Naaresh, disappointing Master

The post on battle engine have trouble being finished, and still require editing because he have bloated out of proportion. In the meanwhile, I still play warmachine, and I have tried several experiments. One just ended in failure, and it’s that poor Ascetic Master Naaresh.

How it was supposed to work

[Theme] Masters of War

  • Master Ascetic Naaresh [+32]
    • Archidon [10]
    • Archidon [10]
    • Basilisk Krea [7]
    • Rhinodon [12]
    • Titan Gladiator [15]
  • Extoller Soulward [3]
  • Swamp Gobber Chef [1]
  • Legends of Halaak [8]
  • Paingiver Beast Handlers (min) [5]
  • Praetorian Swordsmen (max) [13]
    • Praetorian Swordsman Officer & Standard [4]
  • Praetorian Swordsmen (max) [13]
    • Praetorian Swordsman Officer & Standard [4]
  • Tyrant Commander & Standard Bearer [0(6)]

Trying to play it full beast mostly mean you have a worse Zaadesh ; but Naaresh have Blur, and Swordmen are both notoriously hard to deliver and very good once they are in the fray. And his feat only impact his battlegroup, but two or three POW 20 archidon seem good enough for armor breaking. And with Spiny Growth and Cyclone, he probably can play aggressively.

How it played out

Badly. In particular, I never really delivered more than two swordmen from each units. Naaresh assassinated the Harbinger, but didn’t do much more. The two main problem is that his spell list is too low powered, and his personal prowess are, to say it gently, sparse.

Anatomy of a bad spell list

Unlike a lot of people, I don’t terribly mind having one bad spell or two, since it’s rather the norm, so Bleed don’t tick me off. He have three spells, on paper all interesting : Cyclone, Blur, and Lamentations. In practice, only Cyclone really mattered

Reactive vs proactive

One of the reasons for that is that Blur and Lamentation are reactive spell. In short, proactive abilities are everything that is here to support your plan (Scything Touch, Carnage, Rush, etc …), while reactive abilities are here to throw a wrench to your opponent plan or prevent your one from being countered (Jumpstart, Arcane Vortex, Banishing Ward, …). While being reactive isn’t bad per se, it mean it’s only useful a fraction of the time (since your opponent need to actively use the thing you want to counter), and having too much reactive stuff can easily be a problem. Here, we have more than half of his spell list dedicated not only to counter stuff, which in retrospective should have alarmed me.

Lamentation, or the problem with magic counter

Lamentation is in the grand family of ability that punish warcasters from advancing. In theory, everyone use spells all the time, and mostly everyone have upkeeps. So why isn’t that spell a good generic counter ? Because there is too many way to weasel out of it. It check the caster, and not the point of origin, so channeling is a counter, and most actual spellslinger can channel, as it’s almost mandatory to use offensive spell without dying. Double of free is still free, so anything that pay for upkeep mean Lamentation isn’t gonna do much on it. If the spell create an aura, you can even cast it, then enter the Lamentation zone without problem. It also only work on fury/focus user, meaning it do nothing to most wizard solos.

I don’t mean that Lamentation always suck, just that on half or more match up, it straight up do nothing. It’s particulary brutal against Lightning Strike users, and Horde in general isn’t a super big fan of being Lamented. But it’s a lot more niche than one may believe, and it’s entirely possible to have a string of five games where it’s alway useless.

I am pretty sure that Ravyn have bigger problems than Lamentation right nowThere is also another teeny weeny problem : given that Naaresh threaten assassination at 17” easily, people already have a very strong incentive to not put their caster within 12” of him. It’s tempting fate. On the illustration, the empty base is where Naaresh can Cyclone, meaning that Ravyn is pretty much in charge range despite the obstacle

Blur, too easy to ignore

Blur, meanwhile, suffer from how good accuracy fixing is at a range. That may seem strange since average RAT is a solid point lower than MAT ; but while every list I got had shooting, they also had :

  • purification
  • prey
  • boostable to hit electro-leap
  • blessed
  • Ravyn and Issyria’s feat
  • Blinding Light

None ever had a problem to hit a swordmen under blur and a Krea. And even thoses who were in cover actually died rather often, either because electroleap are autohitting anyway, or because they stacked several rules together. That’s another example of a reactive ability who is too narrow ; while I can get by the idea that stacking Blur and a krea make me safe from, say, Demo Corps bombardier shooting, the amount of list who have shooting who actually care about defense on single wound model isn’t terribly high. Which make the spell a lot worse than it seem.

Naaresh, impotent martial master

The second part of the problem is that Naaresh look like a good beater, but he isn’t actually one. He is a seriously pitiful MAT 7 (for the record, he is supposed to be the ultimate master-under-a-waterfall skorne, who honed his skill for several centuries), which, outside of lore problems, mean that he is quickly hitting on 7+ or 8+ infantry. He don’t exactly have the fury to allow himself to miss that often. At least not given the low amount of support he hand out.

The effort to reward ratio on whipping him is also pretty bad. Anatomical Precision doesn’t let you make only one damage, and spike can be seriously dangerous, in addition to requiring more than a min unit of paingiver for max stacks. That would be fine if the setup lead you to tear apart jacks and casters effortlessly, but it’s far from the case. At POW 16, killing an armor 19 jacks often only barely leave you with one fury to sprint, and killing a caster in two attacks is rather dicey too. It don’t compare well with, say, Morghoul 2, or Kromac 2, or any of the actual heavy hitter casters.

Good points ?

The best part of Naaresh is that Cyclone is an extraordinary spell. Since it’s a full advance, you can use a Tyrant Commander to make it 8” ; that mean you can reposition 8”, then charge the now-visible target, or alternatively charge something close to your target, and use Cyclone to get to your true target, maybe even in its back ! Naaresh is also surprisingly resilient, since he don’t have to pay for its upkeep, regain life, and actually have a decent amount of armor thanks to his special rule. And he have access to Spiny Growth for even better protection. You can also use it as a substitute for sprint if you don’t kill your target, or as a way to move more on turn 1 if so needed.

His feat is also rather good, even with a limited battlegroup. While Skorne is renowned for hitting hard, Archidons and Rhinodons can often have trouble with hard targets. With that feat, they can seriously threaten anything short of a colossal, from a very long distance if needed. So it make it rather easy to defang an opposing list by targeting and killing its heavy hitter, and then you have a bunch of 14/19 and 11/23 beast lodged in the frontline, being hard to kill.


Overall, Naaresh is fun to play, but don’t nearly do enough for a competitive pairing in all of my experience. There might be a chance that I just tried the wrong thing (maybe immortal could work ? Maybe in Disciple of Agony with a dracodile and nihilators ?), but I think the problem are in his design. It is a bit sad, because Cyclone is a near infinite box of trick, especially when you can sprint on top of that !

As for delivering swordmen, I am a lot higher on Jalaam compared to Naaresh right now. I know that a lot of list have way to ignore stealth or cover, but he seem to be significantly more diversified in his way to bring people alive.

Written on August 15, 2018