Unless you've been living under a rock, if you're a Warmachine player you know the entire game is about to get shaken up by the Oblivion theme remixes plus a Dynamic Update addressing faction balance is dropping in about a week or so.
We've had a whole ton of spoilers the last two weeks and I've been on a forced break from the game for some time due to work and family life, but I should be clear to start playing again coincidentally around when Oblivion will be dropping.
Since I've got a lot more time to think and listen to podcasts about the game than I have time to get out and play, I figure I'd put my thoughts down to help others pass the time as we all wait for the big release.
I've been playing this game since around 2004 or 2005, waaaaay back in MK1. I've played a lot of factions over the years, but right now I have the following: Legion, Trolls, and Convergence. I'm not 100% sure what I'm going to play post-Oblivion, though currently I'm leaning heavily towards Convergence as that's what I've been playing the last few months as I can squeeze games in here and there.
I will talk about how each one is shaping up with the spoilers we've got thus far and my feelings about how each is shaping up.
We've actually got all four themes for Legion spoiled and the development team has stated that they spent the most amount of time fixing Legion's highly segregated themes. I'm of the opinion that most of Warmachine and Hordes power disparity is a function of how much time the very talented dev team gets to spend on any given faction, so Legion getting a lot of the focus for this re-balance is probably going to help them a ton.
They were on the top of the meta for a while when they got a load of attention for Primal Terrors about 1.5 years ago, but they've slowly whittled down. I never played many Ogrun beyond Warspears in MK2 and I played one game of Anamag and while fun it wasn't going to last given how much I'd end up wanting to buy (2x Chosen, 2x Rotwings, and a whole lot of Incubi). Primal Terrors was great because it allowed Hellmouths and the new Ogrun stuff was solid. Oracles used to be the dominant theme, but it has waned somewhat. It at least allowed all beast options, the amazing Battle Engine, but was limited in units. Often you'd see Children of the Dragon played with Thagrosh1 since you could end up with the Legion Super Friends of Character beasts (Typhon, Zurel, and Azreal) and basically no other Nephilim beasts since Nephilim beasts are kinda bad. At least there you could take other Nyss units which were somewhat decent (Raptors). Finally there was Ravens of War which allowed Hellmouths but restricted you to only flying warbeasts which was just rough.
Now all themes allow all non-Character beasts and the otherwise awesome characters are available in other places. With the requisition system you can now play Legion as beast heavy again and still get your free solos, enabling the kind of lists I liked playing in MK2 when I primarily played the faction.
Legion Pro's: Most of what I have is painted and I love the way they look. Themes are wide open and Hellmouths are really insane to play with. Given what I own there does seem to be a good amount of variety in what I could play without requiring a lot of purchases to get there.
Legion Con's: I still will need to buy some new models to play the themes I'd want. While things are certainly better, playing old beast heavy lists appears like it's going to be kind of rough in the current meta since Legion non-Character beasts are still kind of pillow fisted and are still REALLY expensive. Carniveans are awesome beasts, but at 18 points it's hard to justify vs. what you see in warjacks getting played (13-15 point heavies) or in Grymkin (again 13-15 point heavies) that will trade up into Legion beasts. You're also stuck wanting a lot of support beasts to make your other expensive heavies really shine: Naga's and Seraphs aren't that cheap.
What I'm Excited About In Legion: I'd want to play Ravens of War with Hellmouths and put Strider Deathstalkers on the table again, probably with some Raptors. Oracles looks great to use my nicely painted up Throne of Everblight and while I don't like many of the Legion units, I can take as many of the Minions units I want to screen my beasts and do work. I can even see some fun times with Vayl1 in Children of the Dragon sort of like what was played in MK2. There is definitely stuff to explore here, and if I make purchases (Neraphs, Grotesques) there are some really crazy value lists that can be done with casters that may push the trading game in my favor.
I played Trolls for a most of my time in MK3, though I was much bigger into them in MK2. We only have spoilers for Kriel Company and Power of Dhunia so far, and community reaction to them has been fairly underwhelming, especially compared to how great Legion has been on their themes.
Personally, I love what was done in Kriel Company, allowing all beasts to be taken means you can play with Maulers to make your shooting beasts into melee threats again. That's a big deal IMO as many of my MK3 lists were based around a Bomber + Mauler battlegroup and it always performed very well for me.
The downside in Kriel Company is that it doesn't appear the Dynamic Update is fixing much of anything with the Troll shooting units, which are all just underwhelming for their points. Highwaymen are a beautiful unit, but at Range 8 on their guns, for a shooting-only unit, is just...sad. Grim2 could do some work with them, maybe Gunny or a few other casters but from what I found out is that other factions can shoot you before you get to shoot them and Troll shooting units are at best DEF 13 ARM 16 under the stone. That's not very hard to kill with guns.
The biggest winners in Kriel Company are the Battle Engines. The War Wagon is bonkers and the Hooch Hauler may have some synergies to help unlock some lists. I can certainly see playing with Battlegroup heavy lists and Battle Engines in Kriel Company going forward, with maybe a few casters supporting some ranged units to do some other work. The theme also grants Marked Target to solos, which can really be interesting given how many sprays we can take in theme and how many Whelps can be fit into lists.
Power of Dhunia looks the same as it was frankly. but now with 8 point Runeshaper units and Dhunia Archons can be taken in theme which can really help with fury management with Shepherds Call (remove 1 fury point from each beast within 3").
Currently I'm hoping that the next round of Dynamic Updates hits the Troll ranged units, and we have some hope for really cool Riot Quest solos in the Pyg Tanks and Boomhowler2. Heck with Boomhowler1's unit becoming Partisan Trolls, they may show up in more lists if they see a points drop and/or a RAT buff.
Storm in the North and Band of Heroes haven't been spoiled yet, though we do know that Rok is in Storm in the North, which means Doomshaper2 can play in that theme and get access to PacMan'ing Rok and not have to worry about meeting free points quotas with the new system.
Troll Pro's: Personally, I own a crap ton of Trolls, nearly the entire faction due to picking up bits for cheap as other players left the faction. Currently Trolls aren't seeing much play, but I think they have a lot more going for them than people are currently letting on. With the potential RAT buffs from Marked Target in Kriel Company, plus what can be done with Dhunia Archon's, I can see possibly playing Ragnor with an army of gun based lights that can be made to hit like heavies with Rage and Pulverizer. You can get Ice Trolls thrown weapons upwards of PS19 or 20 and fit the fury management to really go all out.
Troll Con's: Unfortunately Trolls suffer from having to play a Mauler and our best ranged beast, the Bomber, is 19 points. Things are just kind of expensive in the faction and we lack native or easy access to Pathfinder on our beasts, and in general Troll lists need a lot of support. On a personal note, while I have a lot of Trolls, not nearly as much of it is painted and what I was painting I was trying to get up to a high standard. The models don't lend themselves to painting up quickly either which hurts my motivation. It's just not clear Trolls will be particularly strong after the update AND if I swapped to playing them again it'd be a lot of hobby time to get them painted.
What I'm Excited About In Trolls: I am weirdly drawn to a bunch of casters in the faction that are considered just bad: Grissel1 with War Wagons look like it can be just insane. Horgle2 can finally take the mix of beasts and infantry to play the kind of list he'd want. I already mentioned Ragnor1 and using lights to shoot things and then trade up massively due to stacking strength buffs. Grim2 could possibly do the same thing and even support infantry, ditto for Gunny. None of it may end up being particularly meta defining, but it sure looks fun as hell.
With only two themes in faction and one of them spoiled already, it's odd that I'm left looking at CoC as the faction poised to come out of this update possibly the strongest of what I own.
Destruction Initiative's changes were reacted to fairly negatively by the community, though I don't share their opinion. We lost 2" of extra deployment and the Requisition changes mean that we will not be casually getting 4 sets of 3 servitors easily for free. Nearly every DI list I've run has had 12 shield guards and I'd be lying if I said that Attunement and Elimination servitors haven't won me games via flare on a caster or doing that last point of damage to a heavy in a zone.
That said, being able to take 3x ADO's for a requisition slot and taking an Optifex Directive unit for another slot is also great. I can pay the equivalent points for more servitors if I want, or I can downgrade "useful" servitors to Accretion servitors, where I can spend 6 points to get 9 shield guards that can also do repair. As it is, I'm ambivalent about the changes, mostly because the requisition changes mean that unless I'm playing casters who want to run TEP's, I may not want to be playing in DI as much anymore.
My hopes and dreams are riding on Clockwork Legion. Being able to play battlegroup heavy lists with a small screen of possibly recurring infantry seems strong. At a minimum, if I'm not running TEP's and can live without the shield guards, being able to take Frustrum Locus's dispel guns to supplement our usual jack based lists appears to be a great option. Given that what I think could be the biggest factor for us has yet to be spoiled, there is a massive amount of potential or let down here.
Privateer Press has said that the Dynamic Update was mainly to look at factions that didn't go through CID in MK3, and Convergence is one of those factions that didn't really get a proper CID. As such we may finally see fixes to our units, and points drops on our heavy vectors, and at least we'll most certainly see points drops on our Colossal's which will really help out.
The main thing that scares me is that since PP also announced that CoC was going to be the next big set of new releases once all of Oblivion's massive amount of new models gets out, it may mean that they're saving working on the faction when that CID comes around in upwards of 4 months. Conversely, some of the worst performing units in the game are in Convergence, so there is some hope we get tweaks to help out.
There are worries and potential for the theme to be big. We're almost certainly losing advanced move, and one of the theme benefits they have to keep is making Enigma Foundries FA: 4 so that the list can actually function. Keeping vengeance on our medium based units can be a big deal, especially if they fix said units. They're so close to possibly being good in a few builds. If we get a new release that hands out pathfinder, the theme will REALLY open up to infantry being usable besides just Aurora and Axis, with maybe Lucant.
CoC Pro's: All of the potential changes mentioned above is probably too much to hope for in this update cycle, but any combination of those changes could really make the faction strong and if recurring infantry is able to make it to the table and work - things really would look up for CoC. The Void Archon will also really help the list in terms of hitting power and infantry clearing. I also own basically the entire faction thanks to trading away the last vestiges of my GW mini's from almost over a decade ago and since they paint up so fast, I have about 85% of the faction fully painted already. That's a huge boon for wanting to keep going with the faction I'm currently most excited to put on the table as is.
CoC Con's: If Clockwork Legions gets minimal updates and next to no points drops on our heavies, the faction is probably going to continue to struggle. I've played into Circle and Skorne at a recent Steamroller and...it is not pretty. Both factions seem to oddly be getting buffs in some of their spoiled themes, so if not enough changes Convergence could be stuck having uphill battles into a lot of the current meta.
What I'm Excited About In CoC: The Void Archon alone opens up the faction a lot in either theme, bringing Dark Shroud to the faction and a really strong spray. Conservators can possibly really shine here bringing shield guards for Enigma Foundries and with a Void Archon to buff damage we could be looking at 12 Point high MAT PS19 heavies to trade up with. Aurora may actually end up playable with some of these changes. Lucant certainly will like having them around, and Axis will love having a persistent damage buff to go out when necessary. I have this weird desire to play Syntherion and the requisition options for him only make his list better (he wants ADO's real bad), and points drops on the Axiom or Conflux will help those lists as well. At worst in a few months CoC is getting a whole new slew of releases and that will be amazing!
Regardless of which way I go with what to play, I love what PP is doing with the game. It's been hard enough not being able to play in the current meta, and I'm really lucky that my schedule opens up in August and September to get games again with this incredible set of changes. Each day at work it's always fun to hit refresh at random breaks throughout the day to see what new things have been spoiled. Now I'm just stuck waiting around for the Clockwork Legions Insider we were told is coming to drop...