Monday, April 11, 2016

Cornerstones (7) - Calculus

Similar to the Fishermen, I had initially written up the Alchemist Cornerstones article on Vitriol. But however ridiculously amazing Vitriol is, she doesn't fit the concept of the cornerstone. She is by all accounts a superstar player with borderline captain damage and scoring ability, reigned in only by her 4 INF cap. She might be in every list but all she cares about is herself - getting goals and getting take-outs.

We need to look for a model that fits the playstyle of the Alchemists, is not particularly flashy, but somehow makes its way into most Alchemist lists. If he were popular (and admittedly more efficiently designed), I'd bet my left arm this model would be Katalyst - he's got good all around stats and he ties "all the conditions" together with his Traits and Plays. The reality, as we all know, is that this isn't the case.

I've gone with Calculus - I think if you're not running the Midas + Vitriol + 3 Union teams, you're probably taking Calculus in your team. Her inclusion in this list is even better since she gets so much slack from Alchemist players for being useless, or "straight worse" than Hemlocke....... yet still seems to make her way into rosters - there must be something there....

Her stats are even more average than Luke Wilson. The only thing worthy of any note is her lower than average TAC, but for an Alchemist backliner, it's as you'd expect.

The most interesting stat she has is her health boxes - 15. Just a little bit more than you'd expect, and in my experience, quite enough to make a difference.

Man, does this playbook suck. Push on 1 is probably the best thing on here. The non-momentous damage spread is also not too bad, although with her low TAC she's probably not getting the results you want without some serious help.

TL;DR - she doesn't want to get into combat, but she does have an ok chance at getting out, and can do decent damage if you get enough Crowding Outs going (realistic output - not great).

This is where Calculus bakes her bread and butters it - two excellent character plays that fit the Alchemist style of condition and control. Like an acid-bathed shampoo treatment.

First, we have the ever-popular Blind. Fresh off a nerf, Blind has lost it's AoE component and its TAC & MOV debuffs have been halved in exchange for a KICK debuff and 2" extra range. Is it still a good play? It sure is. It's an all around FU debuff that makes a pretty big difference to any player that has not yet activated. It has a good range. It only costs one, meaning you can use any spare INF on it. The downside of course is that you are prone to missing on only 1 die, but it's the kind of control play that's worth Bonus Timing.

Noxious Blast - it's an AoE. It causes 2 DMG and poison when it hits - actually pretty significant damage for 2 INF if you can get it on 2 or more players, especially late turn. Not only that, but it stacks up well with all of Smoke's shenanigans. It's just a good, reliable play and the main reason she'll usually take at least 2 INF.

She only has one character trait, Poisonous Fumes, which instantly poisons any model that advances within 1" or starts their activation within 1".
Underwhelming on the surface, but getting another 2-3 models poisoned stacks up condition damage pretty fast. It sets up Venin's heroic play pretty well too - 5 condition damage on multiple models is pretty brutal, and not that hard to pull off if your opponent sends multiple models in on her. At worse it will make your opponent dump some momentum, which you will surely want as an Alchemist player.

So why is this model a cornerstone player? I have no idea. She has super average stats, only one trait, two character plays that you can find on another competing model and a crap playbook. Why would you prioritize her over the very similar Hemlocke or Mercury?

Let's overanalyze a bit, as one tends to do in these situations:
  • Calculus throws out a lot of poison with relatively little effort - she has a 3" AoE that poisons both on hit and on entry, and also deal 2 instant damage (same as poison). She poisons people who attack her without 2" melee (which is the majority of the game).
    Poison is a condition. Alchemists like conditions, and condition-causing AoEs. So Alchemists like Calculus' style.
    Basically, she deals out quite a lot of conditions and poison damage for a relatively low INF investment.
  • She is reasonably resilient with her 15 boxes and an average defensive stat line. This, combined with the Poisonous Fumes is what really differentiates her from Hemlocke, outside the friendly guild aspect. Having a team full of 5+/0 squishies can backfire in many matchups.
  • She is usually INF neutral. Most of them time she will use her 2 INF to chuck a Noxious Blast, but often she will be happy with just 1 for a Blind. This is the first point of distinction with Mercury - being 2/4 INF is quite a bit more valuable than 1/4 INF for a support model, even considering the potential Flask INF buff for Mercury.
  • Blind is still good. I think Blind is the second thing that separates her from Mercury. Having a 1 INF play that can really do work in the right situation seems to be a feature of several Cornerstone players.
  • The final point of distinction from Mercury is that she is female, meaning she ignores Charmed [Male]. Having an effective +1 to hit vs some key models in the game is clutch when using Character Plays.

So all up - Calculus might be a pretty ideal finale to the Cornerstones series. She isn't particularly impressive, especially after the Blind nerf - but she keeps finding her way onto Alchemist teams. Unfortunately, we still have one to do for the dirty, dirty Union.

Dealing with Calculus

No great wisdom you haven't heard before here:

  • Attack with 2" melee models to avoid that poison condition, which makes a pretty big difference. If these have Anatomical Precision, all the better :)
  • Likewise, if you are going to try to take her out, use as few models as possible.
  • She doesn't not like to get crowded out since it hurts her characters plays. Not much of an escape mechanism if she is isolated either.
  • Staying spread is a pretty good way to minimize the impact of Noxious Blast, and a high DEF can make Blind miss more often than not.

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