I didn’t expect that my previous post about Ravens of War will be so well received! I decided to continue the series and pick another faction that I am most familiar with – Cygnar. In contrary to Ravens of War my experience is not purely theoretical, however it is somewhat limited, as I haven’t really managed to play a 100p game yet. Most of my games were played on 50 or 75p limit against a narrow selection of factions. Also, First Army is out for some time now, so you all probably gained some experience playing it yourself 😉 I would love to know how do you feel playing this army, or how do you feel playing against it?
One of the things that immediately came to my attention (maybe because I regularly play against Cryx and PoM?) is an extremely limited access to magic weapons! It was always the issue with Gravediggers in MK3 usually solved by taking Haley3. In MK4 I recommend taking Blessing of the Gods command card every time. In most games you will probably use it for Blessed ability. But when you will need magical weapon somewhere you will be glad you have it in your sleeve 😉
Oh, another thing that changed between the editions and has a direct impact on the First Army, is that Advance Deployment is 3″ now. This, combined with the change in running, means your Trenchers cannot be as far up the table as they used to be in the first round.
Nonetheless, I will do my best to highlight the differences between current version of MK4 First Army and former MK3 Gravediggers and share my subjective opinion with you 😉 as this is the whole point of this post.
First of, let’s discuss warcasters’ selection. Limiting spots for leaders to 3 meant that we won’t be able to see any as many exotic blends as we used to, like Stryker3 with a horde of Trenchers (THIS was a fun one), or an all time classic – Haley3 cloud wall (uuu THAT was a close one!). Instead, we were served 3 warcasters that have defined roles and list archetypes. On the other side, I cannot wait to see the lists that people come with that are breaking those schemes in a surprising way (and are actually working).
Captain E. Dominic Darius
He always was and he still is a heavy warjack warcaster. All his abilities and spells are oriented on making your robots deadlier, but let’s go through the changes first.
Most of his basic stats haven’t changed. The only change concerns his weapons. His cannon now has lower range (-2″), however it received a Steam Pressure rule, what effectively increased its range to 14″ while you are aiming. Also, Tremor (★ Attack) knocks everything down within 2″. A little change, but definitely worth noting.
The biggest change concerns his feat. Now, not only it repairs all friendly warjacks within 1″ from him and his halfjacks, it also gives warjacks in his battle group a significant boost! It’s +2 SPD, MAT and RAT. That is a huge change and it totally can influence the way his feat is used. The other thing that I realized while writing this post is that Darius is your go to warcaster if you want to speed up your warjacks and extend their charge range. In MK3 it was Jeremiah who was the reigning king of warjacks’ melee threat ranges and in MK4 it shifted completely. Darius’s feat, together with Crane ability, increases the warjacks’ melee threat range by 4″, and that is something that can determine the result of the game.
Out of the 3 warcasters available in the First Army, Darius benefits from one specific command card the most, and that is Arcane Forces. You would be probably taking this card every game because of one particular spell – Jackhammer! Finally, you do not have to take Lancer with you and you don’t have to put your warcaster at risk to use this spell! Keep in mind the card extends your spell range by 5″ for the whole activation, not just a single spell! One downside is that you cannot use two cards on one model, so using Power Swell the same round is out of the question. Consider taking Squire with Darius 😉
Darius is the only caster I haven’t had the opportunity to play with yet. I just couldn’t come up with a list that would be interesting enough to give it a try for now. Perhaps he shines better in larger games, where he can take enough warjacks to make his feat matter, and enough support to assist his battle group?
The one thing that changed with Halfjacks is the way they explode. They used to damage models within the 4″ AOE centered on the mine marker. Now it damages all models within 3″ of the mine marker! It covers bigger area and can surprise your enemy.
Captain Jeremiah Kraye
Jeremiah is another warjack oriented warcaster in this army, but he supports his battle group in a different way. After going through his rules carefully the first time back in the day, I realized he supports shooting much more than melee now. In MK3 he was lacking a dmg buff, but Pin Cushion reshaped the way you build lists around Jeremiah. Who would have thought that Cyclons with Kraye will be a thing one day?
Let’s get through the changes, as there are some significant ones!
Kraye’s ability Iron Horse doesn’t provide Cavalry rules to his warjacks anymore, it kept Pathfinder and Reposition [5″], it also gives +2 SPD. This means that even a slow warjack like Centurion can trample 9″ forward and then repo 5″ even further up the table!
Kraye received a totally new feat. Stealth for his battle group is a secondary bonus, but I caught myself forgetting about it quite often. The most important thing is that whenever you destroy an enemy model with an attack while in Kraye’s ctrl range, one of models in your battle group (Kraye included) can receive 1 focus point. This enables warjacks to kill multiple models within their melee range and allows models like Cyclones to shred through infantry. You have to plan your turn carefully in order to maximize the amount of FOC points you can get this turn. Also, it is never a bad idea to give a FOC or two to Kraye, as he is usually focus starved and that provides some additional protection. Unfortunately, there is no charge range extension, and warjacks have to pay for charging.
If it comes for spells, Kraye lost Countermeasure, Horsepower and Jumpstart. He kept Admonition and Lock the Target. Jeremiah gained Return Fire and Pin Cushion. Return Fire is not an upkeep spell, so you can cast it multiple times in the first or second round to get additional attacks in your opponent’s turn. Pin Cushion is what makes Jeremiah Kraye stand out. This spell gives you an additional die to hit and damage against target model/unit and you discard the lowest result. This effectively increases your damage output. It is an upkeep spell, so you can easily cast it one round and upkeep it at the begining of the next one just to recast it to another target when it is needed.
Pin Cushion alone is the reason why you should consider taking Arcane Forces command card. There is also Lock the Target.
Kraye has a lot of interesting spells to cast or upkeep and in the same time he has to fuel his warjacks. Ha has only 6 FOC, so taking a Squire or Trencher Combat Engineers might be a good solution. He will make a good use out of Power Swell too.
As you can see, the purpose of most of the changes was to redefine Kraye’s list archetype from fast warjacks charging enemy models through half of the board towards ranged superiority provided by warjacks armed in guns, preferably two 😉
Colonel Markus “Siege” Brisbane
Siege is the third warcaster availabe in the First Army. He is the one support Ing infantry the most.
If it comes to Brisbane’s stats, he had his MAT increased (+1), all the rest remained the same.
Obviously, Siege kept his turret and the way it is put to play. Desperate pace (★ Action) still gives +2 SPD to a friendly Trencher unit. It works, however, only within 5″, not in CMD 9, as it used to be in MK3. What’s worth noting it can target any Trencher unit, so Trencher Cannon Crew as well 😉
Although Siege lost Jump back rule, he gained Reposition [3″] that doesn’t require a succesful charge. Rocket pack rule stayed, but is totally different. Now, for one Focus you can get +2 SPD and Flight. It changedd the way Brisbane move around the table. Also, Flight helps to move though your army when you mess up the order of activation haha and you don’t care about rough terrain anymore.
His feat stayed exactly the same as it was in MK3, what I find really exciting! Pre-activation move on units is much stronger than it used to be in the previous editions and can make your units charge wherever they want.
When it comes to spells, Siege lost Fury and gained Battle Lust instead. Fury used to give friendly Faction model/unit +3 to melee damage rolls and -1 DEF. Battle Lust gives to a friendly Faction warrior model/unit an additional die on melee damage rolls and -2 DEF. You cannot give the bonus to your warjacks anymore, but your infantry can hit harder if you roll high enough 😉 The spell increases average damage from +3 to +3.5, but not every roll is average, so expect spike rolls both ways 😛
Another spell that was changed (even once during MK4) is Hallowed Avenger. In contract to MK3, it provides an additional basic attack, it is not restricted to melee only! That is a big difference! I always take Triumph with Siege and this spell could potentially grant the warjack a third shot in the same turn! Keep in mind that Righteous Vengeance is triggered whenever a friendly model was destroyed or RFP within 5″ (it was 10″ at the beginning of MK4 for a short while).
Another change hit High Ground spell. It is a 3″ AOE now (4″ in the past), still gives +2 DEF against range and magic. It also grants Arcing Fire what makes your model ignore any intervening models. It is not restricted to those at least 1″ away from the target. Enemies cannot hide behind their own models any more, beware of mighty Triumph! 😛
The Rocket Turret still can make ranged attakcs in melee. It lost Gun platform rule, but gained gunfighter. It’s gun was buffed a little I believe, as now it has AOE 3! It’s amazing against units, or stealthed models, since the Blast damage is always POW 10 😉
Obviously, the list of warjacks is missing the electric ones, but I don’t find it to be a huge problem in this army. They were never working well with electro-susceptible Trenchers. Also, FA of warjacks is limited to 4 now and most of them had a significantly price cut.
He is now 5 points cheaper!!! The price change however comes at a cost 😉 First and foremost, Polarity Field now prevents from being charged by constructs only! Centurion lost Shield Guard ability too. He didn’t enjoy the ability for too long (he received it in June 2021).
I believe that the rules change is fully compensated by the much lower point cost. Although, my opinion may vary depending on which army I play against haha
Charger is now one point cheaper, but he lost a free second ranged attack and got Reload  instead. This means Charger is much more focus starved, as he needs all 3 FOC to be fully operational, in contrary to 2 FOC in MK3. It is easier with empowering Trencher Combat Engineers, but those are more models you have to pay for and use in a specific way. Charger is not that terrible, but he needs more support than before. Also, keep in mind that there is a limited selection of warcasters now and not everyone goes as well with Chargers as Siege1 did in the past 😉 Are they just too expensive when compared to a 9p Ironclad?
I am still about to try them with Jeremiah.
This warjack is one of the winners (with little scratches) of MK4 in the First Army. His cost stayed the same, unfortunately RNG of Metal Storm guns was reduced by 2″ to only 10″. Cyclone also lost Covering Fire (★ Action). He kept ROF D3, what I am not a big fan of. He received Dual Attack, what is a nice bonus. The thing that changed everything is Volume Fire rule! It significantly increased damage potential of Cyclone against other warbeasts/warjacks. It is only +2 POW, but when you multiply it by the amount of shots, add some damage buffs on top of that, you receive an explosive mix! To play a competitive Jeremiah list I’d need more than one of them for sure!
Defender is 2 points cheaper and cortex damage is on a critical hit now. The biggest change here is receiving dual attack. He seems to be ok in a void, but then you take a Cyclone, compare them and damage-wise Cyclone wins definitely. Defender has the range superiority and can fight in melee, though. It just depends what role you want to be fulfilled.
Grenadier’s cost remained the same. Sadly, there are no additional shots for Trenchers within 1″. He has ROF D3 now… and I find it quite confusing to plan turns with so many random number of shots here and there. I believe the change was driven by easier access to additional FOC from Combat Engineers? Who knows… but it is definitely less reliable than it used to be. Although, the Arcing Fire change and the addition of Dual Attack is a bonus for sure.
Hammersmith haven’t changed a bit, even his point cost remained the same. I could take one or two with Darius. They are just a little more expensive than Ironclad, but now they cost the same as Centurion!
This warjack is now 2 points cheaper! Unfortunately, he lost Extended control range. That is an odd change, but ok, I take it for 2 points. He is easier to fit in a list now. I haven’t tried him in MK4 yet.
This is the cheapest heavy warjack in the First Army. The only change concerns Tremor (★ Attack) – see Darius. He is a reliable and cheap beat stick and for 9 points you cannot go wrong taking one or two.
Lancer rarely was present in the lists before. I believe he is much less interesting now, since Arcane Forces command card exist. For 9 points you get an Ironclad! I don’t think any of the warcasters of the First Army needs an arc node now, since you can take the command card instead.
For some reason Minuteman kept Extended control range, while Hunter didn’t. He is one of very few models that got more expensive than before, although he lost Flak Field ability. He has Dual Attack and his melee range increased to 1″. I haven’t tried him yet, have you?
Volume fire here would be interesting, sadly this is not the case. Sentinel has just his melee range adjusted to MK4 standard – it is 1″ now. Apart from that Sentinel stayed in the same spot, most probably on a shelf in my case.
This character warjack is one of very few models in the army that has magical attacks. This alone should make you think is he worth taking or not 😉 He got cheaper now (-1 point). He has Dual attack, but he cannot trample and shoot anymore, what is a pity.
I cannot imagine a Siege list without Triumph. He is simply such a good warjack, especially with Brisbane. Triumph’s normal activation shot, together with Rapid Fire and potentially another ranged attack from Hallowed Avenger, makes him a beast. Three powerful shots, all boosted to hit!
There are 2 new solos available in the First Army when you compare it to Gravediggers. Let’s dig in!
Yes, the Trencher army finally has an access to Squire! Our little buddy was changed slightly. First of all, all the warcaster attachments are part of a battle group now! Maybe it is not a huge difference when it comes for Squire, but certainly some attachments can benefit from it.
Squire’s Reserve Accumulator ability changed and now, after warcaster gained 1 FOC point, it can lose this ability for the rest of the game on a roll of 1 and 2. This adds another factor of randomness to the game and most probably you will think twice if you really need that one FOC point this turn.
Captain Maxwell Finn
Finn kept his role of an infantry devouring beast that also supports other Trencher models. Units are packed more tightly in this edition, so I believe in order to balance this model a little, they removed Rapid Strike ability. There is a slight chance that Finn wouldn’t finish a whole unit in one go 😛 It’s hard not to with MAT 8, though.
Finn also gained 1″ reach, as most of the models with 0.5″ reach (if not all, I am not sure). It is a big change, considering that he relies on getting enemy infantry models within his melee range. You cannot take him for free anymore, although paying 5 points is a fair price for such a versatile and useful model.
Commander Anson Hitch
Hitch kept his support role, but his abilities changed. He lost Press the Advantage and Target Priority battle plans. Instead, he gained Reveille and Stir the Blood. Reveille wouldn’t be that interesting in MK3 maybe, since all Trenchers used to have Rise anyway. However, in MK4, this ability is great, especially in the army that relies on Tough so much. The second ability, Stir the Blood, is a significant damage buff! You can easily make your Tranchers POW 14 weapon masters under Siege and that is something your opponent has to respect.
Another interesting change that is not visible right away is that Tactician affects all models, not only friendly Trenchers 😉
Major Harrison Gibbs
He is a 2 point solo now (used to be 4). He no longer gives Feign Death and Reposition [3″] to friendly Llaelese models, but apart from that he kept all the rest. Hot Meal used to remove damage within 7″, now it is only 5″
I like how they changed Rifle Granades – it is now a POW 10/10 AOE 2 weapon. Before it was difficult to hit more than one model under AOE 3″, but now it means that the target models and 2 more within 2″ will get hit with POW 10. It’s also a nice way of dealing with Stealth models 😉 I might take him with Darius, to be able to heal him just in case 😉 but I don’t think he will see the table very often.
I enjoy the changes that were made to Patrol Dog. It gives Dodge to friendly Trencher models within 10″, not 3″ as it used to be! Little buddy kept his Noisy (★ Action) and with a Reposition command card he can remove stealth from 18″ (20 with Darius, 21″ with Siege)! He kept all the remaining rules.
He is still a great contesting piece with DEF 14 and dodge, but keep in mind he can run only 12″ now.
The big guy with barn doors in his hand is 1 point cheaper now. He has 17 ARM now (+1), what I just noticed haha and he kept the remaining rules. His shield has 1″ reach and Bayonet is now 2″! Those are great additions to an already good model 😉 It was difficult for me to squeeze one on 50p, but on 75 and definitely on 100p I will have one or two. Shield Guard ability is always more than welcome.
Trencher Master Gunner
This guy is part of the biggest change in list building in my case. I just cannot hold back from starting a list with a Master Gunner and a Trencher Cannon Crew. Let’s walk through Master Gunner’s changes first.
To be fair, there are not so many! The cost stayed the same. Artillerist is now a passive aura ability, but works within 5″ only. Battery Fire (★ Action) also works within 5″ only, but that’s ok, since you want to be in that range to provide RAT buff anyway.
Another changes forced by edition’s transition are 1″ melee range and the way spray attack works.
As you can see, there are not that many changes, but making the Artillerist a passive aura ability, combined with a cannon crew buff made this model doubtlessly worth considering. What’s more, Artillerist is an aura now, so it buffs every friendly model with AOE attack, jacks included 😉
That’s an interesting change. Trencher UA was split into Sniper solo and the officer unit attachment.
From now on you can field the sniper as a separate solo. He costs 2 points and he kept all of his rules from MK3. He is a good solo to hold the flag, throw a random smoke grenades or simply annoy the opponent with his precise pot shots.
Trencher Warcaster Lieutenant
He is still a 3 point solo. He lost Rift spell and gained Bombshell instead. It’s an interesting spell, that unfortunately requires a critical hit to take effect. Well, if you are ever going to cast a 3 FOC spell with AAT 5 model you are going to boost it anyway, right? ;P so there is an increased chance for a critical roll, but I wouldn’t count on it. I’d rather cast Fire Group every turn to support Grenadier, Charger or whatever warjacks TWL controls.
This unit now consists of 3 models only and it’s point cost is reduced to 4. Now that you have to commit the whole unit at once I am glad that they reduced the number of models in the unit. They also got Reposition [3′], so you could keep them some distance apart, and not lose all in one blow. I like the change, however, I am not sure if they will be that popular, maybe with Jeremiah?
Trencher Cannon Crew
The difference from MK3, apart from paying 1 point more for the unit, is that you not only have a boosted damage roll, but also a boosted attack roll! What’s more, modified unit’s movement has a significant impact on how such slow models behave on the table. You can now run 8″ forward and position the cannon even further up the table! All those differences made this unit much more playable!
Keep in mind that if you add Karli to this unit, she could be the one moving 6″ forward, so you could place the rest next to her 😉 Siege can also give this unit +2 SPD from Desperate Pace (★ Action) and this way you could reach distant enemy models.
Trencher Chain Gun Crew
The Chain Gun lost Covering Fire (★ Action), but gained Sentry Fire. Remember that Ammo Feeder (★ Action) lasts for one round, so you could benefit from it while Sentry Fire attack is triggered.
I like the changes to the Chain Gun. I might actually reconsider putting it on Hurricane’s base haha although I am afraid that it only solves the issues that the First Army already has a solution for.
Trencher Combat Engineers
The most important change is them getting Empower (★ Action)! It is the reason to put at least one unit of TCE in every list. Well… it could be difficult to squeeze them in a 50p list, though. They solve the issue a lot of warcasters encountered before – running a jack heavy battle group and not having enough FOC for them. This change is one of my favourite ones 😉
They haven’t changed that much. Commandos dropped 1 point, gained 1″ melee range and 1 POW on grenade’s blast damage and got Dual Attack. Whenever I used them, I took them with the officer, and that’s what made this unit shine in MK3 (well, the glare wasn’t too bright, they were covered in mud a little haha).
Trencher Express Team
I almost auto included them in Gravediggers lists back in MK3 and now, to be fair, I would rather take a Trencher Cannon Crew instead. They never served a purpose of dealing huge damage, they kept their support role. I just feel that the cannon suits my lists better, for the moment.
They dropped a point, lost Cautious Advance (Order) and Range Finder works in B2B now. I might consider taking them in bigger games, although in those smaller games I struggle to find enough points for them.
They are bread and butter of this army, and they only got better! They cost 8 points for 5 models now as opposed to 9p for 6). They have their melee power increased to 10 POW (+1) and received 2″ melee reach on their bayonets! Those changes, combined with other buffs, make that unit really interesting!
With Siege and Hitch they can charge 16″ (plus placing models within 2″) and hit with 14 POW weapon master! The difference from MK3 is that there are only 5 models in the unit, and that many models to buff at once.
Trencher Long Gunners
In contrast to Trenchers, Trencher Long Gunners became much less interesting, unfortunately. It’s not only their issue, it’s all the units that relied on large combined range attacks. CRA with POW 15 or 16 is not as appealing as 20 or 21, right? Nonetheless, I used to split the unit into two groups doing CRA sometimes, so maybe they are not that bad after all? Let’s take a look from this angle. Two units cost 16p together, so it’s already more than it used to be in MK3. Trencher LG Officer cost one point less, so it evens out point-wise. However, he can support only one unit.
I haven’t used them in MK4 so far, have you? What is your opinion? I think I’d rather take another Trencher unit with Siege, than TLG? I imagine they could be interesting with Jeremiah and his Pin Cushion? But isn’t it just better to take another Cyclone?
Let’s get to Command Attachments now!
Although she is an amazing addition to both Cannon Crew and Express Team (Chain Gun too, but… ), I prefer her with the cannon. She improves significantly their maneuverability with her 6 SPD! She also benefit from Master Gunner’s Artillerist ability. Sadly, she lost Arcing Fire. When you are taking the Trencher Cannon Crew it is usually either her or Master Gunner and I believe it is up to your preferences. Personally, I like Master Gunner more, as he supports a wider spectrum of models, is a solo that can capture flags and provides additional shots every turn 😉 If you can afford taking both of them, then do so!
Trencher Commando Officer
He now gives the unit… Ambush! That’s right! Sadly, this ability is not as strong as it used to be in MK3. Now you have to sacrifice either Movement or Attack when you are entering from a side of a board. He still has his mini-feat, though 😉
Trencher Infantry Officer
He kept Cautious Advance (Order), but lost his mini-feat, sadly. He is now only 2 points and apart from that, he is just another model that you add to a unit, what’s quite valuable in MK4. That unit will take buffs better 😉
Trencher Long Gunner Officer
As mentioned earlier, he costs only 3 points. He lost his Go To Ground mini-feat and Tactics: Marksman that allowed your unit to pick columns or branches. However, now he allows to reroll not only ranged damage rolls, but also ranged attack roles what makes this unit more self-sufficient. Earlier, in MK3, they required Hitch to work this way.
Let’s go through last 2 cards 😉
Trencher Commando Scattergunner
Unfortunately, giving a weapon attachment to a unit doesn’t mean you are taking an additional model. When you take a Scattergunner you have to get rid of one of normal grunts. You just pay 1 point to change its weapon from a grenade/rifle to a Scatter Gun and honestly I am not a big fan of that. For 1 point you can have a Patrol Dog instead.
Trencher Infantry Rifle Grenadier
I like this weapon attachment more than the previous one. It has Field Allowance 12 lol (3 per unit, max 4 units) and costs 1 point. Instead of a normal grunt, you get a Rifle Grenade with AOE 2 POW 10/10. In case I maxed out FA of Patrol Dogs I could take one.
I have an impression that the First Army, despite loosing access to the majority of warcasters, is still an interesting army, offering a variety of play-styles, that can be approached from different angles. Every warcaster available offers a distinct style and has its role well specified. The army itself, has its own trench warefare-like spirit.
I like most of the changes PP introduced to Trenchers and I am happy to use new models that I neglected for years (it’s about you, cannon crew). I’m also looking forward to see what the new cadre for Cygnar consists of, so I could add a little electric flavour to the army 😉
The First Army has similar issues as MK3 Gravediggers did, but introduction of Command Cards can solve most of them, at least temporarily. Used properly in the right moment can change the tides of the game.
What are your thoughts about the First Army? Some consider them to be one of the strongest (myself included), if not THE strongest legacy army in MK4 for the moment. Please let me know 😉 Also, what army would you like to see described next?
I created a buymeacoffee profile, where you can support me and contribute to development of this blog by buying me a “coffee”. Funds gathered this way will be used on blog maintenance and making more 3D terrain 😉
If anyone would like to do so, you can follow the link below. You can also leave a private message there. Any kind of feedback is highly appreciated!
I would like to thank Benoit, Samu, Krzysztof, Daniel RG and Endre for supporting me on buymeacoffee. It really means a lot to me! Thank you!
Hello, great overview for Cygnar. If possible, I would like to see a similar take for the Cryx army (especially Bane/Dark Host). Thank you.
Hi Emanuel! Thanks! I’d love to but currently I’m working on something else and I cannot find enough time to write such analysis. It is on my list though 😉