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Unit Strategy Review: How to use the Deathstalkers
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Unit Strategy Review
Author: Taeblewalker (with thanks to my reviewing group)
Their mournful howls tear through the night, once-wild thoughts shackled by circuitry; these cyber-wolves are creatures of calculating death, incapable of any thought save the deeply sad understanding that they were once free. And now, as Utgar’s death hounds, they tear at their enemies, ripping the larger ones apart piece by piece and rending the smaller ones in one mighty snarl of teeth and circuits. In spite of the killer sculpts, however, these units do not synergize nearly as well as the “themed” armies. They have no Khosumet or Su-Bak-Na to boost their abilities, no Venoc Warlord to increase their speed, and nothing to bond with. To make matters worse, any benefit they receive to their Attack actually reduces the chance that their sole special power will work.
We will begin with their stats.
Cost – 100 – Bishop Class Unit
Size – Large 5 – Somewhat concealable due to short height
Squad – 3 Figures - Average
Move – 7 – Very Fast
Range – 1 – Melee
Attack – 3 – Average
Defense – 5 – Tough
Maul – Rolling all skulls prevents Medium or Small targets from rolling Defense dice - Medium Tactical Advantage
We shall now look carefully the Deathstalkers’ statistics, and draw strategies from our conclusions. Let us start with cost. Below is an explanation of Agatagary's cost classification:
Pawn class (expendable, units that can be useful, but are not worth enormous trouble to protect)
Bishop class (more useful than a pawn, but still somewhat expendable)
Knight class (units that are interestingly powerful and can have a significant impact on the game in and of themselves. It is advisable that they be kept alive, but if absolutely necessary they may be sacrificed)
Rook class (units that almost inevitably have a significant impact on the game, and whose death should be avoided as much as possible)
Queen class (devastatingly powerful or important units that should be protected at all costs)
The Deathstalkers are a Bishop Class unit. Their specialty lies in targeting certain units the loss of which will cripple your opponent so you can concentrate on using your bigger units elsewhere. They are fast, invulnerable to some specials, and pose enough of a threat to your opponent’s medium or small figures to cause him to reorganize the way he sets up his forces.
To examine the Deathstalkers’ core stats, we will break them up into two categories—offensive ability and survivability.
The Deathstalkers have an Attack of 3, which is average. Their Maul power makes this far more frightening for Small or Medium figures. They have a threat range (Move + Range) of 8 over flat terrain and a fast enough Move to climb well if the terrain permits double space figures to climb.
With a Defense of 5 and immunity to many specials such as Chomp and Poisonous Acid Breath the Deathstalkers have better than average Survivability. They are also fairly low to the ground, which lets them avoid being targets in spite of their double base. They cannot be harmed by Chill Touch, Marro Plague, or Toxic Skin.
Before we discuss how to best use the Deathstalkers, we need to compare them to a similar unit – the Marrden Hounds. This comparison in necessary because they cost 10 point less, have almost identical stats, and have a special power that is good at doing more damage then their Attack stat indicates – a property shared by the Deathstalkers.
Unlike the Deathstalkers, the Marrden Hounds have an unreliable Movement score, due to their dependence on their Wild Pack Movement special ability. While they have the potential to move up to 8 spaces, there is still a 30% chance that they will be moving 4 or less; this unpredictability can severely hamper your strategy and must always be taken into account. The Deathstalkers, by contrast, have a constant and dependable Movement of 7.
The biggest difference between the two units is Marro Plague and Maul. Marro Plague has the advantage of working against any size unit. It has a 25% chance to cause a single point of unblockable damage to any unit adjacent to the Hound. Since it is able to affect more than a single unit at a time it is best to use it against mobs of squad units who only have a single point of Life.
Maul, on the other hand, is limited to a single Medium or Small target (for each Deathstalker) and only has a 12.5% chance of actually activating--even less if they have an attack bonus such as from height. Against a hero with a Defense of 3 or higher and more than 2 Life--which is almost all the heroes--the Deathstalkers still have a better chance of doing 3 points of unblockable damage than the Hounds since they can act like a pack and focus their attacks on a single target, raising the chances of activating Maul to about 33% overall. The Marrden Hounds, whether there is one Hound or six, can only do a single point of damage against a single enemy. And, unlike the Marro Plague, Maul can be used against Soulborgs, so if faced with an army of those killing machines the choice to go with the Deathstalkers is an easy one.
What does this mean, exactly? It means that if faced with several Small or Medium heroes, the Deathstalkers are a fast, efficient, killing squad that is actually more likely to cause unblockable damage to its targets than the Marrden Hounds. Now we should focus on exactly how to use them.
One way to use the Deathstalkers is to send them out early in the first wave to disrupt your opponent’s plans. Their high Survivability will most likely allow them to reach their targets safely. Try to Maul your opponent’s cornerstone enhancer units like the Human Warlords, Khosumet, or any unit with an Aura or non-adjacent boosting special-ability because in doing this you force your opponent to change his plans early. Heroes with high Life will take more than one Mauling to kill, and they may kill a Deathstalker or two before you have a chance to finish them off but don’t let this dissuade you-- the Deathstalkers are Bishop Class units; their job is to hurt or kill as many important units on your opponent’s side as possible to pave the way for your own more important units to win the day.
Conversely, if you hold the Deathstalkers back until you see which of your units are being threatened the Deathstalkers can be used to protect your own Knight Class, Rook, Class and Queen Class units. They are perfect for keeping dangerous squads such as the Einar Imperium, the Minions of Utgar, and the Omnicron Snipers from assaulting your important units or peppering them with ranged attacks. The Deathstalkers can also stop heroic heavy hitters like Sgt. Drake Alexander or Alastair MacDirk from reaching your powerhouses, perhaps dealing serious wounds with Maul. This use of the Deathstalkers is a good choice if you cannot afford to draft more than a single squad as it increases the likelihood that the three you have will survive long enough to do damage. Just be aware that if you are using them more passively in this way, you will lose some opportunities to do damage to the enemy.
A third way to use the Deathstalkers is as an ambush unit. Rather than send them out in force right away or hold them back playing defense, have them live up to their name! They can stalk prey, waiting for just right moment to pounce. Your ranged units, especially the heavy guns like Major Q9 and Deathwalker 9000, can pound away round after round as the enemy inexorably approaches. After your shooters place a few wounds on his high Life heroes, send the Deathstalkers out like a pack of dogs after wounded prey to Maul them to death. After you take out a few members of a dangerous squad at range, send in the Deathstalkers to surround and remove the remaining figures. If you place your X Order Marker on the Deathstalkers a few rounds in a row, your opponent may not expect the maneuver. Even if he sees it coming a mile away, he will have to choose: does he keep coming at your higher priced units, allowing himself to be flanked by these ravenous canine Soulborgs, or does he detour his efforts to try to remove a pack of enemies who are protected by a Defense of 5? Either way, you buy yourself time to do some heavy damage.
If you want instant gratification from Maul, pay special attention to the low Life heroes. Dead-eye Dan, Deathstalker 7000, Eldgrim the Viking Champion, Guilty McCreech, Khosumet the Darklord, Kyntela Gwyn, Sonya Eisenwein, and Warden 816 all have more than one life but are instantly destroyed by Maul since each has a Life of less than 4. If heroes with a Life of 4, such as Agent Carr, Finn the Viking Champion, Iskra Eisenwein, Syvarris, and Thorgrim the Viking Champion have any wounds at all they are also destroyed by Maul (and make tempting targets for the ambush strategy detailed above). Several of these units can be brought down with one or two Attack rolls of less than three skulls, but the heroes with a Defense of at least 4 should really be attacked by multiple Deathstalkers at once--their Defense will shrug off many Attack rolls that don’t succeed at Maul.
Higher Life heroes will take longer, but with the exception of Marcu Eisenwein they will be worth the effort due to their high cost. The gladiators are excellent examples (especially Spartacus) and Cyprien Eisenwein is a good target as well: his Chill Touch can’t hurt them! Marcus and Parmenio are important bonding units that lack a very high attack. Valguard is a nice trophy to take home, and if you can engage him first, First Strike is worthless. Alastair MacDirk is another great trophy for the Deathstalkers; losing him can devastate his bonded squads. Since one Maul won’t kill these heroes, you’ll probably want to swarm them. This makes the most of their Bishop Class status – disrupting your opponent’s strategy by going after his higher-priced heroes early – heroes which tend to be Knights, Rooks and Queens. But you must also deal with the enemy's squads.
Maul is useless against squad figures with a Defense of less than 3 since they would not be able to defend against 3 skulls anyway. These squads are cheap enough that you don’t want to risk a comparatively expensive Deathstalker on them (exceptions include the Soulborgs and the Gorillinators, whose costs are fairly high and whose Tough power can be frustrating to overcome with a normal attack). In a similar vein, many of the 50 point melee squads are not worth tackling because their Attack of 3 allows them to fight back too well. The various Marro squads also are generally too inexpensive to risk attacking. Overall, these figures get a red light for your Deathstalkers – use Pawns to take them on, or send in huge figures like Jotun and Tor-Kul-Na who can destroy them in droves.
The Heavy Gruts are a somewhat better choice since they cost 70 points and you can disrupt your opponent’s Orc Champion Bonding. The Anubian Wolves are a wild card – attack them if you must, but Pawn units are better risked on them. The Shaolin Monks come closer to the Deathstalkers’ point value, and taking them out can be of serious tactical advantage if they are well placed – but come at them in a wide pattern so they can’t use Shaolin Assault. The Obsidian Guards need to be caught sleeping due to their high Attack. Gladiatrons are very good to be rid of if you have any small or medium units of your own, but be careful that you eliminate any Blastatrons first. The Nakita Agents can’t harm the Deathstalkers with Engagement Strike, and their Smoke Powder 13 is useless against Maul. They are prime targets for your Deathstalkers!
Some squad units get the green light, mostly due to their high cost. The Krav Maga Agents can’t use Stealth Dodge to avoid a kill. On level ground the Microcorp Agents have an Attack of only 2, Stealth Armor notwithstanding. The Omnicron Snipers may seem threatening with Deadly Shot, but if you can engage them on level ground, their Attack is really only 2. The Einar Imperium is a wonderful target at 140 points a squad. They can hit back hard on their turn with Double Attack, so catch them “sleeping” without order markers if you can, and, as a bonus, if Maul works, Empress Kiova cannot help them, as they never have any defense dice to re-roll in the first place. Maul is a great equalizer for the very high Defense of the Minions of Utgar, the Sentinels of Jandar and the Zettian Guards.
What happens when you run out of small and medium targets? The Deathstalkers have a combat advantage against certain larger units. Those with low Defense and high point cost, such as Braxas, Mimring, and Su-Bak-Na, can be swarmed by Deathstalkers and likely fall before taking enough Deathstalkers out with them to be worth their costs. Grimnak has only an Attack of 2 against them. The following large figures are worth tackling since they have an identical Attack but a lower Defense: Swog Rider, Nerak the Glacian Swog Rider (except when on snow) Me-Burg-Sa whose Paralyzing Stare is useless, Theracus, Templar Cavalry (don’t let them charge), and DŁnd whose Crippling Stare is only sub-reliant. While not all of these are high point units, they are all very often important to your enemy's forces, so risking the Deathstalkers against them is usually worth it. Why, even the Marrden Hounds themselves are worth attacking; just get the first strike to thin out their numbers before they can do the same to you.
Don't forget that when attacking large and huge figures you should take any advantage to Attack that you can get. You can’t Maul anyway, so use height advantage, glyphs, or anything else to roll those extra attack dice.
Finally, after looking at the Deathstalkers’ Defense of 5, their large size immunities, and their Soulborg immunities, you might get the idea to use them passively as glyph holders or to block choke points. Keep in mind, though, that they are Bishops, not Pawns. They should not be squandered the way Deathreavers would, holding glyphs. They should definitely not be used to stand passively against ranged units. The Deathstalkers cost you enough points to draft that you will want to use them offensively. Some risk is fine if you are attacking expensive units, but don’t waste them on tasks better left to the more expendable Deathreavers.
Hounds to the Hunt: Try mixing the Marrden Hounds in with your Deathstalkers. Marro Plague won’t affect the Deathstalkers so movement and positioning is not a problem. They each specialize in taking out different sorts of units: let the Hounds take on the large and huge figures, as well as the cheap squads that will likelier succumb to Marro Plague than to Maul. Go after the small and medium heroes and Soulborg squads with the Deathstalkers.
Units to Avoid:
Cheap Squads with Average Attack
While the Roman Legionnaires, Sacred Band, Tarn Viking Warriors, Warriors of Ashra and similar 50 point squads may seem prime targets for Maul, don’t get tangled up with them. They cost only 12.5 points each, and yet they have a fair chance of overcoming the Deathstalkers’ Defense. Leave them for Pawns.
High Attack / High Defense Large and Huge Heroes: Jotun, Nilfheim and Tor-Kul-Na all have a Defense of 4 with a devastating Attack. While you have a chance at Su-Bak-Na due to his low Defense, you really don’t want to tangle with these titans.
The Majors: Major X17 is vulnerable to Maul, but his Life of 5 and Melee Defense 4 make him difficult to take down otherwise. Improved Cyberclaw stops your Deathstalkers in their tracks. Mainly, you should be concerned that you cannot supplement a successful Maul with any wound from your Attack of 3 against his Defense of 7. Major Q9 and Major Q10 just get too many attacks and are too big to Maul.
Ranged Units Safe on Higher Ground: Your Deathstalkers cannot climb variegated terrain easily due to their double base. If you can get right up to the Airborne Elite, the Krav Maga Agents, or the Omnicron Snipers, then go for it. If you cannot get the Deathstalkers adjacent to them, don’t make them a target.
Samurai and Charos: For an expensive squad with a fairly high Defense, playing with Counter Strike is folly.
Zelrig: Majestic Fires Special Attack is made for high Defense squads like the Deathstalkers. Don’t let Zelrig catch them clustered together. If your Deathstalkers have surrounded a figure, your opponent might have Zelrig make a sacrificial attack against that figure to take out several of your Deathstalkers.
For additional information see the Book of Deathstalkers
Last edited by Malechi : June 5th, 2008 at 02:16 PM. Reason: Changed contact info
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-Ulik, Troll champion, as Thor goes flying across the Troll King's chamber and through a cavern wall.
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|Heroscape Strategy Articles: Heroscape Strategy Articles with discussions. Including Order Markers, Units, Game Play, etc.|