The Spires is renowned as a complex faction, but the vast majority of their complexity really boils down to two characters: The Biomancer and the Pheromancer. Play with neither of them and the faction will feel strangely lifeless and static; a collection of powerful monsters and mediocre infantry, but nothing that really sets it apart. Adding even one Mancer to your list changes the entire structure of how it will play.
This article will cover how to program the command deck to get the most out of these abilities, how the order of operations with Bio/Pheromancies work, and various synergies and implications that arise from use of these mechanics. Each section will also contain a section on what to expect and be afraid of if you’re fighting against each character so that you get less blindsided.
The Biomancer is one of the most complex pieces in the game and can take a lot of time to get your head around. That said, she’s only at her most elaborate and powerful with the full Flesh 3 Retinue. Let’s take this from the least to most complex iteration of the character.
The Order of Operations
Biotic Renewal Draw Event, 1d6 points of healing /1d3 if on a brute regiment. This is lost if the regiment is broken.
- If the first Biomancy was Unstable Enhancement or Essence Transfer, draw the relevant command card and resolve that regiment’s action before continuing
Second Biomancy (Requires Flesh 3)
- If the second Biomancy was Unstable Enhancement or Essence Transfer, draw the relevant command card and resolve that regiment’s action before continuing
Biomancer’s action (Seek New Escort/Mend Flesh/Rally Unit. With Flesh 2 the Biomancer can heal two different units)
This means that a Biomancer’s command card being drawn might result in 2 units activating immediately, which is halfway towards being the High Clone Executor’s Supremacy Ability every battle round. Also note if the Biomancer is drawn while in a Broken regiment she loses the majority of her healing.
Where to place the Biomancer
There are four choices I find compelling:
A small unit of Bound Clones. You can use Force Grown Drones if you really must, but for thirty points more the unit can hold objectives and might contribute something to the battle. This module is about keeping the Biomancer safe and mobile, lurking around behind the front lines casting Mancies from a distance. You’re sacrificing the excellent Biotic Renewal draw event but that’s how it goes sometimes.
A big unit of Bound Clones. Six to eight with a Ward Preceptor is about right; they’re not where you want to spend points but anything less risks you getting Broken from damage. This is an anvil configuration, an extremely tough unit that brings massive amounts of healing and can anchor your entire line.
A unit of Incarnate Sentinels. With Incarnate Sentinels freed from the chains of the Sovereign Lineage, a Biomancer can bring her own high performing escort.
A unit of Marksman Clones/Vanguard Clone Infiltrators. Using Seek New Escort to join one of these High Clone Executor warband units, these provide safe backline positions for the Biomancer to support the battle from. Infiltrators are a great way to keep the Biomancer mobile and flicking between crisis points in the line, Marksman Clones lock her into an artillery role where she likely won’t support anything other than her unit.
Any list that involves your biomancer going into a big unit of Clones should contain a small unit of clones she can withdraw to if she’s facing down a duellist character.
The Apprentice Biomancer
The Apprentice Biomancer is a Biomancer with no Retinue, and in practice this will be because the Biomancer has the Avatar Projection mutation so she can join an Incarnate Sentinel unit. With this type of Biomancer, here’s what you should keep in mind:
While programming: If you intend to use Unstable Enhancement, place the targeted regiment’s card immediately below the Biomancer’s card. If you face a critical supremacy roll, Essence Transfer can let you switch the position of two command cards – placing the one below the Biomancer on the bottom of the deck, and activating the one on the bottom of the deck immediately.
When activating, in order of priority:
- If you calculate the decay of Unstable Enhancement is worthwhile and you have a valid target, use Unstable Enhancement. It’s the best and most iconic biomancy ability and the main reason you bring the Biomancer.
- If the Biomancer’s unit might be targeted by ranged fire and you are not in a position to engage in combat, or if you want to hold the line, use Harvest Essence.
- If you’ve got the luxury of time, use Grant Virulence. An example might be if you’re engaged with a unit that’s already attacked and so there’d be no benefit to an immediate activation. Grant Virulence is equivalent to Cleave 1 against most targets.
- If a unit is engaged with multiple enemy units, a shield and phalanx unit, an objective stand, or a target that really, really needs to be finished off use Catalytic Rupture. This is an extremely situational ability, it’s not a primary combat spell.
- If you need to rearrange your command stack in an emergency use Essence Transfer.
The Master Biomancer
The Master Biomancer brings with her the full Flesh 3 Retinue. This gives her unit Regeneration +2, the ability to heal two separate units with Mend Flesh, and the ability to use two Biomancies in her activation. I do not think there’s any percentage in taking Flesh 1 or 2; Flesh 3 is so game-warpingly powerful if you’re taking a Biomancer you want it to either be in Avatar form or with Flesh 3.
When Programming: You will either want to activate one or two units with the Biomancer’s activation. If just one, place the target unit under the Biomancer’s command card as usual. If two, place the second unit to be activated on the bottom of the deck.
- A single target Master Biomancer will want to combine Unstable Enhancement and Grant Virulence into a single buff package. This combo is phenomenal on pretty much anything, but most relevantly it can be used to full effect on ranged units. There is a strong argument for both Infiltrator and Marksman variant Biomancers who use these two abilities to apply truly apocalyptic levels of ranged force.
- If the Biomancer is leading the Bound Clones directly she will sometimes want to use Grant Virulence and Harvest Essence instead. A big unit of Clones can suffer more from the Decay than they might benefit from the +Clash, and with Bastion this can potentially push the Biomancer’s unit to Defense 5.
- The final combo option is Unstable Enhancement and Essence Transfer to activate the top and bottom cards of your command deck simultaneously. Make sure both regiments are in Biomancy range.
Fighting the Biomancer
Duel her. Get whatever character you have into her face and challenge her to a duel. A duel is catastrophic for Biomancers, they cannot handle it, and they’re usually north of 200 points so disabling her in this way is catastrophic.
Failing that, concentrate force. A Biomancer can’t heal a unit when it’s broken and can’t heal it when it’s dead. Spreading out your damage or getting into an attritional slugfest is the worst possible thing you can do.
The Pheromancer is the most complex piece in the game. In raw force she’s more powerful than the Biomancer, but her abilities are contingent on a precise ordering of the Command Deck – and to a degree, your army as a whole. The Biomancer is a flexible, adaptive piece that can slot in anywhere and do excellently; the Pheromancer is rigid and unyielding and demands brutal adherence to a battleplan.
The Order of Operations
If they have Biotic Wellspring, Biotic Renewal Draw Event
- If the first Biomancy was Pheromantic Drive, draw the relevant command card and resolve that regiment’s action before continuing
Second Pheromancy (Requires Flesh 3)
- If the second Biomancy was Pheromantic Drive, draw the relevant command card and resolve that regiment’s action before continuing
Pheromancer’s action (Seek New Escort/Induce Lethargy/Pheromantic Gland Burst/Rally Unit. With Flesh 2 the Biomancer can Pheromantic Gland Burst on two different units)
Where to place the Pheromancer
Before anything else, consider that the Pheromancer’s unique abilities benefit enormously from having duplicates of the same command card in the stack. Many Pheromancies have the ‘cost’ of sending a command card to the bottom of the stack. If you use Siphon Strength to buff a unit of Brute Drones you need to send the Brute Drones’ card to the bottom of the stack; but if you have a second unit of Brute Drones then their command card stays where it is and can be used to activate the buffed unit. Just because you send a card to the bottom doesn’t mean that card is ‘assigned’ to that regiment.
- A unit of Force Grown Drones. I’d keep these small, though. Big Onslaught Drone units are better than big Force Grown Drone units in basically every way.
- A big unit of Onslaught Drones. We’re talking size 6-8+. Yeah they don’t have Support but they’re only Defense 2 and don’t regenerate if they’re Broken so those extra bodies are there to raise the Breaking threshold. If you don’t die outright then you’ll eventually win the attritional slugfest.
- A unit of Brute Drones. Small or large, these are just a great module for a Pheromancer in general. You can also Seek New Escort out to join some Incarnate Sentinels for extra durability.
- Biomancer Synergy: If a Pheromancer buffs a unit and sends its command card to the bottom, the Biomancer can dredge it back up to the top with Essence Transfer. You can potentially put two Pheromancer buffs on a unit with duplicate cards and then pull it back up to the top, but it’s rare that’s worth the effort.
The Apprentice Pheromancer
The Apprentice Pheromancer is a valid choice, even without Avatar Projection. In this case they’re just a solid buff/debuff engine; they’ll hand out +1 resolve, +1 movement or -1 defense as well as a powerful buff of choice.
When Programming: The Pheromancer will usually want to be at the top of the stack, with her intended target immediately below her, because most of her buffs are defensive and you want them out as quick as possible. The alternative is placing her one from the bottom – particularly if you anticipate needing to use Accelerated Hibernation and want to wait to see which unit needs healing.
When Activating, in order of priority:
- Siphon Strength: +1 Attacks and Dread. Get this one out whenever you can, especially on high impact units with Cleave like Incarnate Sentinels. It’ll help a unit survive the round and make it hit harder when it acts.
- Accelerated Hibernation: 4 points of healing is a lot of healing, and even if your Pheromancer is just doing this all game she’s contributing as much as an unlucky Biomancer in addition to her suite of buffs and debuffs.
- Pheromantic Compulsion: Unbreaks a unit and grants it Inspired. This ability means that the Pheromancer doesn’t need to stress about duels nearly as much as Biomancers, she can politely decline and then unbreak her unit in preparation for Pheromantic Drive.
- Pheromantic Drive: The unit can Clash Twice (or, in weird situations where it can kill a screening unit with impact attacks, Charge twice). This is potentially big but you won’t be Inspired when you do it. It’s also solid on ranged units that might want to Volley twice, though having the ideal conditions to pull that off are too rare to rely on.
- Induced Vigor: Tenacious and re-roll Morale – a neat buff, but it’s entirely defensive and if your Pheromancer is the warlord she’ll already be projecting a vast morale reroll bubble.
The Master Pheromancer
The Master Pheromancer, with the full Flesh 3 Retinue, has a unique trick that is worth building the entire force around: Pheromantic Compulsion+Pheromantic Drive. In effect, you Inspire a unit and then make it Clash twice. Two full rounds of damage in a single turn is devastating. This does have a couple of limitations though:
- You can’t do if you don’t start the turn engaged. This isn’t a free action of choice, this is a free Inspire followed by the ability to duplicate clashes.
- You can’t effectively use this on ranged units; they Take Aim and don’t Inspire
- You need to have to identical command cards to pull this off.
- This occurs before the Pheromancer can use Induce Lethargy so you can’t apply -1 defense and then double clash.
Within those constraints, though, you can unleash terrifying amounts of damage. This is worth more than anything else the Pheromancer can do. You might want to sometimes mix this with Siphon Strength/Pheromantic Drive, though the +1 to hit will usually be better, especially on high volume units like Onslaught Drones.
When Programming: If you have two identical command cards, put the Pheromancer on top and the two cards immediately beneath her. If you’ve only got one command card and want to do this, put that card on the bottom with the Pheromancer second last. Then the Pheromancer can activate, send a card that’s already on the bottom to the bottom, and then pull that card out again.
If you have two Pheromancers, you can even place the second Pheromancer on the bottom of the stack ready to ‘receive’ a card pitched to it by the first Pheromancer.
When Activating: It’s really only the one trick – Compulsion into Drive, perform this action whenever circumstances allow. In the event when circumstances don’t allow – most commonly because you begin the round unengaged – it’s almost always going to be Siphon Strength and Accelerated Hibernation for the defense and healing.
Fighting the Pheromancer
A Pheromancer is much less obviously vulnerable than the Biomancer, but an Apprentice is still not great with Challenges. A Master can unbreak her unit and then do something else but an Apprentice will need to be putting all her power to keeping the unit rallied if consistently challenged.
More importantly, you need to watch out for the massive damage spikes that can come out of the master Pheromancer’s double clash. The same principle of force concentration applies here – Pheromancer escorts tend to be extremely fragile, and after they’ve been through the Drive they’ll likely have suffered a lot of Decay damage. Be ready to finish off the unit when it’s weakened or the Pheromancer’s powerful healing will shoot it right back into functionality in another turn or two.
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