Riding on fire, touching the sky
Riding on fire, take you up so high…
-Iron Savior, ‘Riding on Fire‘
I really enjoy playing Kaeris and, having run her at a recent tournament, I’ve finally sat down to put pen to paper (so to speak) for my favourite pyrokinetic master, Ms. Anasalea Kaeris.
Like Ms. Toni Ironsides, Kaeris has quite a diverse skillset that she can apply to most common situations in-game. A lot of this variety comes from her Limited upgrades, Grab & Drop and Purifying Fire. In a similar vein to Marcus, each of these has quite a noticeable effect on how both Kaeris and her crew can be played. Grab & Drop focuses on increasing the mobility of both Kaeris and her crew, giving her the classic action of the same name back. I often find myself using it as much for the placement as for any damage, pulling enemy models out of a synergistic bubble or into range of one of my own models. The upgrade also lends her some more mobility tricks to Kaeris’s crew with the Wings Of Fire ability. This takes a little bit of setup as the models have to be Burning in order to benefit, but having Flight and dropping a free scheme marker is pretty awesome. There’s a limitless number of uses for this, from dropping markers right next to the enemy master for Spring The Trap to creating a lethal minefield for Willie.
The second upgrade, Purifying Fire, is more focused around supporting your crew and keeping them alive. Kaeris gains a (0) action to drop down a pair of 50mm Flame Pillars to block line of sight, as well as damaging any model that moves through them. Ideal for dense areas of the board, this lets Kaeris block off chokepoints, forcing enemy models to decide between taking damage or finding a longer route around. It also gives her the ability Purifying Fire, converting Burning on nearby models into healing. As with Grab & Drop this takes a little setup, but can work really well with schemes such as Bodyguard, letting Kaeris light up a model with (1) Flaming Halo for up to Burning +4, then healing them instead of damaging them. Which one to take is very much dependent on the terrain, strats and schemes and enemy crew, though I have to admit that I do take Grab & Drop slightly more often than Purifying Fire just for the mobility tricks it can bring to the crew. A flying Howard Langston is a truly terrifying prospect!
Leaving aside the upgrades for a moment, Kaeris’s base card has some pretty good mobility. As might be expected from the mechanical wings that she’s known for, her speed clocks in at a respectable 6″ Wk and Cg with Flight letting her ignore terrain during each move. She does have a few tricks via her upgrades, most notably her (0) action Grab & Drop from the upgrade of the same name, but she can also push enemy models around somewhat via her Blinding Flame upgrade. All in all, she’s a pretty mobile master who shouldn’t have any problems getting where she needs to.
When it comes down to offence, Kaeris’s focus is pretty much the same as anything else – light it on fire. Her Immolate action combos particularly well off of her Flaming Halo, letting her hand out the Burning condition to an enemy and then attack with positive twists. Nicely, both Flaming Halo and Immolate have the melee and projectile symbols, so can work at range as well as in close quarters. It’s worth noting that Immolate is also a Ca attack, and so will get past Incorporeal, Bullet Proof and the like. Kaeris may not be able to put out the same sort of damage as, say, Lady Justice, but with a little setup she can certainly deal some significant damage when needed.
Her Tactical actions also bring some interesting new tricks to the table. The (0) Flare forces a high TN number on all models in a short pulse range or gain Burning +1 – ideal for lighting up groups of enemies or, indeed, groups of friendly models so they can benefit from either Grab & Drop or Purifying Fire. Her second (0) action, Truth In Flame, almost does the complete opposite – removing the Burning condition from nearby models to draw cards. Drawing cards is always a good thing in Malifaux, though since Truth In Flame isn’t selective it’s important to consider when you want to use it, as Kaeris does prefer attacking Burning models and her crew can benefit from being on fire through her upgrades. There’s no point in removing Burning off two enemy models to draw a couple of cards, and then having to cheat those exact cards in as you’re not getting the positive twists to Immolate any more.
While Kaeris isn’t the most resilient master out there, she can certainly take a few hits before she has to worry. A solid Df and Wp of 6 is backed up by Armor +1, though beyond stoning for damage prevention this is about all she has to keep her alive. Her defensive trigger, Smouldering Heart, is nice but not usually one I’ll aim for – unless Kaeris hasn’t activated yet and I really want the attacking model to be Burning! I tend to run a pretty full cache, using stones for damage prevention as well as some of the suits for the triggers on her upgrades (Blinding Flame and Born Of Fire come to mind).
When it comes to building a crew, Kaeris is fairly unique to the Arcanists in that she doesn’t have a particular keyword she likes. While it’s ideal to have at least a few models who can either dish out or benefit from Burning, she’s not ‘constrained’ to them. I’ll usually pick at least a Fire Gamin or two for their speed, ranged attack and ability to hand out Burning, as well as a Gunsmith or two for their synergy with Burning. Beyond this it really depends on what I feel is suitable for the strategy and schemes, though special mentions have to go to the Malifaux Raptor when paired with Grab & Drop (a 16″ move with Flight, with a free scheme marker at the end, is just brilliant), the Rail Workers for their (0) action Shovel Faster!, and the Mechanical Rider for her ability to summon Fire Gamin during the game. The Rail Golem seems like he’d be an excellent addition to a Kaeris crew, but I usually find that he can get enough Burning by himself without having to resort to Kaeris spending an AP on Flaming Halo. It’s also important to be very careful with the placement of the Rail Golem, since Grab & Drop’s Wings Of Fire ability, for example, will lower his Burning condition to 0 at the end of the activation if he starts within the aura.
One other model that really deserves a mention alongside Kaeris is the Arcane Emissary. I’ve never written about him here – mainly because I wrote the PullMyFinger article on him and (as much as I love the Emissary) I haven’t yet felt like writing it all again! – but he does have some superb synergy with Kaeris thanks to the Kaeris-specific unique upgrade. The ability it gives is fairly good, letting nearby minions damage themselves to deal out Burning +1 when attacking. The real draw of the upgrade is the (0) action it gains, Flame-O-Taur! Apart from having one of the best names in all of Malifaux, the action gives Kaeris Instinctual for the turn. Given how many (0) actions she has, this is simply fantastic. You can use Flare and then immediately use Truth In Flame to draw three cards, or fly into the midst of the enemy crew to use Flare and then disappear with Grab & Drop. The Emissary also benefits from Kaeris and her Grab & Drop upgrade – if you set it on fire and start its activation within the Wings Of Fire aura, it becomes a truly terrifying Ht 3, Cg 10 model that, thanks to Flight, can charge across most terrain without a care, helping to overcome its otherwise less-than-stellar mobility.
I’ll usually consider Kaeris for most strategies. Both of her Limited upgrades lend themselves well to Reconnoiter, either giving her crew additional mobility via Flight or restricting where the enemy crew can move with her Flame Pillars. The same applies to Turf War, where Purifying Fire can help give your crew additional staying power and the pushes from Blinding Flame can move enemy models out of the 6″ bubble. Squatter’s Rights becomes a lot easier when you can give models Flight so they can move straight onto the markers regardless of terrain, and again the pushes from Blinding Flame can help to move your opponent’s models off the markers. I have found her to be pretty good at Reckoning too, given that Kaeris works best focusing on one or two models and you only need to kill two models each turn. You can use Fire Gamin to hand out the Burning condition, then use Kaeris to Immolate them or open up with the Gunsmiths’ The Hard Way. It’s important to try and kill models with actions rather than the Burning condition, as – unless the Firestarter is nearby for his I Did It! aura – you can’t count models who die from Burning towards your total kills for the turn. Finally, the rarely-seen Stake A Claim also benefits from the additional mobility handed out by Grab & Drop, and Kaeris herself is usually fast enough to intercept enemy models who try to push through onto her half of the table.
Finally, what about playing against Kaeris? It goes without saying that condition removal is pretty essential, especially given that a lot of the time Kaeris relies on synergy. For example, while the Gunsmiths can take advantage of the Burning condition, they don’t really have a way to apply it outside of their Df trigger – so to take advantage of The Hard Way and maximise their damage output, another model will have to set the target on fire first, giving you a chance in-between the two activations to put out the fire, engage the Gunsmith, or anything else to stop the one-two combo. Most of her thematic models are equally proficient at range and close quarters, and can often get enough positive twists to ignore the negative twists from cover, so it’s best to try and prioritise your targets and focus them down. Be wary of taking models who use the Burning condition, such as the Rail Golem and Shenlong – Kaeris and the Gunsmiths in particular will love that you’re stacking the condition that they exploit on your own models!
Of course, this is all just my opinions and experiences of playing with Kaeris. If you’ve got thoughts on playing her, or indeed playing against her, please leave a comment, it’s great to hear from you :)