despite having a potential 19 Focus Points available. I have tested Thorn and the Charger, but neither has really convinced me. I will give the Sentinel a go next and I expect that it will work fine and do work without breaking the bank.
Moving on, we should now add some actual damage dealers as we have solely focused on support so far. To the surprise of nobody who has actually bothered reading the article so far, the two first units we could try are Storm Lances and Tempest Blazers. Both units can hit very hard over very long distances. Tempest Blazers can hit targets 19 inches away even without adding Revive shenanigans, going to a whopping 30 inches when Reviving 3 Blazers. On the other hand, their shots are not that powerful, capping at 3d6+10 for their Brutal shots. Storm Lances have a shorter range, as they can charge targets 13 inches away, but compensate for that by having a P+S15 lance and MAT9 on the charge or with Temporal Flux (or 11 when both are combined). Of course, when you factor in Revive, they go to a threat range of 24” or half the table. Beyond the assassination run, both units are also good at the attrition game, as they can kill multiple targets per round each. They also all have access to Electro Leap on either their guns for the Blazers and melee and ranged attacks for the Lances, meaning that they can try to bounce a shot off a low DEF model to hit a high DEF model next to it. I think one unit of each is best, as it gives you access to both an extremely fast hit squad and a slightly slower and harder-hitting one.
So, having added these two units, we now have spent 38 of our 53 points, leaving us with 15. Having added some heavy hitters and support, we can now look to branch out to iron out our weaknesses. I am still looking at what option is best here.
The first option is the utility package:
6 Arcane Tempest Gun Mage Pistoleers plus Gun Mage Officer Adept
Lady Aiyana and Master Holt
Archduke Alain Runewood / Captain Maxwell Finn
The Gun Mages do their usual shtick, shooting people off objectives, sniping out blocking models or dealing with Incorporeal or high DEF threats. Being able to ignore Stealth, they can handle all those problem models quite easily. Lady Aiyana either provides another damage buff to facilitate assassinations or Magical Weapons when facing Menoth or Incorporeal models. Master Holt is ‘only’ two RAT8 handcannons to clear lanes or snipe solos. Finally, we have the choice between two excellent support solos. Runewood’s Battle Plans can be adapted to the situation on the fly, letting a unit charge through rough terrain or providing a MAT buff with Fearless tagged on to enable a Storm Lance charge that can kill even the most agile Warcaster reliably enough. Captain Maxwell Finn is less flexible, but Desperate Pace on Trenchers is great, as they can then advance 8 inches before dropping their clouds, giving you more space to deploy behind the Cloud Wall. There is also a moment in the mid- or end-stages of the game where the Cloud Wall is no longer necessary or feasible and the remaining Trenchers are actually expected to do some fighting. At this stage, having a +2 bonus makes them more reliable to actually hit someone, though Finn does nothing to help their slightly pillow-fisted attacks wound.
The second option is the heavy Warjack road:
Lieutenant Allison Jakes
Ragman / Stormblade Captain
Jakes is a Journeyman Warcaster, so she can field Dynamo and give it 3 Focus per round without taking from Haley’s stack. She also has Sidekick as an upkeep spell, which adds +2 DEF to its already nice DEF 12. Stack Temporal Flux on top and all of a sudden you have a DEF16 heavy Warjack with Set Defense, making it all but immune to charge attacks and with enough ARM to shrug off non-charge attacks. Dynamo can also stay behind the Cloud Wall and advance whilst taking shots with its Firestorm Cannon without having to charge ahead to actually have an impact on the game. As Dynamo can easily kill most heavy Warjacks and cripple a Colossal/Gargantuan, it is a powerful tool to hide behind the Cloud Wall and deploy when necessary. Jakes is also quite survivable at DEF16, but she needs to stay well-hidden to avoid becoming a priority target. Finally, Ragman replaces Aiyana and Holt as a cheaper, though not as efficient, ARM debuff or the Stormblade Captain enables the Storm Lances to charge through each other in case they get entangled, which is bound to happen as they have to clump together behind the Cloud Wall.
A variant of this is:
Lieutenant Allison Jakes
Ragman / Stormblade Captain
Gallant is a point cheaper than Dynamo, trading offensive output for resilience. Gallant has DEF13 on its own, going to 17 with all the bonuses, as well as ARM19 with its Buckler. It also has Shield Guard to protect either Jakes or Haley and even wields a Magical Reach weapon in the cases where this is needed. The Stormsmith adds some solo sniping, but to be honest, it is mostly there to fill up the last point. Yet another option could be to drop the Sentinel and the Stormsmith to give Haley a Minuteman to have yet another high DEF Warjack that is very good at crowd control.
I have given some of these versions a go and will try to work my way through them all to see which one suits my playstyle the most. This gives me something to do over the summer I guess.