Living without Primal: Theory

Next game will be my 20th game with Circle, and while I was told that the learning curve of this faction was steep I completely underestimated how much it would take to climb this particular mountain.

I usually pick up something, watch it automatically warp into powerful setups, and then go beat veterans over the head with it… but not with Circle. I could hide behind the fact that I had no experience with running beasts, or that the Fury mechanic confused me on so many levels, but I don’t think that’s why I had so much trouble.

I think I had so much trouble with Circle because I listened to the wrong people, and when I stopped doing that things changed. Before the Danish Masters I had lost six games and won five with Circle. During the Masters I won two with Kromac and lost two with pKrueger, taking me to eight games lost and seven games won.

Since then I haven’t lost a game and I’m now at eleven wins and eight losses, and while I’ve got no doubt that I’ll be losing more games with Circle than I ever did with Cryx, I finally feel I know why I had such a hard time.

Almost everything written about playing Circle is wrong. It’s a kick in the balls but I firmly believe it to be true, and when I began listening to Skillt I turned a new leaf. Then I found another man called PRKL (some Finnish guy on the Privateer Press forums) that was worth listening to, and combining their advice I’ve come to some conclusions.

I built my Kromac list on Skillts and I’m currently at 6-0 with my own version of it, and I’ve just constructed my pKrueger list based on PRKL and his eKrueger experiments, though none of my lists are much like theirs anymore.

I still only have one game with the new pKrueger list, but fielding it felt like jumping of a moped and directly on to a Boss Hoss going 200 mph on the highway weaving in and out of traffic.

PRKL had me wondering when I first discovered his lists because the Gorax was missing, and at the time I decided he was crazy because everyone and their grandmothers kept praising it and the Animus it’s strapped to.

Why I think Primal is a trap

Reading through his progress reports I noticed something interesting: He wasn’t trading pieces like I did. I kept running into problems in my games where I needed to use Primal to kill something reliably, and then my opponent would completely ignore my frenzying heavy and kill something else instead, often leaving me two heavies short and unable to retaliate.

Primal also takes up the Animus spot on my heavies which is huge in some battles, and especially annoying when I’m already down a heavy. I was happy with Primal when going in for assassinations, but I kept feeling like it was holding me back until that time came, and having four points standing around and several beasts frenzying often made sure the time never came.

I didn’t really listen to myself and trusted in Internet wisdom, which of course was a mistake. Thankfully I recently remembered PRKL’s thread and read it again, now with a special attention to how he did without the Gorax. It turned out that PRKL wins a LOT of games against high-end opponents without it, and though he was using eKrueger and not pKrueger the basic concept remains the same.

I don’t think I need a Gorax, since I hate effectively losing my 9-10 pt heavy for frenzying.
– PRKL

It’s a simple way of describing a very complex interaction, but having a beast frenzy automatically has a lot more impact on a game than I initially thought. In the interest of keeping this simple, I will state that putting Primal on something is effectively the same thing as committing suicide with that model and something else it could have saved.

A more accurate term would be kamikaze, which during the second world war was a name used for Japanese pilots flying bombs with wings into ships, usually killing themselves and hopefully the ship in the process.

Kamikaze is a solid trade only if the piece used in the attack is worth significantly less than the piece destroyed, and in the case of Circle Orboros we’re trading pieces of equal or higher worth which is almost certainly a losing strategy.

In addition to trading pieces of equal or higher worth we also face the problem of ‘threat’. When you put Primal on a beast and send it in you spend it’s threat for the following turn as well, because your opponent knows with certainty that it will frenzy and there’s no way of preventing it (so far). That means an opponent can ignore it completely by feeding it a single model, line up what he needs to kill it the following turn, and then go about destroying the rest of your army.

When you put these things together you end up with this: In order for Primal to be worth it you need to kill something that is ‘at least’ twice as important as the pieces you trade for it. Important is not always measured in points costs, and if Primal will allows you to win by assassination or scenario where you couldn’t without Primal then of course it’s important enough, so what’s the problem?

Living without Primal

The problem is that Primal is often used to allow one heavy to kill another, and if you agree with what I’ve just written that’s a losing trade. You end up losing the heavy and probably something else because of the way Primal affects the game, but what if you sent in two heavies in the first place?

  • We charge in a heavy, reducing the target to about 25% of it’s initial boxes. If we had used Primal the target would be dead.
  • We charge in a second heavy with Lightning Strike, kill the target and retreat out of range of retaliation.

Now what happens is that our first heavy most likely dies, and how is this better than before? It’s better than before because you chose which heavy he’s going to kill because it still has a lot of threat if he doesn’t, it’s better because you have a better shot at choosing what he needs to use to kill your heavy and that keeps those models away from other heavies, and it’s a lot better if the dice intervene and your heavy survives or he rolls poorly and needs to dedicate additional resources.

If you stay way from Primal you get more control of your game, and even though a kill takes more resources to achieve you lose less resources in the process which evens it out in the long run. This is what I felt in the first game I had without the Gorax and a lot of things suddenly clicked into place.

But what about Colossals?

Colossals don’t usually die to one heavy with Primal anyway, unless the caster has a secondary way of increasing damage and brings in Ghetorix, a Feral, or a Stalker or stripps the defensive spells on the Colossal first. With Primal we could send in Ghetorix to do the job, kill the Colossal, and lose Ghetorix afterwards.

We could also send in Ghetorix without Primal, and then send in a Stalker to finish the job and Sprint away. This forces an opponent to go all in on Ghetorix or face him the following round as well, and if he has an ARM buff he might even make it out alive or drain a mountain of resources before going down (I had him survive a Bomber, an Earthborne, an Impaler, Jarl Skuld, a Fellcaller, and Skaldi Bonehammer all going to town on him on the same round, and he even survived it).

If Ghetorix had Primal an opponent could ignore him for a round while feeding him a model, then line up a pile of guns and some upkeep removal, before stripping his ARM buff and gunning him down like a dog. Colossals are big targets but two Warpwolves will bring them down if you get rid of defensive spells and abilities, even without Primal.

Upkeep removal

Playing without a Gorax makes some sort of upkeep removal very important since there’s no way you can get an Arcane Shielded Stormwall down without Primal if you don’t have a secondary damage buff. If you have Curse of Shadows or something else to add damage, then y0u can take them down without Primal or Upkeep removal, but if you don’t (like pKrueger) then upkeep removal should be considered mandatory.

What now!?

Now I have to see if this theory holds true. I only have one game with it but that game was heaven compared to my other games with pKrueger, so let’s hope it stays that way. On the other hand it could all turn out to be a mirage but if that happens I can always put the Gorax back in the list and begin working on a new cause for my problems.

Either way I’ll keep working on it and writing about it, and if it turns out I’ve found the solution (well stolen and adapted it) then hooray, and if not you can all get to do the ‘I told you so’ dance.

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9 Responses »

  1. This all looks solid. I’ll show this to all our circle players and hope that they can “see the light” ;)

  2. Sounds very simple and promising to me as well :) I’m looking into something similar with the gators. They have nothing above POW 17, no upkeep removal and no debuffs (unless your playing Calaban). I don’t have that much experience with them yet, but it seems that you have to consider alternatives to take out enemy heavies.

    The simple way would be to charge in a couple of Wrastlers (or a Wrastler and Snapjaw) and kill the heavy, but then you have 18 points standing close to each other ready to be taken out unless you can shield them in some way, since gator war beasts have no way of retreating afterwards :)

    Then there’s throwing a warjack into a swamp pit (if your playing Barnabas) or hitting it with a Thrullg or getting it out of its controllers control area. These are all good ideas, but so far I have found them to be a bit hard to accomplish. I’ve even had a Spitter weapon lock the axe of B09 to keep him busy, as I had already lost my Wrastler in that game, so I had no realistic way of actually killing him :)

    All this is not even considering colossals. I have no good ideas yet on how to handle them, but I suppose a unit of gatormen could keep one busy for some time if I can manage to put pressure on the rest of my opponents army.

    I think I’ll just have to try out a lot of different stuff to learn what’s the best approach to such a problem. Hopefully I will start seeing different opportunities as I get more experienced with them :)

    • Actually they do have upkeep removal in the Thrullg and Calaban has Hex Blast. How could I forget that? /:

      • But still with upkeep removal it’s hard to take a ARM 20 jack down using POW 17 :)

        • Calaban solves all of their major problems (Arc Nodes, Upkeep Removal, debuffs, and keeping their caster safe) and a Wrastler will take down most things with the help of Parasite.

          I never had anything great to say about Barnabas, but Maelok seems interesting in a crazy grinding sort of way. On his feat turn most heavies won’t even take down a single Posse member (ARM 24, 8 boxes, and Tough) and paired with Calaban it should be a pretty good SR setup.

          I think Calaban is a fine ‘take all comers’ casters, and the Swamp Horror makes him viable against infantry.

          • Indeed Calaban makes it possible to crack the higher ARM targets and eventually I will start playing him. Right now my focus is Barnabas, as he is pretty simple to play. I think I’ll go for at least 10 games played with him in 50 points before I start playing Maelok or Calaban (I think it will be Maelok next).

            I find Maelok interesting as well. He has a very solid feat and with Revive you can start to do some trickery with posse members charging important stuff. Also the fact that models under his feat become incorporeal is pretty neat, and should give you the tools to fuck up your opponents next turn quite a bit :)

            I haven’t tried the Swamp Horror yet, but it seems kinda meh. It’s SPD of 4 makes it not hit combat before turn 3 I would think. It might be worth trying out, and as I haven’t tried it yet, it should have the benefit of the doubt.

  3. Circle cant play piece exchange well IMO its why they have a lot of movement shenanigans like sprint as far as I know here in the US even guys like Will Pagani don’t piece exchange. I am not a Circle guy but I assumed Fury was a lot easier than Focus and honestly after playing it I can say it isn’t losing a beast early can tilt you quickly.

    • Yeah, I have a whole new perspective on fighting Hordes lists after trying it myself. The funny thing here is, that Circle players usually love Primal, Primal forces them into not only piece trades but bad piece trades, completely countering the main strengths of Circle in general.

      I still see him in a lot of lists, just not all of them :)

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