This will be kind of a 'Part 2' to my previous post about the new Cryx theme, Dark Host. In the previous post we talked about the generic benefits of the theme and what makes it 'good' in the current meta. Obviously, we never addressed the weaknesses of the theme, something that I will tie into this post here as we are going to discuss the casters that you will likely see, and probably want to bring when running a Dark Host list.
So for posterity, lets remind ourselves of the pro's of Dark Host;
Hard Hitting - Dark Host hits innately hard. Bringing weapons masters and Dark Shroud, the list shouldn't be reliant on armour debuffs to get work done. This means we are not tied in to bringing a Parasite caster.
Ghostly - Pretty much the whole list runs Ghostly or Incorporeal. Terrain and free strikes are no issue for Dark Host, this also means we are not tied into bringing a caster with access to Ghost Walk.
Resilient - Between Knights in Wall of Steel or Riders all buffed by the Wraith Engine, the list can be difficult to shift with standard infantry clearing options, forcing opponents to use overkill weapons against our infantry. Cryx doesn't have much in the way of ARM buffs, but with Dark Host, they are not required.
So by looking at what Dark Host brings as standard, we have identified a few things that don't necessarily need to be covered by your caster choice. That is not to say that a caster with Parasite, say Lich2 for example, is bad in Dark Host. It is just that there isn't as much of a pressing need for an ARM debuff as if you were running Satyxis Raiders for example.
What does need to be covered then? Let's take a look.
Speed - Banes are slow, with the exception of Riders. SPD 5 infantry will always struggle to get where they need to. Dark Host does have the free clouds and Prowl to help Banes get where they need to without too much damage on the way in, but with lacklustre threat ranges it becomes easy for your opponent to play around.
Delivery - Ties in to the previous point really, slow, single wound infantry are difficult to get work from. Dark Host and Banes in general do have built in tech to mitigate this issue but Speed and Delivery are certainly areas the list could do with help from the caster.
Linear - Not always a bad thing but having a list built in a very linear fashion makes you easy to play against. Playing with Banes generally goes turn 1 run, turn 2 run, turn 3 charge. You then either get enough bodies there and win or you've taken too many casualties on the way in and lose the grind. Any caster that can add to the trickery of the list, that can open up non linear plays and angles will certainly find a home in Dark Host.
Hitting - Hitting hard is not a problem for Banes, hitting their target in the first place might be though. BLT helps by bringing Veteran Leader, but he can't be everywhere. MAT fixing is a solution that is very welcome to a Dark Host list, whether you can increase MAT, reduce DEF or add extra dice to hit, Banes love it all.
We can see from the above that we are building up a bit of a picture for what the ideal caster should look like to get the most out of a Dark Host list.
Let's take a look at some options then and assess how each one fits.
Skarre has emerged as a good fit for Dark Host, and it is not surprising really as she kind of slots into the 'turd polisher' category of casters. She has the ability to MAT fix banes through the spell Dark Guidance and certainly cranks hitting power and delivery through her feat. Now, hitting hard is not a priority problem to solve for Dark Host, however, being able to make effective POW18 Weapon Masters is no joke whatsoever.
My issue with Skarre is that she does nothing in terms of threat extension and doubles down on the linear nature of the list, run, run, charge. Skarre has proven to be an excellent choice, but I think she needs a more tailored Dark Host to be built around her. I'd expect a Skarre1 list to lean more towards doubling down on Bane Riders or Wraith Engines as they have the higher natural threat ranges over the Bane infantry options and they also bring multiple attacks to get more benefit out of her feat.
The Witch Coven are our premier caster choice these days, outside of Denny1 running Ghost Fleet they are probably the best caster we have. But how do they fit in Dark Host? Well they certainly bring a bag of tricks with them, between Curse of Shadows and Veil of Mists they can certainly get Banes into places you opponent definitely doesn't want Banes to be. CoS aso doubles as an ARM debuff which is never not good to have. Infernal Machine is also great for letting 'Jacks push deeper into enemy lines or have Stalkers get to awkward places. They also hugely help with delivery, they bring Occultation to the party as well as an impressive feat which shuts down shooting and long range charges. Coven do have a MAT fixing option in Stygian Abyss but fishing for crit Blind isn't a plan I'd be happy resting the game on.
The problem with Coven, and it's a small one because they are amazing in general, is that they don't offer any threat extension for the Banes themselves. However, with great delivery tools it can let Banes play a lot more aggressively. One other problem I find with Coven is that they are so good, I am reluctant to put them with, in my opinion, the best theme Cryx has. I think that cripples your other list too much if you haven't, or don't want to buy into Ghost Fleet. First world problems and all that. Coven fit almost perfectly for Dark Host, but personally I'd save Coven to run my other non-Dark Host list.
This is my money man at the moment. Looking at his cards, he solves every issue the Bane theme has to one extent or another, Delivery, Linear, Speed and Hitting, Goreshade can do it all, in theory. He spell list is phenomenal, and as I have said before in my review of him on this blog here, I think his spell list is probably best in faction. Abyssal Gate fixes 3 problems in one, extends threat on Banes so helps with delivery, let's you turn models around so fixes MAT and adds a bit of trickery and control to an other wise linear list. 3 issues with 1 spell, looking good so far. he also has Curse of Shadows for more trickery and Mirage to further increase threat range and delivery options. Occultation helps with delivery and Hex Blast is another layer of damage or to hit buffing. All in all, his spell list is a symphony of awesomeness. In theory he should make Dark Host sing, and I didn't even mention his feat to bring back moar Banez.
It is not all sweetness and roses though, Shades main problem is being Focus starved, he is FOC7 but his main spells are Cost 3 and will likely have at least 2 upkeeps out all game. He can't pick up souls and can't have Withershadow Combine in theme so he finds himself with an incredible repertoire of options but not enough resource to do them all, you will end up choosing between Abyssal Gate/Hex Blast/Curse of Shadows. He is basically never going to have any camp so he dies if your opponent gets to him, Dark Host clouds help here but can't always be relied on.
Scavvy has some cool tricks, he can help with delivery through Death Ward and can certainly help with threat extension, MAT fixing and trickery with the infamous Telekinesis spell. He does have an expensive ARM debuff but he does struggle to really support Banes as well as you might want. Scaverous can open up a game and can really enable assassination plays though so he is worth considering.
You would probably look to take Bane Riders and a Wraith Engine with Scavvy, they make more worthwhile TK targets than a Warrior or Knight and Death Ward on Riders with the Wraith Engine is just funny. With Scaverous you are probably going to be building a more control variant of the Dark Host list which could work well, but probably needs a more specialist build.
Lich2 is an interesting one, he doesn't do an awful lot for Banes when you think about it, but he does have some tricks to help Dark Host tick over. He brings Parasite, so packing a punch is absolutely not a problem for this list, casual -5 to ARM when you need it is just money. The real 1-2 punch, in my opinion comes from Caustic Mist, Excarnate and his feat. I guess that's actually a 1-2-3 punch. Caustic Mist lets you extend the fee cloud wall to have almost complete coverage of your wall of Banes and Excarnate let's you keep adding Banes back to the ranks. A neat trick with Caustic Mist is placing the clouds on top of a Bane unit after it has activated to trigger stealth on them through Prowl, do it right and you can punish anyone that enters the cloud with Corrosion. Lich2's feat is usually held back as a fear factor rather than being actively pursued to win the game, it does however, let your Banes have a final hurrah after absorbing the first wave.
What Lich2 doesn't do is speed up Banes at all, he help protect them with extra clouds but keeps them stuck at SPD 5. The trick will be getting those clouds in a position to let you be more aggressive. Darragh Wrathe is a must with him, as with all the casters without a threat extender. He also doesn't do much to make the list non-linear but his increased personal threat and impact on the game can add another dynamic to consider.
I will call it there, I could go through every single caster we have but these are the main ones I am looking at right now. I am sure you can take the principles discussed and keep them in mind when looking at other Cryxian casters.
Just remember the weaknesses of Banes and unless you are just playing a casual game with whatever you think is cool, try to thing about how your caster supports the Banes in your list. Of course, the specific needs of the list will change as the flavour of Banes gets tweaked.
What casters have you been running in Dark Host?
Until next time.