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Cardiology: Soothing Companion

Decision: Should You Play Soothing Companion?

TL;DR:

Most decks won't benefit from including Soothing Companion.  However, a few niche roles may see some real use from this card.  If you're playing Katophrane Tomes out of Mollog's Mob, Ylthari's Guardians, Thorns of the Briar Queen, Zarbag's Gitz, or any of the resurrect/summon warbands, it may be worth trying.  It won't blow your hair back like Upper Hand/Ready for Action, but you could find that it's subtle utility makes it well worth including.

Factor: The Changing Meta


Let's be honest, when the Grymwatch was released, we all pretty much dismissed Soothing Companion.  And who could blame us, with gems like Larval Lance, Survival Instincts, and Trophy Belt in the same pack?  But recent tournament results may have changed things a bit.

Of the top four decks at the Southern California Open, 3 played Supremacy or a Supremacy-equivalent objective (In the Name of the King, for example).  Similar results can be seen at the much larger Warhammer World Grand Clash, though the information available at this time is a bit spotty.  So far, the 1st, 3rd, 6th, 10th, and 15th place decks have been made publicly available on UnderworldsDB. Of those decks, all but the 10th place decks played Supremacy, Path to Victory, or both; and even the 10th place deck played Focal Formation.  So what does all this mean?

The vast majority of the best decks at these tournaments (including the winners of both) planned on spending activations doing things other than attacking.  While it's certainly possible to line up lucky attacks when moving to claim an objective, planning to regularly do so is a bad idea - as evidenced by the fact that only the Thundrik's decks were also playing Keep Chopping.  And in a meta where you regularly do things other than attack, Soothing Companion may need to be re-evaluated.

Hold-Objective is back in the mix!

Factor: Fighter Choice



Author's Note: The next bit gets a little wordy. If you want to go directly to the meat, feel free to skip the purple paragraphs.

We've been pretty lavish with our praise for GW lately, so it's well past time that we get back to making enemies (still no reply from the marketing department on featuring new product early here - weird). Instead of putting out warbands that are just obviously better versions of old ones (Grymwatch/Despoilers, we're looking at you) we'd really like to see GW work in a bit more specialization ofin the models within warbands.

In essence, fighters tend to fall into two broad categories: Dads and Danglebros. Dads like Stormsire (Stormdad), Thundrik (Gundad), and The Briar Queen (Girldad) do the bulk of the work for your warband. They have a variety of solid attacks, good defenses, and high wound counts. On the opposite side of the spectrum we have Danglebros like Grawl, Garrod Alensen, and Narvia/Turosh. These models tend to serve largely as filler/Calculated Risk takers. They have low wound counts, poor attacks, and poor defenses. Wouldn't it be nice to see more fighters that aren't total trash, but also aren't double-defense-die wizards with machine guns?

One way that GW could include more interesting variations within warbands would be to specialize models to do particular things. It has had some success with this in the past, particularly with Ylthari's Guardians. While there is still some inevitable stratification in raw power within the Guardians warband, each fighter is defined more by what they do well than by whether or not they do anything very well at all.

However, far more often, GW fumbles when they try to introduce task specialization. The Godsworn Hunt, Eyes of the Nine, and Despoilers all tried to introduce pretty significant levels of task-specialization within their warbands. All of these warbands included a variety of attack types/ranges/strengths, varied defense stats, and interesting abilites. Unfortunately, with rare exceptions, the distribution of these specialized stats was applied haphazardly, and resulted in a bunch of fighters who just weren't very good at anything.

You may be asking yourself at this point - what does any of this have to do with Soothing Companion?  Well, it's those successfully specialized models that can really benefit from upgrading with Companion.

Models that have easily repeatable non-attack actions obviously benefit more from Soothing Companion than those that don't.  Currently, the following fighters have non-reaction, non-attack actions on their fighter cards:
  • The Sepulchral Warden
  • Skritch Spiteclaw
  • Ammis Dawnguard
  • Rastus the Charmed
  • Varclav the Cruel
  • Drizgit da Squig Herder
  • Snirk Sourtongue (inspired)
  • Vortemis the All Seeing
  • Korsh the Sneak
  • Karthaen Huntcaller
  • Duke Crakmarrow
  • Widow Caitha (inspired)
  • Mollog (sort of)
All of these fighters present extra options to take actions during their activation that aren't attacks - but not all of them actually allow you to do so more often.  For example, Korsh, Drizgit, and Caitha all gain move tokens when they use their ability, putting them at the same number of total actions in a round that don't include an attack (move and guard) as everyone else.  Similarly, many of the other fighters are limited in the number of times per round they can activate their ability - either by rules text or by situational requirements.  Without a clear ruling on using resurrection/summon abilities without legal targets, some of the examples above are also in a bit of legal limbo.  So for clear winners, we're really left with Varclav, Snirk, and Mollog.

Another class of fighters that would benefit from Soothing Companion would be those that are likely to move-then-attack rather than charging.  This would include models with particularly devastating attacks that you want to use more than once, those with ranged attacks, and  those with exceptional defensive capabilities.  Good examples would be Mollog, Thundrik, and Gallanghan (who also benefits from the healing provided).  Everyone else is going to need some help to get the most use out of Companion, which leads us to our next section...

Factor: AdJUNKts


So far we've been focusing almost entirely on the relative difficulty of activating Soothing Companion.  But why would we bother?  Let's look at what it can actually do for you.

Obviously, it can provide you with a bit of extra toughness on models who take a wound or two.  It can inspire the Guardians, even if they aren't hurt.  It can make Mollog even more annoying.  Beyond those basic uses, we'll really have to include some other cards in order to make the most of Companion.

Guardians and Thorns can score glory off Companion, with Lithe Spirits and Treacherous Foe respectively.  Charmed Life, Preserve Life, and Glade's Last Hope can all also be facilitated by Companion, though none of these objectives are particularly good to begin with.  You could theoretically also use Companion to mitigate the damage done to your own fighters by cards like Spirit Sacrifice or Possessed Weapon, though - again - these aren't great cards in the first place.

One area where Soothing Companion maygenuinely shine is in Katophrane Tome decks.  Here, Companion really plays on its synergies.  Not only can it help keep your book reader alive, the Tomes themselves provide a variety of opportunities to trigger Companion's healing.  Of the 8 available tomes, five grant actions to the upgraded fighter - all of which become significantly more appealing when they also allow you to heal your tome-wielder.  Tome of Healing, in particular, could make a high wound fighter almost unsinkable when used in conjunction with Companion. 

Summary: 

So how can we put this all together?  In order to make the best use of Soothing Companion, we would want:
  • One or more models who can activate it's ability multiple times
  • Access to cards that feed off/facilitate its use
  • A reason to repeatedly heal the same fighter
That really leaves us with some clear beneficiaries, all of which can be tuned pretty easily to become Katophrane Tome hoarders as well:
  • Mollog
  • Varclav
  • Gallanghan (and to a lesser degree, the other trees)
  • Skritch/Warden/Crakmarrow/Vortemis
  • Snirk
If you're considering playing one of these warbands as a Katophrane Tome Deck, you may want to give Soothing Companion a run and see if it works out for you.
 

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