About a year ago I started using Scrap Thralls. It started as a way to flesh out lists with low model counts, but I quickly discovered just how much the Scraps really have to offer, and at one point I even built a quite successful list which managed to have 41 active scraps on the table (battle reports here).
The kings of premature detonation
We’ll begin by taking a look at their stats, which are horribly low in almost every department, but then what did you except for the cheapest model in the game.
The SPD is lower than almost everything else in Cryx, so don’t expect them to keep up, but that’s alright because their defenses are so low – basically an automatic kill for anything but a Swamp Gobber – that you don’t really want them on the front line anyway.
The MAT & POW are the only interesting stats in their entire block because – while low – they’re not atrociously low, which makes them fair melee combatants for their price, but we’ll get into that later.
For now just accept that anything that targets them can – and will – kill them, while they have trouble killing anything but low defense light infantry (not a lot of those around) without using their special abilities…
… luckily they have some of the most interesting special abilities in the game.
This is what most people notice when they pick up a Scrap, and rightly so because it’s what defines them as models. If a Scrap Thrall is disabled for any reason, at any time, in any place, it will blow up.
This works by centering a four inch AoE on the scrap, and applying a POW 8 blast to any model touched (1.41″ from the scraps base). In order to understand how incredibly unstable they are you have to understand the sequence of a kill in Warmachine, which goes like this.
- Removed from play
Scrap Thralls blow up on disabled which is the very first thing that happens. There are also quite a few abilities in the game which trigger on boxed/removed/destroyed – like General Slaughterborns killing spree – which simply won’t activate because they never get to that part of the sequence.
Scrap Thralls blowing up also do not count as engaged models in case of Unyielding, as they are not there when the damage is applied: Ruling
Going through the entire game and finding every instance in which this has an effect is all but impossible, but remember to peek at your enemies card if he has some ability that triggers from killing a Scrap Thrall, as it often wont work which tends to really screw up whatever plan he had.
Scraps can also blow up on purpose, which is a special attack that CAN be used on a charge. The Scrap Thrall declares that it will Death Burst and rolls to hit. If it hits you center a four inch AoE on the TARGET as our little guy jumps up to hug him before it blows.
I made a special model for my hero Scrap Thrall, which killed an enemy Bane Lord Tartarus and the nearby corporeal Pistol wraith in one explosion, thus earning back it’s points 21 times. That’s the points equivalent of a three point solo taking out the entire enemy list at once.
This damage cannot be boosted (not even by the scrap charging) but since it’s POW 16 it will hurt most things in the game. It will also allow you to touch support models hanging out behind the target with your blast damage (POW 8), so hitting can be desired or undesired – you might hit more models if you miss – because even if you miss you blow up. If you miss the Death Burst attack the Scrap blows up with the 4″ AoE centered on himself.
Now the first thing you will have to learn is keeping your god damn distance to other friendly models. The Scrap Thrall explodes 1.41″ around itself when it dies, and Cryx in general really doesn’t like getting hit with POW 8 blasts, especially because fielding massed scraps can lead to chain reactions if you’re not careful.
Chain reactions can be useful as well. If you can’t quite reach your intended target with a charging scrap thrall you might be able to run one in there instead, and charge something else with a second scrap, which is close enough to blow up the one you ran in there as well.
Practice placing scraps on your kitchen table for a while if you’re finding yourself messing up the placement. The more models you have on the table the easier it becomes to mess this up, but I’ve run them with infantry spam and avoided any incidents so it’s possible.
Scrap Thralls: Tactics & Trickery
Finally we get to the juicy part. It’s quite easy to see how you can use an incredibly cheap model to charge in and explode for great profit, but there are so many more interesting things you can do with them as well. In this section I’ll try and go through them all, but with a model this complicated I’m bound to miss some, so feel free to suggest additional tactics in the comments.
- Holy Hand Grenade
This is one of my favorite moves and thus I will present it first. Your enemy has placed a unit of Kayazy Assassins, Mage Hunter infiltrators, or similar high defense / low armor models just outside the charge range of your warjack, and beyond the running range of the scraps, a conundrum indeed!
What we do is assign 1-2 focus to our warjack, run the scrap thrall in front of the unit and either throw or slam the scrap into them depending on the options available to the jack in question. The scrap will blow up upon impact / landing, and apply blast damage to all the suckers who thought they were safe.
Remember that you add an inch to the distance you throw a small based model if you are large or huge. This distance is only for throws, not for slams.
I’ve had two Slayers wipe out 9/10 members of a Mage Hunter Infiltrator unit using this tactic, and it doesn’t care if they’re a stealth unit either. If you need help with the rules for throwing I can heartily recommend these two articles: Everything you wanted to know about double-handed throws but were afraid to ask Part1 & Part2
- Guided missiles
This is a variant of the HHG in which you double-handed throw a Scrap directly at an annoying solo, and when the scrap impacts you not only get to apply a STR 10+ hit with even odds of killing an average solo, but also a POW 8 blast to finish them off if they survive.
You can boost to hit the scrap, to hit the model you target, and theoretically the damage on the scrap, but not the damage on the target of your throw. I usually assign two focus when going for the guided missile, as we need one to perform the power attack and one to land the scrap on our target.
Throws are actually considered melee attacks, so no amount of cover, concealment, or elevation will add to the models defense unless it would also apply to a melee attack. I will again refer you to Arlahans throwing articles above for a more specific guide on making it happen.
- Delayed blast explosion
The temptation to charge in and Death Burst is great, but sometimes it’s actually better to just run in and threaten free strikes on low armored models. The downside is that you run the risk of missing those free strikes, but the upside is that those models will have to take them, because there are very few ways of moving a scrap thrall away without causing it to blow up in your face (placement effects work).
This tactic takes up the enemies time, screws up his activation sequence, and doesn’t automatically kill your scrap thralls. The following turn your opponent must consider ways of moving the scraps, the odds of losing his model(s) in the process, and if he takes a free strike you have better odds of killing him than you would have had with a POW 8 blast (and your scrap is still active).
If you’re really mean you’ll place several scraps within detonation distance of each other, so if he kills one he unleashes hell upon even more models. This is something that can really waste an opponents clock, as he tries to figure out a way of saving his precious models from the chain reaction of doom.
This tactic also allows you to bind models with a higher armor value, as they can’t just kill the scrap engaging them (as it would start a chain reaction that would blow up his squishier mates down the line), and even single wound infantry with a high armor value can die to a power eight free strike. (or the scrap can simply be blocking a charge lane).
- Grabbing that zone / flag / objective
Despite being some of the most vulnerable models in the game I find them very useful for grabbing points and killing objectives in the late game. First of all they’re worth 1/3 of a point so you’re not dedicating a ten point heavy to standing around just playing with his Johnson, and secondly they’re super annoying to remove with melee attacks because they always blow up and might take out their attacker as well.
Don’t ever expect them to survive the opponents turn, so if you’re counting on scoring during his turn then use something else, but if you’re unlikely to do that anyway just let him kill the scoring scrap and run in a new one the following turn. You can score three points that way and your opponent still only killed a point worth of models. Finally they love charging objectives, as Death Burst deals five damage on average and they automatically hit.
- Want me to hold that for you?
If your caster has Parasite and either a Skarlock with nothing better to do, or a free upkeep you don’t need for anything else, then having a Parasited scrap running around down behind the lines is a free point of armor for your warcaster. It’s not like -3 armor is going to matter if someone shoots the scrap anyway…
- I volunteer!
We have a few casters that need to nuke their own models, and you’ll find room for scraps with Goreshade2 and Skarre1, but we also have a bunch of really inaccurate blasts that love themselves some fire beacons. Run that scrap into the middle of an enemy formation and plant some blasts on his head, or use one to aim venoms at spell warded models (his models are more expensive than yours, I guarantee it).
The Sepulcher will also love the ability to land a Critical Paralysis on a scrap thrall even when rolling low on his main gun because he happened to be aiming at a scrap with it’s back turned, not to mention how much fun it’ll be to guide in the five inch corrosion templates we’ll have when Mobius arrives with his Bloat Thrall posse. The volunteer aspect of scraps should never be underestimated.
What does it all mean?
It means that for 1-3 points you’ll get the ability to cause chaos, wipe out a bunch of light infantry (like budget Bile Thralls), score points, kill annoying solos, cause the enemy activation sequence issues and headaches, while forcing him to spend a lot of attacks killing your annoying little fucks.
It means that you can damage jacks, beasts, and even heavy infantry if you roll well enough, and if you don’t you might just kill some squishy models nearby, or simply lose a model worth close to nothing in the process. Scrap Thralls are all about the potential for destruction, and making your opponent overreact to that potential is great fun.
- Asphyxious1: Absolutely essential for his theme force, and budget Bile Thralls in regular lists.
- Asphyxious2: Nah
- Asphyxious3: Nah
- Deneghra1: Epic fun when combined with The Withering
- Deneghra2: Nah
- Deneghra3: Excellent when combined with Mortality, and for Helldiver slams.
- Goreshade1: Cheap fillers are great for him.
- Goreshade2: Essential for every build.
- Goreshade3: Nah
- Mortenebra: Essential for her theme force
- Scaverous: Fun with telekinesis for blowing up in interesting places.
- Skarre1: Great ritual fodder, and quite good in the late game for various things like sacrifice.
- Skarre2: Cheap fillers are great for her.
- Sturgis: Nah
- Terminus: Yes (see below)
- Venethrax: Nah
- Witch Coven: Cheap fillers / Budget Biles are great for them.
As you can see the scraps are good or great with 10 / 17 casters which is pretty darn good, and to be honest you can never really go wrong with them in a list because besides being good they’re insanely amusing, requires little to no support, and always find something to do… even if it’s just soaking a bullet for a model twice or three times their cost.
Terminus with Scrap Thralls: As Husum indirectly points out in the comments (he is my turn sequence oracle) you can actually choose to apply Shadows of Death – or ignore it – with Scrap Thralls in his CMD range. If you want to blow up you activate the Thrall Bomb ability first (when the model becomes disabled) and blow up, but if you don’t want to blow you activate Tough first, and the disabled condition vanishes before detonation.
A final warning
A lot of the things you can do with your scraps can be duplicated by your enemy. If you overextend them he can throw / slam them back at you, use them to land templates with ease, or cause a chain reaction on friendly models if your placement is poor. If your opponent needs to kill something to activate an ability a scrap is an easy target, though remember than a LOT of those abilities don’t actually activate because the scrap blows up on disabled.