Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cornerstones (2) - Silence

NB: this basically rehashes/expands on Dave's article on Morticians 201 here, but with more flair.

Second in the series of Cornerstone players is Silence, Distracted Dave's favourite player bar none. Silence is often looked at by new players with some disdain. I don't really blame them, as he does look pretty average and bland on the surface. Despite that, he still never seems to get dropped from the line-up. There is a reason for that - as you learn to look beyond the surface and into the tactical detail, Silence is the foundation of the Morticians' denial game.

Silence embodies the Morticians playstyle - quirky stats and abilities, a seemingly unfocused playbook with erratic momentum results, and extremely strong control and denial traits + plays. If you don't have a plan, he won't do much for you other than be an above-average INF provider. If you do have a plan and execute it, he can be a massive irritation to your opponent.

Let's begin the investigation by looking at his stat line and androgynous mug:

Immediately, one is struck by Silence's weird stats:
  • MOV 5", seems pretty average. But sprint move of 6"? Weird. With a 1" melee, you're probably not charging anyone then.....
  • TAC 5, KICK 3/6" - pretty average relative to the game, but KICK actually above average for Morticians and TAC quite good for a 'support' oriented character.
  • DEF 5+/ARM 0 - again pretty average. But whoa - FIFTEEN boxes. Most 5+ models have 10-12. Even Midas only has 14! Impressive.
  • 3/4 INF - his most noticeable stat. This is very good and often gets him tagged as an influence battery.

Overall - weird, unfocused stats. Pretty slow, not a great fighter, decent kicker, but surprisingly survivable for a support model. dat INF stat tho.

 Moving on to the playbook:

TAC 5 with a 5-long playbook is pretty normal. Like most Morticians, his momentous results are kind of all over the place, and his playbook somewhat unfocused.
He's got some good damage results, especially Momentous 2 damage on 2 hits. Then he has a momentous dodge on 3 (ie. not great for counter-attacks) but it can get him out of combat with non-reach models, and a momentous push dodge on 5 alongside his Tackle. Again, weird. You don't really get what he's supposed to do at first glance.

Looking at other Morticians might give some context:
  • Most Morticians have Tackles higher on their playbooks (3+ hits). Graves (a versatile winger) and Bonesaw (a striker) are the exception with results on 1 & momentous 2 hits respectively.
  • Unlike most Morticians, he has no GB results, which helps explain his reasonably bare playbook. He doesn't really have a good reason to spend much influence on attacks for that reason, unlike say Casket, Ghast, Bonesaw or Graves.
  • His damage spread is reasonably common, with 1, 2, X, 3 being as standard a Mortician pattern as you're going to get. It's not fantastic, but it does point to the Morticians' flexibility in dealing damage if they need it.
Like most Morticians, playbooks aren't what you need to be looking at with Silence, outside getting a couple of momentum to Bonus Time! or play the ball or react defensively. When you look at Silence in this way, his playbook seems fine. The majority of the time, if you're attacking with him, you're not doing it more than once or twice, unless you are pulling out that surprise 8DMG/4MP for 4 INF on an unsuspecting target.

Next up we have Character Traits:


Again, two seemingly unremarkable traits. At least on the surface. Much like Silence himself.

First, we have Creation [Dirge]. This allows you to bring back Dirge for 2 MP. Doesn't seem that great. However, keeping in mind that Dirge:
  • has both really strong death effects (-4MP to enemy)
  • is generally annoying between Follow Up and his very high mobility
  • provides a valuable TAC buff in Singled Out
  • has good ball retrieval skills
  • and most importantly, will not give up additional VPs if killed again.
And now we can see how this is a pretty powerful trait, and contributes further to Silence's denial game and the Morticians' disruptive plans.

His second trait is significantly weaker, making him a 4/7" KICK if Dirge is nearby. This probably won't happen too often as Dirge likes to run off places, but it does make Silence a very good kicker. This is useful in the early game to help rank up momentum, or later to help land crucial passes in order to trigger Teamwork results. Given his slow speed, he probably won't be scoring many goals, but in the event the game gets super weird (definitely a game state the Morticians excel in), he becomes a snapshot monster :)

Moving on to the meat of Silence's card, the Character Plays:

Immediately, the control aspect shows itself with Tucked and Shutout. Forcing an enemy player to go first or last takes a lot of decision-making power away from your opponent.
If you choose the right target, it can be devastating for your opponent. If you choose the wrong one, it can be tremendously helpful for him/her.

This is why it is important for Morticians players to understand what their opponent wants to do, and how to stop them. Which player to Tuck and which to Shutout is not an easy decision to make and varies on a turn by turn basis.

One aspect you want to consider heavily is your opponent's influence allocation that turn.
As an example, enemy players you want to Shutout are players that want to go early - momentum generators and play maker captains (ie. Shark, Tapper, Ox, Blackheart) are good targets as they usually have a lot of influence allocated to them and set things up for the rest of their team's turn. Shutting them out gives you time to deal with the threat using your other pieces and hampers your opponent's momentum generation until then.
On the flipside, strikers who don't have the ball might want to be Tucked, which basically wastes their activation.

Note that both Tucked and Shutout are once per turn, and cost 1. You will really want to Bonus Time! these plays if you can, especially since 1 cost plays are quite sensitive to Crowding Out penalties. Both plays also want to be used early in the turn, making Silence a first or second activation.
This is where the momentous dodges on the playbook start making a bit of sense - if you REALLY want to Tucked/Shutout someone with 4+ or higher DEF that you can't get in melee with and need momentum to Bonus Time, giving 3 INF to Silence, getting him to charge someone to hit a dodge on 3 or 5 hits to get out of combat, then throwing a Bonus Time!-ed character play at someone is pretty legit.
Alternatively - hit that momentous 2 damage, take the crowding out penalty, and hope averages are on your side :)

Finally we have Embalming Fluid. The best effect from this is the movement debuff from burning. The [1] DMG is also neat when combined with Damaged Target on Graves and Minx, otherwise not a big deal. Like most AoEs, you can also place it defensively, although it would be significantly better in this role if it applied burning instead of poison as the ongoing effect. Then again, if you can trap 2-3 players and force them to take poison with a well-placed AoE, it's certainly worth 2 INF.
The three standout features of this play in my opinion are:
  • It has a long range, effectively 9.5". Given Silence's central positioning and 5" MOV, he can almost put it anywhere he wants.
  • It's a good early turn play, because it puts burning (-2/-2" MOV) on affected players.
  • It's a pretty good late turn play, unlike Tucked and Shutout, due to the conditions (even picking up a poison condition late in the turn is quite a bit less appealing).

Character Plays - it's what Morticians need. And this guy has some good, really disruptive ones.

Dealing with Silence

The core of Silence's power are Tucked & Shutout and Creation [Dirge]. These are difficult to stop as Morticians have ways of getting momentum exactly when they seem to really need it...

Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier, Silence is somewhat prone to getting tied up in undesired combats. Without some additional TAC buffing, he is unlikely to be able to land his dodges to get out of melee. Crowding him out and Play debuffs like Heavy Burden also makes his life quite difficult when he relies on 1 INF, once per turn character plays. Anything that further decreases the success of character plays is good at reducing Silence's impact on the game.

He's also very much a support model - slow and doesn't do all that much heavy lifting by himself. He's probably not putting points on the board via takeouts or goals, but he can make it very hard for his opponents to do so, or easier for his teammates.
Like most support characters in MOBA games, he can be vulnerable to becoming isolated and ganked. DEF 5+ with 15 boxes IS quite survivable, unless you find ways around his DEF, in which case he can go down pretty quick to an even average beater. The Mortician player will inevitably want to bring him on right away lest he give up that 3 INF, meaning he either is prone to getting ganked again or is staying well away from the action.

As for Dirge coming back all the time, you are just going to have to deal with an annoying bird being in your face. You may want to kill it again in the right situation to get activation advantage, but often it's just going to make your life harder. Silence does use up a lot of momentum between Creation and getting his other plays to stick, so hopefully you can take advantage of that through damage, conditions or simple outmanoeuvring with the ball.

In summary - Silence. You don't know exactly why you take him in every Morticians team, but there he is, doing what Morticians do best, holding it all together, being a douche.


  1. I really like these articles. Keep up the good work.