If you’re interested in Warmachine, the first thing you should know is that your army will be commanded by a warcaster. Warcasters are much like a cross between a queen and a king in chess: they are simultaneously the most power piece on the board, and the most vulnerable piece. The warcaster will generate focus every turn, and can use it to cast spells, buy extra attacks, boost attack rolls, boost damage rolls, shake off status effects and can allocate the focus at the beginning of their turn in order to allow their warjacks perform these actions as well. On the other hand, if your warcaster dies, you lose.
But the other advantage the warcaster has is a once per game ability that can change the entire dynamic of the game: the Feat. Feats can give the warcaster an advantage or turn the tides when they are on their heels. I’ve been told that the feats can be huge game changers, and I believe it.
Now we get to High Exemplar Kreoss, or pKreoss (short for Prime Kreoss… many warcasters also have an Epic version with different abilities and spells to reflect their advancement in the game’s storyline, and Epic Kreoss, or Grand Exemplar is one of them). pKreoss is the warcaster who comes in the Protectorate of Menoth Battlebox, and is considered by many to be one of the best casters in the game. Let’s take a look at why Kreoss is considered so good.
Stats and Attacks
Kreoss has a statline that means he is not the most durable caster in the game. In fact, his defenses are not great – a charge from a decent melee model has a pretty good chance of putting him into the dirt on an average attack and slightly above average damage roll. He does have a healthy amount of hit points, though. Luckily, pKreoss has some great spells and abilities that end up mitigating his poor defenses. His weapon, a giant poled mace called Spellbreaker, will remove spells from enemy models on hit, has reach, which gives him two inches of melee threat range, and is a magic weapon, making it great for attacking models which can’t be targeted by normal weapons. pKreoss hits a little harder than your average light warjack, but will need to spend his precious focus in order to hit and damage harder targets. Although pKreoss can destroy enemies in melee, his low defenses mean that you’ll want to keep him screened with other troops, and when he does charge in, he wants to destroy what he attacks so he’s not being threatened with caster assassination on the enemy’s following turn. Finally, pKreoss has a focus stat which allows him to cast or upkeep a few spells and support a few warjacks each turn. He’ll have a hard time casting his offensive spells on any given turn, so plan carefully when you’re giving out focus to your jacks.
This is one of pKreoss’ strongest weapons: he can make everything in his large Control range immediately become knocked down. This is a wonderful ability because it extends more than a foot in every direction, and causes enemies to be hit automatically with melee attacks, and with a paltry 5 on ranged attacks. Enemies who stand up on their turn must either forfeit their movement or actions, or must spend a focus if they are able. Obviously, in order to take advantage of this feat, you want pKreoss to activate first on your turn, so the rest of your models can tee up properly. A few thoughts:
- If you feat, spend your focus on extra attacks, not extra damage, unless you have a really good reason. A Crusader warjack with a full allocation of 3 focus autohitting on five attacks (two initial attacks, plus three focus-purchased attacks with its most powerful weapon) is going to squash whatever it attacks. This can also let you clear out infantry and other bothersome model swarms which are gumming up your works.
- Knocked down models do not block line of sight. If you catch all the opponent’s models in your feat radius, any ranged attacks you have can target the opposing warcaster with an almost guaranteed chance of hitting.
- Knocked down models cannot attack and cannot make free strikes. You still can’t move through their bases though. Can you move in a way that gives you an advantage? Can you walk up to the opposing caster with a warjack or other model? Then do it!
- Using this feat defensively will only work sometimes, as many models can shake the knockdown effect on their turns by spending a focus. This still lets you throw them off their game, but you’ll want to get your damage off while you still have a shot at it. Clear out valuable support models, clear out your charge lanes, and go for the caster if you are at all able.
pKreoss has five spells, and they drive him to be a denial caster.
Cleansing Fire – An Area of Effect spell which causes Fire damage and a critical fire continuous effect. pKreoss could use this spell twice, but there seems to be much better options for him on any given turn unless you can catch some critical models in the AOE or can get a shot at the caster. I’m still looking for a good opportunity to use this one. If I can get line of sight through an arc node to an opposing warcaster, I might go for the gusto and boost in hopes of setting them on fire, but that’s a lot of focus to chase after the small chance. Of course, if you can catch a few models under the small template, it becomes a better value. Protip: Doing this attack against a large based model will basically only hit models in base to base with the large base. Look for clumps of small based or medium based models to ding with this, especially single wound models who you could clear off the board.
Defender’s Ward – Personally, I think this is Kreoss’ best spell: a low cost upkeep that increases a model or unit’s defense and armor stats. This makes an average attack much less likely to hit or do damage, and can be awesome on the right models. Models with naturally high defense can be practically unhittable with this buff, and high arm models can be super difficult to damage. Casting Defender’s Ward and upkeeping it all game long can be a pretty easy habit. I’m getting ahead of myself, but in one game, I cast this on my Crusader heavy warjack, as he was charged by three Gatormen Posse members and then the opposing warlock Barnabas on the following turn. Barnabas bought and boosted 4 attacks on the Crusader and did a total of five damage. Defender’s Ward was the difference between that Crusader surviving and winning the game the next turn, and getting scrapped myself. Thinking of using this on a unit in order to increase their potential to muck up the opponent’s turn.
Immolation – Another offensive spell. Costs one less than Cleansing Fire, but only affects one model and does less damage, but has the same effects and damage type. I could see using this spell when you absolutely have to clear a charge lane by killing an opponent’s model, but it’s hard to see a really good use for this right now. I’ll be interested to see whether the opportunity presents itself.
Lamentation – This spell is pure denial. It makes enemy models pay double for spells within pKreoss’ control area. This spell scares the pants off of opposing players. They really don’t want to pay the focus tax this puts on them, and they will avoid casting spells while its up, even if it would be beneficial for them to do so. Opponents may retreat out of your control range to cast spells, so be careful if they have arcnodes – since the arcnode uses the caster’s location, it avoids this spell entirely. Even so, if you can bully the opponent into retreating to cast, you might be able to get them to move their warjacks or beasts outside of their OWN control area, which can cost them an effective activation on the next turn. Cast this one on the first turn and upkeep it every turn, unless you’re going all in and need the extra focus for another attack or boost. Figure out how your opponent is going to attempt to deal with Lamentation and make them pay for it by being aggressive and encouraging them to therefore make mistakes.
Purification – This is an interesting spell. It is a high cost pulse which turns off continuous effects, animi and upkeep spells inside the control area of pKreoss. You could easily hurt yourself with this spell – don’t cast if it you’ve already upkept your Defender’s Ward and Lamentation or you are counting on your continuous fire to damage your opponents next turn, since you’ll cancel those effects as well as the enemy effects. Still, if you think ahead, you can get rid of harmful effects that your opponent is counting on. One especially useful use of Purification is to cast it when one of your key units or models has been affected with an enemy debuff – get rid of it and attack the enemy at full strength.
pKreoss seems like he has an interesting risk/reward gameplay style. He doesn’t want to be on the frontlines, since he is fairly easy to hit and damage, but he wants to be near the enemy so he can affect them with his awesome knockdown feat and be available to destroy any stray enemy models. He certainly needs an army that can deal damage in his stead, so models like the Crusaders and other heavy jacks will have a place in his list, as will models with powerful ranged attacks, like the Reedemer and the Reckoner. So far, in my low point games, I’ve bricked him up, screening him with the rest of my army, while getting as close as I could to the jacks he supports. At this point, I have no real ranged models (my next model should definitely be a ranged jack or unit of some sort!), so I need to focus on getting my army to the fight and taking advantage of the feat turn to do as much damage as possible while avoiding retaliation as best I can. Knowing when to fight and when to stay safe is going to be my biggest challenge with pKreoss, but it’s one I look forward to encountering.