We're proud to cast raise dead on the popular Commander's Notebook series! We've chosen a team of four talented warband builders, and each will get the chance to challenge his compatriots to build their best warband around a particular miniature or theme.
Bear in mind that what you're reading is not a primer on how to win tournaments. It's an intellectual puzzle in which the contributors may not always be given the best material to work with. The challenge is to make the most of the starting conditions.
This week's topic was chosen by Jason Lioi.
The Mercenary Sergeant is clearly designed to be a solid secondary commander. He's Willing to Follow other commanders and, while his command effect provides a welcome boost to a warband's attack ratings, it only functions for followers under command by another commander. It's typical, then, to find the Mercenary Sergeant filling the role of a backup commander, where his contribution is overshadowed by a more powerful (and more expensive) primary commander.
This week, we give ol' Sarge his own day in the sun without making him share the limelight with any of those uppity, higher-priced commanders. Of course, to make his command effect useful, he needs some help from a fellow grunt -- a second Mercenary Sergeant.
This is my challenge to the rest of the panel -- Create a warband using two or more Mercenary Sergeants without any other commanders. Now sound off like you've got a pair (of Mercenaries!)
Mercenary Sergeant x2 (46 pts)
Justice Archon x2 (64 pts)
Skullclan Hunter x2 (72 pts)
Standardbearer (10 pts)
Protectar (7 pts)
Total = 199 pts, 8 activations
For me, the key to using the Mercenary Sergeants was finding creatures that played to their strengths and weaknesses. Speed 4 means you can't rely on speed to keep everyone under command by both Sergeants. That requires creatures that work well in a tight group. Low commander ratings mean you need creatures that have good saves and don't rely on winning initiative. Finally, the Mercenary Sergeants' commander effect is most beneficial to creatures that need a little extra 'oomph' to hit consistently. These requirements all scream Lawful Good, especially the Justice Archon. The Standardbearer helps ensure the benefits of the commander effect even if one of the mercs goes down, and Countersong benefits tight-knit warbands. He and the Protectar can cure minor damage from ranged attacks as the band slowly advances, while the Protectar adds a third flanker for the hard-hitting Skullclans.
Mercenary Sergeant x2 (46 pts)
Slayer of Domiel x2 (92 pts)
Justice Archon (32 pts)
Xorn (24 pts)
Man-at-Arms x2 (6 pts)
Total = 200 pts, 8 activations
To maximize the benefit of the Mercenary Sergeant's commander effect, I looked for followers that were already reasonable in melee but that could use a slight boost to their melee attack bonuses. I also looked for followers who wouldn't suffer too much from the Mercenary Sergeant's low commander rating. The Slayer of Domiel meets both criteria. Her high Level (Save) means she won't fail many morale saves, and she needs some help in the attack bonus department in order to make the most of her Marked Target ability. A pair of Slayers ups the odds of making a potentially game-winning kill. This puts pressure on your opponent to eliminate them quickly, which means the Mercs might stay safe for a while -- you need both Mercs for your followers to benefit from the commander effect. I added the flying Justice Archon and the burrowing Xorn to help set up flank and sneak attacks for the Slayers. Burrow is fantastic; it lets a creature move with impunity, and it can't be nerfed by legion's undeniable gravity. A pair of Men-at-Arms bring the warband up to the requisite eight activations. Even though this warband doesn't feature a Couatl, it is surprisingly resistant to energy damage. The Slayers have Evade Damage, and the Xorn has plenty of energy protection.
Mercenary Sergeant x2 (46 pts)
Chraal x4 (140 pts)
Vargouille (12 pts)
Total = 198 points, 7 activations
Matching four Chraals to one weak commander usually makes for a brittle warband -- when the commander dies, all Chraals tied to that commander are immediately removed without Deathbursts, because they require a commander. One strategy would be to split the Chraals and place two on each commander, but that still means that when one commander is killed, the game is basically over. And two commanders are harder to protect than one.
Alternatively, with almost the entire warband linked to one commander, the goal becomes to protect him at all costs. This is not as hard as it initially seems because there are many corridors, corners, and other restricted spots that allow two Chraals to surround the commander, especially if the other commander is nearby to cover any holes. The trick then becomes positioning the two bodyguard Chraals so that they protect their commander while still being able to use their breath weapons effectively. The answer is to have one move up and breathe on the enemy, immediately followed by a frontline Chraal breathing on the enemy and then retreating to the recently vacated spot to protect the commander. On the next pair of activations, the two remaining Chraals repeat the drill.
Because the Chraals are elementals, they are immune to paralysis. The Vargouille's paralyzing shriek can potentially provide the kick to make this warband very deadly. With a range of 6 and no LOS required, the Vargouille can paralyze opposing creatures while hiding behind a wall of Chraals. The Vargouille can even move near one of your own commanders and risk paralyzing him. The Mercenary Sergeant has a two-thirds chance to recover per activation even if he is paralyzed, and if you've protected him properly, no one should be swinging against him anyway.
It's critical to remember, however, that when those last two bodyguard Chraals are about to die, the commander must hustle out of there. A pair of Chraal Deathbursts will make him very unhappy. Happily, Chraals are immune to critical hits, so calculating the moments of their deaths is not as random as it might seem.
About the Authors
Jason Lioi is the 2005 D&D Miniatures champion. Bill Baldwin is a regular contributor to the website via his Art of Warbands articles. Guy Fullerton is well known as "the rules guy" on the miniatures forums, and Michael Derry is a Wizards delegate, tournament organizer, and D&D Miniatures judge.