This article was originally written by Mutton from the Privateer Press Forums. He has given me permission to post this here in an attempt to assist the loyal champions of Cygnar. This article is a part of Boot Camp MKII.
Epic Stryker is a bit of an odd warcaster, but a very powerful one. He plays absolutely nothing like his Prime counterpart, and is extremely competitive in the right hands. His gameplan is fairly flexible, able to alphastrike an enemy army to win through attrition or pull off an assassination run from 17” unaided! He’s a blast to play, but a bit difficult to start out with, so bear with him for a few games.
First glance at eStryker’s stats only real shows one outstanding aspect of his stats; his 16/16 DEF/ARM, which tend to keep him quite safe from everything short of boosted rolls or Combined attacks. His MAT isn’t very impressive at 7 for a melee assassin, but more on that later. Overall, you can’t run him as close to the front lives as Terminus or Butcher, but he works right on your second wave if you want.
Weapons, Abilities, and Feat
Epic Stryker comes with seemingly average weapons; a PS15 reach sword and RNG10 POW12 ROF2 Magnus. Both cause disruption on hit. So nothing special at first. But reading further down his card, you’ll notice a little bonus called Overload. The ability to roll up to 3 dice to add to your STR and then roll that same number to take damage makes him able to one shot just about any warcaster this side of Karchev on the Charge! Just be warned; don’t roll three dice once you’ve been hurt at all unless it’s all or nothing and you’re against a hard target, as Stryker can and will blow himself up. If you’re undamaged, you can generally roll three dice, but if you have plenty of focus to spare buying and boosting don’t be afraid to roll less. I’ll have a nice little section on this at the end
Epic Stryker’s bond, giving a free die on the first melee attack roll each activation, is a real winner. Put this on a Stormclad or Rowdy to ensure you hit; with Rowdy it will help ensure the Critical Knockdown as well. The Elite Cadre with Stormblades for Advance Move isn’t amazing, but it helps you get down the field faster, especially for an early feat if you go second.
Your feat is an interesting animal due to how it doesn’t help him assassinate that well, rather serving as a tool of attrition to help either get the first strike or weed out stranglers. There will be games where you can pull off the assassination run without using the feat, and others where you’ll simply sit back and buff your army, using the feat to steamroll the enemy. Don’t be afraid to pop it early to strike a decisive blow at your opponent; running everyone in then feating for a 13.5” threat on Stormblades to the 15.5” threat of Precursor Knights is quite handy. Also, you can keep focus on yourself and your warjacks to boost these rolls; on an assassination run against a soft, high DEF target it is often to save one focus for boosting the feat attack roll rather than buying with an overload attack if the target has a low enough ARM. The same goes for Warjacks if they would have trouble hitting.. Remember that only abilities that last a turn or a round work under the feat; this means you can abuse Positive Charge but not Overload or the Precursor Knight’s minifeat
Deflection: Quite a useful ability; if you don’t expect a melee strike, casting this is as good as camping focus against everything but blessed weapons. It pushes your Stormnouns to the breaking point for POW10s, Precursors to ARM20 in shieldwall, and Sword Knights to ARM18. A unit with Arcane Shield on it also goes up to ARM20, which is quite nice for surviving Winterguard. It also makes all but the squishiest of models gain near immunity to blast damage. If you are really worried about blast damage and not direct fire, feel free to stack this with Arcane Shield on your gunmages to push them to ARM16 and thus over the curve for even Mortar fire. If you are facing any sort of blasts or ranged fire at POW12 or less, cast it.
Lightning Storm: This will be your least cast spell on Epic Stryker; POW10s are nice, but it’s only really useful for picking off the odd solos that insists on standing next to an easy target. If you are worried about non-reach models engaging your Stormnouns or Warjacks though, feel free to cast it on them to give them a plate of POW10 death. It’s too costly to use without any real purpose in mind though, and Epic Stryker doesn’t have much focus to fling aronud. A rare, but still somewhat useful spell in the right circumstances.
Positive Charge: The best spell on the list (yes, even better than Rebuke on Epic Stryker), it is what allows you to sit back and kill the enemy army without having to angle for an assassination run every turn. A +2/+2 to melee attack and damage rolls to everyone within reach of a warjack? How can you say no to that?! A Stormclad under PC will basically be the Avatar of Storms, hitting at MAT9 and PS21, while Stormblades go to MAT9 PS17 and Stormguard to MAT9 POW14. This is also one of the few reasons to take Swordknights, as a flanked, Positive Charged attack from one is MAT10 PS12 with 4 dice. The spell does not have to be cast on a model in your battlegroup, so if you’re having them marshal something feel free to use it as a Positive Charge rod. This is the first reason you always bring an arc node with Epic Stryker, so you can cast PC from across the table to assist on a flank. More on using this spell later.
Rebuke: Another wonderful spell that synergies perfectly with Stormnouns. Now, I often see the complaint that you can’t get your Stormblades to charge the enemy; they’re too slow with too little a threat. Cygnar doesn’t speed them up against enemy infantry; oh no. We slow them to a crawl, ensuring that we can get the first strike with our charges (something that generally doesn’t happen outside of Haley lists). This is the second reason you bring an arc node with Epic Stryker, just be sure not to attempt and spam the spell, as you’ll often have to boost to hit, even with the Squire reroll.
Velocity: This spell is useful in two ways. The first is on the assassination run, giving Epic Stryker a 17” threat with no outside assistance. You can charge a model, then velocity around it to get to your real target. The second reason is for hit and runs; you can operate Epic Stryker himself as a scalpel, killing Warjacks or important models that have breached your lines before velociting back to safety.
My general rule of thumb with Epic Stryker is never more than 3 warjacks; he can’t run them efficiently due to his low focus and only buff being Positive Charge. My general layout in 50pts is an arc node, a Stormclad (for general beatstickery and free focus), and Ol’ Rowdy (For general beatstickery, free charge, and affinity). At 35 I’ll often drop one of the heavies, but the arc node stays. A Lancer is generally the best option, but Thorn can also be an extremely useful Positive Charge target, thanks to being able to move 3” after you arc it onto him, letting you set up better angles or Flanks. Epic Stryker has no way to speed up a Thunderhead, Centurion or Hammersmith, so I generally leave them out; Rowdy does so much more than an Ironclad for you that I’ll leave it alone as well. Defenders are nice as ranged support, but you’ll generally want to marshal them on ATGM instead of in the battlegroup. Cyclones are a good ‘jack that doesn’t need much support, but once again I’d marshal it just because I find the *action to be your best bet. Chargers are too much of a focus hog, but Shieldguard is nice enough on the Sentinel to warrant consideration.
The rundown on your units is that Epic Stryker has no real ranged buffs, so you’ll really just end up taking what you like there. I swear by either a unit of ATGM+UA or the B13; I don’t find Trenchers or Longgunners to be worth it that often. Stormblades and Stormguard will be the meat of your list; the former wrecks warjacks and the latter infantry, and with PC +Rebuke they can trade jobs if needed. Don’t take the Stormblade UA in general though, as Epic Stryker has no way to buff ranged attacks (unless you take a nice sized firing line and have Rangers of course, then feel free to). Precursor Knights are also a decent choice, as you have no direct unit affecting spells, but remember their minifeat is activationi only. Take a unit of them or Stormguard if you have any sort of decent ranged fire going on. Stormlances tend to move too fast for you warjacks, so no real help there. The new Trencher Commandos work very nicely with the combination of Anatomical Precision, Stealth along with you Feat and Deflection. Swordknights are actually a decent idea with Epic Stryker, as you’ll often be placing your ‘jacks in Flank Range, PS12 +4d6 hurts bad, and their other large weakness of eating up buffs that better infantry could get(such as Arcane Shield) is passed over due to Deflection making them ARM18 against ranged and magic. Hell, I can almost justify taking the Swordknight UA and a Positive Charge ‘jack on it if the Firefly is cheap and decent!
Take a Squire for the focus and Rebuke reroll. Jr is also great for the Arcane Shield, while Epic Eiryss works to drop focus off their ‘caster and drop any upkeeps that could hurt you (such as Fear of God, Rebuke’s sad little cousin). Stormsmiths are always a good decision. In addition, I always have at least one of Lanyssa Ryssyl (as of the most current FT rules) or Rhupert. The first lets your Stormblades get the pounce of Warjacks along with free charges for your ‘jacks, while the second is a must in any melee heavy army.
Tips and Tricks
Okay, first thing to talk about here is Positive Charge use. In general, I have units positioned around warjacks in order to make the most use of this spell; somewhat of a blob with a hole in the front for the ‘jacks to get out really. Unless you are getting charged your Positive Charged warjack will need to go before your infantry, so make sure it has room to maneuver. Deflection will help alleviate blast damage suffered by this sort of blobing thankfully, but don’t be afraid to spread out in the case of Berserk or Overtaking models. This positioning system is what I like to call the Cell approach, due to how the warjack is the nucleous of the formation and the infantry acts as the infrastructure around it. Your infantry will have to be able to reform around your warjack after the charge to protect it from counter attack so you keep your Positive Charge target. Rebuke will help you split up your oppenent’s army if one cell starts to weaken.
Overload is another ability I wanted to talk about. If you’re damaged at all, do not overload on three dice. If you have at least 12 health, feel free to overload on 2; if it’s all or nothing and you really need the STR you can overload on 3 at up to 13 health, 2 on up to 10 health, and 1 on up to 5 health, but be prepared to explode. In general though, I tend to only overload on 3 at full health, 2 at 11, and 1 at 6.
Tying it all Together: The Assassination Run versus Feating
One of the biggest questions I get from newer Epic Stryker players is how to know when to feat and when to assassinate. To answer the second, it’s when I have a vector; I believe in playing a bit more on the edge with my assassin ‘casters, so if I can reasonably go for the kill, I will. The issue still remains with his feat. In general, I use it in three different fashions. The first is the alphastrike; run everyone up close, then feat move rip and tear. The issue with this is that you’re still only killing their front line; a properly spaced army will be able to avoid much of this tactic and eat you in return, so you must be careful. The second is an overtake really; once lines have clashed, you push into their lines during your activation and use your feat to take out those troops you can’t during your normal turn. The final is to help on the assassination run; holding off on a focus against a squishy ‘caster to boost your feat attack is nice, but so is running up two ‘jacks with Positive Charge on one and 2 focus each so they get a boosted attack and damage feat attack on the ‘caster. Two Stormclads can do this for a 15” threat each, and you should only have to cast Positive Charge once. Rowdy also work as one of them; a boosted PS21 and a boosted PS20 will destroy most ‘casters; MAT9 and MAT10 with boosted attack rolls mean you’ll be hitting.
Epic Stryker plays far differently from any other Cygnaran ‘caster, offering moderately direct buffs to melee troops instead of ranged troops and with a feat aiming at only melee models. He’s a lot of fun to play in that you can attrition or assassinate with him, and he has a fairly versatile spell list to boot. He’s not an easy ‘caster to learn, but he’s probably our fourth best and very, very competitive. Just remember not to roll a 17 or higher on your Overload damage!