Oct 162015
 

conquestlogo

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these (Ba’ar Zul the Hate-Bound, back in July), but I thought it was time to write another.  Rather than covering one of the warlords that have been previewed since Ba’ar Zul (Gorzod, Subject Omega and Chaplain Mavros), I decided to go with the latest one; Commander Starblaze. This is the second warlord previewed that breaks the alliance wheel (Gorzod being the first spoiled) and it’s this kind of mechanic that gets the deckbuilder side of me thinking about the possibilities.  Anyway, on with the preview!

commander-starblaze

This warlord is a 2/6 with seven cards and seven resources.  So, average cards and resources as well as mediocre stats.  Not very impressive so far, but onto his abilities.

Commander Starblaze allows you to include common (non-loyal) Astra Militarum cards in your deck, but you cannot include cards from another non-Tau faction.  This means that you can use things like Catachan Outpost and Elysian Assault Team, at the cost of not being able to use cards from Space Marines or Eldar. This ability obviously opens up a lot of new deckbuilding options, which I will go through below, but not before discussing Starblaze’s next ability.

When Commander Starblaze commits to a planet you may move an Astra Militarum unit you control from an adjacent planet to this planet.  Since this ability specifically references Astra Militarum units, you are probably going to be wanting to play a decent number of them in your deck in order to get the most out of this ability. Luckily, there are some good choices.

There are several circumstances where you might want to use this ability:

  • To rescue a unit from an unfavourable battle (by moving it to this one).
  • To help win a command struggle (yes I know that warlords win command struggles, but this example would be to help you win one when their warlord is also committing there).
  • To gain an additional unit at this planet to help support your warlord in battle.
  • To move a unit into a better position for future turns.

What this ability boils down to is a limited form of mobile, which since the Astra Militarum currently has no access to, might make for some interesting situations.

kroot

This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Common Astra Militarum Cards

Since there is an Astra Militarum warlord (Broderick Worr) in the same pack as Commander Starblaze (Decree of Ruin), we can assume that there will be no more Astra Militarum cards released until at least pack two of the Planetfall cycle (Boundless Hate).  This means that we currently have twenty-one cards to choose from.  I’m now going to do a quick look at those cards and make some snap judgements and rate them from 1-5 depending on their suitability/usefulness in a Starblaze deck.

Assault Valkyrie: a 4/4 flying unit for four resources is not a bad deal.  In a Starblaze deck it fulfils a similar function that Wildrider Squadron would do in another Tau deck.  However, the similar lack of ability to have attachments and the relatively high cost makes me think that this may not be worthwhile.  2/5

Catachan Outpost: a fantastic support that is sometimes on its own considered good enough to ally with Astra Militarum for.  Although the +2 attack will happily boost any unit, I’ve found that this works best in a warlord-hunting deck.  Commander Starblaze has the potential to be built for the hunt, with cards like this, Ion Rifle, Ambush Platform, Staging Grounds and the ‘warlord groupies’ (Tallarn Raiders and Bork’an Recruits). Definitely worth running at 2-3 copies.  5/5

Dozer Blade: this is a pretty mediocre attachment that sees very limited play at the moment.  The warlord that it would be arguably useful for, Gorzod, cannot use it.  Not worth it.  1/5

Elysian Assault Team: these guys are a fantastic unit as long as you are playing a decent number of soldiers and/or warriors.  Starblaze’s signature unit, Ardent Auxiliaries, are a soldier/warrior and so are eleven other Tau units (although some of them are of questionable usefulness).  Combined with the soldiers present in the Astra Militarum means that you will have plenty of opportunity to use their ability.  5/5

Holy Fusillade: I’m fairly dubious about this card in Astra Militarum anyway, and they have access to three ranged units and Preemptive Barrage.  Starblaze could include two of those three units in his deck, along with Tau’s own ranged units, but I just don’t think it’s any good.  Only a foolish opponent would not prioritise your ranged units, which means that you are unlikely to get any use out of this.  You might argue that by attacking your ranged units they work as a lightning rod for attacks, but you usually pay a premium for ranged so it’ll probably hurt you in the long run.  2/5

Hostile Environment Gear: +3 HP for one resource isn’t actually too bad (although the recent Tyranid attachment, Regeneration, blows it out of the water).  I’ve used this in Ork decks in the past, but it definitely makes the attached unit a target for any removal that your opponent might have (Archon’s Terror and the like).  However, on something like Fire Warrior Elite it could be incredibly frustrating for your opponent.  3/5

Infantry Conscripts: back in the core set meta I was quite fond of these for a time, but as expansions were released my interest dropped rapidly.  To get much use out of them you need to have 3+ support cards in play and I’m not sure how often that will actually happen.  1/5

Iron Guard Recruits: a solid command unit; two icons for two resources is a great deal.  Combined with Tau’s other two command units (Recon Drone and Vash’ya Trailblazer) you would have a solid command phase.  Definite inclusion, probably at three copies.  5/5

Mordian Hellhound: another one that is probably going to see some use in a Gorzod deck, but very unlikely to in Starblaze.  It cannot have Gun Drones attached so there’s no possibility for Area Effect stacking here. 2/5

Muster the Guard: although you are likely to be including many Astra Militarum units in a Starblaze deck, this card barely sees any play currently due to the high cost of exhausting your warlord.  I don’t see it being useful enough to justify any slots in a Starblaze deck.  1/5

Mystic Warden: this guy is a pretty solid fighting unit for the low low cost of zero resources.  The forced reaction is a bit of a downer, but its cost-to-stats ratio is great.  Definitely worthy of consideration, but will be competing for deck slots with several other zero command units.  3/5

Noble Deed: this card may see play once Anxious Infantry Platoon (Broderick Worr’s signature unit) and Vanguard Soldiers (AM loyal unit preview in card fan for Deadly Salvage) are released, due to the three attack value of those units, but until then this will probably stay in people’s binders.  1/5

Penal Legionnaire: I’ve never really liked this unit.  I think that in nearly every circumstance Mystic Warden would be a better choice.  1/5

Ratling Deadeye: cheap ranged unit.  Obvious comparison has to be made to Vior’la Marksman, against whom this seems somewhat lacking.  However, in a Starblaze deck, the ability to move ranged units around might be helpful as part of a hunt strategy.  Worth considering.  3/5

Sanctioned Psyker: another two-cost, two-command unit out of Astra Militarum.  Like with Iron Guard Recruits, this unit would be useful as part of a command-heavy deck.  Definite include.  5/5

Shrieking Basilisk: I pretty much hate this card.  Basilisks in the 40k tabletop game were always cheap artillery tanks that packed a punch but couldn’t take a hit back.  This is expensive, durable, and has an ability of dubious quality.  Avoid.  1/5

Staging Ground: this is a fantastic support card that will definitely find a place in a Starblaze deck. Starblaze’s signature unit costs two and so does Bork’an Recruits (but then so does all of the Astra Militarum signature units and Evil Sunz Warbiker).  With Starblaze’s ability and one or more of these in play, your opponent will never really be too sure about how many units are going to be at any given planet.  5/5

Stalwart Ogryn: the usefulness of this card depends on your level of paranoia about things like Archon’s Terror or Tzeentch’s Firestorm.  Its stats are mediocre, which makes it something of a tech choice.  2/5

Steel Legion Chimera: this unit works best with non-vehicle units, and barring Experimental Devilfish, you are unlikely to be considering using many vehicles in your Starblaze deck.  I really like this unit and it will be helpful in protecting your other units.  With Starblaze’s ability you will be able to drag this around to where you need it.  4/5

Suppressive Fire: this is great for exhausting big scary units, particularly ones with Area Effect.  Even with the increased number of ways that units can be readied I think that this is still an excellent bit of control.  5/5

Tallarn Raiders: a ‘warlord groupie’, and the cheapest one at that.  With Starblaze’s ability you can drag it around with him, ensuring that you get the +2 attack.  Its cost of one resource will mean that you will probably want to include some copies of this.  4/5

tauig

Guardsman: “We’ve got this great technology called bayonets.  Swap for Pulse Rifles?”

So that’s currently all the Astra Militarum common cards.  I think that there are several great ones for a Starblaze deck (actually, they’re great in general), but I encourage you to experiment with cards yourself.  The ratings I have given the cards above are based on my own experience playing with Astra Militarum cards so far.  I’m eager to give Commander Starblaze a try to see how wrong I am!  Anyway, on with the signature squad.

ardent-auxiliaries

These are a two-cost, one-command, soldier unit with 2 attack and 2 HP.  Its ability allows you to ready them whenever they commit to a planet with a friendly Astra Militarum unit there.  Since you can choose the order in which you resolve reactions, you could use Starblaze’s ability to pull an Astra Militarum unit to that planet, then ready this unit.  Not only would they now be ready to fight, they’d also contribute their command icon.

So, what circumstances might cause you to use this ability?  First off, whenever they have been at the first planet last turn.  Also, whenever they have retreated from a battle.  Despite their mediocre stats, their ability to be ready whenever they commit (well, pretty much whenever) bumps their usefulness.

Having just looked at the Astra Militarum common cards, we can see that their cost of two (Staging Ground) and soldier trait (Elysian Assault Team) is actually relevant.

The way I see this unit being used is primarily as first planet fodder.  They certainly aren’t amongst the most powerful signature units, but they aren’t the worst.

bond-of-brotherhood

Ok, be honest, how many of you read that as band of brothers when reading this card for the first time? Anyway, for two resources this event will give all of your Tau units +2 HP and all of your Astra Militarum units +2 attack until the end of the phase at targeted planet.

To me, this sounds really powerful.  Comparisons have to be made to cards like Battle Cry and Empower. Both of those events cost one more resource (but have an extra shield icon) and also enhance units of a specific faction. However, unlike those events, this one will definitely enhance all of your units at a planet, as those other two only enhance their primary faction and not their allied one.

How good this event will be for you will really depend on your deck composition.  The extra HP will really help units like Experimental Devilfish and Bork’an Recruits (two heavy-hitters), as well as allowing Fire Warrior Elite to be even more of a damage sponge.  The +2 attack for Astra Militarum units will turn even your meek command cappers (such as Sanctioned Psyker and Iron Guard Recruits) into worthwhile fighting units, as well as boosting your two attack units (Elysian Assault Team for example) into heavy-hitters.

This is a card that will win you battles.  Personally, I would rank this quite high among the signature event cards.

starblazes-outpost

Situated on Tatooine, sorry, Sacaellum, this support card is two-cost and allows you to exhaust it to return an Astra Militarum unit you control at a planet to your hand and switch it with an equal or lower cost Tau unit from your hand.

This card is amazing!  Your opponent has sent their warlord to snipe your Sanctioned Psyker?  Let them exhaust their warlord to attack your psyker, then swap it out with something like Bork’an Recruits and hit them for four.

Another example; your Steel Legion Chimera has been taking a beating (as it should).  Swap it out for a Carnivore Pack.  It may die during that battle, which would give you the three resources to play the Steel Legion Chimera again next turn.

That’s a couple of plausible examples, and in my opinion they are powerful effects.  However, this is a signature support which means only one copy per deck.  You certainly cannot base a strategy around it, but when it’s in play you’re going to have a good time.

searing-burst-cannon

For one resource, this can attach to any unit and makes that unit deal double damage if no shield card is used during the attack.  Since it says any unit, it means that you can attach it to Starblaze himself.

My first thought was that this seems amazing.  Double damage on any unit, including your warlord?  Woohoo!

Then I started thinking about it a bit more.  Your opponent gets to decide when this ability will go off as they can simply throw down a shield card.  This will turn four damage (from a two attack unit such as your warlord) into one damage; a fairly big difference.

More pondering ensued.  If your opponent has to constantly shield against your burst cannon attacks, they may not have enough shields for other attacks.

After all that, I’d say that this was an average signature attachment.  I’ll probably end up attaching it to Starblaze himself and see how it goes.

taubattlesuit

“I think they may have lied about the effectiveness of this green paint.”

In addition to rating cards, people also like decklists, so here’s my first draft of a Commander Starblaze deck:

Commander Starblaze w/AM
Units (31) Events (11) Attachments (3)
4 x Ardent Auxiliaries 2 x Bond of Brotherhood 1 x Searing Burst Cannon
3 x Bork’an Recruits 3 x Deception 2 x Ion Rifle
2 x Carnivore Pack 3 x Even the Odds
2 x Crisis Battle Guard 3 x Suppressive Fire
3 x Elysian Assault Team
2 x Gun Drones Support (5)
3 x Iron Guard Recruits 1 x Starblaze’s Outpost
3 x Recon Drone 2 x Catachan Outpost
3 x Sanctioned Psyker 2 x Staging Ground
3 x Steel Legion Chimera
3 x Tallarn Raiders

 

For command it has three different units that cost two or less and have two command icons.  It also have two units that cost one resource or less.

I think it has a decent selection of fighting units; Bork’an Recruits, Carnivore Pack and Crisis Battle Guard being the cream of the crop.  The deck has several ways of enhancing your units in combat; Gun Drones, Bond of Brotherhood, Ion Rifle and Catachan Outpost.  As well as the surprise effects of Elysian Assault Team and Staging Ground.

For a bit of control it’s got Suppressive Fire and Deception (I really like Deception in this deck.  Bounce a unit of theirs then commit Starblaze and drag an Astra Militarum unit to that planet.  Suddenly, the odds are in your favour.).

The great thing about Conquest is that opinions on decklists vary wildly.  There will be some of you out there that think this list is total rubbish, and that’s fantastic!  As soon as this game becomes ‘solved’ is when it also becomes boring.

Summary

Overall I think Commander Starblaze is going to be a really fun warlord to use.  He opens up a whole new bunch of options which makes the deckbuilder side of me excited.  From a thematic point of view it’s also great that FFG are exploring the human element of the Tau Empire, something which the tabletop version never really did very well.

Personally I love using Commander Shadowsun but really dislike Aun’shi, so I’m happy to have another Tau warlord on the roster that I actually want to use.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the article.  Please feel free to disagree with everything I’ve said in the comments section below.

Cheers,

Whingewood

  2 Responses to “Looking Ahead: Commander Starblaze”

  1. Great and thorough article! Quick writer’s note, when assigning possessive to an article like “it”, you usually write “its”. “It’s” means “it is”. You did it a bunch so figured it wasn’t just a typo.

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