Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Malifaux Masters: Rasputina

For a while now I've toyed with writing some short articles about some of the Malifaux Masters as a kind of guide for people who are interested in those Masters - either as a guide for beginners taking their first steps into the world of Malifaux, or for those looking to try a new Master, or those preparing to face that Master.

Where better to start than the first Master I ever used and, of course, an Arcanist (my chosen faction!).


Rasputina is the Ice Witch, and she's all about cold magic, and the Frozen Heart ability. She has some very potent offensive magic, and some other nice little tricks. She's slow, but a heavy hitter, though struggles at close quarter combat. 

Let's examine her card. 

Her stat-line is fairly bland. She has low Df for a Master, and is very slow at Wk 3 and no Cg. It is clear that Rasputina is not designed to sprint up the board. That's where her Ice Mirror ability comes in. Rasputina can cast her spells through friendly models with the Frozen Heart ability. You'll notice nearly all of the crew has this ability and it's vital to her succesful running. Spells cast this way though suffer -1 Ca, and cannot declare triggers. Fortunately, Rasputina has an upgrade that sorts that out. 

We've had a glance at Frozen Heart, and how Ice Mirror allows Rasputina to cast through her minions, but in itself also makes her immune to Paralyzed and Horror Duels. This is incredibly useful as a lot of models have Terrifying (Living), and it can be a real drain on your cards having to cheat horror duels to not lose your activation. That almost all of Rasputina's crew have this ability is a very useful fact. 

Next on the card is Counterspell. Considering that most Ca abilities have conditions like "Ca 7-Tomes / Target Number 11-Tomes" the ability to remove that initial Tomes means that rather than just needing a 4 to cast, the ability now also requires a Tomes. This greatly increases the chance of needing to cheat, or causes your opponent to burn a precious Soulstone to guarantee the cast. This means that targeting Rasputina with spells is surprisingly tricky. Very useful if she's going to be keeping her distance. 

But what if she's not going to be keeping her distance? What if something slips through the net and gets into striking distance of Rasputina? That's where her Sub Zero defense trigger comes in. As long as you are willing to let the opponent deal some damage, flipping a Tomes (or burning a Soulstone) or even cheating one in from your hand can end an opponents activation immediately. This is very useful if something like a Mature Nephilim gets close enough to use its Flurry ability. She can take one hit and shut them down, weathering the storm, as it were. 

You'll notice that she doesn't have any abilities or conditions like Armor, Hard to Kill, or Hard to Wound (though she can gain Armor if she takes the Armor of December upgrade and uses the ability it gains her), so these little abilities are very important to her survivability. Of course, even better is to stop your opponent getting to her. More on that later. 

So what about her attack actions?

First off is Freeze Over. It requires an 8 to cast, but requires no suit so is readily available against even enemies with Counterspell. The target becomes Paralysed, and though it says "Non-Leaders in base contact", it can Paralyse Leaders if they are the original target. The obvious use is to keep an opponent at bay from striking Rasputina (it has a 6" range, 16" if you include the ability to use Ice Mirror), but it also ties in well with her Wendigo totem which can then Devour the foe, triggering Pound of Flesh, to give Rasputina Fast in her next activation. Don't forget that a Paralysed foe is considered to have a melee range of zero, so cannot make Disengaging Strikes unless in base contact. Useful for escaping a tight situation. 

Second up is December's Curse, Rasputina's signature ability. It only requires a 4 to cast (and has the inherent required Tomes) and has a very long range of 12" (22" through Ice Mirror - which is the majority of the board). The triggers are both very useful too. If you know the enemy will die, or if you've done enough damage, the Surge trigger gets you some valuable cards back. The true strength lies in Overpower though. It's well worth burning a Soulstone for the Crows if you don't have any in your hand. You can't trigger through Ice Mirror, so you'll either have to direct cast, or take the Shattered Heart upgrade (though to be fair, this then allows triggers and removes the innate -1Ca, so why wouldn't you?). Considering that December's Curse has an above average damage output and blasts quite simply, being able to rinse and repeat is why most people tremble at the sight of the Ice Witch. 

Then we have Biting Chill, Rasputina's zero AP ability. As the only one of her Ca not to be Sh, this is her go to for melee range. It has no target number so is only held at bay by your opponents Df. The damage is low, but the ability is repeatable ad infinitum. It's not much alone, but I've seen it repeated as many as six or seven times. That's a scary amount of damage. 

Finally, December's Touch, her Tactical action. Casting on a 4 and with the same range as December's Curse, it's very easy to get off and allows you to give one of your models Armor +2 and Frozen Heart. The Armour is very useful (remember, it stacks!) to help keep your crew alive, and can be cast on herself. The fun comes if you expand your crew to contain models like a Sabretooth Cerberus which can run across the board, then get Armor +2 and allow Rasputina to cast through it. Boom!

So what about her upgrades?

I've already discussed Shattered Heart, and I'll be honest, I always consider any Rasputina crew I take to be 3ss less than the actual value ("50ss game? Cool, I have 47ss to work with."). I always take this and, unless you're purposefully not wanting to kill stuff at all, or you really want to give your opponent an easier ride (hey, as my last post showed, it sometimes happens!), I really can't imagine why you wouldn't take it. 

December's Pawn is one of those upgrades that divides Rasputina players. Some never leave home without it. I've never used it when I had it, nor needed it when I didn't. Maybe that's just me, but it seems very situational and expensive.

The Child of December upgrade certainly has its uses, especially if you're using Freeze Over a lot. Shatter has got some really powerful triggers (and even the double negative is nice alone) but it requires the target to be Paralysed. Fantastic if you can pull it off, useless against certain Masters. The Bearskin Armor ability is situationally useful. Never leave home without it if you're up against Sonnia Criid.

Cold Nights is possibly my second favourite of her upgrades. Ice Shield is a very situational ability, and me using it seems to inspire my opponent to flip a Black Joker thus wasting it. The true genius is the Ice Pillars ability. Casting on a 4, it creates two 50mm blocking impassable markers within 12". These are great for blocking LoS or charged for the duration of the turn. Your opponent can't see you, but with clever Frozen Heart placement, you can still hit them!

Finally there are the two Non-Rasputina upgrades. We've already had a look at Armor of December and its Guarded Advance ability, useful for protecting Ice Golems, and situational on Rasputina as the push is the same as her walk. Sub Zero gives an aura that passes on Rasputina's Sub Zero trigger, useful if you're up against a very combat heavy army, and stops the Viktoria's Whirlwind dead in its tracks. 

What about the Arcanists generic upgrades?

Imbued Protection is great on Ice Golems, though I wouldn't take up an Upgrade slot on Rasputina with it. 

Imbued Energies is again very nice on a Golem as it can be made Fast and the Golem is sure to die, so getting a few cards for the trouble is always nice. On Rasputina? No real use. 

Philosophers Stone is another one of those divisive upgrades. I personally don't see the Upgrade as worth one of Rasputina's upgrades. The same goes for Recharge Soulstone. On Rasputina, models shouldn't be getting that close to her. 

Arcane Reservoir, on the other hand, is almost always a must have. That extra card in your hand is the difference between being able to cheat a December's Curse Overload, and only getting one cast off. It gives you a distinct card advantage over your opponent. 

Personally. I tend to run Arcane Reservoir, Shattered Heart, and Cold Nights, Soulstones permitting.

So what do you take in a Rasputina lead crew? For starters, the contents of the Children of December box. An Ice Golem is great to throw Ice Gamin forward ready for Ice/Shattered Mirror use, and is a potent beat stick, if a huge target and a little fragile. I tend to take the Wendigo as her totem due to it having Frozen Heart and being able to Devour enemy models (as long as they're Paralysed) and can cast her abilities. Some people really like the Essence of Power for its Amplify ability, but I find the loss of the other abilities too much to lose. 

Sometimes I run the Malifaux Child for its Just Like You ability. The Wendigo has this, but the Child gets + to the flip. This is especially useful if running the Razorspine Rattler or Sabretooth Cerberus as below as the Child/Wendigo can use Rasputina's December's Touch to give the beast Frozen Heart before Rasputina activates. 

To expand the crew, December Acolytes are a great choice to add some ranged threat. They're able to start across the board ready to shoot, drag enemies out of cover, and have Frozen Heart. The Sabretooth Cerberus and Razorspine Rattler are also great for sweeping across the board and tying things up across the board. You can also give it Frozen Heart for extra Ice/Shattered Mirror, and their speed makes them useful for schemes in an otherwise very slow crew. 

Of course, you can't go wrong at all with Snow Storm or Silent Ones, or the Captain. Rasputina leads a very slow crew and it really can mess with your game if your opponent gets into melee with her. The Captain and Snow Storm are both excellent ways to ensure that doesn't happen, and can really punish your opponent if it does.

Having discussed how to play Rasputina, how about how to beat her?

Playing against Rasputina is always tricky. If you're within 22" of her, you're in threat range. That's pretty much all of the board, and her abilities are scary damage and inflict blasts. You'll need to be careful of LoS at all times, and be prepared to nuke anything with Frozen Heart that stands in your way. Breaking that Frozen Heart network is the key to beating Rasputina, and her player will know this.

Don't forget that she can only use Ice/Shattered Mirror through Frozen Heart models that are unengaged. If you can engage a Frozen Heart model, you remove it from her grid.

Other great tricks would include tying Rasputina up in combat with something that's either not going to die easily, or something that she doesn't want to kill (Governor's Proxy?). Counterspell will make it hard to immobilise her with spellslinging, and Sub Zero makes melĂ©e risky too. Your best bet is Sh actions.

I find that one of the most successful ways to neutralise Rasputina is with simple movement tricks. A Rasputina player will usually try to maximise her threat range by putting Frozen Heart models at 10" away from her, the maximum distance. All it takes is a succesful Lure or similar movement based ability, and that Frozen Heart model is out of her Ice/Shattered Mirror range and she's having to spend AP on a Walk action in order to use it. As a Rasputina player myself, it is incredibly annoying. Moreso if that movement trick happens to trigger pounces or the like.

Hopefully this has given you some food for thought on either taking Rasputina in a game of Malifaux, or taking her out in a game of Malifaux.

As always, comments and questions are most welcome!

Which Master should I do next?

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