I enjoyed writing the Harbinger article so much that I’ve decided to do one on the most annoying caster in the game: Major ‘Pain in the ass’ Haley. Despite the judgment of Internet Wisdom eHaley isn’t the most powerful caster in the game, but she’s a top tier caster and certainly one of the most annoying of them all to play against.
As before the obvious place to begin is by checking up on what Cygnar players are reading. Battlecollege and Ben Risloves article are probably the two most obvious places to look. Battlecollege articles define many newer players so knowing how they think is valuable, and Ben’s article is one of the most up to date write-ups I can find though it’s very short.
I’ve gotten to know eHaley during the training for the ETC but she breaks a lot of rules and they’re hard to remember. The thing I’ve found to work for me when playing against her is to assume that everything she does is one step better than it should be. If I think it’s an 3″ AoE then it’s an 4″ AoE, if I think it’s 8″ range then it’s a 10″ range, and if I think some rule will stop her from messing everything up it won’t. Once you acknowledge that everything she does is better than it’s supposed to be you can get down to actually fighting her.
Major Victoria Haley
The woman is a pain to fight because she bends all the rules without sacrificing anything to do it. Her lists usually focus on winning on assassination and scenario which is a good thing because that means she does poorly if you can turn the game into a grind-fest by avoiding a loss for long enough.
These tools are what allows eHaley to completely dominate a game, and if you allow her to dominate you’ll feel like you might as well have left your list at home because she’s playing it anyway. If you can avoid being dominated and losing key pieces you’ll get more and more control of the game until finally she’s got nowhere to run and nothing to harm you with.
The Transmutation issue
Transmutation is the act of turning one thing into another and with eHaley it goes both ways. She can turn her own models into gods and your models into a steaming pile of offal. Then as a little bonus she can steal your tricks and add them to her arsenal.
- Dead Eye (Buff): Forget about Satyxis Raiders living through a hail of bullets because when an eHaley list is shooting at them they’ll be hit on average dice without aiming. This completely negates one of our best units and makes it seriously unlikely that your single wound infantry will make it across the table unless you brought a swarm of them. in addition the B13 and Gun Mages like hanging out with eHaley and you can kiss your stealth/incorporeal models goodbye as well (hooray!)
- Temporal Acceleration (Buff): Two additional inches of movement and an extra attack (thank god she can only cast that once per round). This turns Warjacks, Colossals, and Battle Engines into god killing crazies and it’s not an upkeep spell so it stacks with all the other craziness if needed.
- Telekinesis: There’s so much she can do with Telekinesis, and simply adding 2″ of threat to something is the least of it. She can also pull your models forward which adds another 2″ to her threat range, and turn them around to give her models back strike bonus to hit. More on Telekinesis later.
- Warjack Bond (buff): The bonded Warjack gains +2 movement if it activates within her 18″ control are. This stacks with Temporal Acceleration, and of course eHaley has Telekinesis so you’re looking at +6 movement allowing her main heavy hitter to out-threat Satyxis Raiders!!!
It’s a real bother getting a handle on all these things and my buddy Kris has had assassination attempts go off with eHaley just over three minutes into a game by bonding Thorn, so the first place to look when you see an eHaley list on the table: which model is bonded?
- Bonded Thorn: Look out for spell assassinations, Time Bombs on key models that won’t cost him Thorn because he can move out of range with Reaction drive, and remember that Thorn can Arc spells while engaged. If Thorn is bonded then he moves to the absolute top of the hit-list, and you can spend 20+ points killing him and still be ahead in the game. With a bonded Thorn eHaley can hit you from 31″ away and remember that Arlan can give it evasive so it can ignore free strikes as well. Do NOT leave yourself vulnerable. This option will normally only be used against vulnerable casters so if you brought a tank the bond will most likely be on the Stormclad or Colossal instead.
- Bonded Stormclad: Melee assassination coming up from 16″ away, with additional Focus, Temporal Acceleration, and probably a little something extra on your caster if she can find a way. This thing is deadly to almost any caster and even Terminus with a couple of souls is going down if this thing gets to him. It also plays attrition fairly well when used with her feat to avoid major retaliation, and then you’ve got that thing rampaging through your lines and all you can do is sacrifice enough models to keep it from your caster a round. A few players assign this to the Sword Knights to gain Pronto, but I don’t fear it as much with two Focus as I do with four, even if it has an additional 5″ threat (putting it into Molik Karn like threat ranges).
- Bonded Stormwall: I haven’t been up against this yet but I think it will play more like an attrition piece which is scary because it gives eHaley the power to be a trinity caster (Assassination, Attrition, and Scenario). Temporal Acceleration and access to more Focus makes it a beast to deal with, and greatly increased movement allows it to make use of the many power attacks that the slower Colossals will rarely get to use. In addition her feat will block retaliation against it and that’s god damn scary to say the least.
Then of course she has an equal amount of abilities that make life hard for your models as well. This is what really makes her a problem and what makes her so incredible annoying to face.
- Temporal Shift (aura, FEAT): Enemy model/units inside Haley’s control area must activate before those outside. Haley’s controller gets to choose the order in which the models inside her control area activate. Finally, all models inside Haley’s control area must forfeit either their movement or their action (their choice). This is another bullshit feat and I’ll dedicate an entire section to talking about it later, but for now it means that she can neuter any melee army for a round, and severely inconvenience a ranged army. Then as I said she always has that little bit extra because of course she has a spell to mostly neuter ranged armies as well.
- Deceleration (aura): +2 Armor and Defense against shooting to her entire army (huge control area), combined with her feat which makes it impossible to aim and shoot unless the model/unit is outside of her control area, means that your ranged army will do almost as poorly as a melee list. Almost as poorly is a key difference as we’ll talk about later, and ranged armies are a lot more viable against eHaley in general.
- Time Bomb (spell): Turns your models into horny toads! Well not really but a speed debuff means no charging and a defense debuff means that her army will hit your high defense without boosting and Cryx does not like that one bit. It’s also an AoE 4 which means she can use to clear up infantry in a pinch.
- Replication (ability/spell): If a Warcaster spends Focus to cast an offensive spell within her control area it magically appears on her spell list the following turn. This is cheater ability like few others and sometimes you accidentally give her something you seriously shouldn’t have. How would you like eHaley with Crippling Grasp, Parasite, Breath of Corruption, Scourge, Marked for Death, Feast of Worms, Black Spot (this one makes me pee myself), or maybe Perdition?
- Domination (spell): Don’t block lanes to your caster with non-character jacks, as they will wander away and you’ll die.
- Telekinesis (spell): Don’t block lanes with character jacks either, as she’ll move them and you’ll die.
I hope you’ve gotten the idea by now. Her models will turn into gods, while your models wont do much, and if you manage to line up to do something she has so much control that she’ll just stop you.
The Control issue
If you’re not constantly one step ahead of her you will probably lose because her feat (Temporal Shift) is one of the most powerful feats in the game. This feat shuts down a melee army completely and severely hampers a ranged army. This feat will cause you to lose almost instantly unless you’ve prepared the battlefield and no matter how you much you try this feat means fighting an uphill battle every time.
Enemy model/units inside Haley’s control area must activate before those outside. Haley’s controller gets to choose the order in which the models inside her control area activate. Finally, all models inside Haley’s control area must forfeit either their movement or their action (their choice).
This means that as Menoth your Warjacks will activate before the Choir, as Cryx your caster will activate before the Arc Nodes or the Arc Nodes will activate before everything else so they’re stuck behind whatever models where shielding them. As Hordes players all your Fury management will activate before your Warbeasts, and you better pray you don’t have any important activation sequences in general because they won’t be available on that turn. This is a crazy feat but wait, rule number one, there’s more!
Most of your models (because her control area is huge) will end up having to sacrifice either move or action to the feat as well, which means that a melee army is stuck doing nothing but walking around trying to grab a better position unless they were already engaged which is very unlikely. Ranged models get to attack but cannot aim and most eHaley lists have a lot of defense 14+, and with Deceleration most models you can reliably hurt suddenly become impossible to hurt with defense 16+ and high armor.
Facing eHaley means dealing with this clusterfuck of a round without breaking your back, but we’ll get back to that because she’s got more tricks up her pole dancing sleeves. Telekinesis has a ridiculous amount of applications. I’m just saying it so you won’t be surprised, and there’s no possible way I can describe every way this spell can ruin you, but here’s five completely obvious applications that will wreck your day.
- Additional threat: Casting a simple spell will increase the threat range of any model with two inches. This can be applied on the target as well, allowing a combined four inch increase in threat. When combined with her Warjack Bond and all her other spells it becomes truly silly at times.
- Rescue & Retrieval: Telekinesis requires no attack roll against friendly models, so if she needs something pulled out of melee she’ll just apply Telekinesis. This can also allow her to freely gun down a model that was hiding in melee.
- The Merry-Go-Round: Turning models around can really mess up your plans by removing your options for a charge, removing your initial attacks, and making you pay for a Trample in order to reach anything. In addition it’s a lot easier hitting someone who’s looking the other way, and they don’t benefit from shields either.
- The unwilling assistant: A dastardly use, which involves moving your models into positions that benefit her.
- The Control area boogie: A little poke is all it takes, if your Warjacks/Warbeasts are loitering at the edge of your control area. Suddenly you’re unable to assign Focus or leech Fury, and you have useless or frenzied heavies to deal with as well.
Those are just a few of the more obvious applications of the spell, and the list continues. This spell makes it incredibly difficult to tie her down and she’s got no trouble hitting models engaged in melee with her high FOC and rerolls from the Squire. Telekinesis and Temporal Shift combined with long ranged firepower and the ability to apply spells or heavies to your face from a mile away makes it incredibly difficult to pry a skilled eHaley player out from behind her forces.
Dealing with the Transmutation issue
You really can’t deal with this because most of her tools are not upkeep spells. If you’re a debuff caster you can attempt to equal the playing field but be very careful that you don’t accidentally hand her another tool in the process, because you really don’t want to hand her another control or transmutation tool with Replication. If you have enough buffs on your side you can also return to something that is more or less status quo, but only if you have ranged models because there’s no real way to circumvent the loss of an action with melee pieces.
The way to deal with the Transmutation issue is to remove the targets for the transmutation. If there’s no Stormclad then there’s no godlike Stormclad either, and losing her heavy hitter can be a real blow on many fronts, and allow you some room to maneuver with your own heavies as her lists typically wont hit very hard after the one big bruiser goes down. The real problem is getting to the heavy of course and in order to do that you have to deal with the control issue first.
Dealing with the Control issue
This is what makes or breaks a game against eHaley and once you break her control you can remove the models she needs to screw you with transmutation and you’re home free. Dealing with the control issue takes some serious brain power because you very rarely succeed with the first solution to the problem.
- Force her to feat defensively. If you can manage this you’ve probably won the game already but it’s a once in a blue moon thing and requires some incredibly specific lists. The only way to do this is to be player one and fast enough that you can line up to completely annihilate her if she moves up, while having the ability to take on an entire rounds worth of firepower without breaking. An example of someone who might be able to do this is eKaya from Circle with Advanced Deployment heavies that all have stealth, and she has the ability to pull all her heavies out of harms way when the feat lands.
This isn’t doable as Cryx at the moment since Dead Eye Gun Mages easily counter our single wound infantry options here, but maybe when the Bane Riders arrive a full cavalry list with pDeneghra could do it. Since this is stupidly difficult I’ll focus on the only way I see of consistently winning against eHaley despite what you bring to the table.
- Grinding the £#€%¤ down. The thing about eHaley is that she’s nothing without her troops. If you can keep yourself alive and avoid losing on scenario you are actually winning. It’s a bit like playing against the Harbinger (pushing her ability to save her troops) except with eHaley it’s not about killing them but getting to them. If you can keep pushing until she cannot keep you away any longer then she’s in deep trouble and her army will collapse, and the key to doing that is to preserve your forces.
The first obviously useful trait here is survivability. If she cannot reliably kill you or your forces then she’ll lose ground slowly until you either force her hand or win on scenario. The second is a ranged element that can eliminate some of the more dangerous elements of her list. The third is a spell or feat that can counter some of her control or at least even the playing field a bit. The point of these articles is to avoid becoming specific in the models needed and instead focus on tactics, but many casters have feats that can help with countering Temporal Shift and it’s important to understand that you need to use those feats to counter hers, because the one who feats first there usually loses and that’s a FANTASTIC asset against her.
In Cryx we have pDeneghra, eDeneghra, and possibly Witch Coven with counter feats. When eHaley feats your army does nothing but hers won’t inflict heavy casualties on yours because she will be using that turn to line up the devastating punch and remove problematic models with ranged attacks. If you can feat right back at her and eliminate the round of heavy casualties you’ll be in excellent shape. If you feat first you’ll allow her to retain a powerful weapon if she manages to survive intact, and usually she will because she’s the queen of keeping you away.
Time bombs, Telekinesis, screens, long ranged fire power and all her tricks will allow her to defend without counter-feating unless you’re a genius when it comes to placement, and then you’re royally screwed. In order for this to work you CANNOT have anything blocking your casters advance because eHaley will make you activate your caster first and prevent you from counter-feating with your own models (remember Telekinesis and the unwilling assistant, and make sure she can’t simply move a model in there and lock you down).
Several casters have feats that can be used like this, and most of them happen to be powerful choices within their factions, so if you have a counter-feat caster available then give him/her some real consideration when choosing your list for the game. If you don’t have a counter-feat caster available then it’s time to bring out the big guns.
AND THERE WAS A FIREFIGHT!
When Temporal Shift hits you, a unit of ranged models will make life a lot easier on you, and if you have models that can hit a barn door without aiming it would be even better (because they have to hit high Cygnar defenses). These models should be up front and ready for Temporal Shift, but remember not to bunch up or the Time Bombs will wipe you out. These guys will also be hit very very hard before she feats and it won’t work unless they survive (naturally) which is why I usually try and screen them with something. This is problematic to say the least but practice makes perfect here, and having guns is a great answer to eHaley.
In case you have enough guns to make it hurt then go for the models she’s lining up to deliver the sucker punch the following round. The more of those models you can kill the better, and whatever isn’t killed should be tied up the best you can. If you have movement debuffs then put them on, keep Gorman safe back behind the lines outside of her feat range so he can neutralize the big hitter if it moves up, and use whatever resources you have to tie her army down and prevent it from wrecking you. If you can manage to avoid breaking on her feat round you’ve come very far and the game is in your hands. Cryx and Circle usually don’t have the luxury of bringing enough ranged attacks to the table to bring home the bacon with guns, and melee armies in general have some serious issues with eHaley.
Surviving the Shift
The only thing a dedicated melee list can do is to hunker down and take what she has to offer, then get back up and keep moving. This is a bad situation to be in but not completely hopeless. Some lists have the raw survivability to simply power through and I’ve done just that a couple of times with Terminus. I don’t play Trollbloods or Khador but some of the builds floating around could probably tank her reliably, and if you can then you win. eHaley has one round to soften you up and one round to break you, and if you make it through you’ve got her (fluke dice and silly mistakes could still cost you the game of course).
So what do you do if you have no real ranged presence, no counter-feat, and you cannot withstand her onslaught without breaking: You lose. Unlike the Harbinger there’s no way to outplay eHaley (or none that I’ve found) and if you cannot counter, neuter, or tank that round of doom and destruction then you’re done. You won’t get a “lucky shot” at eHaley if the player is worth anything, and keeping his distance is usually no problem at all for her.
Surviving her feat round is the key to beating eHaley, but sadly there’s no recipe for doing that. Surviving her feat is about looking at what you have, looking at what she has, and deciding on where to go from there. If you have ranged models it’s a question about positioning, scenario, which caster you have, terrain, and how the game is going at the time. If you have a counter-feat you’ll have to decide if you want to try shutting her down or if going for her heavy hitters using your feat is an option. If you have neither then maybe the terrain can save you. If terrain isn’t your Saviour either then maybe it’s time to bring out the hail mary attempts and so on and so forth.
The only thing that’s really important when facing eHaley is to never allow her to dictate the game. Running your 20 point Colossal at her face and forcing her to spend her entire army killing it might be preferable to losing nothing but playing her game, but that’s up to you to decide in the situation. The one thing I can say with absolute certainty is, that all games against eHaley are looooong and boring because you never get an easy opportunity to end it quickly.
I’m not sure I got around everything that is “eHaley” so feel free to ask questions and I’ll work them into the article if I can. I find her extremely fluid and confusing to get a handle on, but I’m winning most of my games against her with Cryx so I must be doing something right.